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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.

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Featured Analysis

U.S.-Egypt Strategic Relations, From Obama To Trump: What Went Wrong And What Might Be Possible

by Robert Satloffvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It all started so well. On a trip designed to symbolize a “new beginning” in America’s relations with “the Muslim world” after the terrorism-focused anxiety of the George W. Bush years, President Barack Obama scheduled visits in June 2009 to Cairo and Riyadh, capitals of America’s two leading Arab allies. And to underscore the message, the White House pointedly excluded a stop in America’s lone democratic ally in the region, Israel, which the previous president had visited (twice!) the previous year. 

Introduction

Egypt's Role in the Greater Middle East

via The Caravan
Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Egypt has always found itself in the crosshairs of history, balancing precariously between its glorious past as the arbiter of all things Arab and its own increasingly unwieldy and imploding societal demands.  It struggles to stay afloat, to find its way out of an impossible demographic dilemma and the contending forces of authoritarianism and the specter of militant Islam.  As Fouad Ajami wrote more than twenty years ago “A fissure has opened, right in the heart of Egypt’s traditionally stoic and reliable middle class.  

Featured Analysis

Strategy And Assets In The Middle East

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Monday, September 26, 2016

The goal of this Caravan has been to provide an account of the strategic underpinning of the challenges the US faces and which the next administration—whoever occupies the White House—will have to address. Five distinguished experts have explained how the historical preeminence of American military power in the region cannot be taken for granted. It can be maintained only through a clear strategic vision and the political will to act on it. 

Navy boat patrolling in the Gulf of Aqaba
Featured Analysis

Eastern Mediterranean: Do Not Write Off States Just Yet

by Ehud Eiran, Aviad Rubinvia The Caravan
Friday, September 23, 2016

Do not write off states as power brokers in the Eastern Mediterranean maritime arena just yet. It is easy to do so. Great powers (past, present and aspiring) as well as non-state actors seem to have eroded the centrality of regional state actors in shaping the region’s maritime security environment in the last few years. 

Featured Analysis

Simplifying U.S. Strategy Amidst The Middle East’s Maelstrom

by Benjamin Runklevia The Caravan
Thursday, September 22, 2016

Anybody who follows foreign affairs and social media has likely seen some version of a chart entitled “A Guide to the Middle East Relationships.” The graphic shows a hopelessly tangled web of arrows illustrating the often contradictory strategic associations in the region, i.e. the United States and Iran support opposing sides in the Syrian civil war while fighting on the same side in Iraq against the Islamic State (ISIS); Turkey opposes Bashar Assad’s regime yet attacks the Kurdish militias fighting his army; Saudi Arabia and Qatar both support Syria’s Sunni rebels yet hold diametrically opposing views on Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood, et cetera.  

Featured Analysis

Airpower In The Middle East—A Contemporary Assessment

by David A. Deptula, Lt Gen USAF (Ret)via The Caravan
Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Since the introduction of airpower as a military force just over 100 years ago, it has played a key role in shaping the geopolitical posture of the Middle East. The first example is the success of the Royal Air Force (RAF) in exerting strategic control by the use of aircraft over regions of British interest in Mesopotamia in the 1920s. A handful of RAF squadrons and a small force of troops successfully subdued rebellious tribes in Iraq.

Introduction

The Middle East: The Strategic Landscape For The Next Administration

by Russell A. Bermanvia Caravan
Tuesday, September 20, 2016

This Caravan provides a compelling map of the significant challenges the US faces in the region as well as the opportunities to pursue a strategy to reestablish and maintain preeminence. Whatever the outcome of this extraordinary presidential election may be, the next administration will face significant challenges, especially in the Middle East.

Featured Analysis

Sea Change In The Middle East

by Admiral Gary Rougheadvia The Caravan
Tuesday, September 20, 2016

America’s view of the Middle East today is shaped by our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rise and reach of ISIS, a grinding conflict in Syria, the region as a source of wider ranging terrorism and staggering outflows of refugees that is changing the political calculus in Europe. As our strategic role in the Middle East began with a meeting on the water so, too, are consequential changes there taking place at sea – the domain in which the U.S. has enjoyed unfettered access and dominance for over seventy years.   

Featured Analysis

The Perils Of “Perfecting”

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Wednesday, May 11, 2016

“A Spectre is Haunting Europe” – again. Now, as in Marx’s proclamation, an idea generated in Europe has had consequences elsewhere that threaten modern civilization. Modernity’s world-spanning influence has been accurately and derogatorily labeled “Eurocentric.”

Featured Analysis

Solidarity, Liberal Democracy, And Eastern Europe Today

by Piotr H. Kosicki via The Caravan
Wednesday, May 11, 2016

In September 2015, eminent Princeton historian Jan T. Gross penned an essay entitled “Eastern Europe’s Crisis of Shame.” He wrote, “As thousands of refugees pour into Europe to escape the horrors of war, with many dying along the way, a different sort of tragedy has played out in many of the European Union’s newest member states.

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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.