[The Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) brings you the thirteenth 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.]

Mediterranean Politics (Volume 25, Issues 3 & 4)

Bedouins and in-between border space in the northern Sinai

By: Evrim Görmüş

Abstract: The northern Sinai as interstice space of contestation offers useful insights concerning the relation between the dynamics of power and resistance. This article aims to analyse the complex relationship between the local inhabitants’ belonging and spatial practices by referring to the idea of in-betweenness. The article uses the notion of in-between border space to understand the Bedouins’ changing identity formations within a given spatial situation, as well as to trace the Egyptian State’s spatial variations in achieving social control within its territory. It is argued that the decades-long marginalization and oppression of the Bedouins by the Egyptian State turned their borderland region into a space of resistance and leaded to the forming of spatio-temporal identities in-between border space in the northern Sinai.

Exploring the ‘in-between’ in Nicosia’s Buffer Zone: Local practices of de-bordering

By: Zinovia Foka

Abstract: Nicosia’s Buffer Zone, the boundary dividing the Cypriot capital, has been for decades considered a ‘no man’s land’, ‘dead’ and unchanging. This paper examines a prominent shift in local socio-spatial practices following the reinstatement of controlled mobility on the island in 2003. Since then, diverse local initiatives have reclaimed Buffer Zone space, offering pregnant analytical moments to problematize the historical relevance of bordering and de-bordering in Nicosia. Through this exploration, the boundary emerges as a dynamic social construct, accommodating multiple visions of and for the city, thus contributing to a reconceptualization of the notion of ‘in-between’ borders and boundaries.

Stretching the margins: Identity, power and new ‘frontiers’ in Lebanon’s Maronite community

By: Rosita Di Peri

Abstract: While assuming, as a starting point, that communities in Lebanon are ‘spaces’ where various techniques of domination and control are reproduced to prevent their members from questioning the religious, identitarian or political hegemony, in this paper we argue that the Maronite community’s resizing process has created in-between border spaces within this community, where new discourses aimed at questioning this system of control arise. To justify this in-between border spaces’ relevance to understanding discourses of dissent, the analytical category of liminality will be explored. This will help answer the questions of why counter-hegemonic discourses arise in marginal spaces and how these spaces become liminal. We contend that the manifest incapacity of the Maronite elites with regard to bordering and ordering the ‘margins’ of their own community is weakening the elites’ (political and religious) control over these new spaces: they became ‘arenas’ where dissent potentially coagulates and new social realities free from the community control system can emerge.

‘Disputed territories’ in northern Iraq: The frontiering of in-between spaces

By: Daniel Meier

Abstract: In Iraq, the disputed territories emerged as a key issue between the central government in Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government, since its recognition as an autonomous entity of the post-Baathist Iraq. Despite a resolution procedure drafted in an article of the new Constitution, approved by the Parliament in 2005, the disputed territories, understood as in-between spaces, knew a process of fragmentation due to a lack of political will to solve the issue and raising tension between Kurds, Arabs, and minorities living there. This paper intends to read this process with the concept of frontiering that links territory with power and violence while relying on a post-structuralist perspective to bridge territory and identity. Three places or cities like Kirkuk, Sinjar and Tuz Khurmatu will illustrate the power struggle and explore the variables of the frontiering process occurring in regions on the edge of Erbil–Baghdad influence while involving both local and regional geopolitical interests.

Endless borders: Detaining Palestinians and managing their movements in the occupied territories

By: Stéphanie Latte Abdallah

Abstract: The rules and fonctionning of military justice have created a Prison Web over Palestinian territories, i.e., a reality of massive arrests and imprisonment and a virtuality, a larger possibility of detaining, that is to say a suspended detention. Through mass incarceration policies, it tackles individuals and their networks. Punishment is linked to and organizes Palestinians’ mobility even after their release from jail. The judiciary and prison practices applied to Palestinians are main control devices that are contributing to a bordering system anchored on a specific mobility regime. They are shaping a dematerialized, networked and highly individualized bordering system. Through neoliberal reforms (outsourcing, privatization of services, etc.), the monetarization of military justice and expansion of its action scope, the Prison Web turned sustainable: costs were reduced and offloaded onto Palestinians and international actors. These control and mobility management systems projected within the Occupied Territories have multiplied the border: it has become mobile, suspended and endless.

The governance of Syrian refugees in Turkey: The state-capital nexus and its discontents

By: Danièle Bélanger, Cenk Saracoglu

Abstract: This article argues that the convergence of state policies and the interests of capital and business owners are central to the understanding of the governance of Syrian refugees in Turkey. Drawing on fieldwork in Ankara, Gaziantep, Hatay and Izmir, collected between 2016 and 2018, this article shows that the terms of Turkish state’s temporary protection regime, the state’s ad hoc leniency towards the informal use of refugee labour and the disciplinary effects of the laws complies with the economic expectations of business and capital owners. This article also sheds light on the structural limitations that the state-market convergence places on civil actor’s ability to make improvements to the overall living and working conditions of Syrians in Turkey. The overall analysis points to the fact that the governance of Syrian refugees in Turkey could be conceived as yet another manifestation of the vital role that the state plays in the pursuits of capital.

What makes coups outside the chain of command in Turkey succeed or fail?

By: Ömer Aslan

Abstract: Existing work on civil-military relations in Turkey has left the question of coup outcomes understudied. Although coups organized in line with the military chain of command are automatically assumed most likely to succeed, not all coup attempts carried out by junior/mid-ranking officers are doomed to fail. While 27 May 1960 coup by junior officers succeeded, three other coups attempted outside the chain of command in 1962, 1963, and 15 July 2016 in Turkey failed. Why? This article uses ‘coordination game’ framework as a theoretical tool to provide an answer. These cases lend significant support to application of game theoretic models to the literature on military coup outcomes.

Egypt’s unbreakable curse: Tracing the State of Exception from Mubarak to Al Sisi

By: Lucia Ardovini, Simon Mabon

Abstract: This paper uses Giorgio Agamben’s State of Exception as a theoretical approach that allows us to see how emergency legislations operate in the region as mechanisms of control and dominant paradigms of governance. Relying on Egypt as a case study, this paper traces the significance of emergency rule throughout Mubarak’s era up until Al Sisi’s 2014 Constitution. It applies a four-stage analytical framework to investigate whether or not Egypt was indeed ruled by the exception throughout its turbulent recent history, while under the guise of Emergency Rule. In doing so, we aim to provide an analysis of the legal structures that shape Egyptian politics, while also adding to debates on the State of Exception, particularly on its application in the non-Western world.

‘History in conflict: Israeli–Palestinian speeches at the United Nations, 1998–2016’

By: Jeremy Pressman

Abstract: A close textual study of Israeli and Palestinian speeches at the annual UN General Debate from 1998 to 2016 demonstrates how conflict is embedded in historical presentations. At the same time, the exclusionary, zero-sum history in these UN speeches becomes one of several obstacles for moving from conflict to conflict resolution. Conflict and history’s public manifestations are mutually reinforcing. From a thematic perspective, Israeli leaders talk about victimization, existential insecurity, and ancient Jewish roots. Palestinian leaders covered a similar range: the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, existential insecurity, and right and justice. While neither party directly delegitimizes the other’s nationalism at the United Nations, both sides trumpet their own commitment to peace and the other’s peace failings. From a symbolic perspective, the article addresses the numerical base of Palestinian speeches, UN Resolutions 181 and 194, and Arab–Israeli Wars in 1948 and 1967, and how they relate to land and demographic disputes. In conclusion, the article suggests how a conciliatory history that opens the door to conflict resolution, or itself is a sign that the door has been opened, might read.

Decentralization in the Arab world: Conceptualizing the role of neopatrimonial networks

By: Thomas Demmelhuber , Roland Sturm, Erik Vollmann

Abstract: Since the early 1990s, government-led decentralization strategies have emerged in the Arab world, with an additional surge after the Arab uprisings in 2011. Western donors and Arab civil society activists expected an increase in participation and autonomy. Yet the outcome of the reforms varies considerably. We develop a new conceptual approach for the analysis of decentralization processes in the Arab world. We suggest that decentralization is guided, inspired, and used by informal neopatrimonial elite networks on the national, regional, and local levels of government. Fiscal and budgetary policies are suggested as empirical tools to investigate the gap between normative claims connected with formal decentralization and the much more complex reality of decentralization.

Middle East Critique (Volume 29, Issue 3)

Faulty Assumptions about Democratization in Turkey

By: Paul Kubicek

Abstract: For most of the first decade of its rule, the AKP touted itself as an agent for democratization, receiving much support both inside and outside of Turkey. More recently, the AKP has taken a clear authoritarian turn, raising the issue of why many observers of Turkey, including myself, did not see this coming. This paper looks at some of the blinders that I, among others, wore as we assessed the AKP and prospects for democracy in Turkey. These included excessive faith in the European Union as an external force for democracy, a belief that the military and militant secularism were the primary obstacles to Turkish democracy, confidence that what the AKP represented was an archetype of an Islamic-oriented party that had been ‘moderated’ by political inclusion and its own ‘learning,’ and a belief in the democratic promise of modernization theory. The article’s objective is to open up a wider discussion of lessons learned from the AKP’s years in power and how scholars may wish to revise some of their assumptions about Turkey as well as the broader literature on democratization.

Populism and the Politics of Belonging in Erdoğan’s Turkey

By: Fumiko Sawae

Abstract: This paper examines the transformation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s politics in the AKP government era through the interactive supply-and-demand relationship between populist leaders and their supporters, which has been a focus of recent populist studies. It employs the concept of ‘the politics of belonging’ to scrutinize the mechanisms through which not only the Islamic and conservative boundary of belonging in Turkey but also the meanings of symbols reifying belonging are established and negotiated in response to Erdoğan’s shifting populist methods.

Conservative Narrative: Contemporary Neo-Ottomanist Approaches in Turkish Politics

By: Umut Uzer

Abstract: Turkish politicians, intellectuals and ordinary citizens usually take an ambivalent view of the Ottoman state. The founding fathers of Turkey, mostly soldiers and bureaucrats in the Ottoman state structure had, for the most part, negative perceptions owing to the loss of territory and defeats during the latter days of the Ottoman Empire. Consequently, republican Turkey endeavored to create a modern Turkish nation that was very much part of Western civilization. Nevertheless, fascination with the Ottoman Empire rose to the fore during the multiparty era of the 1950s and further increased in the 1980s and now under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. The AKP leadership has been articulating a new identity and historical perspective to create a new national identity for Turkey. This article analyzes the nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire in Turkish politics by focusing on the conservative ideologue Necip Fazıl Kısakürek (1904–1983), who had a significant impact on the AKP leadership as well as on efforts to create a new post-Kemalist Turkey.

Governing Anxiety, Trauma and Crisis: The Political Discourse on Ontological (In)Security after the July 15 Coup Attempt in Turkey

By: Umut Can Adisonmez, Recep Onursal

Abstract: Concern about the ontological security of the state has been at the center of Turkish politics since the beginning of the republican regime in 1923, shaping both the domestic and the foreign policy of Turkey. Taking the July 15 coup attempt in 2016 as a case, this article critically analyzes the political discourse on ontological (in)security in Turkey. The discussion begins by locating the discourse on the survival of the state [beka meselesi in Turkish] in a historical and sociopolitical context. Building on this discussion, the article investigates how unprecedented political instability caused by the failed coup attempt created a political space for the ruling Justice and Development Party to re-articulate the state’s survival discourse and related security practices. The article argues that governing elites followed a double strategy. On one hand, they aimed at simplifying the sociopolitical space with a ‘one nation, one state, one homeland, and one flag’ discourse; on the other hand, they actively prevented public contestation by keeping the political dimension of the coup at bay. To advance this argument, the article develops a discursive-theoretical framework by cross-fertilizing Ontological Security Theory with Post-foundational Discourse Theory.

The Evolving Kurdish Question in Turkey

By: Mehmet Gurses

Abstract: Abstract: In a region undergoing dramatic changes, the Kurds in particular have begun to enjoy a political resurgence. Of those countries where Kurds reside, Turkey is the single most important actor for several reasons: It is a powerful state that is home to more than half of the total Kurdish population; it has been locked in a stalemate with (arguably) the most powerful Kurdish insurgent group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan, PKK]; this decades-long armed conflict progressively has acquired a trans-border disposition and fomented disagreement between Turkey and the United States in Syria; and lastly, Turkey under the Justice and Development Party [Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, AKP] gradually is distancing itself from the Western bloc and moving away from democratic values and principles. This article examines the evolving Kurdish question in Turkey with an emphasis on how it is interacting with changing domestic, regional, and global dynamics.

Positive and Negative Diaspora Governance in Context: From Public Diplomacy to Transnational Authoritarianism

By: Bahar Baser, Ahmet Erdi Ozturk

Abstract: Abstract: The diaspora studies literature recently has indicated an expansion in state-led diaspora engagement initiatives and burgeoning diaspora governance institutions around the world. Home states have correlated concepts such as public diplomacy and soft power with these nascent incentives to cultivate and mobilize diasporas for state interests. Despite the interpretation of these developments as the expansion of citizenship rights for the diaspora and their systematic incorporation back into the home nation, some authors remain skeptical about the multifaceted motives behind such initiatives. Authoritarian states particularly employ diaspora governance as a mechanism to monitor and control diaspora groups, which home communities perceive as dissidents. Using Turkey and its recent diaspora governance policy as a case study, this article demonstrates that diaspora governance enables the state to create, depending on the context, potentially ideological and repressive transnational state apparatuses that can assume both positive and negative forms.

Transformation of Turkish Foreign Policy Toward Syria: The Return of Securitization

By: Hasan Kösebalaban

Abstract: Since 2015, Turkey gradually has been moving toward a more nationalist discourse and direction in its foreign policy. This sharply contrasts with the liberal foreign policy orientation that Turkey implemented during the first decade of the Justice and Development Party government, as well as its idealistic assertiveness during the Arab Spring. In the Syrian conflict, Turkey has turned away from its initial goal of helping the anti-Assad opposition to a strategy that aims to restrain the territorial gains of separatist Kurdish groups. This transformation of strategic orientation is a product of emerging security threats, as well as changes in domestic politics including Turkey’s new presidential system. Rather than representing a return to rationality and realpolitik, the new orientation rests upon the traditional fears of disintegration and the culture of insecurity that the AKP governments had attempted to overcome. The Kurdish question has returned to its traditional position as the primary foreign policy challenge, and in reversing its original reformist agenda the AK government has embraced a military response to cope with this challenge, as demonstrated through numerous military land operations it has conducted in Syria. This new orientation has caused major frictions in relations with the United States and Europe, whereas it has led to a strategic rapprochement with Russia.

The Turkish-Armenian Historical Controversy: How to Name the Events of 1915?

By: M. Hakan Yavuz

Abstract: This article examines the debate involving Turkish and Armenian historiography about the fate of diverse Armenian communities in eastern Anatolia. It argues that the contemporary description of the events in 1915, especially the legal description, is much more important than the facts and the role of human agency in which these facts were produced. Armenian historiography scholars have moved to label the set of complicated events and processes as ‘genocide,’ and they seek to delegitimize any argument or factual case pointing outside the term of genocide as denialism. Scholars representing Turkish historiography, on the other hand, emphasize a different context of ethnic cleansing and massacres of the Muslims in the Balkans and their unintended consequences in Anatolia, while insisting on the role of major powers and Armenian revolutionary groups to carve out eastern Anatolia as an Armenian national homeland. The article explores how the Armenian side has urged judicial forums and countries to rewrite and reinterpret history in order to canonize its description of the events as genocide by ignoring the political context, intentions and policies of Armenian revolutionary organizations during that critical period. It proposes a path in which diametrically opposing sides can come together by humanizing the mutual suffering of each group and developing a shared language that encompasses the mutual impact of the events of 1915.


Middle East Law and Governance (Volume 12, Issue 2)

Attitudes on Family Law as an Electoral Cleavage: Survey Evidence from Tunisia

By: Salih Yasun

Abstract: Most societies in the Middle East and North Africa region (mena) are subject to strict family laws. Do these laws affect voters’ decisions? In this article, I argue that public attitudes on family law constitute an issue-based social cleavage in Tunisia, and I examine the influence of family law on whether individuals vote for Ennahda, the largest conservative party, or Nidaa Tounes, the authoritarian successor party. Findings from a Multinomial Logistic Regression on Afrobarometer data indicate that individuals who hold more egalitarian views on women’s inheritance rights are less likely to vote for Ennahda and more likely to vote for Nidaa Tounes, whereas there is no statistically significant relationship between opinions on women’s divorce rights and voting. These study findings suggest that the attitudes on provisions of family law are an alternative source of social cleavage in emerging democracies, which can have relevance in other country settings in the mena.

How Neoliberalism Comes to Town: Policy Convergence, (Under)Development, and Jordanian Economics under King Abdullah

By: Colin Powers

Abstract: This article explores the development strategies articulated and implemented in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan during the tenure of King Abdullah ii. It begins by establishing the consistency with which national planners have adopted ideas, recommendations, and ideological scripts initially authored by the international financial institutions (ifis). Having documented the endurance of Jordan’s “policy convergence”, it explains this outcome as a dialectical function of foreign interference and local agency. Demonstrating how the lines between the national, international, and transnational blur in constituting the contemporary Jordanian political economy, this case study in actually existing neoliberalism will provide a unique look at the actors, interests, ideas and processes at the heart of the country’s enduring underdevelopment.

“In the Name of the People?” Understanding the Role of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court in Times of Political Crisis

By: Noura Hamdan Taha, Asem Khalil

Abstract: Constitutional transformations frequently introduce and open up political spaces for new actors, as was shown during the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ when national movements emerged to demand the removal of long-established authoritarian regimes and instigated a series of institutional power struggles. Subsequent analysis of these events by academics has tended to overlook struggle conducted through and by legal institutions. This article directly addresses this oversight by considering the role of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court (scc) in the 2011 uprisings, with specific attention to its influence on the country’s political transformation/s. It seeks to apply new analytical tools that will assist understanding of the position of judicial institutions in the Arab world, their institutional limits and expected functions. It demonstrates how this can be achieved through a closer analysis of the scc’s structure and the factors that shape its current role.


Middle East Quarterly (Volume 27, Issue 3)

How Putin Is Winning in Syria

By: Leni Friedman Valenta, Jiri Valenta

Abstract: Not available

The End of the JCPOA Road?

By: Ofira Seliktar

Abstract: Not available

How San Remo Birthed the Jewish National Home

By: Efraim Karsh

Abstract: Not available

The Conundrum of Israeli-Arab Citizenship

By: Mordechai Nisan

Abstract: Not available


Security Studies (Volume 29, Issue 3)

Peacemakers or Iron Ladies? A Cross-National Study of Gender and International Conflict

By: Madison Schramm, Alexandra Stark

Abstract: Conventional wisdom suggests that when women attain high political office they are more likely to act as peacemakers than their male counterparts. In contrast, this article argues that women political leaders may be more likely to initiate conflict than their male colleagues. The theory draws on insights from feminist theory, particularly the notion that gender is performative, to argue that the effects of a leader’s gender on foreign policy decision making vary with social and institutional context. To gain and maintain status in elite policy in-groups, female leaders are incentivized to perform gender by signaling their toughness and competence through initiating conflict. Statistical tests and qualitative case studies of the tenures of Turkish prime minister Tansu Çiller and Chilean president Michelle Bachelet provide evidence that female heads of government in democracies are more likely to initiate conflict than their male counterparts and that this effect is conditioned both by domestic political constraints and overall levels of women’s political empowerment.

Nationalism, Threat, and Support for External Intervention: Evidence from Iraq

By: Karl C. Kaltenthaler, Daniel M. Silverman, Munqith M. Dagher

Abstract: What drives citizens’ attitudes toward external military intervention in a society experiencing armed conflict? From colonial Algeria to contemporary Afghanistan, conventional wisdom holds that nationalism is a critical source of opposition and resistance to such intervention. In contrast, we argue that the impact of nationalism on views of external intervention hinges on the strategic context facing the target nation. When the country’s principal threat is from the intervener itself, nationalism will indeed reduce support for outside intervention. But when the threat comes from elsewhere, nationalism will actually boost support for external intervention to defeat it. To investigate these dynamics, we use public opinion data from a unique survey fielded across Iraq in 2016 that includes questions about the military interventions against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant by both the US-led coalition and Iran, as well as a potential military intervention by Russia. The results are broadly consistent with our argument, showing that, unlike other factors such as sectarianism, nationalism pushes Iraqis to seek foreign military help from any quarter when deemed necessary for national survival.


Studies in Conflict & Terrorism (Volume 43, Issues 7 & 8)

Radicalization Trajectories: An Evidence-Based Computational Approach to Dynamic Risk Assessment of “Homegrown” Jihadists

By: Jytte Klausen, Rosanne Libretti, Benjamin W. K. Hung, Anura P. Jayasumana

Abstract: The research aimed to develop and test a new dynamic approach to preventive risk assessment of violent extremists. The well-known New York Police Department four-phase model was used as a starting point for the conceptualization of the radicalization process, and time-stamped biographical data collected from court documents and other public sources on American homegrown Salafi-jihadist terrorism offenders were used to test the model. Behavioral sequence patterns that reliably anticipate terrorist-related criminality were identified and the typical timelines for the pathways to criminal actions estimated for different demographic subgroups in the study sample. Finally, a probabilistic simulation model was used to assess the feasibility of the model to identify common high-frequency and high-risk sequential behavioral segment pairs in the offenders’ pathways to terrorist criminality.

The Use of Stimulants in the Ranks of Islamic State: Myth or Reality of the Syrian Conflict

By: Joseph El Khoury

Abstract: The emergence of the Islamic State organization on the Syrian war scene has raised the role of amphetamines, and in particular the drug Captagon, in explaining the military performance and the savagery of its militants. This phenomenon has received extensive coverage in the international media. We review the evidence for it relying on available public sources in the context of a historical understanding of the use of stimulants in warfare and the Islamic position on psychoactive substances.

Dar al-Islam: A Quantitative Analysis of ISIS’s French-Language Magazine

By: Andrew C. Sparks

Abstract: This study is a content analysis of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)’s French-language magazine Dar al-Islam. The first seven issues of the magazine are quantitatively examined and broken down into the number of articles, images, and terms used as a means of determining how ISIS targets French-speaking individuals. This study find that ISIS focuses on religious terminology and justifications to rationalize its existence and its fight. Also, despite being a French-language magazine, a majority of the focus is on Middle Eastern groups, not Western groups. Overall, the magazine is similar, but not a carbon copy to ISIS’s English-language magazine, Dabiq.


Terrorism and Political Violence (Volume 32, Issue 4)

Between the Bombs: Exploring Partial Ceasefires in the Syrian Civil War, 2011–2017

By: Dogukan Cansin Karakus, Isak Svensson

Abstract: Previous research on ceasefires in armed conflicts has primarily focused on the aggregated country-level of analysis. By contrast, this article contributes by examining the local-level dynamics of local ceasefire arrangements. In particular, this study examines a novel set of 106 local-level ceasefire arrangements in the Syrian Civil War, reached between the years 2011 to 2017. Most (72 percent), but not all, of the ceasefire arrangements were respected during the stipulated time period. We argue that informal and domestic peacemaking should outperform formal and external approaches in managing conflicts with multiple rebel groups, ongoing violence, and different fronts such as in Syria. We find that the presence of insider mediators (“insider-partial”) as well as confidence-building measures between the belligerents are positively associated with successful ceasefire arrangements, whereas explanations emphasized by previous research—external third-party mediation as well as various indicators of quality of agreement—fail to explain outcomes of ceasefires. Yet, we also find some evidence indicative of a selection effect in that external mediators are associated with more difficult conflict situations. The study of local ceasefires in the Syrian Civil War can stimulate further examinations of the micro-dynamics of peacemaking in civil wars, including the causes and consequences of local ceasefires.

The Islamic State Attacks on Shia Holy Sites and the “Shrine Protection Narrative”: Threats to Sacred Space as a Mobilization Frame

By: Benjamin Isakhan

Abstract: After conquering large swaths of Syria and Iraq, the IS undertook an aggressive sectarian campaign in which they not only enacted horrific violence against the Shia people, but also damaged or destroyed several key Shia mosques and shrines. Drawing on Social Movement Theory (SMT), this article analyzes the response by various Shia non-state actors—militia leaders, religious clergymen, populist preachers, and seminal poets. It argues that they used the IS threat to Shia holy sites to develop and deploy a mobilization frame that has come to be referred to as the “shrine protection narrative.” The article also documents the manifold consequences of the shrine protection narrative: it underpinned a mass recruitment drive that saw tens of thousands enlist; it legitimized foreign Shia militias to enter the conflicts in both Syria and Iraq; it justified the formation of entirely new militias who declared the centrality of shrine protection to their mandate; and it mobilized them to enact political violence. In doing so, this article extends existing studies of SMT to demonstrate that “sacred spaces”—and particularly the need to protect religious sites from specific threats—can serve as a powerful mobilization frame towards political violence.

EU’s Response to Foreign Fighters: New Threat, Old Challenges?

By: Oldrich Bures

Abstract: The conflicts in Syria and Iraq have put foreign fighters—individuals travelling from other countries to engage in these conflicts—high on the security agenda at both the national and EU level. Drawing on theoretical arguments previously advanced to explain the haphazard evolution of the EU’s counterterrorism efforts after September 11, 2011, this articles discusses the emergence and persistence of key challenges that have hampered the EU response to security threats posed by 5,000 European foreign fighters between 2013 and early 2017. These include the absence of a common EU-level definition; the differences regarding the scope and perceptions of the threats posed to individual Member States; the lack of consensus on root causes of terrorism and radicalization; and the differences among Member States when it comes to addressing the difficulties of criminal prosecution of foreign fighters.

‘Suspect Categories,’ Alienation and Counterterrorism: Critically Assessing PREVENT in the UK

By: Joel David Taylor

Abstract: The ‘suspect community’ thesis has been a primary tool for exploring counter-terrorism strategies like the UK’s PREVENT and their effect on communities. However, in seeking to shed light on the differentialist, complex nature of modern counter-terrorism, it was recently redesigned by Ragazzi as the ‘suspect category’ thesis. This article engages with this thesis’ concept of distinguished ‘risky’ and ‘trusted’ suspect categories defining PREVENT’s counter-terrorism engagement with Muslim communities. With the author’s own reservations about this thesis, this article also explores this important concept to critically assess PREVENT as a counter-terrorism strategy. Principally, it provides an exploration of PREVENT’s construction of risky and trusted suspect categories and their potential for fostering alienation, as well as a reflection on the effects of alienation on counter-terrorism. These discussions prove that PREVENT fosters alienation that is detrimental to counter-terrorism efforts. Damaging constructions as such not only make PREVENT redundant, but are also emblematic of Jackson’s theory of the epistemological crisis of counter-terrorism, as this article will discuss. Recommendations regarding rethinking the conceptual basis for PREVENT will be also made with a specific emphasis on addressing the epistemological crisis of counter-terrorism.


The Middle East Journal (Volume 74, Issue 2)

The Peace Process Carousel: The Israel Lobby and the Failure of American Diplomacy

By: Ian S. Lustick

Abstract: More than 50 years of American diplomacy in the Arab-Israeli “peace process” have revealed it to be a carousel of constant activity with no forward movement. Despite chronic failure and embarrassment, it continues in great measure because of the cumulative effects of the influence of the Israel lobby in the United States, through cycles of opportunity, initiative, retreat, and compensation. Mathematician John Nash’s theory of an inefficient equilibrium is offered as an explanation for the still-sustained pretense of the possibility of a negotiated peace agreement and the conditions under which the peace process carousel could finally stop turning.

The Johnson Administration and Arab-Israeli Peacemaking after June 1967

By: Galen Jackson

Abstract: Following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the United States took a relatively passive approach to Middle East peacemaking. The passivity shown by the administration of President Lyndon Johnson stemmed primarily from its belief that the Arab states had failed to make reasonable proposals for an agreement and from the White House’s awareness that pressuring Israel would likely have significant domestic political consequences. Thus, even though it felt the need to press Israel to withdraw to prewar boundaries as part of a settlement, the administration made little effort to achieve an agreement on that basis.

On Origins: Arab Intellectuals’ Debates on the Ideational Sources of ISIS

By: Sami E. Baroudi

Abstract: This article examines the writings of Arab intellectuals on the ideas that inspired the Islamic State organization (ISIS) through a survey of Arabic-language books, scholarly articles, and editorials in leading newspapers during the group’s 2014– 18 heyday. This probe focuses on one broad, recurring question that permeated these writings: namely, what were ISIS’s ideational sources? In addition to shedding light on the rich perspectives that Arab authors offered on this question and the extent to which they disagreed, this article demonstrates how Arab intellectuals were united in their intense hostility toward ISIS.

“They Were Going Together with the Ikhwan”: The Influence of Muslim Brotherhood Thinkers on Shi‘i Islamists during the Cold War

By: Siarhei Bohdan

Abstract: By analyzing the interest displayed by the followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in writings by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, this article shows how the Shi‘i Islamist movement in Iran and Afghanistan was both transnational and influenced by Sunni Islamists in the Arab world. Using mostly Iranian and Afghan sources, this article discusses these influences through the notion of Islamic revolutionary ecumenism. While much attention has been given to Khomeini’s call to “export” Iran’s Islamic Revolution, this article shows some of the ways his own followers “imported” their ideology.

The Politics of Veiling in Iran and the Nonreligious Left in the Early 1980s

By: Jaleh Jalili

Abstract: Scholarly works and public narratives dealing with the mandating of the veil in Iran in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution often focus on the coercive aspects of the process and emphasize the role of religious groups consolidating power. This article takes a closer look at how nonreligious leftist groups perceived and participated in the process. By revisiting the publications of seven prominent secular left-wing groups, this article discusses nuances in the Iranian left’s historic approaches to veiling and how these groups’ ideologies and political alliances shaped their responses to the quickly shifting gender politics of the post revolutionaryperiod.


Third World Quarterly (Volume 41, Issues 6 & 7)

When ‘brothers and sisters’ become ‘foreigners’: Syrian refugees and the politics of healthcare in Jordan

By: Sigrid Lupieri

Abstract: Does overseas development aid necessarily translate into more generous national policies for refugees? Evidence from Jordan suggests that this is not always the case. Since the arrival of an estimated 756,000 Syrian refugees, international funding has made Jordan one of the top seven recipients of foreign aid in the world. Despite sustained international financing, however, national policies towards refugees have become increasingly restrictive, especially when it comes to healthcare. Based on fieldwork conducted between 2017 and 2019, this paper argues that Jordan’s healthcare policies towards Syrian refugees are not necessarily correlated to international financing, but are rather the product of political considerations aimed at maintaining domestic stability, increasing bargaining power in the global policymaking arena and resisting international pressures to integrate Syrian refugees. This paper contributes to filling a gap in the literature on the complex and interdependent factors which influence the evolution of national healthcare policies towards refugees in a country not only highly dependent on foreign aid, but also at the geopolitical crossroads of international interests in the Middle East.

Crises and critical junctures in authoritarian regimes: addressing uprisings’ temporalities and discontinuities

By: Frédéric Volpi, Johannes Gerschewski

Abstract: In this article, we aim at sharpening common understandings of the notion of political crisis to better explain the trajectories of authoritarian transformations during popular uprisings. We make three major claims. First, we propose a definition of crisis as brief moments of institutional fluidity and openness in which a process can take different directions. We delineate the crisis concept from the concept of critical junctures and outline how our approach contributes to the methodological debate on ‘near misses’. Second, we indicate how the de-institutionalisation processes leading up to a crisis are to be analytically distinguished from within-crisis moments. We argue in favour of a discontinuity approach that takes into account the different temporalities of gradual lead-up processes and rapid within-crisis dynamics. Finally, we illustrate our theoretical and analytical reasoning with concrete cases from the authoritarian crises of the Arab uprisings, whilst suggesting that our argument can travel to other areas of research in which crisis narratives have gained prominence.

The paradox of Turkish–Iranian relations in the Syrian Crisis

By: Iain William MacGillivray

Abstract: Iran and Turkey have competed for regional power projection in Syria and sought through cooperation to find a peaceful end to the conflict in the Astana talks, while also at the same time confronting each other in Idlib province via proxies. This simultaneity of competition, cooperation and confrontation in the Syrian Crisis presents a picture of a relationship that is riddled with contradictions and is in effect a paradox. The question that must be asked is, how can we understand this puzzle of competition, cooperation and confrontation in Turkish–Iranian relations in the Syrian Crisis? International historical sociology (IHS) research brings in discussions on the longue durée, narratives, domestic constraints and, most important, the international which can help decipher this intellectual puzzle. Moreover, the ‘relationality’ of each country’s policies in Syria combined with IHS can help unlock the puzzle of the Turkish–Iranian relationship in the Syrian Crisis and provide insight into the debate surrounding the outbreak of war.

Solving the security–democracy dilemma: the US foreign policy in Tunisia post-9/11

By: Pietro Marzo

Abstract: Scholarly consensus postulates a sharp contrast exists between liberal values and realist interests in US foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which finds its expression in the ‘security–democracy’ dilemma.This means the US rhetorical determination to abide by the values of a ‘liberal’ foreign policy is neutralised by the ‘realist’ priority of maintaining US strategic interests, which requires support for friendly authoritarian rulers. Scholarship tends to apply this reasoning indistinctly to the entire region, providing an encompassing framework of analysis for understanding US foreign policy, which is valid across time and space. This study challenges this theoretical assumption and argues that while the US might indeed have a comprehensive regional approach in the MENA, the resulting foreign policy follows country-based trajectories that respond to national specificities and the perceived implications for US strategic interests. Exploring US foreign policy in the MENA after 9/11, the article demonstrates that while the US emphasis on liberalism crumbled when faced with security issues, the US liberal approach to Tunisia unfolded more consistently. Although the US continued formal cooperation with Ben Ali’s regime, it empowered at the same time a coalition of democratic opponents, solving the security–democracy dilemma and positively influencing the Tunisian democratisation.

The Moroccan system of labour institutions: a class-based perspective

By: Lorenzo Feltrin

Abstract: The relevance of workers’ mobilisations in the 2011 Arab uprisings and – more recently – in the Algerian movement for democracy and social justice has encouraged a renewed interest in labour–state relations in the region. This article presents a class-based perspective on labour institutions, taking Morocco as a case study. In contrast to institution-based approaches, this research argues that it is problematic to treat the trade unions as analytical proxies for the working class, because this heuristic move conceals how class struggles – from below and from above – can transcend and transform labour institutions. The article proposes a framework to study labour–state relations, highlighting the relative autonomy of union officials from workers and vice versa. In this way, it shows how, in the neoliberal phase, the Moroccan state increased inducements to the unions while decreasing those to the workers and maintaining significant constraints on workplace organising. To use a simplified formulation, the regime included the unions to exclude the workers. In such a context of low union representativeness, the dangers of reducing the working class to the trade unions emerge clearly.