In recent weeks, a growing string of victories against the Islamic State offers hope that the International Community can actually come together and solve a growing problem. Given the numerous other major crises around the globe and at home, the world really needs to see the governments of the planet Earth accomplish something major for their Peoples.
A year ago, the Islamic State was an Iraqi problem, allowed to propagate like a virus due to a dysfunctional Iraqi government and military. Since the summer of this year, the spread of the highly capable and well-funded terrorist organization has been recognized as a regional and global security threat.
Most encouraging is that regional powers are trying to find solutions with support from the West instead of relying on the United States and Europe to lead a full-scale war with minimal support from the Muslim world. This is particularly good news when recognizing the broader and far more significant threats posed by a domineering Russia, which continues to serve as the most prominent example at this time.
Taking on a support role in the Middle East, empowers the United States and the rest of the West to help address other regional and local issues around the world that could develop into global crises. Struggling to deal with economic problems, climate change, globalized terrorism and more, the West needs to act wisely and strategically. Should the fall of the Islamic State, however, lead Middle Eastern nations to regress to their old habits of disengagement, there will soon be another threat to replace the Islamic State.
Unfortunately, falling oil prices are already straining the budgets of Middle Eastern countries. Although analysts like to frame the decision of the Saudi Arabia-dominated OPEC to sustain production levels as an price war against the United States and the booming natural gas industry, the reality is that energy prices are increasingly based on the global supply of all energy sources, thus OPEC has lost a great deal of control over the price of oil.
For nations like Saudi Arabia, reduced production would probably translate in nothing more than lost revenue. Consequently, OPEC nations need to redouble their efforts to diversify their economies. In order to do that, however, the Middle East needs stability and security while the governments of the region must also financially empower their Peoples in order to broaden their economic bases, revenue bases, i.e. taxes, and build an economy based on labor-intensive and innovative industries.
Moving forward, there will be budget cuts and those cuts will likely target what government officials see as nonessentials. Because people tend to regress to their old habits, and the ruling classes in Middle Eastern governments tend to inherit their power rather than earn it, it will be very easy for those deciding budget cuts to prioritize self-serving elitist expenditures while slashing social welfare programs and spending on security.
Until the economies of the Middle East are reengineered to provide for the needs of their Peoples, instead of suppressing dissent in order to enrich the few, the Arab Spring Revolutions should be a reminder that the democratizing Peoples of the Middle East will choose to pursuit their interests over stability. At the same time, the Islamic State should serve as a clear reminder of the dangers that are brewing.
In accordance, governments need to trim their budgets by focusing on waste, abuse, and fraud before anything else as corruption is one of the largest problems throughout the Middle East. Using Iraq as an example of a corrupt nation undergoing changes, the replacement of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Malaki, who managed to turn Iraq into the 170th most corrupt nation in the world, is already leading to better governance.
Not only is the military undergoing a major overhaul, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has also managed to sign an oil revenue sharing argument with the Kurds in just a few months. Iraq can become a better place through better governance. Moreover, addressing and balancing the interests of all the Peoples of the Middle East is needed to address the broad economic issues and long-term security threats of the region.
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