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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 1:
January 6, 2017

The Jerusalem Report: Mideast Monitor

"The End of an Alliance?" by Bruce Maddy-Weitzman
In the Jerusalem Report, the Dayan Center Senior Researcher discusses the challenges currently facing the alliance between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the historical leaders of the Sunni Arab bloc of states.
Source: "Mideast Monitor" Column/The Jerusalem Report — January 9, 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.

Sudan — Salah Shuaib: The necessity of coordination after the success of the civil disobedience
Two recent acts of civil disobedience have garnered a lot of attention. The young activists behind the calls for disobedience were successful in intimidating President Omar al-Bashir's regime; they demonstrated that they possess the necessary qualities of future leaders. But they still lack political experience; they would benefit by learning from and collaborating with established opposition forces. Despite the popular impression that these young activists are an alternative to the traditional parties, they in fact emerged from them and bring new energy to the existing struggle. But deeper coordination is needed between all groups that aspire for change.
Source: Sudan Tribune (Paris) — December 29, 2016

Nigeria — Editorial: What does Boko Haram's "defeat" mean?
Recent government pronouncements that the Boko Haram group has been defeated should be taken with a grain of salt. The army has endured significant losses recently and there are reasons to call its credibility into question. Boko Haram has been the perpetrator of horrific suffering in Nigeria; a premature declaration of victory may lead to even more violence. The fight against Boko Haram and video footage of soldiers have become government tools for propaganda, and the information that the army releases periodically does little to promote the safety of the Nigerian people. Moreover, a question remains: What will be the ultimate fate of the internally displaced Nigerian people? The government owes them answers.
Source: Punch (Lagos) — December 29, 2016

Egypt — Emad El-Sayed: The illusion of subsidising
Most Egyptians were once able to make ends meet despite experiencing significant financial hardship. Today, the situation is much worse, due in part to the rapid rise in consumer prices. The government believes that this results from the currency crisis and not the other way around. The government's only proposed solution is illusory. It offers subsidies for food alone and the level of support does not reflect the actual cost of living in Egypt. This entitlement program would be more effective if it was broadened to include education, healthcare, and vocational training. Whatever the case, it is the government's responsibility not only to help indigent families but also to develop the economy in measured and sustainable ways, including the investment in infrastructure and communal institutions.
Source: Daily News Egypt (Cairo) — January 2, 2017

Egypt — Yara al-Wazir: Egypt mental health case sparks call for action, not arrests
Egypt's deficit in mental health awareness and shortage of clinical practitioners has further marginalized people with psychological disorders. Police recently arrested an elderly woman for staging a fake wedding and admitted her for psychiatric evaluation; but without training in mental health and sensitivity, it is not appropriate for the police to intervene in these situations. Unfortunately, this is all too common, and the Arab world has far fewer mental health workers in comparison to the rest of the world. Mental illness is highly stigmatized despite the prevalence among its population — regional conflicts have fueled a rise in PTSD, depression, and other trauma-related disorders. Ignoring this reality only exacerbates the situation.
Source: al-Arabiya (Dubai) — January 2, 2017

Saudi Arabia — Hanan Alnufaie: Defamation of Saudi women on Twitter must be stopped
Many Twitter discussions in Saudi Arabia defame women who have chosen to study or work in fields other than teaching. Participants in the social media attack claim that they're doing this in defense of Islam. But Islam actually prohibits the defamation of women and allows them to take up professions for which they have a genuine passion, so long as their attire meets the religious guidelines and the work atmosphere respects and accommodates their needs. Women are an integral part of society and those who slander them should be punished, following Kuwait's example.
Source: Saudi Gazette (Jeddah) — December 30, 2016

Jordan — Editorial: Medical care: A suggestion
The Jordanian government has put to rest rumors that it would discontinue providing free medical care to at-risk and uninsured patients. But the truth is that this practice has become economically unsustainable. The system requires change. Patients must continue to receive care, but the delivery of services must be less haphazard than it is now. Eligibility evaluations should be required for those who receive public health services at no cost, and the government must expand the infrastructure of state-run clinics and hospitals to accommodate the numbers. The implementation of concrete legislation spelling out the new policy is critical.
Source: Jordan Times (Amman) — January 4, 2017

Syria — Amir Taheri: 2016 — The year of Aleppo
In 1937, Guernica marked the beginning of a new age in which Western democracies sit idly by as terror is waged against civilians. In 2016, Aleppo witnessed similar tactics employed by President Bashar al-Assad and his allies, and on a larger scale. Humanitarian aid has been cut off by the perpetrators, including the Russians, who have launched airstrikes on aid convoys. Aleppo could presage a larger war in the Middle East, just as Guernica had signaled the outbreak of World War II. Like the League of Nations then, the United Nations has proven powerless to stop the carnage in Aleppo. Despite a likely celebration of its "victory," the Moscow-Tehran alliance should not be so quick to cheer. The siege of Aleppo will not help them achieve their goal of regional domination.
Source: as-Sharq al-Awsat (London) — December 31, 2016

Turkey — Ilnur Cevik: Terrorist attack on a nightclub: the day after
Responses to the New Year's Day attack in Turkey are more telling than the attack itself. They ignited a controversy over whether New Year's Eve celebrations should include traditions derived from those of Christmas, as some already do. The most appropriate response came from Mehmet Görmez, head of the Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey, who refused to deepen the discussion. Instead, he condemned the event as a terrorist attack without premise. Unfortunately, some on social media applauded this criminal attack, while the Republican People's Party used the opportunity to denigrate Islam. Meanwhile, others called US and German reactions insincere, characterizing their governments as supporters of terrorist groups, particularly the Kurdistan Workers' Party. But common sense prevails in Turkey in the attack's aftermath, even though there are many who continue efforts to destabilize the country.
Source: Daily Sabah (Istanbul) — January 3, 2017

Turkey — Murat Yetkin: ISIL attacks trigger secular reaction in Turkey
Following the Islamic State terrorist attack at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, a group of young men and women staged a public demonstration in reaction to the growing Islamization of Turkish society and government. In a Twitter video broadcast, a young member of the group known as Halkevleri said: "There is a flag that needs to be raised against [religious] reactionaryism. The name of that flag is the flag of secularism. Secularism means freedom, brotherhood and struggling for a humane life. We are calling on everyone to be soldiers of this struggle." The Interior Ministry responded with a public statement saying that anti-terror teams had been assigned to probe the issue. This response triggered widespread condemnation on social media. History may be repeating itself — a radical secularist movement in the 1980s and 1990s triggered a reaction from the pious population of Turkey, as well as the rise of the Justice and Development Party to power in 2002.
Source: Hürriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — January 3, 2017

Kurdistan Region — Ramiar Bilbas: Are we missing our sovereignty?
The 1648 Treaty of Westphalia set a precedent that one sovereign nation cannot intervene in the affairs of another. Iraqi Kurdistan, despite no official declaration of independence, is an autonomous region that must protect its sovereignty. It cannot trust the Iraqi government to do so; Iraq has been weak and ineffective since the war intensified in 2003. Since Iraq will not defend Kurdistan's sovereignty, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) needs to advocate on its own behalf. To date, however, the KRG has been largely silent. Both Turkey and Iran have been conducting military strikes on Kurdish territory, with Turkey even promising to take its fight with the Kurdistan Workers' Party to Kurdistan. If Kurdistan is interested in becoming a de jure state rather than simply a de facto one, it cannot remain silent when other nations violate its right to sovereignty.
Source: E-Kurd (New York) — January 3, 2017


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