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  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Moscow is in Syria for the long haul and will continue to undermine American efforts there. In recent months, Moscow intensified its activities in Syria against the backdrop of a changing US administration. The Kremlin sent additional military policy units to eastern Syria, and continued diplomatic engagement through the Astana format, a process that superficially has international backing but in practice excludes the United States and boosts Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Moreover, Moscow also unveiled at its airbase in Syria a statue to the patron saint of the Russian army, Prince Alexander Nevsky. A growing Russian presence in Syria will further hurt Western interests.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Pavel K. Baev
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The recent incidence of war in the Caucasus has shown that, when facing deep domestic troubles, Russia and Turkey demonstrate strikingly different patterns of international behavior. While Russia has become more cautious in responding to external challenges, Turkey has embarked on several power-projecting enterprises. Its forceful interference in the long-smoldering conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh took Russia by surprise and effectively secured a military victory for Azerbaijan. Moscow has assumed the main responsibility for terminating hostilities by deploying a peacekeeping force, but its capacity for managing the war zone and its commitment to deconflicting tensions with Turkey remain uncertain. The United States and the European Union have few levers for influencing this interplay of clashing agendas of local actors and regional powers and fewer reasons to trust Russian and Turkish leaders to put peacebuilding ahead of their ambitions.
  • Topic: Security, War, Geopolitics, Grand Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Turkey, Caucasus, Middle East
  • Author: Oya Dorsun-Özkanca
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Turkey-Greece bilateral relations exemplify a stereotypical security dilemma. Since the discovery of hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean, the bilateral tensions between Turkey and Greece have been exacerbated through enhanced regional geostrategic competition. Against the background of renewed tensions in the eastern Mediterranean and the newly emerging regional alliances, it is in the interest of all parties to de-escalate the tensions in order to preserve regional peace and stability as well as the coherence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
  • Topic: Security, Governance, Conflict, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Greece, Mediterranean
  • Author: Julie Meier
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Worldwide, millions of people survive severely distressing experiences caused by war and conflict, humanitarian disasters, and displacement. While such events affect the mental health of any population, the psychosocial well-being of persons in humanitarian contexts are rarely addressed in research. In Iraq, sustained and accelerated trauma is a reality, as the local population has endured years of prolonged violence and persecution. Iraq has undergone almost forty years of conflict, including authoritarianism, an eight-year Iran-Iraq war, two Gulf Wars, decades of economic sanctions, a civil war, and the recent occupation by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
  • Topic: Islamic State, Conflict, Mental Health, Peace
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: With the Syrian regime’s offensive in Idlib paused, the time is now for a deal sparing the rebellion’s last stronghold the full wrath of reconquest. The parties should pursue an improved ceasefire including the regime, Russia, Turkey and the Islamist militants entrenched in the province. What’s new? A Russian-backed Syrian regime offensive against rebel-held Idlib halted when Russia and Turkey negotiated a ceasefire in March. Turkey is sending reinforcements, signalling a military response to what it deems a national security threat. For now, this step may dissuade Russia from resuming the offensive, but the standoff appears untenable. Why does it matter? Successive Russian-Turkish ceasefires in Idlib have collapsed over incompatible objectives, diverging interpretations and exclusion of the dominant rebel group, Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is UN-sanctioned and considered by Russia and others a terrorist organisation. A Russian-backed regime offensive to retake Idlib likely would result in humanitarian catastrophe. What should be done? All actors should seek a more sustainable ceasefire – optimally including HTS, notwithstanding legitimate concerns about the group – that avoids the high military, political and humanitarian price of another offensive. Turkey should push HTS to continue distancing itself from transnational militancy and display greater tolerance for political and religious pluralism.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Conflict, Syrian War, Islamism, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Naval incidents in the Gulf have spotlighted the danger that a U.S.-Iranian skirmish could blow up into war. The two sides have little ability to communicate at present. They should hasten to design a military-to-military channel to lower the chances of inadvertent conflagration. What’s new? Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have repeatedly brought the two sides to the brink of open conflict. While neither government seeks a full-fledged war, a string of dangerous tit-for-tat exchanges amid mounting hostile rhetoric underscores the potential for a bigger military clash. Why does it matter? Due to limited communication channels between Tehran and Washington, an inadvertent or accidental interaction between the two sides could quickly escalate into a broader confrontation. The risk is especially high in the Gulf, where U.S. and Iranian military vessels operate close to one another. What should be done? The U.S. and Iran should open a military de-escalation channel that fills the gap between ad hoc naval communications and high-level diplomacy at moments of acute crisis. A mechanism facilitated by a third party might contain the risk of conflict due to misread signals and miscalculation.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Military Affairs, Conflict, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Turkish intervention in Libya’s war stopped the besieged Tripoli government from collapsing. But fighting with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces has since escalated, threatening a protracted conflict. Both Ankara and Haftar’s regional backers should urge their allies toward a return to negotiations and a ceasefire. What’s new? In January, Turkey stepped up military support to Libya’s UN-backed government of Prime Minister Faiez Serraj, stalling an offensive by forces allied with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Its foray, underpinned by its own strategic, political and economic interests, has further complicated the already multi-layered Libyan crisis. Why does it matter? Turkey’s intervention has neither de-escalated the conflict nor yielded productive negotiations between rival political and military factions. It has instead exposed a different risk: the more outside actors provide military hardware and fighters to their respective Libyan allies, the longer the conflict may last and the deadlier it may become. What should be done? As Turkey’s intervention appears not to be producing a ceasefire or a return to negotiations, and since no outside actor is likely to back out unilaterally, Ankara should engage with other external players involved in the conflict to explore potential compromises regarding their respective interests in Libya and beyond.
  • Topic: Military Intervention, Conflict, Negotiation, Crisis Management, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Libya
  • Author: Telli Betül Karacan
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Studies of IS propaganda show that it uses both new and old, proven methods to recruit members and conquer new territories following the loss of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Terrorism, Non State Actors, Fragile States, Islamic State, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, India, Asia, North Africa, Syria
  • Author: Leah Zamore, Hanny Megally, Tayseer Alkarim
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center on International Cooperation
  • Abstract: After five years of devastating conflict, Yemen now faces an escalating COVID-19 crisis. The effects of the war have drastically diminished the country’s ability to cope with a pandemic, and the economic impact of the crisis is rapidly becoming devastating as well. If allowed to take hold, COVID-19 threatens the lives of nearly 30 million people who are already suffering through the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Nor is the risk posed by COVID-19’s spread in Yemen limited to Yemenis. A pandemic that recognizes no borders or fault-lines cannot fester anywhere without threatening health security everywhere. Yet the international response so far has been both muted and slow. A new approach is urgently needed—one that aims not only to address the immediate threat that COVID-19 poses, but to tackle the underlying conditions that have left Yemen so uniquely vulnerable to the virus in the first place. This report explains how Yemen became so vulnerable to COVID-19, traces the impact of the pandemic so far, including the risk to vulnerable groups, and offers a critical perspective on the international action necessary to prevent further catastrophe in a country already suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis—from renewed pressure for a ceasefire to a dramatically scaled-up humanitarian response.
  • Topic: Conflict, Crisis Management, Humanitarian Crisis, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Last year’s Washington Institute forum on post-Soleimani succession suggested that the IRGC would lose a unique coordinating capability and its most important totem once he left the scene. Last April, The Washington Institute held a closed-door roundtable to discuss the potential impact if Qassem Soleimani no longer commanded the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force. Governed by the Chatham House rule, participants discussed how succession might work in the Qods Force and what Iran would lose if Soleimani became permanently unavailable, reaching consensus on many key issues. Now that the commander is indeed gone, their conclusions can help policymakers navigate the stormy seas ahead, though some aspects of his importance remain a matter of heated debate.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Conflict, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Paul M. Carter Jr.
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Under Vladimir Putin, Russia’s global ambitions have steadily increased, including in unstable areas of the Middle East, Africa, and the Western Hemisphere. For the most part, Moscow’s activities in these and other areas run counter to Western interests and undermine efforts to mitigate conflict through broad-based, transparent processes. This report outlines the factors that appear to be motivating the Kremlin’s conflict-zone interventions and places them within the larger context of Russian foreign policy interests.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Sujata Ashwarya
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown University Press
  • Abstract: Despite substantial efforts and investments in rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the country is still struggling to deliver on public services. Years of destruction in conflict, as well as alleged mismanagement and neglect, have taken a heavy toll on the country’s power infrastructure. Severe power cuts and rolling blackouts are endemic in Iraq today. Between 2014 and 2018, Islamic State terrorism inflicted billions of dollars in damage on the already dilapidated electricity infrastructure, causing a cumulative potential and actual loss of a whopping 7GW in generation and transmission capacities.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Infrastructure, Business , Conflict, Services, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Bastien Revel
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Since 2014, Turkey has not only hosted the world’s largest refugee population but has also modeled a best practice for the global refugee policy discussion. Turkey’s experience on the key issues such as jobs and employment should be examined as lessons for both refugee hosting countries and donor countries alike. The country has provided Syrians under Temporary Protection the right to access work permits and formal employment. Facilitating self-reliance for such a large number of refugees’ households remains a challenging task, even in the medium to long-term. This is especially the case in a context where increasing levels of unemployment in Turkey compounded by the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have posed a serious challenge to job creation and increased competition for available opportunities. Many Syrians living in Turkey experiencing partial or complete loss of income while incurring higher expenses, which is compounded for most households by a lack of savings. Addressing these challenges requires to draw lessons learnt at both policy and operational level to effectively support access to livelihoods opportunities. This notably involves fostering greater engagement and partnership with the private sector, on the one hand, and exploring innovative solutions such as e-work and online livelihoods opportunities on the other. The COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be an important test on the government’s and their international partners’ relevance and flexibility and their ability to quickly step up efforts in that direction. In this context, UNDP Turkey—a longstanding development partner and the co-lead of the Refugee and Resilience Response Plan (3RP)—joined hands with the Atlantic Council’s program on Turkey—”Atlantic Council IN TURKEY”—to explore policy options to foster socioeconomic inclusion among Syrians under Temporary Protection. Building on the experience and expertise of both organizations, our joint policy report : “Turkey’s Refugee Resilience: Expanding and Improving Solutions for the Economic Inclusion of Syrians in Turkey” aims at outlining pragmatic and innovative options to facilitate refugees’ access to decent employment so as to contribute to our common objective to #leavenoonebehind.
  • Topic: Migration, Science and Technology, United Nations, Women, Refugees, Economic Growth, Youth, Conflict, Syrian War, Crisis Management, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eurasia, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Nicholas Blanford, Assaf Orion
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Almost fourteen years since the 2006 war, Hezbollah and Israel seem to be drifting closer to war than at any time in the last decade. Even as Lebanon and Israel grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, neither the Israeli military nor Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah are allowing the disease to distract from their long-running enmity. With the military buildup on both sides, the mutual destruction would be far reaching. Given the risks at hand, the Atlantic Council has released a new report, “Counting the Cost: Avoiding Another War between Israel and Hezbollah,” authored by Nicholas Blanford, a Beirut-based nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Middle East programs, and Brig. Gen. (Res.) Assaf Orion, senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. The authors examine the current force posture of the Israel Defense Forces and Hezbollah, identify potential triggers that could lead to a war, analyze how the next war would be fought by both sides, and offer recommendations to at least maintain the current relative calm and avoid a conflict that could cost thousands of lives and bring unprecedented ruin to both Lebanon and Israel.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Conflict, Crisis Management, Hezbollah, Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Lebanon
  • Author: Paul D. Miller
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: At the outset of some of the most impactful wars in history, policymakers have assumed that the duration of conflict would be brief. Unfortunately, their assumptions were often wrong, as may wars like those in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan only grew more complicated with the passage of time. However, at least in these three cases, the reality of prolonged stalemate did not stop policymakers from setting withdrawal deadlines to assuage public anxieties and improve military performance. The pressures contributing to these consistent decisions across time are still relevant now. Therefore, as the United States currently seeks to deter great-power rivals and rogue regimes while combating terrorism, it is as important as ever to understand the roles and potential outcomes of withdrawal deadlines in war. In this new Atlantic Council report, Withdrawal Deadlines In War: Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Dr. Paul D. Miller examines the effect of withdrawal timetables on public opinion, military success, and policymakers’ goals across the three titular case studies. He finds that “Withdrawal timelines do not achieve the political benefits that policymakers desire, but they do incur the risks policymakers rightly fear.” In the face of prolonged and difficult military challenges, withdrawal deadlines can exacerbate outcomes at crucial moments, and thus policymakers must tread carefully.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, History, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, South Asia, Middle East, East Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Emerson T. Brooking, Suzanne Kianpour
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Iran has invested significant resources and accumulated vast experience in the conduct of digital influence efforts. These clandestine propaganda efforts have been used to complement Iranian foreign policy operations for the better part of a decade. Nonetheless, Iranian influence capabilities have gone largely unstudied by the United States, and only came to widespread attention in August 2018 with the first public identification of an Iranian propaganda network. Following the US assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani and a sharp escalation in US-Iranian tensions, it is important to understand the perspective, methods, and intent of Iranian influence efforts. For Iran, information dominance represents a central focus of both foreign and domestic policy. Iran sees itself as engaged in a perennial information war: against Sunni Arab powers, against the forces of perceived Western neocolonialism, and particularly against the United States. Should the information conflict be lost, many Iranian officials believe the collapse of the state will soon follow. Accordingly, Iran has prioritized the development of digital broadcast capabilities that cannot be easily targeted by the United States or its allies. Iran has also prioritized information control. Although Iran boasts roughly fifty-six million Internet users, these users must navigate a culture of censorship and frequent state intimidation. Following the 2009 Green Movement, the Iranian government came to see social media activism as enabling an existential threat. Authorities created special cyber-police units, built a new legal framework for Internet regulation, and outlawed most Western digital platforms. They also began to develop systems to remove Iranian users from the global Internet entirely. In pursuit of foreign and domestic information dominance, Iran began operating Facebook and Twitter sockpuppets as early as 2010. As the United States and Iran entered into a period of rapprochement and negotiation, the number of accounts grew exponentially. These accounts have been used to launder Iranian state propaganda to unsuspecting audiences, often under the guise of local media reports. To date, Facebook has identified approximately 2,200 assets directly affecting six million users. Twitter has identified eight thousand accounts responsible for roughly 8.5 million messages. Much of this Iranian content cannot be characterized as “disinformation.” In sharp contrast to the information operations of Russia, which routinely disseminate false stories with the aim of polluting the information environment, Iran makes less use of obvious falsehood. Instead, Iran advances a distorted truth: one that exaggerates Iran’s moral authority while minimizing Iran’s repression of its citizens and the steep human cost of its own imperial adventures in the wider Middle East. As a whole, Iran’s digital influence operations represent a continuation of public diplomacy, albeit conducted through misleading websites and social media sockpuppets. Iran broadcasts a fairly consistent message to many different audiences: in Africa, in Southeast Asia, in Europe, in North America, and, most notably, in Latin America and the Middle East. The aim of these efforts is to “tell Iran’s story,” the same as any Western government broadcaster might strive to do. The difference is that, as an international pariah, Iran must pursue this work through more clandestine means. Global observers have long learned to doubt the truthfulness and sincerity of Iranian-branded media. As the United States considers policies to safeguard its elections and confront Iranian influence activities, three conclusions can be drawn about the nature of Iran’s modern propaganda apparatus. Iran’s digital influence efforts involve centralized goals and disparate agents. Different elements of Iran’s digital propaganda apparatus evidence the involvement of different government agencies. It is not clear how, or if, these agencies coordinate their operations. These goals are closely tied to Iran’s geopolitical interests. Nearly all content spread by Iran’s digital influence efforts relates directly to its worldview or specific foreign policy objectives. Consequently, it is easier to identify the operations of Iran than those of other actors like Russia, whose content is more likely to be politically agnostic. Iran may attempt direct electoral interference in 2020 and beyond. To date, there is little evidence that Iran has sought to affect the outcome of a US election. This does not, however, preclude future such campaigns based on Iranian interest in achieving rapprochement with the United States.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Politics, Media, Conflict, Disinformation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anton Lavrov
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Before the start of the military intervention in Syria in 2015, even top Russian generals were uncertain what the result would be. Shortly before the start of the intervention, the Russian Aerospace Forces (RuAF) received hundreds of new airplanes and helicopters and new “smart” precision weapons. Almost all of them had never been tested in real combat. The pilots and commanders also did not have combat experience and were trained by textbooks filled with outdated concepts and tactics. The five years of war in Syria have been the most intense period of transformation for the RuAF since the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The Russian military not only gained an unprecedented amount of experience, but also made substantial improvements in tactics and strategy.
  • Topic: Military Affairs, Military Intervention, Conflict, Syrian War, Air Force
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Ilan Goldenberg, Nicholas Heras, Kaleigh Thomas, Jennie Matuschak
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and especially since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran has become highly proficient in using its surrogates and proxies across the Middle East as a tool to achieve its interests while avoiding direct conflict with the United States. Successive U.S. presidents have sought options for pushing back against this Iranian strategy but have struggled to find approaches that could deter Iran’s actions or degrade its capabilities. In most cases U.S. administrations have been hesitant to respond at all, for fear of starting a larger conflict. The recent killing of Qassim Soleimani represents the opposite problem, in which the United States and Iran came unnecessarily close to a much larger war. In contrast, Israel’s “campaign between the wars” (the Hebrew acronym is mabam) against Iran and Iranian-backed groups in Syria has been one of the most successful military efforts to push back against Iran in the “gray zone.” Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, and especially since early 2017, Israel has conducted more than 200 airstrikes inside Syria against more than 1,000 targets linked to Iran and it’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGCQF), and against IRGC-QF backed groups such as the Lebanese Hezbollah. This campaign has slowed Iran’s military buildup in Syria while avoiding a broader regional conflagration that would have been damaging to Israel’s interests.1 This study examines Israel’s mabam campaign and asks what lessons the United States can draw and how they may be applied to future U.S. actions in gray zone conflicts, both against Iran and more broadly.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria
  • Author: Thair Abu Ras
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This paper provides an historic overview of Israel's relationship with the Arab world followed by an in-depth review of cooperation between Arab states and Israel on solving and managing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinian issue served to enable and limit relations between Israel and Arab states along the years. Reviving Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and improving the status of the Palestinians have been the central tenants of cooperation between Israel and Arab states. The Palestinian issue serves as a legitimizing factor for Israeli-Arab cooperation, and the occupation remains an obstacle to accomplishing regional stability. The Abraham Accords may intensify Israeli-Arab cooperation on the Palestinian issue, thus making the quest for a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian issue more central to Israel's regional foreign policies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Conflict, Regional Integration, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Author: Roee Kibrik, Einat Levi
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Civilian cooperation between Israel and Arab states takes place on various levels and in different fields despite the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict that often prevents and always challenges the establishment of full, normal relations between the citizens of Israel and the region. This paper is intended to serve anyone seeking to promote Israel-Arab normalization, peace and cooperation, by spotlighting the wide array of existing civilian relations and trying to learn from experience for the sake of expanding future cooperation. Learning from experience is important both in order to efficiently and effectively advance regional cooperation toward peace, and also to advance existing cooperation, especially given its potential for offering better conditions for a political-diplomatic process. The potential for regional cooperation does not rely only on formal diplomatic, security and economic agreements between states, but also on ties between civilians. That is especially true for the desire to advance normalization as reflected in relations on the civil society level and the public legitimization of relations in a wide variety of fields. This paper analyzes civilian cooperation practices between Israelis and residents of states in the Middle East and North Africa, in the environment, sports, tourism, science, religion and heritage, culture and humanitarian aid.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Author: Samar Batrawi
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: During 2019, the original Syrian conflict entered its closing phases, except for the battlefields of Idlib and in the north east. As a result, conflict dynamics have become somewhat easier to read, as the regime and its key allies have shifted towards a triumphalist ‘post-war’ narrative and corresponding governance styles, deal-making and decision-making. These developments can be witnessed in three interlinked spheres: security, civil, and political economic practices. Together, they largely form the Assad regime’s political economy, which – although poorly understood due to limited access – is crucial to understand to assess the negative externalities likely to result from its wartime survival and re-entrenchment. The paper analyses six such externalities: 1. risk of conflict relapse due to economic pressures 2. the politics of refugees 3. risks and instrumentalisation of terrorism 4. regional instability 5. humanitarian culpability 6. deterioration of the international legal order. These externalities are interconnected and emerge from the political economy of the regime – the accumulation of its security, civil and political economic practices. Their nature and volume suggest that the Syrian civil war will plague its neighbors, as well as Europe, for a long time to come. These externalities also focus our attention on the fact that adequate containment strategies should be designed as a matter of urgency, to limit their negative impact.
  • Topic: Security, International Law, Political Economy, Terrorism, Refugees, Conflict, Syrian War, Bashar al-Assad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Andrea Cellino, Annalisa Perteghella, Thomas Guerber, Paola Magri, Ranj Alaaldin, Jerome Drevon, Jalel Harchaoui, Irene Constantini, Eleanore Ardemagni, Annalisa Perteghella
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic is not only a health challenge. In the MENA region, against the backdrop of protracted conflicts, instability, and an overall deterioration in socio-economic conditions, the coronavirus crisis adds another layer of vulnerability and has already had long-lasting repercussions on human security across the region. Moreover, as hybrid actors take on an important role as security providers amid the pandemic in a context of limited or absent oversight, risks associated to a lack of accountability, ethno-religious discrimination, human rights abuses and gender-based violence grow. While classical approaches to security provision tend to portray non-state actors and the State as inherently at odds, the complexity of a rapidly evolving security landscape throughout the region should trigger a revision of the very concept of effective governance. Against this backdrop, how should Security Sector Reform (SSR) strategies and programmes adapt? What lessons can be drawn from selected case studies such as Iraq, Libya, and Yemen?
  • Topic: Conflict, Peace, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Libya, Yemen, North Africa
  • Author: Karim Mezran, Annalisa Perteghella, Nadereh Chamlou, Gawdat Bahgat, Abbas Kadhim, Hafsa Halawa, Yahia Mohamed, Lemine Mestek, Emadeddin Badi
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic could not have come at a worse time, as many countries in the MENA region remain engulfed in vicious internal conflicts or must cope with structural socio-economic distress and popular dissent. In many respects, such a context and many of its problems resemble those that formed the backdrop for the Arab Spring in 2011. Exactly like what happens with humans, who are hit the hardest when presenting pre-existing conditions, MENA states have been impacted because of their own pre-existing conditions. In this sense, the Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare all the vulnerabilities and deficiencies of these states’ structures, and has aggravated pre-existing political, social, and economic shortcomings. How has the pandemic impacted state structures? What is its effect on organized protests and spontaneous popular movements? What are the possible long-term consequences?
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Arab Spring, Conflict, Protests, COVID-19, Elites
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Libya, Algeria, North Africa, Egypt, Gulf Cooperation Council
  • Author: Andrei Kortunov, Paola Magri, Ines Abdel Razek, Andrey Chuprygin, Chiara Lovotti, Matteo Villa, Elena Corradi, Ivan Bocharov, Ruslan Mamedov
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The Mediterranean region has faced a significant number of challenges that have stemmed from turbulent events taking place on its Southern shores: conflicts and instability, the migration crisis, disruptions of regional value chains, souring regional relations, and foreign power interferences that have severely affected the region. The Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the Southern Mediterranean, but the health crisis had ambiguous effects on the underlying economic, social, and political trends of the region. It has exposed and exacerbated much of the previous sources of tension and, obscured many of them as public attention moved towards facing the public health emergency. Will the Covid-19 pandemic spur governments and civil societies to action? Or will it just serve as another smokescreen behind which to hide the region's longstanding problems?
  • Topic: Security, Energy Policy, Migration, Terrorism, Conflict, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Libya, Palestine, North Africa, Lebanon, Syria, Mediterranean
  • Author: Efraim Karsh
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: There is probably no more understated event in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict than the San Remo Conference of April 1920. Convened for a mere week as part of the post-WWI peace conferences that created a new international order on the basis of indigenous self-rule and national self-determination, the San Remo conference appointed Britain as mandatory for Palestine with the specific task of “putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, by the British Government [i.e., the Balfour Declaration], and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” This mandate was then ratified on July 24, 1922 by the Council of the League of Nations—the postwar world organization and the UN’s predecessor. The importance of the Palestine mandate cannot be overstated. Though falling short of the proposed Zionist formula that “Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people,” it signified an unqualified recognition by the official representative of the will of the international community of the Jews as a national group—rather than a purely religious community—and acknowledgement of “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine” as “the grounds for reconstituting their national home in the country.” It is a historical tragedy therefore that 100 years after this momentous event, the Palestinian leadership and its international champions remain entrenched in the rejection not only of the millenarian Jewish attachment to Palestine but of the very existence of a Jewish People (and by implication its right to statehood). Rather than keep trying to turn the clock backward at the certain cost of prolonging their people’s statelessness and suffering, it is time for this leadership to shed its century-long recalcitrance and opt for peace and reconciliation with their Israeli neighbors. And what can be a more auspicious timing for this process than the 100th anniversary of the San Remo Conference?
  • Topic: History, Zionism, Conflict, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Scott Edwards
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: On the 3rd of January 2020, the United States signalled its intent to escalate tensions with Iran, through the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds forces, in Iraq. Following attacks from Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militia on the American embassy in Baghdad, the escalation took place on a backdrop of worsening US-Iranian relations, focused on the US withdrawal of the Iranian nuclear deal (and Iran’s subsequent rollback of key commitments), the reinstatement of economic sanctions against Iran, and increasing tensions in the Straits of Hormuz. Such tensions have been met with concern in East Asia, particularly among countries that have been steadily expanding their relationships with Iran. Responses, however, reflect a continuation of business as normal rather than any great change. While Malaysia, for example, has condemned the assassination in line with their growing closeness to Iran, there has been no tangible change of policy. Indonesia, who has developed a relationship but emphasised their desire to remain neutral in the Iran-Saudi tensions, have avoided making overt statements in support of Iran or condemning US action. For the most part, therefore, Southeast Asian states have been unwilling and unable to abandon their relationship with the US and other key states such as Saudi Arabia, or isolate themselves by supporting Iran overtly. For other East Asian states, overtly supporting Iran runs the risks of encouraging the escalation of the conflict and the damaging of their interests, such as is the case with China. As such, this paper will argue that while the perception surrounding Soleimani’s assassination among East Asia is for the most part negative, this will not fundamentally impact on their relationship with the US or spur a further shift to Iran. Instead, in the face of continuing US pressure on Iran, Iran’s relationships within East Asia have begun to ultimately suffer. This paper will begin by analysing the expansion of Iran’s relationship with East Asian states before going on to argue how these are likely to decline in future despite these countries’ concerns of US actions as well as actions of other important states such as Saudi Arabia. While Iran has expanded its relationship with a number of partners in East Asia, this paper will focus on relationships Iran finds particularly important. Primarily, this is Malaysia and Indonesia, who, as countries with Muslim majority populations, have seen their involvement with Iran growing at a faster pace than others but in relationships mired in complexity. It will also consider China’s perspective; a relationship that has taken on importance for different reasons.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Sanctions, Conflict, Qassem Soleimani, Militias
  • Political Geography: Iran, Malaysia, Middle East, East Asia, Saudi Arabia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Moosa Elayah
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: The longer the pandemic lasts, with its detrimental financial and social effects, the higher the chances for terrorist groups to increase their influence in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria and spread this to neighbouring countries.
  • Topic: Economics, Conflict, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Yemen, Syria
  • Author: Joost Jongerden
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: While Trump always advocated disengagement from Syria, Turkish mainstream opinion and political leadership have never accepted Kurdish self-rule of territory on its Syrian border, which Turkey treats as an existential threat and dismisses with the trope of “terrorism.” Thus, Turkey’s military intervention should hardly be surprising. Indeed, not only is the assault an upscaled version of last year’s intervention and occupation of Afrin—a pocket in the western part of northern Syria—but it also fits a wider pattern of Turkish military aggression. Looking back over the past four years, we see Turkey repeatedly waging war for a “strong” state construction and regional power development.
  • Topic: War, Conflict, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, State Building
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Kurdistan
  • Author: Maria-Louise Clausen
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Despite the Iraqi Security Forces’ success in the military defeat of Islamic State (IS) and reconquering of territory seized by IS in 2014, the Iraqi state faces substantial challenges. These challenges have been exacerbated by IS, but did not emerge with IS and will therefore also not disappear with the defeat of IS. This DIIS Report underlines the fragmentation and policization of the security sector as a concern. Although the continued threat from IS has a destabilizing impact on the Iraqi state, the report especially points to the role of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF: an umbrella term for more than 50 armed groups that mobilized against IS in 2014), the sustained focus on identity politics and the pressure on the Iraqi state as key issues for the rebuilding and stabilization of Iraq. The presence of PMFs in Iraq is a challenge to the Iraqi state’s monopoly of violence and the PMFs continue to commit violations with impunity. Moreover, the PMFs (Popular Mobilization Forces) are capitalizing on their role in the defeat of Islamic State to increase their political role. Finally, despite the recent movement towards issue-based politics, identity remains a vital element in Iraqi politics, as seen in the continued practice of power-sharing between Kurds, Shias, and Sunnis. This combined with the Iraqi population’s general lack of trust in the political system challenges reconstruction. Nonetheless, the report asserts that there is a window of opportunity for Iraq, that should be seized by the Iraqi elite and the international community to engage in the difficult process of reconstruction and reconciliation. The report provides a brief overview of some of the main challenges facing Iraq that must be dealt with if Iraq is to break the cycle of violence that has haunted the country for decades.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Democratization, Poverty, Terrorism, Non State Actors, Inequality, Fragile States, Economy, Conflict, Violence, Peace, Justice
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Dr. Robert J. Bunker
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: This monograph focuses on an understudied, but yet a critically important and timely component of land warfare, related to the battlefield use of chemical weapons by contemporary threat forces. It will do so by focusing on two case studies related to chemical weapons use in Syria and Iraq by the Assad regime and the Islamic State. Initially, the monograph provides an overview of the chemical warfare capabilities of these two entities; discusses selected incidents of chemical weapons use each has perpetrated; provides analysis and lessons learned concerning these chemical weapons incidents, their programs, and the capabilities of the Assad regime and the Islamic State; and then presents U.S. Army policy and planning considerations on this topical areas of focus. Ultimately, such considerations must be considered vis-à-vis U.S. Army support of Joint Force implementation of National Command Authority guidance.
  • Topic: War, Islamic State, Conflict, Syrian War, Army, Chemical Weapons
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Joel D. Rayburn, Frank K. Sobchak
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The Iraq War has been the costliest U.S. conflict since the Vietnam War. To date, few official studies have been conducted to review what happened, why it happened, and what lessons should be drawn. The U.S. Army in the Iraq War is the Army’s initial operational level analysis of this conflict, written in narrative format, with assessments and lessons embedded throughout the work. This study reviews the conflict from a Landpower perspective and includes the contributions of coalition allies, the U.S. Marine Corps, and special operations forces. Presented principally from the point of view of the commanders in Baghdad, the narrative examines the interaction of the operational and strategic levels, as well as the creation of theater level strategy and its implementation at the tactical level. Volume 1 begins in the truce tent at Safwan Airfield in southern Iraq at the end of Operation DESERT STORM and briefly examines actions by U.S. and Iraqi forces during the interwar years. The narrative continues by examining the road to war, the initially successful invasion, and the rise of Iraqi insurgent groups before exploring the country’s slide toward civil war. This volume concludes with a review of the decision by the George W. Bush administration to “surge” additional forces to Iraq, placing the conduct of the “surge” and its aftermath in the second volume. This study was constructed over a span of 4 years and relied on nearly 30,000 pages of hand-picked declassified documents, hundreds of hours of original interviews, and thousands of hours of previously unavailable interviews. Original interviews conducted by the team included President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretaries of Defense Leon Panetta and Robert Gates, Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and every theater commander for the war, among many others. With its release, this publication, The U.S. Army in the Iraq War, represents the U.S. Government’s longest and most detailed study of the Iraq conflict thus far.
  • Topic: Government, War, History, Conflict, Army, Iraq War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Chris Bosley
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Communities worldwide face the challenge of reintegrating people exiting violent extremist conflicts. This report draws on established programs and the recommendations of authoritative bodies to examine community-based approaches to their rehabilitation. Given that criminal justice responses may not always be possible or appropriate, recovery-focused approaches such as resocialization and reconciliation are recommended to minimize risk and foster resilience.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Conflict, Criminal Justice, Risk, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The United States cannot avoid or ignore the conflict in Syria. From the outset of hostilities, minimizing American involvement in the war and safeguarding U.S. national security interests have proven to be incompatible goals. This will remain the case for the foreseeable future. The essential question before American policymakers is not whether the United States should keep or with- draw its forces in Syria, but what strategy and mix of tools will best protect the United States from the conflict’s reverberations and advance American interests. This report sets out such a strategy.
  • Topic: National Security, Conflict, Syrian War, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Daniel Milton, Don Rassler
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: One of the much-discussed aspects of the Islamic State’s caliphate project was the opportunity it provided for families to travel and live under the control of the organization. While various studies have provided a somewhat clear picture of the more accountable population of those travelers—the men and women who decided to join the group—less clear-cut information has appeared regarding the minor population that lived under the organization’s governance. Using a portion of a spreadsheet captured by U.S. military forces, this report offers an examination of the minor population that lived inside the Iraqi portion of the Islamic State’s control in late 2016. It reveals a diverse population of over 100,000 minors, mostly from Iraq but also from 56 other countries around the world. This report provides important context and data for current discussion regarding what to do with those left in the conflict zone and those being repatriated to countries throughout the world.
  • Topic: Children, Islamic State, Youth, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Daniel Maxwell
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Feinstein International Center, Tufts University
  • Abstract: Attention to the growing number of people caught in crises characterized by extreme and often protracted levels of food insecurity, malnutrition, and mortality is increasing. The information systems that track these conditions and inform humanitarian decision-making have expanded substantially in the past two decades and in many cases have reached a degree of unprecedented sophistication. These famine early warning systems have become increasingly sophisticated in the past decade, but they still tend to be based on several assumptions that are important to understand. This paper briefly describes existing famine early warning systems and outlines some of the assumptions on which they are based— both in theory and in practice. Then it gives four brief case studies of recent famine or “famine-like” events and pieces together the formal analysis process with an attempt to reconstruct events on the ground from a conflict analysis perspective—highlighting the extent to which the formal famine analysis did or did not deal with conflict analyses and the political kryptonite around the discussion of “intent.” It closes with a summary of gaps in the current system and an assessment of the risks of trying to address those gaps through famine EWS or alternative means.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Humanitarian Aid, Food, Famine, Food Security, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Kenya, Middle East, Yemen, North Africa, Ethiopia
  • Author: Daniel Maxwell, Peter Hailey, Lindsay Spainhour Baker, Jeeyon Janet Kim
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Feinstein International Center, Tufts University
  • Abstract: Since 2014, Yemen has been engaged in a civil war between the Houthi group and supporters of Yemen’s internationally recognized government. By the end of 2018, the UN estimated that 15.9 million people—more than half the population—were facing severe acute food insecurity and in need of immediate food assistance. This report analyzes the challenges facing famine analysis in Yemen, including the Famine Risk Monitoring system recently put in place, and the integrated Phase Classification (IPC) system, used globally. The IPC is managed by a technical working group with the support of the food security and nutrition clusters and close involvement of the Yemeni authorities. Following the analysis, the report offers recommendations for ways to improve data collection and analysis on famine and famine risk in Yemen.
  • Topic: Humanitarian Aid, War, Food, Food Security, Refugees, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, North Africa
  • Author: Edward P. Djerejian, Marwan Muasher, Nathan Brown, Samih Al-Abid, Tariq Dana, Dahlia Scheindlin, Gilead Sher, Khalil Shikaki
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The Israeli and Palestinian communities are growing ever closer physically while remaining separated politically. Any solution must adequately address the needs of both sides. This report attempts to look at actualities and trends with a fresh and analytical eye. At first glance, the two halves of this report contain two very different views of a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: one presents the case for a two-state solution, the other suggests that it is time to look at the idea of a single state with all its variations. But the two halves do not differ on the facts of the current situation. Nor do they differ much on the trajectory. The same facts can be used to support two different conclusions: Do we need new ideas or new determination and political will behind previous ones? The two chapters also highlight an important political reality: any solution must adequately address the needs of both sides. Imposed solutions will not work. The section authored by the Baker Institute does not deny that a one-state reality is emerging and the two-state solution is in trouble, but it argues that the two-state solution should not be abandoned as it provides the most coherent framework for a democratic Israeli state living in peace and security next to an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. Carnegie’s section recognizes that a one-state reality is emerging, whether desirable or not, and calls for scrutinizing solutions that take this reality into account instead of wishing it away. At a time when ideas to solve the conflict are being speculated about without much context, this report attempts to objectively analyze and present the two major options for a negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and to explain the consequences of both for the parties involved and the international community. It is our hope that it will serve as not only a reminder of past efforts but also an incubator for future ones.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Maha Yahya, Jean Kassir, Khalil El-Hariri
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: As the Syrian regime regains territory, there have been growing calls in neighboring countries for refugees to go home. Yet refugees have conditions for a return—conditions that political efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict have largely ignored. To understand refugee attitudes toward return, the Carnegie Middle East Center listened to the concerns of Syrians—both male and female, young and old—struggling to build meaningful lives in Lebanon and Jordan. What is most striking is that despite the increasingly difficult challenges they face, a majority are unwilling to go back unless a political transition can assure their safety and security, access to justice, and right of return to areas of origin. Economic opportunity and adequate housing are important but not requirements. Above all, their attitudes make it clear that both a sustainable political settlement and a mass, voluntary return are contingent upon international peace processes that account for refugee voices.
  • Topic: Security, Refugee Crisis, Conflict, Syrian War, Peace, Justice, Transition
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan
  • Author: Lana Baydas
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in July 2017. In December 2017, he announced that a joint effort between the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces, supported by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, had liberated all Iraqi territory from ISIS. The 2017 operations in Mosul, Tel Afar, and Hawija marked the formal end of a bleak era for swaths of the Iraqi populace after being subjected to the horrors of ISIS rule.
  • Topic: Crime, Human Rights, Islamic State, Conflict, Accountability
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Neta C. Crawford
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: All told, between 480,000 and 507,000 people have been killed in the United States’ post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. This tally of the counts and estimates of direct deaths caused by war violence does not include the more than 500,000 deaths from the war in Syria, raging since 2011, which the US joined in August 2014.
  • Topic: War, Conflict, 9/11, War on Terror, Statistics, Transparency, Iraq War
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Majd Al Wahaidi
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
  • Abstract: Majd Al Wahaidi, a first-year MAAS student, was born in Gaza to a Bedouin family from Beersheva. Before joining MAAS, Majd worked in Gaza as a reporter for the New York Times. She shares some reflections on her life as a journalist.
  • Topic: Media, Conflict, Journalism, Memoir
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Gaza, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jonas Parello-Plesner
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: The fight in Iraq and Syria against the brutal terrorist organization Islamic State (ISIS) has been led by an unprecedented international coalition, with the U.S. as the galvanizing diplomatic and military component. ISIS was defeated militarily in Iraq at the end of last year, but even today small pockets remain as a fighting force in Syria. As the war is won, peace must be secured. Key to that effort is post-conflict stabilization through restoration of essential services and a gradual return of governance. As the U.S. National Security Strategy puts it, “instability and weak governance threaten U.S. interests.” In Iraq and Syria, reasserting stability is vital so that terrorist organizations do not find fertile ground again. This report draws some lessons from Iraq and Syria on stabilization efforts and the path forward. The backdrop is the evolving U.S. approach to stabilization under the Trump administration. On June 19, 2018, the administration published the final version of the Stabilization Assistance Review report, which provides an inter-agency definition of stabilization, including a more hard-nosed approach to sharing the burden with partners in accordance with President Trump’s priorities. The review also draws demarcation lines between humanitarian assistance, stabilization, and reconstruction. Stabilization is short-term and transitional, and thus also limits the time frame for U.S. engagement. However, the U.S. no longer provides public funding for reconstruction to avoid nation-building, which the administration has declared to be off limits.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Reconstruction, Islamic State, Political stability, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Gregory Waters
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Middle East Institute (MEI)
  • Abstract: The Tiger Forces is a Syrian Air Intelligence-affiliated militia fighting for the Syrian government and backed by Russia. While often described as the Syrian government’s elite fighting force, this research portrays a starkly different picture. The Tiger Forces are the largest single fighting force on the Syrian battlefield, with approximately 24 groups comprised of some 4,000 offensive infantry units as well as a dedicated artillery regiment and armor unit of unknown size. Beyond these fighters are thousands of additional so-called flex units, affiliated militiamen who remain largely garrisoned in their hometowns along the north Hama and Homs borders until called on to join offensives as needed. Despite a decentralized command structure, the Tiger Forces' capabilities far exceed any other unit currently fighting in the Syrian civil war. The main source of the unit’s success stems from its two full-strength infantry brigades with dedicated logistical support and the ability to call on the Syrian air force—and after September 2015 the Russian air force—at will. While there is likely some degree of higher-than-average competence among the Tiger Forces’ officer corps, this research demonstrates that the true power of the unit does not come from their alleged status as elite fighters but instead from their large size, supply lines, and Russian support.
  • Topic: Security, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Bilal Y. Saab
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Middle East Institute (MEI)
  • Abstract: An Iran-Saudi Arabia war is unlikely, but it is now more likely than ever before. A military confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran should command respect and inspire concern because it could cause tremendous harm to an already volatile Middle East and possibly to the global economy. Iran seems to have an upper hand in a direct military confrontation with Saudi Arabia because of its combat experience, geography, manpower, strategic depth, and greater cost tolerance. However, none of these attributes give Iran any decisive advantages in a contest with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is neither helpless nor without military options. While it is easy to start a war with Iran, it is anything but to finish it. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would have to think hard about the capabilities of the Saudi military and the resilience of Saudi society before embarking on such a risky course. In any war dynamic between Iran and Saudi Arabia, U.S. military intervention or support would be the most decisive exogenous factor for both Riyadh and Tehran. The United States has a security commitment to Saudi Arabia, but the extent to which Washington can tolerate subtle Iranian aggression against the kingdom that falls below the threshold of conventional warfare, while potentially upending Saudi stability, is unclear.
  • Topic: Security, Military Affairs, Conflict, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, North America, United States of America