The CSS Blog

Give (Arab) Peace (Initiative) a Chance

Flag of Federal Republic of Israel-Palestine. Courtesy of Akiersch/wikimedia

This interview was originally published by The Atlantic Council on 12 May 2016.

In the following interview with the New Atlanticist’s Ashish Kumar Sen, Bilal Y. Saab discusses the prospects of reviving the Saudi-brokered Arab Peace Initiative and much more.

Q: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu no longer recognizes a two-state solution; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is widely considered too weak politically; and the Israelis and Palestinians have a serious trust deficit. In this context, how can the Saudi-brokered Arab Peace Initiative be revived?

Saab: Bibi Netanyahu doesn’t think current regional and Palestinian conditions allow for a two-state solution, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t recognize a two-state solution. As hardline as he is, even he knows that it’s the only way to bring an end to this conflict sustainably. For him, security comes first, which is understandable. The problem, however, is that what he has in mind is perfect security and zero risk, which is completely unrealistic. Even [the late Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon accepted political and security risks when he disengaged from Gaza [in 2005]. For a leader whose domestic position is so powerful, it boggles my mind, and that of many others both inside and outside Israel, how Bibi is so reluctant and so cautious on an issue more critical to the survival of Israel and its Jewish democracy than any other: peace with the Palestinians.

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Interview – Banafsheh Keynoush

Iranian Soldiers during a parade. Courtesy of The Israel Project/flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 27 April 2016.

Banafsheh Keynoush is an international geopolitical consultant, foreign affairs scholar, and author of Saudi Arabia and Iran: Friends or Foes? (Palgrave Macmillan, February 2016). The book is based on dozens of interviews with Saudi and Iranian leaders, politicians and decision makers, and rich archival material collected and made available for the first time in English. Drawing on unique insight into the relationship over a span of a century, the author challenges the mainstream fallacy of the inevitability of sectarian conflict or that it is the main cause of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and instead argues that the relationship can be fixed through increased diplomacy.

Do you think that Iran is seeking to revise the Western dominated regional order in the Middle East?

Iran promotes the view that the security of the Persian Gulf and by extension the Middle East should be guaranteed and upheld by the regional states, rather than by foreign powers. Its view of regional security is somewhat revisionist, aiming to correct the regional order which is influenced by foreign powers including the United States. Tehran believes that foreign power influence does not serve it, because the Arab Gulf states rely on Washington to advance their security while Iran generally views U.S. presence as a threat.

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Think Again: In Adversity there is Opportunity for the International Criminal Court

Yellow police tape reading ‘Crime scene do not cross’, courtesy [puamelia]/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies on 19 April 2016.

On 4 April, the International Criminal Court (ICC) suffered the most significant setback in its nearly 14 years of existence.

In a majority decision, judges terminated the case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and Nairobi radio executive Joshua arap Sang.

This brought to an ignominious end the court’s attempt to administer justice for the crimes committed during the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007/2008, during which over 1 300 people were killed and more than 600 000 displaced.

‘On the basis of the evidence and arguments submitted to the chamber, Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji and Judge Robert Fremr, as the majority, agreed that the charges are to be vacated and the accused are to be discharged,’ said a statement issued by the ICC. In a subsequent statement, the ICC’s prosecution team blamed a lack of cooperation from Kenya and widespread witness intimidation for its difficulty in obtaining evidence.

It didn’t help, of course, that Kenyatta and Ruto became president and deputy president only after the charges against them were lodged, greatly complicating the politics around the case. Against overwhelming opposition from Kenya, it was never going to be easy to make the charges stick.

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Freeing Prevention From Conflict: Investing in Sustaining Peace

Courtesy Sasha Maksymenko/flickr

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 21 April 2016.

As the preparations for the May 2016 United Nations General Assembly’s high-level debate on peace and security intensify, prevention seems to be on everyone’s lips. The three 2015 UN global peace and security reviews that frame the debate have conveyed a common message: that the political instruments, tools, and mechanisms the world body deploys to address violent conflict all attest to the failure of early prevention. All three reports, not surprisingly, recommended a greater focus on prevention. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his follow-on report on the recommendations of one of these reviews, by the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO), wholeheartedly endorsed this.

The skeptics among political observers and those who have followed UN reforms over the years should not be blamed for asking, “So, what’s new?” This is not the first time that the UN and its member states, coming to grips with the woeful shortcomings of their responses to old and emerging global threats, have rediscovered the virtues of prevention. Nothing concentrates the mind more than imminent crisis and once that danger dissipates so does the political will needed, they would argue, to make prevention the first port of call before the outbreak of violence.

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Review – Globalization and Capitalist Geopolitics

Capitalism, courtesy of Patrick Hoesly/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 23 April 2016.

Globalization and Capitalist Geopolitics: Sovereignty and State Power in a Multipolar world

By Daniel Woodley

London: Routledge 2015

Daniel Woodley explores important contemporary trends in the capitalist world system from a Marxist perspective. Focusing on tensions between economic transnationalization and the persistence of state power and inter-state (and inter-regional) geopolitical rivalry, Woodley poses challenging questions for all perspectives in IR, including those seeking to transform the chaotic and destructive dynamics of globalized capitalism.

Woodley’s central thesis is that, notwithstanding US military and financial power, the world has entered a transitional phase in which ‘imperial state hegemony is giving way to a new international economic order characterized by capitalist sovereignty and the competition between regional/transnational concentrations of power for geopolitical security’ (p.xiii). In line with the transnationalist Marxist perspective, Woodley argues that the scale of transnational corporate power is such that the significance of inter-state competition is declining and that corporations operate within the framework of an emergent transnational state form of capital (chapter 4).

Capitalist sovereignty and state power

Woodley argues that the concept of capitalist sovereignty (chapter 2) reintegrates the dual logics of capital and territoriality that are separated in much international political economy. Rejecting the common view that states are the basic entities of IR, Woodley ‘places the value form-determined relation of power at the centre of theoretical analysis’ (p.1), emphasizing that both capital and states are subject to capital’s determining logic. Capital continues to depend on states ‘to reproduce the conditions necessary for the production of value’ (p.22), but, echoing Robert Cox’s transmission belt metaphor (later withdrawn), Woodley argues that states are becoming ‘administrative instruments for restructuring’ economies in line with transnational corporate interests (p.18). Like other transnationalists, Woodley throws down a gauntlet to state-centric IR and IPE, Marxist and otherwise.

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