Dr. James M. Dorsey

Dr. James M. Dorsey

Dr. James M. Dorsey

(Ph.D. University of Utrecht). Specializes in the Muslim world's political, social, and economic fault lines as well as Chinese policy towards the region with a focus on geopolitics, social movements, and political and militant Islam. James also focuses on the nexus of sports, politics, and society. Email: [email protected]

Iran and Saudi Arabia Revisit Their Strategies

| January 24, 2018

Expressions of support for the Iranian anti-government protests by US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have provided grist for Iranian claims that the protests were instigated by foreign powers. The assertions, while largely baseless, nonetheless offer insight into the very different strategies adopted by Iran and Saudi Arabia in their vicious struggle for regional dominance.


Iranian Protests Reveal Leadership Fault Lines in the Muslim World

| January 16, 2018

If week-long anti-government protests in Iran exposed the Islamic Republic’s deep-seated economic and political problems, they also laid bare Saudi Arabia’s structural inability to establish itself as the leader of the Sunni Muslim world.


US-Saudi Nuclear Talks: A Middle East Barometer?

| January 10, 2018

Talks aimed at transferring US nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia serve as an indicator of where the Saudi-Iranian rivalry is heading as well as the strength of the informal Saudi-Israeli alliance against Iran. The possible transfer could spark a new arms race in the Middle East and constitutes one explanation why Saudi responses to President Donald J. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel were muted and limited to rhetorical statements.


Iranian Protests Raise Tricky Questions for US and Saudi Policymakers

| January 2, 2018

In many ways, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad faces the same considerations in deciding how to respond to the protests in Iran as does US President Donald J. Trump. Support for the protesters could amount to support for hardline conservative factions in Iran.


Betting on the Wrong Horse? US, and Iranian Hardliners, Spin Anti-Government Protests

| January 1, 2018

In supporting recent anti-government protests in Iran, both Iranian hardliners and the US State Department might want to be careful what they wish for. Not only are the protests unlikely to spark the kind of change either of the two adversaries might be hoping for, but they are also refusing to stick to the different scripts the Trump administration and opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani prefer to read into them.


Transition in the Middle East: Transition to What?

| December 13, 2017

Transition is the name of the game in the Middle East and North Africa. The question is, transition to what? The answer to that question lies in an Arab autocratic push for a Saudi-led regional order that would be based on an upgraded, 21st century version of autocracy designed to fortify absolute rule. To achieve this, autocrats have embraced economic reform accompanied by social change that would allow them to efficiently deliver public goods and services. It is an approach that rejects recognition of basic freedoms and political rights, but is likely – eventually – to produce more open and inclusive political systems that ensure that all segments of society have a stake.


Qatari vs. Saudi Wahhabism and the Perils of Top-Down Change

| December 7, 2017

Qatar and Saudi Arabia share a Wahhabi tradition, yet Qatar’s secular social character is more similar to that of Turkey. Despite their current antagonism, the leaders of the two countries share a forward-looking, less socially conservative vision. But a government-engineered modernizing process will be ineffective if it is not accompanied by political change.


Tackling Corruption: Why Saudi Prince Muhammad’s Approach Raises Questions

| December 4, 2017

Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s recent moves against the Saudi elite look more like a power and asset grab than a credible effort to eradicate corruption. He would be well advised to focus more on structural and institutional change.


Saudi Arabia’s Lebanon Gamble Might Pay Off

| December 1, 2017

Time will tell, but Saudi Arabia’s gamble to pressure Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed, Lebanese Shiite militia, by forcing Saad Hariri, the country’s prime minister, to resign, may be paying off despite widespread perceptions that the maneuver backfired.


The Battle for Control of Brussels’ Grand Mosque

| November 30, 2017

It’s hard to prove beyond doubt a direct causal link between militancy and Saudi-inspired ultra-conservative forms of Sunni Muslim Islam. That hasn’t stopped Belgium’s parliament from attempting to wrest control from Saudi Arabia of Brussel’s downtown Grand Mosque after three years in which Belgians played a prominent role in ISIS attacks in the Belgian capital as well as Paris.