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  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As in other conflict zones, Moscow cares little about reaching a peace deal so long as it can outmaneuver the West strategically while securing port and energy access—with private contractors playing an increasingly important role. The Kremlin is now openly treating Libya as another focal point of its Middle East activities. After years of U.S. neglect, the country has turned into a proxy war playground, and President Vladimir Putin is vying to become the chief power broker. Earlier this month, he tried (but failed) to get Khalifa Haftar to sign a ceasefire agreement in Moscow with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). Putin also participated in the January 19 Berlin conference aimed at getting the parties back on the path toward a political solution. And though the prospects for such a deal remain uncertain, Moscow’s involvement in Libya will continue either way.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Civil War, Geopolitics, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Thomas S. Wilkins
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: The notion of the “Indo Pacific” (IP) as a regional construct has gained significant traction in the last few years, at least in part due to its adoption in the centerpiece “Free and Open Indo Pacific” (FOIP) strategies of the United States and Japan. The continued application of the term by policymakers, analysts and scholars has served to further entrench its prominence within the regional security discourse. As a consequence, all states with major interests in this “new” region have felt compelled to engage with the concept and formulate appropriate policies to embrace or otherwise react to it. This task is made all the more difficult due to the fluidity of its definitions, interpretations, and the differing motivations of competing regional states that either adopt or reject it.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics, ASEAN
  • Political Geography: Japan, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Monika Chansoria
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: South China Sea’s territorial disputes gained the spotlight yet again with the April 18, 2020 announcement1 by China’s State Council, through which, it approved setting up ‘two new’ municipal districts (dependencies of the southernmost Sansha city, in the Hainan province) covering the South China Sea – namely the ‘Xisha District’ and ‘Nansha District’. Home to an estimated 11 billion barrels of untapped oil, and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea possess rich natural resources and fishing areas. The Fiery Cross Reef will be in charge of the administration of the islands, reefs, and sea areas of the Spratly Islands.2 The Fiery Cross Reef used to be an underwater reef that was converted into an artificial island following massive land reclamation undertaken by China. This reef was virtually untouched by manmade structures until March 2014 and was transformed into an artificial island in the span of one year by March 2015. Furthermore, the Woody Island will be in charge of the administration of the islands, reef, and sea areas of the Paracel Islands.3 China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Natural Resources has released the longitudes, latitudes, and standardized names of 25 islands and reefs and 55 undersea geographic entities in the disputed South China Sea. The listed islands include Sanzhizai – an islet north of the Woody Island in Sansha city in South China’s Hainan Province.
  • Topic: Territorial Disputes, Geopolitics, Arbitration
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Philippines, South China Sea
  • Author: Thomas S. Wilkins
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: The spread of the novel Corona Virus COVID-19 from the Chinese province of Hebei across the world has resulted in a global pandemic of catastrophic proportions. Certain countries have been affected more severely than others, and there have been glaring disparities in how national governments have responded to the outbreak. In addition to the global death toll of 400,000 (and counting), the industrial and financial disruption has been severe, with the Asian Development Bank estimating the loss to the global economy at between USD$ 5.8-8.8 trillion.1 To overcome the current crisis, and work toward a vaccine, global solidarity, including cooperation through multilateral organizations like the World Heath Organization (WHO), is desperately needed.
  • Topic: Health, Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Rawi Abdelal, Aurélie Bros
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Sanctions have become the dominant tool of statecraft of the United States and other Western states, especially the European Union, since the end of the Cold War. But the systematic use of this instrument may produce unintended and somewhat paradoxical geopolitical consequences. The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation in the field of energy are particularly illustrative of this phenomenon.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Sanctions, Geopolitics, Secondary Sanctions, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Cullen S. Hendrix, Sooyeon Kang
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The nature and magnitude of geopolitical risk is changing more rapidly than the ability to anticipate it, with increasingly severe economic consequences. This Policy Brief discusses the economic costs and risks associated with episodes of political instability, arguing that firms, government agencies, and international institutions must update their forecasting and risk assessment efforts to take global factors into account. Since the global financial crisis, political instability has shifted from emerging-market countries in the developing world to larger, more globally impactful econo¬mies. Acknowledging this changing risk profile—and developing better tools to predict major episodes of instability—will allow both policymakers and firms to plan with greater confidence.
  • Topic: Economics, Geopolitics, Economy, Political stability
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Cullen S. Hendrix, Sooyeon Kang
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The nature and magnitude of geopolitical risk is changing more rapidly than the ability to anticipate it, with increasingly severe economic consequences. This Policy Brief discusses the economic costs and risks associated with episodes of political instability, arguing that firms, government agencies, and international institutions must update their forecasting and risk assessment efforts to take global factors into account. Since the global financial crisis, political instability has shifted from emerging-market countries in the developing world to larger, more globally impactful econo¬mies. Acknowledging this changing risk profile—and developing better tools to predict major episodes of instability—will allow both policymakers and firms to plan with greater confidence.
  • Topic: Economics, Financial Crisis, Geopolitics, Political stability, Risk
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Oula A. Alrifai
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Tehran and its proxies have been exerting hard and soft power in northeast Syria, combining military consolidation with economic, social, and religious outreach in order to cement their long-term influence. On September 30, Syria and Iraq reopened their main border crossing between al-Bukamal and al-Qaim, which had been formally closed for five years. The circumstances surrounding the event were telling—the ceremony was delayed by a couple weeks because of unclaimed foreign airstrikes on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targets in east Syria following the Iranian attack against Saudi oil facilities earlier that month. What exactly have the IRGC and its local proxies been doing in Deir al-Zour province? And what does this activity tell us about Iran’s wider plans there?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Education, Military Strategy, Geopolitics, Conflict, Soft Power
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay, Ben Fishman
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Facing pressure from General Haftar and his foreign military backers, the Tripoli government has welcomed the helping hand extended by Ankara, whose own lack of regional options has drawn it into the middle of another conflict. On December 10, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he was willing to deploy troops in Libya if the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli requested it. He reiterated the offer during a December 15 meeting with GNA prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Ankara—a visit that arose after Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who heads the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) and seeks to replace the GNA, renewed his push to take Tripoli by force. Meanwhile, Turkey signed two controversial agreements with Tripoli over the past month: a memorandum of understanding on providing the GNA with arms, training, and military personnel, formally ratified by Tripoli earlier today; and a November 28 maritime agreement delineating exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean waters separating the two countries. The latter move drew protests from Greece and Egypt and was condemned “unequivocally” by the European Council. These and other developments indicate Libya’s emerging status as a focal point of Ankara’s foreign policy, which seemingly regards the country as an arena for Turkish proxy competition with rivals old (Greece) and new (Egypt and the United Arab Emirates). At the same time, Libya’s GNA has become increasingly dependent on Ankara for military reasons—namely, a lack of other allies willing to provide arms capable of countering the LNA’s Emiratisupplied drones, and the arrival of Russian mercenaries who have added new technology and precision to Haftar’s war against Tripoli. Unless Washington invests more diplomatic energy and fully backs the German-led initiative to implement a ceasefire and return to peace negotiations, the proxy war in Libya will only escalate. In that scenario, Turkey and Russia—not the United States or its European partners—could be become the arbiters of Libya’s future.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Civil War, Military Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: Daniel Forti
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: In the face of evolving security dynamics and geopolitical pressures, the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council initiated the withdrawal of the AU-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in 2017. This transition is a uniquely complex undertaking—all the more so following Sudan’s political revolution in April 2019, which required the UN and AU to rapidly adapt their support to the country. This complex environment is putting all the principles of peacekeeping transitions to the test. This paper examines the dynamics of this peacekeeping transition in Darfur, focusing on UNAMID’s drawdown and reconfiguration, as well as the UN’s efforts to build the capacity of other actors to sustain peace following the mission’s exit. It highlights five broad priorities for this transition going forward: Strengthening political engagement between the UN Security Council and AU Peace and Security Council; Translating the AU-UN joint political strategy into an effective follow-on presence; Reinforcing the transition concept; Integrating human rights and protection in all areas of work; and Sustaining international attention and financial support. This paper is part of a larger IPI project on UN transitions and is complemented by similar case studies on UN peacekeeping transitions in Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, and Liberia, as well as a paper exploring experiences and lessons from these three transitions.
  • Topic: Security, United Nations, Peacekeeping, Geopolitics, Crisis Management, African Union
  • Political Geography: Africa, Darfur, Haiti, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire