Amr Moussa gives his keynote address
The 9th Annual IISS Global Strategic Review (GSR) was held at the InterContinental Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, on 9–11 September 2011. The GSR each year audits strategic change at the global level, examining new dynamics and assessing more established, structural causes, or potential causes, of conflict. This year the GSR placed a particular focus on the dramatic events – uprisings, revolutions, civil war – sweeping the Middle East and North Africa region. Concluding precisely on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the GSR also provided an occasion on which to reflect on a dramatic and dislocating decade shaped by terror, war and intense strategic debate.
The Opening Keynote Address was delivered by Amr Moussa, former Foreign Minister of Egypt, former Secretary-General of The League of Arab States, and presently a prominent candidate in the Egyptian presidential elections. Moussa began by reflecting on the decade of dashed optimism before the 11 September 2001 attacks and on the decade of conflict that ensued. Precious opportunities to promote regional peace and justice were lost, double standards prevailed, and regional stability was endangered. Still, ‘the atmosphere of despair and frustration in the Middle East and in particular in the Arab world could not and should not be connected to the international causes alone’. Arguing that the Arab uprisings were fuelled by legitimate domestic grievances and a sense that individual dignity and freedom were subjected to unending assaults by Arab regimes, Moussa offered a strong indictment of Arab dictators and their propping up by major powers. Bad governance, nepotism, corruption and state brutality had divorced the citizen from his ruler and stripped regimes from their legitimacy, he said. And compared to previous Western grand plans to remodel the region, the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere in the Arab world were not tainted by foreign agendas, but, he said, ‘they were genuine’. Moussa also stressed that no country in the Arab world was immune to change. A new Arab order and a modernised Arab League would be necessary to manage and nurture this transformation.
Striking a reassuring tone, Moussa argued that changes in the Middle East would reinforce regional stability rather than precipitate conflict. Emerging democracies would be no less likely to pursue peace with Israel, provided that any settlement was based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. He described this new Arab world as ‘vigorous, young, demanding, in a state of production, friendly to the world including the West but not in a state of defeat or submission’.
(l–r) Jean-Claude Mallet, Conseiller d’Etat, France; Member of the Council, IISS; Emile Hokayem, Senior Fellow for Regional Security, IISS–Middle East; Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS; Sultan Al Qassemi, Journalist; Issandr El Amrani, Freelance Journalist and Political Analyst; and Karim Sadjadpour, Associate, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
The first plenary session on Saturday 10 September was notable for its assembly of young analysts from the Middle East who have come to prominence amidst the youth-dominated uprisings in the Arab world during 2011. In the discussion on ‘Strategic Change in the Middle East and North Africa’, Issandr El Amrani, author of The Arabist blog, noted the differences between the transitions in Tunisia, where bureaucratic and commercial life continued regardless of the revolution, and in Libya and Egypt, where this was not the case. He saw difficulties in resuming normal life in Libya, and voiced concern about the style and competence of the interim government in Cairo. Emile Hokayem, IISS Senior Fellow for Regional Security, noted that Syria had in six months turned from a strong to a weak state, and was falling victim to its geographical situation, facing greater interference from non-Levantine actors. Sultan Al Qassemi, a columnist based in the United Arab Emirates, delivered remarks whose brevity was in keeping with his prolific dissemination of news and opinion via 140-character Twitter messages. Karim Sadjadpour, an Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, detailed reasons why revolution would be harder to achieve in Iran. Power and corruption were not focused around a single family, as in Tunisia and Egypt, and the regime still commanded support. However, the government would be hit hard if President Assad were to fall in Syria. The session’s voice of experience was Jean-Claude Mallet, a former senior French official and member of the IISS Council. He noted the potential impact around the world, for example among countries with Muslim majorities and on African countries which might fear increasing marginalisation. Meanwhile, the United States was changing its strategic posture as it pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan and encountered economic problems, though it would retain a global role. Europe, he said, should be humble, having failed to anticipate events so close at hand.
(l–r) HRH Prince Turki Al Faisal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Chairman, Board of Directors, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Mark Fitzpatrick, Director, Non-proliferation and Disarmament Programme, IISS; and Dr Ariel E. Levite, Nonresident Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Member of the Council, IISS
In the second plenary session, delegates discussed ‘Iran, Gulf Security and Nuclear Proliferation’. HRH Prince Turki Al Faisal, Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, issued a plea for Iran to follow up its own 1974 proposal for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, with adequate means for inspection and verification. This, he said, would require the support of Israel, and thus he called on both Israel and Iran to choose ‘peace over war’. Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of the IISS Non-proliferation and Disarmament Programme, said that any and all possible diplomatic approaches to the Iranian problem should be explored because in almost every way the programme is becoming more problematic. Iran had rejected the idea of a uranium swap, and had made progress in both uranium enrichment and missile development. The minimum time in which it could produce a nuclear weapon had been reduced by about two months from the two years that the IISS had previously estimated. Dr Ariel Levite, an IISS Council member, said the Iranian nuclear programme was reaching a tipping point, and was moving ever farther from legitimacy. However, it was not a foregone conclusion that Iran would proceed to produce nuclear weapons, because it still wanted to wield some influence in its international discussions. Israel, he said, had been timid with Iran.
(l–r) Antonio Patriota, Minister of External Relations, Brazil; Adam Ward, Director of Studies, IISS; and Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations in New York
The third plenary session addressed the topic ‘Crises, Conflict and Intervention: Global Perspectives’. In a world in which the capacity of established powers to deal with a variety of crises and contingencies is increasingly subject to constraints, the question ‘who steps up to the plate and how’ will become more insistent. This session provided pespectives from two countries, Brazil and India, whose wish to have a stronger voice in shaping the ‘rules of the road’ of the international system, and to make a larger contribution to its management, has been formally expressed in their bids for Permanent Membership of the UN Security Council. The speakers were Antonio Patriota, Minister of External Relations of Brazil, and Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York. Patriota called for what he termed a ‘new consensus on the exercise of collective responsibility’, intended to adapt to the reality of strategic change and aimed at investing the international system with greater and more resilient coherence. He identified Brazil as a country that, almost uniquely, enjoyed strong relations with all major powers, and saw itself less as a traditional military great power in the making than a ‘diplomatic power’ able to leverage its networks and credibility as an honest broker to bring disputes closer to resolution. Ambassador Puri, speaking in a personal capacity, reviewed the principle of the Responsibility to Protect as applied to the instances of Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Syria. Puri argued that the UN Security Council appeared only to intervene selectively ‘on the basis of political expediency and strategic opportunism rather than genuine humanitarian need’. ‘This selective application of the “rules”’, he argued, ‘in fact weakens the uniform application of norms that creates just and therefore enduring legal regimes.’
(l–r) Dr James Acton, Senior Associate, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Mark Fitzpatrick, Director, Non-proliferation and Disarmament Programme, IISS; Dr Tanya Ogilvie-White, Senior Lecturer, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Canterbury, New Zealand; and Professor François Heisbourg, Chairman, IISS
The GSR then divided into ten off-the-record special sessions examining a broad range of global policy questions. Special Session 1, entitled ‘The Future of Nuclear Deterrence’, began with summaries of two IISS Adelphi books: a forthcoming volume that explores the late Sir Michael Quinlan’s correspondence on nuclear deterrence, and a recent volume, Deterrence during Disarmament, that examines the impact of deep nuclear reductions. After establishing that it is difficult to prove the effectiveness of deterrence, participants explored the practical challenges of disarmament, given the strategic environment and political realities. One participant argued that whether deterrence relations between China, Russia and the United States evolved in a way conducive to further reductions would depend primarily on imbalances in conventional weaponry. This speaker, who was generally optimistic about the strategic desirability of deep reductions, but profoundly pessimistic about the political practicalities of getting there, appeared to reflect the views of many in the room. Another speaker contrasted Cold War and contemporary narratives of nuclear weapons. While arguing that the risks of nuclear deterrence were underappreciated during the Cold War, this speaker also warned against contemporary scholarship that posited that nuclear weapons were really no different from large conventional weapons. This speaker pointed to the recent recommendation of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament for a ‘minimisation point’ of 2,000 nuclear weapons worldwide as an interim step on the way to abolition, and explored the potential for a trade-off between disarmament and non-proliferation. The potential for proliferation and its impact on deterrence in regional contexts, including the Middle East and Southeast Asia, was also discussed. This rich discussion addressed the extent to which civilian nuclear programmes could provide some measure of deterrence; the challenges of ‘nuclear learning’ and the possibility of accelerating this process; whether Israel’s presumed nuclear arsenal was a driver for Iran’s nuclear programme; and how Iran’s behaviour might change if it acquired nuclear weapons. This session was chaired by Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of the IISS Non-proliferation and Disarmament Programme, and the speakers were Dr James Acton, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Dr Tanya Ogilvie-White, Consulting Fellow at the IISS; and Professor François Heisbourg, Chairman of the IISS.
(l–r) Bertrand Lathoud, Head of Information Risk Management – Europe, Paypal; Nigel Inkster, Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk, IISS; Dr Steve Marsh, Visiting Professor, Defence Academy of the UK; and Major-General Jonathan Shaw, Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Global Issues), Security Policy and Operations, Ministry of Defence, UK
‘Warfare in the Cyber Domain’ was the title of Special Session 2, which was chaired by Nigel Inkster, Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk at the IISS. The speakers were Bertrand Lathoud, Head of Information Risk Mangement (Europe), Paypal Inc.; Dr Steven Marsh, Visiting Professor, UK Defence Academy; and Major-General Jonathan Shaw, Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Global Issues), Ministry of Defence, UK. The cyber domain is just as much a domain as land, sea, air and space. It is a global, non-geographical phenomenon, but unlike the other domains is man-made and vulnerable to local disruption. It is growing rapidly in scope and sophistication, beyond the ability of governments to keep pace or to develop effective regulations. Standards and norms of conduct should be promoted through the incentivisation of the private sector and through international cooperation. The world has rushed to exploit the potential of the Internet and has only belatedly appreciated the vulnerabilities and risks of promiscuous networking. Security, where the need for it is acknowledged at all, has had to be retro-fitted, with all the costs and inefficiencies that imposes.
For all the lurid talk of destructive cyber warfare, the reality is rather one of constant contestation and conflict within the cyber domain at a level that generally falls short of war. Cyber crime – which costs the UK £27 billion per year – and cyber espionage are the bigger threats and are happening now. It is not possible to shelter behind walls. Effective defence requires the ability to manoeuvre within the cyber domain in a policy of active defence. This, however, raises difficult legal and political challenges. The potential for cyber weapons to deliver a ‘bloodless victory’ will always be attractive, but probably not realisable. Levels of cyber attacks and cyber crime have reached a point where they threaten to inhibit the private sector from exploiting the opportunities afforded by growing digitisation and expanding e-commerce. The challenge of attribution makes prosecutions difficult, and the size of threat is still poorly understood. Malware needs to be blocked and destroyed, but total security will never be possible. Governments and the private sector need to cooperate to increase network resilience.
(l–r) Dr Constanze Stelzenmüller, Senior Transatlantic Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States; and Oksana Antonenko, Senior Fellow for Russia and Eurasia, IISS; Thomas Graham, Senior Director, Kissinger Associates; former Senior Director for Russia, National Security Council, US; and Andrey Kortunov, President, New Eurasia Foundation
Special Session 3 examined ‘The US–Russia “Re-set”’. It was chaired by Oksana Antonenko, Senior Fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the IISS, and speakers included Dr Constanze Stelzenmüller, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States; Thomas Graham, Senior Director, Kissinger Associates, and former Senior Director for Russia at the US National Security Council; and Andrey Kortunov, President, New Eurasia Foundation. The session focused on whether the original goals of the ‘re-set’ policy, as seen from Russian and American perspectives, had been met after four years. The view was expressed that the re-set was over, not because the two countries did not want it to continue, but rather because it had already fulfilled its original task of normalising US–Russian relations after the breakdown caused by the Russo-Georgian war of 2008 and US support for democratic revolutions in the post-Soviet space. There had been a general agreement that the re-set had delivered important outcomes, which included in particular the New START Treaty and closer cooperation on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear-weapons capability. However, the re-set was also based on compromises which remain unpopular among political elites in both countries, such as Washington’s deliberate policy of reducing its involvement in the post-Soviet space and Russia’s acquiescence to US policies in Iran and NATO’s intervention in Libya.
As both countries enter their electoral seasons, the re-set agenda is coming under pressure. On the one hand, there are many vocal opponents on both sides, particularly in the US Congress and in Russia’s security community, while relatively few strong lobbies support further improvement in relations. Hence, the recent multi-billion-dollar deal between Russia’s Rosneft and US ExxonMobil to develop Russia’s resources in the Arctic, Black Sea and Sakhalin can be seen as an attempt to broaden constituencies supporting the re-set. On the other hand, there is an objective difficulty in devising the new agenda for the re-set. The next phase in strategic arms control or discussions on the reduction of tactical nuclear weapons are both complicated by disagreements on missile defence; while the economic agenda is complicated by continuing problems in completing negotiations on Russia’s WTO accession, which are not only dependent on the relations between the two countries, but also on the EU and Georgia. Cooperation on Afghanistan remains important but limited, as Russia is not seen as the key power that could help to stabilise Afghanistan in the longer run.
Participants expressed a view that a major area which has so far been absent from the US–Russian re-set agenda is the Asia-Pacific, and particularly the rise of China. If US–Russian relations could mature to a point where the countries could discuss the implications of the rise of China and the establishment of a new security order in East Asia, this could provide a more stable long-term foundation for bilateral relations. It was also asserted that the sustainability of the re-set required both countries to develop not just a modus vivendi but meaningful cooperation in the post-Soviet space. One area for such cooperation could include managing regional security challenges in Central Asia after the NATO drawdown from Afghanistan, as well as managing regional conflicts in the South Caucasus. Such cooperation could also help to win support for the re-set among many US partners in Europe. Europeans are also concerned that the re-set should not compromise the US stance in support of democracy and human rights in Russia and post-Soviet Eurasia.
(l–r) Issandr El Amrani, Freelance Journalist and Political Analyst; Emile Hokayem, Senior Fellow for Regional Security, IISS–Middle East; Ezzedine C. Fishere, Visiting Distinguished Lecturer, The American University in Cairo; and Nathan J. Brown, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, The Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University
Special Session 4 dealt with the subject ‘Egypt: Transition, Democracy, Strategic Orientation’. It was chaired by Emile Hokayem, Senior Fellow for Regional Security, IISS. Speakers were Nathan Brown, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at The George Washington University; Ezzedine Choucri Fishere, Visiting Distinguished Lecturer at The American University in Cairo; and Issandr El Amrani, freelance journalist and founder of Arabist.net. The panel explored the challenges that Egypt’s transition to civilian rule is facing. There is little agreement among Egyptians about the sequencing, timetable and rules of the elections, and about the relative strength of the presidency and the parliament. Electoral alliances, though important, will matter less than post-electoral coalitions.
The panel agreed that the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF) was working to protect its institutional position and privileges. It was resorting to tactics of the old regime and seemed incapable of grasping the revolutionaries’ desire for fundamental changes. This had resulted in a deep lack of trust in the SCAF and reliance on street mobilisation to achieve political goals. There was agreement that the Muslim Brotherhood was emerging as a powerful force. While the Islamist blocs are likely to be the largest in parliament, they seem unwilling to attain a majority, preferring to have the power to block legislation for the moment. The fragmentation of the Muslim Brotherhood, the rise of Salafism and the emergence of new thinking about Islamic governance was changing Egypt’s Islamist scene. The panel stressed that Egypt’s foreign policy was certain to undergo changes. Egypt’s eroding influence and foreign-policy contradictions under the Mubarak regime necessitated a reappraisal, and there was a real possibility that new tensions in the region could set the tone of the country’s new foreign policy.
(l–r) General Julio de Amo, Chief of the Institutional Planning Branch, Ministry of Defense, Brazil; Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS–Asia; Corresponding Director, Defence and Military Analysis, IISS; Air Chief Marshal S. P. Tyagi, Former Chief of the Air Staff, Indian Air Force; Member, National Security Advisory Board; and Lieutenant-General (Retd) David Deptula, Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, US Air Force
The topic ‘New and Emerging Powers: Military Capabilities and Strategies’, which formed the theme of Special Session 5, was addressed by General Julio de Amo, Chief of the Institutional Planning Branch, Ministry of Defense, Brazil; Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, former Chief of the Air Staff, Indian Air Force; and Lt-Gen. (Retd) David Deptula, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaisance, US Air Force. The session heard that despite the gloomy economic circumstances of most Western countries, and the accompanying reductions in their defence spending and military capability, elsewhere in the world – particularly in Asia, but also in the Middle East and Latin America – there were many examples of states increasing their military expenditure and attempting to expand their military capabilities. Brazil, with its aspirations to be a global player, was increasing its defence effort with a view to sharing the burden of international security provision, particularly in the maritime sphere. While Brazil’s increased defence budget, which faced competition from health and other areas of social spending, made relatively scant provision for procurement, it was nevertheless investing in new equipment, including submarines and helicopters.
With economic expansion, India – which has traditionally viewed its defence requirements primarily through the lens of a ‘subcontinental strategy’ – was now thinking more expansively, with the result that the roles of its navy and air force were expanding. There was also increasing emphasis on exploiting space-based capabilities. Emerging powers’ military ambitions were leading to a levelling of military capability worldwide, as they expanded their competence in intelligence, advanced weaponry, space and cyber warfare, stealth, and ‘breakthrough’ technologies including artificial intelligence, biotechnology, nanotechnology and robotics. At the same time, it was evident that emerging powers, especially China, might adopt asymmetric approaches to future warfare. It seemed clear that these developments would impact substantially on the global distribution of military power. There was considerable agreement within the group that, in an increasingly multipolar world, over the next decade regional powers would deploy military capacities that would erode the military superiority of the United States, particularly as America’s debt problems were likely to lead to swingeing cuts in its defence spending.
(l–r) Dr Jonathan D. Pollack, Senior Fellow, John L. Thornton China Center, The Brookings Institution; Mark Fitzpatrick, Director, Non-proliferation and Disarmament Programme, IISS; Dr Chung Min Lee, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asian Security Affairs, IISS, Dean, Graduate School of International Studies, Yonsei University; and Aidan Foster-Carter, Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea, Leeds University
Special Session 6, on ‘North Korea: Nuclear Advances and Political Succession’, was chaired by Mark Fitzpatrick of the IISS and featured presentations by Dr Jonathan Pollack, Senior Fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center of the Brookings Institution; Dr Chung Min Lee, IISS Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asian Security Affairs; and Dr Aidan Foster-Carter, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Leeds University. Presentations drew out themes from two recent IISS publications: Jonathan Pollack’s Adelphi book No Exit: North Korea, Nuclear Weapons and International Security, and the IISS Strategic Dossier North Korean Security Challenges: A net assessment. It was suggested that the North Korean situation may be reaching a critical juncture, given Pyongyang’s disclosure of a uranium-enrichment facility, its recent provocations and its ongoing dynastic succession. A third nuclear test may be in the offing in the next year, a development that could also test the US policy of ‘strategic patience’. Meanwhile, in addition to its military challenges, North Korea was creating problems through its wide reliance on state criminality and human-rights abuses. This argued for a comprehensive approach to the North Korean problem set.
One speaker stressed that the succession period created concerns about the future of this weak state, which could therefore become more dangerous. He argued that Pyongyang’s survival depended on China, but that the other key players needed to anticipate and coordinate responses to possible contingencies. A nightmare scenario would be a North Korean action that triggered a response from Seoul and drew in the United States and China. Some participants argued, however, that China has played a critical role in restraining Pyongyang’s behaviour and yet has limited influence over its neighbour. Questions were also raised about whether and when North Korea would be able to develop a road-mobile, intercontinental ballistic missile, as suggested recently by former US Secretary of State Robert Gates. As emphasised in the recent IISS dossier, test launches would give warning of any such longer-range capabilities. In the meantime, North Korea’s Nodong missiles presented a significant threat to Japan, even if they could not reach Tokyo, as argued by the dossier.
(l–r) Dr Marwa Daoudy, Lecturer, Centre for Middle East Studies, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford; Dr Henri Barkey, Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen Professor for International Relations, Lehigh University; Dr Andrew Parasiliti, Executive Director, IISS–US; Corresponding Director, IISS–Middle East; Emile Hokayem, Senior Fellow for Regional Security, IISS–Middle East; and Andrew Tabler, Next Generation Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Special Session 7 on ‘The Levant: New Strategic Dynamics’ was chaired by Dr Andrew Parasiliti, Executive Director, IISS–US, and Corresponding Director, IISS–Middle East, and featured panelists Dr Henri Barkey, Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen Professor for International Relations at Lehigh University; Dr Marwa Daoudy, Visiting Scholar at Princeton University; Emile Hokayem, IISS Senior Fellow for Regional Security; and Andrew Tabler, Next Generation Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The panel addressed the changes and challenges in the Levant, defined as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as the influence and roles of Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Iraq on the region.
Syria was the focus of most of the discussion. There was a general consensus that violence was likely to continue, and to get worse before it got better. Many questions remained about the coherence of the Syrian opposition, the role of Islamists, and whether they would continue their mostly non-violent resistance. The role of the US and EU in Syria was also addressed. There was some discussion about whether sanctions on Syrian oil would bring about the desired changes by President Assad’s government, or whether such sanctions would disproportionately hurt Syrian citizens. There were also questions and discussion about whether there was a military option in dealing with Syria.
The panel also assessed the implications of events in Syria on Hizbullah, Lebanon and Iran. Syria has developed a dependency on Hizbullah, which in turn depends on Iran for logistical support. The ‘loss’ of Syria would be devastating for Iran’s strategic depth in the Middle East, as well as for Hizbullah’s role in Lebanon and Hamas’s position within Palestinian politics. The events in Syria and the Levant have also affected Turkey’s role in the region. The panel examined the deterioration in Israeli–Turkish relations, Turkey’s changing interests in Syria, and Turkey’s support for Palestinian statehood.
(l–r) Nigel Inkster, Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk, IISS; Dr Nicholas Redman, Managing Director, Corporate Advisory, Editor, Adelphi Books, IISS; and Dr Kwesi Aning, Director of Research, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre
Special Session 8 on ‘Financing Insecurity: Drugs and Fragile States’ was chaired by Dr Nicholas Redman, Editor, Adelphi Books and Managing Director, IISS Corporate Advisory. The speakers were Nigel Inkster, IISS Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk; and Dr Kwesi Aning, Director of Research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre. Many commodities are traded illegally, but narcotics – primarily heroin and cocaine – are perhaps unique in that they are illegal across the world. Conflicts that are financed by drugs tend to run for much longer than those that are not, because powerful interests emerge that wish to perpetuate the trade. In some cases, such as the Islamist insurgencies in the Maghreb and the Russian North Caucasus, there is evidence to suggest that the drug smuggling which has financed the insurgency has mounted a stealthy takeover. If policymakers cannot see or acknowledge this, they will struggle to register progress.
The vast revenues that accrue from the trade in illegal drugs have a powerful distorting effect on the host states. Drug trafficking dominates economies across West Africa; in areas of Colombia and Mexico, drug cartels have displaced the state with respect to the provision of basic services, including security. Drug cartels begin in conflict with the state but generally seek to develop a relationship that is either parasitic (wherein low-level state officials are corrupted) or symbiotic, in which the cartels and the state develop a modus vivendi. Interestingly, the experience of West Africa is that drug organisations prefer fragile states to failed ones.
In Colombia in the 1990s, drug cartels became so strong, and lawlessness became so endemic, that the state seemed in danger of collapse. The efforts of successive Colombian governments, with US assistance, to reassert state control over the country and to combat the power of the drug gangs bore fruit. Today, the atomisation of the cartels means that they are no longer a threat to the Colombian state. Yet while the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reports that cocaine production in Colombia has fallen by more than 50% between 2000 and 2009, the country remains the largest single producer on earth.
Decades of effort to curb supply have yielded little impact; production has shifted in response to targeted crackdowns. This leaves policymakers facing unpalatable choices about tackling demand, or even addressing controlled legalisation. Yet there can be no guarantee this would not result in surging consumption and potentially a ‘lost generation’ in the country that first took the bold step.
(l–r) Dr Nabeel A. Khoury, Director, Office of Analysis for Near East and South Asia, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Department of State; and Dr Bastian Giegerich, Consulting Senior Fellow for European Security, IISS Senior Researcher, Bundeswehr Institute of Social Sciences; Fabrice Pothier, Head, Policy Planning Unit, Private Office of the Secretary General, NATO HQ; and Professor Mohammed Benhammou, President, Moroccan Centre for Strategic Studies
The ninth Special Session, on ‘Transitions in North Africa and the Middle East: Europe’s Role’, was chaired by IISS Consulting Senior Fellow for European Security, Dr Bastian Giegerich, and featured presentations from Dr Nabeel Khoury, a director in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Department of State; Fabrice Pothier, head of the Policy Planning Unit within the Private Office of the Secretary General, NATO; and Professor Mohammed Benhammou, President, the Moroccan Centre for Strategic Studies. Participants judged that there was an opportunity for joint US–EU leadership in supporting the transition process in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). While it was too soon to draw firm conclusions, several patterns had emerged which all called for different kinds of engagement from outsiders. For countries where there was a quick end to the uprising, as in Egypt and Tunisia, Europe should try to politically and morally support the unfolding change and stand ready to provide economic and technical assistance. In countries facing a prolonged military struggle, like Libya, military assistance would be called for. For societies entering into a process of negotiated reform, like Morocco and Jordan, European actors could play a useful role by encouraging dialogue and possibly mediating if necessary. Even where no reform or uprising was unfolding, as in Saudi Arabia, Europeans should try to ‘speak truth to power’.
The group also debated initial lessons from NATO’s engagement in Libya. It was suggested that NATO had gained in standing in the region because it had proved itself to be a benign but effective actor, able to finish what it started while at the same time exercising great restraint to avoid civilian casualties. Despite the US decision to take a largely supportive, rather than frontline, role in the operations, NATO proved to be capable of complex operations. Nevertheless, regarding the ongoing transitions in the Middle East and North Africa, it was suggested that NATO would never be a transformative actor; rather it should be seen as an instrument of last resort.
Speakers from the MENA region stressed that the international community needed a new vision for the region because it was undergoing rapid and decisive change, which would completely alter the context of European involvement. It was not yet clear whether people in the MENA region wanted democracy or simply a better life. The most pressing need would be socioeconomic assistance. It would remain difficult to balance the need for patience, in order to establish new governance principles in societies, and the need to create legitimate governments. The session underlined that it would not be helpful for Western actors to rush in with new models. Rather, outside involvement would have to be highly dependent on in-depth understanding of the specific context in different MENA countries, and it would need to be driven by a careful analysis of the comparative advantages of the different instruments and frameworks for action that were available to Europe and the US.
(l–r) Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations; Trustee and Member of the Council, IISS; Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, Senior Fellow for South Asia, IISS; Shekhar Gupta, Editor in Chief, Indian Express; Member of the Council, IISS; and Dr Maleeha Lodhi, former Ambassador of Pakistan to the US and former High Commissioner to the UK; Member of the Council, IISS
Special Session 10 looked at ‘India and Pakistan: Prospects for Dialogue’. The session panellists were Ambassador Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Special International Affairs Adviser to Pakistan’s Jang Group of publications and Geo Television Network; Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief/Group Chief Executive Officer of the Indian Express; and Ambassador Robert Blackwill, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. The session was chaired by Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, IISS Senior Fellow for South Asia.
Three rounds of dialogue between India and Pakistan since the late 1980s have been interrupted by conflict or a terror attack, and have failed to normalise the countries’ strained relationship. Even though relations have improved with the resumption of the current fourth round of talks in June 2011, after two-and-a-half years, no major breakthroughs, such as the resolution of the Kashmir dispute or the ending of terror attacks against India, is expected. At the same time, there appears to be a hardening of positions on both sides. Pakistan’s domestic turbulence and the possibility of early elections make it difficult for Islamabad to make compromises. It is also not clear whether the Pakistani army supports substantive progress in the peace process or not, and whether it is willing to take forward the Musharraf-backed talks on Kashmir that had made some progress until early 2007. In India, there is a hardening of public opinion against Pakistan in view of the terror attacks, with an increased trust deficit. It is unclear whether this is due to the reportedly growing influence of the Indian military on bilateral issues, notwithstanding the determination of the prime minister to transform this relationship. An Indian prime minister last visited Pakistan seven-and-a-half years ago, with the last official visit of a Pakistani president to New Delhi coming six years ago.
Yet, with the India–Pakistan wars of the past giving way to military crises and tensions after the countries’ nuclear-weapon tests in the late 1990s, the danger of nuclear escalation remains high. This is exacerbated by both countries’ heavy reliance on the threat of their military capabilities to deter conflict, with the increasing possibility of inadvertent responses and of misperception or miscalculation. This situation requires urgent confidence-building measures addressing the prevention of escalation, the disputes in Kashmir and Afghanistan, and other issues.
(l–r) Nigel Inkster, Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk, IISS; Brigadier Benjamin Barry, Senior Fellow for Land Warfare, IISS; Adam Ward, Director of Studies, IISS; Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, Senior Fellow for South Asia, IISS; and Dr Toby Dodge, Consulting Senior Fellow for the Middle East, IISS
Before dinner, a panel discussion was held, led by IISS research staff, on the theme ‘A Long-term Strategy for Afghanistan’. The speakers were Nigel Inkster, IISS Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk; Dr Toby Dodge, IISS Senior Corresponding Fellow for the Middle East; Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, IISS Senior Fellow for South Asia; and Brigadier Ben Barry, IISS Senior Fellow for Land Warfare. Militarily, ISAF has gained control over more of Afghanistan since 2009, while the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have grown in size, capability and confidence. The ANSF should be able to hold most of the territory currently under ISAF control, but it will probably not be able to extend that control to the eastern territories after 2014. Politically, President Hamid Karzai has built a network of clients across the country that should allow him, or his successor, to retain power after 2015. However, the reduction in the provision of Western aid and firepower might oblige him to moderate his ambitions to build a strong centralised state; instead, Afghanistan may return to the historical precedent of Kabul doing deals with local power brokers.
External powers have long sown division in Afghanistan by backing different groups. This is particularly apparent in the cases of India and Pakistan, which vie for influence. By encouraging militant groups in the border regions, Pakistan has sought to increase its leverage in Afghanistan, but arguably this has increased the militant threat to the Pakistani state. Now there are signs that Pakistan recognises the need to work for Afghan unity, while both it and India are taking unilateral steps to reduce instability. Al-Qaeda’s capacity in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been greatly degraded over the last ten years. However, a plethora of jihadi groups are now active in the region. Among them, the Haqqani network stands out because of its unique position within the terrorist constellation: it has long-standing links to al-Qaeda and insurgent groups, but also enjoys the support of Pakistan’s security establishment. As a result, it is a direct threat to Afghanistan, an indirect threat to other states, and an entity that will be very difficult to combat. Whether the Haqqani network can be brought into an Afghan settlement is open to doubt.
Michael Schiffer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, East Asia, US Department of Defense; Peter Ho, Senior Advisor, Centre for Strategic Futures, Singapore; Member of the Council, IISS; Vice-Admiral (Retd) S. C. S. Bangara, Former Chief, Southern Naval Command, Indian Navy; Dr Aaron L. Friedberg, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
Plenary sessions resumed on Sunday 11 September with a discussion under the rubric ‘The Rise of a Militarised Asia: Global Implications’. This session explored the reasons behind and international implications of Asian states’ expanding military programmes. Michael Schiffer, the United States’ Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, pointed to the major contemporary sources of international tension in Asia, notably on the Korean Peninsula and in relation to China’s military modernisation. He emphasised that the United States does not see China as an adversary. However, China’s increasing military spending, its deployment of major new military equipment such as long-range missiles and submarines, and the fact that its navy is operating over greater distances, were leading to international concern, particularly among China’s neighbours, though also in the United States. China’s neighbours were investing in their own military capabilities, notably in submarines. Schiffer pointed to a gap between China’s stated intentions and its actions, which was producing uncertainty. Meanwhile, the US approach continued to be based on building bilateral cooperation, including military-to-military contacts, but simultaneously on firm insistence on the observation of international norms.
Peter Ho, Senior Advisor to Singapore’s Centre for Strategic Futures and a member of the IISS Council, highlighted major increases in Asian states’ defence spending over the last decade, and that these countries have built more modern and powerful armed forces. China’s military modernisation was particularly significant, but its capabilities remained ‘20 years’ behind those of the United States. Moreover, China was not basing its international identity on its military capability, and had not indulged in military adventurism. Peter Ho argued for an international focus on creating behavioural norms, and on enhancing transparency. In Asia, a range of groupings with overlapping ambits, including ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the East Asia Summit, had helped to manage relations among regional states. The IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting, and the ARF have helped to promote dialogue and consultation among the region’s defence establishments. But the rise of China and India will generate ‘strategic dynamism’ and bring risks in Asia and beyond. There was a need, according to Ho, to develop a regional ‘architecture’ able to manage relations among Asia’s major powers.
Vice-Admiral (Retd) S.C.S. Bangara, former Chief of India’s Southern Naval Command, focused on the strategic relationship between India and China, emphasising that both powers’ economic success had permitted military modernisation. However, in large part because of the nature of its civil–military relations, China’s military programmes had been better resourced. Nevertheless, the Indian Navy was increasingly venturing into distant waters. China was developing an aircraft-carrier capability, but this could take as long as a generation; China had ‘a long way to go’ before it could confront the United States.
Professor Aaron L. Friedberg, from Princeton University, stressed that he was ‘more pessimistic’ than the session’s other speakers. He argued that the primary driver of insecurity in Asia, and hence of the trend towards militarisation evident in the region, was China’s military build-up. Beijing had been increasing its military spending at an average rate of 10–15% per year for almost two decades, with particular emphasis on weapons systems that will permit it to project air and sea power off its eastern coasts. The ultimate dimensions and purpose of China’s build-up remained unclear, but Beijing appeared to be seeking to control what its strategists refer to as the ‘near seas’, the waters extending from the Yellow Sea in the north down to the South China Sea. Acquiring such a capability would have far-reaching, negative implications for other Asian countries, as well as for the United States. While there was growing recognition of the challenge posed by China’s build-up, it was not clear that the United States and its regional allies and security partners would be able to generate the political resolve or the resources necessary to meet it. If they failed to do so, the risks of miscalculation and conflict were likely to grow.
(l–r) Dr Dana Allin, Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy and Transatlantic Affairs, IISS; Editor of Survival; Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations; Trustee and Member of the Council, IISS; and Philip Stephens, Associate Editor, Financial Times
The fifth plenary session examined ‘US Politics and the American Foreign Policy Debate’. Dr Andrew Parasiliti, Executive Director, IISS–US, and Corresponding Director, IISS–Middle East, introduced the panel by saying that ‘foreign affairs will register hardly at all in US electoral politics’ because of the deep economic crisis in the United States. Dr Dana Allin, IISS Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy and Transatlantic Affairs, and Editor of Survival, described President Barack Obama’s foreign policy as a ‘doctrine of strategic restraint’ and a ‘muscular but more narrowly focused pursuit of American interests’. Obama’s foreign policy recognised that the United States had become ‘strategically overextended’, and that ‘managed retrenchment’ in foreign affairs would allow ‘economic restoration at home’. Allin referred to America’s decision to share the burden with European allies in Libya as ‘recognition that the United States has to manage a continuing process of relative decline’.
Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of both the IISS Council and Trustees, said that the focus of the panel should be on whether and how the US political system would cope with the economic crisis, and what effect this would have on US global power. Ambassador Blackwill cited polling data that Americans are overwhelmingly preoccupied with the economy. Considerations for the next five years for US foreign policy signalled little enthusiasm for both US ground troops abroad and nation-building; more difficulties in managing US–China relations; and increasing concern over Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Ambassador Blackwill concluded that there was no evidence of a trend toward US neo-isolationism, no belief among Americans in US decline; and no suggestion that American values were waning.
Philip Stephens, Associate Editor and Chief Political Commentator for the Financial Times, offered a ‘despairing’ European perspective. Stephens observed firstly that US ‘retrenchment will be felt most acutely in Europe’, and that Europe will lament America’s ‘relative weakness’. The US military may shift its priority away from Europe and the Middle East to East Asia. Secondly, if US international leadership was hobbled, then the world might expect a weakening of existing multilateral institutions and more competition as new powers emerged. This could augur greater regionalisation of security policy, and even more unpredictability and volatility in world affairs. Thirdly, Europe was unlikely to take up America’s slack, given the defence cuts across Europe, and the limitations of European defence capabilities that were exposed in Libya.
(l–r) Carl Bildt, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden; Nigel Inkster, Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk, IISS; Dr Eliot Cohen, Professor and Director of Strategic Studies, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University; Member of the Council, IISS
The sixth and final plenary session was titled ‘Ten Years On: Terror, War and Strategy’. Chaired by IISS Chief Executive and Director-General Dr John Chipman, the panel included Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt; Nigel Inkster, Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk, IISS; and Dr Eliot Cohen, Professor and Director of Strategic Studies at the School for Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and Member of the IISS Council. Bildt surveyed the changes which the atrocities of 11 September 2001 had ushered in. He concluded that while ‘in a tactical sense … the 9/11 attack was a huge success for al-Qaeda’, at the strategic level it had been ‘a rather miserable failure’. It failed to endanger the ‘systems and structures that it tried to attack’, and ‘globalisation – the megatrend of our age – simply forged ahead’. Examining the last decade from an intelligence perspective, Nigel Inkster, who a decade ago was serving as a senior officer in the British Secret intelligence Service, asked: ‘Is the world safer in the light of all that has happened since 9/11?’. The answer to a large extent depended on which part of the world one inhabited. For Americans and Europeans, the answer was probably that the world was safer, in that the nature of the threat from jihadist extremism was much better understood and the resources and capabilities needed to counter it more effectively mobilised. But those living in South Asia and parts of the Middle East might well take a different view. In 2010, 70% of all terrorist-related deaths took place in South Asia, predominantly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with most of the remainder occurring in the Middle East, predominantly in Iraq and Yemen. Unless the West could find ways to help those countries most affected by terrorism to manage the problem and to bring down the temperature, their citizens would never be as safe as they might wish. Cohen provided a moving recollection of the experience of a cataclysmic moment and of the efforts and exertions to which the US then devoted itself with great tenacity (and some controversy) in the aftermath. As a person of faith, he conceded regretfully that account would forever need to be taken of the persistent tendency of religious belief to contain within it strands of fanaticism predisposed to violence.
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