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Entries in Middle East Monitor (7)

8:35AM

Wikistrat Middle East Monitor, September 2011

We're excited to announce the launch of Wikistrat's Middle East Monitor for September 2011, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

Summary

All eyes were on the Palestinian bid for U.N. membership this month. The move puts the U.S. in the uncomfortable position having to exercise its veto to block the bid, which could cause the region to erupt in anti-American fervor and lead to violence on the borders of Israel. However, Wikistrat does not believe that such an event would have a direct strategic affect, and is more concerned about how the political environment would improve the appeal of the Islamists in countries affected by the Arab Spring. The Islamists would benefit politically if Israel and confrontation with the West were to become major campaign issues, particularly in Tunisia and Egypt, where elections are to be held in October and November, respectively.

Civil war appears imminent in Yemen, and the chances of an armed revolt within Syria significantly increased. Yemeni President Saleh has returned home from Saudi Arabia, where he was being treated for three months following an assassination attempt. His return resulted in a sharp increase in violence, and now fighting between tribesmen loyal to the opposition, backed by defected soldiers, and the regime, is spreading. At the same time, two groups in Syria have formed called the Free Officers Movement and Free Syria Army, with contradictory reports on whether they are rivals or have united. The Free Syria Army is claiming credit for a string of attacks on the regime’s security forces, but is far from presenting a significant armed challenge at this stage.

The struggle between Islamists and secularists in the Arab Spring became more apparent this month. In Libya, Islamists are trying to sideline the secular leadership of the National Transitional Council. In Egypt, liberal parties are decrying the unfair playing field they face, with some calling for a postponement of elections until they can properly organize. In Syria, it is less obvious, but rival efforts to form opposition groups show the Islamists and secular democratic forces are in a quiet competition to lead the opposition to the Assad dictatorship.

All eyes were on the Palestinian bid for U.N. membership this month. The move puts the U.S. in the uncomfortable position having to exercise its veto to block the bid, which could cause the region to erupt in anti-American fervor and lead to violence on the borders of Israel. However, Wikistrat does not believe that such an event would have a direct strategic affect, and is more concerned about how the political environment would improve the appeal of the Islamists in countries affected by the Arab Spring. The Islamists would benefit politically if Israel and confrontation with the West were to become major campaign issues, particularly in Tunisia and Egypt, where elections are to be held in October and November, respectively.

Civil war appears imminent in Yemen, and the chances of an armed revolt within Syria significantly increased. Yemeni President Saleh has returned home from Saudi Arabia, where he was being treated for three months following an assassination attempt. His return resulted in a sharp increase in violence, and now fighting between tribesmen loyal to the opposition, backed by defected soldiers, and the regime, is spreading. At the same time, two groups in Syria have formed called the Free Officers Movement and Free Syria Army, with contradictory reports on whether they are rivals or have united. The Free Syria Army is claiming credit for a string of attacks on the regime’s security forces, but is far from presenting a significant armed challenge at this stage.

The struggle between Islamists and secularists in the Arab Spring became more apparent this month. In Libya, Islamists are trying to sideline the secular leadership of the National Transitional Council. In Egypt, liberal parties are decrying the unfair playing field they face, with some calling for a postponement of elections until they can properly organize. In Syria, it is less obvious, but rival efforts to form opposition groups show the Islamists and secular democratic forces are in a quiet competition to lead the opposition to the Assad dictatorship.

Wikistrat Bottom Lines

Go!Opportunities

  • Turkey has placed an arms embargo on Syria and will enact further sanctions. Prime Minister Erdogan has also offended the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood with his call for secular governance. This is a surprising development given Erdogan’s own Islamist orientation, but these actions nonetheless complement Western interests.
  • Saudi Arabia has granted women the right to vote in local elections in 2015. If they are able to turn out, that will give the liberal elements within Saudi society a greater voice. The Moroccan and Saudi models of handling the Arab Spring also offer a formula for Western allies in the region.
  • Syrian protesters are increasingly vocal about their desire to see various kinds of Western intervention on their behalf. This opens the door for the West to reach out to the opposition in Syria, and perhaps elsewhere, and provides an opportunity for the West to strengthen secular elements.

Stop!Risks

  • A civil war in Yemen is very likely to be bloody and severely destabilizing. The main opposition party, Islah, is a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate with Salafist backing. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula will have more freedom of movement, and the Iranian-supported Houthis in the north will have an increasing amount of autonomy.
  • The increasingly assertive role of Turkey also carries risks. The Turkish government may favor the Islamist elements of the Syrian opposition. It also is increasingly confrontational towards Israel, showing that it has not taken a sharp turn towards the West entirely.
  • The ongoing fighting in Libya raises the threats of weapons falling into the hands of enemies to the West, terrorists gaining a foothold, and Qaddafi loyalists waging an insurgency from neighboring countries.

Warning!Dependencies

  • The goals of Turkey. The political party of Erdogan is undoubtedly Islamist, but Turkey’s confrontation with Syria, break with Iran and clash with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is leaving observers in disagreement about his regional objectives.
  • The patience of the defected military forces in Yemen, particularly General Ali Mohsen. The soldiers have defended protesters, but have not made a full push to forcibly push Saleh out of power.
  • The ability of the Syrian opposition to address the fears of the minorities that back Assad out of self-preservation, specifically the Allawites, Christians and Druze who fear persecution.
3:45AM

Wikistrat Middle East Monitor, June 2011

We're excited to announce the launch of Wikistrat's Middle East Monitor for June 2011, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

Summary


The biggest strategic development in June was the change in relations between Turkey and Syria, and therefore, Iran. The increasingly strong relationship between Turkey, Iran and Syria was of great concern to the West and especially, Israel. The Turkish government is now condemning the violence of the Syrian regime towards its people, with officials even talking of creating a “buffer zone” along the border to protect refugees. The Turkish demands for the creation of a multiparty democracy in Syria will never be accepted by President Bashar Assad, and therefore, it is difficult to see how relations can soon be repaired. This deterioration in relations is a very significant change in alignment of power in the region and works to the advantage of the West.

On June 30, the U.N. Special Tribunal on Lebanon indicted four Hezbollah officials in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. Only one, Mustafa Badreddine, had a senior position. This is a development long feared by Hezbollah and its state sponsors, who have attribute the assassination to Israel. Fear over the tribunal was the biggest reason for Hezbollah’s collapse of, and subsequent takeover of, the Lebanese government. Moving into July, Lebanon enters a major political crisis with regional ramifications. Syria and Iran are also under increasing international pressure for their human rights abuses and nuclear programs.

Another important development was the departure of Yemeni President Saleh to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment following a dramatic assassination attempt that also wounded several other top officials. The protest movement is determined to prevent his return. Government officials have insisted that he would soon return, but this has not happened. Recently, the Yemeni Vice President said it was possible that his injuries would prevent his return.

In Libya, the rebels have finally gained an edge over forces loyal to the Qaddafi regime. The war has not yet decisively shifted in their favor, but they are now gaining ground in the western mountains. France has also delivered arms to the rebels, marking an important escalation of foreign involvement. The stalemate has been broken, but there is no sign that the pro-Qaddafi forces are on the verge of collapse, allowing a quick end to the war. Once it appears to these forces that defeat is inevitable, that could quickly change.

 

Wikistrat Bottom Lines

 

Go!Opportunities

  • The indictments of Hezbollah officials in the Hariri assassination strikes at the terrorist group's legitimacy. Its assassination of a political opponent exposes it as a foreign proxy and a terrorist group not strictly concerned with defending Lebanon against Israel. The indictments, along with Hezbollah's continued backing of the Syrian President despite his regime's gross human rights abuses, threaten to do serious harm to the group's popular support.
  • President Saleh’s stay in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment puts him in an extraordinarily vulnerable position. He can be forced to keep out of Yemen, and is now acutely aware of the threat posed to his life.
  • Turkey’s confrontation with Syria dramatically increases the pressure on the Assad regime, and presents an opening for the West to cooperate with Turkey in challenging enemies in the region.
  • The Libyan rebels are making progress in their war against the Qaddafi regime, yet remain extremely dependent upon Western support. This dependency can be utilized to influence the composition and behavior of the rebel forces and address concerns about the Islamist forces among them.

Stop!Risks

  • Prime Minister Erdogan and his political party are Islamists, and Turkish-Israeli relations have sharply deteriorated under his leadership. It is very possible that the Turkish government will support the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood over other secular opposition elements.
  • Al-Qaeda is benefiting from the instability in Yemen, and is battling Yemeni forces as the terrorist group tries to expand its control of territory. The power vacuum that currently exists benefits Islamist elements such as Al-Qaeda, the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels, and the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, Islah, which is the dominant opposition party.
  • The Syrian and Iranian regimes often engage in provocations against Israel in times of domestic troubles, with the Nakba Day incidents being the latest example. Their proxies, especially Hezbollah, will likely seek to confront Israel as the regimes seek to cope with rising domestic and international pressure.

Warning!Dependencies

  • The degree to which Turkey seeks to promote certain factions within the Syrian opposition. An effort to boost the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood will strain relations with the West, and reduce Western support for a policy of regime change in Syria.
  • The insistence of Yemeni President Saleh to return home despite his injuries. The willingness of the Saudis to forcibly keep him in their country is also a key factor, as the Gulf Cooperation Council and the U.S. have been working to convince him to give up power.
  • The amount of pressure it will take for Qaddafi’s forces to feel they are engaged in a losing fight, and whether they believe a post-Qaddafi Libya will be welcoming towards them.

 

5:01PM

Wikistrat Middle East Monitor, April 2011

We're excited to announce the launch of Wikistrat's Middle East Monitor for April 2011, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

 

Summary

The biggest changes in April came in Syria, Yemen and the Palestinian Territories. These changes do not decisively shift the balance of power in the region but are important developments that could lead to different strategic situations.

The Friday protests in Syria escalate each week, as does the violence. This is not a decisive change from the previous month but shows that there is a strong destabilizing trend in Syria. The uprising has only strengthened in the wake of violent suppression. There are now clashes between soldiers in the 5th Division in Daraa who have refused orders to shoot civilians, and the 4th Division, led by Maher Assad, the brother of President Bashar Assad. This could portend a division in the military and security forces.

President Saleh and the opposition parties have agreed to a deal where he would step down within 30 days and then elections would be scheduled. Large-scale violence has continued despite this settlement and it is still possible that Saleh will find a pretext to try to justify a reneging on the agreement. The Gulf Cooperation Council’s intervention in pressuring Saleh to step down is an important development as it shows there are limits to which the Gulf governments are willing to stand by each other in the wake of popular unrest and human rights abuses.

The reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah towards the end of the month is another significant development. It could bolster the Palestinian Authority’s campaign to gain U.N. and international recognition for Palestine as an independent state. The cessation of hostilities between Hamas and Fatah is a dangerous development for Israel, as it means that the Palestinian Authority will not be fully committed to fighting the terrorist group’s operations.

 

Wikistrat Bottom Lines

Go!Opportunities

  • The uprising in Syria presents two opportunities for the West: Firstly, it weakens the Assad regime and raises the possibility that it will be overthrown, which would lead to a major strategic shift. Secondly, the violence puts tremendous pressure on the international community including the Arab world to punish the Syrian government. The Assad regime may survive but will be in a much weakened and cautious state.
  • The potential for Iran to exploit unrest in the Arab world, along with its pursuit of nuclear weapons and support of terrorism, could make it more likely that Arab states will support tougher sanctions and other measures against the Iranian government.
  • The Arab Spring forces the Arab governments and the Iranian regime to focus on internal matters rather than external enemies like the U.S. and Israel. The governments may try to instigate an international crisis, seeking strategic advantages or political stability, but their populations are blaming their rulers for their unsatisfactory conditions and not foreign actors.

Stop!Risks

  • There is potential for civil war or sectarian violence in Syria, as the regime’s Alawite militia appears loyal. The Alawite minority could also fear a post-Assad Syria, allowing the regime to raise recruits. Any terrorists or Iranian Revolutionary Guards personnel harbored by the Assad regime should also be expected to fight on the regime’s behalf, including against defected military personnel.
  • The Iranian regime may seek to solve its political troubles by engaging in foreign conflict, or may simply intervene in Bahrain as a strategic move. Hardline Iranian officials are now openly calling for intervention.
  • The reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, though it is unlikely to last, could give Hamas a greater ability to operate. The terrorist group has engaged in increased amount of terrorist attacks against Israel in the past two months.

Warning!Dependencies

  • The willingness of the Syrian military to follow orders to massacre civilians. This will be the most important factor in judging the future of the revolution in Syria and whether it will be defeated, civil war will ensue or if the Assad regime will fall.
  • The calculations of the Iranian government regarding Bahrain. It is not a vital interest of Iran that the Bahraini government fall or that Saudi forces be forced to leave, but these are certainly goals. It is difficult to judge whether the exceptionally-heated rhetoric coming from Iran indicates an actual desire to become deeply involved and if so, what the limits to this intervention would be.
  • The limits to which the coalition in Libya is willing to assist the rebels, such as through arms, greater action against Qaddafi or even through the deployment of ground forces.

Join Wikistrat to get access to more reports and live simulations. Click here to learn more on Wikistrat subscriptions.

12:45AM

Wikistrat Middle East Monitor, March 2011

We're excited to announce the launch of Wikistrat's Middle East Monitor for March 2011, which can be viewed in entirety by clicking here.

Summary

The U.N.-authorized intervention in Libya appears to have monopolized the attention of the world media, but the Middle East is a region in flux undergoing rapid changes. As stated in the previous bulletins, the region is a significantly different place with each passing month. The sparking of an uprising in Syria is equally as important as the conflict in Libya, if not more so. The Yemeni government teeters on the edge of conflict and the Saudi and possible Iranian intervention in Bahrain are defining moments in the Arab Spring, as the revolutions are increasingly referred to.

The conflicts in the Middle East were largely internal in nature until March, as this month saw the entry of foreign intervention in several places. Libya is the most obvious example, with a U.N.-backed coalition (and possibly Al-Qaeda) backing the rebels and Muammar Qaddafi being supported by Syria, Belarus and possibly Algeria and others. Saudi and Emirati forces entered Bahrain to support the Royal Family and Iranian ayatollahs are reportedly registering volunteers to wage war on the Bahraini government. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have also begun launching attacks on Israel, likely with the intent of fomenting a conflict to stabilize their own rule and that of Bashar Assad in Syria.

These trends indicate that, as has been the case since January, the Middle East will look quite different in April than it did in March. The uprisings are spreading and outside powers are playing a greater role in these internal struggles. The attacks on Israel, the largest since 2009, indicate that Iran, Syria and their terrorist allies believe a confrontation is in their interest.

 

Wikistrat Bottom Lines

Go!Opportunities

  • The uprising in Syria puts the Baathist regime in a weak and frightened position, making it increasingly susceptible to outside pressure. The West can leverage this instability to try to force behavioral changes or even foment regime change.
  • The West, especially the U.S., has a rare chance to counter the image that its foreign policy is based on imperialism through supporting compliant tyrants.
  • The pressure on the Arab regimes can be utilized to force oppressive governments that are Western allies into implementing changes to appease the population and open the door to globalization that can result in positive changes over the long-term.

Stop!Risks

  • The temptation is high for Iran, Syria and their extremist allies to intervene on the side of forces fighting pro-American Arab governments and to confront Israel to cure their own ills.
  • The West risks further alienating the Arab populations and inadvertently assisting anti-American extremist forces by not taking a strong stand in support of the demands of the protesters.
  • The West also faces the risk of being seen as an unreliable ally, therefore undermining relations with governments with poor human rights records and potentially pushing them to look for new allies on the world stage.

Warning!Dependencies

  • The sensitivity of the populations to the use of violence by the government. It can either cause a popular backlash or successfully disperse a large crowd and intimidate the opposition.
  • The willingness of security forces to use violence. Orders to carry out shootings can cause defections among government personnel and dramatically weaken the regime.
  • The desire of outside powers to intervene in the affairs of other countries and provoke conflict with the ruling governments for strategic advantage.

Join Wikistrat to get access to more reports and live simulations. Our next simulation - on Syria's Stability - will be launched soon and will include the examination of various scenarios and policy options conducted live on our wiki. Click here to learn more on Wikistrat subscriptions.

1:05PM

Wikistrat's Middle East Monitor (#3)

We're excited to announce the launch of Wikistrat's Middle East Monitor for February 2011, which can be viewed in entirety by clicking here.

Summary

The Mid­dle East and North Africa is again a pro­foundly dif­fer­ent place than it was in De­cem­ber 2010 or even in Jan­u­ary 2011. The biggest de­vel­op­ment is the down­fall of Egypt­ian Pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak as a re­sult of the up­ris­ing in Tunisia that brought down Pres­i­dent Ben Ali. As a pop­u­la­tion with over 80 mil­lion peo­ple and a major strate­gic power, the suc­cess of the up­ris­ing ex­po­nen­tially in­creases the mo­men­tum of pro­test­ers in the re­gion that has ex­isted since Tunisia’s Jas­mine Rev­o­lu­tion.

Major un­rest has struck al­most every sin­gle coun­try in the Mid­dle East and it has spread as far as China, Al­ba­nia, Be­larus and Venezuela. The gov­ern­ments in the re­gion are now en­gaged in a del­i­cate bal­anc­ing act of of­fer­ing major con­ces­sions while at times or­der­ing se­cu­rity forces to use vi­o­lence to dis­perse es­ca­lat­ing demon­stra­tions. Every gov­ern­ment is closely watch­ing de­vel­op­ments in the en­tire re­gion to de­ter­mine their own course of ac­tion. Coun­tries like Bahrain and Yemen have of­fered major con­ces­sions, in­clud­ing eco­nomic aid pack­ages and more po­lit­i­cal free­dom, while the Libyan gov­ern­ment has cho­sen to use an in­cred­i­ble amount of vi­o­lence. The fate of these gov­ern­ments will de­ter­mine what the lead­ers in the re­gion de­cide are the best ways to stay in power.

Wikistrat Bottom Lines

Go!Opportunities

  • The overall demand for liberalization can open the door to Foreign Direct Investment as economic openness is demanded and governments resort to economic reforms to reduce internal stresses.
  • The demand for political liberalization can permit a better flow of information and ideas, allowing for a proliferation of voices and opinions.
  • Western support for those demanding reforms can decrease hostility, particularly towards the U.S., over the perception that it is not committed to human rights and has imperialistic motivations.

Stop!Risks

  • Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood could come to power because of the desire for a greater role for Islam in public life, their superior organization and in some cases, a desire for some elements of governance based on Sharia law.
  • Anarchy could result as protesters clash with security forces. This can lead to instability that negatively affects world markets and potentially result in the damaging of oil facilities.
  • The increased power of the populations could result in foreign policies more hostile to the West and more favorable to Iran.

Warning!Dependencies

  • The appeal of the Islamist parties and political figures. It is possible that the population will not feel the Islamist candidates are qualified to improve the economy or carry out reform or may simply question their agenda once campaigning is underway.
  • The loyalty of the security forces. This is an important factor as they are the ones given the responsibility to ensure the survival of the governments, but they may defect if ordered to become violent.
  • The unity of the opposition. Division can weaken the opposition and strengthen the government and lead to dysfunction during a power vacuum.

 Click here to download the summary as a PDF document. Subscribers can download this entire edition in PDF or view on our interactive wiki.

 

 

4:53PM

WIKISTRAT's "Middle East Monitor", January 2011

Greetings from the Wikistrat team

We're excited to announce the launch of our latest publication, "Middle East Monitor - January 2011". 

We hope you will enjoy the Mid-East Monitor. You are also invited to our Virtual Strategic War-Room on our wiki - check out the public version here. Sign up today to access our integrated strategic model of globalization.

Subscribe and Join the Wikistrat Universe, featuring global strategic model of globalization's advance, trends, shifts and trajectories. Your journey starts Here.

See you on the wiki!

 

3:55PM

WIKISTRAT's "Middle East Monitor" (#1)

Greetings from the Wikistrat team.

We're excited to announce that we're launching our latest publication, "Middle East Monitor." To receive future updates and free analysis, sign up to our free mailing list here.

We hope you enjoy the Mid-East Monitor.

See you on the wiki!

CEO Joel Zamel

CTO Daniel Green and

Chief Analyst Thomas P.M. Barnett of WIKISTRAT