Feras Klenk, PhD Candidate
University of Arizona, School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies
Recently the world was awoken to a show of force by Muhammad bin Salman (MbS), the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In a relatively short period of time, the prince has managed to remove any real or imagined rivals from the centers of political and economic power and authority in Saudi Arabia, by charging them with corruption. It is presented to a foreign, especially western, audience as an anti-corruption drive by an energetic young reformer against old vested interests. It is cleverly couched in the liberal language of technocratic reform in the style of Emmanuel Macron, and liberal pundits emphasize its “revolutionary” potential. Hence, MbS’ allegedly necessary and urgent actions appeal to both domestic and international audiences.
John Balouziyeh, Attorney at Dentons Law Firm
Nasser Rabbat (PhD), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
In the summer of 1992, I took a “luxury cab” from Damascus to Amman. The cab’s class was important, for luxury cabs provided extra services at the border crossing, which could help preventing the usual humiliation reserved for Syrian men every time they left the country.
When we reached the Syrian border, the driver went down and promised to stamp the documents in five minutes. He came back sooner with an apologetic look on his face. “I am afraid you have to come down for they are asking about your draft status.” I went in without any worry: my passport stated that I was exempt from military service, which should clear the issue. But the officer demanded to see my official draft book. “I don’t have it on me,” I said. “Well, you cannot leave the country then,” he firmly replied. I tried to explain, but he would not listen. The driver took me by the hand and said, “let us speak to the chief of the border center.” We went into a large office with an army major sitting behind a big desk under the ubiquitous picture of President Hafiz al-Assad.
Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for the Independent of London
In the process and under the pressure of outside military intervention, a vast region of the planet seems to be cracking open. Yet there is very little understanding of these processes in Washington. This was recently well illustrated by the protest of 51 State Department diplomats against President Obama’s Syrian policy and their suggestion that air strikes be launched targeting Syrian regime forces in the belief that President Bashar al-Assad would then abide by a ceasefire. The diplomats’ approach remains typically simpleminded in this most complex of conflicts, assuming as it does that the Syrian government’s barrel-bombing of civilians and other grim acts are the “root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region.”It is as if the minds of these diplomats were still in the Cold War era, as if they were still fighting the Soviet Union and its allies.
Rose Jaji (PhD), University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe
The current influx of refugees heading for Europe has rejuvenated debate on refugees in political, policy making, humanitarian and academic circles as well as among citizens of (prospective) host countries. In this piece, I specifically address refugee integration. There is a lot of uncertainty and perhaps anxiety on whether host countries can integrate the refugees, the strategies to ensure successful integration and how the end result looks like. Questions on how the future of countries that have taken in huge numbers of refugees is going to be like are compounded by confusion of integration with assimilation.
Malika Bouziane, Berghof Foundation, Berlin, Germany
Walking through the Jordanian capital the last days, I was struck by the increased police presence on the streets of Amman; a response to an omnipresent threat being in the air and a demonstration by the regime that security and stability is given a top priority. Indeed, the 2005 suicide bombing of three hotels in Amman, killing and injuring dozens of people is still present in the collective Jordanian memory.