Showing posts with label Arab World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arab World. Show all posts

11 December 2018

The Wooing of Jared Kushner: How the Saudis Got a Friend in the White House

Senior American officials were worried. Since the early months of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, had been having private, informal conversations with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son of Saudi Arabia’s king.

Given Mr. Kushner’s political inexperience, the private exchanges could make him susceptible to Saudi manipulation, said three former senior American officials. In an effort to tighten practices at the White House, a new chief of staff tried to reimpose longstanding procedures stipulating that National Security Council staff members should participate in all calls with foreign leaders.



Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned of the consequences that sanctions imposed by the United States on his country would have for the West.

Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. has charged Iran with supporting militant movements across the globe and has responded to this and its ballistic missile development by scrapping a historic nuclear deal and re-imposing strict sanctions.

The measures have further crippled Iran's already struggling economy, something that Rouhani told a gathering of the speakers of the parliaments of Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey could hinder its efforts to disrupt drug trafficking and terrorism, leaving the West exposed.

10 December 2018

Jordan's King Walks a Fine Line Between Domestic and International Demands

Jordan's economic and nationalist protest movements are both gaining strength, demanding changes to Amman's policies that will create potential clashes with the country's international donors.

Jordan's key contributors — including the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — will want the kingdom to pursue policies that are unpopular with its citizens.

The divide between international and domestic desires could create a crisis for Jordan's monarchy if the country's sponsors attempt to push Amman too far.

The Saudi Economy Moves Closer to Russia and China

by Michael B. Greenwald

Since the Fracking Revolution, Saudi Arabia has embraced closer energy cooperation with non-Western powers, like China, Russia and India.

Since the October death of Jamal Khashoggi, Riyadh’s economic relationships have been the subject of intense international scrutiny. Most major governments have been distancing themselves from Saudi Arabia. In particular, the withdrawals from the Future Investment Initiative (FII) to the German freeze on arms exports, both governments and some in the private sector have been keen on distancing themselves from the country. In recent weeks, strong U.S. Congressional reactions have been discussed, and will soon be at the forefront of the narrative.

9 December 2018



The U.S. may be headed down a similar path in Syria as it was in the lead-up to the Iraq War in 2003, a conflict that vastly changed the dynamics of the region and entrenched the Pentagon in the country to this day.

In a press briefing following a meeting of the so-called United Nations "small group" on Syria—the U.S., Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom— U.S. special envoy James Jeffrey outlined what many had criticized as a vague approach to Washington's true goals in the conflict. Since 2015, the U.S. has led a coalition tasked with bombing the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), but officials have said they did not plan on removing the military until forces allegedly under Iranian control were withdrawn and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was ousted.

The Saudi Dilemma: To Cut Or Not To Cut – Analysis

By Irina Slav

To cut and push up prices or not to cut and preserve market share, this is the question that Saudi Arabia is facing ahead of this year’s December OPEC meeting. It seems like just yesterday when OPEC met in 2016 and decided to cut production by 1.8 million barrels daily, including from Russia, to reverse the free fall of oil prices. At the time, it worked because everyone was desperate. Now, many OPEC members are both desperate while not yet recovered from the 2014 blow. Saudi Arabia is not an exception.

A recent report from Capital Economics said Saudi Arabia has its problems but it could withstand lower oil prices without feeling too much of a pinch. “Even if [Brent] prices fall further to $40-$50 a barrel, immediate balance of payments strains are unlikely to emerge,” the report said, with its authors adding the Kingdom would be able to finance its trade deficit from its foreign exchange reserves “for at least a decade.”

Avoiding A World War Web: The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace

By Arthur P.B. Laudrain

On Nov. 11 at 11:00 a.m., more than 70 world leaders walked towards the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War and to honor the 19 million people who lost their lives in it. French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a charged speech denouncing nationalism and urging all leaders to pursue peace through multilateralism. On November 12th 2018 at the Internet Governance Forum, Macron unveiled France’s first international initiative to that end, the “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace.”

Potential Norms for Cyberspace are Fragmented

The Paris Call is not the first of its kind. In April 2018, Microsoft launched its “Digital Peace” campaign along with a “Cybersecurity Tech Accord” aimed at getting the internet and the technology industry to better protect their customers’ privacy and security against cyberattacks. Similarly, Siemens unveiled in May 2018 a “Charter of Trust” that seeks to develop adherence to security principles and processes, with the aim of developing a “global standard” for cybersecurity.

8 December 2018

Iran: Suicide attack hits police post in Chabahar

Official says more than 40 people also wounded in the attack that targeted a police headquarters in key port city.
Chabahar in Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province is located near the border with Pakistan 

Four policemen were killed and 42 other people were wounded in a suicide car bomb attack on a police headquarters in Iran's southeast on Thursday. 
The attack occurred in Iran's southern port city of Chabahar, state television Press TV reported, quoting security and local officials.

State media also reported shooting in the area, home to a Sunni Muslim minority in the largely Shia country, which has long been plagued by violence from both drug smugglers and separatists.
Rahmdel Bameri, governor of Sistan-Baluchestan province, said a bomb-filled vehicle was used to target the police station by the suicide attacker.

"Police stopped the explosive-laden car and started firing at the driver ... who then set off the explosion near the police headquarters in Chabahar," said Bameri.

Images posted online showed thick smoke rising from the sky in the area where the attack took place.
The SITE Intelligence Group reported that Sunni armed group Ansar al-Furqan claimed responsibility for the attack.

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused a foreign power of involvement without naming a specific country.

"Foreign-backed terrorists kill and wound innocents in Chabahar. As we've made clear in the past, such crimes won’t go unpunished," Zarif said on Twitter.

The True Origins of ISIS

Hassan Hassan

Most historians of the Islamic State agree that the group emerged out of al-Qaeda in Iraq as a response to the U.S. invasion in 2003. They also agree that it was shaped primarily by a Jordanian jihadist and the eventual head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The Jordanian had a dark vision: He wished to fuel a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites and establish a caliphate. Although he was killed in 2006, his vision was realized in 2014—the year isis overran northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

Narratives about the origins of Islamic State ideology often focus on the fact that Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden, both Sunni extremists, diverged on the idea of fighting Shiites and on questions of takfir, or excommunication. Such differences, the story goes, were reinforced in Iraq and eventually led to the split between isis and al-Qaeda. Based on this set of assumptions, many conclude that Zarqawi must have provided the intellectual framework for isis.

6 December 2018

How Europe Could Blunt U.S. Iran Sanctions Without Washington Lifting A Finger


It has been nearly seven months since the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. As sanctions begin to bite, Iranian companies are laying off employees, and Iranian households are facing renewed hardships. Iran has exercised remarkable patience while it waits for Europe to devise its special purpose vehicle (SPV), a new entity intended to help Iran blunt the impact of U.S. secondary sanctions by making it possible for companies to trade with Iran, despite the fact that most international banks refuse to process payments to and from the country.

The SPV will do so by offering a “compensation” service. By overseeing a ledger of payments related to exports and imports between Europe and Iran, the SPV will be able to coordinate payments so that a European exporter of goods to Iran can get paid by a European importer of goods from Iran, eliminating the need for cross-border transactions. The SPV simply coordinates payments so that exporters can be paid from funds outside of Iran while importers can be paid by funds within Iran.

4 December 2018

As Turkey Enters 2019, Its Economic Woes Are Never Far Away

Since many of Turkey's woes are driven by external factors, the government will struggle to manage the country's economic fragility in 2019.

Because of the economic headwinds, Turkey will seek to minimize some tensions with Western governments such as the United States and the European Union, but it won't abandon its national security goals, including military activities in Iraq and Syria.

Because of the effect that the flagging economy could have in the lead-up to elections in March 2019, the ruling party will likely pursue more flexibility in its political alliances.

Editor's Note: This assessment is part of a series of analyses supporting Stratfor's upcoming 2019 Annual Forecast. These assessments are designed to provide more context and in-depth analysis on key developments in the coming year.

3 December 2018

Yemen's Long Road to Peace

Alexandra Stark is a pre-doctoral research fellow at the Belfer Center for International Affairs' Middle East Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School and a PhD candidate in international relations at Georgetown University. 

After more than three years of conflict, the humanitarian consequences of the war in Yemen are staggering. UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock warned, “There is now a clear and present danger of an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen: much bigger than anything any professional in this field has encountered during their working lives.” While the road to peace talks will be difficult and uncertain, the United States and its allies and partners can play an important role in supporting negotiation efforts and helping the parties find a workable, sustainable solution to the conflict.

A New Phase in Israel-Gulf Relations

by Seth Frantzman

Intelligence and Transportation Minister Israel Katz pushed for cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states in a speech in Oman on November 7. “In my view, cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states can and should be expanded,” he said. “Israel also has a lot to offer when it comes to water desalination and irrigation, agriculture and medicine.”

The trip bookended several high profile visits to the Gulf by Israeli officials. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman in late October. Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev and Communications Minister Ayoub Kara also traveled to the United Arab Emirates, one to attend a sporting event and another for a conference.

The visits represent a significant breakthrough in connections between Israel the Gulf states. Since the 1990s, when Israel signed the Oslo Accords and made peace with Jordan, there were increasing ties to several Gulf countries. This included the opening of trade offices. However, relations became frozen during the Second Intifada (2000-2005).

What 1979 Can Tell Us About Iran Today

By George Friedman

History never repeats itself exactly. Or does it?

It’s no secret that Iran’s economy has faced severe strain this year, with the country’s currency plummeting and consumer prices soaring. Inflation has been one of the top concerns. It spiked once again last month, reaching 35 percent. Inflation has reached this level, and even higher, before. Still, at 35 percent, income growth starts to fall behind, basic commodities are priced out of the reach of the poor, and tremendous pressure is placed on the middle class. Hunger may not be a concern for this group, but access to basic goods and services needed to maintain their lifestyles becomes a struggle. Last month’s numbers were not a sudden shift; inflation has been a growing problem, gnawing away at crucial segments of society for quite a while. Certainly, U.S. sanctions are part of the problem, but Iran’s own internal dynamic has been the main contributor.

2 December 2018

Lessons from Post-Conflict States: Peacebuilding Must Factor in Environment and Climate Change

By Karolina Eklöw and Florian Krampe

The challenge of peacebuilding missions is not only to stop violence and prevent a rekindling of conflict, but also to help societies and governments reset their internal relations on a peaceful path towards sustaining peace. In the short run, it might be tempting to dismiss environmental issues when considering the insurmountable task of building peace after armed conflict. Yet, it is increasingly clear that the interaction between social, political, and ecological processes decisively shapes the post-conflict landscape.

Often, peace operations’ and post-conflict states’ capacity to navigate the impacts of war and simultaneously manage natural resources is limited. But, an increasing body of research and policy experiences shows that in the long run it can be rewarding. Actually, natural resource management appears to be an important factor post-conflict states must consider if they wish to build a foundation for a socially, economically, and politically resilient peace. Yet, too often this potential remains overlooked in most peacebuilding processes.

The Yemen War: A Proxy Sectarian War?

By Maartja Abbenhuis

The diffusion of protests against authoritarian regimes across the Arab world in 2011 reinvigorated Yemen’s marginalized social movements and united different geographical and political factions in Yemen, such as the northern Houthi movement and the southern secessionist movement Hiraak.1 The Saudi Kingdom, along with other Gulf monarchies, swiftly designed a transitional plan for the country to ensure that President Ali Abdullah Saleh wass replaced with a friendly government led by President Abd Rabo Hadi. Disillusioned by the transition, the Houthis took military control of the capital Sana’a in September 2014, and Yemen descended into a civil war. On 26 March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes on Yemen with the aim to restore the Saudi-backed Hadi government and destroy the Houthi movement. What was initially planned as a limited operation degenerated into a war of attrition without a conclusion insight. Scholars and policy analysts moved quickly to examine the Yemen war as a by-product of Saudi-Iranian rivalry and another manifestation of a region-wide war between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims. Yet, the crisis in Yemen is more complex; it is neither an international proxy war nor a sectarian confrontation.

30 November 2018

Saudi Arabia sought to buy Israeli hacking technology: report

An Israeli technology firm specialising in cyber intelligence offered Saudi Arabia a highly advanced system that hacks into mobile phones, months before Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a mass purge, according to Haaretz.

The Israeli daily reported on Sunday that representatives from NSO Group Technologies held negotiations with Saudi officials in Austria capital Vienna in June 2017.

The officials were identified as Abdullah al-Malihi, a close aide to Prince Turki al-Faisal - a senior member of the royal family and a former Saudi intelligence chief - and Nasser al-Qahtani, who presented himself as the deputy of the current intelligence chief.

29 November 2018

United Nations The Only Way to End the War in Yemen

By Jeffrey Feltman

The war in Yemen has been a disaster for U.S. interests, for Saudi interests, and above all for the Yemeni people. It has sparked the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe: tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and 14 million people are at risk of starvation. It has been a strategic blunder as well, producing the exact results the Saudi-led military campaign was designed to prevent. The Houthis are more militarily sophisticated and better able to strike beyond Yemen’s borders than they were at the start of the war; Iranian influence has expanded; and the relationship between the Houthis and Lebanon’s Hezbollah has only deepened. Although the United Arab Emirates has waged an effective battle against al Qaeda in Yemen, terrorism remains a grave threat.

For three and a half years, Saudi Arabia has insisted, with diminishing credibility, that military victory was imminent; and for just as long, the United States and other powers have largely turned a blind eye to the intervention’s consequences. But the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October has focused the world’s attention on the kingdom’s reckless conduct—including its disastrous war in Yemen.

The US is making a huge error in backing this spoiled Saudi princeling

by Dan Hannan

When Mohammed bin Salman came to power in 2017, there was disquiet in Riyadh. Many prominent Saudis, including other royals, feared that the petulant princeling might destabilize the region, pursuing his vendetta against the emir of neighboring Qatar, aggravating the tension in Yemen, possibly even provoking a war with Iran. They also feared, with reason as it turned out, that he would overturn what few checks and balances existed in his oil-rich realm and establish a personal autocracy.

Word of their anxieties reached the crown prince’s ear, and he duly invited a number of leading Saudis to the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. After they arrived, they were detained and tortured badly enough that a mobile hospital had to be brought in. Some of them were forced to hand over their wealth, a story disgracefully reported in some credulous Western media as an anti-corruption drive. Crown Prince Mohammed had bought up half the public relations agencies in London and D.C. and, by heaven, they earned their fees. Western diplomats, however, knew perfectly well what kind of monster they were dealing with.

28 November 2018

Trump Is Right About Saudi Arabia

The meltdown over President Donald Trump’s decision to stick with Saudi Arabia despite a human-rights tiff was predictable if melodramatic.

Senator Bob Corker, the outgoing anti-Trump chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.”

Not to be outdone, Joseph Cirincione, the president of the globalist Ploughshares Fund, said the statement “raises serious questions about the President’s fitness for office.”

And a representative of the left-wing Human Rights Watch said the decision “isn’t just immoral, it’s reckless and will come back to haunt and hurt U.S. interests.”

No, it won’t.