What Will the Middle East Look Like in Five Years?

Feb. 29 2016

After analyzing the crises that have beset Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, Jacques Neriah ventures some predictions about what will become of the Middle East once the dust settles:

Five years after the outburst of the so-called Arab Spring, the Middle East has changed radically. Not only have nation-states crumbled, transformed, or become failed states, the moderating forces that used to hold the structures together are no longer present. . . . Arab states are questioning U.S. policy and raising questions about [America’s] resolve to lead the military coalition against the Islamic State. Russia found the cracks in the geopolitical wall and easily replaced the United States with its traditional clients. Russia’s success in Syria is but another sign of the weakness of the United States in these dire times.

Five years from now, what Middle East can we expect? It would be foolish to prophesy. But it would not be adventurous to say that we will be confronted with a new map with new entities born or reborn. . . . [S]ooner or later, the traditional forces will destroy [Islamic State]. But this does not mean that the jihadist, Salafist ideology will be eradicated and that jihadist cells will no longer be established. Unless the roots of the problem are dealt with—the financing of [extremist] religious institutions—the jihadist movement will continue . . . receiving funds from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and even Morocco.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Islamic State, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Salafism, U.S. Foreign policy

On Thanksgiving, Remember the Exodus from Egypt

Nov. 27 2020

When asked to design a Great Seal of the United States, Benjamin Franklin proposed a depiction of Moses at the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, while Thomas Jefferson suggested the children of Israel in the wilderness after departing Egypt. These proposals, writes Ed Simon, tapped into a venerable American tradition:

The Puritans from whom Franklin descended had been comparing their own arrival in the New World with the story of Exodus for more than a century. They were inheritors of a profoundly Judaic vision, melding the stories of the Hebrew scripture with their own narratives and experiences. . . .

For the Puritans, Exodus was arguably a model for understanding their own lives and history in a manner more all-encompassing and totalizing than for any other historical religious group, with the obvious exception of the Jews. . . . American Puritans and pilgrims like John Mather, John Winthrop, John Cotton, . . . and many others placed the Exodus at the center of their vision, seeing their own fleeing from an oppressive England and a Europe wracked by the Thirty Years’ War to an American “Errand Into the Wilderness” as a modern version of the Israelites’ escape into Canaan. . . . [Thus the] Exodus . . . has become indispensable in comprehending the wider American experience. Through the Puritans, the story of Exodus became a motivating script for all manner of American stories. . . .

We read its significance and prophetic power in accounts of slaves who escaped the cruelty of antebellum plantation servitude, and who crossed the Ohio River as if it were the Sea of Reeds. . . . We see it in photographs of the oppressed escaping pogroms and persecution in the Old World, and in the stories of later generations of refugees. Exodus is an indispensably Jewish story, but what more appropriate day than Thanksgiving, this most American and Puritan (and “Jewish”?) of holidays, to consider the role that that particular biblical narrative has had in defining America’s civil religion?

Read more at Tablet

More about: American founding, American Religion, Exodus, History & Ideas, Thanksgiving, Thomas Jefferson