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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 4:
January 27, 2017

Ifriqiya: Africa Research program

"The Emerging Role of African Regional Organizations in Enforcing Electoral Results" by Irit Back
Recent developments in Africa highlight persistent challenges still facing continental democratization efforts. This issue focuses on the role of regional organizations in promoting active intervention in problems involving the transition of power among their member states in the 21st century.
Source: Ifriqiya: Africa Research Program/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — January 23, 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.

Ethiopia — Abukar Mohamed-Wardi: Ethiopia's electioneering in Somalia
Ethiopia is once again attempting to influence Somalia's politics. The ruling junta in Ethiopia is working to get Hassan Sheikh Mohamud re-elected as Somalia's president, which is at odds with most Somalis. Ethiopia has consistently interfered in the politics of its neighbor, including in the 2004, 2009, and 2012 elections. The ruling junta in Ethiopia has been deploying divide-and-rule tactics in the already war-torn Somalia by instigating conflicts among clans, spreading propaganda that promotes false conceptions about them. The Ethiopian government and elites benefit from the fragmentation of Somali society. It distracts domestic and international attention from the persistent crisis in Ethiopia.
Source: ZeHabesha (Minnesota) — January 21, 2017

Gambia — Editorial: The case for strong regional blocs
The Economic Community of West African States, the regional bloc for West Africa, has displayed admirable clarity of purpose in ridding Gambia of Yahya Jammeh. In contrast, regional blocs in East Africa, such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the East African Community, have failed to take definitive action when there have been serious threats to peace and democracy there. This failure has resulted in the intensification of conflicts in South Sudan, Burundi, and Somalia. It's clearly too late to argue for non-interference in the internal matters of countries that violate rights or put people's lives in danger, but it's no wonder why West Africans are better governed than East Africans.
Source: Daily Monitor (Kampala) — January 22, 2017

Egypt — Walid Shawky: When we won the odyssey but lost the battle on April 6
The April 6 Youth Movement was a rarity for Egypt, a country that hasn't witnessed many successful peaceful protest movements. The group grew out of the Kefaya movement and was not originally considered a political organization, but more of a broad popular movement that stood in opposition to the Mubarak regime. One of its primary activities was to organize protests via social networks. But the movement's chances of success were undermined by inexperienced leaders and the lack of a centralized vision or strategy. It was inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood and re-organized in a hierarchical fashion after the June 30 Revolution, but the leadership ultimately became consumed by various self-interests. The arrest of movement co-founder Ahmed Maher eventually provoked infighting that led to stagnation.
Source: Mada Masr (Cairo) — January 19, 2017

Egypt — Azza Radwan Sedky: Frugality, necessity, or common sense
Many Egyptians are facing economic challenges. They have demonstrated against the rise of prices in the past, but now they're more likely to complain privately and change their personal habits, which includes some good things — buying more local products and being more thrifty. Egyptians don't want history to repeat itself. They remember the 1977 bread riots and are wary of making any moves that might promote the country's instability. Despite shortages and the devaluation of the pound, Egyptians are fully aware that they are better off than many of their Arab neighbors, and are still optimistic about the good intentions of their government and the prospects for the future.
Source: al-Ahram (Cairo) — January 19, 2017

Saudi Arabia — Hala al-Qahtani: Tough law needed to stop family violence
It appears that domestic violence is on the rise in Saudi Arabia, and it's taking on horrific forms. A video of a young girl being tortured by her father was circulated across the country last week. Fortunately, she was rescued. But there are many children who aren't as lucky. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development intervened in this case and that's praiseworthy, but there are still many unanswered questions and issues. Laws have to protect women and children from mistreatment by their husbands and fathers. Right now, women aren't even guaranteed custody of their children after these violent attacks.
Source: Saudi Gazette (Riyadh) — January 23, 2017

Lebanon — Diana Moukalled: The suicide bomber who stopped for coffee
The behavior of the would-be suicide bomber in Beirut's al-Hamra neighborhood was strange for a number of reasons. It's rare for a cafe that doesn't serve alcohol to be targeted, especially given the prevalence of such venues in the area. It's also strange that he chose a place with comparatively few people in it and didn't activate the explosive when security forces arrested him. His arrest provides a rare opportunity to examine the motivations and biography of a suicide bomber. Many perpetrators have deeply troubled histories that make them ripe targets for terror groups to recruit. They say they're fighting for a cause. Current conditions in Lebanon certainly lend themselves to more similar attacks, given the rise of non-state militias at the expense of the government.
Source: Arab News (Jeddah) — January 24, 2017

Syria — Hassan Hassan: Why Ahrar al-Sham will soon rip itself into pieces
The defeat of the rebels in Aleppo on December 23rd marked a turning point in the Syrian conflict that enabled Russia to sponsor the Astana peace talks. Since then, clashes among rebel factions have increased. Al-Qaeda's affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS) attacked its ally Ahrar al-Sham in Idlib, after accusations that JFS had collaborated with IS-affiliated Jund al-Aqsa. This is al-Qaeda's strategy. They fragment rival groups to maintain dominance. This is succeeding because of Ahrar al-Sham's inherent weakness and disorganization. The group's alliance with JFS enabled it to push the army of President Bashar al-Assad out of Idlib, but it's now untenable for Ahrar al-Sham to work with both al-Qaeda and the moderate opposition. Its position as a major organization is in jeopardy; and the group now needs Turkish support to hold its position.
Source: The National (Abu Dhabi) — January 22, 2017

Turkey — Merve Şebnem Oruç: No objective reports concerning Turkey's constitutional reform?
Since the failed coup in Turkey last summer, the opposition party has been allowing Turkey to pass a number of constitutional reforms. Now it's up to the Turkish people to accept or reject them. This is being made more difficult by the false information being disseminated, including reports that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's power will increase. In fact, the new system will increase accountability and create new checks on the executive branch. The amount of false information regarding the coup is surprising, but journalists openly supporting opponents of the reforms is not. It's important to remember that the current constitution was created to temper the will of the people. The proposed constitution will benefit them.
Source: Daily Sabah (Istanbul) — January 24, 2017

Turkey — Semih Idiz: Proposed system of government causes anxiety
The proposed presidential system would allow Erdoğan to become head of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and undermine the basic principles of the Turkish Republic. There is still a lot of public opposition to this proposal, including more than 100 retired diplomats, who have argued that it will end Turkey's status as a "democratic, secular state." Erdoğan and the AKP claim that this new system would alleviate all of Turkey's ills, even though there isn't any indication that it can. Erdoğan already exercises absolute power under the emergency laws, so the new system won't necessarily give him more power. It will instead protect him from being held accountable.
Source: Hürriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — January 24, 2017

Kurdistan Region — Hemin Abdulla: Turkey and Iran: Exchanging paths on the Kurdistan Region
There was a time when Iran had good relations with the Kurdistan Region. They had a common enemy in Saddam Hussein. Iran provided critical help, despite the risk that encouraging the national ambitions of Iraqi Kurds might encourage Iranian Kurds. The relationship dramatically changed after Hussein was ousted. Now that Iran has an ally in Baghdad, it will oppose any threat to their interests in neighboring Iraq. It will be very bad for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) if Iran chooses to view it as a threat. KRG should work to achieve a rapprochement. President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani should take the initiative to mend fences, before it's too late.
Source: Rudaw (Erbil) — January 22, 2017


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