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  • Author: Mohammed Cherkaoui
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: During the month of January 2020, most world capitals, diplomats, and think tanks sought to evaluate the status of the already-fragile balance of power in the Gulf. The U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad has triggered the most acute escalation between Washington and Tehran since 1979. The White House’s pursuit of neutralizing the second most important figure in Iran, after the spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei, has shifted the US-Iranian rivalry into a fierce confrontation between Washington’s “maximum pressure” and Tehran’s “maximum resistance”. There have been several interpretations and predictions of Iran’s possible direct or indirect acts of retaliation vis-à-vis Trump’s threats of targeting 52 sites, which have political and cultural significance for the Iranians. Some Washington-based analysts have been wary that “the U.S. and Iran are now in a traditional escalatory slope, and although neither side wants war, there is a real risk that it might happen.”(1) Anthony H. Cordesman, leading analyst at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, has cautioned that the new US-Iran crisis “has now led to consistent failures in the U.S. strategy when dealing with Iraq and the Middle East for the last two decades – and has already turned two apparent ‘victories’ into real world defeats.”(2) In Doha, two research institutions, Aljazeera Centre for Studies and Qatar University’s Gulf Studies Centre, hosted a two-day conference, “Toward a New Gulf Security Order: Abandoning Zero-sum Approaches” at Qatar University January 19 and 20, to formulate new perspectives of the waning regional security order, and explore how to construct an alternative paradigm. As a point of entry, the Conference concept highlighted two manifestations of the failure of the existing security order, formally adopted by all Gulf States, since the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) May 25, 1981: First, to prevent the invasion, and later liberation, of Kuwait in the early 1990s. GCC established a coalition land force, “the Peninsular Shield Force”, with the objective of defending the six nation states, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Second, the decision of three member states - Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain - to impose a blockade on Qatar, a founding member of GCC since June 2017.(3) In this turbulent part of the world, Iran’s pursuit of creating a regional security order, but on the parsuit of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region—a condition rejected by Gulf states, which see the United States as the principal guarantor of their national security. Moreover, Iran still considers its own foreign interventions in the Gulf and Arab region as part of its revolutionary identity, to which it has devoted resources and agencies.(4) This paper “Seven Ironies of Reconstructing a New Security Paradigm in the Gulf” is a summary of the presentation I delivered at the Conference’s fifth panel “The Gulf and the US-Gulf Conflict”. It probes into several challenges of deconstructing the status quo, before envisioning an alternative framework of mutual security cooperation among several actors in the Gulf and the Middle East.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Oil, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Mohammed Cherkaoui
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: On June 6, 2020, the Qatari crisis entered its fourth year with two parallel political discourses, which have endured the complexity of issues between Qatar and the Quartet [Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt] since early June 2017: a) diplomatic hopes in the U.S.-backed Kuwaiti mediation amidst several gestures of rapprochement between the Qataris and the Saudis; and b) disparity of positions by the disputing parties while maintaining status quo politics. The Trump administration has urged the Quartet capitals to reopen their airspace for Qatari airlines as a step toward ending the open-ended blockade. The Wall Street Journal quoted U.S. officials saying "there is a greater sense of urgency to resolve the airspace issue. It's an ongoing irritation for us that money goes into Iran's coffers due to Qatar Airways overflights." (1) The Trump White House has been irritated by the so-called "overfly fees" that Qatar pays to Iran to use its airspace. There is growing hope Washington’s call will trigger momentum for lifting the land and sea blockade imposed on Qatar as well. Qatar’s foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani hopes “the initiative will produce results, we are open to dialogue and ready to meet each step forward with 10 steps from our side.” (2) Unlike the Saudis, the Emiratis have maintained the 2017 demands, and UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash insists “this issue will stay with us, and we have to manage it in a better way until we reach a future stage.” He has often characterized the blockade as “a result of Doha's interference policies," and argued "the solution for this crisis should be based on dealing with the causes of it." (3) As a result, the three-year blockade is causing a hurting stalemate for both sides of the Gulf conflict. In his new book “Qatar and the Gulf Crisis”, Kristian C. Ulrichsen argues the blockade has become “stuck at a political level where the Saudi and Emirati leadership—and especially Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed—appear reluctant to make the first move to offer concessions or progress to a negotiated compromise.” (4) This paper examines some major narrative turns of the Quartet-Qatar showdown and the transformation of Trump’s position. It traces the possibility of a de-escalation shift along Washington’s pursuit of mediation in the framework of the Kuwaiti diplomacy; and weighs on the future of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as a counterbalance of the Arab Gulf strategic (dis)unity and common existentialism in a turbulent region.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Abu Dhabi
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Since 2017, the decline of social capital in Morocco represents a tree that hides a forest. We are now at an interlocking point of two negative trends in this decline: one is political vertical, and the other is societal horizontal.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Morocco
  • Author: Anna Jacobs
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Morocco’s migration policy reflects of the interconnectedness of foreign policy priorities, desired reform and the reality of domestic politics. Morocco has positioned itself as a counterterrorism and migration ally for Europe; while leaning toward the African Union, and African markets.
  • Topic: International Relations, Migration, International Affairs, Global Security
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: In early May 2019, the United States announced it would deploy an aircraft carrier, B-52 strategic bombers, and a Patriot missile battery to the Gulf region, declaring it had received information that Iran intended to strike US targets or those of its allies, directly or through a proxy. The United States followed with a new round of sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: America, Iran
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: The conflict in Sudan is now between two competing visions: where Bashir believes no political change is needed to address the crisis, the protestors are adamant that it can only be resolved with his departure. The question is which of these two positions will be victorious
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Sudan
  • Author: Mehari Taddele Maru
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: The lesson here is that Ethiopia and Eritrea should not envisage sustainable peace to be brokered by external actors. Rather the solution should come from a genuine effort from both sides
  • Topic: International Relations
  • Political Geography: Ethiopia
  • Author: Ramzy Baroud
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: The Deal of the Century will allow Trump/Kushner, Netanyahu and bin Salman to merely buy time, each for his own domestic benefit. It is likely to split up an Arab camp that has served as the American vanguard.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Yahia H. Zoubir
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Hirak has been the relegation of the Islamists because the protesters showed no interest in an Islamist ideology. They are opposed to foreign interference and have warned the West, particularly the former colonial power France, from interfering in their movement.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: So far, Turkey has been successful in its pursuit of internationalising the Khashoggi case and playing its cards strategically to keep the attention of international media and appeal to the morality of peoples and governments while also avoiding a direct clash with Saudi Arabia
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Turkey