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  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Moscow is in Syria for the long haul and will continue to undermine American efforts there. In recent months, Moscow intensified its activities in Syria against the backdrop of a changing US administration. The Kremlin sent additional military policy units to eastern Syria, and continued diplomatic engagement through the Astana format, a process that superficially has international backing but in practice excludes the United States and boosts Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Moreover, Moscow also unveiled at its airbase in Syria a statue to the patron saint of the Russian army, Prince Alexander Nevsky. A growing Russian presence in Syria will further hurt Western interests.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Pavel K. Baev
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The recent incidence of war in the Caucasus has shown that, when facing deep domestic troubles, Russia and Turkey demonstrate strikingly different patterns of international behavior. While Russia has become more cautious in responding to external challenges, Turkey has embarked on several power-projecting enterprises. Its forceful interference in the long-smoldering conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh took Russia by surprise and effectively secured a military victory for Azerbaijan. Moscow has assumed the main responsibility for terminating hostilities by deploying a peacekeeping force, but its capacity for managing the war zone and its commitment to deconflicting tensions with Turkey remain uncertain. The United States and the European Union have few levers for influencing this interplay of clashing agendas of local actors and regional powers and fewer reasons to trust Russian and Turkish leaders to put peacebuilding ahead of their ambitions.
  • Topic: Security, War, Geopolitics, Grand Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Turkey, Caucasus, Middle East
  • Author: Younes Mahmoudieh
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: When I visited Iran this summer, severe panic attacks, depression, and anxiety—longstanding byproducts of post-traumatic stress disorder—caused me to seek out a trauma therapist. After weeks of contacting Iranian pharmacies, hospitals, charities, and relief organizations, my prescriptions for Zoloft, Xanax, Ativan, and Clonazepam remained unfilled. Since the United States exited the Iranian nuclear deal (JCPOA) and imposed new sanctions, this kind of shortage has become commonplace.
  • Topic: Health, Sanctions, International Community, International Court of Justice (ICJ)
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott M. Thomas, Anthony O'Mahony
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In February 2019, Pope Francis became the first pope to visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Like John-Paul II before him, he has also visited Egypt, and he went to Morocco in March 2019. The pope participated in a colloquium on “human fraternity” and interreligious dialogue sponsored by the UAE-based Muslim Council of Elders—the brain-child of Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the most important Sunni Muslim university in the world. The Council of Elders sponsors initiatives to engage young Muslims on Islamist ideology by promoting a more “authentic” interpretation of Islam. Islamist violence—with its beheadings and mass executions—has provoked disgust across the Muslim world and is causing young Muslims to become more distant from their imams and mosques. It is becoming clear to many Muslim intellectuals in Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon that, in order to defeat Islamism, there needs to be greater dialogue and coexistence with Christians. Pope Francis is attempting to lead the way, extending his “culture of encounter.”
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Culture, Violence, Catholic Church
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, United Arab Emirates, Vatican city
  • Author: Huma Saeed
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Afghanistan’s presidential election took place on September 28, 2019, with less than 2 million people participating out of 9.7 million registered voters. Taking into consideration Afghanistan’s total population of 35 million, the turnout was a historic low—a problem further amplified by the fact that the government poured a huge amount of financial and human resources into election preparation. The main explanation for such low turnout is twofold. On the one hand, security threats such as suicide attacks or gun violence—which reached their peak during the presidential election campaigns—deterred many people from going to polling stations. On the other hand, Afghans have become wary about determining their own political fate because, for decades, regional and international powers have steered the political wheel in Afghanistan, rather the people. After four months, election results have still not been announced, leading to further speculation and anxiety among a population which has already been the victim of four decades of violent conflict in the country. This anxiety is further exacerbated by the ongoing “peace” negotiations with the Taliban. Afghan people have learned from experience that, even in the best-case scenario of the election results or peace negotiations, they cannot hope for new justice measures to heal their wounds. As demonstrated by the experience of Afghanistan and other countries, peace and security will not last without addressing the people’s demands for justice.
  • Topic: Development, Human Rights, Politics, Elections, Taliban, Justice
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Middle East
  • Author: Max Erdemandi
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Recent discussions on the Turkish state’s actions, which have devastated Kurdish people within and outside of its borders, suffer from a familiar deficiency: they neglect the historical and cultural foundations of the dynamics that placed the Kurdish people at the center of Turkey’s national security policy. Serious human rights violations and voter suppression in southeast Turkey, the massacre of Kurdish people in various parts of northern Syria, and purging of Kurdish politicians on false accusations are all extensions of Turkey’s decades-long, repeated policy mistakes, deeply rooted in its nationalist history. Unless there is a seismic shift in the drivers of Turkish security policy, especially as it pertains to the Kurdish people, Turkey is bound to repeat these mistakes. Furthermore, threat externalization with linkage to legitimacy of rule will further erode the democratic institutions of the state and other authentic aspects of Turkish identity.
  • Topic: Security, Nationalism, Ethnicity, Syrian War, Borders, Violence, Kurds
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Kurdistan
  • Author: H. Sebnem Düzgün
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The Soma Mine Disaster (SMD) was the most massive mine disaster of the twenty-first century, with 301 fatalities. This was due to a mine fire in an underground coal mine. Although mine fires usually do not cause a large number of casualties in comparison with other explosions in underground coal mines, the SMD has an anomaly. The cause of the mine fire has not been precisely determined, though various groups of experts developed several hypotheses. Most of the fatalities were due to an inadequate safety culture, unstructured organizational and human performance, and improper decision-making and risk perception during the emergency management. So far, only minimal steps have been taken to improve the safety standards of the coal mines. Larger improvements are necessary to address the variety of factors that contributed to the disaster.
  • Topic: Disaster Relief, Science and Technology, Natural Resources, Labor Issues, Regulation, Mining
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Hasan Aydin
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Because of a perceived existential threat to the Turkish state, the teaching of any language other than Turkish in the formal education system has historically been forbidden through targeted legislation, despite the fact that Turkey comprises many minority ethnic groups other than Turks. Guaranteeing the rights of minorities like the Kurds for native tongue education would ensure preserving the distinct identities of minorities and contribute to the resolution of the decades-long Turkish-Kurdish conflict. Potential solutions include establishing programs, hiring more qualified instructors, and encouraging pluralism and diversity in education.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Education, Poverty, Minorities, Income Inequality, Kurds
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Oya Dorsun-Özkanca
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Turkey-Greece bilateral relations exemplify a stereotypical security dilemma. Since the discovery of hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean, the bilateral tensions between Turkey and Greece have been exacerbated through enhanced regional geostrategic competition. Against the background of renewed tensions in the eastern Mediterranean and the newly emerging regional alliances, it is in the interest of all parties to de-escalate the tensions in order to preserve regional peace and stability as well as the coherence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
  • Topic: Security, Governance, Conflict, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Greece, Mediterranean
  • Author: Julie Meier
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Worldwide, millions of people survive severely distressing experiences caused by war and conflict, humanitarian disasters, and displacement. While such events affect the mental health of any population, the psychosocial well-being of persons in humanitarian contexts are rarely addressed in research. In Iraq, sustained and accelerated trauma is a reality, as the local population has endured years of prolonged violence and persecution. Iraq has undergone almost forty years of conflict, including authoritarianism, an eight-year Iran-Iraq war, two Gulf Wars, decades of economic sanctions, a civil war, and the recent occupation by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
  • Topic: Islamic State, Conflict, Mental Health, Peace
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Elliot Hentov
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Iran is currently facing an incredibly unlucky alignment of pressure sources that are interrelated and will force the regime to engage in risky or experimental behavior, most likely in 2020. The COVID-19 epidemic simply exacerbates the combined challenges of a regime squeezed by an international sanctions network and a restive population reaching a breaking point with economic hardship. A continued acceptance of the status quo is untenable; thus, the regime will likely begin to undertake various initiatives in the coming months, more likely military than diplomatic in nature, that could force the United States to ease the isolation of the country.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Bilateral Relations, Governance, Culture, COVID-19, Society
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Joost Jongerden
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: While Trump always advocated disengagement from Syria, Turkish mainstream opinion and political leadership have never accepted Kurdish self-rule of territory on its Syrian border, which Turkey treats as an existential threat and dismisses with the trope of “terrorism.” Thus, Turkey’s military intervention should hardly be surprising. Indeed, not only is the assault an upscaled version of last year’s intervention and occupation of Afrin—a pocket in the western part of northern Syria—but it also fits a wider pattern of Turkish military aggression. Looking back over the past four years, we see Turkey repeatedly waging war for a “strong” state construction and regional power development.
  • Topic: War, Conflict, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, State Building
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Kurdistan
  • Author: Dean Vuletic
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: After winning the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) with her song “Toy” (inspired by the #MeToo movement), Netta Barzilai issued the declaration, “Next year in Jerusalem!” By using the traditional Jewish phrase, she was suggesting that the 2019 ESC would be held in that city.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Culture, Music
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: “The category of public reputational accountability,” Keohane asserts, “is meant to apply to situations in which reputation, widely and publicly known, provides a mechanism for accountability even in the absence of other mechanisms.” The effectiveness of public reputational accountability, in particular, has floundered because of the fact that the U.S. public’s views have shifted since the inception of the torture program. Even while recognizing that enhanced interrogation techniques are now against the law, former CIA director Michael Hayden defended the Agency’s past use of the techniques in 2014, claiming that “we thought we were doing the nation’s will.” Today, though, it can be argued that the absence of public reputational accountability stems from the fact that the issue of torture has been reframed in the public imagination.
  • Topic: Intelligence, Torture, Impunity, War on Terror, Accountability
  • Political Geography: Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: With the nomination and eventual appointment of Gina Haspel to the directorship of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), debates around the legality and the morality of the torture program undertaken during the early years of the War on Terror resurfaced. Some editorials asserted that condoning torture was now a roadmap for promotion at the CIA. Others, including former senior leaders of the CIA, argued that none could lead the Agency better than Haspel and claimed she was a person of integrity. Yet, amid the debates about her leadership of the Agency loomed two larger questions: 1) who is most responsible for the torture program, and 2) what does accountability mean? In the balancing act between the demands of justice and the imperatives of national security, how can we best ensure that the right people are held accountable for the U.S. torture program? Forceful repudiations of the program did occur through both internal agency proceedings as well as in the form of checks and balances across the federal government, but the public view of torture has changed in the almost two decades since 9/11. This shift is significant because U.S. popular opinion against the torture program a decade ago significantly contributed to pushback against it, pushback that manifested in the accountability measures detailed below. In the absence of public opposition, accountability measures will be more elusive.
  • Topic: Intelligence, Torture, War on Terror, Accountability
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Mohanad Hage Ali
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The Syrian conflict has magnified threats to minorities with long-term implications both within and beyond Syria’s borders. The deployment of excessive firepower by the Russian and Iranian-backed Assad regime, and the concurrent rise of Islamic extremism have had both direct and indirect impacts on minorities. Local, regional, and international actors have weaponized minority groups to bolster their influence, further intensifying schisms in the Syrian social fabric and in the international community as a whole. The flow of one million Syrian refugees to Europe between 2015 and 2016 strengthened an already powerful wave of anti-immigration, nationalist populism throughout the continent and across the Atlantic. As an openly Islamophobic and, more implicitly, anti-Semitic movement, the wave has contributed to widening the scope of the Syrian conflict’s schismatic effects beyond the country’s borders.
  • Topic: Minorities, Violent Extremism, Refugees, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Natalie Hilder
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The plight of Palestinian refugees was catapulted back into the spotlight last month, after a pair of events brought the issue to the forefront of international attention. While the Trump administration unveiled a new peace plan, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) received multinational pledges of $113 million in aid. Although these quick-fix efforts aimed to bring peace to, and improve living conditions for, Palestinians, they were rightfully met with widespread disenchantment.
  • Topic: United Nations, History, Foreign Aid, Refugees, International Community
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, North Africa
  • Author: Shannon Dick
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In 2013, the United States began a secret operation to train and equip opposition forces fighting against the Assad regime in Syria. Through the CIA, the United States facilitated the transfer of an estimated $1 billion in arms, ammunition, and training to Syrian rebel groups in hopes of influencing a negotiated end to the war. But these were not the only weapons flowing throughout Syria — Syrian government stockpiles served as a key source of armaments, and countries from around the region funneled arms into the country to support a variety of actors. In this way, the story of weapons in Syria reads as a cautionary tale about the unintended and lasting consequences of arms transfers, especially to countries in conflict.
  • Topic: Intelligence, Weapons , Arms Trade, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Geoffrey P. Macdonald, Luke Waggoner
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The October suicide bombing in the heart of Tunis demonstrated the continued need for Tunisia’s government to refine and bolster its efforts to combat violent extremism. Yet, instability within the ruling coalition threatens to undermine much-needed reforms to Tunisia’s countering violent extremism (CVE) and counterterrorism (CT) strategies, which fail to address the underlying drivers of radicalization. The public’s rising expectations for economic and social progress following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, which deposed Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s authoritarian government, have not been met. This has fostered disillusionment regarding democracy’s efficacy and has fed the rise of anti-establishment ideologies such as Islamic extremism. Only a stable governing coalition can develop CVE/CT polices that more effectively obstruct the path to radicalization and redress the persistent governance failures that inspire violent extremism.
  • Topic: Government, Reform, Violent Extremism, Arab Spring
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Lauren Mooney
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Autocrats are making a comeback. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent reelection, and the preceding repression of journalists and dissenters, is a prime example of this resurgence and sheds light on the playbook that many aspiring autocrats follow today. Erdoğan and other autocratic leaders voted into power through democratic means are part of a new breed of dictators—ones who swiftly dismantle the democratic system of checks and balances and the separation of powers designed precisely to prevent tyranny. The resulting system is an electoral autocracy—a system that retains the vestiges of democracy, but looks and acts like a traditional dictatorship. And this democratic erosion is ascending in prevalence—from 2000 to 2010, it accounted for 40 percent of all democratic failures. Personalist rule—a distinct mold of autocracy in which power is concentrated in the hands of one individual, sometimes referred to as strongman leaders—is also on the rise. Today, 40 percent of all autocracies are ruled by strongmen.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Authoritarianism, Democracy, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East