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  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The administration's achievements were counterbalanced by a striking lack of alignment among three U.S. national security strategies and the discouraging rapid rise of far-right extremism at home. The Trump administration has a mixed record on counterterrorism, overshadowed by troubling trends. On the positive side, it continued the Obama administration’s efforts to defeat the Islamic State on the battlefield while pressuring other jihadist groups in Syria and aggressively pushing back on Iran and its terrorist proxies. But these achievements were counterbalanced by a striking lack of alignment among the U.S. National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and Counterterrorism Strategy, hobbling effective policy execution. Still more discouraging has been the rapid rise of far-right extremism at home, a development President Trump has refused to denounce and even stoked. The ninth volume of The Washington Institute’s Counterterrorism Lecture Series, edited by Matthew Levitt, covers the period November 2018 to March 2020. Its pages include the assessments of officials and experts seeking to understand the full scope of the CT challenge and develop sophisticated methods to address it.
  • Topic: National Security, Counter-terrorism, Donald Trump, Non-Traditional Threats
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In the second in a series of TRANSITION 2021 memos examining policy challenges across the Middle East, expert David Makovsky explores how the Biden administration can use progress in Arab-Israel normalization to reenergize dormant ties between the United States and the Palestinian Authority, and between Jerusalem and Ramallah. After urging the administration to invest in strengthening and expanding normalization with Arab states, he argues for gradualism on the Palestinian issue, rooted in mutual efforts on several fronts, including preventing the slide to a one-state reality, taking a differentiated approach to Jewish settlements, and encouraging a range of trust-building exercises. “The gradualist approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking is not one of grand declarations, high-profile White House announcements, or flag-waving signing ceremonies,” explains Makovsky. “To the contrary, if it succeeds, it will emerge from hours of intensive consultation with Israeli and Palestinian interlocutors, as well as the coordinated input and support of key Arab, European, and international partners.” In the coming weeks, TRANSITION 2021 memos by Washington Institute experts will address the broad array of issues facing the Biden-Harris administration in the Middle East. These range from thematic issues, such as the region’s strategic position in the context of Great Power competition and how to most effectively elevate human rights and democracy in Middle East policy, to more discrete topics, from Arab-Israel peace diplomacy to Red Sea security to challenges and opportunities in northwest Africa. Taken as a whole, this series of memos will present a comprehensive approach for advancing U.S. interests in security and peace in this vital but volatile region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Peace, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Maged Atef
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Turkey is making overtures for rapprochement with Egypt. How will Sisi respond? In a surprising development, Turkey-based media channels opposed to the Egyptian regime announced the suspension of all political programs attacking President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and his regime, based on directives from the Turkish government. Supporters of the Egyptian regime met the news with happiness and approval, counting it as a victory for Sisi. Yet the Egyptian regime itself refrained from showing enthusiasm towards this paradigm shift, contenting itself with a remark by Minister of Information Osama Heikal in which the minister said the move represented a “good gesture from Turkey.” Meanwhile, Egyptian Islamists residing in Turkey were struck by concerns that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could be contemplating handing them over to Cairo. Looking ahead, despite the importance of Erdogan’s gesture, any response from Sisi is still unclear
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Muslim Brotherhood
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: Michael Knights, Pierre Morcos, Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: NATO stands ready to increase its commitment in a slow and steady manner consistent with Baghdad’s needs, but careful communication will be crucial, as will a more strategic discussion on how to combine different assistance efforts. On February 18, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg announced a decision to increase the size of NATO Mission Iraq (NMI) from 500 personnel to as many as 4,000. Although he noted that such deployments would be “conditions-based,” “incremental,” and subject to Baghdad’s authorization, the troop numbers were the only element of his announcement widely reported inside Iraq, resulting in swift political pressure on the government to explain the seemingly steep increase. In fact, there is no imminent NATO “surge” planned in Iraq, but rather a greater openness and general intent to gradually provide more advisors capable of assisting local authorities with security sector reform (SSR). When handled appropriately and combined with other efforts, this initiative can create good opportunities for quiet, persistent security cooperation that helps strengthen the Iraqi state, evolve multinational military relations beyond the campaign against the Islamic State (IS), and spread the burden of support more broadly among U.S. allies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, NATO, Military Strategy, Reform
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Kenneth R. Rosen
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Interviews reveal how Syrian officials are extorting their people. It is sometimes difficult to conceptualize what the dire situation of Syria’s economy means for those who live there. Some 100 tankers of fuel flow across Lebanon’s border into Syria, but the persistent lack of gas limits families' ability to heat their homes, which, in regime-held areas, already face large-scale electricity blackouts that last for hours. Likewise, hot water is a commodity afforded only to those with financial means and connections, and it is a luxury to take a hot shower in many parts of Syria. Meanwhile, on Facebook, a UNHCR tarp is for sale and women are selling their hair to feed their families—just two examples of the type of entrepreneurship needed to weather abounding hardships in a country that has known only war for the last decade. Over the summer, the Syrian pound collapsed as U.S. sanctions continue to deter international support for the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has likewise furthered the collapse of the country’s economic infrastructure. As Syrians search for means of generating income, officials employed by the regime have gained access to funds through extortion. A common form of this extortion is the forced detention of individuals whose families must then bribe officials for either visitation rights or the release of their loved ones. A report from January underscores the scale of such extortion operations, which have remained a staple in regime tactics for years, though they are especially prevalent now given the country’s ongoing war and collapsed economy. The report—produced by the Association of Detainees and the Missing in Sednaya Prison—surveyed more than 1,200 prisoners and families. Respondents said that bribes rose as high as nearly $3 million at one jail, though the range varied. Visitation or release fees were usually a few thousand dollars or less, but bribes would be increased for families living outside of Syria, averaging about $30,000. The report underscored how these payments—far greater than the average public sector annual salary of roughly $150 per month, according to Qassioun, a Syrian newspaper —could feed the country’s security apparatus and the regime through guards, judges, military personnel, and middlemen who facilitate the negotiations. “The Syrian Arab Army is the primary party that is responsible for these types of arrests,” says to the report.
  • Topic: Crime, Economy, Syrian War, Abductions
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Lilian Tauber
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By committing to long-term investments in Jordan’s communities through support for social enterprises, the United States can contribute to the country’s stability and economic growth. In Jordan, one of the United States’ most reliable allies in the Middle East, economic volatility is a major threat to stability and has led to recurrent protests since 2011. High youth unemployment rates and a large refugee population contribute to its economic woes and political tensions, all of which are now exacerbated in the Covid-19 pandemic. The United States can support Jordan’s recovery from the pandemic through long-term investment in social entrepreneurship. The country’s entrepreneurship ecosystem is in a developing stage, with most resources focused on short-term funding and training, so a shift in U.S. aid to longer-term support can make a significant difference. Increasing funds and providing multi-year mentorship and operational support to select social enterprises (SEs) will allow them to become powerful forces for positive change and civic engagement in their communities.
  • Topic: Development, Foreign Aid, Economy, Investment
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan, United States of America
  • Author: Chiraz Arbi, Maurizio Geri
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Gridlock and economic stagnation are testing the Arab world's only functioning democracy. On January 14, 2021, Tunisia celebrated the 10th anniversary of the end of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime, the result of a revolution that led to a firm commitment to a process of democratization in the country. And while the revolution has meant significant change and positive development for Tunisian democracy, the Tunisian people are currently losing faith in the direction of their government as Tunisia’s democratic institutions are struggling to endure parliamentary gridlock and economic malaise—as evidenced by the recent street protests over the past few days. Consecutive Riots and demonstrations in the Capital and in several cities across the country came to defy the government’s nationwide lockdown and curfew due to Covid-19 and to symbolize the youth’s overall disenchantment. While the Prime Minister assured that this anger was “legitimate”, protests were faced by police violence and led to more than 600 arrests of protestors aged between 14 and 25.
  • Topic: Democracy, Economy, Arab Spring
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Tunisia
  • Author: Hazem Albassam, Coline Ferrant
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A recent poll gauges Egyptians' lasting impressions of their chapter in the Arab Spring. In 2011, after just eighteen days, from January 25 to February 11, the Egyptian public overthrew the 30-year-long dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. A decade afterwards, we sought to have Egyptians reflect on the collective memory of those days. What fueled the revolution? Was it successful? Did it lose its way? Attempts to explain the Revolution in public discourse point to inequality, economic stagnation, poverty, unemployment, and corruption. Reflecting on these indicators, we compare them to Egyptians’ own recollections through the analysis of an exploratory survey conducted in November 2020.
  • Topic: Public Opinion, Arab Spring, Memory, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Egypt
  • Author: Jeff D. Colgan, Thomas N. Hale
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: Climate change is the defining global challenge of the twenty-first century. It constitutes a direct threat to the safety and prosperity of Americans. U.S. President Joe Biden has committed to reorienting U.S. foreign policy to meet the climate challenge. This report provides an early assessment of the Biden administration’s international climate diplomacy against these goals in the first 100 days, recognizing that others have focused on domestic policy, and that climate change must be at the top of the U.S. foreign-policy agenda. It builds on a previous report by the Brown University Climate Solutions Lab, issued on October 8, 2020, that identified and recommended ten executive climate actions, which are central to advancing U.S. foreign-policy objectives. Of the 9 internationally-oriented climate pledges evaluated, made by the Biden campaign during the 2020 presidential election, the report finds that the Biden team has already delivered effectively on 4 of them, made some progress on 2, and taken baby steps or made no real progress on 3. These will require further attention and resources in the coming months.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Climate Change, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Willy Wo-Lap Lam
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Under Xi Jinping, the leadership of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has initiated multi-pronged measures to ensure the success of celebrations marking the centenary of the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in July this year and planning for the 20th CCP Congress, scheduled for the second half of 2022. The accent is on preserving political stability and further consolidating the apparently unassailable authority of President Xi, who is also CCP General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC).
  • Topic: Media, Political Parties, Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia