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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 21:
July 7, 2017


Logo: Beehive: Middle East Social Media

This issue (1) reports on websites using anti-Islamic ideology to recruit Western Christian volunteers to fight in Iraq and Syria; (2) reviews social media response to Hassan Rouhani's victory in the Iranian presidential elections; and (3) examines how ISIS is able to continue its terrorist threats in areas beyond Iraq and Syria, where it has been losing territory.
Source: Beehive: Middle East Social Media/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — June 2017


Peace Index

This month's issue explores (1) the chances of renewing the negotiations with the Palestinians; and (2) the likelihood of a military clash between Israel and different entities in the region, and Israel's ability to respond to them.
Source: Peace Index/The Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution, Tel Aviv University — June 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.

Rwanda — Asuman Bisiika: In Rwanda: What if Kagame loses the August 4 elections?
Rwandans will go to the polls on August 4. Candidates are officially announced today, July 7. Campaigns will last just 20 days, July 14-August 3, which is a very short time frame considering that civic activism is very low in Rwanda and that incumbent president Paul Kagame won the past two elections with more than 90 percent of the votes. Kagame already enjoys a significant advantage: in the past 20 years, Rwandan national politics have been defined by being on the "right" side of the Rwandan genocide and led for that entire period by Kagame's liberating Rwandan Patriotic Front, which came to power after the 1994 war. Efforts to defeat Kagame may be seen as both revolutionary and foolish, but there are several candidates who've been focusing on human rights issues and are likely to pose a challenge. In this respect, their effort is a victory in and of itself.
Source: Daily Monitor (Kampala) — July 1, 2017

Ethiopia — Admassu Feleke: How will it all end?
An entire generation has grown up under the regime of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front. But the regime cannot sustain itself on its oppressive policies and ethnocentric rhetoric, and has made it clear that it has no intention of rectifying the population's grievances and that it will quash dissent at all costs. That hardline policy makes its demise inevitable. How might that come about? The most common route is armed struggle, but that poses formidable challenges, including recruitment and the presumed lack of international support. There are realistically two options: (1) "concerted popular resistance" and "gradual integration," which would constitute comprehensive and strategic civic action designed to unify the people, and (2) delegitimizing and constraining the regime to a point where it is forced into negotiating a peaceful resolution. These efforts both require collective commitment from Ethiopians. To avoid this end, the regime and its institutions must focus on achieving equality and empowerment for all communities, before it is too late.
Source: Nazret (Addis Adaba) — July 2, 2017

Morocco — Samir Bennis: Why Morocco chose to be neutral on the Gulf crisis
Morocco's decision to send aid to Qatar has been criticized in light of the ongoing protests in the city of al Hoceima. The government should redress the aid, but domestic policy cannot come at the expense of foreign policy. Morocco's neutrality in the Gulf Crisis provides an array of benefits: (1) it preserves the independence of the country's foreign policy; (2) it encourages Qatar to provide much needed foreign investment in Moroccan infrastructure; (3) it reflects Qatar and Morocco's shared opposition to the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's regime; (4) it limits Iranian influence; and (5) it positions Morocco to serve as a mediator in the Gulf Crisis. Relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are too strong to be harmed by Morocco's stance.
Source: Morocco World News (Washington DC) — June 27, 2017

Saudi Arabia — Hussein Shobokshi: Terrorism in the Grand Mosque
The recent attempted terrorist attack at the Grand Mosque in Mecca at the end of Ramadan represents a low point for terrorists. Armed groups have for too long been characterized as "brainwashed" or "led astray," which creates a fundamental problem. Terrorists should be treated as terrorists. The Arab world has taken its time to realize the threat posed by these groups. The leniency and hesitation with which governments have acted must be replaced with real action. Only then will there be real progress against terrorism.
Source: Saudi Gazette (Riyadh) — July 3, 2017

Jordan — Marwan Al Shammari: Quest for new public policymaking methods
Jordan is respected in the international community because of Prime Minister Hani Al-Mulki. He has worked hard to move the country forward. But the country still faces economic and regional challenges and addressing them requires a comprehensive reform of Jordan's public policy system. That requires participation from all members of the community — not just the elites. The government also has to engage experts, who can provide diverse knowledge and opinions that would help solve many of the problems Jordan is facing. Finally, Jordanians need to acknowledge the complexity of the country's problems and resist the urge to simplify them. If Jordan's leaders employ these tactics, they will lead the country in the right direction.
Source: The Jordan Times (Amman) — July 2, 2017

Syria — Ali Pedram: How Iran recruited Afghan fighters to fight in Syria
Afghan refugees in Iran are increasingly being used by the Iranians as soldiers in the war to prop up President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Many Afghan refugees work in menial jobs in construction or in trades and suffer poor conditions and discrimination. As the Syrian Civil War expanded, Iran ramped up its support of the Assad regime through forces armed by Tehran, including Hizballah, its Lebanese affiliate, and militias from Shia communities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Abdol Amin, an Afghan refugee working in Isfahan, was threatened with deportation but then offered a 10-year residency permit and $800 a month if he joined an Iranian-backed militia fighting in Syria. When he agreed, he and other recruits underwent training with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah, including sniper and tank training, before being sent to join the Fatemiyoun Division fighting in Syria.
Source: as-Sharq al-Awsat (London) — July 2, 2017

Palestine — Randa Siniora: "Honor killing" is finally treated as murder in landmark ruling for Palestine
Suha Al-Deek was a 35-year-old woman stabbed to death three years ago in her kitchen by her husband in the West Bank. Her husband's recent trial was the first time that the Ramallah appeal court treated this type of case — an "honor killing" — as murder. Her husband/murderer was sentenced to ten years in prison. But at first, he was only given a two-year sentence for his wife's murder. This demonstrates that the Palestinian penal code, inherited from Jordan, is outdated and discriminatory. Every Palestinian woman and girl should be protected against this form of legal violence. The Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC) has been supporting women in cases like that since 1991. Suha's case signaled the beginning of a new area, but the efforts must continue.
Source: The New Arab (London) — June 30, 2017

Turkey — Cansu Çamlibel: Unpredictable Trump: Not so unpredictable on Turkey
The Trump administration has been described as unpredictable; and some observers have viewed this unpredictability in a positive light. But in his first five months in office, President Trump's foreign policy towards Syria has continued in the direction of his predecessor's, arming the People's Protection Units (YPG) and tacitly supporting the Assad regime in order to confront the Islamic State (IS). US support for Turkey against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is also not surprising, given American strategic interests, i.e. the İncirlik airbase. Meanwhile, Trump hasn't acknowledged the Gülenist coup or intervened in the arrest of Reza Zarrab, who is accused of violating the sanctions against Iran.
Source: Hürriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — July 1, 2017

Turkey — Murat Yetkin: Brett McGurk, the Lawrence of Kurdistan?
Brett McGurk is a US Special Envoy in the Middle East, who has had conversations with Turkey regarding Syria, ISIL, and the Qatar crisis. With that said, the Turkish government does not see him in a very positive light given his role in the partnership between US forces and the YPG. Turkey sees McGurk as actively working for Kurdish autonomy — a role Turkey sees as akin to that of Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence was a very active civilian who rallied Arabs to rebel against the Ottomans. Lawrence's actions directly led to an Arab revolt and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI. In the Middle East, past and future are closely tied and McGurk's actions are fueling a growing mistrust between the US and Turkey.
Source: Hürriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — July 1, 2017

Kurdistan Region — Hogar Hadi: In its current state, the referendum should be boycotted
Kurds have legitimate reasons to be skeptical of the fall referendum calling for Kurdistan's right to self-determination. (1) The Kurds already voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession in a 2005 non-binding referendum that never came to fruition. Regardless, there's no reason for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to risk a "No" vote in a new referendum, even if the vote is non-binding. And the KDP and leader Masoud Barzani want a total monopoly of the process — even if it hurts the Kurdish nation. For there to be a legitimate, successful referendum, approval should come from the people (or its representatives in the parliament), not from the leaders. (2) The results should be binding. Now is simply not the time for a referendum. Kurdistan first needs to solve its political and economic problems.
Source: NRT (Suleimani) — June 29, 2017

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