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The Journal for politics, economics, and culture of the Middle East published by the German Orient-Institute

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01/07/21

GCC states’ foreign policy and regional role

This article examines the foreign policies and regional roles of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states before, during, and after the ‘Gulf Crisis’ of 2017-21. Points of analysis include the rise of individual Gulf States as assertive regional actors, the impact of the Arab uprisings of 2011 on Gulf politics, the practical implications of the Gulf Crisis on the GCC as an institution, and the prospects for a durable reconciliation following the agreement signed at the Al-Ula summit in Saudi Arabia in January 2021.

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen is a Fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in Houston and an Associate Fellow with the Middle East North Africa Programme at Chatham House in London. He is the author of five books about the international relations, political economy and security of the Gulf States, including Insecure Gulf: The End of Certainty and the Transition to the Post-Oil Order (Hurst & Co., 2011), The United Arab Emirates: Power, Politics and Policymaking (Routledge, 2015), and Qatar and the Gulf Crisis (Oxford University Press, 2020).

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01/04/21

Disentangling membership of Islamist parties in a post-ideological political arena: The PJD, Ennahda and Ra’am compared

Within the broader spectrum of Arab Islamist political parties, membership has taken on a deep meaning in terms of identity politics. By taking into account not only the diversity of Islamist parties but also the different political contexts they operate in and by opting for a broad conceptualisation of membership, this article aims to offer an overview of key Islamist parties’ strategies towards society, their appeal and their positioning in the domestic political game in three highlydifferent polities: the newly democratised Tunisia, Morocco’s partly liberalised autocracy and Israel’s consolidated but Jewish-majoritarian democracy. It will do so by disentangling the dimension of membership within the Justice and Development (Morocco), Ennahda (Tunisia) and Ra’am (Israel) parties, with an eye to pointing out the existing dialectic between the political parties as such and the religious movement they stem from. Beyond their differences, striking commonalities across these three case studies stand out, such as a pragmatic attitude accommodated to high Islamist moral standards, a strategy of soft penetration and active mobilisation of society, a core conservative constituency interested in upward mobility and a yearning for social change.

Giulia Cimini is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the University of Bologna with a fellowship supported by the Gerda Henkel Foundation. In 2019, she was awarded a POMEPS TRE Grant for her research on marginalised communities and the challenges of decentralisation in Tunisia. She holds a PhD in International Studies and specialised in Middle Eastern Studies. Her main areas of expertise are Maghrebi political parties, security assistance, border communities and dynamics of contention.

Claudia De Martino is a researcher in MENA affairs at UNIMED, adjunct professor in postcolonial history at La Sapienza University and teacher of history and philosophy at the European High School Convitto Vittorio Emanuele II of Rome. In 2019 she obtained a master’s in development economics at the ILO/Turin. She was a post-doctoral fellow at the Orientale University of Naples within the EUSPRING project (2015-2016) in 2016 and DAAD annual scholarship recipient in 2015, having obtained her PhD in Mediterranean Social History at the Ca’ Foscari University in 2012.

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01/04/21

The role of the moderate Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in a future Syria

This article on the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria illustrates the movement’s political pragmatism and persistent commitment to parliamentary politics. An overview that places the Brotherhood’s ideology and political pragmatism in a dynamic relationship further shows the primacy of the Brotherhood’s political objectives. In moving away from scholarly approaches that aim to determine whether moderate Islamists are truly moderate or not moderate, the article focuses on the Brotherhood’s surrounding environment. In doing so, it demonstrates that the moderate Islamist Brotherhood’s stance on sovereignty is as much a consequence of its surrounding environment as of its ideology.

Hanlie Booysen is an adjunct research fellow in the Religious Studies programme at Victoria University of Wellington. Her research interest includes the relationship between Islam and politics, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and Muslim communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. Hanlie served as a diplomat in Jordan, Palestine and Syria for twelve years.

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01/04/21

Socio-economic factors of radicalisation in Tunisia and Egypt: What we (don’t) know

In spite of their very different political trajectories after the uprisings of 2011, both autocratic Egypt and democratic Tunisia have seen a wave of Islamist radicalisation over the last few years. One very prominent explanation for this development is widespread socio-economic grievances. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the state of knowledge about the socioeconomic factors related to radicalisation in Tunisia and Egypt and identifies research gaps to be addressed in the future.

Clara-Auguste Süß is a doctoral researcher at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) and member of the PRIF’s research group “Radicalisation”. Her research concentrates on Islamist radicalisation, political transformation and marginalisation in the Maghreb, focusing particularly on Tunisia.

Irene Weipert-Fenner is a senior research fellow at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) and holds a PhD in political science from Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany. She works on authoritarian regimes and democratisation as well as on social movements in MENA.

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01/04/21

The rise of Islamic political movements and parties

This article examines why some Islamic movements form a political party in contexts as different as Morocco, Turkey and Jordan, while their counterparts in the same country reject doing so. Based on qualitative fieldwork conducted on six Islamic movements both before and after the Arab Spring, this study demonstrates the role of internal factors, ideological priorities and organisational needs in explaining differentiation within Islamic movements.

Esen Kirdiş is Associate Professor of International Studies at Rhodes College. She received her PhD from the University of Minnesota in 2011. She recently published the book The Rise of Islamic Political Movements and Parties: Morocco, Turkey and Jordan (University of Edinburgh Press, 2019).

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01/04/21

Islam in Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Policy

This article aims to shed light on the religious dimension of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy. More specifically, it tries to show to what extent the defense of a Sunni Islam presented as authentic and Salafist has been at the heart of Saudi action aimed at the rest of the world. However, this promotion of an Islam with orthodox pretensions has also put this country in difficulty, forcing it to evolve its speech according to the internal and external political events.

Mohammed-Ali Adraoui is currently a visiting fellow at the LSE Centre for International Studies and lecturer/seminar leader at LSE IDEAS, holding a PhD in Political Science from Sciences Po Paris (2011). His main fields of research deal with Salafism and jihadism, Islamist movements, US foreign policy in the Middle East, political violence and terrorism.

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01/04/21

Hezbollah within and beyond Lebanon

Nurtured by the Pasdaran since 1982, Hezbollah has become the most powerful group in Lebanon and a strategic element of Iran’s deterrence capabilities against Israel. It currently represents the gatekeeper of the Lebanese confessional governance against the anti-corruption popular protests. Indeed, this system serves, mostly through Hezbollah’s local alliances, as a shielding screen for its paramilitary vocation. Hezbollah has broadened its field of intervention beyond the national scope (Syria, Iraq, Palestine) to such an extent that it endangers the prerequisites for Lebanon’s stability and recovery.

Rayan Haddad holds a PhD in International Relations from Sciences Po Paris (2007) and is a member of the Cercle des Chercheurs sur le Moyen-Orient (Paris). His main research interests lie in studying the importation of exogenous conflicts into the Lebanese arena and Hezbollah’s policies. He is the author of Regards libanais sur la turbulence du monde: Kosovo, 11-Septembre, Afghanistan, Irak (Paris: L’Harmattan 2018).

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01/04/21

Making definitional sense of Islamism

Studying political Islam means encountering a number of terms (fundamentalism, Islamism, Salafism, jihadism) that are often unclear to non-experts and sometimes even ill-defined by scholars in the field. What is more, the way they relate to, differ from and cohere with each other is frequently left unexplained. This article focuses on all of these terms to show the relationship between them in order to make definitional sense of it all.

Joas Wagemakers is Associate Professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. His work focuses on modern Islam, particularly on Salafism and Islamism in the Middle East. He has published widely on these issues, including The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Salafism in Jordan: Political Islam in a Quietist Community (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and A Quietist Jihadi: The Ideology and Influence of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

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01/01/21

Middle East futures: Decade(s) of defiance and dissent

If the 2010s were a decade of defiance and dissent, the 2020s promise to make mass antigovernment protests a fixture of the greater Middle East’s political landscape. Protests in the coming decade are likely to be fuelled by the challenges Middle Eastern states face in enacting economic and social reforms as well as reducing their dependence on energy exports against the backdrop of a global economic crisis and depressed oil prices and energy markets. Complicating the challenges is the fact that the youth, which often constitutes a majority of the population, has lost or is losing confidence in government and religious establishments at a time in which social contracts are being unilaterally rewritten by political elites. Pressure on the Middle East’s autocratic rulers is likely to increase with the departure of US President Donald J. Trump, a staunch supporter of strongman rule, and the coming to office of President-elect Joe Biden. In contrast to Trump, Biden has suggested that he would emphasise democratic values and freedoms. In doing so, Biden could contribute to renewed public manifestations of widespread discontent and demands for greater transparency and accountability in the Middle East and North Africa.

James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist, senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute, and the author of the syndicated column and blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.

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01/01/21

Traditional media, digital platforms and social protests in post-Arab Spring Morocco

The Arab Spring protests in Morocco, which started on 20 February 2011, have left a significant impact on political configurations and practices as well as on political culture and civil society activism. Moroccan citizens have taken to the streets and squares and to the virtual spaces more often in the last ten years than ever before. This paper discusses the role that offline and online media played in different social protest events. It demonstrates how online media managed to create a public space for free political expression, which led to a series of mass protests, and how the state has clamped down on Internet freedom through the use of a variety of repressive mechanisms. The Moroccan experience proves that the role of digital media is ponderable rather than deterministic in promoting social activism.

Abdelmalek El Kadoussi is Assistant Professor of Media and Communication at Ibn Toufail University, Kenitra, Morocco. Over the last 15 years, he has conducted research on different layers of media scholarship, including but not confined to media and democratisation, media political economy and others. He has presented papers in national and international congresses and published in national and international journals.

Bouziane Zaid is Associate Professor of Global Communication at the University of Sharjah, UAE. His research interests are in the areas of media technologies, media law and policy, media advocacy and strategic communication. He has presented his research in more than 20 countries in North and South America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Dr. Zaid has authored and co-authored two books and numerous journal articles, country reports and book chapters. He has served as a consultant for UNESCO, Open Society Foundation, Freedom House and other international organisations.

Mohammed Ibahrine is Associate Professor for Marketing Communications at the American University of Sharjah, UAE. His research interests cover technology and marketing, design thinking, entrepreneurship, innovation and the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution.

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01/01/21

Civil society, social mobilisation and the Arab Spring

The Arab Spring uprisings drew attention once more to the potential role that civil society might play in promoting political change in the Middle East and North Africa. This article will critically appraise the relationship between civil society and the state in the region from the end of the Cold War to the aftermath of the Arab Spring. In doing so, it will assess the implications of recent events for our understanding of the ways in which civil society functions in the MENA region.

Vincent Durac is Associate Professor in Middle East Politics at University College Dublin, Ireland. He is co-author of Politics and Governance in the Middle East (Palgrave) and of Civil Society and Democratization in the Arab World (Routledge).

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01/01/21

Civil society as revolutionary diplomats?: Foreign policy after the Arab Spring

This article examines civil society’s evolving role in the development of foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa, a near-decade after the Arab Spring. By focusing on four sets of civil society actors: youth, women’s, labour and human rights groups, I argue that civil society initially flourished in its ability to impact foreign policy after 2011. However, this initial optimism faded in 2013 as organisations grappled with increasing authoritarian backlash.

Kirstie Lynn Dobbs is a full-time lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Public Policy at Merrimack College in North Andover, United States. Her research focuses on political behaviour in transitioning and established democracies, with a particular emphasis on elections, public opinion and youth in the Middle East and North Africa.

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