Entries with Categories Global Affairs World order, diplomacy and governance .

[Richard Nephew, The Art of Sanctions. A View from the Field. Columbia University Press. Chichester. New York, 2018. 216 p.]

review / Emili J. Blasco

The Art of Sanctions. A View from the Field

International sanctions often arouse a lively discussion between those who defend them as a legitimate instrument of state-to-state interaction and those who consider that their application has had little effect other than to increase the suffering of entire populations through no fault of their own.

To the question of whether these sanctions, which may be of various kinds but are mainly of an economic nature, are of any use, Richard Nephew answers that it depends. And this is not an evasion, but rather a defense of his own tools by a mechanic of U.S. diplomacy (Nephew was director for Iran at committee National Security and deputy coordinator for sanctions at department ): "Sanctions do not fail or succeed. Rather, sanctions help or fail to achieve the desired result end of a sanctioning state (...) Tools can only perform well when they are employed with the right strategy; you can't accuse the saw if it fails to perform the work of a screwdriver."

Nephew is not a theorist of sanctions, but a "practitioner"; the content of his book comes from experience ("A view from the field" is the subtitle of the book). This experience makes him convinced of the usefulness of these measures, provided they are applied in an appropriate manner. He basically gives the example of two cases: that of Iraq, where the sanctions did not achieve the intended goal due to a bad approach to international pressure, which finally led to war in 2003, and that of Iran, where the regime of punitive measures on the Islamic Republic had its effect and in 2015 it was possible to sign a agreement to curb the Iranian nuclear program.

An active participant in the Iran sanctions architecture, Nephew expands on the case of negotiations with Tehran, after first briefly addressing the Iraq chapter. From all this he draws conclusions and presents his own decalogues on how sanctions should be approached if they are to be effective. In the last pages he tries to advise how to conduct a new sanctions package on Iran, to control its missile program and contain its activity abroad through proxies, but without breaking the agreement reached (JCPOA) as the Trump Administration has done; how to manage the pressure on Russia in relation to Ukraine; and how to confront the attitude of North Korea. It does not address other situations that the discussion on sanctions has well in mind, such as Trump's harshness towards Cuba, in the framework of a decades-long embargo that has not produced changes on the island, or the encirclement of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.

Rules for successful sanctioning

Nephew's main conclusion is that "the knowledge of one's opponent, his tolerances and his vulnerabilities, is the most important predictor of the chances of success of a strategy that focuses on sanctions (...) In fact, for sanctions to work, one really must know the enemy better than the enemy knows himself".

That is what, in his opinion, went wrong in Iraq. The sanctions were certainly effective, in that they prevented Saddam Hussein from returning to a program of weapons of mass destruction, but they did not prevent a war. subject This was because the psychology of the leader was not taken into account, who was willing to endure any kind of suffering -which he passed on to the population, without fearing that they might take power away from him- rather than admit that he did not have the powerful arsenal that supposedly made him one of the regional leaders. The international community did not understand how important it was for him to maintain this simulation, in his claim to credibility and prestige, above the pressure of any sanctions package.

There were other shortcomings in the Iraqi process, according to Nephew: maximum sanctions were applied from the beginning, with no room for an incremental policy, and over time there was a shift from goal, from wanting to prevent the rearmament of the regime to proposing a change of the regime itself (even if Saddam Hussein had accepted the conditions that were put to him, Washington would not have admitted his continuity in power).

These mistakes led to a better understanding of the mechanisms at play, which were refined at attention with Iran. Nephew points out that a good understanding of the country targeted by possible sanctions should take into account its political institutions, macroeconomic and financial system, trade relations, cultural values, recent history, demographics and the population's access to external sources of information. This will make it possible to identify the vulnerabilities and the threshold of pain that the government of the day is willing to absorb. Then both the sanctions and the assumptions themselves must be continually recalibrated, following a well-defined strategy. It is also important that the State targeted by the sanctions is clearly presented with the necessary conditions for the pressure to be lifted, at framework of a negotiation with clear terms. Finally, there must be a willingness to help the State under pressure to get out of a labyrinth whose exit it may not perceive, or even to accept lower objectives if these are also reasonable result .

The author states that the three most common causes of failure of a sanctions regime are: falling short, going too far, and confusing objectives. These labels can easily be applied to past processes, but it is not so simple to fix the steps of coercive diplomacy of this subject in ongoing conflicts or conflicts that may occur in the future.

Thus, Nephew himself would not have full guarantees of success with the sanctions he suggests for a new negotiation with Iran in order to limit its missile program and its action through groups such as Hezbollah. At odds with the Trump Administration, he would have preferred to keep the 2015 agreement on the nuclear program (known by its acronym JCPOA) and the consequent lifting of the previously implemented sanctions regime, to move on to different sanctions seeking that other goal. True, the usefulness of Trump's move remains to be seen, but it is difficult to believe that Tehran will give up these other actions for a pressure that in any case would not be so international (China and Russia only lent themselves to a front against Iran because at stake was Iran's becoming a nuclear power).

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Regional Affairs

With its blocking of some candidates, the European Parliament is seeking the prominence it was denied when the proclamation of the Spitzenkandidatfailed.

Ursula von der Leyen at the plenary session of the European Parliament where she defended her candidacy [European Commission].

Ursula von der Leyen, at the plenary session of the European Parliament where she defended her candidacy [European Commission].

ANALYSIS / Jokin de Carlos

In 1963 the Elysée Treaty was signed between President Charles de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, ending centuries of Franco-German rivalry and beginning the friendship between the two countries. Over the following decades, France and Germany, as the leading economies of the Union, would largely shape the political and economic diary . Even in times of crisis, the two leading countries avoided a confrontational image.

However, after the European elections last May, there was a public tussle between Berlin and Paris over who should replace Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission. On the one side, led by Angela Merkel, were those leaders who defended the nomination of the Bavarian Manfred Weber, Spitzenkandidat of the conservative European People's Party; on the other side, led by Emmanuel Macron, were those who, with liberal or social democratic leanings, opposed this nomination in preference to the Dutchman Frans Timmermans or the Danish Margrathe Vestager.

After weeks of negotiation and diplomatic tension, Weber's candidacy was withdrawn, partly because of Merkel's political weakness in Germany and the momentary defenestration of Sebastian Kurz in Austria due to Ibizagate. But position did not go to Vestager or Timmermans but to Ursula von der Leyen, the German defence minister and Merkel's Christian Democrat colleague, who hails from Hanover and comes from an aristocratic family. 

And so ends the summer of our discontent, with this Hanoverian sunshine.


One of the main problems for the new Commission President will be how to achieve consensus among the leaders at committee and among the parties in the Parliament.

Von der Leyen was unanimously elected on committee, but her election to the European Parliament was the narrowest in history, with only nine votes above the required majority. There were several surprises in this vote, with the Italian 5 Star Movement and the Polish PiS voting in favour and the SPD and all of the Greens voting against.

Composition of the Commission

On 9 September, von der Leyen made public his nominees for the new Commission, composed of 28 members for the 28 member states, although the United Kingdom Withdrawal will have a seat due to its scheduled departure from the Union on 31 October.

The von der Leyen Commission has been organised in the form of pillars, each led by a Vice-President and composed of one or more Commissioners with specific portfolios. These pillars are five: (a) agreement green Europe, which will cover issues such as energy, transport or agriculture; (b) a Europe ready for the digital age, for issues such as innovation and skill; (c) protecting our European way of life, which will cover the areas of immigration and security; (d) a Economics that works for the people, for trade, work and finance; and (e) a Europe strong in the world, which will include issues such as International Office or crisis management.

For the composition of this Commission, Von der Leyen has tried to integrate two of the Spitzenkandidat who were discarded for the presidency. Socialist Frans Timmermans, former Dutch deputy prime minister, will continue as vice-president and lead the European Greenagreement pillar, while liberal Margrethe Vestager, former Danish deputy prime minister, having been commissioner for skill in the previous Commission, will lead the Digital Ready Europe pillar. These are two of the most popular commissioners in the Juncker Commission, in Vestager's case for her fight against tax evasion by several large US tech companies, such as Google, Amazon and Apple.

Of the remaining vice-presidents, three will head the other three pillars: the new EU High Representative Josep Borrell, a former Spanish minister in several portfolios and former president of the European Parliament, will lead Strong Europe in the World; Latvian Christian Democrat and former premier Valdis Dombrovskis will head the economic pillar; and Greek conservative Margaritis Schinas will lead the pillar of protecting the European way of life.

Three other vice-presidencies, with smaller areas, will go to the Czech Verá Jorubá (Values and Transparency), Slovakia's Maroš Šefčovič (Inter-institutional Relations) and Croatia's Dubravka Šuica (Democracy and Demography).

Among the nominees for commissioners are prestigious people who have achieved important positions in their respective countries, as well as in previous European commissions: Paolo Gentiloni, former Italian prime minister, will be commissioner for Economics, and Didier Reynders, former Belgian minister of defence, finance and foreign affairs, will head justice.


There are two characteristics of this Commission proposal: (1) the first is its more political character and (2) the second is a marked Francophilia. 

(1) In the past, Commissioners tended to show a technical profile and in many cases a preference for remaining in the shadows. In a way they could have been considered the secretariat of the European committee . However, Von der Leyen' s selection seems to want to put an end to this tradition by opting for better known names. Thus, Gentiloni or Dombrovskis have previously governed their countries, while others such as Vestager, Timmermans or Reynders have had some previous prominence. It seems that the interest of EU politicians is no longer so much to create the European Federation as soon as possible as to bring Brussels closer to the people. Whether this strategy works or not, time will tell.

(2) The second characteristic of this new Commission is a clear pro-French direction, to the satisfaction of Emmanuel Macron. Many of the members of the Commission are political allies of the French president; the clearest example is Ursula von der Leyen herself, despite having been a member of Merkel's cabinet and a co-religionist of hers. It should be remembered that it was Macron who proposed her for the position after the veto of Weber, who was Merkel's initial candidate . But that is not all. Both Timmermans and Vestager are political allies of Macron (Vestager had been his first choice to chair the Commission). Josep Borrell is also a well-known Francophile, and Didier Reynerds is a French-speaking Belgian whose party is allied with Macron's, as is Italian commissioner Paolo Gentiloni. It is thus a largely Francophile Commission, which could increase Macron's weight in the Union and advance his vision of Europe.

Outside the Commission, the other positions nominated by the European committee were Christine Lagarde, the former French finance minister, who has left the IMF to head the European Central Bank, and Charles Michell, the French-speaking premier of Belgium and a fellow liberal of Macron's, the new president of the European committee .

These nominations were also intended to meet a number of objectives:

i) First and foremost, there was a desire to put an end to the possible alienation of the countries of Central and Southern Europe. Out of eight vice-presidents, four are from Central Europe, in charge of such important areas as the economic pillar or justice issues; two others are from the South, with responsibility for immigration and foreign policy.

ii) It has also tried to reach out to groups that may have doubts about Von der Leyen or directly voted against him in the parliamentary session. Looking at the Greens, Europe's greenagreement portfolio aims to reduce carbon emissions by 55% of their 1990 levels by 2030 and to make Europe the first zero-carbon continent by 2050. The immigration pillar, called Protecting our European way of life, seems to augur a tougher policy on immigration issues with goal to maintain the support of Poland's PiS and Hungary's Fidesz.

iii) Briefly it should also be mentioned that the nomination of Gentiloni to the economic portfolio seems a way to reward Italy for the training of a pro-Brussels government. While the nomination of a left-wing Italian for Economics might worry Germany or the New Hansa, it seems that the nomination of Austrian conservative Johannes Hahn for the Budgetary Commission has been made to balance Gentiloni's nomination.

Challenges and possible complications

The four main challenges of this new Commission seem likely to be ecology, Economics, immigration and the construction of a common foreign policy.

As mentioned above, the nomination of Borrell and other commissioners may lead to a foreign policy along French lines, which at certain points may lead to conflicts with Poland, the Baltic states or even Germany if tensions between France and the US lead Washington to question its commitments to NATO and Russia.

Immigration looks set to remain a major issue for the Commission, although not as much as in recent years, largely because the issue of people arriving in Europe has dropped dramatically. From more than one million in 2015 to less than 150,000 in 2018. Everything seems to indicate that the line on illegal immigration will be tougher than in previous years, although an attempt will be made to avoid populist rhetoric. However, the very name of the portfolio, Protecting our European way of life, has already been criticised by certain political and civil society sectors in Western Europe.

The Economics will be another element core topic. With a Brexit that could damage the European Economics or cause a slowdown.

Another major problem will be related to Timmermans and his position. As head of the European green pillar agreement , the Dutchman will be in charge of dealing with countries to reduce their carbon emissions. Central European countries, especially Poland, are still heavily dependent on the coal sector, which employs a significant portion of the workforce. Timmermans showed a certain clumsiness in dealing with Poland and Hungary on justice issues when he was Juncker's vice-president, so it remains to be seen how he deals with the energy issue.

In relation to the nominations, there has been concern over the Parliament's blocking of the Romanian, Hungarian and French Commissioners, who were rejected for different reasons. In the case of the Hungarian nominee, the veto was attributed to his relationship with a law firm, and in the case of the French nominee, to his links with an American think tank . However, the general analysis seems to indicate that these rejections, especially in the case of the French nominee, seem to be a retaliation by the Parliament for having been section in the decision on the Commission presidency - by disregarding the proclamation of the most voted Spitzenkandidat - by the European committee , especially by Emmanuel Macron. The fall of the Romanian government and the establishment of a government provisional until the 2020 legislative elections may delay the training of the Commission. According to High Representative Josep Borrell, the training of the Von der Leyen Commission is expected to be delayed until 1 December.


To say that the Von der Leyen Commission will be continuist, as many claim, would be partially incorrect. While the ideology seems to be the same, the objectives set are very different and much more political. It seems that some of the mistakes made by the Juncker Commission want to be solved and an attempt is being made to respond to some of the demands that citizens are making of Brussels, on issues such as care for the environment, economic improvement, the correct integration of Central Europe, border control, the development of a common international policy and bringing Brussels closer to Europeans.

Whether this will be a failure or a victory, on verra.

Categories Global Affairs: European Union World order, diplomacy and governance Analysis

View of Doha, the capital of Qatar, from its Islamic Museum [Pixabay].

▲ View of Doha, the capital of Qatar, from its Islamic Museum [Pixabay].

essay / Sebastián Bruzzone Martínez

I. Introduction. Qatar, emirate of the Persian Gulf

In ancient times, the territory was inhabited by the Canaanites. From the 7th century AD onwards, Islam settled in the Qatari peninsula. As in the United Arab Emirates, piracy and attacks on the merchant ships of powers sailing along the Persian Gulf coast were frequent. Qatar was ruled by the Al Khalifa family from Kuwait until 1868, when at the request of the Qatari sheikhs and with financial aid from the British, the Al Thani dynasty was established. In 1871, the Ottoman Empire occupied the country and the Qatari dynasty recognised Turkish authority. In 1913, Qatar gained autonomy; three years later, Amir Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani signed a treaty with the UK to establish a British military protectorate in the region, while maintaining the amir's absolute monarchy.

In 1968, the UK withdrew its military force, and the Truce States (UAE, Qatar and Bahrain) organised the Federation of the Emirates of the Persian Gulf. Qatar, like Bahrain, gained independence from the Federation in 1971, proclaimed a constitution provisional, signed a treaty of friendship with the UK and joined the Arab League and the UN.

The Constitution provisional was replaced by the 2003 Constitution of 150 articles, submitted to a referendum and supported by 98% of the electorate. It entered into force as the fundamental rule on 9 April 2004. It recognises Islam as the official religion of the state and Sharia law as source of law (art. 1); the provision for adherence to and respect for international treaties, covenants and agreements signed by the Emirate of Qatar (art. 6); hereditary rule by the Al Thani family (art. 8); executive institutions such as the committee of Ministers and legislative-consultative institutions such as the committee Al Shoura or committee of the Ruling Family. Also included are the possibility of regency through the Trustee Council (arts. 13-16), the institution of the prime minister appointed by the emir (art. 72), the emir as head of state and representative of the state in Interior, Foreign Affairs and International Office (arts. 64-66), a sovereign wealth fund (Qatar Investment Company; art. 17), judicial institutions such as local courts and the Supreme Judicial committee , and its control over the unconstitutionality of laws (137-140)[1], among other aspects.

It also recognises rights such as private property (art. 27), equality of rights and duties (art. 34), equality of persons before the law without discrimination on grounds of sex, race, language or religion (art. 35), freedom of expression (art. 47), freedom of the press (art. 48), impartiality of justice and effective judicial protection (134-136), among others.

These rights recognised in the Qatari Constitution must be consistent with Islamic law, and thus their application is different from what is observed in Europe or the United States. For example, although article 1 recognises democracy as the state's political system, political parties do not exist, and trade unions are banned, although the right of association is recognised by the Constitution. Similarly, 80% of the country's population is foreign, with these constitutional rights applying to Qatari citizens, who make up the remaining 20%.

Like the other countries in the region, oil has been a transforming factor in Qatar's Economics . Today, Qatar has a high standard of living and one of the highest per capita GDPs in the world[2], and is an attractive destination for foreign investors and luxury tourism. However, in recent years Qatar has been experiencing a diplomatic crisis[3] with its Persian Gulf neighbours due to a number of factors that have condemned the Arab country to regional isolation.

II. The instability of the al thani family

The government of the Emirate of Qatar has suffered great instability due to internal disputes within the Al Thani family. Peter Salisbury, Middle East expert at Chatham House, the Royal high school of International Affairs in London, spoke of the Al Thanis in an interview for the BBC: "It's a family that initially (before finding oil) ruled a small, insignificant piece of land, often seen as a small province of Saudi Arabia. But it managed to carve out a position for itself in this region of giants". [4]

In 1972, in a coup d'état, Ahmed Al Thani was deposed by his cousin Khalifa Al Thani, with whom Qatar pursued an international policy of non-intervention and the search for internal peace, and maintained a good relationship with Saudi Arabia. He remained in power until 1995, when his son Hamad Al Thani dethroned him while he was away on a trip to Switzerland. The Saudi government saw this as a bad example for other countries in the region also ruled by family dynasties. Hamad boosted exports of liquefied natural gas and oil, and dismantled an alleged Saudi plan to reinstate his father Khalifa. The countries of the region began to see the 'little brother' grow economically and internationally very fast under the new emir and his foreign minister Hamam Al Thani.

The family is structured around Hamad and his wife Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned, who has become an icon of fashion and female prestige among the international nobility, on a par with Rania of Jordan, Kate Middleton and Queen Letizia (the couple is close to the Spanish royal family).

Hamad abdicated to his son Tamim Al Thani in 2013. The latter's ascension was a short-lived breath of hope for the international Arab community. Tamim adopted a very similar international policy stance to his father, strengthening rapprochement and economic cooperation with Iran, and increasing tension with Saudi Arabia, which proceeded to close Qatar's only land border. Similarly, according to a WikiLeaks leak in 2009, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan accused Tamim of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. On the other hand, the economic, political, social and even staff rivalry between Qatar's Al Thani and Saudi Arabia's Al Saud goes back decades.

In my view, stability and family hierarchy in dynastic nations is a crucial factor to avoid internal power struggles that consequently have great negative effects on the country's society. Each person has different political, economic and social ideas that take time to implement. Frequent changes without an objective culmination end up being a terribly destabilising factor. Internationally, the country's political credibility and rigidity can be undermined when the emir's son stages a coup while his father is on holiday. Qatar, aware of this, sought legislative security and rigidity in article 148 of its constitution by prohibiting the amendment of any article within ten years of its coming into force entrance .

In 1976, Qatar claimed sovereignty over the Hawar Islands, controlled by the Bahraini royal family, which became a focus of conflict between the two nations. The same happened with the artificial island of Fasht Ad Dibal, which prompted the Qatari military to raid the island in 1986. It was abandoned by Qatar in a peace deal with Bahrain agreement .

III. Alleged support to terrorist groups

This is the main reason why neighbouring states have isolated Qatar. Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Libya and the Maldives, among others, cut diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar in June 2017 over its alleged funding and support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which it considers a terrorist organisation. In 2010, WikiLeaks leaked a diplomatic grade in which the US called Qatar the "worst in the region in subject cooperation to eliminate funding for terrorist groups."

The Muslim Brotherhood, which originated in 1928 with Hassan Al Bana in Egypt, is a political activist and Islamic movement, with principles based on nationalism, social justice and anti-colonialism. However, within the movement there are various strands, some more rigorous than others. The founders of the Muslim Brotherhood see the Education of society as the tool most effective way to achieve state power. For this reason, the movement's indoctrinators or evangelists are the most persecuted by the authorities in countries that condemn membership of group. It has a well-defined internal structure, headed by the supreme guide Murchid, assisted by an executive body, a committee and an assembly.

From 1940 onwards, the paramilitary activity of group began clandestinely with Nizzam Al Khas, whose initial intention was to achieve Egyptian independence and expel the Zionists from Palestine. They carried out attacks such as the assassination of Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud An Nukrashi. The creation of this special section sentenced final the reputation and violent character of the Muslim Brotherhood, which continued its expansion around the world in the form of Tanzim Al Dawli, its international structure.[5]

Khaled Mashal,[6] a former leader of the militant organisation Hamas, is in exile in Qatar's capital, Doha, and the Taliban of Afghanistan has a political office. Importantly, most Qatari citizens are followers of Wahhabism, a puritanical version of Islam that seeks the literal interpretation of the Qur'an and Sunnah, founded by Mohammad ibn Abd Al Wahhab.

During the post-Arab Spring political crisis in 2011, Qatar supported the Muslim Brotherhood's electoral efforts in North African countries. The Islamist movement saw the revolution as a useful means to gain access to governments, taking advantage of the power vacuum. In Egypt, Mohamed Mursi, linked to the movement, became president in 2013, although he was overthrown by the military. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain negatively characterised the support and saw it as a destabilising Islamist element. In those countries where it was unsuccessful, its members were expelled and many took refuge in Qatar. Meanwhile, in neighbouring countries in the region, alarms were raised and every pro-Islamist move by the Qatari government was closely followed.

Similarly, Dutch sources and human rights lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld accused Qatar of financing the Al Nusra Front[7], the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda involved in the war against Al Assad, declared a terrorist organisation by the United States and the UN. The Dutch lawyer claimed in 2018 to have the necessary evidence to prove the flow of Qatari money to Al Nusra through companies based in the country and to hold Qatar judicially responsible before the court in The Hague for the victims of the war in Syria. It is important to know that, in 2015, Doha obtained the release of 15 Lebanese soldiers, but in exchange for the release of 13 detained terrorists. Other sources claim that Qatar paid 20 million euros for the release of 45 Fijian blue helmets kidnapped by Al-Nusra in the Golan Heights.

According to the BBC, in December 2015, Kataeb Hezbollah or the Islamic Resistance Movement of Iraq, recognised as a terrorist organisation by the United Arab Emirates and the United States, among others, kidnapped a group group of Qataris who went hunting in Iraq. [8] Among the hunters on the group were two members of the Qatari royal family, the cousin and uncle of Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar's foreign minister since 2016. After 16 months of negotiations, the hijackers demanded a chilling $1 billion from the Qatari ambassador to Iraq to free the hostages. According to Qatar Airways officials, in April 2017 a Qatar Airways plane flew to Baghdad with the money to be delivered to the Iraqi government, which would act as an intermediary between Hezbollah and Qatar. However, business has never commented on the facts. The official version of the Qatari government is that the terrorists were never paid and the release of the hostages was achieved through a joint diplomatic negotiation between Qatar and Iraq.

Qatar's funding of the armed Hamas group in the Gaza Strip is a fact of life. In November 2018, according to Israeli sources, Qatar paid fifteen million dollars in cash as part of a agreement with Israel negotiated by Egypt and the UN, which would cover a total of ninety million dollars split into several payments[9], with the intention of seeking peace and reconciliation between the political parties Fatah and Hamas, considered group terrorist by the United States.

IV. Qatar's relationship with Iran

Qatar has good diplomatic and commercial relations with Iran, which is mainly Shiite, and this is not to the liking of the Quartet (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain), which is mainly Sunni, especially Saudi Arabia, with whom it has an obvious confrontation - subsidiary, not direct - over the predominant political and economic influence in the Persian region. In 2017, in his last visit to Riyadh ( visit ), Donald Trump called on the countries of the region to isolate Iran because of the military and nuclear tension it is experiencing with the United States. Qatar acts as an intermediary and turning point between the US and Iran, trying to open the way for dialogue in relation to the sanctions implemented by the American president.

Doha and Tehran have a strong economic relationship around the oil and gas industry, sharing the world's largest gas field, the South Pars-North Dame, while Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have followed the US lead in their foreign policy agendas towards Iran. One of the Quartet's conditions for Qatar to lift the economic and diplomatic blockade is the cessation of bilateral relations with Iran, which were reinstated in 2016, and the establishment of trade conduct with Iran in accordance with US sanctions.

V. Al Jazeera television network

Founded in 1996 by Hamad Al Thani, Al Jazeera has become the most influential digital media in the Middle East. It positioned itself as a promoter of the Arab Spring and was present in the climates of violence in different countries. As a result, it has been criticised by Qatar's antagonists for its positions close to Islamist movements, for acting as a mouthpiece for the fundamentalist messages of the Muslim Brotherhood and for being a vehicle for Qatari diplomacy. Its closure was one of the requirements requests made by the Quartet to Qatar to lift the economic blockade, the transit of people and the opening of airspace.

The US accuses the network of being the mouthpiece of extremist Islamic groups since the former head of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, began to disseminate his communiqués through it; of being anti-Semitic in nature; and of adopting a position favourable to the armed Hamas group in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 2003, Saudi Arabia, after several failed attempts to cause the closure of the Qatari television network, decided to create a competing television station, Al Arabiya TV, initiating a disinformation war and vying over which of the two has the most reliable information.

VI. Washington and London's position

On the one hand, the United States seeks to have a good relationship with Qatar, as it has the large military base of Al-Udeid, which has an excellent strategic position in the Persian Gulf and more than ten thousand troops. In April 2018, the Qatari emir visited Donald Trump at the White House, who said that the relationship between the two countries "works extremely well" and considers Tamim a "great friend" and "a great gentleman". Tamim Al Thani has stressed that Qatar will not tolerate people who finance terrorism and confirmed that Doha will cooperate with Washington to stop the financing of terrorist groups.

The contradiction is clear: Qatar confirms its commitment to fighting the financing of terrorist groups, but its track record does not back it up. So far, the small country has demonstrably helped these groups in one way or another, through political asylum and protection of its members, direct or indirect funding through controversial negotiation techniques, or by promoting political interests that have not been to the liking of its great geopolitical rival, Saudi Arabia.

The United States is the great mediator and impediment to direct confrontation in the tension between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Both countries are members of the United Nations and allies of the US. Europe and American presidents have been aware that a direct confrontation between the two countries could prove fatal for the region and their commercial interests related to oil and the Strait of Hormuz.

On the other hand, the UK government has remained aloof in taking a position on the Qatar diplomatic crisis. Emir Tamim Al Thani owns 95 per cent of The Shard building, eight per cent of the London Stock Exchange and Barclays bank, as well as flats, stocks and shares in companies in the UK capital. Qatari investments in the UK capital total around $60 billion.

In 2016, former British Prime Minister David Cameron showed his concern about the future when the London mayoralty was occupied by Sadiq Khan, a Muslim who has appeared on more than one occasion alongside Sulaiman Gani, an imam who supports the Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood.[10]

VII. Civil war in Yemen

Since foreign military intervention in Yemen's civil war began in 2015, at the request of Yemeni President Rabbu Mansur Al Hadi, Qatar has aligned itself with the states of the committee Cooperation for the Arab States of the Gulf (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), backed by the United States, the United Kingdom and France, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), backed by the US, the UK and France, to create an international coalition to help restore Al Hadi's legitimate power, which has been under siege since the coup d'état by Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdala Saleh. However, Qatar has been accused of clandestinely supporting the Houthi rebels[11], and the rest of the committee countries view its actions with great caution.

Today, the Yemeni civil war has become the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945.[12] On 11 August 2019, South Yemeni separatists, backed by the United Arab Emirates, which initially supports al-Hadi's government, seized the port city of Aden, storming the presidential palace and the military instructions . The president, in exile in Riyadh, has described the attack by his allies as a coup against the institutions of the legitimate state, and has received direct support from Saudi Arabia. After days of tension, the Southern Movement separatists left the city.

The Emirates and Saudi Arabia, along with other neighbouring states such as Bahrain and Kuwait, of Sunni belief, seek to halt the advance of the Houthis, who dominate the capital, Sana'a, and a possible expansion of Shi'ism promoted by Iran through the conflict in Yemen. Similarly, there is a strong geopolitical interest in the Strait of Bab el Mandeb, which connects the Red Sea with the Arabian Sea and is a major alternative to the flow of trade in the Strait of Hormuz, off the coast of Iran. This interest is shared by France and the US, which seeks to eliminate the presence of ISIS and Al Qaeda in the region.

The day after the capture of Aden, and in the midst of Eid Al-Adha celebrations, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed met in Mecca with Saudi King Salman bin Abdelaziz and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an apparent effort to downplay the significance of the event, call on the warring parties in the city to safeguard Yemen's interests, and reaffirm regional cooperation and unity of interest between the UAE and Saudi Arabia. [13] The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi has posted on his official Twitter accounts comments and photographs from meeting in which a positive attitude can be seen on the faces of the leaders.

Conversely, if the partnership and understanding on the Yemen issue between the two countries were complete, as they claimed, there would be no need to create an apparently 'ideal' image through official communications from the Abu Dhabi government and the publication of images on social media.

Although the UAE supports the separatists, the latest developments have caused a sense of mistrust, raising the possibility that the southern militias are disregarding Emirati directives and starting to run a diary of their own to suit their own particular interests. Foreign sources are also beginning to speak of a civil war within a civil war. Meanwhile, Qatar remains close to Iran and cautious about status in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East World order, diplomacy and governance Essays Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf

[John J. Mearsheimer, The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities, Yale University Press, September 2018, 328 pp.]

REVIEW / Albert Vidal

The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities

"For better or for worse, liberal hegemony is history". With such a statement John J. Mearsheimer concluded his talk about his recently published book "The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities" at SOAS University of London.

In this book Mearsheimer argues that the foreign policy of liberal hegemony which was adopted by the US at the end of the Cold War failed miserably. He explains that it happened because nationalism and realism always overrun liberalism.

In the first part of the book he defines liberalism, nationalism and liberal hegemony. He then explains why the US pursued liberal hegemony, and what is its track record. Finally, he reveals why liberal hegemony failed, and what can we expect in the future. Let's take a more detailed look into it.


Mearsheimer casts light on liberalism's two fundamental assumptions underpinning human nature: first, it assumes that the individual takes precedence over the group; second, liberalism assumes that individuals cannot reach universal agreement over first principles, and such differences often lead to violence.

In order to deal with this potential for violence, liberalism offers a solution that includes three parts: everybody has individual rights that are inalienable; tolerance receives a special emphasis, and a state becomes necessary to limit the threat of those who do not respect other people's rights. Such features make liberalism a universalistic theory, which is what turned the US into a crusader state.


According to the author, nationalism has its own core assumptions: first, humans are naturally social animals; second, group loyalty is more important than individualism, and third, aside from the family, the most important group is the nation. He then goes on to say that nations (bodies of individuals that have certain features that make them distinct from other groups) want their own states.

After that, Mearsheimer says that nationalism beats liberalism because human beings are primarily social animals. To show this, he recalls that the entire planet is covered with nation states, and liberal democracies do not even comprise a 50% of those nation-states.

Liberal hegemony

This is just an attempt to remake the world in America's image and has several components: to spread liberal democracy across the planet, to integrate more countries into the open international economy and into international institutions. In theory, this would be extremely beneficial, since it would eliminate significant human rights violations (here the author assumes that liberal democracies do not engage in great human rights violations), it would make for a peaceful world (following the democratic peace theory) and it would eliminate the threat of foreign support to those who want to overthrow liberal democracy at home.

Why did the US pursue liberal hegemony?

After the Cold War, a moment of unipolarity made it possible, says Mearsheimer, for the US to ignore balance of power politics and pursue a liberal foreign policy. To this we need to add that the US is a liberal country, which oftentimes thinks itself as exceptional. This clearly prompted the US to try to remake the world into its image.

In this part of the book, Mearsheimer shows different failures of the US foreign policy. The first one is the Bush Doctrine and the Greater Middle East, which was a plan to turn the Middle East into a sea of democracies. The result was a total disaster. The second example is the awful relations between the US and Russia and the Ukraine crisis, which were the result of NATO's expansion. Thirdly, Mearsheimer criticizes the way the US has engaged with China, helping it grow quicker while naively thinking that it would eventually become a liberal democracy.

Why did liberal hegemony fail?

The reason is that the power of nationalism and realism always overrun liberalism; in words of Mearsheimer: "the idea that the US can go around the world trying to establish democracies and doing social engineering is a prescription for trouble". Countries will resist to foreign interference. Also, in large parts of the world, people prefer security before liberal democracy, even if that security has to be provided by a soft authoritarianism. 

Liberal hegemony is finished, because the world is no longer a unipolar place. Now the US needs to worry about other powers.

A critique of his theory

Although Mearsheimer's thesis seems solid, several critiques have been formulated; most of these are directed toward issues that contradict some of Mearsheimer's arguments and assumptions and that have been left unaddressed.

1) In his introduction, Mearsheimer argues that individuals cannot reach an agreement over first principles. I believe that is an over-statement, since some values tend to be appreciated in most societies. Some examples would be the value of life, the importance of the family for the continuation of society and the education of the upcoming generations, the importance of truth and honesty, and many others.

2) When he describes the US foreign policy since the 1990s as liberal hegemony, Mearsheimer chooses to ignore some evident exceptions, such as the alliance with Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian regimes which do not respect the most basic human rights.  

3) Many of the failures of the US foreign policy since the 1990s do not actually seem to derive from the liberal policies themselves, but from the failure of properly implementing them. That is, those failures happened because the US deviated from its liberal foreign policy. A clear example is what happened in Iraq: although the intervention was publicly backed by a liberal rhetoric, many doubt that Washington was truly committed to bring stability and development to Iraq. A commonly pointed example is that the only Ministry effectively protected was the Oil Ministry. The rest were abandoned to the looters. A true liberal policy would have sought to restore the education and health systems, state institutions and infrastructure, which never really happened. So blaming the failure to the liberal policy might not be adequate.

4) Although Mearsheimer proves the urge to intervene that comes with liberal hegemony, he doesn't show how a hegemon following realist principles would restrain itself and intervene on fewer occasions and with moderation. The necessity to protect human rights would simply become a willingness to protect vital interests, which serves as an excuse for any type of intervention (unlike human rights, even if they have sometimes been the origin of a disastrous intervention). 

As a final thought, this book suggests a clear alternative to the mainstream views of most of today's foreign policy, especially in Western Europe and in the United States. Even if we disagree with some (or most) of its tenets, it is nevertheless helpful in understanding many of the current dynamics, particularly in relation to the everlasting tension between nationalism and universalism. We might even need to rethink our foreign policies and instead of blindly praising liberalism, we should accept that sometimes, liberalism isn't able to solve every problem that we face.

Categories Global Affairs: Book reviews World order, diplomacy and governance Global

Almagro's speech at the opening of the 49th OAS General Assembly in Medellin, Colombia in June 2019 [OAS].

▲ Almagro's speech at the opening of the 49th OAS General Assembly in Medellin, Colombia in June 2019 [OAS].

COMMENTARY / Ignacio Yárnoz

At the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) held in Medellin last June, the tensions and divisions that currently exist within this international organization became evident. In the first place, these discrepancies were evident in the question of the Venezuelan issue, an issue that starred in the meeting with the presentation of migration reports, criticism of the Bolivarian regime and the presence of the Venezuelan delegation representing the Guaidó government headed by Ambassador Gustavo Tarre.

These facts were greeted with the rejection of a large part of the Caribbean countries, who abandoned the conference room in the presentation of the reports and declared their refusal to comply with any OAS resolution in which the Venezuelan delegation voted in favor. And the fact is that, in the opinion of the Caribbean countries, Venezuela formally left the organization in March and the presence of Guaidó's delegation as the legitimate representative of Venezuela contravenes international law and the principles of the OAS Charter, given that it represents a government without effective control of the territory or legal legitimacy. But the Caricom countries were not the only ones to express their protest, the delegation of Uruguay also left the conference room and that of Mexico expressed its displeasure at the Venezuelan opposition presence as a delegation of plenary session of the Executive Council right.

The controversy, however, not only revealed discrepancies on how to deal with the Venezuelan crisis, but also reflected another underlying reality, which is that Luis Almagro's candidacy for reelection as University Secretary of the organization hangs in the balance.

In December of last year, Uruguay's Almagro formally announced that, at the request of Colombia and the United States, he had decided to run for re-election with the assurance of having the necessary votes. Since then, however, the re-election landscape has darkened. The vote will take place on the first semester of 2020 and to get re-elected Almagro needs at least 18 votes from the 35 countries of the OAS (if we include Cuba, even if it does not actively participate).


The future of Almagro, who arrived at position in May 2015, depends on several factors that will develop this year. Mainly, the general elections in Argentina, Canada, Uruguay and Bolivia, which will be held between October and November. However, there are other variables that may also affect his reelection, such as the support he obtains from the group de Lima countries or the possible division among Caricom members in this regard. Below, we will review these assumptions one by one.

In the case of the Bolivian elections, Almagro has already played his cards and has been accused of having used a double standard by harshly criticizing the Maduro regime, but then not being critical of the possibility of re-election of Evo Morales for the third time. Such reelection is supposedly not legal according to the Bolivian Constitution and was vetoed by the population in a referendum, but President Evo Morales has ignored it under the pretext that preventing him from being candidate again is against human rights, an argument later endorsed by the Bolivian Supreme Court. The administrative office General of the OAS, despite not being of agreement with the "right to be reelected", did not raise any criticism or position against such election supposedly due to the possible vote of Bolivia in favor of Almagro, something that could happen if Evo Morales is finally reelected but that is not completely certain either. However, if not, he has already earned the animosity of civil service examination candidates such as Carlos Mesa or Óscar Ortiz and of opposition leader Samuel Doria Medina who, if elected, would not vote in favor of him.

Regarding Guatemala, the first round of the presidential elections gave the victory to Sandra Torres (22.08% of the votes) and Alejandro Giammattei (12.06% of the votes), who will face each other in the second round on Sunday, August 11. Should Torres be elected, she may align her stance with that of Mexico by adopting a less interventionist policy towards Venezuela and therefore against Almagro. In the case of the victory of Giammattei, a center-right politician, it is likely that he will align his positions with Almagro and vote in favor of him. Guatemala has always been aligned with US positions, so it is doubtful that the country would vote against a candidacy supported by Washington, although not impossible.

As for Argentina and Canada, the position will depend on whether the candidate winner in their respective elections is conservative or progressive. Even in the case of Canada, the possibility of a rejection of Almagro is open regardless of the political orientation of the new government, since while Canada has been critical of the Maduro regime, it has also criticized the internal organization of the OAS under the current University Secretary. As far as Argentina is concerned, there is a clear difference between the presidential candidates: while Mauricio Macri would represent continuity in support for Almagro, the Alberto Fernández-Cristina Kirchner ticket would clearly represent a rejection.

Uruguay represents a curious case of how internal politics and political games affect even members of the same party. We must not forget that Luis Almagro was a minister in Pepe Mujica's government and that his first candidacy to University Secretary was presented by Uruguay. However, given the division in the political training to which he belonged, Frente Amplio, he earned some enemies such as those of the current government of Tabaré Vázquez. That is why Uruguay has been so critical of Luis Almagro despite being a compatriot and fellow party member. However, we should not doubt that he will also have his friends in the party that will change Uruguay's position. If so, it would not matter which candidate is elected (Luis Lacalle Pou for the National Party or Daniel Martinez for the Frente Amplio) that Almagro would have a guaranteed vote: that of the right wing of the National Party by having a more critical thesis with Maduro (in fact, they recognized the Guaidó government as a party and criticized Uruguay's neutrality), or that of the left wing of the Frente Amplio because of the contacts Almagro may have, although the latter is still a hypothesis given that the most extreme wing of the party is the one that still has the majority of votes within the Frente Amplio.

Another applicant

However, Almagro's chances for reelection could be frustrated if another aspirant presents his candidacy who could win the sympathy of the group of Lima, created in August 2017 and integrated by a dozen countries of the Americas to coordinate their strategy in relation to Venezuela. Peru sounds like the one possibly presenting a candidate: Hugo de Zela, a Peruvian diplomat with 42 years of degree program who in April was appointed Peru's ambassador to Washington and who has played a very relevant role within the group de Lima as coordinator. In addition, De Zela knows the structure of the OAS given that he has served as chief of staff of the administrative office General on two occasions: first, between 1989 and 1994, when the head of the organization was the Brazilian Joao Clemente Baena Soares; and then between 2011 and 2015, with the Chilean José Miguel Insulza. This candidate, apart from his wide political experience, has as a trump card the fact of having been coordinator of the group of Lima, which could give guarantees about the partnership between that group and the OAS on the Venezuelan issue.

Should De Zela decide to run, the Lima group could break up and split its votes, which could favor the interests of the 14 countries of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), which usually vote as a bloc and have been dissatisfied with Almagro's management on the Venezuelan crisis. In fact, Caricom is already thinking of presenting a candidate that takes into account the interests of these countries, mainly climate change. The names that sound among Caricom members are the ambassador to the OAS of Antigua and Barbuda, Ronald Sanders, or the representative of Barbados to the UN, Liz Thompson.

However, there remains one hope in the Caricom community for Almagro. Saint Lucia, Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas broke ranks at the time of voting on the Admissions Office of Ambassador Gustavo Tarre appointed by the Guaidó government to represent Venezuela before the OAS (although technically what they supported is that he be designated as "permanent representative appointed by the National Assembly, pending new elections and the appointment of a democratically elected government"). These four countries, although with a more moderate position than that of group de Lima, joined their position by accepting the designation of said representative with the aforementioned nuance. This is the third occasion so far this year that they have broken ranks in Caricom in the Venezuelan topic . This could give the University Secretary a trump card with which to play in order to obtain the support of any of these four countries, although it will require skillful negotiation techniques and give something in exchange to these countries, be it positions in the general administrative office or benefits in new programs and scholarships of development integral or climate change, for example.  

In conclusion, in the best possible scenario for Almagro and assuming that no country of the group of Lima presents an alternative candidate , the candidacy for reelection of the current University Secretary would have 12 assured votes, 4 negotiable votes from St. Lucia, Jamaica, Haiti and Bahamas and 5 pending elections (Guatemala, Canada, Uruguay, Argentina and Bolivia). It is clear that Mexico, a large part of Caricom (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago) and Nicaragua will vote against. In addition, we must add the fact that any candidacy can be presented up to 10 minutes before the extraordinary General Assembly, which gives even more room for political games in the shadows and last minute surprises. As we can see, it is a very difficult status for the University Secretary and for sure it will mean more than one headache in this arithmetic of votes to get the position. Undoubtedly a fight for the position that will give much to talk about between now and February 2020.

Categories Global Affairs: North America World order, diplomacy and governance Comments Latin America

[I. H. Daalder & James M. Lindsay, The Empty Throne. America's Abdication of Global Leadership. Public Affairs. New York, 2018. 256 p.]


review / Salvador Sánchez Tapia

The Empty Throne. America's Abdication of Global Leadership

The arrival of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States in January 2017 has unleashed an important flow publishing house that continues to this day, and in which numerous pens question, in substance and form, the new tenant of the White House from different angles.

In this case, two authors from the field of American think tanks , close to Barack Obama - one of them served during his presidency as US ambassador to NATO - offer us a very critical view of President Trump and his management at the head of the US executive branch. With the solid support of numerous quotes, statements and testimonies collected from the media, and in an agile and attractive language, they compose the portrait of an erratic, ignorant - in one passage they highlight without palliation his "ignorance on many issues, his unwillingness to accept advice from others, his impulsiveness, and his lack of critical thinking skills" -, arrogant and irresponsible president.

The authors of The Empty Throne argue that President Trump's deeds and words show how he has broken with the traditional line of U.S. foreign policy since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, based on exercising leadership oriented toward collective security, opening global markets, and promoting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and which has result greatly benefited the United States. Trump, they argue, would have abdicated that leadership, embracing instead another purely transactional policy, made by a simple calculation of interest.

This new way of conceiving international politics, based on the logic of competition and domination, would be justified by the Trump administration with the argument that the old one has been highly pernicious for the United States, since it has allowed friends and allies to obtain important profits at the expense of American prosperity.

Paraphrasing Trump's America First campaign slogan, the authors argue that this new policy will result, rather, in an America Alone, and will instead benefit China, assuming that it will be to China that nations will look for a new leader.

To support their thesis , the authors take a look at the management of Donald Trump in the year and a half between his inauguration in early 2017 and the book's publication date in 2018. In their argument they review the management of presidents the nation has had since the end of World War II, and compare it to that put on internship by the Trump administration.

An important part of the criticism is directed at the controversial presidential style displayed by Donald Trump, exhibited even before the elections, and which is evident in facts such as the withdrawal of the label customary in the world of the International Office, especially hurtful in his relations with friends and allies; the lack of interest shown in coordinating with the Obama administration an orderly transition, or the making of certain decisions against his national security team or, even, without consulting its members.

Not to acknowledge these facts would be to deny the evidence and question the inescapable reality of the unease that this new way of dealing with nations with which the United States shares so many interests and values, such as those of the European Union, or others such as Japan, Canada or Australia, firm allies of the United States for decades, produces in many people. However, there is room for some criticism of the arguments.

First of all, and leaving aside the lack of time perspective to make a evaluation final of Trump's presidency, the authors make a comparison between the first year and a half of the current president's term and those of all his predecessors since the end of World War II to demonstrate Trump's return to the America First policy prevailing until Roosevelt. This contrast requires certain nuances because, based on the common denominator of the international leadership strategy that all of Trump's predecessors practiced, the country experienced in this time moments of greater unilateralism such as that of George W. Bush's first term, along with others of lesser global presence of the country such as, perhaps, those of the presidencies of Eisenhower, Ford, Carter and, even, Obama.

In Obama's case, moreover, the substantive differences with Trump are not as great as they seem. Both presidents are trying to manage, in order to mitigate, the loss of relative American power caused by the long years of military presence in the Middle East and the rise of China. It is not that Trump believes that the United States should abandon the ideas of global leadership and multinational interaction; in fact, while he is accused of leaving traditional allies to their fate, he is reproached for his rapprochement, almost complicity, with others such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. Rather, what he intends is to exercise leadership, but, of course, dictating his conditions so that they are favorable to the United States. From inspirational leadership to leadership by imposition.

The question is, is it possible to maintain leadership under these conditions? According to the authors, no. In fact, as a consequence of this "abdication of American leadership", they offer two scenarios: the return to a world in which no nation leads, or the emergence of another nation - China, obviously - that will fill the vacuum created by this abdication.

The authors do not consider a third option: that of traditional allies adapting to the new style of leadership, albeit reluctantly, out of necessity, and in the confidence that one day, the Trump presidency will be history. This idea would be consistent with the premise set out in the book, and with which we concur, that American leadership remains indispensable, and with the very recognition at the end of the book that there is some substance to the grievances that Trump presents and that the president's attitude is leading many of America's friends and allies to reconsider their defense spending, to rethink the rules of international trade to make them more palatable to America, and to take a more active role in resolving major global challenges.

Time will tell which of the three options will prevail. Even considering the challenges of attention with the current White House incumbent, the United States remains bound to its traditional partners and allies by a dense network of common interests and, above all, shared values that transcend individuals and will outlast them.

Categories Global Affairs: North America World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews

[Amil Saikal, Iran Rising: The survival and Future of the Islamic Republic. Princeton University Press. Princeton, 2019. 344 p.]


review / Ignacio Urbasos Arbeloa

Iran Rising: The survival and Future of the Islamic Republic

Since its constitution in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been a conflictive actor, isolated and misunderstood by the international community and to a greater extent by its regional neighbors. Its origin, revolutionary in character and antagonistic to the Shah's pro-Western model , completely changed the geopolitics of the Middle East and the role of the US in the region. Both the Hostage Crisis and the bloody war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq left deep wounds in Iran's foreign relations. More than 40 years after the Revolution, the country remains in a dynamic that makes it impossible to normalize its relations International Office, always under the threat of armed conflict or economic sanctions. In this book, Amin Saikal describes in depth the ideological and political nature of the Ayatollahs' regime with the intention of generating a better understanding of the motivations and factors that explain their behavior.

The first chapters develop the concept of governance devised by Ayatollah Imam Khomeini, known as Velayat-E Faqih or Governance of the Guardian of Islam. A model defended by a non-majority faction of the revolution that managed to impose itself by the charisma of its leader and the enormous repression on the rest of the political groups. The political system resulting from the 1978 Revolution tries to confluence the Shiite teachings of Islam and a representative model with institutions such as the Majlis (parliament) or the President that to some extent simulates Western liberal democracy. This model is unique and has never been imitated despite the Islamic Republic's efforts to export it to the rest of the Muslim world.

In the internship, the system has proven to subject Iranian politics to schizophrenia, with a constant struggle between the power of the clerics -Supreme Leader and committee of Guardians- versus the executive and legislative power elected through elections. This tension, dubbed as Jihadi-Itjihadi (conservatism-flexibility) by Khomeini himself, has result been a resounding failure. The lack of clarity in the roles that religious groups play in the system results in unlimited power to repress and eliminate political opponents, as the house arrest of Khatami or Moussaoui demonstrates. This struggle generates duplicities at all levels with the omnipresence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) in the armed forces, intelligence, social services and public enterprises. The lack of political transparency generates corruption and inefficiencies that hinder the development of a Economics that does not lack the human capital and natural resources to prosper.

Chapters 2 and 3 deal with the evolution of the system after the death of leader Khomeini in 1988 and the end of the war against Iraq. This new context allowed the entrance of new ideas to the Iranian political discussion . The controversial appointment of the ultra-conservative Ali Khamenei in 1989 as the new Supreme Leader meant reinforcing authoritarianism and the rigidity of religious power, but now without the undisputed leadership exercised by Khomeini. The presidency of Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative, marked the beginning of a trend within Iran that advocated normalizing the country's International Office .

However, it was Khatami who, since 1997, bet on a reconversion of the system towards a real democracy that respects Human Rights. His bet staff to improve relations with the US failed when he encountered an excessive distrust on the part of the Bush Administration. Not even Iran's exemplary response to the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York with an official condemnation of the attack and even a minute's silence observed by 60,000 people in Tehran on September 13, 2001 was enough for G.W. Bush to reconsider Iran as a part of the United States. Bush to reconsider Iran as part of the famous Axis of Evil that it constituted along with Syria, North Korea and Sudan. Despite achieving an average economic growth of 5% of GDP under his presidency, the lack of reciprocity from the international community created a complete rift between the reformist president and the conservative faction led by the Supreme Leader.

The period from 2005 to 2013 was marked by the presidency of the ultra-conservative Ahmadinejad, who ended without Khamenei's confidence by failing subject economically and bringing Iran to the brink of armed conflict. During this period the IRGC grew to dominate a good part of the ministries and 70% of Iran's GDP. His controversial reelection in 2009 with accusations of fraud by the civil service examination generated the green movement, the largest protests since 1979, which were harshly repressed.

Rouhani's arrival in 2013 could have been a historic occasion by aligning for the first time since 1988 the vision of a moderate president with that of the Supreme Leader. Rouhani, a pragmatic moderate, took over position with the goals of improving the living conditions of Iranians, reconciling relations with the West, increasing minority rights, and relaxing control over society. In subject of foreign policy, the Supreme Leader assumed the need to reach a agreement on the nuclear program knowing that, in its absence, an economic improvement in Iran would be very complicated. The JCPOA, although imperfect, allowed for a rapprochement between the West and Iran. The arrival of Donald Trump blew up the agreement and with it the harmony between Supreme Leader Khamenei and Rouhani, who now faces a growing conservative civil service examination considering his foreign policy a failure.

For the author, it is essential to understand the battle between elected institutions and religious institutions. Iranian politics works like a pendulum between the dominance of conservative factions protected by the religious and reformist factions boosted by elections. If benefits are offered to reformist moderates when they are in power, the chances of bringing about political change in Iran are greater than if conservatives are treated as harshly, argues Amin Saikal in the fourth and fifth chapters. Moreover, there is a correlation between those who know the West and those who do not. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, the main representatives of the hardliners, have never visited Europe or the USA, while Rouhani, Khatami or Sharif are fluent in English and Western culture.

With a population under 30 years of age accounting for 50% of the total and a growing modernization of society in Tehran, the demands for reforms seem unstoppable. According to Amin Saikal, an intransigent policy with Iran when there is a willingness to open up only generates mistrust and reinforces the most conservative positions. Trump's policy with Iran, he concludes, demonstrates a lack of knowledge and understanding of its society and political system.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Iran

Aerial view of Dubai [Pixabay].

▲ Dubai Air Visa [Pixabay].

essay / Sebastián Bruzzone Martínez


In ancient times, the territory was inhabited by Arab tribes, nomadic farmers, artisans and traders, accustomed to plundering merchant ships of European powers that sailed along its coasts. Islam became established in the local culture in the 7th century AD, and Sunni Islam in the 11th century AD. Beginning in 1820, the United Kingdom signature with the rulers or sheikhs of the area a peace treaty to put an end to piracy. In 1853, both parties signed another agreement whereby the UK established a military protectorate in the territory. And in 1892, due to the pretensions of Russia, France and Germany, they signed a third agreement which guaranteed a monopoly on trade and exploitation only for the British. The Emirate zone was renamed from "Pirates' Coast" to " Trucial States " (the present seven United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain).

During World War I, the airfields and ports of the Gulf played an important role in the development conflict in favor of the United Kingdom. At the end of World War II in 1945, the League of Arab States (Arab League) was created, formed by those who enjoyed some colonial independence. The organization attracted the attention of the Truce States.

In 1960, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was created, with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Venezuela as founders and headquartered in Vienna, Austria. The seven emirates, which would later form the United Arab Emirates, joined in 1967.

In 1968, the United Kingdom withdrew its military force from the region, and the Truce States organized the Federation of Emirates of the Persian Gulf, but it failed when Qatar and Bahrain became independent. In the following years, the exploitation of the enormous oil wells discovered years earlier began.

In 1971, six Emirates became independent from the British Empire: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Qaywayn and Fujairah, forming the federation of the United Arab Emirates, with a legal system based on the 1971 constitution. Once consolidated, they joined the Arab League on June 12. The seventh emirate, Ras Al-Khaimah, joined the following year.

After the 1973 oil crisis, the UAE began to accumulate enormous wealth, because OPEC members decided not to export any more oil to the countries that supported Israel during the Yom Kippur war. Today, 80-85% of the UAE population is immigrant. The UAE became the third largest oil producer in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia and Libya.



By the constitution of 1971, the United Arab Emirates is constituted as a federal monarchy. Each State is governed by its emir (degree scroll ). Each emirate has great political, legislative, economic and judicial autonomy, each having its own executive councils, always in correspondence with the federal government. There are no political parties. The federal authorities are composed of:

committee Supreme of the Federation or of Emirs: it is the supreme authority of the State. It is composed of the governors of the 7 Emirates, or those who replace them in their absence. Each Emirate has one vote in the deliberations. It establishes the general policy in the matters entrusted to the Federation, and studies and establishes the objectives and interests of the Federation.

President and Vice-President of the Federation: elected by the Supreme committee from among its members. The President exercises, by virtue of the Constitution, important powers such as the presidency of the Supreme committee ; signature of laws, decrees or resolutions ratified and issued by the committee; appointment of the President of the committee of Ministers and of the Vice President and ministers; acceptance of their resignations or their suspension from office at proposal of the President of the committee of Ministers. The Vice President exercises all presidential powers in his absence.

By tradition, not recognized in the Emirati Constitution, the sheikh of Abu Dhabi is the president of the country, and the sheikh of Dubai is the vice-president and Prime Minister.

Thus, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Sheikh of Abu Dhabi, has been President of the United Arab Emirates since 2004, and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Sheikh of Dubai, has been Prime Minister and Vice President since 2006.

committee of Ministers: composed of the President of the committee of Ministers, the Vice President and the Ministers. It is the executive body of the Federation. Supervised by the President and committee Supreme, its mission statement is to manage the internal and external affairs, which are of skill of the Federation by virtue of the Constitution and federal laws. It has certain prerogatives such as monitoring the implementation of the general policy of the Federal State at home and abroad; proposing draft federal laws and forwarding them to the Supreme committee of the Federation; supervising the execution of federal laws and resolutions, and the implementation of international treaties and conventions signed by the UAE.

Federal National Assembly: what would resemble a congress, but is a consultative body only. It is composed of 40 members: twenty elected by the eligible citizens, by census suffrage, of the UAE through general election, and the other half by the rulers of each Emirate. In December 2018, the president, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, issued a decree providing for fifty percent of the Federal National Assembly (or FNC) to be filled by women, with the intention of "further empowering Emirati women and strengthening their contributions to the country's development ." It is distributed with seats: Abu Dhabi (8); Dubai (8); Sharjah (6); Ras Al Khaimah (6); Ajman (4); Umm Al Quwayn (4); and Fujairah (4). Federal and financial bills are submitted to it before being submitted to the President of the Federation for submission to the Supreme committee for ratification. The Government is also responsible for notifying the Assembly of international covenants and treaties. The Assembly studies and makes recommendations on matters of a public nature.

The Federal Administration of Justice: The judicial system of the United Arab Emirates is based on Sharia or Islamic law. The Constitution's article 94 states that justice is the basis of government and reaffirms the independence of the judiciary, stipulating that there is no authority over judges except the law and their own conscience in the exercise of their duties. The federal justice system is composed of courts of first instance written request and courts of first instance and courts of appeal (civil, criminal, commercial, contentious-administrative...).

There is also a Federal Supreme Court, consisting of a president and vocal judges, with powers such as reviewing the constitutionality of federal laws and unconstitutional acts.

In addition, the local Administration of Justice will hear all judicial cases that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Administration. It has three levels: first level written request, appeal and cassation.

The Constitution provides for the existence of an Attorney General, who presides over the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office, which is responsible for submitting statements of position in crimes committed in accordance with the provisions of the Code and procedure criminal of the Federation.

For promote the understanding between federal and local administrations, a Judicial Coordination committee , chaired by the Minister of Justice and composed of presidents and directors of the State's judicial bodies, has been in place since 2007. [1]

It is important to know that the Constitution of the Federation has guarantees of reinforcement and protection of human rights in its chapter III of freedoms, rights and public obligations, such as the principle of equality on the grounds of extraction, place of birth, religious belief or social position, although it does not mention gender, and social justice (art. 25); freedom of citizens (art. 26); freedom of opinion and guarantee of the means to express it (art. 30); freedom of movement and residency program (art. 29); religious freedom (art.32); right to privacy (arts. 31 and 36); rights of the family (art. 15); right to social welfare and social security (art. 16); right to Education (art. 17); right to health care (art. 19); right to work (art. 20); right to association and to form associations (art. 33); right to property (art. 21); and right to complain and right to litigate before the courts (art. 41).[2].

At first glance, it seems that these rights and guarantees contained in the 1971 Emirati Constitution are similar to those that would be found in a normal European and Western Constitution. However, they are nuanced and not as effective at internship. On the one hand, because most of them include references to the specific and applicable law, saying"...within the limits set by law; in accordance with the provisions set by law; or in cases where so provided by law". In this way, the legislator will ensure that these rights are consistent and compatible with Sharia or Islamic law, or with political interests, as the case may be.

On the other hand, these rights and guarantees fully protect Emirati nationals. Considering that 80-85% of the population is foreign, 15% of the total population of the State would be protected in a fully constitutional manner. By Federal Law No. 28/2005 concerning the status staff, the law applies to all citizens of the State of the United Arab Emirates provided that there are no special provisions for non-Muslims among them specific to their confession or religion. Likewise, its provisions apply to non-nationals when they are not obliged to comply with the legislation of their own country.

procedure L egal safeguards include the Federal Criminal Code (Act No. 3/1987); the Criminal Code (Act No. 35/1992); the Federal Act on the Regulation of Prison Reform Institutions (No. 43/1992); the Federal Act on the Regulation of Labor Relations (No. 8/1980); the Federal Act on Combating Trafficking in Persons (No. 51/2006); the Federal Act on the Status of staff (No. 28/2005); the Federal Act on Juvenile Offenders and Homeless Persons (No. 9/1976); Federal Act on Publications and Publishing (No. 15/1980); Federal Act on the Regulation of Human Organs (No. 15/1993); Federal Act on Associations Declared to be in the Public Interest (No. 2/2008); Federal Act on Social Welfare (No. 2/2001); Federal Act on Pensions and Social Insurance (No. 7/1999); Federal Act on Environmental Protection and development (No. 24/1999); and Federal Act on the Rights of Persons with Special Needs (No. 29/2006).

Military service of 9 months is compulsory for university men between 18 and 30 years of age, and of two years for those who do not have programs of study higher education. For women, it is optional and subject to the agreement of their tutor. Although the country is not a member of NATO, the Emirates has decided to join the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) coalition, and to provide arms assistance in the war against the Islamic State.

In terms of international treaty guarantees and international cooperation, the UAE has made a great effort to include in its Constitution laws and principles protected by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, being a member of the UN and adhering to its treaties: International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1974), Convention on the Rights of the Child (1997), UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2007), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (2004); UN Convention against Corruption (2006), among others.

It has also ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Arab Charter on Human Rights, and organizational conventions at work. It is a member of WHO, ILO, FAO, UNESCO, UNICEF, WIPO, World Bank and IMF. They are also linked by cooperation agreements with more than 28 international organizations of the United Nations carrying out advisory, technical and ministerial tasks.

They are members of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic lecture , strengthening and promoting Arab efforts in their regional activities and programs.

The Emirati police maintain public order and state security. The Ministry of Interior places human rights at the forefront of its priorities, focusing on justice, equality, fairness and protection. Members of the police force must commit to 33 standards of conduct before taking up their post. The Ministry of the Interior provides administrative units for citizens to monitor police activity and take the necessary measures. However, there is a certain distrust of foreigners towards the police. Most complaints come from Emirati nationals.

The Ministry of the Interior should provide diplomatic and consular missions with lists including data of their nationals held in penitentiary institutions.



The Emirati government has promoted civil societies and national institutions such as the Emirates Human Rights association (under Federal Law No. 6/1974), the General Women's Federation, association of Jurists, association of Sociologists, association of Journalists, General Administration of Human Rights Protection attached to the General Headquarters of the Dubai Police, Dubai Charitable Foundation for the Care of Women and Children, National Commission to Combat Human Trafficking, Social Support Center of the Abu Dhabi Police General Administration , Zayed Charities Institution, average Emirates Red Moon, Family Institution development , and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation for Charitable and Humanitarian Works, and the Marriage Fund, among many others.

It is important to note that the development of political participation is following a progressive process. To date, there is a full and general election to designate half of the members of the Federal National Assembly, by census suffrage, for Emirati citizens and by publication of lists.

Also, the importance of women in the Emirati society is growing thanks to the legislative and legal measures taken by the government to empower women, through membership of the committee of development Social of the committee Economic and Social, to provide opportunities for women to actively participate in the development sustainable, and the integration of women in government and private-business sectors (with women accounting for 22.5% of the Assembly, 2006; expected to be 50% as of 2019 by decree)[3], and promoting female literacy to equalize it with male literacy. However, despite being signatories to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, at internship they suffer discrimination in marriage and divorce proceedings. Fortunately, the Emirati legislation providing for the mistreatment of wives and minor children by the husband or father was abolished as long as the aggression did not exceed the limits allowed by Islamic law. Also, once married, women must obey their husbands and be authorized by them to take up employment. Likewise, cohabitation between unmarried men and women and sexual relations outside marriage are forbidden under penalty of imprisonment. Polygamy is present even in the royal family.

As in the rest of the Arab countries, homosexuality is considered a serious crime and punishable by fines, imprisonment and deportation in the case of foreigners, although enforcement is very weak.

The media play an important role in Emirati society. They are supervised by the National Media committee , which acts largely as a censor. They have reached a high technical and professional level in the journalistic sector, hosting more than a thousand specialized companies in the Dubai average City. However, journalism is controlled by the Federal Law on Press and Publications of 1980, and the Charter of Honor and the Morals of the Journalistic Profession, which the heads of essay have signed. For example, some news that may be unfavorable to Islam or the government would never be published in domestic newspapers, but would be published in foreign newspapers (case of Jordan's Haya). Since 2007, by a decree of the committee of Ministers, the imprisonment of journalists in case they made mistakes during the exercise of their professional duties was prohibited. However, it ceased to be applied with the entrance enforcement of the Law against cybercrime adopted in 2012.

The government is making efforts to improve the conditions of work, because the UAE is convinced that human beings have the right to enjoy adequate living conditions (housing, working hours, means, labor courts, health insurance, protective guarantees in labor disputes at the international cooperative level...) However, the "Sponsor" or "Kafala" system , by which a employer exercises the sponsorship of its employees, is still in force. Thus, there are cases in which the sponsor retains the passports of its employees during the term of the contract, which is illegal, but they have never been investigated and punished by the government (case of the Saadiyat Island construction project ), despite being a signatory to the UN conventions on work .

The latest report on development Human corresponding to 2018, ranks the United Arab Emirates 34th out of 189 countries. Spain is ranked 26th. The State has ensured free and quality Education up to the university stage for all Emirati citizens, and the integration of disabled people. University and higher Education centers have been positively encouraged by the government, such as the United Arab Emirates University, Zayed University, or New York University in Abu Dhabi. Healthcare has improved considerably with the construction of hospitals and clinics, lowering fees mortality rates and increasing life expectancy, standing at 77.6 years (2016). The State allocates money from the public coffers to social care for the most disadvantaged sectors of the Emirati population and for the elderly, widows, orphans or the disabled. It has also ensured that citizens have decent housing through government agencies such as the Ministry of Public Works, the Zayed Housing Program that offers interest-free mortgage loans, the Abu Dhabi Mortgage Agency loan , the Mohammed bin Rashid Institution for Housing that provides loans, and the Sharjah Public Works Agency.

In terms of religion, approximately 75% of the population is Muslim. Islam is the official religion of the United Arab Emirates. The government follows a tolerant policy towards other religions, and prohibits non-Muslims from interfering with the Islamic Education . The evangelization of other religions is prohibited, and the internship of these religions must be carried out in authorized places.

On February 3, 2019, at the beginning of the Year of Tolerance, Pope Francis was received with the highest honors in Abu Dhabi by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President and Emir of Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, and Ahmed al Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University and main Islamic theological reference, being the first time that the head of the Catholic Church set foot on the Arabian Peninsula. Likewise, the Pope officiated a mass in Zayed Sport City in front of 150,000 people, saying in his homily: "let us be an oasis of peace". The event was described by Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, as "a historic moment for religious freedom".

There are projects for the development of remote regions, which seek to modernize the infrastructures and services of those areas of the State that are farthest from population centers. Also, by virtue of Federal Law No. 47/1992, the Marriage Fund was created, whose goal purpose is to encourage marriage between citizens and promote the family, which according to the government is the basic unit and fundamental pillar of society, by offering financial subsidies to citizens with limited resources to help them meet wedding expenses and contribute to achieving family stability in society.



Since 1973, the UAE has undergone a huge transformation and modernization thanks to the exploitation of oil, which accounted for 80% of GDP at that time. In recent years, with the knowledge that in less than 40 years oil will run out, the government has diversified its Economics into financial services, tourism, commerce, transportation and infrastructure, with oil and gas making up only 20% of the national GDP.

Abu Dhabi accounts for 90% of the oil and gas reserves, followed by Dubai, and in small quantities in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. The country's oil policy is carried out through the Supreme Petroleum committee and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). The main foreign oil companies operating in the country are BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Total, Petrofac or Partex, and the Spanish company CEPSA, of which the Emirati sovereign wealth fund Mubadala owns 80% of business.

The borrowing capacity of financial companies was strongly negatively affected during the economic crisis of 2008. The entrance of large foreign private capital came to a standstill, as did investment in the property and construction sectors. The fall in property values forced liquidity to be restricted. In 2009, local companies were seeking moratorium agreements with their creditors on $26 billion in debt. The Abu Dhabi government provided a $5 billion bailout to reassure international investors.

Tourism and infrastructure is a success story for the country, especially in Dubai. 4 ] The construction of luxury tourist attractions such as the Palm Islands and the Burj al-Arab, and the good weather most of the year, has attracted Westerners and people from all over the world. According to the Emirati government, the tourism industry generates more money than oil does today. Major investments are being made in renewable energy, notably through Masdar, the government's business , which has project Masdar City underway, the creation of a city powered solely by renewable energy.



The United Arab Emirates consists of seven Emirates and is ruled by six families:

Abu Dhabi: by the Al Nahyan family (Al Falahi House)

Dubai: by the Al Maktum family (Al Falasi House)

Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah: by the Al Qassimi Family

Ajman: by the Al Nuaimi family

Umm Al Quwain: by the Al Mualla Family

Fujairah: by the Al Sharqi family

It is important to know the terminology used in the family tree of the Emirati royal families: "Sheikh" means sheikh, and an emir is degree scroll nobiliary attributed to sheikhs. In the composition of the names, the proper name of the descendant is placed first, followed by the infix "bin" meaning "of", plus the proper name of his father, and the surname of the family. The infix is "bint" for women.

For example: Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the father of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

It is common for marriages to take place between the ruling families of the different Emirates, intertwining dynasties, but the husband's surname will always prevail over the wife's in the name of the children. Contrary to the great European monarchies in which the reign is transmitted from fathers to sons, in the Emirate families the power is transmitted first between brothers, by appointment, and as second resource, to the sons. These positions of power must be ratified by the Supreme committee .

The Al Nahyan family of Abu Dhabi is a branch of the Al Falahi House. This is a royal house belonging to Bani Yas and is related to the Al Falasi House to which the Al Maktoum family of Dubai belongs. Bani Yas is known to be a very old tribal confederation of the Liwa Oasis region. There are few historical data about its exact origin. The Al Nahyan royal family is incredibly large, as each of the brothers has had several children and with different women. The most important and recent governors of Abu Dhabi would be those who have been in power since 1971, when the UAE consolidated as a country, ceasing to be a Truce State and British protectorate. They are:

Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004): was governor of Abu Dhabi from 1966 until his death. He collaborated closely with the British Empire to maintain the integrity of the territory in the face of Saudi Arabia's expansionist pretensions. He is considered the Father of the Nation and founder of the United Arab Emirates, along with his counterpart Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum of Dubai. Both pledged to form a Federation together with other rulers after the British military withdrawal. He was the first president of the United Arab Emirates, and was re-elected four times: 1976, 1981, 1986 and 1991. Zayed was characterized as sympathetic, peaceful and united with neighboring emirates, charitable in terms of donations, relatively liberal and permissive of private means. He was considered one of the richest men in the world by Forbes magazine, with a net worth of twenty billion dollars.

He died at the age of 86 and was buried at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. He was succeeded at position by his first-born son Khalifa as ruler and ratified president of the UAE by the Supreme committee .

He had six wives: Hassa bint Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, Sheikha bint Madhad Al Mashghouni, Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi, Mouza bint Suhail bin Awaidah Al Khaili, Ayesha bint Ali Al Darmaki, Amna bint Salah bin Buduwa Al Darmaki, and Shamsa bint Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan; and thirty children, of whom some are as follows:

Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1948-present): eldest son of the above, whose mother is Hassa bint Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, is the current governor of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates. His wife is Shamsa bint Suhail Al Mazrouei, with whom he has eight children. He also holds other positions: Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, chairman of the Supreme Petroleum committee , and chairman of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. He was educated at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK. Previously, he was appointed Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi; Head of the Abu Dhabi Defense department , which would become the Emirates Armed Forces; Prime Minister, Abu Dhabi Chief of Staff, Minister of Defense and Finance; Second Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive committee . Dubai's Burj Khalifa is named after him, as he paid the money needed to complete its construction. He intervened militarily in Libya by sending the Air Force along with NATO, and pledged support for the democratic uprising in Bahrain in 2011.

According to a WikiLeaks leak, the U.S. ambassador describes him as "distant and uncharismatic character". He has been criticized for his spendthrift character (purchase of the Azzam yacht, scandal of the construction of the palace and purchase of territories in the Seychelles, the Panama Papers and the revelation of properties in London and front companies...).

In 2014, according to the official version, Khalifa suffered a stroke and underwent surgery. According to the government, he is stable, but has virtually disappeared from the public eye.

Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1961-present): brother of Khalifa, but whose mother is Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi. He is the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, deputy supreme commander of the Armed Forces, and entrusted with the execution of presidential affairs, receptions of foreign dignitaries and political decisions due to the President's poor health. Also, like Khalifa, he was educated at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He has been an Officer in the Presidential Guard and a pilot in the Air Force. He is married to Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, and has nine children.

He has been characterized by his activist foreign policy and against Islamist extremism, and charitable character (partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for vaccines in Afghanistan and Pakistan). International governments such as France, Singapore and the United States have invited Mohammed to various events and bilateral dialogues. He has even met with Pope Francis twice (Rome, 2016; Abu Dhabi, 2019), promoting the Year of Tolerance.

At subject economic, he is the Chairman of the Mubadala sovereign wealth fund and Head of Abu Dhabi's committee for the development Economic. He has C billion-dollar economic stimulus projects for the country's modernization in the energy and infrastructure sectors.

She has also promoted women's empowerment by welcoming a delegation of women officers from the Arab Women's Military and Peacekeeping Program, who are preparing for UN peace operations. She has encouraged the presence of women in public services, and has pledged to meet regularly with female representatives of the country's institutions.

Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1955-present): Zayed's second son. He has six children. He is the son of Shamsa bint Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan. He was educated at Millfield School and Sandhurst Military Academy like his two previous brothers. He is the third deputy prime minister of the UAE, a member of the Supreme Petroleum committee and a member of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1963-present): fifth son of Zayed, whose mother is Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi. He is married to Shamsa bint Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan. He was educated at the Sandhurst Military Academy. He held the position of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs until 2009. He is currently the emir's representative in the western region of Abu Dhabi. He is graduate in Political Science and Business Administration from the United Arab Emirates University.

Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan (1951-present): son of Mubarak bin Mohammed Al Nahyan. He is the current head of the UAE Ministry of Tolerance since 2017. From 2016 to 2017, he served as Minister of Culture and development of knowledge. Also, he devoted years of his life to the establishment of higher Education centers such as UAE University (1983-2013), technical school of Technology (1988-2013), and Zayed University (1998-2013). Also, he is the chairman of Warid Telecom International, a business Telecommunications, and the chairman of group Abu Dhabi Banking, Union National Bank and United Bank Limited, among other companies.

Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1972-present): Ninth son of Zayed, whose mother is Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi. He is married to Al Jazia bint Saif bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, with whom he has five children. He has held the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates since 2006 at position . He holds a degree in Political Science from the United Arab Emirates University, graduate . During his tenure, the UAE has seen a great expansion in its diplomatic relations with countries in South America, South Pacific, Africa and Asia, and a consolidation with Western countries. He is a member of the country's National Security committee , Vice Chairman of the Permanent committee of Borders, Chairman of the National Media committee , Chairman of the board of Directors of the Emirates Foundation for Youth development , Vice Chairman of the board of Directors of the Abu Dhabi Fund for the development and Member of the board of the high school of National Defense. He was Minister of Information and Culture from 1997 to 2006, and Chairman of Emirates average Incorporated.

Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1970-present): eighth son of Zayed, whose mother is Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi. He is married to two wives, Alia bint Mohammed bin Butti Al Hamed, and Manal bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, with whom he has six children in total. He has held the positions of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs of the UAE since 2009. He is chairman of the committee Ministerial Services, Emirates Investment Authority and Emirates Racing Authority. He is a member of the Supreme Petroleum committee and the Abu Dhabi Investment committee . He was educated at Santa Barbara Community College in the United States, and holds a B.A. in International Affairs from the United Arab Emirates University. He chairs the National Documentation Center and research and the Abu Dhabi Fund for development. He was Chairman of First Gulf Bank until 2006.

He has a developed business vision. He is the owner of the English soccer team Manchester City, and co-owner of New York City of the MLS, an American professional soccer league. He is a member of the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority board , has a 32% stake in Virgin Galactic, a 9.1% stake in Daimler, and owns Abu Dhabi average Investment Corporation, through which he owns the English newspaper The National.

position Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan(1968-present): twelfth son of Zayed, whose mother is Mouza bint Suhail Al Khaili. He has been Deputy Prime Minister since 2009 and Minister of Interior since 2004. His role is to ensure the internal protection and national security of the UAE. He holds a degree in Political Science from the United Arab Emirates University, graduate . He was Director General of the Abu Dhabi Police in 1995, and Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior in 1997, until his appointment as Minister.

Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1965-present): fifth son of Zayed, whose mother is Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi. He is married to Mozah bint Mohammed bin Butti Al Hamed, with whom he has five children. He holds the post of Minister of National Security of the UAE, Vice Chairman of the Executive committee of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Chairman of the Emirates Identity Authority.

Nasser bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1967-2008): son of Zayed, whose mother is Amna bint Salah Al Badi. He was president of the department Planning and Economics of Abu Dhabi, and was an officer of the royal security. According to the official version, he died at the age of 41 when the helicopter in which he was traveling with his friends crashed off the coast of Abu Dhabi. He was buried at the Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Mosque, and three days of mourning were declared throughout the UAE.

Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1970-present): son of Zayed, whose mother is Amna bint Salah Al Badi. He is a prestigious real estate developer in the city of Dubai, but does not occupy any political position in the government of the Emirates. He starred in a case in which, allegedly, in a leaked video, he himself tortured two Palestinians who were his business partners. The Emirati court declared in a final judgment that Issa was innocent because he was the victim of a conspiracy and sentenced the Palestinians to five years' imprisonment for drug use, recording, publication and blackmail. International observers sharply criticized the Emirati judicial system and called for an overhaul of the country's penal code.

From my point of view, and with the experience of having lived in the country, the United Arab Emirates is a very unknown country for the Spanish youth and has incredible professional opportunities due to the demand for foreign work , a very high quality of life at an affordable price, as salaries are quite high, and a strong and modernized Administration and institutions. The culture shock is not very big, as the State makes sure to avoid discriminatory situations, unlike other Arab countries. I can say with full conviction that cultural tolerance is real. However, foreigners should keep in mind that it is not a western country, and it is recommended to respect the customs of the nation regarding dress, sacred places and public performances, and to know the basic Emirati law.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East World order, diplomacy and governance Essays Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf

[Bruno Maçães, Belt and Road. A Chinese World Order. Penguin. Gurgaon (India), 2019. 227p.]

review / Emili J. Blasco

Belt and Road. A Chinese World Order

Covered at the moment by literature devoted to present the novelty of the Chinese New Silk Road project , Bruno Maçães leaves aside many of the specific concretions of the Chinese initiative to deal with its more geopolitical aspects. That is why Maçães uses the name Belt and Road throughout the book, instead of its acronyms -OBOR (One Belt, One Road) or the more recently used BRI (Belt and Road Initiative)-, since he is not referring so much to the layout of the transport connections themselves as to the new world order that Beijing wants to shape.

Through this economic integration, according to Maçães, China could project power over two thirds of the world, including Central and Eastern Europe, in a process of geographic cohesion of Eurasia to which this Portuguese politician and researcher already dedicated his previous work.

Compared to other essays on the New Silk Road, this one focuses a lot on India (this is the case in its general content, but also in this review a special edition dedicated to that country has been used, with a particular introduction).

Maçães grants India the role of core topic of vault in the project integrating Eurasia. If India decides not to participate at all and, instead, to go for the alternative promoted by the United States, together with Japan and Australia, then the Chinese design will not reach the dimension longed for by Beijing. "If India decides that life in the Western order will be better than under alternative arrangements, the Belt and Road will have difficulty achieving its original ambition," says the author.

Maçães believes, however, that the West is not all that attractive to the subcontinent. In that Western order, India can only aspire to a secondary role, while the rise of China "offers it the exciting possibility of a genuinely multipolar, rather than merely multilateral, world in which India can legitimately hope to become an autonomous center of geopolitical power," at least on a par with a declining Russia.

Despite these apparent advantages, India will not go all the way to either side, Maçães predicts. "It will never join the Belt and Road because it could only consent to join China in a project that was new. And it will never join a US initiative to rival the Belt and Road unless the US makes it less confrontational." So, "India will keep everyone waiting, but it will never make a decision on the Belt and Road".

Without Delhi's involvement, or even more, with resistance from the Indian leadership, neither the US nor China's vision can be fully realized internship, Maçães continues to argue. Without India, Washington may be able to preserve its current model of alliances in Asia, but its ability to compete on the scale that the Belt and Road does would collapse; for its part, Beijing is realizing that alone it cannot provide the financial resources needed for the ambitious project.

Maçães warns that China has "ignored and disdained" India's positions and interests, which may end up being "a major miscalculation". He believes that China's impatience to start building infrastructure, because of the need to demonstrate that its initiative is a success, "may become the worst enemy".

He ventures that the Chinese may correct the shot. "It is likely - perhaps even inevitable - that the Belt and Road will grow increasingly decentralized, less China-centric," he says, commenting that in the end such a new Chinese order would not be so different from the structure of the existing Washington-led world order, where "the US insists on being recognized as the state at the apex of the hierarchy of international power" and leaves some autonomy to each regional power.

If Maçães puts India in a status of non-alignment plenary session of the Executive Council, he does foresee an unequivocal partnership of that country with Japan. In his view it is a "symbiotic" relationship, in which India sees Japan as its first source of technology, while Japan sees the Indian navy as "an indispensable partner in its efforts to contain Chinese expansion and safeguard freedom of navigation" in the seas of the region.

As for Europe, Maçães sees it in the difficult position "of not being able to oppose an international project of economic integration, while being equally incapable of joining as a mere participant" in the Chinese initiative, in addition to the germ of division that project has already introduced into the European Union.

From Bangladesh to Pakistan and Djibouti

Despite the differences indicated above, Maçães believes that the relationship between China and India can develop positively, even if there is some element of latent conflict, encouraged by a certain mutual distrust. The commercial linkage of two such immense markets and production centers will generate economic ties "called to dominate" the world Economics towards the middle of this century.

This movement of goods between the two countries will make Bangladesh and Myanmar the center of a major trade corridor.

For its part, Pakistan, in addition to being a corridor for the exit to the Indian Ocean from western China, will be increasingly integrated into the Chinese production chain. In particular, it can supply raw materials and basic manufactures to the textile industry that China is developing in Xinjiang, its export gateway to Europe for goods that can optimize rail transport. The capital of that province, Urumqi, will become the fashion capital of Central Asia in the next decade, according to Maçães' forecast, agreement .

Another interesting observation is that the shrinking of Eurasia and the development of internal transport routes between the two ends of the supercontinent, may cause the container ports of the North Sea (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hamburg) to lose weight in the trade between Europe and China at the expense of a greater transit of those of the Mediterranean (Piraeus, especially).

The author also ventures that Chinese infrastructure works in Cameroon and Nigeria can help facilitate connections between these countries and Doralé, the port that China manages in Djibouti, which, through these trans-African routes, could become "a serious rival" to the Suez Canal.

If in Djibouti China has its first, and for the moment only, military base outside its territory, it should be kept in mind that Beijing can give a possible military use to other ports whose management has assumed. As Maçães reminds, China approved in 2016 a legal framework that obliges civilian companies to support military logistics operations requested by the Chinese Navy.

All these are aspects of a suggestive book that does not allow itself to be carried away by the determinism of the Chinese rise, nor by an antagonistic vision that denies the possibility of a new world order. The work of a European who, although he served in the Portuguese Foreign Ministry as director general for Europe, is realistic about the weight of the EU in the orb's design .

Categories Global Affairs: Asia World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews

The deterioration of recent years seems to have been corrected in several indicators on democratic health and economic environment.

Costa Rica has traditionally been a model of democratic functioning in a region with serious institutional deficits, which has earned it a mediating role in different conflicts. The increase of internal problems -strikes, citizen protests, bipartisan crisis...- have seemed to have diminished Costa Rica's international prestige in recent years. Is Costa Rica suffering from democratic and institutional deterioration?

Facade of the National Theater of Costa Rica, in San José [Pixabay].

▲ Facade of the National Theater of Costa Rica, in San José [Pixabay].

article / Ramón Barba

The political unrest of recent years in Costa Rica, in a regional context of the "angry vote" and the consequent "outsider phenomenon", has given the impression of a setback in the country's institutional virtues. The goal of this article is to determine, based on different indicators on democratic health and economic and political satisfaction, if there are objective data that ratify this perception.

For this purpose we will first analyze a set of indicators, elaborated by the World Bank, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and The Economist magazine, and then we will also take into account some results of the survey Latinobarómetro. We will compare the values recorded in 2010, 2013, 2016 and, when possible, 2018.


Regarding the Democracy Index elaborated by The Economist, although Costa Rica maintains its second place among Latin American democracies, behind Uruguay and ahead of Chile (these are the three countries that usually obtain better grade in the different institutional parameters of the region), in the last decade a Costa Rican democratic decline is observed, apparently overcome in the most recent report. From a score of 8.04 achieved in the 2010 Democracy Index, Costa Rica dropped to 8.03 in 2013 and 7.88 in 2016, to regain ground in 2018 with an 8.07. The country remains the best democracy in Central America, followed at a distance by a stable Panama.

The deterioration of recent years has also been picked up by the Index of development of Democracies in Latin America (IDD-LAT), of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which has not yet published data referring to 2018, so this index cannot endorse whether there has been a recent recovery. In 2010, Costa Rica had a score average of 9.252; it barely varied in 2013, with a figure of 9.277, but dropped clearly in 2016, with 8.539 points. The components of the index that suffered the most were welfare policy creation and economic efficiency, where it dropped from 1st and 5th place, respectively, to 8th and 12th. The fact that Costa Rica remained between 1st and 3rd place in civil and political rights and in institutional and political efficiency in those years sample shows that the social concern of those years was more in the economic sphere than in the institutional sphere.

The World Bank's Good Governanceindicators also registera small regression in the case of Costa Rica between the years 2013 and 2016 (data more recent ones have not yet been published). Regarding the Rule of Law and Government Effectiveness scales the score dropped from 0.6 and 0.5, respectively, to 0.5 and 0.4. There has been little change in the Control of Corruption scale.


evaluation citizen

The above indicators are prepared by experts who, by applying standardized criteria, seek to offer an objective estimate. But we also wanted to take into account the opinion of the citizens themselves, as expressed in the survey Latinobarómetro. These can be useful to indicate the perception that exists among the population regarding the institutional health of the country: the satisfaction that exists regarding the government system and the economic system.

The value of democracy is maintained in high percentages in Costa Rica, despite a negative trend in the region as a whole. Attending to four values that Latinobarómetro has included in its surveys corresponding to the years here chosen for our comparison, we see that indeed in 2016 the citizen perception was that of a worsening of status, but in 2018 an improvement is observed, reaching even more positive levels than in 2013. As for the evaluation of democracy, its consideration as the best system of government dropped from 77% to 72% and then has risen again to 77%, while its cataloging as a preferable system has been increasing: 53%, 60% and 63%.

The perception of the economic environment, for its part, had a blip in 2013, but today it is in better condition. The statement "progress is being made" fell from 15% to 12%, but in 2018 it reached 22%, while satisfaction with future personal economic prospects fell from 45% to 20% to stand in 2018 at 52%.


Political unrest

Costa Rica is a country that retains strong institutions, although the political landscape is more divided. test of this is the end of the two-party system (1953-2014), brought about by less support for the National Liberation Party (PLN) and the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) and the emergence of the Citizen Action Party (PAC), to which the country's current president, Carlos Alvarado, belongs.

Corruption issues such as the "cimentazo case", the high public debt that has forced cutbacks in a country with certain well-established social benefits and a regional and international environment prone to populist solutions may be behind the political unrest observed in Costa Rica in recent years.

This occurs in a context of the "angry vote" in Latin America, which arises as a consequence of the political actions of the last twenty years in the region and a strengthening of the middle classes. Citizen dissatisfaction has led to the emergence of outsider politicians: people with relative popularity, short degree program political, without a determined strategy and with an "anti-political" speech . This is a patron saint that, although it is in the emergence of the PAC, in any case does not fully correspond to the personality of President Alvarado, who actually seems to have contributed to redirect the Costa Rican restlessness.


Thus, from the analysis of the data observed here, it can be concluded that there was indeed a slight deterioration in both institutional circumstances and especially in economic conditions or expectations between 2013 and 2016, but the different scales have returned in 2018 to previous values, even improving in some cases to levels of ten years ago. This is something that can be observed both in the indicators at position of experts that follow standardized objective procedures and in the surveys of subjective citizen perception.

The sample used and the temporal tastings carried out have not been exhaustive, so it is not possible to specify whether the variations noted here are circumstantial fluctuations or part of a trend pointing in a certain direction.

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Articles Latin America