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  • Author: Lori Plotkin Boghardt, Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Trump administration has an opportunity to reset, tighten, and maximize America's strategic relations with the Gulf states. For the United States, expanded security cooperation and coordination could be a force multiplier in campaigns to achieve key policy goals, such as countering Iran's destabilizing policies and defeating the Islamic State. Gulf leaders have expressed optimism over the new administration's gestures, despite its "America First" rhetoric. But the administration also faces challenges, including those brought about by its own emphasis on "radical Islamic terrorism." This two-part Transition 2017 paper, featuring contributions by Gulf experts Lori Plotkin Boghardt and Simon Henderson, navigates the complex U.S.-Gulf relationship. The first essay provides an overview of its basic tenets, stressing the importance of rapport to bilateral ties and discussing key policy priorities. The second essay narrows the focus to the Washington-Riyadh link, the most important U.S. tie with the conservative Gulf. It analyzes differences in viewpoint, policy options, and some anticipated Saudi responses on the core issues of oil, terrorism, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Gulf allies, and the Sunni bloc.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Cooperation, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East
  • Author: Jonathan Rynhold
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On February 23, Jonathan Rynhold and Elliott Abrams addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. Rynhold is a senior researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), director of the Argov Center for the Study of Israel and the Jewish People, and author of the just-released book The Arab-Israel Conflict in American Political Culture (Cambridge University Press). Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and former deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration. The following is a rapporteur's summary of their remarks.
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Washington, Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Author: Robert Rabil
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On February 13, Robert Rabil addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. Dr. Rabil is a professor of Middle East studies in Florida Atlantic University's Department of Political Science and the Lifelong Learning Society (LLS) Distinguished Professor of Current Events. He is the author of Salafism in Lebanon (Georgetown University Press, October 2014). The following is a rapporteur's summary of his remarks.
  • Political Geography: Washington, Middle East, Lebanon, Florida
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Israeli parties are placing a premium on capturing marginal votes within their blocs rather than competing across the left-right spectrum, and this status quo is working to Netanyahu's benefit. Israeli election polls have been fairly stagnant in the lead-up to the March 17 parliamentary vote, despite a plethora of campaign tactics to shake up the race. Some fluidity has been seen within the wider political blocs, but little if any between them. Socioeconomics, geography, and ethnicity have reinforced the current blocs, making wild swings unlikely. Typically, Israel's upper-middle-class, secular Ashkenazi (European origin) voters tend to focus on the high cost of living and concerns about the country's potential isolation in Europe, making them more likely to vote center-left. In contrast, Sephardic (Middle East origin) voters with more traditional and humble socioeconomic roots tend to focus on security threats and are therefore more likely to vote right. The clear segmentation of the political spectrum has led to a variety of mini-races rather than one overarching race.
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Michael Knights, Phillip Smyth, P.J. Dermer
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On February 6, 2015, Michael Knights, Phillip Smyth, and P.J. Dermer addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. Knights is an Institute Lafer Fellow and author of the Institute study The Long Haul: Rebooting U.S. Security Cooperation in Iraq. Smyth is a researcher at the University of Maryland and author of the Institute study The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects. Dermer is a retired U.S. Army colonel who served multiple tours in the Middle East, including two in Iraq. The following is a rapporteur's summary of their remarks.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Ehud Yaari
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Hamas seems intent on using Hezbollah's "bullets plus ballots" approach to gain a military and political foothold in the West Bank, the PA, and the PLO.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The loss of government control in a major city may be just the wakeup call Iraqi politicians need to embrace a more ambitious reconciliation agenda.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Struggle, Governance, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Military coordination with Hezbollah may be providing a quick fix, but the country's long-term strength can only be achieved with a reconstituted March 14 coalition.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Struggle, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Mosul crisis highlights how ISIS has established a potent cadre of foreign jihadists who freely operate across the rapidly disappearing Iraq-Syria border.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Phillip Smyth
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Iran's proxy groups have been working closely with Iraqi government forces for some time and will likely become more important to Baghdad in light of recent events.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Nima Gerami
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Iran's compartmented nuclear program and fears of sabotage have complicated efforts to address IAEA concerns about the program's suspected military side.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Neri Zilber
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If U.S. policy was to "wait and see" how the Hamas-approved Palestinian reconciliation process would unfold in practice, the test is now.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Encouraging signs have emerged that the collapse of federal government control in Iraq may have slowed and that Baghdad is beginning the transition to counteroffensive operations to regain ground. Massive mobilization of largely Shiite volunteers has given Baghdad an untrained but motivated "reserve army" that can be used to swamp cross-sectarian areas around the Iraqi capital. All available formed military units have been pulled out of reserve and brought toward Baghdad to defend the capital. In this effort, all Department of Border Enforcement units have been relocated from the country's borders, and Iraqi army and Federal Police units have been redeployed from southern Iraq. Isolated federal government units are scattered across northern Iraq, in some cases hanging on against Sunni militants with the support of adjacent Kurdish forces.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism, Law Enforcement, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Events on the battlefield will reveal the true effects of the crisis, but the ISIS campaign in Iraq could ultimately help the Syrian opposition and hurt the Assad regime.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As the situation in Egypt continues to unfold, U.S. policy has evolved with breathtaking speed. Just last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the Mubarak regime was stable, but by Tuesday evening, President Obama was making the remarkable statement that Egypt's transition needs to begin "now." This is not only the most serious foreign policy challenge to this U.S. administration, but also one in a list of unforeseen and improbable challenges. Unlike scenarios involving, for example, a North Korean provocation against the South or even a catastrophic terrorist attack -- for which the United States plans and prepares -- the swift demise of Hosni Mubarak's presidency, along with the virtual disappearance of the ruling National Democratic Party and the potential fall of a regime that has been a pillar of U.S. standing in the Middle East for thirty-five years, is an unimagined challenge.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Daniel Green
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On February 2, Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, declared that he would not press for a constitutional amendment allowing him to seek another term during the next election, currently scheduled for 2013. He also pledged that he would not pass power to his son, Ahmed, head of the country's Republican Guard. His remarks were apparently intended to preempt a "day of rage" in the capital, Sana, scheduled by opposition groups for February 3. In addition to parallels with Tunisia and Egypt, Washington will be watching with great attention given Yemen's reputation as a sanctuary for al-Qaeda and its supporters.
  • Topic: Democratization, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Washington, Middle East, Yemen, Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On February 16, Bahraini security forces used brute force to clear democracy protestors from Manama's Pearl Square, on orders from a regime seemingly undaunted by international media coverage and the near-instantaneous self-reporting of Twitter-generation demonstrators. Although the relatively small size of the crowds (compared to recent protests in Egypt and Tunisia) facilitated the crackdown, the action is best explained by the regime's long-held mindset regarding dissent. Specifically, the Bahraini ruling elite believe that any political challenge by the island's Shiite majority must be quickly suppressed -- a view backed by the royal family in neighboring Saudi Arabia and violently enforced in Bahrain despite significant Sunni participation in the protests. This Saudi factor, and the looming presence of Iran across the Persian Gulf, elevates the Bahrain crisis to a U.S. policy challenge on par with events in Egypt.
  • Topic: Democratization, Insurgency, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arab Countries, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Island, Tunisia
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The following is a sampling of reactions from various Islamist leaders, commentators, and organizations following the death of Usama bin Laden.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: David Makovsky, Ghaith al-Omari, Amos Yadlin
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Palestinian decision to appeal to the UN is rooted in frustration with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government and the conviction that negotiations are futile at the moment. Furthermore, they believe that President Obama's efforts, while admirable, will not produce results. These beliefs -- combined with the sense of urgency imparted by the Arab Spring and the growing perception that the Palestinian leadership can no longer back down from the initiative -- makes it likely that they will head to the UN this month as planned.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Self Determination
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, United Nations
  • Author: Ray Takeyh, Patrick Clawson
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In the wake of Iran's June 2009 presidential election and the development of an opposition movement, analysts are confronted with two questions: What impact will international diplomacy regarding the nuclear issue have on Iran's domestic politics? And what impact will Iran's domestic politics have on the issues of most concern to the international community? The newly released Washington Institute report Much Traction from Measured Steps offers good, bad, and mixed answers.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Iran, Washington, Middle East
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On January 6 -- Christmas Eve according to the Eastern Orthodox calendar -- six Coptic Christians and a policeman were killed in a drive-by shooting while exiting church in Naga Hammadi, Upper Egypt. The attack, which came in retaliation to an alleged rape of a twelve-year-old Muslim girl by a Christian man, was the largest assault on Copts in Egypt since a January 2000 massacre left twenty dead in Sohag. The days since the shooting have been marked by violent clashes and the burning of Christian and Muslim property. These developments have unfolded against the background of increased political pressure on Islamists -- evoking the 1990s, when the killing of Copts by Islamist militants was a routine occurrence and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was banned from political participation. Thus, while Naga Hammadi might be an isolated incident, it could also presage the return of Egypt's Islamists to the bloody sectarian attacks of the 1990s.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell will return to the region next week in a bid to restart talks that have been stalled since the beginning of the Obama administration. In a television interview earlier this month, Mitchell declared that he would like to complete peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians within two years, if not sooner. Senior U.S. officials, including President Obama, have called for an unconditional return to the negotiating table. The official position of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is that talks cannot resume until Israel extends its settlement moratorium to east Jerusalem. He also wants the pre-1967 boundaries to serve as the baseline for negotiations. At the same time, he has made a statement indicating that he regrets how he reached his current position, hinting that the current impasse does not serve the Palestinian people's interests. Is there more convergence between the two sides than is readily apparent?
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Bruce Riedel, Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Palestinian terrorist groups have long operated out of the West Bank and Gaza. What is new is that some radicalized Palestinians are choosing to engage in violence not through established domestic groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, but rather through groups that aspire to be part of al-Qaeda's global jihad. While most Palestinian terrorist organizations are nationalist -- or, in the case of Hamas, Islamist-nationalist -- and limit their operations to the Israeli-Palestinian front, the Salafi-Jihadi ideology professed by these new groups offers a broader agenda, one based not on a particular nationality but instead on the Muslim umma (nation).
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Gaza
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A highly unusual and credible private poll of Saudi citizens taken in late November 2009 by a reputable regional firm shows solid popular support for tough measures against Iran, even though domestic economic issues loom larger in the public's perception. Conducted in partnership with Pechter Middle East Polls, a new, Princeton-based research organization, the survey involved face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 Saudi citizens in the major metropolitan areas of Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam/al-Khobar. A comparable poll was conducted in Egypt during the same period, with a representative national sample of 1,000.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Economics, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Yemen's reemergence in the headlines as a crucial player in the fight against al-Qaeda raises questions about Washington's next steps. What sort of relationship will the Obama administration have with President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the longtime leader of what could be the world's next failed state? Saleh spoke with President Barack Obama by telephone on December 17, 2009, and later met in Sana with General David Petreaus, the head of U.S. Central Command, on January 2. But the lessons of Saleh's relationship with the Bush administration suggest that close ties can be matched by sharp policy differences.
  • Topic: Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On January 2, 2010, President Barack Obama confirmed that he had "made it a priority to strengthen our partnership with the Yemeni government -- training and equipping their security forces, sharing intelligence and working with them to strike al-Qaeda terrorists." Increasing military aid to Sana will involve a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, the United States has a strong interest in degrading al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to prevent them from attacking U.S. interests in Yemen, strategic sea lanes, or international targets. On the other hand, in this weak and divided country, significant segments of Yemen's security forces are used for internal repression, and parts of the intelligence system are sympathetic to Islamic militancy, raising the prospect that U.S. aims could be undermined.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Patrick Clawson, Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A February 18 report from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Paris-based organization that sets global standards for combating money laundering and terrorism financing, revealed new details about Iran's ongoing activities in both realms. The same day, a new report from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reached disturbing conclusions about Iran's past nuclear efforts while raising intriguing questions about technical problems the regime may be encountering. As global powers debate a fourth round of UN sanctions on Iran, these reports demonstrate growing international consensus on the nature of Iran's illicit conduct.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: David Makovsky, Robert Satloff, Jacob Walles
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The absence of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over the past year is both surprising and troubling given the high priority President Obama assigned to resolving the conflict. The failure to resume talks stems largely from a lack of urgency on both sides.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem, Arab Countries
  • Author: Stephen Tankel
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In his February 2 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair highlighted the growing danger posed by Pakistani militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Calling the group a "special case," he asserted that it is "becoming more of a direct threat and is placing Western targets in Europe in its sights." He also expressed concern that it could "actively embrace" a more anti-Western agenda. Given its global capabilities with regard to fundraising, logistics, support, and operations, LeT could pose a serious threat to U.S. interests. Consequently, weakening it should be a high priority for Washington.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Europe, Washington, Middle East, Arabia
  • 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: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: February 11, the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, is the most important official holiday in Iran. The public faces of the opposition Green Movement, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi, have called for street demonstrations to mark the occasion. Meanwhile, government officials at every level have warned against such protests, threatening tough action against any participants. In this tense atmosphere, what are the prospects that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will agree to political compromise?
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Islam
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Jeffrey White, Loring White
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: What if Iran's hardline leadership emerges from the current confrontations at home strengthened and emboldened? If so, the nuclear issue will be back with a vengeance. And three recent war games focused on the Iranian nuclear weapons issue suggest that the prospects for halting the regime's progress toward nuclear weapons are not good.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In less than forty-eight hours, U.S.-Israel relations went from "unbreakable," according to Vice President Joe Biden, to "perilous," as ascribed to an "unnamed senior U.S. official." This drastic mood swing risks overshadowing the great achievement of the vice president's Middle East trip -- the affirmation for Israelis (as well as those Arabs and Iranians following his words) that the Obama administration is "determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: David Cohen
  • Publication Date: 04-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The international community faces a daunting challenge in confronting global terrorism financing. The task is especially tough in today's environment, with money constantly crossing borders and rocketing around the globe. The Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) plays a unique role in this arena, facilitating efforts on many fronts, both domestically and abroad. The Middle East remains the primary focus of these efforts, particularly Iran and al-Qaeda.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Terrorism, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The March 26 clash between elements of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Golani Brigade and Palestinian operatives near the Gaza border was the most serious since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. The incident has exacerbated tensions -- already on the rise due to increased rocket attacks on southern Israel -- and added to concerns that another Gaza war is looming. Neither Hamas nor Israel has a clear interest in renewing large-scale hostilities, but the dynamics of the border conflict point toward escalation. The two sides did not necessarily want a war in December 2008 either, but it came anyway.
  • Topic: War, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Tal Becker, Hussein Ibish
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A great deal of misinformation and disinformation surrounds Israel's desire to be recognized as a Jewish state. In practice, the concept refers to acknowledgment of the Jewish people's right to self-determination in the land of Israel, also known as Zionism. The land does not necessarily encompass what many call "Greater Israel," which includes the West Bank, or deny the right to self-determination of neighboring Palestinians, who deserve a state of their own. The issue of Israel's recognition as a Jewish state has grown in prominence in the last year as Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made it a point of emphasis.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Daniel Poneman
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The president...continues to work...to tackle the energy and climate challenge, understanding that this is a global problem that demands a global solution.... Some have suggested that a United States that is focusing on new energy technologies and a low-carbon future must be at odds with the oil and gas producers of the Middle East. [However], recent discussions in the region suggest otherwise.... Tackling the energy and climate challenge presents important opportunities to broaden U.S. energy relationships in the region, and together [with regional partners] to build a sustainable energy future.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, 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: Allis Radosh, Ronald Radosh
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: When Harry Truman became president in April 1945, he had not thought deeply about the exact form a Jewish national home in historic Palestine would or should take. Following his landmark decision to recognize the state of Israel in May 1948, he would suggest that his support for such a development had been unwavering, and that his decisions had come easily. Yet the record shows otherwise. Between Truman's first days as president and Israel's formation, his approach to the idea of a Jewish state evolved significantly, at times seeming to change in response to the last person with whom he met. Although he ultimately made the historic decision, a Jewish state had never been, in his mind, a foregone conclusion.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, New York, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace George Mitchell is currently in Jerusalem amid wide expectation that on Saturday the Palestinians will approve proximity talks with Israel. For its part, Israel has already agreed to the talks.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: J. Scott Carpenter
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recently leaked documents detail an exchange between Washington and Cairo regarding the future of U.S. economic assistance to Egypt. The documents indicate that the Obama administration has welcomed Cairo's idea of ending traditional assistance in favor of creating a new endowment, "The Egyptian-American Friendship Foundation." This idea has a long, checkered history and, if implemented, will be bad for both American taxpayers and the Egyptian people. The administration should work with Egypt to craft alternatives that advance common objectives, including democratic reform.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: J. Scott Carpenter, Matthew Levitt, Juan Zarate
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Many of the functional and structural recommendations of the Institute's March 2009 bipartisan task force have since been adopted by the Obama administration, and remarkable progress has been made in certain areas. Nevertheless, more must be done to combat radical Islamism, particularly given the recent acceleration of homegrown radicalization. Proving that ideology recognizes no borders, the global threat of violent Islamism has come home. This new study recognizes the important steps the Obama administration has taken to address violent extremism and suggests ways to advance counterradicalization efforts even further.
  • Topic: Islam, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • 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: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The State Department's recently released Country Reports on Terrorism 2009 (CRT 2009) reveals several important trends in the evolution of global terrorism. The good news is that al-Qaeda is facing significant pressure, even as the organization and its affiliates and followers retain the intent and capability to carry out attacks. What remains to be seen is if the dispersion of the global jihadist threat from the heart of the Middle East to South Asia and Africa foreshadows organizational decline or revival for al-Qaeda itself and the radical jihadist ideology it espouses. How governments and civil society alike organize to contend with the changing threat will be central to this determination. The bad news is that governments and civil society remain woefully ineffective at reducing the spread and appeal of radical Islamist extremism.
  • Topic: Government, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: David B. Crist, Reza Kahlili
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Iran was a country of great strategic importance at the time of the Islamic Revolution, the United States had few sources of information about what was occurring there, especially after the U.S. embassy was seized and official relations ended. Accordingly, Iran became an early priority for former CIA director William Casey in the 1980s. Information provided by Iranian insiders such as Reza Kahlili became critically important in this regard.
  • Topic: Intelligence, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Simon Henderson, Stefanie Peterson
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: At a ceremony near the southern Iranian coastal city of Bushehr this Saturday, Russia will begin the process of loading fuel rods into Iran's first civilian nuclear reactor. Theoretically distinct from the rest of the regime's disturbing nuclear program, the Bushehr plant nevertheless remains a major international concern. The low-enriched uranium in the fuel rods would, if diverted, substantially increase Iran's existing stock of the material, which many suspect is already being used to develop nuclear weapons. Even if they were used solely for electricity generation, the rods would eventually produce plutonium-rich residue that could also be reprocessed for use in a weapon. For Iran, the Bushehr event will be a gesture of defiance against U.S.-led international pressure; for Russia, a sign of Moscow's different diplomatic approach to the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran; and for the United States, an exception to the tightening sanctions regime, which officials claim is forcing Tehran to reconsider the wisdom of its policies.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Asia, Moscow
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: For nearly two weeks, the Persian Gulf island state of Bahrain has experienced near-daily disturbances following government arrests of opposition activists from the majority Shiite community. The timing of the arrests seemed geared toward preempting trouble in advance of the scheduled October 23 parliamentary and municipal elections, which minority Sunni parties and candidates are currently projected to win. The street violence and other incidents are of particular concern to the United States because Bahrain hosts the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet and Naval Forces Central Command, whose mission is to "deter and counter disruptive countries" -- a wording likely aimed at Iran, which claimed the island as its territory prior to 1970.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Asia, Arabia
  • 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: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: When Congress returns from its summer recess after Labor Day, the Department of Defense will provide informal notification of the U.S. intention to sell up to $60 billion in military equipment to Saudi Arabia. The likely deal is part of a U.S. commitment predating the Obama administration to strengthen regional allies in the face of a growing threat from Iran. For the Saudis, the transaction represents a clear return to considering the United States as its principal arms supplier, a position the Americans risked losing to France as recently as 2006.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, International Security
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Arab Countries, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 06-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: It is important to recall that the Gaza incident had the unintended consequence of wiping from the headlines much discussion about the U.S. decision to accede to the final resolution of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. Indeed, if Gaza had not occurred, there would be much more intense focus on how the decision to acquiesce in a deeply flawed NPT document gave clarity to the administration's priorities.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Christopher Boucek
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is not the biggest problem -- or even the biggest security challenge -- facing the Yemeni government, the United States and much of the international community still place it above other issues. Successful counterterrorism is directly linked to state stability. If Yemen becomes a failed state within the next few decades, U.S. counterterrorism objectives would be decisively undermined. The challenge for U.S. policy is finding a way to bolster the struggle against AQAP without exacerbating other aspects of Yemen's overlapping security, economic, and political crises.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Yemen, Arab Countries
  • Author: Myriam Benraad, Mohamed Abdelbaky
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Amid the uncertainty over Egypt's impending political succession, Egyptian security forces have cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the country's largest opposition group, in an attempt to curtain MB participation in Egyptian political life. Since late June, the government has arrested dozens of mid- and high-level Islamists, including the leader of the movement's guidance council, Abd al-Muanem Abu al-Fatouh. These Islamists oppose President Hosni Mubarak's bid for a sixth presidential term and reject his son Gamal as a potential replacement in 2011. After more than a decade of relative political moderation and successful deradicalization of the main Islamist groups, Cairo's policy of exclusion and persecution threatens to foment a return to radical Islamism in Egypt.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji, Stephen P. Rosen
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Studying the behavior of states with nuclear weapons may give some insight into what Iran would do if it acquires nuclear weapons capabilities. Every state that has nuclear weapons, with the exception of India, has shared the technology and the know-how -- not the weapons -- with other states: the United States shared technology with Great Britain and then, in the 1950s, provided nuclear weapons for German fighter jets on German bases flown by German pilots; Israel and France shared nuclear energy technology in the 1960s;China assisted Pakistan; North Korea aided Syria; and Pakistan assisted many countries through the A. Q.Khan network. In short, states transfer nuclear technology because it is easy to accomplish, difficult to track, and returns very high rewards.
  • Topic: Islam, Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, North Korea
  • 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: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On September 10, after seventy-three days of trying to formulate a government, Lebanon's prime minister designate, Saad Hariri, resigned his mandate. Although Hariri's pro-West March 14 coalition secured a parliamentary majority in June elections -- and with it the right to govern -- the Hizballah-led minority rejected the cabinet he submitted to President Michel Suleiman. Now that March 14 has reelected Hariri as its candidate for premier, the stage is set for yet another showdown with Hizballah and its allies. As the process drags on, both Hizballah and March 14 are hardening their positions. Meanwhile, Syria, via the regime-controlled press, is hinting at a return to violence in Beirut. Today, on the nineteenth anniversary of the Taif Accords, which ended the civil war, Lebanon again stands on the precipice.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Among the policy suggestions for heading off Iran's emergence as a military nuclear power is the notion that Saudi Arabia should use its position -- as the world's largest oil exporter and effective leader of the OPEC oil cartel -- to apply pressure. The kingdom is increasingly concerned that nuclear weapons capability would confer on Iran the status of regional hegemon. But any hope that Saudi Arabia would intervene to stop that possibility, by pumping extra supplies to lower prices and decrease Iran's oil revenues, is probably misplaced.
  • Topic: International Organization, Oil
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Arab Countries, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Gregory Schulte
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Mohamed ElBaradei will end his twelve years as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in November. Absent a last-minute breakthrough, ElBaradei will leave incomplete the critical safeguards investigations of Iran and Syria. Earlier this month, ElBaradei reported to the IAEA Board of Governors little or no progress on either the six-year probe of Iran's nuclear activities or the more recent probe of Syria's clandestine cooperation with North Korea. ElBaradei reported that Tehran continues to enrich uranium, in violation of IAEA and UN Security Council requirements, and despite any obvious domestic energy demand. Tehran also continues to deny to IAEA inspectors access to information, people, and sites to verify the "peaceful" nature of Iran's nuclear activities.
  • Topic: Islam, Nuclear Weapons, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North Korea, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Having raised Arab expectations months ago with the idea of a settlement freeze, the Obama administration now has the unpleasant task of coaxing Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas to tacitly accept an agreement on settlements that offers less than expected -- if more than was offered in the past. Therefore, it is uncertain whether the United States will succeed at arranging a trilateral summit involving President Barack Obama, President Abbas, and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the UN next week that would culminate in the announcement of a formal relaunching of peace negotiations.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Author: Michael Singh
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: With Iran's September 14 acceptance of a meeting with the P5+1 countries on October 1, the Obama administration finally appears poised to engage in direct talks with Iran. In entering these talks, Washington faces two obstacles: first, Iran's reputation for recalcitrance in negotiations and its stated refusal to discuss the nuclear issue, upon which American concerns center; and second, the perception that the administration is lending legitimacy to a regime fresh from violent repression of its political opponents.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Washington, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In a September 7 interview with al-Jazeera, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated, "The more that our Arab friends and allies can strengthen their security capabilities, the more they can strengthen their cooperation, both with each other and with us. I think this sends the signal to the Iranians that the path they are on is not going to advance Iranian security, but in fact could weaken it." His comments reflect a dawning realization in the face a growing Iranian nuclear threat: that a new conventional military balance is slowly emerging in the Persian Gulf.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Islam, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: With rumors in the air of a U.S.-brokered, mid-September meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, various regional actors are busy positioning themselves for the coming round of diplomacy. Analysis of these dynamics provides some useful perspective on the road ahead, beyond the usual focus on the minutiae of settlement construction, prisoner exchanges, or other immediate concerns.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: Michael Knights, Ahmed Ali
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On August 17, Iraq's Council of Ministers approved a draft legislation that would require the ratification of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, also known as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), in a national referendum coinciding with the national elections on January 16, 2010. Out of the 275 Iraqi parliamentarians, a simple majority is needed to authorize the draft law when the National Assembly reconvenes on September 8, 2009. If a referendum takes place, and the Iraqis reject the security agreement, U.S. forces would be required to leave Iraq by January 16, 2011, instead of December 31, 2011. The referendum could also change the nature of the upcoming national elections, focusing attention on nationalistic posturing at the expense of the U.S.-Iraqi relationship, and distracting Iraqi politicians and voters from the many serious issues facing the country.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Political Violence, War, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, 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: Michael Jacobson
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On August 13, President Barack Obama announced that his administration was reviewing the U.S. export control system to determine what reforms were needed to bring the regime up to date. Although the United States has stepped up its enforcement efforts in this area over the past several years -- particularly in terms of illegal exports of goods and services to Iran -- the system remains in need of further improvement. Strengthening the export control regime to prevent Iran from easily circumventing U.S. and international sanctions should be a key part of this important review.
  • Topic: Corruption, Crime, Law
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mohammad Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: At its recently concluded General Congress, Fatah established a new political program that will affect both its terms of reengagement with Israel and its relations with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Fatah's new constraints on negotiations with Israel, however, may harm Mahmoud Abbas -- PA president and the party's top leader -- who needs to respond positively to international peace initiatives that may conflict with the organization's new rules of engagement. Abbas might ignore these congressional decisions, believing its program is intended only for internal consumption to fend off the accusations of the party's hardline members. Fatah's renewed efforts to reunite the West Bank and Gaza could lead to an escalation with Hamas, since many observers doubt unity can be achieved peacefully.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Terrorism, Power Politics, Political Power Sharing
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • 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: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Widespread reports suggest that Sadeq Larijani, a young and inexperienced cleric with close ties to Iran's military and intelligence agencies, will officially replace Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi as head of the Iranian judiciary on August 16. This appointment is particularly significant, since the judiciary in Iran wields considerable power -- albeit through the approval of Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- and has a great deal of latitude to make decisions without reference to law or Islamic concepts, especially when "safeguarding the interests of the regime" is deemed necessary.
  • Topic: Government, Power Politics, Law Enforcement, Law
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: J. Scott Carpenter, David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On August 18, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak travels to Washington for a White House meeting with President Barack Obama. The trip -- Mubarak's first visit to the United States in six years -- marks the culmination of a six-month effort by the Obama administration to hit the reset button with Cairo. After years of tension resulting from the last administration's focus on human rights and democratic development, the traditional U.S.-Egyptian bilateral "bargain" has been effectively restored. In exchange for cooperation on key mutual interests -- the peace process and the Iranian threat --Washington appears to have shelved longstanding concerns over internal Egyptian governance. While the new dynamic may help mitigate some regional crises, the political and economic challenges Cairo faces will not age well, particularly as the state enters its first period of leadership transition in twenty-eight years.
  • Topic: Democratization, Human Rights, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Washington, Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: Matthew Levitt, Stephanie Papa
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In recent interviews, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal has offered to cooperate with U.S. efforts to promote a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, indicated a willingness to implement an immediate and reciprocal ceasefire with Israel, and stated that the militant group would accept and respect a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. But the conciliatory tone of this hardline Hamas leader, who has personally been tied to acts of terrorism and is himself a U.S.-designated terrorist, is belied by the group's continued violent actions and radicalization on the ground, as well as the rise to prominence of violent extremist leaders within the group's local Shura (consultative) councils. Hamas's activities of late appear to be diametrically opposed to the compliance of Mashal's statements.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Two and a half months after U.S. president Barack Obama and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu first hit an impasse over the settlement issue, the dispute has not only continued, it has also grown more complex. Saudi Arabia has now rebuffed requests from Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell to pursue confidence-building measures toward Israel, even in return for a moratorium on settlement construction. Although the Obama administration has not yet leveled any public criticism against Riyadh, it continues to be critical of Israeli settlements. To move diplomacy forward, Washington will have to engage in some creative policymaking.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peace Studies, Terrorism, Treaties and Agreements, Political Power Sharing
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Israel, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Public anxiety about Iran's nuclear intentions is focused on the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, which in many respects -- in both the public debate and the policy discussion -- resembles the situation in the 1980s when there was growing concern about Pakistan's Kahuta enrichment plant. The lessons that can be draw from that experience are not encouraging. The comparison is particularly appropriate because Iran uses the same high-speed centrifuge technology to enrich uranium as does Pakistan. Photos of Iranian centrifuges show some of them as identical to Pakistani designs developed by the disgraced A.Q. Khan. Iran also claims to be operating more advanced centrifuges using its own modifications.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Iran, South Asia, Middle East
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Six weeks after the pro-West March 14 coalition defeated the Hizballah-led alliance in Lebanon's parliamentary elections, no new government has been formed in Beirut. Although March 14 leader Saad Hariri was given a mandate back in early June to become prime minister and form a cabinet, he has still not completed the sensitive and contentious negotiations with the opposition. Hariri's difficulties in allocating seats among his coalition allies and political adversaries were anticipated, and to a certain extent are routine for Lebanon. But the calm that followed the free and fair elections is eroding, as Hizballah and its allies in Damascus press for more political concessions from Hariri. These developments, coupled with the apparent failure of Saudi-Syrian reconciliation efforts, are elevating tensions, threatening a banner tourism season, and raising the possibility of a return to violence in Beirut.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • 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: Michael Jacobson
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: This past week, Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for his first official visit to the Middle East since assuming his current position. Although in many respects the Obama administration is off to a bumpy start with Saudi Arabia, Geithner praised Saudi efforts in combating terrorist financing, which is a significant departure from statements made by senior Treasury officials in recent years. His remarks in Riyadh were more than just empty praise, reflecting the broader view in Washington that the Saudis are finally beginning to make progress on this important front. Despite improved Saudi efforts, however, the kingdom remains one of the major sources of terrorist financing throughout the world, with significant funds continuing to go to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Laskhar-e Taiba (LET), among other groups.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Counterinsurgency, Law Enforcement
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Max Mealy
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After nearly a month of international focus on the civil unrest in Iran following the June 12 presidential elections, the G8 summit in Italy brought renewed global attention to Iran's nuclear program; the summit's leaders promised to reassess international outreach to Iran at the September G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. The following statements from U.S., European, and Israeli government officials on the status of Iran's nuclear program highlight the differing interpretations of Iran's nuclear deadline.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Diplomacy, International Organization, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Eisenstadt, Ahmed Ali
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: During Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's visit to Washington next week, the Obama administration will likely seek to reinvigorate that country's flagging reconciliation process as part of ongoing efforts to establish a stable political order in Iraq. Progress, however, continues to be hindered by ongoing violence, deep-seated suspicions, and partisan politics, raising questions about the ultimate prospects for national reconciliation.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Simon Henderson, Robert Jordan
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On July 13, 2009, Ambassador Robert Jordan and Simon Henderson addressed a special Policy Forum luncheon at The Washington Institute to discuss succession in Saudi Arabia and the challenges it could pose for the United States. Simon Henderson is the Baker fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. His most recent Policy Focus, After King Abdullah: Succession in Saudi Arabia, will be released this month. Robert Jordan is a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, where he was posted shortly after the September 11 terror attacks.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Islam, Regime Change, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Gregory Johnsen
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recent reports suggesting that al-Qaeda fighters are leaving Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the group has suffered serious setbacks, have renewed international concerns that Yemen is reemerging once again as a major terrorist safe haven. Although the assessments of al-Qaeda's resurgence in Yemen are accurate, the deteriorating situation is not due to U.S. successes elsewhere; rather, it is the result of waning U.S. and Yemeni attention over the past five years. Renewed cooperation between Sana and Washington in tackling al-Qaeda and addressing Yemen's systemic problems could help reduce the terrorist organization's appeal in this troubled country.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A new opportunity is now emerging for the "Green Movement" in Iran to demonstrate opposition to the Islamic Republic and the manipulated presidential election results earlier this year. Friday, December 18, marks the beginning of the months of Muharram and Safar in the Islamic lunar calendar. For the regime in Tehran, gaining control of the streets has become gradually more difficult since the Green Movement turned all officially sanctioned political ceremonies into opportunities to wage protests against the Islamic Republic. The coming two months, however, represent the first time that a religious opportunity has come up.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Late on December 11, Crown Prince Sultan arrived home to Saudi Arabia after a year's absence that included medical treatment in the United States and a nine-month convalescence at his palace in Morocco. Although described as "enjoying full health" and looking animated, Sultan is believed to still be unwell. In Sultan's absence, King Abdullah named interior minister Prince Nayef to the vacant post of second deputy prime minister, a position construed as crown-prince-in-waiting. Apart from marking a fresh twist in a drawn-out succession process, Sultan's return has implications for Saudi domestic and foreign policy -- particularly, on the eve of a Gulf summit, the continuing tension on the border with Yemen and a potentially nuclear Iran.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On December 14, Lebanese president Michel Sulaiman is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House. It is widely anticipated that during his visit, Sulaiman will request administration support for an increase in U.S. military assistance. Despite concerns that U.S. materiel will leak to Hizballah, Washington will likely agree to augment this funding, given the Lebanese Armed Force's excellent security record with equipment of U.S. origin. The question of U.S. military funding for Lebanon highlights recent developments in Lebanese politics that point to the resurgence of Hizballah -- and its Syrian and Iranian backers -- in Beirut. Although the pro-West March 14 coalition scored an impressive electoral victory in June, six months later, the government that has emerged constitutes a setback for Washington and its Lebanese allies. The scope of the setback -- for both the coalition and the United States -- was recently summarized by Syrian Ambassador to the United States Imad Mustafa, who said, "We love it!... It is exactly the sort of government we think should rule Lebanon."
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon
  • Author: Matthew Levitt, Benjamin Freedman
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On December 8, the United Nations Security Council will host its first-ever thematic debate on drug trafficking as a threat to international security. This focus is notable. U.S. officials are increasingly concerned with the evolving threat of drug trafficking, especially as terrorist organizations stake a bigger claim in this illegal arena. In fact, on November 18, FBI director Robert Mueller met with senior Turkish officials to address U.S.-Turkish efforts targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), also known as Kongra-Gel. A press release from the U.S. embassy in Ankara following the meeting stressed that U.S. officials "strongly support Turkey's efforts against the PKK terrorist organization" and highlighted the two countries' long history of working together in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Terrorism, Narcotics Trafficking
  • Political Geography: United States, Turkey, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On December 7, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Washington to meet with President Barack Obama. The meeting follows Obama's April visit to Turkey, during which the U.S. leader reached out to Ankara in an effort to realign the countries' interests after the tumultuous years of the Bush administration. Despite Obama's efforts, Turkish foreign policy seems to be drifting farther away from the United States, especially on issues such as Iran and Sudan. To what extent can Washington use the upcoming visit to continue seeking alignment between U.S. and Turkish foreign policy objectives?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Central Asia, Turkey, Middle East
  • 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: 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: Mohammad Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 08-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayad recently appealed to the World Bank in an effort to bridge the current budget gap preventing the Palestinian Authority (PA) from paying government salaries this month. Despite a three-year $7.5 billion assistance pledge from the 2007 Paris donor conference, the PA remains in a financial crisis, with a projected shortfall of $400 million for the second half of 2008, as reported by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in May. Since Fayad's technocratic government has no independent political base, its legitimacy stems from the PA's financial solvency. He has survived ongoing attacks from rival Fatah leaders only because Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas recognizes him as the linchpin to Western donor assistance. If the financial crisis persists, however, Fayad's political future is in doubt.
  • Topic: Government, International Political Economy, Financial Crisis, World Bank
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine
  • Author: Raymond Tanter
  • Publication Date: 08-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Throughout summer 2008, Iraqi politicians tied to Tehran have put increasing political pressure on the U.S. government to allow Baghdad to control Camp Ashraf, the base housing Iran's main opposition -- the Mujahedin e Khalq (MEK). Options regarding Iraqi-based MEK members are limited, but include the following: sending them to the United States; allowing them to stay in Iraq under Iraqi control; dispersing them to surrounding countries, including Iran; or maintaining the status quo with the continued protection of the U.S. military. Since each option is problematic, finding a solution is neither easy nor simple.
  • Topic: International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, 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: 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
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • 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: 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: Mohammad Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On June 4, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas marked the anniversary of the 1967 War by making a surprise call for dialogue with Hamas. In response to multiple challenges to his authority -- impasse on the peace process, ongoing dissent within Fatah, and regional pressure to resolve the internal Palestinian conflict -- Abbas has abandoned his demands for Hamas to return Gaza to its pre-June 2007 condition and apologize for its violent coup. However, a gulf remains between Hamas and Fatah, and it is unlikely that renewed dialogue can bridge the gap. Abbas's move may be an effort to pressure the United States to become more involved, and to maintain a fallback position if peace is not achieved. Accordingly, his call to Hamas should be seen as tactical, rather than a strategic, turning point toward Palestinian reconciliation.
  • Topic: Government, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • 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
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On May 14, the Iranian government arrested six prominent Bahai leaders and accused them of "endangering national security." The timing of the arrests has led some to speculate that the Iranian government is trying to link these leaders to the April explosion at a religious center in Shiraz that killed fourteen people. Considering Iran's clerical establishment believes the existence of religious minorities undermines official Shiite orthodoxy, these latest arrests are just another black mark on Iran's long and dismal record of protecting individual human rights and religious freedom.
  • Topic: Government, Human Rights, Human Welfare, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East