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CRS — Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses (March 18, 2015)

March 25, 2015 Comments off

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, a priority of U.S. policy has been to reduce the perceived threat posed by Iran to a broad range of U.S. interests. In 2014, a common enemy emerged in the form of the Islamic State organization, reducing gaps in U.S. and Iranian interests, although the two countries have somewhat differing approaches over how to try to defeat the Islamic State.

See also: Iran Sanctions (March 9, 2015) (PDF)

You Shall Procreate: Attacks on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Iran

March 19, 2015 Comments off

You Shall Procreate: Attacks on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Iran
Source: Amnesty International

Women in Iran could face significant restrictions on their use of contraceptives and be further excluded from the labour market unless they have had a child if two proposed laws are approved, says a new report by Amnesty International.

You Shall Procreate: Attacks on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Iran details the extreme lengths the Iranian authorities are going to in order to encourage repeated childbearing in a misguided attempt to boost the country’s declining population figures.

The Bill to Increase Fertility Rates and Prevent Population Decline (Bill 446) outlaws voluntary sterilization, which is believed to be the second most common method of modern contraception in Iran, and blocks access to information about contraception, denying women the opportunity to make informed decisions about having children. Coupled with the elimination of state funding for Iran’s family planning program, which had, up until 2012, provided millions of women in the country with access to affordable modern contraception, the move would undoubtedly result in greater numbers of unwanted pregnancies, forcing more women to seek illegal and unsafe abortions. Lack of access to condoms, which were previously dispended through urban clinics and rural health houses funded by Iran’s Family and Population Planning Programme, would also lead to a rise in sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

From paper state to caliphate: The ideology of the Islamic State

March 12, 2015 Comments off

From paper state to caliphate: The ideology of the Islamic State
Source: Brookings Institution

While the Islamic State dominates headlines through its brutal tactics and pervasive propaganda, there is little awareness of the unique ideology driving the group’s strategy. Drawing from private correspondence, statements, speeches, and Islamic theology, Cole Bunzel unpacks the ideology of the Islamic State in a new analysis paper.

The Islamic State, Bunzel argues, is inconceivable apart from its ideology. Like al-Qaida, the group identifies with a movement in Islamic political thought known as jihadi-Salafism, or jihadism for short. Jihadi-Salafism is a distinct ideological movement in Sunni Islam, encompassing not only militant groups, but also a global network of scholars, websites, media outlets, and numerous supporters on social media.

The Islamic State’s version of jihadi-Salafism is predicated on an extremist reading of Islamic scripture that is also textually rigorous, deeply rooted in a premodern theological tradition, and elaborated on by a recognized cadre of religious authorities. Founded in 2006 as an al-Qaida offshoot, the Islamic State’s founders espoused sharply anti-Shiite sectarian views and harsh application of Islamic law. Empowered by its ideology, the group rose from a “paper state” of little influence to a global jihadi movement.

Bunzel argues that the coalition military campaign may actually strengthen the Islamic State’s ideology by lending credence to one of the group’s fundamental views: the idea that Shia are conspiring with the United States and secular Arab rulers to limit Sunni power in the Middle East. Instead, Bunzel recommends regional governments take the lead in countering the Islamic State by deconstructing its violent ideology and eroding the legitimacy of its claims to statehood. Reducing the Islamic State from a “caliphate” back to a “paper state,” Bunzel writes, may stem the group’s influence.

Israel’s politics in the run-up to the elections

March 12, 2015 Comments off

Israel’s politics in the run-up to the elections
Source: European Parliament Think Tank

In December 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called early national elections, scheduled for 17 March 2015, after dissolving the coalition arrangement underpinning the government formed after the January 2013 elections. Differences on Palestinian issues and budgetary matters, between Netanyahu, of the right-wing Likud party, and centrist parties in his coalition, reportedly contributed to the decision. Israel’s positions on a host of regional security and socioeconomic issues could be influenced by the election results.

Roundup of Recent Congressional Research Service Reports About the Middle East

February 27, 2015 Comments off

Roundup of Recent Congressional Research Service Reports About the Middle East (PDFs)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs Release of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1977-1980, Volume IX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, August 1978-December 1980

February 17, 2015 Comments off

Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs Release of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1977-1980, Volume IX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, August 1978-December 1980
Source: U.S. State Department

The Department of State released today Foreign Relations of the United States, 1977–1980, Volume IX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, August 1978–December 1980. As part of the Foreign Relations subseries devoted to the foreign policy of the administration of President Jimmy Carter, this volume is the second of two volumes that document U.S. efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement to the Arab-Israeli dispute. This volume begins with the August 1978 acceptance by Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin of President Carter’s invitation to attend a tripartite summit meeting at Camp David. It traces the course of the September 1978 Camp David Summit and the series of negotiations which followed, talks which culminated in the conclusion of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty on March 26, 1979.

During this period, the Arab-Israeli dispute was top on the list of U.S. foreign policy priorities, reflected in President Carter’s direct involvement in the peace process. With the U.S. failure to broaden Arab support for its diplomatic efforts and the pressures caused by a growing number of crises elsewhere, the administration’s engagement with the Arab-Israeli dispute entered a less intensive phase after the spring of 1979. The volume concludes by documenting the administration’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to build upon the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty and address the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. During the last eighteen months of the administration, U.S. diplomacy toward this issue focused on keeping the faltering autonomy negotiations on track, securing the continued goodwill and stability of Egypt, mediating Sadat’s public rivalries with other Arab countries, dealing with the upheaval in Lebanon, and addressing the series of resolutions related to the Arab-Israeli dispute brought before the United Nations.

CRS — Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs (January 20, 2015)

February 13, 2015 Comments off

Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress has enacted a series of legislative provisions since 2006 to enable certain Iraqi and Afghan nationals to become U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs). These provisions make certain Iraqis and Afghans who have worked as translators or interpreters, or who were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan, eligible for special immigrant visas (SIVs). Special immigrants comprise a category of permanent employment-based admissions under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). While the special immigrant category is unique, it does bear some similarities to other admission categories that are authorized by other sections of the INA, including refugees and Amerasian children.

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