Máté Szalai, Coordinator of the Middle East research programme at the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade (IFAT)
Rasmus Alenius Boserup and Virginie Collombier
Alan Riley, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Statecraft, London
Raffaella A. Del Sarto Raffaella A. Del Sarto, Associate Professor, (SAIS Europe) and Eduard Soler i Lecha, Senior Research Fellow, and MENARA Project Scientific Coordinator, CIDOB
This paper argues that the impact of the eight-year war in Syria will reverberate across the region for years to come, and explores, in particular, four noteworthy legacies. First, it examines the series of interventions in Syria by regional and foreign powers (including Russia, Turkey, Iran, the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) that reconfigured the role of such powers across the region. Second, it reveals the emergence of two opposing alliances in the region, each comprising Arab states, regional Arab and non-Arab powers, global powers and local nonstate actors. These or similar alliances may well reappear in other Middle Eastern conflicts. Third, it analyses the striking number and variety of foreign forces that either directly fought in Syria or indirectly supported warring factions. Since 2012, these forces have included at least twenty states and major non-state players, alongside hundreds of smaller tribal, Islamist and secular rebel and pro-Assad groups. Finally, the paper suggests that the international community’s weak response to the untold war crimes on both sides, and its apparent de facto acceptance of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s incumbency, portend continuing regional authoritarian and violent political systems for the foreseeable future.
Rami G. Khouri, Visiting Professor of media studies, journalist in residence, and Senior Public Policy Fellow at the American University of Beirut (AUB)
The paper provides historical and political context to current diplomatic and humanitarian developments in the Gaza Strip, and investigates the present and the future of the area. Special attention is given to the political, economic and security dimensions, as well as the relationship between this area and the broader region. The conclusions linger on whether or not the Arab–Israeli and Israeli–Palestinian conflict remains one of the cornerstones of regional tensions, and what this issue and its relationship with broader trends and developments tell us about the past and future configuration of the regional order in the Middle East.
Andrea Dessì and Lorenzo Kamel
Against the backdrop of the growing leverage that MENA states have been acquiring vis-à-vis Europe on the issue of migration and border controls over the last decade, this paper identifies a number of trends in the responses of MENA states on these issues. By providing examples from the western Mediterranean, especially North African countries, it focuses on two interrelated aspects: First, it highlights the tendency to “localize” international norms and practices in the realm of migration management, that is, to adapt and modify these norms according to domestic preferences and conditions. Second, we discuss the ever-growing trend to criminalize migration and the ever-diminishing attention paid to human rights. The paper concludes by pointing to the growing embeddedness of the region in the international governance of migration, but with a twist: MENA governments are “embedded” in the broader trend of criminalizing migration and reinforcing state control, to the general detriment of human rights standards.
Jean-Pierre Cassarino and Raffaella A. Del Sarto
Populism has undoubtedly been one of the most controversial political concepts of recent years. Transcending the boundaries of academia, it is now commonly used in the political arena, both to condemn the “elites” and to warn of the challenges facing contemporary democracies. The term is also applied to various political and economic contexts around the world: from the far right in Europe to the United States, Russia, Venezuela, the Philippines and India. As part of the debates on the limits and potential of populism as an analytical tool, issue 119 of Revista CIDOB d’Afers Internacionals presents a set of studies from various perspectives that address distinct cases – often underexplored in scientific research – in order to analyse a phenomenon that has come to be a key component of the international political agenda.
Camil Ungureanu and Ivan Serrano (coords.)
Some unlikely names are beginning to appear in Syria, Egypt, Libya and countries which lie south of the Sahel belt of Africa. Wagner Group, a Russian private military company (PMC) which won its spurs in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine and in Syria where it guards oil facilities, has spread its wings to the Central African Republic, where a hundred of its men are training the army which is being rebooted after free elections brought a new man, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, to the presidency two years ago. Russia had already agreed to sell weapons to the country despite a UN embargo which followed severe rioting in 2013, to the consternation of the United States and France.
The European Union has played a complementary role to that of the United States over many issues in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including the relationship with the Islamic Republic and the Iranian nuclear programme. The 2015 nuclear deal, which would not have been possible without US support, has so far been the main foreign policy success for the EU. Beyond the deal’s economic and security benefits and the moral obligations involved, therefore, the EU has vital political interests in keeping the deal alive and ensuring it is implemented. For Iran, the nuclear deal means that it could avoid war and preserve the regime – despite domestic economic and public concerns – while maintaining its right to use nuclear energy for civilian purposes, a symbol of modernity and regional power status. With the deal, the EU and its UN Security Council (UNSC) permanent members (the United Kingdom and France), plus Germany, have been – successfully from the Iranian point of view – distanced from the United States.