organization:middle east institute

  • Behind the extravagant hype of an Israeli-Saudi ’courtship’, Israel is setting the price for Riyadh to go nuclear

    The exaggerated reports and rumours about ever-closer ties are trial balloons: Jerusalem is signalling its reluctant assent to Riyadh obtaining a nuclear deterrent – but at a high price

    Victor Kattan Feb 13, 2018

    The real stumbling block between the two countries isn’t just the Palestinian issue. The elephant in the relationship, which is far less often mentioned, is Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of nuclear power.
    Israel is currently fighting a political battle in Washington to stop the U.S. from letting Riyadh develop its own nuclear energy program that would allow it to enrich uranium that could be used to develop a bomb.
    Israel has good reason to be concerned. According to reports, the Trump administration might be willing to lower certain safeguards that prevent U.S. companies from sharing sensitive nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia for fear that it might be used to develop weapons. This administration might not insist on the same precautions that Obama did in its nuclear cooperation agreement with Abu Dhabi, for example, which forfeited its right to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium.

    Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, at a news conference to mark the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran. Feb. 6, 2018ATTA KENARE/AFP
    In its negotiations with the U.S., Saudi Arabia is not backing down from its demand to enrich uranium under its planned civilian nuclear program – using, ironically, as its rationale, the conditions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in which Iran has been allowed to enrich uranium. Prince Turki has made it clear, more than once, that should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries would look at all available options to meet the potential threat, including the acquisition of nuclear weapons. 
    The only snag for Saudi Arabia is the U.S. Congress, because this is where Israel has influential friends. Even if a deal is reached between Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration, Congress could either block the deal or add clauses preventing the U.S. from selling Saudi Arabia technology needed to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium. 
    It is more than possible that through its media campaign, Israel is sending a signal to Riyadh that it understands very well Saudi Arabia’s desire for a nuclear deterrent regarding Iran - but there’s a price to be paid for Israel reducing the level of its direct and indirect opposition in Congress to an independent Saudi nuclear capability.
    What Israel appears to be saying to Saudi Arabia, via a variety of trial balloons, is that if Riyadh wants Israel’s help with obtaining support from Congress, then Israel wants something in return: Jerusalem, overflight rights for Israeli aircraft, direct military cooperation and intelligence exchanges, lucrative business deals for Israeli companies in Saudi Arabia, and so on.
    The publication of stories about Israel’s ever-closer relationship with Saudi Arabia, which are then magnified by media conglomerates in Qatar and Iran, is certainly one way of ensuring that the messages are received loud and clear.
    Saudi Arabia would likely have anticipated that Congress could give them trouble as it has done before. 
    But this time things might be different - and these changes might scupper Israel’s strategy.

    President Donald Trump meets with Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington D.C. March 14, 2017Evan Vucci/AP
    A deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia could aid the ailing U.S. nuclear industry and have wider benefits for corporate America. Moreover, the U.S. does not have a monopoly on nuclear technology.
    Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has already visited Moscow and signed agreements with Russia to build 16 nuclear reactors by 2030. Saudi Arabia already has nuclear related understandings with China, France, Pakistan, South Korea, and Argentina. One expert has even suggested that Pakistan could assist Saudi Arabia by supplying Riyadh with sensitive equipment, materials, and the expertise that would aid Riyadh with enrichment or processing.
    Riyadh is also expanding research at the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy and developing a cadre of nuclear scientists. Saudi Arabia is home to large uranium deposits that could be extracted with the appropriate technology.
    Obviously, Riyadh would prefer Washington’s blessing and support in developing its nuclear energy program within the rules of the global nonproliferation treaty rather than having to develop the program clandestinely with the aid of other states. Israel senses this, and would be willing to help Riyadh, but has set the price high.
    Israel would far prefer a covert alliance with Saudi Arabia to contain Iran over the U.S. allowing Riyadh to develop an independent nuclear deterrent. But Jerusalem is working to prepare for both eventualities. Whether that strategy will work remains to be seen.
    But should the Iran deal blow up on Trump’s watch, and Tehran acquires the capability to develop a weapon, no one should underestimate Riyadh’s resolve for self-preservation.
    Victor Kattan is Senior Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore and an Associate Fellow at the Faculty of Law. Twitter: @VictorKattan

  • Syria opposition told to come to terms with Assad’s survival

    Western and regional rebel patrons, currently more focused on advancing their own interests rather than accomplishing regime change in Damascus, are shifting their alliances and have ceased calls on Assad to step down.

    “There is no conceivable military alignment that’s going to be able to remove him,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, now a fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. “Everyone, including the U.S., has recognized that Assad is staying.”

    « Assad a gagné et il restera au pouvoir »

    Pour l’ancien Ambassadeur des #Etats-Unis en #Syrie, Robert Ford, la messe est dite :"Assad a gagné la guerre et il restera au pouvoir". c’est assurément ce qu’il a indiqué dans les colonnes du journal émérati basé à Abou Dhabi the National, publié le 28 août 2017.

    Syrie : le départ de Bachar Al-Assad n’est plus la priorité des États-Unis | Syrie : l’engrenage de la guerre |

    31 mars 2017

    « Notre priorité n’est plus de nous asseoir ici et de nous focaliser sur les moyens de faire partir Al-Assad. Notre priorité est de regarder vraiment comment nous pouvons faire progresser les choses, avec qui nous devons travailler pour améliorer véritablement le sort des gens en Syrie », a-t-elle déclaré devant des journalistes.

  • Gulf Government Gave Secret $20 Million Gift To D.C. Think Tank

    THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES is on pace to contribute $20 million over the course of 2016 and 2017 to the Middle East Institute, one of Washington’s leading think tanks, according to a document obtained by The Intercept. The outsized contribution, which the UAE hoped to conceal, would allow the institute, according to the agreement, to “augment its scholar roster with world class experts in order to counter the more egregious misperceptions about the region, inform U.S. government policy makers, and convene regional leaders for discreet dialogue on pressing issues.”

  • Et donc, Trump met fin au (non-)programme de (non-)intervention de la CIA en Syrie (dont on connaît, à ce jour, le milliard de dollars annuel d’armements déversés sur on ne sait trop qui depuis plusieurs années). Annonçant cela, le WaPo précise subtilement dès le titre : « a move sought by Moscow ».

    Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow

    President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.

    C’est Charles Lister qui te sort l’argumentaire rigolo (les rebelles-modérés-tout-ça) :

    Some analysts said the decision to end the program was likely to empower more radical groups inside Syria and damage the credibility of the United States.

    “We are falling into a Russian trap,” said Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, who focuses on the Syrian resistance. “We are making the moderate resistance more and more vulnerable. . . . We are really cutting them off at the neck.”

    Le contre-feu n’a pas traîné : dans une tribune dans le même journal signée par l’un des principaux porte-plume néo-conservateurs de W. Bush, la réponse furibarde (toujours sur le thème subtile de « la défaite face aux Russes »), où l’on suggère qu’armer des dingues au motif de faire chier les Popovs est une excellente idée et une grande réussite historique sur la voie de la démocratisation des peuples : Trump’s breathtaking surrender to Russia (Michael Gerson)

    Trump is alienating Republicans from their own heroic foreign policy tradition. The conduct of the Cold War was steadied and steeled by Ronald Reagan, who engaged with Soviet leaders but was an enemy of communism and a foe of Soviet aggression. In fact, he successfully engaged Soviet leaders because he was an enemy of communism and a foe of Soviet aggression. There is no single or simple explanation for the end of the Cold War, but Republicans have generally held that the United States’ strategic determination played a central role.

    Bon, ce genre de spectacle est assez divertissant, mais au fond, on annule publiquement un programme qui était essentiellement secret, dont on ne connaît réellement aucun détail, et dans le même temps on sait que le rôle du Pentagone (lui aussi parfaitement capable de financer et mener des opérations secrètes lourdes) en Syrie ne cesse de grandir.

    Gesticulations qui, dans le même temps, ne suffisent pas à remettre en cause le discours dominant autour de la « non-intervention » occidentale en Syrie.

  • Why Is the Foreign Policy Establishment Spoiling for More War? Look at Their Donors. | The Nation

    The Brookings Institute has taken tens of millions from foreign governments, notably #Qatar, a key player in the military campaign to oust Assad. Retired four-star Marine general John Allen is now a Brookings senior fellow. #Charles_Lister is a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, which has received funding from Saudi Arabia, the major financial force providing billions in arms to upend Assad and install a Sunni caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria. Foreign-government money is driving our foreign policy.

    #Etats-Unis #Arabie_saoudite #mercenaires #guerre #donateurs #politique_étrangère

  • A Night of Art, Rap, and Pop Culture from the Arabian Peninsula | Middle East Institute

    The Middle East Institute (MEI), with the support of Art Jameel, and in partnership with CultuRunners and Desert Storm, is pleased to present an evening highlighting the cutting-edge cultural scene emerging from the Gulf.

    The evening program will include the screening of Saudi Arabian artist Ahmed Mater’s acclaimed work on the cities of Mecca and Riyadh, a live music performance by the Kuwaiti-born, California-based rap group, Sons of Yusuf, a discussion with Emirati artist and curator, Noor al Suwaidi, and a conversation about the role of the arts in breaking stereotypes, bridging cultural understanding, and empowering youth from the region.

  • Toward a Political Theory of Sectarianism in the Middle East: The Salience of Authoritarianism over Theology | Middle East Institute

    In weak states politics revolves around “strategies of survival.”[6]  A common tactic to preserve and perpetuate political rule in a weak state is to manipulate social and political cleavages via a divide and rule strategy. This gives ruling #elites greater room to maneuver in the short-term but often at the cost of social #cohesion in the long term. This dominant feature of the politics of weak states also suggests why “ state actors are principal agents in identity mobilization and conflict in culturally plural societies , and the manner in which politics of identity unfolds in a weak state , is a product of the dialectic of state-society relations.”[7] Weak states, therefore, are more prone to sectarianism given that manipulating cleavages of identity is a dominant feature of their politics.[8]

    #pouvoir #illégitime #instrumentalisation #identités #sectarisme #Etat #Etat_faible

  • Syria: Why Some Revolutionaries Are Picking Assad Over Islamist Rebels – With their revolution hijacked by Islamists, many Syrian rebels are rethinking their stance against the man they’ve been trying to overthrow

    “A lot of former activists are now saying to me, ‘When the choice is between Daish and Assad, I am going for Assad,’” says Randa Slim, a Syria expert at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, using the Syrian Arabic word for ISIS. To be sure, not all the rebel groups share the same ideology, but the most effective fighting groups, with their ranks filled by foreign jihadists, funded by private donors in the Gulf and backed by al-Qaeda, are gaining ground. As they grow, they are squeezing out the activists who dreamed of a Syria founded on democratic representation, freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

    In March 2011, Nawfal joined the Syrian revolutionaries protesting the repressive regime of President Assad. When Raqqa fell to the rebels in April 2013, she was one of the first to cheer. But then she got a closer look at the rebels. Raqqa had been taken over by al-Qaeda sympathizers who immediately started implementing their harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Music, photography and cigarettes were forbidden. Women were instructed to cover their heads and dress “modestly” — even though Nawfal wears the tightly wrapped headscarf of a conservative Muslim, the rebels objected to her wearing trousers. Anyone who objected to their ideology was tried, and punished, as an apostate. Dissidents disappeared. Nawfal started wondering what, exactly, she had been liberated from. So she started protesting and made a series of anti-ISIS videos.


    Her gender may have won her some time; scores of male antiregime activists who tried to take on ISIS have been thrown in prison, kidnapped, tortured or disappeared. Frustration with the rebels has driven many activists to exile while others have simply given up on the revolution. Some are even rethinking the revolution entirely.

    À noter, cet article du Time arrive quelques jours après une longue dépêche de Reuters au thème identique:

  • 22 femmes dont 7 mineures pro-Morsi poursuivies en justice I Middle East Institute

    Fifteen women and seven girls who back Egypt’s ousted president Mohamed Morsi will stand trial for participating in clashes in Alexandria, the general prosecutor’s office said on Monday.

    A lire, sur TV5 Monde
    Soeurs musulmanes, entre répression, régression et émancipation

    L’histoire mouvementée des Soeurs musulmanes

    Sur Orient XXI
    Une stratégie d’élimination des Frères musulmans,0362

    #Justice #FrèresMusulmans #Soeurs #Egypte

  • After Tahrir : New Poll Findings from Egypt | Middle East Institute

    Une étude sur une opinion publique profondément divisée en Egypte, à la veille des manifestations du 30 juin qui marqueront le premier anniversaire de la présidence de Mohammed Morsi

    The Middle East Institute is pleased to welcome Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute and founder of Zogby Research Services (ZRS), Steve Clemons of The Atlantic and the New America Foundation, and MEI Scholar Amb. Edward Walker for a discussion about the findings of a recent poll on Egyptian attitudes towards the Muslim Brotherhood.  Between April 4th and May 12th, Zogby Research Services conducted an extensive face-to-face poll of over 5,000 Egyptians.  With more than two years having passed since the downfall of the Mubarak government and almost one year into the presidency of Mohamed Morsi, the poll sought to learn how Egyptians view their current situation; the level of confidence they have in the Morsi government; the country’s main political groupings; and its major institutions. What emerges from the findings is a portrait of a deeply fractured country in which a substantial majority of the electorate is dissatisfied with the performance of the government and losing confidence in the prospects for change. At the same time, the ZRS poll finds that while the government enjoys the support of a minority of Egyptians, the opposition, which has a potentially larger base, is divided and seen as lacking clear leadership.  Dr. Zogby will elaborate on the findings of the poll and Clemons and Walker will discuss their larger implications for Egypt’s political process and the upcoming parliamentary elections.

  • Relation Egypte/ Etats Unis : mythes et réalités d’aujourd’hui.

    Résumé : Mohamed Elmenshawy (Middle East Institute, Washington) estime que l’influence américaine sur l’Egypte est surestimée. Il en veut pour preuve les conditions récemment posées par les sénateurs américains pour l’octroi d’une aide militaire au Caire. Ces conditions témoignent d’une pensée obsolète, en cours à l’époque de Moubarak, mais qui n’a plus de raison d’être dans une Egypte en mutation. L’influence que peut exercer Washington est tributaire de facteurs nouveaux tels que la politique intérieure égyptienne ou la situation dans une région instable. La relation américano-égyptienne souffre de cinq mythes dont il convient de se défaire :

    Mythe 1 : Les Etats Unis ont les moyens de changer la politique intérieure égyptienne.
    Mythe 2 : Les Etats Unis peuvent sortir l’économie égyptienne de la crise actuelle.
    Mythe 3 : L’Egypte profite plus de la relation avec Washington que l’inverse.
    Mythe 4 : Une bonne relation avec Israël est la garantie pour que Washington soit satisfait des dirigeants égyptiens.
    Mythe 5 : Les Etats Unis ont porté Morsi au pouvoir. Ils peuvent tout autant s’en défaire s’ils le souhaitent.

    PS : Dans la même veine sur la situation économique de l’Egypte lire aussi
    – L’article de Ahmed Feteha (Al-Ahram Online, 29 Apr 2013) : « Egypt likely to accept Qatar’s $3bn offer despite ungenerous terms », où il est dit que l’Egypte va probablement accepter l’offre du Qatar (3 milliards de dollars) en dépit d’un taux d’intérêt élevé (5%) :

    – Le texte de Yasmine Saleh and Patrick Werr, (Reuters, 30 April 2013) : “Leftist leader says Egypt should refuse IMF loan”, qui reprend le conseil de Hamdine Sabahi, un responsable politique de gauche, de ne pas accepter le prêt du FMI pour ne pas avoir à mettre en œuvre ses conditions.

    Debunking Five Myths of Washington’s Leverage in Egypt
    By : Mohamed Elmenshawy for Al-Monitor Posted on April 28 (2013)

    “Last week’s visit by US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to Cairo came amid several discussions in Washington and Cairo about US leverage in Egyptian politics since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011. Most of these discussions overestimate US influence. Indeed, last month’s proposed amendments from both Republican and Democratic senators aiming to attach conditions to military assistance to Egypt reveal an old-fashioned and overconfident understanding of Washington’s sway. The reality is that US influence in Egypt is tempered by a number of factors, including Egyptian domestic politics, funding and the United States’ own need for stability and cooperation in the region. Deconstructing a number of myths that perpetuate the idea of an all-powerful United States may help bring to light the reality of the situation.” (…)

    Mohamed Elmenshawy is a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington. He writes a weekly article in the Egyptian daily al-Shorouk. He can be reached at or on Twitter @ElmenshawyM.