Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East and North Africa, travelled to Beijing for talks on Dec. 5-6 with Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China Le Yucheng and Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Chen Xiaodong, whose area of responsibility includes West Asia and North Africa.
Whatever hypothesis of establishment of a Yemeni National Guard (YNG) has to face a broader dilemma: would the YNG be functional to a federal re-composition of Yemen’s unified state, or it would push further, and maybe institutionalize, its on-going feudalization process? Surely, a YNG should be part of an agreed political compromise for a federal state, as well as of a widen Security Sector Reform (SSR) effort.
Hybridity is a permanent dynamic of the Yemeni defence sector. However, due to the rise of new military actors, the intertwining of political, local and tribal loyalties has undergone a further deep reformulation since the complete breakdown of the transitional process in 2014 and the start of the Saudi and Emirati-led military intervention in 2015. The reconfiguration of power relations in Yemen has resulted in a hybridized military marked by three emerging features.
The upcoming Iraqi parliamentary election will take place on May 12. It is the fourth election after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and the first one after the defeat of the Islamic State. In spite of the crises that have been ravaging the country over the last decade and ongoing regional turmoil, Iraq is trying to get back on its feet. But many challenges still lie ahead.
There is a date that could be conventionally considered the starting point of the Kirkuk issue. It is 11 March 1970, when the Kurds and the Iraqi government - after nine years of conflict - signed the “1970 Peace Accord”. The agreement granted autonomy to Iraq’s Kurdish governorates and, with regard to areas disputed due to mixed Arab-Kurdish populations, provided for a census and a plebiscite.
When the first elections were held in Iraq in 2005, two years after the fall of the Saddam Hussain regime, the political landscape in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) was dominated by two major parties: the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). By the following elections, in 2010, a new political force, “Gorran” (Change) had split from the PUK and secured 25% of the local (KRI) parliamentary seats in 2009, and 8 seats in the national (Baghdad) parliament.
Iraq’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for 12 May 2018, will serve as the first national referendum since the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in 2017. Observers of the lead-up to the elections will invariably examine the sectarian Shia versus Sunni rivalries during the process, to the neglect of the intra-sectarian Shia rivalries that have evolved since 2003. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Shia factions did run on a single ticket, the United Iraqi Alliance.
Fifteen years after the demise of the Saddam Hussein regime, Iraq is still struggling to keep faith with the promises generated by the fall of one of the most brutal regimes ever ascending to power, able to maintain its grip on the “land of the two rivers” for decades despite internal opposition, external pressure and ill-fated military operations.
The Western Indian Ocean (the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, the Bab el-Mandeb, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian/Persian Gulf) is the new Gulf powers’ battlefield. Saudi Arabia and Iran, as already in the Middle East, are vying for hegemony in this sub-region: the Gulf monarchies also compete for influence, especially after the 2017 Qatari crisis and Doha’s boycott by neighbours.
The war in Yemen has enhanced transnational insecurity between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, with the Gulf of Aden as the epicentre of this insecurity: nevertheless, Yemen and Somalia still maintain distinct features.
Too often depicted as yet another arena in the proxy war between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, the Yemeni conflict has much more to do with a domestic struggle for power rather than sectarian – and supposedly archaic – rivalries. But with the opening of a new round of conflict after the 2011 Arab Spring, and even more after the 2015 Saudi-led intervention, the conflict underwent a dynamic of “sectarianisation”, or politicization of religious identities.