The union at Europe’s heart is frayed

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hold at press conference in Berlin. Photo: Bundesregierung/Denzel

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Elysee Treaty – the document signed by Paris and Berlin in an attempt to turn two hostile neighbours and rivals into allies, and to ultimately lay the groundwork for the European Union. As IISS Chairman Francois Heisbourg points out in the Financial Times, it comes at a time of strain in the Franco-German partnership.

France’s Le Monde newspaper has already been very dismissive about the scheduled joint session of the French and German parliaments in Berlin’s Reichstag building today. Heisbourg writes that: ‘From the eurozone crisis to intervention in Libya and Mali, and the failed merger of EADS and BAE Systems, the differences and tensions between Paris and Berlin are palpable.’

He admits that shaping a joint strategic future takes time, but says that France and Germany have recently lost the will to overcome other national differences – a process aided by their shifting relative strength, the expansion of the EU, and the arrival of a new generation of leaders ‘who no longer carry the historical baggage of the founding fathers’.

Yet the factor that could now have the biggest impact on France and Germany’s partnership is a third player: Britain.

Read the article at the Financial Times (subscription required)

What Libya tells us

Life after Gadhafi: celebrations in Tripoli at the end of the regime. Photo: NATO

In a new blog post over at RAND, Christopher S. Chivvis gives readers a taste of an article on Libya that he’s written for the IISS journal Survival: Global Politics and Strategy. Although the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in September raised fresh doubts about NATO’s military intervention in Libya, Chivvis argues that nothing has changed the fact that, in toppling Muammar Gadhafi, last year’s intervention opened the door to a better future for the country. ‘Without it hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent civilians would have died and the pro-democracy protest movements sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa would probably have been slowed,’ he writes. ‘From this perspective it remains a genuine, even if moderate, success for NATO.’

Could that success be repeated? After chronicling the particular circumstances surrounding the Libya campaign, he concludes that the lessons are limited. ‘Libya does not tell us much about how useful the lower-cost, lighter footprint adopted there can be under more challenging conditions, or when the objective is broader and more transformational, as was the case at the outset in Iraq and Afghanistan.

‘But’, he stresses, ‘it does serve, at a minimum, as a reminder that military power has a role to play in toppling tyrants and saving people from humanitarian disasters.’

Download the full Survival article, ‘Libya and the Future of Liberal Intervention’.

Timely questions on Libya attacks, Middle East at Strategic Survey 2012 launch

By Alexa van Sickle, Assistant Editor

The recent attacks on US consulates in Libya and Egypt may shift the western perspective of what’s happening in the Arab world, but how things will play out within Libya and Egypt is a far more pressing question, argues Emile Hokayem, IISS Senior Fellow for Regional Security-Middle East.

On 11 September, US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three others were killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi – possibly part of a pre-planned strike by a militant group – amid protests over a film about the prophet Mohammed. Protesters also stormed the US consulates in Cairo and in Yemen, and unrest continues to spread.

Hokayem, speaking at the press conference for the Strategic Survey 2012: The Annual Review of World Affairs launch in London, noted that while the details of the attack are still unclear,  it was worth considering what Stevens himself would have said about the situation:‘[He] would not want revenge or disengagement; he would have argued for renewed investment and attention in these critical periods.’ But what matters most in a strategic sense, Hokayem argues, is the reaction from the Libyan and Egyptian governments: ‘This will be the real test, especially for Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood, in terms of their international credibility.’

Hokayem said the Libyan government was very clear in its condemnation, but Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi waited some time before making a statement. Whether the political elites in Libya and Egypt can effectively combat extremist sentiment is crucial for their international legitimacy. ‘This is the tragedy of mainstream Islamist movements,’ said Hokayem.  ‘They can easily be outflanked by more extremist factions that frame everything in terms of identity, and not in terms of public governance choices and not in terms of the need for international recognition.’

Hokayem responded to several questions on Libya and other regional security issues at the launch, where opening remarks by Dr John Chipman, touching on significant security themes in the volume, were followed by a Q & A session addressed to a panel of regional experts. Issues discussed included Middle East security – including Syria, Iran and Israel – terrorism in North Africa, China and Japan’s maritime tensions and the Eurozone crisis.

Another timely question dealt with the likelihood of a strike by Israel against Iran: ‘There is a possibility of an Israeli strike this autumn,’ said Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of the IISS’s Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme, in response. ‘But it is a reduced possibility, given the divergence of views in Israel.’

Fitzpatrick explained that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak seems to be acknowledging Obama’s commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu still maintains that Obama’s commitment is not credible.

‘There’s not a consensus in the inner Israeli security cabinet for a strike, and so it’s unlikely,’ said Fitzpatrick.

Watch the full press conference here.

Tracking weapons flows in Africa

By Jessica Delaney, Assistant editor, Strategic Comments

Weapons are flowing across the Sahel from Libya, and from Iran and China to countries such as Sudan, as a new form of arms trade takes shape in Africa. Speaking at the IISS recently, expert James Bevan explained that a predominantly ‘home-grown’ illicit trade had arisen, in which weapons were passed from governments to rebel groups, stolen from armed forces or trafficked by individuals as states collapsed.

This was a very different picture from that during the 1990s and early twenty-first century, when failing Eastern European states supplied cash-rich warlords involved in conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Libya joined the emerging hubs of weapons sales after the collapse of Muammar Gadhafi’s regime in 2011. Other hubs included the Eritrean capital, Asmara, and the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

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Expert: Arab Spring has resolved little

'Friday for defending the revolution' in Tahrir Sq, Cairo, Egypt. Photo by flickr user lokha

Despite democratic transformations in a few states, the problems that led to the Arab Spring largely remain unresolved, Dr Toby Dodge, IISS Consulting Senior Fellow for the Middle East, told an audience in Manama on 29 May 2012. In his talk, ‘Drivers of Instability: Reflections on the Arab Spring’, Dodge pointed to short- and medium-term factors such as rising food prices and demographic bulges, as well as the broader failed policies of Arab authoritarianism, as some of the causes of the Arab revolutions.

Yet unemployment remained high in the region more than one year after a street vendor in Tunisia set himself alight and a wave of protests began. Many of the youth who spearheaded the uprisings had not been integrated into post-revolutionary transitions.

Dodge said that several factors determined how each country fared during the uprisings. The outcome varied according to the state’s capacity to co-opt, repress or buy off protesters agitating for reform; the ruling elite’s cohesion; and the domestic opposition’s ability to sustain popular mobilisation.

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Mali coup plays into the hands of Tuareg rebels

Malian soldiers take part in a joint exercise with US special forces, February 2011. © US AFRICOM

By Natalia Debczak-Debski, Research Assistant, Armed Conflict Database

Known for its relative political stability in an otherwise volatile region, Mali has often been characterised as one of Africa’s best-functioning democracies. However, a mutiny which began on the evening of 21 March resulted in a coup against the government of President Amadou Toumani Touré, just a month before scheduled presidential elections in which he was not standing for re-election.

On the morning of 22 March, coup leaders, introducing themselves as the National Committee for the Reestablishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State (CNRDR), pledged they would ‘return power to a democratically elected president as soon as national unity and territorial integrity are restored’ in the north of the country. The committee, chaired by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, primarily accused Touré of incompetence and inadequately supporting them in the fight against the new Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) – a rebel movement seeking to establish an autonomous state in Mali’s desert north. The tension between the two groups had intensified in recent months following the fall of Muammar Gadhafi, which resulted in an influx of well-armed rebels returning from Libya.

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The power of partnerships

Ban Ki-moon takes questions after the inaugural Fullerton Lecture. Photo IISS/Sam Toh

By Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS-Asia

A satellite launch planned for next month by North Korea, developments in Myanmar and the increasingly urgent need to find a solution to the conflict in Syria were among the themes touched on by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the inaugural IISS Fullerton Lecture in Singapore. The speech focused on ‘Securing our Future: Singapore, the Region and Beyond’, and Ban said he was ‘very troubled, very deeply concerned’ by the DPRK’s intention to launch a satellite on 15 April, the hundredth anniversary of the birthday of regime founder Kim Il-sung.

‘Security Council resolutions clearly prohibit the launch of any satellite using ballistic-missile technology,’ he said, briefly departing from his text to add that the launch would be a clear violation of UNSC resolution 1874 in particular. The Secretary-General had spoken to Chinese, American and Russian leaders and ‘urged them to exercise their influence to persuade the DPRK to reconsider its decision’. He said he would further discuss the situation while attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul next week.

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