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March 2017

Center for Middle East Public Policy

Featured Research

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and UAE's deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces, meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, December 14, 2015

Fred Dufour/Reuters/Pool

China Invests Warily in the Middle East

RAND researchers examine China's economic, political, and security roles in the Middle East, focusing on China's relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran, and how these developing relationships might impact the U.S. role in the region.

Findings include recommendations that Washington adopt a two-part strategy where China and the Middle East are concerned. The United States should encourage China, along with other Asian powers, to become more involved in efforts to improve stability in the Middle East and also should work to reassure partners of its enduring security commitment to the region.

Read the report »

Recent Commentary

Why a Dying Islamic State Could Be an Even Bigger Threat to America

The Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, and the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, October 10, 2006, photo by Eliana Aponte/Reuters

The collapse of the so-called caliphate won't eliminate ISIS or similar groups. In the short term, the threat of ISIS-related attacks on the West may even grow.

Read more »

Sticking with the Complicated U.S.-Iran Relationship

A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015, photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

The United States and Iran differ on many issues, but they signed what has so far been a successful nuclear agreement and both seek to defeat the Islamic State. The U.S. would have more to gain by sticking with the relationship than by pursuing a policy of “regime change.”

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Why a Travel Restriction Won't Stop Terrorism at Home

A girl dances while women pray at a protest against the Trump administration's travel restriction at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Texas, January 29, 2017Photo by Laura Buckman/Reuters

It's not unreasonable to seek a review of immigration, and refugee-vetting procedures make sense. But America's jihadist terrorists are not imported from abroad. They are mostly homegrown.

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Hidden Dangers of Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

The Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, and the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, October 10, 2006, photo by Eliana Aponte/Reuters

Moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would antagonize partners in the Islamic world who are key to fighting ISIS and other extremists. And any potential cooperation that might have developed between Israel and Arab states over common concerns about Iran could suffer.

Read more »

New RAND Work on Syria

A Peace Plan for Syria III

James Dobbins, Philip Gordon, Jeffrey Martini

Preventing State Collapse in Syria

Andrew Parasiliti, Kathleen Reedy, Becca Wasser

Researcher Spotlight

Q&A with Shelly Culbertson

Shelly Culbertson

Shelly Culbertson spent her first seven years with RAND at the RAND-Qatar Policy Institute office in Doha, Qatar. Now, Culbertson is back in the states (Pittsburgh, PA, specifically), where she focuses her research on the refugee crisis in the Middle East. She most recently authored a report evaluating the Emergency Education Response Programme, which aims to provide free public formal education, as well as safe and appropriate supportive educational services, for Syrian refugee children living in Jordan.

1. What's your professional background?

I've had the opportunity to work on some incredibly interesting problems while at RAND. For five years, I co-led a large effort to advise the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on developing a strategy to improve its education system, with an emphasis on quality, access, Ministry of Education organizational development, and vocational education.

A highlight during my time in Qatar was our design of the Qatar National Research Fund, which has now funded over $800 million in merit-based research grants to universities in Qatar in partnership with research institutions around the world.

2. In what specific areas does your research focus?

Now, my research at RAND is focusing on the Middle East refugee crisis. I have worked on a portfolio of refugee studies related to education, humanitarian assistance, employment, and impact on host nations. My colleagues and I developed recommendations for how to improve school access for out-of-school Syrian children, improve access to jobs for refugee adults, and how to help countries hosting refugees build capacity in their public services.

3. What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a study about how to help civilians get home after the battle to liberate Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS. This involves considering a blend of humanitarian assistance; getting public sector services like education, healthcare, and utilities back online; enabling the economy to resume to so people can access jobs; providing security and policing; and managing complex governance and political considerations.

I was in Iraq in January, and visited camps for people who have been displaced by the battle, just outside of Mosul. Stabilizing the city and helping Iraqi civilians get home is important both to a future peaceful Iraq, and also to American national security. There are currently 3 million Iraqis who have been displaced by ISIS and the battles to liberate the cities it took. Winning the war without plans to make Iraq livable for Iraqis risks a pyrrhic victory—it could be followed by a continued or resumed civil war down the line. It's important to get the peace right.

See Shelly's latest work »

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