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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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01/04/18

Kuwait and Oman mediating policy traditions in rupture with Gulf crisis protagonists

This unprecedented Gulf crisis put two radically different Gulf diplomacies in conflict. A new breaking style came in confrontation with the old Gulf diplomatic tradition symbolised by the elder and most experimented leaders of the region: the Emir of Kuwait and the Sultan of Oman. In order to understand the dramatic Gulf policy transition’s shift, this paper reviews the diplomatic soft power trajectories of Kuwait and Oman. It also examines the impacts this crisis affects their respective domestic situation challenged by the uncertain future of the GCC.

Fatiha Dazi-Héni is Associate Professor at Aalborg University in Denmark. He is a political scientist by training and specialises in the politics of the Middle East. His latest publication is a chapter contribution to Ray Hinnebusch and Omar Imady (eds.), The Syrian Uprising. Domestic Origins and Early Trajectory (Routledge, 2018).

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01/04/18

Whither Saudi Arabia?

The article examines the foundational elements of the Saudi state: idea, governing institutions and physical basis. The author notes that its supranational ideas will be challenged by ongoing reforms if it does not ease tensions with its Shia minority population. Governing institutions of its absolute monarchy will also be challenged by the reforms, while economic reforms are far from convincing. The author concludes that the Saudi state may be the next weak state in the region.

Søren Schmidt is Associate Professor at Aalborg University in Denmark. He is a political scientist by training and specialises in the politics of the Middle East. His latest publication is a chapter contribution to Ray Hinnebusch and Omar Imady (eds.), The Syrian Uprising. Domestic Origins and Early Trajectory (Routledge, 2018).

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01/04/18

Qatar and the Gulf crisis

In June 2017, a quartet of states led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched an unprecedented, wide-ranging, and biting blockade of Qatar. After the initial shock, which included emptying supermarket shelves and even fears of escalation, the Qatari state swiftly and successfully secured suppliers for goods principally from Turkey and Iran. The quartet long believed that Qatar’s foreign policies heedlessly undermined the stability and security of their states. A combination of such long-term simmering issues and immediate factors like the role of a pliant President Trump meant that these states rolled the dice. At best, they hoped that Qatar would capitulate under such tremendous pressure. At worst, they believed Qatar’s activities would be circumscribed, and it would be slowly financially bled. While Gulf politics can pivot quickly, there are no signs that this crisis will abate. Without serious pressure, probably from a US President, it will likely be measured in years not months.

David B. Roberts is Assistant Professor at King’s College london, where he is based at the UK Defence Academy. Prior to joining King’s, he was the director of the Qatar office of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) think-tank. His book Qatar: Securing the Global Ambitions of a City State was noted by Bloomberg and Stratfor as a ‘must read’ of 2017.

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01/04/18

High-stakes poker in the Gulf

It is a non-sequitur to say that the stakes in the Gulf crisis could not be higher. They range from the future ability of Qatar and the region’s other small states to act independently and the uncertain fate of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as an effective regional body, to the fundament on which international relations are built and the role of small states within that structure. Whether and how the Gulf crisis is ultimately resolved could constitute a watershed that is likely to shape the power balance in the Middle East and North Africa as well as impact significantly the way states do business with one another. That is true irrespective of whether the Gulf crisis remains unresolved in the foreseeable future, is truly resolved, or is ended by agreement with a face-saving formula that leaves disagreements on the table.

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg.

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01/04/18

Orient II 2018

James M. Dorsey
High-stakes poker in the Gulf

David B. Roberts
Qatar and the Gulf Crisis

Christopher M. Davidson
Saudi Arabia’s new politics: Motives, risks, and the rule of law

Søren Schmidt
Whither Saudi Arabia?

Fatiha Dazi-Héni
Kuwait and Oman mediating policy traditions in rupture with Gulf crisis protagonists

Ana Belén Soage
The Gulf Cooperation Council, Iran, and the limits to integration

Anoushiravan Ehteshami
Iran’s role in the Gulf: Beyond politics?

Morten Valbjørn
Unpacking a puzzling case: On how the Yemeni conflict became sectarianised

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01/01/18

Orient I 2018

Ross Harrison
Regionalism in the Middle East: An impossible dream?

Maximilian Felsch
The Arab regional system after the Arab uprisings: Reaching hegemonic stability?

Patrycja Sasnal
The looming peace in Syria: A dilemma for the UN

Robert Mason
A reassessment of the European Neighbourhood Policy

Ibrahim Al-Marashi
The Arab League: Between ambitions and reality

Aidan Hehir
The Responsibility to Protect, the UN Security Council and the Arab Spring

Wolfgang Mühlberger
Chasing the Jinn: Countering Hezbollah with lawfare

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01/01/18

The Arab regional system after the Arab uprisings: Reaching hegemonic stability?

Although the Arab world does not lack regional institutions, it is known to be the least integrated region in the world. More recently, as an indirect consequence of the Arab uprisings, regional organisations like the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council have shown unprecedented activism. This article sheds light on the evolving institutional architecture of the Arab Middle East by examining changes to the hegemonic condition of the Arab regional system in the post-2011 era. It argues that the new regional dynamics reflect a new balance of power in which Saudi Arabia appears as the region’s internal hegemon that utilises Arab institutions as instruments of power politics against its rival Iran.

Maximilian Felsch is Associate Professor and head of the Political Science Department at Haigazian University in Beirut, Lebanon. Awarded two doctoral fellowships by the Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB) and the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation (FES), he received his PhD in 2011. Felsch is an author of two books, various book chapters, and peer-reviewed journal articles on the Middle East and is a member of the International Studies Association (ISA) and the German Middle East Studies Association for Contemporary Research and Documentation (DAVO). His research is focused on the international relations of the Middle East and the role of religion in Middle Eastern politics. Felsch recently published the book Lebanon and the Arab Uprisings: In the Eye of the Hurricane (Routledge, 2016) which he co-edited with Martin Wählisch. The volume analyses the various impacts of the Arab Uprisings on Lebanon’s stability, economy, and foreign relations.

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01/01/18

Regionalism in the Middle East: An impossible dream?

One of the major factors inhibiting regionalisation in the Middle East is the absence of political will to cooperate on the part of leaders. While the attributes of the leaders of the major regional powers, namely Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, are undoubtedly important in determining their propensity to support regionalisation, there are even more important systemic factors that cause the most enlightened individual to eschew regional integration. A legitimacy crisis plagues most countries in the region, turning them inward rather than towards the region. The civil wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen have become conflict traps that have drawn in all the major regional powers, pitting them against each other and away from a stance of cooperation. And rather than having a stabilizing effect on the Middle East, the United States and Russia have reinforced the region’s fault lines, pushing it further away from integration. While mitigating these dynamics does not ensure success in sparking regionalisation, it improves the probability that a window to a better future will ultimately open.

Ross Harrison is on the faculties of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the University of Pittsburgh, and is a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. Harrison is the author of Strategic Thinking in 3D: A Guide for National Security, Foreign Policy and Business Professionals, which is a required text at the National War College in Washington, D.C., and the co-editor of From Chaos to Cooperation: Toward Regional Order in the Middle East.

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01/01/18

Chasing the Jinn: Countering Hezbollah with lawfare

This article analyses how Hezbollah’s gradually growing role in the Syrian conflict has been paralleled by its adversaries’ decision to wage lawfare against this pivotal player supporting the Al-Assad regime, in order to raise the political cost for Hezbollah’s military engagement in Syria. Compared to earlier steps taken by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in 2013, the resolutions adopted in 2016 by three Arab and Islamic regional organisations targeting the militant group are more assertive and potentially effective, in particular if considered in combination with complementary steps such as the US HIFPA (Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act) and a media campaign aimed at undermining Hezbollah’s reputation. However, it remains debatable to what extent the terrorist designation will effectively constrain Hezbollah’s financial and operational capabilities, let alone motivate its retreat from the Syrian war zone.

Wolfgang Mühlberger is a Senior Research Fellow at FIIA (The Finnish Institute of International Affairs) where he conducts research on the MENA region and Euro-Mediterranean relations. His current work evolves around post-Arab Spring transitions in Libya and Syria, with a focus on the role of external players. He also is interested in aspects of Arab statehood and is preparing a publication as co-editor on Dis_Order in the MENA region, from the viewpoint of narratives.

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01/01/18

The Responsibility to Protect, the UN Security Council and the Arab Spring

The optimism that initially surrounded the “Arab Spring” has largely dissipated; the egregious violence in Syria, the post-intervention collapse in Libya, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the return of authoritarianism throughout the region have negated all the earlier talk of imminent “progress”. These events have also cast a shadow over the purported efficacy of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norm as originally recognised by the UN in 2005. Though often effusively heralded as both transformative and irresistible, the concept has proved unable to dissuade governments from committing atrocities against their own people, and impotent in the face of the Security Council’s geopolitical machinations.

Aidan Hehir is a Reader in International Relations at the University of Westminster. He gained his PhD in 2005 and has previously worked at the University of Limerick and the University of Sheffield. His research interests include the humanitarian intervention, statebuilding in Kosovo, and the laws governing the use of force. He is co-convenor of the BISA Working Group on the Responsibility to Protect, and has just finished working on an ESRC-funded three-year project on “The Responsibility to Protect and Liberal Norms”.

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01/01/18

The Arab League: Between ambitions and reality

The article examines the League of Arab States’ (Arab League, AL) institutional shortcomings, the domestic constraints posed by member states, the dominance of international intervention, both American and Russian, and a lack of trust amongst the members, all of which have impeded and undermined the AL. While the AL was intended to serve as a mediator to resolve bilateral conflicts within the region, historically there has been a disconnect between the lofty visions of AL officials and the region’s realpolitik. In the present the AL has been unable to serve in a constructive conflict management role, partly due to its origins in an era of nation states, whereas the 21st century has witnessed the rise of non-state actors.

Ibrahim Al-Marashi is Associate Professor of Middle East history at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM). He obtained his doctorate in Modern History at University of Oxford, completing a thesis on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. His research focuses on 20th century Iraqi history, particularly regime resilience, civil-military relations, and state-sponsored violence during the Ba’athist-era from 1968 to 2003. He has researched the formation of the post-Baathist Iraqi state and the evolution of ISIS since its earliest incarnations during the Iraqi insurgency in 2003. His publications include Iraq’s Armed Forces: An Analytical History (Routledge, 2008), The Modern History of Iraq (Westview 2016), and A Concise History of the Middle East (Westview, forthcoming 2018).

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01/01/18

A reassessment of the European Neighbourhood Policy: Extending the limits of regional conceptualisation and approach

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was originally conceived in 2004 to foster stability, security and prosperity in Europe’s surrounding regions. This article argues that the ENP has been superseded by facts on the ground, including poverty, conflict, and climate change, which will continue to threaten EU internal and neighbourhood interests. It promotes clarity on a European interest and allied international interests which can better effect positive change, especially in human security, gender equality and prosperity

Robert Mason is Associate Professor and Director of the Middle East Studies Center at The American University in Cairo. His most recent publication is Reassessing Order and Disorder in the Middle East: Regional Imbalance or Disintegration? (Rowman and Littlefield, 2017).

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