Kosovo’s security force is an opportunity

Kosovo’s Albanian leadership–President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of the Parliament–have decided to proceed with building the country’s national army, even though their proposition lacks Serb support and has made at least some in NATO and the US embassy uncomfortable. The impatience is easy to understand: Serb refusal to go along has blocked this move for years, even as pressure to complete Kosovo’s sovereignty has grown in the Albanian part of the electorate. NATO isn’t going to stick around forever, though its commitment to Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will remain vital to both.

What about the wisdom of this move?

I would certainly have preferred the conversion to a serious security force be undertaken with Serb support, or at least abstention. That’s what Pristina has been trying to do for several years. But Belgrade is opposed and controls enough Serb votes inside the Kosovo parliament to block a constitutional amendment, even if some Kosovo Serbs could be convinced. Patience has not won the day. Now the Albanian political leadership is proceeding with what we call in negotiation theory their “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement” (BATNA).

The proposal to move forward is legislative, not constitutional. I won’t comment on the legalities–that’s not my forte.

The outcome of this maneuver depends in part on Belgrade’s BATNA. Serbia will certainly appeal to the international community to block the Albanians from proceeding. It will likely use the votes it controls in Kosovo’s parliament to block other legislation. It may stiffen its resistance to re-integration of the Serb-majority north of the country. It could even move tanks to the boundary/border and threaten intervention if there is any harm to Serbs in Kosovo, though that would set up an unwelcome confrontation with NATO.

None of this will stop the Albanians I imagine. It will also be counter-productive, as it will make it harder for the Albanian political leadership to back down.

I’ll offer an alternative, one entirely within the capacity of the Belgrade and Pristina politicians to embark upon.

The kind of army Kosovo requires depends entirely on the threat environment it faces. If the threat from Serbia were removed, Kosovo could opt for a small, mobile armed force designed for international deployments. It would no longer need a ground force capable of resisting a Serbian incursion, at least for a few days. Instead Kosovo could begin to pay back an international community that has devoted massive resources to it.

The way to remove the Serbian threat is diplomatic recognition of Kosovo, in exchange for that smaller and more mobile Kosovo security force. If diplomatic recognition is a bridge too far, allowing Kosovo into the United Nations might suffice, but then exchange of diplomatic representatives with the rank of ambassador would still have to follow.

Neither of these moves is likely right now. Serbia will hold a presidential election April 2, with a possible second round April 16. Kosovo is not due for parliamentary elections until 2018, though they could come earlier. If they don’t, the period between April and December would be the best available time for a deal on the security forces and diplomatic recognition of some sort. The politicians in Pristina and Belgrade will know better than I do whether this is in the realm of the possible.

Failing a deal, we can expect heightened tensions, which are all too apparent throughout the Balkans, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia. The Russians are doing their best to make things worse, by backing secessionist moves by Milorad Dodik’s Republika Srpska in Bosnia and undermining prospects for successful government formation in Macedonia. Washington, paralyzed by a messy political transition and lack of clarity about its foreign policy, is contributing to uncertainty. Brussels, preoccupied with Brexit as well as important elections in the Netherlands, France, and Germany is not doing any better.

Kosovo’s small security force is not an insoluble issue. But it will take a bit of imagination and risk-taking to resolve it in a way that satisfies at least some of the aspirations of both Serbs and Albanians. The time for courageous political leadership is nigh.

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Peace Picks March 13-17

  1. Northern Ireland’s Lesson for Israeli-Palestinian Peace | Monday, March 13 | 1:00- 5:00pm | United States Institute of Peace | Register Here | When Northern Ireland’s combatants finally made peace in the 1990s, they did so on a broad foundation of grassroots reconciliation and economic development work, built over more than a decade by the International Fund for Ireland. On March 13, the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Embassy of Ireland will gather former government officials, peacebuilding practitioners and scholars to examine what worked in advancing peace in Northern Ireland—and what lessons might be applied to the difficult process of peacemaking and peacebuilding between Israelis and Palestinians. Former Senator George Mitchell, who served as an envoy in both peace processes, will be the keynote speaker. The first panel on the International Fund for Ireland, will include Carol Cunningham of Unheard Voices, Melanie Greenberg of Alliance for Peacebuilding, Professor Brandon Hamber of Ulster University, and Adrian Johnston of the International Fund for Ireland. The second panel, on implications for Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding, will include Joel Braunold of the Alliance for Middle East Peace, Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen of the United Institute of Peace, Father Josh Thomas of Kids4Peace, and Sarah Yerkes of Brookings.
  2. Regional Perspectives on US Policy in the Middle East | Monday, March 13 | 3:00- 4:30pm | Atlantic Council | Register Here | As the dust begins to settle after the transition of power in Washington, the spotlight is slowly moving to the administration’s policies toward the Middle East and North Africa. With the region already troubled by one of President Trump’s early executive orders and several phone calls and meetings with regional leaders, many unanswered questions remain about the direction of the relationship with the Middle East. Our distinguished panel will discuss how the region is watching, anticipating, and reacting to shifts in policy, including Kristin Diwan on the Gulf, Haykel Ben Mahfoudh and Karim Mezran on North Africa, A. Hellyer on Egypt, and Nicola Pedde on Iran. Will the Trump administration fulfill its campaign promise to re-assert its role in the Middle East? How will the president and Congress react to ongoing challenges and opportunities in Libya, Yemen, and Egypt? Will the president’s style have a significant impact on the relationship with hardline leaders in Syria, Iran, and others across the region? Please join us for a discussion of these and other issues of concern to the United States in the Middle East.
  3. Report Launch: “The Other Side of the World” | Tuesday, March 14 | 2:00- 4:00pm | Center for Strategic and International Studies | Register Here | China’s growing interests in the Middle East, and the United States’ enduring interests in the Middle East, create challenges for two of the world’s most powerful nations. Should they seek more active collaboration? Are their goals for the future of the Middle East compatible? To discuss the implications of increasingly robust China-Middle East ties for U.S. interests, CSIS invites you to the launch of its new Brzezinski Institute Report: “The Other Side of the World: China, the United States, and the Struggle for Middle East Security.” The discussion will feature Carol Giacomo of The New York Times as well as CSIS experts Jon B. Alterman, Michael J. Green, Christopher K. Johnson, and Matthew P. Goodman.
  4. Why Tunisia Should Matter to the New U.S. Administration | Tuesday, March 14 | 3:00- 4:00pm | United States Institute of Peace | Register Here | Tunisia’s peaceful, though difficult, transition since the Arab Spring and its centrality in U.S.-supported efforts to stem terrorism punctuate its role as a major non-NATO ally of the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump “praised Tunisia’s stability and security,” in a Feb. 17 phone call with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, according to a White House statement. Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui will discuss the U.S. partnership and Tunisia’s own development and influence in the region, in a discussion at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Tuesday, March 14.
  5. America’s Role in the World: Congress and US Foreign Policy | Thursday, March 16 | 9:00-10:30am | Atlantic Council | Register Here | As the Trump administration continues to form its foreign policy and national security strategy, Congress has a distinct role of its own to play in shaping how the United States addresses emerging global threats and approaches its leadership role on the international stage. At this early stage, little is defined within the administration’s approach. Congress has an opportunity to help characterize what America’s role in world should be and how it aims to deal with issues in the Middle East, especially ISIS and Iran, China, and Russia. To help think through these issues, two Representatives with military backgrounds, Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), will offer their perspectives on the United States leadership role and national security strategy in an environment of increasing global risks.
  6. Congressman Adam Kinzinger on America’s Role in the Middle East and the World | Friday, March 17 | 8:30am | Atlantic Council | Register Here | The United States faces a number of security challenges across the globe as well as increasing questions about what role the Trump Administration believes the United States should play on the international stage. Please join the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East for a conversation with Congressman Adam Kinzinger on America’s role in the world and in the Middle East in particular, and what we can expect from a Trump presidency in terms of foreign policy and national security. This event is part of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force initiative, co-chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and former US National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley. In November 2016, the co-chairs published their Task Force Report that proposes a pragmatic and actionable Middle East roadmap that emphasizes the efforts of the people of the Middle East themselves supported by the long-term engagement of the international community, with an eye toward harnessing the region’s enormous human potential. The Task Force brought together a broad array of regional stakeholders and international experts to collaborate in identifying ways in which people in the Middle East can build and support governing institutions that offer legitimacy, opportunity, and an alternative to violence.
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How to strengthen peacebuilding

In a panel hosted on Tuesday, March 7 at the United States Institute of Peace, peacebuilding professionals assembled to discuss how to improve their field. The panel was moderated by Melanie Greenberg from Alliance for Peacebuilding and included Leslie Wingender from Mercy Corps, Isabella Jean from Collaborative Learning, Joe Hewitt from USIP, and Adrienne Lemon from Search for Common Ground.

Greenberg opened the panel by framing the conversation around how best to measure impact, tell stories, and make the case for peacebuilding. She asked the panelists to discuss challenges around design, learning, and monitoring and evaluation from their experience.

Lemon and Wingender both discussed challenges in the field working with diverse groups of country teams across different contexts. The challenges Lemon identified included how to address varying ideas of success and impact while maintaining an understanding of each context as well as how to capture long term changes in behavior and outcome to best tell a story. Similarly, Wingender felt that while there needed to be different monitoring and evaluation systems for different contexts, it is possible to make connections across localities to subsequently make the process of handing over programs and creating continuity easier.

From the perspective of program design and accountability measures, Hewitt and Jean saw the need to document failures, develop lessons learned, and maintain a rigorous monitoring and evaluation approach. Hewitt said that having a clear and transparent theory of change from the outset will result in huge payoffs in outcomes in the end. Developing a clear and nuanced theory of change also forces peacebuilders to become comfortable with failure and develop learning cultures, which serves to grow the field further.

Jean also emphasized a learning culture in her discussion of standards for the peacebuilding sector, a lack that makes it difficult to measure effectiveness. She also pointed to institutional behaviors as determining what type of data might be privileged over others and what information is solicited and valued, which in turn can affect how decision makers treat different evaluative exercises.

Another theme the panelists discussed was bright spots in their work and the collective impact. Lemon focused on prioritizing transparency and open discussion around monitoring and evaluation and data capture. Jean also discussed reflective exercises used to develop effectiveness criteria in the absence of standards. Wingender and Hewitt looked at integration efforts within the field designed to unify tools and knowledge across contexts. Wingender advocated for cross-sectional analysis to compare situations, better articulate a theory of change, and think through different programs and their goals. Hewitt praised the field’s consensus on the drivers of violence and armed conflict, pointing to broken or frayed social contracts as the main cause. He saw the opportunity for individual peacebuilding programs that operate at different parts of the state/society relationship to aggregate and address the broader structural conditions that add up to fragility.

The panelists also addressed the difficulties of creating vertical (state/society) and horizontal (within society) cohesion and bringing different identity groups together for peace. Hewitt noted that bringing people together who have historically been in conflict can and does work, but vertical and horizontal cohesion does not happen independent of state institutions. Jean said that single-identity work is also effective and saw the difficulty of vertical and horizontal cohesion when state structures restrict civil society space.

Another difficulty the field continues to face is in data gathering and sharing. Wingender highlighted the issue of putting technology ahead of ethics, saying it is difficult to share data while also providing protection. Lemon also pointed to caution in sharing data.

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The North Korea conundrum

While America can’t seem to get enough of issues like healthcare and Trump’s Russia connection, North Korea is getting precious few electrons. It deserves more. The hermit kingdom, as we used to call it, is now a nuclear power developing ballistic missiles capable of reaching Japan if not yet the US. President Obama famously told then President-elect Trump that Pyongyang should be at the top of his to-do list.

That hasn’t happened. President Trump has demonstrated more interest in the cancellation of his erstwhile TV reality show than the launch of multiple missiles into the Sea of Japan. Except for a conversation with Japan’s Prime Minister and deployment of an anti-ballistic missile system to South Korea, there has been precious little public sign of White House interest in the issue.

That might be the good news. The last thing the world needs is one of Trump’s rapid fire decisions. Josh Rogin, who is smart and well-informed about these things, says the National Security Council deputies and principals are seized with the issues. They reportedly don’t like Pyongyang’s suggestion that it could stop the missile tests if the US abandoned its military exercises with South Korea, which the North regards as hostile.

Washington will naturally look to Beijing to bring additional pressure on Pyongyang. The Chinese have, however, already cut their coal imports from North Korea as well as many exports to their ill-behaved neighbor. Beijing hesitates to go further because the last thing it wants is the North Korean regime to collapse, which could send refugees fleeing into China and precipitate reunification with a South Korea allied with the US.

There aren’t a lot of other good options out there. Pyongyang has thousands of missiles and artillery pieces already pointed at Seoul. Any belligerent US or South Korean moves could trigger a horrendous barrage. Destroying a North Korean missile on the launch pad, as Ash Carter and Bill Perry proposed more than 10 years ago, has gotten far more difficult, because Pyongyang has made its missiles mobile. The US could agree to talk with the North Koreans, something candidate Trump suggested he would want to do as president. But it is not clear what such talks could do to improve the situation. Yielding to them now would confirm in Kim Jong-un’s perspective that missile tests get attention.

Regime survival is Pyongyang’s top priority. Possession of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles is arguably the best guarantee possible that the US and South Korea will not risk war. Even converting the armistice that ended the Korean War into a peace treaty with American, North Korean, and South Korean signatures would not match that, in particular for a regime committed to extreme self-reliance.

This is not a pretty picture: a real threat to American allies in the Pacific and very few options to manage it. Americans elected Donald Trump to deal with such a conundrum. Let’s see how he does.

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Where youth has few prospects

The Middle East Institute hosted a conversation Friday, March 3 on the future of Palestinian leadership and the challenges Palestine faces in developing its next generation of leaders. Moderated by Barbara Plett Usher, BBC correspondent, the panel included Omar Shaban, Director at PalThink for Strategic Studies, Yousef Munayyer, MEI Scholar, Gabriel Mitchell, US Representative at The Mitvim Institute, and Sarah Yerkes, nonresident fellow at Brookings.

The panelists discussed the future of Palestine post-Abbas. Shaban saw several challenges to future governance, most notably the age gap between the Palestinian leadership and the population—an average age of 85 as compared to 25. There is no clear way for youth to establish a political party, but the only way to bridge this gap is through elections. The disconnect between the government and the people is not confined to age either. Shaban noted that much of the current Palestinian leadership resides outside the territories and lacks the professionalism to meet the political ambitions of Palestinians.

Palestinian youth frustration largely stems from feeling overlooked in the political dialogue concerning their country and their future. Munayyer asserted that calling the issue the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” gives the illusion of false symmetry, when in reality Palestinians are not represented by a government. Nor do they have institutions to develop political representation for themselves. Without functioning institutions, it is difficult for leadership to gain legitimacy or reach out to the broadest spectrum of stakeholders. This becomes a greater issue hindering peace as public opinion does not capture the full array of Palestinian voices and ignores perspectives from a broad section of Palestinian society. According to Munayyer, part of the problem comes from the international community’s willingness to meet Israel where they are as a nation while shaping a Palestinian partner that suits international purposes and Israeli demands.

Outside actors, especially the United States and Israel, play a big role not only in the regional political context but also in internal Palestinian affairs and the future of government and elections within the territories. Presenting the Israeli viewpoint, Mitchell discussed Palestine’s future from three perspectives—the current government, the security establishment, and the Israeli opposition. The current government endorses a smooth transfer of power after Abbas and wants to influence the process while not appearing to manipulate it. They hope to get the international community involved as intermediaries. The Israeli security establishment hopes to develop a clear path to succession and continue its security cooperation with whoever replaces Abbas. The Israeli opposition does not have a clear idea of who should succeed Abbas and feels frustrated and/or indifferent over the idea of a two-state solution.

Speaking from the perspective of American foreign policy, Yerkes said that while the US is planning for succession because of Abbas’ age, America will pay little attention to Palestinian internal affairs due to its lack of influence or interest in the outcome. What the United States will want in Palestine is a partner for peace that helps combat and condemn incitement, supports economic development, and takes steps towards political reform and democracy. But the Trump administration may well opt for absentee-ism and allow Netanyahu to operate however he chooses.

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Peace Picks March 6- 10

Building the Programs That Can Better Build Peace | Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 | 9:30-11:00 | United States Institute of Peace | Register Here |

On March 7, members of the consortium at USIP will describe their findings, including new tools that can assess and improve the effectiveness of peacebuilding programs. The work of accountability is vital to prove the case for peacebuilding as a strategy—and to sustain support from donors and taxpayers. Several non-government organizations—including Alliance for Peacebuilding, CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, Mercy Corps and Search for Common Ground—have formed a Peacebuilding Evaluation Consortium. This group is developing better tools for the design, monitoring and evaluation of programs abroad.

What Both Parties Like: Two-State Solution and Beyond | Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 | 12-1:30 | United States Institute of Peace | Register Here |

President Trump expressed an early interest in making “the ultimate deal” between the Israelis and Palestinians, but it remains unclear how the administration plans to engage on this conflict. Polls of Israelis and Palestinians consistently suggest that while support is shrinking for the two-state solution, it remains the preferred outcome. So what are the alternatives, and how politically and logistically feasible are they? The conversation will include Dahlia Scheindlin, who recently proposed a confederal approach as a “Third Way for Israel-Palestine.” She will be joined by Khaled Elgindy, a former advisor on permanent status negotiations to the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership, and by USIP’s Mike Yaffe, formerly the senior advisor to the special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at the Department of State.

Will Washington and Moscow Work Together in the Middle East? | Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 | 12:00-1:30 | Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington | Register Here|

Join AGSIW for a discussion of how the U.S. and Russian Middle East agendas converge and diverge, and how the prospect of a new level of coordination between them is viewed both in Europe and the Gulf.
U.S. President Donald J. Trump advocates greater cooperation with Russia, including in the Middle East. But how compatible are Russian and U.S. regional strategic goals, especially over the long run? Can the new administration simultaneously pursue cooperation with Moscow and confrontation with Tehran, given the close partnership between Russia and Iran? Will Washington identify and exploit differences between Russian and Iranian priorities, particularly in Syria? How can Gulf Arab countries adapt to this complex evolving environment and protect their own interests?

Chasing War: The struggle for journalism in ISIS’ Middle East | Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 | 3:00-4:30 | Elliott School |Register Here|

Shaheen Pasha is an Assistant Professor of Journalism at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. She previously worked as the Middle East Regional Editor for The Brief, a legal magazine published by Thomson Reuters. Prior to launching the magazine, Pasha was the Islamic finance correspondent at Thomson Reuters, based in Dubai. She has been an assistant professor of journalism at The American University in Cairo, teaching print and online journalism for undergraduate and graduate students, and has worked at CNNMoney.com as a banking and legal reporter, covering the Supreme Court and the Enron trial. Pasha was also a reporter at Dow Jones Newswires, where she had a daily column in the Wall Street Journal and appeared as a regular correspondent on CNBC Asia, covering the ADR market. Pasha will join us at the Elliott School on March 7 to discuss the challenges for those in the journalism and media industries in covering the war in Syria and the ongoing conflict in Iraq. She will give some background on the conflict, bringing in a discussion of the difficulties journalists are facing on the ground, and ISIS’ own media efforts in the form of their magazine, Dabiq. This event aims specifically to engage journalists and other media specialists, but is open to all.

Prospects for Ending the Civil War in Libya | Thursday, March 9th, 2017 | 10:00-11:30 | Atlantic Council | Register Here |

The situation in Libya today, as a result of increasing fragmentation and polarization among actors, is on the verge of a breaking point. So far, the competing authorities in the country – namely the Presidential Council and Government of National Accord established by a United Nations-backed process, and the eastern-based House of Representatives and head of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar – have failed to come to an agreement to end the conflict. In this environment, it is more important than ever to offer perspectives on ways in which the new US administration can help Libya move toward stability. The Rafik Hariri Center will convene a panel of experts to discuss the current situation in Libya and explore ways forward out of the current conflict.

The View From Israel: A Conversation with Reuven Azar, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Israel | Thursday, March 9th, 2017 | 12-1 | Wilson Center | Register Here |

Israel sits in the middle of a volatile Middle East and at a nexus of issues critical to regional stability, security and American national interests. Join the Wilson Center as a veteran Israeli diplomat, Reuven Azar, offers observations on the U.S.-Israeli relationship, the Iran nuclear deal, the pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace, Russia’s role in the region and Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors.

The Syrian Crisis: American Interests and Moral Considerations | Friday, March 10th, 2017 | 11:45-1:30 | Hudson Institute | Register Here |

After nearly six years, Syria remains locked in a bloody civil war while Iran and Russia continue to be President Bashar al-Assad’s primary enablers. Assad’s Syria offers Iran an important supply line to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. The war has taken the lives of more than 400,000 Syrians and has displaced more than 9 million, creating a refugee crisis that has been felt around the world.

U.S. response to the Syrian civil war has been inconsistent. President Obama lacked a coherent strategy for dealing with Syria and infamously chose inaction after Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. President Trump has made it clear that he intends to refocus U.S. efforts abroad and pursue a foreign policy focused primarily on American interests. He has, along with his Secretaries of State and Defense, signaled a willingness to take a very different approach to Syria.

What are the most pressing U.S. interests in the outcome of the Syrian civil war? What moral obligation, if any, does the U.S. have to help the region regain stability and to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people? What options are before the Trump administration, and do those options take into consideration both U.S. security and humanitarian concerns? To address these questions and more, Hudson Institute and Providence Magazine will host a March 10 panel discussion with Marc LiVecche, managing editor of Providence Magazine, and Hudson fellows Michael Doran, Nina Shea, and Rebeccah Heinrichs.

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