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The Arab World’s Coming Challenges

When it comes to the Middle East, it is no surprise that political leaders, diplomats, and the donor and humanitarian community typically focus on the here and now. Yet we must not lose sight of the future – especially when regional trends are conspiring to bring further turmoil and conflict.

LONDON – Fifty years after the Six Days War, the Middle East remains a region in seemingly perpetual crisis. So it is no surprise that, when addressing the region, politicians, diplomats, and the donor and humanitarian community typically focus on the here and now. Yet, if we are ever to break the modern Middle East’s cycle of crises, we must not lose sight of the future. And, already, four trends are brewing a new set of problems for the coming decade.

The first trend affects the Levant. The post-Ottoman order that emerged a century ago – an order based on secular Arab nationalism – has already crumbled. The two states that gave weight to this system, Iraq and Syria, have lost their central authority, and will remain politically fragmented and socially polarized for at least a generation.

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