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  • Author: Fanar Haddad
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In Iraq, as elsewhere in the Middle East, the social, political, and technological changes of the 21st century are giving birth to a new sectarian landscape. The three most consequential drivers behind the change in sectarian relations have been the political change in Iraq of 2003; the near simultaneous spread of new media and social networking in the Arab world; and – perhaps as a consequence of the first two – the ongoing search for alternatives to familiar but moribund forms of authoritarianism, as demonstrated most dramatically by the “Arab Spring.” 2003 highlighted the uncomfortable fact that there were multiple, indeed contradictory, visions of what it meant to be an Iraqi and by extension what it meant to be a part of the Arab world. New media, social networking, user-generated websites, and private satellite channels helped to make Iraq's accelerated sectarianization contagious. The mainstreaming of sectarian polemics has increased the relevance of religious, doctrinal, and dogmatic differences in views regarding the sectarian “other,” a particularly dangerous development.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Joseph Bahout
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: When the Arab revolutions reached Syria, the Sunni-Shia cleavage in Lebanon was already well in the making. Syria's turmoil only added fuel to an existing fire in Lebanon. Syria's crisis is intensifying Sunni-Shia tensions in Lebanon on two levels, symbolic and identity-based on the one hand, and geopolitical or interest based, on the other hand. The shift toward identity-based or symbolic forms of sectarianism can probably be explained by the existential character the struggle in the Levant is taking, whereby both “communities,” however imagined or over-constructed, are coming to perceive themselves as defending not only their share of resources or power, but their very survival. Lebanon's minority communities – including Christian and Druze – are increasingly anxious about the changing regional environment. Lebanon and Syria must face the difficult equation of sectarian diversity and national unity.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Melani Cammett
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Syrian crisis has had a negative impact on Lebanon's political scene, including the dynamics among political factions within and across the country's major sectarian communities. The political fragmentation of the Sunni community has implications for the growing trend toward political violence triggered by the Syrian conflict. The rise of challengers and the decline of centralized authority within the Sunni community further increase the probability of violence perpetrated by in-group factions. Despite the pressures from the Syrian conflict, mounting sectarian tensions will not inexorably spark another all-out civil war. If Lebanon does not move past the current political deadlock and stagnation, the spillover from the Syrian crisis stands to undermine the country's stability in the longer term.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Daniel Gorevan
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxfam Publishing
  • Abstract: The world was rightly appalled by the use of chemical weapons in Damascus on 21 August 2013. If the recent diplomatic initiatives by the USA and Russia mean that these weapons are never again used, it would be a great achievement. But it won't be enough.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Crime, Human Rights, International Law, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Geneva, Russia, Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Trevor Findlay
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Disarmament during armed conflict: unprecedented Speed, efficiency and effectiveness of international institutions: breathtaking. The diplomatic choreography involved: impressive Complexity and interwoven nature of the arrangements; astounding.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Arms Control and Proliferation, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Eckart Woertz
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Saudi Arabia's domestic energy consumption is skyrocketing. The growth of electricity demand is particularly strong and shows a high degree of seasonality due to the need for air conditioning in the hot summer months. Demand drivers are population growth, industrial development and a subsidy regime that encourages wasteful consumption. Saudi Arabia now faces a natural gas shortage and is seeking alternative energy sources like nuclear power and renewables in order to reduce the common practice of using fuel oil, crude oil and diesel in power stations. If unchecked, domestic energy demand will threaten oil export capacity and could compromise Saudi Arabia's role as swing producer in global oil markets. However, a reform of the subsidy regime is politically sensitive, because citizens regard subsidies as an entitlement. The government is reluctant to touch subsidies in order to avoid the kind of political unrest that has occurred elsewhere in the wake of the Arab Spring.
  • Topic: Demographics, Economics, Energy Policy, Oil
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Joe Stork, Nicholas McGeehan
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: At first glance the small but wealthy state of Qatar appears to be an anomaly in the Persian Gulf region, where government human rights records are distinctly poor. Qatari citizens – 225,000 out of a population of 1.7 million – seem largely content with the de facto social contract that provides material benefits in abundance, and political complaints appear to be few. Qatar has experienced none of the street protests that have been seen in Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman, or even the online petitioning that elicited a fierce official crackdown in the United Arab Emirates. On the one issue that these states have in common – migrant workers (and Qatar has the largest proportion of migrant workers to population of any Gulf state) – Qatar is taking tentative, but potentially significant steps to reform a system that currently facilitates forced labour. But the country unmistakably shares the authoritarian character of its neighbours, as is evident from the pervasive red lines confronting potential critics and the punitive responses to the very limited public dissent that has occurred.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Human Rights, Governance, Prisons/Penal Systems
  • Political Geography: Arabia
  • Author: David Roberts
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Emir Tamim has become the new ruler of Qatar after the abdication of his father, Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani. The latter followed an independent foreign policy throughout his reign and sought good relations with all states, although Qatar's taking sides in the Arab uprisings have somewhat modified this position. Evaluating Qatar's foreign policy under Emir Tamim is difficult. In his upbringing Tamim was imbued with their vision of Qatar as an internationally oriented state. It would be very surprising if he were to backtrack on this basic thrust and withdraw Qatar internationally. Emir Tamim's Qatar will therefore likely continue to seek to extend the small state's influence throughout the region wherever and whenever possible.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Regime Change, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: The carefully managed handover of power in Qatar on June 25th 2013 will change the style, but not the substance of Qatari foreign policy. The abdication of Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and the replacement of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shaykh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani (HBJ) removes from office the two men behind Qatar's rise to global prominence since the 1990s. The new emir, 33-year old Shaykh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, will likely curb the excesses of Qatar's aggressive internationalisation strategy and recalibrate the country's regional policy to address its policy overreach in Syria. While the underlying substance of policy is likely to remain broadly similar, the biggest changes are expected in the hitherto-personalised style of decision-making associated with HBJ and the former emir. Greater emphasis on multilateral co-ordination will also replace the confrontational unilateralism associated with Qatar's post-2011 Arab Spring policies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Rachid Tlemçani, Derek Lutterbeck
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Even though many of the socioeconomic conditions that have driven the popular Arab Spring uprisings and toppled several regimes across the Middle East have been present in Algeria as well, the Algerian regime has thus far been able to weather the winds of change. This policy brief takes a closer look at the "Algerian exception" by examining the protest movement in Algeria and why it has been more limited than elsewhere, as well as recent political "reforms" adopted in response to the protests. It argues that in addition to the experiences of the bloody decade of the 1990s, a number of factors account for the more limited protest movement in Algeria, such as the regime's larger spending power and its experience in dealing with large-scale protests. While the Algerian regime has introduced reforms over the last two years, these have been mainly cosmetic, largely consolidating the political status quo. The policy brief also briefly discusses the threat of Islamist terrorism in the Sahel region, with particular reference to the recent In Amenas hostage crisis in Algeria. As for Algeria's future evolution and prospects for political reform, fundamental change seems unlikely, at least in the short to medium term.
  • Topic: Democratization, Islam, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Derek Lutterbeck
  • Publication Date: 05-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Tunisia under Ben Ali was a police state par excellence and reforming the country's internal security apparatus has thus been one of the major challenges since the long-standing autocrat's fall. This policy brief examines the various efforts to reform Tunisia's internal security system in the post-Ben Ali period and the challenges this process faces. It argues that reforms in this area have been limited so far, focusing mainly on purges rather than on broader structural or institutional reform of the country's police force. Moreover, not only have human rights violations committed by the police – despite important improvements – continued on a significant scale, but there are also concerns that the police will once again be instrumentalised for political purposes, this time by the Ennahda-led government. Indications to this effect have included in particular the seeming complacency of the police vis-à-vis the growth in religiously inspired violence. The recent killing of opposition leader Chokri Belaid in the first political assassination in Tunisia since Ben Ali's fall has further underscored the need to reform the country's internal security system.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Democratization, Human Rights, Regime Change, Governance, Authoritarianism
  • Political Geography: Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Florence Gaub
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Union Institute for Security Studies
  • Abstract: In 2011, Arab security forces, long suspected to be inextricably linked to their respective regimes, once again became decisive political agents in their own right: agents of change, agents of repression and, in some cases, both. Their facilitation or suppression of democratic transitions has sparked a long-overdue debate on security sector reform in the Arab world. What are the main features of security sectors in the region? What are the main obstacles to reform? And why is this debate taking place only now?
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Democratization, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Arabia
  • Author: Ahmad Khalid Majidyar
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The Persian Gulf states of Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have largely been immune to the rising tide of sectarianism that has rocked the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring. The three monarchies have successfully integrated their Shi'ite minority populations into their countries' sociopolitical and economic spheres, giving those populations little reason to engage in violence or seek political guidance from Iran or Iraq. Omani, Qatari, and Emirati Shi'ites strongly identify themselves as citizens of their respective countries and remain loyal to their ruling regimes. However, the spillover effects of the Syrian civil war—a sectarian conflict between the Shi'ite Iran-Hezbollah-Assad axis and the opposition groups backed by regional Sunni governments—are threatening Sunni-Shi'ite stability in the UAE, Qatar, and to a lesser degree, Oman. The United States should help maintain harmony in these states by reaching out to independent Shi'ite business communities and by working with regional leaders to ensure equal citizenship, political rights, and religious freedom among minority populations.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Islam, Post Colonialism, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates
  • Author: Ahmad Khalid Majidyar
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: For decades the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been America's indispensable ally in the Middle East, and the ­Kingdom's stability remains vital for US strategic interests in the region. While antigovernment protests in the Kingdom's Sunni-majority regions have been small and sporadic in the wake of Arab Spring, there has been an unremitting unrest in the strategic Eastern Province, home to Saudi Arabia's marginalized Shi'ite minority and major oil fields. As in the 1980s, if government repression and discrimination push the Shi'ites to extremes, some may resort to violence and terrorism, jeopardizing American interests in the region, benefitting Iran and ­al-Qaeda, disrupting the equilibrium of global oil markets, and adversely affecting economic recovery in the West. To ensure lasting stability in the Kingdom, the United States must work with the Saudi government to achieve gradual but meaningful reforms that include integrating the Shi'ites into the Kingdom's sociopolitical system.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Islam, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Michael Rubin
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Kuwait is perhaps America's closest Arab ally; it remains the only country in the Middle East on whose behalf the United States went to war. Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has at times tried to leverage Kuwait's large Shi'ite minority against the Kuwaiti state, it has mostly been unsuccessful. Indeed, Kuwait's Shi'ite ­community has repeatedly worked to prove its loyalty to Kuwait. Recent political instability, however, is again opening the door for sectarian forces to undermine Kuwait and, by extension, an important pillar of US defense strategy.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Defense Policy, Islam, Bilateral Relations, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Danya Greenfield
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: While Jordanians are focused on the conflict raging in neighboring Syria and the prospect of violence spilling over onto Jordanian soil, below the surface the same kind of political, economic, and social grievances that launched a wave of uprisings in the Arab world are present and intensifying in Jordan with each passing day. As calls for political change swept through Cairo, Tunis, Tripoli, and Sanaa in the spring of 2011, periodic protests emerged throughout Jordan as well, where a diverse mix of people came out in calls for greater freedoms and economic opportunity. Many of the anti-government demonstrations were led by youth, representing a broad spectrum from conservative East Bank tribes to the urban Palestinian-Jordanian elite, and the normally politically apathetic youth population seemed engaged in unprecedented ways. Young Jordanians struggle to land decent jobs, find affordable housing, and save enough money to get married; with 55 percent of the population under the age of twenty-five, and a 26 percent unemployment rate among males between fifteen and twenty-five years old, there is reason to be cognizant about youth discontent emerging in unexpected or critical moments of pressure.
  • Topic: Economics, Youth Culture, Social Movement, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Arabia, Jordan
  • Author: Faysal Itani
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Although it appears Jordan has survived the Arab uprisings thus far, all is not well in the Hashemite Kingdom. Over the past twenty years, its political economy has changed profoundly, putting pressure on the foundations of regime stability. The state in Jordan has been retreating from many citizens' economic lives, shrinking its circle of privilege and patronage, and leaving the population to fend for itself in a dysfunctional economy. Worryingly, the segment of the population most affected is the monarchy's base, which sees the Palestinian-Jordanian population as benefiting from the new status quo. Today, Jordan is also coping with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, many of whom may remain in the country long term. Yet the real danger to the monarchy's stability is not the immediate cost of refugee care but the alienation of its traditional power base.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Reform
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Arabia, Jordan
  • Author: Barbara Slavin, Fatemah Aman
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: When compared to its often rocky relations with Arab countries to the west, the Islamic Republic of Iran has managed to retain largely cordial ties with its neighbors to the east. Historic linguistic, religious, and cultural connections have helped Iran keep its influence in South Asia and become a key trading partner despite US-led sanctions. Because of its strategic location on the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, Iran provides India with access to Afghanistan and Central Asia that does not require transit through Pakistan. However, Iran and its neighbors, including Pakistan, face acute challenges such as scarce and poorly managed water resources, ethnic insurgencies, energy imbalances, and drug trafficking that require regional solutions.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, Iran, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Arabia, North America, Persia
  • Author: Karim Emile Bitar
  • Publication Date: 02-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: Writing in September 2011, Hussein Agha and Robert Malley pointed out that the Arab awakening was "a tale of three battles rolled into one: people against regimes; people against people and regimes against other regimes." Nowhere is this more evident than in Syria where all three dimensions are forcefully present, simultaneously making Syria arguably the most complex of all Arab revolutions. The Syrian revolution started in March 2011 as an inevitable, spontaneous, legitimate and overwhelmingly non-violent movement, much akin to the Arab Spring revolutions that had taken place in Tunisia and Egypt. While the underlying political, economic and demographic causes of the Syrian uprising were quite similar to those which triggered the earlier revolutions, the regime's brutal reaction, Syria's geostrategic positioning and its sectarian heterogeneity, as well as the political agendas of regional and international powers led the revolution to morph into a bloody civil war.
  • Topic: Security, Demographics, Economics, Human Rights, Politics
  • Political Geography: Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: One year into the Syrian uprising, the level of death and destruction is reaching new heights. Yet, outside actors – whether regime allies or opponents – remain wedded to behaviour that risks making an appalling situation worse. Growing international polarisation simultaneously gives the regime political space to maintain an approach – a mix of limited reforms and escala ting repression – that in the longer run is doomed to fail; guarantees the opposition' s full militarisation, which could trigger all - out civil war; and heightens odds of a regional proxy war that might well precipitate a dangerous conflagration. Kofi Annan' s appointment as joint UN/Arab League Special Envoy arguably offers a chance to rescue fading prospects for a negotiated transition. It must not be squandered. For that, Russia and others must understand that, short of rapidly reviving a credible political track, only an intensifying military one will remain, with dire consequences for all.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria