Region 'crowded out' by other global crises, amid sense of Western hopelessness after years of crisis

There was a time not long ago when uprisings and wars in the Arab world topped the agenda at the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York, the Associated Press reports from New York.

With most of those conflicts in a stalemate, the world’s focus has shifted to more daunting global challenges such as the still raging coronavirus pandemic and climate change, as well as new crises in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

But the situation in the Middle East has deteriorated significantly in more countries and in more ways in the last two years. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen are teetering on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe, with skyrocketing poverty and an economic implosion that threatens to throw the region into even deeper turmoil.

“The region’s been crowded out by other global crises, but there’s also a sense of Western hopelessness after so many years of crisis,” said Julien Barnes-Dacey, the director of the Middle East and North Africa program at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

After more than a decade of bloodshed and turmoil sparked by Arab Spring uprisings and an Islamic State group onslaught, most of the region’s Arab countries have settled into a military stalemate or frozen conflict, accompanied by worsening economies, rising poverty rates and heavier repression.

In Yemen, an ongoing six-year-war has spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving the country on the brink of famine. The head of the U.N. food agency warned Wednesday that 16 million people there “are marching towards starvation.” Libya, torn apart for years by rival militias backed by foreign governments, is struggling to find unity. From its shores, more and more desperate people risk their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, once countries that made up the cultural heart of the Middle East, are all witnessing a significant economic unravelling, spurred among other things by corruption and political leaders focused on preserving their own interests rather than meeting their people’s basic needs.

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