The Great Powers in the New Middle East

Part of Rocky Harbors: Taking Stock of the Middle East in 2015

In Chapter 3 of Rocky Harbors: Taking Stock of the Middle East in 2015, John McLaughlin looks at how the roles of the world's great powers are evolving in the Middle East.

Trying to nail down how the world’s major powers—the United States, China, Russia, and Europe—see and set strategy for the Middle East these days has never been more challenging. Power relationships globally are in flux. The Middle East is in turmoil. And the powers themselves are struggling through difficult transitions. The metaphors commonly used to describe today’s international web of crises—three-dimensional chess, Rubik’s cube—fall short of capturing the sheer complexity of it all, especially when it comes to the Middle East. A more apt metaphor might be the sensation of walking into the middle of a barroom brawl: it’s hard to be sure who started it, who is allied with whom, exactly what is at issue, who just changed sides, who is fighting, who is just observing, where your leverage is, and how to break it up.

JOHN McLAUGHLIN was deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2000-2004 and acting director from July to September 2004. He is now distinguished practitioner-in-residence at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where he teaches and writes on a wide variety of foreign affairs topics. He is also a nonresident senior fellow in the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution. He serves on the Central Intelligence Agency's external advisory board. He led a review of counterterrorism "lessons learned" in 2010 at the request of the director of National Intelligence. He has previously held the positions of deputy director for intelligence, vice chairman for estimates, and acting chairman of the National Intelligence Council. He founded the Sherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis, an institution dedicated to teaching the history, mission, and essential skills of the analytic profession to new CIA employees. He serves on the Board of Trustees at the Noblis Corporation and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Diplomacy. He holds an M.A. in international relations from SAIS.