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

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Volume VI, Number 19:
August 26, 2019

Iqtisadi: Middle East Economy

"Middle East Demographics to 2030" by Paul Rivlin
According to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the population of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA: the Arab countries and Iran) will increase from 484 million in 2018 to 581 million in 2030, then to 724 million in 2050. Between 2018 and 2030, the population is forecast to rise by almost 1.7% annually and between 2030 and 2050 by just over 1.2% annually. By far the largest country demographically is Egypt, and its population is forecast to rise by almost 1.8% annually between 2018 and 2030 and by almost 1.4% annually between 2030 and 2050. This edition of Iqtisadi examines the report and its implications.
Source: Iqtisadi: Middle East Economy/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — August 21, 2019

Bayan: The Arabs in Israel

"Between the Rational and the Emotional: Factors Influencing the Political Participation of Arab Citizens in Israel" by Morsi Abu Mokh
Participation in elections is a central component of democratic governance. The participation of Israel's Arab citizens in politics, expressed at the ballot boxes on election day, is necessary to obtain legitimacy for democracy in general, and for legislators (of all political stripes) in particular, as election results are perceived as credible and representative of the will of the citizens. The greater the involvement of citizens in elections, the greater the strength of democratic rule in the state. In the past two decades there has been a significant drop in the participation of Arab citizens in national Knesset elections: The percentage gradually declined, reaching 49% in the last election cycle, a number that should raise concern.
Source: Bayan: The Arabs in Israel/A publication of the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation, Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, and the Institute for National Security Studies — August 21, 2019

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 mean that the MDC endorses the opinions or arguments expressed therein.

Sudan — Editorial: Journey to hope
The appointment of the sovereign council in Sudan marks the first step in the implementation of constitutional and political agendas. The new government is expected to resolve several impending issues. First, it is expected to dismantle the pro-Al-Ingaz regime institutions. Second, it is expected to improve the daily life of ordinary people. Third, it is expected to prevent the breakup of security while reaching out to rebel movements in an effort to encourage both peace and democratic transformation. Unlike the uprisings in 1964 and 1985, the December 2018–April 2019 revolution is marked by the role that women and youth played throughout the uprising, as well as the Sudanese people's insistence on the civilian nature of the new regime instead of a mere change in the regime's leadership. The hope is that the expected elections in three years will lay the foundations for a strong infrastructure and a sustainable democratic change that could serve as a role model for other African countries.
Source: SudanNow (Khartoum) — August 18, 2019

Egypt — Hassan Abdel Zaher: Reinstatement of Salafist preacher angers moderates in Egypt
Moderate Egyptians were alarmed after religious authorities gave permission to Yasser Borhami, the deputy head of Salafist Call, to deliver sermons before Friday prayers at the Wise Caliphs Mosque in Alexandria. Salafists adhere to a strict version of Islam that is discriminatory against women and non-Muslims. Borhami is notorious for controversial edicts. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will allow Borhami to be present, despite public opposition, to discredit Muslim Brotherhood propaganda against the government. Sisi has championed religious reform, along with the removal of extremist content and discourse. These reforms were precipitated by the spike in terrorist attacks, including those by the Islamic State in the Sinai. Alexandria is a Salafi stronghold, with its mosques controlled by Salafi preachers. Salafis abhor ancient Egyptian civilization and call for the destruction of the Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx. Sisi appears to be repaying the Salafis for their political support and approval of most of his legislative and economic reform measures.
Source: The Arab Weekly (Cairo) — August 17, 2019

Yemen — Haitham El-Zobaidi: The Southern Transitional Council has not just parachuted into the Yemeni crisis
Aden, the interim capital of Yemen, is supposed to be under the protection of the Yemeni interim government, but the interim government has been conspicuously absent from the city. This has allowed the return of the Houthis with al-Qa'ida and Muslim Brotherhood backing. The Houthis had been driven out of Aden by Emirati forces after holding onto the city for months. Due to the negligence of the Yemeni interim government, Aden is once again ripe for the taking. This governmental neglect demonstrates the inability of the interim government to adequately protect the interim capital. Furthermore, the collaboration between the Houthis and the Muslim Brotherhood in recapturing Aden is proof of their profoundly deep relationship. The Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen clearly aims to share power with the Houthis, as well as to appease Qatar and Turkey. Meanwhile, Yemen's security is at risk. A regional reassessment is desperately needed to thwart this risk.
Source: The Arab Weekly (London) — August 17, 2019

Arab World — Amine Zaoui: Arab culture suffers from a love blind spot
A culture of hate thrives in Arab culture through popular "lopsided school syllabi, mosque sermons and antiquated means of socialization." This stagnant situation is present not only among the majority but also within the most educated groups in society. Usually, the cultural elite are those who lead future generations into new values of multiculturalism and tolerance, but they are supporting the cycle of hate. In Arab educational institutions, there are no courses on love or sex; these topics are considered social taboos. Consequently, the region has a very "restrictive portrayal" of women. Since the narrative of romance in culture is controlled by men, the macho mentality dominates the average Arab. Moreover, intellectuals fail to distance their logic from anachronistic clerics and religious influences, which further pushes society to be close to "ancient times of Arab chivalry."
Source: The Arab Weekly (London) — August 17, 2019

Palestinians — Ahmad Abu Amer: Hamas takes war game to the West Bank
Hamas has begun intensifying its entrenchment of fighters in the West Bank in order to open a new front with which to pressure Israel to withdraw its blockade. On August 6 a terrorist cell was busted that sought to bomb soft Israeli targets, and on August 8 an off-duty Israeli officer was stabbed. Israel believes in both cases that Hamas is responsible for the attacks, even though the organization has not taken credit for the attacks. Despite this, Hamas has praised the uptick in terror in the West Bank. The Shin Bet reported that more than 300 attacks were foiled this year. Hamas' strategy in using attacks on the West Bank appears to be threefold: to help lift the siege in the Gaza Strip; to deter Israeli military campaigns in the Strip due to the presence of a second military front; and to drive a wedge between Israel and the Palestinian Authority by forcing a heavy-handed response from Israel in response to terror attacks.
Source: al-Monitor (Washington, DC) — August 14, 2019

Tunisia — Lina Ben Mhenni: As Tunisians go to the polls, I wonder: What happened to our revolutionary dream?
Tunisians will soon go to the polls for an election that is as unplanned as the outcome is unpredictable. The country was scheduled to hold presidential elections on November 17, after parliamentary elections on October 6. But the date was hastily brought forward to September 15 after the recent death of Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi. So what can we expect on September 15? Among more than 7 million registered voters will be nearly 1.5 million newcomers. Judging by last year's municipal elections, backing for Islamist parties is eroding, although Ennahda continues to enjoy a faithful support base. Yet the high number of independents could lure votes away from more established parties. Tunisia's economy is stagnating. Unemployment is worse than it was in 2010. Women still need a voice in the corridors of power. Even if the election leads to a balance of power, what happened to our revolutionary dream?
Source: The National (Abu Dhabi) — August 15, 2019

Algeria — Abdelkader Cheref: After six months of protests, Algerians fear the old regime still prevails
The Algerian people recently gathered again in the streets of Algiers for the 26th time since the beginning of the protests. They continued to ask for the removal of the old Algerian regime, which is hindered by the postponement of elections for the third time. The replacement of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika by acting President Abdelkader Bensalah was not enough for the protestors, who denounce the entire system. Numerous arrests took place as an anti-corruption measure, but these are believed to result in the hegemony of the army by getting rid of Lt. Gen. Gaid Salah's enemies. The persistence of the protests have also led to the emergence of new demands, from the release of demonstrators to the most extreme one — the call for civil disobedience.
Source: The National (Abu Dhabi) — August 17, 2019

Turkey — Yektan Türkyılmaz: The decline of Erdoğanist authoritarianism: A new chance for "democratization" in Turkey?
The victory of Ekrem İmamoğlu in the June 23 Istanbul mayoral election is commonly perceived as a fatal blow to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's authoritarian administration as well as a victory for democracy, but this analysis is flawed. It fails to assess the self-perception of the Turkish regime and contextualize the rerun election. Two contradictory trends can be observed: On one side, the coalition regime is crumbling despite Erdoğan's consolidation of power; and on the other, there stands a possibility of the spread of radical liberalism. Since the electoral fiasco of March 31, Erdoğan has pushed the opposition parties closer toward a temporary National Alliance coalition. Inside the ruling coalition, the Nationalist Movement Party's cooperation with groups inside the Justice and Development Party may be vital to mapping the post-Erdoğan political battlefield. All in all, the decline of authoritarianism is not demonstrative of a shift toward a normal democratic regime. Indeed, it may render the current regime more volatile.
Source: Open Democracy (London) — August 16, 2019

Turkey — Yasar Yakis: Six key obstacles to the U.S.-Turkey deal on Syria
Negotiations continue between the Turkish and U.S. militaries for their cooperation along the border in northeast Syria. The agreement was halted by Turkish expectations falling short in regard to an acceptable "peace corridor." Turkey expected the corridor to be a large territory along the Turkish-Syrian border to be controlled by the Turkish army. Instead, the terms of the corridor agreement focus on the return of displaced Syrians to their homes. A document from the U.S. embassy in Ankara was leaked to the Turkish media; the document stated that the U.S. had its own ideas for a much smaller corridor than Turkey expected. American military presence in this corridor would serve the interest of 60,000 Kurdish fighters, which Turkey opposes. The U.S. plan to create the corridor is meeting with many obstacles that only time can resolve.
Source: Arab News (Jeddah) — August 17, 2019

Kurdistan Region — Amberin Zaman: Syrian Kurdish commander sets conditions for safe zone talks with Turkey
Mazlum Kobane, commander of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said the SDF would not accept any plan for a safe zone in northeastern Syria that did not include all of the Kurdish-controlled territory along the border separating Syria and Turkey. The U.S. and Turkey have negotiated a deal to create a safe zone in northeastern Syria, although the precise terms of the deal remain ambiguous or undefined. The Kurds fear that unless the safe zone stretches from the Euphrates to the Tigris rivers in northeastern Syria, Turkey will continue to threaten the Kurdish communities that fall outside the safe zone. The deal between the U.S. and Turkey tacitly accepts a continued People's Protection Unit (YPG) presence in northeastern Syria, which may have led to a purge of dissenting Turkish military officers in early August. There still appears to be some disagreement about whether the safe zone will extend either five kilometers or 32 kilometers into Syrian territory, although the SDF has apparently agreed to allow for a 14-kilometer zone in the territory that lies between Ras al-Ain and Tell Abyad. It remains to be seen whether Syrian refugees will be resettled in that pocket of territory.
Source: al-Monitor (Washington, DC) — August 15, 2019




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