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

Spring Crown Seminar Series

February 3, 11:00am EST - Fredrik Meiton, "Electrical Palestine: Capital and Technology from Empire to Nation"

March 3, 11:00am EST - Mona El-Ghobashy, "Egypt, Democracy, and Revolution: A Reappraisal"

March 24, 11:00am EST - Gokh Amin Alshaif, "On Origin Myths and Genealogical Imagination: The Marginalization of Yemen’s Black Community"

April 7, 11:00am EDT - Adria Lawrence, "What’s so Colonial about Colonial Rule? Violence and Authoritarianism in French Algeria"

May 5, 11:00am EDT - Pouya Alimagham, "Contesting the Iranian Revolution: The Green Uprisings"

Recent News and Publications

Middle East Brief 139 (Summary) — China’s economic and diplomatic ties with each of the eight states that border the Persian Gulf rapidly expanded over the past two decades. This occurred despite conflicts and diplomatic tensions among those states and the heavy dependence most of them have on the United States for their external security. And China, so far, has largely avoided being drawn deeply into the complex politics of the region. In this Brief, Nader Habibi explores the reasons for this growth in China’s trade and investment with Iran, Iraq, and the monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council. He analyzes the motivations and strategic calculations of the Gulf states while emphasizing China’s ability to contribute to economic diversification programs and link infrastructure projects to its global Belt and Road Initiative. Habibi concludes by discussing factors that might limit further expansion of Gulf-China economic ties, including increasing U.S. concern about China’s growing influence in the region.

November 17, 2020

Special Event (Summary) — Hosted by the Office of the President at Brandeis University, the video recording of the panel discussion and Q&A on the implications of the U.S. presidential election for the Middle East is now available. The panelists examined the Biden administration's options for addressing crucial challenges and opportunities in the region, including U.S. relations with Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other countries.

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.