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Russia in the Middle East: From sidelines to centre stage

21-11-2018

In 2011, it looked as if the Arab Spring uprisings would deal a further blow to Russia's declining influence in the Middle East, by toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, one of Moscow's few remaining allies in the region. In 2015, Russia launched a military intervention. Though it came at an enormous humanitarian cost, the campaign succeeded in saving Assad's regime, at the same time as reversing the Middle Eastern fortunes of Russia as Assad's main international backer. Russia's involvement ...

In 2011, it looked as if the Arab Spring uprisings would deal a further blow to Russia's declining influence in the Middle East, by toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, one of Moscow's few remaining allies in the region. In 2015, Russia launched a military intervention. Though it came at an enormous humanitarian cost, the campaign succeeded in saving Assad's regime, at the same time as reversing the Middle Eastern fortunes of Russia as Assad's main international backer. Russia's involvement in Syria has given its relations with neighbouring countries a new momentum. Despite divergent interests, Iran, Turkey and Israel cooperate with Russia and acknowledge its leadership in Syria. Russia's success in imposing its agenda in Syria has bolstered its influence throughout the wider region. Although Moscow's role is not always a constructive one, it has become a key actor and sometimes a mediator in regional conflicts from Libya to Yemen. Russia's regional clout is also helped by its skilful use of energy cooperation to further economic and geopolitical interests. Russia's drive to become a major Middle Eastern player should be seen in the wider context of global geopolitical rivalry with the United States. Moscow's growing influence in the region is as much the result of Western policy failures as its own strength.

Updating the Blocking Regulation: The EU's answer to US extraterritorial sanctions

07-06-2018

On 8 May 2018, President Trump announced the unilateral US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the landmark nuclear agreement signed by Iran and the E3/EU+3 – France, Germany, the UK and the EU plus China, Russia and the USA – in 2015. He also announced that the US would re-impose sanctions on Iran that had been lifted as part of the implementation of the JCPOA. These sanctions have extraterritorial effect, essentially making it illegal for EU companies and financial institutions ...

On 8 May 2018, President Trump announced the unilateral US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the landmark nuclear agreement signed by Iran and the E3/EU+3 – France, Germany, the UK and the EU plus China, Russia and the USA – in 2015. He also announced that the US would re-impose sanctions on Iran that had been lifted as part of the implementation of the JCPOA. These sanctions have extraterritorial effect, essentially making it illegal for EU companies and financial institutions to engage in a wide range of economic and commercial activities with Iran. Companies that disregard the US secondary sanctions face major fines and/or criminal charges in the US, or even exclusion from the US market. US sanctions will be reinstated after a 90- or 180-day wind-down period, to allow companies to make the necessary arrangements. Following the signing of the JCPOA in 2015, European companies have entered into important commercial and investment agreements with Iranian counterparts, worth billions of euros. Many of these companies also have important commercial ties with the US. Faced with the prospect of penalties in the US, several EU companies have already announced that they are ending their dealings with Iran, unless a way can be found to exempt or shield them from US secondary sanctions. In response, the Commission adopted a delegated act on 6 June 2018 to update the annex to the 'Blocking Regulation', which was adopted in 1996 to protect EU businesses against the effects of the extraterritorial application of legislation adopted by a third country. The Blocking Regulation forbids EU persons from complying with extraterritorial sanctions, allows companies to recover damages arising from such sanctions, and nullifies the effect in the EU of any foreign court judgment based on them. The effectiveness of the regulation as a mechanism to offset US sanctions has been questioned, however its adoption sends an important political message. Parliament now has two months to object to the delegated act, but may signal earlier that it will not do so, thus allowing the measure to come into force earlier than the end of the two-month period.

EU sanctions: A key foreign and security policy instrument

08-05-2018

Sanctions have become an increasingly central element of the EU's common and foreign security policy. At present, the EU has 42 sanctions programmes in place, making it the world's second-most active user of restrictive measures, after the US. Unlike the comprehensive trade embargoes used in the past, the EU has moved towards asset freezes and visa bans targeted at individual persons and companies, aiming to influence foreign governments while avoiding humanitarian costs for the general population ...

Sanctions have become an increasingly central element of the EU's common and foreign security policy. At present, the EU has 42 sanctions programmes in place, making it the world's second-most active user of restrictive measures, after the US. Unlike the comprehensive trade embargoes used in the past, the EU has moved towards asset freezes and visa bans targeted at individual persons and companies, aiming to influence foreign governments while avoiding humanitarian costs for the general population. Other measures in the sanctions toolkit include arms embargoes, sectoral trade and investment restrictions, as well as suspensions of development aid and trade preferences. The declared purpose of EU sanctions is to uphold the international security order as well as defending human rights and democracy standards, by encouraging targeted countries to change their behaviour. Measuring their effectiveness is difficult, as sanctions rarely achieve all their aims, and usually there are other causes to which changes can be attributed. However, even when this primary purpose is not achieved, sanctions may have useful secondary effects, for example by deterring other actors from similar behaviour. The broader the international support for EU sanctions and the closer the relationship between the EU and the targeted country are, the stronger the prospects for success will be. On the other hand, effectiveness can be undermined by inconsistent application of sanctions standards and by the difficulty of coordinating implementation between multiple stakeholders.

President Trump's record to date [What Think Tanks are thinking]

23-02-2018

Donald Trump has made a number of highly controversial decisions during his first 13 months as US President – whether on foreign trade, climate change, migration, taxation or healthcare. His unorthodox communication style, often using emotional tweets, has frequently confused both domestic and international audiences. Although his 'America First' polices have not gone as far as some had feared, and he has presided over a period of continued economic growth, there remains very considerable anxiety ...

Donald Trump has made a number of highly controversial decisions during his first 13 months as US President – whether on foreign trade, climate change, migration, taxation or healthcare. His unorthodox communication style, often using emotional tweets, has frequently confused both domestic and international audiences. Although his 'America First' polices have not gone as far as some had feared, and he has presided over a period of continued economic growth, there remains very considerable anxiety about the path ahead.

Rebuilding the Iraqi State: Stabilisation, Governance, and Reconciliation

15-12-2017

The victory over the so-called Islamic State’s territorial rule presents a chance for the Government of Iraq to rebuild its state institutions and re-assert its authority. In this transition, will the Iraqi leadership move past cycles of failure and address the structural problems that perpetuate state weakness and facilitate the emergence of groups like ISIS? To answer this question, this paper analyses the challenges of short-term stabilisation programming with longer-term governance reform at ...

The victory over the so-called Islamic State’s territorial rule presents a chance for the Government of Iraq to rebuild its state institutions and re-assert its authority. In this transition, will the Iraqi leadership move past cycles of failure and address the structural problems that perpetuate state weakness and facilitate the emergence of groups like ISIS? To answer this question, this paper analyses the challenges of short-term stabilisation programming with longer-term governance reform at the local and national levels. It argues that, without establishing representative and responsive state institutions, the processes of reconciliation and integration will be unsuccessful. To conclude, this paper offers policy recommendations on how the EU can support the upcoming state-rebuilding process.

Ārējais autors

Renad MANSOUR, Research Fellow, Chatham House, United Kingdom

United States' nuclear weapons policy: New priorities, new challenges

08-12-2017

The United States is the world's second largest nuclear power, coming close behind Russia. Together the two states account for 93 % of the world's nuclear weapons. Since the end of the Cold War, the US has followed a policy of reducing its nuclear arsenal, while maintaining a nuclear triad. Under President Obama, it embarked on an intense nuclear modernisation programme, while making commitments towards nuclear non-proliferation and – as a long-term goal – nuclear disarmament. President Donald Trump ...

The United States is the world's second largest nuclear power, coming close behind Russia. Together the two states account for 93 % of the world's nuclear weapons. Since the end of the Cold War, the US has followed a policy of reducing its nuclear arsenal, while maintaining a nuclear triad. Under President Obama, it embarked on an intense nuclear modernisation programme, while making commitments towards nuclear non-proliferation and – as a long-term goal – nuclear disarmament. President Donald Trump took office in January 2017 with the promise to discontinue the previous administration's policy priorities. This is reflected in the current realignment of the US nuclear weapons policy. The new administration aims to expand US nuclear capabilities, is sceptical of international arms-control agreements, and has a more determinant stance on non-proliferation. President Trump has criticised the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and consequently decertified the multilateral Iran nuclear deal in October 2017. The President has also characterised the bilateral New START Treaty, limiting the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons between the US and Russia, as 'a one-sided deal'. The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), a landmark nuclear arms control treaty between the US and the former USSR, seems to be in limbo, and nuclear proliferation efforts in North Korea have sparked a war of words between Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. The ongoing Nuclear Posture Review, together with the coming passage of the annual defence policy bill in Congress, the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2018, have the potential to provoke shifts in US nuclear policy.

Trade and Economic relations between the EU and the GCC countries

06-12-2017

The EU and the six member countries of the GCC have started negotiations for an FTA long ago, in 1990, suspended since 2008. Meanwhile, GCC countries, suffering from the drop in oil price since mid-2014, have engaged in extremely ambitious economic programmes for the diversification of their economies too dependent on hydrocarbons. Within the institutional economic dialogue set between the EU and the GCC countries, the European parliament offered its diplomacy to organise this conference in order ...

The EU and the six member countries of the GCC have started negotiations for an FTA long ago, in 1990, suspended since 2008. Meanwhile, GCC countries, suffering from the drop in oil price since mid-2014, have engaged in extremely ambitious economic programmes for the diversification of their economies too dependent on hydrocarbons. Within the institutional economic dialogue set between the EU and the GCC countries, the European parliament offered its diplomacy to organise this conference in order to bring EU businesses closer to GCC institutional. Academic speakers, EU and GCC institutional as much as EU experienced companies praised for partnership instead of competition. This workshop opens the door to further initiatives of economic diplomacy by the European parliament.

Ārējais autors

Oliver CORNOCK, Managing Editor for the Middle East at the Oxford Business Group, UK. Dr Jean-François SEZNEC, Professor for the Middle East and Gulf region at Georgetown and SAIS Universities in Washington, US.

US decertification of the Iran nuclear deal

20-10-2017

On 13 October, US President Donald Trump announced his decision not to certify Iran's compliance with the international nuclear agreement of 2015. This will likely result in a vote on the deal in Congress. The EU and the rest of the international community intend to keep to the agreement.

On 13 October, US President Donald Trump announced his decision not to certify Iran's compliance with the international nuclear agreement of 2015. This will likely result in a vote on the deal in Congress. The EU and the rest of the international community intend to keep to the agreement.

Workshop: Sectarianism in the Middle East

14-07-2017

Sectarian conflict and polarisation has become a key feature of Middle East politics in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings of 2011. This workshop looked at some of the key drivers of this, such as the troubled legacy of foreign intervention, state failure, regional rivalries between Saudi Arabia, Iran and others, ruling strategies of authoritarian regimes as well as the spread of identity and sect-based political movements. With in-depth analysis of the two key arenas of sectarian conflict in the ...

Sectarian conflict and polarisation has become a key feature of Middle East politics in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings of 2011. This workshop looked at some of the key drivers of this, such as the troubled legacy of foreign intervention, state failure, regional rivalries between Saudi Arabia, Iran and others, ruling strategies of authoritarian regimes as well as the spread of identity and sect-based political movements. With in-depth analysis of the two key arenas of sectarian conflict in the contemporary Middle East, Syria and Iraq, and a paper on the consequences of state collapse, this publication looks also tries to make recommendations how the EU could help reduce sectarian tensions.

Ārējais autors

Dr Toby MATTHIESEN, St Antony's College, Oxford University, Dr Simon MABON, Lancaster University ; Dr Renad MANSOUR, Chatham House, Dr Raphael LEFÈVRE, Oxford University

Human Rights in Iran after the Nuclear Deal Business as Usual or Time for Change?

13-03-2017

This report summarises the proceedings of a workshop organised jointly by the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) and the Delegation for relations with Iran (D-IR). The purpose of the workshop was to analyse the most recent developments regarding human rights in Iran since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed in July 2015 and to explore the options available to the EU in seeking to help improve the situation. Experts and human rights defenders pointed to ...

This report summarises the proceedings of a workshop organised jointly by the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) and the Delegation for relations with Iran (D-IR). The purpose of the workshop was to analyse the most recent developments regarding human rights in Iran since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed in July 2015 and to explore the options available to the EU in seeking to help improve the situation. Experts and human rights defenders pointed to the gaps between law and practice in Iran and raised continuing concerns about the death penalty, political prisoners, prison conditions, arrests of dual nationals, minority rights and restrictions to internet access. They identified Iran’s dual power structure of elected and non-elected institutions and corruption as some of the chief constraints to any reform efforts. They said the EU should keep human rights — including support for the relevant UN mechanisms and efforts — high on its agenda. They said the key factors for engaging successfully with Iran on human rights in future were clear criteria and benchmarks, detailed knowledge of the human rights issues at stake and interaction with Iranian civil society both inside and outside Iran.

Ārējais autors

Firouzeh NAHAVANDI (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium - chapter 2.1) ; Nazila GHANEA (University of Oxford, the UK - chapter 2.2) and Giulia BONACQUISTI (Trans European Policy Studies Association - TEPSA, Belgium - workshop report)

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