As this issue goes to press, Iran has elected a new president, Hasan Rowhani, reputedly more moderate than his predecessor, Mahmud Ahmedinejad; the bloodshed in Syria continues unabated; and the US’s announced intention of arming the rebels is leading to new disputes with Russia over both Syria and Iran. A new effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is under way, and there are concerns over a quickening arms race in the Gulf. So it seems appropriate that two of our articles deal with aspects of Iran’s Basij, one of the regime’s instruments of control, while other articles deal with Russian trade with the Gulf, and the economic dimensions of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The Policy Essay addresses prospects for regional arms control, while the lead article of our Book Reviews examines three recent books on Syria.
The Basij, Iran’s domestic militia movement, is the subject of two articles. Afshon Ostovar of the Center for Strategic Studies at CNA, discusses the incentives for membership in the Basij based on interviews. Saeid Golkar of Northwestern looks at one specialized branch of the Basij at universities, the Professors’ Basij Organization.
Katerina Oskarsson and Steve Yetiv of Old Dominion University examine Russia’s increasing trade relations in the Gulf, including its growing links with the GCC states in addition to its traditional ties to Iran and Iraq.
Robert Mason of the British University in Egypt offers a reevaluation of the economic aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, a useful contribution to efforts to revive the “road map.”
Our Policy Essay for this issue is by Bilal Y. Saab of INEGMA North America, evaluating the prospects for arms control in the Middle East in the wake of the transitions known as “Arab Spring.”
Finally our lead Book Review Article is by veteran Syria analyst Raymond Hinnebusch, reviewing three recent books on Syria. There is also a full Book Review section and our quarterly Chronology.
I also would like to note two recent changes to our staff. After three years as Managing Editor (and another two years prior as Circulation Assistant) Aaron Reese, who did much of the day-to-day administrative work for The Middle East Journal and served as the “traffic cop” to make sure everything moves along smoothly, has moved on; his replacement this spring was Jacob Passel, who also worked on the last issue. Our Assistant Editor, Charles Berdahl, has also moved on to attend law school. The Assistant Editor prepares the Chronology for each issue, also edits the rest of the copy, and in addition serves as the Internship Coordinator for the Middle East Institute as a whole. His replacement is former Publications Department intern Alexandra BetGeorge. I welcome them both to the Journal.
Let me urge you to check out MEI’s much expanded website at mei.edu, with much new material generated by our Arab Transitions Project. And of course, my own MEI Editor’s Blog at mideasti.blogspot.com.
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