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Ex State Policy Head Haass in Foreign Affairs: The New

*The New Middle East*
By Richard N. Haass

   *From /Foreign Affairs/, November/December 2006*

   ------------------------------
------------------------------------------
   Summary: The age of U.S. dominance in the Middle East has ended and
   a new era in the modern history of the region has begun. It will be
   shaped by new actors and new forces competing for influence, and to
   master it, Washington will have to rely more on diplomacy than on
   military might.

   /Richard N. Haass is President of the Council on Foreign Relations./

   THE END OF AN ERA

   Just over two centuries since Napoleon's arrival in Egypt heralded
   the advent of the modern Middle East -- some 80 years after the
   demise of the Ottoman Empire, 50 years after the end of colonialism,
   and less than 20 years after the end of the Cold War -- the American
   era in the Middle East, the fourth in the region's modern history,
   has ended. Visions of a new, Europe-like region -- peaceful,
   prosperous, democratic -- will not be realized. Much more likely is
   the emergence of a new Middle East that will cause great harm to
   itself, the United States, and the world.

   All the eras have been defined by the interplay of contending
   forces, both internal and external to the region. What has varied is
   the balance between these influences. The Middle East's next era
   promises to be one in which outside actors have a relatively modest
   impact and local forces enjoy the upper hand -- and in which the
   local actors gaining power are radicals committed to changing the
   status quo. Shaping the new Middle East from the outside will be
   exceedingly difficult, but it -- along with managing a dynamic Asia
   -- will be the primary challenge of U.S. foreign policy for decades
   to come.

   The modern Middle East was born in the late eighteenth century. For
   some historians, the signal event was the 1774 signing of the treaty
   that ended the war between the Ottoman Empire and Russia; a stronger
   case can be made for the importance of Napoleon's relatively easy
   entry into Egypt in 1798, which showed Europeans that the region was
   ripe for conquest and prompted Arab and Muslim intellectuals to ask
   -- as many continue to do today -- why their civilization had fallen
   so far behind that of Christian Europe. Ottoman decline combined
   with European penetration into the region gave rise to the "Eastern
   Question," regarding how to deal with the effects of the decline of
   the Ottoman Empire, which various parties have tried to answer to
   their own advantage ever since.

   The first era ended with World War I, the demise of the Ottoman
   Empire, the rise of the Turkish republic, and the division of the
   spoils of war among the European victors. What ensued was an age of
   colonial rule, dominated by France and the United Kingdom. This
   second era ended some four decades later, after another world war
   had drained the Europeans of much of their strength, Arab
   nationalism had risen, and the two superpowers had begun to lock
   horns. "[He] who rules the Near East rules the world; and he who has
   interests in the world is bound to concern himself with the Near
   East," wrote the historian Albert Hourani, who correctly saw the
   1956 Suez crisis as marking the end of the colonial era and the
   beginning of the Cold War era in the region.

   During the Cold War, as had been the case previously, outside forces
   played a dominant role in the Middle East. But the very nature of
   U.S.-Soviet competition gave local states considerable room to
   maneuver. The high-water mark of the era was the October 1973 war,
   which the United States and the Soviet Union essentially stopped at
   a stalemate, paving the way for ambitious diplomacy, including the
   Egyptian-Israeli peace accord.

   Yet it would be a mistake to see this third era simply as a time of
   well-managed great-power competition. The June 1967 war forever
   changed the balance of power in the Middle East. The use of oil as
   an economic and political weapon in 1973 highlighted U.S. and
   international vulnerability to supply shortages and price hikes. And
   the Cold War's balancing act created a context in which local forces
   in the Middle East had significant autonomy to pursue their own
   agendas. The 1979 revolution in Iran, which brought down one of the
   pillars of U.S. policy in the region, showed that outsiders could
   not control local events. Arab states resisted U.S. attempts to
   persuade them to join anti-Soviet projects. Israel's 1982 occupation
   of Lebanon spawned Hezbollah. And the Iran-Iraq War consumed those
   two countries for a decade.

   AMERICAN PASTORAL

   The end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union brought
   about a fourth era in the region's history, during which the United
   States enjoyed unprecedented influence and freedom to act. Dominant
   features of this American era were the U.S.-led liberation of
   Kuwait, the long-term stationing of U.S. ground and air forces on
   the Arabian Peninsula, and an active diplomatic interest in trying
   to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all (which
   culminated in the Clinton administration's intense but ultimately
   unsuccessful effort at Camp David). More than any other, this period
   exemplified what is now thought of as the "old Middle East." The
   region was defined by an aggressive but frustrated Iraq, a radical
   but divided and relatively weak Iran, Israel as the region's most
   powerful state and sole nuclear power, fluctuating oil prices,
   top-heavy Arab regimes that repressed their peoples, uneasy
   coexistence between Israel and both the Palestinians and the Arabs,
   and, more generally, American primacy.

   What has brought this era to an end after less than two decades is a
   number of factors, some structural, some self-created. The most
   significant has been the Bush administration's decision to attack
   Iraq in 2003 and its conduct of the operation and resulting
   occupation. One casualty of the war has been a Sunni-dominated Iraq,
   which was strong enough and motivated enough to balance Shiite Iran.
   Sunni-Shiite tensions, dormant for a while, have come to the surface
   in Iraq and throughout the region. Terrorists have gained a base in
   Iraq and developed there a new set of techniques to export.
   Throughout much of the region, democracy has become associated with
   the loss of public order and the end of Sunni primacy. Anti-American
   sentiment, already considerable, has been reinforced. And by tying
   down a huge portion of the U.S. military, the war has reduced U.S.
   leverage worldwide. It is one of history's ironies that the first
   war in Iraq, a war of necessity, marked the beginning of the
   American era in the Middle East and the second Iraq war, a war of
   choice, has precipitated its end.

   Other factors have also been relevant. One is the demise of the
   Middle East peace process. The United States had traditionally
   enjoyed a unique capacity to work with both the Arabs and the
   Israelis. But the limits of that capacity were exposed at Camp David
   in 2000. Since then, the weakness of Yasir Arafat's successors, the
   rise of Hamas, and the Israeli embrace of unilateralism have all
   helped sideline the United States, a shift reinforced by the
   disinclination of the current Bush administration to undertake
   active diplomacy.

   Another factor that has helped bring about the end of the American
   era has been the failure of traditional Arab regimes to counter the
   appeal of radical Islamism. Faced with a choice between what they
   perceived as distant and corrupt political leaders and vibrant
   religious ones, many in the region have opted for the latter. It
   took 9/11 for U.S. leaders to draw the connection between closed
   societies and the incubation of radicals. But their response --
   often a hasty push for elections regardless of the local political
   context -- has provided terrorists and their supporters with more
   opportunities for advancement than they had before.

   Finally, globalization has changed the region. It is now less
   difficult for radicals to acquire funding, arms, ideas, and
   recruits. The rise of new media, and above all of satellite
   television, has turned the Arab world into a "regional village" and
   politicized it. Much of the content shown -- scenes of violence and
   destruction in Iraq; images of mistreated Iraqi and Muslim
   prisoners; suffering in Gaza, the West Bank, and now Lebanon -- has
   further alienated many people in the Middle East from the United
   States. As a result, governments in the Middle East now have a more
   difficult time working openly with the United States, and U.S.
   influence in the region has waned.

   WHAT LIES AHEAD

   The outlines of the Middle East's fifth era are still taking shape,
   but they follow naturally from the end of the American era. A dozen
   features will form the context for daily events.

   First, the United States will continue to enjoy more influence in
   the region than any other outside power, but its influence will be
   reduced from what it once was. This reflects the growing impact of
   an array of internal and external forces, the inherent limits of
   U.S. power, and the results of U.S. policy choices.

   Second, the United States will increasingly be challenged by the
   foreign policies of other outsiders. The European Union will offer
   little help in Iraq and is likely to push for a different approach
   to the Palestinian problem. China will resist pressuring Iran and
   will seek to guarantee the availability of energy supplies. Russia,
   too, will resist calls to sanction Iran and will look for
   opportunities to demonstrate its independence from the United
   States. Both China and Russia (as well as many European states) will
   distance themselves from U.S. efforts to promote political reform in
   nondemocratic states in the Middle East.

   Third, Iran will be one of the two most powerful states in the
   region. Those who have seen Iran as being on the cusp of dramatic
   internal change have been wrong. Iran enjoys great wealth, is the
   most powerful external influence in Iraq, and holds considerable
   sway over both Hamas and Hezbollah. It is a classic imperial power,
   with ambitions to remake the region in its image and the potential
   to translate its objectives into reality.

   Fourth, Israel will be the other powerful state in the region and
   the one country with a modern economy able to compete globally. The
   only state in the Middle East with a nuclear arsenal, it also
   possesses the region's most capable conventional military force. But
   it still has to bear the costs of its occupation of the West Bank
   and deal with a multifront, multidimensional security challenge.
   Strategically speaking, Israel is in a weaker position today than it
   was before this summer's crisis in Lebanon. And its situation will
   further deteriorate -- as will that of the United States -- if Iran
   develops nuclear weapons.

   Fifth, anything resembling a viable peace process is unlikely for
   the foreseeable future. In the aftermath of Israel's controversial
   operation in Lebanon, the Kadima-led government will almost
   certainly be too weak to command domestic support for any policy
   perceived as risky or as rewarding aggression. Unilateral
   disengagement has been discredited now that attacks have followed
   Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza. There is no obvious
   partner on the Palestinian side who is both able and willing to
   compromise, further hindering the chances of a negotiated approach.
   The United States has lost much of its standing as a credible and
   honest broker, at least for the time being. Meanwhile, Israel's
   settlement expansion and road building will continue apace, further
   complicating diplomacy.

   Sixth, Iraq, traditionally a center of Arab power, will remain messy
   for years to come, with a weak central government, a divided
   society, and regular sectarian violence. At worst, it will become a
   failed state wracked by an all-out civil war that will draw in its
   neighbors.

   Seventh, the price of oil will stay high, the result of strong
   demand from China and India, limited success at curbing consumption
   in the United States, and the continued possibility of supply
   shortages. The price of a barrel of oil is far more likely to exceed
   $100 than it is to fall below $40. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other
   large producers will benefit disproportionately.

   Eighth, "militiazation" will continue apace. Private armies in Iraq,
   Lebanon, and Palestinian areas are already growing more powerful.
   Militias, both a product and a cause of weak states, will emerge
   wherever there is a perceived or an actual deficit of state
   authority and capacity. The recent fighting in Lebanon will
   exacerbate this trend, since Hezbollah has gained by not suffering a
   total defeat, while Israel has lost by not realizing a total victory
   -- a result that will embolden Hezbollah and those who emulate it.

   Ninth, terrorism, defined as the intentional use of force against
   civilians in the pursuit of political aims, will remain a feature of
   the region. It will occur in divided societies, such as Iraq, and in
   societies where radical groups seek to weaken and discredit the
   government, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Terrorism will grow in
   sophistication and remain a tool used against Israel and the
   presence of the United States and other nonindigenous powers.

   Tenth, Islam will increasingly fill the political and intellectual
   vacuum in the Arab world and provide a foundation for the politics
   of a majority of the region's inhabitants. Arab nationalism and Arab
   socialism are things of the past, and democracy belongs in the
   distant future, at best. Arab unity is a slogan, not a reality. The
   influence of Iran and groups associated with it has been reinforced,
   and efforts to improve ties between Arab governments and Israel and
   the United States have been complicated. Meanwhile, tensions between
   Sunnis and Shiites will grow throughout the Middle East, causing
   problems in countries with divided societies, such as Bahrain,
   Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia.

   Eleventh, Arab regimes are likely to remain authoritarian and become
   more religiously intolerant and anti-American. Two bellwethers will
   be Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Egypt, which accounts for roughly
   one-third of the Arab world's population, has introduced some
   constructive economic reforms. But its politics have failed to keep
   up. On the contrary, the regime seems intent on repressing what few
   liberals the country has and presenting the Egyptian people with a
   choice between traditional authoritarians and the Muslim
   Brotherhood. The risk is that Egyptians will one day opt for the
   latter, less because they support it outright than because they have
   grown weary of the former. Alternatively, the regime might take on
   the colors of its Islamist opponents in an effort to co-opt their
   appeal, in the process distancing itself from the United States. In
   Saudi Arabia, the government and the royal elite rely on using large
   energy proceeds to placate domestic appeals for change. The problem
   is that most of the pressure they have responded to has come from
   the religious right rather than the liberal left, which has led them
   to embrace the agenda of religious authorities.

   Finally, regional institutions will remain weak, lagging far behind
   those elsewhere. The Middle East's best-known organization, the Arab
   League, excludes the region's two most powerful states, Israel and
   Iran. The enduring Arab-Israeli rift will continue to preclude the
   participation of Israel in any sustained regional relationship. The
   tension between Iran and most Arab states will also frustrate the
   emergence of regionalism. Trade within the Middle East will remain
   modest because few countries offer goods and services that others
   want to buy on a large scale, and advanced manufactured goods will
   have to continue to come from elsewhere. Few of the advantages of
   global economic integration will come to this part of the world,
   despite the pressing need for them.

   MISTAKES AND OPPORTUNITIES

   Although the basic features of this fifth era of the modern Middle
   East are largely unattractive, this should not be a cause for
   fatalism. Much is a matter of degree. There is a fundamental
   difference between a Middle East lacking formal peace agreements and
   one defined by terrorism, interstate conflict, and civil war;
   between one housing a powerful Iran and one dominated by Iran; or
   between one that has an uneasy relationship with the United States
   and one filled with hatred of the country. Time also makes a
   difference. Eras in the Middle East can last for as long as a
   century or as little as a decade and a half. It is clearly in the
   interest of the United States and Europe that the emerging era be as
   brief as possible -- and that it be followed by a more benign one.

   To ensure this, U.S. policymakers need to avoid two mistakes, while
   seizing two opportunities. The first mistake would be an
   overreliance on military force. As the United States has learned to
   its great cost in Iraq -- and Israel has in Lebanon -- military
   force is no panacea. It is not terribly useful against loosely
   organized militias and terrorists who are well armed, accepted by
   the local population, and prepared to die for their cause. Nor would
   carrying out a preventive strike on Iranian nuclear installations
   accomplish much good. Not only might an attack fail to destroy all
   facilities, but it might also lead Tehran to reconstitute its
   program even more covertly, cause Iranians to rally around the
   regime, and persuade Iran to retaliate (most likely through proxies)
   against U.S. interests in Afghanistan and Iraq and maybe even
   directly against the United States. It would further radicalize the
   Arab and Muslim worlds and generate more terrorism and anti-American
   activity. Military action against Iran would also drive the price of
   oil to new heights, increasing the chances of an international
   economic crisis and a global recession. For all these reasons,
   military force should be considered only as a last resort.

   The second mistake would be to count on the emergence of democracy
   to pacify the region. It is true that mature democracies tend not to
   wage war on one another. Unfortunately, creating mature democracies
   is no easy task, and even if the effort ultimately succeeds, it
   takes decades. In the interim, the U.S. government must continue to
   work with many nondemocratic governments. Democracy is not the
   answer to terrorism, either. It is plausible that young men and
   women coming of age would be less likely to become terrorists if
   they belonged to societies that offered them political and economic
   opportunities. But recent events suggest that even those who grow up
   in mature democracies, such as the United Kingdom, are not immune to
   the pull of radicalism. The fact that both Hamas and Hezbollah fared
   well in elections and then carried out violent attacks reinforces
   the point that democratic reform does not guarantee quiet. And
   democratization is of little use when dealing with radicals whose
   platforms have no hope of receiving majority support. More useful
   initiatives would be actions designed to reform educational systems,
   promote economic liberalization and open markets, encourage Arab and
   Muslim authorities to speak out in ways that delegitimize terrorism
   and shame its supporters, and address the grievances that motivate
   young men and women to take it up.

   As for the opportunities to be seized, the first is to intervene
   more in the Middle East's affairs with nonmilitary tools. Regarding
   Iraq, in addition to any redeployment of U.S. troops and training of
   local military and police, the United States should establish a
   regional forum for Iraq's neighbors (Turkey and Saudi Arabia in
   particular) and other interested parties akin to that used to help
   manage events in Afghanistan following the intervention there in
   2001. Doing so would necessarily require bringing in both Iran and
   Syria. Syria, which can affect the movement of fighters into Iraq
   and arms into Lebanon, should be persuaded to close its borders in
   exchange for economic benefits (from Arab governments, Europe, and
   the United States) and a commitment to restart talks on the status
   of the Golan Heights. In the new Middle East, there is a danger that
   Syria might be more interested in working with Tehran than with
   Washington. But it did join the U.S.-led coalition during the
   Persian Gulf War and attend the Madrid peace conference in 1991, two
   gestures that suggest it might be open to a deal with the United
   States in the future.

   Iran is a more difficult case. But since regime change in Tehran is
   not a near-term prospect, military strikes against nuclear sites in
   Iran would be dangerous, and deterrence is uncertain, diplomacy is
   the best option available to Washington. The U.S. government should
   open, without preconditions, comprehensive talks that address Iran's
   nuclear program and its support of terrorism and foreign militias.
   Iran should be offered an array of economic, political, and security
   incentives. It could be allowed a highly limited uranium-enrichment
   pilot program so long as it accepted highly intrusive inspections.
   Such an offer would win broad international support, a prerequisite
   if the United States wants backing for imposing sanctions or
   escalating to other options should diplomacy fail. Making the terms
   of such an offer public would increase diplomacy's chances of
   success. The Iranian people should know the price they stand to pay
   for their government's radical foreign policy. With the government
   in Tehran concerned about an adverse public reaction, it would be
   more likely to accept the U.S. offer.

   Diplomacy also needs to be revived in the Israeli-Palestinian
   conflict, which is still the issue that most shapes (and
   radicalizes) public opinion in the region. The goal at this point
   would be not to bring the parties to Camp David or anywhere else but
   to begin to create the conditions under which diplomacy could
   usefully be restarted. The United States should articulate those
   principles it believes ought to constitute the elements of a final
   settlement, including the creation of a Palestinian state based on
   the 1967 lines. (The lines would have to be adjusted to safeguard
   Israel's security and reflect demographic changes, and the
   Palestinians would have to be compensated for any losses resulting
   from the adjustments.) The more generous and detailed the plan, the
   harder it would be for Hamas to reject negotiation and favor
   confrontation. Consistent with this approach, U.S. officials ought
   to sit down with Hamas officials, much as they have with the leaders
   of Sinn F�in, some of whom also led the Irish Republican Army. Such
   exchanges should be viewed not as rewarding terrorist tactics but as
   instruments with the potential to bring behavior in line with U.S.
   policy.

   The second opportunity involves the United States' insulating itself
   as much as possible from the region's instability. This would mean
   curbing U.S. oil consumption and U.S. dependence on the Middle
   East's energy resources, goals that could best be achieved by
   reducing demand (by, say, increasing taxes at the pump -- offset by
   tax reductions elsewhere -- and promoting policies that would
   accelerate the introduction of alternative sources of energy).
   Washington should also take additional steps to reduce its exposure
   to terrorism. Like vulnerability to disease, vulnerability to
   terrorism cannot be entirely eliminated. But more can and should be
   done to better protect the U.S. homeland and to better prepare for
   those inevitable occasions when terrorists will succeed.

   Avoiding these mistakes and seizing these opportunities would help,
   but it is important to recognize that there are no quick or easy
   solutions to the problems the new era poses. The Middle East will
   remain a troubled and troubling part of the world for decades to
   come. It is all enough to make one nostalgic for the old Middle East.


******************************
*************************************************************************
*What is the current size of the Web? *

At the time of this writing, Google claims to index more than 8 billion
pages, MSN Beta claims about 5 billion pages, Yahoo! at least 4 billion
and Ask/Teoma more than 2 billion. Estimating the size of the whole Web
is quite difficult, due to its dynamic nature ...The estimated size of
the indexable Web to at least 11.5 billion pages as of the end of
January 2005. http://www.cs.uiowa.edu/%7Easignori/web-size

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