The Middle East and North Africa

Tunisia's Libya problem

By Kristina Kausch (30/12/2015) Policy Brief

In the face of rampant chaos across the Arab world, the international community – mistakenly – likes to view Tunisia as a box checked. Many regional factors are affecting Tunisia’s transition. Some of the most immediate security spill-over, however, stems from instability in Libya.  Permeable borders, militia rule, tribal divisions, contraband and war economy, the post-Ghaddafi arms bazaar, and Libya’s development into North Africa’s hub for the Islamic State/Daesh are raising many questions for Tunisian security. Following each of the three major terrorist attacks this year – on 18 March, 26 June and 24 November, respectively – Tunisian commentators were quick to establish the link to training camps and other influences in Libya. Libyans, at the same time, reject being held responsible for Tunisia’s security shortcomings. In economic terms, Tunisia is under further strain as the economy of Libya, a major Tunisian trade partner, has collapsed and Libyan migrants flood the country.  How much of Tunisia’s ills can really be ascribed to spill over from Libya? Does the Libyan conflict put Tunisia’s transition at risk?

Enemy of Convenience: Iran’s Fight Against Daesh

Yeowatzaup/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Over the past year, the Middle East has witnessed the burgeoning of a new conflict dyad: the Islamic Republic of Iran versus Daesh. Iran’s campaign against Daesh is a means of strengthening its strategic position in the Middle East. Tehran aims to weaken rather than destroy Daesh because this allows it to defend its allies in government in Syria and Iraq while retaining leverage over them. Iran’s actions and the limited battlefield successes of its allied-militias pose a major policy conundrum for the international coalition against Daesh.

‘Quietist’ and ‘firebrand’ Salafism in Algeria

By Anouar Boukhars (23/11/2015) Policy Brief
Omar DZ/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Salafi ideology and activism are once again emerging as the locus of societal contention and political controversy in Algeria. 'Quietist' Salafists who abstain from politics have traditionally been prevalent in the country but new 'firebrand' preachers have grown more assertive. The state has taken an ambivalent approach to the surge of Salafism but is now adopting some measures to marginalise the radical Salafi discourse. However, countering religious extremism ultimately requires addressing the root causes of militancy - persistent political paralysis and lack of opportunity.

The master of the game in Ankara

By Soli Özel (06/11/2015) Commentary
Maurice Flesier/CC BY-SA 4.0

The evening of June 7, 2015 – election day – must have been one of the worst nights in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political life. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), which he had led until August 2014, lost its majority in Parliament, shattering his dream of introducing a Presidential system in Turkey. However, in the aftermath of the June elections, Mr. Erdoğan managed to reverse the electorate’s verdict. Fully exploiting the prerogatives of his office and his considerable influence over his former party, he blocked attempts to form a coalition government. Through a series of smart strategic moves and taking advantage of the ineptitude and disarray of the opposition parties, he succeeded in forcing a repeat election on the country.

Oman: the outlier

By Ana Echagüe (29/10/2015) Policy Brief

Oman’s priority is to ensure a peaceful regional environment that does not threaten its domestic stability. For this purpose it has had to strike a delicate balance between the region’s two antagonistic powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and has sometimes pursued policies at odds with Gulf consensus. But Sultan Qaboos’ studied neutrality might be difficult to maintain in the face of a changing regional context.

Tunisian Salafism: the rise and fall of Ansar al-Sharia

By Christine Petré (08/10/2015) Policy Brief
Aya Chebbi/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Two major terrorist attacks earlier this year, on Sousse beach and the Bardo museum in Tunis, show that Tunisia’s process of democratisation has been flanked by a growth in the influence of jihadist groups. Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia (AST) was the biggest and most influential Jihadi-Salafi group following the 2011 revolution, but has been driven underground by a government crackdown since 2013. However, AST’s demise may now encourage more Tunisian youths to align with Islamic State. Furthermore, the rise and fall of AST shows the need to balance short term counter-terrorism measures with longer-term youth-focused policies.

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Dear Friends and Colleagues,

FRIDE ceased its think tank activities on 31st December 2015 for economic reasons. The Board of Trustees had to take this difficult decision since, despite many efforts to diversify its funding sources, FRIDE cannot sustain its think tank operations with a view to 2016 and beyond.

Established in 1999, FRIDE has made a major contribution to shape debate on Europe’s external activities in an increasingly challenging international environment. It has covered issues ranging from democracy and human rights to sustainable development, new approaches to multilateral cooperation and security affairs. FRIDE’s long-standing focus on the extended neighbourhood of the European Union proves today all the more relevant given widespread turbulence in the region. FRIDE’s emphasis on the importance of the values framing Europe’s external activities is central to current political debates in Europe and beyond. This shows the need for continued engagement in the pursuit of a common European foreign policy that is both effective and informed by the core values of European integration.

The Board wishes to thank Diego Hidalgo, FRIDE’s founder, for his tireless commitment and very generous support for many years. The Board also wishes to thank FRIDE’s dedicated staff, the members of the Board and the Advisory Committee for their contribution in making FRIDE one of the top foreign policy think tanks in Europe. We are very grateful to all those who have supported FRIDE’s work and projects over the years and we thank the many partners from all parts of the world who have worked with FRIDE on joint initiatives. We hope that FRIDE’s extensive input to the debate on Europe in the world will continue to inform thinking and action at a very critical time for Europe’s future.

The President of the Board

FRIDE cesó sus actividades como think tank el 31 de diciembre de 2015 por razones económicas. El Patronato tuvo que adoptar esta difícil decisión dado que, a pesar de los intensos esfuerzos realizados para diversificar sus fuentes de financiación, FRIDE no puede sostener sus operaciones como think tank a partir de 2016.

Establecido en 1999, FRIDE ha realizado una gran contribución al debate sobre las actividades exteriores de Europa en un ambiente internacional cada vez más complejo. Ha trabajado en temas que van desde la democracia y los derechos humanos al desarrollo sostenible, los nuevos enfoques en la cooperación multilateral y las cuestiones de seguridad. La atención prestada por FRIDE a la vecindad extendida de la Unión Europea durante mucho tiempo prueba ser hoy aún más relevante debido a la turbulencia que azota a la región. El énfasis de FRIDE en la importancia de los valores que enmarcan las actividades exteriores europeas es central en los debates en Europa y más allá. Esto muestra la necesidad de un compromiso continuo con la búsqueda de una política exterior europea común que sea eficaz y esté basada en los principios fundamentales de la integración europea.

El Patronato desea agradecer a Diego Hidalgo, fundador de FRIDE, por su incansable compromiso y muy generoso apoyo a lo largo de tantos años. También quiere expresar su gratitud a la dedicada plantilla, a los propios miembros del Patronato y del Comité Asesor por sus contribuciones para hacer de FRIDE uno de los principales think tanks de Europa en cuestiones de política exterior. Estamos muy agradecidos con todos aquellos que han apoyado el trabajo y los proyectos de FRIDE a través de los años y también damos las gracias a los numerosos socios de todas partes del mundo que han colaborado con FRIDE en iniciativas conjuntas. Esperamos que las extensas aportaciones de FRIDE al debate sobre Europa en el mundo continuará informando el pensamiento y la acción en un momento muy crítico para el futuro de Europa.

El Presidente del Patronato

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