Posts

Showing posts from October, 2021

Iran poll contains different messages for Biden and Raisi

Image
  By James M. Dorsey “It’s the economy, stupid.” That is the message of a just-published survey of Iranian public opinion. However, the substance of the message differs for newly elected hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the Biden administration as Mr. Raisi toughens his negotiating position and the United States grapples with alternative ways of curbing the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme should the parties fail to agree on terms for the revival of the 2015 international agreement. Iranians surveyed last month by Iran Poll and the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies were telling Mr. Raisi that they are looking to him to alleviate Iran’s economic and other problems and have little hope that a revived nuclear agreement will make the difference, given lack of trust in US and European compliance with any agreement reached. The Iranians polled seemed in majority to endorse some form of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s notio

Shaping US Middle East policy amidst failing states, failed democratization and increased activism

Image
  Source: Middle East Report, Spring 2020 nbr 294   https://merip.org/2020/06/exit-empire/ By James M. Dorsey The future of US engagement in the Middle East hangs in the balance. Two decades of forever war in Afghanistan and continued military engagement in Iraq and elsewhere in the region have prompted debate about what constitutes a US interest in the Middle East. China, and to a lesser degree Russia, loom large in the debate as America’s foremost strategic and geopolitical challenges. Questions about US interests have also sparked discussion about whether the United States can best achieve its objectives by continued focus on security and military options or whether a greater emphasis on political, diplomatic, economic, and civil society tools may be a more productive approach. The debate is coloured by a pendulum that swings from one extreme to the other. President Joe Biden has disavowed the notion of nation-building that increasingly framed the United States’ post-9/11 i

US military presence in the Middle East: The less the better

Image
  By James M. Dorsey It may not have been planned or coordinated but efforts by Middle Eastern states to dial down tensions serve as an example of what happens when big power interests coincide. It also provides evidence of the potentially positive fallout of a lower US profile in the region. Afghanistan, the United States’ chaotic withdrawal notwithstanding, could emerge as another example of the positive impact when global interests coincide. That is if the Taliban prove willing and capable of policing militant groups to ensure that they don’t strike beyond the Central Asian nation’s borders or at embassies and other foreign targets in the country. Analysts credit the coming to office of US President Joe Biden with a focus on Asia rather than the Middle East and growing uncertainty about his commitment to the security of the Gulf for efforts to reduce tensions by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate and Egypt on the one hand and on the other, Turkey, Iran, and Qatar. Those

Gulf security: It’s not all bad news

Image
  By James M. Dorsey Gulf states are in a pickle. They fear that the emerging parameters of a reconfigured US commitment to security in the Middle East threaten to upend a more-than-a-century-old pillar of regional security and leave them with no good alternatives. The shaky pillar is the Gulf monarchies’ reliance on a powerful external ally that, in the words of Middle East scholar Roby C. Barrett , “shares the strategic, if not dynastic, interests of the Arab States.” The ally was Britain and France in the first half of the 20 th century and the United States since then. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the revered founder of the United Arab Emirates, implicitly recognised Gulf states’ need for external support when he noted in a 2001 contribution to a book that the six monarchies that form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) “ only support the GCC when it suited them .” Going forward question marks about the reliability of the United States may be unsettling but the emer

Reducing Middle East tensions potentially lessens sectarianism and opens doors for women

Image
  By James M. Dorsey Two separate developments involving improved relations between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and women’s sporting rights demonstrate major shifts in how rivalry for leadership of the Muslim world and competition to define Islam in the 21 st century is playing out in a world in which Middle Eastern states can no longer depend on the United States coming to their defence. The developments fit into a regional effort by conservative, status quo states, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt; and proponents of different forms of political Islam, Iran, Turkey, and Qatar; to manage rather than resolve their differences in a bid to ensure that they do not spin out of control. The efforts have had the greatest success with the lifting in January of a 3.5-year-long Saudi-UAE-Egyptian-led diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar . The reconciliation moves also signal the pressure on Middle Eastern players in what amounts to a battle for the soul of Islam to chang

Comparing textbooks: Even Afghanistan scores better than Pakistan

Image
  By James M. Dorsey Societal struggles and reform often take unexpected turns in vast swaths of land stretching from the Middle East into Central Asia. Take education for example. The Taliban have yet to fulfil their promise to allow girls to return to school but primary and secondary Afghan textbooks appear to be a relative bright spot amid all the doom and gloom about the group’s rule. It’s a bright spot that highlights the deep societal impact of decades of ultra-conservative Saudi influence in Pakistan at a time that an Israel-based NGO is reporting significant progress in the way the kingdom’s textbooks describe non-Muslims and discuss violence in the name of Islam. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a nuclear scientist and Pakistani human rights activist, concluded from a recent survey of Urdu-language Afghan textbooks that they were light years ahead of what Pakistani schools offer . Mr. Hoodbhoy argued that the Taliban were unlikely to change the textbooks in use anytime soon. Af