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  • Author: Thomas Pierret
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Syrian conflict's internal dynamics have reshuffled regional alignments alongside unprecedentedly clear-cut sectarian dividing lines; this has often occurred against the preferences of regional state actors−including Saudi Arabia and Iran. Foreign states have generally adopted expedient policies that followed sectarian patterns for lack of alternatives. Iran bears significant responsibility for exacerbating the conflict's sectarian character at the regional level. There is no such “diplomatic shortcut” to regional appeasement; it is the domestic Syrian deadlock that must be broken in order to alleviate sectarian tensions across the Middle East, not the opposite.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Frederic M. Wehrey
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Like the Iraq war and, to a lesser extent, Lebanon's 2006 war, Syria's internecine conflict has enabled the Gulf's ruling families, media commentators, clerics, parliamentarians, and activists to invoke and amplify Sunni-Shia identities, often for goals that are rooted in local power politics. By-products of the mounting sectarian tension include the fraying of reform cooperation among sects and regions, and pressure on the Gulf's formal political institutions. Traditional and social media have served to amplify the most polarizing voices as well as provide reform activists new means for cross-sectarian communication that circumvent governmental efforts to control or block such activities.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Fanar Haddad
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In Iraq, as elsewhere in the Middle East, the social, political, and technological changes of the 21st century are giving birth to a new sectarian landscape. The three most consequential drivers behind the change in sectarian relations have been the political change in Iraq of 2003; the near simultaneous spread of new media and social networking in the Arab world; and – perhaps as a consequence of the first two – the ongoing search for alternatives to familiar but moribund forms of authoritarianism, as demonstrated most dramatically by the “Arab Spring.” 2003 highlighted the uncomfortable fact that there were multiple, indeed contradictory, visions of what it meant to be an Iraqi and by extension what it meant to be a part of the Arab world. New media, social networking, user-generated websites, and private satellite channels helped to make Iraq's accelerated sectarianization contagious. The mainstreaming of sectarian polemics has increased the relevance of religious, doctrinal, and dogmatic differences in views regarding the sectarian “other,” a particularly dangerous development.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Joseph Bahout
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: When the Arab revolutions reached Syria, the Sunni-Shia cleavage in Lebanon was already well in the making. Syria's turmoil only added fuel to an existing fire in Lebanon. Syria's crisis is intensifying Sunni-Shia tensions in Lebanon on two levels, symbolic and identity-based on the one hand, and geopolitical or interest based, on the other hand. The shift toward identity-based or symbolic forms of sectarianism can probably be explained by the existential character the struggle in the Levant is taking, whereby both “communities,” however imagined or over-constructed, are coming to perceive themselves as defending not only their share of resources or power, but their very survival. Lebanon's minority communities – including Christian and Druze – are increasingly anxious about the changing regional environment. Lebanon and Syria must face the difficult equation of sectarian diversity and national unity.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Melani Cammett
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Syrian crisis has had a negative impact on Lebanon's political scene, including the dynamics among political factions within and across the country's major sectarian communities. The political fragmentation of the Sunni community has implications for the growing trend toward political violence triggered by the Syrian conflict. The rise of challengers and the decline of centralized authority within the Sunni community further increase the probability of violence perpetrated by in-group factions. Despite the pressures from the Syrian conflict, mounting sectarian tensions will not inexorably spark another all-out civil war. If Lebanon does not move past the current political deadlock and stagnation, the spillover from the Syrian crisis stands to undermine the country's stability in the longer term.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Evelyne Schmid
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Over the past several decades, dozens of countries have established truth commissions and other bodies to investigate mass atrocities or systematic human rights abuse. Lessons learned from past truth-finding processes are invaluable to help address the legacies of human rights violations in countries transitioning to democratic regimes in the Middle East and North Africa and elsewhere. Truth commissions aim to uncover and acknowledge abuses from the past by recognizing the suffering of victims and making recommendations to prevent a recurrence of violence in the future. When convening authorities establish a truth commission, they need to select a process to choose the commission's membership, decide on the subject matter and a deadline for the work it will do as well as its legal powers, its duration and the extent to which its work is public. USIP has established a Truth Commissions Digital Collection (http://www.usip.org/publications/truth-commission-digital-collection) that provides summaries and vital statistics of 41 past commissions from 35 countries, along with copies of most of their legal charters and final reports. Each commission has a dedicated page along with information on subsequent developments, such as reforms, prosecutions and reparations to victims. The Truth Commissions Digital Collection is a resource for researchers and implementers seeking to learn and apply lessons from the past to make current “truth processes” more effective.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Genocide, Human Rights, Human Welfare, Torture
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East
  • Author: Robin Wright, Garrett Nada
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Middle East faces even bigger challenges in 2013 than it did during the first two years of the so-called Arab Spring. So far—a pivotal caveat—the Arab uprisings have deepened the political divide, worsened economic woes and produced greater insecurity. Solutions are not imminent either. More than 120 million people in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen have experienced successful uprisings that ousted four leaders who together ruled a total of 129 years. But more than half of the Arab world's 350 million people have yet to witness any real change at all. Defining a new order has proven far harder than ousting old autocrats. Phase one was creating conditions for democracy. Phase two is a kind of democratic chaos as dozens of parties in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia do political battle (and in some cases physical battle) over constitutions. Ancien regimes have not totally given up, as in Yemen. The cost of change has exceeded even the highest estimates, as in Syria. So most Arabs are probably disappointed with the “Arab Spring” for one of many reasons. Nevertheless the uprisings were never going to happen in one season. This is instead only the beginning of a decades-long process—as most in the West should know from their own experiences.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Democratization, Post Colonialism, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Theo Dolan, Alexis Toriello
  • Publication Date: 01-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Salam Shabab (Peace Youth) is a unique reality TV series filmed in Iraq that brought together youth from six provinces of Iraq to compete for a chance to become youth “Ambassadors of Peace.” The views of young Iraqis participating in Salam Shabab, along with new surveys on youth perspectives, have begun to create a potential profile of the next generation of Iraqi leaders. Many Iraqi youth express conflicting views on politics and youth participation in Iraq. They are disappointed about not having their voices heard by political and civil society leaders, yet optimistic about their role in shaping the future of their country. Iraqi teenagers express tremendous pride in their local communities, which they associate with peace, unity and coexistence. Yet, the same youth often cannot clearly define what national identity means to them. Regarding their perceptions on building peace, Iraqi youth indicate that peace in Iraq can be achieved through unifying factors such as cross-cultural dialogue. According to them, the similarities among diverse people are more powerful in building peace than their differences. If given the opportunity, a vast majority of Iraqi youth are willing to take on a peacebuilding role, in part by connecting with other youth in Iraq and internationally.
  • Topic: Mass Media, Youth Culture
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Raymond Gilpin, Amal A. Kandeel, Paul Sullivan
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Limited opportunities for economic progress and political expression helped force Egypt's youthful population on the streets and precipitated the demise of long-time leader Hosni Mubarak. Prospects for stability are linked to the government's ability to address youth employment—a core demand of the protesters. The January/February 2011 protests could be the tip of the iceberg. Robust and sustained action is needed to improve human security, starting with employment and income generation opportunities. An effective economic transition in Egypt need not be a zero-sum game. Done correctly, employment-based economic restructuring that focuses on the most vulnerable (and volatile) segments of the population could lay the foundation for a stronger, stable and more peaceful Egypt. The next steps in Egypt's revolution will tackle the difficult task of expanding economic opportunity and providing space for more representative, accountable and participatory governance. Fundamentally, this would require the Egyptian government and military to progressively cede control of the levers of economic power. Employment creation that focuses on the youth is not a silver bullet and will not guarantee success on its own. It will, however, broaden the constituency for reform by making Egypt's youth bulge more involved in shaping the destiny of the country's 82 million citizens.
  • Topic: Demographics, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Jason Gluck
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Countries emerging from authoritarianism frequently face constitutional challenges, among them sequencing constitutional reform with a transition to democracy, designing a constitutional review process that is seen as legitimate, and addressing substantive constitutional concerns. Sequencing constitutional reform and elections begs the questions who should lead the constitutional reform and when should it be conducted. Constitutional reform prior to elections can leave stewardship over the constitution-making process to unelected and perhaps not wholly trusted transitional governments. Elections prior to constitutional reform may be tantamount to simply handing the machinery of authoritarianism to a new set of actors. Egypt and Tunisia offer different paths to transition and each face criticism. In the end, a less “democratic” solution might be the best one. Whatever the chosen process for constitutional reform, legitimacy must remain the sine non qua of a successful constitution-making moment. Adherence to guiding principles of inclusivity, participation, transparency, consensus and national ownership can legitimize the constitution-making process and the final document itself. Just as the history, society, culture, and preferences of every country is unique, so too is every constitution. Certain common issues, however, are likely to be front and center for countries transitioning from authoritarian rule to democracy. This Peace Brief offers a brief examination of many of these commonly recurring issues.
  • Topic: Democratization, Popular Revolt
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Jason Gluck, Scott Worden, Colette Rausch, Vivienne O'Connor
  • Publication Date: 04-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Popular uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa are demanding justice, security, and accountability— defining features of the rule of law. Constitutional reform is a priority, but it must be done by legitimate representatives of the people, not hangovers from the past. Principles of inclusivity, transparency, and participation must be at the heart of the process.
  • Topic: Democratization, Law
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kosovo, Nepal, North Africa
  • Author: Toby C. Jones
  • Publication Date: 04-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Saudi Arabia is pursuing a combination of domestic and regional policies that risk destabilizing the Persian Gulf and that risk undermining the United States interests there. Amid calls for political change, Saudi Arabia is failing to address pressing concerns about its political system and the need for political reform. Instead of responding favorably to calls for more political openness, the Kingdom is pursuing a risky domestic agenda, which ignores the social, economic, and political grievances that might fuel popular mobilization.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Democratization, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Emma Sky
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Since the fall of the former regime in 2003, there has been continuous concern that fighting might break out between the Arabs and the Kurds over Kirkuk and the boundary of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Sean Kane, William Taylor
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: With U.S. military forces scheduled to depart Iraq in December of this year, the State Department and other civilian agencies are being asked to assume a scale of operational and programmatic responsibilities far beyond any other embassy in recent memory. The capacity of the U.S. civilian agencies to assume these responsibilities does not now fully exist. Notably, securing and moving U.S. civilians will require more than 5,000 security contractors. A limited U.S. military contingent post-2011 may well be more cost-effective than private security guards and could also relieve State and other civilian agencies of logistical and security responsibilities. This would enable them to focus on their comparative advantages: diplomacy and development assistance. Planning for the post-2011 U.S. mission in Iraq, however, remains hampered by uncertainty as to whether the Iraqi government will request an extension of the American military presence in the country. A small follow-on U.S. military force would appear to safeguard Iraqi stability and make the achievement of U.S. strategic objectives in Iraq more likely, but cannot be counted on. Should such a request not be received from the Iraqi government, the U.S. may need to reduce the planned scale and scope of its operations and goals in Iraq.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Amr al-Azm
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Syrian regime was initially able to count on its neighbors in two key areas: ensuring that their territories do not become a safe haven for Syrian dissidents and continuing to receive their support on the regional and international level. This support has since eroded as a result of the regime's inability to contain the ever-escalating level of violence being perpetrated against the protesters. The gravest concern for the regime is the emergence of a Benghazi scenario in a city like Aleppo as a result of Turkish military intervention. The Syrian regime now finds itself in an ever-increasing cycle of isolation and increased internal repression.
  • Topic: Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Sean Kane, Elie Abouaoun
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Iraq's reaction to the popular uprising in Syria is mostly determined by the chaos its Shiite-led government believes would follow the sudden collapse of Bashar al-Assad's regime. Baghdad possesses limited ability to influence the course of events in Syria, but is using this to provide modest support to the Assad regime. The fractured and sectarian nature of Iraqi politics, however, militates against Baghdad developing a decisive position on the way forward in Syria.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Mona Yacoubian
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Lebanese society is starkly divided on Syria, but all sides fear the country's potential descent into a sectarian civil war and seek to insulate Lebanon from its fallout. Lebanon's key political actors hold vastly different views on their definitions of interests, threat perceptions and desirable outcomes in Syria. Lebanon has already witnessed some negative Syrian spillover. Going forward, key concerns will center on both directed threats and uncontrolled fallout from worsening instability inside Syria. Lebanon's ability to influence the conflict dynamics inside Syria is limited.
  • Topic: Islam, Armed Struggle, Regime Change, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Emile Hokayem
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The unrest in Syria offers the Gulf States an opportunity to weaken or even dislodge an Assad regime aligned with Iran, but their ability to project power or shape events in Syria is limited. Dislike of the Assad regime doesn't necessarily align Gulf interests and long-term vision for Syria. Moreover, cooperation on diplomacy and strategy is lacking. Sectarianism, most evidenced in media commentary and clerical statements, is already a major feature of Gulf discourse on Syria. Parts of the Syrian opposition have approached and have been courted by Gulf governments. Still, a degree of unease and mistrust continues to define their relations.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: Ehud Eiran
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Israel has been generally quiet regarding the recent turmoil in Syria, a reflection of the issue\'s relative low priority, as well as Israel\'s limited influence on internal Syrian matters. Israel\'s preferred outcome would be a stable Syrian regime that disassociates itself from the “axis of resistance,” poses no bilateral threats, and controls the border area—though Israel sees no clear path for achieving these aims. The view in Israel is that the basic structure of deterrence still holds vis-à-vis Syria and the regime—even in its desperate circumstances—is unlikely to provoke Israel in dramatic ways.
  • Topic: Security, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: Edward W. Gnehm Jr
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Government of Jordan is deeply concerned about the turmoil in Syria, fearing the spillover effect and knowing Syria's historic capacity to undermine Jordanian internal stability. Initial official Jordanian reaction has been cautious, to avoid antagonizing Syria and provoking retaliation. There is great anxiety over what may follow the collapse of the Assad regime. Jordan is under increased pressure from both internal elements and external powers to toughen its public posture toward Damascus. Ultimately, Amman will react carefully to events in Syria, taking actions that best ensure the security of the state and the survival of the monarchy.
  • Topic: Security, Regime Change, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria