Oil painting of fire.

The Middle East Meltdown and Global Risk

With the US on the way to achieving energy independence, there is a risk that America and its Western allies will consider the Middle East less strategically important than they did in the past. Wishful thinking should not cloud policy judgment: a burning Middle East can destabilize the world in many ways.

NEW YORK – Among today’s geopolitical risks, none is greater than the long arc of instability stretching from the Maghreb to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. With the Arab Spring an increasingly distant memory, the instability along this arc is deepening. Indeed, of the three initial Arab Spring countries, Libya has become a failed state, Egypt has returned to authoritarian rule, and Tunisia is being economically and politically destabilized by terrorist attacks.

The violence and instability of North Africa is now spreading into Sub-Saharan Africa, with the Sahel – one of the world’s poorest and most environmentally damaged regions – now gripped by jihadism, which is also seeping into the Horn of Africa to its east. And, as in Libya, civil wars are raging in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, all of which increasingly look like failed states.

The region’s turmoil (which the United States and its allies, in their pursuit of regime change in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Egypt and elsewhere, helped to fuel) is also undermining previously secure states. The influx of refugees from Syria and Iraq is destabilizing Jordan, Lebanon, and now even Turkey, which is becoming increasingly authoritarian under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Meanwhile, with the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians unresolved, Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon represent a chronic threat of violent clashes with Israel.

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