6 serious challenges the Middle East is facing this year

The year 2016 does not seem to be getting better for the countries in the Middle East. Old problems have aggravated and new challenges have risen.

1. Climate change

The Middle East will be uninhabitable by the end of this century if carbon dioxide emissions are not cut down, according to a growing number of climate change scientists. This summer’s extreme heat will become the norm throughout the rest of the year, with temperatures of 60°C becoming commonplace.

Some analysts also theorize drought as a key contributor to the destabilization of Iraq and Syria, fueling a conflict from which Daesh or ISIS has emerged from and , caused regional trouble. Climate change did not necessarily cause the conflict, but it did make Syria more vulnerable to an uprising, according to a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


ISIS is a universal threat, making strange bedfellows of US, Russia, EU and Iran. But there is no unified approach to combat the group. Saudi Arabia has formed a coalition of 34 largely Muslim nations to fight terrorism, as the main gate for ISIS fighters to go into Syria, which could be pivotal in 2016.

3. Refugee crisis

Three million Syrians have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, another 6.5 million displaced in the country. The EU, ideologically divided over how to handle the crisis, is bearing the brunt of refugee migration. Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Hungary have built anti-immigrant fences on their borders.

4. Volatile oil prices

Oil trading has becoming more volatile due to growing tension between two, big OPEC players, pushing already slumped prices lower. Saudi's newly severed ties with Iran have destabilized a political situation that will further complicate 2016's oil outlook. Now consider lifted sanctions in Iran, and potential Libyan production.

5. Iranian-Saudi tension

Saudi Arabia executed a dissident Shia Imam by sending out regional shockwaves and inciting violent reaction in Shia-dominated Iran. KSA then severed diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran; Gulf nations followed suit.

6. Russian-Turkish relations

The relations between Russia and Turkey have only grown more hostile after Turkey shot down a Russian jet in November, in disputed circumstances. President Putin canceled energy projects, capped Turkish tourism in Russia and banned produce imports and new Turkish construction contracts. Russia is Turkey's largest export market after Germany.

Cover credit: Springercarto.com (full link)


Christina Boutros