“Middle East Matters” (MEM) is a new blog devoted to the Middle East, U.S. foreign policy, and how they interact. Those who have followed my writing since I joined CFR last year know that I have focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Arab uprisings, and the Levant. I will continue to write about these issues and more on this blog (and on twitter @robertdanin).
I first visited the region in 1977. Jimmy Carter was president, the Shah ruled Iran, and the region was still reeling from the 1973 Yom Kippur/Ramadan War. Since then, I have worked and lived in the Middle East as a journalist, academic researcher, and mainly as a diplomat. You can see my full bio here.
I returned to Washington in 2010 after nearly three years living in Jerusalem heading the Quartet’s diplomatic mission, working to forge cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis. The work was fascinating and challenging. Based abroad, one often sees the world through the eyes of one’s hosts and interlocutors. Focusing on a specific part of the world such as the Middle East, one sometimes loses sight of why a given issue really matters back home. Yet diplomats and policymakers must always ask the question: how should developments in the region be seen in light of the United States’ policy priorities and interests?
Over a decade after 9/11, the United States is overstretched in the broader Middle East, engaged militarily in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya. Revolutions and uprisings throughout the Arab world this year signal a region in dramatic transition. Meanwhile, the United States is straining from high unemployment, near crippling federal debt, and ongoing military engagements. Our leaders are forced to make difficult decisions about precious resources. “Middle East Matters” aims to shed light on the region and to examine some of the competing trade-offs and priorities for the United States in the region today.
The Middle East never ceases to fascinate, surprise, or frustrate. The pieces never neatly fit together. Nonetheless, I hope this blog will help clarify events as they occur, providing commentary and context.
Blogs are meant to be interactive. Please comment on my posts and offer feedback. I want to hear from you, and provide a platform for other voices. My goal here is to learn, shed light, and explore issues. The Middle East matters. Let’s see why.