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Volume VI, Number 13:
June 11, 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.

Kenya — Peter Kagwanja: Kenya caught up in middle of Somalia's deadly "game of thrones"
A diplomatic meltdown between Kenya and Somalia over a disputed maritime border in the Indian Ocean and unfolding geopolitical alignments in advance of the August presidential election in Jubaland in Southern Somalia has emerged. A sibling power rivalry is propelling new bouts of proxy wars and the rise of a new policy of containment against Kenya and its allies. Leading one side in this battle is Jubaland's incumbent president, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam, who still views Kenya as the region's "shining city upon the hill." On the other side is Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also known as "Farmaajo"), who is determined to win the 2020 presidential elections in Mogadishu and has supported members of his Peace and Prosperity Party to win presidential elections and take over the mantle in federal states. The new containment strategy is radicalizing Kenya's regional diplomacy, and Kenya will require ingenuity and flexibility to survive the diplomatic onslaught.
Source: Daily Nation (Nairobi) — June 2, 2019

Tunisia — Adel Riahi: Extraordinary Arab summit: Caid Essebsi calls for concerted efforts of all international and regional parties to counter terrorism
During the Extraordinary Arab Summit held in Mecca on May 31, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi addressed his regional counterparts on the issue of collective Arab security. Although instability remains pervasive in the region, Essebsi stressed the necessity for cooperation to assess common challenges and tackle extremism, as well as address illegal recourse to force. Reaffirming the international legal system in the matter of state sovereignty and non-interference, Essebsi condemned recent attempts to destabilize Arab Gulf countries. Instead, cooperation must be reinforced in order to ensure a stable and secure environment for the region's inhabitants, as well as a safe and integrated environment for global trade.
Source: Tunis Afrique Press (Tunis) — May 31, 2019

Libya — Lamine Ghanmi: LNA's anti-Islamist forces press ahead with Tripoli offensive
The refusal of a ceasefire by the Libyan National Army (LNA) and militias loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) has increased concerns of the United Nations, neighboring countries and foreign powers. The UN worries about an escalation of Tripoli's fighting that could trigger confrontations across the country, cause mass displacement of the population and stimulate greater migration to Europe. On May 28, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the situation in Libya with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, pointing out an urgent need to achieve a political solution in Libya to prevent further escalation. Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar argues that the militias in Tripoli must be defeated to find a political solution and warned that the Islamic State as well as al-Qaeda might gain power if this aim is not achieved soon.
Source: The Arab Weekly (Tunis) — May 30, 2019

Egypt — Merette Khalil: Obstetric violence: The silent epidemic in Egypt's maternal health system
In Egypt, obstetric violence became normalized by being ingrained in medical practices and the health system. Women are victims of these practices; they lack information and too little attention is given to their voices. This phenomenon is representative of the taboo that leads to female genital mutation or the silence around adolescents' health and rights when it comes to sex. It is also amplified by the "Pharaoh Syndrome": the behavior of doctors who believe they shouldn't be challenged. Information and education are necessary, and advocates and doulas can play an important role in both.
Source: Egyptian Streets (Cairo) — May 30, 2019

Gulf States — Prince Turki al-Faisal: Three historic summits in Mecca amidst rising tensions with Iran
After recent attacks on commercial ships off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, King Saudi Arabian King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud proposed an emergency summit with the Gulf Cooperation Council and League of Arab States in Mecca on May 30. The summit's intent is not to provoke war, but King Salman has made clear that he intends to take stern and consequential action against Tehran, despite their denial of involvement in the attacks. Along with the summit's location in the holy city of Mecca, the timing of the summit holds significance as well. In conjunction with Eid al-Fitr, the 14th Ordinary Session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) takes place on May 31 and presents the potential for finding solutions to conflicts in the region. King Salman's proposal for talks with Arab and Muslim allies presents an opportunity for coordination within the Arab world in securing the region both generally and against Iran.
Source: al-Arabiya (Riyadh) — May 28, 2019

Jordan — Osama Al Sharif: Why Jordan is silent on Bahrain summit
Jordan has not yet announced whether it will be attending the U.S.-Bahrain economic summit taking place in Manama at the end of June. One of the aims of the summit is to discuss the economic aspect of Washington's plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though Palestinians have already condemned the event. Despite the international pressure for Jordan to join, Jordanian King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein has been growing uncomfortable with any sort of solution to the Palestinian issue that deviates from the two-state plan. But Jordan cannot antagonize the White House at the moment. Jordan may postpone a final response concerning its attendance, perhaps waiting to see if the situation will change.
Source: al-Monitor (Amman) — May 29, 2019

Syria — Syed Tausief Ausaf: Turkey and Russia face escalation of violence over Syria's push into Idlib
Syria's Russian-backed offensive against Idlib could result in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. This offensive breaches a Turkish-Russian ceasefire that established a demilitarized zone. Ankara is attempting to fulfill its pledge to Syria, Iran and Russia in controlling armed opposition. But Turkey overestimated its ability to control Hayet Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a recognized terrorist organization controlling Idlib and attacking Russian bases. Turkey needs Russia to rein in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and prevent a massive outflow of refugees from Idlib. Moscow sees more benefit in a long-term alliance with Turkey than in supporting an all-out Syrian operation in Idlib. Turkey hopes to conquer Tel Rifaat from Kurdish fighters to place pressure on the Syrian Democratic Forces, widen Turkish influence and strengthen their hand in negotiations with the U.S., allowing limited Syrian operations in Idlib.
Source: Arab News (Jeddah/Istanbul) — June 2, 2019

Turkey — Mustafa Sonmez: Voters' economic confidence dips ahead of key Istanbul vote
The unprecedented nullification of the March 31 local elections in Istanbul after the defeat of the Justice and Development Party in major cities has been seen by many as a travesty of electoral laws. The upcoming elections on June 23 in Istanbul will be Turkey's third election within a year and a reflection of the current economic crisis. Increasing prices and unemployment are contributing to the public's growing economic frustration. This is being countered by populist measures from the government. Along with economic pessimism, the public's confidence is eroding. Turkey's consumer confidence index declined 13% from the previous month, the lowest level in its 17-year history. The harsh drop in consumer confidence not only describes an economic crisis, but also reflects voter confidence to some extent, adding a political message to economic indicators.
Source: al-Monitor (Istanbul) — May 31, 2019

Turkey — Bora Bayraktar: A new vision for Turkey and the U.S.
A new vision for Turkey-U.S. bilateral relations was put forward at Harvard Club recently. The global challenges of a multipolar world, the migration issue and regional conflict all underscore the importance of Turkey. There are also risks as Turkey explores an alliance with Russia. However, both Turkey and the U.S. share common interests in deterring Iran from developing nuclear weapons, a dislike of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and fighting against the Islamic State, so there are diplomatic opportunities. Turkey seems to be a better alternative for the U.S. than the Gulf states and the Kurds. Besides, recent talks show that both sides have demonstrated an interest in protecting bilateral relations.
Source: Hürriyet Daily News (Istanbul) — June 1, 2019

Kurdistan Region — Nurcan Baysal: Everyone carries on, but Nusaybin cannot
Nusaybin, a Turkish city along the Syria border, has suffered tremendous ruin in the past few years, but the Turkish government has built new apartments there called TOKI. The residents of Nusaybin are critical of the apartments: They are too small to accommodate the large families averaging 8-10 members, and their previous homes had yards and gardens. What's more, the apartments are built on ground where children died during the clash between the Kurdistan Workers' Party and the Turkish government. The residents of Nusaybin are still waiting to receive the keys to their downsized homes, and 11,000 residents of the city have yet to return following the enforced curfews. Criticism of the state and of the Kurdish movement has erupted as parents suffer from the loss both of their children and their homes.
Source: Ahval News (Diyarbakir) — June 3, 2019




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