Dr Mason is often asked to contribute to policy discussions and briefings on the Middle East.
Helping Forge Closer Links and Understanding Between the EU, the League of Arab States and the wider Middle East
The aim of this ongoing research agenda has been to assess European foreign policy comparatively with other actors such as the US, Russia, India and China, in the context of specific Middle East challenges such as the Arab Uprisings, conflict in Syria, and the Mediterranean refugee crisis. Research completed so far shows the EU response has become complicated by the nature of the threats (domestic as well as transnational), the difficulty in balancing affinities with states such as Israel and the US with for example, upholding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, and maintaining effective relations with the US during an unconventional presidency and during a period of transition to a multi-polar system. Additional research underpinning the impact stemmed primarily from a funding award 2017 to 2019 (EU grant ENI/2017/389-834). The aim of this research component was to better understand Mediterranean security and transnational security cooperation, covering aspects such as threats, migration, energy, counter-terrorism cooperation and relations with Turkey. It resulted in a number of activities, including a student conference and working with other European studies scholars to deliver a public lecture series. An academic workshop led to a book project Transnational Security Cooperation in the Mediterranean, which was published by Palgrave in 2020.
In February 2019, Dr Mason was invited to write an op-ed on EU – Egyptian relations for Spot On, a publication of the Euromesco network. The findings were disseminated across the network and to subscribers, including the European policymaking community in Brussels and in other European capitals.
In May 2019, Dr Mason convened an EU – Middle East policy round table event in Cairo:
“This seminar was attended by a group of high level Officials and experts from Europe, Egypt and the League of Arab States. It produced a number of recommendations on how to take the new Euro-Arab summit process forward on both Official and Track two levels. These are currently under consideration by the EU and the LAS.”
Evaluating Russian Policy in the Middle East
In 2018 Dr Mason conducted research in New York and Moscow on Russian intervention in Syria and built on his research concerning the Iranian intervention in the Syria conflict and international politics of/in the Middle East. The aim of the research was to investigate the background to Russian intervention in Syria, Russian – NATO relations, (specifically the main driving factors for Russian intervention in Syria), and assess the prospects for (re)building more durable bilateral relations with other states in the Middle East. The research drove issue specific insights, especially on energy interests, and updated the literature on Russia’s relations with Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, the GCC States, Iran and Israel.
The research determined that western-led interventions in Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011) as well as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in 2015, (including more recent arms control issues) have played a role in shaping Russian policy. In more detail, Moscow believes that liberal interventionism undermines its political legitimacy: it has been defined in western capitals, it is perceived to be a threat to international security, and it might eventually be used as a justification for regime change in Russia. Moscow’s return to the Middle East can be justified initially through the prism of national security and then along expanding lines of economic, energy, security and defence relations, whereby President Putin is attempting to return Russia to back to its position as an global power.
Dr Mason published his findings in Middle East Policy, a policy-orientated academic peer-reviewed journal published by the Middle East Policy Council in Washington D.C. His expertise led him to contribute to a policy workshop “The role of Russia in the MENA region”, organised by Instituto per gli studi di politica internationale (ISPI) in the framework of the EuroMeSCo project, Milan, in October 2018. A further impact was created through an interview with Die Welt on the topic of Russia in the Middle East.
Connecting Asia and the Middle East
Dr Mason continues to engage in a broad research agenda covering Asian relations with the MENA region and beyond. He also organises and participates in major academic conferences, policy and public events as below:
- In July 2019 Dr Mason presented at the first Area Studies Conference, Tsinghua University, Beijing. At the same time, he was invited to present and discuss MENA related topics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
- In February 2019, Dr Mason co-organised the symposium “Egypt – Japan Cooperation in the Evolving Strategic Context of Middle East and Asia” with the Embassy of Japan in Cairo.
- In January 2019 Dr Mason was discussant at an AUC ‘Tahrir dialogue’ event titled “From Crisis to Peace-Making in Korea” with Professor Chung-in Moon, Special Adviser to the Republic of Korea President for Unification and National Security Affairs.
- In January 2018 Dr Mason presented a lecture on the Arab – Israeli conflict to visiting undergraduate students from Tsinghua University as part of an AUC Continuing and Executive Education special program
- In 2017 Dr Mason was invited to co-host, on behalf of AUC, the 14th Korea – Middle East Cooperation Forum in Seoul. Sponsored by the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the event served to contribute to track 1.5 debates and add insights on important themes concerning the MENA region and a series of bilateral relationships.