What Now In the Middle East?

The political and security situation in the vast region between the Indus Valley and the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean is a cause for grave concern. When the US intervened militarily in Iraq in 1991, the intention was to effect fundamental change in the entire region. Today it is clear that hardly any aspect of this policy has succeeded. Even the success of free elections in Iraq is threatening to divide rather than unite the country.

The existing power relations in the Middle East have indeed been permanently shaken and, indeed, revolutionized. The effect however, has not been a domino-like democratization; instead we are threatened with a domino effect of descent into chaos.

The decision to go to war against Iraq to liberate Kuwait, back in 1991, marked the beginning of America’s role as the sole hegemonic military power in the region. The decision to go to war against Iraq for a second time, and then to occupy the country in March 2003, transformed this hegemony into direct US responsibility for the future of the Middle East.

Two outcomes could flow from America’s adopted role as the decisive power in the Middle East. Were the US to succeed in using its military strength, it would create a new, democratic Middle East. But were it, despite its military might, to fail, it would create a power vacuum and destabilize the region. The second scenario – which was foreseeable from the outset – has now become a reality.