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  • Author: Aharon Lopez
  • Publication Date: 03-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: During the ceremony of the presentation of my credentials as the Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See on April 10, 1997, I told His Holiness that, actually, this was not my first connection with the Vatican. In fact, when I served as Ambassador of Israel to the Republic of Cyprus, in one of the ceremonies there, I was approached by the non-resident Ambassador of Outer Mongolia, who asked me whether I represented the Holy See in Cyprus. Of course I answered that I represented the State of Israel. Then, looking at my head, he remarked: "Oh, you are right, sir; now I can see the difference in the color!" Of course, he was referring to my skullcap.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Religion
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Vatican city
  • Author: Robert O. Freedman
  • Publication Date: 03-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: During U.S. President Bill Clinton's second term in office, the U.S. "dual containment" policy toward Iran and Iraq, which he inherited from the Bush administration and then intensified during his first term, had come close to collapse.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: George E. Gruen
  • Publication Date: 02-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: On June 10, 1998, Turkish police and Islamist students scuffled at Istanbul University after authorities refused to allow eleven women wearing Muslim headscarves to take final exams. The students attempted to force their way into the examination hall past police who were helping college authorities enforce a long-standing ban on Islamist attire in places of education, government ministries, and other public institutions. Istanbul University, like nearly all educational institutions in Turkey, receives public funding. Similar scuffles had occurred the previous day when police forcibly removed headscarves from some girls' heads, the pro-Islamist newspaper Zaman said. The paper printed photographs of what it said were female students who fainted in distress after their headscarves had been torn off.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Government, Human Rights, Islam, Religion
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Alan Dowty
  • Publication Date: 05-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
  • Abstract: The 1999 Israeli elections confirm the emergence of a more centrist Israeli politics A “national unity government” emerging from the elections is a distinct possibility Though the peace process was not a major issue, the outcome will be a renewal of peace talks Deals on both the Palestinian and Syrian fronts may be closer to realization than is generally realized.
  • Topic: Government, Peace Studies, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Syria
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 12-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: It was exactly 18 years ago this week that former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin rushed from his hospital room, where he was being treated for a broken hip, descended on a surprised Knesset, and, within a few hours, forced through a bill imposing Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights. This same sense of urgency now animates Prime Minister Ehud Barak in his attempts to negotiate a peace agreement with Syria that will, perforce, require the abrogation of Begin's initiative.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Palestine
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 09-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Last week's signing of an Israeli–Palestinian agreement at Sharm al-Sheikh represents an important development in the search for a lasting settlement in the Middle East. The deal illustrates that it is possible to reach an agreement from which all parties will gain, while also exposing enduring problems. The progress made at Sharm al-Sheikh represents, as Nabil Shaath of the Palestinian authority described, an 'unfreezing' of the peace process. Whether the whole process can be infused with greater warmth depends firstly on US efforts to impel the Syrian–Israeli peace negotiations; secondly, it relies on the ability of the regional leaders to make the compromises necessary to reach a peace that all can present as a victory to their domestic constituencies.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Development, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Syria
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 08-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: In the past nine months, the United States and the United Kingdom have pursued a low-intensity military campaign against Iraq. Such actions have been made easier by a lack of political scrutiny. However, the US administration in particular now faces mounting criticism from France, China and Russia, who favour a relaxation of policy, and domestic US interest groups favouring a more activist stance. Despite these pressures, US President Bill Clinton is unlikely to change policy significantly in his remaining 18 months of office.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Government
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Iraq, United Kingdom, Middle East, France
  • Author: Oxford Analytica
  • Publication Date: 07-1999
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: Despite last week's crackdown on pro-reform demonstrations, there is still considerable momentum behind President Mohamed Khatami's political liberalisation drive. While the democratisation movement may have suffered a short-term setback and is likely to encounter further opposition from right-wing clerics, Khatami's reform coalition remains in place and is still likely to be buoyed by next year's parliamentary election results. Nonetheless, the president needs quickly to reassert his commitment to change in the run-up to the election.
  • Topic: Security, Democratization, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 01-1998
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The Persian Gulf is one of the few regions whose importance to the United States is obvious. The flow of Gulf oil will continue to be crucial to the economic well–being of the industrialized world for the foreseeable future; developments in the Gulf will have a critical impact on issues ranging from Arab–Israeli relations and religious extremism to terrorism and nuclear nonproliferation. Every president since Richard Nixon has recognized that ensuring Persian Gulf security and stability is a vital U.S. interest.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Barnett Rubin
  • Publication Date: 10-1998
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: On August 8, 1998, the Taliban (Islamic student) movement of Afghanistan took control of Mazar-i Sharif, the last city remaining outside their control. 2 In their campaign in northern Afghanistan, the Taliban succeeded in gaining control of nearly all the parts of the country's territory that had remained outside their power since they marched into Kabul on September 26, 1996. Just as the Taliban prepared to campaign for international diplomatic recognition, however, the United States on August 20, 1998, launched a cruise missile attack against camps in Afghanistan that it charged contained the terrorist infrastructure of a movement led by Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi exile. The United States claimed to have strong evidence implicating bin Laden and his network of exiled Islamists in the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7. The United States also raided a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, said to be manufacturing precursors of chemical weapons substances. The Taliban's continued defense of bin Laden and their denunciation of the U.S. raid ruled out any dialogue between the Taliban and the United States that perhaps would lead to U.S. diplomatic recognition and construction of oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia through Afghanistan. The Taliban's behavior complicated their relations with regional states as well. Saudi Arabia, one of only three states that recognized the Taliban's government, expelled their diplomatic representative on September 22 in reprisal for the Taliban's continued harboring of Osama bin Laden. Most dramatically, the Taliban's killing of nine Iranian diplomats during their takeover of Mazar-i Sharif has led to an extended confrontation with Tehran. War, or at least military action, cannot be ruled out. During the more than 20 years since the “Sawr Revolution” of April 27, 1978, brought a communist party to power, Afghanistan had moved from one stage to another of civil war and political disintegration, without seeming to get any closer toward peace, political order, or sustainable development. The combination of an inimical regional environment, characterized by unstable strategic and economic competition, with the destruction of much of the country's elites, institutions, and infrastructure, has assured the continuation of war among forces based in different regions of the divided country. The victory of the Taliban may put an end to open warfare, but it is likely to result in continued guerrilla or commando activities. The emergence of an assertive Islamic traditionalism in the form of the Taliban has also placed new obstacles in the way of international humanitarian and peacemaking programs. 3 The division of control over the country had remained relatively stable since the summer of 1997. The Taliban movement, originally based in the southern city of Qandahar, the heartland of Pashtun traditionalism and the homeland of Afghanistan's old royal clan, had conquered the Persian-speaking city of Herat, near the Iranian border, in September 1995. A year later, in September 1996, the Taliban swept into the eastern Pashtun city of Jalalabad and Afghanistan's capital city, Kabul, driving out the Tajik-dominated government of the “Islamic State of Afghanistan” that was led by President Burhanuddin Rabbani and Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud. At the end of May 1997, the Taliban took advantage of divisions within the mainly Uzbek National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan (NIMA) to take temporary control of Mazar-i Sharif. This northern city on the border of Uzbekistan was the only major urban center still not controlled by them. The Shia in the city, however, mostly from the Hazara ethnic group, resisted the Taliban attempt to disarm them and drove the conquerors out in bloody battles that killed thousands and may also have led to the subsequent massacre of prisoners. A Taliban attempt to recapture Mazar-i Sharif in September 1997 also failed, largely because of a major resupply effort mounted by Iran. While the Taliban failed in their first two attempts to control the entire North from this urban center, they managed to establish a long-term presence in the area. They gained the support of many of the ethnic Pashtuns who had been settled in the North by the Afghan monarchy and established a political and military base in Kunduz, which was supplied by air from Kabul and, according to some reports, Pakistan. Despite intermittent activity on several front lines (north of Kabul, around Kunduz, northeast of Herat, on the borders of Hazarajat), the lines of control remained relatively stable until the Taliban's new offensive in July 1998. 4 The Taliban have constituted a governmental structure that they call the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Da Afghanistano Islami Amarat). Before the summer 1998 offensive, they controlled the entire Pashtun belt, from Jalalabad in the East, through Qandahar in the South, and on through the Southwest. They also controlled the ethnically mixed, primarily Persian-speaking cities of Herat and Kabul, which border on the Pashtun areas. Finally, they controlled a pocket of territory in the North centered around Kunduz. They thus controlled the highways connecting Afghanistan to Pakistan, Iran, and Turkmenistan, nearly all the Pakistani border, the entire Iranian border, and about half of the border with Turkmenistan. They also appeared to control part of the border with Tajikistan, including the port of Sher Khan Bandar. These areas included all the country's major customs posts except for Hairatan, north of Mazar-i Sharif, which the Taliban briefly held in May 1997. They also controlled the areas estimated to produce 90 percent of Afghanistan's opium poppies, the country's most profitable crop. Taxes on this crop are an important source of revenue for the Taliban, though they strictly prohibit its consumption. The United Nations estimates that Afghanistan and the surrounding region produce slightly more than half the world's supply of this drug. 5 The opposition to the Taliban, known generically as the “United Front,” consisted of several groups controlling different portions of the remaining parts of the country, which are largely inhabited by Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras. After the main Taliban offensive, elements of these groups controlled only a few mountainous areas home to ethnic minorities: Badakhshan and the Panjsher Valley, inhabited by Tajiks, and the Hazarajat, home to the Shia Muslim Hazara ethnic group. Before the Taliban's July-August offensive, the opposition groups had controlled most of the northern tier of provinces from Faryab to Badakhshan (except for Kunduz) as well as the Hazarajat. They controlled the main highway leading to Uzbekistan and the railhead at Hairatan that connects to the former Soviet rail system with links to Asia and Europe. Hairatan is the only major customs post in their region. These territories included about half of Afghanistan's border with Turkmenistan, the short but logistically and economically important border with Uzbekistan, nearly the entire border with Tajikistan, and a remote, mountainous, and largely inaccessible part of the border with Pakistan (including Pakistan-controlled Kashmir). Even before the offensive, the Taliban appeared to control at least two-thirds of Afghanistan's territory; their own estimates ranged as high as 85 percent. Much of that territory, however, was uninhabited desert, especially in the Southwest. The areas under Taliban control at that time included probably slightly more than half the country's population, which is currently estimated at nearly 24 million. 6 The two largest population centers then under Taliban rule, Herat and Kabul, were largely hostile to them, and the requirements of controlling these areas probably make them more of a drain on Taliban personnel than a source of recruits. These market centers provided significant income, however. The Taliban's main advantage was that they controlled the territory and population in the regions they ruled through a unitary structure, while the opposition remained split and riven by feuds. The opposition was divided into several groups, and each group was further divided into feuding factions. Furthermore, both sides depended to a great extent (though precise data are lacking) on foreign military, technical, and financial assistance. The Taliban are supported and were to some extent organized by Pakistan, with financial support from both official and unofficial sources in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states, while the northern groups have received aid from Iran, Russia, and, to a lesser extent, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The Taliban thus controlled the borders and highways leading not only to their own main supporter, Pakistan, but also to the opposition's main supporter, Iran. Supplying the Taliban was thus easier and less expensive than supplying the northern groups. By late August, the Taliban had control of virtually all the country's airfields except for two in Hazarajat. This effectively stopped aid to any other region. The regional competition results from the reconfiguration of the region after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Iran, Pakistan, and Russia are competing for control over the routes by which Central Asia's oil and gas resources will reach outside markets, which in turn will largely determine what power becomes predominant in the area. 7 The decision by India, followed by Pakistan, to test nuclear weapons has raised the stakes in the region and complicated peacemaking efforts. The independence of ethno-national states in Central Asia has given new prominence to ethnic identities, affecting co-ethnics across borders. And the increasing politicization of Islamic identity has increased the salience of Sunni/Shia sectarian differences. Perhaps the best-known fact about the Taliban is the restrictions they have imposed on women. These restrictions require that women be fully veiled, forbid them most education and employment, and impose strict limitations on their access to public services, including health care. The Taliban have also required men to grow full, untrimmed beards, cut their hair short, and attend mosque. They forbid any social mingling or communication among men and women outside the family. These rules (and others) have led to a series of confrontations with the representatives of the international community, largely the U.N. agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) present in Afghanistan. 8 Despite these rules, until the summer of 1998 these international organizations continued to work in Taliban areas; they did not work in most areas controlled by the northern groups. All agencies withdrew from Mazar-i Sharif after their offices, property, and storehouses (including food intended for destitute or famine-stricken areas) were thoroughly looted for the second time in September 1997 (they had been looted previously in May). The United Nations continued to work in Hazarajat, however. Western NGOs left Kabul in July 1998 when the Taliban refused to withdraw a requirement that all the NGOs move to the Polytechnic, a ruined Soviet-built campus in northern Kabul. More Westerners left in response to U.S. warnings about dangers to non-Muslim foreigners during the preparation for the August 20 raids. The Taliban resent the fact that although they have provided security for U.N. and NGO staff and property, the opposition, which has failed to do so, continues to be recognized as the government of Afghanistan by most countries and to occupy Afghanistan's U.N. seat. Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Opposition to the Taliban's gender policies accounts for much of the resistance to either recognizing them or vacating Afghanistan's U.N. seat. Indeed, a significant movement has developed in Europe and North America in opposition to the Taliban's gender policies, and this movement, as much as the interest in gas and oil pipelines, has placed Afghanistan back on the international radar screen. The Taliban's harboring of bin Laden and his network provides yet another even more prominent reason.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, United States, Iran, Middle East, Taliban, Saudi Arabia