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  • Author: Adel Abdel Ghafar
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The role played by countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the Eastern Mediterranean is becoming increasingly important. This calls for an assessment of their evolving relationship with countries in the region, as well as their involvement in the Libyan conflict. Increased involvement by Gulf actors may inflame existing regional rivalries and geopolitical tensions. The interests of GCC countries in the Eastern Mediterranean are first analysed in the broader context of regional rivalries. Special attention is then devoted to Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Greece and Cyprus, while considering the role of other key regional actors such as Turkey and Israel. Recommendations on why and how the new US administration should intervene to decrease regional tensions are provided.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Gulf Nations, Geopolitics, Economy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Israel, Greece, Libya, Lebanon, Egypt, Cyprus, Mediterranean
  • Author: Dario Cristiani
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Russia’s return as a major geostrategic actor in the Mediterranean is one of the most significant trends characterising this area over the past few years. Part of a broader geopolitical pluralization of this space, Russia’s 2015 intervention in Syria marked a new phase in Moscow’s Mediterranean engagement. Based on a stringent logic of intervening where other powers leave strategic vacuums, Russia has succeeded to carve out an increasingly central role in Mediterranean equilibria, despite its limited resources. Russian diplomatic and economic support for the Syrian regime in Damascus had steadily increased since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011. Yet, it was Moscow’s direct military intervention in September 2015 that signalled a decisive upgrade in engagement. Moscow’s military involvement shifted the tide of the conflict, proving decisive in avoiding the collapse of the Syrian regime, which is also backed by Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah.
  • Topic: Civil War, Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Economy, Military Intervention, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Benedetta Brossa
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Lebanon is teetering on the brink of collapse as mounting economic, political and geopolitical pressures put unprecedented stress on the country’s institutional – and deeply sectarianised – setup. In October 2019, when large scale anti-establishment protests erupted across the country, what has been described as the Lebanese “Ponzi scheme”,[1] a shady mechanism through which the country was able to attract continuous injections of foreign currency to sustain Lebanon’s financial system with artificially inflated interest rates, came to a breaking point. The value of the Lebanese lira dropped significantly, as have socio-economic conditions for large parts of the population. Then came the massive explosion in Beirut, the latest, severe blow to the country’s economy, already suffering from a dysfunctional political apparatus, the recent default on the state’s debt in March 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. The tragic explosion reignited popular anger. Lebanese citizens renovated their grievances against the pervasive corruption and sectarianism that has dominated Lebanon’s confessional system, leading the country to the brink of bankruptcy.
  • Topic: Natural Resources, Gas, Economy, Domestic Policy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Mediterranean
  • Author: Anas El Gomati
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: COVID-19 has changed the world and the way we live it, establishing something of a “new normal” as states and societies battle the pandemic and learn to accommodate its multidimensional effects. For Libyans’ living in the midst of conflict, normality and a new normal are difficult to determine. The economy, healthcare system and everyday lives of Libyans’ have been far from normal as a result of the 18-month conflict sparked by General Khalifa Haftar’s attempt to overthrow the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. However, the pandemic and its dynamism has had an impact far beyond the everyday lives of citizens. The lifecycle of the pandemic has had a major impact on the conflict itself. It first served to distract international powers from their diplomatic obligations and peace building in Libya, acting as a cover for local factions and their foreign sponsors to intensify the conflict during the initial global shockwave of the pandemic at the beginning of 2020. Towards the end of 2020, however, the pandemic compounded socio-economic and political pressures in Libya, sparking national demonstrations and dissidence towards the rival factions, leading to political resignations and renewed diplomatic negotiations in the process.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economy, Conflict, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Tamirace Fakhoury
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Prior to 2011, Lebanon was no traditional gatekeeper in managing migrant and refugee flows to the EU. Following mass refugee influx from Syria, the small Middle Eastern state acquired key importance in the EU’s architecture of externalisation, alternatively framed as the set of norms and practices that the EU crafts to govern migration from a distance. Lebanon currently hosts more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees and since 2012 the EU has been the key funding power seeking to help the refugee-hosting state cope with the spillover effects that mass displacement brought about on the country. The EU’s recently published New Pact on Migration and Asylum reiterates support to refugees and refugee-hosting countries – including those in Syria’s neighbourhood – as one of the central elements of cooperation with third countries on migration and displacement. After nearly a decade of cooperation between the EU and Lebanon in this area, and ahead of the EU’s new budgetary and policy-planning cycle (2021–27), now is a key moment to critically assess EU-Lebanon cooperation on displacement from Syria.
  • Topic: Government, Foreign Aid, European Union, Refugees, Economy, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Lebanon, Syria