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  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Turkey is in every way ideally placed to bridge the EU with its southern neighbours and together tackle their common challenges and myriad business opportunities. The question is, can they align priorities and policies to make the most of the opportunities? The answer is: not easily. Given the complexity of and uncertainty in Turkey and Iraq, as well as Syria’s security dynamics, sustained EU-Turkey convergence in all areas of common interest is unlikely in the foreseeable future. Although both Turkey and the EU have adopted multifaceted foreign policies vis-a-vis the Middle Eastern countries, yet they have converged only on specific issues, such as dealing with the Iran nuclear deal. Both sides consider the US withdrawal from the deal as a “matter of concern”, believing that maintaining the deal and keeping Iran engaged through diplomatic and economic means instead of sanctions or military threats is crucial even after the US withdrawal. Otherwise, Turkey and the EU diverge on the overall approach to the most troubled neighbours, namely Iraq and Syria, which have been sources of grave concern to all. Iraq continues to be a fragile country, struggling to keep its integrity. The country was at the brink of failure between 2014-2017 after the emergence of the so called Islamic State (IS), and further threatened by the Kurdish referendum for independence in 2017. Iraq was pulled back to survival, mainly by international assistance. Interestingly, in 2018 Iraq saw two transformative general elections, one for the Federal and the other for the Kurdistan Region’s Parliament. The outcome of these elections brought about a degree of change in the political landscape, a sense of optimism for future recovery and a clear promise for creating new business opportunities for international partners. However, in keeping with the past, the formation of government in both Baghdad and Erbil became protracted and problematic. These features indicate that the Iraqi leaders remain ill focused on the country’s priorities in terms of state-building and provision of services or addressing the root causes of its fragility. Turkey and the EU share the objectives of accessing Iraq’s market and energy supply, and prevent onward migration of the displaced populations. Of course, the EU is to a large extent dependent on Turkey to achieve its goals. Therefore, it would make sense for the two sides to converge and cooperate on these issues. However, Turkey’s foreign policies in the southern neighbourhood are driven primarily by its own domestic and border security considerations and – importantly – Turkey sees the economic, political and security issues as inextricable. While Iraq has lost its state monopoly over legitimate violence and is incapable of securing its borders, Turkey often takes matters into its own hands by invading or intervening in Iraq, both directly and indirectly (through proxies). Of course, the Iraqi government considers Turkey’s interventions as acts of aggression and violations of its borders, but is unwilling to take measures against them. For Iraq, Turkey is a regional power and an indispensable neighbour. It has control over part of Iraq’s oil exports, water supply and trade routes. The EU, on the other hand, considers Turkey’s interventions as acts of self-defence but frowns upon them as destabilising factors, adding to the fragility of Iraq. In Syria, the political landscape and security dynamics are very different from Iraq, but the EU-Turkish policies follow similar patterns. Syria remains a failed state with its regime struggling to secure survival and regain control over its territories. Meanwhile, Turkey has become increasingly interventionist in Syria via direct military invasion and through proxies, culminating in the occupation of a significant area west of Euphrates, and threatening to occupy the Eastern side too. Turkey has put extreme pressure on the USA for permission to remove the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF) and its lead organisation (Democratic Union Party, PYD) from governing North East Syria (also referred to as Rojava). However, the EU and USA consider the SDF and PYD indispensable in the fight against IS and fear the Turkish interventions may have grave consequences. Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative and Vice-President of the European Commission recently emphasised that “Turkey is a key partner of the EU”, and that the EU expect the “Turkish authorities to refrain from any unilateral action likely to undermine the efforts of the Counter-IS Coalition”. Therefore, EU-Turkey divergence or even conflict with some EU Member States is possible over Syria.
  • Topic: Security, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, European Union, Islamic State, Political stability
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia, Syria
  • Author: Emma Hesselink
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Now that IS has been defeated, at least territorially, governments, donors and the international community are investing in Iraq’s state building programmes both at national and local levels. However, Nineveh governorate, which suffered greatest damage and requires greatest attention, has been the scene of a highly divided security landscape since its liberation from IS. The chronic divisions between different actors such as Peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are only worsened by the presence of the Hashd al-Shaabi and other non-state actors in the Disputed Territories. This brief provides an analysis of the risks posed by Hashd in Nineveh and offers recommendations into regaining a grip on the situation.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Islamic State, State Building
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, Goran Zangana
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Chemicals are widely used in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region (KRI) for various civilian purposes. Terrorist organizations have demonstrated their intention, know-how and capacity to convert chemicals of civilian use to chemical weapons. Without an urgent and comprehensive policy response, the KRI can face significant breaches in chemical security with immeasurable risks to the population and the environment. This report follows a special MERI workshop on chemical security, where major challenges were identified and a number of policy recommendation made.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Chemical Weapons
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Federico Borsari
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Stabilisation and recovery in Iraq are intimately tied to the structural sustainability and accountability of the security apparatus across the country. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces are currently undergoing an ambitious process of modernisation and institutionalisation aimed at transforming them into an apolitical and professional entity, to the expected benefit of both Erbil and Baghdad. This policy brief examines the contours of this process against the backdrop of Iraq’s precarious security landscape and offers policy recommendations.
  • Topic: Security, Political structure, Institutionalism, Recovery
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Over the past decade and a half, the KRI’s share of the federal budget and oil revenue has been the most significant point of tension between Erbil and Baghdad. Each year, when the budgetary law is formulated and voted upon, a new crisis is initiated; the next is already brewing, as the budget law is currently under discussion. According to journalist Hiwa Osman, this bilateral relationship is also affected by ongoing neutralisation disagreements over the disputed territories, which are manifested in the positionalities of the Peshmerga, paramilitary, and federal security forces.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Budget
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad, Erbil
  • Author: Sarah L. Edgecumbe
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The contemporary displacement landscape in Iraq is both problematic and unique. The needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq are many, particularly as protracted displacement becomes entrenched as the norm rather than the exception. However, minorities originating from the so called ‘Disputed Territories’ and perceived Islamic State (IS)-affiliates represent two of the most vulnerable groups of IDPs in Iraq. Iraqi authorities currently have a real opportunity to set a positive precedent for IDP protection by formulating pragmatic durable solutions which incorporate non-discriminatory protection provisions, and which take a preventative approach to future displacement. This policy paper analyses the contemporary displacement context of Iraq, characterized as it is by securitization of Sunni IDPs and returnees, as well as ongoing conflict and coercion within the Disputed Territories. By examining current protection issues against Iraq’s 2008 National Policy on Displacement, this paper identifies protection gaps within Iraq’s response to displacement, before drawing on the African Union’s Kampala Convention in order to make recommendations for an updated version of the National Policy on Displacement. These recommendations will ensure that a 2020 National Policy on Displacement will be relevant to the contemporary protection needs of Iraq’s most vulnerable IDPs, whilst also acting to prevent further conflict and displacement.
  • Topic: Security, Migration, Religion, Refugees, Displacement
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, Susan Cersosimo, Kamaran Palani
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: There are major security events, issues and trends within Iraq since 2003 and Syria since 2011, that have influenced and impacted Turkey-European Union (EU) relations. In this policy paper we deconstruct the causal mechanisms that act as the primary drivers impacting bilateral relations. We then compare and contrast Ankara’s and Brussels’ current security interests, priorities and perceptions toward security threats originating in this troubled neighbourhood. Finally, we classify opportunities as culminating in three possible discrete or combined security policy scenarios: conflict, cooperation and/or convergence and make recommendations to improve Turkey-EU relations. To address how Iraq’s and Syria’s security environment evolved to its current state and predict the subsequent outcomes and impacts on EU-Turkey relations, we look back and critically analyse Ankara’s and Brussels’ views on the following key events, issues and trends: security and political dynamics following the second term of al-Maliki, the withdrawal of the US forces in 2011, the 2011 Syrian revolution, the war against the Islamic state (IS), The Global Coalition against Daesh (GCD) backing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria, the rise of Kurdish nationalism and aspirations for statehood in Iraq and autonomy in Syria, the enhanced influence of Iran in Iraq and the growth of IS with subsequent mass displacement of person across both Iraq and Syria. Iraq is now largely free of IS reign, yet is still threatened by terrorism, mass population displacement and weak governance, among other ills. In parallel, now that the Syrian civil war enters its seventh bloody year, generating large numbers of casualties and millions of displaced persons, Brussels and Ankara are strongly incented to converge and/or cooperate on security policies which mitigate the escalating humanitarian crisis and ease the path to a durable peace agreement. However, finding durable solutions to address high value, high impact problems stemming from Iraq and Syria requires identifying and mitigating the causes vs symptoms of these countries’ instability and insecurity affecting Ankara’s and Brussels’ own security interests, priorities and threat perceptions. Central security priorities for the EU in post-IS Iraq include stabilization, the return of internally displaced people and refugees and eliminating violent jihadist organizations and ideologies. While Turkey shares these objectives in principle, Ankara’s security interests concentrate primarily on neutralizing the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and its affiliates’ presence and influence. Since 2014, Ankara and Brussels have mostly bifurcated on how they perceive security threats in Syria. Turkey-EU leaders continue to disagree on the Kurd’s role in the Syrian war and how Turkey should control its borders to cut flows of foreign fighters into Syria. As the IS invaded parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, European states began providing PKK affiliated Kurdish groups in Syria with both intelligence and military support. Alternately, since the Kurdistan Region of Iraq held its referendum for independence on 25 September 2017, EU and Turkish leaders have mostly converged on how they perceive security threats in Iraq with both staunchly supporting the country’s territorial integrity, thus, both refused to recognize the referendum’s legitimacy. We consider the issue of terrorism as a highly relevant driver of EU and Turkish security policies, perceptions and priorities. Though we see both countries as highly concerned with this issue, they diverge on which organizations pose the greatest threat. Ankara places the PKK at the top of its terrorist list – both within its borders and across the region – while Brussels prioritizes neutralizing jihadi terrorist threats on its soil, thus, the probability of convergence and cooperation and positive impact on EU-Turkey relations is moderate for this issue. Moreover, the IS is not given the same degree of priority by the two sides in the neighbourhood, including Iraq and Syria. Unlike the EU, Turkey considers the threat posed by the IS equal to the one posed by the PKK, but not as strategic. Here, the two sides diverge. In sum, dissent between Brussels and Ankara is highly likely given the Turkish Armed Forces’ broad kinetic engagement in both Iraq and Syria which negatively impacts EU and US efforts to roll back terrorism, stabilise the region, deliver humanitarian aid and help displaced persons return to their homes. Thus, regardless of whether Baghdad and/or Damascus formally grant Ankara permission to launch assaults, the EU views these actions as bellicose destabilizers competing with its own interests, thus, degrades EU-Turkey relations. Ultimately, this study calls for the EU and Turkey to prioritize mending cracks and fissures in their relationship and focus on the gains to be made through rapprochement on security issues originating in Iraq and Syria. Likewise, the EU can use its tremendous mediating capacity as an honest broker to settle entrenched disputes between warring parties in Iraq and Syria and for Turkey restart the peace process at home. More than ever, both must develop a long-term strategic security framework to ensure that bilateral security interests, priorities and interventions do not derail current stabilisation and reconstruction procedures in Iraq and/or progress toward a durable peace in Syria.
  • Topic: Security, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, European Union
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia, Syria
  • Author: Sandro Knezović
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: The European strategic landscape has changed dramatically over the course of the last decade. The post-Cold War mantra about the obsolescence of conventional threats in the wider European space proved to be short-sighted with developments at its eastern �lanks, while security dysfunctions in the MENA region and their immanent consequences for the safety of European citizens have loaded a heavy burden on compromise-building and decision-making in the �ield of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the EU. Furthermore, the approach of the new US administration to European security and the strategic consequences of Brexit have changed the wider framework in which security of 'the Old Continent' is to be determined, hence stimulating European leaders to rethink European security in a strive for strategic autonomy of their own. The very ambitiously phrased EU Global Strategy that came out in June 2016, served as both catalyst and umbrella document for such an endeavour. However, in order to achieve measurable progress in responding to contemporary security challenges, it was clear that the EU needs to develop a structural way for member states to do jointly what they were not capable of doing at the national level. This is so especially in the environment in which China, Russia and Saudi Arabia are championing the defence spending, right after the US, while European states are signi�icantly trailing behind. The fact that the EU collectively is the second largest military investor and yet far from being among the dominant military powers only emphasises the burning issue of ef�iciency of military spending and the level of interoperability among member states’ armies. High-level fragmentation of the European defence market and the fact that defence industries are kept in national clusters is clearly contributing to that. The reality on the ground is obviously challenging traditional methods of co-operation that operate mainly in ‘national boxes’ and calling for a paradigm change in the wider policy context of CSDP. However, it remains to be seen to which extent will this new security environment actually be able to push the European defence policy context over the strict national boundaries.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Military Strategy, European Union
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Dylan O'Driscoll, Dave Van Zoonen
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This report views the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces, PMF) as having played an intrinsic role in the provision of security in Iraq since the dramatic rise of the Islamic State (IS). However, through the lens of nationalism it analyses the negative role the PMF may play once IS is defeated. The report therefore presents suggestions to deal with the perceived threat of the PMF in the short to medium term. The various groups within the PMF essentially represent a number of subnationalisms, which to a different extent act as competition to the state. The leaders of the various militias use their own particular brand of nationalism in their attempts to gain and maintain power and in doing so they dilute any prospect of national unity or loyalty to the state. Through providing security they act as competition to the Iraqi army which directly impacts on the perception of the state and is used by members of the PMF for political gain. The multiple competing subnationalisms in Iraq do little for the fostering of Iraqi unity or the functioning of Iraq as a state, and are likely to result in the continuation of violent conflict. Therefore, dealing with the challenges surrounding the PMF will be one of the most pressing issues in Iraq following the defeat of IS. The ultimate solution to this problem would be the incorporation of these forces through demobilisation and integration into the conventional ISF. Having one inclusive army, police force and border patrol operating under unified command structures and accountable to civil bodies of oversight is not only an important symbol in aiding national reconciliation and promoting cooperation between different communities, it is also a primary prerequisite for the effectiveness of the security sector as a whole. However, the current situation on the ground, in terms of security, reconciliation, and political will, precludes an aggressive, straight-forward pursuit of this objective. This necessitates an initial phase in which significant progress in these areas is made before incorporation of most PMF units can realistically take place. The government of Prime Minister Abadi needs to use its time following IS’ defeat to build a solid political platform based on shared citizenship, unity and reform. This platform has to include serious reforms in the areas of security and national reconciliation. At the same time, an assistance programme will have to be set up for individual militia members wishing to either integrate into the ISF or make the transition from fighter to civilian immediately following IS’ defeat. This joint process will allow for the gradual dissolution of the PMF as the functioning of the Iraqi state improves, cooperation and unity is advanced, and the army grows in strength. During this time the government can stop colluding with the PMF and begin incorporating, containing, and eventually suppressing the various groups within the PMF based on the level of loyalty to the state that the group holds. Only then can a comprehensive demobilisation and reintegration programme based on formal agreements with all militias be launched as an ultimate solution to Iraq’s problem with militias and subnationalisms. It is crucial that this programme is adapted to fit the local context and that the government of Iraq can exert primary control over it. Accordingly, some conventional standards of DDR programming may have to be deviated from in order for this programme to be successful.
  • Topic: Security, Nationalism, Military Strategy, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Author: Khogir Wirya, Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, Kamaran Palani
  • Publication Date: 11-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This policy paper provides a bottom-up analysis of the impact of the European Union’s (EU) crisis response policies in Iraq. It examines how the EU’s engagement in crisis response is received and perceived by different local actors throughout the conflict cycle. The EU’s engagement in Iraq is multifaceted and encapsulates, but is not limited to, the fields of reform; capacity building; rule of law; security sector reform; humanitarian assistance; and development aid. Furthermore, this study seeks to unpack whether the EU’s responses correspond to the needs of target groups, perceived as conflict-sensitive and geared to the needs of vulnerable groups. Although the findings indicate that general attitudes towards the EU are favourable, we suggest the following policy recommendations: The EU should place more emphasis on its image as a contributor in crisis response in Iraq. The data indicate that a significant number of participants were unaware of the EU’s efforts in this perspective. The EU should also increase awareness about its roles in the fields of security sector reform, rule of law and development aid. The results show that these sectors are less known than the others. The EU should do more in the areas of security sector reform, development aid and rule of law. Participants have shown inconclusive satisfaction levels about these sectors. With an increasingly weak rule of law, limited capacities and widespread insecurity, expectations of increased EU engagement in these sectors are evident. The EU should identify the causes behind the partial satisfaction with its assistance scheme in responding to the crisis In Iraq. A sizeable share of the respondents stated that the EU’s support had not improved their status in the crisis. This should warrant an investigation into the effectiveness of the EU’s contributions and programmes in various fields.
  • Topic: Security, Humanitarian Aid, European Union, Crisis Management, Development Aid
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, Baghdad