The Three-Track Middle East

Rather than achieving internal convergence, the Middle East is now following at least three distinct paths, and already-large differences will persist and grow for a number of years to come. The main question is what will become of countries like Egypt, which can end up following the path of Syria or of the UAE.

LAGUNA BEACH – During a recent trip to the Middle East, I was struck by the growing gap between countries – so much so that, more than ever, I came away convinced that it makes no sense today to talk of the region as a coherent whole. Rather than pursuing internal convergence, this important part of the world is now following at least three paths, characterized by large divergences that will persist – and likely grow – for years to come.

On one path are countries like Iraq, Libya, and Syria, which are struggling to avoid the awful trap of becoming failed states. All of them share the unfortunate likelihood that their situation will become worse before it improves.

This group of countries is being dragged down further every day by a terrible combination of violence, political fragmentation, social disintegration, and economic implosion. Their ability to sort themselves out is weak and, in some cases, almost non-existent. Tragically, tremendous human suffering will likely persist, and the waves of human migration that this induces will place significant pressure on adjacent countries, particularly Jordan and Lebanon.

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