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  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: For a group that feeds on chaos, The Islamic State (IS) itself is rigidly structured and organized. The growing bureaucratic and administrative demands on IS as it attempts to govern the areas it controls-while under increasing military pressure-will stress the group and its structure like never before. The group benefits from ruling over populations that have little experience in effective government services, meaning that the very conditions that helped fuel IS's rise now give it wide latitude to deliver sub-par services for at least the near-term without risking revolt, at least for reasons of shoddy governance. From the caliph-level down to the district level, the group has a repetitive three-office ruling structure that provides easy-to-understand lanes of responsibility and authority, which is vital for a growing organization whose sole membership requirement is belief in its cause.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Governance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Like a tumor, the Islamic State (IS) feeds off the vitality of its unwilling hosts, sustaining itself from the economies of the areas it controls Efforts to deprive IS of its million-dollar-a-day revenue will be as difficult as it will be vital, since the group takes a percentage of local economic activity; hurting those economies to deprive IS of money will be counter-productive The coalition efforts to defeat IS militarily must be sufficient enough to thwart its advances while remaining targeted enough to ensure the vulnerable population doesn't unite with IS in collective suffering Destroying mobile oil refineries is an effective use of air power to deny IS more finances but it will prove less effective against destroying the percentage IS takes from everyday transactions that it calls taxes In short, the solution is to remove IS from the money, not the other way around, which only will only weaken and radicalize already struggling populations.
  • Topic: Economics, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: As King Abdullah remains out of sight, worries persist over Saudi Arabia's ability to handle its many domestic and foreign issues The Sunni-Shi'a divide is now seen largely in terms of competition for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran But it is not just the Sunni-Shi'a tension which impacts the region as Saudi Arabia and Turkey also compete for primacy in the Arab Middle East; the three-way competition has been a key factor in the chronic conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen Common antipathy toward the self-declared Islamic State is the only glue that holds together the US-led coalition at this time: there's no consensus on how to defeat it, what to put in its place, and the role of Iran-issues made more complicated by questions about Saudi Arabia's internal decision process.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, Power Politics, Counterinsurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Iran is attempting to link greater cooperation against the so-called Islamic State (IS) organization to concessions by the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) in negotiations on Iran's nuclear program Iran and the P5+1 remain far apart on the core issue of Iran's uranium enrichment program, increasing the likelihood that the talks will be extended beyond the current deadline of November 24 Iran requires a nuclear deal to satisfy public expectations and to increase its influence on regional events, including the US-led effort against IS A key Iranian goal is to dissuade the coalition from expanding the anti-IS campaign to include destabilizing the Assad regime in Syria.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, United Kingdom, Iran, Middle East, France, Germany, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: As if sustaining an effective coalition against the anti-Islamic State coalition weren't complicated enough, increasingly open Iranian support for Syrian and Iraqi Kurds has the potential to further destabilize the situation Geopolitical machinations have excluded Iran from the international coalition but geographical realities will ensure the country has a significant role to play in the future of both Iraq and Syria Iran is seeking to leverage its support for the Kurds as a way to bolster its beleaguered ally in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad, and increase Iranian influence in Kurdish regions at the expense of Turkey and the West Overt Iranian support for the Kurds-while reaffirming support for Assad-will further stress the coalition, inevitably increasing sectarian tensions among members already grumbling that Assad and not IS is the true enemy; all while the West remains focused on IS and how to avoid entanglement in Syria As a sign of Iran's surprising Kurdish influence, Turkish and Iranian officials met on October 9 to discuss the unfolding events in Kobani, remarkable in that neither country is a member of the coalition but both hold most of the cards to resolve the immediate crisis.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Affairs, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria
  • Author: Danya Greenfield, Barbara K. Bodine
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: With the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the explosion of violent conflicts from Tripoli to Gaza, the Middle East is looking more unstable and unpredictable than ever. While the focus in Washington is centered on jihadist extremists in Iraq and Syria at present, the threat from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) against the United States continues. Top al-Qaeda leadership in Yemen is hailing the territorial gains of ISIS in Iraq, and some al-Qaeda operatives are imitating ISIS' techniques such as public slaughters of those deemed infidels, prompting fears of cooperation between two of the most active Islamist militant networks. Recent aggression by the Houthi movement, a Zaydi Shia rebel militia, against state institutions and tribal opponents has opened a new front of instability and security vacuum that AQAP is all too ready to exploit. Inattention to the interconnected nature of tribal conflict, terrorist activity, poor governance, economic grievances and citizen discontent is proving to be a dangerous combination for both Yemen and the United States. The Yemeni context may seem far from the current focus on Baghdad and Damascus, but getting the US strategy right in Yemen will have consequences for regional stability and core US interests throughout the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Economics, Terrorism, Foreign Aid, Labor Issues, Reform
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Busra Hacioglu, Alina Shams, Amy Wood, Ruiqian Zhang
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: On December 29, 2013, the journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed were arbitrarily arrested and detained in Cairo, Egypt. They were sentenced to seven years in prison after a five-month trial, a verdict US Secretary of State John Kerry called "chilling and draconian" (quoted in Holmes 2014). Although more contentious, the 2002 rendition of Canadian-Syrian citizen Mahar Arar also garnered international condemnation. 2 The subsequent apology by the Canadian government drew attention to the vulnerability of dual citizens, both abroad and at home. In 2006 and 2011, Canadian citizens from Lebanon and Egypt called upon the Canadian government for support during conflicts, with over 13,000 evacuated from Beirut alone by the end of July 2006. These cases all bring to light the complex web of obligations and transnational legalities, which come to the fore during times of conflict. Characterized by an absence of global governance, dual citizenship occupies a grey area in the international arena, as no international conventions directly apply to this citizenship status. In this absence, there are fragmented state responses based on geopolitical and geographical demand - dual citizenship can be permitted, avoided restricted or renounced - according to the whims of states. This has created a messy terrain around rights, state responsibilities, security and migration.
  • Topic: Security, Human Rights, Migration, Governance, Law
  • Political Geography: Lebanon, Syria, Egypt
  • Author: James F. Jeffrey
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Washington should have no illusions about resolving the region's wider problems, it can build on early successes against ISIS by making the commitments needed to fully defeat the group in Iraq and Syria, including a modest, enduring U.S. military presence.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Washington, Syria
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: The Kurdish forces now provide the necessary boots on the ground in the framework of Operation Inherent Resolve. However, the strong backing of the Kurds presents a number of challenges and difficult balancing acts for Western and regional actors.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Defense Policy, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Absent more robust international intervention, the regime remains essentially unopposed in the air, allowing it to continue pursuing its strategic objectives and killing civilians with relative impunity. Prior to the ongoing civil war, the Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAF) was never considered a key component of the Syrian military. Routinely bested by the Israeli Air Force and equipped with a mostly aging fleet of Soviet-era aircraft, it was not seen as an important player in the regional military landscape. The war has changed that, however, raising the SAAF to a prominent role in the struggle to preserve the Assad regime. Since spring 2012, air operations have become a strategic element in the conflict, allowing the regime to strike anywhere in the country with virtual impunity, contributing to the opposition's failure to consolidate control of territory, and supporting a wide variety of military operations. Along the way, the air force has been involved in some of the worst regime attacks on civilians. The SAAF's central role in regime preservation and human-rights violations make it a logical and morally justifiable target for foreign intervention, whether in terms of direct allied air operations or enhanced assistance to the opposition.
  • Political Geography: Israel, Syria