Middle East

“Because we have employed so many of the options that are available to us to persuade Iran to take a different course, the window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking.” 
–President Obama during a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron on March 14, 2012

Across the Arab world, Islamists are the new political power brokers. In elections in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, Islamists won big. Similar results are expected in Libya, and if the Assad regime falls, they might well emerge on top in Syria too. After decades of repression by secular rulers, Islamists are now poised to transform the region's politics and culture. But it's still not clear what they plan to do with their power, and what that will mean for those who don’t share their views. 

“Make no mistake, our strong presence in the Middle East endures, and the United States will never waver in defense of our allies, our partners, or our interests.”

What does Iran's new leadership mean for the future of the country, its nuclear weapons program and relationship with the West, and for Iranians around the world? 

From the Boston Marathon bombings to a recent attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya, 2013 has seen a spike in terrorism worldwide. Even as the U.S. uses military force to try and weaken Al Qaeda and affiliated groups, it is grappling with how to fight terrorism on another front -- battling the extremist ideas and ideologies that drive the violence. It is a battle that is waged in schools, mosques, community centers and any other place you might find potential terror recruits.

While the Arab Spring may have toppled a couple of regimes, democracy alone can’t solve the bread and butter issues of the region. The Arab world faces a stark demographic dilemma: nearly a quarter of Arabs under 30 remain jobless. The bleak economic conditions that fueled the Arab uprisings have become the inheritance of any new governments that stand up in the region. And youth in the region aren’t likely to sit quietly and wait for economic change. 

As citizens rise up across the Middle East, they fear more than reprisals of their own rulers. Many worry that leaders from Iran are looking to capitalize on a de-stabilized Middle East. They fear Iran wants to acquire more power and influence in the region.

The balance appears to be tipping in Tehran’s favor: Iran has solid footholds in Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza. And it’s eyeing potential openings across the Arab world… From Riyadh to Washington, alarms are sounding.

A generation ago, young Arabs went to the streets to protest repressive governments. Now, they hop on the information highway – blogging and tweeting their discontent. They upload music, download protests. But this generation is up against rulers who know a thing or two about staying in power – and they are keeping the kids in check. It's an old battle on new ground – young activists fight to express themselves as Arab governments find better ways to outflank them. 

"There was a thunderous explosion. You could feel all 505 feet and 8400 tons of guided missile destroyer violently thrust up and to the right."
– Kirk Lippold, retired US Navy Commander

Sitting in limbo is where many young Arabs find themselves today. Nearly a quarter of Arabs under 30 are jobless. Long gone are the days of a guaranteed government gig, and the private sector is far from filling the gap. Today, Arab youth are searching for work and waiting for weddings. Some just want to leave the region – and its long unemployment lines – altogether. At best, unemployment and flagging Arab economies lead to a generation of bored and frustrated youth. At worst, economic conditions create a breeding ground for extremism and instability. 

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