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Research Report

MIDDLE EAST STRATEGY TASK FORCE: Final Report of the Co-Chairs

Madeleine K. Albright
Stephen J. Hadley
Stephen Grand
Jessica P. Ashooh
Copyright Date: Nov. 1, 2016
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 66
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 9-12)
    Madeleine K. Albright and Stephen J. Hadley

    The Middle East³ is witnessing the unraveling of a century-old political order, an unprecedented struggle for power within and between states, and the rise of extremist elements that are exacting a devastating toll. Yet at the very same time, parts of the region are rapidly modernizing, seeking to provide better opportunities for their young people, and experimenting with more active roles in the Middle East and the world. These developments, both negative and positive, have profound repercussions not just for the Middle East, but also for the United States, Europe, and rest of the world. That is why we, under...

  2. (pp. 13-19)

    The world is not just facing a crisis in the Middle East, but a global crisis emanating from the Middle East. Four civil wars rage across the region—in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen—causing massive human suffering and displacement. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Daesh) has emerged from this chaos to seize territory in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, while al-Qaeda has renewed its global efforts in a perverse bid to outdo its brutal rival. The violent methods and extremist ideology of both groups have attracted thousands of recruits through social media, and both have directed or inspired...

  3. (pp. 20-44)

    Many look at the current challenges confronting the Middle East and throw up their hands. The region has always been fighting and will always be fighting, they may argue, and anyone who steps in to try to alter this reality is doomed not only to fail but to emerge weakened from that failure. While the simplicity of this narrative is enticing, it is also inapt. The region took time to descend into its current chaos, which resulted not from destiny but from a series of identifiable failings.

    The problems of the region seem so entrenched, in part, because there has...

  4. (pp. 45-48)

    The previous chapter set out a narrative that explains how the Middle East came to its current impasse, identifying critical factors that contributed to the state of the region today. From that narrative emerge constructive principles to guide a strategy, ground it in the reality of the region, and improve its chances for success.

    The old order is gone and is not coming back. The events of the last decade have shattered the status quo and the traditional basis for order in the Middle East. Stability will not be achieved until a new regional order takes shape. The challenge is...

  5. (pp. 49-55)

    The Objective: Any strategy requires a clear statement of the objective to be achieved. Based on our analyses and consultations, we believe that the objective is:

    To begin to change the current trajectory of the Middle East as a whole, so that over time the region can move towards a more stable and peaceful order of sovereign states. Such an order should:

    offer the people of the region the prospect of a stable and prosperous future secure from both terrorist violence and government oppression;

    provide inclusive, transparent, effective, non-corrupt, and accountable governance that treats people fairly and invests in their...

  6. (pp. 56-79)

    In the previous chapter, we outlined a strategy, based on a Compact between stakeholders in and outside the region, to create a more stable, prosperous, and just order in the Middle East. In this chapter and the chapter that follows, we offer recommendations for implementing this strategy. This chapter deals with the top-down part of the strategy (Prong One), while Chapter 6 covers the bottom-up part (Prong Two).

    Every step outlined in this chapter should occur in the context of a Compact between interested parties in the region and the international community. Not every state in or outside the region...

  7. (pp. 80-101)

    This chapter turns to Prong Two of the strategy. It makes recommendations regarding the bottom-up lines of effort required to unlock the region’s vast human potential.

    The region’s people are its most important resource. If nurtured, this human capital can help transform the future of the Middle East. Investments in education should focus on developing a country’s human resources for the challenges of the twenty-first century. Above all, the aim should be to ensure that the next generations are active citizens who are:

    informed critical thinkers resistant to extremist appeals,

    collaborative problem-solvers motivated to address the challenges within

    their own...

  8. (pp. 102-103)

    If there is a single take-away from this report, it is that the Middle East is not condemned to the current cycle of conflict. Although the situation is difficult, there is a distinct—if challenging—pathway that people in the region, along with supportive international partners, can take not only to address the current crises, but also to put the region on course for a future better than many might believe possible. In this endeavor, realism is important. The challenges of the region are enormously difficult and will take time to resolve. However, imagination is even more important. Those who...