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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: Yun Sun
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: China's joint veto along with Russia of the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) on Syria has provoked fierce international criticism. Labeled as “responsible for Syria's genocide,” Beijing's international image has struck a new low. China's decision to cast the unpopular vote was apparently well thought-out, as evidenced by its consistent diplomatic rhetoric and actions, both before and after the veto. However, in analyzing China's motivation, many analysts seemed to have missed an important point. That is, China's experience concerning Libya in 2011 had a direct impact on its actions regarding Syria this time around.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Insurgency, Popular Revolt
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Arabia, United Nations, Syria
  • 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: Peter Albrecht
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Yemen has caught the eye of the international community above all because it has been portrayed as a hotbed of radicalisation and a training ground for al-Qaeda. As a state, Yemen is broadly considered to be both fragile and on the brink of failure. This Policy Brief argues that for a variety of reasons – largely relating to the political system and dynamics within the country – support from Europe and North America will have limited effect. There are limited, if any, technical solutions to the challenges that confront the country; only political ones. International actors from outside the regional context must therefore think twice before engaging and, above all, have a good understanding of the political system that they will be engaging with.
  • Topic: International Relations, Islam
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Claire Spencer
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: North Africa may not be as stable as it looks: socio-economic and political pressures are fracturing the consensus between governments and governed and may overtake terrorism and criminality as the region's main destabilizing forces. With political leadership in the region effectively a lifelong position, the growth of authoritarianism is undermining the prospects for achieving political and economic liberalization. Despite the worsening global economic climate, a window of opportunity exists to accelerate socially sensitive and productive domestic investment and open space for greater autonomous political and economic development. Success depends on renegotiating the social contracts on which North Africa's states are based. A broadening of participation, above all through the extension of legal employment, targeted investment on education, health and skills, and the establishment of independent legal and regulatory frameworks, will go some way towards addressing socio-economic stresses. A change in the political environment, however, requires a re-evaluation of how the region's security climate is seen from outside, with adjustments in the kind of support given to regional governments by its key international partners, the European Union and the United States.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Islam, International Security
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Arabia
  • 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: Nathan J. Brown, Amr Hamzawy, Michele Dunne
  • Publication Date: 06-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Even as the United States is preoccupied with how to stabilize and withdraw from Iraq, it risks missing another important opportunity to promote democracy in the Middle East. Among Arab countries Egypt is uniquely positioned to make a transition from authoritarian rule to a more liberal system and eventually to democracy. A looming presidential succession in Egypt makes such changes more feasible. But after several years of modest reforms, the Egyptian government is now backtracking and enshrining illiberal measures in its revised constitution. The United States faces a critical decision about whether to pursue reform seriously with Egypt or to abandon the project of promoting Arab democracy, at least for now.
  • Topic: International Relations, Civil Society, Democratization
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Simon Henderson, David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On March 28, the Arab League will convene the annual summit of its twenty-two member states in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Despite a record of disunity and inconclusiveness, this annual meeting of Arab leaders remains the subject of intense interest in the region. Rising Sunni-Shiite tensions, talk of a peace opening with Israel, and developments in Iraq, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Lebanon have generated more attention for this year's summit than usual.
  • Topic: International Relations, Development, Government
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Palestine, Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Riyadh
  • Author: Seth Wikas
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In the coming weeks, Syria will participate in two important regional conferences. On March 10, it will join Iraq's other neighbors and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in Baghdad. On March 28-29, it will participate in the Arab League summit in Riyadh. Syria's detractors continue to criticize Damascus for failing to seal the border with Iraq and for meddling in Lebanese internal affairs in violation of UN Security Resolution 1701. Of equal importance is the downturn in Syria's relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran. Last week's Saudi-Iranian summit has Damascus worried about its role in Lebanon and the possibility of an international tribunal on the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, a crime for which Syria is widely believed to be responsible. Will the upcoming conferences give Syria a chance to improve its regional standing, or will its isolation continue?
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Baghdad, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On February 20, the Lebanese cabinet—with a Hizballah-led opposition boycott—extended the term of the UN commission investigating the February 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri. While the commission's work can now continue for as long as one more year, any future decision about organizing an international tribunal to try those indicted for the murder remains hostage to a vote—requiring the opposition's assent—in the paralyzed Lebanese parliament. Meanwhile, Hizballah continues to press its demand for increased political power within a “national unity” government, threatening civil disobedience should its demands not be met.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Fatah-Hamas unity agreement reached in Mecca last week has powerful implications for all regional players. The most serious challenge it poses is to U.S. diplomacy.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Mecca
  • Author: Seth Wikas
  • Publication Date: 08-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On August 15, Syrian president Bashar al-Asad gave a significant policy speech to the Syrian Journalists Union in which he expressed his support for Hizballah. More importantly, the address sought to redefine Syria's position in the Arab world. Building on Washington's talk of the birth of a new Middle East, Asad described his own vision for a new Middle East, one with an empowered Arab resistance, a weakened Israel, and a renewed regional unity against Western interests.
  • Topic: International Relations, Development, Politics
  • Political Geography: Washington, Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On July 25, 2006, Robert Satloff and David Pollock addressed The Washington Institute's Special Policy Forum. Dr. Satloff is the executive director of The Washington Institute and the author most recently of the Institute monograph Assessing What Arabs Do, Not What They Say: A New Approach to Understanding Arab Anti-Americanism. Dr. David Pollock, formerly head of Near East research in the U.S. Information Agency, currently works in the Office of the Undersecretary of Global Affairs at the Department of State. His remarks were off the record. The following is a rapporteur's summary of Dr. Satloff's remarks.
  • Topic: International Relations, Demographics, Ethnic Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Arabia
  • Author: Michael Eisenstadt
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The ongoing debate over whether or not Iraq is on the verge or in the midst of a civil war is a distraction from the main challenge the United States now faces in Iraq: how to reduce or contain sectarian (and ethnic) violence that could derail the political process and drag Iraq's neighbors into the conflict. That said, the recent increase in sectarian violence following the attack on Samarra's Askariyya Shrine does not necessarily alter the fundamental character of the conflict: attacks on Shiites have long been an important element of Sunni Arab insurgent operations, although Shiites have only recently begun striking back in a sustained way. The violence does, however, have the potential to spiral out of control should another insurgent attack damage an important Shiite shrine or result in very large loss of life.
  • Topic: International Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: David Makovsky, Patrick Clawson, Marc Otte
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On March 3, 2006, Marc Otte, Patrick Clawson, and David Makovsky addressed The Washington Institute's Special Policy Forum. Ambassador Otte is the European Union's special representative for the Middle East peace process. Dr. Clawson, The Washington Institute's deputy director for research, is author with Zoe Danon Gedal of the Institute monograph Dollars and Diplomacy: The Impact of U.S. Economic Initiatives on Arab-Israeli Negotiations. Mr. Makovsky is a senior fellow and director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at The Washington Institute. The following is a rapporteur's summary of their remarks.
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Author: Stephen Zunes
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Abstract: The election of a Democratic majority in the House and Senate is unlikely to result in any serious challenge to the Bush administration's support for Israeli attacks against the civilian populations of its Arab neighbors and the Israeli government's ongoing violations of international humanitarian law.
  • Topic: International Relations, Democratization, Humanitarian Aid, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Author: Marina S. Ottaway
  • Publication Date: 11-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The approval of the Iraqi constitution in the October 15 referendum does not put Iraq on the path to stability and democracy but pushes it toward division into largely autonomous regions. And this new momentum is probably irreversible. Whether it will lead to a catastrophic descent into greater violence or even ethnic cleansing, or to a managed transformation into a loose federation of regions enjoying extreme autonomy, depends on whether it becomes possible for Sunni Arabs to form their own region, as Kurds already have and Shias are bound to do once the constitution is in effect. The central thrust of U.S. policy in Iraq must now be to help Sunnis organize an autonomous region and to convince Shias and Kurds that it is in their interest to make this possible. Paradoxically, announcing now a timetable for the inevitable withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq could give Washington additional leverage in influencing all sides to accept the necessary compromises.
  • Topic: International Relations, Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Washington, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Amr Hamzawy
  • Publication Date: 07-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Before any significant political reform can take place in the Arab world, the United States and Europe need to begin engaging moderate Islamists, an action less thorny than it might seem because Islamists have embraced democratic procedures and have shown a strong commitment to the rule of law. For a long time Arab regimes have frightened the United States and Europe into supporting regimes' repressive measures toward Islamist movements by invoking the nightmare of anti-Western fanatics taking power through the ballot box. However, today's moderate Islamists—while illiberal in many important respects—no longer match the nightmare. Excluding them from the political sphere weakens the chances of democratic reform and increases the likelihood that eventually they will resort to violence.
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Arabia
  • Author: Nathan J. Brown
  • Publication Date: 06-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: IN PALESTINE, CITIZENS HAVE RIGHTS OF FREE SPEECH and free assembly. The most independent judiciary in the Arab world adjudicates their disputes. Palestinians select their leaders freely in competitive elections overseen by an independent electoral commission. A representative assembly monitors the executive, granting and withholding confidence from ministers and reviewing the state budget in detailed public discussions. Elected councils manage local governments that are fiscally autonomous of the center.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Arabia
  • Author: Marina S. Ottaway
  • Publication Date: 02-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: This short paper launches the second set of studies in the Carnegie Papers Middle East Series. The first set, now also published as a book under the title Uncharted Journey: Promoting Democracy in the Middle East, examined the most important issues concerning democracy promotion and democratic change in the Middle East. One of the conclusions that emerged from those studies is that the Middle East still offers a rather discouraging political picture. There are some liberalized autocracies but no democratic countries in the region. The link between economic and political reform remains weak. Democratic reformers have failed to build strong constituencies, and the organizations with strong constituencies are Islamist rather than democratic. The integration of Islamists in the reform process remains poor. And the United States, now championing democracy in the region, has little credibility in Arab eyes, and still has not consistently integrated democracy promotion in its policy toward the area. Yet, despite all these problems, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a ferment of reform in the Middle East. But how significant is it?
  • Topic: International Relations, Democratization, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia