Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

13
Feb

Kurdos

Written on February 13, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Master in International Relations (MIR), Middle East, Op Ed

Los kurdos son una población de unos 20 millones de habitantes que antes de la I Guerra Mundial se extendían por la geografía de Irán y el Imperio Otomano pero que, desde las particiones del Tratado de Versalles, quedaron también bajo la soberanía de Siria e Irak. Es entonces cuando los problemas de los kurdos se hacen de verdad existenciales. Esas nuevas entidades políticas, Turquía, Irak y Siria, e incluso Irán, se basan en el constructo del Estado nación y el desafío de encajar a los kurdos en ese modelo de convivencia está todavía abierto. Y es que como ya nos previno el magisterio de Hossbawn, el Estado nación no es la única ni la más universal manera de acomodar poblaciones y poder.

Es en Turquía donde el enfrentamiento ha resultado más sangriento y duradero. Si bien el Tratado de Sèvres (1920) recogía la obligatoriedad de un referéndum para la autodeterminación del pueblo kurdo, el golpe de estado de Kemal Ataturk y sus victorias en la Guerra de Independencia dieron nacimiento a un nuevo Tratado, el de Lausanne, donde desapareció esa exigencia. Los kurdos se definieron como “turcos que han olvidado su idioma en las montañas” y hablar en kurdo empezó a castigarse como traición. Sucede, sin embargo, que cuando un país subdesarrollado y sin historia nacional intenta imponer al 20% de su población, igualmente subdesarrollada pero con aguda conciencia étnica, las exigencias de un Estado nación, no puede conseguirlo a la francesa, con unas pocas guillotinas. Ha de emplear a sus Fuerzas Armadas en guerra abierta. Así fue y ya en 1925 se produce el levantamiento de Sheik Said, ahogado en sangre. Ya fuese “reaccionario” como lo quiere la narrativa turca o “nacional” como lo describe la kurda, lo cierto es que su derrota resultó uno de los pilares del kemalismo, junto con la purga que siguió al intento de asesinato del propio Kemal Ataturk en 1926. Así pudieron promulgarse los tres pilares de la revolución kemalista. La Ley del Vestido (1925) la Ley del Alfabeto Latino (1928) y el Código Civil (1928).

Cuando un país subdesarrollado y sin historia nacional intenta imponer al 20% de su población, igualmente subdesarrollada pero con aguda conciencia étnica, las exigencias de un Estado nación, no puede conseguirlo a la francesa, con unas pocas guillotinas. Ha de emplear a sus Fuerzas Armadas en guerra abiertaLa rebelión de Sheik Said no fue el final de la insurgencia, sino más bien lo contrario. Consta que de 1924 a 1938 hubo 17 enfrentamientos entre el Ejército turco y los kurdos.

La cuestión kurda toma un giro nuevo en 1945, esta vez en Irán. Como el shah Rheza (1925-1941) parecía demasiado cercano al Eje, Inglaterra y EEUU ocuparon el país; Inglaterra y los EEUU el Sur, la URSS el Norte. Al abandonar la URSS Irán, dejó un recuerdo en forma de República Independiente de Mehabad, primera entidad política kurda y única soberana hasta hoy. Duró once meses. Su Jefe Militar fue el iraquí Mustafa Barzani.

En 1958 la caída de la monarquía en Irak abre el capítulo kurdo de la República, con antecedentes de rebelión tribal antes y después de la II Guerra Mundial, ocasiones que le permitieron a Inglaterra ensayar el arma química en poblaciones civiles. Leer mas…

Por el Embajador Jose A. Zorrilla, publicado el 8.02 en el http://www.elconfidencial.com

11
Feb

Theme: Egypt has undergone a frantic succession of political and social changes since January 2011. Today it is possible to envisage three different ‘futures’ for Egypt, described here as the good, the bad and the ugly.

Summary: Egypt is in a central position in the Arab world. Whatever happens there will have a substantial impact on the future of its wider neighbourhood. Three interconnected factors will determine its transition: the economy, security and its capacity for political and social integration. The main actors need to reach a consensus on basic issues that are essential to stabilising the country, salvaging the economy and pushing the democratic process forwards. The first half of 2014 will provide some clue as to which of the three ‘futures’ outlined here will be most likely.

Analysis: Three years after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is in a state of profound uncertainty. The euphoria of world-wide resonance that emerged from Tahrir Square in January and February 2011 has given way to other moods, ranging from impatience and disenchantment to stupefaction and disappointment. In Egypt there are not too many people who look back at what has happened over the past 36 months with optimism. Even less optimistic are many of the foreign observers who have followed the events of the Egyptian transition and its continual upheavals, surprising twists and turns and too many serious collective mistakes.

Since 25 January 2011, Egypt has undergone a frantic succession of political and social changes, including: (1) the loss of fear that led the population to demand the overthrow of a President in 2011 and again in 2013; (2) the first democratic election of a head of state in the country’s history (June 2012); (3) the coming to power through the ballot box of an Islamist, Mohamed Morsi; (4) a military coup with considerable social support that deposed Morsi after just a year in office; (5) the drafting of two constitutions in only two years, neither of which was based on a consensus; (6) a bloody repression, including modern history’s biggest one-day massacre between Egyptians; (7) unprecedented levels of social polarisation; and (8) a rapid return to the old police-state methods that kept Mubarak in power for three decades.

Egypt’s turbulent transition has so far been marked by: (1) repeated changes in the rules of the game, in a mixture of improvisation and political interference of the courts, sometimes with a questionable legal basis; (2) the inability to reach a consensus on basic issues that would be essential to stabilising the country, salvaging the economy and pushing the democratic process forwards; and (3) a ‘zero-sum’ attitude among the main players (the military, the Muslim Brotherhood and the state bureaucracy), according to which any improvement in the positions of one can only be achieved at the expense of the others.

To these difficulties, which are present in other transitions after decades of authoritarian rule, should be added other factors, such as the inability so far to create stable alliances with clear objectives that are shared by large segments of society, the emphasis on battles over identity (the role of sharia law, etc.) to the detriment of the discussions on the institutions and mechanisms that ensure good governance and, finally, the repetition of mistakes made by others in the recent past. One of these mistakes has been the drafting of constitutions that are far from providing a framework for coexistence that is both inclusive and widely accepted.

Egypt has devoted much energy and precious time in 2013 to internecine struggles for control over the ‘legitimacy’ necessary to impose conditions on opponents. Despite their sectarian and incompetent management, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood considered that their electoral victory, albeit with 51.7% of the vote, gave them the right to legislate at will, to be above the law and to impose a tailored constitution. The problem that Egypt now faces is that those who have taken over the country after Morsi’s overthrow also claim to possess the ‘legitimacy of the masses’ to approve laws that restrict rights, to draft a non-inclusive constitution and to impose a narrative of ‘fighting against terrorism’, which is blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood as a whole. This has been done even at the risk of such a generic accusation becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy in the case of some of the Brotherhood’s members.

Egypt is in a central position in the Arab world. Whatever happens there will have a substantial impact on the future of its neighbours. Similarly, the implications of its sociopolitical developments will be felt throughout the entire Euro-Mediterranean area. Today, it is possible to envisage three different ‘futures’ for Egypt, described here as the good, the bad and the ugly. Read more…

Haizam Amirah-Fernández
Senior Analyst for the Mediterranean and Arab World at the Elcano Royal Institute and Professor of International Relations at IE Business School.


[1] This article was originally published in Spanish as ‘Los futuros de Egipto: el bueno, el malo y el feo’ in Política Exterior, nr 157, January-February 2014, pp. 140-9.

 

4
Feb

Arab

On Friday 31 January, the IE School of International Relations and the Toledo International Centre for Peace (CITpax) had the honor of hosting a fascinating panel discussion entitled An Overview of the Political and Social Transformation in the Arab Region.

Three distinguished guest speakers from the region composed the “A Team”, as Ambassador Emilio Cassinello, Director General of CitPax quipped.  The panel included  Marwan Muasher,    Vice President for Studies at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan; Nassif Hitti, Senior Arab League Official, former Head of the Arab League Mission in Paris, and permanent observer at UNESCO; and Dr. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, Visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute and Head of Program at the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

Mr. Muasher began the seminar by presenting his latest book The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism. The Second Awakening is a referral to the First Awakening in the Arab region that started as an intellectual movement in the mid-20th century. It later led to the independence of many Arab states, but not to democratic rule in these countries. If the Second Awakening that is taking place today in the Arab world is to be a successful continuation of the First one, it must necessarily lead to the creation of a pluralistic government. Three years after the Arab Spring, achieving pluralistic rule is no easy task. What we see today is the struggle between religious and secular elements that are exclusionist in their desire to control power. Yet Islam as a solution in the Arab world has lost its appeal. The “Arab street”, as Mr. Muasher calls it, does not want more religion (they are quite religious as it is). What they want is a better economy, an improved livelihood. In his words, performance trumps ideology. People will judge whomever is in power not by their religion or values but by how the economy is doing under their mandate. In the end, neither a theological government such as the one seen in Iran or a secular dictatorship such as the Mubarak regime is the solution. Both types oppress the people and strip them of their rights. A pluralistic government should be the end goal.

How long will a successful transition to democracy take in the Arab world? According to Muasher and his co-panelists, perhaps decades. Democracy took centuries to get established in Europe, so how can one expect it to be firmly consolidated in the Arab region in only just 3 years? This is an unrealistic expectation.  Pluralistic rule will be achieved over time through toil and sacrifice.  For this, education is fundamental and this entails teaching the youth critical thinking , not just absolute truths as it is being done today.

What are the threats to a transition to pluralism? All three panelists agree that a big problem in the Arab region is the lack of national unity or national identity. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya were created as states without taking into account the different nations or minorities that composed them. The result is a lot of sectarian violence within these countries and a struggle for citizenship. Another threat is the rise of extremism. Indeed the road to democracy means that everyone has a voice including extremists that use ideology and demagogy to control power. Linked to this is the threat of transnationalism as we are currently seeing in Syria, where jihadists from other countries come to fight the secular oppressor but only add to the turmoil.

To conclude: is there reason for optimism? Yes. In spite of many problems and obstacles, the road to democracy is being paved by the new generation. This generation will need leaders who are willing to sweat and toil in order to make pluralism a reality. Tunisia is an example of an Arab state that is slowly transitioning to a democracy without the interference of the armed forces or the West. Let us hope this model is followed in the rest of the region.

24
Jan

An Overview of the Political and Social Transformation in the Arab Region

Madrid, Friday 31 January 2014

12:00-14:30 at IE School of International Relations

c/Serrano 105

IE School of International Relations and the Toledo International Centre for Peace (CITpax) are pleased to invite you to the discussion An overview of the Political and Social Transformation in the Arab Region, Friday, 31 January 2014, between 12:00 and 14:30 at IE School of International Relations (c/Serrano, 105). This discussion will include the participation of Marwan Muasher, Dr. Amr Hamzawy, Dr. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou and Nassif Hitti. It will take advantage of the recent publication of Marwan Muasher´s new book, The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism, as well as the expertise and knowledge of the other participants, to launch a dialogue on the future of the Arab world and its political and social transformation.

The planned programme is:

12:00 – 12:10 Welcome Remarks: Ambassador Emilio Cassinello, Director General, CITpax and Dr. Arantza de Areilza, Dean, IE School of International Relations

12:10 – 12:40 Session I: Presentation by Mr. Marwan Muasher based on his book “The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism”

12:40 – 13:00 Session II: Dr. Amr Hamzawy on recent developments in Egypt

13:00 – 13:30 Session III: Panel discussion: Mr. Marwan Muasher, Dr. Amr Hamzawy, Mr. Nassif Hitti and Dr. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou

13:30 – 14:30 Session IV: Conclusions and questions

Speakers:

-       Dr. Amr Hamzawy, President of the Egypt Freedom Party and Professor of political science at the American University in Cairo

-       Mr. Nassif Hitti, Senior Arab League Official; former Head of the Arab League Mission in Paris; and permanent observer at UNESCO

-       Mr. Marwan Muasher, Vice President for Studies at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan

-       Dr. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, Visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute and Head of Program at the Geneva Center for Security Policy

 

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

17
Jan

By Dominique Moisi

This analysis first appeared in Les Echos

Bashar al-Assad is still in power in Damascus and al-Qaeda’s black flag was recently waving above Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq. Not only has the process of fragmentation in Syria now spilled over to Iraq, but these two realities also share a common cause that could be summarized into a simple phrase: the failure of the West.

The capture, even though temporary, of the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi by Sunni militias claiming links to al-Qaeda, is a strong and even humiliating symbol of the failure of the policies the United States carried out in Iraq. A little more than a decade after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime – and after hundreds of thousands of deaths on the Iraqi side and more than 5,000 on the American side – we can only lament a sad conclusion: All that for this!

In Syria, the same admission of failure is emerging. Assad and his loyal allies - Russia and Iran - have actually emerged stronger from their confrontation with the West. Civilian massacres, including with chemical weapons, did not change anything. The regime is holding tight, despite losing control of important parts of its territory, thanks to its allies’ support and, most importantly, the weakness of its opponents and those who support them.

In reality, from the Middle East to Africa, the entire idea of outside intervention is being challenged in a widely post-American region. How and when can one intervene appropriately? At which point does not intervening become, to quote the French diplomat Talleyrand following the assassination of the Duke of Enghien in 1804, “worse than a crime, a mistake?”

When is intervention necessary? “Humanitarian emergency” is a very elastic concept. Is the fate of Syrian civilians less tragic than that of Libyans? Why intervene in Somalia in 1992 and not inSudan? The decision to intervene reveals, in part, selective emotions that can also correspond to certain sensitivities or, in a more mundane way, to certain best interests of the moment.

Intervention becomes more probable when it follows the success of some other action; or, on the contrary, a decision to abstain that led to massacre and remorse. The tragedy of the African Great Lakes in 1994 – not to mention the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1995 – certainly contributed to the West’s decision to intervene in Kosovo in 1999. In reality, the intervention of a given country at a given time is typically driven by multiple factors: the existence of an interventionist culture, a sense of urgency, a minimum of empathy towards the country or the cause justifying the intervention, and, of course, the existence of resources that are considered, rightly or wrongly, sufficient and well-adapted. Read more…

 

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