Edited by Mehran Kamrava
The post-2011 Middle East has witnessed an increasing politicization of religious authority across the Middle East and among almost all faith communities. Unfolding political and social developments, along with steadily shifting posture and functions of the state vis-à-vis the various religious communities has propelled religious leaders into the role of their communities’ political protectors as well as chief liaisons with state leaders and institutions. Particularly in times of instability and crisis for the community, or even during less chaotic periods of change and transition, the role of religious leaders becomes all the more instrumental in multiple ways. This special issue examines the nature, societal positions, and travails of the Middle East’s various religious communities in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab uprisings, focusing specifically on the role, composition, and functions of their leadership.
The 2007-2017 CIRS Ten-Year Report contains information about all the activities, research initiatives, publications, lectures, and events that CIRS organized over the past ten years. Highlights include the publication of a total of 25 CIRS books, as well as the initiation of 32 research initiatives and 24 grant awards.
CIRS Occasional Paper no. 19
Ameen Kim, Handong International Law School
Hans van der Beek, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Riyadh, KSA
Prior to the emergence of the oil industry and the subsequent rapid agricultural expansion of the 1970s, there has been little to no concern about water for agriculture in Saudi Arabia since prehistoric times. However, a rapid expansion—a so-called “agricultural revolution”—introduced rampant use of highly water-consuming irrigation systems, mainly by center pivots, without any limitation. This has greatly compromised the future of nonrenewable water availability for agriculture. Current measures to alleviate the dilemma of water scarcity and sustainable agricultural development for the country have been challenging not only due to technical difficulties, but also because of overarching ideological and political factors. Based on the concluding findings in this article, a holistic approach combining both technical and sociopolitical recommendations is proposed, and is presented for alleviating the predicament.
CIRS Newsletter 22 was published in Spring 2017. This newsletter highlights all activities including the latest research initiatives, publications, faculty research, as well as conference participation and exhibitions.
CIRS Summary Report no. 23
Social Currents in North Africa is a multi-disciplinary analysis of the social phenomena unfolding in the Maghreb today. The contributors analyse the genealogies of contemporary North African behavioral and ideological norms, and offer insights into post-Arab Spring governance and today’s social and political trends. The book situates regional developments within broader international currents, without forgoing the distinct features of each socio-historical context. With its common historical, cultural, and socio-economic foundations, the Maghreb is a cohesive area of study that allows for greater understanding of domestic developments from both single-country and comparative perspectives. This volume refines the geo-historical unity of the Maghreb by accounting for social connections, both within the nation-state and across political boundaries and historical eras. It illustrates that non-institutional phenomena are equally formative to the ongoing project of post-colonial sovereignty, to social construction and deployments of state power, and to local outlooks on social equity, economic prospects, and cultural identity.
Kamrava, Mehran.Troubled Waters: Insecurity in the Persian Gulf. Cornell University Press, 2018.
Troubled Waters looks at four dynamics in the Persian Gulf that have contributed to making the region one of the most volatile and tension-filled spots in the world. Mehran Kamrava identifies the four dynamics as: the neglect of human dimensions of security; the inherent instability involved in reliance on the United States and the exclusion of Iraq and Iran; the international and security policies pursued by inside and outside actors; and a suite of overlapping security dilemmas. These four factors combine and interact to generate long-term volatility and ongoing tensions within the Persian Gulf. Through insights from Kamrava’s interviews with Gulf elites into policy decisions, the consequences of security dilemmas, the priorities of local players, and the neglect of identity and religion, Troubled Waters examines the root causes of conflicts and crises that are currently unfolding in the region. As Kamrava demonstrates, each state in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Qatar, has embarked on vigorous security-producing efforts as part of foreign policy, flooding the area with more munitions—thereby increasing insecurity and causing more mistrust in a part of the world that needs no more tension. Read more at Cornell University Press.
CIRS Summary Report no. 22
In recent years, the Middle East’s information and communication landscape has changed dramatically. Increasingly, states, businesses, and citizens are capitalising on the opportunities offered by new technologies, the fast pace of digitisation, and enhanced connectivity. These changes are far from turning Middle Eastern nations into network societies, but their impact is significant. The growing adoption of a wide variety of technologies in everyday life has given rise to complex dynamics that beg for a better understanding. Digital Middle East sheds a critical light on the continuing changes closely intertwined with the adoption of information and communication technologies in the region. Drawing on case studies from throughout the Middle East, the contributors explore how these digital transformations are playing out in the social, cultural, political, and economic spheres, exposing the various disjunctions and discordances that have marked the advent of the digital Middle East.
CIRS Summary Report no. 21
The Red Star and the Crescent provides an in-depth and multi-disciplinary analysis of the evolving relationship between China and the Middle East. Despite its increasing importance, very few studies have examined this dynamic, deepening, and multi-faceted nexus. James Reardon-Anderson has sought to fill this critical gap. The volume examines the ‘big picture’ of international relations, then zooms in on case studies and probes the underlying domestic factors on each side. Reardon-Anderson tackles topics as diverse as China’s security strategy in the Middle East, its military relations with the states of the region, its role in the Iran nuclear negotiations, the Uyghur question, and the significance and consequences of the Silk Road strategy.
CIRS Summary Report no. 20
The situation of the healthcare systems in the Gulf has become multi-tiered, primarily due to the lack of systematic population health need assessments, including short-term health solutions for low-skilled workers. Even though the Gulf region has attained significant social and economic achievements in a short span of time, healthcare policies are still centered more on curative health and not enough emphasis has been placed on protective and preventive measures. There is a lack of medical educational institutions in the Gulf, and the role of the private sector is in need of further study as there is no explanation as to why patients are shifting from public to private healthcare institutions.
CIRS Occasional Paper no. 18
Lawrence G. Potter, Columbia University
This essay takes as its focus society in the Persian Gulf over the long term, both before and after oil. In order to understand the transitions society has gone through, it is necessary to review the region’s historical evolution and how society in the Gulf today differs from that of the pre-oil era. The Gulf is presented as a distinct historical region, where a tradition of free movement helped account for the success of its port cities, themselves linked more to the Indian Ocean basin than the Middle East. In the twentieth century, the historic ties that connected the people of the Gulf littoral were curtailed as nationalism became the dominant ideology, and borders and passports were imposed. After oil was discovered and exports began following World War II, the small Gulf shaikhdoms, most of which were under British protection until 1971, experienced a surge in revenues that ushered in the modern era. Newly independent states sought to impose a new identity, manipulate history, and exploit sectarian cleavages to solidify the power of ruling dynasties. The historic cosmopolitanism of the Gulf was ignored by states that privileged the tribal, Bedouin heritage of their leaders. Arabs and Persians, both Sunni and Shi‘a, as well as many other groups have lived with each other in the region for many centuries, during which mutual differences occasionally led to conflict. But the current mistrust, tension, and sense of vulnerability felt by all sides is a product of the modern age.