The New Arab Regional Order: Opportunities and Challenges for U.S. Policy

The New Arab Regional Order: Opportunities and Challenges for U.S. Policy
The New Arab Regional Order: Opportunities and Challenges for U.S. Policy
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This monograph examines the new Arab regional order that has emerged in recent years and analyzes opportunities and challenges for U.S. strategic interests. The new order encompasses two main alliances. The first is an anti-Islamist grouping of countries and factions opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood and likeminded Islamist groups. This alliance emerged in the aftermath of the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait showered the new Egyptian government with billions of dollars in aid because they saw the Brotherhood as a threat. This alliance has expanded to include secular elements in Tunisia and Libya, as well as the Jordanian government.

The second alliance is an anti-Shia grouping that came about in the aftermath of the Houthi (a Yemeni Shia group) takeover of the Yemeni government and large swaths of Yemeni territory. These alliances, because they are led by and made up of long-standing U.S. friends in the region, may benefit U.S. interests on one level, but they also present challenges to U.S. policy on another. For example, if the anti-Islamist grouping redirects its attention to the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is, to some extent, already underway, that will be a positive development. But if this alliance continues to repress nonviolent Islamist groups, it puts the United States in the awkward position of being perceived as playing sides in these countries’ internal politics. As for supporting the anti-Shia alliance, the policy puts Iran on notice not to interfere in countries like Yemen, but it has the potential to harm U.S. relations with the Iraqi government, hinder the possibility of a new relationship with Iran if Tehran moderates its policies, and make U.S. human rights policy problematic if the United States is perceived as anti-Shia.

The monograph argues that U.S. policymakers should continue to promote inclusivity of all nonviolent political groups in the political systems of these countries, regardless of whether these groups are secularist or Islamist, with the understanding that there are limits to U.S. influence. In addition, U.S. policymakers should continue to avoid taking sides as much as possible in Sunni-Shia conflicts and should use its influence in the area to try to dampen such conflicts, as they are a main source of instability in the region and help extremist groups, like ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and al-Qaeda, exploit these conflicts. The monograph also recommends that the U.S. Army should assist countries of the region in counter-terrorism training and operations where possible, but Army officers should avoid being drawn into discussions about the Islamist-secularist and Sunni-Shia disputes.

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The author analyzes alliances in the Arab world and offers specific policy recommendations that would serve interests in this region. Therefore, U.S. policymakers and Army officers may benefit from these findings in efforts to deal with this important region of the world. Foreign policy, conflict resolution, Arab studies, and national security students may find this resource helpful as a supplemental text to these courses.

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Defense Dept., Army, U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute
  • Aftandilian, Gregory
Key Phrases:
  • New Arab Regional Order
  • Regional Order
  • Opportunities and Challenges for United States Policy
  • Sunnites, Relations, Shia
  • Arab countries, Politics and government
  • United States, Foreign relations, Arab countries
  • Arab countries, Foreign relations, Arab countries
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