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. 

Featured Analysis

Reconfiguring Geopolitics In The Era Of The Surveillance State: The Uyghurs, The Chinese Party-State, And The Reshaping Of Middle East Politics

by Kelly A. Hammond via The Caravan
Thursday, June 27, 2019

We are living in the era of the surveillance state. People are starting to understand the political implications that the connections between technology and state power may have on individual privacy and civil rights. As Artificial Intelligence (AI) and facial recognition technology become available to states around the world, they are faced with making a choice whether to use them to monitor their own populations. While San Francisco just became the first city in the United States to ban the use of AI for policing, authoritarian states, like the United Arab Emirates, regularly consult and buy software from Chinese tech firms to control and monitor their own populations.

Featured Analysis

Strategic Geography Of The Middle East

by Tony Badranvia The Caravan
Thursday, June 27, 2019

With the end of the Cold War the United States lost a sound understanding of the strategic geography of the Middle East. Before the fall of the Soviet Union, US strategy focused, correctly, on historical power centers on the outer rim of the Levant and Mesopotamia. The land in between these power centers – Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan – was the arena for proxy war and competition between great powers.

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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 Dr. 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). 

Featured Analysis

Islamism In Malaysia: Politics As Usual?

by Meredith L. Weissvia The Caravan
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Political Islamism has a long history in Malaysia. Before independence, the Pan-Malayan Islamic Party (PMIP, now known as PAS) splintered off from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), retaining the latter’s racial aspect, but foregrounding Islam. Over time, that competition pushed UMNO, too, to emphasize Islam more. (About 61 percent of Malaysians are Muslim, almost 90 percent of them Malay or other bumiputera, indigenous groups.) 

Featured Analysis

Wahhabi Wannabes And Malaysia’s Moderate Muslim Myth

by Shaun Tanvia The Caravan
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Malaysia isn’t usually associated with Islamic terrorism. Home to an ethnically-diverse population tending more towards torpor than unrest, Malaysia has had no major Islamic terror attack and no major outbreak of violence in more than forty years.

Introduction

Islamism In Southeast Asia

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The rise of radical Islam in the Middle East over the past few decades now may be reaching the Far East. This appears along a scale of seriousness from new levels of political concern to the reality of enhanced tensions and violence from west to east along an archipelago of national territories from Thailand’s Isthmus of Kra, down the Malaysian peninsula into Indonesia’s Sumatra, Java, and eastern islands, and up into Mindanao in the Philippines. Taken together, indeed with Indonesia alone, these lands hold by far the largest Muslim population in the world.

Featured Analysis

The Syrian Uprising: What Role Did Social Media Play?

by Qutaiba Idlbi, Kassem Eid (Qusai Zakarya) via The Caravan
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

This essay combines the first-hand experiences and analyses of two young Syrian activists.  One, Kassem Eid, survived the sarin gas attack and starvation siege of his Mouadamiya suburb of Damascus.  He has written extensively in opinion pieces on the subject of the revolution in Syria.  Qutaiba Idlbi’s work has focused on the accountability of aid organizations.  He speaks widely on the nature of the Assad regime and the cause of the opposition.  He was twice imprisoned by Assad’s intelligence services at the age of 21.

Featured Analysis

A Trench War In The Digital Age: The Case Of Iran

by Abbas Milanivia The Caravan
Monday, June 12, 2017

A trench war, fought in our labyrinthine digital world, has been raging in the Islamic Republic of Iran for more than two decades. On one side is a youthful internet-savvy society—adept at the gender-neutral, hierarchy-averse pluralism of platforms and networks—a society craving to join the 21st century. On the other side is a clerical despotic regime with a claim to divine legitimacy, a parallel male-dominated septuagenarian elite, enamored of gender-apartheid and of ideas more than a millennium old—a power structure that is retrograde, passé and stale, compared to the vibrancy of Iranian society at large.  

Featured Analysis

Social Media: A Misplaced Hope

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Friday, June 9, 2017

Under the subtitle of “How an Egyptian revolution began on Facebook,” the New York Times in February 2012, ran a laudatory review of Wael Ghonim’s newly released book Revolution 2.0. The review noted how a young Google executive frustrated by his country’s injustices, especially police brutality, had started a Facebook page that quickly attracted hundreds of thousands of similarly frustrated young Egyptians, becoming both a platform for expressing anger as well as a mobilizing venue. 

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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.