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  • Author: Ronen Zeidel
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The final months of 2019 were marked by widespread, prolonged protests throughout Iraq, which began in October. Baghdad was the focal point of the demonstrations, which were directed at the ruling political elite and the state backing it: Iran. Prime Minister Adil AbdulMahdi resigned at the end of November, throwing official Iraq into a political vacuum and guaranteeing that any premier appointed to replace him would be considered an interim ruler and as such, his government would only be accepted by the weakened political elite, but not by a significant part of the population. This article reviews the changes that occurred in 2019 in the nature of Israel-Iraq cooperation, as they relate to diplomatic, security, economic and civilian aspects.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Civilians
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Janko Bekić
  • Publication Date: 05-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: In February, Masoud Barzani, President of Iraqi Kurdistan, announced that a referendum on the independence of the autonomous region would be held by the end of 2016. He stressed that Kurdistan had the same grounds for demanding statehood as Scotland, Catalonia or Quebec. Equally, he opined, the right of the Kurdish people to decide their own fate was unnegotiable. During an earlier encounter with Western journalists, Barzani pointed to the upcoming centenary of the Sykes-Picot agreement (16 May 1916), which divided Ottoman assets in the Middle East into British and French zones of interest, laying the foundations for the creation of multi-ethnic and multi-religious Iraq and Syria. The President of the Kurdistan Region underlined that 2016 would be the year in which the Franco-British agreement of World War I would be annulled and the policy of “compulsory co-existence” in the Middle East �inally abandoned. The purpose of this brief is to succinctly discuss the case made for Kurdish independence, but also the many obstacles on the way towards it. Solid arguments in favour of secession Mr. Barzani’s central argument in favour of Kurdish statehood is the fact that international borders in the Middle East largely do not correspond to popular will; i.e. they have no legitimacy, only legality. Historically, they are by-products of foreign – Ottoman, and later Western European – rule. As such, they are open for revision, especially if the states in question have a track record of discriminating, forcibly assimilating, or – in the worst case – physically exterminating segments of the population. Another argument made by Mr. Barzani is one concerning “compulsory co-existence”. It's well-known that international power brokers are rather conservative when it comes to recognizing border changes or granting independence to secessionist entities. As a rule, these are considered only in instances of grave human rights violations, and only as a last resort. The Westphalian sovereignty of states has been greatly eroded by the concept of humanitarian intervention. However, international borders are still considered to be sacrosanct and – generally – untouchable. This often leads to the involuntary co-existence of ethnic, national and/or religious groups with no sense of shared identity or mutual interests. In such unfavourable conditions, democracies – if they exist – are little more than tyrannies of the majority.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Autonomy
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, Kurdistan
  • Author: Guillaume Lasconjarias
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The recent NATO Summit in Wales has been viewed as a watershed event not just because of the particular moment at which it took place, but because of the pledges taken by heads of states and governments. For sure, the still ongoing Ukraine crisis and the rising insurgency in Syria-Iraq might have acted as true “wake-up calls”, calling the Alliance to step up its posture and show its determination, especially in terms of commitments towards bolstering the main pillars of the Alliance. The initiatives announced in terms of readiness and defence posture, the Readiness Action Plan in particular, belong to a series of reassurance measures towards Eastern allies, but also revitalize the NATO Response Force through an expeditionary spearhead, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. Although some might consider these measures as “too little too late”, they prove the Alliance's cohesion and the commitment to the transatlantic link.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, NATO, International Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Ukraine, Syria
  • Author: Lori Plotkin Boghardt
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Washington should look for small changes in Kuwait and Qatar's political and security calculus that could provide opportunities to support counter-terrorist financing measures there. On April 30, the U.S. State Department noted that private donations from Persian Gulf countries were "a major source of funding for Sunni terrorist groups, particularly...in Syria," calling the problem one of the most important counterterrorism issues during the previous calendar year. Groups such as al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), previously known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, are believed to be frequent recipients of some of the hundreds of millions of dollars that wealthy citizens and others in the Gulf peninsula have been donating during the Syrian conflict.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Border Control
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Washington, Middle East, Kuwait, Arabia, Syria, Qatar
  • Author: Thomas Carothers
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Upon taking office in January 2009, President Barack Obama inherited a democracy promotion policy badly damaged from its prior association with the war in Iraq and with forcible regime change more generally. The Bush years had also seen a decline in America's reputation as a global symbol of democracy and human rights as well as rising fears of a broader democratic recession in the world.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Reform
  • Political Geography: Iraq, America
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman, Robert Shelala II
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The US may not face peer threats in the near to mid term, but it faces a wide variety of lesser threats that make maintaining effective military forces, foreign aid, and other national security programs a vital national security interest. The US does need to reshape its national security planning and strategy to do a far better job of allocating resources to meet these threats. It needs to abandon theoretical and conceptual exercises in strategy that do not focus on detailed force plans, manpower plans, procurement plans, and budgets; and use its resources more wisely. The US still dominates world military spending, but it must recognize that maintaining the US economy is a vital national security interest in a world where the growth and development of other nations and regions means that the relative share the US has in the global economy will decline steadily over time, even under the best circumstances. At the same time, US dependence on the security and stability of the global economy will continue to grow indefinitely in the future. Talk of any form of “independence,” including freedom from energy imports, is a dangerous myth. The US cannot maintain and grow its economy without strong military forces and effective diplomatic and aid efforts. US military and national security spending already places a far lower burden on the US economy than during the peaceful periods of the Cold War, and existing spending plans will lower that burden in the future. National security spending is now averaging between 4% and 5% of the GDP – in spite of the fact the US has been fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – versus 6-7% during the Cold War.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Economics
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Asia
  • Author: Ramzy Mardini
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani will be visiting the White House on April 4 and meeting with President Barack Obama. Discussions are likely to involve Kurdish concerns about Iraq's prime minister, but may largely focus on defining what Vice President Joseph Biden termed as a "special relationship" between the U.S. and Kurds during his visit to Arbil last December. Relations between the governments of the United States and Kurdish Region have grown and deepened considerably since the 2003 U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq. The Kurds continued to be staunch proponents of the American presence and ongoing engagement in Iraq.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Stephen Wicken
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Opponents of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have been pushing for his removal from power for much of his second term in office. In recent months, Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani and leaders from the Iraqiyya list have turned to an effort to withdraw confidence in Maliki as prime minister. Iraq's Shi'ite parties, though concerned about Maliki's accumulation of power, have largely abstained from the no-confidence push. Yet the anti-Maliki effort gained new life in mid-April when the powerful Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr intensified his opposition to Maliki and voiced his intention to remove the premier. Sadr's push for a no-confidence vote is an important inflection not only in his own posture towards Maliki, but also in the ongoing political crisis in Iraq. It has prompted a backlash from Iran, which has supported Maliki by seeking to restrain Sadr and to prevent a vote of no confidence. This backgrounder explores the possible calculus and responses of Sadr, Iran, and Maliki as Iraq's governmental stalemate continues to drag on.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Regional Cooperation, Governance, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Nicole Koenig
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The EU's reaction is slow, the EU is divided, the EU is unable to deliver: time and time again, newspapers depict the image of an incoherent and uncoordinated EU foreign policy. This time, the topic under discussion is the EU's response to the Libyan crisis. Many have compared the EU's internal divisions over Libya with those over the Iraq war, an often-used example to illustrate the limits of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). This paper aims to assess the coherence of the EU's short- to medium-term response to the Libyan crisis. It distinguishes between the horizontal, interinstitutional, vertical and multilateral dimensions of EU coherence. The analysis shows that unilateral actions or inactions of the member states mainly account for the EU's incoherent response. The post-Lisbon institutional structure has done little to compensate for these internal divisions. While the EU cannot change the course of national foreign policies, it should increase its 'leadership for coherence', communitarize its crisis response in the medium term and aim at preventing incoherence in the longer term.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Political Violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Libya, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Sean Kane
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The two rising powers in the Middle East—Turkey and Iran—are neighbors to Iraq, its leading trading partners, and rapidly becoming the most influential external actors inside the country as the U.S. troop withdrawal proceeds. Although there is concern in Washington about bilateral cooperation between Turkey and Iran, their differing visions for the broader Middle East region are particularly evident in Iraq, where a renewal of the historical Ottoman-Persian rivalry in Mesopotamia is likely as the dominant American presence fades. Turkey aims for a robust Iraqi political process in which no single group dominates, sees a strong Iraq as contributing to both its own security and regional stability, and is actively investing in efforts to expand Iraqi oil and gas production to help meet its own energy needs and fulfill its goal of becoming the energy conduit from the Middle East to Europe. Iran prefers a passive neighbor with an explicitly sectarian political architecture that ensures friendly Shiite-led governments; sees a strong Iraq as an inherent obstacle to its own broader influence in the region and, in the nightmare scenario, once again possibly a direct conventional military threat; and looks askance at increased Iraqi hydrocarbon production as possible competition for its own oil exports. Baghdad meanwhile believes that it can become a leader in the Middle East but is still struggling to define an inclusive national identity and develop a foreign policy based on consensus. In its current fractured state, Iraq tends to invites external interference and is subsumed into the wider regional confrontation between the Sunni Arab defenders of the status quo and the “resistance axis” led by Shiite Iran. Turkey has an opening in Iraq because it is somewhat removed from this toxic Arab-Persian divide, welcomes a strong Iraq, and offers the Iraqi economy integration with international markets. Ankara could now allay Iraqi Shiite suspicions that it intends to act as a Sunni power in the country and not allow issues on which Turkish and Iraqi interests deviate to set the tone for their relationship. The U.S. conceptualization of an increased Turkish influence in Iraq as a balance to Iran's is limited and could undermine Turkey's core advantages by steering it towards a counterproductive sectarian approach. A more productive U.S. understanding is of Turkey as a regional power with the greatest alignment of interests in a strong, stable, and selfsufficient country that the Iraqis want and that the Obama administration has articulated as the goal of its Iraq policy. On the regional level, a strong and stable Iraq is a possible pivot for Turkish and Iranian ambitions, enabling Ankara and hindering Tehran. Washington may well have its differences with Turkey's new foreign policy of zero problems with its neighbors, but the Turkish blend of Islam, democracy, and soft power is a far more attractive regional template than the Iranian narrative of Islamic theocracy and hard power resistance. The United States should therefore continue to welcome increased Turkish-Iraqi economic, trade, and energy ties and where possible support their development as a key part of its post-2011 strategy for Iraq and the region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Imperialism, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia