As Lebanon’s recent crisis shows, Middle Eastern states remain structurally A weak and poorly consolidated, with strong rival claimants to state authority and internal divisions that invite foreign states’ intrusion and rivalry. Two of the region’s countries, Iraq and Libya, are defiant “pariah states” with little change in their policies expected any time soon, while Iran% coning support for terrorism, nuclear weapons, and political Islam (a more accurate term than “fundamentalism”) casts a shadow over the entire region.
The great economic-technological expansion of the last generation seems to have left the Middle East behind materially, rendering many of the region’s states unable to cope with the stresses of modernization. In response, resurgent Islam has everywhere become a basis for a national assertiveness that threatens civil order:
The ascendancy of Islamism as a political ideology appears closely linked with the failure of secular leaders to reduce levels of poverty and unemployment and the growing perception of I&mists that Arab regimes are corrupt, authoritarian, and remote from their citizens.
When international actors such as the United States and Russia enter into this troubled state system, they inevitably add great-power rivalry to the region’s structural problems.