By Jared Angle
The Middle East, specifically in the Syria-Iraq-Iran corridor, is a volatile region that presents considerable challenges to securing a balance between a lack of Islamist militants and a lack of autocratic regimes. The United States must focus its efforts on eliminating militant groups, and then must carefully manage its relations with regional powers such as Iran to encourage democratization and stability (through soft power rather than by force) while discouraging the development of new militant groups.
The contemporary security situation in the Middle East can be traced to a series of disruptions to the regional power dynamic, which created a power vacuum and allowed certain states to expand their regional influence in a way that was previously unfeasible. This dynamic was first disrupted during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although Saddam Hussein’s swift deposition was a victory for democratization and human rights, his autocratic Iraqi regime was an important regional power with the ability to keep non-state actors in check. Hussein’s removal signaled the implosion of a key stabilizing actor and introduced new variables into the regional dynamic.