Tagged: Middle East

Debating US Military Strategy in the Persian Gulf: What is the Way Forward?

My latest article published in the academic journal RBPI (Revista Brasileira de Politica Internacional).

index

Abstract:

Should the US strategy toward the Persian Gulf be one of offshore balancing or one of deep engagement?

The debate on US grand strategy lacks solid empirical ground. I address this issue by providing a study of the US role as the Gulf’s security provider. I investigate the extent to which distinct military strategies have affected the stability of the region.

My findings show no clear correlation between increased US military presence and a reduction in either the incidence or the intensity of regional armed conflict, possibly lending credibility to the arguments of the advocates of a strategy of offshore balancing.

Open access to the full article here

Advertisements

Series: Armed Forces in the Middle East (UAE)

The United Arab Emirates ranks fourth in the list of the most powerful militaries in the Middle East. Here are some data.

$14.4 billion defense budget
65,000 active frontline personnel
545 tanks
444 aircraft

The United Arab Emirate’s Union Defense Force is headquartered in Abu Dhabi and boasts diversified military equipment from the US, Russia, UK, Ukraine, France, Italy, and Germany.

Simply put, it’s the Middle East’s rising military power. The UAE has bought new weapons systems, upgraded its existing ones, brought in American trainers and contractors, and instituted universal military service for males. It has been closely involved in the fight against ISIS, and it secretly deployed jets from Egypt to bomb Islamist militants within Libya without US support.

Megahan says that the UAE’s air force has upgraded its planes to the point where it flies some of the most advanced F-16’s on earth. It has even looked into purchasing the F-35. Emirate defense spending has increased by 85% since 2004, and it has now cracked the top 15 of global defense spenders — incredibly for a country with only 9 million citizens.

Key allies: The US and other Gulf monarchies.

Source Business Insider UK 2014

Challenging the Conventional Wisdom of Iran as a Destabilizing Force in the Middle East

In this post I invite you to read two articles on Iran’s role in the Middle East.

The first one is “Iran and the Middle East: leveraging chaos” by Karim Sadjadpour and Behnam Ben Taleblu.

The second one is “No, Iran Isn’t Destabilizing the Middle East” by Paul Pillar.

The two titles already suggest the existence of opposite positions between the authors.

Sandjapour and Taleblu offer what we could define as the “general wisdom” about Iranian foreign policy in the Middle East.

More than any other state in the Middle East, Iran has been effective at filling regional power vacuums. The four Arab countries in which Tehran currently wields most influence – Syria,Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen – are engulfed in civil strife and are ruled by weak, embattled central governments. In each of these contexts and elsewhere in the region, Tehran spreads its influence by 1) creating and cultivating non-state actors and militant groups; 2) exploiting the fears and grievances of religious minorities, namely Shiite Arabs; 3) fanning anger against America and Israel; and 4) influencing popular elections in order to ensure the victory of its allies.

They address the destabilizing role of Iran in countries like Bahrain, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen and argue that Iran’s foreign policy is generally guided by revolutionary ideology instead of the pursue of the national interest.

In the second article Pillar (in my opinion convincingly) challenges this general wisdom and offers a different analysis of the facts.

Focus instead on the image of an Iran whose current regional policy supposedly is already an assortment of destructive activities. This image has become the kind of conventional wisdom that repeatedly gets invoked (even, in this instance, by supporters of the nuclear agreement) without any felt need by those who invoke it to provide any supporting facts or analysis because it is taken for granted that everyone “knows” it to be true. The references to the image are almost always vague and general, couched in terms of Iran supposedly “destabilizing” the Middle East or seeking to “dominate” it or exercise “hegemony” over it, or that it is “on the march” to take over the region. Often there are references to “terrorism” and “subversion” without anything more specific being offered. Often the names of conflict-ridden countries in the region are recited, but again without any specifics as to who is doing what in those countries.

Pillar concludes by saying that:

The ritualistically repeated notion that Iran is wreaking instability all over the region is a badly mistaken myth.

Follow me on Twitter @eugeniolilli

The Arab Awakening and US counterterrorism in the Greater Middle East: A missed opportunity

This is my latest contribution to the peer reviewed Journal of Terrorism Research published by Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, St Andrews University, UK.

Abstract:

In 2011, the Arab Awakening offered an opportunity to the Obama administration to advance the US interest to counter terrorism in the Greater Middle East without compromising its commitment to the promotion of democracy. As of early 2015, however, with the exception of still-hopeful Tunisia, democracy has not made any significant progress in Middle Eastern countries. Additionally, old and new regional extremist groups have become increasingly active. How did the Obama administration miss the opportunity offered by the Arab Awakening? What actions could the United States take to reverse current unfavorable trends and advance US policies of counterterrorism and democratization in the region?

Key Words:

Counterterrorism; Democracy Promotion; US Foreign Policy; Arab Awakening; The Middle East; Barack Obama
Introduction
Counterterrorism has long been a core US strategic interest in the Greater Middle East. [1] Policies of counterterrorism have sometimes conflicted with US ideal interests in the region, such as the promotion of democratic values. Highly controversial US counterterrorism practices after 9/11 are a case in point. In 2011, the Arab Awakening offered an opportunity to the Barack Obama administration to advance the US interest to counter terrorism without compromising its public commitment to democracy promotion. In fact, in 2011, popular movements across the Greater Middle East demanded reforms that were in line with US ideals and values. Meanwhile, the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of the protests seemed to have fatally discredited the extremists’ argument that only violence could achieve meaningful change in the region. As of early 2015, however, with the exception of still-hopeful Tunisia, democracy has not made any significant progress in Middle Eastern countries. Additionally, old and new regional extremist groups have become increasingly active. This article analyzes how the Obama administration missed the opportunity offered by the Arab Awakening, and it suggests some actions that the United States could take to reverse current unfavorable trends and advance US policies of counterterrorism and democratization in the Greater Middle East.
To read the full article click here.
Follow me on Twitter @EugenioLilli

Mapping the Extremist Threat in the Greater Middle East and Africa

In this post, I collected maps from reports produced by the US Congressional Research Service to provide a picture of the major current extremist threats in the regions of the Greater Middle East and Africa.

The first map refers to the area of the Levant and to the activity of groups such as the Nusra Front and the Islamic State. (click on the map to enlarge)

Levant

The second map illustrates the situation in the Horn of Africa and the operations of Al Qaeda affiliates there.

Horn of Africa

 

The third map is about the areas of North and West Africa and the activity of local extremist groups.

North and West Africa