European Council on Foreign Relations

An alternative to intifada

This article was originally published by Cairo Review.

Whenever the Occupied Palestinian Territories flare up, predictions of a new Palestinian intifada generally follow. But with memories of the second intifada from 2000-2005 still raw, Palestinians have demonstrated no appetite for large-scale social upheaval. Even when Israel triggers serious confrontations, the status quo has prevailed. Each conflict has remained isolated and ultimately short-lived. Despite three conflicts with Hamas in Gaza, recent years have witnessed relatively low levels of Palestinian violence.

The current state of affairs will not last indefinitely. It would be wrong to think that a new generation of Palestinians will continue to tolerate Israel’s policy of dispossession and humiliation. The use of indiscriminate force once again against Gaza’s civilians has already caused an uptick in violence in East

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Russia’s convoy to East Ukraine and the International Committee of the Red Cross

Considerable confusion has arisen over the role of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the much-delayed humanitarian convoy from Russia to East Ukraine. The reasons that Russia has sent the convoy have also invited significant speculation.

The ICRC is being used as an intermediary because it has been working in Russia for over 20 years in sensitive places such as the North Caucasus. The ICRC will have made assessments and drawn up beneficiary lists, and it will have the capacity to operate through an established network of people on the ground, not least the Ukrainian Red Cross.

Any humanitarian operation of this size and sensitivity must have the agreement of all sides involved. Contrary to popular opinion, the ICRC cannot force any party to do anything it does not want to do. All it can do is remind all sides of their obligation under international law to

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Fighting the Islamic State in Iraq

US President Barack Obama announces he has authorised military strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), 7 August 2014. © DPA Picture Alliance/ Alamy

It is clear that military action will ultimately be needed to defeat IS, but if this is to have any chance of success it will have to be accompanied by concerted action against IS by local Sunni actors. IS is not operating within a vacuum – it has forged critical alliances with Sunni groups on the ground aggrieved at the marginalising policies of the Maliki government – and these actors must turn against it if there is to be any prospect of defeating it. This shift can only come about on the back of a new governing pact offering aggrieved Sunnis a meaningful stake in the system.

For the moment, however, the prospect of significant political reform in Baghdad remain slim at best, despite the concerted pressure

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With crises in Ukraine, Iraq and Gaza still raging, why should Europeans care about Libya?

For several reasons. First of all the countries that supported the 2011 intervention (among them the UK, France and Italy) have an obligation to Libyans because theirs is the only country of the so-called Arab Spring in which we intervened militarily. It's not just immoral to abandon the Libyans now, it also fundamentally undermines our credibility in a region where credibility is currently scarce. Secondly, there’s the issue of security in the Mediterranean. We can’t afford to have Libya become another Somalia because geographically it’s so close to Europe - just 350 km south of Italy and Malta. If government authority collapses completely, Libya could become a safe-haven for smuggling and human trafficking. Some countries are also concerned that it may become a base for extremist groups such as Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Thirdly there’s the energy dimension. If we want to

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Germany’s summer of discontent on foreign policy

In a different era, Robert Kagan provoked the transatlantic policy community by using the analogy of Venus and Mars to describe the mental split across the Atlantic on attitudes to conflict. A similar divide appears to exist on dealing with opportunity and risk in foreign policy. Some actors grow stronger when they perceive risk. Others depend on a positive-sum environment to exercise power and seem to be almost paralysed in the face of adverse conditions.

Among the major players in Western foreign policy, Germany is perhaps the one that best fits the latter category of a “sunshine state”. Berlin’s foreign policy machine works best when it can support, encourage, help, or reward. It struggles when it has to employ dissuasion, sanctions, or red lines. Public attitudes in Germany, as well as the country’s foreign policy resources and tools, lend themselves to co-operation, not

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