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  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman, Sam Khazai
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: As events in late December 2013 and early 2014 have made brutally clear, Iraq is a nation in crisis bordering on civil war. It is burdened by a long history of war, internal power struggles, and failed governance. Is also a nation whose failed leadership is now creating a steady increase in the sectarian divisions between Shi'ite and Sunni, and the ethnic divisions between Arab and Kurd.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Insurgency, Fragile/Failed State, Governance, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: With the Syrian regime and opposition locked in a see-saw battle, Kurdish forces have consolidated control over large portions of the country's north. Their principal players, the Democratic Union Party (Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat, PYD) and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG), now dominate three large, non-contiguous enclaves of Kurdish-majority territory along the Turkish border, over which the PYD proclaimed in November 2013 the transitional administration of Rojava (Western Kurdistan). Kurdish governance is unprecedented in Syria and for the PYD, an offshoot of the Turkish Kurdish insurgent movement PKK, from which it draws ideological, organisational and military support. But it is unclear whether this is a first step toward stability and the Kurdish aspiration for national recognition, or merely a respite while the civil war focuses elsewhere. The PYD alone will not determine the fate of Syria's north, but it could greatly increase its chances by broadening its popular appeal and cooperating with other local forces.
  • Topic: Security, Ethnic Conflict, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The peace process to end the 30-year-old insurgency of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) against Turkey's government is at a turning point. It will either collapse as the sides squander years of work, or it will accelerate as they commit to real convergences. Both act as if they can still play for time – the government to win one more election, the PKK to further build up quasi-state structures in the country's predominantly- Kurdish south east. But despite a worrying upsurge in hostilities, they currently face few insuperable obstacles at home and have two strong leaders who can still see the process through. Without first achieving peace, they cannot cooperate in fighting their common enemy, the jihadi threat, particularly from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Increasing ceasefire violations, urban unrest and Islamist extremism spilling over into Turkey from regional conflicts underline the cost of delays. Both sides must put aside external pretexts and domestic inertia to compromise on the chief problem, the Turkey-PKK conflict inside Turkey.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements, War, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Richard Weitz
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Until a few years ago, the relationship between Washington, DC, and Ankara, Turkey, was perennially troubled and occasionally terrible. Turks strongly opposed the U.S. 2003 invasion of Iraq and have subsequently complained that the Pentagon was allowing Iraqi Kurds too much autonomy, leading to deteriorating security along the Iraq-Turkey border. Disagreements over how to respond to Iran's nuclear program, U.S. suspicions regarding Turkey's outreach efforts to Iran and Syria, and differences over Armenia, Palestinians, and the Black Sea further strained ties and contributed to further anti Americanism in Turkey. Now Turkey is seen as responding to its local challenges by moving closer to the West, leading to the advent of a “Golden Era” in Turkish U.S. relations. Barack Obama has called the U.S.-Turkish relationship a “model partnership” and Turkey “a critical ally.” Explanations abound as to why U.S.-Turkey ties have improved during the last few years. The U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq removed a source of tension and gave Turkey a greater incentive to cooperate with Washington to influence developments in Iraq. Furthermore, the Arab Awakening led both countries to partner in support of the positive agenda of promoting democracy and security in the Middle East. Americans and Turks both want to see democratic secular governments in the region rather than religiously sanctioned authoritarian ones. Setbacks in Turkey's reconciliation efforts with Syria, Iran, and other countries led Ankara to realize that having good relations with the United States helps it achieve core goals in the Middle East and beyond. Even though Turkey's role as a provider of security and stability in the region is weakened as a result of the recent developments in Syria and the ensuing negative consequences in its relations to other countries, Turkey has the capacity to recover and resume its position. Partnering with the United States is not always ideal, but recent setbacks have persuaded Turkey's leaders that they need to backstop their new economic strength and cultural attractiveness with the kind of hard power that is most readily available to the United States. For a partnership between Turkey and the United States to endure, however, Turkey must adopt more of a collective transatlantic perspective, crack down harder on terrorist activities, and resolve a domestic democratic deficit. At the same time, Europeans should show more flexibility meeting Turkey's security concerns regarding the European Union, while the United States should adopt a more proactive policy toward resolving potential sources of tensions between Ankara and Washington that could significantly worsen at any time.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Ana Villellas
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: The Kurds in Syria, Turkey and Iraq face complex challenges. Among the current Kurdish realities, the emergence of Kurdish self-governing areas in northern Syria controlled by what is considered to be the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) generates considerable uncertainty. The complex civil war in Syria and antagonism between the Kurdish Democratic Union Party and a fragmented Kurdish political spectrum generate many questions as to the future of these Kurdish areas in Syria. In the case of Turkey, old and new internal and regional factors have threatened the dialogue under way between Turkey and the PKK. These include the lack of clear state policies to resolve the conflict, Turkey's current internal crisis, the complications of cross-border dynamics, and the mutual impact of the Kurdish questions in Syria and Turkey. In Iraq, tensions continue between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the country's central administration. The consolidation of Kurdish autonomy – with new elements such as the energy agreement between Erbil and Ankara – continues to generate uncertainty in a context where many issues remain unresolved.
  • Topic: Civil War, Economics, Ethnic Conflict
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Jessica Lewis
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Anbar is not the only front in Iraq on which Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), now operating as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), is fighting in 2014. ISIS has also established a governorate in Diyala. Its spokesman has named the province the central front in the sectarian conflict he has urged. The security situation and sectarian tension in Diyala province are grave. ISIS has returned to fixed fighting positions within Muqdadiyah, Baqubah, and the Diyala River Valley. Shi'a militias are now active in these areas as well. Increasing instances of population displacement demonstrate the aggregate effect of targeted violence by both groups. It is important to estimate the effects of this displacement and the presence of armed groups within Diyala's major cities in order to understand how deteriorated security conditions in this province will interfere with Iraq's upcoming parliamentary elections. Furthermore, violence in Diyala has historically both driven and reflected inter-ethnic and inter-sectarian violence in other mixed areas of Iraq, including Baghdad. Diyala is therefore a significant bellwether for how quickly these types of violence will spread to other provinces.
  • Topic: Security, Ethnic Conflict, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Paul Salem
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: A decade after Saddam Hussein's fall, Iraq still lacks a centralized foreign policy that advances its national interests. Internal divisions, such as those between the Shia-dominated regime in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil, have given rise to alternative power centers with their own policy priorities. Iraqi foreign policy will remain disjointed and incoherent until Baghdad resolves the issues polarizing the country.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, Oil, Governance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Negotiations underway since late 2012 between Turkey's government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are stalling. A ceasefire announced on 23 March 2013 remains precarious, as maximalist rhetoric gains renewed traction on both sides. While the PKK should be doing more to persuade Ankara that it wants a compromise peace, the government has a critical responsibility to fully address the longstanding democratic grievances of Turkey's Kurds. One reason it frequently gives for its hesitation is fear of a nationalist backlash. In fact, the peace process has already demonstrated how willing mainstream Turks would be to accept steps towards democratisation. A much bigger risk for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as it heads into a two-year cycle of local, presidential and parliamentary elections, would be if the three-decade-old conflict plunges into a new cycle of violence.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, Peace Studies, Terrorism, Treaties and Agreements, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Turkey, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: Marina Ottaway, Danial Kaysi
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocratic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements. Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Democratization, Development, Ethnic Conflict, Terrorism, War, Fragile/Failed State, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, Kurdistan
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A simmering conflict over territories and resources in north-ern Iraq is slowly coming to a boil. In early April 2012, the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) suspended its supply of oil for export through the national Iraqi pipeline, claiming Baghdad had not fully repaid operating costs to producing companies. The federal government responded by threatening to deduct what the oil would have generated in sales from the KRG's annual budget allocation, poten-tially halving it. This latest flare-up in perennially tense Erbil-Baghdad relations has highlighted the troubling fact that not only have the two sides failed to resolve their dif-ferences but also that, by striking out on unilateral courses, they have deepened them to the point that a solution appears more remote than ever. It is late already, but the best way forward is a deal between Baghdad and Erbil, centred on a federal hydrocarbons law and a compromise on dis-puted territories. International actors – the UN with its tech-nical expertise, the U.S. given its unique responsibility as well as strategic interest in keeping things on an even keel – should launch a new initiative to bring the two back to the table.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Development, Ethnic Conflict, Oil, Natural Resources
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Nona Mikhelidze
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: In October 2009, after intense diplomatic talks and the active involvement of key external actors, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian signed two protocols aimed at restoring bilateral relations. The agreements have however remained unratified due to political obstacles closely linked to historic disputes and the geopolitical constellation in the South Caucasus. As a result, even if rapprochement between Ankara and Yerevan has the potential of producing far-reaching changes in the regional political equilibrium, the status quo remains the most likely scenario.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Diplomacy, Ethnic Conflict, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Turkey, Middle East, Armenia, South Caucasus
  • Author: Sean Kane
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Iraq's March 2010 elections delivered a surprising virtual tie in the ethnically mixed and strategically important province of Kirkuk, making it an opportune time for fresh thinking on how to address persistent disputes over its status.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Governance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: On 31 January, Iraqis will head to the polls in fourteen of eighteen governorates to elect new provincial councils. The stakes are considerable. Whereas the January 2005 elections helped put Iraq on the path to all-out civil war, these polls could represent another, far more peaceful turning point. They will serve several important objectives: refreshing local governance; testing the strength of various parties; and serving as a bellwether for nationwide political trends. In several governorates, new parties or parties that failed to run four years ago may oust, or at least reduce the dominance of, a handful of dominant parties whose rule has been marred by pervasive mismanagement and corruption. This in itself would be a positive change with far-reaching consequences as the nation braces for parliamentary elections later in 2009.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Civil War, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The vast Palestinian refugee population is routinely forgotten and ignored in much of the Middle East. Not so in Lebanon. Unlike in other host countries, the refugee question remains at the heart of politics, a recurrent source of passionate debate and occasional trigger of violence. The Palestinian presence was a catalyst of the 1975-1990 civil war, Israel's 1982 invasion and Syrian efforts to bring the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to heel. Virtually nothing has been done since to genuinely address the problem. Marginalised, deprived of basic political and economic rights, trapped in the camps, bereft of realistic prospects, heavily armed and standing atop multiple fault lines–inter-Lebanese, inter-Palestinian and inter-Arab–the refugee population constitutes a time bomb. Until the Arab-Israeli conflict is resolved, a comprehensive approach is required that clarifies the Palestinians' status, formally excludes their permanent settlement in Lebanon, significantly improves their living conditions and, through better Lebanese-Palestinian and inter-Palestinian coordination, enhances camp management.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, Human Rights, Post Colonialism, Sovereignty, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: As sectarian violence in Iraq has ebbed over the past year, a new and potentially just as destructive political conflict has arisen between the federal government and the Kurdistan regional government in Erbil. This conflict has manifested itself in oratory, backroom negotiations and military manoeuvres in disputed territories, raising tensions and setting off alarm bells in Washington just as the Obama administration is taking its first steps to pull back U.S. forces. A lasting solution can only be political – involving a grand bargain on how to divide or share power, resources and territory – but in the interim both sides should take urgent steps to improve communications and security cooperation, run joint military checkpoints and patrols in disputed territories and refrain from unilateral steps along the new, de facto dividing line, the so-called trigger line.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Washington, Middle East, Arabia, Kurdistan
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Three decades of efforts to reunify Cyprus are about to end, leaving a stark choice ahead between a hostile, de facto partition of the island and a collaborative federation between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities living in two constituent states. Most actors agree that the window of opportunity for this bicommunal, bizonal settlement will close by April 2010, the date of the next Turkish Cypriot elections, when the pro-settlement leader risks losing his office to a more hardline candidate. If no accord is reached by then, it will be the fourth major set of UN-facilitated peace talks to fail, and there is a widespread feeling that if the current like-minded, pro-solution Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders cannot compromise on a federal solution, nobody can. To avoid the heavy costs this would entail for all concerned, the two leaders should stand shoulder to shoulder to overcome domestic cynicism and complete the talks, Turkey and Greece must break taboos preventing full communication with both sides on the island, and European Union (EU) states must rapidly engage in support of the process to avoid the potential for future instability if they complacently accept continuation of the dispute. A real chance still exists in 2009-2010 to end.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Bülent Aras
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: The Palestinian question is a central issue at the both state and society level in Turkey. Thousands of Turkish people protested the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians in Gaza this month in different parts of Turkey. Turkish PM Erdogan responded to the Israeli action by labeling it an act of disrespect to Turkey and suspended Turkey's facilitating role for indirect talks between Israel and Syria. Erdogan also initiated an intensive diplomatic campaign at the regional and international levels, utilizing Turkey's seat in the United Nations Security Council. Turkey calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, and urges a compromise between rival Palestinian groups. Finally, the war on Gaza will have far-reaching consequences for the future of the region as well as for Turkish-Israeli relations.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Ethnic Conflict
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Turkey, Middle East, Palestine
  • Author: J. Scott Carpenter, Ahmed Ali
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On July 25, Iraqi Kurds go to the polls to vote in a joint parliamentary and presidential election. Although a heated competition in January produced massive change at the provincial level throughout the rest of Iraq, the electoral system produced by the incumbent Iraqi Kurdistan parliament prevents such sweeping changes in the north. Both the current coalition governing the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and the current KRG president, Masoud Barzani, will most likely be reelected. Despite the lack of change, the postelection period will create an opportunity for Baghdad, Washington, and the KRG to resolve outstanding issues that cause increased tension between Arabs and Kurds. Resolution can occur only if all parties take advantage of new political openings, however narrow.
  • Topic: Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Michael Eisenstadt, Ahmed Ali
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: During Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's visit to Washington next week, the Obama administration will likely seek to reinvigorate that country's flagging reconciliation process as part of ongoing efforts to establish a stable political order in Iraq. Progress, however, continues to be hindered by ongoing violence, deep-seated suspicions, and partisan politics, raising questions about the ultimate prospects for national reconciliation.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Matthew Levitt, Benjamin Freedman
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On December 8, the United Nations Security Council will host its first-ever thematic debate on drug trafficking as a threat to international security. This focus is notable. U.S. officials are increasingly concerned with the evolving threat of drug trafficking, especially as terrorist organizations stake a bigger claim in this illegal arena. In fact, on November 18, FBI director Robert Mueller met with senior Turkish officials to address U.S.-Turkish efforts targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), also known as Kongra-Gel. A press release from the U.S. embassy in Ankara following the meeting stressed that U.S. officials "strongly support Turkey's efforts against the PKK terrorist organization" and highlighted the two countries' long history of working together in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Terrorism, Narcotics Trafficking
  • Political Geography: United States, Turkey, Middle East, Asia
  • 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: Steven Simon
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: From a strategic perspective, Syria has gained some advantages and some disadvantages since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. President Bashar al - Asad, considered a callow leader five years ago, faced a testing period in 2003–06 and did more than merely survive. He withstood a threat of imminent regime change at the hands of the United States, and weathered heavy international fallout from the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and the summer war in 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah, which Syria has long supported. Bashar has emerged a cagey geopolitical operator, able to manage a delicate strategic balance, and Syria is now stronger than it has been at any time in recent history. Yet Syria faces a number of internal challenges due to Iraq's instability. Primary among these is coping socially, economically, and politically with a huge influx of Iraqi refugees, and mitigating the effect that sectarian (Shia-Sunni) and ethnic (Arab-Kurd) conflict in Iraq has on the fragile status quo in Syria.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Regional Cooperation, Religion
  • 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
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The Obama administration's “responsible redeployment” from Iraq is made even more urgent by the requirements resulting from worsening conditions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. For redeployment to occur on scale and on schedule, the United States seeks an end-state in Iraq that is stable and at peace with its neighbors. Simmering sectarian violence is inevitable, but it will not break Iraq. However, ethnic conflict between Arabs and Kurds could escalate into a major conflagration with regional implications.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Ethnic Conflict, Bilateral Relations, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East