Tag: Morocco

How low can he go?

Much lower I fear. While he has given a couple of half-sane, scripted speeches prepared with Chief of Staff Kelly’s approval, President Trump is still doing what he can to offend as soon as he is off the Teleprompter. Those who don’t approve of him are at this point about 60% of Americans and far higher percentages in most other countries. Russia and Israel are the exceptions. He is still launching ferocious attacks on the American media, retweeting anti-Semitic and racist tweeps, and slamming both Senate supporters and antagonists.

With August waning and an early Labor Day (September 4) looming in the US, prospects are for a difficult fall. The first item of business in the US Congress will be raising the debt ceiling and passing some sort of budget resolution. Trump has made that more difficult by insisting that the budget include money for the wall on the border he has promised the Mexicans would pay for. That’s a non-starter for the Democrats, who have some say in the Senate because 60 votes are needed on the budget issues. Tax reform, which so far means a big tax cut to businesses like Trump’s own, will have to wait. Never mind the promised trillion-dollar infrastructure program.

Trump wants the budget resolved by eliminating the filibuster and allowing bills to pass in the Senate with a simple majority. That is a proposition even more controversial than the wall, so he is publicly hounding Senate Majority leader McConnell into changing Senate rules to allow it. That’s not a way to make friends in the Senate, but so long as the Republicans control the House Trump can be sure it won’t impeach him (which has to precede sending him to the Senate for trial).

While America tries to sort out its internal political mess, the rest of the world is trying to make do without much clarity from Washington. In Asia, China is seizing the initiative on trade and finance, pushing its “belt and road” projects all the way to the Middle East and Africa. North Korea hasn’t tested a missile lately, and there seem to be talks about talks going on behind the scenes with the US, but the prospects of denuclearizing Pyongyang have dropped to zero.

In the Middle East, Syria’s President Assad is still advancing, as are the US-supported, Kurdish-led forces trying to take Raqqa from the Islamic State. The Syrian opposition is being pressed by the UN and everyone else to drop its demand that Assad step aside. Civilian casualties from American and other air attacks in the battle for Raqqa are mounting.

Defense Secretary Mattis is promising Turkey the US will help fight against Kurdish rebels inside Turkey and in Iraq, even as it supports their affiliates in Syria. That’s going to be a hard circle to square. Iraq is also making progress against the Islamic State, but Baghdad still hasn’t convinced its own Kurdistan to call off its independence referendum, scheduled for September 25 but increasingly in doubt.

Jared Kushner is plugging away at the Israel/Palestine issues, in visits to Ramallah, Cairo and Jerusalem. No one is expecting much to come of his efforts. The State Department has refused to reiterate US commitment to a two-state solution, which (as Matt Duss pointed out on Twitter) represents the single largest concession the Palestinians have made to date. Not that anyone had much doubt about which side the Trump Administration was on. We’ll presumably now be treated to the spectacle of Israel and the US proposing various confidence-building measures meant to make life and the economy more palatable for the occupied territories on the West Bank, while Jewish settlements expand and kill off any remaining hope for a two-state solution.

This is enabled in part by some Arab states coming to the conclusion that they care more about countering Iran than supporting the Palestinians. The Saudis and Emiratis seem prepared to collaborate with Israel against Iran, even if Qatar, Iraq, and Oman are headed in the opposite direction. Yemen no longer counts, since it is being obliterated in the Gulf-led war against the Houthi rebellion. Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco are likewise out of the game for now. Egypt and Jordan have made their peace with Israel and have no choice but to keep it.

Trump is increasingly marginalized from all these developments. Weakness at home leads to weakness abroad. His only major push on foreign policy lately has been the renewal and expansion of the American military push in Afghanistan. This allegedly new strategy closely resembles his predecessor’s effort to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Like Obama, Trump doesn’t want to be blamed for losing Afghanistan, even if it proves impossible to keep his promise to win there.

We can still sink lower: North Korea could test another missile, the Palestinians could tell Kushner where to go, Trump could renounce the Iran nuclear deal, and the country’s long recovery from the financial crisis of 2007/8 could end. But most of all: we could continue to fail to deal with a president who is unqualified, mean-spirited, incompetent, and divisive. Let’s hope Special Counsel Mueller comes up with something compelling, sooner rather than later.


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Peace picks, November 14 – 18

  1. For 130 Million People, A Need for Longer-Term Relief | Monday, October 14th | 9.30am – 11am | US Institute of Peace | click HERE to register

Many violent conflicts have become chronic. In order to build sustainable peace, humanitarian relief must also contribute to or complement long-term development goals.  While discussions at the World Humanitarian Summit raised meaningful questions about how humanitarian and development sectors are responding to protracted conflict, institutions are still trying to improve the response even as the needs grow more urgent.

This Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum event will look at how the short-term needs of vulnerable communities, particularly the victims of war, can be met in ways that contribute to longer-term peacebuilding, development and rebuilding.

Participants Include:

Carla Koppell – Vice President, Center for Applied Conflict Transformation, U.S. Institute of Peace

Matt McGuire – U.S. Executive Director, World Bank

Michael Talhami – Senior Water and Shelter (WATHAB) advisor, International Committee of the Red Cross (Jordan)

Colin Bruce – Director, Africa Regional Integration, World Bank

Jeff Helsing – Associate Vice President, Center for Applied Conflict Transformation, U. S. Institute of Peace

  1. Governing Uncertainty: Governance in Tunisia Following Authoritarian Breakdown| Monday, November 14th | 12.30pm – 2pm | Johns Hopkins SAIS | click HERE to register

The immediate period between the ousting of authoritarian president Ben Ali and the first post-uprising elections in Tunisia in 2011 raises many questions. Who was really calling the shots, and what was the impact of their decisions? This presentation will address some of these questions based on research carried out in Tunisia between 2013-2015.

The discussion will be given by Ms. Sabina Henneberg, PhD candidate at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Sabina’s doctoral dissertation is on the current political transformations in North Africa. She is the author of several articles and papers on Tunisia.

  1. Troubling the Political: Women in the Jordanian Day-Waged Labor Movement | Monday, November 14th | 12.30pm – 2pm | Georgetown University | click HERE to register

The Jordanian Day-Waged Labor Movement (DWLM) played a central role in the Jordanian Popular Movement (al-Hirak al-Sha’bi al-Urduni), commonly referred to as the Hirak, from 2011 to the end of 2012. The large number of women who were active and took on leading roles in the DWLM contrasts with the absence women’s organizations in other aspects of the Hirak. Drawing on extensive research in Jordan, Professor Sara Ababneh argues that the DWLM was able to attract so many women because it developed a discourse and flexible structure that understood women to be embedded within communities and prioritized their economic needs. By studying this discourse and structure, it is possible to learn important lessons about gender inclusive political and institutional reform.

Dr. Sara Ababneh is an Assistant Professor for the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. She is currently a visiting fellow at Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University.

  1. A Conversation With UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson | Monday, November 14th | 5pm – 6pm | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | click HERE to register

Join the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for a conversation with UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson on the future of the United Nations and multilateralism in a changing global landscape. As he prepares to step down from a forty year long career in diplomacy and the UN, DSG Eliasson will reflect on the challenges facing the international community and the opportunities for global cooperation. Carnegie President William J. Burns will introduce and moderate the conversation.

  1. What Does the World Expect of President-elect Donald Trump? | Tuesday, November 15th | 11am – 12.30pm | Wilson Center | click HERE to register

The next U.S. Administration faces a complicated, volatile world. Join us for spirited conversation about the foreign policy expectations and challenges confronting the next President of the United States with distinguished Wilson Center experts on Russia, China, the Middle East, Latin America and more.

 Participants include:

Jane Harman – Director, President and CEO, Wilson Center

Cynthia J. Arnson – Director, Latin American Program

Robert S. Litwak – Vice President for Scholars and Academic Relations and Director, International Security Studies

Aaron David Miller – Vice President for New Initiatives and Distinguished Scholar

Matthew Rojansky – Director, Kennan Institute

Duncan Wood – Director, Mexico Institute

  1. The Battle for Pakistan: The Fight Against Terrorism and Militancy | Tuesday, November 15th | 11.30am | Atlantic Council | click HERE to register

Please join the Atlantic Council for an assessment of Pakistan’s National Action Plan by a Distinguished Fellow of the South Asia Center, Mr. Shuja Nawaz. Mr. Nawaz’s assessment is based on a nine-month study for the United States Institute of Peace. A degree of cautious optimism about Pakistan’s future is warranted, but greater efforts are needed to fundamentally change the landscape that nurtures terrorism and militancy in Pakistan today. In this discussion, Mr. Nawaz will suggest ways in which the National Action Plan can be improved and reviewed by the government and parliament of Pakistan such as setting clear benchmarks and improving coordination among the provinces. Dr. Moeed Yusuf, Associate Vice President of the Asia Center at the United States Institute of Peace; and Dr. Thomas F. Lynch III, Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute of National Strategic Studies at National Defense University, will discuss the current state of Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism and militancy. The event will be moderated by Dr. Bharath Gopalaswamy, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. The event is co-hosted with the United States Institute of Peace.

A conversation with:

Mr. Shuja NawazDistinguished Fellow, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council

Dr. Moeed YusufAssociate Vice President of Asia Center, United States Institute of Peace

Dr. Thomas F. Lynch IIIDistinguished Research Fellow, Institute of National Strategic Studies, National Defense University

  1. 70th Annual Middle East Institute Conference | Wednesday, November 16th | 9am – 5pm| Middle East Institute | click HERE to register

Please join MEI as we celebrate 70 years of history at our 70th Annual Conference which will convene prominent Middle Eastern and American experts and foreign policy practitioners for four panel conversations covering the prevailing challenges facing the new U.S. administration as it sets its Middle East agenda.

  1. Morocco’s Fight With Violent Extremism | Wednesday, November 16th | 12pm – 1.20pm| Hudson Institute | click HERE to register

The Kingdom of Morocco is undertaking a comprehensive effort to tackle violent Islamism by combining traditional security measures with development initiatives, governance reform, and education. One of the leaders in this fight is Dr. Ahmed Abbadi, the president of the League of Mohammedan Scholars. The League is a body of religious scholars charged by King Mohammed VI with countering and dismantling the ideology of Islamic State and other radical movements. On November 16, Dr. Abbadi will speak at Hudson Institute about Morocco’s experiences in the fight against Islamist extremism, including the importance of ideology, youth outreach, and education.

  1. A Debate on Pakistan: What Future Role for America? | Wednesday, November 16th | 1.30pm – 3pm| United States Institute of Peace | click HERE to register

The United States’ assistance has helped Pakistan address critical domestic challenges, notably in energy, infrastructure, and counter-terrorism. Still some scholars argue this aid has been counterproductive. U.S. legislators effectively blocked a loan to help Pakistan buy F-16 fighter jets this year, saying Pakistani authorities are not doing enough to curtail Afghan insurgents from using Pakistan as a safe haven.

As relations have deteriorated, some scholars increasingly have raised questions on the utility and viability of assistance to Pakistan. The November 16 USIP debate will examine that question, as well as challenges for the next U.S. president in addressing the countries’ relationship, and Pakistan’s future as a U.S. partner. Speakers will include longtime South Asia scholar and policy analyst Lisa Curtis; former Pakistani ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani; former Pakistan central bank governor Ishrat Husain; and Ambassador Robin Raphel, who served as the United States’ first assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia and U.S. Coordinator for Non-Military Assistance to Pakistan.

  1. The United States, the Next President, and the Middle East: A View From Israel | Wednesday, November 16th | 4pm – 5pm| Wilson Center | click HERE to register

Please join us as former Deputy Minister of Defense Ephraim Sneh shares his perspective on a range of issues related to Israel’s national security, the civil war in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the nuclear agreement with Iran. As a long-time observer and participant in the U.S.-Israeli relationship, Mr. Sneh will also offer his analysis of the U.S. Presidential elections and the challenges that will face the new administration.

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The trouble still brewing

Yesterday’s discussion at SAIS of Learning to Live with Cheaper Oil : Policy Adjustment in MENA and CCA Oil-Exporting Countries raised serious issues. Oil prices are now expected to remain “lower longer,” as IMF deputy managing director Min Zhu put it. While contributing to global growth, the price decline is posing serious economic and governance challenges to the rentier states of the region and their relatively poor dependent cousins.

The 2014 oil price decline resulted from three main factors: increased production of tight oil and gas, slackening demand (especially due to economic slowdown in China and Russia) and increased efficiency. While prices have risen sharply from their lows early this year, the IMF expects them to remain well below their previous peak, with only gradual increases over the next five years or so to around $75 per barrel.

Some efficiency gains have already been erased, as oil prices have risen from their lows at the sharpest rate ever, even if they are still far off their peak. The shale revolution is not going away, even if many less productive wells have been shut. But larger ones are still producing. Much of the shut-in capacity will return as prices rise again.

This puts the oil producers in a difficult and long-lasting bind. The immediate impact was on their foreign exchange rate reserves, which are down dramatically. Growth is slowing.  Budgets are being cut. The oil producers cannot continue to subsidize food and energy prices as well as avoid taxing their populations.

Sharply cutting their budgets however will not be a sufficient policy response, especially as it will have growth-reducing effects like limiting bank credit. The oil producers will need to undertake structural reforms to generate private sector growth that has heretofore been lacking. This is basically a good thing. Low oil prices will force producers to do what they’ve known for a long time they should have been doing, including cutting government jobs, reorienting it towards revenue collection rather than distribution and privatizing bloated state-owned enterprises.

But it is still difficult to picture how the oil producers will generate sufficient jobs to meet the needs of their bulging youth populations. If they somehow manage it, the social contract that has enabled the often non-democratic regimes to claim legitimacy will need revision, with citizens receiving less and asked to provide much more. Governing institutions will be under enormous strain as they try t o learn to collect taxes even as they reduce public services. Legitimacy will be in question. This is a recipe for trouble.

The fiscal squeeze will affect not only the oil producers themselves but also the states of the region to which they provide support, either in the form of aid or remittances. The eventual political consequences could be dramatic not only for the Gulf but also for Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan and others. We have not seen the end of consequences “longer lower” will generate.

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North Africa’s stumbling transitions

On Wednesday, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) launched North Africa in Transition: The Struggle for Democracies and Institutions. The panel discussion included editor Ben Fishman, Haim Malka, contributing author and Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and John Desrocher, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Egypt and Maghreb Affairs. Mark Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of IISS, moderated.

Fishman kicked off by explaining the premise of North Africa in Transition. He aimed to show the differences between the states of the Maghreb, including Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya, after the 2011 uprisings. Institution building should be the key lesson learned from the Arab Spring. The US should devote more time to North Africa. Fishman focused in particular on Libya, where he thought the US should be more assertive, interacting with the Libyan government, coordinating with the international community, and empowering local governments in Libya by implementing decentralization.

Malka urged more investment in the Maghreb, which requires greater understanding of regional politics, economics, and society. Malka predicts 2016 will be a turbulent year for the region. He explained four factors that brought him to this conclusion:

  1. The continued appeal of radical groups. Radical ideology entices youth as it presents solutions to them that they have never been offered before. The counterterrorism response has contributed to increased radicalization. With intelligence communities remaining uncoordinated and erratic arrests, radicalization has spread even more throughout the region.
  2. Failure to address economic and social grievances. Reforms of privatization, banking laws, etc., are too slow and prolonging the challenges countries face.
  3. The four main states are shaky. They lack strong institutions.
  4. The 2011 uprisings did not satisfactorily change the status quo for most people. For instance, in Morocco the monarch contributed to stabilizing the country by instituting constitutional reforms, but failed to grapple with socio-economic issues. Injustice, favoritism, and corruption endure.

Desrocher believes the US has to examine each country’s case separately and carefully. Morocco has a high rate of youth unemployment, relies mainly on Europe for trade, and worries about extremism. Tunisia has its internal economic challenges and unmet expectations of the Arab Spring. Washington wants to build partnerships with the Maghreb by assisting with security issues and boosting economies.

As its instability makes it difficult for the other regional countries to accomplish their goals, Desrocher identified the Libya as key to stability in the Maghreb, . He nevertheless has a positive outlook and believes much has been accomplished in the past four months. He thinks that there are fewer divisions among the international and regional partners on how to address the problems in Libya.

Malka also expressed an overall positive sentiment. Popular pressure on governments now carries significant weight. People in the Maghreb are willing to express their grievances in a public manner and to the governing body. Malka’s advice regarding US policy in the Maghreb is to take the long-term approach and not to overact to any small sign of instability. Change in the region will ultimately take time and much effort.

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Peace picks January 18-22

  1. Assessing the outcomes and implications of Taiwan’s January 2016 elections | Tuesday, January 19th | 10:30-12:00 | Brookings | REGISTER TO ATTEND | With Tsai Ing-wen, leader and presidential candidate for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), ahead in the polls against the Kuomintang (KMT) party candidate Eric Chu and People First Party (PFP) candidate James Soong, it appears Taiwan voters will elect a new ruling party on January 16. The Legislative Yuan elections are still up for grabs, and will dictate the degree of initiative a Tsai administration will have. Across the Taiwan Strait, Beijing has expressed its concerns, most notably through the November 2015 meeting between Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou, on how it feels a DPP-led government should approach cross-Strait relations. The four-month transition period leading up to the May 20 inauguration will be a critical time for the new government to lay out its policy agenda and work to establish a platform for cross-Strait relations. On January 19, the Center for East Asia Policy Studies (CEAP) at Brookings and the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host Joseph Wu, Secretary General of the Democratic Progressive Party, for a keynote address on Taiwan’s election outcomes and implications going forward. Richard Bush, Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies and director of CEAP at Brookings, will provide an introduction, and Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser and director of the China Power Project at CSIS, will moderate a discussion after the address. Following the discussion, Wu will take audience questions. To register for this event, please email ChinaPower@csis.org.
  2. Asia-Pacific Rebalance 2025: Capabilities, Presence and Partnerships | Wednesday, January 20th | 9:00-11:00 | Center for Strategic & International Studies | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Center for Strategic and International Studies was tasked by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 with conducting an independent assessment of the Asia-Pacific rebalance first announced by President Obama in 2011. Four years into the rebalance the Department of Defense should receive high marks for sustained attention to the Asia-Pacific, but challenges in the region are increasing. The United States will need to continue and in some cases accelerate investments in regional relationships, posture, operational concepts, and capabilities if it is to achieve the strategic goals of the rebalance. Please join us as we present the findings of this important report and host a discussion of the importance of this vital region to U.S. national security in particular and global peace and prosperity more broadly. This panel discussion features Mark F. Cancian, Senior Adviser of the International Security Program at CSIS, Michael J. Green, Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair at CSIS, Dr. Kathleen H. Hicks, Director of the CSIS International Security Program, and Andrew Shearer, former Australian National Security Adviser. Dr. John J. Hamre, CSIS CEO, will make the introductory remarks. Zack Cooper, Fellow and Japan Chair at CSIS, and John Schaus, CSIS Fellow, will present their report findings.
  3. North Africa in Transition: The Struggle for Democracies and Institutions | Wednesday, January 20th | 2:00-3:00 | International Institute for Strategic Studies | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The 2011 Arab uprisings began in North Africa and toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Libya, but the forces that wreaked this profound change also touched their fellow Maghreb states of Algeria and Morocco. North Africa in Transition, the latest IISS Adelphi book, examines how the politics, security and economies – which were largely stable for decades prior to 2011 – have changed in the four states. It asks why the popular revolutions in Tunisia and Libya did not spread to Algeria and Morocco; how the revolutionary states have fared since 2011; why Libya descended into a deadly civil war while the others did not; and whether the sitting governments in Algeria and Morocco have applied sustainable strategies to address the new political climate.Please join the IISS-US for a policy discussion and Q&A session about North Africa and its importance to Western interests, chaired by Executive Director Mark Fitzpatrick. This event is on the record and will be webcast live on the IISS website. Copies of the book are available for sale on our website or after the event. Speakers include the following: Ben Fishman served for four years on the US National Security Council, including as Director for North Africa and Jordan from 2012 to 2013. Haim Malka is a senior fellow and deputy director of the Middle East Program at CSIS, where he oversees the program’s work on the Maghreb. John Desrocher is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Egypt and Maghreb Affairs in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the Department of State. Mark Fitzpatrick is the Executive Director of the IISS-US and the Director of the IISS Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Policy Programme.
  4. Congressman Hun Many: The Future of U.S.-Cambodia Relations | Wednesday, January 20th | 2:30-4:00 | U.S.-Korea Institute and John Hopkins SAIS | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The U.S.-Korea Institute and the Southeast Asia Studies program at Johns Hopkins SAIS present a discussion with Cambodian Congressman Hun Many. The youngest parliamentarian in the National Assembly of Cambodia, and son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, Congressman Hun Many will be sharing his insights on Cambodia’s foreign policies and relations with the U.S., Korea, China and other regional players. Karl Jackson, professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS, will moderate the discussion.
  5. Top Priorities for Africa in 2016 | Wednesday, January 20th | 3:00-4:30 | Brookings | REGISTER TO ATTEND | 2016 will be a crucial year for African countries as they seek to respond to shifting dynamics in the global economy. Mitigating the adverse effects of China’s economic slowdown, tumbling commodity prices, and the U.S. interest rate rise in 2015 on the region will demand serious policy reform and investment in African economies—so will maintaining the continent’s trade competitiveness, given the rise of mega-regional trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Domestic issues including stagnating industrialization and job creation, rapid urbanization, and governance and security threats could undermine the continent’s upward-trending development trajectory; however, if managed prudently with timely action from African policymakers in 2016, the continent could equally recover from external and internal shocks, accelerate regional growth, and further expand the benefits of growth to the more than one billion people living throughout Africa. On January 20, the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings will host a panel of leading Africa experts on the most pressing challenges facing the continent in 2016. The panel will be moderated by Mark Goldberg, editor of U.N. Dispatch, and will include Ambassador Hassana Alidou of Niger, as well as Brookings experts Joshua Meltzer, Witney Schneidman, Eyerusalem Siba, and Amadou Sy who will offer their expertise on these important issues and provide recommendations to national governments, regional organizations, multilateral institutions and civil society on how to contend with these priorities in the year ahead. The event follows the release of the new Foresight Africa report, a collection of issue briefs, viewpoints, and infographics on the major issues for Africa in 2016. Join the conversation on Twitter using #ForesightAfrica.
  6. The ISIS Threat to U.S. National Security: Policy Choices | Thursday, January 21st | 9:00-11:30 | Middle East Policy Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Middle East Policy Council invites you and your colleagues to our 83rd Capitol Hill Conference. Live streaming of this event will begin at approximately 9:00am Thursday, January 21st and conclude at 11:30. A questions and answers session will be held at the end of the proceedings. Speakers include William F. Wechsler, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Mark Katz, professor at George Mason University, Charles Lister, Resident Fellow at the Middle East Institute, and Audrey Kurth Cronin, Director of the International Security Program at George Mason University. Richard Schmierer, former ambassador to Oman, will moderate the discussion.
  7. Turkey in 2016: Domestic Politics, EU Relations and Beyond | Thursday, January 21st | 3:00-4:00 | Wilson Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Since the November 2015 elections in Turkey, questions have arisen surrounding the future of domestic politics and the country’s relationships with the West. The government has had difficulties managing burgeoning and increasingly more complex political, security and economic challenges. This panel will look at the year ahead and discuss these issues with a wider perspective on domestic politics, foreign policy and relations with the European Union. How will a new AK Party government confront its domestic and foreign policy problems – ranging from the Kurdish question to Syria and Russia – and pursue relations with the EU and the West in general? What is the current EU perspective on relations with Turkey? What other major issues are at stake? Henri Barkey, Director of the Wilson will moderate this talk. Bulent Aras, Senior Fellow at the Istanbul Policy Center, Michelle Egan, professor at American University, Fuat Keyman, Director of the Istanbul Policy Center, and Amberin Zaman, columnist at Al Monitor are the speakers for this event.
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Peace picks April 6 – 10

  1. The Kurds: Strategic Partners in the Fight Against ISIS? | Monday April 6 | 9:00 – 11:00 | Bipartisan Policy Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Although the terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State (or ISIS), has been the focus of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Syria, this is far from a monolithic war. Instead it is a patchwork of overlapping conflicts between myriad groups in which today’s tactical allies might be tomorrow’s enemies. The challenge for U.S. policymakers now is finding reliable partners amid this jumble of factions. In the long run, however, it will be how to help the region recover from both the humanitarian and political crises created by these internecine conflicts. In both these aspects, the region’s Kurds are emerging as important players. Kurdish groups, from the peshmerga of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, and even Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party, have been on the front lines in the fight against ISIS. Kurds are also playing an important role in sheltering refugees and protecting other minorities in the region. To learn more about the challenges facing the region, the role of the Kurds, and the implications for U.S. policy, BPC invites to remarks and a discussion with Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG representative to the United States, followed by an expert panel. The panel includes John Hannah, Former Assistant for National Security Affairs to the Vice President and Member, BPC Turkey Initiative, Kenneth Pollack, Former Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs and Director for Persian Gulf Affairs, National Security Council, General (Ret.) Charles Wald, Former Deputy Commander, United States European Command and Vice Chairman Senior Advisor, Deloitte Services LP.
  2. Tracking Arms In Conflict – Lessons From Syria And Iraq | Tuesday April 7 | 11:00 – 12:00 | The Stimson Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Identifying and tracking weapons being used in armed conflicts is a dangerous but vital task. At times this is done by investigators on the ground, but often relies on footage and other evidence viewed from afar. On April 7, experts will discuss how they are tracking weapons used in Syria and Iraq, and share some of their recent findings. Jonah Leff, Director of Operations, Conflict Armament Research, will report on findings based on documentation of nearly 40,000 weapons and ammunition as part of field investigations and the new iTrace system. He’ll discuss the prevalence of U.S. weapons found among Islamic State fighters; findings of newly manufactured Russian, Iranian, and Sudanese ammunition; evidence of supply to Syrian rebels from Saudi Arabia; and large scale industrial production and use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Syria and Iraq. Matt Schroeder, Senior Researcher, Small Arms Survey, will share examples of using YouTube and other footage to track the increasing complexity of use of MANPADS (aka shoulder-fired missiles) by fighters in the Middle East. The discussion will be moderated by Rachel Stohl, Senior Associate, Managing Across Boundaries, Stimson Center.
  3. Ambassador Lukman Faily on the Future of Iraq | Tuesday April 7 | 3:00 – 4:30 | Johns Hopkins SAIS | REGISTER TO ATTEND | As Iraq tries to re-take territory from ISIS, what are the challenges it faces? How are efforts to re-integrate Sunni fighting forces proceeding, and what steps have been taken toward a more inclusive government? Baghdad’s relations with Iraqi Kurdistan are still fraught. Oil prices are dramatically lower than once expected. The country’s most important friends – the United States and Iran – are trying to reach a nuclear deal even as they support opposing forces in Syria and Yemen. How will lraq manage in this turbulent and challenging environment? The Middle East Institute (MEI) and the Conflict Management Program at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) are pleased to host the Ambassador of Iraq, His Excellency Lukman Faily, and Abbas Kadhim, Senor Foreign Policy Fellow, SAIS, in a discussion about Iraq and its future. The discussion will be moderated by Daniel Serwer, Senior Research Professor of Conflict Management, SAIS and Scholar, Middle East Institute.
  4. Morocco’s Contribution to Countering Violent Extremism in Africa and the Middle East | Wednesday April 8 | 10:00 – 11:30 | Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The recent terrorist attack on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis underscores the growing danger extremist ideologies and violence pose to the North African region and beyond. Countries still unsettled by the tumult of the Arab Spring are now confronting the radicalizing influence of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and other extremist organizations as thousands of North Africans flock to join the militants. The Kingdom of Morocco has not been spared the challenge of radicalization as one thousand or more of its citizens have joined terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria in recent years, but the innovative counter-radicalization program it launched in following terrorist attacks in the early 2000s and which it continues to expand, offers hope to the entire region. H.E. Salaheddine Mezouar, Moroccan Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation,  will provide insights into the political context that led to Morocco’s creation and continuing commitment to its program of combatting violent extremism at home and abroad. The Foreign Minister’s remarks will be followed by a panel discussion on the religious approach to deradicalization featuring Ahmed Abbadi, Secretary-General, Rabita Muhammadia of ‘Ulamas, Geneive Abdo, Fellow, Middle East Program, Stimson Center and Stephen Grand, Executive Director, Middle East Strategy Task Force, Atlantic Council. The panel will be moderated by Peter Pham, Director, Africa Center, Atlantic Council.
  5. Cyber Risk Wednesday: The future of Iranian cyber threat | Wednesday April 8 | 4:00 – 5:30 | Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Few other events have so far dominated 2015 as the P5+1 negotiations to limit Iranian nuclear capabilities. Against the backdrop of the negotiations, it is likely that Iran, Israel, and the United States are gathering their strength for a renewal of cyber conflict of the past several years. The confrontations include attacks both from Iran, such as disruption of the US banking sector and against Gulf energy companies, and against Iran, such as Stuxnet and the Wiper worm. Should the talks fail, what are the chances of an escalating cyber conflict? The moderated panel discussion will analyze the latest developments in Iranian cyber capabilities and discuss the chances of larger cyber conflict. The panel will feature Neal Pollard, Director, Forensics Technology Practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers, General James L. Jones, Jr., USMC (Ret.), Founder, Jones Group International, David Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent, New York Times, Barbara Slavin, Nonresident Senior Fellow, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council and Andretta Towner, Senior Intelligence Analyst, CrowdStrike. The discussion will be moderated by Paul Kurtz, CEO, TruSTAR Technology.
  6. The Search for International Consensus on Syria and Beyond | Thursday April 9 | 10:00 – 12:00 | Brookings Institution | REGISTER TO ATTEND | In 2013, the international community came together to protect the Syrian population by committing to the elimination of Syria’s declared stockpile of chemical weapons, a feat achieved the following year. Together, the United Nations and the Nobel Prize-winning Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are credited with achieving one of the few breakthroughs in containing the ongoing crisis in Syria. What lessons can be learned for application in other conflict areas, especially as OPCW continues its work destroying chemical weapons facilities in Syria this year? On April 9, the Foreign Policy program at Brookings and The Hague Institute for Global Justice will host OPCW Director General Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü for a discussion about the process of dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and implications for peace, security, and accountability. Brookings Executive Vice President Martin Indyk will introduce Ambassador Üzümcü.  Deputy Mayor of The Hague Ingrid van Engelshoven will provide brief opening remarks, and Abiodun Williams, president of The Hague Institute for Global Justice, will moderate the discussion. Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute Robert S. Ford (U.S. ambassador to Syria, 2010-2014) and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mallory Stewart will join the discussion with Ambassador Üzümcü, following his keynote address. After the program, the speakers will take audience questions.
  7. Burma’s Peace Potential: Portraits of Diversity | Thursday April 9 | 2:00 – 3:30 | USIP | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Every day in Burma, monks, doctors, teachers, even a popular reggae singer from Yangon, set examples of unity and cooperation, in contrast to headlines about violence between Buddhists and Muslims. U.S. Institute of Peace, in partnership with the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, invites to a screening of a film series highlighting such stories, Portraits of Diversity, followed by a discussion of how these examples can inform support for the country’s transition. The question-and-answer session following the screening will feature Venerable Tayzar Dipati, a monk portrayed in the film whose chief role is to care for patients with HIV and to run the monastery of young monks. He will be joined by Dr. Emma Leslie, Executive Director of the Cambodia-based Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies who has led and supported initiatives for conflict transformation, peace and development throughout Asia since 1993. The Rev. Susan Hayward, Interim Director for Religion and Peacebuilding, USIP, will act as moderator.
  8. Israel and the EU: Perceptions in a Complex Relationship | Friday April 10 | 12:00 – 1:00 | The Middle East Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Middle East Institute is pleased to host Professor Sharon Pardo for a presentation on Israel’s vital relationship with the European Union (EU). With over half a billion people in its 28 member states, the EU is Israel’s largest trade partner. EU countries and Israel enjoy rich cultural exchanges as well as close security cooperation treating the Eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, the EU is a significant donor to the Palestinian Authority, and public sentiment in Europe regarding Israel’s settlement and occupation policies is broadly negative. Pardo and co-author Neve Gordon recently examined the complexities of the relationship in an article published by MEI in The Middle East Journal. He will discuss Israeli perceptions of the EU and paths the relationship may take in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s new term. Kate Seelye, Senior Vice President, Middle East Institute, will serve as moderator.
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