[Condoleezza Rice, Amy B. Zegart, Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations can Anticipate Global Insecurity. Hachette Book Group. New York, May 2019]
REVIEW / Rossina Funes Santimoni
Every year Stanford Graduate School of Business offers their students a seminar in Political Risk. The classes are taught by former U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the renowned academic Amy B. Zegart. Motivated by their students, they decided to turn their classes into a book in order to allow more people and organizations to navigate the waters of political risk.
The work entitled Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations can Anticipate Global Insecurity is divided into ten chapters. The authors start by explaining the contemporary concept of political risk. Consequently, theoretical framework is added as they advance in the explanation, in this way making it useful for the reader in order to understand, analyze, mitigate and answer efficiently to political risks. Their ultimate objective is to provide functional framework that can be utilized in any organization or by any person to improve political risk management.
Rice and Zegart define the twenty-first-century political risk as the probability that a political action could significantly affect a company's business. Nowadays, the public and the private sphere are constantly changing and evolving. Everything is more complex and intertwined. Governments are no longer the only ones playing an important role in business decisions. The authors emphasize how companies need to efficiently deal with the political risks spawn by an increasing diversity of actors, among which is anyone with access to social average. In order to illustrate the latter, the authors make use of real-life examples, for instance the Blackfish Effect. It is named after a low-budget investigative documentary with the same title that depicted how SeaWorld Entertainment's treatment of killer whales harmed both the animals and their human trainers. The film that started with one woman reading a story about orcas triggered political action at the grassroots, state and federal levels, ending up with devastating consequences from which the company has still not recovered up to now. These cascading repercussions of the film have been denominated the Blackfish Effect.
The work is well equipped with more examples about distinguished companies' experience. Among the organizations cited are Lego Company Group, FedEx, Royal Caribbean and Nike. Some have excelled in dealing with political risk and some have failed. However, both sides of the coin are useful to learn and to understand how the convoluted world of political risks management work.
Nowadays, risk generators perform at five intersecting levels including individuals, local organizations and governments, national governments, transnational organizations, and supranational and international institutions. Therefore, today's risks are different from the old ones, even if those still persist. With this in mind, Rice and Zegart shed a light on these days' top ten political risks: geopolitics, internal conflict, policy change, braches of contract, corruption, extraterritorial reach, natural resource manipulation, social activism, terrorism and cyber threats.
Nevertheless, even if the theory is laid out, the question still haunts us: Why is good political risk management so hard? The authors dedicate a whole chapter investigating it and conclude that there are "Five Hards". Political risk is hard to reward, hard to understand, hard to measure, hard to update, and hard to communicate. Therefore, in order to succeed at its management, one must get right the four basics: understanding, analyzing, mitigating and responding to risks. Rice and Zegart devote the remaining four chapters of the book expanding on each basic and, again, employing examples to better illustrate their knowledge.
The thing about political risks is that they are always there. They are imminent and we can do nothing more than try to prevent them and learn from them, to use the present in order to make the best of it for the future. It is not about predicting the future, which is impossible. "No one ever builds a disaster recovery plan that allows for the destruction of everybody in the office at 8:45 am. That is never the plan," assures Howard W. Lutnick, CEO at Cantor Fitzgerald on how the company dealt with the 9/11 terrorist attack aftermath. Paradoxically, Rice and Zegart maintain that the best way to deal with crises is not having them. Henceforth, they dedicate a whole chapter to providing key takeaways in order to better respond to crises. Politics has always been an unpredictable business. There is no one that can discern accurately how human history is going to unfold. However, the authors are convinced that managing political risks does not have to be pure guesswork and that being prepare is essential and can improve companies performances in a great deal.
Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations can Anticipate Global Insecurity completely revamps the way we reflect on the topic. It is easy to notice both authors proficiency in the field. On one hand, the past experiences of former U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice serve as anecdotes to elucidate the build-up of the theoretical framework. It is valuable to have such a person to act as a primary source that has lived among other high-end characters and important people in history. On the other hand we have Professor Amy B. Zegart, who with her natural eloquence excels in conveying the importance of political risk management nowadays. Consequently, everyone can get a precious lesson from this book, ranging from students that are interested in navigating the sphere, to everyday workers, company owners and public servants.
Iran Strategic Report (July 2019)
This report will provide an in-depth analysis of Iran's role in the Middle East and its impact on the regional power balance. Studying current political and economic developments will assist in the elaboration of multiple scenarios that aim to help understand the context surrounding our subject.
J. Hodek, M. Panadero.
Report [pdf. 15,5MB] [pdf. 15,5MB
INTRODUCTION: IRAN IN THE MIDDLE EAST
This report will examine Iran's geopolitical presence and interests in the region, economic vulnerability and energy security, social and demographic aspects and internal political dynamics. These directly or indirectly affect the evolution of various international strategic issues such as the future of Iran's Nuclear Deal, United States' relations with Iran and its role in Middle East going forward. Possible power equilibrium shifts, which due to the economic and strategic importance of this particular region, possess high relevance and significant degree of impact even outside the Iranian territory with potential alteration of the regional and international order.
With the aim of presenting a more long-lasting report, several analytical techniques will be used (mainly SWOT analysis and elaboration of simple scenarios), in order to design a strategic analysis of Iran in respect to the regional power balance and the developments of the before mentioned international strategic issues. Key geopolitical data will be collected as of the announcement of the U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran on November 2, 2018 with a projection for the upcoming years, thus avoiding a simple narration of facts, which transpired so far.
First part of this report will be dedicated to a more general analysis of the geopolitical situation in the Middle East, with a closer attention to Iran's interests and influence. Then, after a closer look on the internal dynamics within Iran, several scenarios will be offered out of which some will be categorized and selected as the most probable according to the authors of this report.
From Iranian strategic perspective the Sunni-Shi'a divide is only part of its larger objective of exporting its revolution.
▲ Military scene from an ancient Persian high relief [Pixabay].
ESSAY / Helena Pompeya
At a first glance it may seem that the most important factor shaping the dynamics in the region is the Sunni-Shi'a divide materialized in the struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran over becoming the main hegemonic power in the region. Nonetheless, from the strategic perspective of Iran this divide is only part of its larger objective of exporting its revolution.
This short essay will analyze three paths of action or policies Iran has been relying on in order to exert and expand its influence in the MENA region: i) it's anti-imperialistic foreign policy; ii) the Sunni-Shi'a divide; and iii) opportunism. Finally, a study case of Syria will be provided to show how Iran made use of these three courses of action to its benefit within the war.
I. ANTI IMPERIALISM
The Sunni-Shi'a division alone would not be enough to rocket Iran into an advantaged position over Saudi Arabia, the Shi'ites being only 13% of the total of Muslims over the world (found mainly in Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq).  Even though religious affiliation can gain support of a fairly large share of the population, Iran is playing its cards along the lines of its revolutionary ideology, which consists on challenging the current international world order and particularly what Iran calls US's imperialism.
Iran does not choose its strategic allies by religious affiliation but by ideological affinity: opposition to the US and Israel. Proof of this is the fact that Iran has provided military and financial support to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Palestine, both of them Sunni, in their struggle versus Israel.  Iran's competition against Saudi Arabia could be understood as an elongation of its anti-US foreign policy, the Saudi kingdom being the other great ally of the West in the MENA region along with Israel.
II. SUNNI-SHI'A DIVIDE
Despite the religious divide not being the main reason behind the hegemonic competition among both regional powers Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shi'a), both states are exploiting this narrative to transcend territorial barriers and exert their influence in neighboring countries. This rivalry materializes itself along two main paths of action: i) development of neopatrimonial and clientelistic networks, as it shows in Lebanon and Bahrain; ii) and in violent proxy wars, namely Yemen and Syria.
Sectarian difference has been an inherent characteristic of Lebanon all throughout its history, finally erupting into a civil war in 1975. The Taif accords, which put an end to the strife attempted to create a power-sharing agreement that gave each group a political voice. These differences were incorporated into the political dynamics and development of blocs which are not necessarily loyal to the Lebanese state alone.
Regional dynamics of the Middle East are characterized by the blurred limits between internal and external, this reflects in the case of Lebanon, whose blocs provide space for other actors to penetrate the Lebanese political sphere. This is the case of Iran through the Shi'ite political and paramilitary organization of Hezbollah. This organization was created in 1982 as a response to Israeli intervention and has been trained, organized and provisioned by Iran ever since. Through the empowerment of Iran and its political support for Shi'a groups across Lebanon, Hezbollah has emerged as a regional power.
Once aware of the increasing Iranian influence in the region, Saudi Arabia stepped into it to counterbalance the Shi'a empowerment by supporting a range of Salafi groups across the country.
Both Riyadh and Tehran have thus established clientelistic networks through political and economic support which feed upon sectarian segmentation, furthering factionalism. Economic inflows in order to influence the region have helped developed the area between Ras Beirut and Ain al Mraiseh through investments by Riyadh, whilst Iranian economic aid has been allocated in the Dahiyeh and southern region of the country.
Bahrain is also a hot spot in the fight for supremacy over the region, although it seems that Saudi Arabia is the leading power over this island of the Persian Gulf. The state is a constitutional monarchy headed by the King, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, of the Sunni branch of Islam, and it is connected to Saudi Arabia by the King Fahd Causeway, a passage designed and built to prevent Iranian expansionism after the revolution. Albeit being ruled by Sunni elite, the majority of the country's citizens are Shia, and have in many cases complaint about political and economical repression. In 2011 protests erupted in Bahrain led by the Shi'a community, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates stepped in to suppress the revolt. Nonetheless, no links between Iran and the ignition of this manifestation have been found, despite accusations by the previously mentioned Sunni states.
The opposition of both hegemonic powers has ultimately materialized itself in the involvement on proxy wars as are the examples of Syria, Yemen, Iraq and possibly in the future Afghanistan.
Yemen, in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula, is a failed state in which a proxy war fueled mainly by the interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran is taking place since the 25th of March 2015. On that date, Saudi Arabia leading an Arab coalition against the Houthis bombarded Yemen.
The ignition of the conflict began in November 2011 when President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to hand over his power to his deputy and current president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi (both Sunni) due to the uprisings product of the Arab Spring.
The turmoil within the nation, including here al-Qaeda attacks, a separatist rising in the south, divided loyalties in the military, corruption, unemployment and lack of food, led to a coup d'état in January 2015 led by Houthi rebels. The Houthis, Shi'ite Muslims backed by Iran, seized control of a large territory in Yemen including here the capital Sana'a. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-majority nations are supporting the government.
Yemen is a clear representation of dispute over regional sovereignty. This particular conflict puts the Wahhabi kingdom in great distress as it is happening right at its front door. Thus, Saudi interests in the region consist on avoiding a Shi'ite state in the Arabian Peninsula as well as facilitating a kindred government to retrieve its function as state. Controlling Yemen guarantees Saudi Arabia's influence over the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Baab al Mandeb, thus avoiding Hormuz Strait, which is currently under Iran's reach.
On the other hand, Iran is soon to be freed from intensive intervention in the Syrian war, and thus it could send in more military and economic support into the region. Establishing a Shi'ite government in Yemen would pose an inflexion point in regional dynamics, reinforcing Iran's power and becoming a direct threat to Arabia Saudi right at its border. Nonetheless, Hadi's government is internationally recognized and the Sunni struggle is currently gaining support from the UK and the US.
The Golf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic alliance of six countries in the Arabian Peninsula which fail to have an aligned strategy for the region and could be roughly divided into two main groups in the face of political interests: i) those more aligned to Saudi Arabia, namely Bahrain and UAE; ii) and those who reject the full integration, being these Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.
Fragmentation within the GCC has provided Iran with an opportunity to buffer against calls for its economic and political isolation. Iran's ties to smaller Gulf countries have provided Tehran with limited economic, political and strategic opportunities for diversification that have simultaneously helped to buffer against sanctions and to weaken Riyadh.
Oman in overall terms has a foreign policy of good relations with all of its neighbors. Furthermore, it has long resisted pressure to align its Iran policies with those of Saudi Arabia. Among its policies, it refused the idea of a GCC union and a single currency for the region introduced by the Saudi kingdom. Furthermore, in 2017 with the Qatar crisis, it opposed the marginalization of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the UAE and stood as the only State which did not cut relations with Iran.
Furthermore, the war in Yemen is spreading along Oman's border, and it's in its best interest to bring Saudi Arabia and the Houthis into talks, believing that engagement with the latter is necessary to put an end to the conflict.  Oman has denied transport of military equipment to Yemeni Houthis through its territory.
A key aspect of Kuwait's regional policy is its active role in trying to balance and reduce regional sectarian tensions, and has often been a bridge for mediation among countries, leading the mediation effort in January 2017 to promote dialogue and cooperation between Iran and the Gulf states that was well received in Tehran.
It has always been in both state's interest to maintain a good relationship due to their proximity and shared ownership of the North/South Pars natural gas field. Despite having opposing interests in some areas as are the case of Syria (Qatar supports the opposition), and Qatar's attempts to drive Hamas away from Tehran. In 2017 Qatar suffered a blockade by the GCC countries due to its support for Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and militant groups linked to al-Qaeda or ISIS. During this crisis, Iran proved a good ally into which to turn.... Iran offered Qatar to use its airspace and supplied food to prevent any shortages resulting from the blockade.  However as it can be deduced from previous ambitious foreign policies, Qatar seeks to diversify its allies in order to protect its interests, so it would not rely solely on Iran.
Iran is well aware of the intra-Arab tensions among the Gulf States and takes advantage of these convenient openings to bolster its regional position, bringing itself out of its isolationism through the establishment of bilateral relations with smaller GCC states, especially since the outbreak of the Qatar crisis in 2017.
Iran is increasingly standing out as a regional winner in the Syrian conflict. This necessarily creates unrest both for Israel and Saudi Arabia, especially after the withdrawal of US troops from Syria. The drawdown of the US has also originated a vacuum of power which is currently being fought over by the supporters of al-Assad: Iran, Turkey and Russia.
Despite the crisis involving the incident with the Israeli F-16 jets, Jerusalem is attempting to convince the Russian Federation not to leave Syria completely under the sphere of Iranian influence.
Israel initially intervened in the war in face of increasing presence of Hezbollah in the region, especially in its positions near the Golan Heights, Kiswah and Hafa. Anti-Zionism is one of Iran's main objectives in its foreign policy, thus it is likely that tensions between Hezbollah and Israel will escalate leading to open missile conflict. Nonetheless, an open war for territory is unlikely to happen, since this will bring the UyS back in the region in defense for Israel, and Saudi Arabia would make use of this opportunity to wipe off Hezbollah.
On other matters, the axis joining Iran, Russia and Turkey is strengthening, while they gain control over the de-escalation zones.
Both Iran and Russia have economic interests in the region. Before the outbreak of the war, Syria was one of the top exporting countries of phosphates, and in all likelihood, current reserves (estimated on over 2 billion tons) will be spoils of war for al-Assad's allies.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps took control of Palmyra in 2015, where the largest production area of phosphates is present. Furthermore, Syria also signed an agreement on phosphates with Russia.
Iran has great plans for Syria as its zone of influence, and is planning to establish a seaport in the Mediterranean through which to export its petroleum by a pipeline crossing through Iraq and Syria, both under its tutelage. This pipeline would secure the Shi'ite bow from Tehran to Beirut, thus weakening Saudi Arabia's position in the region. Furthermore, it would allow direct oil exports to Europe.
In relation to Russia and Turkey, despite starting in opposite bands they are now siding together. Turkey is particularly interested in avoiding a Kurdish independent state in the region, this necessarily positions the former Ottoman empire against the U.S. a key supporter of the Kurdish people due to their success on weakening the Islamic State. Russia will make use of this distancing to its own benefits. It is in Russia's interest to have Turkey as an ally in Syria in order to break NATO's Middle East strategy and have a strong army operating in Syrian territory, thus reducing its own engagement and military cost.
Despite things being in favor of Iran, Saudi Arabia could still take advantage of recent developments of the conflict to damage Iran's internal stability.
Ethnic and sectarian segmentation are also part of Iran's fabric, and the Government's repression against minorities within the territory -namely Kurds, Arabs and Baluchis- have caused insurgencies before. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States aligned with its foreign policy, such as the UAE are likely to exploit resentment of the minorities in order to destabilized Iran's internal politics.
The problem does not end there for Iran. Although ISIS being wiped off the Syrian territory, after falling its last citadel in Baguz, this is not the end of the terrorist group. Iran's active role in fighting Sunni jihadists through Hezbollah and Shi'ite militias in Syria and Iraq has given Islamist organization a motivation to defy Tehran.
Returning foreign fighters could scatter over the region creating cells and even cooperating with Sunni separatist movements in Ahwaz, Kurdistan or Baluchistan. Saudi Arabia is well aware of this and could exploit the Wahhabi narrative and exert Sunni influence in the region through a behind-the-scenes financing of these groups.
 The Collapse of the Status Quo in OM: The Security Strategies of Iran and AS, David Poza Cano, January 2017.
 Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Struggle for Supremacy in Lebanon and Bahrain, Simon Mabon, LSE 2018.
 Iran and the GCC Hedging, Pragmatism and Opportunism, Sanam Vakil, September 2018.
 Reuters 'Yemen's Houthis and Saudi Arabia in secret talks to end war', 15 March, 2018.
 Bayoumy, Y. (2016), 'Iran steps up weapons supply to Yemen's Houthis via Oman', Reuters, 30 October.
 Coates Ulrichsen, K., 'Walking the tightrope: Kuwait, Iran relations in the aftermath of the Abdali affair', Gulf States Analytics, 9 August, 2017.
 Kamrava, M. 'Iran-Qatar Relations', in Bahgat, Ehteshami and Quilliam (2017), Security and Bilateral Issues Between Iran and Its Neighbours.
 Total defeat of ISIS terrorist group confirmed in Syria, Clarin Mundo. March 23, 2019
The need for labour has traditionally led Sweden to welcome waves of immigrants; sections of society now see this as a problem.
Oresund Bridge, between Denmark and Sweden, seen from Swedish territory [Wikipedia].
ANALYSIS / Jokin de Carlos
Sweden has had a reputation since World War II for being open to immigrants and for developing tolerant and open social policies. However, the increase in the number of immigrants issue , the slow cultural adaptation of some of these new communities, especially Muslims, and the problems of violence generated in more vulnerable areas have provoked an intense discussion in Swedish society. The view that a generous migration policy may be destroying Swedish identity and making life more difficult for native Swedes has fuelled the vote of some right-wing civil service examination , although the Social Democrats last year revalidated public support for a government that maintains traditional policies with some greater emphasis on expulsion of those whose application has been rejected.
One of Sweden's historical problems has been its leave fertility rate, which by the 1960s had fallen to the threshold of 2.1 children per woman needed for population replacement. This was threatening the celebrated Swedish welfare state, because of the need for tax revenues to maintain generous public services, so the country promoted the arrival of immigrants. At the same time, the need for labour was also posed by the development of domestic industry.
Sweden emerged from the Second World War in good shape. It did not suffer the destruction of other nations, being territorially on the margins of the conflict, and was able to consolidate a metallurgical industry which, thanks to the production of its iron ore mines, had benefited from selling to both sides in the war. This industrial development required a large work force, which the country's own birth rate of leave and the concentration of the population on the coast and in the south, outside the industrial centres, made it difficult to muster. In addition, the Swedish welfare state and the continuous decades of peace created a class average that did not want to work in the new industry because of the low wages it offered in order to be competitive.
To address labour shortages and thus maintain economic progress, Sweden turned to immigration from the 1950s onwards. The government first opened the border to asylum seekers or work and then built clusters of housing, usually of leave quality, near industrial areas where newcomers could find jobs without any requirement of language. When the cultural impact of these additions was too great in some areas, the government proceeded to close the borders, restricting immigration. When new workers were needed, the government reopened the border.
This system helped to bring about significant economic progress, but it also isolated many social groups, who were stuck in low-income areas with little chance of development or social integration.
Both during and after World War II, Sweden was an important destination for people from Norway, Denmark, Poland, Poland, Finland and the Baltic Republics escaping the war or the destruction it created; it was also a neutral destination for many Jews. In 1944, there were more than 40,000 refugees in Sweden; while many returned home after the war, a considerable group number remained, mainly Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, whose home nations were incorporated into the USSR.
In 1952, Sweden, Denmark and Norway formed the Nordic committee , creating a area of free trade and freedom of movement, which Finland joined in 1955. With this, thousands of migrants came to Sweden to work in industry, mainly from Finland but also from Norway, which had not yet discovered its oil reserves. This increased the percentage of the immigrant population from 2% in 1945 to 7% in 1970. All this helped Tage Erlander (Prime Minister of Sweden between 1946 and 1969) to create the project "Strong Society", aimed at increasing the public sector and the welfare state. However, this influx of labour began to harm native Swedish workers and, as a result, in 1967, trade unions began to pressure Erlander to limit labour immigration to the Nordic countries.
In 1969, Erlander resigned from position and was replaced by his protégé, Olof Palme. Palme was a member of the most radical sector of the Social Democrats and wanted to further increase the welfare state, continuing his predecessor's project on a larger scale.
In order to attract a larger workforce without angering the unions, Palme began to use pro-refugee rhetoric, opening Sweden's borders to people escaping dictatorships and war. At the same time, these people were to be moved to industrial neighbourhoods, built especially for them in nearby industrial areas where they would work. At the same time, Palme tried to make Sweden attractive to immigrants through assimilation policies in favour of multiculturalism.
During this period, people of many nationalities began to arrive in the country: from those fleeing the conflict in Yugoslavia or martial law in Poland to those fleeing the Middle East and Latin America. These new populations settled far from the native Swedish population centres; as a result, many neighbourhoods of the working-class class became isolated ghettos. In 1986, Palme was assassinated and his successor, Ingvar Carlsson, changed immigration policy and began accepting only those who qualified as agreement refugees according to UN standards.
During the 1990s, increased conflict in places such as Somalia, Yugoslavia and several African nations led to an increase in the flow of war refugees, many of whom came to Sweden. In 1996, the Ministry of Migration and Asylum Policy was established. However, the two largest movements of people from foreign countries would occur in the aftermath of the Iraq and Syria conflicts. Fredrik Reinfeldt's conservative government began to take in large numbers of Iraqi refugees, who in 2006 became the second largest minority in the country after the Finns. In 2015, Stefan Löfven's social democratic government opened the border to Syrian refugees, who arrived en masse, fleeing the Syrian Civil War and the push by Daesh.
This succession of waves of Middle Eastern migrants exacerbated some problems: in many neighbourhoods, outsiders do not feel at home in Sweden, mainly because they were built 'not to be Sweden'; moreover, difficult integration and low-paid jobs fuel gangs and organised crime. All this led Löfven to implement a stricter migration policy in 2017, accepting fewer asylum seekers and starting to expel those whose asylum applications had been rejected.
As can be seen, the tendency in Sweden is to open the borders to immigration when it is necessary and to close them when it starts to provoke social tensions.
Origins of the immigrant population
Sweden has become an ethnically diverse society, with almost 22% of the population having a foreign background. Until 2015, the largest ethnic minority in Sweden were Finns, who numbered more than 200,000 at the turn of the century. In the wake of the Iraq war and the Syrian migration crisis, people from the Middle East have become the largest group.
Currently, 8% of Sweden's inhabitants come from a Muslim-majority country - mainly Syria and Iraq, but also Iran - although only 1.4% of the population practises the Muslim religion (around 140,000 people in 2017), as there are also immigrants from these countries with other religious affiliations, such as Christians, Druze, Yazidis or Zoroastrians. These numbers may have increased slightly, although not to cause very drastic changes in demographics.
Although not particularly large in number, the Muslim community has generated media attention as a result of various controversies. In 2006, Mahmoud Aldebe, a member of Sweden's Muslim committee , wrote to the Riksdag political parties and the Swedish government with particularly controversial demands, such as the right to specific Islamic holidays, special public funding for the construction of mosques, that all divorces between Muslim couples be approved by an imam, and that imams be allowed to teach Islam to Muslim children in public schools. These demands were rejected by the authorities and the Swedish political class . It has also been the case that some Muslim associations or mosques have invited radical preachers, such as Haitham al-Haddad or Said Rageahs, whose lectures were eventually banned.
Vulnerable areas and organised crime
The Swedish government has designated some neighbourhoods as Vulnerable Areas (Utsatt Område). These are not strictly speaking "No-Go Zones", because they can be entered by police officers, health services or the media. They are lower security areas that require more attention from the authorities.
Some of them are in Malmö, a city with the highest crime rate in the country, mainly due to its location. Malmö is on the other side of the Oresund Bridge, which connects Denmark with Sweden and is the only land route between Sweden and the mainland without having to go around the Baltic. Here, various gangs and mafias are involved in drug and human trafficking, while at the same time fighting each other in a struggle for control of space. Groups from this subject are also active in Rotterdam, in connection with the activity generated by its important port.
Despite the impression given by certain anti-immigration messages, crime in Sweden is at levels similar to those of 2006. After that year, the issue crime rate dropped, only to rise again in 2010 and 2012. A link could be made between this rise and the economic crisis, which led to an increase in unemployment, but the link with immigration records is less clear. The arrival of Iraqis in 2005 did not lead to increased insecurity on the streets of Sweden, nor has the influx of Syrians in recent years. Sweden's homicide rate is 1.1 per 100,000 inhabitants - lower than in many other European countries - and more crimes are recorded by native Swedes than by foreigners, according to the Swedish National Crime Prevention committee .
However, the mafias operating in Sweden are mostly composed of certain ethnic groups. Their training derived especially from the influx of people from Yugoslavia, both workers in the 1970s and refugees from the Balkan wars in the 1990s. The main such group, known as Yugo Mafia, is today led by Milan Ševo, nicknamed "The Godfather of Stockholm". Other groups include K-Falangen and Naserligan, made up of Albanians; the Werefolf Legion, made up of South Americans; and the Gangsters, originally from the Assyrians (Syria's Christian minority). However, one of the largest is Brödraskapet or the Brotherhood, founded in 1995, with more than 700 members who are all native Swedes and with a strong presence in Swedish prisons.
Migratory movements in Sweden between 1850 and 2007. In red, arrival of immigrants; in blue, departure of emigrants [Wikipedia-Koyos].
There have been three terrorist attacks in Sweden since 2011; a fourth attack was prevented by early detection of its preparation. The first was carried out by Anton Lundin Pettersson, a Swedish neo-Nazi who in 2015 attacked the Trollhättan School, killing four people, all of them immigrants. The next was perpetrated by the Nordic Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi organisation, which targeted a refugee centre and the café of a left-wing organisation; only one person was injured in the attack. The third, and best known, was perpetrated in 2017 by a man from Uzbekistan, apparently recruited by Daesh, who drove a truck into pedestrians in central Stockholm, killing five people and injuring fourteen.
Of the three attacks, only one was jihadist-motivated, in contrast to the importance of Islamist terrorism in other European countries with larger Muslim populations. In any case, the segregation experienced in some communities and the radical indoctrination that takes place in them led young Swedish Muslims to leave for Syria to join Daesh, and the authorities are closely monitoring their possible return.
Hits and misses
For a long time, Sweden was held up by the European left as an example of successful social democratic model ; now, by certain right-wing groups, it is being held up as an example of failed multiculturalism. Both claims are probably exaggerated for partisan purposes. However, the truth is that Sweden has a generous welfare system that is proving difficult to maintain, and that in its generous opening of borders it has made mistakes that have not facilitated the integration of the new population. Everything seems to indicate that Löfven is continuing along the path that began in 2017 and has increased police presence on the streets as well as a toughening of immigration policies, following in turn the policies of Denmark.
Time will have to pass to see what results these policies will have in a future Sweden.
*In Norse mythology, Valhalla is a huge, majestic hall that heroes aspire to enter in the afterlife.
[Winston Lord, Kissinger on Kissinger. Reflections on Diplomacy, Grand Strategy, and Leadership. All Points Books. New York, 2019. 147 p.]
review / Emili J. Blasco
At the age of 96, Henry Kissinger sees another book published that is largely his own: the transcription of a series of lengthy interviews regarding the main foreign actions of the Nixon Administration, in which he served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. Although he himself has already left extensive writings on those moments and has provided documentation for others to write about them - as in the case of Niall Ferguson's biography, the first volume of which appeared in 2015 - Kissinger has wanted to return to that period from 1969-1974 to offer a synthesis of the strategic principles that motivated the decisions then adopted. No news is provided, but there are details that may be of interest to historians of that period.
The work does not respond to a last-minute desire on Kissinger's part to influence a particular reading of his bequest. In fact, the initiative to keep the dialogues transcribed here did not come from him. It is, however, part of a wave of vindication of the presidency of Richard Nixon, whose strategic vision in international politics was tarnished by Watergate. The Nixon Foundation promoted the realization of a series of videos, which included several interviews with Kissinger, conducted throughout 2016. These were conducted by Winston Lord, Kissinger's close partner during his time at the White House and at the department of State, together with K. T. McFarland, then an official under him (and, for a few months, issue two of committee of National Security with Donald Trump). More than two years later, this conversation with Kissinger is now published in a small, short book. His last books had been "China" (2011) and "World Order" (2014).
Kissinger's oral account here deals with a few issues that were at the center of his activity as the great architect of U.S. foreign policy: the opening to China, détente with Russia, the end of the Vietnam War and greater involvement in the Middle East. Although the conversation goes into detail and provides various anecdotes, what is substantial is what can be extracted beyond these specifics: the "reflections on diplomacy, grand strategy and leadership" indicated in the book's subtitle. It could be tiresome to read again the intrahistory of a diplomatic performance on which the protagonist himself has already been prolific, but on this occasion reflections are offered that transcend the specific historical period, which for many may already be far away, as well as interesting recommendations on decision-making processes in leadership positions.
Kissinger provides some clues, for example, as to why in the United States the National Security committee has been consolidated as an instrument for the President's foreign action, with an autonomous -and sometimes conflictive- life with respect to the State department . The Nixon Administration was the driving force behind it, following the suggestion of Eisenhower, whose vice president Nixon had been: interdepartmental coordination in foreign policy could hardly be done from a department -the administrative office of State-, but had to be carried out from the White House itself. While the National Security Advisor can concentrate on those actions that most interest the President, the Secretary of State is obliged to be more dispersed, having to attend to a multitude of fronts. Moreover, unlike the greater readiness of the Defense department to second the commander in chief, the State department apparatus, accustomed to elaborating multiple alternatives for each international issue, may take time to fully assume the direction imposed from the White House.
In terms of negotiating strategy, Kissinger rejects the idea of privately setting a maximum goal and then cutting it little by little, like slices of salami, as the end of the negotiation is reached. Instead, he suggests setting from the outset the basic goals that one would like to achieve -adding perhaps 5%, since something will have to be conceded- and spending a long time explaining them to the other party, with the idea of reaching a conceptual understanding. Kissinger advises understanding what moves the other party and what their own objectives are, because "if you impose your interests without linking them to the interests of the others, you will not be able to sustain your efforts", given that at the end of the negotiation the parties must be willing to support what has been achieved.
As on other occasions, Kissinger does not claim sole credit for the diplomatic successes of the Nixon Administration. While the press and some in academia have given greater credit to the former Harvard professor, Kissinger himself has insisted that it was Nixon who decisively shaped the policies, the maturation of which the two had previously pursued separately before collaborating in the White House. Nevertheless, it is perhaps in this book where Kissinger's words praise the former president the most, perhaps because they were made in the framework of an initiative born from the Nixon Foundation.
"Nixon's fundamental contribution was to establish a seminal patron saint of foreign policy thinking," says Kissinger. According to him, the traditional approach to U.S. foreign action had been to segment issues in an attempt to solve them as individualized problems, making their resolution the issue itself. "Nixon was - leaving aside the Founding Fathers and, I would argue, Teddy Roosevelt - the American president who thought of foreign policy as grand strategy. For him, foreign policy was the structural improvement of the relationship between countries so that the balance of their self-interest would promote global peace and U.S. security. And he thought about this in relatively long-range terms."
Those who have little sympathy for Kissinger -a character of passionate defenders but also of staunch critics- will see in this work another exercise of self-complacency and exaltation typical of the former advisor. To stay at that stage would be to waste a work that contains interesting reflections and I believe that it completes well the thinking of someone of such relevance in the history of the International Office. Whatever affirmation staff may have in the publication refers rather to Winston Lord, who is claimed here as Kissinger's right-hand man at that time: in the first pages there is a complete photo of the interview between Nixon and Mao, whose margins were cut off at the time by the White House so that Lord's presence would not bother the Secretary of State, who was not invited to the historic trip to Beijing.
▲ Special forces (Pixabay)
ESSAY / Roberto Ramirez and Albert Vidal
During the Cold War, Offensive Realism, a theory elaborated by John Mearsheimer, appeared to fit perfectly the international system (Pashakhanlou, 2018). Thirty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, this does not seem to be the case anymore. From the constructivist point of view, Offensive Realism makes certain assumptions about the international system which deserve to be questioned (Wendt, 2008).The purpose of this paper is thus to make a critique of Mearsheimer's concept of anarchy in the international system. The development of this idea by Mearsheimer can be found in the second chapter of his book 'The Tragedy of Great Power Politics'.
The essay will begin with a brief summary of the core tenets of the said chapter and how they relate to Offensive Realism more generally. Afterwards, the constructivist theory proposed by Alexander Wendt will be presented. Then, it will be argued from a constructivist approach that the international sphere is the result of a construction and it does not necessarily lead to war. Next, the different types of anarchies that Wendt presents will be described, as an argument against the single and uniform international system that is presented by Neorealists. Lastly, the essay will make a case for the importance of shared values and ideologies, and how this is oftentimes underestimated by offensive realists.
Mearsheimer's work and Offensive Realism
'The Tragedy of Great Power Politics' has become one of the most decisive books in the field of International Relations after the Cold War and has developed the theory of offensive realism to an unprecedented extent. In this work, Mearsheimer enumerates the five assumptions on which offensive realism rests (Mearsheimer, 2014):
1. The international system is anarchic. Mearsheimer understands anarchy as an ordering principle that comprises independent states which have no central authority above them. There is no "government over governments".
Great powers inherently possess offensive military capabilities; which means that there will always be a possibility of mutual destruction. Thus, every state could be a potential enemy.
States are never certain of other states' intentions. All states may be benign, but states could never be sure about that, since their intention could change all of a sudden.
4. Survival is the primary goal of great powers and it dominates other motives. Once a state is conquered, any chances to achieve other goals disappear.
5. Great powers are rational actors, because when it comes to international policies, they consider how their behavior could affect others' behavior and vice versa.
The problem is, according to Mearsheimer, that when those five assumptions come together, they create strong motivations for great powers to behave offensively, and three patterns of behavior originate (Mearsheimer, 2007).
First, great powers fear each other, which is a motivating force in world politics. States look with suspicion to each other in a system with little room for trust. Second, states aim to self-help actions, as they tend to see themselves as vulnerable and lonely. Thus, the best way to survive in this self-help world is to be selfish. Alliances are only temporary marriages of convenience because states are not willing to subordinate their interest to international community. Lastly, power maximization is the best way to ensure survival. The stronger a state is compared to their enemies, the less likely it is to be attacked by them. But, how much power is it necessary to amass, so that a state will not be attacked by others? As that is something very difficult to know, the only goal can be to achieve hegemony.
A Glimpse of Constructivism, by Alexander Wendt
According to Alexander Wendt, one of the main constructivist authors, there are two main tenets that will help understand this approach:
The first one goes as follows: "The identities and interests of purposive actors are constructed by these shared ideas rather than given by nature" (Wendt, 2014). Constructivism has two main referent objects: the individual and the state. This theory looks into the identity of the individuals of a nation to understand the interests of a state. That is why there is a need to understand what identity and interests are, according to constructivism, and what are they used for.
i. Identity is understood by constructivism as the social interactions that people of a nation have with each other, which shape their ideas. Constructivism tries to understand the identity of a group or a nation through its historical record, cultural things and sociology (McDonald, 2012).
ii. A state's interest is a cultural construction and it has to do with the cultural identity of its citizens. For example, when we see that a state is attacking our state's liberal values, we consider it a major threat; however, when it comes to buglers or thieves, we don't get alarmed that much because they are part of our culture. Therefore, when it comes to international security, what may seem as a threat for a state may not be considered such for another (McDonald, 2012).
The second tenet says that "the structures of human association are determined primarily by shared ideas rather than material forces". Once that constructivism has analyzed the individuals of a nation and knows the interest of the state, it is able to examine how interests can reshape the international system (Wendt, 2014). But, is the international system dynamic? This may be answered by dividing the international system in three elements:
a) States, according to constructivism, are composed by a material structure and an idealist structure. Any modification in the material structure changes the ideal one, and vice versa. Thus, the interest of a state will differ from those of other states, according to their identity (Theys, 2018).
b) Power, understood as military capabilities, is totally variable. Such variation may occur in quantitative terms or in the meaning given to such military capabilities by the idealist structure (Finnemore, 2017). For instance, the friendly relationship between the United States (US) and the United Kingdom is different from the one between the US and North Korea, because there is an intersubjectivity factor to be considered (Theys, 2018).
c) International anarchy, according to Wendt, does not exist as an "ordering principle" but it is "what states make of it" (Wendt, 1995). Therefore, the anarchical system is mutable.
The international system and power competition: a wrong assumption?
The first argument will revolve around the following neorealist assumption: the international system is anarchic by nature and leads to power competition, and this cannot be changed. To this we add the fact that states are understood as units without content, being qualitatively equal.
What would constructivists answer to those statements? Let's begin with an example that illustrates the weakness of the neorealist argument: to think of states as blank units is problematic. North Korea spends around $10 billion in its military (Craw, 2019), and a similar amount is spent by Taiwan. But the former is perceived as a dangerous threat while the latter isn't. According to Mearsheimer, we should consider both countries equally powerful and thus equally dangerous, and we should assume that both will do whatever necessary to increase their power. But in reality, we do not think as such: there is a strong consensus on the threat that North Korea represents, while Taiwan isn't considered a serious threat to anyone (it might have tense relations with China, but that is another issue).
The key to this puzzle is identity. And constructivism looks on culture, traditions and identity to better understand what goes on. The history of North Korea, the wars it has suffered, the Japanese attitude during the Second World War, the Juche ideology, and the way they have been educated enlightens us, and helps us grasp why North Korea's attitude in the international arena is aggressive according to our standards. One could scrutinize Taiwan's past in the same manner, to see why has it evolved in such way and is now a flourishing and open society; a world leader in technology and good governance. Nobody would see Taiwan as a serious threat to its national security (with the exception of China, but that is different).
This example could be brought to a bigger scale and it could be said that International Relations are historically and socially constructed, instead of being the inevitable consequence of human nature. It is the states the ones that decide how to behave, and whether to be a good ally or a traitor. And thus the maxim 'anarchy is what states make of it', which is better understood in the following fragment (Copeland, 2000; p.188):
Anarchy has no determinant "logic," only different cultural instantiations. Because each actor's conception of self (its interests and identity) is a product of the others' diplomatic gestures, states can reshape structure by process; through new gestures, they can reconstitute interests and identities toward more other-regarding and peaceful means and ends.'
We have seen Europe succumb under bloody wars for centuries, but we have also witnessed more than 70 years of peace in that same region, after a serious commitment of certain states to pursue a different goal. Europe has decided to do something else with the anarchy that it was given: it has constructed a completely different ecosystem, which could potentially expand to the rest of the international system and change the way we understand international relations. This could obviously change for the better or for the worse, but what matters is that it has been proven how the cycle of inter-state conflict and mutual distrust is not inevitable. States can decide to behave otherwise and trust in their neighbors; by altering the culture that constitutes the system, they can set the foundations for non-egoistic mind-sets that will bring peace (Copeland, 2000). It will certainly not be easy to change, but it is perfectly possible.
As it was said before, constructivism does not deny an initial state of anarchy in the international system; it simply affirms that it is an empty vessel which does not inevitably lead to power competition. Wendt affirms that whether a system is conflictive or peaceful is not decided by anarchy and power, but by the shared culture that is created through interaction (Copeland, 2000).
Three different 'anarchies
Alexander Wendt describes in his book 'Social Theory of International Politics' the three cultures of anarchy that have embedded the international system for the past centuries (Wendt, 1999). Each of these cultures has been constructed by the states, thanks to their interaction and acceptance of behavioral norms. Such norms continuously shape states' interests and identities.
Firstly, the Hobbesian culture dominated the international system until the 17th century; where the states saw each other as dangerous enemies that competed for the acquisition of power. Violence was used as a common tool to resolve disputes. Then, the Lockean culture emerged with the Treaty of Westphalia (1648): here states became rivals, and violence was still used, but with certain restrains. Lastly, the Kantian culture has appeared with the spread of democracies. In this culture of anarchy, states cooperate and avoid using force to solve disputes (Copeland, 2000). The three examples that have been presented show how the Neorealist assumption that anarchy is of one sort, and that it drives toward power competition cannot be sustained. According to Copeland (2000; p.198-199), '[...] if states fall into such conflicts, it is a result of their own social practices, which reproduce egoistic and military mind-sets. If states can transcend their past realpolitik mindset, hope for the future can be restored.'
Ideal structures are more relevant than what you think
One of the common assertions of Offensive Realism is that "[...] the desire for security and fear of betrayal will always override shared values and ideologies" (Seitz, 2016). Constructivism opposes such assertion, and brands it as too simplistic. In reality, it has been repeatedly proven wrong. A common history, shared values, and even friendship among states are some things that Offensive Realism purposefully ignores and does not contemplate.
Let's illustrate it with an example. Country A has presumed power strength of 7. Country B has a power strength of 15. Offensive Realism would say that country A is under the threat of an attack by country B, which is much more powerful and if it has the chance, it will conquer country A. No other variables or structures are taken into account, and that will happen inexorably. Such assertion, under today's dynamics is considered quite absurd. Let's put a counter-example: who on earth thinks that the US is dying to conquer Canada and will do so when the first opportunity comes up? Why doesn't France invade Luxembourg, if one take into account how easy and lucrative this enterprise might be? Certainly, there are other aspects such as identities and interests that offensive realism has ignored, but are key in shaping states' behavior in the international system.
That is how shared values (an ideal structure) oftentimes overrides power concerns (a material structure) when two countries that are asymmetrically powerful become allies and decide to cooperate.
After deepening into the understanding that offensive realists have of anarchy in the international system, this essay has covered the different arguments that constructivists employ to face such conception. To put it briefly, it has been argued that the international system is the result of a construction, and it is shared culture that decides whether anarchy will lead to conflict or peace. To prove such argument, the three different types of anarchies that have existed in the relatively recent times have been described. Finally, a case has been made for the importance of shared values and ideologies over material structures, which is generally dismissed by offensive realists.
Although this has not been an exhaustive critique of Offensive Realism, the previous insights may have provided certain key ideas that will contribute to the conversation. Our understanding of the theory of constructivism will certainly shape the way we tackle crises and the way we conceive international relations. It is then tremendously important that one knows in which cases it ought to be applied, so that we do not rely completely on a particular theory which becomes our new object of veneration; since this may have dreadful consequences.
Copeland, D. C. (2000). The Constructivist Challenge to Structural Realism: A Review Essay. The MIT Press, 25, 287-212. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2626757
Craw, V. (2019). North Korea military spending: Country spends 22 per cent of GDP. Retrieved from https://www.news.com.au/world/asia/north-korea-spends-whopping-22-per-cent-of-gdp-on-military-despite-blackouts-and-starving-population/news-story/c09c12d43700f28d389997ee733286d2
D. Williams, P. (2012). Security Studies: An Introduction (Routledge, Ed.) (2nd ed.).
Finnemore, M. (2017). National Interests in International Society (pp. 6 - 7).
McDonald, M. (2012). Security, the environment and emancipation (pp. 48 - 59). New York: Routledge.
Mearsheimer, J. (2014). The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.(WW Norton & Co, Ed.) New York.
Mearsheimer (2007). Tragedy of great power politics (pp. 29 - 54). [Place of publication not identified]: Academic Internet Pub Inc.
Pashakhanlou, A. (2018). Realism and fear in international relations. [Place of publication not identified]: Palgrave Macmillan.
Seitz, S. (2016). A Critique of Offensive Realism. Retrieved March 2, 2019, from https://politicstheorypractice.com/2016/03/06/a-critique-of-offensive-realism/
Theys, S. (2018). Introducing Constructivism in International Relations Theory. Retrieved from https://www.e-ir.info/2018/02/23/introducing-constructivism-in-international-relations-theory/
Walt, S. M. (1987). The Origins of Alliances (C. U. Press, Ed.), Ithaca.
Wendt, A. (1995). Constructing international politics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Wendt, A. (2008). Anarchy is what States make of it (pp. 399 - 403). Farnham: Ashgate.
Wendt, A. (2014). Social theory of international politics (p. 1). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wendt, A. (2014). Social theory of international politics (pp. 29 - 33). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
The struggle for power has already started in the Islamic Republic in the midst of US sanctions and ahead a new electoral cycle.
▲ Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking to Iranian Air Force personnel, in 2016 [Wikipedia].
ANALYSIS / Rossina Funes and Maeve Gladin
The failing health of Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, 89, brings into question the political aftermath of his approaching death or possible step-down. Khamenei's health has been a point of query since 2007, when he temporarily disappeared from the public eye. News later came out that he had a routine procedure which had no need to cause any suspicions in regards to his health. However, the question remains as to whether his well-being is a fantasy or a reality. Regardless of the truth of his health, many suspect that he has been suffering prostate cancer all this time. Khamenei is 89 years old -he turns 80 in July- and the odds of him continuing as active Supreme Leader are slim to none. His death or resignation will not only reshape but could also greatly polarize the successive politics at play and create more instability for Iran.
The next possible successor must meet certain requirements in order to be within the bounds of possible appointees. This political figure must comply and follow Khamenei's revolutionary ideology by being anti-Western, mainly anti-American. The prospective leader would also need to meet religious statues and adherence to clerical rule. Regardless of who that cleric may be, Iran is likely to be ruled by another religious figure who is far less powerful than Khamenei and more beholden to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Additionally, Khamenei's successor should be young enough to undermine the current opposition to clerical rule prevalent among many of Iran's youth, which accounts for the majority of Iran's population.
In analyzing who will head Iranian politics, two streams have been identified. These are constrained by whether the current Supreme Leader Khamenei appoints his successor or not, and within that there are best and worst case scenarios.
Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi had been mentioned as the foremost contender to stand in lieu of Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei. Shahroudi was a Khamenei loyalist who rose to the highest ranks of the Islamic Republic's political clerical elite under the supreme leader's patronage and was considered his most likely successor. A former judiciary chief, Shahroudi was, like his patron, a staunch defender of the Islamic Revolution and its founding principle, velayat-e-faqih (rule of the jurisprudence). Iran's domestic unrest and regime longevity, progressively aroused by impromptu protests around the country over the past year, is contingent on the political class collectively agreeing on a supreme leader competent of building consensus and balancing competing interests. Shahroudi's exceptional faculty to bridge the separated Iranian political and clerical establishment was the reason his name was frequently highlighted as Khamenei's eventual successor. Also, he was both theologically and managerially qualified and among the few relatively nonelderly clerics viewed as politically trustworthy by Iran's ruling establishment. However, he passed away in late December 2018, opening once again the question of who was most likely to take Khamenei's place as Supreme Leader of Iran.
However, even with Shahroudi's early death, there are still a few possibilities. One is Sadeq Larijani, the head of the judiciary, who, like Shahroudi, is Iraqi born. Another prospect is Ebrahim Raisi, a former 2017 presidential candidate and the custodian of the holiest shrine in Iran, Imam Reza. Raisi is a student and loyalist of Khamenei, whereas Larijani, also a hard-liner, is more independent.
1. MOST LIKELY SCENARIO, REGARDLESS OF APPOINTMENT
1.1 Ebrahim Raisi
In a more likely scenario, Ebrahim Raisi would rise as Iran's next Supreme Leader. He meets the aforementioned requirements with regards to the religious status and the revolutionary ideology. Fifty-eight-years-old, Raisi is a student and loyal follower of the current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Like his teacher, he is from Mashhad and belongs to its famous seminary. He is married to the daughter of Ayatollah Alamolhoda, a hardline cleric who serves as Khamenei's representative of in the eastern Razavi Khorasan province, home of the Imam Reza shrine.
Together with his various senior judicial positions, in 2016 Raisi was appointed the chairman of Astan Quds Razavi, the wealthy and influential charitable foundation which manages the Imam Reza shrine. Through this appointment, Raisi developed a very close relationship with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is a known ideological and economic partner of the foundation. In 2017, he moved into the political sphere by running for president, stating it was his "religious and revolutionary responsibility". He managed to secure a respectable 38 percent of the vote; however, his contender, Rouhani, won with 57 percent of the vote. At first, this outcome was perceived as an indicator of Raisi's relative unpopularity, but he has proven his detractors wrong. After his electoral defeat, he remained in the public eye and became an even more prominent political figure by criticizing Rouhani's policies and pushing for hard-line policies in both domestic and foreign affairs. Also, given to Astan Quds Foundation's extensive budget, Raisi has been able to secure alliances with other clerics and build a broad network that has the ability to mobilize advocates countrywide.
Once he takes on the role of Supreme Leader, he will continue his domestic and regional policies. On the domestic front, he will further Iran's Islamisation and regionally he will push to strengthen the "axis of resistance", which is the anti-Western and anti-Israeli alliance between Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Shia Iraq and Hamas. Nevertheless, if this happens, Iran would live on under the leadership of yet another hardliner and the political scene would not change much. Regardless of who succeeds Khamenei, a political crisis is assured during this transition, triggered by a cycle of arbitrary rule, chaos, violence and social unrest in Iran. It will be a period of uncertainty given that a great share of the population seems unsatisfied with the clerical establishment, which was also enhanced by the current economic crisis ensued by the American sanctions.
1.2 Sadeq Larijani
Sadeq Larijani, who is fifty-eight years old, is known for his conservative politics and his closeness to the supreme guide of the Iranian regime Ali Khamenei and one of his potential successors. He is Shahroudi's successor as head of the judiciary and currently chairs the Expediency Council. Additionally, the Larijani family occupies a number of important positions in government and shares strong ties with the Supreme Leader by being among the most powerful families in Iran since Khamenei became Supreme Leader thirty years ago. Sadeq Larijani is also a member of the Guardian Council, which vetos laws and candidates for elected office for conformance to Iran's Islamic system.
Formally, the Expediency Council is an advisory body for the Supreme Leader and is intended to resolve disputes between parliament and a scrutineer body, therefore Larijani is well informed on the way Khamenei deals with governmental affairs and the domestic politics of Iran. Therefore, he meets the requirement of being aligned with Khamenei's revolutionary and anti-Western ideology, and he is also a conservative cleric, thus he complies with the religious figure requirement. Nonetheless, he is less likely to be appointed as Iran's next Supreme Leader given his poor reputation outside Iran. The U.S. sanctioned Larijani on the grounds of human rights violations, in addition to "arbitrary arrests of political prisoners, human rights defenders and minorities" which "increased markedly" since he took office, according to the EU who also sanctioned Larijani in 2012. His appointment would not be a strategic decision amidst the newly U.S. imposed sanctions and the trouble it has brought upon Iran. Nowadays, the last thing Iran wants is that the EU also turn their back to them, which would happen if Larijani rises to power. However it is still highly plausible that Larijani would be the second one on the list of prospective leaders, only preceded by Raisi.
2. LEAST LIKELY SCENARIO: SUCCESSOR NOT APPOINTED
2.1 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
The IRGC's purpose is to preserve the Islamic system from foreign interference and protect from coups. As their priority is the protection of national security, the IRGC necessarily will take action once Khamenei passes away and the political sphere becomes chaotic. In carrying out their role of protecting national security, the IRGC will act as a support for the new Supreme Leader. Moreover, the IRGC will work to stabilize the unrest which will inevitably occur, regardless of who comes to power. It is our estimate that the new Supreme Leader will have been appointed by Khamenei before death, and thus the IRGC will do everything in their power to protect him. In the unlikely case that Khamenei does not appoint a successor, we believe that there are two unlikely options of ruling that could arise.
The first, and least likely, being that the IRGC takes rule. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that the IRGC takes power. This would violate the Iranian constitution and is not in the interest to rule the state. What they are interested in is having a puppet figure who will satisfy their interests. As the IRGC's main role is national security, in the event that Khamenei does not appoint a successor and the country goes into political and social turmoil, the IRGC will without a doubt step in. This military intervention will be one of transitory nature, as the IRGC does not pretend to want direct political power. Once the Supreme Leader is secured, the IRGC will go back to a relatively low profile.
In the very unlikely event that a Supreme Leader is not predetermined, the IRGC may take over the political regime of Iran, creating a military dictatorship. If this were to happen, there would certainly be protests, riots and coups. It would be very difficult for an opposition group to challenge and defeat the IRGC, but there would be attempts to overcome it. This would be a regime of temporary nature, however, the new Supreme Leader would arise from the scene that the IRGC had been protecting.
2.2 Mohsen Kadivar
In addition, political dissident and moderate cleric Mohsen Kadivar is a plausible candidate for the next Supreme Leader. Kadivar's rise to political power in Iran would be a black swan, as it is extremely unlikely, however, the possibility should not be dismissed. His election would be highly unlikely due to the fact that he is a board member critic of clerical rule and has been a public opponent of the Iranian government. He has served time in prison for speaking out in favor of democracy and liberal reform as well as publicly criticizing the Islamic political system. Moreover, he has been a university professor of Islamic religious and legal studies throughout the United States. As Kadivar goes against all requirements to become successor, he is highly unlikely to become Supreme Leader. It is also important to keep in mind that Khamenei will most likely appoint a successor, and in that scenario, he will appoint someone who meets the requirements and of course is in line with what he believes. In the rare case that Khamenei does not appoint a successor or dies before he gets the chance to, a political uprising is inevitable. The question will be whether the country uprises to the point of voting a popular leader or settling with someone who will maintain the status quo.
In the situation that Mohsen Kadivar is voted into power, the Iranian political system would change drastically. For starters, he would not call himself Supreme Leader, and would instill a democratic and liberal political system. Kadivar and other scholars which condemn supreme clerical rule are anti-despotism and advocate for its abolishment. He would most likely establish a western-style democracy and work towards stabilizing the political situation of Iran. This would take more years than he will allow himself to remain in power, however, he will probably stay active in the political sphere both domestically as well as internationally. He may be secretary of state after stepping down, and work as both a close friend and advisor of the next leader of Iran as well as work for cultivating ties with other democratic countries.
2.3 Sayyid Mojtaba Hosseini Khamenei
Khamenei's son, Sayyid Mojtaba Hosseini Khamenei is also rumored to be a possible designated successor. His religious and military experience and dedication, along with being the son of Khamenei gives strong reason to believe that he may be appointed Supreme Leader by his father. However, Mojtaba is lacking the required religious status. The requirements of commitment to the IRGC as well as anti-American ideology are not questioned, as Mojtaba has a well-known strong relationship with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Mojtaba studied theology and is currently a professor at Qom Seminary in Iran. Nonetheless, it is unclear as to whether Mojtaba's religious and political status is enough to have him considered to be the next Supreme Leader. In the unlikely case that Khamenei names his son to be his successor, it would be possible for his son to further commit to the religious and political facets of his life and align them with the requirements of being Supreme Leader.
This scenario is highly unlikely, especially considering that in the 1979 Revolution, monarchical hereditary succession was abolished. Mojtaba has already shown loyalty to Iran when taking control of the Basij militia during the uproar of the 2009 elections to halt protests. While Mojtaba is currently not fit for the position, he is clearly capable of gaining the needed credentials to live up to the job. Despite his potential, all signs point to another candidate becoming the successor before Mojtaba.
3. PATH TO DEMOCRACY
Albeit the current regime is supposedly overturned by an uprising or new appointment by the current Supreme Leader Khamenei, it is expected that any transition to democracy or to Western-like regime will take a longer and more arduous process. If this was the case, it will be probably preceded by a turmoil analogous to the Arab Springs of 2011. However, even if there was a scream for democracy coming from the Iranian population, the probability that it ends up in success like it did in Tunisia is slim to none. Changing the president or the Supreme Leader does not mean that the regime will also change, but there are more intertwined factors that lead to a massive change in the political sphere, like it is the path to democracy in a Muslim state.
[Francis Fukuyama, Identity. The demand for dignity and the politics of resentment. Deusto, Barcelona, 2019. 208 p.]
review / Emili J. Blasco
The democratic deterioration we are seeing in the world today is generating a literature of its own, like that which, on the opposite phenomenon, arose with the democratic springtime experienced after the fall of the Berlin Wall (what Huntington called the third wave of democratization). In that moment of optimism, Francis Fukuyama popularized the idea of the "end of history" -democracy as the final written request in the evolution of human institutions-; today, in this democratic autumn, Fukuyama warns in a new essay of the risk that identity, stripped of liberal safeguards, will phagocytize other values if it remains in the hands of resurgent populist nationalism.
The warning is not new. Huntington, who in 1996 published his Clash of Civilizations, highlighted the driving power of nationalism, was not moved by it; then, in recent years, various authors have referred to the recession of the democratic tide. Fukuyama quotation the expression of Larry Diamond "democratic recession", noting that compared to the leap made between 1970 and the beginning of the new millennium (from 35 to 120 electoral democracies), today the issue has decreased.
The last famous theorist of the International Office to write about this was John Mearsheimer, who in The Great Delusion notes how the world today realizes the naivety of thinking that the liberal architecture was going to dominate the domestic and foreign policy of nations. For Mearsheimer, nationalism is once again emerging strongly as an alternative. This had already been observed just after the decomposition of the Eastern Bloc and the USSR, with the Balkan war as a paradigmatic example, but the democratization of Central and Eastern Europe and its rapid entry into NATO led todelusion.
It has been the personality and policies of the current inhabitant of the White House that has put some American thinkers, including Fukuyama, on alert. "This book would not have been written if Donald J. Trump had not been elected president in November 2016," warns the Stanford University professor, director of his Center on Democracy, development and the Rule of Law. In his view, Trump "is both a product and a contributor to democratic decline" and is an exponent of the broader phenomenon of populist nationalism.
Fukuyama defines populism in terms of its leaders: "Populist leaders seek to use the legitimacy conferred by democratic elections to consolidate their power. They claim a direct and charismatic connection with the people, who are often defined in narrow ethnic terms that exclude important parts of the population. They dislike institutions and seek to undermine the checks and balances that limit a leader's power staff in a modern liberal democracy: courts, parliament, independent media and a non-partisan bureaucracy."
It is probably unfair to hold against Fukuyama some conclusions of The End of History and the Last Man (1992), a book often misinterpreted and taken out of his theoretical core topic . The author has then further concretized his thinking on the institutional development of social organization, especially in his titles Origins of Political Order (2011) and Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Present Day (2014). Already in the latter he pointed to the risk of regression, particularly in view of the polarization and lack of consensus in American politics.
In Identity, Fukuyama considers that non-ethnic nationalism has been a positive force in societies whenever it has been based on the construction of identities around liberal and democratic political values (he gives the example of India, France, Canada and the United States). This is because identity, which facilitates a sense of community and belonging, can contribute to six functions: physical security, quality of government, promotion of economic development , increase in the radius of trust, maintenance of social protection that mitigates economic inequalities, and facilitation of liberal democracy itself.
However -and this may be the book's intended warning-, at a time of recession of liberal and democratic values, these are going to accompany the identity phenomenon less and less, so that in many cases it may change from integrating to excluding.
[Pablo Simón, The modern prince: Democracy, politics and power. discussion, Barcelona 2018, 272 pages]
review / Alejandro Palacios
The International Office are guided in each State by a series of leaders and, indirectly, by political parties that are elected more or less democratically by the citizens. Therefore, the high volatility of the vote that we see spreading today in our societies has indirect repercussions on the drift of the international system. This book attempts to review the political systems of some countries to try to explain, in essence, how citizens interact within each political system. The relevance of the book is therefore more than justified.
In fact, by understanding the voting tendencies of citizens, shaped by social divisions and the political system they face, we can get an idea of why such politically radical leaders as Trump or Bolsonaro have emerged. For example, voting in a majoritarian system is not the same as voting in a proportional system. Nor do young people and adults, city dwellers and country dwellers, or men and women vote the same (divisions known as the triple electoral gap).
The author of the book, the Spanish political scientist Pablo Simón, takes as a starting point the Great Recession of 2008, a moment in which new political options began to emerge, encouraged in part by the loss of confidence in both traditional political parties and in the system itself. At the same time, the work attempts to vindicate the importance of the existence of a political science that, as such, is capable of taking a popular assertion about a relevant topic , contrast it empirically and draw mostly general conclusions that help to confirm or disprove that belief.
Pablo Simón also combines the practical analysis of real cases in different countries with theoretical clarifications. This financial aid makes it easy for less familiar readers to follow the explanations of the phenomena he explains reference letter, thus making this book accessible to the general public and not only to an audience specialized in political theory and analysis.
The comparison that the author makes of the different political systems of several countries (he talks about Spain, but also about France, Belgium and the United States, among others) makes this book an excellent guide of enquiry for all those who, without being specifically dedicated to it, want to have a global idea of the party systems in the rest of the world and of the reason for the current political dynamics.
As a counterpoint to the effort of knowledge dissemination there is logically a lesser depth in certain aspects addressed. But it is precisely this informative approach that makes the text pleasant to read, both for the clarity and conciseness of its content (not excessively technical and with theoretical clarifications) and for its length (barely 275 pages). In final, a book which constitutes the perfect guide for all those interested in the functioning of politics in a broad sense, its causes and effects.
Thierry Baudet's electoral surprise and the new Dutch right wing
The Netherlands has seen in recent years not only the decline of some of the traditional parties, but even the new party of the populist Geert Wilders has been overtaken by an even newer training , led by Thierry Baudet, also markedly right-wing but somewhat more sophisticated. The political earthquake of the March regional elections could sweep away the coalition government of the liberal Mark Rutte, who has provided continuity in Dutch politics over the past nine years.
▲ Thierry Baudet, in an advertising spot for his party, Forum for Democracy (FVD).
article / Jokin de Carlos Sola
On March 20, regional elections were held in the Netherlands. The parties that make up the coalition that keeps Mark Rutte in power suffered a strong punishment in all regions, and the same happened with the party of the famous and controversial Geert Wilders. The big winner of these elections was the Forum for Democracy (FvD) party, founded and led by Thierry Baudet, 36, the new star of Dutch politics. These results sow doubts about the future of Mark Rutte's government once the composition of the Senate is renewed next May.
Since World War II, three forces have been at the center of Dutch politics: the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), the Labor Party (PvA) and the liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). All three accounted for 83% of the Dutch electorate in 1982. Due to the Dutch system of proportional representation, no party has ever had an absolute majority, so there have always been coalition governments. The system also means that, because they are not punished, small parties always achieve representation, thus providing a great ideological variety in Parliament.
Over the years, the three main parties lost influence. In 2010, after eight years in government, the CDA went from 26% and first place in Parliament to 13% and fourth place. This fall brought the VVD to power for the first time under the leadership of Mark Rutte and triggered the entrance of Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV), a right-wing populist training , in Dutch politics. Shortly thereafter Rutte formed a Grand Coalition with the PvA. However, this decision caused Labour to drop from 24% to 5% in the 2017 elections. These results meant that both the VVD and Rutte were left as the last element of old Dutch politics.
These 2017 elections generated even greater diversity in Parliament. In them, parties such as the Reformed Party, of Calvinist Orthodox ideology; the baptized 50+, with the goal to defend the interests of retirees, or the DENK party, created to defend the interests of the Turkish minority in the country, achieved representation. However, none of these parties would later be as relevant as the Forum for Democracy and its leader Thierry Baudet.
Forum for Democracy
The Forum for Democracy was founded as a think tank in 2016, led by 33-year-old French-Dutchman Thierry Baudet. The following year the FvD became a party, presenting itself as a conservative or national conservativetraining , and won two MPs in regional elections. Since then it has been growing, mainly at the expense of Geert Wilders and his PVV. One of the main reasons for this is that Wilders is accused of having no program other than the rejection of immigration and the exit from the European Union. As celebrated as it was controversial was the fact that PVV presented its program on only one page. On the contrary, Baudet has created a broad program in which issues such as the introduction of direct democracy, the privatization of certain sectors, the end of military cuts and a rejection of multiculturalism in general are proposed. On the other hand, Baudet has created an image of greater intellectual stature and respectability than Wilders. However, the party has also suffered declines in popularity because of certain attitudes of Baudet, such as his climate change denialism, his relationship with Jean Marie Le Pen or Filip Dewinter, and his refusal to answer whether he linked IQ to race.
The Netherlands is divided into 12 regions, each region has a committee, which can have between 39 and 55 representatives. Each committee elects both the Royal Commissioner, who acts as the highest authority in the region, and the executive, usually formed through a coalition of parties. The regions have a number of powers granted to them by the central government.
In the provincial elections last March, the FvD became the leading party in 6 out of 12 regions, including North Holland and South Holland, where the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, which had been traditional VVD strongholds, are located. In addition to this, it became the party with the most representatives in the whole of the Netherlands. These gains were achieved mainly at the expense of the PVV. Although these results do not guarantee the FvD government in any region, they do give it influence and media coverage, something Baudet has been able to take advantage of.
Several media linked Baudet's victory to the murder a few days earlier in Utrecht of three Dutch nationals by a Turkish citizen, which authorities said was most likely terrorist motivated. However, the FvD had been growing and gaining ground for some time. The reasons for its rise are several: the decline of Wilders, the actions of Prime Minister Rutte in favor of Dutch companies such as Shell or Unilever (business where he previously worked), the erosion of the traditional parties, which in turn damages their allies, and the rejection of certain immigration policies that Baudet linked to the attack in Utrecht. The Dutch Greens have also experienced great growth, accumulating the young vote that previously supported Democrats 66.
result of the Dutch regional elections on March 20, 2019 [Wikipedia].
Impact on Dutch Policy
The victory of the Baudet party over Rutte's party directly affects the central government, the Dutch electoral system and the prime minister himself. First of all, many media welcomed the results as a evaluation of the Dutch people on Rutte's government. The biggest punishment was for Rutte's allies, the Democrats 66 and the Christian Democratic Appeal, which lost the most support in the regions. Since coming to power in 2010, Rutte has managed to maintain the loyalty of his electorate, but all his allies have ended up being punished by their voters. Therefore, it is possible that Rutte's government will not be able to finish its mandate, if his allies end up turning their backs on him.
The result of the March regionals may have a second impact on the Senate. The Dutch do not appoint their senators directly, but the regional councils elect the senators, so the results of the regional elections have a direct effect on the composition of the upper house. It is therefore very likely that the parties that make up Rutte's government will suffer a major setback in the Senate, which will make it difficult for the Prime Minister to pass his legislative initiatives.
The third consequence directly affects Rutte himself. In 2019 Donald Tusk finishes his second term as president of the European committee and Rutte had a good chance of succeeding him, but with him being the main electoral asset of his party, his departure could sink the VVD. It could then happen as it did with Tusk's departure from Poland, which resulted in a conservative victory a year later.
Whatever the outcome, Dutch politics has in recent years shown great volatility and a lot of movement. In 2016 it was believed that Wilders would win the election and previously that D66 would wrest the Liberal leadership from the VVD. It is difficult to predict which way the wind will turn the mill.