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Hardened US and Iranian positions question efficacy of parties’ negotiating tactics

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  By James M. Dorsey The United States and Iran seem to be hardening their positions in advance of a resumption of negotiations to revive a 2015 international nuclear agreement once Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in early August. Concern among supporters of the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program which former US President Donald J. Trump abandoned in 2018 may be premature but do raise questions about the efficacy of the negotiating tactics of both parties. These tactics include the Biden administration’s framing of the negotiations exclusively in terms of the concerns of the West and its Middle Eastern allies rather than also as they relate to Iranian fears, a failure by both the United States and Iran to acknowledge that lifting sanctions is a complex process that needs to be taken into account in negotiations, and an Iranian refusal to clarify on what terms the Islamic republic may be willing to discuss non-nuclear issues once the nuclear agreement has

Middle Eastern interventionism galore: Neither US nor Chinese policies alleviate

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  By James M. Dorsey A recent analysis of Middle Eastern states’ interventionist policies suggests that misguided big power approaches have fueled a vicious cycle of interference and instability over the last decade. Those approaches are abetted, if not encouraged by US and Chinese strategies that are similar, if not essentially the same, just labelled differently. The United States has long opted for regime stability in the Middle East rather than political reform, an approach China adopts under the mum of non-interference in the internal affairs of others. As a result, both the United States and China de facto signal autocrats that they will not be held accountable for their actions. This week’s US response and Chinese silence about the suspension of democracy in Tunisia illustrates the point. The policies of the two powers diverge, however, on one key approach: The US, unlike China, frequently identifies one or more regimes, most notably Iran, as a threat to regional secur

Indictment of Trump associate threatens UAE lobbying success and raises questions about Emirati campaign against political Islam

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  By James M. Dorsey This month’s indictment of a billionaire, one-time advisor and close associate of former US President Donald J. Trump, on charges of operating as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States for the United Arab Emirates highlights the successes and pitfalls of a high-stakes Emirati effort to influence US policy. The indictment of businessman Thomas   J. Barrack, who maintained close ties to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed while serving as an influential advisor in 2016 to then-presidential candidate Trump and chair of Mr. Trump’s inauguration committee once he won the 2016 election, puts at risk the UAE’s relationship with the Biden administration. It also threatens to reduce the UAE’s return on a massive investment in lobbying and public relations that made it a darling in Washington during the last four years. A 2019 study concluded that Emirati clients hired 20 US lobbying firms to do their bidding at a cost of US$20 million, including US$600

Greater Middle East may force China to project military power sooner rather than later

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  by James M. Dorsey China may have no short-term interest in contributing to guaranteeing security in parts of a swath of land stretching from Central Asia to the East coast of Africa, but that does not prevent the People’s Republic from preparing for a time when it may wish to build on long-standing political and military relationships in various parts of the world to project power and maintain an economic advantage. Determined to exploit the principle of allegedly win-win relationships that are underwritten by economics, trade, and investment as the solution to problems, China has so far delayed if not avoided bilateral or unilateral political and military engagement in conflicts beyond its borders. The question is how long it can continue to do so. China took a first baby step towards greater power projection with the creation in 2017 of its first overseas military base in the East African state of Djibouti, a rent-a-base nation that hosts multiple military facilities for

Muslim-Evangelical alliance strives to create religious and political middle ground

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  By James M. Dorsey A recent unprecedented alliance between Muslims and Evangelicals takes on added significance in a world in which human rights are on the defensive, religious groups tend to forge political as well as ideational partnerships, and the role of the clergy in multiple Muslim-majority countries has come under scrutiny. The alliance potentially could create a platform for voices in the Muslim world, particularly the Middle East, in which significant segments of the youth who constitute a majority of the population, increasingly reject state-controlled, ritualistic forms of religion and distrust clerics subservient to the government. It could also offer a middle ground on which elements of the secular centre-right and centre-left could meet based on shared faith-based values in deeply polarised parts of the world, particularly in the West. International affairs and inter-faith scholar Michael Driessen suggested in an email to this writer that the recently forged a

Defining moderate Islam: Muslims and Evangelicals forge an alliance

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  By James M. Dorsey A major Muslim and Evangelical organization joined forces this week to significantly advance hitherto state-backed ceremonial inter-faith dialogues that seldom go beyond platitudes and lofty statements. This week’s launch at a Washington DC mosque of an inter-faith alliance and a book published by the Institute for Humanitarian Islam and the Germany-based World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) as well as the Center for Shared Civilizational Values constitutes an Evangelical endorsement of Humanitarian Islam. It also amounts to a rare Muslim celebration of an Evangelical authority, WEA secretary general Archbishop Thomas Schirrmacher, who played a key role in building a relationship between the Evangelical group and Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, one, if not the world’s largest Muslim movement. “Dr. Schirrmacher’s decision to engage with the Humanitarian Islam movement may prove to be singularly consequential, and perhaps even historic, in its ramifications for the