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Analysis from a Trip to the Arab Gulf

The Rebranding of a Middle Eastern Country

I’m currently on a short visit to the Arab Gulf, organized by the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It’s the sort of study tour that DC think tank analysts, national newspaper columnists, and media pundits of all sorts engage in on a regular basis – they are invaluable for making contacts, facilitating dialogue between countries, and learning about a new aspect of some policy challenges our country is facing. I’ve already outlined some of my initial perspectives on the first few days here in the United Arab Emirates in this post earlier today.

The UAE – which I’ll refer to as the Emirates in shorthand here – is known for many things these days: an indoor ski slope in the desert, man-made islands like the Palm Island shown here (where our delegation just had dinner at the home of a senior government official), and a rapidly expanding skyline of luxurious hotels and office buildings shown in this video here.

Read more here.

Economic Crisis Hits an Already Damaged U.S. Image in the Middle East

It’s common knowledge that the new Obama administration is scrambling to pull America out of two big holes that the Bush administration helped dig – the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression and a major decline in America’s image abroad, which essentially has undermined U.S. power.

On my current trip to the Middle East, I’m hearing a lot about these two dynamics and the interplay between both. It’s not just that America is less admired in the Middle East compared to when I first started coming to the region more than 15 years ago – America was never well-loved in these parts. The Bush administration’s overall approach to the region didn’t win us many new friends and alienated millions at a popular level. In addition, it didn’t actually strengthen our hand and increase our power to reshape regional trends to our advantage.

Read more here.