The year 2017 was a turning point in the transformation that began in the Middle East six years ago. Although none of the bloody conflicts is over and some are escalating instead of abating, fears that all states in the region were doomed have proved alarmist. Positive change is gaining momentum, albeit slowly: local players are looking for political solutions to conflicts, and the demand for economic and political reform is growing in the region’s weakened and vulnerable countries.
The experience of the Middle East in recent years has highlighted the value of the state as a special form of public association that possesses both administrative and enforcement mechanisms, establishes legal norms, and acts as the main steward of national sovereignty. The state is a value in itself even though some political governments are imperfect. For a weak or failed state can deteriorate into an ungovernable territory where non-state armed actors pursue their own goals, where nobody is responsible for people’s security and survival, and where stability and development are impossible in principle.
Therefore, settling conflicts and strengthening states are two interconnected goals and the core of international politics in the Middle East.
For the measures taken by the international community to be at least relatively successful, we need to determine the impact of the conflicts on regional societies and states, and how the conflicts themselves have changed. Whether the prospects for negotiated peace have improved, or if the factions are ready to keep fighting because they believe that military and, hence, political victory is assured.