Search

You searched for: Content Type Working Paper Remove constraint Content Type: Working Paper Political Geography Middle East Remove constraint Political Geography: Middle East Publication Year within 3 Years Remove constraint Publication Year: within 3 Years
Number of results to display per page

Search Results

  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This year is the 25th anniversary of the election of the first Parliament and government of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq(KRI). Thanks to the safe haven that the United States and its European allies created in 1991 to protect the displaced Kurdish population from Baghdad’s brutal attacks, the Kurds turned a crisis into an opportunity to build a forward-looking nation with democratic aspirations. The journey was a tough one, with many successes and failures, but U.S.-KRI relations grew stronger and developed into a mutually rewarding partnership. The United States continued to protect the Iraqi Kurds from Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1990s and ensured that they would have their fair share in the post-Saddam Iraq. The U.S. once again came to the rescue of the KRI in the face of the Islamic State (ISIS) onslaught in 2014 and continued its support to date. The Kurds have reciprocated with unreserved loyalty and solid support for U.S. policies in Iraq. Peshmerga forces became indispensable partners in the U.S.-led global coalition and instrumental in the ultimate military defeat of ISIS in Iraq. Some consider this KRI-U.S. partnership a tactical and temporary one, not only because ISIS is being defeated, but also because the United States will ultimately stop relying on the Kurds due to their inability, like the rest of Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, to promote the rule of law and good governance, and to control corruption, which runs unacceptably deep. However, the U.S. and the KRI can prove otherwise. For a start, the United States continues to need strategic partners in the ever-changing Middle East, where its vital interests will remain at stake. In a region that is in turmoil and where terrorism is on the rise, the U.S. and Europe face much-reduced space, presence and leverage for driving and shaping events. Regional state and sub-state actors (like the KRI) have grown in influence across borders. A multitude of nonstate actors, legitimized or not, have become increasingly influential in driving events. The KRI, lying in the heart of the Middle East, is just what the United States needs, where it is most needed. The Kurds have proven themselves skillful and dynamic survivors in a conflict zone that is overwhelmed by powerful rivals. They have strong, collaborative, love-hate relations with the Shia political elite of Iraq. They share a long border with the previously ISIS-occupied Sunni Arab territories, where the challenge of stabilization is greatest. They accommodated the majority of the displaced Sunni Arabs and other ethnic and religious minorities during the ISIS war. Internationally, despite the complexity and sensitive nature of the Middle East’s politics, the political parties of the KRI have actively engaged and maintained relatively good neighborly relationships with both Iran and Turkey. Being a Muslim-majority country and having been part of Iraq, the KRI leaders have had unhindered access to most of the Arab countries. On the issue of KRI’s internal governance challenges, the United States can help a great deal via constructive engagement. The KRI, as a small, emerging nation, remains vulnerable in the world’s toughest neighborhood. This gives the U.S. plenty of leverage that it has never used effectively. In fact, the U.S. has the same kind of leverage with all of its allies in the Middle East but was never willing to use it in fear of negative reactions. On the contrary, the previous U.S. administration chose to almost totally disengage with the region, particularly Iraq, and virtually abandoned its obligation to spread the values of liberty and the rule of law in the Middle East. The consequences were disastrous, forcing the U.S. to return and face a war against the most radical of terrorists. It might be rare for politicians to request or accept conditional help, but the KRI leaders do when such requests come from trusted friends. They are, and have been, responsive to terms and conditions that are linked to good governance, designed to help their country become a better, stronger and more prosperous place. KRG leaders viewed these conditions as incentives and opportunities to reform. Many used them to convince their fellow leaders to endorse change. In short, tough love works with the Kurds and the United States should help the KRI become the partner it deserves, and the partner KRI deserves to be.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Sunni, Shia
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Khogir Wirya
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: With the complete military defeat of IS in Iraq underway, the process of the return of internally displaced people (IDPs) faces enormous challenges. IS’s swift seizure of control of vast swathes of territories created new fissures and exacerbated old animosities and grievances among the variegated communities of the Nineveh Plain. Members of certain communities joined IS, while others showed sympathy to the group, causing rising social tensions among the communities. The war against IS also prompted certain communities to form their own armed forces, which can now be used to challenge rival communities and impose one-sided solutions by virtue of force. While no rigorous plan for the post-IS situation is available, and with Iraq facing economic and political hardships, the region’s dynamics are likely to continue to be conflictual, and communal relations may worsen further. Understanding how communities perceive reconciliation and conflict is a key element to ensure the return of IDP’s in the future. This report focuses on the Shabak community, an abstruse ethno-religious group living on the Nineveh Plain just east of Mosul, and how they perceive reconciliation and conflict. Various international minority rights organisations recognise Shabaks as one of the five main minority groups most affected by the recent conflict beginning in June 2014. At present, the Shabak community is comprised of both Sunni and Shi’ites, yet the community’s religious identity has significantly evolved over time, moving from a distinctly heterodox to a more orthodox set of beliefs and rituals. This, combined with their geographic location in the disputed territories in close proximity to various other minorities, make their views on conflict and reconciliation particularly relevant for future coexistence in Nineveh. One of the main findings of this report is that the Shabak community suffers from four main conflicts. Two relate to relations with other ethno-religious communities, namely Sunni Arabs and Christians, and the other two concern divisions within the community itself, that is, religious and ethnic identity. The rise of IS has impacted conflict dynamics in two distinct ways. On the one hand, it has led to a proliferation of armed groups, significantly increasing the possibility of a violent escalation. On the other hand, the complete rupture of the pre-2014 status quo has resulted in an intensification of identity discussions, which is linked to the settlement of the administrative status of disputed territories on the Nineveh Plain. The community’s perception of justice and security is also explored in this report. Interviews reveal that the community is fearful of forced displacement and revenge acts after their areas are liberated, while some expressed doubts about the ability of the security forces and the judiciary system in place to deal with the post liberation environment.
  • Topic: Religion, Islamic State, Conflict, Recovery
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Since the 1960s, successive governments in Baghdad considered the Kurdish-majority areas of Iraq a war zone, and deprived them of investment. So when, in 1992, Kurds elected their first parliament and government, the politicians inherited a half-ruined country, with more than 4,000 destroyed villages and just one small university to serve a traumatised population of more than 4 million. Educationally, the biggest priority for the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) was to rapidly expand school capacity. New universities and technical institutes with diverse programmes were also established de novo. Currently, 14 public and 15 private universities are fully operational, accommodating 165,414 students in 2016, compared with 10,166 in 1992. Investing in quality was the next big challenge. In 2010, the Kurdish government that I was part of introduced a comprehensive system of quality assurance and accreditation, including a performance assessment of all staff and institutions that later became the basis for the annual ranking of KRI universities. Previously, no such system had existed in Iraq, and standards were on the decline – especially after the Iraqi regime change in 2003. Continuing political, security and economic crises, as well as poorly designed policies, corruption and over-politicised administrations were partly to blame. As in other Middle Eastern countries, the Iraqi and KRI governments make all senior university appointments and manage university budgets. This inevitably permits external interference in academic affairs, at the expense of quality and efficiency. There have been serious attempts to move towards making universities totally independent from government, but it has not been easy to accomplish. However, we have succeeded in making the KRI university admissions system electronic and transparent, to ensure equal opportunity. Curricula and teaching methods have been modernised, with greater emphasis on critical thinking, scientific debate, mastering information technology and learning other languages, particularly English and Arabic. The rapid proliferation of educational institutions and the subsequent increase in student populations threatened to outpace the system’s ability to prepare an adequate number of teaching staff. This is where research-intensive universities and other centres of excellence in Europe and America helped. In 2010, it was mandated that all PhD candidates should spend up to 18 months in international centres abroad. And the KRG launched a $400 million programme to send more than 4,500 talented graduates to study for higher degrees at prestigious universities abroad. Meanwhile, existing faculty were given incentives to take sabbatical leave, spend time in prestigious universities abroad and to co-publish with colleagues there. Such arrangements can be mutually beneficial. While the local academics and institutions have great needs in terms of connectivity, sense of direction and research leadership, they can offer scientific material, data and unique insight into their local issues. Academic leaders of post-conflict countries need first-hand exposure to best practice in higher education and research. They need to understand how independent universities work in a democracy. They need help to become research-active and to produce high-impact publications. They need to think globally and act locally, solving their countries’ problems through collaborative research. Countries such as KRI are resource-rich and can sustain the funding of their side of collaborations. In addition to its full-fee paying scholarship and sabbatical programmes, the KRG also pledged in 2010 to match-fund external grants for research projects in the KRI. These have led to numerous joint projects, publications and supervision of research students. Many of the external supervisors have become external examiners and assessors of university performance in the KRI. The current security and economic crises have slowed progress, but this is a transient phase. These investments must be maintained as the situation eases. Without strong higher education, Kurdistan will never stand tall even as it moves towards full nationhood.
  • Topic: Development, Education, Political stability, Higher Education
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Yerevan Saeed
  • Publication Date: 09-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: On 25 September, residents of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) will cast their votes in a referendum that may trigger an official process of separating Kurdistan from Iraq. International friends and foes alike have opposed the controversial Kurdish move, contending that the referendum will fuel further instability in Iraq, and cause repercussions across the Middle East. The Kurdish bid for independence is not unique, however. Ethnic groups in Asia, Europe, and Africa have in the past pursued their own dreams of statehood — some with success, while others ended in failure. Whatever the outcome, the process is often costly in terms of both its human toll and economically. For that reason, the secession of any region from its parent state has to be justified on strategic, political, and economic terms. For their part, Kurdish leadership asserts that Baghdad’s mentality of power monopoly has not changed and the long-term potential for future violence against Kurds remains high. For them, the only viable, albeit risky, path is to seek complete sovereignty. The stakes are high all round, and the international community could have a constructive role to play. Conversely, international disengagement leaves both Baghdad and Erbil exposed to greater uncertainty in the near future. Iraq and Kurdistan could follow the model of Kosovo, East Timor, or South Sudan, all of which realised their statehood but to varying degrees of stability; or, instead, the catastrophic pathways taken by the Biafra region of Nigeria and Katanga in Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Though South Sudan is still reeling from its civil war and ongoing territorial disputes, international intervention has been key in preventing clashes between Khartoum and the new state. Some important steps included the signing of the North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, and the active participation of the United Nations in the referendum process in 2011. Likewise, international support was a determinant in amicable separation of East Timor from Indonesia in UN-sponsored referendum in 1999, as well as the separation of Kosovo from Serbia in 2008. By the same token, instead of mounting further pressure on Erbil to cancel the poll, it could be more constructive for all stakeholders to assist Baghdad and Erbil to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. This is likely to be beneficial for all sides. A deal would mitigate the chance of violent conflict between Kurdish forces and the Iraqi army, and could save the UN and major powers from investing blood and treasure in case of a potential later conflict. It would also remove Kurdistan from international legal limbo and provide a more viable route for diplomatic recognition. In contrast to these experiences, the anticipated absence of international engagement means a unilateral declaration of independence by Erbil could prove costly for all sides. This is evidenced by the declaration of independence of the Biafra Region in Nigeria in 1967–1970. The Igbo-dominated region of Biafra did not hold a referendum to pursue its dream of statehood. Instead, the 300 members of the joint Consultative Assembly of chiefs and elders voted in favour of secession from Nigeria on 26 May, 1967. The following day, the same Consultative Assembly passed a binding resolution, forcing the head of the Eastern region of Nigeria, Colonel Emeka Ojukwu, to declare independence unilaterally on 30 May, 1967. Despite some international support from African and European countries, the move was met with harsh military and economic warfare against the infant republic by the Nigerian government, leading to a three year conflict. One million people, including many civilians Biafrans civilians died, primarily from starvation. Further evidence of the potential danger can be found in the case of Katanga. When Moise Tshombe declared Katanga province as an independent republic from Congo on 11 July, 1960, the move was initially supported by Belgium, and came just two weeks after the Congo’s independence. Tshombe famously said, “We are seceding from chaos,” referring to the messy state of affairs of postcolonial Congo. However, the republic, located in the mineral heartland of Congo, failed to receive diplomatic recognition — even from Belgium, and faced strong opposition from Congo and the international community. The events descended into political turmoil, and forced the UN to deploy peacekeeping forces. In addition, the competing interests and support for different groups from the US, Soviet Union, Belgium, and other powers further complicated the crisis from 1960–1965. It took three years to defeat Tshombe and reintegrate Katanga into Congo, with a high human and economic toll . Beyond these examples and above all, the right of the Kurds to pursue statehood can be historically and legally justifiable. At the dawn of the last century when the Ottoman Empire crumbled, Kurds were deprived of statehood by the Great Powers. They were subject not just to marginalisation, but to genocide as well. Even so, following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Iraqi Kurdish leaders actively participated in the political processes in Baghdad, helping rebuild the Iraqi state and contributing to the defeat of terrorism. From their point of view, Baghdad has not lived up to its commitments to the 2005 constitution. Furthermore, the Kurds in Iraq believe they have strong grounds legal for a Kurdish state. Under the UN Charter, they have the right to self-determination. Finally, legal scholars argue that the principle of “territorial integrity” — enshrined in the UN Charter — is not unbreakable, should a country oppress a particular ethnic group and refuse to provide equal citizenship. International and regional powers have expressed understanding for the Kurdish aspirations for statehood, but are concerned the result could lead to violence. However, if instability is the concern, they are well-positioned to facilitate an amicable outcome between Erbil and Baghdad. Kurdish leaders have said that they have reached a point of no return with regard to their status quo within Iraq. Yet, they have shown flexibility in a willingness to postpone the referendum, should the international community offer alternatives or agree to officially support a legally binding referendum in the future. Indeed on 14 September, 2017, envoys of the US, UK and UN, in coordination with Baghdad, presented an ‘alternative to the referendum’ to the KRG President. Details of the ‘alternative’ is not known but short of providing political and economic incentives and security assurances, it is hard to see the current momentum for the referendum coming to an end
  • Topic: United Nations, Election watch, Conflict, Independence
  • Political Geography: Africa, Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Khogir Wirya
  • Publication Date: 09-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This report is about perceptions of reconciliation and conflict among the Christians in Iraq. Being a religious minority group in a country that has been fraught with conflicts and instability, this community, like other minorities in Iraq, endured suppression, displacement, and degradation. This, in addition to the weakening rule of law, has had an inverse impact on their communal relations, causing many to migrate. Furthermore, the Islamic State’s (IS) invasion of large swathes of land in the Nineveh Plain, where large numbers of Christians live, was yet another severe blow inflicted upon this community. The findings of this study reveal that the Christian community has had a conflictual relationship with the Shabaks, another minority group, in the Nineveh Plain well before IS’s emergence in 2014. The interviewees claim that the Shabaks encroached on their lands in an attempt to undermine the Sunnis in Mosul, serve external agendas and change the demography of the area. This report also shows that the Christians have disagreements with the Sunni Arabs, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and the Central government of Iraq (CGI). In order to fend off the rising Shia dominance in the Nineveh Plain, Sunnis are partly blamed for increasing the level of violence in the area. Many Christians held grievances against KRG’s policies in the Nineveh Plain before 2013. They argue that in its attempts to shield influence against Baghdad, the KRG caused friction and fragmentation among the Christians. As for the CGI, the interviewees expressed mistrust since it was unable to protect them from IS’s onslaught. In the eyes of Christians, the security situation after liberation does not portend well. The Shia Shabaks are thought to pose a security concern in the Nineveh Plain because of their involvement with Shia armed forces while there are Christian armed groups as well. Baghdad and Erbil have not engaged in debating future control of the security of the Nineveh Plains. Therefore, they see the potential for eruption of violence which may inflict great damage on reconciliation efforts. In short, the dynamics in Nineveh Plain were not stable before June 2014. Inter and intra-communal relations were strained, the political landscape was divisive and the quality of services was poor. The KRG and Baghdad are usually blamed for the overall pre-crisis climate as they were competing for hegemony. The ramifications of that unhealthy competition were manifold. Polarisation, neglect, underdevelopment, and strained relationships are just some. IS’s invasion strained the relations further and a return to the status quo ante means protracted conflicts and further instability. The bigger danger is that more and more Christians would leave the country should the situation remain unchanged.
  • Topic: Religion, Islamic State, Christianity, Sunni, Shia
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Yasir Kuoti
  • Publication Date: 10-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: On 25 September 2017, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a historic, if contentious, referendum in the three Kurdistan Region’s provinces (Erbil, Duhok, and Sulimanyiah) and disputed territories, including Kirkuk. Notwithstanding the moral grounds for Kurdish self-determination, and despite the Kurds having voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence, the unilateral move was met with strong backlash form varied opponents, for varied reasons. The Iraqi government, parliament and Supreme Court in Baghdad come out against the referendum calling it “illegitimate,” “unconstitutional,” “destabilizing” and “untimely”, as did Turkey, Iran, many western countries and international institutions including the United Nations and European Union. In a retaliatory response, Baghdad moved to impose a host of punitive measures against the KRG. These included the decision by the civil aviation authority of Iraq to halt international flights to and from Erbil and Sulimanyiah airports on September 29, 2017. Now a month into the referendum, Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, a perceived moderate Shiite, continues to face a mounting pressure from Iraq’s parliament and political parties to take tougher measures against the KRG. In exact, the issue of disputed territories took a center stage as the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), backed by the Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU), moved to reinstitute federal authority in Kurdish-held areas in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salahddin, and Diyala governorates. The referendum and post-referendum events grew fast over the past few weeks, and it is difficult to undo them for a host of legal and political considerations. Playing the blame game now is not only frustrating, but also impeding to progress. Therefore, it is more constructive that Baghdad and Erbil take steps to calm down emotions and pave the path for meaningful dialogue. Irrespective of what Baghdad leaders think of the referendum or its legality, they cannot take away from the fact that millions of Kurds cast their votes in favor of independence. The Kurds have legitimate fears about the sectarian direction in which the country is heading, a view that is also shared by non-Kurdish Iraqis, particularly Sunni Arabs and many Shiite Arabs, including Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Such fears need to be acknowledged and dealt with, not dismissed. Baghdad should also take measures to improve communications with the KRG, to mitigate future fears by Kurds. Certainly, a drive behind the timing of the referendum was the fear, real or perceived, by some Kurds that with the defeat of IS, Baghdad will turn focus to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to deprive it of its gains. Erbil must recognize that Iraq’s constitution of 2005, which Kurdish voters have largely backed, gave a broad autonomy to Kurdistan Region and unequivocally affirmed that federal authorities have the constitutional duty to “preserve the unity [and] integrity…of Iraq and its federal democratic system.” Kurdish leaders, and many Iraqis too, have issues with the constitution and the political process it stipulated, but in the absence of a better framework, it remains the law of the land. Erbil should also take a leading role in mitigating the fallout from the referendum. The KRG leaders should accept that the referendum has backfired where the best outcome, for the short term at least, is negotiations with Baghdad for a democratic and federal Iraq. Therefore, the KRG might choose to publically demand the implementation of Iraqi constitution. This does not take away from the strategic and aspirational value of the referendum, which is expedient for pushing Kurdish demands over disputed areas, broader autonomy, and other issues. Meanwhile, the KRG leadership would benefit form focusing on its internal challenges including the need to address intra-Kurdish rivalries among political parties, empowering institutions, strengthening the rule of law, and initiating economic reforms. Such political and economic reforms will improve KRG’s negotiating positions with Baghdad. The referendum has given rise to unprecedented political and military tensions between the federal government of Iraq and the KRG. With the mobilization of the ISF, backed by the PMUs, to reclaim federal control over disputed territories, the situation risks igniting an armed confrontation between the two sides in one disputed area or another, especially if Baghdad decides to swing the pendulum too far. Given these developments, the only sensible way forward is for Baghdad and Erbil to make negotiations a priority. It is essential that talks focus not only on procedural and technical issues such as budget, oil sales, and fair distribution of resources, but, more importantly, on the primary issue that divided Baghdad and Erbil and helped trigger the referendum: corruption and sectarianism in the Iraqi state. Iraq’s political system is increasingly turning into an ethno-sectarian battle, which has been the feature of post-2003 Iraq except that it has become much more abrasive in recent years. Political parties throughout Iraq are structuring themselves to whip up sectarian and ethnic divisions to varying extents of extremism. Under the system, each party has become associated with its identity where there is little to no space to an overarching Iraqi national identity. Parties have become accustomed to not only make their constituents polarized along ethnic and sectarian lines, but also make them fearful of fellow countrymen. This state of affairs calls for an urgent action; else cycles of disputes and violence are likely to resurface. Interestingly, the fallout from the referendum has also provided opportunities for dialogue between the KRG and Baghdad. Indeed, the KRG Cabinet in its meeting of 19 October reemphasized the need for negotiations without pre-conditions and that the KRG is ready for dialogue. If and when reconciliations efforts take place, it is critical they address revising the constitution and structure of government. Negotiations are far better when they are outcome-driven with defined timelines, addressing the need for a non-sectarian and non-divisive arrangement. Prime Minister Abadi must seize on his successes to steer the country’s ship toward a unified vision that can bring about the will to address problems rooted in the political system, which feeds on ethno-sectarian divisions and is the greatest barrier to development. The international community, particularly the United States, has historic opportunities to positively influence the future of Iraq by articulating a peaceful settlement to the crisis and encouraging meaningful negotiations between Baghdad and the KRG. Furthermore, the U.S. should promote dialogue within the major political parties in the KRI while leveraging its influence to redirect attention toward liberating remaining IS strongholds in western Iraq. The U.S is also encouraged to provide Iraq with legal and technical assistance needed to launch reforms and national reconciliations initiatives. The U.S and Iraqi leaders need to work together to dispel fears held by minorities, encouraging them to integrate into a better version of federal and democratic Iraq. Being part of the coalition government in Baghdad, Kurds have a key role to play in making progress toward national reconciliations and reforms.
  • Topic: Self Determination, Democracy, Independence, Reconciliation
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad, Kurdistan
  • Author: Khogir Wirya, Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, Kamaran Palani
  • Publication Date: 11-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This policy paper provides a bottom-up analysis of the impact of the European Union’s (EU) crisis response policies in Iraq. It examines how the EU’s engagement in crisis response is received and perceived by different local actors throughout the conflict cycle. The EU’s engagement in Iraq is multifaceted and encapsulates, but is not limited to, the fields of reform; capacity building; rule of law; security sector reform; humanitarian assistance; and development aid. Furthermore, this study seeks to unpack whether the EU’s responses correspond to the needs of target groups, perceived as conflict-sensitive and geared to the needs of vulnerable groups. Although the findings indicate that general attitudes towards the EU are favourable, we suggest the following policy recommendations: The EU should place more emphasis on its image as a contributor in crisis response in Iraq. The data indicate that a significant number of participants were unaware of the EU’s efforts in this perspective. The EU should also increase awareness about its roles in the fields of security sector reform, rule of law and development aid. The results show that these sectors are less known than the others. The EU should do more in the areas of security sector reform, development aid and rule of law. Participants have shown inconclusive satisfaction levels about these sectors. With an increasingly weak rule of law, limited capacities and widespread insecurity, expectations of increased EU engagement in these sectors are evident. The EU should identify the causes behind the partial satisfaction with its assistance scheme in responding to the crisis In Iraq. A sizeable share of the respondents stated that the EU’s support had not improved their status in the crisis. This should warrant an investigation into the effectiveness of the EU’s contributions and programmes in various fields.
  • Topic: Security, Humanitarian Aid, European Union, Crisis Management, Development Aid
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Author: Yasir Kuoti
  • Publication Date: 11-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Relations between Iraq and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) have remained largely cold or nonexistent since the 2003 Iraq War, an outcome of the war itself that saw the empowerment in Iraq of Riyadh’s regional archrival, Iran. Since January 2017, however, bilateral relations improved considerably as Saudi officials flocked to Baghdad to meet Iraqi counterparts. Iraqi officials and public figures reciprocated, in speed, with their own visits to the KSA. The surprising rapprochement agenda have thus far resulted in, among other things, restoring Saudi diplomatic representation in Iraq, opening al-Jadidah Arar border-crossing on the Saudi northern borders with Iraq, and inaugurating the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Council, opening a new era of strategic ties between the two countries. Iraqi media now reports that the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman will start an official visit to Iraq in November. In the process, he will become the highest-level Saudi official to do so since 1990. What explains the timing of this rapprochement policy?
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Trade and Finance, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Andrea Teti
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Transformations Project, University of Aberdeen
  • Abstract: The Arab Transformations Project is an international research project operating within the European Commission’s FP7 framework. The project looks comparatively at attitudes and behaviours in the context of the social, political and economic transformations taking place across Middle East and North Africa since February 2011. The countries covered are Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq.
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Andrea Teti, Pamela Abbott, Paolo Maggiolini, Valeria Talbot
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Transformations Project, University of Aberdeen
  • Abstract: Survey data from the ArabTrans 2014 survey contains a unique battery of questions pertaining to the perception of the European Union. This report builds on those questions to analyse perceptions of the EU, its development cooperation programmes, its promotion of democracy, the appropriateness of its response to the Arab Uprisings, and the perception of the EU as an international actor. Overall, the data suggests low levels of awareness and relatively negative opinions of the EU’s actions both in general and in the specific context of its response to the Arab Uprisings. However, respondents’ preferences also suggest avenues for policy development for the Union such that it might simultaneously achieve its interests and meet the demands of MENA populations. Throughout, the paper also takes note of specific patterns and conditions found in individual countries which present particular challenges for the EU.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Pamela Abbott
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Transformations Project, University of Aberdeen
  • Abstract: The MENA countries which this Project has considered form part of a ‘band’ across the map from Morocco in the West to perhaps India in the East which is profoundly patriarchal in its norms and values, treating half the population like children where they are not thought of more as property. Such treatment also brings social cohesion into question, however: women cannot sensibly be part of a consensus about fair dealing and equal treatment when even the laws are not fair with respect to them. The main conclusion of this Report is that there is that there is little support among either men or women in MENA for gender equality and the empowerment of women. Women are much more supportive than men, although even among women support is low. The gap in support between men and women is noticeably larger in Morocco, Jordan and Iraq and lowest in Libya, with Tunisia and Egypt lying between. The more educated, the better off and those living in urban areas are more supportive and those who support all status law being based on shari’a are less supportive. As in other research, age makes no difference, indicating that young people are no more supportive than older ones and confirming that there has been no generational shift to more liberal values. The differences between countries are statistically significant, with Iraq being the most supportive, closely followed by Morocco and Tunisia, and Libya the least supportive closely followed by Egypt. Jordan lies between the two groups. This finding is much as would be expected. Egypt has long been recognised as one of the countries most restrictive of women’s rights in the MENA region and the information emerging from Libya since the fall of Gadhafi indicates very conservative attitudes to women’s rights. Tunisia and Morocco have been widely reported as having more progressive attitudes to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Iraq is not frequently mentioned in the literature as having progressive attitudes, but until the new Constitution of 2005 it had some of the most progressive status law in the region. The analysis suggests that since the beginning of the 21st Century attitudes towards gender equality and the empowerment of women have become more conservative in Egypt and less conservative in Morocco and Iraq. In Tunisia support for personal status law being enacted in accordance with shari’a has increased noticeably, possibly possiby to the influence of Political Islam in the country since 2011. The findings also confirm those of more recent
  • Topic: Gender Issues, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Pamela Abbott, Andrea Teti
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Transformations Project, University of Aberdeen
  • Abstract: This working paper considers relations between the region and the European Union, something on which the ArabTrans survey was specifically designed to offer information. We supplement the ArabTrans survey by drawing on data from Waves II (2010/11) and III (2013) of the Arab Barometer and from the Gallup World Poll for 2011 and 2014. The Report considers what impact the policies pursued by the EU and its member countries have had on the lives of people living in four countries in the region - Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia - and how they view the EU and its involvement with their countries. It considers ordinary people’s attitudes to the EU and its policies but also discusses what ordinary people want and the extent to which EU policies address these concerns.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Ari Kattan
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: The U.S.-led effort to establish a missile defense architecture for the Persian Gulf has been slower and less successful than the United States had hoped, mainly due to an unwillingness and inability to cooperate among the Gulf Security Council nations whose nations the system is designed to defend. Given, inter alia, Iran’s growing ballistic missile arsenal and unease with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in Gulf Arab capitals, security reassurances to the Gulf monarchies will become simultaneously more important and more difficult to make credible. In this environment, missile defense will be an important, but by no means sufficient, mechanism for assuring the Arab Gulf states. Cooperation on missile defense with the Gulf monarchies should continue, but with a realistic understanding of what is possible given the current chaos and political dynamics of the region.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Persian Gulf
  • Author: Nancy Gallagher, Ebrahim Mohseni, Clay Ramsay
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: Summary of Findings 1. Rouhani’s Re-election Seen as Endorsement of His Foreign Policy and JCPOA, Not Revolutionary Change There is no consensus among Iranians about what type of mandate Rouhani was given by the 57 percent of Iranians who voted to give him a second term. Fewer than 12 percent offered the same answer when asked an open-ended question. When presented with alternative interpretations, large majorities agree that Rouhani's re-election means that most Iranian people approve of his foreign policy and the nuclear deal he negotiated with the P5+1 countries. They disagree with the assertion that his re-election means most people disapprove of the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, or that they want religion to play a lesser role in policy making. 2. Approval of Nuclear Deal Increased during Presidential Campaign, Despite Disappointment with its Economic Benefit After steady declines in enthusiasm for the JCPOA prior to the May 2017 presidential election, approval of the agreement rose during the election process. Two in three Iranians approve of the agreement, while about a third oppose it. The agreement divides those who voted for Rouhani from those who did not. While eight in ten Rouhani voters approve of the deal, only four in ten of those who voted for Raisi approve of the agreement. Two years since the signing of the agreement, majorities believe that Iran has not received most of the promised benefits and that there have been no improvements in people’s living conditions as a result of the nuclear deal. A plurality thinks that the agreement for Iran to purchase passenger airplanes from the United States will likely have little impact on Iran’s economy. Still, there is some optimism that the deal will eventually improve people’s living conditions. 3. U.S. Seen as Actively Obstructive, Contrary to Commitment under JCPOA Most Iranians lack confidence that the United States will live up to its obligations under the JCPOA. They believe either that the United States is finding other ways to keep the negative effects of sanctions that were lifted under the deal, or that the United States has not even lifted the sanctions it was supposed to lift. A growing majority also believes that contrary to the terms of the agreement, the United States is trying to prevent other countries from normalizing their trade and economic relations with Iran. While a majority still express some confidence that other P5+1 countries will abide by the agreement, most say Europeans are slow in investing and trading with Iran primarily due to fear of punishment by the United States. 4. Majority Support Retaliation if U.S. Abrogates JCPOA Iranians expect President Donald Trump to be more hostile toward Iran than was former President Barack Obama. Seven in ten Iranians believe it likely that Trump may decide not to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement. Attitudes about how Iran should respond if the United States violates the JCPOA have hardened: A clear majority now thinks that instead of taking the matter to the UN, Iran should retaliate by restarting the aspects of its nuclear program it has agreed to suspend under the JCPOA, if the United States abrogates the deal. A large majority see the new sanctions that Congress is likely to impose on Iran as being against the spirit of the JCPOA, with half saying it would violate the letter of the agreement as well. 5. No Appetite for Renegotiating the Nuclear Deal with Trump Large majorities say that Iran should refuse to increase the duration of the special nuclear limits it accepted under the JCPOA, or to terminate its nuclear enrichment program, even if offered more sanctions relief in return. 6. Majority Opposes a Halt to Missile Testing, Even in Return for More Sanctions Relief Over three in five say that Iran should continue testing ballistic missiles despite U.S. demands for Iran to halt such tests and find the proposition that Iran reduce testing missiles in return for the lifting of more sanctions unacceptable. Two thirds reject the notion that Rouhani’s re-election means most Iranians oppose testing of missiles by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). 7. Greater Support for Self-Sufficiency An increasing majority think Iran should strive to achieve economic self-sufficiency rather than focusing on increasing its trade with other countries. Six in ten say current changes in the world make it necessary for Iran to have a president who will stand up for Iran’s rights and refuse to compromise. Majorities reject offering various steps in exchange for more sanctions relief—steps such as Iran reducing its missile testing, or recognizing Israel, or ceasing its aid to the Syrian government and Hezbollah. Rejection of these steps is significantly lower, though, among those who think the nuclear deal has improved the living condition of ordinary Iranians. 8. Economy is Seen as Bad, and Reducing Unemployment is Given the Highest Priority Large majorities say Iran’s economic situation is bad, and less than a quarter think the economic condition of their family has improved over the last four years. Half think that the country’s economic situation is getting worse. Eight in ten say reducing unemployment should be a top priority for Rouhani in the next four years. 9. Rouhani Seen as Successful in Foreign Policy, not in Reducing Unemployment Majorities see Rouhani as being successful in improving Iran’s relations with other countries and getting international sanctions on Iran lifted. Majorities also see his re-election to mean that most Iranians approve of his foreign policy and the JCPOA. In fact, the nuclear agreement is regarded as Rouhani’s most important accomplishment during his first four years in office. Rouhani, however, gets low marks on the unemployment situation in Iran. Six in ten say he has been unsuccessful in reducing unemployment and half say he has thus far failed to improve the economy. 10. Rouhani's Reelection was Not Certain until Ghalibaf Left the Race Election polls were quite accurate in predicting the outcome of the election. Pre-election polls suggested that if Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf had been Rouhani’s main opponent rather than Raisi, the election results would have been much closer. After the second presidential debate, Rouhani was ahead of Ghalibaf by less than 6 percentage points, while his lead over Raisi was more than 20 points. While an overwhelming majority of Raisi supporters said that if Raisi pulled out they would vote for Ghalibaf, less than half of Ghalibaf supporters said they would vote for Raisi if their candidate pulled out. Indeed, when Ghalibaf pulled out of the race nearly half of his supporters switched to Rouhani and helped him pass the 50 percent threshold. 11. Turnout Helps Rouhani About a quarter of those who said they rarely vote in Iranian presidential elections reported that they voted in the May 2017 election, and seven in ten said they voted for Rouhani. Large majorities believe that both the Guardian Council and the Interior Ministry were fair and impartial as they fulfilled their election-related responsibilities. About five percent, however, say that they went to their voting stations but for one reason or another were not ultimately able to cast their ballots. 12. Rouhani and Zarif's Popularity Increase after Re-Election, but General Soleymani is Most Popular Political Figure The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is the most popular politician in Iran, with President Rouhani coming in second. Although Rouhani’s popularity increased somewhat during the recent election, it is still substantially lower than the first time he ran for office and after he signed the JCPOA. 13. Post-election Terrorist Attacks: ISIS Seen as Primary Culprit, but Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States Likely Helped A large majority of Iranians thinks that ISIS conducted the June 7 attacks in Tehran. Most Iranians also think that Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States probably provided guidance or support to the perpetrators. 14. Strong Support for Fighting ISIS, but Not for Collaboration with U.S. The June 7 attacks seem to have increased support for Iran playing a more active role in the Middle East. More than eight in ten call increasing Iran’s security a top priority; seven in ten say this about fighting ISIS and increasing Iran’s influence in the region. A growing majority of Iranians support their government helping groups that are fighting ISIS, although the number that favors sending troops has remained roughly constant. Two in three support Iran sending military personnel to Syria to help the Assad government against armed Syrian rebels, including ISIS. Support for Iran and the United States collaborating with one another to help Iraq’s government counter ISIS is at its lowest, with an increasing majority saying they would oppose such cooperation. 15. Views of P5+1 Countries Majorities regard Russia, China, and Germany—half of the P5+1—favorably, and the other half—the U.S., France and Britain—unfavorably. While six in ten believe that most P5+1 countries (but not the United States) will fulfill their obligations under the JCPOA, views toward all the Western powers that took part in the JCPOA negotiations are now less positive. Though a majority believes that Iran’s relations with European countries have improved as a result of the deal, only a quarter say that about the United States. Still, far from showing implacable hostility toward the West, a majority continues to think it is possible for the Islamic world and the West to find common ground.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Elections
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Ammar al-Hakim’s announcement on July 24, 2017 that he is stepping down as the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) came after generation- al con icts surfaced between a number of the Coun- cil’s senior gures, who had visited Tehran to demand that he should be pressured over his reliance on the youth. Moreover, al-Hakim himself rejected attempts by senior members of the council to assume govern- ment positions, and even sought to build unique rela- tions with Arab and Western countries by presenting himself as an acceptable moderate Shiite gure. The outgoing leader is preparing for the upcoming elec- tions to be held across Iraq.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The escalating crisis between the United States and North Korea is of special importance for Iran. Firstly, the US Administration of President Donald Trump has designated both Iran and North Korea as an imminent threat to the national security of the United States. The approach builds on the administration of former president George W. Bush’s repeated labelling of Iran and North Korea, as well as Iraq, as key rogue states of the so-called axis of evil, who sponsor terrorism and seek to ac- quire weapons of mass destruction.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The Islamic Resistance Movement (more commonly known as Hamas) has recently intensified its efforts to enhance its relations with Iran, especially after President Hassan Rouhani was elected for a second term. It also seeks to invest favorable official attitudes inside Iran where most main- stream political parties are urging for what they believe is necessary support to some organizations operating across the region, including the occupied Palestinian Territories, and resume full- fledged relations with Hamas.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East