Trying to prioritize issues in the Middle East has become, to a large extent, a dizzying experience in light of what is taking place. The temptation instead is to determine multiple priorities for ongoing situations developing simultaneously. For example, an issue that takes precedence is the sudden growing crisis in Iraq, where the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) continues to pose a threat, Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki remains reluctant to leave the premiership or form a unity government and anxiety has grown over the territorial splits that threaten the national unity of the Iraqi state.
The other crises and potential flashpoints stretch from the Levant to the Gulf to North Africa. The ongoing civil war in Syria shows no sign of immediate abatement. Excessive violations of the rule of law in Egypt continue, with sweeping judicial sentences against demonstrators and journalists, a clear absence of due process and upcoming parliamentary elections whose outcome seems preordained. Next door, scheduled elections in Libya promise to significantly reduce the potential of a civil war and defuse many of the tensions that have surfaced in the last few months. The less threatening but equally serious crisis in Lebanon revolving around the absence of an elected president renders the country vulnerable, as witnessed by the June 23 bombings in Dahia, in Beirut's southern suburbs. Yemen still percolates with tensions and tribal conflict.
The challenge is how to determine which of the simmering conflicts is the most urgent to address. This is in addition to the ever-present Palestinian question and the untenable and ongoing expansion of creeping Israeli settlements. To this has been added the kidnapping of three young settlers. In the search for the boys, Israel in the last 10 days has deployed its military forces after assigning blame to Hamas, though without definitive proof. It appears that the ferocious pursuit to find the missing settlers is intended to undermine the Palestinians’ unity government and the reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Perhaps in the next few days it will become feasible, or even possible, to determine a sequence for addressing the region’s pressing crises. At the moment, however, all seem to be, in many ways, interrelated, and thus a challenge in need of urgent assessment in order to devise a comprehensive treatment. Let us hope that we can spark a revival of an authentic Arab Spring in order to address these crises. The immediate requirement is not to abandon hope.