Change Has Not Come to the Middle East

(Cipher Brief) Michael Singh - The real story in the Middle East is not how much things have changed, but how little. The economic and political stagnation that birthed the 2011 uprisings has, if anything, worsened. The biggest change in the region has been the strategic disengagement of the U.S., which has reconfigured the region's geopolitical landscape and spurred other external powers to increase their involvement in the region. The clearest case is Russia, whose intervention in Syria saved the Assad regime from elimination. But China, European states, and others have more quietly increased their own involvement in the Middle East, heralding the end of the decades-long era of unchallenged American primacy in the region. Yet America retains an interest in combating terrorism, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and ensuring the free flow of commerce and energy. There are three changes to U.S. policy in the region that President Trump could make that would serve our interests well over time. First, he should act firmly to counter Iran. Doing so would not only help to sustainably end the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere, but would put the U.S. back on the same page strategically with our allies, who consider Tehran's regional ambitions their top threat. Second, he should seek to rebuild U.S. alliances in the region, focusing on forging a more capable and useful multilateral grouping of likeminded regional partners. Finally, he should help our allies, where they are willing, to take actions that will make them more resilient to regional threats and responsive to their own populations. The writer, former senior director for Middle East Affairs at the White House, is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

2017-02-17 00:00:00

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