Assessing Turkey’s Future Role in the Middle East

Nicholas Morgan is an M.A student studying Russian and Post-Soviet Politics at University College London.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing Turkey’s Future Role in the Middle East

Date Originally Written:  October 2, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  November 5, 2018.

Summary:  As a result of its unilateral foreign policy choices as well as a lingering currency crisis at home, Turkey will be forced to re-evaluate many of its present policies in relation to the Middle East. With ongoing threats of greater violence on its borders, increasing diplomatic isolation and economic decline, Turkey’s aspirations for greater regional influence are seriously reduced and it is likely that its position is to decline further because mounting problems at home and abroad.

Text:  Turkey’s challenged position within the Middle East is a result of regional dynamics that have de-stabilized its neighbors, whether it be from their own internal turmoil or geopolitical intrigues by larger powers. At the dawn of the Arab Spring, Turkish leaders saw it as an opportunity to assume a leadership position amidst the ashes of political upheaval and was upheld as a model by others. However, Turkish ventures into issues such as the Syrian Civil War and the blockade of Qatar have cost it significant political capital among its neighbors. An ongoing currency crisis, domestic political changes and fighting on its borders have only served to further weaken Turkey’s position in the Middle East.

The maelstrom that is Syria’s civil war can be considered the harbinger of many of Turkey’s present woes. The spillover effects from the war threatened to escalate as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has moved towards an offensive against Idlib province along Turkey’s southern border. Such a move would be nearly catastrophic for Turkish interests given its holdings in northern Syria, and the potential flood of refugees across its borders, when it already is the largest host of Syrians fleeing the war[1]. In addition to refugees, jihadist fighters targeted by Assad would likely retreat over the Turkish border or into holdings in Syria, raising the specter of violence there.

Caught in the spotlight of these circumstances are Turkey’s alliance with Russia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has invested significantly into his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, frequently meeting with him to secure Russian concessions to Turkish concerns in Syria. The two have met several times in recent months to discuss Idlib, and it appears to have borne fruit as Russia recently delayed any offensive into the province while Turkey tries to disarm or remove jihadist fighters there[2]. However, Russia did not commit to a total halt of any offensive on Idlib, just to postpone one. Moscow is acutely aware of Turkey’s vulnerability in the event of an offensive and that Turkey will be unlikely to convince jihadist hardliners to abide by any ceasefire[3]. Ultimately, an attack on Idlib will come regardless given Assad’s desire to reunify his nation by force and as the past has shown, Russia will commit to assisting that goal. Neither has any desire to see a clash between their forces in the province, but Russia is more than aware of its leverage when an offensive is launched given the spillover risks to Turkey itself and the refusal of jihadist groups to abide by the ceasefire.

Another danger presented by any offensive on Idlib is the effect it would have on Turkey’s conflict with Kurdish militias it considers terrorist groups. Presently, with the looming threat of fighting Assad over Idlib, Turkey’s stance is precarious. Worried about a U.S withdrawal and the status of the lands they conquered, the Kurds have hedged their situation by opening negotiations with Damascus and Moscow[4]. If Turkey is seen as retreating under threat of confrontation with Syria, it could embolden the Kurds to seek deeper ties with the regime. Given Assad’s desire for restoring his rule over all Syria and the Kurds’ desire for recognition of their interests, an attack would call into question Turkey’s control over Afrin and other holdings. At that point, Turkey would be stuck in the unenviable position of being dragged deeper into the war or being made to surrender Kurdish lands it seized in recent years. This would defeat all of Ankara’s strategic objectives in engaging in Syria.

Beyond Syria, Turkey’s relationships with the other Middle Eastern powers are at a low point that shows little sign of improving. Its only ally within the region is Qatar because of Erdogan’s decision to back Doha in its dispute with other Gulf monarchies last year. The other Arab states allied to Saudi Arabia view Turkey with enmity, with the Saudi crown prince even declaring the Turks as part of a triangle of evil because of its support to Qatar and its position in the Syrian war[5]. Even Israel, who Turkey had just begun reproaching several years ago after a long period of tension, has found itself more aligned with the Arabs than Ankara. This alignment was evident in the Arab denunciation of Ankara for insisting the Arab League was hesitant to support the Palestinians, a cause Erdogan personally seeks to champion[6]. Given that Arab officials have gone to the point of warning Israel about excess Turkish influence in East Jerusalem, it is safe to suggest whatever leadership position Turkey aspires to in the region will remain a pipe dream[7].

Finally, considereing the fragile state of the Turkish economy in light of mounting foreign debt, high inflation and American sanctions, the country may soon be forced to focus on preventing a deeper recession than on foreign intrigues. The government’s response so far has not significantly halted either the currency’s decline nor has it halted the growth of inflation. Already, plans involve new austerity measures and support to larger institutions in restructuring their debt[8]. All the while, smaller businesses are bucking under increased costs from the lira’s weakness and consumers are beginning to feel the sting of rising inflation[9]. With the specter of renewed migration as a result of an attack on Idlib in Syria, Turkey’s domestic politics risk further unraveling. Between rising prices and the risk of unemployment as well as a reluctance to take in more refugees, Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) may find their political position at greater risk in future elections[10].

Given its increasingly constrained position, Turkey is unlikely to be able to exert any greater influence over the wider Middle East. Facing security risks relating to the Syrian Civil War, diplomatic isolation from its decision to back Qatar and alienate the United States, and economic decline at home, Turkey will be forced to retreat from many of its policies across the region. Otherwise, Ankara’s own stability may be called into question, a scenario that all but ensures a further diminished posture and an end to any aspirations of leadership.


Endnotes:

[1] Schelin, Lisa. UN Official: Buffer Zone in Syria’s Idlib Province Averts War for Now. VOA. https://www.voanews.com/a/un-official-buffer-zone-syria-idlib-averts-war-for-now/4580255.html (September 20, 2018)

[2] DW. Russia, Turkey agree to create demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib. DW. https://www.dw.com/en/russia-turkey-agree-to-create-demilitarized-zone-around-syrias-idlib/a-45530727 (September 17, 2018)

[3] Decina, Alexander. ANALYSIS: How Security and Diplomacy Intersect in Russia and Turkey’s Idlib Deal. WANA Institute. http://wanainstitute.org/sites/default/files/publications/Publication_Idlib_English.pdf (October 2, 2018)

[4] Tastekin, Fehim. As conditions shift in Syria, Kurds open to talks with Damascus. al-Monitor.https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/06/turkey-syria-what-pushes-kurds-deal-with-regime.html (June 21, 2018)

[5] Evans, Dominic. Saudi Prince Says Turkey part of ‘Triangle of evil’-Egyptian Media. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-turkey/saudi-prince-says-turkey-part-of-triangle-of-evil-egyptian-media-idUSKCN1GJ1WW (March 7, 2018)

[6] Sawsan, Abu Hussein. Arab League Denounces Turkish Statements on Relocating U.S Embassy to Jerusalem. Asharq al-Awsat. https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1266991/arab-league-denounces-turkish-statements-relocating-us-embassy-jerusalem (May 13, 2018)

[7] Tibon, Amir & Kubovich, Yaniv. Jordan, Saudis and Palestineans warn Israel: Erdogan operating in East Jersusalem under your nose. Haaretz. (July 1, 2018)

[8] Albayrak, Ozlem. In Turkey, New Economic Plan Comes up Short. Asia Times. http://www.atimes.com/article/in-turkey-new-economic-plan-comes-up-short/ (September 21, 2018)

[9] Pitel, Laura & Guler, Funja. Turkey’s shopping centres at sharp end of currency crisis. Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/90479ce0-bb64-11e8-8274-55b72926558f (September 19, 2018)

[10[ Brandt, Jessica & Kirsici, Kemal. Turkey’s economic woes could spell trouble for Syrian refugees. Axios. https://www.axios.com/turkeys-economic-woes-could-spell-trouble-for-syrian-refugees-d1eaae2e-fcd3-45ff-a1b1-a26567115e8b.html (August 28, 2018)

Assessment Papers Middle East Nicholas Morgan Turkey

An Assessment of the Iranian Ballistic Missile Arsenal and Regional Preparedness

Miguel Miranda is the founder of 21st Century Asian Arms Race.  He frequently writes about modern weapons and the different conflicts being fought across the world today.  He also runs the Twitter account @21aar_show to scrutinize arms fairs and military/security conferences.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Iranian Ballistic Missile Arsenal and Regional Preparedness

Date Originally Written:  September 17, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  October 8, 2018.

Summary:  As battle lines are drawn across the Middle East, the U.S. is sinking deeper into a protracted struggle with the Islamic Republic of Iran.  But any plans to confront the neighbourhood’s penultimate rogue actor don’t acknowledge its single greatest capability—an enormous ballistic missile stockpile that can strike the capital cities and military bases of its enemies.

Text:  In August 2018, Iran’s defence ministry unveiled two new weapons.  One was a long-range air-to-air missile called the Fakour[1].  The other is the latest addition to the Fateh-series of short-range tactical ballistic missiles called the “Fateh Mobin[2].”

Then in September 2018, a barrage of Fateh-110B missiles launched from northwestern Iran struck a target 200 kilometres away in Iraqi Kurdistan[3].  Although condemned by press statements, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) attack on a Kurdish militant base had zero repercussions from a docile Iraq.  The Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) countries struggling to defeat the Houthis in Yemen are in the same pickle.  Try as they might, continuous Iranian support for the Houthis means regular launches of guided and unguided munitions aimed at Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

Iran’s missile activity is reason enough for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to start thinking about anti-ballistic missile defences in the region.  After all, DoD outposts in Eastern Syria are very close to local Iranian proxies.  Meanwhile, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units or PMUs controlled by Tehran have quietly acquired large diameter battlefield rockets and perhaps a few missiles[4].  Keep in mind, DoD air defences are legacy “platforms” such as the Avenger ADS and the MIM-104 Patriot.  Neither legacy platform is suited for intercepting large diameter rockets, much less current generation ballistic missiles.  Then consider the almost two dozen DoD bases in the Gulf and the Levant.  What protection do they have from Iranian missiles?

Since 2000 at least two new large diameter rockets or ballistic missiles are unveiled each year by the Iranian media, who are complicit in spinning these as homegrown “innovations.”  While it’s true some Iranian weapons are blatant fakes[6], there are two niches where Iran’s state-owned military industries excel: drones and missiles.

Iran’s obsession with missiles dates to the war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq from 1980-1988.  Towards the end of the bitter conflict an exhausted Iraq launched its Scud A rockets at Iranian cities[8].  With its air force crippled by attrition and a lack of spare parts, Iran’s war planners concocted an elaborate scheme to acquire the same capability as Iraq.  In an arrangement whose details remain muddled, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Syria’s Hafez Assad, and North Korea’s Kim il Sung all agreed to supply Iran with hand-me-down Scud B’s after years of selling conventional weapons to Tehran.

As both Iraq and Iran endured economic sanctions in the 1990s, Tehran kept spending vast sums on its missiles because its airpower and naval fleet had atrophied.  Since the advent of the first domestically produced Shahab missile, which was modelled after a North Korean Scud C variant called the Nodong/No Dong[8], Iran persisted in improving its conventional missiles on top of an immense rocket artillery arsenal.  Imitating Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean doctrine, both the Artesh (regular army) and the IRGC have a multitude of short, medium, and long-range rockets whose quantity now surpasses those of neighbouring countries.  In recent years, only Azerbaijan’s bloated defence expenditures has produced an inventory to rival Iran’s battlefield rocket stockpile[9].  When it comes to missiles, however, there are no specifics on how many Iran has, but a total above four digits is the lowest estimate[10].

For the reader’s benefit, below is an easy guide to Iranian ballistic missiles:

Fateh-100 “family” – Comparable to the Soviet SS-21 Scarab and even the SS-26 Stone (Iskander) surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.  Fatehs are made in eight variants, with the Fateh Mobin and the Zolfaqar being the deadliest with ranges of 700 kilometres[10].

Scud C – North Korean Hwasong 6 or “Scud C” missiles with a range of several hundred kilometres.  It’s assumed Pyongyang also helped build a production facility somewhere in Iran.

Shahab “family” – Introduced in the 2000s, the Shahabs resemble the Scud C 6 but have varying capabilities.  The Shahab-3 is considered a nuclear capable medium-range ballistic missile that can reach targets more than a thousand kilometres away. 

Khorramshahr – This road mobile medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) is suspected to have been developed with North Korean assistance and its range covers much of South Asia and the Middle East.  Analysts acknowledge its resemblance to the Musudan MRBM that Pyongyang showed off in its annual parades until early 2018[11].

Soumar – A land-based variant of the Soviet Kh-35 naval cruise missile.  In December 2017 Houthi fighters launched a cruise missile resembling the Soumar at a nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi.  Although the result of the attack is unknown, it proves how Iran can strike its enemies anywhere[12].

Although the U.S.-developed Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries are in service with Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, these don’t count as serious anti-ballistic missile defenses as a layered network is best.  So far, only the UAE  is close to achieving this layered network with its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) batteries complemented by short-range SAMs.  Of course, Israel is in a better position to stop Iranian missiles since it built a network for the PAC-3 together with its own Arrow 2/3 long-range SAM, the David’s Sling, and the Iron Dome[13].

Remarkably, Saudi Arabia is the most vulnerable to an Iranian missile barrage.  Since 2016 not a month has gone by without the Houthis in Yemen sending either large diameter rockets or ballistic missiles into the Kingdom, with successful intercepts by Saudi air defences up for debate[14].  Even with a defence budget considered the third largest in the world, Saudi Arabia’s collection of Patriot’s won’t be able to thwart multiple launches at its major cities and energy infrastructure[15].  Worse, Riyadh’s orders for either the S-400 Triumf or the THAAD have yet to arrive[16].

If the Trump Administration is serious about confronting Iran in the region, it’s doing an abysmal job preparing for the small and big fights where the IRGC and its proxies can bring asymmetric weapons to bear.  Whether or not Gulf allies agree to host a top of the line DoD ballistic missile defense capabilities like AEGIS Ashore[17], genuine layered anti-ballistic missile defences[18] are needed to protect U.S. bases against hundreds of potential missile and rocket attacks by Iran in a future war.  Thousands of American servicemen and women are at grave risk without one.


Endnotes:

[1] Miranda, M. (2018, July 29). Iran made a big deal about a copycat missile. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://21stcenturyasianarmsrace.com/2018/07/29/iran-made-a-big-deal-about-a-copycat-missile/

[2] Miranda, M. (2018, August 14). Iran unveiled a juiced up ballistic missile this week. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://21stcenturyasianarmsrace.com/2018/08/14/iran-unveiled-a-juiced-up-ballistic-missile-this-week/

[3] Miranda, M. (2018, September 11) Iran just bombarded kurdish rebels with missiles. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://21stcenturyasianarmsrace.com/2018/09/11/iran-just-bombarded-kurdish-rebels-with-missiles/

[4]  Karako, T. (2015, August 10). Getting the GCC to Cooperate on Missile Defense. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://warontherocks.com/2015/05/getting-the-gcc-to-cooperate-on-missile-defense/ 

[5] Irish, J. (2018, August 31). Exclusive: Iran moves missiles to Iraq in warning to enemies. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-iraq-missiles-exclusive/exclusive-iran-moves-missiles-to-iraq-in-warning-to-enemies-idUSKCN1LG0WB?il=0

[6] Miranda, M. (2018, August 26). Iran military industries are promoting fake modernization. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://21stcenturyasianarmsrace.com/2018/08/26/iranian-military-industries-are-promoting-fake-modernization/

[7] Press, A. (1988, March 14). ‘War of Cities’ Truce Ends as Iraqi Missile Hits Tehran. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/1988-03-14/news/mn-734_1_iraqi-news-agency

[8] No-dong. September 17, 2018, from https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/musudan/

[9] Miranda, M. (2018, July 12). Azerbaijan is showing off new weapons again. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://21stcenturyasianarmsrace.com/2018/06/12/azerbaijan-is-showing-off-new-weapons-again/

[10] Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities. (2017, September 21). Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2017/06/iran-ballistic-missile-capabilities-170621125051403.html

[11] Iran Inaugurates Production Line Of New Missile. (2016, September 26). September 17, 2018, from http://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/content/iran-inaugurates-production-line-new-missile

[12] Musudan (BM-25). September 17, 2018, from https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/musudan/

[13] Yemen’s Houthis claim to fire missile toward unfinished Abu Dhabi nuclear reactor. (2017, December 3). September 17, 2018, from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/03/world/yemens-houthis-claim-fire-missile-toward-unfinished-abu-dhabi-nuclear-reactor/#.W56g0_ZoTIU

[14] Defense, I. (2018, February 19). Israel Successfully Test Fires Arrow 3 Missile System. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from http://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/33120

[15] Gambrell, J. (2018, March 26). Videos raise questions over Saudi missile intercept claims. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://www.defensenews.com/global/mideast-africa/2018/03/26/videos-raise-questions-over-saudi-missile-intercept-claims/

[16] Riedel, B. (2018, March 27). What you need to know about the latest Houthi attack on Riyadh. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/03/27/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-latest-houthi-attack-on-riyadh/

[17] Saudi Arabia wants Russian help for its arms industry. (2017, October 7). Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://21stcenturyasianarmsrace.com/2017/10/07/saudi-arabia-wants-russian-help-for-its-arms-industry/

[18] Larter, D. (2018, June 20). The US Navy is fed up with ballistic missile defense patrols. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2018/06/16/the-us-navy-is-fed-up-with-ballistic-missile-defense-patrols/

Assessment Papers Iran Middle East Miguel Miranda Rockets and Missiles United States

Call for Papers: The Middle East

middle_east_pol_2013_crop.jpg

Graphic:  U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook via the University of Texas https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/middle_east_and_asia/middle_east_pol_2013.pdf

Background:

Divergent Options is a non-politically aligned national security website that, in 1,000 words or less, provides unbiased, dispassionate, candid articles that assess a national security situation, present multiple options to address the situation, and articulate the risk and gain of each option.  Please note that while we assess a national security situation and may provide options, we never recommend a specific option.

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to the Middle East.

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our Options Paper or Assessment Paper templates which are designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by October 13th, 2018.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic, we always welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea.  We look forward to hearing from you!

To inspire potential writers we offer the following writing prompts:

– Assess the current state of the battle against the Islamic State in the Middle East.

– What options remain to solve or address concerns related to the crisis in Syria?

– What options remain to solve or address concerns related to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

– What options remain to solve or address concerns related to Iran’s desire for a nuclear capability?

– Assess Iran’s current / future influence in Iraq.

– Assess Turkey’s current / future role in Middle East politics.

– What options remain to solve or address concerns related to the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Yemen?

– Assess U.S. policy towards the Middle East with a focus on supporting autocrats vs encouraging self-determination.

– Assess the current / future relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

– Assess the impact to the Middle East when the Sultan of Oman dies.

– Assess the future of the Kurdish people in the Middle East.

– Assess the current / future struggle for regional influence between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

– Assess the possibility of Egyptian President Sisi stepping down at the end of his second term.

– Assess former President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak. Was he the tyrant the West made him out to be? Was he a regional safety valve?

– Assess the future of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in light of the resignation of the rich from its middle ranks, the extremism of its lower ranks, and the failure of its upper ranks to preserve the group as a one functioning political machine.

Call For Papers Middle East

Options to Increase Arab Middle East Stability Through Economic Investment

Nathan Field is an Arabic speaker and a commentator on Middle East politics whose perspective differs from others in that it is based primarily on experience in the private sector in the Arab world, including two years as part of the management team on a U.S. one billion dollar engineering project in Saudi Arabia and five years building up and then selling a translation company called Industry Arabic.  Follow him on Twitter at @nathanrfield1 and read his other articles and expert interviews at Real World Arabic.


National Security Situation:  The unprecedented instability in the Arab Middle East consists of three major inter-related problems: the surge in disgruntled people attempting to migrate to the European Union (EU), the decades long but newly accelerating growing appeal of Islamic extremism, and the collapse of a once hopeful Arab Spring reform process.

Date Originally Written:  December 8, 2016.

Date Originally Published:  January 19, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the perspective of possible approaches to the Arab Middle East that might be taken by the incoming Trump administration.

Background:  The three aforementioned security issues are a logical symptom of the socio-economic weakness of the majority of Arab countries, with the exception of a few highly resource-endowed countries such as Qatar and the UAE that have relatively small populations.  In a ruthlessly competitive global economy, the economic pie is only large enough to provide status, purpose, and meaning to about 20% of the populations.  The other 80% of the population in countries like Egypt and Tunisia are not necessarily poor.  In fact, in many cases they may even have a university education.  But what this often means is that in practice, they are educated enough to know what is out there, yet also to sense that they have little chance of crossing into the 20%.  For this 80%, contrary to the views of many Washington D.C.-based foreign policy research organizations, elections offer little hope because they do not address the economic status quo.  This 80% is precisely the demographic that is at risk to embrace violent extremist ideologies and to seek to flee to the EU as economic migrants.

Significance:  Understanding the economic roots of the instability in the Arab Middle East is critical to formulating long-term solutions.  Traditional research into the instability in the Arab Middle East has minimized the role of economics.  In research, economics and politics are often compartmentalized and treated as two separate problems while in fact they are one and the same.

Many commentators on the Arab Middle East make the mistake of overlooking that democracy and universal human rights are at the very top of the Maslow Hierarchy of needs as matters of self-actualization and esteem.  Democracy and universal human rights can only come when there is enough of the far more important economic development so that a critical mass of the population can obtain purpose, meaning and basic status economically.  Only when that is achieved is it possible to obtain desirable democracy.

Option #1:  A significant new U.S. focus on promoting Lower Tech Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses, not Tech Startups.

Since 2011, the U.S. government has allowed the concept of entrepreneurship promotion to somehow come to exclusively mean Tech Startups.  The problem with Tech Startups is that by definition they seek to use technology to eliminate human labor.  Moreover, the types of people in countries like Egypt and Tunisia who are capable of being competitive in Tech Startups are generally from high socio-economic backgrounds.  Instead, the focus should be on promoting Lower-Tech and more labor intensive Small Businesses and Medium Businesses[1] in order provide opportunity to a greater percentage of the population.   

Risk:  The only risk is that the programs might not be effective.  Some funds may be wasted, but otherwise the consequences will be minimal on the basis that there was nothing to lose.

Gain:  If the programs succeed, they will create significant new jobs for those from the populations that need it most.  Yet even if they do not succeed 100%, they still send the message that there is hope and something to work for back home and may inspire economic migrants to return home. 

Option #2:  Increased emphasis on vocational education combined with targeted industrial development.

The dominant Arab Middle East education paradigm wrongly assumes a linear connection between the quantity of degree holders and new jobs thus economic growth has proven a disaster.  This education paradigm is only producing more disgruntled degree holders with higher expectations that are unlikely to be met.  As part of Option #2 the U.S. would strongly support the growth of vocational education combined with targeted industrial development[2].

The Philippines serves as a classic example of what is possible in targeted economic development.  The country went from having no presence in the call center industry in  1997 to being the global leader in 2012[3].  With greater vocational capabilities, Arab Middle Eastern countries will be in a better position to explore the development of new industrial activity and provide reasonable employment opportunities to the lower 80% of the population.  The Moroccan aviation industry serves as a Middle Eastern success story, showing how state-centric leadership plus strong vocation programs can lead to significant new economic status[4].   As a result of Morocco’s policy, over 50,000 very good jobs for Moroccan nationals were created.

Risk:  The biggest risk is that if Option #2 does not work then some money and effort will be wasted.

Gain:  The programs work.  Yet they still “gain” even if they do not work.  Spending new money to prop up some of these programs is still a huge gain, because it at least sends the message that there is something new in the works.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Field, N. (2016, May 19). Not Just Tech: Entrepreneurship in the Middle East. Retrieved January 10, 2017, from https://timep.org/commentary/not-just-tech-entrepreneurship-in-the-middle-east/

[2]  Field, N. (2016, July 11). Stop Sending So Many Young People to University. Retrieved January 10, 2017, from http://www.al-fanarmedia.org/2016/07/stop-sending-so-many-young-people-to-university/

[3]  Lee, D. (2015, February 1). The Philippines has become the call-center capital of the world. Retrieved January 10, 2017, from http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-philippines-economy-20150202-story.html

[4]  Larmandieu, V. (2015, February 12). Morocco’s aviation industry spreads its wings. Retrieved January 10, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/12/africa/morocco-aviation-industry-spreads-wings/

Economic Factors Middle East Nathan Field Option Papers