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  • Author: Adel Bakawan
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Iraqi Kurdistan, previously known as a secure and stable region amidst the chaotic and shaken Middle East, was struck by a wave of attacks in 2016. Between September and December of that year, there were five recorded terrorist operations led by 249 Kurdish jihadists rallied by the Islamic State (ISIS) or Daesh, of which 47 were killed and 43 were arrested by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). In fact, Iraqi Kurdistan, with a population of five million inhabitants, has supplied ISIS with 2,000 jihadists. Since the launch of the Mosul offensive on 17th October 2016, Kurdistan has been preparing itself, like many other countries in the region and a number of European countries, to face its worst nightmare: the Kurdish jihadists’ return to the country. Although a series of threats weigh upon the leaders of the KRG, such as social and economic crises, political division between rival parties; Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the prospect of a new civil war, and the intervention of neighbouring countries – the return of the Kurds of Daesh is currently the most troublesome.
  • Topic: Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Carter Center
  • Abstract: Since its inception, Daesh has been successfully recruiting women across national and ideological lines to assume key positions in advancing the organization’s objectives. According to recent estimates, out of 31,000 fighters within Daesh territories, almost one-fifth, roughly 6,200, are women. Yet, to date, research and policy focus on women’s involvement in Daesh has been scant. Several media accounts that have covered female participation tend to be alarmingly reductionist in their description of the roles women play in Daesh. These reports primarily categorize women as either passive victims, “Jihadi brides,” or subsidiary supporters of male guardians with negligible influence. This approach not only ignores the multiplicity of roles played by women to expand Daesh’s ideological and operational agenda, but also oversimplifies the motivations behind their decisions to join Daesh. Just like their male counterparts, women are complex human beings with conflicting aspirations, ideological leanings, and life struggles that inform the choices they make.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Gender Issues, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The international community’s e orts have recently succeeded in reducing the sources of funding of many terror organizations in the Middle East. ISIS is one instance, where the military operations launched by a US- led global coalition since September 2014, have signi cantly reduced the terrorist group’s funds generated from oil sales and illicit trade and caused huge losses.
  • Topic: Terrorism, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Lina Khatib
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The self-proclaimed Islamic State is a hybrid jihadist group with a declared goal of establishing a “lasting and expanding” caliphate. Its strategy for survival and growth blends military, political, social, and economic components. Yet the U.S.-led international intervention against it has largely been limited to air strikes. The gaps in the international coalition’s approach as well as deep sectarian divisions in Iraq and the shifting strategies of the Syrian regime and its allies are allowing the Islamic State to continue to exist and expand.
  • Topic: Civil War, Islam, Terrorism, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: Anthony H Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The events in Iraq over the last month have shown that any success in Iraq requires both the Iraqi government and the United States to go far beyond the war against ISIS, and makes any partisan debate over who lost Iraq as damaging to U.S. national interests as any other aspect of America’s drift toward partisan extremism. The war against ISIS is a critical U.S. national security interest. It not only threatens to create a major center of terrorism and extremism in a critical part of the Middle East, and one that could spread to threaten the flow of energy exports and the global economy, but could become a major center of international terrorism. It is important to understand, however, that ISIS is only one cause of instability in the region, and only one of the threats caused by spreading sectarian and ethnic violence.
  • Topic: Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Maria Giulia Amadio Viceré
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Under certain conditions, such as security crises, an integrated external EU counter-terrorism policy can emerge without leading to the supra-nationalisation of policy-making. This paper analyses the role of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy with the objective of assessing the influence that such figure can have on the governance of EU counter-terrorism policies. It does so by assessing the EU’s response to three security crises, namely: the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent bombings in Madrid (2004) and London (2005); the Arab Spring and the following destabilisation of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA); and the emergence and spread of Da’esh.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency, European Union
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East
  • Publication Identifier: 978-88-98650-53-8
  • Publication Identifier Type: DOI
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Growing numbers of Central Asian citizens, male and female, are travelling to the Middle East to fight or otherwise support the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL or ISIS). Prompted in part by political marginalisation and bleak economic prospects that characterise their post-Soviet region, 2,000-4,000 have in the past three years turned their back on their secular states to seek a radical alternative. IS beckons not only to those who seek combat experience, but also to those who envision a more devout, purposeful, fundamentalist religious life. This presents a complex problem to the governments of Central Asia. They are tempted to exploit the phenomenon to crack down on dissent. The more promising solution, however, requires addressing multiple political and administrative failures, revising discriminatory laws and policies, implementing outreach programs for both men and women and creating jobs at home for disadvantaged youths, as well as ensuring better coordination between security services.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Middle East, Asia
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The Islamic State's murder of Jordanian hostage Lt Moaz al-Kasasbeh was both a message to the group's fighters that it can counter the coalition's relentless airstrikes as well as an offensive move designed to provoke a high-profile overreaction The air campaign against the Islamic State has been relentless while at the same time has receded from the headlines-a double blow to the group in that it suffers the losses but doesn't benefit from the attendant spectacle The drawn-out 'negotiations' over this past month-while the hostage was already dead-were likely intended to sow division and tension in Jordan, and draw attention to the issue as long as possible before the gruesome finale While Jordan is understandably enraged and will have to strike back, the most effective response might be an escalation that continues to kill the group's fighters away from the headlines.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Like a page out of the 2004 extremist manifesto "Management of Savagery," the Islamic State has tried to goad the international community into near-sighted reactions without long-term approaches by highlighting the barbarity of its executions of hostages This tactic has thus far failed to ignite the overreaction (outside of press reporting) of Western powers, leaving the group without an important recruitment and incitement tool The Islamic State needs consistent replenishment of fear to overcome its inherently terrible local governance, and so it depends on shocking savagery to serve as both its recruitment magnet and opposition suppression As the group encounters less and less Westerners, given the danger of their presence in the region, it will find increasingly fewer ways to incite the 'us-versus-them' battle it needs to survive.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: While the threat of an immediate escalation between Israel and Hizballah appears to have subsided after deadly tit-for-tat attacks, the trend lines suggest greater conflict ahead In an important and ominous speech on January 30, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah created, in effect, one long front against Israel that now includes Syria and the Golan Heights as well as Lebanon, increasing the potential for conflict with Israel Iran is no longer moving in the shadows but rather is openly coordinating strategy with its proxy Hizballah as the two seek to strengthen and expand 'the resistance' against Israel All parties involved have specific reasons to avoid a near-term conflict-the upcoming Israeli elections, ongoing Iranian nuclear negotiations, Hizballah's commitments in Syria-but shifting regional power dynamics will only increase the likelihood of serious fighting between them.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The still-unresolved hostage situation involving Jordan, Japan, and the Islamic State is unlike any of the group's previous kidnappings Jordan is in a precarious position, as it seeks the release of one of its citizens-a national hero who comes from a prominent tribe-while not wanting to free one of the perpetrators of the worst terrorist attack in the country's history By demanding the release of failed suicide-bomber Sajida al-Rishawi from Jordanian custody, the Islamic State is trying to elevate itself to the status of negotiating nation-state, and weaken and embarrass a vital member of the coalition seeking its destruction In a striking difference with previous Islamic State hostage situations, current circumstances provide a chance for the group to bolster its standing in the vital Iraqi province of al-Anbar-where al-Rishawi is from-and perhaps slightly lessen tribal pressure on the group The issue is causing tensions between the Iraqi-born leadership of the Islamic State, who want to make the exchange, and a small faction of primarily Saudi fighters, who want to execute the Jordanian pilot for bombing the group.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Japan, Middle East, Arab Countries, Jordan
  • Author: Bilal Y. Saab
  • Publication Date: 12-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: September 2015 marked the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama's speech outlining the administration's strategy to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Yet, ISIS celebrated in June its own first-year anniversary of setting up a state by conducting three nearly simultaneous terrorist operations in three different countries—France, Tunisia, and Kuwait. Just this past month, ISIS also shocked the world with its attacks in Paris and Beirut and its downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt, killing more than 400 people combined and injuring hundreds more. While nobody expected the destruction of a resilient and agile foe such as ISIS within a couple of years, it is deeply troubling that the coalition is having such a hard time even disrupting its activities.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, War, Counterinsurgency, Fragile/Failed State, ISIS
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Michele Flournoy, Richard Fontaine
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: In the 11 months since President Barack Obama committed the United States to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), the group has expanded its international reach, metastasized to form offshoots across multiple regions, and increased its perceived momentum. Although U.S. government officials cite a reduction in the overall size of the group’s sanctuary in Iraq and Syria and the killing of thousands of ISIS fighters, the fall of Ramadi and much of Anbar province to the Islamic State served as a wakeup call that current efforts to counter ISIS are not adequate to the task.2 Meanwhile, the threat posed by the terrorist group to Americans at home and abroad appears to be growing as ISIS-inspired individuals conduct attacks targeting Westerners around the globe, including here in the United States.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Civil War, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Robert Sedgwick
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: CIAO Focus
  • Institution: Columbia International Affairs Online
  • Abstract: A brief overview and timeline examining the origins and trajectory of the little known terror group that was initially shunned and finally disowned by al-Qaeda as it developed into the world's most feared militant Muslim organization.
  • Topic: Islam, Post Colonialism, Terrorism, War, Counterinsurgency, ISIS, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Katherine Zimmerman
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Yemen is at a pivotal moment today, three years after the outbreak of popular protests, and the future of America's strategy against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is on the line. Yemen is in the midst of a political transition process that will eventually reform and decentralize the government. But the success of the effort is by no means assured. The reforms will not, in any case, address the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions that provide fertile ground for al Qaeda. Moreover, the central state, never fully able to exercise its sovereignty throughout the country, is weaker than it was before 2011. Opposition groups, which have turned to violence in the past, may still seek to form independent states of their own, potentially collapsing the fragile Yemeni state structure entirely. American interests are bound up in this process by the fact that AQAP is among the most virulent al Qaeda affiliates that poses a direct threat to the U.S. homeland. Syria, Iran, and other foreign and domestic policy issues are distracting the United States and its regional partners from sustained engagement in Yemen. Without international support, the country is much less likely to ride this transition process smoothly and our security interests will be severely harmed.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Robert M. Shelala II
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The waterways of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) are among the most important in the world. They facilitate the export of large volumes of oil and natural gas from the region, while also bridging traders in the Eastern and Western worlds through the Red Sea and Suez Canal. While political tensions in the region have at times played out in these waterways since the mid-20th century, their vulnerability has been exasperated in recent years by the failure of bordering governments to promote internal stability, the lack of adequate maritime security capabilities of nearby states, and the potential naval threats posed by the government of Iran.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, International Security, Military Strategy, Maritime Commerce
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Marisa Sullivan
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Hezbollah's deepening involvement in Syria is one of the most important factors of the conflict in 2013 and 2014. Since the beginning of 2013, Hezbollah fighters have operated openly and in significant numbers across the border alongside their Syrian and Iraqi counterparts. They have enabled the regime to regain control of rebel-held areas in central Syria and have improved the effectiveness of pro-regime forces. The impact of Hezbollah's involvement in Syria has been felt not just on the battlefield, where the regime now has momentum in many areas, but also in Lebanon where growing sectarian tensions have undermined security and stability.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iran, 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: Ehud Yaari
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: With Israeli acquiescence to de facto alterations of the 1979 peace treaty, Egypt has deployed substantial military forces into the Sinai to combat terrorists. But Israel remains hesitant about Cairo's inclination to increase pressure on Hamas in Gaza. Over the past year, Israel and Egypt have used a little-known, legally permissible understanding -- the Agreed Activities Mechanism -- to bypass restrictions on the number and type of Egyptian forces permitted in much of the Sinai. In doing so, they have made de facto modifications to their 1979 peace treaty without resorting to the diplomatically risky procedure of "reviewing" the treaty itself. As a result, considerable Egyptian army forces are now constantly deployed in central and eastern Sinai (Areas B and C of the peninsula, respectively), in a manner and scope never envisaged by the teams that negotiated the treaty more than three decades ago. Going forward, this new reality on the ground is unlikely to be reversed and is bound to have profound consequences for Egyptian-Israeli security cooperation, Cairo's ongoing counterterrorism campaign, and the fate of Hamas in the neighboring Gaza Strip.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Terrorism, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Gaza, Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, Cairo
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The controversial Hariri trial will unfold amid growing sectarian violence in Lebanon, the seemingly interminable war in Syria, and a longstanding political stalemate regarding Hezbollah's role in government.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Terrorism, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: There is no guarantee that a peace deal will be reached within the current timeline, but a Palestinian return to armed struggle would be a far greater political, economic, and humanitarian disaster than any short-term frustration with the negotiations. Peace processes are rarely peaceful processes, and the current U.S.-led effort to reach an Israeli-Palestinian "framework agreement" is no exception. As the tempo of negotiations between the main parties picks up speed, more radical actors have reemerged to violently oppose the process, from Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Resistance Committees, to Salafi jihadist groups, to Marxist factions such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Many observers have focused on the sharp increase in rockets fired at Israel from Gaza in the past few weeks and the prospect of another Gaza war. But that issue, while crucial, has drawn media attention away from two equally troubling trends: the increase in violence across the West Bank, and new signs that some officials from the Palestinian Authority and its leading party, Fatah, may be hedging their bets and preparing for wider violence if the peace process fails.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Terrorism, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: Lori Plotkin Boghardt
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A number of U.S. interests could be served by expanding support to strategic Gulf partners in their efforts to curb Iranian aid to local fighters. On March 6, Bahrain's foreign minister told the UN Human Rights Council that the ongoing violence in his country "is directly supported by elements of the Islamic Republic of Iran." The statement does not accurately explain all political violence in Bahrain, but not every claim of Iranian support for violence should be assumed to represent part of a government propaganda campaign. U.S. intelligence assesses that Iran is in fact providing arms and more to Bahraini and other fighters in the Arabian Peninsula, and Washington should increase support to important Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners to curb it.
  • Topic: Security, Human Rights, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Washington, Middle East, United Nations
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Washington has rightfully avoided backing a candidate in next week's elections, but it should still use counterterrorism assistance and other levers to push Baghdad on pluralism and KRG oil revenue sharing during the presumably lengthy transition period. On April 30, the Iraqi public will vote in national parliamentary elections, establishing the next four-year term of the 328-seat Council of Representatives. Thereafter, an equally consequential bargaining process will commence, taking the formation of the next government out of the public's hands and cloistering it behind closed doors. The United States has repeatedly prodded Baghdad to ensure that the vote is held on time, in all districts, and in a free and fair manner. Washington's role in the government formation process could be equally constructive, but it presents a far trickier challenge. Indeed, how the U.S. government acts during the postelection process could set the tone for bilateral relations throughout the next government's term.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Washington, Middle East
  • 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: 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
  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Bahraini government will need to distinguish better between protestors and terrorists if it wants Washington and other foreign partners to believe its claims of Iranian support for local militants. On May 5, in what has become an increasingly typical event in Bahrain, several individuals threw Molotov cocktails at a police post in a Shiite village, damaging storefronts but causing no casualties. Such incidents have intensified over the past few months in villages surrounding the capital, Manama -- in March, three police officers were killed by a bombing in al-Daih; last month, an explosion wounded another officer in the same village; days later, a police car was firebombed in Hamad Town.
  • Topic: International Relations, Political Violence, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iran, Washington, Middle East, Bahrain
  • Author: Azeem Ibrahim
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The Syrian civil war has allowed al-Qaeda to recover from its setbacks up to 2010. Its main affiliate in the region seems to be testing a new strategy of collaboration with other Salafist-Jihadist groups and a less brutal implementation of Sharia law in areas it controls. In combination, this might allow the Al Nusrah Front to carve out the sort of territorial control of a region (or state) that al-Qaeda has sought ever since its eviction from Afghanistan. On the other hand, Syria has also seen a civil war between two al-Qaeda inspired factions (Al Nusrah and the Iraq based Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIS]) and indicates there are limits to its ability to cooperate with other anti-Assad factions and gain popular appeal. The extent that the Syrian civil war offers the means for al-Qaeda to recover from its earlier defeats will determine whether the organization has a future, or if it will become simply an ideology and label adopted by various Islamist movements fighting their own separate struggles.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Nawaf Obaid
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: This proposal for a Saudi Arabian Defense Doctrine (SDD) hopes to initiate an essential internal reform effort that responds to the shifting demands of today and the potential threats of tomorrow. In the last decade, the world has watched as regime changes, revolutions, and sectarian strife transformed the Middle East into an unrecognizable political arena plagued by instability, inefficiency, and failing states. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)—the Arab world's central power and last remaining major Arab heavyweight on the international scene—has emerged as the ipso facto leader responsible for regional stability and development.
  • Topic: Security, Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Andrew J. Tabler
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As extremists continue to move into southern Syria, growing security and humanitarian problems may soon outstrip Jordan's ability to handle spillover from the war.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Phillip Smyth
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Afghan Shiite militants have been fighting on the Assad regime's side for some time, and the scope and strategic purpose of Iran's involvement is becoming increasingly clear.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mathew J. Burrows
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: With new crises sprouting almost on a daily basis in the Middle East, there is increasing interest in knowing the possible medium- and long-term consequences of the cascading developments in the region. This report attempts to think about the alternative futures possible in the Middle East over the next five to ten years. This is a shorter-term forecast than usual, but in the Middle East more deep-seated and structural factors are in flux than in most other regions. A longer-term forecast would allow for more optimism, but would be less useful for decision-makers who not only need a bird's eye view of where developments are headed but also a notion of the pressure points to effect positive change now.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Regime Change, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Sven Biscop
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: EGMONT - The Royal Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: Russia's annexation of the Crimea and subsequent meddling in Ukraine does not constitute a game-changer. It is just a reminder that at least since the war with Georgia in 2008 Russia has been and still is playing the same game: a "game of zones",aimed at (re)establishing an exclusive sphere of influence. Many of us Europeans had forgotten that, or had pushed it to the back of our minds, preferring to believe that we were not engaged in a zero-sum game in our eastern neighbourhood.
  • Topic: Security, Sovereignty, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Mohammed El-Katiri
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: As part of the radical political changes that have affected a number of Arab countries over the past 4 years, the toppling of regimes and the organization of the first fair and free elections in several Arab states have allowed Islamist parties to rise to power. This highly visible political trend has caused mixed reactions, both within these countries and internationally. Prior to the Arab Spring, most countries in the region banned Islamist movements from forming political parties. For decades, members of such movements were jailed, tortured, and exiled from their home countries. Even in those states where Islamist political parties were allowed, they had limited freedom and were under the scrutiny of the regimes, as was, for example, the Moroccan Justice and Development Party.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Democratization, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Jean-loup Samaan
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: For 7 years now, the border area between Israel and Lebanon has witnessed calm and stability. At first sight, this has all the appearances of a paradox. The 2006 war between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Lebanese organization, Hezbollah, was followed neither by a peace agreement nor by a mere diplomatic process. Both sides prepared their forces to wage the next war and additionally have been confronted in past years to major changes in the distribution of power in the Middle East in the midst of the so-called “Arab Spring.”
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Richard Barrett
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The self-styled Islamic State is an accident of history, emerging from multiple social, political and economic tensions in the Middle East and beyond. It has challenged the territorial divisions imposed on the region following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by carving out for itself a large area of territory. But ultimately, its impact will flow as much from its challenge to established concepts of government, national sovereignty, and national identity. The Islamic State is most notable for the violence with which it asserts control, but its ruthless tactics will likely prevent the group from ruling effectively and building broader support beyond the front line fighters who protect its security and the authoritarian killers who patrol its streets.
  • Topic: Security, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Rohan Gunaratna
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis
  • Institution: S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The year 2013 has been the most violent since the beginning of the contemporary wave of terrorism. Although Al Qaeda's core has decreased in size, the group has become even more influential. With its extraordinary presence on the web, Al Qaeda is guiding its associates to fight back. With the western drawdown from Afghanistan in 2014, the Taliban-led terrorist sanctuary will likely be reconstituted once again, threatening global stability and security.
  • Topic: Terrorism
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Middle East, Canada, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Nelly Lahoud, Muhammad al-`Ubaydi
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: ON FEBRUARY 2, 2014, al-Qa`ida released a statement declaring that "it has no connection" with the "group" called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The statement further highlighted that al-Qa`ida was not responsible for founding the ISIL and was not privy to the deliberations that led to its establishment. That is why, the statement continued, "The ISIL is not a branch of al-Qa`ida, the latter is not bound by organizational ties to it and is not responsible for the ISIL's actions."
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Civil War, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The jihadi surge is the tragic, violent outcome of steadily deteriorating political dynamics. Instead of a rash military intervention and unconditional support for the Iraqi government, pressure is needed to reverse sectarian polarisation and a disastrous record of governance.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Governance, Reform
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Ehud Yaari
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Hamas seems intent on using Hezbollah's "bullets plus ballots" approach to gain a military and political foothold in the West Bank, the PA, and the PLO.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The loss of government control in a major city may be just the wakeup call Iraqi politicians need to embrace a more ambitious reconciliation agenda.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Struggle, Governance, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Military coordination with Hezbollah may be providing a quick fix, but the country's long-term strength can only be achieved with a reconstituted March 14 coalition.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Struggle, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Mosul crisis highlights how ISIS has established a potent cadre of foreign jihadists who freely operate across the rapidly disappearing Iraq-Syria border.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Phillip Smyth
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Iran's proxy groups have been working closely with Iraqi government forces for some time and will likely become more important to Baghdad in light of recent events.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Neri Zilber
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If U.S. policy was to "wait and see" how the Hamas-approved Palestinian reconciliation process would unfold in practice, the test is now.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Encouraging signs have emerged that the collapse of federal government control in Iraq may have slowed and that Baghdad is beginning the transition to counteroffensive operations to regain ground. Massive mobilization of largely Shiite volunteers has given Baghdad an untrained but motivated "reserve army" that can be used to swamp cross-sectarian areas around the Iraqi capital. All available formed military units have been pulled out of reserve and brought toward Baghdad to defend the capital. In this effort, all Department of Border Enforcement units have been relocated from the country's borders, and Iraqi army and Federal Police units have been redeployed from southern Iraq. Isolated federal government units are scattered across northern Iraq, in some cases hanging on against Sunni militants with the support of adjacent Kurdish forces.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism, Law Enforcement, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Events on the battlefield will reveal the true effects of the crisis, but the ISIS campaign in Iraq could ultimately help the Syrian opposition and hurt the Assad regime.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria