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  • Author: Rabab el-Mahdi
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: The puzzle of Egypt's apparently wild swings from the Mubarak regime to a Muslim Brotherhood government and then back to a military dictatorship have been manipulated to fit the simplistic linear and binary categorical models of democratic transition, with an emphasis on procedural outcomes, when in fact deeper structural issues are at stake. Three challenges explain mainstream Egyptians' choices and the tumultuous path the revolution has been following. The first is the structural economic crisis facing Egypt, coupled with lack of state administrative capacity, which no government has been able to effectively deal with. The second is the repercussions of Egypt's post-colonial history, which as a consequence tends to see the army as the "saviour" and "liberator" of the nation. The third is the failure of alternative groups to to provide solid political alternatives for the majority to rally around against the two reactionary poles and their inability to devise strategies to break loose from and reconstruct the hegemonic discourse . Consequently, international actors who throw their weight behind one reactionary faction or the other based solely on pragmatic considerations of their ability to bring about stability will be backing the wrong horse.
  • Topic: Economics, Islam, Armed Struggle, Regime Change, Popular Revolt
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: Lara Friedman
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: With their own interests challenged and growing domestic constituencies pressing for action, European leaders are asking what Europe can do to reaccredit its policies in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, notwithstanding U.S. opposition. In this context the time has come for Europe to adopt a new Middle East policy paradigm in which European leverage is identified and employed as part of a coherent effort aimed not at altering the behavior of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but at altering the political environment in which Netanyahu and his challengers on the right operate.
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Ali Bilgic, Daniela Nascimento
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Although Turkey had no past colonial involvement with African countries, there has been an increasing revival of Turkey's relation with the continent since the end of the 1990s, which reached a peak after 2005. From then on, along with a focus on Central Asia, the Balkans and the Middle East, Turkish foreign policy started shifting its focus to Africa, and as a new donor country Turkey's political and economic relations with sub-Saharan African countries have intensified significantly. This policy brief analyses and discusses the main economic, political, and strategic motivations behind these shifts and priorities, as well as some of the perceptions and current challenges this change in policy faces.
  • Political Geography: Africa, Central Asia, Turkey, Middle East, Balkans
  • Author: Eckart Woertz
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Saudi Arabia's domestic energy consumption is skyrocketing. The growth of electricity demand is particularly strong and shows a high degree of seasonality due to the need for air conditioning in the hot summer months. Demand drivers are population growth, industrial development and a subsidy regime that encourages wasteful consumption. Saudi Arabia now faces a natural gas shortage and is seeking alternative energy sources like nuclear power and renewables in order to reduce the common practice of using fuel oil, crude oil and diesel in power stations. If unchecked, domestic energy demand will threaten oil export capacity and could compromise Saudi Arabia's role as swing producer in global oil markets. However, a reform of the subsidy regime is politically sensitive, because citizens regard subsidies as an entitlement. The government is reluctant to touch subsidies in order to avoid the kind of political unrest that has occurred elsewhere in the wake of the Arab Spring.
  • Topic: Demographics, Economics, Energy Policy, Oil
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: David Roberts
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Emir Tamim has become the new ruler of Qatar after the abdication of his father, Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani. The latter followed an independent foreign policy throughout his reign and sought good relations with all states, although Qatar's taking sides in the Arab uprisings have somewhat modified this position. Evaluating Qatar's foreign policy under Emir Tamim is difficult. In his upbringing Tamim was imbued with their vision of Qatar as an internationally oriented state. It would be very surprising if he were to backtrack on this basic thrust and withdraw Qatar internationally. Emir Tamim's Qatar will therefore likely continue to seek to extend the small state's influence throughout the region wherever and whenever possible.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Regime Change, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Laurent Bonnefoy
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Due to the specific history of Saudi Arabia, the export of religious ideologies has long been seen as an important tool of Saudi "soft power". Through a variety of institutions and actors, only some of which can be linked to Wahhabism or even to Islam, interactions between Saudi Arabia and the world are complex and diverse. While mechanisms aiming to export a conservative interpretation of Islam that have been labelled Salafism may be manifest, this policy brief intends to question the efficiency of such mechanisms for the dissemination of religious ideologies. In order to do so, it will first define Salafism. It will then highlight the diversity of this concept, in particular when it comes to its relations with the Saudi monarchy. Finally, it will conclude by highlighting some changes triggered by the "Arab Spring" uprisings that affect the relationship among Salafi movements in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia.
  • Topic: Islam, Politics, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Giacomo Luciani
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Flows of crude oil sales are determined by refining demand. In recent years Saudi Arabia has invested massively in captive refining capacity at home and abroad and will be able to refine two-thirds or more of its oil in controlled refineries by the end of the current decade. Because refineries in Europe are likely to be put on sale as distressed assets, Saudi Aramco would have no difficulty in further expanding its controlled capacity. A continuation of this trend may even lead to the Kingdom not exporting crude oil to third parties at all. This is in line with the country's ambition to diversify its economy and its limited interest in further expanding oil production for the sake of selling oil as crude.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Oil
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: The carefully managed handover of power in Qatar on June 25th 2013 will change the style, but not the substance of Qatari foreign policy. The abdication of Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and the replacement of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shaykh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani (HBJ) removes from office the two men behind Qatar's rise to global prominence since the 1990s. The new emir, 33-year old Shaykh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, will likely curb the excesses of Qatar's aggressive internationalisation strategy and recalibrate the country's regional policy to address its policy overreach in Syria. While the underlying substance of policy is likely to remain broadly similar, the biggest changes are expected in the hitherto-personalised style of decision-making associated with HBJ and the former emir. Greater emphasis on multilateral co-ordination will also replace the confrontational unilateralism associated with Qatar's post-2011 Arab Spring policies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Laurent Bonnefoy
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Saudi Arabia's history since the mid-18th century has to a large extent been shaped by the relationship between the royal family, the Al Sa'ud, and religious clerics, in particular those from the Al al-Shaykh clan. This relationship has been structural and has played a central role in maintaining conservative religious policies inside the country. It has also been instrumental in legitimising the monarchy both at the national level and abroad. The fact that the two holiest sites of Islam (Mecca and Medina) are on Saudi soil has further strengthened the relationship that exists between the state and religious actors, the role that Islam plays in defining Saudi foreign policy, and the image of the country at the international level. This policy brief discusses the impact of this connection between state institutions and religion. It will first stress the diversity of the various ideologies and relationships that structure the politics-religion nexus in Saudi Arabia. In doing so it will stress the importance of not limiting one's understanding of this nexus to Wahhabism. It will then present the various instruments and mechanisms that contribute to the dissemination or export of religious ideologies beyond Saudi Arabia's borders. Finally, it will conclude by showing the extent to which Islam is one among many determinants of Saudi foreign policy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Governance, Authoritarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Rachid Tlemçani, Derek Lutterbeck
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Even though many of the socioeconomic conditions that have driven the popular Arab Spring uprisings and toppled several regimes across the Middle East have been present in Algeria as well, the Algerian regime has thus far been able to weather the winds of change. This policy brief takes a closer look at the "Algerian exception" by examining the protest movement in Algeria and why it has been more limited than elsewhere, as well as recent political "reforms" adopted in response to the protests. It argues that in addition to the experiences of the bloody decade of the 1990s, a number of factors account for the more limited protest movement in Algeria, such as the regime's larger spending power and its experience in dealing with large-scale protests. While the Algerian regime has introduced reforms over the last two years, these have been mainly cosmetic, largely consolidating the political status quo. The policy brief also briefly discusses the threat of Islamist terrorism in the Sahel region, with particular reference to the recent In Amenas hostage crisis in Algeria. As for Algeria's future evolution and prospects for political reform, fundamental change seems unlikely, at least in the short to medium term.
  • Topic: Democratization, Islam, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Steffen Hertog
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Saudi Arabia's national oil company, Saudi Aramco, has been a critical agent for the social, economic and infrastructural development of Saudi Arabia; its managerial capacities are unrivalled in the Kingdom – and, indeed, the Gulf region. After it played a rather limited role outside the hydrocarbons sector in the 1980s and 1990s, its range of tasks and ambitions has recently again expanded drastically into a number of new policy sectors, including heavy industry, renewable energy, educational reform, infrastructure-building and general industrial development. This presents both opportunities and risks for Aramco, which has started to operate far outside its traditional politically insulated "turf" of running the upstream oil and gas infrastructure in the Kingdom. It is now involved in activities that are more political and more closely scrutinised by the Saudi public, and will have to build up new institutional and political capacities to maintain its reputation for clean and efficient management.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Industrial Policy, Oil, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Madawi al-Rasheed
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: The Saudi regime has a vested interest in the Saudi public remaining fragmented and unable to bridge the Sunni-Shia sectarian divide. Both Shia and Sunnis in Saudi Arabia have been invigorated by the ongoing Arab uprisings, and in their own regions have staged minor protests demanding similar rights. However, the regime's entrenched sectarian propaganda has succeeded in isolating the Shia and delaying a confrontation with Sunni Islamists. In the short term this may be a successful strategy, but in the long term it may fail to contain the frustration of Saudis who want serious political reform.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Islam, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Cathrine Thorleifsson
  • Publication Date: 06-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: This policy brief examines the paradox of Mizrahim (Arab Jews) supporting right-wing Israeli policies through a case study of the border town of Kiryat Shemona. Based on ethnographic research, it illuminates the enduring power of ethno-nationalism and demonstrates how it affects Mizrahi lives. Mizrahim became trapped by Israeli nation-building on the geographic and socioeconomic margins of the state positioned between the dominant Ashkenazi elite and the Palestinian population. Factors such as Mizrahim's partial inclusion in the nation; tensions between Jews and Arabs, and between the secular and the religious; the decline of the welfare state; and a shared perception of threats and dangers informed everyday nationalism in the town. Mizrahim contested Ashkenazi Israeliness through ethnic and transnational identifications and practices. Simultaneously, their support for the nation-in-arms and identification as "strong"and "civilised" reinforced the dominant logic of ethno-nationalism. Mizrahi support for right-wing militarism is likely to persist as long as national unity is used as a colonial practice by the centre. The inclusion of Mizrahim as equals together with other marginalised citizens would necessarily entail an Israeli Spring.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Nationalism, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Bernard Haykel
  • Publication Date: 05-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Yemen is politically fragmented by three decades of misrule. Many political actors and constituencies oppose the Salih legacy and they need to be included in any future political framework if the country is to become stable. The main regional actor is Saudi Arabia, whereas the U.S. remains the principal hegemon in the region. Saudi Arabia's policy towards Yemen is in flux, whereas the U.S. is too narrowly focused on the threat posed by al-Qaeda. Unless the U.S. and the Saudis change their policies, Yemen will not develop a strong central government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Corruption, Islam, Armed Struggle, Fragile/Failed State, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Evanthia Balla
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: The South Caucasus, situated as it is at the crossroads of Eurasia's major energy and transport corridors, continues to play a vital role in the world's security affairs. After the end of the cold war the South Caucasus emerged as a key region in the geopolitical contest among regional and global powers. The South Caucasus states of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are constantly performing a balancing act in their relations with the U.S., Russia, Turkey and Iran. Armenia has developed strong political and economic ties with Iran in order to counter the Turkish-Azerbaijani axis. Azerbaijan seeks to reinforce its links with the West, especially the U.S., as its main extraregional source of diplomatic and economic support, while it remains cautious towards both Russian and Iranian ambitions in the region. Especially after the 2008 war with Russia and the loss of its provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia has reinforced its links to Western powers and structures while strengthening its ties with Turkey. Both Turkey and Iran are trying to increase their influence in the region, while promoting their national interests in the international arena.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Economics, Islam, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Daniel Seidemann
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: What are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's real intentions vis-à-vis Israeli–Palestinian negotiations and the two-state solution? What does he really want? Speculation aside, a great deal can be gleaned about both Netanyahu's core beliefs and his intentions by examining his words and his actions with respect to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is universally recognised as a key permanent status issue, which, for any peace agreement, will require the reconciling of competing Israeli and Palestinian claims as well as recognition and protection of Jewish, Muslim and Christian equities. In the context of the current political stalemate, however, it has become much more than that. Today, Jerusalem is both the volcanic core of the conflict – the place where religion and nationalism meet and combine in a potentially volatile mix – and a microcosm of the conflict and the imbalance of power that characterises developments on the ground.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia
  • Author: Judy Barsalou
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: The dominance of neo-patriarchal, semi-authoritarian regimes with little interest in justice, accountability or other values associated with democratic governance has meant that, until recently, the Arab region has had limited experience with transitional justice (TJ). Several states have started down the TJ path since the emergence of the “Arab Spring”, but their progress is uneven. In Egypt, much depends on the nature and speed of the transition, whose outcomes remain uncertain. Whether and how Arab transitional states embrace TJ – especially how they manage the fates of their deposed rulers and essential institutional reforms – will indicate whether they intend to break with the past and build public institutions that inspire civic trust.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Aitemad Muhanna
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Women's participation in the Arab uprisings has been inspired by the expansion of an Islamist-based model of Arab women's activism and a gradual shrinking of secular liberal women's activism. The uprisings have provided outcomes that prove the possibility of combining Islam with democracy through the political success of Islamist parties in the post-uprisings era, like in Tunisia and Egypt. Although this new de facto political map of the region has largely frightened liberal women, the victory of moderate Islamist voices may also be promising, especially when they are in a position to provide a state governance model. The determining factor in combining Islam with democracy is the willingness of the two major players – Islamist parties and the international community – to ensure that the main debatable issues – religion, gender and human rights – are not discriminated against in the name of either religion or Western democracy. However, the actual practice and outcomes of moderate Islamist discourse remains under experimentation, and it is a space for Islamist and secular women's and human rights organisations to co-operate, monitor, negotiate and strategise, to ensure that gender issues are engaged in policy discussions and formulations as a substantial issue for real democratisation.
  • Topic: Democratization, Gender Issues, Islam
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Jean-Paul Marthoz
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Online media, global TV and social networks played a significant role in the Arab Spring and will be important factors in determining the direction of these “revolutions”.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Science and Technology, Mass Media, Regime Change, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Youssef Courbage
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Since December 2010, the speed, suddenness and scope of events in North Africa and the Middle East have taken everyone by surprise. They nevertheless had to happen. Given the universality of human nature – differences between a European and an Arab are ultimately of minor importance – the processes that began in Europe in the seventeenth century and spread throughout the world would have inevitably reached the Arab countries.
  • Topic: Demographics, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Middle East, Arabia