Middle East Program

About the Middle East Program

About the Program

The Council on Foreign Relations' (CFR) Middle East program provides cutting-edge analysis of the region’s emerging political, economic, and social trends, offering insights into its current instability, where it might be headed, and U.S. policy toward the Middle East.

In the past two years, Middle Eastern countries have sought to manage the economic, social, and political disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, Syria’s civil war continues, Yemen’s humanitarian crisis grows, Libya remains on the brink of renewed civil war, Iraq is mired in political dysfunction, Lebanon is in an extended state of collapse, Egypt confronts unprecedented amounts of public debt, and the popularly elected president of Tunisia undermined his country’s democracy. Perennial issues like the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis and Iran’s challenges to regional stability remain unresolved.

Not all the developments in the Middle East are troubling. The Abraham Accords have produced benefits for the countries that have normalized relations with Israel, the al Ula agreement has reintegrated Qatar into the Gulf, and Turkey has sought to repairs its relations with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Israel. 

The ongoing changes in the region poses new challenges and opportunities for the United States as it continues to ensure the region’s energy supplies, protect Israel's well-being, and preserve regional stability. The United States also seeks to confront the problems of extremism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Yet how the United States goes about achieving these goals is open to debate as America’s policymakers grapple with previous failures in the region, including the invasion of Iraq, the effort to promote democracy in the Arab world, and establish a Palestinian state. As Americans debate  the U,S. role in the Middle East, regional leaders question Washington’s political will to remain a power in the region and have begun to develop their ties with China and Russia.

By analyzing the forces both driving and frustrating change in the Middle East, CFR's Middle East team provides an unrivaled resource for policymakers and the public alike seeking to understand the changing dynamics of this region.