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  • Author: Ehud Eiran
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Israel is still holding to its traditional security maxim. Based on a perception of a hostile region, Israel’s response includes early warning, deterrence and swift – including pre-emptive – military action, coupled with an alliance with a global power, the US. Israel is adjusting these maxims to a changing reality. Overlapping interests – and perhaps the prospect of an even more open conflict with Iran – led to limited relationships between Israel and some Gulf states. These, however, will be constrained until Israel makes progress on the Palestine issue. Israel aligned with Greece and Cyprus around energy and security, which may lead to conflict with Turkey. Russia’s deployment in Syria placed new constraints on Israeli freedom of action there. The US’s retrenchment from the Middle East is not having a direct effect on Israel, while the Trump administration’s support for Israel’s territorial designs in the West Bank may make it easier for Israel to permanently expand there, thus sowing the seeds for future instability in Israel/Palestine. The EU could try and balance against such developments, but, as seen from Israel, is too divided to have a significant impact. Paper produced in the framework of the FEPS-IAI project “Fostering a New Security Architecture in the Middle East”, April 2020.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Gas, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, United States of America, Mediterranean
  • Author: Jean-loup Samaan
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: This monograph explores the emerging challenge of nonstate actors’ anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) strategies and their implications for the United States and its allies by looking at two regions, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, with case studies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Houthis in Yemen, and separatist groups in Ukraine.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Hezbollah, Houthis, Hamas
  • Political Geography: Europe, Ukraine, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Yemen, Gaza, Lebanon, United States of America
  • Author: Hanin Ghaddar
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Unless Washington and its allies respond to the protestors’ legitimate demands for reform, the group will survive through measures such as expanding its smuggling activity, promoting its financial institutions, and selectively scapegoating corrupt politicians. When IMF officials visited Lebanon late last month amid its accelerating economic freefall, many wondered whether these developments might alter the behavior of Hezbollah, the designated terrorist group that has a deep financial stake in the country’s public and private sectors. During a previous funding crisis—the increase in U.S. sanctions against the group’s chief underwriter, Iran—the “Party of God” and its foreign sponsors formulated a new strategy to evade these measures and create alternative sources of funding. Such sources allowed Hezbollah to make further inroads into government agencies following the 2018 parliamentary elections. For example, the group’s leaders insisted on controlling the Health Ministry, which commands Lebanon’s fourth-largest budget at $338 million per year; they also gained more access to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Agriculture Ministry, and the Ministry of Energy and Water, whose assistance was used to fund their affiliated projects and businesses. That worked until Lebanon’s own economy began its current nosedive. Unemployment has hit a record high of 40 percent, and the lira has slumped by about 60 percent on the parallel market, hiking inflation. Officially pegged to the dollar, the currency has plummeted 40 percent on the black market as local banks ration dollars necessary for imports of food, medicine, and other essential goods. Meanwhile, Lebanon has one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world (over 150 percent) and may not be able to pay $1.2 billion in Eurobonds this month. As with the Iran sanctions, however, Hezbollah has a strategy to survive this domestic pressure, at least in the near term.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Corruption, Debt, Politics, Protests, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, 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: 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
  • Author: Hanin Ghadder
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: To contain corrupt actors and facilitate reform, the international community must provide alternatives to Hezbollah pharmaceutical and food programs while filling gaps that the group is unable to address. Despite Lebanon’s deteriorating financial and economic situation, the country’s political elite have made clear that they will not implement reforms laid out by the international community as prerequisites for a bailout. In their view, the changes specified by the IMF, the World Bank, and the French-sponsored aid framework CEDRE would mean the eventual collapse of their political class, whose corruption and illegal business dealings are protected and encouraged by Hezbollah. Indeed, the emergence of a more independent secular political class that reflects the October 2019 protests is a serious concern for the militia and its allies in government, so they have chosen to manage the crisis rather than resolve it. Thus far, Hezbollah’s crisis-management efforts have far surpassed those of every other political party, civil society organization, and foreign assistance channel. The group’s military structure, organizational expertise, and access to alternative sources are enabling it to pursue temporary strategies for surviving the current crisis, while also retaining independence from state institutions, preserving a measure of support from its core Shia community, and discouraging Shia from joining any further rounds of public unrest. In the longer term, Hezbollah seems to be hoping that a transformative regional development—perhaps a new U.S.-Iranian nuclear agreement or a favorable U.S.-European partnership on Lebanon—will allow it to resolve its own financial crisis and regain access to hard currency, either from the Iranian regime or through international assistance mechanisms. Yet even if Hezbollah seems fairly well-positioned to weather the storm, the Lebanese people—including the group’s support base—are not. According to a new World Bank report, half the population is living below the poverty line, and more will soon join them if the Central Bank stops subsidizing medicine, fuel, wheat, and other essentials two months from now as projected.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Finance, Economy, Crisis Management, Hezbollah, Welfare, Militias
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Saleh Machnouk, Hanin Ghaddar, Matthew Levitt, Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Four experts discuss the deadly Beirut explosion as it relates to the Lebanese political system, Hezbollah hegemony, and foreign aid. On August 13, The Washington Institute held a virtual Policy Forum with Saleh Machnouk, Hanin Ghaddar, Matthew Levitt, and Charles Thepaut. Machnouk is a columnist at the Lebanese daily an-Nahar and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge. Ghaddar is the Institute's Friedmann Fellow and a former journalist with the Lebanese media. Levitt is the Institute’s Fromer-Wexler Fellow, director of its Reinhard Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, and creator of its newly released Hezbollah Select Worldwide Activity Interactive Map and Timeline. Thepaut, a French career diplomat, is a resident visiting fellow at the Institute. The following is a rapporteur’s summary of their remarks.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Foreign Aid, Hezbollah, Disaster Management
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Seth Loertscher, Daniel Milton, Bryan C. Price, Cynthia Loertscher
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: After the attacks of September 2001, the U.S. government grappled with ways to apply all aspects of its national power against the terrorist groups it found itself combating militarily. On the diplomatic and financial fronts, much of this increased effort revolved around the sanctioning and designating of terrorist groups and individual terrorist actors, resulting in a drastic increase of the number of individuals and groups which were branded with the term “terrorist.” Yet despite the application of these tools for almost 20 years, or longer in some cases, little work has been done to understand the impact of these programs. This report examines two sanctioning efforts the U.S. government has employed against terrorist actors: the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list and the designation of individuals as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under the authority granted by Executive Order 13224. Although the specific purposes of each of these programs differ from one another, ultimately both represent a non-kinetic approach to counterterrorism that relies on the application of diplomatic and/or financial statecraft. The examination of each of these programs in this report has two general goals. The first is to provide an overview of the program and descriptive statistics regarding its implementation. The second is to provide some form of assessment regarding the impact that these programs have on terrorist groups and individuals. In accomplishing these two goals, the authors relied exclusively on open-source information collected by researchers at the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC). This report attempts to provide a deeper understanding of the impacts of these tools, in addition to highlighting some of the structural limitations and gaps in the application of counterterrorism sanctions.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, Hamas, Abu Sayyaf
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights, Stephen Hummel, Paul Cruickshank, Don Rassler, Tim Lister, Pete Erickson, Seth Loertscher, David C. Lane, Paul Erickson
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: In this month’s feature article, Michael Knights assesses the future of Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Iran’s other proxies in Iraq. He notes that in the wake of the death of KH’s founder and leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a U.S. airstrike on January 3, 2020, “KH is still the engine room of anti-U.S. attacks in Iraq but it is less politically agile and operates in a more hostile counterterrorism environment where deniability and secrecy have become more important again.” He assesses that the “the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force is also leaning on a more diversified model in Iraq, drawing on non-KH factions like Saraya al-Jihad and Saraya al-Ashura, and engaging more directly with Iraq’s minorities, including Sunni communities and the Shi`a Kurdish Faylis and Turkmen. History may be repeating itself as Iran develops new smaller and more secure Iraqi cells that are reminiscent of the formation of Kata’ib Hezbollah itself.” Our interview is with Drew Endy, Associate Chair, Bioengineering, Stanford University, who has served on the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity. He argues the United States urgently needs a bio strategy to take advantage of rapid advances in biotechnology, protect against the growing danger posed by its potential malevolent use, and prevent the United States from permanently falling behind as a biopower. “First, we need to demonstrate operational mastery of cells by learning to build them. Second and third, we need to build and secure the bio net. And we have to do this now, within the decade, so that we can translate these advances as infrastructure undergirding a uniquely American bio economy that projects power while advancing life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. If we do this, then we have a chance of taking infectious disease off the table. If we don’t develop and implement a coherent bio strategy, it’s game over, not to be dramatic.” In early August 2020, fighters loyal to the Islamic State captured the town and port of Mocimboa da Praia in Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado. They have yet to be dislodged from the town. Tim Lister examines a jihadi insurgency in Mozambique that has grown in sophistication and reach. This month marks 20 years since al-Qa`ida’s attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors. Lieutenant Colonel Pete Erickson, Seth Loertscher, First Lieutenant David C. Lane, and Captain Paul Erickson assess the search for justice.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Insurgency, Counter-terrorism, Hezbollah, Justice, Jihad, Proxy War, USS Cole
  • Political Geography: Africa, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Mozambique
  • Author: Andrew Devereux
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: The explosion in the Port of Beirut on August 4 caused domestic reverberations throughout Lebanon. With close to 200 people killed, over 6,000 wounded and damages estimated at over $15 billion, the public outrage toward the ruling elite was immediate and damning (Daily Sabah, August 12). The political classes were already subjected to heavy criticism for an ongoing economic crisis that has left 55 percent of the population living below the poverty line, while remnants of the October 2019 protests against political corruption remain active (Middle East Monitor, August 20). In the aftermath of the explosion, public ire accelerated swiftly. No group has come under more scrutiny, or been blamed more directly, than Hezbollah.
  • Topic: Corruption, Non State Actors, Hezbollah, Militias, Disaster Management
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Lebanon, Beirut