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  • Author: Lori Plotkin Boghardt, Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Trump administration has an opportunity to reset, tighten, and maximize America's strategic relations with the Gulf states. For the United States, expanded security cooperation and coordination could be a force multiplier in campaigns to achieve key policy goals, such as countering Iran's destabilizing policies and defeating the Islamic State. Gulf leaders have expressed optimism over the new administration's gestures, despite its "America First" rhetoric. But the administration also faces challenges, including those brought about by its own emphasis on "radical Islamic terrorism." This two-part Transition 2017 paper, featuring contributions by Gulf experts Lori Plotkin Boghardt and Simon Henderson, navigates the complex U.S.-Gulf relationship. The first essay provides an overview of its basic tenets, stressing the importance of rapport to bilateral ties and discussing key policy priorities. The second essay narrows the focus to the Washington-Riyadh link, the most important U.S. tie with the conservative Gulf. It analyzes differences in viewpoint, policy options, and some anticipated Saudi responses on the core issues of oil, terrorism, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Gulf allies, and the Sunni bloc.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Cooperation, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East
  • Author: Inga Schierholz
  • Publication Date: 11-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: Disputes over water constitute a major area of disagreement between Israel and Palestine. The uncoordinated and irresponsible environmental actions on both sides have created serious ecological and humanitarian hazards that require rapid, yet sustainable action. Those who argue that the water problem can be resolved only as part of a comprehensive peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians fail to recognise both the urgency and the potential of cross-border water cooperation. The bottom line of this Flanking Cooperative Idea is that because water- and sanitation-related issues extend both horizontally across national borders and vertically across various sectors, environmental cooperation can be used to create positive linkages with and spill-overs into other policy fields with the potential to initiate new forms of collaboration in currently deadlocked areas, including the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Marc Finaud
  • Publication Date: 10-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: In view of the failure of efforts to convene a conference on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery vehicles (DVs) in the Middle East (WMD/DVs-free zone), the Arab countries and the Russian Federation proposed that the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General appoint a special representative to lead the preparatory process for the conference. A process facilitated by such a UN envoy would be compatible with consultations among regional states, including Israel, as advocated by the United States (US). Also, it would allow for broad discussions on both the regional security context and disarmament issues. Such a process would also be an opportunity for submitting contributions from nuclear-weapon states, relevant international organisations, and providers of ideas at the Track II level.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Gabrielle Mitchell
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: The risks and rewards of Israeli-Turkish energy cooperation
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: On 5 June 2017, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt, in marked succession, cut diplomatic relations with Qatar. Within a matter of hours, it became clear that this was not simply a move to sever ties, but a plan for a full embargo, an unprecedented step at a time of peace between these nations. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain blocked flights to Qatar, closed land and sea borders, and ordered Qatari citizens out of their countries while calling on their own nationals to leave Qatar. The same day, Maldives, Mauritius (though it later denied the news), the Libyan Tobruk-based government (which is not recognised internationally), and the Yemeni government based in Riyadh followed suit and cut ties with Qatar, unable to resist Saudi pressure. The next day, Jordan downgraded diplomatic relations with Qatar and revoked the licence of Al Jazeera’s bureau in Amman, while Mauritania severed diplomatic relations with Qatar. Mauritius, in an official statement, denied it had cut ties, raising questions of whether some party took the initiative on behalf of the Mauritian government. The actions taken at dawn on 5 June were the culmination of an unprecedented, anti-Qatar media blitz initiated by Emirati, Saudi, Bahraini and Egyptian media on the evening of 23 May. The campaign intensified until it assumed official imprimatur with the decision to cut ties and blockade Qatar. What, then, is happening to relations between countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)? After Gulf leaders came together in a scene of friendship, cooperation and solidarity during US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, why are relations between three GCC states and Qatar deteriorating so rapidly and in such unprecedented fashion? Was there an immediate cause that spurred Saudi Arabia and its partners to take this stance, or were these actions planned in advance? Is this simply a fleeting crisis in relations between GCC states, or could the break persist?
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Arab Transformations Project, University of Aberdeen
  • Abstract: EU policy towards its Southern Neighbour- hood aims to ensure the security of Member States and is underpinned by an assumption of a shared interest in democracy, security, and prosperity through economic liberalisation. It sees the main way of achieving these aims as promoting Western-style liberal democracy as a political system capable of providing peace and stability. Evidence from public opinion survey research shows this ambition is supported by citizens of Arab countries, where public opinion polls for over a decade report strong support for democracy. However, these citizens do not share the EU’s procedural conception of democracy, a conception in which civil and political rights are decoupled from – and prioritised over – social and economic rights. The Arab Transformations survey carried out in 2014 in six Arab states (Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq) suggests few people demanded this brand of democracy. Furthermore, most people thought the EU has not done a good job of supporting transitions to democracy, nor did they have much appetite for EU involvement in the domestic politics of their countries.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Andrea Teti, Pamela Abbott
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Arab Transformations Project, University of Aberdeen
  • Abstract: The EU views itself as a normative actor and stresses the importance of working in partnership with its Southern Neighbourhood in reaching its intertwined goals of security, stability, inclusive development and shared prosperity, and of strengthening democratisation, human rights and the rule of law across the Mediterranean. The Arab Transformations Project public opinion survey carried out in 2014 in six countries – Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia – sheds some light on this on how citizens viewed the EU and its involvement with their own countries, as well as the extent to which they thought EU policies addressed their concerns.
  • Topic: International Affairs, International Development
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Andrea Teti, Pamela Abbott, Munqith Dagher
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Arab Transformations Project, University of Aberdeen
  • Abstract: With ISIS' influence declining, Iraq faces the challenge of rebuilding both its economy and its political system. • Amidst the devastation left by conflict, Iraq's political leaders have the opportunity to address the internal divisions which made ISIS possible. • Any post-conflict settlement must take into account the population's concerns and priorities. • Sectarian identity is less influential than commonly assumed in shaping people's political priorities: often more important are local conditions, particularly regarding security, the economy, and migration. • Ignoring popular priorities risks undermining post-ISIS attempts to build a stable country, with knock-on effects at a regional level.
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Dlawer Ala’Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The Middle East is still in flux and will remain so for some time, it will possibly be another decade before the ultimate power balance is reached. Policy makers of Iraq and the KRI who wish to pursue paths of their own design, must look carefully at the trends in power dynamics and the policies of the global and regional powers before designing their strategies.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Tomáš Kaválek
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Hashd al-Shaabi launched an offensive on Tal Afar on 29 October; the looming recapture of Tal Afar prompted a strong reaction from Turkey, which maintains ties to the Turkmen population there. Tal Afar is thus yet another flashpoint of competing interests between Ankara, Erbil, Baghdad, and Tehran and can possibly further destabilise the situation in Nineveh.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Tomáš Kaválek
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Nearly two years since the north side of Shingal was liberated from the Islamic State, most of the Yazidi population is still displaced. Yazidis are trapped between millstones of the competition of exogenous actors, such as the KDP, the PKK-linked forces, and Baghdad, over the control of the strategically important disputed territory of Shingal.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Dylan O’Driscoll, Dave van Zoonen
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This paper lays out three administrative options for the post-Islamic State governance of Nineveh and analyses the benefits and drawbacks related to each option. Despite minorities and international lobbying groups tied to the minorities favouring separate minority provinces, this paper argues against the formation of a Nineveh Plain province. A separate province would prevent efforts for reconciliation, is likely to induce new conflicts, and will ultimately not benefit minorities in the ways proponents of the plan claim. Similarly, the paper highlights that although decentralisation to the province through Law 21 could address a number of important issues, it would leave minorities in Nineveh too vulnerable to being marginalised and politically dominated by Sunnis. The main argument, and thus recommendation, of the paper is that the best available option for all components of Nineveh is the creation of a Nineveh federal region with entrenched power sharing and decentralisation within the region. This will provide the components of Nineveh with a political arena in which to address and overcome differences, while protecting minorities as well as Sunnis from being marginalised. Moreover, the creation of a region for Nineveh will have a stabilising effect on the wider Iraqi political system.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Irene Costantini
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The Islamic State (IS) has not only surprised everyone with its cruelty but also by proving to be one of the world’s richest terrorist organisations. Now that its economic gains are draining due to military setbacks and financial strains, IS-held territories are increasingly struggling through economic hurdles – the challenge ahead is to link military interventions against IS with concrete economic plans.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Dylan O’Driscoll
  • Publication Date: 07-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: There is the opportunity for the rebirth of Mosul and Nineveh, as well as for Iraq, but without a valid plan in place for the liberation of Mosul, that includes the formation of political agreements and huge post-conflict efforts of reconstruction, reconciliation and de-radicalisation, it will be a stillbirth rather than the beginning of a new and promising life.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Aram Mahmood
  • Publication Date: 07-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The current policy of salary reductions might have been the only available emergency measure for the KRG to counter its empty treasury. However, continuing the current policy, focusing on a single sector of the economy is an unsuitable response to the on-going financial crisis and is likely to significantly dampen and delay recovery.
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Publication Date: 07-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The MERI Economic Forum 2016 is the first of its kind to be held in Iraq or the Kurdistan Region. Iraq and the KRI, at the time of the forum in April 2016, were in the midst of a severe financial and economic crisis and searching for ways to move away from the rentier-state economic model to restructure and grow the economy.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East