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  • Author: Abdullah Al-Arian
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: Prof. Abdullah Al-Arian discusses how Islamist movements have historically viewed diplomacy as important to their activist missions.
  • Topic: International Relations, Cold War, Diplomacy, Politics, History, Islamism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, Egypt, United States of America
  • Author: Ksenia Svetlova
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: In the few months that have passed since the signing of the historical Abraham Accords, Israel and the UAE have opened embassies and exchanged ambassadors, launched direct flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi, hosted dozens of businesses, cultural and academic delegations (among them a high-ranking Emirati delegation led by the UAE ministers of finance and economy), and facilitated visits of thousands of Israeli tourists to Dubai. Universities and think tanks from both countries have established connections, and news outlets have launched different forms of cooperation. Israel, the UAE, and the US set an investment fund worth 3 billion USD (the fund is not operational yet) and banks on both sides established agreements on financial services. The scope of activity between the two countries is impressive, and it seems that in case of Israel and the UAE, the seeds of peace have fallen on fertile ground, mainly due to high level of economic development and mutual geopolitical interests and concerns, such as the Iranian threat (although both sides evaluate and treat it differently).Today, it is almost impossible to imagine that just a few years ago Israeli athletes were only allowed to compete in the UAE if they agreed to participate without their national flag or national anthem sung at the closing ceremony. Why is it that the peace between Israel and the UAE appears to be such a stark contrast from previous peace agreements that Israel has signed with other Arab countries? Several factors have facilitated the newly established relationship: the positive image of the UAE in Israel; the lack of past hostilities, casualties, and territorial demands between the two countries; the unofficial ties forged long before the official recognition; the many mutual interests that seem to be aligned together; and the right timing that allowed for this bold and important development. Will the parties be able to maintain a similar level of enthusiasm also when the honeymoon stage passes? How will the two countries deal with various regional and international challenges? This paper presents an Israeli perspective on the first months of the relationship between Israel and UAE, and looks at prospects for the near future of these relations.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Economy, Peace, Abraham Accords
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, UAE
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: The year 2020 was characterized by the intensification of US-China confrontation and strategic competition, which had been pointed out in the Strategic Annual Report 2019, in all areas from military and security affairs as well as dominance in advanced technologies and supply chains to narratives on coronavirus responses. Amid this confrontation, the rules-based international order faced even more severe challenges; the multilateral framework established after World War II with the United Nations at its core lost its US leadership and fell into serious dysfunction. While the international community is struggling to cope with the rapidly expanding outbreak of the novel coronavirus, China has been moving to expand its influence through increasingly authoritarian and assertive domestic and international policies on the rule of law and territorial issues, as well as through economic initiatives such as the existing “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) and its responses to the pandemic. The confrontation with the United States is becoming more and more pronounced, and the Indo-Pacific region is turning itself into divided and contested oceans. In this transforming strategic environment, expressions of support for the vision of a rulesbased “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) that Japan has been promoting for the past several years, or announcements of similar visions have followed one after the other. The year 2020 also saw significant strengthening of the cooperative framework among four countries – Japan, the United States, Australia, and India (QUAD) – together with the enhancement of bilateral cooperation between countries in this group. At the same time, progress was also made in a regional cooperation framework that includes China with the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement in East Asia. The Strategic Annual Report 2020 looks back at major international developments since last year’s Report through the end of 2020, focusing on the transformation of the strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific region and the response of the international community.
  • Topic: International Relations, Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, Science and Technology, Bilateral Relations, Multilateralism, COVID-19, Destabilization
  • Political Geography: Russia, Japan, China, Middle East, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? A U.S. resolution seeking to extend UN arms restrictions on Iran beyond their October 2020 expiration failed at the Security Council. Washington has asserted that it will claim the right to unilaterally restore UN sanctions, which were terminated as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement. Why does it matter? Any U.S. attempt to reimpose sanctions will be controversial, given the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and likely to create deadlock at the Security Council. The administration’s goal is clear: kill the deal or make it that much harder for a successor administration to rejoin it. What should be done? The remaining parties to the deal should be united in resisting Washington’s efforts, as should other Security Council members. They should essentially disregard a U.S. “snapback” – restoring sanctions – as ineffectual, obstruct attempts to implement it and discourage Iran from overreacting to what will end up being a symbolic U.S. move.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, United Nations, Sanctions, UN Security Council
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: For years, Gulf powers have mulled the notion of regional dialogue to calm existing crises and head off new ones. Today, with several active Middle Eastern conflicts, all sensitive to rising U.S.-Iran tensions, it is an idea whose time has come. What’s new?* Middle East tensions spiked in the past year following attacks on oil tankers and Saudi oil facilities, the U.S. killing of a senior Iranian commander and Iranian military retaliation. Some of Washington’s allies, losing confidence the U.S. will reliably extend military protection, have started making cautious diplomatic overtures to Iran. Why does it matter? While these tentative steps toward de-escalation are welcome, they risk being inadequate, particularly in the absence of regular, high-level communication channels among potential conflict actors. Existing UN-led mechanisms for resolving individual conflicts, such as Yemen, are worthwhile but insufficient to lessen region-wide tensions. What should be done? Diplomatic efforts are needed to both de-escalate tensions and make progress toward resolving regional conflicts. Gulf actors, supported by external stakeholders, should consider launching an inclusive sub-regional dialogue aimed at reducing the risk of inadvertent conflict by opening new communication channels.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Jakob Lindgaard, Moritz Pieper, Cecilie Felicia Stokholm Banke
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Turkey-NATO relations are still sufficiently strong to keep the relationship from the brink, a new DIIS-report finds. But more dynamics are also gaining strength to render further troubles increasingly likely. The future of Turkey’s NATO membership has been the subject of heated debate of late, from both outside and within Turkey. What ramifications will Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air anti-missile system have for Turkey’s NATO future? Has the Syrian conflict exposed deep strategic differences between Turkey and other key NATO members? In response to such questions, a number of foreign policy practitioners as well as researchers and long-standing Turkey watchers have cautioned that a number of centripetal forces – dynamics that keep member states together - remain sufficiently strong at a structural level to keep Turkey-NATO relations on track. There seems to be widespread agreement on both sides that the alternative is simply worse. At the same time, the report also argues that these centripetal forces are losing their strength, and that centrifugal forces pulling the alliance apart are gaining strength and salience. Barring wild card developments, the net result is that this will increase the likelihood of further troubles ahead for Turkey-NATO relations The report is based on an analysis of the published policy commentary, scholarly literature, as well as a series of semi-structured interviews conducted with practitioners and academic experts during the course of 2019.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, NATO, Diplomacy, International Organization
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Turkey, Middle East, Denmark
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Turkey, Russia, and Washington have compelling reasons to welcome a new ceasefire agreement, however imperfect, but they still need to address the longer-term dangers posed by the Assad regime’s murderously maximalist strategy. Recent fighting between Turkish and Syrian regime forces in Idlib province has seemingly wiped away the last vestiges of the September 2018 Sochi agreement, brokered by Russian president Vladimir Putin as a way of pausing hostilities and dividing control over the country’s last rebel-held province. Beginning last December, renewed Russian and Syrian attacks against civilians sent a million residents fleeing toward the Turkish border, creating another humanitarian disaster. Then, on February 27, thirty-three Turkish soldiers were killed when their unit was attacked in Idlib—Ankara’s largest single-day loss in Syria thus far. Turkey initially blamed Bashar al-Assad for the deaths, but eyes soon turned to his Russian patron as the more likely culprit, elevating tensions between Ankara and Moscow to a level not seen since Turkish forces shot down a Russian plane in November 2015. Meanwhile, the Turkish military and its local partner forces launched a string of attacks against the Syrian regime and its Iranian-backed militia allies. On March 5, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Putin in Moscow to discuss these rising tensions. If the two leaders reach another ceasefire deal, will it last any longer than the short-lived Sochi agreement? More important, what effect might it have on the latest refugee crisis threatening to wash over Turkey and Europe?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Syrian War, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, United States of America, Idlib
  • Author: Karol Wasilewski
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Turkey has sent aid to fight the COVID-19 pandemic to more than 20 countries. Although the gesture has a humanitarian dimension, it is also calculated to achieve political and economic benefits in the future. The challenge to these plans is the dynamics of the pandemic in Turkey, which may force the authorities to focus on the internal situation.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Humanitarian Aid, Coronavirus, Pandemic
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Sara Nowacka
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The fight against the spread of the coronavirus in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has forced cooperation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, which were in conflict within the GCC. At the same time, the UAE took advantage of other countries’ need for support in countering COVID-19 to strengthen relations with China, Iran, and Syria, among others. The UAE’s activity emphasizes its ambition for domination of the region, which may lead to a new dispute within the GCC between the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Gulf Cooperation Council, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Michał Wojnarowicz
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The plan announced by U.S. President Donald Trump will not break the deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. For all involved parties, the plan will remain a point of reference for political and diplomatic actions in the coming months. The key factors of future developments would be Israel’s decision on the possible annexation of parts of the West Bank and, in the long-run, the outcome of this fall’s U.S. presidential elections.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Politics, Peace, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Emerson T. Brooking, Suzanne Kianpour
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Iran has invested significant resources and accumulated vast experience in the conduct of digital influence efforts. These clandestine propaganda efforts have been used to complement Iranian foreign policy operations for the better part of a decade. Nonetheless, Iranian influence capabilities have gone largely unstudied by the United States, and only came to widespread attention in August 2018 with the first public identification of an Iranian propaganda network. Following the US assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani and a sharp escalation in US-Iranian tensions, it is important to understand the perspective, methods, and intent of Iranian influence efforts. For Iran, information dominance represents a central focus of both foreign and domestic policy. Iran sees itself as engaged in a perennial information war: against Sunni Arab powers, against the forces of perceived Western neocolonialism, and particularly against the United States. Should the information conflict be lost, many Iranian officials believe the collapse of the state will soon follow. Accordingly, Iran has prioritized the development of digital broadcast capabilities that cannot be easily targeted by the United States or its allies. Iran has also prioritized information control. Although Iran boasts roughly fifty-six million Internet users, these users must navigate a culture of censorship and frequent state intimidation. Following the 2009 Green Movement, the Iranian government came to see social media activism as enabling an existential threat. Authorities created special cyber-police units, built a new legal framework for Internet regulation, and outlawed most Western digital platforms. They also began to develop systems to remove Iranian users from the global Internet entirely. In pursuit of foreign and domestic information dominance, Iran began operating Facebook and Twitter sockpuppets as early as 2010. As the United States and Iran entered into a period of rapprochement and negotiation, the number of accounts grew exponentially. These accounts have been used to launder Iranian state propaganda to unsuspecting audiences, often under the guise of local media reports. To date, Facebook has identified approximately 2,200 assets directly affecting six million users. Twitter has identified eight thousand accounts responsible for roughly 8.5 million messages. Much of this Iranian content cannot be characterized as “disinformation.” In sharp contrast to the information operations of Russia, which routinely disseminate false stories with the aim of polluting the information environment, Iran makes less use of obvious falsehood. Instead, Iran advances a distorted truth: one that exaggerates Iran’s moral authority while minimizing Iran’s repression of its citizens and the steep human cost of its own imperial adventures in the wider Middle East. As a whole, Iran’s digital influence operations represent a continuation of public diplomacy, albeit conducted through misleading websites and social media sockpuppets. Iran broadcasts a fairly consistent message to many different audiences: in Africa, in Southeast Asia, in Europe, in North America, and, most notably, in Latin America and the Middle East. The aim of these efforts is to “tell Iran’s story,” the same as any Western government broadcaster might strive to do. The difference is that, as an international pariah, Iran must pursue this work through more clandestine means. Global observers have long learned to doubt the truthfulness and sincerity of Iranian-branded media. As the United States considers policies to safeguard its elections and confront Iranian influence activities, three conclusions can be drawn about the nature of Iran’s modern propaganda apparatus. Iran’s digital influence efforts involve centralized goals and disparate agents. Different elements of Iran’s digital propaganda apparatus evidence the involvement of different government agencies. It is not clear how, or if, these agencies coordinate their operations. These goals are closely tied to Iran’s geopolitical interests. Nearly all content spread by Iran’s digital influence efforts relates directly to its worldview or specific foreign policy objectives. Consequently, it is easier to identify the operations of Iran than those of other actors like Russia, whose content is more likely to be politically agnostic. Iran may attempt direct electoral interference in 2020 and beyond. To date, there is little evidence that Iran has sought to affect the outcome of a US election. This does not, however, preclude future such campaigns based on Iranian interest in achieving rapprochement with the United States.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Politics, Media, Conflict, Disinformation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ilan Goldenberg, Elisa Catalano Ewers, Kaleigh Thomas
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: It appears unlikely that Iran will engage in diplomatic negotiations with President Donald Trump’s administration before the U.S. elections. However, the international community may find Iran ready to consider a return to negotiations in 2021—regardless of the results in November—either because of Iran’s interest in engaging a Biden administration or in an effort to avoid four more years of the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign. This report lays out potential options for a new U.S. administration to engage Iran in 2021. Many of the ideas also can be adapted for a second term Trump administration as described at the end of this report.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Engagement
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Gabriel Mitchell
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Established in January 2019, the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) is the most significant multinational organization in a geopolitical space often associated with conflict and competition. Currently comprised of Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Greece, Italy and the Palestinian Authority, the forum’s purpose to advance opportunities for energy development and cooperation between Eastern Mediterranean states in order to maximize the commercial potential of the region’s hydrocarbon reserves. This paper analyzes the diplomatic processes that resulted in the EMGF’s formation, the current challenges the forum faces, and Israel’s capacity to shape this nascent body’s future. If the forum hopes to grow in the postcoronavirus era, then it must commit to seeking pathways towards economic cooperation, enhancing its scope to include renewable energy, while also prioritizing conflict resolution and the establishment of a new maritime order.
  • Topic: Development, Diplomacy, Energy Policy, Geopolitics, Gas, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Italy, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, Mediterranean
  • Author: Thair Abu Ras
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This paper provides an historic overview of Israel's relationship with the Arab world followed by an in-depth review of cooperation between Arab states and Israel on solving and managing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinian issue served to enable and limit relations between Israel and Arab states along the years. Reviving Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and improving the status of the Palestinians have been the central tenants of cooperation between Israel and Arab states. The Palestinian issue serves as a legitimizing factor for Israeli-Arab cooperation, and the occupation remains an obstacle to accomplishing regional stability. The Abraham Accords may intensify Israeli-Arab cooperation on the Palestinian issue, thus making the quest for a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian issue more central to Israel's regional foreign policies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Conflict, Regional Integration, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Author: Ksenia Svetlova, Mor Yahalom
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Cooperation can yield stability, continued development and strengthened ties between states. Broad, fruitful Israeli cooperation with Arab states will open many economic, security, intelligence, energy, tourism, and medical opportunities, with the potential for more to come. Therefore, this goal must be identified and pursued. This paper is intended to enrich the theoretical and practical knowledge of Israel’s regional cooperation and provide background for understanding and assessing the variety of existing practices that Israel employs, on the governmental level, to advance regional cooperation and implement it. The paper details the various Israeli ministries and agencies tasked with managing and developing cooperation with Arab states, the division of responsibility among them and the practices they employ. It also identifies current opportunities and characterizes the challenges hampering and delaying potential cooperation.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Author: Roee Kibrik, Einat Levi
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Civilian cooperation between Israel and Arab states takes place on various levels and in different fields despite the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict that often prevents and always challenges the establishment of full, normal relations between the citizens of Israel and the region. This paper is intended to serve anyone seeking to promote Israel-Arab normalization, peace and cooperation, by spotlighting the wide array of existing civilian relations and trying to learn from experience for the sake of expanding future cooperation. Learning from experience is important both in order to efficiently and effectively advance regional cooperation toward peace, and also to advance existing cooperation, especially given its potential for offering better conditions for a political-diplomatic process. The potential for regional cooperation does not rely only on formal diplomatic, security and economic agreements between states, but also on ties between civilians. That is especially true for the desire to advance normalization as reflected in relations on the civil society level and the public legitimization of relations in a wide variety of fields. This paper analyzes civilian cooperation practices between Israelis and residents of states in the Middle East and North Africa, in the environment, sports, tourism, science, religion and heritage, culture and humanitarian aid.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Author: Dina Smeltz, Brendan Helm
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Abstract: On January 3, the United States launched a drone strike in Iraq that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, ramping up tensions between Washington and Tehran. Results from a just-completed Chicago Council survey show that more Americans think the strike has made the United States less safe than more safe, and more name Iran as the country posing the greatest threat to the United States than any other country. If Iran restarts development toward a nuclear weapon, the US public prefers diplomacy, but more Americans now support military action against Iran.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Public Opinion, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Lars Hauch
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: This report examines Syria’s Constitutional Committee process and parallel military developments during the Syrian civil war to reveal that the two have so far been interconnected. It arrives at the conclusion that the Government of Syria and Russia created and subsequently manipulated various linkages between conference room and battlefield to increase their own advantage. This has included the use of the Constitutional Committee as a placeholder to avoid greater Western diplomatic, or even military, efforts to resolve the conflict; the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure to force opposition bodies out of Syria; and polarization of the Committee by engaging in continuous human rights abuses among the Syrian population during negotiations. The Constitutional Committee can still help build bridges, but this requires redressing the balance of forces on the battlefield first. A joint Turkish-European military humanitarian intervention in northwestern Syria can serve this purpose and revitalize efforts to negotiate a (late) solution to the war.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Constitution, Humanitarian Intervention, Syrian War, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Mohammed Cherkaoui
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: On June 6, 2020, the Qatari crisis entered its fourth year with two parallel political discourses, which have endured the complexity of issues between Qatar and the Quartet [Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt] since early June 2017: a) diplomatic hopes in the U.S.-backed Kuwaiti mediation amidst several gestures of rapprochement between the Qataris and the Saudis; and b) disparity of positions by the disputing parties while maintaining status quo politics. The Trump administration has urged the Quartet capitals to reopen their airspace for Qatari airlines as a step toward ending the open-ended blockade. The Wall Street Journal quoted U.S. officials saying "there is a greater sense of urgency to resolve the airspace issue. It's an ongoing irritation for us that money goes into Iran's coffers due to Qatar Airways overflights." (1) The Trump White House has been irritated by the so-called "overfly fees" that Qatar pays to Iran to use its airspace. There is growing hope Washington’s call will trigger momentum for lifting the land and sea blockade imposed on Qatar as well. Qatar’s foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani hopes “the initiative will produce results, we are open to dialogue and ready to meet each step forward with 10 steps from our side.” (2) Unlike the Saudis, the Emiratis have maintained the 2017 demands, and UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash insists “this issue will stay with us, and we have to manage it in a better way until we reach a future stage.” He has often characterized the blockade as “a result of Doha's interference policies," and argued "the solution for this crisis should be based on dealing with the causes of it." (3) As a result, the three-year blockade is causing a hurting stalemate for both sides of the Gulf conflict. In his new book “Qatar and the Gulf Crisis”, Kristian C. Ulrichsen argues the blockade has become “stuck at a political level where the Saudi and Emirati leadership—and especially Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed—appear reluctant to make the first move to offer concessions or progress to a negotiated compromise.” (4) This paper examines some major narrative turns of the Quartet-Qatar showdown and the transformation of Trump’s position. It traces the possibility of a de-escalation shift along Washington’s pursuit of mediation in the framework of the Kuwaiti diplomacy; and weighs on the future of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as a counterbalance of the Arab Gulf strategic (dis)unity and common existentialism in a turbulent region.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Abu Dhabi
  • 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: Vicki Valosik, Kristin Smith
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: For Kristin Smith, MAAS alum and Cultural Affairs Officer for the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, culture and diplomacy go hand-in-hand. “My job is really using culture and art to bring people closer together,” Smith told the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star at a U.S. Embassy event celebrating the Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran. “It’s not just about deepening our ties and getting to know each other on a cultural level though. If we have these similarities in [the arts], then perhaps that will lead to future cooperation in other ways.” During her time in the MA in Arab Studies program, Smith—who holds a BA in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization from Harvard—pursued an academic concentration in Culture and Society, managed a yoga studio, and served as a Public Diplomacy Fellow at the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca. Following graduation, she joined the Foreign Service, serving in Taiwan before beginning her current position in 2017. Her portfolio as Cultural Affairs Officer covers five primary issues: arts and culture, non-formal education, academic outreach, interfaith and minority outreach, and alumni programming.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Culture, Language, Arabic
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, North America, Beirut, United States of America
  • Author: Isabel Roemer
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: A MAAS grad’s work at the intersection of diplomacy and cinematic arts is shaping American narratives and empowering storytellers around the globe. When people think about the tools of diplomatic engagement, narrative storytelling is not one that usually comes to mind. But for Rachel Gandin Mark, Program Director of the American Film Showcase (ASF)—the State Department’s film, television, and digital diplomacy program —the two go hand-in-hand. “I love thinking about how to incorporate entertainment, particularly story and character, into specific foreign policy strategies,” says Gandin Mark, who graduated from MAAS in 2003. “Some of our country’s biggest diplomatic challenges today stem from conflicting global narratives. Film and TV, when produced with authenticity and nuance, have the potential to complicate narratives and reveal a shared human experience.”
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Culture, Media, Film
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Carol Graham
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: Carol Madison Graham (MAAS ’81) was the first MAAS graduate to enter the United States Foreign Service. She reflects on how the 1984 embassy bombing in Beirut inspired her current work to strengthen the Foreign Service for future generations.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Violence, Memoir
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, North America, United States of America
  • Author: ONG Keng Yong
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: Ambassador ONG Keng Yong, who graduated from MAAS in 1983, remembers his time in Washington and sheds light on Singapore’s “price taker” approach to foreign policy.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Higher Education
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Asia, Arab Countries, Singapore, United States of America
  • Author: Kaylee Steck, Mohammed Alhammami
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: Last fall, Congress enacted a law that indirectly led to 29 young Arab leaders losing their scholarships to U.S.-accredited universities and dealt another blow to educational and cultural exchange programming, a critical part of U.S. public diplomacy efforts.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Government, Law, Higher Education
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kala Carruthers Azar
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: Alum Kala Carruthers Azar, who serves as Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, writes about the important role of people-to-people exchanges to American soft power.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Culture, Soft Power
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, Jordan, United States of America
  • Author: Julie A. Eadeh
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: For MAAS alum Julie Eadeh, diplomacy is all about human relationships, whether building connections with local communities or helping Americans abroad in times of crisis.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, War, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Julien Lebel
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Airports in the Gulf emirates are major transit hubs in global airline networks today. Apart from their “advantageous” geographical location, their development results primarily from the ambitions of political actors seeking to maintain their power. This has led especially to the creation of the “Gulf companies”, namely Emirates Airline (Dubai), Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi) and Qatar Airways (Doha). However, the three emirates are not following identical strategies. Within the unstable context of the Middle East, it is important to look at the development dynamics of these companies which symbolize the global reach of small but powerful political entities on the international stage.
  • Topic: Development, Diplomacy, Business , Airline Companies
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Dubai, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Edward P. Djerejian, Marwan Muasher, Nathan Brown, Samih Al-Abid, Tariq Dana, Dahlia Scheindlin, Gilead Sher, Khalil Shikaki
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The Israeli and Palestinian communities are growing ever closer physically while remaining separated politically. Any solution must adequately address the needs of both sides. This report attempts to look at actualities and trends with a fresh and analytical eye. At first glance, the two halves of this report contain two very different views of a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: one presents the case for a two-state solution, the other suggests that it is time to look at the idea of a single state with all its variations. But the two halves do not differ on the facts of the current situation. Nor do they differ much on the trajectory. The same facts can be used to support two different conclusions: Do we need new ideas or new determination and political will behind previous ones? The two chapters also highlight an important political reality: any solution must adequately address the needs of both sides. Imposed solutions will not work. The section authored by the Baker Institute does not deny that a one-state reality is emerging and the two-state solution is in trouble, but it argues that the two-state solution should not be abandoned as it provides the most coherent framework for a democratic Israeli state living in peace and security next to an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. Carnegie’s section recognizes that a one-state reality is emerging, whether desirable or not, and calls for scrutinizing solutions that take this reality into account instead of wishing it away. At a time when ideas to solve the conflict are being speculated about without much context, this report attempts to objectively analyze and present the two major options for a negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and to explain the consequences of both for the parties involved and the international community. It is our hope that it will serve as not only a reminder of past efforts but also an incubator for future ones.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Helle Malmvig
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: After years of war, the Syrian state apparatus has fragmented into a loosely knit network of overlapping and competing authorities that hold sway over different areas. Multiple groups are enacting and performing what are perceived to be key state tasks, sometimes living side by side, and sometimes fighting, competing and negotiating in overlapping networks of power. These cross-cutting ties defy any easy dichotomies between rebels and government of the sort we have become all too familiar with from military control maps. This does not imply that theSyrian state is on the verge of collapse or sectarian ethnic division. Rather the Syrian government has continued to function internationally as a sovereign state, and it has been able to draw on its administrative and institutional capacities, and even to nurture new and old local power elites in the form of prominent families, business leaders, clans and sheiks. In order to survive, the Assad regime has paradoxically outsourced or co-shared key state functions – the means of violence, border control, taxation and service provision – to or with a multiplicity of foreign and local actors, whether foreign Shia militias, the Kurdish YPG or Local Defense Forces. Many of these foreign powers and militias are likely to remain in Syria after the war in order to secure so-called strategic depth, and they thrive on a certain degree of ‘controlled state chaos’. Similarly, the multiplicity of local actors and intermediaries that have been empowered during the war will not easily relinquish their new found autonomy, and may, just like the Syrian opposition, push the Syrian state towards greater localization and decentralization.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Diplomacy, International Organization, Politics, Science and Technology, Terrorism, Power Politics, Non State Actors, Fragile States
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Ana Uzelac, Jos Meester
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: This report analyses the challenges of implementing a “protection in the region” agenda in Lebanon, a country that hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world, and which has been the recipient of one of the largest per capita aid and support packages since 2016. Our main finding is that EU diplomatic efforts and financial commitments to date have made very limited progress in ensuring protection for Syrian refugees in the country or improving their dismal socio-economic position. On the contrary, the main socio-economic indicators for Syrian refugees have remained very poor for the past three years, and the refugees’ continued presence in the country is increasingly questioned by parts of Lebanon’s political establishment. This report traces the reasons why donor efforts have had such limited success: restrictions created by Lebanese and European political narratives of displacement; the limitations imposed by Lebanon’s clientilistic economy; and the challenges of combining protection in the region with an economic reform agenda. Many donors have opted for predominantly technical approaches, based on cooperation with line ministries and state institutions. In our view, these approaches pay insufficient heed to the complex web of sectarian and personal interests that fuel Lebanese policy-making, with the result that limited progress is achieved for refugees.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Migration, European Union, Refugee Crisis
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Thomas Gomart, Marc Hecker
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: How can we define Emmanuel Macron’s foreign policy since he took office? After Nicolas Sarkozy’s brazen style of “gutsy diplomacy” and François Hollande’s “normal diplomacy”, the eighth president of the Fifth Republic seems to have opted for an agile classicism. In substance, he makes no claim to any radical break with the past, but sees his approach as being in line with historical tradition. In relation to his predecessors, he has adjusted the balance between alliances, values, and interests in favor of the latter, while giving his policies an unambiguous European orientation. Formally, his approach is characterized by recourse to symbolism, strict control of communications, and an agile personal style. A term used within the business world to encourage organizations and individuals to adapt and innovate, “agility” also connotes a will to utilize and master new technologies. [...] Comprising 14 brief analyses, this collective study contributes to the initiative launched by Ifri in 2016 to analyze French foreign policy, and follows on directly from the earlier study published on the eve of the presidential election. It aims to give an update on the action Emmanuel Macron has taken on the principal international issues since his arrival in office. It should therefore be read not as an overall assessment, which would be impossible at this early stage of the presidential term, but more as an impressionist tableau giving a sense of an overall movement containing many different hues. Emmanuel Macron has four years left to perfect it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Diplomacy, Trade Policy, Emmanuel Macron
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, Middle East, Asia, France, United States of America, European Union