Search

You searched for: Content Type Commentary and Analysis Remove constraint Content Type: Commentary and Analysis Publishing Institution Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) Remove constraint Publishing Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) Publication Year within 10 Years Remove constraint Publication Year: within 10 Years Publication Year within 5 Years Remove constraint Publication Year: within 5 Years
Number of results to display per page

Search Results

  • Author: Wolfgang Pusztai
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: After the massive defeat of the Libyan National Army (LNA) at the hands of Operation Burkan Al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) - which supports the internationally recognized Government of Accord (GNA) - the new frontline is just west of Sirte, a city 370 km southeast of Tripoli and 350 km southwest of Benghazi, strategically located at the entrance to Libya’s Oil Crescent. While Turkish combat drones, air defense, artillery, electronic warfare and Special Forces form, together with about 10,000 Syrian mercenaries, the backbone of Operation Volcano, hundreds of mercenaries from the Russian private-military company Wagner fight for the LNA. Much more important, in May some 12 to 16 MiG-29SM/SMT and 4 to 6 Su-24M fighter jets arrived in Libya from Russia via Syria and operate now mainly from the Al Jufra air base (about 230 km south of Sirte). The Egyptian President Al-Sisi announced on June 20 that his country will intervene militarily, if the Sirte - Al Jufra line is crossed by pro-GNA forces. The political opponent of the GNA, the internationally recognized House of Representatives (HoR) has already officially requested Egyptian military support. However, Turkey and Russia are now the two key foreign players on the ground in Libya. Actually, the GNA is fully dependent on Turkish support.
  • Topic: Armed Forces, Conflict, Syrian War, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Turkey, Libya, North Africa, Syria
  • Author: Matteo Villa, Marta Foresti, Elena Corradi
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Migration is often envisioned as a movement from origin A to destination B. But, even for forcibly displaced people, migration trajectories are much more complex and can be made up of multiple displacements. This study aims to look at how decisions to migrate are shaped and what it is that drives, diverts or deters migratory movements across borders. It focuses on how education in emergency (EIE) affects the migratory decisions of forcibly displaced people. What impact does EIE have on the living conditions of forcibly displaced people in countries of transit? How does the perspective of education in emergency affect their decisions on when, where, and how to migrate further?
  • Topic: Education, Migration, Displacement
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy
  • Author: Giulia Di Donato
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: During the last four decades, China experienced impressive economic growth, becoming one of the leading powers of the global economy. After a century of humiliation imposed by Western and Japanese colonial powers, today the country is demonstrating a strong desire to achieve its national rejuvenation (guojia fuxing). Indeed, under the iconic leadership of President Xi Jinping, China is adopting an increasingly assertive international behavior, balancing the need to protect its sovereignty and strategic interests related to economic and security issues, and the ambition to restore its role of a great power[1]. In this context, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - a massive infrastructure project to improve connectivity between the East and the West, increase regional cooperation and facilitate trade and investments - has been described as China’s grand strategy championing its global governance ambitions[2]. Indeed, BRI-participating economies represent more than one-third of global GDP, and over half of the world’s population (OECD 2017).
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Economy, Grand Strategy, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Matteo Villa, James F. Myers, Federico Turkheimer
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In an ongoing epidemic, the case fatality rate is not a reliable estimate of a disease’s severity. This is particularly so when a large share of asymptomatic or pauci-symptomatic patients escape testing, or when overwhelmed healthcare systems are forced to limit testing further to severe cases only. By leveraging data on COVID-19, we propose a novel way to estimate a disease’s infected fatality rate, the true lethality of the disease, in the presence of sparse and partial information. We show that this is feasible when the disease has turned into a pandemic and data comes from a large number of countries, or regions within countries, as long as testing strategies vary sufficiently. For Italy, our method estimates an IFR of 1.1% (95% CI: 0.2% – 2.1%), which is strongly in line with other methods. At the global level, our method estimates an IFR of 1.6% (95% CI: 1.1% – 2.1%). This method also allows us to show that the IFR varies according to each country’s age structure and healthcare capacity.
  • Topic: Health, Pandemic, Data, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy, Global Focus
  • Author: Fabio Figiaconi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In the last decade, the Mekong Region (MR) — that is, the area crossed by the Mekong River and encompassing Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam — has become central to the strategies of major global powers due to a series of economic and geopolitical factors. The most prominent are the region’s growing importance in global trade routes, its geographical proximity to major hotspots (such as the South China Sea and the Malacca Strait) and China’s growing regional activism. The growing importance of the MR in global dynamics spurred several actors to develop specific strategies. While liberal democracies such as the United States (US) and Japan both created regional fora for policy discussions as well as development funds, China increased its presence by offering loans, constructing infrastructures and creating a specific regional institution. Due to the mounting competition, the MR is set to become a major geopolitical hotspot in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Topic: Economics, Geopolitics, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Matteo Villa
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: COVID-19’s lethality in Italy is a highly discussed figure. When compared with other major countries, Italy’s 9.9% case fatality rate (CFR) as of 24 March 2020 is the highest by far. But relying on this figure is misleading. By itself, the CFR tells us almost nothing about COVID-19’s plausible lethality (infected fatality rate, or IFR). On the opposite, recent studies place China’s IFR at 0.7%. By relying on this figure, ISPI’s best estimate for COVID-19’s plausible lethality in Italy is 1.1%. The gap between the IFR and the CFR figures can be largely attributed to the number of infected persons that have not been tested and, therefore, escape counting. ISPI estimates that the number of active cases in Italy is at around 530,000 as of 24 March 2020, or almost ten times larger than the official count of 55,000 active cases. This paper shows that the CFR is an unreliable indicator of COVID-19’s plausible lethality, and there is not enough evidence to suggest that Italy’s IFR is much higher than expected. On the opposite, a direct comparison between the CFR and the IFR is much better placed to paint a more realistic picture of the evolution of the ongoing epidemic.
  • Topic: Health, Pandemic, Data, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy
  • Author: Eleanore Ardemagni, Ahmed Nagi, Mareike Transfeld
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: As the war in Yemen enters its sixth year, plenty of new and traditional security providers operate, and compete, at the local level. Changes in security governance describe quick political fragmentation and reordering of security relations: in many cases, the agents of protection are, contemporarily, agents of coercion.1 In the eyes of local communities, multiple security actors fill the same roles and perform similar or overlapped duties. As violence and instability persist, Yemenis have paradoxically had to deal with a rising number of local, “national” and foreign security providers in their everyday life, especially in areas held by the Houthi insurgents. Each territory has its own particularities; but some general trends can be identified, depicting a country where local communities fluctuate between bottom-up decentralization and self-governance. Yemen remains fractured into three main competing political-military entities claiming legitimacy: the internationally-recognized government relocated in Aden, the “quasi-state” of the Houthi insurgents based in the capital Sanaa, and the self-proclaimed and secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC) in Aden and surrounding areas. In the eastern part of Yemen, local authorities remain formally under the internationally-recognized government (as in the case of the Mahra governorate). But beneath these rival “states”, what happens at a community level? Who really provides security on the ground? And since 2015 onwards, what has changed, or not, in terms of security provision and governance?
  • Topic: Security, Governance, Law Enforcement, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Eleanore Ardemagni
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Differently from neighbouring Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Qatar, the northern emirates of the UAE (Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al Khaimah and Fujairah) and the Sultanate of Oman form a critical sub-region which has entered globalized modernization at a later stage. In the eyes of the ruling elites, current urban development projects, logistical infrastructures, port expansion and tourism should consolidate economic growth, reduce social inequalities (in the northern emirates of the UAE), and design sustainable post-oil paths (in Oman). Trying to balance continuity and change, the northern emirates of the UAE and Oman are renewing their maritime traditions in the context of state transformations that combine national heritage (as trade culture) and connectivity (infrastructures, urban areas, industrial poles) thanks to national “Visions” and the “project-ization of identities”. In fact, new projects do not only aim at attracting investments and create job opportunities, but also at promoting top-down recalibrated values of the new citizenship which in the eyes of the governments, should be business-oriented and community-serving. Tracing the evolution of the northern Emirati and Omani sub-region, which risks to be affected now by the consequences of the US-Iran escalation, this analysis aims to assess economic transformation trends, emerging security issues and geopolitical implications.
  • Topic: Infrastructure, Geopolitics, Regional Integration, Heritage
  • Political Geography: Iran, Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, United States of America
  • Author: Fabio Figiaconi, Claudia Adele Lodetti
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: According to the latest World Bank’s “Global Economic Prospects” publication, Covid-19 pandemic will have a negative impact on East Asia causing a -1,2% GDP’s reduction in 2020, that is the region’s first recession since 1998’s Asian financial crisis, while China is expected to slow to 1% this year. Among the various consequences that may materialise, the report highlights the disruption of the global and regional value chains. In addition, as stated by UNCTAD World Investment Report 2020 Foreign Direct Investments’ (FDIs) flows are expected to decrease globally by 40% in 2020 and are projected to decrease by a further 5 to 10% in 2021. This scenario would be detrimental for East Asia’s economies and especially for the network of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) located there, which have had and continue to play a fundamental part in the region’s growth. SEZs are intended as delimited areas within a country’s national borders where businesses enjoy a more favourable regulatory and fiscal regime than that of the national territory, with the aim to draw in FDIs, boost exports, increase trade balance and alleviate unemployment.
  • Topic: Economics, Geopolitics, Special Economic Zones
  • Political Geography: Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Alessia Melcangi
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: After an uncertain political transition following the 2011 revolts, Egypt seems ready to reshape its geopolitical role in the Mediterranean area and fulfil its geostrategic goals, always maintaining their national security principle to be an essential objective of its domestic and foreign policy. The two main closely and interconnected scenarios, where the country’s strategic ambitions are projected, move from Libya to the contested waters of the Eastern Mediterranean. In particular the latter represents an area that, in recent years, has become a hotspot for the global energy market due to huge gas-field discoveries. It is enough to imagine how the fight for the control of these resources are shaping the region, elevating it to a potential geostrategic game-changer for the coastal countries such as Egypt.
  • Topic: Economics, Natural Resources, Geopolitics, Exports
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Egypt, Mediterranean
  • Author: Matteo Colombo
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean have been enthusiastically received by international observers, although the current price dynamics advises caution. This commentary both explores the opportunities of political and economic collaboration for the states of the region and beyond, and analyses the financial hazards of gas extraction and selling in a global scenario characterised by low prices and decreasing demand. The arguments put forward are that considerable public investment from regional and European states and a clear stance towards Turkey are necessary conditions to exploit gas opportunities and that the time has come for governments to take these steps. In greater detail, European states and regional governments should soon make a final decision on whether or not to build a pipeline from the gas fields of Egypt, Israel and Cyprus to Italy (EastMed) and on if Turkey should be included in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF): a regional platform to manage gas prices and the energy flow from producing to consuming states.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Regional Cooperation, Natural Resources, Gas
  • Political Geography: Europe, Mediterranean
  • Author: Ehud Eiran, Aviad Rubin
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Although the Mediterranean was traditionally an afterthought in Israeli geopolitical thinking, the 2000s recorded a shift: Israel is turning to the sea. The Mediterranean is capturing a growing role in Israeli geostrategic thinking. This is in large part the result of the discovery and development of gas in the Mediterranean Sea beginning in the late 1990s. Developed rather quickly, these gas reserves made Israel energy self-sufficient, a significant geo-strategic transformation. Prior to these discoveries, energy was a serious concern. The state had no energy resources, and for decades found it challenging to secure supply in the face of Arab hostility. With the gas discoveries, Israel gained not only energy independence, but also an economic and political tool. Israeli agreements to export gas to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority gave Israel important leverage. The gas discoveries in the Mediterranean further offered the possibility for export to Europe if indeed Israeli-Greek–Cypriote designs to build an undersea pipe will materialize. The new maritime energy source contributed to the expansion of the Israeli navy. Once a junior player in the Israeli armed forces, in 2013 the navy was entrusted by the government to protect the gas depots, despite the fact that they are held in private hands (including by non-Israeli corporations) and are outside of Israel’s territorial waters. The new task, alongside the expansion of the submarine flotilla (probably as part of a future nuclear deterrent against Iran), awarded the fleet a more important role in Israel’s national security establishment and resource allocation. It also allowed Israel to use the force for international cooperation and military diplomacy in the region. This turn to the sea also contributed to an emerging quasi-alliance with Cyprus and Greece, which includes, among many other areas, the possible joint gas export project, military exercises, and bi-annual trilateral summits between these countries’ leaders. Like its regional allies, Israel is affected by growing Chinese interest in the Mediterranean. Chinese corporations contracted the expansion of Israel’s two largest ports, Ashdod and Haifa. The latter was substantial enough to irk the US, whose navy used the Haifa port in the past for re-supply. Israeli and Chinese actors are in early phases of developing a Chinese funded, or owned, high speed train from Israel’s Red Sea port in Eilat to the Mediterranean port of Ashdod, that will serve as an alternate route for the Suez Canal portion of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Geopolitics, Refugees
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Mediterranean
  • Author: Camille Lons
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Once marginal in shaping the geopolitics of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, Gulf power projection and competition have become a central driver of the politics of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. The political turmoil that engulfed these states created both threats and opportunities for Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the rich and ambitious states of the Arabian Peninsula. Their involvement, which combined economic aid, political support and at times military assistance, was structured around their notion of what is the desired or acceptable role of Islamist movements in Arab politics. On the one hand, Qatar supports Islamist movements and most notably the Muslim Brotherhood as instruments of influence and popular appeal, while the UAE and Saudi Arabia perceive them as a security and ideological threat to their regional influence and domestic stability.
  • Topic: Politics, Regional Cooperation, Maritime, Strategic Competition, Rivalry
  • Political Geography: Libya, Syria, Egypt, Qatar, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Nael Shama
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: After many years of being the Middle East’s backyard, the Mediterranean has over the past decade become its flashpoint, hosting a toxic mishmash ofmilitarized conflicts, border disputes and energy competitions. If these divisions are not contained using constructive diplomacy and viable multiparty agreements, regional instability will continue to pose a threat to all Mediterranean littoral states.
  • Topic: Economics, Natural Resources, Maritime, Conflict, Geography
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Mediterranean
  • Author: Haizam Amirah-Fernandez
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: There is something deeply and comprehensively flawed in the EU’s relations with its Mediterranean neighbourhood. After more than 50 years of European cooperation, agreements, declarations and plans with the southern Mediterranean and the Arab countries, only one new democratic state (Tunisia) has emerged. A benevolent observer would say this democratisation process was not initiated as a result of the EU’s resolute support for a population demanding freedom from an authoritarian regime. A blunter observer, however, would argue that Tunisians managed to topple their former autocrat despite the support he received from certain European quarters until the very last minute. So much for decades of European pro-democracy rhetoric.
  • Topic: International Relations, Democratization, European Union, Crisis Management, Trade
  • Political Geography: Europe, Mediterranean
  • Author: Bahgat Korany
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Why did the January-2020 Berlin Declaration on Libya fail to limit this country’s flare-up, and the more recent Cairo Declaration in June could face the same fate? It is because this Libyan case is but a reflection of the predicament of the East Mediterranean and the whole MENA insecurity complex: the inter-connectedness of different elements of instability, geopolitical as well as domestic, entangling several international/regional powers and local actors/militias. So-called “new wars” are multiplying and the State – this classical bedrock of international order – is declining. This insecurity complex tends to be dominated by what Thomas Friedman of the New York Times called in a different context Black Elephants. As a metaphor, Black Elephants is itself a combination of two well-known English metaphors: the “elephant in the room”, which denotes a basic or risky topic that we choose to ignore or neglect ; and “black swans”, which denotes unexpected occurrences. I use this double metaphor to indicate that both past policies and new events trap the East Mediterranean into multi-layered conflicts, and a thick insecurity complex. While here the emphasis is mainly on domestic dynamics will be also taken into account. Country examples such as Libya, Syria or Lebanon are cited to demonstrate the argument.
  • Topic: Security, Regional Cooperation, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Mediterranean
  • Author: Valeria Talbot
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Over the last years, Turkey has increased its activism in the Mediterranean, becoming a key and assertive player in regional politics and crises. From the Eastern Mediterranean gas dispute to the Libyan war, Ankara has not hesitated to flex its muscles to safeguard its interests and achieve its goals. Turkey's activism is part of a wider foreign policy, which has become more and more militarized since 2015, aiming at extending its geopolitical influence in the Middle East and its surrounding regions. This includes a significant maritime component, the so-called Mavi Vatan or the "Blue Homeland" doctrine, for the control of waters in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea through military power projection. It is not by chance that Blue Homeland is the name of the largest naval exercise (involving 103 military ships and 20,000 soldiers) in Turkey's history which was launched at the end of February 2019 to test its ability to carry on war simultaneously in the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. A more active role for the Turkish Navy in national defence as well as in energy geopolitics competition is one of the pillars of this maritime doctrine, which also relies on the development of an indigenous defence industry.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Natural Resources, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Mediterranean
  • Author: Matthew Wilson
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: From the moment he first declared his candidacy for the presidency of the United States on a strongly nationalist platform promising to “make America great again,” Donald Trump has been dogged by accusations that he is too cozy with explicitly racist, fringe-right figures and movements. Periodically, critics have seized on phrases or images in Trump’s communications that they argue send subtle messages of encouragement or solidarity to Nazis and white supremacists. This began during the 2016 campaign, when former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke expressed enthusiasm for Trump’s presidential bid. When asked for his attitude regarding the support, Trump at first equivocated and professed insufficient knowledge of Duke and his movement, before explicitly disavowing Duke and the Klan some days later. The issue arose again during Trump’s first year in office, when he asserted that there were “very fine people, on both sides” of clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia between anti-Confederate statue protestors and far-right elements. Trump’s defenders insist that the “very fine people” he was referring to were members of local heritage groups and not the violent extremists who descended on the city from outside (and, indeed, in the same press conference Trump clarified that he was “not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally”). The issue, however, has not gone away; over the last several years, critics have periodically spotted images in Trump administration communications that they allege hearken back to historical European fascism, and recently he has been accused of using phrases with regard to law enforcement and protests that echo American segregationists. Just recently, the Trump campaign drew criticism for retweeting a video of a parade of his supporters in Florida, during which one participant shouted “White Power!” While the campaign later removed the video and claimed that they had not noticed the offending phrase, the incident reignited critics’ claims that Trump is at best indifferent toward—and at worst actively solicitous of—white nationalist support for his presidency.
  • Topic: Politics, Domestic politics, Far Right, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Naser al-Tamimi
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: With more than 136 countries (end-July 2019) reported to have signed up to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI hereafter) since it was announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, estimates for China's potential BRI investments vary significantly, from around US $1 trillion to as much as US $8 trillion. China’s spectacular economic rise over the last three decades has been accompanied by a sharp increase in its energy demand. As a result, China is the world’s largest energy consumer. As its economy continues to grow, even at lower rates than before, its dependence on oil and gas imports will increase over the next two decades.
  • Topic: Oil, Economy, Soft Power, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Gautam Chikermane
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: India’s middle class will count a few rupees, bank depositors will get a little security, privatisation enthusiasts will chew on a new player in the market. But other than high-sounding grandiose statements, India’s Budget 2020 has delivered no expectations. This was preordained, of course. So, if anyone is feeling disappointed, clearly s/he is not reading the economic signals in the economy or the approach of Narendra Modi’s government to it clearly. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had little room for manoeuvre. Her Budget shows how little. In a line: Budget 2020 is yet another wasted opportunity.
  • Topic: Markets, Politics, Budget, Finance, Narendra Modi
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Gentiola Madhi
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: On Wednesday the 5th of February the European Commission proposed a revised methodology for the accession process for candidate and potential candidate countries. This methodology will be applied to Albania and North Macedonia, although for Montenegro and Serbia there has also been foreseen an opt-in in case they want to join. The document strives to inject new dynamism into the enlargement process in the Western Balkans, while attempting to introduce more clarity and predictability, stricter monitoring as well as improved incentives for the soon-to-be negotiating countries to deliver on EU reforms. The negotiating chapters have been divided into six clusters, where the fundamentals cluster will be the first to open and the last to be closed.
  • Topic: European Union, Democracy, Regional Integration
  • Political Geography: Europe, Balkans, Albania, North Macedonia
  • Author: Jessica Obeid
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Lebanon defaulted on its debt for the first time in the country’s history. Many factors have contributed to this economic and fiscal crisis, but at the heart of them is the electricity sector, accountable for more than $39.5 billion, equivalent to 43 percent of the public debt, and embodying the core structural issues of Lebanon; a non-functioning confessional system built on the foundation of vested interests.
  • Topic: Debt, Infrastructure, Financial Crisis, Economy, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Irene Tuzi
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Since October 17, 2019, unprecedented popular protests have erupted in Lebanon motivated by demands for socio-economic rights and the reform of a highly corrupted and sectarian political system. The deterioration of economic and social conditions in Lebanon has also affected the 1.5 million Syrian refugees as well as the Palestinians and other communities of displaced people living in the country. Syrians, in particular, expressed an exceptional empathy with the Lebanese revolution and although with a diversity of responses, many have taken part in the uprising.
  • Topic: Syrian War, Hezbollah, Revolution, Political Movements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Marina Calculli
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Lebanon’s sovereign default comes at a heavy price for Hezbollah. This is not simply because of Hezbollah’s powerful role within the government that failed to repay a $1.2 bn bond on 10 March 2020. This is mainly because Hezbollah’s rivals are likely to use the current financial crisis to impose an external authority over Lebanon and increase pressure on the ‘Party of God’ to disband its armed wing.
  • Topic: Security, Financial Crisis, Economy, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Tom Rhodes
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: While there is never a good time for a country to face an epidemic, it could not come at a worse time for a country in transition like Sudan. Prior to the first cases of the coronavirus confirmed on 13 March, the country already faced a humanitarian and economic crisis. In February, the inflation rate was at 71% and prices were double those cited in 2019, according to the US-funded food monitoring body, the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS). The Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peace-building Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, told the UN Security Council recently that Sudan’s humanitarian needs were severe, with 9.3 million people needing aid by the end of 2019.
  • Topic: Economy, Humanitarian Crisis, Transition, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan
  • Author: Chantal Meloni
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: For the past 15 years the figure of Omar al-Bashir, the former president of Sudan, has epitomized the struggle of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to fulfill its mandate, i.e. to end impunity for the worst crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. In 2005, the former ICC Prosecutor – Luis Moreno Ocampo - had promptly opened an investigation into the atrocities committed in Darfur after receiving a referral by the United Nations Security Council (Resolution n. 1593 of 2005), which permitted the Court to affirm its jurisdiction over Sudan, not a state party to the ICC. In the context of this investigation, two warrants of arrest were issued against al-Bashir, in 2009 and 2010, for the most serious crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and even charges of genocide. It is estimated that over 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million forced to flee their homes in Darfur as a result of military campaigns led by the Sudanese army and pro-government militias against ethnic minorities since 2003.
  • Topic: Genocide, International Law, International Criminal Court (ICC), Omar al-Bashir
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan
  • Author: Yasir Zaidan
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Only a few short months following the one year anniversary of the Sudanese revolution, Khartoum is facing a global pandemic and a deteriorating economic situation. Over the last decade, Sudanese people have been suffering from inflation and gas shortages as a result of losing 75 percent of its oil revenue that was assumed by South Sudan after the separation of the two states. The failing economy that contributed to the fall of the Bashir's regime is now getting worse, and the transitional government has yet to implement any fundamental reforms to rescue a weak transitional period in Sudan. The government's failure to achieve these reforms stems from deep ideological divisions inside the revolution's political coalition.
  • Topic: Oil, Economy, Transition
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan
  • Author: Tobia Zevi
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: As we all know, urbanisation is a crucial ingredient of our century and of globalisation. In this perspective, examining the features of European cities can be very useful. As a region of ancient city-dwelling, the Old Continent can provide a paradigm that, far from having to be reproduced as it is, can be the source of precious starting points for those areas of the world that deal with this challenge today, and in a much stronger way. Moreover, this issue is particularly significant today, just a few months after the European election round. The EU’s future appears uncertain, as the difficulties of the appointed Commission show: in this sense, being able to immediately set up a concrete and efficient working plan for the next five years will be crucial. Such an effort should aim to reduce as much as possible the gap between European institutions and citizens - who, the last few years, have been subjected to the economic crisis, migration flows and terrorist attacks – and to improve concretely their quality of life. Therefore, talking about the future of European cities is absolutely useful.
  • Topic: Urbanization, European Union, Cities
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Jason Pack
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In early April 2019, General Khalifa Haftar instructed the Libyan National Army (LNA) to take Tripoli by force, initiating Libya’s Second War of Post-Qadhafi Succession. Drawing upon the Libya-Analysis proprietary real time militia mapping project, this paper examines the main armed groups involved in the war: ascertaining their strengths, weaknesses, command and control structures, motivations, alliances, military capacities, and financing. It illustrates how all armed groups in Libya exploit the country’s dysfunctional war economy. Unappreciated by most international policymakers, the current conflict has actually increased their leverage to pry Libya out of this downward spiral. Major international players have the tools to prevent Libya from becoming permanently enshrined as a kingdom of militias, but only if they transcend their divergent approaches and rally together to cut off the belligerents’ purse strings. Failure to act is facilitating the growth of global jihadi movements, migrant flows to Europe, and the tragically avoidable humanitarian catastrophe currently engulfing Libya.
  • Topic: War, Proxy War, Humanitarian Crisis, Khalifa Haftar
  • Political Geography: Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Brendon J. Cannon, Federico Donelli
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In December 2017, at the end of a bilateral meeting, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Sudanese counterpart Umar al-Bashir announced a deal to restore Suakin, a ruined Ottoman port town on Sudan’s Red Sea coast. The agreement also gave Turkey the right to build a naval dock to maintain civilian and military vessels. More than one year later there are doubts as to how much work Turkey will do beyond restoring the Ottoman town. However, certain regional states are uncomfortable with the apparent consolidation of a permanent Turkish presence in the region, thereby feeding a process of perceived securitization in and around the Red Sea. A few months later, in April 2018, the flag of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) began to flutter on the small island of Socotra. The position of this isolated Arabian Sea island makes it a strategic outpost for the conduct of ongoing UAE military operations in Yemen as well as control of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the entrance, from the south, to the Red Sea. The two seemingly unrelated events are yet more evidence, for some, of a complicated game of chess between rival ideological and political blocs in the Middle East that now stretches into Africa. The Middle East region has been the scene, for decades, of political balancing acts amidst continuous power and influence scrambles due to its structural characteristics – a highly dynamic and amorphous regional system in which power relations are fluid and order is in short supply – and the lack of a clear regional hegemon. As noted by professor Fawaz Gerges, following the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, a “psychological and epistemological rupture” has occurred in the Middle East.[1] Although mostly limited to the domestic dimension of the states, these dynamics appear to have taken on an extra-regional dimension that increasingly feeds perceptions and narratives of shifting distributions of power. A wide range of academic and think tank literature has emphasized these changes in light of an emerging identity Cold War pitting conservative Sunni monarchies against a revolutionary Shi’a Iran. Recent security interactions across the Red Sea seem to form part of this intertwined rebalancing dynamic across the wider Middle East regional security complex (MERSC).
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Power Politics, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan, Turkey, Middle East, Horn of Africa
  • Author: Eleonora Tafuro Ambrosetti, Kateryna Zarembo
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The 31 March presidential elections in Ukraine matter to Ukraine, its region and the EU. While the majority of experts deem it impossible to have a winner in the first round and, thus, expect a second one in April[1], the March contest will be a first important step in the crucial process of determining the direction the country will take. Thus, while we should not hold our breath on election day, we should definitely keep a close eye on the contest and its outcome.[2] First of all, these mark the first elections in Ukraine’s history when a “pro-Russia” foreign policy card cannot be played by the political candidates. If in 2013 the Association Agreement with the European Union and the Customs Union with Russia were two rival projects for Ukrainians[3], in 2019 support for the EU is prevailing among the population – 50% of Ukrainians support the country’s integration into the EU, while only 9% are in favour of the Customs Union[4]. Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic course has also been recently voted in to become a part of Ukraine’s constitution. And yet Ukraine’s pro-Western integration course is far from being undisputed. First, support for the EU is very unevenly spread across the country, ranging from over 80% in the western oblasts to some 30% in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Odesa oblasts.[5]Second, while none of the three candidates currently leading the polls – the incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, the former prime minister and ex-energy tycoon Yulia Tymoshenko, and the comedian and political newcomer Volodymyr Zelensky – questions EU integration on paper, some candidates’ electoral programmes or actions look at odds with this goal. On paper, Tymoshenko supports good relations with Brussels – and, eventually, a possible EU membership – but she criticizes the reforms promoted by the EU and IMF and advocates economic isolationism. Zelensky’s fussy approach is also critical of the IMF while giving lukewarm support to EU integration[6]. As of March 2018, it is Zelenskyi who is leading the race, with some 25% of support[7], while Poroshenko and Tymoshenko keep shifting in and out of second place in various polls. Importantly, some 26% - in fact, the “golden share” of these elections – of those who are going to vote, are still undecided about their choice, which may bring some surprises on the day of the poll. Finally, these elections will likely feature an unusually high turnout in Ukrainian terms – as of March 2019, 83% of Ukrainians declared that they are going to participate in the elections (in the 2014 presidential elections turnout reached 60%).[8] This is likely a sign of increased civic mobilization and the perception of civic responsibility among Ukraine’s citizens, which grew more acute after the Euromaidan and the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Affairs, European Union, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Italy
  • Author: Francesco Marone, Marco Olimpio
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Radicalization in prison has long been a critical issue in the West (and beyond), where prisons have sometimes been turned in recruitment and proselytization hubs by different kinds of extremists, including jihadists. As is well known, one of the main concerns is that radicalized subjects may indoctrinate other common detainees. Italy has also been affected by this phenomenon and jihadist radicalization in prison represents a concrete threat. This analysis presents an overview of the problem, based on the latest available data. As of late 2018, there were 66 detainees who were either awaiting trial or already sentenced for crimes related to “international Islamic terrorism”. These individuals were placed in a special section (the “High Security 2” - AS2 circuit) and were rigorously separated from other detainees. In addition, as of October 19, 2018, there were a total of 478 individuals flagged for radicalization in Italian prisons: 233 in the 1st level – High; 103 in the 2nd – Medium; 142 in the 3rd level – Low. Furthermore, in an attempt to counter violent extremism and radicalization, Italian authorities have been increasingly deporting foreign individuals for national security reasons. In 2018, no fewer than 79 individuals had been expelled upon release from prison. In the face of these new challenges, Italian authorities are strengthening their commitment to identify and counter the threat posed by jihadist radicalization in prison. These efforts include identification and monitoring activities also thorough indicators of violent radicalization, management of extremists after release from prison, training of staff, and rehabilitation initiatives.
  • Topic: Prisons/Penal Systems, Violent Extremism, Radicalization, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy
  • Author: Theo Neethling
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In recent years, Russian president Vladimir Putin has increasingly placed a high premium on re-building Russia’s global influence in Africa. During the heyday of the Soviet Union, Russian influence on the continent was significant, especially on an ideological level. The Cold War with the United States made Africa a land of contention, with the two superpowers waging proxy wars by aligning and supporting different African movements, fuelling conflict on the continent by providing political support, money and weapons. However, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, and superpower rivalry ended, Africa lost its strategic role. There is little doubt that, today, much of Moscow’s involvement in Africa relates to Putin’s desire to revive his country’s great-power status. In this context, Africa has become strategic in at least two ways: for the economic benefits stemming from its mineral wealth, and for providing Russia with a market to export weapons and military assistance, often merging these two interests in an arms-for-resources approach.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Weapons , Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Maddalena Procopio
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: As the first-ever Russia-Africa summit made headlines around the world in the past few weeks, the comparison between the Russian and the Chinese approach to Africa was recurrent. It originated in the fact that both China and Russia are not Western countries, both have seemingly ‘returned’ to Africa in the 21st century for economic and political reasons, both advocate a non-interference approach in the internal affairs of other countries and both are perceived as great powers in international relations. This makes them potentially able to shake the status quo and arouses paranoia, especially in the West, about their intentions and the consequences of their actions for Africa and other external actors. However, while there are similarities in China and Russia’s engagements with Africa, many more are the differences.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Soft Power
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Eurasia, Asia, Africa
  • Author: Julien Durand de Sanctis
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: On November 12, French president Emmanuel Macron and his Chadian counterpart, Idriss Déby, met in Paris, at the Peace Forum. Faced with the urgency of the situation in the Sahel, where the G5 military forces (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) have just suffered a major setback with the death of 50 Malian soldiers during a terrorist attack, France seems more than ever to rely on Chad and its army to restore security.
  • Topic: Security, Bilateral Relations, Partnerships, Strategic Stability
  • Political Geography: France, Chad, Sahel
  • Author: Matti Siemiatycki
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Infrastructure Canada is the national ministry of infrastructure rather than an independent government agency or advisory body. It designs and administers the national government's funding programs to infrastructure across a variety of sectors such as transportation, water, energy, and social infrastructure. Under the Canadian constitution, the national government actually has fairly limited jurisdiction over the ownership, planning and operations of infrastructure, which is primarily controlled at the provincial level. The country’s ten provinces and three territories then delegate considerable responsibility for infrastructure provision to the municipal governments. In 2016, only 2.1% of all public infrastructure in Canada was owned by the national government, compared with 58% owned by local governments, and 38.1% by the Provinces.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: Canada, North America
  • Author: Giulia Sciorati
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Despite being frequently overlooked crushed as it is in the midst of great Asian powers, South East Asia recently found a new space in the international system. And this space already attracted the attention of the old and the new great powers that orbit around the region. Other than Asian powers like China and Japan, the United States are currently joined by Australia in an attempt to find a role in the promising markets of South East Asia. Competition for supremacy in the area is in fact paralleled to a quest for the control of the maritime routes that cross the region. At the same time, in the past few years, many South East Asian states have been subjected to power transitions that have remodeled the political architecture of the region as a whole. South East Asia thus is at the verge of a new momentum that witnesses radical changes in the region’s internal power relations and external balance of power. In addition, South East Asian states are diplomatically entwined within the Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), an organization that is not dispensed from the reform wave that currently invests the region.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Radicalization, Geopolitics, Trade
  • Political Geography: Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Paul Chambers
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In 2019 democracy continues to elude Thailand. The country’s 2014 putsch overthrew an even more democratic system which, among other things permitted a half-elected Senate and elections at the local level. The coup produced five years of authoritarian military control.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Authoritarianism, Democracy, Coup
  • Political Geography: Asia, Thailand, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Luigi Narbone
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: As 2019 comes to close, Russian mercenaries are allegedly shifting the balance of forces in Libya, helping General Haftar to reignite his efforts to take Tripoli. Only a few weeks ago, Russia’s brokered ceasefire had successfully stopped Turkey’s advances in the Syrian northeast, pushing Kurdish forces away from the Turkish border and allowing the return of Bashar Al Assad’s forces to the region from where they had been absent since the beginning of the conflict. Similarly, in Idlib, Russia’s position will be essential to determine the course of the conflict.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Power Politics, Geopolitics, Syrian War, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Ruslan Mamedov
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Despite the existence of global and regional formats for discussing ways to resolve the Libyan conflict, national reconciliation has not been achieved for eight years. This is largely due to the lack of necessary conditions and the existence of conflict at the local, regional and global levels. Russian influence on Libyan events is often exaggerated. Moreover, the media likes to raise this topic, because it allows the various parties to the conflict to divert attention away from the real problems and lack of agreement between the main players fighting for leadership in the Libyan issue. At the same time, the Russian approach assumes rather a tactical nature of interaction with various players on the Libyan settlement.
  • Topic: European Union, Geopolitics, Conflict, Proxy War, Reconciliation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Luiza Khlebnikova
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The world has been focusing almost exclusively on the events in Syria and Russia’s role in them, ignoring a perennial core regional issue – the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2019, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip kept protesting and calling upon Israel to end the blockade of their territory and to lift restrictions on the movement of people and goods. The current US policy under the Donald Trump administration, as many prominent American and Russian experts - including Daniel Kurtzer and Vitaly Naumkin - point out, undermines the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. The hopes of the Palestinian people for their own state keep waning. Mostly, it is a result of the White House’s unilateral moves: the cut of US bilateral assistance programs to Palestinians, as well as contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the overturn of the US position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are no longer considered illegal. “The deal of the century” promised by Donald Trump since 2016, has not been revealed in its entirety yet, however, its chances of success are extremely low.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Negotiation, Mediation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Livio Zanotti
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The tensions that are unsettling South America have roots running much deeper that the demands that have unleashed the protests: they point to the need for radical economic and social change.
  • Topic: Politics, Democracy, Protests, Institutions
  • Political Geography: Brazil, Colombia, South America, Latin America, Venezuela, Chile, Peru, Ecuador
  • Author: Camillo Casola
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: On December 10, 2019, the southwestern region of Tillabéri, in Niger, was shocked by an act of armed violence against Nigerien military forces. Around 500 heavily-armed men stormed a military camp in In-Atès, about 180 km from the capital Niamey and 20 km from the border with Mali. More than 70 soldiers were killed, dozens injured and many weapons and pieces of equipment stolen. The assault followed a similar attack in July against the same garrison, which caused the death of 18 soldiers: its tragic toll proves that the security situation in the Liptako-Gourma region is currently out of the state actors’ and international security forces’ control.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Violent Extremism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Africa, Niger
  • Author: Vladimir Shubin
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: On October 23 and 24, the Black Sea town of Sochi, often called the southern capital of Russia, hosted the first-ever Russia-Africa summit. Held under the slogan “For peace, security and development”, the summit was combined with an economic forum and co-chaired by two presidents, Vladimir Putin and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, incumbent chairperson of the African Union. Forty-three heads of African states and the representatives of several African regional integration organizations took part in the summit. The summit led to a political declaration on the main areas of Russian-African cooperation, as well as a significant package of agreements on trade and investment.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, Egypt
  • Author: Giovanni Carbone
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Africa is a fast-changing continent and an area of rising global relevance, where major transformation processes are currently underway, from demographic expansion to economic development, from social progress to environmental challenges, from technological innovation to continental integration, from political change to migratory pressures. How will these complex transformations shape the Africa of tomorrow? This Report sets out a vision for Africa’s future based on five key traits: an archipelago of heterogeneous growth trajectories; the revolutionary impact of technological leapfrogging; regional integration and the growing role of sub-regional processes; the clustering of instability mainly around the core of the region; and the migration movements that originate from – but also predominantly remain within – the African continent.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: Samuele Dominioni
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Elections, when free and fair, are regular and legitimate occasions to vie for power in a democratic country. In order to compete and to be elected, political competitors, usually organized into parties or movements, must follow the democratic principles that rule electoral competitions. There are numerous international regulations that set worldwide standards for democratic elections, which have been adopted by many countries and that constitute the concept of electoral integrity.[1] This refers not only to management of the so-called e-day (election day), but also includes many provisions that must be respected throughout the electoral cycle.
  • Topic: Elections, Cybersecurity, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Thomas Carothers
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In President Donald Trump’s first year in office, U.S. policy relating to supporting democracy abroad became starkly divided. At the level of “high policy”—direct engagement and messaging by President Trump and his principal foreign policy advisers—the United States sharply downgraded its global pro-democratic posture. Trump’s praise of dictators, criticism of democratic allies, and anti-democratic actions at home recast the United States as at best an ambivalent actor on the global democratic stage. Yet at the same time, pro-democratic “low policy”—quiet but serious engagement by U.S. diplomats to counter democratic backsliding and support democratic advances overseas, and the extensive but generally low-profile domain of U.S. democracy assistance programs—largely carried on, making important contributions in many countries. During Trump’s second year, this policy schism has only widened. He has doubled down on his embrace of dictators and spurning of democratic partners, as well as his anti-democratic actions at home. His new secretary of state and national security adviser may not share his anti-democratic impulses, but they have done little to mitigate his anti-democratic actions and have reinforced a transactional foreign policy with little apparent commitment to the idea of democracy as a universal value. Still, U.S. pro-democratic low policy carries on, as American diplomats support democracy in various countries at important moments of political change, and as democracy assistance remains at pre-Trump levels of activity. Yet the manifest lack of commitment to democracy at the top is increasingly corroding the low policy domain. Under Trump, U.S. democracy high policy has reached its lowest ebb of at least the past forty years. If the United States continues its present course for two more years, it will end up stranded on the sidelines, or even on the wrong side, of the global democratic struggle, precisely at a time when that struggle is more acute than at any time in modern history. Nevertheless, democracy’s defenders—both inside and outside of the U.S. government—still have the opportunity to mitigate the damage.
  • Topic: Politics, Democracy, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Andrey Chuprygin, Valeriy Matrosov
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The campaign carried out by the government of eastern Libya and by military forces associated with it (the Libyan National Army or LNA) since 2014 has been mainly finalized towards capturing Benghazi and Derna from the local municipalities. By July 2017 Benghazi was captured, or, to quote eastern Libyan pundits, "liberated" (although, contrary to the LNA reports, the situation in the city is still far from stable), and the siege of Derna began. These advancements of Tobruk and LNA leadership, however, failed to solve harrowing problems affecting the whole of Libya, such as radical Islam, lack of fair leadership or social security, economic stability and development, whose solution remains essential for transitioning Libya from the condition of a failed state to a country on the up-hill track of development. On the contrary, the tendencies to intra-territorial clashes between different seats of power and military forces in Libya contributed to the rise of traditional historic trends: the search for a new strong leader, who will be able to keep Libya safe, the fatigue of the war and the rejection of all contemporary centers of power. In this context the dichotomist relationship between tribes vs urban centers, which allows for a semblance of stability in several regions of Libya, constitutes a major destabilizing factor along the coastal planes. Derna and Benghazi are the stark examples of this socio-political conundrum, which has determined the evolution of the social psyche from 2011 onwards. Every subsequent government, of which there were quite a few since the "February Revolution", promised peace and modernization of the state but, instead, what we have been witnessing lately, is the phenomenon of "Dernisation".
  • Topic: Politics, History, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, North America
  • Author: Eleanore Ardemagni
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The Western Indian Ocean (the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, the Bab el-Mandeb, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian/Persian Gulf) is the new Gulf powers’ battlefield. Saudi Arabia and Iran, as already in the Middle East, are vying for hegemony in this sub-region: the Gulf monarchies also compete for influence, especially after the 2017 Qatari crisis and Doha’s boycott by neighbours. Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman but also Turkey, struggle to acquire geopolitical leverage in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO). Nowadays, the multipolar system which shapes International Relations maximizes the geostrategic relevance of WIO, at the crossroads between Eastern Africa, the Gulf, and Southern Asia. In these waterways, regional and international players share security and energy interests (as freedom of navigation), but they also compete, more and more, for local alliances, commercial ports, and/or military agreements and bases. In the WIO, China and India are designing rival nodes of influence: the Chinese “One Belt, One Road” initiative (OBOR), which adapted the previous “string of pearls” strategy, pushed New Delhi to counterbalance Beijing’s plans with a policy of connectivity in the sub-region. For the Gulf powers, maritime politics enters a new protagonist season: WIO is its basin. The Gulf “pivoted to East” since the 2010s, in terms of energy export, trade and market routes, investments, and infrastructures. Gulf monarchies’ strategies of economic diversification, as the Saudi “Vision 2030”, have further enhanced this trend: would-be post-oil economies need Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and partners for infrastructural projects. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) pursue a new interventionist and military-driven foreign policy: this pro-active posture has to be supported by maritime power and sea expertise, as demonstrated by the military operation in Yemen. On the other shore of the Gulf, Iran seeks economic modernization and recovery after years of international sanctions: Iranian port throughput increased after 2015. Asian markets can boost trade and investments in Teheran, helping the Islamic Republic to develop a new set of alliances since Iran also aims to upgrade its naval power. Gulf powers’ maritime competition in the WIO crafts fresh alignments with Asian and Eastern African players, adding to the traditional map of rivalries in the Indian Ocean (India vs Pakistan; China vs India). This intra-Gulf competition can be traced along three vectors of geostrategic influence: commercial ports, military agreements and bases, and choke-points.
  • Topic: Power Politics, Geopolitics, Economy, Maritime
  • Political Geography: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indian Ocean, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Giuseppe Dentice
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In the wake of the killing of more 300 Muslim worshippers by allegedly Jihadist militants during al-Rawdah massacre in November 2017, President Sisi launched a new military campaign - “Comprehensive Operation-Sinai 2018” - with the aim of putting an end to terrorism and restoring security within three months in turbulent Egypt. The military operation, which precedes the presidential election of March 26-28, 2018, has pursued growing repression of the opposition and militarization of institutions in the country. Despite the media fanfare and pro-Sisi triumphalism, the Egyptian government needed a red herring and the construction of an ‘enemy’ to help engineer some ‘national unity’ among disgruntled Egyptians, with the aim of diverting public attention away from atrocities and structural reform failures. Operation Sinai-2018 represents a new step in the militarization of the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, where the State and the Army have reasserted their control under authoritarian policies based on brutal force and harsh methods against the local population. This paper analyses the reasons behind the military operation and examines the threats arising from the militarization policy in Sinai and the impact of authoritarian measures on domestic politics. It also probes into the emerging correlation between military measures and militaristic nationalism, and how new risks may arise during Sisi’s second presidential term.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Military Affairs, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Egypt, Sinai Peninsula
  • Author: Fabio Rugge
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The good old days of cold war disinformatia are gone. Social media are increasingly relevant in shaping the public opinion, but they are just “eco chambers”. Foreign actors with malicious intent can easily exploit this intrinsic feature of social media manipulating online information in order to influence the public opinion. Moreover, cyberspace allows a large degree of anonymity, behind which it is easy to automate propaganda, and cyber attacks may be leveraged to exfiltrate and expose sensitive content or to gain information dominance during military operations, increasing the strategic relevance of the “information space”. Operations in this domain are central in Russia’s security strategic thinking, featuring predominantly in its “New Generation War” military doctrine. But the ongoing militarization of cyberspace risks having dangerous spillovers in the conventional domain. What can we do in order to protect our open democracies while preserving a global, free and resilient Internet? The answer is multi-faceted, in as much as CEIW (cyber-enabled information warfare) is an emerging asymmetric threat that forces us to innovate our security approach in many ways.
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Social Media
  • Political Geography: Russia, Global Focus
  • Author: Karim Mezran
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: As the Trump administration assumes office, it faces a major challenge in Libya, where the country’s situation continues to deteriorate as an ongoing conflict worsens. The Libya Peace Agreement produced in 2015 by a UN-backed process, which established a Presidential Council and Government of National Accord (PC/GNA), is floundering. The PC/GNA has failed to garner credibility on the ground since landing in Tripoli almost a year ago and it has suffered from significant infighting.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Cooperation, International Affairs, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: America, Libya
  • Author: Giuseppe Dentice
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The Egyptian military response through heavy air strikes on the cities of Darnah and Sirte – as a consequence of the kidnapping and beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts by a Libyan cell affiliated to the Islamic State (IS) in February 2015 – represents so far the peak of Egypt’s involvement in the Libyan affaire.
  • Topic: International Security, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Libya, Egypt
  • Author: Virginie Collombier
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: More than one year after the signing of the Libyan Political Accord (LPA) in Skhirat, implementation of the agreement is impeded by obstacles which now look insurmountable. Despite efforts by Western countries and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to empower the Presidential Council (PC) of the Government of National Accord (GNA), major constituencies have continued contesting its legitimacy and refusing its authority.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Libya, Global Focus
  • Author: Arturo Varvelli
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: During 2016 and in the first few weeks of 2017, it has become clear that General Khalifa Haftar is gaining support both locally and internationally. Egypt, the Emirates, Russia, and France, all played a role in strengthening his power.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Cooperation, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Libya, Global Focus
  • Author: Wolfgang Pusztai
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: After the 1969 revolution, Libya’s previously close links to the United States quickly deteriorated. At the same time Muammar al-Gaddafi sought closer links to the Soviet Union. The clear majority of the equipment of the “Armed Forces of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” originated from the Soviets or the Eastern Bloc. Many of the officers of all services were educated at military training facilities of the Soviet Armed Forces. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia remained as one of Libya’s key allies.
  • Topic: International Security
  • Political Geography: Russia, Libya
  • Author: Nancy Porsia
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Fighting at Tripoli’s international airport was still under way when, in July 2014, the diplomatic missions of European countries, the United States and Canada were shut down. At that time Italy decided to maintain a pied-à-terre in place in order to preserve the precarious balance of its assets in the two-headed country, strengthening security at its local headquarters on Tripoli’s seafront. On the one hand there was no forsaking the Mellitah Oil & Gas compound, controlled by Eni and based west of Tripoli.
  • Topic: Migration, Political and institutional effectiveness
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Sami Zaptia
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Six years on from its February 2011 revolution, Libya’s political scene is characterized by fragmentation and polarization. The constantly shifting political and military allegiances and contested legitimacy since 2014 have today resulted in three Libyan ‘‘governments’’ claiming legitimacy.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Libya
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: There is no doubt that the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign is an orchestrated strategy, delivering the same disinformation stories in as many languages as possible, through as many channels as possible, and as often as possible.
  • Topic: International Security, Political Theory, Post Truth Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: GianLuca Pastori
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The dynamics of the Mediterranean region are increasingly affected by the interplay of the US, Russian, and Chinese efforts to strengthen their respective regional positions. Since the years of the second Obama administration, the US disengagement has led to a greater Russian and Chinese presence and to the growth of their influence at political, economic, and military levels. Today, Russia is heavily involved in the Libyan struggle for power, a role that the reception of General Khalifa Haftar onboard the flagship of the Russian Fleet, the Admiral Kuznetsov, already highlighted in January 2017. Since then, Moscow’s role has progressively increased, culminating in the deployment of Russian PMC’s personnel in support of Haftar’s troops, in September 2019, during the operations on the Tripoli front. Somewhat reminiscent of the role assumed in Syria since 2016, Moscow’s activism has been, in recent years, the main source of concern for both the US military establishment and NATO. Moreover, the increase in military assertiveness has gone side by side with a greater economic presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, favored by the planned enhancement of the shipyard facilities in Tartus[1]. Moscow’s political weight has been re-affirmed in the region by the role that Russian President Vladimir Putin played as peace broker during the crisis triggered by the announcement of the US’ withdrawal from Northern Syria in October 2019. The so-called ‘Sochi agreement’ (October 22, 2019) has been, to a large extent, a product of the role that Russia has assumed as the bulwark of the Bashar al-Assad’s regime and main military force in the region.
  • Topic: Security, Strategic Competition, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Libya, Syria, Mediterranean