Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

United Nations

Syrians experienced the largest single-day exodus of the war on March 15, 2018. Seven years to the day since the start of the uprising in Syria, some 45,000 civilians fled their homes in besieged Eastern Ghouta. The fact that such large-scale displacement took place over the course of a single day as the conflict entered its eighth year is a stark reminder that the displacement caused by the war has not abated and will not end any time soon.

President Donald Trump’s decision to reduce the United States’ contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to only $60 million in 2018—compared to a total of $364 million in 2017 [1]—has been widely denounced as a brutal form of collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

The United States’ Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and the Challenge to the International Consensus

On December 6, 2017, US President Donald Trump announced that the US was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would be moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv in fulfillment of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act (henceforth Embassy Act). In one fell swoop, the US has seriously challenged 70 years of international consensus enshrined in international law as regards the status of the city, and put the potential for a two-state solution into a tail-spin. What are the consequences of this major policy change?

Letter to UN Secretary-General Regarding Saudi Arabia’s Removal from List of Armies Charged with War Crimes

06.29.2016

“The ruling Saudi regime obviously knows how to use its wealth to manipulate dysfunctional international bodies such as the UN. However, in the eyes of the global community it stands charged with overwhelming evidence of war crimes and of fundamental human indecency.”

Open Letter from Scholars of Yemen

03.31.2016

Scholars write for the third time to condemn the actions of the US-Saudi-French alliance violating international humanitarian law in the southern Arabian Peninsula.

An Extraordinary Feat of Diplomacy

Chris Toensing 08.5.2015

The nuclear agreement with Iran is an extraordinary feat of diplomacy.

First and foremost, non-proliferation experts agree that the deal blocks all of the routes to making an atomic bomb. There are provisions for rigorous inspections—so if Iran cheats, the world will know.

Second, it isn’t just Washington to whom the Iranians are accountable. All five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Germany too, signed alongside the United States. The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, will monitor Iranian activities on the great powers’ behalf.

Two Resolutions, a Draft Constitution and Late Developments

Sheila Carapico 04.17.2015

On April 14, three weeks into the Saudi-led air campaign called Operation Decisive Storm, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 2216. This legally binding resolution, put forward by Jordan, Council president for April, imposed an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels and former Yemeni president ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih and his son. There are also provisions freezing individual assets and banning their travel. Russia abstained. It seemed fully to endorse both the so-called Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, brokered by UN Special Envoy Jamal Benomar, and Operation Decisive Storm.

Open Letter from Yemen Scholars Protesting War

04.16.2015

We write as scholars concerned with Yemen and as residents/nationals of the United Kingdom and the United States. The military attack by Saudi Arabia, backed by the Gulf Cooperation Council states (but not Oman), Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, the UK and above all the US, is into its third week of bombing and blockading Yemen. This military campaign is illegal under international law: None of these states has a case for self-defense. The targets of the campaign include schools, homes, refugee camps, water systems, grain stores and food industries. This has the potential for appalling harm to ordinary Yemenis as almost no food or medicine can enter. Yemen is the poorest country of the Arab world in per capita income, yet rich in cultural plurality and democratic tradition.

Security and Resilience Among Syrian Refugees in Jordan

Imagine living in a refugee camp. For most, that phrase is enough to conjure images of makeshift tents, dusty pathways, queues for water and food, and above all, fear. Now imagine living in Zaatari refugee camp in a northern part of Jordan 7.5 miles from the Syrian border and Dar‘a region, sharing an area only about three square miles with 100,000 other refugees in one of the most densely populated “cities” in the Arab world, with near-constant shuffling and reshuffling of households, food and water distribution points, and other services, and refugees arriving and leaving all the time. Who, would you imagine, is responsible for keeping you and your family safe, fed and housed? Who will help you make sure your children can go to school, and do so safely?

Sisi at the UN

The Editors 09.25.2014

This week ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi paid his inaugural visit to the United States as president of Egypt. The occasion was the annual meetings of the UN General Assembly. We asked some veteran Egypt watchers and MERIP authors for their reactions.

Mona El-Ghobashy

Educational Aftershocks for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

More than 50 percent of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon are 17 or younger. Back home the great majority of them were in school. But youth who try to continue their education in Lebanon face social, economic and bureaucratic obstacles. The cost can be so steep that their parents may opt to keep them at home. There is a lengthy wait list to attend Lebanese public schools, which are soliciting outside donations to pay teachers and other staff for a second shift made up of refugee children.

Nowhere to Turn for Mosul’s Refugees

Sophia Hoffmann 07.15.2014

In 2006, 30,000 Iraqis arrived in Syria every month, seeking and receiving safe haven from US occupation and sectarian warfare as kidnappings, death threats, and bombings by air and land engulfed Baghdad and the southern governorates of Iraq. By 2011, an estimated 1-2 million Iraqis had fled to neighboring countries.

Preening Like a State

Darryl Li 04.3.2014

On Tuesday, Mahmoud ‘Abbas surprised peace processers by making use of Palestine’s recently upgraded status as a UN-recognized “state” to sign 15 international agreements, mostly concerning human rights, humanitarian law and diplomatic protocol. The move was announced at a hastily convened meeting of the PLO executive committee, but appears to have been carefully crafted to support extending the US-sponsored negotiations that have dragged on haplessly over the past nine months.

UN Admission, Ours and Yours

Having declared independence in May 1948, the new State of Israel was lacking in international legitimacy. Recognizing the deficiency, Israeli officials invested tremendous effort over the course of 1948-1949 in securing Israel’s admission to the United Nations.

A recent paper identifies three arguments advanced by Israeli diplomats at the time in support of Israel’s application:

Iran and the IAEA at Parchin

Aslı Bâli 02.7.2013

Few foreign policy issues garner as much interest in the American press as the Iranian nuclear program. As illustrated by last week’s Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing for President Obama’s nominee as secretary of defense, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, the US government is equally focused on Iran. The committee was more concerned with Hagel’s positions on Iran than his views on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia combined — despite that fact that these countries are all places where the US military is engaged in combat, something not true of Iran.

International Law and the Iran Impasse

Aslı Bâli 12.16.2012

On any given day, provided her paper of choice still features international coverage, the average American newspaper reader can expect to be treated to one or two articles on attempts to halt advances in Iran’s nuclear program. These articles might cover efforts to levy fresh sanctions against the Islamic Republic; they might relay news of discussions among Iran’s primary interlocutors on the nuclear question, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the so-called P5+1), about diplomatic overtures. Or the stories might echo the mounting calls for airstrikes or other military action to delay and disrupt the progress of Iranian nuclear research.

Four More Years

The 2012 US presidential election elicited less interest among Palestinians than any such contest in living memory. While most Israelis, and their government in particular, expressed a clear preference for a Republican victory, Palestinians seemed resigned to continuity in US foreign policy irrespective of which party won the White House. The main reason was that President Barack Obama, self-proclaimed apostle of change and widely hailed as such in the region when he assumed office four years ago, has yet to demonstrate a meaningful inconsistency with his predecessor George W. Bush when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Events since the election have only confirmed this policy direction and thus the validity of Palestinians’ indifference.

“Iran Will Require Assurances”

Aslı Bâli 05.16.2012

Hossein Mousavian has served as visiting research scholar at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security from 2009 to the present. Prior to this position, he held numerous positions in the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including director-general of its West Europe department and ambassador to Germany from 1990 to 1997. Ambassador Mousavian was also head of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran during both terms of Mohammad Khatami’s presidency (1997-2005). In this capacity, he served as spokesman of the Iranian nuclear negotiations team from 2003 to 2005.

To Stop the Killing, Deal with Asad

In the wake of the recent Friends of Syria conference, the United States and Middle Eastern powers that include Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are stepping up aid to armed resistance groups in Syria. Under American leadership, the conference pledged $100 million to provide salary payments to rebel fighters.

Whatever the humanitarian intentions, this strategy, along with discussions of “safe zones” and “non-lethal aid,” is misguided at best, and counterproductive at worst. For all the talk about safeguarding civilians, the proposals are far more likely to escalate violence than to reduce civilian casualties.

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