The EastMed from Below: Why Low Geopolitics Matter

One of the paradoxes of geopolitics in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East regions is that, despite their inherent complexity, they are often interpreted through too simplistic explanations to understand the dynamics of regional instability and define the security challenges (“war for oil”, “Crusades”, “Jihadist war”, “war against terrorism” etc.) Nevertheless, as the result of the dramatic chain events following the war in Iraq and the so- called “Arab Spring”, broader international audiences have been gradually becoming more acquainted with the dangers stemming from the fragmented social fabric of the region. Regional complexity and the existence of sub-state systems of interest mean that focusing exclusively on “high geopolitics” or international diplomacy is not enough to understand the deep currents of change flowing across the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean without developing a deeper understanding of the security drivers of indigenous actors. For this reason, it is vital to include the “internal realities” and peculiarities of local actors into any analytical frame seeking to explain and understand geopolitical change in the region.

First, state sovereignty in the region has ceased to be taken for granted; geographical boundaries and areas of jurisdiction are increasingly contested, and conflicts evolve on at least three intersecting levels: national, transnational, and international. As a result, geopolitical orders change as the historic blocs whose commitments are central to them are replaced or reformulated around new commitments and strategies. In fact, post-imperial borders have since the early 20th century shaped rigid perceptions of jurisdictional landscape in the region. Borders designated from afresh the morphological and anthropological nature and meaning of territory and for decades boundaries outlined the juridical space and sphere of influence that represented the line of physical contact between people and authorities and naturally afforded opportunities for cooperation and discord. The established function of nation-state borders has growingly come to impose the limits of territoriality, denote sovereignty over people and land, and represent a limit to state action. Yet this pattern of geospatial division from “above”, and the ways it was misused, needs to be re-examined as it has proven fiercely problematic for the region and its people alike, failing to resolve the internal security dilemmas and instil trust.

Although border settlements rarely postulate an ideal coincidence between place and culture, boundaries are usually accepted as perimeters of discrete cultural entities, impeccably homogeneous internally and neatly dissimilar externally. However, borders in the Middle East region barely delimitate natural or self-evident differences between separate ethnographic landscapes, but define zones variously demarcating separation or interaction between trans- border realities and spaces. Today, the Middle East as a whole is a region in which boundaries on landscapes steer up cross-border mobility, induced by vital local and national inter- dependencies within an often-contested territorial environment. In this manner, borders have been instrumental in turning up culturally, religiously and politically interconnected landscapes into fragmented and oppressive spheres of authority, sowing up the seeds of discord.

From a macro-geopolitical point of view, the Eastern Mediterranean region constitutes a “borderland region” itself. As such, it could be investigated as a transition area or a strategic crossroads, or even a contact zone blending the Orient with the Occidental. But, for a deeper understanding of system dynamics and for defining the security trends in the region one must go beyond the epiphenomenal state-system relations and “national strategies” and focus more on the ‘low geopolitical’ perspective. These lower perspectives are intrinsically geospatial, focusing on the delicate ethno-political and religious synthesis and balance in the region as reflected on the nature of cross-border affiliations and interests.

Second, the developing political contestations and the ensuing destabilization and overthrow of established regimes have exposed some interesting albeit multifarious interlinkages reflected on the theatres of conflict in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The fluidity caused by the Arab Spring domino has led to the grouping and spreading of indigenous heterogeneous forces beyond formal borders, activating a distinct clash of interests and leading up to the constellation of newly emerging power-blocks and alliances as a result of the overlapping security contestations between revisionist and status quo actors. Initially, the revival and mobilization of interethnic affiliations along the Turkey-Syria-Iraq axis exposed the interconnectedness and dormant dynamics in the region, changing the way in which the region has traditionally been viewed and examined by policymakers.

Dominant transnational dichotomies, such as secularism vs political Islam, Sunni vs Shia, Christianity vs Islam, and critical minority/majority contestations shape current security perceptions and define the role of influential actors and alliances across the region. Cleavages have become politically divisive due to the reconfiguration of power-relations and the triggering of counter-reactions, and because of the emergence of novel security notions, which are partly inspired by a deliberate instrumentalization of “otherness” and the use of “proxies” by international powers. This ongoing security transition has exposed not only the transnational nature of dependencies and the cross-border character of activities in the region, posing questions as to the intrinsic challenge of democratic state-formation and ethnic accommodation in the region – but it has also nurtured a drastic, yet still fluid rearrangement of international and regional power politics. Regional state and sub-state leaderships feel the need of positioning themselves in this rivalry nexus in one way or another.

Third, security interests and confrontations in the region cut through horizontally; all states in the region face internal power contestations, while alliances are formed not only between states, but also across sub-state actors in the region. This inevitably makes it very difficult for states to decide with whom and on what for to align. Developments on the lower strands of the geopolitical (dis)order offer a perspective of the upcoming forces shaping the region, the pressures and opportunities that may arise and the risk-measures required to counter these with a view of preventing the emergence of hegemony, control, and dependence. The Eastmed region is an important security sub-system in flux; in search of order and equilibrium. Neither order in such a complex area nor any kind of regional equilibrium could ever be successfully promoted from “above” without mapping, understanding, accommodating, and stabilizing the ‘lower geopolitical’ landscape.

Dr. Pavlos I. Koktsidis
Adj. Lecturer, Department of Social & Political Sciences University of Cyprus

Natural Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Regional Destabilizer and the Quest for a Security Provider

The relatively newly-found natural gas reserves in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), coupled with the much more significant findings in Israel and Egypt generated over-excitement and disproportionate optimism regarding the economic future of the island, the prospects for a settlement to the Cyprus problem, and even regional stability in the Eastern Mediterranean. Alas, the findings created more challenges than opportunities. This piece deals with the developing regional instability due to the ongoing Turkish aggressive behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean and the European Union’s (EU) inability to act as a security provider.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, neither the initial findings, nor the more recent (potential) findings in Block 6 of the Cypriot EEZ, actually contributed towards either the normalization of regional bilateral relations or the settlement of one of the most protracted conflicts in the world. On the contrary, the hydrocarbons in the Cypriot EEZ have become yet another excuse to highlight the complexities that dominate the Eastern Mediterranean regional inter-state relations, primarily among Turkey, the Republic of Cyprus (RoC), Israel, Egypt and to a lesser extend Greece. The regional complexities are defined by the deeply securitized status between Turkey and the RoC, the ‘cold’ relations between Egypt and Turkey, as well as the politically cold, but economically stable, relations between the former and Israel. The numerous trilateral agreements among Egypt, the RoC, Israel, and Greece, only exacerbated the challenges as Turkey was left out from the developments of a region in which it believes to have the primary role as an aspiring regional hegemon.

There is also a noteworthy exaggeration from almost all parties regarding the importance of the Cypriot findings for the periphery and Europe, which revolves primarily around two axes: (a) the degree of the natural gas supply diversification for Europe and (b) the potential positive impact on regional political relations. Leaving aside the current small confirmed quantities which cannot in any, for the time being at least, act as a natural gas alternative for the EU, the focus should be whether these or future findings, could actually change the regional negative political relations.

Could the hydrocarbons lead to regional peace and stability?

The existing evidence does not support the argument of “peace pipelines”. There is no concrete proof that energy relations lead to the alleviation of conflict; on the contrary, stable and cooperative political behavior is usually a prerequisite before the development of any energy-related investments. If anything, energy as a referent object of security has a multiplier effect on the states’ political securitization relations, meaning that in cases where states have deeply securitized political relations, energy is more likely to enhance the security concerns and enhance the securitized environment, and the reverse; desecuritized political relations ‘allow’ for energy collaborations, and the latter will most likely strengthen the former. The impact of energy on de/securitization relations lies on the fact that hydrocarbons and oil are very rarely treated solely as economic commodities. More often than not, they are also used as political tools to enhance states’ foreign policy influence and empower their political position vis-à- vis adversaries.

The Eastern Mediterranean and specifically Cyprus and Turkey that are at the heart of the developments act as witness to the aforementioned arguments. It is easily observable that in cases where political relationships are desecuritized – e.g. Cyprus with Israel and Egypt – there is room for collaboration and the discovery of hydrocarbons enhanced their bilateral relations on a political, economic and even military level (see for instance the numerous defense-related agreements between the RoC and Israel). The reverse is true for the RoC- Turkey relations, which are increasingly becoming more securitized because of the hydrocarbons, enhancing dramatically the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkish warships have already prevented the Italian ENI from reaching its drilling target in Plot 3. Erdogan also warned that Turkey will prevent any future exploration efforts, while it promised to send its own drill ship in the contested RoC EEZ. There is little doubt that both ‘promises’ will significantly heighten the tensions between Turkey and all other actors (including the EU), reduce even further the prospects for settlement of the Cyprus conflict, and pose more challenges for the security providers of the region.

Can the EU become a regional security provider?

There is a relatively high risk of a Turkish confrontation with international drill ships, much like there is a risk of confrontation (or a mistake) in the Aegean Sea between Greek and Turkish forces, making the prospects for a full blown Eastern Mediterranean crisis a real possibility. The regional stability is anything but guaranteed, and the EU has to decide whether or not it wants and can take the responsibility of the security provider in the
southeastern part of its borders. Any attempt to act as a security provider will have to overcome Turkey’s own aspirations for the specific role. Indeed, Turkey’s hegemonic aspirations and more importantly the way it pursues them pose quite a big challenge. As an aspiring hegemon, Turkey believes that it cannot stand idle to the regional developments. In 2008 the then Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu emphasized the position that ‘Turkey is not a state that follows the fact but guides them’. Similarly, he noted that Turkey ‘cannot define itself in a defensive manner’, further arguing that Turkey’s new regional active role is to ‘provide security and stability not only for itself, but also for its neighboring regions’.

To act as a security provider the EU must overcome one major challenge – in addition to the absence of real security mechanisms – namely the fact that it forgot how to think geopolitically. Its overreliance on NATO for decades and the sole focus on soft power since the end of the Cold War contributed to this problem, which means that it now has to re-learn how to develop a geopolitical culture. The events in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, as well as the developments in the Middle East, have demonstrated that the EU is essentially a toothless tiger when it comes to issues of hard security. The developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, coupled with the relative US withdrawal from the wider region of the Middle East, pose yet another challenge, but also an opportunity for the EU to demonstrate that it can have a much bigger role to play in its region and beyond.

The Opportunity: It is of utmost importance for the EU to maintain the stability in the sub-Regional Security Complex (RSC) of the Eastern Mediterranean, and this is a great opportunity to project some form of power, and more importantly, its willingness to act. Clearly it is irrational to expect that the EU will become a military power overnight, but some form of harder soft power is necessary in cases where different actors play by different rules, some of which include the presence of warships in an EU member state’s EEZ. If successful, it can use its actions as a stepping stone to extend its influence and global reach beyond the EU borders. It will also enhance its credibility as a security provider within the EU and more importantly in the periphery, while it will further justify the need for more mainstream security initiatives along the lines of PESCO.

The Challenge: The aforementioned opportunity is also a major risk if not utilized. Specifically, if the EU fails to act as a security provider, it will send a very clear message, namely that the Union cannot even protect a Member State’s interests from a candidate state! If the EU is incapable of protecting its own backyard, it is highly unlikely that it will be able to build a reputation and the associated credibility that would allow the Union to act as a security and peace provider in the eastern and southern periphery; a notion that is adopted by essentially everyone, including many EU officials. EU tolerance towards Turkey’s aggressive behavior only weakens the EU position and vision for more global influence, as outlined in the most recent Global Strategy.

We should make no mistake; the Eastern Mediterranean is in need for a security provider. There is a huge power gap in the specific sub-RSC, and in the absence of a strong EU and US presence, the region is “up for grabs” with Turkey being the prime candidate to win the competition. The problem is that Turkey does not behave in a way that facilitates regional stability; on the contrary through, literally, gunboat diplomacy it enhances both the regional security dilemmas as well as the need for a regional security provider. In the absence of one, the hydrocarbon findings are likely to politically split the region in two antagonistic parts with zero-sum interests. Political – and potentially military – relationships are likely to become further securitized, leading to a region, partly within the EU outer borders, of constant uneasiness and potential instability. Security gaps rarely remain vacant for long; if the EU is unwilling to fill this gap, then some other actor will, be it a regional one, such as Turkey, or an external one such as Russia or the US, or perhaps a combination. Perhaps this is also an opportunity for specific EU states to further detach their geopolitical role and goals from the EU’s. Countries like France could take on this opportunity, which would most likely be welcomed by countries like Cyprus, not least because the Turkish alternative is unacceptable, but this is not necessarily a positive development of the long-term EU strategic and geopolitical goals.

Constantinos Adamides
Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Department of Politics and Governance
Director of the Diplomatic Academy
University of Nicosia

Can East Med Gas Resources Help Resolve the Cyprus Issue?

The discovery over a period of seven years, (2008-2015) of approximately 2,56 trillion cubic meters (tcm) of natural gas beneath the waters of the Exclusive Economic Zones of Cyprus appears to have revolutionized the regional geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean. Some of the conventional thinking which resulted from their evaluation is that the region will have a major impact on Europe’s gas diversification strategy assisting it to significantly diminish its dependence on Russia by exporting to the EU anywhere between 20-50 bcm/year, while at the same time help to solve the Cyprus problem.

These projections also failed to take notice of the extensive history of the global oil & gas industry over the last 110 years that essentially reconfirmed the hypothesis that oil & gas reserves by themselves do not alter but usually consolidate the pre-existing geopolitical power trajectories in the region where they are discovered. If the trajectory of regional geopolitics is cooperative, cooperation is enhanced.

If it is contentious, conflict (or the possibility of conflict) in enhanced. In other words, there is not (and never has been in the geopolitical history of the oil industry) such as thing as a “peace pipeline”. There is little chance that these discoveries could provide a critical positive incentive to change the cost/benefit analysis of the parties involved in the region’s entrenched conflicts, such as the Arab-Israeli dispute, the maritime disputes between Israel and Lebanon or for that matter the Cyprus conflict.

The discovery of the Gaza Marine field in the EEZ of the future Palestinian state in 1999 did not move Israel or the Palestinians closer to peace. The discovery and monetization of Leviathan in Israel as well as the contested claims between Lebanon and Israel over an 854km 2 portion in their respective EEZ did not seriously worsen their bilateral relationship nor did it stop Lebanon from moving forward with its own exploration round that was completed after a four years delay in late 2017.

The proposed linkage of the Cyprus Question with the monetization of Cypriot Gas reserves boils down to the erroneous understanding that the potential revenues generated by the export of these gas reserves can act as a “peace incentive” for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots since (a) it would limit Turkey’s own dependence on Russian gas and further diversify EU gas imports from Moscow via Turkey, (b) give a positive incentive to the Turkish-Cypriots to share the ROC’s prospective wealth and (c) provide a major means of financing the cost of reunification thereby facilitating an overall settlement.

Let’s Talk Turkey: Facts Vs Perceptions

The volume of the potential gas exports Turkey could realistically import, not only from Cyprus, but from Cyprus and Israel as a whole, are too limited to generate a major shift on Turkey’s policy of continued military occupation and colonization. If Cyprus was to sign a standard 15 years contract in order to sell 7,5 bcm/y from its single commercially exploitable discovery, the Aphrodite field, this would amount to around 11% of Turkish demand that is expected, according to the projection of the Turkish Energy Ministry to reach around 65 bcm/y by 2023-2025 although this estimate may is likely to be overoptimistic regarding the pace of the projected demand increase for Turkey’s gas markets.

Moreover, even in cases when the bargaining power relationship is reversed, as it is partly the case between Russia and Turkey, Ankara is highly unlikely to make key foreign policy concessions in order to get cheaper and/or more diversified gas imports.

If Turkey, which is dependent on Russia for almost 53% of its gas demand, would shoot down Russian military jets for allegedly violating its airspace for 17 seconds in December 2015; what kind of concessions the Israelis and much more so the Greek Cypriots could expect to get before selling Ankara respectively 60% and 100% of their net export capacity?

It would also represent 100% of Cypriot exports tied to one market, exported via one route and liked to one price not a very promising option given the mercurial diplomacy of Mr. Erdogan. Under this scenario Cypriot exports to the EU are not an option. All the gas remains in Turkey and is consumed for Turkey’s domestic needs, an unwelcoming prospect for most Cypriot political forces which want to see Cypriot gas contributing in the EU’s gas import diversification.

No Easy Wealth: Can Cypriot Gas Exports Pay for the Costs of Re-unification?

Unfortunately Turkish Cypriot political parties appear to be more focused on securing an equal right with the RoC in granting the licenses to the International Oil Companies (IOC) and in sharing the gas profits -even in the absence of a solution- than constructively engaging the Greek Cypriots on issues of critical importance to Nicosia and Athens, such as Turkey’s rights of military intervention and the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus even after a settlement is reached.

Turkish Cypriot political forces would essentially prefer for Nicosia to stop all hydrocarbon related activities which they deem as illegal and unilateral. Their demand to share licensing authority is nothing short of demanding the recognition of their self-proclaimed “TRNC” by the internationally recognized government of the country and that is something that no Cypriot President or Greek-Cypriot political party can accept.

Finally, the potential net profits generated by Aphrodite’s monetization will be -although significant- too limited to allow the RoC to self-finance the majority of its reunification costs that could reach anywhere between €20-25 billion. The current basic scenario Cyprus is working on is based on price of $6,5 MMbtu (million British thermal units) projecting an average net annual inflow of revenues estimated to be between EUR 370-420 million over a 15 years period.

This projected wealth is not something that will be immediately available. Even if the export contract was signed today it would take until 2021-2022 for the exports to start and for 2025-2026 for any serious revenue to begin flowing into the coffers of Cyprus, reunited or not. This is hardly enough to cover a substantial cost of reunification expenses, including compensation of the refugees that must be available during the first post-settlement years, in order for any settlement plan to have a realistic chance of being accepted by the majority of Greek Cypriots in a referendum.

Dr. Theodoros Tsakiris
Assistant Professor of Geopolitics and Energy Policy, University of Nicosia
Member of the Board, Hellenic Association for Energy Economics (HAEE)

Cyprus, Global Grand Strategy, and the Conflict in the Levant

Nodes of institutional flexibility in the international system are difficult to locate. Geopolitical locations where overlapping institutional arrangements make for possibilities of dynamic coordination are fortuitous but require nimble diplomatic maneuvering and long-term foresight among foreign ministers, international agencies, and policy advisers. Cyprus occupies such a location in the construction of global grand strategy in the Levant. It does so because of its unique geopolitical and institutional place in international society. It is a divided frontier at the edge of the European Union. It exists at the confluence of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, as well as Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. It is in the EU but out of NATO. It is a sovereign member of international society, yet burdened by (mis)use of its territory by regional and global powers.[1] It is one of few states in the region with a pragmatic and non-aligned approach to both the United States and Russia. A solution to its divided status offers an uncommon opportunity to unite not only the two communities on the island, but also regional actors, in a coordinated strategy for the greater Levant.[2] In the discussion that follows, I briefly explore four key relationships in the foreign policy of Cyprus. Then, I explain how re-imagining these relationships makes Cyprus a node of institutional flexibility in the construction of a global grand strategy for the greater Levant.

First, Cypriot membership in the EU affords it an institutional shield that other states in the region cannot claim. As a member of the EU, it has an opportunity to act as a forum for a more robust and coordinated common foreign and security policy. To date, EU policy has been a reaction to UNSC policy and the individual actions of EU member states. It remains broadly traditional in its orientation around the isolation of the recalcitrant Assad regime and the destruction of ISIL. The complex of Council decisions and regulations, as well as subsequent revisions and amendments, are meant to restrict interactions across all sectors of state policymaking, isolate key individuals from participation in international society, and signal to regional and international actors who and what counts as members of international society.[3] To argue, however, that implementation of these actions has led to a common foreign and security policy with respect to Syria, or to make the more substantive claim that such directives and regulations provide evidence of EU grand strategy is misleading. At best, these policies represent patterns of behavior meant to discipline EU actors in their interactions with others deemed beyond the boundaries of international society. Still, the EU, as an actor in international society, has an important institutional role to play. And, its most southeastern member state could act as a centre of coordination for that role.

Second, few states in the eastern Mediterranean have strong, positive bilateral relationships with both the United States and Russia. Given the Russian bond with the Assad regime in Syria and US hegemonic influence and interest in the region, Cyprus could play an important role in coordinating the common interests of these two states. Russia has tied its foreign policy goals to a crumbling regime whose legitimacy, authority, and control of the state are tenuous at best. Few analysts believe that Russia has the long-term stamina (military and financial) to support Assad’s Syria and Russian overtures to Cyprus suggest that even Russia recognizes that new options are necessary.[4] Moreover, once other important actors in international society accepted the necessity of regime change, Russia became the only actor available to rebuild the infrastructure in a post-conflict Syria headed by Assad. Given its internal economic woes, it seems unlikely that Russia will be able to function as a primary donor for such a highly unlikely reconstruction. Cyprus, however, may provide an alternative vehicle for Russian interests in the region. The island is outside of NATO and (institutionally) separate from the US security alliance. Britain, seeking a somewhat independent post-WWII grand strategy and wishing to retain some freedom of action in the Middle East, declared Cyprus (and after independence, the SBA) to be outside of NATO.[5] Because the island is beyond the NATO umbrella, Cyprus has unique standing in the region.

With careful agreement and a clear understanding of limitations, Cyprus could serve its own interests by coordinating the common interests of the United States and Russia. The foundations of this complex relationship are already in place. Cypriot negotiations with Russia for use of the Andreas Papandreou Airbase in Paphos for humanitarian purposes are a beginning.[6] So too, was the decision by the GoC to limit that agreement to non-military purposes.[7] Cyprus plays a unique role in coordinating US, Russian, and other actors’ military and humanitarian interests in the region.

Third, one of the most complex bilateral relationships that Cyprus must navigate is its relationship with the United Kingdom. Cyprus must deal with the complex of SBA installations maintained by its former colonizer. The manner in which this legal restriction infringes upon the full sovereignty and foreign policy maneuvering of Cyprus should not be dismissed. Consistently, these installations complicate its own foreign and security policies, its bilateral relationships, and its institutional commitments. Use of RAF Akrotiri to launch bombing sorties over Syrian airspace and the more clandestine use of the SBA to support surveillance activity for more states than just the UK undermine perceptions of Cypriot sovereignty and invoke images of neo-colonial influence on a full-fledged member of international society.[8] The conflict in the Levant provides Cyprus with an opportunity to seek a new legal relationship with Britain regarding the SBA. The new relationship could improve GoC freedom of action and re-construct the sovereign relationship between former colony and colonizer.

Fourth, perhaps the most important relationship with Cyprus is that which exists among the various communities that make up its collective self. This is not the place to examine the origins of the Cyprus problem or the associated identity constructs that grew and reified as a result of that problem.[9] Nor is it the place to explore how those identities continue to limit the diplomatic and societal imagination. However, the potential that the current negotiations provide an opening to re-imagine what counts as Cypriot, what it means to be part of Cyprus, and what such a common narrative would mean for international society should not be underestimated. No solution to the division of the island is possible without a re-imagined identity. To assume such is to misunderstand the concept of security and its necessary role in the formation and maintenance of the state.[10]

As important as a common narrative is to the future of a unified Cyprus, it is just as important to international society. The conflicting identities in Cyprus are not unique to the island but representative of a larger conflict between and among regional and global actors. Few locations around the world offer opportunities to re-envision the relationship between Christianity and Islam, the west and the east, and Europe and its Moslem neighbors. Identities are stable constructions in which actors operate and make sense of the world.[11] They cannot be re-imagined quickly and made to work as tools for ordering choices and making decisions. Yet, civil society in Cyprus has had decades to build stable identity constructs inclusive of otherness.[12]


[1] While the most obvious ‘mis-use’ of Cypriot sovereign territory is the occupation by Turkey, equally problematic is the use of the island by the UK through its complex of SBA sites. See, Petros Savvides, “The Geostrategic Position of Cyprus: Israel’s Prospect for Strategic Depth in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Eastern Mediterranean Geopolitical Review 1 (Fall 2015), 6-20 (8-12).
[2] Any discussion of Cyprus as a node of institutional flexibility would necessarily exist on the understanding that a solution to the division of the island is at hand.
[3] EU Council Directive 2013/255/CFSP Concerning Restrictive Measures Against Syria, Official Journal of the European Union 147/14 (1.6.2013).
[4] Masis Der Parthogh, “Russia keen to use military bases in Cyprus” Cyprus Mail 21 January 2015,
Accessed on April 7, 2016.
[5] Evanthis Hatzivassiliou, “Cold War Pressures, Regional Strategies, and Relative Decline: British Military and Strategic Planning for Cyprus, 1950-1960,” The Journal of Military History 73 (October 2009), 1143-1166 (1160).
[6] Masis Der Parthogh, “Russia keen to use military bases in Cyprus.”
[7] Jean Christou, “No question of Russian bases on Cyprus,” Cyprus Mail 9 February 2015,
Accessed on April 7, 2016.
[8] Gareth Jennings, “UK debuts ‘bunker buster’ bombs against the Islamic State,” Jane’s Defence Weekly 26 April 2016,
Accessed May 21, 2016.
[9] Stella Soulioti, Fettered Independence: Cyprus, 1878-1964 (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2006); Rebecca Bryant and Yiannis Papadakis, eds, Cyprus and the Politics of Memory: history, community and conflict (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012).
[10] See, Anthony D. Lott, Creating Insecurity, 56-64.
[11] Badredine Arfi, “Ethnic Fear: The Social Construction of Insecurity,” Security Studies 8 (Autumn 1998), 151-203, (152).
[12] See, for instance, Marios Epaminondas, et. al., “Home for Cooperation (H4C),” The Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (Nicosia, Cyprus: K&L Lithofit Ltd, 2011).

Anthony Lott

Associate Professor of Political Science
St. Olaf College

First Published at “In Depth Volume 13, Issue 4, August 2016″

Cyprus Problem and the Day After: From Conflict Management to Crisis Management

This short piece intends to initiate a new research agenda for the Cyprus Problem. An extended literature, as well as a number of reports and analyses, focus on alternative options for arranging the problem. Little, if any work has been made however on the day after a settlement is reached. Under what conditions a Cyprus settlement will be made viable? When such a question is raised the short answer is that “we can’t work on the day after when the basic provisions of the settlement are not known.” Knowing the details of an arrangement is an important pre-requisite for contemplating on the day after, but such a knowledge is neither necessary nor essential for planning the day after. International experience on post-conflict societies offers a very good basis for designing some contingency plans, as well as for thinking ahead of the day after.

One should not expect that if a settlement is reached the Cypriot society will evade polarization overnight. Neither should one expect that disengagement from third-state influence will be easily achieved. History is tough, but the future of the island must not be based on historic mistakes. Recent developments demonstrate that real or perceived threats across the communities, as well as across other parties which are involved in the Cyprus conundrum, may trigger minor or major crises that could develop into a perfect storm. The 1960s experience must have taught some lessons. Overcoming past and present concerns and reservations for reaching an agreement is very difficult, but putting an agreement into effect is much more challenging.

The most crucial, still least discussed aspect of a political settlement is a successful transitional period. Both policy-makers and people need to know that a settlement will go through a transitional period. It is necessary to envisage the fundamental mechanisms and institutions that will guarantee a successful transition and prevent an unfortunate collapse during such a transition. In the post-Cold War era almost one out of two peace deals fail during the transitional period. Transitional periods in post-conflict societies are very risky. Both the political system and the society are stressed by contingent or intentional crises that, if not tackled at their inception, they may go out of control and the whole structure may go astray.

The post-settlement situation in Cyprus will not be a harmonious one. It will probably evolve around a relatively long period of crises. Bearing that in mind, one should expect that the Cyprus problem will not be settled up until the system will be able to swiftly, effectively and justly tackle these crises. A comprehensive survey by the Centre for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development (SeeD) demonstrates that there are a number of possible triggers for crises in Cyprus after a settlement (see ). On reflection, SeeD team put forth a number of recommendations for a new Security Architecture in Cyprus. That Architecture is based on the principle of endogenous resilience and suggests that both preventive and reactive institutions and mechanisms must be in place from day one. Some of these mechanisms must be in place even before the settlement is put in effect, i.e. during the interim period between a formal agreement and the referenda. At the moment SeeD team is refining propositions for a comprehensive proposal of some Special Transitional Arrangements.

Since January 2017, the relevant parties have opened talks on the security dossier. No comprehensive discussion however was pursued for addressing Cyprus’ post-settlement needs in terms of crisis management, security institutions and transitional arrangements. Talks on security are confined to traditional bargaining positions over foreign troops and military guarantees. Any compromise on these issues will be controversial and most of all it will probably not be relevant to the actual (internal and external) security needs of Cyprus in the new era. Serving third-state security interests and priorities may not be compatible with Cyprus’ security interests and priorities.

It is high time to delve into these issues in a comprehensive manner with a new methodology. So far the security dossier was mostly discussed among the historic guarantor powers. Community leaders were also engaged in discussions about the role of guarantor powers. That method engenders no progress. Instead it produces more disputes, polarization and deadlocks. A comprehensive discussion on security must be based on a detailed and nuanced threat analysis, as well as on the security institutions –soft and hard security institutions– that will address these threats. Most of all a security architecture for Cyprus must be based on certain principles and a shared vision. To reach such an outcome a democratic participatory method must be followed that will engage the people of Cyprus and all the relevant stakeholders. International organizations, such as the UN, the EU and OSCE should also be part of these deliberations. Historic guarantor powers may offer advice and support, but their role should not militate against a self-sustained and endogenously resilient security architecture in Cyprus.

One should make no mistake. A settlement to the Cyprus problem will not be the end of history. Cyprus and its communities will have to come to terms with the challenges of the day after, domestic, regional and global. The attention will definitely be shifted away from the management of a conflict to the management of post-settlement crises. Serious preparation, thought and planning are needed to that end. To put that in an aphoristic manner, for as long as there is no commitment to that direction there is no genuine eagerness for a comprehensive, viable and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem. To the contrary, ill-preparation may conceal intentions for a new, post-settlement Cyprus conflict. Cypriots have seen enough in 1960s and 1970s. They should not repeat the same mistakes.

Giorgos Kentas
Associate Professor of International Politics and Governance
Senior Researcher

First Published at “In Depth Volume 14, Issue 1, February 2017″

The European Union, Refugee Flows and Institutional Inadequacy

A preliminary assessment of the long- term consequences of refugee flows on the European political terrain presupposes, first and foremost, a critical evaluation of the EU’S current conjuncture. What reigns at present in the EU is a neo-capitalist model of political economy. The arbitrary selectivity of economic policies is at the core of this model. It is a model based on a modality that generates unprecedented wealth for the elites and one that transfers burden and strain to the lower and middle social strata. It is rapidly becoming a system of institutional inequality where, if I were to describe it geometrically, the social rhombus is differentiating into a social triangle. In other words, the vital socioeconomic and cultural space of the vast majority of Europeans is shrinking. Consequently and inevitably an ethnocentric mind-set, to say the least, emerges as a mechanism to address the widespread social insecurity. The semi-anarchic manner refugee flows take place, most probably could facilitate further the reinforcement of centrifugal tendencies in the Union. Indeed one might logically argue that Brexit is a living testament of this. Brexit, contrary to the EU’s institutional narrative, poses a severe structural threat to the Union’s political and economic cohesion. And even more so, it weakens the coherence of its collective geostrategic interests. Beyond doubt, the way the EU has been handling the refugee crisis, in which itself is a contributing factor to, is a vivid manifestation of the Union’s prevailing institutional deficits.

The EU’s population currently stands (the UK included) at 508.2 million people. Ceteris paribus, the flow of 2-3 million refugees constitutes a negligible population aggregate if one considers the application of the principle of proportionality in the placement of refugees across the EU. The difficulty in implementing this principle has its roots to the evident uneven economic growth and multi tier socio-cultural development. The migration flows generally are directed towards the most developed member states whose integration structures and welfare services are more competent and efficient in managing the flows. Germany, France, The UK, Italy and Spain represent approximately 63% of the EU’s population. Adding Poland to that, it brings the population percentage to 71%. With the formal completion of Brexit the percentage goes down to 60%. There is a paradox though. The polish flow to the UK surpasses the million and along with a free rider mind-set, the British welfare system has been violently abused. In fact this predicament which was crucial in determining Brexit, it compromises also Europe’s geo-strategic leverage. Furthermore, Poland is adamant not to accept any refugee flow. Instead we witness Greece with a 2.1% of the EU population bearing (along with Italy) the largest burden, not withstanding its severe economic crisis. European neo-capitalism transforms Greece into a soul warehouse. We should not lose sight of the existing 125million poor in the EU, i.e., 25% of its population, let alone the unprecedented pauperization of children. According to the Nobelist economist Angus Deaton, the younger generation (20-35) in Europe, and not only, is steadily marginalized and deprived of a fair share of the produced wealth. This circumstance creates frustration and aggression. It also leads to a sui generis Social Darwinism as a mechanism of managing politically the middle and lower social strata as well as pensioners. This social dynamic will delimit the future prospects of Europe in terms of its capacity to integrate refugees but all the same, to preserve its cultural character.

It seems however, that the ruling elites are hesitant and not willing to risk the internal political stability of an economic edifice that is substantiated and materialized on a greedy redistribution of wealth on the one hand, and the widening of poverty on the other. The refugee flow apart from the further constraining impact it causes on the socioeconomic and cultural space of Europeans, particularly in the most developed member states, paradoxically it might as well lead to an awakening of the dormant European values of humanism and solidarity, which for quite some time have been crippled by the reigning totalitarian neo-capitalist model, a direct descendant of the Maastricht Treaty.

This model has a very limited resemblance to and theoretical affinity with the neoliberal doctrine. It negates competitive politics, the pillar of western liberal democracy, in determining economic and social policy and it superimposes what I call a de-facto ‘apolitical’ cybernitism in favor of the volition of vested economic and financial interests. This neo-capitalism not only abolishes social equilibriums by shrinking the domain of the middle class, but it unfortunately operates on the pretext of the democratic observance. Based on what has been stated so far, one could easily deduce the necessity of bringing back to the central political scene the nation-state as a trench to re-introduce into the social agenda the principle of the greater good for the greater number of people.

The EU institutional organs fettered by the economic priorities of neocapitalism freeze unlawfully the Schengen Treaty in order to contain emerging destabilizing tendencies from within. By doing so, and given Turkey’s special geostrategic weight, it has bestowed upon Turkey the role of a strategic partner in addressing the refugee crisis. All these reflect the overall institutional inadequacy of European Institutions, something which Turkey is well aware of and uses it to advance its own geostrategic interests.

To sum it up, the refugee crisis that confronts the EU is the consequent outcome of the political asymmetry that was the product of the German hegemony in imposing its political will on the widening rather than on the deepening of the Union. Currently, the European project is experiencing a severe setback and suffers from an ill-defined politically coherent orientation.

Soteris Kattos
Ph.D., Political Sociology
Senior Fellow of the Center for European and International Affairs
University of Nicosia

First Published at “In Depth Volume 14, Issue 2, April 2017″

The Middle East: Back to Basics

The region of the Middle East is supplying us with top news headlines practically on daily basis, and unfortunately, most of them are of tragic nature. The frequency and scale of information coming from the region is so massive and diverse that many simply no longer follow them, and those who do discuss and focus only on the “latest” news. The same applies to experts and commentators on TV and the radio, whom we also have in abundant supply.

Without being a trained expert on the Middle East but having an experience of working in the “neighbourhood”, I conducted a small personal experiment recently – I picked a couple of “respectable” international editorials (although, I am in doubt what is the criteria and how to measure “respect” to all forms of media content supplies nowadays), and checked their news lines, commentaries and analysis columns on the region for one month, and then tried to see what kind of picture of the region this barrage of information creates for an average reader.

The result, in general, met my expectations – it was total confusion. The content is dominated by description of the most recent events accompanied by reactions from officials, and diverging expert opinions of what to expect or what should be done in the coming days or, maximum, weeks by the main actors. Commentaries from the officials and quoted experts (including columns in the “analysis” category) leave the impression that everyone is focused only on the short-term and pre-occupied with the immediate situational micromanagement.

I very much hope that this is only the impression created by the media, and those who make decisions in the region and beyond, do have well trained and experienced expert teams, who provide solid advice, develop and try to implement medium and long term strategies. Although, series of actions undertaken by some regional and global actors from time to time leave the taste of spontaneity, adventurism, personal ego of the leaders and dangerous gambling without clear logic and goal.

On the other hand, developments unravelling in other parts of the world demonstrate similar behavioural patterns (though with much less blood and human tragedy), and therefore, perhaps, everything we witness today across the Middle East should be put into global and historical context. And all that gambling and adventurism is a sign of growing uncertainty and anxiety, which in turn stems from the crisis of the whole global model – the model, which broadly speaking, was in place since the end of the WW2, and which is now reaching its expiration date in front of our eyes.

We do not know how the new world will look like but it is clear already now that the Middle East will be one of those regions, which will be re-shaped most dramatically as a result, and it is the broader Middle East due to its geographic, religious, economic, and hence, geopolitical centrality as the main “crossroads” of the planet will be affecting the rest of the world in the ways most unpredictable – the Middle East, which is the connecting point between Europe, Asia and Africa, the birthplace of three world religions as well as major oil and gas region on the planet.

The Oriental wisdom says that when you are lost and do not know which way to go, you should come back to where you started. In other words, if one tries to figure out which forces going to shape developments and long-term future of the region in this environment of information glut and barrage of short-term expert opinions, one should go back to fundamentals – factors which do not change with personalities or electoral cycles.

There are many ways to look at the world but geography, religion, ethnicity and economy are still the main long-term defining factors. Our reality is not shaped by slogans, wishes or promises but rather by constraints and limitations, which we cannot overcome – we cannot change geography, most of us cannot betray faith we belong to and give up ethnicity we were born into, and limited available economic resources dictate that we can go only that far.

The unravelling chaos of the Middle East is the dramatic manifestation of these fundamental factors – factors, which no political leader or government policy can cancel or change. These factors rather shape the logic and patterns politicians and governments forced to pursue, no matter their personal wishes or rhetoric, or electoral slogans and promises.

And this is how we have to look at the fundamentals shaping the geopolitical reality we are living in.

The ongoing crisis of the Middle East has several fault lines, which over-cross and mutually enhance each other, making the situation ever more complex and explosive. And despite the fact that problems of each country in the region differ from others and we should avoid generalization, nevertheless, arguably there is one issue, which is common for the whole of the Middle East – it is the IDENTITY CRISIS, which is manifesting itself simultaneously along several fault lines:

     – clash between modernity and conservatism
     – clash between religion and the nation state
     – clash between ethnicity and nationality

These multiple internal fault lines, which cross each country in the region are both the result of past social-economic and political failures in case of some countries, and the manifestation of evolution in search of self in case of the others.

And all these internal crises are dramatically aggravated by never-ending competing foreign interests and interventionalism driven by the region’s geographic and economic importance mentioned earlier. Simultaneously, this foreign military and economic activism clashes with ambitions and competition of regional players, each overburdened by its own multiple internal crises along the fault lines I have just mentioned.

As a result, we’ve got a crisis of enormous depth, complexity and magnitude, and sometimes even absurdity, where regional or international players cooperate in some areas, and wage proxy wars against each other in other areas. For example, according to the estimates of some Western think tanks on the Middle East, there are no less than 12 (twelve) overlapping wars being waged in Syria today, where Assad loyalists fighting rebels, ISIS and Turkey, Iran is fighting against Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turks fighting Kurds, Sunnis against Shias, Russians and Iranians indirectly fighting Americans, and at the same time Iran cooperates with the US in neighbouring Iraq against ISIS, and the list goes on.

One would wonder when all this will end? I am afraid, we have no good news in that department for the foreseeable future. Once a seasoned Soviet general told me that the war is always the business of the young. “Old people do not go to war” he told me.

The Middle East is one of the youngest regions on the planet – around 40% of the region are people under the age of 25. They are living in the areas of acute land and water shortages as well as constant demographic growth and population density. Add to all that the factors mentioned above, and we end up with the recipe for an explosive cocktail.

Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut solutions to the problems of the region, and probably, it will continue living through dramatic and very painful turbulences until it reaches internal balance, and stability will start emerging from within. And this process will take many years.

This piece of writing will leave many with the sense of exaggerated pessimism. I sincerely hope I am very wrong and things will turn out differently for the region. But there is also an element, although “dark”, but of optimism in the presented doom-and-gloom picture. As famous Spanish writer Cervantes once put it: “to be prepared is half the victory”.

Marat Yuldashev
Consultant with Experience in Cyprus
Eastern Europe and the Middle East, Research Associate

Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs

First Published at “In Depth Volume 14, Issue 2, April 2017″

Jordan, Palestine at the Crossroads of the East Mediterranean’s Energy Roadmap and the Importance of Cyprus

In the East Mediterranean energy setting, Cyprus is at critical stage en route to natural gas production providing promising prospects for Jordan and Palestine.

Jordan’s core objective lies in security of energy supply and the restructuring of its oil and gas market. The interruption of natural gas supplies via the Arab Gas Pipeline from Egypt and the influx of Syrian refugees present major burdens on the Kingdom’s budget, having prompted Jordan to look into various gas supply options. These include a supply of gas from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates through the existing floating storage and re-gasification unit (FSRU) at the port of Aqaba; oil and gas pipelines from Iraq; and, gas from Israeli offshore fields.

Acknowledging that at a time of regional instability, natural gas from the Israeli Leviathan and Tamar gas fields practically fall within Amman’s broad strategy for transformational change in energy supply, including a diversification of natural gas imports from alternative sources, a transition from a non-binding letter of Intent to an actual agreement between Leviathan’s American partner Noble and Jordan’s National Power Electric (NEPCO) happened in October 2016 for the supply of 1.6tn cubic feet over a fifteen-year period.

The agreement has notably given rise to a number of protests and demonstrations across the kingdom demanding its revocation. The government of Jordan has realized that there is need to strategically assess its public tactics toward Israel and balance domestic projection of its energy policies including the restructuring of its oil and gas market. It is in this framework that the government granted licenses in 2016 to three companies to distribute petroleum products, namely Total Jordan Co., Manaseer Oil and Gas Co. and the Jordanian Co., and schedules to have the energy market open for additional international competitions in the foresseable future.

As a pioneer in supporting a regional dialogue on energy developments,
Amman works with scientists, NGOs and think tanks to strategize regional energy cooperation and long-term planning. Emphasis is placed on addressing environmental impacts of oil and gas exploration, the establishment of national monitoring systems and improvement of legal frameworks. Equally important, the kingdom also looks into other energy options primarily for electricity generation. For example, the development of renewable energy resources is at the forefront of Jordan’s strategy to reduce dependence on hydrocarbons, namely projects like the Green Corridor that is designed to support the national electricity network in the south of the Kingdom.

Though even if successful in developing renewable energy resources, they could not substitute reliance on gas. Thus additional options that Jordan examines for the supply of gas from the East Mediterranean include Cyprus on the presumption that certain political and commercial obstacles are overcome; and, the import of Palestinian gas from Gaza Marine field via a pipeline across Israel. The Kingdom already signed an agreement seeking to purchase 150 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from Cyprus either by gas shipments to the LNG terminal in Aqaba or by pipeline to Egypt.

Out of all gas supply options, Jordan prioritizes the import of gas from the Palestinian Gaza Marine field. The Kingdom has signed a Letter of Intent with the field’s former operator British Gas Group for the supply of 150- 180 million cubic feet per day of natural gas. But, the Palestinian Gaza Marine gas field, one of the first regional discoveries in 2000, remains untapped despite its close proximity to the shore.

The field’s new operator, Royal Dutch Shell, has assessed that the delayed development is the result of low oil and gas prices. To reach a breakthrough in the field’s $500 million development, the project could garner financial support from donor countries and organisations such as the World Bank’s Partnership for Infrastructure Development Multi-Donor Trust Fund or even from U.S. financial institutions like the Overseas Investment Private Corporation (OPIC). The value of U.S. financial support in the field’s development may prove to be two-fold, as it can both address Palestinian development challenges and advance U.S. foreign policy priorities.

The exploitation of the Gaza marine gas field would help Palestinians generate revenues, offer a domestic source for electricity and water desalination, and prioritize exports to neighboring counties like Jordan.

In this regional energy calculus, Cyprus is assessed to gain significant economic benefits from its commercially viable levels of hydrocarbon resources. These benefits come in the form of job creation, foreign direct investment, royalties, and taxes paid to the state treasury by energy suppliers. The island’s third licensing round for the blocks 6, 8 and 10 within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has attracted major international energy players on the basis of closeness to the Egyptian Zohr and the Israeli Leviathan gas fields.

The awarding of exploration Cypriot blocks to the ENI Cyprus Ltd and Total E&P consortium; and, to the ExxonMobil Exploration & Production Cyprus Ltd and Qatar Petroleum International consortium necessitates synergies among local and international players, users, and producers eager to export gas to a broader market. The connection of gas discoveries in Cyprus with Egypt’s by pipeline and re-export reserves as liquefied natural gas by utilizing the Egyptian Idku and Damietta LNG facilities is an option currently examined by energy companies on the basis that economies of scale reinforce profitability.

On grounds of developing East Mediterranean gas fields and the infrastructure for the transportation and marketing of gas, a new philosophy of cooperation in which everyone wins has to prevail so that countries like Jordan, Palestine and Cyprus enjoy a prosperous future.

Antonia Dimou
Head of the Middle East Unit at the Institute for Security and Defense Analyses
Associate at the Center for Middle East Development

University of California, Los Angeles

First Published at “In Depth Volume 14, Issue 3, June 2017″

Selling War in the Twenty-First Century: From West to the (Middle) East Online Arena

Albeit the West (USA/its allies) covers an example whereby the marketing – or selling as used here interchangeably- of war becomes so painfully obvious that it commands further attention, today, one must delve into an even more alarming situation. That is, the terrorist use of social media to sell warfare; specially, in an uncertain and fast changing world.[1] Having said that, it is also imperative to turn the heed towards the (Middle) East to identify the means employed by, say, Russia and Israel to see the wider context wherein the Marketing of War occurs.

If one were to start with the Western milieu, s/he could focus on how the political leadership of the USA/UK had to sell the war locally and globally a priori stepping their foot in Iraq, in 2003. To this end, speeches a plenty that adopted rhetorical justifications such as the security narrative, placing emphasis on the alleged Iraqi possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction –WMD–[2], managed to masquerade any latent motives in view of how their claim relied on false intelligence.[3] In point of fact, the Bush 2 administration was accused for having utilized propaganda -i.e., lies/political manipulationof controversial justification so as to win public support on the Iraqi intervention.[4] Needless to add, RAND proposed the use of strategic marketing techniques/tactics to condition the civilian population, limit antiwar/opponent preferences while, synchronously, augment friendly or favor force decisions in the battlefield.[5] All in all, the superficiality and ideological exaggerations of George W. Bush, opened Pandora’s Box with detrimental consequences since Iraq fell short of being democratized as the American President preached whilst, a broader destabilization occurred.[6]

A parenthesis worth noting here is that, a rather subtle/refined method when marketing war to the unsuspicious (local/international) public in the 21st century may be the hiring of mercenaries; as, it is in the latter’s interest to wish to prolong the war (say, the US 16-years stay in Afghanistan) in view of how that would enrich them further.[7] Subsequently, governments relish less (population) dissent as otherwise the case where the need for conscription would arise before waging a war.

To remain within the Western context, the movie industry in combination with the social media revealed their muscles given the rise of threats contra Muslims in America that became evident in the wake of the screening of the movie “American Sniper”; more specifically, myriads of fierce messages aiming Arab/Muslim US people from social media vehicles like Facebook/Twitter, predominantly by those who watched the aforesaid film, were reported.[8] However, considering how a reaction is what shall certainly follow an action, the aforementioned backlash culminated with the Islamic State (IS) utilizing partial content from such, of late, popular Hollywood movies (i.e., ‘American Sniper’ amongst others like ‘The Hunger Games’) so that to reuse in propagandistic videos.[9] Indeed, terrorists have been very efficient in utilizing the Internet for the spread of their poison and the creation of networks.[10]

Moving away from the West, in regards to the terrorist utilization of social media channels to market their wars, the propaganda used by Da’ish, for instance, encouraged “lone wolf” terrorists to commit atrocities in nations beyond the Middle East and Central/South Asia.[11] To be sure, cyber technology is all about adapting quickly and, terrorist groups alongside organizations do exactly that: without spending anything, they are able to recruit/radicalize new members with merely the use of social media. Western investments such as that of the EU amounting to $20 million into backing counter-radicalization,[12] reveals how the said groups happen to be way ahead of the West in this particular playing field. Not to mention, the momentousness of information operations -or, the multidimensional communications strategy- campaign of the IS led by its dominant media units that comprises of communiqués performing as proselytization/terror apparatuses.[13]

Moreover, when ISIS’s fighters from abroad (say, Britain) post on social media, they often refer to Syria’s “Five-Star jihad” while uploading selfies across Instagram or Facebook/Twitter for recruitment-related purposes.[14] Further, selling/supply presupposes buyers/demand wishing to consume the specific product on sale; in this case, buying into the (non-existent) fairy tale thanks to the various misleading photographs and/or professional videos that circulate over the internet. Nonetheless, one must note here that, the price for one to pay is extremely high: their own life!

On the negative side, IS and other extremist groups like Boko Haram of Nigeria exhibit online efficiency through, say, social media sites; admittedly, the internet facilitates their own marketing to the point of bolstering recruitment as, many youngsters from America have already joined IS – thereby, US (e.g., Homeland Security) officials carry out an homeopathic treatment to cure this particular thorn by using the very (young) individuals that terrorist groups strive to entice.[15]

On the positive side, however, there is a group of volunteers who zealously tracks down and reports IS(IS/-IL)’s salient recruiters and propagandists in an effort to impede the spread of the latter’s propaganda; notably, this kind of hunting was instigated in 2014, when hacktivist collective Anonymous declared ‘war’ against IS with the #OpIsis campaign.[16]

Furthermore, it is noteworthy stating how Israel markets itself as ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ while placing the Palestinian fight under the ‘terroristic’ umbrella; also, Israel has managed to convert tactics of control – with their related weapons of surveillance systems- into marketable products – the Security (or police) State that is being promoted whereby, the people are effortlessly manipulated by a mania vis-à-vis security may be here to stay, if not, set a model for others to emulate in the future.[17] Or, how Russia appears to use the cyberspace in order to achieve its ends (e.g., via hacking); its use of covert ‘propaganda factories’ to subvert democracy in addition to the overflowing of Twitter/Facebook with a multitude of computer-generated bots posting under made-up names (other than its undetected conflict on LinkedIn against its American antagonists) are indicative.[18]

To conclude, the diachronic value of classic writings such as, George Orwell’s “1984” piece become ever more evident given how ‘War is Peace’; in other words, the proclivity of governments/leaders to secure their power is made manifest via the control of language and hence, thought/behavior.[19] Therefore, it is the duty of any critical thinker to be aware of the language of terror/war and, in turn, how that may be adopted so as to sell war.


[1] Gilpin, R. (2001), Global Political Economy: Understanding the International Economic Order, Princeton University Press, New Jersey (358).
[2] Moses, J., Bahador, B., and Wright, T. (2011), “The Iraq War and the Responsibility to Protect: Uses, Abuses and Consequences for the Future of Humanitarian Intervention,” Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 5:4, pp. 347-367 (347-348).
[3] Kutz, M-S (2013), “Just Wars and Persuasive Communication: Analyzing Public Relations in Military Conflicts,” in Selling War: The Role of the Mass Media in Hostile Conflicts from World War I to the “War on Terror”, ed. Seethaler, J., Karmasin, M., Melischek, G., and Wöhlert, R., pp. 107-133 (109), Intellect, Bristol; Moses et al., op. cit., 348.
[4] Kutz, op. cit.
[5] Gouliamos, K. and Kassimeris, C. (2012), “Stratocracy: The Growing Hypertrophy of the LifeWorld Militarization,” in The Marketing of War in the Age of Neo-Militarism, ed. Gouliamos, K. and Kassimeris, C., Routledge, New York, pp. 9-22 (16); Gouliamos, K. and Theocharous, L.A. (2008), “Harming Democracy in Mediolatry Societies: Decoding the Marketing of War and Animosities through Photo Images,” Journal of Political Marketing, 7:3-4, pp. 338-362 (342).
[6] Theophanous, A. (2016), E Diakyvernisi kai e Politiki Economia mias Omospondis Kyprou [The Governance and Political Economy of a Federal Cyprus], I.Sideris, Athens (162).
[7] Ben-Meir, A. (20 July 2017), “Afghanistan: A Morally Corrupting War”, Alon Ben-Meir: Professor.
Accessed 23 July 2017.
[8] BBC News (25 January 2015), “American Sniper film ‘behind rise in anti-Muslim threats’”.
Accessed 25 May 2016.
For further details, see also: Constantinou, M.C. (22 August 2016), “The Marketing of War in the Middle East: The Revenge of History”, Eastern Mediterranean Policy Note, No. 9, pp. 1-5 (4), CCEIA/UNIC.
Accessed 28 August 2017.
[9] Shepherd, K. (31 May 2017), “ISIS using Hollywood movie scenes in propaganda films: Report”.
Accessed 14 August 2017.
[10] Jarvis, J. (2011), What Would Google Do?, translated in Greek by Manolis Andriotakis, Metaixmio, Athens (388-389).
[11] Kerigan-Kyrou, A.D. (20 August 2015), “The Terrorist Use of Social Media: A successful cyber strategy combines hard and soft power”.
Accessed 3 March 2017.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ingram, J.H. (2015), “The strategic logic of Islamic State information operations,” Australian Journal of International Affairs, 69:6, pp. 729-52 (729-30).
[14] Roussinos, A. (5 December 2013), “Jihad Selfies: These British Extremists in Syria Love Social Media”.
Accessed 14 August 2017.
[15] Nixon, R. (18 July 2017), “Students Are the Newest U.S. Weapon Against Terrorist Recruitment”.
Accessed 26 August 2017.
[16] Solon, O. (21 July 2017), “Global network of ‘hunters’ aim to take down terrorists on the internet”.
Accessed 28 August 2017.
[17] Halper, J. (20 August 2017), “Europe Must Not Buy What Israel Is Selling to Combat Terror”.
Accessed 26 August 2017.
Accessed 14 August 2017.
[19] Charles, R. (25 January 2017), “Why Orwell’s ‘1984’ matters so much now”.
Accessed 27 August 2017.

Constantinos Constantinou

Ph.D. Candidate in Business Administration
European University Cyprus

First Published at “In Depth Volume 14, Issue 4, September 2017″

What Should the Gulf Crises Teach Us?

One of the most disturbing trends in international politics today is a rapid deterioration of the security situation in the Gulf area, – a region which remains a critically important part of the global economy, finance and transportation. The foreign military involvement in the civil war in Yemen and the approaching humanitarian disaster in this country, the recent unprecedented pressure on Qatar by a number of neighboring Arab states are just the most graphic illustrations of this dangerous development. The Gulf Cooperation Council is in the state of paralysis and its future remains unclear. Many Gulf countries are getting increasingly vulnerable to domestic social and political unrest. The United Nations Security Council, including its permanent members, shows little appetite for any meaningful action and takes a deplorable position of an idle bystander.

Can the Gulf area be ‘fixed’? If not, are we going to observe an even deeper disintegration of the region, an emergence of ‘failed states’ on its map, violent social and political transformations, regime changes and spillovers of political extremism and international terrorism to other part of the world? What should the Gulf crises teach us?

The unraveling instability and the rise of insecurity in the Gulf demonstrates that traditional models of providing regional security simply do not work in the XXI century. Let us outline two of them.

The first model was centered on a regional hegemonic power that could takes responsibility for stability in its “natural” sphere of influence. In the Gulf case, the role of the regional hegemon is claimed jointly by Saudi Arabia and UAE, with Saudis providing most of the ‘hard’ power, while Emirati contributing its political ideology and strategic vision. Even if we put aside moral and legal deficiencies of this model, both Yemen and Qatar cases question the mere feasibility of a ‘regional uni-polarity’: neither Saudi Arabia nor UAE seem to be capable of successfully ‘managing’ arguably much less powerful regional players. On the contrary, political divisions in the region are getting deeper and prospects for a regional reconciliation are becoming more and more remote.

Another traditional regional security model is based on the leading role of an out-of-area hegemon, which acts as an external security provider and an honest broker in regional disputes. The United States appears to be the perfect candidate to play this role. In fact, the concept of a “Greater Middle East” popular with the J.W. Bush – Junior Administration in the beginning of the century, envisaged building various military and political alliances in Middle East and North Africa under the US security umbrella. This concept, however, turned out to be stillborn – not only because it was incepted by DC based analysts and bureaucrats with questionable knowledge of the region, but also because it implied the idea of division; the intention was to mobilize the Arab world for a joint struggle against US opponents and foes in the region.

It is too early to make any final judgements about the Donald Trump
Administration strategy in the Gulf region, but there are grounds to suspect that the United States might repeat its past mistakes. The concept of an “Arab NATO” backed by US and targeted against Iran seems to gain momentum in Washington. The odds are that this concept will be no more successful that the concept of a “Greater Middle East”: the Arab world, including the Gulf region, is very complex and highly diverse, interests and priorities of various Arab states are in no way identical. An attempt to create a defense alliance similar to NATO in the Golf region does not look realistic or even desirable.

Nevertheless, let us imagine that such a military bloc could indeed emerge in the Gulf region. What security problems would it be in a position to resolve? In the best case scenario, this arrangement would freeze the current conflicts in the Gulf in the format of a regional Cold War. As we know from the European history of the second half of the XX century, this format has many negative strings attached, including mutual mistrust and suspicions, continuous arms race and political tensions, and, most importantly, an inherent risk of the Cold War turning into a real ‘hot’ war.

Where should we look for alternatives to these deficient models? It seems that the only plausible alternative is a collective security model applied to the Gulf region as well as to Middle East at large. This model might look too radical, naïve or detached from the current regional political realities. Nevertheless, the desperate situation in Yemen and the stalemate around Qatar suggest that any half-way, tactical solutions are not good enough to handle basic security problems of the region.

One of the fundamental principles of any international collective security system – its inclusive nature. It goes without saying that leading Arab nations – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and others – have to play a decisive role in building such a system. However, can one ignore non-Arab states of the region -such as Iran, Turkey and Israel? These states are no less interested in a stable, predictable, prosperous and vibrant Middle East than their Arab neighbors are. It would be not only unfair, but also highly shortsighted to remove any of these states from the regional arrangement. To exclude just a single major player would make the whole system extremely fragile and unreliable.

The new regional collective security system should be based on universal international law principles, including respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states, protection of basic human and minority rights, etc. The United Nations Security Council or special mechanisms launched by the Security Council should provide credible guarantees for the enforcement of the new arrangement. For instance, one can consider an analogue to the P5+1 setting, which turned out to be quite efficient in dealing with the Iranian nuclear portfolio. A system of an efficient international monitoring of the situation in the region should also be considered. One of the options is to create a regional OSCE-type institution.

All these questions, no matter how disputed and controversial they might look, can be successfully dealt with, if one indispensable precondition is met. This precondition is that major regional and non-regional actors should fully understand the real scale of the challenge they have to confront. This understanding should lead to a sense of historic responsibility in restoring the regional stability. Unfortunately, such a sense is in a clear deficit today.

Andrey Kortunov
Director General
Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC)

First Published at “In Depth Volume 14, Issue 4, September 2017″