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Morocco cut diplomatic ties with Iran on May 1, 2018 after allegations of Iranian meddling in the Western Sahara dispute. The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, met with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammed Javad Zarif, in Tehran the following day to deliver a ‘secret dossier’ accusing Iran of aiding the separatist group Polisario Front in Western Sahara through its Embassy in Algeria, and positioning Hezbollah as a proxy. During his visit, Bourita revealed that a series of Iranian-mediated meetings took place between top Lebanese Hezbollah officials and Polisario representatives in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria. Bourita went on to state that Hezbollah has smuggled weapons, including truck-mounted anti-aircraft missiles, and has provided military training to Polisario Front members.

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Debate over Libya currently focuses on whether elections should be held in advance of a political agreement or to move forward in the absence of one. This debate is irrelevant. There are no governments or political leaders in Libya with the authority to conclude a political agreement that militias will recognize, nor are those same militias going to respect the results of an election in 2018 any more than they did in 2012 or 2014. Militias are the only groups with any authority in the country, and any solution will have to be negotiated with them. Militias’ main concern is money; therefore, any solution to their fighting over resources—primarily oil revenue and criminal rackets—must be primarily economic.

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The trajectory of Iraq remains uncertain two months after the May 2018 Parliamentary elections in which the political bloc led by Muqtada al-Sadr won the greatest number of seats. Given that the Alliance Revolutionaries for Reform, or Sairoon, fell well short of a majority, Sadr must develop a coalition with other parties to elect a prime minister and form a government. While possible alliances with Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish parties dominate the news, whether Sadr delivers on his campaign promise of improving service provision may prove most critical to maintaining his substantial popular support.

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This June brought significant news about Lebanon’s policy towards the Syrian refugee crisis. For the first time, Lebanese government officials confronted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) over its policy on the repatriation of Syrian refugees. On June 8, the Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil ordered a freeze on the renewal of residency permits for UNHCR staff, accusing the UN agency of discouraging Syrian refugees in Lebanon from returning to Syria. In an official statement, the Lebanese Foreign Minister threatened to take “further measures” against UNHCR. Bassil explained that the Lebanese government does not have the patience for the crisis to be drawn out. “We want it to be short. Their (UNHCR) policy is to forbid the return (of Syrian refugees), the Lebanese policy is to encourage return.”  

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A mere eight days after protests against an unpopular tax law rocked the Hashemite Kingdom, Jordanians shot fireworks celebrating the June 7 government announcement to withdraw the legislation. A strong supporter of the austerity measure, Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki submitted his resignation on June 4 following the demonstrators’ calls for his ouster. “And popular will prevails,” declared a banner at one of the crowded victory rallies following incoming Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz’s decision to drop the controversial measure. But with Jordan still suffering from deep economic woes and few signs of political liberalization, some in Amman are questioning whether these protests have actually achieved a dramatic victory.

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Whereas the ambitions of competing warlords fan the flames of conflict and consume the country’s oil resources, envoys from the UN and West to Libya continue to congratulate themselves for having said much but done little. In the balance hangs not only the success of those diplomats’ missions, but also the very future of Libya as a functioning state.

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With the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections that took place on June 24, the issue of naturalized Syrian refugees’ participation was a major point of contention. Turkish parties have divergent views on the Syrian refugee situation in Turkey, and there was an increase of public campaigns rejecting their stay in the country. A wide range of opposition party campaigns called for refugee repatriation, while Syrians with Turkish citizenship were expected to vote for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

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In the wake of Libya’s 2011 revolution, militias built a powerful role for themselves by filling the security vacuum left by the overthrow of strongman Muammar Qaddhafi. Armed groups emerged in all corners of Libya, but the complexity and prevalence is especially noticed in and around the capital, Tripoli.

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There are three possible outcomes to the ongoing battle for Hodeida. First, the Saudi-led coalition succeeds in ousting the Houthi fighters from airport, seaport, and city. Second, the Houthi forces succeed in thwarting the land assault, but remain surrounded from the south and the east. Third, both sides accept a UN sponsored compromise, placing airport and seaport under an international force to keep the flow of humanitarian assistance going and provide a lifeline to civilians across the country. In all three options, the war continues grinding agonizingly on, though obviously the compromise option would not only provide relief to the civilian population of Hodeida, but also serve as a possible stepping stone to a broader peace agreement in the war-torn country.

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Much has been said in the last week of a possible Israeli-Russian arrangement in Syria aimed at curbing Iranian presence in strategic areas like the country’s southern border with Israel. Contradictory reports of troop movements in Qusayr by Tehran’s proxy, Hezbollah, do not change geopolitical realities: the militant group is there to primarily protect Iranian security interests, which remain focused on a long- term presence across the borders, even if this translates into possible dissensions with its tactical ally Russia.

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