America’s Middle East Challenge

The Middle East is in dire need of cooperation on issues of long-term interest to the stability and well-being of the whole region. The Arab Spring has resulted in political instability in many countries, while extremist and terrorist groups have wreaked havoc across the region. It is imperative for Middle Eastern countries to work collaboratively in order to tackle these region-wide challenges.

The United States faces lack of trust from Iran and suspicion from its Arab allies. America’s oil-centered involvement in the Middle East is becoming less strategically important as the United States moves toward becoming the leading exporter of oil and gas. As a result, the Arabs are losing their oil leverage with Washington and are resorting to suicidal strategies to destabilize the region, by funding various extremist groups, in hopes that it would compel America to stay involved.

America’s increased involvement in the Middle East is inevitable as a result of the expansion of ISIS and other terrorist groups. This heightened involvement could result in positive outcomes if it is calculated carefully. The United States should come to the realization that its military might is not capable of bringing about peace in the Middle East. As Chas W. Freeman Jr. argued in his book
America’s Misadventures in the Middle East, “How do we propose to manage the contradiction between our desire to assure the stability of the Persian Gulf and the fact that our presence in it is inherently destabilizing?” However, U.S. military superiority could be applied positively and used to support regional governments to fight terrorism in the region. Washington’s efforts toward a regional cooperation system in the Persian Gulf (akin to that of the European Union) would fill the vacuum caused by an eventual U.S. departure and assuage Arab fears of a resurgent Iran. President Rouhani, in his 2014 address to the UN General Assembly, pointed out, “The right solution to this quandary comes from within the region and regionally provided solutions with international support and not from outside the region.”

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“America’s Middle East Challenge,” Cairo Review, Hossein Mousavian with Mehrdad Saberi. Published by the Cairo Review of Global Affairs, April 6 2014.