The year 2020 for the Arab world---stretched across North Africa and the Levant---was catastrophic for many countries, according to some analysts. Regional conflicts and economic problems, exacerbated by COVID19, have created a disaster from which a number of countries are finding it difficult to recover.
Lebanon underwent the region's most serious crisis in 2020 after an explosion at Beirut port ravaged most of the capital, killing several hundred people and hitting an economy already facing the collapse of its currency with an added disaster.
2020 was a disaster of a year for many other Arab countries, with the situation was compounded by the ongoing COVID19 pandemic.
The economies of countries like Syria and Yemen, in addition to Lebanon, have nearly imploded while a general economic crisis affects other states like Tunisia, Libya, Iraq and Iran. Egypt appears to be the only country with a positive 3.5% growth rate, although its poverty rate appears to be on the rise.
Civil war and sectarian conflicts now affect at least four regional Arab states: Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq. The conflicts in Yemen and Syria appear intractable while conflicts in Libya and Iraq sputter intermittently as outside actors get involved in their internal crises.
Multiple regional and international actors, including Turkey, Qatar, the UAE, Egypt, Russia, France and Italy have locked horns in Libya, with efforts to arm both warring parties. Meddling by Iran in Yemen has made it more difficult to solve the conflict there, as Saudi Arabia finds itself in a military morass from which it is difficult to extract itself.
Egyptian political sociologist Said Sadek told VOA that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman would like to extricate his country from the military and humanitarian quagmire in Yemen, but that the Houthis are making it costly to do so.
"The Saudis want to get out, but they don't know how, because resolving the Yemeni question has to do also with ending Iranian military assistance that allow Yemen to launch attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “How do I withdraw when you are shelling me at the time? It would look like a big defeat for the Crown Prince (Mohammed Bin Salman)."
Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, told VOA that Libya has become a "failed state" since the 2011 overthrow of veteran leader Col. Moammar al Gadhafi. The economy is in shambles and the country's oil and gas revenues are a major bone of contention due to domestic political quarrels.
He said that Libya under Gadhafi was a welfare state with only 6 million people and major oil and gas resources. Now, he argues, Libyans have become paupers, unable to sell their oil. As in Iraq, he said, this demonstrates the failure of the traditional state. It's easy to invade the country, he said, but it's more difficult to put it back together, afterwards.
Abou Diab said that December 2020 marks the tenth anniversary of the so-called "Arab Spring," which began in Tunisia in December 2010 before spreading to Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
He said the period now is a critical junction, where many states, like Syria, Yemen and Libya are losing their ability to function. He said meanwhile Egypt’s military-backed government has returned to what it was before the revolution.