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  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In a region that recently has produced virtually nothing but bad news, Hassan Rouhani's 4 August swearing in as Iran's president offers a rare and welcome glimmer of hope. There are still far more questions than answers: about the extent of his authority; his views on his country's nuclear program, with which he long has been associated; and the West's ability to display requisite flexibility and patience. But, although both sides can be expected to show caution, now is the time to put more ambitious proposals on the table, complement the multilateral talks with a bilateral U.S.-Iranian channel and expand the dialogue to encompass regional security issues.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Democratization, Diplomacy, Islam, Nuclear Weapons, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 11-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: U.S. military operations in Afghanistan are now entering their tenth year and policymakers in Washington are looking for a way out. A policy review is due in December but the outline is already clear: U.S. forces will try to pummel the Taliban to bring them to the table, responsibility for security will increasingly be transferred to Afghan forces and more money will be provided for economic development. NATO partners agreed at the Lisbon summit to a gradual withdrawal of combat troops with the goal of transitioning to full Afghan control of security by the end of 2014. The aim will be a dignified drawdown of troops as public support wanes while at the same time ensuring that a post-withdrawal Afghanistan, at the very least, does not become the epicentre of transnational terrorism. While success is being measured in numbers of insurgents killed or captured, there is little proof that the operations have disrupted the insurgency's momentum or increased stability. The storyline does not match facts on the ground.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Washington, Taliban, Lisbon
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: How is one to engage Damascus? As the incoming U.S. administration examines the future of its relationship with Syria, seemingly persuaded that an improvement in bilateral ties and an Israeli-Syrian agreement could fundamentally modify the regional landscape, France's recent experience offers useful lessons. Determined to engage in dialogue - but also ready to break off if the other side was uncooperative - and creative in approach, while fixing it within a clearly defined framework of objectives, President Sarkozy also knew how to seize on unexpected opportunities when they presented themselves.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Seven years after the U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan the country is still at war against extremists and has developed few resilient institutions. A policy review by the Obama administration has reopened debate about how to defeat the forces of violent global jihadism – al-Qaeda and its Taliban protectors – in Afghanistan and in neighbouring Pakistan. In most cases, the ideas on offer – from declaring victory and pulling out, to negotiating with the insurgents, to organising regional conferences, to prioritising relationships with favoured individuals and allies over the development of strong democratic institutions – have been tried at least once in the past two decades, with no success: we know now what not to do.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: For perhaps the first time since Iran and the U.S. broke ties in 1980, there are real prospects for fundamental change. The new U.S. president, Barack Obama, stated willingness to talk unconditionally. Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, implicitly blessed dialogue, and presidential candidates are vying to prove they would be the most effective interlocutor. Yet, while U.S. objectives and tactics are relatively familiar, little is known of Iran's thinking, even as much is assumed. Western interaction with its opaque political system and decision-making has both shrivelled and been narrowly focused on the nuclear file. Under-standing Iran's perspective is critical if engagement is to succeed. This briefing, based on meetings with officials and analysts, seeks to shed light on what Tehran thinks about dialogue, its goals and visions of a future relationship. It concludes that while full normalisation might be out of reach for now, there is a chance to achieve a more realistic objective: the start of a long-term dialogue that minimises risks of confrontation and advances areas of mutual interest.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Tehran
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: More than a month after the 17 July 2009 hotel bombings in Jakarta, Noordin Mohammed Top remains at large, but his network is proving to be larger and more sophisticated than previously thought. Not only was it responsible for coordinated bombings at two luxury hotels in the heart of Jakarta's business district, but it also was apparently contemplating a car bomb attack on President Yudhoyono's residence. As more information comes to light, it looks increasingly likely that Noordin sought and received Middle Eastern funding. While the extent of foreign involvement this time around remains unclear, recruitment in Indonesia has proved disturbingly easy. The salafi jihadi ideology that legitimises attacks on the U.S. and its allies, and Muslims who associate with them, remains confined to a tiny fringe, but that fringe includes disaffected factions of many different radical groups and impressionable youths with no history of violence.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Indonesia, Asia, Jakarta
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Bosnia and Herzegovina's (BiH) post-war status quo has ended but the international community risks muddling the transition by delaying decisions on a new kind of engagement. Republika Srpska (RS), one of the state's two entities, has defied the High Representative, Bosnia's international governor, and the international community has not backed him up. Instead, the U.S. and the European Union (EU) launched in October 2009 on the Butmir military base outside Sarajevo a high-level effort to persuade the country's leaders to adopt far-reaching constitutional reforms and allow the mandate of the High Representative and his office (OHR) to end. Disagreements over the scope and content of reform make agreement uncertain. But Bosnia's leaders should adopt as much of the EU-U.S. proposal as possible, and the international community should end its protectorate in favour of a new, EU- and NATO-led approach including strong security guarantees.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Balkans
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Sudan is sliding towards violent breakup. The main mechanisms to end conflicts between the central government and the peripheries – the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the Darfur Peace Agreement and the East Sudan Peace Agreement – all suffer from lack of implementation, largely due to the intransigence of the National Congress Party (NCP). Less than thirteen months remain to ensure that national elections and the South Sudan self-determination referendum lead to democratic transformation and resolution of all the country's conflicts. Unless the international community, notably the U.S., the UN, the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council and the Horn of Africa Inter-Government Authority on Development (IGAD), cooperate to support both CPA implementation and vital additional negotiations, return to North-South war and escalation of conflict in Darfur are likely.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Middle East, South Sudan
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Armenia's flawed presidential election, the subsequent lethal crackdown against a peaceful protest rally, the introduction of a state of emergency and extensive arrests of opposition supporters have brought the country to its deepest crisis since the war against Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh ended in 1994. The situation deprives Serzh Sarkisian, scheduled to be inaugurated as president on 9 April 2008, of badly needed legitimacy and handicaps prospects for much needed democratic reform and resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict alike. Unless the U.S., EU and others with significant diplomatic leverage over the regime in Yerevan exert pressure, Armenia is unlikely to make progress on either. The Sarkisian administration must urgently seek credible dialogue with the opposition, release prisoners detained on political grounds, stop arrests and harassment of the opposition and lift all measures limiting freedom of assembly and expression. Unless steps are taken to address the political crisis, the U.S. and EU should suspend foreign aid and put on hold negotiations on further and closer cooperation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Political Violence, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Armenia, Azerbaijan
  • Publication Date: 11-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The situation in and around Georgia's conflict areas remains unstable. Violent incidents are continuing. Shots were fired near a convoy carrying the Georgian and Polish presidents on 23 November. European Union (EU) monitors are being denied access to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Unambitious multi-party negotiations focusing on security and internally displaced person (IDP) return have gotten off to a slow start in Geneva. For the moment, however, domestic politics are the capital's main preoccupation. President Mikheil Saakash¬vili's position is at least temporarily secure, but his administration is likely to be severely tested politically and economically in the winter and spring months ahead. The August 2008 war with Russia and the global financial crisis have seriously undermined Georgia's economy and the foreign investment climate. Social discontent could rise as economic conditions worsen unless the government pushes forward with economic and political change.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Georgia