If the Middle East had easy-to-identify heroes and unambiguous villains, policymaking would be easy. But that isn't the case. Rarely do U.S. interests in the region lead to clear policy preferences. Often, in fact, it is unclear how U.S. interests are best served in the long run. And more often than not, U.S. interests actually compete against one another, forcing policymakers to prioritize ruthlessly.

Abu Muqawama: No Binary Choices for U.S. in the Middle East

By , , Column

With the world's eyes again focused on Bahrain thanks to both a high-profile motor sports event as well as continued political strife, last week would have been a tough one in which to declare one's support for the ruling regime. Yet that is exactly what Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations did, earning him much derision on blogs and social networking sites.

On Twitter, Husain first praised Bahrain's foreign minister, Khalid al-Khalifa, as "visionary" and then disparaged what he referred to in scare quotes as the "opposition," as if the Shiite Bahrainis who have been protesting for greater representation these past 15 months are some artificial construct and not 75 percent of Bahrain's population. Husain's tweets and subsequent blog post, however, seem to have been motivated by what he sees as a stark choice facing Western policymakers: Either support the regime in Bahrain or prepare to make way for an Iranian vassal state. Saudi Arabia and Iran, Husain argues, are locked in a "cold war," and the United States must decisively choose sides. ...

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