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  • Author: Bruce K. Rutherford
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: As protests continued in Cairo, questions intensified about when and how President Hosni Mubarak would step aside and what kind of transitional government might replace him. The "key actor" at this time is Egypt's military leadership, which is concerned about growing violence, economic damage, and continued instability, says Bruce K. Rutherford, author of Egypt After Mubarak: Liberalism, Islam, and Democracy in the Arab World. "If they want these demonstrations to end, they can either intervene and use force to disperse the demonstrators or they can ask President Mubarak to leave," he says, which would indicate the army's belief that Mubarak's continued presence is destabilizing. Rutherford says the opposition has organized a ten-person leadership group headed by Mohamed ElBaradei, but that Egyptians are skeptical about the government's offer to open discussions with the opposition because in the past, such dialogues haven't led to any change. He says a possible successor to Mubarak may be former foreign minister Amr Moussa, currently head of the Arab League.
  • Topic: Security, Civil Society, Democratization, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: F. Gregory Gause III
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: There is arguably no more unlikely U.S. ally than Saudi Arabia: monarchical, deeply conservative socially, promoter of an austere and intolerant version of Islam, birthplace of Osama bin Laden and fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. Consequently, there is no U.S. ally less well understood. Many U.S. policymakers assume that the Saudi regime is fragile, despite its remarkable record of domestic stability in the turbulent Middle East. “It is an unstable country in an unstable region,” one congressional staffer said in July 2011. Yet it is the Arab country least affected in its domestic politics by the Arab upheavals of 2011. Many who think it is unstable domestically also paradoxically attribute enormous power to it, to the extent that they depict it as leading a “counterrevolution” against those upheavals throughout the region. 2 One wonders just how “counterrevolutionary” the Saudis are when they have supported the NATO campaign against Muammar al-Qaddafi, successfully negotiated the transfer of power from Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, and condemned the crackdown on protestors by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and how powerful they are when they could do little to help their ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Islam, Oil, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Daniel C. Kurtzer
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Lebanon has been a flashpoint for Arab-Israeli violence and military confrontations since the mid1970s. Its political system is weak and outside parties continue to vie for political advantage as part of a larger regional conflict. In particular, Syria and Iran provide support for the militant Islamist group Hezbollah as a strategic asset to pressure Israel. Hezbollah now controls most of southern Lebanon, while its political wing has developed a strong presence in the Lebanese parliament. In July and August 2006, Israel and Hezbollah fought what became known as the “Second Lebanon War,” which killed and displaced many thousand s of people and destroyed much of Lebanon's infrastructure. Since then Hezbollah has steadily rearmed in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which requires, inter alia, “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of July 27, 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state” and “no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its government.” Hezbollah's arsenal is more potent in quantity and quality today than it was in 2006. Although the border area between Israel and Lebanon is quieter than at any time in the previous decade, speculation that a third Lebanon war will occur in the next twelve to eighteen months has been steadily rising. Israel could decide the security threat posed by Hezbollah has reached intolerable levels and take preemptive military action. Hezbollah, while outwardly showing no interest in confronting Israel at this time, may for various reasons choose or be pressured by Iran to flex its new military capabilities. As happened in 2006, even small-scale military engagements with limited objectives can escalate into a major conflict. Whatever the precipitating reasons, a new conflict over Lebanon would have significant implications for U.S. policy and interests in the region.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, War, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Arabia, United Nations, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Bernard Gwertzman (interviewer)
  • Publication Date: 12-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: After nine months of political wrangling, Iraq's parliament confirmed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's new coalition government December 21. Though the government is "a good basis for setting out," says Iraq expert Joost Hiltermann, there's much uncertainty about how cohesive it will be and whether the inclusive government formed can govern. Hiltermann says there are questions about who will head the three major security ministries, whether a new National Council for Strategic Policy--designed as a "real check" against Maliki's power--will be approved by parliament, and whether Ayad Allawi, who headed the Iraqiya bloc that won the most seats in the election, will want to head that council. The United States pushed a power-sharing agreement "that went beyond the sharing of ministerial positions," says Hiltermann, but it remains to be seen whether various factions, including the prime minister and his allies, will allow that to happen.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Government, Politics, Governance, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Rashid Khalidi
  • Publication Date: 10-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: A leading expert on Palestinian affairs, Rashid Khalidi, says it is crucial for the Palestinian rivals, Hamas, in Gaza, and Fatah, in the West Bank, to reconcile and create a unified negotiating position with Israel. "This is not something that's impossible," he says. "Fatah and Hamas have agreed three times in the past, only to have those agreements collapse." Khalidi also urges the Obama administration to change its policy of isolating Hamas, which he says is counterproductive to the Mideast peace mission it has vowed to pursue. Khalidi says, despite his frustration, he has not given up on Obama's peace efforts. "I don't think that the moment has entirely passed when something can be done," he says. "I do not believe that it is too late to bring about a two-state solution."
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Arabia, Gaza, Egypt