November 25, 2020
David Rundell brings to his book, Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads (I. B. Tauris, 2020), a granular analysis and insider’s understanding of the inner workings of the kingdom garnered as a US foreign service officer who served a total of 15 years in the country.
Rundell skilfully weaves history into a multi-layered portrait of the transformation for good and bad that Saudi Arabia is experiencing under King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
November 20, 2020
Saudi Arabia has taken multiple steps to polish its tarnished image in advance of this weekend’s hosting of the virtual summit of the G20 that groups the world’s foremost economies and in anticipation of an incoming Biden administration in the United States that is expected to be critical of Riyadh and potentially more conciliatory towards Iran and non-violent Islamists.
November 18, 2020
Public debates about China’s Middle East policy are as much internal Chinese discussions as they are indications of where Beijing’s thinking is going and efforts to nudge countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to accommodate potential policy changes.
November 14, 2020
Weakened by Joe Biden’s electoral defeat of US President Donald J. Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu risks being caught between a rock and a hard place as Jordan, the Palestine Authority and the United Arab Emirates manoeuvre for control of what is to Jews the Temple Mount and to Muslims the Haram ash-Sharif, the third most holy site in Islam.
November 10, 2020
A Russian mediated-ceasefire in the Caucasus cements a Turkish-backed Azerbaijani military defeat of Armenia but raises tantalizing questions.
November 5, 2020
Ethiopia, an African darling of the international community, is sliding towards civil war as the coronavirus pandemic hardens ethnic fault lines. The consequences of prolonged hostilities could echo across East Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
November 4, 2020
Michael Quentin Morton
Nov 3, 2020 / James M. Dorsey
Masters of the Pearl
A History of Qatar
REAKTION BOOKS 2020
History is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of young, energy-rich monarchies of the Gulf that often punch above their weight in geopolitics and geoeconomics. Yet, that is the rich, mostly unknown story of Qatar that Michael Quentin Morton tells in his book, Masters of the Pearl: A History of Qatar (Reaktion Books, 2020).
It is a story that sheds light on a country that is ruled by an autocratic family that has wielded power for centuries and that frequently dominates headlines with its grand and often controversial ambitions, including its hosting of the 2022 World Cup, as well as its predicaments, controversies, and idiosyncrasies. Morton, author of nine books on the Gulf and oil, brings an understanding of Qatari history to the table based on extensive research and the fact that he lived as a young age in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates where his father worked as a geologist.
Morton puts into perspective Qatar’s differences with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE that exploded in 2017 with the imposition of a diplomatic and economic boycott that its detractors unsuccessfully hoped would force Qatar to fall into line with their designs for the Gulf and the Middle East at large. Morton draws the reader in by weaving a well-written tale of tribal intrigue, regional and historic animosities, and big power rivalry.
It is a history that on the one hand illustrates the forces that have shaped Qatar and other Gulf states and on the other describes how much the region has and is changing as the result of economic and social development and wealth garnered from oil and gas. Masters of the Pearl constitutes a critical, yet compassionate contribution to an understanding of a small state that manages to punch above its weight and the stormy winds that attracts.
October 30, 2020
With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar only two years away, and a resolution of the three-year-old Gulf rift nowhere in sight, government officials, soccer governance executives, and pundits are playing with the notion that the tournament could serve as an icebreaker in the dispute between Qatar and its detractors, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain.
October 24, 2020
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to boost efforts by the world’s largest Muslim movement to recontextualize Islam during a forthcoming visit to Indonesia as part of a three-nation Asian tour. The tour is likely to be the secretary’s last official trip prior to next month’s US presidential election.
October 19, 2020
Fighting in the Caucasus between Azerbaijan and Armenia is about much more than deep-seated ethnic divisions and territorial disputes. It’s the latest clash designed, at least in part, to shape a new world order.