As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues in full gear, contrary to the steadfast reactions of the western world, the regional responses from the Middle East paint a different picture. Having initially been caught off-guard with the intensifying tag between Russia and the west, most ‘heavyweight’ MENA countries have adopted a ‘sit tight and assess’ approach. Longstanding partners of the west are balancing their reactions in order to minimize the risks stemming from overtly picking sides in a conflict that they increasingly see as not their own. On the region’s eastern flank, Iran too, walks a thin line.
Tunisia is usually being referred to as one of the most successful cases with regards to social justice and democratization after the Arab Spring uprisings. However, ten years later, the country is once more facing a political and socioeconomic crisis, with President Saied’s policies becoming more and more unpopular amongst the people. Amidst the recent wave of popular upheaval in Tunisia, this article aims to analyze current domestic affairs and examine whether authoritarianism is on the rise.
Egypt has been in constant upheaval, especially in the past years, following Sisi’s rise to power. Popular struggle is becoming more and more penalized, while a series of human rights violations and growing public discontent towards the government have been observed. Popular demand seems overshadowed by a security and counter-terrorism agenda. This article will focus on the securitization strategy and examine Egypt’s current foreign policy priorities, its role in regional power struggles and whether new coalitions challenge the interests of traditional allies.
Even though, during the past year, developments in Syria have entered a stabilization trajectory, the country remains fragmented and a “playground” where different regional and national interests collide. The Assad regime has managed to maintain and extend its control in most of the Syrian territories around Damascus and in the south. However, there are still challenges from opposition forces in the northwest, the Kurdish-controlled areas in the northeast and a re-emerging ISIS threat looming both from previously ISIS-controlled enclaves as well as prisons and camps. At the same time, lines are blurred in regional alliances, such as the one between Russia and Iran, as the players attempt to consolidate their power at each other’s expense. What will 2022 look like for Syria and what are the imminent threats for the country’s sovereignty?
Approximately half of the 59 million people living in the six member-states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are immigrants. Some remain for a few years, while others stick there for their whole careers. The majority enters the country based on the assumption that they will have to leave eventually. Despite their numbers, migrants have restricted rights in the Gulf states' destination countries: they have temporary residence and limited involvement in society. The prospect of granting citizenship to foreigners has long agitated the Gulf states. For the vast majority of foreign employees, life in the Gulf consists of a succession of short-term work permits; by stop being productive, you stop being a resident. Nevertheless, this situation is gradually and slowly changing; the need for diversification of the economy has forced some of the Gulf states to break this citizenship taboo.
As white smoke was coming out two years ago to signify the formation of a new Hariri government in Beirut, the dangers of an economic collapse, and protracted political and social instability were looming over the country. Now, as white smoke came up again with the formation of Najib Mikati’s government last September, several converging crises have brought the country to its knees. The galloping economic breakdown, precipitated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s blast in Beirut’s port has created asphyxiating conditions that put Lebanon in completely uncharted waters.
The Iraqi parliamentary elections were held early in response to the 2019 mass protests. The final results have yet to be announced; yet, it appears that the Sadrist movement is the big winner while pro-Iranian militias seem to have suffered the greatest loss. Considering though the lowest voter turnout since Saddam Hussein’s removal in 2003, the very democratic legitimacy of the new government, whose formation process is expected to be lengthy and complex, is under question. Additionally, its fragility is highlighted in the gravity of the challenges it faces: serious socio-economic problems related to the Covid-19, climate change and entrenched corruption.
Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq from 5th to 8th March was significant and highly symbolic. It included the capital Baghdad, the cities of Najaf and Ur as well as various cities in Iraqi Kurdistan. Throughout this trip, the Pope tried to support the Christians of Iraq by making their suffering from the war and their current hardships widely known. He called for the protection of the Christian communities by the government and promoted a dialogue for peaceful coexistence among various religious communities.
From the rise of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and throughout the Doha peace talks in 2020, a considerable nexus between education and conflict has been predominant. Firstly, the education system has been directly targeted during the hostilities and, secondly, it has been instrumentalized for the purposes of the ongoing conflict, leading to a vicious circle of perpetuation. The Taliban have contextually adapted their education strategies, utilizing education institutions and positioning themselves as an indispensable actor for the present and the future of education in the country, thus showing a significant change, which at the same time might question some of the group’s core values.
The tribal and local leaders, as the key parameters of Libya's social structure, came to the fore in the power struggle for the country. Apart from the west-east divide the preferences of the tribes and their shifting allegiances as well the role of regional powers, such as Algeria and Egypt in particular, must also be taken into account. Recent developments are not particulary promising in terms of ensuring lasting peace and tranquility in a war-torn country. All parties seem determined to maintain their positions as they are still wary of trusting each other and feel underrepresented.
Syria’s north-western region of Idlib remains the stronghold of the opposition forces, with the most prominent jihadist groups operating there, as well as the most committed opposition forces against Assad’s regime. As Aron Lund states, the rebel-held areas are governed by a patchwork of sharia courts, local councils, exile government departments, and direct rule by armed groups. However, instead of forming a unified opposition, those non-state actors are competing against each other for control over Idlib.
This analysis aims at underlining the economic and political crisis in Iraq that led to widespread protests around the country since October 2019. The government’s inability to deliver basic services to society has created a series of protests with demands for better living conditions. The Iraqi security forces and armed militias are using extreme force to tackle the demonstrations with many protesters injured or killed. Hence, the question that presents itself is how foreign interventionism affects the country’s society and sense of security, as well as its economy.
Almost 6 years since the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, the long-term and largely neglected conflict, is still going strong, albeit turning to several internal conflicts between local actors benefiting from the weakness of central government and the numerous divisions of societal and state structures that favor the prevalence of local authorities. Even though frontlines have not changed significantly over the last couple of years and most local actors have established their authority in certain regions, the war has not been called and conflict persists in key areas of the country. In the governorates of Marib, Taiz, Hadramawt and Al- Hudeydah, clashes persist and neither of the two main conflicting parties has consolidated its authority in these areas, despite Houthis gaining significant ground over the last year.
Despite the latest ceasefire in Idlib, tensions are once again rising across Syria. In the northwest, the high mobility in Idlib indicates that renewed fighting is rather a matter of timing, while in the south and east, escalating assassination campaigns in Daraa and Deir ez-Zor generate new dangerous dynamics. In central and eastern Syria, the resurgence of ISIS cells further exposes a severe security vacuum that opens way for intensive influence competition between the Kurds and the regime. Last but not least, the unprecedented economic crisis that face the country threatens to derail even the minimum stability enjoyed in Syria at the moment.
Το Κέντρο Μεσογειακών,Μεσανατολικών και Ισλαμικών Σπουδών φιλοξενεί πληθώρα διαφορετικών απόψεων στα πλαίσια του ελεύθερου ακαδημαϊκού διαλόγου. Οι απόψεις αυτές δεν αντανακλούν υποχρεωτικά τις απόψεις του Κέντρου. Η χρήση και αναπαραγωγή οπτικοακουστικού υλικού για τις ανάγκες της ιστοσελίδας του ΚΕΜΜΙΣ γίνεται για ενημερωτικούς, ακαδημαϊκούς και μη κερδοσκοπικούς σκοπούς κατά τα προβλεπόμενα του Νόμου 2121/1993 (ΦΕΚ Α' 25/4-3-1993) περί της προστασίας της πνευματικής ιδιοκτησίας, καθώς και του άρ.8 του Νόμου 2557/1997 (ΦΕΚ Α' 271/1997).