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  • Author: Sean Kane
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The two rising powers in the Middle East—Turkey and Iran—are neighbors to Iraq, its leading trading partners, and rapidly becoming the most influential external actors inside the country as the U.S. troop withdrawal proceeds. Although there is concern in Washington about bilateral cooperation between Turkey and Iran, their differing visions for the broader Middle East region are particularly evident in Iraq, where a renewal of the historical Ottoman-Persian rivalry in Mesopotamia is likely as the dominant American presence fades. Turkey aims for a robust Iraqi political process in which no single group dominates, sees a strong Iraq as contributing to both its own security and regional stability, and is actively investing in efforts to expand Iraqi oil and gas production to help meet its own energy needs and fulfill its goal of becoming the energy conduit from the Middle East to Europe. Iran prefers a passive neighbor with an explicitly sectarian political architecture that ensures friendly Shiite-led governments; sees a strong Iraq as an inherent obstacle to its own broader influence in the region and, in the nightmare scenario, once again possibly a direct conventional military threat; and looks askance at increased Iraqi hydrocarbon production as possible competition for its own oil exports. Baghdad meanwhile believes that it can become a leader in the Middle East but is still struggling to define an inclusive national identity and develop a foreign policy based on consensus. In its current fractured state, Iraq tends to invites external interference and is subsumed into the wider regional confrontation between the Sunni Arab defenders of the status quo and the “resistance axis” led by Shiite Iran. Turkey has an opening in Iraq because it is somewhat removed from this toxic Arab-Persian divide, welcomes a strong Iraq, and offers the Iraqi economy integration with international markets. Ankara could now allay Iraqi Shiite suspicions that it intends to act as a Sunni power in the country and not allow issues on which Turkish and Iraqi interests deviate to set the tone for their relationship. The U.S. conceptualization of an increased Turkish influence in Iraq as a balance to Iran's is limited and could undermine Turkey's core advantages by steering it towards a counterproductive sectarian approach. A more productive U.S. understanding is of Turkey as a regional power with the greatest alignment of interests in a strong, stable, and selfsufficient country that the Iraqis want and that the Obama administration has articulated as the goal of its Iraq policy. On the regional level, a strong and stable Iraq is a possible pivot for Turkish and Iranian ambitions, enabling Ankara and hindering Tehran. Washington may well have its differences with Turkey's new foreign policy of zero problems with its neighbors, but the Turkish blend of Islam, democracy, and soft power is a far more attractive regional template than the Iranian narrative of Islamic theocracy and hard power resistance. The United States should therefore continue to welcome increased Turkish-Iraqi economic, trade, and energy ties and where possible support their development as a key part of its post-2011 strategy for Iraq and the region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Imperialism, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The top concern for both Riyadh and Damascus remains blowback from Iraq: the ascendance of ethnic and sectarian identity and the spread of Islamist militancy. The need to contain this threat is the dominant force that shapes their relations with Iraq. Both Syria and Saudi Arabia have a vital interest in ensuring that Iraq's emerging political order is inclusive of Sunni Arab Iraqis, who have not yet been fully incorporated into Iraqi institutions. Syria and Saudi Arabia do not look at Iraq in isolation, nor do they assign it top priority among their foreign policy concerns. For them, Iraq is merely one element in a comprehensive view encompassing other regional players (including the U.S. and Iran) and other regional crises, particularly the Arab-Israeli conflict. Lingering resentment and bitterness toward Washington is now mixed with intense curiosity and modest optimism about President Barack Obama. Saudis still bristle when recalling how the Bush Administration sidelined Riyadh on Iraqi matters; as do Syrians, who believe the previous administration was intent on isolating and undermining Damascus. Iraq remains very much isolated in its neighborhood. Recent Progress on regional cooperation notwithstanding, these two neighbors are still focused more on containment than engagement.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Ethnic Conflict, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Deborah Isser, Peter Van der Auweraert
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Iraq has experienced several waves of mass displacement over the last forty years that have left complex land and property crises in their wake. As security has improved and some of the nearly five million displaced Iraqis have begun to come home, resolution of these issues are at the fore of sustainable return.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, Migration, Religion, Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Alistair Harris
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Last week's international donor conference to address the question of humanitarian assistance to Gaza underscores the myriad challenges confronting the process. Namely, how should the international community respond to the complex issues surrounding assistance in post-conflict recovery and reconstruction, particularly when several key donors reject any contact with Hamas, the governing authority on the ground? By any estimation, the Gaza reconstruction process will face several perplexing issues: How can billions of US dollars be effectively, transparently and accountably dispersed in a coordinated way, when several key donors and the Government of Israel reject any moves that will bolster the fortunes of Hamas, who m they classify as a terrorist organisation? What impact will an emerging Palestinian National Unity Government have on the mechanisms for overcoming many donors' reluctance to deal directly with Hamas? What opportunities and challenges does the reconstruction of Gaza pose for a rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah? Who will lead the reconstruction process and how will meaningful activity take place in the face of severe restrictions on access and movement? With Hamas in power in Gaza and Israel ref using to consider opening their common borders until kidnapped Israeli Defence Forces Corporal Gilad Shalit is released by Hamas, how is meaningful recovery and reconstruction even possible? In the absence of a credible political process, what use is reconstruction anyway if it merely returns the population of Gaza to their pre-conflict socio-economic imperilment? Lebanon faced a similar situation following the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Political Violence, Humanitarian Aid, Peace Studies, War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia, Gaza, Lebanon
  • Author: Alistair Harris
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: On the surface, peace has broken out in Lebanon, bringing to an end the 18-month political impasse between the governing March 14th coalition and opposition March 8th parties. Following a week of sectarian violence in Beirut, Tripoli and the Chouf mountains—the worst since the end of Lebanon's 15-year civil war in 1990—the opposing sides agreed to undertake talks in Qatar to resolve their longstanding political stalemate. The Qatari-sponsored Doha Accord that broke the logjam paved the way for the May 25 election of former Army Commander Michel Suleiman as a consensus president, to be closely followed by the formation of a national unity government and the adoption of a revised election law. The re-invigoration of Lebanon's political institutions, the opening of parliament and ending of the presidential vacuum are welcome signs of a return to what passes for normalcy among Lebanon's confessional elites; they are not however a return to the status quo ante. For many months Arab League Chairman Amr Moussa, like French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, had tried to cajole the Lebanese belligerents into a compromise deal based on the much-vaunted concept of "no victor, no vanquished". These efforts failed. The fact that Doha succeeded where others did not is a clear indicator that there were indeed winners and losers. Therein lies the potential for future conflict.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Elizabeth Detwiler
  • Publication Date: 07-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: This USIPeace Briefing, summarizing remarks from a former commander for detainee operations in Iraq, discusses recent successes in improving the conditions of insurgent detainees in the country.
  • Topic: Government, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Elizabeth Detwiler
  • Publication Date: 11-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: On October 3, 2008, six prominent Iraqis resident in the U.S. offered advice on Iraq policy to the incoming U.S. administration at an event convened by USIP. The panelists were: Qubad Talabani, U.S. representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government; Nesreen Barwari, former Iraqi minister of municipalities and public works (2003-2006);Raid Juhi al-Saedi, Middle East fellow, Cornell University School of Law, Clark Center for International and Comparative Legal Study, and former USIP Jennings Randolph Fellow; Feisal Istrabadi, visiting professor, Indiana University School of Law and former deputy permanent representative of the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations(2004-2007);Ghassan Atiyyah, visiting fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy;Karim Almusawi, U.S. representative of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. This USIPeace Briefing summarizes the event's main themes of discussion. Despite a few sharp disagreements, the speakers agreed that the next U.S. administration should support Iraq in its transition by 1) maintaining security while respecting Iraqi sovereignty; 2) strengthening institutions; 3) ensuring free and fair elections; and 4) encouraging positive regional engagement.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Julie Montgomery
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The dramatic improvement in security in Iraq has changed the U.S. policy debate. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are taking a bigger role, the Maliki government's capacity is improving and the U.S. is gradually stepping aside.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Sam Parker, Rusty Barber
  • Publication Date: 12-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Since their 2005 inception in Iraq, PRTs have struggled to fully define their mission, overcome structural problems, learn to work alongside their military counterparts and assist Iraqis down the path to self-governance and stability so that U.S. forces can withdraw. While the concept was born in the Afghan conflict, PRTs in Iraq bear little resemblance to their Afghan cousins, which are led and largely staffed by military officers. PRTs in Iraq are largely civilian-led and are required to address a host of issues including local governance, economic and women's development, health, agriculture, rule of law and education. In this respect, they resemble mini development task forces, harnessing civilian expertise sourced from the U.S. and augmented by military civil affairs officers.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Economics, Health, Terrorism, War, Governance
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 12-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The following U.S. interests underlie any U.S. consideration of policy toward Iraq and should guide the Obama administration: Restore U.S. credibility, prestige and capacity to act worldwide. Improve regional stability. Limit and redirect Iranian influence. Maintain an independent Iraq as a single state. Prevent Iraq from becoming a haven or platform for international terrorists. These interests cannot be fully achieved without continued U.S. engagement, even as the level of American forces needed to maintain security declines. Iraq is important to the U.S. Ignoring or hastily abandoning Iraq could risk a collapse with catastrophic humanitarian and political consequences that the new Administration would not be able to ignore.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Humanitarian Aid, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia