By Robert Malley, President & CEO of Crisis Group

BRUSSELS - It’s not all about Donald Trump.

That’s a statement more easily written than believed, given the U.S. president’s erratic comportment on the world stage — his tweets and taunts, his cavalier disregard of international accords, his readiness to undercut his own diplomats, his odd choice of foes, and his even odder choice of friends. And yet, a more inward-looking United States and a greater international diffusion of power, increasingly militarized foreign policy, and shrinking space for multilateralism and diplomacy are features of the international order that predate the current occupant of the White House and look set to outlast him.

The first trend — U.S. retrenchment — has been in the making for years, hastened by the 2003 Iraq War that, intended to showcase American power, did more to demonstrate its limitations. Overreach abroad, fatigue at home, and a natural rebalancing after the relatively brief period of largely uncontested U.S. supremacy in the 1990s mean the decline was likely inevitable. Trump’s signature “America First” slogan harbors a toxic nativist, exclusionary, and intolerant worldview. His failure to appreciate the value of alliances to U.S. interests and his occasional disparagement of traditional partners is particularly self-defeating. His lamentations about the cost of U.S. overseas intervention lack any introspection regarding the price paid by peoples subjected to that intervention, focusing solely on that paid by those perpetrating it. But one ought not forget that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the same election season, and Barack Obama, as a candidate in the preceding ones, both rejected foreign entanglements and belittled nation building. Trump wasn’t shaping the public mood. He was reflecting it.

The retrenchment is a matter of degree, of course, given the approximately 200,000 active-duty U.S. troops deployed worldwide. But in terms of ability to manipulate or mold events around the globe, U.S. influence has been waning as power spreads to the east and south, creating a more multipolar world in which armed nonstate actors are playing a much larger role.

The second trend, the growing militarization of foreign policy, also represents continuity as much as departure. Trump exhibits a taste for generals and disdain for diplomats; his secretary of state has an even more curious penchant to dismember the institution from which he derives his power. But they are magnifying a wider and older pattern. The space for diplomacy was shrinking long before Trump’s administration took an ax to the State Department. Throughout conflict zones, leaders increasingly appear prone to fight more than to talk — and to fight by violating international norms rather than respecting them.

This owes much to how the rhetoric of counterterrorism has come to dominate foreign policy in theory and in practice. It has given license to governments to first label their armed opponents as terrorists and then treat them as such. Over a decade of intensive Western military operations has contributed to a more permissive environment for the use of force. Many recent conflicts have involved valuable geopolitical real estate, escalating regional and major power rivalries, more outside involvement in conflicts, and the fragmentation and proliferation of armed groups. There is more to play for, more players in the game, and less overlap among their core interests. All of these developments present obstacles to negotiated settlements.

The third trend is the erosion of multilateralism. Whereas former President Obama sought (with mixed success) to manage and cushion America’s relative decline by bolstering international agreements — such as trade deals, the Paris climate accord, and the Iran nuclear negotiations — President Trump recoils from all that. Where Obama opted for burden-sharing, Trump’s instinct is for burden-shedding.

Even this dynamic, however, has deeper roots. On matters of international peace and security in particular, multilateralism has been manhandled for years. Animosity between Russia and Western powers has rendered the United Nations Security Council impotent on major conflicts since at least the 2011 Libya intervention; that animosity now infects debates on most crises on the council’s agenda. Trump is not the only leader emphasizing bilateral arrangements and ad hoc alliances above multilateral diplomacy and intergovernmental institutions.

Then again, much of it is about Trump, inescapably.

The most ominous threats in 2018 — nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula and a spiraling confrontation pitting the United States and its allies against Iran — could both be aggravated by Trump’s actions, inactions, and idiosyncrasies. U.S. demands (in the North Korean case, denuclearization; in Iran’s, unilateral renegotiation of the nuclear deal or Tehran’s regional retreat) are unrealistic without serious diplomatic engagement or reciprocal concessions. In the former, Washington could face the prospect of provoking a nuclear war in order to avoid one, and in the latter, there is the possibility of jeopardizing a nuclear deal that is succeeding for the sake of a confrontation with Iran that almost certainly will not.

(A third potential flashpoint that didn’t make it into our top 10 — because it came so late and was so unexpected and gratuitous — is the Jerusalem powder keg. At the time of writing, it has not yet exploded, perhaps because when one is as hopeless as the Palestinians there is little hope left to be dashed. Still, the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel for purely domestic political reasons, with no conceivable foreign-policy gain and a risk of explosion, must rank as a prime example of diplomatic malpractice.)

As with all trends, there are countervailing ones often propelled by discomfort that the dominant trends provoke. Europeans are defending the Iranian nuclear deal and may end up deepening their own common security and strategic independence, President Emmanuel Macron is testing the reach of French diplomacy, and international consensus on action against climate change has held. Perhaps African states, already leading efforts to manage crises on the continent, will step up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or another of the continent’s major conflicts. Perhaps they or another assortment of actors could make the case for more engagement and dialogue and for defusing crises rather than exacerbating them.

These may seem slender reeds on which to rest our hopes. But, as the following list of the International Crisis Group’s top 10 conflicts to watch in 2018 unhappily illustrates, and for now at least, they may well be the only reeds we have.

1. North Korea

North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing coupled with the White House’s bellicose rhetoric make the threat of war on the Korean Peninsula — even a catastrophic nuclear confrontation — higher now than at any time in recent history. Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test in September 2017 and the increasing range of its missiles clearly demonstrate its determination to advance its nuclear program and intercontinental strike capability. From the United States, meanwhile, comes careless saber-rattling and confusing signals about diplomacy.

Kim Jong Un’s push for nuclear arms is driven partly by fear that without such deterrence he risks being deposed by outside powers and partly by perceived threats inside North Korea, notably elite rivalries, the tightly managed but still unpredictable impact of economic reform, and his difficulty in controlling information flow — including from foreign media channels.

The aggressive tone from Washington reflects equal urgency in the opposite direction. At least some senior officials believe North Korea must be prevented at all costs from advancing its nuclear program, in particular from being able to strike the continental United States with a missile carrying a nuclear payload. After crossing that threshold, they believe, Kim Jong Un will conclude that he can deter Washington from protecting its allies and thus impose demands — from lifting trade restrictions to expelling U.S. troops, all the way to Korean reunification on his terms. Those same officials appear convinced that he can be dissuaded from retaliating in the event of limited, targeted military action.

For now, the United States is implementing a “maximum pressure strategy”: corralling the Security Council into tougher sanctions, pressing China to do more to strangle its neighbor’s economy, conducting large Air Force and Navy drills, and signaling directly or through congressional allies that it does not fear military confrontation. Despite conflicting messages from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Trump administration is making clear that it is not interested in talks whose goal would be anything short of North Korea’s denuclearization, an objective as worthy as it is delusional. As the White House sees it, the approach is working: U.S. military action is no longer unimaginable for either North Korea or China. It hopes the former will be compelled to back down and the latter will get them there.

But this approach means a race against time — with Washington almost certainly on the losing side. Restrictive measures will not bite immediately, and they will bite the North Korean leadership last; ordinary citizens will suffer sooner and worse. Feeling threatened, Pyongyang is more likely to accelerate weapons development than halt or slow it. Both China and South Korea support tighter sanctions and are as frustrated with Pyongyang as they are alarmed by the prospect of U.S. military action. But South Korea has little power to alter the situation, China’s willingness to pressure North Korea may be reaching its limit, and its influence over a fiercely independent neighbor resentful of its reliance on Beijing is easily overstated. While Chinese President Xi Jinping fears the prospect of war on the peninsula bringing chaos, a possibly U.S.-aligned regime, and U.S. troops to his doorstep, he also fears that squeezing Pyongyang could precipitate turmoil that could spill over into China.

Without a viable diplomatic offramp, Washington risks cornering itself into military action. Even a precisely targeted attack would likely provoke a North Korean response. While Pyongyang would think twice before initiating a conventional strike on Seoul, it could take other steps: an attack on a soft South Korean target; an asymmetric strike against U.S. assets on or around the peninsula; or crippling cyberattacks. These might not immediately trigger regional conflict, but they would provoke an unpredictable escalation.

A successful diplomatic initiative ultimately will need to address two competing preoccupations: U.S. and wider international fears of what the Pyongyang regime would do with an advanced nuclear capacity, and the regime’s fear of what might happen to it without one. The U.S. government should marry its sanctions and those of the U.N. to a clear and realistic political goal. An incremental solution could include pauses on North Korean testing of its missile system or weapons, before Pyongyang crosses what the White House sees as a red line; the United States agreeing to less provocative military exercises; and consensus on humanitarian support even as sanctions kick in. That might not satisfy anyone. But at least it would provide the space needed to explore a more durable resolution.

2. U.S.-Saudi-Iran Rivalry

This rivalry will likely eclipse other Middle Eastern fault lines in 2018. It is enabled and exacerbated by three parallel developments: the consolidation of the authority of Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s assertive crown prince; the Trump administration’s more aggressive strategy toward Iran; and the end of the Islamic State’s territorial control in Iraq and Syria, which allows Washington and Riyadh to aim the spotlight more firmly on Iran.

The contours of a U.S./Saudi strategy (with an important Israeli assist) are becoming clear. It is based on an overriding assumption that Iran has exploited passive regional and international actors to bolster its position in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon. Washington and Riyadh seek to re-establish a sense of deterrence by convincing Tehran that it will pay at least as high a price for its actions as it can inflict on its adversaries.

The strategy seems to involve multiple forms of pressure to contain, squeeze, exhaust, and ultimately push back Iran. It has an economic dimension (via U.S. sanctions); a diplomatic one (witness vocal U.S. and Saudi denunciations of Iran’s regional behavior and Riyadh’s ham-handed attempt to force Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation); and a military one (so far exerted principally by Saudi Arabia in Yemen and by Israel in Syria).

Whether it will work is another question. Although recent protests in Iran have introduced a new and unpredictable variable, Tehran and its partners still appear to be in a strong position. The Bashar al-Assad regime, backed by Russian air power, is prevailing in Syria. Across Iraq, Iran-linked Shiite militias are entrenching themselves in state institutions. In Yemen, Tehran’s relatively small investment in backing the Houthis has helped them weather the Saudi-led campaign and even launch missiles of unprecedented range and accuracy into Saudi territory.

Despite demonstrating its resolve to confront Iran and its partners, Riyadh has been unable to alter the balance of power. Forcing Hariri’s resignation backfired, not just because he later withdrew it, but also because all of Lebanon united against the move and Hariri then inched closer to Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Hezbollah. In Yemen, Riyadh turned the Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against each other, but in doing so further fragmented the country and complicated the search for a settlement and a face-saving Saudi exit from a war that is enormously costly not only to Yemenis but also to Riyadh’s international standing. The Trump administration confronts similar obstacles. Thus far its belligerence, refusal to certify the nuclear deal, threats of new sanctions, and launching of several strikes at and near regime targets in Syria have done little to reverse Tehran’s reach.

With so many flashpoints, and so little diplomacy, the risk of an escalatory cycle is great: Any move — new U.S. sanctions that Iran would see as violating the nuclear deal; a Houthi missile strike hitting Riyadh or Abu Dhabi, for which Washington and Riyadh would hold Tehran responsible; or an Israeli strike in Syria that kills Iranians — could trigger a broader confrontation.

3. The Rohingya Crisis: Myanmar and Bangladesh

Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis has entered a dangerous new phase, threatening Myanmar’s hard-won democratic transition, its stability, and that of Bangladesh and the region as a whole.

An August attack by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a militant group in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, prompted a brutal and indiscriminate military response targeting the long-mistreated Muslim Rohingya community. That assault led to a massive refugee exodus, with at least 655,000 Rohingya fleeing for Bangladesh. The U.N. called the operation a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing. The government has heavily restricted humanitarian aid to the area, and international goodwill toward Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning state counsellor, has dissipated. Her government retains its hard-line stance toward the Rohingya and resists concessions on even immediate humanitarian issues. In this, it has the support of the population, which has embraced the Buddhist nationalist and anti-Rohingya rhetoric disseminated through state and social media.

Pressure from the U.N. Security Council is critical, and Western governments are moving toward targeted sanctions, which are a key signal that such actions cannot go unpunished. Unfortunately, these sanctions are unlikely to have a significant positive impact on Myanmar’s policies. The focus is rightly on the right of refugees to return in a voluntary, safe and, dignified manner. In reality, however, and notwithstanding a late-November Bangladesh/Myanmar repatriation agreement, the refugees will not return unless Myanmar restores security for all communities, grants the Rohingya freedom of movement as well as access to services and other rights, and allows humanitarian and refugee agencies unfettered access.

While publicly, Bangladesh’s government is trying to persuade Myanmar to take the refugees back, privately it acknowledges the hopelessness of that endeavor. It has neither defined policies nor taken operational decisions on how to manage more than a million Rohingya in its southeast, along the Myanmar border, in the medium- to long-term. International funding for an under-resourced emergency operation will run out in February. All this — indeed, the very presence of a large population of stateless refugees — creates enormous dangers for Bangladesh. Conflict between refugees and a host community that is heavily outnumbered in parts of the southeast and faces rising prices and falling wages is an immediate risk. The refugees’ presence also could be used to stoke communal conflict or aggravate political divisions ahead of elections expected in late 2018.

There are risks, too, for Myanmar. ARSA could regroup. It or even transnational groups exploiting the Rohingya cause or recruiting among the displaced could launch cross-border attacks, escalating both Muslim-Buddhist tension in Rakhine state and friction between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Any attack outside Rakhine would provoke broader Buddhist-Muslim tension and violence across the country. Acknowledging the crisis, implementing recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, and disavowing divisive narratives would put the Myanmar government — and its people — on a better path.

4. Yemen

With 8 million people on the brink of famine, 1 million declared cholera cases, and over 3 million internally displaced persons, the Yemen war could escalate further in 2018. After a period of rising tensions, dueling rallies, and armed assaults, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced in December that his General People’s Congress was abandoning its partnership with the Houthis in favor of the Saudi-led coalition. Saleh paid for it with his life; he was killed immediately by his erstwhile partners.

Saudi Arabia and its allies — believing that the Houthi/General People’s Congress split opens new opportunities and still convinced a military solution exists — will likely intensify their campaign at a huge cost to civilians. Iran will keep finding ample opportunity to keep the Saudis bogged down, and the more anarchic Yemen’s north becomes, the more likely that violence is to bleed across the border. The Houthis will continue to take the fight to the Saudi homefront, firing missiles toward Riyadh and threatening other Gulf states.

Negotiations, already a distant prospect, have become more complicated. The Houthis, feeling simultaneously emboldened and embattled, could adopt a more uncompromising stance. The General People’s Congress, a pragmatic centrist party, could fragment further. The south is divided, owing partly to the widening rift between forces loyal to Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and southern separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates.

There are signs of mounting U.S. discomfort with the indiscriminate Saudi bombardment and the blockade of Houthi-controlled territories. But the Trump administration’s belligerent rhetoric toward Iran encourages all the wrong tendencies in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia and its allies should instead lift the blockade of Yemen and reopen civilian airports. Politically, there should be a new Security Council resolution providing for a balanced settlement. The Saudis are loath to concede anything to a group they consider an Iranian proxy, but were they to embrace a realistic peace initiative, the onus would shift to the Houthis to accept it.

5. Afghanistan

The War in Afghanistan looks set to intensify in 2018. The United States’ new Afghanistan strategy raises the tempo of operations against the Taliban insurgency, with more U.S. forces, fiercer U.S. airstrikes, and more aggressive ground offensives by Afghan forces. The aim, according to senior officials, is to halt the Taliban’s momentum and, eventually, force it into a political settlement. For now, though, the strategy is almost exclusively military.

This strategy faces serious obstacles. While hitting the Taliban harder might bring tactical gains, it is unlikely to change the war’s course or the incentives of a locally rooted and potent insurgency. The Taliban currently controls or is contesting more territory than at any time since 2001; it is better equipped and, even if pressured through conventional fighting, it would retain the ability to mount spectacular urban attacks that erode confidence in the government. Besides, between 2009 and 2012, the Taliban withstood more than 100,000 U.S. troops.

Military leaders contend that this time will be different because Trump, unlike Obama, has not set a withdrawal date. That argument holds little water. It also misreads the insurgency: Battlefield losses in the past have not impacted Taliban leaders’ willingness to negotiate. Forthcoming Afghan elections (a parliamentary poll is slated for July 2018; a presidential vote is due in 2019) will suck oxygen from the military campaign. Every vote since 2004 has ignited some form of crisis, and political discord today is particularly severe, with President Ashraf Ghani accused by his critics of monopolizing power in the hands of a few advisors.

The strategy also underplays regional shifts. Thus far, U.S. regional diplomacy has centered on pressuring Pakistan; yet the calculations that motivate Islamabad’s support for the insurgency are unlikely to change. The Taliban also now enjoys ties to Iran and Russia, which claim to view it as a bulwark against an Islamic State branch in Afghanistan that is small but resilient—and also capable of mounting high-profile attacks. Washington’s militarized approach and diminished diplomacy risk signaling to those countries that it seeks not to stabilize and leave Afghanistan but to maintain a military presence. Given that they are likely to perceive such a presence as a threat to their own interests, it could lead them to increase support for insurgents. Nor does U.S. diplomacy on Afghanistan currently involve China, whose increasing clout in parts of South Asia will make it critical to any settlement.

It is true that demonstrating sustained U.S. support might reinforce the morale of the Afghan Army; a precipitous withdrawal, in contrast, could trigger chaos. But as the battlefield tempo increases, the Trump administration should keep lines of communication to the insurgency open and explore the contours of a settlement with Afghanistan’s neighbors and other regional powers, however slim prospects currently appear. U.S. allies in Afghanistan should push for a greater diplomatic political component to the U.S. strategy. As it stands, that strategy sets the stage for more violence while closing avenues for de-escalation. Afghan civilians will pay the price.

6. Syria

After nearly seven years of war, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has the upper hand, thanks largely to Iranian and Russian backing. But the fighting is not over. Large swaths of the country remain outside regime control, regional and international powers disagree on a settlement, and Syria is an arena for the rivalry between Iran and its enemies. As the Islamic State is ousted from the east, prospects for escalation elsewhere will increase.

In eastern Syria, rival campaigns by pro-regime forces (supported by Iran-backed militias and Russian airpower) and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (the SDF, backed by the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition), have forced an Islamic State retreat. In Syria and Iraq, Islamic State remnants have retreated into the desert to await new opportunities.

For the regime and the SDF, the fight against the Islamic State was a means to an end. The two aimed to capture territory and resources, but also to build on those gains — the regime by consolidating control; the Kurds by pressing for maximal autonomy. Thus far, the two sides mostly have avoided confrontation. With the Islamic State gone, the risks will increase.

The east is also perilous due to wider U.S.-Iran rivalry and the close proximity of these rival forces. Iranian gains, particularly the corridor linking regime-held parts of Syria to government-controlled Iraq, could provoke the U.S. to attempt to block what it views as a dangerous land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. Iran might target U.S. forces to retaliate against U.S. actions elsewhere or to push the United States out altogether.

In the southwest, Israel could view Iran-backed militias operating on and near the Golan Heights as a direct threat and take military action to push them back. Whether Moscow can prevent any Iranian or Hezbollah presence there, as it has pledged to do, is unclear. Israel may take matters into its own hands, striking Iran-allied forces. That pattern — prodding by Iran, pushback by Israel — could last for some time. But a wider confrontation is only one miscalculation away and could quickly spread beyond Syria, to Lebanon.

One of the gravest immediate dangers, however, is the possibility of an offensive by the Assad regime in Syria’s northwest, where rebel-held areas are home to some 2 million Syrians and into which Turkey has deployed military observers as part of a de-escalation deal with Iran and Russia. Regime and allied forces appear to have shifted some attention from the east to those areas, placing that deal under stress. A regime offensive in the northwest could provoke massive destruction and displacement.

7. The Sahel

Weak states across the Sahel region are struggling to manage an overlapping mix of intercommunal conflict, jihadi violence, and fighting over smuggling routes. Their leaders’ predation and militarized responses often make things worse.

Mali’s 2012 crisis — which saw the Malian army routed from the country’s north, a coup that overthrew the government, and jihadis holding northern towns for almost a year — illustrates how quickly things can unravel. Since then, implementation of a peace deal that aimed to end that crisis has stalled, while instability has spread from the north to Mali’s central region as well as parts of neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.

Dynamics in each place are local, but governments’ lack of authority and their inability to stem — and, at times, their frequent contribution to — violence is a common theme. Weapons that flooded the region as Libya collapsed after Muammar al-Qaddafi’s overthrow have made local quarrels deadlier. The instability has opened a rich vein for jihadis, who piggyback on intercommunal conflict or use Islam to frame struggles against traditional authorities.

As the situation has degenerated, the regional and international response has focused excessively on military solutions. Europeans in particular view the region as a threat to their own safety and a source of migration and terrorism. In late 2017, a new French-backed force known as the G5 Sahel — comprising troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania — prepared to deploy into a field already crowded by France’s own counterterrorism operations, U.S. Special Forces, and U.N. peacekeepers. While military action must play a part in reducing jihadis’ influence, the G5 force raises more questions than it answers. It lacks a clear definition of the enemy, instead envisaging operations against an array of jihadis, traffickers, and other criminals. Disrupting smuggling in regions where that business represents the backbone of local economies could alienate communities. Regional leaders also appear likely to misuse military aid to shore up their own power.

To avoid further deterioration, military efforts must be accompanied by a political strategy that rests on winning the support of local populations and defusing rather than aggravating local disputes. Opening or restoring lines of communication with some militant leaders should not be ruled out, if doing so can help diminish violence.

8. Democratic Republic of Congo

President Joseph Kabila’s determination to hold on to power threatens to escalate the crisis in Congo and a humanitarian emergency that is already among the world’s worst. At the end of 2016, the Saint Sylvester agreement appeared to offer a way out, requiring elections by the end of 2017, after which Kabila would leave power (his second and, according to the Congolese Constitution, final term in office should have ended December 2016). Over the past year, however, his regime has backtracked, exploiting the Congolese opposition’s disarray and waning international attention and reneging on a power-sharing deal. In November, the election commission announced a new calendar — with a vote at the end of 2018, extending Kabila’s rule for at least another year.

The most likely course in 2018 is gradual deterioration. But there are worse scenarios. As the regime clamps down, fails to secure parts of the country, and stokes instability in others, the risk of a steeper descent into chaos remains — with grave regional implications.

There are already troubling signs. Popular discontent raises the risk of unrest in urban centers; in recent days, the violent dispersal of protesters in Kinshasa and other towns has left several people dead. Elsewhere, local militias plague several provinces. Fighting over the past year in the Kasai region has reportedly left more than 3,000 dead, and the conflict in the country’s east claims dozens of lives each month.

International engagement has been lackluster. Disagreements between Africa and the West do not help: Western powers are more critical and have sanctioned some of Kabila’s entourage, and African leaders and regional organizations are reluctant to criticize the regime openly, even as some recognize the dangers behind closed doors. Only more active, forceful, and united diplomacy — and ideally a more engaged Congolese opposition — stand a chance of nudging Kabila toward a peaceful transition. The Saint Sylvester principles (credible elections, no third term for Kabila, an opening of political space, and respect for human rights) still offer the best route out of the crisis.

9. Ukraine

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has claimed over 10,000 lives and constitutes a grave ongoing humanitarian crisis. While it persists, relations between Russia and the West are unlikely to improve. Separatist-held areas are dysfunctional and dependent on Moscow. In other areas of Ukraine, mounting anger at corruption and the 2015 Minsk II agreement, which Russia and Ukraine’s Western allies insist is the path to resolve the conflict, creates new challenges.

Implementation of that agreement has stalled: Moscow points to Kiev’s failure to carry out the Minsk agreement’s political provisions, including devolving power to separatist-held areas once they are reintegrated into Ukraine; Kiev argues it cannot do so while Russian interference and insecurity in those areas persist. Both sides continue to exchange fire across the line dividing Ukrainian troops from separatist and Russian forces.

Yet the east is not the whole story. The Ukrainian state remains fragile even outside areas where Moscow interferes directly. President Petro Poroshenko’s government has not addressed the systemic corruption at the root of many of the country’s problems. Many Ukrainians are losing faith in laws, institutions, and elites. Anger at the Minsk agreement, which Ukrainians see as a concession to separatists and Moscow, is growing, even among reformists.

Given the diplomatic deadlock, Russia’s circulation of a draft U.N. Security Council resolution proposing peacekeepers for Ukraine in September 2017 came as a surprise. There are good reasons to suspect Russia’s intentions. Despite the high costs of its entanglement, little suggests it intends to loosen its grip on eastern Ukraine. The lightly armed force it proposed, whose mandate would include only providing security to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitors, would more likely freeze the conflict than resolve it.

Yet Moscow’s proposal opens a window for Kiev and its Western allies to explore how peacekeepers might secure not only the line of separation but also the Ukraine-Russia border, and to create conditions for local elections and the reintegration of separatist-held areas. They should, however, factor in growing animosity toward the Minsk agreement. Europe’s involvement is essential for progress on peacekeeping negotiations and to promote a more measured debate in Ukraine that can halt the nationalist backlash against the Minsk agreement.

10. Venezuela

Venezuela took yet another turn for the worse in 2017, as President Nicolás Maduro’s government ran the country further into the ground while strengthening its political grip. The opposition has imploded. Prospects for a peaceful restoration of democracy appear ever slimmer. But with the economy in free fall, Maduro faces enormous challenges. Expect the humanitarian crisis to deepen in 2018 as GDP continues to contract.

In late November, Venezuela defaulted on part of its international debt. Sanctions will make debt restructuring nearly impossible. Increasing Russian support is unlikely to suffice, while China appears reluctant to bail Maduro out. A default could provoke the seizure of Venezuelan assets abroad, crippling the oil trade that accounts for 95 percent of the country’s export earnings.

Street demonstrations and clashes that killed over 120 people between April and July subsided after the July election of a National Constituent Assembly composed entirely of government allies. Subsequent polls for state governors and mayors led to major opposition losses amid disputes over whether to participate. But food shortages, a collapsed health system, and spiraling violent crime mean conditions for unrest persist.

While opposition politicians look to the presidential vote, due by late 2018, as an opportunity and entry point for foreign engagement, the government is unlikely to permit a credible vote. It might call early polls, catch its opponents unprepared, and deploy the same voter suppression tactics it has used to win local and regional elections. If the opposition begins to show signs of recovery, Maduro might seek to avoid elections altogether by claiming that external threats warrant a state of emergency. A less probable scenario is that the ruling party splits over who will succeed Maduro; without a formal mechanism, the military would be the likely arbiter. Meanwhile, the weak Venezuelan state will continue to provide a haven for criminal networks and opportunities for money laundering, drug trafficking, and people smuggling, further disquieting Venezuela’s neighbors.

The prognosis for 2018 is further deterioration, humanitarian emergency, and an increased exodus of Venezuelans. Sustained domestic and international pressure — as well as guarantees of future immunity — will be required to push the government toward credible presidential elections.

Main News


Europe's military weakness is indefensible!

By Guy Verhofstadt, fist published by EUobserver, 06 October 2021

BRUSSELS - Am I the only one who is sick and tired of hearing AUKUS described as a 'wake up call' for European defence?

Just a few weeks ago Afghanistan was a 'wake-up call' for Europe. And before that there was Belarus, and Ukraine, and Syria… and yet every time - every single time! - we all hit the snooze button and hope the world will just let us sleep.

It won't. Tensions are rising all around the globe, so our divisions will only continue to make us weaker. Our partners ignore us. Our enemies mistreat us.

Our citizens despair of a political project that promises the world but can't even deal with its most elementary physical threats. Europe's refusal to get serious about defence is geopolitically untenable and politically indefensible.

Necessary steps

What Afghanistan should teach us is that the debate around a European army has to rise above the clichés and myths: armies don't just wage wars, but protect our citizens and allies, interests and ideals abroad.

An EU army is not some ultra-federalist fantasy but a common-sense answer to the real-world challenges we face as European countries. Not a leap into the unknown but a number of concrete steps we know we need to take to defend our sovereignty and protect ourselves.

Because what have our militaries faced in recent years?

First, remember Libya, now 10 years ago, where EU members France and the UK took the lead in an intervention against dictator Muammar Gaddafi and the threat he posed so close to EU territory. Though European planes did most of the air strikes it immediately became clear they lacked the capabilities to coordinate and continue the whole operation, and so dragged a reluctant US into a leading role.

The American assessment afterwards was crushing. In the words of secretary of state Robert Gates, there was a "real possibility for a dim, if not dismal, future for the transatlantic alliance." We were warned.

One major weakness was intelligence, and 10 years on we haven't made real progress. We still need to beef up our intelligence capacities and find a shared reading of threats and scenarios.

Or as European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen called it in her state-of-the-union speech: the EU needs its own Joint Situational Awareness Centre. Except don't "consider" it, as she asked, but just do it!

Next, think of all the new-threats we face with increasing regularity. Five years ago, Russian interference in the Brexit referendum and the US elections showed that cyber security is of systemic as well as economic importance, not just an individual's or businesses' concern, but an existential one.

The EU and its member states are prime targets. But five years on, as the German election worries showed, we are not much better prepared or united than before.

The EU needs to do more to counter threats together and we need to do it specifically with European situations and interests in mind - this in line with article 222 of the Lisbon Treaty, enshrining a legal obligation to solidarity.

Then, we need to improve the link between operational level and political, diplomatic actions.

We already have the Eurocorps, an embryonic operational force of EU soldiers in a Nato context. It is still limited - 1,000 soldiers from five Western European countries plus some associates, now focused on training missions in Africa - but could well form the basis for EU boots on the ground when and where most needed. We need to expand Eurocorps to all EU members, and integrate it into EU political framework.

Finally, progress towards an EU army is the only way to reignite Nato as a genuine partnership and reform it into an international peace and security organisation.

We have long gone beyond the 'transatlantic' - as AUKUS shows more than ever - and must find an updated 21st-century form for its original purpose.

Nato only has a future if based on continental and regional blocs, tied together around a shared commitment and responsibilities.

Last change

Weakness has become a European habit, and a dangerous one. When Estonia suffers from cyberattacks, Lithuania from Chinese economic coercion, or France from our partners' fickleness, it's really Europe's stability and sovereignty that is at risk.

The recent statement by French president Emmanuel Macron and US president Joe Biden makes clear in positive language what Robert Gates said in the negative: the US "recognises the importance of a stronger and more capable European defence, that contributes positively to transatlantic and global security and is complementary to Nato."

For now, the AUKUS incident is both an invitation and a threat: Take EU defence seriously, or slip further into irrelevance and away from US protection.

That should keep us awake this time!


Guy Verhofstadt is Renew Europe MEP and former prime minister of Belgium.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver or CEMAS.





What the US-British-Australian Security Pact Means for Europe

By Rosa Balfour, Carnegie Europe, September 2021

The military alliance forged between the United States, Australia, and the UK at the expense of France will lead to new alignments and could profoundly impact the transatlantic relationship. The United States and its European allies should know what’s at stake.

During the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the complaint from some European NATO members of insufficient consultation by the U.S. administration may have come across as petulant. Four weeks later, the AUKUS—a security pact between Australia, the UK, and the United States, whereby Canberra acquires U.S. nuclear-powered submarines and scraps its submarine agreement with France—dispels any doubt.

Whether the failure to warn France of the imminent agreement was an unprofessional diplomatic blunder or a sign of disdain toward the United States’ European ally is less important than the likely reality: when it comes to China, the United States does not value nor trust its European partners.

The aim of the security arrangement is widely understood to be containing China’s growing encroachment on the region. It comes on the heels of deteriorating trade and diplomatic relations between China and Australia in which Beijing has shown little restraint in using retaliatory measures.

Despite—or perhaps because of —its economic interdependence with China, Australia is seeking security guarantees from the United States. Unsurprisingly, Beijing interprets the deal as confrontational, accusing the United States of using an “obsolete cold war zero sum mentality.”

The Biden administration is marching ahead in reshaping alliances in view of its rivalry with China. All else, in this case France, comes after this overarching goal. Beyond the diplomatic fallout with Paris, it is worth thinking through the broader implications for Europe.

They are about Europe’s relationship with the Indo-Pacific region. They are about Europe’s complicated and divisive relationship with China. They are about whether the EU can play a role in de-escalating geopolitical tensions. And fundamentally, they are about mutual European and American trust and perceptions about the future of the transatlantic alliance.

Ironically, the AUKUS was announced on the same day as the EU’s unveiling of an Indo-Pacific strategy for its expanding interests and relations in the region—something France, a long-time actor in the Indo-Pacific, had pushed for.

In typical Brussels fashion, the Indo-Pacific strategy is comprehensive—ranging from climate to maritime security, from trade to sustainability— and inclusive of all interested regional actors. It reaches out to other states that have an Indo-Pacific strategy, including the AUKUS three, and is open to China, with which Brussels thinks it should engage at least on climate and biodiversity.

“Cooperation, not confrontation” were the words repeatedly chosen by EU High Representative Josep Borrell at the press conference launching the strategy. Soon after being presented on September 16, the EU’s strategy looked like a lone dove singing in a choir of hawks.

Whether one interprets this approach as reflecting the EU’s deeper instinct in favor of de-escalation and dialogue or as the cover story of the bloc’s commercial interests in doing business with China, it does not chime with Washington’s view of China as the strategic threat of the 21st century. That is probably the only issue upon which there is bipartisan domestic consensus.

Rather than a pivot to Asia, which during the years of Barack Obama’s presidency caused Europeans to fear their irrelevance, the AUKUS signals that all means serve the end of containing China, whether Europe likes it or not. The means include some of the partnerships that the Biden administration has spent time repairing.

This could become a missed opportunity for the United States to cooperate with the EU on the Indo-Pacific. In the past, the United States and the EU have, at times, used “good cop, bad cop” tactics to deal with difficult situations, for instance when European talks with Iran eventually led to the non-proliferation negotiations and the JCPOA. Similar arrangements require trust among partners and a shared game plan.

And trust is such an important issue.

The diminished trust undercuts the possibility of the United States and the EU working together on China, at least when it comes to biodiversity and climate change, which Europe increasingly recognizes as the greatest threat of the 21st century. It also limits the space for different approaches, such as bottom-up or subregional attempts to look at security outside the state-centric and rivalry-driven lens.

Europe must now ask itself two questions.

Firstly, does the EU have the bandwidth to withstand confrontational geopolitics without getting embroiled in them? And secondly, could its dithering on foreign policy, its failure to invest in its security, its hopeless divisions among member states, and especially its positioning toward China—between ambivalence and mercantilism—have undermined its credibility and reliability in Washington’s eyes?

There is a deeper risk for Europe behind the AUKUS conundrum.

Further pressure toward confrontation with China risks breaking the precarious balance between transatlanticists and those in favor of strengthening Europe’s autonomy in international affairs.

Back in 2003, the George W. Bush administration’s slogan “you’re either with us or against us,” used to rally support for the military intervention in Iraq, caused deep rifts within Europe, with France, Germany, and the Benelux countries refusing to join the coalition. Those rifts took time to heal, a luxury the EU does not have in the context of such rapidly shifting alliances.

France and the EU institutions have been pushing for a greater investment in the EU’s security capacity, with new defense initiatives being announced in the State of the Union address by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen just one day before the AUKUS debacle.

Events such as the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and the launch of the AUKUS fuel these arguments. Yet, European defense cannot protect the continent. Like Australia, the economy of some European states is critically intertwined with that of China, but their security is inextricably bound to the United States.

The debate on strategic autonomy is helplessly knotted in a false zero-sum dichotomy, whereby more Europe would mean less United States. In a continent where security risk perceptions diverge depending on whether you sit in Warsaw or Lisbon, this false dichotomy has become a prison and an excuse for inaction.

Yet more uncertainty about the transatlantic relationship, combined with pressure to shore up against China, risk breaking Europe’s and NATO’s precarious balance. This ought not be in the interest of the United States—or the Europeans.

Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees. The same goes for CEMAS.





The EU's 'backyard' is not in the Indo-Pacific

By JONATHAN HOLSLAG, euobserver, 23 September 2021

BRUSSELS - Australia last week scrapped its large order of French submarines to go for a project with the United States instead. It confirms a pressing reality for Europe: it is no longer an Indo-Pacific power. It will not become an Indo-Pacific power. And if it keeps overreaching its geopolitical ambitions, Europe might lose its credibility as a power entirely.

If Europe wants to become more geopolitical, it needs to respect geopolitics' foremost dictum. Geography tells you where to prioritise. For Europe, that's not in the Indo-Pacific, but its backyard.

Europe continues to profile itself as an Indo-Pacific power. Countries like France do too, but also the EU - which recently published an Indo-Pacific strategy. That strategy presents Europe essentially as an economic and soft power.

But Europe's economic power is not impressive. Europe, the UK still included, only buys 15 percent of the region's exports. This is less than the United States and it will soon be overtaken by China. Europe's development aid to the region is stagnant and its investment mainly in China.

The moral power is limited too. Europe states it can assert rules through advanced trade agreements that also include social and environmental norms. But these norms remain difficult to enforce and advanced trade agreements still cover less than 30 percent of Europe's trade with the region. It has no such deal with China, for instance.

A recent survey among Southeast Asian countries confirms that citizens there appreciate Europe championing the rule of law and climate change action, but question its capacity to display leadership.

There also remains a marked gap between the enthusiasm in the discourses of politicians and their willingness to visit the Indo-Pacific.

For decades, Asian diplomats have lamented the lack of interest for European heads of state in the region and their reluctance to participate in summit meetings of regional organisations, like ASEAN.

If one considers official visits by the French president and the German chancellor, for instance, they paid 15 percent of their visits outside Europe to the Indo-Pac, China remaining their most frequent destination.

Europe's military presence is insignificant.

France, for instance, the European country with the largest military footprint in the Indo-Pacific has reduced the number of troops in the area from around 10,000 in 2020 to 2,700.

These are no expeditionary troops; they merely preserve security in overseas territory like Caledonia and Martinique. It has three small frigates to patrol the exclusive economic zone around those islands. Its intelligence satellites reportedly do not even cover the whole area.

The UK has a few hundred soldiers in the Indo-Pacific, mostly in a jungle warfare training facility in Brunei. London recently decided to deploy two large patrol ships for a longer period.

These two assets are supposed to patrol the entire Indo-Pacific. Chinese news media mocked the deployment of these "less-capable warships". The deployment of the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier to the region remains symbolic. Such a presence can just not be sustained.

This partially explains why Australia replaced the order for French submarines by an order for American submarines. Besides the fact that the American ones will be far more capable, Australia does not just want submarines; it seeks a life insurance.

'Trusted, but impotent'

In the last decade, Europe's annual defence exports have remained steady around $2.4bn [€2.05bn]. Despite an arms embargo, interestingly, annual defence exports to China are still around $260m. Hence, Europe's perception as an opportunistic defence mercantilist; not a strong security partner.

Europe remains an ephemeral power in the Indo-Pacific. It is seen as a trusted partner, but also an impotent partner. Some globalists retort that power is inevitably ephemeral these days, that it is about norms and networks, less about warships and big investments; about being a neutral broker, not an arrogant bully.

Only about two percent of the respondents in southeast Asia identify Europe as the region's most powerful actor, behind China, the US, Japan, ASEAN, and just before South-Korea.

Europe's Indo-Pacific strategy is hence so threadbare that it becomes trivial.

Indo-Pacific activism goes at the expense of more urgent challenges in Europe's backyard. As the US continues to shift to the Indo-Pacific, the power vacuum in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa causes new instability.

That's where Europe should be. It should concentrate investment, trade, diplomacy, and security capabilities on this area if it does not want to become entirely redundant.

Tackling terrorism, piracy, state failure, and regional power politics in this area will likely impress its Indo-Pacific partners more than sending a navy ship through the South China Sea now and then.


Jonathan Holslag teaches international politics at the Free University Brussels and guest lectures at the NATO Defense College. His latest book is World Politics since 1989 (Polity, September 2021).


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver or CEMAS.




PARIS - The government’s decision to reject three quarters of small French fishing boat licence applications has threatened to wage what The Telegraph has dubbed “a fresh Brexit fishing war”.

As part of the Brexit deal, it was agreed that French boats under 12 metres in length would be allowed to fish within the UK’s inshore waters – provided they had a proven record of fishing in those areas and the relevant licence.

However, officials revealed on Tuesday that they plan to grant just 12 out of 47 licences requested by French boats. An additional 40 requests were rejected for not meeting the government’s criteria.

Officials cited “in-depth investigation into data provided by smaller fishing vessels” as a factor in their decision to reject so many requests, the FT reported. One told The Telegraph that the UK had “bent over backwards to be as generous as we could be”.

Guernsey, the other self-governing area of the Channel Islands, is also expected to grant fewer licences than the number France has requested. The news comes just months after a flotilla of French boats gathered off the coast of Jersey to protest at the conditions of the post-Brexit fishing licences, which limited the number of days and the gear permitted for fishing.

Tensions escalated to the extent that Annick Girardin, France’s minister for maritime affairs, warned that Jersey’s electricity supply could be cut off “if we have to”, The Guardian reported.

Eventually the choppy diplomatic waters were calmed, with Britain withdrawing the Royal Navy ships it sent to guard Jersey’s main port – a move that Clement Beaune, the French Europe minister, had described as an attempt to “intimidate” France, said The Times.

Westminster’s decision to reject so many licences was met with fury, with Girardin declaring that “French fishing should not be taken hostage by the British for political ends”. Olivier Le Nezet, the president of the Brittany fishermen’s committee, described the decision as “a declaration of war on the water and on the land”, said The Telegraph.

The UK is now bracing itself for French vengeance. “We will not hesitate to take retaliatory action, collectively,” Beaune told the RTL radio station on Tuesday evening. President Emmanuel Macron’s response is expected to be “particularly severe”, with his eyes on retaining support ahead of the presidential election next April, reported the same paper.

Granting so few French fishing licences will undoubtedly put further strain on Britain’s already fractured relationship with its long-term ally and closest neighbour. Less than two weeks ago, the UK, US and Australia sparked French fury by revealing their Aukus submarine defence deal, a move which led Macron to withdraw his US and Australia-based ambassadors in retaliation.

With the Conservative Party conference looming, reports are suggesting that this latest chapter in the ongoing Brexit fishing war could be an attempt to distract from the chaos of the UK’s fuel crisis. “Ministers may hope it shifts attention back onto Brexit,” said The Telegraph.




Only a Matter of Time

By Michael Young, Carnegie Middle East Center, 05 October 2021

 In an interview, Kheder Khaddour discusses the likely outcomes in Syria’s northwest, where Russian and Turkish aims clash.

Kheder Khaddour is a nonresident scholar at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. His research focuses on Syria, as well as on civil-military relations and local identities in the Levant. In early October, Diwan interviewed Khaddour to get an update on the situation in the northwestern governorate of Idlib, where Russia and Syrian government forces have stepped up attacks against rebel forces concentrated in the area.

Michael Young: In the summit last week between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, what was agreed on Syria?

Kheder Khaddour: The central discussion on Syria between Moscow and Ankara regards the border territories. Turkey’s goal is to secure its southern border regions, while Russia is trying to push rebel groups in northwestern Syria toward the Turkish border in order to secure a Russian presence in those regions. These conflicting goals mean that no agreement can be achieved in one meeting. Any agreement has to be the result of a process.

MY: How do you see the situation developing in the northwestern Syrian region of Idlib Governorate, where tens of thousands of anti-regime rebels remain holed up?

KK: What makes Idlib unique is its social, economic, and military mix. Rebels, including extremist groups, rely heavily on civilians, while the local power structure is largely family-based. Almost all of these families have become involved in the military and economic spheres, reflecting the socioeconomic order that has emerged from the war. The region and its dominant power, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, are in a dangerous position, in the sense that the Assad regime’s forces are well organized and have the simple goal of gaining territory, while the rebels have shifted from being antiregime to becoming defenders of the existing socioeconomic order. The rebels’ fragility compared to the relative coherence of the regime, as well as the unwillingness of international powers such as the United States to become involved in the region’s local affairs, means that it is only a matter of time before the regime is able to make more advances in Idlib.

MY: How have recent developments in Daraa, where the regime has regained control over areas in which it had not been present, affected what happens in northern Syria?

KK: There is no direct relation between what has taken place in Syria’s south and north, but they do reflect similar dynamics. Developments in Daraa demonstrated two facts. The first was that in the security sphere the Assad regime cannot, and will not, accept sharing power with armed groups or individuals. This was illustrated by the death of the 2018 agreements with local parties in the south, which were achieved thanks to Russian mediation and guarantees.

The second was the importance of Syria’s geographical location. The plan to send Egyptian gas to Lebanon via a pipeline passing through Jordan and Syria, for instance, could not take place if parts of southern Syria were to remain outside government control. The recent developments in the south will further strengthen the regime and give it confidence to advance in the north.

MY: What is the endgame for Turkey and Russia in Syria, and how do you see developments there shaping their bilateral relationship?

KK: By examining Russia’s presence on the ground, we can see that Russian soldiers are nearly in contact with Turkish soldiers. This means that both sides must face the reality of dealing with one another. The Russians are aiming to keep up the agreement they have had with the Assad government for nearly half a century, maintaining a long-term military and economic presence, most specifically along Syria’s coast. Russia’s ambitions are not limited to the coast, however, but also extend to the Jazira region in the northeast where the picture is more complex. The region is home to Kurdistan Workers’ Party cadres, American troops, and a Turkish military zone. More importantly, it is affected by border dynamics. Any American withdrawal from the region would put Russia and Turkey in direct contact with one another, similar to what happened after the Trump administration withdrew most U.S. troops from the area in 2019. The Syrian war is shaping Turkish-Russian relations, but it is too early to say whether these relations bring stability that helps end the conflict, or whether they will continue to be characterized by mistrust.

Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.




Pivoting away from America

By Michael Young, Carnegie Middle East, 04 October 2021

Regional and international actors are accumulating cards to engage in a new Middle Eastern power game.

Republicans in Congress have just accused the Biden administration of withholding a report on Hezbollah’s financial empire. The report, which is to be prepared by the State and Defense Departments, is a requirement of the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2018.

This report is critical to Republicans, according to a story in the conservative Washington Free Beacon, “as the Biden administration considers lifting economic sanctions on Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon as the country grapples with a massive cash crunch.” Rep. Pat Fallon, a Texas Republican, noted, “Additionally, the possibility that this administration will bailout and lift sanctions on Lebanon is a play straight out of the Neville Chamberlain foreign policy playbook. Hezbollah alone is responsible for Lebanon’s economic ruin.”

Fallon’s remarks raised interesting questions, because there is no sign that the United States has really sanctioned Lebanon. It has certainly imposed sanctions on Lebanese politicians and Hezbollah members and associates, but there are no indications, for instance, that Washington will block an International Monetary Fund bailout of the country. In fact, the Biden administration recently sought to assist the Lebanese Army, while U.S. members of Congress were in Beirut in September to examine ways of assisting the country. One delegation member, Richard Blumenthal, even stated, “I wouldn’t discount or dismiss the idea of a mini Marshall Plan for Lebanon because our security interests depend on it…”

This is hardly the language one uses for countries under sanction. More significantly, congressional sources told the Washington Free Beacon that the administration’s refusal to release the State and Defense Department report is receiving “increased congressional scrutiny amid separate reports the Biden administration is prepared to waive economic sanctions on the Assad regime in Syria to facilitate an energy deal with Lebanon.” The deal in question involves sending Egyptian natural gas, via pipeline, through Jordan and Syria to supply Lebanon’s Deir Ammar power station near Tripoli. Lebanon has been facing debilitating power cuts amid money and fuel shortages, and the plan would help produce energy for an economy at a standstill.

However, for the plan to go ahead, the United States would need to issue waivers not only to Lebanon but also to Jordan, so that they would not face sanctions under the Caesar Act. This is U.S. legislation passed to punish the Syrian regime for crimes against its population. It was, therefore, revealing that the gas plan was announced by the U.S. ambassador in Beirut, Dorothy Shea, in August. However, an initial request to allow it came from Jordan’s King Abdullah when he visited Washington in July. The gas plan was also mentioned by Lebanese politician Saad al-Hariri after he met with Egyptian officials in Cairo on July 16. This indicated that Egypt and Jordan were on the same wavelength over Lebanon, and both apparently managed to persuade the Biden administration to support their approach.

While the headlines are that the plan would supply a suffering Lebanon with gas, the real story is that Egypt and Jordan are looking for ways to reintegrate Syria into the Arab fold, using Lebanon as a hook to do so. It seems increasingly apparent that what some in Washington are portraying as a Biden administration effort to lean in the direction of the Assad regime and Iran, may actually be more significant: an effort by Arab states to use openings toward Syria and Lebanon to challenge Iran’s sway in both countries and turn them into places where the Arabs can bargain with Tehran.

If this is correct, it would suggest a sea change in Arab attitudes toward the Islamic Republic. Until recently, the hope of many Arab states was that the United States, and even Israel, would contain Iranian expansionism in the region. This policy of containing Iran has long been a part of the U.S. approach, to the extent that the Clinton administration proposed what it called “dual containment” of both Iran and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq three decades ago.

The normalization agreements between Gulf states and Israel last year seemed to be another step in that direction. They were a way of creating a counterweight to Iran after the United States under Donald Trump did nothing to respond to Iranian attacks against Saudi or Emirati ships in May 2019, and after Trump was visibly reluctant to intervene on behalf of his Saudi allies following Iranian drone attacks against Aramco plants in Abqaiq and Khurais in September 2019.

However, U.S. containment has been a failure. Despite decades of sanctions, Iran’s reach in the Middle East has expanded. Tehran offers no model worth emulating, but it has exploited the dysfunctional and fragmented nature of several Arab countries to its benefit. Apparently realizing this, and realizing further that Israel, without U.S. backing, will think twice about launching a war against Iran that may destabilize the region, some Arab states have shifted tactics. Their policies in Syria and Lebanon suggest that they have decided to engage with two countries over which Iran has significant influence—unlike Saudi Arabia, which for years has completely cut Lebanon and its Lebanese allies off, viewing the country as a lost cause.

The Saudi approach is very much a case of political opportunity cost. Whereas the Iranians leveraged their ties with Ansar Allah in Yemen to draw the Saudis into a quagmire, the Saudis have all but surrendered their Lebanese cards—not least the presence of a Sunni community at last as large as Lebanon’s Shia community, and one that is in search of a regional sponsor to push back against Hezbollah. That said, what the Saudis don’t seem to quite appreciate is that many Sunnis are unwilling to provoke a new civil war in pursuit of that goal.

The trend elsewhere in the Arab world showns a more imaginative direction. Egypt’s and Jordan’s behavior in Lebanon, like that of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, seems to indicate that if Sunni-majority states can mobilize their alliances and sympathizers around the Middle East, they have a better chance of forcing Iran to consider Arab state interests than a reliance on U.S. or Israeli arms. What we have here is a return to politics. Given that many countries where Iran plays a dominant role—Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq—have either Sunni majorities or significant minorities hostile to Iran, creating opportunities to oblige Iran to compromise makes sense.

In a way we’re going back to the Middle East of the 1950s, when countries throughout the region were divided internally according to the political sympathies of segments of their populations—favoring Nasserism, Baathism, communism, the Hashemites, or the West. Today, the region has opened up to contending regional and international actors—Iran, Turkey, Israel, Russia, France—even as the United States retains influence, so the possibilities available in balancing off other actors cannot be ignored.

In looking the other way on the Egyptian gas deal with Lebanon, the Biden administration appears to have embraced this logic. A self-generating regional balance of power following a U.S. military withdrawal was the aim of the Obama administration, one with which Joe Biden may agree today. It was, after all, Barack Obama who told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, “The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians, which has helped to feed the proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen, requires us to say to our friends, as well as the Iranians, that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace.”

This message is finding an echo in the Arab world. In the absence of a United States acting as a Middle Eastern regulator, Arab states are accumulating cards to play power games of their own at the regional level. The debate in Washington remains insular, focused on how an administration in office acts and what this means domestically, but in the Middle East the regimes are imposing a new playbook. They’re preparing for a region that has pivoted away from America.

Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.




The Abraham Accords one year on: A missed opportunity for Biden?

By Dr Sanam Vakil, Deputy Director and Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House, 15 September 2021

In the context of deep uncertainty about US commitments in the region and with a myriad of potential flashpoints, failing to engage with the Abraham Accords is a missed opportunity for the Biden administration.

15 September 2021 marks the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords, the agreements that normalized ties between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain. At the time, the accords were portrayed as a barter ending Israeli annexation of the West Bank in exchange for normalization of ties with the UAE.

The Trump administration viewed them as a model for outsourcing regional security that would allow the US to prioritize its interests beyond the Middle East, a tectonic regional shift brokered by the United States. However, only Morocco and Sudan have so far followed suit and signed normalization agreements with Israel.

Reflecting the partisan nature of the issue, the Biden administration has not sought to broaden these relationships, focusing instead on its immediate goals of rehabilitating the Iran nuclear agreement (JCPOA), ending the Yemen war and pulling out of Afghanistan. While supportive of the accords, Biden views them as a Trump legacy and has focused on the bilateral rather than trilateral nature of the agreements, making their broader regional impact harder to assess. With US priorities clearly focused on domestic issues and geopolitical tensions with China, its Middle East partners are in a state of flux. It is in this vacuum that the accords could begin to bear fruit, albeit without direct US guidance.

Timing was an important motivating factor behind the Abraham Accords. Before the 2020 US presidential election, the UAE and Israel – both small states with broader regional ambitions and the primary drivers of the accords – were concerned about future pendulum swings in US Middle East policy and correctly anticipated that a Biden victory would mark a clear shift away from Trump’s approach. They feared that a Biden administration would likely be more vocal about human rights concerns, would attempt to restrict arms transfers and seek to revive the Iran nuclear agreement. Although unlikely, there were also concerns that the Biden administration’s review of arms sales might jeopardize the UAE’s $23 billion F-35 fighter and drone and munitions package put together by the Trump team. Banding together provided an opportunity for the UAE and Israel to coordinate more closely with each other while also working with Washington.

Both countries sought to build on years of quiet behind-the-scenes cooperation but were also deeply motivated by the unpredictable shifts in US Middle East policy they have witnessed throughout both Republican and Democratic administrations. The UAE and Israel share a number of concerns – such as Iran, Islamist extremism and growing uncertainty about the future of US strategy and commitment to the Middle East – and the Abraham Accords have the potential to help them assert their interests more effectively, both in the region and in Washington, while also benefiting from broader regional ties and soft power.

Over the past year economic and diplomatic ties have flourished between the signatories along with increased tourism and people-to-people exchanges, particularly between the UAE and Israel. There have been investments in a number of different sectors, such as medical, financial, ports and gas. To highlight the level of ambition, the UAE has announced it wants to increase its trade with Israel to $1 trillion by 2031 from its current level of around $650 million. As both countries invest in cyber, AI and technology, greater collaboration in these fields should also be expected, offering greater economic advancement and potential for regional security cooperation. Intelligence sharing in the cyber realm is already underway and greater cooperation on drone technology to counter similar Iranian and Turkish advancements is also anticipated. Revealing a darker side of this increased cooperation, Israeli cyber firm NSO has sold its Pegasus surveillance technology to the UAE and other Gulf Arab states.

It is important to note that while they face the same security threats, the UAE and Israel have used different tactics to manage them. Iran and its role in the region is a key security concern and both countries worry that a renewed JCPOA will further embed Iran’s regional reach. For Israel, advancements in Iran’s nuclear programme is the main threat, while the UAE is primarily concerned with Tehran’s missile and drone investments and support for proxy groups. In response to Iran’s actions in June 2019, Abu Dhabi quietly recommenced its outreach to Tehran to protect itself against future instability, but the accords now offer the UAE some deterrence. Israel, on the other hand, has continued to directly engage in grey zone activities, such as inflicting direct damage to Iran’s nuclear facilities and attempting to reduce Tehran’s regional influence. Balancing and leveraging these tactical differences will be critical to how this relationship evolves.

Palestinian factional politics has also created cleavages among the Gulf countries, with Qatar providing significant financial aid to Hamas in Gaza, while the UAE – long frustrated by the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas – has hosted Mohammed Dahlan as a potential leader-in-waiting. These differences were further exacerbated during the 11-day Gaza conflict earlier this year. Gulf Arab criticism of Israel’s crackdown on Palestinians tested the accords and led to the UAE registering its disapproval independently. The UAE was also not at the helm of conflict management in Gaza – leaving Egypt and Qatar to help facilitate a ceasefire with Hamas while the UAE worked behind the scenes– but Abu Dhabi will likely have greater influence on the Palestinian issue over time.

Above all, the UAE and Israel share concerns that the continued US military drawdowns will leave a wider security vacuum. These doubts have only been reinforced by the messy US departure from Afghanistan and will likely further strengthen their existing security and intelligence sharing regarding regional challenges. In the context of such deep uncertainty about America’s regional commitments and with a myriad of regional flashpoints, failing to engage with the accord partners on these critical issues is a missed opportunity for the Biden administration.




‘Worrying' social protection figures in the Arab world

GENEVA - The International Labour Organization's (ILO) 2020-2022 World Social Protection Report revealed that 46.9% of the world’s population are “covered by at least one social protection benefit”, excluding health.

Despite progress in recent years in extending social protection in many parts of the world, when the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic hit many countries were still facing significant challenges in making the human right to social security a reality for all. This report provides a global overview of progress made around the world over the past decade in extending social protection and building rights-based social protection systems, including floors, and covers the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, it provides an essential contribution to the monitoring framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Arab states fall below the global average, at just 40%, leaving 60% of the population with no ability to retrieve income security from their national social protection systems.

The Arab region is the second to lowest in the world in offering social protection coverage, being one step ahead of Africa (17.4%), and falling behind the global lead, Europe and Central Asia (83.9%).

Social protection includes access to income security, including child, disability, maternity, work injury and unemployment benefits, alongside pension programmes.

Amongst Arab states, the ILO report said that Saudi Arabia has the highest percentage of individuals covered by at least one benefit (77.8%), excluding health. This is followed by Bahrain (62.4%), making the two Arab Gulf states ahead of the global average.

However, these countries far surpass their Arab counterparts, as Jordan (27.8%), the third-highest in the region, falls considerably below the world average. The countries with the lowest rates are Yemen (2.8%), Qatar (7%), Lebanon (13.9%) and Oman (16.3%) – with no data given for Syria.

The report states that the pandemic revealed “significant gaps in social protection” coverage across the world, resulting from fragmented and under-funded social protection systems, exposing “the vulnerability of billions who were not adequately protected”.

It references the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to “end poverty in all its forms”, and “implement nationally appropriate social protection systems for all”. Aligned with this belief, the ILO holds that every individual should be protected or covered by social protection benefits.

Upon taking a deeper look into the Arab region, only an estimated 15.4% of children receive a social protection benefit, compared with 26.4% globally. Around 7.2% of people with severe disabilities in the region receive a disability benefit, compared with 33.5% globally.

In addition, unemployment benefits sit at an estimated 8.7%, compared with 18.6% globally. However, the Arab region's average for workers covered by work injury benefits (63.5%) exceeds the global average (35.4%).

Upon viewing the “worrying numbers”, Save the Children’s Media Manager for the Middle East and Eastern Europe, Ahmed Bayram, called for “governments to take action now”, as he told The New Arab that filling social protection gaps means “the future of millions”.

Bayram says the organisation has been urging governments in the region to “urgently look into supporting the most vulnerable children and their families through fairly distributed cash-based assistance”.

The President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Nedal Al-Salman, told The New Arab that despite the Bahraini government’s provision of social protection being higher than other Arab states, “many issues need to be addressed”, particularly with regards to migrant domestic workers, as he says they are “excluded from the majority of social protections offered”.

Al-Salman says governments across the region should “develop and design protection systems based on their own circumstances”, for the region to become more resilient in the face of crisis.

The ILO report had limited access to data regarding Syria, a country plagued with war following the Syrian revolution. However, Head of Communications and Advocacy at Syria Relief, a world-leading Syria-focused NGO, Charles Lawley, told The New Arab that with an almost 90% poverty rate and 13 million people dependent on humanitarian assistance, “conflict has caused or worsened economic insecurity” in the country, with the pandemic only adding to existing damage.

Lawley says for Syria to ever recover from the $1.2 trillion conflict, “social protection needs to be prioritised immediately”.

The ILO’s Senior Social Protection Specialist for the Arab States, Luca Pellerano, also stated social protection systems in conflict and emergency contexts are “the most direct and efficient mechanism to protect living standards”, being a social and economic stabiliser.

Pellerano states it is “essential” for state formation as the “transparent and effective delivery of social protection benefits to those in need reinforces the social contract between citizens and the state”.

The ILO report also stated that the pandemic exacerbated the social protection gap between high and low-income countries, as the financing gap for building social protection floors widened by 30% since it began. Higher-income countries, and those with social protection schemes already in place, fared better during the crisis, as the IMF warned of a “divergent” and uneven Covid recovery across the world, derailing progress made towards the UN’s 2030 agenda.

According to the report, on average, governments spend 12.9% of gross domestic product (GDP) on social protection, excluding health, globally. However, the average expenditure in Arab states is considerably lower, at just 4.9%. Jordan was reported to have the highest percentage of GDP spent on social protection (9%), followed by Kuwait (7%) and Bahrain (6.3%). The lowest spending countries in the region were Syria (0.4%), Yemen (0.7%) and Qatar (0.9%).

The ILO’s Luca Pellerano told The New Arab that the pandemic was “a wake-up call”, stating investment into new comprehensive social protection paradigms is needed to “curb inequalities and provide opportunities for all” in the region. Pellerano added that narrow safety nets only targeting the extreme poor “do not provide an adequate response” to the region’s challenges.

The Middle East Institute (MEI) is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to the study of the Middle East. The Director of the Program on Economics and Energy, Karen E Young, voiced her concerns to The New Arab, stating that the ability to measure who needs benefits “depends on reliable population and employment data, which is generally poor across MENA” - suggesting more exhaustive data may be a pre-requisite for real improvement.

Young adds that “access to financial services is also limited to women in the Middle East, [which] could be a key mechanism to help families recover lost income and start new enterprises as mobility increases”.

As the world begins to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the majority of the Arab region not receiving social protection benefits, the ILO Director-General, Guy Rider, has publicly stated that countries across the world are “at a crossroads”.

He says we are in “a pivotal moment to harness the pandemic response to build a new generation of rights-based social protection systems”, which he deems essential for “social justice and a sustainable and resilient future”.

To download the ILO report, visit:




North Africa

How Morocco’s Islamist party fell from grace

By Dr Mohammed Masbah, Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House, 14 September 2021

For the first time since the Arab Spring an Islamist party has been removed from power through the electoral process as Morocco’s voters dismiss the ruling PJD.


Morocco’s experience with Islamists sets it apart from its neighbours. While Egypt and Tunisia have resorted to military and constitutional means to remove Islamists from power, Morocco’s moderate Islamist party, the PJD, were removed by the country’s citizens through the ballot box, without any direct intervention by the monarchy. This is the first time since the Arab Spring protests of 2011 that an Islamist party has been removed from power through the electoral process.

A PJD loss was expected, but even the most seasoned observers – and probably the authorities themselves – did not expect such a significant loss for the party. In the recent September election, the PJD lost 90 per cent of its seats in parliament, going from 126 seats won in the 2016 election to only 13 seats. Even the prime minister, Saad Eddine Othmani, and all his ministers failed to secure parliamentary seats.

The sole winner of these elections is the palace, killing not two but three birds with one stone. Firstly, the PJD was kicked out without resorting to undemocratic interventions such as military coup. Secondly, the parties that won the most seats are all loyal to the palace. Finally, and importantly, there was a high voter turnout – 50 per cent of registered voters compared to 43 per cent in 2016 – despite the fact that these elections were held under difficult circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact.

In the short term, this election will reinforce the monarchy’s stability and boost its image as the strongest – and smartest – political actor in the country. However, in the medium and longer term, the palace may have lost a critical element of political stability, as it often used the PJD to absorb people’s anger. With the PJD out of the picture, the palace no longer has a scapegoat if things go wrong.

What explains the PJD’s free fall?

The PJD leadership blames manipulation of electoral rules, use of ‘dirty money’ in the elections and intervention by the authorities. But do these excuses hold up? Firstly, Morocco’s elections are managed by the ministry of interior, which does have a bad record of electoral manipulation and last year the electoral law was changed in order to allow smaller parties to be represented in the parliament. However, while this change was intended to curtail the PJD, paradoxically it stopped the PJD from getting even worse results in the election. Secondly, using money to buy out electorates is fairly routine in Moroccan elections and most parties complain about this. Finally, the palace did not back any specific party during this election as it has done previously, such as in 2016 when the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) was the favoured party. This time, the palace kept its distance from the electoral process.

Hence the explanations provided by the PJD leadership do not hold because all these factors have been part of Morocco’s electoral environment for decades. What is more, the PJD have actually fared better during periods when these alleged fraudulent practices were actually happening. Instead, the PJD’s election results are mainly due to a loss of trust by large segments of the population who blame the PJD for the country’s problems. The mood change in PJD constituencies over the past few years is due to the leadership’s mismanagement and conflict within the party.

The party’s fortune began to change just after the political blockage of 2016-17 when King Mohammed VI replaced former prime minister Abdelilah Benkirane with Othmani. The removal of Benkirane triggered conflict within the party that was disregarded by the new leadership despite the disputes escalating with time. On many occasions the PJD was on the verge of implosion.

Moreover, the new PJD leadership was unable to strike a balance between being loyal to the palace, managing a government coalition and preserving the party machine. The PJD’s loyalty to the palace went so far that it was in the end fully co-opted by it and thus alienated itself from its voters. While in power, the PJD also took several decisions that hit the purchasing power of ordinary citizens. For instance, a few weeks before the elections a new reform of the pension system was introduced that increased the retirement age from 60 to 63, angering labour unions and civil servants.

The PJD further alienated its voters by signing the Abraham Accords that normalized Morocco’s relations with Israel as well as legalizing cannabis, seen by its conservative members as a betrayal of the party’s core ideological positions. Thus, its actions have managed to alienate both secular and religious segments of society.

While the PJD’s political bureau – including Othmani himself – have now resigned, this move comes too late as voters have already dismissed the PJD as just another opportunistic party.




GENEVA - War crimes and crimes against humanity have likely been committed in Libya by all parties to conflict since 2016 including by external actors, a Human Rights Council-appointed probe said on Monday.

From arbitrary detention to torture, the recruitment of child soldiers and mass killings, the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya listed numerous grave rights violations which had impacted the country’s people and which gave them “reasonable grounds” for the war crimes allegations.

Civilian targets

Civilians were particularly at risk during the 2019-2020 fight for the capital Tripoli, the Mission said, as well as during other violence in the country since 2016, which has been marked by attacks on hospitals, schools, migration detention centres, and communities at large.

“Airstrikes have killed dozens of families. The destruction of health-related facilities has impacted access to healthcare, and anti-personnel mines left by mercenaries in residential areas have killed and maimed civilians,” said Mission chair, Mohamed Auajjar.

The investigators – whose Fact-Finding Mission was created by the Human Rights Council in June last year - published their findings after reviewing hundreds of documents and interviewing more than 150 individuals, alongside parallel research in Libya, Tunisia and Italy.

‘Unbearable’ conditions

“Arbitrary detention in secret prisons and unbearable conditions of detention are widely used by the State or militias against anyone perceived to be a threat to their interests or views,” said the Mission’s Tracy Robinson speaking to journalists in Geneva.

Organised violations

“Violence in Libyan prisons is committed on such a scale and with such a level of organisation that it may also amount to crimes against humanity.”

The UN-appointed independent investigators highlighted violence against migrants, refugees and other vulnerable minorities including LGBTQi individuals.

“Violations against migrants are committed on a widespread scale by State and non-State actors with a high level of organisation and with encouragement of the State. All of this is suggestive of crimes against humanity,” said Mission member Chaloka Beyani.

Mr. Beyani also pointed to worrying reports about the continued presence of foreign fighters in the country from the Syrian conflict and private mercenaries allegedly contracted by the Russia-based Wagner Group, in the fight for the Libyan capital from 2019 to 2020, claims highlighted previously by the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries.

Mercenaries remain

“Our investigations have indicated that there are foreign fighters, there are mercenaries in Libya, and they have not yet left the territory of Libya as required,” he said.

Other likely violations of international law covered by the Mission included the recruitment of children to fight.

“Our report also documents the recruitment and direct participation of children in hostilities, the enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings of prominent women and continuing sexual and other forms of violence against vulnerable populations including LGBTQI persons,” said Ms. Robinson.

Tarhuna atrocity

The Mission also verified allegations of atrocity crimes committed in the town of Tarhuna, southeast of Tripoli, between 2016 and 2020, where mass graves containing the bodies of men, women and children have been found.

According to reports, the Kaniyat militia were responsible for killing perhaps hundreds of civilians in Tarhuna, their wounds indicating that they had been shot many times while blindfolded, handcuffed and with their legs tied.

Mission chair Mohamed Auajjar noted that the recently installed Government of National Unity has created the possibility of national dialogue and unification of State institutions.

The UN has been supporting peace efforts in Libya, which descended into chaos and conflict following the overthrow of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, resulting in the country being divided between the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and the rival Libyan National Army (LNA) based in the east.

In a statement, the Mission noted that it had identified “both Libyans and foreign actors who may bear responsibility for the violations, abuses and crimes committed in Libya since 2016”.

Confidential list

These names will remain on a confidential list “until the need arises for its publication or sharing with other accountability mechanisms”, the Mission continued, acknowledging the continuing work of the investigation opened in 2011 by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Libya, at the request of the UN Security Council.

“As Libyans strive to secure peace, ensuring accountability for gross human rights violations and international crimes committed in the country is more necessary than ever to deter further violations and promote long-term peace and reconciliation,” said Mr. Auajjar.

“We urge Libya to intensify its efforts to hold those responsible to account. It is also essential that the international community continues to provide support to the Libyan judicial authorities.”



Morocco’s new Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch

Menas Associates, Morocco, 23 September, 2021

Morocco’s elections on 8 September delivered a shattering defeat for the ruling Parti de la Justice et Development (PJD) and brought an end to almost a decade of rule by political Islam.

Although the party had been widely expected to fare worse in these polls than in the previous two elections, the size of its defeat came as a major shock. The PJD came eighth, winning only 13 of the 395 seats in the House of Representatives, and losing 112 seats compared to 2016. Nine of the seats that it did receive were gained through the women’s quota system. Equally embarrassing for the party, the outgoing Prime Minister and PJD Secretary General, Saadeddine Othmani, failed to win his seat and so did other former cabinet members.

The PJD was convincingly beaten by the Rassemblement National des Indépendants (RNI) which stormed to victory and won 102 seats. Once his government is voted in by parliament the next prime minister will therefore be the RNI’s leader Aziz Akhannouch.

Akhannouch was born in Agerd Oudad in Tafraout in 1961. He studied in Canada, gaining a diploma in management from Montreal’s Sherbrooke University in 1986. After his return from Canada, he joined his father’s business — which was the first fully Moroccan-owned fuel company — and that was established in 1932. The Akwa Group, which he was running before the age of 30, is now a multi-billion dollar conglomerate that has interests in petroleum, and also has chemicals through the publicly-traded Afriquia Gaz and Maghreb Oxygene.

Akhannouch got into politics in the 2000s when he was elected as an independent in the local council in Tafraout. He went on to become a member of the regional council before becoming head of the Sousse-Massa-Draa region between 2003 and 2007 when he was appointed Agriculture Minister in the government of Prime Minister Abbas Al-Fassi. He retained this post throughout the governments of Benkirane and Othmani.

Akhannouch froze his membership in the RNI in 2011 after it refused to join the PJD-led government following the PJD’s triumph in the elections. This enabled him to stay on as agriculture minister under Benkirane. However, he was instrumental in orchestrating the blockage against Benkirane after the 2016 elections, which explains the huge personal animosity between the two men.

Akhannouch returned to the RNI in October 2016 and took over as party leader. He went on to take part in Othmani’s government. However, he has not been shy about his dislike for the Islamists and more recently about his desire to oust them from power.

Akhannouch boasts an extensive network that includes local notables, officials and businessmen. He is known for his skills in business more than his political acumen. He has also held posts on the board of the Bank Al-Maghrib and the Banque marocaine du commerce extérieur (BMCE). In September 2021, Forbes estimated that he had a personal wealth of US$2 billion. In March 2020 he donated US$103.5 million to the Coronavirus Pandemic Management Fund through his company, Afriquia, which is a subsidiary of the Akwa group.

Yet Akhannouch’s network also extends to the Palace. He is close to the King, who reportedly visited him in his home in Casablanca one Ramadan for Iftar. According to some Moroccan sources, he is considered to be among the ten most important figures relied upon by the King for his reform initiatives.

However, Akhannouch’s path has not always been smooth. In 2018, his fuel distribution company was targeted by a boycott, which prompted the parliament to launch an investigation into competition in the fuel market. The parliamentary report that resulted from the investigation allegedly concluded that his company and two others had made what is described as, ‘immoral profit.’

He also caused a stir in December 2019 when he gave a speech in Rome at which he said that Moroccans need to be re-educated. In general, however, he is considered to be capable and competent, but with the head of a businessman or a contractor more than that of a political leader.

He is married to Selwa Akhannouch, the billionaire businesswoman and founder and chief executive officer of the luxury retail Aksal Group, who also runs the RNI’s Joud Development Foundation.




By Rachel Morison

LONDON - A former head of Tesco Plc is part of a business planning to build what would be the world’s longest power link bringing extra supplies to Britain from renewable sources in Morocco.

Xlinks on Sunday laid out plans to build the 16 billion-pound ($21.9 billion) sub-sea project that will cover a distance of 3,800 kilometers (2,360 miles). It will take power from 10.5 gigawatts of large-scale solar and wind farms in Morocco, and unlike the United Kingdom"s (UK) other interconnections, would only supply Britain.

Such links are seen as vital to access power from countries with different resources and the U.K. plans to triple its interconnector capacity by 2030. The government has pointed to the need to build more renewable capacity to replace gas, which is vulnerable to prices swings on international markets, while the recent energy crunch highlighted the need for alternative supply.

“We’re approaching this as remote generation so this is solely for the U.K. energy market,” Xlinks founder and Chief Executive Officer Simon Morrish said in an interview. “It’s coming from an area which has completely different weather patterns, and is not correlated, so it provides enormous amounts of resiliency to the U.K. energy system.”

The link could supply 7 million British homes, Xlinks said. Tesco’s former CEO Dave Lewis and ACWA Power chief Paddy Padmanathan are part of the leadership team.

Power-Starved U.K. Thrown World’s Longest Lifeline From Norway

Xlinks Project

Xlinks’s 3.6-gigawatt project is bigger than Electricite de France SA’s Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor. The wind and solar capacity would be coupled with a 5-gigawatt battery to allow stored power to be sent to Britain when needed.

The government uses a contract-for-difference funding mechanism for renewables and big infrastructure projects. Xlinks says it’s seeking 48 pounds a megawatt-hour for the power it would send to Britain, just over half the price the government agreed to for Hinkley.

The company has been talking to the government about the project as it prepares for its CFD application, Lewis said.

The firm plans to build at least two factories to manufacture the cables needed, which will be quicker than waiting for an existing company to construct them, Morrish said. The project is fully funded up to financial close, which will be in 2023.

Xlinks wants to start laying the cable in 2025, and targets finishing the first half in 2027 and the rest by 2029.

Research Papers & Reports

How Syria Changed Turkey’s Foreign Policy

By Francesco Siccardi, Carnegie Europe, September 14, 2021

In a bid to gain political ground at home, Ankara has launched multiple military operations in Syria. These have laid the groundwork for a more aggressive, nationalist foreign policy with profound implications for relations with the United States, Russia, and the EU.
Related Media and Tools



Between August 2016 and the present, Turkey has launched four military operations in northern Syria. Each operation has served specific objectives and was designed to respond to rapidly changing scenarios on the ground. It is possible to identify the key priorities that have informed Turkey’s Syria policy over the years. Boiled down to its core, the Turkish government’s activism in Syria has been driven by domestic politics and has helped Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) preserve power.

Domestically, Ankara has used the Syrian conflict as a pretext to suppress the rights of the Kurds living in Turkey and limit their parliamentary representation to secure a landmark constitutional reform in 2017. In the following years, successive military operations in Syria have helped Erdoğan connect with increasingly nationalistic constituencies and drum up support around key electoral dates. Finally, after the failed coup in July 2016, the Turkish government’s Syria policy played a major role in rebuilding the credibility of the Turkish Armed Forces while redrawing the balance between civilian and military power.

In foreign policy terms, Turkey’s military operations in Syria have resulted in increasingly tense relations with the United States. Washington’s support for the Syrian Kurds has alienated Ankara to an extent that U.S. policymakers failed to anticipate. The thorniest topic of the day in the U.S.-Turkey bilateral relation—Ankara’s decision to deploy the Russian S-400 missile system—is also deeply related to the Syrian crisis. This decision was made in the context of a strategic realignment between Turkey and Russia that has helped both countries pursue their respective objectives in Syria: the survival of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s regime for Moscow and the weakening of the Syrian Kurds for Ankara.

Finally, Ankara’s involvement in Syria has also given Turkey new leverage over the EU when it comes to the management of refugee flows. Solving the question of Syrian refugees in Turkey has been a priority of the Turkish government since the early stages of the Syrian civil war—and a main driver of Ankara’s policies toward both Syria and the EU.

Overall, Ankara’s involvement in Syria has not only been a source of conflict—or rapprochement—with its traditional partners and neighbors across the region. It has also equipped Turkey with new tools for conducting a more aggressive, nationalistic foreign policy.

The strategies Turkey has employed in Syria have boosted the country’s image and international role. These operations have secured a seat for Turkey at the negotiating table with Russia and the United States. Ankara has used these tools, these lessons learned, and its new capabilities to inform its revisionist foreign policy posture. Going forward, and with an eye on the country’s 2023 presidential election, Turkey will continue to use these tools to reinforce its position in the international arena.


The first Turkish troops set foot in Syria on August 24, 2016, when Operation Euphrates Shield kicked off a series of multiple military missions that took place in the north of the country over the past five years. The Turkish government’s activism in Syria marks a defining moment in the trajectory of Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies. Boiled down to its core, Turkey’s policy in Syria has been driven by domestic politics. Supported by a large constituency across Turkey, this policy has helped Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) preserve power through some politically challenging years following the 2016 coup attempt.1

Building on the Turkish government’s increasingly nationalist rhetoric and policies, Turkey’s operations in Syria have served to weaken political opposition and rally the Turkish people around the flag in the run-up to key elections, by extension consolidating Erdoğan’s power.

On the foreign policy front, this approach has translated into increasingly strained relations between Turkey and the United States, whose support for Kurdish forces in Syria has alienated Ankara to a degree few in Washington had anticipated. Turkey’s involvement in Syria has also been the centerpiece of a strategic realignment with Russia. The Turkish government has used the question of Syrian refugees to justify Turkey’s military involvement in Syria and to pressure the EU to obtain funding and renegotiate sea borders in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Crucially, Turkey’s Syrian operations have provided the Turkish government with the blueprint for a more disruptive foreign policy. Since 2016, Ankara has deployed its troops in Libya and aggressively pursued its interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkish drones have altered the course of conflicts not only in Syria but also in Libya and the South Caucasus. The lessons learned in Syria have informed a series of Turkish foreign policy moves aimed at altering the regional status quo and, more broadly, triggering a strategic reorientation of Turkey’s foreign policy.2

The Drivers and Trends of Turkey’s Military Operations in Syria

In the early phases of the Syrian civil war, which began in March 2011, Erdoğan’s repeated calls for regime change in Damascus marked a break from Ankara’s traditional policy of refraining from interference in the affairs of its neighbors. Turkey redrew its network of regional and international alliances in pursuit of this goal, which it later abandoned in favor of more achievable, medium-term objectives


Box 1: Turkish Military Operations in Syria (2016–2020)


- Operation Euphrates Shield

Date: August 2016 to March 2017

Location: Northeastern Turkish-Syrian border between the Euphrates River and the Afrin Canton

Description: The Turkish Armed Forces quickly took possession of the town of Jarabulus on the Euphrates River, then moved westward to secure the strip of land up to the border of Afrin Canton.3 To the south, Turkish troops advanced 19 miles into Syria to take control of the town of Al-Bab in February 2017.

Objectives Achieved:

- Remove the forces of the self-proclaimed Islamic State then located east of the Euphrates River

- Take control of a strip of territory linking Kurdish cantons to the east and west of the Euphrates River

- Rebuild the Turkish army’s morale and restore Turkey’s confidence in its military

- Operation Olive Branch

Date: January to March 2018

Location: Afrin Canton

Description: After an intense Turkish air campaign in the first days of the operation, Turkish forces employed a mix of traditional military techniques, counterterrorism tactics, and advanced military technology, including the first use of Bayraktar TB2 drones in Syria.4 After clearing the rural areas north of Afrin of any presence of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia, the Turkish Armed Forces took Afrin in less than a week in March 2018.

Objectives Achieved:

- Remove the YPG presence from Afrin Canton and deter the United States from pursuing further cooperation with Kurdish forces

- Find a possible destination for relocating Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey

- Further improve Turkey’s confidence in its army

- Operation Peace Spring

Date: October 2019

Location: Northeastern Turkish-Syrian border between the towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain

Description: The Turkish forces and their proxies in the Syrian National Army, a coalition of armed opposition groups, swiftly moved into Syrian territory and pushed Kurdish forces away from the border. The hostilities ended ten days later when Turkey reached separate ceasefire agreements with the United States and Russia.5 The Kurdish forces, without the support of U.S. troops, turned to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to seek protection from the Turkish advance.

Objectives Achieved:

- Prevent the formation of an autonomous Kurdish entity along the Turkish-Syrian border

- Find another possible relocation destination for Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey

- Operation Spring Shield

Date: February to March 2020

Location: Idlib Governorate

Description: A series of Turkish drone strikes halted the Syrian regime’s advance to take Idlib, the last pocket of Syrian territory controlled by rebel forces. The operation ended within a week when Erdoğan flew to Moscow to sign one of many agreements to guarantee a ceasefire in the governorate. In doing so, he maintained a Turkish presence there and prevented refugees from crossing the border into Turkey.

Objectives achieved:

- Halt the advance of the Syrian Arab Army toward Idlib and stop the massacre of civilians.

- Prevent an influx of refugees into Turkey


Revitalizing the role of the Turkish army and fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State were key priorities between 2015 and 2017, when Turkey was shattered by the consequences of the July 2016 failed coup and a series of terrorist attacks by the Islamic State on Turkish soil. Securing possible relocation areas for the Syrian refugees hosted in Turkey became an increasingly important objective from 2018 onward, when social tensions between Turkish citizens and refugee communities became ever more visible and problematic.

However, Ankara has spent most of its political and military resources in Syria on permanently weakening Kurdish forces along the Turkish-Syrian border. This effort has been driven by both foreign and domestic policy considerations and has led to the establishment of several de facto client states in the areas near these military operations. By laying claim to these pockets of territory, Turkey is reaffirming its strategic role in any future deal to end the Syrian civil war

The Domestic Front

The timing and scope of Turkey’s military operations in Syria have been deeply rooted in domestic Turkish priorities. In particular, Ankara used the Syrian conflict as a pretext to suppress the rights of the Kurds living in Turkey and limit their parliamentary representation to secure a landmark constitutional reform in 2017. In the following years, successive military operations in Syria have helped Erdoğan connect with increasingly nationalistic constituencies and drum up support around key electoral dates. Finally, after the failed coup in July 2016, the Turkish government’s Syria policy played a major role in rebuilding the credibility of the Turkish Armed Forces while redrawing the balance between civilian and military power.

Using the Syrian Conflict to Silence the Kurds

Weakening Kurdish forces inside and outside Turkey has been one of the drivers of Ankara’s military interventions in Syria. After an earlier period in which the Turkish government tolerated the growth of Kurdish activism in Syria, recent years have seen an increasingly harsh crackdown against the Kurdish community. At the same time, the Turkish government has sought to curtail political opposition forces and steer the country’s politics in a more nationalist direction.

The Rise of the Syrian Kurds and the Dismantling of Turkey’s Pro-Kurdish Party

The conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—which has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the EU—goes back decades, and Syria has often played a role in it. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Syrian regime offered shelter and protection to Kurdish cadres, including PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. In the late 1990s, Turkey’s threat to invade northern Syria finally led then Syrian president Hafez al-Assad to abandon this policy. Öcalan, forced to leave Damascus in October 1998, was captured in Kenya in February 1999.

More recently, successive AKP governments have invested in the relationship with the Kurds to secure their support for the executive presidency that Turkey introduced in 2017—a political brainchild of Erdoğan. Decisions such as the 2002 abolition of the state of emergency in southeastern Turkey imposed fifteen years earlier and the creation in the 2000s of Kurdish television channels were made in this spirit. The two sides established a formal truce in 2013, when Öcalan used his Newroz declaration marking the Kurdish new year to call on Kurds to live in amity and solidarity with Turks under the flag of Islam.6

In this phase, Turkey observed and tolerated the rise of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the PKK’s Syrian affiliate established in 2003. The Turkish government initially engaged with PYD leader Salih Muslim to try to delink the PYD and the PKK. Trust between the parties started to erode in 2012 when the PYD’s military wing, the YPG, took control of large swathes of territory in northern Syria. Turkey’s refusal in late 2014 to help Kurdish forces against the Islamic State in Kobanî and the terrorist group’s ensuing defeat at the hands of a YPG-led coalition dealt the final blow to the peace process.

Ankara started to feel threatened by the emergence along Turkey’s southern border of an increasingly autonomous Kurdish entity that could, to an extent, count on Western support. The Kurds, in their newfound position of strength in northern Syria, felt they had as strong a hand as ever: it did not seem far-fetched that their successes in Syria could be replicated in Turkey.

In March 2015, by declaring that “there is no longer a Kurdish problem in Turkey,” Erdoğan officially put an end to the peace process.7 A few days later, Selahattin Demirtaş, the leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), announced his party’s opposition to Erdoğan’s proposed constitutional reform to change Turkey’s system of government to an executive presidency.

The June 2015 Turkish general election provided an opportunity to test these different political strategies. For the first time since 2002, support for the AKP decreased, leaving Erdoğan’s party far from the parliamentary majority he had hoped for and forcing him to enter negotiations to form a coalition government. The success of the HDP, which secured more than 13 percent of the vote and established itself as the country’s second-largest opposition party (after the Republican People’s Party), was another shocking result.8 Uniting for the first time under the HDP banner, Kurdish candidates now presented Erdoğan with a formidable obstacle to his goal of an executive presidency.

As the HDP fiercely campaigned against the proposed constitutional change, it became clear that the path to an executive presidency would involve quashing the HDP’s resistance and reducing its parliamentary representation. The events of June to November 2015 perfectly illustrate this change in Ankara’s approach. The resurgence of the violent conflict between the Turkish government and the PKK—in part driven by the latter’s attempt to reclaim its central role in the Kurdish camp, to the detriment of the HDP—led to the collapse of the negotiations to form a new governing coalition.9

At the end of an electoral campaign in which the AKP and Turkey’s pro-government media outlets insisted relentlessly on the connections between the PKK and the HDP, Turkish citizens went back to the polls on November 1, 2015, and conferred on Erdoğan the parliamentary majority he had failed to gain in June.10 The new result was still not enough to call a constitutional referendum, which requires the executive to control three-fifths of the seats in the parliament, but it was sufficient to create an AKP-led government.

To reinforce the narrative that “the HDP equals the PKK, which equals the . . . YPG [and the] PYD”—as Erdoğan put it a few years later—in the eighteen months after the November 2015 election, the Turkish government deployed its full power to try to curtail the influence of Kurdish political representatives in Turkey.11 These measures included the detentions of several HDP lawmakers on charges of so-called terrorist propaganda, mostly for comments made about alleged support offered by Turkey to the Islamic State during the siege of Kobanî. The arrests were made possible by a May 2016 parliamentary vote to strip HDP members of parliament of their privilege of immunity from prosecution.12

Turkey’s first military operation in Syria in August 2016 has to be seen in this context. The mission provided a way to intensify Ankara’s nationalistic rhetoric against the PKK and prosecute any protesters who referred to the YPG as anything but terrorists.13 In the course of the operation, the Turkish parliament also approved legislation to allow the state to take control of Turkish municipalities suspected of supporting terrorism.14 This move was a response to the fact that local government is a traditional Kurdish source of political power. The government dealt the final blow to the HDP in November 2016 by arresting its two leaders, Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ. They were charged, once again, with terrorist propaganda.

Drumming up Domestic Support for the Turkish Government

The end of the peace process with the Kurds meant that Ankara needed a new source of support to press ahead with the project of an executive presidency. Erdoğan therefore established a new alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party, led by the ultranationalist Devlet Bahçeli. This alliance pushed the AKP onto a more authoritarian path and gave Erdoğan a new right-wing, nationalist audience that he needed to please.

Notably, the key moments since 2016 in the Turkish government’s fight against the Kurds and its interventions in Syria have coincided with Turkey’s major votes: the April 2017 referendum on the executive presidency, the June 2018 parliamentary and presidential elections, and the March 2019 municipal elections.

Turkey’s military operations in Syria have boosted the Turkish government’s increasingly nationalistic rhetoric and weakened its political opponents. Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch were crucial to drumming up the support of nationalists in the lead-up to the April 2017 referendum and the June 2018 elections, respectively. Meanwhile, Operations Peace Spring in October 2019 and Spring Shield in February–March 2020 both followed historic drops in Erdoğan’s approval ratings.

Erdoğan’s increasingly nationalistic stance went beyond instrumentalizing military operations in Syria and harsh rhetoric against the Kurds. In the run-up to the 2017 referendum, Erdoğan picked a fight with several European governments, including that of Germany, which he accused of adopting policies “not different from the Nazi practices of the past” after political rallies for Turkish citizens in Germany were canceled due to security concerns.16 Pursuing a domestically driven foreign policy, the Turkish president also tried to persuade Russia and the United States to drop their support for the Syrian Kurds in a final attempt to weaken the Kurdish camp—to no avail.17

The AKP’s alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party eventually paid off: in the country’s 2017 referendum, a razor-thin majority of 51 percent of Turkish citizens approved the proposed constitutional reform.18 Reinforcing the partnership with the nationalists became crucial to securing Erdoğan’s future election as the country’s first executive president. Operation Olive Branch was critical in this respect. Turkey’s March 2018 military victory against the Kurdish forces in Afrin Canton was quickly followed by an announcement that the presidential and parliamentary elections originally scheduled for November 2019 were to be brought forward to June 2018.19

In what Marc Pierini has called Turkey’s “perfect path to autocracy,” by bringing forward the elections, Erdoğan rode the nationalist wave after the victory in Afrin.20 Not only that, but he also anticipated the adverse consequences of the foreseeable dwindling of the Central Bank of Turkey’s reserves and of impending U.S. sanctions stemming from the Halkbank case, in which an executive at the Turkish state-owned bank was found guilty in the United States of violating sanctions against Iran. Moreover, by holding national elections before the March 2019 municipal elections, Erdoğan avoided the backlash that would later ensue from his party’s predictably poor results in the latter contests.

The June 2018 election results were favorable to the AKP but did not give the party a parliamentary majority. Erdoğan therefore formalized the AKP’s political convergence with the Nationalist Movement Party into a parliamentary coalition, the so-called People’s Alliance.

The People’s Alliance Makes a Nationalistic Turn

Since 2018, the People’s Alliance has been steering the Turkish government to the right. On the foreign policy front, this shift has translated into a more assertive stance, with flashpoints in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, the South Caucasus, and (of course) Syria. On the domestic front, this strategy has gone hand in hand with increasingly nationalistic rhetoric and measures to further undermine the role of Turkey’s democratic opposition.

The HDP has remained the target of government attacks. The crackdown has intensified after key moments, such as the AKP’s defeat in the March 2019 municipal elections, in which the support of the pro-Kurdish party was crucial to securing the victory of then candidate and current mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, and the October 2019 Operation Peace Spring, on the margins of which seven HDP mayors were removed from office on terrorism charges.21

İmamoğlu secured his victory not only by appealing to more centrist AKP voters but also by bridging the gap between the electoral base of the Republican People’s Party, which largely includes Turkish nationalist voters, and members of the Kurdish nationalist HDP.22 It will be more difficult to replicate this alliance at the national level, where matters of foreign and security policy are more divisive. This tentative partnership between the HDP and the Republican People’s Party will give the Turkish government another reason to intensify its conflict with the PKK in Turkey and Syria and further incentives to insist that the HDP, the PKK, the PYD, and the YPG are all one and the same. The point will be both to weaken the HDP and to undermine the potential unity of the Turkish opposition front.

These trends are in full swing in the lead-up to Turkey’s next general election, currently scheduled to coincide with the Republic of Turkey’s centennial in 2023. On June 21, 2021, the Turkish Constitutional Court accepted an indictment lodged by Bekir Şahin, the chief public prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals, against the HDP for alleged links to the PKK.23 In the next few months, the trial could lead to the dissolution of the HDP and a ban to prevent its members from running for office for the next five years. Four days before the court’s ruling, Deniz Poyraz, a member of the HDP, was shot dead by a radical Turkish nationalist who had entered the party’s headquarters in Konak, a district of İzmir Province.24 Captured by the police, the assassin said that he had done what he had because he hated the PKK.25

A New Role for the Turkish Army

As early as the morning after the July 2016 coup attempt, Erdoğan was referring to the previous day’s events as a “gift from God” and claiming they were the work of his former allies in the Hizmet Movement, an Islamist group led by preacher Fethullah Gülen.26 The failed coup provided the Turkish government with an opportunity to curtail once and for all the army’s influence on Turkish political life while dealing a serious blow to Erdoğan’s former Islamist ally.

In the first year after the failed coup, nearly 140,000 government employees were “dismissed or suspended” from their posts and more than 50,000 people were arrested.27 The purge did not spare the Turkish Armed Forces: according to a study by the Council of Europe, by December 2016 the number of Turkish military personnel had dropped by more than a third since before the coup attempt.28 Over the same period, the number of generals and admirals fell by “almost half,” according to a Reuters report. All removed personnel were accused or suspected of being members of Hizmet.

The purported attempt to root out Gülenist sympathizers from the ranks of the Turkish armed forces affected not only the quantity of available military personnel but also their quality. The elimination of a large proportion of Western-trained Turkish military officers with experience in NATO command structures was lamented in December 2016 by the alliance’s then supreme allied commander Europe, Curtis Scaparrotti, who denounced the “noticeable” effects the purge was having on the alliance’s capabilities.29

These changes also affected how the Turkish armed forces designed, planned, and executed Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch. As noted by security analyst Metin Gurcan, there were several qualitative differences between the two missions.30 The shortfalls of Operation Euphrates Shield included fighters’ lack of discipline, poor military-civilian coordination, the chain of command’s inability to respond to the changing situation on the ground, and a lack of diplomatic coordination with Russia and the United States. Some of these problems were successfully addressed during Operation Olive Branch, which benefited from clearer goals set by civilian decisionmakers, higher troop morale, more efficient coordination among various parts of the Turkish armed forces, better diplomatic coordination, and the ability to deploy new technological capabilities.

One of the objectives of Turkey’s 2016 and 2018 interventions in Syria was to rebuild Turkey’s public support for the army. According to a series of surveys by Kas University, public trust in the Turkish Armed Forces dropped to a historic low of 47.7 percent in January 2017, a few months after the coup attempt and in the middle of Operation Euphrates Shield.31 Confidence in the armed forces was back to its usual level of approximately 60 percent a year later; the rebound followed the proclaimed success of Operation Euphrates Shield and ensured a high level of support for the government’s Syria policy in the early days of Operation Olive Branch. Trust in the army dropped again in January 2019, before regaining its usual level in 2020 and 2021.

By that time, the army had amply demonstrated its return to a high level of operational effectiveness, supported by substantial technological advances. The battlefield experience of Turkish-made weapons systems—from multibarrel rocket-launcher systems to unmanned aerial vehicles and air-to-ground precision-guided munitions—has proved the value of the Turkish defense industry, especially to foreign buyers.32 That industry’s export volume rose from $248 million in 2002 to $3 billion in 2019.33 Today, Turkey exports drones—a fundamental component of all Turkish military and counterterrorism operations in Syria since Operation Olive Branch—to countries including Poland, Qatar, and Ukraine.34 Turkish-made drones have altered the respective courses of multiple conflicts such as the Libyan civil war and the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan; in the future, Saudi Arabia, too, might buy them.35

In other ways, however, Turkish military operations in Syria have been detrimental to the expansion of Turkey’s military-related industries. For example, Operation Peace Spring led several European countries to impose a two-month arms embargo that cost Turkey an estimated $1 billion and underscored the country’s continued dependence on strategic imports.36

Turkey’s operations in Syria marked an existential change for the Turkish Armed Forces. While the Turkish military’s credibility was being rebuilt and its effectiveness was being put to the test, a new balance between military and civilian power in the country was taking shape—with the civilian side prevailing for the first time.

The army’s political orientation also started to shift. The generals who survived the 2016 purges were determined to show their loyalty to the regime, for example, by intervening in Syria, a policy they had long opposed in the past. Across the ranks of the Turkish military staff, the purges accelerated a decline in the influence and number of supporters of Ankara’s strategic alignment with the West.37 This Atlanticist faction started to be progressively replaced by a Eurasianist group, whose members consider Russia a valid alternative strategic partner to the United States.

The relationship between these factions is extremely complex, and foreign policy decisions cannot be attributed uniquely to one of these two influences.38 At the same time, it is unquestionable that, since the purge of the largely Atlanticist Gülenists from the Turkish military’s ranks, Turkey and Russia have managed an unprecedented rapprochement. Nowhere has this tendency been clearer than on the ground in Syria since 2016.

The Foreign Policy Front

In foreign policy terms, Turkey’s military operations in Syria have resulted in increasingly tense relations with the United States, a strategic realignment with Russia, and new leverage over the EU when it comes to the management of refugee flows. Overall, Ankara’s involvement in Syria has not only been a source of conflict—or rapprochement—with its traditional partners and neighbors across the region. This involvement has also equipped Turkey with new tools for conducting a more aggressive, nationalistic foreign policy.
U.S.-Turkey Divisions Over the Syrian Kurds

Since 2015, Syria has been one of the most contentious issues in the relationship between Turkey and the United States. Washington’s support for the Syrian Kurds has alienated Ankara to an extent that U.S. policymakers failed to anticipate. Today’s thorniest bilateral topic is Turkey’s deployment of the Russian S-400 missile system, which led to U.S. sanctions against Ankara and Washington’s decision to expel Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.39 The decision to deploy the S-400 missile system has been made in the context of a strategic realignment between Turkey and Russia that has helped both countries pursue their respective objectives in Syria.

While former U.S. president Barack Obama initially saw an alliance with Turkey as a cornerstone for a strategy of dialogue with moderate, democratic Islamic governments, it was on Syria that differences began to emerge. When Obama decided not to act after the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons in 2013, despite declaring the previous year that such a move would be a redline, it was clear to Erdoğan that the United States and Turkey had different plans for Syria’s future.

The relationship between Erdoğan and former U.S. president Donald Trump was decidedly cozier. The two leaders often had direct conversations, and Trump even sided with Erdoğan against the advice of his own administration, notably on the matter of withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria.

Over the last few years, other flashpoints in the relationship have included Turkey’s extradition request for Gülen from his self-imposed exile in the United States after the 2016 failed coup; the case against Halkbank; and the 2018 release of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who had been detained in Turkey and charged with involvement in the 2016 coup attempt.

However, the countries’ core disagreement has been over U.S. support for the YPG. In many ways, this is a story of mutual misunderstandings and miscalculations.40 At the time of the battle of Kobanî in late 2014 and early 2015, Turkey failed to fully grasp the United States’ eagerness to defeat the Islamic State. Had Ankara done so, it could have put itself forward as a reliable partner on the ground. Instead, to defeat the Islamic State in Kobanî, Turkey offered the services of a Sunni force that Washington did not think was up to the task.41 It did not help that Turkey had armed and supported anti-Assad rebel groups and enabled access to Syria for scores of foreign fighters, who eventually coalesced into the Free Syrian Army, later succeeded by the Syrian National Army. Turkey failed to predict that some of these rebels could eventually lead a jihadist surge.

Conversely, the United States underestimated the damage its support for the YPG would do to the country’s relationship with Turkey. Running out of options in Syria, the Obama administration reluctantly decided to set up a “temporary, transactional, and tactical” relationship with the YPG, which U.S. policymakers considered the most effective military partner on the ground.42 After the battle of Kobanî, Washington continued to indirectly channel weapons to the YPG via the newly established Syrian Democratic Forces, a group under de facto Kurdish control.43 The distinction between the Syrian Democratic Forces and the YPG, while legally valid, always left Turkey unimpressed. The widespread belief in Washington that supporting the YPG would not irreparably damage bilateral relations with Ankara proved wrong.44

The situation on the ground reflected these trends. The United States’ difficulty in keeping Kurdish forces under control—in the Syrian town of Manbij in the summer of 2016, for example—was one of the triggers of Operation Euphrates Shield.45 From January to March 2018, Operation Olive Branch was partly aimed at deterring the United States from backing the PYD.46 A step in this direction was the June 2018 agreement between Ankara and Washington to conduct joint patrols around Manbij, which by then was no longer under Kurdish control.47

In the summer of 2018, Ankara started to intensify its pressure on Washington to allow a third Turkish operation in Syria, this time targeting YPG-controlled territories along the northeastern portion of the Turkish-Syrian border. By that time, the Syria policies of the Turkish and U.S. governments had become strategically incoherent and geopolitically incompatible.48 With the Islamic State neutralized, the Turkish government’s main objective in Syria remained weakening the YPG. Meanwhile, Washington did not trust Ankara’s motives and alliances with various Syrian opposition groups—or Erdoğan’s increasingly positive relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And yet, Trump’s December 2018 decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria allegedly came after a phone call with Erdoğan.49 Operation Peace Spring took place almost a year later and was an undisputed success for Turkey. In a couple of days, the Turkish Armed Forces and their proxies took control of a 62-mile strip of land between the border towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain and pushed the YPG away from the frontier.

Any future mending of the U.S.-Turkey relationship will depend on a positive solution to the Syrian crisis. Turkey will need to decide what role it wants to play in the future of its southern neighbor and to what extent it can tolerate a strong Kurdish presence there. A change of attitude toward the Syrian Kurds is not unrealistic: Ankara has positive links with the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq and is working to delegitimize the PKK among Iraqi Kurds.50 Much will depend on the United States’ next moves. Any withdrawal of U.S. support for the YPG will most likely take place in the context of broader renegotiations between Ankara and Washington.51 In such a reset attempt, the United States would presumably ask Turkey to rethink some of its recent strategic decisions, the first and foremost being its alignment with Russia.

Turkey-Russia Cooperation and Competition in Syria

Several experts have dissected the changing relationship between Turkey and Russia in recent years. Descriptions of the two countries’ ties range from “cooperative competition or competitive cooperation” and “a marriage of convenience” to “adversarial collaboration,” with the most evocative label being “fire and ice.”52

Since 2011, Syria has been one of the main theaters in which the relationship between Moscow and Ankara has unfolded. From the beginning, Russia’s primary interest has been the survival of the Assad regime, while Turkey’s objectives have shifted from regime change in Damascus to the weakening of YPG forces.

Overall, both sides have benefited from the relationship in different ways. Turkey has managed to remove all hints of a Kurdish presence from its border with Syria and is well positioned to play a role in any political process that will end the conflict. Additionally, Erdoğan has been able—at times—to leverage his relationship with Putin and boost his international standing while securing Russian support in key economic sectors, such as energy and tourism.53

Conversely, Russia has been able to restore Assad’s control over almost all of Syria. With U.S. troops retreating from the north of the country, Moscow has exploited Ankara’s tensions with the Kurds to bring the YPG closer to the Syrian regime.54 By taking advantage of the situation on the ground, especially in Idlib, Russia has created leverage over Turkey. Finally, through its relationship with Ankara in Syria and beyond, Moscow has been able to drive a wedge between NATO allies, primarily by deploying the Russian S-400 missile system at the heart of the alliance’s security architecture.55

Competitive Cooperation: Turkey Secures Its Seat at the Syrian Table

In the summer of 2016, several factors led Turkey and Russia to reach a rapprochement. While Turkey calculated that a pact with Russia would help keep the Syrian Kurds in check, Moscow saw the value in closer ties with Ankara, too. The Kremlin’s primary interest remained the survival of the Assad regime, but a closer relationship with Ankara allowed Moscow to harm U.S. interests in the region in at least two ways. First, the S-400 dispute created a vulnerability on NATO’s southern flank. Second, allowing Turkey to combat the YPG meant weakening a major U.S. ally in the region.

Erdoğan’s August 2016 visit to Saint Petersburg resolved the two countries’ prior spat caused by Turkey’s November 2015 downing of a Russian aircraft. The two leaders also discussed a vast array of issues of common interest, from energy to trade to foreign policy. At the time, only a few analysts predicted the possibility that Russia could play Turkey off against the West.56

The new partnership bore its first fruit shortly after the Saint Petersburg meeting, when the Russians tolerated Turkey’s first incursion into Syrian territory. Operation Euphrates Shield unveiled the new power dynamics at play in Syria: Russia was keen to accept Turkey’s increasing activism with an eye toward its own long-term objective of weakening the Islamic State, the YPG, and the United States. For the same reasons, Operation Olive Branch in Afrin and Operation Peace Spring in Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain later enjoyed the Kremlin’s tacit approval.

Operation Euphrates Shield also marked an official U-turn in Ankara’s Syria policy. In December 2016, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu made clear that Turkey was giving up its initial objective of ousting Assad and opting instead to play a broader role in the Syrian crisis through the framework of the Astana peace process.57 This structured dialogue, an alternative to the Geneva peace talks led by the United States, was first convened in December 2016 and was another tool designed by Russia to drive Turkey further away from the West.58 The Astana format was successful in capturing the diplomatic momentum. This gave Erdoğan the international prominence he later repeatedly enjoyed on multiple occasions including from the podium of the 2018 United Nations (UN) General Assembly, during a September 2018 visit to Berlin, and at the November 2018 Istanbul summit on Syria.59

The Astana process was far less effective at fixing the situation on the ground in Syria than it was at enabling geopolitical posturing. Successive agreements among Russia, Turkey, and Iran did bring some stability to certain parts of Syria, by establishing deescalation zones between the regime and the rebels, for instance. But these deals also diminished the prospects for a comprehensive approach to postconflict Syria.60

The current situation in Idlib is a testament to this. Established as one of four deescalation zones in 2017, Idlib remains the last stronghold of the Syrian armed rebellion as of this writing.61 Over time, almost a dozen agreements between Turkey and Russia have effectively preempted a full-scale attack by the Syrian regime on Idlib Governorate and an inevitable influx of refugees to Turkey. Ankara and Moscow have been unable, however, to provide a way out of the stalemate between the rebels and regime forces, illustrating the difficult nature of the Turkey-Russia relationship.

Cooperative Competition: The Road to Idlib

Tensions between Turkey and Russia took a turn for the worse in late 2019 and early 2020, when Turkey’s assertive foreign policy led to a watershed moment with Ankara’s traditional allies.

One of the theaters of this increasingly competitive relationship was Libya, where Turkey and Russia sat on opposite sides of the conflict between the UN-recognized, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and the rebel forces led by General Khalifa Haftar. In exchange for Turkey’s military support, the Government of National Accord in Tripoli agreed to recognize a set of maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean favorable to Turkey.62

Developments on the Libyan front went hand in hand with an increasingly chaotic situation in Idlib. 63 Starting in May 2019, and then more intensely from December onward, the Syrian regime’s forces, backed by Russia, conducted a series of offensives to retake the governorate. Damascus’s troops advanced to encircle Turkish observation outposts and displaced over 1 million people along the way.64 In early 2020, the Turkish military mobilized to retake strategic portions of territory, specifically along the M4 and M5 highways and at their intersection in Saraqib, a crucial node for controlling northern Syria.

Tensions escalated on February 27, 2020, when the Syrian Air Force, again backed by the Russians, conducted an airstrike that killed at least thirty-three Turkish soldiers in the village of Balyun. 65 While Ankara decided to turn a blind eye to Moscow’s involvement, it responded to the attack by launching Operation Spring Shield to halt the Syrian regime’s advance on Idlib. Once again, the military operation was concluded by an agreement between Erdoğan and Putin. Turkey lost military momentum by agreeing to a ceasefire but was able to keep most of Idlib Governorate from the Syrian regime’s control, again preventing internally displaced people from crossing into Turkish territory and maintaining a degree of influence in talks on Syria’s future.66

All the political dynamics and competing interests in the Syrian civil war converge on Idlib. There, Turkey will not take action to eliminate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Islamist rebel group that is ruling the governorate and is one of the last remaining obstacles to Russia’s longtime objective of reuniting Syria under Assad. Russia, in turn, will not support a full regime advance in Idlib because doing so would probably trigger a Turkish military response to prevent a massive influx of refugees into Turkey. This development would drive a wedge between the two reluctant allies and force Moscow to give away leverage over Ankara it has not been shy to use—by attacking Turkish proxies in Idlib, for example, in response to Turkey’s activism in Libya and the South Caucasus.67

Using Refugees to Make Foreign Policy: EU-Turkey Relations at a Turning Point

Solving the question of Syrian refugees in Turkey has been a priority of the Turkish government since the early stages of the Syrian civil war—and a main driver of Ankara’s policies toward both Syria and the EU. This aim has also been a source of legitimacy for Erdoğan, who has repeatedly used it to justify Turkey’s military involvement in Syria and as an instrument to pressure the EU to obtain funding and renegotiate sea borders in the Eastern Mediterranean.68

The arrival in Turkey of 3.6 million Syrian refugees between 2011 and 2021 represented the country’s most significant demographic shift in over a century.69 The situation became particularly delicate in 2014, when over 1 million Syrian refugees arrived in Turkey.70 In the years that followed, the Turkish government tightened its control over its southern border and started planning for the creation of safe zones in northern Syria for relocating refugees. In the meantime, social tensions between Syrian and Turkish populations in Turkey started to unsettle local communities, arguably contributing to the AKP’s defeat in the March 2019 municipal elections.71

Ever since the November 2015 and March 2016 EU-Turkey refugee deals, Turkey has used the management of refugee flows as a tool of political pressure. This tactic has gone hand in hand with the Turkish government’s revisionist policy in the Eastern Mediterranean.72 Erdoğan made this link explicit in late 2019 when, in response to European leaders’ condemnation of Operation Peace Spring, he threatened to “open the gates” to Europe for the millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey.73

This threat eventually materialized in February 2020, a few days after the Balyun attack and the resurgence of violence in Idlib. The Turkish government unilaterally opened its borders with the EU, and thousands of migrants and refugees started amassing at Turkey’s border with Greece. The EU’s solidarity with Greece, which sealed the border, led to the failure of the operation.74 Yet, even though the refugees were repatriated, the stunt provided political cover for Turkey’s fourth military intervention in Syria: Operation Spring Shield.

Erdoğan used refugees as a tool of political pressure again in March 2021. On the tenth anniversary of the start of the Syrian civil war and in the lead-up to that month’s European Council meeting, he reminded European leaders that the West’s “most sensible option is to throw their weight behind Turkey” in Syria and that “failure to share Turkey’s burden may result in fresh waves of migration towards Europe.”75

The EU-Turkey refugee deals have become a blueprint for Europe’s strategy of externalizing migration management to its neighbors. 76 The EU will need to keep pursuing this approach as long as disagreements continue among member states over how to manage refugee flows. European leaders confirmed this stance in their conclusions to the June 2021 European Council meeting, in which they reaffirmed that partnerships with refugees’ countries of origin and transit form an integral part of the EU’s external action.77 This trend undoubtedly plays into Turkey’s hands and gives Ankara leverage over the EU and its member states. Events in the summer of 2021 in Libya, where the coast guard is increasingly being trained and equipped by the Turkish government, point in the same direction.78

Promoting a sustainable political solution for the future of Syria would help the EU be able to deprive Turkey of some of its leverage. However, the EU has a meager track record in this respect. The union has never been involved in any substantial diplomatic process on Syria, with the Astana format capturing the diplomatic momentum early on. Moreover, Brussels has so far struggled to find effective ways to support Syrian civil society and the Syrian population at large; Europeans generally have been reluctant to take any action that could empower the Assad regime.79

In the meantime, Turkey has created several de facto client states in the areas occupied during its military operations in Syria.80 Turkey administers these pockets of territory through its adjacent provincial governments: those of Kilis and Gaziantep for the zone occupied by Operation Euphrates Shield, that of Hatay for Afrin Canton, and that of Şanlıurfa for the strip of land between Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain. In all three areas, to varying degrees, Turkey has invested in integrating local economies and infrastructure into the Turkish system by becoming the main provider of services, humanitarian aid, and security.81 The status of these territories will present a crucial question if and when a united Syrian government is created within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which calls for a ceasefire and a political settlement in Syria.

A New Foreign Policy Toolbox for Turkey’s People’s Alliance

Turkey’s foreign policy has become increasingly assertive in the past five years.82 The convergence between the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party, formalized into a governing coalition from 2018 onward, has reoriented Turkish foreign policy toward revisionist postures that aim to alter the regional status quo and project Turkish power in new ways in neighboring regions.83

As political scientists Zenonas Tziarras and Jalel Harchaoui have observed, the new, revisionist features of Turkey’s foreign policy include embarking on military interventions abroad, engaging in demographic engineering and political interference, and using proxies to advance Ankara’s geopolitical goals.84 In all these respects, Turkey has used Syria as a test case and a training ground.

In the early phases of the Syrian civil war, Erdoğan’s repeated calls for regime change in Damascus marked a break from Ankara’s traditional policy of no interference in its neighbors’ affairs. Turkey’s August 2016 military intervention in Syria was the army’s first operation of its kind since the 1974 invasion of Cyprus and some sporadic missions against the PKK in Iraq in the 1990s and 2000s.

The deeper reason behind Turkey’s interventions in northern Syria—the fight against the PKK and its regional offshoots—is nothing new in recent Turkish history. The scale and ambition of the Syrian operations are new, however. While the specificities of the Syrian civil war have created especially fertile ground for Turkey’s perceived enemies, the strategies Ankara has deployed in response have rarely been seen before. These have included completing the Turkish army’s transformation into an expeditionary force, boosting the production volumes and technical level of the Turkish defense industry, and investing in several client states along the border for relocating Syrian refugees.85 On the ground, the use of the Syrian National Army as a proxy force might have proved ineffective at times, but this approach has allowed Turkey to retain control of the areas in which it has an interest. In Idlib, the presence of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which is friendly to Turkey, has enabled Ankara to maintain a certain level of control over the governorate.

Finally, Turkey’s interventions in Syria have boosted Ankara’s image and international role. The operations have secured a seat for Turkey at the negotiating table with Russia and the United States. On these occasions, Ankara has portrayed itself as a power in the middle—the indispensable partner for both Moscow and Washington to reach effective agreements in the region.86

Turkey has used this toolbox, these lessons learned, and its new capabilities to inform its revisionist foreign policy posture. Without the conflict in Syria, the world would not have seen Turkish troops in the Libyan desert or Turkish drones in the skies over Nagorno-Karabakh. Going forward, and with an eye on the 2023 presidential election, Turkey will continue to use these tools to reinforce its position in the international arena.

This publication is funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.


1 Anna Getmansky, Tolga Sinmazdemir, and Thomas Zeitzoff, “Most Turks Support the Syrian Invasion. Here’s Why,” Washington Post, Monkey Cage (blog), October 25, 2019,

2 Asli Aydintasbas, “Turkey Will Not Return to the Western Fold: Ankara’s Assertive Foreign Policy Is Here to Stay,” Foreign Affairs, May 19, 2021,

3 Sinan Ülgen and Can Kasapoğlu, “Operation Euphrates Shield: Aims and Gains,” Anadolu Agency, January 19, 2017,

4 Sinan Ülgen and Can Kasapoğlu, “Operation Olive Branch: A Political Military Assessment,” Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, January 30, 2018,

5 Umut Uras, “Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring in Northern Syria: One Month On,” Al Jazeera, November 8, 2019,

6 Abdullah Öcalan, “Öcalan’s Historical Newroz 2013 Statement,” Free Öcalan, March 23, 2013,

7 “Erdogan: There Is No Kurdish ‘Problem’ in Turkey,” Anadolu Agency, March 23, 2015,

8 Burcu Özçelik, “What the HDP Success Means for Turkey,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Sada (blog), June 11, 2015,

9 International Crisis Group, “Turkey’s PKK Conflict: A Visual Explainer,” International Crisis Group, last updated August 10, 2021,

10 Burcu Özçelik, “The AKP’s Resilience in Turkey,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Sada (blog), November 3, 2015,

11 “Pro-Kurdish HDP Equivalent to Outlawed Terrorist PKK, Says Erdoğan,” Ahval News, February 3, 2019,

12 Wendy Zeldin, “Turkey: Constitutional Amendment Adopted to Allow Certain Legislators to Be Stripped of Immunity,” U.S. Library of Congress, May 25, 2016,

13 Kayla Koontz, “Turkey’s Parliamentary Purge and the HDP’s Dilemma,” Middle East Institute, Policy Paper 2020-3, February 2020,

14 Ozlem Goner and Arthur Pye, “Banning the Pro-Kurdish HDP in Turkey is a Move Towards Fascism,” Open Democracy, April 21, 2021,

15 MetroPOLL Araştırma, @metropoll, Twitter post, December 3, 2020, 3:06a.m.,

16 Philip Oltermann, “Erdoğan Accuses Germany of ‘Nazi Practices’ Over Blocked Political Rallies,” Guardian, March 5, 2017,

17 Marc Pierini, “Turkey’s Domestically Driven Foreign Policy,” Carnegie Europe, Strategic Europe (blog), February 27, 2017,

18 “Turkish Referendum on Erdogan Powers Passed by 51.4 Percent: Final Figures,” Reuters, April 27, 2017,

19 Zia Weise, “Erdoğan Springs an Election Surprise,” Politico Europe, April 18, 2018,

20 Marc Pierini, “Turkey’s Perfect Path to Autocracy,” Carnegie Europe, Strategic Europe (blog), May 8, 2018,

21 Dorian Jones, “Turkey’s Syria Operation Sees Crackdown on Kurdish Party,” Voice of America, October 28, 2019,

22 Nick Danforth, “The Outlook for Turkish Democracy: 2023 and Beyond,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, March 2020,

23 “Turkey: Court to Put HDP on Trial Over Alleged PKK Links,” Al Jazeera, June 21, 2021,

24 Eyyüp Demir, “Turkey’s Kurds Say Killing of Party Member Part of Government Crackdown,” Voice of America, June 23, 2021,

25 Evrim Kepenek “Attack on HDP İzmir Office: Party Worker Deniz Poyraz Killed,” Bianet, June 17, 2021,

26 David Dolan and Gulsen Solaker, “Turkey Rounds Up Plot Suspects After Thrwarting Coup Against Erdogan,” Reuters, July 15, 2016,

27 Mark Lowen, “Turkey Protesters Stage Long March Against Erdogan, BBC, July 5, 2017,

28 Robin Emmott, “Turkey’s Purge Cuts Military by a Third: Council of Europe,” Reuters, December 19, 2016,

29 “Purged Turkish Officers Want More NATO Support,” Deutsche Welle,

30 Metin Gurcan, “Assessing the Post–July 15 Turkish Military: Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Notes 59, March 26, 2019,

31 Kadir Has University, “KHAS Araştırmaları” [KHAS Studies], Kadir Has University,

32 Can Kasapoğlu, “Turkey’s View of the 2020s in Defense Gives Hope,” Anadolu Agency, January 13, 2020,

33 Ismail Demir, “Transformation of the Turkish Defense Industry: The Story and Rationale of the Great Rise,” Insight Turkey 22, no. 3 (2020): 17–40,

34 James Marson and Brett Forrest, “Armed Low-Cost Drones, Made by Turkey, Reshape Battlefields and Geopolitics,” Wall Street Journal, June 3, 2021,

35 “Saudi Arabia Wants to Buy Turkish Armed UAVs: Erdoğan,” Daily Sabah, March 16, 2021,

36 Ferhat Gurnini, “Turkey’s Unpromising Defense Industry,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Sada (blog), October 9, 2020,

37 Leela Jacinto, “Turkey’s Post-Coup Purge and Erdogan’s Private Army,” Foreign Policy, July 13, 2017,

38 Halil Karaveli, “Altro Che Islam. Guardate la Mappa per Capire la Turchia” [Not Really About Islam. Look at the Map to Understand Turkey], Limes, August 4, 2020,

39 Aaron Mehta, “Turkey Officially Kicked Out of F-35 Program, Costing U.S. Half a Billion Dollars,” Defense News, July 17, 2019,

40 Soner Cagaptay, Erdogan’s Empire: Turkey and the Politics of the Middle East (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021),

41 Amanda Sloat, “The US Played Down Turkey’s Concerns About Syrian Kurdish Forces. That’s Couldn’t Last.,” Brookings Institution, Order From Chaos (blog), October 9, 2019,

42 Cansu Çamlıbel, “US: Relations With YPG Temporary, Transactional, Tactical,” Hurriyet Daily News, May 19, 2017,

43 International Crisis Group, “The PKK’s Fateful Choice in Northern Syria,” International Crisis Group, Middle East Report No. 176, May 4, 2017,

44 Sloat, “The US Played Down Turkey’s Concerns About Syrian Kurdish Forces. That’s Couldn’t Last.”

45 Karen DeYoung, “Biden Warns Kurds Not to Seek Separate Enclave on Turkish-Syrian Border,” Washington Post, August 24, 2016,

46 Ülgen and Kasapoğlu, “Operation Olive Branch: A Political Military Assessment.”

47 “Turkish U.S. Military Officials Reach Agreement on Plan for Syria’s Manbij,” Reuters, June 14, 2018,

48 Galip Dalay and E. Fuat Keyman, “Turkish-U.S. Strategic Decoupling Through the Prism of Syria,” Brookings Institution, February 21, 2019,

49 Jeremy Diamond and Elise Labott, “Trump Told Turkey’s Erdogan in Dec. 14 Call About Syria, ‘It’s All Yours. We Are Done,” CNN, December 23, 2018.

50 Farhang Faraydoon Namdar, “Turkey Is Targeting the PKK’s Popularity in Iraq,” National Interest, June 16, 2021,

51 Sinan Ülgen, “Redefining the U.S.-Turkey Relationship,” Carnegie Europe, July 26, 2021,

52 Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, “Online Public Discussion: ‘Cooperative Competition or Competitive Cooperation? Russian-Turkish Relations Today,’” Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, May 5, 2021,; Chatham House, “Turkey-Russia Relations: A Marriage of Convenience?,” Chatham House (research event), November 26, 2020,; Güney Yildiz, “Turkish-Russian Adversarial Collaboration in Syria, Libya, and Nargorno-Karabakh,” German Institute for International and Security Affairs, SWP Comment no. 22, March 2021,; and Stanislav Secrieru, Sinikukka Saari, and Dimitar Bechev, “Fire and Ice: The Russian-Turkish Partnership,” European Union Institute for Security Studies, June 24, 2021,

53 Dimitar Bechev, “Turkey’s Plans to Become a Regional Energy Giant Just Got a Boost,” Foreign Policy, August 28, 2020,; and Joanna Pritchett, “Who Suffers Most From Russian Tourism Sanctions Against Turkey,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 10, 2021,

54 Pinar Tank, “Turkey’s Geopolitical Maelstrom,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Sada (blog), October 17, 2019,

55 Marc Pierini, “Russia’s Posture in the Mediterranean: Implications for NATO and Europe,” Carnegie Europe, June 8, 2021,

56 Marc Pierini, “Could Russia Play Turkey Off Against the West,” Carnegie Europe, Strategic Europe (blog), August 3, 2016,

57 David Iaconangelo, “‘Moscow Declaration’ Lays Out Vision for Syrian Peace Deal With US on Sidelines,” Christian Science Monitor, December 21, 2016,

58 Charles Thépaut, “The Astana Process: A Flexible But Fragile Showcase for Russia,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 3308, April 28, 2020,

59 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speech at the United Nations General Assembly (73rd Session), “Turkey: H.E. Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President,” United Nations, September 25, 2018,; Marc Pierini, “President Erdoğan Goes to Berlin,” Carnegie Europe, Strategic Europe (blog), September 11, 2018,; and Michael Young, “Was the Recent Istanbul Summit’s Call for a Political Resolution in Syria Realistic?,” Carnegie Middle East Center, Diwan (blog), November 8, 2018,

60 Maha Yahya, “The Perils of Side Arrangements,” Carnegie Middle East Center, Diwan (blog), August 23, 2017,

61 “Syria’s Idlib Wins Welcome Reprieve With Russia-Turkey Deal,” International Crisis Group, September 18, 2018,

62 Asli Aydıntaşbaş and Tarek Megerisi, “Turkey in Libya: Filling the European Vacuum,” European Council on Foreign Relations, December 17, 2019,

63 Asli Aydıntaşbaş, “Idlib Chaos: The Latest Test for Turkish-Russian Ties,” European Council on Foreign Relations, February 12, 2020,

64 International Crisis Group, “Silencing the Guns in Syria’s Idlib,” International Crisis Group, Report 213, May 14, 2020,

65 “Syria War: Alarm After 33 Turkish Soldiers Killed in Attack in Idlib,” BBC, February 28, 2020,

66 Charles Lister, “The Puzzling Outcome of the Moscow Summit,” Middle East Institute, March 16, 2020,

67 Dimitar Bechev, “Turkey’s Tightrope Between Russia and the United States,” Carnegie Moscow Center, April 14, 2021,

68 Sinem Adar, “Rethinking EU-Turkey Cooperation Over Migration,” Open Democracy, April 11, 2018,

69 World Bank, “10 Years On, Turkey Continues Its Support for an Ever-Growing Number of Syrian Refugees,” World Bank, June 22, 2021,

70 Alan Makovsky, “Turkey’s Refugee Dilemma: Tiptoeing Toward Integration,” Center for American Progress, March 13, 2019,

71 International Crisis Group, “Turkey’s Syrian Refugees: Defusing Metropolitan Tensions,” International Crisis Group, Report 248, January 29, 2018,

72 Marc Pierini, “Gas and Gunboats Around Cyprus,” Carnegie Europe, Strategic Europe (blog), March 20, 2018,

73 Council of the European Union, “Outcome of the Meeting: 3720th Council Meeting (Foreign Affairs),” Council of the European Union meeting in Luxembourg, October 14, 2019,; and “Turkey’s Erdogan Threatens to Send Syrian Refugees to Europe,” Reuters, October 10, 2019,

74 Council of the European Union, “Statement on the Situation at the EU’s External Borders,” Council of the European Union, March 4, 2020,

75 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “The West Should Help Turkey End Syria’s Civil War,” Bloomberg, March 15, 2021,

76 Kyilah Terry, “The EU-Turkey Deal, Five Years On: A Frayed and Controversial But Enduring Blueprint,” Migration Policy Institute, April 8, 2021,

77 General Secretariat of the European Council, “European Council Meeting (24 and 25 June 2021),” European Council, June 25, 2021,

78 Nikolaj Nielsen, “Libyan Detention Centres Must End, EU Says,” EU Observer, June 22, 2021,

79 Julien Barnes-Dacey, “Society Max: How Europe Can Help Syrians Survive Assad and Coronavirus,” European Council on Foreign Relations, April 21, 2020,

80 Max Hoffman and Alan Makovsky, “Northern Syria Security Dynamics and the Refugee Crisis,” Center for American Progress, May 26, 2021,

81 Sinem Adar, “Turkish Intervention in Syria Heightens Authoritarianism in Turkey and Fragmentation in Syria,” Middle East Research and Information Project, July 14, 2020,

82 Marc Pierini, “Emerging From the Pandemic, Turkey Rolls Out a More Assertive Foreign Policy,” Carnegie Europe, June 3, 2020,

83 Rich Outzen, “Deals, Drones, and National Will: The New Era in Turkish Power Projection,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Notes 108, July 9, 2021,

84 Zenonas Tziarras and Jalel Harchaoui, What Erdogan Really Wants in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Foreign Policy, January 19, 2021,

85 Can Kasapoğlu, “Turkey’s Growing Military Expeditionary Posture,” Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor 18, no. 10 (May 15, 2020),

86 Marc Pierini, “Risky Business,” Carnegie Middle East Center, Diwan (blog), October 1, 2018,
End of document

Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.




PARIS — Victims of abuse within France’s Catholic Church welcomed a historic turning point Tuesday after a new report estimated that 330,000 children in France were sexually abused over the past 70 years, providing the country’s first accounting of the worldwide phenomenon.

The figure includes abuses committed by some 3,000 priests and an unknown number of other people involved in the church — wrongdoing that Catholic authorities covered up over decades in a “systemic manner,” according to the president of the commission that issued the report, Jean-Marc Sauvé.

The 2,500-page document was issued as the Catholic Church in France, like in other countries, seeks to face up to shameful secrets that were long covered up. Victims welcomed the report as long overdue and the head of the French bishops’ conference asked for their forgiveness.

The report said the tally of 330,000 victims includes an estimated 216,000 people abused by priests and other clerics, and the rest by church figures such as scout leaders or camp counselors. The estimates are based on a broader research by France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research into sexual abuse of children in the country.

The study’s authors estimate 80% of the church’s victims were boys, while the broader study of sexual abuse found that 75% of the overall victims were girls.

The independent commission urged the church to take strong action, denouncing its “faults” and “silence.” It also called on the Catholic Church to help compensate the victims, notably in cases that are too old to prosecute via French courts.

“We consider the church has a debt towards victims,” Sauvé said.

Francois Devaux, head of the victims’ group La Parole Libérée (The Liberated Word), said it was “a turning point in our history.” He denounced the coverups that permitted “mass crimes for decades.”

“But even worse, there was a betrayal: betrayal of trust, betrayal of morality, betrayal of children, betrayal of innocence,” he added.

Martine, 73, and Mireille, 71, were sexually assaulted by a priest when they were teenage girls in high school. They both declined to give their last name due to privacy reasons, in part because some family members were not aware of the abuses.

“It brings on such terrible thoughts,” Martine said. “For me, personally, I had to wait for my parents to die” because otherwise she said it was “not possible” to speak out.

“I think that each victim experienced it as if they were the only one (victim), and that’s part of this phenomenon involving control and secrecy,” Mireille said. “We are in a condition of submission ... in a mental captivity. So, we follow this person who suddenly takes power over us ... We are caught in a spider web.”

A recognition of the fault is essential, she said, and financial compensation is “really symbolic ... it won’t fix things but it means it will also cost them something.”

Olivier Savignac, the head of victims association Parler et Revivre (Speak Out and Live Again), contributed to the investigation. He told The Associated Press that the high ratio of victims per abuser was particularly “terrifying for French society, for the Catholic Church.”

Savignac assailed the church for treating such cases as individual anomalies instead of as a collective horror. He described being abused at age 13 by the director of a Catholic vacation camp in the south of France who was accused of assaulting several other boys.

“I perceived this priest as someone who was good, a caring person who would not harm me,” Savignac said. “But it was when I found myself on that bed half-naked and he was touching me that I realized something was wrong ... It’s like gangrene inside the victim’s body and the victim’s psyche.”

The priest eventually was found guilty of child sexual abuse and sentenced in 2018 to three years in prison, including one year suspended.

The commission worked for 2 1/2 years, listening to victims and witnesses and studying church, court, police and news archives starting from the 1950s. Sauvé denounced the church’s attitude until the beginning of the 2000s as “a deep, cruel indifference toward victims.”

“Sometimes church officials did not denounce (the sex abuses) and even exposed children to risks by putting them in contact with predators,” he stressed.

The president of the Conference of Bishops of France, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, said French bishops “are appalled” at the conclusions of the report.

“I wish on that day to ask for pardon, pardon to each of you,” he told the victims.

“No one expected such a high number (of victims) to come out of the survey and that is properly frightening and out of proportion with the perception that we’ve had on the ground,” he told the AP.

Luc Crepy, the bishop of Versailles who heads an office fighting pedophilia, said “this is more than a shock. It is a deep feeling of shame.”

Crepy said a process was underway to put together funds and create an independent commission to handle church compensation for the victims.

The report comes after a scandal surrounding now-defrocked priest Bernard Preynat rocked the French Catholic Church. Last year, Preynat was convicted of sexually abusing minors and given a five-year prison sentence. He admitted abusing more than 75 boys for decades.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Pope Francis learned about the report’s findings “with sorrow.”

“His thoughts go in first place to the victims, with a profound sadness for their wounds and gratitude for their courage to speak out,” he said.

Francis issued in May 2019 a groundbreaking new church law requiring all Catholic priests and nuns to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups by their superiors to church authorities. In June, Francis said a process of reform was necessary and every bishop must take responsibility for the “catastrophe” of the sex abuse crisis.

The shocking estimate of more than a quarter million potential victims dwarfs numbers released by other countries that have also faced national reckoning with church sexual abuse. But each country has investigated the problem in different ways.

Instead of limiting itself to specific cases, France’s report made an estimate of the overall scale of the problem, extrapolating the number of victims based on study of specific incidents and nationwide surveys.





LONDON - Analysis of total carbon emissions by countries around the world since 1850 has shown which nations bear the most responsibility for carbon emitted thus far.

America is the biggest polluter in history, with China close behind - and Britain ranks in eighth place.

The research by Carbon Brief, found that in total humans have pumped around 2,500bn tonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) into the atmosphere since 1850.

That means nations around the world are left with less than 500GtCO2 of remaining carbon budget to stay below 1.5C of warming.

Six of the countries in the top 10 are yet to make new pledges to cut their emissions before the UN Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow this November, the Guardian reports.

For the first time, the analysis includes CO2 emissions from land use and forestry, in addition to those from fossil fuels.

In first place on the rankings, the US has released more than 509GtCO2 since 1850 and is responsible for the largest share of historical emissions, Carbon Brief analysis shows, with some 20% of the global total.

Large European nations, such as Germany and the UK, account for 4% and 3% of the global total, respectively, not including overseas emissions under colonial rule.

Carbon Brief says that taken together, cumulative emissions between 1850-2021 add up to some 86% of the carbon budget for an even chance of staying below 1.5C, or 89% of the budget for a two-thirds chance.

As emissions have increased, the carbon budget has been used up at an accelerating pace, with half the cumulative total since 1850 having been released over the past 40 years alone.

From the start of 2022, the remaining 1.5C budget (50% probability) would be used up within 10 years, if annual emissions remain at current levels – and the budget for a two-thirds likelihood of staying below 1.5C would last just seven years.


The top ten countries by cumulative emissions:


United States







United Kingdom



This summer, climate researchers said that the ‘heat dome’ affecting America was ‘virtually impossible’ without human-induced climate change.

Researchers working on this year's bombshell IPCC report say that weather events this year show the effect of climate change are already here.

Paulo Artaxo, a lead author of the report and an environmental physicist at the University of Sao Paulo said, "The heat wave in Canada, fires in California, floods in Germany, floods in China, droughts in central Brazil make it very, very clear that climate extremes are having a very heavy toll."

The report found that nearly all of the current rises in temperature can be attributed to human influence.

The IPCC found that the effect of human activity had raised temperatures by around 1.1C above the average in the 19th century - and the contribution of the sun and volcanoes is almost zero.

The report warns that there is only a 50% chance of staying below the 1.5C threshold called for by the 2015 Paris agreement if emissions remain below 500 billion tons from 2020 onwards.

Helen Mountford, vice president of climate and economics at the World Resources Institute said, “Our opportunity to avoid even more catastrophic impacts has an expiration date. The report implies that this decade is truly our last chance to take the actions necessary to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. If we collectively fail to rapidly curb greenhouse gas emissions in the 2020s, that goal will slip out of reach.”



ROME/GENEVA - The world currently faces unprecedented catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity, according to UN agencies, and around $6.6 billion is needed urgently, to support 41 million in danger of sliding into famine.

To ramp up support, the United Nations on Monday convened a high-level event, calling for international action, before it is too late.

Close to half a million people are experiencing famine-like conditions (IPC phase 5, under the official classification) in Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen. In recent months, vulnerable populations in Burkina Faso and Nigeria have also been subjected to these same conditions.

In addition, 41 million people worldwide face emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC 4), only one slip away from the edge of famine, representing a 50 per cent increase in just two years.

Millions more are experiencing crisis levels of acute food insecurity (IPC 3) and are at real risk of rapid deterioration.

A toxic mix

Opening the event, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs said that “when famine finally opens the door, it goes viral in a way that other threats perhaps don’t.”

For relief chief Martin Griffiths, the situation is result of “a toxic mix of economic decline, climate change, COVID-19 and of course, most importantly, conflict driving this terrible scourge, with women and girls, as always, left particularly vulnerable.”

“Women tell us of the desperate measures they must take to find food to feed their families, including trading sex for food, resorting to early and child marriages, as I was hearing when I was in Syria quite recently,” he recalled.

Mr. Griffiths thanked donors, saying that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has been able to ramp up humanitarian operations in high-risk countries, such as South Sudan, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, and Yemen, where the UN agency currently reaches 10 million people each month.

Mr. Griffiths warned, though, that it is time to redouble efforts and to show that the world can collectively rise to this challenge

“There is time, not much, and we need it to happen,” he said.

Political will

The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), Qu Dongyu, also spoke at the event. For him, “food and livelihood assistance must be given in tandem.”

“Supporting agri-food systems and providing long-term assistance, lays the path to recovery, beyond just survival, and increases resilience. I thank Members for their support. There's no time to waste,” he said.

The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, highlighted the need to get the message out, saying that world leaders “will respond” when “they know what the reality is”.

According to Mr. Beasley, there is $400 trillion of wealth in the world today and, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, billionaires were averaging a net worth increase of $5.2 billion a day.

‘It’s a disgrace’

“And the fact that we’re sitting here begging for $6.6 billion to save 41 million people, and to keep nations from destabilizing, and to prevent mass migration…I don’t know what in the world I’m missing. It’s a disgrace that we’re having this conversation,” he concluded.

In March, at the Security Council, the UN Secretary-General called for a swift, coordinated response.

At the time, António Guterres also established a High-level Task Force on Preventing Famine to bring attention to and mobilize support for the most-affected countries.





How Africa and China may shape UN peacekeeping beyond the liberal international order

By Katharina P Coleman and Brian L Job, International Affairs, Volume 97, Issue 5, September 2021, Pages 1451–1468,
Published:06 September 2021


UN peacekeeping became a flagship activity of the liberal international order (LIO) in the post-Cold War era, characterized by globalization, liberal norms and western leadership. Western states' diminished support for LIO UN peacekeeping has left it increasingly open to challenge, but significant changes are only likely if a strong group of states coalesces around an alternative model of UN peacekeeping. This article highlights African actors and China as well positioned to play pivotal roles in such a coalition. African states, who host the preponderance of UN missions and furnish almost half of the UN's uniformed peacekeepers, support globalized UN peacekeeping, show relatively weak support for the most liberal peacebuilding principles and assert the need for African-led solutions to continental crises. China's influence reflects its P5 status, financial and personnel contributions to UN peacekeeping and engagement with regional actors, notably in Africa. Aspiring to global leadership and a ‘new world order’, China endorses globalized UN peacekeeping but proposes a non-liberal (and non-western led) notion of ‘developmental peace’ to guide it. The complementarities between African and Chinese priorities raise the possibility of a profound challenge to LIO peacekeeping. Rather than heralding deglobalization, however, this challenge illustrates that post-LIO international institutions may instead be characterized by deliberalization and dewesternization.

For the full report, visit:




Oil or Nothing: Dealing with South Sudan’s Bleeding Finances

International Crisis Group, Report No 305/Africa, 06 October 2021

Upon South Sudan’s independence in 2011, many hoped the country’s oil wealth would help build the state and lift citizens out of poverty. Instead, politicians have shunted these revenues toward patronage and personal enrichment, feeding internal conflict. Transparency and accountability are badly needed.


What’s new? South Sudan’s rulers keep a tight grip on its oil wealth, blocking outside scrutiny and obstructing reforms urgently needed to ease both popular hardships and political tensions. Along with International Monetary Fund support, a peace deal has kickstarted new efforts to fix the country’s broken finances.

Why does it matter? South Sudan’s five-year civil war killed up to 400,000 people and brought the young nation close to collapse. If President Salva Kiir’s government begins to clean up the country’s budget, as it has pledged to do, opponents will have fewer incentives to take up arms again.

What should be done? Reform-minded South Sudanese and their external partners should focus on making the oil economy more transparent and accountable by ensuring that revenue deposits go in a single public account and through other anti-corruption measures. Donors should press commercial lenders to disclose their payments to Juba and follow South Sudanese law.

Executive Summary

South Sudan’s rotten state finances are derailing the young country from its already fraught path to peace and stability after a brutal civil war. Top officials hold the country’s oil riches close, barring scrutiny of spending and allowing rampant misappropriation of funds. This slush-fund governance is at the heart of South Sudan’s system of winner-take-all politics and helps explain why so much went so wrong so quickly after independence in 2011. The peace deal signed in 2018 could help, as it includes reforms designed to combat corruption and build more accountable public finances. But, for the most part, the new government has slow-rolled or evaded implementation. Reform-minded South Sudanese and outside partners should narrow their focus to those measures that begin to pry open the lid on the country’s oil wealth, ensuring, for starters, that oil revenues are deposited in a single public account. Simultaneously, donors should consider commercial levers to make South Sudan’s finances more transparent and accountable to its people, a critical step in halting the country’s tailspin.

The South Sudanese people have suffered terribly from the failure of their leaders to forge a peaceful foundation for the new country. Just two years after independence, the country fell into a civil war that raged for years and left up to 400,000 dead, a shocking toll in a country of only some 12 million. Peace talks led by neighbouring leaders resulted in the 2018 agreement and a power-sharing arrangement between President Salva Kiir and his main rival, Riek Machar, though an insurgency continues in the south. But the government is riven by internal power struggles and its reluctance to lift the shroud from upon the oil economy is blocking reforms that could sustain a broader political settlement.

Oil has always been central to South Sudan’s political fortunes. The landmark 2005 peace deal that paved the way for its secession from Sudan granted Juba 50 per cent of the South’s oil revenues, pumping billions into the new semi-autonomous government as it prepared to stand on its own. The easy money quickly built a vast patronage system that helped unite rival camps but also papered over the country’s deep ethno-political divisions. This largesse abruptly ended as President Kiir moved to consolidate power after independence, sidelining his rivals and firming up his grip on the oil economy. The result was to fracture the country into warring ethno-political camps that continue to be a source of instability despite the formation of a unity government in 2020.

As South Sudan struggles to recover from civil war, its broken state finances are receiving renewed attention. During the war, Kiir mortgaged future oil exports for advance loans from a small group of commodity traders and commercial banks, piling up debt while hiding the country’s finances ever further from sight. Meanwhile, his loyalists diverted large portions of state revenue from the official budget, which is so leeched that the government routinely fails to pay salaries. The result is a cash-strapped state and a deeply aggrieved population with little confidence in its leaders, amplifying political and ethnic animosities.

Stabilising the country appears impossible without fixing its economy. South Sudan is a divided and fragile state that requires fairer power sharing in the centre and a devolution of authority outside Juba, but the parties cannot reach such a political settlement until they are adequately accounting for and sharing the oil funds. Frustrations are also boiling over among donors, who increasingly believe that their huge sums of humanitarian aid are sustaining a kleptocratic elite.

An acute economic crisis triggered by falling oil prices in 2020 opened a window to press for changes, but an uncoordinated approach could squander the chance. Over a ten-month period starting November 2020, South Sudan received some $550 million in relief from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a lump sum equivalent to past annual budgets. The IMF received promises of some reforms but there were few strings attached. This support helped Juba stave off further slides in its currency but left many reform-oriented South Sudanese and donors frustrated that a government in such disrepute and so resistant to reforms received so much for so little.

A more coordinated strategy is needed. Drawing from the 2018 peace deal’s ambitious reform agenda, and the government’s technical commitments to the IMF, South Sudanese reformers and outside actors should pursue more select financial reform priorities that can redirect oil revenues back onto the books of the national budget. These should include the public disclosure of government revenues and debts, aided by the designation of a single oil revenue account, as well as efforts to shore up the weak guardrails that to date have permitted the looting of government deposits. Future IMF disbursements and donor support should require such transparency in total oil revenues, rather than simply accepting better management of funds that make their way into the official budget.

One further way for donors to boost their limited influence in Juba is through systematic engagement with the commodity firms, and their bankers and insurers, upon which South Sudan depends. For instance, donor governments should use the threat of regulation to encourage companies to disclose their payments to Juba, consistent with the way these companies increasingly disclose payments in other places. If they fail to do so, governments can consider demanding special licences that require such disclosure and certify compliance with South Sudanese law for companies under their jurisdiction to operate in South Sudan’s oil sector. Banks and insurers should protect themselves from legal and reputational exposure by requiring the same of their customers who do business in South Sudan.

At the same time, South Sudanese authorities and outside powers must start thinking now about South Sudan’s impending transition from a carbon economy as its oil production declines, new investment in it looks less attractive and the world sets bolder decarbonisation targets. In particular, donors should consider how their present and future support might help reconfigure, rather than reinforce, the top-down, centralised political economy that has led to such bloody destruction. Reform will not come easy, given the incentives for President Kiir and his allies to cling to South Sudan’s oil wealth. If the political class and outside powers do not succeed in convincing Kiir to enact these reforms, however, the country could squander an opportunity to find its footing before its wells run dry.

Juba/Nairobi/Brussels, 6 October 2021

For the full report, visit:

 Oil or Nothing: Dealing with South Sudan’s Bleeding Finances

International Crisis Group, Report No 305/Africa, 06 October 2021


Upon South Sudan’s independence in 2011, many hoped the country’s oil wealth would help build the state and lift citizens out of poverty. Instead, politicians have shunted these revenues toward patronage and personal enrichment, feeding internal conflict. Transparency and accountability are badly needed.


 What’s new? South Sudan’s rulers keep a tight grip on its oil wealth, blocking outside scrutiny and obstructing reforms urgently needed to ease both popular hardships and political tensions. Along with International Monetary Fund support, a peace deal has kickstarted new efforts to fix the country’s broken finances.


Why does it matter? South Sudan’s five-year civil war killed up to 400,000 people and brought the young nation close to collapse. If President Salva Kiir’s government begins to clean up the country’s budget, as it has pledged to do, opponents will have fewer incentives to take up arms again.


What should be done? Reform-minded South Sudanese and their external partners should focus on making the oil economy more transparent and accountable by ensuring that revenue deposits go in a single public account and through other anti-corruption measures. Donors should press commercial lenders to disclose their payments to Juba and follow South Sudanese law.


Executive Summary


South Sudan’s rotten state finances are derailing the young country from its already fraught path to peace and stability after a brutal civil war. Top officials hold the country’s oil riches close, barring scrutiny of spending and allowing rampant misappropriation of funds. This slush-fund governance is at the heart of South Sudan’s system of winner-take-all politics and helps explain why so much went so wrong so quickly after independence in 2011. The peace deal signed in 2018 could help, as it includes reforms designed to combat corruption and build more accountable public finances. But, for the most part, the new government has slow-rolled or evaded implementation. Reform-minded South Sudanese and outside partners should narrow their focus to those measures that begin to pry open the lid on the country’s oil wealth, ensuring, for starters, that oil revenues are deposited in a single public account. Simultaneously, donors should consider commercial levers to make South Sudan’s finances more transparent and accountable to its people, a critical step in halting the country’s tailspin.


The South Sudanese people have suffered terribly from the failure of their leaders to forge a peaceful foundation for the new country. Just two years after independence, the country fell into a civil war that raged for years and left up to 400,000 dead, a shocking toll in a country of only some 12 million. Peace talks led by neighbouring leaders resulted in the 2018 agreement and a power-sharing arrangement between President Salva Kiir and his main rival, Riek Machar, though an insurgency continues in the south. But the government is riven by internal power struggles and its reluctance to lift the shroud from upon the oil economy is blocking reforms that could sustain a broader political settlement.


Oil has always been central to South Sudan’s political fortunes. The landmark 2005 peace deal that paved the way for its secession from Sudan granted Juba 50 per cent of the South’s oil revenues, pumping billions into the new semi-autonomous government as it prepared to stand on its own. The easy money quickly built a vast patronage system that helped unite rival camps but also papered over the country’s deep ethno-political divisions. This largesse abruptly ended as President Kiir moved to consolidate power after independence, sidelining his rivals and firming up his grip on the oil economy. The result was to fracture the country into warring ethno-political camps that continue to be a source of instability despite the formation of a unity government in 2020.


As South Sudan struggles to recover from civil war, its broken state finances are receiving renewed attention. During the war, Kiir mortgaged future oil exports for advance loans from a small group of commodity traders and commercial banks, piling up debt while hiding the country’s finances ever further from sight. Meanwhile, his loyalists diverted large portions of state revenue from the official budget, which is so leeched that the government routinely fails to pay salaries. The result is a cash-strapped state and a deeply aggrieved population with little confidence in its leaders, amplifying political and ethnic animosities.


Stabilising the country appears impossible without fixing its economy. South Sudan is a divided and fragile state that requires fairer power sharing in the centre and a devolution of authority outside Juba, but the parties cannot reach such a political settlement until they are adequately accounting for and sharing the oil funds. Frustrations are also boiling over among donors, who increasingly believe that their huge sums of humanitarian aid are sustaining a kleptocratic elite.


 An acute economic crisis triggered by falling oil prices in 2020 opened a window to press for changes, but an uncoordinated approach could squander the chance. Over a ten-month period starting November 2020, South Sudan received some $550 million in relief from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a lump sum equivalent to past annual budgets. The IMF received promises of some reforms but there were few strings attached. This support helped Juba stave off further slides in its currency but left many reform-oriented South Sudanese and donors frustrated that a government in such disrepute and so resistant to reforms received so much for so little.


A more coordinated strategy is needed. Drawing from the 2018 peace deal’s ambitious reform agenda, and the government’s technical commitments to the IMF, South Sudanese reformers and outside actors should pursue more select financial reform priorities that can redirect oil revenues back onto the books of the national budget. These should include the public disclosure of government revenues and debts, aided by the designation of a single oil revenue account, as well as efforts to shore up the weak guardrails that to date have permitted the looting of government deposits. Future IMF disbursements and donor support should require such transparency in total oil revenues, rather than simply accepting better management of funds that make their way into the official budget.


One further way for donors to boost their limited influence in Juba is through systematic engagement with the commodity firms, and their bankers and insurers, upon which South Sudan depends. For instance, donor governments should use the threat of regulation to encourage companies to disclose their payments to Juba, consistent with the way these companies increasingly disclose payments in other places. If they fail to do so, governments can consider demanding special licences that require such disclosure and certify compliance with South Sudanese law for companies under their jurisdiction to operate in South Sudan’s oil sector. Banks and insurers should protect themselves from legal and reputational exposure by requiring the same of their customers who do business in South Sudan.


At the same time, South Sudanese authorities and outside powers must start thinking now about South Sudan’s impending transition from a carbon economy as its oil production declines, new investment in it looks less attractive and the world sets bolder decarbonisation targets. In particular, donors should consider how their present and future support might help reconfigure, rather than reinforce, the top-down, centralised political economy that has led to such bloody destruction. Reform will not come easy, given the incentives for President Kiir and his allies to cling to South Sudan’s oil wealth. If the political class and outside powers do not succeed in convincing Kiir to enact these reforms, however, the country could squander an opportunity to find its footing before its wells run dry.



 Juba/Nairobi/Brussels, 6 October 2021



For the full report, visit:


Mahamat Déby moves to secure Chad’s borders

Chad, Menas Associates, Sahara, 28 September, 2021

General Mahamat Déby — son of the late President Idriss Déby, and head of the Conseil militaire de Transition (CMT) which took over the country after his father was assassinated in April — clearly believes that Chad is threatened from almost all sides and possibly also from within. He is therefore making major, not entirely successfully, attempts to sign a series of border security arrangements, while simultaneously planning to drastically increase the size of his army. The CMT has already sealed a security agreement with Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum which should secure Chad’s western border. Déby is now trying to achieve the same thing for the country’s northern and eastern borders in the face of persistent threats of rebel attacks.

For much of the last month, fighting has been raging in southern Libya between Chadian rebels from the Front pour l’Alternance et la Concorde au Tchad (FACT) and militias loosely affiliated with eastern Libya strongman Khalifa Haftar. Déby and members of his CMT have been trying to relaunch political dialogue with rebel leaders while also trying to conclude border control agreements with Libya and Sudan. Their aim is to prevent the various rebel groups from regrouping on Chad’s northern and eastern borders before the traditional ‘offensive season’ begins early in the new year.

So far, the CMT’s negotiations have been with Musa al-Koni who represents the Fezzan on Libya’s three-man Presidential Council. Haftar’s control over southern Libya is extremely limited and so too is Koni’s influence. Nevertheless, al-Koni is reportedly close to Haftar and Chad, perhaps misguidedly, is clearly counting on him being able to reign in the Chadian rebels who are based in southern Libya.

The CMT has also opened talks with Sudan in the hope of securing Chad’s eastern border. So far, although Mahamat Déby was in Khartoum on 28-30 August, the CMT has failed to reach an agreement with Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council (TSC). While in Khartoum, Déby reportedly proposed to his Sudanese interlocutors — notably the notorious Vice President Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, (a.k.a. Hemeti) — that they sign a security agreement that included the protection of the countries’ 1,300 kms common border. We understand that Hemeti — who has a long and tumultuous history with the Déby family — refused to commit to a deal and, so far, Khartoum’s leaders have only agreed to strengthen their intelligence exchanges with Chad.

Besides Hemeti, the other architect of this Sudanese-Chadian dialogue is the former Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) rebel leader, Suliman Arcua Minnawi (a.k.a. Minni Minnawi) who was appointed as governor of the western region of Darfur in May. He has reportedly visited N’Djamena several times since his appointment but, as with Hemeti, it is uncertain whether the CMT has made a great deal of progress with Minnawi.

Another proposal that Chad has put to Sudan and Libya is the creation of a buffer zone in southern Libya. It hopes this will be under some sort of international control and serve as a neutral area in which foreign groups active in Libya — especially, as far as Chad is concerned, the several thousand Chadian rebels — could be disarmed. Given Libya’s overall instability and political uncertainty, however, this might be little more than a pipedream on N’Djamena’s part.

According to sources in N’Djamena, another problem hampering the CMT’s diplomatic drive is that several of its members feel that they are being progressively encircled by ‘Arab’ leaders or strongmen: notably Mohamed Bazoum in Niger; Haftar in eastern Libya; and Hemeti in Sudan. Apparently, this prospect is fuelling a sense of deep distrust which, perhaps ironically, is said to extend to several prominent Chadian Arab personalities. Sources have cited:

- Ahmed Kogri – head of Chad’s national security agency;

- Hinda Déby – the former first lady and third wife of the late Idriss Déby; and

- Mahamat Saleh Annadif – Chad’s former foreign minister and the current head of the United Nations for West Africa.




What can Buhari win from the summit season?

Menas Associates, Nigeria, 29 September 2021

Alone among the leaders of Africa’s big economies, President Muhammadu Buhari attended the UN General Assembly in person, in the week starting 19 September. It was Nigeria’s opening shot in a sequence of economic and political summits taking place between now and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November.

Driven by the country’s growing economic, security, and demographic woes, the Buhari government is steering a strategy to secure better public and private funding for its ‘bounce back’ plans after the pandemic.

Although it has just raised US$4 billion on the Eurobond market and is set to receive around US$3 billion as its share of an IMF extraordinary issue of US$650 billion in special drawing rights (SDRs), Nigeria is struggling to balance the books.

The Federal Government is almost six months in arrears in allocations to the 36 state governments which means that obligations such as wages and contractors bills are also being held up. Just as bad, various big capital projects — such as new road networks, ports, and power stations — have been put on hold.

Most directly, living standards for many of Nigeria’s 210 million people are falling. People are losing their jobs in the urban economies, hit by logistical problems, and farming is suffering from lack of access to some markets.

Social investment, as measured by state spending on education, health, water, and power, averages under US$200 a year. This represents one of Africa’s lower per capita figures because of Nigeria’s vast population.

As conflict and insecurity grow across the country – whether caused by communal clashes over land rights, jihadism, political crusades, or outright criminality – officials in Abuja are joining the dots between deteriorating social conditions and young people taking up arms.

Yet their policy options since the pandemic have narrowed. That is, federal revenues have crashed along with commodity prices, while trade has been hit by border closures and other logistical hurdles. The state has had to invest far more in public health, both preventative and curative, to moderate the damage wrought by successive waves of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Few Nigerian health care professionals are consoled by the relatively low fatality rate in the country, or even the low reported rate of infections. Most researchers suspect widespread under-reporting of coronavirus fatalities, and especially of infection rates.

One informal but unvalidated sample survey estimated that as many as a third of the 20 million people in Lagos may have had asymptomatic cases of COVID-19. The worry is of the consequences if a more potent variant of the virus starts spreading in the city, one of the most densely populated conurbations in the world.

State officials there draw parallels between Lagos and what happened in Kolkata and Mumbai, which were hit by a deadlier variant in a second wave of infections earlier this year. They warn that local health facilities are less able than their Indian counterparts to accommodate tens of thousands of pandemic patients.

But the central issue for Abuja is economic: not only how to raise the cash to finance social protection in the wake of the pandemic but how to finance the national economic recovery plan, built around capital investments in power and communications and job creation in the agrarian and urban economies.





Tchad : engager la transition

International Crisis Group, 30 September 2021

Cinq mois après la mort soudaine du Président Idriss Déby, les autorités tchadiennes préparent un dialogue national attendu de longue date. Dans cette transition qui doit aboutir au retour vers un régime civil, le pays fait face à de nombreux défis.

En avril, le président du Tchad Idriss Déby Itno a été tué lors d’affrontements avec le Front pour l’alternance et la concorde au Tchad (FACT). Les rebelles avaient traversé la frontière depuis leur bastion libyen en convois de véhicules lourdement armés pour atteindre la capitale N’Djaména. L’armée avait alors arrêté leur progression et le président Déby s’était rendu lui-même sur le champ de bataille. Sa mort soudaine a conduit la hiérarchie militaire à nommer Mahamat Déby, son fils de 37 ans, à la tête d’un Conseil militaire de transition de quinze membres. La junte a annoncé qu’elle gouvernerait le pays durant une période de dix-huit mois, renouvelable une fois, et organiserait un dialogue national inclusif avant de transmettre les commandes du pays aux civils à l’issue d’élections. Bien qu’émettant des réserves, les alliés internationaux du Tchad ont rapidement appuyé les nouvelles autorités. Début mai, l’armée a repoussé les rebelles du FACT jusqu’en Libye. La prise en main par l’armée a rassuré ceux qui craignaient que le décès du défunt chef d’Etat plonge le pays dans la violence mais a déçu les espoirs de dévolution démocratique du pouvoir. Certaines figures de l’opposition tchadienne ont ainsi exprimé leur inquiétude vis-à-vis de la transition et de la mainmise de l’armée sur l’Etat. Le gouvernement, les responsables de l’opposition et les rebelles ont tous des avis divergents concernant l’avenir du pays. Les puissances extérieures ont quant à elles peu d’influence sur la junte.

Le Conseil militaire devrait apaiser les inquiétudes relatives à l’avenir politique du Tchad en prenant des mesures concrètes qui garantiront une transition apaisée. Il devrait accepter de ne pas prolonger la transition actuelle et réaffirmer son intention de ne pas s’éterniser au pouvoir. Il devrait également entamer les préparatifs d’un dialogue national très attendu et, en accord avec les groupes rebelles, définir les conditions acceptables pour les deux parties en vue de la participation de ces groupes aux pourparlers.

Premières réactions

Les partenaires internationaux ont timidement réagi à la prise de pouvoir par la junte. Les plus impliqués, la France et l’Union africaine (UA), étaient particulièrement réticents à l’idée de contrarier N’Djaména, qu’elles considèrent comme un précieux allié dans la lutte contre les groupes jihadistes au Sahel et dans le bassin du lac Tchad. Paris a invoqué « des conditions de sécurité exceptionnelles nécessaires pour assurer la stabilité du pays » pour justifier son soutien à la junte. Alors que l’UA a suspendu temporairement l’adhésion du Mali en réponse au coup d’Etat d’août dernier, l’organisation n’a pas appliqué de sanctions contre le Tchad du fait de la contribution militaire du pays aux opérations de lutte contre le terrorisme et de sa fragilité après la mort d’Idriss Déby. L’UA a accepté de soutenir la transition sous réserve que les autorités garantissent la tenue d’un scrutin présidentiel dans les dix-huit mois et que les membres du Conseil militaire renoncent à s’y présenter. Elle a également exigé que la junte intègre ces dispositions à la charte de la transition. Conscient de l’influence diplomatique considérable de son pays liée au rôle important du Tchad dans la lutte contre le terrorisme dans la région, Mahamat Déby a, pour sa part, promis d’accéder à la requête de l’Union africaine et de maintenir ses forces armées dans les pays de la région.

Les autorités de transition ont décidé d’ouvrir l’espace politique du pays en partie en raison des pressions internationales. Elles ont ainsi mis fin à des décennies d’interdiction des manifestations, ont permis au mouvement populaire d’opposition Les Transformateurs d’être reconnu comme un parti politique et se sont engagées à préparer une loi d’amnistie ou de pardon pour les rebelles détenus ou en exil (et pour certains d’entre eux condamnés à mort par des tribunaux tchadiens). Fin avril, un gouvernement civil a été formé permettant une restitution partielle du pouvoir, dans lequel des responsables politiques de l’opposition ont été nommés.

Toutefois, la junte n’a pas modifié la charte de transition comme elle l’avait promis à l’UA, semant le doute au sein de l’opposition concernant ses intentions. Certains responsables tchadiens, y compris le Premier ministre Albert Pahimi Padacké, affirment que la modification de la charte sera débattue lors du dialogue national. Mais les opposants craignent que la transition prenne du retard et que la junte ne se retire pas et laisse Mahamat Déby s’installer durablement et prendre la place de son père. Dans un entretien du mois de juin, le fils Déby a déclaré que deux « conditions » devraient être remplies avant de procéder au vote : « l’entente entre les Tchadiens » et le soutien financier international à la transition.

Si Mahamat Déby s’est assuré le soutien de la France lors d’une visite d’Etat à Paris, les relations de la junte avec l’UA se sont rapidement dégradées. Début juin, N’Djaména a refusé la nomination du diplomate sénégalais Ibrahima Fall au poste de Haut représentant pour la transition au Tchad, prétextant avoir été tenue à l’écart de cette prise de décision, ce que l’UA conteste. Le soutien au Conseil militaire par des pays membres stratégiques de l’UA tels que l’Egypte et le Nigéria l’a poussé à remplacer M. Fall par le Congolais Basile Ikouébé. Certains observateurs considèrent le rejet d’Ibrahima Fall par le Tchad comme un affront infligé au président de la Commission de l’Union africaine, Moussa Faki Mahamat, un Tchadien que la junte soupçonne d’avoir des ambitions présidentielles. Cette méfiance à l’encontre de Moussa Faki Mahamat pourrait limiter l’influence de l’UA sur la transition tchadienne.

Les positions des principaux acteurs

La chute d’Idriss Déby a modifié le paysage politique au Tchad. Ayant perdu son hégémonie à la mort de son fondateur, l’ancien parti au pouvoir, le Mouvement patriotique du salut (MPS), a obtenu moins de la moitié des ministères au sein d’un gouvernement composé de 40 membres, mais son fort ancrage territorial constitue un atout majeur pour un futur candidat. Mahamat Zene Bada, le secrétaire général du parti, a fui en France au mois de juin lorsque la junte a tenté de l’obliger à organiser une assemblée générale extraordinaire pour nommer un nouveau dirigeant. Son adjointe, Ruth Madjidian Padja, a alors convoqué l’assemblée en question et fait procéder à la nomination d’Haroun Kabadi, ancien président de l’Assemblée nationale, au poste de secrétaire général. L’idée que la junte tentait de prendre le contrôle du parti a au départ suscité une certaine résistance de certains membres fondateurs influents du MPS.

L’opposition, quant à elle, est divisée. Certains de ses dirigeants, notamment d’anciens chefs de file de l’opposition comme Saleh Kebzabo ou Mahamat Alhabo, ont rejoint le gouvernement. D’autres remettent en question la légitimité de la junte. Certains partis politiques et groupes de la société civile, dont la coalition Wakit Tama, qui s’est depuis déclarée encline à rejoindre le dialogue, appelaient initialement à la création d’un conseil civilo-militaire en lieu et place de la junte et rejetaient les décrets créant le comité d’organisation du dialogue national. Ces groupes et partis appelaient aussi à ce que la composition du parlement de transition soit décidée lors du dialogue inclusif, ce qui aurait selon eux conféré à cette instance la crédibilité nécessaire au vote d’une nouvelle constitution. Mais, finalement, la junte a approuvé le 24 septembre la formation d’un parlement de transition doté de 93 membres sélectionnés par un comité ad hoc.

Le dialogue national

La plupart des acteurs tchadiens ont accepté de se joindre au dialogue national mais leurs attentes divergent sur la nature, le format et la portée qu’il prendra. Le dialogue devrait avoir lieu entre novembre et décembre 2021, et être suivi d’élections organisées entre juin et septembre 2022. Les figures de l’opposition, les groupes armés et les représentants de la société civile appellent au dialogue depuis des décennies et espèrent qu’il jettera les bases de réformes profondes de l’État. Les participants souhaiteraient assurément débattre d’un grand nombre de thématiques. La nouvelle coalition d’opposition voit dans ce dialogue une occasion de mettre fin à des années d’exclusion de la vie politique et tentera de rétablir l’équilibre du pouvoir au sein des institutions, de restreindre le rôle politique de l’armée et de renforcer le contrôle de l’action gouvernementale. La Conférence nationale souveraine de 1993 représente un modèle pour la coalition, qui a longtemps réclamé une « conférence nationale souveraine et inclusive ». Toutefois, en raison de délais relativement courts, le dialogue ne permettra sans doute pas de traiter d’autres sujets que la refonte de la constitution et l’organisation des futures élections.

La participation des groupes rebelles constitue sans aucun doute le principal point de friction. Les figures de l’opposition et de la société civile considèrent que la présence des différents mouvements insurgés au dialogue (appelés « groupes politico-militaires » au Tchad) renforcerait leur position dans la négociation. Mahamat Déby et d’autres responsables se sont dits ouverts à leur participation mais souhaitent un désarmement préalable. Plusieurs dirigeants rebelles, y compris celui du FACT, Mahamat Mahadi Ali, ont déclaré à Crisis Group que des intermédiaires pour le compte du gouvernement tchadien, de gouvernements étrangers et de médiateurs privés les avaient contactés. En juin, le gouvernement du Togo a accueilli des pourparlers avec certains groupes rebelles afin de connaître leurs revendications. Ces derniers ont alors énoncé les conditions de leur participation au dialogue ; ils ont demandé à intégrer le comité d’organisation du dialogue national, réclamé l’amnistie pour leurs combattants et demandé que des négociations spécifiques entre les rebelles et le gouvernement se tiennent hors du pays. Bien que Lomé ait vraisemblablement agi avec l’accord de la junte, celle-ci a ignoré le résultat des pourparlers.

L’abondance de médiateurs ne facilite pas les choses. Mahamat Déby a nommé deux figures influentes pour organiser le dialogue national : le ministre de la Réconciliation nationale Acheikh Ibn-Oumar, ancien ministre des Affaires étrangères et ancien chef d’un mouvement arabe rebelle tchadien ; et Ali Abdelrahman Haggar, un intellectuel de renom issu de la même ethnie Zaghawa que Mahamat Déby et qui officie en tant que conseiller de la junte pour la réconciliation et le dialogue. Les deux hommes doivent naviguer entre la junte et le gouvernement civil, à qui ils sont respectivement rattachés. Le 14 août, la junte a désigné un comité organisateur du dialogue composé de 70 représentants et réunissant des membres du MPS, d’anciens chefs de l’opposition et des émissaires de la société civile. Elle a également nommé un autre comité de 28 membres qui assure des négociations parallèles avec les rebelles, sans pour l’instant que l’on sache où de potentielles négociations pourraient avoir lieu avec les rebelles et si le désarmement demeure une condition préalable. Goukouni Oueddeï, ancien chef rebelle devenu président (1979-1982) et respecté par toutes les parties prenantes, préside ce dernier comité constitué de membres du MPS et de responsables de la sécurité qui, à l’instar des rebelles établis en Libye, sont principalement originaires du nord du pays.

Mais il demeure des doutes sur la faisabilité de ces futures négociations. Deux groupes armés sont particulièrement problématiques, le FACT et l’Union des forces de la résistance (UFR). Pour les fils du président Déby, Mahamat Mahadi Ali, le chef du FACT, est responsable de la mort de leur père, ce qui complique son retour éventuel au Tchad. Quant au groupe de l’UFR, également basé en Libye, il est dirigé par Timan et Tom Erdimi, les cousins du président Déby. En juillet 2021, la famille Erdimi a accusé les autorités égyptiennes d’avoir arrêté Tom fin 2020 à la demande du gouvernement tchadien. On ignore où il se trouve. Le Caire n’a pas confirmé l’arrestation mais a décrit Tom Erdimi comme « un terroriste dangereux ». Des sources sécuritaires tchadiennes affirment que l’Egypte aurait livré Tom Erdimi au Tchad, ce que dément formellement N’Djaména. Le 24 août, le Conseil militaire a organisé le retour au Tchad du représentant de l’UFR en France, Mahamat Abdelkarim Hanno, un ancien chef des renseignements. Certains rebelles dénoncent ce retour au pays et y voient de la part des autorités une stratégie consistant à « diviser pour mieux régner » et non le signe qu’elles engagent un réel dialogue avec l’opposition armée. Lors d’une visite officielle au Soudan le 31 août, Mahamat Déby a d’ailleurs qualifié les rebelles installés en Libye de « mercenaires », affirmant « qu’ils ne devraient pas avoir le droit de quitter la Libye, car ils représentent une menace pour la stabilité et la sécurité du Tchad et du Soudan ».

Les risques et les perspectives

Le Tchad a traversé une grande période d’incertitude sans sombrer dans la violence. Mais la situation pourrait devenir plus délicate. Un retard de la transition pourrait entamer la fragile confiance qui existe entre les principales parties prenantes dans le pays. Les acteurs nationaux et internationaux doivent s’efforcer de maintenir un consensus afin de mener la transition à son terme dans le délai imparti.

Plusieurs risques se profilent à l’horizon. De nombreux Tchadiens craignent que le Conseil militaire n’honore pas ses promesses de limiter la transition à dix-huit mois et d’interdire la candidature de ses membres au scrutin présidentiel. Le cas échéant, des manifestations pourraient éclater. De plus, bien qu’affaiblis, les rebelles installés en Libye sont toujours actifs et pourraient entrer de nouveau dans le pays et lancer une nouvelle offensive. Par ailleurs, il est à craindre que des tensions ethniques apparaissent lorsque les dirigeants politiques se positionneront pour le pouvoir. Des Tchadiens, notamment au sein de la diaspora, diffusent déjà des discours haineux et clivants sur les réseaux sociaux.

Enfin, le Tchad est toujours menacé à ses frontières. Le 30 mai, des troupes de la République centrafricaine voisine, apparemment accompagnées de mercenaires russes, ont attaqué un poste de l’armée tchadienne alors qu’elles poursuivaient des rebelles centrafricains qui avaient traversé la frontière. L’incident a provoqué un regain de tension entre les deux pays. Dans la région du lac Tchad, le 4 août, des insurgés de Boko Haram ont tué 26 soldats tchadiens, ce qui constitue le bilan humain le plus lourd depuis mars 2020, lorsque près d’une centaine de soldats avaient péri suite à une attaque jihadiste, donnant lieu à une contre-offensive militaire sans précédent. Mahamat Déby a riposté en ordonnant le retrait de la moitié des 1 200 hommes du contingent tchadien de la force du G5 Sahel de la zone des trois frontières (Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso) dans le cadre d’un « repli tactique ».

Les défis de la transition au Tchad sont importants. La région demeure très instable : le Soudan voisin mène une transition délicate et la patience des autorités libyennes vis-à-vis des rebelles tchadiens installés sur leur territoire atteint ses limites. Ainsi, le 14 septembre, des forces loyales à Khalifa Haftar –le maréchal dont les troupes ont combattu le gouvernement de Tripoli entre 2014 et octobre 2020, date à laquelle un cessez-le-feu a été conclu – ont attaqué leurs anciens alliés du FACT au sud-ouest de la Libye. L’accord ayant présidé à la création de l’actuel gouvernement d’unité nationale libyen, mis en œuvre en mars, exige en effet le départ de tous les combattants étrangers, qu’ils aient soutenu Haftar ou Tripoli.

Bien qu’il y ait un large consensus autour de la nécessité d’organiser un dialogue national, la junte doit créer de la confiance afin que ce dialogue puisse avoir lieu dans les meilleures conditions. Les autorités tchadiennes devraient ainsi réviser, avant la tenue du dialogue, la charte de la transition conformément aux exigences de l’UA, en veillant à limiter la transition à dix-huit mois, et tenir leur promesse en intégrant les dispositions qui interdisent la candidature des membres du Conseil militaire au scrutin présidentiel.

La junte devrait également accroître ses efforts visant à garantir la participation des groupes armés au dialogue, afin que les rébellions établies en Libye perdent leur raison d’être et qu’au moins certains de leurs membres puissent retourner au Tchad. En participant au dialogue, les groupes rebelles pourraient ainsi formuler leurs doléances de façon pacifique. La junte pourrait aussi envisager de dialoguer directement avec les groupes armés à l’étranger et sous médiation internationale, avant la tenue du dialogue national à N’Djaména. Cela permettrait d’instaurer un climat de confiance entre les parties et d’éviter les risques de confrontation future. Les partenaires internationaux, et en particulier l’UA, les Etats membres concernés et la France, devraient déployer des efforts conjoints visant à encourager les autorités tchadiennes à prendre de telles initiatives.




Transition au Mali : préserver l’aspiration au changement

International Criis Group, Rapport No 304, 24 September 2021

Les deux coups d’Etats d’août 2020 et mai 2021 ont plongé le Mali, toujours en proie aux violences armées, dans l’instabilité. Malgré un bilan jusqu’ici décevant, les autorités de la transition malienne peuvent encore concrétiser l’aspiration au changement et organiser des élections générales transparentes en 2022.


Que se passe-t-il ? En neuf mois, deux coups d’Etat ont plongé le Mali dans l’instabilité tandis que la violence persiste dans l’intérieur du pays. Ni les acteurs maliens ni les partenaires internationaux n’ont profité de la transition ouverte par la chute du président Keïta pour remettre le pays sur de bons rails.

En quoi est-ce significatif ? Le second coup d’Etat du 24 mai 2021 a conforté la mainmise des militaires sur le pouvoir et marqué le début d’une période qui nourrit plus de craintes que d’espoirs. La nouvelle coalition au pouvoir apparait fragile et peu en mesure de mener à bien des réformes pourtant nécessaires.

Comment agir ? Les dirigeants maliens doivent sauver ce qui peut l’être du projet de transition, notamment en menant une réforme du système électoral qui permettra la tenue d’élections proposant aux citoyens de réelles alternatives. L’incertitude actuelle ne devrait pas empêcher les partenaires étrangers d’œuvrer sur le long terme, afin d’aider l’Etat malien à se reconstruire.


Près de dix ans après le putsch de 2012, le Mali, dont les zones rurales sont toujours en proie aux violences armées, a subi deux coups d’Etat en moins d’un an. Le premier, mené par des officiers le 18 août 2020, a abouti au renversement du président Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK). Pendant les neuf premiers mois d’une période de transition qui doit en durer dix-huit, les tensions entre civils et militaires et la fragilité de sa base politique ont paralysé le gouvernement. Un second coup, le 24 mai 2021, a conforté le pouvoir des militaires, mais ouvert une nouvelle période d’incertitudes.

Malgré une présence massive, les partenaires internationaux, qui continuent de privilégier la lutte anti-terroriste plutôt que le soutien aux réformes de gouvernance, ont montré les limites de leur action. Pour tirer le meilleur parti de cette transition, les forces politiques peuvent encore entamer des réformes électorales, clôturer cette période par des élections transparentes, rassembler les acteurs politiques et de la société civile et lancer des consultations nationales soucieuses d’identifier et dépasser les facteurs de blocages.

Dans la foulée du coup d’Etat du 18 août 2020, les militaires du Conseil national pour le salut du peuple (CNSP), la junte qui a renversé IBK, ont habilement manœuvré pour conserver des postes clés au sein des nouvelles autorités de transition. Ils ont parallèlement affaibli leurs rivaux, en particulier le Mouvement du 5 juin-Rassemblement des forces patriotiques (M5-RFP), la principale coalition civile anti-IBK. La transition a, du fait de ces manœuvres politiques, accouché d’un premier gouvernement fragile, sans base politique et sociale solide pour s’atteler aux réformes promises.

Malgré une feuille de route ambitieuse adoptée en septembre 2020, aucune action d’envergure n’a été réalisée durant les neuf mois du gouvernement dirigé par Moctar Ouane. Alors que la situation sécuritaire dans le pays ne connaissait pas d’amélioration significative, le gouvernement de transition est rapidement apparu en panne, paralysé par des luttes d’influence avec le CNSP, officiellement dissous mais toujours très actif en coulisses.

Dans ce contexte, un remaniement ministériel opéré en mai 2021 a mis au jour les tensions qui paralysaient l’action gouvernementale et créé les conditions d’un second coup d’Etat opéré par les militaires de l’ex-CNSP. Pendant des mois, le gouvernement Ouane avait cherché à s’affranchir des interférences des militaires et à élargir sa base politique par des consultations avec les forces sociales et politiques. En mai 2021, le remaniement ministériel opéré par le gouvernement, qui écartait plusieurs ministres proches ou membres de l’ex-CNSP, s’est brutalement retourné contre les principales autorités civiles. Les militaires les ont mises aux arrêts.

Quelques jours plus tard, le colonel Assimi Goïta, chef de l’ex-CNSP et jusque-là vice-président, est investi président de la transition. Ne pouvant gouverner seuls, les militaires de l’ex-CNSP, putschistes pour la seconde fois, ont chargé Choguel Maïga, porte-parole du M5-RFP, de former un nouveau gouvernement. Cette nouvelle alliance entre civils et militaires est cependant fragile : le M5-RFP est divisé et a perdu son autorité morale, l’imam Mahmoud Dicko, ancien dirigeant du Haut conseil islamique du Mali.

L’alliance avec les militaires semble même contre nature si l’on se souvient que, pendant les mois qui ont suivi le coup d’Etat d’août 2020, Choguel Maïga a dénoncé la militarisation du pouvoir. La composition du gouvernement formé en juin 2021 ne laisse aucun doute sur le fait que les putschistes conservent la réalité du pouvoir. Ils gardent la main sur l’exécutif et les marges d’action des autorités civiles seront limitées. Neuf ans après le renversement du président Touré et un an après celui d’IBK, le pays donne à nouveau le sentiment d’un inquiétant retour à la case départ.

Après le coup d’Etat de mai 2021, les principaux partenaires du Mali, cherchant avant tout à éviter l’effondrement total du pays, ont tenté d’influencer le cours de la transition, mais leurs actions ont montré leurs limites. S’ils ont fait pression, avec un succès relatif, pour éviter la confiscation complète du pouvoir par les militaires, leurs priorités restaient d’accélérer la mise en œuvre de l’accord de paix de 2015 et de pousser vers une transition courte de dix-huit mois. Malgré la présence de milliers de soldats étrangers et la dépendance financière du pays envers les bailleurs, les partenaires internationaux n’ont pas su aider les autorités civiles à poser les bases d’un changement vertueux de la gouvernance au Mali. Beaucoup estimaient que celles-ci n’avaient ni le temps ni la légitimité d’engager de telles réformes de fond.

Le contexte actuel de forte instabilité politique à Bamako, conjuguée à la crise sécuritaire, notamment dans les espaces ruraux, rend la plupart des observateurs pessimistes sur l’évolution de la situation dans les semaines et mois à venir. Les tensions au sein de l’appareil sécuritaire ont pour le moment été maitrisées, mais elles représentent un risque réel pour la stabilité du pays. De nouveaux équilibres politiques sont en construction à la tête de l’Etat, mais ils s’annoncent fragiles.

Il reste cependant possible de tirer quelques bénéfices de la période de transition et, avant tout, d’éviter une nouvelle sortie de route. Si les partenaires extérieurs ont leur rôle à jouer, c’est aux forces politiques et sociales maliennes qu’il revient en premier lieu de se ressaisir et de sortir le Mali de la crise sécuritaire et de la dépendance dans lesquelles le pays est enfermé. Lors des évènements de mai 2021, les Maliens se sont peu mobilisés, donnant le sentiment d’une forte lassitude face à ceux qui se disputent les oripeaux du pouvoir.

Les nouvelles autorités maliennes devraient œuvrer à clôturer la transition par des élections transparentes et équitables, permettant surtout aux citoyens d’élire ceux qui proposent de réelles solutions de sortie de crise. Les acteurs maliens et les partenaires internationaux devraient inscrire leurs actions sur le long terme pour remettre la démocratie malienne sur de bons rails et assainir la gouvernance.

Pour prévenir one nouvelle sortie de route de la transition, les forces politiques et sociales maliennes et les partenaires internationaux devraient:


- Poursuivre les efforts entrepris par le précédent président de la transition visant à rassembler davantage les acteurs politiques et de la société civile autour des priorités de la transition. Le choix des réformes à opérer nécessite un large consensus des acteurs maliens pour éviter les blocages préjudiciables à la bonne marche de la transition ;

- Continuer de faire pression sur les autorités de transition, et le président Goïta en particulier, qui ont promis une réduction du train de vie de l’Etat et une meilleure gestion des deniers publics, notamment dans les secteurs de la défense et de la sécurité, qui ont été émaillés de scandales financiers ces dernières années ;

- Créer les conditions de l’adoption consensuelle d’une nouvelle loi électorale et d’une nouvelle charte des partis – deux objectifs encore réalisables de la feuille de route – afin d’assainir le jeu électoral, notamment en réduisant le contrôle de l’administration territoriale sur l’organisation des élections et en remédiant à la multiplication de partis politiques sans programme réel ;

- Encourager les autorités de transition, dans le cadre des réformes plus ambitieuses contenues dans la feuille de route – notamment la révision constitutionnelle – à mettre en place un processus national de consultations soucieux d’identifier les facteurs de blocages et à laisser à des autorités démocratiquement élues le soin de soumettre à référendum un projet de nouvelle constitution ;

- Rester vigilants et se montrer fermes en cas d’usage de la violence contre les oppositions politiques, ce dont les putschistes se sont jusqu’ici abstenus.

Par ailleurs, les partenaires internationaux devraient moins se préoccuper de mettre un terme à la transition dans les délais convenus que de chercher à préserver et à concrétiser l’engouement pour la refondation de l’Etat, né après la chute d’IBK. Ils devraient inscrire leurs actions dans le plus long terme et tenter dès aujourd’hui de mieux identifier et soutenir les forces porteuses du changement. Les partenaires internationaux devraient moins imposer un modèle extérieur d’Etat vertueux que faire plus de place aux initiatives locales visant, à l’intérieur de l’administration, à produire des services plus efficaces et adaptés.

Bamako/Dakar/Bruxelles, 21 septembre 2021

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Le Terrorisme entre motivation idéologique et instrumentalisation politique

Par MUSTAFA AMALI, Follow au Centre de Recherches et d’Études Géostratégiques - Atlantis, Casablanca, Juillet 2021


Le terrorisme est traditionnellement l’œuvre d’une minorité qui lutte au nom d’un groupe de référence et qui traduit une fascination pour le pouvoir ou une hostilité envers un Etat ou une communauté donnée ; mais il peut être aussi le fait d’un Etat.Des groupes ou des individus imbus de convictions doctrinales font recours à la violence aveugle pour terroriser des populations au nom de leurs idéaux. Si le terrorisme est multiforme et variable dans le temps et dans l’espace, ses revendications sont généralement exprimées en termes sociaux, économiques ou religieux. Doté d’une forte valeur émotionnelle et symbolique, le terrorisme est d’abord une arme de contestation de l’oppression nationale ou sociale. Mais il est aussi l’outil de l’État au nom de la « sécurité ». Le sens commun en fait une forme de violence s’attaquant à des individus innocents, le plus souvent par le biais d’attentats spectaculaires afin de paralyser, d’intimider les autres membres de la société ou de la communauté visée. Cette violence serait barbare, illégitime dans la mesure où elle s’en prendrait à des individus non concernés par le conflit. Le terrorisme, s’il est d’abord action, n’en recouvre pas moins une notion voisine puisque, dépassant souvent le stade de l’initiative ponctuelle pour devenir une véritable stratégie, il postule l’emploi systématique de la violence, pour impressionner soit des individus afin d’en tirer profit, soit, plus généralement, des populations, soumises alors, dans un but politique, à un climat d’insécurité.On note une évolution dans les motivations idéologiques du terrorisme moderne. Tandis que le terrorisme classique est en déclin, notamment sous l’effet de la fin de la guerre froide et du vif recul du terrorisme marxiste révolutionnaire, on constate une progression du terrorisme ethnique, séparatiste et religieux. Depuis la révolution iranienne et l’invasion de l’Afghanistan par l’armée soviétique en 1979, le jihadisme ou salafisme-jihadiste est la forme prédominante du terrorisme. Le terrorisme est souvent instrumentalisé, à des fins politiques, par les terroristes eux-mêmes, mais aussi par les Etats, qui, au mieux, se livrent à une récupération idéologique du phénomène, au pire, s’adonnent à un véritable terrorisme étatique. Au-delà de l’instrumentalisation de la définition du terrorisme, ce phénomène devient un enjeu politique majeur, aussi bien au niveau international qu’à l’intérieur des Etats. De plus, la lutte menée par les grandes puissances contre le terrorisme au nom de l’idéologie libérale se trouve, paradoxalement, en contradiction avec des valeurs libérales fondamentales. Pour leur part, les médias sont impliqués à plus d’un titre dans le fléau planétaire du terrorisme. Quel que soit leur degré d’indépendance affiché, les médias demeurent une composante principale de l’appareil idéologique de l’Etat, et, en tant que telle, constituent un relai de la politique étatique en contribuant à forger l’opinion publique et à véhiculer une image stéréotypée du terroriste. Paradoxalement, les mass médias, en cherchant l’impact maximum sur leur public, assurent, indirectement, une caisse de résonnance à l’action terroriste. Attentifs à l’impact médiatique sur l’opinion publique, les groupes terroristes s’en servent à leur dessein comme outil de propagande.

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ATLANTIS, centre de recherches et d’études géostratégiques est membre du club de Casablanca

La Turquie en Afrique: Un Positionnement Original

Par JULIEN FRIEDMAN, Research Project Manager, Atlantis Center for Geostrategic Research and Studies

Atlantis, Casablanca, July 2021.


Au cours des dix dernières années, la Turquie a fait preuve d’un intérêt économique, diplomatique
et social croissant envers l’Afrique, donnant ainsi une présence significative et un impact nonnégligeable aux intérêts turcs sur le Continent. L’augmentation de l’intérêt de la Turquie pour
l’Afrique mérite l’attention des dirigeants africains qui pourraient en tirer parti, à condition d’avoir
une bonne compréhension des priorités turques.

Ce rapport est établi à partir de l’étude de trois cas, mettant en évidence le rôle de la Turquie et ses
objectifs en Afrique durant les dix dernières années:

• Mise en place d’une organisation à but éducatif, la Fondation Maarif
• Installation d’un camp d’entraînement pour l’armée somalienne, TURKSOM
• Intervention militaire en Libye fin 2019

Ces cas de figures permettent de montrer comment la politique étrangère turque en Afrique est
intimement corrélée aux évènements majeurs de la vie politique en Turquie. On pense notamment
à la tentative de coup d’Etat contre le gouvernement Erdoğan en juillet 2016 ainsi qu’à l’élection
présidentielle de 2018 qui a mis en avant les politiques ultranationalistes. Ces évènements
dimensionnants, ont fait passer la politique étrangère de la Turquie envers l’Afrique au second
plan, signe que la politique intérieure reste une préoccupation majeure. On constatera qu’il en est
de même pour ses engagements auprès des institutions continentales africaines comme pour ses
engagements à l’international.

Pour ce qui est du développement de la Fondation Maarif en Afrique, il nous est donné de constater
que cette action dans le domaine éducatif avait aussi pour but d’affaiblir l’organisation politicoreligieuse Hizmet qui est tenue comme principal responsable de la tentative de coup d’état de 2016.
Deuxièmement, la participation de la Turquie au travers de l’installation d’une base militaire en
Somalie (TURKSOM) permet d’atteindre plusieurs objectifs, à savoir le soutien à l’armée somalienne,
une présence militaire turque à proximité du détroit de Bab el Mandeb et par là même, affirmer le
rayonnement de la Turquie dans la partie orientale de l’Afrique.

Pour ce qui est de l’intervention de la Turquie en Libye en 2019, les motivations ultranationalistes
affichées du gouvernement turc étaient de légitimer leur présence en Méditerranée orientale,
mais aussi de recevoir un appui économique à base de devise pour soutenir à l’époque une banque
centrale turque en crise.

La période de 2011 à 2021 a été marquée par une succession de faits marquants et dimensionnants
pour la Turquie, avec en particulier l’instauration d’un régime présidentiel, la gestion d’une crise
économique, un éloignement de ses partenaires de longue date, mais aussi par la tentative de coup
d’état de 2016 et la purge politique qui a suivi.

Il nous semble que la politique turque en Afrique est plus le reflet de ses préoccupations, centrées
sur sa politique intérieure, que sur un développement d’une stratégie économique ou politique sur le
Continent africain.

Il reste cependant clair que le Continent africain présente un intérêt économique important pour la
Turquie, en particulier dans le domaine des grands travaux, mais peut-être aussi par la capacité à
être présente sur un Continent où se côtoient les grandes nations du monde.

Fort de ce constat, structurer et maintenir des relations politico-économiques durables avec une
Turquie égocentrée, parait être une tâche délicate pour les dirigeants africains.

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