The Arab Spring marked a critical turning point in the Middle East and North Africa with enduring consequences for the stability of the whole region. A short phase of peaceful and partially democratic change quickly led in several countries either to the restoration of authoritarian rule or unprecedented violent conflict. Today, the entire region is affected by a complex mesh of conflicts in which different interests and actors are entangled. Critical issues are the escalating conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran; the increasing exploitation of sectarian affiliation; the strategic withdrawal of the United States from the region; regional claims to power of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and, finally, Russia; the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds; the global decrease in demand for regional crude oil and gas resources; transnational and cross-linked militias, rebel groups, and actors such as IS and al-Qaida; the still unresolved Arab–Israeli conflict; and tensions between Qatar and the other Gulf Cooperation Council member states.
The GIGA’s experts closely examine the causes and consequences of both the peaceful and violent progression of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa. In doing so, they take into account questions related to public security, security sector reform, and the relationship between military and civil power. They also examine the dynamics of violence and the opportunities and challenges presented by power-sharing arrangements. In particular, they focus on the following questions:
- How important are old institutional structures and new agreements in the balancing of interests between various political actors?
- Can choosing specific rules and institutions – for example, power-sharing agreements – prevent violence and secure peace?
- What role are the influential representatives of the military playing in the transformation?
- How much influence do religious actors have on whether conflicts unfold peacefully or violently?
- How do new media and social networks affect ruling powers and opposition movements?
- What are the consequences of migration crises for the respective neighbouring countries, and for the region as a whole?