Search

You searched for: Content Type Policy Brief Remove constraint Content Type: Policy Brief Political Geography Middle East Remove constraint Political Geography: Middle East Topic Foreign Policy Remove constraint Topic: Foreign Policy
Number of results to display per page

Search Results

  • Author: David Makovksy
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Benny Gantz’s party lost the head-to-head battle, Avigdor Liberman’s favorable influence on the coalition math has left the general in a stronger position—and taken some diplomatic weight off the Trump administration’s shoulders. Israel’s third round of elections last week seemed inconclusive at first, but the deadlock may now be broken. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did better this time than in September’s round two, but his gains were insufficient to form a new government. Potential kingmaker Avigdor Liberman jettisoned his previous idea of getting the two top parties to join forces; instead, personal antipathy and policy differences have led him to definitely state that he will not join any government Netanyahu leads. Thus, while centrist Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz may have options to shape a new government, Netanyahu has no pathway on his own. In theory, the center-left bloc has the requisite number of seats for a bare majority in the 120-member Knesset, since anti-Netanyahu forces won 62 seats. In reality, the situation is more complex.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Elena DeLozier
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Sultan Haitham will now be free to put his own stamp on the country's government and foreign policy, and a recent dust-up on the Yemeni border could provide the first indicator of his approach. On February 20, Oman will begin its next era in earnest. The new sultan, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, was officially sworn in on January 11, but he has remained quiet and mostly out of sight during the forty-day mourning period that followed the death of his cousin, Sultan Qaboos. Now that this period is drawing to a close, he is free to put his stamp on Omani policy. Notably, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lead the first international delegation to see Sultan Haitham in the post-mourning period. When the meeting was first scheduled, the secretary likely saw it as a chance to get to know the new leader, and also as a symbolic visit to make up for sending such a low-level delegation to offer condolences. Yet the two may have more to talk about now. Earlier this week, a flare-up occurred between Saudi forces and Omani-backed locals in the Yemeni border province of al-Mahra. The confrontation may be Sultan Haitham’s first regional test, and identifying the actors who help him get through it could help Washington discern future power centers within Oman’s often opaque government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Oman, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If the latest U.S. effort winds up backing the Palestinians into a territorial corner from the outset, then Washington may not be able to move the process any closer to direct negotiations. The newly released U.S. peace plan marks a very significant shift in favor of the current Israeli government’s view, especially when compared to three past U.S. initiatives: (1) the Clinton Parameters of December 2000, (2) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s “Annapolis Process” of 2007-2008, and (3) Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2013-2014 initiative. The message is clear: the Trump administration will no longer keep sweetening the deal with every Palestinian refusal, a criticism some have aimed at previous U.S. efforts. Yet the new plan raises worrisome questions of its own. Will its provisions prove so disadvantageous to the proposed Palestinian state that they cannot serve as the basis for further negotiations? And would such overreach enable Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to sway Arab states who have signaled that they want to give the proposal a chance, convincing them to oppose it instead? If so, the plan may wind up perpetuating the current diplomatic impasse and setting the stage for a one-state reality that runs counter to Israel’s identity as a Jewish, democratic state. This two-part PolicyWatch will address these questions by examining how the Trump plan compares to past U.S. initiatives when it comes to the conflict’s five core final-status issues. Part 1 focuses on two of these issues: borders and Jerusalem. Part 2 examines security, refugees, and narrative issues.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Borders, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ghaith al-Omari
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By granting Israel much more say over the sovereignty of a future Palestinian state and its ability to absorb refugees, the document may undermine the administration’s ability to build an international coalition behind its policies. President Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan was presented as a departure from previous approaches—a notion that invited praise from its supporters (who saw it as a recognition of reality) and criticism from its opponents (who saw it as an abandonment of valued principles). The plan does in fact diverge from past efforts in fundamental respects, yet there are also some areas of continuity, and ultimately, the extent to which it gains traction will be subject to many different political and diplomatic variables. Even so, the initial substance of the plan document itself will play a large part in determining how it is viewed by various stakeholders, especially those passages that veer away from the traditional path on core issues. Part 1 of this PolicyWatch assessed what the plan says about two such issues: borders and Jerusalem. This second installment discusses security, refugee, and narrative issues.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Refugees, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The surest way to counter Iran’s malign influence is to proactively focus on human rights issues that the new prime minister can actually affect, such as organizing free elections and preventing further violence against protestors. On February 1, a plurality of Iraqi parliamentary factions gave President Barham Salih the go-ahead to nominate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as the new prime minister-designate. The mild-mannered Shia Islamist nominee will now attempt to form and ratify his cabinet in the next thirty days. As he does so, political blocs will probably rally behind him while limiting his mandate to organizing early elections next year, having struggled through a long and fractious process to replace resigned prime minister Adil Abdulmahdi. For the first time since the dramatic events of the past two months, Iraqis and U.S. policymakers alike can catch their breath and consider their medium-term options.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Elections, Domestic politics, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Hanin Ghaddar
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Unless Washington and its allies respond to the protestors’ legitimate demands for reform, the group will survive through measures such as expanding its smuggling activity, promoting its financial institutions, and selectively scapegoating corrupt politicians. When IMF officials visited Lebanon late last month amid its accelerating economic freefall, many wondered whether these developments might alter the behavior of Hezbollah, the designated terrorist group that has a deep financial stake in the country’s public and private sectors. During a previous funding crisis—the increase in U.S. sanctions against the group’s chief underwriter, Iran—the “Party of God” and its foreign sponsors formulated a new strategy to evade these measures and create alternative sources of funding. Such sources allowed Hezbollah to make further inroads into government agencies following the 2018 parliamentary elections. For example, the group’s leaders insisted on controlling the Health Ministry, which commands Lebanon’s fourth-largest budget at $338 million per year; they also gained more access to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Agriculture Ministry, and the Ministry of Energy and Water, whose assistance was used to fund their affiliated projects and businesses. That worked until Lebanon’s own economy began its current nosedive. Unemployment has hit a record high of 40 percent, and the lira has slumped by about 60 percent on the parallel market, hiking inflation. Officially pegged to the dollar, the currency has plummeted 40 percent on the black market as local banks ration dollars necessary for imports of food, medicine, and other essential goods. Meanwhile, Lebanon has one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world (over 150 percent) and may not be able to pay $1.2 billion in Eurobonds this month. As with the Iran sanctions, however, Hezbollah has a strategy to survive this domestic pressure, at least in the near term.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Corruption, Debt, Politics, Protests, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Enhancing deterrence and protecting Americans in Iraq and Syria requires a more formalized system for rationing out retaliatory strikes at the proper intensity, time, and place. When U.S. airstrikes targeted Kataib Hezbollah militia personnel and senior Iranian military figures on December 29 and January 3, they were releasing long-pent-up retaliation for a range of provocations by Iraqi militias. Yet while these powerful blows may have injected some caution into enemy calculations, such deterrence is likely to be a wasting asset. The most proximal trigger for the strikes—the killing of an American civilian contractor during Kataib Hezbollah’s December 27 rocket attack on the K-1 base in Kirkuk—was just one in a series of increasingly risky militia operations against U.S. facilities. Only good fortune has prevented more Americans from dying in attacks conducted since then, including January 8 (when Iranian ballistic missiles struck the U.S. portion of al-Asad Air Base, causing more than a hundred nonlethal traumatic brain injuries), January 26 (mortar strike on the dining hall at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad), January 31 (rockets fired at the U.S. site at Qayyarah West), February 10 (explosive device thrown at a U.S. logistical convoy south of Baghdad), and February 13 (rocket attack on U.S. site at Kirkuk). The United States has seemingly communicated to Tehran that it will strike Iraqi militias and Iranian targets if any Americans are killed, but this redline has opened up a dangerous gray zone in which Iran and its proxies are emboldened to continue their nonlethal attacks. Besides the fact that such high-risk attacks are destined to result in more American deaths at some point, they will also produce many more injuries if permitted to continue, as seen in the January 8 strike. More broadly, they will limit U.S. freedom of movement in Iraq and Syria, undermining the point of being there in the first place. This situation is unacceptable—the United States needs a way to deter such behavior even when attacks fall short of killing Americans. When faced with similar challenges in past decades, the U.S. military established reckoning systems that matched the punishment to the crime, with useful levels of predictability, proportionality, and accountability.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Assassination, No-Fly Zones
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Instead of focusing on Iran's missile retaliation or future threats, the Supreme Leader used his latest speech to extoll the virtues of public unity behind the regime’s revolutionary goals. On January 8, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered his first public speech since the U.S. assassination of Qasem Soleimani and the subsequent Iranian missile strike on Iraqi bases housing American forces. As part of an address that touched on regional solidarity against the United States and other notable subjects, he spent considerable time claiming that Soleimani symbolized the Iranian people’s continued commitment to the revolution. In doing so, he indicated that popular support for the regime remains a crucial objective for Iran’s leaders, perhaps more so than issuing or acting on further military threats.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Domestic politics, Qassem Soleimani, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even as their lack of transparency worsens the public health crisis, the Supreme Leader and other officials have systematically gutted any civil society elements capable of organizing substantial opposition to such policies. Iran’s ongoing coronavirus epidemic has left the people with less reason than ever to trust the information and directives issued by their leaders. Part 1 of this PolicyWatch discussed the clergy’s role in aggravating this problem, but the state’s mistakes and deceptions have been legion as well. They include scandalous discrepancies between official reports after a period of denial that the virus had entered the country; a health system that was unprepared to deal with such a disease promptly and properly; and official resistance to implementing internationally recommended precautionary measures, such as canceling flights from China and quarantining the center of the outbreak. These decisions have sown widespread confusion about facts and fictions related to the virus, the most effective medically proven ways to control it, and the degree to which it is spreading throughout the country. As a result, an already restive population has become increasingly panicked about the future and angry at the state. Yet can the coronavirus actually bring down the regime? The harsh reality is that the state has left little space for opposition to organize around health issues, or any issues for that matter. Instead, it has sought to confuse the people and redirect their anger toward external enemies, even as its own policies contribute to the crisis.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Civil Society, Health, Public Health, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Whether they reveal a detailed plan or merely preview an aspirational document, U.S. officials still need to clarify their goals at a time when elections are looming and Palestinian participation seems highly unlikely. In a dramatic move, President Trump has announced that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his leading rival, Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz, will visit the White House on January 28 to be briefed on the administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan. Trump told reporters that the plan would likely be released before the summit. Predictably, no invitation was extended to the Palestinian Authority, which severed relations with Washington after the U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem in 2017.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Negotiation, Peace, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The clergy’s ambitions for global Shia revolution made the city of Qom uniquely vulnerable to the disease, and their resistance to modern medical science weakened the state’s ability to combat its spread. On February 19, two days before the Iranian government officially announced the arrival of coronavirus, an infected businessman who had recently returned from China to Qom passed away. The location and timing of his death illustrate how the Shia holy city and the religious leaders and institutions who call it home have played an outsize role in the disease’s disproportionately rapid spread inside Iran compared to other countries. How did this situation come to pass, and what does it say about the current state of the clerical establishment, its relationship with the regime, and its alienation from large swaths of Iranian society? (Part 2 of this PolicyWatch discusses the regime's role in the outbreak and its resiliency to such crises.)
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Religion, Shia, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Oula A. Alrifai
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Besides highlighting Assad’s financial mismanagement, the recent unrest gives the international community a genuine opportunity to push for transition while bolstering the more prosperous local administration in the northeast. Since mid-January, shop owners, government employees, students, and even children have been gathering in the streets of various Syrian communities to express their frustration with the Assad regime’s economic policies and untruths. Although the protests remain small for now, the fact that they have persistently carried on in the middle of regime-controlled territory highlights Bashar al-Assad’s potential vulnerability on these issues. In Suwayda, a Druze-majority province in the south, residents have protested the sharp drop in the value of the Syrian pound/lira and the deteriorating economic situation in general. In the central-western town of Salamiya, protestors were seen chanting “we want to live.” And in the Suwayda town of Shahba, demonstrators raised loaves of bread in the air while openly criticizing Bouthaina Shaaban, Assad’s political and media advisor. The latter protest was partly spurred by a recent interview on the pro-Assad television network al-Mayadeen, where Shaaban not only claimed that the country’s current economy is “fifty times better than what it was in 2011,” but also declared that “Syrians are self-sufficient in everything.” In response, protestors sarcastically noted that her comments referred to her own household’s economy, not Syria’s. Elsewhere, former agriculture minister Nour al-Din Manna described Shaaban’s remarks about the war-torn country as “hard to believe,” and a closer look at the country’s finances supports this disbelief.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Syrian War, Currency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Ali Alfoneh
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Given the IRGC’s recent restructuring, the Qods Force will likely see more continuity than change under Qaani, though his bureaucratic background is a far cry from Soleimani’s brand of charismatic, risky leadership. On January 3, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appointed Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani as chief commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, just hours after his predecessor, Qasem Soleimani, was killed by a U.S. drone strike. The new commander’s background and military activities are not nearly as well known as Soleimani’s, so taking a closer look at them can help determine whether and how the IRGC’s main extraterritorial branch might change under his leadership.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Qassem Soleimani, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A week after Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei played coy, remarking, “I have no judgment on the American election...[Both parties have been] naughty toward us.” Of course, his true reaction was far more complex. On one hand, he saw in the president-elect—who had spoken much of disentangling U.S. forces from the Middle East—a prospect of decreased military pressure on his country. On the other, he heard Trump’s raw vitriol directed at Iran’s leadership and the nuclear deal crafted by President Obama. The eventual U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA demonstrated that the new president could back up his talk with punishing action. In this close analysis of statements by Khamenei and other Iranian leaders, former seminarian Mehdi Khalaji lays out the regime’s current views on President Trump and the United States. He shows that even after the American assassination of Qods Force chief Qasem Soleimani, Iranian leaders could be open to negotiating with Washington if they believe the regime’s existence depends on it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Elections, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As in other conflict zones, Moscow cares little about reaching a peace deal so long as it can outmaneuver the West strategically while securing port and energy access—with private contractors playing an increasingly important role. The Kremlin is now openly treating Libya as another focal point of its Middle East activities. After years of U.S. neglect, the country has turned into a proxy war playground, and President Vladimir Putin is vying to become the chief power broker. Earlier this month, he tried (but failed) to get Khalifa Haftar to sign a ceasefire agreement in Moscow with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). Putin also participated in the January 19 Berlin conference aimed at getting the parties back on the path toward a political solution. And though the prospects for such a deal remain uncertain, Moscow’s involvement in Libya will continue either way.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Civil War, Geopolitics, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: To ensure that new protests, new sanctions, and new political leadership wind up helping rather than hindering Iraqi sovereignty, Washington must handle upcoming developments with great care. In the coming weeks, Iraq’s parliament may appoint a replacement for Prime Minister Adil Abdulmahdi. This is a very positive development, since the country’s sundry Iranian-backed militias would like nothing better than to keep the discredited leader under their thumb as an open-ended caretaker premier following his November resignation. In contrast, a new leader with a new mandate could get the government moving again, pass a budget, bring the criminals responsible for killing protestors to justice, and assuage angry protestors by making visible preparations for early, free, and fair elections—thereby remedying the results of the widely disparaged 2018 vote. Such is the political space that has opened up since the deaths of Iranian Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month. For the United States, the challenge is how to support these changes without disrupting positive local dynamics.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Sovereignty, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This policy paper sets out the various interests and goals of global powers (the US, Russia, China and the EU) in the Mediterranean, and the measures they are undertaking to implement them. The document also describes Israeli policies vis-àvis the powers’ activities in this region, and points to the principles that should guide them. The paper is based on a July 2019 meeting in Jerusalem of the research and policy working group on Israel in the Mediterranean, held at the initiative of the Mitvim Institute, the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and Haifa University’s National Security Studies Center.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Middle East, Israel, United States of America, Mediterranean
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Despite the damage wrought by the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, the main drivers of Islamic State resurgence in Iraq can still be restrained by local U.S. engagement, which is now even more vital than before. The gross uncertainty surrounding the future of counterterrorism operations in northeast Syria is raising understandable fears of an Islamic State comeback in Iraq. After all, the IS resurgence of 2011-2014 was partially driven by the chaotic war conditions in Syria, and suppressing the group there will be extremely challenging in the coming months amid U.S. withdrawal and Turkish invasion. Another resurgence in Iraq is hardly inevitable, however—the country is subject to different internal drivers, and the United States is still well-positioned to lead international support of Baghdad’s counterterrorism efforts. Yet Washington will need to stay engaged and urgently address new problems if it hopes to prevent another disastrous insurgency.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: economically transform the kingdom. On November 3, Saudi Arabia formally announced plans for the partial selloff of its state-owned oil company, to begin sometime next month. The successor of the Arabian American Oil Company, originally established by U.S. firms, Saudi Aramco is easily described in superlatives. It is the largest oil producer in the world, with the lowest production costs, and has a reputation for being extremely well run, all of which have helped it become the most profitable company on the planet. Yet being situated in the Middle East, having key installations vulnerable to Iranian attack, and selling oil to countries increasingly concerned about climate change are hardly factors conducive to favorable long-term prospects. The kingdom simultaneously claims to be diversifying away from its dependence on oil, adding to the uncertainty about its approach.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Oil, Business
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, United States of America
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recent U.S. decisions have seemingly ignored the degree to which the group is continuing its insurgent attacks and reorganizing its supporters inside increasingly vulnerable detention facilities. In contrast to President Trump’s statements over the past half-year, the Islamic State has yet to be defeated outright. True, the group is nowhere near as capable as it was in 2015, but it is steadily rebuilding its capacities and attempting to break thousands of its supporters out of detainment. The vacuum created by the U.S. withdrawal and Turkish invasion will create more space for those efforts, while compounding the original problem of states being unwilling to deal with their citizens who joined IS and remain in Syria. To avoid becoming known as the administration that allowed IS to reemerge and, perhaps, conduct mass-casualty attacks in Europe or elsewhere, President Trump and his cabinet should take urgent action to salvage and mobilize their surviving ties with Washington’s longtime partner against IS, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Violent Extremism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Oula A. Alrifai
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Tehran and its proxies have been exerting hard and soft power in northeast Syria, combining military consolidation with economic, social, and religious outreach in order to cement their long-term influence. On September 30, Syria and Iraq reopened their main border crossing between al-Bukamal and al-Qaim, which had been formally closed for five years. The circumstances surrounding the event were telling—the ceremony was delayed by a couple weeks because of unclaimed foreign airstrikes on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targets in east Syria following the Iranian attack against Saudi oil facilities earlier that month. What exactly have the IRGC and its local proxies been doing in Deir al-Zour province? And what does this activity tell us about Iran’s wider plans there?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Education, Military Strategy, Geopolitics, Conflict, Soft Power
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay, Ben Fishman
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Facing pressure from General Haftar and his foreign military backers, the Tripoli government has welcomed the helping hand extended by Ankara, whose own lack of regional options has drawn it into the middle of another conflict. On December 10, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he was willing to deploy troops in Libya if the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli requested it. He reiterated the offer during a December 15 meeting with GNA prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Ankara—a visit that arose after Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who heads the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) and seeks to replace the GNA, renewed his push to take Tripoli by force. Meanwhile, Turkey signed two controversial agreements with Tripoli over the past month: a memorandum of understanding on providing the GNA with arms, training, and military personnel, formally ratified by Tripoli earlier today; and a November 28 maritime agreement delineating exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean waters separating the two countries. The latter move drew protests from Greece and Egypt and was condemned “unequivocally” by the European Council. These and other developments indicate Libya’s emerging status as a focal point of Ankara’s foreign policy, which seemingly regards the country as an arena for Turkish proxy competition with rivals old (Greece) and new (Egypt and the United Arab Emirates). At the same time, Libya’s GNA has become increasingly dependent on Ankara for military reasons—namely, a lack of other allies willing to provide arms capable of countering the LNA’s Emiratisupplied drones, and the arrival of Russian mercenaries who have added new technology and precision to Haftar’s war against Tripoli. Unless Washington invests more diplomatic energy and fully backs the German-led initiative to implement a ceasefire and return to peace negotiations, the proxy war in Libya will only escalate. In that scenario, Turkey and Russia—not the United States or its European partners—could be become the arbiters of Libya’s future.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Civil War, Military Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: Assaf Orion
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Serious change is required to avoid decisions that accommodate Hezbollah’s ends, ways, and means, and a vital first step is to look at current policy mechanics with a clear eye. With this month marking the thirteenth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and the end of the 2006 Lebanon war, the council will soon hold its yearly debates about renewing the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon. Contrasting the Secretary General’s latest report on 1701 with thirteen years of lessons learned reveals a clear pattern: the victory of consciously false hopes over hard experience, particularly when viewed from Israel’s perspective. Breaking this pattern will require substantial changes to the force’s size, mission, and conduct.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, United Nations, Governance, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, United States of America
  • Author: Bilal Wahab, Barbara A. Leaf
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even as Baghdad works to rein in militias that invite outside attacks, Washington needs to be patient with the country’s contradictions in the near term and give space for it to exert sovereignty in the long term. As President Trump met with Iraqi president Barham Salih today on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, they were no doubt buoyed by their governments’ mutual conclusion that the recent attack on Saudi oil facilities in Abqaiq did not originate from Iraq. Initial concerns about that possibility were well founded—a previous attack on a major Saudi pipeline was carried out from Iraqi territory this May, and multiple Iraqi militia facilities have been struck since June, reportedly by Israel. Each of these developments was linked to Shia “special groups” with known ties to Iran. On July 1, Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdulmahdi ordered these and other militias to fold themselves under state authority, but so far he has been unable to impose order on them. The government has also failed to prevent them from threatening neighboring countries at Iran’s presumed behest—an especially dangerous lapse given that Iraqi authorities cannot protect the territory these militias hold from external retaliation. To keep other countries from turning Iraq into a proxy battleground, Baghdad needs to rein in the unruliest militias. This is a tall order because Tehran has spent fifteen years building them into a parallel force of its own. Given the willingness these “special groups” have shown when asked to attack U.S. troops, fight on the Assad regime’s behalf in Syria, or secure other Iranian interests, they risk implicating Iraq in Tehran’s regional confrontations with the United States, Saudi Arabia, and/or Israel.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Non State Actors, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Dana Stroul, Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Renewing the UN cross-border mechanism is crucial to helping millions of needy Syrian civilians, preventing Russia and Assad from weaponizing aid deliveries, and safeguarding future international assistance efforts. On December 19, the UN Security Council is expected to vote on the renewal of Resolution 2449, which authorizes the delivery of cross-border humanitarian aid to Syrians without the Assad regime’s permission. The outcome will determine whether the regime is allowed to approve and entirely control who receives UN aid, and in what areas of the country it is available. If the resolution is not renewed, aid delivery will become yet another tool for shifting the war’s trajectory in President Bashar al-Assad’s favor, with dire implications for civilians living in areas not under regime control. The recent Security Council debate over the resolution reflects broader developments inside Syria. Russia has coordinated with China to argue that current battlefield trends are in the regime’s favor, attempting to use the aid debate as a means of coercing political recognition of Assad. Others have proposed adding a fifth crossing along the northern border at Tal Abyad to address the increased needs of Syrian civilians trapped in the latest Turkish military operation. UN Security-General Antonio Guterres has recalled how essential the mechanism is to reaching people in need.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Humanitarian Aid, International Law, United Nations, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, United Nations, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The ailing Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, now seventy-nine years old, has no children and no announced successor, with only an ambiguous mechanism in place for the family council to choose one. This study considers the most likely candidates to succeed the sultan, Oman’s domestic economic challenges, and whether the country’s neutral foreign policy can survive Qaboos’s passing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Domestic politics, Succession
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Oman, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Patrick Clawson
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Rouhani has taken a remarkably austere fiscal approach ahead of the looming parliamentary election, but the country’s economic situation is still not sustainable over the long run. On December 8, following established procedures, President Hassan Rouhani visited parliament to present his budget for the Iranian year 2020/21, which begins in March. Notwithstanding the government’s rosy rhetoric, his spending proposals show the tough times the Islamic Republic is facing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Oil, Sanctions, Budget, Elections, Economy
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Daniel Green
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recent U.S. attention in Yemen has focused largely on the war against the Iranian-backed Houthis, but another threat endures: al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. U.S. efforts to confront AQAP have historically relied on counterterrorism approaches such as air and drone strikes, direct-action raids, and partnerships with indigenous and coalition security forces. But the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda has shown impressive resiliency by adopting a "hearts and minds" and local governing strategy to secure support, making it difficult to defeat. Its continuing strength requires a rethinking of the U.S. approach, one that confronts the terrorist group’s political strategy as much as its military strategy. In this Policy Focus, Daniel Green, a former defense fellow at The Washington Institute, draws on extensive research and interviews with Yemeni officials and civil society leaders to propose a new framework for defeating AQAP. His recommendations call for a U.S. strategy that extends beyond using strictly counterterrorism approaches and encompasses governance reform, capacity building, and enlisting locals in their own defense. Only through the active participation of communities in their security and governing can AQAP truly be defeated.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Governance, Reform, Al Qaeda, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Haisam Hassanein
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Port projects and other outreach may help President Sisi check off some of his policy goals, but giving China such a foothold could threaten a number of U.S. interests in the region. On August 5, Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese company Hutchison Ports to establish a Mediterranean container terminal in Abu Qir. President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi himself attended the signing ceremony, where he praised the company’s global reputation in the field and emphasized the importance of executing the project in accordance with the highest international standards. The project is in line with Sisi’s track record of seeking Chinese help to fulfill his ambitious domestic and foreign agenda. Hutchison is one of the world’s leading port networks, operating terminals in twenty-seven countries; in Egypt, it operates the country’s two main commercial ports, Alexandria and El Dekheila. The company’s representatives commended the opportunity for direct investment in Abu Qir and announced that they will be training more than 1,500 Egyptian engineers and other workers for jobs at the terminal. According to them, the facility will be able to handle up to 1 million containers annually once completed.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Economic growth, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Asia, North Africa, Egypt, United States of America
  • Author: Bilal Wahab
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The U.S. withdrawal of troops from northeast Syria has placed Kurdish fighters in a near-impossible situation, while alarming Kurdish communities in other countries, but Washington can still take steps to mitigate the damage. On October 21, footage of Kurdish civilians heckling withdrawing U.S. troops in both Iraq and Syria offered a rare and disturbing sight. This scene was facilitated by President Trump’s October 6 decision to unilaterally withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, in effect paving the way for the Turkish military to cross the Syrian border three days later and attack the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Thereafter, a safe haven quickly became a war zone. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 180,000 people have now been forced from their homes. James Jeffrey, the U.S. administration’s envoy to Syria, told Congress on October 22 that the fighting has resulted in hundreds of SDF deaths, a likely war crime by a pro-Turkish militia, and the escape from prison of more than a hundred Islamic State (IS) fighters. The U.S. action has unsurprisingly left the Syrian Kurds feeling abandoned and exposed against the militarily superior Turkish army and its Arab militias. On a deeper level, America appears to have entirely lost Kurdish sympathy and trust, while at the same time failing to either deter or appease Turkey. Rather than ameliorate matters, President Trump has poured salt on the wound. He responded to backlash against his policy by claiming the Kurds were “no angels” and that they had failed to contribute to the Allied cause in World War II, while characterizing their Syrian military campaign as a fight over “long-bloodstained sand.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Public Opinion, Military Affairs, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, United States of America, Rojava
  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As demonstrators rail against economic problems, corruption, and sectarianism, the group’s role in undermining the public’s financial and physical security is coming under greater scrutiny. Lebanese citizens took to the streets this weekend to protest the country’s acute financial crisis, which has been marked by one of the highest debt ratios in the world, a new currency crisis, and fears that a strike will close gas stations indefinitely. Many believe that deep-rooted corruption and sectarianism got them into this mess, and may now complicate efforts to get them out. Against this backdrop, more criticism is being directed at Hezbollah, the widely designated terrorist organization that is simultaneously the most powerful party in Lebanon’s government and an aggressively sectarian movement that keeps its activities and weapons outside the government’s control. As the Treasury Department recently noted, developments over the past few weeks have underscored the extent to which the group’s actions “prioritize its interests, and those of its chief sponsor, Iran, over the welfare of Lebanese citizens and Lebanon’s economy.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Corruption, Financial Crisis, Protests, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Washington Institute has been sponsoring a series of discussions about sudden succession in the Middle East. Each session focuses on scenarios that might unfold if a specific ruler or leader departed the scene tomorrow. Questions include these: Would the sudden change lead to different policies? Would it affect the stability of the respective countries involved, or the region as a whole? What would be the impact on U.S. interests? Would the manner of a leader's departure make a difference? The discussions also probe how the U.S. government might adjust to the new situation or influence outcomes. This essay, seventh in the series, discusses Kuwait, a small, oil-rich country surrounded by big neighbors with which relations have often been uneasy. Its leader, Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, is ninety years old and apparently in fragile health. His immediate heir, half-brother Nawaf, is not much younger at eighty-two. More important, perhaps, Nawaf lacks the current emir's adeptness as a diplomat. In a Gulf region experiencing sharp tensions, Sabah's exit will remove a much-needed node of stability. Whoever ultimately takes the helm will have a substantial legacy to uphold.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Succession, Monarchy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Kuwait, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Dave van Zoonen
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Donald Trump, the next President of the United States, will soon be confronted with the difficulty of translating campaign rhetoric regarding his foreign policy in the Middle East into policy and positive outcomes. He is thus likely to be forced to make significant concessions.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East
  • Author: Jakob Aroe Jorgensen, Adam Gardner
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Threats emanating from the Middle East still pose serious security challenges to NATO, though some see the crisis in Ukraine as the most serious security challenge yet to the alliance in the post-Cold War era. NATO must remain vigilant towards these threats, not allowing the crisis in Ukraine to eclipse all other contingencies.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, NATO, Arms Control and Proliferation, Sovereignty, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Ukraine, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Rubin
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Since Azerbaijan regained its independence in 1991, it has been only the world's second Shi'ite-led state after Iran. Azerbaijan respects separation of mosque and state, and despite pressure from its neighbors, remains independent from political domination. Given its strategic importance, safeguarding the country's independence remains a US priority. And the threat from Iranian meddling is particularly acute. From Tehran's perspective, the combination of Azerbaijan's pre-19th-century Iranian past, modern Azerbaijan's embrace of secularism, and its relative economic success challenge Iran's legitimacy. As Iranian authorities have sought to undermine and destabilize Azerbaijan through political, clerical, charitable, and media channels, Azerbaijan's counterstrategy has been both restrained and effective.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, Sovereignty, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Neri Zilber
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If U.S. policy was to "wait and see" how the Hamas-approved Palestinian reconciliation process would unfold in practice, the test is now.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Encouraging signs have emerged that the collapse of federal government control in Iraq may have slowed and that Baghdad is beginning the transition to counteroffensive operations to regain ground. Massive mobilization of largely Shiite volunteers has given Baghdad an untrained but motivated "reserve army" that can be used to swamp cross-sectarian areas around the Iraqi capital. All available formed military units have been pulled out of reserve and brought toward Baghdad to defend the capital. In this effort, all Department of Border Enforcement units have been relocated from the country's borders, and Iraqi army and Federal Police units have been redeployed from southern Iraq. Isolated federal government units are scattered across northern Iraq, in some cases hanging on against Sunni militants with the support of adjacent Kurdish forces.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism, Law Enforcement, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Faysal Itani, Nathaniel Rosenblatt
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: As the conflict in Syria enters its fourth year, US policy has consistently failed to achieve its stated object: a negotiated political transition based on the mutual consent of the regime and opposition. The United States and its Western allies have focused on summits and high-level diplomacy as the most effective means to that laudable end. This approach ignores an essential missing ingredient: an opposition able to coordinate different anti-regime forces, exercise agency on their behalf, and provide decent local governance, without which Syrians will continue to suffer and fight irrespective of whether the regime is overthrown.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Syria, North America
  • Author: Patrick O'Reilly
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: NATO leaders have cited missile defense as an example of applying the principles of the Smart Defense initiative endorsed at the 2012 NATO Summit to enhance collective defense at minimum cost. As ballistic missiles continue to proliferate and become more accessible to both state and nonstate actors, it is important to foster global partnerships to pursue NATO's missile defense mission and protect North American and European interests. NATO should consider opportunities to further apply the principles of Smart Defense now to reduce future costs of deterring and countering missile proliferation.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, NATO, Arms Control and Proliferation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Asia, North America
  • Author: Amy Hawthorne
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Three years into Egypt's post-Mubarak transition, the near-term prospects for democratization are bleak. The military-security alliance that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, in July 2013 is consolidating power. Government repression against the Islamist opposition, and more recently against secular dissenters, is harsher and society is more polarized than in any point in recent memory.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, Egypt
  • Author: Pinar Dost-Niyego, Orhan Taner
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The recent events in Ukraine have revived the question of European dependence on Russian natural gas. The security of Europe's natural gas supply has been a consistently important issue in Russian-European Union (EU) relations. Russia provided 34 percent of EU gas in 2012, and Russian policies can have a direct impact on EU supplies. After the West-Russian confrontation over Ukraine, a lot has been said about the 'US shale gas revolution' and the possibilities of the United States becoming an energy exporter for future European energy needs. Although US energy independence seems to promise new perspectives for future European energy security, as well as for the balance of power in the Middle East, this is not for this decade. We cannot expect that the European Union would be able to cut off all of its energy relations with Russia, but we can foresee–or at least agree–that the European Union should diversify its natural gas supplies.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Economics, Energy Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Ukraine, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Faysal Itani
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Jihadists are steadily capturing territory and resources and establishing a state in Syria and Iraq. The most capable jihadist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), now controls swathes of territory, energy resources, and sophisticated military hardware in both countries. Although the extremists are currently occupied with fighting other nonregime armed groups and the Syrian and Iraqi regimes, these efforts are a means to an end: building a state from which to confront and target the United States, its allies, and its interests in the region. These jihadist groups also bring boundless suffering to the populations they control, and serve as a magnet for and inspiration to jihadists worldwide.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The number of foreign fighters is high, 12,000 and counting, and the spread of countries they come from covers much of the globe. Two recent events involving foreign fighters show the radicalizing influence of the war. With the support to bolster Syria's more secular rebel forces at times inconsistent and tepid, the lack of an alternative has accelerated a natural gravitation towards extremist elements. It will be hard to know which returnees pose a threat, and harder still to deal with them. Given that the number of foreign fighters already exceeds those that went to Afghanistan, government resources will be severely strained to monitor all returnees and will have to rely on the help of local communities.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Middle East, 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: 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: Carolyn Barnett
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: While rulers in the Maghreb and the Gulf have long engaged one an-other, until recently neither region held essential strategic importance for the other. Now, several GCC countries are seeking greater influence around the region, including in the Maghreb. Gulf countries have demonstrated their growing interest in the Maghreb through aid and investment, though aid disbursements have been slow to materialize. Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Algeria all have delicate relationships with the Gulf that intersect with domestic politics, debates over Islam and authority, concerns about instability, the need for stronger economic growth, and aversion to foreign interference. Promoting constructive GCC-Maghreb relations will be most feasible on the economic front. Successful management of enduring tensions will not ensure political and economic stability, but it will make that stability much more likely.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Political Economy, Islam
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Arabia, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia
  • Author: Jeff D. Colgan
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Although the threat of “resource wars” over possession of oil reserves is often exaggerated, the sum total of the political effects generated by the oil industry makes oil a leading cause of war. Between one-quarter and one-half of interstate wars since 1973 have been connected to one or more oil-related causal mechanisms. No other commodity has had such an impact on international security.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, International Trade and Finance, Oil, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In a region that recently has produced virtually nothing but bad news, Hassan Rouhani's 4 August swearing in as Iran's president offers a rare and welcome glimmer of hope. There are still far more questions than answers: about the extent of his authority; his views on his country's nuclear program, with which he long has been associated; and the West's ability to display requisite flexibility and patience. But, although both sides can be expected to show caution, now is the time to put more ambitious proposals on the table, complement the multilateral talks with a bilateral U.S.-Iranian channel and expand the dialogue to encompass regional security issues.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Democratization, Diplomacy, Islam, Nuclear Weapons, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Thomas Pierret
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Syrian conflict's internal dynamics have reshuffled regional alignments alongside unprecedentedly clear-cut sectarian dividing lines; this has often occurred against the preferences of regional state actors−including Saudi Arabia and Iran. Foreign states have generally adopted expedient policies that followed sectarian patterns for lack of alternatives. Iran bears significant responsibility for exacerbating the conflict's sectarian character at the regional level. There is no such “diplomatic shortcut” to regional appeasement; it is the domestic Syrian deadlock that must be broken in order to alleviate sectarian tensions across the Middle East, not the opposite.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Daniel Gorevan
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxfam Publishing
  • Abstract: The world was rightly appalled by the use of chemical weapons in Damascus on 21 August 2013. If the recent diplomatic initiatives by the USA and Russia mean that these weapons are never again used, it would be a great achievement. But it won't be enough.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Crime, Human Rights, International Law, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Geneva, Russia, Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Economics
  • Abstract: It is now looking all but certain that the United States will launch some form of attack on Syria. What is unclear is the severity and duration of the attack. Leaving aside the political ramifications, the immediate economic effects are likely to be limited (and are mostly already factored in). Opposing impacts on inflation and activity means that changes to central bank policy could be postponed. A prolonged campaign could have wider ramifications, not least if there is a risk of a geographical widening of the conflict.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: David Roberts
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Emir Tamim has become the new ruler of Qatar after the abdication of his father, Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani. The latter followed an independent foreign policy throughout his reign and sought good relations with all states, although Qatar's taking sides in the Arab uprisings have somewhat modified this position. Evaluating Qatar's foreign policy under Emir Tamim is difficult. In his upbringing Tamim was imbued with their vision of Qatar as an internationally oriented state. It would be very surprising if he were to backtrack on this basic thrust and withdraw Qatar internationally. Emir Tamim's Qatar will therefore likely continue to seek to extend the small state's influence throughout the region wherever and whenever possible.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Regime Change, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: The carefully managed handover of power in Qatar on June 25th 2013 will change the style, but not the substance of Qatari foreign policy. The abdication of Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and the replacement of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shaykh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani (HBJ) removes from office the two men behind Qatar's rise to global prominence since the 1990s. The new emir, 33-year old Shaykh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, will likely curb the excesses of Qatar's aggressive internationalisation strategy and recalibrate the country's regional policy to address its policy overreach in Syria. While the underlying substance of policy is likely to remain broadly similar, the biggest changes are expected in the hitherto-personalised style of decision-making associated with HBJ and the former emir. Greater emphasis on multilateral co-ordination will also replace the confrontational unilateralism associated with Qatar's post-2011 Arab Spring policies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Laurent Bonnefoy
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Saudi Arabia's history since the mid-18th century has to a large extent been shaped by the relationship between the royal family, the Al Sa'ud, and religious clerics, in particular those from the Al al-Shaykh clan. This relationship has been structural and has played a central role in maintaining conservative religious policies inside the country. It has also been instrumental in legitimising the monarchy both at the national level and abroad. The fact that the two holiest sites of Islam (Mecca and Medina) are on Saudi soil has further strengthened the relationship that exists between the state and religious actors, the role that Islam plays in defining Saudi foreign policy, and the image of the country at the international level. This policy brief discusses the impact of this connection between state institutions and religion. It will first stress the diversity of the various ideologies and relationships that structure the politics-religion nexus in Saudi Arabia. In doing so it will stress the importance of not limiting one's understanding of this nexus to Wahhabism. It will then present the various instruments and mechanisms that contribute to the dissemination or export of religious ideologies beyond Saudi Arabia's borders. Finally, it will conclude by showing the extent to which Islam is one among many determinants of Saudi foreign policy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Governance, Authoritarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Bernard Haykel
  • Publication Date: 05-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Yemen is politically fragmented by three decades of misrule. Many political actors and constituencies oppose the Salih legacy and they need to be included in any future political framework if the country is to become stable. The main regional actor is Saudi Arabia, whereas the U.S. remains the principal hegemon in the region. Saudi Arabia's policy towards Yemen is in flux, whereas the U.S. is too narrowly focused on the threat posed by al-Qaeda. Unless the U.S. and the Saudis change their policies, Yemen will not develop a strong central government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Corruption, Islam, Armed Struggle, Fragile/Failed State, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Evanthia Balla
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: The South Caucasus, situated as it is at the crossroads of Eurasia's major energy and transport corridors, continues to play a vital role in the world's security affairs. After the end of the cold war the South Caucasus emerged as a key region in the geopolitical contest among regional and global powers. The South Caucasus states of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are constantly performing a balancing act in their relations with the U.S., Russia, Turkey and Iran. Armenia has developed strong political and economic ties with Iran in order to counter the Turkish-Azerbaijani axis. Azerbaijan seeks to reinforce its links with the West, especially the U.S., as its main extraregional source of diplomatic and economic support, while it remains cautious towards both Russian and Iranian ambitions in the region. Especially after the 2008 war with Russia and the loss of its provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia has reinforced its links to Western powers and structures while strengthening its ties with Turkey. Both Turkey and Iran are trying to increase their influence in the region, while promoting their national interests in the international arena.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Economics, Islam, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Şadi Ergüvenç
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: The Mediterranean is where the atmosphere of mutual distrust, fear and polarization prevail. Arab Israeli dispute and Turkish Greek differences over the Aegean and Cyprus impede efforts for developing mutual confidence and co operation. Recently, economic and financial crises and the “Arab Risings” have brought along more reasons for concern. Islamophobia and racism versus Islamic jihadism increase the risk of confrontation. Turkey together with Spain appeals for an “Alliance of Civilizations” and exploits its double identity, European and Muslim, through a proactive and multilateral poli cy for finding peaceful solutions to chronic regional solutions. Greece and Greek Cypriot governments should refrain from unilateral attempts to declare maritime borders.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Islam, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Mieke Eoyang, Aki Peritz
  • Publication Date: 05-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: President Obama drew a "red line" for Syria: if the Assad regime used its chemical weapons, such a move would "change [the] calculus" for an American response. As the UN and others investigate whether Assad has indeed crossed that red line, the U.S. must consider its options—because a failure to act could undermine our credibility. But "further action" is a broad category in the Syrian conflict. Our options range from increasing non-lethal aid to deploying troops in Syria. In this guide to the debate, we provide answers to six key questions: What are America's security interests in Syria? Which rebel groups should we support? What are Syria's military capabilities? What is the status of Syria's chemical weapons? What are the international community's options? What are America's options?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East, Syria, North America
  • Author: Mieke Eoyang, Aki Peritz
  • Publication Date: 06-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: Despite serious, continuing concerns with the Egyptian government—including a return to authoritarianism and the president's use of anti-Semitic slurs—America should not gut its foreign aid to Cairo. Here's how to make the case against punishing the Egyptian government and in favor of continuing U.S. assistance: Egypt plays a critical role in the region and in America's security interests there. U.S. businesses get a return when we provide aid to Egypt. The bulk of our aid goes to the most stable pillar of secular Egyptian society: the military. Things could get much, much worse in Egypt—and for us.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Armed Struggle, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East, North America, Egypt
  • Author: Richard LeBaron
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Tension between the United States and its partners in the Gulf flared up visibly in the last several months, notably with Saudi Arabia's public displays of displeasure with the US approach to the Syria conflict, nervousness about an interim nuclear deal with Iran, and sharp differences over Egypt. Gulf distrust of US intentions and actions is nothing new, and is in no small part rooted in the Gulf states' deep frustration with how the United States executed the war in Iraq, which they perceive as placing Iraq under Iran's sphere of influence. But these latest tensions also point to a fundamental gap in expectations about the US role in the region and its commitment to security for the Gulf states.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt
  • Author: Barbara Slavin, Fatemah Aman
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: When compared to its often rocky relations with Arab countries to the west, the Islamic Republic of Iran has managed to retain largely cordial ties with its neighbors to the east. Historic linguistic, religious, and cultural connections have helped Iran keep its influence in South Asia and become a key trading partner despite US-led sanctions. Because of its strategic location on the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, Iran provides India with access to Afghanistan and Central Asia that does not require transit through Pakistan. However, Iran and its neighbors, including Pakistan, face acute challenges such as scarce and poorly managed water resources, ethnic insurgencies, energy imbalances, and drug trafficking that require regional solutions.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, Iran, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Arabia, North America, Persia
  • Author: Jeffrey Mankoff, Müjge Küçükkeleş
  • Publication Date: 03-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Growing disorder throughout the Middle East has created the possibility for major changes to the status of Kurdish minorities in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Turkey's handling of its Kurdish population and its relations with Kurdish groups throughout the region are creating new challenges for US foreign policy and US-Turkish relations. US policy toward the Kurds remains subordinate to wider regional security interests. Officially, the United States does not support the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. In practice, however, US policy is often inconsistent: the United States backs Kurdish groups in some states while opposing them in others.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Ethnic Government, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, North America, Kurdistan
  • Author: Roberto Aliboni
  • Publication Date: 06-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: IEMed/EuroMeSCo
  • Abstract: Many recent comments on the EU's Mediterranean policy come to the conclusion that the challenge raised by the Arab Spring has less to do with existing policies than with lack of strategy. Both in the southern neighborhood and in general, all parameters underlying the Mediterranean policy have changed dramatically.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Diplomacy, European Union
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Stephen Biddle, Jacob N. Shapiro, Jeffrey A. Friedman
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Why did violence decline in Iraq in 2007? Many credit the "surge," or the program of U.S. reinforcements and doctrinal changes that began in January 2007. Others cite the voluntary insurgent stand-downs of the Sunni Awakening or say that the violence had simply run its course after a wave of sectarian cleansing. Evidence drawn from recently declassified data on violence at local levels and a series of seventy structured interviews with coalition participants finds little support for the cleansing or Awakening theses. This analysis constitutes the first attempt to gather systematic evidence across space and time to help resolve this debate, and it shows that a synergistic interaction between the surge and the Awakening was required for violence to drop as quickly and widely as it did.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, War, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Stephen J. Hadley, Steven A. Cook, Madeleine Albright
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Among the most important developments in international affairs of the past decade is the emergence of Turkey as a rising regional and global power. Turkey has long been an important country as a stalwart member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an aspirant to European Union (EU) membership, and an important link between the West and the East. Yet the changes in Turkey over the past decade have been so dramatic—with far-reaching political and economic reforms, significant social reforms, and an active foreign policy—that the country is virtually unrecognizable to longtime Turkey watchers. Today Turkey is more democratic, prosperous, and politically influential than it was five, ten, and fifteen years ago.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Political Violence, Democratization, Economics, Human Rights, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Central Asia, Turkey, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West have had their share of dashed expectations, but even by this peculiar standard, the recent diplomatic roller coaster stands out. Brimming with hope in Istanbul, negotiators crashed to earth in Baghdad, a few weeks later. That was not unexpected, given inflated hopes, mismatched expectations and – most hurtful – conviction on both sides that they had the upper hand. But if negotiations collapse now, it is hard to know what comes next. Washington and Brussels seem to count on sanctions taking their toll and forcing Iran to compromise. Tehran appears to bank on a re-elected President Obama displaying more flexibility and an economically incapacitated Europe balking at sanctions that could boomerang. Neither is likely; instead, with prospects for a deal fading, Israeli pressure for a military option may intensify. Rather than more brinkmanship, Iran and the P5+1 (UN Security Council permanent members and Germany) should agree on intensive, continuous, technicallevel negotiations to achieve a limited agreement on Iran's 20 per cent enrichment.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Muhittin Ataman
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: When we consider Saudi Arabian large population, territories and natural resources, it is obvious that it will continue to preserve its geopolitical, geo-economic and geo-cultural importance in future. The assumption of King Abdullah as the ruler of the country provided an opportunity to restructure the country's foreign policy. The new king began to follow a more pragmatic, rational, interdependent, multilateral and multidimensional foreign policy. He pursues an active foreign policy required to be less dependent on a single state (the United States) and on a single product (oil).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Oil, Political Economy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Turkey, Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Dov Friedman
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: The United States presidential election in November comes at a crucial moment in world affairs, particularly in the Middle East. The year-long uprising in Syria has devolved into civil war. The conflict between Iran, on the one hand, and the U.S., Europe, and Israel, on the other, has not been diffused. The transition of power in Iraq and the planned force reduction in Afghanistan suggest that both countries will continue to experience marked change. The future of relations with new governments in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen must be reshaped.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Europe, Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Arabia, Syria, Egypt
  • Author: Philip K. Verleger
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The United States has initiated new sanctions against Iran aimed at preventing it from collecting revenue from exports of crude oil. The European Union has followed, embargoing all imports of Iranian crude from July 1, 2012 and preventing any firms from entering into new contracts to import Iranian oil after January 23, 2012. The new US and EU sanctions could be the most draconian in many years. If implemented fully, US sanctions would force trading partners to choose between the United States and Iran. EU sanctions would cut Iran off from an important market. These sanctions, while reducing Iranian income, could pose a very serious economic threat to countries that have significant trade with the United States and/or import significant quantities of oil from Iran.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Oil, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Yun Sun
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: China's joint veto along with Russia of the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) on Syria has provoked fierce international criticism. Labeled as “responsible for Syria's genocide,” Beijing's international image has struck a new low. China's decision to cast the unpopular vote was apparently well thought-out, as evidenced by its consistent diplomatic rhetoric and actions, both before and after the veto. However, in analyzing China's motivation, many analysts seemed to have missed an important point. That is, China's experience concerning Libya in 2011 had a direct impact on its actions regarding Syria this time around.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Insurgency, Popular Revolt
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Arabia, United Nations, Syria
  • Author: Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: This overview paper examines the challenges facing regional security co-operation in the five smaller Gulf States. It demonstrates the resilience and durability of intra-regional differences, particularly scepticism of Saudi Arabia's greater size and regional objectives. With the notable exception of Bahrain, differences of outlook have continued into the post-Arab Spring period as Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman hold significant reservations about moving toward a closer Gulf union. The Arab Spring has injected urgent new domestic considerations into a regional security complex hitherto marked by external instability. Yet the bold political action and longer-term planning that is needed to address these issues is lacking, because ruling elites prioritise short-term policies designed to ensure regime security in a narrower sense. This means that security remains defined in hard, “traditional” terms and has not evolved to include the security of individuals and communities rather than rulers and states. The future of regional security co-operation is therefore uncertain and bleak, and the closing of ranks may yet herald a closer Gulf union as rulers come together to deal with the pressures generated by the Arab Spring.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Kuwait, Arabia, Bahrain, Oman
  • Author: John Bowlus
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: On December 26, 2011, in response to US, European, and potential Asian sanctions on Iranian oil exports, the government in Tehran issued a threat to “cut off the Strait of Hormuz.” The US Defense Department responded that any blockade of the strait would be met with force. On first read, it is easy to dismiss such saber rattling as another chapter in the new Cold War in the Middle East between Iran and its allies – including Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah – and the US, Israel, and the Sunni Gulf States, mostly notably Saudi Arabia. Iran has since backed away from its threat, but the event still carries importance because it is unclear how both the US and Iran will continue to respond, particularly as the diplomatic and economic pressures grow more acute while Iran's controversial nuclear program advances. Could such a verbal threat by Iran to cut off the Strait of Hormuzignite a military conflagration in the region? The relationship between military conflict and oil supply disruptions is well established; however, policymakers and analysts tend to focus on the incidents in which military conflict causes disruptions in oil supplies and sharp increases in prices. The first and most obvious example of this dynamic was the Arab-Israeli War of 1973. The subsequent oil embargo by the Arab members of the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) against the United States and the Netherlands for their support of Israel caused prices to soar as oil-consuming nations endured supply shortages. The Iranian Revolution from 1978 to 1979 was another event that curtailed Western nations' access to oil and caused prices to spike. When thinking about the relationship between military conflict and oil supply disruptions, however, policymakers and analysts should also recognize that the competition over oil – and even verbal threats to disrupt oil supplies by closing oil transit chokepoints – have either led directly to military conflict or have provided a useful cover under which countries have initiated military conflict. By examining past episodes when countries issued threats to close oil transit chokepoints, this Policy Brief helps illuminate the dangers associated with the current crisis over the Strait of Hormuz.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Economics, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Arabia
  • Author: Tural Ahmadov
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: Throughout the years the overwhelming preponderance of US global leadership is debated by scholars and politicians. In light of the 'rise of the rest', this preponderance is either diminishing or still standing. As of now, yet again, the US is a dominant player both economically and militarily. However, economic recession is likely to make the United States put more emphasis on domestic problems and less emphasis on foreign challenges. Since political and economic landscape is swiftly changing overseas, the United States should act accordingly and cooperate with regional powers on issues of mutual interest. Similarly, as current development is under way in the Middle East, the United States should staunchly back Turkey as the regional hub in dealing with Syrian crisis and foiling Iranian menace.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Economics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Özdem Sanberk
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Strategic Research Organization (USAK)
  • Abstract: 2011 was undoubtedly a year that witnessed the beginning of grand transformations which will continue in the years ahead. The popular movements under the name of the Arab Spring started in Tunisia and spread quickly to the rest of the region, sparking the process of political transformation. In another part of the world, the economic crisis which began in Greece and then engulfed the whole eurozone took the European Union to a difficult test regarding its future. Both events, one lying to the south of Turkey and the other to its west, interact directly with our country and therefore its zone of interest. Ankara inevitably stands in the epicenter of these two transformations of which the effects will certainly continue for a long period. Consequently, rising as a stable focus of power with its growing economy and its expanding democracy, Turkey has tried to respond to historically important developments throughout the year. In light of these realities and developments, this study will focus on the performance of Turkish foreign policy with regard to global and regional transformations which took place during 2011.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization, Development, Diplomacy, Islam
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia
  • 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: Shirin Pakfar
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: The European Union has a unique opportunity to prove its relevance as a global foreign policy actor through resolving the international community's standoff with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Using its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and its member states, the EU should utilize its powerful trade and energy ties with Tehran to embark on a dialogue with the regime that goes beyond the nuclear programme and addresses a broader set of issues of mutual concern.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, Tehran
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As the situation in Egypt continues to unfold, U.S. policy has evolved with breathtaking speed. Just last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the Mubarak regime was stable, but by Tuesday evening, President Obama was making the remarkable statement that Egypt's transition needs to begin "now." This is not only the most serious foreign policy challenge to this U.S. administration, but also one in a list of unforeseen and improbable challenges. Unlike scenarios involving, for example, a North Korean provocation against the South or even a catastrophic terrorist attack -- for which the United States plans and prepares -- the swift demise of Hosni Mubarak's presidency, along with the virtual disappearance of the ruling National Democratic Party and the potential fall of a regime that has been a pillar of U.S. standing in the Middle East for thirty-five years, is an unimagined challenge.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Beata Wojna, Monika Arcipowska
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Since its launch in 2004, the ENP has succeeded in bringing about a strengthening of economic relations, especially trade, between the EU and its neighbours. However, the political record of the seven-year implementation of this policy is relatively poor. The violent, unprecedented socio-political changes in North Africa and the Middle East, which started in January 2011, revealed weaknesses and problems in the European policy towards its southern neighbours as developed in the framework of the Barcelona Process and the Union for the Mediterranean. Arab spring has shown that the EU support to introduce political reforms and to build and consolidate democracy in the southern neighbouring countries has yielded very limited results. The Eastern Partnership seems to be one of the few positive manifestations of the European Neighbourhood Policy's evolution in recent years but is not free from problems. The most tell-tale sign of the Eastern Partnership's deficiencies is a palpable relapse in democratisation.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, 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: Danya Greenfield
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: While ownership of the transition belongs to those who initiated and drove the uprisings in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, the West has a great stake in the outcome. A failure of these revolutions would likely lead to a rise in radicalism across the Arab world, increased threats to the security and stability of the Mediterranean region, potential disruption in energy flows to Europe and beyond, and enhanced pressures on migration to Europe, both legal and illegal.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Libya, North America, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On January 2, 2010, President Barack Obama confirmed that he had "made it a priority to strengthen our partnership with the Yemeni government -- training and equipping their security forces, sharing intelligence and working with them to strike al-Qaeda terrorists." Increasing military aid to Sana will involve a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, the United States has a strong interest in degrading al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to prevent them from attacking U.S. interests in Yemen, strategic sea lanes, or international targets. On the other hand, in this weak and divided country, significant segments of Yemen's security forces are used for internal repression, and parts of the intelligence system are sympathetic to Islamic militancy, raising the prospect that U.S. aims could be undermined.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In less than forty-eight hours, U.S.-Israel relations went from "unbreakable," according to Vice President Joe Biden, to "perilous," as ascribed to an "unnamed senior U.S. official." This drastic mood swing risks overshadowing the great achievement of the vice president's Middle East trip -- the affirmation for Israelis (as well as those Arabs and Iranians following his words) that the Obama administration is "determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Daniel Poneman
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The president...continues to work...to tackle the energy and climate challenge, understanding that this is a global problem that demands a global solution.... Some have suggested that a United States that is focusing on new energy technologies and a low-carbon future must be at odds with the oil and gas producers of the Middle East. [However], recent discussions in the region suggest otherwise.... Tackling the energy and climate challenge presents important opportunities to broaden U.S. energy relationships in the region, and together [with regional partners] to build a sustainable energy future.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On May 6, Britain went to the polls to elect a new government, producing no clear result but forcing the resignation of Labor Party leader Gordon Brown. Within hours of taking over as prime minister, Conservative Party leader David Cameron had created a new body, a British national security council, whose first meeting focused on "discuss[ing] the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and review[ing] the terrorist threat to the UK." Apart from Britain's economic problems, these issues and Middle East policy in general will likely dominate the new government's agenda -- and its relations with Washington.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Terrorism, International Security, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, United Kingdom, Washington, Middle East
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On Monday, Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri will visit Washington for a meeting with President Obama. In announcing the meeting, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called it "a symbol of the close and historic relationship between Lebanon and the United States." Indeed, between 2005 and 2009, bilateral ties were never closer or more consequential, with the Cedar Revolution ending nearly three decades of Syrian suzerainty in the country. Over the past year, however, Hariri has had to govern in coalition with Hizballah. The Iranian-Syrian backed Shiite militia will be the elephant in the Oval Office during Monday's meeting.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Allis Radosh, Ronald Radosh
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: When Harry Truman became president in April 1945, he had not thought deeply about the exact form a Jewish national home in historic Palestine would or should take. Following his landmark decision to recognize the state of Israel in May 1948, he would suggest that his support for such a development had been unwavering, and that his decisions had come easily. Yet the record shows otherwise. Between Truman's first days as president and Israel's formation, his approach to the idea of a Jewish state evolved significantly, at times seeming to change in response to the last person with whom he met. Although he ultimately made the historic decision, a Jewish state had never been, in his mind, a foregone conclusion.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, New York, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace George Mitchell is currently in Jerusalem amid wide expectation that on Saturday the Palestinians will approve proximity talks with Israel. For its part, Israel has already agreed to the talks.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: J. Scott Carpenter
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recently leaked documents detail an exchange between Washington and Cairo regarding the future of U.S. economic assistance to Egypt. The documents indicate that the Obama administration has welcomed Cairo's idea of ending traditional assistance in favor of creating a new endowment, "The Egyptian-American Friendship Foundation." This idea has a long, checkered history and, if implemented, will be bad for both American taxpayers and the Egyptian people. The administration should work with Egypt to craft alternatives that advance common objectives, including democratic reform.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: When Congress returns from its summer recess after Labor Day, the Department of Defense will provide informal notification of the U.S. intention to sell up to $60 billion in military equipment to Saudi Arabia. The likely deal is part of a U.S. commitment predating the Obama administration to strengthen regional allies in the face of a growing threat from Iran. For the Saudis, the transaction represents a clear return to considering the United States as its principal arms supplier, a position the Americans risked losing to France as recently as 2006.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, International Security
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Arab Countries, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 06-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: It is important to recall that the Gaza incident had the unintended consequence of wiping from the headlines much discussion about the U.S. decision to accede to the final resolution of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. Indeed, if Gaza had not occurred, there would be much more intense focus on how the decision to acquiesce in a deeply flawed NPT document gave clarity to the administration's priorities.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel
  • 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: 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
  • 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: 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