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  1. 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
  2. Contemporary Turkish Politics, POMEPS Studies 22 [Download]

    Title: Contemporary Turkish Politics, POMEPS Studies 22
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: Turkey has been in the news repeatedly in 2016, from the coup attempt of July to the subsequent government purges to its renewed fight against the PKK and crackdown on Kurdish populations. However surprising these developments may appear for an outside observer, they are deeply rooted in the history of the Turkish state, the evolution of the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP), and the complex identity politics of the region. In October, more than a dozen scholars of Turkish politics gathered at Rice University’s Baker Institute in Houston for a Project on Middle East Political Science workshop to delve into some of these underlying themes. The memos produced for that workshop have been published individually on the POMEPS website and the full collection is now available as a free download here. The authors in this collection provide rich context, new data, and sharp analysis of the nuanced challenges facing the country and the region today. The relationship between state and religion is one of the key issues to understand Turkish politics. Sebnem Gumuscu describes how competition between two main Islamist organizations evolved and influenced the government organization, somewhat paradoxically diminishing the checks and balances of the secular state that expedited the government’s ability to purge. Kristin Fabbe examines the direct and indirect ways religion and government interact and asks who might fill the bureaucratic void left by the Gülen movement. The religion-state nexus not only influences domestic affairs in crucial ways but its effects also shape Turkey’s stature within the regional. Once heralded as a shining beacon of democracy in the region, Turkey is now sinking on many indices of democracy and freedom. Ekrem Karakoc illustrates the fluctuating popularity of the Turkish model since the Arab uprisings in other MENA countries. Unsurprisingly, Islamist parties tended to look up to the success of the AKP more than other groups. Yet the often-referenced secular/ Islamist dichotomy fails to get at the complexities of these movements and their relationships with power. The malleable use of identity is a recurring theme in this collection. Senem Aslan paints a fascinating picture of the diverse ways in which AKP leaders use public displays of crying. In a region where machismo and tough leadership dominate political discourse, this invoking of emotion and victimhood serves a unique purpose for a party that has been in power now for more than a dozen years. Kimberly Guiler also takes up this question of victimhood, examining the use of conspiracy theories in the wake of the July 2016 coup as the AKP attempted to centralize power and promote national unity. Esen Kirdiş shows how shifts in the AKP government’s identity can be measured by the shifts in its foreign policy, from moderate Western-facing at the beginning of its tenure in office, to increasingly more Islam and identity focused as its support and base grew and now to a nationalist orientation as its support is wavering. Lisel Hintz describes how the Republic Nationalist orientation of previous governments gave way to the Ottoman-inspired and Islam-focused inclusive politics that downplayed the importance of ethnicity, opening an all too brief window of opportunity for addressing the Kurdish question. In their analysis of female political representation, Abdullah Aydogan, Melissa Marschall, and Marwa Shalaby explore the effects of gender roles and norms on women’s nomination and winning at the local and national level offices. Counterintuitively, they find that national offices are more open to female representation than local levels. Expanding on the Kurdish question, Sabri Çiftçi illustrates the unique challenges to ethnic descriptive representation of Kurds in Turkey, especially in the context of conflict. The lack of demographic data remains a main challenge, but Avital Livny fills in the missing information gap with some innovative new survey data to measure Kurdish politicization. Şener Aktürk presents and analyzes several often-cited hypotheses about why the PKK ended its ceasefire in 2015, suggesting that foreign policy may have played a larger role than many believe. During this period of renewed war, Aysegul Aydin and Cem Emrence illustrate how curfews have been used not only as a means of civilian control but also selectively to punish areas that have voted for the Kurdish party and to entice voters who live in more competitive electoral districts. Güneş Murat Tezcür presents his unique dataset of Turkish foreign fighters leaving the country to join either nationalist struggles of Kurds or the religious call of ummah and caliphate, showing how these individuals are similar and very different and what this means for Turkish society. Useful for students, academics, and policy-makers alike, the pieces in POMEPS Studies 22 Contemporary Turkish Politics, offer a uniquely accessible yet nuanced analysis of a country in flux. Download it today.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Turkey, POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/27/2017
  3. Rethinking Nation and Nationalism, POMEPS Studies 14 [Download]

    Title: Rethinking Nation and Nationalism, POMEPS Studies 14
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: You couldn’t swing a dead imperialist last summer without hitting an essay about the unraveling of the Sykes-Picot system in the Middle East. The bloody disintegration of Iraq and Syria seemed to have finally ripped apart the borders created by the British and French governments in the aftermath of World War I (even if the borders in question were actually forged at San Remo). It wasn’t just the rise of the so-called Islamic State spanning and erasing the Syrian-Iraqi border. The unprecedented, synchronized popular mobilization across borders during the early Arab uprisings of 2011 gave potent form to the ideals of transnational Arab political community supplanting the limits of nation-states. As the uprisings turned darker and most of the democratic transitions failed, new challengers to nation-states in the Middle East rose to the forefront: the Islamic State; the growing de facto independence of Kurds across Iraq and Syria, with ramifications extending into Turkey and Iran; the rise of sub-regional identities carried by heavily armed militias in failing states such as Yemen and Libya; unprecedented forced displacement moving millions of people within and across borders; and raging sectarianism dividing Sunnis and Shiites. These developments have not had a singular effect on national identities, however. While some states have collapsed, creating space for new subnational identities to challenge national cohesion, most have retrenched into a fiercer form of authoritarianism. Egypt’s military coup, for instance, has been sustained by the heavy-handed promotion of extreme nationalism. Many states in the Gulf have drawn upon sectarianism to consolidate support for their regimes in ways that could have an enduring impact on popular conceptions of national identity. Battles over the proper role of Islam in public life have reshaped political discourse from Egypt and Turkey (see Senem Aslan and Kristin Fabbe in this collection) and Tunisia (Elizabeth Young). Kurds imagine new political possibilities in very different contexts, as Nicole Watts demonstrates from Halabja and Serhun Al demonstrates through the historical experience of Turkey and Iraq. In February, therefore, I convened a Project on Middle East Political Science symposium with Laurie A. Brand at the University of Southern California to examine national identity in the face of such challenges. Their essays have now been released as Rethinking Nation and Nationalism, a special issue of POMEPS Studies, available for free download here. Continue reading on The Monkey Cage.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Nationalism, POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/27/2017
  4. Reflections on the Arab Uprisings, POMEPS Studies 10 [Download]

    Title: Reflections on the Arab Uprisings, POMEPS Studies 10
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: ‘Tis the season to reflect upon the course of the Arab uprisings. Over the last few weeks I have participated in three major workshops including nearly 50 scholars – and had to miss yet another in favor of a quick trip to Tunisia. It is not difficult to understand this intense urge to take stock, given the sorry state of the region and catastrophic results of virtually every one of the 2011 uprisings. The overblown criticisms of the field of Middle East political science over its failure to predict the uprisings have been thoroughly aired by this point. But what about the field’s performance during the Arab uprisings? Academics have written an unprecedented amount of real-time analysis and commentary over the last few years. What did we miss, misinterpret, exaggerate or rush to premature judgments about along the way? The first of the workshops focused explicitly on this question. I asked a group of the authors from my edited volume The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East to write short memos assessing their contributions critically after having another year to reflect. Those memos have been published as POMEPS Studies 10 Reflections on the Arab Uprisings. Their auto-critique is full of worthy observations: We paid too much attention to the activists and not enough to the authoritarians; we understated the importance of identity politics; we assumed too quickly that successful popular uprisings would lead to a democratic transition; we under-estimated the key role of international and regional factors in domestic outcomes; we took for granted a second wave of uprisings, which thus far has yet to materialize; we under-stated the risk of state failure and over-stated the possibility of democratic consensus. Read more on The Monkey Cage.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Arab Uprisings, Political Science, International Relations, POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/27/2017
  5. From Mobilization to Counter-Revolution: The Arab Spring in Comparative Perspective, POMEPS Studies 20 [Download]

    Title: From Mobilization to Counter-Revolution: The Arab Spring in Comparative Perspective, POMEPS Studies 20
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: On May 3-4, 2016, POMEPS held a workshop, “From Mobilization to Counter-Revolution: The Arab Spring in Comparative Perspective,” in conjunction with Oxford University’s Middle East Centre at St. Anthony’s College and Department of Sociology. In recent years a great deal of attention has focused on the process of revolutionary mobilization. By comparison, the conditions under which revolutions fail remains less well understood – this in spite of the tendency for many of the initial gains of contemporary revolutions to prove ephemeral. The disappointing trajectory of the 2011 Arab Spring only underlines the need to better understand this important topic. During the Arab Spring, factional splits between Islamists and secular activists quickly turned into internecine strife, undermining revolutionary coalitions. These splits were, in turn, exacerbated by interventions from regional and international powers. Later, violent Islamist groups exploited revolutionary openings to advance their own agendas. In countries that did not experience revolutionary breakthroughs, authoritarian regimes adapted their repressive strategies in the face of border-crossing protests. This workshop brought together more than a dozen diverse scholars working on issues related to the Middle East in transition to explain and conceptualize these dynamics by bringing them into comparative perspective. Drawing from a wide range of methodological and theoretical perspectives, participants contributed short memos that examined topics like revolutionary failure, de-democratization, counter-revolution and authoritarian retrenchment.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Mobilization, Counter-Revolution, POMEPS Studies, Arab Spring
    Date Uploaded: 07/25/2017
  6. Women and Gender in Middle East Politics, POMEPS Studies 19 [Download]

    Title: Women and Gender in Middle East Politics, POMEPS Studies 19
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The barriers to women’s political participation in the Middle East have long preoccupied scholars and analysts. The Arab uprisings of early 2011 disrupted virtually every dimension of Arab politics and societies, forcing a systematic re-evaluation of many long-held political science theories and assumptions. The place of women in politics and the public sphere was no exception. The divergent experiences of the Arab uprisings and their aftermath have allowed political scientists to take a fresh look at many of these important questions. New data sources and a diversity of cases have energized the community of scholars focused on women’s public political participation. A Project on Middle East Political Science workshop in March brought together an interdisciplinary group of more than a dozen such scholars to critically examine these questions. The complete collection is now available for free download here. A wide-ranging political science literature on the challenges facing women’s political participation has highlighted variables such as Islamist movements, discourses of nationalism and citizenship, patterns of state development and cultural norms of patriarchy. But these broad claims often fail to account for disparities in women’s experiences not only among different states but also sub-nationally. The scholars in the POMEPS workshop have taken advantage of new data sources, new organizations and campaigns and variation to highlight the diversity of the experience of women across the region.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Women , Gender, POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/25/2017
  7. Reflections Five Years After the Uprisings, POMEPS Studies 18 [Download]

    Title: Reflections Five Years After the Uprisings, POMEPS Studies 18
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The early months of 2016 mark five years since the eruption of the Arab uprising. The region’s wars, failed transitions, resurgent authoritarianism, and spiraling sectarianism and Islamist extremism make for a grim anniversary. To take stock of what went wrong and what might still go differently, POMEPS asked more than a dozen scholars to reflect on the experience of the last five years in a single country or a thematic issue. What has changed since the uprisings began half a decade ago? What has remained the same, or returned to pre-uprising forms? What do these developments mean for the political science of the Middle East? All these questions, and more, are pondered in the essays published in POMEPS Studies 18, Reflections Five Years After the Uprisings. All were first published in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, and collected in an open access PDF here. Together, the essays offer a diverse, informed study that should help scholars, journalists, policymakers and the public reflect on the five years since the Arab uprisings, and consider the Middle East’s future.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Arab Uprising
    Date Uploaded: 07/25/2017
  8. Evolving Methodologies in the Study of Islamism, POMEPS Studies 17 [Download]

    Title: Evolving Methodologies in the Study of Islamism, POMEPS Studies 17
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: In recent years there have been dramatic changes in the Islamist landscape as Islamist political parties have drastically transformed, violent new groups have burst on the scene, and the proliferation of new media has changed access to information. But have political scientists and other scholars taken the time to step back and examine how these seismic shifts have affected our research methods, priorities, and arguments? On January 29, 2016, scholars gathered for the Project on Middle East Political Science’s 3rd Annual workshop on Islamist politics as part of our Islam in a Changing Middle East initiative. This year’s workshop focused on the methodological and conceptual issues in the study of Islamism. What assumptions underlying our research need to be problematized? How should we deal with the vast outpouring of information and evidence about these movements now available on social media? What do we mean by the term “Islamist?” Offering an incredibly rich set of reflections, the papers in this series challenge the utility of core concepts such as “moderation” and “radical Islam.” They investigate the operation of specific causal mechanisms such as repression, identity, and organizational structure. They consider how newly available sources of survey and social media data can change our research approaches and remind us of all we have learned. The excellent essays in POMEPS Studies 17 Evolving Methodologies in the Study of Islamism take up these questions. While no one claims to have come up with a single answer, this collection is an important first step in grappling with the complex puzzle of “Islamism” today. This critical and reflective scholarship will be useful for the novice student and experienced analyst alike. Read all the essays for free here.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Islamism , POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/25/2017
  9. International Relations Theory in a New Middle East, POMEPS Studies 16 [Download]

    Title: International Relations Theory in a New Middle East, POMEPS Studies 16
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The story of the Arab uprisings of 2010-11 has typically been told as a series of loosely related national stories, happening simultaneously but whose successes and failures were essentially determined by internal factors. Over the last few years, political scientists have made great progress evaluating the success or failure of each country’s uprising in terms of country-specific qualities such as types of domestic institutions, the nature of opposition movements, the wise or poor decisions made by leaders and access to oil revenues. The comparative politics literature on the uprisings has demonstrated real theoretical progress, sophisticated empirical analysis and useful—if too often ignored—policy advice. This comparative politics approach to the uprisings has always been problematic, though. The Arab uprisings began in transnational diffusion and ended in transnational repression and regional proxy wars. It is remarkably difficult to accurately explain the course of events in Egypt, Yemen or Libya without reference to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar or Iran. However, with but a few notable exceptions, the academic literature on the uprisings has been dominated by comparative analysis and country case studies, with international factors included as one among several variables, if at all. This seems odd. Why has there not been an efflorescence of international relations scholarship comparable to the impressive outpouring of comparative politics scholarship on the Arab uprisings? And if there were, what would it look like? To begin rectifying this gap, the Project on Middle East Political Science teamed up with Danish scholar Morten Valbjørn of Aarhus University to bring together nearly two-dozen American, European and Arab international relations scholars in May. The result of the workshop was an astonishingly rich set of essays from a wide range of theoretical perspectives, which are now available for free download here as a special issue in the POMEPS Studies series.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Theory, POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/25/2017
  10. Islam and International Order, POMEPS Studies 15 [Download]

    Title: Islam and International Order, POMEPS Studies 15
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: Islam has rarely been far from the center of the world’s political and security agenda in the decade and a half since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack against the United States. The range of issues to which Islam has been deemed central is staggering, from transnational terrorism and counterinsurgency in Iraq to the possibility of democracy in the Middle East. These long-running debates have been galvanized over the last few years by the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, shocking acts of terrorism from Paris to Tunisia, and the failure of the democratic experiment with Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt. In April 2015 the Project on Middle East Political Science and the Transatlantic Academy hosted a workshop for a sustained discussion of emerging questions on Islam and international order. The two-day workshop brought together a broad, interdisciplinary group of scholars, including area specialists and generalists, from the fields of political science, religious studies and history. The workshop, part of the POMEPS Islam in a Changing Middle East initiative, built on the Transatlantic Academy’s 2015 theme of religion and foreign policy. Peter Katzenstein of Cornell University, in his keynote address, put the question of Islam squarely within the racial and civilizational politics of a declining American imperium. This historical and global perspective provoked a wide-ranging discussion. Islam has played many roles in many different regional and global political orders, as Cemil Aydin, Bruce Lawrence and Jonathan Brown evocatively explained. And, as Amitav Acharya forcefully argued, Islam has routinely frustrated the expectations of popular grand theories of world order. The workshop ranged widely over the question of how to think about Islam within global, regional and domestic political arenas, from a diverse range of empirical cases and theoretical literatures. Can Islam really be understood as an actor, with interests and a coherent identity? Is there something unique about Islam that prevents it from being treated theoretically like other cultural traditions such as nationalism, ethnicity or ideology? Should Islam be seen as a causal variable or as a context through which actors pursue their interests and fight their political battles? What are we doing, conceptually and politically, when we describe political thought as “Islamic political thought,” movements as “Islamic movements,” or democracy as “Islamic democracy”? The essays prepared for this workshop are available here as POMEPS Studies 15. Several key themes ran through the discussions. First, several of the memos specifically focus on the emergence of the Islamic State. Marc Lynch surveys the central analytical arguments that have been deployed to explain the Islamic State Caliphate’s development, noting the very different policy responses each might elicit. Barak Mendelsohn and Reyko Huang evaluate the Islamic State in the history of jihadist groups and insurgencies, and Lawrence Rubin argues that ideational balancing will prevent the Islamic State from becoming a normal state. Second, many of the authors explicitly consider how political science has – or has not – been able to explain the relationship between religion and politics. Contributions from Lynch, Nora Fisher Onar, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd and Jillian Schwedler highlight the importance of the context – or frames in Fisher Onar’s words – of how scholars discuss religion and governance. Third, several of the authors look at the dynamic at play between Islam and the state. Nathan Brown urges scholars to rethink the state’s relationship to religion. Jocelyne Cesari lays out a sophisticated typology of the incorporation of Islam into state institutions, and Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar teases out the role of state Islamic rhetoric. John Owen compares the debate over the prospects for Islamic democracy to similar debates in European history, while Daniel Philpott makes a comparative analysis to demystify the notion that Muslim countries are unreceptive to religious freedom. Fourth, several authors focus on the experience of Islamist political movements in the region. Muqtedar Khan prescribes five reforms that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood should undertake, and Rory McCarthy looks to Tunisia to answer, what happens when Islamists lose an election? Together, the essays collected in “Islam and International Oder” offer a diverse, informed study that should help scholars, journalists, policymakers and the public evaluate the immense changes in the Islamist political scene.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, POMEPS Studies, Islam
    Date Uploaded: 07/25/2017
  11. Iran and the Nuclear Deal, POMEPS Studies 13 [Download]

    Title: Iran and the Nuclear Deal, POMEPS Studies 13
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The April 2 announcement in Lausanne of a framework for an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program has raised profound hopes and fears for the future of the Middle East. There are few developments with greater potential for fundamentally altering the political dynamics of the region – a prospect that fills skeptics with as much dread as it fuels optimism among supporters. To explore the many ramifications of the potential deal, the Project on Middle East Political Science convened a virtual symposium for the Monkey Cage. These essays have now been collected into an edition of the POMEPS Studies series, available for free download. The American public debate about the deal over the last month has primarily focused upon U.S. policy options and the details of the proposed agreement. The essays in this collection delve into such issues in depth: Michael Brown and Chantal de Jonge Oudraat explain why no better deal is on the table; Joshua Rovner explains why it matters that U.S. intelligence got Iran’s nuclear program right; Nick Miller and Or Rabinowitz show how the deal is in line with traditional U.S. nonproliferation policy; Steven Kull and Shibley Telhami investigate American public opinion toward a deal; Thomas Doyle explores the symbolic dimensions of the negotiations; and Austin Long argues that the deal limits Iranian options and will test Iran’s intentions in ways that even hawks should appreciate. Iran’s domestic politics have generally received less attention. The essays collected here offer an exceptionally nuanced profile of the issues and actors in play in the Iranian political system. The sheer extent and nature of the domestic debate over the deal is notable in its own right, as Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar explains in detail. Iranian debates have not broken down along traditional lines of moderates and hard-liners, as Shervin Malakzadeh carefully observes, but rather reflect a more fluid and fragmented factional array. Mohammad Ali Kadivar and Ali Honari trace the willingness of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to negotiate to the legacies of the grass-roots movements that followed the contentious 2009 presidential election. As Farzan Sabet observes, Iran’s conservatives are divided internally and struggling to find the right tone amidst the new realities. Iran’s parliament, facing competitive elections, carefully tracks with the trends in public opinion. Iran’s nuclear scientists themselves represent a potentially important constituency, especially if the deal is ultimately operationalized. Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei seeks to hedge bets and keep a delicate balance among the factions, with an eye towards sanctions relief – which itself, as Kevan Harris argues, would intersect in complex ways with the Iranian political economy that sanctions have molded. Finally, the prospect of a nuclear deal has emerged at a time of rising sectarianism, profound uncertainty and political instability in the Arab states of the Gulf. Dina Esfandiary and Ariane Tabatabai explain why the deal is unlikely to trigger the feared cascade of nuclear proliferation. At least in the short term, however, it has already fueled rampaging sectarianism, with pernicious effects which Frederic Wehrey analyzes regionally, Jeff Colgan traces in the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen and can be seen domestically in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Arab states are attempting to formulate a common front in the face of these challenges, but their efforts seem unlikely to bridge the deep regional divides. The nuclear framework has not yet been finalized into an agreement, of course. The intense political opposition to the deal in the United States, Israel, many Arab regimes and parts of the Iranian regime may ultimately prevent it from being ratified or implemented. Deeply entrenched interests, narratives and identities are threatened by the prospect of a shifting relationship between the United States and Iran, and there is a nearly infinite list of possible spoilers that could derail progress. The essays collected in “Iran and the Nuclear Deal” offer a deep, empirically rich and analytically astute examination that should help to inform scholars, journalists, policymakers and the public about this historic opportunity.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Iran, Nuclear
    Date Uploaded: 07/25/2017
  12. Islamism in the IS Age, POMEPS Studies 12 [Download]

    Title: Islamism in the IS Age, POMEPS Studies 12
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The “IS-ification of Islamist politics,” in Khalil al-Anani’s felicitous phrase, has reshaped the ideological and strategic incentives for Islamist groups and their adversaries. It has also posed a new challenge to the categories, concepts and expectations of the academics who study them. In January, the Project on Middle East Political Science brought together more than a dozen leading scholars of Islamist movements to discuss the Islamic State and its effects on the broader terrain of Islamist politics. Some of the papers prepared for that workshop have been published on The Monkey Cage already and all are now collected into a new edition in the POMEPS Studies series “Islamism in the IS Age,” available for free download here. The challenge posed by the Islamic State can be broken down into a number of discrete areas. First, there is the effort to understand the nature of the group itself: its ideology, its organization and its likely future prospects. Second, there are questions about its relationship and impacts upon other groups, from the very similar (al-Qaeda) to the essentially different (the Muslim Brotherhood). Third, there are important analytical questions about the relative significance of ideology, institutions and strategic competition. It is useful to be precise about which of the arguments that consume the public sphere, such as how “Islamic” the organization is, really matter. The same is true of whether the analytical categories such as the “moderate/radical” divide or the distinction between Salafi-jihadists and mainstream Islamists still offer useful leverage. While its novelty and long-term significance may well be overstated, the Islamic State has indisputably reshaped the region’s strategic and intellectual agenda. Its rapid capture of territory through large swathes of Iraq and Syria and declaration of a new caliphate provoked a military response from the United States and have become the principle focus of a broad international coalition. It poses an intriguing ideational challenge to the norms of state sovereignty that underlie international society. Its penchant for broadcasting barbaric spectacles such as decapitations and burning alive of its hostages galvanized the attention of a horrified world. The Islamic State has built a seemingly robust proto-state in the territories it controls, and has seemingly established affiliates, with varying degrees of success, in areas such as Egypt’s Sinai and Libya. Its ability to attract foreign fighters and seeming appeal to certain radical trends has provoked a new round of alarm over domestic radicalization and terrorist threats. All of those effects are exacerbated by the frenzied media coverage of these developments in both the West and the Arab world. How novel is the Islamic State, really, and how significant will its emergence ultimately seem? A great deal of the popular analysis of the group has focused on its distinctive ideology, along with lurid accounts of its indoctrination methods, internal organization and claims to Islamic authenticity. Much of this analysis seems to proceed in an analytical vacuum, with little attempt to compare the details of the Islamic State to the experience of other insurgencies. It has become common to present the Islamic State as something unique in world history, an exceptionally ideological actor with unprecedented state-building capabilities and an uncanny ability to inspire new followers and recruits from around the world. Yet, the Islamic State is hardly the first insurgency to seize territory and seek to govern it through the exploitation of local resources and the attraction of external support. In his contribution to the symposium, Quinn Mecham makes a compelling case that, ideology aside, the Islamic State has established a relatively high degree of stateness already. It is less obvious what to make of this, however. Controlling territory and behaving like a proto-state are, after all, entirely conventional insurgency behaviors. As Megan Stewart has found, since 1945 roughly one-third of all insurgencies have provided health care and education, and “once an insurgency acquired territory, nearly 49 percent would ensure that the civilian population received education or medical care.” Instead, we need to focus on what kind of insurgent governance this is, and how robust it is likely to prove. Zachariah Mampilly observes that ideology tends to matter less in determining the extent and nature of rebel governance than the conditions on the ground and especially the relationship between the rebels and the society over which it holds sway. On those grounds, things look less promising for the Islamic State. Ideology creates a “distinctive governance problem” for jihadist groups, argue Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Amichai Magen, that they “will struggle mightily to address in the longer term.” Reports of the growing use of intimidation to control restive local populations should be taken with several grains of salt, as strategic communications campaigns ramp up. Still, such reports seem like a leading indicator of declining legitimacy and consent, raising the costs of internal control and the likelihood of internal challenges. Nor are the other key features of the Islamic State especially distinctive. Many non-state violent actors have deployed extreme, public violence for strategic purposes, whether to intimidate local populations and foreign enemies or to maintain the morale of its members. The indoctrination of members into an esoteric code of beliefs is a mainstay of insurgencies, from the Marxist-Leninist movements of the Cold War to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers to the personalistic cults in many African rebellions. Perhaps the most novel element of the Islamic State is its ability to attract foreign fighters to its cause. However, as David Malet has shown in exquisite detail, even this has precedent in past insurgencies and could prove to be as great a weakness as an advantage as travel to its territories becomes more difficult and local populations grow resentful of foreigners. This does not mean that the Islamic State is not formidable. Many of those earlier, similar insurgencies lasted for decades. But it is useful to recognize the Islamic State as far less unique than usually portrayed, with many of the same strengths and weaknesses of comparable territorially-rooted insurgencies. From this perspective, the Islamic State may be likely to crumble far more quickly than conventional wisdom suggests. As life in its territory grows harsher and lines of division emerge between foreign fighters and local populations, the Islamic State will likely have to expand the share of resources devoted to forcefully maintaining local control. The initial appeal of the Islamic State rested to a considerable degree on its momentum and carefully cultivated aura of invincibility, which seemed to confirm its divine provenance in the eyes of potential fighters. Now that it is mired in a hurting stalemate, losing ground in Iraq while grimly holding on in Syria, such appeals to invincibility are less persuasive. Its extreme savagery has increasingly alienated mass publics, whom do not seem to share the conviction of Western analysts that it represents anything to do with genuine Islam. This brutality does have the benefit of simultaneously mobilizing the most radical potential recruits into action, however, as can be seen in the rising numbers of reported foreign fighters flowing to Syria and Iraq. Whether the pool of admirers shrinks faster than extremists are mobilized or replenished will be a crucial measure of the success of the Islamic State’s strategy. The collapse of the Islamic State would be something to welcome, of course. But this should not be equated with either the disintegration of the underlying organization or with the disappearance of broader jihadist ideas and ideologies. The organization may persist longer than its state, going underground following the defeat of the state as its predecessor al-Qaeda in Iraq did following setbacks in the late 2000s. Its members, and the foreign fighters which fuel it, might simply transfer their allegiance to one of the many available jihadist groups fighting in Syria’s grinding, fragmented and multipolar civil war, leading to little real change in that conflict. The same is true for shattered states like Libya’s or Yemen’s. Failed states, intense sectarian conflicts and repressive regimes are fertile ground for the growth of jihadist movements, and all those ingredients seem likely to be bountiful in the coming years. Variants of jihadist insurgency will almost certainly continue to fight in these arenas regardless of the fate of the Islamic State. It is in the realm of confronting jihadist ideology that trends are the least promising. The currently favored strategy, which combines autocratic repression with the official promotion of “moderate” Islam and the conflation of very different movements under the banner of “terrorism,” is likely to make problems worse. Radicalization is driven less by Islamist ideas than by failures of both governance and popular uprisings and the elimination of nonviolent alternatives. The Islamic State gained traction, recall, in a distinctive regional political environment shaped especially by extensive public regional mobilization in support of a sectarian Syrian jihad and the July 3, 2013 military coup in Egypt that brought down the elected government of President Mohamed Morsi. The coup and subsequent regional wave of intense repression of the Muslim Brotherhood ended an extended period of the open political participation by mainstream Islamist movements, discrediting the idea of such democratic inclusion for the foreseeable future and marginalizing the advocates of mainstream political strategies. The regional environment after the failure and perversion of the Arab uprisings is deeply hostile to any public role for non-violent Islamists and highly conducive to radical movements of all flavors. It is a potentially fatal flaw in the emerging strategy that the Arab world’s autocratic resurgence and proxy wars are constantly replenishing exactly the pool of potential extremists which the counter-IS strategy hopes to drain. The Islamic State’s appeal beyond Syria and Iraq should be understood within the political context of the advantage of the chaos and poor decisions that followed the Arab uprisings. The failures of attempted transitions toward democratic governance, along with the region-wide repression of mainstream Islamists and secular activists, have been a strategic gift to al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other extremist trends. The failure of almost all of the Arab uprisings, with the sole and partial exception of Tunisia, has badly undermined the idea of the possibility of peaceful political change. The horrors of collapsed states and civil war in Libya, Yemen and Syria hang over all political life. None of the underlying drivers of those protests have been resolved and many – from personal insecurity to economic misery – have deteriorated. Focusing on Islam to the exclusion of these vital issues of governance, democracy and economic opportunity will guarantee failure. Encouraging or tolerating repression in the name of counter-terrorism will only fuel the grim cycle of repression, protest and radicalization. Put bluntly, the anti-Islamist campaign being waged by Egypt and the Gulf states that combines fierce repression with the promotion of “moderate” Islam is likely to badly fail: The Islamic messages will have no resonance with intended audiences, while abusive autocracy will continue to drive alienation and rejection of an illegitimate order. The indiscriminate crackdown on Islamists of all stripes, as many of the essays in this collection point out, is likely to change enduring features of their organizations, ideologies and strategies. The crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its repression across the region has radically debilitated its organizational structure and discredited its ideology. That some of its members are now turning to, welcoming or inciting violence is hardly surprising given the political context; hopefully, some enterprising PhD student is currently doing a rigorous study of violence following military coups that might help determine whether Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has been involved in more, less or about the same as is typical. What is clear, though, is that whatever firewall the Brotherhood once offered against violent extremism has now mostly crumbled, with the ideological underpinnings discredited and the organizational structure disintegrated. Khalil al-Anani notes that the rise of the Islamic State “coupled with the crackdown against the Brotherhood has created divisions and rifts within the Brotherhood, triggering intensive debates between the leadership and youth.” Mokhtar Awad and Nathan Brown point out the mutually reinforcing nature of state repression and this disaggregated extremist turn in Egypt. This plays out differently in diverse national contexts of course. In the Gulf, as Kristin Smith Diwan demonstrates, the regional crackdown is closing down long-standing channels for public engagement and political influence for mainstream Brotherhood movements, which already face challenges from Salafi movements in attracting youth. In Syria, as Raphaël Lefèvre observes, the Brotherhood has floundered as other more radical insurgency factions have taken the lead. Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood has divided acrimoniously, while Yemen’s Islah movement has struggled to maintain what Stacey Philbrick Yadav calls its version of “Islamist Republicanism.” Few Islamist movements are likely to remain unchanged by the events of the last few years. Current trends in public rhetoric do the anti-IS struggle no favors. The public conflation of groups such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood in today’s political rhetoric contributes to the blurring of once clear lines and likely facilitates recruitment into new violent extremist movements. In some cases, such as the anti-Islamist campaigns in the Gulf and post-coup Egypt, the conflation of distinct groups serves the strategic interests of regimes. In others, it represents genuine analytical confusion. As Anani points out, the equation of the Islamic State with other Islamist trends serves the interests of both hostile regimes and of the Islamic State. In either case, the potential risks are enormous – from the radicalization of previously mainstream groups to the triggering of unnecessary clashes of civilizations. The push to name the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization is an analytical step backward, one which the British government at least has reportedly declined to take. The Muslim Brotherhood, for all the many issues to be raised with its ideology and discourse, typically served as a competitor with and a firewall against recruitment into violent jihadist groups. Its tight organizational structure maintained discipline and ideological focus among its members. The Brotherhood, like most successful organizations, jealously guarded its place within Islamist politics against potential competitors such as al-Qaeda. Today, following Egypt’s military coup, that organization lies in tatters, with much of its leadership in prison and its strategy of democratic political participation discredited. As a result, as Awad and Brown observe, “a substantial reorientation of the Brotherhood may be underway, which could lead back to ideas its leaders had attempted to root out for decades.” This does not weaken jihadist movements such as the Islamic State, but rather strengthens them by removing a traditional mainstream alternative to jihadism. The analysis here focuses heavily on institutions and political strategy. What about Islam itself? Ideology, identity, discourse and rhetoric do matter enormously in politics. High profile recent arguments over the authenticity of the Islamic claims of the Islamic State have not been especially edifying, however. Of course the Islamic State presents itself as Islamic and draws on an elaborate edifice of Islamic references to buttress its case, attract supporters and wage political war on its rivals. Some Muslims agree with all or part of its self-presentation, as Joas Wagemakers notes. But the more important reality is that the overwhelming majority of Muslims find the idea that the Islamic State or al-Qaeda represent their faith to be offensive and absurd. There is little evidence that Muslims view the Islamic State’s claim to represent a new caliphate as anything other than a bad joke. The response of Muslims themselves to claims about their religion should matter far more than textual exegesis. Ultimately, as Peter Mandaville might suggest, Islam is what Muslims make of it. Muslims might someday be driven into a world in which the Islamic State represents their faith, but that is not today’s world. That has also been a core strategic problem for groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, which generally understand that most Muslims don’t agree with its ideas, strategy, tactics or vision. Its acts of savagery sought in part to overcome the reality of their own marginality by inviting retaliation and polarization that remove the option of co-existence and moderation. Terrorism has aimed to drive a self-fulfilling prophecy of existential conflict from which Muslims, as much as non-Muslims, can not escape. As I noted in a recent appearance before the House Armed Services Committee, preventing a spiral toward a clash of civilizations should be a basic lodestar for an effective response to the Islamic State – and that means seeking to quarantine its ideology and expose its marginality, not artificially inflating its claims, while working to address the underlying political and institutional problems really driving people towards extremism. The essays collected in “Islamism in the IS Age” cover a wide range of arguments and perspectives. They do not all agree with my own analysis presented here. Taken together, they offer a rich and incisive collection of analytical perspectives on the current state of Islamist politics and movements. Read all the essays here.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Islamism, Islam, Political Science, International Relations, POMEPS Studies
    Date Uploaded: 07/24/2017
  13. The Arab Thermidor: The Resurgence of the Security State, POMEPS Studies 11 [Download]

    Title: The Arab Thermidor: The Resurgence of the Security State, POMEPS Studies 11
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: It is sometimes hard to remember that the Arab uprisings of 2010-11 promised the possibility of meaningful political change. The unprecedented outburst of popular mobilization overthrew some regimes and unsettled most of the others. Those hopes have long since come crashing down. Egypt’s transition ended in a military coup, bloody repression, and a neo-authoritarianism legitimated through xenophobic populism. Tunisia’s survived, barely. Libya, Yemen and Syria have suffered near-complete political collapse, polarization, and civil war. Almost every regime has become more intolerant and more repressive. Violent, extremist Islamist movements such as the Islamic State group have surged in this chaotic atmosphere. How should we understand the authoritarian resurgence in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings? In October 2014, Toby Dodge and I jointly convened a Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS)-London School of Economics workshop to dig more deeply into the causes, mechanisms, and drivers of what he called “The Arab Thermidor.” More than a dozen scholars looked deeply at specific sectors such as the military, police and intelligence services, different countries, and the broader regional environment. Some of the papers produced for that workshop have been published on the Monkey Cage, and all of them have today been released as “POMEPS Studies 11 The Arab Thermidor: The Resurgence of the Security State,” available as a free downloadable PDF. The papers in this collection offer a sharp, comprehensive and acute look at the resurgence and persistence of the Arab authoritarian state. From a historical perspective, the authoritarian resurgence should not be a great surprise. My 2012 book “The Arab Uprising” dedicated an entire chapter to demonstrating how each previous revolutionary wave in the Arab world had ended with a fiercer, deeper and darker form of authoritarian control. In his essay for the collection, Raymond Hinnebusch grounds this pattern in the historical sociology of the region and the “iron law of oligarchy” by which “revolutionary mass activism, at best, infuses elites with new blood from below” and triggers ever more intense political struggle. The catastrophe of the Arab uprisings, then, is not simply a story of failed activists or fallen regimes or Islamist ambitions. It is a story of states: strong, weak, and fierce, in Nazih Ayubi’s classical terminology. Since the Arab uprisings, Arab states seek to project that they have become stronger, but in fact they have only become fiercer — and that does not bode well for their long-term stability. The authoritarian resurgence by regimes that survived the initial wave of the Arab uprising is not so difficult to understand, of course. While some states – notably in Libya and Yemen – cracked under pressure and left an institutional void at the center, in most other countries the core institutions of the state remained largely untouched regardless of the fate of individual leaders. In Egypt and Tunisia, where long-ruling leaders were driven from power, virtually no progress was made in reforming state institutions. From the military, police and security services to the judiciary and the official media, key personnel remained in place along with their entrenched worldviews, interests and identities. Almost all of the contributors to the collection note the importance of these continuities in state institutions, described evocatively by Salwa Ismail as “an entrenched apparatus of rule with high-stakes in existing power structures and arrangements.” Ismail focuses on the role played by the police in Egypt in counter-revolutionary mobilization, while Curtis Ryan examines the performance of the state security sector in Jordan and Toby Matthiesen does the same in Bahrain. Robert Springborg looks at the role of the militaries, which he sees as the greatest winner of that authoritarian resurgence, while Yezid Sayigh sees a deeper level of crisis lurking within the military’s seeming triumph. Peter Moore digs in to the public finances of Arab states. Nathan Brown has outlined the implications of continuity within the Egyptian judiciary. Ellis Goldberg brings in the old elite itself, those who most benefited from the old status quo and whose social and economic power could not be ignored amidst transitions that fell short of full social revolutions. In a forthcoming article (not included in this collection), I dissect the role played by unreformed state media sectors in Egypt and Tunisia in undermining opposition, driving fear and polarization, and mobilizing support for anti-Islamist, populist nationalism. The regional environment also contributed to this autocratic revival. Gulf states actively intervened to maintain or restore the status quo, helping to prop up like-minded leaders in Morocco and Jordan and channeling support to their chosen proxies in transitional countries such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Catastrophes in Libya and Syria, covered lavishly in the Arab media, helped to dim popular enthusiasm for political change. The rise of the Islamic State offered unprecedented political cover for heavy-handed security crackdowns on all forms of dissent in the name of combating extremism and terrorism. In short, having faced down an existential threat to their own survival in power, leaders from the Gulf to North Africa set out to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again by doubling down or intensifying some of their worst practices. They seem to have mostly concluded that the iron fist, rather than reforms and political concessions, would best serve their survival needs. As Steven Heydemann argues, they learned the best practices of repression from one another, upgrading their control to meet the new challenges. They did not simply fall back on the practices of the past: Their “adaptations seem to signal more fundamental changes in elite perceptions about the nature of the threats they face and the changes that would be required to ensure regime survival.” Their fears and their very real new challenges led them to “narrowly-nationalist and exclusionary-repressive modes of authoritarian governance.” It seems unlikely that these resurgent autocrats will succeed in stabilizing their control over the medium term. They have shown little ability to solve any of the underlying problems that drove the Arab uprisings in the first place. The collapse of oil prices could eventually erode the capacity of these Arab states to sustain these new patterns of authoritarian governance, whether at home or in the region. The young, wired generation of citizens who drove the Arab uprisings have higher expectations of their states, less tolerance for abuse and failure, and a demonstrated ability to take to the streets when the conditions demand it. The Arab Thermidor may have put states back in control for now, as the essays in this collection demonstrate, but this is likely to only be a passing stage in the long-term political reordering of the Middle East.
    Keywords: POMEPS Studies, Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Security State, Authoriatianism
    Date Uploaded: 07/24/2017
  14. Islamist Social Services, POMEPS Studies 9 [Download]

    Title: Islamist Social Services, POMEPS Studies 9
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: What do we really know about the provision of social services by Islamist movements? It’s hard to find a popular article about groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood or Hezbollah that doesn’t reference their ability to win popular support by providing social services through their extensive network of charities, clinics and community centers. Most observers have long believed that these charitable activities played a key role in Islamist outreach and organization, built their reputations for honesty and efficacy, conferred a significant political advantage, and helped to promote the Islamization of society. A recent wave of scholarship has challenged many of the prevailing assumptions about the nature and significance of these social services, however. Evidence for the scope, superiority or political utility of these charitable activities has proved elusive. Volunteers in the Islamic charitable sector profess a far wider set of motivations for their participation than just political rewards. The rise of non-governmental charities – and not only Islamic ones – seems to be driven at least in part by neoliberal reforms and the broader structural changes in the region’s political economy. What’s more, whatever explained the patterns and effects of social service provision in the past may no longer apply. Major changes on the ground such as the crushing of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the dramatic move into service provision by jihadist groups raise serious questions about how these dynamics might play out in the future. Last month, therefore, a workshop by the Project on Middle East Political Science brought together a small group of scholars who have been doing innovative research on the Islamic social services sector. Their memos, along with several other recent Monkey Cage essays, have now been released as a free PDF download in the POMEPS Studies series. Those papers, and the discussions in the workshop, offer a rich window into the changing nature of Islamic social services and their relationship with political movements and parties. The specific mechanisms by which social service provision translates into votes or public support are not obvious. It is not as straightforward as just buying votes – especially as other political forces, especially local notables who are not unfamiliar with patronage, can easily do the same. As Tarek Masoud argues, “Inasmuch as social-service provision is something that any party could decide to do, why is it that only (or mainly) Islamists do it? Is there anything to prevent nonreligious parties from distributing the bottles of oil and bags of sugar that many of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s detractors credit with that movement’s rise to power in 2011?” Some efforts, such as food and medical caravans sent to swing districts, do seem blatantly electoral. But, as Melani Cammett and Steven Brooke argue, the long-term provision of social services from bricks-and-mortar agencies is very different from the cash payments or one-shot food distribution efforts that predominate at election time. Those long-term investments in communities are often thought to contribute to spreading Islamist identities and values. This has been difficult to document empirically, however. A decade ago, Janine Clark demonstrated that Islamic charities catered more to the middle class than to the truly poor, and were having such effects. Brooke’s forthcoming study of the geographical distribution of Islamist clinics, like a recent study by Mona Atia of George Washington University about Egyptian Islamic charities, should offer fascinating perspective. The dramatic turn of the Egyptian public against the Muslim Brotherhood last year suggests that this long-term cultivation of Islamist identity had not become as deeply rooted as expected. Masoud inclines toward Cammett and Pauline Jones Luong’s argument that Islamists translated social services into political advantage by building a reputation for good governance and “for being uniquely competent, trustworthy and pure” in relationship to their principal rivals. This may offer an answer to the puzzle of the Brotherhood’s rapid reversal. A reputation for good governance, as opposed to an alignment with common identity or values, could prove especially vulnerable to political failure, particularly in the context of the bare-knuckled existential battles in transitional countries such as Egypt. Mohamed Morsi’s poor performance as president would then outweigh the provision of social services because of the reputational costs cutting to the heart of the original appeal. I can’t do justice to the breadth and depth of the discussion in these papers. Instead, I wanted to highlight a few points that piqued my interest: 1. There’s a lot that we just don’t know. Steven Brooke, a graduate student at the University of Texas who has spent years studying Islamic clinics in Cairo, warns of systematic gaps in our knowledge. As Cammett and Luong pointed out in an influential survey article this year, “little if any research examines systematically the extent and quality of Islamist welfare programs and activities in the Muslim world. Most claims about Islamists’ social welfare initiatives are based on minimal, if any, hard data.” That came through powerfully in the workshop’s discussions. The literature on Islamist social services has been heavily weighted toward Egypt, and specifically the greater Cairo area. A lot more attention gets paid to the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities than to what George Washington University’s Atia describes as a “plethora of organizations providing social services in the name of Islam; there are numerous social service providers not affiliated with political parties.” Even Egyptian Salafi Islamist charities are neglected, Moustafa Khalil notes. Those profound empirical gaps in our knowledge are beginning to be filled, and used to examine the specific mechanisms by which Islamist movements translated – or failed to translate – their social services into political support. But there’s a long, long way to go. 2. Charities have had good reason to keep it that way. The authoritarian context in the region has driven many of these charities to hide their affiliations out of fear of state repression. The Islamic social sector came under understandably tight scrutiny from security services intent on monitoring and suppressing Islamist political activity. In several cases, such as Jordan in the mid-2000s and Egypt today, governments seized control of Islamic services. This makes them very different from, say, the social services provided by Hezbollah and other political movements in Lebanon, where competing political movements proudly claimed such activities. The ambiguity, if not outright secrecy, has obvious implications for researchers who may struggle to correctly code the identity and affiliations of these organizations. It also raises questions about their political utility: If a clinic actively conceals its relationship with Islamist movements or parties, and refrains from proselytizing, then what lessons could its patients be drawing from their efforts? Survey work by Masoud suggests that few Egyptians were even aware of having taken advantage of Islamic clinics. 3. Neoliberalism may matter more than political strategy. The focus on how social services strengthen movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood may be distracting attention from much deeper changes in regional political economy. Neoliberal economic reforms, argues Gizem Zencirci, have driven a rise in private social charities and a rethinking of their meaning for Islamic identity. As the state retreats, by this argument, the private sector – Islamist or otherwise – must step forward to fill the spaces vacated by the state. In this regard, Atia points out that “Islamic associations have a great deal in common with secular development non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Christian faith-based ones alike.” To the extent that they buffer the state from the dislocations that might otherwise have followed from their cuts in benefits and services, such social services, Islamist or otherwise, help rather than undermine the regimes carrying out the reforms. As Kevan Harris puts it, states didn’t need to crush these parallel sectors, then – they ate them. And, as Tom Pepinsky demonstrates, in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia where the economic conditions don’t create a demand for such a sector, Islamist social services are far less politically effective. 4. It’s not just political. Researchers tend to be primarily interested in the political motivations for charitable work, but that doesn’t mean that politics are actually motivating the social service providers. Abdullah Al-Arian warns that the obsession with vote buying “limits our understanding of these institutions solely to their relevance in the political sphere, rather than the broader social function that they provide.” For some, charity is an Islamic virtue in its own right, a means of self-actualization or a way to display piety and faith. Atia’s concept of “pious neoliberalism” suggests that charitable giving offers a vehicle for a pious emerging middle class to reconcile their faith with their newfound wealth and opportunity. In a recent American Ethnologist article, Amira Mittermaier describes the concerns of the volunteers in Egyptian Islamic clinics as “living piously” and doing something to manifest their convictions. As Cammett puts it, “A variety of non-political motivations coexist with more overtly political goals in shaping Islamist welfare activities.” 5. Would closing down these social services destroy the Muslim Brotherhood? Egypt’s military coup in July 2013 included a large-scale crackdown on the parallel Islamic sector. Jordan has been pressuring the Brotherhood’s charities for years. Regionally, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have criminalized the Muslim Brotherhood and are working to curtail its funding and ideological appeal. If charitable work was really central to the Brotherhood’s appeal, will this crackdown fatally undermine its political prospects? Maybe not. The electoral success of Tunisia’s Ennahda despite the absence of the enormous social service sector administered by electorally successful Islamists in Egypt, Jordan or Palestine suggests that such a parallel sector is not necessary for Islamist political success. 6. What will jihadists get out of it? Over the past several years, jihadist movements that long shunned social service provision have adopted it in a big way. It isn’t only the Islamic State. As Aaron Zelin has pointed out, jihadist groups in North Africa and Yemen also have taken up the types of social welfare activities that had in the past been dominated by Muslim Brotherhood affiliates or nonpolitical Salafis. There’s nothing new about insurgencies offering such services, as Megan Stewart demonstrates, but jihadist groups may face distinctive challenges to effective governance based on their ideology. Will such efforts founder in the face of ideological constraints and international hostility or build up popular legitimacy for jihadist governance? These are only a few of the issues raised by the memos collected in POMEPS Studies #9 Islamist Social Services. Download it and read it today.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, POMEPS Studies, Social Services
    Date Uploaded: 07/24/2017
  15. THe Ethics of Research in the Middle East, POMEPS Studies 8 [Download]

    Title: THe Ethics of Research in the Middle East, POMEPS Studies 8
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: What are the ethical obligations of an academic studying today’s Middle East? Have the Arab uprisings changed how scholars must weigh ethical and moral concerns in their research? How should academics incorporate their ethical commitments into their social scientific research agendas or policy advice? How should they respond when faced with severe moral atrocities such as the human costs of the war in Syria? Is there an obligation to take sides? These are not the usual questions that are supposed to occupy the professional life of political scientists, who spend more time contemplating research design, replicability and statistical significance. But, of course, they do. Ethical decisions underlie virtually everything we do. The challenge of incorporating ethics into academic political science was a major theme of this May’s annual conference of the Project on Middle East Political Science. The thoughts of ten first-rate scholars on the subject have now been published as a symposium in the POMEPS Studies series (available for free download). It’s easy to see why many academics would prefer to avoid engaging with ethics. It isn’t just the ethos of dispassionate science which pervades today’s political science, although that certainly does create professional disincentives. A lot of what passes as “ethical” discourse in the foreign policy debate, and especially about the Middle East, is more like political grandstanding or glorified identity politics. The first 73,000 op-eds and political speeches thundering on about moral clarity are enough to turn anyone off of the language of morality. So is the all too frequent tendency to use ethical language as thinly veiled identity politics, in which one side is right and the other side is evil, and all who disagree must be shamed and condemned. Many political scientists are simply turned off by the misuse and abuse of the language of morality in public discourse. The popular misuse of ethical language doesn’t allow us to turn away from the ethical questions, though. Virtually everything which political scientists study, from Islamist politics to democracy promotion to interventions in Iraq or Syria to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is deeply saturated with ethical dilemmas and moral commitments. As Jillian Schwedler notes, “It is hard to find an issue related to the Middle East or Islamic world that isn’t saturated in tense debates about what’s ‘wrong’ with the region, how to ‘fix’ it, and indeed what the world ‘should’ look like. We cannot avoid engaging these normative claims even while we reproduce the (false) veneer of scientific objectivity.” Faced with those ethical underpinnings, Wendy Pearlman poses the question bluntly: “Is our overriding goal to make a contribution to an academic discipline rather than to do good in the world?” When, she wonders, “ss it ethically appropriate or inappropriate to take an open political stand, or cross the line from scholarship to advocacy?” I believe that there is an alternative way to frame this question, however. As citizens and as engaged intellectuals, we all have the right – indeed, an obligation – to make moral judgments and act based on those convictions. As political scientists, however, we have a unique set of potential contributions and constraints. Political scientists do not typically have anything of distinctive value to add to a chorus of moral condemnation or declarations of normative solidarity. What we do have, hopefully, is the methodological training, empirical knowledge and comparative insight to offer informed assessments about alternative courses of action on contentious issues. Our primary ethical commitment as political scientists, therefore must be to get the theory and the empirical evidence right, and to clearly communicate those findings to relevant audiences– however unpalatable or inconclusive they might be. My own thinking about how ethics and moral principles could be incorporated into International Relations theory was profoundly shaped by a workshop organized a decade ago by Richard Price in Vancouver which included key constructivist thinkers such as Martha Finnemore, Kathryn Sikkink and Christian Reus-Smit. What I took away from Price’s project, ultimately published as Moral Limit and Possibility in World Politics, was that an ethical approach to world politics depended fundamentally on getting the causal theory right. My own chapter focused on the Iraq sanctions debate, and how to assess the competing ethical claims of harm to Iraqi civilians from sanctions and from Saddam Hussein’s regime. That left me painfully aware of the inevitable ethical tradeoffs, the murkiness of the available evidence and the urgent need for careful causal analysis. This perspective turns the dichotomy between social science professionalism and moral action on its head. If ethical research and policy advice requires above all getting the causal theory right, then foregrounding ethical questions does not in any way undermine commitments to rigorous social science. There is nothing easier than mounting a moral high horse and demanding that something must be done in response to the horrors of the world. Good political science is harder, but hopefully makes for more effective action in the world. The purpose of social science, if it has any, must be to inform our decisions about the likely effects of our actions. Favoring human rights is nice, but promoting human rights effectively requires a solid theory of how human rights norms and ideas change. Almost every ethical question, then, is also a causal question: Will war crimes tribunals reduce the incidence of war crimes or won’t they? Will boycott and divestment campaigns undermine support for and change the behavior of rights abusing regimes or won’t they? Will military intervention reduce or increase civilian suffering? When faced with a mounting apocalypse in Syria, it isn’t enough to say that the United States must do something. Truly ethical action demands serious grappling with the best available evidence about what different courses of action might produce. Arming Syrian rebels or declaring a no-fly zone might be an ethical choice if a rigorous look at the theory and evidence suggests that it will reduce suffering or shorten the war, but not if analysis suggests that such actions will most likely make a civil war longer, bloodier and harder to resolve. Ethical action isn’t possible without serious analysis of the consequences of those actions. I believe that political scientists have an ethical responsibility to engage with the public discourse and to try to inform policy decisions with their research. There is a nearly infinite amount of commentary, opinion and analysis in today’s gloriously open internet-shaped public sphere. Political scientists writing in places like The Monkey Cage should hopefully be able to introduce this methodological rigor and comparative analysis into those arguments. They won’t win the day often or easily, of course. Where there is an opportunity to contribute, however slightly, to shaping policies and attitudes more likely to produce ethical outcomes then it must be taken. Not everyone agrees, of course. If there is no chance of policies really being changed, they fear that policy engagement will simply put the political scientist in the service of power. In the POMEPS symposium, Laurie Brand warns that a clear divide should be maintained between research that informs debate on important issues (which is core to the scholarly mission) and research in the service of specific policy objectives (which, she argues, is “at the least a violation of professional ethics”). Jason Brownlee goes further, arguing that “Middle East political science scholars should turn away from proposing policy implications and aspire to be less implicated in programs that are inimical to basic desiderata of freedom and equality.” In an excellent essay last year, Bassam Haddad despairs at the ability of scholars to say anything useful about Syria anymore. For all these thoughtful reservations, I do not feel that an ethically engaged scholar can or should refrain from joining the public and policy discourse on such issues. Remaining silent, thus ceding the field of debate to others less reticent, is an ethical choice as well. What about the practical ethics of research in today’s Middle East? One of the most urgent themes running through the POMEPS symposium concerned how Western scholars treat people from the region they study. Scott Weiner, a George Washington University doctoral candidate, emphasizes the importance of getting the story right, an ethical imperative of accuracy in research, which is itself dependent upon an honest, mutually transparent relationship between the scholar and those she studies. Pearlman, who has spent the last few years documenting the experiences of Syrian refugees, shakes her head at “Syrian activists receiving queries from researchers who are crude in addressing them as data sources rather than human beings who have endured horrors.” Sheila Carapico, then at the American University of Cairo, and Brand each look skeptically at the “academic tourists” who relied on Egyptian scholars and activists to quickly gather facts about the revolution but denied equal credit to their interlocutors. How can this abuse of our peers be avoided? We also need to take seriously the extent to which our research might put our interlocutors at risk. With activists being jailed across Egypt and murdered in Syria, how should academics balance their research interests with the protection of those they meet? Sarah Parkinson points out the growing problems with simply protecting our information and the anonymity of our interlocutors. The fact is that “researchers simply cannot promise confidentiality given contemporary U.S. law and are ethically obligated to take this fact into account.” We often treat the Institutional Review Board (IRB) as a nuisance. As Nathan Brown argues, however, the ethical considerations at the heart of the IRB should be central to how we conceive of any research project. Richard Nielsen recounts the horrified response to a “proposal to randomize the framing of requests for fatwas from Muslim clerics online. What if my experiment resulted in clerics advocating violence? Could someone be harmed or killed as a result of my research? Was it ethical to deceive clerics by representing my request as a genuine religious question?” He abandoned the project. These questions of moral judgment in research in conflict zones are not new, of course – Lee Ann Fujii’s “Research Ethics 101: Dilemmas and Responsibilities” is a good place to start. This also means taking seriously the thoughts, identities and views of those from the region we study. As a long-time Habermasian, I believe that ethical political judgment must include the equal opportunity to speak and be heard by all those affected. This cannot just mean becoming a loudspeaker for local narratives, however. As Schwedler observes, “Of course the primary goal in our research is to get the story right, but that typically means pushing up against other versions of that story (or against stories that say that our story is irrelevant).” But there is rarely a single, obviously true story to be told, and our interlocutors in the region are struggling with the same dilemmas and uncertainties. Take the June 30 protests and July 3 military coup in Egypt, which tore apart academic and political relationships. A very significant number of Egyptians absolutely bought in to the argument that June 30 was a second revolution, which would restore democracy and rescue Egyptians from the evils of the Muslim Brotherhood. They were absolutely furious with Western scholars and analysts who refused to see events through that lens and instead saw a typical military coup. Most of us involved in those arguments could share thousands of “revolution not coup” emails and tweets. But Egypt’s political situation a year later, with thousands of political prisoners, ever-tightening control over media freedom and the return of the old elite, overwhelmingly confirms the cautions of those Western analysts. Would the ethical thing have been to go along with their convictions and amplify their voices, when the social science evidence strongly suggested that the military coup would create a more authoritarian and repressive regime? Ethical commitments cannot and should not be walled off from our academic research agendas, then. How to effectively incorporate ethics into those agendas remains a highly contested question, though. Schwedler argues compellingly that every choice we make about what to study, how to study it and how we present our findings is built upon often unacknowledged ethical judgments. I believe that getting the theory right and effectively communicating those findings to relevant publics are themselves an ethical imperative for political scientists. Download the free PDF of the “Ethics of Research in the Middle East” symposium and join the debate.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Islam, Ethics
    Date Uploaded: 07/24/2017
  16. Visions of Gulf Security, POMEPS Studies 7 [Download]

    Title: Visions of Gulf Security, POMEPS Studies 7
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The turbulence in Gulf security politics today is difficult to miss: unusually sharp public splits in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), rising sectarian tensions, tough moves against the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements, and markedly harsh crackdowns on even minor forms of public dissent. Gulf elites are openly airing profound doubts about the future of the U.S. regional role, worries about blowback from Syria, and fears about the implications of a Western rapprochement with Iran. Regime efforts to insulate themselves from popular dissent have included potentially unsustainable economic commitments and self-defeating internal repression. Meanwhile, deep political divisions are disrupting the long-standing security partnership between Washington and the GCC states. How has the turbulence of the last three years affected security in the Gulf? Do new domestic, regional, or international trends fundamentally alter how the regimes, political movements, and people of the region grapple with challenges to their security? How new are these challenges, and how extraordinary the responses? What is gained, and what potentially distorted, by viewing these events through a security lens? Which assumptions in the academic literature about Gulf security have proven resilient, and which require rethinking? On March 9, 2014, POMEPS and Matteo Legrenzi at Ca’ Foscari University brought together more than a dozen scholars based in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States to Venice, Italy to look closely at the new – or not so new – questions about Gulf security. This should be the finest hour for the “regime security” perspective, which has been the dominant theoretical framework for understanding the region’s security politics in recent years. The regime security framework emerged to challenge the conventional Realist view of states primarily responding to external power and threat in their alliance and foreign policy choices. As Gregory Gause and many other scholars have effectively demonstrated, regimes faced threats to their own power and survival from within as well, and often prioritized those in their policy choices. Iran’s “threat” to Riyadh, for instance, had as much to do with its potential appeal to Saudi Shiites as it did with its pursuit of a nuclear arsenal. This perspective seems to offer considerable traction on the domestic and regional maneuverings of Gulf regimes in the last few years. While no GCC regimes fell in the face of popular protest, the Arab uprisings clearly intensified and sharpened those internal regime security concerns. And, as several of the memos in this collection observe, the responses by Gulf states to these concerns included both domestic security crackdowns and regional foreign policy initiatives. The coordinated campaigns against the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as Stéphane Lacroix, David Roberts, and Guido Steinberg suggest, reflected this logic of shoring up domestic power through foreign policy activism. So did the financial and political support by wealthy Gulf monarchies for less well-endowed fellow monarchs across the region. The utility of the regime security lens should not distract analysts from its potentially dangerously distorting effects. As Toby Jones has argued, the regimes of the Gulf have often embraced crisis as a useful device for extracting international support and suppressing domestic dissent. After all, casting the political aspirations of the Shiites of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, large numbers of Bahraini citizens, or youth activists demanding political reforms as a “security” challenge serves to delegitimize their political concerns and to justify a repressive response. Fred Wehrey, in this collection, notes how Saudi or Bahraini elites have for decades framed demands for political rights by oppressed Shiite communities as “security” threats linked to Iranian ambition. The labeling of the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist” group has much less to do with security than with politics. As useful as the regime security framework appears for understanding the behavior of Gulf regimes over the last few years, then, there is also good reason to critically assess the constitutive effects of internalizing and naturalizing such a security discourse. Gulf confusion and concern about changes at the global level also run through the memos in this collection. Gulf elites worry about the implications of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, refusal to intervene directly in Syria, and enthusiasm to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program. Despite the continued deployment of U.S. troops across the region, as Gary Sick observes, many of these elites are troubled by the thought of a reduced U.S. security presence and willingness to deploy military force. At the same time, they profoundly disagree with Washington’s willingness to accept democratic change and a Muslim Brotherhood political role in Egypt and the rest of the region over the last several years. For several years, leading Gulf states have not just disagreed with the United States but have been actively working to undermine U.S. policy goals. At what point do such divergent worldviews and policy preferences challenge the concept of an “alliance?” What does this portend for the future of the alliance at the heart of the region’s security architecture? The memos in POMEPS Studies #25: Visions of Gulf Security offer no new unified theory of Gulf security politics, but they point to some of the pressing new theoretical and practical challenges confronting the region. What happened to the human security agenda (Kristian Coates Ulrichsen)? Where do the region’s youth fit in the new security politics (Kristin Smith Diwan)? Is it possible to incorporate Iran into a regional security architecture (Rouzbeh Parsi, Gary Sick, and Gregory Gause)? How will the campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood rebound on regional and domestic politics (Stéphane Lacroix, Guido Steinberg, and David Roberts)? How does Iraq’s shaky future affect regional security challenges (Toby Dodge)? What drives the dangerous new sectarian strife in the region and can it be reversed (Fred Lawson, Richard Norton, and Fred Wehrey)? And, finally, do our currently dominant theories offer an effective guide to the region’s security politics (Mehran Kamrava) – and how should those theories be adapted in response to new developments?
    Keywords: POMEPS Studies, Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, International Relations, Islam, Gulf
    Date Uploaded: 07/24/2017
  17. Rethinking Islamist Politics, POMEPS Studies 6 [Download]

    Title: Rethinking Islamist Politics, POMEPS Studies 6
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: The Arab uprisings of 2011 radically reshaped the environment within which Islamist movements had evolved over the preceding decades, causing rapid, disorienting changes in their strategies, ideologies, and organizations. The last three years have produced an enormous amount of new information about these movements: detailed election results; factional and generational and intra-Islamist rivalries spilling out into public; varying degrees of political polarization between Islamists and their rivals; the erratic performance of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood after coming to power through elections and the fallout from its removal through popular protest and military coup; the emergence of a sharp public backlash against the Brotherhood in Egypt, at least, and a crackdown on its social services; a new regionwide campaign designating the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization; the surprising evolution of al Qaeda and jihadist movements from Syria and Iraq through North Africa. In January 2014, the Project on Middle East Political Science therefore convened a workshop with fifteen leading academic specialists on Islamist movements in the Arab Middle East and charged them with rethinking key assumptions, arguments, evidence and research programs in light of these three tumultuous years. The workshop brought together European and American academics with specialties ranging from mainstream movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood to jihadists and non-violent Salafists, and with expertise on countries ranging from the Gulf through Egypt and the Levant to North Africa. This special POMEPS Briefing collects the memos prepared for the workshop. The short essays collected here touch on many of these issues, pointing towards a rich set of compelling new theoretical and empirical questions with which the field must now grapple. Some of the memos push back against the notion that this is the time for a major rethinking. Many key developments remain cloaked in shadow, with very incomplete information amidst a thick haze of propaganda, rumor, and politicized narratives. Even more, some scholars worry that the valuable progress made over the previous decade will be lost to a hasty, premature abandonment of accumulated knowledge. After all, Egypt specialists accurately estimated the Muslim Brotherhood’s political base as measured by its electoral performance, and anticipated its political performance in power by observing internal changes (as described by Carrie Rosefsky Wickham and Khalil al-Anani) leading to “the dominance of the conservative faction within the Brotherhood [which] adopted a rigid worldview and wasn’t able to adjust to the new environment after Hosni Mubarak’s downfall.” As Tarek Masoud argues: “Instead of rethinking political Islam, we may wonder if political Islam is the right thing to be thinking about at all right now. … Instead of fretting over what Islamists do, say, and believe, we should instead direct our attentions to the broader social, economic, and structural factors that have rendered much of the Arab world … stunningly bereft of the prospects for democratic, representative, and accountable government.” But still, most accept that at least some of the developments of the last few years do pose significant challenges to prevailing theories. Many of the scholars here emphasize the importance of grasping the variety of Islamist movements and organizations across many different countries and contexts. They generally resist any effort to impute a singular identity or essential essence to such movements. Islamists in Yemen and Egypt and Tunisia may share some organizational forms, ideological aspirations, and political language, but they also can behave in strikingly different ways. As Carrie Rosefsky Wickham argues, this “heterogeneity makes any grand generalizations about the broader purposes of Islamist groups, as well as their internal dynamics, operational strategies, and immediate goals, problematic at best and nonsensical at worst.” Wickham emphasizes how much has been revealed about “the nature of internal factions, the (shifting) balance of power among them, and the issues of ideology, strategy, and group practice.” This emphasis on internal factions, internal tactical and ideological battles, and generational divides is a far cry from the popular depiction of the Muslim Brotherhood as an extremely disciplined, hierarchical totalitarian organization. The participants warn in particular against overly generalizing based on the Egyptian case. As important and central as Egypt is to the Islamist universe, it is not necessarily typical of similar movements elsewhere. Stacey Philbrick Yadav argues powerfully against “an overreliance on Egypt as a focal point in understanding Islamism … which has led scholars to speculate about the possible future trajectories of Islamism in other contexts on the basis of the Brotherhood’s experience, an experience that has been driven by a range of factors that are more or less generalizable outside of Egypt.” How did Tunisia’s Ennahda do so well in its elections despite having been repressed for decades and without the sorts of social services supposedly so crucial to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood? Why did Morocco’s Party for Justice and Development (PJD) accept a share of governing power while other movements opted to remain outside the system? What about Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, Yemen’s al-Islah or Islamists across the Gulf? These questions go to the heart of methodological debates about how to study these movements and where to focus research. Is there greater need today for more close studies of particular movements or for more comparative analysis across and within cases? Which aspects of Islamist political behavior, for instance, are best explained by their distinctive internal organizational or ideological characteristics or by the environment in which they operated? What, if anything, was distinctly Islamist about the response of different Islamist movements across these multiple cases? If Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was so rigidly hierarchical, why did its behavior change so erratically during the post-Mubarak years rather than remaining cautiously conservative? Nathan Brown persuasively argues for less attention to “the intentions of the leaders and more to the environment in which they operate.” But the relative importance of political structure and the character of the actors remains an open question for political scientists. Is the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology and internal organizational structure really not relevant for explaining its approach to governance? Would any other organization faced with a similarly unsettled, polarized, and unpredictably changing institutional environment have responded in the same way? Such questions call out for comparative analysis, both within cases and across cases. How did the Muslim Brotherhood’s response to Egypt’s radically uncertain political environment compare to that of Salafis or of non-Islamists? How did Egypt’s Islamists compare to Islamists, and non-Islamists, in Tunisia or Libya or Yemen? The question of environmental effects involves not only unsettled political institutions but also broad trends at the level of public opinion and public culture. The massive public turn against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt over the last year, for instance, seems to challenge prevailing theories of a decades-long, comprehensive Islamization of public space and political discourse. But as Nathan Brown observes, in Egypt today “the movement is suffering not merely from political repression but from social ostracism. The hatred for the Brotherhood expressed by so many in Egyptian public life (and, in my experience, reflected in many private conversations) is overwhelming and likely unprecedented.” Steven Brooke, based on his research on the Brotherhood’s charity work, similarly notes that the “speed and malice with which Egyptians have turned on the Brotherhood … poses problems for the Islamization thesis’s conclusions.” How could decades of the Islamization of society and culture have been so quickly reversed? Some might argue that public life remains deeply Islamicized, despite the setbacks of the Muslim Brotherhood. Is it “not the failure of Islamist groups or the exhaustion of the Islamic frame of reference for political projects, but the increasing proliferation of ways to do and articulate Islamist politics” in Michaelle Browers’s phrasing? Is it “not the disappearance of an Islamist referent but “the pluralization of Islamic socio-political space and the Muslim Brotherhood’s loss of monopoly over the claim to articulate an Islamic social order” as according to Peter Mandaville? But others will find something more fundamental going on with the political turn against Islamism. Either way, this will be a rich terrain for future research. Academics have never demonstrated much interest in the question of whether the Muslim Brotherhood should be seen as “moderate,” since few view “moderate” as a useful analytical category. They are more concerned with identifying accurately the ideological trends, organizational structures, and political strategies of a diverse array of movements. The differences between the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda seem to be so obvious that only a few scholars see the point of even pointing it out. This may be premature, however, with Egypt and several Gulf regimes leading an aggressive public campaign to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and to equate the Brotherhood with al Qaeda. Arguments, which seemed to have been settled years ago, are now back, in force. And they come at a time when the actual lines between movements have been blurred by events, as jihadist movements such as Ansar al-Sharia move into social service provision and mainstream movements find their tightly hierarchical organizational structures smashed and their memberships responding in very different ways to new political challenges. If the Muslim Brotherhood did once serve as a firewall against al Qaeda recruitment, will it still do the same after being overthrown by the Egyptian military and its organization viciously repressed? Long-held assumptions about jihadist movements, Thomas Hegghammer notes, now have to be as systematically rethought as do those about all other Islamist trends. For political theorists, too, there are questions about the future of Islamist ideas about democracy and political participation. Joas Wagemakers argues that “the (partial) acceptance of democracy among Islamists, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, has been a long process that has been influenced mainly by local circumstances and international Islamist discourse and is unlikely to change drastically after, for example, the coup in Egypt. In other words, democratically minded Muslim Brotherhood members are unlikely to dismiss democracy altogether now that their effort to rule Egypt has been thwarted. People who were not too keen on democracy all along, however, will likely feel vindicated. Recent events in Egypt may also sway some Brothers who were always doubtful about democracy’s merits.” Perhaps, but it seems difficult to believe that Islamists who watched the overturning of Mohamed Morsi’s elected government will so easily go back to the polls or be convinced that they will ever be allowed to govern as elected leaders. Can the commitment to procedural democracy, which dominated Muslim Brotherhood discourse for decades, survive Egypt’s coup? Other scholars are even more skeptical. Even if the Brothers were committed to procedural democracy, did their behavior in power prove that this commitment mattered less than their deeper illiberalism? During his recent research trips, Mokhtar Awad found that “for a growing number of Islamist youth the issue is no longer about politics but rather the soul of the Islamist project. They have lost faith not just in democracy, but also in the modern state itself — and in traditional Islamists’ approach to changing it (both the Brotherhood and non-violent Salafis).” Roel Meijer now believes that “we have been far too optimistic about the changes within the Brotherhood. Although the Brotherhood may have accepted terms such as citizenship and civil state, and even the people’s sovereignty, and the ‘will of the people’ (iradat al-shaab), it is clear that the Brotherhood did not accept politics and the political.” And for Tarek Masoud, “the brief experience of Islamism in power has given us precious little reason to revise the view of Islamists as fundamentally illiberal. Though the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies spoke often of individual freedom, the reality was that their vision of individual freedom proved to be one that was heavily bounded.” How will Islamist ideas now evolve after the experience of recent years? These POMEPS memos set forth a challenging and provocative set of research questions, with which the field has only begun to engage. We hope that they stimulate further discussion, debate, research, and serious, methodologically rigorous and empirically informed scholarly engagement with these vitally important issues.
    Keywords: POMEPS Studies, Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, Islam, International Relations
    Date Uploaded: 07/24/2017
  18. The Politics of Sectarianism, POMEPS Studies 4 [Download]

    Title: The Politics of Sectarianism, POMEPS Studies 4
    Author: Lynch, Marc
    Description: A group of Syrian-Americans arrived at an academic conference at Lehigh University last week in Bashar al-Assad t-shirts and draped in Syrian flags adorned with Assad’s face. They repeatedly heckled and interrupted speakers, and one told an opposition figure that he deserved a bullet in the head. When a speaker showed a slide picturing dead Syrian children, they burst into loud applause. When another speaker cynically predicted that Bashar would win a 2014 presidential vote, they cheered. In the final session, they aggressively interrupted and denounced a Lebanese journalist, with one ultimately throwing his shoe at the stage. The panel degenerated into a screaming match, until police arrived to clear the room. This spectacle might seem notable in that it unfolded at a U.S. university, but otherwise it would pass for an alarmingly normal day at the office in today’s toxically polarized Middle East. Such intense mutual hostility, irreconcilable narratives, and public denunciations are typical of any number of highly polarized political arenas across the region. A similar scene between supporters and opponents of Egypt’s military coup is all too easily imagined — just add bullets. That’s why the disproportionate focus on sectarian conflict as the defining feature of the emerging Middle East seems dangerously misplaced. Sunni-Shiite tensions are only one manifestation of how a number of deeper trends have come together in recent years to give frightening new power to identity politics writ large. The explosion of Sunni-Shiite conflict in recent years has very little do to with intrinsic religious differences or with 1,400 years of Islamic history. It should instead be understood as an entirely typical example of identity politics, one in which sectarian differences happen to be the most easily available to politicians hoping to exploit them for cynical purposes. It looks much the same as the ethnic and religious polarization that ripped apart the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The sectarian polarization in Bahrain or Syria has followed very similar patterns to the Islamist-secularist polarization in Egypt and Tunisia. Responding to these sectarian tensions by embracing authoritarian states, focusing on religious authorities or exegesis, or promoting cross-sectarian reconciliation will miss the point. Today’s sectarianism is political to the core — even if it increasingly seems at risk of racing beyond the control of its cynical enablers. Interpreting Sunni-Shiite conflict as just another manifestation of a millennia-old conflict repeats a broadly essentialist position which tends to be the first resort every time ethnic or sectarian violence breaks out. Such approaches tend to focus on intrinsic, deeply rooted, and irreconcilable cultural differences between groups which can always pose a risk of escalation to violence (think Robert Kaplan’s Balkan Ghosts, which supposedly convinced Bill Clinton of the inevitability of Yugoslav ethnic slaughters). Evidence of decades of coexistence or intermarriage rarely impresses proponents of an essentialist approach. These differences might be latent for long periods of time, but given the opportunity — electoral mobilization, state failure, sudden explosions of local violence — people will tend to fall back on these deep identities. Such arguments tend to lead toward solutions involving the heavy hand of authoritarian states to suppress these supposedly inevitable violent tendencies, or toward partition into ethnic enclaves if state collapse has gone too far. That’s just what authoritarian regimes would like us to believe. But much more frequently, ethnic or sectarian violence is driven by either regimes themselves or by elites who cynically exploit identity for their political aims. These leaders might or might not truly believe in these differences, but they are perfectly happy to take advantage of them when it suits their goals. Often, it is the authoritarian regimes themselves that are most responsible for stoking and shaping the identity divisions. The Saudi regime, most obviously, systematically uses sectarianism in order to intimidate and control its own Shiite citizens at home and to combat Iranian influence regionally. Saudi leaders may or may not genuinely hate Shiites, but they know that sectarian conflict is a useful strategy. In Egypt, the Mubarak regime tolerated significant levels of intimidation and attacks on Coptic Christian citizens, while Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government actively stokes the demonization of Islamists to generate support for the new military regime. In Iraq, a stronger state under the control of Nouri al-Maliki is too easily used to protect Shiite privilege and repress Sunni opponents. Strong states are often the problem, not the solution. The strategic mobilization of identity politics typically involves some common moves. Electoral systems can be designed to maximize sectarian or ethnic competition, force voters into identity-defined voting blocs, and hinder cross-identity coalition formation. Discrimination in state institutions, military recruitment, and patronage can entrench hostility along particular lines and not others. For sectarian entrepreneurs from Slobodan Milosevic to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to triumph, intermarried families must be ripped apart, the possibility of coexistence undermined, and moderate counterparts knocked down in favor of more frightening extremists. Televised slaughter, rumors of sectarian or ethnic targeting, and the wide circulation of hostile rhetoric are a benefit, not an unfortunate side product of their efforts. Often, the real purpose of such strategic identity mobilization is intra-group competition, as ambitious leaders see sectarian or ethnic extremism as a useful way to attack their political rivals as weak, naïve, or duplicitous. Attacking Shiites is often a product of competition among different Sunni factions as much as it is driven by larger religious struggles. More venom is often directed toward moderates within one’s own group than toward the putative enemy; as the dwindling cohort of true Egyptian liberals can attest, anyone who might try to seek the middle ground and critique both sides will be viciously shouted down. That, in turn, pushes more and more people to either silently accept or even to vocally repeat the mythologies supporting this mobilized identity, no matter how absurd. Uncertainty, fear, economic hardship, and violence often create the toxic conditions for identity mobilization to gain traction. It’s endlessly useful to demagogues and dictators to have some minority to blame for problems, to deflect outrage from their own failures, and to bind an otherwise fractious community together against a common enemy. And that’s where the proliferation and entrenchment of sectarian rhetoric over the previous decade have been especially destructive. The sectarian incitement which pollutes official and private media outlets alike, and which floods through politicized mosques and religious networks, provides the master frame which increasingly makes sense to people who a decade ago would have angrily waved such rhetoric away. And after a decade of civil war in Iraq and propaganda about an Iranian-led “Shiite Crescent” threatening the Sunni Muslim world, those narratives are now deeply entrenched and hard to change. Language and terms that once sounded exotic and strange now find wide public circulation and resonance. The Arab uprisings introduced such uncertainty and fear not only within countries such as Syria, but across the entire region, as do recent memories of very real slaughters, displacements, and outrages — such as those that have scarred Iraq. Syria provided endless opportunity for local entrepreneurs to use sectarian language and imagery to build support and raise money for the insurgency. Increasingly polarized, insular media clusters within which only information supportive of sectarian narratives tends to circulate, reinforces and intensifies identity conflicts with every YouTube video. And those atrocities have been experienced vicariously across the region, with Egyptian or Tunisian Sunnis identifying with the suffering of their Syrian or Iraqi counterparts even if they did not themselves have much direct contact with Shiites. Highlighting the role of cynical politicians in the mobilization of identity conflict points to very different policy advice, of course. Fighting sectarianism thus requires changing the incentives and the opportunities for such political mobilization. Were electoral rules changed, official media and state institutions purged of sectarian language, and hate speech and incitement punished rather than encouraged, identity entrepreneurs would suffer political defeat. Elites who want to cynically manipulate sectarianism need to have the raw material with which to work or the right conditions within which to work their evil magic. Taking the oxygen out of the room is not impossible: Kuwait, for instance, turned away from sectarianism in its last elections, in part as the costs of such conflict began to really sink in. But such political responses to identity conflict become far more difficult after they have been successfully mobilized — especially under conditions of state failure, uncertainty, violence, and fear. It is far easier to generate sectarian animosities than it is to calm them down. This ratcheting effect is the reason for the deepest concern about the trends of the last few years. Identity entrepreneurs may think that they can turn the hatred on and off as it suits their interests, but at some point these identities become self-sustaining and internalized. Blood matters, a lot: There will be no reconciliation in Iraq or Syria for a long time, not with so many individuals who have watched people they love slaughtered or raped or displaced over their ascribed identities. How could anyone expect an Iraqi Sunni to forgive or happily coexist with Shiite neighbors who only recently killed his children because of their religion? Those memories are only reinforced by the endlessly circulating videos and images which today provide unavoidable documentation of additional atrocities. Even ending the violence and restoring a modicum of stability in Syria, Iraq, or Bahrain is not likely to erase these inflamed hatreds and memories, leaving well-fertilized terrain for the next identity entrepreneur who comes along. The political approach to sectarianism makes painfully clear that it did not have to be like this. Sectarian conflict is not the natural response to the fall of a strongman. The Bahraini activists who demanded political reform and human rights did not have to be tarred as Iranian assets and smeared as Shiite separatists. Syrian non-violent activists could have developed and enforced a compelling vision of a non-sectarian post-Assad alternative. Gulf Islamists and regimes could have opted not to use sectarianism to generate support for the Syrian insurgency. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its enemies could have opted for cooperation and inclusion rather than spiraling polarization and confrontation. But this approach also offers little optimism about the future. The painful reality is that sectarianism proved too useful to too many powerful actors, and too compelling a narrative in a violent, turbulent, and uncertain time, to be avoided.
    Keywords: Middle East, North Africa, Political Science, Islam, International Relations, Sectarianism
    Date Uploaded: 07/24/2017
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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