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The Journal for politics, economics, and culture of the Middle East published by the German Orient-Institute

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01/07/18

Despite the growing alienation between Turkey and the EU: A continuation of the accession process remains the best option

Based on a description of the deterioration of EU-Turkey relations in recent years, this article illustrates the disadvantages of further alienation for both sides, arguing that, despite the political tensions, there is no alternative to the continuation of the dialogue, which would better serve the economic and security interests of both sides. The best strategy therefore is to focus on concrete projects of mutual benefit, such as the cooperation in the fight against international terrorism, the diversification of energy imports or the modernisation of the customs union, whereas the issue of EU membership should be postponed for the time being.

Alexander Bürgin is Associate Professor, Jean Monnet Chair and Head of the EU Research Center at Izmir University of Economics. His current research focuses on the power relations within and across the EU institutions, the external influence of the EU, and EU-Turkey relations.

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01/07/18

From the outside looking in: The three rationalities of the German policy debate on Egypt

Three rationalities are competing to shape the debate on German policy towards Egypt following the forceful removal of its democratically-elected president from power in July 2013: a politicaleconomic rationality, a moral rationality and a developmental rationality. This paper provides a comparative analysis of the three rationalities, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. The paper concludes by suggesting that the best interest of Germany and Egypt could be better served if the proponents of these three rationalities, from both countries, could engage in a deep and reflexive dialogue aimed at forging a synthesis among their views.

Ahmed Badawi currently works as a Senior Researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Politics, the Free University Berlin, and as the Co-Executive Director of Transform: Centre for Conflict Engagement and Political Development. His current research interest is the political economy of development in the Arab world, with a focus on the problem of the state in the Arab republics: how could it be studied, why has it failed, and could it be rebuilt?

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01/07/18

German Near and Middle East policy: Challenges and strategy

Taking the new Merkel-IV government’s Coalition Treaty (CT) and its passages relevant for Germany’s foreign policy towards the Near and Middle East as point of departure, the introduction to this Orient issue will revolve around the question as to what degree German foreign policy in the region can and should be considered strategic. Based on this assessment, we develop recommendations.

Ludwig Schulz and Benedikt van den Woldenberg are the Co-Heads of ORIENT’s Editorial Office.

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01/07/18

Active citizenship, participative politics, and challenging the state: How new forms of civil society in the Arab world can meet the promise of 2011

While 2011 seemed to herald a new beginning for the Arab states, what has occurred instead seems significantly worse than the status quo ante. Yet, enlarging the perspective and focusing on the region’s new forms of civil society engagement reveals a fundamental change in the practice of citizenship that challenges the state-imposed order and anti-revolutionary tendencies. Empowering civil society in both the short and medium term can be critical to meeting the vast challenges that the region faces today, and to promoting national reconciliation and future transition processes that meet the aspirations of 2011.

Sarah Anne Rennick is the Deputy Director for Management at the Arab Reform Initiative. Her research focuses on social movements, youth movements, and new forms of political engagement and participation in the Arab world.

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01/07/18

The role of the Kurds in the Middle East: A regional factor of stability or instability?

The Kurds are more visible than ever in regional politics. Through their fight against the IS, they have gained significant political and strategic importance. They have established themselves as security partners of the West. They have become an indispensable factor of stability in regional politics. Nevertheless, they have so far failed to gain support for their historical aspirations for autonomy and independence. Beyond intra-Kurdish factors, the traditional anti-Kurdish attitude and alliance of the regional states (Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq) and the reservations of Western states, including the USA, the EU and Germany, play an important role. Current developments imply how vulnerable the situation of the Kurds is, but also how indispensable external support from the state world and internal Kurdish strengthening is in order to resolve the historical conflict over the future of the Kurds and to create more peace.

Gülistan Gürbey is head of research at Al-Bayan Center, a Baghdad-based independent think tank, where he focuses on institutional reform and Iraqi foreign policy.

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01/07/18

Transformations in German Middle East policy: The view from Iraq

The challenges faced by Germany’s recent experience in Iraq reflect the complex and dynamic nature of engaging in conflict zones in the Middle East. An overlap between humanitarian concerns and national security interests formed the basis of Germany’s initial decision to deploy soldiers to northern Iraq, but once there, the complex reality and shifting power dynamics meant that the Bundesrepublik needed to rebalance its engagement in order to maintain leverage as an honest broker in Iraq. During the post-IS phase, Germany’s domestic security interests have aligned with Iraq’s imperative to stabilise the liberated provinces and modernise the country’s economy to attract greater foreign investment. Germany’s experience in Iraq has shown that empowering local actors to take the lead while maintaining close coordination with the central government to ensure effective buy-in from relevant stakeholders is critical. As Europe takes a far more proactive and hands-on approach to the Middle East, there is much scope to broaden and deepen these exchanges.

Ali Al-Mawlawi is head of research at Al-Bayan Center, a Baghdad-based independent think tank, where he focuses on institutional reform and Iraqi foreign policy.

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01/07/18

Germany as an influential political actor in the Middle East conflict: Possibilities and prospects

Germany enjoys several assets and strengths that enable it to play a much stronger and more visible role in Middle East. Germany has no history of colonialism in the region and has not been involved militarily in any of the Middle East conflicts. Germany’s warm reception for the Syrian and other refugees created a very positive image in the minds and in the hearts of Arab nations. However, the public role of Germany has not been adequately utilised. German foreign policy is perceived in the Middle East to be reluctant and hesitant, as development and technical assistance from Germany has not been complemented by an equally active political role. Germany is a generous payer but not an active player. The warm relations between Germany and Israel can and should be considered as a positive element, not the opposite, based on the principle that ‘only friends can give advice‘. Germany is in an excellent position to complement other states, mainly the US, in mediating in the Middle East between Arab states and Israel. However, if Germany wants to become a global power, it needs a more assertive, confident and decisive role. Germany needs to mobilise its financial capacities, its warm public perception following the refugee crisis, its technical expertise and technological know-how as well as its capabilities in civic education and technical and vocational training in order to enable it to stimulate a political involvement that helps to bring stability, democratisation and prosperity to the Middle East states. This is a win-win strategy, as Germany will benefit greatly if it accelerates its political involvement in the Middle East. This will impact positively on its economic ties with Europe and the Middle East states. This essay investigates the possibilities, capabilities and potentials that Germany could attain by becoming an influential political power in Middle East issues, such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, or by helping to find peaceful solutions to the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Libya.

Omar Shaban is the founding director of think and do tank PalThink for Strategic Studies that is based in Gaza. He specialises in the political economy of the Middle East, mainly Palestine and Israel. He publishes regularly in internationally recognised think tanks, newspapers and magazines.

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01/04/18

Iran’s role in the Gulf: Beyond politics

Iran continues to play an active role in the politics and security dynamics of the Persian Gulf sub-region. Its policies, however, are not readily understood because of the opaque way in which decisions are derived. These are shaped by a mixture of inter-elite domestic exchanges and the wider regional context, and it is the interplay between the two which articulates Iran’s ultimate decisions. These decisions, however, have in recent years put a dangerous distance between Tehran and many of its closest neighbours. We need to understand why.

Anoushiravan Ehteshami is Professor of International Relations in the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University. He is the Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah Chair in International Relations and Director of the HH Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah Programme in International Relations, Regional Politics and Security. He is, further, Director of the Institute for Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies (IMEIS) at Durham, one of the oldest and noted centres of excellence in Middle Eastern studies in Europe.

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01/04/18

Unpacking a puzzling case: On how the Yemeni conflict became sectarianised

Yemen constitutes in many ways a puzzling case in the broader debate on Shia/Sunni sectarianism in a ‘new Middle East.’ Contrary to what one might expect from its demography, it has historically not been a hotbed for sectarian conflicts, and against this background, it is surprising how sectarianism has become one – of many – dimensions in the Yemeni conflict since the Arab uprisings. By drawing on analytical tools from the broader debate on sectarianism, which are used as complementary layers of explanation, the article shows how it is necessary to examine the complex interplay between drivers and actors placed at regional, state, regime and society levels in order to provide a nuanced understanding of how and why this sectarianisation took place.

Morten Valbjørn is Associate Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University and head of the research project ‘SWAR: Sectarianism in the Wake of the Arab Revolts’. His research has appeared in, among others: Democratization, Review of International Studies, International Studies Review, PS: Political Science & Politics; Middle East Critique, Middle East Report, International Review of Sociology, Mediterranean Politics, Cooperation & Conflict, Journal of Mediterranean Studies, and Foreign Policy.

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01/04/18

The Gulf Cooperation Council, Iran, and the limits to integration

The Gulf Cooperation Council was created as a response to Iran’s Islamic Revolution, which stirred unrest across the Middle East, particularly among the region’s Shiite population. The development of the GCC has been marked by its members’ relationship with Iran, but also by fears of Saudi hegemony and by differing attitudes to political Islam. Despite the sectarian and ideological cleavages which are often the focus of attention, the primary driver of foreign policy for regional actors is the need to ensure regime survival.

Ana Belén Soage is Adjunct Professor of Government at Suffolk University (Madrid Campus). She was awarded a European Doctorate in Middle East Studies in 2011, after five years of research in Egypt. Her research focuses on Middle East politics and political Islam, both in the Muslim world and in the West.

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01/04/18

Kuwait and Oman mediating policy traditions in rupture with Gulf crisis protagonists

This unprecedented Gulf crisis put two radically different Gulf diplomacies in conflict. A new breaking style came in confrontation with the old Gulf diplomatic tradition symbolised by the elder and most experimented leaders of the region: the Emir of Kuwait and the Sultan of Oman. In order to understand the dramatic Gulf policy transition’s shift, this paper reviews the diplomatic soft power trajectories of Kuwait and Oman. It also examines the impacts this crisis affects their respective domestic situation challenged by the uncertain future of the GCC.

Fatiha Dazi-Héni is Associate Professor at Aalborg University in Denmark. He is a political scientist by training and specialises in the politics of the Middle East. His latest publication is a chapter contribution to Ray Hinnebusch and Omar Imady (eds.), The Syrian Uprising. Domestic Origins and Early Trajectory (Routledge, 2018).

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01/04/18

Saudi Arabia’s new politics: Motives, risks, and the rule of law

Saudi Arabia’s ‘anti-corruption drive’, which began in earnest in November 2017, is a seismic event in the kingdom’s history. Drawing on a range of interviews, local media, and other sources, this article suggests it has been predicated on multiple, inter-connected motives, and that it will have serious ramifications for Saudi Arabia’s political stability and its capacity to successfully reshape its struggling economy. Most obviously, it will contribute directly to either the success or failure of the new crown prince’s efforts to offset the impact of urgent austerity measures while simultaneously trying to forge a new and more populist relationship with the broader citizenry.

Christopher M. Davidson is a reader in Middle East Politics at Durham University in the United Kingdom. He is also a visiting fellow at leiden University College in the Netherlands and an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, london. His work focuses on the comparative politics of the Middle East, and especially the Gulf states.

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