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Abstract: This is a transcript of an event held on 5 October at Chatham House. The panellists, drawn from the Middle East and North Africa Programme's regional experts, examined the latest round of negotiations aimed at resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
As the latest round of negotiations aimed at resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict was embarked on in September 2010, the regional ramifications of the much-interrupted peace process have never appeared more important. State actors close to the conflict such as Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and non-state actors such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, all have a stake in the outcome of the peace talks. Together with the wider Arab League membership and Iran, not all of them wish the process to succeed, or succeed on the terms envisaged by the US and its allies in the European Union.
This panel drawn from the Middle East and North Africa Programme's regional experts will examine what is at stake for the regional neighbours of Israel and the Palestinians. What influence have they had over the initial progress of the negotiations? Are their actions critical in helping or hindering the outcome of the bilateral talks? What alternatives or reactions might they envisage should this latest attempt at peace fail?
Abstract: It is too early to tell whether the revolutions sweeping across the Arab world will
prove the long awaited third wave of democratization or will merely substitute
Islamist totalitarianism for the existing secular, authoritarian regimes. It is clear, however,
that no regional regime is immune to their impact, not even the self-proclaimed
vanguard of permanent world revolutions, the Islamist regime in Tehran.
Perceptions in Iran of the nature of the Arab Spring vary. While describing it as an
Islamic awakening” inspired by Iran’s 1979 revolution, the clerics have not failed to
indicate their determination to suppress future dissent and to rebuff any foreign intervention.
By contrast, despite tracing the Arab revolts to Iran’s June 12, 2009 presidential
elections, the opposition has thus far refrained from publicly challenging the regime though
more radical forms of resistance may be brewing beneath the surface. Thus, the winds
of change have apparently radicalized both rival sides.
Abstract: The recent political upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa region have exposed growing concerns about conflict risk, political stability, and reform prospects across its societies. Given the prevalence of oil and gas resource endowments in the region, which a voluminous literature suggests can be associated with adverse development consequences, this paper examines the interplay between their associated rents and political economy trajectories. The contribution of the paper is threefold: first, to examine the quantitative evidence of violent conflict in the region since 1960; second, to provide a nuanced review of the regional case study literature on the relationship between resource endowments, political stability, and conflict risk; and third, to assess how prospective political transitions have implications for the World Bank Group's work in the region on public sector management and private sector development. The authors find that resources and regimes have intersected to provide stability and limited violent conflict in the region, but that these development patterns have yielded a set of policy choices and development patterns that are proving increasingly brittle and unsustainable. A major institutional challenge for reforms will be to consolidate a requisite degree of inter-temporal credibility and stability in these regimes, while expanding inclusiveness in state-society relations.
Abstract: The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to provide measured support to Taliban insurgents battling U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. However, Iran also maintains close and constructive relations with the same Afghan central government that is battling Taliban forces. Iran's complex and, at times, contradictory set of cultural, religious, political, and security interests shapes its behavior in Afghanistan, to the benefit and detriment of U.S. objectives. This paper examines Iran's objectives and interests in Afghanistan and the consequent Iranian policies affecting U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The authors find that Iran appears to be pursuing at times contradictory objectives in Afghanistan; that the Baluchi insurgency in Iran is an important factor in determining Iran's behavior in Afghanistan; and that increasing tensions with the United States could lead to more-significant Iranian aid to the Taliban.
Abstract: The wave of popular uprisings sweeping across the Arab world has caught the region’s most entrenched authoritarian regimes off guard. Yet unlike Tunisia, Egypt, and other custodians of an undemocratic status quo, Yemen is no stranger to instability. Long before protesters took to the streets of Sana`a on January 20, 2011 to demand political reforms, the 32-year-old regime of President Ali Abdullah Salih was already struggling to contain a daunting array of security, economic, and governance challenges. Yet Yemen’s current political crisis has been heightened by the convergence of numerous security threats, the cumulative effect of which may soon overwhelm the government in Sana`a. With government security forces already overextended by the challenge of containing mass demonstrations, AQAP is taking advantage of the opportunity to consolidate its position in Yemen by proclaiming solidarity with anti-government protesters and intensifying its attacks on security targets.
This issue covers:
Accuracy of the U.S. Drone Campaign: The Views of a Pakistani General;
Haqqani Network Influence in Kurram and its Implications for Afghanistan;
Recent Highlights in Terrorist Activity
The Factors Behind Rebellion in Iranian Kurdistan;
The Risks of Supporting Tribal Militias in Pakistan
The Unraveling of the Salih Regime in Yemen;
Using Google Insights to Assess Egypt’s Jasmine Revolution
The Sentinel is a monthly, independent publication that leverages the Center’s global network of scholars and practitioners to understand and confront contemporary threats posed by terrorism and other forms of political violence.
Abstract: As the first decade of the 21st century nears its end, issues surrounding militancy among the Shi‛a community in the Shi‛a heartland and beyond continue to occupy scholars and policymakers. During the past year, Iran has continued its efforts to extend its influence abroad by strengthening strategic ties with key players in international affairs, including Brazil and Turkey. Iran also continues to defy the international community through its tenacious pursuit of a nuclear program. The Lebanese Shi‛a militant group Hizballah, meanwhile, persists in its efforts to expand its regional role while stockpiling ever more advanced weapons. Sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi‛a has escalated in places like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, and not least, Pakistan.
As a hotbed of violent extremism, Pakistan, along with its Afghan neighbor, has lately received unprecedented amounts of attention among academics and policymakers alike. While the vast majority of contemporary analysis on Pakistan focuses on Sunni extremist groups such as the Pakistani Taliban or the Haqqani Network—arguably the main threat to domestic and regional security emanating from within Pakistan’s border—sectarian tensions in this country have attracted relatively little scholarship to date.
This monograph is published as part of the CTC’s Shi‛a Militancy Program, established in 2008, which dedicates efforts toward investigating the real or potential emergence of Shi‛a militancy, as well as its causes, nature, and potential implications for U.S. national security.
Abstract: The world’s worst online oppressors are using an array of tactics, some reflecting astonishing levels of sophistication, others reminiscent of old-school techniques. From China’s high-level malware attacks to Syria’s brute-force imprisonments, this may be only the dawn of online oppression.
In reporting news from the world’s most troubled nations, journalists have made a seismic shift this year in their reliance on the Internet and other digital tools. Blogging, video sharing, text messaging, and live-streaming from cellphones brought images of popular unrest from the central square of Cairo and the main boulevard of Tunis to the rest of the world. Yet the technology used to report the news has been matched in many ways by the tools used to suppress information. Many of the oppressors’ tactics show an increasing sophistication, from the state-supported email in China designed to take over journalists’ personal computers, to the carefully timed cyber-attacks on news websites in Belarus. Still other tools in the oppressor’s kit are as old as the press itself, including imprisonment of online writers in Syria, and the use of violence against bloggers in Russia.
To mark World Press Freedom Day, May 3, the Committee to Protect Journalists is examining the 10 prevailing tactics of online oppression worldwide and the countries that have taken the lead in their use. What is most surprising about these Online Oppressors is not who they are—they are all nations with long records of repression—but how swiftly they adapted old strategies to the online world.
In two nations we cite, Egypt and Tunisia, the regimes have changed, but their successors have not categorically broken with past repressive practices. The tactics of other nations—such as Iran, which employs sophisticated tools to destroy anti-censorship technology, and Ethiopia, which exerts monopolistic control over the Internet—are being watched, and emulated, by repressive regimes worldwide.
Here are the 10 prevalent tools for online oppression.
Abstract: The Islamic Revolution surprised senior U.S. policymakers as
well as the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. On the eve
of revolution, Iran — a key U.S. ally — seemed relatively stable
despite bouts of urban terrorism in the early and mid-1970s. At the first
signs of escalating unrest in early 1978, neither Iranian nor U.S. officials
considered the possibility that Iran’s armed forces, the largest and most
modern in the region (next to those of Israel), would prove unable to deal
with whatever trouble lay ahead. The fall of the Shah a year later, therefore,
raised searching questions regarding the role of the armed forces during
the crisis and its failure to quash the revolution. The recent emergence of
popular protest movements that have overthrown authoritarian regimes
in Tunisia and Egypt — and that are challenging similar regimes in Libya,
Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria — has revived memories of the Shah and his fall.
These developments have again raised questions regarding the role of armed
forces during revolutions and whether Iran’s experience during the Islamic
Revolution and after holds relevant lessons for current developments in the
Abstract: Is Afghanistan a playground for the India-Pakistan conflict? Or, are the countries in South Asia – Pakistan in particular – the recipients of unrest that spills over from Afghanistan? Alternatively, is the larger neighbourhood, South Asia and Afghanistan included, a mere victim of rivalry between global powers? Views on the relationship between Afghanistan and its neighbouring countries vary widely, with fundamental consequences for how one understands the conflict, and what policies one finds constructive. Cognizant of the roles of actors in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf region, and excluding neither the importance of Afghan domestic factors nor global forces, this paper focuses on the way that the India-Pakistan conflict – the primary security dynamic in the South Asian region – informs the two countries’ engagement in Afghanistan.
The paper argues that because the problem of Afghanistan is at the periphery, rather than at the core, of the security problems of the South Asian Security Complex, any ambitions for influence in the future of Afghanistan that Pakistan and India, as the key players of South Asia, may have are related to resolving their own internal insecurities, their own security dilemmas within the South Asia region and their own global ambitions rather than in ‘entering’ Afghanistan and replacing the US and NATO troops after they depart. If both want influence there, it is primarily because they seek solutions to their own insecurities, as well as guarantees from the US against each other. This means that as long as the core insecurities within the South Asia RSC are not resolved, negative influences may continue to hamper stabilization efforts in Afghanistan.
Abstract: This report offers a critical examination of Iran’s influence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Two points are made: that Iran’s top priority is its own regime’s survival and
its regional policies are directed by its national security concerns. Secondly, that
Iran’s engagements in Afghanistan are clearly guided by the presence of the US.
Iran’s predominant interest is in stabilizing Afghanistan, but as long as Afghanistan
is neither safe nor stable, Iran will play a double game and engage with its regional
neighbours according to the US–Iran equation. Deterrence, counter-containment
and competition are the keywords in these complex relations. The report outlines
Iran’s reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, its political platform and ‘soft power’,
and the bonds of mutual dependency in terms of water rights, refugees and drug trafficking.
It examines Iran’s alleged military interventions and the reasons for playing
this double game. Lastly, the report discusses Iran’s tense relationship with Pakistan
with regard to both Afghanistan and the troubled region of Baluchistan.
Abstract: National security is normally seen in terms of military strength and internal security operations against extremists and insurgents. The upheavals that began in Tunis, and now play out from Pakistan to Morocco,. have highlighted the fact that national security is measured in terms of the politics, economics, and social tensions that shape national stability as well. It is all too clear that the wrong kind of internal security efforts, and national security spending that limits the ability to meet popular needs and expectations can do as much to undermine national security over time as outside and extremist threats.
It is equally clear that calls for democracy are at best only the prelude to dealing with critical underlying problems, pressures, and expectations. It is far from certain that even successful regime change can evolve into functional democracies and governance. Countries with no political parties and experienced leaders, with no history of checks and balances in government, with weak structure of governance led by new political figures with no administrative experience, will often descend into chaos, extremism, or a new round of authoritarianism. Even the best governments, however, are unlikely to change an economy and national infrastructure in less than half a decade, and existing demographic pressures will inevitably go on for at least the next decade.
Abstract: While erstwhile authoritarianism and absolutist rule may no longer be possible, it
would be naïve to expect that the Middle East will undergo a metamorphosis. There
would undoubtedly be changes, greater openness, increased transparency, enhanced
governance and increased popular participation. Even these changes would not be
uniform and/or happen immediately. But the process would be on and the
governments, especially ruling elites, would be monitored more closely by the ruled.
Yet, it is extremely unlikely that the current wave of protests will transform the
Middle East into an oasis of democracy. Samuel Huntington’s third wave of
democracy is unlikely to sweep the region any time soon. Relaxing, increasingly
transparent and reforming status quo is perhaps the maximum that one can anticipate
from the current wave of unrest in the Middle East. This being so, what are the
options for the Indian Government? While individuals could demand a more liberal
and people-centric platform, governments have limited space for manoeuvre.
Though ideal, siding with the democratic aspirations of the Arab people is not a
viable option for a state. Wrong moves, missteps or ideology-driven actions would
bring misery for a vast majority of the Indian population.
Abstract: As Iran’s fluid perceptions regarding its competition with the US have not been previously explored in-depth, such an analysis is vital if Iran’s strategic goals and intentions are to be properly understood in context. With the assistance of Adam Seitz of the Marine Corps University, the Burke Chair has compiled a series of chronological news articles from both Western and Iranian sources that seek to illuminate this perception and assess Iran’s intentions concerning its competition with the US.
Iran‟s asymmetric opposition to the US manifests itself in the following three ways: a) the development and mass production of low-tech, low-cost weapons systems to offset modern US military technology, b) Iranian-supplied and trained paramilitary proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and “special groups” in Iraq and Afghanistan, and c) a doctrine of striking at US economic interests in the Persian Gulf, such as oil platforms and tankers.
Abstract: China’s rise on the international stage has been accompanied by an increase in its military’s presence. Beijing’s expanding ambition is prompting calls on the country’s leaders to be more proactive in protecting its national interests. These calls by Chinese analysts have raised concerns about the military’s capability to mobilize troops to defend the country’s vast borders.
Abstract: An animated map of recent protests in the Middle East as they spread from country to country, updated with the most recent events. Particular outcomes indicated with descriptions of the progression of events for each nation.
Abstract: Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition force into Bahrain to help the government calm the unrest there. This move puts Iran in a difficult position, as Tehran had hoped to use the uprising in Bahrain to promote instability in the Persian Gulf region. Iran could refrain from acting and lose an opportunity to destabilize the region, or it could choose from several other options that do not seem particularly effective.
The Bahrain uprising consists of two parts, as all revolutions do. The first is genuine grievances by the majority Shiite population — the local issues and divisions. The second is the interests of foreign powers in Bahrain. It is not one or the other. It is both.
Abstract: The events in Libya have once again put focus on Belarus as an arms exporter. Belarus has admitted that it sold or delivered weapons worth an estimated US$1.1 billion in 1999-2006 according to the Congressional Research Service. A significant number of these sales went to state-sponsored terrorism, extremist groups or states involved in conflict. Belarus is also one of the top arms exporters to rogue states.
Abstract: Refugee situations are traditionally met with three durable solutions (local integration,
resettlement and repatriation) in the long-run, or self-settlement and encampment in
the interim. In recent years, however, some academics, institutions and policy makers
have increasingly highlighted the viability of refugee mobility to refugee situations,
and particularly to protracted situations where conventional responses remain elusive
Through an analysis of Somali refugees in Kenya, and Afghan refugees in Iran and
Pakistan, this paper will argue that while mobility can represent a viable response, the
extent to which it does so is ultimately limited to certain individuals, contexts and
over time. In this sense, it would be inaccurate to either celebrate or negate altogether
the viability of mobility. Moving away from some of the more celebratory arguments for refugee mobility, this paper will maintain that the viability of mobility is best
conceptualised as a nuanced and individually, contextually and historically specific
process that remains therefore highly variable. This variability will be elaborated
throughout the paper, which will also seek to identify trends and patterns that
determine for whom, when, where, for what and why mobility represents a viable
response to refugee situations.
Abstract: Kuwait has been pivotal to nearly two decades of U.S. efforts to reduce a threat posed by Iraq. After U.S. forces liberated Kuwait from Iraqi invading forces in February 1991, Kuwait was the central location from which the United States contained Saddam during 1991-2003, and it hosted the bulk of the U.S.-led force that invaded Iraq in March 2003 to remove Saddam from power. It is the key route through U.S. troops have been withdrawing from during 2009-2011.
Although Kuwait remains a staunch U.S. ally, it is troubled domestically. For the past five years, wrangling between the elected National Assembly and the ruling Al Sabah family primarily over the political dominance and alleged corruption of the Al Sabah has brought virtual political paralysis to Kuwait. Political infighting has tarnished Kuwait's reputation in the Persian Gulf as a model of protections of rule of law and human rights as the Al Sabah have turned to increasingly harsh measures to suppress dissent. These measures have included beatings of demonstrators and imprisonments of journalists. However, Kuwait's tradition of vibrant civil society and expression of opinion led to the resignation of the Interior Minister, held responsible for repressive measures, on February 7, 2011, in advance of a planned public demonstration.
Abstract: After experiencing serious unrest during the late 1990s, Bahrain undertook several steps to enhance the inclusion of the Shiite majority in governance. However, protests erupting following the uprising that overthrew Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011, demonstrate that Shiite grievances over the distribution of power and economic opportunities remain unsatisfied. The new unrest comes four months after smaller protests against the efforts by the Sunni-led government’s efforts to maintain its tight grip on power in the October 23, 2010, parliamentary election.
Abstract: The Tunisian and Egyptian experiences suggest that popular demands in the Middle East and North Africa are genuinely concerned with democratic participation and respect for the individual, precisely in line with Western normative values. Islam conditions the social and cultural environment, but it is not the automatic popular political choice, as European and American public opinion and official rhetoric insist. Instead, moderate political Islam has rejected extremism and adopted positions that embrace democratic outcomes.
The primary objective for Europe and America will be to see stability restored as quickly as possible, whatever the cost. They are likely to endorse a modified hegemonic political movement in Tunisia and an army-backed regime in Egypt, both of which can guarantee political stability and continuity. Both Europe and the US fear the implications of political Islam because of the false linkage of all aspects of political Islam with extremist violence.
Above all, the US seeks continuity for its Middle East policies; Egypt has been a key component in dealing with Israeli security concerns and Iranian nuclear objectives, and a bulwark against the Islamic republic’s supposed challenge to moderate states in the region. However, the one policy that is universally unacceptable to the Arab street is the intolerable blockade on the Gaza Strip, and it will have to go.
Abstract: AQAM has three basic tiers. Bin Laden and his close associates comprise al Qaeda core, the group responsible for 9/11 and now based in western Pakistan. Al Qaeda affiliates and like-minded groups is a broad category that includes al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), al Shabaab, and several other regional terrorist organizations. Al Qaeda–inspired, nonaffiliated cells and individuals is a diffuse tier comprising radicalized groups and individuals that are not regularly affiliated with, but draw clear inspiration and occasional guidance from, the core and affiliates.
The transformation of the al Qaeda threat into a broader movement has important implications for U.S. and international counterterrorism strategy. First, the diffusion of global Islamist terrorism has greatly complicated the work of policymakers and national security practitioners. Al Qaeda core, while operationally diminished, plays an active role within the syndicate of armed groups active in Pakistan and Afghanistan, often helping to facilitate attacks that it alone could not perpetrate. Emerging affiliates pose a range of threats: In less than a year, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula launched two attempted attacks on the U.S. homeland; and Lashkar-e-Taiba, in perpetrating the 2008 Mumbai bombings, provoked further military tensions between Pakistan and India. Nonaffiliated cells and individuals, while mostly unsophisticated, represent a unique type of threat: “homegrown” extremists could enable domestic attacks. This report examines the nature of these changes and is part of a larger, year-long study that will forecast the nature of AQAM in 2025.
Abstract: While no group has yet claimed responsibility, the Domodevo bombing earlier this week appears to demonstrate the continued ability of Chechen separatists to strike terror deep in the heart of Russia. Largely overlooked by commentators, however, is the resource driving the 16-year old conflict: oil.
Abstract: This issue includes the following articles:
- Terrorist Awakening in Sweden?
- British Universities Continue to Breed Extremists
- Improving Airline Security in the United States
- Al-Qa`ida’s Yemeni Expatriate Faction in Pakistan
- Understanding Al-Qa`ida’s Business Model
- Disengagement or Deradicalization: A Look at Prison Programs for Jailed Terrorists
- Recent Highlights in Terrorist Activity