European Council on Foreign Relations

Setting up for state failure in Syria

Western powers have failed Syria. Between a half-hearted humanitarian strategy and a short-sighted plan to perpetuate a war fought by opposition proxies, Europe, the US and key Gulf states are fuelling the fire of Syria's destruction. 

No equivocating: Syria's tragedy is Assad's creation. In fighting the irreversible political transformations in the region, the Assad regime has squarely set Syria on course for collapse. Between a choice to confront the legitimate demand of its long marginalised citizens or to give no quarter to peaceful protest, Assad's government chose the latter. 

But the naiveté with which outside powers responded to Syria's upheaval has been half-baked at best and criminally myopic at worst. No postcolonial system of minority rule over a majority in the Middle East has been unseated without tremendous instability and human cost. Supporting the aspirations of

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Nuclear talks with Iran: Domestic challenges ahead

In an attempt to find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue the E 3+3 talks with Iran (that involve the three EU countries Germany, France and the UK plus the United States, Russia and China) took place in the Kazakh city of Almaty last week. The nuclear talks constitute a fundamental part of the dual strategy of diplomacy and sanctions on which Europeans have been united, even thought the policy has so far not led to a change in Iran's policy. (A more detailled evaluation of Europe's policy on Iran can also be found in ECFR's European Foreign Policy Scorecard)

Nobody expected that the two-day meeting in Almaty would lead to a major breakthrough before the Iranian elections. However, the outcome of the meeting exceeded expectations on both sides and officials expressed cautious optimism about the process.

In contrast with previous attempts (particularly in the past two

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Why Europe needs the Netherlands

On Monday evening we had a discussion on the third edition of the European Foreign Policy Scorecard in The Hague, hosted and moderated by former NATO Secretary General and Scorecard Steering Group member Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. I left the event thinking that the Netherlands could play a pivotal role in the post-crisis reinvention of Europe. At times during the last three years, the Netherlands has seemed more German than Germany - along with Finland, it has taken the toughest line on fiscal responsibility within the eurozone (for example last year it came up with the controversial idea of a “budget commissioner” based in Greece). But it is also the most Atlanticist of contintental European countries and on some issues shares attitudes with the UK - especially as it has become more eurosceptic during the last decade.

The starting point for the discussion, held at the Hague campus

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Greece: back in the foreign policy game?

Do not write off Greece as a regional foreign policy player. That’s how one could decode yesterday’s visit of Prime Minister Andonis Samaras to Ankara. Accompanied by all ministers from the tripartite coalition and a host of business people he was there to sign a bunch of bilateral deals with Turkey.  All that within the “High-Level Cooperation Council”- the joint government setup Turkey is fond of putting in place with neighbours from Azerbaijan and Egypt to Bulgaria. The contrast with the days of old in the 1990s, when Athens and Ankara were at the brink of war, could not be starker. As I wrote a while ago, Turkey's famed zero-problems policy only works in the Balkans, an exception as the concept has been in crisis since the beginning of the Arab awakening. Moreover and contrary to perception, Greece is not the prime blocker of Turkey’s EU bid. Nicosia and Athens are close,

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Europe’s East Asian dilemma

What do Europeans think about the complex territorial disputes in East Asia such as the one between China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands (the subject of the latest issue of China Analysis)? As we show in the third edition of the European Foreign Policy Scorecard, Europeans began to speak out on this increasingly important issue in 2012. In one of the first European statements on the subject last September, High Representative Catherine Ashton urged the parties involved in the disputes to “seek peaceful and cooperative solutions in accordance with international law, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and to clarify the basis for their claims”. But even if EU member states all agreed with Ashton (it’s not yet clear what view most of them take), what would this mean in practice?

The dispute about the group of islands in the East China Sea called the

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