Challenges and Opportunities in the Middle East: An American Perspective

The Middle East today presents several opportunities — opportunities of which can also be accurately described as challenges. These prospective scenarios include an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank and a move toward a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian issue; the consolidation of democracy and order in post-Saddam Iraq and post-Syria Lebanon; and the promotion of political, social, educational and economic reform throughout the entire region. None of these opportunities, however, will be easy to realize and in no case is success inevitable. There are also challenges posed by Iran’s nuclear program, the existence of terrorist groups, and basic demographic realities. Although progress toward realizing one set of opportunities (or meeting one set of challenges) can help with others, it is equally true that setbacks in one area can complicate attempts to make progress in others. In this regard, the behavior and policies of local governments and peoples are crucial—but so too will the behavior and policies of the United States, the world’s most powerful and influential country. The result is that the future of this region is as uncertain as it has ever been.