March 1, 2014 —
Executive Summary We have entered a particularly dangerous era in the Near East and South Asia— that is, the Greater Middle East. The context of today’s situation is more alarming than respective current crises—as bad as they may be. Rather, there is an increasingly radicalized and violent sectarian environment made up of crosscutting crises occurring in the midst of proliferation; precision weapons; cyber war; increased ungoverned territory vulnerable to global, regional, and local jihadist exploitation; majoritarian authoritarianism; uncompromising sectarianism; ethnic, tribal, and sectarian-driven civil wars; massive popular anger and frustration over the lack of essential services and a diminishing quality of life, particularly in areas such as water, electricity, health, education, employment, and economic collapse; water wars and environmental endangerment; and the vulnerability of sensitive infrastructure targeted by state and nonstate actors, or an empowered lone wolf in the service of a state or nonstate actors.
For U.S. policymakers, strategists, and military and intelligence officials, there are cautionary tales from past crises and prescriptions that may prove useful as future crises unfold. Decisions made or not made matter, with regional and global consequences of both. Whatever decisions are made or not made, the greatest danger may be looming, though presently unknown, consequences for a region in tumult.
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