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 Arab Awakening has raised hopes that a new era of positive change may be emerging in the Middle East. However, there also exists an unusually high risk of conflict and instability, as Syria is engulfed in civil war, the Iranian nuclear crisis reaches a point of reckoning, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict enters a new and uncertain phase, 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 threats will require action on multiple fronts, none more important than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to stymie effective regional cooperation. In transitioning countries, initiatives are required to stabilize the political situation and address the drivers of socioeconomic crisis that could derail progress towards democratization. More broadly in the region, there is a need for building cross-border capacity to address a set of rapidly emerging common challenges, such as disease management and water, energy, and food security. Finally, it is imperative to track the fast-changing security environment and establish new patterns of diplomatic engagement that help to reinforce, rather than undermine, the above goals.