Egypt Not Mediterranean Gas Boss, Yet

 Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, discusses energy cooperation with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi; Egyptian Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla, right, at a joint news conference with Cyprus Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis

Egypt aspires to be a regional energy market hub. Positioned on the Mediterranean Sea and between European markets and Middle East suppliers, Egypt has a developed energy infrastructure for refining, storage, and exporting oil and gas. “The country faces challenges, including maintaining equidistance from the region’s various tensions, reforming its legal framework for regional gas deals and effectively communicating its activities to the Egyptian population,” explains Mohamed El Dahshan, managing director of OXCON Frontier Markets and Fragile States Consulting. He adds this is “no easy matter given the complex history of regional gas cooperation, Egypt’s own regional energy relations, and its need to subdue public opinion with the necessities of regional cooperation around natural resources, which know no political frontiers.” The most recent Israeli-Egyptian gas cooperation agreement underscores the challenges. El Dahshan analyzes the history and urges improved policy development and communication with Egyptians. – YaleGlobal

Yale Assyriologist discovers evidence of lost city in Iraq

An ancient Sumerian tablet with cuneiform writing with local administrative text from the city of Irisagrig

When Eckart Frahm, professor of Assyriology at Yale, received a call from Homeland Security with a request to come to New York to assess cuneiform tablets, he was intrigued by the opportunity to provide an assessment of the content and origins of these ancient artifacts.

Frahm, who is one of only a few hundred people worldwide who can accurately read cuneiform texts, was taken to an undisclosed location in the city, where he had about two and half days to study these texts in a warehouse in which they were being temporarily stored. Each tablet was about the size of a cell phone, and many were in a poor condition, with salt incrustations covering large portions of their surfaces.

The UAE’s Unsustainable Nation Building

Slowdown? UAE economic growth dipped to 1.8 percent in 2016, and the government strives for less reliance on migrant labor and more startups like, a UAE-based financial comparison site founded by CEO Ambareen Musa

The United Arab Emirates ranks among the 10 wealthiest nations in the world, but the wealth is not spread equally among the population of 9 million, 90 percent of which are migrant workers. The country prospered by relying on low-paid migrant workers, many from South Asia who work on short-term contracts. Hefty recruitment and relocation costs, especially for the east skilled workers, put many migrants into debt. “Emirati citizenship is confined to those whose ancestors lived in its seven constituting Emirates before 1925,” explains Riaz Hassan, director of Institute of Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding, University of South Australia and now a visiting research professor in Singapore. “The country has no system of naturalization or permanent residency.” The exclusionary system is unsustainable in an increasingly transnational world, and he encourages the UAE to transition from a labor-intensive to capital-intensive, high-tech economy requiring less manual labor and more skilled professionals. The UAE fears the loss of Arab culture, but that battle has already been lost. – YaleGlobal


Hegemonic Designs in the Middle East Clash

Kurdish people fight the Islamic State and expect independence; Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin have other plans

The United States has been reticent about over-involvement in Middle East conflicts in recent years, notwithstanding the April 14 airstrikes on Syria in response to a chemical attack. Russia filled the vacuum in Syria with support from Iran and Turkey, explains author and military strategist Ehsan Ahrari. He details the internal contradictions in the three allies’ goals and suggests the alliance could be short-lived. Russia takes advantage of the Turkish president’s fury over US support for Kurdish forces and refusal to deport a cleric accused of instigating a failed 2016 coup. Iran seeks a permanent foothold in Syria, with the Assad regime in place, and influence in Lebanon. Russia, looking for control, has less interest in a role for Assad whereas Turkey wants his ouster. “The most significant uniting force for Iran, Turkey, and Russia is their resolve to safeguard their respective regional strategic interests, and for Russia, an additional and overriding motivating factor is to be recognized once again as a superpower,” Ahrari writes. Foreign powers find the region hard to control, and he concludes, “Great power hegemonism in the Middle East may well become an artifact of a bygone era.” – YaleGlobal

Study measures impact of economic aid programs in Afghanistan war zone

An Afghan woman and a man with a rifle on his back with their arms around each other.

The United States has spent billions of dollars in Afghanistan on economic interventions, such as job-training programs and direct cash payments, to counter violent extremism, but a new study casts doubt on the ability of these initiatives to reduce support for the Taliban or improve people’s economic condition.

The study, led by Yale political scientist Jason Lyall, is the first to test the effectiveness of economic aid programs in an active war zone. The researchers partnered with Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian and development organization, to evaluate a program that provided vocational training and unconditional cash payments to young men and women in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city and the birthplace of the Taliban, where airstrikes, suicide bombings, and military operations occur regularly.

We didn’t find any evidence to support the belief that insurgent support is driven by unemployment and poor job prospects,” said Lyall, associate professor of political science and director of Yale’s Political Violence FieldLab.


Israel Tries to Expand Power in Africa

African diplomacy: Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, for the Economic Community of West African States summit, and Israeli solar panels are offered to Africans

Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been intent on nurturing diplomatic ties with sub-Saharan African nations. He was the first Israeli prime minister in three decades to travel to Africa and also attended the Kenyan president’s inauguration and a summit of West African states. About 30 percent of the world’s Muslims live in Africa, and about half the continent’s population is Muslim. Israel’s efforts are multi-pronged and targeted: The country provides security assistance to battle extremist groups like Boko Haram or al Shabaab; pursues trade with countries that are among the fastest growing in the world; and aims to reduce intense opposition to Israeli policies, especially related to Palestinian pursuit of self-determination, at international organizations like the United Nations. Still, Netanyahu quickly capitulated to political opposition in early April, suspending a deal to let African asylum seekers stay in the country. “Despite policy sophistication, Israel does not seem ready to quit the traditional carrot-and-stick approach,” journalist Raluca Besliu concludes. “It may find that long-term connections of mutual interest are more productive.” – YaleGlobal

Conference aims to promote positive outlook on the future of Middle East

A poster for the Yale Arab Conference, depticting Arabic words of hope.

An international conference on the Middle East, featuring a keynote address by Salam Fayyad, former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, will take place at Yale on Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21.

Titled “Amalna: Paving the Road Ahead,” the conference will be held in Rm. 114 of Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, 1 Prospect St. It is organized by the Yale Arab Students Association and sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of the Vice President and Secretary for Student Life, the Poynter Fellowship in Journalism, Yale Council on Middle East Studies, the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale College Council, and the Office of International Students and Scholars.

Russia-Turkey-Iran Triangle: Economic Interests Are Paramount

Turkey, often shuffling positons based on immediate geopolitical and economic interests, now enjoys close ties with Russia and Iran
Diplomatic talks among Syrian parties sponsored by Russia, Iran and Turkey are underway in Sochi. Turkey’s leadership promoted the notion during the 2011 Arab Spring protests that the country could be a democratic model for other Muslim nations. But the country of 80 million people lacks natural gas or oil resources. “Its main sources of gas are Russia and Iran, contributing respectively 60 and 30 percent of the total, with the rest coming from Azerbaijan,” explains author and historian Dilip Hiro. Turkey, a NATO member, sides with surrounding powers based on geopolitical and economic interests. For now, Turkey, Russia and Iran share agreement on multiple fronts: Russia is constructing a new gas pipeline to deliver energy to Turkey and southern Europe. After a failed 2016 coup in Turkey, Russia’s president supported the hardline Turkish response. Russia likewise supported Turkish concerns about the Kurdish fighters in Syria. Turkey switched sides in the war, joining Russia and Iran, and supports peace negotiations that prioritize stability and maintain the Assad regime while targeting the US-backed Kurds. Likewise, Turkey once opposed Iran’s intervention in Yemen, but Iran’s leader also supported the Turkish president after the coup attempt. – YaleGlobal

Abuse and Neglect During Childbirth Among Jordanian Women

Many women experience abusive treatment during childbirth.

A new study exploring Jordanian women’s exposure to neglect and verbal abuse found that 32% reported neglect during their childbirth, and 37% were victims of verbal abuse. The study is the first to report the prevalence of neglect and verbal abuse among child birthing women in Jordan.

“Women’s relationship with health care providers during childbirth significantly impacts her physical, psychological, and emotional health,” said Kaveh Khoshnood, Ph.D., associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health and a co-author on the study.

The research team interviewed 390 women for the study. The findings are published in the journal Midwifery.

Symposium explores impact of popular music on Iranian society

Vintage photo of Iranian men in hats, a painting by artist Iman Maleki, a photo of Iranian rapper Salome MC.

Popular Music & Society in Iran: New Directions,” a two-day symposium examining the social and political significance of music in Iran, will take place at Yale University on Jan. 26-27.

The political and sociological study of music in contemporary Iran is a growing field, and this event is the first of its kind to bring together researchers and academics working on the topic,” said symposium organizer Nahid Siamdoust, a postdoctoral associate and lecturer in Iranian studies at the Council on Middle East Studies at the MacMillan Center at Yale. “Our goal is to incorporate perspectives from musicians, recognizing the importance of including their voices in academic research on the subject.”