Middle East & North Africa

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A satellite view of Djibouti, showing the U.S. Navy’s Camp Lemonnier (bottom) and the People’s Liberation Army Support Base (top).

2020 Google Earth / Maxar Technologies, used with permission.

Paper

Cooperation, Competition, or Both? Options for U.S. Land Forces vis-à-vis Chinese Interests in Africa

| June 2020

This paper responds to a topic from the Army War College’s Key Strategic Issues List, 2018-2020: Evaluate the ramifications of China’s and/or Russia’s interests in Africa for U.S. land forces and suggest options, both to compete and to cooperate, to further U.S. interests.

While U.S. land forces may benefit from competition or cooperation with Chinese elements in Africa, I judge that they possess limited agency to compete or cooperate in the context of these definitions. Therefore, I will take a whole-of-government approach to furthering U.S. interests in Africa vis-à-vis China.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Analysis & Opinions - The New York Times

State Dept. Investigator Fired by Trump Had Examined Weapons Sales to Saudis and Emiratis

| May 18, 2020

The State Department inspector general fired by President Trump on Friday was in the final stages of an investigation into whether the administration had unlawfully declared an “emergency” last year to allow the resumption of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their air war in Yemen.

A large refugee camp on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey, near the town of Atma, in Syria’s Idlib province, April 19, 2020.

AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed

Paper

Syria Redux: Preventing the Spread of Violent Extremism Through Weaponized Populations and Mobile Safehavens

| May 2020

The resurgence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the next evolution of violent extremist ideology will undoubtedly flow from this region. Regional and global actors have protracted the conflict and stymied the peace process. This paper is not an exposé on the plight of Syrian refugees nor is a plea to rebuild Syria. Instead, this paper discusses the national security threat components of weaponized populations and mobile safe havens used by violent extremist organizations and offers policy recommendations to support a long-term strategy to reduce violence in the region, contain these new threats, and set conditions for reconciliation and peace.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Thursday, May 17, 2018.

Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

Russia’s Scavenger Diplomacy Is in Full Effect in the Middle East

| May 08, 2020

While most of the world has been on lockdown from the novel coronavirus, the wars and political machinations of the Middle East have continued. Amid this turmoil, Russia has been making steady progress in what State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus described as its “malign engagement” in the region.

Sun sets behind idle pump jack near Karnes City, Texas.

Eric Gay/AP

Analysis & Opinions - Bloomberg Opinion

Oil's Collapse Is a Geopolitical Reset In Disguise

| Apr. 29, 2020

The world is on the cusp of a geopolitical reset. The global pandemic could well undermine international institutions, reinforce nationalism and spur de-globalization. But far-sighted leadership could also rekindle cooperation, glimmers of which appeared in the G-20’s offer of debt relief for some of the world’s poorest countries, a joint plea from more than 200 former national leaders for a more coordinated pandemic response and an unprecedented multinational pact to arrest the crash in oil markets.  

President Donald Trump, joined by from left, Gen. David Berger, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and Gen. Joseph M. Martin, pauses as he speaks to media during a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019.

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Paradoxes of Professionalism: Rethinking Civil-Military Relations in the United States

    Author:
  • Risa Brooks
| Spring 2020

The U.S. military’s prevailing norms of military professionalism are poorly suited to meet today’s civil-military challenges. They undermine the military’s nonpartisan and apolitical ethos, weaken civilian leaders' control of military activity, and undercut the country’s strategic effectiveness in armed conflict.

In this photo taken on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, members of the Kurdish internal security forces stand on their vehicle in front of a giant poster showing portraits of fighters killed fighting against the Islamic State group, in Manbij, north Syria. Manbij, a mixed Arab and Kurdish town of nearly 400,000, was liberated from Islamic State militants in 2016 by the YPG fighters with backing from U.S-led coalition airstrikes. With Turkey's threats, the town has become the axle for U.S. policy in Syria, threate

(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

The Political Power of Proxies: Why Nonstate Actors Use Local Surrogates

| Spring 2020

Unlike state sponsors, which value proxies primarily for their military utility, nonstate sponsors use proxies mainly for their perceived political value. An analysis of three case studies—al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the People’s Protection Units in Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon—illustrates this argument.

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Q&A with Amy Austin Holmes

| Spring 2020

Amy Austin Holmes is the Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar with the Belfer Center’s Middle East Initiative. An Associate Professor of Sociology at the American University in Cairo, she has lived and taught in the Middle East since 2008 and is an expert on minority groups such as Kurds, Syriac-Assyrian Christians, and Nubians. She is the author of the 2019 book Coups and Revolutions: Mass Mobilization, the Egyptian Military, and the United States from Mubarak to Sisi.

In the Q&A section of this newsletter, we asked Amy Austin Holmes about her work.