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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Issue 2028

Fouad Ajami: Scholar, Teacher, Mentor
Introduction
screenshot of book cover for Crosswinds: The Way of Saudi Arabia by Fouad Ajami
Introduction

Introduction To Crosswinds: The Way Of Saudi Arabia

by Cole Bunzelvia The Caravan
Thursday, October 29, 2020

The publication of Crosswinds: The Way of Saudi Arabia has been a long time coming. Fouad Ajami’s intimate portrait of Saudi society and politics, drawing on his visits to the kingdom in the 1990s and early 2000s, was finished in 2010. The manuscript was submitted to Hoover Institution Press that year, and in the coming months it would be edited and typeset.

Featured Analysis
Featured Analysis

Bearers Of Meaning In The Middle East

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Thursday, October 29, 2020

Every contributor to this special issue of The Caravan dedicated to the memory of Fouad Ajami will have wondered “What would Fouad be thinking of now?”

Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia And Ajami’s Way

by Martin Kramervia The Caravan
Thursday, October 29, 2020

Crosswinds may best be described as Fouad Ajami’s furthest exploration in the Arab world.

Featured Analysis

The Tapestry Weaver

by Sanam Vakilvia The Caravan
Thursday, October 29, 2020

Joseph Conrad said this about his work: “My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel--it is, before all, to make you see.” The same should be said of Fouad Ajami who through his life and writing helped many, like myself, hear, feel and see the rich beauty and diversity of the Middle East.

Featured Analysis

The Saudi Evolution

by Reuel Marc Gerechtvia The Caravan
Thursday, October 29, 2020

Fouad Ajami had an odd fondness for Saudi Arabia. He was an Americanized, secular Shiite with European sensibilities who, truth be told, had pretty much burned out on the ugliness of the modern Arab world. He once smiled knowingly at the comment of the late, great Middle Eastern historian Charles Issawi: “Thank God it’s Friday: I can stop reading Arabic, Persian, and Turkish and go home and read Jane Austen.”  

Featured Analysis

And If He Were Here Today

by Franck Salamehvia The Caravan
Thursday, October 29, 2020

In his 1931 collection of essays, Reflections on the World Today, French polymath historiographer and public intellectual Paul Valéry wrote with ominous premonition of a world yet to come, more so than he might have done the world he was frequenting, contemplating, and gazing at in early 1930s France.

Featured Analysis

Ajami’s Method

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Thursday, October 29, 2020

Aspects of Fouad Ajami’s method are inimitable, or nearly so, inseparable from the distinctive personality of this one remarkable thinker. His reflections on the politics of the Middle East always depended on his empathetic understanding of the cultures, the complex histories, the literary achievements, and the ever-present currents of faith. Add to this his specifically Lebanese perspective, indisputably rooted in the region but also always with an eye to the sea, to the West, and to a very different political-cultural world.

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Featured Analysis

Iran Thrives In The Levant On Weakened States Threatened By Sunni Radicalism

by Fabrice Balanchevia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The announced defeat of the Syrian rebellion and the Islamic State is favoring the extension of Iranian influence in the Levant. The Iranian corridor between Beirut and Tehran via Baghdad and Damascus is now a reality. Territorial continuity was achieved symbolically at the end of May 2017, when Iranian-funded Shia militias joined on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border north of al-Tanf. In Iraq, Iranian allies Syria and Lebanon dominate; people support them out of fear, default, or sympathy. If the West wants to fight against the Islamic Republic's influence in the Levant, it must understand the root causes pushing more and more Lebanese Christians, Iraqi Shiites, and Syrian Sunni Arabs into the Iranian camp.

Featured Analysis

Repackaging Trump’s Iran Strategy

by Sanam Vakilvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Trump administration has articulated a much-needed strategy designed to pressure and contain the Islamic Republic of Iran’s malign regional influence, which spreads throughout Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. While reducing Iran’s imprint and leverage throughout the Middle East is indeed imperative for regional stability, the Trump administration’s methods and means will not prove successful because its strategy is zero sum against Tehran and a perpetuation of the traditional American approach to dealing with the Islamic Republic.

Featured Analysis

The Limits Of The Indirect Approach

by Tony Badranvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

In October 2017, the Trump administration rolled out its long-anticipated policy to counter Iranian expansionism in the region. The policy pays significant attention to Hezbollah, Iran’s principal instrument of regional power projection. After eight years of American courtship of Iran, which drastically elevated its regional position, pushing back against Tehran and its proxies was always going to be a formidable challenge.

Featured Analysis

Countering Iran While Retreating

by Reuel Marc Gerechtvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Time has almost run out for the United States to deny the Islamic Republic hegemony in the northern Middle East. The clerical regime has the high ground and the Americans are, at best, slowing Iranian advances. The approximately two thousand troops Washington has reportedly deployed to Syria, mostly in the north and the southeast, have prevented the Tehran–Moscow–Damascus axis from dominating all of the strategic locations in the country. But if President Trump really did tell Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will cut military aid to the Syrian Kurds, the most reliable of America’s disparate anti-Islamic State “partners on the ground,” and he meant it, it’s a decent guess America’s military presence will diminish.

Featured Analysis

Whither Indonesia?

by Paul Wolfowitzvia The Caravan
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The news from Jakarta last April 20 presented a very sad juxtaposition. On the one hand, there was US Vice President Mike Pence, expressing his admiration for Indonesia’s tradition of religious tolerance and moderation and reassuring Indonesians on behalf of the Trump administration, that the new visa restrictions would not apply to Indonesians.  At the same time, the Acting Governor (equivalent of Mayor) of Jakarta, Basuki Cahaya Purnama – commonly known as Ahok – was facing a court in that city on the criminal charge of blaspheming Islam. 

Featured Analysis

ISIS In Mindanao: A Threat To The U.S.?

by David S. Maxwellvia The Caravan
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

We should be clear: Mindanao is not Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan.  We cannot approach a province of our longest standing treaty ally the same way we do in Syria or any of the other 18 or so countries to which the ISIS virus as spread.

Featured Analysis

Chinese Citizens Beyond State Borders And The Perceived Threat Of Islamism In China

by Kelly A. Hammond via The Caravan
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Islam came Islam came to China in the seventh century when Muslim envoys in the service of the third Caliph Uthman traveled to Guangzhou (previously Canton) to discuss trade and diplomacy with the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The Emperor Gaozong had a mosque erected in their honor, and for the next few hundred years the majority of Muslims in the Chinese empire were sojourners traveling from Arabia and Persia as merchants. It was not until the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) that Muslims really started to settle permanently in China. The Mongols imported Persians and Central Asians to work as administrators and bureaucrats, while also deploying large embassies to places like Bukhara and Samarkand to facilitate trade and diplomatic relations. 

Featured Analysis

Islam, Islamism And US Strategy In Maritime Southeast Asia

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Maritime Southeast Asia, the area circumscribed by the Malaysian peninsula, the Indonesian archipelago and the Philippines, is vital to US strategic concerns for two primary reasons. First, this region includes the South China Sea where American and Chinese ambitions may be heading toward direct conflict as China continues to press forward with its agenda of extending its reach.

Featured Analysis

ISIS In The Philippines: A Threat To US Interests

by Joseph Felter via The Caravan
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

On 23 May 2017, several hundred militants acting in the name of the Islamic State seized control of a portion of Marawi City, in the southern Philippines, after months of preparation and stockpiling of arms and munitions. The group was led by Isnilon Hapilon, a member of the Islamic extremist Abu Sayyaf Group whom ISIS named its Emir for Southeast Asia.  Isnilon Hapilon used ISIS’s extremist ideology to galvanize support amongst several disparate extremist groups, most notably Omar and Abdullah Maute, who founded Dawlah Islamiyah. 

Featured Analysis

Islamic Finance And Muslim Capitalist Modernity In Malaysia

by Patricia Sloane-Whitevia The Caravan
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Islamic finance—the premises of which prohibits riba, or the payment of interest, requires that economic action be grounded in exchanges of actual, not speculative products, and shared profits and losses—is a booming industry worldwide. Few countries have committed greater financial, institutional, and educational support to its development than Malaysia. Launching its first full-fledged Malaysian Islamic bank, Bank Islam, in 1983, today Malaysia boasts the world’s third largest Islamic finance market (only Saudi Arabia’s and Iran’s are larger). 

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The Caravan is envisaged as a periodic symposium on the contemporary dilemmas of the Greater Middle East. It will be a free and candid exchange of opinions. We shall not lack for topics of debate, for that arc of geography has contentions aplenty. It is our intention to come back with urgent topics that engage us. Caravans are full of life and animated companionship. Hence the name we chose for this endeavor.

We will draw on the membership of Hoover's Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on the Middle East and the Islamic World, and on colleagues elsewhere who work that same political and cultural landscape. Russell Berman and Charlie Hill cochair the project from which this effort originates.