January 13, 2014

After the Awakening: Future Security Trends in the Middle East

By Jacob Stokes

December 2013 marked three years since the beginning of the Arab Awakening. The tumult of the last three years has rocked the region and beyond. And the coming year promises continued upheaval in the region.

To try to get a handle on what the coming year holds, I have written a policy brief entitled “After the Awakening: Future Security Trends in the Middle East” laying out what I see as the seven most important security trends in the region.

The seven trends are:

1. Enduring U.S. interests but doubts about American commitment

2. The political-economic nexus of instability

3. The Iranian nuclear question: conclusion or conflict?

4. Regional geopolitics in flux

5. The changing nature of the terrorist threat

6. Little progress towards Israeli-Palestinian peace

7. The transforming energy map and outside powers

These trends will have profound implications for U.S. interests. Two major themes – changes in structure and the importance of contingency – will characterize the interaction among these issues in the years ahead. The longstanding structure of strategic relations in the region is changing, and Middle Eastern publics will continue to play a larger role. In addition, several key events, including the Iranian nuclear issue, the Syrian civil war and the Israeli-Palestinian issue, could push regional stability and Washington’s involvement in the region in drastically different directions. Thus, contingency will play a determining role in the future of the region.

The bottom line: For the United States, the Middle East is, and will remain, a vitally important region. But advancing U.S. interests in the region – never easy – will become even more complicated in the years ahead. To read the whole paper, click here.

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