SPECIAL REPORT – The Levant: Covid-19, Economic Uncertainty and Domestic Unrest

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • The Middle East, and Levant in particular, has been consistently volatile in recent months with protests triggered by specific developments, such as the announcement of austerity measures, as well as underlying sources of tension including state-level corruption.
  • In many cases, the economic impact of Covid-19 has brought these issues to a head, while key revenues streams from sectors including tourism and oil have been significantly undermined.
  • The crash in oil prices is a significant destabilising factor in Iraq, while the collapse of tourism receipts and remittances from abroad will negatively impact socio-economic stability and drive unemployment in Jordan and
  • There are multiple drivers of unrest in the Middle East, although economic grievances are at the fore in most cases. As such, the cost of Covid-19 for already struggling economies makes unrest highly likely in Iraq and Lebanon in particular. Underlying economic grievances could also flare in Jordan despite its relative stability.
  • Overall, Covid-19 has highlighted the urgent need for serious reform in countries across the Levant. Iraq, Lebanon, and to a lesser extent Jordan, will experience substantial upheaval over reform packages, the effects of which will sustain the risk of unrest well beyond 2020.

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