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The Briefing

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

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Volume VI, Number 10:
May 6, 2019

Iqtisadi: Middle East Economy

"The Oil Market Swings: Shale and Geopolitics" by Paul Rivlin
Two trends recently became apparent in global oil markets. First, prices rose: The OPEC basket price reached $73.14 a barrel on April 24, a 40 percent rise over the price at the beginning of January and 13 percent higher than the average for the year of 2018. According to the International Energy Agency, the reasons for higher prices included tighter global supplies that have prevailed due to strong compliance with OPEC's decision in December 2018 to reduce production by 1.2 million barrels a day, as well as sanctions against Venezuela and Iran and conflict in Libya. Second, the rising U.S. share of the global oil market offset bearish factors such as concern over the health of the global economy.
Source: Iqtisadi: Middle East Economy/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — May 1, 2019

Tel Aviv Notes

"'On the Deck of the Titanic': Arab Politics in Israel and the 2019 Elections" by Dr. Itamar Radai
The sharp drop in Arab voter turnout in the Israeli elections led to a decline in Arab parties' political representation in the Knesset from 13 seats in 2015 to 10. Israeli Hebrew-language media coverage explained this change in terms of Arab alienation and marginalization. However, the mainstream Hebrew media outlets tend to neglect the coverage of Arab politics, including the election campaigns, ignoring an important internal factor: the collapse of the Joint List on the eve of the 2019 elections and its implications. This article focuses on the rise and dramatic fall of the Joint List and its repercussions.
Source: Tel Aviv Notes/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — April 17, 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 — Samar Kadi: Women at the forefront of Sudan change
Sudanese student Alah Salah, 22, has become the poster woman for the ousting of Omar al-Bashir following his 30-year reign as president. Her online prominence enabled her to garner worldwide attention and emphasize the maltreatment of women in Sudan under the oppressive conservative government. Women have long played a role in Sudanese revolutionary history, and Salah continues this legacy by liberating women and ultimately the greater Sudanese nation from religious tyranny.
Source: The Arab Weekly (Beirut) — April 28, 2019

Algeria — Hamid Zanaz: After protests, Algerian women reconquer the public space
The protests of February 22 provided a platform for Algerian women to make their voices heard for the first time in many years. The emergence of a mixed-gender civil society is reminiscent of the period of Algeria's fight for independence. That period did not lead to the establishment of an egalitarian society, however. Women were indeed excluded from the public space by two forces: a social one, defined by increasing Islamist ideas, and a legal one, defined by a family code that normalized polygamy and the guardianship of women by their closest male relatives. But in today's movement, one can hope that the inequalities in Algerian society, such as the high rate of unemployed women despite their greater academic achievements, will fade away and be replaced by a more equitable society.
Source: The Arab Weekly (London) — April 28, 2019

Tunisia — Amine Ben Messaoud: Tunisia faces thorny predicament in Libya crisis
As a central negotiating actor in the Libyan crisis as well as a highly integral partner in Libyan affairs, Tunisia is unique among the regional actors with expansionist views. When added to the inability of Tunisia to bring all Libyans to the negotiation table, the diverging interests that are motivating foreign interference in Libya also raise concerns for Tunisia's long-term stability. The difficulties encountered by the United Nations in resolving the crisis in the region means that the UN is unlikely to play an important role in preventing a military regime from emerging in Libya. Tunisia's neutral stance therefore raises questions about its ability to preserve both its national interests and further prevent potentially damaging external influences in Libya.
Source: The Arab Weekly (London) — April 27, 2019

Libya — House-to-house battles as Libyan forces push back against Haftar
Since the attack on Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's forces several weeks ago, both sides have gained and lost territory during the fighting. Forces backing the government in Tripoli recently gained ground, and the Libyan National Army (LNA) has failed to breach the city's southern defenses. In April, the LNA seized control over the international — now inactive — airport. This is part of their supply chain, organized from the city of Gharyan in the south of Tripoli. Since the outbreak of the clashes, at least 278 people have been killed, more than 1,300 wounded and 39,000 displaced. Fayez al-Serraj, prime minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA), has now ordered the arrest of several people associated with Haftar, including Haftar's sons, charging them with leading the aggression in Tripoli.
Source: al Jazeera (Doha) — April 28, 2019

Egypt — Hussein Haridy: Algeria and Egypt: Parallel paths
Few could have anticipated the forced resignation of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, echoing that of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt eight years prior. This shows the perennial problem of highly destabilized presidencies in the Arab republics. The situations surrounding the presidential resignations are similar, with militaries supporting popular demands, family connections in the ruling circles and the presence of politicized Islamist groups. The specter of lifelong presidents, corruption, deteriorating living standards, political disenfranchisement and disorganization catalyzed the popular desire for revolt. But there may be a different outcome in Algeria. Algerian political entities have deeper popular roots, collaborative agendas, and abilities to mobilize and organize, and there is less military involvement in Algerian politics than in Egypt. Observers agree that the Algerian army will channel popular unrest into peaceful avenues of change, but this is contested by Islamists. This change requires popular, legitimate leaders to guide the country toward democracy.
Source: al-Ahram (Cairo) — April 10, 2019

Saudi Arabia — Madawi al-Rasheed: Saudi Arabia executions: A cruel travesty of justice
On April 23, Saudi officials announced the mass execution of 37 prisoners charged with several ambiguous offenses such as terrorism and the spread of Shia Islam. Of the 37 executed, 34 were detained when they were minors, which constitutes a travesty of justice. Lumping all executed prisoners under a charge of terrorism mitigates against any criticism of the government's decision. It is important to emphasize the political context of these executions. U.S. President Donald Trump entrusted Riyadh with containing Iran, and the execution of Shia prisoners on this scale can be interpreted as part of "fighting Iran" in an obscure and convoluted way. The real victim of this injustice is the Saudi Shia community, which represents a minority. It is finally time for Saudis and the international community to take notice of the ease by which the Saudi regime can simply take the lives of its own citizens.
Source: Middle East Eye (London) — April 24, 2019

Palestine — Mohammad Habosh: Abbas gets new government, but has anything changed?
The new Palestinian Authority (PA) government headed by Mohammad Shatyyeh of the Fatah party is unlikely to achieve better relations with Hamas than its predecessors. Hamas was not given a chance to join the new government and has called it illegitimate. Hamas also says the new government's formation advances the implementation of the Trump administration's "Deal of the Century" by further dividing Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas has a number of options for responding to this new government, including: (1) ignoring it and turning a blind eye to its positive actions in Gaza; (2) rejecting it and forming its own administrative committee to manage Gaza; (3) calling on factions and civil society to take responsibility for managing Gaza along with Hamas; (4) accepting the PA and allowing it to work in Gaza; and (5) agreeing to end the division and restore national unity. The final two options are considered highly unlikely.
Source: al-Monitor (Gaza City) — April 26, 2019

Iraq — Omar Sattar: Iraq's Basra province seeks upgrade to federal region
The southern province of Basra is once again seeking to become a federal region within Iraq. This is the third time Basra has attempted to campaign for this change, with the hopes of improving the area's living conditions. Those in favor of the change have mentioned that, even though Basra generates much of Iraq's oil revenue, the area remains neglected, with dire economic and living conditions. If Basra was to become a federal region, many believe it would be able to effectively solve these problems. The move would require a referendum that would pass if it gained more than half the votes. There are groups inside Iraq that strongly oppose the change, however. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi will likely collaborate with those who are opposing the change and try to impede the formation of a Basra federal region.
Source: al-Monitor (Baghdad) — April 26, 2019

Turkey — Fehim Tastekin: Turkey seeks alternate oil sources as U.S. ends Iran sanctions waivers
Turkey is complying with the U.S. decision to end sanctions waivers for eight countries importing Iran oil, despite its strident rhetoric. It is clear that recent Turkish imports of Iranian oil have sharply declined, nearly reaching zero since the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran in August 2018. Facing American pressure, Turkey has turned to Iraq and Russia to diversify its oil imports. However, oil from both countries means extra processing and expense. This clearly casts a shadow on Turkey's deeply troubled economy. The Turkish government is said to be concerned by its economic predicament, as well as by Saudi Arabia's, Israel's and the UAE's cooperation with the U.S. on sanctions. It is believed that the discrepancy between Turkey's words and its actions is an effort to preserve its image of resisting American pressure.
Source: al-Monitor (Istanbul) — April 26, 2019

Kurdistan Region — Yaşar Yakış: The growing complexity of northeast Syria
Turkey is persistent in its wish to establish a presence on the east side of the Euphrates as a safe zone. On the other hand, Kurds oppose any form of Turkish presence in Syria. This puts the U.S. in an awkward position. It does not want to alienate Turkey, but it still has an obligation to the Kurds. So the U.S. has tried to persuade the Kurds to incorporate Ankara into a plan to keep northeast Syria out of the hands of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There is also the fear that Turkey will turn to Russia if its needs aren't met. U.S.-Turkey relations are already on shaky ground with the coming ban on Turkey purchasing Iranian oil. The suicide bombing that killed four U.S. soldiers in January and the 250 people killed in April's bomb attacks in Sri Lanka may impact the U.S. plan to leave Syria and instead increase cooperation with the Kurds. At the same time, the U.S. does not want a military confrontation with Turkish troops on Syrian soil.
Source: Ahval News (Ankara) — April 29, 2019




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