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Quarterly Talk, 10 March: Whither the Middle East?

Updated: Mar 13, 2021

Our first serving of the UAESBC Quarterly Talks in 2021 will give you a glimpse of the latest geo-political developments in the Middle East.

Title: Whither the Middle East?

Speaker: Dr James M Dorsey

Senior Fellow,

S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Date: Wednesday, 10th March 2021

Time: 2.30pm to 4.00pm Singapore / 10.30am to 12.00pm UAE

Venue/Format: Hybrid (Webinar and Face-to-Face)

  1. Webinar - No Registration Fee Required

  2. In-Person at Singapore Cricket Club, Registration fee @ $35 for members and $40 for non-members (inclusive of afternoon tea set menu)

Registration: Compulsory Registration for all - CLICK HERE to access registration form


Where does one start in assessing the state of multiple conflicts, disputes, and structural problems in the Middle East? The list seems endless: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestine, Syria, Libya, Turkey, the Mediterranean, the Caucasus and China’s growing role against the backdrop of its rivalry with the United States as Washington recalibrates its commitments. None of these are alleviated by bits of positive news such as Israel’s establishment of diplomatic relations with several Arab states. If anything, conflict resolution and problem solving often amounts to applying band-aids, maneuvering to achieve short-term advantage, ill-thought through and poorly executed grandiose plans, and/or entrenchment masked as efforts to reduce tension.

Add to this, that much of what happens in the Middle East is the high drama or an extreme expression of global trends in a world that has been in transition for at least the past decade. That transition has now kicked into high gear at multiple levels ranging from a move into a post-Trump world to the shift from a unipolar to a multipolar world to a global loss of confidence in political leadership and systems compounded by the pandemic and its economic fallout that will likely usher in a period of social and civil unrest.

Political, social, and economic change is the red line that will shape the Middle East for the foreseeable future. It is that change that is likely to shape the geopolitics of the region and determine which countries emerge as leaders not only of the Middle East but potentially of the Muslim world. On a level playing field in which countries have put their own house in order, the picture that could emerge could be one that flips the coin with countries like Turkey, Iran and Egypt overshadowing the Gulf.

About the Speaker

James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at RSIS focused on the Middle East and North Africa who publishes widely in peer-reviewed journals as well as non-academic publications. A veteran, award-winning foreign correspondent for four decades in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Europe and the United States for publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Financial Times, James has met a multitude of the region’s leaders. As a journalist, James covered primarily ethnic and religious conflict, including some of recent history’s most dramatic events such as the 1973 Middle East war; the Lebanese civil war; the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S.-backed insurgency that ultimately led to the withdrawal of Soviet troops; the Palestinian intifadas; the Iranian revolution, U.S. embassy hostage crisis and the Iran-Iraq war; the Iraqi invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein; the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia; the armed struggles in the Western Sahara, Algeria, the Philippines, Kashmir, Eritrea, Tigre, the Ogaden, Chad, Niger, Chechnya, the Caucasus and Georgia; the Columbian drug cartels; the fall of Noriega in Panama; the wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador; the Kurdish insurgency in south-eastern Turkey, post-revolution Iran and Saddam’s Iraq; and the war on terror. James writes a widely acclaimed syndicate column and blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, and has published several books on the politics of soccer, China and political transition in the Middle East and Southeast Europe. He is a frequent speaker at international conferences, workshops and seminars and is consulted by governments, corporations and judicial authorities. James won the Dolf van den Broek prize in 2003 and was a two-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize in 1980 and 1988 as well as a finalist for the 2012 European Press Prize; the Kurt Schork Award and the Amnesty International Media Award in 2002 and the Index on Censorship Award in 2012. James also co-directs the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Wuerzburg.

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