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  • Author: Ehud Yaari, Neri Zilber
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even as the deal offers short-term political benefits for both sides, it fails to resolve key issues separating them. The April 23 Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement announced in the Gaza Strip is the latest in a long line of attempts to bridge the intra-Palestinian divide. The timing of the agreement amid U.S.-brokered peace talks, as well as both parties' internal weaknesses, points to more serious intent than past efforts. However, the deal fails to address the most sensitive issues separating the two sides and likely can be explained by the political boost it offers to both leaderships. The only certainty is that the reconciliation deal severely complicates efforts to extend Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations past their April 29 deadline.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The thorny parliamentary process of selecting a new president could rekindle violence if it results in substantial delays or further sectarian friction. Last week, Lebanon's parliament convened for the first round of balloting to elect a new president. While Samir Geagea -- who leads the Christian "Lebanese Forces" party, which is aligned with the pro-Western March 14 coalition -- received the most votes, he failed to secure the requisite two-thirds parliamentary support. In the coming weeks, legislators are slated to continue meeting until a president is selected. Unlike last week's session, in which the Hezbollah-led March 8 bloc did not challenge Geagea's candidacy, the voting promises to become increasingly contentious in subsequent rounds. Perennial sectarian tensions exacerbated by the war next door in Syria have complicated the historically wrought and arcane election process. Should a compromise candidate not emerge by May 25, the term of current president Michel Suleiman will expire, leaving the post vacant. In the past, the presidency -- which by law must be held by a Christian -- was the dominant office in Lebanon's government. But the 1989 Taif Accord effectively stripped the position of its powers, delegating them to the prime minister, who must hail from the Sunni Muslim constituency. Given the post's largely symbolic nature, some might argue that the tense selection process is much ado about nothing. Yet the presidency remains an emotionally evocative issue for Lebanese Christians, and both the March 8 and March 14 blocs see a sympathetic chief executive as an important advantage worth fighting for.
  • Topic: Religion, Power Politics, Regime Change, Public Opinion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Haroon Ullah, Eric Trager, Vish Sakthivel
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A senior State Department advisor and two Washington Institute scholars discuss what lessons can -- and cannot -- be drawn from the Islamist political experience in Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, and other countries.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Middle East, Arabia, Egypt, Morocco
  • Author: Lori Plotkin Boghardt
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Washington should look for small changes in Kuwait and Qatar's political and security calculus that could provide opportunities to support counter-terrorist financing measures there. On April 30, the U.S. State Department noted that private donations from Persian Gulf countries were "a major source of funding for Sunni terrorist groups, particularly...in Syria," calling the problem one of the most important counterterrorism issues during the previous calendar year. Groups such as al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), previously known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, are believed to be frequent recipients of some of the hundreds of millions of dollars that wealthy citizens and others in the Gulf peninsula have been donating during the Syrian conflict.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Border Control
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Washington, Middle East, Kuwait, Arabia, Syria, Qatar
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The longer the war in Syria continues, the greater the threat these fighters will likely pose. Last week, ten Jordanian Islamists who were apprehended while attempting to join the jihad in Syria were sentenced by the State Security Court to five years of hard labor. And last month, Jordanian F-16 fighter jets destroyed a convoy purportedly carrying al-Qaeda-affiliated anti-Assad-regime rebels traversing the border from Syria. These "spillover" incidents are only the latest in a disturbing trend. Over the past year, reports of Jordanian Salafi jihadists have become routine, raising the specter of terrorism returning to the kingdom.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Border Control
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Jordan
  • Author: Ehud Yaari, Michael Morell
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A CIA veteran and an Israeli security expert discuss the growing presence of al-Qaeda affiliates in Sinai and Syria.
  • Topic: Terrorism, International Security, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Security crackdowns will not be enough to eradicate jihadist networks in Tunisia and Libya, which have the patience and ideological conviction to weather drastic reorganization. Eight months ago, the Tunisian government officially designated Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST) as a terrorist organization. Since then, Tunis has cracked down on the group's activities, going after both its dawa campaign (i.e., proselytization and social-welfare efforts) and any links members have to terrorist plots. On the whole, AST's public response has been to keep relatively quiet. Yet recent developments indicate that the group may be rebranding itself as Shabab al-Tawhid (ST; the Youth of Pure Monotheism), a shift that would have important implications for efforts to counter Tunisian jihadists and their associates in Libya.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Border Control
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Arabia, Tunisia
  • Author: Robert Satloff
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As narratives about the root causes of the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations take shape, U.S. leaders have a major decision to make about whether to disengage from diplomacy or deepen involvement in less high-profile ways.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Ehud Yaari
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Recent developments indicate a credible, previously unseen rebel threat to Damascus. While rebel militias have lately suffered serious setbacks in central and northern Syria, they are now recording significant successes in the south -- the region lying between Damascus and the Israeli and Jordanian borders. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's loyalists are on the defensive on all related fronts, risking the loss of this strategically important sector. It is becoming increasingly evident that a rebel push toward the capital from the south may be more promising militarily than an offensive from the so-far-stalemated front lines north of Damascus. The next few weeks may witness further major rebel gains on the southern front, which may ultimately pose the main threat to Assad's control.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Mohamed Salah Tamek
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Morocco has had a largely successful record of countering violent extremism within its borders, including the dismantling of numerous cells linked to al-Qaeda core or its North African offshoot, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Thousands of suspects have been arrested for perpetrating assassinations, assaults, and robberies; huge caches of heavy weapons have been confiscated; and authorities have foiled many attempts to attack security services, tourist attractions, diplomatic delegations, and places of worship for Christians and Jews. In addition, two channels of recruitment for jihadists in Mali were dismantled in late 2012, and two months ago, Moroccan and Spanish security forces jointly dismantled a transnational cell recruiting fighters for Syria and Mali.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Syria, Morocco, Northern Mali