All analyses in chronological order - Afro-Middle East Centre

By Abdul Latif al-Hanachi

Introduction

Tunisia’s political elite overcame various obstacles during the initial stages of democratic transition, and successfully revived several constitutional institutions,[1] thanks to the spirit of rapprochement and the concessions made by major political players. The Constitution of the Second Republic that was finalised earlier this year is comparable to the constitutions of mature democracies, and superior in some respects.[2] The constituent assembly also issued a law governing elections and referenda,[3] and elected nine members to the Higher Independent Electoral and Referendum Commission to oversee the legislative and presidential elections scheduled for 26 October 2014 and 23 November 2014 respectively, concluding the third phase of democratic transition.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

The striking advances of Houthis in Yemen, having already taken de facto control of the capital Sana'a last month, has implications for Yemen as well as for the greater Middle East. Within Yemen, they signal the return to political prominence of the Zaidi-Shia, who had been marginalised since 1962, and a divergence from the federalist future that was being contemplated for the country by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Regionally, in addition to becoming part of the cold war confrontation between two hegemons, Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Houthi gains also affect the manner in which al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) positions itself against its various enemies.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

Air strikesaimed at the Libya Dawn militia in recent months could further escalate and regionalise the conflict in Libya. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is widely reported as having launched the air strikes, but the bombings seem to be part of increasing intervention in Libya by various regional powers in spite of their calls for non-intervention. If allowed to continue, the involvement of the UAE, Egypt and Qatar, in pursuit of their own interests, could provoke a full-scale civil war in Libya, and prevent Libyans from finding political solutions to the current impasse.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

In a much-anticipated speech on Wednesday, US president Barack Obama unveiled his strategy for confronting the Islamic State group (IS). He emphasised the need for an international coalition supporting the efforts of Iraqi forces and Syrian rebels through airstrikes and logistical support inside Iraq and Syria. The US administration had already been working on the formation of an international coalition. The recent NATO summit resulted in a ten-nation alliance against IS, and US secretary of state, John Kerry, has also been trying to build an Arab consensus against IS. That move was pre-empted by an Arab League resolution earlier this week announcing Arab states’ willingness to support international efforts against IS. Additionally, the United Nations Security Council had unanimously adopted resolution 2170 in August, which called on member states to prevent the movement of terrorists and their obtaining arms or finances.

By Omar Shaukat

With the release of another video showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff, held hostage by the Islamic State (IS, also variously known as Isil, or Isis), IS’s confrontation with the US has become a hot topic of discussion throughout the world.

However, what such discussions typically miss is the manner in which IS has not only found enemies in the US but also within the Muslim world and the jihadist circles that at some point supported it. In fact, these internal divisions are so deep that a former ally of IS, and the US’s previous public enemy number one, al-Qaeda, too finds itself engaged in mortal combat with IS.

By Basheer Nafi’

A truism that is valid for almost all revolutions – including the English, French, and the European revolutions of the mid-nineteenth century, the Iranian Revolution and east European revolutions after the Cold War – is that every revolution has an associated counterrevolution. A common thread through most modern revolutions is that they expressed the desire of the people in a nation to restrain the modern state either by demanding constitutional rights and democracy, confronting authoritarianism and the hegemony of the ruling elite, or by demanding a just social system that would be based on the redistribution of economic burdens and wealth. The success of a revolution, however, has never been guaranteed. In the past few decades, the countries that have experienced relatively easy transitions to democracy have been those that had been part of broader regional systems, or which had received support from regional bodies such as the European Union. Even such countries were not always spared counterrevolutionary retaliations.

Afro-Middle East Centre invites you to a symposium with the theme: Unravelling Syria's civil war; exploring future scenarios.

Speakers:
 
Radwan Ziadeh
 
David Lesch
 
Ibrahim Mousawi

Women in Conflict

By Zeenat Adam

‘When women are violated like men who but for sex are like them – when women’s arms and legs bleed when severed, when women are shot in pits and gassed in vans, when women’s bodies are salted away at the bottom of abandoned mines or dropped from places into the ocean, when women’s skulls are sent from Auschwitz to Strasbourg for experiments – this is not recorded as the history of human rights atrocities to women...When things happen to women that also happen to men, like being beaten and disappeared and tortured to death, the fact that they happened to be women is not noted in the record books or human suffering…What happens to women is either too particular to be universal or too universal to be particular, meaning either too human to be female or too female to be human.’ – Catherine McKinnon, ‘Are Women Human?’

By Jane Duncan

In the past few weeks, the South African media have been dominated by the unfolding catastrophe in Gaza and South Africans have had to rely largely on foreign coverage of this issue to understand it.

The mainstream US media continued parroting the Israeli line that the country was acting in self defence, or insisting on its right to be ‘free from tunnels and rockets’, in Secretary of State John Kerry’s words, but Israel is clearly meting out collective punishment to Palestinians. At a deeper level, though, Israel’s motivation might well be to scupper Palestinian unity (albeit strained) after years of bitter conflict between Hamas and Fatah, and the killing of three Israeli teenagers provided a pretext to do just that. A united Palestine would be deeply threatening to Israeli interests.

By Saleh Naami

Israel’s current onslaught against Gaza is the third largest military confrontation between the Israel and Palestinian resistance movements in the enclave since Hamas became the sole ruler of the Gaza Strip in July 2007. The battle was launched in the aftermath of drastic transformations in the regional landscape, distinguishing it different from Israel’s November 2012 ‘Operation Pillar of Cloud’. This is likely to affect its outcomes.

By Larbi Sadiki

The gilt-edged skills on display for nearly a month in Brazil are no ‘match’ for the blood-curdling war ‘games’ surgically executed by US-made Israeli planes that have been ‘slicing’ into human flesh in Gaza since early July this year.

It has been interesting to observe how often the sportsmen who played ‘to the death’, seeking victory in the mythical Estadio Maracanã and other football stadiums dotted around Brazil during the World Cup, invoked metaphors that reflect the kinds of brinkmanship demonstrated by Palestinians and Israelis as they launch missiles and bombs across their disputed terrains – Gaza and Israel.

By Arab Center for Research & Policy Studies

The latest escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict came in the form of an all-out Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip. Exploiting the killing of three settlers in the West Bank’s Hebron region, the Israelis have set forth to realize a number of political aims through their latest attack, including an attack on the Hamas movement in the West Bank; the redundancy of the Palestinian Unity Cabinet; the abandonment of its international political obligations toward the Palestinian National Authority; and the ability to cloak heightened settlement construction and obduracy in the negotiations underneath the smoke of a “war on terror”. Notably, even though no Palestinian political faction has accepted responsibility for the killing of the three settlers, Israel has blamed Hamas for the operation and taken the conflict to the Gaza Strip. Utilizing regional realities, particularly the case of a pliant government in Egypt, the Israelis launched an attack on the Gaza Strip: the strength of Hamas’s response, however, surprised and embarrassed both the Israeli and Egyptian governments.

A few days ago, many people around the world believed there was some hope for a halt to the loss of Palestinian lives in Gaza when Egypt announced a plan for a ceasefire. Many were then surprised that Hamas and other resistance groups in Gaza ‘rejected’ the ceasefire and chose, instead to continue fighting. The Palestinian groups believe they have good reason for doing so. Yesterday began with more talk of a ceasefire, but ended, last night in an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza.

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]

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