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What Next? States, Conflicts, and Policy in the Middle East
A One-Day Symposium at George Mason University
{{langos=='en'?('02/05/2018' | todate):('02/05/2018' | artodate)}} - issue 5.2

In this one-day symposium, held at George Mason University on May 2nd, 2018, three panels were held - Ongoing Conflicts in the Middle East, Countries in Transition?, and Policy, Mobilization and Prospects. Several topics were explored within these panels, including Egypt-U.S. relations, Trump's Jerusalem decision, uprisings in Jordan and politics in Iran.  For more information speakers and the event, click here.

Sponsored by the Schar School, Middle East and Islamic Studies Program, Arab Studies Institute, Center for Global Policy. Co-Sponsored by Center for Global Islamic Studies, Global Affairs.

Watch all panels of the symposium here:

Symposium Schedule

Panel 1 Ongoing Conflicts in the Middle East 

(Justin Gest, moderator)
Jack A. Goldstone
The Middle East as the Cockpit of World Politics
Lisa Anderson
The State and Its Competitors in the Arab World
Marc Lynch
Proxy War and the Structure of Regional Politics

The first panel applied a geopolitical lens to trends in the Middle East. Jack Goldstone argued that the region’s future is subject to China’s ambition for global military and commercial power particularly in the Indian Ocean corridor. Lisa Anderson contended that the European model of the nation-state was imposed on Middle Eastern countries, which produced a large number of weak states and planted the seeds of future instability. Marc Lynch explained that such discrepancies in state capacity have produced an extraordinary set of circumstances in which small states like Qatar and the UAE exert the most coordinated power over the region thanks to (heavily subsidized) domestic stability, an accumulation of money, highly trained militaries with effective special forces, and centralized authoritarian governance.


Panel 2 Countries in Transition? 

(Justin Gest, moderator)
Jillian Schwedler
Not Over Yet: Ongoing Uprisings and Regime Responses in Jordan and Elsewhere
Daniel Brumberg
Transition Politics in Iran: From Detour to Detour
Bassam Haddad
State Collapse, Transition, and Reconstruction: What Governs Shifting Policies In/On Syria?
Steven Cook
From 'Model Partner' to Rogue Actor: The Breakdown of the US-Turkey Alliance
The second panel featured more focused examinations of specific states. Jillian Schwedler emphasized that, though quelled by fears of instability, revolutionary sentiment remains latent in many currently peaceful Middle Eastern countries like Jordan. Daniel Brumberg discussed the complexity of Iran's domestic politics and the way they and regional circumstances constrain its geopolitical ambition. Bassam Haddad appealed for a more humane lens in considerations of Syrian politics, and outlined a periodization that starts with a peaceful protests, moves to a proxy war, and puts us back to direct confrontations in 2018. And in tracing the evolution of Erdogan and the AKP's emergence in Turkey, Steven Cook discussed Turkey's opportunistic agenda as it relates to its relations with the EU, US, Russia, and the ultimate repatriation of Syrian refugees.


Panel 3 Policy, Mobilization, and Prospects

(Nadya Sbaiti, moderator) 
Michelle Dunne
The United States & Egypt: Dilemmas of a Long-time Partnership
Peter Mandaville 
“Between Iraq and a Hard Place: The Challenges of a Post-ISIS Middle East”
Noura Erakat 
International Law and Implications for Trump’s Jerusalem Decision
Paul Salem
Beyond the Arab Uprisings: Drivers and Scenarios in Thinking About Middle East Futures
The panelists offered four ‘big pictures’ against which to situate contemporary events and possible futures. Michele Dunne took a long view of the US-Egyptian relationship, focusing on the gradual “unmooring” in recent years particularly in terms of eroding US financial support. Peter Mandaville painted a broad landscape of political Islam, its trends and directions, concluding that the phrase is now so diffuse as render it potentially meaningless. Noura Erakat laid out in three phases the international legal scaffolding for the perpetuation of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. And finally, Paul Salem gave a broad range of snapshots of the state of affairs for various groups in the region.
Additional Information