The Middle East today is defined by an Arab world steeped in the anarchy of dissolving secular states and proliferating Islamist armed non-state actors. These entities consist of different Muslim sects, the largest of which is composed of Sunnis. Amid the diverging interests, Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State are the main contenders for Sunni Arab leadership. Meanwhile, the three non-Arab powers – Turkey, Iran and Israel – are trying to manage the regional commotion according to their national interests. From a distance, the United States wants to ensure it is not dragged too deep into the regional bedlam and can maintain a balance between the various actors.
We start this analysis with a consideration of the geopolitical circumstances of the region. The term Middle East refers to the regions – from west to east – that stretch from the northwestern shores of Africa all the way to the mountains located on the Iranian-Afghan frontier. The region’s northernmost areas run along