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  • Author: Brendan Taylor
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Australian diplomacy could ease rising tensions across the Taiwan Strait, if Australian policymakers rediscovered an appetite for involvement in the flashpoint. Tensions between Taiwan and China are rising, driven in part by an increasingly assertive government in Beijing, growing Taiwanese estrangement from the Chinese mainland, and deteriorating US–China relations. If key regional governments fail to help de-escalate tensions, the consequences are likely to be serious. Rather than continue the debate about Australia’s position on its ANZUS obligations should the United States invoke the treaty in a Taiwan conflict, Australia should work with other regional powers to advocate for more robust risk avoidance and crisis management mechanisms.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Multilateralism, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia, Australia, United States of America
  • 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: Fabrice Balanche
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Various displacement scenarios may unfold as the fighting escalates, each carrying a high risk of negative humanitarian and economic consequences even if the parties live up to their promises. The battle for Idlib province, the last stronghold of Syrian rebel forces, is heating up again. As Turkish troops clash with Assad regime forces and displaced civilians continue piling up along the border, various foreign and domestic players are considering moves that could send hundreds of thousands of refugees to other parts of Syria, northern Iraq, or Europe.
  • Topic: Refugees, Displacement, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Turkey, Syria, Idlib
  • 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: Alex Almeida, Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: To keep recent rebel victories from cascading into a wider military collapse, Washington must urge the Gulf coalition to firm up the government’s forces and move more quickly on peace talks. On March 2, Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized the capital of al-Jawf province in the latest phase of a forty-five-day campaign along multiple fronts. Stemming from shifts in the country’s increasingly fragile military balance since last fall, the offensives show that Saudi Arabia is providing insufficient frontline support to the internationally recognized government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and its allies, while also failing to complete backchannel peace talks with the Houthis. Unless talks reach fruition or the Houthis are checked militarily, rebel forces will continue to use their ever-widening array of advanced Iranian weapons to exploit the government’s weakness with more offensives.
  • Topic: Conflict, Negotiation, Peace, Houthis
  • Political Geography: Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • 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: Patrick Clawson
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Total U.S. production from all sources will remain the world’s largest no matter how low prices go, leaving Washington (and Texas) with considerable room to help domestic companies and press Riyadh and Moscow on stabilizing prices. Five years ago, U.S. shale production costs were so high that whenever oil prices dropped, the impact was felt first and foremost by American producers. Many commentators and media sources assume that is still the case, but the situation has changed dramatically. A recent IMF report with the dry title “The Future of Oil and Fiscal Sustainability in the GCC Region” listed the “breakeven price” for various sources of crude. Naturally, Gulf oil had the lowest cost at $18 per barrel, but the shocker was that U.S. shale came in second place at $22—50 percent below the average deepwater project, 80 percent below Canadian oil sands, and 90 percent below Russian onshore projects. Since costs vary widely, some projects presumably have a much lower breakeven price and some much higher, but the general findings are nonetheless striking. If the IMF is correct, then U.S. production should not be counted out, since the cost fundamentals are on its side. To be sure, the current market structure is not on U.S. shale’s side. Small U.S. producers have to raise money on financial markets and cannot rely on the deep government pockets available to producers in Russia and OPEC states. As a result, many are staring at a very dire situation.
  • Topic: Oil, Natural Resources, Global Markets, Business , Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Judit Fabian
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Urban Institute
  • Abstract: International trade is often framed in starkly divergent terms: either countries choose multilateral trade agreements (MTAs) and advance the cause of global economic liberalization, or they choose preferred trade agreements (PTAs) and put the entire system at risk. Canada has a long track record of pursuing PTAs and with the Trump administration’s opposition to multilateralism, and longstanding opposition in elements of the Republican and Democratic parties, this trend will likely continue. The question is whether progress will come at the expense of the global trade system. Some economists believe PTAs to be trade-diverting, reducing trade with more efficient producers outside the agreement. Others insist that PTAs can create trade by shifting production to lower-cost producers in one of the participating countries. One prominent contrary argument holds that PTAs lead to discontinuities in tariff regimes between countries and regions, increasing transaction costs, disrupting supply chains, creating opportunities for corruption and harming global welfare, especially in developing nations. While debate continues about the effects of PTAs, a closer examination suggests that worries are overblown about their negative impacts on global trade flows. Evidence indicates that they support rather than harm the international trading system. Countries shut out of PTAs are more motivated to seek out agreements in new markets, increasing liberalization overall. They may also seek a reduction in most-favoured nation (MFN) tariffs, which would deprive PTAs of their major tariff benefits. Studies have found complementarity between preferential and MFN tariffs, revealing that PTAs promote external trade liberalization. Even if a PTA reduces a given country’s incentive to push for multilateral liberalization, it raises the odds of that country liberalizing its trade to avoid getting left behind. PTAs are a response to the difficulties of securing sweeping multilateral agreements. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements authorize them under GATT Article XXIV, GATS Article V, and the enabling clause, and the WTO facilitates a degree of governance over PTAs through its dispute settlement process. Over the past 25 years, countries have adopted these deals at a rapid pace. Between 1994 and 2005, the number of PTAs increased from 50 to 200. By April 2018, 336 were in effect. At the same time, global trade has increased significantly. Between 1994 and 2010, the volume of world merchandise exports more than doubled. The proliferation of PTAs has resulted in a rise in international trade governance, because the countries involved shape their relationships in line with the WTO agreements. This juridification makes PTAs subordinate to the international system rather than giving them room to dissolve it. Canada should therefore have no fear of pursuing PTAs within the larger framework of the effort to achieve multilateral trade liberalization.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Governance, Trade, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Canada, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ross Fetterly
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: The Canadian government allocates funds to departments through the annual federal budgetary process. With a Department of National Defence (DND) budget in the fiscal year 2019-20 of close to $22 billion,2 and expenditures spread out across a broad range of very different and distinct activities, expending the full allocation can be a significant challenge. While federal departments are permitted some carry-forward of eligible lapsing funds from one fiscal year to the next, in fiscal year 2018-19 the amount designated was up to five per cent of the operating budgets in their Main Estimates.3 With the federal government projecting significant budgetary deficits in the coming years, restricting or eliminating carry-forward of funding may be limited or eliminated to reduce deficits. Past practice within the department has been for the Investment Resource Management Committee (IRMC), chaired by the deputy minister, to decide on funding allocations of the carry-forward, based on departmental corporate priorities. While from an institutional perspective that aligns funding with optimal funding requirements, the consequence to organizations such as the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is that only a limited amount of lapsed funding may be allocated the following fiscal year. Thus, the air force has a significant incentive regarding its budget: to “use it or lose it”.4 RCAF corporate over-planning (COP) is a principal in-year strategy to maximize the use of allocated financial resources. Yet, at the operational and tactical level, the concept and application of in-year over-planning is not sufficiently understood. This paper will frame over-planning within the context of the RCAF and then recommend strategies to integrate over-planning into the air force culture. Corporate over-planning is essentially a means toward an end; specifically, that of maximizing output given by defined resource allocation. The paper will first consider defence planning approaches and budget allocations, and then consider the strategic environment within which the organization operates. The third section will emphasize the need for change in how the RCAF manages financial resources, followed by a section on adapting to change. The fifth section will review the concept of over-planning. That will be followed by a discussion of RCAF institutional corporate over-planning. The seventh section will consider budgeting as communication and how this supports maintenance of a common operating picture within the RCAF on over-planning. The final section will focus on RCAF corporate over-planning by discussing the structural unexpended rate, applying an absorption rate in operations and maintenance activities, and planning investment opportunities.
  • Topic: Government, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Budget
  • Political Geography: Canada, North America
  • Author: David Carment
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: After three years of limited discussion, the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine renewed their peace talks to resolve the separatist conflict in Eastern Ukraine (Donbas). Efforts to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Donbas began five years ago with the meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine. This framework, developed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), attempted to facilitate a dialogue between Russia and Ukraine through the mediation of an impartial actor, and it culminated in the Minsk I (September 2014) and then Minsk II (February 2015) agreements. The Minsk II agreements comprised a 13-point peace plan, chief among which is an arrangement specifying support for the restoration of the Ukrainian-Russian border. While the implementation of the military portions of the Minsk II agreements were finalized within three months of signing, the political and security portions remained unresolved. Though President Vladimir Putin has declared his intent to protect the Russian-speaking peoples of the region, he has also stated he has no interest in reclaiming Eastern Ukraine. Not surprisingly, since Russia’s ultimate goal is undeclared, the conflict has proved very difficult to resolve.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Territorial Disputes, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Canada, France, Germany, United States of America
  • Author: Colin Robertson
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: An internationalist and a progressive, Justin Trudeau consistently boosts diversity, social justice, environmentalism and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. A gifted retail politician, Trudeau prefers campaigning and contact with voters to the hurly-burly of the House of Commons. He possesses an empathy and emotional intelligence most people found lacking in his famous father, Pierre Trudeau. But are these attributes and causes out of sync with our turbulent times? Mr. Trudeau is learning firsthand what British prime minister Harold MacMillan warned U.S. president John F. Kennedy what was most likely to blow governments off-course: “Events, dear boy, events.” As Trudeau begins a second term as prime minister, the going is tougher. The Teflon is gone. He leads a minority government with new strains on national unity. Parliament, including his experiment in Senate reform, is going to require more of his time. Canada’s premiers will also need attention if he is to achieve progress on his domestic agenda. Does he have the patience and temperament for compromise and the art of the possible? The global operating system is increasingly malign, with both the rules-based international order and freer trade breaking down. Managing relations with Donald Trump and Xi Jinping is difficult. Canadian farmers and business are suffering - collateral damage in the Sino-U.S. disputes. In what was supposed to be a celebration of “Canada is back”, there is doubt that Canada will win a seat on the UN Security Council in June 2020. Losing would be traumatic for his government and their sense of Canada’s place in the world. It would also be a rude shock for Canadians’ self-image of themselves internationally.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Politics, Justin Trudeau
  • Political Geography: Canada, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Vern Kakoschke
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: Defence procurement in Canada has had some well-known challenges in recent years. Many commentators have suggested possible strategies for fixing the defence procurement system. The identified problems include overspending on defence programs, unnecessary and undue delays in re-equipping Canada’s fleet of aircraft, ships and ground transport, and defence budgets that remain unspent. The problems also include procuring authorities experiencing a shortfall in manpower and expertise, the inability to execute on defence procurements, unjustified sole-sourcing without a proper competition, political interference in selection issues, and the list goes on. The proposed solutions often address process-related matters: establish a single agency responsible for defence procurement or perhaps a cabinet secretariat to manage the involvement of three of four government departments who are often not on the same page. To date, not much has been written or discussed in public policy forums on a critical question: How should the necessary capital assets be financed? At one extreme, Canada could simply write a cheque and pay for them up front, thereby placing the assets on Canada’s balance sheet. At the other extreme, Canada could drop the financing obligation into the laps of private-sector bidders and let them worry about the most efficient way of raising the necessary capital. A middle-ground solution could involve a public-private partnership (P3) structure, a model which seeks to balance the interests of the public and private sectors in a manner that leads to a better solution for all parties. Any public policy discussion often begins with first principles. What is the government’s policy objective? It is to procure the best available equipment, with the most benefit to the Canadian economy or local interest groups and at the lowest possible cost. All three goals must be balanced in a manner that is politically acceptable, meets budget constraints and withstands public scrutiny. In major procurements, capital can be the largest single cost of a defence procurement.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Government, Armed Forces, Finance, Public Policy
  • Political Geography: Canada, North America
  • Author: Ian Mack
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: Canada’s experience with the Phoenix pay system is not just a pay problem. It points to wider problems in Canada’s management of complex major projects. Learning from Phoenix is important for the Government of Canada as a whole and the Department of National Defence specifically, the latter arguably responsible for the largest portfolio of complex projects – both for weapon systems platform and information technology initiatives. Fortunately, it appears that the Liberal government has taken notice. In the most recent Mandate Letters to Ministers, the Treasury Board President has been directed to ‘improve project management capabilities so that all major projects in government are led by a certified professional with at least five years of experience’. Additionally, the new position of Minister of Digital Government was tasked to ‘lead work to create a centre of expertise that brings together the necessary skills to effectively implement major transformation projects across government, including technical, procurement and legal expertise’ (and to lead in the replacement of the replacement pay system). This paper attempts to shed some light on the matter of pursuing complex projects and the enormity of the task at hand. I say “enormity” because complex projects are difficult to deliver at all (let alone on time and budget), as in evidence by the number that continue to fail in the private and public sectors, regardless of the complex project capabilities of those responsible for delivering them.
  • Topic: Government, Budget, Public Policy
  • Political Geography: Canada, North America
  • Author: Adam Chapnick
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: On Feb. 11, 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau briefed the Ottawa press corps after a meeting with the United Nations (UN) secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon. Having pledged during the 2015 election campaign to re-engage with the UN, he noted that doing so would include “looking towards a bid for the Security Council.” Perhaps this comment should not have surprised. The Conservative government’s failure to win a Security Council (UNSC) seat in 2010 had been a subject of Liberal ridicule for years. Yet, council membership was not included among the Liberals’ 167 campaign promises, nor was it mentioned specifically in then-Foreign Affairs minister Stéphane Dion’s mandate letter. One month later, Trudeau met with Ban again, this time in New York. Afterwards, with Dion looking on, Trudeau announced that Canada would be joining the 2020 Western European and Others Group (WEOG) election for one of two non-permanent seats on the Security Council in 2021-2022. The move was unprecedented. It marked the first time that a Canadian prime minister, and not the Foreign Affairs minister or a member of the foreign service, had publicly declared Canada’s initial interest in a council seat. It was also the first time that Canada had deliberately entered an already contested election: Ireland, Norway and San Marino would be its opponents for two WEOG seats. This brief history of Canadian interest in Security Council membership will suggest that attempting to return to the UNSC was the right decision, made at the wrong time, and for the wrong reasons.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Government, Politics, History, UN Security Council
  • Political Geography: Canada, United Nations, North America
  • Author: Yuka Fukunaga
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: The multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been of the utmost importance for Japan's trade policy. In particular, Japan strongly supports the WTO’s rule-based dispute settlement mechanism, and frequently uses it. At the same time, in recent years, the adoption and implementation of regional and mega-regional trade agreements have become critical in Japan’s trade policy, with the stalling of the Doha Round negotiations in the WTO. Although the core of its trade policy remains the same today, Japan has been forced to rethink and modify it in response to the aggressive and unilateral trade policy of the Trump administration.
  • Topic: World Trade Organization, Governance, Internet, Free Trade, Trade Policy
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North America, United States of America, European Union
  • Author: John Seaman
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: From emerging technological fields such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities to traditional sectors including energy, health care, railways and agriculture, China is increasingly proactive in nearly every domain where technical standards remain to be developed and set. Technical standards are the definition of processes or technical specifications designed to improve the quality, security and compatibility of various goods and services, for instance GSM for telecommunications or WiFi for wireless Internet. They can be thought of as basic specifications or technologies on which other technologies or methods will evolve – creating lock-in effects and path-dependency for future products and technological trajectories. Defining standards can provide significant benefits for society at large, but can also carry significant implications for which technologies will dominate future markets and provide substantial advantages to those who master standardized technologies. Chinese policymakers have become keenly aware of the relationship between technical standard-setting and economic power. Indeed, a popular saying in China posits that third-tier companies make products, second-tier companies make technology, first-tier companies make standards. In 2015, the State Council highlighted China’s deficiencies in the field and set out to transform the country’s standardization system, seeking to harness the capacity of standard setting not only to improve the daily lives of its citizens, but to drive innovation, boost China’s economic transformation toward the industries of the future, and turn China into a premier purveyor of international technical standards.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Communications, Multilateralism, Standardization
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, United States of America
  • 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: Francesco Burchi, Christoph Strupat, Armin von Schiller
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Development Institute (DIE)
  • Abstract: Social cohesion is an important precondition for peaceful and economically successful societies. The question of how societies hold together and which policies enhance social cohesion has become a relevant topic on both national and international agendas. This Briefing Paper stresses the contribution of revenue collection and social policies, and in particular the interlinkages between the two. It is evident that revenue mobilisation and social policies are intrinsically intertwined. It is impossible to think carefully about either independently of the other. In particular, revenue is needed to finance more ambitious social policies and allow countries to reach goals, such as those included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Similarly, better social policies can increase the acceptance of higher taxes and fees. Furthermore, and often underestimated, a better understanding of the interlinkages between revenue generation and social policies can provide a significant contribution to strengthening social cohesion – in particular, concerning state–citizen relationships. In order to shed light on these interlinkages, it is useful to have a closer look at the concept of the “fiscal contract”, which is based on the core idea that governments exchange public services for revenue. Fiscal contracts can be characterised along two dimensions: (i) level of endorsement, that is, the number of actors and groups that at least accept, and ideally proactively support, the fiscal contract, and (ii) level of involvement, that is, the share of the population that is involved as taxpayer, as beneficiary of social policies or both. In many developing countries, either because of incapacity or biased state action towards elite groups, the level of involvement is rather low. Given the common perception that policies are unjust and inefficient, in many developing countries the level of endorsement is also low. It is precisely in these contexts that interventions on either side of the public budget are crucial and can have a significant societal effect beyond the fiscal realm. We argue that development programmes need to be especially aware of the potential impacts (negative and positive) that work on revenue collection and social policies can have on the fiscal contract and beyond, and we call on donors and policy-makers alike to recognise these areas as relevant for social cohesion. We specifically identify three key mechanisms connecting social policies and revenue collection through which policy-makers could strengthen the fiscal contract and, thereby, enhance social cohesion: 1. Increasing the effectiveness and/or coverage of public social policies. These interventions could improve the perceptions that people – and not only the direct beneficiaries – have of the state, raising their willingness to pay taxes and, with that, improving revenues. 2. Broadening the tax base. This is likely to generate new revenue that can finance new policies, but more importantly it will increase the level of involvement, which will have other effects, such as increasing government responsiveness and accountability in the use of public resources. 3. Enhancing transparency. This can stimulate public debate and affect people’s perceptions of the fiscal system. In order to obtain this result, government campaigns aimed at diffusing information about the main features of policies realised are particularly useful, as are interventions to improve the monitoring and evaluation system.
  • Topic: Development, Finance, Economic growth, Tax Systems, Transparency, Social Cohesion
  • Political Geography: Germany, Global Focus
  • Author: Lennart C. Kaplan, Sascha Kuhn, Jana Kuhnt
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Development Institute (DIE)
  • Abstract: Successful programmes and policies require supportive behaviour from their targeted populations. Understanding what drives human reactions is crucial for the design and implementation of development programmes. Research has shown that people are not rational agents and that providing them with financial or material incentives is often not enough to foster long-term behavioural change. For this reason, the consideration of behavioural aspects that influence an individual’s actions, including the local context, has moved into the focus of development programmes. Disregarding these factors endangers the success of programmes. The World Bank brought this point forward forcefully with its 2015 World Development Report, “Mind, Society and Behavior”, herewith supporting the focus on behavioural insights within development policies. While agencies may intuitively consider behavioural aspects during programme design and implementation, a systematic approach would improve programme effectiveness at a relatively small financial cost. For this reason, we present a framework – the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) (Ajzen, 1991) – that aids practitioners and researchers alike in considering important determinants of human behaviour during the design and implementation of development programmes The TPB suggests considering important determinants of human behaviour, such as the individual’s attitude towards the intervention (influenced by previous knowledge, information or learning); subjective norms (influenced by important people, such as family members or superiors); and the individual’s sense of behavioural control (influenced by a subjective assessment of barriers and enablers). The theory should be used early on in the programme design to perform a structured assessment of behavioural aspects in the appropriate context. Components of the TPB can often be addressed through cost-effective, easy changes to existing programmes. Simple guiding questions (see Box 1) can help integrate the theory into the programme design. An iterative and inclusive process, particularly in exchange with the targeted population and other stakeholders, increases success.
  • Topic: Development, Norms, Behavior
  • Political Geography: Germany, Global Focus
  • Author: Laura-Theresa Krüger, Julie Vaillé
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Development Institute (DIE)
  • Abstract: On 22 January 2019, France and Germany signed the Aachen Treaty. Therein, 56 years after the Elysée Treaty, re-emphasising their support for multilateralism, sustainable development and development cooperation. Despite the ambitions expressed in this document, the signing of the Treaty calls for reflection: to what extent does this type of agreement indeed lead to joint operational approaches and have a real impact on French–German cooperation? To answer this question, this Briefing Paper analyses the obstacles to a closer French–German cooperation in the field of sustainable international development. It focuses on how these commitments are put into practice at the level of political coordination and project implementation. The analysis is based on about 20 interviews with representatives of French and German ministries, development agencies and think tanks. It finds that things get most complicated at the level of political coordination. Three main obstacles are identified: slightly diverging strategic visions; an incompatibility between institutional structures concerning the degree of specialisation and the mandates of the ministries responsible for steering aid, as well as the degree to which development agencies are involved in strategic decision-making; and cultural particularities regarding communication and time management. Five recommendations are proposed: 1. Protect what has been achieved: the alignment between France and Germany at the political and project implementation levels is an asset in an international context where the focus on national interests is increasing. Such cooperation should thus continue to be supported and reinforced. 2. Channel the political momentum to the working level: in order to reinforce their coordination, the two countries could establish a solid and regular follow-up mechanism for each commitment, detailing joint actions, shared objectives and milestones. 3. Promote mutual knowledge and trust: personnel exchange between the departments, as well as deep dive sessions on the two countries’ activities and strategies would allow increased understanding of each other. 4. Share best practices: a balanced and respectful French–German collaboration could be encouraged by the sharing of practices for which one country is more advanced or better positioned than the other (such as the French interministerial coordination or the German project evaluation and monitoring procedures). 5. Act jointly or divide the work: in the run-up to each joint Franco-German action, make a deliberate and conscious decision whether the two countries have an interest to act jointly or to divide the work. This decision would allow maximisation of the impact, either by specialising or by working together.
  • Topic: Development, Treaties and Agreements, Sustainable Development Goals
  • Political Geography: Europe, France, Germany
  • 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: Meghna Paul, Avani Kapur
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: The Poshan Abhiyaan earlier known as the National Nutrition Mission is Government of India’s (GoI’s) flagship scheme that aims to holistically address the prevalence of malnutrition in India through the use of technology, convergence, behavioural change, training, and capacity building. This brief uses government data to report on the following: Trends in GoI allocations, releases and expenditures; Trends in expenditure of selected individual components of Poshan Abhiyaan; Trends in participation by gender and activities conducted under the Mission.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Budget, Food Security, Economy, Capacity
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India, Asia
  • Author: Snehal Shah, Avani Kapur, Abhishek Andasu
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: he National Health Mission (NHM) is Government of India’s (GoI’s) largest public health programme. It consists of two sub-missions: National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), and National Urban Health Mission (NUHM). Using government data, this brief reports on: GoI allocations and releases; Incentives and penalties to states under conditionality framework; NHM approvals and expenditures as per programmatic components; and Outputs and outcomes.
  • Topic: Government, Health, Health Care Policy, Budget, Social Policy, Public Policy, Rural
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Avani Kapur, Sanjana Malhotra
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: The Swachh Bharat Mission- Gramin or SBM-G is the Government of India’s (GoI’s) flagship rural sanitation programme run by the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MJS). Using government data, this brief reports on trends for SBM-G along the following parameters: Allocations and expenditures; Physical progress of toilets built; Expenditures incurred under Information, Education, and Communication (IEC); Solid Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) activities; and Coverage and Open Defecation Free (ODF) status.
  • Topic: Government, Health, Infrastructure, Budget, Social Policy, Rural, Sanitation
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Avani Kapur, Tenzin Yangki
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: This brief reports on two schemes: a) The Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), Government of India’s (GoI’s) maternity benefit scheme aimed at providing partial compensation for wage loss and improving health seeking behaviour of pregnant women and lactating mothers, and b) the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) aimed at incentivising institutional and safe delivery to reduce infant and maternal mortality. Using government data, this brief reports on: Trends in allocations, releases, and utilisation; Coverage and payments; and Outputs and outcomes.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Government, Health, Health Care Policy, Budget, Women, Social Policy
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Ritwik Shukla, Avani Kapur
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: Ayushman Bharat, under the aegis of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) was launched by Government of India (GoI) on 23 September 2018. The programme consists of two initiatives: (1) The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY); and 2) The establishment of 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs). Using government data, this brief reports on the following indicators: GoI allocations and releases; Eligibility and claims under PMJAY; and Number of operational HWCs and diseases screened.
  • Topic: Government, Health, Health Care Policy, Budget
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Avani Kapur, Ritwik Shukla
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: The Integrated Child Development Services is Government of India’s (GoI’s) flagship programme aimed at providing basic education, health, and nutrition services for early childhood development. This brief uses government data to analyse ICDS performance along the following parameters: Allocations, releases, and expenditures, Component-wise trends, Human and physical resources, Coverage, and Malnutrition status.
  • Topic: Education, Health, Budget, Children, Food Security, Social Policy
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Vastav Irava, Avani Kapur
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: Pradhan Mantri KIsan SAmman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) is an income support scheme by the Government of India (GoI) in which small and marginal farmers get up to Rs 6,000 per year to supplement their financial needs. Using government data, this brief reports on trends in PM-KISAN along the following parameters: Trends in allocations and releases; Receipt of funds by beneficiaries; Status of coverage.
  • Topic: Government, Poverty, Budget, Social Policy, Rural
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Avani Kapur, Vastav Irava
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: In Financial Year (FY) 2019-20, the National Rural Drinking Water Mission (NRDWM) was restructured and subsumed into Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM). It is Government of India’s (GoI’s) flagship rural drinking water programme to provide functional tap connections to every household for drinking, cooking, and other domestic needs on a sustainable basis. Using government data, this brief reports on: Overall GoI allocations; Trends in releases and expenditures; Component-wise trends; and Progress on coverage.
  • Topic: Development, Government, Water, Infrastructure, Budget, Finance, Rural
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Avani Kapur, Meghna Paul
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is a flagship scheme of the Government of India (GoI) which aims to provide at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household that demands work. Using government reported data, this brief reports on: Trends in GoI allocations and releases and total expenditures; Trends in employment provided and wages paid; Physical assets created and status of work completion.
  • Topic: Government, Budget, Rural, Unemployment
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Mridusmita Bordoloi, Avani Kapur
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: Samagra Shiksha – An Integrated Scheme for School Education is Government of India’s (GoI’s) school education programme extending from pre-school to senior secondary classes. The scheme was launched in April 2018 to ensure equitable and inclusive quality education. The three erstwhile schemes brought under Samagra Shiksha are: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA); Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA); and Teacher Education (TE).
  • Topic: Education, Government, Budget, Children, Youth
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Sharad Pandey, Avani Kapur
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: The National Programme of Mid-Day Meals in School (MDM) scheme is Government of India’s (GoI’s) flagship school-based feeding programme aimed at improving the nutritional status of students and promoting the universalisation of elementary education. Using government data, this brief reports on trends for MDM performance along the following parameters: Overall trends in allocations, releases and expenditures; Expenditure performance on key MDM components such as food grains, cooking costs, honorarium to cook- cum-helper (CCH), traveling assistance and monitoring, management and evaluation; Progress on construction of kitchen-cum-stores, and; Coverage as indicated through the provision of meals to students.
  • Topic: Education, Government, Children, Food Security, Youth
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Avani Kapur, Sanjana Malhotra
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: The Swachh Bharat Mission- Urban (SBM-U) is the Government of India’s (GoI) flagship programme targeting universal sanitation coverage in urban areas. Using government data, this brief reports on: Allocations, releases, and expenditures; Progress on toilets built; Progress on Solid Waste Management (SWM); Open Defecation Free (ODF) status, and; ODF+, ODF++ and garbage free cities.
  • Topic: Government, Infrastructure, Urbanization, Budget, Urban, Sanitation
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Mridusmita Bordoloi, Avani Kapur
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: Child Protection Services is Government of India’s (GoI’s) flagship programme to provide preventive and statutory care, and rehabilitation services to children in need of care and protection and those in conflict with the law as defined under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. This brief uses government data to analyse CPS performance along the following parameters: Trends in overall GoI allocations, releases and expenditures; State wise GoI releases and expenditures; Child Care Institutes (CCIs) and beneficiaries; Registered cases of crimes against children.
  • Topic: Government, Budget, Children, Legislation, Justice
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • 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: Nathan Nunn
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP)
  • Abstract: In this brief, I discuss the current state of economic development policy, which tends to focus on interventions, usually funded with foreign aid, that are aimed at fixing deficiencies in developing countries. The general perception is that there are inherent problems with less-developed countries that can be fixed by with the help of the Western world. I discuss evidence that shows that the effects of such ‘help’ can be mixed. While foreign aid can improve things, it can also make things worse. In addition, at the same time that this ‘help’ is being offered, the developed West regularly undertakes actions that are harmful to developing countries. Examples include tariffs, antidumping duties, restrictions on international labor mobility, the use of international power and coercion, and tied-aid used for export promotion. Overall, it is unclear whether interactions with the West are, on the whole, helpful or detrimental to developing countries. We may have our largest and most positive effects on alleviating global poverty if we focus on restraining ourselves from actively harming less-developed countries rather than focusing our efforts on fixing them.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Political Economy, Developing World, Economic Development
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Tensions are rising on the Colombia-Venezuela border after a new guerrilla faction opted out of Colombia’s 2016 peace deal. With diplomatic ties between the two countries severed, the risk of escalation is high. Bogotá and Caracas should open channels of communication to avoid inter-state clashes
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In a period of increasing international tensions, the role of the UN in resolving major crises is shrinking. World leaders attending the UN General Assembly this month will talk about conflicts from Latin America to Asia. The chances of diplomatic breakthroughs have appeared low, even if this week’s departure of Iran hawk John Bolton from the Trump administration increased speculation about the possibility of a meeting in New York between U.S. President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Looking beyond the General Assembly, opportunities for the Security Council to resolve pressing conflicts – or for Secretary-General António Guterres and other UN officials to do so without Council mandates – seem few. But some nevertheless exist. In cases where the permanent five members of the council (P5) have a shared interest in de-escalating crises, or regional powers collaborate with UN agencies to address conflicts, the organisation can still provide a framework for successful peacemaking.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: Despite recent positive developments making forward progress on the Secretary-General’s call for a more preventive approach to crisis, in New York, discussions on prevention remain focused on difficult moments of crisis and must navigate deepening divisions in the Security Council
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Dana Stroul, Hanin Ghaddar
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Apart from its military intervention, Tehran has pursued a wide range of economic and social tactics for increasing its sway in Syria, but Washington can still push back with targeted assistance, innovative sanctions, and strategic messaging. This PolicyWatch is the first in a two-part series on how to counter Iran’s expanding activities in Syria amid talk of U.S. military withdrawal. Part 2 will discuss the array of Iranian-backed armed groups currently operating there
  • Topic: International Affairs, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu hopes to capture his fifth term in the April 9 national elections, and polls show he has a clear lead over other candidates, retaining support from approximately a quarter of the electorate. Yet it is insufficient to merely have the most votes; to govern, the winner must subsequently cobble together a majority of at least 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset. Netanyahu is also under the shadow of potential corruption indictments pending a hearing that would occur after the elections.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As the United States prepares to withdraw its 2,000 troops from Syria, it has one last essential mission to accomplish. Those U.S. forces have fought successfully, hand in hand, with 60,000 Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against Islamic State terrorists for the past four years. And President Trump’s latest statement about this, on January 2, noted his desire to protect these Kurds. So, despite all obstacles, the United States should still try to protect that brave and loyal militia in the short term, and secure a safer medium-term future for the Syrian Kurds and their local partners.
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Michael Herzog
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Jerusalem seeks to mitigate the potential risks of the president’s decision by shaping its implementation and obtaining U.S. security guarantees, though long-term concerns still loom. Israeli officials have been careful not to publicly criticize President Trump’s recent announcement that all U.S. military forces will be pulled out of Syria. Below the surface, however, they have exuded dissatisfaction, concern, and a desire to make the best out of the situation. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s initial public response was lukewarm, stating that Israel will continue to take care of its security and “will not abide Iranian entrenchment in Syria.” He followed those remarks with hectic bilateral discussions on the matter, holding a phone call with President Trump, meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of a gathering in Brazil, and hosting National Security Advisor John Bolton in Jerusalem. These discussions elicited U.S. public assurances about Israel’s security and, so it appears, opened opportunities to affect the manner in which Trump’s decision is implemented.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • 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: Sarah Feuer
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Throughout 2016 and 2017, statements from Riyadh suggested that Saudi Arabia might be on the verge of reorienting its decades-long promotion of Salafism around the world. Given the sheer scale of the kingdom’s support for Islamic institutions over the years, the ripple effects of such a shift would be profound. Saudi efforts to propagate its particular brand of Salafism have long been anchored in the Mecca-based Muslim World League, but the ascent of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman has apparently shunted the MWL in a different direction. Recent initiatives suggest Riyadh has assigned the league a central role in its broader religious reform agenda, at least as it applies to the export of religious doctrine abroad. In this deeply researched Policy Focus, Sarah Feuer, an expert on Middle East religion and politics, explores the meanings of Saudi reforms, how they are playing out within the MWL, and the broader implications for the U.S.- Saudi relationship. She recommends that Washington expand reporting mechanisms in nations where the MWL is active, pursue avenues to engage directly with the league, and incorporate religious reform into the high-level U.S.-Saudi strategic dialogue, all toward promoting moderation and undermining extremism.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, Politics, Religion, Bilateral Relations, Soft Power
  • Political Geography: Saudi Arabia, North America, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Sarah Feuer
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The vote’s outcome will not have much legitimacy in the eyes of the people, so Washington should focus on urging all parties to lay the groundwork for longer-term reforms aimed at breaking the political deadlock. On December 12, nearly ten months after demonstrators across the country took to the streets in protest of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika running for a fifth term, Algeria will elect his successor. Calling itself “Hirak,” the remarkably peaceful protest movement perceived Bouteflika’s candidacy as a provocation, since he had scarcely appeared in public after suffering a stroke in 2013. And though he rescinded his candidacy in April, the Hirak began calling for more radical changes, including an end to the power structures that have ruled the country since its independence from France in 1962. In response, army chief of staff Ahmed Gaid Salah stepped in to assert control over the political process, despite the parliament’s selection of an interim president. In addition to arresting activists and putting some of his establishment rivals on trial, he pressed for an election to be held by year’s end. The political situation has since devolved into a confrontation between the Hirak and the army. With no candidate representing the protestors, this week’s vote will be a decisive test for the future of both sides.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Reform, Elections
  • Political Geography: Algeria, North Africa, United States of America
  • 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: Lisa Denney
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF)
  • Abstract: This Tool is part of the DCAF, OSCE/ODIHR, UN Women Gender and Security Toolkit, which comprises nine Tools and a series of Policy Briefs. Within police services, this Tool is aimed at the policy rather than the operational level, with relevance for senior police, gender units and those interested in improving police effectiveness through integrating a gender perspective. While police services are a key audience for this Tool, it is intended for a wide readership – including parliaments, government departments with policing responsibilities, civil society organizations, development partners, international police assistance providers and researchers working to improve policing and gender equality. Police reform is not solely the work of police services, but of a wider set of actors who support and influence the police and their operating environment. This Tool sets out a range of options for integrating a gender perspective and advancing gender equality in and through policing, drawing on experience from multiple contexts. While it provides guidance in terms of examples and checklists which borrow from good practices in different contexts, what is relevant will differ across time and place and require adaptation. For that reason, the Tool also sets out conditions that are important in achieving progress. The Tool includes: why a gender perspective is important for policing; what policing that advances gender equality and integrates a gender perspective looks like; how policing can advance gender equality and integrate a gender perspective; case studies that draw out learning from specific contexts; suggestions for assessing a police service’s integration of gender; other useful resources.
  • Topic: Security, Gender Issues, Governance, Law Enforcement, Women, Criminal Justice
  • Political Geography: Geneva, Europe, United Nations, Switzerland, Global Focus
  • Author: Anna Marie Burdzy, Lorraine Serrano, Megan Bastick
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF)
  • Abstract: This Policy Brief is part of the DCAF, OSCE/ODIHR, UN Women Gender and Security Toolkit, which comprises nine Tools and a series of Policy Briefs. The other Tools and Policy Briefs in this Toolkit focus on specific security and justice issues and providers, with more focused attention on what gender equality looks like and how to achieve it in particular sectors. It is intended that the Toolkit should be used as a whole, with readers moving between Tools and Policy Briefs to find more detail on aspects that interest them. This Policy Brief explains why integrating a gender perspective is important to the regulation of private military and security companies (PMSCs) and provides guidance to States on doing so in national legislation, contracting and procurement policies, as well as certification, oversight and accountability frameworks for PMSCs. The Policy Brief: Outlines what PMSCs are and the role of States in their regulation; explains why a gender perspective is needed for effective regulation of PMSCs; and presents a range of priorities and entry points for States to integrate a gender perspective in regulation of PMSCs.
  • Topic: Security, Gender Issues, Law Enforcement, Women, Inequality
  • Political Geography: Geneva, United Nations, Global Focus
  • Author: Marta Ghittoni, Léa Lehouck, Megan Bastick
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF)
  • Abstract: This Policy Brief is part of the DCAF, OSCE/ODIHR, UN Women Gender and Security Toolkit, which comprises nine Tools and a series of Policy Briefs. The other Tools and Policy Briefs in this Toolkit focus on specific security and justice issues and providers, with more focused attention on what gender equality looks like and how to achieve it in particular sectors. It is intended that the Toolkit should be used as a whole, with readers moving between Tools and Policy Briefs to find more detail on aspects that interest them. This Policy Brief explains how applying the principles of good security sector governance and engaging with security sector reform (SSR) can help to achieve the goals of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda. Over the last decade the UN system and many states and international actors have recognized that SSR should be gender responsive, identifying and addressing the different security and justice needs of women and men, girls and boys, across different parts of the community. In some SSR programmes, priorities have been set to promote the participation of women in the security sector. At the same time there is a need to step up the engagement of the WPS community with issues of security sector governance. This Policy Brief argues that applying a security sector governance lens to WPS helps to reveal the key barriers to and drivers of change. This Policy Brief: Explains the principles of good security sector governance; examines how security sector governance and SSR are addressed in the WPS Agenda; outlines how a security sector governance approach can catalyse the transformative and sustained change needed to realize the WPS Agenda.
  • Topic: Security, Gender Issues, Law Enforcement, Women
  • Political Geography: Geneva, United Nations, Global Focus
  • Author: Henri Myrttinen, Megan Bastick
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF)
  • Abstract: This Tool is part of the DCAF, OSCE/ODIHR, UN Women Gender and Security Toolkit, which comprises nine Tools and a series of Policy Briefs. Tool 1 is mainly intended for use by policymakers and practitioners working in or working with security and justice sector institutions to increase gender equality – be it equality within the institutions themselves, or achieved through the work of the institutions within society. Some users might be approaching these issues through implementation of Women, Peace and Security (WPS) commitments, or in relation to a security sector reform (SSR) process. The Tool also aims to be of use more widely to justice and security providers, people involved in oversight and management, civil society organizations, the media and academic researchers. The other Tools and Policy Briefs in this Toolkit focus on specific security and justice issues and providers, with more focused attention on what gender equality looks like and how to achieve it in particular sectors. It is intended that the Toolkit should be used as a whole, with readers moving between Tools and Policy Briefs to find more detail on aspects that interest them. The Tool: Introduces why gender matters in security sector governance (SSG) and in SSR processes, and outlines the benefits of integrating a gender perspective. It explains key concepts that are used in the Toolkit: gender, intersectionality, masculinities, femininities, LGBTI, gender equality and gender perspective, and also SSG and SSR. It gives an overview of some of the relevant international, regional and national legal obligations with respect to gender and SSG and SSR processes. It presents a vision of what integrating a gender perspective and promoting gender equality mean for security and justice providers, for management and oversight of sector and justice services, and for SSG and SSR processes. It presents several different pathways for the security and justice sector to integrate a gender perspective into SSG and SSR processes and advance gender equality. It focuses upon: defining security needs in an inclusive, gender-responsive manner; adopting policy frameworks to integrate gender equality into justice and security governance; gender training for security and justice providers; using staff with specialized gender expertise; changing masculine institutional cultures to increase women’s participation and diversity. It offers advice on how to overcome resistance to working on gender equality within the security and justice sector. It suggests elements of an institutional self-assessment checklist on integrating a gender perspective. It lists other useful resources to support work on gender equality with the security and justice sector, and in relation to SSG and SSR.
  • Topic: Security, Gender Issues, Law Enforcement, Women, Criminal Justice, LGBT+
  • Political Geography: Geneva, United Nations, Global Focus
  • 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: Saïbou Issa, Nadine Machikou
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Fourth Freedom Forum
  • Abstract: In August 2018, a regional strategy for the stabilization, recovery, and resilience of the Boko Haram-affected areas of the Lake Chad Basin was adopted, which recognizes the interrelated experiences of communities surrounding the Lake Chad Basin and the benefits of a common approach. The strategy sets out nine priority pillars for action to generate applicable policies and programs geared toward the short- and long-term stabilization and development of the region, including on the handling of individuals associated with Boko Haram. This policy brief assesses Cameroon’s strategies and policies for reintegrating associates of Boko Haram against the recently adopted Lake Chad Basin regional stabilization strategy, the realities experienced by Boko Haram-affected communities, and the experiences of individuals detained on account of their associations. For comparative purposes, references to the experience of Niger are included. Co-authored by academic experts, the brief offers a set of recommendations promoting a cohesive approach, calling for government action, and recognizing the role of communities at the forefront of reintegration efforts. // En août 2018, une stratégie régionale a été adoptée pour la stabilisation, le rétablissement et la résilience des zones du bassin du lac Tchad touchées par Boko Haram. Elle reconnaît les expériences interdépendantes des communautés riveraines du bassin du lac Tchad et les avantages d'une approche commune. La stratégie repose sur neuf piliers prioritaires et vise à élaborer des politiques et des programmes pertinents pour garantir, à court et à moyen terme, la stabilisation et le dével­oppement de la région du bassin du lac Tchad, y compris la gestion et la prise en charge des ex-associées de Boko Haram. La présente note politique évalue les stratégies et les politiques du Cameroun visant à réintégrer les ex-associés de Boko Haram par rapport à la stratégie régionale de stabilisation du bassin du lac Tchad récemment adoptée, les réalités vécues par les communautés touchées par Boko Haram, et celles des personnes détenues en raison de leurs associations. Des références à l'expérience du Niger sont présentées aux fins de comparaison. Rédigé en collaboration avec des universitaires, le document propose une série de recommandations favorisant une approche cohérente, engageant le gouvernement à agir et reconnaissant le rôle des communautés au premier plan des efforts de réinsertion.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Violent Extremism, Radicalization, Transitional Justice, Rule of Law, Criminal Justice
  • Political Geography: Africa, Cameroon, Central Africa
  • 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: Tracey Durner, Danielle Cotter
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Fourth Freedom Forum
  • Abstract: Within the realm of policy discussions, anti–money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) efforts are generally treated as a package deal. From a policymaking standpoint, the combination makes sense. There is a convergence between the types of information and stakeholders relevant to money laundering and terrorism financing, and after the September 11, 2001 attacks it was expedient to add CFT to existing AML frameworks. Yet in practice, critics have argued this “marriage” places undue burden on the private sector and resulted in ineffective and even harmful outcomes. This brief examines where and how AML frameworks are fit for purpose relative to CFT and considers where additional CFT-specific efforts are necessary. It begins with a brief summary of the evolution of money laundering and terrorism financing policies, discussing the unification of the two fields and the key differences between the motivations and typologies of money laundering and terrorism financing crimes. Against that backdrop, it explores the four objectives of CFT efforts (prevent, detect, freeze, and trace) to identify areas where existing unified AML/CFT frameworks are working and areas where more nuance is required to effectively combat threats specific to terrorism financing. Although particular attention is given to the United States and United Kingdom as international financial centers, similar approaches and convergences between AML and CFT policies and practices occur worldwide. The brief concludes with recommendations on how current CFT policy discourse and evolution can meaningfully support broader counterterrorism objectives.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Finance, Financial Crimes
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • Abstract: Since the principle of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was unanimously adopted at the 2005 UN World Summit, the international community has looked to the UN Security Council in New York to respond when a government has been unwilling or unable to protect its population from war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide or ethnic cleansing. Paragraphs 138-139 of the World Summit Outcome Document recognize the Security Council’s unique role with regard to upholding the international community’s responsibility to protect as the body primarily responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. However, the Human Rights Council (HRC) and other Geneva-based mechanisms are also essential for preventing atrocity crimes. Since systematic or widespread human rights violations serve as early warning signs of possible atrocities, Geneva-based mechanisms are often the first to raise the alarm regarding situations where violations and abuses threaten to deepen or deteriorate. Such mechanisms play an important role in enabling the international community to assist states in preventing mass atrocities (R2P’s Pillar II) and respond in a timely and decisive manner to atrocity risks (Pillar III).
  • Topic: Human Rights, International Law, Responsibility to Protect (R2P), UN Security Council, Atrocities
  • Political Geography: United Nations, Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • Abstract: FACTSHEET | NOVEMBER 2019: Starting in October 2016 and then again in August 2017, Myanmar’s security forces engaged in so-called “clearance operations” against the Rohingya, a distinct Muslim ethnic minority, in Rakhine State, Myanmar. The operations, in particular those that started in August 2017, were characterized by brutal violence and serious human rights violations on a mass scale. Survivors report indiscriminate killings, rape and sexual violence, arbitrary detention, torture, beatings, and forced displacement. Reports have also shown that security forces were systematically planning for such an operation against the Rohingya even before the purported reason for the violence — retaliation for small scale attacks committed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) — occurred. As a result, an estimated 745,000 people — mostly ethnic Rohingya — were forced to flee to Bangladesh. According to the UN Human Rights Council-mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM), the treatment of the Rohingya population during the “clearance operations” amounts to genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, the commission of which evokes specific obligations and responsibility under international law. In its final report, published in September 2019, the FFM concluded that “the State of Myanmar breached its obligation not to commit genocide” and found that Myanmar “continues to harbor genocidal intent” towards the Rohingya. On November 11, 2019, The Republic of The Gambia filed suit against Myanmar in the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) for violating the Genocide Convention. This momentous lawsuit brings a critical focus to Myanmar’s responsibility as a state for genocide and compliments ongoing investigations into individual accountability. This fact sheet answers fundamental questions about the ICJ case, and seeks to clarify available avenues for justice for the crimes committed against the Rohingya population.
  • Topic: Genocide, Human Rights, International Law, United Nations, State Violence, Atrocities, International Court of Justice (ICJ)
  • Political Geography: Asia, Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • Abstract: The treatment of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region has increased concerns over the risk of widespread and systematic human rights abuses and violations in China. The government’s approach to combatting religious extremism has resulted in the arbitrary detention of up to one million Uighurs, severe restrictions on religious practice, and pervasive surveillance and control of the entire Muslim population of Xinjiang. A new joint policy brief by the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect asserts that these policies may constitute crimes against humanity under international law. The policy brief provides an overview of China’s response to growing international pressure to halt the persecution of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region and offers recommendations on how to comprehensively address these issues.
  • Topic: Human Rights, International Law, Islam, Ethnicity, Freedom of Expression, Responsibility to Protect (R2P), Atrocities, Crimes Against Humanity
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Xinjiang
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Sexual Violence Research Initiative
  • Abstract: Poverty is a risk factor associated with gender-based violence; it also often intersects with and reinforces gender inequality. Various microfinance and other economic empowerment approaches have been implemented to try to address this intersection.
  • Topic: Economics, Gender Issues, Poverty, Women, Gender Based Violence , Microcredit
  • Political Geography: Bangladesh, Egypt, Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Sexual Violence Research Initiative
  • Abstract: Education is central to efforts to prevent gender-based violence (GBV). However, while education can be used to prevent GBV, school-related GBV affects millions of children, families and communities. It involves acts or threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence occurring in and around schools, perpetrated because of gender norms and stereotypes, and enforced by unequal power dynamics.
  • Topic: Education, Gender Based Violence , Youth, Sexual Violence, Higher Education
  • Political Geography: Moldova, Canada, South Africa, Mexico, Jordan, Swaziland, Papua New Guinea, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Sexual Violence Research Initiative
  • Abstract: One of the most common forms of men’s violence against women, intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs in all countries. Although women can be violent in relationships with men and violence is found in same-sex partnerships, the overwhelming burden of IPV is borne by women at the hands of men.
  • Topic: Crime, Women, Gender Based Violence , Intimate Partner Violence
  • Political Geography: Kenya, Nigeria, Jordan, Peru, Global Focus