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  • Author: Anthony Bubalo
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The examples of Egypt and Saudi Arabia show the risks in betting on the stability of autocratic regimes in the region. Despite the Arab uprisings of the last decade, most countries in the Middle East remain in the grip of autocrats, with a widespread view that this is the 'default setting' for the region. However, an examination of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where authoritarianism has been revived, reveals both regimes are struggling for popular legitimacy. Increasingly reliant on repression, these regimes risk provoking civil unrest, and external powers should reconsider their assumption that autocracy guarantees stability in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Authoritarianism, Political stability, Legitimacy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Egypt
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A survey of how regional media outlets discussed the congressional impeachment process and its potential ramifications on the 2020 presidential election. Across the Middle East, the story of President Trump’s impeachment and subsequent acquittal received secondtier coverage compared to regional or local issues. Many Arabic-language websites and newspapers translated and republished Western articles as opposed to creating their own content on the issue, such as Al Jazeera publishing a translated version of a Guardian editorial. Moreover, the bulk of the articles just explained the facts or process of impeachment rather than expounding on its significance. Some celebrated the idea that there is a mechanism for peaceful removal of a leader. Most commented on the unlikelihood of Trump’s removal and how America is facing unprecedented polarization. Those articles that did offer their own editorial content were split on whether impeachment will help or hurt Trump’s election campaign. Publications in the Gulf states tended to portray impeachment as an act of “political vengeance” by Democrats against Trump, “who won despite their opposition” (Sky News Arabia). Most Gulf papers posited that Trump will ultimately benefit in the 2020 election “after proving his innocence before the Senate” (Al Seyassah). Yet Qatari coverage deviated from the general Gulf trend. For example, one Al Jazeera article asserted that the impeachment case against Trump “is simple, and established not only by officials speaking under oath, but by his own words and actions.” Egyptian newspapers were more split on how impeachment will affect the election. Anti-American outlets in Syria suggested it will hurt him, with Al Baath noting “all data indicate that Trump’s hope for a return to the White House have faded.” Lebanese publications tended to take a more neutral view. The Hezbollah-controlled newspaper Al Akhbar wrote that the prospect of impeachment weakening Trump’s electoral campaign “is similar to that of his potential main rival,” arguing that Joe Biden was also tainted by the process. Most Iranian media tended to copy Western sources, but two themes prevailed among outlets offering original content: portrayal of impeachment as a scandal that has tainted Trump’s presidential legacy, or neutral analysis of how impeachment may or may not harm his reelection chances. A few analytical pieces suggested that he might be able to transform the scandal into an asset for his campaign, since it may “lead to more popularity among the middle class.” While most Iranian articles leaned against Trump, few appeared to praise Democrats. Turkish articles generally depicted impeachment as a “gift” to Trump’s campaign. SETA, a think tank that supports President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claimed that what “hasn’t killed Trump will make him stronger.” Sabah News, another pro-Erdogan source, wrote that impeachment will “unite Republican senators and members of the House of Representatives around him.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Media, News Analysis, Domestic politics, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Arab Countries, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Lydia Khalil
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Women will be important to the resurgence and transformation of the Islamic State from governance project to global terrorist insurgency. Islamic State has expanded both the potential and the scope of the roles and functions women can play, providing additional avenues for their participation in jihad in both kinetic and non-kinetic roles. The cohort of former caliphate members of mostly women and children now held in camps pose a key challenge for counterterrorism efforts around the world. Assumptions about women and violence can obstruct an accurate assessment of the threat female IS supporters pose and an accurate understanding of their agency.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, Women, Radicalization, Islamic State, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Australia, Syria
  • Author: Lee Willett
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Russia’s Syrian campaign has demonstrated the returning challenge the West faces in the underwater domain. Combat operations in Syria have been an opportunity for Russia’s military forces to prove on operations a new generation of capabilities, just as Operation ‘Desert Storm’ in 1991 saw the United States demonstrate its own new generation of military technology. One of the first weapons fired in ‘Desert Storm’ was a Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM), launched on the first day from several surface combatants. Two days later, a Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) became the first submarine to fire Tomahawk in combat.[1] The USN’s re-roling of its SSNs as primary power projection platforms in the 1990s/early 2000s underlined the shift in Western focus in the underwater battlespace away from the primary Cold War task of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) to counter Soviet naval activity. Simply, the strategic collapse of the Soviet Union saw what was a significant submarine threat disappear almost overnight, and with it – for that moment, at least – the Western requirement for ASW capability. Today, the underwater threat is back. Since 2008 – which saw both Russian naval forces engaged in the Georgia campaign and the re-emergence of regular deployments by Russian submarines (and surface ships) south of the Greenland-Iceland-UK (GIUK) gap – naval power has been central to Russia’s strategic resurgence.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Weapons , Maritime
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia, Middle East, Syria, Mediterranean
  • Author: Rodger Shanahan
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Terrorists have manipulated the humanitarian crisis in Syria to create a cover for foreign fighters and to raise funds for terrorist groups under the guise of charitable donations. While terrorist abuse of charitable donations is a limited problem, even small amounts of funding can have disproportionately large effects. Early government intervention in setting due diligence standards for humanitarian aid groups operating in, or raising funds for use in, high-risk conflict zones is essential. The Australian Government should use the ‘declared area’ legislation more widely to raise the risk threshold for those seeking to use humanitarian assistance as cover for supporting terrorist causes overseas.
  • Topic: Humanitarian Aid, Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Australia, Syria
  • Author: Amos Yadlin
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: The decision to attack a nuclear reactor in enemy territory is one of the most difficult decisions that an Israeli leader may face. Prime Minister Menahem Begin drafted the unofficial doctrine that is named for him, “the Begin Doctrine,” seeking to prevent countries hostile to Israel calling for its destruction from developing a nuclear military capability.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Shmuel Even
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: According to the state budget for 2019, approved by the Knesset on March 15, 2018, the Defense Ministry budget will stand at NIS 72.9 billion gross and NIS 55.3 billion net (11.5 percent of the state budget). The Defense Ministry’s budget for 2019 represents the fourth year in the IDF’s five-year plan (the Gideon Plan for 2016-2020), during which it must start to formulate a new five-year plan
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Oden Eran, Elai Rettig
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: Presumably the government of Israel played an important role in securing the $15 billion natural gas deal signed recently between the owners of Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan fields and the Egyptian Dolphinus Holding. For his part, Egypt’s President el-Sisi stated that with this deal Egypt has gained a foothold in the Eastern Mediterranean, positioned itself as a regional energy center
  • Topic: International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Thomas Gomart, Robin Niblett, Daniela Schwarzer, Nathalie Tocci
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will severely degrade regional and global security. His decision has increased the risk of war and a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and beyond. He has undermined attempts to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons through multilateral diplomacy, as unilateral withdrawal equals non-compliance with a legally-binding UN Security Council resolution. This is a rejection of the UN as arbiter of international peace and security, as well as of international law as a lynchpin of international relations. The steps that Europeans now take will have serious consequences for their alliance with the US, for security in the Middle East, as well as for their relations vis-à-vis China, Russia and the wider world.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Olivier Appert
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: The 14 July 2015 Vienna agreement on Iran’s nuclear activities (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPoA) was a game changer on the geopolitics in the Middle East and for the oil market. The oil sanctions were lifted and Iran increased significantly its production and exports. On 8 May 2018, President Trump announced that the United Stated (US) would withdraw from the agreement. Financial sanctions were reintroduced. From 5 November 2018 onwards, further sanctions will be re-imposed more specifically on petroleum related transactions, including the purchase of petroleum, petroleum products and petrochemical products. What could be the impact of this new embargo? Is there a risk of a new oil supply and price shock?
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Treaties and Agreements, Sanctions, Global Markets
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America