Reports & Issue Briefs

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Seven years from the Syrian revolution, the conflict in Syria has altered the course of history for the generation coming of age in the region. It has killed, wounded, or displaced millions of Syrians, worsened regional sectarianism, raised the risk of war between Israel and Iran, generated the worst refugee crisis since World War II, and created a new and more pernicious wave of violent radicals. Its effects extend beyond the region, shaping the outcome of politics around the world.
A new Atlantic Council issue brief argues that current US counterterrorism efforts in Yemen fail to address deeper structural issues that foment extremism and destabilize Yemen's central government.

In “A Blueprint for a Comprehensive US Counterterrorism Strategy in Yemen,” former US Ambassador to Yemen Barbara K. Bodine and Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East Deputy Director Danya Greenfield contend that any US counterterrorism strategy to stem the growth of extremist groups and potential state failure in Yemen must address underlying economic and political issues. The authors outline a long-term and comprehensive approach that provides increased and consistent level of financial and technical assistance to address the pervasive lack of economic opportunity, structural unemployment, cronyism, and inequitable distribution of state resources.

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Jihadists in Iraq and Syria, led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) are capturing cities, energy assets, and military hardware daily. They now control a territory the size of Jordan and are building a state from which they aspire and are increasingly able to attack US regional interests, allies, and the United States itself.

In a new Atlantic Council Issue in Focus, "Losing Syria and Iraq to Jihadists," Resident Fellow Faysal Itani outlines the roots and nature of the threat ISIS poses to US interests and security. He refutes the arguments that Bashar al-Assad and Nouri al-Maliki could be allies against jihadists; that extremist groups in Syria and Iraq should simply be left to fight one another; or that a narrow counterterrorism approach can eliminate the ISIS threat. Itani argues instead that the deepening sectarian extremism in Syria and Iraq is the product of fundamentally dysfunctional political orders and the weakness of ISIS’ opponents.

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In a new issue brief, Rafik Hariri Center Senior Fellow Mohsin Khan contends that although political turmoil has dominated economic decision-making in the Arab transition countries and Jordan and Morocco during the last three years, there is some encouraging evidence that these economies will turn around in 2014.

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Report authors Mirette F. Mabrouk, deputy director for regional programs, and Stefanie A. Hausheer, assistant director, examine the progress in achieving the original demands of protestors and contend that local actors would embrace greater international support to help facilitate genuine transitions.

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A new Atlantic Council issue brief, "Building a Better US-Gulf Partnership," contends that the United States and its Gulf partners must prioritize and build on their shared interests in light of ongoing erosion of ties, and a fundamental gap in expectations about the US role in the region and its commitment to security for the Gulf states.

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A new Atlantic Council report, US and EU: Lack of Strategic Vision, Frustrated Efforts Toward the Arab Transitions, argues the United States and its European allies lack strategic vision in supporting the Arab countries that embarked in 2011 on a democratic path—Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen—and have not lived up to their stated commitments for robust support. While the European Union (EU) and the United States have tried to advance specific assistance initiatives in the transitioning countries—some of which were announced more than two years ago—they have not made as much headway as hoped over the past year. In part, the lack of progress is due to serious political and security challenges in these countries, yet bureaucratic delays, insufficient funding, and inadequate political will in Brussels and Washington also hampered success.

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In the latest issue brief from the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center, "Jordan's Youth: Avenues for Activism," author Danya Greenfield evaluates the role of Jordanian youth in political activism, and contends that youth will ultimately take the helm of political change given Jordan's current political and economic climate.

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