Middle East Program

About the Middle East Program

About the Program

The Council on Foreign Relations' Middle East program provides cutting-edge analysis of the emerging political, economic, and social trends in the world's most volatile region. Through books, articles, op-eds, blogs, and media appearances, CFR scholars offer insights and recommendations for policymakers and the public about the Middle East, its history, the sources of its current instability, and where it might be headed.

The popular uprisings that have swept the Middle East in recent years are remaking the political, social, cultural, ideological, and economic landscapes of the region. The emergence of the self-declared Islamic Statev in Syria and Iraq has required increased U.S. military involvement in the region, including a coalition to support an air campaign against the terrorist group. Meanwhile, Syria’s civil war continues. Libya and Yemen are sliding into further violence and turmoil. Egypt and Tunisia are attempting to restore security and political order. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Jordan are seeking to quell unrest in their own countries. Israel is concerned about the potential for new threats to emerge from the instability in its neighborhood and remains ever vigilant over Iran's ongoing nuclear development as the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians seems to have stalled. Non-Arab regional actors like Iran and Turkey are using the changes in the Arab world to extend their influence in the region. Islamist parties have capitalized on new opportunities to advance their agendas in the political arena, backed with electoral legitimacy, following years of repression at the hands of authoritarian leaders. In some countries, these parties are confronting a fierce backlash due to incompetence and their own authoritarian approach to governance.

The ongoing upheaval in the Middle East poses new challenges for the United States. Washington continues to look to secure energy supplies, protect Israel's well-being, and preserve regional stability. However, the policies most likely to achieve these ends at acceptable costs are open to fresh debate. As the United States struggles to map new policies, regional leaders question its political will to remain a power in the region.

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.