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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