Regional Security in the Middle East and North Africa: Developing an Institutional Framework for Cooperation?
Corporate nameEuropean Commission / Directorate General for External Relations
The Middle East and North Africa is a security interdependent region, where governments are caught in a classic prisoners’ dilemma. They are well aware that cooperation would be less costly than conflict, and yet they have been reluctant to agree formally on rules governing security interaction in the region. The inability to escape the prisoners’ dilemma is usually blamed on the persistence of conflict in the region, especially between Israel and the Palestinians. This paper argues that the reasons why four multilateral institution-building efforts have not managed to bring about region-wide security cooperation go beyond persistent conflict. Regional governments have been unable to overcome historical enmities, and conflicts have served the purposes of domestic elites in pursuing their preference for preserving their domestic power. In a perfect world MENA governments would be able to overcome these differences without outside assistance. In the current political climate an external actor is needed, but the United States, the European Union and its members have yet to settle on a common position on security in the MENA region.