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  • Author: Julien Maire, Adnan Mazarei, Edwin M. Truman
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Among the best-known sovereign wealth funds (SWFs)—government-owned or controlled investment vehicles—are those funded by hydrocarbon revenues in the member economies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which comprises all the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf except Iraq, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. This Policy Brief compares the GCC SWFs with each other and with other funds in terms of their transparency and accountability on the fifth SWF scoreboard, available here. Several factors, including the decline in oil prices in recent years, have slowed the growth of the GCC’s SWFs. This slower growth could further diminish their governance and transparency standards, which are already weaker than those of other SWFs. Efforts to improve their governance and accountability will be important to garner public support for these SWFs.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Government, Markets, Governance, Regulation, Capital Flows
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Albert B. Wolf
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Whoever wins, the result will intimate deeper trends in Iranian society, such as public support for the regime and the Supreme Leader’s intentions for the country’s future. The Washington Institute has been sponsoring a series of discussions about sudden succession in the Middle East. Each session focuses on scenarios that might unfold if a specific ruler or leader departed the scene tomorrow. Questions include these: Would the sudden change lead to different policies? Would it affect the stability of the respective countries involved, or the region as a whole? What would be the impact on U.S. interests? Would the manner of a leader’s departure make a difference? The discussions also probe how the U.S. government might adjust to the new situation or influence outcomes. This essay, thirteenth in the series, assesses the situation in Iran, where a June election will determine the successor to President Hassan Rouhani. An IRGC-backed candidate such as Majlis speaker Muhammad Baqer Qalibaf or former defense minister Hossein Dehghan could ultimately prevail—but a history of election surprises in the Islamic Republic suggests no outcome is certain. Whoever wins, the result will offer clues about deeper trends in Iranian society, such as public support for the regime and the Supreme Leader’s intentions for the country’s future.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Elections, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: David Makovksy
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Benny Gantz’s party lost the head-to-head battle, Avigdor Liberman’s favorable influence on the coalition math has left the general in a stronger position—and taken some diplomatic weight off the Trump administration’s shoulders. Israel’s third round of elections last week seemed inconclusive at first, but the deadlock may now be broken. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did better this time than in September’s round two, but his gains were insufficient to form a new government. Potential kingmaker Avigdor Liberman jettisoned his previous idea of getting the two top parties to join forces; instead, personal antipathy and policy differences have led him to definitely state that he will not join any government Netanyahu leads. Thus, while centrist Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz may have options to shape a new government, Netanyahu has no pathway on his own. In theory, the center-left bloc has the requisite number of seats for a bare majority in the 120-member Knesset, since anti-Netanyahu forces won 62 seats. In reality, the situation is more complex.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Elena DeLozier
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Sultan Haitham will now be free to put his own stamp on the country's government and foreign policy, and a recent dust-up on the Yemeni border could provide the first indicator of his approach. On February 20, Oman will begin its next era in earnest. The new sultan, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, was officially sworn in on January 11, but he has remained quiet and mostly out of sight during the forty-day mourning period that followed the death of his cousin, Sultan Qaboos. Now that this period is drawing to a close, he is free to put his stamp on Omani policy. Notably, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lead the first international delegation to see Sultan Haitham in the post-mourning period. When the meeting was first scheduled, the secretary likely saw it as a chance to get to know the new leader, and also as a symbolic visit to make up for sending such a low-level delegation to offer condolences. Yet the two may have more to talk about now. Earlier this week, a flare-up occurred between Saudi forces and Omani-backed locals in the Yemeni border province of al-Mahra. The confrontation may be Sultan Haitham’s first regional test, and identifying the actors who help him get through it could help Washington discern future power centers within Oman’s often opaque government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Oman, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay, Reilly Barry
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Challengers to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are proliferating, with two breakaway parties drawing particular notice. In December 2019, Ahmet Davutoglu, who served under Erdogan as foreign minister and then prime minister, formed Gelecek (Future) in an attempt to resurrect a gentler version of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). And this past March, former finance minister Ali Babacan, credited with masterminding the country’s “economic miracle” in the early Erdogan years, established the Democracy and Progress Party as another right-leaning alternative to the AKP. The remaining aspirants include the Peoples’ Democratic Party, whose capable leader remains imprisoned for allegedly supporting Kurdish militants. This Policy Note, by Soner Cagaptay and Reilly Barry, examines the political identities of Turkey’s opposition parties as compared to the AKP and allied Nationalist Action Party. It does so through an unconventional method: analyzing voter outreach through Twitter, a medium widely used by Turks. The results reveal striking trends in how these parties view Turkey’s republican (and imperial) past, and what these views suggest about the country’s political future.
  • Topic: Government, Domestic politics, AKP
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Katherine Bauer, Kevin Mathieson
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Tehran is pressing Seoul regarding the billions in Iranian oil revenues held by South Korean banks, creating an opportunity to expand the U.S. humanitarian trade mechanism. On July 21, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to lodge a complaint over Tehran’s heightened rhetoric regarding access to funds frozen in South Korea. The week before, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson had accused Seoul of having a “master-servant relationship” with Washington, while the governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) had previously threatened legal action to access the funds, which Tehran says it plans to use for humanitarian purchases. Although the U.S. government authorized use of the funds for such purposes in February, South Korean banks appear hesitant to move forward without additional U.S. assurances—a reluctance compounded by the $86 million fine that U.S. regulators levied on the Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) in April for failing to identify large-scale Iranian money laundering. With COVID-19 cases on the rise again in the Islamic Republic, Washington should work with Seoul to ensure that trade for medicine, equipment, and other humanitarian items moves forward—albeit with strict oversight.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Trade
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Asia, South Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights, Hamdi Malik, Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Three experts examine one of the most sensitive problems facing Iraq's new prime minister: the future of militias that were mobilized to fight the Islamic State but have since balked at subsuming themselves to the government's authority. On May 20, The Washington Institute held a virtual Policy Forum with Michael Knights, Hamdi Malik, and Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, coauthors of the recent study Honored, Not Contained: The Future of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces. Knights is a senior fellow with the Institute’s Military and Security Studies Program. Malik is a London-based Middle East analyst at IITV. Tamimi is an independent analyst and a doctoral candidate at Swansea University. The following is a rapporteur’s summary of their remarks.
  • Topic: Government, Non State Actors, Islamic State, Militias, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Major Lebanese factions are urgently trying to fulfill French demands for the formation of a technocratic government that opens the door for international aids and alleviates public anger and increasing foreign isolation.
  • Topic: Government, Bilateral Relations, Crisis Management, Technocracy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, France, Lebanon
  • Author: Markus Loewe, Bernhard Trautner, Tina Zintl
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Development Institute (DIE)
  • Abstract: The social contract is a key concept in social science literature focusing on state–society relations. It refers to the “entirety of explicit or implicit agreements between all relevant societal groups and the sovereign (i.e. the government or any other actor in power), defining their rights and obligations towards each other” (Loewe & Zintl, forthcoming). The analysis of social contracts helps the understanding of: (i) why some societal groups are socially, politically or economically better off than others, (ii) why some revolt and demand a new social contract and, thus, (iii) why a country descends into violent conflict. In addition, the concept shows how foreign interventions and international co-operation may affect state–society relations by strengthening the position of the state or of specific societal groups. It illustrates that state fragility, displacement and migration can arise from social contracts becoming less inclusive. Nevertheless, the term “social contract” has so far been neither well defined nor operationalised – to the detriment of both research and of bi- and multilateral co-operation. Such a structured analytical approach to state–society relations is badly needed both in research and in politics, in particular but not exclusively for the analysis of MENA countries. This briefing paper sets the frame, suggesting a close analysis of (i) the scope of social contracts, (ii) their substance and (iii) their temporal dimension. After independence, MENA governments established a specific kind of social contract with citizens, mainly based on the redistribution of rents from natural resources, development aid and other forms of transfers. They provided subsidised food and energy, free public education and government jobs to citizens in compensation for the tacit recognition of political regimes’ legitimacy despite a lack of political participation. But with growing populations and declining state revenues, some governments lost their ability to fulfil their duties and focused spending on strategically important social groups, increasingly tying resource provision to political acquiescence. The uprisings that took place in many Arab countries in 2011 can be seen as an expression of deep dissatisfaction with social contracts that no longer provided either political participation or substantial social benefits (at least for large parts of the population). After the uprisings, MENA countries developed in different directions. While Tunisia is a fair way towards more inclusive development and political participation, Morocco and Jordan are trying to restore some parts of the former social contract, providing for paternalistic distribution without substantial participation. In Egypt’s emerging social contract, the government promises little more than individual and collective security, and that only under the condition of full political acquiescence. Libya, Yemen and Syria have fallen into civil wars with no countrywide new contract in sight, and Iraq has been struggling for one since 2003. In addition, flight and migration also affect the social contracts of neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. All MENA countries are designing, or will need to design, new social contracts in order to reduce the current instability and enable physical reconstruction. This briefing paper informs on the status of conceptual considerations of social contract renegotiation in MENA countries and its meaning for international co-operation with them.
  • Topic: Government, Governance, Legitimacy, Institutions, Services, Social Contract
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Hakkı Onur Arıner
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV)
  • Abstract: Turkey’s Law on Foreigners and International Protection (LFIP) was adopted on 4 April 2013 by the Turkish Grand National Assembly. In the five years that has passed since the coming into force of the LFIP in its entirety, it appears that the LFIP has been made to adapt to the conditions of Turkey, rather than the other way around, due to the sheer unexpected size of the phenomenon of immigration into Turkey, and the challenges encountered in establishing the institutional capacity and the inter- institutional cooperation necessary to deal with the inflows as required by the Law.
  • Topic: Government, Human Rights, Migration, Refugee Issues, Law
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East