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  • Author: Manochehr Dorraj, Nader Entessar
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: This paper analyzes Iran’s evolving interest and geopolitical challenges to its foreign policy in Central Eurasia. Historically, Iran, Turkey, and Russia have wielded the greatest influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. Therefore, it is not surprising that these three countries reemerged as principal actors in the region during the first decade of the post-Soviet era. Since the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, Iran performed a balancing act. That is, it aspired to develop closer relations with a region with which it shared significant historical and cultural ties. At the same time, Russia regards Central Eurasia as its sphere of influence and would like to keep the “intruders” at bay. Hence, the United States’ expanding presence in the region has added a new twist to Iran’s geopolitical calculations in how to define its policy toward the region. Turkish-Iranian cooperation and competition in the region is yet another piece in the strategic triangle that molds Iranian regional political posture. The looming impact of these three countries aside, as an emerging regional power with its own political agenda, perception, and calculus of its interests, Iran uses identity politics and shared cultural and religious values, where appropriate, to forge closer relations with Central Eurasian countries. Beyond this motif in Iran’s foreign policy, this paper concentrates on political, economic, and strategic variables affecting Iran’s foreign policy decisions in Central Eurasia. Islamic factors are treated as variables within the broader context of sociocultural factors that have played a role in shaping Iran’s foreign policy in the region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Iran
  • 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
  • Author: Mari Luomi
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: Growth in Qatar in the past decade has been tremendous: the total population has increased by one million and the economy has grown four-fold, leading to the skyrocketing of energy and water demand and greenhouse gas emissions.2 This research paper argues that a crucial question in need of answering is: how important is the environment for Qatar? Fast growth in population and natural resource consumption, together with a pronounced emphasis on economic growth, have had devastating impacts on the country’s environmental and sustainability performance. Recently ranked as the country with the world’s highest ecological footprint,3 Qatar urgently needs to balance its natural resource use with the local environmental and ecosystem limits so as to ensure prosperity for its people and the environment far into the future. The same question applies to Qatar’s neighboring monarchies, which share very similar economic and demographic dynamics as well as similar political and climatic conditions.
  • Topic: Environment, Climate Finance
  • Political Geography: Qatar