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  • 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: 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: David Pollock, Marc Lynch
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Public opinion polls and the media tell us that Arabs disliked the George W. Bush administration and have high hopes for President Barack Obama. Indeed, the new administration enjoyed majority Arab approval ratings throughout 2009 (up to 50 percentage points higher than his predecessor), while the overall U.S. image in Arab countries also recovered significantly. Yet the question remains: what is the record of actual Arab behavior toward the United States? This question was the starting point of the forthcoming study, which presents a new model for understanding U.S.-Arab relations since the Clinton administration -- one that emphasizes actions much more than attitudes.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Arabia
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The following summary is part two of Robert Satloff's presentation to a June 18, 2010, Washington Institute Policy Forum on the impact of the Gaza flotilla incident. Part one, issued yesterday as PolicyWatch #1670 , focused on implications for U.S. policy. For full audio of the event, which also included presentations by Michael Eisenstadt, Soner Cagaptay, and David Makovsky, click here. The Gaza flotilla episode pitted Israel versus Turkey, with Arabs as bystanders and observers. Yet reverberations of the incident have had a keen impact across Arab capitals.
  • Topic: Politics
  • Political Geography: Israel, Arabia, Egypt
  • 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: 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: Farah Pandith
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The United States currently has an exceptional opportunity to create a new framework for engaging Muslim communities worldwide. As the new administration aims to counter the narratives of the past and break down existing stereotypes, President Barack Obama has set a tone of innovation and engagement based on "mutual interest and mutual respect." This fresh approach inspired Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to establish the Office of the Special Representative to Muslim Communities (OSRMC).
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Islam
  • Political Geography: United States, Arabia
  • 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: 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: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Several new polls suggest that the United States is gaining ground in the Arab street, and that President Barack Obama's latest overtures, specifically his June 4 speech in Cairo, were well received by some important Arab constituencies. Although a great deal of skepticism remains, students of Arab public opinion would regard these numbers as surprisingly encouraging. In contrast, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad's popularity has slipped dramatically in the Arab world, with many saying that the outcome of Iran's recent presidential election will hurt the region. Approximately half of the Arabs questioned even agree that "if Iran does not accept new restrictions and more international oversight of its nuclear program, the Arabs should support stronger sanctions against Iran around the end of this year."
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Arabia
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: New data from credible private polls of the Egyptian and the urban Saudi public show strikingly high levels of support -- especially among Saudis -- for tough action against Iran's nuclear program. At the same time, these findings demonstrate clearly that economic concerns, rather than foreign policy or domestic political issues, dominate the popular agenda in both countries.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Iran, Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt
  • 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