With a new president in office in the United States, what possibilities and challenges does the current administration face when it comes to the Middle East?
The University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll and George Washington University's Project on Middle East Political Science are sponsoring an innovative initiative to probe the assessments of scholars on the Middle East.
The Middle East Scholar Barometer identified 1,293 scholars, many of whom are members of the American Political Science Association and the Middle East Studies Association, for its first survey, with results released in February. The initiative is led by Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development and director of the Critical Issues Poll, and nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and by Marc Lynch, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and POMEPS director.
“As the new Biden administration formulates its policies toward multiple issues, including the Middle East, the president has stated that his administration would listen to the experts. In general, we have noticed that scholars on issues related to the Middle East tend to have views that are somewhat different from those of the Washington policy elites, but that was based principally on anecdotal evidence. Therefore, we thought it was timely to start a project that would probe the assessments of scholars specializing in the Middle East, especially members of the American Political Science Association and the Middle East Studies Association, on critical issues of the day,” Telhami said.
The surveys are designed to be run twice a year. The first survey, conducted February 8-15, netted a 40% response rate (521 out of 1,293).
The initial survey found that of the 521 respondents, 52% said a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians is no longer possible, while 42% find it unlikely within the next 10 years.
Seventy-five percent of the experts surveyed Feb. 8-15 also said that the return of the United States to the Iran nuclear agreement would reduce the likelihood of Iran securing nuclear weapons.
“There are several noteworthy findings that pertained to immediate policy issues. The first is on the Iran Nuclear Deal [JCPOA], which figures to be one of the priority issues for the Biden Administration to consider. The issue at hand is whether the administration should return to the deal as it was signed by the Obama administration, before President Trump withdrew unilaterally from the deal, or to try to negotiate new terms. It was striking that two-thirds of the scholars we polled believe that the administration should return immediately to the deal as it exists before addressing other issues,” Telhami said.
“In addition, some of the findings on Israel and Palestine were very striking. It was somewhat surprising that 59% characterized what now exists as ‘a one-state reality akin to Apartheid’ and that, in contrast to the Biden administration’s push for a two-state solution to the conflict, a majority of scholars think this outcome is no longer possible.”
Other issues examined in the survey included the impact of the Arab uprisings, American power in the Middle East, and the most influential states within the region.
For more analysis, see the op/ed that Telhami and Lynch co-wrote for The Washington Post Monkey Cage.