Civil wars have traditionally been attributed to ethnic and religious hatred, economic inequality, political and social discrimination. New contributions focus on the financing of rebellions, with a particular emphasis on the importance of access to natural resources. This paper argues that oil stands out in the natural resource debate, due to its unique geographical qualities and its impact on long-term political and economic development. Using the model of civil war proposed by Collier & Hoeffler (2002), this paper replicates their analysis of civil war in Africa, and applies the model to the Middle East. In contrast to Collier & Hoeffler’s analyses of Africa, this study finds an independent effect of the Middle East region, even when controlling for oil dependency. Importantly, by using a different measurement of regime type, democracy is significant and negatively related to civil conflict. The paper concludes by arguing that while elements of Collier & Hoeffler’s opportunity model perform well, their theoretical argument emphasizing greed as the link between natural resources and conflict is flawed, at least when it comes to the Middle East. A more plausible explanation for the inter-linkage between natural resource abundance and conflict in the Middle East, does not lie in the greed explanation provided by Collier & Hoeffler, but in the traditional rentier-state concept. The economic and political effects of oil—corruption, slow growth and authoritarianism—create a fertile ground for grievance-based conflict.
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The datasets for this paper is available at the CWP datasets page