The US administration coined the term ‘Greater Middle East’ as it sought to follow up the invasion of Iraq with a strategic plan for peace and democratic reform – in a vast area stretching from Morocco to Afghanistan. This ESF paper examines the interconnected and overlapping conflicts in the region, seen partly in the frame of the unintended consequences of US policy and partly in relation to al-Qaeda’s expansion.
Rosemary Hollis offers a strategic overview and argues that rather than treating these conflicts as a dichotomy in a fight of ‘good against evil’, it is better to acknowledge the complexities and devise an approach that recognises the interests of all the players. Vitaly Naumkin considers the Western blockade against Hamas, and US policy towards the Palestinian–Israeli conflict more generally. Bruce Riedel asserts that ‘al-Qaeda is back’ with the creation of affiliates or franchises virtually worldwide. Tracing the recovery of al-Qaeda alongside the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, he holds that understanding al-Qaeda’s strategy is the first key to defeating it. Michael Emerson sums up.