The Crown Center for Middle East Studies is committed to conducting balanced and dispassionate research of the modern Middle East that meets the highest academic standards.

The Center seeks to help make decision- and opinion-makers better informed about the region. The scope of the Center’s research includes the 22 members of the Arab League as well as Turkey, Iran, and Israel. The Crown Center’s approach is multi-disciplinary in its study of the politics, economics, history, security, sociology, and anthropology of the region’s states and societies. 

Recent News and Publications

Middle East Brief 138 (Summary) — The Israeli government’s declaration in April of its intent to vote on a unilateral annexation of the Jordan Valley and all Israeli settlements in the West Bank—as outlined in the Trump peace plan—prompted Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas the following month to "absolve" the PA of all agreements and understandings with Israel and the U.S., thereby ending coordination in security, economic, and civil affairs. Although plans for annexation have now been "suspended" as a result of the Israeli-Emirati normalization deal announced in August, those links remain severed, and the threat of annexation remains unresolved. In this Brief, Khalil Shikaki analyzes the strategic game of chicken between Abbas and Israeli leaders and argues that each side is waiting for the other to concede as the PA weakens and moves toward gradual collapse. This standoff continues, despite the Israeli-Emirati agreement, because Palestinians believe that annexation is not "off the table." The Brief reveals how the suspension of relations has affected Palestinians and what the threat of annexation means for stability and the diplomatic process.

Middle East Brief 137 (Summary) — In 2018, the Trump administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and began its "maximum pressure campaign" to compel Iran to renegotiate the nuclear deal. Almost two years later, sanctions on Iran continue, talks have not recommenced, and U.S.-Iranian relations remain at a stalemate. This has led to speculation that the campaign is regime change in disguise. In this Brief, Arash Davari unpacks the maximum pressure campaign's internal logic to identify the conditions under which it would induce the true power brokers in Iran to engage in negotiations. He concludes that the current U.S. policy appears to be a regime change one because the narrow set of preconditions under which negotiations would happen have not occurred. But this analysis also suggests that, under different circumstances, the maximum pressure campaign may yet lead to renewed talks between the U.S. and Iran.

August 12, 2020

Crown Conversations 4 (Summary) — The largest and most sustained demonstrations in Iraq’s post-Ba‘th era began in early October 2019, which led to the resignation of then Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. After five months without a government and several failed attempts by other nominees to form one, journalist and intelligence chief Mustafa al-Kadhimi became Iraq’s new prime minister in May. In this Crown Conversation, as the premier approaches 100 days in office, we asked Kanan Makiya to reflect on the forces that brought Kadhimi to power, his mandate, and the challenges he faces. In 2003, Makiya founded the Iraq Memory Foundation, an NGO dedicated to issues of remembrance, violence, and identity formation in Iraq; Kadhimi directed that foundation from 2003 to 2010.

July 21, 2020

In the News (Summary)Crown Center Founding Senior Fellow Dr. Khalil Shikaki addressed the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) at a virtual meeting on "The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question."

Special Announcement (Summary) — We are pleased to announce the release of Pascal Menoret's fourth book, Graveyard of Clerics: Everyday Activism in Saudi Arabia, by Stanford University Press in their series Stanford Studies in Middle Eastern and Islamic Societies and Cultures. Based on four years of living and conducting fieldwork in Saudi Arabia, Graveyard of Clerics takes up two global phenomena intimately linked in Saudi Arabia: urban sprawl and religious activism. Saudi suburbia emerged after World War II as citizens fled crowded inner cities. Developed to encourage a society of docile, isolated citizens, suburbs instead opened new spaces for political action. Religious activists, in particular, turned homes, schools, mosques, and summer camps into resources for mobilization. With the support of suburban grassroots networks, activists won local elections and found opportunities to protest government actions—until they faced a new wave of repression under the current Saudi leadership. With this book, Menoret tells the stories of the people actively countering the Saudi state and highlights how people can organize and protest even amid increasingly intense police repression.