Grand strategy, Iran, Middle East, Syria

Past Virtual Event: Keeping the U.S. out of war in the Middle East

The war started by Hamas's surprise October 7 attack on Israel could still escalate into a regional conflict, even one drawing the United States into a fight with Iran. Hezbollah and Israel have exchanged fire on the Lebanese border. The Houthis in Yemen have increased missile attacks on U.S. warships and commercial shipping in the Red Sea. Groups linked in some ways to Iran have increased attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria—troops originally deployed to combat ISIS. In response, President Biden has ordered repeated strikes on Iranian facilities and personnel in Syria, organized a U.S.-led coalition to respond to Houthi attacks and keep shipping lanes open, and deployed an additional 1,200 troops to the region, increasing the total troop count to at least 45,400, with the aim of bolstering deterrence.

Is the decision to augment the number of U.S. troops in the Middle East the responsible choice? Does the U.S. military presence serve to ease tensions or exacerbate them? Are U.S. forces an effective deterrent against attacks, or do they become attractive targets for hostile actors, potentially serving as a source of coercive leverage?

Event Speakers


Policy Director

Defense Priorities


Distinguished Fellow

Stimson Center


Visiting Professor of Practice

University of Washington