United Arab Emirates


This is to note that I have received a research grant from the Qatar Foundation for a study of indigenous knowledge of the seasons and time-telling in the Gulf. I have created a separate webpage to indicate progress through updates on the progress. This page is at http://tabsir.net/?page_id=2903

For those interested in the issue, the recently published July issue of International Sociology (30:4) is devoted to the Arab uprisings. It includes articles on the relations of revolution to such various dimensions as space, cultural symbols, microdynamics of mobilization, political Islam, and current scholarship:


Mohammed Bamyeh and Sari Hanafi, “Introduction to the special issue on Arab uprisings”

Atef Said, “We ought to be here: Historicizing space and mobilization in Tahrir Square”

Zaynab El Bernoussi, “The postcolonial politics of dignity: From the 1956 Suez nationalization to the 2011 Revolution in Egypt”

Hatem M Hassan, “Extraordinary politics of ordinary people: Explaining the microdynamics of popular committees in revolutionary Cairo”

Mazhar al-Zo’by and Birol Başkan, “Discourse and oppositionality in the Arab Spring: The case of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UAE”

Nada AlMaghlouth, Rigas Arvanitis, Jean-Philippe Cointet, and Sari Hanafi, “Who frames the debate on the Arab uprisings? Analysis of Arabic, English, and French academic scholarship”

For my post on the Arab youth views of democracy, click here.

The GCC States and the Viability of a Strategic Military Partnership with China

By Imad Mansour, Qatar University, The Middle East Institute, Mar 17, 2015

The term “strategic partnership” has been increasingly used in GCC circles to signify that relations with China are important and worthy of long-term investment. In a March 14, 2014 speech during his visit to Beijing, Saudi Arabia’s then Crown Prince Salman announced that “we are witnessing the transformation of the relationship with China to one of strategic partnership with broad dimensions, to the benefit of both our countries.”[1] Saudi Arabia’s position was echoed by the emir of Qatar during a 2014 visit to China in which issues of common concern to all GCC states, especially combating terrorism, were discussed.[2] Abdel-Aziz Aluwaisheg, GCC general assistant secretary for negotiations and strategic dialogue, has also noted that there is growing interest in the Gulf to develop a “strategic dialogue” with China.[3]

Despite this growing GCC recognition of China’s strategic role in the region, what exactly a “strategic partnership” or “strategic dialogue” would look like remains unclear. This essay discusses why officials in GCC member states might be hesitant to embrace the idea of China as a viable strategic military partner, while at the same time recognizing the need to further develop relations with China.

Securing Independent Military Capabilities

From the perspective of GCC leaders, the main military advantage of partnership with China is Beijing’s potential willingness to provide weapons that the United States is currently reluctant to sell. Given the United States’ lukewarm responses to recent regional unrest, the GCC countries are seeking to augment their independent capabilities, and China could be an important supplier, whether or not it is a full “strategic partner.”[4] These GCC views are based on the understanding that as economic interdependence grows, China might be more willing to provide advanced weapons systems in greater quantities. It is important to note that looking to China for arms sales is consistent with the GCC states’ broader strategy of expanding their network of suppliers.[5]

However, GCC leaders continue to assess the benefits of such an arrangement through the prism of their enduring relationship with the United States. This is largely due to historical momentum. GCC states have long procured most of their military hardware, training, intelligence systems, and combat systems directly from the U.S. government or from American businesses. In addition, the United States and its allies share GCC concerns about containing regional conflicts in Iraq and Syria, as well as the region-wide threat posed by al-Qa‘ida and its affiliates.[6] Furthermore, it seems that despite its reluctance to sell certain weapons directly to the GCC, the United States has tacitly approved GCC purchases of such weapons from China.[7] This balance―whereby the United States sells the GCC most of its conventional weapons systems, while GCC states purchase other approved weapons elsewhere―allows the GCC to accrue the benefits of remaining within the U.S. umbrella while also buttressing its defenses. Obtaining military hardware from China that the United States has not approved would involve an extremely delicate diplomatic game—one in which the GCC stands to lose more than it would currently gain. (more…)

Reuters has an interesting photo essay of recent bullfighting in the UAE.

Two bulls lock their horns during a bullfight in the eastern emirate of Fujairah October 17, 2014. There are no matadors or picadors, but bulls locking horns with each other draw big crowds to bullfights in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). An hour’s drive from the dancing water fountains of Dubai’s glitzy downtown, hundreds of fans gather in Fujairah to watch bulls fighting, or perhaps more accurately head butting, with honour rather than money at stake. The UAE sport involves two bulls locking horns in a three-to-four minute Sumo-wrestling-like fight that usually ends with no bloodshed. Picture taken October 17, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

So begins the classic Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities, written over a century and a half ago. The two cities in question were revolutionary Paris and Dickens’ own squalor-laden London. As fiction it was an unpacking of black-and-white, good and evil, wealth and poverty, kindness and cruelty. But as Dickens wryly noted from the start, such a period of stark contrast “was so far like the present” that it cried out for comparison. When I came across the two images juxtaposed above, the title of Dickens’ novel raced into my mind. What can one say about these two images, the iconic “American” image of the pick-up in the current political maelstrom that plagues the Middle East. What is this tale of two trucks?

So what do we see in both these images? Young men out for a thrill, one group actively seeking to kill. The top image reflects the top of the economic ladder, these young men of the UAE in a country that boasts a GDP (in 2012) of 383.80 billion dollars, representing .62% of the world’s economy. The rock-hard bottom is apparent in the bottom image of ISIS fighters. As for ISIS between Syria and Iraq, the GDP for Syria in 2012 was 73.67 billion dollars, while war-torn Iraq is elevated to 223 billion in 2013. God bless the hands that pump the oil. What would the region be without its black baraka? (more…)

Given all the unhappiness, it is refreshing to find a little happiness in the Middle East, even if it is musical. Enjoy the following:

Happy in Yemen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JzNxo5m8vI)

Happy in Abu Dhabi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=audy0aHjdyg)

Happy in Algeria (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr3-6H6P6Ng)

Happy in Egypt (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5D5dO5cn1PQ)

Happy In Kuwait (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQzDDg2poOc)

Happy in Jerusalem (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oszKeU7lEs)

Happy in Jordan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyXGv-7b_xo)

Happy in Lebanon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RqSFiVUhDw)

Happy from Morocco (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnuNA8HkVp0)

Happy in Qatar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8N5TkduFjA)

Happy from Saudi Arabia (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKi4iAl_qb0)

Happy in Turkey (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a12vAtzbe68)

On Flickr there is a nice photo montage of plants and animals in the United Arab Emirates. check it out here. This was put up by Thorsten Gerald Schneiders, who has several photostreams about the UAE.

Next Page »