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  • Author: Harith Hasan, Kheder Khaddour
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The Iraqi-Syrian border continues to be geopolitically restless. Kurdish parties have taken advantage of central government weaknesses to increase their autonomy in these areas. Even after the collapse of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the Iraqi-Syrian border continues to be one of the most geopolitically restless areas in the Middle East. In the last few years, a variety of Kurdish entities and groups have increasingly shaped the dynamics across the northern section of this border. In particular, there are two dynamics that deserve attention. First, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Kurdish-dominated Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria have come to effectively control new border crossings in this area as the Syrian government has lost access and the Iraqi government’s presence has been contested. This means that the movement of people and goods in this area is largely controlled by two entities that are neither state nor nonstate actors. The reality on the ground reflects hybrid arrangements that have emerged as a result of the weaknesses of both central governments and the increasing autonomy gained by Kurdish parties (which, in the case of the KRG, is stipulated constitutionally). Second, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), by virtue of its participation in the war against the Islamic State and by taking advantage of the consequent power vacuum, managed to augment its influence along the border. Its ideological and organizational ties with local groups, such as the People Protection Units (YPG) in Syria and Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) in Iraq, enabled it to exert security and political influence. On the one hand, this turned segments of the border into an arena for transnational, pan-Kurdish militancy. On the other hand, these groups’ presence intensified intra-Kurdish rivalries, especially between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which is the KRG’s main ruling party, and the PKK. This rivalry reflects a clash of two visions for the border: the PKK’s revolutionary, transnational vision that seeks to eradicate or at least underplay the reality of the border; and the KDP’s pragmatic and territorial vision seeking to assert the border’s reality as a demarcation of the KRG’s authority and future statehood. In addition, the KDP is allied with Turkey, which has been fighting the PKK for several decades and is currently waging a military campaign against the group in northern Iraq and Syria. To a large extent, the future of this border is predicated on this geopolitical conflict and whether the PKK manages to entrench itself further or becomes isolated and marginalized as the KRG, the Autonomous Administration, and the Iraqi federal government assert their territorial authorities.
  • Topic: Governance, Conflict, Borders, Kurds
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Zaha Hassan, Daniel Levy, Hallaamal Keir, Marwan Muasher
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: A new U.S. approach should prioritize protecting the rights and human security of Palestinians and Israelis over maintaining a peace process and attempting short-term fixes. The authors of this paper identified four overarching areas of focus: (1) prioritize rights and protect people, (2) roll back the Trump administration’s actions and reassert international law, (3) clarify expectations for Palestinians and Israelis, and (4) support new multilateral approaches and accountability.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Lydia Assouad
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: To survive its ongoing financial crisis, Lebanon needs a new economic system that addresses massive income inequality. Paired with political and institutional reform, tax reform can help. Over the past three decades, Lebanon’s ruling class—which comprises intertwined political and business elites—has run the country into the ground. To survive its ongoing accumulation of challenges, including the financial crisis that erupted in October 2019, Lebanon requires a revamped state backed by a new economic model with social justice at its core. Tax reform is central to such an endeavor—and to ensuring that the state has the means both to deliver basic services and to tackle poverty and inequality.
  • Topic: Poverty, Inequality, Economic structure, Business , Social Justice, Tax Systems, Elites
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Cornelius Adebahr
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The rift between Europe and the United States over Iran is deepening. To regain leverage, the Europeans should engage all eight Gulf states in talks about regional security and nonproliferation. The rift between Europe and the United States over Iran is deepening. Two years of U.S. maximum pressure on Tehran have not yielded the results Washington had hoped for, while the Europeans have failed to put up enough resistance for their transatlantic partner to change course. Worse, the U.S. policy threatens to destabilize the broader Persian Gulf, with direct consequences for Europe. To get ahead of the curve and regain leverage, the European Union (EU), its member states, and the United Kingdom have to look beyond their relations with the Islamic Republic and address wider regional security challenges. The United States’ incipient retreat as a security guarantor and Russia’s increased interest in the region make it necessary for Europe to engage beyond its borders. Despite being barely alive, the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran offers a good starting point. The Europeans should regionalize some of the agreement’s basic provisions to include the nuclear newcomers on the Arab side of the Gulf. Doing so would advance a nonproliferation agenda that is aimed not at a single country but at the region’s broader interests. Similarly, the Europeans should engage Iran, Iraq, and the six Arab nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council in talks about regional security. Rather than suggesting an all-encompassing security framework, for which the time is not yet ripe, they should pursue a step-by-step approach aimed at codifying internationally recognized principles at the regional level.
  • Topic: Security, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Evan A. Feigenbaum, Jen-Yi Hou
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Taiwan needs to look not just to the energy it needs right now but also to the energy it will need ten to twenty years from now if it is to power its future. This paper focuses on two elements of the paradigmatic transformation that are especially relevant to Taiwan’s future: (1) the rise of new energy and storage technologies, and (2) the dynamics of liquefied natural gas pricing. In particular, it looks at several ways in which new investment partnerships between Taiwan and U.S. players could bolster Taiwan’s ambitious effort to build out renewable energy as a source of industrial and residential power.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Markets, Science and Technology, Investment, Fossil Fuels
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Taiwan, United States of America
  • Author: Robert Springborg, F.C. "Pink" Williams, John Zavage
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The United States, Russia, and Iran have chosen markedly different approaches to security assistance in the Middle East, with dramatic implications for statebuilding and stability. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the world’s testing ground for the effectiveness of security assistance provided by global and regional powers. That security assistance has contributed to the intensity and frequency of proxy wars—such as those under way or recently wound down in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq—and to the militarization of state and substate actors in the MENA region. Security assistance is at the core of struggles for military, strategic, ideological, and even economic preeminence in the Middle East. Yet despite the broad and growing importance of security assistance for the region and for competition within it between global and regional actors, security assistance has been the subject of relatively little comparative analysis. Efforts to assess relationships between the strategic objectives and operational methods of security assistance providers and their relative impacts on recipients are similarly rare.
  • Topic: Security, Geopolitics, Political stability, State Building
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Harith Hasan, Kheder Khaddour
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Over the past nearly two decades, the presence of a variety of state and nonstate military and security forces has transformed the Syrian border district of Bukamal and the neighboring Iraqi district of Qa’im. Following the end of the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s caliphate, Iranian-backed militias began to play a major role in the area, turning it into a flashpoint between Iran and its allies on the one side and the United States and Israel on the other. The strain of tensions and the threat of instability are liable to ensure that this heavily securitized part of the border will remain a magnet for conflict for years to come.
  • Topic: Geopolitics, Islamic State, Conflict, Borders
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Ahmed Nagi
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The tribes of Mahra, a part of eastern Yemen that borders Oman, adhere to a code of conduct that has helped the area’s inhabitants mediate disputes and contain conflict at key points in the region’s history. This has ensured a degree of stability for Mahra even in times of war. Today, as the war in Yemen continues, the region is the site of a power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Oman. The Mahri code of conduct has enabled the region to escape the worst excesses of the war and to limit Saudi influence there. Though often overlooked, the Mahri approach could offer lessons in defusing tensions between the warring parties elsewhere in conflict-ridden Yemen.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, Conflict, Crisis Management, Tribes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen
  • Author: Cornelius Adebahr, Barbara Mittelhammer
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Applying a feminist approach enables a comprehensive, inclusive, and human-centered EU policy toward Iran that reflects international power structures and focuses on all groups of people. Disputed nuclear activities, regional proxy wars, and a regime built on discrimination against women and other marginalized groups: Iran hardly seems like a policy field that would be amenable to a feminist approach. Yet this is precisely what the European Union (EU) needs today: fresh thinking to help develop a new strategy toward Iran. Feminist foreign policy critically reflects international power structures, focuses on the needs of all groups of people, and puts human security and human rights at the center of the discussion. Applying a feminist lens to the EU policy toward Iran and the Persian Gulf region can improve foreign policy thinking and practice.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, European Union, Feminism
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Sherif Mohyeldeen
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Along the Egypt-Sudan border, tensions have been rising for several decades despite limited efforts at cooperation. Both countries need to reexamine their border policies to prevent further escalation. Since Sudan’s independence in 1956, its border relations with Egypt have been characterized more by mutual suspicion than by peaceful exchange. This legacy has been exacerbated over the decades by myriad obstacles and conflicts, particularly over the disputed Halayeb triangle, even if both sides did try to improve relations after Egypt’s uprising in 2011. Border communities, suffering from this reality, have pushed for improved ties, but mistrust has prevailed to the detriment of both countries.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, History, Borders
  • Political Geography: Sudan, Middle East, North Africa, Egypt
  • Author: Laila Rifai
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The religious sphere in Rural Damascus Governorate is poised to become a political battleground as both the regime and the exiled opposition seek to court a new rising group of religious leaders. The uprising in Syria, which began in 2011 and is ongoing, has altered the Sunni Muslim religious landscape of the capital, Damascus, beyond recognition. Ironically, both the regime and the Islamic opposition have achieved an important goal: The regime has fashioned, and asserted control over, a religious establishment previously made up of disparate and competing fiefdoms. Meanwhile, long fractious Damascene religious institutes and individuals, now forced into exile, have united within a single opposition organization, the Syrian Islamic Council (SIC).
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Syrian War, Sunni
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Armenak Tokmajyan
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: In southern Syria, the regime, opposition, foreign powers, and local groups navigate a contentious zone of conflict. Any shift in this delicate balance could mean yet another escalation. Syria’s conflict has transformed the country’s southern border region into a zone of regional contention. The status quo there, largely forged and maintained by Russia since 2018, aims to prevent expanded control by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian and pro-Iranian military forces, which could trigger a regional confrontation. The south will remain a volatile area, probably for years, and its fate will be affected by regional politics, not the government’s will.
  • Topic: Government, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Hijab Shah, Melissa Dalton
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Following the August Beirut port explosion, the Lebanese Armed Forces must rebuild trust with the civilian population. The LAF can serve as a critical pillar in Lebanese government efforts to strengthen national security and identity in the midst of the crisis, in light of security sector assistance from the United States and other Western partners. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and Lebanon more broadly, is one of the largest recipients of foreign assistance in the Middle East. The United States and allied governments have sought to build the capabilities and professionalism of the LAF since the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, focusing primarily on counterterrorism and border security. The LAF stood in stark contrast to other Lebanese security services in their restraint vis-à-vis the civilian population during the 2019 protests. However, recent reported violent incidents against civilians, ambiguity of the role of police forces, and concerns about both recovery efforts following the August 2020 port explosion in Beirut and extended powers under the state of emergency established by the Lebanese parliament have raised international concerns about the role of Lebanon’s security services, including the LAF. The LAF has a critical role to play in stabilizing Lebanon through a multi-faceted crisis, but will need to take concrete steps to bolster its professionalism. Lebanon’s modern politics have long been defined by confessionalism, a reality that persists even as the country is engulfed in crisis. International assistance to the LAF over the last fourteen years had intended to support the LAF as a legitimate national institution transcending confessions and supporting a broader sense of Lebanese security and identity. In the midst of the ongoing crisis in Lebanon, political turmoil at the helm of the country, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there is an important opportunity for the international community to support a new path for governance in the country—as shaped and envisioned by its populace. This opportunity hinges upon leveraging existing channels of support to the LAF and building in conditionality mechanisms that hold the LAF accountable for its actions, while continuing to promote a clear articulation of priorities for the LAF and a plan to improve military effectiveness through policy and doctrine; training and equipment, education, and exercises; operations; and institutional capacity building.
  • Topic: Security, Government, Politics, International Security, Military Affairs, Identity
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Zeinab Abul-Magd, İsmet Akça, Shana Marshall
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Egyptian and Turkish military businesses have used their institutional privileges to dominate their respective economies, but they have key differences. Turkey’s military businesses are centrally managed while Egypt’s use multiple complex conglomerates. In recent years, Turkish and Egyptian military institutions have followed divergent paths in their respective states. After many decades of full or partial control over the government, the Turkish military today is largely marginalized in politics. By contrast, after periods of exclusion from power, the Egyptian military is now in full control of the state. Despite these differences, both military institutions are powerful economic actors within their states. They have developed extensive civilian economic enterprises over the decades, dominating important sectors by capitalizing on their political influence, legal and regulatory privileges unique to their enterprises, and opportunities provided by market liberalization.
  • Topic: Government, Economy, Business , Liberalization
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: Eugene Rumer
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The 2015 Russian military intervention in Syria was a pivotal moment for Moscow’s Middle East policy. Largely absent from the Middle East for the better part of the previous two decades, Russia intervened to save Bashar al-Assad’s regime and reasserted itself as a major player in the region’s power politics. Moscow’s bold use of military power positioned it as an important actor in the Middle East. The intervention took place against the backdrop of a United States pulling back from the Middle East and growing uncertainty about its future role there. The geopolitical realignment and instability caused by the civil wars in Libya and Syria and the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia have opened opportunities for Russia to rebuild some of the old relationships and to build new ones. The most dramatic turnaround in relations in recent years has occurred between Russia and Israel. The new quality of the relationship owes a great deal to the personal diplomacy between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Russia’s emergence as a major presence in Syria has meant that the Israelis now have no choice but to maintain good relations with their new “neighbor.” Some Israeli officials hope that Moscow will help them deal with the biggest threat they face from Syria—Iran and its client Hezbollah. So far, Russia has delivered some, but far from all that Israel wants from it, and there are precious few signs that Russia intends to break with Iran, its partner and key ally in Syria. Russian-Iranian relations have undergone an unusual transformation as a result of the Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war. Their joint victory is likely to lead to a divergence of their interests. Russia is interested in returning Syria to the status quo ante and reaping the benefits of peace and reconstruction. Iran is interested in exploiting Syria as a platform in its campaign against Israel. Russia lacks the military muscle and the diplomatic leverage to influence Iran. That poses a big obstacle to Moscow’s ambitions in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Geopolitics, Military Intervention
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Richard Youngs, Gareth Fowler, Arthur Larok, Pawel Marczewski, Vijayan Mj, Ghia Nodia, Natalia Shapoavlova, Janjira Sombatpoonsiri, Marisa Von Bülow, Özge Zihnioğlu
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: As the domain of civil society burgeoned in the 1990s and early 2000s—a crucial component of the global spread of democracy in the developing and postcommunist worlds—many transnational and domestic actors involved in building and supporting this expanding civil society assumed that the sector was naturally animated by organizations mobilizing for progressive causes. Some organizations focused on the needs of underrepresented groups, such as women’s empowerment, inclusion of minorities, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights; others addressed broader societal issues such as economic justice, social welfare, and antipoverty concerns. In many countries, the term “civil society” came to be associated with a relatively bounded set of organizations associated with a common agenda, one separate from or even actively opposed by conservative political forces. However, in the past ten years, this assumption and outlook are proving increasingly incorrect. In many countries in the developing and postcommunist worlds, as well as in long-established Western democracies, conservative forms of civic activism have been multiplying and gaining traction. In some cases, new conservative civic movements and groups are closely associated with illiberal political actors and appear to be an integral part of the well-chronicled global pushback against Western liberal democratic norms. In other cases, the political alliances and implications of conservative civil society are less clear. In almost all cases—other than perhaps that of the United States, where the rise of conservative activism has been the subject of considerable study—this rising world of conservative civil society has been little studied and often overlooked. This report seeks to correct this oversight and to probe more deeply into the rise of conservative civil society around the world. It does so under the rubric of Carnegie’s Civic Research Network project, an initiative that aims to explore new types of civic activism and examine the extent to which these activists and associations are redrawing the contours of global civil society. The emerging role and prominence of conservative activism is one such change to civil society that merits comparative examination. Taken as a whole, the report asks what conservative civic activism portends for global civil society. Its aim is not primarily to pass judgment on whether conservative civil society is a good or bad thing—although the contributing authors obviously have criticisms to make. Rather, it seeks mainly to understand more fully what this trend entails. Much has been written and said about anticapitalist, human rights, and global justice civil society campaigns and protests. Similar analytical depth is required in the study of conservative civil society. The report redresses the lack of analytical attention paid to the current rise of conservative civil society by offering examples of such movements and the issues that drive them. The authors examine the common traits that conservative groups share and the issues that divide them. They look at the kind of members that these groups attract and the tactics and tools they employ. And they ask how effective the emerging conservative civil society has been in reshaping the political agenda.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Politics, Political Activism, Conservatism
  • Political Geography: Uganda, Africa, Europe, South Asia, Turkey, Ukraine, Caucasus, Middle East, India, Poland, Brazil, South America, Georgia, North America, Thailand, Southeast Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Richard Youngs
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The relationship between the European Union (EU) and Asia is in flux. The EU intensified its economic ties to Asia and boosted its security cooperation in the region in 2011 and 2012. But new challenges, including the crises in Ukraine and the Middle East, have made it difficult to sustain this incipient momentum. There are a number of steps that EU and Asian governments can and should take to continue to strengthen their relations.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Ukraine, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Kheder Khaddour
  • Publication Date: 07-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Since the early days of the Syrian uprising in 2011, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has made it a priority to keep state agencies running, allowing Assad to claim that the regime is the irreplaceable provider of essential services. Breaking the regime’s monopoly on these public services and enabling the moderate opposition to become an alternative source of them would weaken the regime and prevent the radical jihadist Islamic State from emerging to fill power vacuums across the country.
  • Topic: Civil War, Democratization, Islam, Governance, Sectarian violence, Authoritarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Lina Khatib
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The self-proclaimed Islamic State is a hybrid jihadist group with a declared goal of establishing a “lasting and expanding” caliphate. Its strategy for survival and growth blends military, political, social, and economic components. Yet the U.S.-led international intervention against it has largely been limited to air strikes. The gaps in the international coalition’s approach as well as deep sectarian divisions in Iraq and the shifting strategies of the Syrian regime and its allies are allowing the Islamic State to continue to exist and expand.
  • Topic: Civil War, Islam, Terrorism, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: Yezid Sayigh
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Already-weak states in Libya and Yemen crumbled as struggles for control over their security sectors became central to transitional politics after the popular uprisings of 2011. Instead of being reformed and upgraded to enhance the fragile legitimacy of interim governments, the security sectors collapsed by 2014. Libya and Yemen are now caught in a vicious circle: rebuilding effective central states and cohesive national identities requires a new consensus on the purpose and governance of security sectors, but reaching this agreement depends on resolving the deep political divisions and social fractures that led to civil war in both countries.
  • Topic: Security, Fragile/Failed State, Governance, Sectarian violence, Popular Revolt
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa