This Perspective presents scenarios for sectarian relations in the Middle East out to 2026. It does so by identifying key assumptions and drivers that will inform the trajectory of sectarian relations in this region. The scenario inputs were the product of structured discussions among the RAND authors and external subject-matter experts. The Perspective lays out four different scenarios as plausible examples of an even greater number of alternative futures. Those scenarios encompass both a ratcheting up and de-escalation of sectarian conflict, depending upon such key factors as the orientation of regional powers and the quality of governance. The authors conclude that while sectarianism casts a shadow over the Middle East, it is only one lens for understanding the region's conflicts and some of the drivers of sectarianism are amenable to policy interventions.
This research was conducted within the Intelligence Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute.
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