Translation – Milla São Thiago
Strongly marked by conflicts and serious economic, political, and social problems, the North Africa and Middle East region, also known as MENA, proves to be a central part on the international scenario.
In North Africa, the outlook is uncertain, with many countries, including Tunisia and Libya, having had their elections cancelled and no future dates in sight. In Egypt, the country’s decision to host the COP27 may be seen by the government as a “reward for the repressive power,” considering that the Egyptian president may remain in office until 2030. The feeling of insecurity and uncertainty is also evident in Sudan, where the military forces overthrew the country’s interim government on October 25, resulting in the arrest of civilian leaders, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok being among them. In addition to the paralysis of the democratic transition process that had begun in 2019, the current government refuses the negotiations proposed by the UN to end the crisis.
In the case of the Middle East, it is important to remember the fact that the region is located at the crossroads of three continents, which highlights its vital importance to the major world powers. Its conflictual nature and the fact that it supplies energy to a large part of the world are aspects that denote the role it plays on the international stage.
Currently, there are many alarming situations in the region, and cases such as Afghanistan and Yemen, with their own characteristics and events, may dominate the regional panorama, overlapping older conflicts such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the Syrian war.
In Afghanistan, the year 2021 was a year of change, with the Taliban taking power twenty years later. The Taliban offensive that took place between May 1 and August 15 and the departure of US troops from the region gave rise to a human rights crisis, which caused many Afghan citizens to leave the country, including the Afghan president. Little or nothing can be said about what 2022 holds for the country, thus Afghanistan’s future will remain uncertain and largely dependent on both domestic and foreign policy.
In Yemen, the crisis, which has lasted since 2014, has been adding deaths, with the Houthis (the most common name to refer to the political-religious movement Ansar Allah and which groups a Shiite majority in northwest Yemen) not only claiming to have launched 580 attacks but also taking responsibility for the deaths of 10,000 people in Yemen in 2021. As a result of the civil war, about 130,000 people have died, and other reasons such as lack of clean water, famine and disease could double or triple that number sooner than expected. Such a situation may make this humanitarian crisis as the worst that has ever been experienced or still is in the world today.
As for one of the oldest conflicts in the history of the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues with no foreseeable end, finding in every solution given a problem that prevents it from being implemented.
As for the agreements signed between Iran and other world powers, it is expected that the agreement between Iran and China on energy, economic and political cooperation signed in 2021 may bring benefits to both powers this year, but it has become a matter of concern on the international scenario. Such concern may lead to other agreements between Iran and Russia or Iran and the European Union.
Another aspect that should be remembered is the pandemic context that has mobilized all the states. Israel has gained prominence regarding to COVID-19, especially on regards to scientific research, development of therapies and drugs for its treatment, and also the strong adherence to vaccination. It is also important to remember the high numbers of both deaths and infected in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey since the beginning of the pandemic. It is impossible to anticipate what 2022 holds both globally and in the MENA countries, but one thing is clear: uncertainty will dominate when it comes to the Middle East and North Africa.