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  • 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: Mona Yacoubian
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Lebanon's recently announced national unity government has eased fears that the country would once again be mired in a dangerous political stalemate. Yet, despite the recent breakthrough, Lebanon's unstable equilibrium -- marked by both internal and regional tensions -- could still devolve into serious violence. Deep seated sectarian animosities persist, raising the prospects for political instability and civil strife if unaddressed. Regionally, mounting tensions with Israel raise the worrisome possibility of isolated border incidents spiraling into more serious conflict. Taken together these two underlying challenges to stability -- internal civil unrest and regional conflict with Israel -- could undermine Lebanon's fragile peace. This paper will examine internal challenges to Lebanon's stability.
  • Topic: Democratization, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Lebanon
  • 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
  • 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: 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
  • Author: Joel Whitaker, Anand Varghese
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In an event titled "Online Discourse in the Arab World: Dispelling the Myths," the U.S. Institute of Peace's Center of Innovation for Science, Technology, and Peacebuilding, in collaboration with Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet Society, presented findings from an unprecedented, comprehensive mapping of the Arabic-language blogosphere.
  • Topic: Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: United States, 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
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On December 14, Lebanese president Michel Sulaiman is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House. It is widely anticipated that during his visit, Sulaiman will request administration support for an increase in U.S. military assistance. Despite concerns that U.S. materiel will leak to Hizballah, Washington will likely agree to augment this funding, given the Lebanese Armed Force's excellent security record with equipment of U.S. origin. The question of U.S. military funding for Lebanon highlights recent developments in Lebanese politics that point to the resurgence of Hizballah -- and its Syrian and Iranian backers -- in Beirut. Although the pro-West March 14 coalition scored an impressive electoral victory in June, six months later, the government that has emerged constitutes a setback for Washington and its Lebanese allies. The scope of the setback -- for both the coalition and the United States -- was recently summarized by Syrian Ambassador to the United States Imad Mustafa, who said, "We love it!... It is exactly the sort of government we think should rule Lebanon."
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon
  • Author: Matthew Levitt, Benjamin Freedman
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On December 8, the United Nations Security Council will host its first-ever thematic debate on drug trafficking as a threat to international security. This focus is notable. U.S. officials are increasingly concerned with the evolving threat of drug trafficking, especially as terrorist organizations stake a bigger claim in this illegal arena. In fact, on November 18, FBI director Robert Mueller met with senior Turkish officials to address U.S.-Turkish efforts targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), also known as Kongra-Gel. A press release from the U.S. embassy in Ankara following the meeting stressed that U.S. officials "strongly support Turkey's efforts against the PKK terrorist organization" and highlighted the two countries' long history of working together in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Terrorism, Narcotics Trafficking
  • Political Geography: United States, Turkey, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On December 7, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Washington to meet with President Barack Obama. The meeting follows Obama's April visit to Turkey, during which the U.S. leader reached out to Ankara in an effort to realign the countries' interests after the tumultuous years of the Bush administration. Despite Obama's efforts, Turkish foreign policy seems to be drifting farther away from the United States, especially on issues such as Iran and Sudan. To what extent can Washington use the upcoming visit to continue seeking alignment between U.S. and Turkish foreign policy objectives?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Central Asia, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Late on November 25, just before the start of the Islamic Eid festival and, coincidentally, Thanksgiving in the United States, Dubai's flagship investment company Dubai World announced that it would be requesting a six-month delay on paying its debts. Within hours, Dubai's reputation was being rewritten, and its ambition to be a financial center, building on its historic reputation as a focal point for regional trade, was being recast. Uncertainty continued on November 30, when the Dubai government said that it would not guarantee Dubai World's debt. In any event, the larger story has been the nervousness of world financial markets, which are now also evincing worry about the debt of countries like Greece or Ireland. Within the Middle East, the focus is on the extent of support that Dubai will receive from Abu Dhabi, the neighboring -- and richer -- member sheikhdom of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), whether other city-states like Bahrain and Qatar are also at risk, and whether Dubai's links with Iran will change as a result of its financial situation.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Arabia, Bahrain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi
  • 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: Ozdem Sanberk
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: Will President Obama's speech in Cairo prove to have been a historic turning point in relations between the Islamic world and the United States? There is no doubt that the President himself sincerely intended it to be. And it is easy to see why. The antagonism between the USA and substantial sections of world Muslim opinion, particularly in the Arab Middle East and Iran, is one of the biggest challenges faced by US foreign policy, a clear threat to world peace. But can things change while the USA is closely aligned with Israel? How ?
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East