Books

Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates Foreign Policy: Strategic Alliances in an Uncertain World. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2022.

In the context of political transitions taking place at the domestic, regional and international levels, Robert Mason maps a series of key Saudi and UAE bilateral relations incorporating the Middle East, the US, Europe, China, Russia, the Horn of Africa, India, Pakistan, Japan, Republic of Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia. He argues that established modes of analysis such as riyal politik and the Islamisation of Saudi foreign policy are somewhat redundant in a changing economic climate and amid evidence of uncertain returns, whilst political consolidation amounting to Sultanism only tells part of the story. Mason underscores the role of youth, background, and western affinity in leadership, as well as liberalisation, hyper-nationalism, secularisation, ‘Push East’ pressure, and broader economic statecraft as being the new touchstones of Saudi and UAE foreign policy. This volume also sheds light on aspects of offensive realism, dependency theory, alliance patterns, ‘challenger states’, and political legitimacy in a region dominated by competition, securitization, and proxy warfare.

Reviews

“Though Saudi Arabia and the UAE are arguably now the most influential Arab states, their foreign policies and policymaking structures remain rather enigmatic. Conducting the most detailed investigation to date, Mason provides us with a substantive, well-researched analysis. Essential reading”. Christopher M. Davidson, author of From Sheikhs to Sultanism: Statecraft and Authority in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“This is an engaging account of the shift in foreign policy and strategic thinking in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It places national imperatives at the heart of decision making and engagement with foreign powers. Mason bases his analysis on rich empirical data and offers new insights into foreign policy thinking on the United States and China against the backdrop of tension with Iran and expanding export markets in Asia. This book opens new avenues to explore and is a must read.” Shahram Akbarzadeh, Research Professor of Middle East and Central Asian Politics, Deakin University. 

“Robert Mason has done yeoman work in chronicling and analyzing in great detail the twists and turns of contemporary Saudi and Emirati foreign policy. The book is an indispensable source for understanding the international politics of the Middle East.” F. Gregory Gause, III, Professor, John H. Lindsey ’44 Chair and Head of the International Affairs Department, Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University.

MAS1158_FChighThe Gulf States and the Horn of Africa: Interests, Influence and Instability. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2022.

The Gulf States and the Horn of Africa takes a deep dive into the complexities of power projection, political rivalry and conflict across the Red Sea and beyond. Focusing on the nature of inter-regional connections between the Gulf and the Horn, it explores the multifaceted nature of relations between states and the two increasingly important sub-regions. Bringing together scholars working on and in both regions, the book considers strategic competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the UAE and Qatar/Turkey, along with other international engagement such as joint anti-piracy operations, counter-terrorism cooperation, security assistance, base agreements and economic development. 

Drawing on a range of subject expertise and field research across case study countries, the volume adds to the sparse literature on the regional and international politics of the Horn of Africa and Red Sea, gleaning specific insights from contemporary reflections across the book. This is essential reading for students and researchers interested in the Horn of Africa and the evolving regional geopolitics of the Gulf.

Reviews

“This volume, by some of the foremost scholars on the region, offers an extensive overview of the region and a timely analysis of the complex interactions between the Arab Gulf, Horn of Africa and Red Sea regions. The various contributions provide valuable insights into the multi-faceted nature of inter-state competition and its impact on inter-regional relations while encompassing the often-overlooked views of the respective sub-regions. This book is a significant contribution to the understanding of regional and international politics, the nature of south-south relations and the changing dynamics of the Gulf states’ role in Africa. It is an indispensable read for all those interested in the field as well as those with a general interest.” – Abdullah Baabood, Professor and Chair of the State of Qatar for Islamic Area Studies and Visiting Professor, Faculty of International Research and Education, Waseda University.

“This a timely and important volume that offers a comprehensive look at the ways in which regional security complexes in the Horn and Gulf intersect and overlap. It includes an array of top-notch contributions from seasoned scholars anchored in a deep attention to history, substantial fieldwork, and conceptual rigor. A must read for anyone interested in the international relations of the modern Horn and Middle East.” Michael Woldemariam, Associate Professor of International Relations and Director, African Studies Center, Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University.

Watch the book launch event hosted by the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, 8 April 2022.

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New Perspectives on Middle East Politics: Economy, Society and International Relations, Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2021.

This compelling book examines important and cross-cutting themes in the study of contemporary Middle East and North African politics and international relations. Unusual in drawing together contributions from scholars based in the region and beyond, it weaves together essential interdisciplinary, conceptually rich, and forward looking content. Chapters cover population and youth, civil – military relations, soft power and geopolitical competition, regionalization and internationalization of conflict, the role of oil in reconstruction efforts, extra-regional actors, environmental politics and the Israel – Palestine conflict. A Postscript highlights the impacts of Covid-19 in the MENA region. Students are supported with an extended and innovative glossary, including key concepts, actors and abbreviations. The book serves as an ideal primer and companion volume for scholars of Middle East Studies, as well as for policy professionals, journalists and the general reader (re-)engaging with the region.   

Reviews

“Robert Mason has assembled an impressive array of scholars who, together, provide us with a breadth and depth of analysis on many of the most critical issues facing the region today. This volume is one of the few available that covers such diverse topics as the political economy of youth, civil-military relations, soft power politics, environmental politics, extra-regional actors and other regional politics. The volume will become an indispensable reference for Middle East Studies students, conscientious journalists, and others who seek breadth and depth of coverage on the region.”Denis J. Sullivan, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and Co-Director of the Middle East Center, Northeastern University, Boston, USA.

“Media commentary about the Middle East is often breathlessly chasing the latest current events while academic debates can be arcane at times. This volume provides a refreshing middle ground: It debates the politics of the Middle East and its development challenges against the backdrop of history and convincingly explains key concepts of a crucial sub system of international relations. Essential reading for students and executives alike.”Eckart Woertz, Director of the GIGA Institute of Middle East Studies & Professor for Contemporary History and Politics of the Middle East at University of Hamburg, Germany.

“Although designed primarily as a companion and reference text for students in Middle East studies, this book is far more than that. It provides a broad introduction to the key issues at the heart of the region, with chapters that are both richly detailed and lucidly written. But as its title says, it does so in context, and it is in this respect that the book is so refreshing, timely, and appropriate. Many chapters have a theme or angle embedded in them; geopolitical rivalry is linked to soft power, for example, and economic change to demography and youth. Others are a fresh take on an issue, or a timely examination of an emerging dynamic: chapters on civil-military relations, and on environmental politics, get the attention here that is so lacking in many texts on the region’s politics. This book is clear enough to support, or even drive, an undergraduate course on Middle East politics, but detailed and novel enough to be of similar value in a postgraduate one, while scholars with a range of interests are likely to find a number of original ideas and new angles through which to frame their analyses of the region.”Matthew Gray, Professor in the School of International Liberal Studies, Waseda University, Japan. 

“This timely, informed and informative book makes a real contribution to contemporary thinking on the politics of the Middle East region.  It is particularly welcome in providing new perspectives on old issues ranging from oil to the Israel-Palestine conflict and for its success in locating more recent issues including environmental politics and the shrinking power differential in an increasingly multipolar world in their regional perspectives. On publication, this will be a very helpful read for students and established scholars alike.” – Rory Miller, Professor of Government, Georgetown University in Qatar.

“Erudite. . . The expert-level writings, often supplemented with data and graphs from recent research offer invaluable insights for policy professionals, journalists, and any reader interested in a deep dive into the extreme complexities of the region. . . especially and unreservedly recommended.” Read the full review in the Midwest Book Review 

9783030544430_p0_v3_s600x595Transnational Security Cooperation in the Mediterranean, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

This volume draws together academics and think tank experts to explore the revised European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) and EU Global Strategy (EUGS) towards the Southern Neighborhood. This in the context of the Arab Uprisings and conflict, counter-terrorism cooperation, the Mediterranean refugee crisis, energy developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, shifting interactions with and between international partners, and the fallout from Covid-19. Covering aspects such as actorness, power and alliances, history, socioeconomics, domestic politics, regime security, and the regional security complex, the authors provide a comprehensive and theoretically rich analysis of EU policy inputs, southern neighborhood interests and responses, as well as new strategy proposals aimed at enhancing human security. The volume will appeal to European and Middle East studies students, international relations scholars and policy professionals alike.       

Reviews

“Transnational Security Cooperation in the Mediterranean calls on states and the EU to transcend short-term securitised approaches to relations between the southern and northern sides of the Mediterranean. Contributors to the volume provide a series of up-to-date analyses of the wide range of issues and actors affecting security cooperation in the wider region. Provides important lessons for the EU in the post-Codvid-19 pandemic era.” – Karen E. Smith, Professor of International Relations and Head of the Department of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science. 

Robert Mason’s book helps us to better understand one of the most complex – and dangerous – security environments in the world today. In what has become a very crowded European ‘neighbourhood’, with Russia, China, Turkey and the Gulf countries flexing their muscles as never before, the countries of the Middle East and North Africa are struggling with all manner of threats to their stability and development. Mason contributes a well-informed analysis of those threats and provides some useful suggestions for the EU on how best to help deal with them.” James Moran, former EU Ambassador to Jordan, Yemen, Libya and Egypt.

“This is a truly relevant book for anyone interested in obtaining in-depth understanding of some of the most crucial contemporary security dynamics in the EU’s southern neighbourhood and their impact both on the region and Europe. Against the backdrop of growing fragmentation and disorder in the regional and international system, and by bringing together junior and senior researchers, this volume offers an eclectic array not just of key EU policies towards individual Arab Mediterranean countries in policy fields such as counterterrorism, migration and energy. It also offers fresh perspectives on how the EU’s southern neighbourhood has increasingly turned into a playground – and in parts even a battlefield – for a variety of external actors, competing for influence, power and resources, thereby rendering the EU’s most recently adopted attempts at resilience building ever more arduous.” Tobias Schumacher, Professor and Chairholder of the European Neighbourhood Policy Chair, College of Europe, Natolin.

“Robert Mason’s book is definitely going to enrich the debate on and understanding of this complex area of constantly shifting sands. It has the advantage of giving a very broad view of the question. From a geopolitical point of view, it provides a thoroughly useful insight into South-South relationships in the Southern Mediterranean and, beyond this, of the role of other international actors in the region. On top of the “usual suspects”, it also explores the rise of influence of relative newcomers in the region such as India or Japan. Delicate and burning questions on security and counter-terrorism cooperation, or the race for energy access in the Eastern Mediterranean are deeply and subtly addressed. Last but not least, in the conclusion, the author opens up avenues with respect to the future of a possible EU approach towards Southern Mediterranean ENP. Definitely a must-read for policy-makers and academics working in this field.” Eva Saenz-Diez, Researcher at the Groupe d’études et de recherches sur le Monde Arabe contemporain (GERMAC) at the Université Catholique de Louvain, and member of the Research center on European Neighbourhood Policy at the Université Saint-Louis de Bruxelles.

“Transnational Security Cooperation in the Mediterranean has the merit of combining both theoretical considerations and expert knowledge in one volume, tackling some of the most crucial security matters in the EU’s foreign policy towards the Southern neighbourhood.”  Read the full review in The International Spectator

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Reassessing Order and Disorder in the Middle East: Regional Imbalance or Disintegration?, New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017.

This volume unpacks the changing domestic political context and other leading foreign policy drivers of the primary Middle East powers over the last decade, up to and including the Arab Spring. Middle East expert Robert Mason, and other regional analysts, assess how these policies have impacted on the regional balance of power in a penetrated system, identifying in conclusion whether the current disorder is a temporary imbalance or evidence of longer term disintegration. The volume pays special attention to the policies of the USA, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Turkey, Egypt and Israel. The states in this volume were chosen for their enduring or emerging power status and relevance in the political, religious and sectarian challenges facing the region at large. Its conclusions about the main actors being consumed by internal and sub-regional conflicts which have exacerbated, escalated or extenuated state governance crises and political vacuums in the region, makes the work vital for students of Middle East politics and policy practitioners alike.

517gq-0tvplEgypt and the Gulf: A Renewed Regional Policy Alliance, Berlin: Gerlach Press, 2016.

Egypt continues to be a cultural and political beacon in the Middle East. It’s control of the Suez Canal, cold peace with Israel, concern about neighbouring Gaza, mediation and interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the marginalization of the Muslim Brotherhood are all points of significance. The Egyptian military is the largest in the Arab world, and there is a close, and expanding, defence and security relationship between Egypt and the GCC states, most evident in the inclusion of Egypt in Saudi Arabia’s new Sunni counterterrorism alliance. The authors of this book contextualise historical linkages, analyse adversarial postures (especially Egypt’s contentious relations with Qatar and Turkey) and study Egypt’s strategic relations with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE in particular. The book’s main argument derives from a complex web of political, socio-economic and military issues in a changing regional and international system. It states that Egyptian regional policy under el-Sisi will generally remain consistent within existing parameters (such as broad counter-terrorism efforts, including against the Muslim Brotherhood). Even though domestic Egyptian circumstances require a broader outlook and orientation, there is strong evidence to support the idea that Cairo wishes to maintain a GCC-first policy.

coverMuslim Minority – State Relations: Violence, Integration and Policy, New York: Palgrave, 2016.

By bringing together diverse case studies from Europe, Africa and Asia, much can be learnt from different contexts where Muslim – state relations vary greatly according to new, established, marginalized or conflict-ridden communities; communities being constructively redefined or excluded; and between states that govern Muslim minority groups consistently according to the rule of law and states that are unable to govern effectively or persist in their toleration of cynical policies and public discourses, security-centric decision making or arbitrary legal ploys. The aim is to learn more about what drives government policy on Muslim minority communities, Muslim community policies and responses in turn, and where common ground lies in building religious tolerance, greater community cohesion and enhancing Muslim community – state relations.

This volume goes beyond legitimate (and not so legitimate) state security concerns post-9/11 which have often led to a narrowing of domestic policies on Muslim minority communities, rather than taking on board and reconciling a full range of historic, social, economic, political and religious issues which affects their place in society. 

Read the review in Perspectives on Politics

Watch the book launch event at the Center for Christian – Muslim Understanding at Georgetown University (Youtube)

IR-front coverInternational Politics of the Arab Spring: Popular Unrest and Foreign Policy, New York: Palgrave, 2014 

This book explores and analyzes how the Arab Spring has affected the political and economic relationships between the West, the BRICs and the MENA states. It locates continuity and change in these relations within the broader context of democratization, energy, security, arms relationships, and the shift towards a multi-polar system. Each chapter charts a history of ideological engagement , which has generally given way to more pragmatic energy, economic, and security interests, and defines and analyzes the fundamental and emerging factors that shape foreign policy. The volume pays special attention to the UN Security Council authorization of “all necessary measures” against Qaddafi’s Libya and the subsequent deadlock in getting China and Russia to pass further Resolutions for intervention in Syria.

Read the review in ORIENT 2016

iran-saudiForeign Policy in Iran and Saudi Arabia: Economics and Diplomacy in the Middle East, London: I. B. Tauris, 2014

Saudi Arabia, with its US alliance and abundance of oil dollars, has a very different economic story to that of Iran, which despite enormous natural gas reserves, has been hit hard by economic, trade, scientific and military sanctions since its 1979 revolution. Robert Mason looks at the effect that economic considerations (such as oil, gas, sanctions, trade and investment) have had on foreign policy decision-making processes and diplomatic activities. By examining the foreign policies of Saudi Arabia and Iran towards each other, and towards the wider Middle East and beyond, Mason seeks to highlight how oil policy, including oil production, pricing and security of supply and demand, is the paramount economic factor which drives the diplomacy and rivalry of these two pivotal regional powers. His book thus offers vital analysis for researchers of international relations in the Middle East and the processes involved in the formation of foreign policy.

Read the review in Bustan