June 10, 2021

A People-First U.S. Assistance Strategy for the Middle East

Washington, June 10, 2021 — In a new CNAS report, “A People-First U.S. Assistance Strategy for the Middle East,” authors Ilan Goldenberg, Daphne McCurdy, Kaleigh Thomas, and Sydney Scarlata posit that the current U.S. assistance mix in the Middle East must be rebalanced away from security assistance and toward development, democracy, humanitarian, and stabilization programs as part of a broader strategy emphasizing civilian rather than military tools. The report builds on CNAS’ work over the past year, which has focused on a strategy that demilitarizes U.S. policy in the Middle East.

While security assistance can be a useful tool, it must be used sparingly to achieve clear and narrow objectives, rather than making it the centerpiece of U.S. assistance policy in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the problem of nonresponsive governance, which is one of the core challenges facing the region, is much better addressed through democracy and development programs reinforced by principled diplomacy. In countries where governance challenges have already led to conflict, stabilization and humanitarian programs can help mitigate the worst consequences of violence.

Beyond these broad recommendations, the authors also make a series of concrete proposals for how the United States can improve its Middle East assistance strategy. But ultimately, they recognize that real change will have to be led by the people of the region themselves—not the United States.

To request an interview with the authors, contact Shai Korman at comms@cnas.org.