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  • Author: Lori Plotkin Boghardt, Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Trump administration has an opportunity to reset, tighten, and maximize America's strategic relations with the Gulf states. For the United States, expanded security cooperation and coordination could be a force multiplier in campaigns to achieve key policy goals, such as countering Iran's destabilizing policies and defeating the Islamic State. Gulf leaders have expressed optimism over the new administration's gestures, despite its "America First" rhetoric. But the administration also faces challenges, including those brought about by its own emphasis on "radical Islamic terrorism." This two-part Transition 2017 paper, featuring contributions by Gulf experts Lori Plotkin Boghardt and Simon Henderson, navigates the complex U.S.-Gulf relationship. The first essay provides an overview of its basic tenets, stressing the importance of rapport to bilateral ties and discussing key policy priorities. The second essay narrows the focus to the Washington-Riyadh link, the most important U.S. tie with the conservative Gulf. It analyzes differences in viewpoint, policy options, and some anticipated Saudi responses on the core issues of oil, terrorism, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Gulf allies, and the Sunni bloc.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Cooperation, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East
  • Author: Tomáš Kaválek
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: On 3 March, clashes erupted between the PKK-linked forces and the KDP’s Rojava Peshmerga near Khanasor in the district of Shingal. These events now more than ever highlight the need for a negotiated compromise between the KRG and the PKK; and for the international community to actively intervene.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, Political Theory
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Irene Costantini
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Abstract: Iraq and Libya are facing similar challenges: addressing the hurdles of socio-economic recovery in areas liberated from the Islamic State (IS); facing a fiscal crisis in the midst of continuous political tensions; and striking a power balance between central and local authorities, serving the interests of the people.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, ISIS
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • 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
  • Author: Hayder al-Khoei, Ellie Geranmayeh, Mattia Toaldo
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: ISIS has suffered significant setbacks in both Iraq and Libya with the battles for Mosul and Sirte representing potential turning-points. • Without a clear political strategy to guide post- ISIS efforts, these military gains could quickly be lost. Both countries could again become breeding grounds for conflict and extremism, exacerbating European security and migration challenges. This risk is especially high for Iraq given the conflict in neighbouring Syria. • The new US administration is likely to invest less energy than its predecessors in strengthening political orders which provide stability. European states must step up their own efforts
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera
  • Abstract: On 5 June 2017, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt, in marked succession, cut diplomatic relations with Qatar. Within a matter of hours, it became clear that this was not simply a move to sever ties, but a plan for a full embargo, an unprecedented step at a time of peace between these nations. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain blocked flights to Qatar, closed land and sea borders, and ordered Qatari citizens out of their countries while calling on their own nationals to leave Qatar. The same day, Maldives, Mauritius (though it later denied the news), the Libyan Tobruk-based government (which is not recognised internationally), and the Yemeni government based in Riyadh followed suit and cut ties with Qatar, unable to resist Saudi pressure. The next day, Jordan downgraded diplomatic relations with Qatar and revoked the licence of Al Jazeera’s bureau in Amman, while Mauritania severed diplomatic relations with Qatar. Mauritius, in an official statement, denied it had cut ties, raising questions of whether some party took the initiative on behalf of the Mauritian government. The actions taken at dawn on 5 June were the culmination of an unprecedented, anti-Qatar media blitz initiated by Emirati, Saudi, Bahraini and Egyptian media on the evening of 23 May. The campaign intensified until it assumed official imprimatur with the decision to cut ties and blockade Qatar. What, then, is happening to relations between countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)? After Gulf leaders came together in a scene of friendship, cooperation and solidarity during US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, why are relations between three GCC states and Qatar deteriorating so rapidly and in such unprecedented fashion? Was there an immediate cause that spurred Saudi Arabia and its partners to take this stance, or were these actions planned in advance? Is this simply a fleeting crisis in relations between GCC states, or could the break persist?
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: 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: Adel Bakawan
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institute Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Iraqi Kurdistan, previously known as a secure and stable region amidst the chaotic and shaken Middle East, was struck by a wave of attacks in 2016. Between September and December of that year, there were five recorded terrorist operations led by 249 Kurdish jihadists rallied by the Islamic State (ISIS) or Daesh, of which 47 were killed and 43 were arrested by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). In fact, Iraqi Kurdistan, with a population of five million inhabitants, has supplied ISIS with 2,000 jihadists. Since the launch of the Mosul offensive on 17th October 2016, Kurdistan has been preparing itself, like many other countries in the region and a number of European countries, to face its worst nightmare: the Kurdish jihadists’ return to the country. Although a series of threats weigh upon the leaders of the KRG, such as social and economic crises, political division between rival parties; Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the prospect of a new civil war, and the intervention of neighbouring countries – the return of the Kurds of Daesh is currently the most troublesome.
  • Topic: Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Arab Transformations Project, University of Aberdeen
  • Abstract: EU policy towards its Southern Neighbour- hood aims to ensure the security of Member States and is underpinned by an assumption of a shared interest in democracy, security, and prosperity through economic liberalisation. It sees the main way of achieving these aims as promoting Western-style liberal democracy as a political system capable of providing peace and stability. Evidence from public opinion survey research shows this ambition is supported by citizens of Arab countries, where public opinion polls for over a decade report strong support for democracy. However, these citizens do not share the EU’s procedural conception of democracy, a conception in which civil and political rights are decoupled from – and prioritised over – social and economic rights. The Arab Transformations survey carried out in 2014 in six Arab states (Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq) suggests few people demanded this brand of democracy. Furthermore, most people thought the EU has not done a good job of supporting transitions to democracy, nor did they have much appetite for EU involvement in the domestic politics of their countries.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Andrea Teti, Pamela Abbott
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Arab Transformations Project, University of Aberdeen
  • Abstract: The EU views itself as a normative actor and stresses the importance of working in partnership with its Southern Neighbourhood in reaching its intertwined goals of security, stability, inclusive development and shared prosperity, and of strengthening democratisation, human rights and the rule of law across the Mediterranean. The Arab Transformations Project public opinion survey carried out in 2014 in six countries – Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia – sheds some light on this on how citizens viewed the EU and its involvement with their own countries, as well as the extent to which they thought EU policies addressed their concerns.
  • Topic: International Affairs, International Development
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East