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  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a former Iranian judiciary chief who holds a prominent position in the Assembly of Experts, now has two paths to leadership of the Shiite community. The first is as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, now seventy-seven; the second is to eventually take the place of Najaf-based Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who at eighty-six is the preeminent religious authority in Shia Islam. A certain air of mystery surrounds Shahroudi, whose life has been chronicled heretofore only in a flattering pamphlet produced by his own office. But the trends in his philosophy are clear enough: on the religious front, he has grown more conservative; in matters of Iranian nationalism, a harder-line revolutionary. Author Mehdi Khalaji offers here the first comprehensive study of Ayatollah Shahroudi, encompassing his upbringing in holy Najaf, his move to Iran after the Islamic Revolution, his role as a stalwart in Khamenei's power base, and his brutal tenure as chief justice from 1999 to 2009. A scenario worth imagining, though hardly inevitable, is one in which Shahroudi consolidates power as both Supreme Leader and transnational marja, thereby reinforcing Iran's regional clout and its revolutionary orientation.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Publication Date: 05-2016
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Islamic State (IS) is often identified as the world’s leading proponent of Salafism, or fundamentalist Sunni Islam. But, as Dr. Jacob Olidort points out, most of the world’s Salafis are not violent or politically active -- in fact, they explicitly condemn both. In this illuminating video presentation, Institute Soref Fellow Olidort provides an introduction to Salafi thought, describes the emergence of the Salafi movement, and deconstructs the Salafism of IS. This is essential viewing for anyone interested in the ideological roots of IS and how it diverges from other Islamist groups. Dr. Jacob Olidort, an adjunct professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University, received his BA in Middle Eastern studies from Brandeis University, his AM in Near Eastern languages and civilizations from Harvard University, and his MA and PhD in Near Eastern studies from Princeton University. Dr. Olidort has spent nearly two years in the Middle East, including a Fulbright Scholarship in the UAE and field work on Salafism in Jordan. He has given presentations and has briefed on Salafism and on countering violent extremism to various academic and policy settings. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, the Washington Post, the National Interest, and Lawfare, among other publications.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Salafism
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Institute hosted a policy forum on Sept. 22, 2016, to discuss the progress of Iraqi security forces against the Islamic State and their imminent operation to liberate Mosul. The panelists included Brig. Gen. William Mullen and Dr. Daniel Green, who also discussed how the coming battle for Mosul relates to lessons learned during their previous tour in Fallujah, where they served during the 2007 surge and which is the topic of their book, "Fallujah Redux: The Anbar Awakening and the Struggle with al-Qaeda" (Naval Institute Press, 2014). The discussion was moderated by Michael Eisenstadt, the Institute's Kahn Fellow and Director of its Military and Security Studies Program. Brig. Gen. William F. Mullen III, USMC, is the Commanding General of Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command at Twenty-Nine Palms, California, and recently served as the Deputy Commanding General-Operations, Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Baghdad from June 2015 to June 2016. In addition, he has served as director of the Combined Joint Operations Center, as a senior advisor to the Iraqi security forces, as a Regimental Combat Team Operations Officer in the Fallujah area (February 2005-February 2006), and as a Battalion Commander in Fallujah (March-October 2007). Daniel R. Green is a Defense Fellow at The Washington Institute. He recently served in Iraq as a mobilized reservist with the U.S. Navy from October 2015 to May 2016; in that capacity, he worked as a Sunni Arab tribal analyst, conducting engagements with local political and tribal leaders from Anbar Province. Previously, he served with the Navy from April to October 2007 as a Tribal and Political Engagement Officer in the Fallujah area. His publications include the 2011 monograph, "The Valley's Edge: A Year with the Pashtuns in the Heartland of the Taliban" (Potomac Books), based on his service in Afghanistan.
  • Topic: News Analysis
  • Political Geography: Iraq
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: IN EARLY 2017, Iraqi security forces (ISF) are likely to liberate Mosul from Islamic State control. But given the dramatic comebacks staged by the Islamic State and its predecessors in the city in 2004, 2007, and 2014, one can justifiably ask what will stop IS or a similar movement from lying low, regenerating, and wiping away the costly gains of the current war. This paper aims to fill an important gap in the literature on Mosul, the capital of Ninawa province, by looking closely at the underexplored issue of security arrangements for the city after its liberation, in particular how security forces should be structured and controlled to prevent an IS recurrence. Though “big picture” political deals over Mosul’s future may ultimately be decisive, the first priority of the Iraqi-international coalition is to secure Mosul. As John Paul Vann, a U.S. military advisor in Vietnam, noted decades ago: “Security may be ten percent of the problem, or it may be ninety percent, but whichever it is, it’s the first ten percent or the first ninety percent. Without security, nothing else we do will last.”
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Defense Policy, International Security, Reconstruction, ISIS
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 09-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The July 15 attempted coup, which exposed rifts within the Turkish military, coupled with the August 9 meeting between Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian president Vladimir Putin, and the Turkish incursion into Syria on August 24, appear to signal a change in trajectory for Turkey’s Syria policy. Since Erdogan’s ouster of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in May 2015, Turkey has already implemented some significant foreign policy shifts, including normalization with Israel and a desire to mend ties with Russia.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Civil War, Peace Studies, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Syria
  • Author: Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The administration needs to make sure that its imminent creation of a new rebel force is conducted with clear political goals, a concrete military strategy, and due consideration of likely operational contingencies.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Brenda Shaffer
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In last week's State of the Union Address, President Obama threatened to veto new legislation affecting five issues, four of them in the domestic policy arena and just one covering foreign policy. The foreign policy issue in question involved the prospect of new sanctions legislation targeting Iran. Correspondingly, the administration has recently ramped up efforts to conclude a nuclear deal with Iran.
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • Author: Andrew J. Tabler
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Washington's nascent policy of "uncoordinated deconfliction" with Bashar al-Assad's regime in the fight against the "Islamic State"/ISIS may not be a formal alliance, but it does have the potential to foster serious problems. The regime's tacit agreement to avoid firing on coalition strike aircraft -- juxtaposed with long delays in the Obama administration's train-and-equip program for the Syrian opposition and the president's October 2014 letter to Iran's Supreme Leader on cooperation against ISIS -- is creating widespread perceptions that the United States is heading into a de facto alliance with Assad and Tehran regarding the jihadists. If Washington continues this policy as is, it will merely contain ISIS, not "defeat" or "destroy" the group as called for by President Obama. Worse, it could lead to a deadly extremist stalemate in Syria between Iranian-backed/Hezbollah forces and jihadists, amplifying threats to U.S. national security interests.
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Syria
  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After two rounds of peace talks in Geneva failed to resolve the Syrian crisis, Moscow proposed in December 2014 its own peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition. Earlier this month, Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov confirmed that the talks would take place January 26-29, according to Russian press reports. Bogdanov has described the talks as "consultative" and "preparatory," without any preconditions or set agenda. They could, he said, lead to more concrete discussions. Although the United States is not participating in the Moscow talks, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry expressed hope on January 14 in Geneva that they "could be helpful."
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Moscow
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On January 18, six senior members of the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah and a commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were killed while visiting Quneitra in the Syrian Golan Heights, reportedly by an Israeli missile. The attack came just days after Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah threatened to deploy troops across the border into the Galilee in retaliation for repeated Israeli strikes against militia targets in Syria. In the past, the audacious timing and resultant high-profile casualties would have prompted significant and unambiguous Hezbollah military retribution. While the group may eventually retaliate -- anonymous Hezbollah officials in Lebanon say it is "inevitable" -- its ongoing military operations in Syria and the evolving sectarian dynamic in Lebanon may constrain its actions. The pressure to respond is great, but the last thing Hezbollah needs right now is an escalation with Israel that devolves to war.
  • Political Geography: Israel, Lebanon, Syria