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  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Why should anyone care about Fatah's fate? The 50-yearold movement, once the beating heart of Palestinian nationalism, is past its prime, its capacity to mobilise withered. Racked by internal divisions, it lost the latest and only truly competitive election in Palestinian Authority (PA) history. It promised to fight for liberation, achieve independence by negotiation and effectively manage daily lives through the PA yet achieved none of this. Those yearning for resistance can turn to Hamas or Islamic Jihad; the address for diplomacy is the PLO; governance depends on Prime Minister Fayyad in the West Bank, the Islamists in Gaza. President Abbas' threat not to run in upcoming presidential elections is the latest sign of a movement and project adrift. Yet Fatah's difficulties do not make it expendable; they make it an organisation in urgent need of redress. A strong national movement is needed whether negotiations succeed and an agreement must be promoted, or they fail and an alternative project must be devised. Fatah's August General Conference – its first in twenty years – was a first step. Now comes the hard part: to define the movement's agenda, how it plans to carry it out, and with whom.
  • Topic: Politics, Post Colonialism, Sovereignty
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Arabia, Gaza
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Syria typically, and at times justifiably, brings to mind stagnation and immobility. Yet, over recent years, change has been afoot. In 2008, it agreed to Turkish-mediated talks with Israel. It built ties with the Iraqi government after long depicting it as the offspring of an illegitimate occupation. It began to normalise relations with Lebanon, after years of resisting its claim to sovereignty. It accelerated economic reforms. These steps fall short of being revolutionary; some were imposed rather than chosen and reflected opportunism rather than forward thinking. Still, by Syrian standards, they are quite remarkable, especially in contrast to recent fervent militancy.
  • Topic: Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Maryland
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: How is one to engage Damascus? As the incoming U.S. administration examines the future of its relationship with Syria, seemingly persuaded that an improvement in bilateral ties and an Israeli-Syrian agreement could fundamentally modify the regional landscape, France's recent experience offers useful lessons. Determined to engage in dialogue - but also ready to break off if the other side was uncooperative - and creative in approach, while fixing it within a clearly defined framework of objectives, President Sarkozy also knew how to seize on unexpected opportunities when they presented themselves.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Sudan is sliding towards violent breakup. The main mechanisms to end conflicts between the central government and the peripheries – the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the Darfur Peace Agreement and the East Sudan Peace Agreement – all suffer from lack of implementation, largely due to the intransigence of the National Congress Party (NCP). Less than thirteen months remain to ensure that national elections and the South Sudan self-determination referendum lead to democratic transformation and resolution of all the country's conflicts. Unless the international community, notably the U.S., the UN, the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council and the Horn of Africa Inter-Government Authority on Development (IGAD), cooperate to support both CPA implementation and vital additional negotiations, return to North-South war and escalation of conflict in Darfur are likely.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Middle East, South Sudan
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Against the odds, the U.S. military surge contributed to a significant reduction in violence. Its achievements should not be understated. But in the absence of the fundamental political changes in Iraq the surge was meant to facilitate, its successes will remain insufficient, fragile and reversible. The ever-more relative lull is an opportunity for the U.S. to focus on two missing ingredients: pressuring the Iraqi government to take long overdue steps toward political compromise and altering the regional climate so that Iraq's neighbours use their leverage to encourage that compromise and make it stick. As shown in these two companion reports, this entails ceasing to provide the Iraqi government with unconditional military support; reaching out to what remains of the insurgency; using its leverage to encourage free and fair provincial elections and progress toward a broad national dialogue and compact; and engaging in real diplomacy with all Iraq's neighbours, Iran and Syria included.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Against the odds, the U.S. military surge contributed to a significant reduction in violence. Its achievements should not be understated. But in the absence of the fundamental political changes in Iraq the surge was meant to facilitate, its successes will remain insufficient, fragile and reversible. The ever-more relative lull is an opportunity for the U.S. to focus on two missing ingredients: pressuring the Iraqi government to take long overdue steps toward political compromise and altering the regional climate so that Iraq's neighbours use their leverage to encourage that compromise and make it stick. As shown in these two companion reports, this entails ceasing to provide the Iraqi government with unconditional military support; reaching out to what remains of the insurgency; using its leverage to encourage free and fair provincial elections and progress toward a broad national dialogue and compact; and engaging in real diplomacy with all Iraq's neighbours, Iran and Syria included.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Society of Muslim Brothers' success in the November-December 2005 elections for the People's Assembly sent shockwaves through Egypt's political system. In response, the regime cracked down on the movement, harassed other potential rivals and reversed its fledging reform process. This is dangerously short-sighted. There is reason to be concerned about the Muslim Brothers' political program, and they owe the people genuine clarifications about several of its aspects. But the ruling National Democratic Party's (NDP) refusal to loosen its grip risks exacerbating tensions at a time of both political uncertainty surrounding the presidential succession and serious socio-economic unrest. Though this likely will be a prolonged, gradual process, the regime should take preliminary steps to normalise the Muslim Brothers' participation in political life.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Egypt
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Step by methodical step, Hamas is consolidating its control over the Gaza Strip. The latest development followed a 25 July explosion that killed five of the movement's military leaders in addition to a young girl. In response, the Islamist movement mounted a broad campaign during which it overran the Hillis family, one of Gaza's most powerful and which includes prominent Fatah leaders; arrested hundreds of political activists; and raided more than 200 organisations and offices. The campaign largely wiped out the remains of the Palestinian Authority's security services in Gaza, brought families and smaller political factions to heel, further encroached on civil society and crippled Fatah's already limited political and military capacities to mobilise. In Arab capitals, there is continued talk of Palestinian reconciliation. In the U.S., there is discussion of a possible peace agreement between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert. On the ground, in both Gaza and the West Bank, events are taking a decisively different turn.
  • Topic: Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The policy of isolating Hamas and sanctioning Gaza is bankrupt and, by all conceivable measures, has backfired. Violence is rising, harming both Gazans and Israelis. Economic conditions are ruinous, generating anger and despair. The credibility of President Mahmoud Abbas and other pragmatists has been further damaged. The peace process is at a standstill. Meanwhile, Hamas's hold on Gaza, purportedly the policy's principal target, has been consolidated. Various actors, apparently acknowledging the long-term unsustainability of the status quo, are weighing options. Worried at Hamas's growing military arsenal, Israel is considering a more ambitious and bloody military operation. But along with others, it also is tiptoeing around another, wiser course that involves a mutual ceasefire, international efforts to prevent weapons smuggling and an opening of Gaza's crossings and requires compromise by all concerned. Gaza's fate and the future of the peace process hang in the balance.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Gaza
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: One more major effort, strongly encouraged by the UN and European Union (EU), should be made in 2008 to resolve the long-running dispute between ethnic Greeks and Turks on Cyprus and achieve a comprehensive settlement to reunify the island. All sides have much to gain from such a settlement. For the Greek Cypriots, it would end lingering insecurity, give them access to the Turkish economy, the most dynamic in the region, and increase their service industry's value as an eastern Mediterranean hub. For Turkish Cypriots, it will mean being able to enjoy the benefits of EU citizenship of which they are presently largely deprived. For the EU, the unresolved Cyprus problem now hampers its functioning on issues as diverse as cooperation with NATO in Afghanistan and Chinese shoe imports. And for Turkey a settlement would overcome a major obstacle to its convergence with the EU.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Cyprus
  • Publication Date: 10-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A long-festering conflict over Kirkuk and other disputed territories is threatening to disrupt the current fragile relative peace in Iraq by blocking legislative progress and political accommodation. Two events in particular stand out: a two-month stalemate in July-September in negotiations over a provincial elections law in which Kirkuk's unresolved status was the principal obstacle and, during this period, a campaign by the Iraqi army in and around the Kurdish-controlled disputed district of Khanaqin. To avoid a breakdown over the issue of Kirkuk, the current piecemeal approach should be discarded in favour of a grand bargain involving all core issues: Kirkuk and other disputed territories, revenue sharing and the hydrocarbons law, as well as federalism and constitutional revisions. Despite some progress, Iraq's legislative agenda, promoted by the U.S. in order to capitalise on recent security gains, is bogged down. The main culprit is a dispute over territories claimed by the Kurds as historically belonging to Kurdistan - territories that contain as much as 13 per cent of Iraq's proven oil reserves. This conflict reflects a deep schism between Arabs and Kurds that began with the creation of modern Iraq after World War I; has simmered for decades, marked by intermittent conflict and accommodation; and was revitalised due to the vacuum and resulting opportunities generated by the Baath regime's demise in 2003. In its ethnically-driven intensity, ability to drag in regional players such as Turkey and Iran and potentially devastating impact on efforts to rebuild a fragmented state, it matches and arguably exceeds the Sunni-Shiite divide that spawned the 2005-2007 sectarian war. Stymied in their quest to incorporate disputed territories into the Kurdistan region by constitutional means, Kurdish leaders have signalled their intent to hold politics in Baghdad hostage to their demands. At the same time, the Iraqi government's growing military assertiveness is challenging the Kurds' de facto control over these territories. Rising acrimony and frustration are jeopardising the current relative peace, undermining prospects for national unity and, in the longer term, threatening Iraq's territorial integrity. Rather than items that can be individually and sequentially addressed, Iraq's principal conflicts - concerning oil, disputed territories, federalism and constitutional revisions - have become thoroughly interwoven. Federalism cannot be implemented without agreement on how the oil industry will be managed and revenues will be distributed. Progress on a federal hydrocarbons law and a companion revenue-sharing law is inconceivable without agreement on the disposition of disputed territories that boast major oil fields, such as Kirkuk. And the constitution review has faltered over failure to settle all those questions, the solutions to which will need to be reflected in amendments reached by consensus. How to move forward? If there is a way out, it lies in a comprehensive approach that takes into account the principal stakeholders' core requirements. A sober assessment of these requirements suggests a possible package deal revolving around a fundamental "oil-for-soil" trade-off: in exchange for at least deferring their exclusive claim on Kirkuk for ten years, the Kurds would obtain demarcation and security guarantees for their internal boundary with the rest of Iraq, as well as the right to manage and profit from their own mineral wealth. Such a deal would codify the significant gains the Kurds have made since they achieved limited autonomy in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War and especially after April 2003, while simultaneously respecting an Arab-Iraqi - as well as neighbouring states' - red line regarding Kirkuk. This package entails painful concessions from all sides, which they are unlikely to make without strong international involvement. The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has been providing technical support on a range of issues and, since late 2007, has devoted the bulk of its efforts to the question of disputed internal boundaries. It will need stronger backing from the U.S. and its allies, which have an abiding interest in Iraq's stabilisation yet have played a passive bystander role that has confused Iraqi stakeholders and encouraged them to press maximalist demands. The U.S. should make it a priority to steer Iraq's political actors toward a grand bargain they are unlikely to reach on their own and to secure its outcome through political, financial and diplomatic support. There is little time to waste. As U.S. forces are set to draw down in the next couple of years, Washington's leverage will diminish and, along with it, chances for a workable deal. This serves no one's interest. The most likely alternative to an agreement is a new outbreak of violent strife over unsettled claims in a fragmented polity governed by chaos and fear.
  • Topic: Security, Ethnic Conflict, Oil
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 11-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: At a time when rising Arab-Kurdish tensions again threaten Iraq's stability, neighbouring Turkey has begun to cast a large shadow over Iraqi Kurdistan. It has been a study in contrasts: Turkish jets periodically bomb suspected hideouts of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK) in northern Iraq, and Ankara expresses alarm at the prospect of Kurdish independence, yet at the same time has significantly deepened its ties to the Iraqi Kurdish region. Both Turkey and Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG, a term Turkey studiously avoids) would be well served by keeping ultra-nationalism at bay and continuing to invest in a relationship that, though fragile and buffeted by the many uncertainties surrounding Iraq, has proved remarkably pragmatic and fruitful.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Nationalism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 12-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The current reconciliation process between the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) is a continuation of their struggle through other means. The goals pursued by the two movements are domestic and regional legitimacy, together with consolidation of territorial control – not national unity. This is understandable. At this stage, both parties see greater cost than reward in a compromise that would entail loss of Gaza for one and an uncomfortable partnership coupled with an Islamist foothold in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for the other. Regionally, Syria – still under pressure from Washington and others in the Arab world – has little incentive today to press Hamas to compromise, while Egypt and Saudi Arabia are tilting more pointedly toward Fatah. It will take significant shifts in domestic, regional and international attitudes for this to change. Palestine's political-territorial division, now over a year old, is set to endure.
  • Topic: Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Washington, Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt
  • Publication Date: 12-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Throughout Gaza's history, its powerful clans and families have played a part whose importance has fluctuated with the nature of central authority but never disappeared. As the Palestinian Authority (PA) gradually collapsed under the weight of almost a decade of renewed confrontation with Israel, they, along with political movements and militias, filled the void. Today they are one of the most significant obstacles Hamas faces in trying to consolidate its authority and reinstate stability in the territory it seized control of in June 2007. Although they probably lack the unity or motivation to become a consistent and effective opposition, either on their own or in alliance with Fatah, they could become more effective should popular dissatisfaction with the situation in Gaza grow. There are some, as yet inconclusive, indications that Hamas understands this and is moderating its approach in an attempt to reach an accommodation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Development, War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Haiti
  • Publication Date: 08-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Hamas's takeover of Gaza and President Abbas's dismissal of the national unity government and appointment of one led by Salam Fayyad amount to a watershed in the Palestinian national movement's history. Some paint a positive picture, seeing the new government as one with which Israel can make peace. They hope that, with progress in the West Bank, stagnation in Gaza and growing pressure from ordinary Palestinians, a discredited Hamas will be forced out or forced to surrender. They are mistaken. The Ramallah-based government is adopting overdue decisions to reorganise security forces and control armed militants; Israel has reciprocated in some ways; and Hamas is struggling with its victory. But as long as the Palestinian schism endures, progress is on shaky ground. Security and a credible peace process depend on minimal intra-Palestinian consensus. Isolating Hamas strengthens its more radical wing and more radical Palestinian forces. The appointment of Tony Blair as new Quartet Special Envoy, the scheduled international meeting and reported Israeli-Palestinian talks on political issues are reasons for limited optimism. But a new Fatah-Hamas power-sharing arrangement is a prerequisite for a sustainable peace. If and when it happens the rest of the world must do what it should have before: accept it.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Gaza
  • Publication Date: 08-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The pro-reform AK Party's resounding victory in the July 2007 parliamentary elections gives both it and the European Union (EU) a chance to relaunch Turkey's accession process, which has floundered since 2005 due to Europe's enlargement fatigue and a neo-nationalist backlash in the country. That process, pursued with real application, has the capacity to help both sides. Popular opinion may show fatigue but leaders and diplomats need to keep avenues open for when political confidence returns, as past experience with the enlargement process suggests it can.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 06-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Amid the media and military focus on Baghdad, another major Iraqi city – Basra – is being overlooked. Yet Basra's experience carries important lessons for the capital and nation as a whole. Coalition forces have already implemented a security plan there, Operation Sinbad, which was in many ways similar to Baghdad's current military surge. What U.S. commanders call “clear, hold and build”, their British counterparts earlier had dubbed “clear, hold and civil reconstruction”. And, as in the capital, the putative goal was to pave the way for a takeover by Iraqi forces. Far from being a model to be replicated, however, Basra is an example of what to avoid. With renewed violence and instability, Basra illustrates the pitfalls of a transitional process that has led to collapse of the state apparatus and failed to build legitimate institutions. Fierce intra-Shiite fighting also disproves the simplistic view of Iraq neatly divided between three homogenous communities.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Civil War, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: It has been a year since Hamas formed its government – and what a dismal year it has been. The Islamists thought they could govern without paying an ideological price, Fatah that it could swiftly push them aside and regain power. By imposing sanctions and boycotting the government, the Quartet (U.S., European Union (EU), Russia and UN) and Israel hoped to force Hamas to change or persuade the Palestinians to oust it. Washington promised security and economic aid to encourage Fatah to confront Hamas and help defeat it. The illusions have brought only grief. The 8 February 2007 Saudi-brokered Mecca Agreement between the Palestinian rivals offers the chance of a fresh start: for Hamas and Fatah to restore law and order and rein in militias; for Israelis and Palestinians to establish a comprehensive ceasefire and start a credible peace process; and for the Quartet (or at least those of its members inclined to do so) to adopt a more pragmatic attitude that judges a government of national unity by deeds, not rhetoric. The adjustment will not be comfortable for anyone. But the alternative is much worse.
  • Topic: Development, Government, International Organization
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Washington, Middle East, Israel
  • Publication Date: 11-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The process that will be launched shortly at Annapolis may not quite be do-or-die for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process but at the very least it is do-or-barely-survive. Positively, a U.S. administration that neglected Middle East peacemaking since taking office appears committed to an intensive effort: it has persuaded both sides to agree to negotiate final status issues – no mean feat after years of diplomatic paralysis and violent conflict. But pitfalls are equally impressive. The meeting, like the process it aims to spawn, occurs in a highly politicised context, with sharp divisions in the Palestinian and Israeli camps. These will make it hard to reach agreement and to sell it to both constituencies and, for the foreseeable future, virtually impossible to implement. Moreover, failure of the negotiations could discredit both leaderships, while further undermining faith in diplomacy and the twostate solution.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Publication Date: 12-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Slowly, incrementally, the realisation that a new strategy is needed for Iraq finally is dawning on U.S. policy- makers. It was about time. By underscoring the U.S. intervention's disastrous political, security, and economic balance sheet, and by highlighting the need for both a new regional and Iraqi strategy, the Baker-Hamilton report represents an important and refreshing moment in the country's domestic debate. Many of its key – and controversial – recommendations should be wholly supported, including engaging Ira n and Syria, revitalising the Arab-Israeli peace process, reintegrating Baathists, instituting a far-reaching amnesty, delaying the Kirkuk referendum, negotiating the withdrawal of U.S. forces with Iraqis and engaging all parties in Iraq.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Development
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: UN Security Council Resolution 1701 halted the month- long fighting between Israel and Hizbollah but did little to resolve the underlying conflict and, if poorly handled, could help reignite it. The resolution has held remarkably well, with only limited violations. However, the temptation by either party to overreach could trigger renewed fighting. The greatest threats would be attempts by Israel or UN forces (UNIFIL) to use 1701 as a blunt means of disarming Hizbollah in the south or by Hizbollah to test UNIFIL's resolve. 1701 should be seen as a transitory instrument that can stabilise the border by containing both sides' military impulses until bolder action is taken to address both domestic Lebanese matters (reforming and democratising the political and electoral systems; building a strong sovereign state and army; resolving the question of Hizbollah's armaments) and, especially, regional issues (in particular re-launching the Syrian track and engaging Iran). In short the international community must be modest in implementing 1701 for as long as it is not prepared to be ambitious in its regional diplomatic efforts.
  • Topic: Security, Treaties and Agreements, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Lebanon, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: If there is a silver lining in the recent succession of catastrophic developments in the Middle East, it is that they may impart renewed momentum to the search for a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is, admittedly, a slender hope. Since the collapse of the peace process in late 2000, none of the region's parties has displayed the requisite capacity or willingness to reach an acceptable compromise, while the international community has shown more fecklessness than resolve. But the Lebanon war must serve as a wake-up call: so long as the political roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict are not addressed, it will remain a bottomless source and pretext for repression, radicalisation and bloodletting, both in the region and beyond. Now is the time for an international push to launch a new peace initiative.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 10-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: With the Middle East immersed in its worst crisis for years, we call for urgent international action towards a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Everyone has lost in this conflict except the extremists throughout the world who prosper on the rage that it continues to provoke. Every passing day undermines prospects for a peaceful, enduring solution. As long as the conflict lasts, it will generate instability and violence in the region and beyond.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 06-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Throughout years of uprising and Israeli military actions, siege of West Bank cities and President Arafat's de facto house arrest, it was hard to imagine the situation getting worse for Palestinians. It has. On all fronts – Palestinian/Palestinian, Palestinian/Israeli and Palestinian/ international – prevailing dynamics are leading to a dangerous breakdown. Subjected to the cumulative effects of a military occupation in its 40th year and now what is effectively an international sanctions regime, the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) government cannot pay salaries or deliver basic services. Diplomacy is frozen, with scant prospect of thaw – and none at all of breakthrough. And Hamas's electoral victory and the reactions it provoked among Fatah loyalists have intensified chaos and brought the nation near civil war. There is an urgent need for all relevant players to pragmatically reassess their positions, with the immediate objectives of: avoiding inter-Palestinian violence and the PA's collapse; encouraging Hamas to adopt more pragmatic policies rather than merely punishing it for not doing so; achieving a mutual and sustained Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire to prevent a resumption of full-scale hostilities; and preventing activity that jeopardises the possibility of a two-state solution.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Publication Date: 04-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Le 3 août 2005, une junte menée par Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, Directeur Général de la Sûreté Nationale, et Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Commandant du Bataillon de la Sécurité Présidentielle, s'est emparé du pouvoir en République Islamique de Mauritanie. Ce coup d'État, qui répond à l'impopularité croissante et au manque de légitimité du régime déchu, représente une rupture avec le passé mais comporte également d'importants signes de continuité de méthode et de personnalités. Les nouveaux dirigeants devront démontrer que les changements l'emportent sur le statu quo et qu'ils respectent l'état de droit. La communauté internationale, qui a rapidement accepté le gouvernement après des objections de pure forme concernant la manière dont le changement avait eu lieu, devra les pousser à tenir leurs engagements, en particulier sur la question et le calendrier de la transition démocratique.
  • Topic: Development, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Mauritania
  • 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: 06-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: When the third round of the normalisation talks concludes in July 2006, India and Pakistan will be no closer than when they began the process in February 2004 to resolving differences, including over Kashmir. What they call their "composite dialogue" has helped reduce tensions and prevent a return to the climate of 2001-2002, when they were on the verge of all-out war, but progress has been limited to peripheral issues. India's prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, have reiterated commitments to sustain the dialogue. It is unrealistic, however, to expect radical change. International, particularly U.S. support for the process will likely dissuade either side from pulling out but asymmetry of interests and goals militates against a major breakthrough. The need is to concentrate on maintaining a cold peace until a long process can produce an atmosphere in which the support of elected governments in both states might realistically bring a Kashmir solution.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Politics
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Middle East, India, Kashmir
  • Publication Date: 12-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Lebanon has badly lost its balance and is at risk of new collapse, moving ever closer to explosive Sunni-Shiite polarisation with a divided, debilitated Christian community in between. The fragile political and sectarian equilibrium established since the end of its bloody civil war in 1990 was never a panacea and came at heavy cost. It depended on Western and Israeli acquiescence in Syria's tutelage and a domestic system that hindered urgently needed internal reforms, and change was long overdue. But the upsetting of the old equilibrium, due in no small part to a tug-of-war by outsiders over its future, has been chaotic and deeply divisive, pitting one half of the country against the other. Both Lebanon's own politicians and outside players need to recognise the enormous risks of a zero-sum struggle and seek compromises before it is too late.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Lebanon, Syria
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Middle East is immersed in its worst crisis in years following the capture of three Israeli soldiers by the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Lebanese Party of God (Hizbollah) in late June 2006 and early July, Israel's comprehensive offensive throughout the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, and the daily firing of rockets deep into Israel. And horrific as it is, the current toll of death and destruction could reach entirely different proportions should a new threshold be crossed – a Hizbollah rocket that strikes a chemical plant or a heavily populated area in Tel Aviv or Haifa, an Israeli bombing raid resulting in massive casualties, a major ground offensive, or the expansion of the war to Syria or Iran. A political solution to the twin crises of Lebanon and Palestine must be the international community's urgent priority. Waiting and hoping for military action to achieve its purported goals will have not only devastating humanitarian consequences: it will make it much harder to pick up the political pieces when the guns fall silent.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: As all eyes are turned toward efforts to stabilise Iraq, the conflict that has been percolating in Kirkuk remains dangerous and dangerously neglected. That struggle is equal parts street brawl over oil riches, ethnic competition over identity between Kurdish, Turkoman, Arab and Assyrian-Chaldean communities, and titanic clash between two nations, Arab and Kurd. Given the high stakes, the international community cannot afford to stand by, allowing the situation to slip into chaos by default. It needs to step in and propose a solution that addresses all sides' core concerns without crossing their existential red lines. The most viable negotiated outcome, which a special UN envoy should mediate between leaders of Kirkuk's communities as well as representatives of the federal government and the Kurdish federal region, would rest on the following provisions: Postponing the constitutionally-mandated referendum on Kirkuk's status which, in today's environment, would only exacerbate tensions; Designating Kirkuk governorate as a stand-alone federal region falling neither under the Kurdish federal region nor directly under the federal government for an interim period; Equitable power-sharing arrangements between Kirkuk's four principal communities; and continued reversal of past abuses, including managed return of those who were forcibly displaced by previous regimes; facilities and compensation for those brought by previous regimes (including their offspring) who agree to leave voluntarily; resolution of property disputes via the established mechanism; and a process by which former Kirkuk districts can either be restored to Kirkuk governorate or remain where they are.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan, Kirkuk
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: With stepped-up U.S.-led raids against Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, Jaysh al-Mahdi, and media allegations of the militia's responsibility for widespread and particularly horrendous sectarian killings in Baghdad on 9 July, the Shiite leader and his movement have become more central than ever. The war in Iraq radically reshuffled the country's political deck, bringing to the fore new actors and social forces, none more surprising and enigmatic, and few as critical to Iraq's stability, as Muqtada al-Sadr and the Sadrist movement he embodies. Largely unknown prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime and bereft of resources Shiites typically must possess to assert their authority, Muqtada al-Sadr at first was dismissed as a marginal rabble-rouser, excluded from the political process and, after he flexed his muscles, decreed wanted “dead or alive” by the U.S.-led coalition. Learning the hard way, the U.S. and its allies have had to recognise the reality of the Sadrists' strength.
  • Topic: Democratization, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: From Saudi Arabia's establishment in 1932, its minority Shiite population has been subject to discrimination and sectarian incitement. Beginning in the early 1990s, with then Crown Prince Abdullah's active support, the government took steps to improve inter-sectarian relations. But the measures were modest, and tensions are rising. The war in Iraq has had a notable effect, strengthening Shiite aspirations and Sunni suspicions and generally deepening confessional divisions throughout the region. King Abdullah needs to act resolutely to improve the lot of the two-million strong Shiite community and rein in domestic expressions of anti-Shiite hostility.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Government, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Publication Date: 08-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The surprise election of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, who is being sworn in as president this week, has given rise to dire predictions about Iran's domestic and foreign policies and relations with the U.S. and the European Union. There are reasons for concern. Based on his rhetoric, past performance, and the company he keeps, Ahmadi-Nejad appears a throwback to the revolution's early days: more ideological, less pragmatic, and anti- American. But for the West, and the U.S. in particular, to reach and act upon hasty conclusions would be wrong. Iran is governed by complex institutions and competing power centres that inherently favour continuity over change. More importantly , none of the fundamentals has changed: the regime is not about to collapse; it holds pivotal cards on Iraq and nuclear proliferation; and any chance of modifying its behaviour will come, if at all, through serious, coordinated EU and U.S. efforts to engage it.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Human Welfare
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 08-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: While the world focuses on Gaza, the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations in fact may be playing itself out away from the spotlight, in Jerusalem. With recent steps, Israel is attempting to solidify its hold over a wide area in and around the city, creating a far broader Jerusalem. If the international community and specifically the U.S. are serious about preserving and promoting a viable two-state solution, they need to speak far more clearly and insistently to halt actions that directly and immediately jeopardise that goal. And if that solution is ever to be reached, they will need to be clear that changes that have occurred since Israelis and Palestinians last sat down to negotiate in 2000-2001 will have to be reversed.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem, Gaza
  • Publication Date: 07-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Nearly four years after 9/11 , hardly a day passes without the "war on terrorism" making headlines, with Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia and now London holding centre stage. But away from the spot light, a quiet, dirty conflict is being waged in Somalia: in the rubble-strewn streets of the ruined capital of this state without a government, Mogadishu, al-Qaeda operatives, jihadi extremists, Ethiopian security services and Western-backed counter-terrorism networks are engaged in a shadowy and complex contest waged by intimidation, abduction and assassination. The U.S. has had some success but now risks evoking a backlash. Ultimately a successful counter-terrorism strategy requires more attention to helping Somalia with the twin tasks of reconciliation and state building.
  • Topic: Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Africa, United States, Iraq, Indonesia, Middle East, London, Somalia
  • Publication Date: 07-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Scheduled for 15 August 2005, Israel's disengagement from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank has already begun. How Israel for the first time evacuates settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories will have profound implications for Israeli-Palestinian relations, but also for Israeli society. Regardless of one's assessment of the settlers and their enterprise -- regarded internationally as illegal, by many Israelis as irresponsible and by others as the embodiment of the Zionist project -- it is bound to be a traumatic event for Israel. If it should be mishandled, accompanied by violent settler resistance or Palestinian attacks, the prospects for subsequent peace would be much bleaker. The international community's interest is to press for complete disengagement and then a credible follow-on political process.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Publication Date: 06-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The next stage in Iraq's political transition, the drafting and adoption of a permanent constitution, will be critical to the country's long-term stability. Iraqis face a dilemma: rush the constitutional process and meet the current deadline of 15 August 2005 to prevent the insurgents from scoring further political points, or encourage a process that is inclusive, transparent and participatory in an effort to increase popular buy-in of the final product. While there are downsides to delay, they are far outweighed by the dangers of a hurried job that could lead to either popular rejection of or popular resignation to a text toward which they feel little sense of ownership or pride.
  • Topic: International Relations, Development, Government
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Instead of healing the growing divisions between Iraq's three principal communities -- Shiites, Kurds and Sunni Arabs -- a rushed constitutional process has deepened rifts and hardened feelings. Without a strong U.S.-led initiative to assuage Sunni Arab concerns, the constitution is likely to fuel rather than dampen the insurgency, encourage ethnic and sectarian violence, and hasten the country's violent break-up.
  • Topic: Government, Religion, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries, Kurdistan
  • 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: 06-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Eight weeks after victoriously entering Baghdad, American forces are in a race against the clock. If they are unable to restore both personal security and public services and establish a better rapport with Iraqis before the blistering heat of summer sets in, there is a genuine risk that serious trouble will break out. That would make it difficult for genuine political reforms to take hold, and the political liberation from the Saddam Hussein dictatorship would then become for a majority of the country's citizens a true foreign occupation. With all eyes in the Middle East focused on Iraq, the coming weeks and months will be critical for shaping regional perceptions of the U.S. as well.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Baghdad, Arabia, Arab Countries
  • 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: 11-2002
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Since U.S. President George W. Bush's 24 June 2002 statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian reform has emerged as a key ingredient in Middle East diplomacy. In his statement, the president publicly identified “a new and different Palestinian leadership” and “entirely new political and economic institutions” as preconditions for the establishment of a Palestinian state. In early July, the Quartet of Middle East mediators (the European Union, Russian Federation, United Nations, and United States) established an International Task Force for Palestinian Reform “to develop and implement a comprehensive reform action plan” for the Palestinian Authority (PA). The September 2002 statement by the Quartet underscored reform of Palestinian political, civil, and security institutions as an integral component of peacemaking. The three phase-implementation roadmap, a U.S. draft of which was presented to Israel and the Palestinians by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns in October, provided details on this reform component.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia, United Nations
  • Publication Date: 08-2002
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Iran is at a crossroads. More than two decades after the revolution that swept Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini into power, its people and leaders are deeply torn about the country's future. The outcome of the struggle for the revolution's soul will resonate across the Middle East and have major implications both strategically and for ongoing efforts to curb violence, including terrorism, in the region. The internal struggle is fluid and unstable. While the notion of a clear-cut battle pitting conservatives against reformers is appealing, it does not do justice to the reality. There are divisions within both camps and connections between them; indeed, some actors may be “conservative” on certain issues and “reformers” on others. Likewise, the idea that Iran's rulers can be dismissed en bloc as obstacles to reform overlooks the genuine differences that exist regarding the proper role of religion, democracy, social norms, economics and foreign policy. The complexity of Iran's domestic situation makes it all the more difficult – but also imperative – for the international community to exercise caution, properly fine-tune its actions and anticipate their impact.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Human Rights, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Publication Date: 07-2002
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: President Bush, announcing U.S. policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on 24 June 2002, has set the terms of the international response to the conflict for the immediately foreseeable period. Before peace can be negotiated the violence has to stop. If the Palestinians are to have their own state – and the clear message is that they should – it must be one based on the principles of democracy, transparency and the rule of law. For that to happen the current leadership needs to go. The logic is sequential: political progress is conditional on a new security environment, institutional reform and, in effect, on regime change.
  • Topic: Security, Human Rights, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia