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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

Saudi Arabian regional policy

The article examines how Saudi regional policy has been profoundly shaken under King Salman and his son Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman into an assertive one, stemming from the radical shift to a vertical and repressive domestic policy. It stresses how much the generational gap between both leaders, who do not share the same world vision, has created confusion and downgraded the Saudi leadership externally. The article also emphasises how Mohammed bin Salman is amending Saudi regional policy, as marked by the Covid-19 pandemic moment and the election of President Biden. This resolute, changing regional policy may help to restore Saudi Arabia’s regional voice due to its central positioning.

Fatiha Dazi-Héni is a researcher in Political science on Arab monarchies at IRSEM in Paris and Associated professor on Contemporary History in the Arabian Peninsula at the Political Institute of Lille. Her publications include Monarchie et Sociétés d’Arabie. Le temps des confrontations. (Presses de Sciences PO, 2006 and L’Arabie Saoudite en 100 questions, edited 3 times (Editions Tallendier: 2017, and Texto : 2018 and 2020). She has also published many articles on GCC states and societies, on sub-regional dynamics.

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01/07/21

The Al-Ula rapprochement: What is next?

The rift within the Gulf Cooperation Council has caused significant consequences among its member states, both in the region and globally. When simmering differences surfaced in 2017, borders were closed, contacts severed, and the future of the GCC seemed in doubt. Now, first steps have been taken to re-establish relations, build back trust and engage in an honest rapprochement. A significant transition was also seen in the policies of the regional states during the transition from the Trump administration to the Biden administration. This article attempts to identify the future trajectories for the GCC and whether it will continue to function according to the pre-crisis status quo.

Mahjoob Zweiri is Director of the Gulf Studies Center and Associate Professor in Contemporary Politics of Iran and the Gulf at Qatar University. From March 2003 to December 2006, he was a research fellow and then director of the Centre for Iranian Studies in the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Durham University. Dr. Zweiri has more than 70 publications in the areas of Iran and Contemporary Middle East History and Politics. In addition to Arabic, Dr Zweiri is fluent in Farsi and English.

Thomas Bonnie James is a PhD candidate in Gulf Studies in the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University.

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01/07/21

The 2017-2021 Gulf rift: Strategic implications and the way forward

For more than three years, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imposed an economic blockade and diplomatic sanctions on Qatar. In January 2021 the Emir of Qatar attended a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit and signed a reconciliation agreement in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia. I argue that this agreement should be seen more as a truce and less as a permanent peace. The roots of the rift have yet to be adequately addressed.

Gawdat Bahgat is a professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. He is the author of 12 books on the Middle East. The opinions expressed in this piece are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the U.S. government or the policies of the Department of Defense.

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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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