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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 30:
December 15, 2017

Tel Aviv Notes

"Victory in Iraq and Syria?" by Brandon Friedman
Victory against the Islamic State (IS) has been repeatedly declared in both Iraq and Syria in the last month. These declarations mark the defeat of the Islamic State and the preservation of the pre-IS borders of Iraq and Syria. But important questions remain about the nature of the Iraqi and Syrian states in the aftermath of the fall of the IS. To be sure, their sovereign borders have been restored. But to what end? And for whose benefit? What will constitute the state in post-IS Iraq and Syria? What will bind their respective peoples together? What will provide their governments with legitimacy and authority?
Source: Tel Aviv Notes/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — December 13, 2017


Jihadiscope

"Global Jihadists' Response to Trump's Decision on Jerusalem: United and Re-energized Against a Common Enemy" by Gilad Shiloach, Ariel Koch, and Adam Hoffman
An analysis of the reaction among jihadi groups to US President Donald Trump's recent declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Source: Jihadiscope: Insights on Global Jihad/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — December 12, 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.

Eritrea — Abraham T. Zere: Fight not flight: Eritrea's youth taking matters into their own hands
Eritrea has been ruled by a brutal dictatorship since it gained independence in 1993. There is no independent press or right to free association and movement. Almost all citizens face indefinite military conscription and a shortage of jobs. Therefore, Eritrea's youth — even the son of the president — are fleeing the country in increasing numbers. But on October 31, a group of students expressed its frustrations and openly defied the all-powerful Eritrean government. In the demonstration, hundreds took to the streets of the capital. These acts of opposition suggest that many young people are openly confronting the regime. The protestors may be feeling a greater sense of ownership over their own affairs and future, knowing that no one else will initiate that reform.
Source: African Arguments (Athens) — November 29, 2017

Libya — Joey Ayoub: How the EU is responsible for slavery in Libya
The emergence of slave markets in Libya has led to an international outcry, but little attention has been paid to the role of the European Union (EU). The EU has contributed more than 90 million euro to the Libyan Coast Guard, despite accusations that its forces are responsible for the imprisonment and humiliation of thousands of migrants. The situation in these prisons is described by UN monitors as horrible and inhumane. Abuse and rape are commonplace. At the same time, EU states are putting pressure on NGOs involved in search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea to sign a "code of conduct" that forbids them to operate in Libyan territorial waters. It appears that the expansion of "Fortress Europe" into Libya is not helping but worsening the situation — from January till July, approximately 2,000 people died at sea.
Source: al-Jazeera (Doha) — November 29, 2017

Egypt — Asmahan Soliman: The puzzling dismissal of Egypt's top military commander
Mahmoud Hegazy, Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces, was dismissed from his command on October 28. The reasons remain unclear. Recent reports have indicated tensions between General Hegazy and Egyptian president Abdel Fatah el-Sisi. Hegazy was downgraded from Sisi's second-in-command to the symbolic position of presidential adviser. General Hegazy's dismissal has been seen as both sudden and puzzling, particularly due to his swift rise to power in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and his close personal connections to the president. Hegazy's dismissal came at the same time as an Interior Ministry reshuffle, when the head of the National Security Agency was also removed. Some speculate that it was connected to the Wahat Road attack on October 20, while others relate it to Hegazy's unwelcome criticism of Sisi's decisions within military circles. All sources agree that Hegazy's dramatic departure has made Sisi's ever-diminishing inner circle even smaller.
Source: Mada Masr (Cairo) — December 10, 2017

Egypt — Walaa Hussein: Egypt ups political steps to counter Ethiopia over water crisis
Egypt has taken steps towards establishing an international coalition to protect downstream countries from water extortion generated by dam projects in upstream countries. This comes after the failure of negotiations between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt to resolve the Renaissance Dam crisis. The secretary-general of the Arab League has also expressed concern about these negotiations and has followed up on talks between the tripartite committee. During one of the sessions at the Arab Water Forum this past November, the head of the Council indicated that Ethiopia's construction of 15 dams on shared rivers between the seven neighboring countries creates a threat for their water security. The Egyptian Government issued a statement asserting that it has taken the necessary steps to enforce water security measures, noting that it's one of the pillars of national security.
Source: al-Monitor (Cairo) — December 7, 2017

Gulf States — Hassan Hassan: Strategy shift begins to yield results for Saudi Arabia and its allies
Recent developments favor the shared interests and regional vision of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the year comes to a close. In Yemen, the death of Ali Abdullah Saleh validates the Saudi and UAE narrative that the primary objective of the war in Yemen has been to combat the Iranian-backed Houthis, rather than the general Yemeni population. In Libya, powerful tailwinds have bolstered pro-Saudi and Emirati supported groups against their Islamist rivals. Finally, Iraq's recent rapprochement with the Saudi and Emirati leadership hints at improved relations. The changes have been incremental, but they signal that Saudi Arabia intends to become an increasingly more proactive regional actor.
Source: The National (Abu Dhabi) — December 6, 2017

Palestine — Walid M. Sadi: A decision devoid of legitimacy
US President Donald Trump recently recognized Jerusalem as both the capital of Israel and the future location of the American Embassy in the Jewish state. Nonetheless, it is not within the purview of the US to determine the status of Jerusalem, which has historically been recognized by the United Nations as a city with international regime status. Since Israel’s establishment, the international community has passed a variety of resolutions critical of Israeli policy in the holy city. The new American stance on the status of Jerusalem conflicts with international law and is therefore illegitimate. The Palestinians should immediately turn to the international community to ally with other nations and call for a resolution that rejects the American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Source: Jordan Times (Amman) — December 9, 2017

Syria — Mona Alami: The next battle in Syria
As the war against the Islamic State in Syria winds down, it appears that Kurdish and Shi'a militias will be the next focus of anti-terror campaigns. Both Israel and Turkey continue to face significant threats from Syria, mainly from Iranian-backed Hezbollah and the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), respectively. On November 22, Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed to fight terrorist groups in Syria, mostly referring to Kurdish militias. On November 26, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened military intervention in Syria if Iran is given permission to establish a permanent presence in the southern part of the state. Furthermore, American support for the Kurds is shifting; the White House announced it would stop arming Syrian Kurds. The US is also hardening its stance towards Iran, although it is still unclear how they’ll deal with the Iran issue.
Source: al-Monitor (Beirut) — December 8, 2017

Turkey — Murat Yetkin: Erdoğan to discuss Trump's Jerusalem move with Putin
Diplomatic cooperation between Turkey and Russia continues to expand. US President Donald Trump's latest announcement to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and thereby recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, has necessitated a discussion between Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's President Vladimir Putin. It is possible that when they meet on December 11, they will consider an earlier Russian proposal, which advocates recognizing West Jerusalem as the Israeli capital if East Jerusalem is accepted as the capital of a Palestinian state. In this context, Russian-Turkish cooperation could help provide a solution to Jerusalem, while making Turkey a part of the equation, enhancing its influence and strengthening its alliance with Russia.
Source: Hürriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — December 9, 2017

Turkey — Pinar Tremblay: #MeToo movement is stillborn in Turkey
When the #MeToo movement spread around the world, it also reached the Middle East. In Turkey on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, famous women were interviewed and shared their stories of domestic abuse in the newspaper Hürriyet. They advised joining feminist organizations and not staying quiet. It’s the perpetrators of violence who should be humiliated, not the victims. But none of the interviewees named her tormentor. This detail is crucial — if no one is named, no one is shamed, particularly in a society where violence against women can be portrayed as part of a general undifferentiated violence (that is, violence turned against men as well). But in the first 10 months of 2017, at least 240 women were murdered, 77 raped and 286 minors were sexually abused. This is why the #MeToo movement is stillborn in Turkey: without names there are no consequences. Victims of domestic abuse remain quiet while their abusers remain at large.
Source: al-Monitor (Los Angeles) — December 8, 2017

Kurdistan Region — Arif Qurbany: As Baghdad focuses on elections, KRG should stand by constitution
Baghdad has never refused to hold talks with Kurdish authorities in the past. But since the events of October 16, Iraqi authorities have been ignoring Kurdish requests for diplomacy. Some believe that Kurdistan is showing weakness by reiterating its commitment to the constitution and making concessions to Baghdad. Given the upcoming Iraqi elections, Baghdad's hostility towards the Kurds can be interpreted as a way to secure votes from Shiites. Serious diplomatic talks are not expected until after the election. Despite that, the Kurds should take advantage of this situation and push for dialogue with Baghdad. This will draw international attention to the plight of the Kurdish people.
Source: Rudaw (Erbil) — December 6, 2017

 

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