Reports & Issue Briefs

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The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is experiencing a time of great transformation and as well as tumult. Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Dr. Karim Mezran and Dr. Arturo Varvelli of the Italian Institute for International Political Studies gathered experts to explore decentralization and political Islam in six MENA countries in “The Arc of Crisis in the MENA Region: Fragmentation, Decentralization, and Islamist Opposition.”

The report is divided into three parts. The first explores whether decentralization can positively contribute to more effective governance in fragmented environments across the region. The second examines the diverse manifestations of political Islam following the changes several countries experienced after the 2011 uprisings. The third addresses the issue of energy, including the challenges and opportunities it presents in the current political climate.
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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.
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The Islamic Tradition and the Human Rights Discourse is a collection of thought provoking articles that aim to elevate the conversation on Islam and human rights beyond the confines of "compatibility." The report, compiled and edited by Dr. H.A. Hellyer, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, sheds light on new methods for the exploration and engagement of the Islamic tradition and the rights discourse, featuring theoretical and practical accounts by Muslim scholars, academics, and human rights practitioners.
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As unrest over the Iraqi government’s failure to provide essential services grips southern Iraq, the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East is offering insight and analysis beyond the headlines. In a new issue brief, Beyond Security: Stabilization, Governance, and Socioeconomic Challenges in Iraq, Dr. Harith Hasan explores the ways in which economic and social issues play into Iraq’s instability and the genesis of violent conflict. In addition to Iraq’s flailing economy and demographic boom, the author highlights growing disillusionment with the political system, demonstrated by the low turnout in Iraq’s contested May 2018 election. Lack of political participation risks widening the gap between ruling elites and public demands, which could ultimately lead to further radicalization and conflict.
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This new issue brief by Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Dr. Aaron Stein explores the challenges facing the United States and Europe as Turkish politicians use foreign policy as a tool for populist political gain.

To better understand the relationship between Turkish policy-making and public opinion, the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center worked with Metropoll, a Turkey-based independent polling firm, to gauge public opinion about the country’s relationship with its neighbors and allies.
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This new issue brief argues that the United States should craft a realistic Turkey policy, given the current state of tensions over regional policy and the entrenchment of authoritarianism and illiberalism in Turkey. The piece contends that the trajectory of the relationship between the United States and Turkey suggests a need for the United States to focus on "transactionalism," wherein the majority of bilateral talks are simply aimed at managing a troubled but important relationship, rather than waiting for tensions over US actions in Syria to subside.

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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