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  • Author: Eugene Rumer
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The 2015 Russian military intervention in Syria was a pivotal moment for Moscow’s Middle East policy. Largely absent from the Middle East for the better part of the previous two decades, Russia intervened to save Bashar al-Assad’s regime and reasserted itself as a major player in the region’s power politics. Moscow’s bold use of military power positioned it as an important actor in the Middle East. The intervention took place against the backdrop of a United States pulling back from the Middle East and growing uncertainty about its future role there. The geopolitical realignment and instability caused by the civil wars in Libya and Syria and the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia have opened opportunities for Russia to rebuild some of the old relationships and to build new ones. The most dramatic turnaround in relations in recent years has occurred between Russia and Israel. The new quality of the relationship owes a great deal to the personal diplomacy between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Russia’s emergence as a major presence in Syria has meant that the Israelis now have no choice but to maintain good relations with their new “neighbor.” Some Israeli officials hope that Moscow will help them deal with the biggest threat they face from Syria—Iran and its client Hezbollah. So far, Russia has delivered some, but far from all that Israel wants from it, and there are precious few signs that Russia intends to break with Iran, its partner and key ally in Syria. Russian-Iranian relations have undergone an unusual transformation as a result of the Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war. Their joint victory is likely to lead to a divergence of their interests. Russia is interested in returning Syria to the status quo ante and reaping the benefits of peace and reconstruction. Iran is interested in exploiting Syria as a platform in its campaign against Israel. Russia lacks the military muscle and the diplomatic leverage to influence Iran. That poses a big obstacle to Moscow’s ambitions in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Geopolitics, Military Intervention
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Frank Umbach
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is officially neither a Chinese “Marshall Plan” nor a geopolitical master strategy. At present, it involves 84 countries, rising from 65 countries in 2015, and 15 Chinese provinces. Over the last year, the number of countries being concerned or ambivalent about China’s motivations and strategic objectives behind the BRI have increased. Despite officially supporting China’s BRI, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also warned last April, that China is supporting unneeded and unsustainable projects in many countries, leading to heavy and unpayable debt burdens. In ASEAN, Chinese investments are welcomed but there are also misgivings about the BRI’s strategic objectives which may constrain ASEAN’s policy options. As China is presently and will remain the single most influential country in global energy markets in the next decades, it is not surprising that its infrastructure plans of building railways, highways and ports are often interlinked with China’s energy and raw materials projects abroad and its domestic energy policies. This paper analyses the energy dimensions of the BRI and its strategic implications for its wider economic, foreign and security policies in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Military Strategy, ASEAN, IMF
  • Political Geography: China, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Nael Shama
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: By examining the events of the Arab uprisings, this paper looks into the nature and dynamics of armies’ responses to popular uprisings. It argues that the outcome of the massive, regime-threatening Arab revolts in 2011 can be assessed by how a military responded to protests: did the army shoot protesters, did it stay idle, or did it largely defect? In light of the rich literature available on the historical experience of the “Arab Spring,” this paper shows that an army’s response to end popular uprisings in authoritarian regimes is determined by several key factors: the military’s level of institutionalization; its relationship to the regime; the degree of the regime’s legitimacy; the amount of international aid it receives; the prospects of foreign intervention; and, finally, the strength of the army’s bond with society and its perception of its own role within society. Additionally, there is a factor often overlooked by scholars; namely, how the military assesses a regime’s capacity to solve the crisis in order to triumph. The paper draws on evidence from the six cases of the 2011 Arab Spring—Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Tunisia—to illustrate the dynamics of troop loyalty or defection.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Social Movement, Arab Spring, Protests
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia
  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Turkey is in every way ideally placed to bridge the EU with its southern neighbours and together tackle their common challenges and myriad business opportunities. The question is, can they align priorities and policies to make the most of the opportunities? The answer is: not easily. Given the complexity of and uncertainty in Turkey and Iraq, as well as Syria’s security dynamics, sustained EU-Turkey convergence in all areas of common interest is unlikely in the foreseeable future. Although both Turkey and the EU have adopted multifaceted foreign policies vis-a-vis the Middle Eastern countries, yet they have converged only on specific issues, such as dealing with the Iran nuclear deal. Both sides consider the US withdrawal from the deal as a “matter of concern”, believing that maintaining the deal and keeping Iran engaged through diplomatic and economic means instead of sanctions or military threats is crucial even after the US withdrawal. Otherwise, Turkey and the EU diverge on the overall approach to the most troubled neighbours, namely Iraq and Syria, which have been sources of grave concern to all. Iraq continues to be a fragile country, struggling to keep its integrity. The country was at the brink of failure between 2014-2017 after the emergence of the so called Islamic State (IS), and further threatened by the Kurdish referendum for independence in 2017. Iraq was pulled back to survival, mainly by international assistance. Interestingly, in 2018 Iraq saw two transformative general elections, one for the Federal and the other for the Kurdistan Region’s Parliament. The outcome of these elections brought about a degree of change in the political landscape, a sense of optimism for future recovery and a clear promise for creating new business opportunities for international partners. However, in keeping with the past, the formation of government in both Baghdad and Erbil became protracted and problematic. These features indicate that the Iraqi leaders remain ill focused on the country’s priorities in terms of state-building and provision of services or addressing the root causes of its fragility. Turkey and the EU share the objectives of accessing Iraq’s market and energy supply, and prevent onward migration of the displaced populations. Of course, the EU is to a large extent dependent on Turkey to achieve its goals. Therefore, it would make sense for the two sides to converge and cooperate on these issues. However, Turkey’s foreign policies in the southern neighbourhood are driven primarily by its own domestic and border security considerations and – importantly – Turkey sees the economic, political and security issues as inextricable. While Iraq has lost its state monopoly over legitimate violence and is incapable of securing its borders, Turkey often takes matters into its own hands by invading or intervening in Iraq, both directly and indirectly (through proxies). Of course, the Iraqi government considers Turkey’s interventions as acts of aggression and violations of its borders, but is unwilling to take measures against them. For Iraq, Turkey is a regional power and an indispensable neighbour. It has control over part of Iraq’s oil exports, water supply and trade routes. The EU, on the other hand, considers Turkey’s interventions as acts of self-defence but frowns upon them as destabilising factors, adding to the fragility of Iraq. In Syria, the political landscape and security dynamics are very different from Iraq, but the EU-Turkish policies follow similar patterns. Syria remains a failed state with its regime struggling to secure survival and regain control over its territories. Meanwhile, Turkey has become increasingly interventionist in Syria via direct military invasion and through proxies, culminating in the occupation of a significant area west of Euphrates, and threatening to occupy the Eastern side too. Turkey has put extreme pressure on the USA for permission to remove the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF) and its lead organisation (Democratic Union Party, PYD) from governing North East Syria (also referred to as Rojava). However, the EU and USA consider the SDF and PYD indispensable in the fight against IS and fear the Turkish interventions may have grave consequences. Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative and Vice-President of the European Commission recently emphasised that “Turkey is a key partner of the EU”, and that the EU expect the “Turkish authorities to refrain from any unilateral action likely to undermine the efforts of the Counter-IS Coalition”. Therefore, EU-Turkey divergence or even conflict with some EU Member States is possible over Syria.
  • Topic: Security, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, European Union, Islamic State, Political stability
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia, Syria
  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This month last year, the Kuwaiti government hosted a ‘Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq’. It was attended by the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, along with dozens of foreign ministers and large numbers of other government and business representatives. The timing was perfect for Iraq. The country had recently announced the military defeat of the Islamic State (IS) and was enjoying an unprecedented level of optimism and all-round international good will. Until then, Iraq had for a number of years been suffering from a severe economic crisis, precipitated largely by decades of poor management of state resources, never-ending wars and crises, and the drop in oil prices. Hence, the country needed help and, luckily for the Iraqis, its neighbours were willing to help because failure to address reconstruction needs would add to the country’s fragility and chronic instability.
  • Topic: United Nations, Military Strategy, Reconstruction, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad, Kurdistan
  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The latest tension between Iran and the United States has created an unhealthy debate among local actors in Iraq and the wider Middle East, reflecting minimal insight into Washington or Tehran’s policy environment. This in itself can be extremely detrimental to their own national agenda as well as the overall dynamics. The question here is: where is this US-Iran escalation leading and what policy would be best for the local players in Iraq (and elsewhere) to pursue?
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Imperialism, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Tehran, Washington, D.C.
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The U.S. has learned many lessons in its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria—most of them the hard way. It has had to adapt the strategies, tactics, and force structures designed to fight regular wars to conflicts dominated by non-state actors. It has had to deal with threats shaped by ideological extremism far more radical than the communist movements it struggled against in countries like Vietnam. It has found that the kind of “Revolution in Military Affairs,” or RMA, that helped the U.S. deter and encourage the collapses of the former Soviet Union does not win such conflicts against non-state actors, and that it faces a different mix of threats in each such war—such as in cases like Libya, Yemen, Somalia and a number of states in West Africa. The U.S. does have other strategic priorities: competition with China and Russia, and direct military threats from states like Iran and North Korea. At the same time, the U.S. is still seeking to find some form of stable civil solution to the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria—as well as the conflicts Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and West Africa. Reporting by the UN, IMF, and World Bank also shows that the mix of demographic, political governance, and economic forces that created the extremist threats the U.S. and its strategic partners are now fighting have increased in much of the entire developing world since the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, and the political upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. The Burke Chair at CSIS has prepared a working paper that suggests the U.S. needs to build on the military lessons it has learned from its "long wars" in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries in order to carry out a new and different kind of “Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs,” or RCMA. This revolution involves very different kinds of warfighting and military efforts from the RMA. The U.S. must take full advantage of what it is learning about the need for different kinds of train and assist missions, the use of airpower, strategic communications, and ideological warfare. At the same time, the U.S. must integrate these military efforts with new civilian efforts that address the rise of extremist ideologies and internal civil conflicts. It must accept the reality that it is fighting "failed state" wars, where population pressures and unemployment, ethnic and sectarian differences, critical problems in politics and governance, and failures to meet basic economic needs are a key element of the conflict. In these elements of conflict, progress must be made in wartime to achieve any kind of victory, and that progress must continue if any stable form of resolution is to be successful.
  • Topic: Civil Society, United Nations, Military Strategy, Governance, Military Affairs, Developing World
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Iraq, Middle East, West Africa, Somalia, Sundan
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The shifts in Saudi Arabia's power structure that have taken place since King Salman came to power in January 2015 have created a new set of Saudi priorities for shaping Saudi Arabia's future. These new priorities have led to major changes in Saudi Arabia’s national security structure and leadership, and to calls for major social and economic reform. They have changed the leadership of the Saudi Ministry of Interior, National Guard, and Foreign Ministry. These new priorities have led to participation in a major war in Yemen, efforts to isolate Qatar that have broken up an already weak and divided Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and deeper tensions with Iran over its military build-up and efforts to expand its regional influence. Most of the earlier changes at top levels of the Saudi government and security structure were motivated by new King's desire to consolidate power at the top of the government and royal family. In the process they have made Mohammed bin Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (normally referred to as Mohammed bin Salman or “MBS”) the Crown Prince, First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, and President of the Council for Economic and Development Affair – combining the responsibilities for Saudi Arabia’s security, civil sector, and economic development to one man. The more recent changes to the Saudi national security sector and military command made in February 2018 are harder to interpret. There is no way­­—as of yet— to put the changes in the Saudi national security sector and military command structure into perspective. One can speculate that these changes were either a further effort to assert control by a new regime, or part of a serious effort by the Crown Prince to improve Saudi military planning, budgeting & fiscal management, and military operations. Mohammed bin Salman may have been reacting to the lack of progress in the war in Yemen, Saudi tensions with Qatar, and MBS's feelings that too much of the Kingdom's security spending has been wasteful, poorly planned, and involved some element of corruption. Speculation aside, there are no credible reports that provide a reliable "inside" picture of what is happening. What is clear, however, is that the Kingdom has been spending far too large a portion of its economy on security priorities that have yielded uncertain results. This spending on security is large enough to compete with Saudi Arabia's ability to fund its 2030 plan to reform and modernize its economy and social structure. Saudi Arabia must better balance its civil and national security spending by reducing its security spending and using its resources far more effectively.
  • Topic: National Security, Military Strategy, Budget, Leadership, Military Spending
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Few recent American foreign policy decisions have been as divisive as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear arms control agreement with Iran. Advocates of the agreement have focused far too exclusively on its potential benefits. Opponents equally exclusively on its potential faults. Both sides tend to forget that any feasible arms control agreement between what are hostile sides tends to be a set of compromises that are an extension of arms races and potential conflicts by other means. As a result, imperfect agreements with uncertain results are the rule, not the exception. President Trump has made it clear that he opposes the agreement and would like to terminate it. His dismissal of Rex Tillerson as Security of State, and his replacement by Mike Pompeo – along with his dismissal of General H.R. McMaster and replacement with John Bolton – indicate that President Trump may well seek to terminate the agreement in the near future – action which might or might not have significant bipartisan support. He faces a May 5th to decide whether to again waive economic sanction against Iran, a decision which comes up for renewal every 120 days.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Issue Some U.S. policymakers have argued that the United States should withdraw its military forces from Syria. But the United States has several interests in Syria: Balancing against Iran, including deterring Iranian forces and militias from pushing close to the Israeli border, disrupting Iranian lines of communication through Syria, preventing substantial military escalation between Israel and Iran, and weakening Shia proxy forces. Balancing against Russia, including deterring further Russian expansion in the Middle East from Syrian territory and raising the costs—including political costs—of Russian operations in Syria. Preventing a terrorist resurgence, including targeting Salafi-jihadist groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda that threaten the United States and its allies. Our Recommendations: Based on U.S. interests in Syria, Washington should establish a containment strategy that includes the following components: Retain a small military and intelligence footprint that includes working with—and providing limited training, funding, and equipment to—groups in eastern, northern, and southern Syria, such as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Coordinate with regional allies such as Jordan and Israel to balance against Iran and Russia and to prevent the resurgence of Salafi-jihadists. Pressure outside states to end support to Salafi-jihadists, including Turkey and several Gulf states. As the war in Syria moves into its seventh year, U.S. policymakers have struggled to agree on a clear Syria strategy. Some U.S. policymakers have argued that the United States needs to withdraw its military forces from Syria. “I want to get out,” President Trump said of the United States’ military engagement in Syria. “I want to bring our troops back home.”1 Others have urged caution, warning that a precipitous withdrawal could contribute to a resurgence of terrorism or allow U.S. competitors like Iran and Russia—along with their proxies—to fill the vacuum.2 In addition, some administration officials have argued that the Islamic State has been decimated in Syria and Iraq. The National Security Strategy notes that “we crushed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq.”3 But between 5,000 and 12,000 Islamic State fighters remain in Syria and continue to conduct guerrilla attacks, along with between 40,000 and 70,000 Salafi-jihadist fighters in Syria overall.4
  • Topic: Civil War, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Military Intervention
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria
  • Author: Jon B. Alterman, Heather A Conley, Donatienne Ray
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: U.S. strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean is long overdue for revision. Policies, priorities, and activities girded by U.S.-led alliance structures were developed to stabilize Europe and deter Soviet aggression at the dawn of the Cold War. Seventy years later, they are no longer fit for purpose. However, the region remains a linchpin for an array of vital U.S. interests. In the last decade alone, regional conflicts and state fragmentation have caused millions of migrants and internally displaced to flee their homes, creating one of the largest migration crises since World War II. The arrival of an unprecedented number of migrants has triggered political backlash and polarized domestic politics in Europe and in the Eastern Mediterranean. Many of the littoral states in the Eastern Mediterranean have faced destabilizing economic crises that have created deep political and strategic vulnerabilities. Significant natural gas deposits discovered off the coasts of Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt could boost regional economic prospects as a potential energy-producing region, but a divided Cyprus, historical animosities, as well as a lack of infrastructure connectivity hinder this regional economic potential.
  • Topic: Imperialism, Military Strategy, Infrastructure, Fragile/Failed State, Military Intervention, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Middle East, Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, Mediterranean
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The report draws on a wide range of official sources and is designed to provide an overview of official reporting on major trends rather than make an independent analysis. The U.S. provides a vast amount of detail on its annual budget request for military and international affairs spending – much of it in graphic, tabular, and summary form. The material presented here is an attempt to pick the key materials to show where the U.S. is focusing its military spending, how it relates to its strategy, how major force improvements will affect U.S. capabilities, and how the U.S. is dealing with its strategic partners and potential threats. However, the user should be aware that much of the material presented is often uncertain and is not comparable from source to source. There also is no easy or single way to summarize the trends in the U.S. defense budget. The materials that go into just the unclassified portions of the Department of Defense’s annual submission of President’s budget request to Congress, and the subsequent Congressional review of that request, run well over several thousand pages. It is also critical for the reader to understand that only the portion of the report dealing with the National Defense Authorization Act (pages 24-43) represents the final result of Congressional action and the FY2019 budget signed by the President, and not all of the portions of reference action by the key Committees involved were approved in exactly the form shown in the final bill signed by the President. Much of the material is drawn from sources that precede the final Congressional markup because the Department never updates most of the tables and charts in the Department of Defense request until the following year and new budget submission. The material presented also shows that different sources define total defense spending in different ways, and include different expenditures and convert current to constant dollars in different ways. More importantly, most sources report in terms of “Budget Authority” (BA) – the total money the Congress authorizes in a given Fiscal Year that can be spent over a period of years. This is the best estimate of what the Congress is actually approving. However, some sources in terms of “Budget Outlays” (BO) – only the money that can be spent in 12-month period of that U.S. Fiscal Year. (Which begins on 1 October of the year the Congress acts upon, and ends on 30 September of the following year). This is the best way of assessing the impact of spending on how well the budget is balanced, the size of the deficit, and impact on the federal debt. Budget projections for future years present other problems. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provides detailed estimates of how the President’s budget request – and the final budgets the Congress authorizes – will impact over time. Many such estimates precede Congressional action on the budget, and it then takes several months for the CBO to estimate the probable future trends in the total federal budget and impact of the final Congressionally approved levels of U.S. defense spending on that total federal budget and the U.S. GDP. This often creates major lags in official estimates of the trends in every aspect of federal spending, the budget deficit, and the national debt. More broadly, the Department of Defense has effectively abandoned any serious effort to create a program budget, and to provide a realistic estimate of the cost of the Future Year Defense Program beyond the fiscal year directly under review. It essentially rolls forward current activities and plans to make estimates of the next four years that are based on the spending levels in the budget year under review. It bases such estimates largely on input categories such as personnel, O&M, RDT&E, and procurement. The Department of Defense does not report expenditures by major mission or command. The Department defines “strategy” largely in terms of broad concepts and goals. It does not tie its “strategy” to net assessments of the balance in terms of threats and strategic partners, to specific force plans, to specific actions and schedules, to specific costs, or to measures of success and effectiveness. Unclassified reporting in “PPB” – or planning, programming, and budgeting– form has become a functional oxymoron. The Congress does hold strategy hearings and directs studies of key strategic issues, but these efforts rarely address any of the practical details of any aspect of the nature and cost of U.S. strategy. Similarly, the outyear estimates of military spending by the Department of Defense, OMB, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) focus on a “baseline” that assumes the United States does not actually use its military forces in any operational form. The limited estimates provided for future Overseas Contingency Operations are “placeholders” and not actual estimates. This is partly inevitable given the inability to predict the future, but it creates a practical problem in a country whose civil plans call for major future increases in mandatory spending on retirement, medical case, and welfare. This means the official U.S. projections of civil spending rise relative to military spending in ways history indicates will be highly unrealistic.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Budget
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East, North America
  • Author: Safi Khalilullah, Joseph Mohr
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination, Princeton University
  • Abstract: This paper seeks to reflect the views of those fighting the Afghan government, which includes the movement of the Afghan Taliban. The movement of the Afghan Taliban grew out of multiple sources, but came mainly from primarily local bands of religious students who joined the anti-Communist uprising of Afghan religious scholars. These bands of religious students captured branches in some of the Pakistan-based religious resistance parties, and were frequently integrated in provincial organizations as separate “fronts” inside Afghanistan. The religious students did not appropriate the modernizing Islamist discourse of Hezb-i Islami and other parties, but demanded the creation of an Islamic system of governance, the "Islamic Emirate," headed by the commander of the faithful (amir al-muminin), and not a President. This vision was realized in 1998, two years after the fall of Kabul. Pakistani support had been used up to this point by all parties in order to capture power in Afghanistan as a tactic. With the fall of the Islamic Emirate, this tactic changed to become the strategy for their survival, come-back and counter-offensive. Every time the Taliban used Pakistan in order to secure their leadership, establishing command centers, recruitment, or any other activity, the increasing reliance colored their whole activity. In the matter of recruitment, this meant that Pakistani youth would be admitted into the Afghan Taliban ranks as full members. Ultimately, this reliance also opened up the Afghan Taliban to Pakistani penetration and influence. Mullah Omar, the “amir al-muminin” tried to counter this trend by relocating into hiding inside Afghanistan, where he also died. In the process, he had ceded much actual control to his messengers, who could operate in Pakistan and the world in his name. The article provides an overview of Mullah Omar’s movements between Afghanistan and Pakistan after the fall of the Taliban Emirate up to his death. In light of President Trump speech on 21 August 2017, and subsequent briefings by Secretary of Defense Mattis and General Dunford to the Senate on 3 October, a stronger focus of the United States on Pakistan’s role in supporting the Taliban is evident. The views of the Taliban and Al-Qaida operatives on the role played by Pakistan appear to support this shift in American focus from President Obama’s approach.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Peacekeeping, Al Qaeda
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Middle East
  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, Susan Cersosimo, Kamaran Palani
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: There are major security events, issues and trends within Iraq since 2003 and Syria since 2011, that have influenced and impacted Turkey-European Union (EU) relations. In this policy paper we deconstruct the causal mechanisms that act as the primary drivers impacting bilateral relations. We then compare and contrast Ankara’s and Brussels’ current security interests, priorities and perceptions toward security threats originating in this troubled neighbourhood. Finally, we classify opportunities as culminating in three possible discrete or combined security policy scenarios: conflict, cooperation and/or convergence and make recommendations to improve Turkey-EU relations. To address how Iraq’s and Syria’s security environment evolved to its current state and predict the subsequent outcomes and impacts on EU-Turkey relations, we look back and critically analyse Ankara’s and Brussels’ views on the following key events, issues and trends: security and political dynamics following the second term of al-Maliki, the withdrawal of the US forces in 2011, the 2011 Syrian revolution, the war against the Islamic state (IS), The Global Coalition against Daesh (GCD) backing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria, the rise of Kurdish nationalism and aspirations for statehood in Iraq and autonomy in Syria, the enhanced influence of Iran in Iraq and the growth of IS with subsequent mass displacement of person across both Iraq and Syria. Iraq is now largely free of IS reign, yet is still threatened by terrorism, mass population displacement and weak governance, among other ills. In parallel, now that the Syrian civil war enters its seventh bloody year, generating large numbers of casualties and millions of displaced persons, Brussels and Ankara are strongly incented to converge and/or cooperate on security policies which mitigate the escalating humanitarian crisis and ease the path to a durable peace agreement. However, finding durable solutions to address high value, high impact problems stemming from Iraq and Syria requires identifying and mitigating the causes vs symptoms of these countries’ instability and insecurity affecting Ankara’s and Brussels’ own security interests, priorities and threat perceptions. Central security priorities for the EU in post-IS Iraq include stabilization, the return of internally displaced people and refugees and eliminating violent jihadist organizations and ideologies. While Turkey shares these objectives in principle, Ankara’s security interests concentrate primarily on neutralizing the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and its affiliates’ presence and influence. Since 2014, Ankara and Brussels have mostly bifurcated on how they perceive security threats in Syria. Turkey-EU leaders continue to disagree on the Kurd’s role in the Syrian war and how Turkey should control its borders to cut flows of foreign fighters into Syria. As the IS invaded parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, European states began providing PKK affiliated Kurdish groups in Syria with both intelligence and military support. Alternately, since the Kurdistan Region of Iraq held its referendum for independence on 25 September 2017, EU and Turkish leaders have mostly converged on how they perceive security threats in Iraq with both staunchly supporting the country’s territorial integrity, thus, both refused to recognize the referendum’s legitimacy. We consider the issue of terrorism as a highly relevant driver of EU and Turkish security policies, perceptions and priorities. Though we see both countries as highly concerned with this issue, they diverge on which organizations pose the greatest threat. Ankara places the PKK at the top of its terrorist list – both within its borders and across the region – while Brussels prioritizes neutralizing jihadi terrorist threats on its soil, thus, the probability of convergence and cooperation and positive impact on EU-Turkey relations is moderate for this issue. Moreover, the IS is not given the same degree of priority by the two sides in the neighbourhood, including Iraq and Syria. Unlike the EU, Turkey considers the threat posed by the IS equal to the one posed by the PKK, but not as strategic. Here, the two sides diverge. In sum, dissent between Brussels and Ankara is highly likely given the Turkish Armed Forces’ broad kinetic engagement in both Iraq and Syria which negatively impacts EU and US efforts to roll back terrorism, stabilise the region, deliver humanitarian aid and help displaced persons return to their homes. Thus, regardless of whether Baghdad and/or Damascus formally grant Ankara permission to launch assaults, the EU views these actions as bellicose destabilizers competing with its own interests, thus, degrades EU-Turkey relations. Ultimately, this study calls for the EU and Turkey to prioritize mending cracks and fissures in their relationship and focus on the gains to be made through rapprochement on security issues originating in Iraq and Syria. Likewise, the EU can use its tremendous mediating capacity as an honest broker to settle entrenched disputes between warring parties in Iraq and Syria and for Turkey restart the peace process at home. More than ever, both must develop a long-term strategic security framework to ensure that bilateral security interests, priorities and interventions do not derail current stabilisation and reconstruction procedures in Iraq and/or progress toward a durable peace in Syria.
  • Topic: Security, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, European Union
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia, Syria
  • Author: Sandro Knezović
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: The European strategic landscape has changed dramatically over the course of the last decade. The post-Cold War mantra about the obsolescence of conventional threats in the wider European space proved to be short-sighted with developments at its eastern �lanks, while security dysfunctions in the MENA region and their immanent consequences for the safety of European citizens have loaded a heavy burden on compromise-building and decision-making in the �ield of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the EU. Furthermore, the approach of the new US administration to European security and the strategic consequences of Brexit have changed the wider framework in which security of 'the Old Continent' is to be determined, hence stimulating European leaders to rethink European security in a strive for strategic autonomy of their own. The very ambitiously phrased EU Global Strategy that came out in June 2016, served as both catalyst and umbrella document for such an endeavour. However, in order to achieve measurable progress in responding to contemporary security challenges, it was clear that the EU needs to develop a structural way for member states to do jointly what they were not capable of doing at the national level. This is so especially in the environment in which China, Russia and Saudi Arabia are championing the defence spending, right after the US, while European states are signi�icantly trailing behind. The fact that the EU collectively is the second largest military investor and yet far from being among the dominant military powers only emphasises the burning issue of ef�iciency of military spending and the level of interoperability among member states’ armies. High-level fragmentation of the European defence market and the fact that defence industries are kept in national clusters is clearly contributing to that. The reality on the ground is obviously challenging traditional methods of co-operation that operate mainly in ‘national boxes’ and calling for a paradigm change in the wider policy context of CSDP. However, it remains to be seen to which extent will this new security environment actually be able to push the European defence policy context over the strict national boundaries.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Military Strategy, European Union
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Alimar Lazkani
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: There is constant talk of the “soft conflict” between Iran and Russia in Syria. Most research and media reports focus on the areas of influence and control of each party. Without going into the relationship between Iranian and Russian forces on Syrian soil, in which the Iranian of influence weakened following the entry of Russian troops, it is important to distinguish the nature of these two forces to help identify the characteristics of this conflict, which are not limited to areas of influence. In fact, there is a clear difference between Iranian and Russian interests as well as strategy on two major issues. The first is the relationship with Israel. While Russia sees Israel as a strategic ally in the region, Iran gains its regional legitimacy by emphasizing the continuity of conflict with it. The second is the way each party sees the future of Syria, and its own role in it. Iran is not capable of establishing a centralized state in Syria because of its ideological hostility to the Sunni majority there. Therefore, a state based on sectarian militias will be the cornerstone of Iran’s continued presence on Syrian soil as it has the capacity to manage militias with no national project. Russia, on the other hand, has a vision of a centralized state that is based on the fundamental pillar of a disciplined and dutiful army. Thus, the “soft conflict” involves not only the geographical divvying-up of Syria, but also fundamental matters related to the structure of Syria’s security and military system. This paper is the second part of a broader study of Russia’s policy of establishing a military influence in Syria. It will look at the Syrian militias that Iran has fostered and supported, and Russia’s approach in dealing with them on the ground. However, it does not consider non-Syrian militias on Syrian soil brought by the Iranians, such as Hezbollah, the Fatemiyoun, the Zainabiyoun, and other Shia militias because of their close association with Iranian politics and their temporary posting in specific conflict areas, making them a foreign presence on Syrian soil.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Military Intervention, Sunni, Shia
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria
  • Author: Michael Elleman, Mark T. Fitzpatrick
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: Iran has the largest and most diverse ballistic-missile arsenal in the Middle East – could these systems one day be used to launch nuclear weapons? In a new report, IISS analysts Michael Elleman and Mark Fitzpatrick offer a detailed assessment of the design intentions behind each missile within Iran’s inventory. The result is a clear picture as to which platforms the United States and its allies should seek to remove, and which ones can be discounted. The common claim that Iran’s missile development must be stopped altogether because these systems could deliver nuclear weapons in the future rests on broad generalisations. While there is reason for concern, priority attention should be given to those missiles that might realistically be used for such a purpose, if Iran were to go down a perilous nuclear path. The international standard – but not treaty – for determining the inherent nuclear capability of missiles is the threshold developed in 1987 by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which seeks to forestall exports of missile systems able to deliver a 500kg payload a distance of 300km or more. Eight of Iran’s 13 current ballistic missile systems – the largest and most diverse arsenal in the Middle East – exceed this threshold and are thus deemed to be nuclear capable. The other five, all within the Fateh-110 family of missiles, are certainly lethal, especially when shipped to Hizbullah for use against Israel, but they are clearly not intended for nuclear use. Because capability does not equal intent, the MTCR guidelines should be just the first step in an assessment of Iran’s intentions for its missiles. When the United Nations Security Council drafted a new resolution in July 2015 to accompany the Iran nuclear agreement finalised that month, an element of intent was added to previous sanctions resolution language that prohibited launches of Iranian missiles that were ‘capable of delivering nuclear weapons’. The 2015 resolution calls upon Iran not to engage in activity concerning missiles ‘designed to be’ capable of delivering nuclear weapons. What it means ‘to be designed’ is undefined. Judging intent is partly subjective, but technical clues and intelligence information can guide analysis. The soundest approach is to disaggregate Iran’s various missile systems, and to assess design intentions on the basis of the technical capabilities and lineage of the different missiles.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel, North America
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
  • Abstract: There was general agreement that the JCPOA was a very positive solution to a complex issue, providing a constructive and peaceful way forward for the Middle East in particular, and the non-proliferation regime in general. The deal contained in the JCPOA is working as intended. Iran has been determined by the IAEA on multiple [6] occasions to be in full compliance with its obligations, and now has the most comprehensive safeguards and verification regime in history. World powers have followed through with some sanctions relief thereby aiding the Iranian economy. Furthermore, there have been other positive dimensions, including an effective joint commission process, greater transparency among parties, as well as communications and interactions taking place in a more positive atmosphere. At the same time, it was recognized that the deal is unstable: although the terms of the JCPOA were ring-fenced from the wider geopolitical environment of the Middle East, political manoeuvring can threaten its continued implementation. The spill-over of non-nuclear issues, often labelled under “Iranian behaviour”, should not be allowed to derail the process. It was noted in a positive sense that all the main candidates in the Iranian Presidential campaign have signalled their desire to continue with the JCPOA. However, several participants felt that some of Iran’s regional policies could undermine this, risking a negative reaction from the US and other states. Some argued that given Iran’s disputed compliance history with IAEA safeguards agreements (which even two years later remains heated) and, in general, the uneasy relations in the past between Iran and IAEA, it is important that Iran continue to strictly comply to the letter of the JCPOA. The US domestic context provides perhaps the greatest potential risk to the sustainability of the JCPOA. It was noted that President Trump may not, after all, ‘tear up’ the deal. The possibility was raised that, because many in his national security team were seen as hostile to Iran, any minor safeguards violation may be seized upon to terminate the deal. Such a hard-line approach could isolate the US from a global consensus and weaken its hand in other relevant matters. There is further danger that Congress could act alone in enacting a bill (of which many are on the table) that would be in contravention of the JCPOA. This possibility was considered unrealistic by some participants. Some details of Security Council resolution 2231 were seen as problematic in a number of ways: the explicit provisions on ballistic missiles were viewed as an unnecessarily punitive measure unrelated to the main goals of the JCPOA; equally, some of the inquiry and resolution mechanisms were seen by some as unbalanced. The JCPOA should in any case be understood as a temporary solution. Even though continuing to implement it effectively would build more confidence, ultimately trust between Iran and some Western states will likely never be high. However, the deal does hold the potential for transformative progress in Iran-US relations, pending further steps to de-escalate and normalize relations. Many of Iran’s neighbours worry that the remaining latent nuclear capacity has only delayed the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran down the road; at the same time, many regional states are also pursuing nuclear fuel cycle programs. The JCPOA should also offer the international community an opportunity to consider how to extend some measures indefinitely and extend them to other countries. Regional stability and non-proliferation could be enhanced by extending some of the JPCOA provisions to the Middle East and beyond it. As such, Pugwash should make efforts to convene and organize meetings to explore far-reaching initiatives that are in the spirit of the agreement; for example: initiatives to discuss ‘internationalizing’ the nuclear fuel cycle; forward-looking regional agreements, such as a threshold of uranium enrichment, a ban on plutonium reprocessing, or limits on stockpiles of LEU; innovative safeguards measures, such as advanced monitoring technology, enhanced access to centrifuge production facilities, or explicitly set times for snap inspections; further multilateral scientific and technical cooperation, such as the SESAME project.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Nuclear Power, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Nikolay Kozhanov
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Transatlantic Relations
  • Abstract: This paper is part of CTR's Working Paper Series: "Russia and the West: Reality Check." The current level of Russian presence in the Middle East is unprecedented for the region since the fall of the Soviet Union. Records of diplomatic and political contacts show increased exchange of multilevel delegations between Russia and the main regional countries. After 2012, Moscow has attempted to cultivate deeper involvement in regional issues and to establish contacts with forces in the Middle East which it considers as legitimate. Moreover, on September 30, 2015, Russia launched air strikes against Syrian groupings fighting against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Before that time, Russia had tried to avoid any fully-fledged involvement in the military conflicts in the region. It was also the first time when it adopted an American military strategy by putting the main accent on the use of air power instead of ground forces. Under these circumstances, the turmoil in the Middle East, which poses a political and security challenge to the EU and United States, makes it crucial to know whether Russia could be a reliable partner in helping the West to stabilize the region or whether, on the contrary, Moscow will play the role of a troublemaker.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Military Intervention, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Libya, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, United States of America, European Union, Gulf Cooperation Council
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: Academic interest in Gulf security has continued to focus on traditional notions of zero-sum security threats emanating from Iran or Iraq, or the role of the United States. There has been limited exploration of the deeper, structural issues that threaten the region. In line with this, in the 2014-2015 academic year, CIRS launched a research initiative on “The Changing Security Dynamics of the Persian Gulf.” The purpose of this project is to scrutinize the ways in which domestic security threats in the region are evolving, and how newer challenges related to human security are being reinforced by—and in some ways actually replacing—military threats emanating from regional and outside actors. This project brings together a number of distinguished scholars to examine a variety of relevant topics, which resulted in original research chapters published in an edited volume titled, The Changing Security Dynamics of the Persian Gulf (Oxford University Press/Hurst, 2017), edited by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen.
  • Topic: Security, Military Strategy, Political structure
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East