In the first half of 2017, the activities of FPRI’s Middle East Program significantly raised the Institute’s profile by engaging with key foreign policy debates taking place in government, in the think tank world, in academia, and in the media. Its scholars regularly published and commented on critical developments and trends in the Middle East, and participated in a diverse array of Middle East-related programming that bear upon American foreign policy and national security priorities. See here for details.
Senate Testimony Creates Quite a Stir
April 4, 2017
On March 30, 2017, FPRI Robert A. Fox Fellow Clint Watts testified in front of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the subject of Russian Active Measures and Influence Campaigns. His testimony was the subject of countless articles, and he was cited, interviewed, and featured in dozens of media outlets. To watch the testimony, read the transcript, or access his print, online, and television appearances, click here.
With the assault on Mosul already underway, and another on Raqqa reportedly in the offing, the fight to liberate territory taken by the Islamic State and to weaken the group more generally is steadily progressing. However, there is little cause to celebrate just yet. In his most recent piece “Putting the Battle for Mosul in Context,” Robert A. Fox FellowSamuel Helfont argues that “the crisis in Iraq is not going to disappear after the liberation of Mosul for as long as the political and military conflicts in Iraq remain unresolved, Iraq will continue to be a source for terrorism and mass migration.” Here are just of few other suggested articles by FPRI on Iraq, Syria, ISIS, and the like.
FPRI’s Robert A. Fox Fellow Samuel Helfont has penned a gripping appreciation of Iraqi dissident-cum-Brandeis Professor Kanan Makiya—FPRI’s 2016 Annual Dinner speaker and recipient of its 12th Annual Benjamin Franklin Award. In his essay, Kanan Makiya and the Rejection of Victimhood, Dr. Helfont discusses three of Makiya’s books: Republic of Fear, The Rope, and Cruelty and Silence; Makiya’s unique approach to victimhood in the Middle East; and provides a hitherto unknown account of Makiya’s surveillance at his home institution of Brandeis University by undercover Iraqi Ba’athists—something that Helfont himself found while digging through the archives of the Iraqi Ba‘th Party now located at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and that was unknown to Maikya himself until reading this essay.
In this startling essay on the attempted coup in Turkey, FPRI Senior Fellow and prize-winning Princeton Historian Michael A. Reynolds shakes up the way we think about Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Fethullah Gülen, and the United States. Damaging Democracy: The U.S., Fethullah Gülen, and Turkey’s Upheaval tells a tale of intra-Islamist intrigue in which a Turkish imam based in the Poconos allied himself with Erdoğan as part of a decades-long effort to capture the Turkish state from within. After having first neutralized their common opponents in the secular establishment through sham trials, the imam took on Erdoğan in a struggle that perhaps reached its denouement in the attempted coup of 15 July. With the rule of law in shambles and social trust in tatters, Turkish democracy and stability are in grave condition. By obliging Gülen and permitting him to reside in America, not only did Washington fail to promote democracy, Reynolds concludes, it may have actually helped to subvert and weaken—however inadvertently—the most important democracy in the Middle East.
FPRI’s Middle East program is proud to announce that it has named five Robert A. Fox Fellows, who will spend the year writing and speaking on a wide range of issues related to the Middle East and North Africa, and U.S. policy therein. Sponsored by Robert A. Fox, these Fellows have been chosen on the basis of their erudite scholarly contributions, and their ability to respond to contemporary developments in the region in a sound and timely fashion, based on FPRI’s focus on geopolitical analysis. This mark the second year (2016-2017) of the fellowship, which is being awarded to two new scholars and renewed for an additional year for three existing Robert A. Fox Fellows.
FPRI is pleased to announce the appointment of a new Senior Fellow in FPRI’s Program on the Middle East, Dr. Benedetta Berti. Though Dr. Berti has been writing for FPRI since 2011, we are excited to formally welcome her to the FPRI team. To access her work for FPRI, click here. To learn more about Dr. Berti, visit her personal website here.
In 2015, FPRI’s Middle East program named four year-long Robert A. Fox Fellows, who would write, speak, and create innovative platforms for addressing a wide range of timely issues related to the Middle East and U.S. policy. Here are some of the highlights from the past 6 months.
2015 was a banner year for FPRI’s Program on the Middle East, directed by Tally Helfont. Active on many fronts, FPRI’s Middle East scholars and trustees published regularly on critical developments and trends in the region and were cited and quoted extensively in 2015 in major online and print news media.
The Program also hosted diverse Middle East-related programming, bringing renowned experts to FPRI forums in New York City, Princeton, Philadelphia, the Main Line, and Washington D.C. to speak to professionals and engaged citizens about regional subjects that bear upon American foreign policy.
Finally, the Program launched a number of new initiatives including V-Notes – video essays meant to kick-start new conversations about American foreign policy toward the Arab world and beyond; FPRI Infographics – succinct, static and interactive visual platforms to disseminate research; and most importantly, the Robert A. Fox Fellows – four year-long fellowships created for the purpose writing, speaking, and creating innovative platforms and resources on a wide range of timely issues related to the Middle East and North Africa.
For more about the Middle East Program’s accomplishments in 2015, click here.
Islam has become the subject of heated debate in America. FPRI’s characteristic style is to stand back and scrutinize controversial subjects dispassionately, bringing to bear the insights of scholarship and making those insights accessible to the non-specialist. We provide you just a partial collection of links to FPRI essays on Islam and Islamism, along with links to audio or video files of FPRI events, here.
FPRI Junior Fox Fellow Tamar Friedman – a promising former FPRI intern and graduate of the UPenn – produced an educational resource in the form of an interactive infographic on Understanding Electoral Systems in the Middle East and Beyond. The “Electoral Systems” project has a two-pronged purpose: to give a general overview of electoral processes, and to provide country specific examples in the Middle East (e.g. Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey) demonstrating the application of these discrete electoral systems enacted. Through this interactive infographic, students are able explore the characteristics of various electoral systems, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and a simulated “ballot box” to understand how each would function in a hypothetical election.
Much has been said about a perceived steady decline of U.S. influence in the Middle East, and American weakness in the world more generally. Though there is some truth to the assertion that the United States’ ability to project power and assert influence in the Middle East has waned since it first sent occupying forces to the region in response to the attacks of 9/11, this does not necessarily equate to a black-and-white dichotomy of former might and current powerlessness. For more on this subject, see this new interactive infographic and accompanying Orbis article by FPRI Mideast Director Tally Helfont.
Women in Foreign Policy(#wifp) is an organization geared at girls, young women, as well as women seeking a career in foreign policy. WiFP features successful women, at any stage of their career, who are already working in the field. In August, WiFP profiled the Director of FPRI’s Program on the Middle East, Tally Helfont. To read the entire interview, click here.
In honor of FPRI’s 60th anniversary, each of its research programs will produce an edited volume meant to provide its readers with a taste of the quality analysis we produced on a diverse array of topics over the past decade. They will be published periodically over the course of this historic year. The Middle East volume is now available! The Best of FPRI’s Essays on the Middle East, 2005-2015 is a 181-page e-book featuring quality scholarship on perennial themes such as authoritarianism and reform; the Arab uprisings and its aftermath; radicalism and regional threats; sectarian divisions; and the Arab-Israeli conflict and peace efforts. It highlights the way in which FPRI’s Program on the Middle East has utilized its vital and time-tested geopolitical approach to inform policymakers, academics, journalists, educators, and others interested in the Middle East. Check it out!
FPRI Middle East Program Fellow Andrew Spath spoke at Rowan University in December 2014 on the history and current state of ISIS in “Rethinking the Rise of ISIS: Jihadist Salafism, Historical Context, and Implications for US Foreign Policy,” which can be viewed here.
FPRI’s Lorenzo Vidino in the Telegraph and al Arab on England’s Review of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK
October 19, 2014
“Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups in each country work according to a common vision – but in complete operational independence, making the Brotherhood an informal global movement. It’s what makes designating the whole movement a terrorist organisation virtually impossible in the UK, as authorities knew from the very beginning. But the lack of a ban does not equal an exoneration or an endorsement —hardly the general tone of the review.”
Royal Praise for Scholarship on the Sunni Shi’i Divide
January 25, 2014
FPRI Associate Scholar,Samuel Helfont, received a letter from HRH Prince El Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan warmly praising his Footnote on the Geopolitics of the Sunni-Shi‘i Divide in the Middle East and saying that he would be happy to engage in a dialogue with Samuel on a subject that is very close to his heart. HRH enclosed two speeches he himself had given on the subject for Samuel’s consideration.
FPRI’s Middle East Program Scholars Make an Impact
Immediately after we announced a lecture by our Princeton-based Senior Fellow Michael A. Reynolds on the Geopolitics of Sochi, we were contacted by Fox News to have him discuss the terrorist threat to Russia. These are just three examples of how FPRI’s Middle East program has been able to impact the field and help shape policy.
New Senior Fellows Join FPRI’s Middle East Program
The Program has sought to bring together both established and emerging scholars from the academic, military, and policy worlds in an effort to provide policy assessments and recommendations. In fact in the past four years, the program has added seven new senior fellows, two associate scholars, and one research associate. The program now proudly boasts 16 scholars. Among their ranks are prize-winning authors, renowned professors and think tank scholars, and Iraq War veterans. Their biographies and writing on behalf of FPRI can be accessed here.
Middle East Media Monitor is a series within FPRI’s notable E-Note publication, published monthly, reviewing a current topic in the Middle East media from the perspective of the foreign language press coverage in countries such as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Turkey, etc. These articles should be about 1,500 words in length should focus on providing FPRI’s readership with an inside view on how some of the most prominent countries in the Middle East are covering issues of importance to the American foreign policy community. The aim of Middle East Media Monitor is to complement other scholarly analyses being published by FPRI by shedding light on how those same events are being portrayed from within.
Prospective authors are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Middle East Media Monitor by examining some of its recent articles. Authors are asked to utilize primary source references and to provide brief, thoughtful analyses about contemporary Middle East topics as reported almost exclusively in the Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, and Hebrew. Authors should aim provide an unbiased account of how the foreign media is covering a specific topic. These accounts can be critical but should remain devoid of personal opinions. Authors of this series have primarily been graduate students and young up-and-coming researchers focused on the Middle East. There is no payment for these articles at this time.
For more information, please contact Tally Helfont, Director, Program on the Middle East.