Entradas con Categorías Global Affairs Oriente Medio .

Iran Country Risk Report (May 2019)

The sanctions that the United States is implementing against the Islamic Republic of Iran since November 2018 are the toughest sanctions ever imposed on Iran. They threaten to cut off foreign countries and companies dealing with Iran from the US financial system in order to deter business with Iran so to curtail the impact of proxy groups on the Middle East’s security and stability. The aim of this country report is to provide the most recent analysis of the Iran's economic and political situation, and estimate its evolution in the short and medium term. It presents an overlook of specific clues about matters related to political risk, as well as the effect that sanctions may have on the Iranian economy, and the prospects for political stability all over the region.

Alona Sainetska


Report [pdf. 13,5MB]



Effects of sanctions

The re-imposition of US sanctions will maintain the Iranian economy in recession during the remaining months of 2019. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the economic meltdown will be very unlikely to happen, as the volume of oil exports is still significant, crude prices are going to continue to rise and other major powers´ opinion will still differ from the US´s. The multinational companies dependent on US financial system will continue leaving the Iranian market, partially leading to declining of the foreign investment, but SMEs will be almost unaffected and new forms of trading are likely to emerge soon.

Iran is likely to build stronger economic and political ties with India, China and Russia, thus giving them more power and openness to new trading opportunities, basically due to lack of any other possible partner on the horizon in the mid-term.

The prices are likely to keep growing up in the following months reaching the average inflation of 31.2% in 2019-20; still the risk of hyperinflation is discarded due to the fact that Iran is able to meet a significant share of local demand through local production. 

Backed by support from the EU, Iran is promised to obtain in the mid-term a special mechanism of payments  (Special Purpose Vehicle) for its oil and other exports (possibly through a barter system) in order to conduct trading outside of the competence of the US sanctions. This is likely to create some tensions between Europe and the US but they will not be powerful enough to split the long-lasting alliance between the two.

Oil and gas

The Iran´s production of oil will probably continue to decrease affecting the world´s oil price.

Five from the eight initial major buyers (Italy, Greece and Taiwan have already stopped their purchases from Iran) are and will be buying Iranian oil now that the waivers have been extended for the following 90 days. Thereby, the Iranian oil will still remain in demand during the following years, and Iran´s government is likely to find solutions for its selling and exportation, even though illegally, in the mid and long-term. Thus, the United States is unlikely to meet its earlier target of driving Iranian oil exports to zero.

Iraq will continue to buy natural gas from Iran in order to use it in the production of electricity, becoming the second largest customer. Taking into account the fact that there is a sort of competence between US and Iran for the influence over Iraq, it can fuel a further deterioration of their relations. It is also plausible that more buyers will emerge if some new forms of trading, which do not rely on dollar, appear soon.

Even though the modest production growth is likely to continue, Iran won´t be able to unilaterally monetize its natural gas resources due to lack of financial partners and the investment, especially from the West. However, it will be able to fulfil its domestic demand and sustain trade with Turkey.

Iran’s ability to increase production and exports of natural gas will be almost improbable, unless the relations with the United States are improved or support from international partners in defiance of sanctions is reinforced. Nevertheless, if Iran manages to accomplish current development projects, its export pipeline capacity will increase from 46.4 bcm/year in 2018, to 119.7 bcm/year to the regional and global markets in a long run. China, India and Pakistan will play a significant role in Iran´s natural gas sector.

The domestic scene

Iran will continue demonstrating considerable resilience in coping with US sanctions, and is likely to continue to fully implement the commitments of JCPOA as long as China, Russia, or countries which are non-members of the deal, such as India, continue to trade with it, and if EU continues maintaining its constructive attitude. In this case, even a greater international support and United Nations diplomatic intervention is expected in the mid-term. However, on a longer run, the JCPOA future will depend upon the economic situation and complex political battles between moderates and hardliners in Tehran.

The current deterioration of the economic conditions in Iran, the rial devaluation and growing inflation, together with already-high unemployment will provoke a further popular discontent which is likely to maintain the protests but without any considerable probability to threaten the Iranian political stability or lead to leadership´s rupture during the upcoming years.

The sanctions are likely to produce some adverse effects on the political local scene over the longer term, as Iranian hardliners may take advantage of them and the popular frustration and obtain the victory in the coming 2020 parliamentary elections and the 2021 presidential poll. As a result, any possibility for future cooperation with US will equal zero.

Categorías Global Affairs: Oriente Medio Economía, Comercio y Tecnología Documentos de trabajo Informes Irán

The struggle for power has already started in the Islamic Republic in the midst of US sanctions and ahead a new electoral cycle

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking to Iranian Air Force personnel, in 2016 [Wikipedia]

▲ Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking to Iranian Air Force personnel, in 2016 [Wikipedia]

ANALYSISRossina Funes and Maeve Gladin

The failing health of Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, 89, brings into question the political aftermath of his approaching death or possible step-down. Khamenei’s health has been a point of query since 2007, when he temporarily disappeared from the public eye. News later came out that he had a routine procedure which had no need to cause any suspicions in regards to his health. However, the question remains as to whether his well-being is a fantasy or a reality. Regardless of the truth of his health, many suspect that he has been suffering prostate cancer all this time. Khamenei is 89 years old –he turns 80 in July– and the odds of him continuing as active Supreme Leader are slim to none. His death or resignation will not only reshape but could also greatly polarize the successive politics at play and create more instability for Iran.

The next possible successor must meet certain requirements in order to be within the bounds of possible appointees. This political figure must comply and follow Khamenei’s revolutionary ideology by being anti-Western, mainly anti-American. The prospective leader would also need to meet religious statues and adherence to clerical rule. Regardless of who that cleric may be, Iran is likely to be ruled by another religious figure who is far less powerful than Khamenei and more beholden to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Additionally, Khamenei’s successor should be young enough to undermine the current opposition to clerical rule prevalent among many of Iran’s youth, which accounts for the majority of Iran’s population.

In analyzing who will head Iranian politics, two streams have been identified. These are constrained by whether the current Supreme Leader Khamenei appoints his successor or not, and within that there are best and worst case scenarios.

Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi

Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi had been mentioned as the foremost contender to stand in lieu of Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei. Shahroudi was a Khamenei loyalist who rose to the highest ranks of the Islamic Republic’s political clerical elite under the supreme leader’s patronage and was considered his most likely successor. A former judiciary chief, Shahroudi was, like his patron, a staunch defender of the Islamic Revolution and its founding principle, velayat-e-faqih (rule of the jurisprudence). Iran’s domestic unrest and regime longevity, progressively aroused by impromptu protests around the country over the past year, is contingent on the political class collectively agreeing on a supreme leader competent of building consensus and balancing competing interests. Shahroudi’s exceptional faculty to bridge the separated Iranian political and clerical establishment was the reason his name was frequently highlighted as Khamenei’s eventual successor. Also, he was both theologically and managerially qualified and among the few relatively nonelderly clerics viewed as politically trustworthy by Iran’s ruling establishment. However, he passed away in late December 2018, opening once again the question of who was most likely to take Khamenei’s place as Supreme Leader of Iran.

However, even with Shahroudi’s early death, there are still a few possibilities. One is Sadeq Larijani, the head of the judiciary, who, like Shahroudi, is Iraqi born. Another prospect is Ebrahim Raisi, a former 2017 presidential candidate and the custodian of the holiest shrine in Iran, Imam Reza. Raisi is a student and loyalist of Khamenei, whereas Larijani, also a hard-liner, is more independent.



1.1 Ebrahim Raisi

In a more likely scenario, Ebrahim Raisi would rise as Iran’s next Supreme Leader. He meets the requirements aforementioned with regards to the religious status and the revolutionary ideology. Fifty-eight-years-old, Raisi is a student and loyal follower of the current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Like his teacher, he is from Mashhad and belongs to its famous seminary. He is married to the daughter of Ayatollah Alamolhoda, a hardline cleric who serves as Khamenei's representative of in the eastern Razavi Khorasan province, home of the Imam Reza shrine.

Together with his various senior judicial positions, in 2016 Raisi was appointed the chairman of Astan Quds Razavi, the wealthy and influential charitable foundation which manages the Imam Reza shrine. Through this appointment, Raisi developed a very close relationship with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is a known ideological and economic partner of the foundation. In 2017, he moved into the political sphere by running for president, stating it was his "religious and revolutionary responsibility". He managed to secure a respectable 38 percent of the vote; however, his contender, Rouhani, won with 57 percent of the vote. At first, this outcome was perceived as an indicator of Raisi’s relative unpopularity, but he has proven his detractors wrong. After his electoral defeat, he remained in the public eye and became an even more prominent political figure by criticizing Rouhani's policies and pushing for hard-line policies in both domestic and foreign affairs. Also, given to Astan Quds Foundation’s extensive budget, Raisi has been able to secure alliances with other clerics and build a broad network that has the ability to mobilize advocates countrywide.

Once he takes on the role of Supreme Leader, he will continue his domestic and regional policies. On the domestic front, he will further Iran's Islamisation and regionally he will push to strengthen the "axis of resistance", which is the anti-Western and anti-Israeli alliance between Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Shia Iraq and Hamas. Nevertheless, if this happens, Iran would live on under the leadership of yet another hardliner and the political scene would not change much. Regardless of who succeeds Khamenei, a political crisis is assured during this transition, triggered by a cycle of arbitrary rule, chaos, violence and social unrest in Iran. It will be a period of uncertainty given that a great share of the population seems unsatisfied with the clerical establishment, which was also enhanced by the current economic crisis ensued by the American sanctions.

1.2 Sadeq Larijani

Sadeq Larijani, who is fifty-eight years old, is known for his conservative politics and his closeness to the supreme guide of the Iranian regime Ali Khamenei and one of his potential successors. He is Shahroudi’s successor as head of the judiciary and currently chairs the Expediency Council. Additionally, the Larijani family occupies a number of important positions in government and shares strong ties with the Supreme Leader by being among the most powerful families in Iran since Khamenei became Supreme Leader thirty years ago. Sadeq Larijani is also a member of the Guardian Council, which vetos laws and candidates for elected office for conformance to Iran’s Islamic system.

Formally, the Expediency Council is an advisory body for the Supreme Leader and is intended to resolve disputes between parliament and a scrutineer body, therefore Larijani is well informed on the way Khamenei deals with governmental affairs and the domestic politics of Iran. Therefore, he meets the requirement of being aligned with Khamenei’s revolutionary and anti- Western ideology, and he is also a conservative cleric, thus he complies with the religious figure requirement. Nonetheless, he is less likely to be appointed as Iran’s next Supreme Leader given his poor reputation outside Iran. The U.S. sanctioned Larijani on the grounds of human rights violations, in addition to “arbitrary arrests of political prisoners, human rights defenders and minorities” which “increased markedly” since he took office, according to the EU who also sanctioned Larijani in 2012. His appointment would not be a strategic decision amidst the newly U.S. imposed sanctions and the trouble it has brought upon Iran. Nowadays, the last thing Iran wants is that the EU also turn their back to them, which would happen if Larijani rises to power. However it is still highly plausible that Larijani would be the second one on the list of prospective leaders, only preceded by Raisi.




2.1 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

The IRGC’s purpose is to preserve the Islamic system from foreign interference and protect from coups. As their priority is the protection of national security, the IRGC necessarily will take action once Khamenei passes away and the political sphere becomes chaotic. In carrying out their role of protecting national security, the IRGC will act as a support for the new Supreme Leader. Moreover, the IRGC will work to stabilize the unrest which will inevitably occur, regardless of who comes to power. It is our estimate that the new Supreme Leader will have been appointed by Khamenei before death, and thus the IRGC will do all in their power to protect him. In the unlikely case that Khamenei does not appoint a successor, we believe that there are two unlikely options of ruling that could arise.

The first, and least likely, being that the IRGC takes rule. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that the IRGC takes power. This would violate the Iranian constitution and is not in the interest to rule the state. What they are interested in is having a puppet figure who will satisfy their interests. As the IRGC's main role is national security, in the event that Khamenei does not appoint a successor and the country goes into political and social turmoil, the IRGC will without a doubt step in. This military intervention will be one of transitory nature, as the IRGC does not pretend to want direct political power. Once the Supreme Leader is secured, the IRGC will go back to a relatively low profile.

In the very unlikely event that a Supreme Leader is not predetermined, the IRGC may take over the political regime of Iran, creating a military dictatorship. If this were to happen, there would certainly be protests, riots and coups. It would be very difficult for an opposition group to challenge and defeat the IRGC, but there would be attempts to overcome it. This would be a regime of temporary nature, however, the new Supreme Leader would arise from the scene that the IRGC had been protecting.

2.2 Mohsen Kadivar

In addition, political dissident and moderate cleric Mohsen Kadivar is a plausible candidate for the next Supreme Leader. Kadivar’s rise to political power in Iran would be a black swan,  as it is extremely unlikely, however, the possibility should not be dismissed. His election would be highly unlikely due to the fact that he is a vocal critic of clerical rule and has been a public opposer of the Iranian government. He has served time in prison for speaking out in favor of democracy and liberal reform as well as publicly criticizing the Islamic political system. Moreover, he has been a university professor of Islamic religious and legal studies throughout the United States. As Kadivar goes against all requirements to become successor, he is highly unlikely to become Supreme Leader. It is also important to keep in mind that Khamenei will most likely appoint a successor, and in that scenario, he will appoint someone who meets the requirements and of course is in line with what he believes. In the rare case that Khamenei does not appoint a successor or dies before he gets the chance to, a political uprising is inevitable. The question will be whether the country uprises to the point of voting a popular leader or settling with someone who will maintain the status quo.

In the situation that Mohsen Kadivar is voted into power, the Iranian political system would change drastically. For starters, he would not call himself Supreme Leader, and would instill a democratic and liberal political system. Kadivar and other scholars which condemn supreme clerical rule are anti-despotism and advocate for its abolishment. He would most likely establish a western-style democracy and work towards stabilizing the political situation of Iran. This would take more years than he will allow himself to remain in power, however, he will probably stay active in the political sphere both domestically as well as internationally. He may be secretary of state after stepping down, and work as both a close friend and advisor of the next leader of Iran as well as work for cultivating ties with other democratic countries.

2.3 Sayyid Mojtaba Hosseini Khamenei

Khamenei's son, Sayyid Mojtaba Hosseini Khamenei is also rumored to be a possible designated successor. His religious and military experience and dedication, along with being the son of Khamenei gives strong reason to believe that he may be appointed Supreme Leader by his father. However, Mojtaba is lacking the required religious status. The requirements of commitment to the IRGC as well as anti-American ideology are not questioned, as Mojtaba has a well-known strong relationship with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Mojtaba studied theology and is currently a professor at Qom Seminary in Iran. Nonetheless, it is unclear as to whether Mojtaba’s religious and political status is enough to have him considered to be the next Supreme Leader. In the improbable case that Khamenei names his son to be his successor, it would be possible for his son to further commit to the religious and political facets of his life and align them with the requirements of being Supreme Leader.

This scenario is highly unlikely, especially considering that in the 1979 Revolution, monarchical hereditary succession was abolished. Mojtaba has already shown loyalty to Iran when taking control of the Basij militia during the uproar of the 2009 elections to halt protests. While Mojtaba is currently not fit for the position, he is clearly capable of gaining the needed credentials to live up to the job. Despite his potential, all signs point to another candidate becoming the successor before Mojtaba.



Albeit the current regime is supposedly overturned by an uprising or new appointment by the current Supreme Leader Khamenei, it is expected that any transition to democracy or to Western-like regime will take a longer and more arduous process. If this was the case, it will be probably preceded by a turmoil analogous to the Arab Springs of 2011. However, even if there was a scream for democracy coming from the Iranian population, the probability that it ends up in success like it did in Tunisia is slim to none. Changing the president or the Supreme Leader does not mean that the regime will also change, but there are more intertwined factors that lead to a massive change in the political sphere, like it is the path to democracy in a Muslim state.

Categorías Global Affairs: Oriente Medio Análisis Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Irán

Entrevista con el embajador Francisco Pascual de la Parte, autor de “El imperio que regresa. La Guerra de Ucrania 2014-2017” 

Francisco Pascual de la Parte, durante la presentación de su libro [Manuel Castells]

▲ Francisco Pascual de la Parte, durante la presentación de su libro [Manuel Castells]

ENTREVISTAVitaliy Stepanyuk

Pocos tienen un conocimiento tan directo de las relaciones de Rusia con Ucrania y otros territorios de la antigua URSS como Francisco Pascual de la Parte, quien ha sido ministro-consejero de la Embajada de España en Moscú, embajador en Kazajstán y cónsul general en San Petersburgo, entre otros destinos. Es autor del libro “El imperio que regresa. La Guerra de Ucrania 2014-2017”. Durante su presentación en la Universidad de Navarra, Global Affairs pudo conversar extensamente con el diplomático español sobre la crisis ucraniana y la política exterior rusa.

1. Desde el punto de vista de la geopolítica de la región, ¿quiénes son los principales actores?

Los principales actores en la crisis ucraniana se dividen en dos grupos: los que participan directamente en el conflicto armado y los que no participan en él, pero sí intervienen en la crisis. Los principales actores, obviamente, son el Gobierno ucraniano y los separatistas de las autoproclamadas Repúblicas pro-rusas del Donbass (regiones de Donetsk y Lugansk), respaldados y armados por Rusia.

En un segundo círculo concéntrico, los actores son Ucrania y Rusia, que se ha anexionado Crimea en respuesta al derrocamiento del presidente ucraniano pro-ruso Viktor Yanukovich, y que, como digo, apoya además a los separatistas ucranianos.

En un tercer círculo concéntrico, se sitúa la discrepancia entre Rusia y la Unión Europea (UE), que estima ilegal la anexión de Crimea y la intervención rusa en el Donbass, por lo que ha impuesto sanciones económicas, respondidas por Rusia.

En un cuarto círculo concéntrico tenemos una rivalidad entre Rusia y Estados Unidos, que acusa a Moscú de violar la integridad territorial de Ucrania y menoscabar con ello la seguridad en Europa. Este enfrentamiento tiene consecuencias para todo el planeta, ya que genera desconfianza y hostilidad entre ambas superpotencias que repercute en sus relaciones mutuas, fundamentalmente en los tratados de desarme y en sus posiciones en crisis como las de Siria, Corea del Norte, Venezuela y cualquier parte del mundo.

Por último, tenemos el enfrentamiento entre Rusia y la OTAN, a la que Rusia imputa la iniciativa hostil de haberse extendido hacia el Este, provocando con ello la reacción rusa cuando, teóricamente, tras la caída de la URSS, la OTAN había prometido no llevar a cabo su ampliación.

Todos estos son los actores. Unos participan en el primer círculo concéntrico, otros en el segundo y otros en todos.

2. En relación con la pregunta anterior, ¿cuál es el principal objetivo en esta lucha?

La respuesta a esta pregunta dependerá del actor en el que nos centremos. Obviamente no persiguen lo mismo los líderes de las repúblicas rebeldes que el Gobierno ucraniano o que el Gobierno ruso. En mi opinión, el régimen ruso persigue garantizar su seguridad mediante la recuperación del rango de gran potencia. Al controlar el espacio postsoviético e impulsar la Unión Económica Euroasiática (UEE) incluyendo a Ucrania, Rusia preveía fortalecer su posición internacional. Pero al negarse Ucrania a formar parte de la UEE y preferir una Asociación con la UE de Bruselas, ese plan de Rusia quedó muy dañado. En otras palabras, como decía Brzezinski, antiguo consejero de Seguridad Nacional de Estados Unidos, Rusia con Ucrania es un imperio, pero sin Ucrania es un estado normal. Pero como no se resigna a ser un Estado normal, no quiere perder el control sobre Ucrania. Rusia estima que sólo así puede garantizar su seguridad.

El fin que persiguen las autoproclamadas Repúblicas de Donetsk y Lugansk no está muy claro, porque ha ido cambiando con el tiempo. Primero era la autonomía, después la independencia, después la anexión a Rusia y después otra vez la autonomía. Varios de los líderes que proclamaban la independencia han desaparecido en extrañas circunstancias, siendo reemplazados por otros líderes.

En este momento el liderazgo de esas repúblicas está enteramente bajo el control de Moscú. Teóricamente, de ello habría que concluir que el fin de la Repúblicas de Donetsk y Lugansk es el mismo que el fin de los líderes rusos. Pero yo no estoy tan seguro, ya que había dirigentes en los gobiernos de esas repúblicas que, al principio, querían otro tipo de Estado. Es decir, no formar parte de Ucrania, pero tampoco de Rusia, aunque dieran primacía a la relación con esta. Una especie de Estado que fuera autónomo tanto de Rusia como de Ucrania, pero dentro del denominado “mundo ruso”: conjunto de pautas culturales, creencias y costumbres que identifican al pueblo ruso, basado en los valores tradicionales de la Rusia de los zares. Algunos de sus líderes más nacional-patriotas propugnaron, tras proclamar la secesión, fidelidad a la ortodoxia, protección a la familia, prohibición de los abortos, el juego, la prostitución, el divorcio… En fin, un gobierno que no hubiera encontrado encaje ni en una Ucrania integrada en la UE, abierta, por tanto, a asimilar la ideología de género y otros valores contrarios al “mundo ruso”, ni en una Rusia como la actual, que ellos consideraban gobernada por excomunistas descreídos y antiguos jefes de los servicios de inteligencia soviéticos. Los primeros dirigentes separatistas rebautizaron a su nuevo Estado como “Novorrossiya”, retomando el nombre de la Ucrania Oriental en la época zarista, cuyos territorios habían sido conquistados por Catalina la Grande a los turcos y a los cosacos ucranianos en el siglo XVIII.

Pero ese plan no pareció convenir a Rusia. En un momento dado, Moscú dejó de apoyar el “proyecto Novorrossiya” y provocó el reemplazo de los dirigentes que lo propugnaban. ¿Por qué? Muchos analistas estiman que el surgimiento de un Estado como Novorrosiya hubiera dado alas a la ya poderosa corriente nacionalista rusa de extrema derecha (propugnada, entre otros, por Alexander Duguin) que acusaba a Putin de traición por no haber invadido sin contemplaciones toda Ucrania, y fomentaría el surgimiento dentro de la misma Rusia de iniciativas análogas en otros territorios de la Federación Rusa donde los elementos tradicionalistas nacional-patrióticos tuvieran apoyo popular. En consecuencia, Rusia pareció optar por mantener esas repúblicas dentro de Ucrania, pero controladas por ella o, en caso extremo, proceder a una anexión de facto. Ambas soluciones le beneficiaban, pues impedían que Ucrania pudiera incorporarse a la OTAN y que tuviera suficiente margen de maniobra como Estado soberano, al tener dentro el caballo de Troya de esas repúblicas, controladas por dirigentes afines al Kremlin. 

El fin que persigue la UE es la estabilidad y prosperidad en su frontera oriental, exportando a las repúblicas ex-soviéticas sus programas de reformas económicas y políticas. Para ello, la UE puso en marcha su programa denominado “Partenariado Oriental” con varias de esas repúblicas. Cuantos más países de la antigua Unión Soviética asimilen los principios de la UE (Derechos Humanos, elecciones transparentes, igualdad ante la ley, ausencia de privilegios de casta, etc.) más segura estará la frontera oriental y más podrá extenderse el mercado europeo hacia esos países, incorporándolos gradualmente. En definitiva, para la UE la finalidad sería la estabilidad de la frontera Este, la extensión a los países de Europa Oriental de los principios que han dado origen a la UE y la expansión a ellos de su área de seguridad y prosperidad. 

Para EEUU, el principal objetivo sería el impedir que la URSS se reconstruya bajo otro nombre y vuelva a ser un factor de inestabilidad para las democracias. EEUU ha visto cómo poco a poco el control o la influencia rusa en antiguas regiones y repúblicas soviéticas ha aumentado y cómo estas han ido siendo recuperadas por Moscú, una tras otra. Primero fue Abjasia, luego Transnistria, luego Osetia del Sur…, amén de la influencia rusa en Bielorrusia, Kazajistán, Tayikistán, Kirguistán y, ahora, Ucrania, tras la anexión de Crimea y el control del Donbass. Algunos analistas observan ese proceso como una reconstrucción del control de Moscú sobre el espacio post-soviético, como ocurría bajo la URSS. Frente a ello, Washington sostiene que cada país tiene derecho a elegir libremente el organismo internacional y el sistema de seguridad colectiva al que quiere pertenecer, por lo que Rusia no tiene derecho de veto sobre la libre opción de un país determinado de Europa Oriental a ser miembro de la OTAN, o dejar de serlo, decisión que deben tomar sus propios ciudadanos, como ocurriría en el caso de Ucrania. En fin, cada parte en esta crisis persigue un objetivo diferente.

3. El conflicto de Ucrania estalló de manera imprevista. Cientos de personas salieron a las calles pidiendo una mejora en las condiciones de vida y el fin de la corrupción. ¿Cómo podríamos explicar el hecho de que el conflicto surgiese tan repentinamente?

En realidad, no se trata de un conflicto aislado, ni surgió por sorpresa, sino que desde la disolución de la URSS, las cancillerías y embajadas occidentales ya recibieron hasta ocho avisos de lo que iba a ocurrir y no supieron interpretar esas advertencias.

El primer aviso se dio en diciembre de 1986, en Kazajistán, con una serie de revueltas populares que ya indicaban lo que iba a ocurrir. Allí tuvieron lugar unos gravísimos disturbios, cuando el presidente de la República Socialista Soviética de Kazajistán, el presidente Kunáyev, dimitió y fue sustituido por un ruso, Gennady Kolbin. En ese momento, jóvenes kazajos salieron a las calles a protestar contra la decisión impuesta por Moscú de nombrar un presidente que no fuera étnicamente kazajo y que no conocía ni el idioma, ni las particularidades del país. Hasta hoy no se sabe el número de muertos que hubo en la represión de las tropas de la KGB, del ejército y de la policía, que fueron enviados urgentemente desde Rusia para aplastar la insurrección.

El segundo aviso consistió en la guerra de 1988 en Nagorno Karabaj (una región montañosa autónoma, poblada por armenios, de religión ortodoxa, enclavada en mitad de la república islámica de Azerbaiyán). Cuando los habitantes y las autoridades de Nagorno Karabaj vieron que la URSS se desintegraba, temieron que en el caos de la desintegración iban a sufrir represión y arreglos de cuentas de la gran mayoría musulmana que les rodeaba. Por consiguiente, el Parlamento de esa región autónoma solicitó la anexión a Rusia. Cuando esto ocurrió, las autoridades de Azerbaiyán enviaron sus tropas para impedir la secesión. Se originó una guerra que aún no ha acabado.

El tercer aviso, ocurrido en 1989, fue la “Masacre de Tiblisi” (Georgia), cuando miles de georgianos salieron a las calles en favor de la independencia de Georgia respecto de la URSS. El ejército soviético envió tropas especiales para reprimir la sublevación, como había ocurrido en Kazajistán. Allí murieron muchos civiles. Esa masacre dio lugar al Síndrome de Tiblisi: ningún alto cargo soviético quiso asumir, desde entonces, la responsabilidad de haber dado la orden de la intervención. A partir de ese momento, el ejército no volvería a intervenir contra el pueblo a no ser que recibiese por escrito una orden con la firma de quien decidía la intervención.

El cuarto aviso data de 1990 con la guerra civil de Transnistria, una franja oriental de mayoría étnica rusa en la república de Moldavia, que es de mayoría étnica rumana. Ocurrió que tras la independencia de Moldavia en 1991, los habitantes de Transnistria temieron quedar oprimidos en el nuevo país, de lengua y tradiciones principalmente rumanas. Por tanto, declararon su propia independencia de Moldavia, iniciando consecuentemente un conflicto que dejaría más de 20.000 muertos.

En todos estos casos y en otros que vendrían después, Rusia apoyó siempre a los secesionistas, puesto que eso era una forma de mantener a las repúblicas que querían separarse de la URSS controladas mediante una minoría dentro de ellas, que impedía su consolidación como soberanas e independientes.

El siguiente aviso consistió en el fallido intento de golpe de Estado en Moscú de agosto de 1991. Aunque fracasó, esa intentona abrió los ojos a otras repúblicas sobre el peligro de involución y regreso a la URSS y, a partir de ese momento, el proceso secesionista se aceleró.

El sexto aviso consistió en el referéndum convocado en Ucrania en diciembre de 1991. Bajo la pregunta “¿Está usted de acuerdo en que Ucrania se separe de la URSS y sea un Estado independiente?”, el 98% de la población ucraniana votó que sí, incluida Crimea.

Junto a estos avisos habían tenido lugar otros indicadores más, como el movimiento separatista en Abjasia (región del noroeste de Georgia), que en 1992 declaró su independencia de Georgia, la cual deseaba independizarse de Rusia por completo. Rusia apoyó a los separatistas también aquí.

El último aviso tuvo lugar en 2007, en Osetia del Sur. Fue tras un intento del gobierno de Georgia para lograr que la región separatista de Osetia del Sur volviese bajo su control empleando para ello su ejército. Rusia, que tenía estacionadas en Osetia Fuerzas para el mantenimiento de la paz desde un conflicto anterior,  intervino en favor de los separatistas, obligando a Georgia a renunciar al control de esa región.

4. Aunque a EEUU el conflicto ucraniano le preocupa, no le inquieta tanto como otros temas. De hecho, EEUU no está actuando y únicamente verbaliza su preocupación. ¿Es posible que no esté ofreciendo una respuesta clara porque piensa que fundamentalmente es un problema europeo?

A EEUU le preocupa por la sencilla razón de que la solución de otras crisis que ocurren en el mundo, fundamentalmente las de Siria, Venezuela y la de Corea del Norte, depende de que haya confianza y buena relación entre Moscú y Washington. Y nunca la habrá si previamente no se resuelve el tema de Ucrania. Lo que está envenenando las relaciones es Ucrania. De hecho, dudo mucho que sin la guerra en Ucrania hubiese habido una intervención rusa en la guerra en Siria como la que ha habido.

Cuando Occidente intenta aislar a Rusia imponiendo sanciones, Rusia tiene que salirse por algún lado. Por ello, para demostrar que no se le puede aislar y que es un protagonista en la escena internacional, Rusia interviene en Siria, en Venezuela o donde puede plantar cara a EEUU. Estaría emitiendo un mensaje parecido a este: “aunque me queráis aislar y reducirme a potencia regional de segundo orden, os puedo demostrar que sin mí no tiene solución ninguna crisis mundial. Es más, si quiero, os provoco otras crisis”.

5. ¿Qué opinan los propios ciudadanos rusos sobre la anexión de la península de Crimea?

La intervención y consiguiente anexión de Crimea por Rusia, dentro del conflicto ucraniano, es el punto que más envenena las relaciones entre Rusia y Occidente, pero también repercute en la opinión pública rusa.

Porque, claro, Rusia tiene un PIB del tamaño del de Italia y está manteniendo intervenciones en el exterior que le cuestan mucho dinero. Sus hospitales están en una condición lastimosa, la enseñanza atraviesa por una gran carencia de medios y disminución de calidad, las pensiones son bajísimas, se ha retrasado la edad de jubilación… Muchos en Rusia están disgustados por que, en estas circunstancias, se dediquen recursos ingentes a subvencionar Crimea. Porque Crimea no se sostiene sola. Antes, cuando estaba en paz y gracias al turismo, sí que podía llegar a sostenerse a sí misma. Pero ahora, ¿quién va a Crimea? ¿quién invierte en Crimea? Todo lo subvenciona el gobierno ruso. Eso estaría al alcance de un país con un PIB gigantesco, pero difícilmente un país que tenga un PIB como el de Italia o España y que dedique, directa o indirectamente, un tercio del PIB a sus fuerzas armadas y de policía. Además de tener que subvencionar Crimea, Rusia tiene que subvencionar Abjasia, Transnistria, Osetia y el Donbass. Por este motivo, hay en Rusia quien ya se pregunta si no fue un error la anexión de Crimea, como, por ejemplo, uno de sus más influyentes diarios, “Vedomosti”.

Por otra parte, una razón importante por la que los dirigentes rusos no ven con buenos ojos discutir sobre este asunto podría ser Chechenia. Según algunos expertos de Derecho Internacional, como la catedrática de Derecho Internacional de la Complutense, Araceli Mangas Martín, todos los argumentos que Rusia esgrime para justificar la secesión de Crimea de Ucrania valdrían para justificar una futura secesión de Chechenia de Rusia. ¿Qué ocurriría, se preguntan algunos analistas, si dentro de 10 o 20 años se formara una mayoría chechena que reclamara la secesión de Rusia en un referéndum invocando el precedente de Crimea? 

El tema de la legitimidad de la anexión de Crimea es un tema tabú en la sociedad rusa, por muchas razones. No se puede hablar de él con tranquilidad. De hecho, el único diputado de la Duma (Parlamento ruso) que votó en contra de la incorporación de Crimea a Rusia ha tenido que exiliarse porque ha sido amenazado. En los programas de televisión los debates sobre la existencia y legitimidad de la anexión de Crimea no suelen permitirse y cuando se tocan tiene que ser siempre desde el punto de vista oficial.


Despliegue de tropas ucranianas, en junio de 2014 [Wikipedia]

Despliegue de tropas ucranianas, en junio de 2014 [Wikipedia]


6. ¿Ve usted posible que Rusia acabe abandonando la guerra en Ucrania? Además, ¿podría Crimea volver a formar parte del territorio ucraniano?

Rusia ha dejado muy clara una cosa: no va a permitir jamás que los rebeldes y los separatistas ucranianos de las Repúblicas de Donetsk y Lugansk sean derrotados por el ejército ucraniano. No lo va a permitir. 

La única posibilidad de que Rusia abandonase su intervención militar en Ucrania sería que los secesionistas ganasen su confrontación con el gobierno ucraniano y consolidasen una independencia de este bajo el control indiscutido de Moscú.

Segundo, veo el regreso de Crimea a Ucrania muy difícil, prácticamente imposible. Porque Rusia está convirtiendo Crimea en una inmensa base militar que estima imprescindible frente a una OTAN expansiva. La está dotando de los más modernos sistemas de armamento: radares, cohetes, una moderna flota...

7. Demográficamente, ¿el porcentaje de rusos en Crimea es tan alto como se dice?

Según algunos analistas, el Kremlin juega con las cifras. Unas veces habla de rusos étnicos, otras veces de rusohablantes. Odesa o Jarkiv, por ejemplo, son grandes ciudades ucranianas rusohablantes, pero que están de parte del gobierno de Kiev. ¿Qué entiende Rusia por “ruso”? Dicen las autoridades rusas: “Es que la mayor parte de los habitantes de Crimea votaron legítimamente por la secesión e incorporación a Rusia en referéndum por una mayoría afirmativa en torno al 90%, constituyendo además los rusos la gran mayoría de la población en la península”. Defíname eso. ¿Qué pasa con el 13% de tártaros, qué pasa con el 20% de ucranianos? Y los que Moscú llama rusos en Crimea, ¿qué son exactamente: rusos étnicos, rusohablantes, titulares de pasaporte ruso, rusos por opción, por nacimiento, por matrimonio? ¿Con qué documentación electoral y con qué control de las votaciones se hizo el referéndum? ¿Se contaban como votantes censados las tropas de la base rusa de Sebastopol o no se contaban? ¿Cómo se controlaron las votaciones dentro de los cuarteles militares? En fin, es como decir “españoles” refiriéndonos a cualquier país iberoamericano. En Argentina o Cuba puede haber 700.000 españoles. ¿Aceptamos entonces que en un territorio de Argentina, Cuba o Venezuela, donde la mayoría sean españoles, estos organicen un referéndum por la secesión y su reincorporación a España y les armamos clandestinamente?

La pregunta que nos debería preocupar es: ¿en qué se distingue ciudadanía de nacionalidad? En los países occidentales ciudadanía y nacionalidad son lo mismo. Sin embargo, en Rusia no es así, y aquí vamos al meollo del problema. En los países de la antigua órbita soviética, nacionalidad significa “pertenencia a un grupo étnico”. Mientras que ciudadanía significa “sometimiento al régimen político, jurídico y administrativo de un Estado determinado, con independencia de la etnia a la que se pertenezca”.

En Rusia son cosas completamente diferentes. Tanto es así que en los documentos de identidad de Rusia y de Ucrania, hasta hace poco, figuraba como “nacionalidad” el grupo étnico del titular: judío, tártaro, ruso... Por eso, cuando Rusia se anexionó Crimea, la principal razón que dio el presidente Putin para hacerlo fue que debía proteger a los “rusos” en Ucrania, a “sus” nacionales en Ucrania, frente a la “Junta Fascista” de Kiev que les amenazaba. Para un ruso, puedes cambiar la ciudadanía; en cambio, la nacionalidad no se pierde nunca, y Rusia debe proteger a quienes ostentan la suya.

Todo ello explica que antes de intervenir en una república ex -soviética que se quiere separar de la órbita de Moscú, lo primero que hace Rusia es repartir pasaportes rusos entre ciudadanos de esas repúblicas a los que, a partir de ese momento, considera rusos, y luego, argumenta que los tiene que proteger.

De los ucranianos que vivían en Crimea, muchos la han abandonado. Otros, se han quedado en Crimea, por supuesto, pero sin poder poner en tela de juicio que Crimea pertenece a Rusia, sometiéndose a las autoridades rusas, debiendo, en muchos casos, obtener otra nueva documentación, distinta a la que tenían antes, y  prestando lealtad y sometimiento a otro Estado distinto a aquel en el que vivían hasta hace poco.

8. ¿Podríamos decir que Rusia y Occidente tienen interpretaciones diferentes sobre los principios que han de regir las relaciones internacionales?

Ese principio fundamental para el Kremlin de defender militarmente a los rusos estén donde estén, incluido el territorio de otra república ex-soviética, choca con otros principios básicos para la UE, EEUU y países occidentales: la integridad territorial del Estado, la soberanía del Estado y la igualdad de todos antes la ley... Si tú quieres proteger a los rusos que viven en Ucrania anexionándote Crimea porque tiene mayoría rusa, obviamente estás violando el principio de integridad territorial del Estado. Sin embargo, Rusia piensa que ella sí que ha respetado la integridad territorial de Ucrania, porque la integridad territorial tiene para los dirigentes rusos un significado diferente al nuestro. Para ellos la integridad territorial se refiere al aparato del Estado, pero no al territorio. Rusia da prioridad a otros principios, como es la protección de sus nacionales.

Por todos estos motivos este conflicto es tan peligroso, porque ni Occidente ni Rusia pueden renunciar a principios que consideran básicos. Por eso, cuando hablamos de diálogo de la UE y EEUU con Rusia para solventar este conflicto, estamos pidiendo un diálogo entre dos partes que hablan un lenguaje diferente, porque Rusia atribuye a los conceptos un significado completamente distinto al que les atribuimos nosotros.

9. La política rusa de protección de los rusos étnicos puede recordar mucho, en gran medida, la política de la Alemania nazi de la década de 1930 de intentar unir a todos los alemanes étnicos. ¿Considera que la situación es similar?

No solamente a los años 30, sino también al tiempo de la Primera Guerra Mundial, que estalló porque Serbia quería proteger a los serbios que vivían fuera del territorio de Serbia, los cuales se consideraban oprimidos y maltratados por las autoridades del Imperio Austrohúngaro, cuando este se anexionó Bosnia-Herzegovina. Uno de los que se sentían oprimidos, el estudiante Gavrilo Princip, con auxilio logístico de la policía secreta serbia, mató al heredero del trono de Austria-Hungría durante su visita a Sarajevo, la capital de Bosnia-Herzegovina. Eso provocó una reacción en cadena y una Guerra Mundial.

En la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Alemania exige que todos los alemanes vivan dentro del mismo Estado. Desgraciadamente, no todos los alemanes vivían en Alemania. Los nazis deciden entonces lograr que todos los alemanes de raza aria, superior, queden en un solo Estado, dirigidos por un solo Führer. Para ello, se anexionan Austria. Las potencias occidentales se quedan perplejas. Resultaba que también había alemanes en Checoslovaquia, que no estaban bien tratados por las autoridades checoslovacas, según los nazis. Entonces, el Führer fuerza a los checoslovacos a cederle los Sudetes. Luego Alemania se anexiona otros territorios y las potencias occidentales ceden. Más tarde, Hitler reclama el corredor polaco y la ciudad alemana de Danzig, territorio también de población alemana, pero situado en Polonia, y es allí cuando, definitivamente, Inglaterra y Francia, que habían ofrecido garantías a Polonia,  reaccionan.

Para algunos analistas occidentales, la situación recuerda mucho a lo que ocurre ahora en la antigua URSS. Primero, Rusia se anexiona una parte de otro país, luego se instala en una parte de otro, con la misma justificación: la de que hay rusos en ellos que hay que proteger. En mi opinión, la situación no es exactamente la misma, pero tiene alarmantes parecidos.

10. La lección de los años 30 es que la política de apaciguamiento no evitó la guerra, sino que simplemente la aplazó e hizo que se combatiese en peores condiciones. Entonces, ¿cuál es la actitud recomendable ante la política rusa?

Existen dos tendencias fundamentales: la primera comprende las tendencias al apaciguamiento y la segunda las tendencias a la firmeza. Entre las tendencias al apaciguamiento encontramos, a su vez, tres corrientes distintas:

–Un primer grupo de expertos llama la atención sobre un hecho fundamental: que Rusia está dispuesta a llegar más lejos que Occidente en el conflicto de Ucrania, porque para Rusia Ucrania es una cuestión vital, mientras que para Occidente no. Habría que llevar a cabo una revisión territorial. Vamos a ceder y vamos a dejar que Rusia se quede con sus rusos, y aquí se acaba el problema. Firmamos un acuerdo, y Rusia tiene su zona de influencia.

–La segunda corriente defiende la idea de convertir Ucrania en un Estado neutral para que Rusia no perciba una amenaza. Ello implicaría que se decida la congelación de la expansión OTAN, que ya no se extendería a ningún país más de la Europa oriental; se otorgue una autonomía muy amplia a las regiones de Ucrania oriental pobladas mayoritariamente por rusos, y se admita que Crimea forma parte de Rusia en compensación a la extensión de la OTAN hacia el Este.

–Según la tercera corriente, Rusia, al anexionarse Crimea y al intervenir en Ucrania oriental, no observó un comportamiento agresivo. Muy al contrario, actuaba en su legítima defensa, y a ningún país se le puede negar la legítima defensa. Decimos eso porque si hubiese triunfado la revolución del Maidán en toda Ucrania, incluida Crimea, y en toda Ucrania se hubiese implantado un régimen proclive a Occidente, hubiera sido cuestión de muy poco tiempo que el nuevo gobierno ucraniano hubiese solicitado el ingreso en la OTAN. Eso hubiera conllevado que las fronteras de la OTAN se hubiesen acercado todavía más a Rusia, poniendo en peligro la seguridad del país. Por tanto, Rusia, al actuar en Ucrania, únicamente lo hace en legítima defensa. Esta tercera corriente propugna la desmilitarización del Donbass, que la seguridad de las fronteras quede garantizada por una fuerza de mantenimiento de la paz bajo el mando de la ONU, y la admisión de Crimea como parte de Rusia, en compensación al hecho de que la OTAN ha incorporado países que antes pertenecían a la URSS.

Como comentamos anteriormente, existe una segunda tendencia que aboga por la firmeza: “No vamos a repetir el error de Múnich de ceder, ceder y ceder, porque si continuamos así, la próxima vez nos encontraremos con que Rusia intenta anexionarse un país báltico”, donde, por cierto, en Estonia y en Letonia tiene importantísimas minorías. La principal corriente de este grupo piensa que no podemos repetir el error de Yalta, de dejar dividir Europa en zonas de influencia y sobre todo de imponer la neutralidad a un país que no la desea. Por otra parte, lo que se estaría haciendo al admitir que Rusia se quedase con todas estas regiones es negarle a Ucrania, precisamente, su derecho a la legítima defensa. 

Otro grupo de esta tendencia sostiene que los partidarios de la estrategia de apaciguamiento no ofrecen ninguna solución a cómo se garantizaría entonces la seguridad de los países de Europa del Este. Además, el hecho de no extender la OTAN y de ser condescendientes con Rusia para evitar provocar a Rusia es un dilema falso, porque Rusia ya hace todo lo que puede por fastidiar a Occidente, todo el límite de provocación ya está superado. Si se quiere conseguir la estabilidad de Europa a base de cerrar los ojos y permitir que Rusia controle las zonas que antes pertenecían a la URSS, existe el riego de que Rusia siga ocupando territorios. ¿Hasta dónde tienen que llegar las fronteras de Rusia para que Rusia se sienta segura?

Además de las dos tendencias anteriores, existe una tercera corriente de pensamiento que llama la atención. Dice que en el caso de la Alemania nazi hay un hecho diferencial respecto de la situación actual: en aquel momento no existían las armas nucleares. En aquel momento, quizás fuera prioritario detener a Hitler a costa de pagar un alto precio, porque de lo contrario las consecuencias habrían sido catastróficas. Era un mal menor frente a un mal mayor. Sin embargo, ahora este dilema no existe, ya que ahora el dilema está entre llegar a un entendimiento con Rusia o una guerra nuclear.

La pregunta que plantea esta tercera posición es: ¿cuál es nuestra prioridad, castigar a Rusia o conseguir la estabilidad en Europa? Si elegimos la primera opción, entonces lo que habría que hacer es armar a Ucrania. Sin embargo, si nuestra prioridad es recuperar la estabilidad en Europa, entonces tenemos que iniciar conversaciones con Rusia. En realidad, a largo plazo, Occidente es mucho más fuerte que Rusia, pero el inconveniente que tiene a largo plazo es que no sabes si en ese periodo de tiempo tan grande estaremos todos muertos. Si Rusia ve que es más débil a largo plazo, obviamente intentará aprovechar la situación mientras todavía es fuerte.


Efectivos de la autoproclamada República Popular de Donetsk, en mayo de 2015 [Mstyslav Chernov]

Efectivos de la autoproclamada República Popular de Donetsk, en mayo de 2015 [Mstyslav Chernov]


11. Puede existir la interpretación de que lo que ocurrió en Crimea fuese una reacción de legítima defensa por parte de Rusia para evitar que su base naval de Sebastopol se convirtiera en base de la OTAN.  Rusia habría interpretado eso como una amenaza a su seguridad y, por tanto, habría intervenido para proteger su seguridad. Teniendo esto presente, tomemos como ejemplo la crisis de Cuba de 1962. Cuba decidió comprar armamento para colocar cohetes atómicos soviéticos en territorio cubano. Podían hacerlo desde el punto de vista del Derecho Internacional, eran dos países soberanos que podían venderse armas unos a otros. EEUU se sintió atacado ante la posibilidad de que hubiera cohetes en Cuba e intervino en Cuba. ¿No ha ocurrido lo mismo con Crimea y la URSS? En un segundo supuesto, imaginémonos que en México entra un gobierno de corte anti-americano, que se siente muy inseguro hacia EEUU y que decide instalar cohetes nucleares en la frontera de Río Grande. ¿EEUU permitiría en aras del Derecho Internacional de integridad territorial que hubiera baterías de cohetes apuntando a las ciudades de EEUU? ¿Qué piensa usted de esto?

Hay similitudes en esos casos, pero no se pueden comparar. Las diferencias que yo veo son, en primer lugar, que EEUU impuso un bloqueo en Cuba, pero no invadió Cuba, como usted dice, ni se anexionó región de Cuba alguna. Kennedy metió la pata con su invasión de Bahía de los Cochinos, retiró a sus tropas de allí y pidió públicamente perdón por la iniciativa. No me puedo imaginar a un líder ruso pidiendo públicamente perdón por la invasión ilegal por la URSS o por Rusia de un país soberano y sin declaración de guerra: Finlandia en 1939, los Bálticos en 1940, Hungría en 1956, Checoslovaquia en 1968, Afganistán en 1979, Ucrania en 2014….

En segundo lugar, los misiles instalados en Cuba eran armas nucleares ofensivas muy potentes, instaladas clandestinamente, mientras que EEUU no instala armas nucleares ofensivas comparables cerca de Rusia ni lo ha hecho clandestinamente. Moscú estima que los sistemas antimisiles norteamericanos en Polonia y Rumanía pueden convertirse en ofensivos fácilmente, pero tal recelo ruso se solventaría con un eficaz sistema de inspecciones y verificación. Además, los dirigentes rusos saben perfectamente que tales sistemas no constituyen amenaza efectiva alguna frente a su enorme arsenal nuclear. La prueba está en que presumen de él y lo consideran invulnerable, según palabras del propio presidente Putin.

En tercer lugar, lo de México es política ficción. No es imaginable que EEUU invada militarmente México para proteger a las minorías estadounidenses asentadas en ese país, como ha ocurrido con Crimea o el Donbass. Por otro lado, dudo que fuera posible que se instalaran armas nucleares en México con los acuerdos bilaterales y regionales que están vigentes entre EEUU y México y en el marco del tratado de libre comercio entre EEUU, México y Canadá. No olvidemos que, aunque imperfectos, tanto México como EEUU son regímenes democráticos. Sus líderes responden ante sus electores y ante su pueblo, y son elegidos por este. No es el caso de Cuba ni de la URSS, dictaduras comunistas, ni, según algunos autores, de la Rusia actual, régimen autoritario nacionalista. Las democracias no suelen hacer guerras entre ellas.

El único comportamiento de Estados Unidos similar a lo que ocurre en Crimea fue la invasión de la isla caribeña de Granada. Cuando en Granada subió al poder un régimen marxista, EEUU arguyó la necesidad de proteger a los estudiantes estadounidenses que había allí para intervenir, aunque no estaban en peligro.

Otra diferencia es que lo de Ucrania se inscribe en un proceso o tendencia (Kazajistán, Transnistria…), que parece haber estado perfectamente planificado desde 1990, como hemos comentado antes. No es un caso puntual, sorpresivo e improvisado, como fue la reacción de EEUU ante la instalación de misiles en Cuba en 1962.

12. Lo que ha comentado anteriormente sobre la reacción agresiva de Rusia para evitar el largo plazo, recuerda mucho a la estrategia directa de la contención estadounidense durante la Guerra Fría. La respuesta estadounidense era que, precisamente, había que rearmarse y tener una capacidad militar lo suficientemente intimidatoria para que la URSS no se atreviese a actuar agresivamente. Sería esa otra posible conclusión: ¿Hay que rearmarse?

De hecho, lo estamos haciendo. Para mí, el mayor error de Putin ha sido posibilitar que EEUU consiga en 20 días el consenso para un rearme y fortalecimiento de la OTAN que no había conseguido en 20 años. Ahora tienen una OTAN cohesionada y organizada, han conseguido el compromiso a un aumento de los gastos militares por parte de los aliados de la OTAN que antes eran reticentes a hacerlo.

13. Crimea era parte de Rusia hasta que Kruschev se la cedió a Ucrania en 1954. Además, el Imperio Ruso tuvo miles de muertes por recuperar esa península en la Guerra de Crimea. ¿El hecho de que ese territorio pertenezca a Ucrania o a Rusia es algo que podría ser discutible?

En primer lugar, la constatación de que Kruschev regaló Crimea a Ucrania es, según documentados autores, una de las grandes falsedades difundidas por los centros de inteligencia rusos, que ha sido creída por casi todo el mundo en Occidente. Aunque es cierto que la resolución del Presidium del PCUS de 1954 hace que Crimea pase a depender de Ucrania, con motivo del 300 aniversario de la incorporación de Ucrania al Imperio Ruso, este no era el único motivo, ya que Crimea es una zona muy árida, y el suministro de agua, mano de obra, infraestructura… es muchísimo más fácil desde Ucrania que desde Rusia. A efectos prácticos, es mucho más rentable, como se está viendo actualmente, mantener Crimea desde Ucrania que desde Rusia.

En segundo lugar, la región de Taganrog, más rica y más grande que Crimea, que anteriormente pertenecía a Ucrania, se asignó a Rusia. Por eso, algunos analistas piensan que lo que hubo fue una especie de compensación territorial, porque mantener Taganrog desde Ucrania es muy difícil también.

En tercer lugar, el cambio de fronteras administrativas entre las diferentes regiones de la URSS en tiempos de Stalin y de Kruschev era algo habitual y frecuente. Si consideramos anti-constitucional o ilegal la transferencia de Crimea a Ucrania por Kruschev, también hay que considerar ilegales docenas de modificaciones territoriales análogas que se hicieron en esa época en la URSS.

En cuarto lugar, Crimea ha sido parte de Rusia 250 años (Cuba fue española aproximadamente 400 años) y toda Ucrania occidental era Polonia hasta 1939. Luego Polonia tendría igual derecho a reclamar su parte de Ucrania que Rusia a reclamar la suya. Si vamos a justificar la anexión de territorios en base a vínculos históricos sin respetar los tratados internacionales actuales, entonces habría que rehacer todo el mapa mundial y provocaríamos una escalada bélica. Por esta regla de tres, los españoles deberían reclamar mañana mismo Cuba, pues fue un trauma para nosotros perderla, residen allí miles de españoles y fue mucho más tiempo española que Crimea rusa.

En quinto lugar, y más importante, en el Tratado de Amistad y Cooperación entre Rusia y Ucrania de 1997, Rusia reconoció la independencia e integridad territorial de Ucrania, incluida Crimea.

No podemos estar inmersos en un continuo proceso de reivindicaciones históricas. Para evitar eso existen los tratados internacionales que fijan las fronteras e impiden que volvamos a la selva.

14. Hace unos años fuimos testigos de cómo EEUU luchó por la independencia de Kosovo, la cual reconoció. Por tanto, ¿podríamos decir que el caso de Kosovo constituye un precedente que legitima a Rusia a defender la separación de Crimea?

Para muchos analistas, el caso de Kosovo y el caso de Crimea no tienen relación alguna entre ellos. En primer lugar, dicen, EEUU no buscaba anexionarse Kosovo, a diferencia de lo que Rusia hizo con Crimea. En segundo lugar, el reconocimiento de la independencia de Kosovo tuvo lugar después de 10 años de limpieza étnica llevado a cabo por las tropas Serbias en Kosovo contra la población albanesa. El tema se llevó a la ONU y se discutió durante mucho tiempo. Nada parecido ocurrió en Crimea: no había ningún conflicto entre rusos y ucranianos, no se llevó el tema a la ONU, ni siquiera se llevó al Tribunal Internacional de Justicia (Kosovo sí se llevó). Son cosas completamente diferentes. No había habido ningún incidente serio entre etnias en Crimea que justificase la anexión por parte de Rusia. En Kosovo sí los hubo, con miles de muertos.

Esto supone, según muchos autores, otro éxito de la propaganda rusa, que ha conseguido que mucha gente de Occidente considere que son casos similares. Además, habría que ver en qué condiciones se realizó el referéndum en Crimea: no hubo debates en televisión, no hubo diferentes partidos políticos que expusiesen sus posiciones, no hubo observadores internacionales, no hubo un censo fiable, los puntos de votación estaban tomados por el ejército ruso… No sabemos cómo es esa mayoría que votó a favor.

15. ¿Cómo se puede explicar el enorme poder y popularidad de Putin en un país considerado democrático y en el que existen elecciones regulares?

Un asunto que merece la pena comentar es el fracaso de las reformas democráticas en Rusia. Cuando se desintegra el comunismo en la URSS y Rusia opta por la economía de mercado, por la libertad de comercio y por la democracia liberal, espera recibir un modelo civilizado de todo eso. Lo que recibe, en más de una ocasión, son verdaderos gánsters occidentales haciendo negocios, apropiándose de los recursos económicos y culturales de Rusia, y de los cerebros de Rusia… La versión de la economía de mercado que recibe Rusia tras la implantación de la democracia liberal en el país es horrorosa y, a partir de ese momento, las palabras “democracia” y “reformas” quedan totalmente desacreditadas en Rusia. Ellos tienen una idea de reformas y de democracia totalmente nociva y fatal. Eso fue precisamente lo que catapultó al poder a líderes como Vladímir Putin.

Una cosa que no entendimos en Occidente es que, para un ruso, la estabilidad es mucho más importante que la libertad. Sobre todo no entendimos una cosa muy importante, que fue la pasmosa facilidad del tránsito del comunismo al nacionalismo. Fue una ingenuidad pasmosa por parte de los diplomáticos occidentales pensar que los líderes postcomunistas iban a edificar la democracia sobre las ruinas de la URSS y en contra de sus propios intereses.

El tránsito del comunismo al nacionalismo es, en realidad, muy fácil, porque sus elementos básicos son los mismos: primacía del líder sobre las instituciones, del dogma sobre los principios, de la lealtad sobre los méritos, de los slogans sobre el razonamiento, de la propaganda sobre la información, de la historia virtual sobre la real, etc.


Desfile de tropas rebeldes en Donetsk, en mayo de 2015 [Wikipedia]

Desfile de tropas rebeldes en Donetsk, en mayo de 2015 [Wikipedia]


16. La población de los países bálticos cuenta con una importante minoría rusa. En esos países se ha estabilizado la situación también porque ha habido un despliegue de la OTAN.¿Ucrania podría entrar en la OTAN y eso estabilizaría la situación o Rusia nunca permitiría que Ucrania entrase en la OTAN?

Hubo un momento en que se le propuso a Rusia unirse a la OTAN. Pero Rusia no quería ser un miembro más de la OTAN, no quería estar sujeta a EEUU, sino que desea tener protagonismo. Por su parte, Ucrania no es igual que los países bálticos. Yo creo que Ucrania no puede, de momento, entrar en la OTAN. Sin embargo, ya hay programas de colaboración entre la OTAN y el gobierno ucraniano. Para mí es consecuencia de la actuación del presidente Putin, porque ¿de qué le sirve ganar Crimea si pierde Ucrania, donde, además, ha hecho surgir un sentimiento anti-ruso? Con esa política, Rusia ha conseguido que la OTAN despierte y se fortalezca (lo que EEUU no había conseguido nunca), y que la mayoría de Ucrania tenga un sentimiento pro-occidental. Todo un balance.

En mi opinión, Rusia hará todo lo posible para evitar que Ucrania entre en la OTAN. No obstante, si Ucrania fuese admitida en la OTAN, Rusia respondería asimétricamente. A mi juicio, el mundo se colocaría al borde de una guerra nuclear.

17. ¿Cree que el asunto de Crimea puede tener una repercusión más amplia, establecer un precedente?

En opinión de muchos analistas, rusos incluidos, lo que Putin ha hecho allí es algo muy peligroso. Porque los argumentos que él da para justificar la secesión de Crimea de Ucrania, valdrían, según esos expertos, para justificar la secesión de otras regiones de Rusia. No ahora, pero sí en el futuro. Rusia tiene cerca de 120 etnias diferentes, imaginémonos que alguna decide aplicarse los argumentos utilizados en al caso de Crimea para justificar su propia secesión.

También hay otra cuestión a tener en cuenta, y es que Rusia se ha presentado como redentora de la humanidad a lo largo de la historia (con la caída de Constantinopla, erigiéndose como la tercera Roma y redentora de lo que quedaba de la civilización, y con la expansión del comunismo tras la Revolución de 1917, con la redención de los oprimidos), y ahora Rusia se presenta de nuevo por tercera vez como redentora de la humanidad. Para Rusia, las pautas morales que ahora en Occidente forman parte ya de los principios básicos de nuestra civilización, son inadmisibles. Ella piensa que nuestra sociedad se está disolviendo y que está totalmente corrompida. Por ejemplo, en Rusia jamás se permitirá la ideología de género y lo consideran como una plaga que está disolviendo la sociedad de Occidente. Esta tendencia que se conoce con el nombre de “mesianismo ruso”, que adopta diferentes formas a lo largo de la historia, es una constante con la que hay que contar. Rusia piensa que no está luchando solamente por Ucrania y por Crimea, sino por toda la civilización.

Categorías Global Affairs: Oriente Medio Seguridad y defensa Siria

Protest in London in October 2018 after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi

▲ Protest in London in October 2018 after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi [John Lubbock, Wikimedia Commons]

ANALYSISNaomi Moreno Cosgrove

October 2nd last year was the last time Jamal Khashoggi—a well-known journalist and critic of the Saudi government—was seen alive. The Saudi writer, United States resident and Washington Post columnist, had entered the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul with the aim of obtaining documentation that would certify he had divorced his previous wife, so he could remarry; but never left.

After weeks of divulging bits of information, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, laid out his first detailed account of the killing of the dissident journalist inside the Saudi Consulate. Eighteen days after Khashoggi disappeared, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) acknowledged that the 59-year-old writer had died after his disappearance, revealing in their investigation findings that Jamal Khashoggi died after an apparent “fist-fight” inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul; but findings were not reliable. Resultantly, the acknowledgement by the KSA of the killing in its own consulate seemed to pose more questions than answers.

Eventually, after weeks of repeated denials that it had anything to do with his disappearance, the contradictory scenes, which were the latest twists in the “fast-moving saga”, forced the kingdom to eventually acknowledge that indeed it was Saudi officials who were behind the gruesome murder thus damaging the image of the kingdom and its 33-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). What had happened was that the culmination of these events, including more than a dozen Saudi officials who reportedly flew into Istanbul and entered the consulate just before Khashoggi was there, left many sceptics wondering how it was possible for MBS to not know. Hence, the world now casts doubt on the KSA’s explanation over Khashoggi’s death, especially when it comes to the shifting explanations and MBS’ role in the conspiracy.

As follows, the aim of this study is to examine the backlash Saudi Arabia’s alleged guilt has caused, in particular, regarding European state-of-affairs towards the Middle East country. To that end, I will analyse various actions taken by European countries which have engaged in the matter and the different modus operandi these have carried out in order to reject a bloodshed in which arms selling to the kingdom has become the key issue.

Since Khashoggi went missing and while Turkey promised it would expose the “naked truth” about what happened in the Saudi consulate, Western countries had been putting pressure on the KSA for it to provide facts about its ambiguous account on the journalist’s death. In a joint statement released on Sunday 21st October 2018, the United Kingdom, France and Germany said: “There remains an urgent need for clarification of exactly what happened on 2nd October – beyond the hypotheses that have been raised so far in the Saudi investigation, which need to be backed by facts to be considered credible.” What happened after the kingdom eventually revealed the truth behind the murder, was a rather different backlash. In fact, regarding post-truth reactions amongst European countries, rather divergent responses have occurred.

Terminating arms selling exports to the KSA had already been carried out by a number of countries since the kingdom launched airstrikes on Yemen in 2015; a conflict that has driven much of Yemen’s population to be victims of an atrocious famine. The truth is that arms acquisition is crucial for the KSA, one of the world’s biggest weapons importers which is heading a military coalition in order to fight a proxy war in which tens of thousands of people have died, causing a major humanitarian catastrophe. In this context, calls for more constraints have been growing particularly in Europe since the killing of the dissident journalist. These countries, which now demand transparent clarifications in contrast to the opacity in the kingdom’s already-given explanations, are threatening the KSA with suspending military supply to the kingdom.



Probably one of the best examples with regards to the ceasing of arms selling—after not been pleased with Saudi state of affairs—is Germany. Following the acknowledgement of what happened to Khashoggi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared in a statement that she condemned his death with total sharpness, thus calling for transparency in the context of the situation, and stating that her government halted previously approved arms exports thus leaving open what would happen with those already authorised contracts, and that it wouldn’t approve any new weapons exports to the KSA: “I agree with all those who say that the, albeit already limited, arms export can’t take place in the current circumstances,” she said at a news conference.

So far this year, the KSA was the second largest customer in the German defence industry just after Algeria, as until September last year, the German federal government allocated export licenses of arms exports to the kingdom worth 416.4 million euros. Respectively, according to German Foreign Affair Minister, Heiko Maas, Germany was the fourth largest exporter of weapons to the KSA.

This is not the first time the German government has made such a vow. A clause exists in the coalition agreement signed by Germany’s governing parties earlier in 2018 which stated that no weapons exports may be approved to any country “directly” involved in the Yemeni conflict in response to the kingdom’s countless airstrikes carried out against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the area for several years. Yet, what is clear is that after Khashoggi’s murder, the coalition’s agreement has been exacerbated. Adding to this military sanction Germany went even further and proposed explicit sanctions to the Saudi authorities who were directly linked to the killing. As follows, by stating that “there are more questions unanswered than answered,” Maas declared that Germany has issued the ban for entering Europe’s border-free Schengen zone—in close coordination with France and Britain—against the 18 Saudi nationals who are “allegedly connected to this crime.”

Following the decision, Germany has thus become the first major US ally to challenge future arms sales in the light of Khashoggi’s case and there is thus a high likelihood that this deal suspension puts pressure on other exporters to carry out the same approach in the light of Germany’s Economy Minister, Peter Altmaier’s, call on other European Union members to take similar action, arguing that “Germany acting alone would limit the message to Riyadh.”


Following the line of the latter claim, on November 9th last year, Norway became the first country to back Germany’s decision when it announced it would freeze new licenses for arms exports to the KSA. Resultantly, in her statement, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ine Eriksen Søreide, declared that the government had decided that in the present situation they will not give new licenses for the export of defence material or multipurpose good for military use to Saudi Arabia. According to the Søreide, this decision was taken after “a broad assessment of recent developments in Saudi Arabia and the unclear situation in Yemen.” Although Norwegian ministry spokesman declined to say whether the decision was partly motivated by the murder of the Saudi journalist, not surprisingly, Norway’s announcement came a week after its foreign minister called the Saudi ambassador to Oslo with the aim of condemning Khashoggi’s assassination.  As a result, the latter seems to imply Norway’s motivations were a mix of both; the Yemeni conflict and Khashoggi’s death.

Denmark and Finland

By following a similar decision made by neighbouring Germany and Norway—despite the fact that US President Trump backed MBS, although the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had assessed that the crown prince was responsible for the order of the killing—Denmark and Finland both announced that they would also stop exporting arms to the KSA.

Emphasising on the fact that they were “now in a new situation”—after the continued deterioration of the already terrible situation in Yemen and the killing of the Saudi journalist—Danish Foreign Minister, Anders Samuelsen, stated that Denmark would proceed to cease military exports to the KSA remarking that Denmark already had very restrictive practices in this area and hoped that this decision would be able to create a “further momentum and get more European Union (EU) countries involved in the conquest to support tight implementation of the Union’s regulatory framework in this area.”

Although this ban is still less expansive compared to German measures—which include the cancelation of deals that had already been approved—Denmark’s cease of goods’ exports will likely crumble the kingdom’s strategy, especially when it comes to technology. Danish exports to the KSA, which were mainly used for both military and civilian purposes, are chiefly from BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, a subsidiary of the United Kingdom’s BAE Systems, which sold technology that allowed Intellectual Property surveillance and data analysis for use in national security and investigation of serious crimes. The suspension thus includes some dual-use technologies, a reference to materials that were purposely thought to have military applications in favour of the KSA.

On the same day Denmark carried out its decision, Finland announced they were also determined to halt arms export to Saudi Arabia. Yet, in contrast to Norway’s approach, Finnish Prime Minister, Juha Sipilä, held that, of course, the situation in Yemen lead to the decision, but that Khashoggi’s killing was “entirely behind the overall rationale”.

Finnish arms exports to the KSA accounted for 5.3 million euros in 2017. Nevertheless, by describing the situation in Yemen as “catastrophic”, Sipilä declared that any existing licenses (in the region) are old, and in these circumstances, Finland would refuse to be able to grant updated ones. Although, unlike Germany, Helsinki’s decision does not revoke existing arms licenses to the kingdom, the Nordic country has emphasized the fact that it aims to comply with the EU’s arms export criteria, which takes particular account of human rights and the protection of regional peace, security and stability, thus casting doubt on the other European neighbours which, through a sense of incoherence, have not attained to these values.

European Parliament

Speaking in supranational terms, the European Parliament agreed with the latter countries and summoned EU members to freeze arms sales to the kingdom in the conquest of putting pressure on member states to emulate the Germany’s decision.      

By claiming that arms exports to Saudi Arabia were breaching international humanitarian law in Yemen, the European Parliament called for sanctions on those countries that refuse to respect EU rules on weapons sales. In fact, the latest attempt in a string of actions compelling EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to dictate an embargo against the KSA, including a letter signed by MEPs from several parties.

Rapporteur for a European Parliament report on EU arms exports, Bodil Valero said: "European weapons are contributing to human rights abuses and forced migration, which are completely at odds with the EU's common values." As a matter of fact, two successful European Parliament resolutions have hitherto been admitted, but its advocates predicted that some member states especially those who share close trading ties with the kingdom are deep-seated, may be less likely to cooperate. Fact that has eventually occurred.



In contrast to the previously mentioned countries, other European states such as France, UK and Spain, have approached the issue differently and have signalled that they will continue “business as usual”.

Both France and the KSA have been sharing close diplomatic and commercial relations ranging from finance to weapons. Up to now, France relished the KSA, which is a bastion against Iranian significance in the Middle East region. Nevertheless, regarding the recent circumstances, Paris now faces a daunting challenge.

Just like other countries, France Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, announced France condemned the killing “in the strongest terms” and demanded an exhaustive investigation. "The confirmation of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi's death is a first step toward the establishment of the truth. However, many questions remain unanswered," he added. Following this line, France backed Germany when sanctioning the 18 Saudi citizens thus mulling a joint ban from the wider visa-free Schengen zone. Nevertheless, while German minister Altmeier summoned other European countries to stop selling arms to Riyadh—until the Saudi authorities gave the true explanation on Khashoggi’s death—, France refused to report whether it would suspend arms exports to the KSA. “We want Saudi Arabia to reveal all the truth with full clarity and then we will see what we can do,” he told in a news conference.           

In this context, Amnesty International France has become one of Paris’ biggest burdens. The organization has been putting pressure on the French government for it to freeze arms sales to the realm. Hence, by acknowledging France is one of the five biggest arms exporters to Riyadh—similar to the Unites States and Britain—Amnesty International France is becoming aware France’s withdrawal from the arms sales deals is crucial in order to look at the Yemeni conflict in the lens of human rights rather than from a non-humanitarian-geopolitical perspective. Meanwhile, France tries to justify its inaction. When ministry deputy spokesman Oliver Gauvin was asked whether Paris would mirror Berlin’s actions, he emphasized the fact that France’s arms sales control policy was meticulous and based on case-by-case analysis by an inter-ministerial committee. According to French Defence Minister Florence Parly, France exported 11 billion euros worth of arms to the kingdom from 2008 to 2017, fact that boosted French jobs. In 2017 alone, licenses conceivably worth 14.7 billion euros were authorized. Moreover, she went on stating that those arms exports take into consideration numerous criteria among which is the nature of exported materials, the respect of human rights, and the preservation of peace and regional security. "More and more, our industrial and defence sectors need these arms exports. And so, we cannot ignore the impact that all of this has on our defence industry and our jobs," she added. As a result, despite President Emmanuel Macron has publicly sought to devalue the significance relations with the KSA have, minister Parly, seemed to suggest the complete opposite.

Anonymously, a government minister held it was central that MBS retained his position. “The challenge is not to lose MBS, even if he is not a choir boy. A loss of influence in the region would cost us much more than the lack of arms sales”. Notwithstanding France’s ambiguity, Paris’ inconclusive attitude is indicating France’s clout in the region is facing a vulnerable phase. As president Macron told MBS at a side-line G20 summit conversation in December last year, he is worried. Although the context of this chat remains unclear, many believe Macron’s intentions were to persuade MBS to be more transparent as a means to not worsen the kingdom’s reputation and thus to, potentially, dismantle France´s bad image.

United Kingdom

As it was previously mentioned, the United Kingdom took part in the joint statement carried out also by France and Germany through its foreign ministers which claimed there was a need for further explanations regarding Khashoggi’s killing. Yet, although Britain’s Foreign Office said it was considering its “next steps” following the KSA’s admission over Khashoggi’s killing, UK seems to be taking a rather similar approach to France—but not Germany—regarding the situation.

In 2017, the UK was the sixth-biggest arms dealer in the world, and the second-largest exporter of arms to the KSA, behind the US. This is held to be a reflection of a large spear in sales last year. After the KSA intervened in the civil war in Yemen in early 2015, the UK approved more than 3.5billion euros in military sales to the kingdom between April 2015 and September 2016.

As a result, Theresa May has been under pressure for years to interrupt arms sales to the KSA specially after human rights advocates claimed the UK was contributing to alleged violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Adding to this, in 2016, a leaked parliamentary committee report suggested that it was likely that British weapons had been used by the Saudi-led coalition to violate international law, and that manufactured aircraft by BAE Systems, have been used in combat missions in Yemen.

Lately, in the context of Khashoggi’s death things have aggravated and the UK is now facing a great amount of pressure, mainly embodied by UK’s main opposition Labour party which calls for a complete cease in its arms exports to the KSA.  In addition, in terms of a more international strain, the European Union has also got to have a say in the matter. Philippe Lamberts, the Belgian leader of the Green grouping of parties, said that Brexit should not be an excuse for the UK to abdicate on its moral responsibilities and that Theresa May had to prove that she was keen on standing up to the kind of atrocious behaviour shown by the killing of Khashoggi and hence freeze arms sales to Saudi Arabia immediately.

Nonetheless, in response and laying emphasis on the importance the upholding relation with UK’s key ally in the Middle East has, London has often been declining calls to end arms exports to the KSA. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt defended there will be “consequences to the relationship with Saudi Arabia” after the killing of Khashoggi, but he has also pointed out that the UK has an important strategic relationship with Riyadh which needs to be preserved. As a matter of fact, according to some experts, UK’s impending exit from the EU has played a key role. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) claims Theresa May’s pursuit for post-Brexit trade deals has seen an unwelcome focus on selling arms to some of the world's most repressive regimes. Nevertheless, by thus tackling the situation in a similar way to France, the UK justifies its actions by saying that it has one of the most meticulous permitting procedures in the world by remarking that its deals comprehend safeguards that counter improper uses.


After Saudi Arabia’s gave its version for Khashoggi’s killing, the Spanish government said it was “dismayed” and echoed Antonio Guterres’ call for a thorough and transparent investigation to bring justice to all of those responsible for the killing. Yet, despite the clamour that arose after the murder of the columnist, just like France and the UK, Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, defended arms exporting to the KSA by claiming it was in Spain’s interest to keep selling military tools to Riyadh. Sanchez held he stood in favour of Spain’s interests, namely jobs in strategic sectors that have been badly affected by “the drama that is unemployment". Thusly, proclaiming Spain’s unwillingness to freeze arms exports to the kingdom. In addition, even before Khashoggi’s killing, Sanchez's government was subject to many critics after having decided to proceed with the exporting of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, despite worries that they could harm civilians in Yemen. Notwithstanding this, Sánchez justified Spain’s decision in that good ties with the Gulf state, a key commercial partner for Spain, needed to be kept.

As a matter of fact, Spain’s state-owned shipbuilder Navantia, in which 5,500 employees work, signed a deal in July last year which accounted for 1.8 billion euros that supplied the Gulf country with five navy ships.  This shipbuilder is situated in the southern region of Andalusia, a socialist bulwark which accounts for Spain's highest unemployment estimates and which has recently held regional elections. Hence, it was of the socialist president’s interest to keep these constituencies pleased and the means to this was, of course, not interrupting arms deals with the KSA.

As a consequence, Spain has recently been ignoring the pressures that have arose from MEP’s and from Sanchez’s minorities in government—Catalan separatist parties and far-left party Podemos— which demand a cease in arms exporting. For the time being, Spain will continue business with the KSA as usual.


All things considered, while Saudi Arabia insists that MBS was not aware of the gruesome murder and is distracting the international attention towards more positive headlines—such as the appointment of the first female ambassador to the US—in order to clear the KSA’s image in the context of Khashoggi’s murder, several European countries have taken actions against the kingdom’s interests. Yet, the way each country has approached the matter has led to the rise of two separate blocks which are at discordance within Europe itself. Whereas some European leaders have shown a united front in casting blame on the Saudi government, others seem to express geopolitical interests are more important.

During the time Germany, Norway, Denmark and Finland are being celebrated by human rights advocates for following through on their threat to halt sales to the kingdom, bigger arms exporters—like those that have been analysed—have pointed out that the latter nations have far less to lose than they do. Nonetheless, inevitably, the ceasing carried out by the northern European countries which are rather small arms exporters in comparison to bigger players such as the UK and France, is likely to have exacerbated concerns within the European arms industry of a growing anti-Saudi consensus in the European Union or even beyond.

What is clear is that due to the impact Saudi Arabia’s state of affairs have caused, governments and even companies worldwide are coming under pressure to abandon their ties to the oil-rich, but at the same time, human-rights-violating Saudi Arabian leadership. Resultantly, in Europe, countries are taking part in two divergent blocks that are namely led by two of the EU’s most compelling members: France and Germany. These two sides are of rather distant opinions regarding the matter, fact that does not seem to be contributing in terms of the so-much-needed European Union integration.

Categorías Global Affairs: Oriente Medio Unión Europea Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Análisis Arabia Saudita y el Golfo Pérsico

[Bruce Riedel, Kings and Presidents. Saudi Arabia and the United States since FDR. Brookings Institution Press. Washington, 2018. 251 p.]


RESEÑAEmili J. Blasco

Petróleo a cambio de protección es el pacto que a comienzos de 1945 sellaron Franklin D. Roosevelt y el rey Abdulaziz bin Saud a bordo de USS Quincy, en aguas de El Cairo, cuando el presidente estadounidense regresaba de la Conferencia de Yalta. Desde entonces, la especial relación entre Estados Unidos y Arabia Saudí ha sido uno de los elementos claves de la política internacional. Hoy el fracking hace menos necesario para Washington el petróleo arábigo, pero cultivar la amistad saudí sigue interesando a la Casa Blanca, incluso en una presidencia poco ortodoxa en cuestiones diplomáticas: el primer país que Donald Trump visitó como presidente fue precisamente Arabia Saudí.

Los altos y bajos en esa relación, debidos a las vicisitudes mundiales, especialmente en Oriente Medio, han marcado el tenor de los contactos entre los distintos presidentes de Estados Unidos y los correspondientes monarcas de la Casa de Saúd. A analizar el contenido de esas relaciones, siguiendo las sucesivas parejas de interlocutores entre Washington y Riad, se dedica este libro de Bruce Riedel, quien fue analista de la CIA y miembro del Consejo de Seguridad Nacional estadounidense como especialista en la región, y ahora dirige el Proyecto Inteligencia del think tank Brookings Institution.

En esa relación sorprende la posición central que ocupa la cuestión palestina. A veces podría pensarse que la invocación que muchos países árabes hacen del conflicto palestino-israelí es retórica, pero Riedel constata que en el caso de Arabia Saudí ese asunto es fundamental. Formó parte del pacto inicial entre Roosevelt y Abdulaziz bin Saud (el presidente estadounidense se comprometió a no apoyar la partición de Palestina para crear el Estado de Israel sin contar con el parecer árabe, algo que Truman no respetó, consciente de que Riad no podía romper con Washington porque necesitaba a las petroleras estadounidenses) y desde entonces ha aparecido en cada ocasión.

Kings and Presidents. Saudi Arabia and the United States since FDR

Los avances o estancamientos en el proceso de paz árabe-israelí, y la distinta pasión de los reyes saudís sobre este asunto, han marcado directamente la relación entre las administraciones estadounidenses y la Monarquía saudí. Por ejemplo, el apoyo de Washington a Israel en la guerra de 1967 derivó en el embargo petrolero de 1973; los esfuerzos de George Bush senior y Bill Clinton por un acuerdo de paz ayudaron a una estrecha relación con el rey Fahd y el príncipe heredero Abdalá; este, en cambio, propició un enfriamiento ante el desinterés mostrado por George Bush junior. “Un vibrante y efectivo proceso de paz ayudará a cimentar una fuerte relación entre rey y presidente; un proceso encallado y exhausto dañará su conexión”.

¿Seguirá siendo esta cuestión algo determinante para las nuevas generaciones de príncipes saudís? “La causa palestina es profundamente popular en la sociedad saudí, especialmente en el establishment clerical. La Casa de Saúd ha convertido la creación de un estado palestino, con Jerusalén como su capital, en algo emblemático de su política desde la década de 1960. Un cambio generacional es improbable que altere esa postura fundamental”.

Además de este, existen otros dos aspectos que se han mostrado disruptivos en la entente Washington-Riad: el Wahabismo impulsado por Arabia Saudí y el requerimiento de Estados Unidos de reformas políticas en el mundo árabe. Riedel asegura que, dada la fundacional alianza entre la Casa de Saúd y esa estricta variante suní del Islam, que Riad ha promovido en el mundo para congraciarse con sus clérigos, como compensación cada vez que ha debido plegarse a las exigencias del impío Estados Unidos, no cabe ninguna ruptura entre ambas instancias. “Arabia Saudí no puede abandonar el Wahabismo y sobrevivir en su forma actual”, advierte.

Por ello, el libro termina con una perspectiva más bien pesimista sobre el cambio –democratización, respeto de los derechos humanos– que a Arabia Saudí le plantea la comunidad internacional (ciertamente que sin mucha insistencia, en el caso de Estados Unidos). No solo Riad fue el “principal jugador” en la contrarrevolución cuando se produjo la Primavera Árabe, sino que puede ser un factor que vaya contra una evolución positiva de Oriente Medio. “Superficialmente parece que Arabia Saudí es una fuerza de orden en la región, alguien que está intentando prevenir el caos y el desorden. Pero a largo plazo, por intentar mantener un orden insostenible, aplicado a la fuerza por un estado policial, el reino podría, de hecho, ser una fuerza para el caos”.

Riedel ha tratado personalmente a destacados miembros de la familia real saudí. A pesar de una estrecha relación con algunos de ellos, especialmente con el príncipe Bandar bin Sultan, que fue embajador en Estados Unidos durante más de veinte años, el libro no es condescendiente con Arabia Saudí en las disputas entre Washington y Riad. Más crítico con George W. Bush que con Barack Obama, Riedel también señala las incongruencias de este último en sus políticas hacia Oriente Medio.

Categorías Global Affairs: Norteamérica Oriente Medio Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Reseñas de libros Arabia Saudita y el Golfo Pérsico

Satellite imagery of the Jordan River [NASA]

▲Satellite imagery of the Jordan River [NASA]

ANALYSISMarina Díaz Escudero

Water is an essential natural resource, not only for individual survival on Earth, but also for nation-states and their welfare; having an effect on socio-economic development, trade, health and population productivity.

As a natural determinant of power, its accessibility must be considered by states in their policies on national security; “hydropolitics” being the branch of study for this phenomenon. Although it has been, and continues to be, a major source of inter-state conflict, it is an arena in which cooperation and diplomacy between rival countries can set the ground for further political agreements, effectively leading to more stable and peaceful relations.

On the other hand, when water is used as a natural border or must be shared between various countries, concurrent cooperation between all of them is essential to find an effective and non-violent way to approach the resource. Otherwise, an overlapping of different, and potentially contradictory, bilateral agreements may lead to frictions. If one of the concerned countries is not present in negotiations, as some historical events suggest (e.g. 1992 multilateral negotiations in Moscow, where Lebanon and Syria where not present), this will always constitute an obstacle for regional stability.

Moreover, although 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, factors such as economic interests, climate change, and explosive population growth are also challenging the sustainable distribution of water sources among countries. The future effects of this scarcity in the region will demand consistent political action in the long-term and current leaders should bear it in mind.

Water availability and conflict in the MENA region

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is known as an arid and semi-arid region, with only 1% of the world’s renewable water resources. On average, water availability is only 1,200 cubic meters, around six times less than the worldwide average of 7,000 cubic meters.

As global temperatures rise, more frequent and severe droughts will take place in the region and this will make countries which already have socio-economic rivalries more prone to go to war with each other. According to the World Resources Institute, thirteen of the thirty three states that will suffer from worse water scarcity in the twenty-first century will be Middle Eastern countries.

To cite the findings of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) report, Global Trends: Paradox of Progress, more than thirty countries – nearly half of them in the Middle East – will experience extremely high water stress by 2035, increasing economic, social, and political tensions.

Although claims to the land were and are the main motives for much of the current conflict, water, as part of the contested territories, has always been considered as a primary asset to be won in conflict. In fact, recognition of the importance of water lent the term, the “War over Water”, to conflicts in the region, and control over the resource constitutes a significant advantage.

Despite there being several water bodies in the Middle East (Nile, Euphrates, Tigris…), the Jordan River basin is one of the most significant ones today in terms of its influence on current conflicts. The Jordan River Basin is a 223 km long river with an upper course from its sources up to the Galilee Sea, and a lower one, from the latter to the Dead Sea. Territories such as Lebanon, Israel and the West Bank are situated to its West, while Syria and Jordan border it to the East. Water scarcity in the Jordan watershed comes from many different factors, but the existence of cultural, religious and historical differences between the riparian countries (situated on the banks of the river) has led to a centuries-long mismanagement of the source.

Tensions between Zionism and the Arab world on regards to the Jordan River became noticeable in the 1950s, when most Arab countries rejected the Johnston Plan that aimed at dividing the water by constructing a number of dams and canals on the different tributaries of the river. The plan was based on an earlier one commissioned by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) and was accepted by the water technical committees of the five riparian countries. Nevertheless, the Arab League didn’t give the go-ahead and even hardened its position after the Suez Crisis.

In spite of this, Jordan and Israel decided to abide by their allocations and developed two projects, the Israeli National Water Carrier (to transport water from the north to the center and south) and Jordan’s East Ghor Main Canal (King Abdullah Canal). In retaliation and with severe consequences, Arab states reunited in an Arab Summit (1964) and decided to divert Jordan’s headwaters to the Yarmouk river (for the Syrian Arab Republic and Jordan), depriving Israel of 35% of its Water Carrier capacity.

This provocation led to a series of military clashes and prompted Israel’s attack on Arab construction projects; a move that would help precipitate the 1967 Six-Day War, according to some analysts. As a result of the war, Israel gained control of the waters of the West Bank (formely Jordan-annexed in the 1948 war and today still controlled by the Israeli Civil Administration) and the Sea of Galilee (today constituing about 60% of the country’s fresh water).

Later, in 1995, by the Article 40 of the Oslo II political agreement, […] Israel recognized Palestinian water rights in the West Bank and established the Joint Water Committee to manage and develop new supplies and to investigate illegal water withdrawals. Nevertheless, the loss of control over water in the West Bank has never been accepted by neighbouring Arab countries as, despite the agreement, much of the water coming from it is still directly given to Israeli consumers (and only a smaller fraction to Palestinians living under their control).

Role of water in Syrian-Israeli hostilities

Hostilities have been covering the agenda of Syrian-Israeli relationships ever since the Armistice Agreements signed by Israel with each of the four neighbouring Arab countries in 1949. This is compounded by the fact that there is seldom mutual agreement with resolutions proposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, was taken away by Israel in the aftermath of the Six-Day War and is still considered an Israeli-occupied territory. In 1974 the Agreement on Disengagement was signed, ending the Yom Kippur War and resulting in the formation of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), a buffer zone separating the Israeli portion of the Golan Heights and the rest of Syria. Although Israel kept most of the Golan Heights territory, in 1981 it unilaterally passed the Golan Heights Law to impose its jurisdiction and administration on the occupied territory (refusing to call it “annexation”). These laws did not receive international recognition and were declared void by the UNSC.

The fact that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in April 2016 in a weekly cabinet meeting that “the Golan Heights will remain forever in Israeli hands” has once again triggered the rejection of UNSC’s members, who have declared that the status of the Heights “remains unchanged.”

Rainwater catchment in the Golan Heights feeds into the Jordan River and nowadays provides a third of Israel's water supply. Although “Syria has built several dams in the Yarmouk river sub-basin, which is part of the Jordan River basin”, the Golan Heights are likely to remain an important thorn in future Israeli-Syrian relationships.


Map of the Jordan River Basin [Palestinian Authority]

Map of the Jordan River Basin [Palestinian Authority]


Water as a casus belli between Lebanon and Israel

In March 2002, Lebanon decided to divert part of the Hasbani (a major tributary of the Jordan upper course) to supply the lebanese Wazzani village. Ariel Sharon, the former Prime Minister of Israel, said that the issue could easily become a "casus belli". According to Israel, Lebanon should have made consultations before pumping any water from the Springs, but both the Lebanese government and Hezbollah (a shi’a militant group) condemned the idea.

The Wazzani project, according to Lebanon, only aimed to redevelop the south by extracting a limited amount of water from the Hasbani; 300 MCM per year (they drew 7 MCM by the time). The actual conflict with Israel began when Lebanon started constructing the pumping station very close to the Israeli border.

The United States (US) decided to establish a State Department water expert in order to assess the situation “and cool tempers” but in 2006, during the Lebanon war, the pumping station and other infrastructures, such as an underground water diversion pipe which run Letani river water to many villages, were destroyed.

Although Israeli-Lebanese tensions have continued due to other issues, such as spying, natural gas control and border incidents, water source domination has been a significant contributor to conflict between the two states.

Inter-Arab conflicts on water allocation

Some inter-Arab conflicts on regards to water distribution have also taken place, but they are small-scale and low level ones. In 1987, an agreement was signed between Jordan and Syria which allowed the latter to build twenty five dams with a limited capacity in the Yarmouk River. Later on it was proved that Syria had been violating the pact by constructing more dams than permitted: in 2014 it had already constructed forty two of them. New bilateral agreements were signed in 2001, 2003 and 2004, but repeated violations of these agreements by Syria in terms of water-allocation became unsustainable for Jordan. Most recently (2012), former Jordan's water minister Hazim El Naser stressed the necessity “to end violations of the water-sharing accords.”

Although these are low-level tensions, they could quickly escalate into a regional conflict between Jordan, Syria and Israel, as a decrease of water from the Yarmouk released by Syria to Jordan may prevent Jordan to comply with its commitments towards Israel.

Regional cooperation: from multilateralism to bilateralism

Since the beginning of the last century, attempts to achieve multilateral cooperation and a basin-wide agreement between the five co-riparian countries have been hindered by regional political conflict. Boundary definition, choices about decision-making arrangements, and issues of accountability, together with other political divisions, can help explain the creation of subwatershed communities of interest instead of a major watershed agreement between all neighbour countries.

The Israeli-Palestine peace process begun in 1991 with the Conference in Madrid, attended by all riparians: Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. Co-sponsored by the US and the Soviet Union as representatives of the international community, it addressed several regional issues, such as environment, arms control, economic development and, of course, water distribution (in fact, water rights became one of the trickiest areas of discussion).

In 1992, multilateral negotiations about regional cooperation continued in Moscow but this time they were only attended by Israel, the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and the international community; Syria and Lebanon were not present. “After the failed Johnston plan, external efforts to achieve a multilateral agreement through cooperation on water sources were attempted by the Centre for Environmental Studies and Resource Management (CESAR) […] As Syria and Lebanon did not want to participate in a process involving Israel, (it) ran parallel processes for Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan on the one hand, and Syria and Lebanon on the other hand.”

As a matter of fact, bilateral instruments grew in importance and two treaties, between Israel and Jordan/Palestine respectively, were signed: The Treaty of Peace between The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and The State of Israel (1994) and The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Oslo II, 1995). Discussions about water use and joint water management played an important role and were included in the annexes.

In 1996, the Trilateral Declaration on Principles for Cooperation on Water-Related Matters and New and Additional Water Resources was signed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and in 2003 the first two initiated a plan called Roadmap for Peace which included the revival of cooperation on regional issues like water.

Although Israel and Syria started some negotiations to solve the Golan Heights’ problem in 2008, after the break out of the Syrian civil war distrust between both actors has increased, leaving the most important thorn in multilateral regional negotatiations still unsolved. Nevertheless, “a new government in Syria after the end of the war may provide new opportunities for improved bi- and ultimately multilateral cooperation,” says the FAO. The previous year (2007) Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic also signed some agreements “in regard to shared water in the Yarmouk river basin.”

Role of Non-Governmental Organizations

Civil society has also been an important platform for resource-management discussions between riparian countries.

Middle Eastern rhetoric, according to the BBC, “often portrays the issue of water as an existential, zero-sum conflict - casting either Israel as a malevolent sponge sucking up Arab water resources, or the implacably hostile Arabs as threatening Israel's very existence by denying life-giving water.”

For this reason, in 2010, Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME, also called EcoPeace Middle East) stressed the importance of replacing this win-lose approach for a compromising perspective of mutual gains for all. In this way, their proposals don’t “include quantitative water allocations, but the implementation of a joint institutional structure that is continuously tasked with peaceful conflict resolution over water resources; […] defining water rights not as the access to a certain water quantity, but as a broader bundle of rights and duties to access and use the available water and to uphold quality and quantity standards.”

Through “The Good Water Neighbors” project (2001), the NGO tried to raise awareness about the negative consequences of leaving this issue unmanaged and reiterated its willingness to strenghten ”institutional capacities for collaboration in the region.” According to the staff, Israel, Jordan and Palestine could develop a certain interdependence, focused on water (Israel to Jordan/Palestine) and solar-generated electricity (Jordan to Palestine/Israel), in order to facilitate the powering of desalination plants and produce more cleanwater for sale.

The use of this type of political support for transboundary cooperation, based on water access but focused on solving less cultural and sensitive problems (like environmental sustainability), as a means to opening up avenues for dialogue on other political issues, could be the key for a lasting peace in the region.

According to Gidon Brombert, cofounder and Israeli director of FoEME, adopting “healthy interdependencies is a powerful way to promote regional water and energy stability as a foundation for long-lasting peace between our people.”

A testament to the success of these initiatives is the fact that Jordan and Israel scored 56.67 under the Water Cooperation Quotient (WCQ) 2017, which means that there is currently zero risk of a water-related war between both states (50 is the minimum score for this to apply).

Final key points and conclusions

There is no doubt that water issues have been a key discussion point between riparian countries in the Jordan River watershed since the late nineteenth century, and rightly so, as the only way to achieve a long-lasting peace in the region is to accept that water management is an integral part of political discourse and decisions. Not only because it is an essential factor in the conflicts that arise between states, but because agreements on other political matters could be furthered through the establishment of sound agreements in the hydropolitical arena.

In other words, a “baby-step” approach to politics should be applied: peaceful discussions on this and other matters leveraged to talk about other sources of conflict and utilized to improve political relations between two parties. The Korean conflict is a good example: although both Koreas are far from agreeing with regards to their political outlook, they have been able to cooperate in other fields, such as the Winter Olympic games. Communication during the games was used to subtly suggest avenues for a political reapproachment, which now seems to be progressing satisfactorily.

As for multilateral-bilateral conditions of negotiations, it is important to take into account the fact that the Jordan River basin, mainly due to its geological condition as a watershed, has to be shared by several different countries, five to be exact. This may seem obvious but clearly many actors don’t see its implications.

Understandably, it is very difficult for a state to manage various bilateral agreements concerning the same asset with countries that are mutually at odds with one another. Their contents can overlap, creating contradictions and making the achievement of a general arrangement not only disorganized, but also challenging. Notwithstanding, a multilaterally agreed distribution of the basin’s water – taking into account the necessities of all riparians simultaneously, could more easily pave the way for further cooperation on other, pressing, political issues.

Last but not least, it is important not to forget about policies related to other regional affairs, and their potential effect on water management. Climate change, for instance, will certainly affect water availability in the MENA region and the Jordan River basin, easily disrupting and modifying past and future agreements on the resource’s allocation and distribution. Attention should also be paid to interest groups and to the economic situation of the countries involved in the negotitations, as these will be determinant in states’ decisions about the implementation of certain future projects.

Categorías Global Affairs: Oriente Medio Energía, recursos y sostenibilidad Análisis Arabia Saudita y el Golfo Pérsico

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and President Donald Trump during a meeting in Washington in 2017 [White House]

▲Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and President Donald Trump during a meeting in Washington in 2017 [White House]

ANALYSIS / Naomi Moreno

Saudi Arabia used to be the only country in the world that banned women from driving. This ban was one of the things that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) was best known for to outsiders not otherwise familiar with the country's domestic politics, and has thus been a casus belli for activists demanding reforms in the kingdom. Last month, Saudi Arabia started issuing the first driver's licenses to women, putting into effect some of the changes promised by the infamous Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) in his bid to modernize Saudi Arabian politics. The end of the ban further signals the beginning of a move to expand the rights of women in KSA, and builds on piecemeal developments that took place in the realm of women’s rights in the kingdom prior to MBS’ entrance to the political scene.

Thus, since 2012, Saudi Arabian women have been able to do sports as well as participate in the Olympic Games; in the 2016 Olympics, four Saudi women were allowed to travel to Rio de Janeiro to compete. Moreover, within the political realm, King Abdullah swore in the first 30 women to the shura council − Saudi Arabia's consultative council − in February 2013, and in the kingdom's 2015 municipal elections, women were able to vote and run for office for the first time. Finally, and highlighting the fact that economic dynamics have similarly played a role in driving progression in the kingdom, the Saudi stock exchange named the first female chairperson in its history − a 39-year-old Saudi woman named Sarah Al Suhaimi − last February.

Further, although KSA may be known to be one of the “worst countries to be a woman”, the country has experienced a notable breakthrough in the last 5 years and the abovementioned advances in women’s rights, to name some, constitute a positive development. However, the most visible reforms have arguably been the work of MBS. The somewhat rash and unprecedented decision to end the ban on driving coincided with MBS' crackdown on ultra-conservative, Wahhabi clerics and the placing of several of the kingdom's richest and most influential men under house arrest, under the pretext of challenging corruption. In addition, under his leadership, the oil-rich kingdom is undergoing economic reforms to reduce the country's dependency on oil, in a bid to modernize the country’s economy. 

Nonetheless, despite the above mentioned reforms being classified by some as unprecedented, progressive leaps that are putting an end to oppression through challenging underlying ultra-conservatism traditions (as well as those that espouse them), a measure of distrust has arisen among Saudis and outsiders with regards the motivations underlying the as-of-yet seemingly limited reforms that have been introduced. While some perceive the crown prince's actions to be a genuine move towards reforming Saudi society, several indicators point to the possibility that MBS might have more practical reasons that are only tangentially related to progression for progression's sake. As the thinking goes, such decrees may have less to do with genuine reform, and more to do with improving an international image to deflect from some of the kingdom’s more controversial practices, both at home and abroad. A number of factors drive this public scepticism.

Reasons for scepticism

The first relates to the fact that KSA is a country where an ultraconservative form of shari'a or Islamic law continues to constitute the primary legal framework. This legal framework is based on the Qur'an and Hadith, within which the public and many private aspects of everyday life are regulated. Unlike in other Muslim majority countries, where only selective elements of the shari'a are adopted, Wahhabism – which is identified by the Court of Strasbourg as a main source of terrorism − has necessitated the strict adherence to a fundamentalist interpretation of shari'a, one that draws from the stricter and more literal Hanbali school of jurisprudence. As such, music and the arts have been strictly controlled and censored. In addition, although the religious police (more commonly known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice) have had their authority curbed to a certain degree, they are still given the authority to enforce Islamic norms of conduct in public by observing suspects and forwarding their findings to the police.

In the past few years, the KSA has been pushing for a more national Wahhabism, one that is more modern in its outlook and suitable for the kingdom’s image. Nevertheless, the Wahhabi clergy has been close to the Al Saud dynasty since the mid-18th century, offering it Islamic legitimacy in return for control over parts of the state, and a lavish religious infrastructure of mosques and universities. Therefore, Saudi clerics are pushing back significantly against democratization efforts. As a result, the continuing prevalence of a shari'a system of law raises questions about the ability of the kingdom to seriously democratise and reform to become moderate.

Secondly, and from a domestic point of view, Saudi Arabia is experiencing disharmony. Saudi citizens are not willing to live in a country where any political opposition is quelled by force, and punishments for crimes such as blasphemy, sorcery, and apostasy are gruesome and carried out publicly. This internal issue has thus embodied an identity crisis provoked mainly by the 2003 Iraq war, and reinforced by the events of the Arab Spring. Disillusionment, unemployment, religious and tribal splits, as well as human rights abuses and corruption among an ageing leadership have been among the main grievances of the Saudi people who are no longer as tolerant of oppression.

In an attempt to prevent the spill over of the Arab Spring fervor into the Kingdom, the government spent $130 billion in an attempt to offset domestic unrest. Nonetheless, these grants failed to satisfy the nearly 60 percent of the population under the age of twenty-one, which refused to settle. In fact, in 2016 protests broke out in Qatif, a city in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich, eastern provinces, which prompted Saudis to deploy additional security units to the region. In addition, in September of last year, Saudi authorities, arguing a battle against corruption and a crack down on extremism, arrested dozens of people, including prominent clerics. According to a veteran Saudi journalist, this was an absurd action as “there was nothing that called for such arrests”. He argued that several among those arrested were not members of any political organization, but rather individuals with dissenting viewpoints to those held by the ruling family.

Among those arrested was Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, an influential cleric known for agitating for political change and for being a pro-shari'a activist. Awdah's arrest, while potentially disguised as part of the kingdom’s attempts to curb the influence of religious hardliners, is perhaps better understood in the context of the Qatar crisis. Thus, when KSA, with the support of a handful of other countries in the region, initiated a blockade of the small Gulf peninsula in June of last year, Awdah welcomed a report on his Twitter account suggesting that the then three-month-old row between Qatar and four Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia may be resolved. The ensuing arrest of the Sheikh seems to confirm a suspicion that it was potentially related to his favouring the renormalization of relations with Qatar, as opposed to it being related to MBS' campaign to moderate Islam in the kingdom.

A third factor that calls into question the sincerity of the modernization campaign is economic. Although Saudi Arabia became a very wealthy country following the discovery of oil in the region, massive inequality between the various classes has grown since, as these resources remain to be controlled by a select few. As a result, nearly one fifth of the population continues to live in poverty, especially in the predominantly Shi’a South where, ironically, much of the oil reservoirs are located. In these areas, sewage runs in the streets, and only crumbs are spent to alleviate the plight of the poor. Further, youth opportunities in Saudi Arabia are few, which leaves much to be desire, and translates into occasional unrest. Thus, the lack of possibilities has led many young men to join various terrorist organizations in search of a new life.


Statement by MBS in a conference organized in Riyadh in October 2017 [KSA]

Statement by MBS in a conference organized in Riyadh in October 2017 [KSA]


Vision 2030 and international image

In the context of the Saudi Vision 2030, the oil rich country is aiming to wean itself of its dependence on the natural resource which, despite its wealth generation capacity, has also been one of the main causes of the country's economic problems. KSA is facing an existential crisis that has led to a re-think of its long-standing practice of selling oil via fixed contracts. This is why Vision 2030 is so important. Seeking to regain better control over its economic and financial destiny, the kingdom has designed an ambitious economic restructuring plan, spearheaded by MBS. Vision 2030 constitutes a reform programme that aims to upgrade the country’s financial status by diversifying its economy in a world of low oil prices. Saudi Arabia thus needs overseas firms’ investments, most notably in non-oil sectors, in order to develop this state-of-the-art approach. This being said, Vision 2030 inevitably implies reforms on simultaneous fronts that go beyond economic affairs. The action plan has come in at a time when the kingdom is not only dealing with oil earnings and lowering its reserves, but also expanding its regional role. As a result, becoming a more democratic country could attract foreign wealth to a country that has traditionally been viewed in a negative light due to its repressive human rights record.  

This being said, Saudi Arabia also has a lot to do regarding its foreign policy in order to improve its international image. Despite this, the Saudi petition to push the US into a war with Iran has not ceased during recent years. Religious confrontation between the Sunni Saudi autocracy and Iran’s Shi’a theocracy has characterized the geopolitical tensions that have existed in the region for decades. Riyadh has tried to circumvent criticism of its military intervention in the Yemen through capitalizing on the Trump administration's hostility towards Iran, and involving the US in its campaign; thus granting it a degree of legitimacy as an international alliance against the Houthis. Recently, MBS stated that Trump was the “best person at the right time” to confront Iran. Conveniently enough, Trump and the Republicans are now in charge of US’ foreign affairs. Whereas the Obama administration, in its final months, suspended the sale of precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration has moved to reverse this in the context of the Yemeni conflict. In addition, in May of this year, just a month after MBS visited Washington in a meeting which included discussions regarding the Iran accords, the kingdom has heaped praise on president Trump following his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

All things considered, 2018 may go down in history as the irreversible end of the absolute archaic Saudi monarchy. This implosion was necessitated by events, such as those previously mentioned, that Saudi rulers could no longer control or avoid. Hitherto, MBS seems to be fulfilling his father’s wishes. He has hand-picked dutiful and like-minded princes and appointed them to powerful positions. As a result, MBS' actions suggest that the kingdom is turning over a new page in which a new generation of princes and technocrats will lead the breakthrough to a more moderate and democratic Saudi Arabia.

New awareness

However, although MBS has declared that the KSA is moving towards changing existing guardianship laws, due to cultural differences among Saudi families, to date, women still need power of attorney from a male relative to acquire a car, and risk imprisonment should they disobey male guardians. In addition, this past month, at least 12 prominent women’s rights activists who campaigned for women's driving rights just before the country lifted the ban were arrested. Although the lifting of the ban is now effective, 9 of these activists remain behind bars and are facing serious charges and long jail sentences. As such, women continue to face significant challenges in realizing basic rights, despite the positive media endorsement that MBS' lifting of the driving ban has received.

Although Saudi Arabia is making an effort in order to satisfy the public eye, it is with some degree of scepticism that one should approach the country's motivations. Taking into account Saudi Arabia’s current state of affairs, these events suggest that the women’s driving decree was an effort in order to improve the country’s external image as well as an effort to deflect attention from a host of problematic internal and external affairs, such as the proxy warfare in the region, the arrest of dissidents and clerics this past September, and the Qatari diplomatic crisis, which recently “celebrated” its first anniversary. Allowing women to drive is a relatively trivial sacrifice for the kingdom to make and has triggered sufficient positive reverberations globally. Such baby steps are positive, and should be encouraged, yet overlook the fact that they only represent the tip of the iceberg.

As it stands, the lifting of the driving ban does not translate into a concrete shift in the prevailing legal and cultural mindsets that initially opposed it. Rather, it is an indirect approach to strengthen Saudi’s power in economic and political terms. Yet, although women in Saudi Arabia may feel doubtful about the government’s intentions, time remains to be their best ally. After decades of an ultraconservative approach to handling their rights, the country has reached awareness that it can no longer sustain its continued oppression of women; and this for economic reasons, but also as a result of global pressures that affect the success of the country's foreign policies which, by extension, also negatively impact on its interests.

The silver lining for Saudi woman is that, even if the issue of women's rights is being leveraged to secure the larger interests of the kingdom, it continues to represent a slow and steady progression to a future in which women may be granted more freedoms. The downside is that, so long as these rights are not grafted into a broader legal framework that secures them beyond the rule of a single individual − like MBS − women's rights (and human rights in general) will continue to be the temporary product of individual whim. Without an overhaul of the shari'a system that perpetuates regressive attitudes towards women, the best that can be hoped for is the continuation of internal and external pressures that coerce the Saudi leadership into exacting further reforms in the meantime. As with all things, time will tell.

Categorías Global Affairs: Oriente Medio Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Análisis Arabia Saudita y el Golfo Pérsico

ISIS Toyota convoy in Syria [ISIS video footage]

▲ISIS Toyota convoy in Syria [ISIS video footage]

ANALYSISIgnacio Yárnoz

When you go to a Toyota distributor to buy a Toyota Land Cruiser or a Toyota Hilux, what they proudly tell you is how resistant, fast and reliable the truck is. However, what they do not tell you is how implicated in wars and conflicts the truck has been due to the very same characteristics. We have seen in recent newscasts that in many of today´s conflicts, there’s a Toyota truck; no matter how remote the country is. This is because, if the AK47 is the favourite weapon for militias in developing countries, the Toyota Hilux and Land Cruiser are the militia’s trucks of choice.

This is no surprise when one considers that the Toyota Land Cruiser was initially designed to be a military car inspired by the famous Jeep Willis at the time Japan was occupied by the US after Japan´s defeat in World War II. However, its popularity among terrorist groups, militias, as well as developing countries’ national armies only gained ground in the 80’s when a conflict between Chad and Libya proved the trucks’ effectiveness as war machines; simultaneously calling into question the efficacy of traditional war strategies and military logistics.

This little-known story is about how an army comprising 400 Toyota pickups of the Chadian army outmanoeuvred and overwhelmed a vastly superior force equipped with soviet-era tanks and aircrafts of the Libyan army. The historical event demonstrated how a civilian truck was able to shape international borders, tipping the balance in favour of the inferior party to the conflict.

The Toyota War

The Toyota War is the name given to the last phase of the Chad-Libyan War that raged on for almost a decade, yet did not have relevance until its last phase. This last phase began in 1986 and ended a year later with a heavy defeat inflicted on the Libyan army by the Chadians. In total, 7,500 men were killed and 1.5 billion dollars worth of military equipment was destroyed or captured. Conversely, Chad only lost 1,000 men and very little military equipment (because they hardly had any).

The last phase of the conflict developed in the disputed area of the North of Chad, an area that had been occupied by Libyan forces in 1986 due to its natural resources such as uranium (highly interesting for Gadhafi and his nuclear armament project). At the beginning of 1987, the last year of the war, the Libyan expeditionary force comprised 8,000 soldiers, 300 T-55 battle tanks, multiple rocket launchers and regular artillery, as well as Mi-24 helicopters and sixty combat aircrafts. However, the Libyan soldiers were demotivated and disorganized. The Chadians, on the other hand, had nothing but 10,000 brave and motivated soldiers with neither air support nor armoured tanks. However, by 1987, Chad could count on the French Air Force to keep Libyan aircraft grounded but, perhaps more importantly, a 400 Toyota pickups fleet equipped with MILAN (Missile d´infanterie léger antichar) anti-tank guided missiles sent by the French Government. Additionally, it could also be equipped with .50 calibre machine guns, with archaic flak cannons for anti-air purposes or even rocket clusters to be used as WWII-style artillery.

This logistical combination proved to be superior to that employed by the Libyan army as Toyota pickup trucks could easily outmanoeuvre the heavily armoured Russian tanks. Whereas the latter consumed around 200 L/100 km, the Toyota trucks consumed a fraction, at 10L/100 km. In addition, Toyota Trucks could mobilize groups of 20 people in a single truck, enabling faster transport and deployment of troops to the conflict scene; an advantage the Russian tanks did not have.

Reminiscent of the Maginot line when the Nazi army challenged the old trenches system utilizing a fixed artillery method with the innovative Thunder war strategy, the Chad Army emerged victorious over the Libyans through a simple strategic innovation in military logistics. Something clearly demonstrated in the Battle of Fada. In this instance, a Libyan armoured brigade defending Fada was almost annihilated: 784 Libyans and CDR (Democratic Revolutionary Council) militiamen died, 92 T-55 tanks and 33 BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles were destroyed, and 13 T-55s and 18 BMP-1s were captured, together with the 81 Libyan soldiers operating them. Chadian losses, on the other hand, were minimal: only 18 soldiers died and three Toyotas were destroyed.

All in all, this situation was one of the first deployments of the Toyota Hilux in a conflict zone, demonstrating the reliability of the truck and its high performance in harsh environments. A testament to the Toyota’s endurance was its featuring in the famous TV show “Top Gear” where a 1980’s Toyota Hilux was put to a wrecking ball, set on fire, submerged in a sea bay for 5 hours, then left on the top of a building waiting its final demolishment, yet still rolled.

Ever since, Toyota trucks have been sighted in conflicts in Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (CDR), Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan, and Pakistan and as the New York Times has reported, the Hilux remains the pirates' 'ride of choice.'  The deployment of Daesh of a fleet of hundreds of Toyotas in Mosul in 2014 was a lasting testament of the trucks’ durability.


Chad's troops during the war against Lybia in the 1980s [Wikimedia Commons]

Chad's troops during the war against Lybia in the 1980s [Wikimedia Commons]



How could the West deal with this issue? To deploy a massive fleet of Humvees? It would be naïve to attack an enemy with their own means. This hardly appears to constitute an effective solution. Humvees are already being substituted by JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) due to their vulnerability to IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices); something insurgents are allowed to use but western countries are not due to international treaties and ethical values (how can a mine be designed such that it can distinguish a civilian truck from a Toyota driven by insurgents?). This proves the challenge that counterinsurgency policies (COIN) entail and the need to move to a next generation as far as COIN strategies are concerned.

The Toyota example is one of many that clearly signals a need for conventional state armies to adapt their logistical capabilities to better match the challenges of non-conventional warfare and insurgencies; the primary forms of conflict in which our nations are today engaged. The first lesson is clearly that the traditional focus on high power and the availability of resources is poorly suited to respond to contemporary insurgencies and military engagement with primarily non-state entities. Rather, there is a growing need for logistical versatility, combining both attack power and high manoeuvrability. The Toyota issue is an interesting example that illustrates how groups like Daesh have been able to mobilize an easily accessible, relatively non-expensive market commodity that has proven to be effective in lending the group precisely the kind of logistical aid required to successfully wage its insurgency. This being said, there are a number of dilemmas posed to nation states engaging in COIN strategies that prevent them from being able to employ the same methodology. Clearly there is a need to constantly engage in the adaptation of COIN strategies to respond to new threats and the surprising innovation of the adversary. However, COIN campaigns have been difficult to manage, and even harder to win, since time immemorial.

Recent research in political science and economics investigates a number of difficulties security forces face during conflicts with insurgent actors (Trebbi et al., 2017). Development and military aid spending have uneven effects, and conventional military strategies, including aerial bombardment, can erode civilian support for the COIN. Although states have historically used mass killings of non-combatants to undermine logistical support for guerrilla actors, evidence from modern insurgencies indicates that these measures may have the opposite effect: in some cases, such measures may encourage recruitment and mobilization (Trebbi et al., 2017). As such, the challenge is to constantly adapt to meet the requirements of contemporary warfare, whilst simultaneously assessing and remaining cognizant of the effects that COIN measures have on the overall campaign.

Adaptation through learning and innovation occurs on a much different time-scale than evolution. Although both involve information exchange with the environment and with elements within the system, evolution occurs over long periods of time through successive generations that have been able to successfully survive to changes (Hayden, 2013). Learning is the process of modifying existing knowledge, behaviours, skills, values, or preferences, and innovation involves the incorporation of a previously unused element into the system, or the recombination of existing elements in new ways.


In the previous example of the conflict between Chad and Libya, it was mentioned that the Libyan army had its air force inoperative due to the presence of French air support. Another important point to make is that Toyotas may have been effective war machines for the terrain and surrounding environment, yet would nevertheless have been vulnerable to airstrikes had the Libyan army been able to engage air power against the Chadians. Air and space are part of the future of COIN strategies, despite composing only one element of them. They are our eyes (UAV systems), our way to get away or deploy forces (Chinook helicopters for example) and also the sword that can eliminate the threat (e.g. Predator drones). However, maintaining complete dominance over the battle space does not guarantee victory.

Due to the success of the air campaign in Operation Desert Storm, airpower seemed to be the predominating weapon of choice for future warfare. Yet, recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have called that assertion into question. Airstrikes in ground operations have proven to be controversial in small wars, especially when it comes to civilian casualties and its impact on civilian morale (an element that could enhance local support to insurgents). This is why, to win popular support, the US air force had to rethink its operations in Afghanistan and Iraq to win popular support (this also a result of Taliban and Pakistani propaganda and political pressure). Most recently, the US, along with France and the UK, have engaged in massive airstrikes on strategic infrastructure devoted to chemical development supposedly for a military use. Although being calibrated, proportional and targeted, those attacks have created a lot of internal debate in the West and have divided society. As such, the future environment seems certain to further limit the kind of strikes it can make with airpower and missiles.

Consequently, technologically superior air assets nowadays face significant challenges in engaging dispersed and oftentimes unseen opponents. The Air Force must determine how modern airpower can successfully engage an irregular opponent. Air power, the “strategic panacea” of Western policymakers (Maxey, 2018), will no longer maintain the same utility that it does against rural insurgents. Although tactical Predator strikes and aerial reconnaissance may have shifted the street-to-street fighting against Daesh, such operations are severely limited within expansive megacities. The threat of civilian casualties is often too high, even for precision-guided munitions with limited blast radius. Further. buildings and layers of infrastructure often obscure a clear overhead view.

For 2030, the United Nations (UN) suggests that around 60 percent of global population will live in urban areas. There are 512 cities of at least one million inhabitants around the world, and this is expected to grow to 662 cities by 2030. Many of the megacities that will emerge will come from the developing world. That is why it is so urgent to design strategies to adapt to operating within metropolitan environments where small roads prevent large tanks to manoeuvre, where buildings give cover to heavy cannon targets and where one is more exposed to the crosshairs of insurgents taking cover in civilian infrastructure. 

As U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley remarked in 2016; “In the future, I can say with very high degrees of confidence, the American Army is probably going to be fighting in urban areas. We need to man, organize, train and equip the force for operations in urban areas, highly dense urban areas, and that’s a different construct. We’re not organized like that right now”.

In addition to this, National armies must be able to work through host governments, providing training, equipment and on-the-ground assistance to their local partners. The mere presence of a foreign army in the area often creates a negative perception among the local population and, unfortunately, in other cases, violent opposition. However, if the army patrolling the city wears the national flag, things change. Defeating an insurgency depends upon effective state building.



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S.L.P., I. (2018). La guerra de los Toyota en Siria. Instituto de Estrategia S.L.P. [Accessed 21 Apr. 2018].

Wang, A. (2018). How did the Toyota pickup become terrorists’ favorite truck?. Quartz.

Maxey, L. (2018). Preparing for the Urban Future of Counterinsurgency. (2018). Air and Space Power COIN / IW | Small Wars Journal.

Costas, J. (2018). El lado oscuro y bélico del Toyota Land Cruiser.

Tomes, R. R. (2004). Relearning counterinsurgency warfare. Parameters, 34(1), 16-29.

Hayden, N. K. (2013). Innovation and Learning in Terrorist Organizations: Towards Adaptive Capacity and Resiliency. System Dynamics Society.

Ryan, A., & Dila, M. (2014). Disruptive Innovation Reframed: Insurgent Design for Systemic Transformation.

Trebbi, F., Weese, E., Wright, A. L., & Shaver, A. (2017). Insurgent Learning (No. w23475). National Bureau of Economic Research.

Categorías Global Affairs: Oriente Medio Seguridad y defensa Análisis Asuntos Regionales

ENSAYO / Túlio Dias de Assis [Versión en inglés]

El presidente de Estados Unidos, Donald Trump, sorprendió en diciembre con otra de sus declaraciones, que al igual que muchas anteriores tampoco carecía de polémica. Esta vez el tema sorpresa fue el anuncio de la apertura de la embajada de EEUU en Jerusalén, consumando así el reconocimiento de la milenaria urbe como capital del único estado judío del mundo actual: Israel.

El polémico anuncio de Trump, en un asunto tan controvertido como delicado, fue criticado internacionalmente y tuvo escaso apoyo exterior. No obstante, algunos países –pocos– se sumaron a la iniciativa estadounidense, y algunos más se manifestaron con ambigüedad. Entre estos, diversos medios situaron a varios países de la Unión Europea. ¿Ha habido realmente falta de cohesión interna en la Unión sobre esta cuestión?

Por qué Jerusalén importa

Antes de todo, cabría analizar con más detalle la situación, empezando por una pregunta sencilla: ¿Por qué Jerusalén es tan importante? Hay varios factores que llevan a que Hierosolyma, Yerushalayim, Al-quds o simplemente Jerusalén tenga tamaña importancia no solo a nivel regional, sino también globalmente, entre los cuales destacan los siguientes tres: su relevancia histórica, su importancia religiosa y su valor geoestratégico.

Relevancia histórica. Es uno de los asentamientos humanos más antiguos del mundo, remontándose sus primeros orígenes al IV milenio a.C. Aparte de ser la capital histórica tanto de la región de Palestina o Canaán, como de los varios reinos judíos establecidos a lo largo del primer milenio a.C. en dicha parte del Levante.

Importancia religiosa. Se trata de una ciudad sacratísima para las tres mayores religiones monoteístas del mundo, cada una por sus propias razones: para el Cristianismo, principalmente debido a que es donde se produjo la crucificción de Cristo; para el Islamismo, aparte de ser la ciudad de varios profetas –compartidos en las creencias de las demás religiones abrahámicas– y un lugar de peregrinación, también es adonde hizo Mahoma su tan conocido viaje nocturno; y obviamente, para el Judaísmo, por razones históricas y además por ser donde se construyó el tan sacro Templo de Salomón.

Valor geoestratégico. A nivel geoestratégico también posee una gran relevancia, ya que se trata de un punto crucial que conecta la costa mediterránea levantina con el valle del Jordán. Por lo que su poseedor tendría bajo su control una gran ventaja geoestratégica en la región del Levante.

No es de extrañarse, pues, que el estatus de esta ciudad sea uno de los principales puntos de conflicto en las negociaciones para la paz entre ambos pueblos, como es bien sabido. De ahí que la intervención de Trump no haya sido de gran ayuda para poder retomar el proceso de paz; más bien, podría argüirse, ha sido todo lo contrario: ha provocado la protesta no solo de los palestinos locales, sino de todo el mundo árabe, logrando así desestabilizar aún más la región. Ha habido reacciones contrarias de Hamas, de Hezbollah y también de varios gobiernos islámicos de Oriente Medio (entre ellos incluso el de Erdogan, a pesar de que la República de Turquía de jure sea un estado laico). Hamas llamó a una intifada en contra de Israel: las múltiples manifestaciones en los territorios palestinos concluyeron con varios centenares de heridos y una docena de muertos, debido a enfrentamientos con los cuerpos policiales israelíes.

La posición de Europa

Europa, por su parte, intenta mantener una postura bastante más neutra y equilibrada, orientada a lograr la paz regional. La disposición de mediación de la Unión Europea tiene en cuenta principalmente las resoluciones aprobadas por la ONU sobre tan problemático tema. Las declaraciones europeas, consideradas un tanto irrealistas y utópicas bajo la perspectiva de muchos israelíes, se basan en cuatro puntos esenciales: los dos estados, los refugiados, la seguridad y estatus de Jerusalén.

La existencia de dos estados. Según la UE, una solución uniestatal sería contraria a los intereses de ambas partes, puesto que impondría la soberanía de uno de los pueblos por encima de la del otro. Por lo tanto, Bruselas estima que lo más adecuado sería la solución biestatal: que cada pueblo tenga su estado y que las fronteras entre ambos estén basadas en las vigentes el 4 de Junio de 1967, antes de la Guerra de los Seis Días. Aún y todo, se admitirían cambios a estos límites de soberanía, siempre y cuando ambas partes así lo desearan y lo aprobaran.

La cuestión de los refugiados. La UE considera que deberían tomarse medidas duraderas para la cuestión de los refugiados palestinos fuera de su tierra natal (especialmente en países vecinos como Líbano y Jordania), con el objetivo de que puedan regresar a su país.

La seguridad. Otro de los puntos primordiales para los europeos sería la cuestión de la seguridad, para ambos bandos: Por una parte, habría que establecer medidas para acabar con la ocupación israelí de los territorios palestinos. Por otra, habría que afrontar con medidas eficaces el problema del terrorismo palestino en la zona.

Estatus de Jerusalén. Teniendo en cuenta la importancia de dicha ciudad, Bruselas considera que no habría mejor solución que una resolución en la que hubiera soberanía compartida entre ambos hipotéticos estados. Adicionalmente, la ciudad sagrada de las tres religiones también sería la capital de ambos estados simultáneamente.

Sin embargo, como ya se ha mencionado previamente, se desconfiaba de la postura de varios estados-miembro, llegándose incluso a sospechar de un posible apoyo a la decisión americana. Esto se dedujo de estados como Chequia o Hungría, debido a algunas declaraciones sacadas de contexto o mal explicadas, que hacían aparentar que las disidencias entre Bruselas y Visegrado seguían aumentando. No obstante, si hay algo que destaca en la respuesta europea es la unión y coherencia interna.

El gobierno checo no hizo más que reconocer Jerusalén Occidental como capital de Israel, igual que hará con Jerusalén Oriental una vez Palestina vuelva a poseer la soberanía de su territorio. El gobierno magyar tampoco contradijo las posiciones europeas, ya que sus únicas declaraciones fueron que Europa no tendría por qué pronunciarse sobre las acciones diplomáticas de EEUU. Posteriormente, el primer ministro húngaro aclaró que la UE debe mantenerse firme en la política que ha defendido hasta el momento y que esa es de facto la postura magyar sobre el asunto. Además, el presidente francés Emmanuel Macron, durante su reunión con el primer ministro israelí Netanyahu, ya mencionó que Francia no apoyaba la decisión de Trump sobre Jerusalén, y de igual forma le habló Federica Mogherini, la Alta Representante de Asuntos Exteriores de la Unión Europea, manteniendo la postura mediadora neutral que ha asumido la UE hasta el momento.

Por tanto, ni la UE ni ninguno de sus estados-miembro han mostrado ninguna señal de apoyo a la decisión unilateral americana. Los europeos siguen unidos en su diversidad, quoniam “In varietate concordia”.



European Union External Action, Middle East Peace process, 15/06/2016 - 12:32

European Council on Foreign Relations, EU backed into a corner on Israel-Palestine, Commentary by Hugh Lovatt, 12th December, 2017

Politico, EU dismisses Netanyahu’s Jerusalem prediction, by Jacopo Barigazzi, 12/11/17, 12:29 PM CET

EU Observer, Two EU states break ranks on Jerusalem, by Andrew Rettman, 7th Dec 2017, 16:36

Website of the Hungarian Government, Hungary has successfully represented its position on the issue of Jerusalem, December 15th, 2017

France Diplomatie, Israël/Territoires palestiniens - Relations avec l’Union Européenne

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Position of MFA to Issue of Jerusalem, 06.12.2017 - 20:00

European Union External Action, Netanyahu realised there is full EU unity on Jerusalem, Mogherini says after EU Foreign Affairs Council, 12/12/2017 - 18:06

European Union External Action, Middle East: EU stands by two-State solution for Israel and Palestine; Iran nuclear deal, 05/12/2017 - 18:22

European Union External Action, EU won't give up on peace in the Middle East, says Mogherini, 19/09/2017 - 18:33

The Guardian, Death toll rises to 12 in violence after Trump's Jerusalem recognition, Associated Press in Gaza, Sun 24 Dec 2017 18.55 GMT

El País, Hamás anuncia una tercera intifada por el reconocimiento de Jerusalén como capital israelí, Madrid 7 DIC 2017 - 17:49 CET

Le Parisien, Trump sur Jérusalem : «C'est une nouvelle humiliation infligée au monde arabe», International, par Myriam Encaoua, 08 décembre 2017, 9h47

Radio France Internationale, Vives réactions après l'annonce de Trump sur Jérusalem, 06-12-2017

BBC, Muslim nations urge recognition of East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital, 13 December 2017

Categorías Global Affairs: Unión Europea Oriente Medio Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Ensayos Israel y Palestina

[Javier Lesaca, Armas de seducción masiva. Ediciones Península, 2017. 312 páginas]


RESEÑAAlejandro Palacios Jiménez

¿Qué es lo que le lleva a un joven a abandonar a sus amigos y familia y a despojarse libremente de sus sueños para unirse al Estado Islámico? Con esta pregunta en mente, Javier Lesaca nos sumerge en esta narrativa en la que se disecciona el aparato comunicativo que utiliza el ISIS para ganar adeptos y extender sus ideas e influencia a través del Califato virtual.

Gracias a su amplia trayectoria profesional, el autor muestra en Armas de seducción masiva un alto grado de profundidad y análisis, el cual no está reñido con una narrativa amena y convincente. Javier Lesaca Esquiroz (Pamplona, 1981), licenciado en Periodismo por la Universidad de Navarra, trabaja como investigador en el Observatorio Internacional de Estudios sobre Terrorismo. Su amplio conocimiento sobre el tema le ha permitido desempeñar labores en organismos como el Banco Mundial, el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo o el Gobierno de Navarra. Experiencias laborales que complementa con la participación en foros como el Consejo de Seguridad de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) o el Diálogo Euro-Árabe de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura (UNESCO).

Su principal hipótesis es que la crisis de credibilidad en las instituciones tradicionales, potenciada por la crisis económica y financiera de 2008 y palpable en el movimiento 15-O, unido a la revolución tecnológica del siglo XXI, ha permitido al Estado Islámico (ISIS, por sus siglas en inglés; o Dáesh, por su nomenclatura árabe) influir de una manera nunca antes vista en las percepciones de los ciudadanos occidentales, en concreto en las de los millenials. Estos, que no se sienten representados por sus respectivas instituciones estatales, buscan sentirse importantes y participar en un proyecto nuevo que les ayude a dar sentido a sus vidas y a levantarse cada día por una causa por la que valga la pena luchar. Y Dáesh les ofrece justamente eso.

Armas de seducción masiva

Pero, ¿qué es Dáesh? Lejos de explicaciones históricas y religiosas, Lesaca nos presenta una respuesta inédita: el Estado Islámico encarna lo que se denomina el terrorismo moderno, el cual utiliza instrumentos propios de las nuevas generaciones para hacer llegar sus mensajes. En otras palabras, Dáesh se presenta como un movimiento social global que utiliza campañas de comunicación locales que se difunden en todo el mundo y cuyos actos terroristas se usan como mera “performance” dentro de toda una estrategia de comunicación más amplia. Así, Dáesh se define como un movimiento sin líderes que, paradójicamente, se aleja de los elementos más puramente religiosos para adecuarse así a las inquietudes de la audiencia juvenil a la que planean seducir.

El hecho de ser un movimiento descabezado no implica que internamente no esté organizado. Al contrario, el ISIS es un grupo terrorista que utiliza las redes sociales de manera muy eficaz y que cuya estructura interna le permite no solo influir, sino también estar en posesión de algunos medios de comunicación. Su estrategia consiste tanto en desarrollar medios propios como en utilizar lo que se llaman los “medios ganados”. Los primeros hacen referencia a la gran estructura comunicativa de Dáesh fundamentada en: notas de prensa, infografías, reportajes fotográficos, revistas en diferentes idiomas, la agencia de noticias Al Amaaq, radio Al Bayan, producciones musicales Ajnabá, la página web Isdarat (clausurada), productoras audiovisuales y el marketing offline en algunos lugares de Irak y Siria (vallas, carteles publicitarios o cibercafés). Por su parte, los medios ganados se miden en función de las veces que el grupo terrorista consigue que sus acciones condicionen la agenda de los medios de comunicación tradicionales.

El uso de tal cantidad de vías de comunicación con el objetivo de crear un mundo paralelo, que sus activistas llaman el Califato, y de segmentar geográficamente a la audiencia para modificar el encuadre del mensaje –todo ello amparándose en torticeras interpretaciones del Corán–, es lo que se conoce como terrorismo transmedia. Para hacer que esta estrategia sea lo más eficaz posible, nada se deja a la improvisación. Un ejemplo que se muestra en el libro es el del control que el todopoderoso productor ejecutivo sirio Abu Mohamed Adnani, amigo del líder del califato, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, ejercía sobre sus subordinados, a los cuales les supervisaba y aprobaba los contenidos y mensajes que ISIS transmitía a la opinión pública. Tanto es así que Adnani fue considerado por Occidente como el hombre que de facto ejerció el verdadero liderazgo diario dentro de la organización terrorista hasta su muerte en 2016.

Toda esta estrategia comunicativa es desgranada en el libro de manera precisa gracias a la gran cantidad de ejemplos concretos que el autor aporta sobre matanzas que Dáesh ha llevado a cabo desde su existencia y de la manera en que estas han sido transmitidas. En este sentido, Lesaca pone énfasis en la eficacia con la que el ISIS, haciendo uso de los nuevos medios de comunicación, camufla ejecuciones reales entre imágenes de videojuegos (Call of Duty) o de películas de ficción (Saw, Juegos del hambre, Sin City) para así difuminar la línea que separa la realidad de la ficción, creando lo que se denomina una narrativa transmedia. La idea es simple: ¿cómo te van a parecer crueles estas imágenes si son parecidas a las que ves en una sala de cine comiendo palomitas?

En última instancia, Javier Lesaca intenta definir una estrategia útil para hacer frente al terrorismo del futuro. Él asegura que no está claro de qué herramientas se deben dotar los Estados para hacer frente a esta nueva forma de terrorismo. Sin embargo, una buena forma de hacerlo sería poniendo de moda la democracia, es decir, reforzar los valores que han permitido la construcción de la sociedad del bienestar y el desarrollo del mayor periodo de prosperidad de nuestra historia. “El Estado Islámico ha conseguido ganar la victoria de la estética, es por ello que debemos conseguir que valores como la democracia, libertad e igualdad sean productos culturales atractivos”, afirma Lesaca. Pero no sólo basta con esto, dice. Además, “debemos impulsar el fortalecimiento institucional mediante la erradicación de la corrupción y la puesta en marcha de políticas que permitan crear una economía capaz de absorber todo el talento de las nuevas generaciones y conseguir una gestión eficaz de los servicios públicos”.

En resumen, se trata de un libro de conveniente a lectura para todos aquellos que se quieran familiarizar con la organización interna y estructuras del poder de Dáesh, sus objetivos y los medios que este grupo utiliza para su consecución. Además, resulta una guía valiosísima para el estudio y posterior reacción de Occidente a las campañas de comunicación no solo del Estado Islámico, sino también de posteriores organizaciones terroristas las cuales formarán parte de lo que ya se denomina el terrorismo moderno.

Categorías Global Affairs: Seguridad y defensa Oriente Medio Reseñas de libros Terrorismo