Early View Article - Middle East and North Africa: Terrorism and Conflicts

Middle East and North Africa: Terrorism and Conflicts

During 2002–2018, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) accounted globally for 36.1 per cent of terrorist incidents, 49.3 per cent of terrorist‐induced casualties, and 21.4 per cent of conflict deaths. One focus here is to investigate how MENA's terrorist attacks and conflicts compare with those in the world's other six regions during selected periods, drawn from 1970–2018. There is a well‐defined shift of terrorism from Latin America, Europe and Central Asia to MENA, South Asia, and sub‐Saharan Africa after 1989. A second focus is to employ panel regressions to contrast the drivers of global terrorism with those of MENA terrorism. Democracy and civil conflicts are main drivers of MENA terrorism, followed by population. Regional peacekeeping can have an ameliorating effect on terrorism by limiting conflict. The Arab Spring and associated regime changes are shown to have ushered in a wave of terrorism in MENA. Policy recommendations conclude the study.

Policy Implications

  • During 1970–2018, terrorist attacks have greatly shifted from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and Europe and Central Asia (ECA) to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), South Asia (SAS), and sub‐Saharan Africa (SSA), so that enhanced counterterrorism vigilance and resources are particularly needed in SAS, SSA, and MENA.
  • Two main determinants of domestic and transnational terrorism in MENA have been democracy and the post‐Arab Spring era. In MENA, greater democracy has not been a panacea for terrorism, contrary to the beliefs of the George W. Bush administration. The international community must build up the necessary institutional infrastructure to support democracy in the region.
  • MENA is plagued by three major civil wars and other insurgencies that foment regional instability, so that international peacekeeping efforts are needed to curtail these conflicts. Given the huge importance of the number of civil conflicts in causing terrorism in the region, such peacekeeping also serves as a counterterrorism measure.
  • Neither reduced poverty (low GDP per capita) nor defense spending ameliorates terrorism in MENA so that donor and local countries' policy makers must look beyond foreign aid or increased defense spending to address terrorism.
  • Domestic terrorism poses a far‐greater and growing threat than transnational terrorism in MENA and worldwide. Efforts to fight domestic terrorism require donor‐country partnerships with terrorism‐plagued MENA countries. Despite their difficulty, such partnerships must be forged even though domestic terrorism may not pose an immediate threat to the donor's interests at home or on foreign soil.


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