Crisp analysis of the region policy & politics

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The outcome of the turbulent period that began in Tunisia in January 2011 and has since spread to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria will be impossible to predict, perhaps for years.The Selim Center provides its clients with market-oriented analysis of the political, economic, social, and security issues that shape events in this strategically pivotal, but particularly volatile, part of the world.

To help advance the promotion of democracy in the Middle East, we provide high-quality research complemented with innovative, sound recommendations to decision makers in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.


Five Categories of States in the Middle East Today


  • Immediate post-revolutionary states: Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and eventually Syria and Yemen.

  Challenge: panoply of political, economic, social, and demographic issues which spurred revolutions remain; dismantling institutions of authoritarian states will be disruptive; creating new institutions and corresponding agreements to share power and resources takes time and process is prone to conflict.

  • Status quo monarchies:Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait

 Challenge:oil-producing states with limited(or non-existent) opportunities for popular participation; growing dissatisfaction with and alienation from the state; vast wealth but undiversified economies and growing pools of educated unemployed; agiing rulers and uncertain secession processes.

  • Consolidating democracies: Iraq, Lebanon

 Challenge: Weak, democratic institutions still subject to pressure from foreign countries- but alos having the potential to demonstrate the power of democratic governance and free flow of ideas; potential to play positive regional role limited by sour internal politics; threats to state manifest in terrorist groups, whose influence could spread.

  • Emerging powers: Turkey, Qatar

 Challenge: Formerly marginal states rising to regional prominence on account of either vast resources or comparatively legitimate and strong governments; states, through various means, are promoting visions for the region not necessarily compatible with U.S. interests.

  • Israel

  Challenge: on-going impasse in negotiations; narrowing window for peaceful two-stae solution; neither side can force outcome over other.


Four Regional Axes defining the current Paradigm in the Middle East


1.Iran and its dependencies : the Iraqi regime, Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria, and Hizballah in Lebanon ;

2.Turkey, Qatar, and the non-state actors identified with the Muslim Brotherhood, primarily Hamas in the Gaza Strip;

3.Moderate/Conservative states-Saudia Arabia and its allies in the Gulf , Egypt under Abdel Fattah al-sisi,Jordan, Morocco, and Algeria;

4.A jihadist axis composed of the Islamic state, al-Qa’ida, and affiliated group across the region.                                                                      


The Enduring Forces shaping Instabilty and Conflict in the Middle East     

1. Cumulative impact of massive population growth, hyper-urbanization, lack of agricultural modernization and reform, and economic diversification.

2. Extremely young population, “youth bulge” creating job and career crisis, lack of housing, education, and services, inability to marry and support a family 

3. Poor governance, security based on authoritarianism, acute corruption, crony capitalism, and steadily deteriorating equity in income distribution.

4.Security based on authoritarianism and repression rather than dealing with causes of extremism and conflict.

5. Acute ethnic, sectarian. Tribal, and other sources of internal tensions and conflict.

6. Lack of effective and credible economic development efforts.

7. Wasted years since 2011 with major losses of housing, jobs, businesses, education.

8. Ongoing struggle for the future of Islam involving both extremism and Sunni vs. Shi’ite and other Islamic minorities that will endure regardless of what happens to ISIS and Al Qaida. 

9. Focus on short term and local tactical victories in actual conflicts with lack of adequate recovery and development efforts. Military are all “win,” with little real world “hold” or “build” capability.

10. Lack of credible options and management and implementation capability for recovery, time involved, and cost.                      



Middle East  Risk Analysis

June 30th, 2014


The seizure of key cities in the north and centre of Iraq by militant extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is rattling the energy market. In a worst-case scenario, Iraq could break up posing a threat to Oil production in OPEC’s second largest producer. The aggravated threat to Iraq’s oil industry nonetheless comes at a time when prospects for production were hopeful. Now, there is a risk that ISIS and other militant groups could gradually expand operations and begin targeting key energy infrastructure in the south. Already, ISIS has captured Baiji, a key northern city containing Iraq’s largest oil refinery. The fall of Mosul have rattled the nerves of The Kurdish in the north leading their troops to seize Kirkuk, a major northern oil city.


Looking out toward the medium and longer-term horizons, the security situation has the potential to create greater problems for Iraq oil. Regardless of what happens with the balance of power in a protracted Iraqi civil war, the longer the war goes on, the greater the potential for it to affect Iraqi production from the southern fields. Any interruption to Iraqi production will have implications for OPEC, and for world markets. OPEC’s production is expected to expand in 2014, but disturbances to Iraqi production would call for compensatory measures. Even without interruptions to Iraqi supply, major producers-especially Saudi Arabia- will probably find it necessary to raise production in 2014-15 to ensure global oil markets are well-supplied. There are at least three problems that are likely to crop up from a protracted Iraqi civil war: 1) Terrorism/Sabotage: In its attempt to curtail Iraq oil production, ISIS have had considerable success in attacking the northern infrastructure. Now that they are locked in a full-scale conventional war with their Shia adversaries, they are likely to redouble those efforts.2) A distracted Bureaucracy: Iraqi government is inefficient, corrupt and badly overcentralized. These arrays of bureaucratic snafus are delaying the completion of huge projects of critical importance to Iraq and its hydrocarbon industry.3) Lawlessness: The ISIS offensive have led to the removal of so many security personnel complicating the security situation in the south. Over time, Baghdad may be able to stand up new security units for the south, but it will always face competition for more troops along the frontlines as long as the civil war goes on.

Policy Implications

On balance, while risks emanating from a protracted civil war in Iraq will increase the costs of doing business for the major oil companies and make it harder for Iraq to reach its full oil-export potential, a sustained oil-price shock is not in the offing. Iraqi production is unlikely to face imminent danger, as Ira’s oil fields are mainly in the south. On top of this, global oil markets present a healthy supply picture, underpinned by growth outside OPEC. This is led by the US, where oil output is at levels not seen since the mid-1980s and will continue expanding. Based on these assumption, we forecast global oil production to grow by 2.7% on average in 2014-15. Brent will average US$107.44/b this year. Still, there is a risk that those forecasts will have to be revised up should the conditions in Iraq deteriorate leading investors to push oil prices higher.

Iraqis will need to develop provincial and regional institutions not only to manage new responsibilities and set regional policy, but also to coordinate between the regions and the central government. International companies operating in Arab Iraq could maintain their positions given the big upside that will eventually present itself, but they could well reduce capital expenditure until the uncertainty dissipates.

In the long run, regional governments in oil-producing Arab Iraq may provide better incentives to international oil companies and prove more responsive as partners. But don’t expect a big dividend in oil production to quickly follow a resolution of the current conflict, even under the best circumstances.

It may be overly optimistic to hold out hope for a silver lining political scenario – but that outcome it isn't impossible. By contrast, there are no reasonable grounds to count on Iraqi oil production to meet the expectations of the global market in the next several years, regardless of the political scenario that unfolds. The U.S., Saudi Arabia, China, and other countries need to accept this reality, and work together to determine the steps needed to address possible future supply imbalances.



Sample Presentations

This Memo is designed to nudge policymakers to think broadly about whether the current approach of seeking to resolve final status issues between Israelis and Palestinians is the right way to go, whether crafting something less ambitious is more sensible, or whether the locus of the administration’s efforts should be elsewhere entirely.

This memo involves “Red Teaming,” or placing yourself in the shoes of al Qaeda’s Leader. It is designed to help policymakers, especially counterterrorist officials to understand the mindset of al Qaeda and anticipating its actions in the coming years.

The SGE is hypothetically the senior advisor to Ayman Zawahiri, the new al Qaeda chief. Zawahiri has tasked the SGE with writing a three plausible strategic approaches memo that the SGE believe could guide al Qaeda’s global campaign over the next three to five years.  In crafting the strategic options memo, the SGE consider Al Qaeda’s interests and objectives and design three strategies that maximize the likelihood of success given current global realities and constraints on al Qaeda’s ability to conduct operations.


Options for Interrogations of Ayman Al Zawahiri(New)

The Purpose of This Brief is to Explore U.S. and Allied Options for Interrogation of Al Qaeda Leader.




Analysis and Facts on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge.

This memo involves a new skill: “red teaming.” In order to red team, SGE assume the role of an advisor to the Iranian Supreme Leader and explore actions that will best advance his objectives. The memo develops three strategic options for achieving the Islamic Republic’s stated operational objectives: an arsenal of at least two nuclear devices/weapons by the end of July 2012 without provoking a military attack.It outlines these strategies to the Supreme Leader and then recommend which course of action he should pursue.


This memo addresses the following points:
• What are the US national interests in Iraq?
• Is this a temporary phenomenon or the beginning of Iraq’s undoing?
• Should the US adhere to the withdrawal schedule proposed by President Obama or change
course in response to recent events?


Trending Topic

  • Arab and Islamic Politics
  • Arab-Israeli Relations
  • Democracy and Reform
  • Military and Security

(Client Area)

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  • Assessing the prospects of Islamic currents in a Post-Mubarak Egypt.
  • Egypt's Revolution: The growing political chasm between Islamist and secular political forces.
  • Enduring Challenges in a Post-Mubarak Environment.
  • Signs of an opening rift between Riyadh and Washington.
  • How stable is Saudi Arabia?
  • How to interpret the second Arab awakening?
  • The Palestinian Vote at the UN: Assessing the implications for US policy in the Middle East.

  • The need for a New U.S. Strategy in the Middle East.

  • Islam and the Arab revolutions.

  • Assessing Progress in U.S. Iran Policy.

  • Iran’s Nuclear Programme: Critical U.S. Policy Choices

  • The political and military dimensions of Saudi financial flows to Egypt.

  • Israel vs. Hizballah and Its Allies.

  • A Strategic reassessment of Al Qaeda.