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  • Author: Malcolm Cook
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: China will not agree to a South China Sea Code of Conduct (COC) that is consistent with the 2016 South China Sea arbitral tribunal ruling, and therefore any COC which China agrees with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will harm Australia’s interests. But a lack of Australian support for such a Code would aggravate relations with Southeast Asian states and ASEAN, and with China. Australia should use the time afforded by the drawn-out Code of Conduct negotiations to coordinate with the five littoral Southeast Asian states affected by China’s unlawful maritime claims. Australia should emphasise the need for consistency with international law, especially the 2016 arbitral ruling. The Biden administration is likely to increase pressure on Australia to conduct freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the South China Sea. Such action may risk a significant Chinese response against Australia.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Territorial Disputes, Maritime, Alliance, Freedom of Movement
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, Southeast Asia, Asia-Pacific, United States of America, South China Sea
  • Author: Yang Jiang
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Almost every governmental policy decision made today has a China angle, and building understanding of China has become more pressing for Australian policymaking than ever. Despite the urgent demand within the Australian public service for China expertise and language skills, the existing skills of many Chinese-Australians are being overlooked. Australia has a significant, diverse, and growing population of Chinese-Australians, but they are underrepresented and underutilised in the public service. A better harnessing of the skills and knowledge of this community — including via improved recruitment processes, better use of data, skills-matching, and reviewing and clarifying security clearance processes and requirements — would have substantial benefits for Australian policymaking in one of its most important bilateral relationships.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Bilateral Relations, Public Service
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Australia
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: U.S. concerns center on Turkey’s democratic backslide and deepening ties between Erdogan and Putin—but the Turkish president also wants to develop a rapport with Joe Biden and fortify his country’s weakened economy. In the seventh in a series of TRANSITION 2021 memos examining the Middle East and North Africa, Soner Cagaptay offers guidelines for reinforcing the strained U.S.-Turkey relationship. Principal causes for unease involve U.S. concerns about Turkey’s democratic backslide and deepening ties between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, particularly Ankara’s decision to purchase the S-400 missile defense system from Moscow. Yet Erdogan also wants to develop a rapport with President Biden and fortify his country’s weakened economy. Further, Ankara and Washington can find many areas for tactical cooperation in places such as Syria, Libya, and China’s Xinjiang province, where the government is carrying out a genocide against the Muslim Uyghur population “Erdogan needs to reverse the current dynamic by advancing the narrative that he is getting along just fine with Washington,” the author explains. “Thus, in this early phase of the U.S. administration, Biden would appear to have a brief window of leverage over his Turkish counterpart.” In the coming weeks, TRANSITION 2021 memos by Washington Institute experts will address the broad array of issues facing the Biden-Harris administration in the Middle East. These range from thematic issues, such as the region’s strategic position in the context of Great Power competition and how to most effectively elevate human rights and democracy in Middle East policy, to more discrete topics, from Arab-Israel peace diplomacy to Red Sea security to challenges and opportunities in northwest Africa. Taken as a whole, this series of memos will present a comprehensive approach for advancing U.S. interests in security and peace in this vital but volatile region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Dennis Ross
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A reimagined approach to Iran nuclear talks could extend the country’s breakout time, preserve U.S. negotiating leverage, and strengthen American alliances in Europe and across the Middle East. In the first in a series of TRANSITION 2021 memos examining policy challenges across the Middle East, esteemed diplomat and policymaker Dennis Ross provides an innovative approach to reengaging Iran in nuclear diplomacy. His ideas have the potential to extend Iran’s breakout time, preserve U.S. negotiating leverage, and strengthen U.S. alliances in Europe and across the Middle East. Ross explains: “If regime change is not a realistic or advisable goal, the objective must be one of changing the Islamic Republic’s behavior. While this would be difficult, history shows that the regime will make tactical adjustments with strategic consequences when it considers the price of its policies to be too high.” In the coming weeks, TRANSITION 2021 memos by Washington Institute experts will address the broad array of issues facing the Biden-Harris administration in the Middle East. These range from thematic issues, such as the region’s strategic position in the context of Great Power competition and how to most effectively elevate human rights and democracy in Middle East policy, to more discrete topics, from Arab-Israel peace diplomacy to Red Sea security to challenges and opportunities in northwest Africa. Taken as a whole, this series of memos will present a comprehensive approach for advancing U.S. interests in security and peace in this vital but volatile region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Nuclear Power, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In the second in a series of TRANSITION 2021 memos examining policy challenges across the Middle East, expert David Makovsky explores how the Biden administration can use progress in Arab-Israel normalization to reenergize dormant ties between the United States and the Palestinian Authority, and between Jerusalem and Ramallah. After urging the administration to invest in strengthening and expanding normalization with Arab states, he argues for gradualism on the Palestinian issue, rooted in mutual efforts on several fronts, including preventing the slide to a one-state reality, taking a differentiated approach to Jewish settlements, and encouraging a range of trust-building exercises. “The gradualist approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking is not one of grand declarations, high-profile White House announcements, or flag-waving signing ceremonies,” explains Makovsky. “To the contrary, if it succeeds, it will emerge from hours of intensive consultation with Israeli and Palestinian interlocutors, as well as the coordinated input and support of key Arab, European, and international partners.” In the coming weeks, TRANSITION 2021 memos by Washington Institute experts will address the broad array of issues facing the Biden-Harris administration in the Middle East. These range from thematic issues, such as the region’s strategic position in the context of Great Power competition and how to most effectively elevate human rights and democracy in Middle East policy, to more discrete topics, from Arab-Israel peace diplomacy to Red Sea security to challenges and opportunities in northwest Africa. Taken as a whole, this series of memos will present a comprehensive approach for advancing U.S. interests in security and peace in this vital but volatile region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Peace, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights, Pierre Morcos, Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: NATO stands ready to increase its commitment in a slow and steady manner consistent with Baghdad’s needs, but careful communication will be crucial, as will a more strategic discussion on how to combine different assistance efforts. On February 18, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg announced a decision to increase the size of NATO Mission Iraq (NMI) from 500 personnel to as many as 4,000. Although he noted that such deployments would be “conditions-based,” “incremental,” and subject to Baghdad’s authorization, the troop numbers were the only element of his announcement widely reported inside Iraq, resulting in swift political pressure on the government to explain the seemingly steep increase. In fact, there is no imminent NATO “surge” planned in Iraq, but rather a greater openness and general intent to gradually provide more advisors capable of assisting local authorities with security sector reform (SSR). When handled appropriately and combined with other efforts, this initiative can create good opportunities for quiet, persistent security cooperation that helps strengthen the Iraqi state, evolve multinational military relations beyond the campaign against the Islamic State (IS), and spread the burden of support more broadly among U.S. allies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, NATO, Military Strategy, Reform
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Jeff D. Colgan, Thomas N. Hale
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: Climate change is the defining global challenge of the twenty-first century. It constitutes a direct threat to the safety and prosperity of Americans. U.S. President Joe Biden has committed to reorienting U.S. foreign policy to meet the climate challenge. This report provides an early assessment of the Biden administration’s international climate diplomacy against these goals in the first 100 days, recognizing that others have focused on domestic policy, and that climate change must be at the top of the U.S. foreign-policy agenda. It builds on a previous report by the Brown University Climate Solutions Lab, issued on October 8, 2020, that identified and recommended ten executive climate actions, which are central to advancing U.S. foreign-policy objectives. Of the 9 internationally-oriented climate pledges evaluated, made by the Biden campaign during the 2020 presidential election, the report finds that the Biden team has already delivered effectively on 4 of them, made some progress on 2, and taken baby steps or made no real progress on 3. These will require further attention and resources in the coming months.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Climate Change, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Linda Zhang, Ryan Berg
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is drawing increased scrutiny from U.S. policymakers. The International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (ILD) (中共中央对外联络部, zhonggong zhongyang duiwai lianluo bu) is one of the many Chinese organizations active in LAC. Although its footprint is relatively small compared to larger trade and governmental organizations, the ILD’s emphasis on ideology and on long-term relationship building in its engagements is noteworthy and should be monitored more closely within the context of China-Latin America relations.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Affairs, Political Parties, Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Latin America
  • Author: Pavel K. Baev
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Russia received notably high attention in United States President Joseph Biden’s first foreign policy speech, delivered at the State Department last Thursday, February 4. President Vladimir Putin may take pride in earning a personal mention and a place ahead of China; although the latter was specifically recognized as the US’s top peer competitor, while Russia was characterized mainly as the world’s foremost troublemaker (Izvestia, February 5). Biden asserted he is taking a tougher tone with Moscow compared to his predecessor but said he also has to deal with a rather different Putin. Indeed, the accumulation of authoritarian tendencies, exorbitant corruption and aggressive behavior in recent years has produced a new quality to Putin’s maturing autocratic regime, making it less liable to be moved by criticism coming out of Washington.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Sanctions, Protests
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, United States of America
  • Author: Can Kasapoglu
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: In late 2020, Turkey finally secured a lucrative arms sale package to Tunisia after a long period of negotiations. The $150 million portfolio, which attracted key players of the Turkish defense technological and industrial base, such as Turkish Aerospace Industries (TUSAS) and British Motor Corporation (BMC), will mean more than only defense revenues for Turkey (TRT Haber, December 24, 2020). It will additionally mark Turkish weaponry’s entrance into the Tunisian market against the backdrop of Ankara’s geopolitical quests in North Africa, which has become a geopolitical flashpoint encompassing various forms of militancy, transnational terrorism, and proxy warfare.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Weapons , Drones, Arms Trade, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Turkey, North Africa, Tunisia, Mediterranean
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This paper presents insights and recommendations from a policy workshop of the “Israel in the Mediterranean” group led by the Mitvim Institute, the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and Haifa University’s National Security Studies Center. The workshop, convened on 19 November 2020, focused on key diplomatic, economic, energetic, environmental and identity issues that Israel faces in the Mediterranean. The document does not necessarily reflect agreement by all participants.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Environment, Economy, Regional Integration, Identity
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine, Mediterranean
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This document presents recommendations for initial policy steps that the Biden Administration can take to advance Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. It describes the current state of play in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as Biden takes office, identifies nine key goals for the new administration in advancing peacemaking, and outlines concrete policy steps for their implementation. These are the goals outlined in the document: (1) Highlighting the importance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; (2) Renewing ties and building trust with the Palestinian leadership; (3) Emphasizing US commitment to the two-state solution and formulating parameters for a final-status agreement; (4) Preserving the feasibility of the two-state solution and drawing red lines; (5) Leading multilateral steps, such as creating a new international mechanism and an incentives package; (6) Leveraging Israeli-Arab normalization to advance the peace process; (7) Improving the situation in Gaza and ending the internal Palestinian divide; (8) Empowering pro-peace Israeli and Palestinian actors, including in civil society; (9) Setting a constructive tone to relations with the Israeli leadership and public.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Conflict, Peace, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Kamal Ali-Hassan, Ehud Eiran, Nimrod Goren, Merav Kahana-Dagan, Roee Kibrik, Lior Lehrs, Gabriel Mitchell, Elie Podeh, Ksenia Svetlova, Nadav Tamir, Yonatan Touval
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This document summarizes recommendations for initial policy steps that the Biden Administration could take to advance Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. It identifies nine key goals for the new administration and outlines concrete policy steps for their implementation.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Peace, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Chiew-Ping Hoo
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP)
  • Abstract: It is clear that the NSP started off with the right messages and many Southeast Asian countries have been receptive to the initiatives. Despite the pandemic bringing a lot more challenges in implementing the policy initiatives, the NSP Plus has envisioned an innovation-oriented cooperation by transforming the traditional face-to-face operations to electronic and digitalized management. Public health cooperation is understandably the immediate focus, but such cooperation should be also seen as long-term fulfilment of the cooperation on the People pillar in the NSP. Infrastructure connectivity and South Korea’s cooperation in the building of an evolving East Asian regional architecture respectively enhance the Prosperity and Peace pillars. With patience, dedication, and commitment, the NSP Plus will be a long-lasting foreign policy legacy of Moon that brings benefits to Korea, ASEAN, and regional stability.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation, Political stability, Public Health, ASEAN
  • Political Geography: Asia, Korea, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Jai Chul Heo
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP)
  • Abstract: This study evaluated China's model of “One Country, Two Systems” (一國兩制) 20 years into operation and the bilateral relationship between Taiwan and Mainland China ‒ focusing on Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan ‒ and examined future prospects. The study is meaningful in that it conducts a more objective evaluation than the previous studies by empirically analyzing data accumulated over the past 20 years of implementation of the One Country Two Systems principle from various perspectives. In addition, it is also a timely study in that it analyzes how the One Country Two Systems arrangement is likely to develop in the future, and what impact this would have, making considerations for changes in China's national strategy during the Xi Jinping period and the competition for hegemony between the U.S. and China. The results of the analysis indicate that over the past 20 years China has been experimenting with the possibility of coexisting different systems in one country, and that the One Country Two Systems arrangement, as a new form of unification which has never been attempted in the history of mankind, has actually shown the possibility of success. However, in recent years, various political contradictions have been exposed in the process of implementing the arrangement, mostly in the Hong Kong society, and the resulting conflict has gradually intensified. While maintaining the current capitalist system for 50 years, Macau is expected to gradually progress in its “Sinicization,” with continuing active economic and social exchanges and cooperation with mainland China. As a result, Macau is expected to be fully incorporated into China's socialist system in 2049, 50 years after the return, but it is likely to remain a city of special character considering Macau's region and its economic structure. On the other hand, the One Country Two Systems arrangement with Hong Kong is expected to undergo a difficult process in the future. In the midst of various conflicts surrounding Hong Kong, the guarantee for Hong Kong’s autonomy is expected to end in 2047 amid efforts on the part of the mainland government to sinicize Hong Kong. And China wants to apply the philosophy of “One Country, Two Systems” to its reunification with Taiwan as well, but in reality this remains very low in possibility.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Bilateral Relations, Hegemony, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia, Korea, Hong Kong, Macau
  • Author: Sungwoo Hong, Yeo Joon Yoon, Jino Kim, Jeewoon Rim, Jimin Nam
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP)
  • Abstract: The conflict between the United States and China may be the issue of most importance as well as interest to the world, prior to COVID-19. This conflict between the two countries is appearing not only in the economic sector, but also in various field such as politics, diplomacy, and military affairs. Such competition between the two countries is likely to escalate further as multilateral systems such as the WTO are threatened and protectionism intensifies in the post-COVID-19 world. Even within Latin America, the competition between the two countries frequently appears in a variety of forms. Conflicts between the United States and China in Latin America tend to occur mainly in the infrastructure sectors. Furthermore, the United States pressured Latin American countries to choose between the United States and China, with the results of this pressure depending on the political orientation of the ruling government. In order to investigate the impact of retaliatory tariffs between the two countries on Latin American countries’ exports and welfare, we employ an event analysis for exports and computational general equilibrium (CGE) model for welfare, with Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile as the subject of our analysis. Based on the outcome of the event study, Brazil’s exports to the United States moderately increased due to the tariff imposition, and such an effect persisted for short term. Its exports to China rose considerably immediately after the tariff imposition, and then the impact tended to decrease over time. By contrast, it is difficult to conclude that the tariff imposition had a statistically significant and lasting effect on the exports of the remaining three countries to the United States and China. As a result of the analysis using the CGE model, meanwhile, the tariffs imposed between the United States and China trivially increased the welfare of Latin American countries.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economy, Tariffs, Exports, Trade, Rivalry
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South America, Latin America, Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Daniela Philipson García, Ana Velasco Ugalde
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Women In International Security (WIIS)
  • Abstract: On January 11, 2021, the Mexican government presented its first National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS).1 The NAP is part of Mexico’s feminist foreign policy, launched in January 2020, and it is a joint effort of the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, the Secretariat of Defense (which encompasses the Army and the Air Force), the Secretariat of the Navy, the Secretariat of Security and Citizen Protection and the National Institute for Women (INMUJERES). An interagency group is responsible for coordination, monitoring and evaluation of the NAP, which is subject to an overall review in 2024. In this policy brief, we analyze Mexico’s NAP and make three arguments. First, NAPs are not only relevant for a country’s foreign policy and international engagements but are also significant for a country’s domestic security. Unfortunately, Mexico’s NAP is almost exclusively outward focused and does little to address Mexico’s own security challenges and their impact on women, LGBTQ and nonbinary persons. Second, we argue that the NAP’s outward-facing objectives are limited to a Western format that overlooks local contexts. Third, the most effective NAPs are those that have active civil society engagement. We therefore advocate for a formal, institutionalized and expanded role for Mexican civil society organizations. We conclude with recommendations for the Mexican government and civil society organizations and sketch what a more innovative and inclusive NAP could look like.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, International Cooperation, Women, LGBT+, Peace, WPS, Civil Society Organizations
  • Political Geography: Mexico
  • Author: Trita Parsi
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
  • Abstract: • Abandon dominance. For many of the United States’ security partners, even a dysfunctional Pax Americana is preferable to the compromises that a security architecture would inevitably entail. The preconditions for creating a successful security architecture can emerge only if the United States begins a military withdrawal from the Persian Gulf and credibly signals it no longer seeks to sustain hegemony. • Encourage regional dialogue, but let the region lead. The incoming Biden administration’s hint that it will seek an inclusive security dialogue in the Persian Gulf is a welcome first step toward shifting the burden of security to the regional states themselves. For such an effort to be successful, the United States should play a supporting role while urging regional states to take the lead. • Include other major powers. The regional dialogue should include the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and major Asian powers with a strong interest in stability in the Persian Gulf. Including them can help dilute Washington’s and Beijing’s roles while protecting the region from inter–Asian rivalries in the future.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, National Security, United Nations, Military Strategy, Hegemony, Military Affairs, Grand Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Persian Gulf
  • Author: Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
  • Abstract: Despite the Biden administration’s push to revitalize U.S. alliances, U.S. relations with NATO are due for a reset. The United States should incentivize European members of NATO to take on additional responsibilities for their defense. Encouraging the European allies to take initiative will help the United States focus on its other domestic and international priorities and may facilitate improving relations with Russia. This approach will also prove attractive to European states concerned about the future direction of U.S. foreign policy. Recalibrating the U.S. role in Europe would conform with the United States’ post–World War II efforts to stabilize European security — and stand as the fruit of Washington’s success in this regard.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, NATO, International Security, Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Alliance
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Gordon Adams
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
  • Abstract: To meet today’s foreign policy challenges, the United States needs to end its overreliance on military superiority and intervention and instead put creative and persistent diplomacy in the lead to promote locally owned solutions to national, bilateral, and regional security issues and to address global challenges not amenable to military force. This rebalancing will not succeed if civilian statecraft is dysfunctional and unprepared. More funding and more diplomats will not solve this problem. What is needed is fundamental reform of structures, processes, and personnel practices, particularly at the State Department. These include strategic planning, resource planning, institutional integration, clear authority over security assistance programs, and moving away from nation-building and toward conflict prevention. Far-reaching changes in the way diplomats are recruited, trained, and promoted are also required. Without such changes, there is substantial risk that our diplomatic tools will be ineffective, resulting in even greater militarization of U.S. foreign policy when diplomacy fails.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation, International Security, Bilateral Relations, Military Affairs, Grand Strategy, Alliance, Statecraft
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Sarang Shidore
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
  • Abstract: In the wake of a sharp deterioration in U.S.–China and India–China relations, there is an increasing emphasis in U.S. relations with India on military-to-military ties and bloc formation over other forms of relationship-building. Washington is steadily militarizing the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad,” a four-member security group that is intended to counter Beijing, of which New Delhi is a member. This, combined with India’s stalled economy and the outlook for longer-term post-pandemic weakness, is accentuating a risk-prone asymmetry in U.S.–India relations. There also remain key divergences in the specifics of U.S. and Indian interests, even on the question of countering China. Over-militarized U.S.–India relations could help push Asia closer to a paradigm of military blocs, frontline states, and zero-sum games, while also planting seeds for a nationalist backlash against the United States in South Asia as a whole. The United States should therefore reorient its vital partnership with India according to these four recommendations: Limit the relationship’s increasing militarization and instead emphasize nontraditional areas of security cooperation such as climate change and peacekeeping, which lend themselves to inclusion rather than exclusion. The Quad should be returned to its original political-normative focus; Create conditions favorable to India’s comprehensive development, particularly in the energy, environmental, and supply-chain spaces, as a lower-risk path toward catalyzing a multipolar Asia; Drop demands on India to scale back ties with U.S. adversaries such as Russia and Iran; Resist the temptation to use India as a force-multiplier to pressure smaller South Asian states as to their global alignments.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Alliance
  • Political Geography: United States, India
  • Author: Pierre Mirel
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Robert Schuman Foundation (RSF)
  • Abstract: The fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the USSR were supposed to usher in a golden age in which liberal democracy and a market economy would naturally spread throughout the European continent. On the strength of this optimism, the European Union concluded accession negotiations with ten countries between 2003 and 2005, opened them to Croatia and Turkey, promised the same to the Western Balkans and launched the Neighbourhood Policy in the East and the South. Initiated in 2004, this policy intended to ensure 'stability and prosperity' on the European Union’s new borders after the accession of the Central and Eastern European countries.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Partnerships, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Louise Riis Andersen, Richard Gowan
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: UN peacekeeping is in need of change. Missions struggle to fulfil ambitious mandates in hostile environments. To improve performance and regain global trust, the UN needs tangible support and engagement from its member states, including smaller states with specialized military capabilities. RECOMMENDATIONS Smaller member states can contribute to UN peacekeeping operations by: ■ offering critical enablers (intelligence expertise, tactical air transport, medical services) and working with larger troop contributors to enhance their capacity in these areas. ■ developing guidance materials, technological tools and additional training for troop contributors, e.g. on medical support, prevention of sexual abuse and data analysis. ■ if aid donors, triangulate with the UN and the World Bank to identify projects to sustain security in countries where UN forces are drawing down.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, International Organization, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Europe, Denmark, Global Focus
  • Author: Luke Patey
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Much of Europe’s attention to Asia is currently being captured by China. However, if the European Union and its member states are serious about maintaining a rules-based global order and advancing multilateralism and connectivity, it should increase its work in building partnerships across Asia, particularly in the Indo-Pacific super-region. To save multilateralism, go to the Indo-Pacific. RECOMMENDATIONS: ■ Multilateralism first. Unpack and differentiate where the United States and China support the rules-based order and where not, but also look to new trade deals and security pacts with India and Southeast Asia partners. ■ Targeted connectivity. The EU should continue to offer support to existing regional infrastructure and connectivity initiatives. ■ Work in small groups. EU unanimity on China and Indo-Pacific policy is ideal, but not always necessary to get things done. ■ Asia specialists wanted. Invest in and develop career paths for Asia specialists in foreign and defence ministries and intelligence services.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Emerging Markets, International Organization, Science and Technology, Power Politics, European Union
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Camilla Tenna Nørup Sørensen
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: U.S.-China strategic rivalry is intensifying – and nowhere more so than in the Indo-Pacific. This is likely to result in new US requests to close allies like Denmark to increase their security and defense policy contributions to the region. French and British efforts to establish an independent European presence in the Indo-Pacific present Denmark with a way to accommodate US requests without being drawn directly into the US confrontation with China. RECOMMENDATIONS ■ The importance of the Indo-Pacific region for Danish security and defense policy is likely to grow in the coming years. The focus and resources should therefore be directed towards strengthening Danish knowledge of and competences in the region. ■ Several European states, led by France and the UK, are increasing their national and joint European security and defense profiles in the Indo-Pacific by launching new initiatives. Denmark should remain closely informed about these initiatives and be ready to engage with them. ■ Regarding potential requests to the Danish Navy for contributions to the Indo-Pacific, Denmark should prioritize the French-led European naval diplomacy.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Politics, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Denmark, North America, United States of America
  • Author: David Makovksy
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Benny Gantz’s party lost the head-to-head battle, Avigdor Liberman’s favorable influence on the coalition math has left the general in a stronger position—and taken some diplomatic weight off the Trump administration’s shoulders. Israel’s third round of elections last week seemed inconclusive at first, but the deadlock may now be broken. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did better this time than in September’s round two, but his gains were insufficient to form a new government. Potential kingmaker Avigdor Liberman jettisoned his previous idea of getting the two top parties to join forces; instead, personal antipathy and policy differences have led him to definitely state that he will not join any government Netanyahu leads. Thus, while centrist Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz may have options to shape a new government, Netanyahu has no pathway on his own. In theory, the center-left bloc has the requisite number of seats for a bare majority in the 120-member Knesset, since anti-Netanyahu forces won 62 seats. In reality, the situation is more complex.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Elena DeLozier
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Sultan Haitham will now be free to put his own stamp on the country's government and foreign policy, and a recent dust-up on the Yemeni border could provide the first indicator of his approach. On February 20, Oman will begin its next era in earnest. The new sultan, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, was officially sworn in on January 11, but he has remained quiet and mostly out of sight during the forty-day mourning period that followed the death of his cousin, Sultan Qaboos. Now that this period is drawing to a close, he is free to put his stamp on Omani policy. Notably, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lead the first international delegation to see Sultan Haitham in the post-mourning period. When the meeting was first scheduled, the secretary likely saw it as a chance to get to know the new leader, and also as a symbolic visit to make up for sending such a low-level delegation to offer condolences. Yet the two may have more to talk about now. Earlier this week, a flare-up occurred between Saudi forces and Omani-backed locals in the Yemeni border province of al-Mahra. The confrontation may be Sultan Haitham’s first regional test, and identifying the actors who help him get through it could help Washington discern future power centers within Oman’s often opaque government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Oman, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If the latest U.S. effort winds up backing the Palestinians into a territorial corner from the outset, then Washington may not be able to move the process any closer to direct negotiations. The newly released U.S. peace plan marks a very significant shift in favor of the current Israeli government’s view, especially when compared to three past U.S. initiatives: (1) the Clinton Parameters of December 2000, (2) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s “Annapolis Process” of 2007-2008, and (3) Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2013-2014 initiative. The message is clear: the Trump administration will no longer keep sweetening the deal with every Palestinian refusal, a criticism some have aimed at previous U.S. efforts. Yet the new plan raises worrisome questions of its own. Will its provisions prove so disadvantageous to the proposed Palestinian state that they cannot serve as the basis for further negotiations? And would such overreach enable Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to sway Arab states who have signaled that they want to give the proposal a chance, convincing them to oppose it instead? If so, the plan may wind up perpetuating the current diplomatic impasse and setting the stage for a one-state reality that runs counter to Israel’s identity as a Jewish, democratic state. This two-part PolicyWatch will address these questions by examining how the Trump plan compares to past U.S. initiatives when it comes to the conflict’s five core final-status issues. Part 1 focuses on two of these issues: borders and Jerusalem. Part 2 examines security, refugees, and narrative issues.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Borders, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ghaith al-Omari
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By granting Israel much more say over the sovereignty of a future Palestinian state and its ability to absorb refugees, the document may undermine the administration’s ability to build an international coalition behind its policies. President Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan was presented as a departure from previous approaches—a notion that invited praise from its supporters (who saw it as a recognition of reality) and criticism from its opponents (who saw it as an abandonment of valued principles). The plan does in fact diverge from past efforts in fundamental respects, yet there are also some areas of continuity, and ultimately, the extent to which it gains traction will be subject to many different political and diplomatic variables. Even so, the initial substance of the plan document itself will play a large part in determining how it is viewed by various stakeholders, especially those passages that veer away from the traditional path on core issues. Part 1 of this PolicyWatch assessed what the plan says about two such issues: borders and Jerusalem. This second installment discusses security, refugee, and narrative issues.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Refugees, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The surest way to counter Iran’s malign influence is to proactively focus on human rights issues that the new prime minister can actually affect, such as organizing free elections and preventing further violence against protestors. On February 1, a plurality of Iraqi parliamentary factions gave President Barham Salih the go-ahead to nominate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as the new prime minister-designate. The mild-mannered Shia Islamist nominee will now attempt to form and ratify his cabinet in the next thirty days. As he does so, political blocs will probably rally behind him while limiting his mandate to organizing early elections next year, having struggled through a long and fractious process to replace resigned prime minister Adil Abdulmahdi. For the first time since the dramatic events of the past two months, Iraqis and U.S. policymakers alike can catch their breath and consider their medium-term options.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Elections, Domestic politics, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Hanin Ghaddar
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Unless Washington and its allies respond to the protestors’ legitimate demands for reform, the group will survive through measures such as expanding its smuggling activity, promoting its financial institutions, and selectively scapegoating corrupt politicians. When IMF officials visited Lebanon late last month amid its accelerating economic freefall, many wondered whether these developments might alter the behavior of Hezbollah, the designated terrorist group that has a deep financial stake in the country’s public and private sectors. During a previous funding crisis—the increase in U.S. sanctions against the group’s chief underwriter, Iran—the “Party of God” and its foreign sponsors formulated a new strategy to evade these measures and create alternative sources of funding. Such sources allowed Hezbollah to make further inroads into government agencies following the 2018 parliamentary elections. For example, the group’s leaders insisted on controlling the Health Ministry, which commands Lebanon’s fourth-largest budget at $338 million per year; they also gained more access to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Agriculture Ministry, and the Ministry of Energy and Water, whose assistance was used to fund their affiliated projects and businesses. That worked until Lebanon’s own economy began its current nosedive. Unemployment has hit a record high of 40 percent, and the lira has slumped by about 60 percent on the parallel market, hiking inflation. Officially pegged to the dollar, the currency has plummeted 40 percent on the black market as local banks ration dollars necessary for imports of food, medicine, and other essential goods. Meanwhile, Lebanon has one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world (over 150 percent) and may not be able to pay $1.2 billion in Eurobonds this month. As with the Iran sanctions, however, Hezbollah has a strategy to survive this domestic pressure, at least in the near term.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Corruption, Debt, Politics, Protests, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Enhancing deterrence and protecting Americans in Iraq and Syria requires a more formalized system for rationing out retaliatory strikes at the proper intensity, time, and place. When U.S. airstrikes targeted Kataib Hezbollah militia personnel and senior Iranian military figures on December 29 and January 3, they were releasing long-pent-up retaliation for a range of provocations by Iraqi militias. Yet while these powerful blows may have injected some caution into enemy calculations, such deterrence is likely to be a wasting asset. The most proximal trigger for the strikes—the killing of an American civilian contractor during Kataib Hezbollah’s December 27 rocket attack on the K-1 base in Kirkuk—was just one in a series of increasingly risky militia operations against U.S. facilities. Only good fortune has prevented more Americans from dying in attacks conducted since then, including January 8 (when Iranian ballistic missiles struck the U.S. portion of al-Asad Air Base, causing more than a hundred nonlethal traumatic brain injuries), January 26 (mortar strike on the dining hall at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad), January 31 (rockets fired at the U.S. site at Qayyarah West), February 10 (explosive device thrown at a U.S. logistical convoy south of Baghdad), and February 13 (rocket attack on U.S. site at Kirkuk). The United States has seemingly communicated to Tehran that it will strike Iraqi militias and Iranian targets if any Americans are killed, but this redline has opened up a dangerous gray zone in which Iran and its proxies are emboldened to continue their nonlethal attacks. Besides the fact that such high-risk attacks are destined to result in more American deaths at some point, they will also produce many more injuries if permitted to continue, as seen in the January 8 strike. More broadly, they will limit U.S. freedom of movement in Iraq and Syria, undermining the point of being there in the first place. This situation is unacceptable—the United States needs a way to deter such behavior even when attacks fall short of killing Americans. When faced with similar challenges in past decades, the U.S. military established reckoning systems that matched the punishment to the crime, with useful levels of predictability, proportionality, and accountability.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Assassination, No-Fly Zones
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Instead of focusing on Iran's missile retaliation or future threats, the Supreme Leader used his latest speech to extoll the virtues of public unity behind the regime’s revolutionary goals. On January 8, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered his first public speech since the U.S. assassination of Qasem Soleimani and the subsequent Iranian missile strike on Iraqi bases housing American forces. As part of an address that touched on regional solidarity against the United States and other notable subjects, he spent considerable time claiming that Soleimani symbolized the Iranian people’s continued commitment to the revolution. In doing so, he indicated that popular support for the regime remains a crucial objective for Iran’s leaders, perhaps more so than issuing or acting on further military threats.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Domestic politics, Qassem Soleimani, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even as their lack of transparency worsens the public health crisis, the Supreme Leader and other officials have systematically gutted any civil society elements capable of organizing substantial opposition to such policies. Iran’s ongoing coronavirus epidemic has left the people with less reason than ever to trust the information and directives issued by their leaders. Part 1 of this PolicyWatch discussed the clergy’s role in aggravating this problem, but the state’s mistakes and deceptions have been legion as well. They include scandalous discrepancies between official reports after a period of denial that the virus had entered the country; a health system that was unprepared to deal with such a disease promptly and properly; and official resistance to implementing internationally recommended precautionary measures, such as canceling flights from China and quarantining the center of the outbreak. These decisions have sown widespread confusion about facts and fictions related to the virus, the most effective medically proven ways to control it, and the degree to which it is spreading throughout the country. As a result, an already restive population has become increasingly panicked about the future and angry at the state. Yet can the coronavirus actually bring down the regime? The harsh reality is that the state has left little space for opposition to organize around health issues, or any issues for that matter. Instead, it has sought to confuse the people and redirect their anger toward external enemies, even as its own policies contribute to the crisis.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Civil Society, Health, Public Health, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Whether they reveal a detailed plan or merely preview an aspirational document, U.S. officials still need to clarify their goals at a time when elections are looming and Palestinian participation seems highly unlikely. In a dramatic move, President Trump has announced that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his leading rival, Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz, will visit the White House on January 28 to be briefed on the administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan. Trump told reporters that the plan would likely be released before the summit. Predictably, no invitation was extended to the Palestinian Authority, which severed relations with Washington after the U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem in 2017.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Negotiation, Peace, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The clergy’s ambitions for global Shia revolution made the city of Qom uniquely vulnerable to the disease, and their resistance to modern medical science weakened the state’s ability to combat its spread. On February 19, two days before the Iranian government officially announced the arrival of coronavirus, an infected businessman who had recently returned from China to Qom passed away. The location and timing of his death illustrate how the Shia holy city and the religious leaders and institutions who call it home have played an outsize role in the disease’s disproportionately rapid spread inside Iran compared to other countries. How did this situation come to pass, and what does it say about the current state of the clerical establishment, its relationship with the regime, and its alienation from large swaths of Iranian society? (Part 2 of this PolicyWatch discusses the regime's role in the outbreak and its resiliency to such crises.)
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Religion, Shia, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Oula A. Alrifai
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Besides highlighting Assad’s financial mismanagement, the recent unrest gives the international community a genuine opportunity to push for transition while bolstering the more prosperous local administration in the northeast. Since mid-January, shop owners, government employees, students, and even children have been gathering in the streets of various Syrian communities to express their frustration with the Assad regime’s economic policies and untruths. Although the protests remain small for now, the fact that they have persistently carried on in the middle of regime-controlled territory highlights Bashar al-Assad’s potential vulnerability on these issues. In Suwayda, a Druze-majority province in the south, residents have protested the sharp drop in the value of the Syrian pound/lira and the deteriorating economic situation in general. In the central-western town of Salamiya, protestors were seen chanting “we want to live.” And in the Suwayda town of Shahba, demonstrators raised loaves of bread in the air while openly criticizing Bouthaina Shaaban, Assad’s political and media advisor. The latter protest was partly spurred by a recent interview on the pro-Assad television network al-Mayadeen, where Shaaban not only claimed that the country’s current economy is “fifty times better than what it was in 2011,” but also declared that “Syrians are self-sufficient in everything.” In response, protestors sarcastically noted that her comments referred to her own household’s economy, not Syria’s. Elsewhere, former agriculture minister Nour al-Din Manna described Shaaban’s remarks about the war-torn country as “hard to believe,” and a closer look at the country’s finances supports this disbelief.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Syrian War, Currency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Ali Alfoneh
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Given the IRGC’s recent restructuring, the Qods Force will likely see more continuity than change under Qaani, though his bureaucratic background is a far cry from Soleimani’s brand of charismatic, risky leadership. On January 3, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appointed Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani as chief commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, just hours after his predecessor, Qasem Soleimani, was killed by a U.S. drone strike. The new commander’s background and military activities are not nearly as well known as Soleimani’s, so taking a closer look at them can help determine whether and how the IRGC’s main extraterritorial branch might change under his leadership.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Qassem Soleimani, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A week after Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei played coy, remarking, “I have no judgment on the American election...[Both parties have been] naughty toward us.” Of course, his true reaction was far more complex. On one hand, he saw in the president-elect—who had spoken much of disentangling U.S. forces from the Middle East—a prospect of decreased military pressure on his country. On the other, he heard Trump’s raw vitriol directed at Iran’s leadership and the nuclear deal crafted by President Obama. The eventual U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA demonstrated that the new president could back up his talk with punishing action. In this close analysis of statements by Khamenei and other Iranian leaders, former seminarian Mehdi Khalaji lays out the regime’s current views on President Trump and the United States. He shows that even after the American assassination of Qods Force chief Qasem Soleimani, Iranian leaders could be open to negotiating with Washington if they believe the regime’s existence depends on it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Elections, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As in other conflict zones, Moscow cares little about reaching a peace deal so long as it can outmaneuver the West strategically while securing port and energy access—with private contractors playing an increasingly important role. The Kremlin is now openly treating Libya as another focal point of its Middle East activities. After years of U.S. neglect, the country has turned into a proxy war playground, and President Vladimir Putin is vying to become the chief power broker. Earlier this month, he tried (but failed) to get Khalifa Haftar to sign a ceasefire agreement in Moscow with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). Putin also participated in the January 19 Berlin conference aimed at getting the parties back on the path toward a political solution. And though the prospects for such a deal remain uncertain, Moscow’s involvement in Libya will continue either way.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Civil War, Geopolitics, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: To ensure that new protests, new sanctions, and new political leadership wind up helping rather than hindering Iraqi sovereignty, Washington must handle upcoming developments with great care. In the coming weeks, Iraq’s parliament may appoint a replacement for Prime Minister Adil Abdulmahdi. This is a very positive development, since the country’s sundry Iranian-backed militias would like nothing better than to keep the discredited leader under their thumb as an open-ended caretaker premier following his November resignation. In contrast, a new leader with a new mandate could get the government moving again, pass a budget, bring the criminals responsible for killing protestors to justice, and assuage angry protestors by making visible preparations for early, free, and fair elections—thereby remedying the results of the widely disparaged 2018 vote. Such is the political space that has opened up since the deaths of Iranian Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month. For the United States, the challenge is how to support these changes without disrupting positive local dynamics.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Sovereignty, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In this study, counterterrorism expert Matthew Levitt explores the history and current status of Hezbollah operations against French interests, and details how a change in Paris's longstanding opposition to designating the group could bolster French efforts to stabilize Lebanon. Lebanon’s corrupt political system needs major reforms, but Hezbollah has indicated, unsurprisingly, that it will reject any changes that diminish its political status. Specifically, the group insisted in late September that it maintain control of key ministries in any future government. This demand cut against the work of French authorities seeking to help stabilize the country following the devastating port blast in early August. In his response, President Emmanuel Macron signaled a break from typical French passivity toward Hezbollah. He denounced the group’s attempts to pose as a legitimate political party while engaging in militant activity independent of the Lebanese state. In this Policy Note, counterterrorism expert Matthew Levitt shares the little-known story of Hezbollah’s targeting of French interests, dating to the early 1980s. He then shows how the group poses a unique and growing set of challenges to France, both at home and abroad, and argues that Paris should reconsider its longtime opposition to designating Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. Such a policy change, he contends, would bolster Macron’s efforts to stabilize Lebanon while mitigating threats within French territory.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Counter-terrorism, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, France, Lebanon
  • Author: Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: U.S.-European cooperation in the Middle East may not rank high in American voters’ minds, but the issue will demand close policy attention in the months ahead. If Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump, European leaders should not allow their undoubted relief to lapse into complacency. And if Trump prevails, they should continue seeking opportunities to deepen the partnership in areas such as counterproliferation and defining the operational contours of Great Power competition. Either way, the dynamic requires a full reset. As one continental diplomat lamented, “Under Bush, Europeans agreed less with the U.S. but were more consulted. Under Obama, they agreed more but were less consulted. Under Trump, they disagree and are barely consulted.” In this new Policy Note, Charles Thepaut deftly assesses the transatlantic dilemma explaining why the post-election period will call for a strategic reckoning between European capitals and Washington. From shared priorities, a fresh approach can emerge in the Middle East, coupled with the pursuit of achievable goals and rooted in a more thoughtful division of military and political tasks.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Transatlantic Relations, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Qatar's break with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors remains unresolved, and rumors circulate of bids to replace Tamim bin Khalifa al-Thani, Qatar’s forty-year-old emir, with one of his historically marginalized rivals. The Washington Institute has been sponsoring a series of discussions about sudden succession in the Middle East. Each session focuses on scenarios that might unfold if a specific ruler or leader departed the scene tomorrow. Questions include these: Would the sudden change lead to different policies? Would it affect the stability of the respective countries involved, or the region as a whole? What would be the impact on U.S. interests? Would the manner of a leader's departure make a difference? The discussions also probe how the U.S. government might adjust to the new situation or influence outcomes. This essay, twelfth in the series, explores Qatar, known historically as a refuge for “banished leaders, fleeing criminals, exiled religious figures, and other waifs and strays.” But the Gulf nation’s neighbors have long bridled at its independent streak, as shown by the 2017 rift with Saudi Arabia and three other regional states. The break—spurred by a perception of Qatari support for terrorism, closeness to Iran, and a range of other complaints—remains unresolved today, and rumors circulate of bids to replace Tamim bin Khalifa al-Thani, Qatar’s forty-year-old emir, with one of his historically marginalized rivals.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Qatar, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Assaf Orion, Denis Thompson
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: For almost four decades, the Multinational Force & Observers has protected Israel-Egypt peace and anchored stability in the Sinai Peninsula, but a new Pentagon initiative could end the American contribution by late next year. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has indicated that all military endeavors must now fall within a National Defense Strategy focused on Great Power competition. Look closer, though, and America’s MFO role does just that. Both Russia and China have recently sought deeper involvement in Egypt’s development, nuclear energy, arms acquisition, and broader economy, so staying in Sinai means staying relevant. This timely Policy Note is authored by two decorated military officers, Assaf Orion, a brigadier general in the Israel Defense Forces, and Denis Thompson, a Canadian Army major general who led the MFO from 2014 to 2017. They contend that the grand-strategic benefits of the force—now populated by 1,156 troops from thirteen nations—easily justify its low cost. An American exit would likely unravel the entire MFO, putting Israel-Egypt peace and regional stability at needless risk.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: North Africa, North America, Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, United States of America
  • Author: Farzin Nadimi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In an April 22 tweet, President Trump spoke of instructing the U.S. Navy to destroy any Iranian gunboats that "harass our ships at sea." Aside from whether it departed from existing U.S. rules of engagement, the statement highlighted a persistent reality: the military threat posed by Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf. Months before the coronavirus pandemic seized the world's attention, these forces were already reasserting themselves through bold actions against U.S., Saudi, and wider Gulf interests. In this impressively detailed Policy Focus -- an updated version of his 2008 volume -- military expert Farzin Nadimi offers historical context and specifics on Iran's naval activities in the Gulf. The study, which includes maps, tables, and other graphics, covers everything from submarines to sea mines, while also distinguishing between the roles of the revolutionary navy (IRGCN) and the conventional one (IRIN). Most important, it offers a sober take on Iran's capabilities and intentions during a perilously unstable time.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Navy
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Persian Gulf, United States of America
  • Author: Danny Citrinowicz
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Given past developments, the UAE’s and Israel’s recent announcement of normalization in exchange for shelving annexation plans should come as no great surprise, even if the timing was unexpected. There remains, however, frequently understated differences between one aspect of this relationship often assumed to be a common denominator: Jerusalem’s and Abu Dhabi’s perspectives on Iran. Understanding and accommodating these differences will be critical issue for a lasting relationship between the two countries, with the Israeli government in particular needing to acknowledge the differences as well as similarities between the two sides. It is no secret that Israel and the UAE see Iran as a common enemy; both countries have worked together covertly for years to prevent Iranian hegemony in the Gulf and Middle East at large. Since the beginning of their unofficial relationship several decades ago, the two countries have improved their intelligence-sharing and military relations, strengthened their diplomatic ties behind the scenes, and worked to improve their readiness for Iranian threats across the board. President Trump’s recent decisions to withdraw troops from parts of the Middle East region and the world at large have further catalyzed development of Israel-UAE relations in anticipation of weakened direct support from the United States.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Gulf Nations
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, United Arab Emirates
  • Author: Baraa Sabri
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Over the last four years, Kurds in Iran have watched Kurdish communities in Syria and Iraq continue to suffer losses at the hands of hostile forces, disoriented by the turbulent shifts in Washington’s decision-making. It once seemed that the United States would support change in Iran beneficial to the country’s Kurds, but now a series of decisions by American leadership in Syria and Iraq have left many Kurdish political leaders in Iran afraid and discontented with U.S. policy in the region. Two moments during the Trump presidency particularly have soured and confused perceptions of the United States among Kurds in Iran. First, Iranian Kurds watched as the Trump administration allowed Shia militias hostile to Iraqi Kurds to take the city of Kirkuk in October 2017. Two years later, Kurds watched again as the Trump administration allowed the Turkish forces to invade northeastern Syria, driving local Kurds to flee their homes. These two moments pushed Iranian Kurds to doubt Washington’s potential contributions to the improvement of Kurdish rights in Iran. There now exists a political rift between U.S. and Iranian Kurdish leadership that may force Iranian Kurds to re-think their diplomatic position. Unfortunately for both groups, it seems that no one will benefit from such a rift—except for the Iranian government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Minorities
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, Kurdistan, United States of America
  • Author: Saleh Machnouk, Hanin Ghaddar, Matthew Levitt, Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Four experts discuss the deadly Beirut explosion as it relates to the Lebanese political system, Hezbollah hegemony, and foreign aid. On August 13, The Washington Institute held a virtual Policy Forum with Saleh Machnouk, Hanin Ghaddar, Matthew Levitt, and Charles Thepaut. Machnouk is a columnist at the Lebanese daily an-Nahar and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge. Ghaddar is the Institute's Friedmann Fellow and a former journalist with the Lebanese media. Levitt is the Institute’s Fromer-Wexler Fellow, director of its Reinhard Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, and creator of its newly released Hezbollah Select Worldwide Activity Interactive Map and Timeline. Thepaut, a French career diplomat, is a resident visiting fellow at the Institute. The following is a rapporteur’s summary of their remarks.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Foreign Aid, Hezbollah, Disaster Management
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anas El Gomati, Ben Fishman
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Publicly committing to a ceasefire is a positive development, but many details still need to be resolved with active U.S. support, especially security arrangements in central Libya and the speedy resumption of oil exports. On August 21, the political leaders of the two main factions in Libya’s civil war—Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Speaker Aguila Saleh of the eastern-based House of Representatives—issued separate statements declaring a ceasefire and a freeze in military positions around Sirte and al-Jufrah. The move followed extensive diplomatic efforts by Germany, the United States, and the UN. Many of the deal’s terms will require further negotiation, but so far they entail establishing a demilitarized zone in central Libya and lifting the oil blockade that has cost the country $8 billion to date. Saleh also called for reformatting the Presidential Council and moving it from Tripoli to Sirte, while Sarraj called for holding national elections next March. The announcements grew out of the stalemate that set in after GNA-aligned forces pushed to the outskirts of Sirte in June. Since then, Egypt and Turkey have escalated their threats of direct military action, spurring intensified Western diplomacy to stave off a regional war. Of particular significance is Saleh replacing eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar in the negotiations. The latter’s sponsors in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt lost confidence in him after his fourteen-month offensive against Tripoli collapsed this May. In response to the new ceasefire, Haftar’s spokesman in the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) dismissed Sarraj’s statement, vowed to remain in Sirte, and completely ignored Saleh’s parallel statement, indicating deep divisions in east Libya and raising questions about who has authority over the LNA’s fighting forces. Saleh has not been a reliable diplomatic interlocutor in the past and remains under U.S. sanctions for obstructing the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement. Thus, while Haftar is politically marginalized for now, he or other eastern commanders could still undermine the ceasefire.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Oil, Conflict, Proxy War, Ceasefire
  • Political Geography: Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Sardar Aziz
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: When I moved into new accommodations in the centre of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, the lift announcements in the apartment tower were in Chinese, followed by Kurdish, Arabic and English. This multilingualism was surprising but positive; it was a clear sign of the dawn of a new era. If in the past, Kurdish was the local language, Arabic regional, and English global, the addition of Chinese signified the plurality of global language and, potentially, of global power. These days, there is a regional focus on Iran’s newly announced 25 year deal with China, which has resulted in a lot of noise both inside and outside Iran. It is not surprising that Sino–Iranian relations are continuing to develop as both countries are hoping for a different world order. Though not so scrutinized, Iraq has seen its own growing ties with China, with the two countries having signed a number of agreements last year. Former Iraqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi, once a Maoist himself, stated in his visit to Beijing ‘we belong to Asia and we want to be a part of its emergence.’ The large Iraqi delegation accompanying him—as told to me by one member of the delegation—all noted and admired what they saw as China’s shift from a poor country to a global power. The deal agreed upon during that meeting, in remaining secret, has created fertile ground for conspiracy and speculations inside Iraq.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China, Iraq, Middle East, Asia, Kurdistan
  • Author: Katherine Bauer, Kevin Mathieson
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Tehran is pressing Seoul regarding the billions in Iranian oil revenues held by South Korean banks, creating an opportunity to expand the U.S. humanitarian trade mechanism. On July 21, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to lodge a complaint over Tehran’s heightened rhetoric regarding access to funds frozen in South Korea. The week before, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson had accused Seoul of having a “master-servant relationship” with Washington, while the governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) had previously threatened legal action to access the funds, which Tehran says it plans to use for humanitarian purchases. Although the U.S. government authorized use of the funds for such purposes in February, South Korean banks appear hesitant to move forward without additional U.S. assurances—a reluctance compounded by the $86 million fine that U.S. regulators levied on the Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) in April for failing to identify large-scale Iranian money laundering. With COVID-19 cases on the rise again in the Islamic Republic, Washington should work with Seoul to ensure that trade for medicine, equipment, and other humanitarian items moves forward—albeit with strict oversight.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Trade
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Asia, South Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Kevjin Lim
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Beijing has steadily become Tehran’s economic ventilator, diplomatic prop, and military enabler, and the Iranians need this backstop now more than ever. When the coronavirus spun out of control in Wuhan this January, Iran ignored the example of many other countries and continued to maintain direct flights and open borders with China. Even after President Hassan Rouhani’s government suspended all such flights on January 31, Mahan Air—a company affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—kept flying between Tehran and four first-tier Chinese cities, leading many to allege that the airline was instrumental in introducing or at least exacerbating Iran’s raging epidemic. Whatever the truth behind these allegations, Mahan’s policy is symptomatic of a larger geopolitical reality: Tehran has become profoundly, disproportionately, and perhaps irretrievably dependent on Beijing, despite its own revolutionary opposition to reliance on foreign powers. Where diplomatic and economic sanctions have fallen short, the pandemic has succeeded in isolating the Islamic Republic like never before, compelling it to keep its borders to China open. COVID-19 has also dispelled the notion that Iran’s heavily-sanctioned “resistance economy” still suffices to keep the country solvent. The government has conceded that staying afloat would be impossible if it curtailed cross-border trade, shut down industries, and quarantined entire cities. The crisis is so severe that Iran’s Central Bank has for the first time in decades requested billions of U.S. dollars in assistance from the IMF. Indeed, according to Deputy Health Minister Reza Malekzadeh, whenever his colleagues questioned why China flights continue, bilateral economic relations were among the reasons given. Two days after the government’s ban on such flights, Chinese ambassador Chang Hua tweeted that Mahan CEO Hamid Arabnejad wanted to continue cooperating with Beijing. Neither man specified exactly what this meant, but the implied message to Tehran was clear given China’s resentment of travel bans. Meanwhile, the Iranian Students News Agency, Tabnak, and other domestic media criticized Mahan for prioritizing profit margins over public health.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Sanctions, Geopolitics, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Benjamin Tallis, Elena Zhirukhina, Mark Galeotti, Jan Mazač
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institute of International Relations Prague
  • Abstract: The policy brief is a result of conclusions from roundtable discussions with policy makers and researchers that took place in Prague and Oslo in late 2019 and early 2020. The researchers studied how to better respond to fear factors and move beyond them in foreign policy. A key observation made in the new brief is that while changes in American, Chinese and Russian foreign policies may trigger anxiety and uncertainty among smaller European states, fears like this can also have productive effects on foreign policy thinking and practice. For states like Czechia and Norway, it can create opportunities for re-thinking support networks and reaching out to new partners. While Norway and Czechia have different historical, geographical and (sometimes) political points of departure, the two states’ assessment of recent international developments is similar. This creates room for conversation and mutual learning - including how to best respond to increased levels of rivalry between great powers, and changing dynamics in the EU and NATO. There are also similarities in how Norway and Czechia perceive their regional collaboration with their respective Nordic and Visegrad states – and how there is considerable scope for them to branch out from their regional formats.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, NATO, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Norway, Czech Republic
  • Author: John Dotson
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Events throughout 2020 have seen a measured but steady increase in tensions surrounding Taiwan. The government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to deny any legitimacy to the democratically-elected government of the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan. The PRC also continues to make menacing insistence upon unification on Beijing’s terms, in language that has grown more strident throughout the tenure of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping (China Brief, February 15, 2019; China Brief, November 1, 2019). Against this background, the PRC has reacted with both harsh rhetoric and saber rattling to enhanced U.S.-Taiwan diplomatic contacts in August and September, as well as a reported further round of impending U.S.-Taiwan arms sales (see discussion further below). One PRC English-language outlet opined in late September that “The U.S. has been releasing all kinds of supportive signals to Taiwan this year, with the level and frequency of their so-called interactions flagrantly enhanced… While [some in Taiwan] jump at such signals, they’d better think long and hard whether the signals are sweet poisons from the U.S. for Taiwan” (PLA Daily, September 25).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Arms Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia
  • Author: Michael Horton
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Neutrality is one of Oman’s greatest assets. Under the leadership of the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Oman successfully navigated the fall of the Shah in Iran, the Cold War and its end, the U.S.-led War on Terror, and the Arab Spring. Through all these global and region shape events, Oman has maintained its neutrality and independence. Oman, for example, maintains longstanding relationships with the United States and Great Britain while, at the same time, it enjoys constructive relations with Iran. Moreover, although Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are aligned against Iran, Qatar, and Turkey, Oman has managed to work with all of these countries to address regional issues.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, War, Non State Actors, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Rami Jameel
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On October 9, the Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) signed the “Sinjar Agreement” to normalize the situation in the war-torn district of Sinjar in northern Iraq. The agreement stated that only Iraqi federal forces should operate in Sinjar and all other armed groups must leave the town. It also gave the KRG a say on establishing a new local government, including appointing a new mayor, and planning and running reconstruction efforts in Sinjar, including related budgetary matters (Rudaw, October 10).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Non State Actors, Kurds, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This policy paper sets out the various interests and goals of global powers (the US, Russia, China and the EU) in the Mediterranean, and the measures they are undertaking to implement them. The document also describes Israeli policies vis-àvis the powers’ activities in this region, and points to the principles that should guide them. The paper is based on a July 2019 meeting in Jerusalem of the research and policy working group on Israel in the Mediterranean, held at the initiative of the Mitvim Institute, the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and Haifa University’s National Security Studies Center.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Middle East, Israel, United States of America, Mediterranean
  • Author: David Walzer
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Israel and the European Union (EU) have built a special, strategic relationship over decades, since the 1960s. Following centuries of war, two world wars, tens of millions dead and destruction across the continent, the EU can be declared as the most successful expression of Europeans’ aspiration for peace and prosperity. With a population of 450 million, the EU is not only Israel’s biggest trade partner, it is also the biggest and most generous aid donor to the Palestinian Authority (PA), without which Israel would be forced to allocate extensive budgetary resources for the PA’s preservation and its commitments. Moreover, a large part of the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora has its roots in Europe. Many Israelis aspire to the continent’s standards of moral and cultural values and to its political systems. At the same time, many in Europe see Israel and the Israelis as members of the European family. Agreements on economic, trade, science, and other matters of vital value to Israel have been signed over the years within the framework of the special relationship that has developed with the EU.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, European Union, Economy, Trade
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Nimrod Goren, Merav Kahana-Dagan, Roee Kibrik, Lior Lehrs, Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, Ksenia Svetlova
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: srael’s new foreign minister should lead a process of fixing Israel’s foreign policy. This paper presents recommendations for messages he can convey and actions he can take to improve Israel’s regional relations with Arab states, the Palestinians and Europe. It is based on deliberations by a Mitvim Institute task team.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Regional Integration, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries, Egypt, Jordan
  • Author: Monika Chansoria
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: Understanding classical geopolitics remains crucial to the study of international relations based on considerations of location and physical geography and to their adaptation of political goals. The said process has been a dynamic and evolving one, with the effects of location, geomorphology, and conditions for national power being regarded as essential constituents. It is often argued that geopolitics has always ‘self-consciously’ been a theory of foreign policy, wherein physio-geographical conditions were a vital parameter of the studies that explained the expansion of European powers in the past. From thereon, a dominating geostrategic prediction for the 21st century was that it would be an Asian one. That notwithstanding, Asian states find themselves at a strategic crossroads in the midst of multiple, overlapping challenges, which include: putting their domestic fiscal houses in order; ensuring long-term economic growth; and a critical need to shape a leaner and technologically advanced joint force in the military sphere. Even as the United States and its alliance partners in Asia hopefully work toward cooperative exits from the increasingly unsustainable current global co-dependency—where the economic growth is being viewed through continued consumption and utilization of resources loaned by others—Washington’s approach and focus on renewing its economic and military power is being watched carefully. The US position has been confronted with serious challenges, all of which, if left unaddressed, could undermine the current security environment.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Economic Growth, Geography
  • Political Geography: United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Susi Dennison, Livia Franco
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Portugal’s plans for the EU presidency centre on European priorities for the pre-coronavirus world. These include the completion of the monetary union, the UK-EU relationship after Brexit, the EU’s relationships with Africa and India, climate change, digital transformation, and social inequality. The Portuguese EU presidency should handle these issues in line with European voters’ perceptions of the new reality created by the coronavirus. Many Europeans have lost confidence in the transatlantic relationship, fear for Europe’s place in a world dominated by US-China competition, and want the EU to provide global leadership and shape the international order. Portugal can help the EU develop a foreign policy strategy that takes account of these changes.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, European Union, Transatlantic Relations, Strategic Competition, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Portugal, United States of America
  • Author: Chris Raggett
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: European governments have failed to prevent corrupt actors from laundering hundreds of billions of dollars through the international financial system and their own economies. This breakdown in the rule of law empowers kleptocratic regimes across the globe, which capitalise on the political culture underpinning Europe’s approach to globalisation. Western governments create a negative feedback loop that hinders their foreign policy initiatives when they treat corruption in other countries as an inherent part of the local culture. European policymakers should aim to catch up with, and overtake, their US counterparts on anti-money laundering regulation and enforcement. European countries should create national institutions – and an international coalition of Western states – that are dedicated to countering kleptocrats.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Corruption, European Union, Rule of Law, Financial Crimes, Impunity
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Asli Aydıntaşbaş
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Turkey now controls a long stretch of Syrian territory along its southern border that hosts nearly four million people, most of them Sunni Arabs. The challenges for Turkey there include a difficult balancing act with Russia, the huge financial costs of direct rule, the presence of radical Islamist factions, and the lack of a modus vivendi with the Kurds. Turkey faces the risk of the “Gazafication” of the area – the emergence of a militarily controlled territory that is perennially poverty-stricken and unstable. EU member states can find ways to cooperate with Turkey to support stabilisation in parts of the safe zone, without violating their interests and core principles. They should single out the Euphrates Shield Zone for stabilisation work, on the understanding that other areas captured from the Kurds are politically sensitive for European governments and voters alike. Europe should aim to strike a grand bargain with Turkey: in return for targeted European reconstruction aid to the safe zone, the country would lift its veto on stabilisation in Kurdish-controlled areas, allow trade between these zones, or agree to Kurdish participation in the UN-led political process on Syria.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Treaties and Agreements, Border Control, Geopolitics, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Gaza, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Danielle Piatkiewicz, Miroslava Pisklová
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Europeum Institute for European Policy
  • Abstract: It was noted that the pandemic has not brought about systemic change but has instead accelerated and exacerbated existing trends. Both the US and the EU see the pandemic furthering disagreements and on both sides of the Atlantic by causing rise to internal political divisions on how to tackle the pandemic. One of the big lessons of this global crisis is that collaboration is crucial. Not even powerful countries, such as the US, can tackle it on their own. Now more than ever, it is time to move beyond competition and focus on strengthening international cooperation, otherwise we risk a success of non-democratic actors seeking to undermine democracy and rule of law.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Multilateralism, Crisis Management, Transatlantic Relations, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Danielle Piatkiewicz, Miroslava Pisklová
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Europeum Institute for European Policy
  • Abstract: After already enduring a 4-year term under United States’ President Trump, the future of the transatlantic relationship is at a critical junction. The US faces an upcoming election where the next administration can either further deteriorate relations or seek to rebuild and strengthen them. No matter the outcome, the future path will be intrinsically tied to how the transatlantic partners cope with the political, economic and security fallout of the global pandemic. Will the US return to the fold of multilateralism and restore an equitable world order in cooperation with the EU, or does the EU stand alone and will have to rapidly grow into a more influential geopolitical player? Or will relations continue their downward trajectories current and spur an accelerated retreat towards isolationist policies, creating space for external challengers like China and Russia to reassert their global positions and challenge the established order? This analysis will examine the current and upcoming challenges on the transatlantic horizon in regard to post-COVID economic recovery. Each region has proposed policies to tackle the current and upcoming economic aftermath of the pandemic, but as Europe outlines strong policies, the Trump administration’s approach has had dire consequences. The Biden campaign’s approach, on the other hand, shows similarities to that of Europe, evoking hope for a more harmonized approach that has proven successful in the past. This analysis will examine the US and EU’s diverging approaches to global issues, challenges and external challengers, such as Russia and China. As demonstrated by the Trump administration, the US is retreating on many of its multilateral and international commitments – how will the Transatlantic relationship look like if there is a second Trump term as opposed to if Biden takes over? Is the relationship irreparably damaged or can it be repaired? Finally, this paper will examine the future of transatlantic security under the framework of NATO’s 2030 reflection process and appraise how the new security landscape will look like post-COVID, especially as external threats mount and impact the Central and Eastern European front.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, European Union, Multilateralism, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Vít Havelka
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Europeum Institute for European Policy
  • Abstract: Ih his latest brief, our Vít Havelka discusses the topic of limits of the COVID-19 EU response and the subsidiarity principle. The subsidiarity principle is an often-debated topic among Czech Eurosceptic politicians. They usually argue that the European Union does not need more responsibility as the EU Member States can sufficiently substitute a joint EU approach, or that the new competences might threaten the national sovereignty. Paradoxically, Eurosceptics often accuse the EU of incompetence once a problem emerges that the EU has next to no power to tackle.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Sovereignty, European Union, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Christian Mölling, Heinrich Brauß
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The decision about the successor aircraft for the Tornado is important not just for Europe’s security and for Germany’s role in NATO. It also has consequences for the future of the defense industry in Germany and Europe. Finally, whether the choice is made in favor of a European or a US solution will impact both the transatlantic and the Franco-German relationship.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, NATO, Weapons , Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany, United States of America
  • Author: Cristina Gherasimov
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The EU is set to adopt a new Eastern Partnership (EaP) policy at a summit in June. This is strategically important for it and for its eastern neighborhood, where other powers like Russia and China pursue competing interests. As the policymaking process stands and given the tight deadline, however, the EU will only update and not upgrade the EaP framework due to EU states’ diverging interests. Brussels and Berlin will need to keep the EaP on the agenda after the summit to safeguard the EU’s transformative power in the region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, European Union, Partnerships
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Gerrit Kurtz
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: Germany has helped lead efforts to mobilize international support for Sudan’s transition process since President al-Bashir was ousted last year. To be successful, Germany and its partners must deliver on their promises to support the transitional government’s economic reforms with substantial aid. They should keep Sudan’s diverse partners aligned while broadening their outreach. Sudan is thus a test case for how much political capital Germany will spend on its stated objective of conflict prevention.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Government, Partnerships, Transition
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Sudan, Germany
  • Author: Didi Kirsten Tatlow
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The Communist Party of China (CPC) plans for China to achieve effective global dominance by 2049. It is using the major global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to secure strategic advantage through propaganda and disinformation, assertive, sometimes aggressive diplomacy, pursuing targeted investments, and offering “health cooperation.” The CPC has long targeted European business and political elites to build constituencies of support. Europe must counter by building robust societies based on core democratic values.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, COVID-19, Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Stefan Meister
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: Relations between the European Union (EU) and Russia have hit a new low after the attempted poisoning of Alexei Navalny and the Kremlin’s continued support for Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, despite massive electoral fraud in that country. A new Russia policy in Berlin will require a paradigm shift, using incentives and leverage to improve Germany’s negotiating position with Moscow. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline project should be under intense scrutiny. If Moscow shows itself unwilling to cooperate, construction should be stopped.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Germany
  • Author: George Tzogopoulos
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP)
  • Abstract: This essay analyses China’s health policies before and after the outbreak of COVID-19. It discusses how the problem broke out with emphasis on mistakes made by Wuhan authorities and sketches out the subsequent response of the Chinese government to stop the contagion and share practices. The essay also presents different narratives used by China, the US and the EU in dealing with the pandemic and considers multilateralism a key to address world problems. In so doing, it attempts to explore whether Sino-European partnerships could emerge in a period of rising uncertainty. Local authorities in Wuhan can be criticized for not providing information about the virus on time and for failing to block the exit of citizens from the city before the lockdown. But measures adopted subsequently by the Chinese government have been rather efficient and useful for other countries. The Sino-American antagonism overshadows the need of deeper international cooperation in dealing with COVID-19. China, the US and the EU have each attempted to shape the narrative about COVID-19. The hostility of the Trump administration towards multilateralism opens opportunities for new synergies between China and the EU on health governance. China’s Health Silk Road reflects continuity as it was first proposed in 2016. The post-COVID-19 landscape might portend both risks and opportunities to China.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, European Union, Multilateralism, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, United States of America
  • Author: George Tzogopoulos
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP)
  • Abstract: This essay by Dr. George Tzogopoulos, focuses on the multidimensional nature of Greek-Israeli relations. The understanding of the depth of these relations can explain why the two countries – along with Cyprus – are interested in coming closer. On the other hand, the effort of Israel and Turkey to normalize bilateral ties – already under way since 2016 – is a logical development that deserves attention. However, it is not related to the future evolution of Greek-Israeli collaboration. The evolution of Greek-Israeli relations in the last decade and trilateral Greece-Israel-Cyprus summits outline the common interest of the three countries to enrich their cooperation. Israel and Turkey have started since 2016 to normalize their relations. This is an ongoing process that has evolved in a period during which Greece, Israel and Cyprus charted a joint course in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel and Turkey are expected to find a modus vivendi by agreeing on some issues and disagreeing on others. A potential Turkish-Israeli collaboration against Iran in Syria might pave the way for new synergies between Israel and Turkey. This is a highly controversial and complicated matter that entails risks for Ankara.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Syria
  • Author: Ioannis N. Grigoriadis
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP)
  • Abstract: As the American elections are about to take place, many in Turkey brace for the outcome. After countless disputes between the United States and Turkey during the 2010’s, coupled with growing divergence of Turkish foreign policy, two allies’ relationship has been deceptively good for the last two years. This was not due to a meaningful rapprochement, but to Erdogan’s well-executed personal diplomacy with Trump which has proved beneficial for Turkey in many cases. Yet, this superficial rapprochement is challenged by the prospects of a Biden presidency. Biden, whose remarks are far from affable towards Erdogan and who has even pledged to support Turkish opposition, is very likely to demand Turkey to recommit to its alliance with the West. Hence, we may soon see a Turkey at a serious crossroads: either Turkey will turn its face to West once again, or it will further alienate from the West.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Elections, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Turkey, North America, United States of America, Mediterranean
  • Author: Colin Robertson
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: An internationalist and a progressive, Justin Trudeau consistently boosts diversity, social justice, environmentalism and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. A gifted retail politician, Trudeau prefers campaigning and contact with voters to the hurly-burly of the House of Commons. He possesses an empathy and emotional intelligence most people found lacking in his famous father, Pierre Trudeau. But are these attributes and causes out of sync with our turbulent times? Mr. Trudeau is learning firsthand what British prime minister Harold MacMillan warned U.S. president John F. Kennedy what was most likely to blow governments off-course: “Events, dear boy, events.” As Trudeau begins a second term as prime minister, the going is tougher. The Teflon is gone. He leads a minority government with new strains on national unity. Parliament, including his experiment in Senate reform, is going to require more of his time. Canada’s premiers will also need attention if he is to achieve progress on his domestic agenda. Does he have the patience and temperament for compromise and the art of the possible? The global operating system is increasingly malign, with both the rules-based international order and freer trade breaking down. Managing relations with Donald Trump and Xi Jinping is difficult. Canadian farmers and business are suffering - collateral damage in the Sino-U.S. disputes. In what was supposed to be a celebration of “Canada is back”, there is doubt that Canada will win a seat on the UN Security Council in June 2020. Losing would be traumatic for his government and their sense of Canada’s place in the world. It would also be a rude shock for Canadians’ self-image of themselves internationally.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Politics, Justin Trudeau
  • Political Geography: Canada, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kristi Raik, Josef Janning
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Centre for Defence and Security - ICDS
  • Abstract: This policy paper examines Estonia’s partners in the European Union with the aim of identifying ways to enhance its influence on policy-making. Effective coalition-building is also important for the EU as a whole, since it can improve the Union’s capacity to take decisions and act. The paper highlights that: Estonia has a relatively strong position in the EU, considering its small size and limited resources. It is particularly well-connected with the Nordic-Baltic partners and should seek ways to use this grouping more effectively as a means to reach out to larger member states and shape decisions in the Union. The main challenge is to build stronger links with France and Germany, something that has become all the more important due to Brexit. Teaming up with other countries that are better connected to Berlin and Paris, such as Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium, is one way to pursue this goal. It is too early to draw conclusions about the impact of the latest change of government in Estonia on the country’s influence and image among partners in the EU. However, the research interviews show some indications of a weakened position. Estonia should avoid losing its reputation as a results-oriented member state that takes into consideration the priorities of others while pursuing its own interests in a constructive manner.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation, European Union
  • Political Geography: Europe, Estonia
  • Author: Shannon Zimmerman
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Women In International Security (WIIS)
  • Abstract: The majority of countries have gender-blind foreign policies. While this may seem like a good thing, such policies fail to acknowledge and address existing gendered discrimination, inequalities, and violence. They also fail to take active steps to include women and other marginalized groups. Feminist foreign policy, in contrast, is designed to take into account and address these existing imbalances. On September 12, 2019, Women In International Security (WIIS)–Australia and the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APR2P) convened a workshop to assess whether Australia has a feminist foreign policy and, if not, what steps could be taken to advance such a policy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Gender Issues, Women, Feminism, Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
  • Abstract: Two decades of endless war and a bloated Pentagon budget that has proven useless in preventing Covid–19 deaths, now 270,000 and counting, are a jarring reminder that America’s foreign policy is thoroughly broken: It actually makes America and Americans less safe. Successive administrations have deployed the military in a costly, counterproductive, and indiscriminate manner, normalizing war and treating armed dominance as an end in itself. In consequence, the foreign policies of the United States are detached from any defensible conception of U.S. interests and from a decent respect for the rights and dignity of humankind. Marginal adjustments to the current approach will prove insufficient. A deeper rethinking of American foreign policy is warranted. This must be an undertaking that puts the well-being of the American people ahead of ambitions to dominate the globe. President-elect Joe Biden appears to recognize the need for a serious reorientation. His just-named national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, recently said that Biden has tasked his foreign policy team with “reimagining our national security for the unprecedented combination of crises we face at home and abroad,” including pandemics and the climate crisis. Moreover, Sullivan said that American foreign policy has to be judged by a basic question: Does it “make life better, easier, and safer” for Americans at home? Our foreign policy, in Sullivan’s words, has to deliver for American families.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, National Security, Military Affairs, Grand Strategy, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic knows no borders. It further knows no gender, class, or race. This virus does not discriminate, but our societies do. Around the world we have historically built systems and structures that privilege the few and disadvantage the many. When a crisis as unprecedented as the current pandemic hits, inequalities are exacerbated. This holds particularly true for gender equality which, despite encouraging steps forward, no country is on track to achieve by 2030. This not only fails politically marginalised groups, in particular women, girls, and gender nonconforming people, but also greatly hinders the international community’s commitment to foster peace and security. Research shows that the most significant factor in determining a country’s peacefulness (within its borders and towards other countries) is its level of gender equality. Already in early April, the UN warned in its policy brief, “The Impact of COPVID-19 on Women”, that the limited “gains made in the past decades [towards gender equality] are at risk of being rolled back.” Governments and foreign ministries must apply a feminist perspective to their COVID-19 response in order to to prevent a set-back, safeguard existing progress, and advance more quickly toward their goals: A ‘gender-blind’ approach would counteract all previous efforts not only in the area of gender equality, but also in conflict prevention and the pursuit of international peace.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Feminism, Coronavirus, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ekaterina Pierson-Lyzhina
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Robert Schuman Foundation (RSF)
  • Abstract: The protests against Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, which have continued beyond the August 9 presidential election, have been surprising in terms of their scale and level of politicization. The protest promises to be long-lasting bringing together people of all ages and professions, but the authorities are refusing to recognize it and are not satisfying any of its demands: to organize new this time democratic elections, to stop repression, to release detainees and political prisoners, to investigate crimes committed by the representatives of law enforcement agencies. Quite the opposite is happening: the crackdown orchestrated by Lukashenka’s regime, after a certain lull between August 12 and 16, is intensifying with hundreds of arrests per day, the repression against the emerging leaders and journalists (from the private media) who report the facts. What are the scenarios of the development of this crisis which seems to have reached an impasse? Can Belarus emerge from it without resorting to foreign mediation? What role could the European Union play?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Authoritarianism, Protests
  • Political Geography: Eurasia, Belarus
  • Author: Luke Patey
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Japan’s absence from frontline diplomacy on the North Korea crisis is undermining inter-national efforts to bring about a lasting peace. A close alliance with Tokyo is essential for American and European interests in East Asia. RECOMMENDATIONS ■ The European Union should consider playing a larger role as a mediator in the North Korean crisis. ■The United States can use its diplomatic weight to help Japan solve the abductee issue with North Korea. ■In the face of their shared security threat, Japan should take steps to ease current tensions with South Korea.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Power Politics, European Union, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Yang Jiang
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Despite China’s strong economic influence over Southeast Asian countries, tensions in the South China Sea have been flaring up again this year, as domestic oppositions and external interventions create dilemma for Southeast Asian governments. RECOMMENDATIONS ■ When considering joining the freedom of navigation operations in the SCS Denmark should consider that foreign interference will likely escalate Chinese military activities. ■ Denmark’s delicate relationship with the US and China must be carefully evaluated and managed. ■As a major maritime nation it is important for Denmark to secure a free sea through diplomacy and UN institutions. ■European countries have much room to enhance their contribution to regional development in Southeast Asia.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Diplomacy, International Organization, History, Power Politics, Economy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Luke Patey
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: A common refrain in Denmark is that China is too far away to be a threat to Danish economic, foreign and security policy interests. This is no longer the case. Danish policy-makers acknowledge that China’s rise as a global superpower presents Denmark with new challenges. However, transforming this strategic thinking into practice is no simple task. Recommendations Intensify cooperation between the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs to ensure Denmark’s initiatives in foreign policy, security and economic relations with China are more closely integrated. Beware of the bilateral. Beijing’s new assertive foreign policy and US-China strategic competition require that Denmark leverage its interests increasingly through the EU, NATO and other multilateral bodies. Assess the economic vulnerabilities of Danish industries in China and diversify trade and investment across Asia’s emerging markets and developed economies in the G7/EU.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Power Politics, Bilateral Relations, Cybersecurity, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Denmark
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Despite the damage wrought by the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, the main drivers of Islamic State resurgence in Iraq can still be restrained by local U.S. engagement, which is now even more vital than before. The gross uncertainty surrounding the future of counterterrorism operations in northeast Syria is raising understandable fears of an Islamic State comeback in Iraq. After all, the IS resurgence of 2011-2014 was partially driven by the chaotic war conditions in Syria, and suppressing the group there will be extremely challenging in the coming months amid U.S. withdrawal and Turkish invasion. Another resurgence in Iraq is hardly inevitable, however—the country is subject to different internal drivers, and the United States is still well-positioned to lead international support of Baghdad’s counterterrorism efforts. Yet Washington will need to stay engaged and urgently address new problems if it hopes to prevent another disastrous insurgency.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: economically transform the kingdom. On November 3, Saudi Arabia formally announced plans for the partial selloff of its state-owned oil company, to begin sometime next month. The successor of the Arabian American Oil Company, originally established by U.S. firms, Saudi Aramco is easily described in superlatives. It is the largest oil producer in the world, with the lowest production costs, and has a reputation for being extremely well run, all of which have helped it become the most profitable company on the planet. Yet being situated in the Middle East, having key installations vulnerable to Iranian attack, and selling oil to countries increasingly concerned about climate change are hardly factors conducive to favorable long-term prospects. The kingdom simultaneously claims to be diversifying away from its dependence on oil, adding to the uncertainty about its approach.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Oil, Business
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, United States of America
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recent U.S. decisions have seemingly ignored the degree to which the group is continuing its insurgent attacks and reorganizing its supporters inside increasingly vulnerable detention facilities. In contrast to President Trump’s statements over the past half-year, the Islamic State has yet to be defeated outright. True, the group is nowhere near as capable as it was in 2015, but it is steadily rebuilding its capacities and attempting to break thousands of its supporters out of detainment. The vacuum created by the U.S. withdrawal and Turkish invasion will create more space for those efforts, while compounding the original problem of states being unwilling to deal with their citizens who joined IS and remain in Syria. To avoid becoming known as the administration that allowed IS to reemerge and, perhaps, conduct mass-casualty attacks in Europe or elsewhere, President Trump and his cabinet should take urgent action to salvage and mobilize their surviving ties with Washington’s longtime partner against IS, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Violent Extremism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Oula A. Alrifai
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Tehran and its proxies have been exerting hard and soft power in northeast Syria, combining military consolidation with economic, social, and religious outreach in order to cement their long-term influence. On September 30, Syria and Iraq reopened their main border crossing between al-Bukamal and al-Qaim, which had been formally closed for five years. The circumstances surrounding the event were telling—the ceremony was delayed by a couple weeks because of unclaimed foreign airstrikes on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targets in east Syria following the Iranian attack against Saudi oil facilities earlier that month. What exactly have the IRGC and its local proxies been doing in Deir al-Zour province? And what does this activity tell us about Iran’s wider plans there?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Education, Military Strategy, Geopolitics, Conflict, Soft Power
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay, Ben Fishman
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Facing pressure from General Haftar and his foreign military backers, the Tripoli government has welcomed the helping hand extended by Ankara, whose own lack of regional options has drawn it into the middle of another conflict. On December 10, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he was willing to deploy troops in Libya if the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli requested it. He reiterated the offer during a December 15 meeting with GNA prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Ankara—a visit that arose after Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who heads the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) and seeks to replace the GNA, renewed his push to take Tripoli by force. Meanwhile, Turkey signed two controversial agreements with Tripoli over the past month: a memorandum of understanding on providing the GNA with arms, training, and military personnel, formally ratified by Tripoli earlier today; and a November 28 maritime agreement delineating exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean waters separating the two countries. The latter move drew protests from Greece and Egypt and was condemned “unequivocally” by the European Council. These and other developments indicate Libya’s emerging status as a focal point of Ankara’s foreign policy, which seemingly regards the country as an arena for Turkish proxy competition with rivals old (Greece) and new (Egypt and the United Arab Emirates). At the same time, Libya’s GNA has become increasingly dependent on Ankara for military reasons—namely, a lack of other allies willing to provide arms capable of countering the LNA’s Emiratisupplied drones, and the arrival of Russian mercenaries who have added new technology and precision to Haftar’s war against Tripoli. Unless Washington invests more diplomatic energy and fully backs the German-led initiative to implement a ceasefire and return to peace negotiations, the proxy war in Libya will only escalate. In that scenario, Turkey and Russia—not the United States or its European partners—could be become the arbiters of Libya’s future.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Civil War, Military Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: Assaf Orion
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Serious change is required to avoid decisions that accommodate Hezbollah’s ends, ways, and means, and a vital first step is to look at current policy mechanics with a clear eye. With this month marking the thirteenth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and the end of the 2006 Lebanon war, the council will soon hold its yearly debates about renewing the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon. Contrasting the Secretary General’s latest report on 1701 with thirteen years of lessons learned reveals a clear pattern: the victory of consciously false hopes over hard experience, particularly when viewed from Israel’s perspective. Breaking this pattern will require substantial changes to the force’s size, mission, and conduct.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, United Nations, Governance, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, United States of America
  • Author: Bilal Wahab, Barbara A. Leaf
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even as Baghdad works to rein in militias that invite outside attacks, Washington needs to be patient with the country’s contradictions in the near term and give space for it to exert sovereignty in the long term. As President Trump met with Iraqi president Barham Salih today on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, they were no doubt buoyed by their governments’ mutual conclusion that the recent attack on Saudi oil facilities in Abqaiq did not originate from Iraq. Initial concerns about that possibility were well founded—a previous attack on a major Saudi pipeline was carried out from Iraqi territory this May, and multiple Iraqi militia facilities have been struck since June, reportedly by Israel. Each of these developments was linked to Shia “special groups” with known ties to Iran. On July 1, Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdulmahdi ordered these and other militias to fold themselves under state authority, but so far he has been unable to impose order on them. The government has also failed to prevent them from threatening neighboring countries at Iran’s presumed behest—an especially dangerous lapse given that Iraqi authorities cannot protect the territory these militias hold from external retaliation. To keep other countries from turning Iraq into a proxy battleground, Baghdad needs to rein in the unruliest militias. This is a tall order because Tehran has spent fifteen years building them into a parallel force of its own. Given the willingness these “special groups” have shown when asked to attack U.S. troops, fight on the Assad regime’s behalf in Syria, or secure other Iranian interests, they risk implicating Iraq in Tehran’s regional confrontations with the United States, Saudi Arabia, and/or Israel.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Non State Actors, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Dana Stroul, Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Renewing the UN cross-border mechanism is crucial to helping millions of needy Syrian civilians, preventing Russia and Assad from weaponizing aid deliveries, and safeguarding future international assistance efforts. On December 19, the UN Security Council is expected to vote on the renewal of Resolution 2449, which authorizes the delivery of cross-border humanitarian aid to Syrians without the Assad regime’s permission. The outcome will determine whether the regime is allowed to approve and entirely control who receives UN aid, and in what areas of the country it is available. If the resolution is not renewed, aid delivery will become yet another tool for shifting the war’s trajectory in President Bashar al-Assad’s favor, with dire implications for civilians living in areas not under regime control. The recent Security Council debate over the resolution reflects broader developments inside Syria. Russia has coordinated with China to argue that current battlefield trends are in the regime’s favor, attempting to use the aid debate as a means of coercing political recognition of Assad. Others have proposed adding a fifth crossing along the northern border at Tal Abyad to address the increased needs of Syrian civilians trapped in the latest Turkish military operation. UN Security-General Antonio Guterres has recalled how essential the mechanism is to reaching people in need.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Humanitarian Aid, International Law, United Nations, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, United Nations, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The ailing Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, now seventy-nine years old, has no children and no announced successor, with only an ambiguous mechanism in place for the family council to choose one. This study considers the most likely candidates to succeed the sultan, Oman’s domestic economic challenges, and whether the country’s neutral foreign policy can survive Qaboos’s passing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Domestic politics, Succession
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Oman, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Sarah Feuer
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Throughout 2016 and 2017, statements from Riyadh suggested that Saudi Arabia might be on the verge of reorienting its decades-long promotion of Salafism around the world. Given the sheer scale of the kingdom’s support for Islamic institutions over the years, the ripple effects of such a shift would be profound. Saudi efforts to propagate its particular brand of Salafism have long been anchored in the Mecca-based Muslim World League, but the ascent of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman has apparently shunted the MWL in a different direction. Recent initiatives suggest Riyadh has assigned the league a central role in its broader religious reform agenda, at least as it applies to the export of religious doctrine abroad. In this deeply researched Policy Focus, Sarah Feuer, an expert on Middle East religion and politics, explores the meanings of Saudi reforms, how they are playing out within the MWL, and the broader implications for the U.S.- Saudi relationship. She recommends that Washington expand reporting mechanisms in nations where the MWL is active, pursue avenues to engage directly with the league, and incorporate religious reform into the high-level U.S.-Saudi strategic dialogue, all toward promoting moderation and undermining extremism.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, Politics, Religion, Bilateral Relations, Soft Power
  • Political Geography: Saudi Arabia, North America, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Sarah Feuer
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The vote’s outcome will not have much legitimacy in the eyes of the people, so Washington should focus on urging all parties to lay the groundwork for longer-term reforms aimed at breaking the political deadlock. On December 12, nearly ten months after demonstrators across the country took to the streets in protest of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika running for a fifth term, Algeria will elect his successor. Calling itself “Hirak,” the remarkably peaceful protest movement perceived Bouteflika’s candidacy as a provocation, since he had scarcely appeared in public after suffering a stroke in 2013. And though he rescinded his candidacy in April, the Hirak began calling for more radical changes, including an end to the power structures that have ruled the country since its independence from France in 1962. In response, army chief of staff Ahmed Gaid Salah stepped in to assert control over the political process, despite the parliament’s selection of an interim president. In addition to arresting activists and putting some of his establishment rivals on trial, he pressed for an election to be held by year’s end. The political situation has since devolved into a confrontation between the Hirak and the army. With no candidate representing the protestors, this week’s vote will be a decisive test for the future of both sides.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Reform, Elections
  • Political Geography: Algeria, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: Patrick Clawson
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Rouhani has taken a remarkably austere fiscal approach ahead of the looming parliamentary election, but the country’s economic situation is still not sustainable over the long run. On December 8, following established procedures, President Hassan Rouhani visited parliament to present his budget for the Iranian year 2020/21, which begins in March. Notwithstanding the government’s rosy rhetoric, his spending proposals show the tough times the Islamic Republic is facing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Oil, Sanctions, Budget, Elections, Economy
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Daniel Green
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recent U.S. attention in Yemen has focused largely on the war against the Iranian-backed Houthis, but another threat endures: al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. U.S. efforts to confront AQAP have historically relied on counterterrorism approaches such as air and drone strikes, direct-action raids, and partnerships with indigenous and coalition security forces. But the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda has shown impressive resiliency by adopting a "hearts and minds" and local governing strategy to secure support, making it difficult to defeat. Its continuing strength requires a rethinking of the U.S. approach, one that confronts the terrorist group’s political strategy as much as its military strategy. In this Policy Focus, Daniel Green, a former defense fellow at The Washington Institute, draws on extensive research and interviews with Yemeni officials and civil society leaders to propose a new framework for defeating AQAP. His recommendations call for a U.S. strategy that extends beyond using strictly counterterrorism approaches and encompasses governance reform, capacity building, and enlisting locals in their own defense. Only through the active participation of communities in their security and governing can AQAP truly be defeated.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Governance, Reform, Al Qaeda, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Haisam Hassanein
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Port projects and other outreach may help President Sisi check off some of his policy goals, but giving China such a foothold could threaten a number of U.S. interests in the region. On August 5, Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese company Hutchison Ports to establish a Mediterranean container terminal in Abu Qir. President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi himself attended the signing ceremony, where he praised the company’s global reputation in the field and emphasized the importance of executing the project in accordance with the highest international standards. The project is in line with Sisi’s track record of seeking Chinese help to fulfill his ambitious domestic and foreign agenda. Hutchison is one of the world’s leading port networks, operating terminals in twenty-seven countries; in Egypt, it operates the country’s two main commercial ports, Alexandria and El Dekheila. The company’s representatives commended the opportunity for direct investment in Abu Qir and announced that they will be training more than 1,500 Egyptian engineers and other workers for jobs at the terminal. According to them, the facility will be able to handle up to 1 million containers annually once completed.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Economic Growth, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Asia, North Africa, Egypt, United States of America
  • Author: Bilal Wahab
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The U.S. withdrawal of troops from northeast Syria has placed Kurdish fighters in a near-impossible situation, while alarming Kurdish communities in other countries, but Washington can still take steps to mitigate the damage. On October 21, footage of Kurdish civilians heckling withdrawing U.S. troops in both Iraq and Syria offered a rare and disturbing sight. This scene was facilitated by President Trump’s October 6 decision to unilaterally withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, in effect paving the way for the Turkish military to cross the Syrian border three days later and attack the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Thereafter, a safe haven quickly became a war zone. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 180,000 people have now been forced from their homes. James Jeffrey, the U.S. administration’s envoy to Syria, told Congress on October 22 that the fighting has resulted in hundreds of SDF deaths, a likely war crime by a pro-Turkish militia, and the escape from prison of more than a hundred Islamic State (IS) fighters. The U.S. action has unsurprisingly left the Syrian Kurds feeling abandoned and exposed against the militarily superior Turkish army and its Arab militias. On a deeper level, America appears to have entirely lost Kurdish sympathy and trust, while at the same time failing to either deter or appease Turkey. Rather than ameliorate matters, President Trump has poured salt on the wound. He responded to backlash against his policy by claiming the Kurds were “no angels” and that they had failed to contribute to the Allied cause in World War II, while characterizing their Syrian military campaign as a fight over “long-bloodstained sand.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Public Opinion, Military Affairs, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, United States of America, Rojava
  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As demonstrators rail against economic problems, corruption, and sectarianism, the group’s role in undermining the public’s financial and physical security is coming under greater scrutiny. Lebanese citizens took to the streets this weekend to protest the country’s acute financial crisis, which has been marked by one of the highest debt ratios in the world, a new currency crisis, and fears that a strike will close gas stations indefinitely. Many believe that deep-rooted corruption and sectarianism got them into this mess, and may now complicate efforts to get them out. Against this backdrop, more criticism is being directed at Hezbollah, the widely designated terrorist organization that is simultaneously the most powerful party in Lebanon’s government and an aggressively sectarian movement that keeps its activities and weapons outside the government’s control. As the Treasury Department recently noted, developments over the past few weeks have underscored the extent to which the group’s actions “prioritize its interests, and those of its chief sponsor, Iran, over the welfare of Lebanese citizens and Lebanon’s economy.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Corruption, Financial Crisis, Protests, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon