Middle East Instability Fuels Extremism & Terrorism

This module provides a roadmap to understanding the relationship between the factors creating instability in the Middle East and the potential for an increase in extremist or terrorist activity.

Resource List

These resources provide a baseline of understanding, but as the international environment continues to evolve, new data will become available.


  • Center for Strategic and International Studies: The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a nonprofit policy research institution that provides strategic reports covering defense and security, regional studies, and transnational challenges (e.g. energy, trade). CSIS provides research and analysis and develops policy initiatives that look to the future. http://www.csis.org
  • National Intelligence Council: The National Intelligence Council (NIC) supports the Director of National Intelligence in the role as head of the Intelligence Community (IC) and is the IC’s center for long-term strategic analysis. The NIC publishes many reports, including a quadrennial trends publication that includes information on demographic shifts. https://www.dni.gov/index.php/about/organization/national-intelligence-council-who-we-are
  • Brookings Institution: The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit policy organization that conducts in-depth research on local, national, and global issues. Brookings focuses on independent analysis that provides ideas on how to solve problems facing society. http://www.brookings.edu

Recent Publications and Journal Articles

  • Arab Fractures: Citizens, States, and Social Contracts: This report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace lays out the major trends in the Middle East, dividing them into subcategories within the Human Landscape, the Political Landscape, and the Geopolitical Landscape. There are case studies throughout that demonstrate the factors driving instability in the region.
  • The Underlying Causes of Stability and Instability in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region: This report has two volumes, the first a broad regional look at causes of stability and instability in the region, and the second covers each country in the region individually. The first volume includes surveys, statistical evidence, and analysis of trends across multiple fields, all of which affect MENA countries’ levels of stability.
  • Global Trends: Paradox of Progress: A publication of the NIC, this trends report includes references throughout to instability in the Middle East as continuing to build momentum for terrorist organizations. It also includes a region-by-region highlight of trends over the next five years, which expands on issues specific to the region.

Other Resources

  • Palestine: Still key to stability in the Middle East: The Brookings Institution provides analysis on a range of issues, including Middle East politics and stability in the region. This op-ed, written by a senior fellow on foreign policy, argues that the Palestinian issue remains at the heart of extremism in the region.
  • 10 Demographic Trends that are Shaping the U.S. and the World: The Pew Research Center takes on emerging trends in demographics in their “Fact Tank” series, which summarizes the research and analysis of Pew’s social scientists. This page uses a series of infographics to study the impacts of population change.
  • Oil & Terrorism: Why Now Is Worse Than After 9/11: This article discusses the links between terrorism in the Middle East and oil, explaining how the oil market serves as a barometer of regional tension. The author also discusses the role of the oil industry, particularly oil revenue and ransom money from kidnapped oil workers, in financing terrorism.
  • Want to stabilize the Middle East? Start with governance: This article from Brookings lays out the role that the collapse of the patronage system played in the decline in regional stability. It also details how improving governance within the Arab states will improve security and reduce the threat of terrorism.

These materials were developed as an initiative of the Advanced Thinking in Homeland Security (HSx) curriculum at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security. HSx is an 18-month collaborative program from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security.

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