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  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: In recent years, the Eastern Mediterranean has become a central focus of world powers, of states in the Middle East, Europe, and beyond, and of international corporations. Regional geopolitical developments, as well as economic opportunities generated by natural gas discoveries in the Mediterranean, have contributed to this trend and turned the Eastern Mediterranean into a distinct sub-region perceived as having unique features. Israel plays a central role in this development. Israeli diplomacy identified these trends correctly, successfully becoming an active and dominant player in the region. The natural gas findings in Israel’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) provide it with a wider range of diplomatic options, helping it promote relationships with various states in the region; including some engaged in conflict with each other. Israelis regard the Mediterranean as an important component of their identity, as reflected in the 2018 Israeli Foreign Policy Index of the Mitvim Institute, in which 22 percent of those surveyed claimed Israel belongs predominantly to this region (compared with 28 percent who said it belongs to the Middle East and 23 percent to Europe).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus, Mediterranean
  • 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
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This timely session was dedicated to a debate with the President of Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to discuss central geo-political and domestic developments, including the protests and the crisis of governance in Baghdad; the Turkish invasion of Northern Syria (particularly Rojava); and finally, the effects of internal political fissures within the KRI.
  • Topic: Development, Governance, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia, Baghdad, Syria, Kurdistan
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Turkey expects Chinese support for its incursion into Syria against the Kurds, but in return, China expects Turkey to turn a blind eye to its persecution of Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang. Turkey’s refusal to fully recognize Kurdish rights is thus intertwined with China’s brutal crackdown in its troubled northwestern province. Both parties justify their actions as efforts in the fight against terrorism.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Ethnic Cleansing, Conflict, Syrian War, Kurds
  • Political Geography: China, Turkey, Middle East, Asia, Syria, Xinjiang
  • Author: Bircan Polat
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV)
  • Abstract: Following the March 31, 2019 local elections, the indebtedness of local governments has once again emerged as a subject of public debate in Turkey. Local government expenditures took center stage in these debates, yet much less attention has been paid to potential sources of revenue for local governments. Generation of internal sources of municipal revenue is no less important than the issue of expenditures as it pertains to the relative financial independence of municipalities from the central government. Among potential sources of municipal revenue, a significant one is taxation on urban (land) rent which occurs as a result of a few distinct processes: transformation of agricultural land into urban land due to population increase, migration, industrialization; zoning change that renders the property more valuable due to a number of potential factors such as greater proximity to parks, attractions, or highway systems.
  • Topic: Governance, Economy, Tax Systems, Public Sector, Urban
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Richard Youngs, Gareth Fowler, Arthur Larok, Pawel Marczewski, Vijayan Mj, Ghia Nodia, Natalia Shapoavlova, Janjira Sombatpoonsiri, Marisa Von Bülow, Özge Zihnioğlu
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: As the domain of civil society burgeoned in the 1990s and early 2000s—a crucial component of the global spread of democracy in the developing and postcommunist worlds—many transnational and domestic actors involved in building and supporting this expanding civil society assumed that the sector was naturally animated by organizations mobilizing for progressive causes. Some organizations focused on the needs of underrepresented groups, such as women’s empowerment, inclusion of minorities, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights; others addressed broader societal issues such as economic justice, social welfare, and antipoverty concerns. In many countries, the term “civil society” came to be associated with a relatively bounded set of organizations associated with a common agenda, one separate from or even actively opposed by conservative political forces. However, in the past ten years, this assumption and outlook are proving increasingly incorrect. In many countries in the developing and postcommunist worlds, as well as in long-established Western democracies, conservative forms of civic activism have been multiplying and gaining traction. In some cases, new conservative civic movements and groups are closely associated with illiberal political actors and appear to be an integral part of the well-chronicled global pushback against Western liberal democratic norms. In other cases, the political alliances and implications of conservative civil society are less clear. In almost all cases—other than perhaps that of the United States, where the rise of conservative activism has been the subject of considerable study—this rising world of conservative civil society has been little studied and often overlooked. This report seeks to correct this oversight and to probe more deeply into the rise of conservative civil society around the world. It does so under the rubric of Carnegie’s Civic Research Network project, an initiative that aims to explore new types of civic activism and examine the extent to which these activists and associations are redrawing the contours of global civil society. The emerging role and prominence of conservative activism is one such change to civil society that merits comparative examination. Taken as a whole, the report asks what conservative civic activism portends for global civil society. Its aim is not primarily to pass judgment on whether conservative civil society is a good or bad thing—although the contributing authors obviously have criticisms to make. Rather, it seeks mainly to understand more fully what this trend entails. Much has been written and said about anticapitalist, human rights, and global justice civil society campaigns and protests. Similar analytical depth is required in the study of conservative civil society. The report redresses the lack of analytical attention paid to the current rise of conservative civil society by offering examples of such movements and the issues that drive them. The authors examine the common traits that conservative groups share and the issues that divide them. They look at the kind of members that these groups attract and the tactics and tools they employ. And they ask how effective the emerging conservative civil society has been in reshaping the political agenda.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Politics, Political Activism, Conservatism
  • Political Geography: Uganda, Africa, Europe, South Asia, Turkey, Ukraine, Caucasus, Middle East, India, Poland, Brazil, South America, Georgia, North America, Thailand, Southeast Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Karim Makdisi
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Refugee movements are not a new phenomenon in the Middle East and North Africa. The history of the region has been shaped by waves of displacement and refugee crises, and the most recent, the dramatic case of Syria, is still in process. This paper investigates refugee movements in the region and their impact on regional dynamics by focusing on two important case studies: Lebanon and Turkey. It explores each country’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis in detail, while addressing the role of relevant stakeholders, such as international organizations, civil society and government, in humanitarian relief efforts as well as in refugee protection and management.
  • Topic: Humanitarian Aid, Migration, Refugees, Syrian War, Mobility
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, European Union
  • Author: Martin van Bruinessen
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS)
  • Abstract: In spite of their overwhelmingly Muslim populations, Indonesia and Turkey are formally secular states though of different kind. However, both allocate a surprisingly high proportion of the state budget to the administration of Islam, considerably higher than most countries where Islam is the state religion. In Turkey during the years 1950-2000 and in Indonesia during the New Order period (1966-1998), the state invested heavily in the education of “enlightened” religious personnel and the dissemination of religious views that were compatible with the drive for modernisation and development. Turkey’s Directorate for Religious Affairs (Diyanet) controls a huge bureaucracy through which the state interacts with the pious conservative part of the population. Schools for the training of prayer leaders addressed the needs of the same segment of the population and were intended to facilitate the integration of these conservatives into the project of secular modernisation. However, these institutions had the unforeseen effect of enabling the social mobility of once marginalised conservatives, allowing them to gradually gain control of part of the state apparatus. Mutatis mutandis, very similar developments can be observed in Indonesia, where the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MORA) and the Council of Islamic Scholars (MUI) were expected to provide development-friendly religious guidance and prevent undesirable expressions of religiosity. After the fall of the Suharto regime, the MUI made itself independent of the government and instead became a vehicle through which various conservative religious groups strove to influence government policies, with various degrees of success.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Social Movement, Secularism, Modernization
  • Political Geography: Europe, Indonesia, Turkey, Asia
  • Author: Roee Kibrik, Nimrod Goren
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This document briefly outlines major trends in Israel’s regional foreign policies over the past six months. It is based on the Mitvim Institute’s monthly reports that cover ongoing developments in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process/conflict, Israel’s relations with the Middle East, Europe and the Mediterranean, and the conduct of Israel’s Foreign Service.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, International Affairs, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Jerusalem, Gaza, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, European Union
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: This report provides a summary of the "Environmental Politics in the Middle East" research initiative, which explores the geopolitics of natural resources in the Middle East in an attempt to expand the focus to include the region’s many natural resources other than natural gas, such as land, air, water, and food. Some of the issues under investigation include a focus on water scarcity, which is a global issue but one that is particularly acute in the Middle East; its impacts are examined through a case study on Yemen. Food security is studied in the case of Syria, which before the civil war began, in 2011, was one of the region’s notable food exporters. Aside from acute food shortages within Syria, the conflict has had ripple effects on the region and has led to rising food prices in neighboring states, such as Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Natural Resources, Food
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Yemen, Syria, Jordan