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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 2:
January 13, 2017

Tel Aviv Notes

"What Can Make or Break a Kurdish State?" by Ofra Bengio
The possibility that the Kurdistan Regional Government (Kurdistan) will achieve independence from Iraq has grown substantially in recent years. Three schools of thought have shaped the discourse on the issue: (1) Kurdistan has all the trappings of a state, so it's only a question of time before it declares independence; (2) talk of independence is merely tactical because the obstacles to independence are too difficult to overcome; and (3) the Kurds' interests lie in remaining part of Iraq, so that remains the most viable option.
Source: Tel Aviv Notes/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — January 10, 2017

Peace Index

The current issue covers the Israeli public's positions on (1) the ruling in the Elor Azarya trial; (2) the incoming US administration and the UN Security Council resolution on building in the settlements; and (3) expectations for their private lives and for the country in 2017.
Source: Peace Index/The Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution, Tel Aviv University — December 2016

Logo: Beehive: Middle East Social Media

This issue features stories on (1) the radicalization of discourse on Turkish SNS after the terrorist attacks in Istanbul and Kayseri; (2) public protests on Iranian SNS responding to restrictions imposed by President Hassan Rouhani's opponents on his supporters in the Majlis; and (3) the online efforts of Egyptian civil society to advance social issues, with a focus on child trafficking and kidnappings.
Source: Beehive/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — December 2016

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.

Ethiopia — Alem Mamo: Ethiopia's peaceful uprising is evolving into an armed resistance
Over the past year, Ethiopians have peacefully expressed their frustration with the 26-year-old authoritarian regime, but this restraint is becoming more difficult. An armed struggle is becoming more likely because of the continuing brutality of the ruling party, mass killings, and the further suppression of freedoms. Increasing numbers of citizens are arming themselves to defend their rights and their communities. In the divisive atmosphere promoted by the regime, the situation in Ethiopia can easily escalate into a harsh and intractable conflict — one that could have been prevented through dialogue.
Source: ZeHabesha (Minnesota) — January 8, 2017

Nigeria — Eze Onyekpere: Buy Made-in-Nigeria campaign
The current economic situation in Nigeria is unsustainable, but a new campaign urging Nigerians to buy domestic products will likely have a positive effect on the country's economy. Much of the current problem stems from an increasing deficit in foreign exchange, while the Naira continues to lose value. Meanwhile, inflation is exacerbated by denominating goods and services in foreign currencies. The reform is likely to protect the existing workforce and even lead to its expansion, as production capacity is increased. The government must make sure to set an example by stopping its hypocritical practice of buying foreign-made products while encouraging Nigerians to cease doing so.
Source: Punch (Lagos) — January 9, 2017

Egypt — Mohammed Nosseir: Are Egyptians victims of their laidback attitude and corruption?
Corruption in Egypt permeates even the highest levels of government. Government employees often focus on making money through corrupt practices instead of doing their actual jobs. These factors promote a serious deficiency in services and create opportunities for terrorism. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's desire to protect the country's sovereignty is a positive development, but a greater priority is making sure that the government employees adhere to professional standards. All citizens must be held accountable equally for their actions, and government executives should receive sufficient compensation to discourage them from engaging in corrupt practices.
Source: Daily News Egypt (Cairo) — January 10, 2017

Gulf States — Mohamed A. Ramady: Kafaala sponsorship system: Is it time to find alternatives?
Localization programs designed to integrate foreign workers into the Gulf economy are likely to disappoint. A number of Gulf Cooperation Council countries have initiated reforms to achieve equilibrium in the labor market and enforce security, but this may be insufficient. The 2017 Saudi budget may lead to a decrease in the number of expatriates in the country, despite their essential contribution to the economy. The introduction of a minimum wage may attract local workers, but it would also harm local industry. Coordination between the government and the private sector are necessary for the success of any scheme. Social issues, including cultural isolation and difficulty reintegrating upon their return home, may also affect foreigners in the Gulf.
Source: al-Arabiya (Dubai) — January 9, 2017

Jordan — Editorial: Literacy and beyond
Since 1952, the Jordanian government has placed great importance on reducing illiteracy rates among its population. They have in fact dropped considerably. But there are still disparities in literacy rates among Jordanians — women are typically illiterate at a rate triple that of men. More needs to be done in order to ensure that women receive the same amount of educational attention as men. But literacy is not enough. For a society to function well, its people need to be able to think critically and act rationally. The government's education reform should emphasize critical thinking skills as well as literacy.
Source: Jordan Times (Amman) — January 9, 2017

Lebanon — Diana Moukalled: Is Lebanon really secure?
Lebanese media have been reporting that the country's security apparatus has successfully prevented major terror attacks, including at Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations and in places of worship. Assuming these stories are true — which is not at all certain — it does not change the basic fact that internal developments are of secondary importance to developments taking place among Lebanon's neighbors. While Lebanon is still experiencing a period of relative calm, its policy of "self-distancing" from regional events is in fact a fiction. It is in fact deeply involved in regional conflicts due to Hezbollah's growing presence in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. As long as this is the case, Lebanon cannot be truly safe. The takedown of local Daesh cells is of little importance.
Source: Arab News (Jeddah) — January 10, 2017

Iraq — Salman al-Dossary: Mosul, chances of Iran being the "biggest winner"
Iraqi forces are undoubtedly capable of retaking Mosul from ISIS, but Iran will be the greatest beneficiary of this operation. Iran has already profited from the US-led eradication of its chief regional enemies, namely the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. The more the US weakens its ties with Baghdad, the stronger Iran-Iraq relations grow. Iran-aligned militias will overrun liberated areas in the aftermath of a victory in Mosul; the desired endgame for that battle will encourage Shi'i exclusion of Sunnis in the Muslim world, and prolonged sectarian conflict can only increase its influence. It is for that reason that Mosul is so critical. What happens as a result of this battle will presage the future of Iraq and the potential for peaceful coexistence within it.
Source: as-Sharq al-Awsat (London) — January 8, 2017

Turkey — Murat Yetkin: Turkey on the threshold of its most radical turn
Turkey has begun its debate on whether to shift to a presidential system. At the center of the debate is the question of executive power — whether such power should rest exclusively with the president, and whether this power would be checked by other branches of government. A part of this debate is the question of the separation of powers. The proposed constitution would grant the president increased strength in relation to the legislature. Turkey's main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), says that the constitutional changes would make Turkey a one-party state. The debate puts Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım in an interesting position. He stands to lose his job if it passes but is tasked with marshalling the votes in favor. In the Parliament, the debate is already causing tensions as another party, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), abruptly announced its support for the changes. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), needs all the support it can get. Some MPs of the AKP are known to be unhappy with the concentration of power in the executive branch; because of this, victory is not certain. Either way, this will be the most historic moment for the Turkish Parliament in many decades.
Source: Hürriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — January 9, 2017

Turkey — Burhanettin Duran: Seeking a fresh start with Iraq
The recent ceasefire in Syria has given Turkey an opportunity to mend its relations with Iraq. The most contentious issue between the two countries has been the Bashiqa military camp. In the past, Turkey has refused to vacate the camp because of concerns of Shi'i militant attacks. But Turkey recently vowed to share the camp with the international coalition and leave permanently if the security situation improves. Iraq would also benefit from improved ties with Turkey because it would help their economy and the anti-Daesh campaign. Meanwhile, Turkey is looking to engage in an expanded campaign against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and increase its presence in Iraq. The Irbil government can also stand to benefit from cooperation with Turkey against the PKK, which represents an existential threat to the Kurdish government. It is in all three parties' interests to work together and normalize relations.
Source: Daily Sabah (Istanbul) — January 9, 2017

Kurdistan Region — Rebwar Karim Wali: Will the PKK leave Shingal?
Despite the claims of its leader Murat Karayilan, it is unlikely that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) will abandon the advantage that it currently holds by remaining in Shingal. The PKK has been able to maintain a presence in areas outside of the Kurdish autonomous region, and this fact has been a source of friction between the PKK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). In reality, the rise of the KDP is mirrored by the PKK's decline; the latter group is dependent on the protection of the former. Negotiations with Turkey may also be facilitated by the PKK's hold on Shingal. Despite appearances, Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, has been the PKK's main backer in Rojava. What the PKK is currently fighting for in Rojava could have been achieved by Barzani five years ago, had the PKK honored its promises and agreements. If the PKK continues its path, Barzani will abandon them.
Source: Rudaw (Erbil) — January 5, 2017


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