Entries with Categories Global Affairs Middle East .

[Javier Lesaca, Weapons of mass seduction. Ediciones Península, 2017. 312 pages]


review / Alejandro Palacios Jiménez

What is it that drives a young man to abandon his friends and family and freely give up his dreams to join the Islamic State? With this question in mind, Javier Lesaca immerses us in this narrative in which he dissects the communicative apparatus used by ISIS to gain followers and spread its ideas and influence through the virtual Caliphate.

Thanks to his extensive professional career, the author sample in Armas de seducción masiva has a high Degree of depth and analysis, which is not incompatible with an entertaining and convincing narrative. Javier Lesaca Esquiroz (Pamplona, 1981), graduate in Journalism at the University of Navarra, works as researcher at the International Observatory of programs of study on Terrorism. His extensive knowledge on topic has allowed him to work in organisations such as the World Bank, the Inter-American Bank development and the Government of Navarre. Education Her work experience is complemented by her participation in forums such as the United Nations (UN) Security committee or the Euro-Arab Dialogue of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

His main hypothesis is that the crisis of credibility in traditional institutions, which has been fuelled by the economic and financial crisis of 2008 and is palpable in the 15-O movement, coupled with the technological revolution of the 21st century, has allowed the Islamic State (ISIS, or Dáesh, by its Arabic nomenclature) to influence the perceptions of Western citizens, in particular millennials, in a way never seen before. Millennials, who do not feel represented by their respective state institutions, seek to feel important and to participate in a new project that helps them to make sense of their lives and to stand up every day for a cause worth fighting for. And ISIS offers them just that.

Weapons of mass seduction

But what is Dáesh? Far from historical and religious explanations, Lesaca presents us with an unprecedented answer: the Islamic State embodies what is called modern terrorism, which uses the instruments of the new generations to get its messages across. In other words, Daesh presents itself as a global social movement that uses local communication campaigns that are disseminated throughout the world and whose terrorist acts are used as a mere "performance" within a broader communication strategy. Thus, Daesh defines itself as a leaderless movement that, paradoxically, moves away from the more purely religious elements to suit the concerns of the youth audience it plans to seduce.

The fact that it is a headless movement does not imply that it is internally unorganised. On the contrary, ISIS is a terrorist group that uses social networks very effectively and whose internal structure allows it not only to influence, but also to be in possession of some of the media. Its strategy consists of both developing its own media and using what is called "earned media". reference letter The former refers to Daesh's large communication structure based on: press releases, infographics, photographic reports, magazines in different languages, the Al Amaaq news agency, Al Bayan radio, Ajnabah music productions, the Isdarat website (now closed), audiovisual production companies and offline marketing in some parts of Iraq and Syria (billboards, posters and cybercafés). The media won is measured in terms of the number of times the terrorist group has succeeded in having its actions condition the diary of the traditional media.

The use of such a multitude of communication channels with the goal to create a parallel world, which its activists call the Caliphate, and to geographically segment the audience to modify the framing of the message - all under the cover of twisted interpretations of the Koran - is what is known as transmedia terrorism. To make this strategy as effective as possible, nothing is left to chance. One example given in the book, sample , is the control that the all-powerful Syrian executive producer Abu Mohamed Adnani, a friend of the caliphate's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, exercised over his subordinates, supervising and approving the content and messages that ISIS transmitted to the public. So much so that Adnani was considered by the West to be the de facto man who exercised the real day-to-day leadership within the terrorist organisation until his death in 2016.

All of this communicative strategy is precisely described in the book thanks to the large number of concrete examples that the author provides of massacres that Dáesh has carried out since its existence and the way in which these have been transmitted. In this sense, Lesaca emphasises the effectiveness with which ISIS, making use of the new media, camouflages real executions among images of video games(Call of Duty) or fictional films(Saw, Hunger Games, Sin City) in order to blur the line between reality and fiction, creating what is called a transmedia narrative. The idea is simple: how are these images going to seem cruel to you if they are similar to the ones you see in a cinema conference room eating popcorn?

In written request, Javier Lesaca attempts to define a useful strategy for dealing with the terrorism of the future. He argues that it is unclear what tools states should equip themselves with to confront this new form of terrorism. However, a good way to do so would be to make democracy fashionable, that is, to reinforce the values that have allowed the construction of the welfare society and development the greatest period of prosperity in our history. "The Islamic State has managed to win the victory of aesthetics, which is why we must make values such as democracy, freedom and equality attractive cultural products," says Lesaca. But this is not enough, he says. In addition, "we must promote institutional strengthening by eradicating corruption and implementing policies to create a Economics capable of absorbing all the talent of the new generations and achieving an effective management of public services".

At summary, this is a book that is a must-read for all those who want to familiarise themselves with the internal organisation and Structures of the power of Daesh, its objectives and the means it uses to achieve them group . It is also an invaluable guide for the study and subsequent reaction of the West to the communication campaigns not only of the Islamic State, but also of subsequent terrorist organisations that will form part of what is already known as modern terrorism.

Categories Global Affairs: Security & Defense Middle East Book Reviews Terrorism

Transfer of migrants from North Africa to the Italian island of Lampedusa

▲Transfer of migrants from North Africa to the Italian island of Lampedusa [Vito Manzani]

ANALYSIS / Valeria Nadal

In late 2017, Cable News Network (CNN) published an anonymously recorded video with a hidden camera showing the sale of four men in Libya, for $400 each. It was an example of selling slaves to Libyan citizens for work or in exchange for a ransom, in the case of men, or as sex slaves, in the case of women. The shocking images triggered a global response; several Hollywood celebrities joined the protests calling for an end to the slave trade in Libya. France, Germany, Chad, Nigeria and other countries have urged Libya to address this serious problem through a programme to repatriate migrants and evacuate detention camps, where many of the slave mafias operate. Circumstances, however, do not appear to have improved since the video was posted, mainly due to the continued lack of state coordination to address the problem, along with other factors. How is it possible that a slave trade could have taken place inside Libya?

Libya is a sprawling country located in North Africa, with a long Mediterranean coastline. Until 2011, when the Arab Spring broke out, Libya was one of the most stable countries in the region. It had one of the highest life expectancies in all of Africa, and a educational –From the Education primary school through university – better than most neighbouring countries. However, this status The crisis of stability and relative prosperity came to an end in February 2011, when the uprisings that began in Tunisia, and had spread to countries such as Yemen, Jordan and Egypt, reached Libya.

Unlike other states in the region, which were able to peacefully resolve the protesters' demands, the immediate threat of civil war in Libya forced international intervention to resolve the conflict. The United States (US) and the European Union (EU), with the support of the United Nations (UN), acted against the dictatorial regime of Muammar Gaddafi. With the capture and assassination of Gaddafi by rebel troops, the war seemed to be over. However, in the absence of a viable plan for a political transition, the status it deteriorated further as various political actors attempted to fill the power vacuum left by Gaddafi's demise.

At present, Libya continues to experience severe political instability and is considered to be a failed state. Although there is a government promoted and recognized by the UN, the Government of National Unity (GNA), it does not control the entire country and is challenged by various power groups, many of which are armed militias. Due to this lack of governmental authority, as well as its strategic location on the Mediterranean coast, Libya has become the base of operations for mafias, which take advantage of the willingness of refugees and migrants to reach Europe via the Libyan land route. The open border policy launched by the EU in 2015 has not helped to curb its activities, as it has facilitated the establishment of human smuggling routes. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that at least 400,000 people are currently in Libyan detention centres, where migrants are a key threat to Libya. goal easy for the slave trade. The GUN has opened a research He has met with European and African leaders to enable the emergency repatriation of refugees and migrants. However, the effectiveness of the Libyan authorities' efforts is limited. A more important issue, however, is the role that the international community can play in alleviating the problem, of which non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been voices core topic in the discussion.


Since 2015, Oxfam has been widely informing the international community about the migration crisis in Libya, emphasizing the need for European countries to seek and find a solution for the thousands of men, women and children suffering from this crisis status. Documented cases in Libya of the slave trade, carried out by smugglers and militias, have made the search for a solution even more urgent.

In the wake of this alarming status in Libya, on 9 August 2017, Oxfam published a bulletin graduate "You're Not Human Anymore," in which he analyzed the events of the status in Libya and blamed European countries for their "misguided policies aimed at preventing people from reaching Italy." To develop this report, Oxfam spoke "to men and women who have spent months being beaten, tied up like animals and sold as cheap labour in Libya's scandalous slave trade", and drew on the "... anguished testimonies of migrants who spent time in Libya before escaping to Italy."

The testimonies recount shocking scenes of sexual violence, torture and work slave; They also tell of cases of people who have been held captive because they could not pay the price demanded by the smugglers. The latter happened to Peter, an 18-year-old Nigerian: "Once we arrived in Sabah, in Libya, I was taken to the 'Ghetto' (...) They gave us a phone to call our families and ask them for money. If you couldn't pay the 1,500 Libyan dinars [about 100 euros], they held you captive and beat you."

After listening to these testimonies, Oxfam has concluded that European policies need to take into account the experiences of people forced to leave their homes, as the information they provide sample "Libya remains a country marked by systematic human rights abuses and (...) the EU's attempt to ensure that people cannot leave Libya only puts more men, women and children at risk of abuse and exploitation."

Some of the solutions that Oxfam has proposed include promoting search and rescue operations for humanitarian purposes, increasing the issue of immigration applications being accepted to be processed, the creation of safe routes to Europe, and ending the policy that prevents migrants from leaving Libya.


Why NGOs are ineffective in the migration crisis: the example of the slave trade in Libya


Open, Close Borders

Another international agency that has actively denounced the status The most inhumane issue in Libya is Amnesty International. According to the data The world is facing one of the most serious cases of slavery in the twenty-first century. Refugees and migrants arriving in Libyan territory are detained and tortured in detention centres before being sold into slavery. Those who manage to escape such horrific conditions do not necessarily end up in better circumstances: at least 3,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean.

Being one of the most active organizations with respect to the status in Libya, Amnesty International has order EU Member States to stop closing their borders to refugees and migrants from Libya. He argues that this European policy only encourages and fuels violence and extortion on Libyan territory, making the EU complicit in this crisis.

Amnesty International recalls that, since the end of 2016, the closure of European borders has led to increased control by the department Libya's Anti-Immigration Agency, which now oversees detention centers where refugees and migrants are not only arbitrarily and indefinitely detained, but also frequently sold into slavery. In addition, according to the organization, the inability or unwillingness of Europe to act, mistakenly believing that what happens outside European borders has no consequences for the EU's internal affairs, has allowed the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea. Instead of reaching the "promised land," migrants are forcibly taken back to Libya, where they are locked up and mistreated again in detention centers. All this is aided by the agreements reached by the EU and the local Libyan authorities, backed by armed groups, regarding the control of migratory flows to Europe.

International coordination

On December 7, 2017, the committee U.N. Security Council held an emergency session to take action on the status of the slave trade in Libya. This status was described as an "abuse of human rights that may also constitute crimes against humanity", in which case the Libyan authorities and all member states of the organization should act accordingly. agreement with the International Public Law bringing those responsible before the International Criminal Court (ICC). In addition, the UN pointed out at that session the Libyan authorities as one of the main actors complicit in the growing phenomenon of the slave trade, due to their ineffectiveness in investigating it and administering justice. The organization has also placed special emphasis on the need for the Government of Libya to secure the borders and for its actions to be supported by various international instruments, so that trafficking in persons can be effectively countered. The UN has also encouraged cooperation with the EU and the African Union (AU) to ensure the protection of refugees and migrants, under the premise that success will only be achieved if all actors involved collaborate.

Meanwhile, the UN is already operating in the territory through the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which has helped 13,000 people leave detention centers in Libya, and another 8,000 from those in Niger. But IOM's efforts do not end in Libya. Once refugees and migrants are safe, the organization stores their information and testimonies and offers them the possibility to return home, ensuring the safety of the people. attendance in the process.

Despite attempts to unify the efforts of all organizations on the ground, the reality is that the UN today does not have an all-inclusive action plan to end slavery in Libya and seek a common solution. According to the organization's reports, slavery in Libya could end by 2030, after 20 years of test and error. However, it is not surprising that most NGOs do not have action plans.

NGO solutions

NGOs play an important role in helping to alleviate the humanitarian problems caused by migration; However, the solutions they suggest often fail to take into account the complex political realities that make reaching those solutions impossible, if not entirely impossible, at least a challenge. How result, many of the proposals offered by human rights agencies such as Oxfam and Amnesty International are too broad to be useful internship. The migration crisis, which reached its peak in the summer of 2015 with the effective invitation of several European nations for refugees to migrate to Europe – along with the relaxation of Dublin regulations and the opening of borders within the EU – paradoxically helped to exacerbate the problem. These measures provided an incentive for mass migration of people who did not fall into the "refugee" category, encouraging risk-taking among immigrants on the premise that the borders would remain open and that all would be welcome.

The result it has not only been the rapid backtracking on this policy by a number of countries that initially supported it, such as Austria, but also a dramatic internal and diplomatic conflict within the EU between countries that are against mass migration to the territory of the Union. The crisis also shed light on the inability of existing laws of both the EU and its member states to find solutions to the migration problem. Thus, the policy of open borders as a solution to the problem may be well-intentioned, but ineffective in providing a balanced solution to the problem.

Similarly, ensure safe passages for migrants back to their homes. home country it is based on the assumption that there is a functioning government in Libya with which such efforts can be coordinated; however, no such entity exists as of yet. While the GUN has a limited amount of control over certain swaths of territory, the problem remains that in other parts of Libya this government exercises no control at all. While assisting (limited) migration and/or repatriation and securing land and sea borders could be a first step in stemming the flow, the fact remains that political instability in Libya – as well as in other nations – is what generates smuggling networks, one of which is the slave trade.

Therefore, the European policy of helping more people by relaxing borders hardly solves the problem. At its height, the migration crisis saw hundreds of thousands of migrants cross open borders in Europe, without any realistic plan to deal with the numbers. In addition, it seems that the international press is reporting less heavily on the various difficulties that immigrants face within their new host states such as result of a utopian politics in which the sky is the limit for immigration. More importantly, the open-door immigration policy – pushed by a number of humanitarian organisations – has also led to the proliferation of smuggling networks within Europe that have necessitated the establishment of new immigration forces. work to confront them, even though the result of this measure could be worse as greater control can lead to the emergence of new routes and access points. Almost 90% of migrants arriving in Europe are facilitated by the multinational smuggling business. The point is that illegal activities thrive as result of failed policies and the inability to find determined policy solutions to the migration crisis: a necessary ingredient for successful practical action.

The Primary Role of States

The lack of government control over territory in Libya, characteristic of a failed state, has made possible the proliferation of illegal and highly humiliating activities against human dignity, such as the slave trade. Images like the one on CNN, which provided evidence of people being sold into slavery in detention centers, have raised international awareness of the problem. Numerous organizations, led by the UN, have intensified their work in recent months to try to put an end to a status so disastrous. These efforts have achieved some results, however, there is no meaningful method to improve them because they are not coordinated at the state level, and the large-scale cooperation required by all parties involved is unlikely to be possible.

Moreover, the effects of the migration crisis are not unique to Libya or Africa, and have manifested themselves in Europe as well. Although human trafficking, both in the slave trade and for other purposes, occurs on a much larger (and rather alarming) scale in the African theatre, the phenomenon has affected Europe in a similar way as it has been in the African theatre. result of its failed – or non-existent – action plan to manage immigration, both internally and externally. The solution is necessarily political, and the reality is that, no matter how intentional and necessary, the independent and rights-based solutions advocated by NGOs will not be decisive in solving the problem. Only states, working together with various NGOs, can put an end to this misery through well-thought-out and coordinated solutions. And the sad reality is that not everyone can necessarily be saved in the process, nor will all immigrants be able to get their "European dream."

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East World order, diplomacy and governance Analysis

essay / Andrea Pavón-Guinea [English version].

  1. Introduction

The combination of terrorist attacks on European soil, the rise of the Islamic State, the Syrian civil war and the refugee crisis have highlighted the importance of intercultural dialogue between the European Union and the Islamic world. In this context of asymmetric warfare and non-traditional security challenges, the European Union is focusing its resources on soft power-based civil society initiatives that can contribute to the prevention of radicalization. Through the creation of the Anna Lindh Foundation for Intercultural development , the European Union has a unique instrument to bring civil societies on both shores of the Mediterranean closer together and contribute to the improvement of Euro-Mediterranean relations.  

  1. Euro-Mediterranean relations and intercultural dialogue 

Relations between the European Union and the Southern Mediterranean began[1] to be formally regulated with the creation of the Barcelona Process in 1995[2].

The Barcelona Declaration would give rise to the creation of the association Euro-Mediterranean; a forum for multilateral relations which, 'based on a spirit of association', aims to turn the Mediterranean basin into a 'area of dialogue, exchange and cooperation guaranteeing peace, stability and prosperity'. The Barcelona Process would thus bring to mind one of the founding principles of the European Union, that of achieving common objectives through a spirit of co-responsibility (Suzan, 2002). The Declaration pursues three fundamental objectives: firstly, the creation of a common area of peace and stability through the reinforcement of security and political dialogue (this would be the so-called 'political basket'); secondly, the construction of a zone of shared prosperity through the economic and financial association ('economic and financial basket'); and, thirdly, the promotion of understanding between cultures through civil society networks: the so-called intercultural dialogue ('social, cultural and human affairs' basket). 

More than twenty years after the Declaration, the claims of today's politics in the Southern Mediterranean underline the importance of development intercultural dialogue for European security. Although European politicians rejected Huntington's thesis of the clash of civilizations when it was first articulated, it would nevertheless become a scenario to be considered after the September 11 attacks: a scenario, however, that could be avoided through cooperation in the 'third basket' of the Euro-Mediterranean association , i.e. through enhanced dialogue and cultural cooperation (Gillespie, 2004).

  1. Fighting radicalization through intercultural dialogue: the Anna Lindh Foundation 

Thus, emphasizing that dialogue between cultures, civilizations and religions throughout the Euro-Mediterranean region is more necessary than ever for promote mutual understanding, the Euro-Mediterranean partners agreed during the fifth Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers' meeting lecture in Valencia in 2002 to establish a foundation whose goal would be the development of intercultural dialogue. Thus was born the Anna Lindh Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures which, based in Alexandria, would start operating in 2005.

It should be noted that Anna Lindh is unique in its representation and configuration, as it brings together all Euro-Mediterranean partners in the promotion of intercultural dialogue, which is its only goal. To this end, it relies on the coordination of a regional network of more than 4,000 civil society organizations, both European and Mediterranean.

Although it has been in operation for more than ten years now, its work is currently focused on development intercultural dialogue in order to prevent radicalization. This emphasis has been continuously highlighted in recent years, for example at the Anna Lindh Foundation's Mediterranean Forum in Malta in October 2016, its mandate on intercultural dialogue contained in the new European Neighborhood Policy (18.11.2015) and in High Representative Mogherini's strategy for the promotion of culture at International Office.

However, it has been the recent terrorist attacks in Europe that have highlighted the urgent need to address the phenomenon of radicalization[3], which can ultimately written request lead to violent extremism and terrorism. In this sense, the prevention of radicalization[4] is a piece core topic in the fight against terrorism, as has been highlighted by the diary European Security in 2015[5]. This is so because most of the terrorists suspected of attacks on European soil are European citizens, born and raised in EU member states, where they have undergone radicalization processes that would culminate in acts of terrorist violence. This fact evidences 'the transnational dimension of Islamist terrorism' (Kaunert and Léonard, 2011: 287), as well as the changing nature of the threat, whose drivers are different and more complex than previous radicalization processes: 'Today's radicalization has different foundations, operates on the basis of different recruitment and communication techniques and is marked by globalized and mobile targets inside and outside Europe, growing in diverse urban contexts'[6]. The following map sample the issue of arrests for suspected jihadist terrorism in Europe in 2016.


source: Europol (2016)


Consequently, the Anna Lindh Foundation can be understood as an alternative and non-confrontational response to the speech of the clash of civilizations and the US-led war on terror (Malmvig, 2007). Its main goal which is to create 'a space of prosperity, coexistence and peace' by 'restoring confidence in dialogue and reducing stereotypes' is based on the importance given by the European Union to development intercultural dialogue between civilizations as a crucial element of any political and strategic program aimed at neighboring Mediterranean countries (Rosenthal, 2007). In other words, the creation of a area of dialogue, cooperation and exchange in the southern Mediterranean is a priority core topic of the European Union's foreign policy. Furthermore, with the creation of the Anna Lindh Foundation, the European Union is recognizing that for the Euro-Mediterranean association to work, dialogue between civil society organizations, and not only between political elites, is essential.

Thus, Anna Lindh, as an organization based on network of civil society networks, becomes a crucial instrument to address the prevention of radicalization. Along these lines, the group of work of the United Nations counter-terrorism implementation[7] has argued that the State alone does not have the necessary resources to combat terrorist radicalization, and therefore needs to cooperate with partners of a different nature to carry out this task. The involvement of civil society and local communities would thus serve to increase trust and social cohesion, even becoming a means of reaching out to certain segments of society with which governments would find it difficult to interact. The nature of local actors, as highlighted by the European Union through the creation of the Anna Lindh Foundation, would be the most successful in preventing and detecting radicalization in both the short and long term deadline[8].


In this way, intercultural dialogue constitutes a tool to address the phenomenon of radicalization in the Southern Mediterranean region, where the legacies of a colonial past demand that 'more credible interlocutors be found among non-governmental organizations' (Riordan, 2005: 182). With the goal of preventing terrorist radicalization inside and outside Europe, and assuming that practices based on dialogue and mutuality can offer a suitable framework for the development and improvement of Euro-Mediterranean relations, the European Union should move towards real partnerships aimed at building trust between people and reject any unilateral action program that involves a reproduction of the speech of the clash of civilizations (Amirah and Behr, 2013: 5). 

[1] Prior to the Barcelona Declaration, an attempt was made to regulate Euro-Mediterranean cooperation through the Euro-Arab Dialogue (1973-1989); however, although conceived as a forum for dialogue between the then European Economic Community and the Arab League, the tensions of the Gulf War would end up frustrating its work (Khader, 2015). 

[2] The association Euro-Mediterranean would be complemented by the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) in 2004. Based on the European enlargement policy, its underlying logic is the same: "To try to export the norms and values of the European Union to its neighbors" (Gsthöl, 2016: 3). In response to the conflicts in the Southern Mediterranean regions, the rise of extremism and terrorism and the refugee crisis in Europe, the ENP has undergone two major revisions, one in 2011 and the other in 2015, outlining a more differentiated approach among ENP countries to achieve further stabilization of the area. The ENP is based on differential bilateralism (Del Sarto and Schumacher, 2005) and abandons the prevalence of the multilateral and regional principle inherent to the Barcelona Process.

[3] Although several types of political extremism can be differentiated, this grade focuses on Islamist extremism and jihadist terrorism, as it is Sunni extremism that has been manager of the largest issue of terrorist attacks in the world (Schmid, 2013). It should also be noted in this regard that there is still no universally valid definition of the concept of 'radicalization' (Veldhuis and Staun 2009).

[4] Since 2004, the term 'radicalization' has become central to terrorism studies and counter-terrorism policy-making in order to analyze 'homegrown' Islamist political violence (Kundnani, 2012).

[5] The European diary on Security, COM (2015) 185 of 28 April 2015.

[6] The prevention of radicalization leading to violent extremism, COM (2016) 379 of 14 June 2016.

[7] First Report of the Working Group on Radicalization and Extremism that Lead to Terrorism: Inventory of State Programs (2006)

[8] The prevention of radicalization leading to violent extremism, COM (2016) 379 of 14 June 2016.



Amirah, H. and Behr, T. (2013) "The Missing Spring in the EU's Mediterranean Policies", Policy Paper No 70. Notre Europe - Jacques Delors Institute, February, 2013.

Council of the European Union (2002) "Presidency Conclusions for the Vth Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Foreign Ministers" (Valencia 22-23 April 2002), 8254/02 (Presse 112)

Del Sarto, R. A. and Schumacher, T. (2005): "From EMP to ENP: What's at Stake with the European Neighborhood Policy towards the Southern Mediterranean?", European Foreign Affairs Review, 10: 17-38.

European Union (2016) "Towards an EU Strategy for International Cultural Relations, Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council" (

European Commission. "Barcelona Declaration and Euro-Mediterranean Partnership", 1995.

Gillespie, R. (2004) "Reshaping the diary? The International Politics of the Barcelona Process in the Aftermath of September 11", in Jünemann, Annette Euro-Mediterranean Relations after September 11, London: Frank Cass: 20-35.

Gstöhl, S. (2016): The European Neighborhood Policy in a Comparative Perspective: Models, Challenges, Lessons (Abingdon: Routledge).

Kaunert, C. and Léonard, S. (2011) "EU Counterterrorism and the European Neighborhood Policy: An Appraisal of the Southern Dimension", Terrorism and Political Violence, 23: 286-309.

Khader, B. (2015): Europe and the Arab world (Icaria, Barcelona).

Kundnani, A. (2012) "Radicalization: The Journey of a Concept", Race & Class, 54 (2): 3-25.

Malmvig, H. (2007): "Security Through Intercultural Dialogue? Implications of the Securitization of Euro-Mediterranean Dialogue between Cultures". Conceptualizing Cultural and Social Dialogue in the Euro-Mediterranean Area. London/New York: Routledge: 71-87.

Riordan, S. (2005): "Dialogue-Based Public Diplomacy: A New Foreign Policy Paradigm?", in Melissen, Jan, The New Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations, Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan: 180-193. 

Rosenthal, G. (2007): "Preface: The Importance of Conceptualizing Cultural and Social Co-operation in the Euro-Mediterranean Area". Conceptualizing Cultural and Social Dialogue in the Euro-Mediterranean Area. London/New York: Routledge: 1-3.

Schmid, A. (2013) "Radicalization, De-Radicalization, Counter-Radicalization: A Conceptual Discussion and Literature Review", ICCT Research Paper, March 2013.

Suzan, B. (2002): "The Barcelona Process and the European Approach to Fighting Terrorism." Brookings Institute [online] [accessed 14 August 2017].

Veldhuis, T. and Staun, J. (2009) Islamist Radicalisation: A Root Cause Model (The Hague: Clingendael).

Categories Global Affairs: European Union Middle East World order, diplomacy and governance Essays

▲Trilateral summit of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Sochi in November 2017 [Turkish Presidency].

ANALYSIS / Albert Vidal and Alba Redondo [English version].

Turkey's response to the Syrian Civil War (SCW) has gone through several phases, conditioned by the changing circumstances of the conflict, both domestically and internationally: from giving support to Sunni rebels with questionable affiliations, to being one of the targets of the Islamic State (ISIS), to a failed coup attempt in 2016, and always conditioning its foreign policy decisions on the Kurdish issue. Despite an initially aggressive stance against Assad at the beginning of the Syrian war, the success and growing strength of the Kurdish civil service examination , such as result of its role in the anti-ISIS coalition, has significantly influenced Turkey's foreign policy .

Relations between Turkey and Syria have been fraught with difficulties for the past century. The Euphrates River, which originates in Turkey, has been one of the main causes of confrontation between the two countries. Turkey's construction of dams limits the flow of water to Syria, causing losses in its agriculture and generating a negative impact on the Syrian Economics . This problem is not limited to the past, as currently the project GAP (project of Southeastern Anatolia) threatens to further compromise the water supply of Iraq and Syria through the construction of 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric dams in southern Turkey.

In addition to disputes over natural resources, Hafez al-Assad's support for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the 1980s and 1990s greatly hindered relations between the two countries. However, conflict was avoided altogether with the signature of the protocol of Adana in 1998. Another source of discord between Syria and Turkey has been the territorial claims made by both nations over the province of Hatay, still claimed by Syria, but administered by Turkey, which incorporated it into its territory in 1939.

Despite the above issues, Syria and Turkey enjoyed a good relationship during the decade leading up to the Arab Spring and the revolutions of the summer of 2011. The international response to the Syrian regime's reaction to the uprisings was mixed, and Turkey was unsure of what position to take until, in the end, it chose to support the rebel civil service examination . Thus, Turkey offered protection on its territory to the rebels and opened its borders to Syrian refugees. This decision signaled the initial stage of the decline in Syrian-Turkish relations, but the status significantly worsened after the downing of a Turkish plane on June 22, 2012 by Syrian forces. This resulted in border clashes, but without the direct intervention of the Turkish Armed Forces.

From a foreign policy perspective, there were two main reasons for reversing Turkey's non-intervention policy. The first reason was a growing series of Islamic State (ISIS) attacks in July 2015 in Suruc, Central Station in Ankara and Atatürk Airport in Istanbul. The second, and arguably the most important reason, was Turkey's fear of the creation of a Kurdish proto-state in its neighboring countries: Syria and Iraq. This led to the launch of Operation Euphrates Shield (also known as the Jarablus Offensive), considered one of Turkey's first direct military actions in Syria since the SCW began. The main goal was to secure a area in northern Syria free from control of ISIS and Democratic Union Party (PYD) factions. The Jarablus Offensive was supported by article 51 of the UN Charter (the right of nations to self-defense), as well as several UN Security committee resolutions (Nos. 1373, 2170, 2178) pertaining to the global responsibility of countries to fight terrorism. Despite being successful in achieving its objectives, the Jarablus offensive ended prematurely in March 2017, without Turkey ruling out the possibility of similar future interventions.

Internally, Erdogan's military intervention and assertive posturing aimed to gain public support from Turkish nationalist parties, especially the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Grand Unity Party (BBP), as well as general public backing for the constitutional changes then being proposed. That would give Erdogan greater executive powers as president. Consequently, a foreign distraction campaign was more than welcome, given the growing domestic unrest and general discontent, following the coup attempt in July 2016.

Despite Turkey's assertiveness sample towards Syria, Turkish military intervention does not indicate strength. On the contrary, Erdogan's actual invasion of northern Syria occurred in the wake of disputes (between Syria and Iraq) that threatened to undermine Turkish objectives, both at home and abroad. Thus, limited United States (US) interference and the failure of rebel forces to topple the Assad regime meant the perpetuation of the terrorist threat; and, more importantly, the continued strengthening of Kurdish factions, which posed the most effective force against ISIS. Indeed, the Kurds' success in the anti-ISIS coalition had helped them gain worldwide recognition similar to that of most nation-states; recognition that meant increased financial support and increased provision of weapons. A Kurdish region, armed and gaining legitimacy for its efforts in the fight against ISIS, is undoubtedly the main reason for Turkish military intervention. In any case, the growing Kurdish influence has resulted in Turkey's shifting and ambiguous attitude towards Assad throughout the SCW.


▲visit of Erdogan to the command of Operation Olive Branch, January 2018 [Presidency of Turkey].


Turkey's changing stance on Assad

While Turkey aggressively supported Assad's ouster at the beginning of the SCW, this stance has increasingly taken a back seat to other more important issues of Turkey's foreign policy with its neighboring states, Syria and Iraq. Indeed, recent statements by Turkish officials openly acknowledge the resilience of the Assad government, a fact that opens the door to future reconciliation between the two sides. These statements also reinforce a very profuse view, according to which, Assad will be a piece core topic in any future agreement on Syria. Thus, on January 20, 2017, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek said,"We cannot keep saying that Assad should go. A agreement without Assad is not realistic."

This easing of rhetoric towards Assad coincides with a positive shift in Turkey's relations with the Syrian regime's allies in the conflict (Iran and Russia), in its attempts to bring about a resolution of the conflict. However, the official Turkish position towards Assad lacks consistency, and appears to be highly dependent on circumstances.

Recently, a war of words initiated by Erdogan with the Syrian president took place, in which the Turkish president accused Assad of being a terrorist. Moreover, Erdogan rejected any subject negotiations with Assad on the future of Syria. For his part, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem responded by accusing Erdogan of being manager of the bloodshed of the Syrian people. On January 2, 2018, forces loyal to Assad fired shells towards Turkish territory. Such a launch prompted an immediate response from Turkey. On January 18, Mevlüt Çavusoglu (Turkish Foreign Minister) announced that his country intended to carry out an air intervention in the Syrian regions of Afrin and Manbij.

A few days later, Operation Olive Branch was launched, under the pretext of creating a "security zone" in Afrin (in Syria's Aleppo province); although it has focused almost entirely on expelling what Erdogan calls Kurdish "terrorists," which are actually composed of Kurdish factions backed by the U.S. These Kurdish groups have played a crucial role in the anti-ISIS coalition. The operation was reportedly launched in response to U.S. plans to create a border force of 30,000 Syrian Kurds. Erdogan stated in a recent speech :"A country we call an ally insists on forming a terror army on our borders. Who can that terrorist army attack if not Turkey? Our mission statement is to strangle it before it is born." This has significantly worsened relations between the two countries, and triggered an official NATO response, in an attempt to avoid confrontation between NATO allies in Manbij.

The US is seeking a balance between the Kurds and Turkey in the region, but has maintained its formal support for the SDF. However, according to analyst Nicholas Heras, the US will not help the Kurds in Afrin, as it will only intervene in the areas of mission statement against ISIS; starting from Manbij and towards the East (thus Afrin is not under US military protection).

Impact of the Syrian conflict on Turkey's International Office

The Syrian conflict has had a strong impact on Turkish relations with a wide range of international actors; of which the most important for both Turkey and the conflict are Russia, the United States, the European Union and Iran.

The downing of a Russian SU-24 aircraft in 2015 led to a deterioration of relations between Russia and Turkey. However, thanks to the Turkish president's apology to Putin in June 2016, relations normalized, ushering in a new era of cooperation between the two countries. This cooperation reached its pinnacle in September of the same year when Turkey purchased an S-400 defense missile system from Russia, despite warnings from its NATO allies. In addition, the Russian business ROSATOM has planned to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey worth $20 billion. Thus, the partnership between the two nations has been strengthened in the military and economic spheres.

However, despite the rapprochement, there are still significant differences between the two countries, particularly with regard to foreign policy perspectives. On the one hand, Russia sees the Kurds as important allies in the fight against ISIS; and considers them essential members in the post-conflict peaceful resolution (PCR) meetings. On the other hand, Turkey's priority is to bring democracy to Syria and prevent Kurdish federalism, which translates into its refusal to include the Kurds in PCR talks. Nevertheless, the ties between Turkey and Russia seem to be quite strong at the moment. This may be due to the fact that the (in Turkey's case, increasing) hostility of both countries towards their Western counterparts outweighs their differences regarding the Syrian conflict.

The relationship between Turkey and the United States is more ambiguous. As important members of NATO, both countries share important ties from work. However, looking at recent developments, one can see how these relations have been deteriorating. The main problem between Washington and Ankara has been the Kurdish issue. The US supports the People's Protection Units (YPG) militias in the SCW, however, the YPG is considered a terrorist group by Turkey. It is not yet known how their relationship will evolve, but possibly both sides will reach a agreement regarding the Kurdish issue. As of today (January 2018), the confrontation in northern Syria is at a stalemate. On the one hand, Turkey does not intend to give in on the Kurdish issue, and on the other hand, the US would lose its prestige as a superpower if it decided to succumb to Turkish demands. Support for the Kurds has traditionally been based on their role in the anti-ISIS campaign. However, as the campaign winds down, the US is finding itself in a bind trying to justify its presence in Syria in any way it can. Its presence is crucial to maintain its influence in the region and, more importantly, to prevent Russian and Iranian domination of the contested theater.

The US refusal to extradite Fethullah Gülen, a bitter enemy who, according to Ankara, was one of the instigators of the failed 2016 coup, has further strained their relations. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, only 10% of Turks trust President Donald Trump. In turn, Turkey recently declared that its agreements with the U.S. are losing validity. Erdogan subryaed that the dissolution of ties between the two countries would seriously affect the legal and economic sphere. In addition, Turkey's Zarrab was convicted in a trial in New York, for helping Iran evade sanctions by enabling a money laundering scheme, which was filtered through US banks. This has been a big problem for Turkey, as one of the defendants had ties to Erdogan's AKP party. However, Erdogan has called the trial a continuation of the coup attempt, and has dealt with potential criticism by organizing a media campaign to spread the idea that Zarrab was one of the perpetrators of the conspiracy against Turkey in 2016.

With respect to the European Union, relations have also deteriorated, despite the fact that Turkey and the EU have strong economic ties. As result of Erdogan's "purge" after the failed coup, the continued deterioration of freedoms in Turkey has strained relations with Europe. In November 2016, the European Parliament voted in favor of fail EU accession negotiations with Turkey, justifying its decision on the abuse of human rights and the decline of the rule of law in Turkey. By increasingly adopting the practices of an autocratic regime, Turkey's accession to the EU is becoming impossible. In a recent meeting between the Turkish and French presidents, French President Emmanuel Macron emphasized the ties between the EU and Turkey, but suggested that there was no realistic chance of Turkey joining the EU in the near future.

Since 2017, after Erdogan's victory in the constitutional referendum in favor of changing the system (from a parliamentary to a presidential system), EU accession negotiations have ceased. In addition, several European bodies, which deal with human rights issues, have placed Turkey on a "black" list, based a assessment, according to which the state of democracy in Turkey is in serious danger due to the AKP.

Another topic related to the Syrian conflict between the EU and Turkey is refugees. In 2016, the EU and Turkey agreed to transfer €6 billion to support Turkish reception of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. While this appeared to be the beginning of a fruitful cooperation, tensions have continued to rise due to Turkey's limited capacity to host such issue of refugees. The humanitarian crisis in Syria is unsustainable: more than 5 million refugees have left the country and only a small issue of them have received sufficient resources to restart their lives. This problem continues to grow day by day, and more than 6 million Syrians have been displaced within its borders. Turkey hosts, as of today, more than 3 million Syrian refugees and, consequently, Ankara's policies have result been greatly influenced by this crisis. On January 23, President Erdogan stated that Turkey' s military operations in Syria would end when all Syrian refugees in Turkey could return safely to their country. The humanitarian financial aid is being sent to civilians in Afrin, where Turkey launched the latest offensive against Kurdish YPG militiamen.

Regarding the relationship between Iraq and Turkey, in November 2016, when Iraqi forces arrived in Mosul to fight against the Islamic State, Ankara announced that it would send the army to the Iraqi border, to prepare for possible developments in the region. The Turkish Defense Minister added that he would not hesitate to act if Turkey's red line was crossed. This received an immediate response from Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi, who warned Turkey not to invade Iraq. Despite this, in April 2017, Erdogan suggested that in future stages, Operation Euphrates Shield would be extended to Iraqi territory: "a future operation will not only have a Syrian dimension, but also an Iraqi dimension. Al Afar, Mosul and Sinjar are in Iraq."

Finally, Russia, Turkey and Iran have cooperated in the framework Astana negotiations for peace in Syria, despite having somewhat divergent interests. In a recent call between Iranian President Rouhani and Erdogan, the Turkish president expressed his hope that the protests in Iran, which occurred in late 2017, will end. The relations between the two countries are strange: in the SCW, Iran supports the Syrian (Shiite) government, while Turkey supports the Syrian (Sunni) civil service examination . Something similar happened in the 2015 intervention in Yemen, where Turkey and Iran supported the opposing factions. This has led to disputes between the leaders of the two countries, however, such tensions have eased since Erdogan made a visit to Iran to improve their relationship. The Qatar diplomatic crisis has also contributed to this dynamic, as it positioned Iran and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and in favor of Qatar. Although there is an enduring element of instability in relations between the two countries, their relationship has been improving in recent months as Ankara, Moscow and Tehran have managed to cooperate in an attempt to overcome their differences to find a solution to the Syrian conflict.

What lies ahead for Turkey in Syria?

Thanks to the negotiations in Astana, a future agreement peace in the region seems possible. The "cessation of hostilities" zones are a necessary first step, to preserve some areas from the violence of war, as outlined in the Turkish strategic plan from the beginning. That said, the result is complicated by a number of factors: the strength of the Kurdish factions is a major element of discord, as well as a source of conflict for the powerful who will manage the post-conflict transition.

There are two main factors that have clearly impacted Turkey's foreign policy decisions regarding the Syrian conflict. The first has to do with the long and complex history of Turkey and its Kurdish minorities, as well as its obsession with preventing the Kurds from achieving a Degree territorial autonomy. If achieved, this would embolden the Turkish Kurds and threaten Turkey's territorial integrity. Turkey unilaterally attacked positions of the Kurdish civil service examination , including some backed by a NATO ally (the US), thus demonstrating how far it is capable of going to ensure that the Kurds are not part of the solution at the end of the civil war. All this produces uncertainty and increases the chances of new conflicts in Syria.

The second factor is related to the changing nature of the government in Turkey, with a move away from the Western-democratic model towards a more authoritarian and quasi-theocratic model , taking Russia and Iran as political allies. In its pivot to the east, Turkey maintains a fragile balance, considering that its objectives differ from those of its new friends (Russia and Iran), with respect to the political result in Syria. Recent developments indicate, however, that Turkey seems to be reaching a agreement on the Assad issue, in exchange for more flexibility in dealing with the Kurdish issue (part of the anti-ISIS coalition), which it considers a threat to its national security.

Currently, in January 2018, the relationship between Turkey and the U.S. appears to be at an impasse, especially in relation to the U.S.-backed group SDF. Erdogan has stated that, after his operation in Afrin, he will continue with a move towards Manbij. Therefore, under NATO auspices, a agreement is being negotiated to clearly delineate the areas in which both countries are militarily active. There is great uncertainty as to how long such partition agreements (under the guise of an anti-ISIS coalition) can last before a new conflict breaks out. However, it seems likely that one of the two possible scenarios will occur to avoid the possible outbreak of war between the great powers in the Middle East.

There are two options. Either a agreement is reached regarding the future role of the SDF and other Kurdish factions, with Turkey's consent, or else the US will withdraw its support for the Kurds, based on the mandate that their alliance was limited to joint fighting in the anti-ISIS coalition. In the latter case, the US risks losing the political and military advantage that the Kurds give it in the region. It also risks losing the confidence of its Kurdish allies, a fact that could have serious strategic repercussions for US involvement in this region.

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