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





Gulf politics: the energy factor

The implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in January 2016 is considered a major strategic and economic turning point. For years global powers had sought to contain Iran economically and diplomatically to force it to be more transparent regarding its nuclear programme. Iran has categorically denied any interest in nuclear weapons. The nuclear deal has opened the door for close cooperation and the re-integration of Iran in the regional and global systems. This essay examines Iran’s massive energy potentials and how these hydrocarbon resources can enhance europe’s energy security. The analysis suggests that such cooperation would reduce europe’s over-dependency on Russia and would be a win-win proposition to all parties.

Dr. Gawdat Bahgat is Professor of National Security Affairs at the National Defense University’s Near east South Asia Center for Strategic Study in Washington, DC. He is an egyptian-born specialist in Middle eastern policy, particularly egypt, Iran, and the Gulf region. His areas of expertise include energy security, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, counter-terrorism, Arab-Israeli conflict, North Africa, and American foreign policy in the Middle east.

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The Hajj and the future of Iranian-Saudi diplomatic relations

The annual Hajj ritual was halted once again at the beginning of 2016, with the result that Iranian pilgrims were not able to perform the ceremony this year. In the light of this, the article first examines the real cause of the cancellation of the Hajj after Iran and Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations in January 2016. It then discusses whether the Hajj has the potential to help the two countries restore their diplomatic ties. The research reveals that the main reason for the cancellation of the Hajj was geopolitical rivalry between Tehran and Riyadh. Indeed, the Hajj became politicized once again thanks to the serious rivalry between the two Middle eastern heavyweights, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The cold war that has coloured the two states’ relations did allow negotiations regarding the Hajj pilgrimage, but with no result. However, in the light of historical experience, the article argues that due to the religious, economic and political pressures and necessities that Saudi Arabia and Iran are likely to face in the near future, they have no choice but to restore diplomatic ties as well as open the Hajj ceremony once again to Iranians. Meanwhile, other countries like the United States consider that regional peace and stability can only result from compromise and participation between Tehran and Riyadh, so they support the likely rapprochement between the two states.

Reza Ekhtiari Amiri is Assistant Professor at the University of Mazandaran in Iran and a visiting research fellow at Iran’s Parliament Research Center. He is also a research fellow at the Center for Scientific Research and Middle east Strategic Studies. He is the author of Iran and Saudi Arabia: From economic to Security Cooperation (1991-2001) and co-editor of the book Political and Social Affairs of Iran in New Era.

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Post-JCPoA international relations: The US, Russia and the Gulf

Both the U.S. and Russian Gulf policies must be viewed in the context of broader geostrategic goals. The main U.S. objective is to deescalate local crises and conflicts, combat terrorism, prevent nuclear proliferation and – in the Gulf Region – preserve the balance of power between Riyadh and Tehran. Russia’s Gulf policy is part of its strategy to increase its influence in the Middle east. Moscow seeks to strengthen its position visà-vis Washington throughout the entire region and thus to compensate at least in part for the loss of power it suffered as a result of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It exploits the conflict between Tehran and Riyadh in order to gain additional influence and exert pressure on local actors.

Reinhard Meier-Walser is Head of the Academy for Politics and Current Affairs of the Hanns Seidel Foundation in Munich, editor-in-chief of the bimonthly magazine Politische Studien (“Political Studies”), and Honorary Professor of International Relations at the University of Regensburg. His current research centers on strategies for de-escalating international conflict.

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Smaller GCC states’ foreign policy and regional role

Two main topics make the small Gulf states ambivalent about Iran’s future consolidation as the main regional power in the Gulf. Firstly, Iran’s growing political and military interventionist influence in key Middle eastern states, such as Iraq and Syria, added to its unconventional military know-how and willingness to modernise its regular army and conventional military equipment are of major concern. Secondly, Iran’s full economic reintegration is in contrast mainly seen as a good opportunity to significantly develop trading and commercial exchanges. In this field, most of smaller Gulf states will find themselves in an uncomfortable situation with the KSA, which is the smaller country poised to lose the most from Iran’s full economic reintegration.

Fatiha Dazi-Héni (Dr.) is a researcher on Arab Gulf Monarchies at the Institute for Strategic Research IRSeM in Paris and Associate Professor focusing on the Arab World at the Institute of Political Science in Lille. She has published many articles on the GCC states and sub-regional dynamics, particularly regarding Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (mainly in French).

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Iran’s regional policy. Decision-making process, goals, areas of cooperation

With regards to Iran’s foreign policy, a striking mismatch is at hand between Iran’s self-perception and how it is seen by its neighbours. Apart from obvious divergent regional interests between Iran and other regional actors, reasons for this mismatch can be found in the lack of understanding of Iran’s foreign policy decision-making process as well as inaccurate views of the Islamic Republic’s security doctrine. Therefore, it is the aim of this essay to, first, shed light on the key actors and institutions shaping Iranian foreign policy. Secondly, the key goals and aims of the Islamic Republic in the Middle east will be outlined in order to, thirdly, recommend potential areas of cooperation between Iran and Europe.

Adnan Tabatabai is the co-founder and CeO of the Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient (CARPO) based in Bonn. As an expert on Iranian affairs he is consulted by european Union institutions, German Federal Ministries and Members of Parliament, as well as by political foundations and think tanks. Tabatabai is assigned lecturer at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf.

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Lost in Iranoia: Saudi Arabia’s struggle for regional hegemony in times of crisis

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been seeking regional supremacy due to political and ideological reasons since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Since 2011, these bilateral tensions have intensified with destabilising effects in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy is influenced by ‘Iranoia’, which aims to counter the Iranian influence within the Arab region and to preserve the Saudi standing as a political and economic regional power as well as a religious role model. However, since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), Saudi Arabia has felt further betrayed by traditional allies such as the United States. The new Saudi leadership is concerned about the re-integration of Iran into the international community and thus has intensified its anti-Iran and anti-Shiite propaganda and policy in recent years. The article analyses the main foreign policy interests of Saudi Arabia, the anti-Iran strategy of the new leadership under King Salman, and the negative outcomes of this policy, such as sectarian divide and the detrimental consequences for regional stability.

Sebastian Sons is a Ph.D. candidate at the Humboldt University of Berlin and an Associate Fellow at the Near east and North Africa Research Program of the German Council of Foreign Relations in Berlin. Previously, he worked as Head of Research Unit at the German Orient-Institute. His fields of interests are Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy, societal change and economic developments.

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ORIENT III 2016: 5 years into the Arab Uprisings – Reforms and Transformations

Mohammed A. Bamyeh
The Arab Spring: Five years later

Larbi Sadiki
Arab ‘Parliamentarisation’ in the Arab Spring context: The normative vs. the practical

Max Hänska
Social media and the Arab Spring: How communication technology shapes socio-political change

Anders C. Härdig
MENA civil society post-Arab Spring

Edward Webb
Five years later: Directions in censorship and media freedom

Ilyas Saliba
Change or Charade? Morocco’s constitutional reform process 2011

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ORIENT II 2016: Salafism in the Near and Middle East

Farid Hafez
Salafism: A historical approach

Roel Meijer
Salafism and the challenge of modern politics

Khalil Al-Anani
Political Salafism in Egypt

Ashraf El Sherif
Revolutionary Islamists and the politics of wait and desperation in Egypt

Joas Wagemakers
Salafi scholarly views on gender-mixing (ikhtilāṭ) in Saudi Arabia

Anouar Boukhars
The politics of North African Salafism

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ORIENT I 2016: The regional refugee crisis in the Middle East – causes, current challenges and perspectives

Luigi Achilli
Back to Syria? Conflicting patterns of mobility among Syrian refugees in Jordan

Rabih Shibli
Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Mona Christophersen
Jordan and the Syrian refugees

Maysa Ayoub
The situation of the Syrian refugees in Egypt

Kılıç Buǧra Kanat
Turkey’s Syrian refugees

Ömer Karasapan
Syria’s displaced women and girls

AKM Ahsan Ullah
Refugee mobility: causes and perspective in the Middle East

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ORIENT IV 2015: Regional powers and conflict in the Middle East

Julien Barnes-Dacey
Proxy wars: the regional struggle for Syria and Iraq

Mohammed Ayoob
Elucidating conflict structures in the Middle East

Robert Mason
US, EU and Russian Middle East policy

Adam Baron
Yemen: a proxy war?

Wolfgang Pusztai
Libya: another conflict without solution?

Curtis R. Ryan
Jordan in the crossfire of Middle East conflicts

Rayan Haddad
Shifting from consensus on Iraq to agonistic struggle over Syria

Florence Gaub
Middle Eastern multipolarity in movement

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ORIENT III 2015: Political developments in Israel and Palestine

Margret Johannsen
Seeking recognition: Palestinian state-building beyond Oslo

Ilan Pappé
The search for a new paradigm: Past and present critical trends in Israeli historiography

Omar Shaban
From exchange of rockets to exchange of messages: Analysing the relations between Hamas and Israel

Peter Lintl
Understanding coalition formation in Israel: Party positions and cleavages in light of the 2015 election

Michael Borchard
Waking up with Bibi: How stable is the Israeli government?

Benedetta Berti
The evolving role of Hamas: Recasting labels?

Gerald M. Steinberg
Conflict or conflict management in Israeli-Palestinian relations?

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ORIENT II 2015: Political developments in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia

Frédéric Volpi
The Arab Uprisings and the political trajectories of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia

Alexander Peter Martin
Agents of change: Civil society in post-revolutionary Tunisia

Francesco Cavatorta and Marie-Eve Desrosiers
State-society relations in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia

Abdeslam Maghraoui
The stabilising effect of turbulence in authoritarian regimes
How the Moroccan monarchy ducked the Arab Spring

Michael Bauer
Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco: Precarious stabilisation under different circumstances

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