Rod Lyon and William Maley look at Australia's interests in the Middle East from two very different perspectives: that of the strategic analyst, and that of the regional expert, enriched by a close knowledge of the countries and cultures of the Middle East.
Australia’s interests in the Middle East refl ect its broader interests in a favourable global order. The region will remain a critical global energy supplier for decades. And the global War on Terror is unlikely to be successful without transformation of regional politics. The war in Iraq is serving as the catalyst for a realignment of Middle East security, crystallising three distinct strategic trends that were already under way there: an eastward shift in the region’s centre of strategic gravity, a greater strategic importance for the sectarian fault-line between Sunni and Shia, and the increasing prevalence of unconventional forms of confl ict. Those trends suggest a new Middle East is on the rise: one where the old enmity between Arabs and Jews is becoming less important.
In that ‘realigned’ Middle East, Australian interests will centre more heavily upon a Gulf region facing a host of new strategic challenges. That realignment will be a key factor in global security in the coming decade, meaning that the Middle East will probably remain the region of the world where Australian troops are most likely to be deployed on warlike missions.