Search

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

Search Results

  • Author: Kristin Perry
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The inclusion of women is critical to the success and sustainability of reconciliation efforts. To date, however, the government of Iraq has failed to prioritize women’s participation in its national reconciliation program. In the development of the second Iraqi National Action Plan (INAP), the federal government has an opportunity to rectify this legacy and restore the social contract with its female constituents. This policy brief examines current gender deficits throughout Iraq’s reconciliation process and offers relevant recommendations.
  • Topic: Women, Feminism, Reconciliation , Sustainability
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Author: Alaa Tartir
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Palestinian political leadership’s obsession with the idea of statehood as a means to realise self-determination and freedom has proved to be detrimental to the struggle of decolonising Palestine. By prioritising “statehood under colonialism” instead of focusing on decolonising Palestine first and then engaging in state formation, the Palestinian leadership – under pressure from regional and international actors – disempowered the people and empowered security structures which ultimately serve the colonial condition.
  • Topic: State Formation, Colonialism, Decolonization, Repression
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Carmen Geha
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Lebanese women have been leaders in the revolution that has shaken Lebanon since October 2019. This paper argues that the next stage will be critical if women want to transform their involvement into equal rights. For them to do so, they need to move beyond informal revolutionary politics to formal electoral and party politics with meaningful and substantive representation.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Human Rights, United Nations, Social Movement, Feminism, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Beirut
  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Patricio Goldstein, Ana Grisanti, Tim O'Brien, Jorge Tapia, Miguel Ajgel Santos
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Jordan faces a number of pressing economic challenges: low growth, high unemployment, rising debt levels, and continued vulnerability to regional shocks. After a decade of fast economic growth, the economy decelerated with the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09. From then onwards, various external shocks have thrown its economy out of balance and prolonged the slowdown for over a decade now. Conflicts in neighboring countries have led to reduced demand from key export markets and cut off important trade routes. Foreign direct investment, which averaged 12.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) between 2003-2009, fell to 5.1% of GDP over the 2010-2017. Regional conflicts have interrupted the supply of gas from Egypt – forcing Jordan to import oil at a time of record prices, had a negative impact on tourism, and also provoked a massive influx of migrants and refugees. Failure to cope with 50.4% population growth between led to nine consecutive years (2008-2017) of negative growth rates in GDP per capita, resulting in a cumulative loss of 14.0% over the past decade (2009-2018). Debt to GDP ratios, which were at 55% by the end of 2009, have skyrocketed to 94%. Over the previous five years Jordan has undertaken a significant process of fiscal consolidation. The resulting reduction in fiscal impulse is among the largest registered in the aftermath of the Financial Crises, third only to Greece and Jamaica, and above Portugal and Spain. Higher taxes, lower subsidies, and sharp reductions in public investment have in turn furthered the recession. Within a context of lower aggregate demand, more consolidation is needed to bring debt-to-GDP ratios back to normal. The only way to break that vicious cycle and restart inclusive growth is by leveraging on foreign markets, developing new exports and attracting investments aimed at increasing competitiveness and strengthening the external sector. The theory of economic complexity provides a solid base to identify opportunities with high potential for export diversification. It allows to identify the existing set of knowhow, skills and capacities as signaled by the products and services that Jordan is able to make, and to define existing and latent areas of comparative advantage that can be developed by redeploying them. Service sectors have been growing in importance within the Jordanian economy and will surely play an important role in export diversification. In order to account for that, we have developed an adjusted framework that allows to identify the most attractive export sectors including services. Based on that adjusted framework, this report identifies export themes with a high potential to drive growth in Jordan while supporting increasing wage levels and delivering positive spillovers to the non-tradable economy. The general goal is to provide a roadmap with key elements of a strategy for Jordan to return to a high economic growth path that is consistent with its emerging comparative advantages.
  • Topic: Government, International Trade and Finance, Finance, Economy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan
  • Author: Semiray Kasoolu, Ricardo Hausmann, Tim O'Brien, Miguel Ajgel Santos
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Women in Jordan are excluded from labor market opportunities at among the highest rates in the world. Previous efforts to explain this outcome have focused on specific, isolated aspects of the problem and have not exploited available datasets to test across causal explanations. We develop a comprehensive framework to analyze the drivers of low female employment rates in Jordan and systematically test their validity, using micro-level data from Employment and Unemployment Surveys (2008-2018) and the Jordanian Labor Market Panel Survey (2010-2016). We find that the nature of low female inclusion in Jordan’s labor market varies significantly with educational attainment, and identify evidence for different factors affecting different educational groups. Among women with high school education or less, we observe extremely low participation levels and find the strongest evidence for this phenomenon tracing to traditional social norms and poor public transportation. On the higher end of the education spectrum – university graduates and above – we find that the problem is not one of participation, but rather of unemployment, which we attribute to a small and undiversified private sector that is unable to accommodate women’s needs for work and work-family balance.
  • Topic: Education, Gender Issues, Political Economy, Labor Issues, Women, Inequality
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan
  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Tim O'Brien, Miguel Angel Santos, Ana Grisanti, Semiray Kasoolu, Nikita Taniparti, Jorge Tapia, Ricardo Villasmil
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: In the decade 1999-2009, Jordan experienced an impressive growth acceleration, tripling its exports and increasing income per capita by 38%. Since then, a number of external shocks that include the Global Financial Crisis (2008-2009), the Arab Spring (2011), the Syrian Civil War (2011), and the emergence of the Islamic State (2014) have affected Jordan in significant ways and thrown its economy out of balance. Jordan’s debt-to-GDP ratio has ballooned from 55% (2009) to 94% (2018). The economy has continued to grow amidst massive fiscal adjustment and balance of payments constraints, but the large increase in population – by 50% between 2008 and 2017 – driven by massive waves of refugees has resulted in a 12% cumulative loss in income per capita (2010-2017). Moving forward, debt sustainability will require not only continued fiscal consolidation but also faster growth and international support to keep interest payments on the debt contained. We have developed an innovative framework to align Jordan’s growth strategy with its changing factor endowments. The framework incorporates service industries into an Economic Complexity analysis, utilizing the Dun and Bradstreet database, together with an evaluation of the evolution of Jordan’s comparative advantages over time. Combining several tools to identify critical constraints faced by sectors with the greatest potential, we have produced a roadmap with key elements of a strategy for Jordan to return to faster, more sustainable and more inclusive growth that is consistent with its emerging comparative advantages.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Women, GDP, International Development, Economic growth
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto
  • Abstract: The Reach Project is a research initiative based in the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and supported by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. They examine the successful delivery of social services to those who are hardest to reach. This case study examines how the Ministry of Social Development in Palestine designed, implemented, and continues to refine the Palestinian National Cash Transfer Program (PNCTP) to specifically reach those who are hard to reach.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Development, Poverty, Inequality, Social Services
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • 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
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Panel chairman Henriette Johansen explained that internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Nineveh Province experience multiple layers of barriers to their return, some of which are unarticulated or invisible in the milieu of societal concerns stemming from Nineveh’s history of violence and its ongoing challenges with security and public administration. Within Nineveh’s minority communities, historic legacies of socio-economic and political disenfranchisement, war, genocide, and foreign invasion have enervated the will to return. While 4.3 million IDPs have returned, 1.5 million still remain in displacement. Recent government measures, such as rapidly consolidating and closing IDP camps across Nineveh, have sent a new wave of IDPs into critical shelter and extreme living conditions. Expectation and hope for sustainable, voluntary return are diminishing, along with IDPs’ expectation that authorities will deliver on their promises. After protracted displacement, IDPs are feeling the push to integrate into their host communities or emigrate abroad. Johansen explained that, in the ensuing discussion, panelists would be solicited for any actions within their respective remits that could rectify this situation for their constituents. In his remarks, Nathanael Nizar Semaan praised the “great hope” that has sustained the Christian minority through a long history of injustice, difficulty, and persecution. Despite disappointing rates of return among the Christian community, he argued that his constituents feel rooted to their ancestral lands, and were among the first to attempt a return to their areas of origin in the Nineveh Plains following liberation. He highlighted the example of Qaraqosh, which has seen approximately 22,000 Christian returnees out of an original population of 50,000. Unfortunately, however, continued deficits in services, limited career opportunities, and a poor standard of living have rendered most returns unsustainable. Additionally, after years of persecution and inequality, governmental inaction in the face of political disputes and demographic change has enervated the confidence of Christian constituents in the federal government’s ability to provide safety and prosperity for their children. As a result, many have chosen to remain in the KRI or to migrate abroad. “Our country is bleeding. Many are leaving… it is very painful for us.” – Semaan He acknowledged that religious leaders have a responsibility to incentivize return and remind their constituents that they belong to Iraq, but noted that stymieing the flow of migration is impossible without sufficient political will, attention, and provision from the government. He urged the government to rectify its neglect of the disputed territories and provide practical solutions. “Our areas need to be given more,” he said. “Christians are like an olive tree that is cut and burned, but the root will appear and grow again. We are rooted to this ground, though we face different difficulties and […] persecution.” – Semaan Semaan stated that religious leaders have renewed their vows to serve their constituents. To support the implementation of Iraq’s National Action Plan (INAP) on UNSCR 1325, he emphasized the need for assistance and training from the international community, as the Church has very little experience rendering psychological treatment to women and children. He also urged the international community to expend significant effort in securing the inclusion of youth and providing opportunities for them to make positive contributions to Iraq’s reconstruction. He explained that, while the Church offers social activities, cultural events, and entertainment to engage with young people, it does not have the power to dissuade them from migration or offer them a prosperous life. “If we lose them,” he admitted, “we will vanish.” Finally, he highlighted the church’s involvement in housing reconstruction projects, and invited the partnership of engineers and economists to assist in the planning and strategizing process. Semaan concluded his remarks by encouraging a spirit of optimism. He emphasized that Christians consider all Iraqis their brothers, and noted that securing the lawful rights of the Christian minority need not come at the expense of other components. He promoted a vision of the future predicated on dignity and respect, and reassured listeners that “our common language will be the language of love.”
  • Topic: Migration, Refugees, Domestic politics, Displacement
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Sarah L. Edgecumbe
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The contemporary displacement landscape in Iraq is both problematic and unique. The needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq are many, particularly as protracted displacement becomes entrenched as the norm rather than the exception. However, minorities originating from the so called ‘Disputed Territories’ and perceived Islamic State (IS)-affiliates represent two of the most vulnerable groups of IDPs in Iraq. Iraqi authorities currently have a real opportunity to set a positive precedent for IDP protection by formulating pragmatic durable solutions which incorporate non-discriminatory protection provisions, and which take a preventative approach to future displacement. This policy paper analyses the contemporary displacement context of Iraq, characterized as it is by securitization of Sunni IDPs and returnees, as well as ongoing conflict and coercion within the Disputed Territories. By examining current protection issues against Iraq’s 2008 National Policy on Displacement, this paper identifies protection gaps within Iraq’s response to displacement, before drawing on the African Union’s Kampala Convention in order to make recommendations for an updated version of the National Policy on Displacement. These recommendations will ensure that a 2020 National Policy on Displacement will be relevant to the contemporary protection needs of Iraq’s most vulnerable IDPs, whilst also acting to prevent further conflict and displacement.
  • Topic: Security, Migration, Religion, Refugees, Displacement
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Roger Asfar
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: On 22 September 2018, a boat carrying 39 refugees sank while sailing illegally from the Lebanese coast towards Cyprus. Five-year old Syrian-Palestinian Khaled Nejme drowned in the incident, drawing attention to the plight of Palestinian refugees from Syria seeking refuge in Lebanon. Once considered lucky compared to Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries, Palestinian refugees from Syria are now experiencing secondary displacement and are among the most vulnerable refugee groups in Lebanon.1 This paper attempts to provide a better understanding of the attitudes toward the return of Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria. More specifically, the paper addresses the challenges faced by Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria’s Yarmouk camp and currently residing in Lebanon. Since the Syrian regime and its allies have retaken control of Yarmouk, and amidst increasing calls from Lebanon for the “voluntary return of refugees”, what are Syrian-Palestinian refugees’ prospects of return? What are some of the major obstacles preventing their return? And what are some of the basic conditions to be met for a truly voluntary return to be encouraged? To answer these questions, the authors conducted a series of interviews in Shatila camp and Ain el-Hilweh between 26 June and 16 September 2018.2 The interviews were constructed in a way that allowed ample space for the representation of different political positions, ideological orientations, social backgrounds, and age groups.
  • Topic: United Nations, Diaspora, Immigration, Refugees
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Syria
  • Author: Omar Said
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Four years into the war that engulfed Aden since March 2015, the city in the South of Yemen might look tranquil and safe in the eyes of foreign observers as the interim capital of the internationally recognized government of Abd Rabou Mansour Hadi. To its inhabitants, however, it is a satellite out of orbit with no institutions or a state to govern or uphold the rule of law and where civilians face many challenges daily. Civilians were relieved, in July 2015, when Popular Resistance Forces (a mix of different factions from Aden, independent, Salafists, reformers and followers of many factions from the Southern Movement) and forces of the Arab Coalition (led by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirate, UAE), defeated the Saleh-Houthi forces, expelling them from the city. They began to dream of a normal life and a fresh start for real institutions that will build a modern civilian state and remedy their decades long suffering, exclusion, marginalization, and inability to run their own city. Simultaneously, fighters raised the flags of Saudi Arabia and UAE along with the flag of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. Meanwhile, elements loyal to the Southern Movement renewed their demands of secession of Southern Yemen from the North. These hopes died shortly after, however. The mandate of the interim government intertwined with that of the National Council, and so did the interests of the Coalition states that sponsor these two bodies. As a result, Aden slipped into a state of insecurity with a multiplicity of armed militias and widespread corruption. This paper seeks to describe the fragmentation process of the Yemeni State, four years after the Coalition’s offensive to restore legitimate authority. It highlights the practices of Abd Rabou Mansour Hadi and his government in running the country and how rivalry between Saudi Arabia and its ally, the UAE, translated, on the ground, in the form of a contest for authority between the Interim Yemeni Government and the Transition Southern Council. The paper also highlights corruption, insecurity, and the rise of civilian protests against the status quo in Aden.
  • Topic: Corruption, United Nations, Fragile States, Protests, International Community
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, UAE
  • Author: Nadim El-Kak
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The latest Lebanese parliamentary elections took place a little over a year ago. In May 2018, eleven groups, comprised of 66 candidates (including 19 women) from independent and secular segments of civil society, formed a coalition called Kulluna Watani (we are all our nation) to challenge the hegemony of traditional political parties. Considering the increasing inefficiency and unaccountability of state institutions, and widespread public frustration with the performance of public institutions, one may have expected Lebanese voters to want to vote in a few fresh faces. Nonetheless, they overwhelmingly chose to re-elect the same parties and leaders. This paper examines why activists and progressive opposition groups who try to challenge entrenched sectarian politics have been failing. It analyses the institutional and repressive mechanisms, exercised by political elites, that determine patterns in voting behaviour and thwart the emergence of alternative forces. It also looks at shortcomings of political efforts by opposition groups and outlines recommendations for the future. The findings rely on fourteen original interviews with political activists conducted in December 2018 as well as a review of scholarship on sectarian politics.1
  • Topic: Government, Political Activism, Elections, Political and institutional effectiveness
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Beirut
  • Author: Ali Al-Mawlawi
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The decentralization agenda emerged in Iraq after 2003 as an imperative to create an internal balance of power that would mitigate against the rise of another authoritarian regime. By exploring the political motivations and calculations of elites, this paper sheds light on why devolution of powers to sub-national entities failed to bring about meaningful change to the daily lives of ordinary Iraqis. While administrative authorities have been largely devolved, fiscal decentralization lags due to resistance from concerned central authorities, leaving sub-national actors with limited capacity to exercise their newly afforded powers.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, State Formation, State Building, Decentralization
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Author: Bassma Kodmani
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Before the Syrian uprising morphed into a full-scale war, Syria was probably the most authoritarian regime in the Arab region, unequalled in the scale of its repressive practices except by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. Authoritarianism is hardly compatible with decentralization. An authoritarian government’s key concern is to spread the tentacles of its surveillance apparatus across all regions in order to exert full control over the lives of the citizens. A process of decentralization – in which power is genuinely devolved – is practically impossible, therefore, in an authoritarian system of governance. Yet equating centralization with authoritarianism and decentralization with democracy is an assertion that deserves discussion. Some democracies have functioned in a highly centralized manner. Perhaps, one of the best-known examples is France (on which the Syrian state was modelled) that remained highly centralized since the early days of the state formation almost 1000 years ago. The French revolution of 1789 upheld freedom and equality and announced a democratic system. The very idea of decentralization was rejected at the time in the name of equality understood as uniformity. Yet even France found it necessary to engage in some form of decentralization. Since the early 1980s, it engaged in a process of decentralization, mainly for administrative and financial efficiency. Although it continued to consider identity politics as dangerous for the unity of the nation, it was forced to concede to one particular identity-driven demand, that of the Corsicans, by designing a special status for the island.1 And decentralized systems do not necessarily produce democratic or more representative systems. Mexico is a case in point. Although it was always a federation, its political system remained a one-party rule for some seventy years before it transitioned to democracy in the early 2000s. Decentralization and democracy are, therefore, not inherently inseparable. However, a centralized system, even if democratic, inevitably reduces and often denies the specific identity of certain groups within society. It might operate in a democratic manner when national identity is homogeneous, but the world is composed of states where homogeneity is an exception. In diverse societies such as those of the Middle Eastern countries, centralization together with the demagogic discourse of authoritarian regimes using national cohesion as a pretext and brandishing foreign interference as a permanent threat, have served to deny diversity and basic rights of both individual citizens and specific communities. Syrian society faces a historic challenge and possibly an existential one: it needs to craft a model of decentralization as part of a new social contract while its national institutions are all but failing and its regional environment challenges the integrity of its territory and its sovereignty. Given the uncertainty shrouding the future of Syria, the paper is organized in two parts. The first lays out the discussion about decentralization based on the current reality of the Syrian regime in a scenario in which it regains control after having lived through nine years of gradual foundering of state institutions. The second part considers options for a new decentralized order in a context of democratic political transition. This is not to say that the first option is viable while the second is an ideal order for a fictitious future. On the contrary, the paper shows that the destruction of state institutions is a reality and a consequence of the conflict, that violence and other forms of resistance will continue, and that peace cannot be brought to the country under the existing political system. The second option is, therefore, a necessity which Syrians will need to define with the support of the international community. The paper lays out the process with concrete steps for achieving democratic decentralization.
  • Topic: Fragile/Failed State, Democracy, Decentralization , regionalism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Damascus
  • Author: Marie kortam
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Those who visited Palestinian camps in Lebanon last month could not have missed a new upsurge in the popular mobilization on Palestinian streets. Their enthusiasm can be sensed in the spirits of the youth, their chants, and round-the-clock occupation of public spaces. This upsurge in mobilization was not only the result of the Lebanese Labour Minister’s implementation of his plan1 to combat businesses employing foreign labour without a permit – after giving them one month to regularize their situation.2 It was also the outcome of an accumulated sense of frustration, injustice, humiliation, indignation, deprivation and finally, anger that crystallized in these latest rounds of collective political action. The question then remains: why have Palestinians in Lebanon reached a breaking point at this stage, and why did the movement take this shape? There is no doubt that this anger accumulated gradually. First, it arose from the political-security arrangement for Palestinians in Lebanon, along with the historical absence of a socio-political contract with the Lebanese state. Second, it is the outcome of the deprivation, oppression, racism, and discrimination against Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, which was finally exacerbated by international resolutions hostile to the Palestinian cause, threatening the refugee cause and the right of return. Moreover, the economic situation of Palestinian refugees has deteriorated and was further compounded after the USA cut off its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). However, alone these factors are not enough to fully explain this mobilization. These latest developments are also the product of a degree of practical awareness among the Palestinian youth and their discourse which explains their involvement in a movement demanding civil rights and an arrangement in which Palestinians are an agent of change against injustice. This movement is also proof of the existence of a new paradigm of the oppressed, who no longer identifies with the oppressors and becomes dependent on them, but instead seeks to break free from their oppression, and in so doing, spontaneously and effectively imposes a new social formula and project. This paper discusses the emergence of this popular mobilization and its transformation into a social movement, the challenges it has faced, and how its actors built a common framework for action to address their status as oppressed. It relies on field interviews – formal and informal – with actors and politicians, participatory observation, the analysis of organized groups, and contributions via WhatsApp and Facebook. The paper focuses on the movement in Ain al-Hilweh camp as one of the largest Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, with its political and security context that distinguishes it from other camps.
  • Topic: United Nations, Diaspora, Social Movement, Refugees, Social Media, Repression
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon
  • Author: Osamah Al-Rawhani
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Local governance has been viewed by academics, analysts and some political leaders in Yemen as a panacea to redress the excessive control of the central government, bring the state closer to its citizens and provide those citizens with socio-economic and political stability. Federalism, as a form of local governance, was adopted at the end of the National Dialogue Conference in 2013-2014, although there were disagreements over the number of regions and the federal map. It was posited as a viable vehicle for power-sharing and decentralization in Yemen and is considered a likely outcome after the conflict. However, there are several prerequisites for the effective devolution of power that are not yet in place in Yemen, most prominently the existence of strong consolidated central institutions. In short: it is a mistake to view federalism as a means of achieving stability, rather than a future goal once stability has been achieved.
  • Topic: Democracy, State Formation, Decentralization , Federalism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Sana'a
  • Author: Anis Chérif-Alami
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: This paper examines the uprisings that have been taking place in different parts of Lebanon since 17 October relying on direct observation of the protests and interviews with various participants. Acknowledging that the protest movement and the situation in Lebanon remain highly dynamic, it proposes some elements to better understand and contextualize the movement. Although Lebanon generally avoided the wave of protests that swept the Arab world in 2011, there were early attempts to criticize the sectarian system and dysfunctional public services. The paper outlines what current events owe to a recent history of protests in Lebanon, in particular, the short-lived 2011 protests demanding the fall of the sectarian regime and the 2015 “you stink” movement (Tala’at Rihatkum) which denounced the public mismanagement of garbage and called for accountability for political corruption. While the current protests have some roots in past citizens’ activism, it is also clear that there are new aspects that continue to evolve as protesters experiment day by day with new ways of doing politics.
  • Topic: Corruption, Social Movement, Political Activism, Arab Spring, Protests
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Beirut
  • Author: Hashim Al-Rikabi
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The stability and legitimacy of the post-2003 Iraqi state are undermined by the provision of poor basic services, soaring unemployment, and political paralysis. This has driven ordinary citizens towards waves of protests that peaked in August 2018 and re-surged again in October 2019, demonstrating that without addressing the underlying causes behind these protests, much larger and more aggressive protest waves may shock the system, again and again, threatening its existence. The initial phase of the 2019 protests was similar to the first period of 2018 protests (April - June) in terms of their small scale, their focus on specific issues such as unemployment, and their largely peaceful nature. But quickly, within a few weeks, the 2019 protests escalated with protesters blocking key economic facilities and attacking government buildings and political parties’ headquarters. This escalation mirrored the trajectory of the 2018 which also intensified over time, but what is striking is the speed with which the 2019 intensified and moved from socio-economic focused demands to demands for fundamental political reforms, including new elections. While the involvement of political actors was evident in efforts by politicians, such as Muqtada Al-Sadr, to try to ride the wave of protests as well as the crackdown on protests by armed elements of certain political parties, the 2019 mobilization has also shown the emergence of a new generation of protesters and the rising role of new social actors, such as professional groups. The increasing frequency of protests since 2018 and their widening and deepening scope suggest that the post-2003 Iraqi governance model, with its stalemate between the different political actors, needs a fundamental new formulation that is able to renew trust in a reformed political system. The stalemate could either develop into genuine reforms to address the ills of the post-2003 political and economic system, away from ethno-sectarian politics, or descend into violence.
  • Topic: Imperialism, Social Movement, Protests, State Building
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Author: Fares Halabi
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Only a few hours after the start of 17 October 2019 demonstrations in Lebanon, protesters started to demand the overthrow of the regime under the slogan “all [of them] means all [of them]”. What does this slogan mean in Lebanon today, eight years after it was first launched? And how has the discourse of overthrowing the regime developed since 2011? When I was a university student in 2011, I took part in several demonstrations calling for the overthrow of the regime. However, it quickly dawned on me that the immediate conditions for such a demand were not then available, making the slogan, without it being adapted to the Lebanese context, inappropriate relative to other countries. In this paper, I aim to revisit the 2011 campaign to critique it and highlight the reasons behind its failure. This is pertinent given its close affiliation with what have been observed in Lebanon since 17 October. In the last few weeks, I have had conversations with six people1 who were active in the 2011 campaign and are involved in the current revolution. We discussed their understanding of the developments in the Lebanese political landscape since 2011, the accumulated experiences that have pushed the Lebanese public to revolt against the regime in a broad mobilisation that has been ongoing for more than two months. We discussed how the slogan “overthrowing the regime” has developed into its current formulation of “all means all” which is met with broad public resonance.
  • Topic: Social Movement, Arab Spring, Protests, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Beirut
  • Author: Bassma Kodmani
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Collapse of the Syrian state is largely a reality. Both Russia and Iran, Assad’s allies, know he is not the guarantor of the continuity of the state any more but continue to hold on to him to sign off on projects that consolidate their control. This paper argues that instead of a failed state, a two-headed system has emerged, with Iran and Russia each pushing for their own vision of the country.
  • Topic: Imperialism, Fragile/Failed State, Authoritarianism, Military Intervention, Repression
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Iran, Middle East, Syria, Damascus
  • Author: Bircan Polat
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV)
  • Abstract: Following the March 31, 2019 local elections, the indebtedness of local governments has once again emerged as a subject of public debate in Turkey. Local government expenditures took center stage in these debates, yet much less attention has been paid to potential sources of revenue for local governments. Generation of internal sources of municipal revenue is no less important than the issue of expenditures as it pertains to the relative financial independence of municipalities from the central government. Among potential sources of municipal revenue, a significant one is taxation on urban (land) rent which occurs as a result of a few distinct processes: transformation of agricultural land into urban land due to population increase, migration, industrialization; zoning change that renders the property more valuable due to a number of potential factors such as greater proximity to parks, attractions, or highway systems.
  • Topic: Governance, Economy, Tax Systems, Public Sector, Urban
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Sean Foley
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: MAAS alum Sean Foley (‘00) discusses his forthcoming book, Changing Saudi Arabia: Art, Culture, and Society in the Kingdom.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Gender Issues, Arts, Natural Resources, Culture, Authoritarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, North America, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Kim Ameen, Hans van der Beek
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: Prior to the emergence of the oil industry and the subsequent rapid agricultural expansion of the 1970s, there has been little to no concern about water for agriculture in Saudi Arabia since prehistoric times. However, a rapid expansion—a so-called “agricultural revolution”—introduced rampant use of highly water-consuming irrigation systems, mainly by center pivots, without any limitation. This has greatly compromised the future of nonrenewable water availability for agriculture. Current measures to alleviate the dilemma of water scarcity and sustainable agricultural development for the country have been challenging not only due to technical difficulties, but also because of overarching ideological and political factors. Based on the concluding findings in this article, a holistic approach combining both technical and sociopolitical recommendations is proposed, and is presented for alleviating the predicament.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Science and Technology, Water
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf
  • Author: Jonathan Benthall
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: This paper records and interprets the rise and decline of Saudi overseas humanitarian charities, with special reference to the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO or IIROSA). Founded in 1975, IIROSA grew as a vehicle for a distinctively Saudi version of Islamic humanitarianism. By the mid-1990s, IIROSA was the world’s largest Islamic charity. Following the dismissal of its secretary general in 1996, and the crises of 9/11 and the Al-Aqsa Intifada, which cast a cloud to varying degrees over nearly all Islamic charities, IIROSA’s activities were reduced but efforts were made to revive them. In 2017, however, the kingdom’s new policy of centralization, and its disengagement from the “comprehensive call to Islam,” resulted in a remodeling of IIROSA’s role in support of the kingdom’s diplomatic interests but marginalized and stripped of religious content.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Humanitarian Aid, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: Social Currents in North Africa is a multi-disciplinary analysis of the social phenomena unfolding in the Maghreb today. The contributors analyse the genealogies of contemporary North African behavioral and ideological norms, and offer insights into post-Arab Spring governance and today’s social and political trends. The book situates regional developments within broader international currents, without forgoing the distinct features of each socio-historical context. With its common historical, cultural, and socio-economic foundations, the Maghreb is a cohesive area of study that allows for greater understanding of domestic developments from both single-country and comparative perspectives. This volume refines the geo-historical unity of the Maghreb by accounting for social connections, both within the nation-state and across political boundaries and historical eras. It illustrates that non-institutional phenomena are equally formative to the ongoing project of post-colonial sovereignty, to social construction and deployments of state power, and to local outlooks on social equity, economic prospects, and cultural identity.
  • Topic: Post Colonialism, Social Movement, Arab Spring, Protests
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, North Africa
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: This report provides a summary of the "Environmental Politics in the Middle East" research initiative, which explores the geopolitics of natural resources in the Middle East in an attempt to expand the focus to include the region’s many natural resources other than natural gas, such as land, air, water, and food. Some of the issues under investigation include a focus on water scarcity, which is a global issue but one that is particularly acute in the Middle East; its impacts are examined through a case study on Yemen. Food security is studied in the case of Syria, which before the civil war began, in 2011, was one of the region’s notable food exporters. Aside from acute food shortages within Syria, the conflict has had ripple effects on the region and has led to rising food prices in neighboring states, such as Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Natural Resources, Food
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Yemen, Syria, Jordan
  • Author: Henry Sokolski (ed)
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: With the Trump Administration’s announcement last fall that it intended to negotiate a civil nuclear cooperative agreement with Saudi Arabia, a debate has ensued over how restrictive any such agreement should be over the enrichment of uranium and the reprocessing of plutonium. These nuclear activities can bring a country within weeks of making its first batch of bombs. This announcement immediately raised the question, how much economic sense it made for Saudi Arabia to invest in nuclear power. It also raised a number of security questions. Should the United States allow Riyadh to reprocess and enrich even though these activities could bring Saudi Arabia within weeks of acquiring nuclear weapons? If Washington acceded to this demand by Riyadh, what would be the implications for the terms of nuclear cooperation with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Morocco? How would such an agreement impact efforts to tighten the terms of our nuclear understanding with Iran? Would such a permissive deal with Riyadh make it more difficult to say no to Seoul’s demand that we allow them to enrich uranium? All of these questions and more are discussed in this volume’s four sections
  • Topic: International Affairs, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Yasir Kuoti
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Years after toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, corruption remains one of the top concerns of Iraqi citizens. It has, thus, become a tradition for Iraqi governments to champion a resolve for ridding the country of this endemic. The government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is no exception. In his press briefing on 23 November 2017, al-Abadi announced his intention to launch a crosscutting anti-corruption campaign, promising an ultimate “triumph over corruption as Iraq did with Daesh.” While laudable, such efforts will prove substantially difficult and would require a national program that upsets how major aspects of Iraqi politics have been practiced since 2003.
  • Topic: Corruption, Government, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Author: Kamaran Palani
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Following the Islamic State’s (IS) occupation of Iraqi territories in June 2014 more than 3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) fled their homes in search for a secure place. Of these, around 1,3 million found refuge in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). In parallel to new waves of displacement, Iraqis were also choosing to migrate abroad. In 2015, Iraqis were among the top three nationalities reaching Europe through the Mediterranean routes, after Syrians and Afghans (UNHCR 2016b, 34). Besides displacement and emigration, a large number of IDPs have returned to their place of origin since 2017. As the process intensifies, the security, political and economic conditions of the liberated areas still remain unstable and unpredictable. This report provides policy recommendations based on the results of the research study titled “Drivers for onward migration: the case of Iraqi IDPs in the Kurdistan Region leaving Iraq”, which was conducted between May and November 2017. In it, we addressed the questions: what mechanisms are responsible for explaining why IDPs living in the KRI want to either stay, emigrate or return to their places of origin? and what are the relationships between displacement, emigration and return in the context of Iraq? To address these questions, we employed both quantitative and qualitative analyses methods including: (a) evaluating 500 questionnaires distributed among IDPs in the KRI (Erbil, Duhok and Suleimaniyah governorates) between May and June 2017; (b) conducting 30 semi-structured interviews with IDPs in the KRI between June and July 2017, and (c) discussing preliminary results of the study during a workshop in Erbil on 23 July 2017 with local, national and international actors, including governmental and non-governmental organizations. The data indicates that, although slightly more than half of the sample wish/plan to leave Iraq (55%), only a minority of the subjects (23%) actually developed a concrete plan to do so. Emigration was most appealing to those ages 26–35 and among those with no or low levels of education. Moreover, Yazidis and Christians were more represented among those who wished or planned to leave Iraq. In addition, the most important pull factors point to the presence of family/relatives and friends along with the confidence of receiving refugee status upon arrival. Ultimately, IDPs perceptions of insecurity and lack of economic opportunities appear to be the most compelling reasons driving their wish/plan to emigrate. The data also suggests that IDPs’ perceptions towards the future political, economic and security situations in Iraq (expressed in the next five years) is the most relevant factor determining people’s emigration decision: within an overall negative assessment of the future of Iraq, IDPs wishing or planning to emigrate held a more pessimistic view compared to those who wanted to return or stay in displacement. Conversely, the study finds that socio-political (i.e., relations between IDPs and hosting communities) and socio-economic (i.e., income level and employment status) factors are less significant in determining IDPs’ wish/plan to leave the country. Where socio-political and socio-economic factors do not directly influence IDPs’ intentions, they however, contribute to a distressing sense of uncertainty prevalent among IDPs. Political, social and economic uncertainty overarchingly influences displacement, emigration and return in and from Iraq. Additionally, the Government of Iraq (GoI) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have not been capable of (or willing to) address such uncertainty. Rather, they have contributed to a governance of uncertainty best illustrated by the absence of a comprehensive framework for managing displacement and return in both the KRI and greater federal Iraq. In response, this study calls for the development of robust policies at the international, national and local levels which: a. Consider displacement in Iraq as a chronic condition versus a sudden crisis; b. Recognize how recurrent, protracted and unresolved displacement waves destabilize the region; c. Appreciate displacement as a diversified phenomenon. These findings stress the destabilizing and traumatic effects of displacement and the urgency of addressing them, thus, we recommend the following prioritized policy areas through which international, regional, national and local actors can contribute to solve, or at least mitigate, the negative impact of displacement: 1. Elaborate and implement a national policy framework for displacement capable of addressing its multiple manifestations; 2. Adopt facilitation (without active encouragement) measures that can decrease the prevalent uncertainty among the population; 3. Include displacement in the broader physical and social reconstruction plan for Iraq. The data for this report was collected in Spring/Summer 2017, and thus, describes a scenario that has changed following the events that took place in September and October 2017 (see Section 3). However, the findings and recommendations that the study identified appear as relevant today as they were pre- Referendum. Although the situation has changed, they support policy-recommendations that are urgently needed. The research project “Drivers for onward migration: t
  • Topic: Migration, Islamic State, Displacement, NGOs
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Khogir Wirya
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: With the military defeat of Islamic State (IS) militants in Mosul and other Iraqi territories, the Government of Iraq (GoI) is moving ahead with plans to stabilize violent environments, rebuild war-ravaged physical infrastructure, and restore vital services. Equally important is the need for developing a feasible national reconciliation strategy among the country’s various ethnic, religious, and social groups, through dialogue and trust-building mechanisms. In light of warm historical relations and significant political influence between Iraqi Kurds and Shi’ites, reconciliation between them is of paramount importance for lasting stability in the country. Indeed, in the absence of Erbil-Baghdad rapprochement, overcoming future political challenges will be very difficult. Towards that end, the Middle East Research Institute (MERI) and Al-Rafidain Centre for Dialogue (RCD) jointly organized a series of unofficial meetings involving representatives of Shi’ite political parties and a MERI-led Kurdish delegation between 28 February and 01 March 2018. Religious leaders, academics, political party representatives, members of parliament from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), Baghdad and Najaf attended the meetings, organized under the themes of “The Future of Governance in Iraq: Crises and Partnership Opportunities” and “The Role of Decision-makers and Political Elites in Building Confidence Among the Components of Iraqi Society.” The MERI-led delegation also visited the Marja’iya (Shi’ite religious authority) in al-Najaf city.
  • Topic: Religion, Islamic State, Political stability, Reconciliation
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan, Mosul
  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Ever since Saddam’s regime was toppled in 2003, Iraq has three competitive parliamentary elections in 2005, 2010 and 2014. In all of these, pre-election alliance building and post-election coalition building processes were fairly predictable given the confessional nature of Iraq’s political system. Essentially, the system is centered on a politically conventional power-sharing arrangement among the country’s three main ethno-sectarian powerhouses: Shi’ite Arab Muslims, Sunni Arab Muslims, and the Kurds. This arrangement has prompted small political parties to forge alliances with these confessional powerhouses. This time round, this trend is likely to continue in the upcoming elections scheduled on 12 May 2018, but perhaps on a smaller scale. What gravitates political entities are political expediency and nationalist sentiments. These two factors seem to be shaping and forming some alliances such as between secular and civil-minded parties, the Shiite Sadrist movement via Hizb Istaqama (the Integrity Party), and the Iraqi Communist party. On 22 January 2018, Iraqi legislators ratified a decision to hold much-debated anticipated parliamentary elections on 12 May 2018, thereby ending the stalemate by some lawmakers to postpone it. Iraq is at a crossroads, and much of what is at stake will depend on which of the 27 registered electoral alliances emerge as winners. The large number of alliances suggests that political entities are aware of the competitive advantages inherent to forming these, versus running independently. Indeed, because of Iraq’s particular parliamentarian arrangement, the 24 million eligible voters in the 18 national electoral districts, representing the country’s 18 governorates, will not be electing the next prime minister – they will, instead, be picking an electoral alliance, which will engage in post-election coalition building negotiations to nominate the prime minister and form the next government. While it is still premature to forecast the ultimate composition of the next government, it is most likely to be led by one of four viable options: Eitilaf al-Nasr (Victory Alliance) led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi; Eitilaf al-Wataniya (National Alliance) led by former Prime Minister Ayad Alawi; Eitilaf Dawlat al-Qanun (State of the Law Alliance) led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; and Tahaluf al-Fatah (Conquest Alliance) led by al-Hashd al-Sha’abi (Popular Mobilization Units) commander Hadi al-Ameri. However, given the unpopularity of Iraq’s political class, no single alliance is expected to win a majority of parliamentary seats, forcing the formation of a grand-coalition government. This, nevertheless, may help build broad-based support and legitimacy given Iraq’s oversized economic, security, and political challenges. Furthermore, the next election is expected to maintain the status quo due to the existence of potent structural forces inspired by political and electoral confessionalism. However, and encouragingly, the status quo may prove ephemeral in the face of internal divisions within the traditional confessional centers of power, the rising popular discontent with the quality of the existing democratic system and the limited progress it has made over the past fifteen years. It would be safe to say that an inclusive government can increase popular support, reduce the likelihood of ethno-sectarian civil war, minimise the influence of external powers, and bolster the nation’s attractiveness to foreign investors. In the long term, Iraq needs a government that is ambitiously reformist to transform the state’s political, electoral, and economic systems.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nationalism, Religion, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad, Kurdistan
  • 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: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Despite frequent digressions, the system of governance in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) has made significant progress. However, this has always been influenced by internal and external political, economic, and security dynamics. In parallel, the system has inherited aspects from the former Iraqi, Middle Eastern and other models of governance- resulting in the formation of unique system. Further developing and reforming the governing system in the KRI requires a tailor-made solution that takes into account Kurdistan’s historical, cultural, religious and geographical background. Clearly the achievements and progress of the Region in the past 26 years should not be underestimated; as the KRI is in a neighbourhood bedevilled with regional powers with political agendas as well as weak or failed states. In addition, the KRI faces existential threats from violent extremist forces using the pretext of religion or nationalism in attempt to destabilise the Region. However, the KRI’s own increasing weakness is in its governance, which poses the greatest threat to its fate and future. Hence, this research-based policy book aims (1) to identify the key structural and functional weaknesses in the KRI’s governance system, and (2) to provide a 10-year roadmap capable of addressing these weaknesses. This book is an extended policy-report, a product of extensive research based on in-depth face-to-face interviews and roundtable meetings with more than 200 experts, including policy-makers, decision-makers and academics across the KRI’s governorates. In particular, the report focuses on reforming the management structures and mechanisms needed to promote the rule of law and create an environment conducive to achieving good governance, through: Adopting a transitional constitution for the KRI to serve as a framework and roadmap until the issue of the disputed territories is resolved. Transferring the political decision-making authority into the key democratic institutions. Enhancing legitimacy in the decision-making process. Maintaining the independence of government Consolidating the legislative, executive and judiciary institutions so they become sources of independent authority rather than tools for political interests. Amending dated laws and filling the numerous legislative gaps. Devolving power through administrative decentralisation and empowering local government. Enhancing the decision-making process and minimising bureaucracy. Strengthening institutions through restructuring and optimisation of staff numbers and performance. Enhancing institutional audit, monitoring and performance assessment. . Creating a tailor-made system for quality assurance, accreditation and performance management. This book provides detailed policy recommendations with the aim of introducing radical changes in the governance system, ensuring strengthened institutional structures, and empowering leadership and decision-making processes. The recommendations are designed to enhance the functionality and resilience of KRI’s system of governance in the face of future threats and crises. The public and the political leadership (including those in power and the opposition) have no choice but to engage heavily in nation- and state-building in the KRI with clear will and determination in order to achieve unity and prosperity. Left unaddressed, the status quo will not achieve the legitimate expectations of the people and will ultimately lead to failure of the entire governing system. Indubitably, reform and institutionalisation cannot be actualised in one institution or one sector of governance alone. Rather, these processes require a comprehensive and overreaching approach involving not only the public, but also the governing and opposition parties as well as the civil society.
  • Topic: Reform, Political structure, Institutionalism, State Building
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Ari Kattan
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: After Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets at northern Israel during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War, the Israeli government began a crash program to find a technological solution to the rocket threat. The result was Iron Dome, which shot down its first rocket on April 7, 2011, and saw large-scale combat during wars in 2012 and 2014. The system has been hailed in Israel and worldwide as a success, with the Israeli military claiming a 90 percent interception rate. Some American defense commentators have even touted Iron Dome as evidence in favor of ballistic missile defense. However, serious questions remain about Iron Dome’s true technical efficacy, both in terms of its past performance and how it is likely to perform in the future under different conditions. Because so much about Iron Dome is classified, information provided by the Israeli military cannot be independently verified. Analyses performed by outside experts—both those questioning Iron Dome’s efficacy and those defending the Israeli government’s claims—are inconclusive. Assuming for the sake of argument that Iron Dome did, in fact, perform as advertised during its previous engagements, it is far from certain that it will be as successful in future engagements, where the volume of rocket fire will be higher and the rockets more accurate. This paper argues that Israel may have already reached “peak Iron Dome,” and the system’s military and political benefits will decrease in future wars until another technological breakthrough is made on rocket defense. This is not to say that Iron Dome was not worth the cost and should not have been procured. But expectations about Iron Dome from the Israeli military, Israeli civilians, and interested parties abroad should be tempered. If they are not, Iron Dome’s decreased success rate in future wars may pose political problems for Israel domestically and give Israel’s adversaries a decisive propaganda victory.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Missile Defense, Hezbollah, Propaganda, Anti-Semitism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • 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: Janko Bekić
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: After seven years the war in Syria is nearing its completion, even though the result will almost certainly not be a decisive victory by either side, but rather a frozen con�lict and unstable peace dictated by the regional and global powers embroiled in the con�lict. From a political scientist’s point of view, the most interesting feature of the war in Syria has been its gradual transformation from a failed revolution to oust president Bashar al-Assad and introduce democratic rule to a civil war between regime loyalists and a myriad of local as well as foreign islamist factions, and from there to a war on terrorism concentrated on eradicating Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s murderous and enslaving Islamic State. In its last phase, starting in late 2017, the war in Syria has mutated into a textbook example of proxy warfare in which the exhausted belligerents are fully dependent on their external sponsors and �ight mainly to accomplish geopolitical interests and goals of outside actors.
  • Topic: Civil War, Terrorism, Conflict, Repression
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Alimar Lazkani
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Syrian Army has inherited a few of the norms and customs the French used for running army affairs following the French occupation. These did not include any provisions on regulating the army. After the Baa’th Party came to power, particularly after Hafez Assad had assumed office, the norms and customs guaranteeing minimum rights for army soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and officers faded gradually, leaving room for cronyism and allegiance to individuals and to the regime as the sole guarantor for the military to gain their rights. Leaders of military units became almost governors of their own units where nothing could take place without their blessings The Russians became fully in charge of the Syrian Army and started to instil rules and regulations that would ensure discipline and transform the army to a professional force capable of actual missions on the ground. Such rules included entrenching among Syrian soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and officers’ allegiance to Russian military officers and meant to subdue and prevent them from exercising their authority. This has established the Russians as the de facto leaders in the minds of members of the Syrian army. This has mainly shifted the responsibility for all the atrocities committed by the Assad forces under the Russian leadership to the Russians together with the regime’s officers and leaders. Despite their inability to make decisions, they are responsible, in terms of political structure and posturing, for all cases of genocide, chemical attacks, displacement, starvation and other violations. It has therefore become difficult in the Syrian context to separate between the Russian leadership and the Syrian Army, except in terms of differentiating between the leader and the follower, a divide that Russia has been working on consolidating in the media and in its diplomacy as an entity “assisting to achieve peace and combat terrorism”, while it undoubtedly deserves the description of “occupier” with its ability to run a lot of important issues on Syrian soil.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Genocide, Political structure, Military Intervention
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Isam al Khafaji
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The 12 May Iraqi elections – the fourth since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein – provided several surprises and contradictions for Iraq’s political landscape. Primary among them was the unprecedented objections to and questioning of the results as announced by the Independent High Electoral Commission – a central focus of this paper. Previous election cycles witnessed objections and complaints, yet none reached an extent that would damaging the clean bill issued by national and international organizations or the Federal Court’s validation of the results. Criticism of electoral transparency reached a point where the Council of Ministers was obliged to create a “higher security committee” to investigate accusations sent to the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), and the United Nations representative in Iraq to send a letter calling on the IHEC to do a manual ballot counting of an arbitrary number of ballot boxes to ensure conformity with electronic ballot counting adopted for the first time this year. This multi-stage drama has reached the point where the Parliament decided, in an extraordinary session, to freeze the IHEC and assign a committee of nine judges to replace it, as well as to cancel the votes of internally displaced persons (approximately 3 million) and of Iraqis abroad (around 1.5 million). Therefore, any interpretation of the current election results must be cautioned with the knowledge that they are subject to change. The results most in question are from several predominantly Sunni governorates (such as Anbar and Salaheddin), Kurdish governorates (such as Sulaymaniyah, Erbil, and Dohuk), or ethnically mixed regions (such as Kirkuk) – where Arabs, Turks, and Kurds are in multiple ongoing disputes. However, the final decisions taken with regards to these appeals will not change the overall results as there is no serious questioning of the accuracy of the results in predominantly Shia governorates, which constitute the majority of Iraq’s population. That most of Iraq’s post-2003 prominent political movements resorted to unprecedented election rigging in 2018 is a tacit acknowledgement of the loss of trust they incurred before massive sectors of their electorates, a trend that has been observed by many for quite some time. Similarly, the public’s loss of confidence in the political class is also manifest in the alarming decline in voting rates, despite the high stakes of this year’s elections. Out of 24.5 million Iraqis eligible to vote, less than 11 million (44.5%) voted. Participation rates in all previous elections – except for governorate council elections – exceeded 60%. This low turnout translates the frustration of many voters at the possibility of changing the political establishment, despite changes in the political parties’ formation and election lists. Contrary to previous elections, where forces of Shia political Islam led by the Islamic Dawa Party were guaranteed to win, the 2018 elections involved bitter conflict among different political visions, each with serious consequences regarding Iraq’s future, and the form of the state to be rebuilt after the destruction wrought by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and the policies of previous governments. However, most voters saw the fierce electoral competition as merely a repetition of the same faces, stances, and policies.
  • Topic: Islam, Elections, Geopolitics, Kurds
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad, Kurdistan
  • Author: Nayla Moussa
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: On 6 May 2018, Lebanon had its first legislative elections in nine years. But what was celebrated as a “victory for democracy” may have been merely a game of musical chairs between existing political actors. The elections may even be seen as a setback, with the return of major figures from the era under Syrian presence. For Lebanon, simply holding the elections – considered routine in most democracies – was seen as a victory. Parliament had extended its mandate three times since the last elections in 2009. Many obstacles had prevented the elections from taking place including the fragile security balance; the war in Syria and its polarization of Lebanese politics support for the Assad regime; the direct involvement of Hezbollah in Syria; and finally, a lack of consensus between major political parties and figures on a new electoral law. This last issue was the most crucial as the 2018 law emerged as a mix of elements designed to please all parties. Its key tenets were proportional representation and a division of electoral districts that satisfied most political actors. This paper explores the lessons learned from these elections and analyzes specific points such as the electoral law, political debate, and post-election perspectives.
  • Topic: Religion, Social Movement, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, Beirut
  • 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: Chiara Ayad
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: This paper lays out fundamental issues about transparency in legislative processes and government accountability in establishing legal frameworks for the protection of citizens in the Palestinian context. It addresses how a protective citizen-centered cyber-security law that seeks to improve citizens’ digital security can become a tool for quashing civil dissent and silencing political opposition. Certainly, the Israeli government’s practices of mass surveillance and control of ICT infrastructure limit the protective capacity of Palestinian cybersecurity measures. However, this paper will not focus on the role of the Israeli government but rather on the role the Palestinian government has had in increasing its citizens fear of surveillance and insecurity on digital platforms. By examining the Palestinian Authority’s first cybercrime legislation, Law no. (16), the paper will discuss how such measures have backlashed, negatively impacting civil liberties and the general political climate. It will also discuss the role civil society organizations had in pressuring the government to issue new cybercrime legislation, law no. (10).
  • Topic: Cybersecurity, Surveillance, Accountability, Transparency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza, West Bank
  • Author: Alimar Lazkani
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: By monopolizing political, economic and social life in Syria, the Assad regime has barred the emergence and growth of independent, popular or influential local leaders and equated voicing reservations or being neutral towards its policies to opposition. With the outbreak of the revolution, the rules of loyalty to the regime have not changed for fear of reprisal or loss of opportunity. The opening of the market to large businesses have fed the ambitions of small entrepreneurs, making them more loyal. Neutrality and reservations have come from opponents who are waiting for the opportunity to organize, and from some cultural and artistic actors. This paper draws a rich map of the political, economic, cultural and religious elites of the Syrian coastal area and the extent to which they can become an actor able to build a national inclusive project for post-war Syria.
  • Topic: Civil War, Social Movement, Revolution, Dictatorship
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Damascus
  • Author: Bassma Kodmani
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Eight years of a high intensity conflict in Syria resulted in the forcible displacement of over half of the population of the country, some internally, while over six million others fled outside, causing the most severe refugee crisis the world has known since World War II. Little is written however on the estimated 18 million Syrians who have been living abroad for years, often decades. These Syrians emigrated in waves and settled in some 30 different countries worldwide, including in the most remote lands of South America and the Caribbean islands. Together with the refugees who fled as a consequence of the conflict, the number of Syrians outside the country is now three times higher than those living inside. This is not specific to Syrians. The number of Palestinians, Lebanese, Armenians and, of course, Jews scattered across continents is also three to four times higher than those inside Palestinian occupied territories, Lebanon, Armenia or Israel. But the Syrian conflict and its toll on civilians has undoubtedly triggered a new awareness of the existence of a strong Syrian diaspora which had, so far, kept a rather low profile. To the stories of suffering and misery about refugees, diaspora communities oppose inspiring stories of the successful integration of individuals and families in their host societies. The Syrian diaspora is no exception. Its story contrasts with the dire situation of desperate boat people and helpless refugees. In general, the Syrian diaspora is economically self-sufficient and composed of well-integrated communities spreading across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This report is the result of a collective effort to draw the first comprehensive picture of the de-territorialized Syrian people encompassing the old diaspora and the recent refugees. Co-authored by 13 experts, it describes the socio-economic and cultural features of the old diaspora communities (a subject largely under-researched by scholars) and captures the fast moving but very uneven process of transformation of recent refugees into a new component of the Syrian diaspora. Scholarly research and interviews with key members of the diaspora in their different living contexts reveal the considerable effort that the diaspora has mobilized to support Syrians during the conflict and its potential to be a major player in the reconstruction and development of Syria when the conflict ends.
  • Topic: Civil War, Diaspora, Immigration, Refugees, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Middle East, South America, Syria, North America
  • Author: Firas Haj Yehia
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Arab Republic of Egypt has attracted displaced Syrians despite difficulties in accessing the country. Syrian investment activity began to expand and spread over the past two years in a variety of different fields: companies, restaurants, factories, and other professions in the areas in which Syrians reside. Syrians mostly live in the cities of Obour, 6th of October, Alexandria, and 10th of Ramadan, and the Egyptian government therefore allocated Syrians a piece of land to build a Syrian industrial zone. Sisi’s rise to power in Egypt has played a role in changing the official discourse towards Syrians, and in framing their political and cultural activities. The evolution of the situation in Syria also played a role in reshaping the mechanisms of interaction between the owners of capital, which will shape the forms and mechanisms of investment in Syria after the end of the conflict.
  • Topic: Diaspora, Geopolitics, Refugees, Immigrants
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Syria, Egypt
  • Author: Cecilia Baeza
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: This paper examines the stance taken by the Syrian diaspora in Latin America vis-à-vis the war in Syria and how it envisions its aftermaths. It builds on an ethnographic field research and analysis carried out between 2011 and 2014 in Argentina and Brazil, and expands its scope by including a questionnaire prepared by ARI on the diaspora’s future role in the reconstruction Syria in a post-conflict scenario. The questionnaire has been sent to Syrian immigrants and descendants from Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. The first section examines the patterns of Syrian emigration to Latin America and its diasporization process under the influence of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Ba’ath. The second section shows how those historical elements have impacted the diaspora’s attitude towards the conflict in Syria. The last section analyzes the answers to the questionnaire and identifies the main topics of shared interest.
  • Topic: Civil War, Diaspora, Refugees, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Brazil, Argentina, Latin America, Syria, Mexico, Chile, Damascus
  • Author: Tamirace Fakhoury
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Lebanon, a small republic of 6 million inhabitants, is both an ‘emigration prone’ country and a key destination for refugee movements and migrant workers. The presentation will specifically concentrate on Lebanon’s complex relationships with its diaspora communities. After reviewing Lebanon’s history of emigration, it will unpack the Lebanese diaspora’s complex interactions with war and post-war politics. While Lebanese diaspora communities are heavily engaged in their country’s development, economic, community and political activities, the presentation will show that their involvement does not challenge the nature of Lebanon’s sectarian-based model of governance. Rather the political fragmentation of Lebanese abroad replicates and perpetuates modes of sectarian mobilization. Understanding Lebanon’s fragmented “diasporic field” requires accounting for the state’s policy making towards its diaspora communities. The Lebanese state has so far not succeeded in developing an institutionalized policy making apparatus to channel Diasporas’ contributions nor has it extended substantial rights to its diaspora. It remains to be seen whether, and if so how, the recent extension of extraterritorial voting rights would augur a new era of diaspora involvement in Lebanese politics.
  • Topic: Development, Diaspora, Immigration, voting rights
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Asia, Lebanon, Beirut
  • Author: Mohamed Wazif
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The spectacular political rise of Islamist forces in several Arab countries over the past few years was one of the outcomes of the Arab spring, which included a massive protest movement in Morocco in 2011. This rise, accompanied by several radical and extremist manifestations, raised concerns among civil and political actors about power-sharing and the future of democracy and human rights at this pivotal stage in the history of a people who had recently come to reject many forms of tyranny and oppression. A history of confrontations between Islamists and human rights activists intensified these concerns. This paper examines the relationship between Morocco’s Islamists and the human rights movement through the most prominent historical milestones and controversies. It illustrates the dynamics and evolution of how Islamists operated within the human rights discourse from positions within government or in civil society organizations.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Social Movement, Democracy, Arab Spring
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Morocco, Rabat
  • Author: John Mark Shorack
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Pal-Think For Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: The United States government under President Trump recently announced the withdrawal of monetary aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, commonly referred to as UNRWA. This is a major blow to UNRWA’s finances considering the United States’ yearly contribution’s amounted to one-third of their budget. Since UNRWA’s founding it has been a leading force providing support of Palestinian refugees across the Middle East region mainly providing education and emergency medical assistance.
  • Topic: Education, International Affairs, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • 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
  • Author: Stig Jarle Hansen, Mohamed Husein Gaas, Ida Bary
  • Publication Date: 09-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Although it may seem that the Muslim Brotherhood has weakened since the onset of the "Arab Winter" in 2013 and onward, organizations with their origins in the Brotherhood still have access to power in countries as diverse as Somalia, Bahrain, Morocco, and Yemen, and might regain power in other countries as well. Most Brotherhood-affiliated movements are committed to some form of democracy, unlike many of their rivals in the Middle East. Even the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have sought allies among Brotherhood affiliates, despite banning a majority of affiliated organizations.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Cecilia Jacob
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Australian National University Department of International Relations
  • Abstract: On 28–29 October 2016, the Department of International Relations at The Australian National University, along with the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect at the University of Queensland, and with support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, hosted the conference Implementing the Responsibility to Protect: Domestic Processes and Foreign Assistance. The conference was attended by academics, including leading experts in the field, and members and representatives of a wide range of government agencies, the diplomatic community, international organisations, and civil society organisations. Two distinguished keynotes were delivered by the Honorable Gareth Evans, ANU Chancellor and co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), and Ivan Šimonović, Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect to the UN Secretary-General (SASG). The purpose of the conference was to bring together policymakers, practitioners, and scholars working on areas related to the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), primarily in the areas of state-level responsibility to prevent mass atrocities and protect civilian populations (what we call Pillar One of the R2P), and international assistance to states to fulfil this responsibility (Pillar Two). Recognising that the principle of R2P has gained significant traction within the international community since it was first introduced in the 2001 report The Responsibility to Protect, the conference sought to transcend longstanding debates over acceptance and legitimacy of R2P as a norm. Rather, it sought to clarify what the implementation of R2P entails for the policy and practitioner community, and to push forward new lines of academic inquiry and research that could support the implementation agenda. At its heart, R2P implementation is about strengthening the capacity of states to prevent atrocities from occurring in the first place. Prevention requires enhancing the resilience of societies that face the risk of atrocities through improved access to security, justice, and the rule of law. Effective mass atrocity prevention requires going local – understanding the dynamics of mass atrocities in their specific historical and social contexts; and going international – ensuring that international actors effectively align their priorities, strategies, and resourcing on atrocity prevention in ways that support local and national needs. This is an ambitious agenda, and experts from a range of fields were invited to address the practical implications of implementing R2P across numerous sites. The central themes included atrocity prevention, international accountability, human rights, international humanitarian law, justice for legacies of violence, foreign policy, development cooperation, peacekeeping, and civil–military assistance. The conference brought together different communities working on aspects that support the goals of R2P in order to enhance knowledge across thematic divides, and contributed to clarifying the practical implications that commitment to R2P implementation entails for these communities across the spectrum. This report contains the text of the keynote speeches, and condensed summaries of the panel discussions. These can be read together to provide a comprehensive synthesis of the debates occurring across the spectrum, or can be read as stand-alone sections for those with specific interest in a particular aspect of the R2P implementation.
  • Topic: Genocide, Human Rights, International Cooperation, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Asia, North Korea, Philippines, Syria, Congo
  • Author: Masoomeh Khandan, Lant Pritchett
  • Publication Date: 11-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: A long-standing literature in the sociology of organizations (e.g., DiMaggio and Powell 1983) suggests that, as change agents face uncertainty about actions and outcomes, they often seek legitimacy through isomorphism: adopting structures, policies and reforms similar (at least in appearance) to those deemed successful elsewhere. We examine history’s most rapid reduction of fertility—from 8.4 in 1985 to 2.4 in 2002, in rural Iran—as an example of successful autonomous reform. The Iranian state, which was self-consciously cut off from nearly all of the traditional vectors of global isomorphism, initiated a successful behavioral change in a domain (family planning) perhaps unexpected for an Islamic state. We describe and explain the Iranian approach, in particular the rural program, contrasting it with the global strategy of adopting universal "best practices."
  • Topic: Governance, Health Care Policy, Reform, Public Policy
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Jeffrey Frankel
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: The paper proposes an exchange rate regime for oil-exporting countries. The goal is to achieve the best of both flexible and fixed exchange rates. The arrangement is designed to deliver monetary policy that counteracts rather than exacerbates the effects of swings in the oil market, while yet offering the day-to-day transparency and predictability of a currency peg. The proposal is to peg the national currency to a basket, but a basket that includes not only the currencies of major trading partners (in particular, the dollar and the euro), but also the export commodity (oil). The plan is called Currency-plus-Commodity Basket (CCB). The paper begins by fleshing out the need for an innovative arrangement that allows accommodation to trade shocks. The analysis provides evidence from six Gulf countries that periods when their currencies were “undervalued”, in the sense that the actual foreign exchange value lay below what it would have been under the CCB proposal, were periods of overheating as reflected in high inflation and of external imbalance as reflected in high balance of payments surpluses. Conversely, periods when the currencies were “overvalued,” in the sense that their foreign exchange value lay above what it would have been under CCB, featured unusually low inflation and low balance of payments. These results are suggestive of the implication that the economy would have been more stable under CCB. The last section of the paper offers a practical blueprint for detailed implementation of the proposal.
  • Topic: Economics, Oil, Exchange Rate Policy, Commodities, Currency Basket
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Paola Sartori, Alessandra Scalia
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The research that forms the basis of this study aims to address women’s roles within peace operations, as well as their contribution to security and peace-building. Based on Italy’s contribution to the NATO-led missions – the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and, currently, Resolute Support (RS) – the subject of the analysis is Afghanistan, and particularly Herat Province. The research e ort is speci cally aimed at assessing the impact of the civil–military cooperation (CIMIC) initiatives implemented by Italian troops in Herat, with a speci c focus on gender and Afghan women. The rst part of this paper addresses the theoretical framework on women’s participation in stabilization and reconstruction e orts. It introduces concepts such as gender analysis and gender mainstreaming, and, consequently, the bene ts of focusing on gender when carrying out CIMIC initiatives within peace operations. The second part focuses on the CIMIC activities implemented by the Italian contingent in Herat Province. The concluding section of the paper provides some “food for thought”, aimed at contributing to further enhancing the e ectiveness of the CIMIC projects carried out by the Italian military and their related e ects.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, International Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • 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
  • Author: Ben Yoni Menachem
  • Publication Date: 11-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: Fatah and Hamas representatives will meet again in Cairo for a further round of talks on the difficult issues that so far have prevented a reconciliation.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Africa Center for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: After losing territory in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has affirmed its intention to expand its operations into Africa. A review of militant group activity on the continent, however, suggests that ISIS will be challenged to do so.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Violent Extremism, ISIS, Militant Islam
  • Political Geography: Africa, Iraq, Middle East, North Africa, Syria
  • Author: Muhammed Ammash
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: An extended period of strained relations has finally ended with a series of lengthy negotiations.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Creed Atkinson, Jinhui Jiao
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto
  • Abstract: High-skilled Prime working age (PWA) people are fundamental in securing economic growth. Therefore, a country’s ability to attract PWA immigrants and encourage its domestic PWA population to remain put, is crucial to sustaining economic competitiveness. Looking at Canada and Israel, authors Creed Atkinson (MGA ’17) and Jinhui Jiao (MGA ’17) found that Canada is currently benefitting from PWA brain gain while Israel is experiencing PWA brain drain. Given Canada’s already high ability to attract high quality PWA immigrants, its policy should focus on circulating PWA migrants back home. With the acute shortage of high-skilled workers and unique geo-political and legal conditions in Israel, limiting its ability to attract PWA migrants, its policy should also focus on brain circulation. Accordingly, both Canada and Israel would do best if they focus their future activities on brain circulation instead of attracting PWA immigrants.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Labor Issues, Economic growth
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Canada, Israel, North America
  • Author: Adam Garfinkle
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: By now the world knows that U.S. military forces for the first time since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011 have attacked regime targets. Plenty of the basic facts are known about what transpired about 18 hours ago, but a few important ones are not—at least not in the public domain. For example, we have only a very general Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) report. This matters because Tomahawk cruise missiles are very accurate if “lite” weapons. Knowing what the four dozen or so missiles hit and missed, deliberately and otherwise, could tell us a lot about why the President, presumably with Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ guidance and concurrence, chose the lesser of three options presented at what has been described as a meeting of considerable length. That, in turn, could tell us if the intention ultimately is to coerce the Russians into coercing the Syrians to stop doing monstrous things to their own people, and possibly coercing them to support a compromise political settlement to the war; or if it’s just an Eff-You gesture designed only to relieve the sudden pressure of moral unction that unexpectedly came upon our new Commander-in Chief—who seemed to lurch from coldblooded Randian to “Godtalk” invoker of the American Civil Religion in the wink of an eye. In other words, knowing more about the target set would tell us whether there is any political strategy attached to the use of force, or not. Probably not.
  • Topic: International Security, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Amaia Goenaga
  • Publication Date: 09-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: IEMed/EuroMeSCo
  • Abstract: The European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed) and Casa Árabe, with the collaboration of ICEX (Spain Trade and Investment), organised in 2016 an international conference entitled "Post-conflict re-construction in MENA: Previous experiences and stakeholders’ inclusive involvement in the future reconstruction of Libya, Syria and Iraq". The aim was to tackle the different aspects and challenges related to reconstruction in post-conflict countries in the region. Given the dimension and complexity of the subject, the conference was structured in a double meeting, bringing together stakeholders, academics and experts. The first one took place in Barcelona on the 11 April 2016 and the second one on the 19 September 2016 in Madrid. This document gathers and assesses the main conclusions and recommendations reached in both meetings. Thus issues tackled have been grouped into five main lines of discussion, which are divided into epigraphs devoted to some key concrete issues:
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Lawrence G Potter
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: This essay takes as its focus society in the Persian Gulf over the long term, both before and after oil. In order to understand the transitions society has gone through, it is necessary to review the region’s historical evolution and how society in the Gulf today differs from that of the pre-oil era. The Gulf is presented as a distinct historical region, where a tradition of free movement helped account for the success of its port cities, themselves linked more to the Indian Ocean basin than the Middle East. In the twentieth century, the historic ties that connected the people of the Gulf littoral were curtailed as nationalism became the dominant ideology, and borders and passports were imposed. After oil was discovered and exports began following World War II, the small Gulf shaikhdoms, most of which were under British protection until 1971, experienced a surge in revenues that ushered in the modern era. Newly independent states sought to impose a new identity, manipulate history, and exploit sectarian cleavages to solidify the power of ruling dynasties. The historic cosmopolitanism of the Gulf was ignored by states that privileged the tribal, Bedouin heritage of their leaders. Arabs and Persians, both Sunni and Shi‘a, as well as many other groups have lived with each other in the region for many centuries, during which mutual differences occasionally led to conflict. But the current mistrust, tension, and sense of vulnerability felt by all sides is a product of the modern age.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Oil, Regional Cooperation, Religion, Maritime Commerce, Independence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: In an effort to explore the evolution of the art and cultural scene in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, and to understand the complexities of these fields, the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) at Georgetown University in Qatar undertook a two-year research initiative titled “Art and Cultural Production in the GCC.” Artists, cultural administrators, curators, critics, and academics were invited to Doha to attend two separate meetings in which they debated topics of relevance to the GCC’s cultural field. The research culminated in the publication of original studies in a special issue of the Journal of Arabian Studies (September 2017). This project builds on the available literature by contributing towards furthering knowledge on the prevailing issues around art and cultural production in the Gulf.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Arts, Culture
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Qatar, Persian Gulf, 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
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: The situation of the healthcare systems in the Gulf has become multi-tiered, primarily due to the lack of systematic population health need assessments, including short-term health solutions for low-skilled workers. Even though the Gulf region has attained significant social and economic achievements in a short span of time, healthcare policies are still centered more on curative health and not enough emphasis has been placed on protective and preventive measures. There is a lack of medical educational institutions in the Gulf, and the role of the private sector is in need of further study as there is no explanation as to why patients are shifting from public to private healthcare institutions.
  • Topic: Health, Privatization, Labor Issues, Health Care Policy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Persian Gulf
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: The Red Star and the Crescent (Oxford University Press/Hurst, 2018) provides an in-depth and multi-disciplinary analysis of the evolving relationship between China and the Middle East. Despite its increasing importance, very few studies have examined this dynamic, deepening, and multi-faceted nexus. James Reardon-Anderson has sought to fill this critical gap. The volume examines the ‘big picture’ of international relations, then zooms in on case studies and probes the underlying domestic factors on each side. Reardon-Anderson tackles topics as diverse as China’s security strategy in the Middle East, its military relations with the states of the region, its role in the Iran nuclear negotiations, the Uyghur question, and the significance and consequences of the Silk Road strategy.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Asia
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: In recent years, the Middle East’s information and communication landscape has changed dramatically. Increasingly, states, businesses, and citizens are capitalising on the opportunities offered by new technologies, the fast pace of digitisation, and enhanced connectivity. These changes are far from turning Middle Eastern nations into network societies, but their impact is significant. The growing adoption of a wide variety of technologies in everyday life has given rise to complex dynamics that beg for a better understanding. Digital Middle East sheds a critical light on the continuing changes closely intertwined with the adoption of information and communication technologies in the region. Drawing on case studies from throughout the Middle East, the contributors explore how these digital transformations are playing out in the social, cultural, political, and economic spheres, exposing the various disjunctions and discordances that have marked the advent of the digital Middle East.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Communications, Digital Economy
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Dylan O'Driscoll, Dave Van Zoonen
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This report views the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces, PMF) as having played an intrinsic role in the provision of security in Iraq since the dramatic rise of the Islamic State (IS). However, through the lens of nationalism it analyses the negative role the PMF may play once IS is defeated. The report therefore presents suggestions to deal with the perceived threat of the PMF in the short to medium term. The various groups within the PMF essentially represent a number of subnationalisms, which to a different extent act as competition to the state. The leaders of the various militias use their own particular brand of nationalism in their attempts to gain and maintain power and in doing so they dilute any prospect of national unity or loyalty to the state. Through providing security they act as competition to the Iraqi army which directly impacts on the perception of the state and is used by members of the PMF for political gain. The multiple competing subnationalisms in Iraq do little for the fostering of Iraqi unity or the functioning of Iraq as a state, and are likely to result in the continuation of violent conflict. Therefore, dealing with the challenges surrounding the PMF will be one of the most pressing issues in Iraq following the defeat of IS. The ultimate solution to this problem would be the incorporation of these forces through demobilisation and integration into the conventional ISF. Having one inclusive army, police force and border patrol operating under unified command structures and accountable to civil bodies of oversight is not only an important symbol in aiding national reconciliation and promoting cooperation between different communities, it is also a primary prerequisite for the effectiveness of the security sector as a whole. However, the current situation on the ground, in terms of security, reconciliation, and political will, precludes an aggressive, straight-forward pursuit of this objective. This necessitates an initial phase in which significant progress in these areas is made before incorporation of most PMF units can realistically take place. The government of Prime Minister Abadi needs to use its time following IS’ defeat to build a solid political platform based on shared citizenship, unity and reform. This platform has to include serious reforms in the areas of security and national reconciliation. At the same time, an assistance programme will have to be set up for individual militia members wishing to either integrate into the ISF or make the transition from fighter to civilian immediately following IS’ defeat. This joint process will allow for the gradual dissolution of the PMF as the functioning of the Iraqi state improves, cooperation and unity is advanced, and the army grows in strength. During this time the government can stop colluding with the PMF and begin incorporating, containing, and eventually suppressing the various groups within the PMF based on the level of loyalty to the state that the group holds. Only then can a comprehensive demobilisation and reintegration programme based on formal agreements with all militias be launched as an ultimate solution to Iraq’s problem with militias and subnationalisms. It is crucial that this programme is adapted to fit the local context and that the government of Iraq can exert primary control over it. Accordingly, some conventional standards of DDR programming may have to be deviated from in order for this programme to be successful.
  • Topic: Security, Nationalism, Military Strategy, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Author: Irene Costantini
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: On Monday 20 February, Muqtada al-Sadr announced a 29-point roadmap for governing Mosul after the eventual liberation from Islamic State (IS), which appears closer than ever considering the ongoing offensive in the western part of the city. In October last year, Ammar al-Hakim proposed a political reconciliation plan, the “Historical Settlement”, as a template for governing Iraq in view of the defeat of IS. Though both are drawn from the Shia leadership and represent the Shia electorate, the two leaders and their constituencies have noticeable differences. A third pole is represented by the non-reconciliatory vision of Nuri al-Maliki, who has so far obstructed any dialogue in the country. In light of the Sunni’s weak political leadership and the Kurds being distracted by internal discordance as well as talks about independence, the Shia Block is realistically the key determinant for national reconciliation to occur in Iraq. However, its internal divisions make it a problematic and non-unitary interlocutor for national, regional, and international initiatives. This policy brief analyses what the common and competing positions of the plans that have been announced so far within the Block are. The major shortcoming of both al-Sadr’s and al-Hakim’s initiatives is the political heritage that they attach to a national reconciliation plan. Free from such heritage, al-Abadi, the fourth pole in the Shia Block, has yet to reinvigorate his initial push for reconciliation and articulate it in a comprehensive plan, one that may find support among a broader spectrum of domestic and international actors. Competing positions A key difference between al-Hakim’s and al-Sadr’s plans is first of all their political inception. Al-Hakim is the key promoter of the “Historical Settlement”, but the plan is, in theory, the expression of the National Iraqi Alliance, the large but loose Shia Block holding the majority of parliamentary seats. Elected as chairman in September, after years of tensions over the Block’s leadership, al-Hakim will hold the position for a year based on the rotational presidency arrangement struck upon his election. In contrast, al-Sadr’s plan is an expression of his own political will. Al-Sadr’s political block, al-Ahrar, has boycotted NIA since spring 2016 and rejoined in October in what was most probably a political calculation when talks about provincial elections were underway. There is so far no indication that al-Sadr is promoting the plan among Iraqi parties and it has received almost no traction, but the announcement itself can be seen as another sign of competing visions within the Shia Block. A second key difference is their scope. Al-Hakim’s plan (based on leaked versions of it, as no official document was released) is intentionally vague. In all, the plan sets principles, parameters and steps forward, which participating parties must adhere to before a dialogue could start under the auspices of the UN. So far, the UN has repeated that “there is no UN draft or UN initiative. It is still an Iraqi national initiative”, waiting most probably for the document to gain traction among the Iraqi leadership. On the other hand, al-Sadr’s plan calls for a number of initiatives, which include a national dialogue, but extend to measures targeting socio-economic issues and the security apparatus, most of them as vague as the ones in the “Historical Settlement” document. The two plans are also different with relation to a number of specific points. Al-Sadr sets as a condition the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country. The document is explicit in calling for ending Turkish presence in the country (by diplomatic means, or otherwise) but also for ensuring “the exit of all occupying forces and the “friendly” ones, so to speak, from Iraqi lands”. This is in line with al-Sadr’s past position on opposing foreign presence in Iraq, including through armed struggle. However, the leader allows for UN engagement in settling the dispute with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and eventually supervising the political process in the liberated areas. The engagement of the UN is more pronounced in al-Hakim’s plan, which gives the UN the role of submitting a detailed strategy based on consultation with key representatives, and in collaboration with Jordan, a key country hosting the Sunni opposition to the current Shia-dominated government. Another difference in the documents concerns whether any plan for the future of Iraq should occur within or outside the electoral process. Al-Sadr asserts that a dialogue for national reconciliation, as he sees it, “should not be based on political and electoral grounds but on grounds that guarantee civil and social peace”. In al-Hakim’s document, instead, the “binding recognition of the results of free and fair elections” indicates the opposite attitude. This point is certainly important considering next year’s election and it may reflect the two parties’ electoral weight in the country. Furthermore, in al-Hakim’s document the call for refraining from “the practice of duplication in attitudes towards the legitimacy of the Iraqi political system (a foot in the government and a foot in the opposition), including the cessation of instigation against the legitimacy of the existing political system internally and externally” is something that al-Sadr could take quite personally, given his confrontation with the current government. Converging positions The reaffirmation of Iraq’s unity is shared by both plans. According to al-Hakim’s, “the aim of the initiative is “to maintain and strengthen Iraq as an independent state that enjoys sovereignty, unity, federalism and democracy and that brings all of its people and components together.” The same necessity is recognised in al-Sadr’s roadmap as preserving “the unity, security, and sovereignty of Iraq”. Al-Hakim’s Historical Settlement goes perhaps even further, by affirming as one of the parameters: “faith and commitment in words and deed to the unity of Iraq … and reject its division under any circumstances”. This is a point that is certainly problematic for the KRG’s aspiration for independence. Al-Hakim and al-Sadr therefore present a similar vision on a number of other issues. First, they both envision the involvement of tribal leaders, social elites, religions, sects, minorities, and ethnic groups in the process of settling the ethno-sectarian tensions that have brought the country to the verge of collapse. They both exclude from the process Baathists and terrorists, al-Hakim extending this exclusion to Takfiri groups, defined as groups who label others as apostates. A key difference on this point could, however, emerge in the final draft of the document. Indeed, al-Hakim excludes the “Baath Party”, potentially leaving the door open to some Baathists to be involved in their personal capacity. Al-Sadr, instead, has referred so far to the Baathists as a whole, most probably excluding any form of consultation with them. With regard to the security situation, al-Sadr’s plan expresses the need not to interfere in neighbouring countries, alluding to the involvement of Iraqi elements within the Hashd al-Shaabi in the fight against IS in Syria (such as Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, Kata’ib Hezbollah, Saraya al-Khorasani), something al-Sadr is opposed to. The need for non-interference is also explicitly mentioned in al-Hakim’s document. Their position on the domestic role of the Hashd al-Shaabi is, however, less clear, with al-Sadr, for instance, calling for integrating the “disciplined elements with the Hashd in the security forces”. The law regulating the Hashd al-Shaabi (November 2016) has already caused a harsh reaction from Sunni elements strengthening the rejection of al-Hakim’s plan by the National Forces Alliance, the biggest Sunni block in the parliament. Identifying shortcomings and conditions for national reconciliation There are many things lacking in both documents. One of these missing elements is the result of the avoidance of concretely addressing the governing mechanisms in Nineveh in the future, a point which will be key in settling reconciliation within the governorate but also countrywide. Secondly, despite calls for an inclusive process, the “Historical Settlement” as well as al-Sadr’s roadmap appear to be too focused on party politics, and so far there appears to be little engagement with bottom-up initiatives, another fundamental condition for national reconciliation to succeed. Furthermore, in the absence of a clear time framework, any reconciliation initiative runs the risk of becoming trapped in the electoral game in the midst of the next parliamentary and provincial elections which are likely to be scheduled for April 2018. Not only will this not serve the purpose of reconciliation, it will further discredit similar mechanisms in the eyes of the population, making reconciliation even more difficult. Most importantly, al-Hakim and al-Sadr only represent part of the Shia Block, whose cohesion has been undermined over the last years by personal projects; polarisation within the electorate; and more recently the presence of armed groups––the Hashd al-Shaabi––partly a product of existing and perhaps newly forming political parties. The brokers of the two plans are far from being perceived as super partes actors, as both al-Hakim and al-Sadr were active (and problematic) parts in the political makeshift of Iraq after 2003. Beside these two brokers, the third pole, the Dawa Party, is still commanding political power within the Block and in the country. Al-Maliki is certainly not a realistic candidate under whom any reconciliation plan will succeed. He has already labelled the “Historical Settlement” as “treason against the Iraqi people”. Despite the Dawa Party’s nationalistic credentials still being strong, at least among a segment of society, al-Maliki is associated with the dark days of the advancement of IS, something that inevitably weakened his position. Despite coming from the same party, al-Abadi has the credentials of having faced, so far successfully, IS and retaken important swathes of Iraqi territories. Al-Abadi had already come to office with a commitment to pursue a national reconciliation project. The passing of the General Amnesty Law in August 2016 is an indication of this commitment together with the work of the National Reconciliation Committee in the Prime Minister’s Office (NRC). By revitalising his initial push for reconciliation, al-Abadi has the opportunity to build upon common positions in existing plans and reconcile them with other demands coming from the Iraqi society. A comprehensive plan coming from al-Abadi would certainly have a more likely chance of finding support among a broader spectrum of domestic and international actors.
  • Topic: Elections, Islamic State, Sunni, Shia
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Mosul
  • Author: Tomáš Kaválek
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This report concerns the political and security situation in the district of Shingal after the summer of 2014. Specifically, it focuses on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) presence in the area. In August 2014, the Peshmerga forces hastily withdrew from Shingal district due to the IS (Islamic State) advance. The Yazidi population of the district was then exposed to atrocities at the hands of IS. These events damaged trust between the Yazidi population and the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government). The PKK entered the stage in Shingal district and aided Yazidis at the onset of IS’ advance. It capitalised on its image of being the saviour of Yazidis and promptly began to build governance and armed structures in the district. The area has thus become an arena of competition between the KRG (especially the Kurdistan Democratic Party– KDP) and Baghdad. PKK’s increasing presence challenges the KDP’s strong influence in the district. The ongoing power struggle in Shingal district also takes place against a background of wider regional competition. The report utilises Zachariah Mampilly’s theoretical framework in order to analyse the effectiveness of rebel governance. It is argued that the model used for PKK-linked political and armed structures in Shingal district follows the PKK’s governance model as it is established in PKK’s leader Abdullah Öcalan’s ideological works and is currently in place in Rojava, run by PKK-affiliated actors. Furthermore, building upon Anna Arjona’s typology of rebel governments, it is asserted that the PKK-linked governance in Shingal district has become, since the summer of 2014, increasingly effective and entrenched despite certain shortcomings stemming mainly from lack of resources to satisfy all the needs of the population. Ultimately, the PKK-linked civilian governance structures represented by the Self-Administration Council and the armed structures of the Sinjar Protection Units find fertile ground among the Yazidi population for their project of self-administration and self-defence for Yazidis in Shingal district. The PKK-linked forces’ influence goes beyond a mere military presence and thus poses a new reality in which the PKK-linked forces are indeed actors which must be taken into consideration in future political arrangements in Shingal district. While outlining the competing interests in the district of Shingal, the paper provides a set of recommendations to the PKK, the PKK-linked actors in the district, the KRG, the GoI, Turkey, and the US with an aim of promoting stabilisation and the well-being of the local population. The best case scenario would include at least partial demilitarisation of the situation in the district while shifting the competition for the population between the GoI, the PKK-linked forces and the KRG into a non-violent domain, instead focusing on trying to win the hearts and minds of the population. Competition within the scope of Iraqi law with an aim of generating as much genuine popular support as possible in the upcoming elections in Iraq is the way forward. In the long-term, the PKK-linked forces should engage in democratic electoral competition with the KRG and aim for integration into governance and administrative structures as per Iraqi law. Both sides could then work on improving their standing electorally.
  • Topic: Governance, Democracy, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Khogir Wirya
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: With the military defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in Mosul city, the task to liberate Tel Afar continues to loom large. The fall of Tal Afar to IS on 16 June, 2014 has severely damaged the already strained Sunni/Shia relations in the area, as well as Turkmen relations with other ethno-religious communities. Most of Tal Afar’s Sunni and Shia population were displaced during the crisis. However, some Sunni Turkmen decided not to flee and remained in Tal Afar. Although much is still unclear, it is widely believed that a number of Sunni Turkmen from Tal Afar joined IS and stand accused of having committed war crimes in their name. Reconciling communities and repairing social ties are critical needs in ensuring stability and preventing the onset of renewed cycles of violence in the future. Such processes however, can only be advanced through consultation with local populations regarding their needs and vision for the future. The focus of this report is therefore on Turkmen perceptions of needs, opportunities, and obstacles to reconciliation within their own community as well as with other communities. The report finds that Turkmen from Tal Afar overwhelmingly conceptualise reconciliation as a security objective that is important for enabling the safe return of the displaced. At least in the short term therefore, participants prioritised reconciliation between the Sunni and Shia Turkmens over reconciliation with other communities living elsewhere.Interviews revealed strongly overlapping views on how sectarian violence had emerged and escalated in the past, and how it should be addressed in the future. Because reconciliation in Tal Afar requires communities to reject and actively combat extremist ideologies, the process must encompass mechanisms to enable these communities to resist the influence of radical organisations. According to the majority of both Sunni and Shia participants, the first step in this process is the inclusion of Sunnis in the security sector. Creating an inclusive, formal security sector comprised of all elements of society is seen as the main need for enabling reconciliation in the future. Serious issues of distrust, however, appears to stand in the way. The process of building trust between Sunni and Shia Turkmen faces additional challenges stemming from the fact that both communities continue to perceive each other as serving an exogenous agenda. While Shias suspect Sunnis of alignment with Turkey, Sunnis for their part see the Shias as an extension of Iranian interests in the area. Nonetheless, both communities clearly labelled security sector reform as the first step in stabilising the area after liberation, and expressed the hope that any process would not be thwarted by external actors. In terms including Sunnis in the security sector, Shias expressed concerns about infiltration of government institutions by extremist elements. This obstacle can partly be overcome by recruiting Sunnis in the force tasked with liberating Tal Afar. For the Shias, Sunni participation constitutes a vetting mechanism which can identify those who are committed to peaceful relations and oppose extremist ideologies. Sunni inclusion in the operation to liberate Tal Afar will also increase inter-group contact and cooperation, thus contributing to the formation of shared experiences and long-term objectives. Although intra-community reconciliation is clearly prioritised over reconciliation with other communities, participants also reflected on ways to improve relations with the neighbouring Eyzidi community. The liberation of Tal Afar will present opportunities for doing so. Criminal investigations into the crimes committed by IS as well as other actors should be initiated promptly. Sunni tribal leaders must strongly condemn crimes committed by members of their tribe and cooperate closely with law enforcement to ensure accountability can be imposed. However, it is equally important to publicise positive stories of Turkmen from Tal Afar who have risked their own lives to resist IS and help free some Eyzidi captives. Highlighting these accounts can serve an important role in countering perceptions of collective guilt towards the Sunni Turkmen community in Tal Afar.
  • Topic: Islamic State, Ethnicity, Sunni, Shia
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Mosul
  • 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