Interview: IISS's John Jenkins on the complex political context of the Middle East

Interview: IISS's John Jenkins on the complex political context of the Middle East
Sir John Jenkins
Updated 22 May 2017

Interview: IISS's John Jenkins on the complex political context of the Middle East

Interview: IISS's John Jenkins on the complex political context of the Middle East

RIYADH: Collapsing states create fertile soil for the rise of extremist groups, Sir John Jenkins, executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in the Middle East, told Arab News on Sunday.
“I don’t think there’s a cure to the problem (of extremism). I think you can marginalize it… only if you have a strong successful efficient state,” Jenkins said in an interview at the Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism in the Saudi Arabian capital.
The former British ambassador to several Middle Eastern countries — including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait and the UAE — said that the political context of this region, given the emergence of Daesh and “mobilized sectarianism,” is extremely complex.
“You can’t address one without the other. You need a holistic policy,” he added.
Jenkins pointed to the migrant crisis that emerged with the collapse of the Syrian state.
“Daesh and these other groups thrive on collapsing states. If you look at the various Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria, it’s the same. They colonize… states. (They form) a state within a state.”
The former diplomat said sectarian conflicts in this region are “a modern phenomenon.” He added: “It’s not like it didn’t exist before… But it didn’t matter because it wasn’t politically consequential until 1979 (the year of the Islamic revolution in Iran).”
Maintaining stability in countries that are affected by terrorism needs “a political strategy to reconstruct these states on a more sustainable basis, which involves social justice (and economic) growth.” The cause of extremism is not always poverty, Jenkins said, adding that there are “individual roots to extremism.”