Did Russian Intervention Break the Syrian Stalemate?

by Samer Abboud | published March 15, 2016 - 3:01pm

It is now a cliché to say that the Syrian conflict is complicated, and has multiple regional and international drivers.

Notes on Low Oil Prices and Their Implications

by Miriam R. Lowi | published February 24, 2016 - 9:50am

After about three years of hovering around $110 per barrel, with highs of $125 and lows of $90, oil prices began a precipitous decline in the summer of 2014, reaching a low of $48 per barrel in mid-August 2015 before plummeting to just under $30 per barrel five months later. While investors are no doubt reeling from the impact of this price decline on their portfolios and ventures, it’s well worth pondering how the Middle East and its geopolitics are likely to be affected.

But how to explain this downward spiral in the first place? By all accounts, reasons abound.

Regional Responses to the Rise of ISIS

by Curtis Ryan
published in MER276

Regional responses to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, have varied depending on regime perceptions of threat, not only from ISIS itself, but also from other potential rivals, challengers or enemies. Despite the jihadi group’s extensive use of violence in Syria and Iraq and its claims of responsibility for bombings and attacks in Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen—as well as France in mid-November—it was not necessarily the top security priority for any of these states.

Current Soviet Policy and the Middle East

by Fred Halliday
published in MER111

This report summarizes impressions of Soviet foreign policy gained during a study visit to the USSR in July 1982. During this visit, under the auspices of the Oriental Institute of the Academy of Sciences, I was able to meet a wide range of experts working in the institute, as well as journalists and foreign policy analysts attached to other publications and institutes.

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The Arc of Crisis and the New Cold War

by Fred Halliday
published in MER100-101

The latter half of the 1970s witnessed a sustained and geographically diverse series of social upheavals in the Third World which, taken together, constituted a lessening of Western control in the developing areas. In Africa, the Ethiopian revolution of 1974 was followed by a series of changes in the remaining embattled colonies attendant upon the revolution in Portugal: in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau (1975) and, as a consequence of the independence of Mozambique, in Zimbabwe (1980). The Southwest Asian region was transformed by the revolutions in Afghanistan (1978) and Iran (1979). In Central America there was a triumphant revolution in Nicaragua (1979), and continuing unrest in El Salvador and Guatemala.

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Steele, Soviet Power

by Karen Dawisha
published in MER129

Jonathan Steele, Soviet Power: The Kremlin’s Foreign Policy -- Brezhnev to Andropov (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983).

This is the sixth book on international events from one of Britain’s most senior and experienced journalists. His previous works on the USSR and Eastern Europe have shown him to be a sensitive and sympathetic observer of the Soviet scene. Steele starts from the premise that an emphasis on the USSR’s military capabilities alone is likely to produce an over-estimation of Moscow’s ability to intervene or expand its influence abroad. Steele’s aim is to examine the totality of Soviet military preparations, policy statements and political actions to produce a more complete and reliable calculus of Soviet power today.

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The Gulf Between the Superpowers

by Scott Armstrong
published in MER130

Anthony Cordesman, The Gulf and the Search for Strategic Stability: Saudi Arabia, the Military Balance in the Gulf, and Trends in the Arab-Israeli Military Balance (Boulder: Westview Press, 1984).

Occasionally, when an important head of state arrives in Washington for consultation without a previously announced agenda, he is greeted by an embarrassing series of articles and commentaries exposing the cumulative ignorance of American foreign policy analysts. Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd recently visited with President Ronald Reagan and provided just such an example.

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Changes at the Top

by Jonathan Steele
published in MER141

Babrak Karmal was replaced as general secretary of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) six weeks after this series of articles first appeared. It was the first non-violent change in the party’s leadership since it came to power in April 1978.

There is some evidence that the new leader, Major-General Najibullah (the official media shortened his name to Najib a few days later) was not the Soviet Union’s first choice to replace Karmal. Shortly before the leadership change on May 4, the Prime Minister, Sultan Ali Keshtmand, visited Moscow where he was prominently received. Keshtmand had long been known as the number two man in the regime, and his visit was given generous coverage in the Soviet media.

Baku's Shaikh-ul-Islam

by Fred Halliday , Maxine Molyneux
published in MER138

Shaikh-ul-Islam Pashazada Allahshukur Hummatoglu is chairman of the Board of Management of Caucasian Muslims. Fred Halliday and Maxine Molyneux interviewed him in Baku in July 1984.

How are Soviet Muslims organized?

There are four separate Islamic religious bodies in the Soviet Union. Three of these are for Sunnis. Here in the Transcaucasian region, comprising Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, Shi‘i Muslims are the majority. Their leader is the shaikh-ul-Islam, the position I now hold.

Are you appointed by the state?

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Letter from Baku

Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1980s

by Fred Halliday , Maxine Molyneux
published in MER138

Baku, the capital of Soviet Azerbaijan, lying on the west coast of the Caspian, embodies many suggestive contrasts with other areas of the Soviet Union and with the neighboring countries of Iran and Turkey. On the esplanade running along the seashore, restaurants sell kebabs, local pancakes (kutab) and Azerbaijani sweets; there are the colored lights, smells and sounds of outdoor eating places further south. The mustachioed young men, the gestures of greeting, the pace of the crowd suggest other Middle Eastern cities. In the icheri sheher, the inner city, glass-paned balconies lean over the first floors of the houses, as they do in Turkey. Three centuries of Persian rule have also left their mark on the literature and art of this region.

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