By making the strategic decision to restore the US relationship with Saudi Arabia, by far the most important Arab country, the Trump administration created new leverage that puts it in position to advance US interests in 4 core areas.
As a new feature, every week or so I will be posting links to the most interesting or newsworthy articles on the Middle East that I read during this period.
Here are 15 or so from this past week. All worth reading, though some I disagree with and explain why:
This is a thoughtful article. However, it exaggerates the extent to which Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s was “Secular” by Western standards today.
More importantly, it overlooks the extent to which that somewhat “secular” period of Egyptian history was a deviation from the norm of overall strong religious conservatism by the vast majority of Egypt’s population over the course of history.
The article assumes that the Nasser period with it’s mild secularism was the starting point of Egyptian history. In fact it was a momentary departure from the overall norm of strong religious conservatism by 90+ % of the population.
What has happened since the 1970s is an entirely predictable return to that non-Secular norm. It was basically inevitable once the Nasserist industrial project failed.
A truly excellent in-depth look at the French situation with radical Islam, via a profile of the distinguished scholar Gilles Keppel.
Sadly, I believe this is true:
With the growing appeal of ISISism in the Middle East, the importance of an effective US diplomatic focus on religious freedom, with new paradigms that take into account the gravity of the situation, is only growing. Last week I attended an important conference hosted by the University of Notre Dame that did a great job at helping take that discussion to a new level.
And on a related note, over the weekend, I finished this new book on ISIS:
In a nutshell, should you read this book and why?
Here’s the introduction:
Here’s the link to the rest of the article. And there is one big way where this policy could go wrong that I mention at the end.
In an article for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy I analyze President Trump’s focus on rebuilding alliances with traditional US allies in the Middle East.
For two core reasons:
#1 – “Trump’s position makes Iranian adventurism throughout the Middle East far less likely. It also decreases the temptation of U.S. allies to engage in counter-productive and destabilizing unilateral military operations of their own out of a perceived need to project strength in the face of Iran.”
#2 – “by restoring alliances with traditional allies in the Middle East, Trump’s approach is far more likely to get significant contributions from them, furthering his America First agenda.”
Here’s the Link to the article.
Given the Trump administration focus on rebuilding damaged alliances with traditional Middle Eastern allies that were neglected by President Obama, Israeli, Emirati, Saudi and Egyptian views on issues such as terrorism and whatever relationship the Muslim Brotherhood has to that, will have more influence in the US in the coming years than the Qatari narrative that had much weight during the Obama years.
On that note, this is a fascinating article that was published in Al-Hayat, a major regional newspaper, by a distinguished Saudi anthropologist. It sheds some interesting light on those perspectives mentioned above, so I decided to translate it. Continue reading “Why Saudi/UAE views on radical Islam during the Trump era will be more influential than the Qatari narrative of the Obama years”
Below I have translated a February 13th article in Alaph newspaper titled “Daesh and the Muslim Brotherhood Call Upon Their Followers to Kill the Sheikh of Al-Azhar.”
It highlights the extent to which the political violence associated with Jihadist movements everywhere in the Muslim World is best understood using this paradigm:
Establishment versus Anti-Establishment
The basic divides as relates to Egypt in particular:
(Group A) Establishment Islam: Continue reading “Can Egypt’s Muslim Establishment neutralize the anti-Establishment Jihadist narrative?”
I have a new article out for a political website based in California on why the concept of “America First” as applied to say, the Middle East, merely means smarter US policy with better results, NOT isolationism.