Showing posts from June, 2021

Maneuvering Jerusalem’s future: Upcoming DC visit puts wind in Jordanian monarch’s sails (Corrected version)

  By James M. Dorsey US President Joe Biden may have little appetite for Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking but seems determined to prevent some third parties from exploiting the regional stalemate to their advantage. That seems to be one message contained in ensuring that King Abdullah of Jordan will be the first Arab leader to visit the White House since Mr. Biden took office. The message takes on added significance with the beginning earlier this month of court proceedings against two senior Jordanians accused of sedition and plotting with former Crown Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, a half-brother of King Abdullah II, to destabilize the monarchy. The message’s significance is enhanced at a time that various Muslim-majority states are competing for religious soft power in the Muslim world. The alleged plot in cooperation with Prince Hamzah and Saudi efforts to protect one of the defendants, Bassam Awadallah, refocused attention on a low key, long-standing Saudi effort to include th

Forging a future with rather than against Iran

  By James M. Dorsey The rise of hardline President-elect Ebrahim Raisi has prompted some analysts to counterintuitively suggest that it could pave the way for reduced regional tensions and potential talks on a rejiggered Middle Eastern security architecture but getting from A to B is likely to prove easier said than done. Hopes that a hardline endorsement of a return to the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program will pave the way to wider security arrangements are grounded in a belief that Iranian domestic politics give Tehran a vested interest in a dialing down of tension. They also are rooted in a regional track record of hawks rather than doves taking the painful decisions that in the past have paved the way to an end of hostilities and the signing of agreements. The analysts that see a silver lining in Iran’s hardline electoral power grab compare the rise of Mr Raisi to the late 1980s when Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ac

Middle Eastern powers vie in shaping a next generation of Muslims

  By James M. Dorsey Education is emerging as a major flashpoint in competing visions of a future Muslim world. Rival concepts being instilled in a next generation are likely to shape what amounts to a battle for the soul of Islam. Reports earlier this year published by the Israel-based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE) chart the divergence in educational approaches. At one end of the spectrum are Pakistan and Turkey , two of the more populous Muslim countries whose claim to leadership of the Muslim world is rooted in conservative, if not ultra-conservative interpretations of Islam, that increasingly shape their education systems. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates reside at the other end with their reduced emphasis on religion in education and emphasis on science as well as religious tolerance and inter-faith dialogue. Straddling the two approaches is Qatar, the world’s only other Wahhabi state alongside Saudi Ar

Pakistan, Quo Vadis (Where are you going)?

  By James M. Dorsey Pakistan’s place in a new world order is anybody’s guess. Recent policy moves suggest options that run the gamut from a state that emphasizes religion above all else to a country that forges a more balanced relationship with China and the United States. The options need not be mutually exclusive but a populous, nuclear-armed country whose education system is partially anchored in rote learning and memorization of the Qur’an rather than science is likely to raise eyebrows in Washington and Beijing. Pakistan has long viewed its ties to China as an unassailable friendship and strategic partnership China but has recently been exploring ways of charting a more independent course. Relations between Islamabad and Beijing were bolstered by an up to US$60 billion Chinese investment in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a cornerstone of the People’s Republic’s infrastructure, transportation, and energy-driven Belt and Road Initiative. Deeply indebted to

Hot air messaging: Iran floats reports of imminent Shanghai Cooperation Organization membership

  By James M. Dorsey Eager to enhance its negotiating leverage with the United States and Europe, Iran is projecting imminent membership of the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in much the same way it pushed the signing of a much-touted 25-year cooperation agreement with the People’s Republic that has yet to have any real legs. Converting Iran’s SCO observer status into full membership is likely to be a long shot but would also constitute an important geopolitical victory for the Islamic republic in terms of its positioning vis a vis Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. It could further kickstart putting flesh on the skeleton of the Chinese-Iranian cooperation agreement. Iran and China signed the agreement in March after a year of Iranian assertions that the accord was finally happening after first being plugged in 2016, so far largely remains a piece of paper with no practical consequence. Founded in 2001, the SCO counts China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ta

Saudi Arabia steps up effort to replace UAE and Qatar as go-to regional hub

 Credit: Middle East Eye Dear All, Thank you for being patient and loyal readers. That means a lot to me as I recover from surgery and more than a month in hospital. While not quite there yet, it gives me great pleasure to return to writing my column and hopefully catering to your interests after a two-month hiatus. I look forward to your comments and wish you all the best. Warmest, James Saudi Arabia steps up effort to replace UAE and Qatar as go-to regional hub By James M. Dorsey Saudi Arabia has stepped up efforts to outflank the United Arab Emirates and Qatar as the Gulf’s commercial, cultural, and/or geostrategic hub. The kingdom has recently expanded its challenge to the smaller Gulf states by seeking to position Saudi Arabia as the region’s foremost sport destination once Qatar has had its moment in the sun with the 2022 World Cup as well as secure a stake in the management of regional ports and terminals dominated so far by the UAE and to a lesser extent Qatar.