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  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A few hours after the official demonstration marking the February 11 anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated, "Was the presence of tens of millions of motivated and aware people in the festival of the thirty-first anniversary of revolution enough to awaken [to their mistakes] the internal enemies and deceived individuals who sometimes hypocritically speak of 'the people'?" Khamenei had spent months worrying that the opposition Green Movement would hijack the anniversary. Yesterday, he seemed to regain his self-confidence by proving that he could manage Tehran's streets. In light of this development, how will the Supreme Leader deal with both Iran's political crisis and the nuclear dossier?
  • Topic: Democratization, Islam, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji, David Cvach, Ali Alfoneh
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The means for assessing political fissures in Iran are by nature very limited and have become even more so since the June 12, 2009, election. Independent studies and data on the Iranian public, such as opinion polling, are sparse and not useful, and the Iranian press follows very strict red lines in discussing politics. Western diplomats in Iran are also restrained from understanding the political environment due to the oppressively formal nature of relations with Iranian officials, who rarely discuss sensitive issues with their Western counterparts. The latter are thus forced to gather information anecdotally, in private meetings with business leaders, cultural elites, and journalists -- hardly a sufficient sample of Iranian society.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Washington, Middle East
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On May 6, Britain went to the polls to elect a new government, producing no clear result but forcing the resignation of Labor Party leader Gordon Brown. Within hours of taking over as prime minister, Conservative Party leader David Cameron had created a new body, a British national security council, whose first meeting focused on "discuss[ing] the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and review[ing] the terrorist threat to the UK." Apart from Britain's economic problems, these issues and Middle East policy in general will likely dominate the new government's agenda -- and its relations with Washington.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Terrorism, International Security, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, United Kingdom, Washington, Middle East
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On Monday, Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri will visit Washington for a meeting with President Obama. In announcing the meeting, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called it "a symbol of the close and historic relationship between Lebanon and the United States." Indeed, between 2005 and 2009, bilateral ties were never closer or more consequential, with the Cedar Revolution ending nearly three decades of Syrian suzerainty in the country. Over the past year, however, Hariri has had to govern in coalition with Hizballah. The Iranian-Syrian backed Shiite militia will be the elephant in the Oval Office during Monday's meeting.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: David Makovsky, Michael Eisenstadt, Robert Satloff, Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although a full narrative will have to wait until the ongoing Israeli inquiry is complete, it is possible to sketch the outlines of what happened on the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara . The six boats of the "Free Gaza Flotilla" departed Turkey on May 28, and Israeli naval vessels began shadowing them two days later, around 11:00 p.m. on May 30. At that time, Israel requested that the boats divert to Ashdod to allow inspection of their cargo for contraband, but they refused to comply.
  • Topic: Political Violence, International Law, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Turkey, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Stephen Hadley, Michael Herzog
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The two-state solution is widely accepted as the ultimate outcome of any Middle East peace process. Despite this consensus, progress toward a solution has slowed to a near halt. The difficulty Israel's right wing coalition faces in making concessions on key issues has proven a major obstacle to negotiations, while the split between a Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank and Hamas in Gaza further diminishes the probability of reaching a solution in the foreseeable future.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Politics, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: With smiles, compliments, and a strong dose of hospitality, President Obama did his best to provide a dramatically improved backdrop for U.S.-Israeli relations during Binyamin Netanyahu's July 6 visit to the White House, compared to the climate that greeted the Israeli prime minister upon his strained April visit. This included strikingly specific commitments on key issues important to Israeli security. Netanyahu, in turn, responded with generous and deferential praise for U.S. leadership on the broad array of Middle East policy issues. Given the near-term political and policy imperatives of both leaders, the result was a meeting doomed to succeed. Lurking behind the warmth and banter, however, remain tactical obstacles on how to proceed in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations as well as strategic uncertainty about how each side views the other's regional priorities.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Hassan Barari
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In early September, three senior leaders of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood (MB) resigned from the organization's executive bureau after it voted to dissolve the MB political department -- one of the few remaining components of the organization controlled by moderates. The resignations were a protest against not only the executive bureau's decision, but also the MB's increasingly close affiliation with Hamas. Today, the Jordanian MB is facing an unprecedented internal crisis, pitting the traditional moderate East Bank leadership -- Jordanians who are not originally Palestinian -- against the powerful pro-Hamas Palestinian-led element. Lately, these divisions have been aggravated by Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mashal's apparent efforts to exploit the shifting balance of power within the MB to further his own organization's agenda in Amman. Ironically, Jordanian authorities -- who have long prided themselves on managing the Islamist issue -- have done little to stem the tide.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Islam, Politics, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On August 19, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad submitted his list of cabinet nominees to the Majlis (Iran's parliament). The president's choice of individuals clearly shows his preference for loyalty over efficiency, as he fired every minister who, while strongly supportive of him on most issues, opposed him recently on his controversial decision to appoint a family relative as first vice president. Ahmadinezhad's drive to install loyalists involves placing members of the military and intelligence community in the cabinet, as well as in other important government positions. Despite the president's positioning, Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, remains in firm control of the country's vital ministries.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mohammad Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On August 10, Fatah concluded its sixth congress, the first in twenty years. Although media attention has focused on some of the summit's disturbing pronouncements, significant political developments have occurred. Over the span of seven days, Fatah leaders discussed the key issues and challenges facing the party, including organizational and political issues affecting its unity, the role of its power centers, the peace process, and the group's relationship with Hamas and the Palestinian government. Whether Fatah is now able to overcome its organizational deficits and restore its popularity and leadership among the Palestinian people remains to be seen. But Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas has undoubtedly emerged stronger, competing powers within Fatah seem to have accepted coexistence, and the conflict between Fatah and Hamas is expected to escalate.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Political Power Sharing
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: J. Scott Carpenter, Ahmed Ali
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On July 25, Iraqi Kurds go to the polls to vote in a joint parliamentary and presidential election. Although a heated competition in January produced massive change at the provincial level throughout the rest of Iraq, the electoral system produced by the incumbent Iraqi Kurdistan parliament prevents such sweeping changes in the north. Both the current coalition governing the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and the current KRG president, Masoud Barzani, will most likely be reelected. Despite the lack of change, the postelection period will create an opportunity for Baghdad, Washington, and the KRG to resolve outstanding issues that cause increased tension between Arabs and Kurds. Resolution can occur only if all parties take advantage of new political openings, however narrow.
  • Topic: Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Nazar Janabi
  • Publication Date: 08-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On August 7, the Iraqi parliament went on summer recess after failing to pass a critical election law, delaying the country's provincial elections until sometime next year. The failure comes after the parliament successfully passed the law on July 22, only to be vetoed by the Iraqi Presidency Council in less than thirty-six hours. The core dispute involves the oil-rich Kirkuk province, which is currently witnessing an alarming escalation of demonstrations and politically motivated attacks. This forced Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to send his defense minister and an Iraqi brigade to the region in an attempt to deter further problems. As a result of Baghdad's political squabbling, the desperately needed provincial elections may seem unattainable.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 07-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert announced yesterday that he will not compete in his party's September primary and will resign as premier once a new leader is elected. The move ends Olmert's two and half years as Israeli premier, a post he took up after Ariel Sharon's debilitating stroke in January 2006. High-profile allegations of financial wrongdoing have cast a shadow over his administration in past months, and until recently, he pledged he would only leave if there were a formal indictment. His announcement comes at a critical time for Israel and will certainly lead to sense of uncertainty about the future.
  • Topic: Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 07-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: This week, Lebanon's new national unity government is slated to announce its ministerial statement (bayan waziri), the policy document that will define Beirut's working parameters and agenda through the spring 2009 elections. For the pro-West majority March 14 coalition, the priority will be to incorporate into the statement a reference to UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, which prohibits weapons movement to Hizballah and expands government sovereignty throughout Lebanon. Hizballah, for its part, will look to maintain the legitimacy of "the resistance." Although March 14 still maintains a government majority, three years of hostility and self-inflicted wounds have left the ruling party dramatically weakened, making it unclear whether the coalition will be able to prevent Hizballah from consolidating further political gains.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Nazar Janabi
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: While experts negotiate the technical aspects of a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) -- an arrangement that would govern future security relations between Iraq and the United States -- Iraqi politicians are engaged in a rhetorical campaign against such an agreement, making it nearly impossible to finalize a deal by this summer. Meanwhile, the escalating debate now includes Iraq's neighbors, with top Iranian officials expressing their opposition to any kind of security arrangement.
  • Topic: Security, Politics, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In late May, an official close to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad publicly accused more than forty high-ranking government officials -- including some of the country's most powerful clerics -- of economic corruption. These unprecedented revelations may signal the start of a significant power struggle inside the Iranian government, one likely to intensify between now and the May 2009 presidential election.
  • Topic: Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Jean-Pierre Katrib
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The May 25 election of Gen. Michel Suleiman as Lebanon's twelfth president was a central element of the Qatari-brokered compromise between the March 14 coalition and the Hizballah-led opposition. The agreement was greeted with relief in Washington and other international capitals, allaying fears that Lebanon was once again heading toward civil war. Now that Fouad Siniora has been re-designated as prime minister, the Doha agreement's remaining elements include the difficult task of establishing a "national unity government" and holding parliamentary elections in 2009. The new law governing those elections will determine whether Lebanon will have a solid future foundation or if the day of final reckoning has been merely postponed.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Washington, Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji, David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Tomorrow, Kuwait's nearly 400,000 voters -- more than half of them women -- will go to the polls to elect a new parliament. The incoming body will replace the 2006 parliament that was dissolved by the ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah, for failing to work together with the cabinet. Kuwait's parliament is relatively powerful compared to others in the region, but tension with the royal family has often produced only deadlock. Still, the elections are an important and interesting exercise in Arab democracy and may even produce a more constructive political environment.
  • Topic: Democratization, Gender Issues, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Kuwait
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On April 25, a second round of voting will determine the remaining eighty-eight seats of the Iranian Majlis. The first round, held on March 14, decided 202 seats and was considered a defeat for both the reformists and President Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad. His reaction to the setback -- the dismissal of Interior Minister Mustafa Pur-Muhammadi, responsible for conducting the election -- is indicative of the difficult times ahead for the president and his allies, whose public and official support is steadily diminishing.
  • Topic: Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay, H. Akin Unver, Hale Arifagaoglu
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On March 14, Turkey's chief prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, filed a case with the country's Constitutional Court asking it to shut down the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and ban seventy-one of its members from seeking elected office for five years. He accused the party of spearheading "anti-secular activities" in violation of the Turkish constitution. Although the court's disposition is uncertain, the case is likely to strengthen the AKP regardless of the outcome.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Government, Islam, Politics
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East