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Middle East/North Africa Security

Iraq and Syria: Do Profits Perpetuate Violence?

Years of civil war and political instability in Iraq and Syria have seen non-state actors rise to prominence. Many take a hybrid form, in which they have been semi-institutionalised by the state, qualifying them for the state payroll. However, the majority of these militias sustain themselves in other ways, notably from the shadow economy. This begs the question: for how long will illicit and informal economic activity persist and does its profits perpetuate violence?

Middle East/North Africa Natural resources and energy

What to expect in the Gulf Cooperation Countries in 2021: Key trends to watch

The history of the Gulf Cooperation Council is a story of the equally blessing and cursing natural resources, monarchies and Muslim Brotherhood. Since its establishment in 1981, this political and economic union has been subject to heightened economic pressures and long-standing geopolitical dynamics. This article explores the key trends to expect from the partnership of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates throughout 2021.

Middle East/North Africa Security

The early dilemmas of Biden’s foreign policy towards the Middle East and the Iranian factor

During his first speech on foreign policy earlier in February, President Biden announced his decision to terminate US support for Saudi Arabia’s military operations in Yemen. Suspending offensive aid for the Saudi-led coalition, the recently-elected President decided to reverse one of the last foreign policy moves of Trump’s administration, by lifting the designation of Yemeni Houthi as a terrorist group.

Middle East/North Africa Politics

The Precarious Balancing act of President Tebboune

President Tebboune has undertaken several political manoeuvres since the start of the year to balance against a number of threats presented by both the Hirak Movement and internal opposition. Whilst calculated, Tebboune’s balancing act is not likely to soothe Hirak frustrations, particularly when his reforms are so shallow in nature. Coupled with the increasingly perilous economic conditions, Algeria is set to see a resurgence in the Hirak movement once again.

Middle East/North Africa Politics

Lebanon: State Paralysis is Fomenting Political Violence

Amidst persistent economic deterioration and governmental breakdown, Lebanon has increasingly seen a worrying trend towards civic unrest and political violence. As the breakdown sees no sign of abating, public dismay at the elite is leading to riots which are being brutally repressed by the Lebanese authorities. Concurrently, one can witness a rise in tensions both within and outwith the sects. Lebanon suffered fifteen long years of conflict, raising the question of whether the country will see a repeat of previous misery.

Middle East/North Africa Politics

Biden’s policy shift means Saudi Arabia will have to adapt to regain favour with Washington

On Thursday, February 4, Joe Biden announced the US State Department’s new foreign policy on Saudi Arabia. The announcement confirmed a long-awaited shift in US foreign policy which will see an end to US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and a new effort to find a peace agreement to end the conflict. Prioritising human rights for future relations with the Saudis, Biden’s policy likely provides significant leverage to draw the Saudis out of Yemen as they seek to ameliorate their relations with the new administration. 

Middle East/North Africa Politics

Public Sector Reform: A Way Forward for Iraq?

The public sector in Iraq accounts for the majority of employment in the oil-rich country. Plummeting oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in economic crisis and an ever increasing budget deficit. Where there is crisis however, there is opportunity: will 2021 bring a much needed reform of the public sector in Iraq? 

Middle East/North Africa Security

Middle East – The resurgence of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq

Islamic State (IS) rarely makes the mainstream media headlines these days. After losing the last of their territory during the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani in early 2019, the “caliphate was declared “defeated”. However, 2020 saw a significant growth in IS attacks in their traditional heartlands of Syria and Iraq, as well as a growing presence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and across large parts of the African continent continent. Despite the loss of territory, the ideology of ISIS was not defeated, and although it’s difficult to put a precise number on their manpower, there is evidence that they are re-establishing themselves in the Middle East.

Middle East/North Africa Politics

A place in the sun? Assessing the Turkish government’s olive branch to Israel

Following the election of Joe Biden as the next US President, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has set the eyes of an increasingly diplomatically isolated nation on its regional neighbour and former ally. Israel, spurred by the threat of Iran in the region, has also sent signals that rapprochement with Turkey is on the cards. Can the two countries mend their fraught relationship?

Middle East/North Africa Politics

After Coalition Collapse, Israel faces its Fourth Election in Two Years

On Tuesday 22 Dec. 2020, the Knesset failed to pass an annual budget, automatically triggering an election. Israelis will head to the polls on 23 March 2021, facing an election during a pandemic for the second time. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had a string of electoral successes over the past decade, his path to retaining power does not look smooth. The Prime Minister has frequently referred to his opponents in previous elections as ‘weak leftists’ however his rivals in this election share his conservative beliefs.