Since the Second World War the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has been the geopolitical arena in which great and major powers have flexed their muscles and, in pursuit of their global ambitions, have tried to dominate this strategic regional system and exclude their rivals from it. The United States and its Western allies, thus, came to dominate the MENA region. But, since the end of the Cold War and the global transitions which have shifted the balance of economic power from the Atlantic to the East, the West’s supremacy is no longer assured. Global transitions, also known as systemic shift, are arguably also leaving their mark on the external balance of power in this highly penetrated regional system. This article takes stock of this process of change.
Anoushiravan Ehteshami is Professor of International Relations in the School of Government and International Affairs, and Fellow of University College at Durham University. He is the Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah Chair in International Relations and Director of the HH Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah Programme in International Relations, Regional Politics and Security. He is, further, Director of the Institute for Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies (IMEIS) at Durham, one of the oldest and noted centres of excellence in Middle Eastern studies in Europe.
Globalisation and contentious politics in the MENA
Globalisation is widely accused in the MENA of being a false flag for neo-colonialism. Paradoxically it is the slowing of globalisation that poses the greater threat to the region’s political economies because it puts downward pressure on oil and gas prices, renders more difficult the challenge of diversifying economies away from hydrocarbons, and reduces pressures for reform of authoritarian orders. The MENA, in sum, missed a golden opportunity to benefit from the post-Cold War globalisation wave by failing to liberalise its economies and polities while moving up production ladders.
Robert Springborg is research fellow at the Italian Institute of International Affairs in Rome; and Adjunct Professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. His most recent book is Egypt.
Sport has long played a key role in the development and politics of the Middle East and North Africa. Increasingly it has become a battlefield in the region’s multiple disputes as well as the effort of states to garner soft power, enhance their regional and global influence, punch above their weight, and undermine their rivals. The battlefields are numerous. They include the 2022 Qatar World Cup, institutions of global governance such as world soccer body FIFA and its Asian affiliate, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), media broadcasting rights, and in numerous incidents national football associations and some of the Middle East and North Africa’s most prestigious clubs. The strategies and tactics adopted in the sports diplomacy of the various nations are mirror images of their various regimes. Nevertheless, taken together, the battles make a mockery of the insistence of international sports associations that sports and politics are unrelated and separate and threaten to undermine the integrity of global sports governance.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict in its eigth decade
This article discusses various ways to achieve a fully-fledged state existence for Palestine. It takes stock of Palestine's diplomatic successes, contrasts them with the limited national selfdetermination under the conditions of Israeli occupation, discusses whether the virtual state with its activities on the international stage can approach a state of real and recognised statehood, and examines the question of what possibilities are available ‘on the ground’ for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: a division of the country between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea or federal models of coexistence between the two nations.
Margret Johannsen is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg. Her main research interest is the peace process in the Middle East with special emphasis on state-building.
Transnational armed Salafi Jihadi networks: Emergence and development
Salafi Jihadi transnational radical networks have captured public attention with world-wide mobilisation in support of their approach to Islam and opposition to their Muslim and nonMuslim opponents. Born at the intersection of the Palestinian question, the Salafi religious revival, and the domestic failures of the Arab-Muslim world, these networks became embroiled in armed conflicts in the Muslim world before transferring the battlefield to Western countries. This article provides a historical retrospective of their emergence and development with a focus on notable turning points.
Jérôme Drevon is a research fellow at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies of Geneva. He is particularly interested in civil wars, political violence, and Islamist and jihadi groups’ strategic developments.
The dilemma of counter-terrorism mechanisms in the MENA
The Middle East has experienced prolonged terrorism campaigns, which shaped the rationality for some countries to increase their defence measures. The article’s hypothesis is that the increase in military spending, as a response to counter terrorism, can threaten economic security, leading to an increase in terrorism due to the negative relationship between terrorism and economic security. The study performs Panel vector Autoregressive Model (PvARM) by employing panel data consists of 10 Middle Eastern countries through the period of 1996-2016. The empirical analysis confirmed the validity of the article’s claim in the studied countries over the examined period.
Omar Eleish is an economist, recently graduated from the European Master in law and Economics (EMlE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam in October 2018. He obtained a B.Sc. degree in Economics from a joint program between loughborough University and the British University in Egypt. His research focus is within the economics of defence policy, cyber security, and industrial organisation.