2018 Global Outlook: Four dangerous dynamics in the Middle East
Early 2018 finds the Middle East at a singular moment in its history. It is hard to recall a period when so many fundamental geopolitical shifts have occurred just as societies, states and alliances in the region were all starting to fall apart. Four disruptive trends can be identified, any one of which would have sufficed to produce regional instability in the not-too-distant past. Today, their combination creates a formidable dynamic for armed conflict.
Burundi’s downward spiral
President Pierre Nkurunziza’s grip on power has divided Burundian society to the point where armed opposition groups are in open conflict with forces loyal to the regime. Violence against civilians has forced thousands to flee their homes. The economy has been hit hard as well. But the fragmentation of the opposition and Burundi’s involvement in critical peacekeeping missions means Mr. Nkurunziza has the upper hand, for now.
Biafra deserves self-determination
Nigeria’s Igbo people, who mainly live in the country’s southeastern oil-producing regions, have been repressed and marginalized for decades. With this discrimination ongoing, it is understandable that independence movements have gained momentum, especially considering how the area’s oil revenues all wind up in federal coffers while its needs remain neglected. Biafra deserves self-determination, either through a strong local government or independence.
Daesh is an armed coalition, not a terrorist organization
The popular perception of Daesh – also known as Islamic State or IS – as a terrorist organization is as inaccurate as it is dangerous. Daesh is essentially a military force that uses the desert to its advantage, employing terrorist operations where useful. The misconception is dangerous because it leads decision makers to implement bad policy and distracts from the cool-headed analysis needed to defeat the force.
Hezbollah’s role in Syria
Iran established Hezbollah in Lebanon in the 1980s to fight Israel and subvert Sunni regimes in the Middle East. Now, it is doing Tehran’s bidding in the Syrian civil war, supporting President Bashar al-Assad. The experience has given Hezbollah fighters the military skill necessary to strike again at Israel. The coming conflict could be much worse than the previous round of fighting in 2006.
Don’t blame Sykes-Picot
May 2016 marked 100 years since the signing of the controversial Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided up spheres of influence in the Middle East between France and the United Kingdom. Some argue that the colonial powers duped a helpless and naive Arab world, leading to the region’s chronic instability. However, over the past century Arab countries have constantly been torn between nationalism and Islamism – something that has made it difficult for them to become modern democratic states.
Debt, violence risk instability for Mozambique
The revelation of billions of dollars in secret debt and a resurgence of violence have plunged Mozambique into a two-pronged crisis that puts President Filipe Nyusi between a rock and a hard place. With the country’s renewed instability threatening a slide into civil war, Mr. Nyusi is under pressure to work out a lasting peace with his party’s political rivals. It may be the only way to lure international donors and investors back.
India’s push for land reform needs people power
Poor property records have proven a major obstacle to economic development in India. Their slipshod quality leads to property disputes, corruption and social problems. Numerous Indian government initiatives to digitize these records have had mixed results. But authorities will have to look beyond IT solutions – empowering citizens and eliminating high transaction costs will be necessary.
In Nigeria, things fall apart
Nigeria and its president, Muhammadu Buhari, are having a rough year. Thirteen months after taking office, the 73-year-old former general is struggling to cope with a battered economy, increasingly violent secessionist agitations and mounting frustration with the status quo.