At the request of United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), SMA initiated a study to understand the strategic implications of destabilizing population dynamics within the Central Region. The effort examined drivers of instability in the region emerging from radicalization, great power competition, state-level instability, and black swan scenarios. This report integrates the research conducted by the teams listed on the front cover in response to USCENTCOM’s questions about great power competition. This report is intended to be a succinct, easily navigable representation of the exceptional work by the collective SMA team. Please click on the links embedded in the report to go directly to the research studies.
Implicit in USCENTCOM’s Gulf and Levant questions is a sense of inevitable cataclysm. This is typified by assumptions of worsening conflict, diplomatic ruptures, and regime change or collapse. The reports prepared in response to these questions suggest that such an outcome is not preordained. Coupled with drivers that threaten to further mire the region in chaos, there exist buffers against cataclysm. Instability itself does not mean regime collapse is inevitable or even likely across the region. While instability remains a constant in the region, the natural endpoint to that instability is not anarchic failure. Moreover, that Russia and China are seeking different outcomes than the United States does not imply that they are seeking anarchic collapse. In fact, no great powers’ interests are served by regional conflagration.