Bringing you a step closer to the various facets of the region
Talks between Turkey, Russia, and Iran on the war in Syria were held in Sochi at the beginning of last week. These talks were the tenth in a series held in the Astana diplomatic framework, which is separate from UN-led Geneva talks.
The Islamic State has recently made a comeback in Iraq after the country declared its victory over ISIS. ISIS is utilizing hit-and-run attacks to undermine the Iraqi government, committing kidnappings and murders in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, and Salahuddin.
Southern Iraq saw unrest across its urban areas this week as protestors and police clashed, and crowds demonstrated against unemployment and the lack of electricity and clean water. About 250 people also demonstrated at the Zubair oilfield, outside of Basra, campaigning for more jobs for Iraqis in the nation’s oil business.
Headed by President Recept Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has recently switched to an executive presidency. Under this new system, Turkish ministers report to Erdoğan as opposed to parliament, and the role of prime minister no longer exists. On July 9th, Erdoğan announced the members of the first cabinet that will operate under this new system, which includes Hulusi Akar as the defence minister and Erdoğan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, as the minister of finance and treasury.
On 4 June 2018, Jordanian Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki resigned amid widespread anger over IMF-backed price increases and a new tax reform law. Demonstrations were organized by an independent group known as Hirak Shababi, or youth movement, as well as 33 of Jordan’s professional associations and civil society groups. King Abdullah II appointed Omar al-Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, to form the new government after accepting Hani Mulki’s resignation.
Iraq will hold its parliamentary elections this Saturday (May 12). The elections will decide the members of the Council of Representatives, who will then elect the President and the Prime Minister. The parliamentary elections will be the first since the defeat of ISIS. Senior Research Fellow Fanar Haddad comments on the elections with guarded optimism; while Iraq has come a long way since 2003, there are still major problems that the next administration will have to deal with.
This week, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant Aramco announced that it would list its shares on Tadawul, Saudi Arabia’s domestic stock exchange. It is expected to be the world’s biggest IPO ever. The Saudi government is planning to raise US$100 Billion by selling 5% of Aramco’s shares. Read on for Senior Research Fellow Mattia Tomba’s comments on this development.
This week, Research Fellow Zoltan Pall published a piece in the Carnegie Middle East Center, where he analysed how the Salafi Community established a strong presence in state institutions while expanding its transnational linkages.
Air strikes conducted by the US, UK and France grabbed headlines this week. NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has also said that all allies gave the military action their full support. While the brutality of the Assad regime deserves condemnation, many questions have been raised about the legality of these air strikes. Currently, only the UK has published a legal argument for its military action against Syria.
A top EU official has voiced concerns about the domestic situation in Turkey, stating that Turkey is taking “huge strides” away from the accession process. The EU published an annual report criticising Turkey for its increasingly tight stranglehold on human rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law. It has also voiced concerns about the weakening of democracy as Erdogan’s presidential powers increased.
On the 7th of April, a chemical attack was carried out in the Syrian city of Douma. Moscow and Washington went toe-to-toe with each other at the U.N. Security Council regarding a chemical weapons probe. Our Senior Research Fellow Victor Kattan spoke with CNA, CNBC Asia and BBC to give his thoughts on what President Trump might do in Syria in the days ahead.