“Pluralistic Middle East” Lecture Series: Paradigmatic Change in the Middle East Regional Power Relations and the Role of Asian Powers

On the afternoon of October 29th, 2020, Prof. Satoshi Ikeuchi, Research Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Tokyo, conveyed an online lecture on the theme of “Paradigmatic Change in the Middle East Regional Power Relations and the Role of Asian Powers” for doctorate candidates at Institute of International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University (IIAS-THU) as well as scholars from and beyond IIAS. It is also the second session in the “Pluralistic Middle East” Lecture Series hosted by IIAS, which was presided over by Duan Jiuzhou, Assistant Research Professor.

During the event, Prof. Ikeuchi elaborated the changing paradigm and influencing factors of power relations in the Middle East in recent decades. In 1960s and 70s, the ideology of Nationalism, national independence and social change dominated the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Israeli-Palestinian contradiction was the key conflict in the Arab world. However, with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Iraq War, the Arab Spring and other major regional events, the political relations and dominant ideology in the Middle East have undergone significant changes. Today, the new political paradigm in the region has begun to take shape, manifested by the emergence of new state forces, the diversification of political situations and the reorganization of regional political alliances. New state forces in the Middle East include Iran, Turkey and Israel. The diversity of political situations is reflected in the rise of non-sovereign state forces, such as the emergence of the Islamic State (ISIL), an extremist religious organization. Further, the regional political alliances in the Middle East have also been reorganized under the new political landscape, as evidenced by the recent establishment of diplomatic relations between several Arab countries and Israel.

Prof. Ikeuchi then analyzed the reasons for the formation of the new political power relations, including a number of internal and external factors. The internal factors include the turnover of major political powers and the changes in the regional environment, while the external factors represent the changes in the policies of superpowers, the United States for instance, towards the Middle East. The new political landscape in the Middle East under the joint driving forces of both internal and external factors has faciliated the formation of a new paradigm of power relations.

In the Q&A session, Prof. Ikeuchi made a more in-depth exploration of the questions raised by doctorate candidates, including Japan’s foreign policy towards Middle East countries, Japan’s policies and attitude towards its Muslim community, the impact of COVID-19 on Middle East politics, and the identity and development prospects of North African countries in the new political environment. Online audience agreed that Prof. Ikeuchi’s lecture reviewed unique research directions and viewpoints for modern studies on Middle East its international relations.

Professor Satoshi Ikeuchi is Research Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Tokyo, Professor of Religion and Global Security at the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST) of the University of Tokyo, and former Researcher at the Institute of Developing Economies (IDE) of Japan Foreign Trade Organization. His research interest focuses on international relations of Middle East, Islamic politics and Islamic economics.

By: Zhang Yuan