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  • 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: 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: Saban Kardas
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: The Turkish Constitutional Court's verdict annulling the Parliament's amendments to Articles 10 and 42 of the Constitution disregards popular will, legalizes arbitrary restrictions on the right to equal access to education, and erodes the separation of powers by permitting itself to act outside of the legal order. The emergence of a new precedent of judicial activism is now the biggest threat to the future of Turkish democracy. Turkey cannot afford an unaccountable judiciary exercising substantial powers of governance through judicialization of politics. The Parliament must reassert its authority and reconfigure the Court's competences and composition to bring it into line with liberal-democratic principles as part of a comprehensive constitutional reform.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Marina Ottaway
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The Bush administration's democratization rhetoric was never buttressed by an unambiguous, sustained policy to promote political reform. Concerns about security and stability have now virtually halted U.S. democracy promotion efforts. This is a short-sighted policy because political reform is imperative in countries where political systems remain stagnant in the face of rapid societal change. The United States needs to renew its efforts, taking into account that past policies have undermined its credibility in the region. It thus must abandon the empty rhetoric of the last few years in favor of modest goals developed and pursued in cooperation with regional and local actors, rather than imposed from Washington.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Rubin
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The name Fethullah Gülen is virtually unknown in the United States. Self-exiled here for more than a decade, this prominent Turkish theological and political thinker is the leader of a movement estimated conservatively to have more than a million followers in Turkey. The movement controls a business empire of charities, real estate, companies, and schools. Thousands of Gülen's followers populate Turkey's bureaucracies. AEI's Michael Rubin believes that, just as many people remained clueless or belittled concerns about Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's intentions in Iran thirty years ago, many may be making the same mistake today about Gülen, who professes to want to weld Islam with tolerance and a pro-European outlook. Rubin introduces us to a man who could play a prominent role in Turkey's future at a time when Turkey's "secular order and constitutionalism have never been so shaky."
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji, David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Tomorrow, Kuwait's nearly 400,000 voters -- more than half of them women -- will go to the polls to elect a new parliament. The incoming body will replace the 2006 parliament that was dissolved by the ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah, for failing to work together with the cabinet. Kuwait's parliament is relatively powerful compared to others in the region, but tension with the royal family has often produced only deadlock. Still, the elections are an important and interesting exercise in Arab democracy and may even produce a more constructive political environment.
  • Topic: Democratization, Gender Issues, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Kuwait
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On March 19, Kuwaiti emir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah dissolved the country's parliament and called for new elections to be held on May 17. This drastic step reflects two distinct sets of tensions, both of which Kuwait has overcome in the past: tensions between the executive branch and parliament, and tensions between fundamentalists from the Sunni majority and the Shiite minority. The conjunction of these divisions is unusual and poses a serious political test for this small but strategically vital state -- a nation that borders Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, pumps more oil than Iraq, and quietly hosts about 70,000 U.S. troops at any given moment. The political troubles have become all the more sensitive because many Kuwaitis suspect Iran of fomenting new sectarian strife within their borders.
  • Topic: Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Hassan Barari
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In the Middle East, it is widely believed that Syria is obstructing the election of a new Lebanese president. Amid this crisis, many are beginning to doubt whether the next Arab League summit, scheduled to open in Damascus at month's end, will take place at all.
  • Topic: Democratization, International Political Economy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Robert M. Perito
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In December 2006, the Iraq Study Group reported that the Iraqi Interior Ministry (MOI) was confronted by corruption, infiltrated by militia and unable to control the Iraqi police. In July 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that Iraq's MOI had become a "federation of oligarchs" where various floors of the building were controlled by rival militia groups and organized criminal gangs. The report described the MOI as an eleven-story powder keg of factions where power struggles were settled by assassinations in the parking lot. In its September 2007 report, the congressionally mandated Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq described Iraq's MOI as a ministry in name only, dysfunctional, sectarian and suffering from ineffective leadership. Even Iraq's Interior Minister, Jawad al-Boulani, has called for the comprehensive reform of his ministry.
  • Topic: Democratization
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East