Archive for the ‘Master in International Relations (MIR)’ Category

14
May

On Monday 12 May, Dr. Casilda Güell, Professor of Political Science at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, addressed the MIR class in a very lively debate on regional integration. Quoting various authors including Barry Buzan and Richard Haas, Dr. Güell discussed the merits of regional integration in addressing the global challenges countries face today including financial crises, epidemics, terrorism, climate change. The nation state is now receding and no country alone can tackle these global problems, not even a superpower.  According to Buzan, the world is changing and we are evolving from a unipolar world dominated by a reluctant hegemon, the US, to a multipolar world with different poles composed of regional unions such as the EU, Mercosur, ASEAN…

Unlike what many pundits affirm, China will not be the next hegemon. It is unwilling to take on that role and should it rise to that position, other poles would counterbalance it.  Dr. Güell then discussed the 5 layers of integration, free trade, customs union, common market, economic union and political union. The EU is currently between the 4th and 5th layers. NAFTA is at the first stage while Mercosur is currently a customs union. Dr. Güell asked the students if economic integration was a prerequisite to political integration: peace through commerce. Opinions were divided even though history shows that political union when it is reached first goes through the stage of economic integration.

The seminar concluded with short student presentations on the pros and cons of NAFTA, Mercosur and the EU. The class was overwhelmingly in favor of regional integration with one of two dissenting voices that made for a richer discussion.

 

 

 

8
May

gonzalo

 

On Tuesday 6  May, Dr. Gonzalo Escribano , Director of the Energy Programme at the El Cano Royal Institute for International Relations, gave a highly engaging talk on the geopolitics of energy. The first part of his seminar addressed oil and hydrocarbons. MIR students were informed that Saudi Arabia was not only the largest oil producer but also had the largest export surplus in the world. More importantly, they are the only country with a spare capacity of 1,5 mbd to 5 mbd (million barrels a day) which in effect turns them into the “lender of last resort” for oil. If for X reason, Libya or Venezuela decided to cut off their production, Saudi Arabia is the only country that could effectively step in and fill the gap in oil production. This gives them a lot of power and leverage in energy politics as they are the only nation that can provide this public good and essentially stabilize the oil market. The gas market is mostly dominated by Russia and the US with their new shale gas extractions.  In all still 82% of the world’s energy consumption is based on hydrocarbons and renewable energy is but a small part of the mix. This is because renewable energies are still not price competitive and also because most countries do not have coherent energy policies. As long as this is the case, hydrocarbons are here to stay.  In the coming years most of the energy demand will come Asia, mainly from China and India. Dr. Es cribano also discussed energy poverty ( 20% of the world lacks access to electricity) and the fact that there is a tradeoff between protecting the environment and fighting climate change and providing access to energy in developing countries. The UN is trying to reconcile both aspects of sustainable development and growth and have created an initiative called Sustainable Energy for all. To conclude, Dr. Escribano mentioned  a few energy hot spots in the world and focused on Ukraine. Russia is now hesitating between providing energy to Europe or Asia. If it decides to cut off gas from Europe because of the conflict in Ukraine, China will decide that it is not a reliable energy supplier and this could cause tension with Russia’s Asian partners. Putin will have to be very careful and tactical in his energy politics.

Students had many questions for Dr. Escribano and their interest highlighted the importance of energy in geopolitics today.

7
Apr

seminar 4

On Friday 4 April, the IE School of International Relations in cooperation with the LSE enterprise and Citpax,  hosted  Dr. Fawaz Gerges , Professor of International Relations at the Middle East  Centre of the London School of Economics and Dr. Peter Jones, Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. In this very interesting seminar both academics addressed the complicated issue of Iran’s relations with Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

According to the Dr. Gerges, in order to understand these complex relationships, one has to acknowledge the deep rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the region. This rivalry is considered to be “the Cold War in the Middle East” and has been ongoing for decades. The sectarian divide between Sunnis and Shiites is central but it is not the only cause of the rift between the two countries. According to Dr. Gerges the geostrategic struggle between the two nations is even more important. This would explain Iran’s current role in the Syrian conflict. In order to consolidate and deepen its influence in the region, Iran has made a critical commitment to prop up the Assad regime in Syria at any cost. They have been sending weapons and combatants from Hezbollah in order to uphold the regime. It is in large part because of the Hezbollah forces fighting on his side that Assad is still in power almost three years into the conflict. This investment in Syria comes at great cost for Iran but for them the cost is offset by the benefits of influence in Syria and the direct access it gives the country to Israel.

One of the clear costs of Hezbollah’s role in Syria is reflected in its diminished influence in Lebanon. Until now Hezbollah represented a movement that was even more important and influential than the formal state in Lebanon. Their role propping up a dictatorship that is killing civilians has greatly undermined Hezbollah’s legitimacy (and hence Iran’s standing) in Lebanon. The sectarian fault line between Sunnis and Shiites that we see in Syria is spreading to Lebanon and to Iraq and could polarize the entire region. Saudi Arabia is adding fuel to the sectarian divide.

Finally, according to Dr. Gerges, Iran also plays an instrumental role in Iraq today and assists the government in battling Sunni minorities and in controlling the Shiite majority. Iran funnels its weapons and assistance to Syria through Iraq. It could not do so without the approval of the Iraqi government.

To Dr. Gerges, Iran’s strategy is one of defensive realism. It does not want to invade or attack its neighbors but it does wish to consolidate its influence. Dr. Peter Jones in his comments agreed with almost all of Dr. Gerges’ remarks but did disagree in one thing. According to him, Iran does not have a clear strategy. It has a defensive set of activities. It is only reacting to events, such as the Arab Spring, as they unfold, always two steps behind.

The audience had many questions for both speakers, but perhaps the most heartfelt one came from one of the IE students who asked: what about the humanitarian catastrophe that is currently occurring in Syria? What can we do to stop it? Both speakers were very pessimistic about the prospects of the Syrian conflict ending any time soon. For Dr. Peter Jones, the only glimmer of hope came from the possibility of a nuclear agreement between the US and Iran. Only then would Iran lose interest in having access to Israel and hence might no longer prop up Assad. But the possibility is quite low indeed.

26
Mar

eu

From March 17th to 21st , the 2013/2014 IE Master in International Relations cohort traveled to Brussels for institutional visits to the main European institutions and NATO. The European Union as a successful model of regional integration is a core element in the MIR curriculum and the trip to Brussels represents a unique opportunity for the students to interact with key decision makers from the organizations they study in class.

The students began with a visit to the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. They were greeted by Klaus Hullmann, Administrator at the Directorate for Communication of the CoR. His informal, honest and often humorous account of the role of the Committee of the Regions within the EU made a positive impression on the class. At the Commission, several representatives from the European External Action Service, the Directorate General for Climate Action, the Directorate General for Enlargement and the Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection explained the inner workings of their departments’ day to day operations. At the Parliament, the class had the opportunity to sit in a meeting of the sub-committee for defense and security (SEDE) in which the recent establishment of the European Air Transport Command for pooling and sharing of military assets in Europe was discussed. This came a day before Spain formally joined the EATC.

On Thursday, MIR students spent the day at the NATO headquarters and were addressed by officials from different units including José Maria López-Navarro, Information Officer for Spain & Portugal, Eric Povel, Programme Officer, Engagements Section, Public Diplomacy Division,   H.E. Amb. Miguel Aguirre de Cárcer, the Permanent Representative of Spain and Andrew Budd, Defence Capabilities Section, Defence Policy and Planning Division. Mr. Budd, a career military man with over 37 years in the British army, was especially open when asked about NATO potential involvement in the Ukraine crisis. Without divulging any confidential information, he acknowledged that NATO was following unfolding events extremely closely and would have to act should Russia set its sights on the Baltic countries where an important Russian minority resides.

Following the NATO visit, students met with Dr. Salomé Cisnal de Ugarte, Counsel at Mayor Brown International LLP, to discuss international trade and the EU. On Friday, the class visited the Brussels offices of the International Organization for Migration and was given a fascinating presentation on migration in the world. Unlike popular belief, most migration is not South to North but South to South.  Countries in the South do not have policies adapted to this type of migration. Improving such policies could have a beneficial impact on global development.

25
Mar

 

International Relations

IE School of International Relations is pleased to invite you to “Iran & the Conflicts in Syria, Lebanon and Irak: Troubled Waters or Room for a Conversation” with Dr. Fawaz Gerges and Dr. Peter Jones

Iran’s relations with the Arab world are complex and at first sight, seemingly contradictory. Today, as negotiations between the West and Iran advance on the nuclear file and new regional alignments are in play, the repercussions of Iran´s relations with Iraq, Syria and Lebanon may become more important than ever. Dr. Gerges will address these themes and the importance of these countries for Iran.  Dr. Peter Jones will comment from his perspective.

Dr. Fawaz Gerges is Professor of International Relations in the Middle East  Centre of the London School of Economics, and holds the Emirates Chair in Contemporary Middle East Studies. His special interests include Islam and the political process, social movements, including mainstream Islamist movements and jihadist groups, Arab politics and Muslim politics in the 20th century, the international relations of the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli conflict, state and society in the Middle East, American foreign policy towards the Muslim world, the modern history of the Middle East, history of conflict, diplomacy and foreign policy, and historical sociology. His most recent book, “The New Middle East” is published by Cambridge University Press. Dr. Gerges is also a regular commentator on CNN.

Dr. Peter Jones is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. He is also an Annenberg distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Before joining the University of Ottawa, he served as a senior analyst for the Security and Intelligence Secretariat of the Privy Council of Canada. Previously, he held various positions related to international affairs and security at the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Privy Council Office, and the Department of Defence (Canada). An expert on security in the Middle East and track-two diplomacy, he led the Middle East Security and Arms Control Project at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in Sweden in the 1990s. He is presently leading several Track Two initiatives in South Asia and the Middle East, and is also widely published on Iran.

The event will take place on Friday 4 April at 16.30h in Room 402 (Maria de Molina 31)

Please kindly confirm attendance to International.Relations@ie.edu

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