The Caravan

The Caravan

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Issue 1922

Competition for influence in the Middle East
Introduction
Introduction

Center Of Gravity

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 18, 2019

In Tolstoy’s massive novel War and Peace at the Battle of Borodino with Napoleon’s Grande Armée some eighty miles from Moscow, Carl von Clausewitz, then and now the foremost strategist of the study of war, suddenly canters onto the scene in a cameo appearance and is overheard to pronounce on the fighting: Der krieg muss im Raum verlegt werden. Der Ansicht kann ich nicht genug Preis geben.

Featured Analysis
Featured Analysis

The Dilemma Of An Imperfect Ally

by Elana DeLoziervia The Caravan
Thursday, June 20, 2019

After seven decades of selling weapons to our allies in the Gulf reassured by the fact that we sold more planes than there were trained pilots, we are finally confronted with a foreseeable, yet jarring dilemma: what happens when the Gulf states finally decide to use the weapons in pursuit of their own interests?

Featured Analysis

Playground for Powers

by Camille Pecastaingvia The Caravan
Thursday, June 20, 2019

In August 1920, in the Parisian suburb of Sèvres, envoys of the allied powers signed an eponymous treaty dividing into zones of influence the fallen Ottoman Empire and Islamic Caliphate. The regime of "mandates" it instituted was simultaneously the culmination of European imperialism in the Middle East, and its final undertaking. Mandates were not meant to last: it was a phase of foreign trusteeship, in anticipation of independence that, by the 1970s, would be the norm across the region.

Featured Analysis

Foreign Interference Everywhere

by Reuel Marc Gerechtvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 25, 2019

“Foreign interference” is a phrase often heard in the Middle East.   In the pre-modern era, Muslim dynasties continuously challenged each other.  The idea of “foreign” intrusion was, however, religiously defined:  there were Greek and Latin Christians in the west, Mongol Shamanists and Hindus to the east.  The recurring and intense wars between the Ottomans and the Safavids, where sultans and shahs attempted in their diplomatic correspondence to strip each other of legitimacy, were an intramural match, despite the Sunni–Shiite clash, where victory on the battlefield determined who owned what. 

Featured Analysis

Foreign Influence & the Middle East

by Hafed Al-Ghwellvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Today, America finds itself in roughly the same waters that drowned British ambitions in the Middle East between 1946–1969. In less than two decades, Washington has vacillated from direct intervention to calls to “share the region,” which have now been supplanted by the “America First” diplomacy of bold declarations that favor smaller, “face-saving” compromises. 

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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.

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.

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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.