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  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Encouraging signs have emerged that the collapse of federal government control in Iraq may have slowed and that Baghdad is beginning the transition to counteroffensive operations to regain ground. Massive mobilization of largely Shiite volunteers has given Baghdad an untrained but motivated "reserve army" that can be used to swamp cross-sectarian areas around the Iraqi capital. All available formed military units have been pulled out of reserve and brought toward Baghdad to defend the capital. In this effort, all Department of Border Enforcement units have been relocated from the country's borders, and Iraqi army and Federal Police units have been redeployed from southern Iraq. Isolated federal government units are scattered across northern Iraq, in some cases hanging on against Sunni militants with the support of adjacent Kurdish forces.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism, Law Enforcement, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Jakob Aroe Jorgensen, Adam Gardner
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Threats emanating from the Middle East still pose serious security challenges to NATO, though some see the crisis in Ukraine as the most serious security challenge yet to the alliance in the post-Cold War era. NATO must remain vigilant towards these threats, not allowing the crisis in Ukraine to eclipse all other contingencies.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, NATO, Arms Control and Proliferation, Sovereignty, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Ukraine, Middle East
  • Author: Faysal Itani, Nathaniel Rosenblatt
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: As the conflict in Syria enters its fourth year, US policy has consistently failed to achieve its stated object: a negotiated political transition based on the mutual consent of the regime and opposition. The United States and its Western allies have focused on summits and high-level diplomacy as the most effective means to that laudable end. This approach ignores an essential missing ingredient: an opposition able to coordinate different anti-regime forces, exercise agency on their behalf, and provide decent local governance, without which Syrians will continue to suffer and fight irrespective of whether the regime is overthrown.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Syria, North America
  • Author: Patrick O'Reilly
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: NATO leaders have cited missile defense as an example of applying the principles of the Smart Defense initiative endorsed at the 2012 NATO Summit to enhance collective defense at minimum cost. As ballistic missiles continue to proliferate and become more accessible to both state and nonstate actors, it is important to foster global partnerships to pursue NATO's missile defense mission and protect North American and European interests. NATO should consider opportunities to further apply the principles of Smart Defense now to reduce future costs of deterring and countering missile proliferation.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, NATO, Arms Control and Proliferation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Asia, North America
  • Author: Amy Hawthorne
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Three years into Egypt's post-Mubarak transition, the near-term prospects for democratization are bleak. The military-security alliance that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, in July 2013 is consolidating power. Government repression against the Islamist opposition, and more recently against secular dissenters, is harsher and society is more polarized than in any point in recent memory.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, Egypt
  • Author: Pinar Dost-Niyego, Orhan Taner
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The recent events in Ukraine have revived the question of European dependence on Russian natural gas. The security of Europe's natural gas supply has been a consistently important issue in Russian-European Union (EU) relations. Russia provided 34 percent of EU gas in 2012, and Russian policies can have a direct impact on EU supplies. After the West-Russian confrontation over Ukraine, a lot has been said about the 'US shale gas revolution' and the possibilities of the United States becoming an energy exporter for future European energy needs. Although US energy independence seems to promise new perspectives for future European energy security, as well as for the balance of power in the Middle East, this is not for this decade. We cannot expect that the European Union would be able to cut off all of its energy relations with Russia, but we can foresee–or at least agree–that the European Union should diversify its natural gas supplies.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Economics, Energy Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Ukraine, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Faysal Itani
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Jihadists are steadily capturing territory and resources and establishing a state in Syria and Iraq. The most capable jihadist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), now controls swathes of territory, energy resources, and sophisticated military hardware in both countries. Although the extremists are currently occupied with fighting other nonregime armed groups and the Syrian and Iraqi regimes, these efforts are a means to an end: building a state from which to confront and target the United States, its allies, and its interests in the region. These jihadist groups also bring boundless suffering to the populations they control, and serve as a magnet for and inspiration to jihadists worldwide.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The number of foreign fighters is high, 12,000 and counting, and the spread of countries they come from covers much of the globe. Two recent events involving foreign fighters show the radicalizing influence of the war. With the support to bolster Syria's more secular rebel forces at times inconsistent and tepid, the lack of an alternative has accelerated a natural gravitation towards extremist elements. It will be hard to know which returnees pose a threat, and harder still to deal with them. Given that the number of foreign fighters already exceeds those that went to Afghanistan, government resources will be severely strained to monitor all returnees and will have to rely on the help of local communities.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The Turkish parliament's vote to authorize the deployment of military forces in Syria and Iraq provided a legal and official framework for such action It may appear to be a positive step in degrading and destroying the putative Islamic State (IS), however, the parliament in its vote used the broader term "terrorist organizations," thus the landscape for Turkey, Syria-Iraq, and regional states and interests remains exceptionally complex Though there is nearly universal and implacable opposition to IS among all actors in Syria and Iraq, Turkey's future role-depending on steps taken-could aggravate tensions not only with Arab Gulf states and Kurdish elements in Syria and Iraq, but Iran, Russia, and the Iraqi government Turkey's desire to create a buffer zone on the Syrian side of its common border remains one of the most sensitive issues Amid reports of increased IS pressure on Kobani, Kurdish PKK has insinuated Turkey will be to blame-not IS-for creating conditions for the refugee crisis, and threatens to resume opposition activity in Turkey. The Turkish parliament's vote Thursday to authorize use of its army and military facilities in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) may appear at first look to be a positive step for the broader coalition. The measures-to be determined-are in addition to any financial, diplomatic, humanitarian, and support activities for the anti-IS coalition. However, parliament's vote did not entail Turkey's officially joining the coalition. After the recent deal-details yet to be revealed-to bring home over 40 hostages IS had taken from Turkey's consulate in Mosul, Iraq, in June 2014, pressure increased for Turkey to take military steps in the anti-IS fight. A factor increasing the possibility of military action is Turkish special operations forces' guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah, a Turkish enclave in Syria reported to be increasingly surrounded by IS. Though there is almost universal animus toward IS in the region, there is also nearly uniform resistance to Turkey's perceived unilateral military involvement in Syria and Iraq, outside the framework of the anti-IS coalition. Turkey's next moves may cause more conflict than benefit in the anti-IS fight. Indeed, the political landscape for Turkey's moves at home and abroad remains extraordinarily complex.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: As King Abdullah remains out of sight, worries persist over Saudi Arabia's ability to handle its many domestic and foreign issues The Sunni-Shi'a divide is now seen largely in terms of competition for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran But it is not just the Sunni-Shi'a tension which impacts the region as Saudi Arabia and Turkey also compete for primacy in the Arab Middle East; the three-way competition has been a key factor in the chronic conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen Common antipathy toward the self-declared Islamic State is the only glue that holds together the US-led coalition at this time: there's no consensus on how to defeat it, what to put in its place, and the role of Iran-issues made more complicated by questions about Saudi Arabia's internal decision process.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, Power Politics, Counterinsurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria