If a Western policymaker had sketched out a dream scenario for the Arab world in 2013, it would have looked something like this: In Egypt, President Mohammed Morsi would gradually mature into a semi-competent leader. In Syria, his counterpart Bashar al-Assad would fall quickly and the fragmented opposition would cobble together a half-decent government. Other countries in the region making the transition from dictatorship, such and Libya and Yemen, would make halting progress to lasting stability.
Some Western officials had even greater ambitions. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has made restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process an early priority since being appointed in February. But the strategic picture in the region is now far from dreamy.
While the Egyptian army ousted Morsi last week, Assad’s regime continues to have the upper hand over the Syrian rebels. Continuing instability in Libya has made the European governments that facilitated the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi increasingly nervous. Last month Britain, one of the leaders of the charge against Gadhafi, used the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland to round up offers of military training for the Libyan army, which has struggled to deal with militia forces.