Middle East Notes and Comment: The Foreign-Policy Parallels Between Trump and the Ayatollahs Are Uncanny
December 31, 2019
It's hard to imagine two parties more at loggerheads than President Trump and the Iranian leadership. They seem to look for every opportunity to undermine each other and attack each other. The strange thing, though, is they seem to have very similar instincts when it comes to foreign policy. That tendency makes them more combative to each other, but it also has a silver lining. Neither one is nearly as willing to go toe-to-toe as it might otherwise seem.
Read Jon B. Alterman's full analysis in Defense One here.
Jon Alterman released a new report titled Ties that Bind: Family, Tribe, Nation, and the Rise of Arab Individualism. Loyalty and obligation have played a strong role in how Arabs relate to each other and to their rulers. However, rising individualism in the region poses challenges for family patriarchs, tribal elders, and government leaders. The report analyzes changing social and familial networks in the region through case studies on Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the UAE.
Babel: Translating the Middle East
On Babel, Wall Street Journal's White House correspondent Vivian Salama interviewed Jon on his new report, Ties that Bind. Jon also introduces Babel’s six episode miniseries, “China in the Middle East,” which will air in 2020.
In our Mezze podcast series, we explore a love for Christmas in Iran. In another Mezze, we look at soaring fuel prices in Yemen. In a third Mezze, we examine how youth across the Arab world are avoiding mandatory military service.
Will Todman explored changing social ties and kinship networks in Saudi Arabia in a new commentary. He argues that changing economies, rapid urbanization, and the political environment have led to a weakening of traditional kinship ties. The commentary was part of the larger Ties that Bind report release.
In the News
“He decided some time ago that he would be in their corner,” said Jon of President Trump’s relationship with Saudi Arabia after the Pensacola shooting. The Washington Post (12/08/19).
Jon explained why the China model is attractive to authoritarian leaders in the Middle East, saying “the Chinese message is, we have demonstrated that you can create economic growth without social and political change.” Telegraph (11/28/19).
On recent protests in the Levant, Jon said “everybody looking at popular protests in the Middle East has to keep very much in mind that we rarely have an idea where these are going to go.” Reuters (11/26/19).