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Many Sunnis and Shias Worry About Religious Conflict; Concern Especially High Among Muslims in Lebanon

November 11, 2013 Comments off

Many Sunnis and Shias Worry About Religious Conflict; Concern Especially High Among Muslims in Lebanon
Source: Pew Religion & Public Life Project

This week Sunni and Shia Muslims ushered in the Islamic New Year and the beginning of the holy month of Muharram. For Shias, the month also is a time to mourn the events that sparked the centuries-old schism between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Pew Research Center polls conducted in 2011-2012 find high levels of concern about sectarian tensions in several countries where Sunnis and Shias live side by side. These concerns are particularly pronounced in Lebanon, where fully two-thirds of all Muslims, including about half of Shias and 80% of Sunnis, say sectarian tensions are a very big or moderately big problem. Roughly half of all Muslims in Iraq, more than four-in-ten in Afghanistan and nearly a quarter in Iran say the same.

The polls were conducted from November 2011 to May 2012 among a total of more than 5,000 Muslims in five countries with substantial numbers of both Shias and Sunnis (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon). Although Shias make up only about 10%-13% of the world’s Muslims, three of the five countries surveyed (Iran, Iraq and Azerbaijan) have Shia-majority populations. Several of the countries polled also have a recent history of sectarian violence. This includes Lebanon, where a civil war was fought along sectarian lines from 1975 to 1991, and Iraq and Afghanistan, where bombings and other suspected sectarian attacks have occurred in the last few years.

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CRS — Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Political Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests

November 5, 2013 Comments off

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Political Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The United States recognized the independence of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia when the former Soviet Union broke up at the end of 1991. The United States has fostered these states’ ties with the West in part to end their dependence on Russia for trade, security, and other relations. The United States has pursued close ties with Armenia to encourage its democratization and because of concerns by Armenian Americans and others over its fate. Close ties with Georgia have evolved from U.S. contacts with its pro- Western leadership. Successive Administrations have supported U.S. private investment in Azerbaijan’s energy sector as a means of increasing the diversity of world energy suppliers. The United States has been active in diplomatic efforts to resolve regional conflicts in the region. As part of U.S. global counter-terrorism efforts, the U.S. military in 2002 began providing equipment and training for Georgia’s military and security forces. Troops from all three regional states have participated in stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The regional states also have granted transit privileges for U.S. military personnel and equipment bound to and from Afghanistan.

Country Analysis Brief: Azerbaijan

September 12, 2013 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Azerbaijan
Source: Energy Information Administration

Azerbaijan, one of the oldest oil producing countries in the world, is an important oil and natural gas supplier, particularly for European markets. Although traditionally it has been a prolific oil producer, Azerbaijan’s importance as a natural gas supplier will grow in the future as field development and export infrastructure expands. The conflicting claims over the maritime and seabed boundaries of the Caspian Sea between Azerbaijan and Iran continue to cause uncertainty, with Iran challenging Azerbaijan’s hydrocarbon exploration in its offshore area.

Natural gas accounted for about 66 percent of Azerbaijan’s total domestic energy consumption in 2010, with oil consumption at 31 percent of total energy use, and a marginal contribution from hydropower. Overall, Azerbaijan is a net energy exporter. The country swaps small volumes of natural gas with Iran–the Nakhchivan exclave receives all of its natural gas from Iran, because it is not connected to Azerbaijan’s pipeline network.

Oil and gas development and exports are central to Azerbaijan’s economy. The country’s economy is heavily dependent on its energy exports, with more than 90 percent of total exports accounted for by oil and gas exports, according to the International Monetary Fund data.

Regional Analysis Brief: Caspian Sea Region

August 27, 2013 Comments off

Regional Analysis Brief: Caspian Sea Region
Source: Energy Information Administration

The Caspian Sea region is one of the oldest oil-producing areas in the world and is an increasingly important source of global energy production. The area has significant oil and natural gas reserves from both offshore deposits in the Caspian Sea itself and onshore fields in the Caspian basin. Traditionally an oil-producing area, the Caspian area’s importance as a natural gas producer is growing quickly.

This report analyzes oil and natural gas in the Caspian region, focusing primarily on the littoral (coastal) countries of the Caspian Sea (Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran). A discussion of Uzbekistan is also included. While not a Caspian coastal state, a considerable amount of Uzbekistan’s territory, along with its energy resources, lies in the geological Caspian basins.

Aside from Azerbaijan’s oil production, the Caspian Sea largely was untapped until the collapse of the Soviet Union. With several newly independent countries gaining access to valuable hydrocarbon deposits, the different countries have taken diverging approaches to developing the energy resources of the area. At the same time, the lack of regional cooperation between the countries’ governments and few export options for Caspian hydrocarbon resources have slowed the development of Caspian oil and natural gas resources.

The combination of foreign investment and rising energy prices allowed the coastal countries to shift from diverting oil extraction for local use to supplying both regional and world oil markets. The ability of countries to export greater volumes of Caspian crude oil and natural gas will depend on how quickly domestic energy demand rises in those countries, how quickly they can build additional export infrastructure to global markets, and whether expensive projects to develop Caspian resources can attract sufficient investment.

Special Issue: Social Media and Political Change: Capacity, Constraint, and Consequence

April 11, 2012 Comments off

Special Issue: Social Media and Political Change: Capacity, Constraint, and Consequence (free full text of all articles)

Journal of Communication
This introductory essay highlights the key findings, methodological tool kit, and production process of this Special Issue. We argue that communication researchers are uniquely positioned to analyze the relationships between social media and political change in careful and nuanced ways, in terms of both causes and consequences. Finally, we offer a working definition of social media, based on the diverse and considered uses of the term by the contributors to the collection. Social media consists of (a) the information infrastructure and tools used to produce and distribute content that has individual value but reflects shared values; (b) the content that takes the digital form of personal messages, news, ideas, that becomes cultural products; and (c) the people, organizations, and industries that produce and consume both the tools and the content.

Country Analysis Brief: Azerbaijan

January 17, 2012 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Azerbaijan
Source: Energy Information Administration

Azerbaijan is an important current and future supplier of both oil and natural gas. The conflicting claims over the maritime and seabed boundaries of the Caspian Sea between Azerbaijan and Iran cause continued uncertainty, with Iran insisting on an even one-fifth allocation of the Caspian Sea and challenging Azerbaijan’s hydrocarbon exploration in disputed waters. Its importance continues to grow, particularly as it becomes an increasingly important supplier of natural gas to Europe.

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