Conflict Economies of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen

Conflict Economies of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen

Chatham House Reports of one of its Middle East and North Africa Programme elaborates on the still on-going conflict economies of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. The excerpts of the published Executive Summary reproduced here below do not include its Recommendations for Western policymakers, etc.

Conflict Economies in the Middle East and North Africa

By Tim EatonDr Renad Mansour, Peter SalisburyDr Lina Khatib, Dr Christine Cheng and Jihad Yazigi

Image source/description: Cover image: A petrol pump near Harf Sufyan, Amran governorate, Yemen, February 2014. Copyright © Peter Salisbury

The conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen have killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions. In seeking to explain the violence that has struck the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) over the past two decades, analysis to date has focused predominantly on ideological and identity-based factors. This report expands this discourse by incorporating approaches adopted from the literature on the political economy of war to examine the conflict economies of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Economic motivations, at the individual and group level, are key to understanding the wars in these countries, yet have tended to be overlooked in the MENA context. (As the wars have progressed and evolved, the national and local economies in which conflict is embedded have also changed.) Such motivations can offer an alternative or complementary explanation for armed group membership and armed group behaviour. While some groups will fight to promote or defend a particular identity, others fight for economic survival or enrichment. For many more actors, these motivations are tied together, and separating out ‘greed’ and ‘grievance’ is a difficult, if not impossible, task. Even if economic motivations did not spark the wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen initially, it is clear that such factors now play a critical role in the persistence of open fighting, localized violence and coercion.

The objectives of this report are twofold. First, it seeks to develop a framework for comparative analysis of conflict economies at the local level in the MENA region. Traditionally, the idea of a conflict economy has been tightly linked to the funding for arms, ammunition and fighters. Further, most analyses of conflict economies are conducted at the national level. Even where research is conducted on a regional basis, discussion of the impact of conflict is brought back to the national level. In contrast, we see a broader political economy of war at work in the region. Our analysis illustrates how a conflict economy is embedded within a complex local socio-political system, in which many variables and agendas interact. We deliberately avoid characterizing conflict economies in terms of ‘black’ and ‘grey’ markets that somehow need to be ‘cleaned up’, as this erroneously implies that they can eventually be converted into licit markets like their peacetime counterparts.2 A more nuanced and multifaceted reading is essential. For the purposes of this report, we define a conflict economy as a system of producing, mobilizing and allocating resources to sustain competitive and embedded violence, both directly and indirectly.3

Second, we show that a ‘political economy of war’ framing offers new approaches for reducing competitive and embedded violence. ‘Competitive violence’ can be defined as violence ‘deployed by warring elites to contest or defend the existing distribution of power’.4 Fighting between rival armed groups for control over resources and rents, among other things, usually falls into this category. ‘Embedded violence’, in contrast, underpins ‘how a political settlement5 works, as the deals agreed between elites may revolve around who has the “right” to use violence’.6 In practice, this could mean that one group is ‘permitted’ to use violence against another group – and no punishment will be enforced. In the context of this study, the use of armed force to assert the status quo to limit the number of ruling elite members is one example of embedded violence.

Conflict sub-economies

Analysis of conflict economies has mostly focused on state-level dynamics.7 However, less attention has been paid to the development of conflict sub-economies that are specific to certain types of location. This study demonstrates three distinct types of conflict sub-economy: (1) capital cities; (2) transit areas and borderlands; and (3) oil-rich areas. Our analysis highlights how each sub-economy creates distinct location-based patterns of resource production, mobilization and allocation to sustain competitive and embedded violence. The rents available in these areas vary. In capital cities, rents focus on control of the distribution of revenues and assets from the state and private sector. In transit areas and borderlands, rents centre around taxation and arbitrage. In oil-rich areas, rents are related to control of the area itself (and therefore the ability to levy taxes upon the oil sector), bearing in mind that the level of achievable taxation depends on the extent to which a given actor controls the supply chain.

As this report will elaborate, factors specific to each sub-economy type play a role in conditioning the nature of economic activities in each locality, and in determining whether and by which means violence is dispensed. For this reason, national-level generalizations and in-country comparisons of conflict economies are inadequate: for example, the conflict sub-economy of Baghdad has more in common with that of Tripoli than that of al-Qaim, an Iraqi town on the border with Syria. In turn, the conflict economy observed in al-Qaim has more in common with that of al-Mahra in Yemen than al-Mahra does with Sanaa, the Yemeni capital.

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Joining forces to save Red Sea coral reefs

Joining forces to save Red Sea coral reefs

Scientists from Israel and neighbouring Arab countries are joining forces to save Red Sea coral reefs from the threat of climate change.

The World Economic Forum post dated 14 June 2019 by Johnny Wood, Senior Writer, Formative Content, elaborates on this alliance against a common enemy that is threatening everyone’s very existence.

Is there however any need to say that the reasons for this alliance are above and beyond any other human-based justification(s).

A still image taken from underwater video footage shows corals and fish near barrels, as divers from Israel Nature and Parks Authority remove corals from objects which are part of industrial debris left by Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC) after it scaled back its operations, in the Red Sea, near Katza beach in Eilat, Israel March 10, 2019.  Courtesy Omri Omessi/Israel Nature and Parks Authority/Handout via REUTERS
Political differences are being put aside for the sake of the Red Sea’s coral reefs.

Israel is joining forces with Arab states to save coral from climate change destruction

The alliance is the brainchild of Moaz Fine, an Israeli professor at Tel Aviv’s Bar-Ilan University, who invited marine experts from the countries that border the Red Sea to collaborate at a new research centre. The team will comprise representatives from Israel, Eritrea, Jordan and Egypt, with scientists from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Djibouti, which do not recognise Israel.

The countries have put aside political differences in the interests of protecting the natural world they share.

Coping with stress

Scientists, ecologists and oceanographers will come together at the new research centre, based in Bern, Switzerland, to study the impact of bleaching on the Red Sea reefs.

Bleaching occurs when coral reacts to changes in sea temperature, light conditions or nutrients. As global warming increases water temperatures, the delicate balance of reef ecosystems is disrupted, forcing coral to eject the algae that live and feed on them.

What is coral bleaching?

The stressed coral turns white and although it isn’t dead at this point, if the algae loss is prolonged it becomes vulnerable to disease and can eventually die.

But it’s not just coral that is affected when bleaching occurs, as algae forms the foundation of multiple food chains. When algae disappears, creatures higher up the food chain disappear too, turning bleached reefs into underwater deserts.

A climate of change

Although global warming is increasing the scale and frequency of mass bleaching events, coral in the Red Sea has suffered less damage than reefs in other parts of the world, such as in Hawaii and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The research team will investigate studies that suggest Northern Red Sea corals and those in the Gulf of Aqaba are able to withstand higher sea temperatures than in other places, which could help the fight to save the world’s reefs.

Have you read?


Bleaching events have already devastated large parts of the Great Barrier Reef, which is the world’s largest. Within the last five years, more than 30% of the vast reef system is either dead or is threatened with extinction due to rising sea temperatures. That’s an area equal to the size of Italy.

On a global scale, climate change, overfishing and destructive fishing, coastal development and ocean pollution are putting the very existence of our reefs at risk.

As the chart shows, more than half of the Earth’s reefs could be under threat by 2030, and without drastic action, most of our reefs could be gone by mid-century.


As well as hosting millions of plant and marine species, reefs often support employment and tourism in coastal communities. The Red Sea reefs attract diving enthusiasts from all over the world, attracted by colourful marine life and indigenous red and black corals. Their loss could have devastating environmental and economic consequences for current and future generations.

It is hoped that the new research centre will help develop more resilient corals, which will protect reefs and the livelihoods of people who depend on them.

Arabia and Iran could make peace and bring stability to the Middle East

Arabia and Iran could make peace and bring stability to the Middle East

How Saudi Arabia and Iran could make peace and bring stability to the Middle East, if it were up to them only, would not be an impossibility as clearly demonstrated here by Samira Nasirzadeh, Lancaster University and Eyad Alrefai, Lancaster University. It would in our opinion, be made even more reachable if both countries manage to transition off their hydrocarbon-based economies and into more diversified ones.

Shutterstock

Saudi and Iran: how our two countries could make peace and bring stability to the Middle East

Relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran have rarely been worse, regarding the attacks on the oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman – for which both sides blame each other. Nevertheless, in the history of relations between the two countries, there have been regular shifts between tension and rapprochement – and things can change for the better once again.

As an Iranian and a Saudi, working as research fellows for peace studies, we believe it is time that our two countries seek to manage the conflict, improve their dialogue and begin the peacebuilding process. And we are hopeful that this could happen.

But how? Peace cannot be achieved overnight; it requires a range of factors to strengthen diplomatic ties and decrease the level of enmity between the two states. First, we suggest both states’ politicians soften the language in their speeches, altering the hostile rhetoric to a more moderate one. This would open new paths towards a direct and constructive dialogue, reducing the tensions that are affecting the two countries, the region and, potentially, the world.

Sabre-rattling

Direct dialogue between the two regional actors could launch negotiations that may lead to more stability in the region. The existing regional turmoil has had a detrimental impact on relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran over Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen. The [Yemen war], which has caused a [dramatic humanitarian crisis], remains one of the main areas of conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but it also offers ground for talks between the two states.

Both Saudi Arabia and Iran agree that the conflicts in Yemen and Syria can only be ended through the implementation of political, rather than military, solutions. If Saudi Arabia and Iran can take steps toward political compromises in Syria and Yemen, this subsequently will reflect positively on the trust building process.

Finding a peaceful solution in the region requires Iran and Saudi to start talking positively. Shutterstock

While Saudi Arabia relies on its strategic Western allies and its ever-increasing military expenditure, Iran, which has been isolated by the US, prefers a more regional approach. Indeed, Saudi Arabia may have to ignore US protests to sit down at the negotiating table with Iran.

But the will for closer ties is, perhaps, there. Indeed, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, declared on March 13, 2018:

We believe that security of our neighbours is our security and stability within our neighbourhood is our stability. I hope they [Saudi Arabia] have the same feeling and I hope that they come to talks with us for resolving these problems. There is no reason for hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, we tell the Saudis that you cannot provide security from outside of the region.

Adel Al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, also recently stated in an interview that his country “does not want war with Iran, but will not tolerate what it considers hostile Iranian activity in the Middle East”.

Suspicions clearly remain, but such pronouncements could be viewed as a pause in hostilities, a turning point that could bring both sides closer together to resolve tensions.

There are also domestic reasons for a reduction in tensions, with both states building strategic plans for the future. Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has embarked on an ambitious socioeconomic plan to diversify the country’s economy by curbing its historic dependency on oil and challenging conservative social constructs and norms by unshackling society from some past constraints. In a state where most of the population is under the age of 30, Vision 2030 serves as a mega project that will lead the country to modernise economically and socially.

The same goes for Iran. The country has adopted a promising strategic plan called the 20-Year National Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran which has social, economic, and political objectives. But to be successfully implemented, both countries’ strategies will need stable societies and vibrant economies which cannot be attained in a hostile neighbourhood. Integration and cooperation will be essential.

Diplomacy is the solution

It is evident that Saudi Arabia and Iran will benefit more from direct dialogue than hostile rhetoric. Through discussing and working together on domestic, regional and international issues, it is in the interests of both states – and the wider region – to reduce conflict and increase cooperation through diplomatic ties.

The gradual shift from hostile to inclusive rhetoric by politicians is a helpful first step, but it is also necessary for Saudi and Iran to take practical action in their bilateral relationship.

It is expected for states to compete in their sphere of influence, but pragmatism must prevail if both countries want to put an end to their conflicts in the region.

Samira Nasirzadeh, PhD Research Fellow, Lancaster University and Eyad Alrefai, PhD Research Fellow, Lancaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA

Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA

Muscat Daily on June 12, 2019, commented on Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA as “Peace in the world’s least peaceful region (MENA) improved marginally last year, based on improvements in 11 countries.” Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA is not alone for Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE preceded it in the ranking.

Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA

Oman has been ranked fourth among the MENA countries and 69th in the world on the Global Peace Index (GPI) 2019. Oman earned 1.953 points this year.

The report has been published by the Australia-based Institute of Economics and Peace. Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined at the top by New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark.

Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA

Bhutan has recorded the best improvement and is now the 15th most peaceful nation in the world. According to the report, Qatar made the next best improvement. Economic strains can increase the risk of unrest by fomenting internal divisions and civil and political unrest, the report stated.

According to the report, Afghanistan is now the least peaceful country in the world, replacing Syria, which is now the second least peaceful. South Sudan, Yemen, and Iraq comprise the remaining five least peaceful countries.

Peace in the world’s least peaceful region (MENA) improved marginally last year, based on improvements in 11 countries. The regional average improved in all three GPI domains in 2019, with reductions in population displacement, political terror, terrorism, deaths from internal and external armed conflicts, military spending, and armed services personnel.

In the 2019 GPI, 86 countries improved while 76 countries deteriorated, with the global average GPI score improving by -0.09 per cent.
The 2019 GPI finds that the world became more peaceful for the first time in five years, with the average level of country peacefulness improving slightly by 0.09 per cent.

Of the 23 GPI indicators, eight recorded an improvement, 12 had a deterioration, with the remaining three indicators not registering any change over the past year.

This is the thirteenth edition of the GPI, which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness.

Trash: A major Environmental Issue in Libya

Trash: A major Environmental Issue in Libya

Trash: A major Environmental Issue in Libya published by YaLa Press is meant to obviously shed some light on the disastrous situation of the Libyan environment all within the geopolitical context. Here is that article with our thanks to the author and courtesy to Yala Press.

World Environment Day

5th June is a platform for action environment day every year. This day reminds us of the urge to protect our environment. In order to encourage worldwide awareness to save our beautiful and green planet, on this day, hundreds of organizations and millions of civilians will urge governments, industries, communities, and individuals to come together and raise awareness to keep our planet safe place.

Planet Earth is a beautiful place. It’s also the only planet we have, and we want to make sure that we do what needs to be done to keep it safe, healthy, cared for, and respected.

Humans are the only creatures on Earth that will cut down a tree, turn it into paper, then write “save the trees “on it. Imagine if the trees would give off WiFi signals, we would be planting so many trees and we’d probably save the planet too. It’s not your personal toy, nor mine. It is ours! So, protect the mother who nourishes you. Plants can survive without humans, but humans can not survive without plants. Environment day means to protect all the natural sources, plants, water, forests etc…

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry, the water in your toilet is cleaner than what nearly a billion people have to drink elsewhere on the same Earth.

Try to keep this blessing safe from pollution. Think green, stay healthy, and save this wealth. To live in a beautiful and clean environment.

Happy Environment day!

Trash: A major Environmental Issue in Libya

    One of the most annoying and serious environmental issues in Libya is the crisis trash. The clean environment brings fresh air and saves nature.  Our nature needs to be protected for a healthy life, and for us and for the animals. The ignorance of such an issue will always increase the danger that we give to our country and with no doubts will enhance the cause of diseases. No one ever wants to walk down the streets and passes trashes. No one wants to kick cans and plastics bottles while walking on shores.   For years now, neither the government nor the people, or even the waste companies could find an ending solution for this trouble. The streets in the capital are almost full of trashes. The roads, pavements, in front of schools and near the blocks of flats all have piles of trash. The scenery cannot be bearable anymore and it does not show the area in an urban view.

     Despite the individual attempts to fix this issue in the capital; Tripoli, this trouble has no end. People do not have any ideas about where to put their garbage, as a result, the waste solids are thrown everywhere. I have noticed while I was walking in the streets that those who live in houses they put their garbage near their houses with hope the waste companies come and collect it. Others who live in flats they throw it down the building or near the streets. Some they are just satisfied with throwing the trash wherever they could put it- on the pavements, near the beaches or wherever they can put trashes.

     Consequently, the government does not try to recycle or export plastic or paper waste, so they are starting to pile up randomly. And for sure, this is not a pretension to put the trash anywhere but there is no another way.  This scene we see every day at our streets, in front of our schools, universities, near our gardens, in the highways, on beaches and almost at every single step we take. We see cans, papers and plastic rubbish are thrown with no care about nature, the heath, or even showing any ethical value for doing such a horrible thing. The serious solution should be taken before making this trouble more dangerous. This is a dangerous threat of many living species on our land. Not all of us know how this trash we throw ends up. Plastic needs a long time to be mouldered. Plastic can float on the surface of the sea for centuries! Plastic can be eaten by any animals accidentally and animals cannot digest plastic which it stays in their stomach and intestines for years until it causes for their death.

    Although we need to use these materials; paper, plastic, iron cans … etc. for our daily life, using such materials improperly will lead to damage the environmental balance. We create these materials, we need them and we are responsible for any harm we cause. Our nature and animals do not need the paper or plastic, so we must not throw them randomly everywhere and ask nature to just simply use them or let the animals eat them. In other words, humans need nature very much, without it we cannot succeed to keep our life on the planet. Ignorance or contributing of throwing the trash at inappropriate places is a crime against our nature, our lands and our health.

    To sum up, we are destroying our nature with no worries. In Libya, trash is estimated to kills our environment and we help to damage it. It is not an excuse that we cannot find a solution. We can have special places to collect the whole trash at. Or we can start to export it to other countries where we can recycle it and use it for other things. Recycling is one of the perfect solutions and the most protective one. On the other hand, we need to take a series of action towards this and help our environment.

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