Is COVID-19 A Blessing for The Middle East?

To a great extent___ yes, it is a blessing for few Middle Eastern countries.

Abstract

Undoubtedly, novel coronavirus is the biggest challenge for the international community today. But for some states, it has brought good outcomes as the whole world is facing a common enemy and this has caused a decline in the hostilities around the world including the Middle East. For reference, this article will put light on four states like Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Iraq before and since COVID-19. The number of terrorist attacks, death tolls and foreign involvement has seen a sharp decline in these states. Besides, after a long time, the Middle Eastern states have a common enemy to fight and many intend to fight it collectively as they all have a common interest in this regard, which is to counter the contagion. The most hit states by COVID-19 are the major protagonists in this region and this has made short term peace possible in many parts of the Middle East.

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UN chief urges unity in mobilizing ‘every ounce of energy’ to defeat coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy; UN News

Syria Then

Syria is the most disturbed state in the Middle East today, as it is under civil war for nine years, and millions of people are displaced inside and outside the country. As per the estimates of February 7, 2020, there have been 207,000 civilian causalities since the eruption of the conflicts between pro and anti-Assad forces in Syria. Whereas 25.000 out of them were children. The state of Syria is not spared from economic collapse and unemployment. Even, Idlib, one of the most disturbed areas of the region is also located in Syria. The Idlib governorate is also known as the center of rebellion forces in Syria. As per the Turkish government-linked Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, there are up to 70,000 rebels in Idlib alone. Besides, more than 235,000 people have fled the governorate due to the conflicts.

For reading my article on Idlib conflicts, click here.

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The monthly number of civilian deaths in Syria from March 2019 to March 2020. Courtesy: Statista.com

Syria Now

Though the ceasefire between Russia and Turkey in Idlib had reached just before the arrival of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) in the region, but the real calm in the governorate since the ceasefire is witnessed after the arrival of COVID-19 in the country. Around three million Syrians living in Idlib hope this ceasefire to remain imposed for a longer time. As per the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the month of March has seen a sharp decline in the death tolls in the country since 2011. As the mentioned month witnessed only 103 deaths, the lowest in the governorate since the eruption of civil war and conflicts. For the first time in this decade, Syrian governorates are intending to fight a common enemy, COVID-19. Analyst Fabrice Balanche said, “This epidemic is a way for Damascus to show that the Syrian state is efficient and all territories should be returned under its governance,” Furthermore, the main actors involved in Syria are their selves busy in countering the contagion. For instance, America, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are the most involved actors in the country and all of them are one of the worst victims of the virus so far. This is making Syria more peaceful. Whereas a vacuum might be created for the so-called Islamic State (IS) in the country to return and claim its so-called caliphate.

Yemen Then

In the year 2018 alone, the United States had carried 36 drone strikes in Yemen. In August of the same year, a missile hit a school bus killing 40 children and injured 57 more. Besides, Yemen faced 227 terrorist attacks that year causing massive damages to the infrastructure and human lives.

As per the United Nations World Food Program, “10 million Yemenis are ‘one step away from famine’”. In terms of displacements, it is noteworthy to know that around 11,000 families have been displaced in the Hajjah governorate alone, in just one month last year.

Moreover, WFP also stated last year that ‘in the last six months, the number of people displaced by violence has increased sharply from 203,000 to around 420,000 around Yemen’. Also, more than 10,000 people have been killed and millions are displaced since the eruption of the war.

For reading my article on Yemen famine, click here.

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The number of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen from 2011 to November 2019. Courtesy: Statista.com

Yemen Now

Yemen borders Saudi Arabia and Oman. As mentioned earlier that Saudi Arabia is busy containing COVID-19 and this has made her actions against peace__ limited in Yemen. Furthermore. Saudi Arabia’s master, the United States is also unable to support its child in any way, as she is as well a mega victim of the novel coronavirus, causing rest in the state of Yemen in the terms of war and peace. Iran, the mightiest supporter of Houthi rebels of Yemen is also refraining from backing them in such an air of deaths all around Iran on account of the coronavirus disease. But despite the decrease in the airstrikes, attacks, and deaths, food insecurity is still a threat to almost 24 million people of Yemen. Hence, it can rightly be argued that despite the monsters are busy somewhere else, Yemenis still dace hunger.

Libya Then

As I have already claimed in one of my articles that Tripoli is a crisis capital of the region of Middle East. It is located in Libya with 1.1 million population out of 6.3 million population of the country. The state is naked to hostilities since Muammar Qaddafi’s death and undoubtedly, it is a failed state today. The actors and non-actors involved in Libya to take the control are breaching the peace with the maximum pace. For instance, around 200,000 people in Libya remained internally displaced, as of October 2018. At least 120 people were killed and 400 wounded throughout the month-long fighting in August 2018, according to the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

Furthermore, since 2014, authorities in Misrata and Tripoli have detained tens of people displaced from Benghazi, often on dubious terrorism allegations. Since the fighting started in May in Derna, at least 1,000 families fled the fighting, according to Derna officials. And since Khalifa Haftar has joined the Libyan theatre of war, the state is in more mess than before.

For reading my article on the Tripoli crisis, click here.

Libya Now

Protagonists in Libya have welcomed the ceasefire offered by the UN and the hostilities have been limited. The country is sandwiched between the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalif Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and its backers. Khalifa Haftar’s LNA is backed by Egypt, UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Russia, who have somehow preferred containing COVID-19 over Haftar. The increasing number of cases of the virus around the globe have diverted the intentions on health facilities than on arms and artillery. Though the mess cannot be cleaned just like a miracle, but still the state and its citizens will have something to rejoice and realize few parts of normal life.

Iraq Then

Iraq since the fall of Saddam is in further ruins. It became a victim of American adventurism in no time after 2003 as a number of actors and non-state actors got involved in the distorted state of Iraq for their own interests. Life everywhere in Iraq became hard to imagine with every new day and the twist in the tail was the Arab Spring, which further damaged the Middle East.

From the earliest starting point of December 2011 until the end of March 2014, at any rate, 19,829 Iraqis have been harmed, including 2,688 cops and 2,319 individuals from the Iraqi Army. During a similar period, 1,350 guerillas were killed, while a sum of 4,403 suspects was captured.

Furthermore, the country also became a victim of IS in 2014 and even Mosul, a major city in northern Iraq, located approximately 400 km north of Baghdad with a population of 664,621, was under the complete fist of the mentioned terrorist organization.

For more details on the Iraq War, click here.

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The number of documented civilian deaths in the Iraq war from 2003 to February 2020. Courtesy: Statista.com

Iraq Now

Iraq has become a proxy state badly sandwiched between Iraq and the United States. As even in January of the same year, American drone assassinated Major General Qassem Soleimani of Iran’s Al-Quds Force and in revenge, Iran fired twelve missiles on American bases in Baghdad. But as mentioned earlier, US and Iran, both are one of the worst victims of the deadly contagion and this has earned Iraq a short term peace. Also, most non-US troops in the coalition have left the Iraqi soil and have evacuated the bases. Therefore, it can be argued that though Iraq is also a bare victim of COVID-19 and IS may find vacuums to reenter in the state, but still the country is breathing in a better atmosphere after a long time.

For reading my article on Iran’s influence over Iraq, click here.

Conclusion

To conclude, COVID-19 is bad news for the international community, but after decades, this community has a common enemy, asking for collective and common efforts. This factor has earned Middle East something and COVID-19 has become a determinant of peace in the region. Without any doubt, novel coronavirus is a dangerous virus for every nation in the world, but the Middle East is witnessing worse conditions since 2011 and this short term calmness and decrease in the hostilities have made this micro-organism a blessing for many of them.

Link to The global ceasefire report.

Middle East Writer

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