admiller1_Omar Haj KadourAFP via Getty Images OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP via Getty Images
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The New-Old Middle East

As much as the United States would like to extricate itself from the Middle East, that simply is not a realistic option. While the region has experienced a rapid geopolitical change in response to US disengagement, it remains maddeningly complex and fraught with potentially systemic risks that America cannot afford to ignore.

WASHINGTON, DC – Like some modern-day Gulliver that is tied up by powers large and small in a region that it needs to understand better, the United States confronts a Middle East in a period of extraordinary change. But it does so with fewer illusions and a clear determination to reorder its priorities in a region that has unduly preoccupied its attention for the past several decades. The growing importance of the Indo-Pacific, an increasingly aggressive Russia, independence from Arab hydrocarbons, and a sense – following the failed trillion-dollar social science experiments in Afghanistan and Iraq – that most of what ails the region is beyond America’s capacity to repair have forced a welcome downgrading of the Middle East in US foreign policy. And when a great power recalibrates, smaller powers will readjust in ways that both advance and harm its interests.