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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Issue 1921

Toward a Middle East Strategy
Introduction
Introduction

The Collapsing Strategic Context

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

In designing an optimal American strategy toward the Middle East, two factors stand out.  One is that now, as most always in the past, the climate of opinion is both “this is the last chance for peace” and “this is a time when nothing can be done”.  The second is that whatever happens in the region at this point in the 21st century will affect and be affected by negative and dangerous new trends in the other power centers of the world: China, Russia, the U.S., and even the European Union.

Featured Analysis
Featured Analysis

Why America Can't Quit The Middle East

by Hal Brandsvia The Caravan
Thursday, March 21, 2019

One of the most persistent myths about U.S. foreign policy is the idea that America desires—due to greed, messianic ideological impulses, or simple imperial presumptions—to dominate the Middle East. In reality, American policy has long been torn by two conflicting imperatives: The need to protect enduring U.S. interests, on the one hand, and the desire to stay clear of the region’s unending headaches, on the other. 

Featured Analysis

No Exit: The U.S. Predicament in the Middle East

by Henri J. Barkeyvia The Caravan
Thursday, March 21, 2019

“L'enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions” (the road to hell is paved with good intentions) goes a French expression. Years of American involvement in the Middle East to fashion a region that is stable, peaceful, more prosperous and more respectful of human rights has proven, so far at least, a failure. As a result, U.S. decision makers, thinkers and certainly the public at large are increasingly expressing their exasperation with that region.

Featured Analysis

Thinking About A Strategy For The Middle East

by Dennis Rossvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Strategy starts with understanding our interests and the objectives that flow from those interests.  In the Middle East, our interests have evolved but perhaps less than many may think.  After the Second World War, when the US assumed more global responsibilities, Democratic and Republican Presidents saw the Middle East as vital to our interests because of its oil and geo-strategic centrality.  The unimpeded flow of its oil was necessary for global economic health and for the reconstruction of Europe—which was perceived as an essential national security priority. 

Featured Analysis

“Going Short” In The Middle East

by Samuel Helfontvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 26, 2019

In finance, “going short” is a way to make money on stocks that lose value. Nassim Taleb, the author of The Black Swan, reportedly used this tactic to make millions during financial crises. He did not know exactly when or why the markets would crash, but he knew they eventually would. Then he cashed in.  In many ways, going short is the opposite of traditional investment. In traditional investments one bets on success. In going short, one bets on failure. For over a decade, the United States has been trying to find a way to declare victory in the Middle East so that it can leave.

Featured Analysis

Middle East Perceptions Of An America Adrift

by Sanam Vakilvia The Caravan
Thursday, March 28, 2019

American strategy towards the Middle East has long been based on maintaining the twin pillars of security and stability in a region of geostrategic importance. At a crossroads between Europe, Africa and Asia, the Middle East has been historically significant for its energy supplies and passageways connecting the east and the west. To advance American interests, the United States has traditionally sought to maintain its position of influence through regional partnerships and with its military presence. Today though, there is a widespread perception that the US may be abandoning the Middle East. 

Featured Analysis

U.S. Middle East Strategy

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Middle East remains today a troublesome area for the United States. American interests in the region are threatened by a host of adversaries from a resurgent Russia, a hegemonic Iranian desire and campaign of subversion, and Jihadi threat that has morphed from Al Qaeda to the Islamic State. Moreover, despite long U.S. investments and alliances, the region remains deeply anti-American. 

Featured Analysis

The US Role In The Middle East In An Era Of Renewed Great Power Competition

by Eric Edelmanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, April 2, 2019

What role should the United States play in the Middle East as its attention shifts to the objectives outlined in the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy of competing with near peers like Russia and China?  Today pundits and observers are posing this question against a backdrop of more than a decade and a half of costly, inconclusive and seemingly “endless” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the more recent deployment of roughly two thousand Special Forces troops to Syria as part of the counter ISIS campaign.  To President Trump the answer seems clear.  He noted in April 2018 at an Ohio rally “we’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon.

Featured Analysis

Getting Back To Basics

by Tony Badranvia The Caravan
Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Since the end of the Cold War — and, most dramatically, in the Bush and Obama years — American strategy in the Middle East has shifted from one anchored in the state system to one focused on non-state actors, particularly terrorist groups, and on projects disconnected from geopolitics.  The result has been the return — after nearly five decades — of Russian sway, the commandeering of large swaths of territory by Iran, and the emergence on the scene of China. The Russian-Iranian military campaign in Syria, and the increasing Chinese influence in the Middle East require a return to Cold War principles.

Featured Analysis

U.S Middle East Policy Must Contend With The New Power On The Block

by Afshin Molavivia The Caravan
Thursday, April 4, 2019

The year 1993 is not normally seen as a geopolitically defining year. As Bill Clinton took the oath of office in Washington, the big geopolitical events of the past few years -- the fall of the Soviet Union, the first Gulf War, the rise of newly independent Eastern European states - continued to reverberate but the world, it seemed, had entered the post-Cold War peace dividend era and the American unipolar moment. Across Middle East capitals, there was no doubt who the great power was in the world. The United States had no rival.

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Featured Analysis

"Blowback" - Iraq Comes To Syria

by Colonel Joel Rayburnvia The Caravan
Thursday, February 23, 2012

“Blowback” is the decades-old term coined by CIA officers to describe what happens when a covert operation produces forces that return to harm those who set it in motion.  The textbook example of “blowback” in living memory has been U.S.

Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia Ponders Its Syrian Conundrum

by Joshua Teitelbaumvia The Caravan
Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Arab awakenings and assertive international role of Russia and China at the expense of the United States have created a new strategic situation for the rulers of Riyadh.

Featured Analysis

Taking Damascus, One, Two, Three

by Reuel Marc Gerechtvia The Caravan
Thursday, February 23, 2012

Although Bashar al-Assad could still kill off the revolt against his tyranny, it seems increasingly unlikely. The rebellion today is far larger—geographically and numerically—than the rebellion of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in Hama in 1982.

Featured Analysis

But Really—Is America Ready To See Assad Gone?

by Asli Aydintasbasvia The Caravan
Thursday, February 23, 2012

Not in a million years would I ever imagine using that headline, “Turks are from Mars, Americans are from Venus” – but that was precisely the title of my column last week [in Milliyet] on Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

Featured Analysis

Let Arab Wealth Carry Its Own Burden

by Camille Pecastaingvia The Caravan
Thursday, February 23, 2012

History is not such a great mystery that its equations are beyond human reach. With regime change, what matters are the mathematics of pain and the mathematics of bullets. Pain is alleviated by cash, hope, and desperation. Bullets only come with cash.

Featured Analysis

The Rescue

by Fouad Ajamivia The Caravan
Thursday, February 23, 2012

In the matter of Syria, the moral simplicity and clarity have been overwhelmed by overthinking the strategic complications – always the companion and the alibi for passivity.  The Assad tyranny is living on borrowed time, the very laws of gravity conspire against it.  It may c

Featured Analysis

Syria: Policy Challenges and Policy Options

by Itamar Rabinovichvia The Caravan
Thursday, February 23, 2012

The unfolding Syrian crisis presents the U.S with a manifold policy dilemma.  Several issues and challenges are at stake:

1) The current impasse is likely to continue for some time and with it the unacceptable massive killing of civilians.

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The Caravan is envisaged as a periodic symposium on the contemporary dilemmas of the Greater Middle East. It will be a free and candid exchange of opinions. We shall not lack for topics of debate, for that arc of geography has contentions aplenty. It is our intention to come back with urgent topics that engage us. Caravans are full of life and animated companionship. Hence the name we chose for this endeavor.

We will draw on the membership of Hoover's Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order, and on colleagues elsewhere who work that same political and cultural landscape. Russell Berman and Charlie Hill cochair the project from which this effort originates.