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  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: On July 15, Khuzestan in South West Iran witnessed a range of protests against the disintegrating economic and living conditions in the country, particularly the lack of water within the province, which was called ‘water protests’ or ‘thirst protests’, This was extended to other Iranian cities outside Khuzestan. The protesters' demands evolved to demand the overthrow of the regime itself raising slogans of ‘Death to Khamenei’.
  • Topic: Economics, Water, Minorities, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: At the conclusion of the fourth round of the strategic dialogue between Baghdad and Washington, US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi signed an agreement officially ending the US combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021, more than 18 years after US forces entered Iraq. In return, Baghdad confirmed Iraq's commitment to protecting the international coalition personnel, who provide advisory and training assistance. According to the statements of the Iraqi Foreign Minister, the fourth round of the strategic dialogue between the two countries will be the last. Hence, the understandings that took place between the two sides will form the general framework governing the bilateral relations between the two countries.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Armed Forces, Dialogue
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Turkey’s endeavor to improve its relations with Israel were evidenced in its recent official contacts with Israel. Most recently, on July 12, 2021, Israeli President Issac Herzog and Turksih President Recep Tayyib Erdogan held a phone call, followed by official contacts between ministers and officials from both countries. The contacts are perceived as a Turkish attempt to overcome years of strained relations between the two countries.
  • Topic: International Relations, Military Affairs, Economy, Strategic Interests
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Israel
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Numerous foreign oil companies have recently announced plans to sell their shares in several major oil fields in Iraq, as part of measures that may negatively impact Iraqi oil production. There are multiple explanations for this step, including unstable security and political conditions as well as Iraq's failure to pay foreign companies their dues for operating the fields, in addition to the growing Chinese influence in the oil sector.
  • Topic: Security, Oil, Business
  • Political Geography: China, Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: On Friday, July 30, Iran targeted the Mercer Street oil tanker in the Northern Arabian Sea off the Omani port of Duqm, which was on its way from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujairah in the UAE, killing two crew members: a British and a Romanian. The Israeli ship was attacked by one or more drones. The attack came in two waves. The first wave was the bombing of the tanker with missiles carried by a normal drone. As the damage was limited, a larger suicide attack was launched on the dormitories of the ship's crew, with the aim of causing casualties, which actually resulted in the deaths of a British and a Romanian. The oil tanker belongs to the London-based Zodiac Maritime company, which is part of the Zodiac company owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer. This is the second attack within the month of July, as the first one took place on July 3, targeting Csav Tyndall, which is also owned by Eyal Ofer.
  • Topic: Oil, Conflict, Crisis Management, Trade
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Persian Gulf
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: On July 19, 22 and 25, Israel carried out three strikes in less than one week using surface-to-air missiles against Syria. These strikes are considered the first of their kind executed by the new Israeli "Bennett-Lapid" government. Although this type of strikes is not novel, the Russian reaction to it was different this time. The Russian Ministry of Defense engaged in the scene for the first time, sending indirect messages to Israel. This made analysts refer to a possible shift in the rules of engagement in Syria. The understandings between Moscow and Tel Aviv were based on Moscow turning a blind eye to Israeli fighters launching airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets, in return for Israel not targeting Syrian regime forces or Russian forces, which provide direct support to the Syrian army against the armed opposition. The Russian position reflected a clear desire to weaken the Iranian military presence in Syria, particularly with the escalation of rivalry between Moscow and Tehran over economic and military influence there.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The ‘shadow war’ between Iran and Israel continues. The sabotage operations remain, evident in the attacks on Natanz, the most famous uranium enrichment facility in Iran in July 2020 and in April 202, and assassination of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran. This is in addition to the mutual targeting of ships in the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea between the two sides.
  • Topic: Armed Forces, Violence, Nuclear Energy
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The investigations into the Beirut port blast, which took place in August 2020, witnessed significant developments recently. The judicial investigator, Judge Tariq Bitar, issued a series of rulings starting on July 2, stipulating the investigation of former ministers, current representatives as well as security and military leaders, with a demand to lift the immunity of some for the purpose of conducting investigations with them.
  • Topic: Corruption, Politics, Leadership, Polarization, Disaster Management
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Beirut
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: In early July 2021, a number of political parties and civil society organizations formed what is known as the Referendum Front, calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister and the Parliament, as well as conducting early elections. Meanwhile, the Ennahda government called for the formation of a political government headed by Al-Mashishi, which reflects the attempts of the concerned parties to resolve the current crisis. Such conflicting statements coincided with the Fitch announcing on July 8, 2021 reducing Tunisia’s sovereign rating from “B” to “B-” with further negative prospects. This is the ninth reduction since 2011. The Governor of the Central Bank emphasized that the reduction is caused by political instability and politicians hindering subsidy and wages reform.
  • Topic: Referendum, Political Crisis, Parliamentarism, Ennahda Party
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Tunisia
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The Israeli ‘Walla’ news website published a report that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has reorganized the deployment of military forces in Syria, and has restricted the movement of Iranian forces internally in order to prevent internal frictions and achieve peace and stability. Walla deems the change in Damascus’s stance towards Iran to be in response to the political, economic and military pressures implored on the former. The website has also indicated that the Iranian presence in Syria has also weakened for other reasons, including the continuous Israeli and US pressures on Iranian presence there. While there were no sources confirming such notions, considering the policies of regional and international powers’ concerning the Syrian crisis, there might be some truth to this notion, pushing Damascus to embrace such tactics.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Political stability, Peace
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The political and technical dimensions of granting or revoking nationality have recently escalated in several countries of the region. This is associated with a number of motives relevant to enhancing the state’s global position, as reflected in the UAE granting nationality to competent scientists, doctors, intellectuals, specialists and talented individuals, to encourage the flow of investment into the country. The Jordanian government adopted the same approach to improve the internal economic conditions. The Algerian government justified this course to confront terrorist operations and irregular migration that caused tensions in the relations with the EU countries. Furthermore, the Sudanese transitional government withdrew the Sudanese nationality by naturalization, especially from Syrians, as some were obtained through illegal procedures. Israel also passed the Law of Return this March in an attempt to enhance the demographic structure of the country.
  • Topic: Government, European Union, Citizenship, Nationality
  • Political Geography: Sudan, Middle East, Israel, Algeria, North Africa, Syria, Jordan, United Arab Emirates
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Although the difficulties’ health personnel face, are quite similar to those of workers in other fields, the political dimensions of physicians ’crises in the region have increased remarkably. Medical doctors are kidnapped in some hotbeds of several Arab armed conflicts to provide treatment for some Militia members, in addition to their indirect involvement in military confrontations in Northeastern Syria through Turkey. Moreover, there is a gap between the medical syndicate and the political authorities regarding the actual number of COVID-19 cases, which was quite evident in Turkey. Medical doctors in some states of the region suffer from delayed payment of their salaries as a result of the decline in oil prices as well as the decline in the financial budgets of their countries. This leads to what is known as the ‘brain drain’, in addition to their contracting diseases such as the coronavirus due to their presence on the front lines confronting the epidemic with short medical supplies. The lives of medical doctors in some countries are endangered, as they get exposed to repeated attacks by community members due to the absence of adequate security measures. The crises of medical doctors in the region are by no means a recent phenomenon, but their features evolve according to different regional conditions and the emergence of transnational epidemics. The Middle East reflects a variety of crises that physicians are exposed to, particularly in hotbeds of tension.
  • Topic: Health, Crisis Management, COVID-19, Armed Conflict
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, Syria
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, has proposed the possibility of settling disputes over the nuclear deal by adopting the ‘simultaneous’ approach, meaning that Iran will once again comply to the deal in return for US lifting sanctions imposed on it. On February 2, during his interview with CNN network, Zarif responded to the question by Christian Amanpour, about whether Iran is still demanding that the US act first, saying that the necessary steps can be synchronized. He also suggested the EU mediate to settle the disputes and remove any obstacles against Washington's return to the agreement. This may imply that Iran made early concessions in its position, regarding the adherence to strict conditions, similar to: the US returning to the agreement first, lifting sanctions and providing compensation for the losses incurred. However, these may not be major concessions impacting the general attitudes of the Iranian leadership, nor may they necessarily indicate Iran's intention to make significant changes in its policy regarding the nuclear deal. To be precise, this new approach announced by Zarif may simply be a tactical change in the Iranian policy aiming to enhance the access to understandings and to avoid early problems with the US administration, at a time when Iran appears to be in dire need of lifting US sanctions.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Nuclear Power, Elections, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • 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
  • 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
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Iran quickly supported the advance of the Syrian regular forces towards the Kurdish militias-controlled town of Manbij on 28 December 2018, albeit some parties denied that, which indicate that it has begun to re-calibrate its strategies to deal with the new realities after the decision of the US president Donald Trump to withdraw his military forces from Syria on the 19th of the same month.
  • Topic: Armed Forces, Conflict, Syrian War, Kurds, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: India has recently exempted Iranian oil payments from taxes and fees, in a move aimed at fostering its relations with Tehran, in the wake of the US temporary waivers, in November, to India along with seven other countries from the sanctions on Iranian oil imports, in order to be able to develop the Iranian port of Chabahar. The US waivers have allowed India to resume trade and investment relations with Iran, albeit in a limited manner. However, despite the expected gains, economic relations between India and Iran will hinge on the extent to which the US administration will renew the waivers granted to the eight countries, to continue buying Iranian oil after the current grace period expires.
  • Topic: International Relations, Oil, Sanctions, Tax Systems
  • Political Geography: Iran, South Asia, Middle East, India, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The decision taken by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, on December 30, 2018, to appoint the head of the judiciary, Sadeq Amoli Larijani, a head of the Expediency Council, to replace Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, who died about a week earlier, was not a surprise to the political forces and movements in Iran for several reasons. The most important of them are the regime’s commitments to rotate key positions over the past four decades, coupled with the changes in political power balances ensuing from the internal political crises, which are exacerbated by US sanctions and pressures. These are set to re-entrench the influence of the fundamentalist conservatives close to the Supreme Leader’s establishment, which suggests that the coming period may see further steps aimed at broadening the influence of this movement on the political decision-making process.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Hassan Rouhani
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Tehran
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Remnants of the past have become one of the drivers of the region’s interactions in 2019, via various forms, such as the call to restore membership of some organizations after it has been on a freeze for years, sending messages of resistance through arts and music, eruption of student protests over the policies of the existing governments, and betting on the networking of economic interests at times of international sanctions and wars.
  • Topic: History, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria, Jordan
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Iran is currently making unremitting efforts to further its relations with the Afghan Taliban. Although these attempts are not new, as there have always been unannounced channels of communication between the two parties, Iran is keen to uncover the presence of these channels and its efforts to foster relations with the movement. This was evident in the recent statements of Iranian officials such as its Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the Secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security Ali Shamkhani. This is, without a doubt, inseparable from the Iranian attempts to pave the Afghan arena for the return of elements of the Fatimid militia, and perhaps prepare in advance for a possible and sudden US withdrawal from the country, like the recent US decision to withdraw from Syria.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Taliban, Conflict, Militias
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iran, South Asia, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Following the announcement of hosting an international summit on February 13 and 14, 2019, Iran has launched a diplomatic offensive against Poland, where one of the conference main elements will be how to respond to the Iranian interventions in the region. In addition, Iran has also begun to take preemptive moves both to send messages to the powers concerned with the repercussions of those interventions and to tout its ability to contain the pressures of US policy. These moves include attempts to pivot to the East, particularly towards some neighboring countries, and hints at its ability to withdraw from the nuclear deal and resume its suspicious program again.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, European Union, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, Poland, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Iran was quick to support President Nicolas Maduro's regime, rejecting any attempt to take over power unlawfully, and at the same time considering the U.S. position on the Venezuelan crisis as a direct interference in its internal affairs. It has even instructed its allied militias, like Hezbollah, to adopt a similar position on the crisis in Caracas.
  • Topic: Oil, Hezbollah, Donald Trump, Juan Guaido, Nicholas Maduro
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, South America, Venezuela, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: While the US prepares to withdraw its troops from Syria, it considers redeploying its troops in Iraq. Although this might not have caused a crisis between the two countries, as the US troops have been in Iraq for the past 15 years, the US president Donald Trump justification for the move, to “watch Iran”, has pushed relations between Washington and Baghdad to this path. To make things worse, this move was accompanied by selecting a site in the Anbar governorate for that purpose, which is to reduce Iran’s movements towards Syria through the Iraqi territory, putting Baghdad in trouble with its frenemies.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Crisis Management, Donald Trump, Hassan Rouhani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Idlib has been the delayed battle in the Syrian conflict throughout its various stages, but this seems to be coming to an end, as many indicators reveal. For example, Russia, for the time being, is keen to resolve Idlib’s issue which would reinforce the specter of military intervention. Moscow indicates that there are no options left for the parties to the Sochi agreement, pointing also to the difficulty of implementing its terms. The 10 points-agreement has not achieved its purpose for five months, given the terrorist organizations’ control over the area, in particular al-Nusra Front. This happens amid lack of actions from the Turkish side, which has threatened, more than once, to deter those who jeopardize the agreement, which compelled it to agree, ostensibly, with the other parties on launching a military offensive in Idlib. Despite the challenges and consequences of this option, it is the scenario that looms large over the Syrian scene at present.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Military Affairs, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Improving the performance of local governments, local administration, village councils, and municipalities in Arab conflict zones face a set of challenges. The most prominent among these challenges are the continued internal armed conflicts with regional dimensions, strengthening the legitimacy of certain political regimes, power struggle between central and local governments, growing partisan and political disputes, severe destruction in areas controlled by terrorist organizations, and the growing fiscal deficits of local councils. On one hand, the fiscal deficits have increased amid a low level of donor support, poor development of councils’ resources, and the enduring conflict between the legitimate government and armed militias. The influx of irregular migrants have also imposed a double burden on already overstretched local bodies.
  • Topic: Governance, Conflict, Syrian War, Bashar al-Assad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries, North Africa, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The decision of the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ali Khamenei, to appoint Ebrahim Raisi, the head of the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, as the judiciary chief, earlier this month, is not only linked to the former’s continued efforts to readjust the balance of power in the Iranian regime. It is also related to the impact of the pressures facing Tehran on Khamenei’s vision of the regime itself, especially since these pressures have not only affected the domestic situation but also spread abroad. International and regional powers have become increasingly concerned over Iran’s role in the region, its missile and nuclear programs, and its human rights violations.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Protests, Judiciary, Hassan Rouhani
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Tehran
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The Rukban camp on the Jordan-Syrian borders constitutes a double crisis of a humanitarian and political nature. While there are signs that the humanitarian crisis is on its way to be resolved through an understanding to alleviate the suffering of tens of thousands of the displaced persons in the camp, the political crisis remains very complex. This is primarily because of obstacles to dialogue between the concerned parties. The camp falls under the scope of the American al-Tanf base. While Russia and the Syrian regime are pushing for dismantling the largest human enclave on the road to al-Tanf, the US does not share the same desire on the grounds that there is still a need for guarantees for the return of displaced persons to their homes, which are currently under the control of the regime. This shows how far the crisis is linked to the fate of the US military presence in Syria as well as the Russian and Syrian positions.
  • Topic: Security, Refugees, Syrian War, Rukban
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, North America, Jordan, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Mutual escalation has come to define the constant confrontations between the Nigerian movement Boko Haram and the Multinational Joint Task Force, formed by some West African countries, to confront its activity and weaken its ability to expand beyond the national borders, namely to Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon. This escalation may continue over the coming period, as the movement becomes one of the main branches of ISIS, on which the latter relies to stage counter-strikes in response to the losses sustained in Syria and Iraq.
  • Topic: Security, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State, Boko Haram
  • Political Geography: Africa, Iraq, Middle East, West Africa, Syria, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Iran is still anticipating the various alternatives that the United States may utilize to address the Iranian escalatory behavior, during the coming period. Such actions may not be limited to the new sanctions imposed on September 20, 2019 that included the Central Bank of Iran, National Development Fund and Etemad Tejarat Pars. Arguably, the procedural steps planned by the Donald Trump's administration will substantially determine the possible alternatives for the Iranian reciprocal behavior/ which Iran may rely on.
  • Topic: Oil, Sanctions, Economy
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America