The Sociologist Has Left the Building

by Kevan Harris
published in MER270

“Here in Iran, Professor Wallerstein, you are a dangerous man.” So an adviser of President Hassan Rouhani counseled the 83-year old sociologist, and he was correct. It was March, and Immanuel Wallerstein had just arrived for a three-city lecture tour. It was as if the Islamic Republic had granted a visa to Elvis Presley.

China's Strategic Middle Eastern Languages

by Haiyun Ma , I-wei Jennifer Chang
published in MER270

Though the People’s Republic of China has extensive commercial ties in the Middle East, its three strategic partners in the region are Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. It is not surprising, therefore, that the major Middle Eastern language programs in China today are Arabic, Persian and Turkish. The growth of Middle Eastern language and area studies in China has tracked with the changes in the political ties of the People’s Republic to the region.

Iranian Maoism

Searching for a Third World Revolutionary Model

by Afshin Matin-Asgari
published in MER270

As in most other countries, Maoism in Iran emerged in the mid-1960s when Sino-Soviet disputes split the ranks of international communism. But Iranian communism and its Maoist variant were also rooted in domestic developments. During the 1940s, the pro-Soviet (Tudeh) communist party had made significant inroads among Iran’s industrial workers, as well as artists, writers, translators, journalists, scholars and university students. In 1953, a CIA-sponsored military coup placed Iran firmly on the American side of the Cold War, crushing all communist and independent nationalist activities. Nevertheless, Soviet-style Marxism and anti-imperialist nationalism remained powerful undercurrents in political culture.

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Changing Modes of Political Dialogue Across the Middle East and East Asia, 1880-2010

by Cemil Aydin
published in MER270

East Asia’s relationship with the Middle East today is based mainly on economics and is devoid of grand political projects of solidarity and intellectual dialogue. Countries such as China, Japan and Korea present the Middle East with a model of neoliberal economic development. At the same time, the redemptive transformation of East Asia from a Western-dominated region to a globally powerful one offers a trajectory of development diverging from the Middle East, which struggles with political turbulence, regime crises and regional wars both cold and hot.

Learning from the Past in the Iranian Nuclear Dispute

by Tytti Erästö | published April 16, 2014

The controversy over the Iranian nuclear program is in many ways a product of the US-Iranian conflict. The United States and Iran are in the grip of mutual negative perceptions that, in turn, have been reinforced by the escalatory dynamics of the nuclear dispute. After years of seeming diplomatic deadlock, these dynamics suddenly changed for the better in the autumn of 2013. The positive trends culminated in November, when Iran agreed with the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany, the so-called P5+1, on a confidence-building deal known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPA). Given the record of diplomatic non-achievement, the deal is a historic development.

In-Laws and Outlaws

by Darryl Li | published March 26, 2014 - 2:38pm

A jury today convicted on all counts Sulayman Abu Ghayth, a Kuwaiti preacher who made televised statements in support of al-Qaeda shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001. As expected, war-on-terror liberals are seizing upon the outcome as proof that civilian courts are a superior alternative to military tribunals at Guantánamo. On Friday I blogged about some of the legal issues raised by the case and how it fits into broader US detention policies. Civilian trials are undoubtedly preferable to kangaroo courts at Guantánamo in principle and one hopes that the administration uses this verdict to finally close the prison in Cuba.

The Diplomatic Dance with Iran

by Chris Toensing | published March 26, 2014

A six-month diplomatic dance with Iran is underway—each step as dainty as a minuet because any misstep is weighted with danger.

The issue is Iran’s nuclear research program and the UN inspections that are taking place as a result. And while each side has its own agenda, they’re suspicious of the other’s motives.

Nowruz Mobarak

by The Editors | published March 20, 2014 - 4:04pm

It’s been a long, cold, snowy winter across much of the globe, so we thought we’d do something to celebrate spring.

Nowruz is the traditional Persian new year’s holiday, observed in Iran, Afghanistan, Kurdish lands and beyond where Persian culture has had an influence. A pre-Islamic holiday, Nowruz marks the vernal equinox, the moment at which the day and night are exactly equal in length, and when subsequent days in the northern hemisphere will be longer than nights. Iranians celebrate Nowruz with visits to close friends and family, as well as a haft-sen (seven S), a table laid with items symbolizing spring and beginning with the letter S.

The Battle Over Higher Education in Iran

by Mohammad Ali Kadivar | published February 20, 2014

The educated middle class that played an influential role in electing Hassan Rouhani to the Iranian presidency in June 2013 is anxious to see his promises of “prudence and hope” fulfilled. One area that Rouhani’s administration is expected to reform is higher education, which was targeted for political and intellectual purges under the hardline conservative administrations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Handshakes in Geneva

by The Editors | published November 30, 2013

Everyone is happy with the interim agreement reached with Iran in Geneva on November 23 -- that is, everyone who really wants to defuse the tensions over Iran’s nuclear research program.