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Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. James is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title as well as Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and Shifting Sand ...
 
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Increasing strains between Pakistan and its traditional Arab allies, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, is about more than Gulf states opportunistically targeting India’s far more lucrative market.At the heart of the tensions, that potentially complicate Pakistan’s economic recovery, is also India’s ability to enhance Gulf states’ capacity…
 
David Rundell brings to his book, Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads (I. B. Tauris, 2020), a granular analysis and insider’s understanding of the inner workings of the kingdom garnered as a US foreign service officer who served a total of 15 years in the country.Rundell skilfully weaves history into a multi-layered portrait of the tra…
 
Saudi Arabia has taken multiple steps to polish its tarnished image in advance of this weekend’s hosting of the virtual summit of the G20 that groups the world’s foremost economies and in anticipation of an incoming Biden administration in the United States that is expected to be critical of Riyadh and potentially more conciliatory towards Iran and…
 
Public debates about China’s Middle East policy are as much internal Chinese discussions as they are indications of where Beijing’s thinking is going and efforts to nudge countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to accommodate potential policy changes.By James M. Dorsey
 
Weakened by Joe Biden’s electoral defeat of US President Donald J. Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu risks being caught between a rock and a hard place as Jordan, the Palestine Authority and the United Arab Emirates manoeuvre for control of what is to Jews the Temple Mount and to Muslims the Haram ash-Sharif, the third most holy site…
 
Michael Quentin MortonNov 3, 2020 / James M. DorseyMasters of the PearlA History of QatarREAKTION BOOKS 2020History is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of young, energy-rich monarchies of the Gulf that often punch above their weight in geopolitics and geoeconomics. Yet, that is the rich, mostly unknown story of Qatar that Mich…
 
With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar only two years away, and a resolution of the three-year-old Gulf rift nowhere in sight, government officials, soccer governance executives, and pundits are playing with the notion that the tournament could serve as an icebreaker in the dispute between Qatar and its detractors, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates …
 
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to boost efforts by the world’s largest Muslim movement to recontextualize Islam during a forthcoming visit to Indonesia as part of a three-nation Asian tour. The tour is likely to be the secretary’s last official trip prior to next month’s US presidential election.…
 
ALAN CHONG AND QUANG MIN PHAMCritical Reflections on China’s Belt and Road InitiativePALGRAVE MACMILLAN 2020October 16, 2020 James M. DorseyPolitical scientists Alan Chong and Quang Min Pham bring with their edited volume, Critical Reflections on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (Palgrave MacMillan, 2020), originality as well as dimensions and pers…
 
The United Arab Emirates may have the upper hand in its competition with Turkey in efforts to shape Palestinian politics. Similarly, the UAE’s recognition of the Jewish state gives it a leg up in ensuring that its voice is heard in Israel and Washington irrespective of who wins the November US election.…
 
A close read of the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel suggests that the Jewish state has won far more than diplomatic recognition. It won acknowledgement of its claim to historic Jewish rights. By the same token, the UAE has received a significant boost to project itself as a leader in inter-faith dialogue.…
 
The United Arab Emirates’ establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel is damaging its efforts to garner religious soft power by projecting itself as a model of Islamic moderation and tolerance and a force for peace. The UAE move has sparked splits within a key group, created and nurtured by the Gulf state, to project its image as a moderate r…
 
Here are two potential indicators of Chinese interest in moving ahead with a proposed US$400 billion economic and military cooperation agreement with Iran: a Chinese push for Iranian membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and renewed interest in a China-Pakistan-Iran-Turkey energy pipeline. China has moved on neither.…
 
JAMES ZOGBYThe Tumultuous Decade: Arab Public Opinion and the Upheavals of 2010–2019STEUBEN PRESS 2020September 4, 2020 James M. DorseyJames Zogby’s The Tumultuous Decade: Arab Public Opinion and the Upheavals of 2010–2019 (Steuben Press, 2020) takes the reader on a decade-long tour of the Middle East as the region reverberates from popular revolts…
 
The decision by the UAE to establish diplomatic relations with Israel keeps a negotiated solution with Palestine on life support. There is no indication that forging relations with Israel will be more successful in nudging the Jewish state towards peace with Palestine on mutually acceptable terms than the failed formula of offering Arab recognition…
 
A rift between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia throws into sharp relief deepening fissures in the Muslim world. Coupled with the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and a myriad of other conflicts in the Middle East, the dispute poses serious challenges to Saudi Arabia’s quest for geopolitical and religious …
 
Rare polling of public opinion in Saudi Arabia suggests that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may be more sensitive to domestic public opinion on foreign policy issues such as Palestine than he lets on. The polling also indicates that a substantial number of Saudis is empathetic to protest as a vehicle for political change.…
 
Unfettered Chinese support for Saudi Arabia’s so far peaceful nuclear energy program risks fueling a burgeoning Middle East arms race amid concerns that the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement is all but dead, Turkey suggesting it has the right to develop nuclear weapons, and Israel certain to not remain idle if nuclear proliferation becomes the name of…
 
An agreement to establish diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel and a Saudi-Pakistani spat over Kashmir coupled with feuds among Gulf states and between Turkey, the kingdom, and the Emirates drive nails into the notion that the Arab and Islamic world by definition share common geopolitical interests on the basis of ethnic…
 
China and Saudi Arabia are engaged in a complex game of shadow boxing to shape a future security framework for the Gulf designed to contain regional conflicts. In a bid to ensure plausible deniability, the boxers are for now intellectuals and journalists rather than officials.By James M. Dorsey
 
DANYEL REICHE AND TAMIR SOREKSport, Politics, and Society in the Middle EastOXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 2019July 29, 2020 James M. DorseySports scholars Danyel Reiche and Tamir Sorek’s edited volume, Sport, Politics, and Society in the Middle East (Oxford University Press, 2019), makes a significant contribution to what remains a largely understudied, …
 
Saudi support of religious ultra-conservatism in Indonesia contradicts Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s promotion of an undefined form of moderate Islam intended to project his kingdom as tolerant, innovative, and forward-looking. It also suggests that Saudi Arabia is willing to work with the Muslim Brotherhood despite its denunciation of the gro…
 
China is contemplating greater political engagement in the Middle East in what would constitute a break with its longstanding effort to avoid being sucked into the region’s myriad conflicts and a bid to counter mounting US pressure to force Gulf states to curtail relations with the People’s Republic.…
 
Gulf scholar Sigurd Neubauer’s The Gulf Region and Israel: Old Struggles, New Alliances makes a significant contribution to our understanding of what drives shifting alliances in the Middle East, an ever more volatile part of the world.Shunned by Arab states for much of its existence, Israel has become in recent years a key factor in efforts by Gul…
 
Iran, together with India and Russia, is pushing forward with a sea and rail corridor that could substantially reduce the time and cost of shipping goods from India to Europe. If successful, the corridor could challenge the Suez Canal’s primacy and give Iran a significant advantage as its rivalry with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates plays…
 
Already at the core of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Jerusalem is emerging as yet another frontline in the struggle for regional hegemony in the Middle East. With its annexationist policies, Israel is backing Saudi and UAE efforts to counter Turkish activity in the city and weaken Jordan’s position as the custodian of Islam’s third most holy sit…
 
Resolving the tug of war in the Middle East will require a backing away from approaches that treat conflicts as zero-sum games, and engagement by all regional and external players. To achieve that, players would have to recognise that in many ways, perceptions on both sides of the Gulf divide are mirror images of one another: all parties see each o…
 
The hiring by Saudi Arabia of an international public relations firm to counter doubts about Mohammed bin Salman’s $500 billion USD dream of a futuristic city on the Red Sea suggests that the kingdom’s economic and financial crisis has not dampened his penchant for big ticket, high-profile projects.By James M. Dorsey
 
China was quick to aid coronavirus-stricken Sri Lanka. Chinese magnanimity and speed in responding to the Indian Ocean island’s request contrasted starkly with Beijing’s more measured response to Africa’s needs, widely expected to be the pandemic’s next hotspot.Geography was but one reason why China favoured the strategic island that straddles one …
 
The Trump administration’s quest to curb relationships between its allies in the Middle East and China offers a preview of how big power rivalry in the region is likely to unfold. It also suggests the limits on the United States’ ability to reduce its commitment to regional security.By James M. Dorsey
 
A Turkish-US business council is projecting Turkey as a trading alternative to China with the help of influential US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close associate of President Donald J. Trump. The Turkish effort comes two weeks after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan heralded a new era in long-strained relations with Washington.…
 
A web of relationships between Turkey, Russia, Iran, and China have to a significant degree shaped Middle Eastern and North African geopolitics. The fragility of those relationships, however, begs the question whether fluidity in regional geopolitics rather than paradigm shifts is, at least for now, the name of the game.…
 
Europe is progressively being sucked into the Middle East and North Africa’s myriad conflicts. As if wars on its doorstep in Libya and Syria were not enough, UAE support for an Eastern Mediterranean pipeline that could hurt Qatar economically — combined with Greek, Cypriot and French opposition to Turkish moves — leaves Europe with few, if any, opt…
 
China looms large as a potentially key player alongside Russia and Iran in President Bashas al-Assad’s post-war Syria. With Russia and Iran lacking the financial muscle and the United States and Europe refusing to engage with the Al-Assad regime, China is from Syria’s perspective the shining knight on a white horse. Syria could become a key node in…
 
The Middle East is at a crossroads. The coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout confronts regional leaders with a stark choice: dial down tensions to open the door toward cooperation in tackling existential challenges or risk ever more aggravated political and economic threats enhanced by a potential wave of social protest.…
 
Rejiggering security arrangements in the Gulf may be a more pressing issue than meets the eye. That is not good news for the Gulf states. It is also bad news for China, which could see the rug pulled out from under its studious effort to remain on the sidelines of the Middle East’s myriad conflicts.By James M. Dorsey
 
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