Each year, the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings partners with the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), the U.S. military unified command whose area of responsibility covers much of the Middle East, to convene a dynamic two-day conference that brings together military officers, analysts, policymakers, and academics to discuss the current state of the Middle East and explore ways to address the complex challenges the United States faces in that tumultuous region.
The theme of this year’s conference, which took place on July 22 and 23, was “The Middle East in Transition.” It encompassed a wide range of issues, from the civil wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen that have plunged the region into chaos and produced unprecedented levels of instability and violence, to the potential impacts of the Iran nuclear deal on regional stability and U.S. policy toward the region, to the competing ideas and ideologies that are all struggling for dominance in a Middle East in flux.
The conference facilitated intense debate and engagement on tough issues and produced the kind of rich, nuanced insights that are needed to solve the daunting challenges of the Middle East. Ideas on how to address immediate crises like the rise of the Islamic State and the massive refugee flows generated by the region’s civil wars were examined alongside proposals for how to solve or at least mitigate the negative consequences of the underlying structural problems that have given rise to those more immediate threats, and all were weighed against the current domestic political and economic realities facing American policymakers. The question of whether the interests, goals, and relationships that define today’s Middle East have become too complex and intertwined to be easily solved by a single grand strategy ran throughout the conference, with intelligent, thoughtful voices weighing in on both sides. Ultimately, it was determined that despite how bad things look in the region right now, the Middle the East is not past the point of no return. There is still hope.
To learn more about the conversations, debates, and policy analysis that took place during the 2015 Brookings Center for Middle East Policy – CENTCOM Conference, you can read the conference proceedings here.