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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: Here is the full text of the UN Security Council statement on Syria, agreed after days of debate. At least 1,600 people are believed to have been killed since anti-government demonstrations began in March.
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: This policy brief focuses on a case study. It is suggested that an environmental disaster during the summer of 2010 in the Black Sea region triggered in winter 2011 a food crisis in the Arab World; in turn, this led to massive riots, revolts, political instability, a NATO operation and, alas, an oil crisis that accentuates an already suffering global economy. Coextensively, it may be suggested that an environmental crisis triggered a political crisis, which escalated in a series of conflicts that are of major concern for traditional security structures in Europe and beyond. In sum, the argument is made that as a result of this experience, the human security agenda must have a direct effect on our traditional security agenda. The question addressed at this point is how these interrelated chains of events affect the security establishment and our notions of a ‘high strategy.’
Abstract: A popular anecdote in the Middle East, coined by former U.S. Secretary of State
Henry Kissinger in the 1970s, is that ‘no war is possible without Egypt, and no
peace possible without Syria’ - Daoudy, 2008:215 -. This paper will focus mainly
on the prospect of peace between Israel and Syria.
Despite some brief interludes of optimism in the early 1990s, the history of
conflict and mistrust between Israel and Syria, the ongoing occupation of the Golan
Heights, and periodic hostilities mean that a durable peace between them remains
a distant prospect. Throughout the last two decades of official and unofficial peace
talks between Israel and Syria, the position and concerns of each party to reach
peace have become evident. The Syrians insist on a full Israeli withdrawal from the
Golan, captured in 1967, down to the 4 June 1967 line, which would allow Syrian
access to the Sea of Galilee/Lake Tiberias. Israeli leaders have stated their demand
of keeping the Syrians off the water of the Lake and their intention to withdraw along
the international border line of 1923, although it seems at least some of them do
realise that the Syrian pre-condition of full withdrawal has to be fulfilled. Indeed,
the stumbling block obstructing the implementation of an Israeli-Syrian peace deal
is the disputed area between the 1923 international borderline and the 1967 pre-war
- 4 June 1967 - line. Although small in size, this area carries a most significant and
strategic position involving water access, sovereignty and control. This has been
regarded as the sticking point through the two-decade period of negotiations
- Muslih, 1993:613; Renger, 1998:49 -
Recently, the American administration had taken up the idea of creating a
peace park in the Golan Heights as a way of resolving the Israeli-Syrian conflict
particularly in the area between the 1923 and 1967 lines in the north-eastern
sector of Lake Tiberias.
This paper will explore this idea, which in the past has been put forward
by government officials and political analysts alike as a possible means to
accommodate Syrian and Israeli concerns. In order to determine the viability of
this project I shall analyse the literature regarding the utilisation of natural resources
both for conflict propagation and as catalysts for lasting cooperation and conflict
resolution. Then I will present a brief history of the Syrian-Israeli peace process and
describe why previous peace talks have failed. Finally, I shall describe the status
quo in the Golan Heights today and the discourse of environmental peace-building
through the suggested proposal of a peace park along the shores of Lake Tiberias.
I will argue that while a peace park is not the panacea to the conflict
existing today between Israel and Syria, within a context of comprehensive peace
agreements such a project can ameliorate the concerns of both parties and provide
a platform for confidence building and a way to overcome the problem of sovereignty
in this particular area.
Abstract: Desperate to survive at all costs, Syria’s regime appears to be digging its grave. It did not have to be so. The protest movement is strong and getting stronger but yet to reach critical mass. Unlike toppled Arab leaders, President Bashar Assad enjoyed some genuine popularity. Many Syrians dread chaos and their nation’s fragmentation. But whatever opportunity the regime once possessed is being jeopardised by its actions. Brutal repression has overshadowed belated, half-hearted reform suggestions; Bashar has squandered credibility; his regime has lost much of the legitimacy derived from its foreign policy. The international community, largely from fear of the alternative to the status quo, waits and watches, eschewing for now direct involvement. That is the right policy, as there is little to gain and much to lose from a more interventionist approach, but not necessarily for the right reasons. The Syrian people have proved remarkably resistant to sectarian or divisive tendencies, defying regime prophecies of confessional strife and Islamisation. That does not guarantee a stable, democratic future. But is a good start that deserves recognition and support.
Taken by surprise by the outbreak of unrest, the regime was lucky that protesters initially were unable to press their advantage. That gave the authorities time to regroup and put in place a multi-faceted response: stoking fear, especially among minorities; portraying demonstrators as foreign agents and armed Islamists; pledging limited reforms. Most of all, though, was brutal repression.
Abstract: On June 2, 2011, Peacebuild, with the financial support of the International Development
Research Centre, convened a day-long discussion on the tumultuous changes taking place in the
Middle East and North Africa.
Objectives for the roundtable were to share up-to-date information on current and longer-term
political issues and dynamics, to assess areas for possible support for democratic transitions in
the region, identify areas of relevant Canadian expertise – diaspora, NGO, academic, business
sector, governmental -- and, based on the discussion, generate a set of policy options and/or
recommendations for people-to-people support, NGOs, academics and the Government of
Participants in Cairo, Ottawa and Montreal were linked into a wide-ranging discussion, which
first focused on hearing activist and expert views from the epicentre of regional change – Egypt.
Among the questions explored with human rights activist Hossam Baghat, strategic analyst
Mustafa El-Labbad, activist author May Telmissany and IDRC regional expert Roula El-Rifai were
the makeup of the reform movements in the region and their objectives, what is the real extent
of political Islam’s influence in the Middle East and what has been the role of the armed forces
in the transitions?
Abstract: The Syrian uprising has defied conventional expectations
and patterns established elsewhere in the region from the
outset. It happened, first of all, and to many that in itself
was surprising enough. The regime was not alone in believing
in a form of Syrian exceptionalism that would
shield it from serious popular unrest. Once the uprising began,
it did not develop quickly, as in Egypt or Tunisia. Although
it did not remain peaceful, it did not descend into
a violent civil war, as in Libya, or sectarian affair, as in
Bahrain. To this day, the outcome remains in doubt. Demonstrations
have been growing in impressive fashion but
have yet to attain critical mass. Regime support has been
declining as the security services’ brutality has intensified,
but many constituents still prefer the status quo to an
uncertain and potentially chaotic future. What is clear,
however, is the degree to which a wide array of social
groups, many once pillars of the regime, have turned
against it and how relations between state and society
have been forever altered.
The regime’s first mistake in dealing with the protests was
to misdiagnose them. It is not fair to say that, in response
to the initial signs of unrest, the regime did nothing. It decreed
an amnesty and released several prominent critics;
officials were instructed to pay greater attention to citizen
complaints; and in a number of localities steps were taken
to pacify restive populations. But the regime acted as if
each and every disturbance was an isolated case requiring
a pin-point reaction rather than part of a national crisis that
would only deepen short of radical change.
Abstract: In recent months, relatively small demonstrations in Syria have developed into widespread mass protests. On 14 May, a devastating security operation began in Tell Kalakh, a town in the western governorate of Homs near the border with Lebanon. Scores of men were arbitrarily arrested, tortured and at least nine died in custody. Amnesty International considers that the Syrian army and security forces committed crimes and other violations during this security operation that, when taken in the context of other crimes and human rights violations elsewhere in Syria, amount to crimes against humanity.
1. The Human Rights Council convened a special session on human rights in the
Syrian Arab Republic on 29 April 2011. During the special session the Council adopted
Resolution S-16/1. This resolution requested that the High Commissioner provide a
preliminary report on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic to the
Council at its seventeenth session. The present report is submitted in response to this
2. The period addressed in this preliminary report is 15 March to 15 June 2011.
During this period, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was
unable to deploy staff on the ground in Syria and, until recently, to other countries where
Syrian refugees had fled. This hampered the process of gathering information directly from
victims of human rights violations, eyewitnesses and others. Therefore, much of the
information contained in this report is based on information received from United Nations
partners, human rights defenders, national and international human rights organizations,
civil society organizations, media sources and other individuals, including a small number
of victims of human rights violations and eyewitnesses from Syria.
3. Resolution S-16/1 also requested the High Commissioner to urgently dispatch a
mission to the Syrian Arab Republic to investigate all alleged violations of international
human rights law and to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the
crimes perpetrated, with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring full accountability. In
addition to addressing the current human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, the
present preliminary report provides an update on the status of the work of the fact-finding
mission established by the High Commissioner in light of the Council’s request.
Abstract: This is a transcript of an event held on 14 June at Chatham House. A panel of academics and Syrian opposition activists discussed the recent protests, and the ways in which the international community can respond.
We have a session today on envisioning Syria’s political future:
obstacles and options.
Our three speakers today are Dr Najib Ghadbian who is professor of political
science and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Arkansas and Mr
Ausama Monajed who is director of communications for the National Initiative
for Change which is based in Syria, and Dr Radwan Ziadeh who is in his old
house here because he was a fellow at Chatham House two years ago and
it’s wonderful to have you back with us. He’s at the Carr Center for Human
Rights at Harvard University.
Abstract: The Combating Terrorism Center is an independent educational and research institution based in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy, West Point. The CTC Sentinel harnesses the Center’s global network of scholars and practitioners to understand and confront contemporary threats posed by terrorism and other forms of political violence.
This volume contains the following articles:
- The Death of Usama bin Ladin: Threat Implications for the U.S. Homeland, By Philip Mudd
- Terrorist Tactics in Pakistan Threaten Nuclear Weapons Safety, By Shaun Gregory
- The Syrian Uprising: Evaluating the Opposition, By Mahmud Hasan
- Can Al-Qa`ida Survive Bin Ladin’s Death? Evaluating Leadership Decapitation, By Jenna Jordan
- Hizb Allah’s Position on the Arab Spring, By Benedetta Berti
- Israel, Hizb Allah, and the Shadow of Imad Mughniyyeh, By Bilal Y. Saab
- The Taliban’s Conduct of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, By Ben Brandt
Abstract: Crisis Watch summarises briefly developments during the previous month in some 70 situations of current or potential conflict, listed alphabetically by region, providing references and links to more detailed information sources (all references mentioned are hyperlinked in the electronic version of this bulletin); assesses whether the overall situation in each case has, during the previous month, significantly deteriorated, significantly improved, or on balance remained more or less unchanged; alerts readers to situations where, in the coming month, there is a particular risk of new or significantly escalated conflict, or a particular conflict resolution opportunity (noting that in some instances there may in fact be both); and summarises Crisis Group’s reports and briefing papers that have been published in the last month.
Amid mounting tensions between North and South Sudan over the disputed border area of Abyei, clashes broke out between the two sides at the beginning of the month. Northern Sudanese forces invaded Abyei on 20 May and asserted control in breach of existing peace agreements. Tens of thousands are reported to have fled south. The attacks threaten renewed conflict and weaken confidence between North and South as critical post-referendum arrangements remain unresolved.
Tensions also increased over military control and the presence of armed forces in the transitional areas of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and CrisisWatch identifies a conflict risk alert for North Sudan for the coming month.
Violence escalated further in Yemen, where military forces loyal to President Saleh battled on several fronts, renewing fears that the continued political stalemate could erupt into civil war.
President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria continued to use troops and tanks to violently suppress the ongoing revolt, with hundreds of protesters feared killed, thousands detained, and widespread reports of torture.
In Pakistan, the U.S. killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad at the beginning of the month again raised questions about the military's possible involvement with jihadist groups.
Local elections in Albania on 8 May proved even more troubled than anticipated as the race for the Tirana mayor's seat ended deep within the margin of error.
In Guatemala, the Mexican Los Zetas cartel killed and decapitated 27 farm workers in the northern Petén department.
In Serbia, war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military leader accused of commanding the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, was arrested after 16 years on the run. He was extradited to The Hague, where he will stand trial for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Abstract: This report is based on more than 50 interviews with victims and witnesses to abuses. The report focuses on violations in Daraa governorate, where some of the worst violence took place after protests seeking greater freedoms began in various parts of the country. The specifics went largely unreported due to the information blockade imposed by the Syrian authorities. Victims and witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch described systematic killings, beatings, torture using electroshock devices, and detention of people seeking medical care.
Abstract: In September 2008, the U.S. Federal Court in Washington, D.C., rendered a $413
million civil judgment against the government of Syria for its provision of support and
material aid to the killers of two American contractors in Iraq. Syria’s appeal is
pending, but should it lose, the victims’ families will undoubtedly endeavor to attach
Syrian assets in the United States and abroad.
Until now, with the exception of sanctions, financial designations, and periodic crossborder
direct action, Washington has imposed little cost on Damascus for its consistent
support for terrorist attacks in Iraq since the 2003 war. And while the financial implications
of this court verdict are unlikely to change Damascus’s standing support for terrorism,
it will impose an unprecedented price on Bashar al-Assad’s increasingly reckless
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 report analyzes bilateral issues between the United States and Syria. Unrest in Syria and the
Asad government’s violent response are adding new complexity to the troubled U.S.-Syrian
relationship. The Obama Administration’s policy of limited engagement with Syria to address
areas of longstanding concern has been met with criticism from some, including some Members
of Congress. Critics believe that the Administration should apply further pressure to the Syrian
government and consider implementing harsher economic sanctions against it. The use of
violence against Syrian protestors has been accompanied by calls for new U.S. sanctions but also
some expression of concern by experts that political unrest in Syria could evolve into a broader
civil conflict that in turn could destabilize Syria’s neighbors.
Despite its weak military and lackluster economy, Syria has leveraged its geographic location and
its foreign policy alignment to remain relevant in Middle Eastern politics. However, Syria also acts at times as a “spoiler” by hosting U.S.-designated
Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas and facilitating the rearmament of Hezbollah in
neighboring Lebanon. Syria’s long-standing relationship with Iran is of great concern to U.S.
strategists, insofar as Syria serves as a conduit for Iranian power projection in the broader Middle
East. As the Syrian government has grown more estranged from the United States over the last
ten years, Syrian-Iranian relations have improved, and some analysts have called on U.S.
policymakers and their regional allies to offer incentives to Syrian leaders in order to realign them
away from Iran. These dynamics are complicated by long-standing U.S. concerns about Syrian sponsorship of
terrorism, pursuit of weapons of mass destruction technology, and regional policy in Lebanon and
The Asad government’s use of
force to contain growing protests across Syria may reshape congressional attitudes toward Syria,
which have varied. Some in Congress may choose to impose new sanctions against the Asad
regime. Other lawmakers may seek to continue U.S. engagement as a means of mitigating the
unpredictable and potentially negative consequences of the unrest.
Abstract: The objective of this report is to provide a comprehensive, long-term and regional framework for thinking about water in the Middle East, which can be implemented with specific policy decisions, beginning in the immediate future, by individual countries or small groups of countries without waiting for all the countries in the region to move forward.
Such a framework recognises the potential of water to deliver a new form of peace – the blue peace – while presenting long term scenarios of risks of wars and humanitarian crisis.
The report takes a comprehensive view of rivers, tributaries, lakes and underground water bodies. It is based on the recognition of linkages between watercourses. It is not only impossible for any one country to manage a water body in isolation from other riparian countries but it is also impossible to manage a water body without examining its linkages with other watercourses in the region.
The report takes a long-term view. The countries that are friendly today may be antagonistic tomorrow and the ones which are enemies today may be friends tomorrow. The history of merely last ten years in the Middle East demonstrates how quickly the geopolitical scene changes. The political equations of today cannot be assumed to remain constant during the next decade and beyond. Our vision, therefore, should not be imprisoned by the current context. We have to anticipate alternative political trajectories for the next couple of decades in order to find solutions that are sustainable in the long run.
The report provides a regional perspective. Since watercourses, both surface and underground, do not understand political boundaries, it would be natural to have a regional approach to water management. The nation centric approach is unnatural and therefore unsustainable.
Abstract: The situation in Syria is quickly going beyond the point of no return. By denouncing all forms of protest as sedition, and dealing with them through escalating violence, the regime is closing the door on any possible honourable exit to a deepening national crisis. With little the international community can do, the optimal outcome is one whose chances are dwindling by the day: an immediate end to the violence and a genuine national dialogue to pave the way for a transition to a representative, democratic political order.
Over the past several weeks, a number of Syrians have taken to the streets chiefly to express frustration over their worsening economic predicament, outrage at the brutality and unaccountability of the security forces, and solidarity with parts of the country that have witnessed the fiercest forms of repression.
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: Syrian security and intelligence services have arbitrarily detained hundreds of protesters across the country, subjecting them to torture and ill-treatment, since anti-government demonstrations began in mid-March 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. The security and intelligence services, commonly referred to as mukhabarat, have also arrested lawyers, activists, and journalists who endorsed or promoted the protests, Human Rights Watch said.
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: Syrian security forces in at least two towns prevented medical personnel and others from reaching wounded protesters on April 8, 2011, and prevented injured protesters from accessing hospitals, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch, which interviewed 20 witnesses from three Syrian towns, urged Syrian authorities to allow injured protesters unimpeded access to medical treatment and to stop using unjustified lethal force against anti-government protesters.
"To deprive wounded people of critical and perhaps life-saving medical treatment is both inhumane and illegal," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Barring people from needed medical care causes grave suffering and perhaps irreparable harm."
Blocking access to necessary medical treatment for people who have been injured violates the government's obligations to respect and protect the right to life and not to subject anyone to inhuman treatment, Human Rights Watch said.
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: 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.