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  • Author: Nathan J. Brown, Amr Hamzawy, Marina S. Ottaway
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: In today's Arab world, Islamists have assumed the role once played by national liberation movements and leftist parties. They are the mass movements of the twenty-first century. They are well embedded in the social fabric, understand the importance of good organization, and are thus able to mobilize considerable constituencies. Their ideology prescribes a simple solution to the persistent crises of contemporary Arab societies—a return to the fundamentals, or true spirit, of Islam. Indeed, “Islam is the solution” has been the longtime slogan of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Like all successful movements, Islamists have been able to distill a long, complex philosophical tradition into simple slogans that have quickly supplanted the Pan-Arabism and socialism that dominated the region until the 1970s. As a result, in most countries Islamists represent the only viable opposition forces to existing undemocratic regimes.
  • Topic: Government, Human Rights, Islam, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Arab Countries
  • Author: Frédéric Grare
  • Publication Date: 01-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Thirty years after a bloody conflict that official sources estimate caused more than five thousand deaths among the rebels and almost three thousand among the Pakistan Army, Baluchistan seems to be heading toward another armed insurrection. During the summer of 2004, there were numerous attacks against the army and the paramilitary forces as well as repeated sabotage of oil pipelines. Since the rape of a female doctor by a group of soldiers on January 2, 2005, in the hospital in Sui, the principal gas-producing center in Baluchistan, assaults have multiplied, culminating in a pitched battle between the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary unit, and the local Bugtis, one of the largest Baluch tribes. According to the Pakistani daily, The Nation, approximately 1,568 “terrorist” attacks occurred through April 3, 2005. These attacks have not been confined only to tribal areas but have targeted Pakistani armed forces and Chinese nationals working on major regional projects all over the province.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Religion, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, China, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 02-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The bomb attack on a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra on 22 February 2006 and subsequent reprisals against Sunni mosques and killings of Sunni Arabs is only the latest and bloodiest indication that Iraq is teetering on the threshold of wholesale disaster. Over the past year, social and political tensions evident since the removal of the Baathist regime have turned into deep rifts. Iraq's mosaic of communities has begun to fragment along ethnic, confessional and tribal lines, bringing in stability and violence to many areas, especially those with mixed populations. The most urgent of these incipient conflicts is a Sunni-Shiite schism that threatens to tear the country apart. Its most visible manifestation is a dirty war being fought between a small group of insurgents bent on fomenting sectarian strife by killing Shiites and certain government commando units carrying out reprisals against the Sunni Arab community in whose midst the insurgency continues to thrive. Iraqi political actors and the international community must act urgently to prevent a low-intensity conflict from escalating into an all-out civil war that could lead to Iraq's disintegration and destabilise the entire region.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Julianne Smith, Aidan Kirby, Daniel Benjamin
  • Publication Date: 04-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The second phase of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Transatlantic Dialogue on Terror took place against a backdrop of rapid change. When the first conference in this series took place in Berlin in the spring of 2005, scholars and practitioners were still absorbing the details of the previous year's attacks against the Madrid light rail system, the murder of Dutch artist Theo van Gogh and a host of other attacks and foiled plots. Global radicalism continued to be shaped by the deepening insurgency in Iraq, in which radical Islamists from inside and outside that country play a pivotal role. In the months following the Berlin meeting, the bombing of the London Underground, the attacks in Sharm el-Sheikh and Amman, and a stream of revelations about radical Islamist activity from Europe to the Middle East to South Asia and Australia — where a group of conspirators were arrested for plotting an attack against that country's sole nuclear facility — had also to be taken into account.
  • Topic: International Relations, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, Religion, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Europe, South Asia, Middle East, London, Australia
  • Author: Claudia Baumgart
  • Publication Date: 12-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies
  • Abstract: Israel's disengagement from the Gaza strip in 2005 marked a momentous turning point in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people. After 37 years of occupation, Israel has pulled out from this densely populated strip of land at the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, but it still keeps its military control over all access to the Gaza strip via land, sea, and air. The new government of Ehud Olmert is now debating the next step: to retreat from large parts of the West Bank. While presenting the concept of unilateral disengagement as a necessary step towards peace with the Palestinians, Ariel Sharon and his successor Ehud Olmert made it very clear that, on the other hand, Israel intends to keep and even expand the major Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Olmert's convergence plan reflects these intentions by openly announcing that the settlement blocs would remain a part of the State of Israel forever. But for a certain portion of the Israeli population, this is not enough. In the run-up to the Gaza disengagement, Israel was flooded with Orange – the colour that the disengagement opponents chose to mark their fierce protest against the evacuation of Jewish settlements. Settlers in orange T-Shirts gathered in mass demonstrations, waved Israeli flags with orange ribbons, blocked main roads in the midst of rush hour, quarrelled with security forces and tried to convince soldiers to refuse orders during evacuation. A small minority even threatened to violently resist the evacuation of their homes.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Ethnic Conflict, Post Colonialism, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: George Adams
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in countless other hotspots around the world, religion has been a major factor in matters of war and peace. Since religion often plays a significant role in conflicts, it also needs to be one of the factors addressed in mediating conflicts. Yet, because the United States separates religion from political matters to a greater degree than many other areas of the world, Americans frequently have difficulty understanding the crucial role religion can play in conflict transformation.
  • Topic: Peace Studies, Religion
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Ghazi Ahmad Hamad
  • Publication Date: 04-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces
  • Abstract: Prior to the Palestinian elections of 25 January 2006, Hamas had not been expecting at all that it would suddenly find itself in a position to govern. Until the last moment, the movement had anticipated to gain only some 25 seats. It had not hoped for more, but simply to become a strong opposition force in the new PLC (Palestinian Legislative Council). As such, it wanted to push political and administrative reforms.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine
  • Author: Reidar Visser
  • Publication Date: 04-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: This paper discusses the two prevailing interpretations of the political attitudes of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the leading Shiite cleric in Iraq today. It is argued that neither the traditional "quietist" paradigm nor more recent Machiavellian interpretations can satisfactorily explain Sistani's actions. An alternative interpretation is offered which highlights Sistani's historical oscillation between passive and activist positions. It is suggested that, after an activist intermezzo from June 2003 to December 2004, Sistani has reverted to a more secluded role, again showing an increasing reluctance to fulfil the wishes of his many wooers in Iraqi politics, and limiting his interference to matters directly connected with the Shiite faith and its institutions. It is concluded that Sistani's professional interests as a cleric – rather than any constant desire on his part to control and manipulate domestic politics – may be the key to understanding any future intervention in the political process in Iraq. Scepticism is also expressed toward the notion of Sistani as a guarantor for a "moderate" or "secular" Iraqi political system that would supposedly be fundamentally different from that of Iran – an idea that has featured prominently in policy-making circles in the United States and in other Western countries currently involved in Iraq.
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: From Saudi Arabia's establishment in 1932, its minority Shiite population has been subject to discrimination and sectarian incitement. Beginning in the early 1990s, with then Crown Prince Abdullah's active support, the government took steps to improve inter-sectarian relations. But the measures were modest, and tensions are rising. The war in Iraq has had a notable effect, strengthening Shiite aspirations and Sunni suspicions and generally deepening confessional divisions throughout the region. King Abdullah needs to act resolutely to improve the lot of the two-million strong Shiite community and rein in domestic expressions of anti-Shiite hostility.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Government, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Umej Bhatia
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The Egyptian Islamist ideologue Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) is a founding figure of modern Sunni militancy. The West knows Sayyid Qutb through the prism of his Milestones, the 1964 manifesto urging a Qur'anic revolution against illegitimate Muslim regimes. However, it was Qutb's commanding Qur'anic interpretation, In the Shade of the Qur'an, which provided the rich lodestone for Milestones. In the Muslim world, moderates and militants alike have found sanctuary In the Shade of the Qur'an, making it a unique work that cannot be ignored. Offered below is a detailed analysis of Qutb's work, focused primarily on juz amma (the last thirtieth) of the Qur'an, which is considered the key entree for Muslims who seek a return to faith. Sensitive yet uncompromising, In the Shade of the Qur'an adroitly rehearses at a personal and political level the combat between a pristine Islam and all other profane systems, with the final objective of establishing a supreme Islamic order.
  • Topic: Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Egypt