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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Issue 1820

Political Theology in the Greater Middle East
Introduction
Introduction

Navigating The Realm Of Political Theology In The Greater Middle East

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Thursday, November 29, 2018

The modern world—or the era we blithely have been calling “modern”—has defined itself against religion. The Treaty of Westphalia, which inaugurated today’s international state system, pushed religion to diplomacy’s margins to avoid, it was hoped, further wars of religion as had propelled the Thirty Years’ War from 1618-1648.

Featured Analysis
Featured Analysis

The Legacy Of Saddam’s Islam

by Samuel Helfontvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Anyone examining Islam in Saddam’s Iraq (1979-2003) and the legacy of that period today is quickly confronted with a tangled web of problematic definitions and eclectic ideologies. Untangling this web is essential for identifying what really drives Iraqi politics, and doing so provides one with some hope that sectarian differences can still be overcome.  Paradoxically, it also does not augur well for the chances for stability in the country anytime soon. 

Featured Analysis

Contradictions Of The Faith

by Sanam Vakilvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

On February 11, 2019 Iran will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Iranian revolution and the creation of Iran’s Islamic government guided by a clerical leader known as the vali-e-faqih.  This anniversary is important for numerous reasons including that the Islamic Republic, having survived many political storms, has outlasted the expectations of many. Under renewed political and economic pressure from US sanctions and Washington’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Iran nuclear agreement, this anniversary has added symbolism for Tehran. 

Featured Analysis

Restoring Religion’s Role In Foreign And Domestic Policy In Erdogan’s Turkey

by Henri J. Barkeyvia The Caravan
Thursday, December 6, 2018

“Turkey is the only country that can lead the Muslim World,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently claimed. This simple sentence contains not only the ambitions and contradictions of Turkey’s current Islamist leadership but also the distance it has traveled back to its foundational stance. Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party, AKP, emerged from the bosom of the hardline Islamist leader Necmettin Erbakan and his Muslim Brotherhood inspired movement and political party of the 1970s. 

Featured Analysis

Religion And Politics In Israel

by Itamar Rabinovichvia The Caravan
Thursday, December 6, 2018

A complex relationship between religion and politics is inherent in Israel’s character as a Jewish state. The term Jewish denotes both a religion and an ethnicity, and, for the past seventy years, Israel’s leaders have had to deal with a host of issues regarding religion’s role in the life and politics of the Jewish state.

Featured Analysis

Religion And Politics In Lebanon: The Case Of A Christian ‘Alliance’ With Hezbollah

by Habib Malikvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 11, 2018

It may be somewhat inconvenient for the secular Western mind to acknowledge the fact that ultimate identity on both the personal and group levels in a place like the Middle East remains conceived primarily in religious terms.  If this is indeed a given, then it should hardly be surprising that religion and politics become intricately intertwined within and across both communities and states in the region.

Featured Analysis

Democracy, Populism, And Polytheism: Islam In India

by Aishwary Kumarvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Extreme fascination with idols, statues, and names is widespread across South Asia and the ritualistic violence that accompanies such practices is neither modern nor singular to India, the region’s most doggedly democratic and unequivocally polytheistic country. In fact, until this past November, when the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled India’s colossal 182-meter high Statue of Unity, which now stands as the world’s highest monument to a revisionist history of nationalism, the record for height belonged to a more modest Buddhist statue in China, shorter than Modi’s populist gift to India by more than 100 feet.

Featured Analysis

Erdogan The Nationalist Vs Erdogan The Islamist

by Asli Aydintasbasvia The Caravan
Thursday, December 13, 2018

One of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s pet projects is the promotion of “imam-hatip” schools within the Turkish education system with the hope that it would help create his desire for a “pious generation.” Originally designed to educate young imams and preachers, the schools follow the standard curriculum of Turkey’s ministry of education, but also offer additional courses in Arabic, Islamic law and the Quran. Erdogan – himself a graduate – wants Turkey’s imam-hatip schools to be the centerpiece of the country’s educational system and its graduates to be the next generation’s leaders, undoing nearly a hundred years of secular dominance.

Featured Analysis

Pragmatism And Profits Drive Islamic Finance Industry

by Afshin Molavivia The Caravan
Thursday, December 13, 2018

A curious Islamic scholarly ruling emerged this month from a group of scholars associated with the Shariyah Review Bureau, an independent consultancy licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain. The scholars granted a Swiss-based cryptocurrency, X8, a coveted sharia-compliant certificate, noting that its currency would be permissible under Islamic law. Pious Muslims interested in cryptocurrency can now trade the X8C StableCoin as it is called, citing the Shariya Review Board’s ruling as justification.

Featured Analysis

The Middle Eastern Christian Dilemma

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Writing in his famous book, What Went Wrong, the Middle East’s eminent historian, Bernard Lewis remarked that “according to Islamic law and tradition, there were three groups of people who did not benefit from the general Muslim principle of legal and religious equality – unbelievers, slaves, and women …. the rise of Western power and the spread of Western influence brought important changes to all three groups.” But while the drive for the emancipation of the three groups elicited fierce opposition, the reason was hardly the same. 

Featured Analysis

Our Political Theologies

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 18, 2018

It has been seventeen years since the September 11 attacks, a defining moment not only for America but for our allies as well, and the response of one of them can help understand some of the underlying cultural aspects of contemporary political debate.  When the news reports spread through Paris, the initial reaction of profound shock quickly gave way to vigorous expressions of solidarity with the United States. “We are now all Americans” Le Monde declared famously. France, itself so often scarred by terrorism from the Middle East since the Algerian War, felt threatened as well, as painful national memories reemerged. 

E.g., 2 / 20 / 2019
E.g., 2 / 20 / 2019
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Issue 1204

A Memo to the President: How to Deal with the Greater Middle East

Introduction

by Fouad Ajami Tuesday, November 27, 2012
article

Featured Analysis

by Russell A. Berman Wednesday, November 28, 2012
article
by Itamar Rabinovich Thursday, November 29, 2012
article
by Charles Hill Friday, November 30, 2012
article
by Robert Satloff Monday, December 3, 2012
article
by Asli Aydintasbas Tuesday, December 4, 2012
article
by Habib Malik Wednesday, December 5, 2012
article
by Reuel Marc Gerecht Thursday, December 6, 2012
article
by Leon Wieseltier Friday, December 7, 2012
article
by Tammy Frisby Monday, December 10, 2012
article
by Abbas Milani Tuesday, December 11, 2012
article
by Fouad Ajami Wednesday, December 12, 2012
article
Thursday, August 16, 2012

Issue 1203

The Islamist Ascendency to Power

Introduction

by Fouad Ajami Thursday, August 16, 2012
article

Featured Analysis

by Bruce Riedel Wednesday, August 8, 2012
article
by Leon Wieseltier Thursday, August 9, 2012
article
by Robert Satloff Friday, August 10, 2012
article
by Reuel Marc Gerecht Saturday, August 11, 2012
article
by Itamar Rabinovich Monday, August 13, 2012
article
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
article
by Marius Deeb Wednesday, August 15, 2012
article
by Russell A. Berman Sunday, August 12, 2012
article
by Charles Hill Tuesday, August 7, 2012
article
by Fouad Ajami Thursday, August 16, 2012
article
Monday, April 16, 2012

Issue 1202

America's options in Afghanistan

Introduction

by Fouad Ajami Monday, April 16, 2012
article
by Fouad Ajami Thursday, May 17, 2012
article

Featured Analysis

by H. R. McMaster Monday, April 16, 2012
article
by Leon Wieseltier Monday, April 16, 2012
article
by Clare Lockhart Monday, April 16, 2012
article
by Colonel Joel Rayburn Monday, April 16, 2012
article
by Thomas H. Henriksen Monday, April 16, 2012
article
by Russell A. Berman Monday, April 16, 2012
article
by Charles Hill Monday, April 16, 2012
article
by Fouad Ajami Monday, April 16, 2012
article
Thursday, February 23, 2012

Issue 1201

The Ordeal of Syria

Introduction

by Fouad Ajami Thursday, February 23, 2012
article

Featured Analysis

by Charles Hill Thursday, February 23, 2012
article
by Habib Malik Thursday, February 23, 2012
article
by Russell A. Berman Thursday, February 23, 2012
article
by Nibras Kazimi Thursday, February 23, 2012
article
by Abbas Milani Thursday, February 23, 2012
article
by Colonel Joel Rayburn Thursday, February 23, 2012
article
by Joshua Teitelbaum Thursday, February 23, 2012
article
by Reuel Marc Gerecht Thursday, February 23, 2012
article
by Asli Aydintasbas Thursday, February 23, 2012
article
by Camille Pecastaing Thursday, February 23, 2012
article
by Fouad Ajami Thursday, February 23, 2012
article
by Itamar Rabinovich Thursday, February 23, 2012
article

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Featured Analysis

The Syrian Rebellion And Its International Resonance

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

With all the optimism of the Arab Spring, the Syrian rebellion began with the belief that the people of Syria deserve better than the cruelty meted out by Assad family rule. That aspiration alone ought to be sufficient grounds to stand with the democratic forces pursuing self-determination. Yet the United States has been hesitating, a legacy of the Obama administration’s preference for tyranny in Tehran over freedom in Damascus. 

Introduction

Syria: Dante's Earthly Circle Of Hell

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

On Time magazine’s cover in 1947 was Arnold Toynbee, the then world’s most renowned scholar, author of the monumental ten-volume, A Study of History, praised for “Taking all the knowable human past as his province, he has found rhythms and patterns which any less panoramic view could scarcely have detected.”

Featured Analysis

Countering Iran Requires A Political Strategy

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

It was not supposed to end this way. As protests erupted across the Arabic-speaking world, Iran seemed to be on the losing side. True, Iran’s leader, Ali Khamenei, had immediately called the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia “an Islamic liberation movement” and hailed them as “reverberations of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.” But as the protests spread from capital to capital and reached Damascus, not a few observers were confident that Iran would emerge weaker in the regional power game.

Featured Analysis

Cold War Lessons For Iran Strategy

by Karim Sadjadpourvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

“Strategy,” wrote Lawrence Freedman in his book of the same name, “suggests an ability to address causes rather than symptoms, to see woods rather than trees.” While Iran’s expanding influence in the Middle East is primarily the symptom of an underlying cause—the power vacuums created by the 2003 Iraq War and the 2011 Arab uprisings—there is now a symbiotic relationship between Iranian ambition and Arab disorder. The latter accentuates the former, and the former accentuates the latter. 

Featured Analysis

Rolling Back Iran: The Global Context

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A question mark is hanging over American grand strategy. The triumphal optimism that marked the end of the Cold War has given way to profound anxiety about the future of the international order. American supremacy has frayed and ominous challenges have emerged. We have entered difficult times. How did we lose our advantage? Can we reclaim it?

Introduction

Rolling Back Iran

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The matter of the Middle East is now critical to the fate of modern world order. The end of the Cold War, now a quarter-century in the past, increasingly looks like the turning-point from which began a downward spiral toward the global disarray and dangers which swirl through this still-new twenty-first century. For a short time the international relations sector buzzed with the possibility of “A New World Order” which President George H. W. Bush tried to describe without success. 

Featured Analysis

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

by Fabrice Balanche via 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.

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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 Islamism and the International Order, 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.