[The Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) brings you the twelfth in a series of “Peer-Reviewed Article Reviews” in which we present a collection of journals and their articles concerned with the Middle East and Arab world. This series will be published seasonally. Each issue will comprise one-to-three parts, depending on the number of articles included.]
American Journal of Political Science (Volume 64, Issue 2)
When Do Displaced Persons Return? Postwar Migration among Christians in Mount Lebanon
By: Kara Ross Camarena, Nils Hägerdal
Abstract: Under what conditions will forcibly displaced persons return to their original homes after wars end? We draw on theories of labor migration to show that even displaced persons who have positive feelings toward their original location may nevertheless choose to return as regular visitors rather than permanent residents unless the location offers attractive economic opportunities. Furthermore, we argue that violence can create negative emotions not only toward geographic locations of bloodshed but also against its perpetrators. After ethnic wars, the displaced may be unwilling to return to intermixed locations, exacerbating ethnic separation. We study postwar migration among Lebanese Christians displaced during the 1980s and identify economic conditions using exogenous price shocks for olive oil, a major local export. Among policy implications for economic reconstruction and transitional justice, our most important insight is that sometimes we should help the displaced in their new location rather than induce permanent return to their old homes.
American Political Science Review (Volume 114, Issue 2)
Social Isolation and Repertoires of Resistance
By: EMILY KALAH GADE
Abstract: Checkpoints in the West Bank’s Hebron Governorate represent Israel’s ever-present power over Palestinian civilians. Drawing on 71 interviews conducted during the Intifada of Individuals (2015), this article inductively builds theory about the relationship between social isolation and different modalities of resistance. Rather than forcing civilians to comply with the state, checkpoint apparatus instead change the nature and texture of resistance. I suggest that checkpoints structure social connections for civilians on the ground. Checkpoint apparatus which inhibit social connection engender a feeling of hopelessness and foster support for individual, often violent, resistance. Where checkpoints isolate a community as a whole but did not disrupt within-community social connections, citizens maintain hope for the possibility of change, which facilitates a preference for collective resistance. This article identifies troubling consequences checkpoints have on civilians and highlights how oppressive state power can limit some modalities of resistance only to engender support for others.
Why Arms Control Is So Rare
By: ANDREW J. COE, JANE VAYNMAN
Abstract: Arming is puzzling for the same reason war is: it produces outcomes that could instead be realized through negotiation, without the costly diversion of resources arming entails. Despite this, arms control is exceedingly rare historically, so that arming is ubiquitous and its costs to humanity are large. We develop and test a theory that explains why arming is so common and its control so rare. The main impediment to arms control is the need for monitoring that renders a state’s arming transparent enough to assure its compliance but not so much as to threaten its security. We present evidence that this trade-off has undermined arms control in three diverse contexts: Iraq’s weapons programs after the Gulf War, great power competition in arms in the interwar period, and superpower military rivalry during the Cold War. These arms races account for almost 40% of all global arming in the past two centuries.
From Islamists to Muslim Democrats: The Case of Tunisia’s Ennahda
By: SHARAN GREWAL
Abstract: What drives some Islamists to become “Muslim Democrats,” downplaying religion and accepting secular democracy? This article hypothesizes that one channel of ideological change is migration to secular democracies. Drawing on an ideal point analysis of parliamentary votes from the Tunisian Islamist movement Ennahda, I find that MPs who had lived in secular democracies held more liberal voting records than their counterparts who had lived only in Tunisia. In particular, they were more likely to defend freedom of conscience and to vote against enshrining Islamic law in the constitution. Interviews with several of these MPs demonstrate that they recognize a causal effect of their experiences abroad on their ideologies, and provide support for three distinct mechanisms by which this effect may have occurred: socialization, intergroup contact, and political learning.
Critical Studies on Terrorism (Volume 13, Issue 2)
Hegemonic masculinity and terrorism: the case of the PKK and Abdullah Öcalan
By: H. Bahadır Türk
Abstract: Recent years have seen an increase in the study of the relationship between gender and terrorism. This article analyzes the relationship between hegemonic masculinity and terrorism through the case of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan or PKK) and its leader Abdullah Öcalan. Using the method of narrative analysis, the study first examines the concept of hegemonic masculinity. The study attempts to make sense of how the concept of hegemonic masculinity operates within the PKK. To achieve this goal, the study demonstrates the major functions of hegemonic masculinity within terrorist organisations. Accordingly, it is argued that the perspective of masculinity studies can be used to gain a better and highly instructive understanding of political violence and terrorism.
Canada, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the flexibility of terror identities
By: Jeffrey Monaghan, Madalena Santos
Abstract: Security governance practices are contingent on the imagination of future threats. The “war on terror” has produced a very narrow imagination of threats, almost singularly focused on suspect communities that are Arab, Muslim, or perceived to be Middle Eastern. Discussing how immigration practices in Canada have been influenced by counter-terrorism trends, we argue that “terror identities” are mutable and highly racialised imaginaries that cast indelible marks of suspicion on subjects who are deemed as security threats. Examining the case of a journalist deemed inadmissible to Canada because of her “membership” in the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), we argue that terror identities impose authoritative control over the status and lived experiences of individuals who are cast through these racialised labelling practices. Focussing on the shifting characterisation of the PLO by Canadian officials as both political interlocutor and terrorist organisation, our purpose is to highlight how racialised imaginations of terror identities enact punitive and discriminatory practices.
Defence and Peace Economics (Volume 31, Issues 2 & 3)
‘Pay for It Heavily’: Does U.S. Support for Israel Lead to Anti-American Terrorism?
By: Daniel Meierrieks, Thomas Gries
Abstract: After the 9/11 attacks in particular, there has been a controversial discussion in the academic and public arena on whether the United States’ close relationship with Israel has made it a likelier target of transnational terrorism. Indeed, foreign terrorist organizations with various ideological profiles have repeatedly justified attacks against U.S. interests as punishment for the (purported) special relationship between the United States and Israel. We analyze the effect of various measures of U.S. support for Israel (e.g. U.S. military assistance to Israel) on anti-American terrorism for the period 1970–2014. Using both time-series and panel approaches, we do not find that more U.S. support for Israel systematically translates into more anti-American terrorism. Rather, other systemic (e.g. U.S. dominance in the international system) and local conditions (e.g. local state failure) are found to predict the patterns of anti-American terrorism. However, as a qualification to these general findings, we also provide some (preliminary) evidence that for terrorism originating from the Middle East and Northern Africa a favorable U.S. policy stance towards Israel may indeed contribute to more anti-American terrorism.
Tourism, Instability and Regional Interdependency: Evidence from the Eastern-Mediterranean
By: Antonis L. Theocharous, Anastasios Zopiatis, Neophytos Lambertides, Christos S. Savva, Yoel Mansfeld
Abstract: Over the last three decades, we have widely witnessed the peculiar relationship between tourism and incidents of political instability. Responding to the urgent call for additional empirical inquiries, we conducted an econometric study, using the VAR-EGARCH-DCC model, on the regional tourism interdependency (volatility) between four Eastern Mediterranean countries, namely Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Israel. Monthly arrival data from 1987 to 2012, along with a series of political instability variables collected from machine-coded databases, were utilized to model effects and to add empirical substance to contemporary and emerging theories. Our findings are relevant to industry stakeholders in that they explore tourism demand and volatilities. The findings indicate a positive effect on tourism demand in the presence of verbal or material cooperation between a destination country and others. In contrast, when investigating verbal conflict between a destination country and others, our findings reveal a negative impact on tourist arrivals and an increase in volatility in the destination country. Finally, in our investigation of incidents of material conflict, we saw a strong negative impact on tourist arrivals in all four destinations, accompanied by a significant increase in volatility.
An analysis of the public–private wage differential in the Palestinian labour market
By: Sami H. Miaari
Abstract: This paper measures and analyzes the dynamics of the public–private wage differential in the West Bank and Gaza for the period before and during the ‘second Intifada’ using data from the Palestinian Labour Force Survey (PLFS) of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). Because the distribution of workers’ individual characteristics, such as skills, and the ‘returns’ to these characteristics may differ across workers, the wage differential is decomposed into two components: an ‘endowment’ effect and a ‘returns’ effect. The results show that in the pre-Intifada period, the wage gap between the public and private sectors narrowed in both the West Bank and Gaza. However, a sharp increase is seen after the outbreak of the Intifada. Moreover, most of this increase comes from an increase in ‘returns’ to skills composition in the public sector, (unexplained effect), rather than a change in the skills composition of public sector workers, (explained effect). Using recent econometric quantile regression techniques, the analysis of the public–private sector wage gap from 1998 to 2006, at various points along the wage distribution, shows that the wage premium, (penalty), for the public sector varies across the distribution, being higher, (lower), at the lowest end of the wage distribution and decreasing (increasing) along the wage distribution; it becomes negative in the top percentiles.
International Studies Perspectives (Volume 21, Issue 2)
Mapping Orientalist Discourses: Using Waltz with Bashir in the Classroom
By: Beatriz Tomé-Alonso, Lucía Ferreiro Prado
Abstract: While fiction and non-fiction productions can be used as tools to observe, describe, and analyze the “world-out-there,” within these events-issues centered approaches post-positivists posit films themselves as “cultural artifacts” to be analyzed. This paper proposes a critical analysis of Waltz with Bashir (2008) to be conducted with students in the classroom. This acclaimed animated film by Israeli writer and director Ari Folman depicting the 1982 Lebanon War is a non-obvious but germane example of Said’s “Orientalism.” After explaining post-structuralism and post-orientalist stances on subjectivity, power relations, and the political consequences of the narratives we create, we analyze the film by applying an orientalist grid to Waltz with Bashir and raising qualitative questions to foster the student’s criticality. We conclude by examining student’s reactions to the film and their understanding of “Orientalism.”
Journal of Peace Research (Volume 57, Issues 2 & 3)
The quality of terrorist violence: Explaining the logic of terrorist target choice
By: Sara MT Polo
Abstract: Existing research on terrorism as a strategy has largely neglected the apparent differences in what groups target. Whereas some organizations primarily target undefended civilians, others attack mainly official and hard targets. I develop an explanation of terrorist groups’ relative target preferences based on how a group’s ties to its constituency and specific government repressive strategies either constrain or incentivize terrorist attacks against soft civilian vs. hard/official targets. Specific sources of support and the degree of out-group antagonism in their constituency shape terrorist groups’ primary targeting strategy. While groups with transnational support are generally more likely to target primarily undefended civilians, not all groups with local support are restrained. Groups with low out-group antagonism and local civilian support incur high political costs for targeting civilians and focus primarily on official targets. Instead, groups with domestic support but high out-group antagonism have mixed incentives. When facing indiscriminate government repression these groups become more likely to target primarily undefended civilians, because they can justify such a response to their audience, direct attacks against out-group civilians, and radicalize local constituents. Indiscriminate repression, however, does not change the targeting strategy of groups who face high political costs for attacking civilians. I examine the observable implications of the theory in a comparative analysis of terrorist organizations (1995–2007) as well as an over-time analysis of repression and targeting in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict (1987–2004), and find strong support for the theoretical argument.
Police integration and support for anti-government violence in divided societies: Evidence from Iraq
By: Matthew Nanes
Abstract: How does the demographic makeup of the police affect violent conflict in divided societies? I argue that following a shift in relative group power, integrating the police rank-and-file addresses incentives to rebel by solving a commitment problem between the powerful state and a weaker group. I test this argument using a survey experiment of 800 Baghdad residents. Providing Sunni (minority) respondents with an informational prime that the police are integrated reduces support for anti-government violence. Consistent with the commitment mechanism, Sunnis, but not Shias, who receive the prime are less fearful of future repression by the government. The key mechanism is the way in which officers are distributed. It is more difficult for the state to renege on inclusion when minority officers serve in mixed units rather than being isolated in minority-only units. Patrol-level heterogeneity makes it difficult for the government to withhold equipment or information from officers on the basis of group identity, and makes the state reliant on officers from all groups to serve all parts of the country. Among survey respondents in Baghdad, I find that those who perceive the police as mixed between Sunnis and Shias, but not those who perceive officers to be primarily members of their own sect, are less expectant that the government will try to harm them. This article contributes to research on institutions in divided societies by identifying a form of inclusion which is self-enforcing, improving long-term prospects for peace by resolving underlying insecurities in the shadow of historical conflict.
The logic of transnational outbidding: Pledging allegiance and the escalation of violence
By: Megan Farrell
Abstract: The phenomenon of outbidding, in which terrorist groups escalate their attacks in response to competition from other groups, has long been studied in a domestic terrorism context. If groups exist in the same state, they may compete with one another for the same resources from civilians of that state. This article argues this outbidding logic also exists in a transnational context. Leveraging a sample of Salafi-jihadist groups that are in competition for resources based on shared ideology, this article explores the full effects of this competition on the quantity and severity of groups’ attacks. Building on this outbidding logic as a theoretical lens, Salafi-jihadist groups adjust their attack profiles in response to competition from other groups following this same ideology. This effect is particularly evident among groups that pledge allegiance to al-Qaeda or ISIS. Once pledged, affiliates must now compete with other affiliates for the additional potential resources and recruits who follow the ‘brand’ of al-Qaeda or ISIS. Consistent with this theory, after examining the attacks of all Salafi-jihadist groups from 2001 to 2014, this article finds increased competition among groups results in more attacks and a selection of more severe targets and types of attacks. Affiliate groups respond to competition to the greatest degree.
Middle East Critique (Volume 29, Issue 2)
Singing a New Future: Egypt’s Choir Project
By: Caroline Seymour-jorn
Abstract: This paper explores the creative production of Egypt’s Choir project, a collaborative musical and theatrical group that has provided a context for youth creative, social and political expression since 2010. Drawing upon Richard Bauman’s (1984) multifaceted framework for thinking about emerging art forms, I detail the history and socio-political context of the Choir project’s activities during the period from 2011 until 2018, and engage in close literary analysis of some of its lyrical productions. Since the Choir has emerged and developed in a charged political environment, I take into account the important ways in which it has provided a context for political expression. However, I argue that detailed literary and social analysis of its creative process and production suggests that while the Project can be considered a mode of social and political expression or even resistance, it is also a profoundly creative phenomenon that produces lyrical and dramatic creations, which must be considered in their own right and which also must be understood as powerful modes of personal and even existential expression. I suggest that paying close attention to aesthetic experimentation and style adds an important dimension to our understanding of emerging art forms and the complex set of ideas that they express. Close analysis of the nature of innovative creativity also may help to explain why these forms have been so popular among audiences and the general public, even in the midst of political chaos and uncertainty about the future.
We Are All Wasatiyyun: The Shifting Sands of Center Positioning in Egypt’s Early Post-Revolutionary Party Politics
By: Hendrik Kraetzschmar, Barbara Zollner
Abstract: This article focuses on a common rhetorical referent in Egyptian public imagery and parlance–that of wasat (center) and its derivatives, wasati/wasatiyya (centrist/centrism)–and discusses how it has been appropriated and molded in the sphere of party politics. Inductive in approach, it examines the rhetorical appropriations of the center ground by party officials, revealing not only its popularity as a marker of (ideological) self-positioning but its malleability and contextuality. The article concludes that in Egyptian party politics the center positioning of parties cannot be gauged exclusively from the study of party manifestos and/or expert surveys, but ought to include contextual analysis of how this and other ideological markers are appropriated and given meaning in elite rhetoric.
The Cause of the Lebanese Disappeared in Syria: Human Rights, Social Movements and Politics in Lebanon
By: Roschanack Shaery-Yazdi
Abstract: In 1989 SOLIDE, a grass root movement from within the right wing Christian opposition to the Syrian military security emerged in order to campaign for the recovery of the disappeared. Drawing on oral history, interviews, fieldwork at SOLIDE’s protest tent in downtown Beirut, and documentary analysis, I trace the genealogy and politics of SOLIDE’s activism from the late 1980s to the present, showing that SOLIDE’s activism underwent profound changes in response to Lebanese political developments. Beginning as an avowedly political campaign, in the aftermath of the war it turned into a human rights-focused NGO, a shift that was only possible because of an alliance with a group of the mothers of the disappeared; gender stereotyping enabled SOLIDE to present itself as fundamentally apolitical. With the establishment of a protest tent in downtown Beirut in 2005, in the period after the Syrian withdrawal until the end of its sit-in in 2015, SOLIDE took on the characteristics of a social movement. Analysis of the various phases of activism demonstrates that in Lebanon the boundaries between humanitarianism, often of religious inspiration, and human rights activism, supposedly secular, are porous, as too the boundary between party-political activism and civil society.
The Empire Strikes Back: Propagating AKP’s Ottoman Empire Narrative on Turkish Television
By: Senem B. ÇEvik
Abstract: Turkish drama series aired on state network TRT (Turkish Radio and Television) connect Ottoman history with contemporary events in Turkey and have been instrumental agents in the government’s attempts to shape the political reality in accordance with its political agenda. This article examines the narrative cultivated by the popular historical drama Payitaht: Abdülhamid (2017) by using the dramatistic process framework. In doing so, it analyzes the overlapping narrative of historical and contemporary in-groups and out-groups. Payitaht: Abdülhamid recreates the current political divides on screen in Turkey by assigning guilt and redeemer statuses to certain characters in the drama series and by providing a longitudinal perspective of Turkish history. Payitaht: Abdülhamid is, therefore, a political tool used by the ruling AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi [Justice and Development Party]) government to cultivate and propagate a worldview that connects the Ottoman past to contemporary politics. Furthermore, Payitaht: Abdülhamid feeds the existent divisions within Turkey by reinforcing the AKP’s political discourse on key domestic and foreign policy issues and helps to push its agenda to the fore.
Intifada Cows and Israeli National Security: Reanimating Civil Resistance in the Wanted 18
By: Nadine Sinno
Abstract: Abstract The Wanted 18 narrates the story of a Palestinian town whose residents assert their autonomy by purchasing 18 cows and producing their own milk during the first intifada. In response, the Israeli military declares the cows a ‘threat to the security of Israel’ and hunts down the ‘wanted 18.’ This article provides an analysis of The Wanted 18, focusing on the human-animal interactions. It demonstrates how film directors Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan deploy animal protagonists as a means of exposing anti-Palestinian prejudice, critiquing Israeli occupation and the Palestinian authorities who undermined civil resistance during the first intifada, and elucidating the transformative impact of human-animal companionship and creative resistance in a humorous manner that appeals to a global audience.
Settler Colonialism, Neoliberalism and Cyber Surveillance: The Case of Israel
By: Elia Zureik
Abstract: Abstract Cyber technology gradually is becoming an important dimension of globalisation involving state and non-state actors. The diffusion of cyber technology has occurred in tandem with political and economic transformations resulting from the transition to neoliberalism and its associated features of privatisation and deregulation. This process of transformation is not uniform across the globe. The article analyzes how Israel’s role in the Middle East and beyond relies heavily on its private high-tech sector to recruit private companies to carry out the colonial functions of its military rule over the Palestinians, and in reshaping its relationship with some of the Arab Gulf states in their attempts to confront Iran. While at the economic level, private securitization is reaping tremendous profits, the Israeli state remains in control of the core military and political aspects of contracting out and privatising such services. However, with weak international oversight for the deployment of surveillance technology, privatisation is wreaking havoc by disrupting democratic norms and threatening civil society.
Middle East Quarterly (Volume 27, Issue 2)
Israel and the Great Powers: The Unsung Cold War Role
By: Shammai Siskind
Abstract: Not Availabe
Israel and the Great Powers: The View from Beijing
By: Wang Jin
Abstract: Not Available
Middle East Report (Issue 294)
Reimagining US Engagement with a Turbulent Middle East
By: Waleed Hazbun
Abstract: Not Available
The Oil for Security Myth and Middle East Insecurity
By: Jacob Mundy
Abstract: Not Available
Six Steps to Reform US Agricultural Policy in the Arab Region
By: Max Ajl
Abstract: Not Available
The Tragedies and Dilemmas of US Intervention in Northeast Syria
By: Sean Lee
Abstract: Not Available
The Enduring Lessons of the Iraq Sanctions
By: Joy Gordon
Abstract: Not Available
Consequences of US Financial Warfare in the Middle East
By: Hicham Safieddine
Abstract: Not Available
The Muslim Ban and Trump’s War on Immigration
By: Louise Cainkar
Abstract: Not Available
Looking Beyond the Struggle for Palestinian Statehood
By: Amahl Bishara
Abstract: Not Available
Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies (Volume 17, Issue 1)
Watching television while forcibly displaced: Syrian refugees as participant audiences
By: Katty Alhayek
Abstract: Arabic language: one interview with Chamat, and 25 interviews with members of his audience who friended Chamat on Facebook after GN aired. I demonstrate that Facebook serves as an outlet for interactivity between displaced drama producers and audiences in a way that imitates the dynamics of live theater. While such interactivity is facilitated by technology, the emergence of this interactive relationship is owned to the desires for (re)connection of both drama creators and audiences stemming from the alienation of war, violence and displacement. The particularity of the Syrian war-related topic in GN and its applicability to both the creator of the series as well as to audiences’ lived experiences evoked a significant level of online participation with Chamat. I use the term ‘participant audiences’ to describe the interactive, emotional responses of displaced audiences and their online engagement with TV content that address the disconnections they experience because of conflict and displacement while offering them possibilities for coping with violence, marginalization, and suffering. I show how the entertainment interventions of drama creators help displaced people both to mitigate the traumatic effects of a highly polarizing conflict, and to find a healing space from violent and alienating dominant media discourses.
Twitter, social movements and the logic of connective action: Activism in the 21st century – an introduction
By: Judith E. Rosenbaum, Gwen Bouvier
Abstract: Not Available
Political Science Quarterly (Volume 135, Issue 1)
Obama, Congress, and Audience Costs: Shifting the Blame on the Red Line
By: Sarah Burns, Andrew Stravers
Abstract: Sarah Burns and Andrew Stravers analyze President Barack Obama’s decisions regarding Libya in 2011 and Syria in 2013 and 2014. Using statistical and case study evidence they argue that Obama’s request for congressional support in 2013 was an excuse to avoid action and audience costs rather than a genuine effort to gain congressional support for military action.
Security Studies (Volume 29, Issue 2)
Threat Perceptions and Hidden Profiles in Alliances: Revisiting Suez
By: Aaron Rapport
Abstract: What factors influence whether allies have the same understandings of threats and adversaries? Allies may infer they share each other’s views without verifying if this is so, with harmful consequences. A set of psychological biases can cause policymakers to neglect valuable information held by one or more allies, and instead disproportionately discuss information that every allied contributor to a threat assessment already knows. Psychologists call the unshared assessments “hidden profiles”: an evaluative profile that postulates key features of a problem or threat, hidden in the sense that it is unintentionally withheld from the wider group. This manuscript compares the hidden-profiles model and alternative theories of threat perception using the 1956 Suez Crisis as a case study
Bucking the Trend: The UAE and the Development of Military Capabilities in the Arab World
By: David B. Roberts
Abstract: The literature examining national militaries in the Arab world paints a near-universally bleak picture of their capabilities. Some argue issues rooted in “Arab culture”—so-called essentialist rationales—fatally undermine military effectiveness. Others assert that regime security concerns encourage leaders to actively politicize, coup-proof, and consequently weaken their military. This article challenges these literatures by demonstrating that United Arab Emirates (UAE) forces have repeatedly exemplified unusual levels of military effectiveness and sophistication in hostile campaigns. Using approaches from public policy studies (the Advocacy Coalition Framework), this paper investigates how the UAE military bucked the trend. The 1990 invasion of Kuwait was a “focusing event” that prompted a rethink of existing approaches. Catalyzed, a key “policy entrepreneur,” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, changed approaches to training, unified federal militaries, and tested forces in challenging operations. Such findings undercut lingering essentialist critiques of Arab militaries, provide a potential pathway for other states to emulate, demonstrate that secure and motivated leaders can overcome coup-proofing concerns, and showcase the fruitful pollination of methodologies from public policy to security studies.
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism (Volume 43, Issues 3-5)
Watching ISIS: How Young Adults Engage with Official English-Language ISIS Videos
By: Simon Cottee, Jack Cunliffe
Abstract: Research on jihadist online propaganda (JOP) tends to focus on the production, content, and dissemination of jihadist online messages. Correspondingly, the target of JOP—that is, the audience—has thus far attracted little scholarly attention. This article seeks to redress this neglect by focusing on how audiences respond to jihadist online messaging. It presents the findings of an online pilot survey testing audience responses to clips from English-language Islamic State of Iraq and Syria videos. The survey was beset at every stage by ethical, legal, and practical restrictions, and we discuss how these compromised our results and what this means for those attempting to do research in this highly sensitive area.
Hyperlinked Sympathizers: URLs and the Islamic State
By: Samantha Weirman, Audrey Alexander
Abstract: The self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its supporters take measured steps to ensure the group’s survival in the virtual sphere, despite continued efforts to undercut the organization. This study examines a time-bound sample of 240,158 Uniform Resource Locators shared among English-language ISIS sympathizers on Twitter to better understand how networks in the jihadisphere inoculate radical materials and communities online. A thematic but descriptive analysis of results illustrates the dynamic apparatus of digital communications leveraged by ISIS. Findings suggest a more comprehensive strategy to undercut ISIS’s web of online information requires a similarly networked response by counter extremism practitioners.
The Anashid of the Islamic State: Influence, History, Text, and Sound
By: Jonathan Pieslak, Nelly Lahoud
Abstract: This article examines the rise of the Islamic State (IS) through its anashid (a cappella), analyzing their lyrics and their musical attributes such as sonic elements, pitch, and harmony, among others. It focuses on key themes that define the group’s lyrics and traces the evolution of anashid production and use—an evolution that began with the IS borrowing existing jihad-themed anashid to articulate its message and accompany its video messaging, and led to a far more developed and sophisticated sonic identity in the form of internally produced, group-specific anashid. The IS’s claims to legitimacy as the caliphate are sounded out in the group’s anashid. The recurring appearance of propaganda in the form of anashid and videos builds a strong case for the genre’s significance among the highly complex factors catalyzing an individual’s involvement in carrying out violence, especially among recent attacks within Western countries in the name of IS.
The Swedish Mujahideen: An Exploratory Study of 41 Swedish Foreign Fighters Deceased in Iraq and Syria
By: Amir Rostami, Joakim Sturup, Hernan Mondani, Pia Thevslius, Jerzy Sarnecki, Christofer Edling
Abstract: This study analyzes the demographics, criminality, and network relations of forty-one deceased Swedish foreign fighters. Our results show that most of the deceased Swedish foreign fighters were on average just under 26 years old when they died. Concerning network relations, nineteen out of the forty-one foreign fighters had at least one relationship (next-of-kin or friend) with another deceased foreign fighter. Two thirds were previously suspected of at least one crime. Based on our results, we argue that more attention needs to be given to tertiary and secondary prevention directed toward foreign fighter hubs.
The Impact of the Russian Operation in Syria on Hezbollah’s Operational Art: A Hypothesis
By: Dmitry Dima Adamsky
Abstract: This article hypothesizes about the impact that the Russian combat practice in Syria might have had on the operational art of Hezbollah. Three years of joint fighting with the Russian military has been a major formative experience for the organization. Presumably, this profound and diverse practice is likely to shape Hezbollah’s subsequent military transformation, and to project on its force buildup tendencies, organizational structures and concept of operations. The article argues that Hezbollah’s most profound takeaway from the Russian approach might relate to the notion of the reconnaissance-strike complex and its main segments—intelligence capabilities, command and control, and the element related to the actual use of force (Strike). Although this article aims to facilitate critical discussion about potential adaptations in Hezbollah’s art of strategy and operations, its insights extend beyond the case itself, as they might be indicative of other hybrid nonstate actors in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Terrorism and Political Violence (Volume 32, Issue 3)
Transnational Volunteers: American Foreign Fighters Combating the Islamic State
By: Jason Fritz, Joseph K. Young
Abstract: Why do some people go abroad to engage in other people’s wars? Some studies attempt to discern why individuals choose to fight in distant lands (Malet, 2013) or seek to count how many do so (Hegghammer, 2013). The term foreign fighter has been used nearly exclusively in recent research to describe transnational fighters who join with Islamist organizations, or more generally for individuals fighting with resistance groups against a state. However, little research has been done on the many transnational fighters who travel to fight against resistance groups or against Islamist organizations. Our paper examines these transnational militants who battle against the Islamic State, focusing on Americans who engage in such activities, often referred to as volunteers. Through a review of open-source media, we created a dataset of these individuals, recording demographic data such as each individual’s military experience and stated purpose for becoming a transnational fighter. We show descriptive analyses on these data, and then compare these findings against current scholarship on Islamist transnational fighters. We argue that American volunteers and foreign terrorist fighters are phenomena with difference in degree, but not in kind.
Fratricidal Rebels: Ideological Extremity and Warring Factionalism in Civil Wars
By: Mohammed M. Hafez
Abstract: Why do rebels kill each other? When confronting a formidable regime, rebels often descend into warring factionalism rather than forge unity across their ranks to reap the advantages of cooperation. This article tackles the puzzle of inter-rebel fratricide. It explores power and resource competition arguments, and contrasts them with ideological mechanisms that can drive inter-rebel violence. It argues that ideological extremity is central to rebel fratricide. Rebel organizations with common ideological origins can still compete with each other based on their degree of centrism and extremism, making them ideologically distant. This proximity-distance paradox makes their cohabitation mutually threatening. Ideological challengers from the same family tree are particularly threatening to one’s group cohesion, and if successful, guarantee one’s political marginalization within the broader movement. Extremist groups are likely to respond to these threats with fratricide, while ideologically centrist ones will rely on other strategies such as balancing, outbidding, or defecting to manage their rivalries. Algeria’s civil war, 1992–2002, is a plausibility probe case study that illustrates these causal mechanisms. The study contributes to a burgeoning literature on the role of ideology in armed civil conflicts.
The Language of Radicalization: Female Internet Recruitment to Participation in ISIS Activities
By: Leah Windsor
Abstract: Why do young Muslim women radicalize and undertake high-risk political behaviors, and what factors influence their sociopolitical transformation? The process of radicalization happens because of individual, social, and political dynamics, and is facilitated by the availability of computer-mediated communication. Some young Muslim women keep detailed records of their radicalization process via social media, which we use to understand their sociopolitical transformation. By evaluating their language, we can better understand how their personal, social, and political development unfolds. This paper is a case study examining the words of one young Muslim woman, Aqsa Mahmood, who moved from her home in Scotland to join the ISIS fighters in Syria. Her Tumblr blog provides a linguistic, political, and ideological record of the process of her radicalization. We identify linguistic patterns in her blog posts that can help to develop and reveal a typology of the language of female radicalization.
Deciphering IS’s Narrative and Activities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
By: Abdullah Bin Khaled Al-Saud
Abstract: The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) has never ceased targeting, verbally and physically, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. While it might be easy to know why, it is harder, but more important, to understand how. Since Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the establishment of a wilaya (province) in the land of the two Holy Mosques in November 2014, thirty-two IS-linked terrorist operations took place in Saudi Arabia. Based on primary source materials produced by IS, and an examination of its footprint in Saudi Arabia, this article explains the calculus behind IS’s strategy and objectives in Saudi, shows the main themes of its narrative and how it tailors its strategic communications campaign to the specific historical and social context of the country, and illustrates how it tries to exploit and claim the Saudi religious heritage. The article also examines to what extent IS’s activities and operations reflect its rhetoric and purported strategy, describes the structure it adopts inside the Kingdom, and demonstrates why the momentum of its violent campaign has faltered in recent months.
The Middle East Journal (Volume 74, Issue 1)
The Development and Fragmentation of Kuwait’s al-Jama’a al-Salafiyya: Purity over Pragmatism
By: Zoltan Pall
Abstract: This article argues that the pragmatism displayed by Salafi politicians after the 2011 Arab uprisings might not apply to the larger networks of the movement. Such pragmatism contributed to organizational dysfunction in Kuwait’s largest Salafi group, al-Jama’a al-Salafiyya. The ideological foundations of the group stood at odds with its extensive institutional structures, impeding it from functioning effectively. To explain this, the article draws on a comparison with the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait, whose ideology and disciplinary practices facilitated the establishment of tight-knit, highly efficient organizations.
How and Why Has the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan Changed since 2011?
By: Mohamed Abu Rumman, Neven Bondokji
Abstract: In the wake of the Arab Spring, many younger members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan left the movement, especially after 2015, establishing new political parties due to ideological shifts over the nature of the state and questions of civil liberties. Four factors influenced this transformation: identity crisis, the movement’s organizational rigidity, members’ personal experiences during and after the uprisings, and a growing desire to separate political campaigning from religious outreach.
Tunisia’s Foiled Coup of 1987: The November 8th Group
By: Sharan Grewal
Abstract: In 1987 Tunisian prime minister Zine al-‘Abidine Ben ‘Ali seized power from the ailing president, Habib Bourguiba. Less well-known is that Ben ‘Ali’s coup had preempted another coup plot planned for the following day. This article recounts the story of this latter plot, led by the November 8th Group, a coalition of about 200 individuals in the military, security forces, and the Islamic Tendency Movement (MTI). Drawing on memoirs and interviews, the article explores the plotters’ motivations, post-takeover plans, and ultimate failure. It highlights how Bourguiba’s coup-proofing strategies shaped the plot and its outcome, concluding with a discussion on the foiled coup’s lasting impact on Tunisian civil-military relations.
The Road Not Taken: The Amirav-Husayni Peace Initiative of 1987
By: Lior Lehrs
Abstract: In the summer of 1987, Israeli citizens Moshe Amirav and David Ish Shalom initiated a secret unofficial negotiation channel with Palestinian leaders Faysal al-Husayni and Sari Nusseibeh, with the approval of the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership and the acknowledgment of senior members of Israel’s ruling Likud party. But the attempt to turn the Amirav-Husayni initiative into official negotiations failed. This article analyzes the negotiations, examines the actors involved and the agreement, and discusses the historical importance of the initiative and the reasons for its failure.
Third World Quarterly (Volume 41, Issues 3-5)
The politics of return: exploring the future of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey
By: Ahmet Içduygu, Maissam Nimer
Abstract: Although the Syrian conflict continues, local and global stakeholders have already begun to consider the return of the six million refugees, especially as neither the option of local integration in the countries of first asylum nor that of resettlement to third countries is seen as a realistic possibility. Elaborating on the return debates in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, we relate the politicisation of this question to the growing acceptance of the option of voluntary and involuntary repatriation in the international refugee regime as well as to policies and public opinion. We argue, based on empirical fieldwork, that any debate about the return of Syrian refugees is problematic, since the conditions of safety, voluntariness and sustainability are not fulfilled. Further, returns should not be left entirely to the individual hosting states and actors in the region but should be carried out in collaboration with representative authorities in Syria and the mediation of international organisations upon full resolution of conflict.
Performing through Friday khutbas: re-instrumentalization of religion in the new Turkey
By: Hakan Övünç Ongur
Abstract: This study examines the relationship between religion and politics in current Turkish society, particularly since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) consolidated its power over state institutions and replaced the Kemalist establishment in the early 2010s. It argues that the AKP has re-instrumentalized the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) and used its mosques to enact a performance of nationalism, deviating from a Kemalist, laicist-national identity towards a more encompassing, Ottomanist, religious one. After discussing the unique understanding of laicism in Turkey and the transformation of Diyanet as a state apparatus, content and discourse analyses are used to examine the texts of 1,200 Friday khutbas, weekly prayers that are ordinarily prepared and distributed nationwide by Diyanet. These indicate how citizens perform their nation simply by participating in gatherings, composing the congregation, listening to imams, and being exposed to the reminders of their (re-)identified nationality. The content analysis of Friday khutbas over three distinct periods—1927, 1997–2010, and 2011–2018—illustrates that, as political power shifts over time, the repetition of certain banal reminders used in the khutbas has resulted in different performances of the nation and that, under the rule of the AKP, a new performance has already begun.
Asymmetric alliances and high polarity: evaluating regional security complexes in the Middle East and Horn of Africa
By: Brendon J. Cannon, Federico Donelli
Abstract: The Middle East and the Horn of Africa exist in two distinct regional security complexes (RSCs), groupings of states exhibiting intense security interdependence within a distinct region, but rarely between regions. Recent geopolitical changes and related analyses, however, point to either a subsuming or a joining of the two RSCs, potentially leading to a high degree of uncertainty in two conflict-prone regions. Given the importance of such developments, we question this theory of RSC expansion by offering a concise review of recent security interactions between the two RSCs as well as quantitatively and qualitatively measuring the material power capabilities of relevant states. Borrowing from and contributing to RSC theory, we also identify and analyse concepts and indicators such as threat perception and sub-regional alliances. Our findings demonstrate the Middle East RSC is not expanding to include that of the Horn of Africa. The two remain distinct and under internal consolidation, despite the current discourse. Rather, high polarity in the Middle East coupled with often-congruent interests in Horn of Africa states best explains the current pattern of their interaction, particularly as Middle East states pursue strategies that further their own security interests at the expense of rival states within their own RSC.
New geographies of financial power: global Islamic finance and the Gulf
By: Adam Hanieh
Abstract: A growing body of critical scholarship has examined the recent growth of Islamic finance (IF), unpacking its ethical assertions and highlighting its close affinities with conventional financial instruments. Receiving less attention, however, is the relationship between the global expansion of IF and the emergence of new financial actors and zones of accumulation. This article situates the evolution of global Islamic circuits alongside processes of capital accumulation in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), arguing that contemporary IF is deeply bound up with the internationalisation of capital groups headquartered in the GCC. This is evident in the internationalisation of GCC Islamic banks, which has given the Gulf a powerful foothold in new markets and a variety of sectors that are typically considered ‘non-financial’. Simultaneously, the expansion and geographical diversification of Islamic debt (sukuk) issuance is refashioning the Gulf’s relationships with other global spaces, a process that looks set to intensify given the widespread push to utilise IF in development financing. Seen from this perspective, the global growth of IF sits in a mutually constitutive relationship with patterns of capital accumulation in the Gulf, as well as the region’s burgeoning weight within (and new linkages to) the global economy.
The securitisation of life: Eastern Kurdistan under the rule of a Perso-Shi’i state
By: Kamal Soleimani, Ahmad Mohammadpour
Abstract: Since the 1979 Revolution, the Iranian state has adopted a sophisticated set of policies to assimilate the Eastern Kurds. The Kurds are often the main target of the Iranian state’s military operations, its assimilatory strategies, and its regime of surveillance. After the ‘conquest’ (fath) of Eastern Kurdistan (Rojhelat) in 1979, the state tried to retain control over the region through systemic militarisation, the establishment of ‘revolutionary institutions’, and new religious and cultural centres, to transform the demographic, religious and cultural profile of Kurdistan. This paper is an attempt to illuminate the state’s religious nationalism and various forms of assimilatory strategies that the Islamic Republic of Iran has employed to transform Kurdish regions.
The politics of state capitalism in a post-liberal international order: the case of Turkey
By: Mustafa Kutlay
Abstract: This article discusses the transformation of the liberal international order, with reference to the ways in which global shifts affect the developmental paradigms among the emerging middle powers. Although it is rarely contested that the liberal order is being severely tested, the dynamics and potential consequences of this transformation are a matter of intense controversy. Also, the debate mainly focuses on great power politics, without paying adequate attention to the ways in which middle powers are influenced by and inform the transition to a post-liberal international order. By focusing on the case of Turkey, this article addresses whether non-Western great powers (Russia and China in particular) are leading the emergence of alternative order(s), and if so, through what mechanisms. Based on the reciprocal interactions between ideas, material capabilities and institutions, I argue that the preferences of the Turkish ruling elite seem to be gradually shifting from a Western-oriented liberal model towards a variety of ‘state capitalism’ as an alternative developmental paradigm in a post-liberal international order.
The Syrian wars of words: international and local instrumentalisations of the war on terror
By: Alice Martini
Abstract: This article presents a study of the ‘wars of words’ among selected parties involved in the Syrian conflict. Based on a combination of content analysis and critical discourse analysis (CDA), it examines actors’ discourses within the United Nations Security Council (2011–2015), the global arena of confrontation and international legitimisation of armed actions. Here, it investigates their instrumentalisation of the word ‘terrorism’ and the war on terror narrative, and it explores the dynamics of discursive (de)legitimisation of the use of violence in Syria. The article shows how parties instrumentalised this narrative to criminalise their enemies while legitimising their own violent actions. By doing this, the paper also offers a broader reflection on the global narrative on terrorism, and its different reception and instrumentalisation by core and peripheral actors.
The Taliban: a new proxy for Iran in Afghanistan?
By: Shahram Akbarzadeh, Niamatullah Ibrahimi
Abstract: Iran has pursued a highly contradictory policy towards Afghanistan. On the one hand, it became a significant beneficiary of the overthrow of the Taliban regime by the US-led military intervention in 2001 in Afghanistan. The new Afghan government established cordial ties with Iran, allowing it to expand its political, economic and cultural influence in the country. Yet Iran has also provided significant support to the Taliban in its campaign to violently upend the political, social and economic processes in the country. This article examines the underlying domestic and regional security dynamics that contribute to this contradictory behaviour. It offers an assessment of how tensions between the United States and the Islamic Republic, as well as Tehran’s growing threat perception following the rise of the Islamic State – Khorasan in 2014, impact on Iran’s policy towards the Taliban. The paper argues that Tehran views the Taliban as an instrument to disrupt the influence of other actors in Afghanistan. The instrumentalisation of the Taliban, however, is likely to be counterproductive for Iranian security in the long run as it contributes to Afghanistan’s instability and insecurity and undermines Iran’s own long-term interests.
Fighting for the right to play: women’s football and regime-loyal resistance in Saudi Arabia
By: Charlotte Lysa
Abstract: This paper seeks to contribute to the scholarship on women and social change in Saudi Arabia through the case of female football players in Riyadh. Officially, there has been no women’s football in the kingdom, but beneath the surface women have been playing for more than a decade. The women are actively promoting and engaging in change and women’s opportunities to practise sport by building organisations, creating awareness, and negotiating norms and regulations. They are not in opposition to the regime, but supportive of reforms in favour of increased rights for women, while seeing conservative elements in the society as their opponents and the royal family as their allies. They are thus engaging in what O’Brian and Li termed ‘rightful resistance’, by deploying the language of the rulers to express their perspectives and aims, and are engaged in a three-party game with the rulers and conservatives, where divisions within the state and elite allies matter greatly.