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  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Late on November 25, just before the start of the Islamic Eid festival and, coincidentally, Thanksgiving in the United States, Dubai's flagship investment company Dubai World announced that it would be requesting a six-month delay on paying its debts. Within hours, Dubai's reputation was being rewritten, and its ambition to be a financial center, building on its historic reputation as a focal point for regional trade, was being recast. Uncertainty continued on November 30, when the Dubai government said that it would not guarantee Dubai World's debt. In any event, the larger story has been the nervousness of world financial markets, which are now also evincing worry about the debt of countries like Greece or Ireland. Within the Middle East, the focus is on the extent of support that Dubai will receive from Abu Dhabi, the neighboring -- and richer -- member sheikhdom of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), whether other city-states like Bahrain and Qatar are also at risk, and whether Dubai's links with Iran will change as a result of its financial situation.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Arabia, Bahrain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 08-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Today's resignation of Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf creates a power vacuum in the most crucial country in the fight against al-Qaeda and Islamic extremism. For the foreseeable future, political power in Pakistan will not be in the hands of lackluster prime minister Yousef Raza Gilani, but in those of the ruling coalition rivals -- Benazir Bhutto's widower Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Future political contests will likely emphasize Musharraf's perceived closeness to Washington, an issue that united domestic opinion against him. This growing political reality, in addition to Islamabad's unwillingness to confront Islamic militants, further complicates U.S. policy toward Pakistan.
  • Topic: Government, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, United States, Asia
  • Author: Simon Henderson, Jasmine El-Gamal
  • Publication Date: 07-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: This week, Saudi Arabia is organizing a global interfaith conference in Madrid, with more than 200 Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist religious leaders from 54 countries expected to attend. The conference, in the words of its main organizer, the Mecca-based Muslim World League, will "focus on common human values." Many in the West, however, will likely judge the conference as a Saudi public relations effort to emphasize its leadership of the Islamic world, and to ward off criticism, especially from the United States, that Saudi Arabia bears continuing responsibility for political and financial backing of Sunni extremists across the Middle East.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: This weekend, Saudi Arabia will attempt to counter accusations that it has not done enough to stop rising oil prices by hosting an international energy summit of government and oil-company officials. Invitations were sent after the kingdom -- the world's top oil exporter, home to nearly a quarter of known reserves -- was pressured to take action on prices that have increased 40 percent so far this year. Unless Saudi pricing policy changes, however, the meeting is unlikely to bring any relief to consumers.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Simon Henderson, David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: President Bush returns to the Middle East this week for the second time in 2008. Initially planned to mark Israel's sixtieth anniversary, his itinerary has expanded to include meetings with top officials from Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and Saudi Arabia. Except for a trip to Riyadh, these meetings will be held at a World Economic Forum conference in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt. This lineup prompted National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to say the trip has "both symbolism and substance" and, considering the urgency of the issues, something of substance may actually emerge.
  • Topic: Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Middle East, Israel, Asia, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Tomorrow, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain visits the White House for talks and a working lunch with President Bush. The meeting promises to cover much more than the usual diplomatic pleasantries. The island state of Bahrain headquarters the U.S. Fifth Fleet and is therefore key to U.S. strategy in the Persian Gulf. The stability of this relationship faces challenges, however, given increasing divisions in the royal family, simmering discontent among the majority Shiite population, and perceived threats from Iran. Each of these issues -- particularly Iran -- will likely play a prominent role on the president's agenda tomorrow.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On March 16, Vice President Cheney departs on a Middle East trip that will take him to Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank, and Turkey. Coming less than two months after President Bush's trip to the region, the vice president's itinerary is intriguing. His undisclosed agenda with "key partners," in the words of the White House announcement, is likely to include the peace process, the price of oil, Iraq, and Iran. And among those issues, Iran will likely be the most mentioned, especially given this week's controversial resignation of Adm. William Fallon as the top U.S. commander in the Middle East -- a move attributed in part to differences on Iran between him and the White House.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 02-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After a six-week delay following the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, Pakistanis will go to the polls on February 18 to elect a new National Assembly. Pakistan and Afghanistan are "where many of our most important interests intersect," as Director of National Intelligence J. Michael McConnell told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on February 5. Accordingly, the election results could affect the position of a key U.S. ally in the war on terror -- the increasingly unpopular President Pervez Musharraf.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Most of President Bush's eight-day trip to the Middle East was spent in the Persian Gulf, visiting Kuwait, Bahrain, the two leading sheikhdoms of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and Saudi Arabia. As long-term allies of the United States, these Gulf Arab states still look to Washington as their ultimate security guarantor in what remains a dangerous region. In return for security, the United States asks for a reasonable world price for oil, support for its efforts to secure peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and cooperation in countering the threat of a potentially nuclear-armed Iran. The success of the trip may be judged by future progress on these policies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Last month, Tehran announced it was building maritime offices on the Persian Gulf island of Abu Musa, reigniting the long-standing territorial dispute between Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Since 1970, the disagreement over the island and the neighboring Greater and Lesser Tunbs has been mired in legal uncertainty and historical claims and counterclaims, hindering diplomatic relations between Iran and the Gulf Arab states. The recent diplomatic intensity surrounding the issue, however, including the UAE's August 21 formal protest to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, is a significant break from the past, and may be a forerunner to a future escalation. Considering the importance of the islands -- all three are strategically located near the Strait of Hormuz, where 20 percent of the world's oil passes daily -- the dispute's outcome is deeply tied to the interests of the United States and the international community.
  • Topic: Sovereignty
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Tehran, Arabia, Island, United Arab Emirates, Persia