“The Middle East is coming apart in a way that, I think, is unprecedented,” Dexter Filkins says on this week’s Political Scene, which was recorded live at The New Yorker Festival last Sunday. Filkins was joined by Steve Coll, Robin Wright, and Jon Lee Anderson for a panel discussion moderated by Evan Osnos about their experiences covering the Middle East and the rise of extremism in the region. ISIS represents a great threat to stability in Iraq and Syria, but the panelists agree that effective U.S. interventions will require a bigger-picture understanding of sectarian conflict across the Arab world. “To have a strategy that doesn’t account for the humanitarian crisis, for the politics of the destiny of these Sunni populations, for the context in which ISIS has captured this territory, but simply focuses on ISIS as if you could narrow the war to simply the problem of containing or decapitating ISIS is just, to me, a misreading of what the war is about and where it’s likely to lead,” Coll says.Here is the audio.
An excerpt from, "Is the Middle East state system about to disintegrate?" by Joschka Fischer (Germany's foreign minister and vice chancellor from 1998 to 2005), The Daily Star, May 5, 2008:
Emanating from this new situation is the threat of disintegration of the whole Anglo-French system of states in the Middle East. The first candidate is, of course, Iraq. Whether Iraq can be held together despite the ethnic and religious confrontations that pit Kurds against Arabs and Sunnis against the Shiites is one of the most pregnant questions for the new Middle East. For Iraq's disintegration would be hard to contain; indeed, it could bring about a thorough balkanization of the region.
Another important question is whether political Islam will move toward democracy and acceptance of modernity or remain trapped in radicalism and invocation of the past? The forefront of this battle is, at the moment, not in the Middle East, but in Turkey; nevertheless, the result is bound to have more general significance.
The emergence of the new Middle East may present an opportunity to establish a regional order that reflects the legitimate interests of all the actors involved, provides secure borders, and replaces hegemonic aspirations with transparency and cooperation. If not, or if such an opportunity is not seized, the new Middle East will be much more dangerous than the old one.