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  • Author: Roee Kibrik, Colette Avital, Paul Pasch, Ksenia Svetlova, Michael Harari, Dan Catarivas, Ido Zelkovitz, Max Stern Yezreel, Lior Lehrs, Dahlia Scheindlin, Kamal Ali-Hassan, Nadav Tamir, Yair Lapid, Susanna Terstal
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The Mitvim Institute 3rd annual conference provided an annual assessment of Israel's regional foreign policies. It was held in Tel Aviv on 14 November 2019, in cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. The conference included sessions on Israel's ties with its adjacent regions – moderated by Dr. Nimrod Goren, and participated by Amb. (ret.) Michael Harari, former Member of Knesset (MK) Ksenia Svetlova, Dr. Ido Zelkovitz and Dan Catarivas – and on the quest for IsraeliPalestinian peace in Israeli statesmanship – moderated by Yael Patir and participated by Dr. Lior Lehrs, Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin, Kamal Ali-Hassan and Nadav Tamir. MK Yair Lapid (Blue and White party) and EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Susanna Terstal delivered the keynote speeches. This document summarizes the main points covered by the speakers.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Public Opinion, Conflict, Hamas
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • 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: Stéphane Valter
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: This paper presents a study of Egyptian Shiʿism by providing historical context as well as a focus on actual or current issues. The study includes a historical overview of local Shiʿism (Fatimid period, late nineteenth century, 1940s–1960s, and contemporary period); Shiʿi institutions and personalities; the situation following Egypt’s 2011 revolution; the hectic one-year government of the Muslim Brotherhood (2012–2013); President al-Sisi’s authoritarian takeover; and, finally, an exploration of the current geopolitical stakes, focusing mainly on the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran over religious hegemony.
  • Topic: Security, Geopolitics, Shia
  • Political Geography: Africa, Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Egypt
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: The aim of this policy brief is to provide some understanding of the health constraints faced by single male laborers (SMLs), the policy efforts underway to enhance their access to healthcare, and further actions that ought to be undertaken to strengthen and improve healthcare for this group of migrant workers in Qatar.
  • Topic: Health, Labor Issues, Health Care Policy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Qatar
  • 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: Emma Hesselink
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Now that IS has been defeated, at least territorially, governments, donors and the international community are investing in Iraq’s state building programmes both at national and local levels. However, Nineveh governorate, which suffered greatest damage and requires greatest attention, has been the scene of a highly divided security landscape since its liberation from IS. The chronic divisions between different actors such as Peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are only worsened by the presence of the Hashd al-Shaabi and other non-state actors in the Disputed Territories. This brief provides an analysis of the risks posed by Hashd in Nineveh and offers recommendations into regaining a grip on the situation.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Islamic State, State Building
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Author: Anne van der Wolff
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Many of the Islamic State associated women and children now live in camps inside Iraq and are denied identity cards, including birth and death certificates. These practices violate national and international laws and are likely to contribute to future radicalisation and renewed violent extremism. Iraq must develop clear policies in line with its democratic constitution.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Radicalization, Democracy, Islamic State, Identities
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Henrietta Johanssen
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: With Iraq’s displacement crisis, violence against women and girls has reached new levels of cruelty. However, with a forthcoming transition into stabilisation and the signed commitment to implement UNSCR 1325 for Women, Peace, and Security, both Iraq and Kurdistan Region now have the momentum to pave a new route to safeguarding and promoting women. This policy brief discusses the sexual and gender based violence in Iraq, and the centrality of ‘honour’ and ‘shame’, to tackling legal, structural, and communal barriers to women empowerment.
  • Topic: United Nations, Women, Gender Based Violence , Feminism, Sexual Violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • 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: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, Goran Zangana
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Chemicals are widely used in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region (KRI) for various civilian purposes. Terrorist organizations have demonstrated their intention, know-how and capacity to convert chemicals of civilian use to chemical weapons. Without an urgent and comprehensive policy response, the KRI can face significant breaches in chemical security with immeasurable risks to the population and the environment. This report follows a special MERI workshop on chemical security, where major challenges were identified and a number of policy recommendation made.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Chemical Weapons
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Federico Borsari
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Stabilisation and recovery in Iraq are intimately tied to the structural sustainability and accountability of the security apparatus across the country. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces are currently undergoing an ambitious process of modernisation and institutionalisation aimed at transforming them into an apolitical and professional entity, to the expected benefit of both Erbil and Baghdad. This policy brief examines the contours of this process against the backdrop of Iraq’s precarious security landscape and offers policy recommendations.
  • Topic: Security, Political structure, Institutionalism, Recovery
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Abdullah Yassen
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Forced displacement from Syria has resulted in one of the largest refugee populations worldwide, and the most protracted displacement in the Middle East. In the presence of the complex security dynamics in the region, durable solutions are difficult and require careful considerations. Using a multi-site qualitative and participatory methods, this research examines: (a) the feasibility of voluntary repatriation, local integration, and resettlement in a third country for Syrian refugees. (b) the ‘State’ practice of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) in terms of refugee protection and its response to their entitlement to education, health care, employment, and residency. The report highlights certain flaws in the Syrian refugees’ predicament which the KRI government, international organisations and the international community urgently need to address to implement an effective solution to the crisis. The findings also show that the preferred durable solution for the majority of the Syrian refugees is onward migration and resettlement in third countries. Both local integration and voluntary repatriation were viewed as largely unworkable, since the KRI, as part of Iraq, is not signatory to the Refugee Convention, and current local legislations are inadequate to regulate asylum. Importantly, voluntary return to Syria is still impeded by security concerns and the lack of development in their regions of origin.
  • Topic: Migration, United Nations, Refugees, Displacement, Resettlement
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This timely session was dedicated to a debate with the President of Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to discuss central geo-political and domestic developments, including the protests and the crisis of governance in Baghdad; the Turkish invasion of Northern Syria (particularly Rojava); and finally, the effects of internal political fissures within the KRI.
  • Topic: Development, Governance, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia, Baghdad, Syria, Kurdistan
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Two years after the official ‘defeat’ of IS, Iraqi politics remain dominated by complex and rapidly shifting political dynamics. Intrastate fragmentation and a loss of social cohesion are reflected in the recent public demonstrations for better services across Iraq, as well as in ongoing debates about budget and oil negotiations between Erbil and Baghdad. International Correspondent, Jane Arraf, introduced this panel of government officials and journalists by setting the current scene in Baghdad, which is undergoing large-scale public protests by citizens with dwindling faith in their home country. The protest participants include women and families who have not received anything from the promise of the ‘new’ Iraq. Young people are among those most vulnerable in the current crisis.
  • Topic: Social Movement, Islamic State, Protests, Youth Movement
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad, Erbil
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: At the outset of this panel, Dlawer Ala’Aldeen invited the Prime Minister (PM) to share his vision and strategy for his 4-year term in office. Ala’Aldeen observed that Masrour Barzani’s cabinet is a coalition of different political parties, and that the internal coordination demonstrated during its first four months has provided good reason for hope. He stated that observers acknowledge the PM’s former track record of success, and have high expectations for what he will be able to accomplish in office.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Over the past decade and a half, the KRI’s share of the federal budget and oil revenue has been the most significant point of tension between Erbil and Baghdad. Each year, when the budgetary law is formulated and voted upon, a new crisis is initiated; the next is already brewing, as the budget law is currently under discussion. According to journalist Hiwa Osman, this bilateral relationship is also affected by ongoing neutralisation disagreements over the disputed territories, which are manifested in the positionalities of the Peshmerga, paramilitary, and federal security forces.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Budget
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad, Erbil
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The 9th KRG Cabinet was formed in July of 2019. At its inception, the PM committed his new cabinet to a manifesto consisting of 52 critical reforms, designed to fulfill his pledge to improve services, enhance the rule of law, strengthen government institutions, and address chronic problems that have plagued Iraq for 100 years. All cabinet ministers were tasked, from the outset, with the mandate to prepare their respective ministries for the implementation of that manifesto. In his opening remarks, Dlawer Ala’Aldeen stated that, following the debate with the Prime Minister, who described his vision and strategies for the KRG Cabinet overall, this panel would dig deeper into the specific action plans of four key service-related ministries. These include the Ministries of Education, Health, Electricity, and Reconstruction & Housing. The Ministry of Planning, which plays a central role in the overall operation of the government and the expenditure of its budget, would be engaged as well.
  • Topic: Reconstruction, Health Care Policy, Reform, Budget
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: In her introduction, panel chairman Tanya Gilly highlighted that Middle East history has long been marked by turmoil and transition. While the region is no stranger to overlapping and intractable conflicts, she emphasized that recent dynamics have introduced new complexities. Buffeted by competing regional and global entities, and littered with fragile and failing states, the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East has become fraught with militarization, mass population displacement, and communal fragmentation. Gilly explained that this panel would focus on recent geopolitical developments in Northern Syria, and that panelists would be pressed to consider how they might influence the next evolution of the Middle East to create an environment conducive to lasting peace.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: In his introduction, panel chairman Farhad Alaaldin explained that Iraq is in a state of crisis. The current socio-political situation, as reflected by demonstrations and protests across the various governorates, is both complicated and complex. He explained that this panel, featuring central players from the international community, would examine the contours of this crisis and solicit external perspectives.
  • Topic: Social Movement, Political stability, Protests, State Building
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad