Search

You searched for: Political Geography Middle East Remove constraint Political Geography: Middle East Publication Year within 10 Years Remove constraint Publication Year: within 10 Years
Number of results to display per page

Search Results

  • 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: Younes Mahmoudieh
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: When I visited Iran this summer, severe panic attacks, depression, and anxiety—longstanding byproducts of post-traumatic stress disorder—caused me to seek out a trauma therapist. After weeks of contacting Iranian pharmacies, hospitals, charities, and relief organizations, my prescriptions for Zoloft, Xanax, Ativan, and Clonazepam remained unfilled. Since the United States exited the Iranian nuclear deal (JCPOA) and imposed new sanctions, this kind of shortage has become commonplace.
  • Topic: Health, Sanctions, International Community, International Court of Justice (ICJ)
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott M. Thomas, Anthony O'Mahony
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In February 2019, Pope Francis became the first pope to visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Like John-Paul II before him, he has also visited Egypt, and he went to Morocco in March 2019. The pope participated in a colloquium on “human fraternity” and interreligious dialogue sponsored by the UAE-based Muslim Council of Elders—the brain-child of Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the most important Sunni Muslim university in the world. The Council of Elders sponsors initiatives to engage young Muslims on Islamist ideology by promoting a more “authentic” interpretation of Islam. Islamist violence—with its beheadings and mass executions—has provoked disgust across the Muslim world and is causing young Muslims to become more distant from their imams and mosques. It is becoming clear to many Muslim intellectuals in Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon that, in order to defeat Islamism, there needs to be greater dialogue and coexistence with Christians. Pope Francis is attempting to lead the way, extending his “culture of encounter.”
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Culture, Violence, Catholic Church
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, United Arab Emirates, Vatican city
  • Author: Huma Saeed
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Afghanistan’s presidential election took place on September 28, 2019, with less than 2 million people participating out of 9.7 million registered voters. Taking into consideration Afghanistan’s total population of 35 million, the turnout was a historic low—a problem further amplified by the fact that the government poured a huge amount of financial and human resources into election preparation. The main explanation for such low turnout is twofold. On the one hand, security threats such as suicide attacks or gun violence—which reached their peak during the presidential election campaigns—deterred many people from going to polling stations. On the other hand, Afghans have become wary about determining their own political fate because, for decades, regional and international powers have steered the political wheel in Afghanistan, rather the people. After four months, election results have still not been announced, leading to further speculation and anxiety among a population which has already been the victim of four decades of violent conflict in the country. This anxiety is further exacerbated by the ongoing “peace” negotiations with the Taliban. Afghan people have learned from experience that, even in the best-case scenario of the election results or peace negotiations, they cannot hope for new justice measures to heal their wounds. As demonstrated by the experience of Afghanistan and other countries, peace and security will not last without addressing the people’s demands for justice.
  • Topic: Development, Human Rights, Politics, Elections, Taliban, Justice
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Middle East
  • Author: Max Erdemandi
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Recent discussions on the Turkish state’s actions, which have devastated Kurdish people within and outside of its borders, suffer from a familiar deficiency: they neglect the historical and cultural foundations of the dynamics that placed the Kurdish people at the center of Turkey’s national security policy. Serious human rights violations and voter suppression in southeast Turkey, the massacre of Kurdish people in various parts of northern Syria, and purging of Kurdish politicians on false accusations are all extensions of Turkey’s decades-long, repeated policy mistakes, deeply rooted in its nationalist history. Unless there is a seismic shift in the drivers of Turkish security policy, especially as it pertains to the Kurdish people, Turkey is bound to repeat these mistakes. Furthermore, threat externalization with linkage to legitimacy of rule will further erode the democratic institutions of the state and other authentic aspects of Turkish identity.
  • Topic: Security, Nationalism, Ethnicity, Syrian War, Borders, Violence, Kurds
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Kurdistan
  • Author: H. Sebnem Düzgün
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The Soma Mine Disaster (SMD) was the most massive mine disaster of the twenty-first century, with 301 fatalities. This was due to a mine fire in an underground coal mine. Although mine fires usually do not cause a large number of casualties in comparison with other explosions in underground coal mines, the SMD has an anomaly. The cause of the mine fire has not been precisely determined, though various groups of experts developed several hypotheses. Most of the fatalities were due to an inadequate safety culture, unstructured organizational and human performance, and improper decision-making and risk perception during the emergency management. So far, only minimal steps have been taken to improve the safety standards of the coal mines. Larger improvements are necessary to address the variety of factors that contributed to the disaster.
  • Topic: Disaster Relief, Science and Technology, Natural Resources, Labor Issues, Regulation, Mining
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Anthony Bubalo
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The examples of Egypt and Saudi Arabia show the risks in betting on the stability of autocratic regimes in the region. Despite the Arab uprisings of the last decade, most countries in the Middle East remain in the grip of autocrats, with a widespread view that this is the 'default setting' for the region. However, an examination of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where authoritarianism has been revived, reveals both regimes are struggling for popular legitimacy. Increasingly reliant on repression, these regimes risk provoking civil unrest, and external powers should reconsider their assumption that autocracy guarantees stability in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Authoritarianism, Political stability, Legitimacy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Egypt
  • Author: Tommaso Emiliani
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by a US drone strike on 3 January 2020, followed by the Iranian retaliation on US military bases in Iraq, left many Europeans wondering how – if at all – the European Union can foster de-escalation in the Middle East. The EU is presently stuck between a deepening strategic rift with its US ally and its inability to advance its independent interests and policies vis-à-vis Iran. It is now clear that Europe cannot protect its relations with Washington while also salvaging the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iranian nuclear deal. Borrowing from an old Persian proverb, Europe cannot have both God and the sugar dates.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Military Affairs, Trade, Transatlantic Relations, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, United States of America, European Union, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Ehud Eiran
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Israel is still holding to its traditional security maxim. Based on a perception of a hostile region, Israel’s response includes early warning, deterrence and swift – including pre-emptive – military action, coupled with an alliance with a global power, the US. Israel is adjusting these maxims to a changing reality. Overlapping interests – and perhaps the prospect of an even more open conflict with Iran – led to limited relationships between Israel and some Gulf states. These, however, will be constrained until Israel makes progress on the Palestine issue. Israel aligned with Greece and Cyprus around energy and security, which may lead to conflict with Turkey. Russia’s deployment in Syria placed new constraints on Israeli freedom of action there. The US’s retrenchment from the Middle East is not having a direct effect on Israel, while the Trump administration’s support for Israel’s territorial designs in the West Bank may make it easier for Israel to permanently expand there, thus sowing the seeds for future instability in Israel/Palestine. The EU could try and balance against such developments, but, as seen from Israel, is too divided to have a significant impact. Paper produced in the framework of the FEPS-IAI project “Fostering a New Security Architecture in the Middle East”, April 2020.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Gas, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, United States of America, Mediterranean
  • Author: Jean-loup Samaan
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: This monograph explores the emerging challenge of nonstate actors’ anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) strategies and their implications for the United States and its allies by looking at two regions, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, with case studies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Houthis in Yemen, and separatist groups in Ukraine.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Hezbollah, Houthis, Hamas
  • Political Geography: Europe, Ukraine, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Yemen, Gaza, Lebanon, United States of America
  • Author: C. Anthony Pfaff
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Security cooperation with Iraq remains a critical component of the US-Iraq relationship. Despite neighboring Iran’s ability to limit US political and economic engagement, Iraq still seeks US assistance to develop its military and to combat resurgent terrorist organizations. This monograph provides a historical and cultural basis from which to understand the limitations and potential for US cooperation with Iraq’s armed forces.
  • Topic: Security, Politics, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Islamic State, Economy
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kamal A. Beyoghlow
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: This monograph analyzes the current political tensions between the United States and Turkey and suggests ways to manage them. The two countries have been strategic allies since at least the end of World War II—Turkey became a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member and participated with its military forces in the Korea War, and during the Cold War protected NATO’s southern flank against Soviet communism, and Turkey’s military and intelligence services maintained close relationships with their Western and Israeli counterparts. These relationships were not without problems, due mostly to differences over minority and civil rights in Turkey and over Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1973 and continued tensions with Greece. The special relationship with the United States was put to the final test after the Islamic conservative populist political party, Justice and Development, and its current leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, came to power in 2002. Turkey opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the NATO-backed regime change in Libya in 2011. Most recently, Turkey has had strained relations with Cyprus, Greece, and Israel—all key US allies—and has alienated the US Congress and select NATO members further by its October 2019 invasion of Syria against Kurdish forces aligned with the US military against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, all against a background of a military rapprochement with Russia. This monograph highlights differences between US agencies concerning Turkey and ways to reconcile them, and offers several policy recommendations for new directions.
  • Topic: NATO, Politics, History, Military Strategy, Bilateral Relations, Armed Forces
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Last year’s Washington Institute forum on post-Soleimani succession suggested that the IRGC would lose a unique coordinating capability and its most important totem once he left the scene. Last April, The Washington Institute held a closed-door roundtable to discuss the potential impact if Qassem Soleimani no longer commanded the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force. Governed by the Chatham House rule, participants discussed how succession might work in the Qods Force and what Iran would lose if Soleimani became permanently unavailable, reaching consensus on many key issues. Now that the commander is indeed gone, their conclusions can help policymakers navigate the stormy seas ahead, though some aspects of his importance remain a matter of heated debate.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Conflict, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: David Makovksy
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Benny Gantz’s party lost the head-to-head battle, Avigdor Liberman’s favorable influence on the coalition math has left the general in a stronger position—and taken some diplomatic weight off the Trump administration’s shoulders. Israel’s third round of elections last week seemed inconclusive at first, but the deadlock may now be broken. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did better this time than in September’s round two, but his gains were insufficient to form a new government. Potential kingmaker Avigdor Liberman jettisoned his previous idea of getting the two top parties to join forces; instead, personal antipathy and policy differences have led him to definitely state that he will not join any government Netanyahu leads. Thus, while centrist Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz may have options to shape a new government, Netanyahu has no pathway on his own. In theory, the center-left bloc has the requisite number of seats for a bare majority in the 120-member Knesset, since anti-Netanyahu forces won 62 seats. In reality, the situation is more complex.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A survey of how regional media outlets discussed the congressional impeachment process and its potential ramifications on the 2020 presidential election. Across the Middle East, the story of President Trump’s impeachment and subsequent acquittal received secondtier coverage compared to regional or local issues. Many Arabic-language websites and newspapers translated and republished Western articles as opposed to creating their own content on the issue, such as Al Jazeera publishing a translated version of a Guardian editorial. Moreover, the bulk of the articles just explained the facts or process of impeachment rather than expounding on its significance. Some celebrated the idea that there is a mechanism for peaceful removal of a leader. Most commented on the unlikelihood of Trump’s removal and how America is facing unprecedented polarization. Those articles that did offer their own editorial content were split on whether impeachment will help or hurt Trump’s election campaign. Publications in the Gulf states tended to portray impeachment as an act of “political vengeance” by Democrats against Trump, “who won despite their opposition” (Sky News Arabia). Most Gulf papers posited that Trump will ultimately benefit in the 2020 election “after proving his innocence before the Senate” (Al Seyassah). Yet Qatari coverage deviated from the general Gulf trend. For example, one Al Jazeera article asserted that the impeachment case against Trump “is simple, and established not only by officials speaking under oath, but by his own words and actions.” Egyptian newspapers were more split on how impeachment will affect the election. Anti-American outlets in Syria suggested it will hurt him, with Al Baath noting “all data indicate that Trump’s hope for a return to the White House have faded.” Lebanese publications tended to take a more neutral view. The Hezbollah-controlled newspaper Al Akhbar wrote that the prospect of impeachment weakening Trump’s electoral campaign “is similar to that of his potential main rival,” arguing that Joe Biden was also tainted by the process. Most Iranian media tended to copy Western sources, but two themes prevailed among outlets offering original content: portrayal of impeachment as a scandal that has tainted Trump’s presidential legacy, or neutral analysis of how impeachment may or may not harm his reelection chances. A few analytical pieces suggested that he might be able to transform the scandal into an asset for his campaign, since it may “lead to more popularity among the middle class.” While most Iranian articles leaned against Trump, few appeared to praise Democrats. Turkish articles generally depicted impeachment as a “gift” to Trump’s campaign. SETA, a think tank that supports President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claimed that what “hasn’t killed Trump will make him stronger.” Sabah News, another pro-Erdogan source, wrote that impeachment will “unite Republican senators and members of the House of Representatives around him.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Media, News Analysis, Domestic politics, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Arab Countries, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ben Fishman
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After the fall of Sirte, Erdogan and Putin’s desired ceasefire can only be achieved with Washington’s support. Over the past week, regional and European actors have increased their diplomatic activity around Libya in response to intensifying violence in the nine-month-old civil war. On January 8, less than a week after the Turkish parliament approved sending forces to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin met in Istanbul and called for a Libya ceasefire to begin on January 12. Whether or not Moscow and Ankara manage to pause the violence temporarily, their growing influence in Libya represents an epic failure of Western attempts to resolve the conflict diplomatically. The longer-term effort to jumpstart Libya’s political transition requires a wider international effort at peace and reconciliation—something Russia and Turkey can support but not lead. Putin and Erdogan seemed to acknowledge that fact at their summit, endorsing a long-planned multilateral conference in Berlin aimed at recommitting all relevant actors to support an end to hostilities and respect the UN Security Council’s mandatory but widely ignored arms embargo. Even assuming Putin is serious and withdraws Russian mercenaries from the frontlines, a full, lasting ceasefire cannot transpire until the other actors who support Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) agree to withdraw their equipment and personnel for a fixed period while negotiations are launched—especially the United Arab Emirates, which provides the LNA with critical air superiority. At the same time, Turkey would have to take commensurate de-escalatory steps of its own. The United States is the only actor that holds enough weight with all the foreign parties to bring about an authentic ceasefire. Despite being consumed with crises in Iran and Iraq, Washington should expend the diplomatic effort required to pursue durable stability in Libya before the country slips further toward endemic chaos.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, United Nations, Conflict, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: Elena DeLozier
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Sultan Haitham will now be free to put his own stamp on the country's government and foreign policy, and a recent dust-up on the Yemeni border could provide the first indicator of his approach. On February 20, Oman will begin its next era in earnest. The new sultan, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, was officially sworn in on January 11, but he has remained quiet and mostly out of sight during the forty-day mourning period that followed the death of his cousin, Sultan Qaboos. Now that this period is drawing to a close, he is free to put his stamp on Omani policy. Notably, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lead the first international delegation to see Sultan Haitham in the post-mourning period. When the meeting was first scheduled, the secretary likely saw it as a chance to get to know the new leader, and also as a symbolic visit to make up for sending such a low-level delegation to offer condolences. Yet the two may have more to talk about now. Earlier this week, a flare-up occurred between Saudi forces and Omani-backed locals in the Yemeni border province of al-Mahra. The confrontation may be Sultan Haitham’s first regional test, and identifying the actors who help him get through it could help Washington discern future power centers within Oman’s often opaque government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Oman, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If the latest U.S. effort winds up backing the Palestinians into a territorial corner from the outset, then Washington may not be able to move the process any closer to direct negotiations. The newly released U.S. peace plan marks a very significant shift in favor of the current Israeli government’s view, especially when compared to three past U.S. initiatives: (1) the Clinton Parameters of December 2000, (2) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s “Annapolis Process” of 2007-2008, and (3) Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2013-2014 initiative. The message is clear: the Trump administration will no longer keep sweetening the deal with every Palestinian refusal, a criticism some have aimed at previous U.S. efforts. Yet the new plan raises worrisome questions of its own. Will its provisions prove so disadvantageous to the proposed Palestinian state that they cannot serve as the basis for further negotiations? And would such overreach enable Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to sway Arab states who have signaled that they want to give the proposal a chance, convincing them to oppose it instead? If so, the plan may wind up perpetuating the current diplomatic impasse and setting the stage for a one-state reality that runs counter to Israel’s identity as a Jewish, democratic state. This two-part PolicyWatch will address these questions by examining how the Trump plan compares to past U.S. initiatives when it comes to the conflict’s five core final-status issues. Part 1 focuses on two of these issues: borders and Jerusalem. Part 2 examines security, refugees, and narrative issues.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Borders, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ghaith al-Omari
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By granting Israel much more say over the sovereignty of a future Palestinian state and its ability to absorb refugees, the document may undermine the administration’s ability to build an international coalition behind its policies. President Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan was presented as a departure from previous approaches—a notion that invited praise from its supporters (who saw it as a recognition of reality) and criticism from its opponents (who saw it as an abandonment of valued principles). The plan does in fact diverge from past efforts in fundamental respects, yet there are also some areas of continuity, and ultimately, the extent to which it gains traction will be subject to many different political and diplomatic variables. Even so, the initial substance of the plan document itself will play a large part in determining how it is viewed by various stakeholders, especially those passages that veer away from the traditional path on core issues. Part 1 of this PolicyWatch assessed what the plan says about two such issues: borders and Jerusalem. This second installment discusses security, refugee, and narrative issues.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Refugees, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The surest way to counter Iran’s malign influence is to proactively focus on human rights issues that the new prime minister can actually affect, such as organizing free elections and preventing further violence against protestors. On February 1, a plurality of Iraqi parliamentary factions gave President Barham Salih the go-ahead to nominate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as the new prime minister-designate. The mild-mannered Shia Islamist nominee will now attempt to form and ratify his cabinet in the next thirty days. As he does so, political blocs will probably rally behind him while limiting his mandate to organizing early elections next year, having struggled through a long and fractious process to replace resigned prime minister Adil Abdulmahdi. For the first time since the dramatic events of the past two months, Iraqis and U.S. policymakers alike can catch their breath and consider their medium-term options.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Elections, Domestic politics, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Turkey, Russia, and Washington have compelling reasons to welcome a new ceasefire agreement, however imperfect, but they still need to address the longer-term dangers posed by the Assad regime’s murderously maximalist strategy. Recent fighting between Turkish and Syrian regime forces in Idlib province has seemingly wiped away the last vestiges of the September 2018 Sochi agreement, brokered by Russian president Vladimir Putin as a way of pausing hostilities and dividing control over the country’s last rebel-held province. Beginning last December, renewed Russian and Syrian attacks against civilians sent a million residents fleeing toward the Turkish border, creating another humanitarian disaster. Then, on February 27, thirty-three Turkish soldiers were killed when their unit was attacked in Idlib—Ankara’s largest single-day loss in Syria thus far. Turkey initially blamed Bashar al-Assad for the deaths, but eyes soon turned to his Russian patron as the more likely culprit, elevating tensions between Ankara and Moscow to a level not seen since Turkish forces shot down a Russian plane in November 2015. Meanwhile, the Turkish military and its local partner forces launched a string of attacks against the Syrian regime and its Iranian-backed militia allies. On March 5, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Putin in Moscow to discuss these rising tensions. If the two leaders reach another ceasefire deal, will it last any longer than the short-lived Sochi agreement? More important, what effect might it have on the latest refugee crisis threatening to wash over Turkey and Europe?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Syrian War, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, United States of America, Idlib
  • Author: Charles Thépaut, Elena DeLozier
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By triggering the nuclear deal’s dispute resolution mechanism, Britain, France, and Germany are opening diplomatic space that could help the United States and Iran return to the negotiating table. In a press conference following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, President Trump reaffirmed his administration’s “maximum pressure” policy against Iran and asked, once again, for European countries to leave the nuclear deal. Meanwhile, Tehran announced what it called a “fifth and final remedial step” away from its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In response, the British, French, and German foreign ministers stated on January 14 that they would trigger the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism (DRM). At the same time, however, the E3 clarified that they are not joining the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign, which has steadily intensified ever since the United States withdrew from the JCPOA and reimposed unilateral sanctions in 2018. Contrary to U.S. claims, the European decision will not immediately provoke “snapback” UN sanctions on Iran (though that scenario could unfold later if the E3 plan fails and Iran’s violations go before the UN Security Council). Instead, Europe is maintaining its evenhanded position somewhere between Washington and Tehran in order to preserve the possibility of new negotiations, on both the nuclear program and other regional issues.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Nuclear Power, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: During the war years in Syria, the northwest, specifically Idlib, has become a site of heavy internal displacement. Observers on the ground recognize the green buses traveling to Idlib carrying migrants who have refused reconciliation agreements with the Damascus regime. Since around 2014, a range of jihadist, Islamist, and Salafi actors have wielded control in the area, the most recent being the al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which has ruled—ineffectively and brutally—through its so-called Syrian Salvation Government. But the group's reign is unlikely to last long if current trends persist. The regime's recent move against the town of Maarat al-Numan suggests plans for a broader takeover in the northwest, aided by Russian firepower and other allies such as Iran. In this Policy Note filled with local insights, jihadism expert Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi presents the current scene in and around Idlib province, the last Syrian outpost still run by independent rebels. Absent an intervention by Turkey, the Assad regime will likely prevail in a campaign that quashes the insurgency at a high humanitarian cost.
  • Topic: Al Qaeda, Displacement, Military Intervention, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The general’s peerless domestic stature would have served a crucial mediatory role during the eventual transition to Khamenei’s successor, so his death brings significant uncertainty to that process. Following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, much attention has been focused on the foreign operations conducted by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force. Yet his organization also played a major role at home, one whose future is now unclear. In particular, Soleimani himself was well positioned to be a unifying, steadying figure once Iran faced the challenge of determining a successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
  • Topic: Politics, Military Affairs, Authoritarianism, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Ben Fishman, Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If the latest conference is to succeed, the principal actors stoking the civil war must endorse a genuine ceasefire and a return to Libyan internal dialogue. On January 19, international leaders will convene in Berlin to discuss a way out of the nine-month civil war between the so-called “Libyan National Army” led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognized Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. The Germans led several months of preparatory efforts at the request of UN envoy Ghassan Salame, but had been reluctant to choose a specific date until they were assured that the event stood a reasonable chance of producing practical steps to improve the situation on the ground and jumpstart the UN’s stalled negotiation efforts between the LNA and GNA. Chancellor Angela Merkel finally took that step after several key developments unfolded earlier this month, including a January 8 ceasefire proposal by Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Putin’s subsequent failed attempt to have each side sign a more permanent ceasefire agreement in Moscow on January 13 (the GNA signed but Haftar balked, though most of the fighting has paused for the moment). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been averse to engage on Libya during his tenure, but he is expected to attend the Berlin conference alongside National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. Accordingly, the event gives the United States a chance to play a much-needed role on several fronts: namely, pressuring the foreign actors who have perpetuated the war and violated the arms embargo; working with Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia to codify a ceasefire at the UN Security Council; and backing Salame’s efforts to reinvigorate the Libyan national dialogue, which Haftar preempted by attacking Tripoli last April despite European support to Salame. Since 2011, Libya has struggled to establish a legitimate transitional government despite three national elections and the creation of at least four legislative bodies. Challenges to the 2014 election results eventually led to rival governments in the east and west, and the division solidified when Haftar started the first civil war with support from his allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. That war halted in 2015, but several years’ worth of domestic and international efforts failed to bring Sarraj and Haftar to an enduring resolution.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, United Nations, Conflict, Negotiation, Conference
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, Germany, North Africa, United Arab Emirates, Berlin, United States of America
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A host of crucial multilateral interests are baked into the U.S. presence, from keeping the Islamic State down, to protecting vulnerable regional allies, to preventing Iran from taking Iraq's oil revenues. The assassination of Qasem Soleimani has brought the tensions in U.S.-Iraqi relations to a boil, with militia factions strong-arming a parliamentary resolution on American troop withdrawal and various European allies contemplating departures of their own. Before they sign the divorce papers, however, officials in Baghdad and Washington should consider the many reasons why staying together is best for both them and the Middle East.
  • Topic: Oil, Bilateral Relations, Islamic State, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Jordan, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By the time IS came to the fore in Iraq and Syria, many of its themes and activities were already second nature to Tunisian jihadis who had heard similar messaging at home. There are a number of reasons why Tunisians joined the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. One underappreciated aspect of this is the way Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia’s (AST) messaging primed members of the group and others in society that were exposed to, attended, or followed online AST activities and events. In my new book, Your Sons Are at Your Service: Tunisia’s Missionaries of Jihad, I describe this process, which I will examine in brief here. In particular, I will explore AST’s motivational framing, which “functions as prods to action.” The major themes AST crafted in its narrative were related to brotherhood, the defense of Islam, the creation of an Islamic state, and “remaining” as an entity.
  • Topic: Islam, Non State Actors, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Khamenei and other regime officials have been quick to swear revenge, but for now they may focus more on stoking patriotic and militaristic sentiment at home. A few hours after Iran confirmed that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani had been killed in Iraq, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a statement describing those who shed his blood as “the most wretched of humankind.” Calling Soleimani the international symbol of “resistance,” he then announced three days of public mourning in Iran. He also declared that “severe revenge awaits the criminals” who killed Soleimani—an act that the United States had claimed credit for by the time he spoke. Other highranking officials echoed this sentiment, including President Hassan Rouhani, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, and Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who explicitly promised “revenge” on “all those” involved in the assassination. Despite this rhetoric, however, and despite Soleimani’s unmatched role in carrying out Iran’s regional policy of adventurism and asymmetric warfare, the regime may avoid major, immediate retaliation if it sees such a move as too costly or as a potential trigger for serious military conflict with the United States. On January 1, amid escalating tensions in Iraq but before Soleimani’s assassination, Khamenei stated, “We would not take the country to war...but if others want to impose something on this country, we will stand before them forcefully.” In response to President Trump’s assertion that Iran played a role in the December 31 riot at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Khamenei told listeners he had two messages for Washington: “First, how dare you! This has nothing to do with Iran. Second, you should be reasonable and understand what is the main cause for these problems. But of course they are not [reasonable].”
  • Topic: Politics, Qassem Soleimani, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Hanin Ghaddar
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Unless Washington and its allies respond to the protestors’ legitimate demands for reform, the group will survive through measures such as expanding its smuggling activity, promoting its financial institutions, and selectively scapegoating corrupt politicians. When IMF officials visited Lebanon late last month amid its accelerating economic freefall, many wondered whether these developments might alter the behavior of Hezbollah, the designated terrorist group that has a deep financial stake in the country’s public and private sectors. During a previous funding crisis—the increase in U.S. sanctions against the group’s chief underwriter, Iran—the “Party of God” and its foreign sponsors formulated a new strategy to evade these measures and create alternative sources of funding. Such sources allowed Hezbollah to make further inroads into government agencies following the 2018 parliamentary elections. For example, the group’s leaders insisted on controlling the Health Ministry, which commands Lebanon’s fourth-largest budget at $338 million per year; they also gained more access to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Agriculture Ministry, and the Ministry of Energy and Water, whose assistance was used to fund their affiliated projects and businesses. That worked until Lebanon’s own economy began its current nosedive. Unemployment has hit a record high of 40 percent, and the lira has slumped by about 60 percent on the parallel market, hiking inflation. Officially pegged to the dollar, the currency has plummeted 40 percent on the black market as local banks ration dollars necessary for imports of food, medicine, and other essential goods. Meanwhile, Lebanon has one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world (over 150 percent) and may not be able to pay $1.2 billion in Eurobonds this month. As with the Iran sanctions, however, Hezbollah has a strategy to survive this domestic pressure, at least in the near term.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Corruption, Debt, Politics, Protests, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Enhancing deterrence and protecting Americans in Iraq and Syria requires a more formalized system for rationing out retaliatory strikes at the proper intensity, time, and place. When U.S. airstrikes targeted Kataib Hezbollah militia personnel and senior Iranian military figures on December 29 and January 3, they were releasing long-pent-up retaliation for a range of provocations by Iraqi militias. Yet while these powerful blows may have injected some caution into enemy calculations, such deterrence is likely to be a wasting asset. The most proximal trigger for the strikes—the killing of an American civilian contractor during Kataib Hezbollah’s December 27 rocket attack on the K-1 base in Kirkuk—was just one in a series of increasingly risky militia operations against U.S. facilities. Only good fortune has prevented more Americans from dying in attacks conducted since then, including January 8 (when Iranian ballistic missiles struck the U.S. portion of al-Asad Air Base, causing more than a hundred nonlethal traumatic brain injuries), January 26 (mortar strike on the dining hall at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad), January 31 (rockets fired at the U.S. site at Qayyarah West), February 10 (explosive device thrown at a U.S. logistical convoy south of Baghdad), and February 13 (rocket attack on U.S. site at Kirkuk). The United States has seemingly communicated to Tehran that it will strike Iraqi militias and Iranian targets if any Americans are killed, but this redline has opened up a dangerous gray zone in which Iran and its proxies are emboldened to continue their nonlethal attacks. Besides the fact that such high-risk attacks are destined to result in more American deaths at some point, they will also produce many more injuries if permitted to continue, as seen in the January 8 strike. More broadly, they will limit U.S. freedom of movement in Iraq and Syria, undermining the point of being there in the first place. This situation is unacceptable—the United States needs a way to deter such behavior even when attacks fall short of killing Americans. When faced with similar challenges in past decades, the U.S. military established reckoning systems that matched the punishment to the crime, with useful levels of predictability, proportionality, and accountability.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Assassination, No-Fly Zones
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Instead of focusing on Iran's missile retaliation or future threats, the Supreme Leader used his latest speech to extoll the virtues of public unity behind the regime’s revolutionary goals. On January 8, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered his first public speech since the U.S. assassination of Qasem Soleimani and the subsequent Iranian missile strike on Iraqi bases housing American forces. As part of an address that touched on regional solidarity against the United States and other notable subjects, he spent considerable time claiming that Soleimani symbolized the Iranian people’s continued commitment to the revolution. In doing so, he indicated that popular support for the regime remains a crucial objective for Iran’s leaders, perhaps more so than issuing or acting on further military threats.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Domestic politics, Qassem Soleimani, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even as their lack of transparency worsens the public health crisis, the Supreme Leader and other officials have systematically gutted any civil society elements capable of organizing substantial opposition to such policies. Iran’s ongoing coronavirus epidemic has left the people with less reason than ever to trust the information and directives issued by their leaders. Part 1 of this PolicyWatch discussed the clergy’s role in aggravating this problem, but the state’s mistakes and deceptions have been legion as well. They include scandalous discrepancies between official reports after a period of denial that the virus had entered the country; a health system that was unprepared to deal with such a disease promptly and properly; and official resistance to implementing internationally recommended precautionary measures, such as canceling flights from China and quarantining the center of the outbreak. These decisions have sown widespread confusion about facts and fictions related to the virus, the most effective medically proven ways to control it, and the degree to which it is spreading throughout the country. As a result, an already restive population has become increasingly panicked about the future and angry at the state. Yet can the coronavirus actually bring down the regime? The harsh reality is that the state has left little space for opposition to organize around health issues, or any issues for that matter. Instead, it has sought to confuse the people and redirect their anger toward external enemies, even as its own policies contribute to the crisis.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Civil Society, Health, Public Health, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Whether they reveal a detailed plan or merely preview an aspirational document, U.S. officials still need to clarify their goals at a time when elections are looming and Palestinian participation seems highly unlikely. In a dramatic move, President Trump has announced that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his leading rival, Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz, will visit the White House on January 28 to be briefed on the administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan. Trump told reporters that the plan would likely be released before the summit. Predictably, no invitation was extended to the Palestinian Authority, which severed relations with Washington after the U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem in 2017.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Negotiation, Peace, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The clergy’s ambitions for global Shia revolution made the city of Qom uniquely vulnerable to the disease, and their resistance to modern medical science weakened the state’s ability to combat its spread. On February 19, two days before the Iranian government officially announced the arrival of coronavirus, an infected businessman who had recently returned from China to Qom passed away. The location and timing of his death illustrate how the Shia holy city and the religious leaders and institutions who call it home have played an outsize role in the disease’s disproportionately rapid spread inside Iran compared to other countries. How did this situation come to pass, and what does it say about the current state of the clerical establishment, its relationship with the regime, and its alienation from large swaths of Iranian society? (Part 2 of this PolicyWatch discusses the regime's role in the outbreak and its resiliency to such crises.)
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Religion, Shia, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Oula A. Alrifai
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Besides highlighting Assad’s financial mismanagement, the recent unrest gives the international community a genuine opportunity to push for transition while bolstering the more prosperous local administration in the northeast. Since mid-January, shop owners, government employees, students, and even children have been gathering in the streets of various Syrian communities to express their frustration with the Assad regime’s economic policies and untruths. Although the protests remain small for now, the fact that they have persistently carried on in the middle of regime-controlled territory highlights Bashar al-Assad’s potential vulnerability on these issues. In Suwayda, a Druze-majority province in the south, residents have protested the sharp drop in the value of the Syrian pound/lira and the deteriorating economic situation in general. In the central-western town of Salamiya, protestors were seen chanting “we want to live.” And in the Suwayda town of Shahba, demonstrators raised loaves of bread in the air while openly criticizing Bouthaina Shaaban, Assad’s political and media advisor. The latter protest was partly spurred by a recent interview on the pro-Assad television network al-Mayadeen, where Shaaban not only claimed that the country’s current economy is “fifty times better than what it was in 2011,” but also declared that “Syrians are self-sufficient in everything.” In response, protestors sarcastically noted that her comments referred to her own household’s economy, not Syria’s. Elsewhere, former agriculture minister Nour al-Din Manna described Shaaban’s remarks about the war-torn country as “hard to believe,” and a closer look at the country’s finances supports this disbelief.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Syrian War, Currency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Ali Alfoneh
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Given the IRGC’s recent restructuring, the Qods Force will likely see more continuity than change under Qaani, though his bureaucratic background is a far cry from Soleimani’s brand of charismatic, risky leadership. On January 3, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appointed Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani as chief commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, just hours after his predecessor, Qasem Soleimani, was killed by a U.S. drone strike. The new commander’s background and military activities are not nearly as well known as Soleimani’s, so taking a closer look at them can help determine whether and how the IRGC’s main extraterritorial branch might change under his leadership.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Qassem Soleimani, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A week after Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei played coy, remarking, “I have no judgment on the American election...[Both parties have been] naughty toward us.” Of course, his true reaction was far more complex. On one hand, he saw in the president-elect—who had spoken much of disentangling U.S. forces from the Middle East—a prospect of decreased military pressure on his country. On the other, he heard Trump’s raw vitriol directed at Iran’s leadership and the nuclear deal crafted by President Obama. The eventual U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA demonstrated that the new president could back up his talk with punishing action. In this close analysis of statements by Khamenei and other Iranian leaders, former seminarian Mehdi Khalaji lays out the regime’s current views on President Trump and the United States. He shows that even after the American assassination of Qods Force chief Qasem Soleimani, Iranian leaders could be open to negotiating with Washington if they believe the regime’s existence depends on it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Elections, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • 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: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: To ensure that new protests, new sanctions, and new political leadership wind up helping rather than hindering Iraqi sovereignty, Washington must handle upcoming developments with great care. In the coming weeks, Iraq’s parliament may appoint a replacement for Prime Minister Adil Abdulmahdi. This is a very positive development, since the country’s sundry Iranian-backed militias would like nothing better than to keep the discredited leader under their thumb as an open-ended caretaker premier following his November resignation. In contrast, a new leader with a new mandate could get the government moving again, pass a budget, bring the criminals responsible for killing protestors to justice, and assuage angry protestors by making visible preparations for early, free, and fair elections—thereby remedying the results of the widely disparaged 2018 vote. Such is the political space that has opened up since the deaths of Iranian Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month. For the United States, the challenge is how to support these changes without disrupting positive local dynamics.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Sovereignty, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Fewer attacks and more prosecutions suggest the country’s integrated approach could eventually become a model for the region. For the first time since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia is not on the defensive in its battle with the Islamic State and al- Qaeda. Data from 2019, paired with a more holistic approach to combating jihadists, bears out this claim. Specifically, Tunis is expanding its toolkit beyond a purely military or law enforcement approach. Because of these advances, which have developed over the past few years, Tunis and Washington will have widened opportunities to engage on more complex aspects of reform that could make Tunisia a regional and global model. Both internal and external challenges remain, such as from foreign fighters dwelling abroad, an overcrowded prison system, and the threat of resurgent jihadism next door in Libya, but these need not diminish the accomplishments. Moreover, Tunisia can now build on its achievements, continuing the process of reform after decades of authoritarian rule.
  • Topic: Law Enforcement, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The latest crackdown appears to have targeted senior defense and interior officials, spurring speculation that they are linked to previously detained princes rumored to be plotting a coup. On March 15, Saudi Arabia announced that 298 individuals have been arrested for bribery, embezzlement, wasting public funds, and other corruption offenses. Although none of the detainees has been named, they reportedly include high-ranking officers in the Defense and Interior Ministries, adding to rumors that recent royal crackdowns may be related to a planned coup.
  • Topic: Corruption, Reform, Domestic politics, Monarchy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Haseeb Humayoon, Mustafa Basij-Rasikh
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Recent efforts at settling the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan have featured an increasingly vibrant and visible display of women’s activism. Even with the support of the government and its international partners, Afghan women still face tremendous challenges to realizing their aspirations for a role in peacemaking. Based on extensive interviews throughout Afghanistan, this report attempts to better understand the changing public role of Afghan women today and their contributions to peacebuilding and ending violence.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Violent Extremism, Women, Peace
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Middle East
  • Author: Martha Crenshaw
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The 2011 civil war in Syria attracted thousands of fighters from at least seventy countries to join the Islamic State. Al-Shabaab carried out large-scale attacks on civilian targets in Uganda and Kenya as retribution for the deployment of peacekeeping forces in Somalia. In this report, Martha Crenshaw considers the extent to which civil war and foreign military intervention function as a rationale for transnational terrorism, and how understanding the connections between terrorism, civil war, and weak governance can help the United States and its allies mount an appropriate response.
  • Topic: Terrorism, War, Non State Actors, Islamic State, Transnational Actors, Peace, Al-Shabaab
  • Political Geography: Uganda, Kenya, Africa, Middle East, Syria, Somalia, United States of America
  • Author: Heidi Peltier
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: Throughout the 18 years the U.S. has been engaged in the “Global War on Terror,” mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, the government has financed this war by borrowing funds rather than through alternative means such as raising taxes or issuing war bonds. Thus, the costs of the post-9/11 wars include not only the expenses incurred for operations, equipment, and personnel, but also the interest costs on this debt. Since 2001 these interest payments have been growing, resulting in more and more taxpayer dollars being wasted on interest payments rather than being channeled to more productive uses. This paper calculates that the debt incurred for $2 trillion in direct war-related spending by the Department of Defense and State Department has already resulted in cumulative interest payments of $925 billion. Even if military interventions ceased immediately, interest payments would continue to rise, and will grow further as the U.S. continues its current military operations.
  • Topic: Debt, War, Military Spending, 9/11
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Iraq, Middle East, Yemen, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kirill Semenov
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: The situation in Idlib poses a challenge to the Assad government. Damascus has neither the forces nor the means to resolve the problem. Moreover, any operation conducted against the Syrian moderate opposition and the radical alliance “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” (HTS) concentrated in this region could be significantly problematic for the government. Turkey seeks to establish a protectorate or security zone in Idlib to accommodate those fleeing regime-held areas and prevent a new refugees flow into Turkey. The gains achieved by the Turkish operation in Idlib by the establishment of the security zone has potentially been lost as a result of the subsequent Russian backed Syrian government offensive, which has created a problem for Turkey with hundreds of thousands heading toward the Turkish border and threatening to exasperate what is already a costly refugee problem for Ankara. In order for Turkey to address issues in Idlib, including IDPs and economic problems, it first needs to deal with the HTS, ideally finding a way to dissolve the group. This could potentially be an area of cooperation for Moscow and Ankara. This may be necessary to prevent a deterioration in the security situation and long-term destabilisation of the area.
  • Topic: Security, Refugees, Economy, Political stability, Displacement, Syrian War, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Transition
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Serhat Erkmen
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: The Peace Spring Operation (PSO), launched on 9 October 2019, was Turkey’s military/diplomatic/political offensive against the People's Defence Units (YPG) in Syria and beyond and was triggered by key dynamics in the country. The first was the redeployment of US troops in the northeast of Syria; second was the expansion of Russia’s area of influence towards the east of the Euphrates; third was the launch of a new phase of the Assad government’s operation in Idlib; forth was a re-evaluation of YPG’s patron-client relationship with the United States and the European Union. Turkey sought to prevent the formation of a Kurdish state and to address the Syrian refugee issue. While Turkey was able to achieve some strategic gains via the PSO, many challenges remain which prevent Ankara from achieving all its objectives. This paper argues that PSO should be analysed in the context of Turkey’s two former operations in Syria, Euphrates Shield Operation (ESO) and Olive Branch Operation (OBO).
  • Topic: Military Intervention, Conflict, Syrian War, Transition, YPG
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Jean-Pierre Keller
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: Since the fall of Baghuz city in North East of Syria in March 2019, thousands of women, children and former IS fighters have been imprisoned in either camps or prisons. Following the Turkish military operation in October 2019, the security conditions have deteriorated, resulting in fewer guards as well as more instability and vulnerability for all those imprisoned. The worsening living conditions, the absence of adequate medical care and lack of access to education endanger the future of the children imprisoned in the camp. Moreover, the influence of the Muhajirats remains constant as a means for the spreading of propaganda inside and outside the camps.
  • Topic: Security, Human Rights, Children, Women, Islamic State, Transition
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Sinan Hatahet
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: The Syrian Constitutional Committee, a UN-authorised constituent assembly, was established to reconcile the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition, in the context of the peace process, by adopting a new constitution for Syria. While it enjoys a measure of international legitimacy, it may be a mechanism to override the terms of UN Security Council’s resolutions 22541 in favour of establishing the Astana talks as the only regulator of the political process. The committee has encountered several challenges. First is the divergence of expectations between the opposition and the Syrian government; second, the lack of a clear time frame for its deliberations; third, the Syrian government’s insistence on imposing its anti-terrorism vision; finally, the lack of international commitment to its outcome, mainly from the US and its partners. This brief examines the positions of both the Syrian government and the opposition and their expectations from the constitutional process as well as the impact of the Turkish offensive in the north east of the country on the process.
  • Topic: Constitution, Syrian War, Negotiation, Transition
  • Political Geography: Middle East, United Nations, Syria
  • Author: Marc Finaud, Bernd W. Kubbig
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: SESAME, which stands for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, is a large-scale techno-scientific project that was established under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and is set up according to the model of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. This multilateral endeavour, located in Jordan, brings together experts and researchers from the Mediterranean/Middle East, including from countries that do not have diplomatic relations (e.g. Israel and Iran, Cyprus and Turkey). It is conceived primarily as a project combining research capacity-building with vital peacebuilding efforts. In principle, these efforts may include the manifold technical and cooperative dimensions of anti-terrorist activities related to weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear, or CBRN), and also to disarmament and non-proliferation. The country where SESAME is located – Jordan – has been heavily involved in the fight against the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS). This Policy Forum issue deals with the genesis of SESAME, and then describes its functioning, achievements, and potential benefits; the challenges it faces, especially funding; and its peacebuilding element. The SESAME project can be improved in concrete ways by meeting two peacebuilding-related criteria: firstly, by living up to its claim of being a contribution to rapprochement between the peoples of this conflict-torn region, whose security is affected by national rivalries or violent non-state actors; and, secondly, by providing inputs for the users’ community without adversely affecting that community’s predominant focus on research. This Policy Forum aims at acquainting especially young scientists with the technical and cooperative dimensions of SESAME’s CBRN-related counter-terrorist activities, as well as its disarmament and non-proliferation measures. Such scientists can make use particularly of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) programmes and of the nearby Amman-based academic and educational infrastructure.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, United Nations, Counter-terrorism, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan
  • Author: Nikolay Sukhov
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: The Russian leadership believes that the Constitutional Committee (CC) is a key factor in a political settlement in Syria. Russia hopes that the West, primarily the EU, adhering to the principle of “no reconstruction without a political transition”1, would regard the launch of the CC as the beginning of this political process and increase humanitarian aid to Syrians living in government- controlled territory. Russia's position on the constitution issue differs from that of the Syrian government. However, glimmer of hope could come from events in northeast Syria2, which has strengthened position of the opposition in the CC. Yet, neither Russia, nor Syria, are ready to recognise this reality. The Russian leadership is not likely to promote rapprochement between the Syrian government and the opposition on reform issues, as Russia perceives these to be the internal affairs of Syria. In Russia, it is perceived that the constitutional, and later, the political process based on the new constitution, could facilitate the return of refugees. The next step after the adoption of the new constitution should be legislative reform, which would bring Syrian legislation into line with the constitution. The topic of legislative reform in Syria could become bargaining tool for Europe in negotiations with Russia. If Europe wishes to stabilise the situation in Syria and the Middle East, it should first participate in reconstruction efforts by reviving the economy, and thereby Syrian civil society. This would be an indirect stimulation of political reforms. In this case, European leaders need to develop a long-term strategy aimed at improving Syrian society, preventing radical ideas, terrorism and possible new waves of migration to Europe. Russia could contribute to the implementation of European initiatives as the interests of Russia and Europe to stabilise Syria and the region coincide.
  • Topic: Constitution, Syrian War, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Sujata Ashwarya
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown University Press
  • Abstract: Despite substantial efforts and investments in rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the country is still struggling to deliver on public services. Years of destruction in conflict, as well as alleged mismanagement and neglect, have taken a heavy toll on the country’s power infrastructure. Severe power cuts and rolling blackouts are endemic in Iraq today. Between 2014 and 2018, Islamic State terrorism inflicted billions of dollars in damage on the already dilapidated electricity infrastructure, causing a cumulative potential and actual loss of a whopping 7GW in generation and transmission capacities.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Infrastructure, Business , Conflict, Services, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Nadav Tamir, Nimrod Goren, Lior Lehrs, Yonatan Touval, Elie Podeh, Ksenia Svetlova, Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, Merav Kahana-Dagan, Barukh Binah, Roee Kibrik
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Following the publication of the Trump plan, Mitvim Institute experts argue that this is not the way to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. This document includes initial commentaries by Nadav Tamir, who claims that Israel needs a real peace plan; Dr. Nimrod Goren, who calls on the international community to say “no” to the Trump plan; Dr. Lior Lehrs, who explains that on the Jerusalem issue, Trump shatters the status quo and previous understandings; Yonatan Touval, who argues that Trump takes problematic diplomatic practices of his predecessors to the extreme; Prof. Elie Podeh, who contends that the Trump plan is not even an opportunity for peace; Former MK Ksenia Svetlova, who warns that the Trump plan might endanger Israel’s warming ties with Arab countries; Dr. Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, who claims that while the EU remains committed to the two-state solution, it struggles to respond to the Trump plan; Merav Kahana-Dagan, who identifies an opportunity to bring the Palestinian issue back to the forefront; Amb. (ret.) Barukh Binah, who calls on Israeli leaders to seek diplomatic, not only security, advice; and Dr. Roee Kibrik, who thinks that Israelis should decide what type of country they want to live in.
  • Topic: Politics, Territorial Disputes, Peace, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Nimrod Goren
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: In February 2019, Israel Katz was named Israel’s interim foreign minister, and three months later his appointment became permanent. This ended a period of almost four-years without a fulltime foreign minister, during which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) significantly declined. A year into Katz’s term, an assessment can be made as to whether his appointment has strengthened the MFA and left a policy imprint. This, while taking into consideration the turmoil in Israeli politics since early 2019 and the understanding that deeper change requires a ministerial tenure longer than a year. This article sums up Katz’s first year on the job, based on media reports and information published by the MFA. It examines both intra-ministerial and policy aspects, and concludes that Katz is operating in Netanyahu’s heavy shadow, has failed to address the deep budgetary crisis faced by the MFA, and has focused on developing ties with Gulf States and combatting anti-Semitism.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Financial Crisis, Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Gulf Nations
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This paper scans the interests and activities of Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Egypt in the Mediterranean Basin – their varying and competing interests, their points of convergence and cooperation, and the challenges and opportunities for Israel. The paper is based on the main points raised at the third meeting of the working group on Israel in the Mediterranean, held in September 2019 in the Herzliya offices of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung at the initiative of the Mitvim Institute, the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and Haifa University’s National Security Studies Center. The paper shines a spotlight on key elements in regional relationships and significant activity taking place in the Mediterranean Basin, which Israel must consider in formulating and executing policy. It is based on the presentations and discussions conducted at the event and does not reflect agreement among all participants.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Economy
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Egypt, Cyprus, Mediterranean
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This policy paper sets out the various interests and goals of global powers (the US, Russia, China and the EU) in the Mediterranean, and the measures they are undertaking to implement them. The document also describes Israeli policies vis-àvis the powers’ activities in this region, and points to the principles that should guide them. The paper is based on a July 2019 meeting in Jerusalem of the research and policy working group on Israel in the Mediterranean, held at the initiative of the Mitvim Institute, the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and Haifa University’s National Security Studies Center.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Middle East, Israel, United States of America, Mediterranean
  • Author: Michal Yaari
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This article focuses on relations between Israel and Qatar, analyzing them in historical context, in the context of Qatari foreign policy and in terms of their potential and the limitations imposed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The article describes the shift from a mutual conception of hostility to unusual cooperation over the Gaza crisis. While Israel aspires to avoid additional rounds of violence with Gaza, Qatar seeks to strengthen its regional role as a mediator, and mutual interests converge into joint activity to avert an additional military clash between Hamas and Israel. The cooperation between the states illustrates how the Palestinian issue can leverage regional cooperation. At the same time, the untapped diplomatic, economic and civilian potential of Israel-Qatar relations points to the limitations imposed by the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Economy, Conflict, Hamas
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Qatar
  • Author: Haim Koren
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Since President Abdel Fatah a-Sisi’s rise to power in 2014, Israeli-Egyptian ties have been marked by defense-strategic cooperation. This is based on the shared perception of Iran and radical Islamist terror organizations as a threat, and the common interest in managing the Palestinian issue, in general, and specifically the Gaza arena. In the inherent tension between ideology and national interests, Egypt continues to strive for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians (Fatah, Hamas and the other Palestinian factions) and seeks to bring about internal Palestinian reconciliation beforehand (between the leaderships in Ramallah and Gaza). Its role as a key mediator between Hamas and Israel is crucial, and is in line with Egypt’s international standing as an important regional leader.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Bilateral Relations, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Gaza, Egypt
  • Author: Ronen Zeidel
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The final months of 2019 were marked by widespread, prolonged protests throughout Iraq, which began in October. Baghdad was the focal point of the demonstrations, which were directed at the ruling political elite and the state backing it: Iran. Prime Minister Adil AbdulMahdi resigned at the end of November, throwing official Iraq into a political vacuum and guaranteeing that any premier appointed to replace him would be considered an interim ruler and as such, his government would only be accepted by the weakened political elite, but not by a significant part of the population. This article reviews the changes that occurred in 2019 in the nature of Israel-Iraq cooperation, as they relate to diplomatic, security, economic and civilian aspects.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Civilians
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Einat Levi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This article examines the current Israel-Morocco cooperation and its development through 2019. It briefly describes developments in diplomatic, security, economic and civilian arenas in order to find common ground and identify trends. Naturally, the paper will not elaborate much on the security-intelligence aspect of the cooperation, despite its centrality, due to its classified nature.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Bilateral Relations, Economy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North Africa, Morocco
  • Author: Yitzhak Gal
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The year 2019 saw additional deterioration in Israel-Jordan relations to the point where ties can be described as “toxic”. Israel’s continued callous disregard of Jordanian sensitivities and interests on policy issues (such as al-Haram a-Sharif/Temple Mount) and economic issues (such as water), was further exacerbated by the particularly volatile issue of the Jordan Valley annexation. Strong security ties continued to provide the basis of the relationship, although they are conducted largely behind the scenes. Economic and civilian cooperation declined, except for the Israeli gas exports to Jordan, which are of strategic importance. Nonetheless, and despite Jordan’s frustration, anger and disappointment with Israel, new content can be infused into the relationship in order to rehabilitate it. Both states have a clear interest in cooperation.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations, Peace, Trade
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Jordan
  • Author: Gabriel Mitchell
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This paper explores the nexus between Israel’s energy policy and foreign policy interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. While regional energy cooperation has the potential to be one of the most significant and enduring Israeli foreign policy achievements in recent decades, a closer look at regional geopolitics reveals that energy cooperation is often transactional in nature, and rarely transformative. The discovery of offshore hydrocarbons has also aggravated existing tensions between regional actors. This subject deserves more serious discussion by Israeli policymakers and the Israeli public, who often accept the Netanyahu government’s argument that energy exports will provide Israel massive strategic benefits. As this paper argues, in order to chart an optimal course forward, Israelis must first have a realistic conversation about energy’s potential to catalyze changes in the Eastern Mediterranean that serve Israel’s domestic needs and strategic interests.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Grand Strategy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Mediterranean
  • Author: Kristin Perry
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The inclusion of women is critical to the success and sustainability of reconciliation efforts. To date, however, the government of Iraq has failed to prioritize women’s participation in its national reconciliation program. In the development of the second Iraqi National Action Plan (INAP), the federal government has an opportunity to rectify this legacy and restore the social contract with its female constituents. This policy brief examines current gender deficits throughout Iraq’s reconciliation process and offers relevant recommendations.
  • Topic: Women, Feminism, Reconciliation , Sustainability
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Author: Cheol-Won Lee, Hyun Jean Lee, Mahmut Tekçe, Burcu Düzgün Öncel
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP)
  • Abstract: The Agreement on Trade in Services and the Agreement on Investment between Korea and Turkey came into effect in August 2018. This article focuses on the construction sector and the cultural contents sector to seek possible cooperative measures between the two countries.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements, Culture, Economy, Investment, Industry
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Asia, South Korea
  • Author: Thierry de Montbrial, Robin Niblett, Ed Feulner, Feng Zhu
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Ifri’s Executive Chairman Thierry de Montbrial spoke at the 20th World Knowledge Forum in Seoul on September 25, 2019 with Robin Niblett, Chatham House's director, Ed Feulner, The Heritage Foundation's Founder and Former President and Feng Zhu, Director of the Institute of International Studies at Nanjing University about the major governance issues of our time. The global geopolitical situation is caught in a maelstrom. The conflict between the United States and China is getting worse and subsequent negative effects are rising. In Europe, Brexit is making the continent more divisive than harmonious. The instability in Middle East is not solved. In addition, the North Korea’s nuclear weapons are an endless source of problem that defies a quick solution, which made the politics surrounding the Korean Peninsula more complex. The problem is that the currently weak global governance may lead the global political landscape into a serious crisis. To give an answer to these problems, heads of top think tanks share their prospect and the future of the global governance, giving a guideline for each country to listen for a better direction.
  • Topic: Governance, Geopolitics, Think Tanks, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Middle East, North Korea, Global Focus, United States of America
  • 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: Alaa Tartir
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Palestinian political leadership’s obsession with the idea of statehood as a means to realise self-determination and freedom has proved to be detrimental to the struggle of decolonising Palestine. By prioritising “statehood under colonialism” instead of focusing on decolonising Palestine first and then engaging in state formation, the Palestinian leadership – under pressure from regional and international actors – disempowered the people and empowered security structures which ultimately serve the colonial condition.
  • Topic: State Formation, Colonialism, Decolonization, Repression
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Carmen Geha
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Lebanese women have been leaders in the revolution that has shaken Lebanon since October 2019. This paper argues that the next stage will be critical if women want to transform their involvement into equal rights. For them to do so, they need to move beyond informal revolutionary politics to formal electoral and party politics with meaningful and substantive representation.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Human Rights, United Nations, Social Movement, Feminism, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Beirut
  • Author: Mark Furness, Annabelle Houdret
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Development Institute (DIE)
  • Abstract: State–society relations are in flux across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), nearly a decade after the Arab uprisings. The protests and revolts that swept the region in 2011 arose from widespread rejection of the post-independence Arab social contracts. These were based on redistribution of rents from natural resources and other forms of transfers and subsidies, as “compensation” for acquiescence to political and economic authoritarianism. In several MENA countries, including Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, but also in Algeria, Lebanon and Palestine, the old social contracts have been destroyed by civil conflicts and internationally sponsored wars, which in some cases predated the 2011 uprisings. Since broken social contracts are at the root of conflict in the MENA region, supporting new social contracts should be the core objective of development cooperation with the region’s most conflict-affected countries. But “post-conflict reconstruction” often ignores the fact that conflicts do not end with peace agreements, and conflict-affected societies need more than reconstructed infrastructure, institutional capacity and private sector investment if they are to avoid violence in the future. Development agencies term this kind of cooperation “resilience”: promoting political, economic, social and environmental stability, rather than risking uncontrollable, revolutionary transformation. However, resilience has often provided cover for short-term measures aimed at preserving the position of particular actors and systems. Development cooperation needs to get beyond reconstruction and resilience approaches that often fail to foster the long-term stability they promise. By focussing on the social contract, development cooperation with conflict-affected countries can provide a crucial link between peacebuilding, reconstruction and longer-term socioeconomic and political development. It can thereby contribute not only to short-term, but also to long-term, sustainable stability. Using the social contract as an analytical lens can increase understanding not only of what donors should avoid doing, but also where they should concentrate their engagement during transitions from civil war. Practical examples from challenging contexts in the MENA region suggest that donors can make positive contributions in support of new social contracts when backing (a) stakeholder dialogues, (b) governance and reforms, and (c) socioeconomic inclusion. In Libya, the socioeconomic dialogue process has brought stakeholders together to outline a new economic vision for the country. The Municipal Development Programme in Palestine focusses on improving the accountability and delivery of local institutions. The Moroccan Economic, Social and Environmental Council provides an example of a process that engages previously marginalised groups. These programmes are all examples of targeted efforts to build cooperation among the groups that make up MENA societies. They aim to broaden decision-making processes, and to increase the impact of specific measures with the ultimate objective of improving state–society relations. They could be adapted for other fragile contexts, with external support. In backing more of these kinds of activities, donors could make stronger contributions to sustainable, long-term peace- and state-building processes in conflict-affected MENA countries.
  • Topic: Development, Natural Resources, Conflict, Peace, Social Contract
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Palestine, Algeria, North Africa, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Abo Alasrar, Nadwa Al-Dawsari, Ibrahim Jalal, Gerald Feierstein
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: Middle East Institute (MEI)
  • Abstract: Virtual roundtable recorded March 25, 2020, featuring presentations by MEI scholars Fatima Abo Alasrar, Nadwa Al-Dawsari, and Ibrahim Jalal. This roundtable covered a range of topics including Houthi expansion, prospects for new negotiations, the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, and the coronavirus’ impact on Yemen.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Conflict, Negotiation, Houthis, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen
  • Author: Zaher Sahloul, Elizabeth Tsurkov, Charles Lister, Alexander Marquardt
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: Middle East Institute (MEI)
  • Abstract: Nearly 600,000 people have been displaced in northwestern Syria in the last two months, in what is now the biggest humanitarian crisis in nine years of war. The brutal military assault being conducted by the Syrian government, Russia and Iran shows no signs of abating and has in recent weeks sparked direct and deadly clashes between Syrian and Turkish troops. Hospitals and schools continue to be struck from the air, IDP camps have reached capacity and humanitarian agencies are warning of an impending humanitarian disaster. Since the Syrian government and its allies began an offensive on Idlib in the Spring of 2019, approximately 25% of the opposition-controlled territory has fallen - roughly 75% still remains. Amid this ongoing crisis and unprecedented levels of civilian displacement and human suffering, the international community appears to have been rendered powerless. The Middle East Institute is pleased to host a panel discussion on the situation in Idlib, in order to discuss the nature of the crisis and the international response; the geopolitical dynamics at play; concerns over terrorism; and what possible paths might exist to resolve the situation.
  • Topic: Geopolitics, Displacement, Conflict, Syrian War, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Przemysław Osiewicz, Alex Vatanka, Suzanne Kianpour
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: Middle East Institute (MEI)
  • Abstract: The relationship between the European Union and the Middle East is facing a critical period of change, given the changing leadership in key European Union bodies, rising tensions with regard to Iran, and increasing confrontation between the United States and Iran. The Middle East Institute is pleased to invite you to a conversation with MEI scholar Przemysław Osiewicz, who will discuss his recently released paper series on the impact of leadership changes in key EU bodies such as the EU high representative for foreign and security policy, the European Commission, and the European Council on EU-MENA relations. He will be joined by MEI Senior Fellow Alex Vatanka and moderator Suzanne Kianpour to explore divergences between the United States and the EU approaches in their policies toward Iran, internal divisions within the EU on engagement with Iran, the role of economic factors, and the future of the JCPOA.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy, Politics, Geopolitics, Leadership
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America, European Union
  • Author: Daniel Brumberg, Sharan Grewal, Mohamed-Dhia Hammami, Sabina Henneberg, William Lawrence
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: Middle East Institute (MEI)
  • Abstract: Following elections in September and October, Tunisia is having difficulty forming a government, in part because of the collapse of the 2016 Carthage Pact. MEI is pleased to host a panel featuring several leading analysts of Tunisian politics, who will attempt to answer which approach can produce forward motion while at the same time prevent Tunisia from slipping backward towards authoritarianism. Some parties are defending the consensus model to preserve democratic gains, and others are pursuing to force change based on their political preferences. Presiding over all of this is a populist president without a political party who has in the past proposed a radical overhaul of the entire system, abolishing political parties, and creating a form of direct democracy. It is unclear if Tunisian democracy can survive any of these scenarios, whether it be consensus politics, majoritarian politics, or antipolitics. With any of the formulas, winners win, and losers can easily become spoilers, as nearly happened in 2013 with opposition protests led by the women's movement.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Ulaş Bayraktar
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV)
  • Abstract: This report has been produced in the framework of the Empowering Civil Society for a More Democratic Local Governance Project funded by the scope of Republic of Turkey and European Union supported Partnerships and Networks Grant Program. TESEV is the lead, Şişli Municipality and Association of Union of Citizen Assemblies are the co-applicants, and the Checks and Balances Network is the associate of the project. The transition from the classical management approach to the governance approach, in which private sector and non-governmental organisations take on roles in determining public policies, has been the dominant discourse of politics for more than a quarter century. Instead of a hierarchical and monolithic bureaucratic process, this approach envisions a management triangle that engages other stakeholders. However, these governance principles have not been fully put into practice in Turkey and those that have been implemented have not yielded the expected results. The present study aims to test these statements at the level of local governments and politics. Its purpose is also to open up a discussion based on the findings of interviews and roundtables conducted in ten cities in Turkey and of a comprehensive survey administered to a nationally representative sample of civil society organisations.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Non-Governmental Organization, Governance, Democracy, Urban
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Mike Sweeney
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Defense Priorities
  • Abstract: The strategic importance of the Middle East has declined, but Washington has so far inadequately adjusted. Diversification of energy sources and reduction in external threats to the region make the Middle East less important to U.S. interests.
  • Topic: Cold War, Military Strategy, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: Dyan Mazurana, Anastasia Marshak
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Feinstein International Center, Tufts University
  • Abstract: The United Nations and its partner agencies have pledged to focus on the problem and eradication of early, child, and forced marriage. On November 12, 2018, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on child, early, and forced marriage. As part of this resolution, the General Assembly highlighted the need for better data collection and disaggregation of that data for improved analysis and learning. This report is a comprehensive and user-friendly concept note for a database on child marriage in humanitarian settings, a first step in eradicating the problem. The report identifies the existing knowledge and data on child marriage in humanitarian settings, gaps in that evidence base, and provides recommendations for moving forward with the creation of a comprehensive database. The authors interviewed key stakeholders on child marriage across program, policy, and academia in combination with a comprehensive literature review. The report was commissioned and funded by Save the Children U.S.
  • Topic: Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Aid, United Nations, Children, Basic Data, Humanitarian Intervention
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Global Focus
  • Author: Natasha Banks, M. Anis Salem
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Cairo Review of Global Affairs
  • Institution: School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, American University in Cairo
  • Abstract: A roadmap for a sustainable future without wasteful subsidies and mismanagement.
  • Topic: Health, Food, Food Security, Sustainability, Human Security
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, North Africa, Egypt, Jordan
  • Author: Thomas L. Crisman
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Cairo Review of Global Affairs
  • Institution: School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, American University in Cairo
  • Abstract: How is the water-energy-food nexus impacting ecological, social, and political systems in the Middle East and North Africa?
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Water, Food, Food Security, Global Security, Human Security
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, North Africa, Jordan, Oman
  • Author: Omer Karasapan
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Cairo Review of Global Affairs
  • Institution: School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, American University in Cairo
  • Abstract: The focus for MENA countries should not be to achieve self-sufficiency, but rather food security.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Water, Food, Food Security, Global Security, Human Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Sarah Townsend
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Cairo Review of Global Affairs
  • Institution: School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, American University in Cairo
  • Abstract: When Gulf nations face food, security, and water scarcity issues, one response is to seek lucrative agricultural investments in fertile African lands. Yet, while such deals can bring benefits to the countries involved, there are also sizeable risks.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Water, Food, Food Security, Business
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Laila Parsons
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Palestine Studies
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: The Peel Commission (1936–37) was the first British commission of inquiry to recommend the partition of Palestine into two states. The commissioners made their recommendation after listening to several weeks of testimony, delivered in both public and secret sessions. The transcripts of the public testimony were published soon afterward, but the secret testimony transcripts were only released by the United Kingdom’s National Archives in March 2017. Divided into two parts, this article closely examines the secret testimony. Part I discusses how the secret testimony deepens our understanding of key themes in Mandate history, including: the structural exclusion of the Palestinians from the Mandate state, the place of development projects in that structural exclusion, the different roles played by British anti-Semitism and anti-Arab racism, and the importance of the procedural aspects of committee work for understanding the mechanics of British governance. Part II extends this analysis by focusing on what the secret testimony reveals about how the Peel Commission came to recommend partition.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Developments, Zionism, Colonialism, Empire, Anti-Semitism
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Aisha Ahmad
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In recent years, jihadists across the world have transformed their gendered violence, shocking the world by breaking from prior taboos and even celebrating abuses that they had previously prohibited. This behavior is surprising because jihadists represent a class of insurgents that are deeply bound by rules and norms. For jihadists, deviating from established Islamist doctrines is no easy feat. What then explains these sudden transformations in the rules and norms governing jihadist violence? An inductive investigation of contemporary jihadist violence in Pakistan and Nigeria reveals a new theory of jihadist normative evolution. Data from these cases show that dramatic changes in jihadist violence occur when an external trigger creates an expanded political space for jihadist entrepreneurs to do away with normative constraints on socially prohibited types of violence. As these jihadist leaders capitalize on the triggers, they are able to encourage a re-socialization process within their ranks, resulting in the erosion of previously held taboos, the adoption of proscribed behaviors, and the emergence of toxic new norms.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Gender Issues, Islam, Terrorism, Women, Gender Based Violence
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Middle East, West Asia
  • Author: Joost Jongerden
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: While Trump always advocated disengagement from Syria, Turkish mainstream opinion and political leadership have never accepted Kurdish self-rule of territory on its Syrian border, which Turkey treats as an existential threat and dismisses with the trope of “terrorism.” Thus, Turkey’s military intervention should hardly be surprising. Indeed, not only is the assault an upscaled version of last year’s intervention and occupation of Afrin—a pocket in the western part of northern Syria—but it also fits a wider pattern of Turkish military aggression. Looking back over the past four years, we see Turkey repeatedly waging war for a “strong” state construction and regional power development.
  • Topic: War, Conflict, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, State Building
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Kurdistan
  • Author: Dean Vuletic
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: After winning the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) with her song “Toy” (inspired by the #MeToo movement), Netta Barzilai issued the declaration, “Next year in Jerusalem!” By using the traditional Jewish phrase, she was suggesting that the 2019 ESC would be held in that city.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Culture, Music
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: “The category of public reputational accountability,” Keohane asserts, “is meant to apply to situations in which reputation, widely and publicly known, provides a mechanism for accountability even in the absence of other mechanisms.” The effectiveness of public reputational accountability, in particular, has floundered because of the fact that the U.S. public’s views have shifted since the inception of the torture program. Even while recognizing that enhanced interrogation techniques are now against the law, former CIA director Michael Hayden defended the Agency’s past use of the techniques in 2014, claiming that “we thought we were doing the nation’s will.” Today, though, it can be argued that the absence of public reputational accountability stems from the fact that the issue of torture has been reframed in the public imagination.
  • Topic: Intelligence, Torture, Impunity, War on Terror, Accountability
  • Political Geography: Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: With the nomination and eventual appointment of Gina Haspel to the directorship of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), debates around the legality and the morality of the torture program undertaken during the early years of the War on Terror resurfaced. Some editorials asserted that condoning torture was now a roadmap for promotion at the CIA. Others, including former senior leaders of the CIA, argued that none could lead the Agency better than Haspel and claimed she was a person of integrity. Yet, amid the debates about her leadership of the Agency loomed two larger questions: 1) who is most responsible for the torture program, and 2) what does accountability mean? In the balancing act between the demands of justice and the imperatives of national security, how can we best ensure that the right people are held accountable for the U.S. torture program? Forceful repudiations of the program did occur through both internal agency proceedings as well as in the form of checks and balances across the federal government, but the public view of torture has changed in the almost two decades since 9/11. This shift is significant because U.S. popular opinion against the torture program a decade ago significantly contributed to pushback against it, pushback that manifested in the accountability measures detailed below. In the absence of public opposition, accountability measures will be more elusive.
  • Topic: Intelligence, Torture, War on Terror, Accountability
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Mohanad Hage Ali
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The Syrian conflict has magnified threats to minorities with long-term implications both within and beyond Syria’s borders. The deployment of excessive firepower by the Russian and Iranian-backed Assad regime, and the concurrent rise of Islamic extremism have had both direct and indirect impacts on minorities. Local, regional, and international actors have weaponized minority groups to bolster their influence, further intensifying schisms in the Syrian social fabric and in the international community as a whole. The flow of one million Syrian refugees to Europe between 2015 and 2016 strengthened an already powerful wave of anti-immigration, nationalist populism throughout the continent and across the Atlantic. As an openly Islamophobic and, more implicitly, anti-Semitic movement, the wave has contributed to widening the scope of the Syrian conflict’s schismatic effects beyond the country’s borders.
  • Topic: Minorities, Violent Extremism, Refugees, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Natalie Hilder
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The plight of Palestinian refugees was catapulted back into the spotlight last month, after a pair of events brought the issue to the forefront of international attention. While the Trump administration unveiled a new peace plan, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) received multinational pledges of $113 million in aid. Although these quick-fix efforts aimed to bring peace to, and improve living conditions for, Palestinians, they were rightfully met with widespread disenchantment.
  • Topic: United Nations, History, Foreign Aid, Refugees, International Community
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, North Africa
  • Author: Shannon Dick
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In 2013, the United States began a secret operation to train and equip opposition forces fighting against the Assad regime in Syria. Through the CIA, the United States facilitated the transfer of an estimated $1 billion in arms, ammunition, and training to Syrian rebel groups in hopes of influencing a negotiated end to the war. But these were not the only weapons flowing throughout Syria — Syrian government stockpiles served as a key source of armaments, and countries from around the region funneled arms into the country to support a variety of actors. In this way, the story of weapons in Syria reads as a cautionary tale about the unintended and lasting consequences of arms transfers, especially to countries in conflict.
  • Topic: Intelligence, Weapons , Arms Trade, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ayşe İrem Aycan Özer
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: This analysis is about the change in Israel’s security understanding. Israel is a country located in the Middle East surrounded by Arab regimes which were historically hostile to its very existence in the region. The unification of the Arab countries against Israel and the lack of an ally in the region created a constant fear in Israel. When it started having better relations with Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey, Israel ended its isolation and found partners in its immediate geography. Even when relations between Turkey and Israel took a turn for the worse, Israel continued to have Egypt and Jordan on its side.
  • Topic: International Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Lydia Khalil
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Women will be important to the resurgence and transformation of the Islamic State from governance project to global terrorist insurgency. Islamic State has expanded both the potential and the scope of the roles and functions women can play, providing additional avenues for their participation in jihad in both kinetic and non-kinetic roles. The cohort of former caliphate members of mostly women and children now held in camps pose a key challenge for counterterrorism efforts around the world. Assumptions about women and violence can obstruct an accurate assessment of the threat female IS supporters pose and an accurate understanding of their agency.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, Women, Radicalization, Islamic State, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Australia, Syria
  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Patricio Goldstein, Ana Grisanti, Tim O'Brien, Jorge Tapia, Miguel Ajgel Santos
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Jordan faces a number of pressing economic challenges: low growth, high unemployment, rising debt levels, and continued vulnerability to regional shocks. After a decade of fast economic growth, the economy decelerated with the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09. From then onwards, various external shocks have thrown its economy out of balance and prolonged the slowdown for over a decade now. Conflicts in neighboring countries have led to reduced demand from key export markets and cut off important trade routes. Foreign direct investment, which averaged 12.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) between 2003-2009, fell to 5.1% of GDP over the 2010-2017. Regional conflicts have interrupted the supply of gas from Egypt – forcing Jordan to import oil at a time of record prices, had a negative impact on tourism, and also provoked a massive influx of migrants and refugees. Failure to cope with 50.4% population growth between led to nine consecutive years (2008-2017) of negative growth rates in GDP per capita, resulting in a cumulative loss of 14.0% over the past decade (2009-2018). Debt to GDP ratios, which were at 55% by the end of 2009, have skyrocketed to 94%. Over the previous five years Jordan has undertaken a significant process of fiscal consolidation. The resulting reduction in fiscal impulse is among the largest registered in the aftermath of the Financial Crises, third only to Greece and Jamaica, and above Portugal and Spain. Higher taxes, lower subsidies, and sharp reductions in public investment have in turn furthered the recession. Within a context of lower aggregate demand, more consolidation is needed to bring debt-to-GDP ratios back to normal. The only way to break that vicious cycle and restart inclusive growth is by leveraging on foreign markets, developing new exports and attracting investments aimed at increasing competitiveness and strengthening the external sector. The theory of economic complexity provides a solid base to identify opportunities with high potential for export diversification. It allows to identify the existing set of knowhow, skills and capacities as signaled by the products and services that Jordan is able to make, and to define existing and latent areas of comparative advantage that can be developed by redeploying them. Service sectors have been growing in importance within the Jordanian economy and will surely play an important role in export diversification. In order to account for that, we have developed an adjusted framework that allows to identify the most attractive export sectors including services. Based on that adjusted framework, this report identifies export themes with a high potential to drive growth in Jordan while supporting increasing wage levels and delivering positive spillovers to the non-tradable economy. The general goal is to provide a roadmap with key elements of a strategy for Jordan to return to a high economic growth path that is consistent with its emerging comparative advantages.
  • Topic: Government, International Trade and Finance, Finance, Economy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan
  • Author: Semiray Kasoolu, Ricardo Hausmann, Tim O'Brien, Miguel Ajgel Santos
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Women in Jordan are excluded from labor market opportunities at among the highest rates in the world. Previous efforts to explain this outcome have focused on specific, isolated aspects of the problem and have not exploited available datasets to test across causal explanations. We develop a comprehensive framework to analyze the drivers of low female employment rates in Jordan and systematically test their validity, using micro-level data from Employment and Unemployment Surveys (2008-2018) and the Jordanian Labor Market Panel Survey (2010-2016). We find that the nature of low female inclusion in Jordan’s labor market varies significantly with educational attainment, and identify evidence for different factors affecting different educational groups. Among women with high school education or less, we observe extremely low participation levels and find the strongest evidence for this phenomenon tracing to traditional social norms and poor public transportation. On the higher end of the education spectrum – university graduates and above – we find that the problem is not one of participation, but rather of unemployment, which we attribute to a small and undiversified private sector that is unable to accommodate women’s needs for work and work-family balance.
  • Topic: Education, Gender Issues, Political Economy, Labor Issues, Women, Inequality
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan
  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Tim O'Brien, Miguel Angel Santos, Ana Grisanti, Semiray Kasoolu, Nikita Taniparti, Jorge Tapia, Ricardo Villasmil
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: In the decade 1999-2009, Jordan experienced an impressive growth acceleration, tripling its exports and increasing income per capita by 38%. Since then, a number of external shocks that include the Global Financial Crisis (2008-2009), the Arab Spring (2011), the Syrian Civil War (2011), and the emergence of the Islamic State (2014) have affected Jordan in significant ways and thrown its economy out of balance. Jordan’s debt-to-GDP ratio has ballooned from 55% (2009) to 94% (2018). The economy has continued to grow amidst massive fiscal adjustment and balance of payments constraints, but the large increase in population – by 50% between 2008 and 2017 – driven by massive waves of refugees has resulted in a 12% cumulative loss in income per capita (2010-2017). Moving forward, debt sustainability will require not only continued fiscal consolidation but also faster growth and international support to keep interest payments on the debt contained. We have developed an innovative framework to align Jordan’s growth strategy with its changing factor endowments. The framework incorporates service industries into an Economic Complexity analysis, utilizing the Dun and Bradstreet database, together with an evaluation of the evolution of Jordan’s comparative advantages over time. Combining several tools to identify critical constraints faced by sectors with the greatest potential, we have produced a roadmap with key elements of a strategy for Jordan to return to faster, more sustainable and more inclusive growth that is consistent with its emerging comparative advantages.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Women, GDP, International Development, Economic growth
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan
  • Author: Kelsey Wise, Amin Awad
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: The series of refugee crises in the Middle East and North Africa has created urgent need for coordinated international responses and advocacy. To learn more about the complexities of meeting the needs of diverse refugee populations across the region, and addressing their root causes, JMEPP Levant Regional Editor Kelsey Wise sat down with Amin Awad in advance of his appearance at the Harvard Arab Conference. Mr. Awad currently serves as the Director for the Middle East and North Africa with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and has extensive experience working on refugee issues and in humanitarian relief in the MENA region. He is also the Regional Refugee Coordinator for Syria and Iraq.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Refugee Crisis, Displacement, Syrian War, Resettlement, Child Marriage
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Yemen, United Nations, North Africa, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan
  • Author: Josh Dean
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: A little over a month ago, I wrote of an atmosphere of resignation in Israel among Netanyahu’s political opponents leading up to the Israeli parliamentary elections on April 9th. The smattering of center-left parties seeking to rival Netanyahu’s Likud at the ballot box were divided across a range of tickets, unable to put their egos aside and form a joint bloc capable of presenting a veritable challenge to the incumbent prime minister. The long-reigning Israeli leader’s tenure looked, therefore, set to extend even further. The question was not who will be the next prime minister, but rather “Who will be the next Bibi [Netanyahu]?” as Israeli comedian Tom Aharon quipped. But a lot can change in a day of Israeli politics, never mind a month. As political alliances shift rapidly, the announcement of Netanyahu’s indictment on fraud and corruption charges has further destabilized the already-turbulent atmosphere leading up to the April elections.
  • Topic: Corruption, Politics, Law, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Ali Tehrani, Azadeh Pourzand
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Winter 2019 marked the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. The anniversary celebrations occurred in the midst of a difficult era of socio-economic turmoil, the return ofَ U.S. sanctions, and deepening political infighting in the Islamic Republic. Tensions between the government and the people are especially high. The tectonic plates of social change have been shifting below the surface in Iran over the past two decades, with major discontent erupting in the past year. While the country’s political facade appears largely unchanged, tensions and fragmentations among the ruling elite have deepened. Economic conditions are fast deteriorating for the average citizen, while political repression remains a harsh reality. Iran’s citizens, who have clung to hope and the possibility for change through decades of domestic repression and isolation from the global economy, struggle to remain hopeful. Collective fatigue stemming from years of isolation from the global economy, as well as domestic economic hardship, compounds the disappointment Iranians feel from unfulfilled political promises. The Iranian government has repeatedly failed to carry out promised reforms; in recent years alone, President Hassan Rouhani has proven unable to carry out his promises to “open up Iran politically, ease rigid social restrictions and address human rights abuses.” As this situation continues, Iran risks despair and chaos.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Social Movement, Sanctions, Nuclear Power, Reform, Economy, Memory
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Asma Elgamal
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Described as one of the “greatest fusers of politics and art,” Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi has spent much of his life studying – and talking about – Arab art. Between founding the Barjeel Art Foundation, an Emirati-based initiative that collects and preserves Arab art, to live-tweeting the events of the Arab-spring to millions of Twitter users, al-Qassemi has a reputation for breaking silence on topics most members of an Arab royal family would be reluctant to touch. On February 7th, at an event hosted by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Security, al-Qassemi gave a talk entitled “Politics of Modern Middle Eastern Art” in which he explored the greatest hits of modern political Arab art.
  • Topic: Politics, History, Arts, Culture
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Jacques Singer-Emery
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This is the first of a three-part essay series on the different paths the U.S. Congress might take to limit Washington’s support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Congress is considering a range of options to express its displeasure with Riyadh after Saudi agents murdered prominent Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in September 2018, and journalists and NGOs around the world continue to highlight human rights abuses perpetrated by Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen. Of these options, the most notable is the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2019. Congress has already voted to condemn President Donald Trump’s unequivocal support for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: the Senate voted March 13th to end US support for the war in Yemen, echoing a measure that passed the House in mid-February. But, the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act would go further still, sanctioning those in the Saudi government responsible for Khashoggi’s death and curtailing U.S. arms sales and military aid critical to the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen. The White House vehemently opposes the bill. If it passes, President Trump is expected to veto it, just as he is expected to veto the Senate’s March and House’s February resolutions.
  • Topic: Government, Law, Military Affairs, Legislation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, North America, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: James Aird
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: As Egypt’s ‘Year of Education’ begins, the government pushes much needed reform in pre-university education across the country. Supported by a $500 million World Bank loan, the government is accelerating efforts to train teachers, build schools, and implement tablet technology in primary and secondary education. The reforms include one ambitious project that is especially deserving of more attention: the expansion of a pilot program adapting Japanese educational techniques to the Egyptian context. At a meeting in Tokyo on February 29th, 2016, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a joint partnership that sought to link Egypt to Japan through educational development, in part thanks to al Sisi’s personal admiration for Japan’s education system. As part of the joint partnership, Japanese and Egyptian administrators and policymakers set out to reshape Egyptian pedagogy. Modeled on Japan’s Tokkatsu education system, which refers to a program of “whole child development,” Egypt aims to build schools that place great emphasis on teaching students to be responsible, disciplined, and clean, as opposed to the more traditional model prioritizing higher standardized testing scores. A Tokkatsu-inspired curriculum is already being used at over forty schools that accepted more than 13,000 students in September 2018. While President al Sisi plans to personally monitor the new education system, other MENA states should also watch closely. If it successfully contributes to building Egypt’s human capital and improving students’ competitiveness, other states in the region might consider implementing similar educational policies.
  • Topic: Development, Education, Reform, Children, Partnerships, Youth
  • Political Geography: Japan, Middle East, North Africa, Egypt
  • Author: Reva Dhingra
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: The 2018-2019 school year opened with some worrying figures for Syrian children in Jordan. Over forty percent of an estimated 240,000 registered Syrian school-aged refugees remain out of formal school. Despite ongoing efforts, enrollment levels of about 131,000 in September remained well below the target of 170,000 children. With most refugees unlikely to return to Syria in the immediate future—the number of registered refugees increased in 2018—education while in Jordan remains a pressing concern. Funding cuts, school and teacher quality, documentation barriers, and complex mental health and psychosocial problems among refugee children contribute to education shortfalls, but only partially explain the unexpectedly low enrollment of refugee children. The initial education response was fractured between the immediate imperative of keeping children off the streets and the long-term imperative of integrating children into formal school. As the crisis stretches into its eighth year, however, the impulses of the early education response continue to impede efforts to educate Syrian children in Jordan. Despite the best efforts of donors, NGOs, and the Jordanian government, this early approach may have inadvertently increased time out of school for children who, under government regulations, are not allowed to re-enroll after three years. As a result, many of these children will likely never be able to enroll in school again. Examining the refugee education response in Jordan offers lessons for providing education during the early stages of refugee crises.
  • Topic: Education, Children, Refugees, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Jordan