The Middle East and North Africa’s natural resource curse: A causal nexus between oil and conflict

Main Article Content

Vidit Thakkar

Keywords

natural resources, resource curse, Middle East, North Africa, conflict, oil

Abstract

The effects of natural resource wealth on conflict in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is explained through resource curse theory. The resource curse theory posits a relationship between non-renewable natural resource wealth and multiple issues, including conflict, authoritarianism, decreased economic stability, and economic growth. The aim of this paper is to test a specific part of the resource curse theory, the relationship between hydrocarbon wealth and conflict. The validity of this theory is tested through the use of a framework of causal analysis proposed by Kellstedt and Whitten. Using the case studies of Khuzestan, the Iran–Iraq War, Libya, Tunisia, Norway, and Qatar, each hurdle within the framework of causal analysis puts the resource curse theory through a rigorous test. The use of Kellstedt and Whitten’s framework will allow for a qualitative analysis of the resource curse theory, revealing a causal relationship between hydrocarbon wealth and conflict. Establishing this causality will be paramount in the discussion of relevant reforms in the region to prevent the onset of future conflict. The crux of this paper is that if confounding variables like pre-existing strong governing institutions and equitable resource rent distribution are controlled, there exists a causal relationship between hydrocarbon wealth and violent conflict. The effect of the aforementioned confounding variables on the causal relationship between hydrocarbon wealth and conflict was identified during the examination of oil-exporting countries such as Norway and Qatar.

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