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  • Author: Jason Gluck
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The National Transitional Council (NTC) new Constitutional Declaration is a critical development in Libya's transition to democracy. But while most features of the document are very positive, the relatively short timeline for the transition may create significant challenges.
  • Topic: Democratization, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Edward W. Gnehm Jr
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Government of Jordan is deeply concerned about the turmoil in Syria, fearing the spillover effect and knowing Syria's historic capacity to undermine Jordanian internal stability. Initial official Jordanian reaction has been cautious, to avoid antagonizing Syria and provoking retaliation. There is great anxiety over what may follow the collapse of the Assad regime. Jordan is under increased pressure from both internal elements and external powers to toughen its public posture toward Damascus. Ultimately, Amman will react carefully to events in Syria, taking actions that best ensure the security of the state and the survival of the monarchy.
  • Topic: Security, Regime Change, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Daniel Brumberg
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: This report offers a set of general and country-specific findings and recommendations to assist the Obama administration in its efforts to tackle escalating security challenges while sustaining diplomatic, institutional and economic support for democracy and human rights in the Greater Middle East.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Rusty Barber, William B. Taylor
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Successful attacks on key government buildings underscore worries about whether Iraqis can manage their own security. They mask, however, something new in Iraqi society: an emerging vox populi that found potent expression in provincial elections last January, despite the odds. As national elections approach in March, political leaders are realizing that they ignore this growing voice at their peril. Aware that American attention is shifting towards other problems at home and abroad, Iraqis are nervously contemplating how much U.S. support they can expect going forward in their fragile experiment in democratic governance. The U.S. role in helping Iraqis prepare for national elections has been crucial and largely welcome—it should continue through the transition to a new government. Successful complete withdrawal by 2012 depends on an Iraqi government that is responsive to its people’s basic needs and capable of evolving peacefully via fair elections. Longer term, there are several critical areas on which a distracted and resource stretched America should focus. These include intensifying efforts to help Arabs and Kurds resolve disputes and forestall the need for an extended U.S. military presence in northern Iraq. Helping Iraq protect its borders – a vulnerability highlighted by Iran’s recent incursion—and nudging the Gulf Arab states to more actively engage Iraq as an emerging partner in regional security and economic structures will also be key to stability inside and beyond Iraq’s borders. If water is the “new oil” in terms of its resource value and potential to create conflict, that future is now playing out in Iraq. Shortages and poor quality are already causing serious health and economic problems, displacement and raising tensions with Iraq’s neighbors. The U.S. can help here on both the diplomatic and technical sides of the issue.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, 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: Steven Simon
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: From a strategic perspective, Syria has gained some advantages and some disadvantages since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. President Bashar al - Asad, considered a callow leader five years ago, faced a testing period in 2003–06 and did more than merely survive. He withstood a threat of imminent regime change at the hands of the United States, and weathered heavy international fallout from the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and the summer war in 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah, which Syria has long supported. Bashar has emerged a cagey geopolitical operator, able to manage a delicate strategic balance, and Syria is now stronger than it has been at any time in recent history. Yet Syria faces a number of internal challenges due to Iraq's instability. Primary among these is coping socially, economically, and politically with a huge influx of Iraqi refugees, and mitigating the effect that sectarian (Shia-Sunni) and ethnic (Arab-Kurd) conflict in Iraq has on the fragile status quo in Syria.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Regional Cooperation, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Alan Schwartz
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Absent a change in current trends, further political violence in Sudan will be hard to avoid. Lack of governance capacity in the South and failure to resolve key issues between the North and South are important factors that can lead to political violence surrounding the referendum, slated for 2011, on whether the South secedes or remains part of a united Sudan. The parties need a shared sense of confidence about post-2011 futures. The North should be encouraged to cooperate in the referendum process and accept the outcome. The Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) should devote more energy and resources to governance and service delivery rather than building military capability. The international community needs an assistance strategy focused on enhancing the GOSS's capacity to deliver services through local governments. The United States and the international community should pressure and assist the parties to promptly pass referendum legislation and address fundamental issues (e.g., oil and boundaries) before the referendum.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Genocide, Human Rights, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Sudan, Arabia
  • Author: Paul Scham, Osama Abu-Irshaid
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Although peaceful coexistence between Israel and Hamas is clearly not possible under the formulations that comprise Hamas's 1988 charter, Hamas has, in practice, moved well beyond its charter. Indeed, Hamas has been carefully and consciously adjusting its political program for years and has sent repeated signals that it may be ready to begin a process of coexisting with Israel. As evidenced by numerous statements, Hamas is not hostile to Jews because of religion. Rather, Hamas's view toward Israel is based on a fundamental belief that Israel has occupied land that is inherently Palestinian and Islamic. For Hamas, “recognition” of Israel would represent a negation of the rightness of its own cause and would be indefensible under Islam. It considers unacceptable for itself the actions of those Muslim countries that have recognized Israel, such as Egypt and Jordan, and those that have indicated their willingness to do so, such as Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab League, because they have provided no theological justification for their policies toward Israel. Although Hamas, as an Islamic organization, will not transgress shari'a, which it understands as forbidding recognition, it has formulated mechanisms that allow it to deal with the reality of Israel as a fait accompli. These mechanisms include the religious concepts of tahadiya and hudna and Hamas's own concept of “Palestinian legitimacy.” Tahadiya refers to a short-term calming period between conflicting parties during which differences are not put aside. A tahadiya stopped most violence between Hamas and Israel from June to December 2008. Hudna is a truce for a specific period, which is based on the practice of the Prophet Mohammad and on subsequent events in Muslim history. Hamas has indicated on a number of occasions its willingness to accede to a hudna with Israel, assuming basic Palestinian rights as set forth in the Arab Peace Initiative (API) are agreed to first. Palestinian legitimacy is a term employed by Hamas to describe its willingness to consider accepting a binding peace treaty, such as the proposal set forth in the API, so long as the treaty is first ratified by the Palestinian people in a referendum. Although Hamas would not directly participate in peace negotiations with Israel, Hamas has indicated that it would be willing to be part of a Palestinian coalition government with Fatah under which Fatah would negotiate the actual treaty. Although a peace process under such circumstances might, for Israelis and Westerners, seem involved, arcane, and of dubious utility, it is necessary to consider the possibility of such a process because there is no realistic scenario under which Hamas will disappear. Understanding the Islamic bases of Hamas's policies and worldview will be essential for the success of any process in which it is engaged.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan
  • Author: Elizabeth F. Thompson
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Foreign affairs experts routinely use historical analogy to develop and justify policy. However, as professional historians have long noted, attractive analogies often lead to bad policies. Officials regularly choose analogies that neglect or distort the historical case they aim to illuminate. Nonetheless, history can be used effectively in international relations. To do so, practitioners must first recognize the difference between historical analogy and precedent. Historical precedent, drawn from the past of the region in question, is a safer guide to policy than historical analogy, which is based on comparisons to events in other regions. Because historical precedent is a self-limiting form of analogy restricted to a certain place, people, and time, it provides a better indication of how a certain society understands and responds to a given situation. The recent U.S. intervention in Iraq highlights the misuses of history: American leaders employed analogies to World War II to justify the invasion and to predict success in establishing a democratic regime after. These analogies proved to be a poor guide to nation building in the short term. In the long term, they have deeply aggravated U.S. relations with Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world. A more effective use of history would have been to refer to the precedent of World War I, a crucial moment when American policy could have supported indigenous Arab constitutional democracy—but, fatefully, did not. For the new administration, the Arabs' experience of “justice interrupted” after World War I can still be a useful touchstone for promoting democracy in the region. This precedent alerts us that foreign intervention can spark a deep-seated and negative political reaction in the postcolonial Arab world and that reform in Arab politics must begin with respect for national sovereignty. It also reminds us that constitutionalism and the desire to participate in the community of international law are enduring values in Arab politics.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Radwan Ziadeh
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Kurds in Syria have been denied basic social, cultural, and political rights, in many cases stemming from the Syrian state's refusal to grant citizenship.
  • Topic: Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Europe, Arabia