The Gulf Is Where It's At

(New York Times) Ray Takeyh - Despite all the exhilarating and disturbing changes in Egypt and the Levant, the center of gravity of the Middle East has moved to the Gulf. The strategic relevance of Egypt and Syria stems from their connection to the notion that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will transform the Middle East. But the stalemated Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to remain frozen. Even if there were a peace treaty, it would have a limited impact on a region struggling with sectarian identities, resurgent religious parties and the specter of nuclear proliferation. The challenge for the U.S. remains how to maintain access to Middle Eastern oil at reasonable prices, sustain the fragile order in Iraq and prevent Iran from obtaining a bomb. As contentious and corrosive as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be, the fact is that it has not impeded America's ability to execute its policy in the Middle East. Blocking Iran from making a nuclear weapon without the use of force is not as far-fetched and unattainable as it is often made to appear. For all its inflammatory rhetoric, the Islamic Republic has immense vulnerabilities. A regime distrusted by its neighbors and disdained by its citizens is a candidate for a successful policy of coercion. Existing efforts to stress Iran's economy could be complemented by a broad range of political moves, such as assisting dissident forces. The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

2012-02-10 00:00:00

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