April 9, 2015 5:49 AM EDT

If a government can’t guarantee security in large areas within its borders, can’t control the flow of people across those borders and can’t meet the basic needs of large numbers of its citizens, it’s a failing state. And right now the Middle East is full of them:


More than 400,000 Iraqis have fled the country, and more than 3 million have been internally displaced. ISIS has lost some territory in recent weeks, but it still controls an area about the size of Switzerland. The U.N. reported on April 1 that nearly 1,000 Iraqis were killed and an additional 2,172 injured in acts of violence and terrorism in March.


Life expectancy in Syria has fallen from 75.9 years in 2010 to just 55.7. Unemployment has surged from 14.9% in 2011 to 57.7% in the fourth quarter of 2014. This year fewer than half of Syria’s school-age children will attend school, as more than half the country’s citizens have been forced from their homes.


Libya has two governments, two army chiefs of staff and two central-bank governors. Violence is increasing, and oil output, a critical source of revenue for the country’s government(s), is running at less than a third of capacity. Understandably, citizens are not voting–the number of people who cast ballots fell from 1.8 million in 2012 to 630,000 in 2014–except with their feet: about 10,000 migrants flee the country for Europe each month.


Life in the poorest nation in the Arab world keeps getting worse. Shi’ite Houthi rebels are chasing a Sunni-led government around the country as separatist groups vie for control in the south. Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups carry out attacks, the Saudis bomb the Houthis, U.S. drones circle overhead, and Egyptian warships shell from offshore. A 2007 survey found that there are 54.8 guns for every 100 Yemenis, making it the second most armed country per capita.

It’s no wonder that Yemenis need a little pick-me-up. More than two-thirds of men and one-third of women chew khat leaves, a mild narcotic with effects ranging from calm to mild euphoria. Some 40% of Yemen’s scarce water supply goes toward producing khat, which has no nutritional value. In a country where per capita income is less than $7 per day, the average Yemeni spends one-quarter to one-third of his income on khat.

Foreign-affairs columnist Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy


‘It doesn’t move us forward one millimeter on the question of stabilizing Greece.’

GERMAN ECONOMY MINISTER SIGMAR GABRIEL, after Greece said it was owed more than $300 billion in reparations for World War II. Gabriel accused the Greek government of trying to influence ongoing debt negotiations and called the demand “stupid”



The Pew Research Center forecast that by 2050 the number of Muslims globally will nearly equal the number of Christians. Here is how major religions are projected to grow from 2010 to 2050:

[This article consists of 5 illustrations. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]











The Legacy of War


Tran Thien Nhan, born in 2001, is bathed by his mother in the port city of Danang on April 6. Doctors believe his developmental problems are due to his father’s exposure to dioxins like those in the Agent Orange herbicide used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, which ended 40 years ago this month.


Kenya’s Battle Against Somali Militants

Kenyan fighter jets bombed Islamist training camps in neighboring Somalia on April 6 in response to the attack by the Somalia-based militant group al-Shabab at Garissa University College that killed 148 people four days earlier. The massacre has put the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta under renewed pressure to ensure security.

Foreign Intervention

Kenya has troops in Somalia as part of the U.N.-backed peacekeeping mission against al-Shabab, and the insurgents have said the April 2 attack was motivated by their continuing presence there. But Kenyatta (right) has dismissed opposition calls to withdraw soldiers from the country.

Domestic Action

The government moved to prevent the funding of future attacks by Somalis in Kenya by freezing the assets of 13 money-transfer firms on April 8, as well as 86 bank accounts. Officials have also touted a plan to build a wall along Kenya’s 424-mile border with Somalia.

Reforms Needed

Kenyatta has been criticized for failing to restructure his country’s corrupt and ineffective security apparatus since unveiling reforms in 2011. Kenya’s rapid-response force took hours to arrive on the scene on April 2, raising fears that officials are ill prepared for future attacks.



The mating time of two captive giant pandas on April 4, a 2015 record; breeding pandas in captivity is notoriously difficult

Trending In


Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House on April 14 to discuss the ongoing U.S. support of Iraqi-led operations against ISIS militants. It will be al-Abadi’s first visit to the U.S. since taking power in September.


Iran announced on April 4 that it would allow women to attend most major sporting events, except for “masculine” sports such as wrestling or swimming. Previously, women were not allowed inside stadiums to watch matches attended by men.


An Indonesian court rejected appeals on April 6 from two Australians who are among 10 native and foreign drug smugglers on death row there. President Joko Widodo, who has taken a hard line on drug trafficking, has refused to grant clemency despite pleas from Australia and others.

This appears in the April 20, 2015 issue of TIME.

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com.

You May Also Like