Income inequality nurturing terrorism in the Middle East

WASHINGTON – In an article recently published in the French newspaper Le Monde, economist Thomas Piketty says there is a direct correlation between income inequality in the Middle East and the rise of terrorist groups.

Piketty writes that the policies of the U.S. and other western nations have resulted in a small number of Middle East monarchs controlling some 60 to 70 percent of the region’s oil wealth.

Over the long run, the best way to fight terrorism, Piketty says, is with economic development.

Piketty based his Le Monde article on a study he co-authored last year at about the same time his book Capital in the Twenty First Century hit the bestseller lists in the U.S.

Piketty writes that the Middle East has become destabilized because a disproportionate amount of the area’s wealth belongs to the rulers of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. Altogether these countries have just 10 percent of the Middle East’s population but control the majority of its wealth.

“Under plausible assumptions,” Piketty writes, the top 10 percent of the wealthiest people in the Middle East control some 60 percent of the wealth and the top 1 percent controls 25 percent.

What’s more, he contends, starting with the Persian Gulf War, or “Operation Desert Storm” as the first President Bush called it, the U.S. and its allies have conducted wars to give oil fields “back to the emirs.”

It gets worse.

According to Piketty, a large percentage of the population within the richest monarchies, including women and refugees, is kept in a state of “semi-slavery.”

The Middle East is now the most unequal region on the planet, Piketty contends.

Also, people in the region are reeling from wars caused by the West and are caught up in conflicts over resources that are shrinking because of climate change.

All these conditions, Piketty argues, has made the Middle East fertile ground for the nurturing of terrorism.

Terrorism rooted in inequality, Piketty continues, is best countered through economic development.

He states that Western countries should be less concerned with their own financial interests and their relationships with ruling families.

To truly root out terrorism, Piketty writes, the West should become more concerned with the wellbeing and social development of the people of the Middle East. Western nations should work to ensure that Middle Eastern oil money is used to fund regional development, particularly more and better education.

Photo:  According to Picketty a few powerful monarchs and corporations control most of the oil wealth in the Middle East.   |  AP


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.