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Fragility and Geopolitics in the Middle East and North Africa

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FLAME (Fragility and Geopolitics in the Middle East and North Africa)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2016-09-01 al 2018-08-31

The FLAME project identified state fragility at the EU’s immediate Southern doorstep as a key challenge for European foreign policy in the following years. War and fragility in the Middle East, exacerbated by geopolitical competitions, allowed the proliferation of violent non-state actors such as the Islamic State and triggered the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Reflecting key priorities of the Horizon 2020 work programme, FLAME pursued the following objectives:
1) map the political, security and socio-economic drivers of fragility across the Middle East and North Africa;
2) assess how these are reinforced by state and non-state actors’ pursuit of geopolitical interest; and
3) explore opportunities for EU and US to jointly ease these dynamics.
The project further successfully aimed to produce ample mutual benefit and skills transfer between the fellow and the host institution by expanding the fellow’s global network; broaden her expertise in security, US policy and non-state actors; and multiply her career prospects by exposing her work to a transatlantic high-level audience. The host filled a gap in its expertise portfolio and strengthened its academic profile and European presence on Middle Eastern affairs. Using the host's unique global reach, the project fed its research results into EU foreign policy making by means of continuous briefings, consultations and hearings with senior officials of the relevant EU institutions.
The project produced a number of scientific innovations beyond the state of the art developed by the fellow, including:
• A typology of the geopolitical alliances between state and non-state actors in the Middle East;
• The development of the concept of “resilient anchors” as key Middle Eastern anchor states and allies, rooted in the EU’s resilience concept as laid out in the 2016 EU Global Strategy;
• An innovative line of work on the nexus between geopolitics and cyber warfare in the Middle East (namely between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel), and its impact on classical deterrence mechanisms in the region; and
• The development of a new framework for a three-layered policy approach to Middle Eastern conflict prevention/resolution.
All of these were published in academic and/or policy-oriented publications with due EU acknowledgement, disseminated to the German Marshall Fund Transatlantic Foundation (GMF/TF, the beneficiary)’s extensive transatlantic policy network, and fed into ongoing EU policy debates about the EU’s role in its Southern neighbourhood and the wider Middle East by means of hearings, personal briefings, presentations and personal meetings. Research deliverables have been uploaded to OpenAire, with the exception of two peer-reviewed journal articles that will be made available via green access following a one-year embargo period.
At its outset, the project vowed to fill a large gap in both research and demand for policy advice on the macro geopolitical trends in the Mediterranean post-Arab Spring, coverage of which had been deficient due to the mere speed of developments affecting the geopolitical balance of power in the Mediterranean and its socio-economic consequences such as fragility, migration, and conflict. The 2015-16 migration crisis was a humanitarian catastrophe of unseen magnitude which affected European citizens and continues to challege inner-European cohesion and solidarity to the benefit of Eurosceptic right-wing populist parties. By dissecting the actors and roots of Middle Eastern conflicts that have helped generate this dilemma, including by helping to inject nuance and help dissolve some of the most common misunderstandings in public debate, the project has contributed to improving the understanding of key policy elites and the broader public of the different actors and roles in those conflicts, the drivers of these conflicts, and what the transatlantic alliance can collaboratively do to reduce the potential of fragility spilling over from the Middle East to Europe, a question at the heart of current political debates not only on the future of the Middle East, but on the survival of the European Union itself.
The transatlantic dimension of the projects’ policy advisory elements was particularly relevant throughout the reporting period, which coincided with a number of political landslide developments in the transatlantic relationship with regard to the Middle East, including the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Joint and Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) from Iran, move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the affair around the murder of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the announcement of a withdrawal of US troops from Syria, all of which were directly addressed by the fellow in her publications, policy briefings, speaking and writing contributions. The impact and relevance of the project was further illustrated by the fact that Mr Jamal Khashoggi was hosted by the fellow as the main speaker of one of the policy briefings and public conferences organized under the fellowship, in what should be his last visit to Brussels and the European Institutions before his untimely murder three months later.

here the researcher also presents a list of publications that were not anticipated in the DoA, but have been requested of her during the project:
• Journal article “Identity politics in the Levant”, Turkish Journal of International Relations (M12, publication forthcoming);
• Book chapter “Identity politics and regional order”, in: Mustapha Aydin (ed): Regional Order in the Levant, Istanbul: Kadir Has University, 2018 (M24);
• Dinner debate at the margins of 2017 Brussels Forum: “Security implications of proxy warfare in Libya” (M8);
• Paper: “Cheap Havoc: Cyber-Geopolitics in the Middle East” (M15);
• Paper: “Cybered Conflict in the Middle East”, co-authored by Lior Tabansky (M17);
• Public conference: Cyber-Geopolitics in the Middle East (M15).
• Paper “Power Beyond the State: Geopolitical Non-State Actors in the Middle East and North Africa”, published by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, co-authored with Benedetta Berti, Mohamed Eljarh and Cornelius Adebahr (M15);
• Book chapter: “State and Non-State Alliances in the Middle East”, in: Lorenzo Kamel (ed.): The Frailty of Authority: Borders, Non-state Actors and Power Vacuums in a Changing Middle East, Rome: Italian Institute of International Affairs, 2017 (M13).
• Policy study: “What future for the EU-Tunisia Partnership?”, co-authored with Youssef Cherif, published by the Instituto Europeo del Mediterraneo (IEMED) (M20);
• Article: “Revisiting Europe’s Comparative Advantage in the Mediterranean”, Barcelona: IEMED Mediterranean Yearbook, 2018 (M21);
• Public parliamentary testimony before the European Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee, live-streamed online (M15)