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3/19/15

The Middle East Quagmire: In the Middle East, Events Are Outpacing U.S. Policy - by Philip Seib

Five factors guarantee even rougher times ahead for the United States in the Middle East. Individually, they would be only somewhat disruptive; collectively, they are likely to cause major problems for years to come.

First, regardless of how the next Israeli governing coalition takes shape, two principal images will linger in the minds of Arabs: Benjamin Netanyahu saying "No" to creating a Palestinian state, and the U.S. Congress -- or at least its "Republican Guard" members -- wildly applauding the Israeli prime minister. Particularly when taken together, the two underscore the presumed American antipathy toward the Arab world.

Second, Iran's leadership is less worried than U.S. policymakers are about putting "boots on the ground" in Iraq, and so Iran keeps expanding its regional clout while American influence shrivels. The nuclear talks are a useful sideshow for Iran while it accomplishes what it really wants: a de facto political annexation of parts of Iraq.

The United States has yet to learn that air power alone has very limited effect in terms of establishing its user as a force to be reckoned with in a conflict. In the fight against the Islamic State, Iran is increasing its flow of weaponry and ground troops, which -- given the sad state of Iraq's U.S.-trained army -- may be the best hope for pushing back IS forces.

Third, Turkey's foreign policy is increasingly erratic and the United States appears to be making little effort to ensure its NATO ally's meaningful cooperation in dealing with Syria and exercising constructive regional leadership.

Turkey faces a rough year, with increasingly restive Kurds at home and global disapproval on the centennial of the Armenian genocide. The United States can ill afford to have Turkey slip into isolation, which not only would make eventual resolution of the Syrian civil war less feasible but also would further enhance Iran's sway.

Read more: In the Middle East, Events Are Outpacing U.S. Policy | Philip Seib

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