Half a Century Ago, Elie Kedourie Understood That Neither Zionism Nor Western Imperialism Was the Cause of the Middle East’s Problems

The Chatham House Version and Other Middle Eastern Studies was one of the great works of the eminent 20th-century historian of the Arab world, Elie Kedourie. To mark the 50th anniversary of its publication, Robert D. Kaplan reflects on its author’s legacy. But first he explains the book’s title:

Chatham House, or the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and its director of studies for three decades, Arnold Toynbee, become in Kedourie’s book illustrative of an elitist British sentimentality toward the cultures of the Middle East (and to Arab nationalism in particular) that hid from, rather than faced up to, the impure, realist requirements of politics and necessary force.

In other words, the “Chatham House version” of things was not unlike the orthodoxies held by the American State Department or the British foreign office today. Kaplan continues:

Elie Kedourie grew up in a wealthy Jewish family in Baghdad, and as a fifteen-year-old schoolboy witnessed close-up the June 1941 pogrom, known as the farhud (“looting”), in which the Iraqi army and police murdered over 180 Jewish men, women, and children, and raped countless Jewish women. . . . Kedourie, in The Chatham House Version, blames the British authorities for failing to protect the Jews, despite having taken over responsibility for Mesopotamia from the Ottoman empire in the aftermath of World War I.

Kedourie’s essential diagnosis of Great Britain’s Arab policy in his lifetime was that the British foreign office’s awe of an exotic culture, combined with the “snare” of a misunderstood familiarity toward English-speaking Arabs—who used the same words, but meant very different things when discussing such issues as rule-of-law and constitutions—led to a profound lapse of policy judgment: toward which, one must add guilt regarding the post-World War I border arrangements that allowed for, among other things, a Jewish national home in Palestine.

In the minds of this naïve generation of British officials, once Zionism and imperialism could be done away with, the Arabs would enjoy peaceful and stable institutions. Fifty years ago, Kedourie countered with what in recent decades has since become a commonplace: that neither imperialism nor Zionism was the problem.

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Read more at National Interest

More about: Iraqi Jewry, Middle East, United Kingdom, Zionism

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin