Skip to main content
Violence in Syria Karam Almasri/ZumaPress

Escaping the Middle East’s Violence Trap

The Arab world and its neighbors are stuck in a violence trap. Indeed, by redrawing the region’s economic boundaries, the latest wave of violence has brought about a veritable trade shock, the true scale and significance of which has largely gone unnoticed.

OXFORD – The Arab world and its neighbors are stuck in a violence trap. The fighting in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, together with the predations of groups like the Islamic State, is destroying the economic links needed to ensure long-term political stability. Indeed, by redrawing the region’s economic boundaries, the latest wave of violence has brought about a veritable trade shock, the true scale and significance of which has largely gone unnoticed.

Even as the proliferation of armed groups makes borders more porous to conflict, it is hardening them against trade. The consequences are being felt most acutely in the Levant, where improved transport and trade reforms had strengthened economic ties between Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

Trade among these countries had been higher, on average, than among their Arab peers, but it has collapsed as violence has mounted. Syria’s border closures, in particular, have impeded regional trade, by cutting off a key route connecting the wider Levant, the Gulf States, and Turkey. The unnoticed casualties include Lebanon’s apple growers, who survive on exports. Since 2011, Lebanon has lost almost all of its export markets in Jordan, Iraq, and the Gulf.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/bdwV1GE;
  1. haass103_GettyImages_redeastasiamapdotslines Getty Images

    Asia’s Scary Movie

    Richard N. Haass

    A snapshot of Asia would show a region at peace, with stable societies, growing economies, and robust alliances. But, if we view history as a moving picture, we may well come to look back on this moment as the time in which the most economically successful part of the world began to come apart.

  2. roubini130_GettyImages_iphonehandstealingpiggybank Getty Images

    The Great Crypto Heist

    Nouriel Roubini

    Cryptocurrencies have given rise to an entire new criminal industry, comprising unregulated offshore exchanges, paid propagandists, and an army of scammers looking to fleece retail investors. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence of rampant fraud and abuse, financial regulators and law-enforcement agencies remain asleep at the wheel.

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.