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

Social Media: A Shaping Force Of Identity And Action – The Palestinian Case

by Harel Chorevvia The Caravan
Thursday, June 8, 2017

The global expansion of social media over the past decade has sparked a vibrant debate about its role in mobilizing political protest movements worldwide, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. Clay Shirky was among the first to claim that social media can serve as a tool for bolstering civil society and the public sphere. Others, like Larry Diamond and Marc Plattner, took this further and defined social media as a ‟liberation technology” with the power to expedite democratization processes. A counter-argument to these so-called “cyber optimists” came from thinkers like Malcolm Gladwell and Evgeny Morozov. These and other “cyber pessimists” argued that the impact of social media on the political arena is limited, and cautioned that repressive authorities might exploit it to suppress opponents. 

Featured Analysis

Social Media And The Gulf States: A Revolution That Is Not Revolutionary

by Afshin Molavivia The Caravan
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

“One of the startling discoveries of our time,” the author and social philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote nearly half a century ago, “is that revolutions are not revolutionary.” Hoffer’s insight has aged well. All across our world, particularly in the emerging world over the past three decades, we have been witnessing quiet revolutions that are “not revolutionary” driven by urbanization, growing middle classes, and increasing access to information coupled with the rocket fuel of rising aspirations. 

Introduction

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

via The Caravan
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How has the development of social media and new communications technology influenced the political landscape in the Middle East? Has social media been used by a new generation as a force for democratization? As a force for radicalization by Islamists? Have repressive regimes within the region manipulated this internet phenomenon to monitor and hunt down those who seek change and modernization? There is a conflict inherent in social media - it is used for good and for evil depending on whose hands are at the controls. How can we harness this means of communication to help in the spread of democracy while at the same time attempting to lessen its power when used by radicals and tyrants?

Featured Analysis

Social Media, New Technologies and the Middle East

by Russell A. Bermanvia Caravan
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

It is a global story, a new industrial revolution. The spread of the internet and the proliferation of social media have led to dramatic changes with salutary results: greater access to more diverse information, gateways to goods and services that have transformed the retail experience, and opportunities to engage and network with expanded communities, while still staying in touch with friends and family, all thanks to the blessings of these new technologies.

Featured Analysis

Does Egypt Still Matter?

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Wednesday, March 15, 2017

For a man who has challenged almost all conventional wisdom in U.S. foreign policy, President Trump’s first phone call to his Egyptian counterpart after taking office could have been copied from any of his predecessors since the late 70’s. Stressing the importance of the strategic partnership between the two countries, he affirmed his commitment to deepening a relationship “which has helped both countries overcome challenges in the region for decades.”

Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia And Egypt: An Uneasy Relationship

by Bernard Haykelvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Any observer of the relationship between Egypt and Saudi Arabia over the last few months will have noticed considerable tensions.  This is unexpected since Riyadh had strongly backed President Sisi’s government after the 2013 military coup, offering tens of billions of dollars in aid and fuel supplies, and Cairo in return had pledged its full diplomatic, political and military support for the kingdom. 

Mousque of Al-aqsa in Old Town - Jerusalem, Israel
Featured Analysis

Egypt’s Role In The Middle East: The View From Jerusalem

by Itamar Rabinovichvia The Caravan
Monday, March 13, 2017

During the past sixty years, Israel’s relationship with Egypt completed a full cycle. In the late 1950’s in the aftermath of two wars with Egypt and Gamal Abdel Nasser leading the revolutionary pan Arab camp, it was Israel’s most formidable and implacable Arab enemy. Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion, saw no hope of breaking the wall of Arab hostility led by Egypt and decided to leap frog over it by formulating and implementing a policy known as “the alliance with the periphery.” 

Featured Analysis

The Future Of Egyptian Islamism

by Mokhtar Awadvia The Caravan
Friday, March 10, 2017

The thousands of Egyptian mourners greeting the body of Omar Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh,” alarmed many of their countrymen who had hoped the elderly Jihadist cleric had become irrelevant. Abdel Rahman’s funeral sent a signal that although Islamists may be a numerical minority—and are for the time being politically defeated—their ideas still very much resonate with a sizeable cross section of this country of 90 million. 

Featured Analysis

The United States And The Future Of Egyptian-Russian Relations

by Michael Wahid Hanna via The Caravan
Thursday, March 9, 2017

As U.S.-Egypt relations have come under significant strain in the post-Mubarak era, Egypt has sought to rebalance its international relations and has begun hedging through an assiduous focus on ties with Russia. For the United States, this hedging behavior should be cause for moderate concern and vigilance but not alarm.

Featured Analysis

Sisi’s Domesticated Foreign Policy

by Eric Tragervia The Caravan
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

When then-Defense Minister Abdel Fatah el-Sisi responded to mass protests in July 2013 by ousting the country’s first elected president, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi, Cairo’s Gulf allies rushed to keep Egypt afloat economically.  Within months, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait sent approximately $7 billion in aid, and they pledged an additional $12 billion in aid after Sisi won the barely contested May 2014 presidential elections. 

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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.