The rise of violent transnational movements in the Middle East

By Paul Salem | President - The Middle East Institute | Feb 6, 2018
The rise of violent transnational movements in the Middle East


The conditions that brought about the rise and spread of violent transnational movements in the Middle East are complex and have been long in the making. In order to address the existence of V.T.M.s, the region must address the political and socio-economic challenges that provide the space for such groups to arise, foremost the lack of strong and legitimate state structures. This paper strives to provide the necessary historical and theoretical context in order to understand the enablers of V.T.M.s in today’s Middle East. Within this contextualized framework, the paper proceeds to consider strategies to reverse the V.T.M. trend.

Key Findings

  • V.T.M.s flourish within failing and broken states. The modern Arab world has seen political, socio-economic and cultural contradictions tear several states apart. This has provided a breeding ground for radical alternative movements to take root and grow.
  • The failure of most states to provide a widely convincing basis for their legitimacy and the socio-political contract they offer, and the decline into unequal development and authoritarianism, has enabled non state actors to successfully appeal to disenchanted populations.
  • Key developments, particularly those of 1979 and 2003, accelerated the rise of V.T.M.s. These included the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the US-Saudi response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, and the US-led invasion of Iraq.
  • Weakening, and ultimately defeating, V.T.M.s requires policies broader than direct military action. This should include ending civil wars and standing up failed states; de-escalating regional proxy tensions and stabilizing regional relations; and investing in longer term governance and socio-economic inclusion and development.

Read full policy paper here.

Photo: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

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