The Middle East – a region as complex and fraught with challenges as ever – continues to hold U.S. policymakers in its thrall. Though they may want to pivot elsewhere, the Middle East keeps pulling them back because the consequences of disengaging are too dire. The days of state power being held interminably in a single hand are fading. Iran’s nuclear ambitions remain unquenched. The rise of ISIS – one of the greatest terrorist threats this world has seen – threatens to collapse the old state order, while reviving the smoldering embers of sectarianism. Internal political chaos now consumes Middle Eastern capitals from Damascus to Sanaa and will likely be with us for some time. Safety, security, human rights, economic interests, progress, reform, and hope are but a few of the commodities that are in jeopardy.
But all is not dire. As certain alliances have crumbled away in the wake of all the tumult, so have others formed and repaired in order to confront it head on. The United States finds itself on common ground with the Saudis and the Emiratis, the Jordanians and the Israelis, the Moroccans and the Egyptians with regard to the need to undermine radical actors in the region bent on its undoing. Beyond simply restoring stability, these countries understand that extremist non-state actors such as ISIS and its regional affiliates must be confronted militarily, politically, and for those among the aforementioned aligned states who have the legitimacy to do so, theologically. As these events, and their corresponding international responses, continue to unfold, out-of-the-box creative thinking and scholarship is needed to offer critiques and recommendations, color and nuance, background and vision.
FPRI’s scholarship on the Middle East, sampled in this volume, has steadfastly provided such insight. Based on a holistic view of American strategic interests in the region, our analysis has transcended headlines and catch phrases. Focusing on perennial themes such as authoritarianism and reform; the Arab uprisings and its aftermath; radicalism and regional threats; sectarian divisions; and the Arab-Israeli conflict and peace efforts, FPRI’s Program on the Middle East has utilized its vital and time-tested geopolitical approach to inform policymakers, academics, journalists, educators, and others interested in the Middle East.
In honor of FPRI’s 60th anniversary, this volume is meant to provide the reader with a taste of the quality analysis we produced from 2005-2015 on a diverse array of topics. If you enjoy what you find here, visit us on the web to read, see, and hear more – or even better, become a member, a member at a higher level, or a partner, and support the sustained production of quality scholarship and analysis on the Middle East.