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  • 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: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: Although both the United States and Iran say they do not want a direct military confrontation, such escalation by the United States necessarily invites an Iranian response, particularly since Tehran is butting heads with US regional allies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Author: Ferry de Kerckhove
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: The art of war has changed considerably since the end of the Second World War. In the last 15 years, the centre of gravity has slowly shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The West is increasingly being destabilized. Hybrid warfare and cyber-attacks have become increasingly effective alternatives to both hard and soft power. Russia is a major player in this domain; so is Iran. Other players are joining the fray, most of them hostile to the West, such as Iran and Russia’s client states. The barriers between civilian and military are fading quickly. All-out war now happens in a space that’s invisible to the naked eye. Not only is such warfare threatening us, but it also has consequences we have barely begun to assess. The divide between good and bad is blurring. Marshall McLuhan said the medium is the message. Today, the medium and the message are an undecipherable continuum where evil and lies coexist with truth and goodwill. Technological prowess increases vulnerability, but technology is also at the heart of corresponding systems of security. Thus, we have fully entered a new arms race where deterrence comes from the other side knowing what you don’t want him to discover, but what you want him to fear. Voltaire said: “If you wish to speak to me, let us start by defining the meaning of our words.” In this day and age, this mantra is particularly applicable to the definition of contemporary threats as well as of the targets, or even who is in the sights of Russian and Middle Eastern leaders. “Cyberspace is a domain characterized by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to store, modify, and exchange data via networked systems and associated physical infrastructures. In effect, cyberspace can be thought of as the interconnection of human beings through computers and telecommunication, without regard to physical geography.” Consequently, “(c)ybersecurity is the practice of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks. These cyberattacks are usually aimed at accessing, changing, or destroying sensitive information; extorting money from users; or interrupting normal business processes. Implementing effective cybersecurity measures is particularly challenging today because there are more devices than people, and attackers are becoming more innovative.” Discussions focus on whether Russia or China is the heavyweight in terms of threat. Some argue that China is more subtle while Russia is more of a rogue. But it is undeniable that China’s attempt to change the fundamental paradigm of international relations, while using and hopefully subduing the existing international order’s mechanisms to its advantage, represents a holistic approach and is thus more threatening to the world if it even partly succeeds. Indeed, the planet’s centre of gravity is moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific and that means the global threat comes from China. If we needed a reminder, in 2014 Chinese hackers stole the personal information of more than 22 million people connected to U.S. security clearance processes. Not bad for five years ago!
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Benjamin H. Friedman, Justin Logan
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Defense Priorities
  • Abstract: The United States intervened in Syria’s civil war in two ways: (1) anti-Assad efforts—through aid to rebels to help foster regime change and with airpower, troops and support to a militia—and (2) anti-ISIS efforts—through aid to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to destroy the Islamic State’s territorial caliphate. The first mission was an ill-considered failure, the second a success.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, Military Strategy, Peacekeeping, Military Affairs, Military Intervention, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Iran, Syria
  • Author: Christian Koch, Marc Finaud, Bernd W. Kubbig
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: This Policy Forum issue analyses the 2004-2006 initiative to establish a sub-regional zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Gulf (GWMDFZ) as a tool to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapon state. The initiative’s gradual approach which aimed at the ultimate goal of encompassing the entire Middle East (including Israel) was innovative, and the assertive role of some smaller Gulf states in expressing their security concerns/interests and verification standards that Tehran would have had to meet was unprecedented. But the entire sub-regional idea remained confined to the declaratory level. In contrast, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or greement/accord) – endangered as it currently is – struck between the E3/EU+3 and Iran exceeds some of the concerns of the earlier initiative, yet misses others. We conclude that new – and ultimately sustainable – regional forums as communication mechanisms are needed to tackle these issues without touching on the JCPOA. The challenges go beyond Iran and include the nuclear activities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and even more so of Saudi Arabia. Our Cooperative Idea emphasises that moving beyond the purely declaratory policy of the GWMDFZ initiative could also help to overcome the current stalemate regarding a zonal disarmament arrangement for the whole Middle East/Gulf region.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Weapons
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Shemuel Meir
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: Attempts to achieve a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD-Free Zone) in the Middle East have become even more complicated than in the past. This Policy Forum issue provides a fresh look at the topic in order to offer common ground for positive discussions on Middle East disarmament. Its main novelty is to look at the security threat as perceived by Israel in the context of an Israeli-Egyptian-Iranian triangle that complements the old paradigm of an Israeli-Egyptian dyad. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or agreement/accord) with Iran is a challenge for some regional actors but at the same time could form a basis for bridging the disarmament gap, especially with its unprecedented robust verification regime. From a purely strategic angle, the JCPOA is beneficial to Israel’s national security interests. It is therefore to be hoped that this multilateral agreement will withstand the Donald Trump administration’s attempts to dismantle it.
  • Topic: National Security, Treaties and Agreements, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Weapons , Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, United States of America
  • Author: Marc Finaud, Bernd W. Kubbig
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: The highly controversial missile problem in the Middle East should – and can – be constructively tackled by not singling out Iran and by avoiding onesided maximalist and unrealistic demands towards Tehran. The authors aim at providing incentives for Iran to start discussion on its missile arsenal in three ways: they propose (a) applying vital elements that led to the successful conclusion of the JCPOA; (b) regionalising future talks in a triangle that includes from the beginning the missiles of Saudi Arabia and Israel; and (c) starting with modest confidence-building steps among the three major powers. Among the extra-regional players the United States continues to have a special responsibility for engaging in such a cooperative approach.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Weapons
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Christian Koch, Marc Finaud, Bernd W. Kubbig
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: This Policy Forum issue analyses the 2004-2006 initiative to establish a sub-regional zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Gulf (GWMDFZ) as a tool to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapon state. The initiative’s gradual approach which aimed at the ultimate goal of encompassing the entire Middle East (including Israel) was innovative, and the assertive role of some smaller Gulf states in expressing their security concerns/interests and verification standards that Tehran would have had to meet was unprecedented. But the entire sub-regional idea remained confined to the declaratory level. In contrast, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or greement/accord) – endangered as it currently is – struck between the E3/EU+3 and Iran exceeds some of the concerns of the earlier initiative, yet misses others. We conclude that new – and ultimately sustainable – regional forums as communication mechanisms are needed to tackle these issues without touching on the JCPOA. The challenges go beyond Iran and include the nuclear activities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and even more so of Saudi Arabia. Our Cooperative Idea emphasises that moving beyond the purely declaratory policy of the GWMDFZ initiative could also help to overcome the current stalemate regarding a zonal disarmament arrangement for the whole Middle East/Gulf region.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Weapons of Mass Destruction, History
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Bijan Khajehpour
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: Based on his rich experience since 1994 as a strategy consultant for major international companies investing in Iran, the author makes the case for using the achievement-oriented approach of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a model for tackling all major regional challenges in a cooperative way, especially by non-governmental actors.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Non State Actors, Business , Trade
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Daniel Muller
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: This Policy Forum issue advocates using elements of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or agreement/accord) in prospective negotiations to create a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery vehicles (DVs) in the Middle East. In a stalemated situation resembling efforts to negotiate a zonal arrangement, the JCPOA after more than 12 years of negotiations succeeded in striking a multilateral deal among adversaries with diverging capabilities and agendas who doubted each other’s intentions and were reluctant to make concessions.By establishing an incentive-based mechanism that encouraged and facilitated cooperation, the JCPOA succeeded in trading various issues to reach common ground in an incremental step-by-step approach of carefully sequenced quid pro quos. Framed as an agreement among equals and safeguarded by multiple compliance mechanisms, the JCPOA (or aspects of it) could serve as a toolbox for zonal negotiations on disarmament, help to link hardened actors, and break up entrenched interest structures and dogmatic policy positions.
  • Topic: Security, Treaties and Agreements, Weapons , Disarmament
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Gulf Nations