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The Briefing

We're pleased to present this week's round-up of Middle East insight and analysis from Tel Aviv University. To support this important work, please click hereMany thanks.
Gail Reiss, President & CEO


Volume II, Number 48:
November 20, 2015


Middle East News Brief

Kenya — Luis Franceschi: Kenyan corruption purge makes women unfair targets
In recent years, four out of five female heads of states in Asia were charged with corruption. A similar pattern of targeting women with such accusations has become prevalent in Kenya. Over the past four years, at least five women in the public and economic sectors were forced to resign from their positions, following accusations with no accompanying legal charges. Widespread corruption in Kenya is evident indeed and surely needs to be handled without reference to gender or ethnic origin. However, it seems that women mostly bear the consequences and the effects of the struggle against corruption led by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, and especially by the public itself, through "trials" conducted on social media.
Source: The Nation (Nairobi) — November 13, 2015

Nigeria — Editorial: Sustaining the polio-free status
After having more than half of the world's polio cases in 2012, Nigeria finally rid itself of the polio epidemic this year. The World Health Organization recently declared that Nigeria is no longer considered a polio-endemic country. Nigeria has been able to overcome economic obstacles with the help of aid organizations and global partners who have contributed resources and funds to beat the disease. However, in order for Nigeria to maintain its new status, the healthcare initiative must be sustained. The Nigerian government must continue to fiercely campaign against the disease, increase awareness especially in small communities and villages, and combat the spread of polio at both the state and federal levels by ensuring proper funding. It is imperative that the Nigerian people continue to work hard to maintain their current status and do not become complacent.
Source: Guardian (Lagos) — November 13, 2015

Egypt — Emad El-Sayed: Blaming Arabs
European security officials incorrectly blame terrorism and war in the Middle East on its Arab citizens. Modern terrorism is the creation of Western powers, those that brought Al-Qaeda and ISIS into existence and continue to perpetuate international injustice. Terrorism across the world is interlinked, but the media ensures that the suffering of Arab nations receives little sympathy. At the same time, the inability of Arabs to properly defend themselves results in the blame for terrorism being placed at their feet. From 9/11 to recent attacks in the Sinai, Arabs have failed to convince the world of their innocence, and Western powers' guilt.
Source: Daily News Egypt (Cairo) — November 16, 2015

Egypt — Ahmed el-Sayed al-Nagger: The Russian plane disaster and how to manage the crisis
Aviation and tourism usually recover after airplane disasters. Such was the case for America after September 11, 2001, and for Britain after the Lockerbie crash. The will to live and triumph over terrorism drives people to continue using planes and to visit the targeted countries. Media and governments in the West have jumped to the conclusion that the Russian plane disaster was a terrorist attack. However, if a missile brought down the plane, that would necessarily implicate the US or Israel, because terrorists do not have such capabilities. Further, although Britain has good relations with Egypt, they seem to want to deal a direct blow to Egypt's tourism sector instead of supporting it. The truth is that Russia has proved that it is the biggest power confronting terrorism in a straightforward and serious manner, unlike the dithering American campaign.
Source: al-Ahram (Cairo) — November 16, 2015

Syria — The Russo-Iranian plan to undermine Saudi Arabia in Syria
Russian and Iranian opposition to the Saudi-backed Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham has been reflected both through diplomatic means and by force. Iran requested that the Vienna Conference designate the group as terrorist, though the US has only identified ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra as such since the outbreak of the war. If this happens, Ahrar would potentially lose international backing and Assad would receive legitimacy to suppress them. Iran's accusation that Saudi-backed groups are in fact Islamist is more difficult to prove. Russia's military offensive on Ahrar was unsuccessful and was accompanied by a propaganda tirade against the Saudi ruling family, which was backed by Iran and vocalized by Hezbollah's leader and supporters. Saudi Arabia's increased support to non-Islamist Syrian rebel groups like Ahrar has led to threats from Iran that they will no longer participate in the Vienna meetings. America's ambiguous foreign policy in Syria does not correspond with Iran and Russia's goal to keep Assad in power, nor does it correlate with Saudi backing of Ahrar.
Source: Now (Beirut) — November 16, 2015

Syria — Mona Alami: Are Syria's Salafi movements witnessing a split?
A new armed group, Jaish al-Sham, has recently emerged in the Syrian conflict. The group is distinguished by its populist and nationalist slogans, as well as by its promise to stop fighting once the war ends. These positions contrast with those of other armed groups involved in the Syrian conflict. Jaish al-Sham developed as a reaction to Ahrar al-Sham's more radical Salafi nature. The size of Jaish al-Sham is disputed, with estimates ranging from 1,000–5,000 members. The group hopes to capture eastern rural areas of Aleppo and the Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor regions as it fights against the Islamic State and Assad forces. Its explicit declaration to fight the Islamic State is an anomaly among other Syrian rebel groups. The creation of Jaish al-Sham hints at growing rivalry between various militant groups that are currently fighting in Syria. Its success or failure in negotiating the path between more moderate and conservative groups, as well as its military success, remains to be seen.
Source: Al-Monitor (Washington, DC) — November 13, 2015

Region — Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor: World must act to destroy this terrorist disease
Following the attacks on Paris last week, concerns among the international community now include Western nationals radicalizing to join terror organizations and ISIS fighters infiltrating refugee routes. Hours before the attacks, US President Barack Obama praised the death of Jihadi John, while claiming that ISIS is "contained." Subsequently, President Obama vowed to assist France and French President Francois Hollande in any way needed. However, this statement proves contradictory to Obama's actions towards both Syrian President Basad al-Assad's Syria and ISIS, which can be described as hasty and reluctant. Many examples can attest to the hesitancy the US has portrayed. If recent events in Paris have not demonstrated to the West that concrete action must finally be taken, then the world as we know it is meeting its demise.
Source: al-Arabiya (Dubai) — November 17, 2015

Turkey — Abdullah Bozkurt: Free press under Turkey's autocratic regime
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has turned Turkey into an autocratic regime. In recent days, he has made a concerted effort to silence his critics, starting with the press. During the recent G-20 summit in Antalya, Erdogan shut down the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, which owns 13 national TV stations, without a court order. The action was deemed unlawful and more than 900 people lost their jobs. Three weeks earlier, Erdogan acted in a similar fashion, shutting down Koza Ipek Media. After cleaning house, the media group was then added to Erdogan's growing arsenal of pro-government TV stations and newspapers. Without an independent press, a democracy cannot exist, and more importantly a Turkish parliamentary democracy cannot sustain itself. As voices are suppressed, the chances of a social revolution are growing more and more likely.
Source: Today's Zaman (Istanbul) — November 16, 2015

Turkey — Ayse Arman: No women deputies in 45 provinces
The "glass ceiling" is present in all aspects of Turkish life. The most recent example of this is reflected by the recent parliamentary elections: 45 of the 81 Turkish provinces did not elect a single woman deputy. This issue of barriers to women's advancement and lack of political representation for women is most likely ignored in politics because the political field itself is increasingly being closed to them. This, in turn, prevents Turkish women from mounting a strong defense against the growing phenomenon of violence against them, and a tepid judicial response that often excuses such behavior.
Source: Hurriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — November 17, 2015

Kurdistan Region — Osamah Golpy: ISIS planned for it: Defeat in Sinjar eclipsed by Paris attacks
On November 13, Peshmerga forces liberated the symbolic and strategic city of Shingal (Sinjar) from ISIS forces. The operation was no surprise. ISIS undoubtedly knew that there was little they could have done in order to defend their position. The timing does not seem coincidental, knowing that this would be a costly defeat in perception of strength and that the attacks in Paris took months to plan. ISIS is now shifting to a more global jihad and relying on homegrown extremists in far-off nations. By keeping the world in fear, they are projecting strength that would have otherwise been lost by the defeat in Sinjar.
Source: Rudaw (Erbil) — November 15, 2015

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