Rethinking Kurdish Geopolitical Space: Visual Security, Gender and the Politics of Image

CRIA Tables cartoon

The security predicaments in the Middle East traverse long distances. In the echo chamber of new media platforms, local threats can become global obsessions. Recently, two non-state armed actors namely the Syrian Kurdish participants under the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the so-called Islamic State (IS) have grabbed the headlines. How did a local Kurdish war draw global attention and international support? How can the war against IS and Kurdish political identity be connected?

Our study examines how visual artefacts (images of security) are put to use in regional and global platforms so as to establish wider recognition, legitimacy and affect on external audiences. It shows how Kurdish identity markers are globally disseminated and visually mediated. It argues that there has been a new Kurdish geopolitical space, one that is enabled by a global regime of imagination. We explore the latter by examining the attendant meaning-making strategies transmitted through mediascapes (i.e., globalized circulation of select maps, drawings, photographs or portraits). We show that the global war against the IS has been an instance of war-making that involved not only strategic interactions but also discursive and aesthetic signification.

We illustrate our arguments in three case studies. The first case examines the politics of narrative reconstructions of the siege by IS of a small Kurdish city in Syria in 2014. The second explores a symbolic-pictorial appropriation of an imagined Kurdish homeland (the pictogram shown in the analysis of the cartoon drawing) as part of a meaning-making strategy to generate a united Kurdish front in the region. The third investigates the politics of gender and visual affect generated around the Kurdish female fighter photos.

In particular, we find that certain representations of the Kurdish fighters waging war against IS through narratives of ‘secular resistance’ and gendered visual artefacts aimed to construct a new ‘agency’ for international, regional and local audiences who could ‘see themselves’ in these collective representations. Such verbal-visual representations in turn helped to make a threat or distant war (against IS) proximate, familiar and urgent for otherwise disinterested audiences.

The representations of Kurdish female fighters, Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG) in select modalities (of photographs and color) sought to project a secular subjectivity and civility in daily settings as opposed to the sacrosanct identity and brutality of IS fighters. The female warriors were largely sensationalized by the local and international platforms so much so that even some global fashion companies such as H&M, attempted to usurp the YPJ’s warring experience by designing outfits based upon the Kurdish female military uniforms. The gendered projections were instrumental in the perception of Syrian Kurds as a secular, self-ruled society that allowed its women to participate in government and fight alongside their men.

For the western gaze, seeing the images of women of their ilk in the battlegrounds of a region-often portrayed as medieval, oppressive or backward had historically been eye-catching particularly since the case of French efforts to modernize Algerian women expected to take up a ‘functional capital role’.[1] Also, the Syrian Kurdish PYD’s struggle for recognition in northern Syria was readily granted and its war against IS was supported by the international society and western states even though the PYD’s sister organization, the PKK, has been globally designated as a terrorist organization.

Our investigation into the politics of image, gender and insecurity shows that the PYD’s struggle for territorial gains in Northern Syria in particular and its war against IS in general turned into a gendered and globalized war fought with armory of verbal-visual artefacts. Such a wide-scale re-imagination helps to elevate the Kurdish ethno-political identity in the face of territorial and demographic complexities and predicaments within Syria, Turkey and Iraq. We note that reinforcing a secular subjectivity against the radical religious identity in the Middle East also helped to overcome the initial western inertia in the fight against IS. In other words, the newfound regional-global interest and international society’s political support for the Kurds stem in part from and interact directly with the projected narratives and representations of the secular fighting the pre-modern fanaticism. Hence the Kurdish struggle for recognition took a globalized turn reshaping Kurds’ identity and subsequent geopolitical imagination.

Specifically, we argue that the global war against IS has helped the reconstruction of Kurdish ethno-political subjectivity and geopolitical imagination. The war strengthened an important marker in the reorganization and relocation of non-state Kurdish armed actors in the regional geopolitical competition. The internationalization of the Kurdish struggle through gendered and aesthetic lens helped to bring widespread international political and military support for the Kurdish forces. Therefore, the global opinion-making pertaining to the Syrian Kurds and IS were temporarily and spatially ‘made’ through practices of visual, speech and textual representations. The latter in turn reshaped the Kurdish geopolitical imagination, western secular civility and regional security. Hence we are able so argue that so long as the security threats from IS or its ilk are visually and verbally made “proximate, familiar and urgent” in world politics, international support for the Kurdish non-state armed actors in the Middle East is likely to increase.

Crucially, the politics of representations help the western viewers to reconsider and even strip the Kurdish non-state armed actor’s ethno-political markers (that is, Kurdish-Marxist militarized nationalism) so as to entertain an affective relationship with them. Affection, being and action (for example, the responsibility to side with and protect women/Kurds against the IS) were reciprocally constructed. This was thanks to a select set of images that depicted the Kurdish female fighters in secular, civilized daily routines rather than in war-making roles or activities.

Our article, ‘Rethinking Kurdish geopolitical space: the politics of image, insecurity and gender’ supports three theoretical conclusions regarding the visual turn in international relations. First, it is theoretically fruitful to study visual artefacts as situated in ideological-hegemonic power relations and concomitant social-historical contexts, which are amenable to investigation. In particular, certain verbal and visual modes of communication are productive of identities that may influence public opinion and inform foreign policy choices. Second, this study highlights the politics of verbal and visual signs for war-making beyond the realm of strategic rationality. In other words, our verbal-visual focus is to show that the mobilization of said global support was not simply emanating from a geostrategic necessity. It helps to explain how the verbal (discourses of alterity) and the visual (immediacy of globally circulated images or photographs) can help to construct new (gendered) subject positions. It seems, therefore, necessary to put the analytical foci on the politics of visuals and gender to grasp how states and non-state actors can frame their interventions so as to macro-securitize the corresponding political gains and positions.

The visual strategies discussed in our study can potentially serve as transition belts that can link individual, state and systemic levels of analysis in IR theory (recall it was largely by way of verbal and visual representations that a local warfare in northern Syria was globalized as evinced in the case of the Kobane siege in particular and the war against IS in general). Thirdly, when studying images in daily “micropolitical” settings, (visual) security studies should address other, more pressing political questions as to how hegemonic interpretations of world politics are constructed and what kind of power relations are produced thereof.

As our study showcases, insights from the conceptual and theoretical frameworks from other academic disciplines-namely visual and cultural semiotics-can overcome some of the methodological difficulties associated with studying the effects of visuals in world politics. Visual semiotics offers some important venues for understanding how images can “speak” security. It also provides an alternative lens with which one can account for the hegemonic significations of ‘the people’, be it the Kurds or the West. Such alternative approaches can equip IR with new conceptual and analytical frameworks to study the role of a plethora of visual artefacts in world politics so as to address, inter alia, justification of security policy and war.

[1] Fanon, Frantz. A dying colonialism (New York: Grove Press, 1965): 38.

Image: ‘The map built with guns’ by Şahin Berzenci, reproduced with the artist’s permission

Tuncay Kardaş is Associate Professor of International Politics and the head of Department of Middle East Studies in the Middle East Institute, Sakarya University. He holds an MsEcon degree in Security Studies and eraned his PhD in International Politics, both from Aberystwyth University in Wales. His main research areas are critical security studies, visual security studies, semiotics, non-state armed actors and Kurdish studies. His recent articles appeared in Middle East Critique and Turkish Studies. Kardaş co-edited two books: Exploring Samuel Huntington’s faultlines, from Al-Andalus to virtual Ummah (Oxford University Press, 2009) and Non-state armed actors in the Middle East (Palgrave, 2018).

Murat Yesiltaş earned his PhD at the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Marmara University in 2012. He is an Associate Professor in the Middle East Institute of Sakarya University. His current research is on critical geopolitics, ethnic/religious radicalization, geopolitics of non-state conflicts, terrorism and the Kurdish affairs. Yesiltaş is the author of Türkiye’de Ordu ve Jeopolitik Zihniyet (Geopolitical mentality and the military in Turkey, Kadim, 2016), co-edited Türkiye Dünyanın Neresinde? Hayali Coğrafyalar Çarpışan Anlatılar (Where is Turkey located? Imagined geographies, competing narratives, Koc University Press, 2015) and Non-state armed actors in the Middle East  (Palgrave, 2018).

Their article ‘Rethinking Kurdish geopolitical space: the politics of image, insecurity and gender’ was published by CRIA here.

Continue Reading

Connolly and the never-ending critiques of liberal peace: from the privilege of difference to vorarephilia

Peace Heart Love Crane Hope Origami Please Japan

Critiques multiply and critiques of the critiques, too. In international intervention debates, after the policy difficulties in building a stable and durable peace in societies affected by war, scholars have come to the fore to announce the crisis of ‘liberal peace’. While there are numerous critiques, one has come to dominate critical debate and revolves around the question of how to engage more generously with ‘difference’: hybrid peace or post-liberal peace. Informed by poststructuralist sensibilities, this critique underlines the problem that international peace frameworks have denied the political, societal and cultural heterogeneity of conflict-affected societies, excluding the views of the majority of their population.[1] A recognition and deeper engagement with the everyday life of these societies is understood to expose the biases of current peacebuilding processes and animate an alternative way of thinking about peace. As Oliver Richmond states: ‘the limitations of the liberal peace project have sparked new forms of peace in reaction, response, or as resistance, by a repoliticization of post-conflict subjects. This represents the inadvertent rediscovery or rebirth of post-liberal politics in infrapolitical terms’.[2]

At stake is the problem that these critical approaches are under siege by authors who point out that hybrid peace is reproducing the liberal reductive and binary schemas that it is meant to overcome, still failing to engage sensitively with alterity.[3] Amidst the anxiety caused by the emergence of the ‘critique of the critique’,[4] this article examines the inner logic of both the critique of liberal peace and the critique of hybrid peace.

In order to do so, it is useful to engage with William Connolly’s work on pluralism, which rethinks the classic pluralist ideal by committing to a deeper pluralism.[5] Connolly problematizes approaches that address the tense relation between identity and difference either by empowering particular identities at the expense of others (as in Culturalist frameworks) or by professing a model inclusive of all identities (as in Universalist frameworks). These approaches are problematic because, he contends, difference constantly exceeds conceptual capture. Instead, Connolly encourages to ‘draw agonistic care for difference from the abundance of life that exceeds any particular identity’[6] by the means of adopting self-reflexive strategies and promoting a democratic ethos of public contestation.

The analysis of Connolly’s work is relevant to develop the argument and to conclude it. First, his attempt to pluralize existing forms of pluralism enables the conceptualization of critiques of international interventions. That is, both the critique of liberal peace and of hybrid peace rest comfortably on the assumption that local alterity cannot be fully understood, respected or treated sensitively by current frameworks. Initially, tactics to build a liberal democratic peace were seen as disrespectful towards difference, disavowing large sectors of the population and bringing unintended consequences, hybridisations and negative peace outcomes. However, as much as this assumption has enabled the thinking of hybrid peace, it is in turn the source of its critique, as hybrid peace is also considered incapable of opening up to the needs and values of societies intervened in.

Second, Connolly’s speculative turn,[7] which radicalizes pluralism to emphasize the human inaccessibility to a world of becoming, is mobilised to grasp the direction that critiques are taking in debates of international intervention: there is a gradual transvaluation of the crisis of liberal peace. The earlier attempts to promote liberal democracy, to meet development standards, implement peace agreements or write plural constitutions are viewed with utter suspicion and condescension. Now it is clear that these efforts have largely been unsuccessful. However, rather than using these crises as opportunities to transform political and social orders, rather than placing confidence in human capacities either to govern autonomously or to assist meaningfully, critiques are learning to cope with the chronic hopelessness of every new attempt to intervene. Instead of providing new foundations for international relations, Connolly sets forth the wisdom of current critiques: the problem is not failing to be sensitive to difference, but thinking that a final pluralism can be articulated.[8]

The article, ‘Connolly and the never-ending critiques of liberal peace: from the privilege of difference to ’ is thus an attempt to foresee the consequence of critiques that disregard pluralism and continuously find new spaces to pluralize. The constant emphasis on the frustrating setbacks in peacebuilding processes is opening the space for a nihilistic world where peace can no longer be achieved, let alone built or facilitated. In other words, once it is appreciated that difference is always richer and more creative than peacebuilding frameworks, critical scholars actually start embracing the faultiness of international interventions. Vorarephilia – a paraphilia in which people feel sexual gratification in the idea of being eaten or eating another person – is used as a metaphor to draw attention to the transvaluation of the failure of liberal peace: rather than valuing peace and endorse a particular alternative strategy to liberal peace, the trend is to take a sceptical view of peacebuilding and indeed embrace the incapacity to produce a final intervention that is respectful of pluralism.

[1] Autesserre, Séverine. Peaceland. Conflict Resolution and the Everyday Politics of International Intervention. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Mac Ginty, Roger. International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance: Hybrid Forms of Peace.

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Richmond, Oliver P. A Post-Liberal Peace. London: Routledge, 2011.

———. Failed Statebuilding: Intervention, the State, and the Dynamics of Peace Formation. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014

Tadjbakhsh, Shahrbanou, ed. Rethinking the Liberal Peace. External Models and Local Alternatives. Abingdon: Routledge, 2011.

[2] Richmond, Oliver P. “A Pedagogy of Peacebuilding: Infrapolitics, Resistance, and Liberation.” International Political Sociology 6, no. 2 (2012): 126.

[3] Graef, Julian. Practicing Post-Liberal Peacebuilding: Legal Empowerment and Emergent Hybridity in

Liberia. London: Macmillan, 2015.

Heathershaw, John. “Towards Better Theories of Peacebuilding: Beyond the Liberal Peace

Debate.” Peacebuilding 1, no. 2 (June 1, 2013): 275–82.

Millar, Gearoid, Jaïr van der Lijn, and Willemijn Verkoren. “Peacebuilding Plans and Local

Reconfigurations: Frictions between Imported Processes and Indigenous Practices.”

International Peacekeeping 20, no. 2 (April 1, 2013): 137–43.

Rampton, David, and Suthaharan Nadarajah. “A Long View of Liberal Peace and Its Crisis.” European Journal of International Relations, June 16, 2016.

Wolff, Jonas, and Lisbeth Zimmermann. “Between Banyans and Battle Scenes: Liberal Norms, Contestation, and the Limits of Critique.” Review of International Studies 42, no. 3 (2016): 513–34.

[4] Richmond, Oliver P, and Roger Mac Ginty. “Where Now for the Critique of the Liberal

Peace?” Cooperation and Conflict 50, no. 2 (June 1, 2015): 172.

[5] Connolly, William E. Identity/Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox. Expanded ed. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.

———. Pluralism. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2005.

———. The Ethos of Pluralization. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.

[6] Connolly, William E. Identity/Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox. Expanded ed. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2002: 10.

[7] Connolly prefers the term ‘speculative realism’ or ‘immanent naturalism’ to ‘new materialism’ or ‘posthumanism’ in order to define his care for the ‘fragility of things’. This is an appreciation of the multiple entanglements between humans and non-humans and the imbrications of culture and nature in a cosmos that remains open, becoming, self-organizing, mysterious to human understandings. Connolly, William E. “The ‘New Materialism’ and the Fragility of Things” Millennium – Journal of International Studies 41, no. 3: 399–412.

[8] Connolly, William E. Identity/Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox. Expanded

  1. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2002: 175.

Pol Bargués-Pedreny received his PhD in International Relations from the University of Westminster (UK) in 2014. He has worked as a postdoctoc researcher at the Centre for Global Cooperation Research and the Institute for Development and Peace (both in Germany). Since October 2017, Bargués-Pedreny is a research associate at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and a visiting research fellow at IBEI.

His article ‘Connolly and the never-ending critiques of liberal peace: from the privilege of difference to vorarephilia’ was published by CRIA here.

Continue Reading

Regionalism in the Words of Latin American Presidents


Perhaps more than in any other region, reality and discourse stand in stark contrast when it comes to regionalism in Latin America. While the prospects of integration have always been rather dim and limited to rickety cooperation schemes, talk about the unity of Nuestra América (Spanish for Our America, in contrast to the America of the North) has been well alive since Bolívar and Martí, until the present day. Yet, scholarly work on Latin American regionalism has focused almost exclusively on integration (or better, the failure thereof) rather than on the unionist discourse. Our work takes a different perspective. It provides a comparative analysis of Latin American declaratory regionalism, that is, the practice of referring to the region and its institutions in political speeches.

The importance of presidents and their promises

If one is to analyse the gap between the practice and discourse of Latin American regionalism, presidents are the obvious place to begin. As heads of state, presidents wield the power of signing treaties. They also represent the interest of their country in international summits, where they act under little constraint by domestic constituencies.

Studying what presidents say about regionalism might seem irrelevant at first, but it is in fact highly important. First, since presidents can always choose not to mention anything about their region, doing so needs to be seen as a strategic decision. Second, talk creates expectations and can serve as a benchmark against which the actions of presidents are measured. In this way, thirdly, rhetoric can ‘entrap’ presidents by giving other actors leverage to make them do what they had promised.

To learn more about the pervasive phenomenon of Latin America’s declaratory regionalism, we chose to analyse the presidential speeches of 19 Latin American countries delivered at the annual United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA) meetings from 1994 to 2014. These can be found online here. The UNGA represents an interesting laboratory in which presidents address similar audiences in the same environment roughly at the same time. Therefore, we inferred, potential differences in declaratory regionalism must be due to factors other than particular constituencies or thematic emphases as set at by summits dealing with specific policy areas. What can we learn from these speeches? We limited our analysis to three questions: How much do presidents talk about their regions? How far do they see their region extending in terms of geography? And, in their view, how broad and how deep should regional commitments be?

Describing declaratory regionalism: How much? How far? How deep?

Presidents in different countries and years might refer to their regions with varying frequency. Effectively, we find that some presidents –particularly those of Peru and Panama– are more or less constantly inclined to talk about their region while others –those of Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico– are less prone to declaratory regionalism. Yet, the practice varies notably in time as presidencies come and go. During the 1990s, the most vociferous were those countries that heralded a more liberal understanding of regionalism, e.g. Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic and Paraguay, while the subsequent post-liberal regionalism of the 2000s brought to the forefront the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) – Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

We also find that the region varies in its geographical extension. Brazilian heads of state are the ones most inclined to refer to South America in their speeches. In fact, roughly one third of their references to any region are to this sub-region. Brazil’s partners of Mercosur (the Southern Common Market, Mercado Común del Sur) tend to follow a similar practice, while Colombian and Chilean presidents give almost no credence to such geographical construct at all. Overall, most Hispanic American states refer to Latin America as their primary region and smaller states also find comfort in a more comprehensive, hemispheric view of the Americas.

Finally, presidents’ understanding of how deep their engagement with the region should be varies quite notably, too. There are two forms of regionalism that need to be distinguished: cooperation and integration. References to cooperation denote a more narrow, even issue-specific and a more shallow type of engagement. Importantly, cooperation does not entail any transfer of sovereignty to a supranational bureaucracy, as this is the case with integration. Integration refers to a EU-like type of broad commitment where a certain transfer of sovereignty is required. We find that Latin American presidents used the term cooperation consistently more often to refer to an ever-broadening range of issues, primarily liberal policies such as institutions and markets. Integration, on the other hand, has been used in the same context of more limited policy areas and in relation to South American (rather than Latin American) projects like Mercosur and Unasur.

Explaining exaggeration

The last section of our analysis takes an explanatory turn. The puzzle that bothered us was the following: If presidents across Latin America all show a low disposition to renounce certain sovereign competences in order to promote regionalism, why do some of them talk about deepening and broadening their regional commitment, while others do not? To answer this question, we developed a count model analysing the frequency with which individual presidents referred to cooperation or integration, respectively.

Our analysis shows that as countries become more democratic and presidents move to the left on the ideological scale, references to integration in UNGA speeches increase considerably. At the same time, references to cooperation decrease. The results tap into a marked ideological divide where leftist presidents who see themselves primarily as Latin Americans or South Americans tend to be more prone to declaratory regionalism. Rightist presidents that see the Americas –including the United States– as their region of reference, on the other hand, speak less about regionalism and its institutions.

Yet, these are still preliminary conclusions. We hope that our efforts to shed light on the phenomenon of declaratory regionalism and to provide a sound methodology for its analysis will be followed by our colleagues for that the importance of presidential discourse in Latin American international politics has been unrightfully ignored.

Nicole Jenne is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Political Science, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Her research is on regional international relations and security governance with a special focus on South America and Southeast Asia. Her recent publications include: ‘The Thai-Cambodian Border Dispute: An Agencycentred Perspective on the Management of Interstate Conflict’ in Contemporary Southeast Asia. Nicole is currently preparing a book manuscript on the management of territorial disputes in South America and Southeast Asia and working on a research project that examines the effects of peacekeeping on the sending countries domestically. She holds a PhD from the European University Institute, Florence.

Luis Schenoni is a PhD student in the Political Science Department at the University of Notre Dame. He specializes in IR Theory, International Political Economy and Foreign Policy Analysis with a particular focus on Latin America. Before arriving to Notre Dame, Luis received his MA in International Studies from Torcuato Di Tella University (2012) and worked as Assistant Professor at the Argentine Catholic University, both in Buenos Aires. Luis is the author of a number of peer-reviewed articles and book chapters in English, Portuguese and Spanish, which analyze the dynamics of international politics in Latin America.

Francisco Urdinez is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Political Science of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. He received a joint-degree PhD from the University of São Paulo and King’s College London in the field of International Relations. Francisco researches issues related to International Political Economy, with a focus on emerging powers, particularly Brazil and China. Before being appointed as Assistant Professor in Chile he was a scholar of the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) in Brazil.

Their article ‘Of words and deeds: Latin American declaratory regionalism, 1994–2014‘ was published by CRIA here.

Image courtesy of By EneasMx – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Continue Reading

Terrorism in the textbook: Comparing national terrorism discourses based on school textbooks


Few people would doubt that terrorism is a major issue of current international affairs. However, the reasons for why it is relevant are contested. One the on side, terrorism scholars, policy makers and security professionals claim that terrorist attacks are threats to national and human security. Consequentially, it is crucial to study the actions and motives of terrorist groups and individuals.

Critical terrorism scholars, on the other hand, rather study the social construction, selective utilisation and political implications of knowledge about terrorism. For instance, according to the START database, terrorist incidents caused 34,676 fatalities in 2016. Road injuries, by contrast, kill around 1.3 million people each year. They are thus responsible for almost 38,000% more deaths than terrorist incidents but it is the latter, which have legitimised increased surveillance, political repression and military strikes in various countries.

So if knowledge of terrorism can be important in justifying policies, mobilising support and sustaining (or challenging) power relations, how can it be studied? Researchers have focused, for good reasons, on the academic literature, policy documents, speeches by decision makers, newspaper articles and TV shows to detect, analyse and de-construct dominant knowledge on terrorism.

In my study, I take a different perspective by analysing terrorism discourses in school textbooks. I do so for two reasons: first, school textbooks are good indicators of dominant political and (at least in democracies) societal discourses. They contain the knowledge deemed as valid and relevant enough to be passed on from one generation to the next. Second, school textbooks have a very wide coverage and privileged access to young people in a crucial phase of their political socialisation. More specifically, my analysis focuses on terrorism discourses as expressed in civics textbooks from Germany, India, Kenya and the USA between 2003 and 2014.

There are several surprising commonalities in the terrorism discourses in these politically and culturally heterogeneous countries: textbooks from all four countries conceive terrorism as a potentially severe threat, but hardly discuss specific actors, their motivations, or the reasons why they are classified as terrorists. In addition, the textbooks establish a (to borrow Helen Dexter’s term) ‘moral hierarchy of violence’.[1] Terrorist violence is unanimously considered as immoral and inappropriate, while the evaluation of other forms of violence (during the Indian independence struggle or in the context of US military campaigns, for example) is more ambivalent.

Consequentially, terrorists are conceived as a ‘phantom menace’: they are a threat and use illegitimate violence, but it is neither sure who (exactly) they are nor whether they have any motives for their actions. This strengthens the functionality of the label terrorism to justify exceptional policies and stigmatise certain groups. In addition, there is a strong association between Islamic states or groups on the one hand and terrorism on the other hand. Other forms of violence, which could well be labelled terrorism, for instance by the German National-Socialist Underground, anti-abortionists in the USA, or ethno-nationalist groups in Kenya and India are hardly an issue.

However, there are also significant differences between the terrorism discourses in all four countries, some of which are quite surprising for a Western scholar. For instance, in the US, terrorism is clearly framed as a national security issue, while Kenyan textbooks portray terrorism as a threat to a specific economic sector; tourism (terrorist attacks ‘scare away visitors’). To a certain degree, Indian textbooks share the Kenyan concern about the economic impacts of terrorism. This potentially reflects the severe economic challenges both countries face when compared to high-income countries like the US or Germany. Further, in US textbooks, the pros and cons of military interventions against terrorist threats are discussed in a rather balanced way, while German and Indian discourses are highly sceptical of (particularly unilateral US) military strikes.

From an analytical and postcolonial perspective, my analysis indicates a hybrid internationalisation of terrorism discourses. On the one hand, there is some convergence towards Western understandings of terrorism as principally immoral, a severe threat and carried out by non-state, predominantly Islamist groups. However, these discourses are recontextualised through specific national and local lenses. Examples include the Kenyan emphasis on tourism or the Indian focus on the Pakistani other. The results are hybrid glocal discourses, which, while having converged towards a Western understanding, are also characterised by distinct national particularities.

[1] Dexter, Helen (2012): Terrorism and violence: another violence is possible? Critical Studies on Terrorism 5(1): 123

Tobias Ide is Coordinator of the Research Field Peace and Conflict at the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research as was recently a research fellow at the School of Geography, University of Melbourne. He received a PhD in geography from the University of Hamburg and an MA in political science from the University of Leipzig. His work focuses on the dynamics of, representations of, and interactions between environmental change, terrorism and violent conflict.

His article,’Terrorism in the textbook: a comparative analysis of terrorism discourses in Germany, India, Kenya and the United States based on school textbooks’, was published by CRIA here.



Continue Reading

The importance of external networks in the implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy



Networks of actors situated on the outside of an organization can play an important role in cases where new issues are introduced into a policy area because they may help to overcome resistance to change and offer critical expertise with respect to feasible measures or new policies. The implementation of resolution 1325 ‘Women, Peace and Security’ adopted by the United Nations Security Council on October 31 of 2000 (hereafter UNSCR 1325) in the Common Security and Defence Policy of the European Union (CSDP) offers an illustrative example of this thesis. Gender advocates within the United Nations (UN) as well as civil society organizations (NGOs) provided knowledge to and exerted pressure on the EU with respect to the resolution.

UNSCR 1325 appeals to governments and regional organizations to meet the ‘urgent need to mainstream a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations’[1]. Although the EU has been an outspoken proponent of the resolution within the UN and established a positive track record with respect to gender regarding economic as well as social matters, responses to the resolution in the CSPD have only been slow in coming. In 2006, the European Council adopted a checklist for ‘when and where to mainstream gender’ in the CSDP on the policy level[2], which, however, was criticized by gender experts for its noncommittal stance, its vagueness, and its lack of specific instructions as to how gender mainstreaming might be achieved in practice[3]. Only in 2008, the EU released its first substantive policy document related to the UNSCR 1325 entitled ‘The Comprehensive Approach’, which envisions ‘a three-pronged approach to protect, support and empower women in conflict’[4]. Since then, the Council has developed several strategies for gender mainstreaming the CSDP[5] and in 2010, adopted a set of indicators for the implementation of UNSCR 1325[6] on the basis of which member states regularly provide progress reports[7] (Council 2011, 2014). Finally, in September 2015, the European External Action Service (EEAS) appointed Mara Marinaki as the first Principal Advisor on Gender and on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 whose professed aim it is to ‘work to enhance the visibility and effective prioritization of gender and WPS [women, peace and security] in the EU’s external action and to assist the work of the UN, in close consultation with all UN services and agencies’[8].

The measures taken by the Council are somewhat surprising. On the one hand, ‘gender mainstreaming is a demanding strategy, which requires policy-makers to adopt new perspectives, acquire new expertise and change their established operating procedures’[9] and, on the other hand, the CSDP did not exhibit any of the conditions that scholars consider critical for the gender mainstreaming of a particular policy field, including prior exposure to gender-related issues and the presence of civil society actors[10] as well as resources, such as a full-time staff or individual agencies dedicated to gender[11]. So how can we explain the incorporation of UNSCR 1325 into the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy?

Change within the CSDP and action in response to the resolution was instigated from outside of the organization. Gender advocates who participated in networks below and above the EU level and who ‘share[ed] similar values especially on women, peace and security’[12] played a crucial role in championing gender mainstreaming in the field of security and defence. From above the EU, UN Women provided technical expertise and advice to the EEAS on the implementation of UNSCR 1325[13]. From below, civil society organizations created momentum for the resolution and ‘pushed the EU to the effective implementation of benchmarks …’[14], the development of indicators of sexual violence and the continuation of ‘consultations [on the subject] already [in existence] for a few years in the EU institutions with NGOs, civil society and UN agencies’[15]. Two civil society organizations assumed a particularly prominent role: ISIS Europe frequently provided feedback on the implementation process and the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO), a platform for European NGOs, networks and think tanks, in turn, acted as a clearing house that documented and provided information about EU policy initiatives and offered policy advice and specific recommendations[16].

The activities of UN Women and civil society organizations were assisted by prominent individuals who themselves were members of various networks, such as, for example, Margot Wallström. She was an ‘active broker’ between the international and European level because of her previous appointment as the European Commissioner for the Environment and, later, as the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict[17]. Together with her, the transnational network of gender advocates mobilized the support of ‘[a]ctors in positions of power’ inside the EU who ‘use[d] their authority to change the “rules of the game”’[18] and to gain acceptance for greater recognition of gender in policies related to security and defence. France, in particular, emerged as an outspoken promoter of the resolution during its EU Presidency. Owing to its close engagement with UN Women and civil society organizations, it was not only instrumental in the conception of the Comprehensive Approach adopted in 2008[19], but also gave rise to the Informal Task Force on Women, Peace and Security in 2009, which consists of ‘15 gender staff and gender focal points across all the EU institutions working on gender, peace and security’[20]. In addition to France, several Nordic countries including Sweden, Denmark and Finland came out in support of the resolution as well which was reflective of their active engagement with UNSCR 1325 at the national level[21].



[1] UNSC (2000) Resolution 1325 (2000): adopted by the Security Council at its 4213th meeting, on 31 October 2000’, SRES document S/RES/1325 (2000), 31 October 2000:2 (New York, NY: United Nations Security Council), <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[2] Council (2006) ‘Check list to ensure gender mainstreaming and implementation of UNSCR 1325 in the planning and conduct of ESDP operations’, 12086/06 (Brussels: Council of the European Union), 27 July, <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[3] Gya, Giji (2007) ‘The importance of gender in ESDP’, European Security Review, 34: 6 <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[4] Council (2008) ‘Comprehensive approach to the EU implementation of the United Nations security council resolutions 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security’, 15671/1/08REV1: 11 (Brussels: Council of the European Union), 1 December, <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[5] Council (2008a) ‘Implementation of UNSCR 1325 as reinforced by UNSCR 1820 in the context of ESDP’, 15782/3/08, REV 3 (Brussels: Council of the European Union), 3 December, < pdf>, accessed 15 February 2016 and Council (2008b) Mainstreaming human rights and gender into European security and defence policy (Brussels: Council of the European Union), <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[6] Council (2010) ‘Indicators for the Comprehensive Approach to the EU implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security’, 11948/10: 7(Brussels: Council of the European Union) 14 July, <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[7] Council (2011) ‘Report on the EU-indicators for the Comprehensive Approach to the EU implementation of the UN Security Council UNCRs 1325 & 1820 on women, peace and security’, 9990/11 (Brussels: Council of the European Union) 11 May, <>, accessed 15 February 2016 and Council (2014) Second report on the EU-indicators for the Comprehensive Approach to the EU implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 & 1820 on women, peace and security, 6219/14 (Brussels: Council of the European Union) 6 February, <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[8] EEAS (2015) EU statement: 15th anniversary and global review of UNSCR 1325 (New York, NY) 13 October 2015, <<>>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[9] Pollack, Mark A and Emilie Hafner-Burton (2000) ‘Mainstreaming gender in the European Union’, Journal of European Public Policy, 7:3, 432–456.

[10] Ibid.

[11] European Parliament (2009a) Gender mainstreaming in EU external relations: European Parliament resolution of 7 May 2009 on gender mainstreaming in EU external relations and peace-building/nationbuilding (2008/2198[INI]) (Brussels: European Parliament) 7 May, <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

European Parliament (2009b) Gender mainstreaming and empowerment of women in EU’s external relations instruments (Brussels: European Parliament): 42 <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[12] Authors’ interview, 8 January 2016

[13] Authors’ interview, 19 November 2015

EU and UN Women (2012) Memorandum of understanding between the European Union and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) (Brussels: European Union and UN Women) 16 April: 2 <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[14] European Parliament (2010) Implementation of EU policies following the UN Security Council Resolution 1325: 19 (Brussels: European Parliament) <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[15] European Parliament (2009b) Gender mainstreaming and empowerment of women in EU’s external relations instruments (Brussels: European Parliament): 42 <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[16] Joachim, Jutta, Jenichen, Anne, and Schneiker, Andrea (2017) ‘External networks and institutional idiosyncrasies: the Common Security and Defence Policy and UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs DOI:10.1080/09557571.2017.1313196.

[17] European Parliament (2010) Implementation of EU policies following the UN Security Council Resolution 1325: 10 (Brussels: European Parliament) <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[18] Mackay, Fiona, Meryl Kenny and Louise Chappell (2010) ‘New institutionalism through a gender lens: towards a feminist institutionalism?’, International Political Science Review, 31:5, 573–588

[19] European Parliament (2010) Implementation of EU policies following the UN Security Council Resolution 1325: 35 (Brussels: European Parliament) <>, accessed 15 February 2016.

[20] Ibid: 32

[21] Joachim, Jutta, Jenichen, Anne, and Schneiker, Andrea (2017) ‘External networks and institutional idiosyncrasies: the Common Security and Defence Policy and UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs DOI:10.1080/09557571.2017.1313196.

Jutta Joachim is professor of International Relations at Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands. She is author of Agenda Setting, the UN, and NGOs: Gender Violence and Reproductive Rights (Georgetown University Press) and co-editor of International Organizations and Implementation: Enforcers, Managers, Authorities and Transnational Activism in the UN and the EU: A Comparative

Study (both Routledge Press). Numerous articles of her have appeared among others in International Studies Quarterly, the German Journal for International Relations, Security Dialogue, Millennium, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Comparative European Politics and the Journal of European Public Policy. Her areas of expertise are international security, international organizations, nonstate actors, and gender and international relations.

Andrea Schneiker is junior professor of political science at the University of Siegen, Germany. She is the author of Humanitarian NGOs, (In)Security and Identity: Epistemic Communities and Security Governance (Routledge, 2015). Her research on state and non-state actors in international security has been published in numerous refereed international journals such as International Studies Review, International Studies Perspectives, Disasters, Millennium, Security Dialogue, VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations.

Anne Jenichen lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University, Birmingham (UK). She holds degrees from Free University Berlin and the University of Bremen (Germany). Her research interests include change in international organizations and the impact of international norms, both particularly in Europe, as well as human rights governance, with a special focus on women’s rights and the rights of religious minorities. Her publications include ‘Political innovation in internationalized post-war contexts: Bosnian women’s rights policy in comparative perspective’ (Springer, 2012) as well as journal articles and contributions to edited volumes.


Their article ‘External networks and institutional idiosyncrasies: the Common Security and Defence Policy and UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security’ funded by Folke Bernadotte Academy, Sweden can be found here.


Continue Reading

European military deployment: making sense of the EU member states’ varying military engagements


When looking at the turmoil swirling around Europe’s immediate and wider neighbourhood, one can only conclude that military operations will, in all likelihood, continue to be a necessary instrument to protect the interests of the EU member states. Moreover, as has become blatantly clear after the election of Trump, the United States will be less and less willing to assume a leading role in operations in and around Europe. In consequence, the member states will be more and more required to meet demands for military crisis management themselves. Operations where one member state is willing and able to successfully conduct the operation with minimal support from the rest of the EU will probably not become the standard for European military interventions. In consequence, Europeans will need to collaborate to foster sufficient resources to meet the continuous demand for military crisis management.

The pattern of European military deployments in the post-Cold War period provides both reasons for optimism and concern on whether or not such cooperation will be possible in the near future. On the plus side, the EU member states have been far less reluctant to deploy military force than their image as a civilian[1] or soft[2] power suggests. In fact, between 20,000 and 80,000 European troops have been deployed outside of their home country for most of the last two decades. Moreover, the bulk of the member states’ armed forces was deployed alongside troops from other member states. Almost every EU member made a substantial contribution to three of the most significant operations involving European forces: the NATO-led Stabilisation Force and Kosovo Force that are deployed in the Former Yugoslavia and the ISAF-operation in Afghanistan.

However, other operations revealed strong differences between the member states willingness to deploy military force. The 2003 Iraq War exposed the deepest divisions amongst the EU members. While member states like France, Germany and Belgium vehemently opposed the intervention, Denmark, Poland, the UK and many other member states provided strong military support to the United States. Eight years later, the air campaign over Libya again revealed significant differences between the member states. While France and the UK took the lead of the international coalition that would eventually cause the fall of the Qaddafi regime, other key member states like Poland and Germany did not deploy any military assets in support of the air campaign. Likewise, the majority of troops deployed in the 2006 CSDP operation in Congo was provided by France and Germany, while the UK only participated with two staff officers in this operation. Two years later, both Germany and the UK decided not to contribute to EUFOR Chad, in which small member states Ireland and Austria participated with 400 and 180 troops respectively.

The scholarly literature on military burden sharing, third-party intervention in civil war, peacekeeping operations and democratic peace offers a wide range of plausible explanations for the member states’ varying levels of military engagement. While collective-action-based explanations draw attention to the differing military capabilities of the member states, explanations inspired by realist theories emphasize their varying interests and alliance relations with the United States. Other strands of academic research suggest that member states whose resources are already stretched thin by other deployments will refrain from new military engagements or that whether a state has a tradition of participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations is crucial for their future military commitments. Theories of domestic politics, in turn, highlight the importance of electoral cycles and institutional constraints on decision-makers, such as parliamentary veto power or constitutional restrictions. Lastly, in contrast to the adagio that politics stops at the water’s edge, the ideological composition of the member states’ governments also provides a plausible explanation for their differing military commitments.

An analysis presented in a recent article in CRIA examined which of the aforementioned conditions explain the pattern of member state contributions to five recent military operations: EUFOR Congo, UNIFIL II, EUFOR Chad, the 2011 military intervention in Libya and the air strikes against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The results of this study indicate that the availability of military resources was of crucial importance, but only resulted in actual contributions if a member state either had a high level of trade with the wider region in which the operation took place or a tradition of participating in UN peacekeeping operations and the operation was deployed in support of the UN peacekeeping system. However, the operation against Islamic State deviates from this general pattern. Member states participated in the strike operations if a large number of foreign fighters to the terrorist group and domestic legal rules did not prohibit participation.

More generally, the results of the study show that the pattern of member state participation in military operations is not entirely random, nor determined by unsteady domestic conditions. Instead, varying capabilities and expected benefits explain most of the member states’ differing patterns of military participation in the operations under investigation. This suggests great potential for closer cooperation in the development of military capabilities. Increased cooperation and specialization in capability terms yields benefits in financial and capability terms but comes at the price of reduced national autonomy, since each member states’ ability to conduct operations would depend on its partners’ willingness to grant access to their capabilities.[4] However, the conclusion that military participation is mostly determined by capabilities and relatively stable conditions like peacekeeping tradition and regional trade interests suggests that it should be possible for the member states to find reliable partners for far-reaching cooperation and specialization in security and defence policy.

[1] Moravcsik, Andrew (2009) ‘Europe: The quiet superpower’, French politics, 7:3, 403-22 (URL:

[2] Giegerich, Bastian and Wallace, William (2004) ‘Not such a soft power: the external deployment of European forces’, Survival, 46:2, 163-82 (URL:

[4] Giegerich, Bastian and Nicoll, Alexander (2012) ‘The Struggle for Value in European Defence’, Survival, 54:1, 53-82 (URL:

Dr Tim Haesebrouck is a post-doctoral researcher at Ghent University, Belgium. He finished his PhD on European military operations in 2016. His research interests include military intervention, defence burden sharing, the Responsibility to Protect, and the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy. His work has been published in Journal of Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy Analysis, Journal of European Public Policy and Cambridge Review of International Affairs.

His article ‘EU member state participation in military operations: a configurational comparative analysis’ was published online by CRIA here

Continue Reading

The terror of transparency

As I exit customs and walk into the concourse area of the airport I am greeted by familiar sounds and images. The departure terminal appears in front of me as a patchwork of restaurants, cafés and shops. Walking towards the duty free area my body absorbs the sounds of carts, moving walkways, boarding calls and passengers in transit. This could be any major international airport. I glance at the blue sky through the transparent ceiling while moving towards a virtual map. The map plots out the terminal in detail: anodyne shops and restaurants, kid’s lounge areas, a yoga studio, prayer rooms, a barber shop, and other amenities filling every digital interstice. I view myself (“you are here”) in relation to the display. The self-referential and sterile terminal-world that unfolds is structured according to the logic of algorithms and indexes of consumer patterns. It is a microcosm surrounding me, in which everything is visible, tangible, interconnected and given.

Being at the airport reminds me of French philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s insistence that the global subject lives in an era marked by a “terror” of transparency. As he wrote on Centre Pompidou, its see-through interior and interactive flowchart milieus indicate a space of control articulated by total visibility. Arguably, his critique precedes our era: from GPS to Google maps, from TripAdvisor to Instagram surveillance; from Tinder-dating to the biopolitics of MyFitnessPal, the world we live in is gradually losing whatever veil it once had. The students in my war studies courses speak nostalgically about the 1980’s, an era they take as indicative of a world that was not comprehensively mapped up and known – a world in which travel implied the possibility of getting lost. As I stare at the interactive terminal map at the airport I can see their point: we live in a world of measurability and predictability. Thanks to technology, we struggle to get lost.

I stroll past World Duty Free to the sound of news imagery from last night’s US strikes in Syria. Footage of the aftermath of cruise missiles tearing up Syrian army bases pulsate alongside commercials. There are significant differences between the interior ambience of an airport and the logics of war but there are also common denominators. Much like the airport, war is socially invested and coded. If we take the time to read military doctrines we notice organisational practices aiming to create war as an operational and efficient microcosm. The military architecture, much like the flowchart of the airport, helps to socially construct the world around us. As the footage from Syria illustrates, this is not a discrete battle-space. Rather, the military microcosm impinges on our world as an ever-expanding ‘area of operations’ demarcated and striated by military camps, lines of communication, ideas of range, trajectories, and logistics. In so doing it unfolds according to the duration of a predictable “battle rhythm” that strives to coordinate, prepare, and execute warfare in a universal military time-zone (“zulu time”).

As the bombings in Syria indicate, ours is a time characterised by ‘Global Strike’ – the military capability to strike wherever, whenever – from a distance. The military architecture is an embodiment of the hunter’s view; an ever-increasing visibility and better and better imagery of the future battle-field. War is all about fantasies of transparency. Its microcosm is controlled according to strict logics that analyse when “something is out of the ordinary”, monitors and deduces large-scale patterns of life, enters them into plot-sheets so as to anticipate actions and erase future threats in real-time.

The path along the airport is predetermined and fulfilled. The interior that surrounds me has no potential for becoming differently There is no wondering what will be around the corner. Thanks to the “terror” of transparency and total visibility, we might never get lost again. I stare indifferently as the imagery of Tomahawks replay once again on the screens next to me; a feedback loop. “You are here” the digital map at the airport tells me.

Dan Öberg is Associate Professor of War Studies, Department of Military Science, Swedish Defence University, Stockholm, and a STINT visiting professor at Tokyo University. His current research and teaching focus on war and warfare from a critical perspective. His recent publications include research articles in Millennium Journal of International Studies, International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, and Journal of Narrative Politics.

His recent article ‘War, transparency and control: the military architecture of operational warfare’ was published online by CRIA here

Continue Reading

Studying small states in international security affairs: a quantitative analysis

The international security architecture of today has incrementally evolved through numerous international negotiations taking place in a broad variety of international organisations and regimes. Over time, this has led to a large body of international security rules and norms, covering a wide range of different security issues, such as nuclear weapons and non-proliferation, arms trade, disarmament, interventions, conflict resolution or peace-building. Thus, multilateral negotiations provide crucial building blocks for the current international security architecture.

Despite the great importance of international security negotiations for international security practices, there is little comparative scholarly work on the negotiation dynamics across a variety of different contexts and between many different state actors. My article “Studying small states in international security affairs: a quantitative analysis” seeks to fill this gap. It studies dynamics of 100 different international security negotiations and examines differences in the participation of states. To this end, it addresses the general questions: How vocal are states in international security negotiations? Are some rather silent while others participate more actively despite the fact that voicing a national position is important to make a mark? The paper also addresses the specific question whether and if so why smaller states differ from larger states in how they act in international security negotiations.

International security negotiations take place in a variety of different context. This encompasses two of the UN’s six principle organs, the first committee of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA-C1) and the Security Council (SC), as well as several international organisations and regimes created and subsumed under the UN umbrella, such as the ATT regime and the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In 100 negotiations taking place between 2008 and 2012, coding of the records (in verbatim protocols, minutes, press releases) captures how often each state speaks up in a negotiation. This reveals that there is considerable variation in the extent to which states participate in negotiating international security rules and norms.

On average a state spoke up 36.29% of the time. The most vocal countries are the U.S. (204 speeches), Iran (188 speeches), Russia (166 speeches), France (157 speeches), the UK (137 speeches), Pakistan (135 speeches), Brazil (130 speeches), and Canada (129 speeches). On the other end of the spectrum, countries such as the Republic of Congo, Greece, Mali, and Mozambique made only five speeches each and the Central African Republic, Tajikistan, Tuvalu, Benin, or Kiribati even remained totally silent. The fact that some countries voice positions very often, while others remain completely silent in international security negotiations is puzzling for several reasons. First, in these contexts the international security architecture is negotiated, which is important for all states. Second, actively participating in international security negotiations is not only an expression of state sovereignty, but also a means to influence the shape of the international security architecture. Hence, all states should be motivated to actively participate in the international organisations and regimes that deal with international security issues.

In order to explain the puzzling variation between how active states are in international security negotiations, the paper distinguishes between capacity and incentives as driving forces of state activity. The empirical examination of the plausibility of the hypotheses through a combination of quantitative regression analysis and narrative interview evidence reveals that – in line with realism – smaller states are indeed often less vocal when it comes to negotiating international security. Yet, unlike realism, this activity gap between smaller and larger states is not only due to power differences, but also differences in financial capacities. Smaller states have slimmer budgets for the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in their capitals and for the negotiation teams at the headquarters of the international security organisations or the international security regimes. Thus, unlike larger states, smaller states are more often confronted with situations in which the cannot actively participate in international security negotiations, either because the MFA was not quick enough to develop national positions for all ongoing issues and send negotiation instructions to the diplomats at the international negotiation table, or because the number of diplomats the small state has posted to the international negotiation arena is too small to cover all ongoing negotiations. The article shows that not only political and financial capacities matter, but incentives as well. States with strong incentives in military affairs are more active in international security negotiations, while smaller and poorer states are more likely to shelter under the security umbrella of larger counterparts instead of getting active themselves.

However, smaller states can punch above their weights and become active in international security negotiations, but this requires adjustments. Smaller states have fewer capacities and cannot cover all international negotiation issues to the same extent and with the same intensity as larger and richer states. Yet, smaller states can revisit their priorities and adjust them when need be in order to free resources from other negotiations in order to closely follow international security negotiations.

Diana Panke holds the Chair in ‘Multi-Level Governance’ at University of Freiburg. Her research interests include international negotiations, multilateral diplomacy, comparative regionalism, small states in international affairs, European Union politics as well as compliance and legalisation. In these fields, she has published several monographs and journal articles (including BJPIR, RIO, IPSR, EJIR, CPS, Cooperation and Conflict, Millennium, JCMS, JEPP, WEP, JEP and International Politics).


Continue Reading

EU visa liberalization, Eastern Partnership countries and Russia: challenges and outcomes


In recent years, the massive inflow of refugees to the European Union has conspicuously exposed the crucial role of neighbouring countries in migration flows to the EU, either as countries of origin (as has been the case for Syria over the past few years) or transit for migrants on their way to Europe. Therefore, while the EU pursues its migration policy worldwide, it places a particular emphasis on its eastern and southern fringes.

The EU seeks to act as a driver of change in its vicinity to prevent the emergence of ‘new dividing lines’ across the continent and simultaneously ‘reinforcing stability and security’ in adjacent areas (European Neighbourhood Policy created in 2004). For post-Soviet countries, a visa-free regime is the biggest incentive that the EU can offer in the short-term. Therefore, it constitutes a powerful EU leverage over the reform process in countries like Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova or Armenia. Visa liberalization has also emerged as a prominent issue in the agenda of cooperation with Russia. Until cooperation was frozen in response to the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine, EU actors shared the view that the visa dialogue is a long-term process and an opportunity per se to raise issues related to human rights and democracy with their Russian counterparts.

While visa liberalization is a major expectation of Eastern neighbours, the EU’s visa policy is fraught with tensions between two potentially competing objectives: on the one hand, the transformation of the partner countries through the promotion of core values (such as the rule of law, democracy and human rights) and people-to-people contacts; and on the other hand, the pursuance of the EU’s security interests in its neighbourhood, that has emerged as a buffer zone playing a crucial role in keeping the irregular migrants outside the EU’s borders.

In essence, the EU’s policy mirrors a (potentially swinging) pendulum between normative and security drivers. Intra-EU dynamics (in particular, EU actors’ preferences and bargaining among them) frame the initial balance between normative and security objectives in the formulation of the visa liberalization agenda. Whereas for the European Parliament and eastern EU member states this agenda should be used to transform Eastern partners and to scrutinize human rights compliance, some other EU member states (e.g. France and the Netherlands) prioritize security issues. In light of the differences between other EU actors (especially within the Council), the technical and monitoring role of the Commission is pivotal, especially at key stages of the visa liberalization.

However, while the substance of EU demands predominantly mirrors security concerns, interaction with the partner countries and adjustments to the regional context have significantly altered the balance between normative and security objectives by triggering a shift towards the former. Since 2014, the EU has indeed used the visa liberalization process as a major instrument to sanction Russia’s actions in Ukraine in violation of international law. With Eastern Partnership countries like Georgia and Ukraine, the EU (whatever the security concerns raised by its member states) has been cautious about not delaying further the visa liberalization process, as this would entail huge political costs for the elites and may undermine support for European integration in the partner countries. This interplay calls for analysing EU external policies as dynamic processes that are shaped through shifting interactions between EU actors and third countries.


Sandra Fernandes is Assistant Professor at the University of Minho in the Department of International Relations and Public Administration (School of Economics and Management). She is Deputy-Director of the Department, Head of the BA in International Relations and Head of the MA in International Relations. She is also a full member of the Research Center of Political Science [CICP] at UMinho. Her research interests are in the field of international relations with a focus on European Studies, Post-Soviet Studies, EU-Russia relations, Foreign Policy Analysis and Security Studies. She is a specialist on Europe-Russia political and security relations.

Laure Delcour is scientific coordinator and research fellow of the EU FP7 CASCADE project at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme. Her research interests focus on the diffusion and reception of EU norms, policy and institutional templates in the Eastern neighbourhood and on region-building in the post-Soviet area. She is currently a Principal investigator under a French-UK (ANR-ESRC) research project analysing the EU’s influence on domestic change in the Eastern neighbourhood. She is also a Visiting Professor at the College of Europe (EU International Relations Department).

Their recent article ‘Visa liberalization processes in the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood: understanding policy outcomes’ was published online by CRIA here

Continue Reading

Of Military Coups, Purges and Interventions: Turkey’s Syria Dilemma


On the evening of 15th July 2016, I landed in Istanbul and crossed the buzzing capital to embark a ferry that took me a few miles away to the beautiful island Büyükada, to participate in a two-day workshop organized by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars together with the Global Political Trends Center, Kültür University in Istanbul. The topic of discussions was Iran’s relations with its neighbours one year after the nuclear agreement made with P5+1. Cruising the Bosphorus in spectacular sunset in the company of two Turkish ladies met on their way to visit their family, little did I know that a military coup was in the making…let alone that the workshop’s participants would be accused of staging it. That same evening, after receiving messages from relatives inquiring about military operations in Turkey, I tuned into the few channels available in the hotel and watched in bewilderment as President Erdoğan issued an appeal over FaceTime for people to take the streets and oppose the putschists. During the night, muezzins in the mosques relayed the call for public mobilization. Police cars and navy gathered massively on the island.

After the failed attempt, I spent a few days in Istanbul. In the city, the feeling of national unity was overwhelming. I tweeted about the impressive mobilization at Taksim Square where thousands of pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP, Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi) crowds mingled with secularists and far-right nationalists. Syrian refugees waved the flag of the Syrian revolution to celebrate the failure to topple the government that offered them asylum.

A few weeks later, a pro-Erdoğan newspaper published an article on how ‘US-sponsored conspirators’ had gathered on Büyükada to plot the coup. They were talking about our policy workshop (!), which was significantly less exciting. They had it all figured out. After all, Büyükada was the island where the British government conspired in 1919! Now, the US government was doing what the British had done nearly a century ago. Actually, workshop participants were not predominantly from the US but from the region (Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey). A few were former diplomats and the majority were scholars and think tank experts from the Woodrow Wilson Center, the International Crisis Group and the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Being accused of both plotting a military coup and being an agent of foreign powers was very serious for me. Although the allegations were sufficiently outlandish for them to gain any real traction, I took great offence as a citizen and academic from the region. Throughout my career, I’ve made a point to preserve my professional and moral integrity and maintain my independence from state agencies inside and outside the region. But none of this had any value whatsoever in confronting the newspapers. No matter how I tried, I could not get the Turkish press to retract the allegations or publish my statement.

On a broader level, this coup initiated a two-fold reaction on the part of the Turkish government. Domestically, Erdoğan initiated a massive campaign against alleged Gulenists, targeting any individual suspected of dissent. It made no difference that many of our Turkish colleagues present at the workshop were Erdoğan sympathizers; one even wrote a weekly column for Karar, a renowned pro-AKP newspaper. They were interrogated and publicly shamed; and until this day, several of them remain suspended from their position.

One month later, on August 24th 2016, Erdoğan sent his army along with Free Syrian Army fighters into Syrian territory. This military intervention came after five years of troubled relations with the Southern neighbour. Syria and Turkey used to boast about their ‘common destiny, history and future’. The mutual relation transformed from enmity in the 1990s to détente in the early 2000s, grew into amity after AKP’s rise to power in 2002, and reverted back to enmity in the aftermath of the Syrian uprising. In the process, Syria and Turkey’s ‘special’ relation collapsed. After March 2011, the Syrian crisis morphed into full-blown violence, adding to the immense death toll, the number of wounded civilians, massive human displacement inside and outside the country, and unprecedented levels of physical and cultural destruction. Since then, the Syrian regime lost control of wide swathes of its territory to Kurds, Islamist opposition fighters and, after 2013, to Jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). During this time, Turkey experienced increased turbulence on its territory. The conflict led to an influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees, an emboldened Kurdish militant movement, which spread from its remote mountains to the heart of South-Eastern cities such as Diyarbakir and Cizre, and which was re-empowered by the proclamation in November 2013 of Western Kurdistan (Rojava) in Northern and North-Eastern Syria, as well as cross-border operations perpetrated by ISIS.

According to Turkish scholars met in the workshop, Erdoğan’s new foreign policy was motivated by the twin domestic threats of ISIS and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In previous months, Turkey pursued a parallel military and diplomatic strategy: to increase military support to Syrian opposition groups in the northern Aleppo province to counter the Kurdish (PYD/YPG)-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF); to seek new international partners by mending relations with Russia. By launching direct military operations, Turkey sought to weaken the Kurds as America’s main security partner in northern Syria.

Internationally, the coup prompted the activation of meetings between Erdoğan and Putin. This rapprochement with Russia, Assad’s main ally, initiated a change in Turkey’s official language and approach to the Syrian regime. For the first time since 2011, an official statement called for the participation of Syrian leadership in future negotiation processes. The future of Syria was discussed at the end January 2017 in Astana (Kazakhstan) between Turkey, Iran and Russia – so far with no significant breakthrough between the selected Syrian representatives at the table. It is yet too early to assess whether these recent foreign policy re-alignments, combined with strategic developments linked to the recapture of Aleppo by the Syrian Government thanks to Russia, Iran, Iraq and Hizbullah’s support, will initiate a new chapter in Turkey and Syria’s relations, and what consequences lie ahead for Syrian opposition groups and refugees in Turkey. But the consequences are far-reaching. And while Erdoğan continues to face an insoluble dilemma on the South-Eastern front, he also initiated a disturbing new chapter on the domestic front.


Marwa Daoudy is Assistant Professor in International Relations at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Prior to arriving at Georgetown, she taught at the University of Oxford’s department of Politics and International Relations and was a fellow of Oxford’s Middle East Center at St Antony’s College (UK). Her recent article published in CRIA Volume 29, 2016, Issue 3 ‘The structure-identity nexus: Syria and Turkey’s collapse (2011)’ can be found online as a Free to Access article here


Continue Reading