Multipolarity and instability in the Middle East

Multipolarity and instability in the Middle East

Abstract

Tensions have long been a feature of the international relations of the Middle East. After the 2011 Arab uprisings, regional instability is being driven by a confluence of three interrelated developments. First, the weakening role of the United States as a power balancer in the Middle East, combined with the larger global context, has provided assumptions about threats and new opportunities for local and other actors to pursue strategic and foreign policy objectives that have deepened tensions and regional competition. Second, there has been a juxtaposing of power multipolarity with ideological multipolarity, itself a source of increased instability, with two of the regional powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, fanning opposing sectarian flames to further their respective strategic objectives. Third, this strategic competition is being played out in several newly weakened or collapsing states such as Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Similarly, the regional powers’ competition in previously weakened states, such as Lebanon and Iraq, has intensified due to the acquisition of new, sectarian dimensions. These developments are likely to perpetuate instability and tensions in the Middle East for the foreseeable future.

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