This is a dangerous moment for the Middle East, because the conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon could easily escalate to involve the broader region. Indeed, there are voices in the United States and Israel calling for a deliberate broadening of the conflict to Syria and Iran in an attempt to solve all the contentious issues of the region at once.

We believe that this is an illusion. Any strategy to address the present crisis must deal with the realities of the Middle East as they are now, not try to leapfrog over them by seeking to impose a grand new vision. Such a vision would be bound to fail as it did in the case of Iraq.

The following commentaries by members of the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Program highlight realities the administration should not ignore. They reflect the different and sometimes conflicting views of the individual authors, rather than an overall position of the Program. One common point emerges clearly from all the analyses, however: the crisis cannot be solved by a single grand strategy that would broaden the conflict to Syria or even Iran and would change the face of the Middle East forever. As in all other crises in the Middle East, at the heart of the problem is the difficult task of negotiating coexistence in a small, overpopulated, and resource-poor part of the world among population groups that have strong identities, different cultures, conflicting interests, and seemingly irreconcilable goals. No grand strategy will alter this most fundamental of Middle East realities.

• Marina Ottaway—Syria
• Nathan J. Brown—Hamas
• Julia Choucair—Hizbollah
• Michele Dunne—Moving Beyond the Limitations of U.S. Policy
• Amr Hamzawy—Understanding Regional Reactions: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan
• George Perkovich—Iran
• Paul Salem—The Predicament of the Lebanese Government