Search

You searched for: Content Type Policy Brief Remove constraint Content Type: Policy Brief Publishing Institution The Washington Institute for Near East Policy Remove constraint Publishing Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy Political Geography Iraq Remove constraint Political Geography: Iraq
Number of results to display per page

Search Results

  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The surest way to counter Iran’s malign influence is to proactively focus on human rights issues that the new prime minister can actually affect, such as organizing free elections and preventing further violence against protestors. On February 1, a plurality of Iraqi parliamentary factions gave President Barham Salih the go-ahead to nominate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as the new prime minister-designate. The mild-mannered Shia Islamist nominee will now attempt to form and ratify his cabinet in the next thirty days. As he does so, political blocs will probably rally behind him while limiting his mandate to organizing early elections next year, having struggled through a long and fractious process to replace resigned prime minister Adil Abdulmahdi. For the first time since the dramatic events of the past two months, Iraqis and U.S. policymakers alike can catch their breath and consider their medium-term options.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Elections, Domestic politics, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The general’s peerless domestic stature would have served a crucial mediatory role during the eventual transition to Khamenei’s successor, so his death brings significant uncertainty to that process. Following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, much attention has been focused on the foreign operations conducted by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force. Yet his organization also played a major role at home, one whose future is now unclear. In particular, Soleimani himself was well positioned to be a unifying, steadying figure once Iran faced the challenge of determining a successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
  • Topic: Politics, Military Affairs, Authoritarianism, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A host of crucial multilateral interests are baked into the U.S. presence, from keeping the Islamic State down, to protecting vulnerable regional allies, to preventing Iran from taking Iraq's oil revenues. The assassination of Qasem Soleimani has brought the tensions in U.S.-Iraqi relations to a boil, with militia factions strong-arming a parliamentary resolution on American troop withdrawal and various European allies contemplating departures of their own. Before they sign the divorce papers, however, officials in Baghdad and Washington should consider the many reasons why staying together is best for both them and the Middle East.
  • Topic: Oil, Bilateral Relations, Islamic State, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Jordan, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Khamenei and other regime officials have been quick to swear revenge, but for now they may focus more on stoking patriotic and militaristic sentiment at home. A few hours after Iran confirmed that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani had been killed in Iraq, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a statement describing those who shed his blood as “the most wretched of humankind.” Calling Soleimani the international symbol of “resistance,” he then announced three days of public mourning in Iran. He also declared that “severe revenge awaits the criminals” who killed Soleimani—an act that the United States had claimed credit for by the time he spoke. Other highranking officials echoed this sentiment, including President Hassan Rouhani, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, and Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who explicitly promised “revenge” on “all those” involved in the assassination. Despite this rhetoric, however, and despite Soleimani’s unmatched role in carrying out Iran’s regional policy of adventurism and asymmetric warfare, the regime may avoid major, immediate retaliation if it sees such a move as too costly or as a potential trigger for serious military conflict with the United States. On January 1, amid escalating tensions in Iraq but before Soleimani’s assassination, Khamenei stated, “We would not take the country to war...but if others want to impose something on this country, we will stand before them forcefully.” In response to President Trump’s assertion that Iran played a role in the December 31 riot at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Khamenei told listeners he had two messages for Washington: “First, how dare you! This has nothing to do with Iran. Second, you should be reasonable and understand what is the main cause for these problems. But of course they are not [reasonable].”
  • Topic: Politics, Qassem Soleimani, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Enhancing deterrence and protecting Americans in Iraq and Syria requires a more formalized system for rationing out retaliatory strikes at the proper intensity, time, and place. When U.S. airstrikes targeted Kataib Hezbollah militia personnel and senior Iranian military figures on December 29 and January 3, they were releasing long-pent-up retaliation for a range of provocations by Iraqi militias. Yet while these powerful blows may have injected some caution into enemy calculations, such deterrence is likely to be a wasting asset. The most proximal trigger for the strikes—the killing of an American civilian contractor during Kataib Hezbollah’s December 27 rocket attack on the K-1 base in Kirkuk—was just one in a series of increasingly risky militia operations against U.S. facilities. Only good fortune has prevented more Americans from dying in attacks conducted since then, including January 8 (when Iranian ballistic missiles struck the U.S. portion of al-Asad Air Base, causing more than a hundred nonlethal traumatic brain injuries), January 26 (mortar strike on the dining hall at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad), January 31 (rockets fired at the U.S. site at Qayyarah West), February 10 (explosive device thrown at a U.S. logistical convoy south of Baghdad), and February 13 (rocket attack on U.S. site at Kirkuk). The United States has seemingly communicated to Tehran that it will strike Iraqi militias and Iranian targets if any Americans are killed, but this redline has opened up a dangerous gray zone in which Iran and its proxies are emboldened to continue their nonlethal attacks. Besides the fact that such high-risk attacks are destined to result in more American deaths at some point, they will also produce many more injuries if permitted to continue, as seen in the January 8 strike. More broadly, they will limit U.S. freedom of movement in Iraq and Syria, undermining the point of being there in the first place. This situation is unacceptable—the United States needs a way to deter such behavior even when attacks fall short of killing Americans. When faced with similar challenges in past decades, the U.S. military established reckoning systems that matched the punishment to the crime, with useful levels of predictability, proportionality, and accountability.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Assassination, No-Fly Zones
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Fabrice Balanche
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Various displacement scenarios may unfold as the fighting escalates, each carrying a high risk of negative humanitarian and economic consequences even if the parties live up to their promises. The battle for Idlib province, the last stronghold of Syrian rebel forces, is heating up again. As Turkish troops clash with Assad regime forces and displaced civilians continue piling up along the border, various foreign and domestic players are considering moves that could send hundreds of thousands of refugees to other parts of Syria, northern Iraq, or Europe.
  • Topic: Refugees, Displacement, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Turkey, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: To ensure that new protests, new sanctions, and new political leadership wind up helping rather than hindering Iraqi sovereignty, Washington must handle upcoming developments with great care. In the coming weeks, Iraq’s parliament may appoint a replacement for Prime Minister Adil Abdulmahdi. This is a very positive development, since the country’s sundry Iranian-backed militias would like nothing better than to keep the discredited leader under their thumb as an open-ended caretaker premier following his November resignation. In contrast, a new leader with a new mandate could get the government moving again, pass a budget, bring the criminals responsible for killing protestors to justice, and assuage angry protestors by making visible preparations for early, free, and fair elections—thereby remedying the results of the widely disparaged 2018 vote. Such is the political space that has opened up since the deaths of Iranian Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month. For the United States, the challenge is how to support these changes without disrupting positive local dynamics.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Sovereignty, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Despite the damage wrought by the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, the main drivers of Islamic State resurgence in Iraq can still be restrained by local U.S. engagement, which is now even more vital than before. The gross uncertainty surrounding the future of counterterrorism operations in northeast Syria is raising understandable fears of an Islamic State comeback in Iraq. After all, the IS resurgence of 2011-2014 was partially driven by the chaotic war conditions in Syria, and suppressing the group there will be extremely challenging in the coming months amid U.S. withdrawal and Turkish invasion. Another resurgence in Iraq is hardly inevitable, however—the country is subject to different internal drivers, and the United States is still well-positioned to lead international support of Baghdad’s counterterrorism efforts. Yet Washington will need to stay engaged and urgently address new problems if it hopes to prevent another disastrous insurgency.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recent U.S. decisions have seemingly ignored the degree to which the group is continuing its insurgent attacks and reorganizing its supporters inside increasingly vulnerable detention facilities. In contrast to President Trump’s statements over the past half-year, the Islamic State has yet to be defeated outright. True, the group is nowhere near as capable as it was in 2015, but it is steadily rebuilding its capacities and attempting to break thousands of its supporters out of detainment. The vacuum created by the U.S. withdrawal and Turkish invasion will create more space for those efforts, while compounding the original problem of states being unwilling to deal with their citizens who joined IS and remain in Syria. To avoid becoming known as the administration that allowed IS to reemerge and, perhaps, conduct mass-casualty attacks in Europe or elsewhere, President Trump and his cabinet should take urgent action to salvage and mobilize their surviving ties with Washington’s longtime partner against IS, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Violent Extremism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Oula A. Alrifai
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Tehran and its proxies have been exerting hard and soft power in northeast Syria, combining military consolidation with economic, social, and religious outreach in order to cement their long-term influence. On September 30, Syria and Iraq reopened their main border crossing between al-Bukamal and al-Qaim, which had been formally closed for five years. The circumstances surrounding the event were telling—the ceremony was delayed by a couple weeks because of unclaimed foreign airstrikes on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targets in east Syria following the Iranian attack against Saudi oil facilities earlier that month. What exactly have the IRGC and its local proxies been doing in Deir al-Zour province? And what does this activity tell us about Iran’s wider plans there?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Education, Military Strategy, Geopolitics, Conflict, Soft Power
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Bilal Wahab, Barbara A. Leaf
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even as Baghdad works to rein in militias that invite outside attacks, Washington needs to be patient with the country’s contradictions in the near term and give space for it to exert sovereignty in the long term. As President Trump met with Iraqi president Barham Salih today on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, they were no doubt buoyed by their governments’ mutual conclusion that the recent attack on Saudi oil facilities in Abqaiq did not originate from Iraq. Initial concerns about that possibility were well founded—a previous attack on a major Saudi pipeline was carried out from Iraqi territory this May, and multiple Iraqi militia facilities have been struck since June, reportedly by Israel. Each of these developments was linked to Shia “special groups” with known ties to Iran. On July 1, Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdulmahdi ordered these and other militias to fold themselves under state authority, but so far he has been unable to impose order on them. The government has also failed to prevent them from threatening neighboring countries at Iran’s presumed behest—an especially dangerous lapse given that Iraqi authorities cannot protect the territory these militias hold from external retaliation. To keep other countries from turning Iraq into a proxy battleground, Baghdad needs to rein in the unruliest militias. This is a tall order because Tehran has spent fifteen years building them into a parallel force of its own. Given the willingness these “special groups” have shown when asked to attack U.S. troops, fight on the Assad regime’s behalf in Syria, or secure other Iranian interests, they risk implicating Iraq in Tehran’s regional confrontations with the United States, Saudi Arabia, and/or Israel.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Non State Actors, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Bilal Wahab
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The U.S. withdrawal of troops from northeast Syria has placed Kurdish fighters in a near-impossible situation, while alarming Kurdish communities in other countries, but Washington can still take steps to mitigate the damage. On October 21, footage of Kurdish civilians heckling withdrawing U.S. troops in both Iraq and Syria offered a rare and disturbing sight. This scene was facilitated by President Trump’s October 6 decision to unilaterally withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, in effect paving the way for the Turkish military to cross the Syrian border three days later and attack the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Thereafter, a safe haven quickly became a war zone. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 180,000 people have now been forced from their homes. James Jeffrey, the U.S. administration’s envoy to Syria, told Congress on October 22 that the fighting has resulted in hundreds of SDF deaths, a likely war crime by a pro-Turkish militia, and the escape from prison of more than a hundred Islamic State (IS) fighters. The U.S. action has unsurprisingly left the Syrian Kurds feeling abandoned and exposed against the militarily superior Turkish army and its Arab militias. On a deeper level, America appears to have entirely lost Kurdish sympathy and trust, while at the same time failing to either deter or appease Turkey. Rather than ameliorate matters, President Trump has poured salt on the wound. He responded to backlash against his policy by claiming the Kurds were “no angels” and that they had failed to contribute to the Allied cause in World War II, while characterizing their Syrian military campaign as a fight over “long-bloodstained sand.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Public Opinion, Military Affairs, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, United States of America, Rojava
  • Author: Scott A. Vickery
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria have had clear benefits, but a broader campaign involving more intelligence and targeting assistance on the ground is required to reap the full strategic benefits of turning back ISIS.
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Author: Matthew Levitt, Phillip Smyth
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Iran's proxies are fighting ISIS in parallel with the U.S.-led effort, their actions and radical Shiite agendas are diametrically opposed to the goal of building inclusive governments and societies in Iraq and Syria.
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Author: Matthew Levitt, Gilles de Kerchove, Jacob Bundsgaard, Maj. Gen. Doug Stone
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On the margins of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), global leaders in efforts to rehabilitate radicalized fighters gathered at the Institute to share their insights into what works -- and what doesn't. On February 20, Gilles de Kerchove, Jacob Bundsgaard, Doug Stone, and Matthew Levitt addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. Kerchove is the European Union Counterterrorism Coordinator. Bundsgaard is Lord Mayor of Aarhus, Denmark, and a prominent player in the city's widely known jihadist rehabilitation program. Stone, a retired Marine major general, oversaw all theatre interrogation and detention in Iraq during the post- 2006 surge; he now works for the UN and helped develop the Rome Memorandum, the seminal best-practices compendium for rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist offenders. Levitt is the Fromer-Wexler Fellow and director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Institute. The following is a rapporteur's summary of their remarks.
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Denmark, Rome
  • Author: Michael Eisenstadt
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The coalition effort to rebuild and retrain the Iraqi security forces (ISF) will have better odds of success if American advisors urge their counterparts to incorporate lessons from other Arab armies that have experienced defeat, learned from their failures, and eventually prevailed against their enemies. These armies -- Egypt in the 1973 war with Israel, Iraq in the latter phases of its 1980-1988 war with Iran, and even hybrid actors such as the "Islamic State"/ISIS -- succeeded by developing workarounds for persistent shortcomings exhibited by conventional Arab armies, and by adapting foreign concepts and practices to their specific needs.
  • Political Geography: Iraq, America, Arabia
  • 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: 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: 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: 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: James F. Jeffrey
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Washington should have no illusions about resolving the region's wider problems, it can build on early successes against ISIS by making the commitments needed to fully defeat the group in Iraq and Syria, including a modest, enduring U.S. military presence.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Washington, Syria
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Leaders in Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan have taken a brave step toward reunifying the country through revenue sharing. The United States should support implementation of the deal.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Baghdad, Kurdistan
  • Author: Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The moderate rebel force currently envisioned by Washington would take far too long to arrive on the battlefield and could be easy prey for ISIS and Assad. As the Obama administration's plans for raising a moderate Syrian opposition force become clearer, its approach seems to center on a lengthy recruitment, training, and deployment program initially dedicated to defense against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). If carried out, this plan promises a long delay before significant forces are on the battlefield. It would also limit their potential effectiveness in the near to midterm and perhaps commit them to a protracted enterprise in which defeat is likely.
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Washington, Syria
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Twenty years ago, at the close of the 1991 Gulf War, the imposition of a UN-mandated no-fly zone contributed to the formation of a safe haven for Iraqi Kurds, resulting in the liberation of nearly three million people from Baathist dictatorship a full decade before the rest of Iraq. In 1992, new UN-mandated no-fly and no-drive zones were established in southern Iraq and the Balkans to contain rogue regimes and protect civilians from government repression. Given the current developments in Libya, it is natural to consider employing such options once again. Yet history shows that exclusion zones are particularly tricky operations. If not configured properly, they can be worse than useless, signaling fecklessness instead of resolve while providing little real protective value to civilians.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Insurgency, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Libya, Arabia, Arab Countries, United Nations, Balkans, North Africa
  • Author: David Pollock, Ahmed Ali
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Two months after nationwide elections, Iraq's government formation process is still on hold. The final voting results have yet to be announced as disputes over recounts and candidate disqualifications linger. Nor is it clear how a governing majority will be formed, and power shared, among the four major party alliances, each of which garnered somewhere between 16 percent and 28 percent of the vote: the Kurdish bloc and its affiliates; the largely Sunni or secular Iraqiyah party led by a former prime minister of Shiite origin, Ayad Allawi; incumbent prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's largely Shiite State of Law Alliance (SLA); and SLA's rival Shiite/Sadrist list, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), a coalition that includes the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.
  • Topic: Islam, Politics, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Central Asia
  • Author: Michael Knights, Ahmed Ali
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In an August 2 speech, President Obama confirmed that regardless of the status of government formation in Iraq, the U.S. military remained committed to the withdrawal of all combat forces by the month's end. Meanwhile, Iraq is still struggling to form a government in the long wake of the March elections, and the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan -- when much political and business life slows almost to a standstill -- begins next week. If an Iraqi government does not form fairly quickly after Ramadan ends in mid-September, Iraq's political scene may worsen, including an increased risk for violence. Ramadan has always existed in Iraqi and U.S. minds as a break point, when a new government may finally come together. Failure to make progress during the month is thus likely to elicit at least mild panic amongst politicians and the public. So how might the deadlock be broken?
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq
  • 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: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On July 29, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) issued the provisional results of last month's presidential and parliamentary elections in Iraqi Kurdistan. The election outcome -- the traditionally entrenched political bloc losing ground to a newly formed party -- has exposed an opening in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Consequently, the region has taken a step away from a fully "managed democracy" toward a more fluid and unpredictable political system.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Kurdistan
  • 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 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: 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: 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: 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: Simon Henderson, David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: President Bush returns to the Middle East this week for the second time in 2008. Initially planned to mark Israel's sixtieth anniversary, his itinerary has expanded to include meetings with top officials from Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and Saudi Arabia. Except for a trip to Riyadh, these meetings will be held at a World Economic Forum conference in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt. This lineup prompted National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to say the trip has "both symbolism and substance" and, considering the urgency of the issues, something of substance may actually emerge.
  • Topic: Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Middle East, Israel, Asia, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan
  • Author: Nazar Janabi
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The recent military offensive in Basra was the first sizeable operation in which Iraqi government forces took the initiative to pursue armed groups in one of the country's most politically charged regions. Although the operation was a military success, its political aftermath will be crucial for the survival of both Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government and Muqtada al-Sadr's militia.
  • Topic: Government, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Nazar Janabi
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Sunnis in Anbar and other western Iraqi provinces have struggled to develop a coherent and representative political leadership. The recently formed Iraqi Awakening Convention (IAC) -- a collective of so-called "Awakening council" leaders -- could represent the next step in that evolution and, if nurtured, make a significant contribution to broader political reconciliation. It will also mean, however, that current elected leaders will have to give way to new local leaders or compete politically with them, since it is pointless to compete violently given the asymmetry of the current power balance.
  • Topic: Islam, Political Economy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Abdulkadir Onay, Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 02-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On February 21, Turkish ground forces crossed the Iraqi border in an attempt to dismantle Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) terrorist camps, following weeks of periodic aerial bombardment that began in mid-December. The incursion was partly the product of a November 5 agreement between Turkey and the United States to share intelligence in fighting the PKK, a group that the U.S. State Department has designated a foreign terrorist organization. On February 22, the White House backed the operation: "The United States agrees with Turkey that the PKK is a terrorist organization, and . . . an enemy of Turkey, Iraq, and the United States."
  • Topic: Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Nazar Janabi
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Away from the headlines, Sunnis and Shiites are testing the waters of reconciliation in the Iraqi parliament with an agreement that may come at the expense of country's Kurdish population. The Kurdish political reaction to such an agreement could potentially exacerbate anti-Kurdish sentiment among many Arab parliamentarians, costing the Kurds some of the hard-earned political ground they have gained thus far.
  • Topic: Government, Political Economy, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Nazar Janabi
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On September 22, the Iraqi parliament belatedly passed a provincial elections law, ending a long and costly deadlock. Parliament ratified the initial version of the law on July 22, but it was later vetoed by two members of Iraq's presidency council. This time it is likely that the bill will survive council scrutiny because of the compromises and concessions made in the long negotiation process. Nevertheless, passing the law marks only the beginning of a vital political transition that could lead to either a unified democratic state or a fractured sectarian country prone to foreign influence.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Nazar Janabi
  • Publication Date: 10-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After months of rigorous debate, U.S. and Iraqi negotiators submitted a draft Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to Iraq's cabinet and political leadership last week. Since then, many Iraqi politicians have publicly expressed reservations, while others have distanced themselves from the draft in an attempt to deflect blame and avoid the electorate's censure in the upcoming provincial elections. Despite the opposition, approving the SOFA is essential not only for maintaining Iraq's fragile security gains, but also for supporting the struggle against regional forces that want to reshape the Middle East to the detriment of U.S. and Iraqi interests.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 10-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although recognized as a political flashpoint, the Iraqi province of Kirkuk is suffering from a largely overlooked security crisis that has improved little since the beginning of the 2007 U.S. military "surge." The decline in reported insurgent attacks in Kirkuk has been relatively small, dropping from a monthly average of 169 violent incidents in 2007 to 122 in 2008. This 28 percent decline compares with 91 percent in Baghdad during the same period, and the per capita number of attacks in Kirkuk city is actually twice that of Baghdad. Considering these statistics, providing security support for the political process in the tense months and years to come has become a critical priority.
  • Topic: Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Eisenstadt
  • Publication Date: 11-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The next U.S. president will be a wartime president. Developments in the Middle East almost ensure that either John McCain or Barack Obama will have to manage one or more wars involving the United States or its allies in the region.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Lebanon
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 11-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: When Barack Obama assumes office on January 20, 2009, the president-elect will face many pressing issues. The strategic case for careful and active management of Iraq policy, however, remains strong. Iraq has at least 115 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (9.3 percent of the world total) and borders Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. This vital Middle Eastern country could become a terrorist thoroughfare and the scene of future regional wars or it could become a stable and prosperous U.S. ally. What matters now is not how U.S. presence in Iraq started, but how it will change in the next four years. It may be far more economical to finish stabilizing Iraq under the relatively favorable present conditions compared to the unknown and potentially unfavorable situation of the future. Iraq retains the potential to contribute to U.S. policy objectives in the Persian Gulf region and the broader Islamic world. It could yet emerge as a strong democratic state at the center of the Middle East.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Larisa Baste
  • Publication Date: 12-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On December 1, President-elect Obama announced his nomination of Senator Hillary Clinton as U.S. secretary of state. The following are her remarks on key Middle East issues made during the course of the Democratic presidential primary campaign.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 10-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On October 21, Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) operatives carried out an attack from northern Iraq into Turkey, killing twelve Turkish soldiers. This incident followed the killing of more than thirty people in recent weeks, including an incident in which the PKK pulled a dozen civilians off a public bus and shot them. The Turkish public has responded to the attacks by calling for incursion into northern Iraq to eliminate PKK camps there.
  • Topic: Government, Islam, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Armenia
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 09-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The September 6 Israeli bombing of a presumed North Korean-supplied nuclear weapons facility in Syria highlights the ongoing policy challenge posed by Damascus. More than three years after President Bush signed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act (SAA), Syria continues to support terrorism, destabilize Iraq, meddle in Lebanon, and develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile systems. This week's headlines tell the story: on September 19, yet another anti-Syrian parliamentarian was assassinated in Lebanon; the same day, Jane's Defence Weekly reported that a July 2007 chemical weapons accident in Syria -- involving mustard gas and VX and sarin nerve agents -- killed fifteen Syrian officers and dozens of Iranian engineers.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Israel, North Korea, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Michael Eisenstadt
  • Publication Date: 09-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A series of congressional hearings and media interviews by Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker this week offered insights into the U.S. strategy in Iraq, and several yardsticks by which future progress there may be evaluated.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East