United States interests and policy choices in the Middle East: We didn’t start the fire…

Any consideration of US policy choices in the Middle East should be grounded in national interests, an understanding of the contemporary security environment, and an appraisal of current policies and operations. 

In a new Atlantic Council report, “United States Interests and Policy Choices in the Middle East: We Didn’t Start the Fire…,” Dr. Michael S. Bell, a professor at the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, defines those interests, highlights major threats to them, and offers recommendations for US policy makers. 

Dr. Bell defines the US enduring national security interests in the Middle East as: 1) protection of the American homeland from terrorist attacks; 2) peace between countries in the region; 3) nonproliferation of nuclear weapons; and 4) the free flow of energy and commerce to the global economy.

The primary threats the author identifies to those interests are two-fold: 1) the resilience of Salafist-jihadist extremist groups, such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, and 2) Iran’s aggressive revolutionary expansionism, which includes its hostile and destabilizing regional activities and its nuclear program. Based on that assessment, Dr. Bell makes detailed policy recommendations for the next administration and for Congress. 

Middle East Programs

Through our Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative, the Atlantic Council works with allies and partners in Europe and the wider Middle East to protect US interests, build peace and security, and unlock the human potential of the region.

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