Tag: Turkey

Surge 2.0

The US troop surge in 2007 went a long way to stabilizing Iraq. Replicating that effort under Iraqi leadership could work again.

Throughout its operations in Iraq, the Global Coalition has faced issues of coordination among its member-states as the total cost of fighting ISIS mounts. The Coalition consists of 66 members but not all contribute equally, and the United States has increasingly felt pressure to cajole the international community to step up its military aid. The cost to fight ISIS is significant- as of March 2017, the Department of Defense had spent $12.5 billion over the last three years in its operations against ISIS. What’s more, the cost of resettling displaced Iraqis will be enormous- over 600,000 people have fled Mosul in the last few months alone, and many other former ISIS strongholds face considerable reconstruction efforts.

A more pressing problem, however, is the sectarian divide among the allied militias. Those fighting in Mosul include the Kurdish Peshmerga, Sunni tribal forces supported by Turkey, Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), and the Iraqi army and police forces. Indeed, the population’s faith in the security forces also falls on sectarian lines. When asked whether they trusted the Iraqi army or PMUs to keep them safe, 45% of Shia respondents said PMUs and 30% said the Iraqi army; 48% of Sunni respondents answered the Iraqi army and only 4% PMUs.

Politically, reconciliation between different groups remains a challenge as the roots of sectarian conflict remain unaddressed. At the local level, corruption among police officers, judges, and local officials has allowed ISIS to creep back in. At the national level, the Sunni community struggles to enter political discourse, lacking strong leadership and divided among local communities and expatriate elites who claim to represent them. Economically, Iraq depends on oil revenue, which is down over the past several years due to declining oil prices. Corruption and the ongoing cost of fighting ISIS have cut a big slice out of revenue.

The government needs to address both the issue of security and citizen grievances simultaneously, cutting off both the physical and psychological avenues for ISIS’s return and ensuring the population feels safe. Combining military with civilian efforts was at the heart of General Petraeus’ 2007 surge in Iraq. The strategy was not only a surge of additional American troops but also a “surge of ideas,” reorienting operational strategy to emphasize the human terrain. Efforts included rebuilding infrastructure, reconciling groups at the local level, incorporating militia members and insurgents into the state security apparatus, and communicating with populations so they took ownership in rebuilding Iraq.

Applying this model to Iraq’s security today could address current mission weaknesses and neutralize the threat of sectarianism. First and foremost, it is important to put the monopoly over security back in the hands of the state—to do this, PMUs and militias must be folded into the Iraqi army and external influences from regional actors removed. This would create a military force whose size, strength, and military training serve a similar role as the 170,000 US surge troops of 2007 did. Creating a single security force drawn from local forces could improve trust in the national army as well. Iraqis are proud of the PMUs as the most effective force in the country as compared to perceived government failure. By capitalizing on the high morale these forces create, Iraq would have an expanded, ready, and willing force distributed across the country and ensuring threats such as ISIS have no space to reemerge.

The military should rely on civilian counterparts to do the work of reconciling groups at the local level and decentralizing politics. One such project, a reconciliation effort in the ethnically mixed Mahmoudiya neighborhood south of Baghdad, cost $1.5 million. The peace agreement established in 2007 has endured until today.

The Petraeus surge included passing several laws to address key issues that might facilitate political agreement at the national level, such as increasing provincial power and improving the elections law. Decentralization would also improve the local and, by extension, national economies. Rebuilding infrastructure and getting Iraqis back into their homes should be a priority and local leadership could help entice citizens to return. Additionally, supporting small businesses will allow startups to be successful and employ greater numbers of Iraqis. Foreign aid should be likewise reoriented away from humanitarian aid to economic development, partnering with local leaders to help distribute aid for maximum benefit. Investing in local economies will go a long way to creating a stable foundation on which both the local and national economy can grow and thrive.

The surge privileged coordination between military and civilians, focused on the human terrain matters, and supported local level reconciliation . Stabilization is a process rather than a product, and it will take many years—and perhaps many iterations improving upon the last, to hold.

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Making America grate

Donald Trump is a bully. We need only recall his treatment of his Republican competitors, especially Marco Rubio, and his stalking of Hillary Clinton during the last presidential debate, to realize that the President has an irresistible impulse to try to intimidate and dominate others. He tried it again this weekend with his threat to make recordings of their conversations public if former FBI Director Comey leaks to the press. He has also tried it with Kim Jong-un, alternately with offering to talk with him if the conditions are right. He has even tried it with Tea Party Republicans, when they refused to go along with a lousy revision of Obamacare that failed to meet their definition of “repeal.”

It isn’t working, because most adults know how to respond. Kim Jong-un is simply proceeding with his missile tests, knowing full well that ratcheting up UN Security Council sanctions is going to be difficult. By contrast, Comey, though reportedly fine with the existence of tapes of his phone conversations with the President, is not going to testify this week. I imagine he and his lawyers need to weigh a lot of pros and cons, since the Senate Democrats will want to ask him about ongoing investigations. That’s understandable, but sooner or later Comey will also defy the bully.

The bully ends up giving in more often than not, because he hasn’t got all the powers he pretends to wield. Trump has clearly overestimated his powers as president: the courts have stymied his immigration ban, his executive orders are often empty, and the Republicans in Congress are starting to bite back, even if not enough to satisfy me. Trump’s effort at rapprochement with Russia are going nowhere, he has backed off his promise to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and he is now figuratively licking the boots of the Chinese he once accused of raping America.

He really has only confirmation of a Supreme Court justice the Senate Republicans wanted, roll back of environmental and other regulations, and the cruise missile attack on Syria to show for his more than 100 days in the presidency. The former two items are important and something I regret. Gorsuch has already concurred in executing someone who might have been exonerated by DNA evidence. The US will be unable to meet its climate change commitments, even if it doesn’t withdraw from the Paris agreement.

The cruise missile raid has no significance, as it was done as a temperamental one-off without proper diplomatic and military followup that might have tipped the Syrian war in a new direction. Assad has used chemical weapons several times thereafter, without any American response, and now the State Department says he is building a crematorium to hid the execution of thousands of prisoners. In fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda, Trump has racked up a record of doing pretty much what his predecessor was doing but with bigger bombs, more drones, and more civilian casualties. The big difference is the lack of any diplomatic strategy other than bullying.

This week will be an important one: Turkish President Erdogan is in town trying to get the Americans to back off support for Syrian Kurds he regards as terrorists but the American generals think are the only available force able to remove ISIS from the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa. The generals want to do this quickly, they say, because ISIS is planning attacks on the US in Raqqa. Trump is likely to bully Erdogan, though he may also try to sweeten the pot by offering to be helpful on the extradition of Erdogan’s arch-nemesis, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania. That’s an empty promise, as the courts will make the decision.

A different president might cut a deal with Erdogan on Syria, thus preserving strong ties to America’s Turkish allies: if they want to prevent the Kurds from taking Raqqa, let them try. If they fail, the Americans do Plan B with the Kurds. The rationale for haste doesn’t add up: ISIS can plan attacks from anywhere. Removing them from Raqqa without a serious idea for how to govern the place thereafter reminds me of the myth of Sisyphus. You know: he was condemned to rolling a boulder up a hill, only to see it slide back down when he got near the top. That’s what is going to happen if the post-victory scenario in Raqqa has not been well-prepared. ISIS, or worse, will be back.

But options other than bullying, alternating with obsequious flattery, seem well beyond this president’s tool box. A great negotiator he is not. He is making America grate.

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Outside influences in the Balkans

Some colleagues asked that I talk yesterday about outside influences on the Balkans, where things have gotten shaky lately, with a risk that the peace settlements of the 1990s might unravel. Here are the notes I prepared for myself: 

  1. Renewed attention to the Balkans, which has all but dropped off Washington’s priorities in recent years, is most welcome. The region has made a lot of progress, especially in the first ten years after the Bosnian war, but right now it is in trouble.
  1. I’ve been asked to talk about “outside influences”: Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.
  1. It is important at the outset to say that none of these countries would have much influence in the Balkans except for the decline in American engagement and the weakening of the EU.
  1. The US has tried for a decade now to get the EU to lead, as it has the main carrots for political and economic reform as well as more compelling interests in the region.
  1. The Europeans have done some good things: the Brussels dialogue has led to real improvements in Belgrade/Pristina relations, even if many specific agreements remain unimplemented.
  1. The 2014 British-German initiative for economic reform in Bosnia—undertaken to forestall a renewed U.S. initiative to change its constitution—has made little real progress, largely due to European reluctance to stick with its own conditionality.
  1. The best that can be said for EU efforts in Macedonia is that they have so far avoided the worst, with US support. The EU there seems unable to overcome a monumental level of stubbornness.
  1. But in the past two years the refugee crisis, Brexit, surging nationalism in many EU countries, and the congenital inability of the EU to speak with one voice has undermined the credibility of EU accession, which in any event won’t happen before 2020 and more likely not before 2025.
  1. That’s a long time to wait in the Balkans, where we’ve spoiled people with Stabilization and Association, Schengen visas, candidacy for EU accession, pre-accession funds, and other goodies. What we haven’t done is invest: the US and EU have risked little private money in the Balkans.
  1. Russia and Turkey—whose influence is far greater than others I’ve been asked to discuss—are moving into relative vacuums: the Russians find ethnic Serbs easy pickings and the Turks find Islamists, especially in Bosnia but also in Kosovo, friendly to their interests.
  1. The Russian influence is overwhelmingly pernicious from a Western perspective. Moscow is doing its best to make NATO and EU membership as slow and as difficult as possible, especially in Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia, and Serbia. Its influence in Albania and Kosovo is minimal.
  1. The attempted coup in Montenegro is just the tip of iceberg. Moscow contributes to ethnic tensions, political polarization, and regional instability in many ways: opaque financing for Republika Srpska, Russia’s so-called humanitarian center, overt military aid and investments in Serbia, support to Russophile politicians as well as media onslaughts throughout the region.
  1. Quite apart from these Slavic connections, Moscow has strong leverage over Belgrade because its UNSC veto is essential to blocking Kosovo’s General Assembly membership.
  1. Moscow’s goal is clear: to prevent Balkan countries from entering NATO and even the EU.
  1. Turkey is a different story.
  1. For more than twenty years after the Bosnian war the Turks were disciplined Western-oriented contributors to peacekeeping and development in the Balkans, trying to maintain good relations with Serbs and Croats as well as with Balkan Muslims.
  1. This has been described as a “gentle version” of the Ottoman Empire, one associated with the “no problems with neighbors” policy and aimed at the region’s Christians as well as its Muslims.
  1. Many Croats and Serbs may have been nervous about Turkish cultural inroads, as parts of the region lived for centuries under Ottoman domination, but most welcomed Turkish investment and contractors, which are evident throughout the region.
  1. As Erdogan turned in a more authoritarian direction and relations with the US strained, Turkey began a more Islamist push, especially with Bosnian Muslims and President Bakir Izetbegovic.
  1. The Muslim Brotherhood connection is a more visible and explicit one for Bakir than it was for his father, though it existed for Alija Izetbegovic as well.
  1. The recent Turkish-Russian rapprochement has had an undesirable impact with some Bosniak leaders in Montenegro. They are taking Erdogan’s hint, viewing Moscow in a more positive light and connecting with the Chechen leadership. That development may warrant monitoring, especially if it spills over to Bosnia.
  1. Turkey has also had notably good relations with President Thaci in Kosovo, but more based on commercial opportunities than religion.
  1. Iran and Saudi Arabia both have long histories in the Balkans.

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Peace picks April 24-28

  1. Report Launch: “The Other Side of the World” | Monday, April 24 | 10:30-12 | CSIS | 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,” featuring Anne Gearan, Political Correspondent at the Washington Post; Jon B. Alterman, Senior Vice President and Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and Director of the Middle East Program at CSIS; Michael J. Green, Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair at CSIS; Matthew P. Goodman, William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy and Senior Adviser for Asian Economics at CSIS; and Christopher K. Johnson, Senior Adviser and Freeman Chair in China Studies.
  2. What is the Future of EU-Turkey Relations? | Monday, April 24 | 2-3:30 | Wilson Center | Register Here | This panel will address a number of questions related to the April 16 Turkish constitutional referendum: Can the European-Turkish migration deal last? How might upcoming national elections in several European countries affect European ties with Turkey? What could cause the EU to freeze or end Turkey’s accession process? Is Erdogan willing to abandon Turkey’s EU membership bid or follow through with his threat to end the migration deal? Can the EU and Turkey find a way forward? Speakers include Michelle Egan, Professor and Jean Monnet Chair ad personam at School of International Service, American University; Aykan Erdemir, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; and Constanze Stelzenmueller, Senior Transatlantic Fellow and Director of Transatlantic Trends at the German Marshall Fund, Berlin and Robert Bosch Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
  3. The United Arab Emirates: Power, Politics, and Policy-Making | Tuesday, April 25 | 12-1:30 | AGSIW | Register Here | Led by Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates has become deeply embedded in the contemporary system of international power, politics, and policymaking. Only an independent state since 1971, the seven emirates that constitute the UAE represent not only the most successful Arab federal experiment but also the most durable. However, the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath underscored the continuing imbalance between Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and the five northern emirates. Meanwhile, the post-2011 security crackdown revealed the acute sensitivity of officials in Abu Dhabi to social inequalities and economic disparities across the federation. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Baker Institute Fellow for the Middle East at Rice University, charts the various processes of state formation and political and economic development that have enabled the UAE to emerge as a significant regional power and major player in the post-Arab Spring reordering of Middle East and North African politics, as well as the closest partner of the United States in military and security affairs in the region.
  4. New Approaches to Israel-Palestine Peace Efforts: Can Regional Powers Make a Difference? | Wednesday, April 26 | 1-3:30 | MEPC | Register Here | Panelists will discuss whether there are new opportunities to work with regional powers to realize a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Speakers include Chas W. Freeman Jr., Chairman of Projects International Inc., Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Former US Assistant Secretary of Defense, and Former President, MEPC; Hady Amr, Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings, Former Deputy Special Envoy, Israeli-Palestinian Relations at the Department of State; and Former Deputy Assistant Administrator, Middle East at USAID; Ian Lustick, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Former President of Politics and History Section of the American Poltical Science Association, and Member of the Council on Foreign Relations; and Riad Khawaji, Founder and CEO of INEGMA, Middle East Bureau Chief at Defense News, and Middle East Correspondent at Jane’s Defense Weekly.
  5. The Syrian Crisis: What Lies Ahead on the Battlefield and in Diplomacy | Wednesday, April 26 | 1:30-5 | MEI | Register Here | The Middle East Institute (MEI) Track II Dialogues Initiative and the National Defense University Near East South Asia (NESA) Center for Strategic Studies have convened three rounds of private consultations with Russian counterparts about the Syrian conflict, most recently in February 2017. Participants from those and parallel MEI Track II encounters with Middle Eastern leaders will join with other experts on the military and diplomatic aspects of the conflict in two panel discussions to consider possible ways forward. These panelists include Jennifer Cafarella, Lead Intelligence Planner at the Institute for the Study of War, Charles Lister, Senior Fellow at MEI, Andrew J. Tabler, Martin J. Gross Fellow at WINEP, LTG (ret) Terry A Wolf, Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS at the Department of State, Wa’el Alzayat, CEO at Emerge USA, (ret) Robert S. Ford, Senior Fellow at MEI, Roger Kangas, Academic Dean and Professor, NESA Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, and Randa Slim, Director of Track II Dialogues at MEI.
  6. A Story to Tell: Changing the Narrative of American Muslims with Hena Khan | Wednesday, April 26 | 6-8pm | The Elliott School | Register Here | Join us for a conversation with Elliott School alumna and children’s author Hena Khan about her experiences writing books that represent American Muslims, promote understanding, and build tolerance and compassion. She will share her newest novel, Amina’s Voice, the first publication of Simon & Schuster’s groundbreaking new imprint Salaam Reads, which focuses on books about Muslims. Amina’s Voice recounts the story of a Pakistani-American Muslim girl who struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community.
  7. Tunisia in Transition: Challenges and Prospects | Thursday, April 27 | 2-3:30 | POMED and the Arab Center Washington | Register Here | Tunisia, the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” uprisings of 2011, stands today as the only country undertaking a democratic transition. But despite the historic progress, daunting challenges remain, including confronting corruption, bolstering the economy, and reforming the justice sector. What are the most important steps in confronting these challenges? And what role can international actors, including the United States, play in supporting Tunisia’s fragile democracy? Speakers include Amine Ghali, Program Director at Al Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center in Tunis, Leila Hilal, Senior Fellow, International Security Program at New America, Chawki Tabib, President of Tunisia’s National Authority for the Fight Against Corruption, and Sarah Yerkes, Fellow, Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment.
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One more for illiberalism

Turkey’s President Erdogan won his constitutional referendum Sunday by a narrow margin (more or less 51/49, but the results aren’t official yet). The approved amendments will confirm the power already concentrated in his hands by making Turkey’s government a presidential system: eliminating the office of prime minister, strengthening the president’s hand in judicial appointments, and enabling Erdogan to stay in power for more than another decade.

But while he won the referendum, Erdogan has lost legitimacy. The result was no acclamation. Erdogan lost the vote in Turkey’s three largest cities: Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. The overall margin was tighter than expected, given the government’s noisy campaign in favor. Since the coup attempt last summer, Erdogan has eviscerated much of the opposition to his rule, especially in the media, universities, schools, and security forces. “No” campaigners were few and far between. There are even reports of ballot-box stuffing, which I am told is not common in Turkish elections.

Erdogan will nevertheless treat the referendum as authorization to do as he likes. In recent years, that has meant cracking down on political opponents, abandoning the hope of EU membership, cozying up to Russia, fighting against Kurds, and intervening in Syria (but accepting a future role there for Bashar al Assad). The crackdown on followers of Erdogan’s erstwhile ally, Fethullah Gulen, has been particularly ferocious, as Erdogan contends Gulen was behind the July 2016 coup attempt. But Erdogan has also targeted secularists and others who have dared express doubt about the benefits of his rule.

In the end Erdogan’s fate may be determined as much by economics as politics. Turkey’s economy is on the skids: growth has slowed, tourism has collapsed, the Turkish lira is devalued, unemployment is up. The economic reforms and rapid growth that generated a good deal of Erdogan’s popularity in the 2000s have stalled. The renewal of hostilities against the Kurdish armed rebellion has roiled large parts of the country and damaged the economy. Erdogan is no longer the crusading Islamist opposed to corruption and ready to make peace with the Kurds. He merits more recognition in the years since he was elected president in 2014 for crony capitalism than for opening up the Turkish economy.

Washington will do little to resist Erdogan’s worst instincts. While it would prefer that Turkey remain on track towards the EU, the Administration needs Ankara to continue to allow use of Turkish bases in support of US operations against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Turkey would also be vital to any eventual military operation against Iran. President Trump may even be inclined to extradite Gulen, though doing so depends on judicial proceedings that have barely begun.

Illiberal democracy has had another win, even if the margin was narrow. Chalk up approval of the referendum with Brexit, the election of Trump, and budding autocrats in Hungary, Poland and elsewhere. The advocates of liberal democracy are going to have to up their game if they are going to stem the illiberal tide, which has lost lately only in the Netherlands. Next stop: first round of the French presidential election, April 23.

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Peace picks April 17-21

ISIS, Russia, and China: Can America Win at Three-Front Information War? | Tuesday, April 18 | 11:45-1:30 | Hudson Institute |Register Here

The Hudson Institute is hosting a roundtable discussion that will focus on the whole range of approaches, from US international media to public diplomacy to strategic communications to “grey” and “black” psy-ops, with Jeffrey Gedmin, senior fellow at Atlantic Council and former president and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Martha Bayles, visiting fellow at Hudson Institute, and Eric Brown, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute.

As the information age becomes the disinformation age, America faces three distinct adversaries, each with its own expertise in marrying cutting-edge technology with age-old methods of manipulation and deception. What are the differences between radical jihadist, Russian, and Chinese propaganda? How is America responding? How should it respond?

Contentious Cultural Politics in the Middle East and North Africa| Tuesday, April 18 |12-1:30 | Elliott School | Register Here

Join the Elliot School’s Project on Middle East Political Science for a conversation on current issues in the Middle East and North Africa. The expert panel features Laryssa Chomiak, Centre d’Etudes Maghrébines à Tunis; Lisel Hintz, Barnard College; Jillian Schwedler, Hunter College CUNY; and Lisa Wedeen, University of Chicago

Turkey’s New ‘Sultan’: Prospects for US and Regional Policy | Tuesday, April 18 |12:30| WINEP |Register Here |

It seems inevitable that Turkey will play a role in navigating many of the crises currently challenging U.S. interests, including the outcome of the Syria war and the future of Russian involvement in the Middle East. And at Turkey’s helm amid this storm is the populist president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who continues to consolidate his hold on domestic politics while using military and diplomatic means to solidify Ankara as a regional power — trends that could accelerate after the country’s landmark April 16 constitutional referendum.

In his latest book The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey, Dr. Soner Cagaptay assesses how the longtime leader has cemented his rule over the years — and at what cost to his country’s stability and democratic future. To discuss these ambitions and how they might affect the Trump administration’s regional calculus, The Washington Institute is pleased to host a Policy Forum with the author, who will be joined by experts Amberin Zaman and Gonul Tol.

2017 Global Development Forum | Wed April 19|8:30-2:30| CSIS | Register Here

Please join the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) for the third annual Global Development Forum (GDF) on April 19. The GDF will feature over 40 speakers, including key stakeholders from U.S. government agencies, leading multilateral and non-governmental organizations, foreign governments, and the private sector.

The 2017 Global Development Forum seeks to examine the role and purpose of official development assistance against a backdrop of rising incomes, economic growth, youth unemployment, and other continued complex challenges in many parts of the world. To address these challenges, the next U.S. administration will need to apply new approaches and remain highly flexible in a rapidly changing development landscape. In particular, this conference will explore ways in which the next few years will shape the role of the United States in international development, and how the United States can work with official donors and key partners, including the private sector, civil society, and multilateral institutions.

The Difficult Road Ahead: Stabilizing Iraq and the Gulf Region | Wednesday, April 19 | 9:00-10:30 | Stimson Center | Register Here

While U.S. and Iraqi forces are making clear progress in the fight against ISIS, the security situation in Iraq and the Gulf region remains tenuous. ISIS was able to grow and develop largely due to the difficulties the government faced in controlling its vast territory and establishing inclusive governance to effectively integrate Iraq’s diverse constituencies. In the context of the ongoing instability in Iraq, Iran has increased its involvement in the region’s conflicts and has been able to assert a great deal of influence over Iraqi politics.

Bringing security to Iraq is essential, and the impact of U.S. intervention continues to be felt regionally and globally. Iran, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the U.S. all have an interest in a stable, peaceful Iraq. However, even as ISIS is defeated in Iraq, the question remains whether the U.S. or the Iraqi government are prepared to “win the peace” in the long-term. This on-the-record discussion hosted by the Stimson Center and TRENDS Research & Advisory will feature Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Fareed Yasseen and an expert panel examining the question of what the U.S. and its regional partners can do to support Iraq in a way that will help ensure durable peace and stability.

While U.S. and Iraqi forces are making clear progress in the fight against ISIS, the security situation in Iraq and the Gulf region remains tenuous. ISIS was able to grow and develop largely due to the difficulties the government faced in controlling its vast territory and establishing inclusive governance to effectively integrate Iraq’s diverse constituencies. In the context of the ongoing instability in Iraq, Iran has increased its involvement in the region’s conflicts and has been able to assert a great deal of influence over Iraqi politics.

Vision 2030: One Year into Saudi Arabia’s Economic Reforms | Thursday, April 20|3:00-4:30 | CSIS | Register Here |

Join the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in a conversation with H.E. Dr. Majed Bin Abdullah al-Qasabi, the minister of commerce and investment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who also serves on the Kingdom’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs, chaired by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Previously, Dr. al-Qasabi served as minister of social affairs and was an adviser to then-Crown Prince Salman’s Court, with the rank of minister. He was also secretary general of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and director general of the Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Charity Foundation. Dr. al-Qasabi holds a Ph.D. in engineering management from the University of Missouri, and two M.A.s and a B.A. in civil engineering from University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Portland, respectively.

Energy Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Middle East | Wednesday, April 19 | 9:00 AM | Atlantic Council | Register Here

Please join the Atlantic Council on Wednesday, April 19 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for a discussion about how energy innovation and entrepreneurship in the government and private sector are reshaping the Middle East and creating economic opportunities in the region. Joining us are Julia Nesheiwat, presidential deputy envoy for hostage affairs at the US Department of State; HE Majid Al-Suwaid, consul general of the United Arab Emirates in New York; and Salah Tabbara, general manager of ALBina Industrial Construction Company.

Across the Middle East, countries are pursuing energy innovation. Last year, Saudi Arabia announced its “Vision 2030” goals, by which the country aims to transform the economy and reduce its dependency on oil. Turkey plans to prioritize research and development (R&D) in the energy sector in the coming years, while Egypt’s Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy has set a goal of renewables providing 20 percent of all power used domestically by 2022. In the United Arab Emirates, Masdar is committed to the mission of renewable energy by investing in education and R&D.

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