Robert Mason is a graduate of the University of Westminster (BA Combined Hons International Relations and Politics, 2002), The Diplomatic Academy of London (PG Certificate, 2004), and the University of Exeter (PhD Middle East Politics, 2012). His primary research interests are the international relations of the Middle East and Gulf politics, Asia – Middle East/Africa relations, and Euro-Med relations (as detailed below). Much of his work therefore deals with small states, regional powers, threat perception, economic factors in foreign policy decision-making, geostrategy, alliance building and deconstruction, regional security, great power relations, balance of power, soft power, normative influence, arms sales and developmental assistance.
Robert is currently a Non-Resident Fellow with the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, and a Fellow with the Sectarianism, Proxies and De-sectarianisation (SEPAD) project. Prior to this, he was Associate Professor and Director of the Middle East Studies Center at The American University in Cairo where he won a faculty research award and was co-chair of the Regional Conflicts and Security Working Group. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, the founding editor of the Lexington Books series on The Gulf States in International Affairs, and sits on the scientific committee of the Middle East Congress on Politics and Society at Sakarya University, Turkey. Robert was an at-large member of the International Studies Association Foreign Policy Analysis Section executive committee (2020-2022). His op-eds have been published in Financial Times, The National Interest, The Hill, RUSI Newsbrief, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, The National, The Diplomat, New Turkey, Iran Review, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, OpenDemocracy, LSE IDEAS and LSE British Politics and Policy Blog.
1. International relations of the Middle East and politics of the Gulf
Robert’s main interest and expertise lies in the international relations of the Middle East and the politics of the Gulf region.
He has recently completed a monograph on Saudi and UAE foreign policy in a global context titled Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates Foreign Policy: Strategic Alliances in an Uncertain World, forthcoming with Manchester University Press. He is currently working with Dr Banafsheh Keynoush and Dr Guy Burton on a book about Israel and the Gulf (Lexington Books) provisionally entitled Israel and the Arab Gulf States: From Tacit Cooperation to Normalization.
Relevant publications include:
- “Germany – GCC Relations: Continuities, Priorities and Atlanticism“ (ORIENT, 2022)
- “Pushing the Envelope of National Security and State Influence at the Margins: Saudi and Iranian Competition in the Horn of Africa” in Robert Mason and Simon Mabon (eds.) The Gulf States and the Horn of Africa: Interests, Influence and Instability (Manchester University Press, 2022)
- New Perspectives on Middle East Politics: Economy, Society and International Relations (AUC Press, 2021).
- “Strategic Depth Through Enclaves: Iran, Syria and Hezbollah” (Middle East Policy, Summer, 2021)
- “The Nexus Between State-Led Economic Reform Programmes, Security and Reputation Damage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” in Martin Beck and Thomas Richter (eds.) Oil and Political Economy of the Middle East: Adjustment Policies of the Arab Gulf and Beyond Since 2014 (Manchester University Press, 2021)
- “Small State Aspirations to Middle Powerhood: The Cases of Qatar and the UAE” in Adham Saouli (ed.) Unfulfilled Aspirations: Middle Power Politics in the Middle East(Hurst/OUP, 2020)
- “Civil Nuclear Energy in the Middle East: Demand, Parity and Risk”. Co-authored with Gawdat Bahgat. (Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, May 2019).
- “Breaking the Mold of Small State Classification? The Broadening Spheres of UAE Foreign Policy Through Effective Military and Bandwagoning Strategies” (Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 2018)
- Foreign Policy in Iran and Saudi Arabia: Economics and Diplomacy in the Middle East (I. B. Tauris, 2014, reprinted in 2022)
- “The Omani Pursuit of a Large Peninsula Shield Force: A Case Study of a Small State’s Search for Security”, (British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 2014).
- “The Price of Peace: A Re-evaluation of the Economic Dimension in the Middle East Peace Process”, Middle East Journal, 2013.
2. Asia – Middle East/Africa relations
Robert has been involved in a number of high profile events in this area. In 2017, he co-hosted the 14th Korea – Middle East Cooperation Forum in Seoul, sponsored by the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He co-organised an Egypt – Japan symposium in conjunction with the Japanese embassy in Cairo, and gave presentations at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2019 on regional issues. He regularly gives interviews on this theme to outlets such as the South China Morning Post and Radio France International. In 2014-15 Robert was a Visiting Fellow at the Centre of International Studies at the LSE.
Robert is currently writing a book with Professor Yahia Zoubir (KEDGE Business School) on China – Maghreb/Sahel relations.
Relevant publications include:
- “China and Regional Stability in the Middle East: Economics, Engagement and the Transitional Phase to a Multi-Polar World”, in Yahia Zoubir (ed.) Routledge Companion China and to the Middle East and North Africa (forthcoming in 2022).
- “China’s Impact on the International Relations of Sub-Sahara Africa: Implications for Dependency Theory” (Third World Quarterly, 2016)
- “Patterns and Consequences of Economic Engagement across Sub-Sahara Africa: A Comparative analysis of Chinese, British and Turkish Policies” (LSE International Studies Centre Working Paper, 2015)
3. Euro-Mediterranean relations
The European Commission funded Robert’s academic – policy project in 2018 which included research, teaching and public outreach components. He convened a new post-graduate course on Mediterranean Politics and arranged a two-day post-graduate conference on “The EU, Middle East and Africa in the 21st Century“ at AUC. He also convened an EU – Middle East Policy round table in Cairo, including the participation of a number of European ambassadors and League of Arab States officials. For details see: Research Impact.
Relevant publications include:
- Transnational Security Cooperation in the Mediterranean (Palgrave, 2021)
- “The Syria Conflict and the Euro-Med Refugee Crisis: An Opportunity to Enhance the Common Foreign and Security Policy?”, (European Foreign Affairs Review, 2018)
- International Politics of the Arab Spring: Popular Unrest and Foreign Policy (Palgrave, 2014)
4. Teaching and Learning
Robert is currently working on a number of research projects related to teaching and learning in the Middle East and Africa.