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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 18:
June 16, 2017

Tel Aviv Notes

"Algeria — The Parliamentary Elections and Their Implications" by Gideon Gera
The May 4 parliamentary elections in Algeria reaffirmed the regime's stability and its control over state institutions. The elections and the formation of a new government should be viewed as a preparatory phase for the next presidential election, to be held in 2019 or earlier, if the ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is unable to complete his fourth term.
Source: Tel Aviv Notes/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — June 12, 2017

Iran Pulse

"ISIS and Persian Da'awa" by Menahem Merhavy
The June 7 attacks on the Iranian parliament building and the mausoleum shrine of former Supreme Leader of Iran Ruhollah Khomeini left twelve people dead and brought the terror of ISIS into the heart of Tehran. Until last week, the conflict had been carried out beyond Iranian territory, either in Iraq, Syria, or in the virtual space of the media. The twin assaults demonstrate an escalation of the conflict between Iran and ISIS and an escalation in Iran's ISIS propaganda. ISIS released an unusual recruitment video this past March, "The Kingdom of Persia: from Past to Present." It is particularly intriguing for two reasons: (1) it attacks some basic ideological beliefs of the Islamic Republic of Iran; and (2) its unusual target audience — Iranian Sunni Muslims.
Source: Iran Pulse/The Alliance Center for Iranian Studies, Tel Aviv University — June 13, 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 — Alemayehu G. Mariam: Collective punishment by Internet clampdown
Last week's Internet shutdown was the third government-enforced Internet blackout in the past year. The purported reason was to prevent students from cheating on national exams, but this raises suspicions. The ruling Tigrean People's Liberation Front (TPLF) has a history of enacting legislation designed to limit the free flow of information and suppressing political dissent through media. Ethiopian youth are increasingly the target. There is little evidence that leaked exams and widespread cheating were a legitimate motive. Even if they were, why the collective punishment? The excuse appears to be little more than a straw man to justify blanket censorship. Internet clampdowns will only render the TPLF and its affiliates more hapless, because Ethiopians have the worst Internet access in Africa. Repressive moves like this will ultimately backfire.
Source: Nazret (Addis Ababa) — June 12, 2017

Yemen — Hassan Abu Taleb: The Yemeni developments: A step backward
The deteriorating situation in Yemen has led to increasing friction between the country's northern and southern forces. When President Mansour Hadi dismissed Aidruous al-Zubaidi as the Governor of Aden, al-Zubaidi formed his own transition council, the "Southern Transitional Presidential Council." This has exacerbated tensions and led to calls to re-establish the former Democratic People's Republic of Yemen (DPRY), the former South Yemen, which was absorbed into a united Yemen in 1990. The Houthi rebels have conquered Sana'a, the Yemeni capital; the Yemeni Army is pursuing Houthi rebels in the north; and now a power vacuum has developed in the south. The final goal of the government is to regain Sana'a as the unified capital and push out the Houthi rebels, but this could take considerable time and lead to increased demands for the south to secede.
Source: al-Ahram (Cairo) — June 11, 2017

Saudi Arabia — Manal al-Sharif: "I felt like one of my father's songbirds, let out of its cage": Driving as a woman in Saudi Arabia
Manal al-Sharif tried to mobilize Saudi women on Twitter and Facebook so they would be allowed to drive. She thought that showing a woman driving would be normalizing. She also wanted to show that many Saudi women already knew how to drive; and to prove that Saudi authorities wouldn't stop a female driver. al-Sharif asked her friend/fellow activist, Waheja, to join her in the campaign. When al-Sharif took the wheel, Waheja asked her why she was smiling. She said that driving made her feel like a kid breaking rules. al-Sharif knew the stakes were much higher than a childhood prank; two days later the police would detain her.
Source: The Guardian (London) — June 12, 2017

Jordan — Fahed Fanek: How not to reduce current expenditure
Every Jordanian government has advocated for reducing expenditures; and both the parliament and senate have cut expenses. Leading economists have argued that cutting expenses is beneficial to the Jordanian economy. But just the opposite is true. The Jordanian government needs to increase expenditures, which will provide the services that the economy needs. Instead of issuing a comprehensive budget cut, the parliament needs to pinpoint only a few items to eliminate. This will provide enough money for services and reduce unnecessary expenditures at the same time. The future Jordanian government should adopt this approach.
Source: The Jordan Times (Amman) — June 11, 2017

Iraq — Mustafa Habib: Death on wheels: How do car bombs get into Iraq's heavily fortified capital?
The recent Baghdad bombings have raised questions about how car bombs were able to enter the Iraqi capital with increasing regularity, despite a strong security presence and checkpoints. The answer points to evolving terrorist tactics. Iraqi officials are reporting that terrorists used to use older vehicles, which, in turn, led security forces to disproportionately target older vehicles. Now, terrorists are changing their tactics. The best new tactic: impersonating senior officials in the Iraqi government, banking on the hesitance of security forces to search higher-level members of the state bureaucracy.
Source: Niqash (Baghdad) — June 7, 2017

Turkey — Murat Yetkin: The Brotherhood that splits the Muslim world
The recent tension between Qatar and the Saudi-backed Arab states underscores the long-standing concern with the Muslim Brotherhood, which played a key role in the uprisings in Egypt and Syria. Qatar's blacklisting shows that the Brotherhood is an important part of the rift, even though it wasn't explicitly mentioned in Saudi Arabia's ultimatum. And while many Arab states have declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group, the general consensus is that it is more interested in establishing itself as the democratic opposition. It was only after Arab states outlawed the Brotherhood that many of their followers joined radical groups. As long as the Brotherhood maintains a presence in the region, it will be a source of tension between Muslim countries.
Source: Hürriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — June 10, 2017

Turkey — Serkan Demirtaş: Turkey's delicate situation in new era of the Middle East
The recently imposed harsh sanctions on Qatar and first Islamic State terror attacks in Iran mark the beginning of a new, more unpredictable era in the Middle East. Turkey abandoned its traditionally neutral position in the region during the Arab Spring, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) joined Qatar to back the rebels. This strategic alliance continues despite their failure. But Turkey is also close to Saudi Arabia, so it has to balance these conflicting interests very carefully.
Source: Hürriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — June 10, 2017

Kurdistan Region — Hemen Abdulla: The story of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Hashd al-Shaabi in Shingal
Changes in PKK policy tactics could represent a new alignment with the US. The Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's government and coalition forces have demanded that the PKK leave Shingal, but the group has been defying their requests. A commander of the PKK-affiliated Shingal Protection Units (YBS) has said that the PKK has voluntarily handed over some territory in Shingal to the Hashd al-Shaabi, an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of some 40 militias. Another commander from the same group has asserted that their presence in Shingal has been the main reason why the Hashd forces haven't been able to cross into Syrian or Rojava territory. PKK actions in Shingal might be an attempt to show the US that they can prevent further expansion of the Hashd al-Shaabi. At the same time, the PKK's battle for influence in the region is with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). This might explain why handing over some villages to the Hashd al-Shaabi is easier than handing over territories to the Peshmerga.
Source: Rudaw (Erbil) — June 6, 2017


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