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  • Author: Marc Valeri
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The sultan of Oman traveled to Germany to receive medical care in July 2014. His prolonged stay since then has revived concerns across Omani society about the future of the country without the “father of the nation.” A taped, four-minute television address in early November by Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said—who looked emaciated and expressed regret that he was unable to return home for National Day celebrations later in the month—failed to silence rumors of cancer that have been circulating in the Gulf since he left the country. The anxiety about the health of the seventy-four-year-old ruler, who has no designated heir, came as the supposed “sleepy sultanate,” long thought to be a model of stability, was affected by the winds of protest blowing across the region. In 2011 and 2012, the sultanate of Oman experienced its widest popular protests since the 1970s and the end of the Dhofar war, in which the southern region rose up against Qaboos's father, who then ruled the country.
  • Topic: Islam, Oil, Governance, Popular Revolt
  • Political Geography: Arabia, Germany
  • Author: Hafez Ghanem
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Brookings Institution
  • Abstract: Morocco has so far been a success story in the Arab world. It has followed a gradual approach to political reforms and democratization, which led to the adoption of a new constitution and the holding of free parliamentary elections in 2011. At the same time, economic growth averaged 4.5 percent between 2000 and 2010, reached 5.0 percent in 2011, 2.7 percent in 2012, and 4.4 percent in 2013. That is, Morocco has avoided the political upheavals and economic meltdowns that plagued other Arab Countries in Transition (ACTs). Maintaining this record of success will require continued political and economic reforms.
  • Topic: Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: Arabia, Morocco
  • Author: Frederic M. Wehrey, Ariel I. Ahram
  • Publication Date: 05-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Since the eruption of the Arab Spring in 2011, centralized military power has broken down in North Africa, the Levant, and Yemen, and several weak Arab states have turned to local militias to help defend regimes. While these pro-government militias can play important security roles, they have limited military capacity and reliability. Transitioning militia fighters into national guard forces with formal ties to the national command structure can overcome some of these limitations, but the shift must be accompanied by a wider commitment to security sector reform and political power sharing.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Yemen, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Anouar Boukhars
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Tunisia is struggling with insecurity, social tensions, and ideological divisions three years after President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted during a popular uprising. But the country is making progress on the path to democracy. Islamist and secular politicians have struck a potentially landmark agreement that could get Tunisia's democratic transition back on track. To solidify gains and ensure that a successful Tunisian experiment reverberates across the Arab world, socioeconomic struggles that fuel protests and radicalism must be confronted.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Democratization, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Arabia, North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman, Sam Khazai
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: As events in late December 2013 and early 2014 have made brutally clear, Iraq is a nation in crisis bordering on civil war. It is burdened by a long history of war, internal power struggles, and failed governance. Is also a nation whose failed leadership is now creating a steady increase in the sectarian divisions between Shi'ite and Sunni, and the ethnic divisions between Arab and Kurd.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Insurgency, Fragile/Failed State, Governance, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Katherine Zimmerman
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Yemen is at a pivotal moment today, three years after the outbreak of popular protests, and the future of America's strategy against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is on the line. Yemen is in the midst of a political transition process that will eventually reform and decentralize the government. But the success of the effort is by no means assured. The reforms will not, in any case, address the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions that provide fertile ground for al Qaeda. Moreover, the central state, never fully able to exercise its sovereignty throughout the country, is weaker than it was before 2011. Opposition groups, which have turned to violence in the past, may still seek to form independent states of their own, potentially collapsing the fragile Yemeni state structure entirely. American interests are bound up in this process by the fact that AQAP is among the most virulent al Qaeda affiliates that poses a direct threat to the U.S. homeland. Syria, Iran, and other foreign and domestic policy issues are distracting the United States and its regional partners from sustained engagement in Yemen. Without international support, the country is much less likely to ride this transition process smoothly and our security interests will be severely harmed.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Claude Bruderlein
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The Syrian refugee crisis represents one of the greatest humanitarian challenges the international community has faced over the recent years, prompting record-high levels of international aid. In view of the complexity of the political and social environment in which these challenges arise and the historical scale of the population affected, innovative and creative programmatic responses are essential to address the short and middle-term needs of refugees and reducing instability in the Middle East region. Over 20 students from Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard School of Public Health participated in "Assessment of the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Jordan and Critical Review of the National and International Responses," a winter field study course in Jordan supported by the Middle East Initiative and led by Professor Claude Bruderlein. Read more about their learning experience below and in the attached report.
  • Topic: Human Welfare, Humanitarian Aid, International Cooperation, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Erica Gaston
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: On January 25, Yemen's National Dialogue Conference (NDC) closed after more than ten months of deliberation. The flagship process within Yemen's post-Arab Spring transition, the NDC has been lauded as a positive model of inclusive and constructive negotiation. In Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, and Sudan, similar national dialogue processes have been mooted or are under way. The NDC made significant progress on a daunting range of governance, structural, and social contract issues. It broke through political and social barriers to engage a broader scope of political parties, actors, and civil society–a precedent that will be difficult to roll back. Despite these achievements, the NDC missed its concluding deadline because of a deadlock over the fundamental dilemma: the future status for southern Yemen and the structure of the Yemeni state. A partial solution was brokered, but only by extending the transition process and leaving tough issues to be resolved later. Meanwhile, other challenges, from unemployment to serious humanitarian shortfalls to rampant insecurity, also remain unresolved. The public has grown increasingly skeptical that either the NDC or the transition process will result in a government that responds to their needs. The verdict is out on the ultimate legacy of the NDC. Even at this early stage, however, the hurdles the NDC has faced may provide lessons for other countries considering such processes. At a minimum, exploring how certain process elements may have contributed to achieving the NDC's goals or not might suggest further areas for research, reflection, or continued engagement in the next stages of transition. Other countries considering a national dialogue should streamline the agenda to the extent possible, weighing carefully which political issues do or do not lend themselves to a large-scale public forum, and ensure an appropriate balance between the national dialogue and other transitional processes.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Islam, Insurgency, Governance, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Richard Youngs
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Politics in the Middle East are increasingly polarized and fragmented. The Arab Spring's citizen-led spirit of reform is still alive, but societies are increasingly torn apart by bitter tensions between Sunni and Shia, secular liberals and Islamists, and governments and civil society. As polarization has deepened, the concern with engaging in dialogue to bridge differences has intensified. The relationship between these mediation efforts and support for systemic reform will be a pivotal factor in the Middle East's future political trajectory.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil Society, Democratization, Islam, Regime Change, Governance, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Mongi Boughzala, Mohamed Tlili Hamdi
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Brookings Institution
  • Abstract: Regional disparities and inequality between the rural and the urban areas in Tunisia have been persistently large and perceived as a big injustice. The main regions that did not receive an equitable share from the country's economic growth, as compared to the coastal regions that are highly urbanized, are the predominantly rural western regions. Their youth often have to migrate to the cities to look for work and most of them end up with low-paying and frustrating jobs in the informal sector. The more educated among them face a very uncertain outlook and the highest rate of unemployment. This bias is strongest for female workers and university graduates living in the poor rural regions. The purpose of this paper is to study the underlying causes and factors of these disparities and to discuss policies and measures that may allow these regions to benefit from faster and more inclusive growth.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Poverty, Social Stratification
  • Political Geography: Africa, Arabia, Tunisia