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Tempobs – State(s) of Mutual Hostility: Saudi Arabia and Iran

Let’s get started on mapping the Iran-Saudi relationship. To recapitulate our method, we shall build upon the intuitive model introduced in the previous two posts (“Mindfully Mapping a Middle Eastern Morass – Saudi Arabia and Iran” & “Mapping an Interactive Network for Iran and Saudi Arabia Relations“) that conceptualizes the two countries’ behaviors as outcomes of the interplay of various influencing forces (e.g. political, economic, security-focused) at the domestic, bilateral, regional, and international levels. Drawing upon analytic commentary and event reporting in the news and academic media, we will identify the most significant forces relevant to our focal question—movement toward war or cooperation—and the direction in which these forces are driving behavior. The map will serve as a framework for… Read More

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Tempobs – Mapping an Interactive Network for Iran and Saudi Arabia Relations

This post is the fourth of our temporal observatory project (Tempobs) and related series focused on the future of the relationships between Saudi Arabia and Iran and aiming at improving the handling of time-related issues in strategic foresight and warning, risk, or more broadly anticipatory analysis. It answers and builds upon Dr Warren Fishbein’s (hereinafter Warren) previous article (Mindfully Mapping a Middle Eastern Morass – Saudi Arabia and Iran), as we designed the series as a dialogue where we progressively build the understanding related to the foresight issue by mapping the corresponding conceptual network, continuously scan the relevant literature and news, which will allow us, finally, to assess the future, to use Warren’s apt presentation of the work involved. Here we shall present the new tool (best on desktops… Read More

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Tempobs – Mindfully Mapping a Middle Eastern Morass – Saudi Arabia and Iran

To summarize Helene’s introductory post, this project aims to develop a time-sensitive approach to strategic anticipation and warning, using the evolving relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia as its substantive framework. But how does one undertake strategic anticipation within the context of the complex, chaotic, fast changing politics of the contemporary Middle East? Just over the past few months, we have witnessed an extraordinary series of surprises in or strongly affecting the region, such as the plummeting price of oil, the Saudi intervention in Yemen, the deployment of Russian forces in Syria, and, most recently, the emergence of fears of widespread sectarian warfare. Referring to the last development, but offering a judgment of more general applicability, the Middle East politics… Read More

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Tempobs – Saudi Arabia and Iran, towards War or Cooperation?

Considering the beginning of Russian airstrikes in Syria, and, notably, the increased risk to see it perceived as fanning an already difficult situation in terms of sectarian, Shi’a versus Sunni, tension (Helene Lavoix, “Russia at War with the Islamic State in Syria – Perceptions of Strikes“, RTAS,  12 Oct 2015), understanding and foreseeing the relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia has become crucially important. Indeed, it could very well be that, fundamentally, without appeasing completely this sectarian tension it will be impossible to end the war spreading in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. It is within this framework that is now located our new project to enhance strategic foresight and warning, risk, or more broadly anticipatory analysis’ handling of time-related issues. As explained previously, we… Read More

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Multiplicating Crises: Strategic Surprises or Strategic Shocks?

Over the last two decades, strategic surprises have accumulated and accelerated rather than receded, and they continue to do so. Various actors, from governments and international organisations to the corporate world through citizens seem to be constantly and increasingly surprised by events they fail to anticipate, and thus for which they are unprepared. The Arab Spring (e.g…. Read More

Climate Change, a Pause or an Aposiopesis?

On 4 June 2015, Science magazine published “Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus,” which addressed what some see as an apparent pause in the upward trend of global surface temperatures since 1998. In the paper, Thomas R. Karl and others presented updated global surface temperature analysis, which they think reveals that global trends are higher than reported by the IPCC and does not support the notion of a “slowdown” or a pause in the increase of global surface temperature. For those who firmly believe there is a pause or even a downward trend, that paper released the Kraken. Whatts Up With That?, a website dedicated to climate change skepticism, called the new paper “laughable”.  Dr… Read More

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Scenarios for the Future of Libya within the Next Three to Five Years

Now that we have identified and understood the actors in Libya’s civil war (see State of Play), we may outline the various scenarios regarding Libya’s future within the next three to five years. A civil war with two rival governments, armed coalitions, jihadists, and various tribes creates a complex climate, and we have constructed initially… Read More

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 157 – Information Wars

Editorial – Information Wars – Information or more broadly belief-based wars seem to multiply right now, relayed by many official declarations, articles and analyses, although fortunately not all.  This is a worrying phenomenon because it leads to direct polarization (enhancing feelings of threat, fear, “all because of an evil other that must be fought”) and to inaccurate analyses, which in turn also fuel polarization. Information wars: propaganda, biases and conspiracy theories We can see this phenomenon at work regarding Ukraine, Iraq, or, in a lesser way because the spotlight is not right now directed at this issue, China and the various disputes in the East and South China Seas. In Iraq, the way the al-Maliki government accuses Saudi Arabia to support ISIS, when actually a more… Read More

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Actors and Factors In Future Threats Analysis (3) – The Crisis in Ukraine

This post will focus on a third analytical challenge at the core of the foresight and warning process, the fact that actors and “factors”, or rather variables, are often mixed together. Using the example of the unfolding crisis in Ukraine, the first post of the series explained how to map a strategic foresight and warning question, notably how to move from factors to variables and the second underlined the importance to define and name the actors relevant to the question as objectively as possible and suggested ways to do it. The “black box” actor As we recall from the last post, during the first steps of a mapping for the future evolution of the crisis in Ukraine, both factors or rather variables and actors would… Read More

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Actors Labelling and Factors In Future Threats Analysis (2) – The Crisis in Ukraine

This post is the second of a series that deals with the core of the foresight and warning analytical process. The first post explained the mapping process and how to move from factors to variables. Here we focus on the second challenge analysts and participants to workshops face: how to include actors relevant to the question as objectively as possible. The process we use to map an issue or a foresight and warning question seems simple enough, especially once one understands what is a variable and how to specify it, as we saw and explained in detail previously. However, when done, notably within a workshop setting, when different participants brainstorm to map as well and as quickly as possible variables… Read More

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