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  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The self-styled Islamic State is an accident of history, emerging from multiple social, political, and economic tensions in the Middle East and beyond. It has challenged the territorial divisions imposed on the region following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by carving out for itself a large area of territory. But ultimately, its impact will flow as much from its challenge to established concepts of government, national sovereignty, and national identity.”
  • Topic: Terrorism, International Security, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Richard Barrett
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Over 12,000 fighters from at least 81 countries have joined the civil war in Syria, and the numbers continue to grow. Around 2,500 are from Western countries, including most members of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. There are also several hundred from Russia. But the great majority are from the Arab World. Most are fighting with rebel groups, and increasingly with the most extreme among them; but many are also fighting with the Government, or with ethnic or faith communities that are trying to protect themselves from both sides. A lot are young, often teenagers, and a fair percentage of those arriving from non-Muslim majority countries are converts to Islam. These and others who share their faith commonly express their motivation as a religious obligation to protect fellow Muslims from attack. This sense of duty is captured by their loose use of the word ‘jihad’.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Dina Smeltz
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Abstract: As talks over the future of Iran’s nuclear program enter a critical stage, the 2014 Chicago Council Survey reveals that the American negotiators come to the table backed by the US public: majorities of Americans favor the interim agreement and support a diplomatic approach, but they are prepared to use military force if necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: America, Iran
  • Author: Dina Smeltz
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Abstract: The 69‎th session of UN General Assembly is being held against the backdrop of international crises that include the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, ISIS military gains in Iraq and Syria, and continuing negotiations with Iran. According to the recently released 2014 Chicago Council Survey of American opinion on foreign policy, majorities are confident in the UN’s ability to carry out humanitarian efforts and peacekeeping. They are more skeptical, however, of the UN’s effectiveness when it comes to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, resolving international conflicts, and sanctioning countries that violate international law.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Dina Smeltz, Craig Kafura, Liz Deadrick
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Abstract: As President Obama prepares to address the nation tomorrow night regarding the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Chicago Council Survey results from May 2014 show that the Americans remain concerned about the threat of international terrorism, though less intensely now than in the past. Still, combating terrorism remains a top foreign policy goal for the US public, and one of the few situations where majorities of Americans say they are willing to support the use of US troops. That support is reflected in recent polls from CNN/ORC International and ABC News/Washington Post, which find majorities of Americans in favor of conducting airstrikes against ISIS.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: America, Global Focus
  • Author: Fred H. Lawson
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: By the autumn of 2013, the Middle Eastern regional security complex (RSC) had taken on a new configuration, which was substantially different from—and much more explosive than—the one that existed prior to the large-scale popular uprisings that broke out across the Arab world in the winter of 2010-11. Foreign policies adopted between 2000 and 2010 by the Ba‘thi regime in Damascus, the leaderships of Hizbullah and HAMAS, and the Israeli government to parry overlapping internal and external threats created an unprecedented patchwork of strategic rivalries and alignments. Large-scale popular unrest in Iraq and Egypt in early 2011, along with the outbreak of full-scale civil war in Syria later that same year, generated an even more intricate web of interstate security dynamics. The reconfigured RSC that emerged out of the “Winter of Arab Discontent” is only beginning to be explicated, and can best be addressed by tracing the connection between domestic political conflicts and shifts in external belligerence and alignment across the region.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Manochehr Dorraj, Nader Entessar
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: This paper analyzes Iran’s evolving interest and geopolitical challenges to its foreign policy in Central Eurasia. Historically, Iran, Turkey, and Russia have wielded the greatest influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. Therefore, it is not surprising that these three countries reemerged as principal actors in the region during the first decade of the post-Soviet era. Since the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, Iran performed a balancing act. That is, it aspired to develop closer relations with a region with which it shared significant historical and cultural ties. At the same time, Russia regards Central Eurasia as its sphere of influence and would like to keep the “intruders” at bay. Hence, the United States’ expanding presence in the region has added a new twist to Iran’s geopolitical calculations in how to define its policy toward the region. Turkish-Iranian cooperation and competition in the region is yet another piece in the strategic triangle that molds Iranian regional political posture. The looming impact of these three countries aside, as an emerging regional power with its own political agenda, perception, and calculus of its interests, Iran uses identity politics and shared cultural and religious values, where appropriate, to forge closer relations with Central Eurasian countries. Beyond this motif in Iran’s foreign policy, this paper concentrates on political, economic, and strategic variables affecting Iran’s foreign policy decisions in Central Eurasia. Islamic factors are treated as variables within the broader context of sociocultural factors that have played a role in shaping Iran’s foreign policy in the region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Author: Sherif Mohy El Deen
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: These two papers are the result of field investigations into the bloody events that have erupted in the region of Kerdasa on the outskirts of Cairo and in the Sinai peninsula in late 2013. The papers observe the mechanisms by which the Egyptian security forces are dealing with the protests of the citizens there, and shed light on their continuing activities and psychological repression more than two years after the outbreak of the revolution. This repression continues despite talk of the need to change the security institutions and the essential challenge of changing the relationship between the state and its citizens to allow for the construction of a democratic foundation.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Ibrahim El-Houdaiby
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: With the charges against former President Mubarak thrown out of court - the Egyptian judiciary is being both praised and condemned by its citizens. "The crisis in the Egyptian judiciary is not that it needs legal and administrative “independence” from the executive… It’s that it needs to reform as a top priority… and emphasise its role of enforcing the law… and not permit anyone to act outside the context of the law or to act in a political manner that does not conform to the law."
  • Topic: International Law
  • Political Geography: Egypt
  • Author: Dina El Khawaga
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: On July 7, 2014, following the government’s announcement of its plan to reduce the fuel subsidy, President Abd al Fattah al Sisi stated that “Egypt is in a state of war, many are hostile to it within and outside the country who do not want this country to be saved.
  • Topic: War, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Egypt