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  • Author: Ann Wainscott
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Religious actors in Iraq wield considerable influence, and Iraqis perceive them as playing an important role in moving the country toward peace. This report analyzes the influence of Iraq’s religious actors—who has it, why they have it, and how they exercise it—to illuminate their crucial role in supporting peace and reconciliation efforts and to help policymakers and practitioners understand how to engage them in efforts to advance peace.
  • Topic: Religion, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Peace, Reconciliation
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Sarah L. Edgecumbe
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The contemporary displacement landscape in Iraq is both problematic and unique. The needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq are many, particularly as protracted displacement becomes entrenched as the norm rather than the exception. However, minorities originating from the so called ‘Disputed Territories’ and perceived Islamic State (IS)-affiliates represent two of the most vulnerable groups of IDPs in Iraq. Iraqi authorities currently have a real opportunity to set a positive precedent for IDP protection by formulating pragmatic durable solutions which incorporate non-discriminatory protection provisions, and which take a preventative approach to future displacement. This policy paper analyses the contemporary displacement context of Iraq, characterized as it is by securitization of Sunni IDPs and returnees, as well as ongoing conflict and coercion within the Disputed Territories. By examining current protection issues against Iraq’s 2008 National Policy on Displacement, this paper identifies protection gaps within Iraq’s response to displacement, before drawing on the African Union’s Kampala Convention in order to make recommendations for an updated version of the National Policy on Displacement. These recommendations will ensure that a 2020 National Policy on Displacement will be relevant to the contemporary protection needs of Iraq’s most vulnerable IDPs, whilst also acting to prevent further conflict and displacement.
  • Topic: Security, Migration, Religion, Refugees, Displacement
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Benjamin Tua
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: American Diplomacy
  • Institution: American Diplomacy
  • Abstract: Efforts to portray Muslims and their faith as threatening diminish our society by stigmatizing a significant American minority. They also can facilitate costly foreign policy blunders such as the 2017 Executive Order banning entry into the US of visitors from several Middle Eastern majority-Muslim countries, an order purportedly based on terrorist activity, technical hurdles to properly document these countries’ travelers, and poor coordination with US officials. Two recent books, “Mohammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires” and “What the Qur’an Meant: And Why it Matters,” take on the task of broadening Americans’ still unacceptably low understanding of Islam. The authors – Juan Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, and Garry Wills, a Pulitzer Prize winning lay scholar of American Catholicism – approach their subject in distinctly different manners. Yet, their message and conclusions are remarkably similar – namely, that ignorance of and distortions of Islam and what the Quran says both alienate vast numbers of Muslims and have led to foreign policy missteps. The books complement each other nicely.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, Peace Studies, Religion, Judaism, Islamophobia, Xenophobia
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Ukraine, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Soviet Union, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Haviland Smith
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: American Diplomacy
  • Institution: American Diplomacy
  • Abstract: It is clear that there are powerful people both in the United States and in Iran who would like to force a real confrontation between our two countries. What is completely unclear is whether or not those hawks on both sides want a modified Cold War type confrontation, built perhaps on cyber warfare, or an all-out military confrontation. What this situation, with all its incredibly profound dangers and possible disastrous outcomes, has done is once again prompt the question, “what is the United States doing in the Middle East and what precisely are our goals there?”
  • Topic: Cold War, Islam, Religion, Terrorism, Minorities, Ethnicity
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Khogir Wirya
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: With the military defeat of Islamic State (IS) militants in Mosul and other Iraqi territories, the Government of Iraq (GoI) is moving ahead with plans to stabilize violent environments, rebuild war-ravaged physical infrastructure, and restore vital services. Equally important is the need for developing a feasible national reconciliation strategy among the country’s various ethnic, religious, and social groups, through dialogue and trust-building mechanisms. In light of warm historical relations and significant political influence between Iraqi Kurds and Shi’ites, reconciliation between them is of paramount importance for lasting stability in the country. Indeed, in the absence of Erbil-Baghdad rapprochement, overcoming future political challenges will be very difficult. Towards that end, the Middle East Research Institute (MERI) and Al-Rafidain Centre for Dialogue (RCD) jointly organized a series of unofficial meetings involving representatives of Shi’ite political parties and a MERI-led Kurdish delegation between 28 February and 01 March 2018. Religious leaders, academics, political party representatives, members of parliament from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), Baghdad and Najaf attended the meetings, organized under the themes of “The Future of Governance in Iraq: Crises and Partnership Opportunities” and “The Role of Decision-makers and Political Elites in Building Confidence Among the Components of Iraqi Society.” The MERI-led delegation also visited the Marja’iya (Shi’ite religious authority) in al-Najaf city.
  • Topic: Religion, Islamic State, Political stability, Reconciliation
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan, Mosul
  • Author: Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Ever since Saddam’s regime was toppled in 2003, Iraq has three competitive parliamentary elections in 2005, 2010 and 2014. In all of these, pre-election alliance building and post-election coalition building processes were fairly predictable given the confessional nature of Iraq’s political system. Essentially, the system is centered on a politically conventional power-sharing arrangement among the country’s three main ethno-sectarian powerhouses: Shi’ite Arab Muslims, Sunni Arab Muslims, and the Kurds. This arrangement has prompted small political parties to forge alliances with these confessional powerhouses. This time round, this trend is likely to continue in the upcoming elections scheduled on 12 May 2018, but perhaps on a smaller scale. What gravitates political entities are political expediency and nationalist sentiments. These two factors seem to be shaping and forming some alliances such as between secular and civil-minded parties, the Shiite Sadrist movement via Hizb Istaqama (the Integrity Party), and the Iraqi Communist party. On 22 January 2018, Iraqi legislators ratified a decision to hold much-debated anticipated parliamentary elections on 12 May 2018, thereby ending the stalemate by some lawmakers to postpone it. Iraq is at a crossroads, and much of what is at stake will depend on which of the 27 registered electoral alliances emerge as winners. The large number of alliances suggests that political entities are aware of the competitive advantages inherent to forming these, versus running independently. Indeed, because of Iraq’s particular parliamentarian arrangement, the 24 million eligible voters in the 18 national electoral districts, representing the country’s 18 governorates, will not be electing the next prime minister – they will, instead, be picking an electoral alliance, which will engage in post-election coalition building negotiations to nominate the prime minister and form the next government. While it is still premature to forecast the ultimate composition of the next government, it is most likely to be led by one of four viable options: Eitilaf al-Nasr (Victory Alliance) led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi; Eitilaf al-Wataniya (National Alliance) led by former Prime Minister Ayad Alawi; Eitilaf Dawlat al-Qanun (State of the Law Alliance) led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; and Tahaluf al-Fatah (Conquest Alliance) led by al-Hashd al-Sha’abi (Popular Mobilization Units) commander Hadi al-Ameri. However, given the unpopularity of Iraq’s political class, no single alliance is expected to win a majority of parliamentary seats, forcing the formation of a grand-coalition government. This, nevertheless, may help build broad-based support and legitimacy given Iraq’s oversized economic, security, and political challenges. Furthermore, the next election is expected to maintain the status quo due to the existence of potent structural forces inspired by political and electoral confessionalism. However, and encouragingly, the status quo may prove ephemeral in the face of internal divisions within the traditional confessional centers of power, the rising popular discontent with the quality of the existing democratic system and the limited progress it has made over the past fifteen years. It would be safe to say that an inclusive government can increase popular support, reduce the likelihood of ethno-sectarian civil war, minimise the influence of external powers, and bolster the nation’s attractiveness to foreign investors. In the long term, Iraq needs a government that is ambitiously reformist to transform the state’s political, electoral, and economic systems.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nationalism, Religion, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad, Kurdistan
  • Author: Kevin Appleby
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: From February 23, 2017 to March 6, 2017, His Eminence Roger Cardinal Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, California; His Excellency Silvano Tomasi, c.s., delegate secretary for the Holy See’s Dicastery on Integral Human Development; and Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy for the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) and the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN), joined in a mission to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Greece to examine the situation of refugees and the displaced in these states. The visit came against the backdrop of several actions and events which could adversely impact these populations in the immediate, near, and long-term future: (1) the proposed reduction in the number of refugees to be admitted by the United States from 110,000 to 50,000 a year, including a 120-day shutdown of the US refugee program; (2) the one-year-old agreement between the European Union and Turkey to halt Syrian and other refugee groups from migrating to and entering Europe; (3) the ongoing war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), most notably in the fight for the city of Mosul and surrounding villages in northern Iraq; and (4) the ongoing persecution of religious minorities in the region, including Christian groups. Overall, the delegation found that, despite heroic work by international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and agencies in the region, including refugee protection organizations, the humanitarian need of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) far outweigh the support given to them by the international community. In fact, the world community appears to be withdrawing its support, rather than increasing it.1 The following findings and recommendations from the mission are based on the delegation’s conversations with actors in the region, including refugees and displaced persons, care providers, representatives of the Catholic Church, their aid agencies, and United Nations (UN) officials.
  • Topic: Migration, Religion, Refugee Issues, European Union, ISIS, Displacement, NGOs, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Europe, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Syria
  • Author: Khogir Wirya
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: With the complete military defeat of IS in Iraq underway, the process of the return of internally displaced people (IDPs) faces enormous challenges. IS’s swift seizure of control of vast swathes of territories created new fissures and exacerbated old animosities and grievances among the variegated communities of the Nineveh Plain. Members of certain communities joined IS, while others showed sympathy to the group, causing rising social tensions among the communities. The war against IS also prompted certain communities to form their own armed forces, which can now be used to challenge rival communities and impose one-sided solutions by virtue of force. While no rigorous plan for the post-IS situation is available, and with Iraq facing economic and political hardships, the region’s dynamics are likely to continue to be conflictual, and communal relations may worsen further. Understanding how communities perceive reconciliation and conflict is a key element to ensure the return of IDP’s in the future. This report focuses on the Shabak community, an abstruse ethno-religious group living on the Nineveh Plain just east of Mosul, and how they perceive reconciliation and conflict. Various international minority rights organisations recognise Shabaks as one of the five main minority groups most affected by the recent conflict beginning in June 2014. At present, the Shabak community is comprised of both Sunni and Shi’ites, yet the community’s religious identity has significantly evolved over time, moving from a distinctly heterodox to a more orthodox set of beliefs and rituals. This, combined with their geographic location in the disputed territories in close proximity to various other minorities, make their views on conflict and reconciliation particularly relevant for future coexistence in Nineveh. One of the main findings of this report is that the Shabak community suffers from four main conflicts. Two relate to relations with other ethno-religious communities, namely Sunni Arabs and Christians, and the other two concern divisions within the community itself, that is, religious and ethnic identity. The rise of IS has impacted conflict dynamics in two distinct ways. On the one hand, it has led to a proliferation of armed groups, significantly increasing the possibility of a violent escalation. On the other hand, the complete rupture of the pre-2014 status quo has resulted in an intensification of identity discussions, which is linked to the settlement of the administrative status of disputed territories on the Nineveh Plain. The community’s perception of justice and security is also explored in this report. Interviews reveal that the community is fearful of forced displacement and revenge acts after their areas are liberated, while some expressed doubts about the ability of the security forces and the judiciary system in place to deal with the post liberation environment.
  • Topic: Religion, Islamic State, Conflict, Recovery
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Khogir Wirya
  • Publication Date: 09-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: This report is about perceptions of reconciliation and conflict among the Christians in Iraq. Being a religious minority group in a country that has been fraught with conflicts and instability, this community, like other minorities in Iraq, endured suppression, displacement, and degradation. This, in addition to the weakening rule of law, has had an inverse impact on their communal relations, causing many to migrate. Furthermore, the Islamic State’s (IS) invasion of large swathes of land in the Nineveh Plain, where large numbers of Christians live, was yet another severe blow inflicted upon this community. The findings of this study reveal that the Christian community has had a conflictual relationship with the Shabaks, another minority group, in the Nineveh Plain well before IS’s emergence in 2014. The interviewees claim that the Shabaks encroached on their lands in an attempt to undermine the Sunnis in Mosul, serve external agendas and change the demography of the area. This report also shows that the Christians have disagreements with the Sunni Arabs, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and the Central government of Iraq (CGI). In order to fend off the rising Shia dominance in the Nineveh Plain, Sunnis are partly blamed for increasing the level of violence in the area. Many Christians held grievances against KRG’s policies in the Nineveh Plain before 2013. They argue that in its attempts to shield influence against Baghdad, the KRG caused friction and fragmentation among the Christians. As for the CGI, the interviewees expressed mistrust since it was unable to protect them from IS’s onslaught. In the eyes of Christians, the security situation after liberation does not portend well. The Shia Shabaks are thought to pose a security concern in the Nineveh Plain because of their involvement with Shia armed forces while there are Christian armed groups as well. Baghdad and Erbil have not engaged in debating future control of the security of the Nineveh Plains. Therefore, they see the potential for eruption of violence which may inflict great damage on reconciliation efforts. In short, the dynamics in Nineveh Plain were not stable before June 2014. Inter and intra-communal relations were strained, the political landscape was divisive and the quality of services was poor. The KRG and Baghdad are usually blamed for the overall pre-crisis climate as they were competing for hegemony. The ramifications of that unhealthy competition were manifold. Polarisation, neglect, underdevelopment, and strained relationships are just some. IS’s invasion strained the relations further and a return to the status quo ante means protracted conflicts and further instability. The bigger danger is that more and more Christians would leave the country should the situation remain unchanged.
  • Topic: Religion, Islamic State, Christianity, Sunni, Shia
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Alexander De Juan
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: German Institute of Global and Area Studies
  • Abstract: Institutions can contribute to regulating interethnic conflict; however, in many cases they fail to bring about lasting peace. The paper argues that their negligence of intraethnic factors accounts for some of this failure. Ethnic groups are often treated as unitary actors even though most consist of various linguistic, tribal or religious subgroups. This internal heterogeneity is often obscured by overarching collective ethnic identities that are fostered by interethnic conflict. However, when such interethnic conflict is settled, these subgroup differences may come back to the fore. This “resurgence” can lead to subgroup conflict about the political and economic resources provided through intergroup institutional settlements. Such conflict can in turn undermine the peace-making effect of intergroup arrangements. Different subgroup identity constellations make such destructive effects more or less likely. The paper focuses on self-government provisions in the aftermath of violent interethnic conflict and argues that lasting intergroup arrangements are especially challenging when they involve “contested” ethnic groups.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, Religion, Governance, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Africa, Iraq
  • 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: Deborah Isser, Peter Van der Auweraert
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Iraq has experienced several waves of mass displacement over the last forty years that have left complex land and property crises in their wake. As security has improved and some of the nearly five million displaced Iraqis have begun to come home, resolution of these issues are at the fore of sustainable return.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, Migration, Religion, Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Ömer Taspinar
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: In what represents a remarkable departure from its policy of non-involvement, Turkey is once again becoming an important player in the Middle East. In recent years, Ankara has shown a growing willingness to mediate in the Arab– Israeli conflict; attended Arab League conferences; contributed to UN forces in Lebanon and NATO forces in Afghanistan; assumed a leadership position in the Organization of Islamic Conference and established closer ties with Syria, Iran, and Iraq.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, Islam, Nationalism, Religion
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Syria
  • Author: Nazar Janabi
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Away from the headlines, Sunnis and Shiites are testing the waters of reconciliation in the Iraqi parliament with an agreement that may come at the expense of country's Kurdish population. The Kurdish political reaction to such an agreement could potentially exacerbate anti-Kurdish sentiment among many Arab parliamentarians, costing the Kurds some of the hard-earned political ground they have gained thus far.
  • Topic: Government, Political Economy, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Patrick Gaughen
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Even as U.S. operations to co-opt large elements of the Sunni insurgency and target irreconciliable al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters resulted in lower levels of violence during the summer, U.S. forces have simultaneously pursued rogue elements of Muqtada as-Sadr's Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM). These operations, often in collaboration with Iraqi Security Forces friendly to Sadr's main Shi'a rival, the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq (ISCI), took place within the broader context of a violent struggle between ISCI and the Sadrist Trend for supremacy within the Shi'a community, the lucrative income from control of the Shi'a shrines, and control of southern oil fields. This struggle has increasingly centered on the city of Diwaniyah, located in southern Iraq, approximately halfway between the capital of Baghdad and the southern port city of Basrah.
  • Topic: Religion, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Yemen, Syria
  • Author: Vesselin Popovski, Nicholas Turner
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United Nations University
  • Abstract: Decisions over the use of force are the most significant and dangerous that leaders must take, both morally and in terms of achieving their goals. Consideration of the reasons that can justify behaviour resulting in the elimination of human life is as philosophical and ethical as it is political and legal. In the context of exponential increases in the destructiveness of war, particularly with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, such consideration assumes an even greater significance.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Peace Studies, Religion
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay, Daniel Fink
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On January 14, in a rare show of unity, Sunni and Shiite Arab, Turkmen, and Christian Iraqis gathered at a conference in Ankara to denounce Kurdish plans to incorporate Kirkuk, the capital of Iraqs at-Tamim province, into the Kurdish region. This comes after recent violence in Kirkuk, including a December 26 roadside bomb that killed three and wounded six. Between December 2005 and July 2006, the number of reported violent incidents in Kirkuk increased by 76 percent, ending the citys previous status as a relatively safe area. With tensions in Kirkuk rising, how can violence be countered?
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Religion, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 02-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The bomb attack on a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra on 22 February 2006 and subsequent reprisals against Sunni mosques and killings of Sunni Arabs is only the latest and bloodiest indication that Iraq is teetering on the threshold of wholesale disaster. Over the past year, social and political tensions evident since the removal of the Baathist regime have turned into deep rifts. Iraq's mosaic of communities has begun to fragment along ethnic, confessional and tribal lines, bringing in stability and violence to many areas, especially those with mixed populations. The most urgent of these incipient conflicts is a Sunni-Shiite schism that threatens to tear the country apart. Its most visible manifestation is a dirty war being fought between a small group of insurgents bent on fomenting sectarian strife by killing Shiites and certain government commando units carrying out reprisals against the Sunni Arab community in whose midst the insurgency continues to thrive. Iraqi political actors and the international community must act urgently to prevent a low-intensity conflict from escalating into an all-out civil war that could lead to Iraq's disintegration and destabilise the entire region.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Luke Patey
  • Publication Date: 09-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Since its revolutionary birth in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has had a turbulent existence in international relations. From the US hostage crisis to the Iran-Iraq War to the current provocative development of its nuclear program, the short history of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been characterized by its volatile foreign politics. In fact, this is a feature very much resemblant of the country's tumultuous past, born from both its immense energy resources and its geo-strategic location. Regardless if Iran was under the rule of a Shah or the ultimate power of an Ayatollah, since the discovery of oil in the early 1900s, Iran's generous natural endowments have created an intimate link between itself and geopolitical competition.
  • Topic: Economics, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran
  • Author: Cecile Zwiebach
  • Publication Date: 08-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: While U.S. and coalition forces—and increasingly the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)—struggle to defeat the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, they are also dealing with a range of armed groups that complicate the security scenario. Militias and ad hoc units with different levels of government sanction are growing in strength, and the training of the ISF is progressing unevenly. While it is not possible to conduct a comprehensive survey of both independent groups and ISF units, a sampling of less publicized units illustrates how diffuse military power in Iraq has become.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq
  • Author: George Adams
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in countless other hotspots around the world, religion has been a major factor in matters of war and peace. Since religion often plays a significant role in conflicts, it also needs to be one of the factors addressed in mediating conflicts. Yet, because the United States separates religion from political matters to a greater degree than many other areas of the world, Americans frequently have difficulty understanding the crucial role religion can play in conflict transformation.
  • Topic: Peace Studies, Religion
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Reidar Visser
  • Publication Date: 04-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: This paper discusses the two prevailing interpretations of the political attitudes of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the leading Shiite cleric in Iraq today. It is argued that neither the traditional "quietist" paradigm nor more recent Machiavellian interpretations can satisfactorily explain Sistani's actions. An alternative interpretation is offered which highlights Sistani's historical oscillation between passive and activist positions. It is suggested that, after an activist intermezzo from June 2003 to December 2004, Sistani has reverted to a more secluded role, again showing an increasing reluctance to fulfil the wishes of his many wooers in Iraqi politics, and limiting his interference to matters directly connected with the Shiite faith and its institutions. It is concluded that Sistani's professional interests as a cleric – rather than any constant desire on his part to control and manipulate domestic politics – may be the key to understanding any future intervention in the political process in Iraq. Scepticism is also expressed toward the notion of Sistani as a guarantor for a "moderate" or "secular" Iraqi political system that would supposedly be fundamentally different from that of Iran – an idea that has featured prominently in policy-making circles in the United States and in other Western countries currently involved in Iraq.
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Christoph Marcinkowski
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Recent political events surrounding the Iranian “nuclear crisis”, as well as the still unsettled fate of Iraq have resulted in a renewed interest in the Shi'ite dimension of Islam among political observers. This paper attempts to present an outline of some of the “essential features” of Twelver Shi'ite Islam as it distinguishes itself today from majority Sunnism. In particular, the different approaches of Sunnite and Shi'ite Muslims towards the issue of religious and political authority - resulting in history often in violent clashes - have been highlighted. Moreover, throughout their history, Shi'ites had put high emphasis on intellectual pursuit and reasoning, on philosophy and science. Although the paper focuses of the “Twelver Shi'ites” (today numerically and politically the strongest Shi'ite group), the today rather un-political Isma'ilis or “Sevener” Shi'ites, too, shall be referred to briefly, as they have also some pockets in Singapore among the Indian Muslim community. Of special interest to the political observer of contemporary Islam shall be the status of Shi'ite clerics (Arab. 'ulama') vis-à-vis their Sunnite colleagues.
  • Topic: International Relations, National Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq
  • Author: A. Rashied Omar
  • Publication Date: 08-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
  • Abstract: In the Spring of 2006 an Afghan citizen, Abdul Rahman, who had converted from Islam to Christianity was arrested under local shari`ah law which mandates the death penalty for apostasy. As a result of international pressure Abdul Rahman was released and given asylum in Italy. This widely publicized incident highlighted the urgent need for Muslims to seriously reexamine the restrictive shari`ah laws on apostasy. It is unfortunate, however, that this case took place in the war ravaged context of Afghanistan, where relief aid for the victims of war is dispensed by Christian agencies some with a primarily evangelistic agenda. A similar program of aid evangelism has been undertaken in wartorn Iraq. The activities of such groups have reinvigorated the debate over whether it is ethical for philanthropical activities and humanitarian service to be undertaken with the primary intent to proselytize. The legitimacy of religious conversion and the ethics of mission are challenging issues. But they are also pertinent issues that should form part of an honest dialogical encounter between Christians and Muslims, since they have important implications for conflict transformation and interreligious peacebuilding.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Crime, Religion
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: From Saudi Arabia's establishment in 1932, its minority Shiite population has been subject to discrimination and sectarian incitement. Beginning in the early 1990s, with then Crown Prince Abdullah's active support, the government took steps to improve inter-sectarian relations. But the measures were modest, and tensions are rising. The war in Iraq has had a notable effect, strengthening Shiite aspirations and Sunni suspicions and generally deepening confessional divisions throughout the region. King Abdullah needs to act resolutely to improve the lot of the two-million strong Shiite community and rein in domestic expressions of anti-Shiite hostility.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Government, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Instead of healing the growing divisions between Iraq's three principal communities -- Shiites, Kurds and Sunni Arabs -- a rushed constitutional process has deepened rifts and hardened feelings. Without a strong U.S.-led initiative to assuage Sunni Arab concerns, the constitution is likely to fuel rather than dampen the insurgency, encourage ethnic and sectarian violence, and hasten the country's violent break-up.
  • Topic: Government, Religion, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries, Kurdistan
  • Author: Emily Hunt
  • Publication Date: 11-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On November 2, Iraq's Defense Ministry appealed to junior officers from Saddam Hussein's disbanded army to return to service. The decision to include these soldiers is part of an ongoing strategy to minimize support for terrorism by reintegrating Sunnis into the political fabric of the new Iraq. This latest effort comes as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group steps up targeting of Shiite civilians in an effort to spark retaliatory attacks against Sunnis. But as Zarqawi's attacks on Shiites exact growing toll among civilians, his tactics may be causing a divide within the ranks of the resistance.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Religion, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Eisenstadt
  • Publication Date: 08-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Warnings by Sunni politicians of even greater violence if Sunni Arab concerns are not addressed in the draft Iraqi constitution raise the question: could the insurgency get worse? The answer can be found by examining the insurgency's demographic dimension.
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics, Religion, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Mona Iman
  • Publication Date: 10-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: While the outcome of Iraq's October 15 national referendum is uncertain, it is clear that many of Iraq's Sunni Arabs will vote against it. Why are Sunni Arabs opposed to a constitution that appears to give them the same opportunities for self-governance that it provides to Kurds and Shia?
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Reidar Visser
  • Publication Date: 08-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: This paper deals with non-conformist ideas among Iraqi Shi'is about the territorial integrity of the modern state of Iraq. Two findings are presented. First, new Internet communications technology has enabled radical Shi'is outside the main clerical, intellectual and political establishments to propagate visions of an independent Shi'i state for the areas south of Baghdad, a scheme that runs counter to a robust and long-standing anti-separatist tradition among wider sections of the Shi'i community. Secondly, by choosing the Internet as their primary modus operandi, the Shi'i separatists also expose their relative weakness vis-à-vis other and less radical trends in Iraqi Shi'i society.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Development, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Adil Abd al-Mahdi
  • Publication Date: 12-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As Iraqi elections rapidly approach despite an entrenched and violent insurgency, the country's economic challenges are extensive. The government is faced with the momentous task of transforming a war torn, state-dominated economy into a transparent, investment-friendly institution, all during the course of daily political violence.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Jeffrey White, Todd Orenstein, Max Sicherman
  • Publication Date: 12-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Attacks by insurgents on Iraqi police officers and facilities have become a major feature of this stage of the insurgency in Iraq. Hundreds of police personnel have been killed, the police in some areas have been routed by insurgent forces, and police have been penetrated and subverted by the insurgents. Deployed widely and to the neighborhood level in towns and cities, they have become a prime target for the insurgents.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Daniel Benjamin, Jonathan Schanzer
  • Publication Date: 12-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Groups affiliated with al-Qaeda are a threat not only in the countries in which they operate, but also at the global level. Al-Qaeda's presence throughout the Muslim world comes largely in the form of these groups; attacks in Bali, Yemen, Casablanca, Iraq, and elsewhere have been linked to such affiliates.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Yemen, Arab Countries
  • Author: Ghassan al-Atiyyah
  • Publication Date: 12-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The forces at play in Iraqi politics have changed over the past seventeen months. There is a glaring absence of moderate Iraqis throughout the political scene, within all three major ethno-religious groups -- Shiites, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds. The interim government has perpetuated the dominance of the same seven prominent political parties that controlled the Iraqi Governing Council before the June 2004 transfer of sovereignty. Those outside this elite group of parties, especially Sunni Arabs, are frustrated at the perception that their voices are not being heard.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 11-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The military outcome of the long-anticipated coalition operation to break the insurgents' control of the city of Falluja was never in doubt. Only the speed of the operation and the casualties inflicted and taken were in question. Ultimately, of course, it remains to be seen if Iraqi and coalition forces can prevent the insurgents from reestablishing a presence in the city. Nevertheless, the fight for Falluja tells us much about the maturing resistance that U.S. and Iraqi troops now face in Iraq. While there are unlikely to be any more battles like Falluja, there will be no cheap or easy victories over the resistance in the battles to come.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 11-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: President George W. Bush will enter his second term leading a country that is at war on five fronts at once. Four are clear: in Iraq and Afghanistan, against al-Qaeda and its global affiliates, and within the homeland. The fifth front, however, is the poor stepsister to the other four. It is being fought with an arsenal of outmoded and dysfunctional weaponry, a set of confused and self-defeating battlefield tactics, and no clear strategy for victory. Such is the status of the U.S. effort to fight the "battle of ideas" -- the ideological war to prevent Islamists and their sympathizers from capturing the social, cultural, economic, and political high ground in Muslim societies around the world.
  • Topic: Security, Religion, Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 11-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On November 22-23, officials from several countries will hold a conference in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt, regarding Iraq's future. The meeting will represent the first major international event focused on Iraq since the reelection of President George W. Bush and the resignation of U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell. Though organized to improve international assistance to Iraq, the conference promises risks as well as rewards.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries, Egypt
  • Author: Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 11-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Coalition and Iraqi government forces are moving to retake Falluja from insurgents who have held the city since April 2004. On the evening of November 8, U.S. troops with large-scale air support began to penetrate at several points, encountering some resistance. The coalition and the Iraqi government are gambling that they can break the insurgents hold on the city with acceptable losses and without a protracted battle. The insurgents are hoping to avoid annihilation, inflict embarrassing losses, create an image of wanton destruction by the coalition and government forces, and force an inconclusive end to the fighting. Indeed, Falluja has become a kind of "Stalingrad on the Euphrates" -- a city imbued with political, military, and symbolic consequence, and a battle whose outcome will have long-term implications.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Michael Eisenstadt
  • Publication Date: 10-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) have had to confront both bureaucratic red tape and insurgent terrorism in their effort to recruit, train, and equip the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Nevertheless, progress is being made. Equipment is arriving, ISF personnel are being trained, and the flow of new recruits (motivated by the prospect of stable employment and, in many cases, patriotic pride) continues in the face of terrorist attacks on ISF personnel and facilities. Ultimately, however, success in creating a relatively stable, if not peaceful, Iraq will depend in part on whether the ISF can surmount the operational challenges it is liable to face in the coming months and years, both in conjunction with coalition forces and, ultimately, on its own.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Michael Eisenstadt
  • Publication Date: 10-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The counterinsurgency in Iraq has entered a critical phase: the start of operations by U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi forces to pacify insurgent-held areas, smoothing the way for January 2005 elections. In recent weeks, coalition and Iraqi forces have battled insurgents in Tal Afar, Samarra, Mahmudiya, and Latifiya, as well as Sadr City and Haifa Street in Baghdad. They now appear to be preparing to move against Falluja, which has been described by some U.S. officials as the "center of gravity" of the Sunni insurgency.
  • Topic: Security, Religion, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Patrick Clawson
  • Publication Date: 10-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Ramadan starts on October 15 or 16, depending on the sighting of the moon. Last year on the first day of Ramadan, five car bombs went off in Baghdad within an hour, including one in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) offices. There is a disturbing prospect that the insurgents could try in Ramadan this year to mount a more significant offensive than any attacks to date. Such an offensive would underline the insurgents' claim to act in the cause of Islam; it could significantly complicate plans for elections in Iraq; and it might aim to influence the U.S. elections.
  • Topic: Security, Religion, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Michael Eisenstadt, Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 09-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Surprise in war is inevitable. It is impossible to anticipate all enemy actions or the impact of the social and political forces unleashed by war. To succeed, one must be able to rapidly adjust one's plans when their underlying assumptions are proven wrong. In this regard, the U.S. performance in Iraq has been found wanting. The war brought surprises in four areas: The insurgency. The Sunni insurgency resulted from the way the war was fought by both sides: U.S. forces brought about the rapid collapse of the regime without instilling a sense of defeat among its members, while many members of the regime's security forces survived the war because, whenever possible, they relied on paramilitary forces drawn from the dregs of Iraqi society to do the fighting for them. Moreover, the U.S. failure to realize that the fall of Baghdad did not end the war enabled the resistance to organize itself and stay one step ahead of coalition forces. The United States must prevent further entrenchment of the resistance and stamp out the miniature "republics of fear" that have emerged in the Sunni Triangle and deterred many residents from embracing the Iraqi Interim Government. It must be remembered, however, that successful counterinsurgency campaigns often take years to bear results. The question is whether the U.S. presence will become politically untenable before Iraqi political and security structures are in place.
  • Topic: Security, Religion, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Jeffrey White, Todd Orenstein, Max Sicherman
  • Publication Date: 09-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The effects of resistance operations have been felt in terms of stability and governance, reconstruction, and military security. Sunni resistance has removed some areas from government and coalition control and permitted the emergence of local rule by anticoalition and antigovernment elements. Officials working with the government have been killed, wounded, kidnapped, or otherwise intimidated, again with the effect of limiting government influence.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Jeffrey White, Todd Orenstein, Max Sicherman
  • Publication Date: 09-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The prospects for violence in Iraq were much discussed in the period leading to the June 28, 2004, transition to Iraqi sovereignty. The "smart money" was on the expectation that violence against the transitional government and coalition forces would increase. This has proved to be the case, with Sunni-based resistance actions in Iraq increasing in number, scope, sophistication, and lethality. Between the beginning of June and the end of August, some 150 U.S. soldiers have been killed in action and 1,977 have been wounded. It is now possible to speak not only of certain cities that have slipped beyond coalition or government control (such as Falluja, Ramadi, and Samarra), but also of "zones of resistance" that extend across multiple cities and towns in Sunni Iraq.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Jeffrey White, Anna Solomon-Schwartz
  • Publication Date: 08-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The fractious and dangerous Iraqi Shi'i cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is once again attempting to foment a rebellion. In scenes virtually identical to those of his April-May 2004 uprising, his militia is in the streets, Shi'is are demonstrating en masse, and he is alternately talking peace and vowing to fight to the death. Iraq has changed since the April rebellion, however, with al-Sadr now pitted against the coalition as well as the new Interim Iraqi Government and its expanding security forces.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 08-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Morocco is a nation of nearly 30 million people, part Arab, part Berber, and overwhelmingly Muslim, yet distant enough from Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian arena so that those issues, while relevant, are not all-consuming. Hence, it provides an excellent vantage point from which to assess the ideological battle between radical Islamists, on the one hand, and non- and anti-Islamists on the other.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Morocco
  • Author: Charles Swannack Jr.
  • Publication Date: 07-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Like all U.S. forces in Iraq, the 82nd Airborne Division was worked hard in 2003-2004. Beginning in February 2003, the division's headquarters were split between Afghanistan and Iraq. From February 2003 to April 2004, at least two maneuver brigades from the division were continuously deployed in one of these two countries. Eventually, every brigade in the division rotated through Iraq.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Dov Zakheim
  • Publication Date: 07-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although the United States had been engaged in a similar reconstruction effort in Iraq not more than twelve years before the recent war in that country, the Iraq of 2003 was fundamentally different from the Iraq of 1991, which meant that the reconstruction effort this time around would also be fundamentally different. First and foremost, the reconstruction effort of 1991 was directed more toward the rebuilding of Kuwait. Because Iraq had triggered the first conflict, the donor countries were inclined to allocate the majority of their funds to the aid effort in Kuwait. Second, both the political situations and the internal economies of the countries that contributed to reconstruction effort twelve years ago were vastly different. In addition, several other reconstruction efforts were -- and had been -- going on when plans for the current reconstruction of Iraq were being formulated. Those efforts were in the Balkans, East Timor, and U.S.-occupied Afghanistan. By mid-March of 2003, while both the Afghan project and the Iraq war were underway, plans were made to establish a coordination group to raise money for the reconstruction of Iraq. This group was called the senior Coalition Contribution Group (CCG).
  • Topic: Security, Religion, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Michael Eisenstadt, David Albright
  • Publication Date: 06-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The culmination of Operation Iraqi Freedom has given rise to much debate concerning the exact nature of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. Similarly, ongoing negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear activities have also been dogged by imprecise intelligence and unclear strategies. Both of these cases have led many to realize that noncompliance with weapons inspections does not automatically indicate the existence of hidden weapons programs. Although the Senate Intelligence Committee has yet to issue its report on Iraqi WMD, one could reasonably argue that the situation in Iraq during the 1990s served as an example of how inspections can provide a powerful deterrent against covert WMD activity. At present, it is too early to establish with any certainty the exact nature of Iraqi WMD prior to the invasion. Just as some prewar analyses were mistaken when they claimed to know precisely where Iraq's weapons stockpiles were, it would now be erroneous to declare that the country possessed no WMD before the war or that such weapons are not present there today. One must remain open to various possibilities until history comes down conclusively on either side.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Michael Rubin
  • Publication Date: 06-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After several days of diplomatic tension between London and Tehran, eight British military personnel who had been captured by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were released and flown out of Iran on June 24. The men, who served with the coalition forces in Iraq, had been in three boats intercepted in the Shatt al-Arab waterway, the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that forms the border with Iran. (Tehran, which dislikes the Arab name, calls the waterway the Arvand River.) The incident comes after several weeks of minor clashes in the Persian Gulf and at a time when Iran is facing strong international pressure due to concerns about its suspected nuclear weapons program.
  • Topic: Security, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Tehran, Arab Countries