Over the past decade, America has withdrawn from the Middle East, states have collapsed, governments have been overthrown, Iran has rapidly expanded its influence, and a significant détente has come into being between Israel and the Sunni Arab states. But, writes Michael Singh, much more remains unchanged and could be changed for the better:
The economic and political stagnation that birthed the 2011 uprisings has, if anything, worsened. . . . Those countries that were doing reasonably well in 2008—for example, Jordan, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates—are today continuing to prosper despite the region’s turbulence, due to sound leadership and patient, low-key U.S. and international cooperation. The biggest change in the region has arguably come from the outside, starting with the role of the United States. There is no American alliance in the region that stands stronger in 2017 than it was in 2009. . . .
It is tempting to see Middle East policy in terms of “solving” Syria, Iraq, or the Israel-Palestinian dispute, but such solutionism tends not only to fail but to crowd out attention and resources for endeavors that are just as important in the long run but less high-profile.
Thus, as vital as the fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq will continue to be, there are three other changes to U.S. policy in the region that President Trump could make that would serve our interests well over time. First, he should act firmly to counter Iran. Doing so would not only help to . . . end the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere, but would [also] put the U.S. back on the same page . . . as our allies, who consider Tehran’s regional ambitions to be their top threat. Second, he should seek to rebuild U.S. alliances in the region, focusing not merely on improving bilateral ties but on forging a more capable and useful multilateral grouping of likeminded regional partners.
Finally, he should help our [Arab] allies, where they are willing, to engage in economic, security, and political reforms. The objective should not be to remake them in our own image, but to help them take actions that benefit our mutual interests by making them more resilient to regional threats and responsive to their own populations.