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AssessmentsJan 27, 2021 | 22:45 GMT
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Talaat Fahmy speaks during an interview in Istanbul, Turkey, on Jan. 19, 2021.
What Does the End of the Qatar Blockade Mean for the Muslim Brotherhood?
As Qatar emerges from isolation, the waning political power and ideological allure of the Muslim Brotherhood will force Doha to rely less on its ties to the Islamist group and more on diplomatic efforts to gain influence abroad. After years of attempting to pressure Qatar to drop its support for the Muslim Brotherhood for fear it could inspire dissent and even revolution in their own countries, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have been easing their blockade on Doha. Qatar, however, has given no assurances that it will change its ongoing sponsorship of the Muslim Brotherhood. But the former blockading countries no longer see the transnational Islamic movement as much of a threat as they used to, with ideological weaknesses and increased security measures now limiting the group’s impact on global Muslim politics. 
SnapshotsJan 8, 2021 | 17:22 GMT
Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Nayef Falah Al-Hajraf holds a press conference at the end of the GCC's 41st summit in the city of al-Ula in northwestern Saudi Arabia on Jan. 5, 2021.
What’s Driving Saudi Arabia to Ease Its 3-Year Qatar Blockade
By easing its three-year blockade on Qatar, Saudi Arabia is attempting to improve its troubled relationship with the United States before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. But serious differences between Riyadh and Washington remain, which will continue to create tension in their relationship. On Jan. 4, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt agreed to open their land and maritime borders, as well as their air space, to Qatar. Then on Jan. 5, the same four countries pledged to restore relations with Qatar. The breakthrough came after U.S.- and Kuwait-brokered negotiations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, visited Saudi Arabia for the first time since the blockade began in 2017 to attend the GCC conference, where Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally greeted him in an event designed to signal a restoration of high-level relations.
SnapshotsNov 4, 2020 | 17:39 GMT
A Turkish military infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), followed by a battle tank, is seen along the M4 highway in northern Syria on March 15, 2020.
An Idlib Attack Highlights Turkey’s Eroding Position in Syria
Turkey is signaling its willingness to use proxies to secure its interests in Syria’s Idlib Province, but the positioning of Russian and Syrian forces will limit the likelihood of deeper Turkish military engagement. In an address to legislators on Oct. 28, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that a recent attack against Turkish-backed rebel fighters in Idlib was proof that Russia was not interested in peace, as it deliberately undermined the tenuous cease-fire Ankara and Moscow reached in March. Erdogan also reiterated his government’s interventionist policy in Syria designed to clear Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) militants from Turkey’s border. 
AssessmentsOct 1, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A masked Hamas militant mans a machine gun in the back of a pickup truck in the Palestinian city of Rafah, located in the southern Gaza Strip, on Oct. 17, 2019. The yellow flags of the Palestinian party Fatah can also be seen in the background.
Abandoned by Old Allies, Palestinian Leaders Turn to Turkey -- and Each Other
A Turkey-brokered agreement to hold the first Palestinian elections in 15 years suggests a new appetite for cooperation between the territories’ staunch political rivals, along with a new mediating role for Ankara, in light of warming Israeli-Arab Gulf relations. On Sept. 23-24, high-level representatives from Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas met in Istanbul for a two-day discussion hosted by Turkey’s foreign ministry. After the meeting, a Hamas spokesperson announced that the two parties -- which have been engaged in more than a decade of infighting -- had agreed to begin planning elections within six months. 
AssessmentsFeb 5, 2020 | 09:00 GMT
Turkish-backed Syrian fighters man an anti-aircraft gun in Saraqeb, in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib on Feb. 1, 2020.
Turkey Digs In Its Heels in Idlib
Moscow and Ankara’s long-standing alliance of convenience is set to face a trial by fire in northwestern Syria. A Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian offensive to retake Idlib appears poised to roll back Turkish influence in the area and send a new wave of refugees to Turkey, which is already hosting 3 million Syrians. On Feb. 3, Syrian government shelling killed five Turkish soldiers in Idlib, prompting Turkey to respond with an array of strikes against Syrian government positions. The tit-for-tat strikes herald a new, dangerous phase for the conflict in Idlib, as Syrian government forces, with Iranian and Russian support, push deeper into the province, leading Turkey to respond with the deployment of new forces directly in the path of advancing Syrian troops. For Turkey, it's a game of high-stakes military pressure to buy time for negotiations to ensure that there is no new flood of refugees to Turkey and
AssessmentsJan 29, 2020 | 01:14 GMT
A man at an electronics store in Modiin, Israel, watches U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveil the Trump administration's Mideast peace plan during a White House news conference on Jan. 28, 2020.
Trump's Mideast Peace Plan Offers a 2-State Path, in Theory
U.S. President Donald Trump's long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, released Jan. 28, may appear to try and appease both sides, but it will function as more of a one-state solution in disguise. The plan heavily favors Israeli demands and lacked the incorporation of Palestinian input throughout much of its drafting. As a result, it is less of a peace plan and more of a codification of the status quo, which sees Israel as the more empowered actor in now decades-long negotiations. The timing of the plan's release could also serve as an electoral boost for Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, both of whom are facing political challenges as they seek reelection this year, especially because Israel's government made it clear on Jan. 28 that it intends to quickly annex territory the plan proposes for annexation.
AssessmentsJan 14, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is seen on Jan. 2, 2020, following an attack on the facility.
Iraq Faces America's Economic Wrath
For companies active in Iraq, threats to physical security -- whether from a possible military conflict between the United States and Iran, militia violence or a resurgent Islamic State -- aren't the only thing they need to worry about. That's because dark economic times could also be on the way, especially as U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to enact sanctions on Iraq if Baghdad continues to push for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq following the U.S. assassination of Qassem Soleimani. If Baghdad pushes U.S. forces out, the aftermath, bluntly speaking, will be messy. Given that bilateral diplomatic relations would inevitably take a nosedive in such a situation, the United States would most likely impose punishing sanctions on Iraq. And even if such measures don't come to pass, the United States' campaign of maximum pressure on Iran will certainly leave Iraq worse for wear as well.
AssessmentsJan 8, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
This Dec. 26, 2019, photo shows a damaged vehicle in the wake of an airstrike in Zawiya, 45 kilometers west of Tripoli.
Turkey's Help Won't Win Its Allies the Libyan War
Squeezed by an army on the advance, Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) has reached for a lifeline across the Mediterranean in Ankara, which is planning to send special forces, drones and other assistance to Tripoli. But while Turkey's military support will help keep the GNA afloat in Tripoli with an eye to ensuring it remains part of any future Libyan political system, it's unlikely to move the needle enough to halt the opposing Libyan National Army's (LNA) offensive on the city entirely. More to the point, LNA leader Khalifa Hifter's foreign backers are likely to respond to Turkey's move by increasing support for the field marshal -- meaning that, in the long run, Ankara's involvement in Libya runs a high risk of encountering mission creep.
SnapshotsOct 27, 2019 | 13:46 GMT
Syria: Al-Baghdadi Dies in U.S. Operation, but Islamic State Threat Will Persist
U.S. President Donald Trump announced Oct. 27 that a U.S. military operation carried out by the U.S. Army's elite Delta Force with CIA support in Idlib province in northwestern Syria has resulted in the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Al-Baghdadi's death, however, will not do much to significantly weaken the wider capabilities of the Islamic State or its affiliates.
AssessmentsAug 26, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
The Tunisian parliament holds a session in November 2018.
Tunisia's Budding Democracy Faces Its Biggest Test
In 2014, Beji Caid Essebsi became Tunisia's first-ever popularly elected president after the country famously ousted its authoritarian leader of 22 years, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Caid Essebsi was also the country's first leader to respect the new, limited role of the presidency per the country's 2014 constitution. But whether that precedent continues will now be up to his successor. Following Caid Essebsi's death in July, Tunisia's presidential elections were moved up several weeks to mid-September. The balloting will carry heavy regional significance because as the Arab Spring showed, Tunisia wields an outsized influence on its regional peers, and its results could very well dictate the long-term sustainability of its democracy.
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