"In some ways, the pre-Sykes-Picot Middle East is coming back – but without the order imposed by the Ottoman Empire," writes CFR President Richard N. Haass. "And if no basis for a new regional order emerges, the Middle East stands to suffer far worse in the next century than it did in the last."
As fighting rages on in Syria, world leaders in Vienna on Tuesday pledged to turn the limited “cessation of hostilities” into a nationwide ceasefire heralding progress toward full peace and a political end to the war. Yet the question remains, as it has for years: If diplomacy fails, then what?
The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement explains little about the contemporary Middle East’s problems, writes CFR’s Steven A. Cook. Assuming it does is bad history and leads to bad assumptions for U.S. foreign policy.
“The underreported story of the Cold War is that the United States succeeded in achieving many of its objectives in the Middle East,” argue Ray Takeyh, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Steven Simon, visiting scholar at Dartmouth College. Cutting against conventional wisdom, the authors shed new light on the makings of the modern Middle East and draw lessons for U.S. strategy today.
Hope springs eternal when it comes to human rights in Iran. The election in 2013 of President Hassan Rouhani, who replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was supposed to bring improvement. The purported victory of moderates in the recent legislative and Islamic clerics’ Assembly of Experts elections was believed to be a positive development.
The next president of the United States will face tough decisions, including whether to commit significant ground forces, how much to support the Kurds, and what to do about Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. This video explainer examines the challenges.
In a comprehensive interview with Jeffrey Goldberg for the Atlantic, Philip Gordon discusses President Obama’s strategy in the Middle East, the so-called “Washington Playbook,” the Syria “redline,” and more. He argues the next administration will have to deal extensively with the Middle East whether it wants to or not.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 12, 2016, Graeme Wood discussed the self-proclaimed Islamic State as a mass movement and laid out the reasons for reasonable versus unreasonable fear of the movement and its constituents’ intentions. Based on his interactions with the Islamic State’s supporters abroad, Wood recommended that future U.S. government policy responses toward the Islamic State take into account not only military and political factors, but also “countercultural, religious, and existential ones,” and that politicians remain simultaneously rational and empathetic for their constituents.
Bernie Sanders recently spoke at some length about Israel, with the New York Daily News. Elliott Abrams analyzed the interview in The Weekly Standard, finding no hostility to the Jewish State—but confusion and misinformation.
If American Jews and Israel, are drifting apart, what’s the reason? That is the title of Elliott Abrams’s review essay in Mosaic, covering two new books that blame Israel—and its government’s policies—for the apparent drift. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, and the problems lie at home, among American Jews, not in Jerusalem.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2016 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »