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  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: King Salman has confirmed his reputation as a religious conservative through the reappointment of traditionalist clerics However he has also made some effort to streamline the Saudi government Recent changes have given considerable power to two men from the next generation: King Salman's son and his nephew The result may be good for hard security measures, but less certain for the soft measures necessary for Saudi Arabia to weather the storm.
  • Topic: Security, Development, Economics, Islam, Political Economy, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: There hasn't been a lasting and successful end to an armed conflict in the Middle East in decades, and the newest fighting in Yemen can be seen through a lens of deep regional frustration over countless issues that seem to defy solutions The entire region is frustrated with the worsening status quo, but the consensus and creativity to meaningfully address the challenges is lacking, even with the newly announced Arab 'rapid response force' to an extremist problem that has been openly growing for a decade The only actors not frustrated are non-state actors, who fill the ever-widening chasm between what regional governments can deliver and what their populations demand.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Algeria
  • Author: Bessma Momani, Dustyn Lanz
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: In response to the Arab uprisings in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, the IMF has changed its perspective on the social outcomes of its economic policy advice. The Fund now explicitly advocates inclusive growth, reduced inequality and increased attention to, and spending on, health and education services. Although this is a welcome transition, there is still room for improvement. In particular, the Fund could strengthen its commitment to the social dimensions of public policy by delivering more specific, tangible policy advice for countries to achieve inclusive growth, reduce inequality and improve health and education outcomes. More diverse expertise, achieved through wider recruitment of staff, would help the IMF achieve these goals.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, International Monetary Fund
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia
  • Author: Rabab el-Mahdi
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: The puzzle of Egypt's apparently wild swings from the Mubarak regime to a Muslim Brotherhood government and then back to a military dictatorship have been manipulated to fit the simplistic linear and binary categorical models of democratic transition, with an emphasis on procedural outcomes, when in fact deeper structural issues are at stake. Three challenges explain mainstream Egyptians' choices and the tumultuous path the revolution has been following. The first is the structural economic crisis facing Egypt, coupled with lack of state administrative capacity, which no government has been able to effectively deal with. The second is the repercussions of Egypt's post-colonial history, which as a consequence tends to see the army as the "saviour" and "liberator" of the nation. The third is the failure of alternative groups to to provide solid political alternatives for the majority to rally around against the two reactionary poles and their inability to devise strategies to break loose from and reconstruct the hegemonic discourse . Consequently, international actors who throw their weight behind one reactionary faction or the other based solely on pragmatic considerations of their ability to bring about stability will be backing the wrong horse.
  • Topic: Economics, Islam, Armed Struggle, Regime Change, Popular Revolt
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: Mohsin Khan
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The popular uprisings that swept the Middle East in early 2011 dramatically altered the political landscape of the region with the overthrow of autocratic regimes in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen. These uprisings gave hope to citizens that this was the beginning of a long-overdue process of democratic transition in the Arab world. The monarchies of Jordan and Morocco also went through profound political changes, even though the rulers maintained their power. While the promise of democracy in the Arab transition countries was seen as the driving force in the uprisings, economic issues were an equally important factor. The explosive combination of undemocratic regimes, corruption, high unemployment, and widening income and wealth inequalities all created the conditions for the uprisings. The citizens of these countries thus expected governments to simultaneously address their political and economic demands.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Economics, International Trade and Finance, International Monetary Fund
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia
  • Author: Mustansir Barma
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: “Bread, freedom, and social justice,” is the familiar slogan chanted across the Middle East and North Africa since the Arab uprisings erupted in December 2010. Labor issues fit into this trifecta: bread is a symbol of earning a decent living, freedom is tied to worker rights such as assembly and industrial action, and social justice is linked to dignity derived from employment and better working conditions. Egyptian workers remain frustrated about the lack of progress in achieving the labor rights that are fundamental to this rallying cry.
  • Topic: Economics, Labor Issues, Food
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, North Africa, Egypt
  • Author: Pinar Dost-Niyego, Orhan Taner
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The recent events in Ukraine have revived the question of European dependence on Russian natural gas. The security of Europe's natural gas supply has been a consistently important issue in Russian-European Union (EU) relations. Russia provided 34 percent of EU gas in 2012, and Russian policies can have a direct impact on EU supplies. After the West-Russian confrontation over Ukraine, a lot has been said about the 'US shale gas revolution' and the possibilities of the United States becoming an energy exporter for future European energy needs. Although US energy independence seems to promise new perspectives for future European energy security, as well as for the balance of power in the Middle East, this is not for this decade. We cannot expect that the European Union would be able to cut off all of its energy relations with Russia, but we can foresee–or at least agree–that the European Union should diversify its natural gas supplies.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Economics, Energy Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Ukraine, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Kenneth Katzman
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Since the seizure of US hostages in Iran following the 1979 revolution, the US government has imposed a succession of economic penalties against the Islamic Republic. The complexity and severity of these sanctions intensified following Iran's resumption of a uranium enrichment program in 2006. However, there are a variety of ways to provide extensive sanctions relief should there be a deal placing long-term restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Sanctions, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, North America
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: That nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the UK, U.S. and Germany) were extended beyond the 20 July 2014 deadline was neither unexpected nor unwelcome. The parties ha d made enough headway to justify the extension, which was envisioned in the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) that was signed in November 2013 and came into force in January, but given the political and technical complexity, they remain far apart on fundamental issues. Unless they learn the lessons of the last six months and change their approach for the next four, they will lose the opportunity for a resolution not just by the new 24 November deadline but for the foreseeable future. Both sides need to retreat from maximalist positions, particularly on Iran's enrichment program. Tehran should postpone plans for industrial- scale enrichment and accept greater constraints on the number of its centrifuges in return for P5+1 flexibility on the qualitative growth of its enrichment capacity through research and development.
  • Topic: Development, Diplomacy, Economics, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Iran, Middle East, France
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Economics
  • Abstract: The equity market has had a tough few months due to a combination of concerns, including fears that a US-led attack on Syria might lead to a wider Middle East conflict and threaten oil supplies. Of greater concern for equities are worries that a turn in the US monetary policy cycle could eventually kill off the US recovery. However with valuation not looking like a barrier to further gains, this four-and-a-half year equity bull market will in all likelihood climb the wall of worry and set another new high before the year is out.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Economics
  • Abstract: It is now looking all but certain that the United States will launch some form of attack on Syria. What is unclear is the severity and duration of the attack. Leaving aside the political ramifications, the immediate economic effects are likely to be limited (and are mostly already factored in). Opposing impacts on inflation and activity means that changes to central bank policy could be postponed. A prolonged campaign could have wider ramifications, not least if there is a risk of a geographical widening of the conflict.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Eckart Woertz
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Saudi Arabia's domestic energy consumption is skyrocketing. The growth of electricity demand is particularly strong and shows a high degree of seasonality due to the need for air conditioning in the hot summer months. Demand drivers are population growth, industrial development and a subsidy regime that encourages wasteful consumption. Saudi Arabia now faces a natural gas shortage and is seeking alternative energy sources like nuclear power and renewables in order to reduce the common practice of using fuel oil, crude oil and diesel in power stations. If unchecked, domestic energy demand will threaten oil export capacity and could compromise Saudi Arabia's role as swing producer in global oil markets. However, a reform of the subsidy regime is politically sensitive, because citizens regard subsidies as an entitlement. The government is reluctant to touch subsidies in order to avoid the kind of political unrest that has occurred elsewhere in the wake of the Arab Spring.
  • Topic: Demographics, Economics, Energy Policy, Oil
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Steffen Hertog
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Saudi Arabia's national oil company, Saudi Aramco, has been a critical agent for the social, economic and infrastructural development of Saudi Arabia; its managerial capacities are unrivalled in the Kingdom – and, indeed, the Gulf region. After it played a rather limited role outside the hydrocarbons sector in the 1980s and 1990s, its range of tasks and ambitions has recently again expanded drastically into a number of new policy sectors, including heavy industry, renewable energy, educational reform, infrastructure-building and general industrial development. This presents both opportunities and risks for Aramco, which has started to operate far outside its traditional politically insulated "turf" of running the upstream oil and gas infrastructure in the Kingdom. It is now involved in activities that are more political and more closely scrutinised by the Saudi public, and will have to build up new institutional and political capacities to maintain its reputation for clean and efficient management.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Industrial Policy, Oil, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Evanthia Balla
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: The South Caucasus, situated as it is at the crossroads of Eurasia's major energy and transport corridors, continues to play a vital role in the world's security affairs. After the end of the cold war the South Caucasus emerged as a key region in the geopolitical contest among regional and global powers. The South Caucasus states of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are constantly performing a balancing act in their relations with the U.S., Russia, Turkey and Iran. Armenia has developed strong political and economic ties with Iran in order to counter the Turkish-Azerbaijani axis. Azerbaijan seeks to reinforce its links with the West, especially the U.S., as its main extraregional source of diplomatic and economic support, while it remains cautious towards both Russian and Iranian ambitions in the region. Especially after the 2008 war with Russia and the loss of its provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia has reinforced its links to Western powers and structures while strengthening its ties with Turkey. Both Turkey and Iran are trying to increase their influence in the region, while promoting their national interests in the international arena.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Economics, Islam, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Odeh Aburdene
  • Publication Date: 02-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: It is in the interest of the world community to increase all energy resources—oil, gas, coal, solar, green, and nuclear. There are 7 billion people on this planet today. By 2100 that number will rise to 10 billion people. We can only meet their needs by maximizing energy production and using it in the most efficient means available.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, International Trade and Finance, Oil, Biofuels
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Faysal Itani
  • Publication Date: 07-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The Syrian civil war is accelerating Lebanon's political and institutional decline and poses a serious long-term threat to its economy. Lebanon has largely been spared the political upheavals of the Arab Spring, its fractious political system is intact, and the weakness of its central government means there is no authoritarian order to revolt against. However, Lebanon's own political dysfunction, the regional powers' stakes in Lebanese politics, and their anxieties over the geopolitical challenges that the Arab uprisings pose magnify the economic dangers of Syria's disintegration.
  • Topic: Economics, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Danya Greenfield
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: While Jordanians are focused on the conflict raging in neighboring Syria and the prospect of violence spilling over onto Jordanian soil, below the surface the same kind of political, economic, and social grievances that launched a wave of uprisings in the Arab world are present and intensifying in Jordan with each passing day. As calls for political change swept through Cairo, Tunis, Tripoli, and Sanaa in the spring of 2011, periodic protests emerged throughout Jordan as well, where a diverse mix of people came out in calls for greater freedoms and economic opportunity. Many of the anti-government demonstrations were led by youth, representing a broad spectrum from conservative East Bank tribes to the urban Palestinian-Jordanian elite, and the normally politically apathetic youth population seemed engaged in unprecedented ways. Young Jordanians struggle to land decent jobs, find affordable housing, and save enough money to get married; with 55 percent of the population under the age of twenty-five, and a 26 percent unemployment rate among males between fifteen and twenty-five years old, there is reason to be cognizant about youth discontent emerging in unexpected or critical moments of pressure.
  • Topic: Economics, Youth Culture, Social Movement, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Arabia, Jordan
  • Author: Karim Mezran, Mohsin Khan
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The Libyan economy collapsed in the wake of the popular uprising in February 2011 that led to the overthrow of the Muammar Qaddafi regime later that year. As the war raged, virtually all economic activity, especially oil production (the mainstay of the Libyan economy) witnessed a dramatic decline. While there was some recovery in 2012 when the war ended and oil production came back faster than expected, the economy has not yet reached a point of sustained, longer term economic growth. In fact, by 2013, the economy has only just got back to what it was prior to the uprising.
  • Topic: Economics, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya
  • Author: Faysal Itani
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Although it appears Jordan has survived the Arab uprisings thus far, all is not well in the Hashemite Kingdom. Over the past twenty years, its political economy has changed profoundly, putting pressure on the foundations of regime stability. The state in Jordan has been retreating from many citizens' economic lives, shrinking its circle of privilege and patronage, and leaving the population to fend for itself in a dysfunctional economy. Worryingly, the segment of the population most affected is the monarchy's base, which sees the Palestinian-Jordanian population as benefiting from the new status quo. Today, Jordan is also coping with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, many of whom may remain in the country long term. Yet the real danger to the monarchy's stability is not the immediate cost of refugee care but the alienation of its traditional power base.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Reform
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Arabia, Jordan
  • Publication Date: 06-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Human Rights First
  • Abstract: As part of the United States plan to begin military withdrawals from Afghanistan in 2014, the Department of Defense (DOD) contracted with the Russian state owned arms dealer, Rosoboronexport, to provide helicopters to the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF). DOD has continued and expanded its purchases from Rosoboronexport even while acknowledging that the Russian arms dealer has enabled mass atrocities by supplying Syria's Bashar al-Assad with weapons that have been used to murder Syrian civilians.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Economics, Human Rights, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Middle East, Asia