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  • Author: Flavio Fusco
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Located at the heart of the Middle East, connecting the Levant to the Persian Gulf, Iraq has always been at the centre of regional dynamics. Yet, the country is today reduced to a quasi-failed state fundamentally damaged in its political, social and economic fabric, with long-term consequences that trace a fil rouge from the 2003 US-led invasion to the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and the country’s current structural fragility.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, European Union
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Nobumasa Akiyama
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: On January 20, 2021, a new administration will take office in the United States. This could lead to changes in US-Iran relations. The Trump administration continued to provoke Iran by withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), tightening sanctions, and killing Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani. Meanwhile, the incoming president Joe Biden and key members of his diplomatic team are oriented toward a return to the JCPOA. In the midst of all this, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a nuclear scientist who is believed to have played a central role in Iran's nuclear development, was murdered. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded by saying he would retaliate at an "appropriate" time, and an advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said he would take "decisive" action. Although the US is not believed to have been directly involved in this incident, there are concerns that it will cast a dark shadow on the diplomacy between the US and Iran over the JCPOA. Shortly thereafter, Iran's parliament passed a law that obliges the government to take steps to expand nuclear activities that significantly exceed the JCPOA's limits and to seek the lifting of sanctions. The new US administration will need to be very careful not to overlook either hard or soft signals, to analyze Iran's future course, and to take diplomatic steps to reduce Iran's nuclear and regional security threats.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, JCPOA, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Abdel Latif Hegazy
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The Turkish foreign policy has witnessed changes since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002. Turkey initially adopted a ‘zero problems with neighbors’ policy and resorted to solving regional issues through diplomatic mechanisms, leading to improving its relations with the countries of the region. However, following the outbreak of the Arab uprisings end of 2010 and the collapse of several major Arab regimes, resulting in a leadership gap within the region, Ankara sought to foster its influence in the region. This was clear in abandoning the ‘zero problems’ policy, engaging in the region's military conflicts and providing support to the Muslim Brotherhood to enable its rule in some Arab countries. These policies have led to tensions in Turkey's relations with many countries in the region, such as Egypt and Syria, as well as interrupted relations with countries that were considered its allies, such as the US and the EU, leaving Turkey with ‘zero allies’. Turkish officials defend their country's policies by launching the term ‘precious loneliness’, clarifying that Turkey's foreign policy is based on a set of values and principles that achieve its national interests, and that sometimes one may have to stand up alone to defend the values that one believes in. Nevertheless, since late 2020, Turkey's foreign policy has made a shift towards appeasement and the pursuit of improving relations with many countries in the region, with the EU and the US. Perhaps one of the most significant official statements indicating the desire to resolve issues is Erdogan's call in November 2020 to open diplomatic channels and reconciliation with all countries in the region for a quick resolution of conflicts. He also mentioned that they have no implicit or explicit prejudices, enmities or hidden agendas against anyone, and that they sincerely and cordially call on everyone to work together to set a new stage in the framework of stability, safety, justice and respect. This change has raised questions about Ankara's real motive, whether it aims to improve its foreign relations or it simply seeks to compensate for the losses incurred by its regional policies, relieve the pressures imposed on it and to penetrate the fronts that counter its role in the region.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation, Appeasement
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Mervat Zakaria
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Uncovering the limitations of the Chinese Iranian agreement The Economic Cooperation Agreement signed between Iran and China in March 2021 unfolded a development plan that includes China injecting $ 400 billion into various sectors of the Iranian economy. This grants Tehran an opportunity to increase the pressures imposed on the new US administration, regarding resumption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action held with the P5+1 in 2015, as well as confronting the surrounding regional threats and alleviating internal pressures by improving the Iranian standard of living.
  • Topic: Economics, International Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Hussam Ibrahim
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: After the announcement of the victory of Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's hard-line judiciary chief, various analysts raised questions about the future of US-Iranian relations, particularly in light of major determinants. The most prominent of which is Ebrahim Raisi himself, who is subject to US sanctions, and his term, which may coincide with reaching a new nuclear agreement between Washington and Tehran, as well as the current debate in Washington’s political circles regarding the situation in Iran.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Elections, Hassan Rouhani
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Mahmoud Qassem
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: About a year and a half following the first Berlin conference on the Libyan crisis held in January 2020, the ‘Berlin 2’ conference was held on June 23, 2021 raising a number of questions. Some of the questions pertain to the future of this crisis and the outcome of such interactions, in light of the significant momentum accompanying the current internal and external developments. The post ‘Berlin 2"’conference interactions were shaped according to two tracks, one of which is optimistic about the possibility of building on the outcomes of the conference and adopting a settlement path in Libya, while the other is loaded with anticipation and uncertainty, particularly with the ongoing challenges and issues that may undermine any future developments.
  • Topic: Conflict, Negotiation, Crisis Management, Conference
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Germany
  • Author: Rania Makram
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Israel and Iran are witnessing significant political changes that affected the ruling elites. The developments came in the wake of early legislative elections held in Israel in March leading to the formation of a new coalition government headed by Naftali Benett, leader of the right-wing party Yamina. In Iran, presidential elections held on June 18, were won by hardline chief justice Ebrahim Raisi. The internal political dynamics in Tel Aviv and Tehran cast a shadow on the whole political landscape in both countries, and are projected to have an impact on the trajectory of the non-traditional conflict between the two sides, which escalated over the past few months.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, International Relations, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Leonid Issaev
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The operation of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria was perceived by the world community as a demonstration of strength, unveiling Moscow and the Kremlin's readiness to defend its interests in the Middle East by military means. It is not surprising that the Russian military presence in Syria has generated a lot of speculation about the possibility of a repetition of the Syrian ‘scenario’ in other hot spots in the region, such as Yemen. We believe that such generalizations are inaccurate and simplify the multifaceted situation. First of all, the Syrian case is rather an exception for Moscow. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist ideology, Russia became more pragmatic, its policy got rid of the prefix ‘pro’, and, in principle, it is trying to serve its own interests. It is not surprising that the rejection of messianic ideas forced Russia to reconsider its attitude to conflicts, including ones in the Middle East. The best example of Russian pragmatism is the Kremlin's policy on the Yemeni crisis since its beginning in 2011 until now.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Conflict, Air Force
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Yemen, Syria
  • Author: Muthana Al-Obeidi
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The New Mashriq Plan, which was announced in the Baghdad tripartite summit (which brought together president Abdel-Fattah El-sisi of Egypt, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and the Iraqi prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi), stimulated a lot of analyses, which reflected two opposing views. Some analysts seemed to be overly optimistic about the outcomes of this Iraqi-Egyptian-Jordanian project. On the other hand, others adopted a more skeptical, even pessimistic, attitude, believing that it will fail to achieve its purpose, on account of the many challenges it has to face. Despite all the analyses available about the project, questions are still being raised, such as: How did the project develop? What is its economic agenda? What about its political dimensions? And, last but not least, what will its future be like?
  • Topic: Economics, Politics, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Egypt, Jordan
  • Author: Nawar Samad
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: A Russian business delegation visited Lebanon in late June 2021 to offer support to the country by cultivating projects in the oil sector, development plans for the energy industry as well as the ports in Beirut and Tripoli. For the past two years, Lebanon, which is going through the worst economic and financial crisis in its history, and has been trying to secure international aid to survive, is now facing the attractive Russian economic bailout offer. Although such an offer is welcomed by Lebanon, the Russian initiative raises concerns across the West, and particularly in the United States, which is in control of Lebanon’s banking system and still has significant influence on the state’s politics and financial sector. The United States believes that it is not possible to dissociate this Russian offer from Moscow’s desire to expand its influence in a region, in which it already established military presence and gained access to the Eastern Mediterranean, where a conflict is underway over investment of newly-discovered gas fields.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, Financial Crisis, Gas
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Rania Makram
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Iran’s water shortage crisis is neither new or surprising and was predicted by experts and officials several years ago. As far back as 2015, former Iranian agriculture minister, Isa Kalantari, warned that water scarcity would force 50 million Iranians to leave the country. Later, he claimed that a 'water war' might hit rural areas. However, this early warning has not triggered an effective policy to preempt or solve the crisis already hitting the country. More than 12,000 villages have run out of water and around 7,000 rely entirely on water deliveries by tankers, according to Hamid-Reza Mahbubfar, a member of Environmental Risks and Sustained Development. The ecologist explained that 90 percent of surface and underground water resources have been used up. The water crisis triggered a series of political upheavals due to its implications for the population in affected villages and towns. In recent weeks, protests broke out in several Iranian cities over water scarcity and the resulting environmental problems.
  • Topic: Environment, Natural Resources, Water, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Ammar Ali Hassan
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: It is normal and even realistic that the apparent political propensity of religious groups and organizations, led by the MB, would place the issue of "adaptation" on its agenda. Some groups are preoccupied with presenting themselves to the society by speech and presence in order to win its acceptance, particularly during the election seasons. Other groups are hostile and seek to subdue people and to change their ideas and ideals by force, refusing to advance on the map of society through peaceful settlements, where elections come as a key step. They view democracy as a "blasphemous process", which they should not consider or delve into.
  • Topic: Ideology, Violence, Islamism, Muslim Brotherhood
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Hussam Ibrahim
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The United States, with its influential institutions, plays a significant role in influencing the course of regional dynamics in the Middle East. That is why, some regional political forces are keen to enter the American political to be able to assert some influence on Washington's position. The Ennahda movement in Tunisia is a clear example, particularly as it recognizes the importance of affecting the position of the US administration and pushing it to pursue its own interests during the current crisis with President Kais Saied. Accordingly and despite the Ennahda movement's denial of its recent contract with a PR company in Washington, the US Department of Justice confirmed the Ennahda's contract with Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW) dated July 28, 2021, only 3 days after the announcement of the extraordinary decisions of President Saied. Through this, the movement attempted to promote its alleged story of the ‘coup’, and to justify its position to the Biden administration, the Congress, the media and US think tanks. This raises several questions around the magnitude of the movement of the Ennahda within the US, and what messages it is attempting to deliver to US circles, and whether it will succeed in getting Washington's support on the current crisis.
  • Topic: Public Relations, Crisis Management, Ennahda Party
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, Tunisia, United States of America
  • Author: Nawar Samad
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: On July 26, 2021, Lebanese President Michel Aoun appointed former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, to form a new government, after Saad al-Hariri's apology ending a rough 9 months path of fruitless negotiations with President Aoun. Despite optimism surrounding the formation of the new government by Mikati, highlighted by President Aoun’s statement on August 14 that he hopes "white smoke" will appear soon with regards to the formation of a new government, a key question remains: Will Mikati succeed in dismantling the complications that hindered forming a new government, particularly with the emergence of new domestic and regional dilemmas?
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Military Affairs, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • 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
  • Author: Thomas Wright
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: With the international order weakened by COVID-19, economic recession, and receding American leadership, the 2020 presidential election will be even more consequential than that of 2016. There is no reason to believe that President Trump will follow in the tradition of other Republican presidents and pursue a more multilateral and cooperative strategy in his second term. Emboldened and unconstrained, a second Trump administration could spell the end of the alliance system and the postwar liberal international order. A Biden administration would be a reprieve for the US-led international order, and will act on climate change, COVID-19, immigration, and multilateralism, while Biden will need to adjudicate internal debates on China, the Middle East, globalisation, and foreign economic policy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Climate Change, Globalization, Elections, Economic Policy, Donald Trump, COVID-19, International Order, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Tommaso Emiliani
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by a US drone strike on 3 January 2020, followed by the Iranian retaliation on US military bases in Iraq, left many Europeans wondering how – if at all – the European Union can foster de-escalation in the Middle East. The EU is presently stuck between a deepening strategic rift with its US ally and its inability to advance its independent interests and policies vis-à-vis Iran. It is now clear that Europe cannot protect its relations with Washington while also salvaging the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iranian nuclear deal. Borrowing from an old Persian proverb, Europe cannot have both God and the sugar dates.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Military Affairs, Trade, Transatlantic Relations, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, United States of America, European Union, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Christopher J. Bolan
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: It is worth approaching an assessment of the likely impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Middle East with a strong dose of humility. Nonetheless, it is clear that the spread of this disease has already had major impacts on the global economy, drastically reducing demand for Middle East oil exports, and leading to a historic collapse in oil prices. The immediate challenges of dealing with the monumental health and economic challenges posed by COVID-19 will add to the troubles of a region already burdened by multiple civil wars, poorly performing economies, growing civil discontent, and intensified sectarian divisions. This article offers a preliminary assessment of the potential impacts of COVID-19 on the security landscape of the Middle East and advances recommendations for how US military strategy and operations might adapt.
  • Topic: Security, Oil, Military Strategy, Economy, Exports, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • 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
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Oxford Economics
  • Abstract: This report provides an overview of the nature of illicit trade in cigarettes across three markets in the Levant region: Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. It establishes estimates of Illicit Consumption in each market and the impact it has on government tax revenue.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Finance, Illegal Trade
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan
  • Author: Jahaan Pittalwala
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • Abstract: Since April 2019 Syrian government and Russian forces have carried out a brutal offensive in northwest Syria, resulting in the deaths of over 1,500 civilians. As the bombings intensified in mid 2019, international outrage grew as airstrikes regularly hit health facilities, schools, displacement centers and other civilian objects, including those on a “deconfliction” list established by the UN to help facilitate their protection. Any joint action by the UN Security Council (UNSC) in response to these attacks was actively blocked by China and Russia, the latter of which was directly involved in the military offensive. Amidst frustration that perpetrators were being systematically shielded from accountability, and faced with few other diplomatic options, ten members of the UNSC issued a démarche to the UN Secretary-General requesting an investigation into attacks on civilian objects.
  • Topic: International Law, United Nations, Responsibility to Protect (R2P), UN Security Council, Atrocities
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Syria, Global Focus
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: It is not the caliphate that the world’s Muslim powerhouses are fighting about. Instead, they are engaged in a deepening religious soft power struggle for geopolitical influence and dominance. This battle for the soul of Islam pits rival Middle Eastern and Asian powers against one another: Turkey, seat of the Islamic world’s last true caliphate; Saudi Arabia, home to the faith’s holy cities; the United Arab Emirates, propagator of a militantly statist interpretation of Islam; Qatar with its less strict version of Wahhabism and penchant for political Islam; Indonesia, promoting a humanitarian, pluralistic notion of Islam that reaches out to other faiths as well as non-Muslim centre-right forces across the globe; Morocco which uses religion as a way to position itself as the face of moderate Islam; and Shia Iran with its derailed revolution. In the ultimate analysis, no clear winner may emerge. Yet, the course of the battle could determine the degree to which Islam will be defined by either one or more competing stripes of ultra-conservativism—statist forms of the faith that preach absolute obedience to political rulers and/or reduce religious establishments to pawns of the state.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Islam, Politics, Ideology
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Indonesia, Turkey, Middle East, Asia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, United Arab Emirates
  • Author: Hassan Mneimneh
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: In 2020, Lebanon should be celebrating its centenary. It is not. Instead, it is close to terminal collapse as a polity, an economy, and even as a society. Lebanon is under Iranian occupation, although ascertaining this condition may demand some attentive consideration from the uninitiated. Iran’s proponents assess it as a confirmation of the “Axis of Resistance” against imperialism and Zionism; its detractors ascribe it to a deliberate plan of Iranian expansion across the region. However, the Iranian occupation of Lebanon may be rooted in Lebanon’s own tumultuous history rather than in Tehran’s designs. Iran in Lebanon may be more an artifact of history than a product of strategy. In fact, the outcome of Lebanon’s present course may not yield Iran any tangible advantage. And it certainly seems to be on the verge of destroying Lebanon.
  • Topic: International Relations, Corruption, Terrorism, Non State Actors, Radicalization, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Adam Garfinkle
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Sadness and tragedy come in many forms. One form consists in knowing how to solve a problem in theory, but realizing at the same time that what that would take in practice is not available. That is the case now with the tragedy unfolding in Idlib. There is a way to turn the crisis into an opportunity, but it would take wise and bold leaderships simultaneously in Washington, Jerusalem, Riyadh, Ankara, and the capitals of Europe. And that is precisely what we lack. What should be done? The U.S. government should privately propose, organize as necessary, and backstop as required a joint Israeli-Saudi intervention, coordinated with an on-going Turkish intervention, to save the million-plus refugees now facing imminent annihilation in Idlib Province, in Syria.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Intervention, Conflict, Syrian War, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Robert E. Hamilton
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: On August 26, Politico reported that U.S. service members were injured after an altercation with Russian forces in northeast Syria. This pattern of Russian challenges to U.S. forces was enabled by the Trump administration’s decision to retreat from parts of northern Syria in 2019, allowing Russia to fill the void. Until this decision was made, the two countries had agreed to make the Euphrates River the deconfliction line to keep U.S. and Russian forces separated. Russia stayed on the west side of the river, and the United on the east side, where this incident took place. Robert Hamilton, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, commented on the story and warned that it will not be a one-off incident: “We need to respond to this immediately and forcefully. Russian forces deliberately escalated against U.S. partners when I was running the ground deconfliction cell for Syria in 2017, but tended to be careful when U.S. forces were present. Unless we make it clear that we’ll defend ourselves, these escalations will continue with dangerous and unpredictable results.” Below, we offer readers an excerpt from a chapter written by Robert Hamilton from a forthcoming edited volume on Russia’s Way of War in Syria.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, War, Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Troop Deployment
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Syria, United States of America, North America
  • Author: Nadav Tamir, Nimrod Goren, Lior Lehrs, Yonatan Touval, Elie Podeh, Ksenia Svetlova, Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, Merav Kahana-Dagan, Barukh Binah, Roee Kibrik
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Following the publication of the Trump plan, Mitvim Institute experts argue that this is not the way to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. This document includes initial commentaries by Nadav Tamir, who claims that Israel needs a real peace plan; Dr. Nimrod Goren, who calls on the international community to say “no” to the Trump plan; Dr. Lior Lehrs, who explains that on the Jerusalem issue, Trump shatters the status quo and previous understandings; Yonatan Touval, who argues that Trump takes problematic diplomatic practices of his predecessors to the extreme; Prof. Elie Podeh, who contends that the Trump plan is not even an opportunity for peace; Former MK Ksenia Svetlova, who warns that the Trump plan might endanger Israel’s warming ties with Arab countries; Dr. Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, who claims that while the EU remains committed to the two-state solution, it struggles to respond to the Trump plan; Merav Kahana-Dagan, who identifies an opportunity to bring the Palestinian issue back to the forefront; Amb. (ret.) Barukh Binah, who calls on Israeli leaders to seek diplomatic, not only security, advice; and Dr. Roee Kibrik, who thinks that Israelis should decide what type of country they want to live in.
  • Topic: Politics, Territorial Disputes, Peace, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Nimrod Goren
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: In February 2019, Israel Katz was named Israel’s interim foreign minister, and three months later his appointment became permanent. This ended a period of almost four-years without a fulltime foreign minister, during which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) significantly declined. A year into Katz’s term, an assessment can be made as to whether his appointment has strengthened the MFA and left a policy imprint. This, while taking into consideration the turmoil in Israeli politics since early 2019 and the understanding that deeper change requires a ministerial tenure longer than a year. This article sums up Katz’s first year on the job, based on media reports and information published by the MFA. It examines both intra-ministerial and policy aspects, and concludes that Katz is operating in Netanyahu’s heavy shadow, has failed to address the deep budgetary crisis faced by the MFA, and has focused on developing ties with Gulf States and combatting anti-Semitism.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Financial Crisis, Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Ryoji Tateyama
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: At the end of January, US President Trump announced a Middle East peace proposal that he himself lauded as "the deal of the century". The introduction to this peace proposal called "A Vision for Peace" stresses that it would "create a realistic two-state solution" because it addresses "today's realities" surrounding the Palestinian issue. However, the nature of this proposal differs greatly from two-state solutions previously pursued by the US and the international community as a whole. Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Oslo Accord in September 1993. The concept underlying that accord was a two-state solution in which an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem would be established in the West Bank of the Jordan River (hereinafter, "the West Bank") and the Gaza Stripboth of which have been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and would co-exist with Israel. Circumstances in the West Bank and Gaza have changed greatly over the past 27 years, however, and the prospects for a two-state solution have mostly perished. In that sense, the Trump peace plan can be said to have struck the final fatal blow that killed the two-state solution.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Yuko Ido
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: On September 15, 2020, a joint statement was issued in Washington concerning Israeli peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain (The Abraham Accords Declaration). These agreements brought to four the number of Arab nations that have official diplomatic relations with Israel, the first two being Egypt (since 1979) and Jordan (since 1994)1. US President Trump himself praised these as "historic agreements"; however, there was no Palestinian representative at this celebration. These agreements mainly focus on strengthening economic and security relations among the participating countries, and they have encountered both supporting and opposing views within the international community. In particular, Iran and Turkey, which are at odds with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the region, have strongly criticized the agreements, saying they run counter to resolving the Palestinian Question. Many readers might recall the Camp David Accords of about 40 years ago that led to the first peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Let us now compare the two peace efforts and consider what the meaning of the 'Arab Cause' has been.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, United States of America
  • Author: Manfred Gerstenfeld
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: An important tool in understanding the dynamics of antisemitism is the identification of moments when its boundaries shift. This occurred with the Trump Peace Plan, the antisemitism crisis in the British Labour party, the UN’s first World Conference against Racism, the huge outburst of antisemitism in France in 2000, and the German welcome policy for refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Topic: Politics, Ideology, Peace, Anti-Semitism, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Hanan Shai
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The conquest of southern Lebanon in Operation Peace for Galilee, and Israel’s long sojourn in the area, had political and military justification. But defects in the IDF’s deployment during the operation, and later in its protracted security activity, culminated in the May 2000 hurried withdrawal that continues to this day to negatively affect Israel’s national security.
  • Topic: National Security, War, Conflict, Hezbollah, Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Israel resides at the cusp of the widening US-Chinese divide, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to Israel attests. Pompeo’s visit was for the express purpose of reminding Jerusalem that its dealings with Beijing jeopardize its relationship with Washington.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Arms Trade, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Israel, Asia, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: It is early days, but first indications are that the global coronavirus pandemic is entrenching long-drawn Middle Eastern geopolitical, political, ethnic, and sectarian battle lines rather than serving as a vehicle to build bridges and boost confidence. Gulf states are taking contradictory approaches to the problem of ensuring that entrenched conflicts do not spiral out of control as they battle the pandemic and struggle to cope with the economic fallout.
  • Topic: International Relations, Bilateral Relations, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Dan Gottlieb, Mordechai Kedar
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The coronavirus crisis has exposed Arab and Islamic notions of fraternity, mutual commitment, and solidarity as hollow rhetorical slogans. Each country in the region is focused entirely on its own efforts to survive economically, socially, and politically as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc.
  • Topic: Government, Health, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout may rewrite the security as well as the political and economic map of the Middle East. The crisis will probably color Gulf attitudes towards the region’s major external players: the US, China, and Russia. Yet the Gulf States are likely to discover that their ability to shape the region’s map has significantly diminished.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, International Relations, Security, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Middle East, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: As tens of thousands more refugees are shunted by Turkey toward Europe and a new phase of the brutal Syrian war unfolds, Russia, Turkey, the EU, and the international community are being handed the bill for a flawed short-term approach to the nine-year conflict that lacked empathy for the millions of victims and was likely to magnify rather than resolve problems.
  • Topic: War, Refugees, Syrian War, International Community
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Anne Herzberg
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: UN treaty bodies are increasingly violating their mandates as part of discriminatory anti-Israel campaigns. In March 2020, the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) embraced this disturbing trend by adopting a BDS agenda after being convinced to do so by the NGO Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).
  • Topic: Human Rights, Politics, United Nations, BDS, NGOs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Norway, Palestine
  • Author: Asaf Romirowsky
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Strategically, Israel’s fundamental military premise is defensive but its tactics are offensive—a result of its geography and absence of territorial depth. Israeli decision-making has always been driven by the active defense ethos, and this is reflected in Israeli filmmaking and TV-making.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Culture, Media, Film, Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is at odds with just about everybody. He is on opposite sides with Russia in Syria as well as Libya and is trying the patience of his US and European allies. Turkey and Russia are testing the limits of what was always at best an opportunistic, fragile partnership aimed at capitalizing on a seemingly diminishing US interest in the Middle East, already evident under President Barack Obama and continuing under Donald Trump, who is haphazardly redefining what he sees as America’s national interests.
  • Topic: Security, Geopolitics, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, Syria
  • Author: Gershon Hacohen
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The Jordan Valley, in its full scope and broadest definition, is essential to Israel’s national security. Its retention by Israel requires not only military deployment but a comprehensive development plan—i.e., the construction of housing, roads, and infrastructure—that will establish this territory as Israel’s eastern wing.
  • Topic: National Security, Politics, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jordan Valley
  • Author: Roie Yellinek
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: China and Iran have a close relationship, but Beijing’s influence over Tehran is questionable. Its response to the killing of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani offers clues to its view of its own role in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Economy, Political stability, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Roie Yellinek
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: In 2009, China Radio International (CRI) began broadcasting in Hebrew. This venture has proven a success for the Chinese and a failure for the Israeli media, which uncritically swallow the messages sent out by CRI’s Hebrew team.
  • Topic: Politics, Mass Media, Media, YouTube
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Israel, Asia
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Last week’s inauguration of a new Egyptian military base on the Red Sea was heavy with the symbolism of the rivalries shaping the future of the Middle East as well as north and east Africa.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, United Nations, Geopolitics, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Red Sea
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The Conservative Fundamentalist movement in Iran, directly linked to the Republic’s Supreme Leader and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is apparently heading towards achieving a significant win in the parliamentary elections due to take place on February 21, 2020. This will play a pivotal role in mapping out political forces within the country before the presidential elections of next year, which the Conservatives might also seize from the moderate stream. The Conservatives are trying to take advantage of the heated political dynamics by using the current escalation with the US, after the murder of Qassem Soleimani, leader of ‘the Quds Force’, the rising possibilities of the failure of the nuclear agreement, and the referral of the Iranian case back to the Security Council, all for the sake of boosting their chances of taking control over the Regime’s center of authority.
  • Topic: Government, Reform, Elections, Conservatism
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • 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: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The attacks on some Iraqi demonstrators on February 3, 2020, on account of which a number of so-called "blue hats" were indicted, imply the persistence of the Iraqi political crisis, despite the appointment of Muhammed Tawfiq Allawi as head of the new government. Allawi, who was the former Minister of Communications, was officially appointed by President Barham Saleh at the beginning of February 2020. The announcement comes two months after the House of Representative accepted the resignation of Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the former Prime Minister of the Caretaker Government. However, according to the Iraqi constitution, the appointment of a new prime minister should have been selected from the ‘largest bloc’ within the Parliament and should have taken place within a maximum period of 15 days, following the resignation. What is worth noticing here is that the mechanism by which Allawi was nominated for Prime Minister resembles that of Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Identifying the largest bloc within the parliament was also overlooked, because of the consensus between the various political forces, particularly between the two the coalitions, Saairun ‘Alliance Towards Reforms’and the Fatah ‘Conquest Alliance’, which are occupying the largest number of seats in Parliament. This is actually contrary to what is affirmed by the Iraqi constitution in Article 76 thereof, which states that “the President of the Republic shall charge the nominee of the largest Council of Representatives bloc with the formation of the Council of Ministers…".
  • Topic: Government, Constitution, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Gulf Nations
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Sales of medical masks, gloves, adhesive tapes and other protective equipment have soared in the Middle East after the spread of COVID-19 and especially after the WHO raised the virus global threat assessment to its “highest level” on February 29. This led to an increase in demand for masks to a degree of “obsession" at times, raising regional concerns after the increase in its price along with risking its supply and the formation of a parallel market. Although the subject of medical masks may fall under public health matters, measures taken to address its economic use actually have to do with the adopted governmental policies to deal with fighting the pandemic on state levels. These policies include, but are not limited to, enhancing healthcare infrastructure, monopoly prevention, consumer protection, relaunching inactive factories specifically after the disruption of imports from China as one of the largest global masks suppliers.
  • Topic: Economics, Health, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Dania Koleilat Khatib, Aref Bijan
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Over the last few years, Russia has emerged as a significant power broker and military actor in the Middle East. Russia's intervention in the Syrian crisis since 2015 has revived its relations with neighboring countries. This increase in Russia's activity has led to convergence and divergence with other countries in the region. One of those countries is Turkey, which had cooperated at times and had differences at times with Russia in the Middle East, especially in the Syrian and the Libyan crises. Ankara and Moscow are fully engaged in the global competition trying to increase their power and influence. They face off in Syria and Libya. In Syria, Turkey supports the rebels in the North West while Russia supports the Assad regime. In Libya, Turkey supports the Government of National Accord (GNA) while Russia supports Libyan National Army (LNA). Their relation becomes more intricate as both parties got involved in the Caucus, a region of prime importance to both countries. In the vicinity of Russia, the oil route goes Tbilisi-Baku ending up in Ceyhan Turkey. While Turkey supports Azerbaijan, Russia supports Armenia. The Caucus crisis showed how the two countries are rivals that are ready to accommodate each other on a quid pro quo basis. The cease happened concurrently with a partial withdrawal of Turkey from some posts in the North West in Syria. Was there an agreement between Erdogan and Putin in this regard? There are no proofs; however, the various events that are happening from the Caucus to North Africa suggest that those two powers are rivals that are ready to accommodate each other. To add to that, the American retrenchment has encouraged the two powers to flex their muscles in the region. Therefore, given the developments in the region, this article has tried to examine the paradox of Russian-Turkish relations and their strategy in Libya and Syria.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Conflict, Strategic Competition, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya
  • Author: Paul Rivlin
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: The civil war that has prevailed in Libya since the fall of the Qaddafi regime in 2011 has become increasingly internationalized. Foreign powers have taken sides in the war, supplying weapons, mercenaries and other support. In recent months, Turkey’s increased intervention in support of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) has added another element to the internationalization of the conflict. In order to obtain military support, the GNA has allied itself with Turkey’s plan to gain control of access to the Eastern Mediterranean and its gas-fields. This poses a threat to Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt, who are all cooperating in the utilization of those fields and the possible development of pipelines to Europe.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North America
  • Author: Paul Rivlin
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: In this issue of Iqtisadi, Paul Rivlin delves into the structural factors that led to protests and the overthrow of Sudan's longtime dictator, Omar al-Bashir, in 2019. This background along with more recent developments, explains why some of the leadership in Sudan today believe engagement with Israel makes good economic sense.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economy, Omar al-Bashir
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan, Middle East, Israel