March 17, 2015

Transcript: Managing, Ending and Avoiding Wars in the Middle East

By Dafna Rand

What I'd like to do today is to lay out the specific variables that are engendering conflict in the region, and that will continue to do so over the five- to 10-year time frame, then offer the options for a U.S. strategy to manage and confront these conflicts, and finally to argue that there's only one viable U.S. strategy going forward to manage the conflicts that we have in front of us.

What is it about the violent conflicts emerging across the Middle East and North Africa that is particularly challenging? I see four new trends that make conflict more likely and more intractable. The first is that the state is obviously disintegrating and becoming weaker in the Middle East, but it's not going away. It is premature to conclude that the state system has dissolved across the region.

For sure, many states have become much weaker, but these weak or non-existent states in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon are coexisting with states with even stronger security apparatuses than before 2011. So we have strong states next to weak states, neighboring territories such as Syria and parts of Iraq where there is no central state. Sub-state and non-state actors are growing in strength. So we have a multidimensional problem with conflict erupting between non-state and state actors, states versus their own sub-state threats, etc.

Second, the arcs of these conflicts are long. We might see a ceasefire in Libya, which was the news over the weekend, or a new arrangement in Yemen after the events of this past weekend that alter the temporary political distribution of power. But in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and maybe even in the Palestinian territories, conflict will endure.

The full transcript is available at the Middle East Policy Council.

  • Commentary
    • The Washington Post
    • March 19, 2020
    9/11 swallowed U.S. foreign policy. Don’t let the coronavirus do the same thing.

    For two decades, American foreign policy has been shaped by the 9/11 attacks. The catastrophic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our failure to see the full threat posed by Russia...

    By Ilan Goldenberg

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • March 6, 2020
    Big Ideas for NATO’s New Mission in Iraq

    Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s calls for America’s allies to “get more involved in the Middle East,” NATO defense ministers last month agreed to “enhance” the Atlanti...

    By David H. Petraeus & Vance Serchuk

  • Commentary
    • Defense One
    • February 21, 2020
    The American Public Wants a Sustainable Middle East Policy

    After the U.S. strike on Qasem Soleimani, Americans feared the United States was on the brink of war with Iran. “World War III draft” memes circulated around the internet, and...

    By Kaleigh Thomas & Emma Moore

  • Commentary
    • The New York Times
    • February 12, 2020
    The Iranian Missile Strike Did Far More Damage Than Trump Admits

    Over 100 American soldiers have been treated for traumatic brain injuries following Iran’s missile strike on Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq. The strike came in retaliation f...

    By Loren DeJonge Schulman & Paul Scharre

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia