CIAO DATE: 06/05

The International Spectator

Volume XXXIX, No. 4 (October - December 2004)

Editorial Note

In line with the intense interest with which the Istituto Affari Internazionali has followed the drafting of the EU Constitutional Treaty and the intergovernmental negotiation that led to its final approval, this issue presents an article dealing with the problems of the ratification phase. The ratification process will take a long time and there is the concrete risk that one or more member states could fail to ratify, especially given the unprecedented number of national referendums to which the treaty will be submitted. The article by Gian Luigi Tosato and Ettore Greco looks into three crucial matters: 1) the timeframe and methods of ratification; 2) the possibility of anticipating application of parts of the Constitutional Treaty before it enters into force; 3) the initiatives to be undertaken in case the Treaty is not ratified by all member states.

Following is a "core" on the Middle East, examining the situation in various countries, the possible peace-making strategies and the problems associated with democracy promotion in the region. Yezid Sayigh's article investigates the prospects for a positive evolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The author starts out from the window of opportunity that the current circumstances - after the death of Arafat - offer for a positive change in Palestinian politics and the establishment of a legitimate and accountable Palestinian government. Nevertheless Sayigh underlines that this opportunity is likely to be missed if it is not matched by renewed involvement by the international community and a similar shift on the Israeli side. In fact, the international community has displayed a singular lack of will to become more engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian predicament. Morover, according to Saygh, the Israeli plan for unilateral disengagement from Gaza represents a serious impediment to the resumption of meaningful peace talks. The authour concludes by warning that if the key international actors fail to exert adequate pressure on Israel the most likely prospect for Israel and Palestine is a continuing situation of no-peace on a long-term basis.

In the next article, Peter Sluglett affirms that the most urgent task facing the international coalition in Iraq remains to restore a minimum level of order. The prospect of Iraq falling apart into what are described as its Sunni Arab, Shia Arab and Kurdish components is probably more remote than is usually thought. Far more likely is a drive towards destabilising factionalism as a result of growing sectarian affiliation. Even the national elections scheduled in January will be impossible to hold in several areas that the coalition does not control. Ordinary people in Iraq are pleased that the dictatorship has been overthrown, but fearful of what may follow unless stability returns. Iran, Syria and Turkey are concerned about the effects that anarchy or state failure in Iraq might have on their own populations and will hopefully be brought into some kind of concerted effort to stabilise the country.

The following article deals with Iran's intention to pursue its nuclear programme and how to address it. Maurizio Martellini and Riccardo Redaelli argue that the only way to prevent Iran from developing its nuclear programme further is through concerted engagement directly addressing its security concerns. In fact, Iran's nuclear ambitions must be understood mainly as an attempt to react against security threats coming from its nearest abroad - Iran is surrounded by weak or failed states which host hundreds of thousands of US troops. The authors suggest that the US should abandon its hard approach and support European efforts to reach an agreement with the Iranians. What is needed is a 'grand bargain' with both economic rewards and political inducements able to establish a durable security assurance system in the Gulf region.

From a slightly different perspective, Giacomo Luciani's article looks into the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. After 9/11, the ambiguous linkages of the Saudi regime with financial and/or philanthropic organisations that are believed indirectly to fund international terrorism have prompted the Bush administration to pursue a radical lessening of US dependence on Saudi oil. The author claims that the war on Iraq has to be interpreted as an attempt to build a more solid base for American interests in the Middle East and to open up the Iraqi oil sector to investment by major US companies. In his opinion, the huge difficulties that the US-led coalition has encountered in Iraq, the increasing demand for oil on a global basis and the somewhat surprising stability of the Saudi regime show that Saudi Arabia will continue to be a major actor in the area, and that all other global powers, including the EU, will have to reckon with it for at least the next two decades.

In the first of three articles dealing with democracy promotion in the Middle East, Tamara Cofman Wittes' starts by examining the documents and projects ensuing from the three transatlantic summits of June 2004. Although there seems to be some transatlantic agreement on democracy promotion in the Middle East there is the need for a more effective strategy aimed at: 1) linking political and economic reform and providing effective economic incentives for regimes to undertake gradual political change; 2) maximising democracy assistance to Arab civil society, focusing on liberals and those mainstream Islamists willing to accept democratic rules; and 3) forging effective joint diplomatic action toward Arab regimes to press for greater political rights and freedom.

The very paradigm of 'inevitable democratisation' that has prevailed in the post-Cold War period is questioned in the next article by Laura Guazzone and Daniela Pioppi, who contend that the paradigm has contributed to promoting a procedural view of democracy that has not helped comprehend and overcome the main obstacles to real democratisation in the Arab world. These obstacles derive from a distribution of power that is unfavourable to democratisation both internally and internationally. The authors argue that, on the domestic level, only a bottom-up process of politicisation may be able to break the neo-patrimonial mechanisms on which regimes are based and lay the foundations for the institutionalisation of the political participation of the main social actors. At the international level, real democratisation calls for promotion of a concept of democracy that is less elitist in practice and in its goals and that integrates the defence of social and economic rights with that of human rights and political freedoms.

The role of NATO in defence cooperation and democratisation in the Middle East is discussed by Fred Tanner in the article that follows. The author argues that one of the greatest obstacles to NATO playing a role in the region stems from transatlantic disagreement over the alliance's vocation in this field. Other problems lie in NATO's persistent Cold War image as an instrument of Western intervention, its lack of resources and the conflict between NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue programmes and the bilateral cooperation programmes of individual member states. In order for NATO to promote defence reform and democratisation, Tanner claims that two conditions are required: a common alliance strategy and clear ownership of the programmes by the southern states.

In the last article, a part of the Italian foreign policy survey, James Walston investigates in what ways the 2001 victory of the centre-right "House of Freedoms" coalition has changed the relationship between the two basic pillars of Italy's foreign policy since World War Two: support for European integration and alliance with the United States. Considering the government's foreign policy moves in 2004, especially those relating to Italy's presence in Iraq or the country's role in EU, Walston shows that the transatlantic relation has coloured almost every sphere of Italian foreign policy. He argues that this new preference for the transatlantic alliance represents a real change in Italy's traditional foreign policy and that it has, while not challenging the essentiality of both the European and the Atlantic pillars, substantially changed the balance between them.