Barely three months after the Taliban claimed victory in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the second most populous Muslim-majority state, is moving to join Kabul in becoming an outpost of religious intolerance and Muslim supremacy.
The Taliban and Pakistan, both viewed warily by the West and others in the international community, appear to be benefitting from mounting concerns about the humanitarian and security situation in Afghanistan.
The times they are a changin’. Iranian leaders may not be Bob Dylan fans, but his words are likely to resonate as they contemplate their next steps in Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, Lebanon, and Azerbaijan. The same is true for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
“It’s the economy, stupid.” That is the message of a just-published survey of Iranian public opinion.
However, the substance of the message differs for newly elected hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the Biden administration as Mr. Raisi toughens his negotiating position and the United States grapples with alternative ways of curbing the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme should the parties fail to agree on terms for the revival of the 2015 international agreement.
The future of US engagement in the Middle East hangs in the balance.
Two decades of forever war in Afghanistan and continued military engagement in Iraq and elsewhere in the region have prompted debate about what constitutes a US interest in the Middle East. China, and to a lesser degree Russia, loom large in the debate as America’s foremost strategic and geopolitical challenges.
Questions about US interests have also sparked discussion about whether the United States can best achieve its objectives by continued focus on security and military options or whether a greater emphasis on political, diplomatic, economic, and civil society tools may be a more productive approach.
It may not have been planned or coordinated but efforts by Middle Eastern states to dial down tensions serve as an example of what happens when big power interests coincide.
Gulf states are in a pickle.
They fear that the emerging parameters of a reconfigured US commitment to security in the Middle East threaten to upend a more-than-a-century-old pillar of regional security and leave them with no good alternatives.
Two separate developments involving improved relations between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and women’s sporting rights demonstrate major shifts in how rivalry for leadership of the Muslim world and competition to define Islam in the 21st century is playing out in a world in which Middle Eastern states can no longer depend on the United States coming to their defence.
Societal struggles and reform often take unexpected turns in vast swaths of land stretching from the Middle East into Central Asia.
Take education for example.