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  • Author: Marc Valeri
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The sultan of Oman traveled to Germany to receive medical care in July 2014. His prolonged stay since then has revived concerns across Omani society about the future of the country without the “father of the nation.” A taped, four-minute television address in early November by Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said—who looked emaciated and expressed regret that he was unable to return home for National Day celebrations later in the month—failed to silence rumors of cancer that have been circulating in the Gulf since he left the country. The anxiety about the health of the seventy-four-year-old ruler, who has no designated heir, came as the supposed “sleepy sultanate,” long thought to be a model of stability, was affected by the winds of protest blowing across the region. In 2011 and 2012, the sultanate of Oman experienced its widest popular protests since the 1970s and the end of the Dhofar war, in which the southern region rose up against Qaboos's father, who then ruled the country.
  • Topic: Islam, Oil, Governance, Popular Revolt
  • Political Geography: Arabia, Germany
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: King Salman has confirmed his reputation as a religious conservative through the reappointment of traditionalist clerics However he has also made some effort to streamline the Saudi government Recent changes have given considerable power to two men from the next generation: King Salman's son and his nephew The result may be good for hard security measures, but less certain for the soft measures necessary for Saudi Arabia to weather the storm.
  • Topic: Security, Development, Economics, Islam, Political Economy, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The Islamic State's murder of Jordanian hostage Lt Moaz al-Kasasbeh was both a message to the group's fighters that it can counter the coalition's relentless airstrikes as well as an offensive move designed to provoke a high-profile overreaction The air campaign against the Islamic State has been relentless while at the same time has receded from the headlines-a double blow to the group in that it suffers the losses but doesn't benefit from the attendant spectacle The drawn-out 'negotiations' over this past month-while the hostage was already dead-were likely intended to sow division and tension in Jordan, and draw attention to the issue as long as possible before the gruesome finale While Jordan is understandably enraged and will have to strike back, the most effective response might be an escalation that continues to kill the group's fighters away from the headlines.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Like a page out of the 2004 extremist manifesto "Management of Savagery," the Islamic State has tried to goad the international community into near-sighted reactions without long-term approaches by highlighting the barbarity of its executions of hostages This tactic has thus far failed to ignite the overreaction (outside of press reporting) of Western powers, leaving the group without an important recruitment and incitement tool The Islamic State needs consistent replenishment of fear to overcome its inherently terrible local governance, and so it depends on shocking savagery to serve as both its recruitment magnet and opposition suppression As the group encounters less and less Westerners, given the danger of their presence in the region, it will find increasingly fewer ways to incite the 'us-versus-them' battle it needs to survive.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: While the threat of an immediate escalation between Israel and Hizballah appears to have subsided after deadly tit-for-tat attacks, the trend lines suggest greater conflict ahead In an important and ominous speech on January 30, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah created, in effect, one long front against Israel that now includes Syria and the Golan Heights as well as Lebanon, increasing the potential for conflict with Israel Iran is no longer moving in the shadows but rather is openly coordinating strategy with its proxy Hizballah as the two seek to strengthen and expand 'the resistance' against Israel All parties involved have specific reasons to avoid a near-term conflict-the upcoming Israeli elections, ongoing Iranian nuclear negotiations, Hizballah's commitments in Syria-but shifting regional power dynamics will only increase the likelihood of serious fighting between them.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The Islamic State and al-Qaeda have more in common than sets them apart, as both groups embrace 'bin Ladinism' even as their leaderships differ on tactics and priorities As the fortunes of the two groups wax and wane, their shared characteristics are likely to become more pronounced and their rivalries less so For the moment, the competition between them weakens their appeal and blunts their impact; any trend towards reconciliation or partnership could magnify the threat they pose across the Arab world.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Richard Youngs
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Politics in the Middle East are increasingly polarized and fragmented. The Arab Spring's citizen-led spirit of reform is still alive, but societies are increasingly torn apart by bitter tensions between Sunni and Shia, secular liberals and Islamists, and governments and civil society. As polarization has deepened, the concern with engaging in dialogue to bridge differences has intensified. The relationship between these mediation efforts and support for systemic reform will be a pivotal factor in the Middle East's future political trajectory.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil Society, Democratization, Islam, Regime Change, Governance, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Lina Khatib
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Long a minor regional actor in the shadow of Saudi Arabia, Qatar wants to increase its influence. But Doha's expansionist foreign policy has been plagued by miscalculations, domestic challenges, and international pressure—all issues connected to Doha's relationship with Riyadh. As a result of these setbacks, Qatar's regional role has diminished, and for the foreseeable future, its external influence is likely to remain under the direction of Saudi Arabia.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar
  • Author: Ashraf El-Sherif
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The current turmoil in Egypt—including social strife, polarization, and violence—has cast shadows on the potential for Islamist integration as well as the regime's ability to achieve political stability. Shifting external and internal dynamics of Islamist organizations indicate five possible scenarios for the future of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its path will have far-reaching implications for political Islam and democratization in Egypt.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Islam
  • Political Geography: Arabia, North Africa, Egypt
  • Author: Ruben Tuitel
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Connections
  • Institution: Partnership for Peace Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes
  • Abstract: The Sinai Peninsula has been a center of conflict for many years, starting with the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948. After Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David Accords in 1978, it became a peaceful region, strongly controlled by the military during Hosni Mubarak's rule in Cairo. Now, after several years of non-violence, the Sinai Peninsula is once again the center of a complicated conflict. Heavy protests across Egypt in 2011 forced Hosni Mubarak to step down from the presidency, creating a security vacuum in the Sinai that allowed radical Islamists to almost freely operate in the region. During the months that followed, insurgent groups grew in number, recruiting frustrated Bedouin who have been neglected by the Egyptian government for years.
  • Topic: Security, Government, Islam
  • Political Geography: Israel, Arabia, Egypt, Sinai Peninsula