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.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Coronavirus, Economics, Middle East

How Israel and Its Allies Could Have a Positive Influence on the Biden Administration’s Iran Policy

Nov. 25 2020

While the president-elect has expressed his desire to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, this should not in itself cause worry in Jerusalem; it has never been the Israeli government’s position that a deal with Tehran is undesirable, only that the flaws of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration outweighed its benefits. Thus Yaakov Amidror, Efraim Inbar, and Eran Lerman urge Israel to approach Joe Biden’s national-security team—whose senior members were announced this week—to urge them to act prudently:

To the greatest extent possible, such approaches should be made jointly, or in very close coordination with, Israel’s new partners in the Gulf. These countries share Israel’s perspectives on the Iranian regional threat and on the need to block Tehran’s path to nuclear weapons.

For Israel, for Iran-deal skeptics in Washington, and for her partners in the region, the first operational priority is to persuade the incoming U.S. national-security team to maintain full leverage on Iran. Sanctions against Iran should not be lifted as a “gesture” without a verified Iranian return to the status quo ante (at the very least) in terms of low-enriched-uranium stockpiles and ongoing enrichment activities.

In parallel, there may emerge a unique opportunity to close ranks with the French (and with Boris Johnson’s government in London) on the Iranian question. On several issues (above all, the struggle for hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean, against Turkey), Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, and Paris now see eye-to-eye. On Iran, during the negotiations leading to the [deal] in 2015, the position of France was often the most robust. In 2018, President Macron was willing to reach an operational understanding with Secretary of State Pompeo on [key issues regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities].

Last but certainly not least, it should be clear to the incoming U.S. national-security team that any attempt to negotiate must be, can be, and (as far as Israel is concerned) firmly will be backed by a credible military threat.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: France, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, US-Israel relations