This project seeks to understand the respective role played by military, economic and political actors in the development of war economies in the Middle East and North Africa, where many such actors are invested in the perpetuation of war to sustain their revenue streams.

The collapse of central authority across states in the Middle East and North Africa has led to a fragmentation of power and contributed to the development of entrenched war economies that in many cases incentivise violence.

Interactive map: the conflict economies of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen

Source: Chatham House

In Syria, conflict has paved the way for new groups and elites to control territory and generate revenues. In Yemen and Libya, armed groups have been able to capture state resources and infrastructure, developing lucrative streams of revenue. In Libya, the facilitation of illicit trades such as smuggling and the use of extortion continue to rely on the weakness of the state. And, in Iraq, the grey area between groups that are nominally affiliated with the state and a well-established shadow economy continues to provide groups such as ISIS fertile ground for safeguarding its resources.

In differing ways, these war economies present significant challenges for the stabilisation of these states and the reassertion of authority at local and central government levels.  

This project builds upon ongoing Chatham House studies of the war economies of Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq. Its overall objective  is to establish a definition and practical framework within which war economies and their components can be understood with a view to developing targeted policy options to combat specific war economy modalities.