Regional insecurity in the Middle East

Despite the official “defeat” of Islamic State as a territorial caliphate, the Middle East is more dangerous and difficult to predict than ever. Islamic State is defeated as a territorial caliphate, but the region is no less dangerous or unpredictable.

The Saudi-Iranian confrontation continues to play out uncertainly in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen and increasingly in the Gulf. International efforts to reach a political settlement in Syria limp along, with a breakthrough doubtful. President Bashar al-Assad is seeking to build on territorial recovery through a combination of military and political means while simultaneously embarking on economic reconstruction. With tensions rising in the West Bank and Gaza, in part over perceived US bias, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has returned to the international agenda, and Israel has intervened periodically to check the build-up of Iranian military might in Syria.

  • What are the chances of military spill-over from the Saudi-Iranian rivalry, especially in the Gulf?
  • Will renewed focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict deflect attention from Israel’s reaction to Hezbollah’s presence in Syria – where Turkey and the Kurds are also facing off?
  • Will the return of refugees from Lebanon and Jordan be used as political leverage for political acceptance and reconstruction aid?
  • With so many political fault lines shifting, can the salafi-jihadists make a comeback?