Lebanon's Political Stalemate: The Failure of the Sectarian Regime

PDF downlaodAntoine APPRIOUAL*

POMEAS BRIEF No.11, February 2016 


Since summer 2015, the Lebanese people have been regularly demonstrating against the political elites of the country. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to show their anger and to blame political leaders for their incapacity solve a garbage crisis, which seems never-ending. This crisis has revealed what the Lebanese have known for a long time but cannot stand anymore: political leaders are not committed to the public good, and their divisions paralyze an already weak state. Indeed, this crisis is a symptom of the dysfunction of the Lebanese state, which is undermined on one side by clientelism and corruption deriving from sectarianism, and, on the other side, by the recurrent blockade of political institutions by political rivals benefiting from a veto power. This situation is clearly a product of the Lebanese political regime: the consociational democracy based on confessionalism. This system seems to have reached its limits in a difficult context, and it has become clearer and clearer that it certainly does not operate to address the basic needs of the Lebanese citizen. Even if the opportunity exists, a change or at least a reform of the political system could prove to be very difficult to achieve in the current circumstances.

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The Impact of the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Lebanon

PDF downlaodZeynep Şahin Mencütek*

POMEAS BRIEF No.10, June 2015 


One of the most dramatic consequences of the Syrian civil war has been the massive displacement of civilians in and outside of Syria. Syrian refugees now constitute more than a quarter of the population in Lebanon. Although the government declared a policy of disassociation – a policy of professed neutrality regarding Syria – this has been undermined due to the presence of a plethora of actors with differing interests. Refugee flow has had severe impacts on national security and the economy, leading to further destabilization in Lebanon. The refugee flow has placed a serious burden on public services delivery including education, healthcare, housing, sanitation, water, and electricity, as well as on physical infrastructure which has lacked adequate capacity. Labor competition and the feeling that Syrians receive different financial treatment has generated ambivalent attitutes and resentments among locals. Both government and public concerns regarding the Syrian crisis and refugees may increase sectarian volatility and deepen pre-existing tensions due to the long and tortured history of Syria-Lebanon relations and increasing involvement of Hezbollah in Syria. One extreme risk might be the militarization of refugees. A strong government and regional/international support are vital for Lebanon to ensure stability in such a destabilizing situation.

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The EU’s Mediation Role in the Post-Arab Spring Era: A Comparative Analysis of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya

PDF downlaodJuliette Bisard*

POMEAS BRIEF No.9, June 2015 

While the EU has often been criticized for its passiveness towards Arab Spring countries, these uprisings have provided the EU with its first opportunity to implement its mediation package policies. Although it was previously assumed that these policies only extended to countries in which the prospect of membership concretely existed1, the EU has shifted its neighborhood strategy to include its Southern borders in the Mediterranean, committing a different type of diplomatic mission toward them. Fortified by peacekeeping and crisis management experience at the supranational level, the EU designed a mediation policy under the auspices of the Lisbon Treaty in the wake of the Arab Spring. The EU has made conflict resolution one of its most strategic foreign policy orientations, and meditation has become an essential part of this strategy.2

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Overcoming the Regional Stalemate: Understanding the Politics of the Gulf States and Turkey during the Egyptian Coup

PDF downlaodİsmail Numan Telci*

POMEAS BRIEF No.8, April 2015 


The Egyptian revolution faced its “counter-revolutionary moment” when Abdal Fattah Al-Sisi initiated the military coup that toppled the democratically elected president, Muhammad Morsi. In this counter-revolutionary moment, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the two major actors that supported the military coup. In contrast, Turkey and Qatar strongly opposed and positioned themselves against the coup and its supporters. Recent leadership changes in Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s new strategy of softening its position toward its Gulf neighbors created a new political atmosphere in which the two competing camps could overcome difficulties and reach a compromise. Keeping this political environment in mind, this study aims to explore the policies of these four countries toward the military coup in Egypt. In order to better understand the pro/anti-coup positions, the study will focus on the dynamics and motivations that determine the decision-making of Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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Egypt and the Politics of Token Reforms

PDF downlaodEmad El-Din Shahin*

POMEAS BRIEF No.7, March 2015 


This paper discusses two main challenges the current regime in Egypt faces to realize stability in the short or medium term: its ability to reconstitute the political process to make it more inclusive and more participatory and its success in achieving economic recovery. Egypt's Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has been trying to use regional and international achievements to project regime successes and internal stability. However, the real test for his regime is to address the twin challenges of political restructuring and economic revival. So far the tendency is to consolidate individual authoritarianism that marginalizes policy making institutions and relies on the army as an essential political and economic player.

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Qatar’s Regional Aspirations: Changing Mediator Role during the Arab Spring

PDF downlaodPınar Akpınar*

POMEAS BRIEF No.6, February 2015 


Ever since its outbreak in 2010, the Arab Spring has brought about both hope and misery to the Middle East. Its initial phase of euphoria has left behind several unfulfilled revolutions, ethnic wars, and societal polarization. It has raised debates on the virtue of security over democracy against the vicious cycles of violence and conflict. Different methods of conflict resolution ranging from military intervention to mediation have been applied over the course of the Arab Spring. A number of actors took on mediation roles, some of which have been fruitful while others have proved ineffective. This policy brief analyses the mediation attempts made by Qatar within the context of the Arab Spring. It aims to understand to what extent mediation is still a relevant policy tool of Qatari foreign policy. It argues that Qatar's regional aspirations during the Arab Spring have weakened its mediator role.

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Iran and the Arab Spring: A Tale of Two Narratives


PDF downlaodAli M. Ansari*
POMEAS BRIEF, No. 5, December 2014

The Iranians were swift to take credit for the Arab Spring. As becomes a power that considers itself in the avant-garde of regional political developments, if not in the world, the Arab Spring was soon interpreted and presented as a somewhat belated outcome of an Islamic awakening that had originated in the Revolution in Iran back in 1979.

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Obama and the Middle East: Continuity and Change in US Foreign Policy?

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Fawaz A. Gerges*
POMEAS BRIEF, No. 4, November 2014

Almost six years after all the rhetorical flourishes and promises that accompanied his entry into office, the fog has been lifted, and it is now possible to assess his foreign policy record clearly. Two broad questions are explored in my recent book called Obama and the Middle East: The End of America's Moment? in evaluating the Obama foreign policy approach.

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Russia’s Policy in the Middle East and the Fight Against Extremism


PDF downlaodAlexey Malashenko* 
POMEAS BRIEF, No.3, October 2014

In early September 2014, the Islamic State (IS) posted a video message on the internet addressed to Vladimir Putin and Bashar Al-Assad. They warned Putin: "Your throne has already teetered . . . and will fall when we come to you . . . Vladimir Putin, the aircraft you sent to Bashar, we, with the grace of Allah, will send back to you."1 In that "message" the Islamic State also promised to "liberate Chechnya and the Caucasus."2

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Egypt’s Top-Down Sectarianism


PDF downlaodBülent Aras* and Selma Bardakcı**
POMEAS BRIEF, No.1, June 2014


A close analysis of sectarian divides in Egypt reveals that, rather than being an inherent part of society, such divides are manipulated and exacerbated by politicians seeking power. Examples from Sadat, Mubarak, Morsi, and al-Sisi demonstrate the nature of this divisive rhetoric and its negative impact. The sectarian tensions, which have produced an increasing amount of violence after the military coup in the summer of 2013, pose a danger not only to minority groups like Coptic Christians and the Baha'i but also within the Muslim community. The violence only continues to escalate while demanding rapid and appropriate action from the current government.

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Questioning Water Policy: Israel and Palestine


PDF downlaodHilal Elver*
POMEAS BRIEF, No.2, July 2014


The Middle East has a long history of water related conflict that extends for 5000 years. In the Israel and Palestine context, however, fresh water sharing is not only a question of a resource conflict, but is also a violation of a fundamental human rights, international water law and humanitarian law principles. Israel's almost exclusive control over water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a feature of its prolonged occupation, constitutes a key obstacle not only the realization of Palestinian rights to water and sanitation but amounts to an infringement on the inalienable Palestinian right of self-determination.

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