Publications - Articles

The struggle for Syria, Chapter Two

The Brookings Institution, February 20, 2018

In 1965, the British writer Patrick Seale published his classic “The Struggle for Syria: 1945-1958.” His history of the Syrian Republic’s first 13 years depicted a fragile, weak state, torn by domestic conflicts and buffeted by more powerful regional and international actors. Seale argued that Syria was the prize that these external actors were seeking in order to establish hegemony in the core area of the Middle East. Today, Syria is facing a very similar situation, seven years after what began as a peaceful uprising transformed into a vicious civil war with a fierce competition between regional and international actors over Syria’s future. And as the internal dimension seems to be abating after the capture of Aleppo in late 2016, the regional and international conflicts have been exacerbated.

Trump’s Early Steps in the Middle East

Published in Horizons, issue no. 9, Austomn 2017

THE WORLD is obsessed with Donald Trump: his persona, his style, the policies he has promised to adopt, and those he has actually begun to implement—but also, increasingly, the prospects of his impeachment. Naturally, Americans are primarily interested in the domestic significance and implications of Trump’s presidency, whereas people around the globe are more interested in his foreign policy. Both remain puzzled by contradictory trends and developments, by mixed signals, by his proclivity to change his mind and make decisions on the spur of the moment, and by the dysfunctions of his administration.

The Syrian crisis: A reckoning and a road map

Published in Markaz, the Brookings Institute, September 12, 2017

The tide in the Syrian civil war has clearly shifted. After capturing Aleppo in late 2016, Bashar Assad’s regime—with much help from its Russian and Iranian patrons—is capturing other parts of the country from both ISIS and other opposition groups. Most of the international community seems to have accepted at least a partial victory by Assad as a fait accompli.

In Memoriam: Sadiq Jalal al-ʿAzm, 1934–2016

Published in: Bustan: The Middle East Book Review, Vol. 8, No. 1 (2017), pp. 104-109

Bustan’s commitment to scholarly review in the fields of Middle East and Islamic studies makes it important to stop and reflect on the passing of important scholars and intellectuals who have shaped these ever-broadening fields over the past few decades. The following short essay about Sadiq al-ʿAzm was written by Professor Itamar Rabinovich—one of Bustan’s founders and editors, and a historian of modern Syrian history.

 

Egypt resumes a leadership role

The Times of Israel, August 21, 2017

One of the important byproducts of the recent turn of events in the Syrian crisis has been the role taken by Egypt. For decades Egypt had been the principal actor in inter-Arab relations. It lost that role several years ago due to the convulsions of domestic Egyptian politics and to the decline of Egypt’s weight and impact owing to the rise of Iran and Turkey in Middle Eastern regional politics, and to the increased influence of the rich Arab states in the Gulf.

Theater and Politics in Oslo

Jewish Review of Books, Summer 2017

In November 1995, the Dayton Agreement was signed, ending the war in Bosnia. This major achievement of American diplomacy was made possible by effective geopolitics and the diplomatic skills of America’s chief negotiator, the late Richard Holbrooke. It put a stop not only to armed conflict, but to civilian massacres and ethnic cleansing. Nonetheless, there is no award-winning Broadway show called Dayton, nor is there likely to be one. There is, however, Oslo. J. T. Rogers’s play dramatizes the negotiations that led to the far-less successful first Oslo Accord, which was signed by Israel’s foreign minister, Shimon Peres, and the Palestinian leader Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) in Norway, and sealed shortly thereafter in the famous Clinton-facilitated handshake between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993.

Syria and the Six-Day War: A 50-years perspective

Markaz, Tuesday, May 30, 2017

From 1963 to 1967, the radicalization of Syrian politics and the frailty of the Syrian state played a major role in producing the Middle Eastern crisis of May 1967 and in pushing the region into the Six-Day War in early June that year. Since March 2011, the frailty of the Syrian state has resulted in a civil war that has become the single most important issue in the Middle East. This is the thread that connects the events of the mid 1960s to the current Syrian crisis.

50 Voices 50 Years

May 2017

Fifty years later, Israel lives and copes with the mixed consequences of the Six Day War. The war ended a grave crisis, established Israel as a major military and regional power, upgraded its relationship with the United States and laid the basis for an Arab Israeli peace process by providing Israel with the bargaining chips it had not possessed at the end of the War of Independence. The concept of "territories for peace" has underlain the process that led to peace with Egypt and Jordan, to mutual recognition between Israel and Palestinian nationalism and to significant normalization in Israel's relations with parts of the Arab world .

Is Iran pursuing its own version of Sykes-Picot in the Middle East?

MARKAZ, May 11, 2017

In 2012 and 2013 when the “Arab Spring” gave way to the “Arab Turmoil,” the term “the end of Sykes-Picot” came into vogue. It was short-hand for the contention that the political order and state system that Britain and France constructed in the core area of the Middle East in the early 20th century had come to an end. Today, we might speak of “a new Sykes-Picot,” but of a very different ilk: The term could now refer not to the imperial designs of European colonial powers, but to the hegemonic ambitions of Iran.

After the airstrike, what Washington should do next in Syria

MARKAZ - Brrokings, April 17, 2017

A week later, the raid launched by President Trump on a Syrian air force base in response to yet another chemical weapons attack continues to resonate. Trump’s response boosted his domestic rating, introduced tension into his ambiguous relationship with Russia, has sent a signal to North Korea, and has drawn praise from Washington’s Middle Eastern allies as a sign of America’s return to a forceful, proactive posture in the Middle East.