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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 19:
June 23, 2017


"The Qatar Crisis" by Paul Rivlin
The blockade imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Arab states has once again thrown this tiny emirate into the limelight. The reasons are complex and, in some cases, obscure. One explanation is that Saudi Arabia and its allies want to end Qatar's support for Islamists fighting in Syria and for Hamas in Gaza. Another is that they object to Qatar's close relations with Iran. Qatar's policies have long been controversial; its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Iran and its relations with Israel are all contradictory. What appears to be new is the development of Saudi policy following the visit to Riyadh by US President Donald Trump this past May.
Source: Iqtisadi: Middle East Economy/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — June 22, 2017


In this issue, Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy discusses Turkey's pushback against Kurdish and Iranian-backed militant groups in the Sinjar district of Iraq. Ceng Sagnic analyzes Turkey's decision to support Qatar against a Saudi-led bloc, and potential scenarios for future support.
Source: Turkeyscope: Insights on Turkish Affairs/Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, 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.

Kenya — Karuti Kanyinga: Election risks plunging us deeper into tribal division
Democratic elections in Kenya have revealed patterns of divisiveness the country hasn't seen since 1992. Political alliances mostly form along tribal lines, and the elections are bringing out the mistrust between factions. The confidence in public institutions is deteriorating. Law enforcement is increasingly negligent. And political leaders — many of whom have questionable ethical standards — are capitalizing on all of it. Some parts of the electorate have faith that the elections will be fair, but Kenya is polarized. This year's general election risks fanning the flames of deep-seated tribal divisions, and perhaps even inciting violent upheaval. Both parties need to agree to a fundamental change to the divisive language they're using to mobilize supporters.
Source: Daily Nation (Nairobi) — June 17, 2017

Nigeria — Sonala Olumhense: Because Nigerians have not said no
Nigeria is once again demonstrating that corrupt officials won't face any consequences as long as they have money. Former President Bukola Saraki was recently acquitted of corruption charges, and scandal-ridden members of the National Judicial Council have just been reinstated. Fears are resurfacing that anti-corruption rhetoric boldly pushed by President Muhammadu Buhari's administration is hollow. Nigerians everywhere must demand transparency and accountability for their judicial, administrative and political systems.
Source: Punch (Lagos) — June 18, 2017

Morocco — Mohamed Sefiani: Climate change: If you can't measure it, you can't fix it
Chefchaouen Mayor Mohamed Said al-Alami will be attending the inaugural board meeting of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy in Brussels this month. Chefchaouen is home to the first Info-Energie Center in Morocco, and its mayor publicly supports clean energy and non-polluting transportation. The city also has plans to limit its open landfill, deforestation and water pollution. There is an increased need for city climate diplomacy, and local leaders deserve to participate in global decisions about the future of their communities and planet.
Source: Morocco World News (Chefchaouen) — June 16, 2017

Algeria — Eugenio G. Delgado: Camel Pizza: Sahrawi woman delivering fast food by Mercedes in the desert
Hindu Mani is a Sahrawi refugee who opened her own pizzeria in Tindouf, Algeria. She delivers the pizzas with her 1989 white Mercedes and employs four other refugees — young Sahrawi women who haven't been able to work or go to school. Mani hopes to empower them to take control of their lives. In the area surrounding Tindouf, more than 165,000 Sahrawis have lived in exile since the Western Saharan War (1975-1991). Mani offers decent salaries and inspires community members to pursue their dreams. Her pizzeria also gives them a place to gather. "I really believe we are making a difference," says Hamida, the youngest member of Mani's team.
Source: Middle East Eye (Tindouf) — June 12, 2017

Yemen — Maysaa Shuja al-Deen: Gulf rift sends tremors through Yemen
The crisis between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Qatar has provoked fissures in Yemen's political system. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are leading the blockade against Qatar, are backing President Abbed Mansour al-Hadi in his fight against Houthi rebels. As a result, al-Hadi announced on June 5 that Yemen was severing ties with Qatar. He was among the first to do so. Qatar was a minor participant in the GCC coalition against the Houthis — primarily paying the salaries of Yemeni diplomatic officials and providing positive coverage of the GCC campaign on their news outlets. But Qatari has been supporting the al-Islah party, a close ally of President Hadi and the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen. This could complicate Qatar's relations with al-Islah, which has taken Qatari support and funding but has also remained loyal to its Saudi patronage.
Source: al-Monitor (Sanaa) — June 16, 2017

Syria — Khaled al-Khateb: "Day of the locusts" in Syria's Idlib
Locusts have seriously damaged Syrian agriculture in the opposition-controlled province of Idlib. Locusts appear every year in the area, but this year has been particularly bad. It is a likely result of the weakness of the self-proclaimed Syrian Interim Government and the lack of resources available to the Idlib Agricultural Directorate. The civil war is also undermining another line of defense: the stork. Storks feed on locusts and naturally fight this scourge, but the birds have stopped settling in Idlib because of the war. The locusts have killed about 60 percent of the crops in the province. Large parts of agricultural land — and Idlib's economy — are at risk.
Source: al-Monitor (Idlib) — June 15, 2017

Iraq — Mustafa Habib: Creating the Shiite Crescent: As extremists lose power in Iraq, militias loyal to Iran gain it
As Iraqi forces drive ISIS forces from their territory, the central government in Baghdad faces another growing threat: the rise of Shi'a militias loyal to Iran. Some Iraq militias were assembled to defend towns from ISIS assault, but they have since evolved into three distinct categories: militias loyal to the Baghdad government; militias loyal to clerics, namely Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim; and those whose primary allegiance is to Tehran, who are the greatest threat to Baghdad. Iranian allied militias in western Iraq almost joined Syrian Army forces across the border, which gives the Iranians a bridgehead from Iraq all the way to Lebanon.
Source: Niqash (Baghdad) — June 14, 2017

Turkey — Murat Yetkin: Erdoğan's problems mounting every day
The Qatar crisis could not come at a more inconvenient time for Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is trying to maneuver his way through the Gulf crisis, while continuing to deal with conflicts on his Syrian and Iraqi borders. But with that said, Turkey's mediation efforts seem to be superseded by those of the US. This may hamper Qatar's funding of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — a force also backed by Turkey. Erdoğan is also dealing with an opposition leader who is marching from Ankara to Istanbul and a dispute over American arrest warrants issued to his bodyguards. He has always used ballot-box solutions to deal with his problems, but he promised no new elections until 2019. So what happens next?
Source: Hürriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — June 19, 2017

Kurdistan Region — EU cautions against Kurdistan independence vote, urges dialogue
The European Union voiced its support for Iraqi unity and a commitment to preserving Iraq's diversity. The statement didn't explicitly refer to the Kurdish independence referendum scheduled for September, but individual EU member states have supported Kurdish aspirations in the past. Now the Union as a whole is urging dialogue. Various individuals are still publicly proclaiming that a country's sovereignty comes from its citizens. Both the Greek and British foreign ministers have made supportive statements, although Britain's Foreign Minister Boris Johnson has warned that a referendum would distract from fighting the Islamic State. The Kurdish government is undeterred: they say that many countries privately support Kurdish independence, and that the government is assuring its allies that an independent and stable Kurdistan is important for the region.
Source: Rudaw (Erbil) — June 19, 2017


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