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  • Author: John Bowlus
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: On December 26, 2011, in response to US, European, and potential Asian sanctions on Iranian oil exports, the government in Tehran issued a threat to “cut off the Strait of Hormuz.” The US Defense Department responded that any blockade of the strait would be met with force. On first read, it is easy to dismiss such saber rattling as another chapter in the new Cold War in the Middle East between Iran and its allies – including Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah – and the US, Israel, and the Sunni Gulf States, mostly notably Saudi Arabia. Iran has since backed away from its threat, but the event still carries importance because it is unclear how both the US and Iran will continue to respond, particularly as the diplomatic and economic pressures grow more acute while Iran's controversial nuclear program advances. Could such a verbal threat by Iran to cut off the Strait of Hormuzignite a military conflagration in the region? The relationship between military conflict and oil supply disruptions is well established; however, policymakers and analysts tend to focus on the incidents in which military conflict causes disruptions in oil supplies and sharp increases in prices. The first and most obvious example of this dynamic was the Arab-Israeli War of 1973. The subsequent oil embargo by the Arab members of the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) against the United States and the Netherlands for their support of Israel caused prices to soar as oil-consuming nations endured supply shortages. The Iranian Revolution from 1978 to 1979 was another event that curtailed Western nations' access to oil and caused prices to spike. When thinking about the relationship between military conflict and oil supply disruptions, however, policymakers and analysts should also recognize that the competition over oil – and even verbal threats to disrupt oil supplies by closing oil transit chokepoints – have either led directly to military conflict or have provided a useful cover under which countries have initiated military conflict. By examining past episodes when countries issued threats to close oil transit chokepoints, this Policy Brief helps illuminate the dangers associated with the current crisis over the Strait of Hormuz.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Economics, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Arabia
  • Author: Michael Kugelman
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: This policy brief assesses the potential for two types of youth-led political change movements in Pakistan. One is an Arab Spring-like campaign, fuelled by demands for better governance and new leadership. The other is a religious movement akin to the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which seeks to transform Pakistan into a rigid Islamic state. The brief discusses the presence in Pakistan of several factors that suggest the possibility of the emergence of an Arab Spring-type movement. These include economic problems; corruption; a young, rapidly urbanising and disillusioned population; youth-galvanising incidents; and, in Imran Khan, a charismatic political figure capable of channelling mass sentiment into political change.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Youth Culture, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Arabia
  • Author: Müjge Küçükkeleş
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: Suspension of Syria's Arab League membership in November 2011 could be characterized as a turning point in Arab league's 66-year old history. By condemning the Syrian and Libyan regimes for disproportionate use of violence against their own people, the Arab League has somewhat found rightful the demand of Arab people. the League has signaled with these decisions that it would move away from ideas of Arab nationalism and Arab unity in pursuit of further integration with the international system. On the other hand, the authoritarian state systems of most of the member states of the League make it difficult to regard Arab League decisions as steps supporting democracy. The League's ''democratic stance'' is an outcome of the pressure of revolutions as much as of harmony of interests among the member states. Even though strengthening democracy in the region seems like an unrealistic desire of member states, these decisions push each member towards thinking about change and thus pave the way for democratic reform process. The study at hand consists of two parts. The first part addresses the League's policy proposals, decisions, and reactions regarding the Syrian crisis and concentrates on what these all policy measures mean for the League as a regional organization. The second part examines regional dynamics that play a crucial role in the current crisis by looking at different positions of regional and global actors on the Syrian crisis.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Regional Cooperation, Regime Change, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Nathan M. Jensen, Persephone Economou, Paul Antony Barbour, Daniel Villar
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
  • Abstract: The events of the Arab Spring have dramatically increased the risk perceptions of foreign investors. In directly affected countries, these events led to disruptions in economic activity including plummeting tourism and foreign direct investment (FDI) flows, all of which negatively impacted economic growth. While the economic impact was uneven across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, for the region's developing countries the growth rate assumption underpinning survey analysis in the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency's (MIGA's) World Investment and Political Risk Report for 2011 was 1.7%. How much will these developments affect future FDI?
  • Topic: Political Violence, Regime Change, Foreign Aid, Fragile/Failed State, Foreign Direct Investment
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: As the 10 April deadline Kofi Annan (the UN and Arab League joint Special Envoy) set for implementation of his peace plan strikes , the conflict ' s dynamics have taken an ugly and worrying turn. Syrians from all walks of life appear dumbfounded by the horrific levels of violence and hatred generated by the crisis. Regime forces have subjected entire neighbourhoods to intense bombardment, purportedly to crush armed opposition groups yet with no regard for civilians. Within the largest cities, innocent lives have been lost due to massive bomb attacks in the vicinity of key security installations. Perhaps most sickening of all have been pictures displaying the massacre of whole families, including the shattered skulls of young children. The first anniversary of what began as a predominantly peaceful protest movement came and went with only scattered popular demonstrations. Instead, there was immeasurable bloodshed.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Armed Struggle, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, United Nations, Syria
  • Author: Yun Sun
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: China's joint veto along with Russia of the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) on Syria has provoked fierce international criticism. Labeled as “responsible for Syria's genocide,” Beijing's international image has struck a new low. China's decision to cast the unpopular vote was apparently well thought-out, as evidenced by its consistent diplomatic rhetoric and actions, both before and after the veto. However, in analyzing China's motivation, many analysts seemed to have missed an important point. That is, China's experience concerning Libya in 2011 had a direct impact on its actions regarding Syria this time around.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Insurgency, Popular Revolt
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Arabia, United Nations, Syria
  • Author: Sumathy Permal
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Maritime Institute of Malaysia
  • Abstract: The Indian Ocean (IO) is the world’s third largest ocean with an area of 73.5 million sq. km or 28.5 million sq. miles. It is strategically located adjacent to Asia in the North, Australia to the East, Antarctica to the South, and Africa to the West. IO forms two large indentations in South Asia, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. The ocean can be accessed through several chokepoints i.e., from the West via Cape of Good Hope and the Straits of Madagascar, from the North via the Bab el-Mandeb at the end of the Red Sea; the Sunda and Lombok-Straits and the Ombai-Wetar-Straits and the Straits of Hormuz at the exit of the Persian Gulf, from the East via the Straits of Malacca and, by way of geographical extension, to the South China Sea.
  • Topic: Security, International Law, International Trade and Finance, Maritime Commerce
  • Political Geography: Africa, China, Malaysia, Asia, Arabia, Kobani
  • Author: Marina Ottaway, Paul Salem, Nathan J. Brown, Sinan Ülgen
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: After more than a year of Arab uprisings, the emerging political order in the Middle East is marked by considerable shifts within individual countries as well as at the regional level. Domestically and internationally, new actors are emerging in strong positions and others are fading in importance. Islamist parties are on the rise with many secular forces losing power. And across the region, economic concerns have risen to the fore. These domestic changes have implications for both regional and international actors. There are a number of more ambitious economic and political steps the West should take to respond to these power shifts and engage with these new players.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Regime Change, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Abigael Baldoumas, Kelly Gilbride
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxford Analytica
  • Abstract: The Yemeni people are facing a worsening humanitarian crisis with more than ten million–44 per cent of the population–facing food insecurity. With the onset of the hunger season, many families have exhausted their coping strategies and are being driven deeper into poverty. Donors remain deeply divided over their approaches to the region's poorest country, thus delaying responses and hindering funding. As the crisis builds, donors must take steps to address immediate humanitarian needs as well as making long term commitments to promote development. The Friends of Yemen ministerial meeting in Riyadh offers a critical opportunity for donors to be decisive, creative and generous if they are to break the cycle of hunger and poverty in Yemen. Yemen's future depends upon reducing people's vulnerability and building resilience for the long term, breaking the hunger cycle and empowering people to realize their potential. Failure to act now will put more lives at risk and further entrench poverty in the country.
  • Topic: Humanitarian Aid, Poverty, Food, Famine
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Hrant Kostanyan, Magdalena Nasieniak
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for European Policy Studies
  • Abstract: The EU has consistently stressed the primacy of democracy assistance in its pronouncements on EU external policy, but its actions have noticeably lagged behind. At the heart of the problem are the absence of available appropriate instruments, incoherent external action and convoluted decision-making procedures that require the mobilisation of unanimity and the political backing of all 27 EU member states. The Arab Spring once again highlighted the EU's inability to react swiftly and decisively to the extraordinary events unfolding in its neighbourhood.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: Europe, Arabia
  • Author: Muhittin Ataman
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: When we consider Saudi Arabian large population, territories and natural resources, it is obvious that it will continue to preserve its geopolitical, geo-economic and geo-cultural importance in future. The assumption of King Abdullah as the ruler of the country provided an opportunity to restructure the country's foreign policy. The new king began to follow a more pragmatic, rational, interdependent, multilateral and multidimensional foreign policy. He pursues an active foreign policy required to be less dependent on a single state (the United States) and on a single product (oil).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Oil, Political Economy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Turkey, Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Dr. Cengi Günay
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: The “January 25 Revolution” was not a classic revolution. President Mubarak's fall did not entail the overthrow of the regime, neither alter the elites or destroy their institutions, nor reverse the social situation. Although power structures and economic patterns were not removed, Mubarak's fall set an end to exclusive authoritarian despotism and initiated a process of power sharing; a so called passive revolution characterised by the absorption of the “enemies' elites” into the system. From this perspective, legalisation has been only a further step in the Islamists' long and rocky road of integration through moderation. Initially based on tactical considerations, shifts in methods and behaviour usually also evoke a shift in emphasis from ideological conceptions to political pragmatism. The absorption of the Islamist elites supported a process of embourgeoisement and de-­â€ ideologization. This did not entail a departure from Islamic tenets, but rather from ideological conceptions which seemed more and more unrealistic in a globalized world. The integration of de-­â€radicalised and moderated socially conservative Islamist groups with market economy and parliamentary democracy promises not only the prevention of political and economic turmoil, but also guarantees the reinforcement of the existing patterns of domination.
  • Topic: Democratization, Islam, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Africa, Arabia
  • Author: Daniel Seidemann
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: What are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's real intentions vis-à-vis Israeli–Palestinian negotiations and the two-state solution? What does he really want? Speculation aside, a great deal can be gleaned about both Netanyahu's core beliefs and his intentions by examining his words and his actions with respect to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is universally recognised as a key permanent status issue, which, for any peace agreement, will require the reconciling of competing Israeli and Palestinian claims as well as recognition and protection of Jewish, Muslim and Christian equities. In the context of the current political stalemate, however, it has become much more than that. Today, Jerusalem is both the volcanic core of the conflict – the place where religion and nationalism meet and combine in a potentially volatile mix – and a microcosm of the conflict and the imbalance of power that characterises developments on the ground.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia
  • Author: Judy Barsalou
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: The dominance of neo-patriarchal, semi-authoritarian regimes with little interest in justice, accountability or other values associated with democratic governance has meant that, until recently, the Arab region has had limited experience with transitional justice (TJ). Several states have started down the TJ path since the emergence of the “Arab Spring”, but their progress is uneven. In Egypt, much depends on the nature and speed of the transition, whose outcomes remain uncertain. Whether and how Arab transitional states embrace TJ – especially how they manage the fates of their deposed rulers and essential institutional reforms – will indicate whether they intend to break with the past and build public institutions that inspire civic trust.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Aitemad Muhanna
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Women's participation in the Arab uprisings has been inspired by the expansion of an Islamist-based model of Arab women's activism and a gradual shrinking of secular liberal women's activism. The uprisings have provided outcomes that prove the possibility of combining Islam with democracy through the political success of Islamist parties in the post-uprisings era, like in Tunisia and Egypt. Although this new de facto political map of the region has largely frightened liberal women, the victory of moderate Islamist voices may also be promising, especially when they are in a position to provide a state governance model. The determining factor in combining Islam with democracy is the willingness of the two major players – Islamist parties and the international community – to ensure that the main debatable issues – religion, gender and human rights – are not discriminated against in the name of either religion or Western democracy. However, the actual practice and outcomes of moderate Islamist discourse remains under experimentation, and it is a space for Islamist and secular women's and human rights organisations to co-operate, monitor, negotiate and strategise, to ensure that gender issues are engaged in policy discussions and formulations as a substantial issue for real democratisation.
  • Topic: Democratization, Gender Issues, Islam
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Jean-Paul Marthoz
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Online media, global TV and social networks played a significant role in the Arab Spring and will be important factors in determining the direction of these “revolutions”.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Science and Technology, Mass Media, Regime Change, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Youssef Courbage
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Since December 2010, the speed, suddenness and scope of events in North Africa and the Middle East have taken everyone by surprise. They nevertheless had to happen. Given the universality of human nature – differences between a European and an Arab are ultimately of minor importance – the processes that began in Europe in the seventeenth century and spread throughout the world would have inevitably reached the Arab countries.
  • Topic: Demographics, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: David Gardner
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: The reign of Arab strongmen supported by the West is drawing to an end. Europe has the duty and the opportunity to get on the right side of history, and to assist in reform and reconstruction, if and when requested. The economic dimension is about more than aid and trade, and will turn importantly on ideas and debate. Policy should be driven by a blatant bias towards democracy and its defenders, the support of competitive politics and open societies, education and the building of institutions, law-based regimes and the empowerment of women – everything many Arabs still find attractive about Western society.
  • Topic: Post Colonialism, Regime Change, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Jad Chaaban
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: The Middle East and North African region is currently faced with one of the toughest socioeconomic challenges in its modern history: a "youth bulge" of almost 100 million young people, of which a quarter are unemployed. Between 40 and 50 million new jobs need to be created in the region's countries over the next decade, and this implies that governments in the region should embark on a labour-intensive and job-creating growth trajectory. Special attention should be given to reducing the unemployment and emigration of skilled youth, and to integrating young women into the labour market. Policies that tackle the institutional and structural impediments to meaningful job creation should be pursued, together with public interventions in social protection and housing programmes that would reduce youth's social exclusion in the region.
  • Topic: Demographics, Gender Issues, Islam, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Yossi Alpher
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Syria is geo-strategically, historically and politically the most central of Middle East countries, hence the over-riding importance of the conflict there. Yet any discussion of the regional implications of that conflict is necessarily highly speculative. Its points of departure are the instances of regional intervention and "overflow" from the situation already taking place. Turkey, with its open support for the armed Syrian opposition, is the leading candidate to establish "safe zones" or even "humanitarian corridors" that could conceivably lead to war. Ankara's growing rivalry with Iran is increasingly being acted out in Syria and is interacting with tensions between Sunni Muslims and Alawites/Shias not only in Syria, but in Lebanon and Iraq as well.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Regime Change, Bilateral Relations, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Syria