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  • Author: Sean Kane
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The two rising powers in the Middle East—Turkey and Iran—are neighbors to Iraq, its leading trading partners, and rapidly becoming the most influential external actors inside the country as the U.S. troop withdrawal proceeds. Although there is concern in Washington about bilateral cooperation between Turkey and Iran, their differing visions for the broader Middle East region are particularly evident in Iraq, where a renewal of the historical Ottoman-Persian rivalry in Mesopotamia is likely as the dominant American presence fades. Turkey aims for a robust Iraqi political process in which no single group dominates, sees a strong Iraq as contributing to both its own security and regional stability, and is actively investing in efforts to expand Iraqi oil and gas production to help meet its own energy needs and fulfill its goal of becoming the energy conduit from the Middle East to Europe. Iran prefers a passive neighbor with an explicitly sectarian political architecture that ensures friendly Shiite-led governments; sees a strong Iraq as an inherent obstacle to its own broader influence in the region and, in the nightmare scenario, once again possibly a direct conventional military threat; and looks askance at increased Iraqi hydrocarbon production as possible competition for its own oil exports. Baghdad meanwhile believes that it can become a leader in the Middle East but is still struggling to define an inclusive national identity and develop a foreign policy based on consensus. In its current fractured state, Iraq tends to invites external interference and is subsumed into the wider regional confrontation between the Sunni Arab defenders of the status quo and the “resistance axis” led by Shiite Iran. Turkey has an opening in Iraq because it is somewhat removed from this toxic Arab-Persian divide, welcomes a strong Iraq, and offers the Iraqi economy integration with international markets. Ankara could now allay Iraqi Shiite suspicions that it intends to act as a Sunni power in the country and not allow issues on which Turkish and Iraqi interests deviate to set the tone for their relationship. The U.S. conceptualization of an increased Turkish influence in Iraq as a balance to Iran's is limited and could undermine Turkey's core advantages by steering it towards a counterproductive sectarian approach. A more productive U.S. understanding is of Turkey as a regional power with the greatest alignment of interests in a strong, stable, and selfsufficient country that the Iraqis want and that the Obama administration has articulated as the goal of its Iraq policy. On the regional level, a strong and stable Iraq is a possible pivot for Turkish and Iranian ambitions, enabling Ankara and hindering Tehran. Washington may well have its differences with Turkey's new foreign policy of zero problems with its neighbors, but the Turkish blend of Islam, democracy, and soft power is a far more attractive regional template than the Iranian narrative of Islamic theocracy and hard power resistance. The United States should therefore continue to welcome increased Turkish-Iraqi economic, trade, and energy ties and where possible support their development as a key part of its post-2011 strategy for Iraq and the region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Imperialism, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: John K. Naland
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Embedded provincial reconstruction teams (ePRTs) were small State Department- led units inserted into U.S. combat brigades in Iraq from 2007 to 2010 to support military counterinsurgency efforts at the local level. During major combat operations in 2007 and into 2008, ePRTs provided important support to military counterinsurgency efforts. As U.S. combat units wound down these efforts and withdrew from towns and cities, ePRTs did useful-but harder to quantify-work in mentoring local officials. Combat brigades and ePRTs generally worked well together. However, some units were unsure of how best to employ civilians. The military and civilians also sometimes had differing views on issues of short-term versus long-term goals. Despite problems, ePRT veterans believe that they had a positive effect in both supporting military counterinsurgency efforts and helping local Iraqi officials prepare for self-reliance. Interviewees identified a variety of operational problems that detracted from ePRT mission accomplishment. The Iraq ePRTs are now history, but as the United States continues to use civil-military teams in Afghanistan, these observed lessons need to be learned and acted upon.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, War, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The top concern for both Riyadh and Damascus remains blowback from Iraq: the ascendance of ethnic and sectarian identity and the spread of Islamist militancy. The need to contain this threat is the dominant force that shapes their relations with Iraq. Both Syria and Saudi Arabia have a vital interest in ensuring that Iraq's emerging political order is inclusive of Sunni Arab Iraqis, who have not yet been fully incorporated into Iraqi institutions. Syria and Saudi Arabia do not look at Iraq in isolation, nor do they assign it top priority among their foreign policy concerns. For them, Iraq is merely one element in a comprehensive view encompassing other regional players (including the U.S. and Iran) and other regional crises, particularly the Arab-Israeli conflict. Lingering resentment and bitterness toward Washington is now mixed with intense curiosity and modest optimism about President Barack Obama. Saudis still bristle when recalling how the Bush Administration sidelined Riyadh on Iraqi matters; as do Syrians, who believe the previous administration was intent on isolating and undermining Damascus. Iraq remains very much isolated in its neighborhood. Recent Progress on regional cooperation notwithstanding, these two neighbors are still focused more on containment than engagement.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Ethnic Conflict, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Deborah Isser, Peter Van der Auweraert
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Iraq has experienced several waves of mass displacement over the last forty years that have left complex land and property crises in their wake. As security has improved and some of the nearly five million displaced Iraqis have begun to come home, resolution of these issues are at the fore of sustainable return.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, Migration, Religion, Terrorism, War
  • 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: Jon B. Alterman
  • Publication Date: 08-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Iraq's Persian Gulf neighbors supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in order to preserve the status quo—a weak and self-absorbed Iraq—rather than to impose a new one. However, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and its aftermath have not brought stability to the Gulf States as much as they have shifted the most serious challenges from external threats (of a hostile Baghdad) to internal threats (the threat of conflict spillover from Iraq). Kuwait fears the growth of Iranian influence in Iraq and the possibility that Iraqi Shia unrest will spill across its own borders. Although many Kuwaitis question the wisdom and capacity of the United States in managing Iraq's internal problems, Kuwait has provided significant support to U.S. military action in Iraq and the country's reconstruction efforts. Qatar has supported U.S. military actions in Iraq by hosting the U.S. Central Command but still maintains the perception of nonalignment. For example, Doha hosts prominent former Iraqi Baathists, not to mention Saddam's own family members. The interest of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Iraq is secondary to its concern over Iran, with which it has a long-standing dispute over ownership of three islands in the Gulf. The unresolved dispute with Tehran over the islands heightens the UAE's concerns about the rising Iranian influence in Iraq. To bolster its relationship with the United States, the UAE offered training to hundreds of Iraqi troops and police recruits in 2004–2005, hosted the first Preparatory Group Meeting for the International Compact with Iraq in September 2006, and funded reconstruction efforts in Iraq through the United Nations and the World Bank. On post-Saddam regional security issues, member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) seem to be more “market takers” than “market makers,” showing little inclination to shape the nature of a larger and potentially more powerful neighbor. Instead, they are focused on immediate choices for calibrating a proper relationship with Washington in a way that accommodates many other important relationships.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Kuwait, Tehran, Baghdad, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Persia