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  • Author: Ben Fishman
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After the fall of Sirte, Erdogan and Putin’s desired ceasefire can only be achieved with Washington’s support. Over the past week, regional and European actors have increased their diplomatic activity around Libya in response to intensifying violence in the nine-month-old civil war. On January 8, less than a week after the Turkish parliament approved sending forces to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin met in Istanbul and called for a Libya ceasefire to begin on January 12. Whether or not Moscow and Ankara manage to pause the violence temporarily, their growing influence in Libya represents an epic failure of Western attempts to resolve the conflict diplomatically. The longer-term effort to jumpstart Libya’s political transition requires a wider international effort at peace and reconciliation—something Russia and Turkey can support but not lead. Putin and Erdogan seemed to acknowledge that fact at their summit, endorsing a long-planned multilateral conference in Berlin aimed at recommitting all relevant actors to support an end to hostilities and respect the UN Security Council’s mandatory but widely ignored arms embargo. Even assuming Putin is serious and withdraws Russian mercenaries from the frontlines, a full, lasting ceasefire cannot transpire until the other actors who support Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) agree to withdraw their equipment and personnel for a fixed period while negotiations are launched—especially the United Arab Emirates, which provides the LNA with critical air superiority. At the same time, Turkey would have to take commensurate de-escalatory steps of its own. The United States is the only actor that holds enough weight with all the foreign parties to bring about an authentic ceasefire. Despite being consumed with crises in Iran and Iraq, Washington should expend the diplomatic effort required to pursue durable stability in Libya before the country slips further toward endemic chaos.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, United Nations, Conflict, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: During the war years in Syria, the northwest, specifically Idlib, has become a site of heavy internal displacement. Observers on the ground recognize the green buses traveling to Idlib carrying migrants who have refused reconciliation agreements with the Damascus regime. Since around 2014, a range of jihadist, Islamist, and Salafi actors have wielded control in the area, the most recent being the al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which has ruled—ineffectively and brutally—through its so-called Syrian Salvation Government. But the group's reign is unlikely to last long if current trends persist. The regime's recent move against the town of Maarat al-Numan suggests plans for a broader takeover in the northwest, aided by Russian firepower and other allies such as Iran. In this Policy Note filled with local insights, jihadism expert Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi presents the current scene in and around Idlib province, the last Syrian outpost still run by independent rebels. Absent an intervention by Turkey, the Assad regime will likely prevail in a campaign that quashes the insurgency at a high humanitarian cost.
  • Topic: Al Qaeda, Displacement, Military Intervention, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Ben Fishman, Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If the latest conference is to succeed, the principal actors stoking the civil war must endorse a genuine ceasefire and a return to Libyan internal dialogue. On January 19, international leaders will convene in Berlin to discuss a way out of the nine-month civil war between the so-called “Libyan National Army” led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognized Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. The Germans led several months of preparatory efforts at the request of UN envoy Ghassan Salame, but had been reluctant to choose a specific date until they were assured that the event stood a reasonable chance of producing practical steps to improve the situation on the ground and jumpstart the UN’s stalled negotiation efforts between the LNA and GNA. Chancellor Angela Merkel finally took that step after several key developments unfolded earlier this month, including a January 8 ceasefire proposal by Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Putin’s subsequent failed attempt to have each side sign a more permanent ceasefire agreement in Moscow on January 13 (the GNA signed but Haftar balked, though most of the fighting has paused for the moment). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been averse to engage on Libya during his tenure, but he is expected to attend the Berlin conference alongside National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. Accordingly, the event gives the United States a chance to play a much-needed role on several fronts: namely, pressuring the foreign actors who have perpetuated the war and violated the arms embargo; working with Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia to codify a ceasefire at the UN Security Council; and backing Salame’s efforts to reinvigorate the Libyan national dialogue, which Haftar preempted by attacking Tripoli last April despite European support to Salame. Since 2011, Libya has struggled to establish a legitimate transitional government despite three national elections and the creation of at least four legislative bodies. Challenges to the 2014 election results eventually led to rival governments in the east and west, and the division solidified when Haftar started the first civil war with support from his allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. That war halted in 2015, but several years’ worth of domestic and international efforts failed to bring Sarraj and Haftar to an enduring resolution.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, United Nations, Conflict, Negotiation, Conference
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, Germany, North Africa, United Arab Emirates, Berlin, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: After Turkey’s unsuccessful ultimatum set for the Syrian regime and its Russian ally to commit to the Sochi Agreement, Ankara has targeted the Assad regime and its allies’ locations along the de-escalation zone by launching Operation Spring Shield. Russia has capitalized on Turkey’s anger by offering an agreement establishing new facts on ground during a Turkish-Russian summit on March 5th.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Armed Forces, Geopolitics, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, United States of America, Idlib
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Moscow is escalating its undisclosed intervention in Libya to set up an advanced line of defence in the Mediterranean but the chances of its success are uncertain due to the nature of the NATO’s potential countermeasures and the political legitimacy that Russia’s Libyan partners will gain.
  • Topic: NATO, Military Strategy, Military Intervention, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Cristina Gherasimov, András Rácz
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: On October 1, 2019, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy agreed to meet Russia’s conditions for holding peace talks already this autumn. Moscow’s readiness to play, however, should not be mistaken for willingness to solve the conflict. So far, the Kremlin has not made any concessions in Eastern Ukraine that would be irreversible; consequently, it seems to only be testing Zelenskiy’s limits. Both Zelenskiy and the EU need to be cautious not to reward easy-to-reverse steps with major, strategic benefits.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, European Union, Conflict, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia, Ukraine
  • Author: Ilhami B. Değirmencioğlu
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: During the course of the past 10 years, the security environment has become more complex due to the blurring of the lines of warfare. Therefore, the ‘gray zone’ between peace and war expanded and became a battlefield of non-conventional warfare such as counterinsurgency, terrorism, cyber-attacks, etc. (Mansoor, 2012: 1). The failed and fragile states in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, as well as non-recognized de facto states in the Caucasus played catalytic role in the expansion of the non-conventional warfare. Moreover, Great Powers inclined to use increasingly the non-conventional warfare in the proxy and delegated wars waged by them. In the recent years, the non-state actors used innovative and complicated tactics against legal authorities in many countries. The prevalence of the new complex threats transformed the classic war concept into a concept called ‘new wars.’ Due to the combined use of the conventional and non-conventional warfare, many scholars and politicians started to call the new model of war as ‘hybrid war.’
  • Topic: National Security, Conflict, Peace, Hybrid Warfare
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Omar Sheira, Muhammed Ammash
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: The 26th Arab League Summit, held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, came amidst a series of divisive crises in the Middle East and North African region: in Yemen, a Saudi Arabian-led coalition initiated a campaign of airstrikes to counter the advance of the Houthi rebellion; in Libya, a multiparty civil war continues between rival governments and Islamist-oriented groups; in Syria, the civil war enters its fifth year, prolonging the conflict and adding more parties; and in Iraq, the government leads an offensive against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to regain territory which was seized by the group in the Summer of 2014. Meanwhile, Iran also has an alleged role in the crises in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, which was referenced during the Summit. In addition to these issues, the agenda of the Arab League Summit also aimed to monitor the implementation of past recommendations, express support for Palestine and Somalia, and discuss ways to combat extremist groups.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Author: David Szakonyi
  • Publication Date: 02-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Centre for Minority Issues
  • Abstract: Upon comparison of the treatment of one another‟s ethnic community following the spy scandal,‟ clear differences emerge between Russia‟s and Georgia‟s approaches to the issue. In contrast to the full-fledged targeting and expulsion of both legal and illegal residents on the part of Russia, Georgian officials, media outlets, and citizens responded admirably to the tenuous situation, with few reported incidents of discrimination. However, anti-Russian sentiments, at least at the elite political level, are still very much present among Georgian society, and the consequences of the agitated, negative rhetoric towards Russia by several Georgian leaders could lead to an environment of increased animosity towards Russian speakers. Without specific steps taken by the Georgian government, media outlets, and society as a whole to reduce anti-Russian sentiment, there is a danger of further incensed political relations negatively affecting interpersonal relations between the ethnic Russian minority and the Georgian majority.
  • Topic: Intelligence, Minorities, Ethnicity, Discrimination, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Georgia
  • Author: Natalie Sabanadze
  • Publication Date: 07-2001
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Centre for Minority Issues
  • Abstract: July 2000 was the deadline for the withdrawal of two Russian military bases in Vaziani (near Tbilisi) and in Gudauta (Abkhazia). The agreement on Russian military withdrawal was reached at the 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul, according to which the first two bases would be withdrawn by July 1 of the current year, to be followed by the two remaining bases in Javakheti (Southern Georgia) and Batumi (Western Georgia) in the near future. Russia did not meet the deadline on the Gudauta base, which has become the main source of renewed Georgian-Russian political confrontation over the past few days. However, as the talks on withdrawal intensified, the issue of the Javakheti base also came to the fore. Javakheti is the southernmost region of Georgia where the local population is predominantly Armenian. Similar to Abkhazia, the situation in Javakheti is very sensitive and could be exacerbated by the Russian military withdrawal which is strongly opposed by the local Armenian population. This at first sight benign case of base closure is thus likely to involve broader issues of regional political alliances, competing national interests, minority policies and a potential risk of yet another ethnopolitical confrontation in the region. Among the most common descriptions of Javakheti found in both journalistic and scholarly literature is that of a "potential zone of conflict", "area waiting to explode" and in the more radical accounts 'the second Nagorno-Karabakh'. Despite many contrary predictions, Javakheti managed to maintain peaceful interethnic relations and to survive in peace and relative stability. However, in order to maintain the fragile peace and cooperation much has to be done in terms of minority protection and power-sharing structures within Georgia. What follows is a brief discussion of the Armenian minority in Georgia in the context of ongoing regional geopolitical changes, interests and vulnerabilities of the states involved. In addition, Javakheti here is regarded as a zone of ethnopolitical tension which requires serious efforts, and well-developed preventive measures to avoid its deterioration into a zone of conflict.
  • Topic: Minorities, Ethnicity, Conflict, Protected People
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Georgia