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  • Author: Oula A. Alrifai
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Besides highlighting Assad’s financial mismanagement, the recent unrest gives the international community a genuine opportunity to push for transition while bolstering the more prosperous local administration in the northeast. Since mid-January, shop owners, government employees, students, and even children have been gathering in the streets of various Syrian communities to express their frustration with the Assad regime’s economic policies and untruths. Although the protests remain small for now, the fact that they have persistently carried on in the middle of regime-controlled territory highlights Bashar al-Assad’s potential vulnerability on these issues. In Suwayda, a Druze-majority province in the south, residents have protested the sharp drop in the value of the Syrian pound/lira and the deteriorating economic situation in general. In the central-western town of Salamiya, protestors were seen chanting “we want to live.” And in the Suwayda town of Shahba, demonstrators raised loaves of bread in the air while openly criticizing Bouthaina Shaaban, Assad’s political and media advisor. The latter protest was partly spurred by a recent interview on the pro-Assad television network al-Mayadeen, where Shaaban not only claimed that the country’s current economy is “fifty times better than what it was in 2011,” but also declared that “Syrians are self-sufficient in everything.” In response, protestors sarcastically noted that her comments referred to her own household’s economy, not Syria’s. Elsewhere, former agriculture minister Nour al-Din Manna described Shaaban’s remarks about the war-torn country as “hard to believe,” and a closer look at the country’s finances supports this disbelief.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Syrian War, Currency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, United States of America
  • 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: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The ailing Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, now seventy-nine years old, has no children and no announced successor, with only an ambiguous mechanism in place for the family council to choose one. This study considers the most likely candidates to succeed the sultan, Oman’s domestic economic challenges, and whether the country’s neutral foreign policy can survive Qaboos’s passing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Domestic politics, Succession
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Oman, Gulf Nations
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A highly unusual and credible private poll of Saudi citizens taken in late November 2009 by a reputable regional firm shows solid popular support for tough measures against Iran, even though domestic economic issues loom larger in the public's perception. Conducted in partnership with Pechter Middle East Polls, a new, Princeton-based research organization, the survey involved face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 Saudi citizens in the major metropolitan areas of Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam/al-Khobar. A comparable poll was conducted in Egypt during the same period, with a representative national sample of 1,000.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Economics, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Late on November 25, just before the start of the Islamic Eid festival and, coincidentally, Thanksgiving in the United States, Dubai's flagship investment company Dubai World announced that it would be requesting a six-month delay on paying its debts. Within hours, Dubai's reputation was being rewritten, and its ambition to be a financial center, building on its historic reputation as a focal point for regional trade, was being recast. Uncertainty continued on November 30, when the Dubai government said that it would not guarantee Dubai World's debt. In any event, the larger story has been the nervousness of world financial markets, which are now also evincing worry about the debt of countries like Greece or Ireland. Within the Middle East, the focus is on the extent of support that Dubai will receive from Abu Dhabi, the neighboring -- and richer -- member sheikhdom of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), whether other city-states like Bahrain and Qatar are also at risk, and whether Dubai's links with Iran will change as a result of its financial situation.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Arabia, Bahrain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 11-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Saudi king Abdullah is in the United States this week to discuss issues of considerable interest to both countries. Tomorrow and Thursday, he is in New York City for an interfaith meeting he is sponsoring and which President Bush will be attending. On Friday and Saturday, the Saudi monarch will be at the White House, where he will be the sole Islamic or Arab representative at a summit of major economic powers discussing the world financial crisis. In a separate meeting with President Bush, he is expected to report on Saudi mediation efforts with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Despite some common interest in all these areas, perspectives differ significantly on issues such as radical Islam and the price of oil. The United States, particularly during a time of presidential transition, should be careful not to concede ground on continuing points of disagreement.
  • Topic: Economics, Oil
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Middle East, Asia, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 11-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Clashes, rocket fire, and threats of escalation challenge Gaza's five-month-old ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. In the past two weeks, Israeli forces have reportedly killed 17 Palestinian fighters, while militant groups in Gaza have fired over 140 rockets into Israel. Despite the ceasefire's benefits -- for Israel, the end of cyclical clashes, rocket attacks, and civilian casualties, and for Hamas, a reprieve from Israel's intense military and economic pressure -- there is no guarantee it will hold. As such, it is worth considering how the ceasefire might end, what renewed conflict might look like, and what this means for Israel's long-term confrontation with Hamas.
  • Topic: Economics, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: Robert Kimmitt
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: What are the relative constraints of a multilateral approach versus a bilateral approach to the use of financial tools against illicit activity? Anytime we see a threat to the country through the financial system, we are going to take action immediately using the domestic authorities we have. We try to be careful, however, to make sure that those are carefully targeted to conduct and are not extra territorial. That provides a good basis for entering into discussion with friends and allies throughout the world, both on a bilateral basis with others and then on a multilateral basis.
  • Topic: Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: This week, the Egmont Group -- an international body of more than 100 national financial intelligence units (FIUs) -- is holding its annual plenary session and working group meetings in Bermuda. One of the issues on the agenda is whether to admit a Syrian FIU into the group. Although Syria may in fact technically qualify for membership despite some significant shortcomings, extending membership to a state the United States regards as a sponsor of terrorism would raise serious questions about Egmont's standards and continued efficacy in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing.
  • Topic: Economics, International Cooperation, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Michael Jacobson, David Jacobson
  • Publication Date: 06-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On May 10, 2007, President Bush and U.S. Treasury secretary Henry Paulson launched an "open investment" initiative to encourage foreign investment in the U.S. economy. In a statement, the president emphasized that his administration "is committed to ensuring that the United States continues to be the most attractive place in the world to invest." Washington's focus on this issue is at least partly a reflection of the ongoing fallout from last year's Dubai Ports World (DPW) controversy. Although it is still premature to gauge the long-term economic impact of the DPW case, the process for reviewing foreign investments has already changed significantly.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: Meral Varis Kiefer
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On April 30, 2007, the Turkish stock market slumped and the value of the lira dropped following a massive demonstration in Istanbul against the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, coupled with a statement by the military voicing support for secularism. Previously, the comparatively healthy Turkish economy had boosted the chances that the AKP, rooted in the country's Islamist movement, would achieve further electoral victories this year. On April 24, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan named Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as his party's candidate for president -- a legislatively elected post. In the April 27 parliamentary session, however, the secular opposition boycotted the vote, and the AKP failed to muster the required two-thirds majority. The Turkish constitutional court subsequently annulled the vote, and the status of the presidential election is now uncertain. In the meantime, the parliament has moved legislative elections up from November to July 22.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Jacobson
  • Publication Date: 04-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On April 1-5, the seventeen Arab members of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF) met in Jordan to discuss terrorism financing and money laundering in the region. Although the task force's record to date shows some promise, the organization can do far more to address these critical issues.
  • Topic: Economics, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Michael Jacobson
  • Publication Date: 04-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The State Department's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released on March 1, offers a little-noted reference to a dubious claim: an Iranian government statement (made to the UN) that Tehran has established a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). The report notes that Iran has provided no further details. Even if the Iranian claim were true, the creation of an FIU would do little to combat terrorism financing in the nation, given Tehran's official support for terrorist groups. In other countries, FIUs are an important element of effective counterterrorism policy -- though the record of key Middle Eastern nations is somewhat mixed in this regard.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Oren
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On March 9, 2007, Michael Oren addressed The Washington Institute's Special Policy Forum. A historian and senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, Dr. Oren authored the recent bestseller Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On January 25, Lebanon will participate in Paris III, the third international donor conference for Lebanon convened by French president Jacques Chirac since February 2001. The top agenda items are grants and soft loans for Lebanon and the economic reform plan of Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora. For Siniora and his "March 14" ruling coalition, the success of the conference -- i.e., international commitments to provide billions to Lebanon -- is exceedingly important, as the government is coming under increasing pressure from the Hizballah-led opposition. Indeed, this week, the opposition upped the ante in its continuing effort to topple the Siniora government, closing key Lebanese arteries, including the highways into Beirut and the airport road. If Paris III is broadly perceived as "successful," it will strengthen Siniora and demonstrate that the March 14 coalition can govern and advance key Lebanese interests without Hizballah participation in government. Should international donors not prove particularly generous, the momentum will shift toward the opposition.
  • Topic: International Relations, Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, France
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 09-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Lebanon has secured pledges for assistance roughly equal to its $3.6 billion estimate of what is required to rebuild from the recent war. Though foreign assistance will be an important element in the short-term physical reconstruction, it will do little to help Beirut contend with the longstanding structural maladies afflicting the economy—particularly $40 billion in government debt. Lebanon also faces the challenge of how to reinforce central government authority in the face of Hizballah's efficient reconstruction efforts.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Elizabeth Young
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As the international donor community struggles to determine its stance on aid to the Palestinians under the Hamas government, it is important to remember the extent to which the Palestinian economy is dependent upon Israeli decisions. Last year the international community gave the Palestinians $1.4 billion in aid; Israel has the potential to affect at least that sum through its policies on trade, Palestinian workers in Israel, and the tax revenue it collects.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: David Makovsky, Michael Herzog, Elizabeth Young
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In the immediate aftermath of Hamas's parliamentary victory in late January, the Quartet—the United States, the EU, Russia, and the UN—set clear criteria for funding a Palestinian Authority (PA) under Hamas's leadership. The Quartet said direct funding would be a function of the new government's “commitment to the principles of nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap.” Indeed, there is no other example of taxpayers subsidizing a government run by an organization that appears on State Department and EU terror lists.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, Humanitarian Aid
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 02-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The February 24 attack by al-Qaeda on Saudi Arabia's giant oil processing facility at Abqaiq failed. At least two of the attackers were killed, along with two security guards. On February 27, Saudi authorities said they had killed another five terrorists linked to the Abqaiq attack in a clash in Riyadh, and they were interrogating a further suspect. The failure of the attack and the reported success of the subsequent counterterrorist operation give the impression of Saudi efficiency, but it should at least as much serve as a warning. The planned attack, targeting the world's largest oil exporter, should give impetus to President Bush's determination, declared in his January State of the Union address, to wean the United States off foreign oil.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Economics, Oil
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Jonathan Powell
  • Publication Date: 02-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In January, the United States halted talks on free trade with Egypt to protest the Egyptian government's imprisonment of Ayman Nour, a leading opposition figure who challenged President Hosni Mubarak in September 2005 presidential elections. Washington made no formal announcement, perhaps hoping to avoid open confrontation with Cairo, and in doing so missed an opportunity to highlight its growing success in negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs) with U.S. allies in the region.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Egypt