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  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A simmering conflict over territories and resources in north-ern Iraq is slowly coming to a boil. In early April 2012, the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) suspended its supply of oil for export through the national Iraqi pipeline, claiming Baghdad had not fully repaid operating costs to producing companies. The federal government responded by threatening to deduct what the oil would have generated in sales from the KRG's annual budget allocation, poten-tially halving it. This latest flare-up in perennially tense Erbil-Baghdad relations has highlighted the troubling fact that not only have the two sides failed to resolve their dif-ferences but also that, by striking out on unilateral courses, they have deepened them to the point that a solution appears more remote than ever. It is late already, but the best way forward is a deal between Baghdad and Erbil, centred on a federal hydrocarbons law and a compromise on dis-puted territories. International actors – the UN with its tech-nical expertise, the U.S. given its unique responsibility as well as strategic interest in keeping things on an even keel – should launch a new initiative to bring the two back to the table.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Development, Ethnic Conflict, Oil, Natural Resources
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: On 31 January, Iraqis will head to the polls in fourteen of eighteen governorates to elect new provincial councils. The stakes are considerable. Whereas the January 2005 elections helped put Iraq on the path to all-out civil war, these polls could represent another, far more peaceful turning point. They will serve several important objectives: refreshing local governance; testing the strength of various parties; and serving as a bellwether for nationwide political trends. In several governorates, new parties or parties that failed to run four years ago may oust, or at least reduce the dominance of, a handful of dominant parties whose rule has been marred by pervasive mismanagement and corruption. This in itself would be a positive change with far-reaching consequences as the nation braces for parliamentary elections later in 2009.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Civil War, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The vast Palestinian refugee population is routinely forgotten and ignored in much of the Middle East. Not so in Lebanon. Unlike in other host countries, the refugee question remains at the heart of politics, a recurrent source of passionate debate and occasional trigger of violence. The Palestinian presence was a catalyst of the 1975-1990 civil war, Israel's 1982 invasion and Syrian efforts to bring the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to heel. Virtually nothing has been done since to genuinely address the problem. Marginalised, deprived of basic political and economic rights, trapped in the camps, bereft of realistic prospects, heavily armed and standing atop multiple fault lines–inter-Lebanese, inter-Palestinian and inter-Arab–the refugee population constitutes a time bomb. Until the Arab-Israeli conflict is resolved, a comprehensive approach is required that clarifies the Palestinians' status, formally excludes their permanent settlement in Lebanon, significantly improves their living conditions and, through better Lebanese-Palestinian and inter-Palestinian coordination, enhances camp management.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, Human Rights, Post Colonialism, Sovereignty, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: As sectarian violence in Iraq has ebbed over the past year, a new and potentially just as destructive political conflict has arisen between the federal government and the Kurdistan regional government in Erbil. This conflict has manifested itself in oratory, backroom negotiations and military manoeuvres in disputed territories, raising tensions and setting off alarm bells in Washington just as the Obama administration is taking its first steps to pull back U.S. forces. A lasting solution can only be political – involving a grand bargain on how to divide or share power, resources and territory – but in the interim both sides should take urgent steps to improve communications and security cooperation, run joint military checkpoints and patrols in disputed territories and refrain from unilateral steps along the new, de facto dividing line, the so-called trigger line.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Washington, Middle East, Arabia, Kurdistan
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant against President Bashir for atrocity crimes in Darfur has brought Sudan to a new decision point. The longruling National Congress Party (NCP) has defied the court, gained African Union (AU) and Arab League pressure on the Security Council to suspend the case and restricted humanitarian aid in Darfur, putting several million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and others at risk. Darfur rebels have been emboldened, reducing prospects for diplomatic progress. Simultaneously, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the North-South civil war is unravelling. As a new U.S. special representative begins to make his mark, the international community may be ready to sacrifice the justice issue for a quick-fix deal that would ensure elections in 2010. But Sudan will have peace only when its impunity system is dismantled. The right course is to build leverage by strongly backing the ICC so as to persuade the NCP that it will only secure the deferral of Bashir's case by adopting and implementing serious reforms.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Genocide
  • Political Geography: Africa, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 02-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The bomb attack on a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra on 22 February 2006 and subsequent reprisals against Sunni mosques and killings of Sunni Arabs is only the latest and bloodiest indication that Iraq is teetering on the threshold of wholesale disaster. Over the past year, social and political tensions evident since the removal of the Baathist regime have turned into deep rifts. Iraq's mosaic of communities has begun to fragment along ethnic, confessional and tribal lines, bringing in stability and violence to many areas, especially those with mixed populations. The most urgent of these incipient conflicts is a Sunni-Shiite schism that threatens to tear the country apart. Its most visible manifestation is a dirty war being fought between a small group of insurgents bent on fomenting sectarian strife by killing Shiites and certain government commando units carrying out reprisals against the Sunni Arab community in whose midst the insurgency continues to thrive. Iraqi political actors and the international community must act urgently to prevent a low-intensity conflict from escalating into an all-out civil war that could lead to Iraq's disintegration and destabilise the entire region.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 03-2004
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: For much of its history, Israel has focused on the neighbouring Arab states and Palestinians living in the occupied territories. Too often overlooked has been the status of those Israeli citizens who are Arab. They have attracted national attention only at times of heightened crisis, and even then in a highly reactive fashion. Unless systemic inequities facing Arab Israelis are addressed and an inclusive process is launched to define the state's long-term attitude towards this segment of its citizenry, prospects for internal strife and instability will remain high.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Politics, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Israel, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The removal of the Ba'ath regime in 2003 opened a Pandora's box of long-suppressed aspirations, none as potentially explosive as the Kurds' demand, expressed publicly and with growing impatience, for wide-ranging autonomy in a region of their own, including the oil- rich governorate of Kirkuk. If mismanaged, the Kurdish question could fatally undermine the political transition and lead to renewed violence. Kurdish leaders need to speak more candidly with their followers about the compromises they privately acknowledge are required, and the international community needs to work more proactively to help seal the historic deal.
  • Topic: Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Arabia, Kirkuk
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: When Israeli-Palestinian permanent status negotiations resume, a key stumbling block is likely to be the Palestinian refugee question. The plight of the refugees and the demand that their right of return be recognised has been central to the Palestinian struggle since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Palestinians warn that a dissatisfied, angry refugee community whose core demands remain unmet could undermine any peace agreement. For their part, Israelis reject any significant return of refugees, which would spell the end of the Jewish state. They suggest that the issue has been kept artificially alive by the Palestinian leadership and Arab states; improvements in the desultory living conditions of camp refugees coupled with substantial resettlement plans in host or third countries could, they argue, dilute the intensity of the demand for return.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Migration, Politics
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 01-2004
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The escalating cycle of Israeli-Palestinian military confrontation since September 2000, the breakdown in mutual trust and continued suicide bombings by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) – the most recent on 14 January 2004 – have returned the problem of how to deal with Hamas to the centre of the Israeli-Palestinian political and diplomatic equation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Politics, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 03-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Assuming the U.S.-led military operation to topple Saddam Hussein proceeds, the threat is very great of large-scale violence, centred on Kirkuk, erupting in Northern Iraq between Kurds and Turks. If that is to be averted, the United States must urgently take three important steps: get its own forces to Kirkuk first, ensure that Turkey exercises restraint, and simultaneously persuade the Iraqi Kurds to take no action that will risk provoking Turkey.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Ethnic Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Turkey, Arabia, Kirkuk
  • Publication Date: 03-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The success or failure of Iraq's post-war transition will chiefly depend on whether domestic realities and dynamics are accurately understood and can be translated into a form of governance that is accepted as legitimate by core Iraqi constituencies. Ultimately, the international community's task will be to navigate competing claims to power and influence, ensuring a level playing field and not anointing any pretender until a process can be constructed to give voice to the mass of Iraqis who have been disenfranchised by three decades of authoritarian Baathist rule.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Human Rights, Politics, Poverty
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 11-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: As attacks against the occupying forces and suicide bombs against civilian targets intensify, the need for a new political formula that will increase the powers, legitimacy and representative quality of Iraqi governing institutions is becoming more urgent than ever. The response to date, reflected in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1511, has been to tie the transfer of the exercise of sovereignty to the drafting of an Iraqi constitution, its adoption in a referendum and ensuing national elections.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Ethnic Conflict, Government, Politics, Religion, Sovereignty
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Arabia, United Nations
  • Publication Date: 11-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: We conducted a survey on behalf of the International Crisis Group and the Baker Institute to gauge support among Israelis and Palestinians for a proposed peace accord.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Ethnic Conflict, Politics, Regional Cooperation, Sovereignty
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The massive car bomb in Najaf on 29 August 2003, which took the lives of over 90 Iraqis, including the prominent cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, has put renewed focus on the fate of the country's Shiites. The attack comes in the wake of the attempted killing of other prominent clerics, including Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Saed Al-Tabatab'i al-Hakim, al-Hakim's uncle. Although it is too soon to assign blame, it is not too soon to assess potential consequences: a heightened sense of insecurity; anger, directed both at the former regime and at the current occupiers; intensified intra-Shiite rivalry; and a growing risk of sectarian conflict as militias loyal to different groups vie for control.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Politics, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The horrific bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad on 19 August 2003 has focused renewed attention on the question of who, if anyone, is capable of governing Iraq in the current highly volatile environment and, in particular, on what ought to be the respective roles, during the occupation period, of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the Interim Governing Council and the United Nations. This report proposes a new distribution of authority between the three - potentially acceptable to the United States, the wider international community and the majority of Iraqis - which would enable Iraq's transitional problems, including the critical issue of security, to be much more effectively addressed.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Ethnic Conflict, Politics, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Baghdad, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 07-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Settlement expansion in the Palestinian occupied territories is endangering the viability of the Roadmap and, most importantly, of the two-state solution it contemplates and which forms the core of President Bush's stated vision. Freezing settlements is not the Roadmap's only requirement and, to Israelis, may not appear as the central one. But unless action is urgently taken, there is a serious risk that Israeli steps will jeopardise any realistic prospect of a fair and sustainable territorial solution. The seriousness of President Bush and the wider international community about the objective of achieving a two-state solution must be matched by an equal commitment to halting the settlement enterprise that is jeopardising it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Ethnic Conflict, Politics, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Palestine, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 07-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Few political actors in the Middle East have seen their environment as thoroughly affected by recent events in the region as Hizbollah, the Lebanese political-military organisation that first came on the scene in the mid-1980s. In U.S. political circles, calls for action against Hizbollah, which is accused of global terrorist activity, are heard increasingly. With the ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime, the U.S. has upped its pressure on Syria and Iran - Hizbollah's two most powerful patrons. Meanwhile, Israel has made clear it will not tolerate indefinitely the organisation's armed presence on its northern border. Within Lebanon itself, weariness with Hizbollah and questions about its future role are being raised with surprising candour.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Ethnic Conflict, Politics, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Publication Date: 05-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: After several false starts, the Middle East diplomatic Quartet (composed of the U.S., the EU, the Russian Federation and the Office of the Secretary General of the UN) finally put its Roadmap to Israeli-Palestinian peace on the table on 30 April 2003. However, although the document has received widespread international endorsement, there is also widespread scepticism about its contents, about the willingness of the parties to implement its provisions and indeed of its sponsors to maintain allegiance to them.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 02-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Tucked away in a handful of villages in a remote pocket of Iraqi Kurdistan, a small group of radical Islamist fighters has been accused of being the Kurdish offspring of the al-Qaeda network, and thus has become a fresh target in the international war on terrorism. To compensate for its limited reach and popularity, this group, called Ansar al-Islam (Partisans of Islam), has built on tenuous regional alliances to survive in the harsh mountainous environment above the town of Halabja in northwestern Iraq, just shy of the border with Iran. These alliances have enhanced its role as a minor spoiler in predominantly secular Kurdish politics in the Suleimaniyeh governorate.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Arabia, Kurdistan
  • Publication Date: 11-2002
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Israel-Lebanon border is the only Arab-Israeli front to have witnessed continuous violence since the late 1960s and it could become the trigger for a broader Arab-Israeli conflict. Yet, in recent times it has been the object of very little international focus. Amidst raging warfare between Israelis and Palestinians and mounting war-talk surrounding Iraq, there is scant energy to devote to a conflict that, since Israel's May 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon, appears devoid of justification and which neither of its principal protagonists seems interested in escalating. But ignoring it could be costly. Neither its roots nor its implications have ever been purely local. Israel's withdrawal has lessened the immediate costs but in some ways rendered the problem more unpredictable. Stripped of its cover as an Israeli-Lebanese border dispute, it has laid bare both the underlying Israeli-Syrian confrontation and Iran's involvement in the conflict.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Ethnic Conflict
  • Political Geography: Iran, Israel, Palestine, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria