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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 14:
June 17, 2019

Tel Aviv Notes

"Seventy Years Since the 'First Hudna': The Legacy of the Rhodes Agreements" by Michael Milshtein
Seventy years have passed since the signing of the Rhodes Agreements — the series of armistice agreements that put a formal end to the first Arab-Israeli war — but they are absent from the public discourse. The agreements were signed separately with four Arab states (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) that were involved in the war between February and July 1949. Palestinians and Iraq took part in the fighting but refused to countenance any agreement with the new state of Israel. Although largely forgotten and unmentioned in the current discourse, the Rhodes Agreements were of great historical significance, for they shaped the geopolitical map of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Even though the borders drawn in 1949 were not perceived as part of a final status arrangement or peace agreement between Israel and the Arab states, they became so over the years. And especially after 1967 they became the legitimate and internationally recognized demarcation lines of Israel.
Source: Tel Aviv Notes/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — June 6, 2019

Turkeyscope: Insights on Turkish Affairs

"From Christchurch to Turkey's Elections: A Global Symbiosis of Antagonisms" by Paula Schrode and Emrah Çelik
References to a history of antagonism between a Christian West and a Muslim East played a pivotal role in the staging of the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15. The symbols chosen by the terrorist had a ready appeal to both of these constructed "sides," one identified with "Europe" and the other represented by the "Muslim East." One of the declared aims of the shooter was to "drive a wedge" and "incite violence, retaliation and further divide" the two. The plan was partially successful. In his election campaign, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who had been emphasized in the terrorist's manifesto as one of Europe's main enemies, drew heavily on the mosque attacks and their framing to mobilize his constituency by presenting himself and the Turkish nation as crucial players within an eschatological drama.
Source: Turkeyscope: Insights on Turkish Affairs/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — June 12, 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 — Abdelwahab El-Affendi: How Sudan arrived at its Tiananmen moment
Dark clouds hung over Sudan's revolution even before the June 3 massacre took place. As negotiations between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and representatives of the civilian protesters came to a deadlock, the popular uprising that toppled former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir appeared to be stalling. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the TMC's deputy chairman, traveled to Saudi Arabia on May 24; he was treated as a head of state and seemed to change his mind about political negotiations. On June 3, an assault on sit-in camps, including in Khartoum, was launched. This was a crackdown that roughly coincided with the 30-year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. One way to avoid chaos is for the international community to exert pressure and counter external interference. The African Union is obliged to forcefully intervene and propose a road map for a peaceful and consensual democratic transition before it is too late.
Source: al-Jazeera (Doha) — June 6, 2019

Morocco — Aziz Chahir: The collapse of the "Moroccan exception" myth
After an appeals court upheld the 20-year prison sentence for members of the Hirak protest movement, demonstrators have started gathering in the Moroccan streets. As the political and judicial repression poses the potential for violent uprisings, these protests expose the limit of the "Moroccan Exception" theory, as well as the Constitution's revisions in 2011. This current unrest is a result of several key events. First, the ongoing socioeconomic crisis played a vital role in destabilizing the state. Second, the weakening of Morocco's Justice and Development Party (PJD) that heads the governing coalition also influenced the current state of affairs. Third, the arbitrary sentences given to Hirak activists showed the limits of the judiciary power. This factor was worsened by the curtailment of freedoms such as expression and association. And finally, the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations also led to new mobilizations. In order to gain an accurate understanding of the popular uprisings, one should also consider factors such as the withdrawal of the "mediating elites," identity conflicts with Berbers, for example, and police repression.
Source: Middle East Eye (Salé) — June 9, 2019

Libya — Guma El-Gamaty: Is a military solution the only option left in Libya?
After more than two months of fighting in Libya, the international community remains divided on the subject, with regional and world powers backing each of the two sides and further fueling the conflict. If Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's offensive is a success and he is able to take over Tripoli, Libya would be doomed to a one-man military rule. Haftar would then have control over Libya's three most important strategic assets: the political center of the country, its key institutions and, most important, its oil. If the militias loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) defeat Haftar's forces not only in and around Tripoli but also in the south, the country would have a chance to pursue a political solution. This would in turn prevent a continuation of the conflict, which poses the potential to evolve into a long-lasting war, as UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame pointed out recently. This scenario can be prevented only if the international community finds the political will to act.
Source: al-Jazeera (Tripoli) — June 8, 2019

Arab World — Princess Lamia bint Majed: Why we need better gender data in the Middle East
As part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 development program, women's empowerment has become a key focus. In order to address barriers to "cultural change" and assess development goals for policymakers, regional research needs to be conducted. By conducting the first large-scale gender-based data collection project, the National Observatory for Women (NOW) provided an overview on the gender gap in participation and development. This study covered domains such as economics, health, education, legislation and social issues. While the research methodology needs to be further advanced, the initiatives focus mainly on creating cooperation among actors and organizations in order to achieve transparency. Only accurate data collection can ensure the effective execution of programs and initiatives as defined by the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
Source: Arab News (Riyadh) — May 30, 2019

Lebanon — Samy Gemayel: What Lebanon needs is a plan for economic and social growth
A draft budget was approved by the Lebanese cabinet in May. It was intended to solve the country's debt problem, but it failed to provide necessary measures to revitalize the economy. As a result of the war in neighboring Syria, the lack of an effective economic plan and corruption and instability in the government, the country has long been suffering from an economic crisis. Yet the new plan fails to present a new vision for economic growth or social progress. Instead, it merely focuses on targeting the fiscal deficit without tackling important issues such as tax evasion. A budget that directly confronts the present threats to the Lebanese economy is vital to accurately address challenges related to debt. Furthermore, in order to propel the country toward growth, priority must be given to the implementation of principles of accountability, good governance and equal opportunity.
Source: The National (Beirut) — June 9, 2019

Syria — Khaled Yacoub Oweis: Abdelbaset Sarout: Showman Syrian rebel who declined adulation
By improvising songs, ballads and dances to denounce the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Abdelbaset Sarout, a former Syrian first division goalkeeper, transitioned his showmanship into becoming a resistance icon. Sarout died fighting Russian and Iranian-backed forces and was buried in Idlib on June 9. The regime's forces and the bombardment of Homs claimed the lives of Sarout's father and four brothers. When the armed revolt began in March 2011, he was a rising 19-year-old football star, and his participation in the revolt resulted in his removal from the Syrian Football Federation. He became more prominent a month later during the peaceful pro-democracy protests in Homs, which were suppressed with live fire. After the fall of Homs, disillusioned and lacking support, Sarout ended up in Idlib province. He briefly joined Islamic State-linked fighters before joining Jaish Al Ezza, one of the last moderate Free Syrian Army units. Sarout's songs carried aspirations of returning to Homs. His unbelievable charisma, as a goalkeeper and a guardian of the revolution, brought him to the Hama front, the closest point to Homs, where he later died.
Source: The National (Abu Dhabi) — June 9, 2019

Syria — Uğur Ümit Üngör: Narrative war is coming
Syria's Assad regime is rewriting the history of the Syrian conflict through pseudo-academic means, mirroring a common historical practice that follows wars and genocides. An NGO formed with the purported purpose to "preserve and document national memory of the Syrian Civil War" was established formed by a Syrian academic who is a long time foreign policy and media adviser to the Assad family. Nonetheless, there are other, more positive organizations working to preserve the memory of the war. Some of these include the Syrian Archive, the Zakera Project and the Umam Documentation and Research Center. Still, an entire institute for the study of the Syrian conflict should be established.
Source: al-Jumhuriya (Damascus) — June 7, 2019

Turkey — Yavuz Baydar: Will Imamoğlu score victory in Istanbul election again?
The June 23 election for the mayor of Istanbul has the potential to change the fate of the city and Turkey as a whole. Currently, Ekrem Imamoğlu, a 49-year-old local district mayor, is projected to win the race. But despite his popularity and devotion to the people, he poses an existential threat to not only Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but also to the absolutist order Erdoğan has tried to implement thus far. After the Supreme Electoral Council canceled his victory last year, Imamoğlu worked to create a campaign that promotes national unification and justice, cutting a clear path to running for the presidency. By doing so, he has established himself as an opposition figure to Erdoğan, a risky move considering the results of the president's wrath in the past. While Imamoğlu is projected to win, the next few weeks and the results of the election could cause further controversy. Furthermore, the acceptance of either a victory or loss in the election has the potential to change the current political order.
Source: The Arab Weekly (Istanbul) — June 9, 2019

Turkey — Semih Idiz: Can Erdoğan mend fences with U.S., Europe while saving face?
Turkey's recent signal to mend fences with its Western partners without sacrificing its S-400 anti-missile defense system turns out to be unconvincing. For President Erdoğan, the S-400 deal generates political prestige by creating the impression that he is not bowing to U.S. pressure. However, anxiety over further economic sanctions and the political cost stemming from the ailing economy present a challenge for Erdoğan. The escalating situation in Idlib is also an important part of his decision-making calculus. It's clear that Turkey wants the S-400, the F-35 and an improved Turkey-U.S. relationship. However, it has been argued that the U.S. is insisting that Turkey must choose between the S-400 and F-35. Erdoğan's hope that he can mend relations with U.S. President Donald Trump may be in vain.
Source: al-Monitor (Istanbul) — June 7, 2019

Kurdistan Region — Lamar Erkendi: Syrian farmers suffer as Kurds' crops set ablaze
Syrian crops that belong to Kurds have been set on fire in the northeastern region of Syria, where the Kurds have an autonomous administration. An anonymous Kurdish official holds Turkey, the Islamic State (IS) and the Syrian government responsible for the burning of these Kurdish crops. The crop burnings are intended to manifest chaos, incite people against Kurdish self-administration and increase the sectarian wedge in the region. IS sleepers have taken on the act of burning fields as a form of retaliation after having been expelled from the area, and 15 IS members who have bragged about their destruction have already been arrested. The main targets of these terror activities are officials and fighters of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. The rest of the blame is directed toward the Syrian and Turkish governments for trying to ruin the Kurdish economy and harm the livelihood of its residents.
Source: al-Monitor (Qamishli) — June 7, 2019




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