By Jared Angle
The Middle East, specifically in the Syria-Iraq-Iran corridor, is a volatile region that presents considerable challenges to securing a balance between a lack of Islamist militants and a lack of autocratic regimes. The United States must focus its efforts on eliminating militant groups, and then must carefully manage its relations with regional powers such as Iran to encourage democratization and stability (through soft power rather than by force) while discouraging the development of new militant groups.
The contemporary security situation in the Middle East can be traced to a series of disruptions to the regional power dynamic, which created a power vacuum and allowed certain states to expand their regional influence in a way that was previously unfeasible. This dynamic was first disrupted during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although Saddam Hussein’s swift deposition was a victory for democratization and human rights, his autocratic Iraqi regime was an important regional power with the ability to keep non-state actors in check. Hussein’s removal signaled the implosion of a key stabilizing actor and introduced new variables into the regional dynamic.
Germany and Sweden have taken a leading role in the resettlement of refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict. Out of more than 217,000 refugees that have found new homes in Europe since the conflict began in 2011, more than 110,000 now live in Germany and Sweden. Four more EU members host a combined forty thousand refugees, while most of the remaining EU member states have only accepted several dozen to a few thousand refugees.
In comparison, the United States has admitted only 352 refugees as of mid-December 2014, but it is in the process of vetting and admitting roughly ten thousand more refugees over the next two years, according to the US State Department and a report by Amnesty International. It is important to note that the US can not necessarily admit Syrian refugees on the same scale as Germany or Sweden; US law caps the admission of refugees globally at seventy thousand per year.
The EU has been criticized for being ineffective at handling the refugee crisis, specifically regarding the fact that only a select few nations are admitting refugees in sufficient numbers.