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  • Author: Harith Hasan, Kheder Khaddour
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The Iraqi-Syrian border continues to be geopolitically restless. Kurdish parties have taken advantage of central government weaknesses to increase their autonomy in these areas. Even after the collapse of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the Iraqi-Syrian border continues to be one of the most geopolitically restless areas in the Middle East. In the last few years, a variety of Kurdish entities and groups have increasingly shaped the dynamics across the northern section of this border. In particular, there are two dynamics that deserve attention. First, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Kurdish-dominated Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria have come to effectively control new border crossings in this area as the Syrian government has lost access and the Iraqi government’s presence has been contested. This means that the movement of people and goods in this area is largely controlled by two entities that are neither state nor nonstate actors. The reality on the ground reflects hybrid arrangements that have emerged as a result of the weaknesses of both central governments and the increasing autonomy gained by Kurdish parties (which, in the case of the KRG, is stipulated constitutionally). Second, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), by virtue of its participation in the war against the Islamic State and by taking advantage of the consequent power vacuum, managed to augment its influence along the border. Its ideological and organizational ties with local groups, such as the People Protection Units (YPG) in Syria and Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) in Iraq, enabled it to exert security and political influence. On the one hand, this turned segments of the border into an arena for transnational, pan-Kurdish militancy. On the other hand, these groups’ presence intensified intra-Kurdish rivalries, especially between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which is the KRG’s main ruling party, and the PKK. This rivalry reflects a clash of two visions for the border: the PKK’s revolutionary, transnational vision that seeks to eradicate or at least underplay the reality of the border; and the KDP’s pragmatic and territorial vision seeking to assert the border’s reality as a demarcation of the KRG’s authority and future statehood. In addition, the KDP is allied with Turkey, which has been fighting the PKK for several decades and is currently waging a military campaign against the group in northern Iraq and Syria. To a large extent, the future of this border is predicated on this geopolitical conflict and whether the PKK manages to entrench itself further or becomes isolated and marginalized as the KRG, the Autonomous Administration, and the Iraqi federal government assert their territorial authorities.
  • Topic: Governance, Conflict, Borders, Kurds
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Zaha Hassan, Daniel Levy, Hallaamal Keir, Marwan Muasher
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: A new U.S. approach should prioritize protecting the rights and human security of Palestinians and Israelis over maintaining a peace process and attempting short-term fixes. The authors of this paper identified four overarching areas of focus: (1) prioritize rights and protect people, (2) roll back the Trump administration’s actions and reassert international law, (3) clarify expectations for Palestinians and Israelis, and (4) support new multilateral approaches and accountability.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Lydia Assouad
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: To survive its ongoing financial crisis, Lebanon needs a new economic system that addresses massive income inequality. Paired with political and institutional reform, tax reform can help. Over the past three decades, Lebanon’s ruling class—which comprises intertwined political and business elites—has run the country into the ground. To survive its ongoing accumulation of challenges, including the financial crisis that erupted in October 2019, Lebanon requires a revamped state backed by a new economic model with social justice at its core. Tax reform is central to such an endeavor—and to ensuring that the state has the means both to deliver basic services and to tackle poverty and inequality.
  • Topic: Poverty, Inequality, Economic structure, Business , Social Justice, Tax Systems, Elites
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Peter Liberman
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: By showing that mass vengefulness helps democratic leaders bring their nations to war, this wonderful book significantly advances our understanding of how cultural values affect international politics. Its most important contribution is demonstrating that democracies that retain death penalty laws were significant more likely to initiate the use of force than non-death-penalty democracies in the 1945–2001 period. The finding is robust to a variety of control variables and specifications, although skeptics may wonder whether it might be inflated by ethnocentrism, beliefs about the utility of violence, or other unmeasured potential covariates. Rachel Stein attributes the belligerence of death penalty states to cross-national differences in vengeful cultures, on the grounds that citizens’ vengefulness predicts both cross-sectional support for the death penalty and cross-national differences in the penalty’s retention. Her rigorous analysis greatly strengthens the case that the unusual bellicosity of retributivists, observed by Stein and other researchers, affects actual interstate conflict.
  • Topic: War, Prisons/Penal Systems, Leadership, Book Review, Elites, Capital Punishment
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Leah Mesnildrey
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Public and International Affairs (JPIA)
  • Institution: School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
  • Abstract: Since the Fifth World Parks Congress in Durban (2003) and the Seventh COP on Biological Diversity in Kuala Lumpur (2004), the definition of protected areas has evolved. Now, the definition incorporates principles of participation and inclusion, as well as traditional and local knowledge. This newfound recognition on the international scene shed light on the role of non-state actors, including indigenous peoples and local communities, as guarantors of conservation, and marked a decisive turning point in the evolution of international policies on this issue. Despite the growing awareness of the importance of biodiversity conservation and the role played by local communities to this end, national legislation and policies in Morocco do not yet give due recognition to areas conserved by local communities. Developed around the case study of a traditional natural resource management regime—the agdal—practiced by communities of the Moroccan Atlas, this piece highlights the extent to which traditional modes of managing common-pool resources (CPR) are compatible with a government’s strategy to decentralize natural resource management. Despite the benefits that community conserved areas and territories represent for maintaining ecosystems, traditions, and livelihoods, as well as their advantages in terms of decentralization, these practices are under threat due to a lack of policies and programs directly supporting or recognizing communities' agency over local natural resources.
  • Topic: Environment, Natural Resources, International Development, Indigenous, Biodiversity
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Morocco
  • Author: Ellinore Ahlgren
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Public and International Affairs (JPIA)
  • Institution: School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
  • Abstract: This paper examines whether frequent engagement with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the body of independent experts monitoring the implementation of the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, is linked to improved compliance with women’s rights commitments. It further explores whether the relationship between treaty body interaction and compliance holds for states that have made reservations to articles concerning women’s rights. Data from state reports submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and indicators from the Social Institutions and Gender Index show that frequent engagement with the body is associated with improved equality for women, irrespective of state reservations. The results from this study challenge the idea that reservations undermine global governance regimes and are detrimental to human rights. Finally, this paper illustrates how compliance mechanisms work using a case study from Iraq. Through participation in the report-and-review process, states engage in negotiation around contentious areas of women’s rights with experts, civil society and the public, which facilitates respect for women’s rights.
  • Topic: International Relations, Civil Society, Governance, Women, Compliance, Case Study
  • Political Geography: Africa, Iraq, Middle East, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Asha Asokan
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Public and International Affairs (JPIA)
  • Institution: School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
  • Abstract: One in five children lives in a country affected by conflict (Save the Children 2019). Despite concerted international and national efforts to protect children, these 415 million children face grave human rights violations that continue to rise. More political will and resources are needed from governments and parties to the conflict to prevent such violence against children and protect children in armed conflict. However, research confirms that out of 431 ceasefire and peace agreements, less than 18 percent of peace agreements included child protection provisions (Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict). Often, peace-related documents that mention child protection issues do not mention integrating children's participation into peace processes, which is essential to understanding and addressing children's needs during and after the conflict. To end the cycle of violence against children, a paradigm shift must be made in the way peace agreements address children’s issues and rights. Guided by the “Global Policy Paper on Youth Participation in the Peace Process,” commissioned by the United Nations Envoy on Youth, this paper recommends that mediators and child protection actors employ three integrated but non-hierarchical layers for including child protection issues and children’s participation in the peace process: “in the room,” “around the room,” and “outside the room” of formal peace negotiations. This multi-layered, inclusive approach may help achieve the desired results: preventing violence against children and reaching a sustainable peace.
  • Topic: International Relations, United Nations, Children, Peace, Armed Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Elizabeth M. Holt
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Palestine Studies
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: For the last decade of his life, the Palestinian intellectual, author, and editor Ghassan Kanafani (d. 1972) was deeply immersed in theorizing, lecturing, and publishing on Palestinian resistance literature from Beirut. A refugee of the 1948 war, Kanafani presented his theory of resistance literature and the notion of “cultural siege” at the March 1967 Beirut conference of the Soviet-funded Afro-Asian Writers Association (AAWA). Articulated in resistance to Zionist propaganda literature and in solidarity with Marxist- Leninist revolutionary struggles in the Third World, Kanafani was inspired by Maxim Gorky, William Faulkner, and Mao Zedong alike. In books, essays, and lectures, Kanafani argued that Zionist propaganda literature served as a “weapon” in the war against Palestine, returning repeatedly to Arthur Koestler’s 1946 Thieves in the Night. Better known for his critique of Stalinism in Darkness at Noon (1940), Koestler was also actively involved in waging cultural Cold War, writing the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Congress for Cultural Freedom 1950 manifesto and helping the organization infiltrate Afro-Asian writing in the wake of Bandung. Kanafani’s 1960s theory of resistance literature thus responded at once to the psychological dislocation of Zionist propaganda fiction and the cultural infiltration of Arabic literature in the Cold War.
  • Topic: Cold War, Zionism, Literature, Arabic, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon
  • Author: Tareq Baconi
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Palestine Studies
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: In contemporary conversations around Israel/Palestine, the Gaza Strip is construed as a state of exception, rendering the territory either hypervisible or entirely invisible. Through the prism of the Covid-19 pandemic and Israel’s possible de jure annexation of portions of the West Bank, this piece argues that rather than being exceptional, the Gaza Strip represents the very embodiment of Israeli settler colonialism in Palestine. Its isolation and de-development constitute the endpoint of Israel’s policies of land theft and Palestinian dispossession. This endpoint, referred to as Gazafication, entails the confinement of Palestinians to urban enclaves entirely surrounded by Israel or Israeli-controlled territory. The Trump plan, otherwise known as the “deal of the century,” along with the Covid- 19 crisis, have inadvertently exposed the reality of Gaza as an enclave of the one-state paradigm.
  • Topic: State Violence, Settler Colonialism, Nation-State, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Moscow is in Syria for the long haul and will continue to undermine American efforts there. In recent months, Moscow intensified its activities in Syria against the backdrop of a changing US administration. The Kremlin sent additional military policy units to eastern Syria, and continued diplomatic engagement through the Astana format, a process that superficially has international backing but in practice excludes the United States and boosts Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Moreover, Moscow also unveiled at its airbase in Syria a statue to the patron saint of the Russian army, Prince Alexander Nevsky. A growing Russian presence in Syria will further hurt Western interests.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Pavel K. Baev
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The recent incidence of war in the Caucasus has shown that, when facing deep domestic troubles, Russia and Turkey demonstrate strikingly different patterns of international behavior. While Russia has become more cautious in responding to external challenges, Turkey has embarked on several power-projecting enterprises. Its forceful interference in the long-smoldering conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh took Russia by surprise and effectively secured a military victory for Azerbaijan. Moscow has assumed the main responsibility for terminating hostilities by deploying a peacekeeping force, but its capacity for managing the war zone and its commitment to deconflicting tensions with Turkey remain uncertain. The United States and the European Union have few levers for influencing this interplay of clashing agendas of local actors and regional powers and fewer reasons to trust Russian and Turkish leaders to put peacebuilding ahead of their ambitions.
  • Topic: Security, War, Geopolitics, Grand Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Turkey, Caucasus, Middle East
  • 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: Anahita Motazed Rad
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: As the Biden and Rouhani administrations’ position to renew diplomatic efforts on the Iranian nuclear file with European support, they face more challenges than their predecessors did in 2015, when the Iranian nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was originally signed. Today, domestic, regional and international confrontations have increased; hardliners and conservatives in Tehran and Washington, on the one hand, and in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the other, are now more aligned and coordinated against a diplomatic success than they were in 2015.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Power, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, 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: Daniela Huber
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Historically speaking, the European Community and then the European Union have always reacted with paradigm changes in their foreign policies to watershed moments in the Middle East. In response to the two Arab-Israeli wars in 1967 and 1973, the European Community actually set up its own foreign policy in the first place and initiated the Euro-Arab Dialogue. After the Camp David Accords, the nine foreign ministers came out with the Venice Declaration in 1980 which reminded its partners in Washington and Tel Aviv that the Palestine question had been ignored and set the parameters for diplomacy in the 1990s. After the Cold War, however, the European Union became absorbed into the so-called Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), resulting in less independent EU agency on Israel/Palestine. This trend has become particularly obvious over the past four years of the Trump presidency, during which time the EU seemed almost paralyzed. While Europeans are now counting on the incoming Biden administration, during the election campaign Joe Biden stated that he will leave the US embassy in Jerusalem and that he is also favourable of the normalization deals between Israel and certain Arab states which President Trump had pushed for. At the same time, the Biden team seems hesitant to return to negotiations.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Human Rights, Territorial Disputes, European Union, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Antonella Caruso
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Iraq on 5 March 2021 for a historic three-day visit. The Holy Father aims to promote a message of hope and support to thousands of Iraqi Christians who have returned or are yet to return to their homes after the official defeat of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in December 2017. The first-ever Pontifical visit will also include stops in Mosul and the Christian enclave of Qaraqosh, in northern Iraq, in a province which has been ground zero for so much violence and ethnic and religious cleansing over the past years. All minorities have suffered in Iraq – but none as much as the Yazidis, slaughtered by the thousands by IS militants. While other minorities have slowly returned home, the Yazidi future remains bleaker than ever.
  • Topic: Religion, Minorities, Yazidis
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Vatican city, Mediterranean
  • 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: Maria-Louise Clausen
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Denmark assumed leadership of NATO Mission Iraq in late 2020. The Iraqi people’s perceptions of their personal security and of those who provide it can impact the success of this mission. A recent survey provides new insights. At a time of political turmoil and insecurity in Iraq, NATO has vowed to step up its commitment in the region. This happens at a time of increased resistance to the US presence in Iraq, and a deteriorating security situation due to the escalation of the conflict between the US and Iran taking place on Iraqi soil, as well as signs of an Islamic State resurgence. Security is a major concern in Iraq. When respondents were asked to select their most important concern for the Iraqi government to address, the most common choice was ‘maintaining security and stability’ (30.5%), closely followed by the job situation (27.5%), and corruption (26.2%). This should be read in conjunction with the fact that 71.7% of respondents stated that they experience their personal security as currently either only partially or not at all ensured. This was most pronounced among the surveyed Shias, with only 18.8% indicating that they feel fully or partly secure in contrast to 46.7% of Sunni respondents.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, NATO, Democratization, Diplomacy, International Organization, Non State Actors, Fragile States, Violence, Peace, Police, Justice
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, Denmark
  • Author: Maria-Louise Clausen, Ekatherina Zhukova
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: A priority for NATO Mission Iraq is to further the Women, Peace and Security agenda as one of the mission’s activities. This effort should focus on raising awareness of the operational benefits of equal opportunities and diversity and not just counting the number of women involved. RECOMMENDATIONS: Formulate a clear mandate for WPS functions in the mission that positions the WPS agenda as an integral element of NMI’s other activities. Support awareness-raising programmes and initiatives to transform social norms, including patriarchal gender norms and institutional socio-political constraints on female participation. Support the transparent qualifications-based recruitment and employment of women and prioritize the focus on inclusive work environments, both mentally and physically. Incorporate intersectional and masculinity perspectives in the work on WPS to avoid creating an image of WPS as a foreign-backed agenda that is only of, by and for elite women.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Democratization, Diplomacy, International Organization, Non State Actors, Women, Fragile States, Violence, Peace, Police, Justice
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Julien Maire, Adnan Mazarei, Edwin M. Truman
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Among the best-known sovereign wealth funds (SWFs)—government-owned or controlled investment vehicles—are those funded by hydrocarbon revenues in the member economies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which comprises all the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf except Iraq, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. This Policy Brief compares the GCC SWFs with each other and with other funds in terms of their transparency and accountability on the fifth SWF scoreboard, available here. Several factors, including the decline in oil prices in recent years, have slowed the growth of the GCC’s SWFs. This slower growth could further diminish their governance and transparency standards, which are already weaker than those of other SWFs. Efforts to improve their governance and accountability will be important to garner public support for these SWFs.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Government, Markets, Governance, Regulation, Capital Flows
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Saud Al-Sharafat
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The pandemic has not ended terrorism in Jordan, and ISIS is still a significant threat. Last year’s abnormally low terrorist activity in Jordan could be interpreted as an indication that the threat of ISIS in the country has diminished significantly. Unfortunately, this is not the case; while there are several explanations for the low occurrence of terrorist attacks in Jordan in 2020, none of them point to a future in which ISIS does not continue to pose a threat to Jordanian security. On the contrary, the decrease in ISIS activity in Jordan last year was primarily a result of effective counterterrorism efforts, not the special circumstances of the pandemic or any other factor. Accordingly, Jordanian anti-terror institutions should not relax their guard. Rather, they should capitalize on their successes, expanding cooperation with their partners and enhancing their resources in combatting extremism. Jordanian security forces should be especially concerned with activities along their borders. There have been several recent international and UN reports that confirmed the rising activities of terrorist groups in countries that border Jordan. Iraq in particular has seen a recent rise in terrorist attacks, including two suicide bombings in Baghdad on January 21, 2021 that killed 32 people and injured 110 others. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks. In turn, ISIS's mounting activities in Iraq have led to increased terrorist activity in the Badia al-Sham region and the Jordanian Syrian-Iraqi border triangle, where terrorist militants move in small, highly mobile groups. This increase in activity has prompted Jordanian security forces to strengthen their presence on the borders with Iraq and Syria. Following a Russian air campaign in the Badia region in late February, in which Russian planes launched at least 130 air strikes in one day against terrorist groups in the area, Jordan started to strengthen and tightened its security presence on the borders to prevent infiltration of ISIS elements into Jordan. Russian strikes were especially targeted at ISIS, which extends between the governorates of Homs and Deir al-Zour at the border with Iraq.
  • Topic: Security, Counter-terrorism, Peace, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Jordan
  • Author: Oula A. Alrifai
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The dalliance between the Assad family and Iran’s Shia clerics began in the 1970s. But whereas the Syrian leader held leverage in those days predating Iran’s Islamic Revolution, the tables have now been turned. Observers of the decade-long Syria war understand the indispensable role Tehran has played in ensuring the Assad regime’s survival. But they may be less familiar with its stunning breadth—or its historical roots. The dalliance between the Assad family and Iran’s Shia clerics began in the 1970s, when the shah was still in power in Iran and then president Hafiz al-Assad, a member of the marginalized Alawite sect, sought religious legitimacy to lead his majority-Muslim country. But whereas the Syrian leader held leverage in those days predating Iran’s Islamic Revolution, the tables have now been turned. Lately, Tehran’s relationship with Damascus can be described as one of strategic dominance. In this deeply researched Policy Note, analyst Oula Alrifai, a former Syrian asylee, lays bare the extent of Iranian infiltration of Syrian religious and socioeconomic life. She details the spread of Twelver Shia ideology through seminaries, congregation halls, and academic institutions, while demonstrating Iran’s massive economic clout in Syria through initiatives such as the Marota City housing project. For Washington, only a determined effort to blunt Iranian influence can help deliver much-deserved peace for the Syrian people and enduring stability for the region.
  • Topic: Religion, History, Authoritarianism, Ideology, Syrian War, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: U.S. concerns center on Turkey’s democratic backslide and deepening ties between Erdogan and Putin—but the Turkish president also wants to develop a rapport with Joe Biden and fortify his country’s weakened economy. In the seventh in a series of TRANSITION 2021 memos examining the Middle East and North Africa, Soner Cagaptay offers guidelines for reinforcing the strained U.S.-Turkey relationship. Principal causes for unease involve U.S. concerns about Turkey’s democratic backslide and deepening ties between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, particularly Ankara’s decision to purchase the S-400 missile defense system from Moscow. Yet Erdogan also wants to develop a rapport with President Biden and fortify his country’s weakened economy. Further, Ankara and Washington can find many areas for tactical cooperation in places such as Syria, Libya, and China’s Xinjiang province, where the government is carrying out a genocide against the Muslim Uyghur population “Erdogan needs to reverse the current dynamic by advancing the narrative that he is getting along just fine with Washington,” the author explains. “Thus, in this early phase of the U.S. administration, Biden would appear to have a brief window of leverage over his Turkish counterpart.” In the coming weeks, TRANSITION 2021 memos by Washington Institute experts will address the broad array of issues facing the Biden-Harris administration in the Middle East. These range from thematic issues, such as the region’s strategic position in the context of Great Power competition and how to most effectively elevate human rights and democracy in Middle East policy, to more discrete topics, from Arab-Israel peace diplomacy to Red Sea security to challenges and opportunities in northwest Africa. Taken as a whole, this series of memos will present a comprehensive approach for advancing U.S. interests in security and peace in this vital but volatile region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even as U.S. policymakers must stay focused on the Assad regime’s culpability, they also face a complex web of power dynamics in which Russia, Turkey, Iran, Israel, and other actors are attempting to secure their various interests. After a decade of civil war in Syria, the core antagonist remains the Assad regime, which in 2011 ruthlessly suppressed peaceful protestors and has since tortured and executed tens of thousands of detainees. The regime also bears responsibility for fostering the growth of the Islamic State, in part by releasing Syrian jihadists at the start of the war. Yet even as U.S. policymakers must stay focused on Assad’s culpability, they also face a highly complex web of power dynamics in which Russia, Turkey, Iran, Israel, and other actors are attempting to secure their various interests. In this Policy Note, expert Aaron Zelin details how the world’s counterterrorism and Great Power challenges converge in Syria, and how they must be addressed holistically. To this end, he proposes policies on the diplomatic, humanitarian, legal, economic, and military fronts that can calm the fears of U.S. allies such as Israel, Jordan, and Turkey, and perhaps inspire a more robust opposition, backed by a diverse set of local and diaspora activists.
  • Topic: Counter-terrorism, Syrian War, Strategic Competition, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Albert B. Wolf
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Whoever wins, the result will intimate deeper trends in Iranian society, such as public support for the regime and the Supreme Leader’s intentions for the country’s future. The Washington Institute has been sponsoring a series of discussions about sudden succession in the Middle East. Each session focuses on scenarios that might unfold if a specific ruler or leader departed the scene tomorrow. Questions include these: Would the sudden change lead to different policies? Would it affect the stability of the respective countries involved, or the region as a whole? What would be the impact on U.S. interests? Would the manner of a leader’s departure make a difference? The discussions also probe how the U.S. government might adjust to the new situation or influence outcomes. This essay, thirteenth in the series, assesses the situation in Iran, where a June election will determine the successor to President Hassan Rouhani. An IRGC-backed candidate such as Majlis speaker Muhammad Baqer Qalibaf or former defense minister Hossein Dehghan could ultimately prevail—but a history of election surprises in the Islamic Republic suggests no outcome is certain. Whoever wins, the result will offer clues about deeper trends in Iranian society, such as public support for the regime and the Supreme Leader’s intentions for the country’s future.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Elections, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Eisenstadt, David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Areas for especially timely U.S.-Israel cooperation include climate resilience, agtech, and medical research, as well as longstanding work in the military and security arenas. In the fifth in a series of TRANSITION 2021 memos examining the Middle East and North Africa, Michael Eisenstadt and David Pollock assess the multifaceted strengths of the U.S.-Israel partnership and its prospects for growth under the Biden administration. Areas for especially timely cooperation include climate resilience, agtech, and medical research, as well as longstanding work in the military and security arenas. Israel’s recent normalization deals with several Arab states only further widen the horizon. “Israel is a world-class innovator in technologies that will be critical to meeting future challenges, including artificial intelligence, information technology, and cybersecurity; sustainable water, food, and energy solutions; and high-tech medicine,” explain the authors. “All these areas are supportive of America’s foreign policy priorities.” In the coming weeks, TRANSITION 2021 memos by Washington Institute experts will address the broad array of issues facing the Biden-Harris administration in the Middle East. These range from thematic issues, such as the region’s strategic position in the context of Great Power competition and how to most effectively elevate human rights and democracy in Middle East policy, to more discrete topics, from Arab-Israel peace diplomacy to Red Sea security to challenges and opportunities in northwest Africa. Taken as a whole, this series of memos will present a comprehensive approach for advancing U.S. interests in security and peace in this vital but volatile region.
  • Topic: Security, Climate Change, International Cooperation, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Dennis Ross
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A reimagined approach to Iran nuclear talks could extend the country’s breakout time, preserve U.S. negotiating leverage, and strengthen American alliances in Europe and across the Middle East. In the first in a series of TRANSITION 2021 memos examining policy challenges across the Middle East, esteemed diplomat and policymaker Dennis Ross provides an innovative approach to reengaging Iran in nuclear diplomacy. His ideas have the potential to extend Iran’s breakout time, preserve U.S. negotiating leverage, and strengthen U.S. alliances in Europe and across the Middle East. Ross explains: “If regime change is not a realistic or advisable goal, the objective must be one of changing the Islamic Republic’s behavior. While this would be difficult, history shows that the regime will make tactical adjustments with strategic consequences when it considers the price of its policies to be too high.” In the coming weeks, TRANSITION 2021 memos by Washington Institute experts will address the broad array of issues facing the Biden-Harris administration in the Middle East. These range from thematic issues, such as the region’s strategic position in the context of Great Power competition and how to most effectively elevate human rights and democracy in Middle East policy, to more discrete topics, from Arab-Israel peace diplomacy to Red Sea security to challenges and opportunities in northwest Africa. Taken as a whole, this series of memos will present a comprehensive approach for advancing U.S. interests in security and peace in this vital but volatile region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Nuclear Power, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Maged Atef
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Turkey is making overtures for rapprochement with Egypt. How will Sisi respond? In a surprising development, Turkey-based media channels opposed to the Egyptian regime announced the suspension of all political programs attacking President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and his regime, based on directives from the Turkish government. Supporters of the Egyptian regime met the news with happiness and approval, counting it as a victory for Sisi. Yet the Egyptian regime itself refrained from showing enthusiasm towards this paradigm shift, contenting itself with a remark by Minister of Information Osama Heikal in which the minister said the move represented a “good gesture from Turkey.” Meanwhile, Egyptian Islamists residing in Turkey were struck by concerns that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could be contemplating handing them over to Cairo. Looking ahead, despite the importance of Erdogan’s gesture, any response from Sisi is still unclear
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Muslim Brotherhood
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: Michael Knights, Pierre Morcos, Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: NATO stands ready to increase its commitment in a slow and steady manner consistent with Baghdad’s needs, but careful communication will be crucial, as will a more strategic discussion on how to combine different assistance efforts. On February 18, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg announced a decision to increase the size of NATO Mission Iraq (NMI) from 500 personnel to as many as 4,000. Although he noted that such deployments would be “conditions-based,” “incremental,” and subject to Baghdad’s authorization, the troop numbers were the only element of his announcement widely reported inside Iraq, resulting in swift political pressure on the government to explain the seemingly steep increase. In fact, there is no imminent NATO “surge” planned in Iraq, but rather a greater openness and general intent to gradually provide more advisors capable of assisting local authorities with security sector reform (SSR). When handled appropriately and combined with other efforts, this initiative can create good opportunities for quiet, persistent security cooperation that helps strengthen the Iraqi state, evolve multinational military relations beyond the campaign against the Islamic State (IS), and spread the burden of support more broadly among U.S. allies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, NATO, Military Strategy, Reform
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Kenneth R. Rosen
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Interviews reveal how Syrian officials are extorting their people. It is sometimes difficult to conceptualize what the dire situation of Syria’s economy means for those who live there. Some 100 tankers of fuel flow across Lebanon’s border into Syria, but the persistent lack of gas limits families' ability to heat their homes, which, in regime-held areas, already face large-scale electricity blackouts that last for hours. Likewise, hot water is a commodity afforded only to those with financial means and connections, and it is a luxury to take a hot shower in many parts of Syria. Meanwhile, on Facebook, a UNHCR tarp is for sale and women are selling their hair to feed their families—just two examples of the type of entrepreneurship needed to weather abounding hardships in a country that has known only war for the last decade. Over the summer, the Syrian pound collapsed as U.S. sanctions continue to deter international support for the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has likewise furthered the collapse of the country’s economic infrastructure. As Syrians search for means of generating income, officials employed by the regime have gained access to funds through extortion. A common form of this extortion is the forced detention of individuals whose families must then bribe officials for either visitation rights or the release of their loved ones. A report from January underscores the scale of such extortion operations, which have remained a staple in regime tactics for years, though they are especially prevalent now given the country’s ongoing war and collapsed economy. The report—produced by the Association of Detainees and the Missing in Sednaya Prison—surveyed more than 1,200 prisoners and families. Respondents said that bribes rose as high as nearly $3 million at one jail, though the range varied. Visitation or release fees were usually a few thousand dollars or less, but bribes would be increased for families living outside of Syria, averaging about $30,000. The report underscored how these payments—far greater than the average public sector annual salary of roughly $150 per month, according to Qassioun, a Syrian newspaper —could feed the country’s security apparatus and the regime through guards, judges, military personnel, and middlemen who facilitate the negotiations. “The Syrian Arab Army is the primary party that is responsible for these types of arrests,” says to the report.
  • Topic: Crime, Economy, Syrian War, Abductions
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Lilian Tauber
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By committing to long-term investments in Jordan’s communities through support for social enterprises, the United States can contribute to the country’s stability and economic growth. In Jordan, one of the United States’ most reliable allies in the Middle East, economic volatility is a major threat to stability and has led to recurrent protests since 2011. High youth unemployment rates and a large refugee population contribute to its economic woes and political tensions, all of which are now exacerbated in the Covid-19 pandemic. The United States can support Jordan’s recovery from the pandemic through long-term investment in social entrepreneurship. The country’s entrepreneurship ecosystem is in a developing stage, with most resources focused on short-term funding and training, so a shift in U.S. aid to longer-term support can make a significant difference. Increasing funds and providing multi-year mentorship and operational support to select social enterprises (SEs) will allow them to become powerful forces for positive change and civic engagement in their communities.
  • Topic: Development, Foreign Aid, Economy, Investment
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan, United States of America
  • Author: Chiraz Arbi, Maurizio Geri
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Gridlock and economic stagnation are testing the Arab world's only functioning democracy. On January 14, 2021, Tunisia celebrated the 10th anniversary of the end of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime, the result of a revolution that led to a firm commitment to a process of democratization in the country. And while the revolution has meant significant change and positive development for Tunisian democracy, the Tunisian people are currently losing faith in the direction of their government as Tunisia’s democratic institutions are struggling to endure parliamentary gridlock and economic malaise—as evidenced by the recent street protests over the past few days. Consecutive Riots and demonstrations in the Capital and in several cities across the country came to defy the government’s nationwide lockdown and curfew due to Covid-19 and to symbolize the youth’s overall disenchantment. While the Prime Minister assured that this anger was “legitimate”, protests were faced by police violence and led to more than 600 arrests of protestors aged between 14 and 25.
  • Topic: Democracy, Economy, Arab Spring
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Tunisia
  • Author: Hazem Albassam, Coline Ferrant
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A recent poll gauges Egyptians' lasting impressions of their chapter in the Arab Spring. In 2011, after just eighteen days, from January 25 to February 11, the Egyptian public overthrew the 30-year-long dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. A decade afterwards, we sought to have Egyptians reflect on the collective memory of those days. What fueled the revolution? Was it successful? Did it lose its way? Attempts to explain the Revolution in public discourse point to inequality, economic stagnation, poverty, unemployment, and corruption. Reflecting on these indicators, we compare them to Egyptians’ own recollections through the analysis of an exploratory survey conducted in November 2020.
  • Topic: Public Opinion, Arab Spring, Memory, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Egypt
  • Author: Noah Coburn
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: The United States’ Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program was designed to help Afghans and Iraqis who are in danger of being killed as a result of their service to the U.S. government as translators or in other civilian jobs. As of 2020, over 18,000 Afghan applicants have received U.S. visas, along with over 45,000 of their immediate family members, and immigrated to the U.S. The program has been plagued by bureaucratic inefficiencies and significant problems with the application process, resulting in a backlog of an additional 18,800 applications according to a 2019 review of the program. The lives of thousands of these applicants are currently at risk. This report on the Afghan SIV program, based on interviews with over 150 SIV applicants and recipients, as well as a review of other studies of the program, suggests that while the program is well-intentioned and beneficial to certain successful applicants, its current structure puts the lives of applicants at risk and leaves them vulnerable to exploitation before, during and after the process. The lack of a coherent, effective strategy to support these workers, and the failure to implement the program as originally envisioned, leaves applicants stranded in Afghanistan or elsewhere and vulnerable to attacks by the Taliban and criminal groups, as well as other forms of exploitation. This has further undermined the reputation of the United States government in Afghanistan while serving a relatively small percentage of those Afghans who worked closely with the U.S. The program also does little to support those who do receive visas and move to the U.S. They are ultimately disappointed in, and unprepared for, the lack of support they receive upon settling in the United States. The program could do much more to prepare and support these recipients for the challenges they are likely to face during resettlement. The Biden administration’s current review of the SIV program is a good step forward, but unless that review takes a closer look at the true human costs of its flawed processes, it is likely to result in little more than bureaucratic tinkering. The program must be seriously overhauled, based on a reconceptualization of how to best support those who put their lives at risk to assist the United States government. As it is currently structured, the SIV program may in fact be doing more harm than good.
  • Topic: Immigration, Military Affairs, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, War on Terror
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, South Asia, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Azerbaijan’s victory in the Second Karabakh War (September 29–November 9) has had a transformative effect on the country. It not only changed the attitudes of its population, whose members now feel themselves to be heroes rather than victims (see EDM, January 21), but also bolstered the diplomatic weight and possibilities of the Azerbaijani government in its dealings with other regional states. In prosecuting a triumphant war against Yerevan, Baku demonstrated its own ability to act. But just as importantly, Azerbaijan has shown to peoples and governments in the Caucasus and Central Asia that it is a force to be reckoned with, in part thanks to its growing links with Turkey. Moreover, that alliance makes possible an appealing path to the outside world for all who join it. That reality is causing countries east of the Caspian to look westward to and through Azerbaijan in their economic planning and political calculations. At the same time, however, these developments are generating concerns in Moscow and Tehran, which oppose east-west trade routes that bypass their countries’ territories and instead favor north-south corridors linking Russia and Iran together. As a result, Azerbaijan’s recent successes in expanding links with Central Asia set the stage for new conflicts between Azerbaijan and its Turkic partners, on the one hand, and Russia and Iran, which have far more significant naval assets in the Caspian, on the other (see EDM, November 27, 2018 and February 20, 2020; Casp-geo.ru, December 24, 2019; Chinalogist.ru, November 21, 2019).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Central Asia, Middle East, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Rahim Rahimov
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Iran emerged as a potential loser from the Russia-brokered trilateral truce accords that ended last autumn’s 44-day Second Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan (see EDM January 25). Therefore, Tehran is seeking ways to reposition itself into the new situation in line with its interests. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s five-country regional tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Turkey, between January 25 and 28, clearly carried that mission (Tasnim News Agency, January 30). In particular, a top agenda item during this series of foreign visits was the proposal to reactivate a Soviet-era railway connecting Iran and Armenia via Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan exclave, which is wedged between them and Turkey (Twitter.com/JZarif, January 26).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Infrastructure, Transportation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Armenia, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Jacob Lees Weiss
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On December 20, 2020, 21 Katyusha rockets struck the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, breaking an Iranian-sponsored ceasefire in Iraq for a second time (U.S. Central Command, December 23, 2020). The Iraqi security forces later arrested a member of the Iraqi political and militant organization Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), Hussam al-Azirjawi, after finding conclusive evidence of his involvement in the attack (al-Hurra, December 26, 2020). Following al-Azirjawi’s arrest, multiple widely-shared clips on social media appeared to show a large mobilization of armed AAH militants in East Baghdad. A further clip showing masked AAH gunmen threatening to attack Iraqi security forces on command from AAH leader, Qais al-Khazali (al-Arabiya, December 25 2020). These arrests and video clips reveal that AAH has begun to show increasing signs of dissent from the party line set by Iran and its most loyal proxy in Iraq, Kata’ib Hezbollah.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Conflict, Militias, Resistance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Abdullah Al-Arian
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: Prof. Abdullah Al-Arian discusses how Islamist movements have historically viewed diplomacy as important to their activist missions.
  • Topic: International Relations, Cold War, Diplomacy, Politics, History, Islamism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, Egypt, United States of America
  • Author: Haizam Amirah-Fernandez
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic is shaking Arab countries hard at a time when the region is already under great pressure. The responses of Arab states to the threat of the coronavirus, added to the uncertain international context generated by the pandemic, is aggravating existing problems in the Middle East and the Maghreb. This current global emergency and its ramifications has the potential to turn socioeconomic challenges into political crises and intensify demands for change that have spread through multiple countries in the region over the past decade. Until an effective vaccine against the pandemic is made available and widely accessible, the economic and social costs of the drastic restrictions being imposed by Arab governments during the successive waves of the pandemic may be overwhelming and, ultimately, unbearable.
  • Topic: Politics, Arts, Culture, COVID-19, Demonstrations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries, North Africa
  • Author: Michał Wojnarowicz
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Since last year, Israel has increased its operations against Iran’s nuclear programme. The actions corresponded to the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy on Iran. Currently, the Israeli actions are an attempt to put pressure on the negotiations launched by the U.S. and Iran to restore the nuclear agreement. Israel opposes those talks, but further escalation will be limited by the stance of the Biden administration.
  • Topic: Nuclear Power, Cybersecurity, Joe Biden, Escalation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, United States of America
  • Author: Sara Nowacka
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: At the end of March, Lebanese President Michel Aoun rejected a proposal by designated Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri regarding the composition of the new government. The breakdown of the negotiations shows that despite the deepening socio-economic crisis, political groups are unable to develop a common vision for the reconstruction of the state. The EU, UN, and the World Bank engaged in initiatives aiming to improve Lebanon’s situation. However, the political deadlock threatens the implementation of their co-created “3RF” reform plan.
  • Topic: United Nations, World Bank, European Union, Economy, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Michał Wojnarowicz
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The cancellation of the 22 May parliamentary elections in the Palestinian Authority (PA) by President Mahmoud Abbas deepens the Palestinian political crisis and contributed to the escalation between Hamas and Israel. The decision is a result of internal disputes in the PA leadership and insufficient external support, primarily from the U.S. The lack of elections will preserve the current political turmoil in the PA and weaken Palestinian relations with Israel.
  • Topic: Politics, Elections, Crisis Management, Escalation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Karol Wasilewski
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The EU intends to implement a new model of relations with Turkey based on phased, proportional, and reversible engagement. The Union’s plans are a consequence of a dilemma: although Turkey often acts like an adversary, EU members want to maintain close relations with it due to the convergence of interests in areas such as migration and the economy. The Union’s new approach creates the opportunity to strengthen its influence on Turkey. Yet, different expectations about the future shape of relations will keep EU-Turkey relations tense.
  • Topic: International Relations, Migration, European Union, Economy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Michał Wojnarowicz
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The continuing crisis in government has led to the dissolution of the Knesset and early parliamentary elections in Israel, the fourth in the last two years. Polls do not reveal any possible coalition variants, which increases the possibility for further elections in autumn. This scenario favours Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose position is strengthened by the effective vaccination campaign against COVID-19 and the normalisation of relations with Gulf states.
  • Topic: Elections, Domestic politics, Benjamin Netanyahu, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gulf Nations
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This document presents recommendations for initial policy steps that the Biden Administration can take to advance Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. It describes the current state of play in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as Biden takes office, identifies nine key goals for the new administration in advancing peacemaking, and outlines concrete policy steps for their implementation. These are the goals outlined in the document: (1) Highlighting the importance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; (2) Renewing ties and building trust with the Palestinian leadership; (3) Emphasizing US commitment to the two-state solution and formulating parameters for a final-status agreement; (4) Preserving the feasibility of the two-state solution and drawing red lines; (5) Leading multilateral steps, such as creating a new international mechanism and an incentives package; (6) Leveraging Israeli-Arab normalization to advance the peace process; (7) Improving the situation in Gaza and ending the internal Palestinian divide; (8) Empowering pro-peace Israeli and Palestinian actors, including in civil society; (9) Setting a constructive tone to relations with the Israeli leadership and public.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Conflict, Peace, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Kamal Ali-Hassan, Ehud Eiran, Nimrod Goren, Merav Kahana-Dagan, Roee Kibrik, Lior Lehrs, Gabriel Mitchell, Elie Podeh, Ksenia Svetlova, Nadav Tamir, Yonatan Touval
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This document summarizes recommendations for initial policy steps that the Biden Administration could take to advance Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. It identifies nine key goals for the new administration and outlines concrete policy steps for their implementation.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Peace, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Nimrod Goren
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The progressive camp in Israel has been trying for years to find its way back to the corridors of power and influence, so far unsuccessfully. Those seeking strategies and tactics for change often wonder whether the solution to Israel’s problems will emerge from without, for example driven by international pressure, or from within, by convincing and mobilizing the Israeli public. A third option to this dichotomy has emerged in recent years in the shape of combined and coordinated moves both within Israeli society and in cooperation with allies abroad.
  • Topic: International Relations, Civil Society, Nationalism, Politics, Partnerships, Populism, Progressivism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Lior Lehrs, Moien Odeh, Nimrod Goren, Huda Abu Arqoub
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: peace processes and have the potential to contribute to the advancement of Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution. A team of Israeli and Palestinian policy experts developed a joint proposal for an international package of incentives for peace. The proposal defines the central needs of the parties that the incentives package must address, focusing on security, recognition and legitimacy, religious rights, economic prosperity and domestic needs. It examines which international actors can be relevant in addressing those needs and should be part of an international incentives package, elaborating on the potential role of the US, the EU, and the Arab and the Muslim world. The proposal also discusses when and how a package of incentives should be introduced and delivered, and what should be the international mechanism required to promote it.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, European Union, Peace, Incentives
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Gabriel Mitchell
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: For decades, the US operated as the central mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. However, after decades of stalled negotiations, it is likely that future peacemaking efforts will be multilateral, reliant on an orchestra of international actors who can support specific processes that, in concert, could encourage Israelis and Palestinians to reapproach one another. This piece examines the role of Greece and Cyprus, two regional actors whose strategic relationship with Israel has strengthened over the last decade, could help advance peace. Though secondary players in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there are concrete ways that both states – if invited by the central parties – could contribute to a more conducive environment for cooperation and dialogue.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Diplomacy, International Affairs, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Cyprus