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Research Report


Bilal Y. Saab
Copyright Date: Jul. 1, 2015
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 34
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-1)
    Barry Pavel

    The security paradigm in the Middle East is undergoing dramatic changes. Transnational terrorist and insurgent groups pose threats to the internal and external security of regional states, eroding the foundations of the state system itself, particularly in Iraq and Syria. Failed states like Libya and Yemen threaten their neighbors’ borders and are hotbeds of violence and extremism that risk the lives of combatants and civilians alike, posing broad threats to US allies and partners. And while the challenge of a nuclear Iran could be mitigated in the short term through a successful nuclear agreement, Iran’s robust asymmetric activities remain a...

  2. (pp. 5-7)

    Securing the Middle East after an Iran nuclear deal is the next big challenge for both the region and the international community. The United States and its allies have engaged in tireless diplomacy with Iran over the past few years to produce an agreement that would limit Tehran’s nuclear program for the next decade and a half. But the hard work does not stop here; in fact, it may have just begun. To protect the deal (assuming one is finalized) and take full advantage of its potential benefits—which include the drastic reduction of the risk of nuclear weapons proliferating...

  3. (pp. 8-12)

    External insecurity is a familiar excuse used by authoritarian governments to justify to their own populations (and even to the outside world) delaying the implementation of internal reforms. “No voice is louder than the sound of battle” was Egypt’s notorious slogan under the leadership of President Gamal Abdel Nasser. The slogan meant to suggest that preparing for another war against Israel after the humiliating defeat of 1967 was a top priority that took precedence over any other public policy issue. It seemed understandable, given Egypt’s loss of strategic territory to Israel in the Sinai Peninsula. But Cairo’s state of emergency...

  4. (pp. 13-16)

    If Arab governments used war with Israel as an excuse to maintain police states and delay reforms, the fight against terrorism and more generally the preservation of public order is currently one of the biggest reasons for keeping political opening at bay.

    Failed states, civil wars, and violent extremist groups are major sources of internal insecurity in the Middle East. Though all of these threats, as previously argued, find roots in the very design of the Arab state system—corrupt, politically closed, despotic, and economically dysfunctional—this does not change the fact that their effects on domestic and regional security...

  5. (pp. 17-26)

    The United States has three realistic, strategic options to choose from to arrest the collapse of order in the Middle East and improve security conditions. These options may have some commonalities and some could be pursued in combination, but they are sufficiently distinct to merit a category of their own.

    Many of the advocates for this option believe that what is currently happening in the region is reminiscent of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) in Europe. Instead of Catholics and Protestants fighting each other, today’s antagonists are Sunni and Shiite Muslims, whose competition for power is similarly fueled by ancient...

  6. (pp. 27-28)

    Regardless of the nature of US strategies for Middle East security, regional security will remain lacking, and long-term stability in the Middle East will continue to be elusive if the Arab world fails to make a serious push for political and economic development. However, the process of historical change in most parts of the Arab world, as this author has maintained, cannot fully materialize or even begin to achieve desirable outcomes without first addressing the immediate and severe security challenges that are currently plaguing the region. If a house is on fire, saving the lives of residents should be the...