Middle East Notes and Comment: Iran is not one crisis, but three, for the U.S.
January 31, 2020
The killing of Qasim Suleimani has not provoked a crisis: it has provoked three crises. The obvious one is in U.S.-Iran relations, which have been poisonous for decades. A somewhat less obvious one is in the global counter-terrorism fight in Iraq, which relies on a strong U.S. hand. The third is in Great Power relations, where both Rusia and China seek to have the United States taken down a peg. While the potential crisis of war with Iran has been averted for now, Iran remains a stubborn challenge for the United States, and the other two crises continue unabated.
Read Jon B. Alterman's full analysis in The Hill here.
In an Outlook piece for the Washington Post, Jon Alterman wrote about how a deeper sociological phenomenon is underpinning recent protests in the Middle East. The rise of individualism is upending societies that had relied on people to know their place and respect authority. The piece was tied to the release of Ties that Bind: Family, Tribe, Nation, and the Rise of Arab Individualism.
Will Todman explored how the Emirati government is instilling nationalism and reshaping Emiratis' loyalties in a new commentary. The UAE has a large foreign population and the government has recently launched a broad drive to foster national identity among the minority Emirati population. These initiatives are leaving some confused. The research for the commentary was based on the Ties that Bind study.
In another commentary from the same series, Will looked at how Jordan's deteriorating economic situation is straining traditional support networks. Jordanians described having an increasingly transactional relationship with the state as its historical method of obtaining their loyalty has been undermined.
After President Trump ordered a U.S. strike that killed Quds Force Commander Qasim Suleimani, Jon put forward some critical questions about near and long term implications.
In the News
Asked by the Washington Examiner about the prospect of Sino-Iranian cooperation against the United States, Jon was circumspect, observing that "The Chinese are very calculating about their global interests," (1/13/20).
"Iran's neighbors want Iran deterred but they don't want Iran to be lashing out, and the question is 'how you can deter an adversary without ever striking that adversary?'" Jon told Politico (1/08/20).
Will Todman spoke to CBC News about how a return to a situation of unease and steady tension in the region may lead to more Iranian aggression. CBC News (1/09/20).
In the aftermath of the U.S. strike on General Qasim Suleimani, Jon said, “I still think the Iranians are more likely to be trying to avoid a direct military confrontation with the United States because that will destroy a huge part of their defensive capability." Yahoo! Finance (1/08/20).