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  • Author: Nathalie Tocci, Riccardo Alcaro, Francesca Caruso, Silvia Colombo, Dario Cristiani, Andrea Dessì, Flavio Fusco, Daniela Huber
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Winds of change are blowing in North Africa and the Middle East. They originate from Washington, where the new Biden administration is expected to abandon its predecessor’s zerosum, erratic approach and take steps towards supporting regional balances and cooperation. Effects are visible especially in the Gulf, with the US pondering its options to re-activate nuclear diplomacy with Iran and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates grudgingly agreeing to put their feud with Qatar on ice. One way or another, these winds of change are working their way through the Levant, the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya. Admittedly, they are still feeble and can easily fade out like a morning breeze. Were that to happen, Europeans would be amongst the most affected – aside, of course, from regional populations themselves. It is now high time for the EU and its member states to leave the backseat they have (un)comfortably been sitting in for years, seize the opportunity of a cooperative US administration and work to play a more proactive role in North Africa and the Middle East commensurate with their considerable financial, diplomatic and military resources.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Military Affairs, Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: Flavio Fusco
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Building on emerging debates on the need to develop de-escalation mechanisms for the Middle East, the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and the Brussels-based Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), with support from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, launched a one-year research and outreach project entitled “Fostering a New Security Architecture in the Middle East”. Connected to the research, an expert survey targeting European, US, Russian, Middle Eastern and Chinese experts and practitioners was conducted on key themes, principles and approaches associated with a potential new security architecture for the region. The results of the survey – first published in an edited book volume jointly published by IAI and FEPS in November 2020 – are analysed below, complete with tables and infographics on key themes associated with the research project and the search for new, inclusive mechanisms for dialogue and de-escalation in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Foreign Policy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Amer Al-Hussein
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The Syrian conflict entered its eleventh year on 15 March 2021, bringing this “living nightmare” back to our minds.[1] This ominous anniversary should remind the world of the importance of addressing the bleak reality inside Syria. While the new US administration provides a glimmer of hope for a return to diplomacy, multilateralism and an end to the mercantilism of the past years, Europe would be wrong to simply wait for the US lead on Syria.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Sanctions, European Union, Institutions, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, United States of America, Mediterranean
  • Author: Nancy Gallagher, Clay Ramsay, Ebrahim Mohseni
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: This report covers findings from two surveys fielded in September and early October 2020 and late January through early February 2021 to assess how Iranians were faring as the covid-19 pandemic intensified the challenges their country was already facing, what they thought about the parliamentary election in Iran and the presidential election in the United States, and how the inauguration of Joe Biden impacted their attitudes towards nuclear diplomacy and regional security. Iran was one of the earliest countries to be hard-hit by the novel coronavirus, with the country’s first cases confirmed on February 13, 2020, two days before the parliamentary election, senior officials among those soon infected, and high death rates reported. Western reporting depicted widespread government incompetence and cover-ups exacerbating the pandemic’s toll. As in other countries, Iranian officials struggled to decide whether to close schools, curtail economic activities, and restrict religious observances in hopes of slowing the virus’ spread, but cases and deaths remained high through 2020. When we fielded the first survey wave, the daily number of new confirmed covid-19 cases in Iran was starting to climb sharply again after having been relatively flat since May. Some world leaders, including the U.N. Secretary General, called for an easing of sanctions on Iran as part of global efforts to fight the pandemic. The United States, which had withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, maintained that medicine, personal protective equipment, and other humanitarian supplies were exempt from the steadily increasing sanctions applied as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign. But, the United States’ designation in September 2019 of the Central Bank of Iran as a terrorist organization made most foreign suppliers of humanitarian goods reluctant to sell to Iran. A decision in October 2020 to also designate the few Iranian banks that were not previously subject to secondary sanctions further impeded humanitarian trade, caused another sharp drop in the value of Iran’s currency, and had other negative economic effects. The Trump administration’s stated objective was to keep imposing more sanctions until Iran acquiesced to a long list of U.S. demands articulated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The original twelve points include the types of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program that the government rejected during previous negotiations and that the Iranian public has consistently opposed. It also included stopping development of nuclear-capable missiles and ending support for various groups throughout the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Public Opinion, International Community
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • 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: Julia Grauvogel, Hana Attia
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: German Institute of Global and Area Studies
  • Abstract: Research on sanctions has hitherto focused on their implementation and effectiveness, whereas the termination of such measures has received only little attention. The traditional model, which looks at sanctions and their removal in terms of rational, interstate bargaining, focuses on how cost–benefit calculations affect the duration and termination of such measures. Yet, this research insufficiently captures the back and forth between easing sanctions, stagnation, and renewed intensification. It also fails to account for the multifaceted social relations between senders, targets, and third actors that shape these termination processes, as well as for the signalling dimension of ending sanctions – not least because existing datasets tend to operationalise sanctions as a single event. To help fill these gaps, the paper proposes a process-oriented and relational understanding that also recognises how sanctions termination conveys the message of ending the visible disapproval of the target, which may be heavily contested. Case studies on Zimbabwe and Iran illustrate how such an approach sheds light on the different logics of action that shape processes of sanctions termination, and thereby contributes to a more holistic understanding of sanctions in general.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Africa, Iran, Middle East, Zimbabwe
  • Author: Ehud Eiran
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Israel is still holding to its traditional security maxim. Based on a perception of a hostile region, Israel’s response includes early warning, deterrence and swift – including pre-emptive – military action, coupled with an alliance with a global power, the US. Israel is adjusting these maxims to a changing reality. Overlapping interests – and perhaps the prospect of an even more open conflict with Iran – led to limited relationships between Israel and some Gulf states. These, however, will be constrained until Israel makes progress on the Palestine issue. Israel aligned with Greece and Cyprus around energy and security, which may lead to conflict with Turkey. Russia’s deployment in Syria placed new constraints on Israeli freedom of action there. The US’s retrenchment from the Middle East is not having a direct effect on Israel, while the Trump administration’s support for Israel’s territorial designs in the West Bank may make it easier for Israel to permanently expand there, thus sowing the seeds for future instability in Israel/Palestine. The EU could try and balance against such developments, but, as seen from Israel, is too divided to have a significant impact. Paper produced in the framework of the FEPS-IAI project “Fostering a New Security Architecture in the Middle East”, April 2020.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Gas, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, United States of America, Mediterranean
  • Author: Ekaterina Stepanova
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: As Russia has become a major external player in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region due to its military engagement in Syria since 2015, it has acted as a balancer and mediator in several regional controversies and has continued to serve as a security guarantor for the Syrian state. This course has brought Moscow some practical dividends, such as growing economic and military-technical cooperation with select MENA countries, and has spurred its broader international profile. However, entering the 2020s, the risks of more active engagement in the Middle East have also mounted, making Russia’s balancing act more difficult. In three cases where Russia’s involvement has been visible (Syria, Libya and the Israeli-Palestinian problem), evolving developments challenge Moscow’s acquired influence and multi-vector approach, but also create new opportunities for its engagement and mediation. Above all, the 2020 US–Iran crisis catalysed the urgent need for structured regional dialogue, especially across the Persian Gulf. While this requires direct interaction between the region’s main antagonists, the initial impulse to unlock the trans-Gulf impasse might need to come from the outside. A process-oriented blueprint for inclusive multilateral security in the Gulf proposed by Russia in 2019 is a step in the right direction, but to be activated it may need to come as part of some broader international initiative.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Israel, Libya, Palestine, North Africa, Syria
  • Author: Mariette Hagglund
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: A key issue dominating Iran’s foreign policy agenda is the future of the Iran nuclear deal with regard to the next US president. Non-state armed groups mark the core of Iran’s leverage in the region, but Iran is currently looking into diversifying its means of influence. Although Iran considers its non-aligned position a strength, it is also a weakness. In an otherwise interconnected world, where other regional powers enjoy partnerships with other states and can rely on external security guarantors, Iran remains alone. By being more integrated into regional cooperation and acknowledged as a regional player, Iran could better pursue its interests, but US attempts to isolate the country complicate any such efforts. In the greater superpower competition between the US and China, Iran is unlikely to choose a side despite its current “look East” policy, but may take opportunistic decisions.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Elections
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Iran, Middle East, Asia, North America
  • Author: Puneet Talwar
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Asia Society
  • Abstract: The United States and Iran are at a dangerous impasse. After withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018, the Trump administration embarked on a policy of “maximum pressure.” Its aim was to drive Iran to the negotiating table with the stated aim of striking a “better deal.” The policy has backfired as Iran has taken steps to reduce its breakout time to produce a nuclear weapon to just a few months and ramped up its aggressive policies in the Middle East. Hopes for diplomatic talks have faded and neither country seems willing to change course, heightening the risk of conflict. Indeed, Iran and the United States have approached the brink of war on more than one occasion in 2019 and 2020. Moreover, the United States has found itself isolated internationally, including from its closest allies. Against this backdrop, this ASPI issue paper, Between War and Peace: A Roadmap for U.S. Policy Toward Iran, examines the sources of tension in the U.S.-Iran relationship. To help clarify the policy choices, ASPI Senior Fellow Puneet Talwar lays out four alternative scenarios that could unfold in the period ahead, ranging from selective engagement to military escalation. The paper presents ten specific recommendations for U.S. policy toward Iran aimed at reviving diplomacy and lowering tensions on the nuclear issue while simultaneously challenging Iran over its destabilizing activities in the region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Nuclear Weapons, JCPOA, Destabilization
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Zainab Saleh
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: For decades, U.S. policy actions towards Iraq have had devastating consequences for the Iraqi people. This paper situates the U.S. “war on terrorism” in Iraq since 2003 within a longer trajectory of U.S. intervention in that country since the 1960s and shows that we can only understand the full human costs of current interventions when we see them in broader historical context. The author, Zainab Saleh, an assistant professor of anthropology at Haverford College, was born in Iraq and lived there until 1997. Later, she conducted ethnographic research with Iraqis who had migrated to London since the late 1970s. The Iraqis she knew and met felt they were pawns at the mercy of global powers. When the U.S. invaded Iraq and brought down Hussein in 2003, Iraqis saw the United States' true motive as continuing a well-established pattern of pursuing U.S. economic interests in the region. Since the 1960s, Iraqi arms purchases have bolstered American military-industrial corporations and stable access to Middle East oil has secured U.S. dominance in the global economy. The paper tells the story of one Iraqi woman, Rasha, who was forced by the violence in her country to flee to London. Rasha’s displacement and her family’s history of dispossession – her father imprisoned, her family impoverished, friends murdered and her own life threatened – show the deep human effects of decades of U.S. intervention. In 1963, under pretext of protecting the region from a communist threat, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency backed a coup by the Arab nationalist Ba‘th party after Iraq nationalized most of its oil fields. During the 1980s, the United States supported Saddam Hussein’s regime and prolonged the Iran-Iraq War in order to safeguard its national interests in the region, including weakening Iran to prevent it from posing a threat to U.S. power. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, U.S. policy shifted from alignment to “dual containment” of Iraq and Iran, a posture which culminated in the Gulf War of 1991 to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. In the 1990s, the United States justified its imposition of economic sanctions by claiming a goal of disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and protecting allies. In 2003, the U.S. packaged its invasion of Iraq as delivering U.S. values—namely, freedom and democracy—to the Iraqi people. Saleh writes, “The imperial encounter between Iraq and the United States has made life deeply precarious for Iraqis. For decades, they have lived with fear for their own and their family’s lives, the loss of loved ones and homeland, the realities of economic hardship, and the destruction of the fabric of their social lives.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, War, History, Counter-terrorism, Military Intervention
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: John C. K. Daly
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: As the United States hastens its drawdown of troops in Iraq before the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Joseph Biden, Russia is seeking to fill the developing geopolitical vacuum there. On November 25, following discussions in Moscow with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, Russia’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, remarked that Russian energy firms have invested billions of dollars in the Iraqi oil industry. “When it comes to energy, the largest Russian companies are working in Iraq together with their partners. These are Lukoil, Rosneft, Gazprom-Neft and Bashneft. All four have invested more than $13 billion in the Iraqi economy,” Lavrov told journalists (Interfax, November 25). He added that Moscow was also prepared to increase arms deliveries to Baghdad, stating, “We are ready to meet any Iraqi needs for Russian-made military products. Our country has traditionally played and continues to play a very important and significant role in ensuring Iraq’s defense capability and equipping its army and security forces, including in the context of continuing terrorist threats” (Mid.ru, November 25).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Bilateral Relations, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iraq, Eurasia, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This paper scans the interests and activities of Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Egypt in the Mediterranean Basin – their varying and competing interests, their points of convergence and cooperation, and the challenges and opportunities for Israel. The paper is based on the main points raised at the third meeting of the working group on Israel in the Mediterranean, held in September 2019 in the Herzliya offices of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung at the initiative of the Mitvim Institute, the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and Haifa University’s National Security Studies Center. The paper shines a spotlight on key elements in regional relationships and significant activity taking place in the Mediterranean Basin, which Israel must consider in formulating and executing policy. It is based on the presentations and discussions conducted at the event and does not reflect agreement among all participants.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Economy
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Egypt, Cyprus, Mediterranean
  • Author: Michal Yaari
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This article focuses on relations between Israel and Qatar, analyzing them in historical context, in the context of Qatari foreign policy and in terms of their potential and the limitations imposed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The article describes the shift from a mutual conception of hostility to unusual cooperation over the Gaza crisis. While Israel aspires to avoid additional rounds of violence with Gaza, Qatar seeks to strengthen its regional role as a mediator, and mutual interests converge into joint activity to avert an additional military clash between Hamas and Israel. The cooperation between the states illustrates how the Palestinian issue can leverage regional cooperation. At the same time, the untapped diplomatic, economic and civilian potential of Israel-Qatar relations points to the limitations imposed by the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Economy, Conflict, Hamas
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Qatar
  • Author: Ronen Zeidel
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The final months of 2019 were marked by widespread, prolonged protests throughout Iraq, which began in October. Baghdad was the focal point of the demonstrations, which were directed at the ruling political elite and the state backing it: Iran. Prime Minister Adil AbdulMahdi resigned at the end of November, throwing official Iraq into a political vacuum and guaranteeing that any premier appointed to replace him would be considered an interim ruler and as such, his government would only be accepted by the weakened political elite, but not by a significant part of the population. This article reviews the changes that occurred in 2019 in the nature of Israel-Iraq cooperation, as they relate to diplomatic, security, economic and civilian aspects.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Civilians
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Gabriel Mitchell
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This paper explores the nexus between Israel’s energy policy and foreign policy interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. While regional energy cooperation has the potential to be one of the most significant and enduring Israeli foreign policy achievements in recent decades, a closer look at regional geopolitics reveals that energy cooperation is often transactional in nature, and rarely transformative. The discovery of offshore hydrocarbons has also aggravated existing tensions between regional actors. This subject deserves more serious discussion by Israeli policymakers and the Israeli public, who often accept the Netanyahu government’s argument that energy exports will provide Israel massive strategic benefits. As this paper argues, in order to chart an optimal course forward, Israelis must first have a realistic conversation about energy’s potential to catalyze changes in the Eastern Mediterranean that serve Israel’s domestic needs and strategic interests.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Grand Strategy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Mediterranean
  • Author: Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: US President Donald Trump's plan for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, presented in January 2020, was perceived in Jerusalem as a green light to annexation of some 30 percent of the West Bank. It was in accordance with the intentions declared over the past year by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Accordingly, the April 2020 coalition agreement between the Likud and Blue and White political parties included a clause allowing Netanyahu to bring a USapproved annexation plan for government or Knesset approval as of July 1, 2020. 1 Soon after, reactions began pouring in from around the world, including Europe, expressing opposition to annexation and warning Israel against such a move. This paper presents the reactions of the EU, its member states and the UK. It examines them in light of the hurdles to formulating an EU consensus on the issue, and maps them according to the extent of the criticism and the attitudes of the various European states toward the Israeli government’s policy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Law, Territorial Disputes, European Union, Annexation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Cecilia Polizzi
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on International Policy (CIP)
  • Abstract: For the past nine years, two U.S. administration have sought to end the catastrophic war in Syria, reach a negotiated political settlement to the conflict and ensure the enduring defeat of the Islamic State (IS). Yet, the Syrian crisis has not been meaningfully contained and IS continues to threaten regional and global security. While U.S. counterterrorism strategy remains stagnant, heavily reliant on technological superiority and prioritizing aggressive intervention, IS has continuously found opportunities to evolve. The IS has systematically recruited and indoctrinated children across Syria and Iraq and demonstrated unprecedented capacity to influence children and youth around the world to conduct spontaneous acts of violence. Precious few new options have been put forth to defeat IS militarily. Any new strategy that fails to address the victimization and exploitation of children by IS, and does not embrace a long-term sustainable rehabilitation and reintegration strategy, will lead to instability continuing apace and regional allies finding themselves unable to contain a resurgent IS.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Syria, North America
  • Author: Irina Tsukerman
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The recent news about the involvement of Iranian diplomats in the murder of an Iranian dissident in Turkey sparked a flare of international interest from within the all-encompassing coronavirus pandemic coverage, largely thanks to unflattering comparisons with coverage of the Jamal Khashoggi murder in 2018 (which the Iranian press promoted with gusto). The relative lack of interest in the crime from within Turkey itself reflects Ankara’s willingness to consort with Shiite Islamists to its own advantage.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, National Security, Geopolitics, Islamism
  • Political Geography: Iran, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Jadranka Polovic
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: The Middle East as one of the most heterogeneous and politically conflicting regions in the world and has long been at the center of international interest. Faced with sectarian wars and comprehensive social crises for decades the Middle East, due to its geostrategic importance and especially the imperative of controlling the region’s vast energy resources, has once again become a battle ground for major powers whose interests affect the concentration of participants in the region. The competition between global powers and growing influence of Russia and China, who undermine the US power and European Union’s influence and also undermine established alliances in the Middle East, undoubtedly require a rethinking of Western strategies for the region. A series of geopolitical challenges, especially after September 11 attacks against the United States, as a result of military interventions and civil wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria) and uprisings (Arab Spring) and thus the collapsed regional order, confronted the international community with the changing nature of security threats, as well as with the new balance of power of regional and international actors in the Middle East. Among the many aspects of the Middle East conflicts, the fundamental issue of regional security today is the Sunni-Shiite conflict, which has since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 directly defined the approaches and policies of great powers and significantly changed regional dynamics. In this context, Iran’s role is particularly significant. Namely, over the last two decades, Iran has consolidated its goals in the Persian Gulf and strategically expanded its influence to other countries in the Middle East, primarily Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. The growing influence of Shiite Iran, and its close relations with Shiite communities in the region with which it forms a strategic coalition, have become a key geopolitical challenge for the international community.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, International Cooperation, Natural Resources, Hegemony
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Asher Lubotzky
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: In this issue of Ifriqiya, Asher Lubotzky discusses the context, opportunities, and risks involved in the pursuit of a normalization deal between Israel and Sudan. Following the 2019 revolution, the different parties in Sudan agreed to a road map for their transition to democracy, which requires that an elected government be formed by the end of 2022. It is clear, however, that the possibility of establishing official relations between Israel and Sudan is on the table and a serious consideration for both parties. This article purposes to make sense of these dramatic developments in Israel-Sudanese relations, place them in a broader context, and analyze the multifaceted interests of both parties.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Zoltán Egeresi
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: In this issue of Turkeyscope, Zoltán Egeresi, research fellow at the Hungarian Institute for Strategic and Defence Studies, analyzes the negative Turkish reaction to the normalization deals made between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Abraham Accords
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Bahrain, United States of America, UAE
  • Author: Ariane Tabatabai
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: Assessments of foreign policy tend to fall into one of two major camps: either they ascribe to a state’s actions all of the characteristics of a unitary actor, in which there is a decision made and executed as designed; or they fixate on the minutiae of the internal politics and deal making that went into the decision, underscoring the complexity of decision-making but often losing the thread of what results. This is particularly pernicious when involving the actions of a state with opaque decision-making and where attribution of responsibility is often itself the subject of intense internal political debate and controversy, as is the case with Iran. In this paper, Ariane Tabatabai seeks to pierce the veil of Iranian nuclear decision-making to both explain how decisions are reached and identify the effects of those decisions as a matter of Iranian state policy. This is, in many ways, an essential matter for those interested in understanding how Iran will decide—and what Iran may decide—to do in response to the continued stresses being imposed upon it by US-led international sanctions, especially when previous analysis has proven to be both overly optimistic (that Iran would meekly absorb the costs of US sanctions) and, at times, overly pessimistic (that Iran would withdraw from the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action without delay). It is necessary to understand better how Iran reaches its decisions, particularly in the nuclear sphere, to be able to more accurately predict what it may choose to do next. This has utility in a variety of lines of work and study, but perhaps no more so than in the energy industry, which is both affected by—and has the power to affect in turn—Iranian decision-making. For this reason, we commissioned this paper and commend it to you as an important source of knowledge on how Iran’s decision-making process works, especially as relates to its nuclear weapons–relevant capabilities. Though the weapons program remains dormant, the way in which Iranian officials—and Iran as that unitary actor—think about these capabilities is an essential element of the story to come.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Military Strategy, Nuclear Energy
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • 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: Nils Lukacs
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: German Institute of Global and Area Studies
  • Abstract: Ten years ago, President Barack Obama’s unprecedented address to the Muslim world from Cairo was hailed as a landmark in US–Middle Eastern relations and described by contemporary observers as a historical break in US foreign policy in the region. Yet it soon became clear that the president’s vision for a “new beginning based on mutual interest and mutual respect” would face many practical constraints. Analysing the thematic and rhetorical development of Obama’s speeches during the formative period between summer 2008 and 2009, as well as the public and academic perception of and reaction to these moments, the paper examines the underlying interests and motivations for the president’s foreign policy approach in the Middle East. It argues that despite the low priority given to foreign policy issues during the economic crisis occurring at the time, the key pillars of Obama’s ambitious vision for the Middle East were rooted in pronounced US interests as well as the president’s personal convictions, rather than opportunistic calculations. It thus counters retrospective post-2011 criticism which argues that Obama’s words were never meant to be put into practice. The study contributes to the establishment of a solid empirical and conceptual base for further research on the United States’ foreign policy in the Middle East under the Obama administration.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ville Sinkkonen
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The heightened tensions between the United States and Iran should be understood in the context of the Trump administration’s broader foreign policy approach. Even if neither side wants a military confrontation, the “maximum pressure” campaign by the US has raised the risk of a potential miscalculation.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, North America
  • Author: Deborah A. McCarthy
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Russia, China, Iran and ISIS use information operations to undermine the national security objectives of the United States and its allies. However, the US’s international response has been weak. Internal constraints have limited more effective counter-measures. In particular, the lack of a coordinated White House-level strategy, dispersed authorities and little cooperation with private social media companies can be identified as causal factors. Additional steps by the Trump Administration to counter foreign disinformation will aim to protect the 2020 presidential elections rather than to push back on efforts to undermine US leadership abroad.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Science and Technology, ISIS, Social Media, Disinformation
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Asia, North America
  • Author: Frank Umbach
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is officially neither a Chinese “Marshall Plan” nor a geopolitical master strategy. At present, it involves 84 countries, rising from 65 countries in 2015, and 15 Chinese provinces. Over the last year, the number of countries being concerned or ambivalent about China’s motivations and strategic objectives behind the BRI have increased. Despite officially supporting China’s BRI, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also warned last April, that China is supporting unneeded and unsustainable projects in many countries, leading to heavy and unpayable debt burdens. In ASEAN, Chinese investments are welcomed but there are also misgivings about the BRI’s strategic objectives which may constrain ASEAN’s policy options. As China is presently and will remain the single most influential country in global energy markets in the next decades, it is not surprising that its infrastructure plans of building railways, highways and ports are often interlinked with China’s energy and raw materials projects abroad and its domestic energy policies. This paper analyses the energy dimensions of the BRI and its strategic implications for its wider economic, foreign and security policies in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Military Strategy, ASEAN, IMF
  • Political Geography: China, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Roee Kibrik, Nimrod Goren
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This document outlines major trends in Israel’s regional foreign policies over the past six months. It is based on the Mitvim Institute’s monthly reports that cover ongoing developments in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process/conflict, Israel’s relations with the Middle East, Europe and the Mediterranean, and the conduct of Israel’s Foreign Service.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Peace, Hamas
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Mediterranean, West Bank
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Israeli and Palestinian experts and activists – together with international diplomats – gathered on 31 October 2018 at the UN Headquarters in Jerusalem for a civil society roundtable discussion on “Regional Opportunities in Support of Current Efforts to Improve the Situation in Gaza.” The event, attended by some fifty participants, was initiated and convened by Mitvim - The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies and Israel-Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives (IPCRI). It included an opening address by UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov and explored how various regional actors can help improve the situation in Gaza, without jeopardizing chances for a broader Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. It also identified recommendations and possible courses of action. The event was held in cooperation with FriedrichEbert-Stiftung, the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands, IEMed, and the EuroMeSCo Network. This paper summarizes the discussion.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Crisis Management, Peace, Hamas
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: In October 2018, the Mitvim Institute held its annual Israel-Turkey policy dialogue, for the seventh consecutive year. The dialogue took place in Istanbul, in cooperation with FriedrichEbert-Stiftung, and was participated by Dr. Nimrod Goren, Dr. Roee Kibrik and Arik Segal of the Mitvim Institute. The policy dialogue included a series of meetings and discussions, with Turkish scholars, journalists, former diplomats, and civil society activists. It focused on Israel-Turkey relations, in light of the current crisis in ties, and on Turkey’s foreign policy in the Middle East. The policy dialogue aimed at helping improve Israel-Turkey relations, by enabling experts from both countries to exchange views on regional developments, to identify opportunities for better bilateral relations, and to increase cooperation between researchers and policy analysts from both countries. Throughout the dialogue, there was a sense that Turkey and Israel can find a way to overcome their current crisis and to reinstate ambassadors. Nevertheless, such progress is not expected to lead to a significant breakthrough in the relations. The Turkish counterparts expressed hope that Israel and Turkey will resume talks on natural gas export from Israel; shared their concern over what they perceive as Israel's support of the Kurds in northern Syria; and pointed out that Turkey and Iran should not be considered by Israel as allies, but rather as countries that cooperate at times regarding shared interest but are also competing with each other and adhering to different ideologies and beliefs. The dialogue also emphasized the importance attributed in Turkey to Jewish community in the US, and to the impact it has on the American discourse towards Turkey as well as on US policy towards the Middle East. This paper highlights key insights from the meetings and discussions that took place throughout the policy dialogue. It does not reflect consensus among all participants.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Nimrod Goren, Nitzan Horowitz, Ronen Hoffman, Yohanan Plesner, Zehava Galon, Nadav Tamir, Ofer Shelah, Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, Zouheir Bahloul, Elie Podeh, Einat Levi, Merav Michaeli
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The Mitvim Institute’s second annual conference took place in Tel Aviv on December 30, 2018. The conference explored alternative directions for Israeli foreign policy towards the April 2019 general elections. In recent years, Mitvim has formulated a series of guiding principles for a new Israeli foreign policy paradigm – a pro-peace, multi-regional, internationalist, modern and inclusive foreign policy. The conference sought to translate these principles into concrete policy directions, which will enable Israel to improve its foreign policy, increase its regional belonging in the Middle East and Europe, and make progress towards peace with the Palestinians. The conference featured Members of Knesset (MKs) Ofer Shelah and Merav Michaeli, Dr. Nimrod Goren, Dr. Ronen Hoffman, Zehava Galon, Nadav Tamir, Yohanan Plesner, Dr. Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, Zouheir Bahloul, Prof. Elie Podeh, and Einat Levi. It was moderated by Nitzan Horowitz and Merav Kahana-Dagan of Mitvim. The conference was held in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, and can be watched (in Hebrew) on Mitvim’s YouTube channel.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government, National Security, Diaspora, Democracy, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, European Union
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: In Israel, former diplomats do not tend to play a significant public role. However, they have the potential to make a real contribution to improving the public and political Israeli discourse on foreign policy. Israel’s former diplomats have dozens of years of experience, diplomatic skills, knowledge of various countries and organizations, intricate networks of social ties around the world, analytic capacity and deep understanding of the international arena and of Israel’s place among nations. This valuable experience often goes down the drain. A Mitvim Institute task-team recommended to increase their role in Israel’s public sphere, in order to empower Israel’s diplomacy and Foreign Service. On February 3, 2019, the Mitvim Institute hosted a policy workshop to discuss how this can be done. It was carried out in cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and with participation of senior former diplomats (including Foreign Ministry directors-general and deputy directors-general). Discussants presented examples from other countries, outlined the situation in Israel, described the challenges to optimizing the potential impact of Foreign Ministry retirees, and identified recommendations to promote change.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Nimrod Goren, Merav Kahana-Dagan
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Benjamin Netanyahu won Israel’s election and declared he would form a new rightwing government. This will affect diverse aspects of Israel’s foreign policy. This document includes commentaries by Mitvim Institute experts regarding the election results and their possible foreign policy implications: Dr. Ehud Eiran argues that while Netanyahu presented himself ahead of the election as a super-diplomat, he also proved he is part of the global populist wave; Dr. Nimrod Goren claims that Israel’s right-wing government will have more leeway to implement its policies given weak domestic and foreign opposition; Dr. Roee Kibrik foresees increased tensions between Israel and leading global democratic forces; Dr. Lior Lehrs explains why the new government will face the threat of flare-ups at several Israeli-Palestinian flashpoints; Dr. Moran Zaga points out why Netanyahu constitutes an obstacle to promoting ties with Gulf States, as does the lack of a broad Israel strategy on relations with the Arab world; Former Ambassador Michael Harari claims that renewed peace process with the Palestinians is needed to take advantage of global and regional opportunities; Kamal Ali-Hassan assesses that Israel’s Arab population is losing trust in the state establishment and will seek to promote regional ties on its own; Dr. Eyal Ronen urges the new government to deepen its partnership with the EU rather than to continue its efforts to weaken and divide it; Yael Patir argues that Israel’s crisis with the US Democratic Party could deepen, especially as the 2020 presidential election draws near.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Muriel Asseburg, Nimrod Goren, Nicolai von Ondarza, Eyal Ronen, Muriel Asseburg
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Over the last 40 years, since the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty (that alluded to but did not solve the Palestinian question) and the European Community’s 1980 Venice Declaration, Europe has been seeking ways to help advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. The task was not an easy one, mostly due to United States of America (US) dominance of peace negotiations and negative Israeli attitudes towards Europe as a mediator. Thus, while Europeans were key in shaping international language on the conflict, they have remained in the back seat when it comes to shaping dynamics on the ground. Since the collapse in 2014 of the John Kerry initiative to advance the peace process, the task has become even more difficult for the Europeans. Realities on the ground, such as a right-wing government in Israel lacking interest in advancing a peace process, expanded settlement construction, as well as the internal Palestinian split and governance deficiencies in the Palestinian Authority, make the two-state solution ever more difficult to achieve. In addition, Israel’s leadership has worked to weaken and divide the EU in order to limit its role on the issue. In this endeavor, it has profited from different interests and priorities among EU Member States as reflected in discussions and decision-making processes regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These trends have increasingly intensified in recent years, and it is the goal of this publication to analyze them, assess their impact on European capacities and policies, and devise recommendations to tackle and perhaps even reverse them. The publication includes three analytical chapters focusing on internal European dynamics, on Israel’s foreign policy towards the EU, and on EU policy-making regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict/peace process.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy, Peace
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: In recent years, the Eastern Mediterranean has become a central focus of world powers, of states in the Middle East, Europe, and beyond, and of international corporations. Regional geopolitical developments, as well as economic opportunities generated by natural gas discoveries in the Mediterranean, have contributed to this trend and turned the Eastern Mediterranean into a distinct sub-region perceived as having unique features. Israel plays a central role in this development. Israeli diplomacy identified these trends correctly, successfully becoming an active and dominant player in the region. The natural gas findings in Israel’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) provide it with a wider range of diplomatic options, helping it promote relationships with various states in the region; including some engaged in conflict with each other. Israelis regard the Mediterranean as an important component of their identity, as reflected in the 2018 Israeli Foreign Policy Index of the Mitvim Institute, in which 22 percent of those surveyed claimed Israel belongs predominantly to this region (compared with 28 percent who said it belongs to the Middle East and 23 percent to Europe).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus, Mediterranean
  • Author: Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, Emanuele Giaufret, Omer Gendler, Noga Arbell, Ariel Shafransky, Eran Etzion, Nimrod Goren
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: A policy roundtable on the 2019 European Parliament elections results and their possible significance for Europe and Israel took place on 30 May 2019 at Tel Aviv University. It was organized by the Israeli Association for the Study of European Integration (IASEI), Mitvim - The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, the EU Studies Program at Tel Aviv University, and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. The event featured EU Ambassador to Israel H.E. Emanuele Giaufret, Ariel Shafransky and Noga Arbell from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Maya Sion of IASEI, Dr. Nimrod Goren of the Mitvim Institute, former diplomat Eran Etzion, and Omer Gendler of the Open University.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Ties with the EU are a strategic asset for the State of Israel. Europe is Israel’s largest trading partner, a source of political and defense support (despite disagreements), an anchor of shared norms and values, a partner in cultural creation, and a central collaborator in research and development. The importance of these ties obliges Israel to invest attention and resources in preserving and even deepening and expanding them. Done right, Israel could leverage the tremendous potential of its ties with Europe for the improved wellbeing of its citizens and for its international standing. However, in recent years, the Israeli government has been leading a negative campaign against the EU. It has been criticizing the EU for being anti-Israel, while making efforts to increase divisions between EU Member States in order to limit the EU’s capacity to play a role in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Toward the formation of a new Israeli government in late 2019, this article presents ten guiding principles for an improved Israeli foreign policy toward the EU, based on the work of a Mitvim Institute task team.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, International Affairs, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arab Countries, European Union
  • Author: Roee Kibrik, Nimrod Goren
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This document outlines major trends in Israel’s regional foreign policies over the past six months. It is based on the Mitvim Institute’s monthly reports that cover ongoing developments in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process/conflict, Israel’s relations with the Middle East, Europe and the Mediterranean, and the conduct of Israel’s Foreign Service.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Yuval Steinitz, Ofer Shelah, Merav Michaeli, Yisrael Beiteinu, Nitzan Horowitz, Ofer Cassif
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: On 9 September 2019, the Mitvim Institute convened a pre-elections event on Israel’s foreign policy. The event focused on paths to advance peace with the Palestinians; to deepen Israel’s regional belonging in the Middle East, Europe and the Mediterranean; and to empower Israel’s diplomacy Foreign Service. Senior politicians from six political parties spoke at the event: Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), Member of Knesset (MK) Ofer Shelah (Blue and White), MK Merav Michaeli (Labor-Gesher), MK Eli Avidar (Yisrael Beiteinu), Nitzan Horowitz (Chair of the Democratic Union) and MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List). Each of them was interviewed by Arad Nir, foreign news editor of Channel 12 News. Dr. Nimrod Goren and Merav Kahana-Dagan of Mitvim delivered opening remarks in which they presented recent trends in Israel’s foreign policy and findings of a special pre-elections Mitvim poll. This document sums up the key points made at the event.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Dan Miodownik, Lior Lehrs, Benny Miller, Piki Ish-Shalom, Noa Landau, Yigal Palmor, Nitzan Horowitz, Tamar Hermann, Arthur Koll, Roee Kibrik, Daniel Shek, Ksenia Svetlova, Ehud Eiran, Nadav Tamir, Stav Shafir, Aida Touma-Sliman, Zvi Hauser
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: On 11 June 2019, the Mitvim Institute and the Davis Institute held a conference at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on democracy and foreign policy in Israel. It included sessions on democracy, international relations and the challenges to the liberal world order; the erosion of democracy in Israel and its impact on foreign relations; and the democracy component in Israel’s relations with surrounding regions. Speakers included scholars, former diplomats, activists, journalists and politicians. This document sums up the main points of the conference.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The seventh annual public opinion poll of the Mitvim Institute on Israel’s foreign policy was conducted in September 2019. It was carried out by the Rafi Smith Institute and in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, among a representative sample of Israel’s adult population (700 men and women, Jews and Arabs) and with a margin of error of 3.5%. This report presents the poll’s key findings, grouped under four categories: Israel’s foreign relations, Israel’s Foreign Service, Israel and its surrounding regions, and Israel and the Palestinians.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Roee Kibrik, Colette Avital, Paul Pasch, Ksenia Svetlova, Michael Harari, Dan Catarivas, Ido Zelkovitz, Max Stern Yezreel, Lior Lehrs, Dahlia Scheindlin, Kamal Ali-Hassan, Nadav Tamir, Yair Lapid, Susanna Terstal
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The Mitvim Institute 3rd annual conference provided an annual assessment of Israel's regional foreign policies. It was held in Tel Aviv on 14 November 2019, in cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. The conference included sessions on Israel's ties with its adjacent regions – moderated by Dr. Nimrod Goren, and participated by Amb. (ret.) Michael Harari, former Member of Knesset (MK) Ksenia Svetlova, Dr. Ido Zelkovitz and Dan Catarivas – and on the quest for IsraeliPalestinian peace in Israeli statesmanship – moderated by Yael Patir and participated by Dr. Lior Lehrs, Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin, Kamal Ali-Hassan and Nadav Tamir. MK Yair Lapid (Blue and White party) and EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Susanna Terstal delivered the keynote speeches. This document summarizes the main points covered by the speakers.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Public Opinion, Conflict, Hamas
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: Nael Shama
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS), Georgetown University in Qatar
  • Abstract: By examining the events of the Arab uprisings, this paper looks into the nature and dynamics of armies’ responses to popular uprisings. It argues that the outcome of the massive, regime-threatening Arab revolts in 2011 can be assessed by how a military responded to protests: did the army shoot protesters, did it stay idle, or did it largely defect? In light of the rich literature available on the historical experience of the “Arab Spring,” this paper shows that an army’s response to end popular uprisings in authoritarian regimes is determined by several key factors: the military’s level of institutionalization; its relationship to the regime; the degree of the regime’s legitimacy; the amount of international aid it receives; the prospects of foreign intervention; and, finally, the strength of the army’s bond with society and its perception of its own role within society. Additionally, there is a factor often overlooked by scholars; namely, how the military assesses a regime’s capacity to solve the crisis in order to triumph. The paper draws on evidence from the six cases of the 2011 Arab Spring—Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Tunisia—to illustrate the dynamics of troop loyalty or defection.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Social Movement, Arab Spring, Protests
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia
  • Author: Ilan Goldenberg, Jessica Schwed, Kaleigh Thomas
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: In recent months, Iran has responded to rising tensions with the United States—particularly the US launch of the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran—by attacking oil tankers and infrastructure in the Persian Gulf region around the Strait of Hormuz (the Strait). These actions have been designed to signal to the United States, the Gulf states, and the international community that the American strategy of strangling Iran economically will not be cost-free, and to Saudi Arabia in particular that it is highly vulnerable to Iranian retaliation. As the Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most critical energy chokepoints, the implications of Iran’s efforts merit close scrutiny and analysis. This study was designed to examine three scenarios for military conflict between Iran and the United States and assess the potential impacts on global oil prices—as one specific representation of the immediate economic impact of conflict—as well as broader strategic implications. The three scenarios are: Increasing US-Iran tensions that ultimately lead to a new “Tanker War” scenario similar to the conflict of the 1980s, in which Iran attacks potentially hundreds of ships in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman over a prolonged period while also launching missiles at Gulf oil infrastructure. An escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States in which Iran significantly increases the scope and severity of missile attacks directed at major oil and energy infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. A major conflict between Iran and the United States that includes damage to Gulf oil infrastructure and a temporary closure of the Strait of Hormuz. Its main conclusions are: The risk of a major military confrontation between the United States and Iran has increased in recent months but still remains relatively low, as neither the United States nor Iran wants war. That said, the September 14, 2019, attack on the Abqaiq and Khurais facilities was a strategic game changer and shows that the biggest risk is a prolonged, low-intensity military conflict. The fact that Iran was willing to conduct such an attack was a surprise to most analysts and to the US government and its Gulf partners. The level of accuracy it showed in the strike demonstrated a technical proficiency the US government and outside analysts did not believe Iran had. In the more moderate and likely conflict scenarios, increasing tensions between the United States and Iran are unlikely to dramatically affect global oil prices. The most profound costs in the more likely scenarios are not energy-related but security-related. Even in the less escalatory scenarios, the United States would be forced into long-term deployments of a large number of air and naval assets that would need to remain in the Middle East for years at a cost of billions of dollars. Such deployments would take away resources that would otherwise be dedicated to managing great power competition with China and Russia. In the more extreme conflict scenarios, major loss of life and an even bigger and longer-term American military deployment would be expected. In the lower likelihood scenario of a major military confrontation between the United States and Iran, global oil prices would be dramatically affected, though price impacts would not be prolonged. All assumptions about the potential impacts on oil prices are based on the supposition that the United States protects global shipping lanes, but that theory deserves further scrutiny. For more than a generation, the United States has viewed securing global shipping lanes that are critical for commerce and energy as a core vital interest. But given the isolationist tendencies in the United States and President Donald Trump’s attitude that America should stop underwriting the defense of its allies, it is conceivable he may choose not to respond in the types of scenarios described in this paper or demand that countries most dependent on oil trade from the Gulf—most notably China—step up instead. Another wild card for oil prices in a major crisis scenario would be President Trump’s unpredictable policies regarding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Typically, an administration would be expected to coordinate an international response with the International Energy Agency (IEA) to release the SPR of a number of countries, but this cannot be assumed in the current administration. Though these conclusions are to some extent comforting, the authors acknowledge that a key issue with any analysis of this situation is the unpredictability of the United States. In the present moment, neither US adversaries nor partners know quite what to expect—and, for that matter, neither does the US government or its observers.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Oil, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Iran, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Oona A. Hathaway
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Legal Challenges, Yale Law School
  • Abstract: The President’s National Security Advisor John Bolton has long been beating the drums of war with Iran. Those drums are growing louder. In the last month, Bolton has repeatedly threatened that Iran’s support for its “proxies” could bring “a very strong response”—even military force. By threatening military action against Iran in retaliation for the acts of groups it supports, Bolton is trying to frame a war on Iran as a justified—even righteous—act of self-defense even if he cannot prove that Iran itself has participated in any attacks. Such a war would, however, be illegal.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Law, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Oona A. Hathaway
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Legal Challenges, Yale Law School
  • Abstract: Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to consider dueling bills on Saudi Arabia. A bill sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), would block arms sales to the Kingdom and in-flight refueling of Saudi aircraft. This largely mirrors a series of measures passed in the House on July 17 to block the sale of billions of dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. But in an unusual move, Committee Chairman Jim Risch (R-Idaho) broke comity to put forward his own separate bill focused more narrowly on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi that would merely deny visas to a few Saudi government officials and require that the secretary of state conduct a review of the United States’ relationship with the country. In all likelihood, this is the bill that will advance, allowing the U.S. sales of arms to Saudi Arabia to continue.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Law, International Trade and Finance, Arms Trade, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Eran Lerman
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: Minister Yisrael Katz should restore and reinvigorate the Israeli foreign service. Israel’s many recent diplomatic breakthroughs require systemic and sustained follow-up by a strong and committed cadre of professionals.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Governance, Leadership
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Yossi Mansharof
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: The attempted resignation of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif didn’t come as a complete surprise. It reflects the utter supremacy of the Revolutionary Guard in the Iranian political sphere.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Governance, Leadership
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Eran Lerman
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: Overlooked in the controversy regarding Trump, Omar and Tlaib, and Israel: The imperative of maintaining Israel’s sovereign decision-making.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Nationalism, Sovereignty, Leadership, Anti-Semitism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: F. Gregory Gause III
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: On October 24, 2017, Muhammad bin Salman (MBS), the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, welcomed over 3,500 of the world’s financial elites to a conference center adjoining the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh for an “economic coming-out party.”1 The crown prince was selling investors and government officials on his plans for the transformation of the country, not just its economy but also its society. His Vision 2030 plan to lessen the economy’s dependence on oil and increase the role of the private sector required investment, both from at home and abroad.2 It was a glittering show, featuring plans for a new city on the Red Sea coast, Neom, which would be staffed at least in part by robots. Within a few weeks of this impressive gathering, hundreds of the Kingdom’s economic and political elites were prisoners in that same Ritz Carlton. One year after the conference, self-exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by agents of the Saudi government in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. When the crown prince convened a second investment conference in Riyadh, a “Davos in the desert” as some billed it, in October 2018, the guest list was much reduced. A number of high-profile political leaders and CEO’s backed out, including the U.S. treasury secretary, the president of the World Bank, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the CEOs of JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Credit Suisse, BNP Paribas, and the London Stock Exchange.3 While $50 billion in investment deals were announced, over $30 billion were with Saudi Aramco, the state oil company.4 In the year between the two conferences, the crown prince suffered a number of setbacks that called into question both his judgment and his political capacity. The killing of Jamal Khashoggi was simply the most recent in that line. Whether the killing was directly ordered by the crown prince or the work of close aides who believed they were carrying out his wishes, the ultimate responsibility rests with him. Some of those setbacks can be attributed to MBS’s own decisions; others simply reinforced the fact that there are considerable obstacles confronting his ambitious plans. His regional foreign policy initiatives, in particular, have not worked out as he had hoped. But these setbacks do not mean that the crown prince’s days are numbered in the Saudi leadership. He has successfully consolidated power in his own hands in a way that is unprecedented in recent Saudi history. The Trump administration, which hitched its wagon to MBS in an imprudent and counter-productive way, now has to decide how to use the fallout from this crisis to change MBS’s behavior, avoiding the extremes of a purely symbolic reaction that has no effect on Saudi policy and the unrealistic goal of declaring, as Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham did, that the crown prince “has got to go.”5
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Authoritarianism, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, North America, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Cornelius Adebahr
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Europe and Iran had begun to invest in a closer commercial relationship just when the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018. Since then, Washington has re-imposed its stringent economic sanctions, targeting Iran’s oil exports as a major source of government revenue but also banning financial transactions with the country. This poses an enormous challenge for the EU, which had intended to use the 2015 agreement as a stepping stone to promote regional cooperation and, ultimately, a more comprehensive relationship with Iran. Paper produced in the framework of the IAI-FEPS project entitled “Europe and Iran in a fast-changing Middle East: Confidence-building measures, security dialogue and regional cooperation”, December 2018.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Trade and Finance, Bilateral Relations, Sanctions, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America, European Union
  • Author: Rawi Abdelal, Alexandra Vacroux
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Russian President Vladimir Putin has confounded American policy makers with his agenda in the Middle East for at least the past decade. Russia’s stance has varied in its accord with Western policies, at times seeming to align—as in Libya and Yemen—and other times shirking, by showing indifference toward Iran’s nuclear program violations. Western diplomats have long puzzled over Putin’s real aims in the region and whether or not he could ever be a reliable ally. Russian airstrikes in Syria in 2015 marked a turning point in its foreign policy. Taking full advantage of the vacuum created by President Obama’s failure to intervene, Russia stepped in to lead, signaling Moscow’s new commitment to involvement in the region. Just two years prior, Putin had refused to export missiles systems to Syria, raising hopes in the West for a possible partnership that could help to stabilize the region. It was not to be. Russian officials fanned speculation and confusion about its actions in Syria. To the public, they skewed the purpose of intervention, first claiming to target Islamic State, then “terrorists” in general. In fact, Russian bombs fell on anti-Assad rebel groups, some of whom were armed and trained by US intelligence agencies. Thus began a protracted “proxy war” between the United States and Russia that continues today.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Military Intervention, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Middle East, Syria, North America
  • Author: Jack O Nassetta, Ethan P. Fecht
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
  • Abstract: Though much of the scrutiny into foreign interference in US political debates focuses on long-term election operations, foreign actors have now turned to social media to conduct short-term tactical operations. These operations aim to affect American attitudes toward specific US foreign and military policy, and ultimately affect the policy itself. In recent years, state actors and loosely affiliated patriotic operators have inorganically inserted themselves into the political discussion surrounding US intervention in Syria following the use of chemical weapons. Through continually evolving techniques, these “synthetic actors” are likely the main driving force behind shaping the character of the counternarrative discussion surrounding the use of chemical weapons in Syria. “All the World is Staged: An Analysis of Social Media Influence Operations against US Counterproliferation Efforts in Syria,” CNS Occasional Paper #37, seeks to analyze the tradecraft, trends, themes, and possible effects of disinformation produced by suspected synthetic actors (i.e., bots, trolls, and cyborgs) on Twitter concerning chemical weapons use in Syria. Although it is highly likely these synthetic actors exist on other social media platforms as well, this analysis focuses exclusively on Twitter, since the open nature of the platform allows for study without special access. Furthermore, we aim to improve public and academic awareness of foreign, inorganic disinformation efforts against our domestic decision-making processes. We hope that this text contributes to the efforts to prevent the erosion of the integrity of the political conversations that matter most. It concludes with salient recommendations for both policy makers and social network companies, focusing on how they can prevent synthetic actors from abusing their platforms for influence operations.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Military Strategy, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Roee Kibrik, Nimrod Goren
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This document briefly outlines major trends in Israel’s regional foreign policies over the past six months. It is based on the Mitvim Institute’s monthly reports that cover ongoing developments in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process/conflict, Israel’s relations with the Middle East, Europe and the Mediterranean, and the conduct of Israel’s Foreign Service.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, International Affairs, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Jerusalem, Gaza, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, European Union
  • Author: Eran Lerman
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: By leveraging its remarkable achievements in the fields most relevant to future conflicts, Israel can transition from dependence on the U.S. to partnership.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jonathan Spyer
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: All indications suggest that for Turkey, the recent battles were only a phase in a larger process. So where might Turkey turn next? And what is the goal of the Turkish campaign?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Minorities, Discrimination
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia, Kurdistan
  • Author: Eran Lerman
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: Israel and America must avoid one-fit-all options regarding the military challenges in different parts of disintegrating Syria.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Eran Lerman
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: The French president’s visit to served to demonstrate Macron’s importance as a dynamic and proactive European player, and as a partner in the effort to curb Iran’s strategic ambitions.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel, France
  • Author: Eran Lerman
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: Amidst the tensions and transformations even of these dramatic days – the American withdrawal from the Iran deal, the violent confrontation in Syria, the ongoing Hamas provocations on the Gaza border, and the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem – it was easy to lose sight of another landmark event. It is remarkable that by now a tripartite summit of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his fellow eastern Mediterranean leaders – President Anastasiades of Cyprus and Prime Minister Tsipras of Greece – is no longer remarked upon. Their meeting was the fourth of its kind. It has now become part of a broader pattern of consolidated cooperation between the three countries. Still, the (exceedingly long) joint statement issued in Nicosia on May 8 is a striking document. Like its predecessors (January 28, 2016 in Nicosia, December 8, 2016 in Jerusalem, and June 15, 2017 in Thessaloniki), the statement asserts that this is not an exclusive club. “Like minded” nations are urged to join the efforts to make the eastern Mediterranean safer, more stable and more prosperous.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Mediterranean
  • Author: Jonathan Spyer
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: Bad management, corruption and a failure of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to generate expected levels of foreign investment compound the problem.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: David M. Weinberg
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: Israel should be defending itself against Erdogan by blocking his Jerusalem incursion, and taking the offensive against Erdogan by impeding his military build-up.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Authoritarianism, Leadership
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Asia
  • Author: Micky Aharonson
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: The US is failing to appreciate the significance of the leverage points that the Syrian arena provides for Russia. This leverage allows Russia to exact a heavy toll for the measures the US is demanding.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Conflict, Foreign Interference
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Joshua Krasna
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: In the Mideast of today, the US is largely irrelevant, when it is not disruptive, and is certainly not providing clear leadership. With the current disarray in DC, it does not look like this will change any time soon.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Cooperation, Leadership, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Omer Dostri
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
  • Abstract: The historic renewal of Chad-Israel ties will benefit both nations and shows that PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign policy is effective.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Cooperation, Leadership
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Israel, Chad
  • Author: Nikolay Kozhanov
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Transatlantic Relations
  • Abstract: This paper is part of CTR's Working Paper Series: "Russia and the West: Reality Check." The current level of Russian presence in the Middle East is unprecedented for the region since the fall of the Soviet Union. Records of diplomatic and political contacts show increased exchange of multilevel delegations between Russia and the main regional countries. After 2012, Moscow has attempted to cultivate deeper involvement in regional issues and to establish contacts with forces in the Middle East which it considers as legitimate. Moreover, on September 30, 2015, Russia launched air strikes against Syrian groupings fighting against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Before that time, Russia had tried to avoid any fully-fledged involvement in the military conflicts in the region. It was also the first time when it adopted an American military strategy by putting the main accent on the use of air power instead of ground forces. Under these circumstances, the turmoil in the Middle East, which poses a political and security challenge to the EU and United States, makes it crucial to know whether Russia could be a reliable partner in helping the West to stabilize the region or whether, on the contrary, Moscow will play the role of a troublemaker.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Military Intervention, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Libya, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, United States of America, European Union, Gulf Cooperation Council
  • Author: Michelle Nicholasen, Joshua D. Kertzer
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In July 2014, a wave of violence erupted in the Middle East, as Israel responded to a barrage of rockets from Gaza by launching airstrikes, and eventually, a ground incursion intent on degrading Hamas’s military capabilities. In Washington, both Democrats and Republicans firmly sided with Israel: the Senate passed a unanimous resolution blaming Hamas for the conflict, and both prominent Democrats and Republicans gave staunch defenses of Israel’s right to defend itself. Although both Democrats and Republicans in Washington were united in their support for Israel, a series of polls conducted at the time found that Democrats and Republicans in the public were not aligned with them: in a Pew poll, for example, 60 percent of Republicans blamed Hamas for the violence, while Democrats were more evenly split, with 29 percent blaming Hamas and 26 percent blaming Israel. A Gallup poll detected a similar pattern: 65 percent of Republicans thought Israel’s actions were justified, but Democrats were more divided, as 31 percent backed the Israeli response, and 47 percent called it unjustified.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Public Opinion, Military Affairs, Political Parties, Hamas
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America
  • Author: Pamela Abbott, Andrea Teti
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Transformations Project, University of Aberdeen
  • Abstract: This working paper considers relations between the region and the European Union, something on which the ArabTrans survey was specifically designed to offer information. We supplement the ArabTrans survey by drawing on data from Waves II (2010/11) and III (2013) of the Arab Barometer and from the Gallup World Poll for 2011 and 2014. The Report considers what impact the policies pursued by the EU and its member countries have had on the lives of people living in four countries in the region - Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia - and how they view the EU and its involvement with their countries. It considers ordinary people’s attitudes to the EU and its policies but also discusses what ordinary people want and the extent to which EU policies address these concerns.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Suat Kiniklioglu
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF)
  • Abstract: This first paper in the DCAF-STRATIM paper series by Suat Kiniklioglu analyses the development of Turkey's policy towards Syria since the start of the Arab Uprisings. It illustrates the factors which contributed to the shift in Ankara's foreign policy focus towards Syria; from its role as the strongest advocate for regime change, to the sole focus on the prevention of a Kurdish consolidated geographical and political entity in Syria. The author describes how Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan and Ahmed Davutoǧlu saw the Arab Uprisings as a unique Turkish moment that could allow the country to regain its long-lost international grandeur. Ankara detected that the Muslim Brotherhood was on the rise in the region. In Tunisia, the Ennahda Movement; in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhvan); and in many other Middle Eastern countries - including Syria - Ikhvan-affiliated movements were on the march.€ The author concludes that, contrasting with the initial enthusi­asm about a "Turkish Moment" when the Arab Uprisings erupted, Ankara will have to settle, it seems, for a much more modest outcome than originally envisaged in 2011.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Arab Spring, Military Intervention, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: Michelle Nicholasen
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: During the 2016 primaries, Donald Trump claimed he had more foreign policy experience than any of the GOP contenders. In fact, he has traveled widely to meet with presidents, prime ministers, financiers, and developers over the past decade as part of his highly profitable business of licensing the Trump name to large real estate developments around the world. On the campaign trail, Trump’s provocative statements about foreign policy have become part of the public record. From pressuring NAFTA members to bombing ISIS, his pledges have caused a stir in the arena of foreign relations. Publicly, candidate Trump threatened to close borders to Mexicans, slap tariffs on Chinese goods, restrict Muslims in the United States, among other vows. Without a record of public service to draw on, it is difficult to know how these declarations might translate into a Trump foreign policy. To understand what lies ahead for the new president, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs asked its Faculty Associates in international relations to comment on the challenges and opportunities that await in five regions of the world: Africa, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Latin America, Europe, and China.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Elections, ISIS, NAFTA
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, China, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Latin America, North America
  • Author: Janko Bekić
  • Publication Date: 05-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: In February, Masoud Barzani, President of Iraqi Kurdistan, announced that a referendum on the independence of the autonomous region would be held by the end of 2016. He stressed that Kurdistan had the same grounds for demanding statehood as Scotland, Catalonia or Quebec. Equally, he opined, the right of the Kurdish people to decide their own fate was unnegotiable. During an earlier encounter with Western journalists, Barzani pointed to the upcoming centenary of the Sykes-Picot agreement (16 May 1916), which divided Ottoman assets in the Middle East into British and French zones of interest, laying the foundations for the creation of multi-ethnic and multi-religious Iraq and Syria. The President of the Kurdistan Region underlined that 2016 would be the year in which the Franco-British agreement of World War I would be annulled and the policy of “compulsory co-existence” in the Middle East �inally abandoned. The purpose of this brief is to succinctly discuss the case made for Kurdish independence, but also the many obstacles on the way towards it. Solid arguments in favour of secession Mr. Barzani’s central argument in favour of Kurdish statehood is the fact that international borders in the Middle East largely do not correspond to popular will; i.e. they have no legitimacy, only legality. Historically, they are by-products of foreign – Ottoman, and later Western European – rule. As such, they are open for revision, especially if the states in question have a track record of discriminating, forcibly assimilating, or – in the worst case – physically exterminating segments of the population. Another argument made by Mr. Barzani is one concerning “compulsory co-existence”. It's well-known that international power brokers are rather conservative when it comes to recognizing border changes or granting independence to secessionist entities. As a rule, these are considered only in instances of grave human rights violations, and only as a last resort. The Westphalian sovereignty of states has been greatly eroded by the concept of humanitarian intervention. However, international borders are still considered to be sacrosanct and – generally – untouchable. This often leads to the involuntary co-existence of ethnic, national and/or religious groups with no sense of shared identity or mutual interests. In such unfavourable conditions, democracies – if they exist – are little more than tyrannies of the majority.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Autonomy
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, Kurdistan
  • Author: Krševan Antun Dujmović
  • Publication Date: 08-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: With the Presidential Elections coming closer, the global attention is shifting more and more to the United States. During the terms of George W. Bush, especially during his second tenure, the image of the US as an untouchable superpower was somewhat mitigated. In 2001 the US witnessed the largest attack on its territory since Pearl Harbor and military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq took a heavy toll in human lives and material and �inancial expanses. Upon this, the campaign in Iraq had no legal foundation, and that caused a rift with the European allies, especially with two big continental powers Germany and France, and the consequences are still largely felt to date. The legitimacy and the credibility of the US as the global strong leader was further watered down with the �inancial crunch originating on Wall Street, spilling over to the rest of the world, especially the European Union (EU). At the moment when American image and credibility hit the ground, the White House saw a new president Barack Obama, the �irst African American to sit in the Oval Of�ice. In the internal policy, Obama’s two terms saw the American economy gaining an undisputed strength. Unemployment rate and de�icit were cut in half, exports and the dollar were on the hike, just like the GDP growth and the real estate market. Obama’s foreign policy showed to be much more diplomatic and arguably more ef�icient than that of the Bush administration.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Elections, Europe Union
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East, North America, Washington, D.C.
  • Author: Brian Katulis, Rudy deLeon, Peter Juul, Mokhtar Awad, John Craig
  • Publication Date: 04-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: When President Barack Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia last week to participate in the U.S. summit with the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, he landed in the midst of regional turbulence and major economic and foreign policy changes by the Kingdom. Today, the Middle East remains caught up in a period of fragmentation and competition for influence among the leading powers in the region. In the aftermath of last year’s nuclear deal between Iran and other global powers, President Obama has yet to achieve the new equilibrium in the Middle East that he envisioned. His recent suggestion that GCC countries “share” the region with Iran received a cool reception in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the GCC. Saudi Arabia—along with other GCC countries—remains deeply concerned about Iran’s subversive activities in the region, including its support for terrorist groups and ongoing conventional military efforts, such as its ballistic missile program. This current period of insecurity following the Iran nuclear deal is the latest episode in a U.S.-Saudi relationship roiled by tension for more than a decade. Since 2000, the decades-long foundation of close relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia—namely, regional stability, energy security, and military cooperation—has come under considerable stress. The 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the 2003 Iraq war ushered in a rocky phase in bilateral U.S.-Saudi relations. These two incidents—along with the end of the U.S. policy of dual containment of Iran and Iraq—led to a decline in mutual trust between the United States and Saudi Arabia that’s now reaching critical mass.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Bülent Aras, Emirhan Yorulmazlar
  • Publication Date: 07-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: Simplistic binary readings generally fail to explain the trajectory of Turkish-Iranian relations. The geostrategic rivalry between these two regional powers has deep historical roots, is subject to long-term patterns, and is amenable to realignments as a result of shifts in regional and international balances of power. For these reasons, assessing Turkish-Iranian relations requires a broader understanding than the prevalent narrow topical analysis provides.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Asia