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  • Author: Ofra Bengio
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The Kurds challenge the self-perceptions of the nation-states in which they reside: Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq; and they have played a crucial role in combatting Islamic State. This study analyzes the rivalry and interdependence among the four parts of Kurdistan as well as the dynamics of their relations with regional countries and the international community. With the entire region in a state of flux, will the Kurds fulfill their dream for a state or autonomous existence of their own?
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, War, Self Determination, Authoritarianism, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Gil Feiler, Hayim Zeev
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Under the leadership of Sheikh Hamad al-Thani (1995-2013), Qatar established itself as a regional mini superpower. It launched and subsidized the global media giant Al Jazeera, poured billions into its unrivalled liquefied natural gas infrastructure, made a successful bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and diversified its economy through international acquisitions by its Qatari Investment Authority. This newfound wealth emboldened the emirate to attempt to broaden its diplomatic profile and extend its influence. And it is in this sphere that its maverick foreign policy, which at times spanned the world’s most fraught ideological lines, has led to increased tensions with its immediate neighbors and some unequivocal diplomatic disasters.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Trade and Finance, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Manata Hashemi
  • Publication Date: 12-2015
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: Disproportionate levels of youth unemployment and economic marginalization in the Middle East have prompted many regional observers to conclude that socioeconomically disadvantaged Middle Eastern youth are more prone to radicalization and thereby constitute a threat to national and international security. The general consensus in these accounts is that low levels of occupational opportunities leave poor youth more disposed to frustration and fatalism, which in turn are strongly linked to radical politics. Alternatively, scholars in the language of rational choice argue that these young people engage in a deliberate calculation of means and ends in order to attain the power and wealth necessary for upward mobility. These scholars posit poor youth as rational, autonomous agents whose goals are defined by individual interests and preferences. However, these respective theories are unable to account for 1) the absence of political radicalism among poor youth in many countries of the Middle East, and 2) the presence of seemingly irrational acts among these youth that neither maximize self-interest, nor necessarily reflect individual preferences. Given the shortcomings of each of these prevailing theories, this paper, instead, synthesizes these two approaches and assesses the social conduct of poor youth in the Middle East from the perspective of aspirations-bounded rationality. From this vantage point, the behaviors of poor youth are not determined by individual economic interests or by pure emotion, but by aspirations. This paper proposes that these youth struggle and create strategies to improve their lives that are conditioned by experience and observation of those who inform their social worlds.
  • Topic: Youth Culture, Employment
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Michael Driessen
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: Much of the recent literature on the evolution of political Islam in the Middle East and North Africa has debated the extent to which Islamist political parties have become “secularized” in their political goals and rhetoric. In these studies, a comparison between the political secularization of Islamism and Christian Democracy is often alluded to, but rarely explored in depth. The two political religious movements share much in common with regards to their historical encounter with political liberalism and their intuitions about an ideal religious society. An uncritical comparison, however, obscures significant differences in the relationship of either movement to democratic institutions, traditional sources of religious authority, and the religious citizens of their nations. This paper qualifies the historical, institutional, and theological similarities of political Islam and political Catholicism. In doing so, it emphasizes the importance of the legacies of Catholic Christendom and Muslim Dar al-Islam as transnational, pre-Westphalian religious political orders and the idea of religious authority found in either. After articulating these bases of comparison, the paper considers how these religious legacies remain present in the transition to Christian or Muslim Democracies by exploring the rhetoric of Catholic civilization or Muslim civilization found in Pope Pius XII and Rachid Ghannouchi’s discourses on democracy.
  • Topic: Democracy
  • Political Geography: Middle East