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  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On February 16, Bahraini security forces used brute force to clear democracy protestors from Manama's Pearl Square, on orders from a regime seemingly undaunted by international media coverage and the near-instantaneous self-reporting of Twitter-generation demonstrators. Although the relatively small size of the crowds (compared to recent protests in Egypt and Tunisia) facilitated the crackdown, the action is best explained by the regime's long-held mindset regarding dissent. Specifically, the Bahraini ruling elite believe that any political challenge by the island's Shiite majority must be quickly suppressed -- a view backed by the royal family in neighboring Saudi Arabia and violently enforced in Bahrain despite significant Sunni participation in the protests. This Saudi factor, and the looming presence of Iran across the Persian Gulf, elevates the Bahrain crisis to a U.S. policy challenge on par with events in Egypt.
  • Topic: Democratization, Insurgency, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arab Countries, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Island, Tunisia
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell will return to the region next week in a bid to restart talks that have been stalled since the beginning of the Obama administration. In a television interview earlier this month, Mitchell declared that he would like to complete peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians within two years, if not sooner. Senior U.S. officials, including President Obama, have called for an unconditional return to the negotiating table. The official position of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is that talks cannot resume until Israel extends its settlement moratorium to east Jerusalem. He also wants the pre-1967 boundaries to serve as the baseline for negotiations. At the same time, he has made a statement indicating that he regrets how he reached his current position, hinting that the current impasse does not serve the Palestinian people's interests. Is there more convergence between the two sides than is readily apparent?
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Yemen's reemergence in the headlines as a crucial player in the fight against al-Qaeda raises questions about Washington's next steps. What sort of relationship will the Obama administration have with President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the longtime leader of what could be the world's next failed state? Saleh spoke with President Barack Obama by telephone on December 17, 2009, and later met in Sana with General David Petreaus, the head of U.S. Central Command, on January 2. But the lessons of Saleh's relationship with the Bush administration suggest that close ties can be matched by sharp policy differences.
  • Topic: Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Willingly or not, Dubai has been thrust onto the front line of diplomacy aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions and terrorism sponsorship. The January 20, 2010, assassination of Hamas gunrunner Mahmoud al-Mabhouh on its soil was a reminder of the emirate's longstanding trade and commercial links with Iran -- he was reportedly there to purchase Iranian rockets for Hamas units in Gaza. For years, U.S. authorities have been pressuring Dubai for more restrictions on Iranian trade passing through its ports, as well as increased controls on Iranians traveling to and living in the emirate. The ongoing Mabhouh investigation has shown that, given the requisite political will, Dubai has excellent surveillance capabilities and other attributes that could be used against Iran.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Gaza, Dubai
  • Author: David Pollock, Marc Lynch
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Public opinion polls and the media tell us that Arabs disliked the George W. Bush administration and have high hopes for President Barack Obama. Indeed, the new administration enjoyed majority Arab approval ratings throughout 2009 (up to 50 percentage points higher than his predecessor), while the overall U.S. image in Arab countries also recovered significantly. Yet the question remains: what is the record of actual Arab behavior toward the United States? This question was the starting point of the forthcoming study, which presents a new model for understanding U.S.-Arab relations since the Clinton administration -- one that emphasizes actions much more than attitudes.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Arabia
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Last week in Beirut, the United Nations Special Tribunal charged with investigating and prosecuting the killers of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri brought six members of Hizballah in for questioning. The tribunal's decision to interview Hizballah in connection with the 2005 murder appears to confirm a 2009 report in Der Speigel -- corroborated more recently by Le Monde -- implicating the Shiite militia in the conspiracy. A shift in the short-term focus of the investigation from Syria to Hizballah will have a profound impact on domestic politics in Lebanon, and potentially on U.S.-Lebanese relations.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Law, Terrorism, United Nations
  • Political Geography: United States, Lebanon
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In less than forty-eight hours, U.S.-Israel relations went from "unbreakable," according to Vice President Joe Biden, to "perilous," as ascribed to an "unnamed senior U.S. official." This drastic mood swing risks overshadowing the great achievement of the vice president's Middle East trip -- the affirmation for Israelis (as well as those Arabs and Iranians following his words) that the Obama administration is "determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Steven Pelak
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In recent weeks, calls for additional sanctions against Iran and increased prosecutions of violators have highlighted the need for effective enforcement mechanisms. Although enhanced sanctions may be valuable, they will have little effect if there is no penalty for violations. As part of its effort to reinforce sanctions regulations and ensure that U.S. national security interests are preserved, the Justice Department has sought to disable Iranian procurement networks that may involve U.S. companies, citizens, or goods.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Washington
  • Author: Simon Henderson, George Perkovich, Gregory Schulte
  • Publication Date: 04-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A year ago in Prague, President Obama warned that nuclear terrorism poses "the most immediate and extreme threat to global security." Accordingly, he vowed to lead an international effort to "secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years." The Nuclear Security Summit is intended to advance that goal
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Vienna
  • Author: Daniel Poneman
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The president...continues to work...to tackle the energy and climate challenge, understanding that this is a global problem that demands a global solution.... Some have suggested that a United States that is focusing on new energy technologies and a low-carbon future must be at odds with the oil and gas producers of the Middle East. [However], recent discussions in the region suggest otherwise.... Tackling the energy and climate challenge presents important opportunities to broaden U.S. energy relationships in the region, and together [with regional partners] to build a sustainable energy future.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Patrick Clawson
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The United States maintains a range of "terrorist lists," of which the Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list is one of the better known. But in two recent court cases, the U.S. government has offered arguments that raise questions about the purpose of the list.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On May 6, Britain went to the polls to elect a new government, producing no clear result but forcing the resignation of Labor Party leader Gordon Brown. Within hours of taking over as prime minister, Conservative Party leader David Cameron had created a new body, a British national security council, whose first meeting focused on "discuss[ing] the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and review[ing] the terrorist threat to the UK." Apart from Britain's economic problems, these issues and Middle East policy in general will likely dominate the new government's agenda -- and its relations with Washington.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Terrorism, International Security, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, United Kingdom, Washington, Middle East
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On Monday, Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri will visit Washington for a meeting with President Obama. In announcing the meeting, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called it "a symbol of the close and historic relationship between Lebanon and the United States." Indeed, between 2005 and 2009, bilateral ties were never closer or more consequential, with the Cedar Revolution ending nearly three decades of Syrian suzerainty in the country. Over the past year, however, Hariri has had to govern in coalition with Hizballah. The Iranian-Syrian backed Shiite militia will be the elephant in the Oval Office during Monday's meeting.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Allis Radosh, Ronald Radosh
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: When Harry Truman became president in April 1945, he had not thought deeply about the exact form a Jewish national home in historic Palestine would or should take. Following his landmark decision to recognize the state of Israel in May 1948, he would suggest that his support for such a development had been unwavering, and that his decisions had come easily. Yet the record shows otherwise. Between Truman's first days as president and Israel's formation, his approach to the idea of a Jewish state evolved significantly, at times seeming to change in response to the last person with whom he met. Although he ultimately made the historic decision, a Jewish state had never been, in his mind, a foregone conclusion.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, New York, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace George Mitchell is currently in Jerusalem amid wide expectation that on Saturday the Palestinians will approve proximity talks with Israel. For its part, Israel has already agreed to the talks.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: J. Scott Carpenter
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recently leaked documents detail an exchange between Washington and Cairo regarding the future of U.S. economic assistance to Egypt. The documents indicate that the Obama administration has welcomed Cairo's idea of ending traditional assistance in favor of creating a new endowment, "The Egyptian-American Friendship Foundation." This idea has a long, checkered history and, if implemented, will be bad for both American taxpayers and the Egyptian people. The administration should work with Egypt to craft alternatives that advance common objectives, including democratic reform.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The August 3 fatal shooting of an Israel Defense Forces officer by a Lebanese Armed Forces soldier has sparked debate regarding the utility and wisdom of the U.S. military assistance program to Lebanon. Although such assistance is not new, the program's scope dramatically increased after the 2005 Cedar Revolution ended Syria's thirty-year occupation and swept the Arab world's only pro-Western, democratically elected government to power. In recent months, however, Syrian influence has returned, while Hizballah has secured enough political power to effectively reverse many of the revolution's gains. Even before the August 3 incident, these changes on the ground prompted Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, to place a hold on the 2011 assistance package.
  • Topic: Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Patrick Clawson
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On July 31, according to Iran's semiofficial Mehr News Agency, presidential chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashai claimed that the West had raised no objections to President Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad's open proclamation that the Islamic Republic could build a nuclear bomb. How should this surprising claim be interpreted? And what implications might it hold for Iran's domestic politics, especially when viewed alongside Ahmadinezhad's history of confrontational rhetoric?
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Politics, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran
  • Author: Christina Lin
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Starting in August, U.S. officials are visiting East Asia, Latin America, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to garner support for tightening Iran sanctions under UN Security Council Resolution 1929. Robert Einhorn, the U.S. State Department's special advisor for nonproliferation and arms control, and Daniel Glaser, deputy assistant secretary of the treasury for terrorist financing and financial crime, started with a trip to Japan and South Korea and are planning a trip to China in late August. On July 29, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing entitled "Implementation of Iran Sanctions" in which both Einhorn and Glaser expressed concern over China's compliance, with Einhorn emphasizing the "need for [China] not to 'backfill' when responsible countries have distanced themselves from Iran."
  • Topic: United Nations
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Israel, Latin America, United Arab Emirates
  • Author: J. Scott Carpenter
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's recent health scares -- including major surgery in Germany in March --have raised critical questions regarding the future of one of America's most important allies. In the event of his death, how would his successor be chosen, and who would it most likely be? Will the next president respect core U.S interests or challenge them? And how would the United States advance those interests in post-Mubarak Egypt? To reflect on these questions, The Washington Institute's Project Fikra recently brought together leading scholars, former senior U.S. diplomats, and other officials and activists for an off-the-record discussion on what to expect from Egyptian succession. Much of this PolicyWatch is based on that discussion.
  • Topic: Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Egypt