Global energy supplies, religious and sectarian divisions, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict all converge in the Middle East. Political volatility there has global implications.

The Middle East is in transition. This transition currently entails high elements of conflict and instability, as Syria is engulfed in civil war, the Iranian nuclear crisis reaches a point of reckoning, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved, and the regional security order disintegrates. In the longer-term, chronic socioeconomic problems related to youth unemployment and food and water insecurity, exacerbated by climate change, will continue to challenge even the most stable regimes.

Addressing these challenges is complex. In conflict countries, the priority is to stabilize the political situation and address the drivers of socioeconomic crisis that could derail progress towards peace and democratization. More broadly, the region needs to build cross-border capacity to address a set of rapidly emerging common challenges, such as disease management and water, energy, and food security. Finally, the countries of the region need to establish new patterns of diplomatic engagement that help to reinforce, rather than undermine, the above goals.