European Council on Foreign Relations

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

Last night's show of force in Baghdad by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, refusing to step down from power and deploying loyal security forces across the capital, points to the extreme dilemmas facing the use of Western military force to combat the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.

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

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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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Daniel Levy : ‘No just war’

ECFR MENA Director Daniel Levy 's interview with Deutsche Welle appeared on their website on 1 August 2014.

DW: Do you think that this is a just war?

Daniel Levy: I think that Israel's right to defend itself when its adversaries are violating international law by indiscriminately firing on civilians allows for a just Israeli response. However, the Israeli response, I think it is clear to see, has been disproportionate and had not kept within realms of what could be called a just war.

When you see that hospitals, schools and shelters have been targeted and certainly been hit, when you see the civilian casualty toll on the Palestinian side, when you see that there is a ratio of civilian casualties that is approximately 300 to 1, I think this suggests that Israel has gone well beyond what can be called legitimate self-defense.

That doesn't mean that anyone should apologize that

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Europe must overcome Middle East status quo

In few other places in the Middle East and North Africa is Europe more relevant. The EU and its member states are the main funders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and of the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). The Union is also Israel's main trading partner, accounting for almost 30 billion euros ($40 billion) of imports and exports in 2013, up from 19.7 billion euros a decade earlier.

Often unfairly and inaccurately defined as a "payer not a player," the EU has repeatedly outlined its vision for the solution of the conflict centered on the two-state solution.

A relevant part of Europe's support for the two-state option is the commitment to institution-building for the PA both in terms of transfer of expertise and good practice and in terms of funding. On the Israeli side, ever greater integration with Europe has increasingly implied compliance with EU rules

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ECFR’s summer reading list

Welcome to our summer reading list, featuring some of our key reports from recent months that deserve a second look. You can download them in PDF or take them to your holiday location on your ebook.  

China and Asia programme                                    

Divided Asia: the consequences for EuropeArgues that Europe should develop a new Asia strategy that is honest, ambitious, and regional. New strategies should include a focus on regional energy security and a common strategy for Europe’s arms sales to Asia.

France’s “pivot” to Asia – France is hoping that stronger bilateral ties throughout the region will yield new markets and partnerships. Its new strategy is based on an improved competitiveness of French exports and services, partnerships based on the needs of target countries and a strategic presence based on self-financing defence co-operation.          


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