Mostafa Ahmed

Senior Researcher

Mostafa’s research and writings focus on regional and international security, while his contributions deal primarily with gulf security, conflict resolution, and negotiations. His research has supported decision-makers in across multiple governmental bodies.

Prior to joining Al Habtoor Research Centre, Mostafa was a lecturer of International Relations at Mongolia International University. He obtained his first master’s degree in International Relations from Porto University, and obtained his second master’s degree from Korea Development Institute (KDI), one of the leading think tanks in Asia.

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Latest By Mostafa Ahmed

Will Netanyahu Conscript the Haredim?
Programmes
22 Mar 2024

Will Netanyahu Conscript the Haredim?

This article was originally published on Ahram Online on Mar. 22, 2024.       The question of conscripting Ultra-Orthodox Jews, commonly known as Haredim, into the Israeli military has once again taken centre stage. This resurgence in debate follows calls by secularists, supported by several war cabinet members, including Defence Minister Yoav Gallant. During a press conference on Feb. 28, they advocated for amending conscription laws to include the Haredim.   The urgency behind these calls is fuelled by various challenges Israel currently faces. These include a labour shortage exacerbated by the ongoing Isarel-Hamas War and tensions along the northern border with Hezbollah. The potential inclusion of Haredim in military service has sparked significant controversy within the Haredi community. Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef even issued a warning of a mass exodus of Haredi Jews from Israel if conscription becomes mandatory.   This latest call reignites an enduring conflict within Israeli society, rooted in the exemption privileges historically granted to Haredim. The issue remains unresolved due to the influence of religious parties, the political considerations of prime ministers, and the social dynamics within Israeli society. The exemption policies have long been a contention, particularly among secular citizens. Tensions escalated during the costly mobilisation efforts for the Isarel-Hamas War, with over 66,000 Ultra-Orthodox youths exempted from military service in 2023 alone. This disparity has led to increased demands for the inclusion of Haredim in the military service, especially given the multiple security threats faced by Israel since Oct. 7.   Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's return to power in late 2022 alongside the right-wing bloc underscored their determination to challenge conscription policies. Netanyahu's efforts to amend the Judicial Authority Law, dubbed "judicial reform", were met with widespread opposition from the secular community, leading to massive demonstrations.   These amendments aimed to circumvent a 2017 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated legislation preventing Haredim's conscription. Despite government concessions, including multiple deferments of recruitment deadlines, the issue remains unresolved. As the latest extension is set to expire on Mar. 31, a looming question remains: Will Netanyahu conscript the Haredim?
What if the U.S. Ceased Providing Military Aid to Israel?
Programmes
3 Mar 2024

What if the U.S. Ceased Providing Military Aid to Israel?

A recent statement from the European Union Foreign Policy Commissioner, Josep Borrell, urging Israel's allies, notably Washington, to cease supplying weapons to Israel has ignited widespread controversy. This call comes amid heightened concerns over the significant civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip. Coinciding with this plea, a Dutch appeals court decision has prohibited the export of all spare parts for F-35 fighter jets destined for Israel. These developments unfold against the backdrop of Israel's plans to initiate an expanded military operation in Rafah. Such an operation raises the spectre of a potential humanitarian catastrophe, particularly concerning the over 1.3 million displaced individuals from the Gaza Strip who have sought refuge in Rafah since the commencement of military activities in the enclave.   The United States provides Israel with annual military aid worth $3.8 billion, which stands as one of the most substantial military aid packages supplied by the U.S. to any country globally. This commitment was reaffirmed by U.S. officials, including President Joseph Biden, who, during his tenure as Vice President under Barack Obama, emphasised the enduring strategic alliance between the two countries. Then Vice President Biden said the U.S. commitment to Israel transcends moral obligations and is a deeply rooted strategic obligation. During a visit to Tel Aviv amid the events of Oct. 7, he underscored that “the existence of an independent and secure Israel within globally recognised borders aligns with the practical strategic interests of the United States.” He further emphasised, “I have long said: If Israel didn't exist, we would have to invent it.” Evidence of the depth of relations and continued support is further demonstrated by Congress' approval of an additional $14.1 billion in military aid to Israel. This aid is intended to bolster Israel's capabilities in its conflict with the Hamas movement, specifically by providing air and missile defence support and replenishing U.S. military stock granted to Israel. This level of support echoes the assistance provided by the United States to Israel during the October 1973 War with the Egyptian Army.   The generous and unconditional support provided by the U.S. to Israel prompts numerous inquiries, particularly in the context of the U.S.'s inability to exert pressure on Israel to stop its war on Gaza. Additionally, its loss of control over the right-wing government's decision-making process regarding the potential expansion of the war to include Rafah, portending an imminent conflict with Egypt. Hence, this analysis endeavours to address a pivotal question: Will these developments prompt a shift in the U.S. stance toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing government, potentially leading to a withdrawal from the notion of an expanded operation in Rafah? Furthermore, can the United States feasibly cease its military aid to this strategic ally in the Middle East?
Navigating the Two-State Solution: Balancing Possibility and Hope in the Palestinian Cause
Programmes
5 Feb 2024

Navigating the Two-State Solution: Balancing Possibility and Hope in the Palestinian Cause

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict stands as one of the world's most intricate and pressing issues, marked by enduring conflicts between Palestinians and Israelis, with potentially dire consequences that could escalate into a regional war. In 1993, both Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin embraced the two-state solution, leading to the signing of the Oslo Accords. The essence of these agreements aimed at establishing two states, one for Palestinians and the other for Israelis, as a pivotal step toward a conclusive resolution to the prolonged and costly conflict. Unfortunately, the intended implementation of these agreements faltered, resulting in failed efforts and the division of Palestinian society between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Instead of fostering confidence, Israeli positions hardened toward Palestinians, leading to a surge in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Currently, approximately 700,000 Israelis reside on lands designated for the Palestinian State, contributing to a decline in both regional and global interest in the matter.   The Palestinian cause regained global prominence with the events of October 7, marking the end of a three-decade stagnation and a background role amid the Arab Spring and subsequent regional and global crises. The Israel-Hamas War raised international concerns about the potential escalation into a regional war. It heightened fears of derailing the Middle East peace process, particularly the "two-state solution." Israeli officials have recently declared that this option no longer exists, despite opposition and warnings from some of Tel Aviv's closest allies, notably Washington.   These indicators underscore the notion that stability in the Middle East hinges on a resolution to the Palestinian cause that aligns with the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. Consequently, discussions surrounding a two-state solution have resurfaced as the optimal proposal to end the conflict, serving as an alternative to the right-wing expansion and settlement policy on the West Bank. Such a policy could potentially isolate and compromise Israel's security while significantly depleting its military and financial resources. Hence, this analysis addresses the crucial question: Is the two-state solution still viable given the current circumstances?
The Vicious Cycle of Violence: Next Steps Post-Jordan Attack
Programmes
30 Jan 2024

The Vicious Cycle of Violence: Next Steps Post-Jordan Attack

On Jan. 28, 2024, a significant drone strike occurred at an American military outpost situated along the Jordanian-Syrian border. The targeted attack led to the death of three American troops, with 34 additional personnel sustaining injuries, as reported in the latest statement released on Jan. 30, 2024.   This event holds profound implications and is poised to instigate repercussions that warrant careful analysis and monitoring. Notably, it marks the first instance of American service members being killed by hostile fire in the Middle East since the commencement of the Israel-Hamas War. The attack's location and timing carry additional connotations, underscoring the need to anticipate and evaluate the potential developments that may occur.   Moreover, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI) claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, explicitly stating, “We targeted four enemy bases, including three situated in Syria: Al-Shaddadi base, Al-Rukban base, and Al-Tanf base (located near the Syrian-Jordanian border). The fourth targeted base is within the occupied Palestinian territories, identified as the Zevulun Naval Facility.”
Israel and the ICJ: Resuscitating Global Order
Programmes
11 Jan 2024

Israel and the ICJ: Resuscitating Global Order

Al Habtoor Research Centre's Commentary articles allow researchers to provide quick, informed responses to ongoing topics, emphasizing personal perspectives and expert opinions without the weight of exhaustive citations. This ensures agility in addressing rapidly evolving subjects and enriches the discourse with authentic insights.   South Africa’s case against Israel at the ICJ is a welcome attempt to revive the global social order but failure to bring about real proportionate justice will only further confirm the current state of international anarchy and embolden other rogue actors.   On Jan. 11, 2024, Israel appeared before the International Court of Justice in The Hague at the first hearing in the case presented against it by South Africa. Israel has been accused of committing the crime of genocide and may be subjected to provisional measures, which would request it to decrease all acts from within Article II of the Genocide Convention and halt its military operations in the Gaza Strip. The State of Israel, established in 1948, the same year that the U.N. Genocide Convention was adopted, may be charged with breaching the Convention, of which it is a signatory.
Hannibal Protocol: Will Israel Burn Hamas’s Leverage?
Programmes
18 Oct 2023

Hannibal Protocol: Will Israel Burn Hamas’s Leverage?

The emergency government of Israel has taken decisive steps, announcing its intent to declare war and initiate comprehensive ground invasion preparations in response to the recent incursion by Palestinian factions on October 7, 2023. This incursion targeted over 20 locations surrounding the Gaza envelope. It resulted in the capture of numerous Israeli soldiers and officers stationed along the front lines in the Gaza Strip's secure zones. The present prisoner crisis is one of the most severe episodes in the long history of confrontations between Israel and Palestinian factions.
Between Grain and AK-47s: Russian Influence in Africa
Programmes
11 Apr 2023

Between Grain and AK-47s: Russian Influence in Africa

The Russian presence in Africa has recently increased after a decline of nearly three decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the nineties of the last century. Russian-African relations are part of Russia's new strategy to enhance its international influence. This strategy conforms to Russia's situation in international affairs, including its support for countries that contradict Western policies. Moscow has focused its influence on the West African region, taking advantage of Western policy mistakes, the mounting anti-European sentiment, and the long-standing failure of international and domestic actors to address the root causes of the regional instability. The first Russian-African summit in Sochi in October 2019 concluded contracts with more than 30 African countries for the supply of weapons and military equipment. It thus opened the door for state-backed companies to invest heavily in the security and technology sectors and industries that extract natural resources such as oil, gas, gold and other minerals.   On the other hand, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict did not impede this rapprochement but rather contributed to developing the partnership between the two parties to take the form of a strategic alliance. This was apparent in the speeches and statements of President Vladimir Putin, the most prominent of which was the speech he delivered at the International Parliament Conference "Russia - Africa in a Multipolar World", which was held in Moscow in March of this year on the sidelines of Saint Petersburg preparations for the second coming Russian – African summit to be held in July 2023. Putin reiterated that cooperation between Moscow and African countries was and will always be one of the top fixed priorities of Russia's foreign policy, declaring Russia's fulfilment of all its obligations, including supply of food, fertilisers, fuel and other essential products to the countries of the continent, which helps ensure food and energy security.   In light of the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict, this analysis aims to shed more light on the motivations and characteristics of the Russian strategy in Africa. It also seeks to highlight the challenges to Russian influence expansion as well as the prospects for Russian-African relations in the future.
Is Islamophobia on the Decline in Europe?
Programmes
4 Apr 2023

Is Islamophobia on the Decline in Europe?

Islamophobia is a combination of hatred, fear, and prejudice towards Islam and Muslims. This phenomenon is manifested in violence against Muslims and Islamic symbols, as well as discrimination and antagonism in daily life. Over the last two decades, there has been a sharp rise in anti-Muslim prejudice, leading many nations to take unjustified action against Muslims in response to the security concerns that have been levelled against them. The persistence of prejudice and hatred against Muslims is also a result of widespread misconceptions about Islam. In addition to several incidences targeting Muslims and their symbols, Islamophobia has spread through statements, attitudes, and campaigns that fuel anti-Muslim sentiment. Muslims frequently face discrimination in countries where they are a minority and have trouble accessing products and services, education, and jobs. Islamophobic hate crimes typically rise following particular occurrences, such as terrorist acts, often provoking collective punishment.     On the other hand, there has also been an increase in tolerance recently, with a noticeable expansion of Muslim celebrations and rituals in various European cities. For example, Ramadan was observed in London by a few English clubs and Muslim footballers were given time to break their fast by English Football Association. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research also issued a letter allowing Muslim instructors in Berlin to wear the veil (hijab). Considering these seemingly minor but significant societal developments, this analysis investigates the repercussions of these changes on the presence of Islamophobia in Europe to determine whether the phenomenon has declined or if these manifestations are still too superficial to affect the depth and roots of the issue.
Netanyahu’s Judicial Amendments and the Future of the Palestinian Cause
Programmes
30 Mar 2023

Netanyahu’s Judicial Amendments and the Future of the Palestinian Cause

In recent months, protests inside Israel have increased significantly in response to Israeli Minister of Justice Yariv Levin's announcement of the judicial overhaul plan on January 4, 2023. Protests have been held every week since Yariv's announcement. On February 12, 2023, Israeli President Isaac Herzog delivered an unusual address in which he warned of the consequences of this plan and its harm to Israeli society, economy, and security. The president attempted to mediate a reconciliation between the opposition and the ruling coalition, but he was unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the coalition began its strategy; on March 20, 2023, the Knesset passed the first reading of the proposal regarding the eligibility of ministers and deputy ministers with a majority of 63 members. In addition, the proposal states that courts, including the Supreme Court, are not allowed directly or indirectly to hear cases relating to the appointment or dismissal of ministers from office. This proposal is one of the most crucial components of the judicial amendments plan.
Sports Diplomacy: How Do Sports Events Enhance the Reputation of Countries?
Programmes
29 Mar 2023

Sports Diplomacy: How Do Sports Events Enhance the Reputation of Countries?

The FIFA World Cup in 2022 in Qatar garnered more attention from the international community due to Qatar's ability to change perceptions of it as a nation capable of hosting the biggest sporting events. Many countries have recently sought to host international sports events in an effort to enhance their posture diplomatically, improve their reputation as well as shore up their position within the international community. To that end, “Sports Diplomacy” has been used to achieve understanding and peace among nations and promote the countries’ political and ideological goals. On the other hand, countries exploited sports as an approach aiming at asserting the superiority and strength of the state; for instance, the 1936 Olympic Games were held in Germany, and the 1934 FIFA World Cup was held in Mussolini’s Italy. In other cases, sports played a more constructive role in the 1990s, representing an opportunity for South Africa to surpass the apartheid era and look forward to a better future. For China, sports have played a role in introducing an open policy and a more influential economy.   A state’s reputation is one of the key factors affecting its international relations, as it reflects its global image, influencing its recognition and interaction with other countries. With sports diplomacy, states could carry out several interests, such as boosting diplomatic ties with other states, raising the degree of understanding and cooperation among people and governments, and improving the state's public image globally. In other words, sports diplomacy is an effective tool for attaining diplomatic goals and promoting the state’s reputation worldwide. This analysis seeks to shed more light on the link between sports diplomacy and the state’s reputation and how the state’s stance in the international community is enhanced by sports diplomacy.
A Window of Opportunity: A Reading of Turkey’s Position on Sweden and Finland’s NATO Membership
Programmes
23 Mar 2023

A Window of Opportunity: A Reading of Turkey’s Position on Sweden and Finland’s NATO Membership

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) philosophy is based on promoting peace and stability and protecting the security of its members through a European and North American defence alliance. The alliance enjoys an "open door policy" whereby any European country willing to undertake the obligations and commitments of membership is welcome to apply for membership. Any decisions on expansion must be approved by a unanimous vote of the current 30 members. The essential feature of the alliance is Article 5 of the Washington Treaty on Collective Defence, which establishes NATO as a powerful alliance that guarantees security by the military response and protects any member state if it is attacked.
Double Standards: Signs of Denying Lebanon the Right to Vote in the UN
Programmes
5 Feb 2023

Double Standards: Signs of Denying Lebanon the Right to Vote in the UN

The recent statement by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on January 17, 2023, that Lebanon and eight other countries will lose their right to vote in the UN sparked various concerns about the standards used to make this decision. Looking at the disenfranchised list, we find common problems in these countries. Some countries—like Somalia, South Sudan, and Lebanon—suffer from political and economic crises, while others—like Venezuela—suffer from economic sanctions that have wreaked havoc on their economies. Such a decision highlights how crucial it is to link democracy with justice and raises whether the countries’ rights depend on their financial resources. Is it unacceptable for underdeveloped and distressed countries to participate in international forums and voice their thoughts? Some other countries violated, and continue to break, International Law and the UN Charter; however, they enjoy their voting rights. In addition, the UN is the primary international platform where countries seek to resolve their differences without resorting to conflict. Countries have to participate in this entity to make their voices heard in the global community; if they are excluded, they will assume individual responsibility for forging solid alliances and searching for alternative sources of communication with the rest of the worldwide community.   The current analysis aims to evaluate the provisions and procedures on which the nine countries were denied the right to vote to determine the key drivers of the decision and how the nine denied countries may restore their voting rights.
The Future of Youth in the Post-Oil Era: The Case of the United Arab Emirates and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Programmes
12 Jan 2023

The Future of Youth in the Post-Oil Era: The Case of the United Arab Emirates and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

One of the most critical issues currently facing the Middle East is the changing composition of its demographic structure. A massive cohort of young people — known as a youth bulge — is challenging policymakers, with youth policies affecting security, education, the labour market, and welfare programs, among other areas. Given the relative stability and wealth of the Gulf states, this is an issue that is not often associated with the region. However, handling a growing young population is just as challenging in the Gulf.   The Gulf is one of the wealthiest regions worldwide; in terms of GDP per capita, it is distinctive due to its unique hydrocarbon reserves compared to a relatively small national population. Gulf states rely on oil revenue — to varying degrees — to attract private investors and provide extensive public services and subsidies to nationals. With not enough diversification in their economies, government spending in the Gulf states will continue to be a barrier to economic diversification. To sustain the high standard of living attained by Emirati and Saudi societies to the youth and the coming generations, the two countries must set strategies and plans to integrate youth while continuing to diversify their economies away from oil. This study explores the impact of the post-oil reforms and strategy on the youth, including education, employment, social contract, and identity.   The study applies Late Rentier State Theory to analyse the relationship between youth, the Emirati and Saudi states, the post-oil reforms, and their future trajectories. The analysis is guided by some of the characteristics identified by Late RST which focus on the impact of globalization, modernization policies, diversification, the state’s encouragement of entrepreneurship, and the sustainability of their strategies with regards to the extent to which they accommodate youth’s needs and account for changing societal structures and expectations.   While the study does not refute the youth bulge hypothesis, which contends that states where young adults constitute a large proportion of the population are expected to face an elevated risk of political violence and interstate conflict, widely used in the literature; it adds to it by proposing that while those risks exist, they can be alleviated under certain circumstances. Those circumstances include policies and strategies to be taken by governments that are relevant to youth needs and the surrounding environment. Namely, taking into consideration both agency and structure.   The study finds that, for the United Arab Emirates, the results of education and Emiratisation policies are likely to shape the shifting social contract between young Emiratis and the government, and could lead to a range of outcomes, from the promising- a population of empowered, educated, and skilled Emirati youth- to the stagnant- disappointed and apathetic youth persistent in their preference of the public sector- to the more worrisome- yet unlikely- active opposition by dissatisfied youth.   With regards to the Kingdom Saudi Arabia, the study finds that while the government is investing massively in educational and employment reforms, young Saudis need to adopt entrepreneurial values and work ethic to ensure the success of “Neo-Saudism". This in turn requires a certain level of responsiveness from the government and possibly more opportunities for youth to participate in decision making in the near future. The speed of change and the extent to which youth’s values and perspectives may clash with those of older generations is yet to be determined. The real challenge for Saudi decision makers and strategists will be in maintaining balance and stable relations between different societal groups.
Securing the Future Generation: A Road Map for Arab Nuclear Cooperation
Programmes
22 Dec 2022

Securing the Future Generation: A Road Map for Arab Nuclear Cooperation

Nuclear cooperation attracts international and regional attention, many Arab countries have aspired to produce clean nuclear energy and have either begun or are seeking to join the nuclear energy club. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) , Egypt, and Jordan, are the frontrunners in the Middle East and therefore will be the focus of this paper. Nuclear power is an international industry in terms of operation, supply chains, and vendors, as well as nuclear safety, non-proliferation and waste management, therefore, there is an ongoing need for cooperation and collaboration between states. This cooperation can include sharing technical expertise and nuclear technology, establishing agreements that facilitate nuclear exports, agreements on nuclear safety and standards, and collaboration with regulatory frameworks.   The paper employs horizontal or environmental scanning to analyse the current position of nuclear energy in each country and their preparedness for nuclear cooperation, as well as existing models of nuclear cooperation in other regions. Thereafter, the paper explores the different incentives countries may have for engaging in nuclear cooperation, including the potential benefits to be gained. A SWOT analysis is used to structure the environmental scanning, evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats within each country with regards to their potential role and contribution to nuclear cooperation in addition to an overall SWOT analysis of the countries as a whole with regards to the prospect of ongoing collaboration.   The paper is divided into three chapters; the first chapter provides an overview of nuclear energy in each of the selected countries, the second chapter examines existing models of nuclear cooperation and analyses the different enabling factors which will later be used to identify opportunities for Arab nuclear collaboration, and the third chapter analyses the various economic, political, and security incentives that would drive countries to seek cooperation or that can be used to advocate for greater collaboration among policymakers.   A cooperation model is produced as a result of this analysis, highlighting key characteristics of the ideal regional partnership. Three scenarios for Arab nuclear cooperation are evaluated to demonstrate what could occur if this proposed cooperation occurs, how it would happen, and the scenarios of no collaboration or limited cooperation.