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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: Summary points
- Yemen’s power structures are under great strain as the political elite struggles to adapt to
nationwide grassroots demands for a more legitimate, responsive and inclusive government.
- Dramatic political change in Yemen could lead to violent upheaval and a humanitarian
crisis, against the backdrop of the country’s deteriorating economic and security
conditions. It might also result in a new, more legitimate political configuration.
- In 2010, Western governments initiated a partnership with the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) states to address the security risks posed by the situation in Yemen. This was
based on the recognition that these states have significant financial resources, strong
cultural ties to Yemen and important connections within its informal power networks.
- Ambivalence and limited bureaucratic capacity initially constrained the Gulf states’ potential
to respond strategically to instability in Yemen. However, growing domestic opposition to
Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, coupled with his diminishing international support,
triggered a collective GCC response in 2011 aimed at mediating a political transition.
- Saudi Arabia maintains extensive transnational patronage networks in Yemen. Many Yemenis
believe it is trying to influence the outcome of political change and that succession dynamics
within the Saudi royal family are affecting the calculations of Yemeni political actors.
- The ‘Arab Spring’ has generated reformist pressures and divergent regime responses
within the Gulf monarchies themselves. This increases the complexity of the policy
landscape regarding Yemen.
Abstract: Ten days after President Saleh flew to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, the fate of the Yemeni government still hangs in the balance. Tensions remain high and there are fears that without progress on forming a new government, a civil war could break out.
In a Q&A;, Christopher Boucek argues that what sets Yemen apart from the other countries facing protests is that it is home to the world’s most dangerous al-Qaeda affiliate. The sooner Yemen can move past the current political crisis, the sooner the problems of poor governance, unemployment, resource depletion, and a collapsing economy can be tackled. Without addressing these systemic challenges, Yemen will continue to be a critical threat to America’s national security.
Abstract: Foreign fighters fuel the world’s conflicts. They
make conflicts more costly for host nations and
peacekeepers. These extremists come from all over
the world and believe they need to fight for their
ideological survival. The best way to combat the
use of foreign fighters is to stop them as close to the
source as possible. This can be difficult, especially if
the U.S. is lacking diplomatic, informational, military,
and economic relations with the source country.
The U.S. government, especially military and
political agencies, needs to be aware of the foreign
fighter phenomenon and plan for it when developing
new contingency and campaign plans as well as
further developing bilateral and regional relationships
in foreign fighter source and transit countries.
This paper will discuss and highlight, from the
national security perspective, the potential military
actions for interdicting foreign fighters. The foreign
fighter problem set, terminology, and life cycle are
defined and discussed. Foreign fighters in current
conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan/Pakistan, and Somalia
are discussed as well. Finally, potential solutions
are introduced as well as actions the U.S. military
can take to stem the flow of foreign fighters within
stability operations framework.
Abstract: This issue includes the following articles:
- Saudi Arabia Moves to Maintain Regime Stability - Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Reaction to Revolution in the Middle East - How the Arab Spring Could Embolden Extremists - Are Islamist Extremists Fighting Among Libya’s Rebels? - Bahrain: Crushing a Challenge to the Royal Family - JI Operative Umar Patek Arrested in Pakistan - The Implications of Colonel Imam’s Murder in Pakistan - Recent Highlights in Terrorist Activity
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: The MENA region has begun a process of political change and turmoil that will take years to play out, and which could destabilize some MENA countries for a decade or more as a worst case. There is a tangible risk that Saudi Arabia will be affected in the short term, and it will take continued leadership and vision for Saudi Arab to deal with its longer-term internal challenges.
Saudi Arabia is scarcely immune to protest and dissent, and has long struggled with the challenges of reform. What is most striking about the Kingdom over the past months of crisis, however, is the lack of any major challenge to government and the way it functions.
This may well not continue. In today’s Middle East, some demonstrations seem inevitable in every country, and no one can guarantee Saudi Arabia’s future stability in a time of turmoil. Moderate Saudi intellectuals and youths have sent letters and petitions, and called for more rapid reform. A small number of Saudi women have demonstrated. More extreme voices have called for “days of rage” – mirror imaging similar calls in Tunisia and Libya – although with little meaningful result beyond token demonstrations and having some 465 Saudis sign a “Day of Rage” page on Facebook. There have been small demonstrations by Shi’ites in the Eastern Province, although so far largely in Qatif and not the major cities and petroleum facilities on the coast.
At the same time, a small, highly vocal minority does not speak for a nation. Moreover, Saudi calls for reform compete with an extremely conservative clergy and population in a nation where change is critical to economic, political, and social development. Moreover, the government acted quickly and decisively to address the most serious material problems in Saudi society such as jobs and housing.
As a result, the most serious challenges to Saudi stability may be structural. These are challenges that will only emerge over time, and then only threaten Saudi stability if its government is unsuccessful in continuing to evolve towards reform and in meeting the needs of its people.
Abstract: Efforts to promote “deradicalization,” or to rehabilitate
detainees charged with terrorism-related
offenses, have taken multiple forms in a wide range
of countries, often as part of broader counterradicalization
strategies that seek to prevent the
adoption of violent extremist ideologies or
behaviors in the first place. Some are more formal
rehabilitation programs, with well-defined agendas,
institutional structures, and a dedicated full-time
staff, while others are a looser combination of social
and political initiatives. Programs vary in their
objectives, their criteria for participation, and the
kinds of benefits and incentives they might offer.
The cumulative lessons learned from several states’
experiences in dealing with violent extremist
groups are of growing interest to countries now
facing similar challenges.
With its global membership, neutral “brand,” and
powerful convening capacity, the United Nations
has the potential to play a powerful role in setting
global norms and shaping international legal
frameworks regarding counterterrorism, as well as
in providing a platform for the exchange of
information and technical assistance for practitioners
This paper draws lessons learned from case
studies of deradicalization initiatives in eight
Muslim-majority countries, which corroborate the
experiences of countries in other regions that have
grappled with violent extremist groups. The paper
concludes by making recommendations
concerning how the UN could help to facilitate the
provision of knowledge and resources to key
stakeholders interested in establishing or strengthening
their own rehabilitation programs.
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: 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: Following the fall of Tunisia's President and in light of the upheaval in Egypt, the spectre of domino effects has been raised. The lack of prospects for young people, social injustice and political repression - all causes that sparked the protests in Tunisia - are problems in virtually all Arab states.
Abstract: Large protests and President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s attempts to preempt a broad crisis with concessions have concentrated US and international attention on the daunting array of political and development challenges facing Yemen. With limited natural resources, a crippling illiteracy rate, and high population growth, some observers believe Yemen is at risk for becoming a failed state. In 2009, Yemen ranked 140 out of 182 countries on the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index, a score comparable to the poorest sub-Saharan African countries.
There are a number of challenges to expanded U.S. military and non-military action in Yemen,
including limited local political support, limited local capacity to absorb or effectively administer
U.S. assistance, a strong public antipathy to U.S. security cooperation, a local government that
does not identify Al Qaeda as its primary domestic problem, limited U.S. government knowledge
of Yemen’s internal political dynamics, and a precarious security situation on the ground that
prohibits direct U.S. support in outlying areas.
Abstract: Governments in the Arab world have violently dispersed demonstrations apparently inspired by or in solidarity with Egypt's democracy protesters and have detained some of the organizers, Human Rights Watch said today.
The security forces' clampdown is part and parcel of regular prohibitions on public gatherings in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, the West Bank, and Yemen. These governments curtail free expression and assembly despite the fact that almost all of the region's countries have signed international agreements protecting both rights, Human Rights Watch said.
"Images of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have mesmerized the Arab public but have terrified their rulers," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "They have responded with their usual mix of repression and intimidation to nip the buds of any wider democratic blossoming."
Abstract: Yemen is not currently a failed state, but it is experiencing huge political and economic problems that can have a direct impact on U.S. interests in the region. It has a rapidly expanding population with a resource base that is limited and already leaves much of the current population in poverty. The government obtains around a third of its budget revenue from sales of its limited and declining oil stocks, which most economists state will be exhausted by 2017. Yemen also has critical water shortages and a variety of interrelated security problems. In Sa’ada province in Yemen’s northern mountainous region, there has been an intermittent rebellion by Houthi tribesmen (now experiencing a cease-fire) who accuse the government of discrimination and other actions against their Zaydi Shi’ite religious sect. In southern Yemen, a powerful independence movement has developed which is mostly nonviolent but is increasingly angry and confrontational. More recently, Yemen has emerged as one of the most important theaters for the struggle against al-Qaeda. Yemen is among the worst places on earth to cede to al-Qaeda in this struggle, but it is also an especially distrustful and wary nation in its relationship with Western nations and particularly the United States. All of these problems are difficult to address because the central government has only limited capacity to extend its influence into tribal areas beyond the capital and major cities. The United States must therefore do what it can to support peaceful resolutions of Yemen’s problems with the Houthis and Southern Movement while continuing to assist the government’s struggle against al-Qaeda forces in Yemen. It must further pursue these policies in ways that avoid provoking a backlash among the Yemeni population which will not tolerate significant numbers of U.S. combat troops in Yemen.
Abstract: For the past four years, reports of talks between representatives of various Afghan insurgent factions and various Afghan government officials have been whispered among experts and insiders, but the volume of such reports has grown rapidly in the media over the past year. Confirmation that exploratory talks had been taking place came late in 2010 from a rather unexpected source: news that a shopkeeper had tricked NATO into believing he was a high-level Taliban official exploring the possibility of negotiations. Despite that embarrassing setback, the case confirmed that Afghan and Western officials alike are at least open to the idea of peace talks.
Expectations should be set very low: reforming the system of governance will be a long and tedious process, and getting those reforms to work in practice will be difficult (although participation in such talks might be enough in itself to make some groups feel included in the political system). A number of paths to reform are conceivable, any of which could fail: a constitutional convention (unlikely in the short term), legislation (doubtful), a series of presidential decrees (possible), or simply a national, public conversation among Afghans about the future of their country (probably the most we can hope for in the short term).
Abstract: To assist Pakistan in building a national rehabilitation
programme, the Government of Pakistan has engaged
Singapore’s International Centre for Political Violence
and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) since 2008. ICPVTR staff
held meetings throughout Pakistan to build support in
laying the foundation for a rehabilitation programme.
This included meetings with both political leaders and
The vision of building a structured rehabilitation
programme for inmates and detainees driven by terrorist
and extremist ideologies was shared by Mr. Tariq Pervez,
chairman of the National Counter Terrorism Authority
of Pakistan, when he participated at the inaugural
International Conference on Terrorist Rehabilitation held
in Singapore on 24-26 February 2009. The paper was aptly
entitled “Challenges of Establishing a Rehabilitation Programme in Pakistan.”
Nonetheless, the initiative to launch the rehabilitation
programme in Pakistan is a natural progression.
Abstract: Deradicalizing Islamist extremists may be even more important than getting them to simply disengage from terrorist activities, according to a new RAND Corporation study that examines counter-radicalization programs in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Europe.
Although there has been much research about the radicalization and recruitment of Islamist extremists, there has been little study until recently about how one deradicalizes those who have been recruited into the Islamist extremist movement.
A key question is whether the objective of counter-radicalization programs should be disengagement (a change in behavior) or deradicalization (a change in beliefs) of militants. A unique challenge posed by militant Islamist groups is that their ideology is rooted in a major world religion, Islam.
The RAND study indentifies and analyzes the processes through which militants leave Islamist extreme groups, assesses the effectiveness of deradicalization programs and summarizes the policies that could help to promote and accelerate the processes of deradicalization.
Abstract: In the past 10 years, the rehabilitation of Muslim radicals has become a pressing issue. Great
numbers of radicals have passed in and out of various incarcerating institutions and are returned
to their societies where they frequently rejoin radical groups, sometimes more radicalized and
technically proficient than they were prior to their incarceration. Both Muslim and non-Muslim
governments have sought different methods to rehabilitate radicals, ranging from arranging
debates between radicals and mainstream Muslim religious elite to confronting them with
betrayals and denunciations by relatives, friends, and associates. There are also full-scale “reeducation”
camps. This policy paper will seek to evaluate these methodologies and propose for
the United States a workable policy for re-integrating radicals into society, thus defusing the
power of recidivism.
Abstract: This issue includes the following articles: AQAP’s Growing Security Threat to Saudi Arabia, by Caryle Murphy; Assessing AQI’s Resilience After April’s Leadership Decapitations, by Myriam Benraad; The Return of Moqtada al-Sadr and the Revival of the Mahdi Army, by Babak Rahimi; Indoctrinating Children: The Making of Pakistan’s Suicide Bombers, by Kalsoom Lakhani; The Third Way: A Paradigm for Influence in the Marketplace of Ideas, by Scott Helfstein; Still Fighting for Revolution: Greece’s New Generation of Terrorists, by George Kassimeris.
Abstract: The US has not yet defined how it will change its position in the Gulf, or the role of USCENTCOM, once it withdraws from Iraq. It is clear, however, that the Gulf will remain both a critical and a highly unstable region. Containing Iran will be a challenge also long as Iran’s theocracy keeps building Iran’s asymmetric forces, moving towards nuclear capability, and using proxies and non-state actors in neighboring states. Iraq may emerge as a new strategic partner, but it will take a half a decade or more for Iraq to both solve its internal security problems and create the kind of armed forces necessary to defend and deter against foreign threats without outside aid.
This leaves the United States in roughly the same strategic position it has been in since the British withdrawal from the Gulf. No other outside power can project the level of force necessary to secure the region – although Britain and France play an important role in Gulf security. The smaller Gulf states can play an important role in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and several provide critical basing facilities for the US, Britain, and France. Nevertheless, their forces are too small and too lacking in interoperability to conduct major military operations or deter a regional power like Iran.
This leaves Saudi Arabia as the most critical single security partner the US has in the Gulf region. Much of the US focus on Saudi Arabia, however, deals with political issues like succession, and its economy and petroleum sector, and not with security. This focus needs to change. Saudi Arabia’s security priorities, its role in the Gulf military balance and the security of petroleum exports, and US and Saudi military cooperation will be critical parts of the US effort to redefine its security position in the Gulf once it has withdrawn from Iraq.
Abstract: Bordering the largest oil-producing country in the world and controlling access to the Red Sea on the Bab al-Mandab strait, Yemen holds great geopolitical value. Its proximity to the Horn of Africa, the troubled hotspot, only increases Yemen’s worth as a transit and trafficking site.
The Houthis, a Zaydi sect of Shiism that ruled Yemen in a traditional imamate until the revolution of 1962, are entering into the sixth year of fighting against the central government in Sana’a. Some Houthis are now looking to exploit sectarianism and cast the ongoing conflict between themselves and Sana’a in a religious light. The Yemeni government claims that the Houthis seek to restore the imamate.
The ongoing instability in Yemen is worrisome for its neighbors in the Arabian Peninsula, particularly Saudi Arabia. The Houthi rebellion is no longer a purely internal affair, but now infringes upon the security of other countries in the region. The Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) support for the Yemeni government, and its statement that the security of Yemen, historically the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, is integral to the security of the larger region, shows that the GCC senses the danger of the situation and its potential repercussions. Without placing blame on any party, this article will examine how the struggle in Yemen among the national government in Sana’a, Houthi rebels, and Al-Qaeda is affected by the regional power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Abstract: This paper discusses the diverging perceptions
and responses of Middle Eastern Arab states to the
issue of climate change. It shows how these states’
policies at the regional and international level have
been shaped, even conditioned, by motivations of
economic security of the oil revenue-dependent
states in the region. It also points out the problems
of this kind of an approach and gives suggestions and
justifications for a more balanced policy approach to
climate change. It is argued that the Gulf oil exporting
monarchies need to take a more constructive and
balanced approach to international climate change
mitigation, as this is the precondition for achieving
functional regional cooperation in this area. In the
future, failing to cooperate regionally will exacerbate
climate change-induced problems and instability in
the entire region. Climate change is by its nature a transboundary
problem. The Middle East is considered to be one
of the most vulnerable regions in the world to its
negative impacts. This is even more significant given
that the Middle East is also one of the most volatile
regions in the world in terms of inter- and intrastate
conflict and instability.
Abstract: Both Iran and Saudi Arabia use the media to portray their own distorted reality through the
prism of their own agendas; and to compete with each other, they exaggerate this distortion. The
media have also been instrumental in stirring up fitna (discord) between Sunnis and Shi'ites,
which has been exacerbated by the last war in Iraq, by the sectarian divisions in Lebanon, and by
the desire of Saudi Arabia and Western allies to counter Iran’s expanding influence in the Middle
East and what certain commentators and politicians have called the “Shia crescent.”
Both countries use the media to propagate their message, exert influence in Middle Eastern
politics, and develop power relations by using the media's ability to shape their relationships with
other nations and with ethno-sectarian populations. Through these channels they also construct
their own political discourse and indirectly communicate with one another.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are now key players in the Arabic-language media market, transforming
it into an arena for confrontation and quests for popularity. Every conflict or crisis in the region
becomes an opportunity for them to exert their influence and the media provides them with the
ability to legitimize their actions while trying to win the hearts and minds of the Arab world
through their own propaganda. The lack of political cohesion and national identity in Yemen has left a vacuum for militant
groups and foreign interference, a space where these two regional giants can act out their rivalry
through the fragmented tribal population of the country. The current crisis in Yemen provides a new theater
where both have an opportunity to exert some influence in the hearts and minds of Arab
populations, using the media to propagate their own ideology.
Abstract: This is the 12th FCO Annual Report on Human
Rights. The report sets out the UK’s work and
policy on human rights in 2009, and explains the
importance of human rights across our foreign
policy goals. It highlights our main policies,
countries of concern and the challenges we
face. It demonstrates how we seek to address
these issues through diplomatic channels and
international bodies, as well as our programme
work across the globe. However, many of the issues covered in these pages
highlight the growing tendency to once again claim
human rights as a “Western” construct, unsuited to
particular cultures and countries. In the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea, the government continues
to insist that national security and cultural differences
invalidate human rights obligations and justify
subjecting humanitarian workers to severe restrictions.
In Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi is incarcerated on
the basis of similar arguments that her battle for
Foreword by the Foreign Secretary
democracy undermines national security. Women are
still denied their human rights in many parts of the
world, on the basis that culture and religion render
those rights inapplicable. The increasing threat to
gay people’s rights in some African countries reminds
us that tolerance is a dream rather than a reality for
much of the world’s population.
But this report also shows how people around the
world are pushing back against the idea that human
rights are not universal – in 2009 demonstrators
in Guinea and Honduras demanded their rights to
democracy, human rights defenders from Belarus
to Syria continued to protest against injustice and
worldwide, individuals and groups continue to work
to realise the rights of all. We have a responsibility
to applaud these efforts, and to support them by
challenging the notion that human rights depend on
culture and circumstance.
Abstract: As the governments of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) undertake the difficult process of enacting social and political change, the unequal status of women presents a particularly formidable challenge. In Iraq, deliberations over women's legal status have been as contentious as negotiations over how to structure the government. In Jordan, measures to increase penalties for so-called honor crimes faced strong resistance by ultraconservative parliamentarians and ordinary citizens who believe that tradition and religion afford them the right to severely punish and even murder female relatives for behavior they deem immoral. These debates are not just legal and philosophical struggles among elites. They are emotionally charged political battles that touch upon fundamental notions of morality and social order.
In order to provide a detailed look at the conditions faced by women in the Middle East and understand the complex environment surrounding efforts to improve their status, Freedom House conducted a comprehensive study of women's rights in the region. The first edition of this project was published in 2005. The present edition offers an updated examination of the issue, with a special focus on changes that have occurred over the last five years. Although the study indicates that a substantial deficit in women's rights persists in every country in the MENA region, the findings also include notable progress, particularly in terms of economic opportunities, educational attainment, and political participation.