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Over the past decade or so, Egypt has consistently experienced relatively high rates of inflation. But since the advent of the Arab Spring in 2011, the increase in consumer prices steadily accelerated. During 2011-2015, the average rate of inflation was close to ten percent a year, which was well above the corresponding rate of six to seven percent a year in the MENA region as a whole. Many factors are at play here in causing inflation to rise: increased oil prices worldwide, food price increases, growing fiscal deficit, and rapid increase in the money supply.

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The Trump Administration intends to shrink the United States’ foreign aid budget in 2018, cutting the amount of money available for foreign development and humanitarian aid. President Trump’s proposed cuts come amid a shift to national security focused foreign policy, known by the administration as the “America First” policy. Under this framework, money currently allocated to the United Agency for International Development (USAID) and other foreign aid initiatives would be reallocated to defense and other national security related budgets.

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What US security agencies now consider a hack of Qatar’s news agency ostensibly sent the GCC into a diplomatic whirlwind. The fallout was swift, and reconciliation remains elusive. As Kuwait, the UN General Secretary, and others try to mediate between the two sides, it is worth asking what Saudi Arabia, as the central power behind GCC policy and the decision to cut ties with Qatar, is thinking. Qatar recently said that it is ready to consider Saudi concerns, but Saudi has long been apprehensive about Qatar, and sees it as being hostile. Any reconciliation needs to address these underlying issues.

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On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain severed ties with Qatar amid accusations of supporting terrorism. The Gulf countries closed off borders and airspace to Qatar, and deported Qatari nationals living in their countries, while Qatar’s stock markets plunged in the wake of the rift. The immediate effects on Qatari citizens is clear, but what does this mean for over half of Qatar’s population: its 1.6 million migrant workers?

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In a continuation of their confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian authorities arrested two Muslim Sisters, Dr. Hana Badr al-Din and Sara Abdul Moneim, during their visit to al-Qanater prison with the family of one of its prisoners. Recently, the Brotherhood’s Fund Inventory Committee has included the names of several women with relatives among the Brotherhood’s high-ranking leadership.  Since breaking up the Rabia al-Adawiya and Nahda sit-ins, the way security authorities have dealt with the women’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, known as the Muslim Sisterhood, has deviated from policies dating back to the Sadat era of not hassling or arresting women adopted by previous regimes.

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Ambassador Frederic Hof contributed to NSI’s recent Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) report titled “US Foreign Policy as a Global Power.” SMA is a “multidisciplinary, multi-agency portfolio of projects that assesses and studies challenging problems associated with planning and operations of DoD, military services, and Government agencies,” and delivered to the commander of US Central Command. Ambassador Hof and other experts were asked: Does US foreign policy strike the right balance in supporting US interests and its role as a global power? Or, should the US consider a more isolationist approach to foreign policy? What impact could an isolationist policy have on Middle East security and stability, balance of influence by regional and world actors, and US national interests? Below is Ambassador Hof’s response to the question. The full report can be found by following this link to NSI’s website.

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“Girgis and I used to go to the monastery together. It was a getaway, and we enjoyed serving the priests and volunteering our time. We would rent a small truck, or a motorcycle, and we would go once every week, or every ten days,” Eid Ishak says, as he recalled the trips he and his cousin made to the Saint Samuel Monastery, located close to Egypt’s Minya province. 

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There is a contradiction in General Khalifa Haftar’s narrative. Although he denounces his opponents as “takfiri terrorists and Kharijites” and accuses Misrata of employing political Islam, turning to takfiri groups for help, embracing the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh), and supporting Ansar al-Sharia, he also has strong ties to Salafist organizations that are part of the forces fighting under his command in Barqa in eastern Libya. This is a dangerous game because even though the Salafists that Haftar works with, called Madkhlists, supposedly do not take part in politics, they have been active politically and militarily active in Libya since the February 11 revolution.

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Many governance experts see decentralization as a potential model to mitigate political and sectarian challenges in Syria, Libya, and Iraq and improve livelihoods in those countries by restoring basic services to local populations. But in countries with a long history of absolute control, central government officials frequently resist any reforms seen as weakening their influence, and local governing bodies may not have the capacity to absorb increased responsibility. In recent years, the lack of public service delivery in conflict-affected countries in the Middle East has enabled organized armed groups to claim legitimacy because they can provide such services. Despite these challenges, the government of Iraq, assisted by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has demonstrated that decentralization can distribute responsibility and authority effectively, improve service delivery, and diminish the influence of extremist groups.

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Early on Monday morning, a coordinated isolation of Qatar took place in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, and beyond. While it began with Bahrain severing ties, the power behind the moves was clearly Saudi Arabia, with strong Emirati backing. The isolation was rather complete: Riyadh, Manama, and Abu Dhabi requesting all Qatari nationals to depart their territories; a closing of land links between Qatar and Saudi Arabia; and an ending of flights, as well as a closing of airspace. Other countries like Egypt joined in, severing ties and closing its airspace and seaports to all Qatari vessels, though it is not clear if it was expelling Qatari nationals. The situation is unprecedented—but the outcome seems rather inevitable.

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