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  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The United States, its allies, and international organizations are just beginning to come to grips with the civil dimensions of "failed state" wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, the Sudans, Syria, and Yemen. In each case, it is clear that the civil dimension of the war will ultimately be as important as the military one. Any meaningful form of "victory" requires far more than defeating the current extremist threat in military terms, and reaching some temporary compromise between the major factions that divide the country. The current insurgent and other security threats exist largely because of the deep divisions within the state, the past and current failures of the government to deal with such internal divisions, and the chronic failure to meet the economic, security, and social needs of much of the nation's population. In practical terms, these failures make a given host government, other contending factions, and competing outside powers as much of a threat to each nation’s stability and future as Islamic extremists and other hostile forces. Regardless of the scale of any defeat of extremists, the other internal tensions and divisions with each country also threaten to make any such “victory” a prelude to new forms of civil war, and/or an enduring failure to cope with security, stability, recovery, and development. Any real form of victory requires a different approach to stability operations and civil-military affairs. In each case, the country the U.S. is seeking to aid failed to make the necessary economic progress and reforms to meet the needs of its people – and sharply growing population – long before the fighting began. The growth of these problems over a period of decades helped trigger the sectarian, ethnic, and other divisions that made such states vulnerable to extremism and civil conflict, and made it impossible for the government to respond effectively to crises and wars.
  • Topic: Security, War, Fragile/Failed State, ISIS, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Africa, United States, Iraq, Middle East, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sundan
  • Author: Melissa Dalton
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: 2017 marked a significant shift in the two wars in Syria. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Coalition forces drove ISIS from its self-proclaimed caliphate capital in Raqqa, across northern Syria, and down the Euphrates River Valley. Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, backed by Russia and Iran, secured key population areas and strategic locations in the center and coast, and stretched to the eastern border to facilitate logistics and communications for Iranian-backed militias. In both wars, Syrian civilians have lost profoundly. They also have shown incredible resilience. Still, the outcome of both wars is inconclusive. Although major areas have been cleared of ISIS, SDF and Coalition forces are fighting the bitter remnants of ISIS in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. Enduring security in ISIS-cleared areas now depends on governance and restoration of services. Turkey’s intervention into Syrian Kurdish-controlled Afrin risks pulling the sympathetic Kurdish components of the SDF away from the counterterrorism and stabilization efforts in Syria’s east in order to fight Turkey, a U.S. ally. With a rumbling Sunni insurgency in pockets of Syria’s heartland, Assad and his supporters continue to pummel Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus and threaten Idlib. They are unleashing both conventional and chemical weapons on the remnants of Syrian opposition fighters and indiscriminately targeting civilians. The Trump administration now is attempting to connect the outcome of these two wars. The Obama administration tried similarly but ultimately prioritized the counter-ISIS mission. The drivers of the Syrian civil war and the ISIS war are rooted in the same problem: bad governance. Thus, a sensible resolution of both wars must address Syria’s governance. However, squaring U.S. policy goals with current operations and resources the United States has employed in Syria will require a degree of calibration, stitching together several lines of effort, and committing additional U.S. and international resources. Orchestrating this level of U.S. effort has proven elusive over the last six years.
  • Topic: Civil War, Violent Extremism, ISIS, Civilians
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Daniel F. Runde, Romina Bandura
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) is a small independent federal agency whose mission is to help American “companies create U.S. jobs through the export of U.S. goods and services for priority development projects in emerging economies.” USTDA links American businesses to export opportunities in emerging markets by funding activities such as project preparation and partnership building in sectors including transportation, energy, and telecommunications. Since it was established 25 years ago, the agency has generated a total of $61 billion in U.S. exports and supported over 500,000 American jobs. In connecting American business to such opportunities, USTDA also links American technology’s best practices and ingenuity with U.S. trade and development policy priorities. USTDA is an instrument to enable American-led infrastructure development in emerging economies and, therefore, frequently sees increasing competition from government-backed Chinese firms and the challenge they can pose to American commercial engagement under the flag of One Belt, One Road (OBOR). OBOR is paving the way for Chinese engineering, procurement, and construction companies to prepare and develop infrastructure projects in OBOR countries in a way that favors Chinese standards, thereby exerting significant pressure to select Chinese suppliers. This creates a potentially vicious cycle—the more China builds, the faster their standards become the international norm, and, ultimately, this cycle could foreclose export opportunities for U.S. businesses and harm American competitiveness in global infrastructure development. U.S. exporters are increasingly requesting USTDA intervention at the pivotal, early stages of a project’s development, to compete in markets, such as the OBOR countries, where they frequently face Chinese competition. Of note, 40 percent of USTDA’s activities in 2016 were in OBOR countries across South and Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Although there are other agencies that may seem to do work similar to USTDA, there are various aspects that make it a unique agency. This paper provides a brief description of USTDA, its origin and evolution, the impact on the U.S. economy and its proactive collaboration across U.S agencies. Finally, it offers a set of recommendations for USTDA on how to improve its operations and strengthen its role in the developing world.
  • Topic: Development, Energy Policy, Communications, Infrastructure, Trade, Transportation
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Middle East, Asia, North America
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The U.S. has learned many lessons in its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria—most of them the hard way. It has had to adapt the strategies, tactics, and force structures designed to fight regular wars to conflicts dominated by non-state actors. It has had to deal with threats shaped by ideological extremism far more radical than the communist movements it struggled against in countries like Vietnam. It has found that the kind of “Revolution in Military Affairs,” or RMA, that helped the U.S. deter and encourage the collapses of the former Soviet Union does not win such conflicts against non-state actors, and that it faces a different mix of threats in each such war—such as in cases like Libya, Yemen, Somalia and a number of states in West Africa. The U.S. does have other strategic priorities: competition with China and Russia, and direct military threats from states like Iran and North Korea. At the same time, the U.S. is still seeking to find some form of stable civil solution to the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria—as well as the conflicts Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and West Africa. Reporting by the UN, IMF, and World Bank also shows that the mix of demographic, political governance, and economic forces that created the extremist threats the U.S. and its strategic partners are now fighting have increased in much of the entire developing world since the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, and the political upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. The Burke Chair at CSIS has prepared a working paper that suggests the U.S. needs to build on the military lessons it has learned from its "long wars" in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries in order to carry out a new and different kind of “Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs,” or RCMA. This revolution involves very different kinds of warfighting and military efforts from the RMA. The U.S. must take full advantage of what it is learning about the need for different kinds of train and assist missions, the use of airpower, strategic communications, and ideological warfare. At the same time, the U.S. must integrate these military efforts with new civilian efforts that address the rise of extremist ideologies and internal civil conflicts. It must accept the reality that it is fighting "failed state" wars, where population pressures and unemployment, ethnic and sectarian differences, critical problems in politics and governance, and failures to meet basic economic needs are a key element of the conflict. In these elements of conflict, progress must be made in wartime to achieve any kind of victory, and that progress must continue if any stable form of resolution is to be successful.
  • Topic: Civil Society, United Nations, Military Strategy, Governance, Military Affairs, Developing World
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Iraq, Middle East, West Africa, Somalia, Sundan
  • Author: Jon B. Alterman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: n 2014, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embarked on a bold experiment: It began drafting young men into the military. This move was not only a departure for the Emirates, it was a departure from world trends. Governments have been moving away from national service requirements for decades as military missions have changed and governments have sought to create highly skilled all-volunteer armies. But the UAE move to press young men into military service was meant to build the country, not just the army. Several factors contributed to the decision to adopt conscription. One was a deeply unsettled regional environment. Another was a drive to promote a stronger sense of shared Emirati identity. A third was a growing fear that young Emirati men were becoming lazy and “soft” just as the government eyed an increasing imperative to shape its workforce for a world less centered on oil. A fourth consideration was the UAE’s resolve to blunt the forces that contributed to the Arab uprisings in 2011. Staring down all of these factors, the UAE leadership decided a bold intervention was needed. The leadership constructed a program combining intensive physical fitness training with military training, national education, and character education. It did not only reach 18 year-olds. Everyone 30 years of age and younger is required to register, pulling men from their jobs and families to live with their peers in barracks, perform predawn calisthenics, and clean toilets. Those lacking the fitness for military training—nearly one in five—are not exempted, but rather are trained for civilian roles in vital sectors. The UAE drew from careful studies of other national service programs around the world—especially in Finland, Singapore, and South Korea—and had indirect knowledge of Israel’s program. Compared to these countries, the UAE has made innovations in its approach to citizenship education, workforce development, and public health. Women can volunteer, but fewer than 850 have done so, compared to 50,000 male conscripts. Women are cast largely in a supportive role as relatives of conscripts.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Women, Citizenship, Services
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Persian Gulf, UAE
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The shifts in Saudi Arabia's power structure that have taken place since King Salman came to power in January 2015 have created a new set of Saudi priorities for shaping Saudi Arabia's future. These new priorities have led to major changes in Saudi Arabia’s national security structure and leadership, and to calls for major social and economic reform. They have changed the leadership of the Saudi Ministry of Interior, National Guard, and Foreign Ministry. These new priorities have led to participation in a major war in Yemen, efforts to isolate Qatar that have broken up an already weak and divided Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and deeper tensions with Iran over its military build-up and efforts to expand its regional influence. Most of the earlier changes at top levels of the Saudi government and security structure were motivated by new King's desire to consolidate power at the top of the government and royal family. In the process they have made Mohammed bin Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud (normally referred to as Mohammed bin Salman or “MBS”) the Crown Prince, First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, and President of the Council for Economic and Development Affair – combining the responsibilities for Saudi Arabia’s security, civil sector, and economic development to one man. The more recent changes to the Saudi national security sector and military command made in February 2018 are harder to interpret. There is no way­­—as of yet— to put the changes in the Saudi national security sector and military command structure into perspective. One can speculate that these changes were either a further effort to assert control by a new regime, or part of a serious effort by the Crown Prince to improve Saudi military planning, budgeting & fiscal management, and military operations. Mohammed bin Salman may have been reacting to the lack of progress in the war in Yemen, Saudi tensions with Qatar, and MBS's feelings that too much of the Kingdom's security spending has been wasteful, poorly planned, and involved some element of corruption. Speculation aside, there are no credible reports that provide a reliable "inside" picture of what is happening. What is clear, however, is that the Kingdom has been spending far too large a portion of its economy on security priorities that have yielded uncertain results. This spending on security is large enough to compete with Saudi Arabia's ability to fund its 2030 plan to reform and modernize its economy and social structure. Saudi Arabia must better balance its civil and national security spending by reducing its security spending and using its resources far more effectively.
  • Topic: National Security, Military Strategy, Budget, Leadership, Military Spending
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Few recent American foreign policy decisions have been as divisive as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear arms control agreement with Iran. Advocates of the agreement have focused far too exclusively on its potential benefits. Opponents equally exclusively on its potential faults. Both sides tend to forget that any feasible arms control agreement between what are hostile sides tends to be a set of compromises that are an extension of arms races and potential conflicts by other means. As a result, imperfect agreements with uncertain results are the rule, not the exception. President Trump has made it clear that he opposes the agreement and would like to terminate it. His dismissal of Rex Tillerson as Security of State, and his replacement by Mike Pompeo – along with his dismissal of General H.R. McMaster and replacement with John Bolton – indicate that President Trump may well seek to terminate the agreement in the near future – action which might or might not have significant bipartisan support. He faces a May 5th to decide whether to again waive economic sanction against Iran, a decision which comes up for renewal every 120 days.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Gurmeet Kanwai
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Issue The development of Gwadar Port is a key element of the greater China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It speaks to both the strength of the China-Pakistan relationship and the reach of China’s grand strategy. With Pakistan’s two other major ports operating near capacity with no room for expansion, projects in Gwadar promise to eventually handle one million tons of cargo annually, while also providing significant industrial, oil, and transportation infrastructure. Though a “monument of Pakistan-China friendship,” there are misgivings on both sides about CPEC, including the safety of Chinese workers, the resentment of Baloch nationalists, and the growing debt trap created by the project. The prospect of the PLA Navy in Gwadar poses greater security questions, as it forms another link in China’s efforts to expand its maritime presence in the Indo-Pacific region. The members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad,” comprised of India, Japan, Australia, and the United States, should counter China’s strategic outreach by networking with other like-minded countries on cooperative security frameworks to ensure a free, open, prosperous, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.
  • Topic: Security, Oil, Regional Cooperation, Global Political Economy, Trade
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, United States, Japan, China, Middle East, India, Asia, Australia
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: With President Donald Trump threatening to pull out of Syria, the Bashar al-Assad regime ramping up its military campaign against rebels, and the Islamic State in decline, al Qaeda has attempted to resurge and reposition itself at the center of global Salafi-jihadist activity. Syria has been perhaps its most important prize. For some, al Qaeda’s cunning and concerted efforts in Syria and other countries highlight the group’s resilience and indicate its potential to resurge and rejuvenate. Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that al Qaeda has largely failed to take advantage of the Syrian war. Confusion and finger-pointing have been rampant as individuals have clashed over ideology, territorial control, personalities, loyalty to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and command-and-control relationships. Al Qaeda’s struggles in Syria have also highlighted some weaknesses of al-Zawahiri. The al Qaeda leader has had difficulty communicating with local groups in Syria, been slow to respond to debates in the field, and discovered that some Salafi-jihadist fighters have brazenly disobeyed his guidance. As one Salafi-jihadist leader remarked, “The situation in Syria for the jihad is extremely dire.”
  • Topic: Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Al Qaeda
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman, Nicholas Harrington
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Middle East has long been one of the most unstable regions in the world, and there are no present prospects for change in the near future. This instability is the result of ongoing conflicts and tensions, and a variety of political tensions and divisions. It also, however, is the result of a wide variety of long-term pressures growing out of poor governance, corruption, economic failures, demographic pressures and other forces within the civil sector.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Governance, Political stability, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East