A dismal year in terms of peace

02 June 2015

Diplomacy has few advocates in the Middle East and North Africa these days, with the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen continuing to fester

Last year, more than 100,000 people lost their lives in eight conflicts around the Middle East and North Africa, making it by far the most dangerous region in the world.

The grimmest battlefield was Syria, where 70,000 people perished, followed by Iraq, where 18,000 lost their lives. Smaller conflicts also flared up, exacting a heavy death toll in fairly short periods of time. The Israeli assault on Gaza, for example, lasted 50 days and resulted in well over 2,000 deaths, making it the worst year in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the Six-Day War of 1967.

What is apparent from these examples is that few wars are won with bullets and bombs these days, even if people are willing to fight for decades. Unfortunately, that is not a lesson many of the region’s political leaders seem willing to accept.

The muscular foreign policy adopted by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud since he came to the throne has resulted in Yemen moving further away from a resolution, not closer towards one. In Syria and Iraq, there is little prospect of any side securing an outright victory on the battlefield, yet still they pound away at each other’s positions.

What is needed is political leadership, diplomacy and compromise. That has been evident in the faltering steps that Iran and the US have taken to resolve their cold war, but in few other instances. As the ongoing violence around the region demonstrates, this year is not shaping up to be any better for the Middle East than the last one.

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