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  • Author: Mona Yacoubian
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Lebanon's recently announced national unity government has eased fears that the country would once again be mired in a dangerous political stalemate. Yet, despite the recent breakthrough, Lebanon's unstable equilibrium -- marked by both internal and regional tensions -- could still devolve into serious violence. Deep seated sectarian animosities persist, raising the prospects for political instability and civil strife if unaddressed. Regionally, mounting tensions with Israel raise the worrisome possibility of isolated border incidents spiraling into more serious conflict. Taken together these two underlying challenges to stability -- internal civil unrest and regional conflict with Israel -- could undermine Lebanon's fragile peace. This paper will examine internal challenges to Lebanon's stability.
  • Topic: Democratization, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Lebanon
  • Author: Joel Whitaker, Anand Varghese
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In an event titled "Online Discourse in the Arab World: Dispelling the Myths," the U.S. Institute of Peace's Center of Innovation for Science, Technology, and Peacebuilding, in collaboration with Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet Society, presented findings from an unprecedented, comprehensive mapping of the Arabic-language blogosphere.
  • Topic: Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Robert Grace
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Over the past several months, Syrian authorities have engaged in a harsh campaign of repression against leading dissidents and human rights activists. The crackdown, overshadowed by developments elsewhere in the region, has received scant media coverage in the U.S. and Europe. To shed light on recent developments in the Syrian political scene, USIP recently convened a public discussion on human rights in Syria, featuring the Institute's Radwan Ziadeh, Mona Yacoubian, and Steven Heydemann, and Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch. This USIPeace Briefing summarizes their presentations and the subsequent discussion.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Human Welfare
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Kelly Campbell
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The results of Iran's March 14, 2008 parliamentary elections-a 70 percent victory for conservatives within Iran-came as little surprise. The ruling elite disqualified approximately 1,700 reformist candidates before the elections, minimizing the risk of a conservative defeat. However, the results revealed a growing divide between conservatives allied with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a "third way" movement led by pragmatic conservatives who, though loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, are critical of Ahmadinejad's economic policies and confrontational rhetoric with the West. The surprising electoral success of these pragmatic conservatives may pose a significant challenge to Ahmadinejad in Iran's 2009 presidential elections.
  • Topic: Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Robert M. Perito
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In December 2006, the Iraq Study Group reported that the Iraqi Interior Ministry (MOI) was confronted by corruption, infiltrated by militia and unable to control the Iraqi police. In July 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that Iraq's MOI had become a "federation of oligarchs" where various floors of the building were controlled by rival militia groups and organized criminal gangs. The report described the MOI as an eleven-story powder keg of factions where power struggles were settled by assassinations in the parking lot. In its September 2007 report, the congressionally mandated Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq described Iraq's MOI as a ministry in name only, dysfunctional, sectarian and suffering from ineffective leadership. Even Iraq's Interior Minister, Jawad al-Boulani, has called for the comprehensive reform of his ministry.
  • Topic: Democratization
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Alistair Harris
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: On the surface, peace has broken out in Lebanon, bringing to an end the 18-month political impasse between the governing March 14th coalition and opposition March 8th parties. Following a week of sectarian violence in Beirut, Tripoli and the Chouf mountains—the worst since the end of Lebanon's 15-year civil war in 1990—the opposing sides agreed to undertake talks in Qatar to resolve their longstanding political stalemate. The Qatari-sponsored Doha Accord that broke the logjam paved the way for the May 25 election of former Army Commander Michel Suleiman as a consensus president, to be closely followed by the formation of a national unity government and the adoption of a revised election law. The re-invigoration of Lebanon's political institutions, the opening of parliament and ending of the presidential vacuum are welcome signs of a return to what passes for normalcy among Lebanon's confessional elites; they are not however a return to the status quo ante. For many months Arab League Chairman Amr Moussa, like French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, had tried to cajole the Lebanese belligerents into a compromise deal based on the much-vaunted concept of "no victor, no vanquished". These efforts failed. The fact that Doha succeeded where others did not is a clear indicator that there were indeed winners and losers. Therein lies the potential for future conflict.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Elizabeth Detwiler
  • Publication Date: 07-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: This USIPeace Briefing, summarizing remarks from a former commander for detainee operations in Iraq, discusses recent successes in improving the conditions of insurgent detainees in the country.
  • Topic: Government, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Jason Gluck
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: On February 13, 2008 the Iraqi parliament simultaneously passed a law that sets forth the relationship between the central and provincial governments, an amnesty law and the 2008 national budget. The passage of these laws was the result of months of negotiation and last-minute substantive and procedural compromises that could portend a shift away from merely ethnic and sectarian-based alliances to inter-ethnic and sectarian issue-based politics. At the same time, Iraqi lawmakers may have discovered a strategy of simultaneous consideration of multiple matters that could increase the likelihood of consensus and resolution—a sharp contrast to what has until now been an issue-by-issue approach that has often resulted in impasses and political gridlock.
  • Topic: Development, Government, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Robert Perito
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In January 2007, President Bush announced that the U.S. would double the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Iraq as part of his plan for a "New Way Forward." PRTs are small, civilian-military units that assist provincial and local governments to govern more effectively and deliver essential services. These new PRTs would be embedded with Brigade (Army) and Regimental (Marine) Combat Teams (B/RCTs) participating in the "surge" of U.S. forces into Baghdad, Anbar and Erbil provinces. The new ePRTs would begin as four person interagency teams, but would expand to include civilian experts in a broad range of specialties. These new PRTs were staffed with Defense Department civilians and members of the National Guard and Army Reserve until funds became available to the State Department to hire civilian contractors. The process of deploying civilian experts is now underway, but the B/RCTs to which they are being assigned will return to the United States by August 2008.
  • Topic: Development, Government, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Author: Mona Yacoubian
  • Publication Date: 02-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: As the third anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri approaches, Lebanon is witnessing its worst crisis since the 15-year civil war. Hariri's February 14th assassination—widely suspected to have been orchestrated by Syria—enraged the Lebanese who took to the streets one month later, demanding the withdrawal of Syrian troops. Dubbed the Cedar Revolution, this mass protest movement succeeded in ending nearly 30 years of Syrian military occupation. It was to have ushered in a new era of democracy. Instead, Lebanon has suffered through bombings, assassinations, war between Hezbollah and Israel, and bouts of sectarian violence.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria