2009 Conference Paper Summaries

The second annual conference of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) was held October 22-24, 2009 at the Key Bridge Marriott in Washington, D.C. Titled, The Middle East and Africa: Historic Connections and Strategic Bridges, the conference featured presentations and roundtables that demonstrated the inter-relationships between the two regions over time with special emphasis on the historical, political, economic, religious, security and cultural links between them.

Below is a complete listing of the papers presented at ASMEA’s 2009 conference.

Panel #1

The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Counter-Terror, Conflict Resolution and Political Division

On the Frontlines: Israel as a Catalyst for Counter-Terror Regime Formation

Dr. John Miner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Political Science at North Georgia College & State University
 Dr. Miner’s paper argues that the state of Israel has, over time, developed a coherent response to terrorism with effective practical, legal, and moral elements.  Using Israel as a case-study, he expands the explanatory power of Ethan Nadelmann’s theory of regime formation as it applies to stopping specific behaviors such as terrorism, and argues that the state of Israel effectively serves as a leader and catalyst in the creation of an effective counter-terror regime.

Tribalism in the Arab and Islamic World and its Influence on State-Building

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Ph.D., Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and Dr. Irwin Mansdorf, Ph.D., Independent Scholar
Drs. Kedar and Mansdorf present a paper that examines how tribal culture trumps state laws in the Middle East and the Arab world and seeks to determine if tribal negotiations, as opposed to traditional state relations, is a better means of conflict resolution in the region.

Israeli Strategy, Perceptions and Policies of and Towards its Immediate Neighbors and Iran

Dr. Barry Rubin, Ph.D., Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at the Interdisciplinary University (IDC)

Panel #2

Iran’s Strategic Importance from WWII to the Present

The Persian Gulf in the 1940’s: WWII’s Forgotten Theater

Dr. Jeffrey Macris, Ph.D., Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy
 In this paper, Dr. Macris investigates in greater detail the significance of the Persian Gulf region during World War II including what military activity took place in the Persian Gulf in World War II; the superpowers’ strategic objectives in the theater how did the superpowers – Britain, the United States, Russia, and Germany – shaped the region during that time; and the long-term consequences of that involvement in the shaping of the modern Persian Gulf.

Sudan as Iran’s Outreach to Africa: From Islamic Ecumenism to Pan-Islamic Terrorism

Dr. Ofira Seliktar, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science at Gratz College and Temple University
 Dr. Seliktar’s paper provides a detailed analysis of Iran’s use of Sudan as its main base for spreading the Islamist revolution to Africa.  While Iran’s Islamist outreach in Lebanon has been extensively analyzed, revolutionary export through Sudan has not been well understood because of the widely accepted view that Sunnis and Shiite do not collaborate – first generated in academia and then adopted by the intelligence community – has been a main obstacle to such understanding.  Her paper addresses that “obstacle” and others such as the extreme theological, political and organizational complexity inherent in Iran’s ability to use Sudan.

Behind the Iranian Menance: Russia and China’s Support for Tehran

Dr. George (Larry) Simpson, Professor of History and Department Chair at Highpoint University
 Dr. Simpson’s study examines the how economic and strategic considerations have led America’s leading Cold War adversaries to support the Islamic Republic of Iran as it tries to assert itself as the dominant power in the Persian Gulf and as it seeks to influence developments in the Middle East as a whole.  The current policies of Moscow and Beijing are increasing the likelihood of a regional military confrontation, but that it is not in the interest of either power to permit such a clash to occur.  The paper contends that it should be the goal of United States foreign policy to address this multilateral dimension of the Iranian problem and to convince the Russians and Chinese that neither a radical, Khomeinist state armed with nuclear weapons nor a preemptive Middle Eastern war is in their interest.

Panel #3

North Africa: Conquest, Empires and Modernization

The Spanish and Ottoman Empires in the Western Mediterranean, 1714-1914
Dr. Wayne Bowen, Ph.D., Professor of History and Department Chair at Southeast Missouri State University
In this paper, Dr. Bowen compares and contrasts the experiences of the Spanish and Ottoman Empires in the Western Mediterranean, examining the ways both attempted to reverse imperial decline, through reforms, military action and diplomacy.

Byzantine Africa and the Muslim Conquest: A Re-Examination

Dr. Michael Decker, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History at South Florida University
 By re-examining the existing textual record and by adding to this perspective gained from recent archaeological work, Dr. Decker’s paper proposes that the Byzantine period in North Africa was not economically decrepit, nor socially weakened to the point of collapse. On the contrary, the ‘missing century’ from the Byzantine conquest to the arrival of the Muslims was one of intellectual engagement with the imperial capital at Constantinople, a time of vibrant late-Christian cultural dynamism, and one of relative peace and prosperity.

The European Union and the Maghreb: Civil Society, Democratization and Economic Development

Dr. Michael Laskier, Ph.D., Professor of Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan University
 Dr. Laskier’s paper assesses the importance of reforms in the relationship between the European Union and the Maghreb in the post-Cold War age of globalization, interdependence and transnationalism.

Panel #4

The Transnational and Intercontinental Relations of Africa Nations

At the Crossroads of Cultures? An Historic and Strategic Examination of Kenyan and Somali Relations

Dr. Donovan Chau, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Political Science at California State University, San Bernardino
Dr. Chau’s paper explores the relationship between Kenya and Somalia, historically and strategically. In the process, his paper seeks to reveal the extent to which Kenyan-Somali relations reflect the interrelationships between the Middle East and Africa, particularly tensions as a result of Somali-Arab relations and Kenyan-Israeli relations.

Ethiopia: The Link Between the Middle East and Africa

Dr. Amanda McVety, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History at the University of Miami-Ohio
 Dr. McVety’s paper analyzes U.S.-Ethiopia relations in the 1950’s to show how Haile Selassie used growing American interest in the Middle East to his advantage by playing the Middle East card and emphasizing nation’s Eastern heritage to secure increased economic and military assistance—offering himself as a counterweight to Gamal Abdel Nasser’s expanding influence to the north.

Assessing Democratization in Africa: Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe

Dr. Derek Catsam, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin
 Dr. Catsam’s paper explores the process of democratization in three southern African countries—Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. All three of these nations have experienced a “primary transition to democracy” by gaining independence and having multiparty elections. None of these countries has yet undertaken the “tertiary transition” which this paper argues is an essential step for full-fledged democracies, a transition that would require the faction that won post-independence elections to yield power to a different party. It is this series of transitions in these three southern African states, including the rampant problems in Zimbabwe, which make up the heart of this study.

Panel #5

Doing Business in the Middle East and Africa: Corruption, Islamism and Outreach

Can Money Make Us Friends? Islamist Businessmen and Moderation of Islamist Politics

Dr. Seda Demiralp, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of International Relations at Isik University
 Dr. Demiralp’s paper compares and contrasts the case of Turkey with two other Muslim countries, Indonesia and Sudan, to answer if Islamist businessmen can be the long-needed moderates in Islamist parties, or whether the pragmatism of these actors that facilitated moderation in the case of Turkey can backfire in other contexts.

Middle East Sovereign Wealth Funds and the U.S. Economy: Strategic Bridge or National Security Threat

Dr. Kim Shienbaum, Associate Professor of Political Science and Department Chair at Rutgers University-Camden
Dr. Shienbaum’s paper focuses attention on Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds and their aggressive targeting of key sectors of the U.S and other Western economies and focused attention on purchasing equity stakes in private U.S corporations rather than on buying sovereign debt. It will explore whether the purchase of equity stakes in iconic U.S corporations — such as General Electric and Citibank — by sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East has potentially adverse implications for U.S national security. Her paper attempts to make the case that, despite countervailing arguments, Middle East sovereign wealth funds present the biggest risks to U.S national security and concludes by suggesting some policy options that the U.S should consider deploying against all sovereign wealth funds to reduce risks to national security.

International Investment Arbitration as a Means to Combat Corruption in Africa
Ms. Alexandra Koutoglidou, Academic Researcher at the Faculty of Law at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
It is argued that international investment arbitration provides an adequate international forum for the resolution of corruption disputes, the benefits of which can and should be extended to the rest of the society of African States. Ms. Koutoglidou’s paper examines the potential for combating corruption of government officials and the judiciary through filing individual claims before international investment arbitration tribunals.

Panel #6

The Implications of Islamic Da’wah and the Future of Islamic Migration

The Role of Da’wah in the Islamic Onslaught Against Dar al-Harb

Dr. David Bukay, Professor of Political Science at the University of Haifa
 By analyzing the religious sources of the Da`wah, Dr. Bukay’s paper documents its usage as a cultural strategy aimed at toppling Western democratic liberal regimes and subduing human rights and freedoms.  His paper further contends that Da’wah, when used by radicals, is employed differently when talking to Western audiences as compared to Islamic ears, making it an important component of radical Islam’s efforts to restore the Islamic Caliphate.

The Creeping Wahhabization in Pukhtunkhwa: Repercussions for Pushtunwali and Pushtuns in the Pre-9/11 Era

Dr. Shireen Khan Burki, Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Mary Washington University
Dr. Burki’s paper explores how the destruction of the traditional social fabric in Afghanistan’s Pukhtunkhwa belt by the Soviet’s genocidal campaign (1979-1989) created an ideological opportunity for the Wahhabists from the Khaleej to promote their Muwahiddun (“Unitarian”) version of Islam amongst the Pushtun. It will examine how the arrival of Arab “jihadis” in Peshawar, Pakistan in the 1980s marked the beginning of an indoctrination, and co-option, process that continues to this day, to the detriment of the Pushtuns’ unique culture, language and religious traditions/practices.

More Than al-Qaeda and its Affiliates: The Popular Appeal of the Terrorist Threat to U.S. National Security

Dr. Gordon Bowen, Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Mary Baldwin College
Dr. Bowen’s paper presents evidence that challenges the belief in Western societies that social support for Islamist terrorists is narrowly based; and suggests while Muslim majorities do not consistently embrace all forms of terrorism, sufficient public support for these terrorists’ violence persists to sustain this threat.

From Oslo to Tahadiyeh: Fifteen Years of Palestinian PSYOPS Strategy

Dr. Ron Schliefer, Senior Lecturer of Conflict Studies at Bar-Ilan University
Dr. Schliefer’s paper sums up a survey of the past 15 years of Palestinian struggle against Israel through the perspective of psychological warfare (PSYOP) from the Oslo accords until the cease fire with Hamas in 2008.

Panel #7

Rights, Culture and History in the Middle East

Towards of New Ecology of Middle Eastern Languages and Identities

Dr. Franck Salameh, Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Boston College
Dr. Salameh’s paper posits that the persistence to look at the Middle East as a single coherent “Arabic” language zone, and consequently as a uniform cohesive “Arab world” leads to a failure to recognize the region’s cultural and ethnic diversity, thus contributing to further false impressions and misinterpretations. The author seeks to bring a corrective to these readings of the Middle East, and will show that languages, and more specifically vernacular languages, are emerging as some of the clearest and most perceptible features of identity in a modern Middle East where Arabism has run its course.

Britain and the Use of Chemical Weapons in Mandatory Iraq

Dr. Ray Douglas, Associate Professor of History at Colgate University
Numerous standard texts on Iraqi and Middle Eastern history assert that the first use of chemical weapons in Mesopotamia occurred under the British mandate (1920-32), rather than in the more notorious bombing of Halabja by the Iraqi air force in 1988. Published accounts of these supposed attacks, however, vary extraordinarily — as regards the agents used, the method of delivery, the targets, and the year or even the decade in which they allegedly took place. Dr. Douglas’ paper traces the origin in the mid-1980s of claims of British chemical weapons use (and their subsequent mutations); examines the precise nature of British chemical weapons capabilities in the region during the period of the mandate; and discusses the archival materials in the Public Records Office that enable a definitive verdict on this question to be arrived at.

Panel #8

Counter-Insurgency and Counter-Terror: Winning the Hearts and Minds

The New Counter-Insurgency Field Manual and its Application in Iraq

Dr. Timothy Capron, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at California State University, Sacramento and Lt. Col. Timothy Vizzard, U.S. Army and Former Instructor at Westpoint
Dr. Capron and Lt. Col Vizzard review the U.S. Army/Marine Counterinsurgency Field Manual and its application in Iraq to determine the assumptions it makes and the future applicability of the manual to other conflicts.

Israeli Counter-Terror Strategies

Dr. Maya Beasley, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut
Dr. Beasley’s paper classifies terrorism as a social movement tactic and investigates the role of Israeli counterterrorism – what is often considered the dominant paradigm for counterterrorism – and its byproducts on suicide bombing.  In particular it investigates how Israeli counterterrorism measures such as targeted hits, killing insurgents, arrests, and growth of settler populations as well as their socioeconomic consequences (e.g. growth in the refugee population and rising unemployment) influence terrorism by Palestinians.

Militarized Development: Building Nations in a Divided Muslim World

Mr. Mark Silinsky, Ph.D. Candidate in International Development at Tulane University
Mr. Silinsky’s paper focuses on the new counterinsurgency (COIN) tool in use by US forces to engage militant Muslims in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, known as the provincial reconstruction team (PRT). The teams have proven to be, by and large, successful and if the PRT helps to defeat the Taliban, it will almost certainly be replicated for COIN operations elsewhere. This paper examines how and why the PRTs are working in the developing Islamic world and how this model can be exported elsewhere.

Panel #9

Instability in Africa: Piracy, Subversion and Religion

Flags and Clans on Darwin’s Playground: Policy Considerations for Somalia

Dr. Brian Hesse, Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwest Missouri State University
Dr. Hesse’s paper provides insight into the multinational “business model” of Somali piracy, from the international financiers who provide start-up capital, to employees who keep time cards even as they take vessels, cargo and hostages.  In so doing, his paper covers the complex causes of Somali piracy, and its global consequences.

Somalia: Warlordism, Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in the Gulf of Aden and Off the East Coast of Somalia

Dr. Emmanuel Obuah, Assistant Professor of International Relations at Alabama A&M University
Dr. Obuah provides an analysis of the catalyst and facilitating factors to this rising phenomenon of piracy in the Gulf Aden and off the coast of Somalia, the patterns and  trends in piratical activities, efforts by the international community to address the problem and as well as the implications on the process of globalization of trade.

Panel #10

Issues in Conflict and Diplomacy

Diplomacy, Peacekeepers or Tribunal: Assessing Strategies of Conflict Mitigation in Africa and the Middle East

Dr. Rachel Bzostek, Assistant Professor of Political Science at California State University, Bakersfield
By exploring both the commonalities and differences between the two regions’ responses to conflict, Dr. Bzostek’s paper seeks to achieve multiple goals.  First, are there some types of conflicts that are more responsive to certain conflict response techniques as opposed to others? Next, are there some techniques that are more successful than others? Are there some techniques that are generally successful in terms of reducing, resolving, or mitigating conflicts (depending on the goal of the technique) or others that tend to be unsuccessful? Finally, do some techniques work better in one region rather than the other? In other words, are some of these tools “region specific”? Is one region more responsive to one conflict response tool as opposed to other tools? The answers to all of these questions can provide a much richer understanding of the dynamics between conflict response tools and protracted conflict within the Middle East and Africa.

The Counter-Hegemonic Strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan

Mr. Daniel Atzori, Ph.D. Candidate in Government and International Relations at Durham University
Mr. Atzori’s paper aims at examining the strategies of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and in Jordan in terms of a counter-hegemonic struggle. Moreover, this study will attempt to examine the links between the Muslim Brotherhood in the two countries, attempting to analyze their policies with a comparative approach.

Evolutions of Islamic Martyrdom: Reflecting Milestones in Political Islam’s Conflict with the “Other”

Mr. Benyamin Acosta, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Claremont Graduate University
Mr. Acosta’s paper studies the evolutions of Islamic martyrdom, particularly regarding their impact on political Islam and Islamic violence, in an effort to help illuminate underlying connections between Islamic identities, tribal culture, and the environments of the Middle East and North Africa.

Military and Political Strategic Linkages Between the Yishuv and Ethiopia of Orde Wingate, 1937-1941

Mr. Aaron Eitan Meyer, Independent Scholar
Mr. Meyer’s paper researches British military officer Orde Wingate and his service, first in the British Mandate for Palestine and then in his contributions to the re-conquest of Abyssinia and the restoration of Emperor Haile Selassie to the throne. His paper deals with Wingate’s strategic and philosophical theories of connections between the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Ethiopia to his developing theory of a grand strategy, both military and political, for the Middle East/North African region.

Panel #11

Transnational Issues

Hardly Thicker Than Oil

Mr. Jeff Colgan, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Princeton University
Mr. Colgan’s paper seeks to address the gap in our theoretical understanding of how oil affects the domestic politics of the oil-exporting state by showing how oil generates both conflict-enhancing and conflict-reducing incentives.

The Right to Bear Arms: A Study of the Tunsian Arms Question Through the Official American Discourse, 1956-1958

Mr. Scott Brown, Instructor and Masters of Arts Candidate at the University of Arizona
Mr. Brown’s paper explores the previously classified ‘first chapter’ of Tunisian-American relations, from the perspective of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, top officials at the US State Department, and the American Embassy in Tunis. From evidence in these documents, the paper will present the official American discourse on the question of whether the United States should supply and equip Tunisia with arms.

Panel #12

Political and Economic Challenges in Modern Africa

Nationalizing Identity: Sudanese Islamist Parties and Their Visions of Sudan

Ms. Geraldine O’Mahony, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin
Ms. O’ Mahony’s paper examines the roles of Islamist political parties in Northern Sudan and what effect their interpretation of national identity has played in dividing the people of Sudan over the course of the past five decades. It examines the manifestations and interpretations of Islam and pan-Arabism among these Islamist parties, exploring the ethnic and religious factors which influence Islamist political groups, as well as their social bases which are tied to economics, language, and the conception of a distinctly “Arab” or “African” culture. Specifically this paper will examine the differences between the Islamic/identity visions of these parties between the 1950s-1970s and those of the 1980s, which led to the development of the current National Islamic Front (NIF). In addition to a discussion of the nature of the Islamist parties, her paper argues that the predominance of these parties in the Sudanese government and the lack of a Sudanese identity have combined to prevent the consolidation of state power, leading to protracted conflict.

Truth and Reconciliation Committees: The Justice of the Matter

Dr. Deji Adekunle, Professor of Law at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at the University of Lagos
Dr. Adekunle’s paper demonstrates – by using examples from Sierra Leone, Liberia, South Africa and Nigeria – that Truth and Reconciliation Committees have the potential to mask liability for crime in ways that challenge universal notions of justice and also promote impunity. The paper examines the dilemma of these societies as they grapple with troubling notions of accountability and justice in the quest for reconciliation and concludes that the mandates of TRCs should be couched subject to expanding jurisdiction over genocide and other international crimes.

Containing Somalia: Is Kenya Up to the Task?

Travis Kavulla, Independent Scholar
Mr. Kavulla’s paper analyzes Kenyan-Somali relations, Kenyan-U.S. relations and considers the challenges that face Kenya and its allies as it prepares for its coming role in containing and monitoring Somalia as it continues to pose a risk to the region and Western interests.

Panel #13

Social Justice and Political Minorities

The Baha’is of Iran: Another Ignored Genocide

Ms. Johanna Quatmann, Independent Scholar
Ms. Quatmann’s paper examines whether the Iranian government’s policy and treatment towards the Iranian Bahá’ís constitute warning signs pointing towards a pending genocide.

The Images of Jews in Iran During the Twentieth Century

Ms. Orly Rahimiyan, Ph.D. Candidate in Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University
Ms. Rahimiyan’s paper aims to contribute to the existing literature on the Jews of Islamic lands and to examine the evolution of the image of the Jew in 20th Century Iran. Central issues addressed include: Which images and stereotypes are attributed to Jews? What are the physical attributes, characteristics and motifs associated with the image of the Jew? How do Iranian media and literature represent Jews? How are old stereotypes of Jews preserved and how do new ones come about? What are the historical contexts of the trends of continuity and change connected to these stereotypes?

Recounting Historic Afro-Arab Relations and the Subsequent Islamic Impact: Analyzing a Traditional Historic Narrative for the Yemeni Akhdam

Mr. Randy Johnson, Independent Scholar
Mr. Johnson’s paper posits that the Arab victory over Ethiopian aggression during the Byzantine Empire gave the Yemenites a sense of Arab superiority and a rationalization for oppression and enslavement of the Ethiopians that remained in Yemen.

Panel #14

Religion and Corruption in Modern Turkey

Islamist Civil Society Organizations in Turkey: reactions to the 2008 Gaza Incursion

Ms. Defne Jones, Ph.D. Candidate in Turkish Studies at Indiana University
Ms. Jones’ paper examines the role of Islamist civil society organizations in promoting protests of the Gaza incursion in Turkey.

Cigarette Trafficking: Decades Old Problems Manifesting Themselves in an Ever-Growing Transnational Crime

Ms. Sharon Melzer, Ph.D. Candidate in Criminal Justice at American University
Turkey has a long history with illicit trade, especially in counterfeit and contraband cigarettes, and has suffered substantial financial losses as well as other social costs. Ms. Melzer’s paper identifies and reviews several methods used by traffickers and analyze some of the causes related to this practical illicit trade. While the illicit cigarette traffic that crosses Turkey’s European and costal borders are touched on, the primary focus of her paper is the illicit trade that crosses Turkey’s Middle Eastern borders. More specifically, the paper will focus on the historical and contemporary illicit cigarette trade across the Iraqi-Turkish border.