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. 

Upcoming Events

Stay tuned for our fall seminar lineup. In the meantime, catch up on past seminars over at our YouTube channel.

Recent News and Publications

March 9, 2022

Middle East Brief 147 (Summary) — Why is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan so enthusiastic about planting trees? The answer is more complicated than authoritarian greenwashing. In our latest Middle East Brief, Ekin Kurtiç argues that the AKP government’s keen interest in greening Turkey is an attempt to monopolize the environmental agenda and turn legitimate environmental protest into a criminal activity. From anti-mining movements in the 1990s to the Gezi Park occupation in the 2010s and the wildfires of the 2020s, Kurtiç charts how community organizers, legal activists, and forestry experts have formed new fronts of opposition against environmental degradation. While state-led initiatives to plant trees throughout Turkey might appear benevolent, Kurtiç argues, in reality AKP environmentalism is rooted in coercion.

February 22, 2022

In the News (Summary) — In the summer of 2021, one of the largest wildfires in the history of Turkey destroyed over 333,000 acres (135,000 hectares) of forest and killed eight people along with thousands of animals. The conflagration was not unexpected. Mediterranean forests are ecologically prone to fire, and summer is fire season in this region. Weeks before the wildfire, the General Directorate of Meteorology forecast a heatwave for the end of July and the first days of August. In addition, extreme drought had been a major concern throughout the year. Given these conditions, forestry experts had been informing the public and state officials about the likelihood of large forest fires.

February 9, 2022

Crown Conversations 12 (Summary)Israel’s position in the Middle East is changing. The UAE’s announcement in August 2020 that it would normalize relations with Israel—formalized the following month in the Abraham Accords Declaration—sparked a series of similar agreements between Israel and several Arab states. The perception of U.S. disengagement with the region has led countries to reconsider alliances and rivalries. And the election of new leaders in the U.S. and Israel heralds a possible reset in relations between those states. In this Crown Conversation, we spoke with Chuck Freilich about what these changes mean for Israel’s security and role in the Middle East.

February 3, 2022

Middle East Brief 146 (Summary) — Analysts have been closely watching China’s growing economic relations with oil-producing states in the Middle East over recent years. Yet despite the paucity of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean countries, China has also been quietly extending its Belt and Road Initiative into this strategic corner of the region. In this Middle East Brief, Nader Habibi analyzes the changing pattern of Chinese trade and investment in Turkey, Israel, and Egypt. What does the Egypt-Turkey competition for Chinese investment tell us about regional geopolitics? Will Israel’s courting of Chinese tech investors ring alarm bells in Washington, D.C.? Could the Belt and Road Initiative provide the opportunity for regional economic integration in the Middle East that the Arab-Israeli peace process failed to deliver? Habibi argues that Chinese-funded infrastructure projects in the Eastern Mediterranean are laying the foundations for new economic connections between the Levant and other regions—and that the Levant could in the future become an unexpected front in the geopolitical rivalry between China and the U.S.

January 12, 2022

Middle East Brief 145 (Summary) — In its bid to revive an Iranian nuclear deal, the Biden Administration has promised to reverse the heavy sanctions burden placed on Tehran by President Trump. Yet, as Hadi Kahalzadeh argues in this Middle East Brief, turning back the clock to the pre-Trump era will not be so straightforward. Not only will it prove difficult to dismantle the sheer quantity of new sanctions imposed on Iran by the previous administration, but the economic impact of those sanctions has undermined the support for negotiations among the Iranian political elite and public. Analyzing recent household survey data, Kahalzadeh reveals the declining fortunes of the Iranian middle class under sanctions and explains how Iranian hardliners have used the implosion of the country’s private sector businesses to tighten their own grip on Iran’s economy. Although President Biden might be willing to negotiate a new nuclear deal, Kahalzadeh argues that his administration will find itself weighed down by the legacy of President Trump.