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

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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Has Europe walked away from the Israeli-Palestinian project?

This text is part of an article originally published by Carnegie Europe where leading experts answer the question: “Has Europe walked away from the Israeli-Palestinian project?”. Please find a link to the original post here.

Europe has not walked away, it has simply continued to play a rather marginal and unconstructive role.

That role is defined by a combination of internal division, excessive deference to U.S. positions, and, for some, a deliberate distortion of the conflict’s realities driven by political cowardice. The EU foreign ministers’ statement of July 22 was a Christmas tree affair, decorated with an eclectic mix of good, bad, and irrelevant policy positions. But by adopting Israel’s position on disarming Hamas and more, the EU sent a signal that was spun by Israel as an invitation to ramp up its military operation at an appalling cost in Palestinian civilian

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What can the Cold War teach us about applying sanctions to Russia?

After the MH17 plane crash, the West once again has to wrestle with the question of what to do with the defiant regime in the Kremlin. Diplomacy is not at the moment effective, but military options are unthinkable. Only economic sanctions will send a strong signal both to Moscow and to the outraged Western electorate. It is no wonder that the last meeting of European foreign ministers went further than asset freezes and travel bans for Vladimir Putin’s “cronies”. The ministers also considered “sectoral sanctions” that would target individual segments of Russia’s economy. They left open the option of placing an embargo on exports of “dual use goods and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector”.

However, economic sanctions are always controversial – and they are often not as effective as promised. The last time the West applied economic sanctions against the Kremlin was

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