Center for Strategic Communication

  The Middle East Channel Editor’s Blog

My weekly column this week places Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s call for a sectarian jihad in Syria into the broader context of the changing Arab political public sphere and the power politics of Sunni-Shi’a incitement. The long-running debate about whether Qaradawi’s a "moderate or extremist" has always missed the point. More relevant by far is that Qaradawi has always been a political opportunist with an extremely finely honed sense for the Arab political mood, able to both reflect and to shape the views of the mainstream, not necessarily Islamist Arab public.  That makes all the more disturbing his calculation that this is the time to join the sectarian stampede. But he’s also not as influential as he once was, thanks to the rapid and dramatic shifts in Arab politics including the backlash against Qatar, the decline of al-Jazeera, the rising polarization against the Muslim Brotherhood, and the general proliferation of new voices and new media outlets. Qaradawi’s problematic efforts to position himself within this turbulent new public and the new lines of regional division are a microcosm of the shifting Arab political debate. I look forward to comments and discussions. 

Also this week on the blog, I reported on my conversation with former Tunisian Prime Minister and current Secretary General of Ennahda Hamadi el-Jebali, and reminisced about FP’s departing editor Susan Glasser. Off the blog, I had some positive thoughts on the promotions of Susan Rice and Samantha Power (and doubts that this meant a major shift on Syria policy). solicited thoughts and comments for a meeting of an American Political Science Association Task Force on Publications, asking via Twitter for ideas about how the APSA journals could do better at public impact and engagement. There’s a lot of good ideas out there, and I’m keen to collect more; I’m particularly excited about the efforts at the Monkey Cage and Duck of Minerva to work with publishers to temporarily ungate articles to let interested blog readers download them. 

There was a lot of great stuff on the Middle East Channel this week:

– Quinn Mecham explored the problem of democratic accountability in Erdogan’s Turkey

–  Zaid al-Ali dug deep into the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court’s thinking on the election law

– Robin Wright explored what we could learn even from deeply problematic Iranian elections

– Monica Marks reported on the politics of Turkish PM Erdogan’s visit to Tunisia

–  Tamara Wittes sharply explained why the crackdown on Egypt’s NGOs matters and what Washington should be doing about it 

– Danya Greenfield critiqued President Obama’s big speech on drones, and what it missed about their role in Yemen 

– Sinan Ulgen looked at Turkey’s Taksim Square protests and Erdogan’s dilemma

And finally, some of the week’s Middle East highlights from elsewhere on FP: Hassan Hassan on Saudi Arabia and Syria’s fractured opposition; Micah Zenko on the fatal flaw of the arguments for a limited Syria intervention; David Kenner on NDI and the Egyptian NGO trial; and reflections on Turkish democracy by Steven Cook and Michael Koplow; Mustafa Akyol; Whit Mason; and Justin Vela

— Marc Lynch, Middle East Channel editor