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  • Author: Willy Wo-Lap Lam
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Under Xi Jinping, the leadership of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has initiated multi-pronged measures to ensure the success of celebrations marking the centenary of the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in July this year and planning for the 20th CCP Congress, scheduled for the second half of 2022. The accent is on preserving political stability and further consolidating the apparently unassailable authority of President Xi, who is also CCP General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC).
  • Topic: Media, Political Parties, Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Elizabeth Chen
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Amid the coldest winter recorded since 1966, provinces across the People’s Republic of China (PRC) struggled with the worst electrical blackouts seen in nearly a decade (OilPrice, January 8). More than a dozen cities across Zhejiang, Hunan, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, and Guangdong provinces imposed limits on off-peak electricity usage in early December, affecting city infrastructure and factory production. Analysts expect power shortages to persist through at least mid-February (SCMP, December 23, 2020). Officials have repeatedly assured the public that residential heating would not be affected and that China’s electrical supply remained “stable” and “sufficient,” even as energy spot prices continued to rise into the new year.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Services, Electricity, Coal
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Ryan D. Martinson
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: In the past decade, the China Coast Guard (CCG, 中国海警, zhongguo haijing) has experienced two major reforms. The first, which began in 2013, uprooted the service from the Ministry of Public Security—where it was organized as an element of the People’s Armed Police (PAP)—and placed it under the control of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), a civilian agency. In the process, the CCG was combined with three other maritime law enforcement forces: China Marine Surveillance (CMS), China Fisheries Law Enforcement (CFLE), and the maritime anti-smuggling units of the General Administration of Customs. The resulting conglomerate was colloquially called the “new” CCG, differentiating it from the “old” CCG of the Ministry of Public Security years. The second reform began in 2018, when the “new” CCG, now swollen with the ranks of four different forces, was stripped from the SOA and transferred to the PAP, which itself had just been reorganized and placed under the Central Military Commission (CMC) (China Brief, April 24, 2018). While much research has been done on the first reform, little is known about the second, at least in the English-speaking world. This article seeks to answer basic questions about the “new, new” CCG. What are its roles/missions, organization, and force structure? How does it differ from the CCG of the SOA years? How is it similar? What progress has been made two years after the second reform began?
  • Topic: Law Enforcement, Armed Forces, Reform, Borders
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Michael C. Davis
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: After the Hong Kong protest movement exploded in 2019, the world looked on with both hope and trepidation. Protestors made five demands: that a proposed extradition law be withdrawn; that there be an independent investigation of police behavior; that the protests stop being characterized as riots; that any charges against arrested protesters be dropped and that promised universal suffrage be implemented (HKPF, December 25, 2019). After months of protest, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam publicly withdrew the extradition bill, fulfilling the first of the protestors’ demands (SCMP, September 4, 2019). But this temporary victory was too little too late and overshadowed by the ongoing and often violent crackdown on the protesters, and then in 2020, with Beijing’s imposition of the new National Security Law (NSL) (China Brief, July 29, 2020).
  • Topic: Human Rights, Law, Rule of Law, Protests, Repression
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Hong Kong
  • Author: Elizabeth Chen
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On January 28, members of an international team led by the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded fourteen days of quarantine and began field work in Wuhan, China for a mission aimed at investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of the time of writing, the team had made visits to the Hubei Center for Disease Control and Prevention; the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. State media also reported that the WHO team visited “an exhibition featuring Chinese people fighting the epidemic,” raising concerns that the trip could prove to be little more than a public relations move even as the origins of the coronavirus remain heavily politicized and uncertain (Global Times, January 31). Foreign experts have worried about whether the WHO investigation will be sufficiently transparent or if investigators will be allowed adequate access to key locations and scientific data (SCMP, January 27). Apart from a “terms of reference” report and a list of WHO members released in November, further details on the WHO team’s trip have not been released.
  • Topic: World Health Organization, COVID-19, Misinformation , Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Zachary Haver
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: In recent years, the maritime law enforcement (MLE) forces of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have dominated the contested waters of the South China Sea (AMTI, December 4, 2020). While the exponential growth and increasing assertiveness of the China Coast Guard (CCG) have captured headlines, the evolving role of technology in China’s MLE operations has received less attention. New communications infrastructure and monitoring systems, for example, help Chinese MLE forces monitor and control contested maritime space in the South China Sea (CMSI, January 2021). These investments align with China’s broader pursuit of information superiority in the South China Sea, which involves building up electronic intelligence, counter-stealth radar, and other capabilities (JHU APL, July 2020).
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Communications, Armed Forces, Satellite
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, United States of America, South China Sea
  • Author: Sergey Sukhankin
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Following the 2013 announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at a speech given by People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping during visit to Kazakhstan, Central Asia has been a key regional priority and an indispensable element for the success of the BRI as a whole (PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 7, 2013). Over the years, the BRI—nebulously defined from the start—has come to be associated with a variety of policy and investment programs. A previous series of articles has covered security-related developments associated with the BRI aimed at maintaining stability and protecting economic investments across the region (China Brief July 15; October 19; August 12).China has also begun to expand its export of digital infrastructure and surveillance technology under the umbrella of the BRI. The digitalization strategy—ostensibly aimed at promoting the international integration of technology with infrastructure and finance as well as spreading digital innovation abroad—is often referred to as the Digital Silk Road (DSR, 数字丝绸之路, shuzi sichou zhi lu). The high-level emphasis on promoting the DSR has only grown under the COVID-19 pandemic (CGTN, June 10, 2020). Across Central Asia, the DSR has been primarily represented by efforts to export China’s Smart/Safe City programs, which allow governments to collect, store, process and analyze vast amounts of personal information. The promotion of the so-called “informatization” of society (信息化, xinxi hua) and data commodification are yet more driving forces behind China’s DSR ambitions in Central Asia.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Surveillance, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Digital Policy
  • Political Geography: China, Central Asia, Asia, Uzbekistan
  • 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: Elizabeth Chen
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: A new study published February 8 by the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) (MPS, 中华人民共和国公安部, zhonghua renmin gongheguo gongan bu) reported that there were 10.035 million registered births in 2020, down from 11.79 million in 2019. This represents a 15 percent decrease following the coronavirus pandemic (Guancha.cn, February 8). Althou­gh the number of registered births—that is, newborns recorded in the household registration hukou (户口) system—is not the same as China’s official birth rate, the decline has concerned analysts that a long-forewarned demographic crisis may be approaching faster than expected.National birth and population figures for the previous year are usually released in January but have been delayed until April this year as China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) compiles its decennial census. In the meantime, data released by some provinces and cities in January has appeared to confirm the implications of the MPS study. Data released from the capital city of Guangdong province—which saw the highest number of births per province in 2019—showed that birth rates in Guangzhou were down by 17 percent year-on-year and mirrored broader trends across the rest of the province. In Zhejiang, China’s wealthiest province, the cities of Wenzhou and Taizhou reported that new births in 2020 fell by 19 percent and 33 percent respectively compared to 2019 (SCMP, February 2).
  • Topic: Demographics, Development, Aging, Population Growth
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Ryan Fedasiuk
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On Monday, November 12, 2018, the recently-appointed director of China’s Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission (CAC) Zhuang Rongwen (庄荣文) summoned senior executives from WeChat and Sina Weibo for a “discussion” (Central CAC, November 16, 2018). While there is no transcript of the meeting available to the public, one thing is certain: It did not go well. For months, Zhuang had been telegraphing his discontent with the state of censorship in China—and specifically, the role that social media giants had played in undermining it (New America, September 24, 2018). His official statement about the meeting, which was uploaded to the CAC’s website a few days later, accused China’s largest internet companies of “breeding chaos in the media” and “endangering social stability and the interests of the masses.” Under his watch, he vowed that the Central CAC would “strictly investigate and deal with the enterprises that lack responsibility and have serious problems” (Central CAC, November 20, 2018). Rarely do Party officials offer such scathing public admonitions.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Internet, Surveillance, Censorship
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • 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: Farhan Zahid
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province has experienced a fresh wave of nationalist-separatist terrorist attacks since 2019, with new targets indicating shifting trends. Baluch nationalist–separatist militant groups have not only ramped up their attacks, but also have changed strategy and formed a new alliance. The implications of this are a steep incline in attacks against the Pakistani security forces.
  • Topic: Security, Nationalism, Insurgency, Non State Actors, Islamism, Separatism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia
  • Author: Jacob Lees Weiss
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On December 20, 2020, 21 Katyusha rockets struck the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, breaking an Iranian-sponsored ceasefire in Iraq for a second time (U.S. Central Command, December 23, 2020). The Iraqi security forces later arrested a member of the Iraqi political and militant organization Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), Hussam al-Azirjawi, after finding conclusive evidence of his involvement in the attack (al-Hurra, December 26, 2020). Following al-Azirjawi’s arrest, multiple widely-shared clips on social media appeared to show a large mobilization of armed AAH militants in East Baghdad. A further clip showing masked AAH gunmen threatening to attack Iraqi security forces on command from AAH leader, Qais al-Khazali (al-Arabiya, December 25 2020). These arrests and video clips reveal that AAH has begun to show increasing signs of dissent from the party line set by Iran and its most loyal proxy in Iraq, Kata’ib Hezbollah.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Conflict, Militias, Resistance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Abdul Sayed
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: The changing narratives and operations of al-Qaeda and its Pakistani ally, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in recent years indicate that the anti-state jihadist war in Pakistan will not end with a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 or thereafter (The News, March 1). Recent speeches by the TTP emir, Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, to a coalition of senior TTP commanders on the future goals of the war in Pakistan is not the only piece of evidence signifying that this war will continue (Umar Media, August 18, 2020; Umar Media, December 15, 2020). Rather, history also shows this war still has a long way to go. Pakistani Islamists are widely believed to have originally supported al-Qaeda’s war against the Pakistani state due to post-9/11 changes in Pakistan’s foreign policy, which supported the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan that expelled the Taliban regime from Kabul. However, the anti-state jihadist war in Pakistan is deeply rooted in the pre-9/11 complexities of Pakistani politics, which culminated in Islamists enabling al-Qaeda operations within Pakistan immediately after 9/11. The war against the Pakistani government is so deeply entrenched that it will remain a challenge for the country even if the widely accepted jihad against the U.S. “infidel occupier” in Afghanistan and its allies, including Pakistan, is no longer a factor.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Islamism, Jihad, Benazir Bhutto
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Asia, 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
  • Author: Jacob Zenn
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On December 11, 2020, around 300 male students were kidnapped from a Kankara, Katsina State school in northwestern Nigeria (TheCable, December 13, 2020). The attack was inconsistent with typical northwestern Nigeria banditry operations involving smaller-scale kidnapping and extortion, pillaging, and assassination of local political enemies that have escalated in northwestern Nigerian in recent years. The attack was, however, consistent with the past activities of the Boko Haram faction led by Abubakar Shekau. Shekau’s faction is responsible for the mass killing of male students in their dormitories in 2013 and the Chibok kidnapping of more than 200 female students in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria in 2014. Furthermore, the Kankara kidnapping reflected Boko Haram’s “affiliate system” because the attack was conducted by Boko Haram’s northwestern Nigerian “affiliate” in the Katsina-Niger-Zamfara state axis, which is comprised primarily of bandits (“Niger” refers to Niger State, Nigeria, not the Republic of Niger).
  • Topic: Terrorism, Islamic State, Boko Haram
  • Political Geography: Africa, Nigeria
  • Author: Angela Ramirez
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: The Boogaloo Bois is a recently formed decentralized armed movement comprised of loosely knit cells scattered throughout the United States. Boogaloo participants have also been involved in several attacks and plots, including the attempted kidnapping of Michigan’s governor, an attempt to sell weapons to Hamas, and a deadly attack on a federal security officer in northern California. The movement is centered on participants’ belief that the U.S. government has become excessively tyrannical. Participants, therefore, have concluded that a second civil war is unfortunate, but inevitable, in order to obtain “true liberty.” The movement refers to this idealized second civil war as “the Boogaloo” (Spotify [Buck Johsnon], July 2020). Occasionally, the word “Boogaloo” is exchanged for slang terms, however, such as “the big luau,” the “Bungalow,” or the “Big Igloo.”
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Internet, Militias, Joe Biden, Libertarianism, Political Extremism, Boogaloo Bois
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Animesh Roul
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: The Neo-Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (Neo-JMB), which was responsible for the deadly July 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery terrorist attack in Dhaka claimed by Islamic State (IS), has effectively nurtured and nourished a strong network of female jihadists in the country (refworld.org, November 15, 2016). These women members have proven to be a largely unseen, but potent force behind the group’s resilience. They have spearheaded recruitment and propaganda campaigns and even surprised security forces with a suicide bombing on December 26, 2016 in Ashkona area of the capital Dhaka (The Independent, December 26, 2016).
  • Topic: Terrorism, Non State Actors, Women, Islamic State, Propaganda
  • Political Geography: Bangladesh, South Asia
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: This brief presents some of the key effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on India’s public school education, focussing specifically on children. It begins with a discussion of the pre-pandemic status of school education and key policy shifts over the past few years, and provides an overview of the principal issues arising from the pandemic and the resulting school closures. It then offers potential policy suggestions to address these challenges, and thereby ensuring quality education to all children.
  • Topic: Education, Health, Children, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Mukta Naik
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: Resilience and adaptation have become buzzwords as governments, corporations and society find ways to survive the Covid-19 pandemic and, where possible, seek to develop processes and outcomes that improve on the pre-crisis status quo. Members of the Women, Work, and the Gig Economy research consortium have also thought deeply about strategies to continue research under these challenging conditions, while considering the ethics that must underpin research at a time of great distress for people across the world. This brief summarizes the conceptual and practical approaches that consortium members have taken to address ethical concerns as well as strategic and tactical shifts in research methods within the broader, geographically diverse and evertransforming context of Covid-19. These insights draw on the deliberations of an internal workshop held in September 2020 where consortium members presented and debated their respective approaches and perspectives. In particular, the team at LIRNEasia provided substantive takeaways from their colloquium on “Research methods in a pandemic.”
  • Topic: Women, Ethics, Work Culture, COVID-19, Gig Economy
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Ketian Zhang
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: China’s coercive behavior in the post–Cold War period suggests three patterns. First, China uses coercion when it wants to establish a reputation for resolve. Second, China has been a cautious bully, resorting to coercion only infrequently. Third, when China perceives the “geopolitical backlash cost” of military coercion to be high, it chooses instead to use sanctions and grayzone coercion. (“Geopolitical backlash cost” refers here to the possibility that the target state will seek to balance against China, with the potential for U.S. military involvement.) When China perceives the geopolitical backlash cost to be low, it is more likely to use military coercion.
  • Topic: Sovereignty, Power Politics, Geopolitics, Economy
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South China Sea
  • Author: Antonio Missiroli, Michael Ruhle
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic, which broke out in December 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan and quickly spread across the globe, will have a lasting impact on worldwide economic, political and strategic developments. Some observers question whether the different approaches by nations to the pandemic may benefit or hinder global economic competition. Others worry that some states may exploit the pandemic as a pretext to curtail individual freedoms. Still others note the emergence of an outright "battle of narratives" on the origins of the virus and the correct approach to bringing it under control, adding fuel to an already lingering "systemic" contest.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Military Affairs, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Asia, Global Focus
  • Author: Bates Gill
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: It is frequently noted that the Chinese word for "crisis" combines characters connoting "threat" on the one hand and "opportunity" on the other. This bit of linguistic trivia can be overdrawn. For China and the COVID-19 crisis, however, it rings true: the pandemic and its aftermath have generated dangerous problems for the Chinese leadership while also opening enticing opportunities.
  • Topic: International Relations, Power Politics, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Dumitru Minzarari
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: The coronavirus pandemic has not only triggered a crisis in public health and safety that engendered a significant economic fallout. The pandemic has also triggered an infodemic, one that sets the context for a significant spike in anti-NATO and anti-Western propaganda. Unless countermeasures are taken, the already deteriorating public opinion vis-a-vis the Alliance can be expected to worsen. Viewed individually, these two pandemic's outcomes have not critically threatened the Alliance; however, their combined effect could become a formidable challenge for NATO. Despite the measures taken, the pandemic is likely to continue exacerbating the frustrations among member states, further fraying the Alliance's unity. This, arguably, is the most immediate and concerning challenge facing NATO today.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, NATO, Public Health, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America
  • Author: Alice Billon-Galland
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: At the time of writing, the COVID-19 pandemic still wreaks havoc around the world. Its scale and duration, as well as the full social and economic impact of lockdowns and social distancing measures, are yet to be seen. Exactly how the pandemic and its aftermath will impact the defence policies of European states in the long-term remains uncertain for a while yet. However, some Europe-wide trends--economic strategic, and geopolitical--are already visible. These will impact how Europeans (re)think their security after the pandemic, and therefore have implications for defence planners, decision-makers and armed forces throughout the continent.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Geopolitics, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Claudia Major
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 crisis is teaching European countries that a pandemic can destabilize societies, the economy and political institutions to the same extent that military or hybrid threats do. However, while the pandemic's impact on European security seems massive, it is difficult to isolate the COVID-19 factor: what is uniquely pandemic-driven, and what is the result of other elements, such as the lack of US leadership, is not always easy to determine.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Institutions, Coronavirus, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Sten Rynning
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a tectonic shift in world politics: China's rise and an erosion, if not a decline, of Western power. Where Western Allies squabble, China acts with confidence. NATO's timorous decision of December 2019 to discuss China's "growing influence" now seems quaint one year on, or at best a preamble to the preeminent question of our era: is NATO sufficiently cohesive to confront change?
  • Topic: NATO, Power Politics, Alliance
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, North America
  • Author: Olivier Rittimann
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: At the height of the COVID-19 crisis, a number of voices criticized NATO's absence in the fight against the pandemic. As expected, many of these critics came from Russia and China, exploiting a highly effective STRATCOM to allege an apparent lack of NATO involvement. However, criticism also emerged from within the Alliance, urging that NATO should wake up to the situation. Russian propaganda, backed by the actual deployment of planes and trucks to Italy, and domestic condemnation fueled a sense of discontent in people as regards the usefulness and effectiveness of international organizations at large, and more specifically NATO and the European Union (EU). This impression of inaction persisted for a couple of weeks after the outbreak of the COVID crisis in most Allied nations, until eventually an aggressive counter messaging strategy was put forward by NATO HQ, SHAPE and individual nations themselves.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, European Union, Alliance, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America
  • Author: Paul Beckley
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: Since the end of the Cold War and after the 9/11 attacks, globalization has not replaced Great Powers' competition as some predicted but, progressively, it has accelerated it. Such competition has been driven by advanced technology, which potentially preludes the next revolution in military affairs. Competition among nations is nothing new, but in contrast to the industrial era, in the digital age it is not just about the number of tanks, ships, aircraft and brigades. It is also about the control of networks, platforms and software. This represents an important transformation: norm-setting in these technical domains will yield significant geopolitical returns. In the realm of technology, standards are tantamount to the rules of the game.
  • Topic: NATO, Geopolitics, Standardization
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America
  • Author: Andrea Gilli
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: Thanks to their higher speed, larger data volume, lower latency, and capacity to sustain very high density connections (including machine-to-machine communications), 5G networks are set to unleash a major economic revolution, potentially adding trillions of dollars to the global economy (at least according to recent forecasts). From smart cities to Artificial Intelligence (AI); telemedicine to driverless cars; virtual reality to the Internet of Things (IoT); Industry 4.0 to all manner of applications that will comprise this new ecosystem, 5G ushers in enormous opportunities. 5G communications still require significant investments, both for research and development of key technologies, and for building the supporting infrastructure. Moreover, the next generation of telecommunications raises several important questions about the political economy of spectrum allocation and standard definition, their military applications, the role of Chinese companies and the attendant cybersecurity risks. These are all relevant topics for NATO from which the Alliance can draw some strategic lessons.
  • Topic: NATO, Military Strategy, Data, 5G, Internet of Things
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, Global Focus
  • Author: Stephen J. Mariano
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: NATO created the Strategic Direction South--the "Hub"--in 2017, in response to illegal migration into Europe from war-torn Libya, Syria, and Iraq, highlighting humanitarian and internal security concerns. As evidence began to emerge that criminal organizations and terrorist groups were leveraging migration flows, these fears coalesced with other security concerns, not only disrupting the stability of European societies but also threatening the security of European societies but also threatening the security of the Alliance. Eventually, NATO recognized that the situation was connected to deeper sources of instability and that solutions would require a comprehensive approach to the southernmost parts of "the South".
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, NATO, Migration
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America
  • Author: Ion A. Iftimie
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: At the 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw, cyberspace was recognized as an operational domain in which NATO military forces must be able to maneuver as effectively as they do on land, at sea and in the air. Since then, Allies have conducted several successful offensive cyber operations against non-state adversaries, such as Daesh. Due to technological transformations in recent years, cyber is no longer viewed by NATO and its member states only as a hybrid threat, but also as a weapon in its own right and as a force multiplier in current military operations. Over the next two decades, NATO will look for new ways to integrate cyber weapons (or offensive cyber capabilities) into its operations and missions.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, Non State Actors, Cybersecurity
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, Global Focus
  • Author: Chloe Berger
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: In the spring of 2020, the Atlantic Alliance's "large periphery" to the South, which extends from the Sahel to the Asian borders of the Arabian Gulf, remains in a state of dangerous instability. The health and containment measures taken by the authorities against the COVID-19 crisis have put popular claims to rest. The case of Lebanon shows, however, that the urgency of the pandemic has not made the demands of the population disappear. Beyond managing the health crisis, there is no doubt that the future of the region's leaderships will largely depend on their ability to mitigate both the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the political ones.
  • Topic: NATO, Political stability, Alliance, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Dominik P. Jankowski
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: Over the last decade, energy security has become a permanent element of NATO's strategic thinking, integrated into numerous NATO policies and activities. In fact, restoring the prominence of energy security within the Alliance was not easy, especially as this policy was considered primarily a question of national security in the post-Cold War era. It was only at the 2008 Bucharest Summit that NATO was given a dedicated, yet limited, mandate to work in this field. The mandate--based on a set of principles and guidelines--included information and intelligence sharing, cooperation on consequence management, and support for the protection of critical energy infrastructure.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, Energy Policy, European Union, Economy
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Tina J. Park
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg puts it, North Korea remains a "global threat that requires a global rsponse". The threats posed by North Korea are arguably imminent, with the potential to cause serious harm to the security of NATO member states. Since 2006, North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests, in clear defiance of the Treaty on Non -Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) that the regime withdrew from in 2003. To date, the international community has failed to tame North Korea's nuclear ambitions, despite various diplomatic and political efforts. In addition to its nuclear capabilities, Pyongyang has made significant advances with conventional weapons, both chemical and biological, as well as with its cyber capabilities. North Korea's substantive linkages to China and Russia, and non-state terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas in the Middle East, amplify their threats beyond the borders of the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Topic: Security, NATO, Diplomacy, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea
  • Author: Michael Ruhle
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: Environmental change is increasingly recognized as one of the major factors that will shape the global security environment. According to most experts, rising global temperatures will lead to rising sea levels and cause more extreme weather events, such as storms, flooding, droughts and wildfires. The firestorms that engulfed parts of Australia in late 2019 and early 2020, burning an area the size of Belgium and Denmark combined, and severely decimating that continent's wildlife, were a stark reminder of the force of these changes.
  • Topic: Security, NATO, Climate Change, Environment
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jeffrey H. Michaels
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: In the Declaration that emerged from teh December 2019 London Leaders Meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was tasked to present Foreign Ministers with "a forward-looking reflection process under his auspices, drawing on relevant expertise, to further strengthen NATO's political dimension including consultation.". This new tasking has been largely attributed to French President Emmanuel Macron's remark the previous month that the Alliance was suffering from "brain death". Speaking at a press conference alongside Stoltenberg, Macron elaborated on his comment, complaining the Alliance was overly focused on "cost-sharing or burden-sharing" whereas too little attention was being placed on major policy issues such as "peace in Europe, the post-INF, the relationship with Russia, the issue of Turkey, who is the enemy?"
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, NATO
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America
  • Author: Brendan Taylor
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Australian diplomacy could ease rising tensions across the Taiwan Strait, if Australian policymakers rediscovered an appetite for involvement in the flashpoint. Tensions between Taiwan and China are rising, driven in part by an increasingly assertive government in Beijing, growing Taiwanese estrangement from the Chinese mainland, and deteriorating US–China relations. If key regional governments fail to help de-escalate tensions, the consequences are likely to be serious. Rather than continue the debate about Australia’s position on its ANZUS obligations should the United States invoke the treaty in a Taiwan conflict, Australia should work with other regional powers to advocate for more robust risk avoidance and crisis management mechanisms.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Multilateralism, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia, Australia, United States of America
  • Author: Helle Malmvig, Jakob Dreyer
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: • Denmark should focus its attention on the border region between Iraq and Syria, which presents a high risk of insurgency, and is where the main Danish military contingency has been deployed since 2015. • Given the likely partial US withdrawal from Iraq, NATO and European governments should prepare for taking on new tasks and responsibilities. • The US-led coalition should allow and prepare SDF to negotiate alternative political/security arrangements, as SDF may have difficulty sustaining its presence in Syria.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Fragile States, Islamic State, Syrian War, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Signe Marie Cold-Ravnkilde, Peer Schouten
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Pastoralism is the key to climate change adaptation in African drylands, but it is threatened by conflicts with farmers, regional insecurity and violent extremism. Stabilisation and development efforts should place pastoralism at the centre by strengthening pastoral livelihoods and should include herders as peacebuilding and development partners. RECOMMENDATIONS ■ Strengthen pastoralist capacities to cope with risk and variability by boosting inclusive and equitable resource governance in new development programmes. ■ Include pastoralists as potential peace-builders in conflict resolution efforts. ■ Support dialogue between pastoralists and local and national governments in order to prevent the further marginalisation of vulnerable pastoralist groups.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Democratization, Development, Environment, Migration, Non State Actors, Fragile States, Economy, Conflict, Investment, Peace, Land Rights
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: Adam Moe Fejerskov, Meron Zeleke
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Every year, several hundred thousand migrants return to Ethiopia, where they struggle to integrate back into society. They must deal with the traumatic events of their journeys while also facing social stigma and exclusion. KEY FINDINGS ■ All Ethiopian migrants using irregular routes have experienced or witnessed violence and trauma ■ Sexual violence and abuse are widespread among Ethiopian male migrants yet taboo, and psychosocial support should address the vulnerabilities of men ■ Livelihood interventions should address the problem of social stigma ■ Re-integration is difficult as social positions and relationships will never be as they were before migration
  • Topic: Development, Migration, Border Control, Fragile States
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ethiopia
  • 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: Magdalena Stawkowski
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Around the world, hundreds of thousands of people live in and around former nuclear test sites. Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site in Kazakhstan provides both a home and a livelihood for an estimated 50,000 people, but security measures are not yet sufficient to protect them from radioactive waste from the past. RECOMMENDATIONS ■ Establish local education programs to prevent unintentional exposure to residual radioactivity ■ Encourage local authorities to promote radiation-safety programs ■ Cordon off and secure unmarked radioactive areas on nuclear test sites ■ Carry out regular radiation monitoring in villages close to nuclear test sites, as well as of livestock
  • Topic: Health, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Kazakhstan
  • 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: Mikkel Funder, Lily Salloum Lindegaard, Esben Friis-Hansen, Marie Ladekjær Gravesen
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: The world needs resilient societies. In order to achieve this, adaptation to climate change is key. Denmark’s development cooperation should take a leading role in the integration of climate change adaptation and development. DENMARK SHOULD ■ Develop a clear overall strategy for support to climate action, giving equal attention to climate change mitigation and adaptation ■ Adopt an ambitious approach to integrating climate change adaptation across supported sectors, rather than relying on “add-on” mainstreaming ■ Strengthen the engagement with development partners in the integration of adaptation and development
  • Topic: Climate Change, Development, Environment, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Europe, Denmark
  • Author: Adam Moe Fejerskov, Dane Fetterer
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Danish civil-society organisations have initiated a multitude of tech and innovation projects in recent years. Now is the time to focus efforts on clear strategic objectives in order to generate tangible impacts. RECOMMENDATIONS ■ Strategically align innovation work around the core priorities of the organisation, rather than pursuing a shotgun approach that chases disparate innovations across a field of interests. ■ Expand the scope of innovation beyond radical technology to include operational approaches, methodologies and theories of change as well. ■ Localize innovation by involving local partners and beneficiaries not just in needs assessments but in innovating solutions.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Development, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: Europe, Denmark
  • Author: Richard Gowan, Louise Riis Andersen
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: With a global recession looming due to COVID-19,the large blue-helmet UN missions will be harder to sustain, both financially and politically. So the UN is learning to “think small”. Recommendations ■ The Secretariat should work with member states to improve the UN’s mechanisms for deploying bespoke, case-specific peace operations and SPMs at short notice. ■ Member states should stand ready to deploy small numbers of military and police personnel to serve in more flexible forms of UN operations and to offer specialized expertise and training as requested. ■ Member states should pay their respective share of the UN peacekeeping budget on time and increase their voluntary contributions.
  • Topic: United Nations, Peacekeeping, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, Mali, South Sudan
  • Author: Richard Gowan, Louise Riis Andersen
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: COVID-19 has had an immediate impact on UN peace operations. Troop rotations have been frozen, and interactions with local populations minimized. Yet the long-term economic and political consequences for peacekeeping look more severe. Recommendations UN leaders and member states should: ■ Sustain and where necessary boost funding for UN operations and other international actors to support host states’ efforts to manage the consequences of COVID-19. ■ Commit to maintaining current levels of UN deployments throughout 2020 and to ensuring that deployed personnel are not carrying COVID-19 in order to reduce uncertainty over the future of missions. ■ Offer specialists in public health management and related fields to strengthen planning within missions at UN headquarters and thus help manage the crisis.
  • Topic: United Nations, Peacekeeping, UN Security Council, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Nina Nyberg Sørensen
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Shock mobilities are sudden human movements made in response to acute disruptions, such as the present COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike planned migration, shock mobility encompasses various degrees of forced migration or can be categorized as reactive migration caused by a crisis situation. Forced migration often starts with shock mobility, but shock mobility does not always lead to protracted forced migration. FUTURE IMPLICATIONS ■ Shock mobilities may affect broader socioeconomic relations in the future. Five manifestations of shock mobilities as ‘link moments’ provide clues as to how. ■ How shock mobilities will be received and internalized in the years ahead is uncertain. They could yield significant impacts on state-citizen relations, as well as on relations between different populations. ■ The ‘shocks’ give us a glimpse into the world we are entering. Tomorrow’s normality will grow out of today’s disruption. Therefore, a better understanding of ongoing shock mobilities will help us analyse potential problems for decades to come.
  • Topic: Development, Migration, Fragile States, Conflict, Risk, Peace, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Vibeke Schou Tjalve
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: A strategic and ideological alliance has emerged between the American and Central Eastern European Right. Replacing Berlin with Warsaw and Budapest may have profound implications for policy, and for NATO’s consensus on Russia.
  • Topic: NATO, Alliance, Ideology, Radical Right
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eastern Europe, Germany
  • Author: Cullen S. Hendrix
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The Trump administration’s Africa strategy is rooted in three misconceptions about China’s African footprint—and a fourth about US-Africa economic relations—that are either factually incorrect or overstated in terms of the broader strategic challenges they pose to US interests: (1) Chinese engagement in Africa crowds out opportunities for trade and investment with and from the United States; (2) Chinese engagement in Africa is resource-seeking—to the detriment of US interests; (3) Chinese engagement in Africa is designed to foster debt-based coercive diplomacy; and (4) US-Africa economic linkages are all one-way and concessionary (i.e., aid-based). Hendrix finds little evidence to suggest Chinese trade and investment ties crowd out US trade and investment opportunities. China’s resource-seeking bent is evident in investment patterns, but it is more a function of Africa’s having comparatively large, undercapitalized resource endowments than China’s attempt to corner commodity markets. Chinese infrastructural development—particularly large projects associated with the Belt and Road Initiative—may result in increased African indebtedness to the Chinese, but there is little reason to think debt per se will vastly expand Chinese military capacity in the region. And finally, US-Africa economic relations are much less one-sided and concessionary (i.e., aid-based) than conventional wisdom suggests.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Infrastructure, Economy, Trade, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Africa, China, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Julia Coronado, Simon Potter
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The US monetary system faces significant challenges from advances in technology and changes in the macroeconomy that, left unaddressed, will threaten the stability of the US economy and financial system. At the same time, low interest rates mean that central banks will not have the policy ammunition they had in the past during the next recession. The Federal Reserve needs new tools to meet its mandates of price stability and maximum employment. It also needs to preserve the safety and soundness of the financial system in a rapidly digitizing world. The authors propose a Fed-backed digital currency to solve both problems. Their proposal creates a regulated system of digital currency accounts for consumers managed by digital payment providers and fully backed by reserves at the Fed. The system would be limited in size, to preserve the functions and stability of the existing banking system. Fed backing would mean low capital requirements, which would in turn facilitate competition. Low fees and no minimum balance requirements in the new system would also help financial institutions reach the roughly 25 percent of the US population that is currently either unbanked or underbanked. Digital accounts for consumers could also provide a powerful new stabilization tool for both monetary and fiscal policies. For fiscal policy, it could facilitate new automatic stabilizers while also allowing the Fed to provide quantitative easing directly to consumers. This tool could be used in a timely manner with broad reach to all Americans.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Monetary Policy, Banks, Macroeconomics
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Julia Coronado, Simon Potter
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In the second part of their Policy Brief, Coronado and Potter discuss how the system of digital payment providers (DPPs) proposed in their first Policy Brief on this topic adds a new weapon to the monetary toolkit that could be implemented in a timely, effective, and inclusive manner. They describe how a digital currency backed by the Federal Reserve could augment automatic fiscal stabilizers and—more importantly—harness the power of “helicopter” money or quantitative easing directly to consumers in a disciplined manner. To implement QE directly to consumers, Coronado and Potter propose the creation of recession insurance bonds (RIBs)—zero-coupon bonds authorized by Congress and calibrated as a percentage of GDP sufficient to provide meaningful support in a downturn. Congress would create these contingent securities; Treasury would credit households’ digital accounts with them. The Fed could purchase them from households in a downturn after its policy rate hits zero. The Fed’s balance sheet would grow by the value of RIBs purchased; the initial matching liability would be deposits into the DPP system. The mechanism is easy for consumers to understand and could boost inflation expectations more than a debt-financed fiscal stimulus could.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Monetary Policy, Insurance
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Soyoung Han, Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The Summer Olympic Games are the most globalized sporting event on earth. Until now, the Summer Games had been postponed only three times—in 1916, 1940, and 1944—all because of world wars. So, the announcement that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo Games would be postponed by a year is significant, implicit testimony to the destructiveness of the pandemic. The Tokyo Games were expected to continue the evolution of the Games away from the aristocratic European milieu where the modern Olympic movement began. As poverty has declined and incomes across the global economy have converged, participation in the Games has broadened and the pattern of medaling has become more pluralistic, particularly in sports with low barriers to entry in terms of facilities and equipment. This Policy Brief presents forecasts of medal counts at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games had they had gone on as scheduled, setting aside possible complications arising from the coronavirus pandemic. The forecasts are not just a depiction of what might have been. They establish a benchmark that can be used when the Games are eventually held, to examine the impact of the uneven incidence of the pandemic globally.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, Sports, Olympics
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, Global Focus
  • Author: Soyoung Han, Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Despite steady progress, women remain grossly underrepresented in corporate leadership worldwide. The share of women executive officers and board members increased between 1997 and 2017, but progress was not uniform. Partly in response to gender quotas, the shares of female board members have risen rapidly in some countries while lagging elsewhere. This Policy Brief reports results derived from the financial records of about 62,000 publicly listed firms in 58 economies over 1997–2017, which together account for more than 92 percent of global GDP. The authors conclude that if, as emerging evidence in the literature indicates, gender diversity contributes to superior firm performance, then progress in this area could help boost productivity globally. Policymakers and corporate leaders should consider supportive public and private policies, including more gender-neutral tracking in education, firm protocols that encourage gender balance in hiring and promotion, enforceable antidiscrimination laws, public support for readily available and affordable high-quality childcare and maternity and paternity leave, and quotas.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Women, Economic Inequality, Private Sector
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Olivier Blanchard, Thomas Philippon, Jean Pisani-Ferry
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The measures that most governments took in response to the sudden collapse in economic activity during the COVID-19 lockdowns nearly exclusively focused on protecting vulnerable workers and firms. These measures included unemployment benefits, grants, transfers, loans at low rates, and tax deferrals. As lockdowns are lifted, governments must shift policies toward supporting the recovery and design measures that will limit the pain of adjustment while preserving productive jobs and firms. This Policy Brief explores how such measures can be designed, with particular emphasis on Europe and the United States. The authors propose a combination of unemployment benefits to help workers, wage subsidies and partially guaranteed loans to help firms, and debt restructuring procedures for small and medium-sized companies handicapped by excessive legacy debt from the crisis.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Government, Labor Issues, Unemployment, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ana González, Euijin Jung
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: By refusing to fill vacancies in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Appellate Body—the top body that hears appeals and rules on trade disputes—the Trump administration has paralyzed the key component of the dispute settlement system. No nation or group of nations has more at stake in salvaging this system than the world’s big emerging-market economies: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, and Thailand, among others. These countries have actively and successfully used the dispute settlement system to defend their commercial interests abroad and resolve inevitable trade conflicts. The authors suggest that even though the developing countries did not create the Appellate Body crisis, they may hold a key to unlock it. The Trump administration has also focused its ire on a longstanding WTO practice of giving these economies latitude to seek “special and differential treatment” in trade negotiations because of their developing-country status. The largest developing economies, which have a significant stake in preserving a two-step, rules-based mechanism for resolving trade disputes, could play a role in driving a potential bargain to save the appeals mechanism. They could unite to give up that special status in return for a US commitment to end its boycott of the nomination of Appellate Body members.
  • Topic: Development, Government, World Trade Organization, Developing World, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: China, Indonesia, India, South Korea, Brazil, North America, Mexico, Thailand, United States of America
  • Author: Olivier Blanchard, Lawrence H. Summers
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: With interest rates persistently low or even negative in advanced countries, policymakers have barely any room to ease monetary policy when the next recession hits. Fiscal policy will have to play a major and likely dominant role in stimulating the economy, requiring policymakers to fundamentally reconsider fiscal policy. Blanchard and Summers argue for the introduction of what they call “semiautomatic” stabilizers. Unlike purely automatic stabilizers (mechanisms built into government budgets that automatically—without discretionary government action or explicit triggers—increase spending or decrease taxes when the economy slows or enters a recession), semiautomatic stabilizers are targeted tax or spending measures that are triggered if, say, the output growth rate declines or the unemployment rate increases beyond a specified threshold. The authors argue that the trigger should be changes in unemployment rather than changes in output, and the design of semiautomatic stabilizers, whether they focus on mechanisms that rely primarily on income or on intertemporal substitution effects (changing the timing of consumption), depends crucially on the design of discretionary policy.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Monetary Policy, Finance
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Hanny Megally, Leah Zamore, Tayseer Alkarim
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic poses a dire risk to the tens of thousands of people imprisoned in Syria’s archipelago of prisons and detention facilities, many in conditions so ghastly that they constitute crimes against humanity. These facilities function as overcrowded torture chambers by design. Thousands have already died in detention due to such circumstances, and those still living are especially vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus. If COVID-19 is permitted to take hold, the devastation among the prison population will be swift and fatal. Nor will it stop at the prison walls. What can be done to avert a catastrophe that threatens not only the up to 100,000 who may still be alive in detention, but also the war-weary Syrian population at large? This briefing outlines a two-step approach to averting the looming disaster, calling first and foremost for immediate and large-scale prisoner releases, because no prevention or mitigation efforts will succeed unless the challenges presented by overcrowding are addressed. While releases are underway, the living conditions of those who remain imprisoned must be radically transformed to safeguard health and prevent the pandemic from taking hold.
  • Topic: Prisons/Penal Systems, Humanitarian Crisis, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Knut Gerlach, Robert Kang
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: 2020 is the 75th anniversary year of the United Nations (UN), and it has already shaped up to be a year of unprecedented international shocks and potential for transformation, from COVID-19’s impact to the current mobilization for racial justice in many areas of the world. What does this mean for global trust in international cooperation and multilateral institutions? This briefing by Karina Gerlach and Robert Kang examines recent global polling data, finding a growing demand for international cooperation but diminished trust in international institutions to play a role in the response to COVID-19. It also looks at shifts in member state leadership and perceptions of United States-China rivalry, arguing that middle power alliances and regional networks offer a path forward for international cooperation even in difficult circumstances.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, United Nations, Reform, Multilateralism, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Leah Zamore, Ben Phillips
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: A growing body of evidence shows that the COVID-19 crisis is significantly affecting people’s priorities for the future. With economies around the world suffering the impact of the pandemic, the global public wants governments to adopt bold approaches in response—and polls from a range of countries show that large majorities believe their actions have not been strong enough. In this briefing, Leah Zamore and Ben Phillips examine global polling data to show what kinds of policies—including those previously deemed “radical”—are now garnering widespread support. They find that people want governments to act boldly both in responding to the immediate economic crisis and in fundamentally transforming the social contract moving forward. The briefing examines polling on a range of topics, from wide support for redistributive programs and a rejection of austerity policies, to the growing popularity of measures that check corporate power in favor of workers and consumers.
  • Topic: Governance, Public Opinion, Economy, Humanitarian Crisis, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Marc Jacquand
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: In recent years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the United Nations (UN) have increased their collaboration and strengthened their respective capacities to engage more effectively in fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV) contexts. Recent global developments, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, point to the need to accelerate such efforts and deepen collaboration between these three institutions. Everywhere—including in high-income countries—political turbulence and contestation of traditional governance arrangements are increasing the stakes and impact of macroeconomic decisions, and now of pandemic response measures. This extremely challenging global landscape, where risks intersect with increasing virulence, is calling out for greater collaboration between the IMF, the Bank, and the UN, as the three institutions to which many countries that find themselves facing such crises often turn. This briefing by Marc Jacquand makes the case for increased collaboration on four levels: factual, financial, political, and counterfactual. It also lays out the challenges, both internal and external, that impede collaboration. Finally, it makes recommendations for institutional improvements to facilitate more effective joint work in FCV contexts.
  • Topic: United Nations, Governance, Reform, Multilateralism, Crisis Management, IMF, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Paige Arthur
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: In 2018, the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank published a groundbreaking report driven by the conviction that the international community’s attention must urgently be rebalanced from crisis response to prevention. Pathways for Peace offered a joint framework for conflict prevention, and as it has gathered momentum, other international financial institutions (IFIs)—such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF)— have re-examined their approach to fragile and conflict-affected countries. Now, with the UN and the IFIs mobilizing in response to the COVID-19, the progress made in recent years will be tested. There is a risk that these opportunities will be overshadowed by the colossal need generated by the pandemic—but the scale and urgency of the crisis is also creating new opportunities for UN-IFI collaboration. This briefing provides an external perspective on the evolution of the UN-IFI relationship over the past three years. The first part of the stocktaking will focus on the UN-World Bank relationship, followed by a brief overview of partnership with the IMF. It is written for a broad audience—across the UN system, the World Bank and other IFIs, UN member states, civil society, and beyond—and aims to build consensus on next steps needed to accelerate implementation of a preventive approach.
  • Topic: United Nations, Fragile States, Multilateralism, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: David Steven, Maaike de Langen
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global emergency. It is not only a health crisis but also a human rights crisis. Justice actors face daunting responsibilities as they design, implement, and enforce new measures to prevent the spread of infection. Measures that heighten the risk of human rights abuses can undermine trust, at a time when the justice system most needs to maintain the public’s confidence. For better or for worse, justice systems and justice workers are on the frontline of this pandemic. This Pathfinders briefing, drafted by lead authors David Steven, Maaike de Langen, Sam Muller, and Mark Weston with the input of more than 50 justice experts from around the globe, discusses the most pressing priorities that the public health emergency poses for justice leaders and proposes seven areas for urgent action as the tide of infections continues to rise. It is the first in the Justice in a Pandemic series.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Governance, Rule of Law, Crisis Management, Peace, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Scott Guggenheim
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: This policy briefing examines how governments, multilateral organizations, and international financial institutions can leverage existing and new community-based responses to deal more effectively with the health, social, and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Governments around the world are stretched to their limits trying to cope with not just the health risks of the COVID-19 virus, but also the economic fallout as people lose their jobs and entire sections of the economy close down. In this policy briefing, Pathfinders adviser Scott Guggenheim argues that governments must harness an underutilized but highly effective tool—traditional community solidarity and volunteerism.
  • Topic: Governance, Food Security, Humanitarian Crisis, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Sarah Cliffe
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank conducted their first virtual Spring Meetings amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This briefing summarizes the discussions, which focused on the economic impact of the pandemic, and provides key takeaways on topics such as debt relief, financing for COVID-19 response, multilateral partnerships, and efforts to support global supply chains. In this readout of the 2020 Spring Meetings, CIC director Sarah Cliffe details the historic—but ring-fenced—debt moratorium and accelerated financing deal that were reached, as well as efforts to inject more global financing through an exceptional issue of IMF Special Drawing Rights. The briefing also covers partnerships between the United Nations and the international financial institutions, including a call for collaboration on global supply chains for medical equipment, agricultural inputs, and other goods and services.
  • Topic: Governance, Finance, Multilateralism, Crisis Management, Humanitarian Crisis, IMF, COVID-19, Supply
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Sarah Cliffe, Paul von Chamier, Nendirmwa Noel
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: Lockdown measures have been an integral tool in the fight against COVID-19. But they come at a high cost, given their impacts on economies, employment and incomes, education, food systems, mental health and even the potential for civil unrest. This policy briefing by Sarah Cliffe, Paul von Chamier, and Nendirmwa Noel examines how countries are balancing the need for lockdown with policy measures to alleviate their effects and plans for reopening. It provides comparative data on the stringency of lockdowns, showing that while there has been a convergence towards more stringent measures over time, there is also wide variation among countries—even among those in the same region, or income group. A brief case study of Sierra Leone and snapshot examples of policy from ten other countries illustrates the range of answers to the question of how much lockdown is enough.
  • Topic: Employment, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sierra Leone, Global Focus
  • Author: Leah Zamore, Tayseer Alkarim
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: The humanitarian crisis in northern Syria is on the verge of becoming a COVID-19 catastrophe. A decade of conflict has left the healthcare system in ruins—and millions of displaced people in Idlib province were already suffering due to a lack of shelter and sanitation. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic posed to spread to an area with just 600 doctors and fewer than 50 adult ventilators for four million people, the situation is dire. Why is Idlib the last refuge for internally displaced Syrians, and what can donors, international humanitarian actors, and local organizations do to ensure that they are not left behind as the world grapples with COVID-19? This policy briefing by Tayseer Alkarim, Hanny Megally, and Leah Zamore delves into roots of the humanitarian crisis in Idlib, details the current capacity of the exhausted healthcare system amid the ongoing conflict, and examines what these constraints mean for mounting a response to the spread of the coronavirus. The briefing explains how donors and international humanitarian organizations can take action now to support local institutions, increase testing and treatment capacity, improve availability of PPE and public information, and press for an immediate ceasefire. The plight of Idlib is one of the most complex humanitarian dilemmas of our time, influenced by prolonged conflict, a looming COVID-19 outbreak, and the ongoing failure of the international community to take effective action. A further failure to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Idlib will cost lives—and risk global health security further by allowing the virus to spread in one of the places that is least-equipped to contain it.
  • Topic: Health, Conflict, Humanitarian Crisis, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Said Sabir Ibrahimi
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: Afghanistan faces many hurdles in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic: a prolonged armed conflict, a lack of social protection systems, limited healthcare capacity, and insufficient preparedness and coordination mechanisms. The Afghan government has developed a response plan and secured aid from international donors, but effective implementation remains challenging. This briefing by Said Sabir Ibrahimi and Dr. Naqibullah Safi provides an overview of the current state of the COVID-19 response in Afghanistan against the background of the ongoing conflict. It also details the additional challenges that hamper Afghanistan’s ability to deal with the crisis and provides recommendations for mitigating them.
  • Topic: Foreign Aid, Conflict, Humanitarian Crisis, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, South Asia
  • Author: Sarah Cliffe
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: The protests that have roiled the United States over the past weeks are rooted in an issue at the heart of the divisions in American society: racism, and in particular racism within the security forces. But their extent and impact are unprecedented in recent decades. What makes this moment different from previous waves of protests? This briefing by Sarah Cliffe draws on comparative global analysis to ask whether the US now risks large-scale civil conflict. It examines how the combination of a public health crisis, systemic generalized inequality and racial disparities, growing socioeconomic hardship, the political manipulation of racial and religious identities and the potential trigger of the forthcoming presidential election have exacerbated long-standing tensions in American society.
  • Topic: Race, Protests, Crisis Management, Police, COVID-19, Civil Unrest
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Karina Gerlach, Robert Kang
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: 2020 is the 75th anniversary year of the United Nations (UN), and it has already shaped up to be a year of unprecedented international shocks and potential for transformation, from COVID-19’s impact to the current mobilization for racial justice in many areas of the world. What does this mean for global trust in international cooperation and multilateral institutions? This briefing by Karina Gerlach and Robert Kang examines recent global polling data, finding a growing demand for international cooperation but diminished trust in international institutions to play a role in the response to COVID-19. It also looks at shifts in member state leadership and perceptions of United States-China rivalry, arguing that middle power alliances and regional networks offer a path forward for international cooperation even in difficult circumstances.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Race, United Nations, Reform, Multilateralism, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: David Steven, Maaike de Langen
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered what may be the worst global recession since the Second World War—and the impact of this second-order crisis will be widespread, including in the justice sector. Access to justice has been affected by the public health response to the coronavirus, but it will also be challenged by the economic downturn. The first in this series—Justice for All and the Public Health Emergency set out recommendations for how justice systems and actors can respond to the health impacts of the pandemic. This second briefing now turns to the question of how the economic downturn will affect access to justice—and how justice systems and partners can play a role in the recovery. The briefing examines how the economic effects of COVID-19 impact common justice problems, and how justice systems can anticipate and innovate in response. It provides recommendations for how justice systems and actors can react nimbly to the pandemic’s effects, and look ahead for opportunities to build back better, reshaping justice systems so they can support more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient economies.
  • Topic: United Nations, Global Recession, Rule of Law, Crisis Management, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • 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: Ben Fishman
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After the fall of Sirte, Erdogan and Putin’s desired ceasefire can only be achieved with Washington’s support. Over the past week, regional and European actors have increased their diplomatic activity around Libya in response to intensifying violence in the nine-month-old civil war. On January 8, less than a week after the Turkish parliament approved sending forces to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin met in Istanbul and called for a Libya ceasefire to begin on January 12. Whether or not Moscow and Ankara manage to pause the violence temporarily, their growing influence in Libya represents an epic failure of Western attempts to resolve the conflict diplomatically. The longer-term effort to jumpstart Libya’s political transition requires a wider international effort at peace and reconciliation—something Russia and Turkey can support but not lead. Putin and Erdogan seemed to acknowledge that fact at their summit, endorsing a long-planned multilateral conference in Berlin aimed at recommitting all relevant actors to support an end to hostilities and respect the UN Security Council’s mandatory but widely ignored arms embargo. Even assuming Putin is serious and withdraws Russian mercenaries from the frontlines, a full, lasting ceasefire cannot transpire until the other actors who support Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) agree to withdraw their equipment and personnel for a fixed period while negotiations are launched—especially the United Arab Emirates, which provides the LNA with critical air superiority. At the same time, Turkey would have to take commensurate de-escalatory steps of its own. The United States is the only actor that holds enough weight with all the foreign parties to bring about an authentic ceasefire. Despite being consumed with crises in Iran and Iraq, Washington should expend the diplomatic effort required to pursue durable stability in Libya before the country slips further toward endemic chaos.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, United Nations, Conflict, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: 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: Charles Thépaut, Elena DeLozier
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By triggering the nuclear deal’s dispute resolution mechanism, Britain, France, and Germany are opening diplomatic space that could help the United States and Iran return to the negotiating table. In a press conference following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, President Trump reaffirmed his administration’s “maximum pressure” policy against Iran and asked, once again, for European countries to leave the nuclear deal. Meanwhile, Tehran announced what it called a “fifth and final remedial step” away from its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In response, the British, French, and German foreign ministers stated on January 14 that they would trigger the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism (DRM). At the same time, however, the E3 clarified that they are not joining the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign, which has steadily intensified ever since the United States withdrew from the JCPOA and reimposed unilateral sanctions in 2018. Contrary to U.S. claims, the European decision will not immediately provoke “snapback” UN sanctions on Iran (though that scenario could unfold later if the E3 plan fails and Iran’s violations go before the UN Security Council). Instead, Europe is maintaining its evenhanded position somewhere between Washington and Tehran in order to preserve the possibility of new negotiations, on both the nuclear program and other regional issues.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Nuclear Power, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: During the war years in Syria, the northwest, specifically Idlib, has become a site of heavy internal displacement. Observers on the ground recognize the green buses traveling to Idlib carrying migrants who have refused reconciliation agreements with the Damascus regime. Since around 2014, a range of jihadist, Islamist, and Salafi actors have wielded control in the area, the most recent being the al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which has ruled—ineffectively and brutally—through its so-called Syrian Salvation Government. But the group's reign is unlikely to last long if current trends persist. The regime's recent move against the town of Maarat al-Numan suggests plans for a broader takeover in the northwest, aided by Russian firepower and other allies such as Iran. In this Policy Note filled with local insights, jihadism expert Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi presents the current scene in and around Idlib province, the last Syrian outpost still run by independent rebels. Absent an intervention by Turkey, the Assad regime will likely prevail in a campaign that quashes the insurgency at a high humanitarian cost.
  • Topic: Al Qaeda, Displacement, Military Intervention, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The general’s peerless domestic stature would have served a crucial mediatory role during the eventual transition to Khamenei’s successor, so his death brings significant uncertainty to that process. Following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, much attention has been focused on the foreign operations conducted by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force. Yet his organization also played a major role at home, one whose future is now unclear. In particular, Soleimani himself was well positioned to be a unifying, steadying figure once Iran faced the challenge of determining a successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
  • Topic: Politics, Military Affairs, Authoritarianism, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Ben Fishman, Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If the latest conference is to succeed, the principal actors stoking the civil war must endorse a genuine ceasefire and a return to Libyan internal dialogue. On January 19, international leaders will convene in Berlin to discuss a way out of the nine-month civil war between the so-called “Libyan National Army” led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognized Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. The Germans led several months of preparatory efforts at the request of UN envoy Ghassan Salame, but had been reluctant to choose a specific date until they were assured that the event stood a reasonable chance of producing practical steps to improve the situation on the ground and jumpstart the UN’s stalled negotiation efforts between the LNA and GNA. Chancellor Angela Merkel finally took that step after several key developments unfolded earlier this month, including a January 8 ceasefire proposal by Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Putin’s subsequent failed attempt to have each side sign a more permanent ceasefire agreement in Moscow on January 13 (the GNA signed but Haftar balked, though most of the fighting has paused for the moment). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been averse to engage on Libya during his tenure, but he is expected to attend the Berlin conference alongside National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. Accordingly, the event gives the United States a chance to play a much-needed role on several fronts: namely, pressuring the foreign actors who have perpetuated the war and violated the arms embargo; working with Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia to codify a ceasefire at the UN Security Council; and backing Salame’s efforts to reinvigorate the Libyan national dialogue, which Haftar preempted by attacking Tripoli last April despite European support to Salame. Since 2011, Libya has struggled to establish a legitimate transitional government despite three national elections and the creation of at least four legislative bodies. Challenges to the 2014 election results eventually led to rival governments in the east and west, and the division solidified when Haftar started the first civil war with support from his allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. That war halted in 2015, but several years’ worth of domestic and international efforts failed to bring Sarraj and Haftar to an enduring resolution.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, United Nations, Conflict, Negotiation, Conference
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, Germany, North Africa, United Arab Emirates, Berlin, United States of America
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A host of crucial multilateral interests are baked into the U.S. presence, from keeping the Islamic State down, to protecting vulnerable regional allies, to preventing Iran from taking Iraq's oil revenues. The assassination of Qasem Soleimani has brought the tensions in U.S.-Iraqi relations to a boil, with militia factions strong-arming a parliamentary resolution on American troop withdrawal and various European allies contemplating departures of their own. Before they sign the divorce papers, however, officials in Baghdad and Washington should consider the many reasons why staying together is best for both them and the Middle East.
  • Topic: Oil, Bilateral Relations, Islamic State, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Jordan, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By the time IS came to the fore in Iraq and Syria, many of its themes and activities were already second nature to Tunisian jihadis who had heard similar messaging at home. There are a number of reasons why Tunisians joined the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. One underappreciated aspect of this is the way Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia’s (AST) messaging primed members of the group and others in society that were exposed to, attended, or followed online AST activities and events. In my new book, Your Sons Are at Your Service: Tunisia’s Missionaries of Jihad, I describe this process, which I will examine in brief here. In particular, I will explore AST’s motivational framing, which “functions as prods to action.” The major themes AST crafted in its narrative were related to brotherhood, the defense of Islam, the creation of an Islamic state, and “remaining” as an entity.
  • Topic: Islam, Non State Actors, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Khamenei and other regime officials have been quick to swear revenge, but for now they may focus more on stoking patriotic and militaristic sentiment at home. A few hours after Iran confirmed that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani had been killed in Iraq, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a statement describing those who shed his blood as “the most wretched of humankind.” Calling Soleimani the international symbol of “resistance,” he then announced three days of public mourning in Iran. He also declared that “severe revenge awaits the criminals” who killed Soleimani—an act that the United States had claimed credit for by the time he spoke. Other highranking officials echoed this sentiment, including President Hassan Rouhani, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, and Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who explicitly promised “revenge” on “all those” involved in the assassination. Despite this rhetoric, however, and despite Soleimani’s unmatched role in carrying out Iran’s regional policy of adventurism and asymmetric warfare, the regime may avoid major, immediate retaliation if it sees such a move as too costly or as a potential trigger for serious military conflict with the United States. On January 1, amid escalating tensions in Iraq but before Soleimani’s assassination, Khamenei stated, “We would not take the country to war...but if others want to impose something on this country, we will stand before them forcefully.” In response to President Trump’s assertion that Iran played a role in the December 31 riot at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Khamenei told listeners he had two messages for Washington: “First, how dare you! This has nothing to do with Iran. Second, you should be reasonable and understand what is the main cause for these problems. But of course they are not [reasonable].”
  • Topic: Politics, Qassem Soleimani, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • 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: Fabrice Balanche
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Various displacement scenarios may unfold as the fighting escalates, each carrying a high risk of negative humanitarian and economic consequences even if the parties live up to their promises. The battle for Idlib province, the last stronghold of Syrian rebel forces, is heating up again. As Turkish troops clash with Assad regime forces and displaced civilians continue piling up along the border, various foreign and domestic players are considering moves that could send hundreds of thousands of refugees to other parts of Syria, northern Iraq, or Europe.
  • Topic: Refugees, Displacement, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Turkey, Syria, Idlib
  • 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: Alex Almeida, Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: To keep recent rebel victories from cascading into a wider military collapse, Washington must urge the Gulf coalition to firm up the government’s forces and move more quickly on peace talks. On March 2, Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized the capital of al-Jawf province in the latest phase of a forty-five-day campaign along multiple fronts. Stemming from shifts in the country’s increasingly fragile military balance since last fall, the offensives show that Saudi Arabia is providing insufficient frontline support to the internationally recognized government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and its allies, while also failing to complete backchannel peace talks with the Houthis. Unless talks reach fruition or the Houthis are checked militarily, rebel forces will continue to use their ever-widening array of advanced Iranian weapons to exploit the government’s weakness with more offensives.
  • Topic: Conflict, Negotiation, Peace, Houthis
  • Political Geography: Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • 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: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Fewer attacks and more prosecutions suggest the country’s integrated approach could eventually become a model for the region. For the first time since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia is not on the defensive in its battle with the Islamic State and al- Qaeda. Data from 2019, paired with a more holistic approach to combating jihadists, bears out this claim. Specifically, Tunis is expanding its toolkit beyond a purely military or law enforcement approach. Because of these advances, which have developed over the past few years, Tunis and Washington will have widened opportunities to engage on more complex aspects of reform that could make Tunisia a regional and global model. Both internal and external challenges remain, such as from foreign fighters dwelling abroad, an overcrowded prison system, and the threat of resurgent jihadism next door in Libya, but these need not diminish the accomplishments. Moreover, Tunisia can now build on its achievements, continuing the process of reform after decades of authoritarian rule.
  • Topic: Law Enforcement, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Tunisia