The year is 2028. Much of the Gaza has become unlivable. Daesh (ISIS) has been destroyed, but another terrorist group looms close on the horizon. The Kurds have their own state, meaning Iraqi unity has been destroyed. The Assad regime is still in power, having vanquished the rebel forces thanks to Iranian and Russian military might. In my opinion, this is what the Middle East will look like in ten years, if the current state of the region does not change.
First, Gaza. According to the UN, much of Gaza will become “uninhabitable” due to man-made policies by the year 2020. Ever since Hamas, which is recognized as a terrorist group by much of the international community, came to power in local elections in 2006, Israel has fought three wars with Gaza and imposed a severe blockade. The latest war between Hamas and Israel was in 2014, and that conflict left more than “half a million people” displaced and “destroyed” parts of the strip. Furthermore, the land, sea, and air blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel has made it nearly impossible for the strip to develop economically, resulting in seventy-two percent of households that are “food insecure”. The combination of the lack of economic development, devastation due to conflict, coupled with a severe energy crisis caused by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Gaza will become uninhabitable by 2020 if the current trend continues.
Second, Daesh. If the state of perpetual defeat suffered by the world’s most infamous terrorist group continue, it will surely be defeated by 2027. In the summer of 2017, the Iraqi military retook Mosul, which was occupied by Daesh and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces retook Daesh’s de-facto capital, Raqqa. But as Daesh is destroyed, the conditions that laid the groundwork for its rise are worsening. When the Syrian revolution started, some of the reasons for anger towards the Assad regime were the slashing of food and fuel subsidies and rising water prices due to drought. The reason why the Syrian regime cut back social welfare programs was because they couldn’t afford to keep bankrolling them. Syrian oil output has steadily declined since the 1990s, and the government is simply running out of revenue to fund social welfare programs. Furthermore, due to drought, which was caused by climate change, water prices rose, leading to discontent among the population. Then Daesh burst onto the scene, promising a utopia where many of the ills which the Syrian regime couldn’t solve were alleviated. This promise of social welfare programs was one of the reasons Daesh’s ranks grew so exponentially. So, even though the Assad regime will likely stay in power for now, if the government doesn’t address its revenue crisis or climate change, they will likely have another Daesh-like problem on their hands in a few years from now.
Third, the Kurds. The Kurds voted in an independence referendum on September 25th, 2017, and that vote has the potentially to dramatically alter the Middle East’s landscape. Although the Iraqi government responded to the referendum with military action, seizing the city of Kirkuk, the Kurdish dream for independence isn’t going away any time soon. The large margin by which the Kurdish people voted for independence shows that. In the near future, the Kurds may very well have their own state.
If these current trends continue, the Middle East could very well look like a region where dictators are still in power, terrorist groups rise and fall, places are inhabitable, and ethnic groups achieve independence. This is just one vision out of many for how the Middle East could look in ten years, and things could change. But, the world should take notice of the underlying problems in the region, instead of playing whack-a-mole with jihadist groups. The future of the Middle East depends on it.