Publications

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Revolution Unveiled: A Closer Look at Iran’s Presence and Influence in the Middle East, by Phillip Smyth, Tim Michetti, and Owen Daniels, pieces together snapshots of Iran’s influence in the region using photographic analysis, geolocation, social media monitoring, and other methods. Through four case studies, this report systematically examines new or lesser-known methods Iran employs to project its influence beyond its borders. By using proxy Shia groups, ideology, arms provision, and transnational networks, Tehran destabilizes and strikes at regional adversaries to achieve its strategic and policy objectives.

 

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Fresh water is fundamental to human health, social development, peace, and economic growth everywhere in the world. Yet in a great many places, and for a great many people, clean freshwater is scarce. Current trends on both the supply and demand sides strongly suggest that clean freshwater availability will become more challenging in more places in the future. As a result, water will become even more important than it currently is in contributing to the degradation of social, political, and economic systems in troubled countries around the world. Nowhere are these dynamics more evident or more important than in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where population growth and water scarcity threaten acute impacts in the years to come. An unreliable water supply can act as an important catalyst for instability, especially when present alongside other sources of discontent and unrest (such as ethnic, religious, political, or economic stressors).

 

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A region in flux, the Mediterranean of today–and tomorrow–faces an array of complex challenges. Demographic shifts, evolving political and security contexts, economic uncertainty, and climate change have created massive migration flows and regional instability, straining resources in southern Europe. These and other drivers of change have highlighted the increased importance of developing a transatlantic security strategy for the region. 

 

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It might be true that history does not repeat itself, but it can provide examples of what to do and what does not work. In the spirit of the adage that “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it,” History’s Lessons for Resolving Today’s Middle East Conflicts, by Mathew J. Burrows, examines past precedents for resolving highly complex conflicts, by delving into seven historic examples of peacemaking. Each conflict is different, but there are common patterns for resolving them. Based on our study of historical precedents, we list seven key requirements for success based on outcomes in these examples and have highlighted several of the precedents of special relevance to the situation today in the Middle East.

 

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Considering its geographic distance and lack of formal allies, the Middle East has played an outsized role in the history of Australia's global engagement. While Australia's interests in the region are real and increasing, as a middle power with finite resources it must take a smart approach to pursuing them. Australia has a strong track record of effective security partnership and investing in a close relationship with a key partner there offers a range of benefits. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an ideal candidate as the two countries have rapidly built a strong and collaborative relationship, and they share a surprising number of mutual interests. But an expanded relationship faces several natural constraints, and both countries must have a clear-eyed and well-articulated understanding of the benefits and limitations if it is to mature.

 

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The pace with which Iran’s conventional missile program has been developing in recent years suggests that the country’s missiles could become much more accurate, and thus deadly, within a few years, potentially providing Tehran with a new set of military options and a higher degree of operational flexibility. This would force (and most probably already has forced) the Pentagon to strategize and plan for a range of Iran-related military contingencies in the region like never before. As the utility of Iranian missiles expands beyond deterrence and possibly enters the realm of offense, the likelihood of military crises and kinetic flare ups in the Gulf rises.

 

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With the current American election campaign and change in presidential administrations due in January 2017, the debate over appropriate levels of US engagement in an unstable Middle East assumes vital importance. Should a new administration be more proactive in seeking to address threats, resolve conflicts, support allies, and deter foes? Should the new US president be wary about excessive American involvement in complex overseas problems, and focus on other concerns and issues closer to home? What should be done directly by Washington, and what is best addressed by local actors, alliances, and coalitions of the willing? What is the appropriate balance between doing too little and trying to do too much?

 

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Bahrain has been in the political doghouse in Washington ever since its government crushed Arab Spring-inspired popular protests in February 2011, leading to a political crisis between the government and the opposition that has deepened over the past few weeks. So, it was not surprising when the Bahraini government justified its latest crackdown against Al Wefaq, the largest Shiite opposition faction in the country, its explanations fell mostly on closed American ears.

 

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The era of Pax Americana in the Gulf, and perhaps in the broader Middle East, is changing. Regional transformation and chaos resulting from the Arab uprisings, the rise of ISIS and its global terrorist reach, shifting US priorities around the world, and the rise of other outside powers in the Gulf have contributed to an acceleration of the transition from a Gulf security architecture with almost exclusive US access and control to a more penetrated system in which the United States is still militarily dominant. However, major powers like Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France are more confidently stepping in, pursuing their self-interests, and assuming more expansive political, economic, and security roles that either compete with or complement US policies and interests.


 


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September 2015 marked the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama's speech outlining the administration's strategy to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Yet, ISIS celebrated in June its own first-year anniversary of setting up a state by conducting three nearly simultaneous terrorist operations in three different countries—France, Tunisia, and Kuwait. Just this past month, ISIS also shocked the world with its attacks in Paris and Beirut and its downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt, killing more than 400 people combined and injuring hundreds more. While nobody expected the destruction of a resilient and agile foe such as ISIS within a couple of years, it is deeply troubling that the coalition is having such a hard time even disrupting its activities.

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