One of the world's top think-tanks says the Middle East is more secure than a year ago, in part because of U.S. policies promoting democracy in the region.
But the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies also says that al-Qaida terrorists continue to use the U.S. presence in Iraq as a recruitment tool across much of the Muslim world.
In its annual survey, the IISS hails progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the promise of multi-party elections in Egypt, and the popular uprising against Syria in Lebanon. It calls U.S. policy "fairly effective" in encouraging political reforms throughout the region.
The report calls the November, 2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat the tipping point in the push to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It also notes President Bush's use of U.S. influence to bring the two sides together.
Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.