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  • Author: Lauren Baker
  • Publication Date: 03-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS)
  • Abstract: On February 26, 2016, Iran held elections for its Assembly of Experts, the body tasked with choosing the next supreme leader, and the Islamic Consultative Assembly (its parliament or majlis). As the first major round of voting since 2015’s historic Joint Plan of Comprehensive Action nuclear agreement, the world watched the results closely — and Iran’s leaders leveraged this international focus. While many reformist candidates were barred from running, and those who did were censored on state media, new forms of communication and social media aided existing organizing networks for a strong showing for the reformist candidates, most notably in Tehran. Coalitions between moderates and reformists potentially herald a new era of politics in the Islamic Republic, though it has yet to be seen if these changes will translate mean greater democracy. POMEPS Briefing 29 collects a series of reflections from top regional scholars that provide political context and important analysis of these watershed elections
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Author: Lauren Baker
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS)
  • Abstract: On January 2, Saudi Arabia executed 47 men, including prominent cleric and political activist Nimr al-Nimr. This sparked immediate backlash, especially among domestic and global Shiite communities. Unfortunately, such rising sectarian tensions are nothing new in the region. Although the media is quick to highlight the Sunni-Shiite divide, it generally points to this split as the root cause of conflicts. How are we to get beyond this primordialist rhetoric and study the real impacts and causes of sectarianism in the region? POMEPS Briefing 28, “The Gulf’s Escalating Sectarianism,” collects 16 pieces previously published by the Project on Middle East Political Science and the Monkey Cage to provide a more nuanced look of this divisive trend. There is a growing body of scholarship that places sectarianism within the study of comparative politics and international relations, rather than treating sectarian identity as an unchanging, essentialist trait. Authors in this collection demonstrate how political elites use sectarian language to legitimize authoritarian rule, consolidate power, and rally against internal and external foes. What appear on the surface as entrenched confessional divides are often more about political and economic power than religion. Interested readers should also look at the 2013 POMEPS Studies 4 “The Politics of Sectarianism,” much of which remains relevant today. Analysis of individual Gulf states’ domestic and geopolitical maneuvering supports this theoretical framework. In Saudi Arabia, the new leadership is able to refocus attention away from its international and domestic failures by increasing pressure on Shiite dissidents and provoking its main regional rival, Iran. And, in the wake of the nuclear agreement, the increasing Iranian influence gives Saudi Arabia another reason to amp up the sectarian vehemence. Meanwhile in Yemen, the labels of sectarianism fail to tell the whole story, while in Iraq and Syria violence in the name of sectarian identity continues to polarize and entrench both sides. The Arab uprisings challenged the traditional regional powers, and Sunni leaders continue to vie for prominence in this new order. Meanwhile, the increasing use of information technology and social media reinforces existing communities, while further polarizing users and citizens.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Gulf Nations
  • Author: John Ryan
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: LSE IDEAS
  • Abstract: On 4 February 2015, the European Central Bank (ECB) unexpectedly and suddenly cancelled acceptance of Greek bonds as collateral for liquidity funding unless Greece obeyed the Troika agreement. The ECB’s irresponsible and incompetent actions call into question their respect for the Greek government’s attempts to resolve its debt crisis in a sustainable way. The ECB may or may not have good reasons to cut off Greece, depending on your point of view, but it is clear that such a move would be political. A central bank that is supposed to be the lender of last resort and guardian of financial stability would be taking a deliberate and calculated decision to undermine the Greek banking system. The ECB is now seen in some quarters as arrogant, unaccountable and authoritarian.1 This Strategic Update discusses the most recent problems for the Eurozone, namely the Greek crisis and the European Central Bank’s (ECB) lack of democratic accountability which has contributed to considerable difficulties for the stability of the Eurozone.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Greece
  • Author: Tan Sri Munir Majid
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: LSE IDEAS
  • Abstract: While the close British decision to get out of the European Union was made in a referendum a while ago on 23 June, there is still the feeling in the UK: What have we done? Where do we go? How do we get there? Questions that should have been asked at the referendum, rather than after it. But there you are. When raw emotion and shallow argument reign, profound decisions are made without proper reflection or preparation. Since then the question has also been raised whether or not such a thing could occur in ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It won’t but then again it may. First of all, let’s be clear. It is not likely there will ever be such a surplus of democracy in ASEAN, whether among individual member states or as a group, that there could be an ‘In or Out’ referendum like the one which resulted in Brexit.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Affairs, Global Markets, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia
  • Author: Tim Oliver
  • Publication Date: 06-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: LSE IDEAS
  • Abstract: A British withdrawal from the EU would be a process not an event. This Strategic Update sets out the nine overlapping series of negotiations that would be triggered and the positions the 27 remaining EU countries and the EU’s institutions would take, gathered from a network of researchers across the continent.
  • Topic: Brexit
  • Political Geography: Britain, European Union
  • Author: Tim Oliver
  • Publication Date: 02-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: LSE IDEAS
  • Abstract: A vote by the British people to withdraw from the EU – also known as a ‘Brexit’ – will have significant implications for the EU, the ideas and structures of European integration, and European geopolitics. Opinion polls show that a vote to withdraw is a distinct possibility. The EU, the rest of Europe, allies around the world and the UK itself need to prepare for the wider international implications of such a move. This Strategic Update examines how likely a Brexit is and explores what it could mean for the EU, European integration, and Europe’s economics and security.
  • Topic: Geopolitics, Brexit
  • Political Geography: Britain, European Union
  • Author: Josh Reubner
  • Publication Date: 08-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: his retrospective assessment argues that despite the arrival in office in 2009 of a president who articulated the case for Palestinian rights more strongly and eloquently than any of his predecessors, U.S. official policy in the Obama years skewed heavily in favor of Israel. While a negotiated two-state resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians continued to be the formal goal of the United States, Israel’s defiant refusal to stop settlement expansion, the administration’s determined actions to perpetuate Israeli impunity in international fora, as well as the U.S. taxpayer’s hefty subsidy of the Israeli military machine all ensured that no progress could be made on that score. The author predicts that with all hopes of a negotiated two-state solution now shattered, Obama’s successor will have to contend with an entirely new paradigm, thanks in no small part to the gathering momentum of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution
  • Political Geography: America, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Phyllis Bennis
  • Publication Date: 08-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: This essay examines the discourse on Palestine/Israel in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, charting the impact of the Palestine rights movement on the domestic U.S. policy debate. Policy analyst, author, and long-time activist Phyllis Bennis notes the sea change within the Democratic Party evident in the unprecedented debate on the issue outside traditionally liberal Zionist boundaries. The final Democratic platform was as pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian as any in history, but the process of getting there was revolutionary in no small part, Bennis argues, due to the grassroots campaign of veteran U.S. senator Bernie Sanders. Bennis also discusses the Republican platform on Israel/Palestine, outlining the positions of the final three Republican contenders. Although she is clear about the current weakness of the broad antiwar movement in the United States, Bennis celebrates its Palestinian rights component and its focus on education and BDS to challenge the general public’s “ignorance” on Israel/ Palestine.
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Dr. Jan (eds) Woischnik, Dr Jans Woischnik
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Brazilian Center for International Relations (CEBRI)
  • Abstract: In the last decade of the 20th century, when the Cold War came to an end, there was a growing understanding that International Law was consolidated as legitimation body for state actions. It was the begin- ning of a new peaceful world order, the world hoped that an old problem of geopolitics could finally be fully addressed by the International Law, a problem which the Athenian General Thucydides observed already more than 2000 years ago, according to which in the realm of the international, “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”. In this new world order right was supposed to finally come before might.
  • Topic: International Law, Political Theory, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Andrey Korobkov
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: The 2016 electoral campaign outcome came like a complete bolt out of the blue for the American establishment, including the ruling elites, as well as academics, journalists, and other groups safeguarding the elites’ interests. Ironically, the showy campaign and the scandalous behavior of US billionaire and TV star Donald Trump, now 45th President-elect, overshadowed the fact that such a candidate per se exposed a deep systemic crisis in American society. Both the general public and professionals had overlooked the phenomenon. The crisis is caused by the exhausted potential of the US political and socio-economic system, which took shape in the 1960s and is over 50 years old. That is why the problems that the campaign laid bare will not merely fade away after the elections.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Organization, International Affairs, Elections
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Edward Luttwak
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: In the recent months the US-Russian relations have been in this weird place where Russia suddenly emerged again as a topic of a heated and very controversial electoral campaign and again in a form of an Evil Empire. The relations have been strained since 2014 following the events in Crimea, Ukraine and the sanctions rounds even though the same two countries managed to cooperate around Iran, and were rubbing shoulders in Syria. The recent storm has been caused by the leakage of the Democratic party emails, allegedly done by Moscow with the end goal to undermine Hillary Clinton (who is holding firm anti-Russian position) and support Donald Trump (who has praised Vladimir Putin in the past). With the elections taking place this week, Rethinking Russia spoke to an influential Republican geostrategist, CSIS senior associate Edward Luttwak about the current state of the Russian-American elections.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Cooperation, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, America
  • Author: Thomas Graham
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: Beware of rapid improvement in US-Russian relations. It cannot be sustained, and it always ends in sorrow for both countries. That at least is the history of relations since the end of the Cold War, to which each American president – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama – can attest.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Organization, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, America
  • Author: Christopher Phillips
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: Military conflict in Syria is in its 5th year. What was initially seen as another strike of the wave of democratization known as the “Arab Spring” has now become an extremely complicated multi-level regional conflict, where authorities in Damascus, estranged from the Western countries, are fighting against several groups, including ISIS1. The international dimension of the Syrian conflict is usually seen as the reluctance of the USA to get engaged, and Russia’s readiness to do just the opposite – while many other regional players get lost in the background. In order to establish different patterns and to articulate the plurality of motives that guided international actors, Rethinking Russia spoke to Christopher Phillips – senior lecturer at the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University and associate fellow at the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, who just published a meticulously researched book “The Battle for Syria: International Rivalry in the New Middle East” that documents the international dimension of the conflict.
  • Topic: Civil War, International Security, Political Power Sharing
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Andrey Korobkov
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: The 58th quadrennial U.S. presidential elections were held on November 8, 2016. Republican Donald Trump won the White House. Following the elections, «Rethinking Russia» think-tank has collected a set of comments by Russian and foreign experts.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Organization, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Danielle Ryan
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: As the world comes to terms with the knowledge that Donald Trump will soon be handed the keys to the White House, Moldovans are preparing to vote in a runoff presidential election which will set their country either on a firmly pro-Western course or on the path toward better relations with Russia.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: America, Moldavia
  • Author: Yan Vaslavskiy
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: The 13th Valdai Discussion Club session was held in Sochi October 24-27. Ever since its establishment in 2004, the Club has gained the reputation, first of all, as a forum for Russian and foreign experts to compare notes on a wide range of international issues. Secondly, the President of Russia drops into the exclusive club on quite a regular basis.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Tatyana Alekseeva
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: The International Primakov Readings Forum took place November 29-30, 2016, in commemoration of Yevgeny Primakov. The meeting was organized by the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO led by Alexander Dynkin) and was backed by the World Trade Center, the Russian Science Foundation, the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, and the University of Pennsylvania. In his address to the Forum, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin argued that Primakov had succeeded in predicting the events unfolding in today’s world, especially in the Middle East. As the Head of State put it, “Actually, I was always taking heed of Primakov’s assessments, as he was a wise and astute diplomat. I trusted him and asked to accomplish responsible and sensitive missions rather than ordered him”. Besides, the Primakov Readings Conference brought together Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Chair of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko, and President’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov who delivered an opening speech. The Forum was also attended by most leading experts on international relations. The Rethinking Russia Think Tank presents the comment of Tatyana Alekseeva, a participant of the Primakov Readings Forum.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Global Focus
  • Author: Bryan MacDonald
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: At the start of 1917, rumours reached London that something was stirring in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). As a result, the concerned Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, urgently dispatched Lord Milner, a diplomat of some repute, to the Russian capital. His Lordship visited the Tsar and spoke to ministers and members of the Duma, who informed him that enemies of the state were spreading groundless yarns. Sadly, being a creature of his class, Milner believed that only the elites mattered so he neglected to consult any of the general public. Thus, cocooned in his bubble, the peer reported to London that there was nothing the government could not handle and no need to expect no major changes. However, the same British travelling party also included Lloyd George’s private secretary Philip Kerr. A little more clued in, Kerr walked the streets and interviewed the plain folk. Armed with their predictions, he sent a telegram to Downing Street which asserted that Russia was on the verge of an unstoppable revolution. As it happens, the man who stepped out of the comfort zone was right because Nikolai II was shorn of his crown before the British delegation made it home. We know this story because many years later the ‘Welsh Wizard,’ Lloyd George, revealed the details to Ivan Maisky, the Soviet ambassador to London. And almost a hundred years later, it is a salutary lesson in the dangers of the establishment refusing to acknowledge ordinary people’s concerns when evaluating the causes of political upheaval.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Global Focus
  • Author: Dejan Skoric
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: Applying the "PRO-CURE" methodology, Dejan Skoric from the Association Resource Centre Majdanpek, conducted an analysis of the expediency of the spending of public funds from the budgets of local governments for the purchase of fire-fighting vehicles and equipment.
  • Topic: Corruption, National Security
  • Political Geography: Serbia
  • Author: Ana Aćimov
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: The case study applies "PRO-CURE" methodology to analyse performance of expenditures for equipping the traffic police at the local level. The author particularly questions the difference between the proclaimed strategic priorities of the Ministry of Interior and its annual procurement plans, as well as the the distribution of the burden of financing the traffic police between Ministry of Interior and local governments.
  • Topic: Finance
  • Political Geography: Serbia