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  • Author: Adel Bakawan
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Iraqi Kurdistan, previously known as a secure and stable region amidst the chaotic and shaken Middle East, was struck by a wave of attacks in 2016. Between September and December of that year, there were five recorded terrorist operations led by 249 Kurdish jihadists rallied by the Islamic State (ISIS) or Daesh, of which 47 were killed and 43 were arrested by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). In fact, Iraqi Kurdistan, with a population of five million inhabitants, has supplied ISIS with 2,000 jihadists. Since the launch of the Mosul offensive on 17th October 2016, Kurdistan has been preparing itself, like many other countries in the region and a number of European countries, to face its worst nightmare: the Kurdish jihadists’ return to the country. Although a series of threats weigh upon the leaders of the KRG, such as social and economic crises, political division between rival parties; Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the prospect of a new civil war, and the intervention of neighbouring countries – the return of the Kurds of Daesh is currently the most troublesome.
  • Topic: Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Carter Center
  • Abstract: Since its inception, Daesh has been successfully recruiting women across national and ideological lines to assume key positions in advancing the organization’s objectives. According to recent estimates, out of 31,000 fighters within Daesh territories, almost one-fifth, roughly 6,200, are women. Yet, to date, research and policy focus on women’s involvement in Daesh has been scant. Several media accounts that have covered female participation tend to be alarmingly reductionist in their description of the roles women play in Daesh. These reports primarily categorize women as either passive victims, “Jihadi brides,” or subsidiary supporters of male guardians with negligible influence. This approach not only ignores the multiplicity of roles played by women to expand Daesh’s ideological and operational agenda, but also oversimplifies the motivations behind their decisions to join Daesh. Just like their male counterparts, women are complex human beings with conflicting aspirations, ideological leanings, and life struggles that inform the choices they make.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Gender Issues, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The international community’s e orts have recently succeeded in reducing the sources of funding of many terror organizations in the Middle East. ISIS is one instance, where the military operations launched by a US- led global coalition since September 2014, have signi cantly reduced the terrorist group’s funds generated from oil sales and illicit trade and caused huge losses.
  • Topic: Terrorism, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Lina Khatib
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The self-proclaimed Islamic State is a hybrid jihadist group with a declared goal of establishing a “lasting and expanding” caliphate. Its strategy for survival and growth blends military, political, social, and economic components. Yet the U.S.-led international intervention against it has largely been limited to air strikes. The gaps in the international coalition’s approach as well as deep sectarian divisions in Iraq and the shifting strategies of the Syrian regime and its allies are allowing the Islamic State to continue to exist and expand.
  • Topic: Civil War, Islam, Terrorism, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: Anthony H Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The events in Iraq over the last month have shown that any success in Iraq requires both the Iraqi government and the United States to go far beyond the war against ISIS, and makes any partisan debate over who lost Iraq as damaging to U.S. national interests as any other aspect of America’s drift toward partisan extremism. The war against ISIS is a critical U.S. national security interest. It not only threatens to create a major center of terrorism and extremism in a critical part of the Middle East, and one that could spread to threaten the flow of energy exports and the global economy, but could become a major center of international terrorism. It is important to understand, however, that ISIS is only one cause of instability in the region, and only one of the threats caused by spreading sectarian and ethnic violence.
  • Topic: Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Maria Giulia Amadio Viceré
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Under certain conditions, such as security crises, an integrated external EU counter-terrorism policy can emerge without leading to the supra-nationalisation of policy-making. This paper analyses the role of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy with the objective of assessing the influence that such figure can have on the governance of EU counter-terrorism policies. It does so by assessing the EU’s response to three security crises, namely: the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent bombings in Madrid (2004) and London (2005); the Arab Spring and the following destabilisation of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA); and the emergence and spread of Da’esh.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency, European Union
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East
  • Publication Identifier: 978-88-98650-53-8
  • Publication Identifier Type: DOI
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Growing numbers of Central Asian citizens, male and female, are travelling to the Middle East to fight or otherwise support the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL or ISIS). Prompted in part by political marginalisation and bleak economic prospects that characterise their post-Soviet region, 2,000-4,000 have in the past three years turned their back on their secular states to seek a radical alternative. IS beckons not only to those who seek combat experience, but also to those who envision a more devout, purposeful, fundamentalist religious life. This presents a complex problem to the governments of Central Asia. They are tempted to exploit the phenomenon to crack down on dissent. The more promising solution, however, requires addressing multiple political and administrative failures, revising discriminatory laws and policies, implementing outreach programs for both men and women and creating jobs at home for disadvantaged youths, as well as ensuring better coordination between security services.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Middle East, Asia
  • 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: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The still-unresolved hostage situation involving Jordan, Japan, and the Islamic State is unlike any of the group's previous kidnappings Jordan is in a precarious position, as it seeks the release of one of its citizens-a national hero who comes from a prominent tribe-while not wanting to free one of the perpetrators of the worst terrorist attack in the country's history By demanding the release of failed suicide-bomber Sajida al-Rishawi from Jordanian custody, the Islamic State is trying to elevate itself to the status of negotiating nation-state, and weaken and embarrass a vital member of the coalition seeking its destruction In a striking difference with previous Islamic State hostage situations, current circumstances provide a chance for the group to bolster its standing in the vital Iraqi province of al-Anbar-where al-Rishawi is from-and perhaps slightly lessen tribal pressure on the group The issue is causing tensions between the Iraqi-born leadership of the Islamic State, who want to make the exchange, and a small faction of primarily Saudi fighters, who want to execute the Jordanian pilot for bombing the group.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Japan, Middle East, Arab Countries, Jordan
  • Author: Bilal Y. Saab
  • Publication Date: 12-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: September 2015 marked the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama's speech outlining the administration's strategy to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Yet, ISIS celebrated in June its own first-year anniversary of setting up a state by conducting three nearly simultaneous terrorist operations in three different countries—France, Tunisia, and Kuwait. Just this past month, ISIS also shocked the world with its attacks in Paris and Beirut and its downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt, killing more than 400 people combined and injuring hundreds more. While nobody expected the destruction of a resilient and agile foe such as ISIS within a couple of years, it is deeply troubling that the coalition is having such a hard time even disrupting its activities.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, War, Counterinsurgency, Fragile/Failed State, ISIS
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Michele Flournoy, Richard Fontaine
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: In the 11 months since President Barack Obama committed the United States to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), the group has expanded its international reach, metastasized to form offshoots across multiple regions, and increased its perceived momentum. Although U.S. government officials cite a reduction in the overall size of the group’s sanctuary in Iraq and Syria and the killing of thousands of ISIS fighters, the fall of Ramadi and much of Anbar province to the Islamic State served as a wakeup call that current efforts to counter ISIS are not adequate to the task.2 Meanwhile, the threat posed by the terrorist group to Americans at home and abroad appears to be growing as ISIS-inspired individuals conduct attacks targeting Westerners around the globe, including here in the United States.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Civil War, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Robert Sedgwick
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Columbia International Affairs Online
  • Abstract: A brief overview and timeline examining the origins and trajectory of the little known terror group that was initially shunned and finally disowned by al-Qaeda as it developed into the world's most feared militant Muslim organization.
  • Topic: Islam, Post Colonialism, Terrorism, War, Counterinsurgency, ISIS, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Katherine Zimmerman
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Yemen is at a pivotal moment today, three years after the outbreak of popular protests, and the future of America's strategy against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is on the line. Yemen is in the midst of a political transition process that will eventually reform and decentralize the government. But the success of the effort is by no means assured. The reforms will not, in any case, address the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions that provide fertile ground for al Qaeda. Moreover, the central state, never fully able to exercise its sovereignty throughout the country, is weaker than it was before 2011. Opposition groups, which have turned to violence in the past, may still seek to form independent states of their own, potentially collapsing the fragile Yemeni state structure entirely. American interests are bound up in this process by the fact that AQAP is among the most virulent al Qaeda affiliates that poses a direct threat to the U.S. homeland. Syria, Iran, and other foreign and domestic policy issues are distracting the United States and its regional partners from sustained engagement in Yemen. Without international support, the country is much less likely to ride this transition process smoothly and our security interests will be severely harmed.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Robert M. Shelala II
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The waterways of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) are among the most important in the world. They facilitate the export of large volumes of oil and natural gas from the region, while also bridging traders in the Eastern and Western worlds through the Red Sea and Suez Canal. While political tensions in the region have at times played out in these waterways since the mid-20th century, their vulnerability has been exasperated in recent years by the failure of bordering governments to promote internal stability, the lack of adequate maritime security capabilities of nearby states, and the potential naval threats posed by the government of Iran.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, International Security, Military Strategy, Maritime Commerce
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Marisa Sullivan
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Hezbollah's deepening involvement in Syria is one of the most important factors of the conflict in 2013 and 2014. Since the beginning of 2013, Hezbollah fighters have operated openly and in significant numbers across the border alongside their Syrian and Iraqi counterparts. They have enabled the regime to regain control of rebel-held areas in central Syria and have improved the effectiveness of pro-regime forces. The impact of Hezbollah's involvement in Syria has been felt not just on the battlefield, where the regime now has momentum in many areas, but also in Lebanon where growing sectarian tensions have undermined security and stability.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Syria
  • 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: Ehud Yaari
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: With Israeli acquiescence to de facto alterations of the 1979 peace treaty, Egypt has deployed substantial military forces into the Sinai to combat terrorists. But Israel remains hesitant about Cairo's inclination to increase pressure on Hamas in Gaza. Over the past year, Israel and Egypt have used a little-known, legally permissible understanding -- the Agreed Activities Mechanism -- to bypass restrictions on the number and type of Egyptian forces permitted in much of the Sinai. In doing so, they have made de facto modifications to their 1979 peace treaty without resorting to the diplomatically risky procedure of "reviewing" the treaty itself. As a result, considerable Egyptian army forces are now constantly deployed in central and eastern Sinai (Areas B and C of the peninsula, respectively), in a manner and scope never envisaged by the teams that negotiated the treaty more than three decades ago. Going forward, this new reality on the ground is unlikely to be reversed and is bound to have profound consequences for Egyptian-Israeli security cooperation, Cairo's ongoing counterterrorism campaign, and the fate of Hamas in the neighboring Gaza Strip.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Terrorism, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Gaza, Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, Cairo
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The controversial Hariri trial will unfold amid growing sectarian violence in Lebanon, the seemingly interminable war in Syria, and a longstanding political stalemate regarding Hezbollah's role in government.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Terrorism, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: There is no guarantee that a peace deal will be reached within the current timeline, but a Palestinian return to armed struggle would be a far greater political, economic, and humanitarian disaster than any short-term frustration with the negotiations. Peace processes are rarely peaceful processes, and the current U.S.-led effort to reach an Israeli-Palestinian "framework agreement" is no exception. As the tempo of negotiations between the main parties picks up speed, more radical actors have reemerged to violently oppose the process, from Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Resistance Committees, to Salafi jihadist groups, to Marxist factions such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Many observers have focused on the sharp increase in rockets fired at Israel from Gaza in the past few weeks and the prospect of another Gaza war. But that issue, while crucial, has drawn media attention away from two equally troubling trends: the increase in violence across the West Bank, and new signs that some officials from the Palestinian Authority and its leading party, Fatah, may be hedging their bets and preparing for wider violence if the peace process fails.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Terrorism, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: Lori Plotkin Boghardt
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A number of U.S. interests could be served by expanding support to strategic Gulf partners in their efforts to curb Iranian aid to local fighters. On March 6, Bahrain's foreign minister told the UN Human Rights Council that the ongoing violence in his country "is directly supported by elements of the Islamic Republic of Iran." The statement does not accurately explain all political violence in Bahrain, but not every claim of Iranian support for violence should be assumed to represent part of a government propaganda campaign. U.S. intelligence assesses that Iran is in fact providing arms and more to Bahraini and other fighters in the Arabian Peninsula, and Washington should increase support to important Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners to curb it.
  • Topic: Security, Human Rights, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Washington, Middle East, United Nations
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Washington has rightfully avoided backing a candidate in next week's elections, but it should still use counterterrorism assistance and other levers to push Baghdad on pluralism and KRG oil revenue sharing during the presumably lengthy transition period. On April 30, the Iraqi public will vote in national parliamentary elections, establishing the next four-year term of the 328-seat Council of Representatives. Thereafter, an equally consequential bargaining process will commence, taking the formation of the next government out of the public's hands and cloistering it behind closed doors. The United States has repeatedly prodded Baghdad to ensure that the vote is held on time, in all districts, and in a free and fair manner. Washington's role in the government formation process could be equally constructive, but it presents a far trickier challenge. Indeed, how the U.S. government acts during the postelection process could set the tone for bilateral relations throughout the next government's term.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Washington, Middle East
  • Author: Lori Plotkin Boghardt
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Washington should look for small changes in Kuwait and Qatar's political and security calculus that could provide opportunities to support counter-terrorist financing measures there. On April 30, the U.S. State Department noted that private donations from Persian Gulf countries were "a major source of funding for Sunni terrorist groups, particularly...in Syria," calling the problem one of the most important counterterrorism issues during the previous calendar year. Groups such as al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), previously known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, are believed to be frequent recipients of some of the hundreds of millions of dollars that wealthy citizens and others in the Gulf peninsula have been donating during the Syrian conflict.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Border Control
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Washington, Middle East, Kuwait, Arabia, Syria, Qatar
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The longer the war in Syria continues, the greater the threat these fighters will likely pose. Last week, ten Jordanian Islamists who were apprehended while attempting to join the jihad in Syria were sentenced by the State Security Court to five years of hard labor. And last month, Jordanian F-16 fighter jets destroyed a convoy purportedly carrying al-Qaeda-affiliated anti-Assad-regime rebels traversing the border from Syria. These "spillover" incidents are only the latest in a disturbing trend. Over the past year, reports of Jordanian Salafi jihadists have become routine, raising the specter of terrorism returning to the kingdom.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Border Control
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Jordan
  • Author: Ehud Yaari, Michael Morell
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A CIA veteran and an Israeli security expert discuss the growing presence of al-Qaeda affiliates in Sinai and Syria.
  • Topic: Terrorism, International Security, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Security crackdowns will not be enough to eradicate jihadist networks in Tunisia and Libya, which have the patience and ideological conviction to weather drastic reorganization. Eight months ago, the Tunisian government officially designated Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST) as a terrorist organization. Since then, Tunis has cracked down on the group's activities, going after both its dawa campaign (i.e., proselytization and social-welfare efforts) and any links members have to terrorist plots. On the whole, AST's public response has been to keep relatively quiet. Yet recent developments indicate that the group may be rebranding itself as Shabab al-Tawhid (ST; the Youth of Pure Monotheism), a shift that would have important implications for efforts to counter Tunisian jihadists and their associates in Libya.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Border Control
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Arabia, Tunisia
  • Author: Ehud Yaari
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recent developments indicate a credible, previously unseen rebel threat to Damascus. While rebel militias have lately suffered serious setbacks in central and northern Syria, they are now recording significant successes in the south -- the region lying between Damascus and the Israeli and Jordanian borders. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's loyalists are on the defensive on all related fronts, risking the loss of this strategically important sector. It is becoming increasingly evident that a rebel push toward the capital from the south may be more promising militarily than an offensive from the so-far-stalemated front lines north of Damascus. The next few weeks may witness further major rebel gains on the southern front, which may ultimately pose the main threat to Assad's control.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Mohamed Salah Tamek
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Morocco has had a largely successful record of countering violent extremism within its borders, including the dismantling of numerous cells linked to al-Qaeda core or its North African offshoot, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Thousands of suspects have been arrested for perpetrating assassinations, assaults, and robberies; huge caches of heavy weapons have been confiscated; and authorities have foiled many attempts to attack security services, tourist attractions, diplomatic delegations, and places of worship for Christians and Jews. In addition, two channels of recruitment for jihadists in Mali were dismantled in late 2012, and two months ago, Moroccan and Spanish security forces jointly dismantled a transnational cell recruiting fighters for Syria and Mali.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Syria, Morocco, Northern Mali
  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Bahraini government will need to distinguish better between protestors and terrorists if it wants Washington and other foreign partners to believe its claims of Iranian support for local militants. On May 5, in what has become an increasingly typical event in Bahrain, several individuals threw Molotov cocktails at a police post in a Shiite village, damaging storefronts but causing no casualties. Such incidents have intensified over the past few months in villages surrounding the capital, Manama -- in March, three police officers were killed by a bombing in al-Daih; last month, an explosion wounded another officer in the same village; days later, a police car was firebombed in Hamad Town.
  • Topic: International Relations, Political Violence, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iran, Washington, Middle East, Bahrain
  • 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: Nawaf Obaid
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: This proposal for a Saudi Arabian Defense Doctrine (SDD) hopes to initiate an essential internal reform effort that responds to the shifting demands of today and the potential threats of tomorrow. In the last decade, the world has watched as regime changes, revolutions, and sectarian strife transformed the Middle East into an unrecognizable political arena plagued by instability, inefficiency, and failing states. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)—the Arab world's central power and last remaining major Arab heavyweight on the international scene—has emerged as the ipso facto leader responsible for regional stability and development.
  • Topic: Security, Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Andrew J. Tabler
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As extremists continue to move into southern Syria, growing security and humanitarian problems may soon outstrip Jordan's ability to handle spillover from the war.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Phillip Smyth
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Afghan Shiite militants have been fighting on the Assad regime's side for some time, and the scope and strategic purpose of Iran's involvement is becoming increasingly clear.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mathew J. Burrows
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: With new crises sprouting almost on a daily basis in the Middle East, there is increasing interest in knowing the possible medium- and long-term consequences of the cascading developments in the region. This report attempts to think about the alternative futures possible in the Middle East over the next five to ten years. This is a shorter-term forecast than usual, but in the Middle East more deep-seated and structural factors are in flux than in most other regions. A longer-term forecast would allow for more optimism, but would be less useful for decision-makers who not only need a bird's eye view of where developments are headed but also a notion of the pressure points to effect positive change now.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Regime Change, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Sven Biscop
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: EGMONT - The Royal Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: Russia's annexation of the Crimea and subsequent meddling in Ukraine does not constitute a game-changer. It is just a reminder that at least since the war with Georgia in 2008 Russia has been and still is playing the same game: a "game of zones",aimed at (re)establishing an exclusive sphere of influence. Many of us Europeans had forgotten that, or had pushed it to the back of our minds, preferring to believe that we were not engaged in a zero-sum game in our eastern neighbourhood.
  • Topic: Security, Sovereignty, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Mohammed El-Katiri
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: As part of the radical political changes that have affected a number of Arab countries over the past 4 years, the toppling of regimes and the organization of the first fair and free elections in several Arab states have allowed Islamist parties to rise to power. This highly visible political trend has caused mixed reactions, both within these countries and internationally. Prior to the Arab Spring, most countries in the region banned Islamist movements from forming political parties. For decades, members of such movements were jailed, tortured, and exiled from their home countries. Even in those states where Islamist political parties were allowed, they had limited freedom and were under the scrutiny of the regimes, as was, for example, the Moroccan Justice and Development Party.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Democratization, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Jean-loup Samaan
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: For 7 years now, the border area between Israel and Lebanon has witnessed calm and stability. At first sight, this has all the appearances of a paradox. The 2006 war between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Lebanese organization, Hezbollah, was followed neither by a peace agreement nor by a mere diplomatic process. Both sides prepared their forces to wage the next war and additionally have been confronted in past years to major changes in the distribution of power in the Middle East in the midst of the so-called “Arab Spring.”
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Richard Barrett
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The self-styled Islamic State is an accident of history, emerging from multiple social, political and economic tensions in the Middle East and beyond. It has challenged the territorial divisions imposed on the region following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by carving out for itself a large area of territory. But ultimately, its impact will flow as much from its challenge to established concepts of government, national sovereignty, and national identity. The Islamic State is most notable for the violence with which it asserts control, but its ruthless tactics will likely prevent the group from ruling effectively and building broader support beyond the front line fighters who protect its security and the authoritarian killers who patrol its streets.
  • Topic: Security, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Rohan Gunaratna
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis
  • Institution: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The year 2013 has been the most violent since the beginning of the contemporary wave of terrorism. Although Al Qaeda's core has decreased in size, the group has become even more influential. With its extraordinary presence on the web, Al Qaeda is guiding its associates to fight back. With the western drawdown from Afghanistan in 2014, the Taliban-led terrorist sanctuary will likely be reconstituted once again, threatening global stability and security.
  • Topic: Terrorism
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Middle East, Canada, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Nelly Lahoud, Muhammad al-`Ubaydi
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: ON FEBRUARY 2, 2014, al-Qa`ida released a statement declaring that "it has no connection" with the "group" called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The statement further highlighted that al-Qa`ida was not responsible for founding the ISIL and was not privy to the deliberations that led to its establishment. That is why, the statement continued, "The ISIL is not a branch of al-Qa`ida, the latter is not bound by organizational ties to it and is not responsible for the ISIL's actions."
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Civil War, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The jihadi surge is the tragic, violent outcome of steadily deteriorating political dynamics. Instead of a rash military intervention and unconditional support for the Iraqi government, pressure is needed to reverse sectarian polarisation and a disastrous record of governance.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Governance, Reform
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Ehud Yaari
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Hamas seems intent on using Hezbollah's "bullets plus ballots" approach to gain a military and political foothold in the West Bank, the PA, and the PLO.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • 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
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Military coordination with Hezbollah may be providing a quick fix, but the country's long-term strength can only be achieved with a reconstituted March 14 coalition.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Struggle, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Mosul crisis highlights how ISIS has established a potent cadre of foreign jihadists who freely operate across the rapidly disappearing Iraq-Syria border.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Phillip Smyth
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Iran's proxy groups have been working closely with Iraqi government forces for some time and will likely become more important to Baghdad in light of recent events.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Neri Zilber
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If U.S. policy was to "wait and see" how the Hamas-approved Palestinian reconciliation process would unfold in practice, the test is now.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America
  • 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: Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Events on the battlefield will reveal the true effects of the crisis, but the ISIS campaign in Iraq could ultimately help the Syrian opposition and hurt the Assad regime.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • 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: No region has seen more of its people travel to fight in Syria than North Africa; more than 3,000 Tunisians have traveled there as of last April, and more than 1,500 Moroccans This is a repeat of a decade ago when large numbers of North Africans traveled to Iraq to fight there as well, in proportions far above those of neighboring countries A significant number of recent North African fighters have conducted suicide bombings in both Iraq and Syria, highlighting that the deadly ideological message of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and other extremist groups is finding purchase in North Africa The reasons for this export of extremists include incomplete political reforms that have failed to redress serious societal issues, persistent high youth unemployment, and a failure to cope with the apparent high levels of disaffection, despair, and anger that drive people to choose violent extremism.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, North Africa, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Attacking the finances of the so-called Islamic State (IS) with limited collateral damage will be orders of magnitude more difficult than attacking its military factions The group has thoroughly embedded itself into local and regional economies in Syria and Iraq, and damaging its finances while not devastating civilian populations will be as difficult as it is necessary IS oil revenues might be the easiest to disrupt but such action comes with significant collateral economic damage, while taxes, tolls, extortion, and food sales generate more income while remaining highly resistant to external forces In the areas under its control, IS has been providing social services as well as delivering levels of fuel, electricity, and food to populations utterly without recourse, meaning the group needs to be replaced and not simply removed.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Insurgency, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • 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: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The following IntelBrief is excerpted from The Soufan Group's recent long-form report on The Islamic State, which takes an in-depth look at the extremist group's operations across Iraq and Syria. From late 2011 up to today, The Islamic State has shown itself both tactically and strategically adept. After years of surviving as a persistently violent criminal/terrorist gang able to mount multiple synchronized attacks in urban areas in Iraq but little more, it achieved unparalleled gains when the collapse of government in northern and eastern Syria allowed it to expand across the border. At the same time, the sectarian approach of then-Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki had made the Sunni minority in Iraq ready to support any group that appeared to have the potential to reverse its increasing marginalization. It's accurate to say the group would still exist-but in nothing like its current form-had only one of those two catastrophes-Syria and Maliki-occurred; that both played out as they did made what has happened seem an almost inevitable accident of history.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The reshaping of what is now the Islamic State (IS) began among the detainee populations in military prisons such as Camp Bucca in Iraq, where violent extremists and former regime personalities forged mutual interests over years of confinement IS is now a chimera of Ba'athist and takfiri ideologies, with the organizational skills of the former helping channel the motivational fervor of the latter It is more than a marriage of convenience between the two seemingly at-odds groups; the former Ba'athists among the group and the religious ideologues now have visions of a return to Sunni glory that merges Usama bin Ladin with Saddam Hussein While at smaller unit levels there will be conflict between the two halves of the whole-as witnessed in the fighting between IS and the Naqshbandi Army after the fall of Mosul-the former regime officers who are now senior leaders in IS appear fully committed to the ideals and goals of the group, a result of a thorough radicalization that has extended from imprisonment years ago up to now These prison-hardened fighters were so important to IS that they undertook a year-long campaign (2012-2013) called "Breaking the Walls" to free what would prove to be the last pieces needed for expansion.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: While there is understandable concern that an unknown percentage of foreign fighters fighting for the so-called Islamic State (IS) might return to their home countries intent on continuing the fight, IS appears intent on using them in suicide attacks in both Iraq and Syria IS goes to great length to publicize the foreign fighters who die in suicide attacks, which greatly enhances the group in the eyes of unstable people looking for martyrdom, creating a feedback loop of death A recent statement by IS showed that 80% of the suicide attacks in Iraq between September and early October were committed by foreign fighters; this continues a trend of IS using their foreign fighters in suicide attacks while Iraqi fighters take on the role of traditional soldiers Along with Saudi nationals, who conducted 60% of the suicide attacks referenced above, fighters from North Africa consistently feature prominently in IS suicide attacks, which closely matches the suicide bombing statistics from the 2003 Iraq war, though now there are more suicide operatives from western Europe
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Coalition airstrikes are intended to blunt the momentum of the self-declared Islamic State (IS) and provide time for a popular Sunni uprising that might never happen given the understandable lack of trust among all sides The Sunni Awakening that helped diminish the precursor group to IS in 2006-2009 is the successful outlier in Iraq's history of tragic uprisings; and it will not likely be replicated since the conditions that allowed it to succeed no longer exist To that end, one of the foundational assumptions of the effort to dismantle IS-that the Sunni tribes will soon rise up and oppose IS in a second Awakening-is built on uncertain ground Sunni tribal leaders realize there won't be anything near 2007-levels of support (material, financial, training) if they oppose IS en masse, and after gaining next to nothing politically after the first Awakening, there is no trust in a different outcome for any second Awakening Reports of a failed Sunni uprising in eastern Syria are additional disincentives for both Syrian and Iraqi Sunni populations to fight IS, and additional incentive to wait and see what external factors will emerge to change the status quo.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: In neighboring Iraq, over 1,100 Jordanians are believed to be fighting for the so-called Islamic State (IS) according to Jordanian former Prime Minister Maruf al-Bakhit, with another 200 having already died fighting Although that's only 0.0203% of Jordan's 6.4 million population, and enough for serious concern, it's testament to Jordanian society that with the constant fighting next door such a small percentage have taken up arms for IS After the 2005 Amman bombings, al Qaeda in Iraq (the precursor to IS) was widely despised in Jordan; now nine years later, over a thousand Jordanians are fighting for the same group In his October 18, 2014 remarks, Bakhit stated that there were between 2,000-4,000 Jordanians who adhere to the violent takfiri ideology most famously espoused by the late Jordanian Abu Mus'ab al Zarqawi Along with the fear of a radicalized population after a decade of war raging across two of its borders is the fear of what happens next in Iraq and Syria According to Bakhit, a partitioned Iraq is too problematic to work despite its obvious appeal amid the current fighting, with resources unevenly distributed across the country and Baghdad far too mixed for one side to claim.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The self-declared Islamic State (IS)'s strategy of exploiting and exacerbating divisions among its opponents ranks as one of its greatest weapons, and one of the coalition's greatest weaknesses Turkey's airstrikes against the Kurdistan Workers' Party in southeast Turkey are the latest example-and perhaps most damaging in the near-term-of opponents of IS fighting each other instead of the group IS was sustained during its weakest period (2008-2010) in part by exploiting real tensions between various groups-Sunni vs Shi'a, Sunni vs Sunni, Sunni vs Kurd, etc-that prevented an "everybody vs IS" opposition that remains the only way to defeat the group IS will continue to create/exacerbate/leverage the differences between the US and Turkey, Saudi Arabia/UAE and Qatar, the Kurds and various parties, so much so that focus is more on tactically keeping the coalition together and less on strategically strangling IS.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Arab Countries, Kurdistan
  • Author: Micah Zenko
  • Publication Date: 01-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Over the past decade, the use of unmanned aerial systems—commonly referred to as drones—by the U.S. government has expanded exponentially in scope, location, and frequency. From September 2001 to April 2012, the U.S. military increased its drone inventory from fifty to seventy-five hundred—of which approximately 5 percent can be armed. Yet despite the unprecedented escalation of its fleet and missions, the U.S. government has not provided a clear explanation of how drone strikes in nonbattlefield settings are coordinated with broader foreign policy objectives, the scope of legitimate targets, and the legal framework. Drones are critical counterterrorism tools that advance U.S. interests around the globe, but this lack of transparency threatens to limit U.S. freedom of action and risks proliferation of armed drone technology without the requisite normative framework.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Middle East
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman, Robert M. Shelala II
  • Publication Date: 05-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The US faces major challenges in dealing with Iran, the threat of terrorism, and the tide of political instability in the Arabian Peninsula. The presence of some of the world's largest reserves of oil and natural gas, vital shipping lanes, and Shia populations throughout the region have made the peninsula the focal point of US and Iranian strategic competition. Moreover, large youth populations, high unemployment rates, and political systems with highly centralized power bases have posed other economic, political, and security challenges that the GCC states must address, and which the US must take into consideration when forming strategy and policy. An updated study by the CSIS Burke Chair explores US and Iranian interests in the region, Gulf state and GCC policies toward both the US and Iran, and potential flash-points and vulnerabilities in the Gulf to enhanced competition with Iran. This study examines the growing US security partnership with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE – established as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It analyzes the steady growth in this partnership that has led to over $64 billion in new US arms transfer agreements during 2008-2011. It also examines the strengths and weaknesses of the security cooperation between the southern Gulf states, and their relative level of political, social, and economic stability. The study focuses on the need for enhanced unity and security cooperation between the individual Gulf states. It finds that such progress is critical if they are to provide effective deterrence and defense against Iran, improve their counterterrorism capabilities, and enhance other aspects of their internal security.
  • Topic: Security, Islam, Oil, Terrorism, Natural Resources, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Negotiations underway since late 2012 between Turkey's government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are stalling. A ceasefire announced on 23 March 2013 remains precarious, as maximalist rhetoric gains renewed traction on both sides. While the PKK should be doing more to persuade Ankara that it wants a compromise peace, the government has a critical responsibility to fully address the longstanding democratic grievances of Turkey's Kurds. One reason it frequently gives for its hesitation is fear of a nationalist backlash. In fact, the peace process has already demonstrated how willing mainstream Turks would be to accept steps towards democratisation. A much bigger risk for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as it heads into a two-year cycle of local, presidential and parliamentary elections, would be if the three-decade-old conflict plunges into a new cycle of violence.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, Peace Studies, Terrorism, Treaties and Agreements, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Turkey, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: More than a decade into the “war on terrorism,” much of the political debate in the US is still fixated on the legacy of 9/11. US politics has a partisan fixation on Benghazi, the Boston Marathon bombing, intelligence intercepts, and Guantanamo. Far too much US attention still focuses on “terrorism” at a time the US faces a much broader range of threats from the instability in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) and Islamic world. Moreover, much of the US debate ignores the fact that the US has not actually fought a “war on terrorism” over the last decade, and the US failures in using military force and civil aid in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US has not fought wars as such, but rather became involved in exercises in armed nation building where stability operations escalated into national building as a result of US occupation and where the failures in stability operations and nation building led to insurgencies that forced the US into major counterinsurgency campaigns that had little to do with counterterrorism. An analysis of the trends in the Iraq and Afghan conflicts shows that the US has not been fighting a war on terrorism since Bin Laden and Al Qaida Central were driven into Pakistan in December 2001. The US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and then made stability operations and armed nation building its key goals. It was US mishandling of these exercises in armed nation building that led to major counterinsurgency campaigns although – at least in the case of Afghanistan --the US continued to label its military operations as a struggle against “terrorism.” By 2013, the US had committed well over $1.4 trillion to these exercises in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time, the US made massive increases in its domestic spending on homeland defense that it rationalized as part of the fight against terrorism but often had little or nothing to do with any aspect of counterterrorism. At the same time, the US failed to develop consistent or useful unclassified statistics on the patterns in terrorism and its counterterrorism activities. The US government has never provided a meaningful break out of federal activities and spending at home or abroad which actually focus on terrorism, or any unclassified measures of effectiveness. The OMB has lumped a wide range of activities that have no relation to terrorism it its reporting on the President's budget request – activities whose total cost now approach $60 billion a year. The Department of Defense has never provided a meaningful estimate of the total cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or a break out of the small portion of total overseas contingency operations (OCO) spending actually spent on counterterrorism versus counter insurgency. The State Department and US intelligence community provide no meaningful unclassified data on the cost of their counterterrorism effort and it is unclear that they have developed any metrics at any level that show the cost-benefits of their activities. The annual US State Department country reports on terrorism come as close to an unclassified report on the status of terrorism as the US government provides. While many portions are useful, the designation of terrorist movements is often political and shows the US designation of terrorist movements conflates terrorism and insurgency. The closest the US has come to developing any metrics on terrorism has been to develop an unclassified database in the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) that never distinguished terrorism from insurgency. This database formed the core of the statistical annex to State Department reporting, but has since been withdrawn without explanation. As this analysis shows in detail, it now has been replaced by a contractor effort that makes all of the previous mistakes made by the NCTC. The end result is a set of official reporting and statistics in the annex to the State Department report where “terrorism” remains remained poorly defined, badly structured, ignored in parts of the world, and conflates terrorism with counterinsurgency, instability, and civil war. A review of the Afghan, Iraq conflicts, and other recent conflicts in the MENA region shows just how serious these problems are in distorting the true nature of the wars the US is fighting and the threats it faces. The same is true of the unclassified reporting the US government provides on terrorism. A detailed review of the most recent State Department report on terrorism provides important insights into key terrorist movements, but the narratives generally ignore their ties to insurgent movements, their statistical data include some major insurgent movements and exclude others, and many of the data seem to include violence that is not truly terroristic in character.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Middle East, North Africa
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The question of Sunni Arab participation in Iraq's political order that has plagued the transition since its inception is as acute and explosive as ever. Quickly marginalised by an ethno-sectarian apportionment that confined them to minority status in a system dominated by Shiites and Kurds, most community members first shunned the new dispensation then fought it. Having gradually turned from insurgency to tentative political involvement, their wager produced only nominal representation, while reinforcing feelings of injustice and discrimination. Today, with frustration at a boil, unprecedented Sunni-Shiite polarisation in the region and deadly car bombings surging across the country since the start of Ramadan in July, a revived sectarian civil war is a serious risk. To avoid it, the government should negotiate local ceasefires with Sunni officials, find ways to more fairly integrate Sunni Arabs in the political process and cooperate with local actors to build an effective security regime along the Syrian border.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Political Economy, Terrorism, Fragile/Failed State, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Frédéric Mérand, Nicola Contessi, Jérémie Cornut, Dominika Kunertova
  • Publication Date: 03-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Peace and Security Studies
  • Abstract: Over the next 20 years, the empowerment of individuals and new information and communication technology will reverberate in the security field with implications such as the growth of cyber-terrorism and the spread of nuclear technology to non-state actors. Power will be diffused among states and from states to informal networks, leading to a less Western-centric globalization. Demographic patterns and a growing demand for resources will have adverse consequences on defence spending and energy security. Among Euro-Atlantic states, there is broad agreement on the nature of future threats: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, regional conflicts, and cyber attacks. Russia is alone in identifying a Europe-specific phenomenon, the expansion of NATO to the East, as one of the main external military threats to its national security. While no major new conflict is predicted to arise in the Euro-Atlantic area, there will be no shortage of crises originating from outside this area, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa, requiring a response from Euro-Atlantic organizations. In the Euro-Atlantic area, it is expected that Russia will reclaim its traditional sphere of influence by intensifying efforts to strengthen regional organizations, sometimes in cooperation with China or smaller states. The Arctic may become one of the new geostrategic hotspots. A relatively cohesive club, NATO remains the most successful military alliance in contemporary history. As an inclusive, regional, and crosscutting organization, the OSCE is less central to key Canadian interests, but it provides a fairly low-cost means to establish a diplomatic foothold and contribute to building a security community in Eurasia. While NATO and the OSCE are expected to remain the pillars of the Euro-Atlantic order, one important question that underlies this report is why Euro-Atlantic-based organizations are necessary to deal with global risks. NATO's civil-military focus is likely to become more central as future multinational interventions place increasing demands on NATO capabilities. Predictions for the OSCE are more difficult to make given its protracted impasse, but the need for confidence building among disagreeing powers remains present. While Canada should not reconsider its membership in these organizations, it should support planned reforms and initiatives that will make them more relevant. Both NATO and the OSCE are moving in the right directions by taking seriously transnational, including cyber-threats. Applying lessons learned, they are likely to continue to improve coordination of civilian and military capabilities to address new risks. Energy security is also likely to move up the agenda of both organizations. To address the shift in global power, and in particular the renewed assurance of Russia, the OSCE must renew its original focus on confidence building, including through multi-track initiatives. Eschewing enlargement for the time being, NATO would be well-advised to nurture its relationship both with Russia and with new partners through political and technical cooperation. In times of austerity, both organizations will have to do more with less. Administrative reforms such as results-based management should be encouraged. At NATO, Smart Defence provides interesting opportunities for Canada to streamline defence procurement and optimize capabilities.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, NATO, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Canada, North Africa
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman, Sam Khazai, Daniel Dewit
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The last active US combat forces left Iraq in August 2010, marking the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the beginning of Operation New Dawn. Some 49,000 advisory troops, four advisor assistance brigades, and a limited number of special operations forces (SOF) remained to train, advise, and assist Iraq's security forces after that date, including the military, intelligence, and police. Until the end, these US troops continued to serve a number of other important security functions: carrying out kinetic operations against Iranian-backed and other militant groups; providing training to the ISF; taking part in joint patrols along the borders of the Kurdish provinces and helping integrate ISF and Kurdish forces; and acting as a deterrent to Iraq's neighbors–in particular Iran.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Ahmed Ali, Kimberly Kagan, Jessica Lewis
  • Publication Date: 05-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Escalating violence in Iraq crossed a new and very dangerous threshold this week. Al Qaeda in Iraq launched a concentrated wave of car-bomb and other attacks specifically against civilian Shi'a targets in and around Baghdad. Shi'a militias are mobilizing and have begun a round of sectarian killings facilitated by false checkpoints, a technique characteristic of the 2006-2007 period. Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki has taken a number of steps to demonstrate that he remains in control of the situation. The expansion of Shi'a militia activity, however, is likely to persuade many Iraqis that he is either not in control or is actively abetting the killings. The re-mobilization of Shi'a militias in Iraq coincides with the formal announcement by Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah of his organization's active military participation in the Syrian civil war. Al Qaeda in Iraq's sectarian mass-murder attacks coincide with the announcement by AQI's affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al Nusra, that attacking Hezbollah is that group's primary target henceforth. The stage appears to be set not merely for the collapse of the Iraqi state into the kind of vicious sectarian killing and sectarian cleansing that nearly destroyed it in 2006 and 2007, but also for the expansion of that sectarian warfare throughout both Mesopotamia and the Levant.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Jessica Lewis
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) announced "The Soldiers' Harvest," a new campaign on July 29, 2013, immediately after the Abu Ghraib prison attack. AQI then declared that event the conclusion of the "Breaking the Walls" campaign, which apparently achieved its goals: to stoke sectarian violence by targeting Shi'a communities; and to reconstitute the veteran AQI fighting force by breaking former members out of Iraq's prisons. ISW has assessed that AQI has reconstituted as a professional military force. It is therefore crucial to examine the first 60 days of the new "Soldiers' Harvest" campaign for indications of what AQI means to accomplish this year. Initial indications suggest that AQI will seek to establish control of key terrain in Iraq while targeting any Sunnis who work for the government. The campaign name, "The Soldiers' Harvest," refers in particular to the intimidation and displacement of the Iraqi Security Forces, especially through the destruction of their homes.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence, Prisons/Penal Systems
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Linda Janků, Petr Suchý
  • Publication Date: 06-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Obrana a strategie (Defence & Strategy)
  • Institution: University of Defence
  • Abstract: The article deals with deterrence of terrorism. The aim is to assess validity of a proposition that it is possible to deter terrorist groups, but there are some specifics in comparison to the deterrence of states. First, we determine deterrence threats which can be applied in relation to terrorist groups and discuss possible restraints of their application in practice. This is followed by an analysis of whether deterrence can be applied against all types of terrorist groups without distinction, where we develop a model of classification of terrorist groups according to the goals which they pursue. So far, the topic of deterrence of terrorism has not been discussed in detail in the Czech academic texts. This article thus seeks to fill this lacuna and highlight the benefits of applying deterrence strategy to the terrorist groups.
  • Topic: NATO, Terrorism, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Asia, France, Arabia
  • Author: Joseph Cirincione
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Book
  • Institution: Columbia University Press
  • Abstract: There is a high risk that someone will use, by accident or design, one or more of the 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world today. Many thought such threats ended with the Cold War or that current policies can prevent or contain nuclear disaster. They are dead wrong--these weapons, possessed by states large and small, stable and unstable, remain an ongoing nightmare. Joseph Cirincione surveys the best thinking and worst fears of experts specializing in nuclear warfare and assesses the efforts to reduce or eliminate these nuclear dangers. His book offers hope: in the 1960s, twenty-three states had nuclear weapons and research programs; today, only nine states have weapons. More countries have abandoned nuclear weapon programs than have developed them, and global arsenals are just one-quarter of what they were during the Cold War. Yet can these trends continue, or are we on the brink of a new arms race--or worse, nuclear war? A former member of Senator Obama's nuclear policy team, Cirincione helped shape the policies unveiled in Prague in 2009, and, as president of an organization intent on reducing nuclear threats, he operates at the center of debates on nuclear terrorism, new nuclear nations, and the risks of existing arsenals.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism, War, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East, East Asia
  • Publication Identifier: 9780231164054
  • Publication Identifier Type: ISBN
  • Author: Michael W. S. Ryan
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Book
  • Institution: Columbia University Press
  • Abstract: By consulting the work of well-known and obscure al-Qaeda theoreticians, Michael W. S. Ryan finds jihadist terrorism strategy has more in common with the principles of Maoist guerrilla warfare than mainstream Islam. Encouraging strategists and researchers to devote greater attention to jihadi ideas rather than jihadist military operations, Ryan builds an effective framework for analyzing al-Qaeda's plans against America and constructs a compelling counternarrative to the West's supposed "war on Islam." Ryan examines the Salafist roots of al-Qaeda ideology and the contributions of its most famous founders, Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a political-military context. He also reads the Arabic-language works of lesser known theoreticians who have played an instrumental role in framing al-Qaeda's so-called war of the oppressed. These authors readily cite the guerrilla strategies of Mao, Che Guevara, and the mastermind of the Vietnam War, General Giap. They also incorporate the arguments of American theorists writing on "fourth-generation warfare." Through these texts, readers experience events as insiders see them, and by concentrating on the activities and pronouncements of al-Qaeda's thought leaders, especially in Yemen, they discern the direct link between al-Qaeda's tactics and trends in anti-U.S. terrorism. Ryan shows al-Qaeda's political-military strategy to be a revolutionary and largely secular departure from the classic Muslim conception of jihad, adding invaluable dimensions to the operational, psychological, and informational strategies already deployed by America's military in the region.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Publication Identifier: 9780231533270
  • Publication Identifier Type: ISBN
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Human Rights First
  • Abstract: The Obama Administration has dramatically escalated targeted killing by drones as a central feature of its counterterrorism response. Over the past two years, the administration has begun to reveal more about the targeted killing program, including in a leaked Department of Justice White paper on targeted killing and in public remarks by several senior officials. While this information is welcome, it does not fully address our concerns.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Islam, Science and Technology, Terrorism, War, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: United States, South Asia, Middle East
  • Author: Mieke Eoyang, Aki Peritz
  • Publication Date: 05-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: President Obama drew a "red line" for Syria: if the Assad regime used its chemical weapons, such a move would "change [the] calculus" for an American response. As the UN and others investigate whether Assad has indeed crossed that red line, the U.S. must consider its options—because a failure to act could undermine our credibility. But "further action" is a broad category in the Syrian conflict. Our options range from increasing non-lethal aid to deploying troops in Syria. In this guide to the debate, we provide answers to six key questions: What are America's security interests in Syria? Which rebel groups should we support? What are Syria's military capabilities? What is the status of Syria's chemical weapons? What are the international community's options? What are America's options?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East, Syria, North America
  • Author: Mieke Eoyang, Ben Freeman, Aki Peritz, Faris Alikhan
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: Our deal with Russia to destroy Syrian chemical weapons (CW) is a huge win for the United States because it will help keep those arms out of the hands of terrorists. Nevertheless, skeptics claim: We can't trust the Russians or the Syrians—despite America's history of reaching arms reduction deals with the Soviets and the Russians; We can't eliminate CW during a civil war—despite our experience with CW destruction; We will pay too much to implement this plan—even though it is far less than what we would spend on strikes. So far, the skeptics are wrong. While the destruction of Syria's CW will be a challenge, it is one that we can and should meet.
  • Topic: Civil War, Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, International Security, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East
  • Author: Faysal Itani, Sarah Grebowkski
  • Publication Date: 07-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: To describe the increase in violence and instability in Lebanon since the civil war in Syria began as simply a spillover is misleading. it risks casting Lebanon as a victim to negative externalities divorced from its own political dysfunction. in truth, Lebanon's troubles long preceded the war in Syria, and the conflict's more complex and pernicious effect on Lebanon has been the exposure and deepening of pre-existing rifts among Lebanese.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Human Rights, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Refugee Issues
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Barbara Slavin, Jason Healey
  • Publication Date: 07-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: When most people think of the "military option" against Iran, they imagine a US attack that takes out Iran's most important known nuclear facilities at Natanz, Fordow, Arak, and Isfahan. They expect Iran to retaliate by closing the Strait of Hormuz, sending missiles into Israel, and/or supporting terrorist attacks on US personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, North America
  • Author: Barbara Slavin, Fatemah Aman
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: When compared to its often rocky relations with Arab countries to the west, the Islamic Republic of Iran has managed to retain largely cordial ties with its neighbors to the east. Historic linguistic, religious, and cultural connections have helped Iran keep its influence in South Asia and become a key trading partner despite US-led sanctions. Because of its strategic location on the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, Iran provides India with access to Afghanistan and Central Asia that does not require transit through Pakistan. However, Iran and its neighbors, including Pakistan, face acute challenges such as scarce and poorly managed water resources, ethnic insurgencies, energy imbalances, and drug trafficking that require regional solutions.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, Iran, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Arabia, North America, Persia
  • Author: Samuel Helfont
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: In 2006, during the heart of the Global War on Terrorism, a New York Times reporter went to Washington in an attempt to ascertain the extent that American officials understood the ideologies underpinning Islamist terrorism. The reporter began with a simple question: could senior counterterrorism officials identify which groups were Sunnis and which were Shi'is? Remarkably senior officials and lawmakers – including the Chief of the F.B.I.‟s national security branch, and members of the U.S. House of Representatives‟ committees on intelligence and counter terrorism – had “no clue” whether actors such as Iran, Hezbollah, or al-Qaida were Sunnis or Shi„is. A number of questions emerged from this encounter. First, who are the Sunnis and Shi„is? Second, where are they located? And, finally, does it matter?
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Islam, Religion, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Marina Ottaway, Danial Kaysi
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocratic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements. Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Democratization, Development, Ethnic Conflict, Terrorism, War, Fragile/Failed State, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, Kurdistan
  • Author: Austin Long
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies
  • Abstract: War is fundamentally a clash of organizations. Organizations provide the vital mechanisms that mobilize and convert resources into combat power as well as applying that combat power against the enemy. This is true not only of conventional militaries, but also of insurgent and terrorist groups. Organizational capacity is thus a crucial determinant of success in conflict. Stephen Biddle, for example, attributes heavy causal weight for success in modern conventional military conflict to the relative capacity of military organizations to employ a set of techniques he terms “the modern system.” Philip Selznick argues that organization is equally crucial for success in political combat, where subversion of other organizations is as important as brute force.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Joseph Holliday
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: The rebels will have to rely on external lines of supply to replenish their arms and ammunition if they are to continue eroding the regime's control. The emergence of al-Qaeda-linked terrorist cells working against the regime poses risks to the United States and a challenge to those calling for material support of the armed opposition. As the militias continue to face overwhelming regime firepower the likelihood of their radicalization may increase. Moreover, the indigenous rebels may turn to al-Qaeda for high-end weaponry and spectacular tactics as the regime's escalation leaves the rebels with no proportionate response, as occurred in Iraq in 2005-2006. Developing relations with armed opposition leaders and recognizing specific rebel organizations may help to deter this dangerous trend. It is imperative that the United States distinguish between the expatriate political opposition and the armed opposition against the Assad regime on the ground in Syria. American objectives in Syria are to hasten the fall of the Assad regime; to contain the regional spillover generated by the ongoing conflict; and to gain influence over the state and armed forces that emerge in Assad's wake. Therefore, the United States must consider developing relations with critical elements of Syria's armed opposition movement in order to achieve shared objectives, and to manage the consequences should the Assad regime fall or the conflict protract.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, United States, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Germany, Syria
  • Author: Sam Wyer
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: This report examines the political, religious, and military resurgence of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. Forces, identifying the group's key actors, their present disposition and strategy, and their regional expansion. AAH is an Iranian-backed Shi'a militant group that split from Moqtada al-Sadr's Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) in 2006. Since that time, AAH has conducted thousands of lethal explosively formed penetrator (EFP) attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces, targeted kidnappings of Westerners, rocket and mortar attacks on the U.S. Embassy, the murder of American soldiers, and the assassination of Iraqi officials.
  • Topic: Security, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Stephen Wicken
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: On Sunday, Iraqs Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was sentenced to death by hanging after he and his son-in-law were convicted of organizing the murders of a security official and a lawyer. All told, Hashemi is subject to more than 150 charges of terrorism based upon allegations that he used death squads to target his political opponents. The verdict carries distressing implications for short-term domestic security in Iraq and for diplomatic relations with neighboring Turkey, where Hashemi currently resides and has been based since his trial began. While some observers view the case against Hashemi in purely sectarian terms, the targeting of a Sunni politician in a Shiite-led state, the sentence in fact highlights the pernicious nature of personal rivalries within Iraqi politics. Further, it demonstrates the politicization of the Iraqi judicial system under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has commandeered Iraq's legal institutions in order to consolidate power around his inner circle.
  • Topic: Democratization, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Sam Wyer
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Since the withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Iraq in December 2011, the rate and lethality of attacks against civilian targets have steadily risen. Most notably, there have been seven major attack waves, defined here as a series of simultaneous and coordinated attacks that target at least 10 cities within one day. The attacks targeted a combination of security posts, government facilities, and Shi'ite shrines and neighborhoods. The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), an umbrella organization formed in 2006 for many Sunni insurgency groups including al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), has claimed credit for a large majority of these attacks.3 This summer has seen a further alarming development with the announcement of ISI's "Destroying the Walls" campaign.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Clint Watts
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The attacks of September 11, 2001 spawned a decade of al Qaeda inspired radicalization of disaffected Middle Eastern and North African youth and a handful of young Western men. Ten years later, foreign fighters to Afghanistan, Iraq and other jihadi battlefields appear to be declining while in contrast analysts have pointed to an uptick in United States (U.S.) based “homegrown extremism” - terrorism advocated or committed by U.S. residents or citizens.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Michael Cohen, Micah Zenko
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Last August, the Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney performed what has become a quadrennial rite of passage in American presidential politics: he delivered a speech to the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. His message was rooted in another grand American tradition: hyping foreign threats to the United States. It is “wishful thinking,” Romney declared, “that the world is becoming a safer place. The opposite is true. Consider simply the jihadists, a near-nuclear Iran, a turbulent Middle East, an unstable Pakistan, a delusional North Korea, an assertive Russia, and an emerging global power called China. No, the world is not becoming safer.” Not long after, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta echoed Romney's statement. In a lecture last October, Panetta warned of threats arising “from terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from rogue states to cyber attacks; from revolutions in the Middle East, to economic crisis in Europe, to the rise of new powers such as China and India. All of these changes represent security, geopolitical, economic, and demographic shifts in the international order that make the world more unpredictable, more volatile and, yes, more dangerous.” General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concurred in a recent speech, arguing that “the number and kinds of threats we face have increased significantly.” And U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reinforced the point by claiming that America resides today in a “very complex, dangerous world.”
  • Topic: Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, China, America, Middle East, India
  • Author: Clint Watts
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Al Qaeda today only slightly resembles the al Qaeda of yesteryear. Al Qaeda operatives or "al Qaeda-like" organizations stretch throughout North Africa, across the Middle East and into South Asia. This disparate string of organizations hosts a handful of al Qaeda's original Afghanistan and Pakistan veterans but mostly consist of newcomers inspired by al Qaeda's message -- disenfranchised young men seeking an adventurous fight in the wake of a tumultuous Arab Spring. Al Qaeda, or more appropriately jihadism pursued under al Qaeda's banner, has morphed in several waves over the course of more than two decades.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Defense Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Canada, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The recent Israel-Hamas escalation returns a spotlight to Gaza and the Islamist movement's relationship with more militant organisations. Gaza arouses multiple concerns: does Hamas seeks to impose religious law; has its purported Islamisation stimulated growth of Salafi-Jihadi groups; and will al-Qaeda offshoots find a foothold there? Hamas faces competition from more radical Islamist groups, though their numbers are few, organisation poor, achievements against Israel so far minor and chances of threatening Gaza's government slight. The significance of Gaza's Salafi-Jihadis is less military capability than constraints they impose on Hamas: they are an ideological challenge; they appeal to members of its military wing, a powerful constituency; through attacks within and from Gaza, they threaten security; by criticising Hamas for not fighting Israel or implementing Sharia, they exert pressure for more militancy and Islamisation. The policy of isolating Gaza and ignoring Hamas exacerbates this problem. As the international community seeks new ways to address political Islam in the Arab upheaval's wake, Gaza is not the worst place to start.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Gaza
  • Author: Martin Harrow
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Video-recorded decapitations have an enormous impact, they are cheap and easy, and they allow the terrorists to exploit the potential of the Internet. With these advantages, the tactic would have been expected to quickly spread across the globe as a favored tactic. Yet, years after its invention in 2002, this has not happened. This paper using evolutionary theory finds that video-recorded decapitations have not caught on for locally specific reasons: in the West because the tactic is less accessible than one might expect; in Iraq because of the unwillingness to be associated with Zarqawi, and in the Afghan context, it has not spread because it is mainly relevant for mobilizing resources from abroad, which is not a priority for the Taliban. These are however situational variables, and just as suicide bombings took years to spread, there may be campaigns of video-recorded decapitations as conditions change.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Iraq, Middle East, Taliban
  • Author: Gabriel Koehler-Derrick (editor)
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: Events in Yemen are moving at a rapid pace. Economic, environmental and political crises that have long limited Yemen's attempts at developing a strong centralized state now threaten to overwhelm the country. Protest movements similar to those that pushed out autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt have plunged Yemen into deeper instability, and multiple competing factions are currently fighting for control of the government. Reports of rising Islamist militancy and a stream of terror attacks by al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have raised fears that soon large parts of the country may be overrun by jihadists intent on striking the United State.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Katherine Didow, Jinnyn Jacob
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In January 2011, protests started in Tunisia and Egypt, sparking a string of uprisings in the Muslim world, with consequences yet unknown. These monumental shifts caught many politicians, academics, journalists and pollsters by surprise. As world leaders scramble to formulate policy to confront these new realities, there is an urgent need for accurate and relevant public opinion data on the Muslim world.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Leila Stockmarr
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: The emergence of new Islamist groups challenging Hamas from within is demarcating a new tendency towards inter-Islamist rivalry in Gaza. Based on original empirical data this report maps the Islamist milieu in Gaza. It offers a critical examination of how Hamas has governed Gaza since 2007 and why new Islamist groups in Gaza have emerged. The report argues that the phenomenon of new Islamists is diffuse and intangible. It does, however, relate to the question of the ideological price of governing in Palestine, and the repercussions of Hamas' rule and external policies upon the Islamist milieu in Gaza where, for the first time, an Islamist political body is in power. Two major aspects are motivating the emergence of new Islamist agendas: people's ideological grievances towards those in power and the instrumentalisation of ideology and religion in the midst of a power struggle between an increasingly authoritarian political body and its dissidents and challengers. In the face of governments which are failing to deliver, non-organised religious activity has become political power in Gaza.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Arabia, Gaza
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  • Abstract: The SIPRI Middle East Expert Group met four times over an 18-month period to consider how a regional security regime might be developed. The principal points of this report are:Further progress in the Middle East peace process would create a suitable political climate for consideration of a regional security regime.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Peace Studies, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Author: Shadi Hamid
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: For decades, U.S. policy toward the Middle East has been paralyzed by "the Islamist dilemma" -- how can the United States promote democracy in the region without risking bringing Islamists to power? Now, it seems, the United States no longer has a choice. Popular revolutions have swept U.S.-backed authoritarian regimes from power in Tunisia and Egypt and put Libya's on notice. If truly democratic governments form in their wake, they are likely to include significant representation of mainstream Islamist groups. Like it or not, the United States will have to learn to live with political Islam. Washington tends to question whether Islamists' religious commitments can coexist with respect for democracy, pluralism, and women's rights. But what the United States really fears are the kinds of foreign policies such groups might pursue. Unlike the Middle East's pro-Western autocracies, Islamists have a distinctive, albeit vague, conception of an Arab world that is confident, independent, and willing to project influence beyond its borders. There is no question that democracy will make the region more unpredictable and some governments there less amenable to U.S. security interests. At their core, however, mainstream Islamist organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan and al Nahda in Tunisia, have strong pragmatic tendencies. When their survival has required it, they have proved willing to compromise their ideology and make di⁄cult choices. To guide the new, rapidly evolving Middle East in a favorable direction, the United States should play to these instincts by entering into a strategic dialogue with the region's Islamist groups and parties. Through engagement, the United States can encourage these Islamists to respect key Western interests, including advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process, countering Iran, and combating terrorism. It will be better to develop such ties with opposition groups now, while the United States still has leverage, rather than later, after they are already in power.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Thomas Hegghammer
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: A salient feature of armed conflict in the Muslim world since 1980 has been the involvement of so-called foreign fighters. These foreign fighters are unpaid combatants with no apparent link to the conflict other than religious affinity with the Muslim side. Since 1980, between 10,000 and 30,000 such fighters have inserted themselves into conflicts from Bosnia in the west to the Philippines in the east.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Bosnia, Middle East, Philippines, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The following is a sampling of reactions from various Islamist leaders, commentators, and organizations following the death of Usama bin Laden.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Michele Dunne
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: As Egypt prepares to hold its first post-Tahrir elections, the transitional military government is trying to turn de facto influence into de jure powers written into the new constitution, such as freedom from civilian control over senior appointments and budgetary oversight. While most political parties have agreed not to challenge the extensive influence and economic perquisites of the military for now—understanding that full civilian oversight might take years to achieve—allowing the military to formalize such powers would create enormous new obstacles to eventual democratization. Egypt is now in danger of producing a post-revolutionary system similar to that of Pakistan, where elected civilian institutions are relatively powerless while unelected and unaccountable military and intelligence services actually run the country, fanning the flames of sectarianism and terrorism.
  • Topic: Democratization, Terrorism, Sectarianism, Political Power Sharing
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Middle East
  • Author: Elliott Abrams
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Elliott Abrams says that bin Laden's death is a further weakening of al-Qaeda's influence in the Arab world and helps the drive for democracy in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Democratization, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia