Director, Middle East and North Africa programme
Areas of expertise
Middle East and North Africa
English, French, Arabic
Julien Barnes-Dacey is the director of the Middle East & North Africa programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations. He works on European policy towards the wider region, with a particular focus on Syria and regional geopolitics.
Barnes-Dacey’s recent publications include “Principled pragmatism: Europe’s place in a multipolar Middle East,” “Society max: How Europe can help Syrians survive Assad and coronavirus,” and “Guns and governance: How Europe should talk with non-state armed groups in the Middle East.” His work has been published in the likes of Foreign Policy, Politico, the Financial Times, and the New York Times.
Immediately prior to joining ECFR Barnes-Dacey headed the MENA practice at Control Risks, a private sector consultancy. Before this he worked as a journalist across the Middle East. Based in Syria from 2007 to 2010, he reported for publications including the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Christian Science Monitor. He worked across Iraq as editor of Niqash and was also based in Egypt. Barnes-Dacey was an assistant foreign editor for UK television’s Channel 4 News, and a field producer for Al Jazeera International.
Barnes-Dacey holds a BA in history from the London School of Economics, an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, and studied Arabic at the Institut Français du Proche-Orient.
The Geneva II conference on Syria will finally convene in Switzerland next week. Prospects for an immediate or dramatic breakthrough are decidedly bleak, yet that should not be the bar against which the merits of convening Geneva II should be measured.
Mark Leonard hosts a discussion with Daniel Levy, Anthony Dworkin, and Julien Barnes-Dacey on the Arab Spring and current events in the Middle East…
Before any Western intervention in the Syrian conflict, eight key issues need to be considered – from the goals of intervention and the legal issue to the regional impact and the possibility of a diplomatic alternative
Two years after the beginning of an uprising against President Bashar-al-Assad, Syria is gripped by an ever deepening civil war that is having a significant impact on the entire region.
How regional actors shape the conflict in Syria
Julien Barnes-Dacey explains the wider impact of the Syria conflict on its neighbours, in the second of two podcasts. For a downloadable and…
Julien Barnes-Dacey explains which countries are driving the conflict in Syria to Nicholas Walton, in the first of two podcasts on Syria's…
Tensions in Lebanon, whose political fate has long been intimately tied to Syria, are sharpening rapidly as its neighbour sinks deeper into a sectarian civil war. But a growing number of clashes within Lebanon are now raising fears that a domestic eruption is becoming hard to avoid.
Europeans need to deal with the Middle East as it is rather than as they want it to be, while staying focused on the principles needed to secure longer-term stability
ECFR’s policy experts examine what the Taliban takeover means for countries and regions around the world: Europe, the US, the Middle East, Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, and the Sahel
To achieve greater sovereignty, Europe needs to push back against rival powers, build leverage in armed conflicts, and be more effective in supporting reform
The Trump years galvanised Europeans’ efforts to strengthen their own sovereignty; they now need to agree concrete offers they can make to the new administration
European governments should pivot to a strategy focused on protecting those societal forces that are still standing and that can help salvage a better future
National politics need to be front and centre in de-escalation efforts
Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have so far been resilient to the spillover from Syria’s civil war, but now the region’s stability is hanging by a thread
The sixth ECFR Foreign Policy Scorecard highlights the EU’s diminishing ability to influence its neighbours, and the neighbourhood’s growing impact on the EU
An “Islamic State first” strategy, that neglects the urgent need to secure political progress and de-escalation in Syria will fail
Europe’s relationships with the six Arab Gulf states that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have failed to keep up with their increasing importance
A new trade corridor linking India to Europe via the Middle East can offer opportunities for Europeans to strengthen their geo-economic influence with the Gulf. It can also be an opportunity for de-risking, but Europe should not expect to dislodge Chinese influence
The normalisation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran has provided welcome impetus towards peace in Yemen. But resolving the regional dimension of the conflict should not come at the expense of inclusive, intra-Yemeni negotiations under UN auspices
Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to begin the process of normalising their relations. Europeans should consider how to help entrench the stabilising gains of the agreement – even as they navigate difficulties with Iran
In the aftermath of the earthquake, minimal aid is reaching north-west Syria, the most affected region in the country. European governments need to put humanitarian imperatives first, even if this means temporarily abandoning longstanding political positions
The protest movement sweeping Iran is an Iranian-led struggle. But European governments can play their part by focusing on measures that help protect protesters.
The World Cup in Qatar, with all its money and glitz, shines a light on the disconnect between winners and losers in the Middle East
The UAE’s embrace of Assad is central to the construction of a new regional order that preserves Emirati influence
Europe needs to prepare for a breakdown of multilateral cooperation with Russia. Yet, in doing so, it should be careful not to provide space for Moscow to justify unilateral action of its own.
Heightened conflict in Ukraine could have serious consequences for European interests in the Middle East and North Africa. It could further disrupt energy supplies, exacerbate food insecurity, and help states in the region gain leverage over the US and Europe.
The United States and Iran may finally be converging on a shared commitment to a new nuclear deal. This agreement would not be perfect, but the alternatives are far worse.
European governments need a deeper engagement strategy to draw these powerful actors into inclusive political processes and power-sharing structures that can help stabilise the region
The eastern Mediterranean is becoming ever more perilous as geopolitical fault lines steadily enmesh the region. These rifts emerge from the Cyprus ‘frozen conflict’, competition for valuable gas fields, and the increasingly entangled wars in Libya and Syria.
Turmoil in the Middle East and north Africa directly affects Europeans. Yet their influence in the region has never been weaker. This project maps Europe’s role across the Middle East and north Africa, making the case that Europeans can do more to leverage their influence in pursuit of core interests
An ECFR guide to the key disputes threatening to spark a wider Middle Eastern war
On location at the Doha Forum 2022, Mark Leonard and his guests discuss Western energy sanctions on Russia and why is there a reluctance in the Gulf states and the West to cooperate on energy supplies
Does the election of Raisi represent a significant change of direction following the term of President Rouhani?
How can the EU prevent the Turkey-UAE rivalry from destabilising European security and foreign policy?
When Biden enters the White House, he will look for a Europe that brings solutions rather than problems. Europeans should show they can be an equal partner & offer him a new transatlantic bargain.
Last week’s episode saw our experts dissecting the coronavirus’ implications for Europe. In today's episode, we’re breaking down how the crisis is unfolding in the…
How can Europeans more effectively advance their human rights agenda as part of, and while maintaining, their broader relationships with regional states?