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  • Author: Flavio Fusco
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Located at the heart of the Middle East, connecting the Levant to the Persian Gulf, Iraq has always been at the centre of regional dynamics. Yet, the country is today reduced to a quasi-failed state fundamentally damaged in its political, social and economic fabric, with long-term consequences that trace a fil rouge from the 2003 US-led invasion to the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and the country’s current structural fragility.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, European Union
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, United States of America
  • 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: 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: Alper Kaliber, Esra Kaliber
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Recent Turkish foreign policy (TFP) under the successive AKP governments has seen different populist turns. A clear distinction can be made between the thin and thick populisms of TFP, based on the status of the West. The first decade of AKP rule, when foreign policy was thinly populist, was characterised by steady de-Europeanisation, increasing engagement with regional issues and a decentring of Turkey’s Western orientation. The turn toward thick populism has been characterised by anti-Westernist discourses in which the West is resituated as the ‘other’ of Turkish political identity.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Populism, Anti-Westernism
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Dimitris Bouris
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The existing literature on state-building has focused mainly on post-conflict cases and ‘conventional’ examples of statehood, without taking into consideration the particularities of states that remain internally and/or externally contested. The EU’s engagement in Palestinian state-building through the deployment of EUPOL COPPS and EUBAM Rafah has generated various types of unintended consequences: anticipated and unanticipated, positive and negative, desirable and undesirable, some of which fulfill and some of which frustrate the initial intention. These have important reverberations for the EU’s conflict resolution strategies in Israel and Palestine, the most important being the strengthening of power imbalances and the enforcement of the status quo.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, State, State Building, Police
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Palestine, European Union
  • Author: Assem Dandashly, Gergana Noutcheva
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The European Union’s (EU) impact on the political governance of the European neighbourhood is varied and sometimes opposite to the declared objectives of its democracy support policies. The democracy promotion literature has to a large extent neglected the unintended consequences of EU democracy support in Eastern Europe and the Middle East and North Africa. The EU has left multiple imprints on the political trajectories of the countries in the neighbourhood and yet the dominant explanation, highlighting the EU’s security and economic interests in the two regions,cannot fully account for the unintended consequences of its policies. The literature on the ‘pathologies’ of international organisations offers an explanation, emphasizing the failures of the EU bureaucracy to anticipate, prevent or reverse the undesired effects of its democracy support in the neighbourhood.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Democracy, Economy, Bureaucracy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Eastern Europe, North Africa, European Union
  • 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