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  1. The Arab Monarchy Debate, POMEPS Studies 3 [Download]

    Title: The Arab Monarchy Debate, POMEPS Studies 3
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: It has been widely noted that monarchies have done better at surviving the Arab uprisings that began two years ago. Three Presidents (Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Saleh) have fallen, along with Muammar al-Qaddafi’s unique Jamahiriaya, while Bashar al-Assad’s Baathist presidential regime faces a mortal threat. No Arab monarch has yet lost his throne. For some analysts and academics, this pattern suggests a fairly obvious "monarchical exception" which demands explanation. In August, I launched a debate on Foreign Policy about whether and how monarchy matters in explaining the resilience of Arab regimes. I was not impressed. Against arguments that monarchies possess some kind of unique legitimacy commanding the loyalty of their people, I noted that Arab monarchies have in fact faced significant popular mobilization over the last two years: Bahrain has had one of the most intense and protracted uprisings anywhere; Kuwait is facing the deepest political crisis in its post-occupation history; Jordan experienced unprecedented protests; Saudi Arabia has had a protracted challenge in its Eastern Province; Oman experienced unusual levels of protest; Morocco’s protest movement drove the king to adopt a significant (if underwhelming) constitutional initiative. I concluded, "the monarchies look like fairly typical Arab authoritarian regimes, surviving because they enjoy greater financial resources, less demanding international allies, and powerful media assets to perpetuate their legitimation myths." Trending Articles How Will Trump’s Attack Dogs Affect Mueller’s Russia… The special counsel has a mammoth job, and the president has just warned him of what he long suspected: He may not… Powered By The responses I got over email, over Twitter, across blogs, and at various academic conferences convinced me that the monarchy question remains an open one, however. It is an important debate for political scientists and analysts, with a wide range of arguments and evidence to consider. Over the last few months, I have reached out to a number of leading scholars to weigh in on the question of Arab monarchy. I asked them to move beyond simple binaries ("monarchy does or doesn’t matter") to explore the specific mechanisms by which it might matter, to weigh them against competing explanations, and to show how monarchy operated in particular cases which they knew well. Those articles, along with some particularly relevant older Middle East Channel essays, are now collected in today’s new POMEPS Brief, "The Arab Monarchy Debate." The debate is an interesting one. Daniel Brumberg pushes us to focus on how different regime types might have comparative advantages in the specific "sustaining mechanisms" of Arab autocrats. Michael Herb makes a guarded case for the distinctive resilience of family monarchies, a unique mechanism for leadership selection explored as well by Gregory Gause. Sean Yom points instead to money, security forces, and foreign patrons, which the monarchies enjoy for reasons that have little to do with monarchy. If these more material explanations are correct, then the monarchs may be in for a rough ride, as Christopher Davidson argues, since many of those assets are wasting ones. In particular, the economic commitments made to ride out the storm may not be sustainable, Steffen Hertog notes. What about specific countries? Recent POMEPS Briefs have looked in depth at the situations in Jordan, Bahrain, and Kuwait. This collection adds several reflections on Saudi Arabia (by Madawi al-Rasheed, Stephane Lacroix, and Toby Matthiessen); Oman (Ra’id Al-Jamali); Jordan (Nicholas Seeley); and Morocco (Mohamed Daadoui). These closer looks are particularly helpful at identifying the differences in the nature of monarchy across the region: Jordan’s monarchy simply operates differently, is viewed differently across society, and has a different set of sustaining mechanisms compared to the ruling families in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, or Kuwait. Monarchs with parliaments have different political horizons than those who rule without elected bodies. For instance, those monarchs with small populations and virtually unlimited financial resources don’t seem to have that much in common with their larger and poorer cousins. It would be foolish to deny the observable reality that thus far all the Arab monarchs have survived where other regime types have failed. But that has to be a starting point, not a conclusion. From a political science perspective, that should force us to look harder at the specific mechanisms of control, which may or may not sustain specific monarchs in the future. Belief in a "monarchical exception" is useful for the monarchs in their efforts to deflect domestic challenges, reduce expectations of potential change, and maintain international support. It may also contribute to a certain complacency among their foreign allies, who may be relieved at not seeing the need to plan for the possible loss or transformation of such useful partners. I hope that this collection of essays helps to advance this important ongoing debate. Download POMEPS Brief #16 "The Arab Monarchies Debate."
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, Islam, International Relations, POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/24/2017
  2. The New Salafi Politics, POMEPS Studies 2 [Download]

    Title: The New Salafi Politics, POMEPS Studies 2
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: Few developments associated with the Arab uprisings have generated as much concern as the rapid emergence of Salafi movements into the public arena. The performance of al-Nour Party in Egypt’s parliamentary elections stunned many observers. Waves of attacks on Sufi shrines in Tunisia and Libya, denunciations of secular citizens, and loud calls for the imposition of sharia have raised fears at home and abroad. The violent protests over the anti-Islam YouTube film, the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and the emergence of Salafi-jihadist trends within the Syrian opposition have made these political concerns ever more urgent. Who are these new Salafi movements? How should we interpret their rise? This new POMEPS Brief collects more than a dozen recent essays on Salafis across the Arab world, including a detailed look at Salafi politics in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Bahrain, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The picture that emerges is troubling — but also unexpectedly reassuring. These well-funded and well-entrenched sub cultures will likely continue to thrive in the open, contentious new Arab political realm. But how they will behave, the response they will generate from other political trends and societal sectors, and how they will approach political institutions remains very much in question. The “troubling part” of their ascent doesn’t require a great deal of elaboration. While many Salafis are simply religious individuals comfortable when surrounded by the like-minded, the more assertive of them have advanced a hard-edged, intolerant agenda, which has driven a sharp polarization around religion in several Arab countries. Their attacks on movie theaters, Sufi shrines, and Western culture have frightened and angered secular trends in these countries, particularly religious minorities and women who fear for their place in the emerging societies. Their attacks on U.S. embassies have frightened and angered the United States, and prompted concerns about a resurgence of al Qaeda. But there are also reasons for some optimism. As several of the essays in this collection point out, Salafism is not a unified trend. Its adherents belong to a wide range of movements with very different orientations toward politics, many of which push toward political quiescence and an inward-looking focus on the cohesion of their own communities. Because Salafi subcultures generally lack the kind of disciplined organization that characterizes the Muslim Brotherhood, they struggle to act in any sort of organized fashion. It is not as if these trends did not exist before their eruption into the public realm. Salafi movements were increasingly prominent in Egypt in the years prior to the revolution, with television stations and prominent public faces. Funding streams from the conservative Gulf states fueled Salafi subcultures across the region. In some countries, such as Egypt, they were also often tacitly (or openly) supported by intelligence services keen to promote competitors to the Muslim Brotherhood and — to the conspiracy minded — to drum up communal tensions with attacks on churches or outrageous statements when this served the interests of the ruling regimes. The financial flows from the Gulf show few signs of abating, but it is intriguing to consider the possible impact of a decrease of this latter sort of support from the “deep state.” It is easy to understand the alarm over high profile public arguments over outrageously reactionary comments by Salafi figures. Public clashes over issues advanced by the Salafis are also not necessarily a bad sign. It seems better to have these brought into the public realm than hidden in shadows. It is reassuring to see their public advances increasingly beaten back by competing movements, an outraged and controversy-minded press, and calculating politicians. The backlash against the outrageous statements by popular Salafi television preachers reveals as much as their initial comments — and indeed tells us far more than do the bland reassurances of the designated spokesmen for the movements. These public battles reveal the limits of their influence and the real radicalism of some of their ideas relative even to their own societies. They may also sometimes reveal real pools of popular support for their ideas, which is important to recognize rather than turn away from. Open politics challenges the Salafis as much as empowers them. Since its electoral coming out party, Egypt’s al-Nour Party has fragmented and faced serious internal tensions. Its decision to approve of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan on grounds of extreme contingency seems sure to anger the faithful, and suggests that for better or for worse ultimately even these most ideological of Islamists will prove pragmatic in their pursuit of self-interest. They will likely face increasing challenges as their members grow disenchanted with the benefits of the democratic process and perhaps return to demands for greater doctrinal purity. In short, as much as the leaders of these movements may have enjoyed their public profile it also poses severe challenges. Finally, the Salafi challenge has been forcing Muslim Brotherhood-style groups in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia into open confrontation. From their positions of power they no longer have the luxury of empty posturing or of ignoring real challenges to stability or national interests. While Salafis and Brothers have been tussling over supporters for many years, the stakes have never been higher. The Muslim Brotherhood can no longer take its Islamic flank for granted, and finds itself in the very uncomfortable position of taking a lead role in cracking down on “Islamic extremists.” It has not been so long since they were the targets of such repression. With a significant proportion of Brothers harboring Salafi sympathies and Salafis moving into the political realm once identified with the Brothers, we can expect those political battles over the Islamic vote to only intensify. The same can be said of the emergence of the Salafi-jihadist groups. There appears to be a new al Qaeda strategy focused on building ties with local jihadist movements, including the various Ansar al-Sharia factions. But their violence and extremism poses a direct threat to the political interests of Islamist leaders in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. From a U.S. perspective, having the Muslim Brotherhood take the lead in combatting Salafi-jihadists on their own turf, for their own interests, would be a major success in the broader campaign against such groups. This competition is one major reason why it is wrong to conflate all signs of Islamist political success into a narrative of a supposedly resurgent al Qaeda. And then, there is Syria. As a recent ICG report made clear, initially marginal Salafi-Jihadist groups have made significant inroads into the Syrian opposition. They appear to have benefited disproportionately from financial and arms flows from the Gulf, and to have adapted many of the military and communication innovations of al Qaeda in Iraq. For the jihadist community it does appear that Syria is the new Iraq (I have been reading through a lot of commentaries on the jihadist forums on Syria and the lessons of Iraq over the last week, and will be writing more about this soon). They will likely continue to bring sectarianism, extremist views, and Iraq-style tactics into Syria regardless of whether, or how, Western countries intervene, and to enjoy ready access to cash and foreign fighters regardless of whether, or how, Western countries attempt to control such flows. In short, the emergence of the Salafi trend into the public life of many Arab countries is an important recent development. But it would be a mistake to exaggerate the unity of the Salafi trend or its place within these transitional societies. They are a vital part of the emerging public landscape. Their participation in electoral politics and public life should be encouraged — even as their stances should be condemned and their opponents supported in the effort to build tolerant, inclusive Arab societies. Contentious political battle over Islamic symbols will likely continue to be a prominent feature of Arab politics in coming years. Hopefully, the essays in this POMEPS Briefing collection will be a useful guide to the current state of play.
    Keywords: International Relations, North Africa, Political Science, Islam, Islamism, Middle East, POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/19/2017
  3. Arab Uprisings: New Opportunities for Political Science, POMEPS Studies 1 [Download]

    Title: Arab Uprisings: New Opportunities for Political Science, POMEPS Studies 1
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The uprisings that swept the Arab world following the fall of Tunisia’s President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011 represented a stunning moment in the region’s political history. For political scientists specializing in the region, the events of the last year and a half represented an exhilarating moment of potential change but also an important opportunity to develop new research questions, engage in new comparisons, and exploit new data and information. The Arab uprisings challenged long-held theories dominant in the field, particularly about the resilience of authoritarian regimes, while opening up entirely new areas of legitimate social scientific inquiry. The Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS) was created in 2010 in part to build the capacity of Middle East experts to engage and inform policy-makers, the public sphere, and other political scientists about the region. On May 29 to 30, 2012, POMEPS convened a group of leading political scientists who specialize in the Middle East for its third annual conference at George Washington University to discuss the opportunities and challenges that the Arab uprisings pose to the subfield. Participants were asked: “What new and innovative research questions do you think have become particularly urgent, feasible, or relevant? How would those research questions fit into wider debates in the field of political science?” This special POMEPS Briefing collects nearly two dozen of the memos written for the conference. The authors are all academic political scientists and Middle East specialists who speak Arabic and have lived in and studied Arab countries for extended periods. They include scholars at all career levels, from senior faculty at top universities to advanced graduate students still writing their dissertations. The memos reflect on a wide range of debates and paradigms within political science, and taken together lay out an impressive set of marching orders for the subfield. Graduate students looking for dissertation topics and junior faculty looking for articles that might make a big splash take note.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, Arab Uprisings, Arab Spring, Authoritarian, International Relations, POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/18/2017