The Middle East: Growing Arc of Crisis

The later years of the Cold War were said to be dominated by the ‘arc of crisis’ that stretched from Afghanistan, through Iran and the Middle East to the Horn of Africa. A quarter of a century later the phenomenon is back with us, but this time the arc is wider and the crisis deeper.

The World Today Published 1 November 2004 Updated 19 October 2020 5 minute READ

Michael Clarke

Director General, Royal United Service Institute

The arc is wider because it stretches from the Caucasus through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Gulf, the Middle East, and potentially also as far as east and north Africa. And it is deeper because whereas the old arc was characterised by particular instabilities that sometimes exacerbated each other, this one is distinguished by the possibility – though not yet the probability – of a complete political meltdown from central Asia to central Africa, which would have wider effects deep into three continents.

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