The Coronavirus Has Sent Arab Economies Reeling, but Not for the Obvious Reasons

Oct. 30 2020

According to the projections of the International Monetary Fund, the economies of the Arab nations—excluding the especially troubled states of Lebanon and Libya—will undergo an economic contraction much more severe than that expected elsewhere, even though the region been spared the worst of COVID-19. Amr Adly explains why:

The global pandemic has exacerbated the region’s already troubled mode of insertion into the world economy. Three factors come to the fore: the heavy and persistent dependence on oil and natural-gas exports as the most defining feature of the Arab nations’ place in the global division of labor; the over-reliance on Europe and the U.S. as the main trade and investment partners; and the low levels of trade integration within the region itself. These longstanding structural weaknesses have magnified the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

In addition, the fact that the EU and the U.S. are the main trade and investment partners of the Arab world has amplified the impact of the health crisis in those areas on the economic performance of the Middle East and North Africa.

The low level of intraregional integration in trade has denied these countries the chance to make use of the relatively better public-health situation in the neighborhood by exploiting a potentially huge market in terms of population and purchasing power.

For the Arab MENA region, then, the story of 2020 has been as much about old economic ailments as new physical ones.

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Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Coronavirus, Economics, Middle East

 

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy