"This paper summarizes a one-day conference of Middle East and functional specialists convened by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) in May 2005 to discuss likely regional trends between now and 2020. The discussion was informed by the NIC's 2020 Project report Mapping the Global Future (December 2004). In addition to debating trends currently observable or on the horizon, participants identified additional questions deserving research and analysis in each of the following four areas: economic issues and the context of globalization, political issues, sub-regional conflicts and terrorism, and the geopolitical landscape. Among the major themes of the economic discussion were the uneven benefits of globalization in the region, the challenge of diversifying economies and building trade in the face of high oil prices and the implications of a likely collapse of prices. Political trends addressed included the growing but still weak and essentially illiberal demands for reform, the adaptability of authoritarian regimes, and the nature of US influence. Islamism in various forms-extremist, evangelical, politically accommodating-was a major focus of discussion. Participants debated the extent to which the Arab-Israeli conflict continues to motivate regional politics and suggested that terrorism might become increasingly diffuse and difficult to counter. Participants saw an increasing role for China economically, but one that will not be translated into real political influence for some time. Participants recognized India's growing significance but believed it was still far behind China in terms of influence in the region. They expected Iran as a rising regional power to present a significant challenge for the United States."
U.S. National Intelligence Council: http://www.dni.gov/nic/NIC_confreports.html
National Intelligence Council Workshop, May 16, 2005