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Use With Care: A Reporter’s Glossary of Loaded Language in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

July 31, 2014 Comments off

Use With Care: A Reporter’s Glossary of Loaded Language in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Source: International Press Institute

IPI glossary designed for journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict available here to download.

The popularity of the handbook has been key for IPI´s decision to release the complete PDF of the handbook containing more than 75 alternative words and phrases.

A print version of the handbook, which is designed to help journalists covering the region, has been distributed to nearly 100 journalists and researchers.

Free registration required to download document.

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Hamas Seen as More to Blame Than Israel for Current Violence

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Hamas Seen as More to Blame Than Israel for Current Violence
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

As fighting continues to rage in Gaza amid calls for a cease-fire, about twice as many Americans say Hamas (40%) as Israel (19%) is responsible for the current violence.

Just a quarter (25%) believe that Israel has gone too far in responding to the conflict; far more think Israel’s response has been about right (35%) or that it has not gone far enough (15%).

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted July 24-27 among 1,005 adults, finds substantial partisan divisions over which side is most responsible for the violence and Israel’s response to the conflict.

A majority of Republicans (60%) say Hamas is most responsible for the current violence. Democrats are divided: 29% say Hamas is more responsible, 26% Israel, while 18% volunteer that both sides are responsible.

There also are deep differences over Israel’s response to the conflict: Nearly half of Republicans (46%) say Israel’s response has been about right while another 19% say it has not gone far enough; just 16% think Israel’s response has been excessive. Among Democrats, as many say Israel has gone too far (35%) as say its response has been about right (31%); 9% say Israel has not gone far enough.

Beyond Sectarianism: The New Middle East Cold War

July 24, 2014 Comments off

Beyond Sectarianism: The New Middle East Cold War
Source: Brookings Institution

From Syria and Iraq to Libya and Yemen, the Middle East is once again rife with conflict. Much of the fighting is along sectarian lines, but can it really be explained simply as a “Sunni versus Shia” battle? What explains this upsurge in violence across the region? And what role can or should the United States play?

In a new Analysis Paper, F. Gregory Gause, III frames Middle East politics in terms of a new, regional cold war in which Iran and Saudi Arabia compete for power and influence. Rather than stemming from sectarian rivalry, this new Middle East cold war results from the weakening of Arab states and the creation of domestic political vacuums into which local actors invite external support.

Country Analysis Brief: Iran

July 24, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Iran
Source: Energy Information Administration

Iran holds some of the world’s largest deposits of proved oil and natural gas reserves, ranking as the world’s fourth-and second-largest reserve holder of oil and natural gas, respectively. Iran also ranks among the world’s top 10 oil producers and top 5 natural gas producers. Iran produced 3.2 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of petroleum and other liquids in 2013 and more than 5.6 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of dry natural gas in 2012.

The Strait of Hormuz, on the southeastern coast of Iran, is an important route for oil exports from Iran and other Persian Gulf countries. At its narrowest point, the Strait of Hormuz is 21 miles wide, yet an estimated 17 million bbl/d of crude oil and oil products flowed through it in 2013 (roughly one-third of all seaborne traded oil and almost 20% of total oil produced globally). Liquefied natural gas (LNG) volumes also flow through the Strait of Hormuz. Approximately 3.9 Tcf of LNG was transported via the Strait of Hormuz in 2013, almost all of which was from Qatar, accounting for about one-third of global LNG trade.

CRS — U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians

July 18, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed approximately $5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, who are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid. Successive Administrations have requested aid for the Palestinians in apparent support of at least three major U.S. policy priorities of interest to Congress:

• Preventing terrorism against Israel from Hamas and other militant organizations.
• Fostering stability, prosperity, and self-governance in the West Bank that inclines Palestinians toward peaceful coexistence with Israel and a “two-state solution.”
• Meeting humanitarian needs.

Iran’s Influence in Afghanistan: Implications for the U.S. Drawdown

July 18, 2014 Comments off

Iran’s Influence in Afghanistan: Implications for the U.S. Drawdown
Source: RAND Corporation

This study explores Iranian influence in Afghanistan and the implications for the United States after the departure of most American forces from Afghanistan. Iran has substantial economic, political, cultural, and religious leverage in Afghanistan. Kabul faces an obdurate insurgency that is likely to exploit the U.S. and international drawdown. The Afghan government will also face many economic difficulties in future years, and Afghanistan is highly dependent on international economic aid. Additionally, the biggest problem facing Afghanistan may be political corruption. Iranian influence in Afghanistan following the drawdown of international forces need not necessarily be a cause of concern for the United States though. Although Tehran will use its cultural, political, and economic sway in an attempt to shape a post-2016 Afghanistan, Iran and the United States share core interests there: to prevent the country from again becoming dominated by the Taliban and a safe haven for al Qaeda.

This study examines Iran’s historic interests in Afghanistan and its current policies in that country, and explores the potential implications for U.S. policy. The research is based on field interviews in Afghanistan, the use of primary sources in Dari and Persian, and scholarly research in English.

New CFR InfoGuide Explores Islam’s Sunni-Shia Divide

July 17, 2014 Comments off

New CFR InfoGuide Explores Islam’s Sunni-Shia Divide
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

As sectarian tensions convulse Syria and Iraq, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has released a new interactive guide examining the roots and consequences of the divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

Sunni-Shia conflicts have fed a Syrian civil war that threatens to transform the map of the Middle East, spurred violence that is fracturing Iraq, and widened fissures in a number of tense Gulf states. Growing clashes between these two largest Islamic denominations have also sparked a revival of transnational jihadi networks that poses dangers beyond the region.

The guide includes expert insight into the extremist groups behind today’s sectarian violence and related flashpoints that threaten international security.

National Funding of Road Infrastructure

July 10, 2014 Comments off

National Funding of Road Infrastructure
Source: Law Library of Congress

This report examines the funding of roads and highways in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England and Wales, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, South Africa, and Sweden. It provides a description of the infrastructure in the jurisdiction, information on the ownership and responsibility of the roads, and taxes or other ways of collecting money to fund the nation’s infrastructure. If applicable, a discussion of reforms or new initiatives is examined.

Understanding Political Islam

June 30, 2014 Comments off

Understanding Political Islam
Source: Cato Institution

The tragic events in Iraq, where the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is currently mounting an offensive against the government of the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, certainly appears to be consistent with Blair’s concern—namely that “the battles of this century … could easily be fought around the questions of cultural or religious difference.” But to what extent do Blair’s claims reflect the experience of political transitions throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)?

The rise of political Islam into prominence poses important questions both for people in the MENA region and for policymakers in the West. Since 9/11, the thrust of Western foreign and security policy toward the MENA region has aimed at containing radical forms of Islam. In practice, that often meant cozying up to authoritarian regimes, as long as they were secular, since these were seen as superior to their theocratic alternatives. When the Egyptian military brought down President Mohamed Morsi in early July 2013, there was a sense of relief among many in Washington.

Backgrounder — Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria

June 13, 2014 Comments off

Backgrounder — Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), a predominantly Sunni jihadist group, seeks to sow civil unrest in Iraq and the Levant with the aim of establishing a caliphate—a single, transnational Islamic state based on sharia. The group emerged in the ashes of the U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and the insurgency that followed provided it with fertile ground to wage a guerrilla war against coalition forces and their domestic allies.

After a U.S. counterterrorism campaign and Sunni efforts to maintain local security in what was known as the Tribal Awakening, AQI violence diminished from its peak in 2006–2007. But since the withdrawal of U.S. forces in late 2011, the group has increased attacks on mainly Shiite targets in what is seen as an attempt to reignite conflict between Iraq’s Sunni minority and the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Burgeoning violence in 2013 left nearly eight thousand civilians dead, making it Iraq’s bloodiest year since 2008, according to the United Nations. Meanwhile, in 2012 the group adopted its new moniker, ISIS (sometimes translated as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL) as an expression of its broadened ambitions as its fighters have crossed into neighboring Syria to challenge both the Assad regime and secular and Islamist opposition groups there. By June 2014, the group’s fighters had routed the Iraqi military in the major cities of Fallujah and Mosul and established territorial control and administrative structures on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border.

What Matters Most to Saudi Arabia’s Youth?: Helping Policy Makers Address the National Challenges

June 11, 2014 Comments off

What Matters Most to Saudi Arabia’s Youth?: Helping Policy Makers Address the National Challenges
Source: Boston Consulting Group

What characteristics distinguish Saudi youth from their peers in other countries? How satisfied are Saudi youth with their lives? What are their most important needs? These questions have become increasingly important to Saudi Arabia’s government and business leaders as they pursue initiatives to improve the lives of the kingdom’s young people.

In a recent quantitative and qualitative study of Saudi youth, The Boston Consulting Group, working with ComRes, sought answers. We found that Saudi Arabia’s young adults lead varied lives. Still, the story of one 24-year-old man helps illustrate the plight of his age cohort: This young man, unemployed and single, lives with his family in Jeddah. He told us that he spends his days sleeping, chatting with friends online, and playing or watching soccer matches. He lacks connections that might help him get a job, he says, citing the prevalence of nepotism in hiring. He wants to find a job, get married, and buy a home and car, but he does not know how to make this happen. “If God wills this ambition, it will come true,” he told us.

Stories like this are all too common among Saudi youth today, and their concerns warrant urgent attention. The 13 million Saudi citizens under the age of 30 represent approximately two-thirds of the population, making the kingdom much “younger” than most countries. On average among countries globally, the under-30 youth segment makes up approximately half the population, and in developed countries, that group is slightly more than one-third of the population.

The consequences of having a large youth segment are already evident and likely to intensify. For example, approximately 1.9 million Saudis will enter the workforce over the next ten years, increasing the size of the current workforce by more than one-third. To accommodate this influx of new workers, the country will need to create more jobs in both the public and private sectors, as well as decrease its reliance on foreign workers. As the “youth bulge” moves through the life cycle, the pressure will intensify to improve the education system, create jobs that pay well, provide affordable housing, and offer effective social services.

Free registration required to access report.

Foreign Fighters in Syria

June 9, 2014 Comments off

Foreign Fighters in Syria
Source: The Soufan Group

Over 12,000 fighters from at least 81 countries have joined the civil war in Syria, and the numbers continue to grow. Around 2,500 are from Western countries, including most members of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. There are also several hundred from Russia. But the great majority are from the Arab World. Most are fighting with rebel groups, and increasingly with the most extreme among them; but many are also fighting with the Government, or with ethnic or faith communities that are trying to protect themselves from both sides. A lot are young, often teenagers, and a fair percentage of those arriving from non-Muslim majority countries are converts to Islam. These and others who share their faith commonly express their motivation as a religious obligation to protect fellow Muslims from attack. This sense of duty is captured by their loose use of the word ‘jihad’.

There is considerable international concern at what these young men – and some women – will do once they leave Syria, and although almost all appear (from interviews and the evidence of social media) to go without a thought of what next, the experience of being in a war zone and exposed to the radicalizing influences of sectarianism and other forms of extremism are bound to have an impact on their ability and willingness to resume their former lives.

The policy response so far has often focused more on prevention and punishment than on dissuasion or reintegration, but as the number of returnees increases, and the resources required to monitor their activities are stretched to breaking point, it will be important to examine more closely why an individual went, what happened to him while there, and why he came back. This paper attempts to provide some general context for answering those questions, and offers suggestions for policy development.

Silenced, Expelled, Imprisoned: Repression of Students and Academics in Iran

June 9, 2014 Comments off

Silenced, Expelled, Imprisoned: Repression of Students and Academics in Iran
Source: Amnesty International

This report is based on research that Amnesty International conducted using a wide range of private and public sources. This included in-depth interviews with more than 50 individuals, both women and men, with direct knowledge of Iran’s universities and system of higher education, including former students and academic teaching staff. Amnesty International has not been permitted to visit Iran for fact-finding and research on the country since shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and thus was unable to investigate conditions at Iran’s universities first hand. However, its interviewees included students and teaching staff who had recently attended or been employed at Iranian universities before fleeing Iran and seeking asylum in Turkey and other countries.

In addition to the interviews, almost all of which were conducted in Persian, Amnesty International compiled further information using questionnaires.

Among public sources, Amnesty International has drawn on information published by the Iranian government, including in submissions to the UN; reports and findings of UN bodies; statements made by Iranian officials; reports of independent non-governmental human rights organizations; and Iranian and international media reports.

Legislation on Use of Water in Agriculture

June 3, 2014 Comments off

Legislation on Use of Water in Agriculture
Source: Law Library of Congress

This report summarizes legislation concerning the agricultural use of water in nineteen countries in Latin America, the Middle East, and Central Asia. It includes a summary of the laws that govern the agricultural use of water, the government authorities in charge of the administration of water for agriculture, requirements for licenses to use water for this purpose, and relevant guidelines on conservation and quality. In addition, some of the surveys provide information on intercountry disputes over the use of water. A comparative summary is included.

CDC Travel Notice — MERS in the Arabian Peninsula

May 30, 2014 Comments off

MERS in the Arabian Peninsula
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Cases of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) have been identified in multiple countries in the Arabian Peninsula. There have also been cases in several other countries in travelers who have been to the Arabian Peninsula and, in some instances, their close contacts. Two cases have been confirmed in two health care workers living in Saudi Arabia who were visiting the United States.

CDC does not recommend that travelers change their plans because of MERS. Most instances of person-to-person spread have occurred in health care workers and other close contacts (such as family members and caregivers) of people sick with MERS. If you are concerned about MERS, you should discuss your travel plans with your doctor.

New From the GAO

May 23, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office

Iran: State Leads an Interagency Process to Determine Whether to Impose Sanctions under Section 5(b) of the Iran Sanctions Act. GAO-14-598R, May 23.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-598R

CRS — Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations

May 14, 2014 Comments off

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report provides an overview of Jordanian politics and current issues in U.S.-Jordanian relations. It provides a brief discussion of Jordan’s government and economy and of its cooperation with U.S. policy objectives in the Middle East, including the promotion of Arab- Israeli peace.

CRS — Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response (updated)

May 13, 2014 Comments off

Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Fighting continues across Syria, pitting government forces and their foreign allies against a range of anti-government insurgents, some of whom also are fighting amongst themselves. Since March 2011, the conflict has driven more than 2.7 million Syrians into neighboring countries as refugees (out of a total population of more than 22 million). Millions more Syrians are internally displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance, of which the United States remains the largest bilateral provider, with more than $1.7 billion in funding identified to date. U.S. nonlethal assistance to opposition forces was placed on hold in December 2013, as fighting in northern Syria disrupted mechanisms put in place to monitor and secure U.S. supplies. Administration officials have since resumed some assistance to select opposition groups and have allocated $287 million to date.

Neither pro-Asad forces nor their opponents appear capable of consolidating their battlefield gains in Syria or achieving outright victory there in the short term. Improved coordination among some anti-government forces and attrition in government ranks make a swift reassertion of state control over all of Syria unlikely. Conflict between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, a.k.a. ISIS) and other anti-Asad forces has intensified. The war in Syria is exacerbating local sectarian and political conflicts within Lebanon and Iraq, threatening national stability.

CDC — Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

May 12, 2014 Comments off

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV. Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness. They had fever, cough, and shortness of breath. More than 30% of these people died.

So far, all the cases have been linked to countries in the Arabian Peninsula. This virus has spread from ill people to others through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. However, there is no evidence of sustained spreading in community settings.

On May 2, 2014, the first U.S. case of MERS was confirmed in a traveler from Saudi Arabia to the U.S. The traveler is considered to be fully recovered and has been released from the hospital. Public health officials have contacted healthcare workers, family members, and travelers who had close contact with the patient. At this time, none of these contacts has had evidence of being infected with MERS-CoV.

On May 11, 2014, a second U.S. imported case of MERS was confirmed in a traveler who also came to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia. This patient is currently hospitalized and doing well. People who had close contact with this patient are being contacted. The two U.S. cases are not linked.

CRS — Iran’s Nuclear Program: Tehran’s Compliance with International Obligations

May 8, 2014 Comments off

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Tehran’s Compliance with International Obligations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

In 2002, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began investigating allegations that Iran had conducted clandestine nuclear activities. Ultimately, the agency reported that some of these activities had violated Tehran’s IAEA safeguards agreement. The IAEA has not stated definitively that Iran has pursued nuclear weapons, but has also not yet been able to conclude that the country’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes. The IAEA Board of Governors referred the matter to the U.N. Security Council in February 2006. Since then, the council has adopted six resolutions, the most recent of which (Resolution 1929) was adopted in June 2010.

The Security Council has required Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA’s investigation of its nuclear activities, suspend its uranium enrichment program, suspend its construction of a heavywater reactor and related projects, and ratify the Additional Protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. However, Tehran has continued to defy the council’s demands by continuing work on its uranium enrichment program and heavy-water reactor program. Iran has signed, but not ratified, its Additional Protocol. Tehran has limited and reversed some aspects of these programs’ progress since the government began implementing a November 2013 Joint Plan of Action between Iran and China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Iran and the IAEA agreed in August 2007 on a work plan to clarify the outstanding questions regarding Tehran’s nuclear program. Most of these questions have essentially been resolved, but the agency still has questions regarding “possible military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear programme. The IAEA has reported for some time that it has not been able to make progress on these matters.

This report provides a brief overview of Iran’s nuclear program and describes the legal basis for the actions taken by the IAEA board and the Security Council. It will be updated as events warrant.

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