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The Briefing

The Briefing: Latest Middle East news, opinions and research from American Friends of Tel Aviv University

We're pleased to present our round-up of Middle East insight and analysis from
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Gail Reiss, President & CEO

Volume V, Number 36:
December 31, 2018

Ifriqiya: Africa Research Program

"Sino-Africa Relations Through the Lenses of Western, African and Chinese Media" by Adi Kraut-Adler
Over the last thirty years, China has become one of the world's leading powers, and the breadth and depth of its involvement in Africa has increased tremendously. Beyond direct economic benefit, China sees Africa as a way to leverage political and diplomatic support. Through local development and the building of strong alliances with African countries, it hopes to challenge Western domination on the geopolitical level.
Source: Ifriqiya: Africa Research Program/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — December 20, 2018

Iqtisadi: Middle East Economy

"Oman's Economic Diversification from Oil and 'Omanization' Policies" by Benjamin Yoel
Under the leadership of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Sultanate of Oman, like other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member-states, has been attempting to reform its economy since the 1990s. Oman has attempted to shift its economy away from oil towards a sustainable, innovation- and knowledge-based economy that also prioritizes industrialization and tourism.
Source: Iqtisadi: Middle East Economy/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — December 24, 2018

Middle East News Brief

Sudan — Amgad Fareid Eltayeb: Understanding the travail of change in Sudan
Demonstrations against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's brutal dictatorship began on December 19 when protestors stormed the streets of various Sudanese cities, including Port Sudan and Khartoum. Protesters marched collectively to burn the offices of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), focusing on what and who is responsible for their suffering. Poor living conditions, an economic crisis and a sharp rise in the prices of essential goods led to the protests. The NCP center represents not only tyranny and dictatorship, but also a kleptocratic symbol of the grand corruption encircling Sudan. The only peaceful way to resolve this unrest would be for the NCP to understand that it is time to hand over power to a broad national political alliance and face the consequences of thirty years of corruption instead of leading the country down a dangerous path.
Source: Sudan Tribune (Paris) — December 22, 2018

Morocco — Samir Bennis: Murder of Scandinavian tourists: Morocco should educate its people, fight Wahhabism
The murder of two Scandinavian girls in Imlil last week has tarnished Morocco's image as a tolerant and peaceful place. However, this event should not lead to self-loathing, a condemnation of religion or a collective apology; it was not an act linked to a religious journey but an act of terrorism. The root causes of terrorism should be addressed by continuing the fight against extremist groups, developing rural areas, reforming the education system and fighting Wahhabism, which has transformed Moroccan society in recent years. The improvement of economic and social conditions will contribute to the prevention of terrorism and promote values of tolerance and acceptance.
Source: Morocco World News (Washington, DC) — December 21, 2018

Egypt — Doaa El-Bey: GERD: Friendly words but no change on the ground
The Declaration of Principles for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was passed three years ago, but little progress has been made. A series of meetings has resulted in reiterated commitments for cooperation, but there has been no tangible progress towards its completion. The dam has been stalled by technical problems and corruption in the building process, as well as economic difficulties. These delays are widely viewed as affording Egypt more time and leverage to negotiate for more efficient water conservation plans.
Source: al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo) — December 20, 2018

Region — Amed Kamel Al-Beheiri: The rise of the new al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda appears to be strengthening again, which may have harmful consequences for the wider Middle East. As the Islamic State's power declines, al-Qaeda has regrouped and reemerged in Syria and Egypt. The new branch in Syria, Hurras al-Din (Guardians of Religion) — originally an offshoot of the rebel group Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, previously known as the al-Nusra Front — is a coalition of various local factions. However, this alliance is currently inhibited by inter-factional disagreement. The new al-Qaeda is nonetheless more decentralized, ideological, prepared to strike its enemies at home and practical. Should they settle their differences, al-Qaeda in Syria and Egypt could wreak havoc on the whole region. The new al-Qaeda will be one of the gravest security challenges of 2019.
Source: al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo) — December 20, 2018

Yemen — Ghaith Abdul-Ahad: Yemen on the brink: How the UAE is profiting from the chaos of civil war
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has distinguished itself as the Saudi coalition's most aggressive partner in restoring Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi's government against the Houthis. The dysfunctional Yemeni government is aided on the ground by militias, separatists and Salafis united by an anti-Houthi fusion of secessionist zeal for south Yemen independence and Salafi-Jihadi anti-Shi'i sectarianism. Meanwhile, the Gulf monarchies have pursued a foreign policy of "Gulfication" in their intervention in regional conflicts. The UAE's policy is meant to crush political Islam, secure the strategic Red Sea coastline and develop its own special forces to train a stable, centralized Yemeni force, the Security Belt Forces, to consolidate opposition against its longtime enemy, al-Islah. But dismal economic realities and the UAE's arbitrary detention and torture of individuals have fragmented anti-Houthi forces. The UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden produced a temporary ceasefire in Hodeidah to provide humanitarian aid. This unstable ceasefire could pave a way for further talks, but the war's new divisions may not be resolved with a peace agreement.
Source: The Guardian (London) — December 21, 2018

Lebanon — Najia Houssari: "Yellow Vest" rally against delay in Lebanese government formation
About 3,000 Lebanese demonstrators responded to calls from social media and gathered at Beirut's Martyrs' Square on December 23 to protest the delayed cabinet formation and the general situation in the country. The most common points of contention included economic and political grievances. Many complained about Lebanon's high levels of unemployment, low salaries and high taxes. Some also denounced the country's corruption and even called for the formation of a technocratic government unrelated to any political party. The protestors held Lebanese flags, as well the flag of the Nejmeh football club, as a way of affirming that it was indeed a civilian protest, not influenced by sectarianism or any political organization.
Source: Arab News (Beirut) — December 23, 2018

Turkey — Ayla Jean Yackley: U.S. to withdraw from Syria, leaving Kurdish allies to face Turkish offensive alone
After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to invade Syrian territory controlled by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), U.S. President Donald Trump declared victory over ISIS in Syria and ordered the withdrawal of American soldiers. The YPG has been an American ally in the fight against ISIS but is considered a terror organization by Turkey. On the one hand, this prevents a military confrontation between Turkey and the United States. On the other hand, it leaves the YPG all alone, facing a potential Turkish military offensive. With the departure of the U.S., the future of Syria falls into the hands of Russia, Turkey and Iran. The U.S.'s concession to Turkey may be only the beginning of diplomatic rapprochements between the two NATO allies, but it will have unknown consequences.
Source: al-Monitor (Istanbul) — December 19, 2018

Turkey — Serkan Demirtaş: Trump assures Turkey on the sale of F-35s, Patriots
Ties between Washington D.C. and Ankara have rapidly stabilized following the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson. Certain contested issues remain between the two countries, such as Turkey's increased investment in weapons and defense systems. But the U.S. State Department recently approved a military sale to Turkey worth $3.5 billion, including 80 Patriot missiles and 100 F-35s over the next decade. Trump has assured Turkey that Congress will not obstruct the sale. Nevertheless, Turkey will continue purchasing the S-400 system from Russia. This raises more questions about Turkey's simultaneous investment in mutually incompatible systems and its decision to waste an already limited budget.
Source: Hürriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — December 22, 2018

Kurdistan Region — Fazel Hawramy: Iraqi Kurdistan struggles to end violence against women
Violence against women in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan remains a major problem. This October, a 17-year-old woman from Erbil was shot by her brother for having a mobile phone. Such incidents are not uncommon in the region. Women are often mutilated, stabbed to death, shot or even thrown from cliffs by their own family members. The logic behind this violence is that women, behaving autonomously, can bring dishonor upon a family. To maintain that honor, families are willing to murder wives and daughters. Several initiatives, along with huge inflows of Western cash, have been set up to try and combat the problem, but these efforts have been largely unsuccessful.
Source: al-Monitor (Erbil) — December 18, 2018

Kurdistan Region — Wladimir van Wilgenburg: Monitor: Kurdish-led SDF forces arrive in Moscow to discuss future of East Euphrates
The Russian government has reportedly offered to deploy security forces to the Syrian-Iraqi-Turkish border triangle in an effort to convince the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to accept control from the central government of Syria. The SDF sent envoys to Moscow on December 23, reportedly to discuss who would control the East Euphrates region. This would be a reversal of Kurdish autonomy in the region, but it would also ensure broader civil rights and the end of the brutal oppression of the Kurds. Russia is not interested in an escalation of violence in Syria and wants to curb further military action from Turkey — ideally with the restoration of the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in northern Syria.
Source: Kurdistan 24 (Erbil) — December 23, 2018



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