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CSi Analytic Articles and Reports

CSi’s cadre of experts synthesize global events, breaking news, and policy shifts to determine real-world impacts to international business and regional power dynamics. Click on the updates below to read more.

Middle East

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports on the Middle East.

MAY  2020
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Iraq Eking Through 2020’s “Perfect Storm” 

Dr. Renad Mansour

 

Since 2003, the political system in Iraq has weathered many storms, including insurgency (2003- 2006; 2014-2017), civil war (2006-2008), oil price crashes (2015, 2018), and mass-scale protests (2015-16; 2019-present). Today, the system is facing its greatest set of challenges yet, thanks to the addition of the Coronavirus pandemic and plummeting oil prices. According to the World Bank, Iraq’s GDP is projected to contract by 9.7 per cent in 2020 (after 4.4 per cent growth in 2019), making it…(read more)

 

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APRIL 2020

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports on the Middle East from April 2020.

 

Saudi Arabia Using Pandemic to Save Face in Yemen

Ms. Dorothea Gioe

 

The Saudi-led coalition’s April decision to declare a unilateral ceasefire in the long-running Yemen war allows Riyadh an opportunity to retrench in light of falling oil prices and the domestic strain of a COVID-19 outbreak that has prompted the government to close Mecca during Ramadan. Though couched in humanitarian rhetoric regarding the spread of COVID-19 in Yemen, the unilateral action was announced prior to the first officially diagnosed case in Ash- Shihr, Yemen. In addition, the ceasefire points to Riyadh’s consideration of the unique opportunity the pandemic offers to step back from the high-cost conflict without causing the conflict’s architect…(read more)

 

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Iran’s Nuclear Programme Advancing Despite Pandemic 

Richard C. Baffa

 

Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, a key date passed largely unnoticed; 8 April is Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day and Tehran broadcast a series of advances to its nuclear program without the normal fanfare, ostensibly due to the coronavirus. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced it would unveil advanced domestically manufactured centrifuges that would soon come online at Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility. AEOI Chief Salehi noted that research and development continue without any restrictions, including the stockpiling of enriched uranium and heavy water storage. For his part, President Rouhani maintained Iran’s nuclear program was now more advanced than in…(read more)

 

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MARCH 2020

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports on the Middle East from March 2020.

 

Muhammad Bin Salman- Costs of Breaking With Tradition 

Dr Dina Rezk, University of Reading

 

Recent arrests of prominent members of the royal family accused of plotting a coup are intended to demonstrate that dissent of Mohammed Bin Salman’s (MBS) authoritarian tendencies will not be tolerated; however, the lesson is really that Saudi rulers break with tradition at their own peril. Among those arrested was King Salman’s brother Prince Ahmed Bin Abdel Aziz and formerCrown Prince Muhammed bin Nayef (MBN). The latter was ignominiously dismissed in favour of MBS as prospective successor to the throne in June 2017, a move that alienated the Sudairi Seven, seven powerful sons of Ibn Saud, since MBN is a…(read more)

 

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Two days prior to February’s parliamentary elections, Iran announced its first two cases of the COVID-19 virus. As the number of cases began to rise, it became clear the regime had covered up the outbreak to get the vote out. The effort failed. Turnout was the lowest since the 1979 revolution: about 42 per cent nationwide but only 25 per cent in Tehran. Elections in Iran are a barometer of public support and the historically low turnout in February underscores the regime’s loss of legitimacy among a majority of Iranians suffering under the weight of sanctions, economic mismanagement, and…(read more)

 

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FEBRUARY 2020

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports on the Middle East from February 2020

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Iran: Expecting a Tumultuous 2020

Richard C. Baffa 

 

As the Islamic Republic celebrates the 41st anniversary of its founding, the regime is facing enormous pressure from a combination of factors, including: sanctions; a growing regime legitimacy crisis; anti-Iranian backlash in Iraq and Lebanon; and the killing of Qods Force Commander Qassim Suleimani, who was instrumental to advancing Iran’s regional strategy. Iran will continue to publicly tout its “resistance economy” but conditions will only worsen as the year progresses. New protests are almost certain to arise and probably with increasing frequency; they will be met by intimidation and violence, the response of a regime with no solutions and that appears to be losing its grip. For the near term, the regime will focus on regional diplomacy aimed at sowing division between the U.S. and its Gulf allies to eventually…(read more)

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John Raine CMG OBE, Senior Advisor for Geopolitical Due Diligence at IISS

 

Iran is scheduled to hold elections to the 290-member Majlis, or Consultative Assembly, on 21 February 2020. Given recent public opposition to the regime, the elections could prove a trigger for further challenges to its authority and legitimacy. The electoral contest between reformists and conservatives may be less significant than the deeper question of the constitutional basis on which they serve. Whoever is elected, the Majlis will still be operating…(read more)

JANUARY 2020

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports on the Middle East from January 2020

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Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030- Progress and Problems 

Dr. Dina Rezk, University of Reading

At the beginning of a new decade, the Kingdom’s balance sheet in achieving the stated goals ofVision 2030 leaves much to be desired. This is in keeping with a historic trail of similar development plans to modernise and diversify the Kingdom since the 1970s: ultimately political considerations have trumped…(read more)

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The Implications of the U.S.-Iran Dispute on Iraq 

Dr. Renad Mansour, Research Fellow at Chatham House

The U.S. assassination of Iranian General Qassim al-Suleimani and leader of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis initially threatened to engulf Iran and the U.S. in direct conflict, despite the U.S. President’s claims that “Iran appears to be standing down.” For Tehran, however, retaliation will not be limited to short-term tit-for-tat military attacks, but will include a longer-term campaign to increase Iranian…(read more)

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Dorothea Gioe, former Near East Division officer at the Central Intelligence Agency

 

Haitham bin Tariq al-Said was not the obvious choice to succeed his recently-deceased cousin Qaboos as the Sultan of Oman. The new sultan’s half-brother, Asaad, served as Qaboos’ ‘special representative’ while he was ill, and his appointment as deputy Prime Minister in 2017 led to speculation that he would inherit the throne upon the Sultan’s death. Whether Haitham’s accession is derived from the fact that he is the son of his father’s first wife, or whether it was due to Sultan Qaboos’ final sealed…(read more)

 

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The Islamic State’s (IS) Arabic language propaganda provides a useful lens into its strategic priorities and local recruitment narratives. Revealingly, the focus in this literature is overwhelmingly on the group’s local and regional Islamic enemies, rather than the West. Whilst taking advantage of any opportunity to claim victory, it is clear that the principal target in the Islamic State’s hierarchy remains Iran, in line with its longstanding...(read more)

 

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DECEMBER 2019

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports on the Middle East from December 2019.

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Iraq’s New Prime Minister Will Not Be A Fix 

Dr. Renad Mansour, Research Fellow at Chatham House 

 

On 29 November 2019, after months of protests and related violence in which over 400 Iraqis have been killed, Iraqi prime minister Adil ‘Abd al-Mahdi resigned, one year after taking office. Yet, protesters are not satisfied with Mahdi’s resignation. Rather than calling for the end of one man, or one party, they have been calling for...(read more) 

 

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Saudi Arabia: Aramco’s Politicized Valuation 

Dr. Dina Rezk, University of Reading

 

Despite international investor scepticism, Saudi Arabia has managed to rally sufficient local and regional support to achieve Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s (MBS) long touted $2 trillion valuation for Aramco, after trading on the Tadawul stock exchange. The Kingdom undertook several public steps in recent months to secure a solid valuation for the nation’s crown jewel. Until September 2019, the head of Aramco was also Energy Minister. The decision to separate the two portfolios was an attempt to...(read more)

 

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Dr. Dina Rezk, University of Reading

The appointment of the Kingdom’s first royal, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman as Energy Ministersignals a break with the tradition of protecting this key post from palace intrigue. Half-brother to Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS), and with a personal reputation as a technocrat and consensus builder, Prince Abdul Aziz has critical experience in negotiating deals within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). As part of the quest to acquire as high a valuation for Aramco as possible, Prince Abdul Aziz has worked to secure deeper supply cuts within OPEC, particularly from…(read more)

 

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NOVEMBER 2019

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports on the Middle East from November 2019.

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Saudi Arabia: Implications of Aramco IPO

Dr. Dina Rezk, University of Reading

After considerable delays since Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) first announced Aramco’s IPO as integral to the diversification strategy of Vision 2030, the decision to proceed on the Saudi Tadawul incorporates key political, economic and security considerations. This IPO is not only vital to the Kingdom’s long term economic goals, but MBS also needs the political success to shore up Saudi’s domestic and international reputation in the face of the Khashoggi murder last year, the resource-draining conflict in Yemen, and recent attacks on...(read more)

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Iraqi Protests Unlikely to Yield Meaningful Changes

Dr. Renad Mansour, Research Fellow at Chatham House

 

October 2019 represented one of the largest grassroots protest mobilizations in Iraq since 2003, protests which continue into November and will likely linger in diminishing numbers. Iraqi youth (two-thirds of Iraq is under the age of 30 and many are without job prospects) are disillusioned by rampant, systemic corruption that privileges Shia, Kurdish, and Sunni elites. In response to protests, which began in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on 01 October but have spread throughout the south, Iraqi forces and allied Iran-backed militia have used increasing force against largely unarmed protesters, resulting in the deaths of over 300… (read more)

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Egypt: Protests and Political Upheaval 

Dr. Dina Rezk, University of Reading

 

Marking the most significant unrest Egypt has witnessed since 2013, a wave of dissident videos followed allegations of corruption from military contractor Mohamed Ali. Popular protests in Cairo, Alexandria, and other cities in September and October were ostensibly against corruption and austerity but also indicate a power struggle between the military and the Ministry of Interior…(read more) 

 

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REPORTS

CSi combines practitioner experience, academic insight and analytic rigor to craft bespoke reports focused on regional dynamics, business sectors, future risks, and burgeoning opportunities.  Click on the reports below for an example of the types of products CSi experts develop for international business and government clients.

 

JULY 2019

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Report on Qatar

Cambridge Security Initiative Report focusing the on political and economic security as well as the escalation of tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

 

Report on Saudi Arabia

Cambridge Security Initiative Report analysing the ‘currents of discontent’ impacting Riyadh’s relationship with both Washington and London.

 

UAE Report

Cambridge Security Initiative Report investigating the extent to which the Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayid (MBZ) is the driving force behind the United Arab Emirates aggressive and expansionist foreign policy.

 

Gulf Tensions Report

Cambridge Security Initiative Report analysing the growth of tensions in the Gulf and the possibility of the United States and the United Kingdom contributing further to the conflict.

Commonwealth of Independent States

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports and Articles.

MAY 2020
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U.S. Navy Operations Assert Right to Arctic 

Dr Tracey German, King’s College London

 

Surface ships from the U.S. 6th Fleet sailed into the Barents Sea earlier this month for the first time since the Cold War. A joint U.S.-UK surface action group (SAG), comprising four U.S. vessels and one from the Royal Navy, were in the Barents Sea as part of a planned anti- submarine exercise. Russia has tended to view the Barents Sea as its own strategic backyard, rather than international waters, and the joint U.S.-UK operation was partly intended as a signal, a Freedom of Navigation operation to assert the right of the U.S. and its allies to sail in international Arctic waters. In response, Russia’s Northern Fleet said that it was tracking the group and announced that a search and strike group was conducting ‘planned combat’ exercises in the Barents Sea, including torpedo firing. However, Russia did not…(read more)

 

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APRIL 2020

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports on the Commonwealth of Independent States from April 2020.

 

APRIL 2020
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Russia Concedes on Weak Oil Deal but Prices Still Drop

Dr. Victor Madeira

 

Russia will soon abandon this month’s historic OPEC+ deal to cut oil production by 9.7 million barrels per day (mb/d), a feeble attempt to stabilise prices after the Russian–Saudi supply war and COVID-19 lockdowns sent prices and demand plummeting almost simultaneously. The agreed cuts are far lower than needed to stabilise prices. And the Russian state’s budget dependence on energy and dubious record on past compliance with much smaller cuts point to ‘concessions’ of slashing a quarter of daily output not being what they seem, with condensates excluded from calculations. Not that Russia can easily cut production anyway, but the real test for the deal comes next month, when COVID-19 lockdowns should start to…(read more)

 

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MARCH 2020

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports on the Commonwealth of Independent States from March 2020.

 

MARCH 2020
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Russian Economy Unprepared for EU Carbon Tax Shocks

Dr. Victor Madeira

 

Nearly 50 per cent of Russia’s state revenue is from fossil-fuel exports, but a European Union (EU) carbon border tax (CBT) proposal could stop a third of those by 2030. A CBT would aim to end competitive advantages enjoyed by exporters offering cheaper goods that do not include pollution-reduction costs. Since Russian finished exports have the world’s second-highest in- built CO2 emissions, any CBT stands to cause significant economic shocks in Russia.

Carbon, in every sense, is a growing security threat to Russia, with renewables now economically viable, de-carbonisation costs dropping, divestment increasing, and America set to overtake Russia and Saudi Arabia in oil exports by 2025. Producers with decaying extraction infrastructure, like Russia, face further problems because ‘re-gas’ tankers are allowing more countries to benefit from global liquid natural gas (LNG) markets. As a result,..(read more)

 

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‘New’ U.S. Strategy in Central Asia Lacks Originality, Reality

Dr. Tracey German, King’s College London

 

In early February, the U.S. unveiled its five-year strategy for Central Asia, a brief document that is a continuation of its previous strategies focusing on political stability, counter-terrorism and energy security. Most key policy objectives—promoting reform of the rule of law and respect for human rights, reducing terrorist threats, and supporting the stabilisation of Afghanistan—have previously appeared over the past two decades. The declared aspiration to boost connectivity between Central Asia and Afghanistan along the Lapis Lazuli corridor reflects the New Silk Road initiative unveiled by Hillary Clinton in 2011. The biggest change is…(read more)

 

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Unparalleled Bulgarian Backlash Re-Defining Russia Ties
Dr. Victor Madeira

 

Bulgaria’s Prosecutor General has charged three Russian military intelligence (GRU) officers with the attempted murder in 2015 of three Bulgarians, issuing international arrest warrants and extradition requests for the Unit 29155 officers. The original investigation stalled in 2016 but Bulgarian authorities re-opened the case in 2018, following British diplomatic lobbying and increased intelligence-sharing after the Salisbury novichok attack. The charges are part of a series of unprecedented measures against Russia that are straining historically close ties. While these actions may also serve to deflect attention from allegations of political corruption as Bulgaria seeks new energy suppliers and Euro area membership, they also…(read more)

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FEBRUARY 2020

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports on the Commonwealth of Independent States from February 2020.

 

FEBRUARY 2020
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Coronavirus Impacts CIS-China Relations

Dr. Tracey German, King’s College London, and Dr. Victor Madeira

 

China’s status as a vital economic partner for the majority of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) members means the CIS are feeling pinched between the need to balance their bilateral relationships with Beijing with the requirement to protect their populations from the rapidly spreading Coronavirus. To date there have been no confirmed cases of the disease in Central Asia or the South Caucasus, and Russia reports only three cases. It is possible that authoritarian regimes across the region could be suppressing higher infection rates…(read more)

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Russia Eyes Arctic Opportunities

Dr. Tracey German, King’s College London

 

While Norway marked the centenary of its rule of the Svalbard archipelago on 09 February 2020 with concerts and cake, Russia chose to mark the occasion by asserting that Russia has ‘long- term plans to strengthen, diversify and modernise its presence’ there. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sent a letter to his Norwegian counterpart reiterating long-running concerns that Russian interests and activities are being discriminated against in Svalbard. The 1920 Svalbard Treaty, which established Norwegian sovereignty over the archipelago, also granted rights to all thesignatory states, including the right to settle and engage in economic activity. Russia is the sole signatory to have made use of this and Russian…(read more)

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JANUARY 2020

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports on the Commonwealth of Independent States from January 2020..

 

JANUARY 2020
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Russia Seeks to Capitalise on U.S. Disengagement in Africa

Dr. Tracey German, King’s College London

 

Russia continues to consolidate its position on the African continent as the U.S. withdraws. Reports in December 2019 that the Pentagon is examining the possibility of a drawdown of its troops in West Africa, as part of a wider re-evaluation of global deployments, will present further opportunities for Moscow, which has been actively…(read more)

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Russia, Iran Still Partners of Convenience Post-Suleimani

Dr. Victor Madeira

Despite talk of deepening strategic ties, Russia and Iran remain mistrustful partners of convenience often competing for influence—including in Syria, where together they prop up the al-Assad regime. In Russia’s global strategy of “divide-and-rule”, Iran and its proxies are valuable pawns against America and its regional allies. And an isolated Iran increasingly needs…(read more)

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DECEMBER 2019

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports on the Commonwealth of Independent States from December 2019.

DECEMBER 2019
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Dr. Victor Madeira

Kyiv and Moscow have conditionally agreed to a five-year natural gas transit deal. Ukraine (and the mediating European Union (EU)) had wanted 7–10 years but Russia offered 1–3. Subject to political approval of yet-unknown terms, both sides will sign a contract before the current one ends on 31 December. Commercial interests guided Moscow’s apparent concessions, certainly. But their intended audience was…(read more)

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Dr. Tracey German, King’s College London 

 

As 2019 draws to a close, anti-government protests in Georgia continue apace. In mid- December a protest group, Shame, released a foul-smelling chemical in parliament as legislators were deliberating a series of lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court. Claiming responsibility for the attack in a Facebook post, the group used the hashtag #Systemstinks. A number of Georgia’s international partners have expressed concern about the political turmoil, warning that the country is at risk of…(read more)

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‘Apple Law’ Bans Won’t Help Russian Consumers, Businesses
Dr. Victor Madeira

 

Vladimir Putin has signed a bill banning the sale of electronic devices unless they have pre- installed (so far unspecified) Russian software. Expected to become law on 01 July 2020, this would benefit consumers and help local companies compete with foreign ones, say officials. But Apple—which does not pre-install third-party software—has joined Russian voices in criticising the step. It is the latest toward a Kremlin aim of ‘sovereign internet’, increasingly free of western technology…(read more)

 

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NOVEMBER 2019

Specialist CSi Analytic Reports on the Commonwealth of Independent States from November 2019.

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No Russian Internet ‘Kill-Switch’ Anytime Soon 

Dr. Victor Madeira

 

The Russian Federation’s new ‘sovereign internet’ law came into effect on 01 November. Officials describe it simply as measures to centralise control of and isolate the Russian Internet (RuNet) in unspecified national emergencies, e.g. external cyber-attack, whilst allowing websites and services hosted in Russia to keep working. But the so-called ‘kill-switch law’ currently faces technical and financial obstacles to full implementation. This means the new legislation, at least in the near term, is more about… (read more)

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Russia ‘Embarrassed’ Twice in a Week by CN Media  

Dr. Victor Madeira

In early November, Chinese media unusually embarrassed Russia – twice in a week. First, SINA reported that in July 2018, Syria seized an unexploded, cutting-edge Israeli-U.S. missile interceptor from the ‘David’s Sling’ system and gave it to Russia. Days later, Eastday.com quoted a leading Chinese strategist who claimed NATO could occupy Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg) in just two days, but Moscow would then widen the conflict by striking several European capitals. Russian media carried both reports, raising questions about their source, timing, and aims, though...(read more)

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Uzbekistan Flirts With China, Russia

Dr. Tracey German, King’s College London

 

After years of pursuing a cautious balancing act in terms of its relations with regional and international powers, Uzbekistan has intensified relations with China and Russia since 2016. Lying at the geographical heart of Central Asia, Uzbekistan presents significant opportunity for those wishing to trade across the entire region. However, there is the risk of geopolitical competition between the principal regional powers of Russia and China, as both have increased their… (read more)

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REPORTS

CSi combines practitioner experience, academic insight, and analytic rigor to craft bespoke reports focused on regional dynamics, business sectors, future risks, and burgeoning opportunities.  Click on the reports below for an example of the types of products CSi experts develop for international business and government clients.

 

NOVEMBER 2019

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North Africa Regional Overview

Cambridge Security Initiative Report on the recent popular protests in North Africa have sparked concerns about a new round of the ‘Arab Spring.’ This report explores the importance of popular protests and the future of tensions in the region.

ISI Updates

Can United States Intelligence Community Analysts Telework?

Dr. David Gioe, Joseph Hatfield and Mark Stout 

May 25th 2020

Written by ISI Supervisor Dr. David Gioe and co-authored by Joe Hatfield, a contributor to the ISI conference, this article argues that United States Intelligence Community analysts can and should periodically telework as routine professional development and as a research supplement to traditional all-source intelligence analysis. We offer four key benefits to tapping into this reservoir of unclassified information that would improve the quality of the intelligence product, enable better liaison and academic exchange, and steward the profession. We conclude that an overdue rebalancing of classified and publicly available sources could be aided by telework, but only once analysts break free from ‘the cult of the SCIF’ will publicly available information receive the analytical attention that it deserves.

Click here to access the full article online. 

ASzWoj Conference 2019

ISI co-convenors Professor Michael Goodman and Dr David Gioe provided several lectures at the Polish War Studies University in Warsaw, Poland. They spoke about topics across the field of Intelligence Studies, including the best practices for teaching intelligence and information warfare. 

Search #ASzWojConference2019 for further information

 

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