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  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Tunisian President Kais Saied tapped Hichem Mechichi to form a new government, following the resignation of Prime Minister Elyas Fakhfakh, whose government lasted a brief, though stormy, five months marred by allegations of conflict of interest and a vote of no-confidence.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Ali Akbar Dareini
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Coronavirus is killing Iranians, so does Trump by waging a campaign of economic and medical terrorism. Its refusal to lift the sanctions exacerbates the already-tense relations between Tehran and Washington and pushes Iran to redefine its foreign policy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Sanctions, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Peter Bartu
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: In 2019, the Middle East seems beset by conflict, chaotic politics and dysfunctional economies. However, the mood of the people in Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq is more defiant. Not since 2011 have we seen such public demonstrations for accountability and an end to corruption, war and foreign meddling. This time, they might just get it.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Sudan, Middle East, Algeria, Arab Countries, Lebanon
  • Author: Zaki Shaikh
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: The first meeting of the Senate of Uzbekistan’s Oliy Majlis took place in Tashkent January 22, 2020 to carry out its functions for the new term until 21 December 2024. In his keynote speech, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev congratulated the senators on this high status, while the new council includes representatives from diverse professional fields. He also argued it was “imperative to strengthen the role of the Upper House of Oliy Majlis in delivering an atmosphere of the irreconcilable fight against corruption and crime in general in society, as well as boost control over the activities of government bodies aimed at enhancing the role of women in society.” In Uzbekistan, political parties are traditionally seen to serve a symbolic function with their main mission being to mobilize and maintain support for a strong presidential system. Harnessing popular support for the poll could be seen as a crucial step in Mirziyoyev’s strategy of building support in the run up to the next presidential elections, which will be due in Uzbekistan in 2021. This aim will remain a higher priority compared to the pursuit of political transformation, which could allow the new parliament evolve as an autonomous institution and the democracy to mature. This first part of this paper explains the significance of the parliamentary elections held in Uzbekistan on 22 December 2019. The second part brings to the readers’ attention a range of reactions and responses on how the campaign, polling and outcome was seen by voters, party representatives and election observers. The third and final part of the report will conclude with the findings and recommendations of the observers in addition to some projections of how the conduct and outcome of the election may affect the future course of the country’s politics.
  • Topic: Corruption, Government, Reform, Elections
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Uzbekistan
  • Author: Mohammed Cherkaoui
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: During the month of January 2020, most world capitals, diplomats, and think tanks sought to evaluate the status of the already-fragile balance of power in the Gulf. The U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad has triggered the most acute escalation between Washington and Tehran since 1979. The White House’s pursuit of neutralizing the second most important figure in Iran, after the spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei, has shifted the US-Iranian rivalry into a fierce confrontation between Washington’s “maximum pressure” and Tehran’s “maximum resistance”. There have been several interpretations and predictions of Iran’s possible direct or indirect acts of retaliation vis-à-vis Trump’s threats of targeting 52 sites, which have political and cultural significance for the Iranians. Some Washington-based analysts have been wary that “the U.S. and Iran are now in a traditional escalatory slope, and although neither side wants war, there is a real risk that it might happen.”(1) Anthony H. Cordesman, leading analyst at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, has cautioned that the new US-Iran crisis “has now led to consistent failures in the U.S. strategy when dealing with Iraq and the Middle East for the last two decades – and has already turned two apparent ‘victories’ into real world defeats.”(2) In Doha, two research institutions, Aljazeera Centre for Studies and Qatar University’s Gulf Studies Centre, hosted a two-day conference, “Toward a New Gulf Security Order: Abandoning Zero-sum Approaches” at Qatar University January 19 and 20, to formulate new perspectives of the waning regional security order, and explore how to construct an alternative paradigm. As a point of entry, the Conference concept highlighted two manifestations of the failure of the existing security order, formally adopted by all Gulf States, since the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) May 25, 1981: First, to prevent the invasion, and later liberation, of Kuwait in the early 1990s. GCC established a coalition land force, “the Peninsular Shield Force”, with the objective of defending the six nation states, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Second, the decision of three member states - Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain - to impose a blockade on Qatar, a founding member of GCC since June 2017.(3) In this turbulent part of the world, Iran’s pursuit of creating a regional security order, but on the parsuit of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region—a condition rejected by Gulf states, which see the United States as the principal guarantor of their national security. Moreover, Iran still considers its own foreign interventions in the Gulf and Arab region as part of its revolutionary identity, to which it has devoted resources and agencies.(4) This paper “Seven Ironies of Reconstructing a New Security Paradigm in the Gulf” is a summary of the presentation I delivered at the Conference’s fifth panel “The Gulf and the US-Gulf Conflict”. It probes into several challenges of deconstructing the status quo, before envisioning an alternative framework of mutual security cooperation among several actors in the Gulf and the Middle East.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Oil, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Ali Akbar Dareini
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Neither Iran nor the United States want a full-fledged military war but the Trump administration’s campaign of “maximum pressure” and Soleimani’s assassination mean the two foes remain on collision course.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: It is the geopolitics rather than the economics of energy that will drive US interest, particularly as it regards efforts to change Iranian policies, if not the Iranian regime, as well as the longer-term power balance in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Natural Resources, Geopolitics, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott Edwards
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: On the 3rd of January 2020, the United States signalled its intent to escalate tensions with Iran, through the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds forces, in Iraq. Following attacks from Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militia on the American embassy in Baghdad, the escalation took place on a backdrop of worsening US-Iranian relations, focused on the US withdrawal of the Iranian nuclear deal (and Iran’s subsequent rollback of key commitments), the reinstatement of economic sanctions against Iran, and increasing tensions in the Straits of Hormuz. Such tensions have been met with concern in East Asia, particularly among countries that have been steadily expanding their relationships with Iran. Responses, however, reflect a continuation of business as normal rather than any great change. While Malaysia, for example, has condemned the assassination in line with their growing closeness to Iran, there has been no tangible change of policy. Indonesia, who has developed a relationship but emphasised their desire to remain neutral in the Iran-Saudi tensions, have avoided making overt statements in support of Iran or condemning US action. For the most part, therefore, Southeast Asian states have been unwilling and unable to abandon their relationship with the US and other key states such as Saudi Arabia, or isolate themselves by supporting Iran overtly. For other East Asian states, overtly supporting Iran runs the risks of encouraging the escalation of the conflict and the damaging of their interests, such as is the case with China. As such, this paper will argue that while the perception surrounding Soleimani’s assassination among East Asia is for the most part negative, this will not fundamentally impact on their relationship with the US or spur a further shift to Iran. Instead, in the face of continuing US pressure on Iran, Iran’s relationships within East Asia have begun to ultimately suffer. This paper will begin by analysing the expansion of Iran’s relationship with East Asian states before going on to argue how these are likely to decline in future despite these countries’ concerns of US actions as well as actions of other important states such as Saudi Arabia. While Iran has expanded its relationship with a number of partners in East Asia, this paper will focus on relationships Iran finds particularly important. Primarily, this is Malaysia and Indonesia, who, as countries with Muslim majority populations, have seen their involvement with Iran growing at a faster pace than others but in relationships mired in complexity. It will also consider China’s perspective; a relationship that has taken on importance for different reasons.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Sanctions, Conflict, Qassem Soleimani, Militias
  • Political Geography: Iran, Malaysia, Middle East, East Asia, Saudi Arabia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anwar A. Bashir
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Since Abiy become the new prime minister of Ethiopia, Ethiopian politics has taken a new turn. He has released political prisoners, promoted media freedom and increased inclusion of women into the political arena. He has also invited the opposition to the discussion table, and reduced tension in the 18-year feud between Ethiopia and Eritrea. As a result, some politically-oriented Ethiopians believe Abiy has taken exquisite and peerless actions. There are also several reprehensible issues, which have started under his tenure. Communal violence has peaked whilst agreements with opposition groups was met with skepticism. Moreover, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Ethiopia has reached a zenith due to the ethnic violence, for which human rights organizations have heavily criticized Ethiopia’s leadership. Several political analysts note that Abiy’s transformations are only a veneer, because his agreement with oppositions groups are yet to be implemented, especially with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the oldest opposition in the country. This skepticism from the opposition has resulted in a new coalition party aimed at undermining the incumbent government in the upcoming Ethiopian 2020 election. Ogaden Liberation Front (ONLF), the second oldest opposition has complained of mistreatment by the leadership of the Somali region. Outspoken opposition politician Lidetu Ayalew of the Ethiopian Democratic Party has asserted, “Ethiopia as a nation is not ready to hold general parliamentary elections.” On the other hand, Abiy disbanded the longest ruling party in the country, the EPRDF, an action that has resulted in a widening dichotomy within his inner-circle. Jawar, an Oromo media tycoon, has tremendous support from the youth, especially since the Oromo region has boycotted Abiy’s policies. With all these various issues and considerations, there is much anticipation as to how the upcoming elections will unfold.
  • Topic: Government, Elections, Conflict, Borders
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea
  • Author: Mehari Taddele Maru
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Very few consider that despite the possibility of conflict or cooperation, such changes in the exploitation of the Nile River resources are due to changing relations and the need to address long-standing unfair and hegemonic approaches to trans-boundary resource sharing.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Regional Cooperation, Natural Resources, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt