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  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Most Syrian refugees in Lebanon have thought many times about going home but in the end deemed the risks too great. Donors should increase aid allowing the Lebanese government to continue hosting the Syrians, so that any decision they make to leave is truly voluntary. What’s new? Pressure on Syrian refugees in Lebanon to return home is rising. Although Syria remains unsafe for most, refugees are trickling back, escaping increasingly harsh conditions in Lebanon and hoping that the situation will improve back home. Procedures that clarify refugees’ legal status are making return more plausible for some. Why does it matter? While even a small number of successful repatriations represents positive news, conditions are too dangerous for mass organised returns. Yet the Syrian government and some Lebanese political factions increasingly insist that it is time for large-scale returns to begin. What should be done? Donors should plan for many refugees to stay for many years, and provide support to help Lebanon meet Syrians’ needs, ease the burden on Lebanon’s economy, and reduce friction between refugees and their Lebanese hosts. The Lebanese government can take additional administrative steps to ease voluntary returns.
  • Topic: Government, Refugees, Syrian War, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Anthony Bubalo
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The examples of Egypt and Saudi Arabia show the risks in betting on the stability of autocratic regimes in the region. Despite the Arab uprisings of the last decade, most countries in the Middle East remain in the grip of autocrats, with a widespread view that this is the 'default setting' for the region. However, an examination of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where authoritarianism has been revived, reveals both regimes are struggling for popular legitimacy. Increasingly reliant on repression, these regimes risk provoking civil unrest, and external powers should reconsider their assumption that autocracy guarantees stability in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Authoritarianism, Political stability, Legitimacy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Egypt
  • Author: David Makovksy
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Benny Gantz’s party lost the head-to-head battle, Avigdor Liberman’s favorable influence on the coalition math has left the general in a stronger position—and taken some diplomatic weight off the Trump administration’s shoulders. Israel’s third round of elections last week seemed inconclusive at first, but the deadlock may now be broken. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did better this time than in September’s round two, but his gains were insufficient to form a new government. Potential kingmaker Avigdor Liberman jettisoned his previous idea of getting the two top parties to join forces; instead, personal antipathy and policy differences have led him to definitely state that he will not join any government Netanyahu leads. Thus, while centrist Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz may have options to shape a new government, Netanyahu has no pathway on his own. In theory, the center-left bloc has the requisite number of seats for a bare majority in the 120-member Knesset, since anti-Netanyahu forces won 62 seats. In reality, the situation is more complex.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Elena DeLozier
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Sultan Haitham will now be free to put his own stamp on the country's government and foreign policy, and a recent dust-up on the Yemeni border could provide the first indicator of his approach. On February 20, Oman will begin its next era in earnest. The new sultan, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, was officially sworn in on January 11, but he has remained quiet and mostly out of sight during the forty-day mourning period that followed the death of his cousin, Sultan Qaboos. Now that this period is drawing to a close, he is free to put his stamp on Omani policy. Notably, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lead the first international delegation to see Sultan Haitham in the post-mourning period. When the meeting was first scheduled, the secretary likely saw it as a chance to get to know the new leader, and also as a symbolic visit to make up for sending such a low-level delegation to offer condolences. Yet the two may have more to talk about now. Earlier this week, a flare-up occurred between Saudi forces and Omani-backed locals in the Yemeni border province of al-Mahra. The confrontation may be Sultan Haitham’s first regional test, and identifying the actors who help him get through it could help Washington discern future power centers within Oman’s often opaque government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Oman, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Marcin Andrzej Piotrowski
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Iran’s official figures on cases and deaths from COVID-19 (the disease resulting from coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2) do not reflect the real scale of the pandemic in that country, which might be among the hardest hit in the world. The pandemic will deepen the economic crisis and disfunction of the state, becoming a challenge to Iran’s ruling elite. The regime might survive thanks to the security apparatus and, in parallel, continue its support of Shia militias in Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen, and the Syrian government. Only the succession of power after Ali Khamenei will be the real test of the coherence of the Iranian elite, and in case of disruption, it might result in the collapse of Iran’s theocracy.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Economics, Government, Health, Coronavirus, Pandemic, Elites
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Yemen, Lebanon, Syrian Arab Republic
  • Author: Michał Wojnarowicz
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Israel took early preventive measures against the COVID-19 pandemic that contributed to low infection and mortality rates. This allowed lifting the restrictions and restarting the economy at the end of April. The cooperation undertaken with the Palestinian Authority helped limit the spread of COVID-19 across the Palestinian territories. The successful fight against the spread of the coronavirus in Israel has strengthened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the newly earned support may be halted by the impending economic slowdown.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Coronavirus, Pandemic
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Nimrod Goren
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: In February 2019, Israel Katz was named Israel’s interim foreign minister, and three months later his appointment became permanent. This ended a period of almost four-years without a fulltime foreign minister, during which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) significantly declined. A year into Katz’s term, an assessment can be made as to whether his appointment has strengthened the MFA and left a policy imprint. This, while taking into consideration the turmoil in Israeli politics since early 2019 and the understanding that deeper change requires a ministerial tenure longer than a year. This article sums up Katz’s first year on the job, based on media reports and information published by the MFA. It examines both intra-ministerial and policy aspects, and concludes that Katz is operating in Netanyahu’s heavy shadow, has failed to address the deep budgetary crisis faced by the MFA, and has focused on developing ties with Gulf States and combatting anti-Semitism.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Financial Crisis, Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Dan Gottlieb, Mordechai Kedar
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The coronavirus crisis has exposed Arab and Islamic notions of fraternity, mutual commitment, and solidarity as hollow rhetorical slogans. Each country in the region is focused entirely on its own efforts to survive economically, socially, and politically as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc.
  • Topic: Government, Health, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Major Lebanese factions are urgently trying to fulfill French demands for the formation of a technocratic government that opens the door for international aids and alleviates public anger and increasing foreign isolation.
  • Topic: Government, Bilateral Relations, Crisis Management, Technocracy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, France, Lebanon
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The Conservative Fundamentalist movement in Iran, directly linked to the Republic’s Supreme Leader and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is apparently heading towards achieving a significant win in the parliamentary elections due to take place on February 21, 2020. This will play a pivotal role in mapping out political forces within the country before the presidential elections of next year, which the Conservatives might also seize from the moderate stream. The Conservatives are trying to take advantage of the heated political dynamics by using the current escalation with the US, after the murder of Qassem Soleimani, leader of ‘the Quds Force’, the rising possibilities of the failure of the nuclear agreement, and the referral of the Iranian case back to the Security Council, all for the sake of boosting their chances of taking control over the Regime’s center of authority.
  • Topic: Government, Reform, Elections, Conservatism
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East