All analyses in chronological order - Afro-Middle East Centre

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.

By Fethi Jarray
 
Historians are unanimous that Carthage was a beacon of civilisation. Its constitution, representative institutions and political system in general were cited by Aristotle, who labelled it the best system as the time. In modern Tunisian history, the ‘Fundamental Pact’ is considered a constitutional precedent in the Arab-Muslim world,[1] as it was the first legal document that guaranteed the Tunisian people their political rights to have their lives, property and honour safeguarded, regardless of their religion, race or social class.

By Afro Middle-Centre

This week’s constitutional referendum in Egypt confirms the country’s move away from democratic consolidation, and reduces the chances of finding a political solution to the current impasse. The referendum, on 14 and 15 January, was preceded and characterised by an atmosphere of intolerance, violent intimidation, and a tightening of the already-constrained space for dissent. Campaigning for a ‘no’ vote or a boycott was not allowed, and ‘no’ campaigners were arrested.

By Al Jazeera Center for Studies

In simultaneous dawn raids on 17 December 2013, Turkish police, acting on the orders of the leading public prosecutor in Istanbul, Zakaria Oz, arrested more than fifty people, including the mayor of Istanbul district Fatih; the head of one of the largest construction companies in the country; sons of the ministers of the interior, economy and the environment; a Turkish businessman of Azerbaijani origin; and the head of state-owned Khalq Bank, one of Turkey’s largest banks. The simultaneous arrests were alarming, but also significant given the links between this case and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which gained favour among a large number of Turks for its economic achievements over the past decade, as well as its fight against corruption.

By Jano Charbel www.jadaliyya.com/pages/contributors/56898

Experts weight in on the possible impact on child labor and unionization.

The 2013 draft constitution contains a number of provisions which some feared could be used to curb labor rights and freedoms. Other articles could be used to violate basic, internationally recognized, labor rights.

The draft constitution also protects the continued use of forced labor, child labor, military tribunals for civilians, restrictions on the plurality of trade unions and professional syndicates, along with limitations on the right to strike for certain professions.

By Afro Middle-East Centre

Announced in 2010 to aid Ethiopia’s economic development, and to realise its aspirations to be an energy exporter, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has resulted in friction between the Nile basin’s three strongest military states. The country’s decision to construct the dam and divert the Nile’s flow to aid in its construction was met by strong rhetoric from the former Egyptian administrations of Hosni Mubarak and Mohammed Morsi, including threats of force. However, the status quo is unlikely to be sustainable. Egypt’s dominance over the river is untenable both morally from an international norms perspective, and practically from economic and military perspectives, as discussed in Part one of this two-part series.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

Ethiopia’s decision in May 2013 to divert the Blue Nile tributary for 500 metres to aid in the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) was met with fury from the Egyptian administration led by President Mohamed Morsi. Military action was even threatened as a retaliatory move. Morsi’s subsequent overthrow and the need of the military coup administration to reassert control meant that talk of such hostilities was suspended.

This article is the first in a two-part series which analyses these events using the 1966 Helsinki principles of equity and water security as a framework to permit better understanding of the situation. This part will contextualise the GERD’s construction by unpacking the main historical and current issues which have influenced its development, and by analysing the evolution of water sharing. Additionally, changes in the balance of power in the region and the rise of Ethiopia are critically examined.

By Al Jazeera Center for Studies

From the end of September to the middle of October 2013, it seemed that Iran’s relations with the western world were witnessing monumental changes. On 16 October, the EU representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, praised two days of talks that had just taken place in Geneva between representatives of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) and Iran. Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, described the talks as ‘essential and a motivation for progress’. He said they ‘open up new horizons of relations between Iran and western countries.’ Although Ashton and Zarif spoke separately and did not hold a joint press conference, this was the first time such language was used since the topic of Iranian nuclear capability became an international agenda item in 2002.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

The severing of Hamas’s relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s government, which saw its politburo relocate from Damascus to Doha and Cairo in early 2012, would inevitably impact the Palestinian movement’s relationship with long-time allies, Hizbullah and Iran. In fact, Hamas’s political repositioning on Syria reflects a reconfiguration of regional alliances that have been spurred by the uprisings that have swept across the region since December 2010. The political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and other countries, facilitated by the uprisings in the region, saw the Palestinian resistance movement gravitate away from the ‘axis of resistance’ (Iran, Hizbullah and Syria) towards a Brotherhood-oriented Egyptian-Qatari-Turkish axis. Aside from an ideological resonance, this new alliance would also potentially ameliorate its isolation brought on by the classification of it as a ‘terrorist’ organisation by Israel, the USA, Canada, the EU and Japan.

By Elham Fakhro

Two years after the launch of Bahrain’s national dialogue, government and opposition representatives have failed to arrive at a settlement over the future direction of the country. The withdrawal from the talks of Bahrain’s largest opposition group al-Wefaq – first in July 2011 and again in September 2013 after the arrest of its deputy leader – reflects growing tensions between the two sides. A coalition of opposition groups said that the ongoing arrests of political leaders and activists were proof that the government was not serious about reform. Government representatives, on the other hand, accused the opposition of supporting violence by the February 14 coalition, a radical opposition group that the government calls a terrorist movement. Newly-energised loyalist groups also accuse the government of adopting a ‘too soft’ stance against the opposition. Bahrain’s international allies – including the United States and the United Kingdom – continue to criticise the absence of sufficient reform by the government, but have failed to broker any political settlement. As the schism between social and political groups hardens, prospects for a political solution appear increasingly dim.

By Fatimah Alsmadi
Introduction
Iran’s foreign policy rhetoric exemplifies the idea that international politics is no longer a zero-sum game, but a multidimensional arena in which competition and cooperation often occur simultaneously. Gone is the age of ‘blood feuds’, and world leaders are expected to lead in ‘turning threats into opportunities’, said the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, in his recent op-ed in the Washington Post. [1] Iran is now seeking to turn the threats facing it into opportunities, and, to this end, it employs a strategy of joining competition and cooperation in the multiple arenas of conflict in which it has become a key player. For example, Iran is following in the footsteps of Russia in demonstrating power and influence in Syria, with a subtle warning to the USA not to sideline it during crisis resolution arrangements.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

The hostage drama at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi over the past week has raised a number of questions about the Somali organisation al-Shabab. After the group lost Mogadishu, it was perceived as being ‘significantly degraded’ by a various roleplayers. The planning, coordination and brazen nature of the Westgate operation, however, have brought these assessments into question. The hostage operation likely involved between ten and fifteen Shabab members, and was thwarted after four days by Kenyan forces, together with US and Israeli ‘advisers’ and Israeli commandos. Almost seventy people died in the operation, and around 200 were injured.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

By agreeing to a Russian proposal to surrender its chemical weapons to the international community for destruction, Syria has averted the possibility of a US strike. However, a United Nations report claiming to have found ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that chemical weapons were used in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta last month resulted in a renewed call, led by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, to punish those responsible for the attack. This, gave rise to demands for a UN Security Council resolution with provisions for holding the perpetrators accountable. The discussion surrounding the call for a UN resolution is about the possible inclusion of a threat of force if Syria does not follow through on its commitment.

While turmoil in Egypt and Syria persists we speak about the United States plan to intervene in Syria and discuss how the situation in both regions is likely to end. Joining ABN'S Karima Brown is Na'eem Jeenah, Exec Director, AFRO-Middle East Centre.

UN inspectors have confirmed that chemical weapons were used in Syria's civil war. The Syrian government has already agreed to hand over its chemical arsenal. But Middle East expert Na'eem Jeenah says the plan to dismantle the stockpile is rather ambitious.

While turmoil in Egypt and Syria persists we speak about the United States plan to intervene in Syria and discuss how the situation in both regions is likely to end. Joining ABN'S Karima Brown is Na'eem Jeenah, Exec Director, AFRO-Middle East Centre.

Director of a Johannesburg-based research institute, The Afro-Middle East centre, Naeem Jeenah says war in Syria is highly unlikely now that Russia has been given the opportunity to mediate.

He believes Russia's request to the United States to embrace its plan to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control has dissolved almost all talk of a US military strike on Syria.

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