Why have Arab states failed? Within borders drawn by outsiders in their own imperial interests, most are institutionally weak, archaic, corrupt and inert, riven by sectarian hostilities. The epicenter of failure is Syria, from whose calamitous collapse refugees are piling into the European Union, already reeling from terrorist attacks by the murderous Islamic State. The ability of the international community to ease the crisis depends on whether the US and Russia can work together to force a cease-fire in Syria’s civil war and decisive military action against ISIL. Staunching the disaster will also require regional players, notably Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey to temper their competitive pursuit of national advantages.
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