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Research Report

Middle East 2020:: Shaped by or Shaper of Global Trends?

Mathew J. Burrows
Copyright Date: Aug. 1, 2014
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 20
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-1)

    The Middle East will remain the region undergoing the greatest amount of change over the next five to ten years. Middle East futures run a wide gamut from fragile growth and development to chronic instability and potential regional conflicts. The Arab state system is under assault like never before with disintegration of some states, such as Syria and Iraq, as a distinct possibility. The economic outlook is gloomy despite rising public expectations of greater prosperity. High unemployment is coming at the worst time for regional development. Demographically, the youth bulge will remain a driving force over the next five to...

  2. (pp. 2-9)

    The Middle East will be shaped by many of the same global trends influencing developments in other regions. Many global trends are double-edged, harbingers of progress but also destabilizing in their immediate impact. Understanding their effects and the roles they will play in the possible futures they can produce in the Middle East is the purpose of this paper.

    The State under threat. Even before the Arab Spring and the civil war in Syria, the Arab state system had been weakening. It is good to remember it has been under assault before and survived, although recent challenges appear greater. The...

  3. (pp. 10-14)

    The Middle East is the region with the widest array of different futures because of the dual-edged nature of many of the drivers and the potential for devastating scenarios if conflict spreads. Three broad possible futures are outlined below. Of the three, the first one—“sectarianism on steroids”—is among the more likely and potentially the most dangerous scenario. Rising sectarianism is currently fueling internal separatist conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, and could end up sparking a major conflict between Sunni and Shia powers. This could spell the end of the Sykes-Picot division of the Middle East into multi-ethnic...