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The Briefing

 
 

We're pleased to present this week's round-up of Middle East insight and analysis from
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Gail Reiss, President & CEO


Volume IV, Number 11:
April 7, 2017


Tel Aviv Notes

"Changing Dynamics in the Syrian Crisis" by Alexey Khlebnikov
The dynamics of the Syrian conflict have changed substantially in recent months. The December 2016 Syrian ceasefire and subsequent talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, renewed diplomacy and created a new reality — one where the US and the EU have taken a back seat to Russia, Turkey and Iran.
Source: Tel Aviv Notes/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — March 30, 2017


Peace Index

March's survey focused on domestic and foreign-policy issues, including the debate over the future of Israel's public broadcasting system and the Trump administration's policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Source: Peace Index/The Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution, Tel Aviv University — March 2017


Iqtisadi

"Turkey's Economy is Paying the Price" by Paul Rivlin
Turkey suffered a massive financial crisis in 2001, but policy changes since then have dramatically improved economic performance and welfare statistics. Real per capita income has increased by 50 percent, poverty has been more than halved, and extreme poverty has been reduced even more. Average life expectancy increased by five years, school enrollment and graduation rates at all levels rose significantly, and gender gaps narrowed. The transformation into an industrial and service economy continued. But this process slowed after 2008. The pace of reform that had been designed to move Turkey towards EU membership staggered, and economic decisions became increasingly politicized. Economic growth remains unbalanced; both private sector and foreign debt are growing.
Source: Iqtisadi: Middle East Economy/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — March 30, 2017


Middle East News Brief

The Middle East News Brief is a selection of editorial commentary and analysis from the Middle East and Africa. The inclusion of any item does not imply that the Moshe Dayan Center endorses the opinions or arguments expressed therein.

South Africa — Editorial: We demand more from our leaders
Veteran activist Ahmed Kathrada passed away last week. He was a remarkable man. He fought for all South Africans and led by his vision of unification and non-racialism. In mourning his loss, the people long for a generation that resisted tyranny and realized democracy for their country. This is in contrast to the brutal reality facing the country under President Jacob Zuma's corrupt rule. In a recent cabinet reshuffle, the president dismissed Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, a prominent government opponent. Zuma is maneuvering to survive politically; he's continuing to exploit the state's resources as if they were his own. The people must work to liberate themselves and demand more from their political leadership.
Source: Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg) — April 1, 2017

Tanzania — Charles Onyango-Obbo: We've not seen this type of African Big Man Rule yet
President John Pombe Magufuli has made waves in Africa and around the world with his agenda for Tanzania. He began his term by tackling government waste, corruption and ostentation. Magufuli's problems appear to lie with the press and social media; he has already jailed countless journalists and bloggers. It seems unlikely that a country with a history of civilian government, stability and economic growth would shift towards authoritarianism. This reveals how a "Big Man Rule" has the potential to take over Tanzanian politics. If Magufuli succeeds, his chances of winning the next election will increase. His efforts to rein in the freedom of the press will expand.
Source: The East African (Nairobi) — March 30, 2017

Egypt — Ismail Fayed: Literary gems: Latifa al-Zayat's The Open Door
Latifa al-Zayat's novel Al-bab al-Maftouh (The Open Door, 1960), one of the first feminist Arab novels, was reissued this month by the American University Press in Cairo. Based on the author's own past, the book tells the story of Laila from 11 to 16 years old and how she questioned women's place in society, class issues and more. The debates ignited in the novel resemble contemporary issues under fire. The novel's diverse style and language reflects nineteenth century Russian realism to stream-of-consciousness. Zayat incorporates vernacular Arabic, breaking the classical/colloquial circle in a desire to democratize culture. In 1963, the novel was made into a film by Henry Barakat.
Source: Mada Masr (Cairo) — March 31, 2017

Egypt — Mohammad Megahed El-Zayyat: The roots of terrorist attacks on Egyptian Copts in Sinai
A recent wave of terrorist attacks against Copts in Sinai demonstrates Egypt's need to confront its security issues and assert a national commitment to protecting Egypt's Christian community. Several long-brewing issues created a terrorist breeding ground in Sinai, as a result of the deep-seated intolerance for justifying attacks against non-Muslims. Egyptian security deteriorated, allowing armed smuggling operations and militias championing takfir to thrive. These militias then began converging with Jihadi Salafists in Gaza and returning terrorists from Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan. Salafists prey on civilians to attract media attention and derail Egypt's efforts towards stability and progress. They hoped to disrupt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's visit with the US president and bring the Copts issue back to the table. They also seek to undermine and obscure Egypt's recent success in dismantling terrorism in the Al-Arish region and damage the developing relations between the state and Egypt's Christian community. Egypt should explicitly iterate its solidarity with its Christian citizens and prioritize stronger security measures.
Source: Ahram Online (Cairo) — March 21, 2017

Libya — Emadeddin Muntasser and Mohamed Fouad: Libya should revive the 1963 constitution
Libyan tribal politics have divided the Cyrenaica and Tripolitania regions. In 2012, Libyan federalist forces ensured that Libya's new constitution would be weighted by region instead of by population. This divide widened as Cyrenaica formed a parallel government and Khalifa Hifter led an armed rebellion against Western Libya. The 2014 Constitutional Drafting Assembly was the final straw. It codified sectionalism and inequality by creating a pro-Cyrenaica version of the constitution. Libyans should revive the 1963 constitution, which provides a basic formula for coexistence. If the East rejects this resolution, the division of Libya is a viable last resort.
Source: Libyan Express (UK) — March 29, 2017

Lebanon — Mona Alami: Will Hezbollah Remain in Syria Forever?
Hezbollah has played several roles in the Syrian conflict. It initially provided expertise to regime leadership during its crackdown on protests, but its role has expanded to include offensive planning, training militias and involvement in assaults. Hezbollah operatives have even admitted to taking on a leading role in the Syrian Army, which it deploys as second line troops. Moreover, in engagements in Aleppo and Zabadani, Hezbollah units formed a spearhead and were followed by demining and stabilization forces. The group also provides training to local militias such as Quwat Rhidha — considered by some to form the core of Hezbollah's presence in Syria — with some 3,500 fighters financed and trained by them. These were added to an estimated 10,000 fighters trained at its Qusayr base. Hezbollah is firmly ensconced in Syria, both strategically and tactically. It's not lost support from its base, despite 2,000 to 2,500 deaths and over 7,000 wounded.
Source: Ya Libnan (Beirut) — March 29, 2017

Jordan — Rothna Begum: How to end "honor" killings in Jordan
The recent ruling by the Court of Cassation was meant to send a clear message and set a precedent that honor killings of women will no longer be tolerated. The decision is based on a fatwa issued by the Iftaa Department, which is responsible for religious edicts and recently declared such killings as contrary to Shari'a law. The cases of women killed by their families are also often treated more leniently by the courts. Several statutes allow for various factors, such as rage caused by unlawful acts by the victim or calls for leniency by the victim's family, to mitigate the penalty assigned to the crime. The Cabinet and Parliament have moved to prohibit these statutes from applying to honor killings, but the government must go even further and increase measures to protect and shelter at-risk women. Policy makers must partner with community and religious leaders to change the deeply-seated cultural norms that vest familial honor in females and demand that males respond with violence.
Source: The Jordan Times (Amman) — April 3, 2017

Turkey — Murat Yetkin: The Kurdish problem, Barzani's move and the Turkish referendum
A delegation of the Kurdish-Turkish People's Democratic Party (HDP) will meet with the Turkish justice minister to discuss the prison conditions of a jailed colleague. HDP member Sırrı Süreyya Önder has said it was he, not the jailed member, who was an intermediary with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). These meetings come at a delicate time for the Turks. The reason is two-fold: First, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan needs to attract Kurdish votes to pass his referendum. Turkey has not responded as strongly as usual to Kurdish nationalist actions in Kirkuk in Iraq. Second, Kurdish forces have become vital in the fight against the Islamic State. These important talks between the HDP and Erdoğan's justice minister are the first between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the HDP in over a year.
Source: Hurriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — April 1, 2017

Turkey — Yusuf Kanli: Insanity and Cyprus
The Cyprus peace process hasn't progressed since 1968 despite pundits' recurring predictions. Greek Cypriots have no incentive to share power, as they have international recognition, while Turkish Cypriots refuse to accept a federal resolution in which they will have minority status. The mindset must shift to allow for progress. The Greek side has undermined talks on a federated government by referring to a union with Greece. The solution must accommodate two peoples on equal footing, without foreign intervention.
Source: Hurriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — April 3, 2017

Kurdistan Region — Rebwar Karim Wali: Independence referendum requires reopening of parliament
The Kurds are at a critical juncture. The recent Iraqi parliamentary session in Baghdad demonstrated that the Kurds are alone in matters of national interest. They need to reactivate the Kurdistan Region's Parliament in order to hold a referendum that will show the world that Kurds support the creation of a Kurdish state. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) should allow Yusif Mohammed to return to his position as speaker of parliament, which will permit parliament to fix a time for general elections and a referendum. This will enable the Gorran (Change) Movement to reengage politically and pave the way for more fruitful collaboration between the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The recent meeting between Masoud Barzani's KDP and the PUK was rushed but important, as was the PUK's role in raising the Kurdish national flag in Kirkuk. The PUK's attention to national policy underscores the point that Kurdistan profits only when the KDP and PUK are aligned.
Source: Rudaw (Erbil) — April, 5, 2017

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