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  • Author: Nathalie Tocci
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The Arab uprisings alongside the Ukrainian crisis have triggered the perfect storm. The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), developed at the height of enlargement EUphoria, is in tatters. To be fair, its failure is only partly endogenous, and largely due to the dramatic transformation of the neighbourhood – east and south – which no one could have foreseen at the turn of the century. Be that as it may, the EU will have to fundamentally rethink its approach towards its turbulent backyard. To move forward, the EU needs to devise conceptually different approaches to the east and south. In both cases, instability and crises abound. In both, the magnitude of the challenges that the EU faces is so great that down-to-earth realism must be its guiding light. Formulating and pursuing down-to-earth objectives for the neighbourhood that reflect current realities is not cynical. It is responsible.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation, International Security
  • Political Geography: Europe, Ukraine, Arabia
  • Author: Paulo Gerbaudo
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The 2011 protest wave, encompassing the Arab Spring revolutions, the Indignados movement in Spain and Greece, and the Occupy Wall Street movement has often been described as a new global protest cycle. However, the dynamics of diffusion suggest a more complex picture. Transmission of protest frames and repertoires from one country and cultural region to another was quite slow and tortuous. Moreover, adoption of the new ideas and practices of protest spawned by the protest wave of 2011 involved laborious dynamics of cultural translation and domestication. This situation points to the continuing importance of local protest cultures and cultural contexts, in addition to channels of transmission, even in an era of instantaneous communication technologies.
  • Topic: Communications
  • Political Geography: Greece, Arabia
  • Author: Charles-Brian Biondi
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Since the beginning of the conflict, Syria has been the playground for several actors, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Iran, defending their domestic interests or fighting for regional influence. The conflict entered a new phase in June 2013 with the direct involvement of Hezbollah, which sent troops to help al-Assad's regime fighting the armed insurrection. This event has had significant repercussions not only for the Syrian conflict itself but also for Lebanon. The aim of this paper is to shed light on the reasons that have led Hezbollah to engage openly in the Syrian conflict and what the consequences of such a decision could be, both for the country's and the party's future. The author argues that the party's involvement in the conflict is primarily a primordial necessity as the current Syrian regime is one of Hezbollah's strongest allies in the region without being a vital one. Thus the loss of the Syrian regime has the potential to pose new difficulties to the movement but would not necessarily imply its destruction.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Intelligence, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Timo Behr
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The rise of political Islam in the EU's southern neighbourhood represents a political as well as conceptual challenge to the EU as a foreign policy actor. In the past, the EU reacted to this challenge based on its essentialist perception of political Islam and its overarching interest in regional stability and security. However, the growing salience of 'contingencist' interpretations of political Islam and the resolution of the EU's democratisation-stabilisation dilemma in the wake of the Arab Spring have recently provided an opportunity for greater engagement and cooperation. This has enabled a switch in EU policies from a strategy of containment to a strategy of engagement. Despite this, problems remain as the EU continues to expect Islamist actors to adjust to its own discursive framework and as intra-European divisions revive as a result of the renewal of secular-religious divisions in the neighbourhood. This will complicate EU attempts to build a new partnership with Islamist democracies and will fuel old stereotypes and animosities.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam
  • Political Geography: Europe, Arabia
  • Author: Nikolay Kozhanov
  • Publication Date: 06-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The Russian government sincerely believes that Assad's removal from power would trigger the expansion of jihadism and instability in the Caucasus and southern Russia. Moscow is deeply concerned about the rise of Islamists in the Middle East, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia's efforts to support the most radical factions in Syria. At the same time, the obvious absence of the ideological background behind current Russian-Syrian relations makes them a trade item. Thus, official guarantees that the jihadists will not export their revolution elsewhere accompanied by promises to preserve some Russian economic positions in post-Assad Syria will probably create the necessary ground for the emergence of a compromise stance on Syria (including the issue of foreign intervention).
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Russia, Caucasus, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Daniela Huber
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: For the last two decades, the EU has sent mixed signals concerning democracy and human rights to its Mediterranean neighbourhood. Has this changed since the outbreak of the Arab Spring? After observing the EU's response to the revolutions in two key countries, Tunisia and Egypt, this paper finds that signalling to Tunisia has become more coherent, while it remains ambiguous towards Egypt - a trend reinforced by US foreign policy in the region. In order to send a coherent message, the EU has to outline more concretely, what are the benchmarks and rewards for progress. For signalling to be effective, bilateral and multilateral dialogues are key. While bilateral dialogue platforms do exist, they should meet more frequently and at the highest levels. A multilateral dimension is conspicuously missing in the array of instruments set up by the EU in response to the Arab Spring, but would be crucial not only in order to understand the different democracy languages spoken, but notably also to anchor reform and set regional standards for it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization, Human Rights, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Europe, Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Andrea Dessì
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: While spared from internal turmoil, Israel and the Palestinian Territories have nonetheless been affected by the region's political transformation brought about by the Arab Spring. Reflecting what can be described as Israel's “bunker” mentality, the Israeli government has characterized the Arab revolutionary wave as a security challenge, notably given its concern about the rise of Islamist forces. Prime Minister Netanyahu has capitalized on this sense of insecurity to justify his government's lack of significant action when it comes to the peace process. On the Palestinian side, both Hamas and Fatah have lost long-standing regional backers in Egypt and Syria and have had to contend with their increasingly shaky popular legitimacy. This has spurred renewed efforts for reconciliation, which however have so far produced no significant results. Against this backdrop, the chances for a resumption of serious Israeli-Palestinian peace talks appear increasingly dim. An effort by the international community is needed to break the current deadlock and establish an atmosphere more conducive for talks. In this context, the EU carries special responsibility as the only external actor that still enjoys some credibility as a balanced mediator between the sides.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia, Syria, Egypt
  • Author: Niamh Maria O'Sullivan
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Few issues in international politics have sparked more debate this year than the events unfolding in Syria. What began 17 months ago as peaceful marches seeking reform has brought Syria to the brink of a civil war that threatens to stop the Arab Spring dead in its tracks. As the death toll rises and accusations of crimes against humanity mount against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his ruling Ba'ath Party, many are calling for an armed intervention to put an end to the Assad regime's widespread human rights abuses. Finding the right way forward for Syria, however, is proving elusive and so we turn to philosophy and, in particular, to Just War theory for guidance. Though often criticized as a soft or unrealistic approach to foreign policy, principles like just cause and proportionality guide our way through the moral enigma that has confounded the international community since the uprising began. The answers are far from easy. As the battle for Syria rages on, the most ethical, and difficult, thing to do might just be to stay out.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, Human Rights, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Camilla Committeri
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The Syrian crisis is dividing the international community like no other Arab uprising has done so far. While the United States and the European Union stand squarely against the Syrian regime, Russia remains a staunch defender of state sovereignty and the Al-Assad regime. There are three main factors that explain this position: Moscow's historical relations with Damascus; Russia's traditional opposition to US presence in the Middle East; and the surge in domestic opposition in Russia itself. This last factor, and the recent evolution of Russian domestic politics, is crucial to grasp Moscow's foreign policy towards Syria and the Middle East, a s well as towards the United States and Europe.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Civil War, Bilateral Relations, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Middle East, Arabia, Moscow, Syria
  • Author: Marco Pinfari
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Since 1960, Latin American attempts at regionalism have undergone distinct phases. More notably, they have tended to diverge across space, gradually giving birth to separate blocs that seem to be tearing South, Central and North America apart. Additionally, within and across these regions several overlapping projects coexist. This article focuses on the dynamics of segmented and overlapping regionalism in order to describe what they look like, analyse how they articulate with one another, and explain why member states have pushed for such a messy outcome. This situation, linked to the evolution of the global context, might be indicating that regionalism in Latin America has reached its peak, beyond which it may be difficult to achieve further progress. Two conclusions are elicited: first, economic integration is becoming a geographically diffused phenomenon rather than a regional one; second, regionalism is still a compelling foreign policy but its causes, goals and outcomes are no longer what they used to be.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Libya, Arabia, Latin America, North Africa, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Daniela Pioppi
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: It is a common place in the literature that the Muslim Brotherhood (jama'a al-ikhwan al-muslimin) is - after its re-emergence on the political scene back in the seventies - the main (if not the only) real, organised and mass-based opposition force in Egypt. Events in Egypt in January 2011 have recast attention on this question. This paper aims to evaluate, inasmuch as it is possible, the state of health of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) today, after forty years of coexistence with the Egyptian (neo)-authoritarian regime. Has the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood represented a real alternative to the incumbent regime? Or it is more correct to speak today in terms of an almost 'functional' opposition, tamed by recurring political repression and limited freedom of action? To what extent has the Muslim Brotherhood been able to shape or at least to influence the Egyptian political and social agenda, both with respect to the regime and to other opposition forces?
  • Topic: Democratization, Islam, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Nathalie Tocci, Rym Ayadi, Maria Cristina Paciello, Silvia Colombo
  • Publication Date: 01-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Owing to its macroeconomic achievements, for decades Tunisia projected an image of stability to the world and distinguished itself from other Arab countries for its progress in the areas of economic growth, health, education and women's rights. This widely held view of apparent stability was shattered on January 14, when President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country after high levels of unemployment and inequalities resulted in widespread chaos and social unrest. Events in Tunisia raise sharp questions regarding the country's current situation and its future prospects and, more generally, the often taken-forgranted sustainability of many regimes of the Middle East and the policies of the European Union towards the region.
  • Topic: Democratization, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Europe, Arabia, North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Jean-Pierre Cassarino
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Since the fall of Ben Ali on 14th January 2011, Tunisia has been going through a process of transformation and reconfiguration of the manifold relationships between the state and society. So far, a series of legal amendments and policy provisions have been considered to respond to immediate political demands in the run-up to the next elections. However, the numerous policy steps that have been achieved so far should not conceal resilient challenges pertaining, among others, to the structure of the economy and to its capacity to tackle youth unemployment, poverty in depressed areas, unfair competition, and corruption. The interim government will need to address these deeper challenges lest its credibility be jeopardised and the overall reform process compromised.
  • Topic: Democratization, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Arabia, North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Philippe Droz-Vincent
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Arab armies are closed and secretive actors. Yet they have been propelled to the fore in 2011, acting as midwifes and active participants in the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Their posture vis-à-vis incumbent regimes is crucial in other Arab countries too - Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria - as the wave of popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes has spread. In view of this, there is an essential need to understand what kind of actors Arab armies are. The nature of armies in authoritarian settings shapes the pattern of resilience or of breakdown for regimes facing popular uprisings, and the prospect for various transition countries in the Arab world.
  • Topic: Social Stratification
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Arabia, North Africa, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia
  • Author: Nicole Koenig
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The EU's reaction is slow, the EU is divided, the EU is unable to deliver: time and time again, newspapers depict the image of an incoherent and uncoordinated EU foreign policy. This time, the topic under discussion is the EU's response to the Libyan crisis. Many have compared the EU's internal divisions over Libya with those over the Iraq war, an often-used example to illustrate the limits of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). This paper aims to assess the coherence of the EU's short- to medium-term response to the Libyan crisis. It distinguishes between the horizontal, interinstitutional, vertical and multilateral dimensions of EU coherence. The analysis shows that unilateral actions or inactions of the member states mainly account for the EU's incoherent response. The post-Lisbon institutional structure has done little to compensate for these internal divisions. While the EU cannot change the course of national foreign policies, it should increase its 'leadership for coherence', communitarize its crisis response in the medium term and aim at preventing incoherence in the longer term.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Political Violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Libya, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Riccardo Alcaro
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The looming stalemate in the Libyan conflict is likely to lead to more civilian casualties, a de facto separation of Libya, the under-use of the country's energy resources, and an increase in illegal activities due to the legal and governance vacuum in the country. In addition, it risks denting NATO's credibility as a security provider. To break the stalemate, the coalition is leaning towards intensifying military operations and/or arming the rebels. Both imply a number of risks and political costs. A way to contain such risks and costs would be for NATO and its partners to re-calibrate the mission so that, alongside military action, the mission would foresee also a national reconciliation process, mediated by an international team. Linking military operations to a credible plan for Libya's political future would improve the odds for Gheddafi's regime to collapse.
  • Topic: Security, NATO, Oil
  • Political Geography: United States, Libya, Arabia, United Nations
  • Author: Nathalie Tocci, Jean-Pierre Cassarino
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The revolts sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East in 2011 have shaken long-held truths about the region. Most strikingly, the sustainability of these regimes has proved a chimera. The events in the region and the many truths they uncovered call for a serious rethink in Western policies towards the region. The aim of this paper is to explore what such a rethink might entail for the European Union. Reviewing the European Neighbourhood Policy by revamping the benefits on offer, reconsidering the effective use of conditionality, establishing adequate monitoring mechanisms and engaging with a plethora of partners both within and beyond the region is imperative. Such a review is contingent on the recognition of a reversed hierarchy of priorities, induced by the force of historical events unfolding in the region. To reverse policy priorities is no small feat, considering the entrenched logic that has sustained Euro-Med policies so far. Nonetheless, various dynamics press for a new way of thinking. The proposals contained in this study constitute concrete steps to rethink the EU's Mediterranean policies in line with the fundamental rights and principles which the Union seeks to advance in its external action.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Massimiliano Fiore
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Only a few weeks ago, no one could have believed that what the peoples of Tunisia and Egypt accomplished was possible: they defied their dictators and won, causing worldwide euphoria and celebration. Yet, while such activism has inspired fellow Arabs throughout the region, it has been met with fear and trepidation in Israel. Mubarak's downfall, combined with the growing unrest in the Middle East, makes it vital for Israel to recalibrate its strategies toward its neighbouring Arab states. Many political analysts believe that this is the ideal moment for Israel to push hard for resuming the stalled peace process with the Palestinians. Yet it is unrealistic to think that a comprehensive agreement can be reached at this time. While the Israeli-Palestinian peace track is very troubled, the Israeli-Syrian track seems more within reach, and in the vital interests of both countries.
  • Topic: Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Andrea Dessì
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Algeria is the only country in North Africa which seems to be relatively immune to the so-called “Arab spring”. Popular protests did erupt in Algeria at precisely the same time as they were enveloping neighbouring countries, but the demands of the protesters never reached a popular consensus calling for the demise of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Drawing on the country's extensive monetary reserves, the Algerian authorities have responded by implementing a series of economic and social reforms, which have further weakened the resolve and unity of the protesters. After repealing the emergency laws in late February 2011, the government appeared to have regained the upper hand, but strikes and demonstrations have continued. Algeria still faces the real prospect of future popular unrest if the government fails in its promise to enact wide ranging political and economic reforms by early 2012. Given the country's geostrategic importance at both regional and international levels, the international community and in particular the EU must do more in order to ensure that Algeria is set on a sustainable path for the future.
  • Topic: Islam, Politics, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Arabia, Algeria, North Africa
  • Author: Robert Springborg
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The dramatic thawing of the Cold War at the end of the 1980s accompanied by the rapid democratisation of Eastern Europe served as inspiration and model for political transitions in other settings. Now the Arab world, the securitisation of which has kept it frozen in what amounts to a regional cold war long after the global prototype ended, may be entering its springtime of political freedom. Tunisia's 'Jasmine' and Egypt's 'Midan al Tahrir' Revolutions chased established autocrats from power, thus making possible new domestic political orders and substantial reorientations of foreign policies. Imitative uprisings in Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Syria have thus far resulted in widespread violence, regime retrenchments and even foreign interventions, although prospects do remain for more positive outcomes. Intermittent demonstrations in various other Arab countries, including Morocco, Algeria, Oman, Jordan and Iraq, have typically been met with limited political reforms and promises of more to come. So the region is definitely in political ferment, but whether that presages transitions to democracy à la Eastern Europe in 1989, or revanchist reconsolidations reminiscent of those that overwhelmed the 1848 liberal nationalist movements in Western Europe, remains to be seen.
  • Topic: Cold War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Libya, Yemen, Arabia, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman