March 17, 2015

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

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.

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