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  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The utilization of mercenaries has become one of the key predicaments in the Middle East, particularly in the hotbeds of armed conflict, including Libya, Yemen and Syria. Such militia are usually transferred through the use of civil flights, crossing land borders or smuggling through organized crime networks. This has been reflected by numerous evidence including the escalating tensions between the international powers such as ‘France’ and regional ones such as ‘Turkey’, even affecting the mutual hostility between the ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ and Ankara, and the latter's policy aiming at disturbing Libya's neighboring countries. In the case of Yemen, the Houthi militia and Islah party have also used African mercenaries. It is further evident in the warning given by the Yemeni government to ‘Tehran Mercenaries’ against turning Yemen into a battlefield after the murder of Qassem Soleimani.
  • Topic: War, Non State Actors, Houthis, Militias, Mercenaries
  • Political Geography: Iran, Turkey, Middle East, France, Libya, Yemen, North Africa, Syria
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Iran quickly supported the advance of the Syrian regular forces towards the Kurdish militias-controlled town of Manbij on 28 December 2018, albeit some parties denied that, which indicate that it has begun to re-calibrate its strategies to deal with the new realities after the decision of the US president Donald Trump to withdraw his military forces from Syria on the 19th of the same month.
  • Topic: Armed Forces, Conflict, Syrian War, Kurds, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Remnants of the past have become one of the drivers of the region’s interactions in 2019, via various forms, such as the call to restore membership of some organizations after it has been on a freeze for years, sending messages of resistance through arts and music, eruption of student protests over the policies of the existing governments, and betting on the networking of economic interests at times of international sanctions and wars.
  • Topic: History, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria, Jordan
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Idlib has been the delayed battle in the Syrian conflict throughout its various stages, but this seems to be coming to an end, as many indicators reveal. For example, Russia, for the time being, is keen to resolve Idlib’s issue which would reinforce the specter of military intervention. Moscow indicates that there are no options left for the parties to the Sochi agreement, pointing also to the difficulty of implementing its terms. The 10 points-agreement has not achieved its purpose for five months, given the terrorist organizations’ control over the area, in particular al-Nusra Front. This happens amid lack of actions from the Turkish side, which has threatened, more than once, to deter those who jeopardize the agreement, which compelled it to agree, ostensibly, with the other parties on launching a military offensive in Idlib. Despite the challenges and consequences of this option, it is the scenario that looms large over the Syrian scene at present.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Military Affairs, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Improving the performance of local governments, local administration, village councils, and municipalities in Arab conflict zones face a set of challenges. The most prominent among these challenges are the continued internal armed conflicts with regional dimensions, strengthening the legitimacy of certain political regimes, power struggle between central and local governments, growing partisan and political disputes, severe destruction in areas controlled by terrorist organizations, and the growing fiscal deficits of local councils. On one hand, the fiscal deficits have increased amid a low level of donor support, poor development of councils’ resources, and the enduring conflict between the legitimate government and armed militias. The influx of irregular migrants have also imposed a double burden on already overstretched local bodies.
  • Topic: Governance, Conflict, Syrian War, Bashar al-Assad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries, North Africa, Syria
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The Rukban camp on the Jordan-Syrian borders constitutes a double crisis of a humanitarian and political nature. While there are signs that the humanitarian crisis is on its way to be resolved through an understanding to alleviate the suffering of tens of thousands of the displaced persons in the camp, the political crisis remains very complex. This is primarily because of obstacles to dialogue between the concerned parties. The camp falls under the scope of the American al-Tanf base. While Russia and the Syrian regime are pushing for dismantling the largest human enclave on the road to al-Tanf, the US does not share the same desire on the grounds that there is still a need for guarantees for the return of displaced persons to their homes, which are currently under the control of the regime. This shows how far the crisis is linked to the fate of the US military presence in Syria as well as the Russian and Syrian positions.
  • Topic: Security, Refugees, Syrian War, Rukban
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, North America, Jordan, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Mutual escalation has come to define the constant confrontations between the Nigerian movement Boko Haram and the Multinational Joint Task Force, formed by some West African countries, to confront its activity and weaken its ability to expand beyond the national borders, namely to Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon. This escalation may continue over the coming period, as the movement becomes one of the main branches of ISIS, on which the latter relies to stage counter-strikes in response to the losses sustained in Syria and Iraq.
  • Topic: Security, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State, Boko Haram
  • Political Geography: Africa, Iraq, Middle East, West Africa, Syria, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Currently, Russia is trying to maintain its political and security understandings with key parties to the Syrian conflict. But one of the main obstacles facing it is the intertwining and conflicting interests of parties, which leaves Russia with limited options and narrow room for maneuvering. Furthermore, it strains its relations with these parties, as is the case with Israel, following the Russian accusation to Israel of shooting down the Ilyushin Il-20 in September 17, 2018.
  • Topic: Security, Sanctions, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Hassan Rouhani, Bashar al-Assad
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Syria
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Iran has shown a particular interest in improving its bilateral relations with Turkey, mainly at the economic level. This was evident in the visit of Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, to Turkey, on December 20, to participate in the fifth session of the Supreme Council for Strategic Relations between the two countries, accompanied by a mostly economic delegation. Tehran believes that there are several factors, related to developments in the regional and international arenas over the past period, which can help achieve this goal, namely increasing the volume of trade between both countries to USD 30 billion. However, Iran’s betting on the Turkish role seems to have limits due to the ever-changing and unstable nature of Turkish policy, which casts doubts over the possibility of reaching such level of rapprochement.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Sanctions, Hassan Rouhani
  • Political Geography: Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Turkey has recently stepped up its economic presence in the cities of northern Syria, including Al-Bab, Jarablus, and Azaz, among others. Those cities are now controlled by the Syrian opposition with the assistance of the Turkish army through two military operations between 2016 and 2018 dubbed Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch. Turkey has worked to rehabilitate the basic services of electricity, education and health in these cities in cooperation with private Turkish companies, as well as promoting the export of various goods to these cities. Through its presence there, Turkey is aiming to achieve numerous goals in line with its vision towards the trajectories of the Syrian conflict, and its position, in the coming phase.
  • Topic: Economy, Conflict, Syrian War, Kurds
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Al-Qaeda has sought to exploit the 17th anniversary of the events of 11 September 2001 to assert its survival and ability to stay at the forefront of terrorist organizations worldwide. In doing so, it seems to be trying to cover up the multiple challenges facing it at the present stage, which may cause its influence to diminish in the medium and long term. Thus, it cannot be ruled out that the fears expressed by many of its leaders over the organization declining influence is the main factor that prompted Ayman al-Zawahiri to increase the media messages he sends to the organization cadres and members along with other organizations, especially its rivals, as well as the international and regional powers concerned with combating terrorism. It is a remarkable shift from what happened in the past years, which witnessed a relatively limited appearance of al-Zawahiri to comment on events with the aim of proving that he is still alive and interacting developments. The new development raises many questions about the significance of the flurry of messages, particularly that they come at a time the region is witnessing numerous important variables with profound impacts, such as the receding influence of the pro-al-Qaeda groups in Syria against the backdrop of the recent security and political arrangements.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Non State Actors, Violent Extremism, Al Qaeda
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Yemen, North Africa, Syria, Maghreb
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: ISIS seems to be intent on returning to the areas from which it was driven out or its influence has receded over the past period, such as Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor in Syria. The two cities have recently witnessed a remarkable activity by ISIS, which is evident in the organization’s terrorist attacks against its opponents, raising many concerns that it may further expand, taking advantage of impasse over the Syrian crisis and the increasing security troubles in those areas.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Islamic State, Conflict, Ideology
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Although most of the parties concerned with developments in the Syrian conflict do not expect the Quartet Summit held today in Istanbul -with the participation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian president Vladimir Putin, French president Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel- to make a breakthrough in the efforts to reach a political settlement of the crisis, this in its entirety does not diminish the anxiety of Iran, which is the most prominent absent at that summit.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Syrian War, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Iran, Eurasia, Turkey, Middle East, France, Germany, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Russia seems to be gearing for fresh efforts to reach new political arrangements in Syria, after the balance of power has shifted in favor of the Syrian regime. During a speech at the Valdai International Discussion Club at Sochi resort on October 18, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country achieved its goals in Syria. He noted that the Russian military intervention was aimed at fighting terrorism and preventing the fragmentation of Syrian territory, invoking the case of Somalia as a model that Russia prevented its recurrence in Syria, adding that the next stage will be devoted to settlement in the United Nations. However, this does not negate the fact that such efforts may encounter many challenges, over the key outstanding issues, foremost among is the position of the Syrian regime itself.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Politics, United Nations, Vladimir Putin
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Eurasia, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The suicide bombing in Tunisia which occurred near a security patrol on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in the Tunisian capital, on October 29, 2018, injuring 20 people, including 15 policemen, marks a new shift in terrorist operations in the country. The latest terrorist operation was carried out in November 2015, when ISIS targeted a security patrol in the center of the capital, which suggest that the repercussions of the defeats of terrorist organizations, particularly ISIS, in both Syria and Iraq, began to spill over to Tunisia, which showed particular interest in the developments of military operations against these groups, and has increased the level of coordination with the many international powers involved in confronting them.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Sleeper Cells
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, North America, Tunisia
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The recent years have witnessed a growing interest from Helsinki in the transformations and interactions of the Middle East, as evident in the inauguration of academic institutes in the region, visits by diplomatic and parliamentary delegations, activities with research centers, proposals for the resolution of conflicts between political parties, meetings between joint business councils and representatives of chambers of commerce and enhancing the cooperation with Arab intelligence agencies. The Finnish government has several objectives within this calculus.
  • Topic: Geopolitics, Investment, Currency
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Finland, Libya, North Africa, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Iran is keen to maintain good relations with the European countries at the current stage because they can help it cope with US pressures. These relations gained added importance after the withdrawal of the US from the nuclear deal and the re-imposition of sanctions on Tehran. However, Iran has not changed some elements of its foreign policy, which continually widens the differences between it and European states and may eventually undercut its ability to contain the repercussions of the US sanctions, with the approaching date of the toughest batch of sanctions, set to start on November 5.
  • Topic: International Relations, Treaties and Agreements, Sanctions, European Union, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, France, Syria