Power Struggle in the Early Turkish Republic
On Sept 19, Professor Hakan Özoğlu from the University of Central Florida gave a talk titled "Power Struggle in the Early Turkish Republic". It focused on the transition period (1918-1923) from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire to the emerging of the Turkish Republic. Covering three major political/judicial maneuvers, it demonstrated how opposition to and within the emerging Turkish regime was addressed during those pivotal years, and how the resulting power struggle contributed to the form of the new state that arose.
Professor Yahia Zoubir from KEDGE Business School in Marseille visits MESC
In the Spring 2018 semester, Prof. Yahia Zoubir from KEDGE Business School in Marseille visited the Middle East Studies Center as Visiting Professor. During his time at the center, he engaged with students and gave a talk on 'Security Challenges in the Maghreb: The Nexus between Bad Governance and Violent Extremism' with particular reference to his personal and professional experiences of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Mali and Niger. He also participated in a workshop on Mediterranean and transnational security which took place at the New Cairo campus in May 2018. He will also participate in an edited volume along with the other participants.
Life Trajectories of Islamic Activists: from Egypt to South Africa
On Sunday 13 May, Professor Abdulkader Tayob from the University of Cape Town gave an insightful talk about the life trajectories of Islamic Activists in Africa with a special focus on Egypt. Instead of studying religious activism in the form of collective movements, Tayob is more interested in understanding the diverse personal dimensions to activism as lived and practiced by the individual. Thus biographies, interviews and conversations become his main sources for understanding how, for instance, Muslim activists choose and stay within a certain religious group. As such, the talk raised important questions about Islam in Africa and the value of a 'biographical approach' to scholarship.
Security Challenges in the Maghreb
On May 10, 2018, Professor Yahia Zoubir from KEDGE Business School in Marseille gave an excellent talk titled 'Security Challenges in the Maghreb: The Nexus between Bad Governance and Violent Extremism'. Drawing on his personal experience of Algeria and research interests in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Mali and Niger, he provided a broad overview of the drivers of violent extremism. He spoke about socio-economic issues, border control, role conception in foreign policy, international cooperation and the role of external actors such as France, Italy and the US. His conclusions were both policy-relevant and insightful for any scholar of the Maghreb region and those studying the dynamics of insecurity and conflict.
Nathan Birnbaum and the Colonialist-Orientalist Nexus in Zionism
On Wednesday, April 18th, Professor Michael J. Reimer of the History Department presented a lunchtime talk titled “Nathan Birnbaum and the Colonialist-Orientalist Nexus in Zionism”. His talk focused on contrasting colonial projects of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries with the (disputed) colonialist nature of Zionism. He suggested that Zionism was unlike European colonial ventures because the Zionists didn’t have a “colonial state” from which to control the Palestinians (unlike the British in Egypt, who had Britain to return to and gain power from). He mentioned that the original Zionists purchased land instead of conquering it, that the Jewish and Arab economies were separated, and that Zionism reflected a “migration of persecuted and impoverished masses to a new location”, which contrasted much of European colonialism, which conquered land, decimated the local economy, and introduced wealthy Europeans into the native population. However, Professor Reimer cautioned, one could argue that Zionists pursued settler colonialism, constructed their self-definitions through institutions and that the colonizer-colonized dynamic (especially in regards to controlling land) was obvious in Palestine.
Professor Reimer introduced the audience to a key figure, Nathan Birnbaum, who was the first person to propagate Zionism in a cultural sense that didn’t necessarily require statehood. He described how Birnbaum thought that the Jews needed Palestine for practical and popular reasons, more than the religious right. However, he mentioned, Birnbaum ended up defecting from Zionism. Professor Reimer argued that Birnbaum represented the colonialist-orientalist discourse surrounding Zionism in its creation and implementation and that this had significant ripples in Zionist historiography. He continued his talk by comparing and contrasting Nathan Birnbaum and Theodor Herzl, demonstrating how they both participated in colonialist-orientalist informed discourse. The session came to a close and Professor Reimer asked and answered questions from the audience.
European Union grant
The Middle East Studies Center wins European Commission grant to promote dialogue between academic scholars, policy professionals in Egypt and the European policymakers.
Professor Aly Erfan Addresses Asian Ambassadors in Egypt
Ambassador Aly Erfan, professor of practice at MESC, was the guest speaker at the Asian Ambassadors’ Group Meeting on January 23, where he addressed the issue of “The Arab League as a Regional Arrangement: What Went Wrong."
Erfan drew on his personal experience as the political adviser and chef de cabinet of the secretary-general of the Arab League from 2011 to 2016 and in the Cabinet Foreign Minister of Egypt from 1994 to 2006 when he was in charge of regional and international peace and security issues."
Jerusalem and its Holy Sites
The Cairo Review posted an updated timeline of the struggle over Jerusalem and its holy sites.
The timeline includes hyperlinks to milestone documents, which helped shape the political history of the city. The chronology serves as a useful research tool for students, scholars, policymakers and journalists who are interested in tracing the history of Jerusalem up to the recent decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize it as the capital of Israel.
Opera in the Middle East
On December 6, 2017, Anne-Marie Condacse, opera singer and associate professor of music at Oklahoma State University, gave a lecture titled "Opera in the Middle East" during Assembly Hour at MESC. While the theme of opera in the Middle East has not received a lot of scholarly attention and 'remains a white page', as Condacse explained, its history can, in fact, be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century, when Ibrahim Pasha ordered the construction of Egypt's first opera house, just in time for the inauguration of the Suez Canal.
Throughout the rest of the lecture, Condacse provided a fascinating overview and mini-historiography, including photographs of the emergence of operas across the region. These grand new buildings and cultural centers were mostly built with nationalist interests in mind and soon became part of international networks, showing just how intricately intertwined culture and politics are.
The event was attended by HE Mihai Stuparu from the Embassy of Romania to the Arab Republic of Egypt.
Presentation at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul
On November 29, Robert Mason gave a presentation in the Department of Middle East and African Studies, Graduate School of International and Area Studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies on Iranian policy in Syria.
Middle East Studies Center Co-Hosts 14th Korea - Middle East Cooperation Forum in Seoul
On November 28, the Middle East Studies Center at AUC co-hosted the fourteenth Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum in Seoul, Korea. Sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and co-hosted with the Jeju International Peace Center and Korea - Arab Society. The event covered various aspects of cooperation such as security, economy and human development. It drew broad participation from across the region.
MESA Annual Meeting
From November 17-21, Robert Mason attended MESA and represented AUC, along with President Francis Ricciardone, at the annual reception and at the meeting of Middle Eastern Studies Center directors. During the reception, which was co-hosted this year with the Boston Consortium for Arab Region Studies (BCARS) Mason launched a new book series with AUC Press titled "Political Economy and International Relations of the Middle East." He also chaired a panel session: "Foreign Relations in and Beyond the Middle East" and presented his own research on Iranian policy in Syria in the School of International Service at the American University, Washington D.C.
The MESC Newsletter was developed to publicize MESC events and projects, share student, faculty and alumni news, and provide inspiration on diverse career opportunities in the field of Middle East studies. It was designed to increase awareness of MESC and its role at the American University in Cairo and to foster student engagement with MESC events and projects.
The online version of the MESC Newsletter can be found here
The Middle East Studies Center will be offering the following courses in Spring 2018:
MEST 4301-01 - Politics and Economy in the Contemporary Middle East
Instructor: Dr Robert Mason
Sunday and Wednesday 10:00-11:15
MESC Conference Room, 2175 HUSS Building
This course serves as a general introduction to the politics and economy of the Middle East for both undergraduates (this is a capstone course) and graduates, forming the conceptual and analytical basis for further studies on this region. It covers topics such as the emergence of the state system, political dynamics of key states, the political economy of oil, and major conflicts.
MEST 5280-01 - US Foreign Policy in the Middle East
Instructor: Ambassador Karim Haggag
Wednesday 5:00 pm - 7:25 pm
MESC Conference Room, 2175 HUSS Building
This course will cover a variety of issue areas related to US foreign policy in the Middle East: the Arab-Israeli conflict; Washington’s key bilateral relationships in the region; oil and energy; democratization and the Arab Spring; the evolution of US strategic interests; and how the Middle East figures in US global strategy. The course will also offer an in-depth perspective on the domestic US context including the institutional decision-making process with respect to key events; the role of interest groups; and the political dynamics that shape American foreign policy towards the region.
New Op-ed on Humanitarian Interventionism
Robert Mason discusses the need for consensus in the UN Security Council even if it means discussing and negotiating on new UN Security Council Resolutions to ensure implementation of a singular recognized norm across multiple spheres of influence. Read more here
American Diplomacy in Action
On November 1, Samuel Werberg and Mustafa Popal, Press Attaché and Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Egypt, respectively, presented at the Middle East Studies Center.
The main aim was to engage in a thorough Q&A with students on topical issues ranging from U.S. human rights approach to the counter-terrorism alliance against ISIS. The level of insight and detail brought to bear on these issues from two experienced diplomats was greatly appreciated by the audience.
China in the Middle East
On October 25, Robert Mason presented "China in the Middle East (with special reference to Saudi Arabia and Iran)" at the Asian Club located in the National Research University Higher School for Economics, Moscow. He talked about Chinese foreign policy and developments mainly at the international and regional levels with regard to economic relations, including China's One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, triangulation and balance of power in the relationship with the United States, as well as the impact that greater agency among some of the Gulf states was having on China's foreign policy calculations. The presentation was attended by a number of esteemed faculty and students who asked a range of detailed and astute questions in the Q and A.
Redrawing the Map: Pipelines and Politics in the Kurdish Quest for Independence
On October 4, Cameron Bell presented on the Kurdish referendum and the future energy options of the autonomous region. Robert Mason said, "His comments covered the economy as it stands, as well as the KRG and other Kurdish group's relations with, primarily, the Iraqi central government, Turkey and Iran."
"Cameron employed his skills as an energy analyst, exposure to the Kurdish region and contact with representatives of the KRG to provide a detailed, clear and articulate assessment of a multitude of factors which must be addressed if the region is to capitalize on the referendum vote," Mason continued. "His points on empowering youth which represent a silent majority in the region and the need to conduct a census for a better understanding of and provision for diverse communities there are especially well taken."
The full house at MESC and range of questions related to the subject in the Q&A reflected a keen interest among students in this most topical of issues.
Saudi - Iranian rivalry, the Syria and Yemen conflicts, and the Qatar crisis
On September 28, Robert Mason presented alongside colleagues from Turkey, UK and Italy at a conference sponsored by Tusiad and Bogazici University on the theme of Gulf security with special reference to Saudi Arabia and Iran.
In front of representatives from the Turkish business community, academia and the press, Dr Mason discussed Saudi - Iranian rivalry, the Syria and Yemen conflicts, and the Qatar crisis. He also focused on a new locus of attention in the Horn of Africa and how the military dimension and the promise of 'dollar diplomacy' have been influential in building new bilateral relationships. Details can be found here.
Perspectives on The Panama Papers: Political and Economic Consequences for the region
Edison Broce, the youngest MP in Panama, visited MESC on September 13, 2017, to give a presentation on 'The Panama Papers and the Political and Economic Consequences for the Middle East.' The presentation provided a unique perspective from someone who works within government in that country and is currently contemplating or addressing a number of policy issues, including tax. However, at 27, and having entered parliament at 23, Edison's comments about succeeding in politics was of great interest to the audience as Robert Mason notes: "Edison's comments, especially concerning what it takes to go from student activist to the youngest member of parliament in Panama in 2014 were an inspiration for all of us, and we look forward to hearing more about his progressive activities and policy proposals in future."
Qatar and the UAE: Small State Aspirations to Middle Powerhood
On September 8, 2017, Robert Mason kicked off the new season of talks at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. His talk was titled 'Qatar and the UAE: Small State Aspirations to Middle Powerhood' and attracted a number of students and faculty. The moderator was Professor Denis Sullivan from Northeastern University. Further details about the event can be found here.
Middle Power Politics in the Middle East Workshop II
On August 20 - 21, Robert Mason participated in a second working group on middle power politics in the Middle East at the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS), Georgetown University School of Foreign Service Qatar. He presented his research paper titled "Small State Aspirations to Middle Powerhood: The Cases of Qatar and the UAE" and gave feedback on a number of other papers.
The workshop is expected to lead to the publication of an edited volume and associated papers.
Fahad Alsharif from the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies visits MESC
On Thursday, August 10, 2017, Director of the Middle East Studies Center, Robert Mason welcomed Fahad Alsharif, Senior Research Fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRIS) in Riyadh to the Middle East Studies Center at AUC. Alsahrif is an expert on informal/undocumented labor flows with special reference to Saudi Arabia and is currently working on a Harvard Kennedy School sponsored project.
For more information on KFCRIS, click here.
Call for Papers: Economic Integration and Marginalization of Refugees in the Contemporary Middle East
The Middle East Studies Center is pleased to announce a call for papers for the 2017 Graduate Workshop titled, Economic Integration and Marginalization of Refugees in the Contemporary Middle East to be held at The American University in Cairo, Egypt, on Saturday, September 16, 2017. For more information, click here.
The Syria Reader
Ambassador Aly Erfan, PoP at GAPP, with the help of Jessie Steinhauer and Hany Luke from MESC, has developed a document-based compendium for the Syrian crisis titled The Syria Reader.
The compendium includes a large number of official documents that relate to the Syrian crisis, such as the Security Council, General Assembly and League of Arab States resolutions, statements by the Syrian Government and the opposition, briefings by the UN Special Envoys before the Security Council, reports of the OPCW regarding the elimination of chemical weapons and reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (HRC), etc.
It also includes a timeline/chronology of events, which covers the period from March 2011 until May 2017 (periodically updated).
This compendium should serve as a useful research tool for faculty and students, especially on issues that relate to regional and global policy toward the Syrian crisis and indeed toward regional security in the Middle East.
Our colleagues in IT are currently developing a platform to host the compendium in order to make it accessible to the public through the GAPP website. We are planning to launch the platform at the beginning of next September.
In the meantime, the team at MESC has uploaded it onto Google Drive, to make it accessible to AUC faculty members and students. This should also be an opportunity to test the efficacy of the reader and fine-tune it.
For access to the compendium, kindly contact Ambassador Erfan at email@example.com, Jessie Steinhauer at Jess_Steinhauer@aucegypt.edu, or Hany Luke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please do not hesitate to give us your feedback in order to help us develop it further.
Egypt-Indonesia Relations: Towards Strategic Partnership Amidst the Global Uncertainty
On May 10, 2017, H.E. Helmy Fauzy, Indonesia's Ambassador to Egypt, gave a talk titled Egypt: Indonesia Relations: Towards Strategic Partnership Amidst Global Uncertainty. The lecture covered topics such as politics, trade, development and reform. The presentation was met with great interest from AUC students and visitors.
Building Peace in Yemen
On Wednesday, April 5, 2017, MESC hosted Shoqi Maktary, a former Fulbright scholar, expert on conflict transformation and peacebuilding in Yemen and country director for the nonprofit organization Search for Common Ground. Maktary gave a lecture titled Building Peace in Yemen, where he outlined his work in Yemen and his views on the major stakeholders and the future of the conflict going forward. Regarding efforts for peacemaking in Yemen, Maktary notes that his organization focuses on working at the community-level, emphasizing the importance of the acceptance-oriented approach to peacemaking. In an article that he published in the Humanitarian Practice Network in 2014, he describes acceptance as the key to “[reducing] the likelihood that the targeted community in part or as a whole will threaten a project over opposition to an organization, its affiliated activities or its performance.” The lecture was followed by a session in which MESC and other students, particularly those from Yemen, gave voice to some concerns regarding the conflict.
For more information on Search for Common Ground, click here.
By: Salwa Salman
MEST 5280-01: Analysis of the Role of the UN and the Arab League in Middle East Conflicts: Case Studies
Instructor: Amb. Aly Erfan
Wednesdays 7:45 - 10:20 pm
Location: MESC Conference Room 2175, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Hall, AUC New Cairo
Since the establishment of both the United Nations and the League of Arab States in 1945, the two organizations have played different roles in the conflicts of the Middle East: the Question of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, the situation in Iraq and most recently in Yemen, Libya and Syria. Their involvement - and sometimes lack thereof - have had a far-reaching impact on the dynamics of those conflicts. Their role is the subject of constant debate; whether it helped resolve those conflicts or in fact, exacerbated them.
This course will examine in some detail the nature of the role played by the UN and Arab League in some of the conflicts in the region, using case-studies and focusing on specific crises for deeper analysis. It will explore the intricacies and complexities of this role and its tools, studying milestone resolutions issued by the two organizations and conflict resolution efforts, including mediation.
Japan-Arab Academic Dialogue Towards Stability in the Middle East
On March 22, 2017, Robert Mason from the Middle East Studies Center acted as moderator for a presentation Japan - Arab Academic Dialogue Towards Stability in the Middle East given by Professor Eiji Nagasawa from the University of Tokyo under the auspices of AUC's Global Affairs and Public Policy Tahrir Dialogue series, with the support of the Embassy of Japan, Cairo. The introductions to the presentation were from Dean Nabil Fahmy and Japan's Ambassador to Egypt Takehiro Kagawa. Professor Ibrahim Awad, director of the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies was the discussant. The event took place in the Oriental Hall at AUC Tahrir Square.
Korea's Policy on the Middle East and the Korea-Egypt Partnership
On March 22, 2017, the Middle East Studies Center hosted South Korean Ambassador to Egypt, Yoon Soon-Gu who presented "Korea's Policy on the Middle East and the Korean-Egyptian Partnership"
India-Egypt: New Partnership in a New Era
On March 15, 2017, India's Ambassador to Egypt, Sanjay Bhattacharyya, gave a presentation at the Middle East Studies Center titled, India-Egypt: New Partnership in a New Era. The presentation covered Indian Egyptian engagement across various spheres, including social, economic (including science and technology cooperation) and foreign policy.
Robert Mason Concluded a Series of Meetings at City University New York, Harvard University and Northeastern University
In late February and early March 2017, Robert Mason concluded a series of meetings at City University New York, Harvard University and Northeastern University, mainly to explore collaborative research and student recruitment opportunities.
MESC is part of the Boston Consortium of Arab Region Studies (BCARS), and is also responsible for AUC participation in the annual Middle East Studies Association (MESA) meeting.
Robert Mason Chairs Panel at International Studies Association Conference
On February 25, 2017, Robert Mason chaired a panel on intermestic (international and domestic) factors in foreign policy analysis and international relations of the Middle East at the International Studies Association (ISA) conference in Baltimore, Maryland, United States. Professor Baghat Korany from the Department of Political Science at AUC was a discussant.
There were paper presentations on IR theory from May Darwich (Durham University) and Professor Juliet Kaarbo (University of Edinburgh), Russia and the great powers from Professor Mark Katz (George Mason University), the Kurds from Filiz Katman (Istanbul Aydin University) and Hezbollah from Filippo Dionigi (LSE).
Status and Prospects of Islamic Finance in the Middle East
On February 15, MESC hosted Professor Ali Soliman, chair of the Association of Former International Civil Servants of the United Nations, as a guest speaker for the lecture, “Status and Prospects of Islamic Finance in the Middle East.”
Professor Soliman was also the former chief executive officer and general manager of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), among other positions, which makes him an expert in both Islamic finance and development.
What can Islamic finance (IF) offer to international finance? According to Professor Soliman, IF provides three modalities of reform: fair/transparent contractual relationships, asset-based financing, and specific debt policies. The lecture was followed by a question and answer session.
For more information, check out Professor Soliman's Soliman books: The Arabs and Post Financial Crisis Challenges (Academic Bookshop, Cairo, 2010); Foreign Economic Relations of Egypt: Status and Future Horizons Until 2020 (Dar El-Shorouk, Cairo, 2005); and Role of Private Sector in Economic Development of Egypt, Center for the Study of Developing Countries (Cairo University, 2000).
by Salwa Salman
Saudi Policy in Africa at the Netherland's Ministry of Defence Regional Conference on Africa
On February 14, 2017, Robert Mason, director of the Middle East Studies Center (MESC) gave a presentation on Saudi policy in Africa at the Netherland's Ministry of Defence Regional Conference on Africa, in the presence of the Netherland's Ambassador to Egypt, HE Laurens Westhoff, as well as foreign ministry and MoD delegates. Other speakers included Bgen Roland de Jong, assistant chief of staff for international military cooperation defense staff and Thomas J. Sinkovits, immigration and border management expert with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Robert Mason's New Book is Released
||Robert Mason's new book entitled, Reassessing Order and Disorder in the Middle East: Regional Imbalance or Disintegration? has just been published by Rowman and Littlefield. This edited collection, which brings together a range of scholars in the field, covers the important topic of the regional system and balance of power in flux after the Arab uprisings. Using a case study approach, the book provides an overview of circumstances over the last decade which has significantly impacted on the power capabilities and foreign relations between countries of the Middle East, before identifying the emerging trends and influences that are now dominating the political decision making and policy behavior of key states. Further information is available on the publisher's website here.
The Right to Return: The Key to Peace
On February 8, 2017 MESC hosted Professor Salman Abu Sitta, a Palestinian researcher and member of the London- based Palestine Land Society, who gave a lecture on “The Right to Return: The Key to Peace”. “Peace is cheap, while war is expensive in lives and money,” Abu Sitta said emphasizing on the feasibility and possibility of the Palestinian refugees’ peaceful return to their homeland under the guardianship of the international law. The talk was followed by a brief Q & A session.
Abu Sitta, who is also a PhD holder in Civil Engineering, has published several books and articles on the geography and history of Palestine. His latest book “Mapping My Return: A Palestinian Memoir” was published in February 2016. The book provides a counter-memory to the dominant narratives on the occupation of Palestine. According to a review that was published in the Guardian on the 21st of May 2016, “Abu Sitta’s memoir conveys a still burning sense of outrage at the injustice of the dispossession of the Palestinians and the denial of their rights.” For more information: click here.
by Salwa Salman
CIRS Middle Power Politics in the Middle East Working Group 1
On January 15 - 16, 2017, Robert Mason, director of the Middle East Studies Center, took part in a roundtable at the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) at Georgetown University Qatar, speaking on Middle Eastern Middle Powers and the Arab Uprisings. The event brought together a range of experts from Europe and the Middle East and was led by Professor Mehran Kamrava, director of CIRS. It is envisaged that the roundtable is the beginning of a collaborative effort towards compiling an edited volume of essays on the subject of middle powers in the Middle East.
The Middle East Studies Center and European University Institute Hold Joint Workshop at AUC's New Cairo Campus
On December 12, the Middle East Studies Center (MESC) and the European University Institute (EUI) ran a one-day roundtable discussion on "Order and Disorder in the Middle East and North Africa: New Perspectives on Regional Security and Political Economy,” at the AUC New Cairo campus. The event brought together scholars and experts with a wide range of perspectives on the Middle East’s current political and economic situation. During the three main sessions, participants discussed the major economic and political transformations in the MENA region (with a focus on the Arab region after 2011); the emergence of new social and political actors within weakened states; and the role of international and geopolitical dynamics in the region. The three sessions were led by Ambassador Luigi Narbone, director of the Middle East Directions Programme at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at EUI; Robert Mason, director of MESC at AUC; and Amr Adly, adjunct faculty member in the Department of Political Science at AUC.
Middle East Studies Center and American Research Center in Egypt Sign MoU
On November 2, 2016, MESC and the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) signed an MoU aimed at enhancing opportunities for scholars in both centers. MESC and ARCE will work together on organizing and promoting events, including public lectures, and facilitate access to each others library facilities. Professor Robert Mason, director of MESC, noted: "This MoU is an important step in providing our students with relevant academic related opportunities here in Cairo as we continue to grow and fulfill our mission as an interdisciplinary Middle East Studies Center."