Some observers now speak of a post-American Middle East. The World in 2014 stated, "The big question in 2014 is how far America's rivals decide to test the resolve of the 'sole superpower'" ("No More Global Sheriff," p. 87).
Obviously the aftermath of this year's scheduled departure from Afghanistan poses considerable risks from the Taliban. Therefore, "America will hope for a 'decent interval' between withdrawal from Afghanistan and any subsequent disintegration of the political system left behind" (p. 87). Note also the article summarizing declining U.S. prestige on page 20 of this issue.
The recent deal with Iran presents yet another knotty dilemma for America and the Western world. Israel, France and Saudi Arabia are openly very skeptical about true Iranian intentions toward constructing a nuclear bomb. A blurb beneath the headline of an article by Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal expresses their frustration with the United States over this: "France, Israel and Saudi Arabia confront an administration conducting a make-believe foreign policy" ("Axis of Fantasy vs. Axis of Reality," Nov. 11, 2013).
But on Nov. 24, 2013, France went along with the United States, Britain, Germany, Russia and China in signing an agreement with Iran in which Iran agreed to halt its nuclear program for six months in return for a lifting of some sanctions. Many have hailed this a great success, while others are comparing it to the Munich agreement with Hitler before World War II. Ominously, the chairman of Iran's parliamentary committee for foreign policy and national security characterized the agreement this way the next day on Iranian TV: "After ten years, we have emerged victorious over the West ... victorious heroes" (posted at MEMRITV.org, clip no. 4054).
Is Iran just playing for more time? Events in the not-too-distant future will tell the story. Remember that hardline Iranian leaders still want the death of America and Israel. Previously, as a Daily Mail caption noted, "Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the country 'will not fall asleep on its watch again' as he spoke about the justification for [a] pre-emptive strike" (Oct. 16). And there has since been talk of old foes Israel and Saudi Arabia jointly striking at Iran, though the United States has warned them not to do so.
Libya poses yet another serious problem, as it continues to act more and more like a rogue state. Oil production is down, with continuing civil hostilities causing refinery shutdowns. Various rebel groups, some of whom helped overthrow Gaddafi, are at odds with one another and with the sitting government—a government that recently established a committee to make the country's laws better conform to Islamic Sharia law.
Syria, aside from President Bashar al-Assad's continuing war with his own people (presently out of the world's spotlight), continues to be poisoned by sectarian strife between rebel groups, with Islamic jidahists apparently now gaining the upper hand.
To understand why this troubled region of the earth remains a political minefield, download or request our free Bible study aid The Middle East in Bible Prophecy. (Sources: The World in 2014, Daily Mail, The Wall Street Journal, MEMRITV.org, The Times [London], IsraelNationalNews.com.)