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  • Author: Nathan Brown, Michele Dunne
  • Publication Date: 07-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition movement and one of its oldest, is squeezed between an unprecedented crackdown from the security state and a young generation pushing for more assertive action against the regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. As a movement that has long espoused evolutionary change morphs into one that advocates revolutionary change—and struggles with whether that means adopting a strategy of violence against the state—the implications for Egypt and the entire region are massive.
  • Topic: Security, Islam, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: Arab Countries, North Africa, Egypt
  • Author: Ashraf El-Sherif
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: To understand Egypt's current political situation, it is crucial to examine how and why the Muslim Brotherhood—a leading political actor just over a year ago—met its demise so suddenly and forcefully. Though it had to operate in a hostile political environment, the Brotherhood ultimately fell because of its own political, ideological, and organizational failures.
  • Topic: Islam, Armed Struggle, Regime Change, Governance
  • Political Geography: Egypt
  • Author: Eric Trager
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Low Salafist turnout for this week's constitutional referendum could signal a broad base of support for growing jihadist violence against the post-Morsi government. The January 14-15 referendum on Egypt's draft constitution is being billed as a referendum on the military's July 3 ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Muhammad Morsi. Yet the vote is unlikely to alter the country's short-term political trajectory: no matter the results, the military-backed government will continue repressing pro-Morsi forces, who will in turn continue resisting a process they view as illegitimate. The extent to which Salafists participate in the referendum may have longer-term implications, however. High Salafist turnout would suggest an embrace of the Nour Party's decision to participate in the post-Morsi process, whereas low turnout would reflect strong feelings of disenfranchisement that could lead more Salafists to embrace jihadism.
  • Topic: Religion, Armed Struggle, Regime Change, Reform
  • Political Geography: Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Andrew J. Tabler
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Given that Assad and his backers want to gut the transition process called for in the Geneva Communique, Washington should plan to take other steps in parallel to the Geneva process.
  • Topic: Humanitarian Aid, International Cooperation, Armed Struggle, Authoritarianism
  • Political Geography: Geneva, Britain, United States, Iran, Washington, Turkey, Middle East, France, London, Germany, Saudi Arabia, United Nations, Italy, Syria, Switzerland, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates
  • Author: Alon Paz
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Regional circumstances point to both the possibility and the need for enhanced Arab-Israeli efforts to address challenges in the security, energy, food/water scarcity, and public-health domains.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Egypt, Maghreb
  • Author: Nicolas Pelham
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: The August 5th 2012 attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers in the nexus where Gaza, Egypt and Israel meet has spurred Egypt's greatest effort to reassert its authority over the Sinai since recovering the territory from Israel in 1982. Nevertheless, armed Bedouin groups backed by jihadi allies continue to confound their efforts. Only the integration of Sinai's Bedouin into Egypt's security, political and economic fabric will restore the buy-in of the indigenous population that is vital for both the success of the country's military campaign and the stabilisation of this strategic corridor linking Asia to Africa – and of post-revolutionary Egypt itself. The identities of the attackers have yet to be made public. Most were likely Sinai Bedouin, with perhaps some Palestinian support. But the fact that this attack is not an isolated incident and has been succeeded and preceded by many others suggests that North Sinai has become an environment for the killing of Egyptian soldiers and the destruction of Egyptian installations. This report examines the causes of the prevailing anti-government temperament in North Sinai, which is home to approximately 75% of Sinai's half a million people; tracks the development of quasi self-rule since the fall of Mubarak; and offers a few suggestions for the stabilisation of Sinai within a future regional economic and security framework.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Arabia, North Africa, Egypt, Sinai Peninsula
  • Author: Elizabeth O'Bagy
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: This report examines the presence of jihadist groups within Syria, explains where various Syrian rebel groups and foreign elements operating in Syria fall along the spectrum of religious ideology, and considers their aggregate effect upon the Islamification of the Syrian opposition. The Syrian conflict began as a secular revolt against autocracy. Yet as the conflict protracts, a radical Islamist dynamic has emerged within the opposition. There is a small but growing jihadist presence inside Syria, and this presence within the opposition galvanizes Assad's support base and complicates U.S. involvement in the conflict. Internally, Assad has used the threat of jihadists within the opposition to build support for the regime among the Alawite and Christian communities. It has also served to discourage middle and upper class Sunnis from joining the opposition. Externally, Russian and Iranian leadership have consistently pointed to the presence of radical Islamists as a critical rationale for their support of the Assad regime. Compared to uprisings in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, the opposition in Syria faces a much greater threat of jihadist infiltration. Many jihadi elements now operating in Syria are already familiar with the terrain, having been sponsored by the Assad regime for over three decades. These jihadi elements turned against their former regime allies in 2011 and are now cooperating with local jihadists. Moderate political Islam is not incompatible with democratic governance. However, ultraconservative Sunni Islamists, known as Salafists, envision a new world order modeled on early Islam that poses a significant threat to both democracy and the notion of statehood. Salafi-jihadists are those who commit to violent means to bring about the Salafi vision. It is difficult to distinguish between moderate Islamists and Salafi-jihadists in the context of the Syrian civil war. Assad's security solution transformed the largely peaceful uprising into an open civil war, and now even political Islamists and Syrian nationalists are engaged in violent means. Additionally, the mainstream use of jihadi iconography by non-Salafist rebel groups distorts perceptions about their ideologies and end-goals. It is significant to draw the distinction in order to understand which Islamist opposition groups are willing to work within a state system. hh The vast majority of Syrians opposing the regime are local revolutionaries still fighting against autocracy; while they are not Islamists, in the sense that their political visions do not depend upon Islamic principles, they espouse varying degrees of personal religious fervor. There are also moderate Islamists operating within the Syrian opposition, including those who comprise rebel groups like Suquor al-Sham and the Umma Brigade, who are typified by a commitment to political Islam that is compatible with democracy. hh On the more extreme end of the spectrum are groups like Ahrar al-Sham, which is comprised of conservative Islamist, and often Salafist, member units. Ahrar al-Sham's leadership espouses a political Islamist ideology, though it is clear that the group has attracted more radical and extreme elements of the opposition including many Salafi-jihadists. The brigade also has notable ties to Syria's indigenous jihadist organization, Jabhat Nusra. Al-Qaeda's direct involvement in Syria has been exaggerated in the media. However, small al-Qaeda affiliated networks are operating in the country, including elements of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Fatah al-Islam and Jordanian Salafi-jihadists. Rather than sending large numbers of operatives, these networks are providing operational support, including trainers and bomb makers, in order to capitalize on the instability in Syria and expand their influence in the region. Jabhat Nusra, Syria's homegrown Salafi-jihadist group, has important links to al-Qaeda affiliates and demonstrates a higher level of effectiveness than many other rebel groups. Jabhat Nusra has demonstrated sensitivity to popular perception and they are gaining support within Syria. The emergence of indigenous Salafi-jihadist groups such as Jabhat Nusra is far more dangerous to the long-term stability of the Syrian state than foreign jihadist groups because it represents a metamorphosis of a Salafi-jihadist ideology into a domestic platform that is able to achieve popular resonance. The U.S. cannot afford to support groups that will endanger Syria's future stability. However, if the U.S. chooses to limit its contact with Islamist groups altogether, it may alienate a majority of the opposition. Identifying the end goals of opposition groups will be the key to determining whether their visions for Syrian governance are compatible with U.S. interests. The U.S. Government has cited concern over arming jihadists as a reason for limiting support to the Syrian opposition. However, U.S. allies are already providing material support to the Syrian opposition, and competing sources of funding threaten Syria's future stability by enhancing the influence of more radical elements. The confluence of jihadist interest with that of the Gulf states raises the possibility that these states may leverage jihadists for their own strategic purposes, while simultaneously limiting Western influence. In order to counter this effect, the U.S. should seek to channel this support in a way that bolsters responsible groups and players while ensuring that Salafi-jihadist organizations such as Jabhat Nusra are unable to hijack the opposition movement. If the U.S. hopes to counter this threat and stem the growing popularity of more radical groups, it must clearly identify secular and moderate Islamist opposition groups and encourage the international community to focus resources in support of those groups alone. Such focused support would increase the influence of moderate opposition groups and undercut the appeal of Salafism in Syria.
  • Topic: Islam, International Security, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Border Control
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Katherine Didow, Jinnyn Jacob
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In January 2011, protests started in Tunisia and Egypt, sparking a string of uprisings in the Muslim world, with consequences yet unknown. These monumental shifts caught many politicians, academics, journalists and pollsters by surprise. As world leaders scramble to formulate policy to confront these new realities, there is an urgent need for accurate and relevant public opinion data on the Muslim world.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Rolf Mowatt-Larssen
  • Publication Date: 11-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: When legendary jihadist Abdullah Azzam was assassinated under mysterious circumstances in November 1989, suspects in his murder included Osama bin Laden and Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. After the Soviets were expelled from Afghanistan, Azzam sought to shift jihad to his homeland, Palestine. Zawahiri sought to focus the jihad on Egypt and the other secular Muslim states, in hopes of restoring the caliphate, the rule of Islamic clerics, which had ended after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1924. After Islamic rule had been re-established in the Islamic world, Zawahiri wrote, “then history would make a new turn, God willing, in the opposite direction against the empire of the United States and the world's Jewish government.”
  • Topic: Islam, Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Palestine, Egypt, Assam