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  • Author: Donald J. Planty
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Arab Awakening opened the door to democratic political change in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Security sector reform (SSR) is an integral component of the nascent democratic process in the region. While SSR is a long-term process, it should be a key part of institution building in the new democracies. Democracy requires security institutions that are open, professional, and responsive to public needs. The transitions to democracy are varied in nature and scope. SSR will differ by country and must be tailored to the political realities and specific circumstances of each state. The international community can foster successful SSR processes by calibrating its assistance according to the reform efforts in each country. A general or “one-size-fits-all” approach to SSR will not be successful. A sense of political powerlessness, an unresponsive bureaucracy, a general lack of opportunity, economic stagnation (including high unemployment), and repressive security forces all contributed to the Arab Awakening. As a result of the upheaval, democratic forces in several of the MENA countries are pushing for transparency and accountability in the security services. SSR must be undertaken in a holistic manner, couched within the framework of overall democratic reform and linked to other broad policies such as justice sector reform, evolution of the political process, and economic development. SSR will only be achieved if it is integrated and pursued in unison with these larger processes of democratic change. The international community, especially the United States and the European Union, need to foster democratic developments and, in particular, to support and coordinate SSR.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Democratization, Economics, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Kathleen Kuehnast, Hodei Sultan, Manal Omar, Steven E. Steiner
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In transitioning countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, women are increasingly finding their rights limited by state and religious leaders. Cultural and national stereotypes can be quickly overcome by the shared backgrounds, accomplishments, obstacles, and aspirations of women in transitioning countries. Women living in countries in transition value opportunities to network with women from other countries in similar situations. Women leaders from Afghanistan and Iraq have genuine concerns about the challenges facing women in the Arab Spring. Their valuable opinions are based on their own experiences of overcoming those challenges. It is essential that women work together and with men to further women's rights. Women must plan for a transition before it happens and have a strategy of work going into the transition process. Laws empowering and protecting women do not work if they are not enforced. International donors need a long-term view of women's programming, as much of the required work will take time. Donors should consider nonurban areas when working with women, and when possible nonelite partners, as these leaders understand the limitations of local conditions. It is possible for women's groups to find common ground with religious leaders.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Development, Gender Issues, Islam, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Mark Sedra
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The events of the Arab Spring are a unique and unprecedented opportunity for democratic political change for the Middle East and North Africa, but the political transitions in that region remain fragile. The United States and other external actors can help the new democratic regimes by supporting their efforts at security sector reform (SSR).
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Elizabeth F. Thompson
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Foreign affairs experts routinely use historical analogy to develop and justify policy. However, as professional historians have long noted, attractive analogies often lead to bad policies. Officials regularly choose analogies that neglect or distort the historical case they aim to illuminate. Nonetheless, history can be used effectively in international relations. To do so, practitioners must first recognize the difference between historical analogy and precedent. Historical precedent, drawn from the past of the region in question, is a safer guide to policy than historical analogy, which is based on comparisons to events in other regions. Because historical precedent is a self-limiting form of analogy restricted to a certain place, people, and time, it provides a better indication of how a certain society understands and responds to a given situation. The recent U.S. intervention in Iraq highlights the misuses of history: American leaders employed analogies to World War II to justify the invasion and to predict success in establishing a democratic regime after. These analogies proved to be a poor guide to nation building in the short term. In the long term, they have deeply aggravated U.S. relations with Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world. A more effective use of history would have been to refer to the precedent of World War I, a crucial moment when American policy could have supported indigenous Arab constitutional democracy—but, fatefully, did not. For the new administration, the Arabs' experience of “justice interrupted” after World War I can still be a useful touchstone for promoting democracy in the region. This precedent alerts us that foreign intervention can spark a deep-seated and negative political reaction in the postcolonial Arab world and that reform in Arab politics must begin with respect for national sovereignty. It also reminds us that constitutionalism and the desire to participate in the community of international law are enduring values in Arab politics.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: David Waldner
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Post-conflict, post-totalitarian societies like Iraq possess many economic, political, social, and cultural characteristics that are not conducive to democratic governance. A central pillar of democracy promotion is that judicious institutional engineering—crafting new institutions and other elements outlining the democratic rules of the game—can overcome these obstacles and engender stable democracies.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil Society, Democratization, Government, Regime Change, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Imad Harb
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Iraq's higher education sector has the potential to play an important role in overcoming the country's widening sectarian divides and fostering long-term peace and stability. As a leading actor within Iraq's civil society, it could offer an institutional venue for resolving the country's political, social, and economic problems while promoting respect for human rights and democratic principles both on campus and in the wider society. Iraq's universities flourished in the 1960s and 1970s. However, after the rise of Saddam Hussein to power in 1979, they gradually lost their intellectual dynamism and became increasingly politicized in the service of the regime. UN sanctions imposed after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 helped to isolate and impoverish the higher education sector. Universities, many of which were already in poor physical shape, were looted in the chaos that accompanied the invasion of 2003. Hundreds of millions of dollars are needed to rehabilitate campuses, but the budget for higher education is meager and most is earmarked for wages and salaries. Universities have also been hit hard by the violence that has followed the invasion. Hundreds of university professors and administrators have been killed and thousands have fled abroad. Meanwhile, sectarianism has begun to cast a dark shadow over student life. Campuses are highly politicized with student organizations vying, sometimes violently, for influence. There also has been an increase in religiosity and in efforts, especially in the south, to enforce veiling of women and separation of the sexes. The dismal situation is made worse by the fact that curriculum materials in all fields are in short supply, textbooks are outdated, administrative authority is overcentralized, new students are poorly prepared, and the teaching staff is inadequately trained. The international community has made a variety of efforts to support the rejuvenation of Iraq's universities by donating funds, providing expertise, and launching cooperative initiatives. International assistance has been helpful, but if the higher education sector is to reclaim its earlier dynamism and play a leading role in national reconstruction, it needs a comprehensive program of reform. Any package of reforms must emphasize the need to update and expand the curriculum. Universities should embrace new disciplines that will instruct students in conflict resolution, reconciliation, intercommunal tolerance, institution building, civil society development, women's studies, democracy, and human rights. Another pressing requirement is to give academics and students access to foreign scholars and publications through a series of international seminars and workshops and via a large-scale program of translating foreign-language books and journals into Arabic. Efforts must also be made to train faculty in new technologies and subjects and to increase the number of faculty who hold doctoral degrees. Foreign donors and governments should also offer scholarships abroad to Iraqi students and professors to help alleviate the burden of training a new class of university personnel. Like other public-sector institutions, higher education institutions are overcentralized and need more freedom to determine their own policies, procedures, and curricula. Iraqis cannot accomplish these reforms by themselves. They need the sustained support of foreign governments, international bodies, and non-governmental organizations if they are to demonstrate how universities in a divided society can play a leading role in promoting civic peace.
  • Topic: Democratization, Education, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Mona Yacoubian
  • Publication Date: 09-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Parliamentary elections across the Middle East have led to a wave of Islamist victories. Islamist parties typically boast leaders who are young and dynamic, with strong ties to the community; their party organizations brim with energy and ideas, attracting those who seek change. The U.S. government has quietly engaged moderate Islamist parties for several years. U.S. engagement has been most successful where democratic reform is already underway and where the government is genuinely committed to political opening. Other factors include the Islamist parties' political sophistication, popular credibility, and openness to working with U.S. organizations. A successful Islamist engagement strategy both empowers individuals and strengthens institutions to yield greater transparency, more accountability, and shifts toward greater moderation. Of the three cases addressed in this paper—Morocco, Jordan, and Yemen—Morocco appears to hold the greatest promise for U.S. engagement with moderate Islamists. Meanwhile, Jordan and Yemen offer important though limited instances of success. U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East affects the ability of U.S. organizations to promote democracy there. At times, Islamist parties have cut off contact with U.S. democracy promoters to protest specific aspects of U.S. foreign policy, such as the war in Iraq. Ultimately, U.S. engagement of moderate Islamists must be understood within the broader political context of the ideological battle in the Muslim world over the place of Islam in public life. Moderate Islamist parties that reject violence and practice democratic ideals are an important counterweight to Islamist extremism, and their work should be encouraged.
  • Topic: Democratization, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Yemen, Jordan, Morocco
  • Author: Babak Rahimi
  • Publication Date: 06-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Since spring 2003, Sistani has become the preeminent and best financed of the grand ayatollahs remaining in the city of Najaf—and by extension, in Iraq. He remains one of the most powerful figures in Iraq and he brings the Shi'is closer together across the greater Middle East. Since 1997, the Internet has increased the size and the prestige of Sistani's social organization to an astonishing degree on a global basis. Like his father, Sistani is an adherent of a democratic Shi'i tradition that dates back to the Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1906 to 1911 and continued with the Khatami reformist movement (1997–2005). As the general representative of the Hidden Imam, quietist Sistani can remain totally aloof from all political matters, while at times of perceived moral decadence, political corruption, great injustice, or foreign occupation, he can become more active in political affairs by engaging in activities such as consultation, guidance, and even the promotion of sacred norms in public life. Sistani's religious network is increasingly becoming an important source of local governance in southern Iraq, where many Iraqis are hired and at times agree to conduct duties that are usually carried out by the state. Sistani's insistence on recognizing Islam as a fundamental component of the Iraqi constitution is not intended to make Iraq an Islamist state based on juridical sharia strictures, but rather to limit the total secularization of the constitution, which would deprive a Muslim country of an “authentic” national identity based on its Islamic heritage. Sistani could contribute to reducing sectarian tensions by working with other Sunni and Shi'i religious leaders (including tribal leaders) to organize a National Reconciliation Initiative in order to display a united, powerful Sunni-Shi'i front with an emphasis on common Islamic ideals; to express condemnation of anti-Shi'i Wahabi extremism and anti-Sunni Shi'i radicalism; and to form communal solidarity through the ceremonial process of intersectarian group gatherings. Sistani remains a key religious figure who has influence as a peacemaker and mediator among various Shi'i factions and ethnic groups in Basra and Kirkuk that are competing for economic and territorial dominance in the northern and southern regions of the country. As long as the state army is unable to independently fight off the Sunni insurgency and Shi'i militias, it is highly unlikely that Sistani will call for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Sistani is mainly concerned with maintaining stability in the region while rejecting any form of U.S. military adventurism that could seriously endanger the integrity and autonomy of Muslim countries in the greater Middle East. Although Sistani is still a powerful figure within Iraq, his influence has diminished since the bombing of the Shi'i shrine in Samarra in February 2006 and the ensuing increase in Sunni–Shi'i violence. Washington should recognize that until the sectarian warfare subsides, there is no effective way for Sistani to become involved in the Iraqi political process. However, Washington should engage Sistani now, because of the positive role he would have in the democratization of Iraq if the sectarian tensions subside.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Islam
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Kirkuk, Basra
  • Author: Timothy Carney
  • Publication Date: 12-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The military surge that was launched in February 2007 has improved the security situation in Baghdad and adjacent regions. It has curbed sectarian violence in the capital and reduced the freedom of action and the support base of insurgents and terrorists in the central governorates. The rationale for the surge was to provide an opportunity for political agreements to be negotiated among Iraqis, but political progress has been stalled and has not matched the security improvements. A political settlement is essential for sustaining the security gains and for longer- term stability. Despite the declaration of a national reconciliation plan by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki in June 2006, by the fall of 2007 only limited progress had been made toward reconciling the differences between the political groups and forging a national agenda. The dominance of sectarian political groups has fueled polarization, and the inability of the government and Parliament to adopt crucial legislation is a measure of continuing distrust between the groups. Serious political dialogue between the sect- based parties has proved difficult and the results are limited. At the same time intra-sectarian rivalries are increasing, particularly in the southern governorates, where the Sadris and the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq vie for political and economic control of the region. Iraqi institutions have lost ground in the past year. Iraqi ministers from Sunni, Shia, and secular groups have withdrawn from the cabinet, adversely affecting the performance of the government. The sectarian blocs that entered Parliament in December 2005 have lost their cohesiveness. The Shia United Iraqi Alliance has unraveled, and the Sunni Tawafuq coalition is strained. The emergence of tribal forces in Anbar governorate presents opportunities and challenges to the Sunnis and the Shia alike. As the sectarian blocs weaken and the Anbar tribes seek a political role, new alliances are beginning to emerge, and some may succeed in crossing sectarian and regional divides. The debate in Washington has been restricted to the level and duration of U.S. troop presence in Iraq. In the coming months, the debate should turn to means of supporting the political process and strengthening governance in Iraq as a path to stability. Bottom-up approaches to reconciliation and accommodation do not obviate the need for a broader political settlement. The United States should support a sustained international mediation effort led by the UN Security Council resulting in an Iraqi compact endorsed by Iraq's neighbors and the international comm unity. Iraqi efforts to develop cross-sectarian political alliances and national platforms need to be encouraged. The incorporation of the Anbar tribes into national politics is important to sustaining security gains. A competent national government in Baghdad is essential to the long-term stability of Iraq. A weak government will be unable to ensure the internal and external security of the country or manage revenues. More effort and resources are needed to strengthen the competence and effectiveness of the Iraqi government.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East