The Mideast is in chaos, but the rest of the world is moving on

Not too long ago, wars and uprisings in the Arab World topped the U.N. General Assembly meeting agenda in New York.

The Mideast is in chaos, but the rest of the world is moving on

The world has now shifted its attention to bigger global issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and new crises in Ethiopia's Tigray region.

The Middle East's situation has worsened in more places and in more ways over the past two years. With skyrocketing poverty, an economic implosion, and Lebanon, Syria and Iraq all on the verge of disaster, the region is at the edge of humanitarian catastrophe.

Julien Barnes-Dacey is the director of the Middle East & North Africa program at European Council on Foreign Relations. He said that "the region's been crowded by other global crises but there's also an overwhelming sense of Western hopelessness following so many years in crisis."

After more than a decade in bloodshed and turmoil, which was sparked by Arab Spring revolts, and an Islamic State group attack, most Arab countries have settled into a military deadlock or frozen conflict. This has been accompanied by worsening economic conditions, increasing poverty rates, and greater repression.

A six-year-old war in Yemen has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, putting Yemen on the verge of starvation. The U.N. chief of food agency warned Wednesday that 16,000,000 people in Yemen "are marching toward starvation." Libya is a country that has been torn apart by rival militias supported by foreign governments for years. More and more people are trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Europe, leaving their shores.

The cultural heartland of the Middle East, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are now experiencing significant economic decline. This is due to corruption and leaders who care more about their own personal interests than their people's basic needs.

Lebanon has suffered the most dramatic fall over the past two decades. It is a small, multi-religious country on the eastern Mediterranean coast with the highest number of refugees per capita in the world. Since late 2019, a financial crisis has plunged the country into freefall, putting about three quarters in poverty and triggering an unprecedented brain drain since the civil war of 1975-90. This was accelerated by the massive blast at Beirut's port in August 2020, which killed more than 200 people. It also destroyed large parts of the city.

Lebanese, once proud of their entrepreneurial skills and now struggling to get electricity or fuel, most households cannot even scrape enough money for their next meal.

Joyce Karam, a Lebanese journalist who is also adjunct professor of political science at George Washington University, stated that "if you're a Lebanese civil, there is probably more likely to die from medicine shortages 2021 than there was from an bullet in the 1970s or 1980s."

"The economic devastation is eating away at the pillars and the state in such a way that it is becoming irreversible."

A total collapse of Lebanon could lead to a new wave in refugees fleeing to Europe. Desperation could bring about a new wave of violence in Iraq, where the country is wracked by poverty and a lackluster infrastructure.

This summer's 11-day Gaza War has not gained much traction this year. It is the latest round in fighting between Israel, Hamas, and the militant Hamas group that controls the territory. Over 4,000 Gaza homes were severely damaged or destroyed, and 250 people were killed, mostly civilians. In Israel, thirteen people were killed.

"How many more houses will be destroyed?" "How many more children will be killed before the world wakes up?" King Abdullah of Jordan said in prerecorded remarks to U.N. General Assembly.

While U.N. General Assembly gatherings over the past decade were marked by diplomatic activity in an effort to find a political solution to crises in Mideast nations, they are unlikely to be prominently featured in this year's meeting in New York.

Barnes-Dacey stated that "Western actors feel outof ideas and energy in regards to focusing high-level attention upon putting the region onto a better path, especially given wider global challenges."

The combination of donor fatigue, war weariness and a host of other global problems has put Syria, Yemen, and other Mideast conflicts on the back burner. World leaders seem to be content with living with divided and wrecked nations in the future.

On Tuesday's first address to the U.N. General Assembly, President Joe Biden didn't mention the Arab world’s lingering crises and instead focused on global issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

Karam, a Lebanese journalist, stated that the Biden team is busy with COVID-19 and exiting Afghanistan, as well as pivoting to Asia.

She said that they are at risk of letting crises fester, and then being forced to intervene later if they become out-of-control or pose a threat to U.S. interest.

Analysts say that neither Europe nor the West should ignore the economic collapse in the Middle East.

Heiko Wimmen is the International Crisis Group's project director for Iraq Syria and Lebanon. Destabilization will be projected into Europe, and to a lesser extent, the U.S. because it fuels desperation, migration, instability, and gives momentum and credibility for far-right ideological tendencies.

He stated that while the U.S. might want to withdraw itself from the region's affairs, Europeans don’t have the luxury of doing so.

Wimmen stated, "You cannot be safe if the neighbor's house is on fire."

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