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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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26/10/22

Orient IV 2022: Global geopolitics echoing into the MENA region

Robert Springborg
Global systems and the MENA region:
Weakening actors, weakening systems

Gawdat Bahgat
Global power competition and the geopolitics of energy

Martin Keulertz
G7, food security and MENA

Matteo Moretti
The EU Gulf strategy and the Strategic Compass:
Europe’s gamble for a security role in a multipolar Gulf

Eleonora Ardemagni
NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept reconsiders the MENAand southern partners

Nematullah Bizhan
Afghanistan: A tragic fall, consequences and prospects

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26/10/22

Afghanistan: A tragic fall, consequences and prospects

The fall of republican Afghanistan in August 2021 was partly ignited by the reorientation of the US interest in the region and a shift in global geopolitics. This situation has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe, disruption of state institutions and the economy in Afghanistan, an upsurge in transnational Islamist militancy, the expansion of narcotics and a massive outflow of Afghan refugees. Policy options and international leverage to mitigate the threats are limited, and there is no substitute for an inclusive and just order in Afghanistan.

Nematullah Bizhan is lecturer in Public Policy at the Development Policy Centre at The Australian National University, Australia, and Senior research Associate with the Global Economic Governance Program, Oxford University, UK. Nematullah is the author of Aid Paradoxes in Afghanistan and the editor of State Fragility. He has contributed to development programmes and reforms that helped Afghanistan’s immediate post-2001 recovery. As a civil society activist, he has also contributed to promoting accountability and civic participation.

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26/10/22

NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept reconsiders the MENA and southern partners

Although cooperative security is still a core task, the MENA region is not NATO’s priority today. It is mostly framed by NATO through the lens of rivals powers’ influence (russia; China) in third countries and the fight against terrorism. After the russian invasion of Ukraine, the primacy of deterrence and defence is likely to reduce Western resources for Southern partners’ defence capacity-building. However, the shaping of an endogenous security architecture in the MENA region is strictly connected to the improvement of defence capabilities in the region: the GCC states play – and can play – a significant role.

Eleonora Ardemagni is an expert on Yemen, Gulf monarchies and Arab military forces. She is Associate research Fellow at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), Teaching Assistant at the Catholic University of Milan (MSc courses “regional Studies Middle East”/ “History of Islamic Asia”; “New Conflicts: History, Strategy and Narrative”), and Adjunct Professor at ASErI (Graduate School of Economics and International relations, Milan), Master in Middle Eastern Studies-MIMES (“Yemen: Drivers of Conflict and Security Implications”), and former Gulf analyst for the NATO Defense College Foundation (2015-2020).

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26/10/22

The EU Gulf strategy and the Strategic Compass: Europe’s gamble for a security role in a multipolar Gulf

Relations between the European Union and the countries forming the Gulf Cooperation Council have tended to focus on economic, energy and trade ties in the past. Now, as the intertwining of global geopolitical developments and internal dynamics in the Middle East and North Africa are reshaping the region, the Gulf is emerging as an increasingly strategic region for the EU’s interests. Yet the Gulf monarchies see the European countries as irrelevant in the realm of security. With the Strategic Compass and the Strategic Partnership with the Gulf, both published this year, Brussels wants to change that. This article aims to explain how these two policy strategies will impact Europe’s relations with the Gulf monarchies.

Matteo Moretti joined the Middle East and North Africa department of the European External Action Service (EEAS) as a Blue Book Trainee in October. He is a Junior Member at the International Affairs Institute (IAI) in rome and holds a double master’s degree in European and International Studies from the University of Trento and the Metropolitan University of Prague. His research interests include the EU’s foreign relations, the Gulf, and relations between EU and GCC countries. He has presented at the Gulf research Meeting (2021) and the EUMENIA Conference in Amman (2022).

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26/10/22

G7, food security and MENA

Food security has become one of the most critical challenges since the russian invasion of Ukraine due to the pivotal role of both countries in the global cereal trade. Import-dependent countries such as those in the Middle East and North Africa are especially highly exposed to food insecurity resulting from the dependence on Black Sea cereals. This article argues that food has become a geopolitical tool as a byproduct of the war in Eastern Europe. The G7 responded to the potentially dire consequences of food insecurity with an ambitious package of emergency aid and structural support for food system change in developing countries such as those in the MENA region. This could be a major opportunity for MENA countries since their food systems are increasingly unsustainable due to negative health impacts resulting from cheap, carbohydrate-rich diets.

Martin Keulertz is a lecturer in Environmental Management at the University of the West of England, Bristol, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor to the Food Security Programme at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Prior to this, he was the inaugural director of AUB’s Food Security Programme and a post-doctoral researcher at Purdue University in the US and Humboldt University in Germany.

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26/10/22

Global power competition and the geopolitics of energy

Since the early 2000s, the competition between global powers (i.e. United States, Europe, Russia and China) has intensified and expanded to cover a broad range of challenges including security, economics and information technology, among others. This global competition, however, is different from the Cold War. There is a great deal of interdependence between global powers, which was not the case between the West and the Soviet Union during most of the second half of the twentieth century. This study examines how the strategic competition between global powers shapes the energy market. The analysis focuses on the ongoing war in Ukraine, the bloodiest in Europe since the end of World War II, and the deepening tension between Washington and Beijing. The argument is that major oil producers in the Gulf will continue to see the West, particularly the United States, as their main security guarantor. However, despite these strong strategic ties, the Gulf Cooperation Council states will continue to maintain close political and commercial relationships with Russia and China.

Gawdat Bahgat is Professor of National Security at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University in Washington, DC. He is the author of twelve books on the Middle East and American foreign policy. His work has been translated into several foreign languages.

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26/10/22

Global systems and the MENA region: Weakening actors, weakening systems

This article assesses the causes and implications of what appears to be a case of intensifying global political paralysis afflicting both states and international systems. It briefly describes this malady among leading state actors as well as the global regimes they created and until recently sustained, and how the affliction has affected MENA states and relations between them. The causes of this seemingly universal weakening are then discussed. The article concludes with speculation on implications for global and MENA politics and relations between the two.

Robert Springborg is research Fellow of the Italian Institute of International Affairs and Adjunct Professor at Simon Fraser University. Formerly he was Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, the holder of the MBI Al Jaber Chair in Middle East Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in london, Director of the American research Center in Egypt and University Professor of Middle East Politics at Macquarie University in Sydney Australia. His most recent books are Egypt (2018) and Political Economies of the Middle East and North Africa (2020), both published by Polity Press, and The Political Economy of Education in the Arab World, lynne rienner, 2021, co-edited with Hicham Alaoui.

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14/07/22

Sports sponsorship and Gulf geopolitics

Elite sport sponsorship has become a significant trend in the Arabian Peninsula, where local leaders see investment in high-profile teams and events as a way to shape foreign relations beyond the region – primarily with Europe. Sports sponsorship also factors into intra-regional geopolitics among the Gulf countries, including both cooperation and competition. This article considers both sides of sports sponsorship geopolitics – beyond and within the Gulf – while also recognising that the two orientations are not separate.

Natalie Koch is Professor of Geography at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She is a political geographer working on authoritarianism, geopolitics and the territorial state system. Her empirical research in the Arabian Peninsula focuses on alternative sites of geopolitical analysis, including sports, science, environmental policy and urban development. She is the editor of the new book Spatializing Authoritarianism (Syracuse University Press, 2022) as well as Critical geographies of sport: Space, power, and sport in global perspective (Routledge, 2017). In August 2022, she will begin as the new Professor of Human Geography at Heidelberg University.

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14/07/22

Evolving intraregional security perceptions in the UAE

This article addresses the shifting security perceptions in the UAE. It argues that after a phase of power projection, the UAE has been pursuing a more pragmatic regional foreign policy to consolidate geopolitical influence and power. Efforts at rapprochement between adversaries serve the UAE’s objective to assert itself and to maintain regional stability under a fragile balance of power that materialised when the US began to disengage from the Middle East.

Anna Reuß is a doctoral researcher at the Chair of International Politics and Conflict Studies at the University of the Bundeswehr, Munich. Her research focuses on conceptual and regional aspects of security in International Relations.

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14/07/22

Stalled cooperation and the destabilisation of the Maghreb

This article aims to explain the factors that contributed to the Great Maghreb’s dream becoming a mirage. Although the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) was established in 1988, it has been unable to achieve regional cooperation due to the competing national action agendas of member states, particularly Morocco and Algeria. The article concludes that the rise of hybrid threats following the Arab Spring has exacerbated instability in the Maghreb region and beyond.

Hamdy A. Hassan is Professor of Political Science at Zayed University, Dubai, UAE. He is also a Co-Chair of RC44 – Security, Conflict and Democratization, IPSA, receiving his Ph.D. in Comparative Politics from Cairo University and Maryland University (1990). In 1999 he was granted an Egyptian State Award in Political Science. His research focuses on African Politics, Conflict & Security Studies, Radicalisation and Islamic Discourse.

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14/07/22

Geopolitical shift in the Gulf after the Abraham Accords

Since the signing of the Abraham Accords on 15 September 2020, trade and business interactions have expanded rapidly in the region, with the first free-trade agreement between Israel and an Arab state – the UAE – finalised on 31 May 2022. However, the raison d’être of this accords lies with Iranian threat in a context of mistrust with US disengagement in the MENA region. Considering that washington fully supports the Israel-Gulf entente, the Abraham Accords appear advantageous to US policy in encouraging the building of business ties and creation of new security arrangements in the hope of seeing its partners distance themselves from China.

Fatiha Dazi-Héni is a researcher in Political Science on Arab monarchies at the Institute for Strategic Research at the Military School in Paris and Associated Professor on Contemporary History in the Arabian Peninsula at the Political Institute of lille. Her publications include Monarchie et Sociétés d’Arabie. Le temps des confrontations (Presses de Sciences PO, 2006) and L’Arabie Saoudite en 100 questions, edited 3 times (Editions Tallendier: 2017, and Texto: 2018 and 2020). She has also published many articles on GCC states and societies as well as on sub-regional dynamics.

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14/07/22

Intra-GCC state relations: Re-assessing the balance of power

Relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council states over the next few years are expected to prove highly fluid and be driven by multiple factors, including (in approximate order of importance): shared economic opportunities; economic assistance; economic competition; alignments against perceived external hard power threats; and alignments against perceived transnational political threats. Investigating this apparent re-prioritisation of issues, this article demonstrates how longstanding diplomatic blocs and the former intra-GCC balance of power are effectively being replaced by ad hoc foreign policies predicated on remarkably strong bilateral economic relationships (and in some cases significant economic competition).

Christopher M. Davidson is an associate fellow of the Henry Jackson Society, a former reader in Middle East politics at Durham University, a former visiting associate professor at Kyoto University in Japan and a former assistant professor at Zayed University in the UAE. His books include From Sheikhs to Sultanism: Statecraft and Authority in Saudi Arabia and The UAE and Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East.

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