The independent resource on global security

6. Armed conflict and peace processes in the Middle East and North Africa


Overview [PDF]

I. Key general developments in the region, Ian Davis [PDF]

II. Armed conflict and peace processes in Iraq, Syria and Turkey, Ian Davis and Dylan O’Driscoll [PDF]

III. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict and peace process, Ian Davis [PDF]

IV. Armed conflict and peace processes in North Africa, Ian Davis [PDF]

V. Armed conflict and peace processes in Yemen, Ian Davis [PDF]

There were seven countries with active armed conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa in 2019 (the same as in 2018): Egypt (high-intensity, subnational armed conflict), Iraq (internationalized civil war), Israel (low-intensity, extrastate armed conflict), Libya (internationalized civil war), Syria (major internationalized civil war), Turkey (low-intensity, extrastate and subnational armed conflict) and Yemen (major internationalized civil war). All the armed conflicts had fewer fatalities than in 2018, except for Libya. Many of these conflicts, which have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more, were interconnected and involved regional and international powers, as well as numerous non-state actors. On several occasions during 2019 tensions between Iran and the United States (and its Gulf allies) threatened to escalate into a more serious interstate military conflict. Large-scale anti-government protests occurred in Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian territories and Tunisia.


Complex and interlinked armed conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Turkey

Turkey continued its military operations in northern Iraq and carried out a new incursion into northern Syria, after an announced US withdrawal. Russia and Turkey subsequently created a ‘safe zone’ in north-east Syria in October 2019, while the Syrian Government consolidated its hold over most of the country and achieved further strategic gains. Iraq remained a fragile, largely post-conflict state—although available data suggested that combat-related fatalities remained at the level of a high-intensity armed conflict—with weak institutions and growing protests.



In Libya the fighting escalated between the two competing governments in 2019. There was also a deepening internationalization of the conflict—with Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on one side and Qatar and Turkey on the other. 



The humanitarian crisis in Yemen remained the worst in the world in 2019. While initial steps were taken to implement the December 2018 Stockholm Agreement, in Yemen’s fractured south, fighting intensi-fied and the rivalry within the anti-Houthi coalition risked escalating into a fully-fledged civil war within a civil war, until a peace deal was concluded in Riyadh in November 2019. The Stockholm and Riyadh agreements provide a potential path towards a political settlement of the Yemen civil war, but many challenges remain with continued inter- and intra-coalition fighting. 

Dr Ian Davis and Dr Dylan O’Driscoll