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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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01/01/18

Orient I 2018

Ross Harrison
Regionalism in the Middle East: An impossible dream?

Maximilian Felsch
The Arab regional system after the Arab uprisings: Reaching hegemonic stability?

Patrycja Sasnal
The looming peace in Syria: A dilemma for the UN

Robert Mason
A reassessment of the European Neighbourhood Policy

Ibrahim Al-Marashi
The Arab League: Between ambitions and reality

Aidan Hehir
The Responsibility to Protect, the UN Security Council and the Arab Spring

Wolfgang Mühlberger
Chasing the Jinn: Countering Hezbollah with lawfare

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01/01/18

The Arab regional system after the Arab uprisings: Reaching hegemonic stability?

Although the Arab world does not lack regional institutions, it is known to be the least integrated region in the world. More recently, as an indirect consequence of the Arab uprisings, regional organisations like the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council have shown unprecedented activism. This article sheds light on the evolving institutional architecture of the Arab Middle East by examining changes to the hegemonic condition of the Arab regional system in the post-2011 era. It argues that the new regional dynamics reflect a new balance of power in which Saudi Arabia appears as the region’s internal hegemon that utilises Arab institutions as instruments of power politics against its rival Iran.

Maximilian Felsch is Associate Professor and head of the Political Science Department at Haigazian University in Beirut, Lebanon. Awarded two doctoral fellowships by the Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB) and the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation (FES), he received his PhD in 2011. Felsch is an author of two books, various book chapters, and peer-reviewed journal articles on the Middle East and is a member of the International Studies Association (ISA) and the German Middle East Studies Association for Contemporary Research and Documentation (DAVO). His research is focused on the international relations of the Middle East and the role of religion in Middle Eastern politics. Felsch recently published the book Lebanon and the Arab Uprisings: In the Eye of the Hurricane (Routledge, 2016) which he co-edited with Martin Wählisch. The volume analyses the various impacts of the Arab Uprisings on Lebanon’s stability, economy, and foreign relations.

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01/01/18

Regionalism in the Middle East: An impossible dream?

One of the major factors inhibiting regionalisation in the Middle East is the absence of political will to cooperate on the part of leaders. While the attributes of the leaders of the major regional powers, namely Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, are undoubtedly important in determining their propensity to support regionalisation, there are even more important systemic factors that cause the most enlightened individual to eschew regional integration. A legitimacy crisis plagues most countries in the region, turning them inward rather than towards the region. The civil wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen have become conflict traps that have drawn in all the major regional powers, pitting them against each other and away from a stance of cooperation. And rather than having a stabilizing effect on the Middle East, the United States and Russia have reinforced the region’s fault lines, pushing it further away from integration. While mitigating these dynamics does not ensure success in sparking regionalisation, it improves the probability that a window to a better future will ultimately open.

Ross Harrison is on the faculties of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the University of Pittsburgh, and is a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. Harrison is the author of Strategic Thinking in 3D: A Guide for National Security, Foreign Policy and Business Professionals, which is a required text at the National War College in Washington, D.C., and the co-editor of From Chaos to Cooperation: Toward Regional Order in the Middle East.

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01/01/18

Chasing the Jinn: Countering Hezbollah with lawfare

This article analyses how Hezbollah’s gradually growing role in the Syrian conflict has been paralleled by its adversaries’ decision to wage lawfare against this pivotal player supporting the Al-Assad regime, in order to raise the political cost for Hezbollah’s military engagement in Syria. Compared to earlier steps taken by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in 2013, the resolutions adopted in 2016 by three Arab and Islamic regional organisations targeting the militant group are more assertive and potentially effective, in particular if considered in combination with complementary steps such as the US HIFPA (Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act) and a media campaign aimed at undermining Hezbollah’s reputation. However, it remains debatable to what extent the terrorist designation will effectively constrain Hezbollah’s financial and operational capabilities, let alone motivate its retreat from the Syrian war zone.

Wolfgang Mühlberger is a Senior Research Fellow at FIIA (The Finnish Institute of International Affairs) where he conducts research on the MENA region and Euro-Mediterranean relations. His current work evolves around post-Arab Spring transitions in Libya and Syria, with a focus on the role of external players. He also is interested in aspects of Arab statehood and is preparing a publication as co-editor on Dis_Order in the MENA region, from the viewpoint of narratives.

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01/01/18

The Responsibility to Protect, the UN Security Council and the Arab Spring

The optimism that initially surrounded the “Arab Spring” has largely dissipated; the egregious violence in Syria, the post-intervention collapse in Libya, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the return of authoritarianism throughout the region have negated all the earlier talk of imminent “progress”. These events have also cast a shadow over the purported efficacy of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norm as originally recognised by the UN in 2005. Though often effusively heralded as both transformative and irresistible, the concept has proved unable to dissuade governments from committing atrocities against their own people, and impotent in the face of the Security Council’s geopolitical machinations.

Aidan Hehir is a Reader in International Relations at the University of Westminster. He gained his PhD in 2005 and has previously worked at the University of Limerick and the University of Sheffield. His research interests include the humanitarian intervention, statebuilding in Kosovo, and the laws governing the use of force. He is co-convenor of the BISA Working Group on the Responsibility to Protect, and has just finished working on an ESRC-funded three-year project on “The Responsibility to Protect and Liberal Norms”.

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01/01/18

The Arab League: Between ambitions and reality

The article examines the League of Arab States’ (Arab League, AL) institutional shortcomings, the domestic constraints posed by member states, the dominance of international intervention, both American and Russian, and a lack of trust amongst the members, all of which have impeded and undermined the AL. While the AL was intended to serve as a mediator to resolve bilateral conflicts within the region, historically there has been a disconnect between the lofty visions of AL officials and the region’s realpolitik. In the present the AL has been unable to serve in a constructive conflict management role, partly due to its origins in an era of nation states, whereas the 21st century has witnessed the rise of non-state actors.

Ibrahim Al-Marashi is Associate Professor of Middle East history at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM). He obtained his doctorate in Modern History at University of Oxford, completing a thesis on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. His research focuses on 20th century Iraqi history, particularly regime resilience, civil-military relations, and state-sponsored violence during the Ba’athist-era from 1968 to 2003. He has researched the formation of the post-Baathist Iraqi state and the evolution of ISIS since its earliest incarnations during the Iraqi insurgency in 2003. His publications include Iraq’s Armed Forces: An Analytical History (Routledge, 2008), The Modern History of Iraq (Westview 2016), and A Concise History of the Middle East (Westview, forthcoming 2018).

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01/01/18

A reassessment of the European Neighbourhood Policy: Extending the limits of regional conceptualisation and approach

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was originally conceived in 2004 to foster stability, security and prosperity in Europe’s surrounding regions. This article argues that the ENP has been superseded by facts on the ground, including poverty, conflict, and climate change, which will continue to threaten EU internal and neighbourhood interests. It promotes clarity on a European interest and allied international interests which can better effect positive change, especially in human security, gender equality and prosperity

Robert Mason is Associate Professor and Director of the Middle East Studies Center at The American University in Cairo. His most recent publication is Reassessing Order and Disorder in the Middle East: Regional Imbalance or Disintegration? (Rowman and Littlefield, 2017).

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01/01/18

The looming peace in Syria: A dilemma for the UN

The paper analyses the role of the United Nations in Syria, and that of major powers who influence the UN and global events. It argues that the Astana process has marginalised the UN-led Geneva negotiations and is about to petrify a status quo with Bashar al-Assad regaining most of the Syrian territory and remaining in power. UN’s official trusteeship of such a final agreement would de facto legitimise the government in Damascus and further damage the organisation’s standing

Patrycja Sasnal is the head of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM). A political scientist and an Arabist, specialising in Middle Eastern and American studies, migration, radicalisation processes, systemic transitions and political philosophy she is a member of the European Working Group on Egypt and a 2010/2011 Fulbright scholar at Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.

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01/10/17

Gulf dynamics: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the emergence of regional multipolarity

Current developments in the Gulf reflect a profound transformation in the structure of regional politics. The bipolar order that had maintained stability since the Second Gulf War of 1990-91 has transformed into a multipolar order in which Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and Turkey have the capacity and the incentive to pursue foreign policies that challenge the security interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran. This new arrangement increases the degree of uncertainty in Gulf affairs, and makes crises harder to manage effectively. Events surrounding the recent confrontation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia illustrate the dynamics of the shift to multipolarity.

Fred H. Lawson is Senior Fellow of the Centre for Syrian Studies at the University of St Andrews, UK. He is author of Global Security Watch Syria (Praeger, 2013) and co-editor of Armies and Insurgencies in the Arab Spring (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016). In 2009-10, he was Visiting Fellow at the Center for International and Regional Studies, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.

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01/10/17

Lebanon: A spillover to be?

This article examines how the post-Mosul battle momentum has hastened the decision of Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army to – successively and respectively – clear Hay’at Tahrir alSham (a former Al Qaeda-affiliated group) and the so-called Islamic State from swathes of territory in north-east Lebanon, underlining the latent competition between the Shia movement and the military to take the lead in ensuring national defence. Although the Salafi Jihadist territorial menace is waning, Lebanon is still facing subversive threats – notably on the ideological front – not always dealt with appropriately. Furthermore, rising Israeli fears of Iranian projection of power in Syria, against the backdrop of the dwindling IS Caliphate, may have negative reverberations in Lebanon.

Rayan Haddad holds a PhD in International Relations from Sciences Po Paris (2007). He is a member of the Cercle des Chercheurs sur le Moyen-Orient (Paris) whose own main research interests lie in studying the importation of exogenous conflicts into the Lebanese arena and in Hezbollah’s policies.

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01/10/17

Jordan: Between IS and the Syrian Civil War

As Syria’s southern neighbour, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has been deeply affected by every twist and turn of the Syrian war. Jordanian officials claim that anywhere from 650,000 to 1,300,000 Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan since 2011, impacting the kingdom’s alreadyprecarious economy. But Jordanian officials are also worried about the security of their own borders, and especially of IS terrorism threatening Jordan both from without and from within. Jordanian security policy toward the Syrian war has shifted over the years, from an initial focus on the Assad regime to an absolute fixation on the dangers of IS. This article examines the shifts in Jordanian security priorities and in the kingdom’s responses to both wars: the war between Assad and the Syrian rebels, and the war between IS and the anti-IS coalition. With two wars across its northern border, Jordanian officials have considered multiple possible scenarios and outcomes of these conflicts, all of which seem negative for Jordan, varying only by degree.

Curtis R. Ryan is Professor of Political Science at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, USA. He is the author of many articles and chapters on Jordanian domestic politics and foreign policy, and has written two books: Jordan in Transition: From Hussein to Abdullah (Lynne Rienner, 2002) and Inter-Arab Alliances: Regime Security and Jordanian Foreign Policy (University Press of Florida, 2009). His latest book, Jordan and the Arab Uprisings, is forthcoming in 2018.

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01/10/17

Libya: A second home?

The so-called Islamic State (IS) has made several mistakes which have led – at least for the time being – to its failure in Libya. In 2016, the terrorists suffered a severe defeat in Sirte at the hands of Misrata militias and American air power. Nevertheless, the group was not entirely wiped out. In recent months IS has regained strength. It has regrouped in some more remote parts of Libya and renewed its attacks on carefully selected targets. After a successful re-consolidation, IS now has two strategic options in a still favourable environment. Libya could again be used as a major battleground, or its vast ungoverned spaces could serve as a safe haven in a global phase of weakness for the terrorist organisation.

Wolfgang Pusztai is a freelance security and policy analyst with a special focus on North Africa. Since 2016 he has been Chariman of the Advisory Board of the National Council on US-Libya Relations. He was also the Austrian defence attaché to Italy, Greece, Libya and Tunisia from 2007 to 2012, holding Master’s degrees from the University of Vienna (Political Science) and from the National Defense University/National War College in Washington D.C. (National Security Strategy; distinguished graduate).

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