The Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University is proud to join Freedom House and a coalition of nearly 500 experts, organizations, dignitaries, and heads of state calling on the international community to strengthen its support for Iranian pro-democracy protesters.
Iranians have taken to the streets in rebellion. The vanguard are young women, but they have been joined by men and people of all ages. With breathtaking courage and unarmed, they have kept coming, even as the regime has shot, hanged, tortured, blinded, raped, beaten, and arrested many thousands.
The spark was mandatory hijab, but the target of the uprising is the whole theocratic system. Their slogan is Woman, Life, Freedom. The goal they chant is “Azadi, Azadi, A-za-di,” meaning “Freedom, Freedom, Freedom.”
Their victory would mean deliverance from a regime that denies free elections, free speech, due process of law, and personal autonomy in matters as simple as the choice of clothing.
Victory would mean even more than that. The end of the Islamic Republic’s system of misogyny would constitute a global landmark in the long march toward a world in which women are treated equally.
The triumph of freedom in Iran could renew the global tide of democratization that was so strong in the latter twentieth century but has ebbed in the face of authoritarian counterattack.
The Azadi movement addresses no demands to the regime, which it regards as fundamentally illegitimate and beyond reform. The protestors chant “down with” it. They want theocracy and dictatorship replaced by freedom and democracy. They proclaim a “revolution.”
They deserve unstinting support from freedom-loving people around the world:
Governments, civic associations, and individuals should speak loudly and often in support of the protestors and in condemnation of the regime’s repressive actions. Legislators and others should “adopt” individual arrestees, especially those facing execution, and spotlight their plight.
Governments should take diplomatic, economic, and symbolic measures to punish the regime and bolster the protestors. All officials involved in the repressions, from Supreme Leader Khamenei down to local Basij commanders, should be sanctioned. The Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) should be added to terrorism lists.
High level officials of democratic governments should receive leaders of the opposition, in publicly-announced meetings.
Accurate, reliable, fact-based reporting via international radio, television, and social media reaching Iran should be enhanced, as should assistance to private Iranian exile broadcasting.
Technical assistance, including equipment, should be given to help the demonstrators counteract censorship and surveillance and to communicate despite the regime’s disruption of Internet service and blocking of websites.
Labor unions, governments, and others in the international community should express solidarity with Iranian workers, should share the experiences of other labor struggles for worker rights and democracy, and should also seek ways to provide practical assistance, such as VPNs, other means of communication, and contributions to strike funds if safe and effective channels can be found.
We pledge to do all in our power to support the Iranian struggle for Azadi and call upon all people of good will everywhere to join us.
The Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University is proud to join a coalition of nearly 500 experts, organizations, dignitaries, and heads of state calling on the international community to strengthen its support for Iranian pro-democracy protesters.
The advent of the Arab Spring in late 2010 was a hopeful moment for partisans of progressive change throughout the Arab world. Authoritarian leaders who had long stood in the way of meaningful political reform in the countries of the region were either ousted or faced the possibility of political if not physical demise. The downfall of long-standing dictators as they faced off with strong-willed protesters was a clear sign that democratic change was within reach. Throughout the last ten years, however, the Arab world has witnessed authoritarian regimes regaining resilience, pro-democracy movements losing momentum, and struggles between the first and the latter involving regional and international powers.
This volume explains how relevant political players in Arab countries among regimes, opposition movements, and external actors have adapted ten years after the onset of the Arab Spring. It includes contributions on Egypt, Morocco, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, and Tunisia. It also features studies on the respective roles of the United States, China, Iran, and Turkey vis-à-vis questions of political change and stability in the Arab region, and includes a study analyzing the role of Saudi Arabia and its allies in subverting revolutionary movements in other countries.
8:00-8:30 am: Coffee and light breakfast
8:30-9:00 am: Opening Remarks
Mona Atia, IMES, The George Washington University
Larry Diamond, CDDRL, Stanford University
Hicham Alaoui, Hicham Alaoui Foundation
9:00-10:45 am Panel I: Authoritarian Survival Strategies after the Arab Uprisings
Michael Herb, “The Decay of Family Rule in Saudi Arabia”
Farah Al-Nakib, “Kuwait’s Changing Landscape: Palace Projects and the Decline of Rule by Consensus”
Samia Errazzouki, “The People vs. the Palace: Power and Politics in Morocco since 2011”
Moderator: Hesham Sallam, CDDRL, Stanford University
10:45-11:00 am: Coffee break
11:00 am -1:00 pm Panel II: Opposition Mobilization and Challenges to Democratization
Khalid Medani, “The Prospects and Challenges of Democratization in Sudan”
Sean Yom, “Mobilization without Movement: Opposition and Youth Activism in Jordan”
Lina Khatib, “Cycles of Contention in Lebanon”
David Patel, “The Nexus of Patronage, Petrol, and Population in Iraq”
Moderator: Ayca Alemdaroglu, CDDRL, Stanford University
1:00-2:00 pm: Lunch
2:00-3:45 pm Panel III: External Actors and Responses to Popular Mobilization
Sarah Yerkes, U.S. Influence on Arab Regimes: From Reluctant Democracy Supporter to Authoritarian Enabler”
Ayca Alemdaroglu, “Myths of Expansion: Turkey’s Changing Policy in the Arab World”
Moderator: Nathan Brown, The George Washington University
Hicham Alaoui is the founder and director of the Hicham Alaoui Foundation and a scholar on the comparative politics of democratization and religion, with a focus on the MENA region.
Ayça Alemdaroğlu is a Research Scholar and Associate Director of the Program on Turkey at the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University.
Mona Atia is Associate Professor of Geography and International Affairs at the George Washington University.
Nathan Brown is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs
Larry Diamond is a Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, where he serves as director of the Program on Arab Reform and Democracy.
Samia Errazzouki is a PhD candidate in history at the University of California Davis and a former Morocco-based journalist.
Michael Herb is Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University.
Farah Al-Nakib is Associate Professor of History at the California Polytechnic State University.
Lina Khatib is the Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House.
Khalid Mustafa Medani is Associate Professor of Political Science and Islamic Studies at McGill University.
David Siddhartha Patel is a Senior Fellow and Associate Director for Research at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University.
Hesham Sallam is a Research Scholar at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.
Sarah Yerkes is a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Sean Yom is Associate Professor of Political Science at Temple University, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and Board Member of the Hicham Alaoui Foundation.
Across Iran, protests have erupted over the killing of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died in police custody after being apprehended for not wearing her hijab correctly.
The protestors’ bold acts of defiance against Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the regime he represents are part of a long struggle for democracy, sovereignty, and independence among people in Iran, said Abbas Milani, the director of the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies.
Here, Milani, whose scholarship examines U.S.-Iran relations as well as Iranian cultural, political, and security issues, discusses how Iranians have been fighting for freedom and equality for almost 150 years and how Amini’s death is the latest centerpiece in that push for independence.
Abbas Milani, founding director of Stanford’s Iranian Studies Program, discusses how the most recent protests sweeping cities and villages across Iran are part of an enduring fight to advance women’s rights and equality.
Over the past three weeks, activists across Iran have been organizing to seek justice for the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who passed away in the custody of the country's Guardian Patrol. This is one of a series of protest movements that have challenged the Iranian regime over the past five years.
Stanford in Government, in partnership with CDDRL, hosts a conversation with Jason Rezaian on October 13 from 5:00-6:30 pm in the Moghadam Conference Room 123 of Encina Commons.
In this conversation, he'll offer his perspective on the near-term prospects for U.S.-Iran relations and draw parallels between his own experience in Iran and the experience of American political prisoners abroad.
Mr. Rezaian is a writer for Global Opinions at The Washington Post. He served as The Post's correspondent in Tehran from 2012 to 2016. He spent 544 days unjustly imprisoned by Iranian authorities until his release in January 2016. Mr. Rezaian chronicled his experience in Iran in his 2019 book Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison.
As street protests in the U.S. grew in strength in support of racial justice, authoritarian regimes around the world offered their own interpretations of events to their people back home. The Iranian regime in particular points to the demonstrations as proof that U.S. democracy has failed. Join us as Stanford scholars discuss recent and persistent challenges to democracy in the U.S., in particular violence against the Black community and in response to recent protests.
Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) Director Michael McFaul will moderate a panel discussion on this trend with Larry Diamond, senior fellow at FSI and the Hoover Institution, Didi Kuo, associate director for research at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), Abbas Milani director of the Iranian Studies Program, and Nancy Okail, visiting scholar at CDDRL.
This event is online only. Register to receive a personalized link to join the Zoom webinar.
Abbas Milani is the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University and a visiting professor in the department of political science. In addition, Dr. Milani is a research fellow and co-director of the Iran Democracy Project at the Hoover Institution.
Prior to coming to Stanford, Milani was a professor of history and political science and chair of the department at Notre Dame de Namur University and a research fellow at the Institute of International Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. Milani was an assistant professor in the faculty of law and political science at Tehran University and a member of the board of directors of Tehran University's Center for International Studies from 1979 to 1987. He was a research fellow at the Iranian Center for Social Research from 1977 to 1978 and an assistant professor at the National University of Iran from 1975 to 1977.
Dr. Milani is the author of Eminent Persians: Men and Women Who Made Modern Iran, 1941-1979, (Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY, 2 volumes, November, 2008); King of Shadows: Essays on Iran's Encounter with Modernity, Persian text published in the U.S. (Ketab Corp., Spring 2005); Lost Wisdom: Rethinking Persian Modernity in Iran, (Mage 2004); The Persian Sphinx: Amir Abbas Hoveyda and the Riddle of the Iranian Revolution (Mage, 2000); Modernity and Its Foes in Iran (Gardon Press, 1998); Tales of Two Cities: A Persian Memoir (Mage 1996); On Democracy and Socialism, a collection of articles coauthored with Faramarz Tabrizi (Pars Press, 1987); and Malraux and the Tragic Vision (Agah Press, 1982). Milani has also translated numerous books and articles into Persian and English.
Milani received his BA in political science and economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1970 and his PhD in political science from the University of Hawaii in 1974.
Hamid and Christina Moghadam Director of Iranian Studies
Larry Diamond is the William L. Clayton Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, the Mosbacher Senior Fellow in Global Democracy at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), and a Bass University Fellow in Undergraduate Education at Stanford University. He is also professor by courtesy of Political Science and Sociology at Stanford. He leads the Hoover Institution’s programs on China’s Global Sharp Power and on Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific Region. At FSI, he leads the Program on Arab Reform and Democracy, based at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, which he directed for more than six years. He also co-leads with (Eileen Donahoe) the Global Digital Policy Incubator, based at FSI’s Cyber Policy Center. He is the founding coeditor of the Journal of Democracy and also serves as senior consultant at the International Forum for Democratic Studies of the National Endowment for Democracy. His research focuses on democratic trends and conditions around the world and on policies and reforms to defend and advance democracy. His latest edited book (with Orville Schell), China's Influence and American Interests (Hoover Press, 2019), urges a posture of constructive vigilance toward China’s global projection of “sharp power,” which it sees as a rising threat to democratic norms and institutions. He offers a massive open online course (MOOC) on Comparative Democratic Development through the edX platform and is now writing a textbook to accompany it.
Diamond’s book, Ill Winds: Saving Democracy from Russian Rage, Chinese Ambition, and American Complacency, analyzes the challenges confronting liberal democracy in the United States and around the world at this potential “hinge in history,” and offers an agenda for strengthening and defending democracy at home and abroad. A paperback edition with a new preface was released by Penguin in April 2020. His other books include: In Search of Democracy (2016), The Spirit of Democracy (2008), Developing Democracy: Toward Consolidation (1999), Promoting Democracy in the 1990s (1995), and Class, Ethnicity, and Democracy in Nigeria(1989). He has also edited or coedited more than forty books on democratic development around the world, most recently, Dynamics of Democracy in Taiwan: The Ma Ying-jeou Years.
During 2002–03, Diamond served as a consultant to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and was a contributing author of its report, Foreign Aid in the National Interest. He has also advised and lectured to universities and think tanks around the world, and to the World Bank, the United Nations, the State Department, and other governmental and nongovernmental agencies dealing with governance and development. During the first three months of 2004, Diamond served as a senior adviser on governance to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. His 2005 book, Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq, was one of the first books to critically analyze America's postwar engagement in Iraq.
Among Diamond’s other edited books are Democracy in Decline?; Democratization and Authoritarianism in the Arab World; Will China Democratize?; and Liberation Technology: Social Media and the Struggle for Democracy, all edited with Marc F. Plattner; and Politics and Culture in Contemporary Iran, with Abbas Milani. With Juan J. Linz and Seymour Martin Lipset, he edited the series, Democracy in Developing Countries, which helped to shape a new generation of comparative study of democratic development.
Former Director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law
Didi Kuo is the Associate Director for Research at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, and a Center Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) at Stanford University. She is a scholar of comparative politics, with a focus on democratization, corruption and clientelism, political parties and institutions, and political reform. Her recent work examines changes to party organization, and the impact these changes have on the ability of governments to address challenges posed by global capitalism. She is the author of Clientelism, Capitalism, and Democracy: the rise of programmatic politics in the United States and Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2018), which examines the role of business against clientelism and the development of modern political parties in the nineteenth century.
She has been at Stanford since 2013 as the manager of the Program on American Democracy in Comparative Perspective, which examines problems such as polarization, inequality, and responsiveness, and recommends possibilities for reform. She also teaches in the Fisher Family Honors Program at CDDRL. She is a non-resident fellow in political reform at New America, where she was a 2018 Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellow. She received a PhD in political science from Harvard University, an MSc in Economic and Social History from Oxford University, where she studied as a Marshall Scholar, and a BA from Emory University.
Associate Director for Research, Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law
Michael McFaul is Director at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, the Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Professor of International Studies in the Department of Political Science, and the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1995.
Dr. McFaul also is as an International Affairs Analyst for NBC News and a columnist for The Washington Post. He served for five years in the Obama administration, first as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House (2009-2012), and then as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012-2014).
He has authored several books, most recently the New York Times bestseller From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia. Earlier books include Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should, How We Can;Transitions To Democracy: A Comparative Perspective (eds. with Kathryn Stoner); Power and Purpose: American Policy toward Russia after the Cold War (with James Goldgeier); and Russia’s Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin.
His current research interests include American foreign policy, great power relations, and the relationship between democracy and development. Dr. McFaul was born and raised in Montana. He received his B.A. in International Relations and Slavic Languages and his M.A. in Soviet and East European Studies from Stanford University in 1986. As a Rhodes Scholar, he completed his D. Phil. in International Relations at Oxford University in 1991. He is currently writing a book on great power relations in the 21st century.
International Working Group on Russian Sanctions
The International Working Group on Russian Sanctions aims to provide expertise and experience to governments and companies around the world by assisting with the formulation of sanctions proposals that will increase the cost to Russia of invading Ukraine, and support democratic Ukraine in the defense of its territorial integrity and national sovereignty.
CDDRL’s Program on Arab Reform and Democracy held its annual conference at Stanford University on October 11 and 12, titled “The Struggle for Political Change in the Arab World.” The conference is an outgrowth of ARD’s efforts to support new research on the dynamics of political change in the countries of the Arab world. Scholars from across different disciplines sought to understand how social, economic, and political dynamics at the national level, as well as international and regional conflict and power rivalries, impact struggles for political and social change in the region.
Overview of Panels and Speakers
Following opening remarks by FSI Senior Fellow Larry Diamond, the first panel titled “The Boundaries of Authoritarianism post-Arab Uprisings” featured CDDRL Senior Research Scholar Amr Hamzawy. His paper examined how the regime of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has employed discursive strategies to discredit calls for democratic change in the country. Sean Yom, Associate Professor of Political Science at Temple University, outlined how the protest strategies of Jordanian youth have limited their effectiveness in advancing meaningful political change. University of California, Davis Scholar Samia Errazzouki discussed the failure of state-led political and economic reform in Morocco.
Chaired by Harvard University Fellow Hicham Alaoui, the second panel was titled “Popular Uprisings and Uncertain Transitions.” University of California, Santa Cruz Political Scientist Thomas Serres provided an overview of the economic disruptions that contributed to Algeria’s uprising. Lindsay Benstead, who is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Portland State University, analyzed the electoral successes of Tunisia’s Ennahda Party. Khalid Medani, Professor of Political Science at McGill University, explained how Sudanese protesters leveraged new strategies of contention to force Omar Al-Bashir out of power.
The third panel, titled “Politics, Succession and Sectarianism in the GCC States,” included Oxford University Fellow Toby Matthiesen, who discussed how Saudi Arabia and the GCC states have increasingly sought to protect their regimes by actively molding the politics of their autocratic patrons in the region, and by using new technologies to upgrade the effectiveness of their surveillance states. Georgia State University Political Scientist Michael Herb explained how the aging of the Saudi line of succession contributed to the political ascendancy of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and the decay of family rule in the country. Cal Poly Historian Farah Al-Nakib described how Kuwait’s royal family has used its sponsorship of large-scale development projects to sidestep the country’s political polarization, undermine the power of the parliament, and weaken public access to spaces of political contestation.
The fourth panel focused on “Social Strife and Proxy Conflict in the Middle East.” Chatham House Scholar Lina Khatib described Syria’s transformation during the civil war from a highly centralized security state to a transactional state in which the regime depends heavily on local powerbrokers. Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, discussed differences in how local communities in Yemen have been affected by the country’s conflict. David Patel, who serves as Associate Director for Research at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University, argued that Iraq’s democratic institutions have been impressively robust to a series of existential challenges, but he also highlighted a widespread feeling among the Iraqi public that its parliamentary system is failing to deliver.
Finally, the fifth panel examined the topic of “International Forces in the Arab Political Arena.” Stanford University Political Scientist Lisa Blaydes suggested that China’s efforts to involve itself in the regional economy may improve its reputation among economically-frustrated Arab citizens, but that such efforts also spell trouble for democracy and human rights in the Middle East. Hamid & Christina Moghadam Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University Abbas Milani argued that Iran’s ideological commitment to exporting the Islamic Revolution has been remarkably consistent for several decades. Colin Kahl, Co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at FSI, reviewed the strategies of US administrations toward the Middle East, and posited that President Trump’s approach of pursuing maximalist objectives with minimal commitments is particularly likely to heighten instability in the region. FSI Scholar Ayca Alemdaroglu emphasized that Turkey’s neo-Ottoman foreign policy has failed to achieve its objectives in the face of mounting regional upheaval.
Common Themes of Political Change and Continuity
Several themes emerged from conference presentations. First, across the panels, scholars discussed the lessons learned by autocrats and activists alike in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, and the ways in which these lessons have transformed regional politics. Hamzawy emphasized that the Sisi regime in Egypt has increasingly relied on intensive repression over cooptation to maintain stability, while at the same time refusing to grant even limited political openings as existed under Hosni Mubarak’s presidency. In part, this change appears to be rooted in the regime’s belief that relaxing the state’s authoritarian posture had contributed to the revolutionary upheaval of 2011. Likewise, Matthiesen suggested that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council States have learned to become more aggressive in strengthening their surveillance apparatus and policing popular discourse transnationally. By contrast, Serres discussed how the Algerian military and bureaucracy have responded to mass protests not by intensifying repression, but instead by attempting to coopt anti-corruption initiatives and democratic reforms to limit political and economic change. Similarly, regarding Kuwait, Al-Nakib illustrated how the restructuring of urban spaces has proved itself a subtle but successful strategy for the royal family to rehabilitate its reputation while limiting geographic focal points for popular politics.
Activists have also learned their own lessons from the aftermath of the Arab Spring. According to Yom, Jordanian activists continue to look to the leaderless revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt as a model to be emulated. As a result, they prioritize agility and horizontality in their protests, and they forgo the organization of formal political movements. This approach has succeeded in acquiring short-term concessions from the regime but has failed to generate broader structural changes. On the other hand, activists in Sudan appear to have been more successful at using lessons from the Arab Spring to push for systematic transformations of their political system. According to Medani, Sudanese protesters developed novel tactics to avoid the repression of the coercive apparatus, and they were effective at gradually forging a counterhegemonic discourse that clearly exposed the regime’s failures to the public. Following the overthrow of Omar Al-Bashir, activists in Sudan have also insisted on dismantling the political and economic might of the deep state to avoid following Egypt’s path.
Second, the conference discussion indicated widespread dissatisfaction with formal political institutions across the region. For instance, Hamzawy suggested that Sisi’s regime has been relatively successful at discrediting civilian political institutions, including the legislature and civilian-led ministries. Errazzouki highlighted widespread dissatisfaction in Morocco with existing political institutions. Likewise, Yom’s discussion of activists in Jordan emphasized their lack of interest in entering formal politics. In Kuwait, the royal court has found an opening to pursue urban development projects outside of normal institutions in part because of the public’s frustration with gridlock in the legislature. Patel speculated that frustration with the parliament and muhasasa system in Iraq may finally prompt major changes to the country’s political process.
Third, despite this disillusionment with formal politics, these political institutions have proved remarkably durable in countries across the region. For example, though current frustrations may finally prompt change in Iraq, Patel also highlighted the resilience of the parliamentary system in the face of a sectarian civil war, US troop withdrawal, the rise of ISIS, and a number of other major challenges. For both Algeria and Sudan, Serres and Medani stressed that militaries continue to exercise significant influence despite the popular uprisings. Meanwhile, for Egypt, Hamzawy noted the firm grip of the current military regime on power, and for Morocco, Errazzouki described the lack of systematic changes to the country’s ruling monarchy, even after years of popular pressure.
Fourth, this durability has not precluded a number of important shifts within existing political institutions. Regarding Syria, for instance, Khatib explained how the survival of Bashar al-Asad’s presidency has depended on moving state institutions away from a centralized security state to a transactional state reliant on local actors with a degree of independence from the regime. Herb described how the consensus-based family rule of the Saudi monarchy fell victim to deaths among the aging senior princes, which opened up opportunities for the king to appoint more officials in a manner that heightened his direct influence. Herb suggested that Mohammad Bin Salman recognized this change and knew that he would likely lose relevance upon his father’s death; as a result, he was motivated to gamble on consolidating his control while his father still held the power to issue royal decrees. In Algeria, the influence of the military and bureaucracy may remain paramount for now, but Serres also pointed out that protesters have succeeded in stripping away the civilian intermediaries who used to protect these institutions. Regarding the durability of local institutions, Yadav noted how pre-conflict and even pre-unification institutions in Yemen have continued to operate effectively in a number of local communities around the country.
Fifth, foreign interventions will continue to destabilize the region and impede prospects for democratization or post-conflict reconstructions in the coming years. Khatib noted that Russia has positioned itself as the agenda setter who can bring the Syrian state back to its feet, but also that Russia and Iran are competing to profit off the country’s reconstruction. For Yemen, Yadav argued that fragmentation at the local level has important implications for best practices in the international community’s reconstruction efforts, but that current actors are not well positioned to understand these trends. Kahl predicted that the Middle East strategy of the Trump administration would likely contribute to further destabilization of the region because of its emphasis on empowering allies to do what they want and go after Iran while the United States maintains its distance. Meanwhile, Blaydes’ presentation on China’s regional involvement, Milani’s discussion of Iran’s efforts to export the Islamic Revolution, and Matthiesen’s observations about the GCC States’ authoritarian coordination all illustrated how intervening states are reducing prospects for democratic political change.
Sixth, even as interventionist countries have contributed to the destabilization of the region, they have also confronted major obstacles themselves – and in some cases have failed outright to achieve their primary objectives. Khatib noted that Iran has faced backlash in Syria, while Abbas Milani and David Patel pointed to backlash against Iran in Iraq. Kahl emphasized that the Trump administration’s Middle East policy was unlikely to achieve its goals. Blaydes observed that China has not acquired greater salience in the Middle East despite its more active economic involvement, and individuals in many of the region’s countries – particularly those that are more developed – do not see China’s growth as a positive force. She also stressed the reputational risks China is taking in pursuing potentially unpopular investments through the Belt and Road Initiative. The GCC States are attempting to prop up strongmen in both Libya and Sudan, but this strategy has struggled in the face of local political dynamics; furthermore, the intervention in Yemen has been a disaster for Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Finally, Alemdaroglu stressed that Turkey’s ambitious “neo-Ottoman” foreign policy, which reflects a desire to revive Turkish influence in areas ruled by the Ottoman Empire, has largely failed. In particular, the architect of the policy, former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, lost his job; the country miscalculated badly in how it handled the aftermath of the Arab Spring; and Turkey’s relations with many of its neighbors have soured.
Islamism has imitated, or colluded with, the state autocracies it claims to oppose. It has failed to suggest its own answers to economic problems, social justice, education or corruption, writes Hicham Alaoui in Le Monde diplomatique. Click here to read the full article, which is based on research that Alaoui presented at UC Berkeley and CDDRL on October 10 and 11, respectively.
''US President Donald Trump’s decision to pursue a more aggressive Iran policy underscores his administration’s misunderstanding of the Iranian regime. Shelving the 2015 nuclear deal would not only heighten regional tensions; it would also embolden the very hardliners that the US has been seeking to contain," writes Abbas Milani in his latest for the Project Syndicate. Read the whole article here.
Francis Fukuyama and former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry write in the Financial Times, suggesting President Obama's stance on ISIS is "overpromising" and that America should follow lessons from British history and pursue a more sustainable strategy known as "offshore balancing."