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  • Author: Sinan Hatahet
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: The Syrian Constitutional Committee, a UN-authorised constituent assembly, was established to reconcile the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition, in the context of the peace process, by adopting a new constitution for Syria. While it enjoys a measure of international legitimacy, it may be a mechanism to override the terms of UN Security Council’s resolutions 22541 in favour of establishing the Astana talks as the only regulator of the political process. The committee has encountered several challenges. First is the divergence of expectations between the opposition and the Syrian government; second, the lack of a clear time frame for its deliberations; third, the Syrian government’s insistence on imposing its anti-terrorism vision; finally, the lack of international commitment to its outcome, mainly from the US and its partners. This brief examines the positions of both the Syrian government and the opposition and their expectations from the constitutional process as well as the impact of the Turkish offensive in the north east of the country on the process.
  • Topic: Constitution, Syrian War, Negotiation, Transition
  • Political Geography: Middle East, United Nations, Syria
  • Author: Nikolay Sukhov
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: The Russian leadership believes that the Constitutional Committee (CC) is a key factor in a political settlement in Syria. Russia hopes that the West, primarily the EU, adhering to the principle of “no reconstruction without a political transition”1, would regard the launch of the CC as the beginning of this political process and increase humanitarian aid to Syrians living in government- controlled territory. Russia's position on the constitution issue differs from that of the Syrian government. However, glimmer of hope could come from events in northeast Syria2, which has strengthened position of the opposition in the CC. Yet, neither Russia, nor Syria, are ready to recognise this reality. The Russian leadership is not likely to promote rapprochement between the Syrian government and the opposition on reform issues, as Russia perceives these to be the internal affairs of Syria. In Russia, it is perceived that the constitutional, and later, the political process based on the new constitution, could facilitate the return of refugees. The next step after the adoption of the new constitution should be legislative reform, which would bring Syrian legislation into line with the constitution. The topic of legislative reform in Syria could become bargaining tool for Europe in negotiations with Russia. If Europe wishes to stabilise the situation in Syria and the Middle East, it should first participate in reconstruction efforts by reviving the economy, and thereby Syrian civil society. This would be an indirect stimulation of political reforms. In this case, European leaders need to develop a long-term strategy aimed at improving Syrian society, preventing radical ideas, terrorism and possible new waves of migration to Europe. Russia could contribute to the implementation of European initiatives as the interests of Russia and Europe to stabilise Syria and the region coincide.
  • Topic: Constitution, Syrian War, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This paper scans the interests and activities of Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Egypt in the Mediterranean Basin – their varying and competing interests, their points of convergence and cooperation, and the challenges and opportunities for Israel. The paper is based on the main points raised at the third meeting of the working group on Israel in the Mediterranean, held in September 2019 in the Herzliya offices of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung at the initiative of the Mitvim Institute, the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and Haifa University’s National Security Studies Center. The paper shines a spotlight on key elements in regional relationships and significant activity taking place in the Mediterranean Basin, which Israel must consider in formulating and executing policy. It is based on the presentations and discussions conducted at the event and does not reflect agreement among all participants.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Economy
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Egypt, Cyprus, Mediterranean
  • Author: Michal Yaari
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This article focuses on relations between Israel and Qatar, analyzing them in historical context, in the context of Qatari foreign policy and in terms of their potential and the limitations imposed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The article describes the shift from a mutual conception of hostility to unusual cooperation over the Gaza crisis. While Israel aspires to avoid additional rounds of violence with Gaza, Qatar seeks to strengthen its regional role as a mediator, and mutual interests converge into joint activity to avert an additional military clash between Hamas and Israel. The cooperation between the states illustrates how the Palestinian issue can leverage regional cooperation. At the same time, the untapped diplomatic, economic and civilian potential of Israel-Qatar relations points to the limitations imposed by the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Economy, Conflict, Hamas
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Qatar
  • Author: Haim Koren
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Since President Abdel Fatah a-Sisi’s rise to power in 2014, Israeli-Egyptian ties have been marked by defense-strategic cooperation. This is based on the shared perception of Iran and radical Islamist terror organizations as a threat, and the common interest in managing the Palestinian issue, in general, and specifically the Gaza arena. In the inherent tension between ideology and national interests, Egypt continues to strive for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians (Fatah, Hamas and the other Palestinian factions) and seeks to bring about internal Palestinian reconciliation beforehand (between the leaderships in Ramallah and Gaza). Its role as a key mediator between Hamas and Israel is crucial, and is in line with Egypt’s international standing as an important regional leader.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Bilateral Relations, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Gaza, Egypt
  • Author: Ronen Zeidel
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The final months of 2019 were marked by widespread, prolonged protests throughout Iraq, which began in October. Baghdad was the focal point of the demonstrations, which were directed at the ruling political elite and the state backing it: Iran. Prime Minister Adil AbdulMahdi resigned at the end of November, throwing official Iraq into a political vacuum and guaranteeing that any premier appointed to replace him would be considered an interim ruler and as such, his government would only be accepted by the weakened political elite, but not by a significant part of the population. This article reviews the changes that occurred in 2019 in the nature of Israel-Iraq cooperation, as they relate to diplomatic, security, economic and civilian aspects.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Civilians
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Einat Levi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This article examines the current Israel-Morocco cooperation and its development through 2019. It briefly describes developments in diplomatic, security, economic and civilian arenas in order to find common ground and identify trends. Naturally, the paper will not elaborate much on the security-intelligence aspect of the cooperation, despite its centrality, due to its classified nature.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Bilateral Relations, Economy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North Africa, Morocco
  • Author: Yitzhak Gal
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The year 2019 saw additional deterioration in Israel-Jordan relations to the point where ties can be described as “toxic”. Israel’s continued callous disregard of Jordanian sensitivities and interests on policy issues (such as al-Haram a-Sharif/Temple Mount) and economic issues (such as water), was further exacerbated by the particularly volatile issue of the Jordan Valley annexation. Strong security ties continued to provide the basis of the relationship, although they are conducted largely behind the scenes. Economic and civilian cooperation declined, except for the Israeli gas exports to Jordan, which are of strategic importance. Nonetheless, and despite Jordan’s frustration, anger and disappointment with Israel, new content can be infused into the relationship in order to rehabilitate it. Both states have a clear interest in cooperation.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations, Peace, Trade
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Jordan
  • Author: Gabriel Mitchell
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This paper explores the nexus between Israel’s energy policy and foreign policy interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. While regional energy cooperation has the potential to be one of the most significant and enduring Israeli foreign policy achievements in recent decades, a closer look at regional geopolitics reveals that energy cooperation is often transactional in nature, and rarely transformative. The discovery of offshore hydrocarbons has also aggravated existing tensions between regional actors. This subject deserves more serious discussion by Israeli policymakers and the Israeli public, who often accept the Netanyahu government’s argument that energy exports will provide Israel massive strategic benefits. As this paper argues, in order to chart an optimal course forward, Israelis must first have a realistic conversation about energy’s potential to catalyze changes in the Eastern Mediterranean that serve Israel’s domestic needs and strategic interests.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Grand Strategy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Mediterranean
  • Author: Pierre Goldschmidt
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: Since it came into force in 1970, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has worked remarkably well to prevent the horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons. The one major exception is North Korea, which withdrew from the NPT in 2003. Despite this track record of success, the stability of the current non-proliferation regime could be significantly undermined by further withdrawals by countries such as Iran. The right of states to withdraw from the NPT is clearly stated in the Treaty. Article X.1 provides that: “Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.” Since it is impossible to deny the right of states parties to withdraw from the NPT, it is all the more important to put in place appropriate preventive measures to dissuade withdrawal from the Treaty. The urgency of dealing preventively with NPT withdrawal increases as more nonnuclear-weapon states are poised to become “nuclear threshold states.”1 As the IAEA reported in 2008: “Much of the sensitive information coming from the [Abdul Qadeer Khan] network existed in electronic form, enabling easier use and dissemination. This includes information that relates to uranium centrifuge enrichment and, more disturbing, information that relates to nuclear weapon design.”2 and: “a substantial amount of sensitive information related to the fabrication of a nuclear weapon was available to members of the network."3 The widespread dissemination of this type of scientific and technical information raises the prospect that more states will acquire the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, thus increasing the
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Disarmament, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America