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  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Iran quickly supported the advance of the Syrian regular forces towards the Kurdish militias-controlled town of Manbij on 28 December 2018, albeit some parties denied that, which indicate that it has begun to re-calibrate its strategies to deal with the new realities after the decision of the US president Donald Trump to withdraw his military forces from Syria on the 19th of the same month.
  • Topic: Armed Forces, Conflict, Syrian War, Kurds, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Iran is currently making unremitting efforts to further its relations with the Afghan Taliban. Although these attempts are not new, as there have always been unannounced channels of communication between the two parties, Iran is keen to uncover the presence of these channels and its efforts to foster relations with the movement. This was evident in the recent statements of Iranian officials such as its Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the Secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security Ali Shamkhani. This is, without a doubt, inseparable from the Iranian attempts to pave the Afghan arena for the return of elements of the Fatimid militia, and perhaps prepare in advance for a possible and sudden US withdrawal from the country, like the recent US decision to withdraw from Syria.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Taliban, Conflict, Militias
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iran, South Asia, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Idlib has been the delayed battle in the Syrian conflict throughout its various stages, but this seems to be coming to an end, as many indicators reveal. For example, Russia, for the time being, is keen to resolve Idlib’s issue which would reinforce the specter of military intervention. Moscow indicates that there are no options left for the parties to the Sochi agreement, pointing also to the difficulty of implementing its terms. The 10 points-agreement has not achieved its purpose for five months, given the terrorist organizations’ control over the area, in particular al-Nusra Front. This happens amid lack of actions from the Turkish side, which has threatened, more than once, to deter those who jeopardize the agreement, which compelled it to agree, ostensibly, with the other parties on launching a military offensive in Idlib. Despite the challenges and consequences of this option, it is the scenario that looms large over the Syrian scene at present.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Military Affairs, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Improving the performance of local governments, local administration, village councils, and municipalities in Arab conflict zones face a set of challenges. The most prominent among these challenges are the continued internal armed conflicts with regional dimensions, strengthening the legitimacy of certain political regimes, power struggle between central and local governments, growing partisan and political disputes, severe destruction in areas controlled by terrorist organizations, and the growing fiscal deficits of local councils. On one hand, the fiscal deficits have increased amid a low level of donor support, poor development of councils’ resources, and the enduring conflict between the legitimate government and armed militias. The influx of irregular migrants have also imposed a double burden on already overstretched local bodies.
  • Topic: Governance, Conflict, Syrian War, Bashar al-Assad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries, North Africa, Syria
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Although the first round of Sweden talks led to soaring expectations that a change will take place in the course of the Yemeni crisis from the path of war to that of negotiation, its outcome is limited to the settlement of the humanitarian crisis, which the UN envoy underlined in his statement to the Security Council following the negotiations. The issues pertaining to the crux of the conflict will likely be addressed in the second round, scheduled at the end of next January, which should include the comprehensive framework for the settlement, as a road-map for shaping Yemen’s post-war future, and solving political and security issues. The outcome of the first round sought to neutralize the manifestations of the Houthi “militiation”, not to end it. It can also be argued that the outcome equates between the parties to the crisis in terms of tasks, implementation mechanisms and the formed committees under the auspices of the UN, a key indicator that risks transforming the Houthi movement into a major party in the Yemeni scene under the aegis of the UN.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, United Nations, Conflict, Houthis
  • Political Geography: Yemen, Gulf Nations
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: As Israel’s Operation Northern Shield continues, with the aim of dismantling the tunnels discovered on the Lebanese border, the Israeli policies mark a remarkable shift in confronting Hezbollah’s threats. The operation comes as part of a series of parallel measures, employing a tactic different from the military escalation scenario, which cannot be completely ruled out in the future with the aim of launching a preemptive strike. However, with no variables yet to enhance such scenario, the Tel Aviv tactic will focus on linking the party’s new threat and escalation with the latter, along with Iran, on the Syrian front, on the belief that the party's new approach stems from the interactions of the equation itself. On the other hand, Hezbollah has reacted in a similar way, based on calculations that do not lean toward engaging in mutual escalation, albeit threatening of military “surprises” as part of a defensive strategy. Among those “surprises” is deploying the new and unconventional techniques of its missile capabilities, which have been developed by its expertise on the Syrian ground and with the help of Iran. Apart from these expected messages, Hezbollah has, since the discovery of tunnels, questioned Tel Aviv's account of the issue. Hezbollah's various media platforms have focused on attributing the escalation to the Israeli internal developments, amid the crisis facing Netanyahu's government, after the withdrawal of former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman from the government coalition.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Conflict, Borders, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Turkey has recently stepped up its economic presence in the cities of northern Syria, including Al-Bab, Jarablus, and Azaz, among others. Those cities are now controlled by the Syrian opposition with the assistance of the Turkish army through two military operations between 2016 and 2018 dubbed Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch. Turkey has worked to rehabilitate the basic services of electricity, education and health in these cities in cooperation with private Turkish companies, as well as promoting the export of various goods to these cities. Through its presence there, Turkey is aiming to achieve numerous goals in line with its vision towards the trajectories of the Syrian conflict, and its position, in the coming phase.
  • Topic: Economy, Conflict, Syrian War, Kurds
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The announcement by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, on December 22, 2018, of a change in its military doctrine during recent exercises in the Gulf region, to keep pace with numerous developments in the internal and external fronts, reflect the mounting threats facing Iran due to its aggressive policy. This new move, however, may not necessarily reflect an overall shift in doctrine, as much as a pivot towards adopting new tactics in the military strategy to be better able to confront these threats. Most importantly, it does not involve a development in the tenets of the traditional military doctrine, which is predicated on a central doctrinal pillar that is hard to change, amid the current regime. Moreover, the IRGC has always pursued aggressive policies, as evident in its roles in conflict zones, exacerbating them and hampering the efforts to reach a settlement.
  • Topic: History, Military Strategy, Conflict, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC)
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Iran has reacted swiftly after the kidnapping of 14 of its soldiers from the Basij and border guards in Mirjaveh, along the border with Pakistan, on October 16. Tehran summoned the Pakistani ambassador to inform him that Islamabad should take the necessary actions to secure the release of soldiers after being transferred to Pakistan. Remarkably, Iran has been keen- this time - not to escalate with Islamabad, unlike previous incidents, the latest of which was the killing of 10 Iranian soldiers, on April 26, 2017, which prompted Iran to threaten military intervention if the Pakistani government did not launch strikes against the armed groups that carry out such operations. Iran went further, firing mortar shells on the border on May 27, 2017. This cannot be separated from Iranian efforts to handle the fallout of the new US sanctions, as well as the implications of Imran Khan’s rise to power in Islamabad.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Conflict, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, China, Iran, South Asia, Turkey, Middle East, India, Asia
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: ISIS seems to be intent on returning to the areas from which it was driven out or its influence has receded over the past period, such as Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor in Syria. The two cities have recently witnessed a remarkable activity by ISIS, which is evident in the organization’s terrorist attacks against its opponents, raising many concerns that it may further expand, taking advantage of impasse over the Syrian crisis and the increasing security troubles in those areas.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Islamic State, Conflict, Ideology
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Moscow hosted a new round of talks in an effort to reach a settlement for the conflict in Afghanistan, on November 9, dubbed as “Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan”. Moscow considered that the potential gain would be the participation of Taliban representatives for the first time in two years, since the launcg of the talks. These talks witnessed two previous rounds, which did not yield any results. They were mainly a regional dialogue with the neighbouring countries concerned with the Afghan issue. Although Russia says there has been a considerable progress in the talks, this does not negate the fact that they still face many challenges that were evident in the outcome of the meeting. However, Moscow will likely continue its efforts to hold further talks, especially in the light of the evolving situation on the ground, namely ISIS moving from Syria and Iraq and some Middle Eastern countries to Afghanistan. Such move is considered an eminent threat to Moscow’s national security and interests.
  • Topic: Taliban, Islamic State, Conflict, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Russia, South Asia, Eurasia