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  • Author: Thomas Pierret
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Syrian conflict's internal dynamics have reshuffled regional alignments alongside unprecedentedly clear-cut sectarian dividing lines; this has often occurred against the preferences of regional state actors−including Saudi Arabia and Iran. Foreign states have generally adopted expedient policies that followed sectarian patterns for lack of alternatives. Iran bears significant responsibility for exacerbating the conflict's sectarian character at the regional level. There is no such “diplomatic shortcut” to regional appeasement; it is the domestic Syrian deadlock that must be broken in order to alleviate sectarian tensions across the Middle East, not the opposite.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Frederic M. Wehrey
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Like the Iraq war and, to a lesser extent, Lebanon's 2006 war, Syria's internecine conflict has enabled the Gulf's ruling families, media commentators, clerics, parliamentarians, and activists to invoke and amplify Sunni-Shia identities, often for goals that are rooted in local power politics. By-products of the mounting sectarian tension include the fraying of reform cooperation among sects and regions, and pressure on the Gulf's formal political institutions. Traditional and social media have served to amplify the most polarizing voices as well as provide reform activists new means for cross-sectarian communication that circumvent governmental efforts to control or block such activities.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Fanar Haddad
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In Iraq, as elsewhere in the Middle East, the social, political, and technological changes of the 21st century are giving birth to a new sectarian landscape. The three most consequential drivers behind the change in sectarian relations have been the political change in Iraq of 2003; the near simultaneous spread of new media and social networking in the Arab world; and – perhaps as a consequence of the first two – the ongoing search for alternatives to familiar but moribund forms of authoritarianism, as demonstrated most dramatically by the “Arab Spring.” 2003 highlighted the uncomfortable fact that there were multiple, indeed contradictory, visions of what it meant to be an Iraqi and by extension what it meant to be a part of the Arab world. New media, social networking, user-generated websites, and private satellite channels helped to make Iraq's accelerated sectarianization contagious. The mainstreaming of sectarian polemics has increased the relevance of religious, doctrinal, and dogmatic differences in views regarding the sectarian “other,” a particularly dangerous development.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Joseph Bahout
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: When the Arab revolutions reached Syria, the Sunni-Shia cleavage in Lebanon was already well in the making. Syria's turmoil only added fuel to an existing fire in Lebanon. Syria's crisis is intensifying Sunni-Shia tensions in Lebanon on two levels, symbolic and identity-based on the one hand, and geopolitical or interest based, on the other hand. The shift toward identity-based or symbolic forms of sectarianism can probably be explained by the existential character the struggle in the Levant is taking, whereby both “communities,” however imagined or over-constructed, are coming to perceive themselves as defending not only their share of resources or power, but their very survival. Lebanon's minority communities – including Christian and Druze – are increasingly anxious about the changing regional environment. Lebanon and Syria must face the difficult equation of sectarian diversity and national unity.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Melani Cammett
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Syrian crisis has had a negative impact on Lebanon's political scene, including the dynamics among political factions within and across the country's major sectarian communities. The political fragmentation of the Sunni community has implications for the growing trend toward political violence triggered by the Syrian conflict. The rise of challengers and the decline of centralized authority within the Sunni community further increase the probability of violence perpetrated by in-group factions. Despite the pressures from the Syrian conflict, mounting sectarian tensions will not inexorably spark another all-out civil war. If Lebanon does not move past the current political deadlock and stagnation, the spillover from the Syrian crisis stands to undermine the country's stability in the longer term.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Donald J. Planty
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Arab Awakening opened the door to democratic political change in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Security sector reform (SSR) is an integral component of the nascent democratic process in the region. While SSR is a long-term process, it should be a key part of institution building in the new democracies. Democracy requires security institutions that are open, professional, and responsive to public needs. The transitions to democracy are varied in nature and scope. SSR will differ by country and must be tailored to the political realities and specific circumstances of each state. The international community can foster successful SSR processes by calibrating its assistance according to the reform efforts in each country. A general or “one-size-fits-all” approach to SSR will not be successful. A sense of political powerlessness, an unresponsive bureaucracy, a general lack of opportunity, economic stagnation (including high unemployment), and repressive security forces all contributed to the Arab Awakening. As a result of the upheaval, democratic forces in several of the MENA countries are pushing for transparency and accountability in the security services. SSR must be undertaken in a holistic manner, couched within the framework of overall democratic reform and linked to other broad policies such as justice sector reform, evolution of the political process, and economic development. SSR will only be achieved if it is integrated and pursued in unison with these larger processes of democratic change. The international community, especially the United States and the European Union, need to foster democratic developments and, in particular, to support and coordinate SSR.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Democratization, Economics, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Kathleen Kuehnast, Hodei Sultan, Manal Omar, Steven E. Steiner
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In transitioning countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, women are increasingly finding their rights limited by state and religious leaders. Cultural and national stereotypes can be quickly overcome by the shared backgrounds, accomplishments, obstacles, and aspirations of women in transitioning countries. Women living in countries in transition value opportunities to network with women from other countries in similar situations. Women leaders from Afghanistan and Iraq have genuine concerns about the challenges facing women in the Arab Spring. Their valuable opinions are based on their own experiences of overcoming those challenges. It is essential that women work together and with men to further women's rights. Women must plan for a transition before it happens and have a strategy of work going into the transition process. Laws empowering and protecting women do not work if they are not enforced. International donors need a long-term view of women's programming, as much of the required work will take time. Donors should consider nonurban areas when working with women, and when possible nonelite partners, as these leaders understand the limitations of local conditions. It is possible for women's groups to find common ground with religious leaders.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Development, Gender Issues, Islam, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Robin Wright, Garrett Nada
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Middle East faces even bigger challenges in 2013 than it did during the first two years of the so-called Arab Spring. So far—a pivotal caveat—the Arab uprisings have deepened the political divide, worsened economic woes and produced greater insecurity. Solutions are not imminent either. More than 120 million people in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen have experienced successful uprisings that ousted four leaders who together ruled a total of 129 years. But more than half of the Arab world's 350 million people have yet to witness any real change at all. Defining a new order has proven far harder than ousting old autocrats. Phase one was creating conditions for democracy. Phase two is a kind of democratic chaos as dozens of parties in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia do political battle (and in some cases physical battle) over constitutions. Ancien regimes have not totally given up, as in Yemen. The cost of change has exceeded even the highest estimates, as in Syria. So most Arabs are probably disappointed with the “Arab Spring” for one of many reasons. Nevertheless the uprisings were never going to happen in one season. This is instead only the beginning of a decades-long process—as most in the West should know from their own experiences.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Democratization, Post Colonialism, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Robert M. Perito
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In 2004, the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi security forces faced a growing challenge from insurgents and militia groups as the country drifted toward civil war. In street battles with heavily armed insurgent and militia groups, Iraq's fledgling police units mutinied under fire and resigned en masse, pointing out shortfalls in the U.S. police training program. In response, the U.S. government transferred leadership of the U.S. police assistance program from the State Department to the Defense Department, which created heavy police tactical units capable of dealing with armed groups. At the same time, the Iraqi interior ministry independently organized police commando units composed of former Iraqi soldiers that successfully fought alongside U.S. military forces. In 2005, the installation of a new Iraqi government and the escalation of sectarian violence brought a change in the composition of the Iraqi police commando units. The new interior minister, a senior Shiite party official, enabled members of Shiite militia groups to take over the police commando units and engage in the kidnap, torture, and murder of Sunnis. To control police death squads, the U.S. military combined all of Iraq's heavy police and police commando units into a new entity, the Iraq National Police (INP). In October 2006, the U.S. military began a program to retrain police commando units that were engaged in sectarian violence. Over the following year, Iraq's new interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani, undertook a program to reform the INP, appointing a new commanding general, purging the officer corps, and inviting a training team from the Italian Carabinieri to provide advanced instruction for INP units. In 2007, INP units successfully partnered with U.S. combat brigade teams that were deployed to Baghdad as part of President Bush's surge of U.S. military force into Iraq. Over the next two years, the valor of Iraqi constabulary units and their acceptance in both Sunni and Shiite areas brought a new name, the Iraq Federal Police (IFP), and the deployment of an IFP unit to every province in the country. Lessons learned in the development of an indigenous police constabulary in Iraq should be applied to current and future stability operation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Law Enforcement, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Sean Kane, William Taylor
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: With U.S. military forces scheduled to depart Iraq in December of this year, the State Department and other civilian agencies are being asked to assume a scale of operational and programmatic responsibilities far beyond any other embassy in recent memory. The capacity of the U.S. civilian agencies to assume these responsibilities does not now fully exist. Notably, securing and moving U.S. civilians will require more than 5,000 security contractors. A limited U.S. military contingent post-2011 may well be more cost-effective than private security guards and could also relieve State and other civilian agencies of logistical and security responsibilities. This would enable them to focus on their comparative advantages: diplomacy and development assistance. Planning for the post-2011 U.S. mission in Iraq, however, remains hampered by uncertainty as to whether the Iraqi government will request an extension of the American military presence in the country. A small follow-on U.S. military force would appear to safeguard Iraqi stability and make the achievement of U.S. strategic objectives in Iraq more likely, but cannot be counted on. Should such a request not be received from the Iraqi government, the U.S. may need to reduce the planned scale and scope of its operations and goals in Iraq.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia