With the conclusion of May, the features of the first half of 2022 are near completion. A year that carried stark developments in the international community, casting a shadow particularly on countries of conflict in the Middle East and Africa. Certainly, the Ukrainian Crisis remains a major determinant, adding to the challenges of countries in conflict, in addition to creating aspirations for realignments carried out by regional actors, or with regards to opportunities that loom on the horizon to resolve these conflicts.
Additionally, in the midst of changes in the international system, the conflicts in the region remain far from resolution. As conflicts escalate and de-escalate within the framework of wider dynamics, where it is evident that conflicts are not isolated from the regional and international environment and in turn affected and influenced by it.
In this issue, of the Conflict Path series (no.8), issued by SHAF Center for Future Studies & Crises Analysis (Middle East & Africa), it continues to highlight cases of escalation and de-escalation within conflicts in the region. This issue also documents the development of conflicts occurred throughout May, 2022 in ten countries as follows: (Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, and Mali).
–Ethiopia: The situation in Ethiopia remains unstable, as some areas are still witnessing fighting between armed groups and the central government. Additionally, a turbulent political scene continues and is expected to escalate, unless the government commits concrete steps in launching a national dialogue between the front and its supporters on the one hand, and the central government on the other.
The continued postponement of this crucial step increases the difficulty of the situation and the possibility of escalation. Arguably, the international and regional circumstances indicate that the Ethiopian issue is no longer the focus of attention to the same degree, especially with the international community fixated on the on-going Ukrainian Crisis and its global repercussions. Additionally, the ‘Renaissance Dam’ file remains dormant, without any excepted development in the near term, which remains a possible point of regional conflict, without continued dialogue and solutions.
– Sudan: The conflict in Sudan can be described as being in a phase of relative stability, where the general tension is moving in two main directions: The continuation of the demonstrations calling on the Sovereign Council to release detainees and the formation of a civilian government, and these demonstrations, although declining in terms of number and continuity, are still present on the scene.
The second direction relates to the actual actions taken by the Sovereign Council in order to achieve civilian demands. These measures are represented in: (the decision to cancel the state of emergency – release detainees – call for a national dialogue between the various groups – emphasizing the participation of all parties in the political process) These moves reflect greater optimism in the Sudanese scene, but this optimism depends on taking actual measures related to the transitional phase, including holding elections, and conducting the political process in accordance with democratic principles.
– South Sudan: The situation in South Sudan is witnessing rapid movements at the internal level (eliminating uncontrolled weapons – imposing security – solving existing problems between the various provinces), and at the level of the terms of the revitalized peace agreement. We find that this file is also witnessing a great development during the month of May, when the Constitutional Committee resumed its work, and the Truth and Reconciliation Committee made extensive moves at the provincial level, in addition to allocating a budget for the dissemination of the Al-Mashat Peace Agreement and others, which are positive steps that have been long overdue. However, these steps despite being positive and in the right direction, may not be sufficient, with a short period of time remaining for the planned elections.
Additionally, these efforts are vulnerable to halting due to the continuation of clan fighting, and due to the lack of support received from the government, and the pressure to proceed with the procedures of the transitional phase. There are also many regional files with neighbouring countries that are witnessing positive developments, which will reduce the chances of insecurity and facilitate the movement of trade.
– Somalia: With the presidential elections concluding in May, turning the page on the political stalemate and competition between political institutions, which was the main feature of the political scene over the past year. Thus, creating a space to redirect the focus on the main challenges facing Somalia. These include internal reconciliation, completing the constitution, the Al-Shabab Terrorist group and curtailing its activities, and creating a state of internal protection for Somalia from political exposure that may affect it as a result of the deteriorating relations with the neighbouring countries.
On the external front, the return of “Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud” created new opportunities for the “Biden” administration to rebuild relations, since Somalia presents possesses a strategic significance with its location on the Gulf of Aden. Thys, the Somali government is an indispensable partner in fighting the threats of piracy and militancy. Additionally, the new president is likely to accept and pursue the normalisation of relations with Israel, a key goal of the “Biden” administration.
–Iraq: The situation in Iraq remains a state of political impasse, but the options for settlement are to respond by the coordination framework, after the two parties confirmed that there is no government without the Sadrist movement. The coordinating framework forces, Sadr’s conditions for proceeding with the path of forming a national majority government, but in return, he will seek to ally with him – albeit formally – with the aim of preserving the Shiite current, an option that Sadr does not seem to oppose, as long as the result is to detach these factions from state administration.
– Yemen: The agreement between the parties of the Yemeni conflict to renew the armistice represents a major shift in the course of the war going on for the eighth year in a row. A conflict which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the United Nations. Additional steps must be taken for the truce to realise its full potential, particularly with regard to opening roads and operating commercial flights. Such steps will require leadership and vision for all of Yemen.
– Syria: In Syria, regional countries like Turkey, Iran and Israel continue to extend their influence in the country. The month of May witnessed vigorous efforts in that regards, and it is likely that these efforts will increase in the coming period. This is particularly evident in light of the Russian preoccupation with the war in Ukraine, opening new horizons for the other parties to extend their influence.
Nevertheless, it cannot be confirmed that Russia intends to withdraw completely from Syria. Moscow recognises the importance of its presence in Syria; being a mainstay of its influence in the region. It also constitutes an advanced and major operational base for the Russians. Thus, the maintenance of their military presence stems from deep Russian concern regarding the return of the American involvement in Syria in a more serious and effective manner, which threatens Russia’s interests and gains in Syria. However, indications of this decline, albeit temporary, explain the reasons for the increase in Israeli attacks in Syria, and the nature of the debates between the parties.
–Libya: The Libyan political arena is still witnessing an escalating wave, which may threaten the current peace and the path to stability. This is in relation to the two governments competing for power, especially after renewed clashes between their supporters in Tripoli and the cities of western Libya, which are dominated by militias loyal to Al-Dabaiba Government. Therefore, escalations loom over the situation, with fears of spread of chaos in the country once again, especially as international efforts to resolve the crisis are in decline and not bearing the desired outcomes.
–Lebanon: Despite the end of the parliamentary elections, which resulted in a great loss for Hezbollah, the financial and economic collapse in Lebanon continues with new records on an almost daily basis. Especially with a significant decline in the value of the lira, in addition to the gasoline and wheat crises were observed within hours after the announcement the final results of the parliamentary elections in Lebanon.
–Mali: During the month of May, the security file in Mali witnessed accelerated steps, which resulted in the its withdrawal from the defense agreements with France and from the agreements with the G5, the Five Sahel countries. Still, Mali continued to rely on the Russian private security forces “Wagner” and the increased military cooperation with Russia; to confront the armed terrorist groups, which contribute to the state of insecurity in the country.
These changes were implemented throughout the continued withdrawal of the “French and European” military, and in light of an increasingly hostile popular Anti-French sentiments. Still, this month also witnessed the efforts of the transitional government in Mali to enhance opportunities for economic cooperation with Russia, in an attempt to overcome food and commodity shortages; resulting from the war in Ukraine, and from the trade embargo and economic blockade of neighbouring countries.