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  • 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