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IISS 2016 Review of World Affairs: Bleak Picture in the Middle East | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Syrian refugee holds onto his children as he struggles to walk off a dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey. Sept. 24, 2015. Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

London–The year 2016 saw very shy efforts to introduce political reforms in the Middle East, according to the Annual Review of World Affairs, issued by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS).

The report, which was issued earlier this week, said that frustration and despair prevailed over the region, while tensions grew and war-torn countries did not see any concrete political settlement.

“A sense of drift and despair pervaded the region, as hoped-for de-escalation on various battlefields failed to materialize and no genuine effort at political reform was made,” IISS said in its Strategic Survey 2016: The Annual Review of World Affairs.

The report added that repression grew and public space was tightened, with regimes everywhere strengthening their grip on power.

On the situation in Syria, the report said that the conflict had destabilized the whole region.

“The Russian intervention in Syria opened a new chapter in the internationalization of Middle Eastern crises. This and the accompanying retrenchment by the U.S., ahead of the country’s 2016 presidential elections, raised the prospect of greater brinkmanship and hedging,” the report said.

IISS also said in its report that much of the Middle East continued to be affected by state-driven and jihadist violence, political turmoil and worsening economic and social conditions.

“The wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya led to no decisive victories nor political settlements, while their humanitarian toll and security repercussions increased,” the report said.

Progressively losing territory in Iraq and Syria, ISIS “gradually reverted to its role as an insurgent group, and mounted attacks outside the Middle East,” it added.

The 2016 Strategic Survey offers in-depth analysis of the developing relationships between major powers, charting the significant events and strategic decisions of the year.