- The Path to Power in Brazil | Wednesday, July 6th | 12:30 pm | The Atlantic Council | Click HERE to RSVP. | Brazil’s current political earthquake makes projecting the future of power and politics in the country a very risky enterprise. But, we’re going to try anyway. The Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center has engaged Brazil’s best thinkers and behind-the-scenes players to place their bets and analyze what current trends tell us about the next months and years. The event will include input from the former Brazilian Minister of Finance, former Governor of Ceará State and former presidential candidate Ciro Gomes, as well as Nonresident Senior Brazil Fellow, Ricardo Sennes, and Brazilian pollster Mauricio Moura. During the event, the Atlantic Council will also launch results of its exclusive opinion poll questions about the direction of Brazilian politics and our latest policy brief, The Path to Power in Brazil.
- Delivering on the Future of Submarine Warfare | Friday, July 8th | 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM | Center for Strategic & International Studies | Click HERE to RSVP | The Maritime Security Dialogue brings together CSIS and USNI, two of the nation’s most respected non-partisan institutions. The series is intended to highlight the particular challenges facing the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, from national level maritime policy to naval concept development and program design. Given budgetary challenges, technological opportunities, and ongoing strategic adjustments, the nature and employment of U.S. maritime forces are likely to undergo significant change over the next ten to fifteen years. The Maritime Security Dialogue provides an unmatched forum for discussion of these issues with the nation’s maritime leaders. Panelists include Rear Admiral Charles A. Richard, USN, Director of the Undersea Warfare Division (N97) and Rear Admiral Michael E. Jabaley, USN, Program Executive Officer for Submarines. The discussion will be moderated by Dr. Kathleen Hicks, Senior Vice President, Henry A. Kissinger Chair, and Director of the International Security Program, CSIS.
- How to Defeat Terrorism in Iraq | Monday, July 11th | 1:00 PM | The Institute for World Politics | Click here to RSVP | Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari will share his vision for his country: a political re-crafting of the existing government structure away from sectarianism and towards a new constitution based on Iraqi national citizenship and inclusive of participation from all sectarian communities. HE Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari is the Chairman of the Iraq National Project and President of Peace Ambassadors for Iraq (PAFI). One of the leaders of the al-Zoba tribe in Iraq, he is the nephew of the late Islamic scholar and religious leader Sheikh Harith al-Dhari. Jamal was born in the Abu Ghraib district of Iraq on July 16, 1965. He grew up within the al-Zoba tribe and in the 1970s he attended the Hafsa School. In the 1980s, Jamal was conscripted into the Iraqi Army to fight in the Iran- Iraq War. During his time on the frontline, he fought alongside both Sunni and Shia officers and friends, in the Iraqi Republican Guard. Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by coalition forces, Jamal was a strong proponent of Iraqi nationalism and self-rule. In 2005, he and his family fought against al-Qaeda’s occupation of Iraqi territory and, as a consequence, Jamal lost 70 members of his family in the struggle. In 2014, Jamal helped to establish the nonprofit think tank Peace Ambassadors for Iraq, whose purpose is to advocate for a renewed system of government in Iraq, to determine the best policies to fully eliminate ISIS/Daesh and other terrorist forces from Iraq, and to build international support for an all-inclusive Iraq. Presently, Jamal is working for a renewal in Iraq by forging a non-sectarian and inclusive settlement for all Iraqis.
- Blasphemy Laws and Censorship by States and Non-State Actors: Examining Global Threats to Freedom of Expression | Thursday, July 14th | 2:00 PM | Room TBD, click HERE for event details | The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission | The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a hearing that will examine blasphemy laws, state censorship, actions by non-state actors, and other threats to freedom of expression around the world. This hearing will examine these issues, while seeking to provide concrete recommendations for how U.S. policy makers can most effectively encourage the protection of freedom of expression around the globe. This hearing will be open to members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public and the media. The event will be hosted by Joseph R. Pitts, M.C. and Co-Chairman, TLHRC. James P. McGovern, M.C. and Co-Chairman, TLHRC.
- David N. Saperstein, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, U.S. Department of State
- Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J., Chairman, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
- Ms. Vanessa Tucker, Vice President for Analysis, Freedom House
- Ms. Nina Shae, Director, Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom
- Dr. Karin Karlekar, Director of Free Expression Programs, PEN America
- Dr. Courtney C. Radsch, Advocacy Director, Committee to Protect Journalists
- Mr. Wael Aleji, Spokesperson, Syrian Network for Human Rights
- The “Pitiless” War: A Strategy After the Paris Attacks | Monday November 23rd | 10:00 – 11:15 | German Marshall Fund | REGISTER TO ATTEND | In the aftermath of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris committed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State group (ISIS), French President François Hollande declared that “….we are going to lead a war which will be pitiless.” What is the proper military, intelligence, and diplomatic response to counter to these recent brutal attacks against Western targets? What role will the United States play going forward? What does Europe need to do differently to meet this threat? What should the transatlantic alliance do about Syria and Iraq? With Hollande scheduled to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on November 24, and with these questions in mind, The German Marshall Fund of the Unites States (GMF) is pleased to invite you to an on-the-record discussion. Speakers include: Ambassador James Franklin Jeffrey, Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Matthew G. Olsen, Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC); Derek Chollet, Counselor and Senior Advisor for Security and Defense Policy, The German Marshall Fund of the United States; Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.
- The Deteriorating State of Human Rights in China | Monday, November 23rd | 12:00 – 1:30 | CATO Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Since assuming the presidency of China in 2013, Xi Jinping has become the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, centralizing his authority over the Communist Party, the military, and the government. Eminent scholars and civil rights activists from China will describe the deterioration of human rights under Xi’s rule, citing the rise of arbitrary arrests and detentions; a crackdown on academic freedom; the persecution of some ethnic groups; and increasing restrictions on journalists, the internet, religious organizations, and other groups in civil society. The speakers will discuss those developments within the context of other policies, including a new national security law, an anti-corruption campaign, and economic measures in the face of a significant growth slowdown. Speakers include: Chen Guangcheng, Visiting Fellow, Catholic University; Teng Biao, Associate, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School; and Wei Jingsheng, Chairman, Wei Jingsheng Foundation; with comments by Xia Yeliang, Visiting Fellow, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute; moderated by Ian Vasquez, Director, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute.
- Understanding ISIS: Paris, Beirut, and U.S. Policy Webinar | Monday, November 23rd |4:00 – 5:00| Institute for Policy Studies | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Terrorism survives wars, people don’t. Last week’s attacks in Paris left over 100 people dead. In Beirut, car bombs killed 43 people. Shortly before these attacks, President Obama defended his “war on terror” and said that ISIS was contained. As the civilian death toll rises and the refugee crisis grows, the U.S. global war on terror continues — and continues to fail, ultimately because you can’t bomb terrorism out of existence. In this 1-hour webinar, IPS Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis will discuss the new developments in Paris and Beirut, in the refugee crisis in Europe and the U.S., and discuss solutions that promote true diplomacy over military action.
- A New Cold War? The West and Russia | Monday, November 23rd | 5:30pm | Foreign Policy Research Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the prospect of protracted confrontation between Russia and the West has so far met with an uncertain response on the part of the West. Has a new Cold War begun, and how should America and its allies respond? Nikolas Gvosdev, a frequent commentator on Russian and Eurasian affairs will explore these issues. He was the Editor of The National Interest magazine and a Senior Fellow at The Nixon Center in Washington, D.C. He received his doctorate from St Antony’s College, Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes Scholarship. His work has appeared in such outlets as Foreign Affairs, The Financial Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Orbis, and he has appeared as a commentator on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, National Public Radio, and BBC.
- Global Security Forum 2015| Monday, November 16th | 9:30 – 10:45 | CSIS | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Join the Center for Strategic and International Studies at their 2015 Global Security Forum. Panels include: The Geopolitical Implications of Europe’s Migration Crisis, Russia’s Strategic Vision, Counter-Coercion Strategies: Assessing U.S. Next Steps in Maritime Asia, and The Human Crisis in Syria and Iraq: What Can be Done? Speakers include: Philipp Ackerman, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Geoff Dyer, Financial Times Correspondent, Washington Bureau, Catherine Wiesner, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
- Countering Terrorism In Tunisia: Prospects For Security Sector Reform | Monday, November 16th | 12:00-1:30 | Project on Middle East Democracy | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Despite the immense progress Tunisia has made in its transition since the Jasmine Revolution, significant challenges—both internal and external—threaten the future of Tunisia’s democracy. As major terrorist attacks have negatively affected the country’s security and economic stability, Tunisia’s government has struggled to find an appropriate and effective response to counter the threat of terrorism.The Legatum Institute’s upcoming publication Tunisia at Risk: Will counter-terrorism undermine the revolution? analyzes successive Tunisian governments’ responses to terrorism and considers the relation between these responses and the future of the country’s democratic transition. Speakers include: Fadil Aliriza, visiting senior fellow, Legatum Institute, Daniel Brumberg, co-director, Democracy & Governance Studies, Georgetown University, and Querine Hanlon, president, Strategic Capacity Group.
- A Look at the Policy Options in War-torn Syria | Monday, November 16th | 2:00 – 3:30 | Brookings Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Syria continues to dominate headlines as the country approaches the fifth anniversary of the beginning of a civil war that has taken some 300,000 lives and displaced half the country’s population. To date, international strategy in addressing the conflict has largely failed. But the war shows few signs of burning out on its own. As such, a new strategy is needed. Ideas that have yet to be fully explored include standing up a better and newly formed Syrian opposition army, working harder to contain the violence there with regional states and partners, and pursuing an “ink spot” approach aiming to create a confederal Syria with multiple autonomous zones. Which of these may be most realistic and promising for protecting core American security interests, U.S. allies, and humanitarian interests? Panelists will include Daniel Byman, research director in the Center for Middle East Policy; William McCants, director of theProject on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World; Kenneth Pollack, senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy; and Tamara Cofman Wittes, director of the Center for Middle East Policy.
- Twenty Years After the Dayton Peace Accords | Monday, November 16th – Tuesday, November 17th | Johns Hopkins SAIS | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) cordially invites you to our major conference “Prospects for Progress in Reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina” to be held at the SAIS campus. This conference is part of the Center’s 20th Anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords and intends to support socio-economic reforms effort launched recently in Bosnia and Herzegovina and supported by the International Community. Speakers include: Igor Crnadak, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Fadil Novalic, Prime Minister of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Hoyt Yee, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs).
- The Central African Republic: The Situation On the Ground, Women, and Peacekeeping | Wednesday, November 18th | 12:00 – 2:00 | Women’s Foreign Policy Group | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Barrie Freeman joined the United Nations as political affairs director for the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) in September 2014. From 2011-2014, she served as director for North Africa at the National Democratic Institute, managing a wide range of political development programs in response to the political upheavals of the Arab Spring. Prior to that she served as a senior advisor to the institute and as deputy regional director for Central and West Africa, managing a diverse portfolio of country programs across the region that included support to electoral processes, civil society development, legislative strengthening, and political party development. Brown bag lunch will be supplied.
- Televising The Waves Of Political Change in Yemen | Wednesday, November 18th | 6:30 – 8:30 | Atlantic Plumbing Cinema | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Award-winning producer and journalist, Nawal Al-Maghafi, takes us on a journey into Yemen during the two most pivotal periods in the country’s modern history. Yemeniaty’s founder and director, Sama’a Al-Hamdani, will join Al-Maghafi to provide insight and analysis into the political and social dynamics that contributed to Yemen’s Revolution in 2011 and the failures of the transitional period that helped contribute to the regional proxy war. In this special screening of two mini documentaries, Al-Maghafi sheds light on one of the most unknown and complex countries in the Middle East. The first documentary takes place during the Arab-Spring inspired revolution of 2011, while the second film investigates the current humanitarian crisis facing the citizens of Yemen during this war. The screenings will be The President’s Man and His Revolutionary Son and Yemen: The Forgotten War.
- The Movement Of Women and Girls In Conflict: A Discussion On Protection, Reintegration and Migration | Thursday, November 19th | 9:00-10:30 | International Foundation for Electoral Systems| REGISTER TO ATTEND | “The Movement of Women and Girls in Conflict” will focus on the flight of women and girls in and from Central America, the Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s headlines are filled with the harrowing journeys of refugees traveling to Europe and warnings about a global migration crisis. Less visible is the enduring plight of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) desperate for resources amid limited and dangerous movement. Women and girls in both groups, and particularly those in forgotten conflicts, are burdened by rampant gender-based violence, lack of health care and services, and little social and economic agency to lead their families, their communities and themselves to better and safer lives. Speakers include: Joan Timoney, Senior Director of Advocacy and External Relations, Women’s Refugee Commission, Reem Khamis, Protection/Gender Based Violence Technical Advisor, American Refugee Committee, and Shilpa Nadhan, Senior Program Specialist, International Organization for Migration.
- Afghanistan in 2015: A Survey Of The Afghan People | Thursday, November 19th | 9:30 – 11:30 | United States Institute of Peace | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Asia Foundation’s series of annual surveys in Afghanistan provides an unmatched barometer of Afghan public opinion over time. Taken together, the surveys are a resource for policymakers in government, the international community and the broader Afghan public as they navigate a difficult landscape, seeking a more peaceful and prosperous future for Afghanistan and the region. Speakers include: David D. Arnold, president, The Asia Foundation, Timor Sharan, Program Management Director in Afghanistan, Andrew Wilder, Vice President, Asia Prorams, U.S. Institute of Peace.
- Ukraine: How to Build Social Peace Amid Displacement? | Thursday, November 19th | 10:00- 11:30 | U.S. Institute of Peace | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Ukrainian civil society and women’s rights leader Natalia Karbowska and refugee specialist Dawn Calabia will examine the displacement of Ukrainians and ways that civil society and displaced people can foster social cohesion and resilience. Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and the former ambassador for global women’s issues, Melanne Verveer, will discuss Ukraine’s situation in light of other current migration crises, and ways in which it might unfold. Natalia Karbowska Board Chair of the Ukrainian Women’s Fund, Advisor at the Global Fund for Women, Dawn Calabia Senior Advisor at Refugees International, Ambassador William Taylor Executive Vic e President, U.S. Institute of Peace, and Melanne Verveer Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.
- Justice Mechanisms in the Syrian Conflict: Impunity under Scrutiny | Thursday, November 19th | 12:00 – 1:30 | Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | After four and a half years of civil war and more than 200,000 civilians killed, the Syrian conflict is seeing yet another escalation with Russia’s open military engagement. The lack of an international response to the humanitarian catastrophe affects not only Syria but Europe and the United States as well, where hundreds of thousands of Syrians seek refuge and returning foreign fighters present an increasing security threat. Please join the Atlantic Council, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, and the Commission for International Justice and Accountability for a discussion as our panel considers and evaluates practical methods for addressing both impunity and broader international security threats in the absence of a united international stance on the Syrian conflict. Speakers include:Ambassador Stephen Rapp has been a war crime diplomat and advocate of international criminal justice. Dr. William Wiley is a former infantry officer and a practitioner in the field of international criminal and humanitarian law who has investigated cases in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, DRC, and Syria. Dr. Rolf Mützenich has extensive foreign policy and arms control expertise with a special focus on the Middle East, Russia, Afghanistan, and transatlantic cooperation. Mr. Faysal Itani focuses on US policy in the Levant, with an emphasis on the conflict in Syria and its regional impact.
- Ukraine: Public Opinion Amid War | Monday March 9 | 11:00 – 1:00 | USIP | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The survey of 2,000 Ukrainians, led by political psychologist Steven Kull at the University of Maryland and administered by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, was conducted Feb. 13-22, beginning one day after the latest ceasefire was to take effect and spanning the fall of Debaltseve to Russian-backed separatists. Conducted primarily through face-to-face interviews (telephone was used in some of the conflict areas), the poll also queries Ukrainians on how they think the United States, Russia, Germany, France and the EU are handling the crisis. Speakers will include Dr. Steven Kull, Director, Program for Public Consultation, and Senior Research Scholar, Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, Dr. Catherine McArdle Kelleher, College Park Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Representative to NATO and Amb. William B. Taylor, Acting Executive Vice President for USIP and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Christian Caryl, Contributing Editor, Foreign Policy will act as moderator.
- A Conversation on the Middle East with Stephen Hadley| Monday March 9 | 1:00 – 2:00 | SAIS | REGISTER TO ATTEND | A conversation on the Middle East with Stephen J. Hadley, former U.S. assistant to the president for National Security Affairs and Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli, senior fellow, Foreign Policy Institute. Stephen Hadley served as the National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009. From 2001 to 2005, Mr. Hadley served as Deputy National Security Advisor. In addition to covering the full range of national security issues, he had special responsibilities in several areas including a U.S./Russia political dialogue, the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, and developing a strategic relationship with India.
- The Future of U.N. Peace Operations | Tuesday March 10 | 9:00 – 11:30 | USIP | REGISTER TO ATTEND | U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon created the High-level Independent Panel on U.N. Peace Operations on October 31, 2014, to undertake a comprehensive review of peace operations. Join the U.S. Institute of Peace on March 10 for a discussion with a delegation from the U.N. panel co-hosted with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs and the Better World Campaign. The independent panel is charged with reviewing the broad range of issues, including the changing nature of peacekeeping environments, evolving mandates, good offices and peacebuilding challenges, managerial and administrative reforms, planning, partnerships, human rights, and protection of civilians. Participants in the discussion at USIP will include Nobel Peace Prize winner and former President of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta, who chairs the panel, and many of the panel’s 17 distinguished members. A U.S. government official will give a keynote address.
- Combatting Terrorism: Looking Over the Horizon | Tuesday March 10 | 12:30 – 1:30 | SAIS | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Recognizing that a military approach alone is insufficient for eradicating terrorism, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall will outline the United States government’s broad-based strategy to address violent extremism. Her remarks will explain why non-military foreign policy tools, such as development, stabilization efforts, humanitarian assistance, and peacebuilding are essential to current counterterrorism efforts and to prevent the rise of future threats. Under Secretary Sewall will also discuss the successful White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism, convened by President Obama in February 2015, and the vision for a multi-institutional approach – inclusive of governments, civil society, and the private sector – to operationalize the prevention strategy.
- Israel’s Upcoming Elections: What to Watch, What to Expect | Wednesday March 11 | 2:00 – 3:30 | Brookings Institution | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Israelis go to the polls on March 17 to elect the 20th Knesset, and with it a new government. The Israeli electorate is divided over national security, economics, and the public role of religion, and as many as ten parties are expected to win seats in the next Knesset. The elections also come at a pivotal moment in Israel’s foreign relations: nuclear negotiations with Iran are approaching a decisive moment, Israeli-Palestinian relations are tense, and the Netanyahu and Obama administrations are squabbling. How important are these elections? What might the results mean for Israel’s future, U.S.-Israeli relations and Israel’s foreign policy? On March 11, the Center for Middle East Policy will convene a panel of Brookings experts to preview Israel’s coming elections and their broader significance. Speakers include Martin Indyk, Vice President and Director, Foreign Policy, Itamar Rabinovich, Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for Middle East Policy, Natan B. Sachs, Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for Middle East Policy and Tamara Cofman Wittes, Director, Center for Middle East Policy.
- Creating Kosovo: International Oversight and the Making of Ethical Institutions | Wednesday March 11 | 3:00 – 4:00 | Woodrow Wilson Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | In shaping the institutions of a new country, what interventions from international actors lead to success and failure? Elton Skendaj’s investigation into Kosovo based on national survey data, interviews, and focus groups conducted over ten months of fieldwork, leads to some surprising answers. Dr. Skendaj will discuss his book, Creating Kosovo: International Oversight and the Making of Ethical Institutions, which highlights efforts to build the police force, the central government, courts, and a customs service. Speakers include Elton Skendaj, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Miami and John R. Lampe, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park.
- Between the Millstones: The Status of Iraq’s Minorities Since the Fall of Mosul | Thursday March 12 | 9:00 – 10:30 | POMED | REGISTER TO ATTEND | POMED, the Institute for International Law and Human Rights, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, No Peace Without Justice, and Minority Rights Group International invite to a public panel in conjunction with the release of a new report, Between the Millstones: The State of Iraq’s Minorities Since the Fall of Mosul. This report offers a detailed account of the humanitarian crises and abuses suffered by Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities, women, and children since June 2014. It also provides an analysis of these atrocities within an international legal framework, as well as recommendations to various communities and stakeholders. Speakers include Johanna Green, Program Manager, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Sarhang Hamasaeed, Senior Program Officer, U.S. Institute of Peace, Mark Lattimer, Executive Director, Minority Rights Group International, William Spencer, Executive Director, Institute for International Law and Human Rights.
- Israel’s Periphery Doctrine and Search for Middle East Allies | Thursday March 12 | 2:00 – 3:30 | Brookings Institution | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Israel’s objectives of national security and stability amidst a complex geopolitical environment led it to pursue, shortly after the founding of the nation in 1948, an overarching foreign policy strategy known as the “periphery doctrine.” Author Yossi Alpher outlines this doctrine in his new book, Periphery: Israel’s Search for Middle East Allies (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015). On March 12, the Intelligence Project at Brookings will host Alpher, a former Israeli intelligence officer, for a discussion of the components, successes, and failures of the periphery doctrine; the strategy’s recent revitalization; and how the doctrine should be adapted to meet new global challenges. Brookings Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel, director of the Intelligence Project, will provide introductory remarks and moderate the discussion.
Munqith Dagher Wednesday presented at CSIS his latest findings on Iraqi public opinion concerning ISIS. A pioneer in public opinion polling in Iraq and CEO of the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies, Dagher challenged common narratives about ISIS as well as more conventional wisdom about terrorism and radicalization.
CSIS Fellow Anthony Cordesman reminded the audience that the Arab world plays the primary role in the campaign against ISIS. Arabs also remain the primary ISIS casualties: State Department data show an exponential increase in terrorist attacks in recent decades, from 300 major attacks yearly between 1998 and 2008 to 4700 in 2013. Neo-salafist extremist groups have been growing rapidly, by 60% in the last two years. Moreover, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) suffers social and economic deterioration, including rapid population growth and high unemployment – particularly among youth. These challenges must be overcome if ISIS and similar groups are to be defeated.
June 9, 2014 was a benchmark in the history of terrorism, Dagher argued. The takeover of Mosul and eventually 40% of Iraqi territory by ISIS was not entirely unexpected – in fact public opinion data had indicated deep problems in the Mosul area for years. In order to understand these problems more thoroughly, Dagher began a careful study of public opinion in Iraq and Syria, relying on a combination of nationwide face-to-face polling and in-depth interviews with opinion leaders from ISIS-controlled areas. The data provide tests for three alternative explanations of ISIS expansion: religion, poverty and lack of services, and political and social factors.
The first proposition is that ISIS represents Sunni religious sentiment in Iraq and Syria. Polling data however, point to disharmony between Sunni populations and ISIS: while 90% of respondents describe religion as important to their lives, only 13% of Syrians support ISIS, whereas 94% of Iraqi Sunnis describe it as a terrorist organization. There is also a strong ideological contradiction between the local population and ISIS: 81% of Iraqi Sunnis want separation of religion from politics. Dagher also pointed to the strong pride that Mosul Sunnis have for their history, which stands in contrast to ISIS’ destruction of cultural heritage. These recent actions may be less ideological imperative than ISIS response to recent controls put in place along the border that make smuggling historic artifacts more difficult.
A second explanation for the growth of ISIS is that it corresponds to high levels of poverty and failure of the state to provide services. This is often put forward as an explanation of radicalization more generally. However, Dagher could find no statistically significant differences between areas controlled by ISIS and areas outside of ISIS control in terms of unemployment. There is also no significant difference between Shia and Sunni household incomes. Dagher also pointed to the growth of ISIS in Libya, a country that has long enjoyed a relatively high level of development, according to UN Human Development Reports.
Instead, Dagher suggested that political and social factors are key to explaining ISIS’ growth. A number of indicators point in this direction. In the months leading up to the takeover of Mosul, 83-91% of Sunnis believed that Iraq was going in the wrong direction, registering high levels of discontent, insecurity and distrust of the state and the justice system. Sunnis also reported a drastic decline in national sentiment: while 80 percent saw nationality as the primary basis for their identity in 2008, only 40 percent did the same in 2014. Distressingly, similar results of growing insecurity and distrust were found in recent opinion polls in Libya and Yemen.
While these numbers paint a somber picture of the political situation in Iraq and the region more generally, there are also hopeful indications. Since the Maliki government was removed, trust in government made a tremendous jump, from 4% to 47%. There is also significant support for the international anti-ISIS coalition. These figures should give impetus to Iraq’s allies to focus on tackling the underlying political and social factors that have contributed to the rise of ISIS.
Dagher cautioned about the destabilizing role of Shia militias and the influence of Iran in the current fight against ISIS. Among Sunnis, the view of the Shia militias is extremely negative. This is hardly a surprise – Shia militias have displaced, killed and imprisoned Sunnis throughout the areas they have conquered. There is good reason to be highly critical of the use of Shia militias to defeat ISIS. The current offensive against Tikrit is one example – according to Dagher the embattled Tikritis would prefer ISIS over the Shia militias. If we want Sunni communities to fight ISIS, we must help them overcome the pervasive political and social problems they are facing and persuade them there is in fact hope at the end of the tunnel.
Dagher’s slide presentation is available here.
- Expanding Counterterrorism Partnerships: US Efforts to Tackle the Evolving Terrorist Threat | Monday January 26 | 12:00-14:00 | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Washington Institute for Near East Policy | The attacks in Paris were a stark illustration of the serious terrorist threat confronting the United States and its allies, not only in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa, but far closer to home as well. In his May 2014 West Point address, President Obama emphasized that a successful long-term counterterrorism approach will revolve around strong partnerships with key actors overseas. What steps is the United States taking to bolster its counterterrorism partnerships with other governments and with nongovernmental actors? How should the U.S. strategy evolve in light of the Paris attacks and the continuing challenge posed by foreign terrorist fighters and the conflict in Syria and Iraq? What is the role of the State Department in this effort? To address these timely issues, The Washington Institute is pleased to host a Policy Forum with Ambassador Tina Kaidanow. Tina Kaidanow is the ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department. She has also served in high-ranking positions in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Note that this event will be off the record.
- Where is Turkey Headed? Culture Battles in Turkey | Monday January 26 | 12:00-13:30 | Rumi Forum | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Turkey is a pivotal country: It is one of the few countries with a functioning democracy, it links the West with the turbulent Middle East, and it has been a reliable partner in NATO in difficult times. But Turkey is also a pivotal country in crisis: Under President Tayyip Erdogan it is drifting towards authoritarian rule, being neither a good partner for the West nor having leverage in the Middle East. Inside it becomes less democratic, internationally it becomes more isolated. Rainer Hermann, an international expert on the Middle East and long time correspondent for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, will present his analysis of the current affairs in Turkey with prospects for change and the challenges before the West. He has recently published a new book, Where is Turkey Headed, Blue Dome Press: New York, 2014, which is a comprehensive examination of the changes the last decades of Turkish politics have witnessed. He will be available to sign books at the end of the event.
- The Awakening of Muslim Democracy | Tuesday January 27 | 12:00-14:00 | George Washington University | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Jocelyne Cesari is a senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and visiting associate professor in the department of government at Georgetown University. She will discuss her recent release, The Awakening of Muslim Democracy: Religion, Modernity, and the State (Cambridge University Press, 2014). The discussion also features Nathan Brown, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University and Marc Lynch, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University.
- US Foreign Policy Towards the Middle East: Priorities and Problems | Tuesday January 27 | 13:00 | School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) | REGISTER TO ATTEND | SAIS’ Foreign Policy Institute invites to a discussion with Ambassador Anne Patterson, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs on the priorities and problems of U.S. Middle East policy. The discussion is moderated by Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute. This event is off the record. No audio, video, transcription or digital recording is allowed.
- Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide | Wednesday January 28 | 12:15-14:00 | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The destruction of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire in 1915–1916 was the greatest atrocity of World War I. Around one million Armenians were killed and survivors were scattered across the world. Although the issue of what most of the world calls the Armenian Genocide of 1915 is now a century old, it is still a live and divisive issue that mobilizes Armenians across the world, shapes the identity and politics of modern Turkey, and has consumed the attention of U.S. politicians for years. In Great Catastrophe, the eminent scholar and reporter Thomas de Waal, senior associate in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, looks at the aftermath and politics of the Armenian Genocide and tells the story of recent efforts by courageous Armenians, Kurds, and Turks to come to terms with disaster as Turkey enters a new post-Kemalist era. Please join us for a conversation with the book’s author, moderated by Charles King. Great Catastrophe will be available to purchase, and the event will conclude with a book signing. De Waal will be joined by Jessica T. Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Charles King, professor of international affairs and government at Georgetown University. Lunch will be served.
- Ethnic “Homelands”: Imagining a New Middle East, 1919 – 1948 | Wednesday January 28 | 15:30 | George Washington University | REGISTER TO ATTEND | After 1919, as much of the Middle East was absorbed into the beleaguered but still powerful European empires, a new ideology took hold in the region: the concept of physical separation as a “solution” to a newly identified “problem” of ethnic and religious pluralism. Across Europe and the United States, Armenian, Assyrian, and Jewish diaspora groups proved anxious to demonstrate their belonging in the ingathering of civilized nation-states by supporting the project of a homogenous national “homeland,” however remote it might be from their actual lived experiences. Diaspora lobbying, fundraising, and vocal support for creating ethnically based political entities through strategies of transfer and partition also found a reflection in some Arab discourse, as Palestinian, Syrian, and Iraqi Arab nationalists sought to make claims to independent statehood within a global framework that demanded national homogeneity as a corollary to sovereignty. This talk will explore how diaspora communities shaped the emerging political landscape of the modern Middle East as they declared that the only path to legitimate, recognized political status in the new global order was through identification, however distant, with an ethnic “homeland.” Laura Robson is a historian of the modern Middle East. Her current research and teaching focus on the history of religious and ethnic minorities in the twentieth century Arab world. She received her PhD from Yale University in 2009 and is now Associate Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.
- Global Security and Gender – A Forum with Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström | Wednesday January 28 | 16:00-17:15 | United States Institute of Peace | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The new Swedish government has pledged to increase its focus on global women’s issues with what it describes as a feminist foreign policy. The U.S. Institute of Peace, in collaboration with the Embassy of Sweden, will host a forum with new Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström on diplomacy and gender equality in a challenging global security environment. Following her remarks, Minister Wallström will be joined by former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Ambassador Johnnie Carson, a USIP senior advisor, who will moderate a discussion with the Minister, as well as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell, and U.S. Ambassador Donald Steinberg (retired), a former deputy administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development who now serves as President and CEO of World Learning.