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November 2018

Center for Middle East Public Policy

Featured Research

A Palestinian woman drags a cart loaded with water containers after filling them from a public tap in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 28, 2017

Photo by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

The Public Health Impacts of Gaza's Water Crisis Analysis and Policy Options

Gaza has long had water and sanitation challenges, but today it is in a state of emergency. Its dual water crisis combines a shortage of potable water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene with a lack of wastewater sanitation. This report describes the relationship between Gaza's water problems and its energy challenges and examines the implications of this water crisis for public health.

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What Might Happen if Palestinians Start Voting in Jerusalem Municipal Elections?

Jerusalem skyline, photo by Ya'ara Issar/Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research

Since Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, the vast majority of the city's Palestinian residents have boycotted municipal elections. But recent polls suggest that some Palestinians living in East Jerusalem might be warming to the idea of voting in the city's elections. To examine what might happen if Jerusalem's Palestinians begin voting, RAND conducted a seminar-style game in partnership with the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research.

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Sectarianism in the Middle East: Implications for the United States

Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims attend prayers during Eid al-Fitr as they mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, at the site of a suicide car bomb attack over the weekend in Baghdad, Iraq, July 6, 2016, photo by Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

Many view unrest in the Middle East through the lens of binary religious sectarianism, focusing on the divisions between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims. This split is most clearly articulated in the geopolitical competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and it plays out through violence in Iraq and Syria. But the complexities of human identity, regional culture, and history do not lend themselves to this arguably too-simplistic interpretation of the situation.

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Russia's Use of Media and Information Operations in Turkey Implications for the United States

Russian President Vladimir Putin comforts the widow of Andrei Karlov, Russia's former ambassador to Turkey, at a memorial ceremony in Moscow, December 22, 2016, photo by Alexei Nikolskyi/Sputnik/Kremlin via Reuters

Russian media have sought to undermine Turkey's political and security cooperation with the United States and Europe by exacerbating mutual skepticism and highlighting policy differences. This analysis assesses how Russia has used media and information operations to pursue its foreign policy goals related to Turkey.

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Recent Commentary

The Khashoggi Case and the Cost of Subcontracting U.S. Policy

James Dobbins

America’s Indefinite Endgame in Syria

Colin P. Clarke and Ariane M. Tabatabai

The Power of Affiliates: Which Islamic State Franchise Could Become the Most Capable?

Colin P. Clarke

The Growing Risk of a New Middle East War

Richard C. Baffa and Nathan Vest

Researcher Spotlight

Q&A with Trevor Johnston

Ben Connable

Trevor Johnston joined RAND in July 2016 as an asociate political scientist, and he is also a member of the Pardee RAND Graduate School faculty. Before coming to RAND, Trevor studied labor and welfare policies in the Persian Gulf and worked on structural reform in North Africa. From 2015 to 2017, he was a Middle East initiative fellow in the Belfer Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan.

Trevor is broadly interested in the political economy of conflict and development. At RAND, he primarily works on security sector assistance, partner nation interoperability, and conflict stabilization in the Middle East. While largely focused on the greater Middle East, Trevor has also worked on security and development issues in Africa and Russia. His latest report examines U.S. security sector assistance in Africa and the effect of such assistance on the incidence of civil wars and insurgencies in the countries in which it was delivered.

1. What specific areas have you focused on in your research?

I work on the political economy of conflict and development across the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arabian Gulf region. Recently, I have become especially interested in security cooperation and institution building.

2. Could you describe your work on Middle East-focused projects over the past year as well as what you will be working on as we move into the new fiscal year?

Over the past year, I have worked on several projects related to the conflict in Yemen, which have covered a wide array of topics, including local peacebuilding and resiliency, Iranian proxy development, and how combat experience informs military learning. This year, I will continue working on Yemen, focusing on the cholera epidemic and how governance failures have contributed to its spread.

3. Why is this work important?

Yemen represents one of the greatest humanitarian challenges in the world today. Since 2015, the civil war has raged throughout the country, inflaming old grievances and creating new divisions in a country historically beset by sectarian, tribal, and regional cleavages. And yet perhaps no challenge is more frustrating than the ongoing cholera epidemic. Yemen’s outbreak has the dubious distinction of being the worst cholera epidemic in the world—and it was entirely preventable. The war may have started the epidemic, allowing cholera to initially spread, but state failure has made it a humanitarian crisis. Similar challenges can be found in other conflict zones, making it imperative that we better understand the intersection of conflict dynamics and disease.

4. What have the major takeaways been from your work so far?

The Yemen war has had varying effects across the country, with some municipalities and regions proving far more resilient than others. Absent a functioning state, municipalities and provinces vary widely in their distinct challenges and respective capacities. Some areas, for example, have been more effective in providing basic sanitation and clean water. How and why some local communities have been able to respond to this crisis can offer vital lessons for Yemeni policymakers, local NGOs, and international actors.

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CMEPP brings together analytic excellence and regional expertise from across the RAND Corporation to address the most critical political, social, and economic challenges facing the Middle East today. Please visit the CMEPP website to learn more about other RAND researchers whose work focuses on the Middle East.

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RAND Arabic Language Website

Young entrepreneurs work on their laptops at the Amman-based Oasis 500, photo by Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

RAND's Arabic-language website provides an overview of recent and past RAND work in the Middle East, as well as other research that is relevant to the region. Find Arabic reports on health, education, political transitions, and more.

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The RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy brings together analytic excellence and regional expertise from across the RAND Corporation to address the most critical political, social, and economic challenges facing the Middle East today. Our goal is to inform policy in ways that help improve the security and well-being of people living in the region.

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