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  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The Islamic State has been moving aggressively to exploit the chaos of Libya since last summer, with profound risks for the Mediterranean region and beyond Libya is a perfect breeding ground for an expanded Islamic State, with large amounts of heavy weaponry, systemic lawlessness, a divided population, and sustained armed conflict The group has formed three active and capable groups in Libya-in Tripoli, Fezzan, and Barqa-all of which have conducted deadly attacks in recent months The phenomenon of Islamic State affiliates-beginning in the summer of 2014, before which the group was entirely focused on Iraq and Syria-is actually in the tradition of its arch-rival al-Qaeda the presence and power of the Islamic State in Libya will likely increase as conditions in Syria and Iraq deteriorate for the group, and conditions in Libya continue to worsen.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Libya, Syria
  • 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
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: No region has seen more of its people travel to fight in Syria than North Africa; more than 3,000 Tunisians have traveled there as of last April, and more than 1,500 Moroccans This is a repeat of a decade ago when large numbers of North Africans traveled to Iraq to fight there as well, in proportions far above those of neighboring countries A significant number of recent North African fighters have conducted suicide bombings in both Iraq and Syria, highlighting that the deadly ideological message of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and other extremist groups is finding purchase in North Africa The reasons for this export of extremists include incomplete political reforms that have failed to redress serious societal issues, persistent high youth unemployment, and a failure to cope with the apparent high levels of disaffection, despair, and anger that drive people to choose violent extremism.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, North Africa, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The Turkish parliament's vote to authorize the deployment of military forces in Syria and Iraq provided a legal and official framework for such action It may appear to be a positive step in degrading and destroying the putative Islamic State (IS), however, the parliament in its vote used the broader term "terrorist organizations," thus the landscape for Turkey, Syria-Iraq, and regional states and interests remains exceptionally complex Though there is nearly universal and implacable opposition to IS among all actors in Syria and Iraq, Turkey's future role-depending on steps taken-could aggravate tensions not only with Arab Gulf states and Kurdish elements in Syria and Iraq, but Iran, Russia, and the Iraqi government Turkey's desire to create a buffer zone on the Syrian side of its common border remains one of the most sensitive issues Amid reports of increased IS pressure on Kobani, Kurdish PKK has insinuated Turkey will be to blame-not IS-for creating conditions for the refugee crisis, and threatens to resume opposition activity in Turkey. The Turkish parliament's vote Thursday to authorize use of its army and military facilities in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) may appear at first look to be a positive step for the broader coalition. The measures-to be determined-are in addition to any financial, diplomatic, humanitarian, and support activities for the anti-IS coalition. However, parliament's vote did not entail Turkey's officially joining the coalition. After the recent deal-details yet to be revealed-to bring home over 40 hostages IS had taken from Turkey's consulate in Mosul, Iraq, in June 2014, pressure increased for Turkey to take military steps in the anti-IS fight. A factor increasing the possibility of military action is Turkish special operations forces' guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah, a Turkish enclave in Syria reported to be increasingly surrounded by IS. Though there is almost universal animus toward IS in the region, there is also nearly uniform resistance to Turkey's perceived unilateral military involvement in Syria and Iraq, outside the framework of the anti-IS coalition. Turkey's next moves may cause more conflict than benefit in the anti-IS fight. Indeed, the political landscape for Turkey's moves at home and abroad remains extraordinarily complex.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The following IntelBrief is excerpted from The Soufan Group's recent long-form report on The Islamic State, which takes an in-depth look at the extremist group's operations across Iraq and Syria. From late 2011 up to today, The Islamic State has shown itself both tactically and strategically adept. After years of surviving as a persistently violent criminal/terrorist gang able to mount multiple synchronized attacks in urban areas in Iraq but little more, it achieved unparalleled gains when the collapse of government in northern and eastern Syria allowed it to expand across the border. At the same time, the sectarian approach of then-Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki had made the Sunni minority in Iraq ready to support any group that appeared to have the potential to reverse its increasing marginalization. It's accurate to say the group would still exist-but in nothing like its current form-had only one of those two catastrophes-Syria and Maliki-occurred; that both played out as they did made what has happened seem an almost inevitable accident of history.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The deliberate targeting and killing of journalists by The Islamic State (IS) and the resulting lack of outside reporting has created a nearly information-free zone for the group to fill with its own messaging. The group's embrace of the decentralized nature of social media has allowed its many thousands of cyber-supporters to create and operate their own ministries of propaganda. Abu Mohammad al-Adnani is the official spokesman for the group, but the notion of an official spokesman does not really apply to IS in the way it has applied to al Qaeda; the crowdsourcing of messages negates the need for a single point of contact.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Communications, Mass Media, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, North Africa, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: For a group that feeds on chaos, The Islamic State (IS) itself is rigidly structured and organized. The growing bureaucratic and administrative demands on IS as it attempts to govern the areas it controls-while under increasing military pressure-will stress the group and its structure like never before. The group benefits from ruling over populations that have little experience in effective government services, meaning that the very conditions that helped fuel IS's rise now give it wide latitude to deliver sub-par services for at least the near-term without risking revolt, at least for reasons of shoddy governance. From the caliph-level down to the district level, the group has a repetitive three-office ruling structure that provides easy-to-understand lanes of responsibility and authority, which is vital for a growing organization whose sole membership requirement is belief in its cause.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Governance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: As King Abdullah remains out of sight, worries persist over Saudi Arabia's ability to handle its many domestic and foreign issues The Sunni-Shi'a divide is now seen largely in terms of competition for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran But it is not just the Sunni-Shi'a tension which impacts the region as Saudi Arabia and Turkey also compete for primacy in the Arab Middle East; the three-way competition has been a key factor in the chronic conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen Common antipathy toward the self-declared Islamic State is the only glue that holds together the US-led coalition at this time: there's no consensus on how to defeat it, what to put in its place, and the role of Iran-issues made more complicated by questions about Saudi Arabia's internal decision process.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, Power Politics, Counterinsurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Yemen, Saudi 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: Ahmad Khalid Majidyar
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The Persian Gulf states of Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have largely been immune to the rising tide of sectarianism that has rocked the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring. The three monarchies have successfully integrated their Shi'ite minority populations into their countries' sociopolitical and economic spheres, giving those populations little reason to engage in violence or seek political guidance from Iran or Iraq. Omani, Qatari, and Emirati Shi'ites strongly identify themselves as citizens of their respective countries and remain loyal to their ruling regimes. However, the spillover effects of the Syrian civil war—a sectarian conflict between the Shi'ite Iran-Hezbollah-Assad axis and the opposition groups backed by regional Sunni governments—are threatening Sunni-Shi'ite stability in the UAE, Qatar, and to a lesser degree, Oman. The United States should help maintain harmony in these states by reaching out to independent Shi'ite business communities and by working with regional leaders to ensure equal citizenship, political rights, and religious freedom among minority populations.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Islam, Post Colonialism, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates
  • Author: Annie Tracy Samuel
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: This policy brief seeks to contribute to and inform the debate concerning a possible attack by the United States and/or Israel on Iranian nuclear and military facilities. The presumed aim of such an attack would be to weaken the Islamic Republic, particularly by hindering its ability to build a nuclear weapon. However, the history of the Iraqi invasion of Iran in September 1980 calls into question the contention that an attack will weaken the regime in Tehran. This policy brief examines Iran's reactions to the Iraqi invasion in order to shed light on Iran's possible reactions to a U.S. or Israeli attack. It will assess how the Iranian people responded to the invasion and its effects on Iranian politics and the position of the new regime. It will also explore the nature of the policies adopted by the Islamic Republic in waging the Iran-Iraq War that carried on for eight years after the Iraqi invasion.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Barbara Slavin
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Over the past three decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has shown remarkable endurance. It has survived an eight-year war with Iraq, mounting economic sanctions, and serious domestic unrest. It has benefited from the missteps of adversaries, which have created opportunities for Iran to expand ties to militant movements in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, and to increase its influence in Afghanistan. Recent uprisings against Arab governments long allied with Washington have encouraged the Iranian government to portray itself as the fulcrum of a "new" anti-Western Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Palestine, Lebanon
  • 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: Zvi Mazel
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: There has been a significant presence of the Muslim Brothers (also known as the Muslim Brotherhood) in Qatar since the second half of the twentieth century. The first wave came from Egypt in 1954 after Nasser had smashed their organization. The next wave came from Syria in 1982 after Hafez el-Assad bombed their stronghold in Hama. The last group arrived after September 11, 2001 - from Saudi Arabia. In 1995, the present Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, deposed his father in a bloodless palace coup. One of his first steps was to establish the Al Jazeera satellite channel in 1996, which is the most viewed station in the Arab world with an estimated audience of some 60 million. There was never any doubt about the network's political orientation. Al Jazeera immediately launched scathing attacks on Israel during the Second Intifada and went on to incendiary broadcasts against the United States at the time of the Afghanistan conflict and over Iraq. It was later revealed to be in contact with bin Laden, and was the medium of choice for the video and audio cassettes of bin Laden and his men. During the U.S. war in Iraq, the Americans accused the station of being pro-Saddam, and after the war, of presenting the terrorist groups active in the country in a positive light. One of its reporters stationed in Baghdad always seemed to arrive suspiciously quickly, with his camera, at the site of terror attacks. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Al Jazeera behaved as a Hizbullah spokesman. During the Gaza war, a senior Al Jazeera reporter stationed himself at Shifa Hospital, from where he broadcast a stream of carefully selected horror pictures. The Egyptian Maamun Fendi wrote in Asharq Alawsat that some 50 percent of the network's personnel belong to the Muslim Brothers. He believes that Qatar, by embracing the Brothers while hosting American bases, has found the perfect formula against retaliation by Arab leaders and attacks by Islamic extremists. Al Jazeera has become a weapon in the hands of an ambitious emir who may be driven by the Muslim Brothers and who is threatening the stability of the Middle East. With the Muslim Brothers increasingly aligned in recent years with Iran, by repeatedly attacking the Sunni Arab regimes and inciting against them, Al Jazeera is serving as an important instrument for Tehran and its effort to undermine their internal stability.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Mass Media
  • Political Geography: United States, 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: 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: 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: 07-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Jordanians go to the polls tomorrow to elect nearly 1,000 local representatives and 92 mayors. On their own, these elections are of minimal interest to Washington: municipalities have small budgets, limited responsibilities, and scant independence from the central government. But the voting comes just a month after the Hamas takeover of Gaza, during a spike in the violence in Iraq, and a week after a landslide victory for the Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Turkish national elections. Adding to the significance of the Jordanian ballot is the fact that, after boycotting the 2003 contest, the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood's political party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), will participate in this year's elections. A potential IAF victory highlights growing concern that Islamists are on a political roll throughout the Middle East, and that Jordan may be vulnerable.
  • Topic: Democratization, Government, Islam, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Washington, Middle East, Gaza, Jordan