The Changing Strategic Importance of the Middle East and North Africa

Volume Two: The Impact of Growing Military and Civil Instability in the MENA Region

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This publication has been updated as of February 24, 2023.

This book-length report is Volume Two of a two-volume series on the strategic importance of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It provides a detailed quantitative net assessment of the key issues and trends shaping the security and stability of the MENA region. It begins with an assessment of the key trends and issues involved. It first examines the trends in military and internal security in the MENA region and then goes on to provide an overview of civil issues like demographics, governance, corruption, human rights, economics, energy, water, climate change, employment, and other key civil aspects of regional and national security and stability.

This combined focus on examining the key data and trends that shape both security and civil challenges in the MENA region is particularly critical in the case of because so much of the region’s internal instability and violence are driven by its civil failures, while much of the recent analysis of security issues focus on extremism, terrorism, civil wars, and regional conflicts. The result is to concentrate on treating the region’s violent symptoms rather than the civil causes of its diseases.

At the same time, the report shows that much of the official and outside analysis of civil trends is politicized or compartmented in ways that fail to accurately portray the extent to which civil trends contribute to active violence or major instability. This is particularly true of the failure to address how serious problems are in governance, the impact of corruption, and the real-world impact of poverty, unemployment, and internal ethnic and sectarian divisions.

The report also reveals many differences in the quality and coverage of the data now available. It should be stressed that MENA states differ sharply in the depth and accuracy of their reporting, as do their analytic efforts to compile comparable data. MENA countries often fail to indicate how they gather data and exactly how they define it. There is no way to validate much of the data now available or to compare the accuracy of sources. Accordingly, the analysis often presents a range of sources to illustrate the uncertainties in key data and provide a basis for comparing sources.

The report’s table of contents is shown below:

The table of contents of this report is shown below:

Table of Content

Volume One in the series addresses the fact that major changes are taking place in the region’s production and exports of oil and gas—its principal source of strategic importance to the outside world. These changes are complex and shaped by the different national needs of major exporters and importers, global warming, and the growing confrontation between the world’s major powers. As the analysis shows, there are also radically different projections of the future demand for MENA oil and gas exports, driven largely by the extent to which the world will reduce the use of fossil fuels.

These energy aspects of the strategic influence of the MENA region cannot be easily summarized and need a separate full-scale analysis. Accordingly, the future of energy exports issues shaping the MENA region—as well as data on other aspects of its strategic importance like trade, migration, and global lines of communication—are addressed in a separate analysis titled The Strategic Importance of the Middle East and North Africa: The Strengths and Limits of Oil and Gas Wealth, and the Challenge of Climate Change. This report is available on the CSIS website at

Anthony H. Cordesman

Anthony H. Cordesman

Former Emeritus Chair in Strategy