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Statecraft And The Art Of Creating Geopolitical Leverage – OpEd


The behavior of states towards other states mostly depends on the perception of or estimation of their existing power relations. Their interests are either vital interests, strategic interests or just national concerns. In addition to the perception of power relations, their behavior is also highly stimulated by the behavior of other states; this can be explained by Thucydides trap.


State behaviors hover around diplomacy, show of power, etc. that can be invoked at the service of statecraft in international relations. The economy and military are basic components of which states find leverage to promote their interests abroad. Economic power includes sanctions, embargos, and aid; military power includes show of power, alliances, drills, and humanitarian deployments.

The ultimate goal of deploying all these resources at the service of foreign policy is to create leverage that would contribute vastly to the negotiations between states. A balanced negotiation cannot take place if one state has a benefit over the other state. Thus, states seek to create leverage that would strengthen their stand in a negotiation that would otherwise possibly cost them their strategic interests. This is also a zero-sum situation that states seek to avoid.  There is a vast number of cases in history that show us the art of creating leverage before a state enters into negotiation or bargaining.  

Arab- Israeli conflicts

on May 14, 1967, Nasser mobilized Egyptian forces in the Sinai.  King Hussein of Jordan arrived in Cairo to sign a mutual defense pact with Egypt, placing Jordanian forces under Egyptian command; shortly thereafter, Iraq too joined the alliance.

In response to the apparent mobilization of its Arab neighbors, early on the morning of June 5, Israel staged a sudden preemptive air assault that destroyed more than 90 percent of Egypt’s air force on the tarmac. A similar air assault incapacitated the Syrian air force. Without cover from the air, the Egyptian army was left vulnerable to attack. Within three days the Israelis had achieved an overwhelming victory on the ground, capturing the Gaza Strip and all of the Sinai Peninsula up to the east bank of the Suez Canal.

Israel has been craving the recognition of the international community especially recognition from its neighbors. The Israeli invasion of the Sinai Peninsula gave it more leverage that can be deployed to demand recognition from Egypt.  


 The Egyptians need no longer fear, as after 1967, that they would appear at the negotiating table as defeated supplicants. But if the Egyptians are beaten, if again they are driven back across the canal and humiliated, then Sadat’s Presidency will be near its end. And the regime that follows, even if itself insecure, will be one that cannot compromise with Israel. For all these, the Egyptian political elite had insisted that if Israel were to withdraw from Sinai a peace treaty could be signed.

Israel had deployed its military and expansionary leverage to force PLO in 1993 and Jordan in 1994 to peace negotiations that led to peace deals with neighbors. Both of their deals were based on making concessions from Israel to give up lands that it previously invaded. 

Mediterranean turbulence 

A Turkish seismic vessel began carrying out surveys in waters where Greece also claims jurisdiction, shadowed by Turkish warships.

The tension that followed has prompted Turkey to announce new live-fire military drills to be held off Cyprus’s northern coast next week, with Greece planning rival navy exercises with France, Cyprus, and Italy.

France had already deployed its fighter jets in the regions. The question is why this show of power with military drills while calling for diplomacy and dialogue? Won’t the tension eventually spark a war?

These military drills and militarizing of the region show a fine example of creating leverage by rivals. Each party tries to enhance its standing in the negotiation.

Taliban and former Afghan government

Afghanistan reported a historic increase in enemy-initiated attacks since the signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement, with nearly 37 percent more enemy-initiated attacks this quarter than during the same period in 2020 (US Gov Report, 2021).  These attacks from the Taliban Forces continued while U.S.-brokered direct peace talks were underway in Doha, Qatar, between the Taliban and a delegation representing the Afghan government.

During the peace talks in Doha, Taliban chief negotiator Abdul Hakim Haqqani said that his group is determined to move the negotiation process forward with a mission to end four decades of hostilities (Gul, 2020). Taliban’s intention is obvious, as they continued their attacks on Afghan forces while peace talks were underway; creating leverage in peace talks and making space for leveraged bargaining.

Creating leverage in order to serve foreign policy and national interests is a tip of an iceberg, in other words, strengthening one’s force in order to gain a more beneficial outcome out of a bargain. This depends on statesmen’s creativity to come up with strategies and find ways to create enough leverage. 


Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (2021). Defense.Gov. Retrieved May 27, 2022, from’S%20SENTINEL.PDF

Gul, A. (2020, September 17). Afghan-Taliban peace talks continue as fighting kills dozens. Afghan-Taliban Peace Talks Continue as Fighting Kills Dozens.

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