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  • 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