The Iraq Effect: The Middle East after the Iraq War

The Iraq Effect: The Middle East after the Iraq War

The Iraq Effect: The Middle East after the Iraq War

The Iraq Effect: The Middle East after the Iraq War

Synopsis

No matter how the conflict in Iraq ends, its effects on the broader Middle East will be felt for decades to come, presenting new challenges and opportunities for U.S. policy. Drawing extensively from field interviews and local sources, this monograph explores the multiple dimensions of the Iraq War's regional impact to better prepare the United States to manage its long-term consequences. Among the authors' key findings are that the war has facilitated the rise of Iranian power in the region but with more limits than commonly acknowledged; weakened local confidence in U. S. credibility and thereby created new opportunities for Chinese and Russian involvement; entrenched and strengthened neighboring Arab regimes and, at the same time, diminished the momentum for political reform; and eroded al-Qa'ida's standing in the region, leading the network and its affiliates to adapt with new tactics and strategies.

Excerpt

The research reported here was sponsored by the U.S. Air Force, Director of Operational Planning and Strategy (A5X), Headquarters United States Air Force, and conducted within the Strategy and Doctrine Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE for a fiscal year 2008 study “Iraq Effects: Emerging Threats to U.S. Interests in the Greater Middle East.” This monograph should be of interest to U.S. security policymakers, military planners, and analysts and observers of regional affairs in the Middle East and Central and South Asia.

The goal of this work is to advance understanding of the regional implications of the Iraq War by offering an assessment of trends, threats, and opportunities in the Middle East, drawing from extensive field-based research and primary sources. The monograph covers balance-of-power realignments, focusing on Iranian activism, Arab diplomatic disarray, and Turkey’s new prominence; shifting local perceptions of U.S. credibility and the increased roles of such extraregional powers as China and Russia; the war’s effects on sectarianism, ethnic activism, and political reform; and how the conflict has shaped future terrorist strategy, ideology, and tactics. By referring to an “Iraq effect,” we do not suggest that the war is the sole driver behind these important regional dynamics. Rather, we use the expression as a framework or a lens to capture the ways in which key U.S. policy challenges—the stability of pro-U.S. regimes, terrorism, and Iranian power, to name a few—have been affected by the Iraq War, either directly or indirectly.

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