All analyses in chronological order - Afro-Middle East Centre

By Afro-Middle East Centre

Turkey is preparing for the first round of its historic presidential election scheduled for 10 August. The election will be the first time to elect the country’s president through a popular vote rather than by parliament, as has been the case since a legislative amendment in 2007. Previously a single seven-year term of office, the next president’s term will be five years, followed by a possible second term.

By Tariq Dana

In his recent speech at the conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, emphasised that Palestinian Authority's (PA) willingness to maintain a strong security partnership with Israel. Abbas defended security coordination with Israel under any and all circumstances, claiming that it was a 'Palestinian national interest'. He had previously characterised it as 'sacred'. Such repeated statements by the PA president and other officials have sparked widespread condemnation and outrage among Palestinians, and also provoked renewed questioning of the increasingly suspicious role of the PA security sector.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

Prior to the 2011 uprisings, the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was influential in Jordan’s politics and society. The Brotherhood participated in elections, ran social institutions, and was one of very few organisations that was able to straddle the Jordanian–Palestinian identity divide. The uprisings initially augmented its powers, and in 2011 and 2012 the Brotherhood widened its appeal, organising large protests. However the nature of the Jordanian political system, the stance of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the Brotherhood’s decision not to participate in Jordan’s elections have since severely diminished its influence. The Brotherhood is now undergoing a process of introspection and, in the light of the GCC decision to declare it a terrorist organisation, it is reasserting its support for the monarch in an attempt to remain viable relevant.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

On 12 June 2014, three teenage boys were reported missing from Gush Etzion, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank near Hebron. The Israeli government quickly accused Hamas of kidnapping the boys and announced ‘Operation Brother’s Keeper’ – the most extensive military deployment on the West Bank since the second intifada. Israeli officials said the operation had two objectives: to find the missing settlers; and to crack down on Hamas. Thus, the operation must be understood in the context of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed peace initiative, and the decision by Fatah and Hamas to form a unity government. The operation has substantially targeted Hamas: 500 abductions/arrests have already occurred; 269 of these are Hamas members and twelve are parliamentarians who could have served in a unity government.

By Omar Shaukat

ISIS the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Levant), has burst dramatically onto the Iraqi scene in recent weeks, as it has captured one town after another. It has brought a substantial part of the north of Iraq under its control and come to within 100km of the capital, Baghdad.

But these developments should not have been surprising. Iraq — and Isis — have been heading in this direction for a while.

Isis is a transnational, militant Sunni group which wants to mobilise Islamic ideals for the creation of what it deems an Islamic state, or caliphate, within the Middle East. It developed out of an earlier entity, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), but is at odds with the leadership of Al-Qaeda since it rejects the authority represented by Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Almost three years after the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, the country is suffering the dramatic rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS), a militant group that has succeeded in dividing Iraq, and has the potential to unravel the states that make up the modern Levant – Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, northern Turkey and Cyprus. Some argue that ISIS has already created a new ‘state’, having carved a ‘country’ from the adjoining regions of eastern Syria and western Iraq. Its latest and most stunning victories have been the capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and the most important Sunni-majority city, on 10 June, followed by the seizure of Tikrit, less than 150 kilometres north of Baghdad, just one day later.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

Syria concluded its first multi-candidate presidential election in about fifty years on 3 June, with its result a foregone conclusion – the incumbent, Bashar al-Assad, secured another seven-year term as president. However, the significance of the election is not in its result, nor in the supposedly democratic era that Assad supporters claim it heralds. The election simply confirms the regime’s confidence in its future and its strategy for confronting insurgency, and reveals the disdain with which the regime views demands for Assad’s departure.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

Indicating a shift in Israel’s foreign policy, foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, accompanied by a large delegation, will visit five African countries – Kenya, Angola, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Ghana – early next month. The visit underscores

the significance Israel has placed on strengthening ties with African countries, and follows the recent establishment by the Israeli parliament of a lobby to advance Israel-Africa relations, the ‘Knesset Lobby for Strengthening the Relations Between Israel and African Countries’. The lobby’s first meeting was on 19 May, where Lieberman espoused Africa’s political and economic importance for Israel, and announced that he planned to use his visit to lobby for Israel’s bid for observer status at the African Union.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

The abduction of 276 schoolgirls from a high school in Chibok, northern Nigeria, and the Nigerian government’s responses, provides insight into the possibilities for resolving the instability currently engulfing Africa’s most populous country.

Following a brief hiatus in the flow of information and delays in attempts to rescue the girls, the two recently-released Boko Haram videos – in which the group claimed responsibility and provided proof of the girls’ capture – have reinvigorated rescue efforts. The government is adopting a two-pronged approach: negotiations with Boko Haram, and a military effort supported by foreign security forces.

By Al Jazeera Center for Studies

There is a strong likelihood that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister and head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), will run for the country’s presidency. Legally, Turkey must elect a new president before the end of August 2014; that is, before the end of the term of the incumbent president, Abdullah Gul. Following a constitutional amendment passed in 2010, the president will this year be, for the first time in the history of the Turkish republic, elected by the direct vote of the people, rather than by a majority of parliamentarians.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

Last Wednesday Fatah and Hamas announced a national unity deal to end seven years of division (actually, twenty-five years, since Hamas’s founding) between the largest Palestinian parties. In terms of the agreement, a unity government will formed within five weeks, and presidential and parliamentary elections will take place within six months. The Israeli government responded by ‘withdrawing’ from peace talks, ending the nine-month Kerry initiative. Palestinians responded cautiously; after all, this is not the first such agreement. It follows unfulfilled agreements from 2012 (in Cairo and Doha), 2011 (in Cairo), 2007 (in Makkah), and, before that, 2005. A few commentators decried the current deal as ‘stillborn’, but there is hope, even if minimal, that it might yield positive results.

By Maryim Benraad

Election challenges, political fragmentation

During the past decade, three national elections in Iraq have aimed at building a democracy out of the ruins of the former Ba’athist system. The first, on 30 January 2005, was to form a 275-seat transitional assembly mandated to write a constitution, which was approved by a referendum on 15 October 2005. The second, on 15 December 2005 was to instate a permanent parliament. On 7 March 2010, the most recent parliamentary poll was held under American occupation.[1]

By Afro-Middle East Centre

As Algerians vote for in the third presidential election since incumbent president Abdelaziz Bouteflika was elected 1999, questions abound about the consequences of the poll for the country’s military-civil relations. Its outcome could significantly shape the short- and medium-term futures of Africa’s largest natural gas producer and second largest oil exporter.      

By Afro-Middle East Centre

After months of waiting, Egypt’s Presidential Election Committee has finally declared the dates for the country’s first post-Morsi presidential election: 26 and 27 May. The election forms part of the military’s ‘roadmap’, which will supposedly return Egypt to democracy following Morsi’s ouster on 3 July 2013. However, the long-awaited announcement that Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the defence minister who overthrew Morsi, was to be a candidate in the election has raised questions about the military’s motives, and confirmed that a full-scale counter-revolution is under way. This article assesses the possibility of a free and fair election, considering the atmosphere surrounding the recent constitutional referendum on 14 and 15 January, and the cult-like status Sisi has gained. It also elaborates on the role and motives of state institutions and the role of the ‘deep state’, and how these impact on the electoral process. It argues that the current atmosphere in the country – which has witnessed extreme suppression of dissent – suggests that the election result is a foregone conclusion. However, in the event that Sisi wins, his rein will be fraught with a myriad challenges, many of which are intractable and are similar to challenges Morsi had faced. Key amongst these are the state of the country’s economy and Sisi’s inability to fully suppress dissent.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

Although the 30 March municipal elections in Turkey were meant to elect mayors and municipal council members, they were viewed by many as a referendum on the popularity of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). Earlier, in 2012, Erdogan had tried unsuccessfully to bring the elections forward by five months, to allow himself extra time to campaign for the presidential elections scheduled for August. However, with the AKP’s plans to transform Turkey into a presidential presidential system delayed, the municipal elections took on added significance.

By Ramzy Baroud

When late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was confined by Israeli soldiers to his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Mohammed Dahlan reigned supreme. As perhaps the most powerful and effective member of Fatah’s Gang of Five’, he managed the affairs of the organisation, coordinated with Israel regarding security matters, and negotiated and made deals on issues of regional and international affairs.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

Tensions are increasing between Qatar on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the other. In the latest dispute, which began on 5 March, the three states recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, demanding that it ends its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and that it stops interfering in their internal affairs. Qatar shot back that the disagreement had to do with concerns in countries outside the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), whose members are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. Subsequently, the pressure on Qatar, led by Saudi Arabia, intensified. There have been Saudi threats to seal off Qatar’s only land border, imposing sanctions and closing its airspace to Qatari planes. Saudi Arabia also demanded that Qatar shuts down the Al Jazeera network and two prominent research centres in Doha. These tensions are clearly very serious, and Saudi Prince Saud Al Faisal underlined their gravity by saying that the group of three countries has rejected international mediation, and that the only way to resolve the dispute is for Qatar to amend its policies. This diplomatic crisis comes in the wake of other serious GCC crises that could potentially realign geostrategic alliances in the Persian Gulf and the entire Middle East region.

By Tariq Dana

A Snapshot of Palestinian capital

The presence of Palestinian businesspeople in the political sphere predates the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). After the PLO’s foundation, Palestinian capitalists played a variety of roles in the national liberation movement. Some PLO factions, particularly Fatah, saw the Palestinian capitalist class as a ‘national bourgeoisie’ and, as such, an indispensable part of the anti-colonial struggle and dealt with it accordingly.

By Al Jazeera Center for Studies

Introduction: Deteriorating security

The deteriorating security situation currently evident in Libya constitutes the worst failure of the authorities. Despite a steady growth in national security forces, introduced by the Ministry of the Interior, the country has, paradoxically, witnessed further deterioration in security, including bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and smuggling. This is in addition to the extensive clashes occurring between tribes or regions, especially in the western and southern areas of the county.

By Farah Al Zaman Abu Shuair

Summary

This paper highlights the views of various roleplayers on the Iranian scene regarding Iranian-American convergence, the reasons for its rejection by some parties, and the motives behind its acceptance and defence by others. At the forefront of these is the institution of the Iranian Supreme Leader that seems to play a role that casts a shadow on everyone else. The Supreme leader does not prevent negotiations with the United States within the framework of the nuclear issue, but remains cautious in the face of any practical rapprochement.

By Mesut Yegen
 
Introduction
The Turkish state’s engagement with the Kurdish question had previously relied on three approaches: assimilation, repression and containment. In engaging with the Kurdish question, the state used the first two approaches inside Turkey and the third was used abroad. Since the foundation of the Turkish republic by Ataturk until the late 1990s, the Turkish state seemed satisfied with this policy. Kurdish resistance in Turkey had not become sufficiently powerful as to force a change in the state’s policy of assimilation and repression. Moreover, the international climate between the 1920s and 1980s had allowed an easy containment of Kurds outside Turkey. Throughout this period, Turkey, Iran and Iraq have, in principle, cooperated to contain the Kurds. The Treaty of Sadaabad, signed in 1937 between Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Afghanistan, commited the parties ‘to respect the inviolability of their common frontiers’, to refrain from acts of aggression against each other, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, and to prevent ‘the formation or activities of armed bands, associations or organisations to subvert the established institutions, or disturb the order or security of any part, whether situated on the frontier or elsewhere, of the territory of another Party, or to change the consitutional system of such other Party.’[i] Signed with the encouragement of Britain in 1937, the Sadaabad Treaty remained binding after the Second World War when NATO and the USSR patronised international politics.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

The no-confidence vote passed by the Libyan General National Congress (GNC) on Tuesday, removing Prime Minister Ali Zeidan from office, is one of many consequences of the country’s gridlocked political system which has rendered the office of the prime minister untenable and ineffective. Elected in July 2012, the GNC too has been ineffectual because of polarisation between Islamists and liberals (or liberal Islamists) belonging to the National Forces Alliances. A previous victim of this polarisation was the former prime minister, Mustafa Abu-Shakour.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

Initially speculated to be a result of an impending presidential candidacy announcement by Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the resignation this week of Egypt’s prime minister and cabinet was more likely the result of deeper structural problems facing the Egyptian state and people. Many of these are similar to those which wee used as excuses for the coup against ousted president, Mohamed Mursi.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

The ongoing Syrian crisis has given rise to many questions about the stability and strength of the current regime. Some had imagined a swift end to the government in the manner of Tunisia’s Ben-Ali administration. However, such analyses have proven to be incorrect. Not only has the regime proven resilient, currently its inner core looks to be at its strongest since the beginning of the uprisings in March 2011. Of course, all is not as the regime would desire, but, given the consuming nature of the civil war and the ferocity of the clashes, it is incorrect to think that the regime is about to collapse soon.

By Afro Middle-East Centre

Monday marked the beginning of the second round of the Geneva 2 discussions, sponsored by the USA and Russia and convened under UN auspices, that intends to solve the Syrian crisis. Negotiations are being held between a delegation representing the Syrian regime, and one representing the opposition. An earlier eight-day session in January did not lead to any breakthroughs. The UN and Arab League mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, described that first round as a success insofar as it was able to get the opponents to sit face-to-face for the first time since the beginning of the crisis in 2011. With nothing to show in terms of actual political agreements that can resolve the crisis, this modest evaluation is the best that can be said about the achievements of the first round. And the prospects for the second round look bleaker.

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