The Beirut port blast that claimed 178 lives, left over 6,500 injured and 300,000 homeless last August –the largest non-nuclear deflagration in history- was an avoidable tragedy. It was also virtually impossible to hide. The collapse of the Lebanese financial system could have also been avoided. It was, however, less visible. A series of measures set by the Lebanese Central Bank (Banque du Liban, BDL) and the government swept the inevitable default under a rug of financial engineering and the lira-to-dollar peg.
Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, collapsed and died on June 17th after addressing a state court during his trial for espionage charges. The ex-president and senior-figure of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood had been held in solitary confinement since his removal by a military-led coup d’etat in July 2013, and routinely denied access to medical care, family visits, and legal advice.
There is no dearth of conflicts in West Asia. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has defied resolution for seven decades. The fight against the Islamic State and its offshoots in Iraq and Syria has drawn in the U.S., Russia, Iran and Turkey, while the civil war in Yemen has heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. U.S.
Yemen’s divided Huthi movement is sending mixed signals to the US. After President Trump vetoed Congress’ bipartisan resolution to end Washington’s support for the Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen, Mohammed Abdelsalam, the spokesman and top negotiator of the Huthi movement, stated that this proves the Americans were also “behind the [Saudi] decision to go to war” in 2015. “Surely we are interested in having a good relationship with the United States.
Libya seems to be sinking into civil war again: forces under the control of the Cyrenaica strongman General Khalifa Haftar have launched a military strike on Tripoli. The capital is held at the moment by militias supporting the Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Sarraj with UN backing.
The April 9 general elections in Israel are among the most contested, uncertain, and possibly crucial in the country’s republican history. Israel’s society is increasingly polarized, and political tensions are also on the rise: the left-right dichotomy has grown beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and now touches upon a series of questions regarding the fundamental values and institutions of the state.
There are just over 6.3 million Israeli voters on the electoral roll for the 21st Knesset elections. Of these, some 950,000 (15%) are Arab citizens. A recent public opinion poll among Israeli Arab voters, conducted three weeks before Election Day by the German Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, found that in the upcoming elections, voter turnout among Arab citizens is expected to reach a low of 51%.
The early elections for the 21st Knesset were supposed to be a referendum on Benjamin Netanyahu. This, at least, was the purpose of the Prime Minister himself – along with winning a large personal consensus and a solid political majority recreating a more disciplined right-wing coalition under a stronger Likud, and catching the momentum of the positive mood among the Israelis on security and economic policy.
After weeks of street protests and setbacks, the news finally arrived on the evening of Tuesday, 2 April: Abdelaziz Bouteflika, president of Algeria since 1999, resigned. Before that decision, there had been several attempts to carry out a transition that could safeguard the regime, but something had definitely changed already last week.
Over the last few years, the myth of a Russian “return” to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has captured increasing attention from policy-makers all over the area and beyond, as well as the academic community. This widespread narrative originated, in particular, in the Syrian crisis and the Russian military intervention in the country. After a prolonged period of disengagement from the MENA region, the Syrian crisis provided the Kremlin with a front door to return to a region that has always been of geostrategic relevance to its foreign projection.
When Turkey decided to join the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq in July 2015, Ankara’s real target were not IS militants, but the Syrian Kurdish forces. Turkey aimed at avoiding the establishment of Kurdish self-ruled areas in northern Syria, close to its southern border. After almost four years, this remains its main objective in Syria.