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  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A closer look at Palestinian views on prisoner releases, the Jewish state question, economic needs, and other issues suggests diplomatic openings are far from exhausted. As the United States works to salvage the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the Palestinian public in the West Bank and Gaza is more prepared to accept various diplomatic compromises than official positions or elite attitudes would suggest. A number of new polls by different Palestinian pollsters, and in-depth discussions with Palestinian scholars and others in late March, indicate that Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas has greater latitude to make a deal than is often supposed. The polls cited here are from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) and Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD), both based in Ramallah, and the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO), based in Bethlehem.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The current impasse in Israeli-Palestinian talks is buffeted by a series of profound global and regional challenges, including Ukraine, Iran, and Syria, among others. In the immediate arena, while Israel and the Palestinian Authority may have dysfunctional political and diplomatic relations, they also have reasonably effective security cooperation and economic coordination. Therefore, a principal challenge for U.S. policy and for local leaders is to find ways to preserve, even enhance, the latter even as disagreement over the former worsens.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Ukraine, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Syria, North America
  • Author: Steven Ditto
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Islamic Republic has added to its nuclear negotiating team a law professor who has extensive experience making Iran's case in international disputes. On April 9, Iran and the P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States, plus Germany) concluded the latest two-day round of talks on a nuclear deal, setting the next round for May 13. Earlier in the week, on April 7, Iranian media reported the appointment of Dr. Jamshid Momtaz as head of a "legal advisory group" to the Iranian negotiating team. A French-educated expert on sanctions, disarmament, and UN procedure, Momtaz has represented the Iranian government in some of its highest-profile international legal proceedings, including in claims against the U.S. government at the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ). Momtaz's familiarity with the United Nations, his extensive practice in Europe, and his proven history of leveraging complex legal arguments to advance Iran's international interests indicate that in these latest rounds of P5+1 talks Tehran is likely looking for unconventional ways to "address" and "bring a satisfactory conclusion to" the UN Security Council resolutions against it, as called for in the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) agreed to in Geneva last November.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, Human Rights, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Sanctions, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Iran, France
  • Author: Neri Zilber
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Israel has gotten few positive results from past financial measures against the PA, and both sides risk miscalculation and escalation when they employ unilateral tactics. On April 1, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas signed accession papers to fifteen international conventions, endangering the current round of peace talks and spurring the Israeli government to state that unilateral Palestinian steps would be met by unilateral steps of its own. Over the past several days, Israel has made good on this promise, instituting various economic and financial sanctions against the PA. Yet recent historical experience indicates that Israel's willingness to maintain punitive financial sanctions on the PA is limited.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Washington has rightfully avoided backing a candidate in next week's elections, but it should still use counterterrorism assistance and other levers to push Baghdad on pluralism and KRG oil revenue sharing during the presumably lengthy transition period. On April 30, the Iraqi public will vote in national parliamentary elections, establishing the next four-year term of the 328-seat Council of Representatives. Thereafter, an equally consequential bargaining process will commence, taking the formation of the next government out of the public's hands and cloistering it behind closed doors. The United States has repeatedly prodded Baghdad to ensure that the vote is held on time, in all districts, and in a free and fair manner. Washington's role in the government formation process could be equally constructive, but it presents a far trickier challenge. Indeed, how the U.S. government acts during the postelection process could set the tone for bilateral relations throughout the next government's term.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Washington, Middle East
  • Author: Ehud Yaari, Neri Zilber
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even as the deal offers short-term political benefits for both sides, it fails to resolve key issues separating them. The April 23 Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement announced in the Gaza Strip is the latest in a long line of attempts to bridge the intra-Palestinian divide. The timing of the agreement amid U.S.-brokered peace talks, as well as both parties' internal weaknesses, points to more serious intent than past efforts. However, the deal fails to address the most sensitive issues separating the two sides and likely can be explained by the political boost it offers to both leaderships. The only certainty is that the reconciliation deal severely complicates efforts to extend Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations past their April 29 deadline.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A close look at the group's military and ideological credentials seems to reveal a model candidate for greater U.S. and allied support, including lethal military assistance. In mid-April, web videos began to surface showing Syrian rebel unit Harakat Hazm (Steadfastness Movement) employing U.S.-designed antitank guided missiles in Idlib province. The use of these TOW (tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided) missiles indicates that the United States and/or one of its TOW-equipped allies have provided lethal aid to the group. Videos of two other groups with TOWs have appeared, but Harakat Hazm seems to have received the most, or at least posted the most videos of them in action. Harakat Hazm has many qualities that make it a good candidate for such assistance. It appears secular in orientation, is well organized from a military perspective, has a significant inventory of heavy weapons, operates across an important area of Syria, and has an established combat record in fighting Bashar al-Assad's regime. In short, the group seems to provide at least a partial answer to longstanding questions about which rebel groups Washington should arm.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: United States, Syria, North America
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The thorny parliamentary process of selecting a new president could rekindle violence if it results in substantial delays or further sectarian friction. Last week, Lebanon's parliament convened for the first round of balloting to elect a new president. While Samir Geagea -- who leads the Christian "Lebanese Forces" party, which is aligned with the pro-Western March 14 coalition -- received the most votes, he failed to secure the requisite two-thirds parliamentary support. In the coming weeks, legislators are slated to continue meeting until a president is selected. Unlike last week's session, in which the Hezbollah-led March 8 bloc did not challenge Geagea's candidacy, the voting promises to become increasingly contentious in subsequent rounds. Perennial sectarian tensions exacerbated by the war next door in Syria have complicated the historically wrought and arcane election process. Should a compromise candidate not emerge by May 25, the term of current president Michel Suleiman will expire, leaving the post vacant. In the past, the presidency -- which by law must be held by a Christian -- was the dominant office in Lebanon's government. But the 1989 Taif Accord effectively stripped the position of its powers, delegating them to the prime minister, who must hail from the Sunni Muslim constituency. Given the post's largely symbolic nature, some might argue that the tense selection process is much ado about nothing. Yet the presidency remains an emotionally evocative issue for Lebanese Christians, and both the March 8 and March 14 blocs see a sympathetic chief executive as an important advantage worth fighting for.
  • Topic: Religion, Power Politics, Regime Change, Public Opinion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Haroon Ullah, Eric Trager, Vish Sakthivel
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A senior State Department advisor and two Washington Institute scholars discuss what lessons can -- and cannot -- be drawn from the Islamist political experience in Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, and other countries.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Middle East, Arabia, Egypt, Morocco
  • Author: Lori Plotkin Boghardt
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Washington should look for small changes in Kuwait and Qatar's political and security calculus that could provide opportunities to support counter-terrorist financing measures there. On April 30, the U.S. State Department noted that private donations from Persian Gulf countries were "a major source of funding for Sunni terrorist groups, particularly...in Syria," calling the problem one of the most important counterterrorism issues during the previous calendar year. Groups such as al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), previously known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, are believed to be frequent recipients of some of the hundreds of millions of dollars that wealthy citizens and others in the Gulf peninsula have been donating during the Syrian conflict.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Border Control
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Washington, Middle East, Kuwait, Arabia, Syria, Qatar