POMED’s Shadi Hamid challenges assumptions of U.S. policy formulation in the Middle East, reassesses security objectives, and proposes a set of practicable policy changes that embody a new mindset.
America’s mounting failures in the Middle East are tied not only to ineffective policies but also—and perhaps more importantly—to faulty assumptions about the sources of our difficulties in the region. Anti-American violence and terrorism is fueled by long-standing grievances, both real and perceived. A new Middle East strategy must be premised on a long-term effort to seek out root causes of this anger and, where possible, address them.
The Middle East today is consumed by political violence, autocracy, and extremism—a toxic mix that threatens American interests and regional stability. Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Saudi Arabia continue to exert undue influence. Despite the high-minded rhetoric of the 2007 Annapolis conference, Israeli-Palestinian peace seems as distant as ever. Meanwhile, Arab autocrats, many counted as American allies, are reasserting themselves, striking with increased ferocity at their domestic opponents and crushing dissent. The promise of early 2005, when Egypt, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia experienced democratic openings, is a rapidly fading memory. On the terrorism front, an April 2008 General Accountability Office report states that al Qaeda is regrouping in its safe haven on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Then there is Iraq, which, to put it mildly, still has a long way to go.
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