A Beginner’s Guide to the Middle East

Any foreign power hoping to promote peace, stability, and democratic inclusion in the Middle East must account for the Israeli-Palestinian divide, the Sunni-Shia divide, the Muslim-Christian divide, widespread anti-Semitism, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the security of oil supplies pumped by weak regimes, Al Qaeda and related radicals, tribalism, corruption, and a picturesque lineup of despots. For half a century, the region has made outside idealists look like fools, turned realists into complicit cynics, and consigned local heroes—Yitzhak Rabin, Anwar Sadat—to martyrdom.

Steve Coll, writing in the New Yorker.