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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