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  • 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: Lori Plotkin Boghardt, Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Trump administration has an opportunity to reset, tighten, and maximize America's strategic relations with the Gulf states. For the United States, expanded security cooperation and coordination could be a force multiplier in campaigns to achieve key policy goals, such as countering Iran's destabilizing policies and defeating the Islamic State. Gulf leaders have expressed optimism over the new administration's gestures, despite its "America First" rhetoric. But the administration also faces challenges, including those brought about by its own emphasis on "radical Islamic terrorism." This two-part Transition 2017 paper, featuring contributions by Gulf experts Lori Plotkin Boghardt and Simon Henderson, navigates the complex U.S.-Gulf relationship. The first essay provides an overview of its basic tenets, stressing the importance of rapport to bilateral ties and discussing key policy priorities. The second essay narrows the focus to the Washington-Riyadh link, the most important U.S. tie with the conservative Gulf. It analyzes differences in viewpoint, policy options, and some anticipated Saudi responses on the core issues of oil, terrorism, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Gulf allies, and the Sunni bloc.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Cooperation, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East
  • Author: Tomáš Kaválek
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: On 3 March, clashes erupted between the PKK-linked forces and the KDP’s Rojava Peshmerga near Khanasor in the district of Shingal. These events now more than ever highlight the need for a negotiated compromise between the KRG and the PKK; and for the international community to actively intervene.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, Political Theory
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Irene Costantini
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Iraq and Libya are facing similar challenges: addressing the hurdles of socio-economic recovery in areas liberated from the Islamic State (IS); facing a fiscal crisis in the midst of continuous political tensions; and striking a power balance between central and local authorities, serving the interests of the people.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, ISIS
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Athanasios Manis
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The Iraqi and Turkish leadership have restored direct contact, thus providing an opportunity for dialogue. However, the extent to which this can lead to a sustainable normalisation process and furthermore to a deepening of their relationship is highly questionable. This policy brief argues that the main problem lies with the fact that a win-win scenario of overlapping or complementary interests does not seem to be driving the leaderships’ actions. Instead, it is ad hoc developments external to their bilateral relationship that have a positive effect for the time being, such as the rapprochement between Russia and Turkey, and subsequently a concerted attempt between Russia, Turkey and Iran to stabilise the region.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Hayder al-Khoei, Ellie Geranmayeh, Mattia Toaldo
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: ISIS has suffered significant setbacks in both Iraq and Libya with the battles for Mosul and Sirte representing potential turning-points. • Without a clear political strategy to guide post- ISIS efforts, these military gains could quickly be lost. Both countries could again become breeding grounds for conflict and extremism, exacerbating European security and migration challenges. This risk is especially high for Iraq given the conflict in neighbouring Syria. • The new US administration is likely to invest less energy than its predecessors in strengthening political orders which provide stability. European states must step up their own efforts
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera
  • Abstract: On 5 June 2017, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt, in marked succession, cut diplomatic relations with Qatar. Within a matter of hours, it became clear that this was not simply a move to sever ties, but a plan for a full embargo, an unprecedented step at a time of peace between these nations. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain blocked flights to Qatar, closed land and sea borders, and ordered Qatari citizens out of their countries while calling on their own nationals to leave Qatar. The same day, Maldives, Mauritius (though it later denied the news), the Libyan Tobruk-based government (which is not recognised internationally), and the Yemeni government based in Riyadh followed suit and cut ties with Qatar, unable to resist Saudi pressure. The next day, Jordan downgraded diplomatic relations with Qatar and revoked the licence of Al Jazeera’s bureau in Amman, while Mauritania severed diplomatic relations with Qatar. Mauritius, in an official statement, denied it had cut ties, raising questions of whether some party took the initiative on behalf of the Mauritian government. The actions taken at dawn on 5 June were the culmination of an unprecedented, anti-Qatar media blitz initiated by Emirati, Saudi, Bahraini and Egyptian media on the evening of 23 May. The campaign intensified until it assumed official imprimatur with the decision to cut ties and blockade Qatar. What, then, is happening to relations between countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)? After Gulf leaders came together in a scene of friendship, cooperation and solidarity during US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, why are relations between three GCC states and Qatar deteriorating so rapidly and in such unprecedented fashion? Was there an immediate cause that spurred Saudi Arabia and its partners to take this stance, or were these actions planned in advance? Is this simply a fleeting crisis in relations between GCC states, or could the break persist?
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera
  • Abstract: This paper reviews the importance of western Mosul to all parties in the conflict: the Iraqi forces and their allies, on the one hand, and the Islamic State’s forces, on the other, and the obstacles to any of these parties resolving the conflict. It also touches on the extent of their forces and the clear dominance of the offensive forces, and it discusses the military strategies for the battle and potential outcomes in addition to the available options for the Islamic State (IS). It anticipates an end to the fight in favour of the Iraqi forces within a few weeks if the battle and its results progress at a similar pace to that of its first week. This will depend on any unaccounted for variables during the battle that would change the equation on the ground. It concludes by discussing the available options for IS after the battle ends, with the expectation that IS will fight until the end; while its commanders will inevitability lose the battle, this will not eliminate threats to security and stability in Iraq in the foreseeable future.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, International Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: Carnegie Council
  • Abstract: Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, discusses his company’s annual top political risks for 2017 and their ethical implications. Topics include the potential challenges from a Trump administration, the moral legacy of President Obama’s foreign policy, human rights in the Middle East, the fate of liberalism in Europe and the world, and the dangers of populism.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, International Security, International Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The conflict in Syria, the war on ISIS, Israeli settlements, relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Iranian regional influence -- all contentious issues at the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda in the Middle East. During this January 30 policy forum, Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi -- a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- and former Israeli ambassador to the United States Itamar Rabinovich offer their perspectives on these challenges and others confronting President Trump in the region. Tzachi Hanegbi has just been named Israel's cabinet minister for regional cooperation. A close confidant of Prime Minister Netanyahu, he has held a variety of cabinet portfolios in the past, and served most recently as chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Itamar Rabinovich is a former Israeli ambassador to Washington and founding president of the Israel Institute. A renowned expert on Syria, he once headed Israeli peace talks with Damascus. He has also served as president of Tel Aviv University, where he is now a professor emeritus of Middle Eastern history. David Makovsky is the Institute's Ziegler Distinguished Fellow and Director of its Project on the Middle East Peace Process, and the Irwin Levy Family Program on the U.S.-Israel Strategic Relationship.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East