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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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04/04/22

Why “democracy promotion” should play no role in a values-based German foreign policy in the MENA region

In order to support democratic ideals of socio-economic justice, public participation and representation, established efforts at “democracy promotion” in the MENA must be abandoned. The promotion of procedural democracy has proven to be reconcilable with socio-economic authoritarianisms and presents no challenge to authoritarian power structures. Counterintuitively, I argue that a values-based German foreign policy in the MENA requires less, not more programmes aimed at the promotion of democratic values and instead should be based on the mainstreaming of such values into all spheres of German foreign policy itself as well as on the promotion of new forms of transregional democratic solidarity and understanding.

Benjamin Schuetze is Junior Fellow at the Young Academy for sustainability Research at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced studies (FRIAs) and Associate Researcher at the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute (ABI). His research focuses on the political economy of renewable energies in the MENA region and on Us and European attempts at “democracy promotion”. He is the author of Promoting Democracy, Reinforcing Authoritarianism: US and European Policy in Jordan (Cambridge University Press, 2019) and various academic journal articles. He has recently been admitted to the DFG Emmy Noether-Programme and is in the process of establishing a junior research group on “Renewable Energies, Renewed Authoritarianisms? The Political Economy of solar Energy in the Middle East and North Africa”.

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04/04/22

Re-visioning Germany’s democracy promotion in the Arab World

This article briefly investigates German democracy promotion in the Arab world since the 2011 popular uprisings and revolutions. It seeks a parsimonious discourse analysis, looking at Germany’s “democracy-promotion speak” during the Merkel era. A constructivist frame lends itself to exploration of the interplay between norms and interests when it comes to fostering Arab democracy as a subset of German foreign policy. As the Arab world has slid further into a “crisis of democratisation”, so too has German democracy promotion. It seemed to buckle in rising to challenges of resurgent authoritarianism. Despite setbacks, the contention here is that the new German government should not abandon the democratic impulse in dealing with the region. Policies should be attuned to socio-economic deprivation and marginalisation as development spills into democratisation. Filtered through a “democratic learning loop” rooted in parity and mutuality, German support for Arab civil society can still enhance pro-democracy activism and civic practices.

Larbi Sadiki is Professor of Arab Democratization at Qatar University. A graduate of ANU’s Politics and International Relations programme (PhD: 1997) and taught at its Centre for Arab and Islamic studies as well as the University of Exeter in the UK. He has published numerous books on questions surrounding democratisation in the Arab World and was lead Principal Investigator in the four-year project titled “Transitions of Islam and Democracy: Engendering ‘Democratic learning’ and Civic Identities”, a Qatar National Research Fund Grant. He is the editor of the Routledge series on Middle Eastern Democratization and Government and the new Brill journal Protest. He is also co-founder of the Tunis-based research and advocacy centre Demos: Center for Democratic sustainability.

Layla Saleh is Associate Professor of Political science at Qatar University’s Department of International Affairs. she is author of numerous journal articles and book chapters and the book US Hard Power in the Arab World: Resistance, the Syrian Uprising, and the War on Terror (Routledge, 2017). she is also Associate Editor of the Brill journal Protest and co-founder of the Tunis-based research and advocacy centre Demos: Center for Democratic sustainability.

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04/04/22

German democracy promotion: The German political foundations in the MENA region

The seven German political foundations are an essential part of German foreign policy. Due to their secured funding through German tax money paired with access to key political decision-makers, they are a unique institutional construction acting as a hybrid between an independent NGO and a state-funded think tank. For decades they have maintained offices and projects in the whole MENA region, shaping democratic developments in project countries and therefore contributing to German foreign policy on a soft-power level. This contribution reflects on their current activities in the MENA region, on their challenges and also on the possible impact of the change in German government on the foundations’ work.

Katharina Konarek the director of the Haifa Center for German and European studies (HCGEs) at the University of Haifa. she is a political scientist with a specialisation on German and European foreign policy. Her regional focus is on Israel and Palestine. In her PhD, conducted at the Bundeswehr University of Munich, she examines the role of the German political foundations in Israel and Palestine. Her book The German political foundations’ work between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Tel Aviv. A Kaleidoscope of Different Perspectives was published in 2018 by springer vs.

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05/01/22

China’s anxiety over Afghanistan

Since December 2009, during the Obama administration’s ”surge-then-exit” policy in Afghanistan, China’s anxiety over harmful spillover in Central Asia and Xinjiang has increased. As a result, the fall of Kabul in August 2021 prompted Beijing to enter crisis-management mode. China’s pragmatic position in dealing with the Taliban, compared to its previous refusal to engage with the Islamic Emirate in 1996, reflects Beijing’s concerns over the rise of Islamist terrorism, a new wave of refugees and increased narcotics trafficking. At the same time, the different tone in messages from Beijing and Moscow amounts to a good cop, bad cop division of labour between the two powers. It reflects more than a basic vision of Russia shouldering the burden of security for its near abroad while China focuses on economic development in Central Asia. The division between China and Russia is multi-layered and less clear-cut than meets the eye. Despite counting on Russian military prowess and ability to respond quickly, China has built its first military post in the region in a remote corner of the Tajik-Afghan border. China’s functional relations with the Taliban are bent on constructive engagement with the new government, to the extent of opening a pathway for them into the international system in order to avert a looming humanitarian crisis.

Alessandro Arduino is the principal research fellow at the Middle East Institute (MEI), National University of Singapore. He is the co-director of the Security & Crisis Management International Centre at the Shanghai Academy of Social Science (SASS) and an associate at Lau China Institute, King’s College London. His two decades of experience in China encompasses security analysis and crisis management. His main research interests include China, Central Asia and Middle East and North Africa relations, sovereign wealth funds, private military/security companies and China’s security and foreign policy. Alessandro is the author of several books and has published papers and commentaries in various journals in Italian, English and Chinese. His most recent book is China’s Private Army: Protecting the New Silk Road (Palgrave, 2018).

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30/12/21

A brief history of international influence in Afghanistan

International influence has long played a role in the conflict dynamics in Afghanistan. The United States and the Soviet Union famously waged a proxy war in the country, and since the September 11th terrorist attacks the country has featured prominently in the US-led “war on terror.” But while the conflicts in Afghanistan have long been internationalised, the roots of foreign ideological influence on the country’s political dynamics pre-date the outbreak of the jihad and ensuing cycles of insurgency. As a new regime begins to coalesce in Kabul, it is important to keep in mind the role that influence from abroad has played in shaping some of the features of Afghan statehood.

Julian Tucker is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm, Sweden. He holds an MA in Central Asian Studies from the Humboldt University in Berlin and a BA in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Language from McGill University. His research interests include the post-Soviet development in Central Asia, the political history of Afghanistan, Chinese regional diplomacy and responses to climate change.

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30/12/21

German Parliamentary Debates and Decision-Making on Afghanistan

The fall of Kabul in August 2021 marked the end of 20 years of German civilian and military engagement in Afghanistan. Over this time, more than 90,000 Bundeswehr soldiers were deployed in Afghanistan, 59 of whom died there. At a cost of about EUR 12.3 bn, the engagement in the Afghanistan missions amounted to the largest and most costly military operation in the history of the Bundeswehr. This contribution reflects upon parliamentary involvement throughout this period, placing emphasis on the initial political decisions and turning points of the Afghanistan engagement.

Patrick A. Mello is Privatdozent at the Technical University of Munich and Research Associate at the Chair of European and Global Governance at the Hochschule für Politik München. His research focuses on questions related to international security and foreign policy, especially concerning the influence of parliaments, the impact of party politics, and multinational military coalitions. His book Democratic Participation in Armed Conflict (Palgrave Macmillan) received the 2015 Dissertation Award of the German Political Science Association.

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30/12/21

The Taliban’s interim administration: The rise of the Haqqani Network and its implications

The speed at which Taliban fighters captured Kabul on 15 August – after having waged nearly two decades of war with the Afghan government and its Western allies – caught most analysts by surprise. But the Taliban’s transition from a militant force to the governing power of Afghanistan has come with numerous challenges. The major challenge in this regard was the formation of an interim cabinet by maintaining internal cohesion within various factions of the Taliban movement. When the new interim administration – or the caretaker cabinet – was announced by the group, it was seen to be composed of almost exclusively Pashtun Taliban officials – largely clerical, all male and mostly the old guard – who had previously held ministerial positions in the first government of the Taliban that ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s. But the rise of the Haqqani Network within the Taliban ranks is visibly evident in this new interim government. Unlike the 1990s, when the leader of the Haqqani Network was kept away from the Taliban’s real decisionmaking circle, the Haqqani Network – presently under the leadership of Sirajuddin Haqqani – has become one of the most influential decision-making authorities in Kabul. Due to its military might and access to resources, the Haqqani faction has become dominant within the Taliban in relation to the Kandahari faction, which traditionally held sway over the movement. This article will attempt to understand what the rise of the Haqqani Network means for the traditional Taliban leadership. Will it pose a greater risk of internal fragmentation within the Taliban movement? How the Haqqani Network might influence the Taliban movement in the future will also be discussed. The author argues that the ascendency of the Haqqani Network does not imply that the Taliban movement will fragment in the near future. It is quite unlikely that the rivalry between the traditional Taliban leadership and the Haqqani Network, which is often exaggerated by some analysts, will pose a major challenge to the Taliban movement. The Taliban may have a number of internal factions, but their longstanding strategic aims and objectives have remained almost the same, which has encouraged differing fractions within the movement not to break away from the core group. Therefore, since taking power, the Taliban has managed to retain internal cohesion and avoid any kind of fragmentation within the organisation, as the Taliban leadership is reluctant to cross the internal red lines that might threaten the group’s cohesion in the coming period.

Anchita Borthakur is a research scholar in the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India. Her research interests include Afghanistan, security studies, migration, ethnicity, religion and politics. She has published research articles in a number of wellrespected journals and contributed chapters to edited volumes

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30/12/21

Looking beyond stereotypes: A critical reflection of popular narratives about the Taliban movement

Modern Afghanistan has never been able to establish a powerful central state despite the country having experienced different political systems. The decades-long conflicts are rooted in the lack of an effective, communicative relationship between the centre Kabul and rural areas. The issue of rural locality has been intensified by a huge diversity in terms of ethnicity, religion, sect, language, and culture. Thus, rurality is not merely interpreted as locality, but as ethnicity, language, and religion. This article briefly investigates the concept of local governance in Afghan politics.

Katja Mielke, PhD, works as Senior Researcher at the Bonn International Centre for Conflict Studies (BICC). She conducts research on state-society relations in contexts of conflict and crisis, political and social mobilisation, migration and peacemaking. Her regional focus is on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, and Iraq and its neighbourhood.

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30/12/21

Local governance in Afghanistan: A solution to a failed state?

Modern Afghanistan has never been able to establish a powerful central state despite the country having experienced different political systems. The decades-long conflicts are rooted in the lack of an effective, communicative relationship between the centre Kabul and rural areas. The issue of rural locality has been intensified by a huge diversity in terms of ethnicity, religion, sect, language, and culture. Thus, rurality is not merely interpreted as locality, but as ethnicity, language, and religion. This article briefly investigates the concept of local governance in Afghan politics.

S. Asef Hossaini was born in Balkh, in the north of Afghanistan. He grew up as a refugee in Iran, studying philosophy and sociology at Kabul University before joining his master programme in public policy at the Willy Brandt School at the University of Erfurt. He defended his PhD in International Conflict Management in 2017 at the same school. He is currently an online editor.

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28/12/21

Foreign aid in Afghanistan as an international security and foreign policy tool

With the 1990s, the belief that economically and politically unstable states pose a threat to global peace and security became widespread. As a result of this belief, the stabilisation of these states through foreign aid began to be evaluated as a collective responsibility. Afghanistan is one of these examples, especially within the framework of the efforts carried out in the post-2001 period. Although 20 years of efforts have failed to stabilise the country, the international community faces a serious dilemma in providing aid to the Taliban regime. This article discusses the effects of foreign aid and state-building policies in Afghanistan since 2001, and the challenges of maintaining of foreign aid to the country during the Taliban rule.

Emrah Özdemir is Associate Professor of International Relations at Çankırı Karatekin University. His research includes global politics, security studies and war studies, specifically irregular warfare, and post-conflict remedies. He has published articles in a number of prestigious journals and chapters in books such as Routledge Handbook of Peace, Security and Development, Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict (3rd Ed.) and The Future of Middle East.

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01/10/21

Revisiting India’s Middle East policy: Diplomacy, politics, strategy and business

India has a long-standing relationship with the Middle East region. The Middle East – or West Asia – has had a great impact on Indian culture and vocabulary Arabian and Persian traders used to come to India, meaning that economic connectivity between India and West Asia is centuries old. Through the ages, India and West Asia have interacted in
different ways. Since India achieved independence, the relational patterns between the two have witnessed many ups and downs and the West Asian region now plays a significant role in India’s economy. India is maintaining a fine balance between Israel and Palestine, while from the viewpoint of political security, India has signed prisoner repatriation treaties
with various West Asian countries. India has also signed various agreements with Israel to purchase defence equipment. Traditional relations aside, India adopted a specific “Look West” policy in 2005 in order to deepen engagement with its West Asian neighbours. Historically, West Asian countries have been considered as the “extended”, and “proximate”
neighbours. The role of third parties (e.g. USA, China, Russia and Pakistan) is very significant in relational equations. India
has established its multidimensional relations with West Asian regional organisations.

Debasish Nandy is an Associate Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, Kazi Nazrul University, Asansol, West Bengal, India. He is the Visiting Faculty in the Department of Foreign Area Studies at Tajik National University, Dushanbe, Republic of Tajikistan. His research interests include India’s Foreign Policy, South Asian Politics, Refugees and Migration, and Security Affairs.

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01/10/21

Russia’s regional balancing and interests in the Middle East: Benefits, risks and implications for Europe

The main shift in Russia’s Middle East policy, upgraded since 2015, has been a move away from Western-centeredness towards more active engagement with, and balancing between, regional actors. The article explores the benefits, costs and risks associated with such regionalisation for Moscow, outlines key interests pursued by Russia in view of its new regional role and analyses its implications for Europe. It tries to explain why, despite the EU’s more balanced approach to the Middle East, the space for Russia-Europe cooperation in the region appears even more limited than that with the United States and identifies a few areas of confluence of interest and potential cooperation.

Ekaterina Stepanova is Lead Researcher and Head of Peace and Conflict Studies Unit, Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Moscow. Her research focus is on armed conflicts, peace processes, peacebuilding, terrorism, radicalisation, human security and political economy of conflicts. Her several books include ISIS and the Phenomenon of Foreign Terrorist Fighters in Syria and Iraq (IMEMO, 2020) and Terrorism in Asymmetrical Conflict (Oxford University Press, 2008).

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