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  • Author: Oula A. Alrifai
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Besides highlighting Assad’s financial mismanagement, the recent unrest gives the international community a genuine opportunity to push for transition while bolstering the more prosperous local administration in the northeast. Since mid-January, shop owners, government employees, students, and even children have been gathering in the streets of various Syrian communities to express their frustration with the Assad regime’s economic policies and untruths. Although the protests remain small for now, the fact that they have persistently carried on in the middle of regime-controlled territory highlights Bashar al-Assad’s potential vulnerability on these issues. In Suwayda, a Druze-majority province in the south, residents have protested the sharp drop in the value of the Syrian pound/lira and the deteriorating economic situation in general. In the central-western town of Salamiya, protestors were seen chanting “we want to live.” And in the Suwayda town of Shahba, demonstrators raised loaves of bread in the air while openly criticizing Bouthaina Shaaban, Assad’s political and media advisor. The latter protest was partly spurred by a recent interview on the pro-Assad television network al-Mayadeen, where Shaaban not only claimed that the country’s current economy is “fifty times better than what it was in 2011,” but also declared that “Syrians are self-sufficient in everything.” In response, protestors sarcastically noted that her comments referred to her own household’s economy, not Syria’s. Elsewhere, former agriculture minister Nour al-Din Manna described Shaaban’s remarks about the war-torn country as “hard to believe,” and a closer look at the country’s finances supports this disbelief.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Syrian War, Currency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Rawi Abdelal, Aurélie Bros
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Sanctions have become the dominant tool of statecraft of the United States and other Western states, especially the European Union, since the end of the Cold War. But the systematic use of this instrument may produce unintended and somewhat paradoxical geopolitical consequences. The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation in the field of energy are particularly illustrative of this phenomenon.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Sanctions, Geopolitics, Secondary Sanctions, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The ailing Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, now seventy-nine years old, has no children and no announced successor, with only an ambiguous mechanism in place for the family council to choose one. This study considers the most likely candidates to succeed the sultan, Oman’s domestic economic challenges, and whether the country’s neutral foreign policy can survive Qaboos’s passing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Domestic politics, Succession
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Oman, Gulf Nations
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • 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