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  • Author: Allison Jacobs Anderson
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Low women's employment in Jordan is perplexing given the kingdom's middle-class attributes. Creativity in U.S. development initiatives could deliver lasting gains. In Jordan, a mere 14 percent of women are formally employed, compared to the global average of 51 percent. This outcome is somewhat perplexing given the Hashemite Kingdom’s relatively high education levels for women, declining fertility rates, high average marriage age, and other attributes of a middle-class society. Jordan watchers have therefore searched for a cause. One common explanation centers on cultural constraints, including pressure to stay home, families disapproving of vocational jobs, and concerns about women working in mixed-gender environments. But an alternative view suggests these concerns may be overstated, in part owing to recognition of the essential role women can play in a fragile economy. In this new Policy Note, Dr. Allison Jacobs Anderson, an expert on gender and development, makes the case for encouraging greater women’s economic participation in Jordan. She outlines the many associated personal and societal benefits, and shows how a creative approach by U.S. development entities could deliver lasting gains.
  • Topic: Economics, Labor Issues, Women, Participation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan
  • Author: Saeid Golkar
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Since its formation in 1979, the Islamic Republic has seen multiple cycles of unrest, from ethnic movements in the early 1980s to urban riots in the early 1990s, student protests spanning 1999-2003, the Green Movement response to the 2009 election, and the December 2017-January 2018 upheaval in smaller cities and urban fringes. The most recent instance, sparked in November 2019 by a gas tax hike, spread to as many as one hundred municipalities and still reverberates today. The hardline Iranian regime has successfully put down all challenges to its authority thus far, causing numerous injuries and deaths in the process. State agents are also known to have perpetrated torture in prisons. But as Saeid Golkar contends in this prescient Policy Note, a climate of coercion has undermined Tehran’s legitimacy and its ability to coopt various social classes. Future protests, if they continue to grow in volume and violence, could exhaust even the regime’s multilayered security forces.
  • Topic: Security, History, Social Movement, Protests, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Sirwan Kajjo
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In October 2019, the U.S. troop withdrawal and subsequent Turkish invasion of northern Syria upended Kurdish plans in the region. But a year later, the major Syrian Kurdish rivals—the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdish National Council (KNC)—are coming together after a lengthy estrangement. This past June, representatives from the two blocs announced a new understanding to govern Syria’s northeast, in talks mediated by the Syrian Democratic Forces. The negotiations are aimed at creating a representative Kurdish-led leadership that could prevent further Turkish military interventions while also reducing Syrian-regime and Russian influence. But the PYD and KNC’s differing approaches to governance, as well as divergent alliances, pose serious challenges. In situating this timely Policy Note, Sirwan Kajjo offers a revealing history of Kurdish politics in Syria, especially in the post-Arab Spring period. Despite the uncertain outcome of the talks, for which activity resumed in late summer, both sides assert that a positive course can only be ensured by a strong U.S role.
  • Topic: Military Intervention, Syrian War, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Kurdistan, United States of America
  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In this study, counterterrorism expert Matthew Levitt explores the history and current status of Hezbollah operations against French interests, and details how a change in Paris's longstanding opposition to designating the group could bolster French efforts to stabilize Lebanon. Lebanon’s corrupt political system needs major reforms, but Hezbollah has indicated, unsurprisingly, that it will reject any changes that diminish its political status. Specifically, the group insisted in late September that it maintain control of key ministries in any future government. This demand cut against the work of French authorities seeking to help stabilize the country following the devastating port blast in early August. In his response, President Emmanuel Macron signaled a break from typical French passivity toward Hezbollah. He denounced the group’s attempts to pose as a legitimate political party while engaging in militant activity independent of the Lebanese state. In this Policy Note, counterterrorism expert Matthew Levitt shares the little-known story of Hezbollah’s targeting of French interests, dating to the early 1980s. He then shows how the group poses a unique and growing set of challenges to France, both at home and abroad, and argues that Paris should reconsider its longtime opposition to designating Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. Such a policy change, he contends, would bolster Macron’s efforts to stabilize Lebanon while mitigating threats within French territory.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Counter-terrorism, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, France, Lebanon
  • Author: Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: U.S.-European cooperation in the Middle East may not rank high in American voters’ minds, but the issue will demand close policy attention in the months ahead. If Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump, European leaders should not allow their undoubted relief to lapse into complacency. And if Trump prevails, they should continue seeking opportunities to deepen the partnership in areas such as counterproliferation and defining the operational contours of Great Power competition. Either way, the dynamic requires a full reset. As one continental diplomat lamented, “Under Bush, Europeans agreed less with the U.S. but were more consulted. Under Obama, they agreed more but were less consulted. Under Trump, they disagree and are barely consulted.” In this new Policy Note, Charles Thepaut deftly assesses the transatlantic dilemma explaining why the post-election period will call for a strategic reckoning between European capitals and Washington. From shared priorities, a fresh approach can emerge in the Middle East, coupled with the pursuit of achievable goals and rooted in a more thoughtful division of military and political tasks.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Transatlantic Relations, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Farzin Nadimi
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In April 2020, the IRGC launched its first domestically made satellite, the Nour-1, into orbit. The launch showed the risks of lifting arms restrictions on Iran, a move supported by potential weapons trade partners Russia and China but vehemently opposed by the United States. Ending the embargo could facilitate Tehran’s unhindered access to dual-use materials employed to produce satellites with military or even terrorist applications. The launch also showcased an expanding IRGC solid-fuel capability that, together with other technologies, could transform Iran’s future ballistic missile designs. In this Policy Note, military expert Farzin Nadimi explores the consequences of the regime’s latest space achievement. The study’s rich technical detail—on missile types, motors, and “tumbling webcams” known as CubeSats—is complemented by images and framed in a strategic context. The United States and its partners, the author concludes, must respond to these advances by curtailing Tehran’s access to relevant technologies and preventing it from using space initiatives as a cover for illicit military activity.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Weapons , Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), Satellite
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Saeid Golkar
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In 2008, the IRGC established a new branch that remains little known or studied today: the Provincial Guard. Operating in all of Iran's thirty-one provinces plus Tehran city, the IRGC-PG carries out the regime's revolutionary aims at the local level, inculcating conservative religious values, shaping educational curricula, and even sponsoring sports activities. It also delivers military might and security through its Imam Hussein infantry battalions and anti-riot Imam Ali battalions. This pathbreaking Policy Note, written by expert Saeid Golkar, casts the Provincial Guard as a rising actor in Iran's national narrative. If Tehran has its way, the organization will succeed in finally enshrining Iran as an "Islamic society." But domestic precedent suggests this bid will meet more than a little resistance, especially given a regime dealing with economic weakness, a coronavirus pandemic, and a restive, increasingly secularist public emboldened by last year's mass protests.
  • Topic: Islam, Military Affairs, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC)
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As soon as next month, Israel’s new government could approve plans to annex a substantial portion of the West Bank. The trigger for this comes from Washington—a shift by the Trump administration to recognize Israel’s new self-declared borders. But that still doesn’t explain why. What might Israel gain by discarding a reasonably tolerable, surprisingly sustainable status quo for a step that virtually the entire world considers a violation of law and reason? And what costs might Israel incur—strategically, diplomatically, politically, and otherwise—for carrying out annexation? In this Policy Note, Washington Institute executive director Robert Satloff looks at annexation through the prism of its advocates and finds their arguments sadly defeatist and surprisingly indifferent to the dangers the move could produce. The impact, he notes, will reach America too, given that this example of U.S.-Israel cooperation risks undermining the edifice of the bilateral relationship. But the worst outcome is by no means certain, and numerous actors are capable of dissuading Israel from taking this fateful step. All the same, the idea of annexation has now been legitimized in Israel and will surely reemerge. Ultimately, the threat annexation poses to shared U.S. and Israeli interests will only dissipate when U.S. policy no longer incentivizes it.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Territorial Disputes, Annexation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recently, much attention has focused on Israel’s drift away from a two-state solution and toward annexation of the West Bank. But hard data shows that the Palestinian public has also clearly moved away from the classic compromise peace deal with its neighbors. When the Trump peace plan was announced in January, it met with wide Palestinian condemnation. More troubling, majorities of Palestinians now oppose a two-state resolution to the conflict, a reversal from previous years. They also say that even if an agreement is reached, unlikely though that may be, it should not end the conflict. Still, surveys show Palestinian pragmatism on a range of short-term issues, from economic cooperation with Israel to compromising on the “right of return” for refugees. In this Policy Focus, filled with informative charts, polling expert David Pollock explores a decade’s worth of Palestinian views on everything from Jerusalem archaeological digs to West Bank annexation. The opinions illuminate dynamics far beyond the stalled peace process, while also hinting at openings where that process could begin anew.
  • Topic: Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Peace, Annexation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Matthew Levitt, Samantha Stern
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In this illuminating Policy Note -- complete with detailed maps and satellite imagery -- Matthew Levitt and Samantha Stern tell the story of the Lebanese NGO Green Without Borders and explain why the mandate for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon must be reworked. According to its blog, the Lebanese NGO Green Without Borders plants trees, creates public parks, and fights forest fires. But the benignly named outfit also has another mission. Working with Hezbollah's construction arm Jihad al-Binaa and with the militant group's allies inside and outside the government, GWB openly seeks to advance the "southern Green resistance" against Israel. To this end, it provides direct cover for Hezbollah's operational activities, from harassing UN patrols, to carrying out missile attacks on Israel, to obstructing UN cameras at the border with deliberately placed trees. In this illuminating Policy Note -- complete with detailed border maps and satellite imagery -- Matthew Levitt and Samantha Stern tell the story of GWB and explain why the mandate for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon must be reworked after the secretary-general's next report in July. The sovereignty of an economically battered Lebanon and the stability of the wider region depend on a renewed effort to address all facets of Hezbollah aggression.
  • Topic: Environment, Non State Actors, Borders, Hezbollah, NGOs
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon