America and the Middle East Mess

April 23, 2015

The aftershocks of the Arab Spring are still playing out in the Middle East. As the civil war in Syria passes its fourth anniversary, rebels are no closer to unseating the Assad regime. The conflict has spawned a crisis in neighboring Iraq, including the rise of ISIS. Libya continues to simmer with low-level violence. And Yemen is disintegrating as an Arab coalition engages in airstrikes against the Houthi rebels.

The United States is heavily involved, from the bombing campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, to coordinating training for Syrian rebels, to logistical and intelligence support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen. Yet U.S. involvement in these conflicts is often contradictory and counterproductive, while U.S. allies in the region are responsible for much of the current chaos.

What are the legitimate U.S. interests in the Middle East? To what extent should the United States continue to support allies like Saudi Arabia? And is it possible to serve U.S. interests without getting bogged down in the Middle East’s interminable conflicts? Cato visiting research fellow Emma Ashford will provide an overview of the current situation in the Middle East, discuss her work on the topic, and take your questions.

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