Middle East

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.

Tip of the Iceberg: Russian Use of Power in Syria

The Russians are determined to reacquire some of the status once enjoyed by the Soviet Union of yore. They believe Western carelessness is to blame for the rise of Islamic State, and are using the Syrian theater to demonstrate their strategic capability.

China’s New Position on the Middle East

| September 11, 2016

China has taken several actions relating to the Middle East since the beginning of 2016 that suggest a new approach to the region. The Chinese president visited the Middle East, a new law was passed permitting China to be involved in military action beyond its own borders, and a new Chinese forum was established to promote peace in the region.

Implications of US Disengagement from the Middle East

| July 26, 2016

The adverse implications of US withdrawal from the Middle East are manifold, including: the acceleration of Tehran’s drive to regional hegemony, the palpable risk of regional nuclear proliferation following the JCPOA, the spread of jihadist Islam, and Russia’s growing penetration of the region. Manifest US weakness is also bound to have ripple effects far beyond the Middle East.

Sailing through the Straits: The Meaning for Israel of Restored Saudi Sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir Islands

The fact that Saudi Arabia has now undertaken to uphold in practice the obligations assumed by Egypt under its peace treaty with Israel, means that Israel’s place in the region is no longer perceived by Arab leader Saudi Arabia as an anomaly to be corrected. This is a far cry from normalization of Saudi relations with Israel, but it is nevertheless a welcome ray of light, demonstrating the benefits of cooperation and coordination in a region beset by violence.

The Syrian Civil War: An Interim Balance Sheet

| April 6, 2016

The desire of the international community to end the Syrian civil war is offset by the inability of any individual party to enforce its preferred solution. The conflict, which is likely to continue for some time, has solidified the centrality of Russia and Iran in regional affairs. Israel’s options are limited.

Shiites vs. Sunnis: A Region at War

| January 24, 2016

Three important events in the fight between Sunnis and Shiites took place this week, including the removal of global sanctions on Iran, and Pakistan’s announcement that it would respond to any attack on Saudi Arabia. Is the world’s only Muslim nuclear nation about to intervene in the Middle East?

New Permutations in the Mideast “Game of Camps”

| January 17, 2016

A review of the four rival camps into which the Middle East is today divided. 1. Iran with her proxies and allies; 2. Salafi Jihadists, currently dominated by the so-called Islamic State; 3. Muslim Brotherhood movement in its various manifestations, including Hamas, supported by Qatar and by Erdogan’s Turkey; 4. The “forces of stability” — all those who fear and resist the rise of the first three camps, with Israel an active and important player in this latter camp.