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  • Author: David Makovksy
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Benny Gantz’s party lost the head-to-head battle, Avigdor Liberman’s favorable influence on the coalition math has left the general in a stronger position—and taken some diplomatic weight off the Trump administration’s shoulders. Israel’s third round of elections last week seemed inconclusive at first, but the deadlock may now be broken. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did better this time than in September’s round two, but his gains were insufficient to form a new government. Potential kingmaker Avigdor Liberman jettisoned his previous idea of getting the two top parties to join forces; instead, personal antipathy and policy differences have led him to definitely state that he will not join any government Netanyahu leads. Thus, while centrist Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz may have options to shape a new government, Netanyahu has no pathway on his own. In theory, the center-left bloc has the requisite number of seats for a bare majority in the 120-member Knesset, since anti-Netanyahu forces won 62 seats. In reality, the situation is more complex.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Elena DeLozier
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Sultan Haitham will now be free to put his own stamp on the country's government and foreign policy, and a recent dust-up on the Yemeni border could provide the first indicator of his approach. On February 20, Oman will begin its next era in earnest. The new sultan, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, was officially sworn in on January 11, but he has remained quiet and mostly out of sight during the forty-day mourning period that followed the death of his cousin, Sultan Qaboos. Now that this period is drawing to a close, he is free to put his stamp on Omani policy. Notably, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lead the first international delegation to see Sultan Haitham in the post-mourning period. When the meeting was first scheduled, the secretary likely saw it as a chance to get to know the new leader, and also as a symbolic visit to make up for sending such a low-level delegation to offer condolences. Yet the two may have more to talk about now. Earlier this week, a flare-up occurred between Saudi forces and Omani-backed locals in the Yemeni border province of al-Mahra. The confrontation may be Sultan Haitham’s first regional test, and identifying the actors who help him get through it could help Washington discern future power centers within Oman’s often opaque government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Oman, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Major Lebanese factions are urgently trying to fulfill French demands for the formation of a technocratic government that opens the door for international aids and alleviates public anger and increasing foreign isolation.
  • Topic: Government, Bilateral Relations, Crisis Management, Technocracy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, France, Lebanon
  • Author: Markus Loewe, Bernhard Trautner, Tina Zintl
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Development Institute (DIE)
  • Abstract: The social contract is a key concept in social science literature focusing on state–society relations. It refers to the “entirety of explicit or implicit agreements between all relevant societal groups and the sovereign (i.e. the government or any other actor in power), defining their rights and obligations towards each other” (Loewe & Zintl, forthcoming). The analysis of social contracts helps the understanding of: (i) why some societal groups are socially, politically or economically better off than others, (ii) why some revolt and demand a new social contract and, thus, (iii) why a country descends into violent conflict. In addition, the concept shows how foreign interventions and international co-operation may affect state–society relations by strengthening the position of the state or of specific societal groups. It illustrates that state fragility, displacement and migration can arise from social contracts becoming less inclusive. Nevertheless, the term “social contract” has so far been neither well defined nor operationalised – to the detriment of both research and of bi- and multilateral co-operation. Such a structured analytical approach to state–society relations is badly needed both in research and in politics, in particular but not exclusively for the analysis of MENA countries. This briefing paper sets the frame, suggesting a close analysis of (i) the scope of social contracts, (ii) their substance and (iii) their temporal dimension. After independence, MENA governments established a specific kind of social contract with citizens, mainly based on the redistribution of rents from natural resources, development aid and other forms of transfers. They provided subsidised food and energy, free public education and government jobs to citizens in compensation for the tacit recognition of political regimes’ legitimacy despite a lack of political participation. But with growing populations and declining state revenues, some governments lost their ability to fulfil their duties and focused spending on strategically important social groups, increasingly tying resource provision to political acquiescence. The uprisings that took place in many Arab countries in 2011 can be seen as an expression of deep dissatisfaction with social contracts that no longer provided either political participation or substantial social benefits (at least for large parts of the population). After the uprisings, MENA countries developed in different directions. While Tunisia is a fair way towards more inclusive development and political participation, Morocco and Jordan are trying to restore some parts of the former social contract, providing for paternalistic distribution without substantial participation. In Egypt’s emerging social contract, the government promises little more than individual and collective security, and that only under the condition of full political acquiescence. Libya, Yemen and Syria have fallen into civil wars with no countrywide new contract in sight, and Iraq has been struggling for one since 2003. In addition, flight and migration also affect the social contracts of neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. All MENA countries are designing, or will need to design, new social contracts in order to reduce the current instability and enable physical reconstruction. This briefing paper informs on the status of conceptual considerations of social contract renegotiation in MENA countries and its meaning for international co-operation with them.
  • Topic: Government, Governance, Legitimacy, Institutions, Services, Social Contract
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Hakkı Onur Arıner
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV)
  • Abstract: Turkey’s Law on Foreigners and International Protection (LFIP) was adopted on 4 April 2013 by the Turkish Grand National Assembly. In the five years that has passed since the coming into force of the LFIP in its entirety, it appears that the LFIP has been made to adapt to the conditions of Turkey, rather than the other way around, due to the sheer unexpected size of the phenomenon of immigration into Turkey, and the challenges encountered in establishing the institutional capacity and the inter- institutional cooperation necessary to deal with the inflows as required by the Law.
  • Topic: Government, Human Rights, Migration, Refugee Issues, Law
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Muhammed Ammash
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: Benjamin Netanyahu, who was heading the last two governments, won the Israeli elections held in 17 March 20151 . Despite all the predictions and evaluations made until election day showing Netanyahu in the second row, and despite the victory speeches made by other party leaders at election night, with the announcement of the official results in the morning of March 18th Netanyahu’s victory was definite.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Bilateral Relations, Elections
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Israel
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: There hasn't been a lasting and successful end to an armed conflict in the Middle East in decades, and the newest fighting in Yemen can be seen through a lens of deep regional frustration over countless issues that seem to defy solutions The entire region is frustrated with the worsening status quo, but the consensus and creativity to meaningfully address the challenges is lacking, even with the newly announced Arab 'rapid response force' to an extremist problem that has been openly growing for a decade The only actors not frustrated are non-state actors, who fill the ever-widening chasm between what regional governments can deliver and what their populations demand.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Algeria
  • Author: Rafat Al-Akhali
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The 2011 protests against corruption, lack of accountability, limited access to basic services, and the extreme centralization of power transformed Yemen. In November of that year, the main political parties signed a transition plan, brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council, which provided the framework and process to achieve a peaceful transfer of power. Two of the key steps agreed upon in the transition plan were the convening of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), followed by drafting a new constitution based on the outcomes of the National Dialogue.
  • Topic: Corruption, Government, Governance, Reform
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxfam Publishing
  • Abstract: Women played a key role in Yemen's 2011 popular uprising, but almost a year on they are still waiting for change. Four out of five women consulted by Oxfam in a series of focus group discussions say that their lives have worsened over the last 12 months. Although a transition towards democracy is under way, women's hopes for a better life are wearing thin. A quarter of women between the ages of 15 and 49 are acutely malnourished. Deepening humanitarian crisis and conflict are limiting women's role in shaping Yemen's future. Women have told Oxfam that they need better access to food, jobs, and physical safety. The Government of Yemen and the international community should adequately support the humanitarian response and help ensure women can play their part in building a peaceful and just society.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Government, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The State Department's recently released Country Reports on Terrorism 2009 (CRT 2009) reveals several important trends in the evolution of global terrorism. The good news is that al-Qaeda is facing significant pressure, even as the organization and its affiliates and followers retain the intent and capability to carry out attacks. What remains to be seen is if the dispersion of the global jihadist threat from the heart of the Middle East to South Asia and Africa foreshadows organizational decline or revival for al-Qaeda itself and the radical jihadist ideology it espouses. How governments and civil society alike organize to contend with the changing threat will be central to this determination. The bad news is that governments and civil society remain woefully ineffective at reducing the spread and appeal of radical Islamist extremism.
  • Topic: Government, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: For nearly two weeks, the Persian Gulf island state of Bahrain has experienced near-daily disturbances following government arrests of opposition activists from the majority Shiite community. The timing of the arrests seemed geared toward preempting trouble in advance of the scheduled October 23 parliamentary and municipal elections, which minority Sunni parties and candidates are currently projected to win. The street violence and other incidents are of particular concern to the United States because Bahrain hosts the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet and Naval Forces Central Command, whose mission is to "deter and counter disruptive countries" -- a wording likely aimed at Iran, which claimed the island as its territory prior to 1970.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Asia, Arabia
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On August 19, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad submitted his list of cabinet nominees to the Majlis (Iran's parliament). The president's choice of individuals clearly shows his preference for loyalty over efficiency, as he fired every minister who, while strongly supportive of him on most issues, opposed him recently on his controversial decision to appoint a family relative as first vice president. Ahmadinezhad's drive to install loyalists involves placing members of the military and intelligence community in the cabinet, as well as in other important government positions. Despite the president's positioning, Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, remains in firm control of the country's vital ministries.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mohammad Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On August 10, Fatah concluded its sixth congress, the first in twenty years. Although media attention has focused on some of the summit's disturbing pronouncements, significant political developments have occurred. Over the span of seven days, Fatah leaders discussed the key issues and challenges facing the party, including organizational and political issues affecting its unity, the role of its power centers, the peace process, and the group's relationship with Hamas and the Palestinian government. Whether Fatah is now able to overcome its organizational deficits and restore its popularity and leadership among the Palestinian people remains to be seen. But Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas has undoubtedly emerged stronger, competing powers within Fatah seem to have accepted coexistence, and the conflict between Fatah and Hamas is expected to escalate.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Political Power Sharing
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Widespread reports suggest that Sadeq Larijani, a young and inexperienced cleric with close ties to Iran's military and intelligence agencies, will officially replace Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi as head of the Iranian judiciary on August 16. This appointment is particularly significant, since the judiciary in Iran wields considerable power -- albeit through the approval of Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- and has a great deal of latitude to make decisions without reference to law or Islamic concepts, especially when "safeguarding the interests of the regime" is deemed necessary.
  • Topic: Government, Power Politics, Law Enforcement, Law
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Six weeks after the pro-West March 14 coalition defeated the Hizballah-led alliance in Lebanon's parliamentary elections, no new government has been formed in Beirut. Although March 14 leader Saad Hariri was given a mandate back in early June to become prime minister and form a cabinet, he has still not completed the sensitive and contentious negotiations with the opposition. Hariri's difficulties in allocating seats among his coalition allies and political adversaries were anticipated, and to a certain extent are routine for Lebanon. But the calm that followed the free and fair elections is eroding, as Hizballah and its allies in Damascus press for more political concessions from Hariri. These developments, coupled with the apparent failure of Saudi-Syrian reconciliation efforts, are elevating tensions, threatening a banner tourism season, and raising the possibility of a return to violence in Beirut.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Simon Henderson, Robert Jordan
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On July 13, 2009, Ambassador Robert Jordan and Simon Henderson addressed a special Policy Forum luncheon at The Washington Institute to discuss succession in Saudi Arabia and the challenges it could pose for the United States. Simon Henderson is the Baker fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. His most recent Policy Focus, After King Abdullah: Succession in Saudi Arabia, will be released this month. Robert Jordan is a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, where he was posted shortly after the September 11 terror attacks.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Islam, Regime Change, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Mustafa Şentop
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: Female students with headscarf are currently prevented to enter the university in Turkey although there is no legal ground for such a ban. The ongoing controversy about the type of clothing for female students at the higher education institutions has become more intensified since the recent constitutional change in February 2008 to lift the de facto headscarf ban. The debate over this question revolves around whether headscarf is a religious attire or a political symbol, whether it should be banned to protect the secular foundations of the state or conversely allowed on the basis of individual freedom of religion as a corollary of secularism. The solution lies in the implementation of constitutional amendments without a further delay.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Education, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Saban Kardas
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: The Turkish Constitutional Court's verdict annulling the Parliament's amendments to Articles 10 and 42 of the Constitution disregards popular will, legalizes arbitrary restrictions on the right to equal access to education, and erodes the separation of powers by permitting itself to act outside of the legal order. The emergence of a new precedent of judicial activism is now the biggest threat to the future of Turkish democracy. Turkey cannot afford an unaccountable judiciary exercising substantial powers of governance through judicialization of politics. The Parliament must reassert its authority and reconfigure the Court's competences and composition to bring it into line with liberal-democratic principles as part of a comprehensive constitutional reform.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Aylin S. Gorener
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: Perhaps the most consequential and drastic decision in Turkish foreign policy in recent months was to engage in direct negotiations with Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq. This is significant because, since the onset of Iraq War in 2003, Turkey has sought to ignore or marginalize Iraqi Kurds, and has refrained from all acts that could be viewed as concessions or de facto recognition. Although the Iraqi Kurdish leadership has received red-carpet ceremony in Ankara in the1990s, Turkish foreign policy toward northern Iraq, since the war, has been stymied by anxiety and emotional rhetoric. Indeed, the fear of Iraq's disintegration and the rise of an independent Kurdish enclave in the north, inspiring or even assisting separatist sentiments in Turkey, have appeared to cloud the possibility of rational evaluation of the pros and cons of policy alternatives. As a result, the policy of projecting illegitimacy to the Kurdish Regional Government has cost Turkey a significant loss of clout not only in northern Iraq but also in the wider Iraqi political affairs, as Kurds have come to occupy significant positions in the central government as well.
  • Topic: Government, International Political Economy, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Ihsan D. Dagi
  • Publication Date: 08-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: The Constitutional Court ruled not to close down the AK Party, relieving Turkey from an unprecedented level of political uncertainty, social and economic turmoil, and potential chaos. Instead, the court chose to keep the ruling party under close scrutiny by declaring it “a focal point of anti-secular activities,” and imposing financial measures.
  • Topic: Government, Islam, Politics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East