The Strongman Bond: Trump and Erdogan

Post by Ed Roberts, Research Intern at ICSA

A Trump administration will likely see a warming of relations between the USA, Turkey, and Russia. With regards to Turkey, Trump has praised Erdogan, stating in an interview with the New York Times, that the suppression of the coup on July 15th was ‘quite impressive from the standpoint of existing government.’ Continue reading

Trump and el-Sisi: A new brotherhood in Egypt?

Post by Peter WaringResearch Intern at ICSA

‘He took control of Egypt. And he really took control of it.’                                                                                                                                       – Trump on President el-Sisi of Egypt

In September during a visit to the United Nations, President el-Sisi of Egypt met Donald Trump in a New York hotel and afterwards claimed that he had ‘no doubt’ the real-estate mogul would make a strong leader. Trump, for his part, said of el-Sisi that he was a ‘fantastic guy’ and they had ‘great chemistry.’ With such a seemingly strong rapport it was little wonder that the Egyptian strongman was the first world leader to call Trump following his election win earlier this week. Yet despite this personal goodwill, it is arguably the end of the Obama era, more so than the looming Trump presidency, that will be considered by many in the Egyptian elite as an opportunity to re-set their relations with the United States. The Egyptian regime has been critical of the White House’s response to the 2011 uprising in Cairo, particularly the perceived betrayal of longstanding partner Hosni Mubarak. Relations were further strained by the 2013 military ousting of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood regime and the ongoing reprisals meted out against its former leaders and supporters. Despite her calls as Secretary of State for a more conservative response to the crisis in 2011, Clinton’s recent rhetoric, especially in a primary debate when she referred to the Egyptian regime as an ‘army dictatorship,’ suggested a hardening in her stance toward el-Sisi’s government – a fact not lost on the Egyptians and which partly explains their recent flirtations with Russia and Iran. In contrast, Trump’s predilection for ‘strong leaders’ will likely be welcomed across the Middle East as the President–elect is, according to Robin Wright of The New Yorker, expected to prioritise ‘stability over democratic values.’

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Rhetoric and Reality: Trump and the Middle East

Post by Joakim Bjornestad, Research Intern at ICSA

The election of Donald Trump as leader of the ‘Free World’ leaves us with many questions and few answers. The uncertainty comes from Trump’s unclear, changing, or non-existent policies. Imagining what this uncertainty may look like can lend some analytical clarity.

One could say there are broadly two schools of thought concerning Trump’s foreign policy. The first literalist school takes Donald Trump for his word, believing he will follow through on his campaign promises based on largely illiberal values. This would logically include scrapping the Paris Agreement, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, and perhaps allowing Japan to acquire nuclear weapons. The other more hopeful school, expounded by President Obama the day after Trump’s victory, Theresa May, and other Western heads of state, considers Trump’s election to be business as usual – and they assume Donald Trump will follow diplomatic etiquette and international norms.

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Iran’s Social Media Contradictions

The social media landscape in Iran is complex and contradictory. Some platforms, notably Facebook and Twitter, are banned while others, such as Facebook-owned Instagram, are not. Despite this, millions of young, tech-savvy Iranians, regularly access blocked platforms using virtual private networks (VPNs) and proxy servers. Adding to the contradictions, Ayatollah Khamenei rails against Western decadence yet like other senior Iranian leaders, he has official pages on Instagram and on the ostensibly banned Facebook and Twitter. Meanwhile, young Iranians use Instagram to post content that is antithetical to the regime’s morality and social norms and native social media platforms directly imitate or clone popular platforms while having suspiciously similar lists of “rules”. What explains all these contradictions in Iranian social media and the government’s attitude to it? Continue reading

Can Turkey Achieve its Domestic Nuclear Ambitions?

Post by Holly Mortimer, Research Intern at the International Centre for Security Analysis

As Turkey’s nuclear energy programme slowly progresses with the ceremonial ground breaking  for the first Russian-built plant at Akkuyu, and the ratification of the  intergovernmental agreement with Japan for the second plant at Sinop, President Erdogan and other senior government officials continue to promote the idea of a fully domestic nuclear capability. This ambition is in line with their wider domestic agenda ahead of the 2023 centenary of the Turkish Republic; widely interpreted as an attempt by the Justice and Development party (AKP) to drum up nationalistic support.

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