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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 17:
June 9, 2017


Tel Aviv Notes

"From Baghdad to Riyadh: A New Regional Security Pact?" by Brandon Friedman
US President Donald Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia did not result in an announcement of an "Arab NATO" as some expected. But the May 20-21 Riyadh Summit, which brought more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders to Saudi Arabia, was intended to show US support for the Saudi regional security agenda focused on confronting Iran and the Islamic State. Observers were quick to draw comparisons between a "Riyadh Pact" and the 1955 Baghdad Pact, which facilitated regional security cooperation between the US, the UK and their pro-Western regional allies in an effort to contain communism and Arab nationalism. Saudi officials viewed Trump's visit as a vital reset of US–Saudi bilateral relations and "a symbol that Washington aimed to be once again a bedrock for the kingdom and its allies." But something more ambitious was suggested by Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir's reference to "increasing defense capabilities" and "working on a defense architecture for the region — initially between our two countries and then looking at how other countries can join."
Source: Tel Aviv Notes/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — May 31, 2017


Logo: Beehive: Middle East Social Media

This issue explores (1) Iranians' criticism of their regime's choice to allocate resources to hostility towards Israel, rather than investing in its own citizens; (2) the unprecedented support on social networking sites for the struggle of Palestinian prisoners, and Palestinian users discontented with the Palestinian Authority's chairman; and (3) the internal tension between the secular and Islamic publics in Turkey, exhibited in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's supporters' attempts to undermine the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, and recast national symbols in the image of the president.
Source: Beehive: Middle East Social Media/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — May 2017


Peace Index

This month, the survey focused on the Israeli public's positions on two notable events: (1) Trump's visit to Israel in May; and (2) the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War in June.
Source: Peace Index/The Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution, Tel Aviv University — May 2017


Iqtisadi

"The Crisis in Gaza" by Paul Rivlin
The Dayan Center's Senior Researcher explains the evolving social and economic conditions in the Gaza Strip, using several recently released reports that provide new data on recent developments.
Source: Iqtisadi: Middle East Economy/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — May 28, 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 — Hussien Arko Menay: Darfur young generations between Sudan's NCP devil and the Mediterranean
The Sudanese regime is committing atrocities in Darfur region. Many people have no choice but to flee as a result of the horrors of war, unbearable conditions and, in particular, the government's attack on the younger generation. Together with migrants and refugees from across the African continent, they, along with migrants and refugees from across the continent, make extremely difficult and dangerous journeys to reach asylum in Europe. Some European countries have chosen to combat migration by offering incentives to the regime in Khartoum. They expect that it will exercise force against potential migrants in the desert, and they reward the government of Sudan instead of detaching themselves from it. By doing so, they are legitimizing and supporting crimes against humanity and violations of human rights.
Source: Sudan Tribune (Paris) — May 31, 2017

Kenya — Ken Opalo: SGR is here, now let's make it work for Kenyans
The Madaraka Express train running between Nairobi and Mombasa made its first run last week, ostensibly establishing a new economic lifeline for Kenya. Its on-schedule completion is a signature accomplishment of President Uhuru Kenyatta's government. But this commitment must be sustained by future administrations to foster its continued development. Moreover, it must be an effort spearheaded by Kenyans rather than the Chinese, whose China Road and Bridge Corporation built the line. Kenya must be receptive to honest evaluation, including what did not work and problems that may be avoided moving forward. It is time to make the right decisions. If Kenya cannot be free of corruption, the government must further serve and provide for its people in spite of corruption.
Source: The Standard (Nairobi) — June 3, 2017

Morocco — Hicham Zerhouni: Al Hoceima protests: Morocco's choice between perpetuating injustice or pursuing progress
Riffians in al-Hoceima have protested their marginalization over the past seven months, and Nasser Zefzafi has emerged as a leader. Historically, the predominantly Berber Rif area resisted Spanish and French colonization and maintained a tense relationship with the Moroccan government, resulting in the Rif Revolt and Years of Lead. Many Moroccans are supportive of Riffians' current demands, but some accuse the protesters of separatism. Protesters have denied this, but as a result, Zefzafi was recently arrested. King Mohammed VI should take action to redress this legitimate regional injustice.
Source: Morocco World News (Chicago) — June 3, 2017

Libya — John Pearson: Haftar's forces establish control in Southern Libya
Recent advances made by the Libya National Army (LNA) in southern Libya may impact future efforts to resolve the highly factionalized Libyan conflict. The LNA, headed by Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, has conducted a month-long offensive that has captured three strategic airbases and resulted in the LNA's domination of the south and interior of the country. These advances have led to increased tensions between the Haftar- and Egyptian-backed eastern Libya government and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. Despite peace talks between the two rival regimes in early May, the recent advances by the Haftar — including the LNA's capture of key oil ports previously held by GNA-backed forces — could undermine peace talks. The decline of the GNA and the success of Haftar's forces could further dim the already bleak prospects for talks between these two governments, as well as broader reconciliation efforts among the many militias operating throughout the country.
Source: The National (Abu Dhabi) — June 3, 2017

Egypt — H. A. Hellyer: We need a new understanding of the social contract between Arabs
The IS has been murdering Christians and Shi'is. In Egypt, just prior to Ramadan, Egyptian Christians were massacred by IS terrorists on their way to a monastery. In Iraq, Shi'i school children were massacred at an ice cream parlor. Pro-Islamist media in both Egypt and Iraq published messages condoning the attacks. For things to change, people need to challenge this type of rhetoric from the media. In addition, the Arab world needs to come together on political and social cohesion. Many ideologies preached in Egypt aren't inclusive of all groups of people. A more inclusive political ideology would be helpful in avoiding future massacres. Reforming the educational system would be beneficial as well. Both Egypt and Iraq need to turn respect for pluralism between peoples into a political ideology.
Source: The National (Abu Dhabi) — May 31, 2017

Gaza Strip — Hélène Servel: Birth control, contraception and abortion in Gaza
More than 1,881,000 people are living on just 365 square kilometers in Gaza. Because of this, birth and fertility rates have always been considered political matters by the Palestinian authorities. UNFPA and UNRWA are the main actors in Gaza concerning access to information and birth control, but the religious and social frameworks don't make it easy to address these questions. The Gaza population is vulnerable to the budget cuts planned by international organizations. As a consequence, demographic trends do not indicate any future slowdown in the birth rate.
Source: The New Arab (London) — June 1, 2017

Gulf States — Taimur Khan: How the current Qatar-GCC crisis has its roots in Doha's decisions after the Arab Spring
The move on June 5 by five Arab countries to sever ties with the emirate of Qatar has provoked a significant diplomatic crisis. The move is rooted in Qatar's independent foreign policy after the Arab Spring of 2011, which supported the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist political parties and as a means to spread its own influence. For Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, coupled with the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani's recent comments supporting increased dialogue with Iran, have proven a step too far. Qatar's political position is perhaps only buoyed by the location of the headquarters of US Central Command (CENTCOM) on its soil. Washington has pushed for a swift resolution of the crisis, but it remains to be seen how Qatar will be brought back into the GCC fold.
Source: The National (Abu Dhabi) — June 5, 2017

Turkey — Metin Gurcan: Ankara looks beyond Raqqa offensive for fate of Northern Syria
The US is trying to balance its alliances with both Turkey and the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, but the YPG — the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — is perceived as a threat to Turkish national security, more so than threat from ISIS. Turkey has pressured the US not to arm the Kurds and has shifted its focus to the Kobani region in Syria, with the aim of preventing a Kurdish corridor between Syria and Iraq. The PYD's presence in itself is a perceived threat, and Turkey is considering three possible strategies to weaken it: (1) begin an immediate military intervention in eastern Syria; (2) wait out the anticipated Raqqa offensive, allowing the Kurds to sustain heavy losses; and (3) divide the PYD from within, by involving Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga from Iraqi Kurdistan, who are aligned with Turkey. The hope would be that the Kurdish National Council in Syria, the PYD, and the PKK will be split, but it is possible that they will reach a power sharing agreement. The US is likely to face continuing crises with its allies in the region.
Source: al-Monitor (Washington, DC) — June 2, 2017

Turkey — Yusuf Kanli: Cyprus, from New York to Geneva ...
This weekend, Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders will have unity discussions at the UN in New York. Observers are optimistic, as the Greek side is interested in ending Turkish military presence on their side of Cyprus. But the Greek Cypriots have proven that they are not going to accept the 2004 recommendations of then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. They will not abandon their demand for a guarantee of Greek-majority rule. The Greek side seems to ignore EU-related equality measures, and says that the Turkish minority should be thankful they have been offered any protection at all. The question is how Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı will respond: Will he talk about political unity, or will he continue to dodge questions of Cypriot sovereignty? Both sides prefer a resolution, but unfortunately it does not seem likely.
Source: Hürriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — June 5, 2017

Kurdistan Region — Massoud Hamed: Meet the Kurdish woman leading the battle against IS in Northern Syria
Kurdish commander Rojda Fellat is one of the top commanders of the Women's Protection Units (YPJ) based in northern Syria, and she is now on a mission to retake Raqqa from IS. Fellat claims she never had to face any difficulties in landing her position as commander — in the YPG, there is no differentiation between sexes. She believes that she was chosen to lead this and many other campaigns because of the fear of IS fighters that they would be killed by a woman. She says the Kurds are advancing in Raqqa. They are now familiar with the fighting tactics used by the IS and know how to foil them. She claims that the YPJ has no desire to stay or to impose control in Raqqa, only to liberate the region and protect people from IS. Fellat is confident that IS will be destroyed.
Source: al-Monitor (Washington, DC) — June 2, 2017

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