In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Editor’s Note
  • Michael Collins Dunn

This issue marks the beginning of The Middle East Journal’s 70th year of publication. As the oldest peer-reviewed scholarly journal in the United States devoted to the contemporary Middle East, we continue to seek the best and most innovative scholarship in the field. (For an overview of the history of our first 60 years, see my Editor’s Note in Volume 61, No. 1, Winter 2007.)

To mark our 70th year, we have redesigned our cover art beginning with this issue. Managing Editor Jacob Passel initiated and — with help from designers from Cherry Blossom Creative here in Washington, DC — designed the new look, which retains elements of our recent covers, but streamlined and with the photo more prominent, echoing designs of classic MEJ covers from 1955 to 1982.

Also this year we are announcing a formal process to include an article of a policy nature in future issues, in addition to (not in place of) our five scholarly articles. Details for submission of policy articles will be found in our Submissions Guidelines (available in the front matter, as well as on our website at

As for the present issue, I believe it offers a good mix of research on contemporary developments, and historical research related to events that helped create the modern Middle East.

By any standard, 2015 was in many ways the Year of ISIS. Although the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham really emerged as a force in 2014, it was during the year that just ended that, despite its losing territory on the ground in Iraq and Syria, ISIS showed its ability to create terror in Europe, the United States, and around the world, through direct operations or by encouraging local sympathizers. Even as the world still debates whether to call the movement ISIS, ISIL, IS, or Da‘ish, the self-proclaimed “Caliphate” clearly remains a challenge to regional regimes and to the West. Two of our articles and our Review Article deal with ISIS in one way or another.

The first article directly addresses strategies for fighting the so-called Islamic State. Originally submitted at the end of 2014 as a perspective from the ground in Iraqi Kurdistan by Dr. Till Paasche of Soran University, shortly after the first round of peer review, Dr. Paasche left his lecturing position to join anti-ISIS fighters on the frontlines and invited one of the leading Western scholars of the Kurds, Professor Michael Gunter of Tennessee Technological University, to join as a corresponding author through the rest of the editing and publication processes. Paasche and Gunter argue that the West’s most effective strategy against ISIS would involve stepping up support for Kurdish peshmerga fighters in both Iraq and Syria and working to break up the alliance between ISIS, former Ba‘thists, and Sunni Arab tribes.

A second article also deals with Kurdish issues from another leading expert on Kurds, Professor Ofra Bengio of Tel Aviv University examines the role of “Kurdish Women in Peace and War.” She argues that women have long played a prominent role in Kurdish society, and that the events of the Arab Spring and the increasing [End Page 7] autonomy enjoyed by the Kurds have worked to enhance their role even further. Bengio examines the interaction between feminism and Kurdish nationalism, arguing that the two can and do work in tandem.

The third article is historical but addresses a period that clearly set the stage for the subsequent history of Iraq: the 1980–88 war between Iran and Iraq. Saddam Husayn thought he could quickly defeat an Iran just emerging from revolution, but instead found himself increasingly bogged down in a lengthy struggle. One response was a resort to deliberate attacks on civilian population centers, using missiles, aerial bombing, and artillery barrages. Egle Murauskaite of the University of Maryland has mined the captured documents of Saddam’s meetings and conferences to reconstruct his decision-making process during the “War of the Cities.” Those captured documents offer a rare glimpse at the usually hidden decision process in an Arab autocracy.

An earlier formative period in the history of Syria...


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