Tag Archives: analysis

Upcoming legislative elections on June 12 to perpetuate political instability, trigger further nationwide anti-government protests in coming weeks, months Algeria Analysis | MAX Blog

Executive Summary

  • On February 18, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune dissolved the People’s National Assembly (APN) and called for early legislative elections, slated for June 12. The announcement came ahead of the two-year anniversary of the anti-government protest movement on February 22.
  • This measure was aimed at appeasing the public’s anti-government sentiments. However, protesters will perceive the upcoming elections as a means for former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s allies to remain in power, which will therefore result in a low voter turnout.
  • While interdependent “Hirak” candidates are participating in the elections, as the movement lacks clear organization or leadership, it will only divide the votes of the public, preventing one group or individual from earning a significant majority and result in a polarized parliament. This will challenge the legislative process following the elections and negatively impact the economy. The ensuing political instability will undermine public confidence in the government.
  • Overall, nationwide “Hirak” demonstrations will persist in the weeks leading up to and following the elections. In major cities, including in Algiers, these will generally garner turnouts in the mid- to high-thousands. A significant security deployment will thus be recorded at key focal points in Algiers in the coming weeks to prevent the mobilization of protesters.
  • Travel to Algiers may continue while adhering to security precautions regarding civil unrest. It is advised to maintain heightened vigilance in the vicinity of the Grand Post Office, Martyrs’ Square, Place Maurice Audin, and Didouche Mourad Street as these locales serve as focal points for anti-government protests.

Intel Portal Demo - Try our intelligence package

Assessments & Forecast

Legislative elections unlikely to alleviate widespread anti-government sentiments, low voter turnout likely

  1. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s decision on February 18 to dissolve the People’s National Assembly (APN) and hold early legislative elections on June 12 instead of in 2022 came ahead of the two-year anniversary of the “Hirak” movement on February 22. It was aimed at appeasing the public’s grievances with the political system, which had persisted despite the election of a new president in December 2019 and the revision of the constitution after the national referendum in November 2020. This is because large segments of the local population continue to perceive these measures as symbolic rather than effective political reform. This is evidenced by the relatively low participation rates in both the presidential elections (39.93 percent) and the national constitutional referendum (23.7 percent) as well as the large-scale nationwide anti-government protests and instances of unrest recorded in the weeks leading up to and following these events. While the momentum of these anti-government protests had subsided in the year prior to the two-year anniversary of the “Hirak” movement, this was primarily due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic rather than a decrease in anti-government sentiments.
  2. By holding early legislative elections, Tebboune likely seeks to project a meaningful change in the current political hierarchy. This is because in the previous legislative elections in 2017, the National Liberation Front (FLN), the Democratic National Rally (RND), and the Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP) together won a plurality of seats at 25.99 percent, 14.91 percent, and 6.09 percent, respectively. These parties formed the “Presidential Alliance”, a three party political alliance that was created in 2005 and was close to former President Bouteflika. Hence, by calling for early legislative elections, Tebboune aims to showcase his willingness to implement mechanisms for change and the overhaul of the previous hierarchy. This is further evidenced by the fact that he announced that two civil society blocks will prepare the electoral lists for the upcoming elections as part of an effort to open up the legislative elections to the public.
  3. An electoral law was included in the revised constitution of 2020 for the first time. This law includes stipulations for candidates’ finances, such as the possibility of state reimbursement for part of the expenses of the electoral campaigns. This would allow independent, particularly younger, candidates with fewer financial resources to also take part in the elections. In line with this, Tebboune has reduced the number of parliamentary seats from 462 to 407 to reduce public spending. The reduced number of parliamentarians could also potentially allow for larger reimbursement for successful candidates. The law further stipulates that any donations greater than 1,000 Algerian Dinar (DZD) must be made by cheque, bank transfer, or debit or credit cards, ensuring greater transparency of campaign funding. These measures overall show Tebboune’s efforts to project that money is not a determining factor for entering politics and that he is responsive to the protesters’ demands for a change in the political status quo in Algeria.
  4. However, anti-government protests have persisted since February 22, gradually becoming more unruly over recent weeks. Thousands of protesters have also rejected the upcoming legislative elections as they perceive that political parties, such as the FLN and the RND, which were strong supporters of former President Bouteflika, will continue to retain influence within the political system. FORECAST: Hence, protesters will continue to regard the upcoming election process as a means for former President Bouteflika’s allies to remain in power. This is further given that President Tebboune has himself been denounced by large segments of the public for his ties to the former administration, despite his efforts to distance himself from the ruling political parties in Algeria. Against this backdrop, the turnout in the upcoming elections will likely be low, which will undermine the legitimacy of the electoral process, regardless of which party receives the majority of votes.


Lack of organization, clear objectives of ‘Hirak’ protesters to undermine role of independent political candidates in electoral process, potentially result in polarized parliament

  1. There are segments of the public that have indicated their support for the election process due to the perception that it can be a means for change. This is evidenced by reports that dozens of independent candidates have submitted their lists to participate in the elections in every province. These include young individuals, academics, and professionals that have little to no experience in politics. They have sought to capitalize on the changing political environment by projecting themselves as apolitical and therefore different from the status quo in order to garner support. Moreover, over the past several months, the formation of new political entities seeking to participate in the elections has been recorded. These primarily entail al-Massar al-Jadid, Nida el-Watan, and el-Hisn el-Matine. These groups have portrayed themselves as coalitions of civil society elements and other “Hirak” activists. Al-Massar al-Jadid group, for example, is headed by Moundir Boudene, former Secretary General of the Algerian Students’ Union, who has previously indicated his support for students’ right to participate in the political arena through the anti-government protest movement.

  1. FORECAST: While this indicates an increased participation of wide segments of society within the electoral process, it could result in a polarized parliament and undermine its stability. This is because the variation of candidates could divide the votes of the public, as no one group or individual may be able to earn a significant majority to become the ruling political party. This challenge can be attributed to the fact that while the “Hirak” movement has persisted over the past two years with relative consistency, the movement has not organized itself into one main group with a clear leader or group of leaders. Moreover, while the movement has persistently called for a political overhaul of the system, it has not put forth any alternatives or ideas of what this reform may entail. The candidates are thus unlikely to have a coherent platform that can meet the demands of the “Hirak” movement. Therefore, none of the independent candidates or new political parties running will receive a clear majority of votes. Moreover, the ruling party, FLN, has witnessed a steady decline amid the changing political scene. This, combined with the lack of strong support for any one “Hirak” political candidate, may result in a hung parliament.
  2. FORECAST: While it is unclear whether the FLN and the RND will win a plurality of seats, they are unlikely to win enough seats to form a clear majority coalition. Moreover, other political parties, particularly Islamist groups such as the MSP and the National “Binaa” Movement, have recently been attempting to capitalize upon the decline of the FLN and the RND to garner local support. Given that these Islamist groups have a more defined and established voter base due to their ideological clarity and traditional affiliations, they are more likely to win a significant number of votes in the upcoming elections. This is particularly given the anticipated low voter turnout, wherein voters are more likely to have strong affiliations with the more established candidates rather than independent members of the anti-government movement.
  3. On the other hand, the new political parties that have formed are largely composed of those already in positions of power, political or otherwise, despite their effort to project themselves as “Hirak” political parties. Nida el-Watan, for example, was formed under the chairmanship of Nazih Berramdane, an advisor to President Tebboune. While he has indicated his support for the role of students and the youth in facing the current political challenges in Algeria, the group has nonetheless been perceived by some political activists as a continuation of the ruling political parties seeking to capitalize on the “Hirak” movement to win the legislative elections. El-Hisn el-Matine is headed by Yacine Merzougui, who was an advisor to a former CEO of Algeria’s state-owned oil company and an executive in a senior management team of the organization, whereas Moundir Boudene of the al-Massar al-Jadid group was previously a member of the RND and supported former President Bouteflika’s mandates on several occasions. FORECAST: This will therefore reinforce the perception among significant segments of the population that the new, “independent” political parties are simply a continuation of the old political system. This may further deter support for the electoral process and undermine its legitimacy, even if these parties get some seats in the parliament.

Upcoming elections to challenge legislative process, negatively impact economy; political instability to undermine public confidence in government

  1. FORECAST: The upcoming elections will therefore bring significant challenges to the legislative process. Political parties will likely have to form alliances in order to form a coalition government. However, as discussed above, the “Hirak” movement does not have any clear organization and lacks ideological compatibility beyond calling for political reform. Meanwhile, the previously ruling parties, such as the FLN, may face significant opposition even if they are reelected to parliament with a plurality of votes. This opposition will come from both the “independent” political candidates as well as the Islamist parties that are seeking to make headway in the upcoming elections. This increasing partisanship within the parliament could in turn hinder the legislation and implementation of political and economic reforms in the country, which will elevate socio-economic grievances among large segments of the populace.
  2. FORECAST: This anticipated political instability will also adversely impact Algeria’s economic growth. This is because while Algeria has largely had a state-run economy thus far, the government has been seeking to attract foreign private investment over the past year to boost the economy. In August 2020, Algeria amended a law to allow foreign investors to own 100 percent of companies set up in the country with certain exceptions as opposed to only 29 percent, as per previous legislation. This was part of Tebboune’s economic recovery plan, part of which involved economic diversification. Moreover, the state-owned oil company has been signing several contracts with foreign energy companies in order to strengthen the oil-dependent economy. On March 25, for example, the Algerian state-owned oil company and an Italian oil and gas company signed several agreements with regards to the exploration and production of crude oil as well as  cooperation on technological research and development. Algeria has also signed similar agreements with American and French oil and gas conglomerates.
  3. However, political instability serves as a deterrent to foreign investment. For example, it may deter international oil and gas conglomerates from signing further agreements with Algeria’s state-run oil company or potentially hinder the implementation of the agreements that have already been signed. Algeria’s economy has been in significant decline over recent years, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the global decrease of oil prices. Moreover, Algeria’s oil and gas production has overall declined, with a decrease of eight percent recorded in 2020 as compared to 2019. FORECAST: Against this backdrop, the ensuing political instability in Algeria will likely hinder Tebboune’s economic recovery plan over the coming year. This will further undermine the confidence of the public in the government.


Anti-government protests, civil unrest to persist in lead up to, following June 12 elections

  1. FORECAST: As evidenced by the nationwide protests recorded following the announcement of the election date to denounce the legislative elections, nationwide “Hirak” demonstrations will persist over the weeks leading up to the elections. This is particularly given precedent of similar developments around the presidential elections in December 2019 and the constitutional referendum in November 2020. These protests will likely gather further traction in light of the unrest recorded during the recent demonstrations. Security forces have attempted to block and disperse anti-government protesters on several occasions in Algiers over recent weeks.
  2. On May 2, security forces used tear gas to disperse a protest held by firefighters in Algiers to demand an increase in wages and the payment of COVID-19 bonuses. While this was not directly part of the “Hirak” protest movement, it nonetheless showcases the authorities’ growing intolerance towards perceived anti-government activity. On May 3, 230 firefighters were subsequently dismissed for participating in the demonstrations. The authorities have also arrested several prominent activists in the movement, including Karim Tabbou, on April 28. On May 5, the Minister of Justice, Belkacem Zeghmati, submitted a draft bill to criminalize any obstructions to the legislative elections, which could consist of prison sentences of up to 20 years. The Justice Minister’s draft bill to penalize obstructions to the legislative elections with up to 20 years in prison, which could be applicable to those who seek to damage ballot boxes as well as those who seek to “undermine” the proper conduct of the elections, has also prompted protests.
  3. FORECAST: These measures will elevate the anti-government sentiments of “Hirak” activists and further diminish support for the electoral process. In Algiers, as well as in other major cities, such protests generally garner turnouts in the mid- to high-thousands. This is particularly on Tuesdays and Fridays, which have become symbolic days for the anti-government protesters. In Algiers, Martyrs’ Square usually serves as the starting point for protests on Tuesdays. The Grand Post Office, Place Maurice Audin, Didouche Mourad Street, and 1st of May Square are also key focal points for anti-government protests. In the days leading up to and on the election date, protesters are likely to gather around ballot boxes and other government buildings where the electoral process is being organized. Given the authorities’ heightened sensitivities, a security deployment can be expected at focal points across major cities of Algeria in order to prevent the materialization of large gatherings. There may also be an increase in the arrests of activists under the guise of “undermining national security” in order to demoralize activists and reduce the momentum of the protest movement. However, such measures will instead bolster the “Hirak” movement, which will continue to persist in the weeks and months following the elections.

  1. On the other hand, in the days leading up to the 2019 presidential elections, some protests were also recorded in outlying areas of Algeria calling on locals to cast their vote. This can be attributed to the fact that locals in these areas prioritize economic reform over political ones due to the overall deterioration of socio-economic conditions in the outlying parts of the country. FORECAST: It is also possible that similar protests will be held in support of these elections. This is particularly given that, as discussed above, a low voter turnout could overall undermine the legislative process and result in a polarized parliament, with fewer and more divided votes. The ensuing legislative challenges will more adversely impact those in outlying areas of the country. However, in the weeks and months following the elections, these communities will resume anti-government protests as their economic hardships persist.


  1. Travel to Algiers may continue while adhering to security precautions regarding civil unrest. Contact us at [email protected] or +44 20-3540-0434 for itinerary and contingency support options.
  2. In Algiers, it is advised to maintain heightened vigilance in the vicinity of the Grand Post Office, Martyrs’ Square, Place Maurice Audin, and Didouche Mourad Street as these locales serve as focal points for anti-government protests.
  3. It is further advised to maintain vigilance in the vicinity of public squares, government buildings, judicial courts, and police stations in other cities of Algeria as these serve as focal points for anti-government protests.
  4. Avoid discussing anti-government discourse in public spaces, including on social media, particularly pertaining to the anti-government protest movement and the upcoming June 12 legislative elections due to the risk of detention by the authorities.

Strategic Analysis: Potential for Hamas-Israel conflict increases with mounting pressure from Egypt

On October 21, Hamas officially claimed responsibility for building a 1.7km tunnel which was uncovered in Israeli territory on October 7. The tunnel extended from the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis to the vicinity of the Israeli community of Ein Hashloshah, and was meant to transfer Hamas militants into Israeli territory for the purpose of staging a mass-casualty attack or kidnapping.  The claiming of the tunnel by Hamas comes during a period of mounting economic pressure against its Gaza-based government as a result of the closure of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, and the destruction of over 90 percent of the smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza by the Egyptian military.

Hamas militia on patrol in Gaza City
Hamas militia on patrol in Gaza City

In September 2013, IDF Southern Command chief Sami Turgeman revealed that Israel had sent a delegation to Cairo in an effort to convince the Egyptian military to ease pressure on the Gaza Strip. Turgeman cited Israeli concerns that Hamas’ increasing isolation could lead to a collapse of a ceasefire with the IDF which has been in place since the conclusion of Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.  The IDF is reportedly concerned that such isolation would weaken the ability of Hamas’ security forces to prevent rocket fire by fringe extremist groups, or that Hamas’ own military wing would resort to an escalation with Israel in an act of desperation.

Following the uncovering of the tunnel on October 7, the IDF abruptly halted recently-resumed shipments of concrete to the Gaza Strip, while Palestinian residents claimed to have received SMS messages from the IDF accusing Hamas of ignoring the dire economic conditions in favor of building combat infrastructure. In addition, an increase in IDF activity has been noted in the Gaza Strip border area, including limited penetrations and the uncovering of improvised explosive devices meant to target border patrols.

Continue reading Strategic Analysis: Potential for Hamas-Israel conflict increases with mounting pressure from Egypt

Strategic Analysis: Lebanese-Israeli border tensions marked by erosion of UN resolution 1701

Hezbollah has claimed responsibility for a recent bombing attack near the Israeli border.

On the seven-year anniversary of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah claimed responsibility for an August 7 explosion in the Israeli-Lebanese border area, near the town of Labboune. That day, at least one explosive device injured four Israeli soldiers, who were accused by Lebanese parties and UNIFIL of crossing into Lebanese territory during a patrol in an un-demarcated area of the border.

Lebanese media outlets and politicians asserted that the IDF crossed both the technical fence and the international border, which do not coincide in some areas. Initial reports indicated that the troops were hit by a landmine which may have been a remnant from previous conflicts. The IDF has since declined to comment on the details of the incident, including whether or not troops entered Lebanese territory or whether the attack was intentional. Nasrallah claimed that Hezbollah had prior knowledge of an upcoming Israeli incursion, leading their operatives to plant explosive devices. He ended with what would some consider an ominous warning: “This operation will not be the last; we will not be lenient with those who violate our land. Whenever we feel that the Israelis have entered Lebanese soil, we will act.” The truth about what actually happened on August 7 may forever be disputed, but it remains clear that Hezbollah still seeks to avoid a conflict with Israel — despite Nasrallah’s seemingly confident claim of responsibility. Continue reading Strategic Analysis: Lebanese-Israeli border tensions marked by erosion of UN resolution 1701

Using Chemical Weapons to Break the Stalemate in Syria

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad’s stepped up military efforts – new Russian anti-aircraft missiles; imported fighters from Lebanon and Iran; and lately, increased use of chemical weapons – are having their desired effect. Today, Syria‘s main opposition group announced it will not take part in peace talks even as the regime appears to be gaining in military strength.

Syrian rebels fight with gas masks in Damascus.
Syrian rebels fight with gas masks in Damascus.

Particularly disturbing are reports of the Assad regime’s increased use of chemical weapons. Since March, the trickle of reports has become a flash flood. What’s now clear is that Mr. Assad, absent outside intervention, is willing to make the use of unconventional weapons more conventional as he seeks to end his government’s military stalemate with rebels.

On May 26, rebel fighters and civilians in the Damascus suburbs of Harasta, Qaboun, and Jobar reported that numerous residents suffered from respiratory problems, nausea, and other symptoms of chemical nerve agents. Three people were reportedly killed in the suspected attack while at least 70 others were reported injured. Recently-posted video footage from the area portrayed both Syrian rebels and military troops fighting with gas masks. Continue reading Using Chemical Weapons to Break the Stalemate in Syria

Intelligence Analysis: The Kurd’s shifting role in the Syrian conflict

“Deal with your friends as if they will become your enemies tomorrow, and deal with your enemies as if they will become your friends tomorrow.” It’s a proverb passed along through Kurdish generations — and a telling pretext to the Kurdish strategy in today’s conflict in Syria. In recent weeks, this once dormant player has awoken from its slumber, and may just provide Syria’s desperate rebels with a much needed boost to break their deadlock with the Assad regime.

Reports indicate that YPG militiamen and Syrian rebels have agreed to share control of the strategic Sheikh Maqsood District of northern Aleppo, cutting off regime supply routes to a hospital, prison, and other key positions. Rebel fighters entered the district largely unopposed on March 31. On April 6, the Syrian military bombarded Kurdish neighborhoods in northern Aleppo, killing 15 people in a likely response to this new arrangement. The following day, Kurdish militiamen attacked a Syrian military checkpoint in the city, killing five troops.

PYD supporters at a funeral for a deceased member.
PYD supporters at a funeral for a deceased member

Further east, Syrian military units attacked a checkpoint manned by Kurdish militiamen in the northeastern city of Qamishli on April 4. Hours later, militiamen from the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) attacked two Syrian military positions on the outskirts of Qamishli. The attacks resulted in a number of deaths on both sides and marked the first such incident to occur in the predominantly Kurdish Hasakah Province since the Syrian military withdrew from the region’s urban centers in the summer of 2012.

Continue reading Intelligence Analysis: The Kurd’s shifting role in the Syrian conflict

Intelligence Analysis: Mounting tensions with Tunisia’s Jihadists

The month of March 2013 has witnessed an increase in tensions between local Tunisian Salafist networks, the newly formed government of P.M. Laarayedh, and the country’s secular/liberal societal factions.

On March 26, Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST) issued a warning on social media towards P.M. Laarayedh, after he condemned Tunisia’s Salafist minority as responsible for recent violence in an interview with French media that same day. The post featured a threat to topple the government from Abu Iyad al-Tunisi, a prominent jihadist founder of AST suspected of orchestrating the September 11, 2012 riots at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. Following those riots, Abu Iyad was targeted for arrest at the al-Fatah Mosque in Tunis, but escaped after his supporters confronted security forces.

Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia has recently threatened the government.
Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia has recently threatened the government.

Iyad’s warning came days after al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), issued a new message calling on jihadists across the region to to join its ranks and take up arms against French assets as well as Western-sympathetic local governments in the Arab World. The message included a specific call towards Ansar al-Sharia members in Tunisia, which was reportedly received positively by the group.

On March 27, the Tunisian government announced that it would take measures to curb the flow of Tunisian jihadists to the conflict in Syria, citing concerns over their return to the country to engage in militant activity. Reports indicate that thousands of Tunisians are currently participating in both the Syrian and Malian conflict. In Syria, Tunisian nationals are estimated to comprise 30-40 percent of all foreign fighters. The majority of Tunisian jihadists fighting in Syria hail from outlying communities in the west and south of the country, primarily the town of Ben Guerdane, located near the Libyan border. Multiple Tunisian nationals also participated in a deadly raid against Algeria’s In Amenas gas facility in January 2013.

Following the 2010-11 Tunisian revolution, Salafist-jihadist elements have increased their activity substantially. Following the ousting of the Ben Ali regime, previously strict anti-Islamist policing policies were forgone, while the ensuing security vacuum enabled the establishment of training camps and weapons smuggling networks in outlying areas. Training camps near the Libyan and Algerian borders are currently meant to facilitate the indoctrination and transfer of Tunisian nationals to conflicts elsewhere in the region, including in Syria, Mali, and Algeria.

Continue reading Intelligence Analysis: Mounting tensions with Tunisia’s Jihadists

Intelligence Analysis: Jihadist militant threats in North Africa and the Sahel

By now the name Mokhtar Belmokhtar is familiar to anyone watching security-related events unfold in Saharan Africa. Since a January 16 raid executed by his “Masked Brigade” in Algeria, which led to the deaths of dozens of hostages, the one-eyed smuggler extraordinaire’s picture has been broadcast across TV and computer screens worldwide. As Western policymakers continue to adjust their strategy in the war on terror, it is important to understand Belmokhtar’s accomplishment in its true context: a victory of a thriving jihadist operational network.

The logo of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
The logo of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

As it turns out, the Masked Brigade’s attack was not, as reports originally indicated, a reprisal for French intervention in northern Mali. In fact, Western security officials recently stated that the attack was planned before January 11, when France intervened. This instead was simply intended to be a standard kidnap-and-ransom mission – a fundraiser and terrorist attack rolled into one.

However, northern Mali does play a role in the attack’s execution. The region has become a sanctuary for militants from Nigeria to Somalia who need free range to learn from experienced veterans of Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Belmokhtar’s men trained for and planned their attack in northern Mali. They raised funds by ransoming kidnap victims and smuggling drugs, as well as Belmokhtar’s trademark product, Marlboro cigarettes. They also smuggled fighters and weapons, many of which came from the caches of Libya’s former dictator, Moammar Ghaddafi.

Continue reading Intelligence Analysis: Jihadist militant threats in North Africa and the Sahel

Strategic Analysis: Egypt’s uphill battle for economic recovery

“The purpose is to reassure them that what we agreed on last time is still there, and nothing has changed,” so declared an Egyptian government spokesman after announcing that an IMF delegation would return to Cairo to revive talks on a crucial 4.8 billion USD loan agreement aimed at salvaging Egypt’s economy. Change, however, would be the subtlest word to describe the botched facelift the country underwent since the IMF’s last visit on November 20. After weathering a month of bitter civil unrest, President Morsi successfully strong-armed an Islamist-backed constitution into law on December 25. In doing so, he left gaping wounds across Egyptian society and exposed his own politically perilous path to restoring the economy.

The IMF headquarters in Washington DC.
The IMF headquarters in Washington DC.
On December 9, while Islamists and liberals were engaged in pitched battles over the draft constitution outside of the Presidential palace, Mr. Morsi was confronted by his own political backers in the Muslim Brotherhood over a new economic program aimed at appeasing IMF loan conditions. As part of the plan, sales taxes on commodities ranging from steel to soft drinks would be raised, while subsidies on fuel and electricity would be reduced. In less than 12 hours after the list of tax increases was published on Morsi’s Facebook page, the government retracted the proposal and asked the IMF to postpone the loan agreement.

Strategic Analysis: Terrorism and Poverty in Sahelian Africa

A recent UN report warning of a severe food shortage across the Sahel, combined with the rise of Islamic militancy in northern Mali, poses a direct threat to regional stability in West Africa. According to a report released on August 16, by the United Nations office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “refugees and internally displaced persons in Mali and neighboring countries are in urgent need of food, shelter and water.”  The report warns that the food insecurity situation is deteriorating as a severe drought, spanning from Senegal to Chad, plagues the Sahel, leaving bones scattered in its path. The proliferation of armed groups and political instability is a direct result of this humanitarian crisis, and the ripple effects will be felt everywhere.

Ansar al-Dine militants patrol in northen Mali.

In March, a coup d’etat in the capital Bamako left a security vacuum in the north and allowed al-Qaeda linked militant groups to exploit the situation and take control of northern Mali, an area the size of France.  A reported 435,000 inhabitants fled to Mauritania, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger and to southern Mali as Islamic fundamentalists Ansar Dine, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa imposed strict Sharia, or Islamic law, in the cities of Gao, Kidal and historic Timbuktu.

Under their rule, which effectively goes unrivaled, music, soccer, smoking cigarettes and playing video games are all banned activities.  Harsh sentences have been carried out against an unmarried couple, who were stoned to death, and a thief, who had his hand hacked off, all in the name of Islamic justice.

Continue reading Strategic Analysis: Terrorism and Poverty in Sahelian Africa

Strategic Analysis: Israel eyes the Islamic Republic

Tensions are soaring in the Middle East. But as the world awaits and debates the possibility of a highly speculated unilateral Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program, the reality is that the Iranian threat to Israel goes far beyond a nuclear device.

Protesters burn American and Israeli flags at an anti-Israel demonstration.

Decades of proxy wars with Iran, attacks, genocidal rhetoric and Tehran’s dangerous obsession with the “Zionist entity”, highlight that the primary perceived threat to Israel stems not from a nuclear device, but from the Islamic regime and the revolutionary ideology behind it. Therefore, as long as the Iranian state remains committed to Israel’s destruction, Israelis will feel continually threatened and the conflict between Iran and Israel will persist – with or without a nuclear bomb.

State-sanctioned anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish ideology has been a staple of the Islamic regime since its founding in 1979. Thus, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s most recent calls for Israel’s destruction and more importantly Ayatollah Khameini’s prediction of it are not new developments. But for Israelis, such threats are not easy to dismiss, despite Iran’s ability or inability to make good on them. Israel’s critics often respond to its concerns over Iran with allegations of warmongering, citing lack of clear intelligence.  But for better or for worse, the collective history of Israel’s Jewish population and their peculiar situation in the volatile Middle East, underline why Israel  takes Iran’s threats seriously and even considers acting against it in the first place.

In line with the “Begin Doctrine”, Israel has proven throughout its history that it is willing to undertake daring operations far beyond its borders, even against opposition from its closest ally – the US. In 1981, Israel attacked Iraq’s nuclear reactor in Osirak, while destroying Syria’s reactor in 2007. Both times, Washington was either not involved or adamantly against any unilateral Israeli attack.  At present, Israelis are highly divided on how to act against Iran, but they do not disagree that Iran is a dangerous and determined enemy and one that must be curtailed. Israel does have options. It is just a question of what should be done, when, or how.
Continue reading Strategic Analysis: Israel eyes the Islamic Republic