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  • Author: Dr. M. Chris Mason
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan were lost before they began, not on the battlefields, where the United States won every tactical engagement, but at the strategic level of war. In each case, the U.S. Government attempted to create a Western-style democracy in countries which were decades at least away from being nations with the sociopolitical capital necessary to sustain democracy and, most importantly, accept it as a legitimate source of governance. The expensive indigenous armies created in the image of the U.S. Army lacked both the motivation to fight for illegitimate governments in Saigon, Baghdad, and Kabul and a cause that they believed was worth dying for, while their enemies in the field clearly did not. This book examines the Afghan National Security Forces in historical and political contexts, explains why they will fail at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of war, why they cannot and will not succeed in holding the southern half of the country, and what will happen in Afghanistan year-by-year from 2015 to 2019. Finally, it examines what the critical lessons unlearned of these conflicts are for U.S. military leaders, why these fundamental political lessons seem to remain unlearned, and how the strategic mistakes of the past can be avoided in the future.
  • Topic: Security, Democratization, Politics, Military Strategy, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Outside of its own borders, Iran now has significant proxy presence and influence in four countries encompassing 1.1 million square kilometers and 82 million people, in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon It has done this by leveraging tactical decisions made by other countries into its own strategic expansion; from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and now Yemen, Iran is taking advantage of the short-term actions of others in its long-term plan The complete collapse of the U.S.-aided Yemeni president and the associated counterterrorism and military support is just the latest example of measures intended to address immediate pressures, which ultimately benefit Iran-all while U.S. airstrikes support Iraqi and Iranian militias in Tikrit against the immediate threat of the Islamic State It's not that Iranian leaders are all-knowing, masterful chess players but rather that the Middle East has for decades been a battlefield of ad hoc stability measures by numerous countries that have enabled Iran to steadily project power, to the extreme concern of countries such as Saudi Arabia, which has now launched airstrikes in Yemen.
  • Topic: Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Yemen, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Iraqi security forces, which include more Shi'a militia than Iraqi army personnel, have retaken nearly all of Tikrit, with Islamic State fighters still holding out in the center of the city The tomb of former dictator Saddam Hussein was destroyed during the fighting; the Islamic State is placing the blame on Shi'a militia while the Iraqi government says Islamic State fighters were responsible It is unlikely that the destruction of the tomb will rally many Sunnis to the Islamic State's cause, though it doesn't help lower sectarian tensions; it will be far more destructive if sectarian fighting follows the fall of Tikrit and other towns The Islamic State will seek every opportunity to turn this conflict into a repeat of Saddam's 1980-1988 war on Iran, where the Iraqi Sunni battle the Shi'a of both countries; only if the Shi'a militia oblige the group by perpetrating atrocities and oppression towards the Sunni population they liberated will this be achievable.
  • Topic: Security, Government
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Over the years since the formation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Southern Gulf states and the US have developed a de facto strategic partnership based on a common need to deter and defend against any threat from Iran, deal with regional instability in countries like Iraq and Yemen, counter the threat of terrorism and extremism, and deal with the other threats to the flow of Gulf petroleum exports.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Defense Policy, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Yemen, Arabia, North America
  • Author: Jessica Lewis
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Anbar is not the only front in Iraq on which Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), now operating as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), is fighting in 2014. ISIS has also established a governorate in Diyala. Its spokesman has named the province the central front in the sectarian conflict he has urged. The security situation and sectarian tension in Diyala province are grave. ISIS has returned to fixed fighting positions within Muqdadiyah, Baqubah, and the Diyala River Valley. Shi'a militias are now active in these areas as well. Increasing instances of population displacement demonstrate the aggregate effect of targeted violence by both groups. It is important to estimate the effects of this displacement and the presence of armed groups within Diyala's major cities in order to understand how deteriorated security conditions in this province will interfere with Iraq's upcoming parliamentary elections. Furthermore, violence in Diyala has historically both driven and reflected inter-ethnic and inter-sectarian violence in other mixed areas of Iraq, including Baghdad. Diyala is therefore a significant bellwether for how quickly these types of violence will spread to other provinces.
  • Topic: Security, Ethnic Conflict, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Azeem Ibrahim
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The Syrian civil war has allowed al-Qaeda to recover from its setbacks up to 2010. Its main affiliate in the region seems to be testing a new strategy of collaboration with other Salafist-Jihadist groups and a less brutal implementation of Sharia law in areas it controls. In combination, this might allow the Al Nusrah Front to carve out the sort of territorial control of a region (or state) that al-Qaeda has sought ever since its eviction from Afghanistan. On the other hand, Syria has also seen a civil war between two al-Qaeda inspired factions (Al Nusrah and the Iraq based Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIS]) and indicates there are limits to its ability to cooperate with other anti-Assad factions and gain popular appeal. The extent that the Syrian civil war offers the means for al-Qaeda to recover from its earlier defeats will determine whether the organization has a future, or if it will become simply an ideology and label adopted by various Islamist movements fighting their own separate struggles.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Charles C. Caris, Samuel Reynolds
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: The Islamic State's June 2014 announcement of a “caliphate” is not empty rhetoric. In fact, the idea of the caliphate that rests within a controlled territory is a core part of ISIS's political vision. The ISIS grand strategy to realize this vision involves first establishing control of terrain through military conquest and then reinforcing this control through governance. This grand strategy proceeds in phases that have been laid out by ISIS itself in its publications, and elaborates a vision that it hopes will attract both fighters and citizens to its nascent state. The declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, however, raises the question: can ISIS govern?
  • Topic: Security, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Author: Jacqueline Page
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: As the complex global security environment faced by NATO members continues to evolve in the coming years, terrorism – waged by actors both in and outside of their borders – will remain a vexing challenge. For over a decade, NATO's counterterrorism strategy has been built on taking the fight abroad. Member nations have been intimately involved in this effort as contributors to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, to the Multi-National Force in Iraq and in a variety of smaller missions around the globe. In recent times, however, there has been growing attention to the threat posed by “homegrown” terrorism and foreign fighters returning from Syria and elsewhere to their home countries throughout the Euro-Atlantic area.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, NATO, International Security
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Edmund Cairns
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxfam Publishing
  • Abstract: The UK needs a safe world in which to trade and invest, and to be free from the security threats caused by conflicts or fragile states. Yet spiralling inequality and climate change, among many other factors, threaten to create a more dangerous, unequal world. As the continuing tragedy in Syria shows, the world's old and new powers have not yet found a way to unite to end conflicts. The age of interventions, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, is over. But a new rule-based world in which China, India, and others unite with Western powers to protect civilians and end conflicts has not yet come into being. Whoever wins the 2015 UK general election, the greatest test for UK foreign policy will be how much it can do to help build that world.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Climate Change, Poverty, Insurgency, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: Britain, China, Iraq, United Kingdom, Europe, India, Syria
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The loss of government control in a major city may be just the wakeup call Iraqi politicians need to embrace a more ambitious reconciliation agenda.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Struggle, Governance, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East