Summary of The Unwanted Wars

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The Middle East never stays out of the news for long. Unresolved regional conflicts, ethnic sectarianism, age-old religious rifts and foreign power-play accentuate the region’s notorious volatility. Yet as Robert Malley, CEO of the International Crisis Group, argues, Middle East tensions today are nearing a boiling point. Malley dissects the many factors that have brought the region to this point. He paints a map of the complexities of contemporary Middle Eastern politics in an essay that is packed with nuance.  

About the Author

Robert Malley is President and CEO of the International Crisis Group. During the Obama administration, he served as Special Assistant to the President, White House Middle East Coordinator, and Senior Adviser on countering the Islamic State.



A complex array of factors makes the Middle East the world’s most volatile region.

The Middle East has always been a conflict-prone region, yet a number of factors currently contribute to the growing risk of a regional conflagration. The past years have seen the region’s most significant historical rivalries intensify: Israel against the “axis of resistance” including Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas; Saudi Arabia against Iran; and the Sunni-Sunni rift that is pitching Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE against Qatar and Turkey. The polarization is exacerbated by a lack of communication and weak diplomatic channels.

At the same time, the Middle Eastern state system has remained extremely porous. Local movements and ideologies quickly spread across the entire region, ranging from Muslim Brotherhood politics to jihadi and Shiite movements, to Wahhabism and Kurdish nationalism...

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