Middle East

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. 

The Arab world has the largest youth bulge on the planet. Millions of young people are living in a pressure cooker of social, political, tribal, and religious forces. We visit Jordan and Egypt and speak with young Arabs in America about their struggles with identity, and how globalization, Islam, and a turbulent region are shaping how they look at themselves, and the world. 

"The democratic experience in Iraq is still very much in its infant stages, but it's being tested. It was tested over the course of the last four years, more recently it's being tested by the national elections, and now the challenge of putting a government together." 
– Ambassador Gary Grappo, Counselor for Political Affairs in the U.S. Embassy

"What has been going on for many, many years is ad hoc, day-to-day management of problems as these problems continue to grow and grow. Now, they have grown to a point where we fear the country is at risk." 
– Abdul-Ghani Al-Iryani, Political Consultant in Yemen

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