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  • Author: Athanasios Manis
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The Iraqi and Turkish leadership have restored direct contact, thus providing an opportunity for dialogue. However, the extent to which this can lead to a sustainable normalisation process and furthermore to a deepening of their relationship is highly questionable. This policy brief argues that the main problem lies with the fact that a win-win scenario of overlapping or complementary interests does not seem to be driving the leaderships’ actions. Instead, it is ad hoc developments external to their bilateral relationship that have a positive effect for the time being, such as the rapprochement between Russia and Turkey, and subsequently a concerted attempt between Russia, Turkey and Iran to stabilise the region.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera
  • Abstract: This paper reviews the importance of western Mosul to all parties in the conflict: the Iraqi forces and their allies, on the one hand, and the Islamic State’s forces, on the other, and the obstacles to any of these parties resolving the conflict. It also touches on the extent of their forces and the clear dominance of the offensive forces, and it discusses the military strategies for the battle and potential outcomes in addition to the available options for the Islamic State (IS). It anticipates an end to the fight in favour of the Iraqi forces within a few weeks if the battle and its results progress at a similar pace to that of its first week. This will depend on any unaccounted for variables during the battle that would change the equation on the ground. It concludes by discussing the available options for IS after the battle ends, with the expectation that IS will fight until the end; while its commanders will inevitability lose the battle, this will not eliminate threats to security and stability in Iraq in the foreseeable future.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, International Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Dlawer Ala’Aldeen
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The Middle East is still in flux and will remain so for some time, it will possibly be another decade before the ultimate power balance is reached. Policy makers of Iraq and the KRI who wish to pursue paths of their own design, must look carefully at the trends in power dynamics and the policies of the global and regional powers before designing their strategies.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Zachary Gallant
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The shift of United States (US) foreign policy from a heavy international focus with traditional alliances over the past century to the anti-globalist administration promised by President-elect Donald Trump will necessarily upset longstanding regional relations in the Middle East and North Africa. This Policy Paper discusses some of the Trump administration’s most likely foreign policy advisers and their positions on Kurdish self-governance, as well as those of some previous policymakers whose legacies he will be unable to escape.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East
  • Author: Irene Costantini
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Nearly thirteen years since the beginning of one of the largest programmes for post-conflict reconstruction, Iraq finds itself again in need of international financial assistance, but the conditions are hardly the same. This time the role of the international community should be matched by the Iraqi political leadership taking responsibility for the country and all of its population.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, ISIS
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Dylan O’Driscoll
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The fight against the Islamic State (IS) has caused a ‘rallying around the flag’ effect amongst Iraqi Kurds. Once IS is defeated key political and economic issues long neglected in the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI) will come to the fore. Thus, it is imperative they are addressed now, as failure to make inroads will have dire consequences for the KRI.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Geopolitics, ISIS
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Dave van Zoonen
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Donald Trump, the next President of the United States, will soon be confronted with the difficulty of translating campaign rhetoric regarding his foreign policy in the Middle East into policy and positive outcomes. He is thus likely to be forced to make significant concessions.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East
  • Author: Tomáš Kaválek
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Hashd al-Shaabi launched an offensive on Tal Afar on 29 October; the looming recapture of Tal Afar prompted a strong reaction from Turkey, which maintains ties to the Turkmen population there. Tal Afar is thus yet another flashpoint of competing interests between Ankara, Erbil, Baghdad, and Tehran and can possibly further destabilise the situation in Nineveh.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Tomáš Kaválek
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Nearly two years since the north side of Shingal was liberated from the Islamic State, most of the Yazidi population is still displaced. Yazidis are trapped between millstones of the competition of exogenous actors, such as the KDP, the PKK-linked forces, and Baghdad, over the control of the strategically important disputed territory of Shingal.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Irene Costantini
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: The Islamic State (IS) has not only surprised everyone with its cruelty but also by proving to be one of the world’s richest terrorist organisations. Now that its economic gains are draining due to military setbacks and financial strains, IS-held territories are increasingly struggling through economic hurdles – the challenge ahead is to link military interventions against IS with concrete economic plans.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: We live in an age of identity politics. We define ourselves by one or more objective measures: measures of race, ethnicity, gender, politics, religion, sexual orientation, to name just a few. Those measures then define who we are to others. They determine our place in society, the communities with which we identify, our attitudes towards others and other communities. The politics of identity are fraught, and they interact in ways that both liberate and confine. On the one hand we prize diversity. On the whole, this is a good thing, since it reflects a larger transformation in American life. Like it or not, the fact is that we are becoming, have become, a “multi-cultural society.” No matter what terms we use to define diversity—racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, gender, whatever—we are more diverse now than we have ever been, and we are destined to grow more so. Multi-culturalism is not an option; it is the future. The only question is how, and how well, we are going to deal with it.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Religion, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Michele Flournoy, Richard Fontaine
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: In the 11 months since President Barack Obama committed the United States to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), the group has expanded its international reach, metastasized to form offshoots across multiple regions, and increased its perceived momentum. Although U.S. government officials cite a reduction in the overall size of the group’s sanctuary in Iraq and Syria and the killing of thousands of ISIS fighters, the fall of Ramadi and much of Anbar province to the Islamic State served as a wakeup call that current efforts to counter ISIS are not adequate to the task.2 Meanwhile, the threat posed by the terrorist group to Americans at home and abroad appears to be growing as ISIS-inspired individuals conduct attacks targeting Westerners around the globe, including here in the United States.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Civil War, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: James Andrew Lewis
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Gulf has become a flashpoint for cyber conflict. Cyberspace has become an arena for covert struggle, with the United States, Israel and other nations on one side, and Iran and Russia on the other. Iran has far outpaced the GCC states in developing its cyber capabilities, both for monitoring internal dissent and deploying hackers to disrupt or attack foreign targets. Several such attacks over the past two years were likely either directed or permitted by Iranian state authorities. Even if Iran holds back from offensive actions as nuclear talks progress, the growth in Iranian capabilities remains a potential security threat for other Gulf states. The GCC countries have begun to develop their defensive capabilities, but they will need to expand their defenses and collaborate more effectively to deter future threats.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Defense Policy, Development, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The number of foreign fighters is high, 12,000 and counting, and the spread of countries they come from covers much of the globe. Two recent events involving foreign fighters show the radicalizing influence of the war. With the support to bolster Syria's more secular rebel forces at times inconsistent and tepid, the lack of an alternative has accelerated a natural gravitation towards extremist elements. It will be hard to know which returnees pose a threat, and harder still to deal with them. Given that the number of foreign fighters already exceeds those that went to Afghanistan, government resources will be severely strained to monitor all returnees and will have to rely on the help of local communities.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: No region has seen more of its people travel to fight in Syria than North Africa; more than 3,000 Tunisians have traveled there as of last April, and more than 1,500 Moroccans This is a repeat of a decade ago when large numbers of North Africans traveled to Iraq to fight there as well, in proportions far above those of neighboring countries A significant number of recent North African fighters have conducted suicide bombings in both Iraq and Syria, highlighting that the deadly ideological message of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and other extremist groups is finding purchase in North Africa The reasons for this export of extremists include incomplete political reforms that have failed to redress serious societal issues, persistent high youth unemployment, and a failure to cope with the apparent high levels of disaffection, despair, and anger that drive people to choose violent extremism.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, North Africa, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Attacking the finances of the so-called Islamic State (IS) with limited collateral damage will be orders of magnitude more difficult than attacking its military factions The group has thoroughly embedded itself into local and regional economies in Syria and Iraq, and damaging its finances while not devastating civilian populations will be as difficult as it is necessary IS oil revenues might be the easiest to disrupt but such action comes with significant collateral economic damage, while taxes, tolls, extortion, and food sales generate more income while remaining highly resistant to external forces In the areas under its control, IS has been providing social services as well as delivering levels of fuel, electricity, and food to populations utterly without recourse, meaning the group needs to be replaced and not simply removed.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Insurgency, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The Turkish parliament's vote to authorize the deployment of military forces in Syria and Iraq provided a legal and official framework for such action It may appear to be a positive step in degrading and destroying the putative Islamic State (IS), however, the parliament in its vote used the broader term "terrorist organizations," thus the landscape for Turkey, Syria-Iraq, and regional states and interests remains exceptionally complex Though there is nearly universal and implacable opposition to IS among all actors in Syria and Iraq, Turkey's future role-depending on steps taken-could aggravate tensions not only with Arab Gulf states and Kurdish elements in Syria and Iraq, but Iran, Russia, and the Iraqi government Turkey's desire to create a buffer zone on the Syrian side of its common border remains one of the most sensitive issues Amid reports of increased IS pressure on Kobani, Kurdish PKK has insinuated Turkey will be to blame-not IS-for creating conditions for the refugee crisis, and threatens to resume opposition activity in Turkey. The Turkish parliament's vote Thursday to authorize use of its army and military facilities in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) may appear at first look to be a positive step for the broader coalition. The measures-to be determined-are in addition to any financial, diplomatic, humanitarian, and support activities for the anti-IS coalition. However, parliament's vote did not entail Turkey's officially joining the coalition. After the recent deal-details yet to be revealed-to bring home over 40 hostages IS had taken from Turkey's consulate in Mosul, Iraq, in June 2014, pressure increased for Turkey to take military steps in the anti-IS fight. A factor increasing the possibility of military action is Turkish special operations forces' guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah, a Turkish enclave in Syria reported to be increasingly surrounded by IS. Though there is almost universal animus toward IS in the region, there is also nearly uniform resistance to Turkey's perceived unilateral military involvement in Syria and Iraq, outside the framework of the anti-IS coalition. Turkey's next moves may cause more conflict than benefit in the anti-IS fight. Indeed, the political landscape for Turkey's moves at home and abroad remains extraordinarily complex.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: More than seven weeks after the most devastating war yet waged in Gaza, its underlying causes remain unresolved. Hamas did not achieve an end to Gaza's closure; Israel did not attain the demilitarisation of the Strip or Hamas. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) remains unrepresentative and its credibility continues to fade. Fatah's popularity has sunk while Hamas's has increased to levels unseen since its 2006 electoral victory. Small steps toward reconciliation between Hamas and the PLO have been taken, but they are very distant from the end goal of a unified, representative Palestinian leadership. But in reconciliation lies the only hope of achieving a sustainable ceasefire and, more broadly, of bringing Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank under one authority.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Arms Control and Proliferation, War, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The following IntelBrief is excerpted from The Soufan Group's recent long-form report on The Islamic State, which takes an in-depth look at the extremist group's operations across Iraq and Syria. From late 2011 up to today, The Islamic State has shown itself both tactically and strategically adept. After years of surviving as a persistently violent criminal/terrorist gang able to mount multiple synchronized attacks in urban areas in Iraq but little more, it achieved unparalleled gains when the collapse of government in northern and eastern Syria allowed it to expand across the border. At the same time, the sectarian approach of then-Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki had made the Sunni minority in Iraq ready to support any group that appeared to have the potential to reverse its increasing marginalization. It's accurate to say the group would still exist-but in nothing like its current form-had only one of those two catastrophes-Syria and Maliki-occurred; that both played out as they did made what has happened seem an almost inevitable accident of history.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Tiziana Trotta
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: IEMed/EuroMeSCo
  • Abstract: The United Nations Peace Conference on Syria is due to take place on 22nd January in Geneva. The Syrian Government and opposition will meet for the first time since the outbreak of the conflict in March 2011. Nevertheless, there are very few prospects of finding a satisfactory solution to end the conflict.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, Islam, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Şadi Ergüvenç
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Political Trends Center
  • Abstract: The Mediterranean is where the atmosphere of mutual distrust, fear and polarization prevail. Arab Israeli dispute and Turkish Greek differences over the Aegean and Cyprus impede efforts for developing mutual confidence and co operation. Recently, economic and financial crises and the “Arab Risings” have brought along more reasons for concern. Islamophobia and racism versus Islamic jihadism increase the risk of confrontation. Turkey together with Spain appeals for an “Alliance of Civilizations” and exploits its double identity, European and Muslim, through a proactive and multilateral poli cy for finding peaceful solutions to chronic regional solutions. Greece and Greek Cypriot governments should refrain from unilateral attempts to declare maritime borders.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Islam, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In a region that recently has produced virtually nothing but bad news, Hassan Rouhani's 4 August swearing in as Iran's president offers a rare and welcome glimmer of hope. There are still far more questions than answers: about the extent of his authority; his views on his country's nuclear program, with which he long has been associated; and the West's ability to display requisite flexibility and patience. But, although both sides can be expected to show caution, now is the time to put more ambitious proposals on the table, complement the multilateral talks with a bilateral U.S.-Iranian channel and expand the dialogue to encompass regional security issues.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Democratization, Diplomacy, Islam, Nuclear Weapons, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Jeff D. Colgan
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Although the threat of “resource wars” over possession of oil reserves is often exaggerated, the sum total of the political effects generated by the oil industry makes oil a leading cause of war. Between one-quarter and one-half of interstate wars since 1973 have been connected to one or more oil-related causal mechanisms. No other commodity has had such an impact on international security.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, International Trade and Finance, Oil, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Thomas Pierret
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Syrian conflict's internal dynamics have reshuffled regional alignments alongside unprecedentedly clear-cut sectarian dividing lines; this has often occurred against the preferences of regional state actors−including Saudi Arabia and Iran. Foreign states have generally adopted expedient policies that followed sectarian patterns for lack of alternatives. Iran bears significant responsibility for exacerbating the conflict's sectarian character at the regional level. There is no such “diplomatic shortcut” to regional appeasement; it is the domestic Syrian deadlock that must be broken in order to alleviate sectarian tensions across the Middle East, not the opposite.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Frederic M. Wehrey
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Like the Iraq war and, to a lesser extent, Lebanon's 2006 war, Syria's internecine conflict has enabled the Gulf's ruling families, media commentators, clerics, parliamentarians, and activists to invoke and amplify Sunni-Shia identities, often for goals that are rooted in local power politics. By-products of the mounting sectarian tension include the fraying of reform cooperation among sects and regions, and pressure on the Gulf's formal political institutions. Traditional and social media have served to amplify the most polarizing voices as well as provide reform activists new means for cross-sectarian communication that circumvent governmental efforts to control or block such activities.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • 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: 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: Madawi al-Rasheed
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: The Saudi regime has a vested interest in the Saudi public remaining fragmented and unable to bridge the Sunni-Shia sectarian divide. Both Shia and Sunnis in Saudi Arabia have been invigorated by the ongoing Arab uprisings, and in their own regions have staged minor protests demanding similar rights. However, the regime's entrenched sectarian propaganda has succeeded in isolating the Shia and delaying a confrontation with Sunni Islamists. In the short term this may be a successful strategy, but in the long term it may fail to contain the frustration of Saudis who want serious political reform.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Islam, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Cathrine Thorleifsson
  • Publication Date: 06-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: This policy brief examines the paradox of Mizrahim (Arab Jews) supporting right-wing Israeli policies through a case study of the border town of Kiryat Shemona. Based on ethnographic research, it illuminates the enduring power of ethno-nationalism and demonstrates how it affects Mizrahi lives. Mizrahim became trapped by Israeli nation-building on the geographic and socioeconomic margins of the state positioned between the dominant Ashkenazi elite and the Palestinian population. Factors such as Mizrahim's partial inclusion in the nation; tensions between Jews and Arabs, and between the secular and the religious; the decline of the welfare state; and a shared perception of threats and dangers informed everyday nationalism in the town. Mizrahim contested Ashkenazi Israeliness through ethnic and transnational identifications and practices. Simultaneously, their support for the nation-in-arms and identification as "strong"and "civilised" reinforced the dominant logic of ethno-nationalism. Mizrahi support for right-wing militarism is likely to persist as long as national unity is used as a colonial practice by the centre. The inclusion of Mizrahim as equals together with other marginalised citizens would necessarily entail an Israeli Spring.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Nationalism, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • 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
  • Author: Philip K. Verleger
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The United States has initiated new sanctions against Iran aimed at preventing it from collecting revenue from exports of crude oil. The European Union has followed, embargoing all imports of Iranian crude from July 1, 2012 and preventing any firms from entering into new contracts to import Iranian oil after January 23, 2012. The new US and EU sanctions could be the most draconian in many years. If implemented fully, US sanctions would force trading partners to choose between the United States and Iran. EU sanctions would cut Iran off from an important market. These sanctions, while reducing Iranian income, could pose a very serious economic threat to countries that have significant trade with the United States and/or import significant quantities of oil from Iran.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Oil, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East
  • 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: Hanna Ojanen, Barbara Zanchetta
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The increasing tension around the Iranian nuclear programme and the uncompromising positions of the protagonists have made the goal of creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East seem utopic. Yet, the current strategy of maintaining a low profile in the discussions on the zone, while keeping the focus exclusively on Iran, is not likely to lead to progress. Instead, combining the Iranian question with the zone and enlarging the content and scope of the negotiations even further by including Iran's neighbours could be a better strategy. Turkey could play a key role because of its unique relations with Iran, and because of its strong quest for a more prominent international position — if it can only strike the right balance between the role of lead actor and team player. Turkish-Iranian relations could notably inspire the consideration of accompanying pragmatic agreements on regional cooperation in other fields as a way forward for the upcoming Middle East disarmament negotiations in Finland.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Finland
  • 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: 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: 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: 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
  • Author: Lara El-Jazairi, Fionna Smyth
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxfam Publishing
  • Abstract: The Jordan Valley, located in the eastern part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), makes up 30 per cent of the West Bank (see Map 1 on page 7). Requisitions and expropriations of Palestinian land by the Israeli authorities continue to destroy the livelihoods of Palestinians living in the area and, unless action is taken, there are strong indications that the situation will only get worse. The Israeli government recently announced proposals and policies for the expansion of settlements, which, if implemented, will further threaten the living conditions and human rights of Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley, undermining efforts to bring peace and prosperity to the OPT and Israel.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Agriculture, Development, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia
  • Author: Stephen Biddle, Jacob N. Shapiro, Jeffrey A. Friedman
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Why did violence decline in Iraq in 2007? Many credit the "surge," or the program of U.S. reinforcements and doctrinal changes that began in January 2007. Others cite the voluntary insurgent stand-downs of the Sunni Awakening or say that the violence had simply run its course after a wave of sectarian cleansing. Evidence drawn from recently declassified data on violence at local levels and a series of seventy structured interviews with coalition participants finds little support for the cleansing or Awakening theses. This analysis constitutes the first attempt to gather systematic evidence across space and time to help resolve this debate, and it shows that a synergistic interaction between the surge and the Awakening was required for violence to drop as quickly and widely as it did.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, War, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Douglas A. Ollivant
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Iraq remains a fragile state deeply traumatized and riven by thirty years of war, sanctions, occupation, and civil strife. Although there are numerous positive signs of progress in Iraq—violence has fallen to its lowest level since 2003, its economy is growing modestly, oil production recently surpassed that of Iran, and foreign investment is beginning to restore infrastructure decayed by years of war and sanctions—the risk of acute instability and renewed conflict remains. Already, in the wake of the U.S. military withdrawal in December 2011, Iraq has seen a fierce political struggle between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and many of his rivals in the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya parliamentary coalition, plus increasing tension with at least some segments of the Kurdish minority. For the positive trends to continue, Iraq will need to contain various threats to internal stability and weather regional turmoil that could worsen significantly in the coming months. The United States has a significant stake in helping Iraq overcome these challenges; Iraq is a critical state within a critical region.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Development, Oil, Fragile/Failed State, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Martin Hartberg
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxfam Publishing
  • Abstract: The ceasefire agreed between the Government of Israel and Hamas on 21 November 2012, following the recent military escalation in Gaza and southern Israel, provides an unprecedented opportunity to end the cycle of violence that has affected too many innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians. In the ceasefire understanding, the parties agreed to negotiate 'opening the crossings' into the Gaza Strip and to put an end to 'restricting residents' free movement and targeting residents in border areas'. It is therefore also a unique chance to once and for all lift the Israeli blockade on Gaza, which has had a devastating impact on the lives and well-being of Gaza's civilian population and on Palestinian development.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Political Violence, Islam, War, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Gaza
  • Author: Robin Wright, Garrett Nada
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Middle East faces even bigger challenges in 2013 than it did during the first two years of the so-called Arab Spring. So far—a pivotal caveat—the Arab uprisings have deepened the political divide, worsened economic woes and produced greater insecurity. Solutions are not imminent either. More than 120 million people in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen have experienced successful uprisings that ousted four leaders who together ruled a total of 129 years. But more than half of the Arab world's 350 million people have yet to witness any real change at all. Defining a new order has proven far harder than ousting old autocrats. Phase one was creating conditions for democracy. Phase two is a kind of democratic chaos as dozens of parties in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia do political battle (and in some cases physical battle) over constitutions. Ancien regimes have not totally given up, as in Yemen. The cost of change has exceeded even the highest estimates, as in Syria. So most Arabs are probably disappointed with the “Arab Spring” for one of many reasons. Nevertheless the uprisings were never going to happen in one season. This is instead only the beginning of a decades-long process—as most in the West should know from their own experiences.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Democratization, Post Colonialism, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Clint Watts
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Al Qaeda today only slightly resembles the al Qaeda of yesteryear. Al Qaeda operatives or "al Qaeda-like" organizations stretch throughout North Africa, across the Middle East and into South Asia. This disparate string of organizations hosts a handful of al Qaeda's original Afghanistan and Pakistan veterans but mostly consist of newcomers inspired by al Qaeda's message -- disenfranchised young men seeking an adventurous fight in the wake of a tumultuous Arab Spring. Al Qaeda, or more appropriately jihadism pursued under al Qaeda's banner, has morphed in several waves over the course of more than two decades.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Defense Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Canada, Arabia
  • Author: Thomas Hegghammer
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: A salient feature of armed conflict in the Muslim world since 1980 has been the involvement of so-called foreign fighters. These foreign fighters are unpaid combatants with no apparent link to the conflict other than religious affinity with the Muslim side. Since 1980, between 10,000 and 30,000 such fighters have inserted themselves into conflicts from Bosnia in the west to the Philippines in the east.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Bosnia, Middle East, Philippines, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Will the next Middle East conflagration involve Israelis and Palestinians? After the serious escalation of the past week in which eight Gazans, including children, were killed in a single day, and the 23 March 2011 bombing in Jerusalem, that took the life of one and wounded dozens, there is real reason to worry. The sharp deterioration on this front is not directly related, nor is it in any way similar to the events that have engulfed the Middle East and North Africa. But the overall context of instability and uncertainty undoubtedly has made a volatile situation even more so. Israelis' anxiety is rising and with it the fear that outside parties might seek to provoke hostilities to divert attention from domestic problems and shift the focus back to Israel. Hamas has been emboldened by regional events and is therefore less likely to back down from a challenge. The combination, as recent days have shown, has proven combustible.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Jerusalem, Gaza, Arab Countries, North Africa
  • Author: Sean Kane, William Taylor
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: With U.S. military forces scheduled to depart Iraq in December of this year, the State Department and other civilian agencies are being asked to assume a scale of operational and programmatic responsibilities far beyond any other embassy in recent memory. The capacity of the U.S. civilian agencies to assume these responsibilities does not now fully exist. Notably, securing and moving U.S. civilians will require more than 5,000 security contractors. A limited U.S. military contingent post-2011 may well be more cost-effective than private security guards and could also relieve State and other civilian agencies of logistical and security responsibilities. This would enable them to focus on their comparative advantages: diplomacy and development assistance. Planning for the post-2011 U.S. mission in Iraq, however, remains hampered by uncertainty as to whether the Iraqi government will request an extension of the American military presence in the country. A small follow-on U.S. military force would appear to safeguard Iraqi stability and make the achievement of U.S. strategic objectives in Iraq more likely, but cannot be counted on. Should such a request not be received from the Iraqi government, the U.S. may need to reduce the planned scale and scope of its operations and goals in Iraq.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Ufuk Ulutas
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: The publication of the Palmer report written by the panel of inquiry established by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon once again brought the 31 May 2010 Gaza Flotilla incident and the blockade of Gaza back to world's attention. On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos stormed a passenger ship, the Mavi Marmara, the largest boat of a flotilla of six boats which were carrying 10000 tons of humanitarian aid to besieged Gaza, in international high waters. The operation left 9 activists dead and over 30 activists wounded. The Israeli military assault against the Mavi Marmara immediately ignited worldwide protests and condemnation. Turkey, whose citizens were attacked by Israeli soldiers in international high waters, 72 miles away from the Gazan coast, took the lead in protests and condemnation. Israel, however, claimed that the demonstrators on the Mavi Marmara were aiming to break the blockade of Gaza and the Israeli commandos were forced onboard to react in an act of self-defense.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Humanitarian Aid
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Arabia