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  1. Adaptation Strategies of Islamist Movements, POMEPS Studies 26 [Download]

    Title: Adaptation Strategies of Islamist Movements, POMEPS Studies 26
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: Long repressed, banned, and exiled, many Islamist movements and parties across the Middle East and North Africa witnessed a moment of electoral success after the 2011 uprisings. Since then, their fates have varied widely. Some have made significant compromises to stay in power, others have ostensibly separated their religious and political efforts, while others have been repressed more brutally than before or have fragmented beyond recognition. What accounts for these actors’ different adaptation strategies and divergent outcomes? Earlier this year, the Project on Middle East Political Science brought together a dozen top scholars for our 4th Annual workshop on Islamist politics to address these questions. Their excellent essays are available individually on the POMEPS website and collectively as POMEPS Studies 26, available now as a free PDF. Many scholars are pushing to move beyond the traditional framing of Islamist movements. Khalil al-Anani challenges the approach that treats Islamist groups as collective entities, and discusses how personal experience of repression can influence individual members in contradicting ways. Likewise, Jillian Schwedler describes how the debate around inclusion (and whether it makes actors more moderate) is now moot as leaders increasingly move toward repression and away from inclusion. Elizabeth R. Nugent, meanwhile, challenges scholars’ tendency to focus on the uniqueness of Islamist groups and encourages future research to compare similar organization operating in moments of political opportunity to help normalize the study of Islamist politics. Eva Wegner uses innovative survey data analysis to rethink the common assumption that voters for Islamist parties are simply registering a protest vote, finding that ideology does, in fact, matter to many voters. Lindsay J. Benstead looks at the effect of the “Islamic mandate effect” on women’s representation, where the level of freedom or regime control influences a party’s ability to deliver on its promises of symbolic and service representation. In Islamic State controlled areas, Mara Revkin and Ariel I. Ahram look at the tenuous social contract in civil war contexts and how civilians – though they may not actually support that paradigm – sometimes use its institutions to speak up and voice criticism. Several authors reveal the careful balancing act that Islamists must maintain to stay in power. Steven Brooke delves into the complicated relationship between Islamist movements’ socio-religious activism and political engagement and attempts – some more successful than others – to separate the two. Quinn Mecham presents the unique case of Morocco’s PJD party, which acts simultaneously a voice of opposition and of the government. Monica Marks examines the Tunisia’s Ennahda highly contested compromise and contention. Nathan J. Brown describes the state’s messy involvement with Islam and its, often inelegant, attempts to craft and control religious messages through its bureaucracy. Annelle Sheline, looks at how regimes have wielded the rhetoric of “moderate Islam” to justify repression of Islamist opponents and seek out aid and support from Western governments. In a study of the Islah party in Yemen, Stacey Philbrick Yadav highlights the internal fracturing of the diverse party and questions western governments’ continued reliance on it. Marc Lynch recognizes the difference between U.S. policy makers who readily “lump” all Islamists into one category and those who more carefully distinguish and operationalize differences among groups. Is the latter necessarily less dangerous? Sharing insightful new research and posing key questions for future scholarship, POMEPS Studies 26 provides an excellent primer into the diverse adaptation strategies of Islamist actors in the Middle East and North Africa.
    Keywords: POMEPS Studies, Middle East, North Africa, Political science, International relations, Islam, Arab Spring
    Date Uploaded: 04/07/2018
  2. Refugees and Migration Movements in the Middle East, POMEPS Studies 25 [Download]

    Title: Refugees and Migration Movements in the Middle East, POMEPS Studies 25
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The Middle East has experienced a dramatic flood of refugees and forced migration over the last fifteen years. The UN High Commission on Refugees reports more than 16 million refugees and 60 million displaced persons around the world today, including asylum seekers and the internally displaced. The wars in Syria and Iraq have produced the greatest share of the Middle East’s refugees in recent years, but many more have fled wars and failed states in Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Neighboring states have faced severe challenges in absorbing millions of refugees, while North African states and Turkey have emerged as key transit hubs for refugee flows into Europe. To examine the situation of current refugees and exiles in and from the region, the Project on Middle East Political Science and the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Southern California with support from its Center for International Studies convened a workshop in February 2017 bringing together a dozen scholars from multiple disciplines. These scholars represent a new wave of scholars conducting original field research from refugee camps and communities in the Middle East, primarily in states bordering Syria and Iraq. Their research demonstrates the transformative impact on every aspect of politics, economies, societies and states of these massive forced population movements, both within and across borders.
    Keywords: POMEPS Studies, Middle East, North Africa, Political science, International relations, Refugees, Forced migration
    Date Uploaded: 04/07/2018
  3. New Challenges to Public and Policy Engagement, POMEPS Studies 24 [Download]

    Title: New Challenges to Public and Policy Engagement, POMEPS Studies 24
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: Engaging and influencing public policy debates on areas of their expertise is a core part of the mission of academics. The last decade has in many ways been the golden age of academic policy engagement. Social media, the proliferation of online publishing platforms, and a generational change in disciplinary norms and practices has unleashed an impressive wave of writing by academics aimed at an informed public sphere. President Donald Trump’s administration poses a sharp challenge to this model of policy engagement on the Middle East. Trump himself has shown little interest in policy issues, and his White House is stocked with individuals whose careers and rhetoric speak to a fundamental disrespect for academic expertise. Cornerstone policies such as the executive orders restricting immigration from Muslim-majority countries demonstrate a profound disregard for academic arguments or data-driven analysis. The White House seems to prefer right wing media outlets as a source of information to America’s own professional intelligence agencies, to say nothing of outside academics. Is it still possible to effectively engage with public policy debates in such an environment? The answer largely depends on the conception of the purpose and process of policy engagement. There continue to be ample opportunities to support and engage with the residual bastions of professional policymakers within the federal bureaucracy. The need to provide rational, reasoned, fact-based analysis to the broader public sphere has taken on profound urgency. And rapidly evolving social movements and civil society initiatives offer ways for academics to engage well beyond traditional policy environments. This public engagement includes working across diverse communities and engaging with the many new social movements and civil society initiatives working on issues relevant to Middle East Studies. The response to Trump’s January 27 executive order on immigration offers a powerful model for such effective action. Academic analysis played a critical role in supporting the social movements and judicial action that forced Trump to back away from the initial order. They worked within their universities to help administrations craft responses, within professional associations such as the Middle East Studies Association, and with civil society organizations coordinating the response. Academic public engagement at this social level should be sustained and expanded. This POMEPS Studies collection brings together analysis of these new challenges facing Middle East political science as an open access PDF. We hope that this special edition helps to inform a new era of academic engagement in the public realm.
    Keywords: POMEPS Studies, Middle East, North Africa, Political science, International relations, Public policy, Policy engagement
    Date Uploaded: 04/07/2018
  4. New Islamic Media, POMEPS Studies 23 [Download]

    Title: New Islamic Media, POMEPS Studies 23
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: In years past, Islamist televangelists like Amr Khaled, Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Tareq Suwaidan seemed like the future of Arab media. Advancing a form of “soft Islam” focused on personal betterment and religiosity, these preachers were seen by some as a potential counterweight to extremist voices and by others as a sinister leading edge of radicalization. The contretemps between Amr Khaled and Yusuf al-Qaradawi over the Danish Cartoons Crisis of 2006 inspired numerous academic articles (and several of my own blog posts). Today, such figures have become far more marginalized in both political life and in academic research. But as this new collection of essays published by the Project on Middle East Political Science makes clear, they have not disappeared. Their emergence was rooted in the liberalization of media, the appeal of multimedia celebrity, the multiple social movements keen to promote religiosity, and the demands of the marketplace.
    Keywords: POMEPS Studies, Middle East, North Africa, Political science, International relations, Islamic media
    Date Uploaded: 04/07/2018
  5. Local Politics and Islamist Movements, POMEPS Studies 27 [Download]

    Title: Local Politics and Islamist Movements, POMEPS Studies 27
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: Scholars and policymakers have increasingly recognized that Islamist movements and actors vary widely – from domestically oriented, quietist movements engaging in democratic systems to revolutionary, armed movements aiming to upend the nation-state system. Yet little has been done to understand how the nature of individual movements, and their success, often differs substantially at the subnational level. Some communities are much more likely to support different Islamist actors than others, and even the same movement may have very different strategies in some localities than others. Many questions remain regarding if and how Islamist movements and actors look or act differently in rural areas and secondary cities as they do in the capitals. To what extent do the strategies and performance of Islamists vary subnationally? And what explains this variation? To address this gap in understanding, the Project on Middle East Political Science and the Program on Governance and Local Development at the University of Gothenburg convened a workshop in June 2017. In doing so, it extends research on Islamist movements ,which has primarily examined the strategies of movement leaders, the relationship between Islamist movements and social services, the level support for these movements, and the performance of parliamentarian at the national level Yet, as political science as a discipline has increasingly recognized, much of the actual experience of politics takes place outside capital cities and major urban areas and that subnational variation is particularly important. The goal of the workshop was thus to take stock of the knowledge that exists on local Islam, and to point to new avenues of research.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political science, International relations, POMEPS Studies, Islam, Islamism, Local politics
    Date Uploaded: 04/07/2018
  6. New Analysis of Shia Politics, POMEPS Studies 28 [Download]

    Title: New Analysis of Shia Politics, POMEPS Studies 28
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The study of Islamist movements has often implicitly meant the study of Sunni Islamist movements. An enormous amount of political science scholarship has dissected the ideology, organization, and political strategy of Sunni Islamist movements. However these academic communities that study Sunni Islamism often proceed without any interaction with the academic communities that study Iran or Shi’a politics in Arab countries. Studies of Iran and of Shi’a movements similarly often proceed in isolation from the literature on the Arab world or Sunni Islamist movements. This is unfortunate, because Sunni and Shi’a Islamist political dynamics engage many similar theoretical or intellectual issues and could offer each other critically important comparative perspective. Therefore, on October 13, 2017, POMEPS convened an interdisciplinary workshop of scholars of Shi’a politics to discuss these questions and to probe the similarities and differences between the two academic communities. We are delighted to publish this collection of essays resulting from that workshop. The essays range widely, both thematically and geographically, and together offer a deeply informed and often surprising portrait of political changes across very different contexts. They also reveal the profound methodological and intellectual divides between the academic communities studying Sunni and Shi’a Islamism.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, International relations, Political science, POMEPS Studies, Islam, Islamist, Shi'a, Gulf
    Date Uploaded: 04/07/2018
  7. Politics, Governance, and Reconstruction in Yemen, POMEPS Studies 29 [Download]

    Title: Politics, Governance, and Reconstruction in Yemen, POMEPS Studies 29
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: Yemen’s war has become one of the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophes. The preventable consequences of the war have been well-documented and the military conflict is now at a stalemate. For Yemenis, 2018 promises a sustained downward spiral. The war and humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen has received relatively little analytical or scholarly attention compared to the conflicts elsewhere in the region, such as Syria and Iraq. Both the Houthis and the Saudi-UAE coalition tightly control access for journalists and researchers, making up-to-date, on the ground research difficult. Media coverage is dominated by propaganda, reinforcing prevailing narratives of either Iranian encroachment or Saudi adventurism. These conditions have not been conducive to sustained, rigorous, empirically and theoretically informed analysis of Yemen. How have political coalitions and movements adapted to more than two years of war and economic devastation? How does governance actually work under the Houthis, the coalition, and in other areas of the country? How has the intervention changed the prospects of the southern secessionist movement? What prospects exist for a political agreement which might end the war? On November 10, the Project on Middle East Political Science convened a workshop on these questions with participants from Yemen, Europe, and the United States. The invited scholars and analysts all have longstanding research ties to the country, and most have been able to carry out very recent research inside the country. It is worth noting that assembling the workshop proved exceptionally challenging. The highly polarized political situation in Yemen extends to the analytical community, making publishing analysis a potential problem for Yemenis who live – or aspire to return – to Yemen. More directly, changing American travel regulations ultimately deterred numerous invited participants from attempting to reach Washington D.C., including several Yemeni scholars and several European scholars with deep experience in the region. While some participated virtually, the loss of a number of critically important Yemeni and European scholars from the workshop tangibly represents the broader cost to academia of these travel restrictions. Despite these obstacles, the workshop brought together a remarkable group of American, European, and Yemeni scholars. Their papers and workshop discussions offered insightful analysis into the central actors, alliances, and war dynamics, and how these are likely to shape whatever future agreement may arise in Yemen. This collection offers no clear path forward for policymakers. But it does draw on the depth of knowledge and detailed research conducted by an interdisciplinary group of scholars who have committed themselves to the study of Yemen and who doubtless hope that this research can help to inform policies that promote a peaceful resolution to this devastating war and an inclusive and sustainable process of rebuilding.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political science, International relations, POMEPS Studies, Yemen
    Date Uploaded: 04/07/2018
  8. Transnational Diffusion and Cooperation in the Middle East, POMEPS Studies 21 [Download]

    Title: Transnational Diffusion and Cooperation in the Middle East, POMEPS Studies 21
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The Arab world never seemed more unified than during the incandescent days of the 2011 Arab uprisings. Tunisia’s revolution clearly and powerfully inspired Arabs everywhere to take to the streets. Egypt’s January 25 uprising that led to the removal of Hosni Mubarak taught Arab citizens and leaders alike that victory by protestors could succeed. The subsequent wave of protests involved remarkable synergies that could not plausibly be explained without reference to transnational diffusion. Bahrainis, Yemenis and Jordanians alike attempted to replicate the seizure and long-term encampments in Egypt’s Tahrir Square and protestors across the Arab world chanted the same slogans and waved the same signs. But what happened in the months and years after those heady days? Did similar processes of diffusion and cross-national learning shape the post-uprisings era? Did autocratic regimes learn from one another in the same way that protestors did? In June, more than a dozen scholars came together in Hamburg, Germany for a workshop jointly organized by the Project on Middle East Political Science and the German Institute for Global Affairs. The workshop closely examined learning, diffusion and demonstration across autocratic regimes during the Arab counter-revolution. The papers for that workshop, available here as an open access PDF download, closely examine the ways in which Arab autocrats did – and did not – learn from one another. Similarities do not, in and of themselves, prove that diffusion or learning have actually taken place. As German scholars Thomas Richter and André Bank emphasize, not everything that looks like diffusion is necessarily so. Many policy responses may simply be obvious tactics available to any reasonably competent political actor, not innovations that had to be learned. Authoritarian regimes hardly needed to be taught to torture or jail their own people, strip citizenship from dissidents, monitor social media, clear the streets of protestors or censor the media. The contributors to this collection go considerably further than past studies have done to show how significant learning and diffusion did take place among Arab regimes in the years following the uprisings. Demonstrating diffusion and learning requires careful attention to timing and sequence. It also requires scrutiny of the mechanisms by which ideas are transmitted, whether passively as actors observe events in the media, or actively as agents make direct efforts to spread those ideas. While direct evidence of the thinking and interactions between secretive autocrats may be hard to gather, these scholars carefully trace the timing and sequencing of these processes to show where learning and diffusion mattered. Such careful scrutiny of local conditions and the precise mechanisms of diffusion introduces healthy skepticism into the research agenda, but it does not lead to the conclusion that no diffusion occurred. Today’s Arab world is profoundly shaped by forces promoting transnational interactions, from pervasive social media and satellite television to weakening states, refugee flows, cross-border military interventions. The authors in POMEPS Studies 21 Transnational Diffusion and Cooperation in the Middle East have decisively advanced our understanding of these processes of diffusion and learning in regional politics.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, POMEPS Studies, Arab Uprisings
    Date Uploaded: 08/08/2017
  9. 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
  10. 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 ForeignPolicy.com 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