All analyses in chronological order - Afro-Middle East Centre

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.

By Fatima Alsmadi

Has Iran’s position on Syria begun to change? This is a crucial question, as Iran’s tone toward military action against Syria has altered from being threatening throughout years of supporting the Syrian president, Bashar Al-Asad, to milder rhetoric. It appears that the issues around the use of chemical weapons instigated this change. The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, strongly criticised the use of chemical weapons in a Twitter post, and his subsequent tweets supported the forcible prevention of their use. This coincided with the threat of a military strike on Syria – Iran’s strategic ally in the region – by the United States and some of its allies.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

In a blow to both British Prime Minister David Cameron and the USA, the British parliament effectively put an obstacle in their plans to bomb Syria, when parliamentarians yesterday voted against involvement in intervention in Syria. Since last week, the threat of a US, or US led, strike on Syria has been mounting. This followed the allegation by the US president, Barack Obama, and Cameron that the Syrian regime was responsible for using chemical weapons last week in Ghouta. With its staunchest ally now no longer willing to take part in what an illegal strike, the US is maintaining a belligerent attitude.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

It is now widely acknowledged that the 3 July ouster of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Mursi, constituted a military coup. Events following the coup have sought to reset Egypt’s policies back to what they were during the Mubarak era, underscoring the suggestion that a counter revolution was successfully instituted. The Egyptian constitution was suspended, the Shura Council – the upper house of parliament –was disbanded, and various Islamist leaders – from the Muslim Brotherhood and other parties – were arrested. Moreover, media deemed to be sympathetic to Mursi were shut down, and the decades-long state of emergency was reinstituted. Further, the army selected a judge previously appointed to the constitutional court by Mubarak, Adli Mansour, as interim president, and an interim cabinet dominated by Mubarak-era holdovers. The aftermath of the coup also saw a shift in foreign policy: a more belligerent attitude towards the USA, greater friendliness with Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait, and a hardline attitude towards Palestinians – with the Rafah border being almost permanently shut, and ninety per cent of the Egypt to Gaza tunnels being destroyed. In short, the coup has had and is set to have significant domestic, regional and global consequences.

By Rafiq Habib

The 3 July military coup in Egypt had a number of key objectives. By it, the military attempted to entrench its position in the state, regardless of who holds power. It further sought to restore the networks of the previous regime to the political scene. By becoming a key governance partner with the elected power, the military seeks to place the deep state under central command and to ensure a centralisation of the intelligence services. The goal was to establish a secular alliance that was loyal to the former regime. This would enable the networks of the former regime to mobilise under a political veneer provided by secular forces. In order to achieve some of these objectives, the armed forces worked together with friendly western countries, especially the USA.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

The violent dispersal of two anti-coup sit-ins by the Egyptian security apparatus over the past three days, the resulting massacre of protesters, and the imposition of martial law in most of the country, is the culmination of a string of actions intended to reset Egypt’s political and social affairs, and return the state to what it was in 2010. With the reimposition of the infamous state of emergency, largescale arrests of leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and other anti-coup groups, and the silencing of opposition media, the future for democracy in Egypt hangs in the balance. The post-coup reconstitution of the feared State Security Investigations Service (Mabahith Amn al-Dawla), disbanded in March 2011, is further confirmation that democratic gains made by Egypt in the past two years are being reversed.

United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine, Addis Ababa, 29-30 April 2013, held under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

Plenary III | Mr. Naeem Jeenah, Executive Director, Afro-Middle East Centre, Johannesburg

 

Egypt, preparing for a massacre?

  • 26 July, 2013
  • Published in Egypt

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s deputy prime minister, defence minister, army commander-in-chief, and the person in control of the country’s post-coup interim government, Wednesday called on Egyptians to give him a mandate to confront ‘violence and...terrorism’. ‘This coming Friday, all honourable Egyptians must take to the street to give me a mandate, and, indeed, and order to counter the violence and terrorism facing us...I want you to show the world that you have a will, and that you want us to act on your behalf to end terrorism,’ Sisi said.

By AlJazeera Center for Studies

On Wednesday evening, 3 July, after the expiry of the deadline for the forty-eight hour ultimatum given to Egyptian president, Mohamed Mursi, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the minister of defence, announced Mursi’s overthrow. Sisi carefully ensured that, when he made the announcement, he was surrounded by the sheikh of al-Azhar, Coptic Pope, a representatives of the National Salvation Front (NSF) – including Mohamed Elbaradei, two representatives of the Tamarod movement, and the president of the Nour Salafi party, to give the impression that the announcement of the overthrow of the president and the annulment of the constitution did not represent a coup, but was merely an expression of the national will, and a response to the demands of protesters against the president. But the well-planned scene did not succeed in obscuring the fact that Sisi’s announcement lacked any legal or constitutional basis.

Dr Bashir Musa Nafi’

There is no instruction book for revolutions, nor for states transforming from authoritarianism and repression to freedom and democracy.

The situation in which Egypt finds itself today can be compared and contrasted to other Arab experiences during the revolutions, and previous European and Latin American experiences. It demonstrates the difficulty and complexities of transition and change, and relates to the circumstances of a specific nation and people. Countries are defined by numerous characteristics, especially those with deeply rooted histories. These include commitments and loyalties relating to the country’s location and identity, as well as those imposed onto the country, and demands made on its identity. History evolves and oscillates, and does not repeat itself except, as Marx says, ‘first as tragedy, then as farce’.

Egypt comes full circle

  • 02 July, 2013
  • Published in Egypt

By Afro-Middle East Centre

In a move reminiscent of the ouster of former president, Husni Mubarak, the Egyptian military on Tuesday issued a communiqué ordering protesters demands be met within 48 hours. That period ends this afternoon. Failure to do so, said the statement, would result in the enforcement of a ‘roadmap’ ‘under military supervision’. Despite the army’s assertion that coups are not part of its ethos, this is certainly threat of a coup. Ironically, the army’s message was well received by large parts of the crowds in Tahrir square, which a year ago were calling for the same military to relinquish power. The government under Muhammad Mursi subsequently expressed its opposition to the communiqué, saying that it risks deepening divisions between Egyptians, and, even if well intentioned, ‘may threaten the social peace’. Further, the administration reiterated its call for dialogue and reconciliation, and re-emphasised democratic legitimacy.

By AlJazeera Center for Studies

Although they have different strategies to achieve their objectives, America and Russia both seek to maintain Syria's status quo. America does not want the opposition to be defeated, but it also does not want it to achieve a decisive military victory. Russia does not mind if the regime agrees to a political settlement, which it may do even if it wins the conflict militarily. Russia understands that the regime may opt for a settlement if it suspects that the armed opposition might succeed in overthrowing it.

By Abdul Rahman Al-Haj 

Two key features characterise the Syrian Salafis. Initially, the Salafis called for non-violence, as a result of the repression that the regime had imposed on the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s. They then transformed to become Salafi jihadists, as a reaction to the regime's military repression of peaceful demonstrations.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

The protests in more than sixty cities in Turkey over the past weeks signal growing discontent with various government policies and with the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The protests have morphed into something quite different from the initial protests, which began as an environmentalist and antineoliberal protest against the construction of new buildings in Taksim Square’s Gezi Park. Turkey's economic success in the last decade has resulted in sweeping urban development throughout the country, especially in Istanbul and Ankara, giving rise to a substantial countermovement of civil society groups, opposing what they regard as state support of business interests over people’s interests.

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