Courtney Freer, research officer at LSE Middle East Centre:
One aspect of all of the responses that I find interesting is the degree to which they are focused on the effect of regional change on domestic political environments. Philbrick Yadav rightly highlights a key change in the Islamist landscape from a decade ago when Islamist groups were far more organized and constrained primarily by domestic policies, while today they are a major part of transregional rivalries.
As a result of the importance of these transregional rivalries, Mandaville and Cavatorta downplay the importance of ideology, largely since regional blocs today contain countries that disagree on a variety of issues. I would contend that ideology has actually been pushed even by members of what Shehata dubs the counter-revolution, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates backing an agenda of so-called “moderate Islam” for expressly political reasons and privileging stemming the tide of Islamist mobilization ahead of other issues on which they may agree with new partners. Nonetheless, in my original contribution, I downplayed too much the role of regional affairs in determining the fate of Islamists, and so am fortunate that other members of the roundtable covered this aspect. Shehata’s response balances the focus on the regional and domestic, as he highlights that conditions of domestic political instability provide opportunities for meddling in domestic political affairs and cites a “counter-revolution” being led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as a continuation of policies begun in 2011.
As far as the potential for cross-ideological cooperation in the domestic sphere, which I cite in my first-round response, it is difficult to know how sustainable this could be. Often these coalitions tend to be short-lived for two reasons: first, they are provoked by conditions created by regimes which can be swiftly changed; and second, these two ideological sides are very publicly coming in conflict on the international stage. The events of the so-called Arab Spring demonstrated the fragility of cross-ideological alliances and the fundamental lack of trust between partners in these instances. Members of such coalitions will require compromise and foresight to last, yet also remain dependent on regime politics and to a certain extent on regional policies as well.