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After a more than four-year absence, Jund al-Islam (JAI) has returned to the forefront in Sinai, marking a new chapter in the fierce conflict between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (Daesh, ISIL, ISIS). The group published an audio recording in which it took credit for an attack targeting ISIS affiliates in Sinai known as Wilayat Sinai (WS). Jund al-Islam deemed them Kharitjites or those that defected from the group, and demanded that WS leaders turn themselves in. This attack raises many questions related to the sudden timing of Jund al-Islam’s emergence, its relationship with al-Qaeda, and the likely impact of the renewal of old hostilities between Wilayat Sinai and Jund al-Islam.

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To say that Yemen is facing a humanitarian crisis is an understatement. Numerous agencies are struggling to provide aid to a population in desperate need, but aid can only be as effective as the willingness to protect Yemen’s civilian population. That willingness has been lacking on all sides of this multi-sided war. Without civilian protection, building trust between the belligerent parties to reach even a cessation of hostilities, much less a long term, sustainable peace, is impossible.

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The Western Sahara is a region controlled by the Moroccan government for the past thirty-five years. It has long fostered the idea of a referendum while Morocco has publicly discouraged bids for independence. The Catalan referendum has bolstered the Western Sahara cause while standing as an example for Morocco of the possible repercussions: protests, violence, and overall fragmentation by the Spanish government and now-ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont illustrate the dangerous potential for Morocco’s ongoing tension with the Western Sahara region it controls. What is the history of the Western Sahara and what is its relationship with Morocco? How close is it really to a referendum?

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Normally, the beaches of southern Tunisia are quiet in November. It is the start of the lean months, when few tourists arrive and the jobs which depend on them vanish. This year is different. Tunisia’s beaches have a new customer: Tunisians trying to go to Europe

Between October 1st and November 8th, more Tunisians took to the seas than in 2015 and 2016 combined, with Italy and Tunisia detaining 4,709. In total, more than 8,700 Tunisian migrants have been caught by Italy and Tunisia in 2017. There are suspicions this represents only a fraction of those who have left.

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One of the main disputes behind tensions between the Iraqi federal government and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) includes disagreement over budget allocation. This month, the Iraqi government approved the proposed budget for 2018 and sent it to the parliament for debate in the coming weeks. The draft budget, strongly criticized by the KRG, is the latest episode in the contention between Baghdad’s vision of a strong center and KRG’s preference of strong regions. It also highlights a fundamental problem: the actual meaning of Iraqi federalism, which still lacks a clear institutional framework.

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Following a recent controversy where a British journalist at a conference in Egypt casually implied that the peoples of the Arab world were more culturally inured towards restrictions on press freedom, we discussed the issue of democracy and Arab culture with Atlantic Council’s senior non-resident fellow, Dr. H.A. Hellyer.

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Qatar is one of Tunisia’s most important trade partners. It has invested, loaned, or assisted Tunisia with more than 1.5 billion USD since 2011, and has directed its media, think-tanks, and PR empire to acclaim the country’s transition to democracy. Thousands of Tunisians work in Qatar, and the current Gulf crisis has allowed a number of Tunisian businessmen to profit from the besieged peninsula by exporting industrial products, and even establishing factories there.

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Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) made headlines again as Saudi announced the arrest of eleven high ranking princes and ministers. The announcement, made via the Saudi-owned Arabic-language broadcaster Al Arabiya, sent shock waves throughout Saudi and the financial world.

The removal of princes and ministers is part of an anti-corruption campaign meant to show Saudi Arabia's intent to reform and modernize, but many sources believe it is more likely a move by the Crown Prince to consolidate power. Among those arrested were billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who was the head of the National Guard. In detaining Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, MbS effectively removed all challenges to his ascension. Indeed, such a public arrest of members of the monarchy is especially surprising in a Kingdom which is known for quietly sidelining ministers and officials. A senior Arab official speaking to the BBC said that "it was a message that no one is above the law, or more precisely above his law.”

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In the wake of the Security Council’s renewal of the United Nations (UN) mission in Libya (UNSMIL) in September, a sequel to UN-led mediation efforts directed by a new Special Representative of the Secretary General is underway in Libya. It once again hopes to reach an agreement among the main actors of the Libyan crisis while guaranteeing the will of the Libyan people to reject authoritarianism and realize a pluralistic political system respectful of human rights and individual liberties. The script follows a familiar pattern: a UN roadmap that paves the way for a grand elections finale. But the deadlock in Libya and the dynamics since the onset of the political crisis may require more unorthodox thinking and counterintuitive solutions.

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In early July, Syrian regime forces backed by Russian air force and Iranian militias seized the entire desert area between Khanasir, Ithriya and al-Rasafah, split administratively between Aleppo, Raqqa, and Hama. In mid-August, the regime launched a campaign against the Islamic State group in eastern Hama province, east of Salamyeh city. It attacked from two directions—firstly from Ithriyah and al-Rasafah, which it had secured in a previous offensive towards the south, and secondly from the Palmyra—T4 Airport road towards the north. The two pincers met on August 19, when the regime announced it had imposed a siege around the Uqayribat pocket of Hama province, east of Salamyeh. The area covers some 3,000 square kilometres and is home to 10,000 civilians and around 350 Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) fighters. The attack lost ISIS an entire desert region encompassing eastern Hama and the southeastern Aleppo countryside as well as parts of western Raqqa, a large area that links up geographically with the Badia (Syrian desert) regions of Homs and al-Hamad.

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