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  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Azerbaijan’s victory in the Second Karabakh War (September 29–November 9) has had a transformative effect on the country. It not only changed the attitudes of its population, whose members now feel themselves to be heroes rather than victims (see EDM, January 21), but also bolstered the diplomatic weight and possibilities of the Azerbaijani government in its dealings with other regional states. In prosecuting a triumphant war against Yerevan, Baku demonstrated its own ability to act. But just as importantly, Azerbaijan has shown to peoples and governments in the Caucasus and Central Asia that it is a force to be reckoned with, in part thanks to its growing links with Turkey. Moreover, that alliance makes possible an appealing path to the outside world for all who join it. That reality is causing countries east of the Caspian to look westward to and through Azerbaijan in their economic planning and political calculations. At the same time, however, these developments are generating concerns in Moscow and Tehran, which oppose east-west trade routes that bypass their countries’ territories and instead favor north-south corridors linking Russia and Iran together. As a result, Azerbaijan’s recent successes in expanding links with Central Asia set the stage for new conflicts between Azerbaijan and its Turkic partners, on the one hand, and Russia and Iran, which have far more significant naval assets in the Caspian, on the other (see EDM, November 27, 2018 and February 20, 2020; Casp-geo.ru, December 24, 2019; Chinalogist.ru, November 21, 2019).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Central Asia, Middle East, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Rahim Rahimov
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Iran emerged as a potential loser from the Russia-brokered trilateral truce accords that ended last autumn’s 44-day Second Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan (see EDM January 25). Therefore, Tehran is seeking ways to reposition itself into the new situation in line with its interests. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s five-country regional tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Turkey, between January 25 and 28, clearly carried that mission (Tasnim News Agency, January 30). In particular, a top agenda item during this series of foreign visits was the proposal to reactivate a Soviet-era railway connecting Iran and Armenia via Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan exclave, which is wedged between them and Turkey (Twitter.com/JZarif, January 26).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Infrastructure, Transportation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Armenia, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Jacob Lees Weiss
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On December 20, 2020, 21 Katyusha rockets struck the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, breaking an Iranian-sponsored ceasefire in Iraq for a second time (U.S. Central Command, December 23, 2020). The Iraqi security forces later arrested a member of the Iraqi political and militant organization Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), Hussam al-Azirjawi, after finding conclusive evidence of his involvement in the attack (al-Hurra, December 26, 2020). Following al-Azirjawi’s arrest, multiple widely-shared clips on social media appeared to show a large mobilization of armed AAH militants in East Baghdad. A further clip showing masked AAH gunmen threatening to attack Iraqi security forces on command from AAH leader, Qais al-Khazali (al-Arabiya, December 25 2020). These arrests and video clips reveal that AAH has begun to show increasing signs of dissent from the party line set by Iran and its most loyal proxy in Iraq, Kata’ib Hezbollah.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Conflict, Militias, Resistance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: John C. K. Daly
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: As the United States hastens its drawdown of troops in Iraq before the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Joseph Biden, Russia is seeking to fill the developing geopolitical vacuum there. On November 25, following discussions in Moscow with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, Russia’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, remarked that Russian energy firms have invested billions of dollars in the Iraqi oil industry. “When it comes to energy, the largest Russian companies are working in Iraq together with their partners. These are Lukoil, Rosneft, Gazprom-Neft and Bashneft. All four have invested more than $13 billion in the Iraqi economy,” Lavrov told journalists (Interfax, November 25). He added that Moscow was also prepared to increase arms deliveries to Baghdad, stating, “We are ready to meet any Iraqi needs for Russian-made military products. Our country has traditionally played and continues to play a very important and significant role in ensuring Iraq’s defense capability and equipping its army and security forces, including in the context of continuing terrorist threats” (Mid.ru, November 25).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Bilateral Relations, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iraq, Eurasia, Middle East
  • Author: Rami Jameel
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Abu Mohammed al-Julani’s Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has recently escalated its crackdown on jihadists groups and figures in the Idlib province of northwestern Syria (Step News, October 5). The formation of HTS from al-Nusra Front in January 2017 was accompanied by a declaration that the group was severing its relationship to al-Qaeda and that it was no longer the Syrian branch of the global jihadist organization (Almodon, January 27, 2017). Al-Nusra’s repeated claims that it was breaking with al-Qaeda did not convince many policymakers or analysts, and the group remained designated as a terrorist organization by both the United Nations and the international powers who have influence in Syria.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Islamism, Jihad, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Andrew Devereux
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: The explosion in the Port of Beirut on August 4 caused domestic reverberations throughout Lebanon. With close to 200 people killed, over 6,000 wounded and damages estimated at over $15 billion, the public outrage toward the ruling elite was immediate and damning (Daily Sabah, August 12). The political classes were already subjected to heavy criticism for an ongoing economic crisis that has left 55 percent of the population living below the poverty line, while remnants of the October 2019 protests against political corruption remain active (Middle East Monitor, August 20). In the aftermath of the explosion, public ire accelerated swiftly. No group has come under more scrutiny, or been blamed more directly, than Hezbollah.
  • Topic: Corruption, Non State Actors, Hezbollah, Militias, Disaster Management
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Lebanon, Beirut
  • Author: Michael Horton
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Neutrality is one of Oman’s greatest assets. Under the leadership of the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Oman successfully navigated the fall of the Shah in Iran, the Cold War and its end, the U.S.-led War on Terror, and the Arab Spring. Through all these global and region shape events, Oman has maintained its neutrality and independence. Oman, for example, maintains longstanding relationships with the United States and Great Britain while, at the same time, it enjoys constructive relations with Iran. Moreover, although Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are aligned against Iran, Qatar, and Turkey, Oman has managed to work with all of these countries to address regional issues.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, War, Non State Actors, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Rami Jameel
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On October 9, the Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) signed the “Sinjar Agreement” to normalize the situation in the war-torn district of Sinjar in northern Iraq. The agreement stated that only Iraqi federal forces should operate in Sinjar and all other armed groups must leave the town. It also gave the KRG a say on establishing a new local government, including appointing a new mayor, and planning and running reconstruction efforts in Sinjar, including related budgetary matters (Rudaw, October 10).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Non State Actors, Kurds, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, United States of America