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The upheaval of ideological forces and reconfiguration of geostrategic conditions across the Middle East took a dramatic turn on Sunday and Monday, with in three principal developments in and around the Arab world: the combined American-Arab Gulf states airstrikes in Syria; the control of the Yemeni capital by Houthi rebels; and the meeting in New York between the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers.Each of these developments was dramatic in its own way, but together they captured two overarching developments that interact deeply and shape the region today. The first is that the domestic configuration of some Arab countries such as Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq is being defined (often for the first time) by a balance of forces emerging from military clashes among sectarian and ethnic groups. The American-led airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria are not so noteworthy in themselves, because the U.S. has been bombing Arab countries at will for decades. Degrading or dispersing ISIS in Syria is likely to strengthen President Bashar Assad's government in Damascus that the U.S. and most of the Arab states attacking ISIS have been trying to overthrow.
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