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  • Author: Helle Malmvig, Jakob Dreyer
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: • Denmark should focus its attention on the border region between Iraq and Syria, which presents a high risk of insurgency, and is where the main Danish military contingency has been deployed since 2015. • Given the likely partial US withdrawal from Iraq, NATO and European governments should prepare for taking on new tasks and responsibilities. • The US-led coalition should allow and prepare SDF to negotiate alternative political/security arrangements, as SDF may have difficulty sustaining its presence in Syria.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Fragile States, Islamic State, Syrian War, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: David Makovksy
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Benny Gantz’s party lost the head-to-head battle, Avigdor Liberman’s favorable influence on the coalition math has left the general in a stronger position—and taken some diplomatic weight off the Trump administration’s shoulders. Israel’s third round of elections last week seemed inconclusive at first, but the deadlock may now be broken. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did better this time than in September’s round two, but his gains were insufficient to form a new government. Potential kingmaker Avigdor Liberman jettisoned his previous idea of getting the two top parties to join forces; instead, personal antipathy and policy differences have led him to definitely state that he will not join any government Netanyahu leads. Thus, while centrist Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz may have options to shape a new government, Netanyahu has no pathway on his own. In theory, the center-left bloc has the requisite number of seats for a bare majority in the 120-member Knesset, since anti-Netanyahu forces won 62 seats. In reality, the situation is more complex.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ben Fishman
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After the fall of Sirte, Erdogan and Putin’s desired ceasefire can only be achieved with Washington’s support. Over the past week, regional and European actors have increased their diplomatic activity around Libya in response to intensifying violence in the nine-month-old civil war. On January 8, less than a week after the Turkish parliament approved sending forces to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin met in Istanbul and called for a Libya ceasefire to begin on January 12. Whether or not Moscow and Ankara manage to pause the violence temporarily, their growing influence in Libya represents an epic failure of Western attempts to resolve the conflict diplomatically. The longer-term effort to jumpstart Libya’s political transition requires a wider international effort at peace and reconciliation—something Russia and Turkey can support but not lead. Putin and Erdogan seemed to acknowledge that fact at their summit, endorsing a long-planned multilateral conference in Berlin aimed at recommitting all relevant actors to support an end to hostilities and respect the UN Security Council’s mandatory but widely ignored arms embargo. Even assuming Putin is serious and withdraws Russian mercenaries from the frontlines, a full, lasting ceasefire cannot transpire until the other actors who support Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) agree to withdraw their equipment and personnel for a fixed period while negotiations are launched—especially the United Arab Emirates, which provides the LNA with critical air superiority. At the same time, Turkey would have to take commensurate de-escalatory steps of its own. The United States is the only actor that holds enough weight with all the foreign parties to bring about an authentic ceasefire. Despite being consumed with crises in Iran and Iraq, Washington should expend the diplomatic effort required to pursue durable stability in Libya before the country slips further toward endemic chaos.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, United Nations, Conflict, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: Elena DeLozier
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Sultan Haitham will now be free to put his own stamp on the country's government and foreign policy, and a recent dust-up on the Yemeni border could provide the first indicator of his approach. On February 20, Oman will begin its next era in earnest. The new sultan, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, was officially sworn in on January 11, but he has remained quiet and mostly out of sight during the forty-day mourning period that followed the death of his cousin, Sultan Qaboos. Now that this period is drawing to a close, he is free to put his stamp on Omani policy. Notably, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lead the first international delegation to see Sultan Haitham in the post-mourning period. When the meeting was first scheduled, the secretary likely saw it as a chance to get to know the new leader, and also as a symbolic visit to make up for sending such a low-level delegation to offer condolences. Yet the two may have more to talk about now. Earlier this week, a flare-up occurred between Saudi forces and Omani-backed locals in the Yemeni border province of al-Mahra. The confrontation may be Sultan Haitham’s first regional test, and identifying the actors who help him get through it could help Washington discern future power centers within Oman’s often opaque government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Oman, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If the latest U.S. effort winds up backing the Palestinians into a territorial corner from the outset, then Washington may not be able to move the process any closer to direct negotiations. The newly released U.S. peace plan marks a very significant shift in favor of the current Israeli government’s view, especially when compared to three past U.S. initiatives: (1) the Clinton Parameters of December 2000, (2) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s “Annapolis Process” of 2007-2008, and (3) Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2013-2014 initiative. The message is clear: the Trump administration will no longer keep sweetening the deal with every Palestinian refusal, a criticism some have aimed at previous U.S. efforts. Yet the new plan raises worrisome questions of its own. Will its provisions prove so disadvantageous to the proposed Palestinian state that they cannot serve as the basis for further negotiations? And would such overreach enable Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to sway Arab states who have signaled that they want to give the proposal a chance, convincing them to oppose it instead? If so, the plan may wind up perpetuating the current diplomatic impasse and setting the stage for a one-state reality that runs counter to Israel’s identity as a Jewish, democratic state. This two-part PolicyWatch will address these questions by examining how the Trump plan compares to past U.S. initiatives when it comes to the conflict’s five core final-status issues. Part 1 focuses on two of these issues: borders and Jerusalem. Part 2 examines security, refugees, and narrative issues.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Borders, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ghaith al-Omari
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By granting Israel much more say over the sovereignty of a future Palestinian state and its ability to absorb refugees, the document may undermine the administration’s ability to build an international coalition behind its policies. President Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan was presented as a departure from previous approaches—a notion that invited praise from its supporters (who saw it as a recognition of reality) and criticism from its opponents (who saw it as an abandonment of valued principles). The plan does in fact diverge from past efforts in fundamental respects, yet there are also some areas of continuity, and ultimately, the extent to which it gains traction will be subject to many different political and diplomatic variables. Even so, the initial substance of the plan document itself will play a large part in determining how it is viewed by various stakeholders, especially those passages that veer away from the traditional path on core issues. Part 1 of this PolicyWatch assessed what the plan says about two such issues: borders and Jerusalem. This second installment discusses security, refugee, and narrative issues.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Refugees, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The surest way to counter Iran’s malign influence is to proactively focus on human rights issues that the new prime minister can actually affect, such as organizing free elections and preventing further violence against protestors. On February 1, a plurality of Iraqi parliamentary factions gave President Barham Salih the go-ahead to nominate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as the new prime minister-designate. The mild-mannered Shia Islamist nominee will now attempt to form and ratify his cabinet in the next thirty days. As he does so, political blocs will probably rally behind him while limiting his mandate to organizing early elections next year, having struggled through a long and fractious process to replace resigned prime minister Adil Abdulmahdi. For the first time since the dramatic events of the past two months, Iraqis and U.S. policymakers alike can catch their breath and consider their medium-term options.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Elections, Domestic politics, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Charles Thépaut, Elena DeLozier
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By triggering the nuclear deal’s dispute resolution mechanism, Britain, France, and Germany are opening diplomatic space that could help the United States and Iran return to the negotiating table. In a press conference following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, President Trump reaffirmed his administration’s “maximum pressure” policy against Iran and asked, once again, for European countries to leave the nuclear deal. Meanwhile, Tehran announced what it called a “fifth and final remedial step” away from its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In response, the British, French, and German foreign ministers stated on January 14 that they would trigger the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism (DRM). At the same time, however, the E3 clarified that they are not joining the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign, which has steadily intensified ever since the United States withdrew from the JCPOA and reimposed unilateral sanctions in 2018. Contrary to U.S. claims, the European decision will not immediately provoke “snapback” UN sanctions on Iran (though that scenario could unfold later if the E3 plan fails and Iran’s violations go before the UN Security Council). Instead, Europe is maintaining its evenhanded position somewhere between Washington and Tehran in order to preserve the possibility of new negotiations, on both the nuclear program and other regional issues.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Nuclear Power, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: During the war years in Syria, the northwest, specifically Idlib, has become a site of heavy internal displacement. Observers on the ground recognize the green buses traveling to Idlib carrying migrants who have refused reconciliation agreements with the Damascus regime. Since around 2014, a range of jihadist, Islamist, and Salafi actors have wielded control in the area, the most recent being the al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which has ruled—ineffectively and brutally—through its so-called Syrian Salvation Government. But the group's reign is unlikely to last long if current trends persist. The regime's recent move against the town of Maarat al-Numan suggests plans for a broader takeover in the northwest, aided by Russian firepower and other allies such as Iran. In this Policy Note filled with local insights, jihadism expert Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi presents the current scene in and around Idlib province, the last Syrian outpost still run by independent rebels. Absent an intervention by Turkey, the Assad regime will likely prevail in a campaign that quashes the insurgency at a high humanitarian cost.
  • Topic: Al Qaeda, Displacement, Military Intervention, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The general’s peerless domestic stature would have served a crucial mediatory role during the eventual transition to Khamenei’s successor, so his death brings significant uncertainty to that process. Following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, much attention has been focused on the foreign operations conducted by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force. Yet his organization also played a major role at home, one whose future is now unclear. In particular, Soleimani himself was well positioned to be a unifying, steadying figure once Iran faced the challenge of determining a successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
  • Topic: Politics, Military Affairs, Authoritarianism, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Ben Fishman, Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If the latest conference is to succeed, the principal actors stoking the civil war must endorse a genuine ceasefire and a return to Libyan internal dialogue. On January 19, international leaders will convene in Berlin to discuss a way out of the nine-month civil war between the so-called “Libyan National Army” led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognized Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. The Germans led several months of preparatory efforts at the request of UN envoy Ghassan Salame, but had been reluctant to choose a specific date until they were assured that the event stood a reasonable chance of producing practical steps to improve the situation on the ground and jumpstart the UN’s stalled negotiation efforts between the LNA and GNA. Chancellor Angela Merkel finally took that step after several key developments unfolded earlier this month, including a January 8 ceasefire proposal by Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Putin’s subsequent failed attempt to have each side sign a more permanent ceasefire agreement in Moscow on January 13 (the GNA signed but Haftar balked, though most of the fighting has paused for the moment). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been averse to engage on Libya during his tenure, but he is expected to attend the Berlin conference alongside National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. Accordingly, the event gives the United States a chance to play a much-needed role on several fronts: namely, pressuring the foreign actors who have perpetuated the war and violated the arms embargo; working with Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia to codify a ceasefire at the UN Security Council; and backing Salame’s efforts to reinvigorate the Libyan national dialogue, which Haftar preempted by attacking Tripoli last April despite European support to Salame. Since 2011, Libya has struggled to establish a legitimate transitional government despite three national elections and the creation of at least four legislative bodies. Challenges to the 2014 election results eventually led to rival governments in the east and west, and the division solidified when Haftar started the first civil war with support from his allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. That war halted in 2015, but several years’ worth of domestic and international efforts failed to bring Sarraj and Haftar to an enduring resolution.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, United Nations, Conflict, Negotiation, Conference
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, Germany, North Africa, United Arab Emirates, Berlin, United States of America
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A host of crucial multilateral interests are baked into the U.S. presence, from keeping the Islamic State down, to protecting vulnerable regional allies, to preventing Iran from taking Iraq's oil revenues. The assassination of Qasem Soleimani has brought the tensions in U.S.-Iraqi relations to a boil, with militia factions strong-arming a parliamentary resolution on American troop withdrawal and various European allies contemplating departures of their own. Before they sign the divorce papers, however, officials in Baghdad and Washington should consider the many reasons why staying together is best for both them and the Middle East.
  • Topic: Oil, Bilateral Relations, Islamic State, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Jordan, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By the time IS came to the fore in Iraq and Syria, many of its themes and activities were already second nature to Tunisian jihadis who had heard similar messaging at home. There are a number of reasons why Tunisians joined the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. One underappreciated aspect of this is the way Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia’s (AST) messaging primed members of the group and others in society that were exposed to, attended, or followed online AST activities and events. In my new book, Your Sons Are at Your Service: Tunisia’s Missionaries of Jihad, I describe this process, which I will examine in brief here. In particular, I will explore AST’s motivational framing, which “functions as prods to action.” The major themes AST crafted in its narrative were related to brotherhood, the defense of Islam, the creation of an Islamic state, and “remaining” as an entity.
  • Topic: Islam, Non State Actors, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Khamenei and other regime officials have been quick to swear revenge, but for now they may focus more on stoking patriotic and militaristic sentiment at home. A few hours after Iran confirmed that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani had been killed in Iraq, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a statement describing those who shed his blood as “the most wretched of humankind.” Calling Soleimani the international symbol of “resistance,” he then announced three days of public mourning in Iran. He also declared that “severe revenge awaits the criminals” who killed Soleimani—an act that the United States had claimed credit for by the time he spoke. Other highranking officials echoed this sentiment, including President Hassan Rouhani, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, and Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who explicitly promised “revenge” on “all those” involved in the assassination. Despite this rhetoric, however, and despite Soleimani’s unmatched role in carrying out Iran’s regional policy of adventurism and asymmetric warfare, the regime may avoid major, immediate retaliation if it sees such a move as too costly or as a potential trigger for serious military conflict with the United States. On January 1, amid escalating tensions in Iraq but before Soleimani’s assassination, Khamenei stated, “We would not take the country to war...but if others want to impose something on this country, we will stand before them forcefully.” In response to President Trump’s assertion that Iran played a role in the December 31 riot at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Khamenei told listeners he had two messages for Washington: “First, how dare you! This has nothing to do with Iran. Second, you should be reasonable and understand what is the main cause for these problems. But of course they are not [reasonable].”
  • Topic: Politics, Qassem Soleimani, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Hanin Ghaddar
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Unless Washington and its allies respond to the protestors’ legitimate demands for reform, the group will survive through measures such as expanding its smuggling activity, promoting its financial institutions, and selectively scapegoating corrupt politicians. When IMF officials visited Lebanon late last month amid its accelerating economic freefall, many wondered whether these developments might alter the behavior of Hezbollah, the designated terrorist group that has a deep financial stake in the country’s public and private sectors. During a previous funding crisis—the increase in U.S. sanctions against the group’s chief underwriter, Iran—the “Party of God” and its foreign sponsors formulated a new strategy to evade these measures and create alternative sources of funding. Such sources allowed Hezbollah to make further inroads into government agencies following the 2018 parliamentary elections. For example, the group’s leaders insisted on controlling the Health Ministry, which commands Lebanon’s fourth-largest budget at $338 million per year; they also gained more access to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Agriculture Ministry, and the Ministry of Energy and Water, whose assistance was used to fund their affiliated projects and businesses. That worked until Lebanon’s own economy began its current nosedive. Unemployment has hit a record high of 40 percent, and the lira has slumped by about 60 percent on the parallel market, hiking inflation. Officially pegged to the dollar, the currency has plummeted 40 percent on the black market as local banks ration dollars necessary for imports of food, medicine, and other essential goods. Meanwhile, Lebanon has one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world (over 150 percent) and may not be able to pay $1.2 billion in Eurobonds this month. As with the Iran sanctions, however, Hezbollah has a strategy to survive this domestic pressure, at least in the near term.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Corruption, Debt, Politics, Protests, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Enhancing deterrence and protecting Americans in Iraq and Syria requires a more formalized system for rationing out retaliatory strikes at the proper intensity, time, and place. When U.S. airstrikes targeted Kataib Hezbollah militia personnel and senior Iranian military figures on December 29 and January 3, they were releasing long-pent-up retaliation for a range of provocations by Iraqi militias. Yet while these powerful blows may have injected some caution into enemy calculations, such deterrence is likely to be a wasting asset. The most proximal trigger for the strikes—the killing of an American civilian contractor during Kataib Hezbollah’s December 27 rocket attack on the K-1 base in Kirkuk—was just one in a series of increasingly risky militia operations against U.S. facilities. Only good fortune has prevented more Americans from dying in attacks conducted since then, including January 8 (when Iranian ballistic missiles struck the U.S. portion of al-Asad Air Base, causing more than a hundred nonlethal traumatic brain injuries), January 26 (mortar strike on the dining hall at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad), January 31 (rockets fired at the U.S. site at Qayyarah West), February 10 (explosive device thrown at a U.S. logistical convoy south of Baghdad), and February 13 (rocket attack on U.S. site at Kirkuk). The United States has seemingly communicated to Tehran that it will strike Iraqi militias and Iranian targets if any Americans are killed, but this redline has opened up a dangerous gray zone in which Iran and its proxies are emboldened to continue their nonlethal attacks. Besides the fact that such high-risk attacks are destined to result in more American deaths at some point, they will also produce many more injuries if permitted to continue, as seen in the January 8 strike. More broadly, they will limit U.S. freedom of movement in Iraq and Syria, undermining the point of being there in the first place. This situation is unacceptable—the United States needs a way to deter such behavior even when attacks fall short of killing Americans. When faced with similar challenges in past decades, the U.S. military established reckoning systems that matched the punishment to the crime, with useful levels of predictability, proportionality, and accountability.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Assassination, No-Fly Zones
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Instead of focusing on Iran's missile retaliation or future threats, the Supreme Leader used his latest speech to extoll the virtues of public unity behind the regime’s revolutionary goals. On January 8, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered his first public speech since the U.S. assassination of Qasem Soleimani and the subsequent Iranian missile strike on Iraqi bases housing American forces. As part of an address that touched on regional solidarity against the United States and other notable subjects, he spent considerable time claiming that Soleimani symbolized the Iranian people’s continued commitment to the revolution. In doing so, he indicated that popular support for the regime remains a crucial objective for Iran’s leaders, perhaps more so than issuing or acting on further military threats.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Domestic politics, Qassem Soleimani, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even as their lack of transparency worsens the public health crisis, the Supreme Leader and other officials have systematically gutted any civil society elements capable of organizing substantial opposition to such policies. Iran’s ongoing coronavirus epidemic has left the people with less reason than ever to trust the information and directives issued by their leaders. Part 1 of this PolicyWatch discussed the clergy’s role in aggravating this problem, but the state’s mistakes and deceptions have been legion as well. They include scandalous discrepancies between official reports after a period of denial that the virus had entered the country; a health system that was unprepared to deal with such a disease promptly and properly; and official resistance to implementing internationally recommended precautionary measures, such as canceling flights from China and quarantining the center of the outbreak. These decisions have sown widespread confusion about facts and fictions related to the virus, the most effective medically proven ways to control it, and the degree to which it is spreading throughout the country. As a result, an already restive population has become increasingly panicked about the future and angry at the state. Yet can the coronavirus actually bring down the regime? The harsh reality is that the state has left little space for opposition to organize around health issues, or any issues for that matter. Instead, it has sought to confuse the people and redirect their anger toward external enemies, even as its own policies contribute to the crisis.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Civil Society, Health, Public Health, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Whether they reveal a detailed plan or merely preview an aspirational document, U.S. officials still need to clarify their goals at a time when elections are looming and Palestinian participation seems highly unlikely. In a dramatic move, President Trump has announced that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his leading rival, Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz, will visit the White House on January 28 to be briefed on the administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan. Trump told reporters that the plan would likely be released before the summit. Predictably, no invitation was extended to the Palestinian Authority, which severed relations with Washington after the U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem in 2017.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Negotiation, Peace, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The clergy’s ambitions for global Shia revolution made the city of Qom uniquely vulnerable to the disease, and their resistance to modern medical science weakened the state’s ability to combat its spread. On February 19, two days before the Iranian government officially announced the arrival of coronavirus, an infected businessman who had recently returned from China to Qom passed away. The location and timing of his death illustrate how the Shia holy city and the religious leaders and institutions who call it home have played an outsize role in the disease’s disproportionately rapid spread inside Iran compared to other countries. How did this situation come to pass, and what does it say about the current state of the clerical establishment, its relationship with the regime, and its alienation from large swaths of Iranian society? (Part 2 of this PolicyWatch discusses the regime's role in the outbreak and its resiliency to such crises.)
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Religion, Shia, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Oula A. Alrifai
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Besides highlighting Assad’s financial mismanagement, the recent unrest gives the international community a genuine opportunity to push for transition while bolstering the more prosperous local administration in the northeast. Since mid-January, shop owners, government employees, students, and even children have been gathering in the streets of various Syrian communities to express their frustration with the Assad regime’s economic policies and untruths. Although the protests remain small for now, the fact that they have persistently carried on in the middle of regime-controlled territory highlights Bashar al-Assad’s potential vulnerability on these issues. In Suwayda, a Druze-majority province in the south, residents have protested the sharp drop in the value of the Syrian pound/lira and the deteriorating economic situation in general. In the central-western town of Salamiya, protestors were seen chanting “we want to live.” And in the Suwayda town of Shahba, demonstrators raised loaves of bread in the air while openly criticizing Bouthaina Shaaban, Assad’s political and media advisor. The latter protest was partly spurred by a recent interview on the pro-Assad television network al-Mayadeen, where Shaaban not only claimed that the country’s current economy is “fifty times better than what it was in 2011,” but also declared that “Syrians are self-sufficient in everything.” In response, protestors sarcastically noted that her comments referred to her own household’s economy, not Syria’s. Elsewhere, former agriculture minister Nour al-Din Manna described Shaaban’s remarks about the war-torn country as “hard to believe,” and a closer look at the country’s finances supports this disbelief.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Syrian War, Currency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Ali Alfoneh
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Given the IRGC’s recent restructuring, the Qods Force will likely see more continuity than change under Qaani, though his bureaucratic background is a far cry from Soleimani’s brand of charismatic, risky leadership. On January 3, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appointed Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani as chief commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, just hours after his predecessor, Qasem Soleimani, was killed by a U.S. drone strike. The new commander’s background and military activities are not nearly as well known as Soleimani’s, so taking a closer look at them can help determine whether and how the IRGC’s main extraterritorial branch might change under his leadership.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Qassem Soleimani, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A week after Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei played coy, remarking, “I have no judgment on the American election...[Both parties have been] naughty toward us.” Of course, his true reaction was far more complex. On one hand, he saw in the president-elect—who had spoken much of disentangling U.S. forces from the Middle East—a prospect of decreased military pressure on his country. On the other, he heard Trump’s raw vitriol directed at Iran’s leadership and the nuclear deal crafted by President Obama. The eventual U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA demonstrated that the new president could back up his talk with punishing action. In this close analysis of statements by Khamenei and other Iranian leaders, former seminarian Mehdi Khalaji lays out the regime’s current views on President Trump and the United States. He shows that even after the American assassination of Qods Force chief Qasem Soleimani, Iranian leaders could be open to negotiating with Washington if they believe the regime’s existence depends on it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Elections, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As in other conflict zones, Moscow cares little about reaching a peace deal so long as it can outmaneuver the West strategically while securing port and energy access—with private contractors playing an increasingly important role. The Kremlin is now openly treating Libya as another focal point of its Middle East activities. After years of U.S. neglect, the country has turned into a proxy war playground, and President Vladimir Putin is vying to become the chief power broker. Earlier this month, he tried (but failed) to get Khalifa Haftar to sign a ceasefire agreement in Moscow with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). Putin also participated in the January 19 Berlin conference aimed at getting the parties back on the path toward a political solution. And though the prospects for such a deal remain uncertain, Moscow’s involvement in Libya will continue either way.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Civil War, Geopolitics, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: To ensure that new protests, new sanctions, and new political leadership wind up helping rather than hindering Iraqi sovereignty, Washington must handle upcoming developments with great care. In the coming weeks, Iraq’s parliament may appoint a replacement for Prime Minister Adil Abdulmahdi. This is a very positive development, since the country’s sundry Iranian-backed militias would like nothing better than to keep the discredited leader under their thumb as an open-ended caretaker premier following his November resignation. In contrast, a new leader with a new mandate could get the government moving again, pass a budget, bring the criminals responsible for killing protestors to justice, and assuage angry protestors by making visible preparations for early, free, and fair elections—thereby remedying the results of the widely disparaged 2018 vote. Such is the political space that has opened up since the deaths of Iranian Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month. For the United States, the challenge is how to support these changes without disrupting positive local dynamics.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Sovereignty, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Fewer attacks and more prosecutions suggest the country’s integrated approach could eventually become a model for the region. For the first time since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia is not on the defensive in its battle with the Islamic State and al- Qaeda. Data from 2019, paired with a more holistic approach to combating jihadists, bears out this claim. Specifically, Tunis is expanding its toolkit beyond a purely military or law enforcement approach. Because of these advances, which have developed over the past few years, Tunis and Washington will have widened opportunities to engage on more complex aspects of reform that could make Tunisia a regional and global model. Both internal and external challenges remain, such as from foreign fighters dwelling abroad, an overcrowded prison system, and the threat of resurgent jihadism next door in Libya, but these need not diminish the accomplishments. Moreover, Tunisia can now build on its achievements, continuing the process of reform after decades of authoritarian rule.
  • Topic: Law Enforcement, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The latest crackdown appears to have targeted senior defense and interior officials, spurring speculation that they are linked to previously detained princes rumored to be plotting a coup. On March 15, Saudi Arabia announced that 298 individuals have been arrested for bribery, embezzlement, wasting public funds, and other corruption offenses. Although none of the detainees has been named, they reportedly include high-ranking officers in the Defense and Interior Ministries, adding to rumors that recent royal crackdowns may be related to a planned coup.
  • Topic: Corruption, Reform, Domestic politics, Monarchy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Haseeb Humayoon, Mustafa Basij-Rasikh
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Recent efforts at settling the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan have featured an increasingly vibrant and visible display of women’s activism. Even with the support of the government and its international partners, Afghan women still face tremendous challenges to realizing their aspirations for a role in peacemaking. Based on extensive interviews throughout Afghanistan, this report attempts to better understand the changing public role of Afghan women today and their contributions to peacebuilding and ending violence.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Violent Extremism, Women, Peace
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Middle East
  • Author: Martha Crenshaw
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The 2011 civil war in Syria attracted thousands of fighters from at least seventy countries to join the Islamic State. Al-Shabaab carried out large-scale attacks on civilian targets in Uganda and Kenya as retribution for the deployment of peacekeeping forces in Somalia. In this report, Martha Crenshaw considers the extent to which civil war and foreign military intervention function as a rationale for transnational terrorism, and how understanding the connections between terrorism, civil war, and weak governance can help the United States and its allies mount an appropriate response.
  • Topic: Terrorism, War, Non State Actors, Islamic State, Transnational Actors, Peace, Al-Shabaab
  • Political Geography: Uganda, Kenya, Africa, Middle East, Syria, Somalia, United States of America
  • Author: Marc Finaud, Bernd W. Kubbig
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: SESAME, which stands for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, is a large-scale techno-scientific project that was established under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and is set up according to the model of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. This multilateral endeavour, located in Jordan, brings together experts and researchers from the Mediterranean/Middle East, including from countries that do not have diplomatic relations (e.g. Israel and Iran, Cyprus and Turkey). It is conceived primarily as a project combining research capacity-building with vital peacebuilding efforts. In principle, these efforts may include the manifold technical and cooperative dimensions of anti-terrorist activities related to weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear, or CBRN), and also to disarmament and non-proliferation. The country where SESAME is located – Jordan – has been heavily involved in the fight against the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS). This Policy Forum issue deals with the genesis of SESAME, and then describes its functioning, achievements, and potential benefits; the challenges it faces, especially funding; and its peacebuilding element. The SESAME project can be improved in concrete ways by meeting two peacebuilding-related criteria: firstly, by living up to its claim of being a contribution to rapprochement between the peoples of this conflict-torn region, whose security is affected by national rivalries or violent non-state actors; and, secondly, by providing inputs for the users’ community without adversely affecting that community’s predominant focus on research. This Policy Forum aims at acquainting especially young scientists with the technical and cooperative dimensions of SESAME’s CBRN-related counter-terrorist activities, as well as its disarmament and non-proliferation measures. Such scientists can make use particularly of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) programmes and of the nearby Amman-based academic and educational infrastructure.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, United Nations, Counter-terrorism, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan
  • Author: Bríd Ní Ghráinne
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institute of International Relations Prague
  • Abstract: On Wednesday 9 October 2019, Turkey launched a cross-border operation in Northern Syria. Turkey justified its actions as a response to an ‘imminent terrorist threat’ from Kurdish-led forces. Its operation was directed at pushing back these groups from its border and creating a ‘safe zone’ in Syria where up to two million Syrian refugees can be resettled. This reflection aims to assess whether the Turkish operation to establish the safe zone was lawful; and whether the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the safe zone is in conformity with international law.
  • Topic: Human Rights, International Law, Refugees, Syrian War, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Phil Thornton
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The world is facing unprecedented health and economic crises that require a global solution. Governments have locked down their economies to contain the mounting death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic. With this response well underway, now is the time to move into a recovery effort. This will require a coordinated response to the health emergency and a global growth plan that is based on synchronized monetary, fiscal, and debt relief policies. Failure to act will risk a substantial shock to the postwar order established by the United States and its allies more than seventy years ago. The most effective global forum for coordinating this recovery effort is the Group of 20 (G20), which led the way out of the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2009, the closest parallel we have to the current catastrophe. Eleven years ago, world leaders used the G20 meeting in London as the forum to deliver a unified response and a massive fiscal stimulus that helped stem economic free fall and prevented the recession from becoming a second Great Depression. A decade on, it is clear that the G20 is the only body with the clout to save the global economy. This does not mean that the G20 should be the only forum for actions for its member states. The United States, for example, should also work closely with like-minded states that support a rules-based world order, and there are many other fora where it can and must be active with partners and allies. But no others share the G20’s depth and breadth in the key focus areas for recovery. The other multilateral organizations that could take up the challenge lack either the substance or membership. The United Nations may count all countries as members but is too unwieldly to coordinate a response. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has the resources but requires direction from its 189 members. The Group of Seven (G7), which once oversaw financial and economic management, does not include the fast-growing emerging economies. The G20 represents both the world’s richest and fastest-growing countries, making it the forum for international collaboration. It combines that representation with agility.
  • Topic: Security, Energy Policy, G20, Global Markets, Geopolitics, Economy, Business , Trade, Coronavirus, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Canada, Asia, Saudi Arabia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: JD Work, Richard Harknett
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Reported Iranian intrusions against Israeli critical infrastructure networks and alleged Israeli actions against Iranian proliferation-associated targets pose substantial new challenges to understanding ongoing competition and conflict in the Middle East. These cyber exchanges may be interpreted through two distinct lenses: as the struggle to achieve deterrence using the instrument of cyber operations, or as the contest for initiative in order to establish conditions for relative security advantage in a cyber-persistent environment. Either way, these ongoing incidents are best understood not as “bolt out of the blue” attacks, but rather fleeting glimpses of continuing cyber campaigns leveraging previously disclosed and newly developed capabilities as each side grapples to anticipate cyber vulnerability and shape the conditions of exploitation. The opaque nature of these interactions is further complicated by potential bureaucratic politics and interservice rivalries, as well as unknown dynamics of a counter-proliferation campaign to slow, disrupt and potentially destroy Iranian nuclear capacity. In the end, observed cyber actions may not represent reflections of accurate strategic calculation, and even if aligned to the operational environment they may not lead to intended outcomes. Continuous failure to deter, or inability to manage persistent interactions, may lead to greater dangers.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Cybersecurity, Non-Traditional Threats
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: David Mortlock
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Two years ago, US President Donald J. Trump walked into the White House Diplomatic Reception Room and announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran and has adopted a policy of “maximum pressure” to compel Iran to change its behavior and to deny the Iranian regime the resources to engage in its destabilizing activities. However, he also promised he was ready, willing, and able to make a new and lasting deal with Iran. In “Trump’s JCPOA Withdrawal Two Years On – Maximum Pressure, Minimum Outcomes” author David Mortlock, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, evaluates the policy outcomes of President Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA. The author walks readers through the timeline of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, the subsequent implementation of the maximum pressure campaign on Iran, and the policy outcomes relative to stated objectives. In sum, Mortlock concludes that although the maximum pressure campaign has been effective in inflicting economic harm on Iran, it has had minimum effect in other areas. Therefore, Mortlock believes the Trump administration should seize the opportunity to pivot from maximum pressure to an approach focused more on policy outcomes.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Sanctions, Nuclear Power, Economy, Donald Trump, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott Crino, Conrad "Andy" Dreby
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The use of drones as weapons in the Middle East and North Africa has grown rapidly in recent years, especially as non-state actors from the Houthis in Yemen to militants in Syria seek to level the playing field. Often powered by widely available commercial technology, these systems present a real and present security challenge. What should policymakers do to adapt to this new threat? How can they best structure defenses and leverage available technology to protect key assets? “Drone Attacks Against Critical Infrastructure,” by Dr. Scott Crino and Conrad “Andy” Dreby, addresses these questions and more. Crino is founder and CEO and Dreby is director of red-teaming at Red Six Solutions, LLC. The authors analyze developments in the use of weaponized drones in the Middle East and beyond, exploring how regional policymakers can adapt to mitigate this threat.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Weapons , Drones
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Gulf Nations
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This policy paper sets out the various interests and goals of global powers (the US, Russia, China and the EU) in the Mediterranean, and the measures they are undertaking to implement them. The document also describes Israeli policies vis-àvis the powers’ activities in this region, and points to the principles that should guide them. The paper is based on a July 2019 meeting in Jerusalem of the research and policy working group on Israel in the Mediterranean, held at the initiative of the Mitvim Institute, the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and Haifa University’s National Security Studies Center.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Middle East, Israel, United States of America, Mediterranean
  • Author: Engin Yüksel, Nancy Ezzeddine, Rena Netjes, Beatrice Noun, Erwin van Veen
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: The Middle East was already plagued by war, famine and death in the form of the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as the US, radical extremism, the Kurdish question and Iraq’s many travails – in large part a result of decades of autocracy, corruption and repression. The outbreak of Covid-19 added pestilence to this trio and makes for a harmful long-term mix. With this in mind, the purpose of the brief is twofold: first, to examine the longer-term impact of the virus on political tensions and conflict in the region; and second, to explore opportunities for innovative conflict resolution that might be seized in the wake of Covid-19. In this way, we hope to stimulate something good coming out of this trying period yet.
  • Topic: Fragile States, Conflict, Crisis Management, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Erwin van Veen
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: On 10 July 2020, UN Security Council Resolution 2504 expires.1 It authorises humanitarian access from Turkey into northwest Syria. Should it not be extended, a humanitarian catastrophe will almost certainly occur. Fortunately, intense lobbying is already underway to avoid such an outcome. But other actions are essential beyond the resolution’s renewal. Key among those is the need for a shift in approach: instead of handling northwest Syria as a humanitarian emergency, the area should be treated as a protracted crisis to reflect the absence of a short-term solution to the predicament of its four million residents, including 2.7 million internally displaced. In practice, this means that much more humanitarian aid should be delivered through local Syrian organisations, reliable mechanisms for cross-line aid operations should be introduced, and the ground should be prepared for more EU engagement with Turkey and Russia. Without such actions, human suffering and its exploitation are bound to increase.
  • Topic: United Nations, Syrian War, Crisis Management, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Engin Yüksel
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: Recent Turkish interventions in parts of Syria, Iraq and Turkey itself, look like pushing various Kurdish armed forces and political groupings towards ‘defeat’ via a concerted regional strategy that combines battlefield action with repression and co-optation. But the ‘anti-terrorist’ frame and tactics that Ankara uses in a bid to solve its Kurdish problem feature many sticks and no compromises to improve Kurdish collective minority rights. It is likely that this approach will inhibit peaceful resistance and fail to reduce support for armed groups like the PKK and PYD despite their own authoritarian practices. Moreover, Turkey’s new regional militarism risks escalating conflict across the Middle East because of the complex international and transnational contexts in which Ankara’s interventions take place.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Non State Actors, Conflict, Kurds
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: After Turkey’s unsuccessful ultimatum set for the Syrian regime and its Russian ally to commit to the Sochi Agreement, Ankara has targeted the Assad regime and its allies’ locations along the de-escalation zone by launching Operation Spring Shield. Russia has capitalized on Turkey’s anger by offering an agreement establishing new facts on ground during a Turkish-Russian summit on March 5th.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Armed Forces, Geopolitics, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, United States of America, Idlib
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: In light of competing interests and calculations, the situation in south Yemen could unfold along various trajectories, but the determining factor will be the extent to which the STC takes its commitment to the Riyadh Agreement seriously.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Conflict, Autonomy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: The security crisis facing the Kadhimi government and the Iraqi state is a major obstacle to stability and economic development in Iraq, representing a significant drain on the country’s resources and capacities.
  • Topic: Security, Natural Resources, Governance, Economic Development , Militias
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: The most likely scenario is for the UAE to take advantage of the agreement in areas such as advanced technology, weapons acquisitions and intelligence cooperation, as well as agriculture and health while avoiding military bases and joint defence agreements.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Regional Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements, Peace, Trade
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, United Arab Emirates
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Despite the recent escalation and the stark divide between their vision of their interests and roles, both Turkey and Egypt realise that a direct clash would be damaging for both of them. In fact, there are indications that both states are more pragmatic than their bellicose statements indicate.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Military Strategy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Egypt
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Major Lebanese factions are urgently trying to fulfill French demands for the formation of a technocratic government that opens the door for international aids and alleviates public anger and increasing foreign isolation.
  • Topic: Government, Bilateral Relations, Crisis Management, Technocracy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, France, Lebanon
  • Author: Peter Bartu
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: In 2019,the Middle East seems beset by conflict, chaotic politics and dysfunctional economies.However, the mood of the people in Algeria,Sudan,Lebanon and Iraq is more defiant.Not since 2011 have we seen such public demonstrations for accountability and an end to corruption,war and foreign meddling.
  • Topic: Corruption, Politics, Arab Spring, Conflict, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Sudan, Middle East, Algeria, Arab Countries, Lebanon
  • Author: Cheol-Won Lee, Hyun Jean Lee, Mahmut Tekçe, Burcu Düzgün Öncel
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP)
  • Abstract: The Agreement on Trade in Services and the Agreement on Investment between Korea and Turkey came into effect in August 2018. This article focuses on the construction sector and the cultural contents sector to seek possible cooperative measures between the two countries.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements, Culture, Economy, Investment, Industry
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Asia, South Korea
  • Author: Rawi Abdelal, Aurélie Bros
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Sanctions have become the dominant tool of statecraft of the United States and other Western states, especially the European Union, since the end of the Cold War. But the systematic use of this instrument may produce unintended and somewhat paradoxical geopolitical consequences. The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation in the field of energy are particularly illustrative of this phenomenon.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Sanctions, Geopolitics, Secondary Sanctions, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Mark Furness, Annabelle Houdret
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Development Institute (DIE)
  • Abstract: State–society relations are in flux across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), nearly a decade after the Arab uprisings. The protests and revolts that swept the region in 2011 arose from widespread rejection of the post-independence Arab social contracts. These were based on redistribution of rents from natural resources and other forms of transfers and subsidies, as “compensation” for acquiescence to political and economic authoritarianism. In several MENA countries, including Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, but also in Algeria, Lebanon and Palestine, the old social contracts have been destroyed by civil conflicts and internationally sponsored wars, which in some cases predated the 2011 uprisings. Since broken social contracts are at the root of conflict in the MENA region, supporting new social contracts should be the core objective of development cooperation with the region’s most conflict-affected countries. But “post-conflict reconstruction” often ignores the fact that conflicts do not end with peace agreements, and conflict-affected societies need more than reconstructed infrastructure, institutional capacity and private sector investment if they are to avoid violence in the future. Development agencies term this kind of cooperation “resilience”: promoting political, economic, social and environmental stability, rather than risking uncontrollable, revolutionary transformation. However, resilience has often provided cover for short-term measures aimed at preserving the position of particular actors and systems. Development cooperation needs to get beyond reconstruction and resilience approaches that often fail to foster the long-term stability they promise. By focussing on the social contract, development cooperation with conflict-affected countries can provide a crucial link between peacebuilding, reconstruction and longer-term socioeconomic and political development. It can thereby contribute not only to short-term, but also to long-term, sustainable stability. Using the social contract as an analytical lens can increase understanding not only of what donors should avoid doing, but also where they should concentrate their engagement during transitions from civil war. Practical examples from challenging contexts in the MENA region suggest that donors can make positive contributions in support of new social contracts when backing (a) stakeholder dialogues, (b) governance and reforms, and (c) socioeconomic inclusion. In Libya, the socioeconomic dialogue process has brought stakeholders together to outline a new economic vision for the country. The Municipal Development Programme in Palestine focusses on improving the accountability and delivery of local institutions. The Moroccan Economic, Social and Environmental Council provides an example of a process that engages previously marginalised groups. These programmes are all examples of targeted efforts to build cooperation among the groups that make up MENA societies. They aim to broaden decision-making processes, and to increase the impact of specific measures with the ultimate objective of improving state–society relations. They could be adapted for other fragile contexts, with external support. In backing more of these kinds of activities, donors could make stronger contributions to sustainable, long-term peace- and state-building processes in conflict-affected MENA countries.
  • Topic: Development, Natural Resources, Conflict, Peace, Social Contract
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Palestine, Algeria, North Africa, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Liel Maghen, Shira Kronich, Christiane Frohlich, Mahmoud Shatat, Tobias von Lossow, Ali Oguz Diriöz, Giulia Giordano, Desirée A.L Quagliarotti
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Israel/Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives (IPCRI)
  • Abstract: Over the last decades, desertification and water-scarcity have become major problems in the Middle East, and more specifically in the Eastern Mediterranean region (Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Syria). These developments have had significant political and socioeconomic impacts for the region. Increasingly securitized, water has been transformed into a political card, discouraging inter-state cooperation. Securitization of water has also led to exclusion of civil society and non-governmental actors from resource management. ​ This Joint Policy Study resulted from a partnership between IPCRI, AIES and Euromesco. IT discusses securitisation and de-securitisation trends in the region and examines the policies that can ensure water security. It argues that multilateral cooperation can trigger effective cooperation over shared water resources. Furthermore, civil society should be reincorporated into management and monitoring of water resources, which would lead to gradual desecuritisation of this resource.
  • Topic: Security, Regional Cooperation, Natural Resources, Water
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan
  • Author: Mike Sweeney
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Defense Priorities
  • Abstract: The strategic importance of the Middle East has declined, but Washington has so far inadequately adjusted. Diversification of energy sources and reduction in external threats to the region make the Middle East less important to U.S. interests.
  • Topic: Cold War, Military Strategy, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: Maja Touzari Greenwood
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: The broad definition of the term ‘foreign fighter’ causes operational problems for risk assessments. It is therefore important for security officials to identify significant variations by classifying actors into major categories. RECOMMENDATIONS ■When assessing the risk of continued security threats from foreign fighters, it is crucial to distinguish strategically between foreign fighters who join local rebel groups and those who join globalist groups. ■Ways should be provided for foreign fighters who have joined local rebel groups to ‘opt out’ and return home after the end of fighting in order to discourage them from becoming globalist foreign fighters and to stem potential flows of foreign fighters to new theatres of conflict.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Terrorism, Fragile States
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Maria-Louise Clausen
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: The state of Iraq is struggling to exert control over its territory. As a result, remote surveillance is being used to enhance the effectiveness of policing. However, constant surveillance may have a negative impact on emerging state–society relations. RECOMMENDATIONS ■ Invest in research focusing on the impact of surveillance on state–society relations in the Global South. ■ Work to introduce transparency in the use of surveillance in the Global South. ■ Encourage a discussion of issues of privacy and the regulation of airspace in the Global South.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Fragile States, Surveillance, Violence, Justice
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Global South
  • Author: Adnan Mazarei
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Suffering under Western sanctions and security challenges, Iran faces problems as well from its fragile banking system, which has been languishing for decades. Liquidity and solvency weaknesses pose a growing risk to the country’s financial stability. The sanctions reimposed by the United States in 2018 have heightened these vulnerabilities, but the problems also result from the heavy-handed role of the state, corruption, and the Central Bank of Iran’s failure to regulate and supervise the system. Iran’s ability to avoid a run on its banks is aided by their reliance on liquidity assistance, deposit insurance, and regulatory forbearance from the central bank. Depositors are forced to be patient because they have limited options to invest elsewhere. Iran has thus avoided a full-blown banking crisis. But the situation is not sustainable. Banks remain susceptible to external shocks, which could come from a complete halt to oil exports or war.
  • Topic: Security, Financial Crisis, Sanctions, Banks, Financial Institutions
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Adnan Mazarei
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Faced with fluctuating oil prices and other uncertainties, the oil-rich countries of the Middle East and North Africa have made efforts—some for decades—to diversify their exports, in order to reduce their dependence on oil revenue and generate much-needed jobs. The results of these diversification efforts have been disappointing overall, raising concerns about the region's stability and potential risk to the global economy. Transparent public debates and dialogue are needed, especially with the private sector, about policies that have worked and those that have not, the costs and benefits of various diversification strategies, and improving governance of public resources being used for diversification.
  • Topic: Oil, Natural Resources, Gas, Finance, Diversification, Transparency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Ghaith al-Omari, Ben Fishman
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the peace treaty, both parties and the United States have strategic interests in upholding and reinforcing the relationship. The optimism that characterized the signing of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty a quarter-century ago has long since dissipated. Today, the peace rests on a strong security foundation but lacks popular support, particularly on the Jordanian side. Nevertheless, there remain important opportunities for strengthening Israel-Jordan relations and preserving that pillar of America’s steadily eroding security architecture in the Middle East. It is critical for Washington to prioritize Jordan on its agenda. This includes urging the still-to-be-formed Israeli government to take responsible action on two fronts: keeping Amman’s interests in mind when formulating policy toward the West Bank, and implementing long-delayed initiatives that would help Jordan’s struggling economy.
  • Topic: Security, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations, Territorial Disputes, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem, Jordan, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Despite the damage wrought by the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, the main drivers of Islamic State resurgence in Iraq can still be restrained by local U.S. engagement, which is now even more vital than before. The gross uncertainty surrounding the future of counterterrorism operations in northeast Syria is raising understandable fears of an Islamic State comeback in Iraq. After all, the IS resurgence of 2011-2014 was partially driven by the chaotic war conditions in Syria, and suppressing the group there will be extremely challenging in the coming months amid U.S. withdrawal and Turkish invasion. Another resurgence in Iraq is hardly inevitable, however—the country is subject to different internal drivers, and the United States is still well-positioned to lead international support of Baghdad’s counterterrorism efforts. Yet Washington will need to stay engaged and urgently address new problems if it hopes to prevent another disastrous insurgency.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: economically transform the kingdom. On November 3, Saudi Arabia formally announced plans for the partial selloff of its state-owned oil company, to begin sometime next month. The successor of the Arabian American Oil Company, originally established by U.S. firms, Saudi Aramco is easily described in superlatives. It is the largest oil producer in the world, with the lowest production costs, and has a reputation for being extremely well run, all of which have helped it become the most profitable company on the planet. Yet being situated in the Middle East, having key installations vulnerable to Iranian attack, and selling oil to countries increasingly concerned about climate change are hardly factors conducive to favorable long-term prospects. The kingdom simultaneously claims to be diversifying away from its dependence on oil, adding to the uncertainty about its approach.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Oil, Business
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, United States of America
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recent U.S. decisions have seemingly ignored the degree to which the group is continuing its insurgent attacks and reorganizing its supporters inside increasingly vulnerable detention facilities. In contrast to President Trump’s statements over the past half-year, the Islamic State has yet to be defeated outright. True, the group is nowhere near as capable as it was in 2015, but it is steadily rebuilding its capacities and attempting to break thousands of its supporters out of detainment. The vacuum created by the U.S. withdrawal and Turkish invasion will create more space for those efforts, while compounding the original problem of states being unwilling to deal with their citizens who joined IS and remain in Syria. To avoid becoming known as the administration that allowed IS to reemerge and, perhaps, conduct mass-casualty attacks in Europe or elsewhere, President Trump and his cabinet should take urgent action to salvage and mobilize their surviving ties with Washington’s longtime partner against IS, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Violent Extremism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Oula A. Alrifai
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Tehran and its proxies have been exerting hard and soft power in northeast Syria, combining military consolidation with economic, social, and religious outreach in order to cement their long-term influence. On September 30, Syria and Iraq reopened their main border crossing between al-Bukamal and al-Qaim, which had been formally closed for five years. The circumstances surrounding the event were telling—the ceremony was delayed by a couple weeks because of unclaimed foreign airstrikes on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targets in east Syria following the Iranian attack against Saudi oil facilities earlier that month. What exactly have the IRGC and its local proxies been doing in Deir al-Zour province? And what does this activity tell us about Iran’s wider plans there?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Education, Military Strategy, Geopolitics, Conflict, Soft Power
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay, Ben Fishman
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Facing pressure from General Haftar and his foreign military backers, the Tripoli government has welcomed the helping hand extended by Ankara, whose own lack of regional options has drawn it into the middle of another conflict. On December 10, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he was willing to deploy troops in Libya if the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli requested it. He reiterated the offer during a December 15 meeting with GNA prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Ankara—a visit that arose after Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who heads the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) and seeks to replace the GNA, renewed his push to take Tripoli by force. Meanwhile, Turkey signed two controversial agreements with Tripoli over the past month: a memorandum of understanding on providing the GNA with arms, training, and military personnel, formally ratified by Tripoli earlier today; and a November 28 maritime agreement delineating exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean waters separating the two countries. The latter move drew protests from Greece and Egypt and was condemned “unequivocally” by the European Council. These and other developments indicate Libya’s emerging status as a focal point of Ankara’s foreign policy, which seemingly regards the country as an arena for Turkish proxy competition with rivals old (Greece) and new (Egypt and the United Arab Emirates). At the same time, Libya’s GNA has become increasingly dependent on Ankara for military reasons—namely, a lack of other allies willing to provide arms capable of countering the LNA’s Emiratisupplied drones, and the arrival of Russian mercenaries who have added new technology and precision to Haftar’s war against Tripoli. Unless Washington invests more diplomatic energy and fully backs the German-led initiative to implement a ceasefire and return to peace negotiations, the proxy war in Libya will only escalate. In that scenario, Turkey and Russia—not the United States or its European partners—could be become the arbiters of Libya’s future.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Civil War, Military Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: Assaf Orion
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Serious change is required to avoid decisions that accommodate Hezbollah’s ends, ways, and means, and a vital first step is to look at current policy mechanics with a clear eye. With this month marking the thirteenth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and the end of the 2006 Lebanon war, the council will soon hold its yearly debates about renewing the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon. Contrasting the Secretary General’s latest report on 1701 with thirteen years of lessons learned reveals a clear pattern: the victory of consciously false hopes over hard experience, particularly when viewed from Israel’s perspective. Breaking this pattern will require substantial changes to the force’s size, mission, and conduct.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, United Nations, Governance, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, United States of America
  • Author: Bilal Wahab, Barbara A. Leaf
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even as Baghdad works to rein in militias that invite outside attacks, Washington needs to be patient with the country’s contradictions in the near term and give space for it to exert sovereignty in the long term. As President Trump met with Iraqi president Barham Salih today on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, they were no doubt buoyed by their governments’ mutual conclusion that the recent attack on Saudi oil facilities in Abqaiq did not originate from Iraq. Initial concerns about that possibility were well founded—a previous attack on a major Saudi pipeline was carried out from Iraqi territory this May, and multiple Iraqi militia facilities have been struck since June, reportedly by Israel. Each of these developments was linked to Shia “special groups” with known ties to Iran. On July 1, Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdulmahdi ordered these and other militias to fold themselves under state authority, but so far he has been unable to impose order on them. The government has also failed to prevent them from threatening neighboring countries at Iran’s presumed behest—an especially dangerous lapse given that Iraqi authorities cannot protect the territory these militias hold from external retaliation. To keep other countries from turning Iraq into a proxy battleground, Baghdad needs to rein in the unruliest militias. This is a tall order because Tehran has spent fifteen years building them into a parallel force of its own. Given the willingness these “special groups” have shown when asked to attack U.S. troops, fight on the Assad regime’s behalf in Syria, or secure other Iranian interests, they risk implicating Iraq in Tehran’s regional confrontations with the United States, Saudi Arabia, and/or Israel.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Non State Actors, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Dana Stroul, Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Renewing the UN cross-border mechanism is crucial to helping millions of needy Syrian civilians, preventing Russia and Assad from weaponizing aid deliveries, and safeguarding future international assistance efforts. On December 19, the UN Security Council is expected to vote on the renewal of Resolution 2449, which authorizes the delivery of cross-border humanitarian aid to Syrians without the Assad regime’s permission. The outcome will determine whether the regime is allowed to approve and entirely control who receives UN aid, and in what areas of the country it is available. If the resolution is not renewed, aid delivery will become yet another tool for shifting the war’s trajectory in President Bashar al-Assad’s favor, with dire implications for civilians living in areas not under regime control. The recent Security Council debate over the resolution reflects broader developments inside Syria. Russia has coordinated with China to argue that current battlefield trends are in the regime’s favor, attempting to use the aid debate as a means of coercing political recognition of Assad. Others have proposed adding a fifth crossing along the northern border at Tal Abyad to address the increased needs of Syrian civilians trapped in the latest Turkish military operation. UN Security-General Antonio Guterres has recalled how essential the mechanism is to reaching people in need.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Humanitarian Aid, International Law, United Nations, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, United Nations, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The ailing Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, now seventy-nine years old, has no children and no announced successor, with only an ambiguous mechanism in place for the family council to choose one. This study considers the most likely candidates to succeed the sultan, Oman’s domestic economic challenges, and whether the country’s neutral foreign policy can survive Qaboos’s passing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Domestic politics, Succession
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Oman, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Patrick Clawson
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Rouhani has taken a remarkably austere fiscal approach ahead of the looming parliamentary election, but the country’s economic situation is still not sustainable over the long run. On December 8, following established procedures, President Hassan Rouhani visited parliament to present his budget for the Iranian year 2020/21, which begins in March. Notwithstanding the government’s rosy rhetoric, his spending proposals show the tough times the Islamic Republic is facing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Oil, Sanctions, Budget, Elections, Economy
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Assaf Orion
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Second Lebanon War, between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah, ended August 14, 2006. Since that summer, populations on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border have enjoyed the longest calm in their troubled history, thirteen years and counting. Mandated by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), an entity first established in the late 1970s, was expanded, and its 10,500 peacekeepers are busy and visible. UN reports over the past thirteen years emphasize the general calm. But calm does not mean safe and secure. During the war, Hezbollah launched approximately four thousand rockets out of its arsenal of twelve thousand toward Israel. Since the war, Iran has invested billions of dollars in building its Lebanese proxy military force throughout Lebanon, including in the south.
  • Topic: United Nations, Peacekeeping, Conflict, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Lebanon
  • Author: Daniel Green
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recent U.S. attention in Yemen has focused largely on the war against the Iranian-backed Houthis, but another threat endures: al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. U.S. efforts to confront AQAP have historically relied on counterterrorism approaches such as air and drone strikes, direct-action raids, and partnerships with indigenous and coalition security forces. But the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda has shown impressive resiliency by adopting a "hearts and minds" and local governing strategy to secure support, making it difficult to defeat. Its continuing strength requires a rethinking of the U.S. approach, one that confronts the terrorist group’s political strategy as much as its military strategy. In this Policy Focus, Daniel Green, a former defense fellow at The Washington Institute, draws on extensive research and interviews with Yemeni officials and civil society leaders to propose a new framework for defeating AQAP. His recommendations call for a U.S. strategy that extends beyond using strictly counterterrorism approaches and encompasses governance reform, capacity building, and enlisting locals in their own defense. Only through the active participation of communities in their security and governing can AQAP truly be defeated.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Governance, Reform, Al Qaeda, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Haisam Hassanein
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Port projects and other outreach may help President Sisi check off some of his policy goals, but giving China such a foothold could threaten a number of U.S. interests in the region. On August 5, Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese company Hutchison Ports to establish a Mediterranean container terminal in Abu Qir. President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi himself attended the signing ceremony, where he praised the company’s global reputation in the field and emphasized the importance of executing the project in accordance with the highest international standards. The project is in line with Sisi’s track record of seeking Chinese help to fulfill his ambitious domestic and foreign agenda. Hutchison is one of the world’s leading port networks, operating terminals in twenty-seven countries; in Egypt, it operates the country’s two main commercial ports, Alexandria and El Dekheila. The company’s representatives commended the opportunity for direct investment in Abu Qir and announced that they will be training more than 1,500 Egyptian engineers and other workers for jobs at the terminal. According to them, the facility will be able to handle up to 1 million containers annually once completed.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Economic growth, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Asia, North Africa, Egypt, United States of America
  • Author: Bilal Wahab
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The U.S. withdrawal of troops from northeast Syria has placed Kurdish fighters in a near-impossible situation, while alarming Kurdish communities in other countries, but Washington can still take steps to mitigate the damage. On October 21, footage of Kurdish civilians heckling withdrawing U.S. troops in both Iraq and Syria offered a rare and disturbing sight. This scene was facilitated by President Trump’s October 6 decision to unilaterally withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, in effect paving the way for the Turkish military to cross the Syrian border three days later and attack the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Thereafter, a safe haven quickly became a war zone. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 180,000 people have now been forced from their homes. James Jeffrey, the U.S. administration’s envoy to Syria, told Congress on October 22 that the fighting has resulted in hundreds of SDF deaths, a likely war crime by a pro-Turkish militia, and the escape from prison of more than a hundred Islamic State (IS) fighters. The U.S. action has unsurprisingly left the Syrian Kurds feeling abandoned and exposed against the militarily superior Turkish army and its Arab militias. On a deeper level, America appears to have entirely lost Kurdish sympathy and trust, while at the same time failing to either deter or appease Turkey. Rather than ameliorate matters, President Trump has poured salt on the wound. He responded to backlash against his policy by claiming the Kurds were “no angels” and that they had failed to contribute to the Allied cause in World War II, while characterizing their Syrian military campaign as a fight over “long-bloodstained sand.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Public Opinion, Military Affairs, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, United States of America, Rojava
  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As demonstrators rail against economic problems, corruption, and sectarianism, the group’s role in undermining the public’s financial and physical security is coming under greater scrutiny. Lebanese citizens took to the streets this weekend to protest the country’s acute financial crisis, which has been marked by one of the highest debt ratios in the world, a new currency crisis, and fears that a strike will close gas stations indefinitely. Many believe that deep-rooted corruption and sectarianism got them into this mess, and may now complicate efforts to get them out. Against this backdrop, more criticism is being directed at Hezbollah, the widely designated terrorist organization that is simultaneously the most powerful party in Lebanon’s government and an aggressively sectarian movement that keeps its activities and weapons outside the government’s control. As the Treasury Department recently noted, developments over the past few weeks have underscored the extent to which the group’s actions “prioritize its interests, and those of its chief sponsor, Iran, over the welfare of Lebanese citizens and Lebanon’s economy.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Corruption, Financial Crisis, Protests, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Neri Zilber
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The items being moved from Egypt through Salah al-Din Gate underline the contradictions and long-term unsustainability of the current stalemate regarding Gaza assistance. The Gaza Strip has been blockaded for more than a decade now, owing primarily to the violent takeover and continued militant rejectionism of the territory’s Hamas rulers. Even after certain restrictions were eased after the 2014 Gaza war, Israel and Egypt maintained tight limits on the entry of goods into the coastal enclave. This policy began to fray in early 2018 as conditions inside Gaza further deteriorated, culminating in the “Great March of Return” border demonstrations and short-lived rounds of escalation between Israel and Hamas. Indirect negotiations over a long-term truce have since provided some relief, yet the impact of one of the most noteworthy concessions has been under-examined—namely, the opening in 2018 of Salah al-Din Gate, a commercial border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. This crossing puts the lie to the narrative of a “besieged” Gaza, yet also raises questions about Israel’s continuing blockade policy and Hamas’s pretensions to be a responsible ruling entity.
  • Topic: Border Control, Borders, Trade, Hamas
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Egypt
  • Author: Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Washington Institute has been sponsoring a series of discussions about sudden succession in the Middle East. Each session focuses on scenarios that might unfold if a specific ruler or leader departed the scene tomorrow. Questions include these: Would the sudden change lead to different policies? Would it affect the stability of the respective countries involved, or the region as a whole? What would be the impact on U.S. interests? Would the manner of a leader's departure make a difference? The discussions also probe how the U.S. government might adjust to the new situation or influence outcomes. This essay, seventh in the series, discusses Kuwait, a small, oil-rich country surrounded by big neighbors with which relations have often been uneasy. Its leader, Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, is ninety years old and apparently in fragile health. His immediate heir, half-brother Nawaf, is not much younger at eighty-two. More important, perhaps, Nawaf lacks the current emir's adeptness as a diplomat. In a Gulf region experiencing sharp tensions, Sabah's exit will remove a much-needed node of stability. Whoever ultimately takes the helm will have a substantial legacy to uphold.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Succession, Monarchy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Kuwait, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Natasha Hall, Benjamin Smith, Thomas McGee
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Throughout the eight-year-long conflict in Syria, the movement of people and goods—including vital foodstuffs, medicines, equipment, and fuel—has often been severely restricted by periods of prolonged fighting. Yet in many areas, local arrangements, historical circumstances, and key actors have facilitated trade and movement across the lines of conflict. This report examines four cross-line areas in Syria and draws lessons for how these local dynamics might affect the resolution of the larger conflict and these communities in the long term.
  • Topic: Conflict, Syrian War, Mobility, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Ann Wainscott
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Religious actors in Iraq wield considerable influence, and Iraqis perceive them as playing an important role in moving the country toward peace. This report analyzes the influence of Iraq’s religious actors—who has it, why they have it, and how they exercise it—to illuminate their crucial role in supporting peace and reconciliation efforts and to help policymakers and practitioners understand how to engage them in efforts to advance peace.
  • Topic: Religion, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Peace, Reconciliation
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Franziska Praxl-Tabuchi
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Fourth Freedom Forum
  • Abstract: History offers plenty of examples of female involvement in political violence, but a certain fascination and disbelief continue to surround female violent extremists because women are often still viewed as homemakers and mothers, surprising society by the number of young girls and women joining the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This policy brief explores the drivers of radicalization to and engagement in violent extremism and the factors of disengagement and desistance among women and girls by examining cases of individuals that went through the United Kingdom’s Channel program. Channel cases were chosen for this analysis because it is one of the longest running (since 2007) and most documented early intervention programs developed specifically to prevent engagement with terrorism and violent extremism. It aims to enhance understanding of gender-sensitive interventions that address the specific needs of women and girls. Recommendations include the focus on mechanisms for women and men to claim their rights and have their grievances heard while ensuring accountability mechanisms are in place and the need to more effectively combine online and offline preventing and countering violent extremism actions.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, Women, Radicalization, Internet, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Christina Nemr, Sara Savage
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Fourth Freedom Forum
  • Abstract: Structural factors that can fuel support for violent extremism, like corrupt governance and inequality, are often intertwined with individual-level vulnerability factors, such as a search for identity or a need for quick answers to issues of injustice. Under these circumstances, individuals can be drawn to black-and-white answers that seem to offer simplicity, clarity, and certainty. Unfortunately, a hallmark of violent extremist ideologies is this binary thinking, stripped of complexity and with an identifiable in-group/out-group dynamic that offers a sense of community and belonging to help people make sense of the world. As policymakers and practitioners work to address the larger structural factors fueling violent extremism, psychological interventions may help address the binary construct of thinking that can make violent extremist ideologies sound appealing at the individual level. This policy brief explore the concept of integrative complexity - an empirical, peer-reviewed, and cross-culturally validated measure of the complexity of thinking - and the ways it can be applied in contexts of violent extremism and other instances of intergroup conflict.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, Inequality, Psychology, Social Justice, Trauma
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Kenya, Africa, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Sweden, Scotland, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Author: Nick Grinstead, Christopher Solomon, Jesse McDonald
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: The Eagles of the Whirlwind are one of the many militias that have fought on the part of President Assad’s forces in the Syrian civil war. The regime allowed it to defend and police Syrian territory and, in some cases, to fight alongside the Syrian Arab Army on the frontlines. The group proved to be a capable and effective paramilitary auxiliary. What makes the Eagles of interest is that its parent political party - the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) – was able to increase the space for its political activities in exchange for the battlefield services of its militia. This is not a mean feat under the authoritarian system of decades of Assad-rule that brooked no political diversity whatsoever. It is all the more remarkable because the SSNP has historically been a political rival to the Syrian Ba’ath party. This policy brief analyses the main interests and dynamics by which the SSNP managed to translate the battlefield support and achievements of the Eagles into ministerial positions and open recruitment rallies for party members across regime-held territory. It also examines the SSNP as a novel form of support to the Assad regime that traded greater political auton¬omy for paramilitary mobilization in support of the regime - without, so far, resulting in a more permanent role for the Eagles in the Syrian security architecture. While accepting greater political autonomy for the SSNP was a price the Assad regime was willing to pay for extra auxiliary fighting capacity, it remains to be seen how durable the SSNP’s hard-won autonomy will be.
  • Topic: Security, Non State Actors, Authoritarianism, Syrian War, Militias, Bashar al-Assad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Erwin van Veen, Engin Yüksel
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: This policy brief analyses the official discourse and actual practices of Turkish control and reconstruction in northwestern Syria. It finds that Turkey pursues a strategy that seeks to achieve control and influence through a mix of military occupation and fullscale reconstruction based on the logic of Turkification and the deployment abroad of the domestic apparatus of the Turkish state. The main objective of this strategy is to contain and undo the politico-territorial gains of the Syrian Kurds. In the process, Turkey largely bypasses the Syrian National Coalition. While this ‘reconstruct-the-buffer-zone’ strategy has been comparatively successful in the Al-Bab-Azaz-Jarablus area, it is running into trouble in the Kurdish-dominated Afrin area due to heavy-handed Turkish tactics of repression and the insurgency campaign that was launched by the Syrian Kurds. Yet, the nature of Turkish reconstruction engagement suggest it is there to stay, which in turn is likely to prolong the Syrian conflict. It will also create several problems from an EU policy perspective, including repression of Syria’s Kurds, an uncertain future of Syrian refugees in Turkey and violation of international law.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Conflict, Syrian War, Kurds
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Ferry de Kerckhove
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: The art of war has changed considerably since the end of the Second World War. In the last 15 years, the centre of gravity has slowly shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The West is increasingly being destabilized. Hybrid warfare and cyber-attacks have become increasingly effective alternatives to both hard and soft power. Russia is a major player in this domain; so is Iran. Other players are joining the fray, most of them hostile to the West, such as Iran and Russia’s client states. The barriers between civilian and military are fading quickly. All-out war now happens in a space that’s invisible to the naked eye. Not only is such warfare threatening us, but it also has consequences we have barely begun to assess. The divide between good and bad is blurring. Marshall McLuhan said the medium is the message. Today, the medium and the message are an undecipherable continuum where evil and lies coexist with truth and goodwill. Technological prowess increases vulnerability, but technology is also at the heart of corresponding systems of security. Thus, we have fully entered a new arms race where deterrence comes from the other side knowing what you don’t want him to discover, but what you want him to fear. Voltaire said: “If you wish to speak to me, let us start by defining the meaning of our words.” In this day and age, this mantra is particularly applicable to the definition of contemporary threats as well as of the targets, or even who is in the sights of Russian and Middle Eastern leaders. “Cyberspace is a domain characterized by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to store, modify, and exchange data via networked systems and associated physical infrastructures. In effect, cyberspace can be thought of as the interconnection of human beings through computers and telecommunication, without regard to physical geography.” Consequently, “(c)ybersecurity is the practice of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks. These cyberattacks are usually aimed at accessing, changing, or destroying sensitive information; extorting money from users; or interrupting normal business processes. Implementing effective cybersecurity measures is particularly challenging today because there are more devices than people, and attackers are becoming more innovative.” Discussions focus on whether Russia or China is the heavyweight in terms of threat. Some argue that China is more subtle while Russia is more of a rogue. But it is undeniable that China’s attempt to change the fundamental paradigm of international relations, while using and hopefully subduing the existing international order’s mechanisms to its advantage, represents a holistic approach and is thus more threatening to the world if it even partly succeeds. Indeed, the planet’s centre of gravity is moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific and that means the global threat comes from China. If we needed a reminder, in 2014 Chinese hackers stole the personal information of more than 22 million people connected to U.S. security clearance processes. Not bad for five years ago!
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Markus Loewe, Bernhard Trautner, Tina Zintl
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Development Institute (DIE)
  • Abstract: The social contract is a key concept in social science literature focusing on state–society relations. It refers to the “entirety of explicit or implicit agreements between all relevant societal groups and the sovereign (i.e. the government or any other actor in power), defining their rights and obligations towards each other” (Loewe & Zintl, forthcoming). The analysis of social contracts helps the understanding of: (i) why some societal groups are socially, politically or economically better off than others, (ii) why some revolt and demand a new social contract and, thus, (iii) why a country descends into violent conflict. In addition, the concept shows how foreign interventions and international co-operation may affect state–society relations by strengthening the position of the state or of specific societal groups. It illustrates that state fragility, displacement and migration can arise from social contracts becoming less inclusive. Nevertheless, the term “social contract” has so far been neither well defined nor operationalised – to the detriment of both research and of bi- and multilateral co-operation. Such a structured analytical approach to state–society relations is badly needed both in research and in politics, in particular but not exclusively for the analysis of MENA countries. This briefing paper sets the frame, suggesting a close analysis of (i) the scope of social contracts, (ii) their substance and (iii) their temporal dimension. After independence, MENA governments established a specific kind of social contract with citizens, mainly based on the redistribution of rents from natural resources, development aid and other forms of transfers. They provided subsidised food and energy, free public education and government jobs to citizens in compensation for the tacit recognition of political regimes’ legitimacy despite a lack of political participation. But with growing populations and declining state revenues, some governments lost their ability to fulfil their duties and focused spending on strategically important social groups, increasingly tying resource provision to political acquiescence. The uprisings that took place in many Arab countries in 2011 can be seen as an expression of deep dissatisfaction with social contracts that no longer provided either political participation or substantial social benefits (at least for large parts of the population). After the uprisings, MENA countries developed in different directions. While Tunisia is a fair way towards more inclusive development and political participation, Morocco and Jordan are trying to restore some parts of the former social contract, providing for paternalistic distribution without substantial participation. In Egypt’s emerging social contract, the government promises little more than individual and collective security, and that only under the condition of full political acquiescence. Libya, Yemen and Syria have fallen into civil wars with no countrywide new contract in sight, and Iraq has been struggling for one since 2003. In addition, flight and migration also affect the social contracts of neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. All MENA countries are designing, or will need to design, new social contracts in order to reduce the current instability and enable physical reconstruction. This briefing paper informs on the status of conceptual considerations of social contract renegotiation in MENA countries and its meaning for international co-operation with them.
  • Topic: Government, Governance, Legitimacy, Institutions, Services, Social Contract
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Efe Baysal
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV)
  • Abstract: Let us face it: we are in the midst of a catastrophe, a state of calamity unprecedented in human history. We are living in those scenarios that once depicted a terrible future due to “global warming”. Extreme weather events, not-so-natural disasters have become the new norm. Given the fact that more than half of the world’s population now live in urban areas, it is fair to say that these new climate norms pose an especially dire threat to cities.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Governance, Economy, Crisis Management, Urban
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Global Focus
  • Author: Bertil Emrah Oder
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV)
  • Abstract: The recently announced Judicial Reform Strategy was subject to public debate with a series of promises ranging from issuing green passports to lawyers as a privileged of visa exemptions to the introduction of an appeal process in criminal cases concerning the freedom of expression.1 The fundamental shortcoming of this new strategy and other reform efforts is the lack of a specific agenda on the representation of women professionals in the judiciary, especially in the leading positions including the apex courts. Policies on women’s representation in the judiciary remained “invisible” in recent reform efforts on judicial policies.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Law, Women, Inequality, Courts, Criminal Justice, Representation
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Sezai Ozan Zeybek
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV)
  • Abstract: I aim to open to discussion one of the critical barriers to potentially transformative environmental policies. In response to challenging problems there are moves being carried out to save the day, to make it seem like the issue is already solved. These moves end up postponing the real solutions. This is a trap that not only municipalities, public institutions and companies, but even civil society falls into.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Climate Change, Environment, Governance, Democracy, Urban
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Hakkı Onur Arıner
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV)
  • Abstract: Turkey’s Law on Foreigners and International Protection (LFIP) was adopted on 4 April 2013 by the Turkish Grand National Assembly. In the five years that has passed since the coming into force of the LFIP in its entirety, it appears that the LFIP has been made to adapt to the conditions of Turkey, rather than the other way around, due to the sheer unexpected size of the phenomenon of immigration into Turkey, and the challenges encountered in establishing the institutional capacity and the inter- institutional cooperation necessary to deal with the inflows as required by the Law.
  • Topic: Government, Human Rights, Migration, Refugee Issues, Law
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Enea Gjoza, Benjamin H. Friedman
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Defense Priorities
  • Abstract: The Yemeni Civil War is in its fourth year, and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and their allies are not close to a victory over the Houthi rebels.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Military Spending, Military Intervention, Peace
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Benjamin H. Friedman
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Defense Priorities
  • Abstract: The war in Afghanistan—now America’s longest at nearly 18 years—quickly achieved its initial aims: (1) to destroy the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization and (2) to punish the Taliban government that gave it haven. However, Washington extended the mission to a long and futile effort of building up the Afghan state to defeat the subsequent Taliban insurgency.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, War, Military Strategy, Peacekeeping, Military Affairs, Military Intervention
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Matthew Schwartz
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Fourth Freedom Forum
  • Abstract: This policy brief explores the oft-under examined question of state-perpetrated violence and its treatment within the global preventing and countering violence extremism (PCVE) agenda. While there has been a gradual recognition that human rights, good governance and human security are critical factors in violence prevention, PCVE policy and programming continues to focus on addressing only violence associated with specific radical ideas and is overwhelming centered on individuals and communities of particular identity groups. This agenda often obscures and disregards substantial levels of violence perpetrated by states and other actors. Against the backdrop of growing body of work highlighting the biases, inconsistencies and assumptions of mainstream radicalization theory over the past decade, a paradigm shift is long overdue. To that end, this policy brief highlights the intersections of political violence, violent extremism, and human insecurity through a series of thematic vignettes on corruption, human rights abuses, and war-making. illustrating ways in which state conduct plays a central role in manifesting or escalating political violence from which violent extremism and terrorism emerge. Recognizing the scale and magnitude of state-perpetrated violence and its role in manifesting further violence is essential for charting a new course toward a more holistic response to violent extremism that adequately accounts for and responds to a wider spectrum of political violence, including the violence perpetrated by states.
  • Topic: Corruption, Human Rights, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, Rule of Law, Criminal Justice, State Violence, Impunity
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq, Middle East, Asia, Libya, Yemen, United Nations, Syria, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Christian Koch, Marc Finaud, Bernd W. Kubbig
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: This Policy Forum issue analyses the 2004-2006 initiative to establish a sub-regional zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Gulf (GWMDFZ) as a tool to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapon state. The initiative’s gradual approach which aimed at the ultimate goal of encompassing the entire Middle East (including Israel) was innovative, and the assertive role of some smaller Gulf states in expressing their security concerns/interests and verification standards that Tehran would have had to meet was unprecedented. But the entire sub-regional idea remained confined to the declaratory level. In contrast, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or greement/accord) – endangered as it currently is – struck between the E3/EU+3 and Iran exceeds some of the concerns of the earlier initiative, yet misses others. We conclude that new – and ultimately sustainable – regional forums as communication mechanisms are needed to tackle these issues without touching on the JCPOA. The challenges go beyond Iran and include the nuclear activities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and even more so of Saudi Arabia. Our Cooperative Idea emphasises that moving beyond the purely declaratory policy of the GWMDFZ initiative could also help to overcome the current stalemate regarding a zonal disarmament arrangement for the whole Middle East/Gulf region.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Weapons
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Shemuel Meir
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: Attempts to achieve a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD-Free Zone) in the Middle East have become even more complicated than in the past. This Policy Forum issue provides a fresh look at the topic in order to offer common ground for positive discussions on Middle East disarmament. Its main novelty is to look at the security threat as perceived by Israel in the context of an Israeli-Egyptian-Iranian triangle that complements the old paradigm of an Israeli-Egyptian dyad. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or agreement/accord) with Iran is a challenge for some regional actors but at the same time could form a basis for bridging the disarmament gap, especially with its unprecedented robust verification regime. From a purely strategic angle, the JCPOA is beneficial to Israel’s national security interests. It is therefore to be hoped that this multilateral agreement will withstand the Donald Trump administration’s attempts to dismantle it.
  • Topic: National Security, Treaties and Agreements, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Weapons , Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, United States of America
  • Author: Mona Ahmed Saleh
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: This Policy Forum issue revisits the stalemate in the negotiations of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems (WMD/ DVs-Free Zone) in the Middle East/Gulf, which has been negatively impacted by several regional developments. It starts by highlighting the basic gap in the different conceptions of such a zone by the Egyptian-led Arab states, in addition to Iran, on the one hand, and Israel, on the other. Arguing from a comprehensive security perspective in the region, this Policy Forum issue presents a new Track II Cooperative Idea by viewing the establishment of the WMD/DVs-Free Zone as an incremental, multi-stage, long-term process that should take place on different tracks and should combine the traditionally incompatible calls for “Disarmament First!” and “Peace/Recognition First!” of the respective negotiating parties. While emphasizing how important it is to keep (in-)formal talks going – and to be patient – a Preparatory Commission for a WMD/DVs Treaty is proposed whose mandate would include special assignments for Track II actors.
  • Topic: Weapons of Mass Destruction, Weapons , Disarmament
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Egypt, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Marc Finaud, Bernd W. Kubbig
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: In our new Track II initiative we will present, discuss, and disseminate Cooperative Ideas jointly developed at two International Expert Conferences in Frankfurt and Berlin (see issue No. 1 of this New Publication Series at academicpeaceorchestra.com). The aim is to help establish promising focal points around which especially the relevant regional actors in the disarmament & non-proliferation area can rally. They may ultimately lead to constructive and sustainable dialogue mechanisms which are so rare – and so needed – in the Middle East/Gulf. The Two Expert Panels in Vienna are our starting point with a Third Panel envisaged for the Second NPT PrepCom in Geneva as a follow-up event. They are presented in this POLICY FORUM No. 2.
  • Topic: Security, Communications, Conference
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Marc Finaud, Bernd W. Kubbig
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: The highly controversial missile problem in the Middle East should – and can – be constructively tackled by not singling out Iran and by avoiding onesided maximalist and unrealistic demands towards Tehran. The authors aim at providing incentives for Iran to start discussion on its missile arsenal in three ways: they propose (a) applying vital elements that led to the successful conclusion of the JCPOA; (b) regionalising future talks in a triangle that includes from the beginning the missiles of Saudi Arabia and Israel; and (c) starting with modest confidence-building steps among the three major powers. Among the extra-regional players the United States continues to have a special responsibility for engaging in such a cooperative approach.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Weapons
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Christian Koch, Marc Finaud, Bernd W. Kubbig
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: This Policy Forum issue analyses the 2004-2006 initiative to establish a sub-regional zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Gulf (GWMDFZ) as a tool to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapon state. The initiative’s gradual approach which aimed at the ultimate goal of encompassing the entire Middle East (including Israel) was innovative, and the assertive role of some smaller Gulf states in expressing their security concerns/interests and verification standards that Tehran would have had to meet was unprecedented. But the entire sub-regional idea remained confined to the declaratory level. In contrast, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or greement/accord) – endangered as it currently is – struck between the E3/EU+3 and Iran exceeds some of the concerns of the earlier initiative, yet misses others. We conclude that new – and ultimately sustainable – regional forums as communication mechanisms are needed to tackle these issues without touching on the JCPOA. The challenges go beyond Iran and include the nuclear activities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and even more so of Saudi Arabia. Our Cooperative Idea emphasises that moving beyond the purely declaratory policy of the GWMDFZ initiative could also help to overcome the current stalemate regarding a zonal disarmament arrangement for the whole Middle East/Gulf region.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Weapons of Mass Destruction, History
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Bijan Khajehpour
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: Based on his rich experience since 1994 as a strategy consultant for major international companies investing in Iran, the author makes the case for using the achievement-oriented approach of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a model for tackling all major regional challenges in a cooperative way, especially by non-governmental actors.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Non State Actors, Business , Trade
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Daniel Muller
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: This Policy Forum issue advocates using elements of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or agreement/accord) in prospective negotiations to create a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery vehicles (DVs) in the Middle East. In a stalemated situation resembling efforts to negotiate a zonal arrangement, the JCPOA after more than 12 years of negotiations succeeded in striking a multilateral deal among adversaries with diverging capabilities and agendas who doubted each other’s intentions and were reluctant to make concessions.By establishing an incentive-based mechanism that encouraged and facilitated cooperation, the JCPOA succeeded in trading various issues to reach common ground in an incremental step-by-step approach of carefully sequenced quid pro quos. Framed as an agreement among equals and safeguarded by multiple compliance mechanisms, the JCPOA (or aspects of it) could serve as a toolbox for zonal negotiations on disarmament, help to link hardened actors, and break up entrenched interest structures and dogmatic policy positions.
  • Topic: Security, Treaties and Agreements, Weapons , Disarmament
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Marc Finaud, Bernd W. Kubbig
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: This New Publication Series POLICY FORUM is in addition to the Two Expert Panels conducted at the First NPT PrepCom in Vienna on May 8 and 10, 2017 our second Track II tool. Both aim at presenting, discussing, and disseminating the jointly developed Cooperative Ideas as potential rallying points for the most important actors in the entire Middle East/Gulf. The main goal is to help achieving what is most needed: relaunching New Communication & Conference Processes in the disarmament & non-proliferation area; this is seen as the core element of, ultimately all-inclusive, security arrangements for the region consisting of two centers of gravity relevant for our new, comprehensive approach for the entire Middle East/Gulf.
  • Topic: Security, Weapons , Disarmament, Nonproliferation, Trade, Conference
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Jean Pascal Zanders
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: This Policy Forum issue analyses both progress made by and challenges facing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). It does so in order to explore under what conditions and to what extent these two conventions might help build a zone in the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery vehicles (DVs). Finally, the issue presents some options for the future and a major long-term initiative towards this ambitious goal.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Chemical Weapons
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Bernd W. Kubbig, Marc Finaud, Ali Fathollah-Nejad
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: The dangerous spiralling of the rivalry between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran for hegemony/supremacy in the Middle East/Gulf is the factor that has the most negative impact on the entire region. The authors make the case for using the specific features and successful negotiations of the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as a way to downgrade this bilateral rivalry. This agreement was the focal point of (pre-)negotiations especially between the United States and Iran that de-escalated the tensions between the two enemies and turned them – at least during the administration of President Barack Obama – into adversaries with an interest in selective cooperation. The agreement is living proof that formerly incompatible interests can be overcome. It is true, however, that, despite its complexity, the JCPOA can only have a limited influence on developments in the region. This is why the authors identify the roots of the intensifying Saudi Iranian rivalry at the domestic, regional and international levels – with corresponding recommended steps to de-escalate this struggle. The prospects for such a positive scenario appear to be particularly promising if elites in both Riyadh and Tehran – especially since they are facing increasing domestic challenges to regime/government stability – opt to slow down or even reverse their countries’ current course. A more assertive population, especially among women and the youth, has become a new factor for serious change. This may incentivise these elites to pursue less costly foreign policy approaches – including finding appropriate forums for serious dialogue, with de-escalating the mutually demonising rhetoric as the first step.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Treaties and Agreements, Hegemony
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Mona Christophersen
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: The 2030 Agenda calls for inclusiveness, which can contribute to stability and peace as well as development in Lebanon. However, while Lebanon’s power-sharing model was instrumental in ending fifteen years of civil war, it is outdated as the country embarks on a process to achieve the 2030 Agenda and advance the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Although sectarianism is impeding political processes and development in Lebanon, the SDGs can provide an opportunity for the country to address some of the political model’s limitations. Based on two weeks of field research, this paper explores how Lebanon is confronting challenges related to the environment, education, economic growth, poverty, and gender, all while hosting more than a million Syrian refugees. This paper is part of the International Peace Institute’s (IPI) SDGs4Peace project, which seeks to understand how the 2030 Agenda is being rooted at the national and local levels and to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The project focuses on five case studies: the Gambia, Greece, Guatemala, Lebanon, and Myanmar. Implementation of the 2030 Agenda provides each of these countries an opportunity not only to buttress existing aspirations but also to build new partnerships that transcend traditional approaches.
  • Topic: Politics, Sectarianism, Sustainable Development Goals, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon