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Calm in Middle East Not Likely in 2015

It has been four years since uprisings in the Middle East ended a long period of stability. Most observers believe 2015 will be another violent year there. They say political leaders will be forced to make difficult decisions and take strong action.

A year ago few people had heard of the Islamic State terrorist group. But the group quickly took control of large parts of Syria and Iraq. Experts said the militants were also a threat to many other countries.

However, hundreds of airstrikes appear to have hurt the terrorists. Experts such as Paul Salem of the Middle East Institute predict 2015 will be a difficult year for the Islamic State.

“I think the fight against (the) Islamic State will progress in Iraq. I think Iraq -- between the Kurdish army and the national army based in Baghdad, with strong U.S. support -- will make progress in 2015.”

But it does not appear there will be an improvement in the situation in Syria, where the United States is planning to train anti-government fighters. Robert Ford was the U.S. ambassador to Syria. He says more needs to be done.

“If we don’t help (our) friends on the ground very quickly, there will be no choice in Syria except Bashar al-Assad on one side and jihadi extremists on the other.”

IS became known when it beheaded Western hostages, including journalists, and showed videos of the beheadings on the Internet. Daniel Serwer is a professor at Johns Hopkins University. He says the beheadings caused the terrorists to lose support.

“I think I would bet on it, to lose some territory, because I think it’s making serious mistakes -- especially in Iraq where it has slaughtered members of several Sunni tribes.”

The U.S. military says Islamic State fighters have entered Libya, where there is great instability. General David Rodriguez leads the U.S. Africa Command.

“People coming for training and logistics support right now, for training sites and that’s what we see right now.”

There is also instability in Yemen, which has had several changes of leadership in recent months. Members of the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi movement are fighting members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Mr. Salem of the Middle East Institute said it is not likely the area will be calm for many years. He said the evidence suggests the Middle East will remain an unstable and unpredictable place in this century.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

VOA National Correspondent Meredith Buel reported this story from Washington. Christopher Cruise wrote it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly edited the story.


Words in This Story

uprising n. a usually violent effort by many people to change the government or leader of a country; rebellion

progress v. to improve or develop over a period of time (pronounced pro-GRESS)

progress n. the process of improving or developing something over a period of time (pronounced PRAW-gress)

logistics n. the things that must be done to plan and organize a complicated activity or event that involves many people

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