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  • Author: Rusty Barber, William B. Taylor
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Successful attacks on key government buildings underscore worries about whether Iraqis can manage their own security. They mask, however, something new in Iraqi society: an emerging vox populi that found potent expression in provincial elections last January, despite the odds. As national elections approach in March, political leaders are realizing that they ignore this growing voice at their peril. Aware that American attention is shifting towards other problems at home and abroad, Iraqis are nervously contemplating how much U.S. support they can expect going forward in their fragile experiment in democratic governance. The U.S. role in helping Iraqis prepare for national elections has been crucial and largely welcome—it should continue through the transition to a new government. Successful complete withdrawal by 2012 depends on an Iraqi government that is responsive to its people’s basic needs and capable of evolving peacefully via fair elections. Longer term, there are several critical areas on which a distracted and resource stretched America should focus. These include intensifying efforts to help Arabs and Kurds resolve disputes and forestall the need for an extended U.S. military presence in northern Iraq. Helping Iraq protect its borders – a vulnerability highlighted by Iran’s recent incursion—and nudging the Gulf Arab states to more actively engage Iraq as an emerging partner in regional security and economic structures will also be key to stability inside and beyond Iraq’s borders. If water is the “new oil” in terms of its resource value and potential to create conflict, that future is now playing out in Iraq. Shortages and poor quality are already causing serious health and economic problems, displacement and raising tensions with Iraq’s neighbors. The U.S. can help here on both the diplomatic and technical sides of the issue.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Robert M. Perito
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: This report offers a set of general and country-specific findings and recommendations to assist the Obama administration in its efforts to tackle escalating security challenges while sustaining diplomatic, institutional and economic support for democracy and human rights in the Greater Middle East.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, Security, Defense Policy, International Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Sean Kane
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Iraq's March 2010 elections delivered a surprising virtual tie in the ethnically mixed and strategically important province of Kirkuk, making it an opportune time for fresh thinking on how to address persistent disputes over its status.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Governance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Semira Nikou
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Iran has subsidized petroleum products, basic foodstuffs, medical goods and utilities since 1980, first to manage hardships during the eight-year war with Iraq, and then to prevent political and economic challenges after the war. Since the 1990s, three presidents have tried to cut back subsidies that are now estimated to cost Iran between $70 billion and $100 billion annually. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won parliamentary approval for a controversial plan to phase out subsides by 2015. Under the plan, universal price controls are to be replaced with small cash payments to families and direct support of industries. Some economists are concerned that lifting price controls will trigger dramatic rises in inflation and unemployment. The cutbacks come at a time the government already faces serious economic troubles and tougher international sanctions. For the public, the change is likely to produce the most economic disruption since the revolution. Economic reforms have triggered unrest in the past. If reform succeeds, however, the program could help reduce waste, shrink state outlays and enhance efficiency and productivity.
  • Topic: Economics, Labor Issues, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Tara Nesvaderani
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Iran has the most politically active youth among the 57 nations of the Islamic world. As the most restive segment of their society, Iranian youth also represent one of the greatest longterm threats to the current form of theocratic rule. Young activists have heavily influenced the Islamic Republic's political agenda over the past 13 years. After the 2009 presidential election, youth and women were the two biggest blocs behind the region's first sustained “people power” movement for democratic change, creating a new political model in the Middle East. The Islamic Republic has forcibly regained control over the most rebellious sector of society through mass detentions of young activists, expulsions from universities and widening the powers of its own young paramilitary forces. Nevertheless, the demands from young people have not changed over the past year, and their anger is boiling just beneath the surface. The regime also remains vulnerable because it has failed to address basic socioeconomic problems among youth. The impact of Iran's youth on the political, economic and social agenda of the country over the next 25 years is important for U.S. policymakers to consider when facing complex decisions in balancing Iran's nuclear program and its internal political turmoil.
  • Topic: Islam, Politics, Youth Culture
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Emile LeBrun
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Small Arms Survey
  • Abstract: A unified state for just 20 years, Yemen has endured decades of social and political turmoil. It is also afflicted by a number of interlocking armed conflicts. These range from separatist political clashes between state security forces and protesters to all-out civil war—drawing in Saudi Arabia— and terrorism, which has seen the United States, the United Kingdom, and others become involved. Meanwhile, under the international radar, simmering social conflicts—primarily over land and water—reportedly account for some 4,000 violent deaths every year.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Civil War, Armed Struggle, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen
  • Publication Date: 10-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Small Arms Survey
  • Abstract: In February 2007 at least a dozen people, including an 11-year-old boy, were killed during a land dispute between tribesmen from al-Baydha and Sanhan that erupted in a southern suburb of the Yemeni capital, Sana'a. A sheikh from Sanhan kidnapped the son of a sheikh from al-Baydha to pressure him into renouncing ownership of a large plot of land. The youth reportedly fought back, injuring his kidnapper, and was then killed. The boy's family rejected mediation and a gun battle erupted, with further killings apparently occurring when injured fighters were taken to hospital. Fighting was only quelled when the government sent tanks to separate the parties.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Natural Resources, Water
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Arab Countries
  • Author: John Feffer
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Abstract: North Korea and Israel have a lot in common. Neither is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and both employ their nuclear weapons in elaborate games of peek-a-boo with the international community. Israel and North Korea are equally paranoid about outsiders conspiring to destroy their states, and this paranoia isn't without some justification. Partly as a result of these suspicions, both countries engage in reckless and destabilizing foreign policies. In recent years, Israel has launched preemptive strikes and invaded other countries, while North Korea has abducted foreign citizens and blown up South Korean targets (including, possibly, a South Korean ship in late March in the Yellow Sea).
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Andy Johnson, Kyle Spector
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: If the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is the most dangerous place in the world at the moment, Afghanistan's neighbor to the West, Iran, is making a strong play for number two. It is alarming the world community, rattling its saber loudly at Israel and the West, and brutally suppressing internal dissent. Iran's regime, yet again, is showing why it remains a major threat to America n national security interests.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, America, Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Barbara Slavin
  • Publication Date: 11-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Seventeen months after disputed presidential elections, the Iranian government has forced opposition protestors off the streets but continues to face an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy that is undermining its capacity to implement effective domestic and foreign policies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Marina Ottaway, Amr Hamzawy
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The Carnegie Endowment has monitored closely the Arab media's coverage of the long U.S. election campaign and the reactions to Barack Obama's victory. Recently, the Carnegie Middle East Center commissioned a series of commentaries from Arab writers and analysts.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Nathan J. Brown
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The international effort to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict has come to a dead end, at least for the present. Things can—and might well—get worse unless the United States and other outside actors couple a realistic view of the present with a serious effort to push for a more promising future. The first step in a new diplomatic approach must be to establish a cease-fire that builds on the common interest of both Israel and Hamas to avoid fighting in the short term. A new cease-fire should be clear and perhaps even written; mediators (whether Arab or European) must be willing to make an agreement more attractive to both sides to sustain (Hamas can be enticed by some opening of the border with Egypt; Israel will demand serious efforts against the supply of arms to Hamas). The second step must be an armistice that would offer each side what they crave for the present—Israel would get quiet and a limit on arms to Hamas; Palestinians would get open borders, a freeze on settlements, and an opportunity to rebuild their shattered institutions. Such an armistice must go beyond a one-year cease-fire to become something sustainable for at least five to ten years. Finally, the calm provided by the armistice must be used to rebuild Palestinian institutions and force Palestinians and Israelis to confront rather than avoid the choices before them.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Peace Studies, Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Michael Pettis
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: In September, the Obama administration imposed tariffs on Chinese tires. In October, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it would launch an investigation into imports of seamless steel pipes from China. That same month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S.–China Business Council, two groups that in the past have defended Chinese policies, testified to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative that Chinese contracting rules, technical standards, and licensing requirements were protectionist.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, Foreign Direct Investment, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Marina Ottaway
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The U.S. administration is under pressure to revive democracy promotion efforts in the Middle East, but momentum toward political reform has stalled in most of the region. Opposition parties are at low ebb, and governments are more firmly in control than ever. While new forms of activism, such as labor protests and a growing volume of blogging critical of government and opposition parties have become widespread, they have yet to prove effective as means of influencing leaders to change long-standing policies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Matthew Bunn
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The United States and the other members of the P5+1 are struggling to launch the first in-depth negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program in which the United States has participated. The United States comes to the table with few good options. Sanctions have failed to change Iran's decisions about its nuclear program, and no feasible set of sanctions (given the limits of what China, Russia, and others will agree to) is likely to convince Iran to give up its enrichment program. Military strikes against Iran would probably not set back Iran's program for longer than a brief period and would greatly increase Iran's incentive to go straight to the bomb at covert sites (as Iraq did after Israel destroyed its facilities at Osiraq).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: How is one to engage Damascus? As the incoming U.S. administration examines the future of its relationship with Syria, seemingly persuaded that an improvement in bilateral ties and an Israeli-Syrian agreement could fundamentally modify the regional landscape, France's recent experience offers useful lessons. Determined to engage in dialogue - but also ready to break off if the other side was uncooperative - and creative in approach, while fixing it within a clearly defined framework of objectives, President Sarkozy also knew how to seize on unexpected opportunities when they presented themselves.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Sudan is sliding towards violent breakup. The main mechanisms to end conflicts between the central government and the peripheries – the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the Darfur Peace Agreement and the East Sudan Peace Agreement – all suffer from lack of implementation, largely due to the intransigence of the National Congress Party (NCP). Less than thirteen months remain to ensure that national elections and the South Sudan self-determination referendum lead to democratic transformation and resolution of all the country's conflicts. Unless the international community, notably the U.S., the UN, the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council and the Horn of Africa Inter-Government Authority on Development (IGAD), cooperate to support both CPA implementation and vital additional negotiations, return to North-South war and escalation of conflict in Darfur are likely.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Middle East, South Sudan
  • Author: Bülent Aras
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: The Palestinian question is a central issue at the both state and society level in Turkey. Thousands of Turkish people protested the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians in Gaza this month in different parts of Turkey. Turkish PM Erdogan responded to the Israeli action by labeling it an act of disrespect to Turkey and suspended Turkey's facilitating role for indirect talks between Israel and Syria. Erdogan also initiated an intensive diplomatic campaign at the regional and international levels, utilizing Turkey's seat in the United Nations Security Council. Turkey calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, and urges a compromise between rival Palestinian groups. Finally, the war on Gaza will have far-reaching consequences for the future of the region as well as for Turkish-Israeli relations.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Ethnic Conflict
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Turkey, Middle East, Palestine
  • Author: Cengiz Çandar
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: There is a lively debate centered on whether Turkey is undergoing an axis shift, meaning Turkey is drifting away from the Transatlantic system and heading towards the Middle East in the most acclaimed dailies and journals of the Western world. One may witness a flurry of commentaries, appraisals and op-ed articles published in these media outlets. Taking notice of the vibrant debate on Turkey's orientation in the international sphere, Turkey's leaders underlined Turkey's position with varying degrees of emphasis. Despite the statements of Turkey's policymakers, which argue against the idea of shift of axis, the debates over Turkey's identity and foreign policy orientation has not lost steam. The shift should not be attributed to Turkey's departure from its Western ties to be replaced by those with the East but rather, a shift of power as the inevitable outcome of the end of the Cold War and a fact of the new millennium.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Igor Torbakov, Hanna Ojanen
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Turkey is a country that appears destined to provoke debate. Ankara's recent foreign policy activism is a case in point. For quite some time, the Turkish top leadership has been tirelessly criss-crossing the globe – from Algeria to Saudi Arabia and from Russia to Azerbaijan. Everywhere they go, the Turks tend to air new diplomatic initiatives, offer mediation, advance blueprints for new regional security regimes and, last but not least, seek to boost trade ties. There is one feature, though, that cannot fail to catch the eye: almost all of Turkey's foreign policy moves over the last couple of years have a pronounced Eurasian and/or Middle Eastern bent.
  • Topic: Power Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Central Asia, Turkey, Middle East, Algeria, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Mari Luomi
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Saudi Arabia's interests vis-à-vis international climate policy are fundamentally tied to its ownership of the world's largest proven oil reserves and its political economy, which depends on oil revenues for stability and survival. The 'discrimination' against carbon dioxide and fossil fuels is a recurring theme that reflects the country's disapproval of any constraints on global oil consumption. The Saudi position has evolved around four pillars: preserving oil revenues, receiving compensation for the adverse impacts of climate change mitigation, avoiding commitments, and acquiring technology and capacity for adaptation. Saudi Arabia's influence in the negotiations stems from a long-term strategy of obstructionism, the ultimate aim of which is to prevent an agreement from emerging. The country's status as a developing country is increasingly contested due to its high GDP per capita, while its calls for compensation for losses in oil revenue are strongly criticised, but Saudi Arabia still faces major development challenges, economic diversification being the most pressing. Although Saudi Arabia's position towards adaptation requires adjusting, there are clear points of dialogue with the West, including technology transfer and capacity building.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Myriam Benraad, Mohamed Abdelbaky
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Amid the uncertainty over Egypt's impending political succession, Egyptian security forces have cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the country's largest opposition group, in an attempt to curtain MB participation in Egyptian political life. Since late June, the government has arrested dozens of mid- and high-level Islamists, including the leader of the movement's guidance council, Abd al-Muanem Abu al-Fatouh. These Islamists oppose President Hosni Mubarak's bid for a sixth presidential term and reject his son Gamal as a potential replacement in 2011. After more than a decade of relative political moderation and successful deradicalization of the main Islamist groups, Cairo's policy of exclusion and persecution threatens to foment a return to radical Islamism in Egypt.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji, Stephen P. Rosen
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Studying the behavior of states with nuclear weapons may give some insight into what Iran would do if it acquires nuclear weapons capabilities. Every state that has nuclear weapons, with the exception of India, has shared the technology and the know-how -- not the weapons -- with other states: the United States shared technology with Great Britain and then, in the 1950s, provided nuclear weapons for German fighter jets on German bases flown by German pilots; Israel and France shared nuclear energy technology in the 1960s;China assisted Pakistan; North Korea aided Syria; and Pakistan assisted many countries through the A. Q.Khan network. In short, states transfer nuclear technology because it is easy to accomplish, difficult to track, and returns very high rewards.
  • Topic: Islam, Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, North Korea
  • Author: Hassan Barari
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In early September, three senior leaders of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood (MB) resigned from the organization's executive bureau after it voted to dissolve the MB political department -- one of the few remaining components of the organization controlled by moderates. The resignations were a protest against not only the executive bureau's decision, but also the MB's increasingly close affiliation with Hamas. Today, the Jordanian MB is facing an unprecedented internal crisis, pitting the traditional moderate East Bank leadership -- Jordanians who are not originally Palestinian -- against the powerful pro-Hamas Palestinian-led element. Lately, these divisions have been aggravated by Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mashal's apparent efforts to exploit the shifting balance of power within the MB to further his own organization's agenda in Amman. Ironically, Jordanian authorities -- who have long prided themselves on managing the Islamist issue -- have done little to stem the tide.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Islam, Politics, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On September 10, after seventy-three days of trying to formulate a government, Lebanon's prime minister designate, Saad Hariri, resigned his mandate. Although Hariri's pro-West March 14 coalition secured a parliamentary majority in June elections -- and with it the right to govern -- the Hizballah-led minority rejected the cabinet he submitted to President Michel Suleiman. Now that March 14 has reelected Hariri as its candidate for premier, the stage is set for yet another showdown with Hizballah and its allies. As the process drags on, both Hizballah and March 14 are hardening their positions. Meanwhile, Syria, via the regime-controlled press, is hinting at a return to violence in Beirut. Today, on the nineteenth anniversary of the Taif Accords, which ended the civil war, Lebanon again stands on the precipice.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Among the policy suggestions for heading off Iran's emergence as a military nuclear power is the notion that Saudi Arabia should use its position -- as the world's largest oil exporter and effective leader of the OPEC oil cartel -- to apply pressure. The kingdom is increasingly concerned that nuclear weapons capability would confer on Iran the status of regional hegemon. But any hope that Saudi Arabia would intervene to stop that possibility, by pumping extra supplies to lower prices and decrease Iran's oil revenues, is probably misplaced.
  • Topic: International Organization, Oil
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Arab Countries, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Gregory Schulte
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Mohamed ElBaradei will end his twelve years as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in November. Absent a last-minute breakthrough, ElBaradei will leave incomplete the critical safeguards investigations of Iran and Syria. Earlier this month, ElBaradei reported to the IAEA Board of Governors little or no progress on either the six-year probe of Iran's nuclear activities or the more recent probe of Syria's clandestine cooperation with North Korea. ElBaradei reported that Tehran continues to enrich uranium, in violation of IAEA and UN Security Council requirements, and despite any obvious domestic energy demand. Tehran also continues to deny to IAEA inspectors access to information, people, and sites to verify the "peaceful" nature of Iran's nuclear activities.
  • Topic: Islam, Nuclear Weapons, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North Korea, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Having raised Arab expectations months ago with the idea of a settlement freeze, the Obama administration now has the unpleasant task of coaxing Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas to tacitly accept an agreement on settlements that offers less than expected -- if more than was offered in the past. Therefore, it is uncertain whether the United States will succeed at arranging a trilateral summit involving President Barack Obama, President Abbas, and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the UN next week that would culminate in the announcement of a formal relaunching of peace negotiations.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Author: Michael Singh
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: With Iran's September 14 acceptance of a meeting with the P5+1 countries on October 1, the Obama administration finally appears poised to engage in direct talks with Iran. In entering these talks, Washington faces two obstacles: first, Iran's reputation for recalcitrance in negotiations and its stated refusal to discuss the nuclear issue, upon which American concerns center; and second, the perception that the administration is lending legitimacy to a regime fresh from violent repression of its political opponents.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Washington, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In a September 7 interview with al-Jazeera, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated, "The more that our Arab friends and allies can strengthen their security capabilities, the more they can strengthen their cooperation, both with each other and with us. I think this sends the signal to the Iranians that the path they are on is not going to advance Iranian security, but in fact could weaken it." His comments reflect a dawning realization in the face a growing Iranian nuclear threat: that a new conventional military balance is slowly emerging in the Persian Gulf.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Islam, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: With rumors in the air of a U.S.-brokered, mid-September meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, various regional actors are busy positioning themselves for the coming round of diplomacy. Analysis of these dynamics provides some useful perspective on the road ahead, beyond the usual focus on the minutiae of settlement construction, prisoner exchanges, or other immediate concerns.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries, Syria
  • 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: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On August 19, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad submitted his list of cabinet nominees to the Majlis (Iran's parliament). The president's choice of individuals clearly shows his preference for loyalty over efficiency, as he fired every minister who, while strongly supportive of him on most issues, opposed him recently on his controversial decision to appoint a family relative as first vice president. Ahmadinezhad's drive to install loyalists involves placing members of the military and intelligence community in the cabinet, as well as in other important government positions. Despite the president's positioning, Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, remains in firm control of the country's vital ministries.
  • Topic: Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Jacobson
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On August 13, President Barack Obama announced that his administration was reviewing the U.S. export control system to determine what reforms were needed to bring the regime up to date. Although the United States has stepped up its enforcement efforts in this area over the past several years -- particularly in terms of illegal exports of goods and services to Iran -- the system remains in need of further improvement. Strengthening the export control regime to prevent Iran from easily circumventing U.S. and international sanctions should be a key part of this important review.
  • Topic: Corruption, Crime, Law
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mohammad Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: At its recently concluded General Congress, Fatah established a new political program that will affect both its terms of reengagement with Israel and its relations with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Fatah's new constraints on negotiations with Israel, however, may harm Mahmoud Abbas -- PA president and the party's top leader -- who needs to respond positively to international peace initiatives that may conflict with the organization's new rules of engagement. Abbas might ignore these congressional decisions, believing its program is intended only for internal consumption to fend off the accusations of the party's hardline members. Fatah's renewed efforts to reunite the West Bank and Gaza could lead to an escalation with Hamas, since many observers doubt unity can be achieved peacefully.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Terrorism, Power Politics, Political Power Sharing
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: Mohammad Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On August 10, Fatah concluded its sixth congress, the first in twenty years. Although media attention has focused on some of the summit's disturbing pronouncements, significant political developments have occurred. Over the span of seven days, Fatah leaders discussed the key issues and challenges facing the party, including organizational and political issues affecting its unity, the role of its power centers, the peace process, and the group's relationship with Hamas and the Palestinian government. Whether Fatah is now able to overcome its organizational deficits and restore its popularity and leadership among the Palestinian people remains to be seen. But Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas has undoubtedly emerged stronger, competing powers within Fatah seem to have accepted coexistence, and the conflict between Fatah and Hamas is expected to escalate.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Political Power Sharing
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Widespread reports suggest that Sadeq Larijani, a young and inexperienced cleric with close ties to Iran's military and intelligence agencies, will officially replace Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi as head of the Iranian judiciary on August 16. This appointment is particularly significant, since the judiciary in Iran wields considerable power -- albeit through the approval of Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- and has a great deal of latitude to make decisions without reference to law or Islamic concepts, especially when "safeguarding the interests of the regime" is deemed necessary.
  • Topic: Government, Power Politics, Law Enforcement, Law
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: J. Scott Carpenter, David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On August 18, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak travels to Washington for a White House meeting with President Barack Obama. The trip -- Mubarak's first visit to the United States in six years -- marks the culmination of a six-month effort by the Obama administration to hit the reset button with Cairo. After years of tension resulting from the last administration's focus on human rights and democratic development, the traditional U.S.-Egyptian bilateral "bargain" has been effectively restored. In exchange for cooperation on key mutual interests -- the peace process and the Iranian threat --Washington appears to have shelved longstanding concerns over internal Egyptian governance. While the new dynamic may help mitigate some regional crises, the political and economic challenges Cairo faces will not age well, particularly as the state enters its first period of leadership transition in twenty-eight years.
  • Topic: Democratization, Human Rights, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Washington, Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: Matthew Levitt, Stephanie Papa
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In recent interviews, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal has offered to cooperate with U.S. efforts to promote a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, indicated a willingness to implement an immediate and reciprocal ceasefire with Israel, and stated that the militant group would accept and respect a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. But the conciliatory tone of this hardline Hamas leader, who has personally been tied to acts of terrorism and is himself a U.S.-designated terrorist, is belied by the group's continued violent actions and radicalization on the ground, as well as the rise to prominence of violent extremist leaders within the group's local Shura (consultative) councils. Hamas's activities of late appear to be diametrically opposed to the compliance of Mashal's statements.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Two and a half months after U.S. president Barack Obama and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu first hit an impasse over the settlement issue, the dispute has not only continued, it has also grown more complex. Saudi Arabia has now rebuffed requests from Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell to pursue confidence-building measures toward Israel, even in return for a moratorium on settlement construction. Although the Obama administration has not yet leveled any public criticism against Riyadh, it continues to be critical of Israeli settlements. To move diplomacy forward, Washington will have to engage in some creative policymaking.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peace Studies, Terrorism, Treaties and Agreements, Political Power Sharing
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Israel, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Public anxiety about Iran's nuclear intentions is focused on the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, which in many respects -- in both the public debate and the policy discussion -- resembles the situation in the 1980s when there was growing concern about Pakistan's Kahuta enrichment plant. The lessons that can be draw from that experience are not encouraging. The comparison is particularly appropriate because Iran uses the same high-speed centrifuge technology to enrich uranium as does Pakistan. Photos of Iranian centrifuges show some of them as identical to Pakistani designs developed by the disgraced A.Q. Khan. Iran also claims to be operating more advanced centrifuges using its own modifications.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Iran, South Asia, Middle East
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Six weeks after the pro-West March 14 coalition defeated the Hizballah-led alliance in Lebanon's parliamentary elections, no new government has been formed in Beirut. Although March 14 leader Saad Hariri was given a mandate back in early June to become prime minister and form a cabinet, he has still not completed the sensitive and contentious negotiations with the opposition. Hariri's difficulties in allocating seats among his coalition allies and political adversaries were anticipated, and to a certain extent are routine for Lebanon. But the calm that followed the free and fair elections is eroding, as Hizballah and its allies in Damascus press for more political concessions from Hariri. These developments, coupled with the apparent failure of Saudi-Syrian reconciliation efforts, are elevating tensions, threatening a banner tourism season, and raising the possibility of a return to violence in Beirut.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: J. Scott Carpenter, Ahmed Ali
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On July 25, Iraqi Kurds go to the polls to vote in a joint parliamentary and presidential election. Although a heated competition in January produced massive change at the provincial level throughout the rest of Iraq, the electoral system produced by the incumbent Iraqi Kurdistan parliament prevents such sweeping changes in the north. Both the current coalition governing the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and the current KRG president, Masoud Barzani, will most likely be reelected. Despite the lack of change, the postelection period will create an opportunity for Baghdad, Washington, and the KRG to resolve outstanding issues that cause increased tension between Arabs and Kurds. Resolution can occur only if all parties take advantage of new political openings, however narrow.
  • Topic: Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Michael Jacobson
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: This past week, Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for his first official visit to the Middle East since assuming his current position. Although in many respects the Obama administration is off to a bumpy start with Saudi Arabia, Geithner praised Saudi efforts in combating terrorist financing, which is a significant departure from statements made by senior Treasury officials in recent years. His remarks in Riyadh were more than just empty praise, reflecting the broader view in Washington that the Saudis are finally beginning to make progress on this important front. Despite improved Saudi efforts, however, the kingdom remains one of the major sources of terrorist financing throughout the world, with significant funds continuing to go to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Laskhar-e Taiba (LET), among other groups.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Counterinsurgency, Law Enforcement
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Max Mealy
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After nearly a month of international focus on the civil unrest in Iran following the June 12 presidential elections, the G8 summit in Italy brought renewed global attention to Iran's nuclear program; the summit's leaders promised to reassess international outreach to Iran at the September G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. The following statements from U.S., European, and Israeli government officials on the status of Iran's nuclear program highlight the differing interpretations of Iran's nuclear deadline.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Diplomacy, International Organization, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Eisenstadt, Ahmed Ali
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: During Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's visit to Washington next week, the Obama administration will likely seek to reinvigorate that country's flagging reconciliation process as part of ongoing efforts to establish a stable political order in Iraq. Progress, however, continues to be hindered by ongoing violence, deep-seated suspicions, and partisan politics, raising questions about the ultimate prospects for national reconciliation.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Simon Henderson, Robert Jordan
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On July 13, 2009, Ambassador Robert Jordan and Simon Henderson addressed a special Policy Forum luncheon at The Washington Institute to discuss succession in Saudi Arabia and the challenges it could pose for the United States. Simon Henderson is the Baker fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. His most recent Policy Focus, After King Abdullah: Succession in Saudi Arabia, will be released this month. Robert Jordan is a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, where he was posted shortly after the September 11 terror attacks.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Islam, Regime Change, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Gregory Johnsen
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recent reports suggesting that al-Qaeda fighters are leaving Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the group has suffered serious setbacks, have renewed international concerns that Yemen is reemerging once again as a major terrorist safe haven. Although the assessments of al-Qaeda's resurgence in Yemen are accurate, the deteriorating situation is not due to U.S. successes elsewhere; rather, it is the result of waning U.S. and Yemeni attention over the past five years. Renewed cooperation between Sana and Washington in tackling al-Qaeda and addressing Yemen's systemic problems could help reduce the terrorist organization's appeal in this troubled country.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A new opportunity is now emerging for the "Green Movement" in Iran to demonstrate opposition to the Islamic Republic and the manipulated presidential election results earlier this year. Friday, December 18, marks the beginning of the months of Muharram and Safar in the Islamic lunar calendar. For the regime in Tehran, gaining control of the streets has become gradually more difficult since the Green Movement turned all officially sanctioned political ceremonies into opportunities to wage protests against the Islamic Republic. The coming two months, however, represent the first time that a religious opportunity has come up.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Late on December 11, Crown Prince Sultan arrived home to Saudi Arabia after a year's absence that included medical treatment in the United States and a nine-month convalescence at his palace in Morocco. Although described as "enjoying full health" and looking animated, Sultan is believed to still be unwell. In Sultan's absence, King Abdullah named interior minister Prince Nayef to the vacant post of second deputy prime minister, a position construed as crown-prince-in-waiting. Apart from marking a fresh twist in a drawn-out succession process, Sultan's return has implications for Saudi domestic and foreign policy -- particularly, on the eve of a Gulf summit, the continuing tension on the border with Yemen and a potentially nuclear Iran.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco