Ahmad Sedqi Al-Dajani, Contemporary History of Libya: A Collection of Studies (Beirut: Center for Arab Unity Studies, 2019). 256 pp. ISBN 978-9953-82-881-7.

Ahmad Sedqi Al-Dajani (1936–2003), a twentieth-century prominent thinker, historian, and prominent figure of the Arabic language, was among the most outstanding authors who wrote on Libya and its history. He lived in Libya between 1952 and 1973, and was avidly interested in political, intellectual, and religious reform in that country.

This book includes six chapters on Libya and its history. Chapter 1 is concerned with the geography and history of Tripoli between 1882 and 1911, when Italian troops invaded the Turkish province of Libya in the face of the declining power of the Ottoman Empire vis-à-vis the increasing Western colonial powers, particularly the French troops who seized control of Algeria in 1830 and Tunisia in 1881, and the British troops who took over Egypt in 1882.

Chapter 2 deals with the independence movements of the eighteenth century that were organized in several parts of the Ottoman Empire in response to the corruption of the feudal regimes and the weakness of the Ottoman Empire’s sultans.

Chapter 3 elaborates on Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi, a member of the Muslim elite who founded his Sufi Muslim religious order in the late eighteenth century. He established the Senussi movement as a response to what he saw as the decline of Islamic thought and spirituality at the time. As a revivalist movement, the Senussi movement reflected Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi’s ideas of reform and contributed to the advancement of Muslims in Libya and other parts of North Africa and the spread of Islam in the depths of the African continent.

Chapter 4 presents the characteristics of the Senussi order; the adoption of persuasion and peaceful ways to implement the order’s ideas gradually has been recognized as one of its main characteristics. This order aimed at reforming the Muslim individual, forming the nucleus of a strong Islamic society, and spreading Islam in countries that had never reached it before. The basis for this goal was the “Zawiya,” which usually consists of a private house for the sheikhs, private guest houses, a mosque, a Koranic school, and a larder.

Chapter 5 is concerned with the European colonial powers and the Italian occupation of Libya.

The sixth and last chapter deals with the vigilance and popular struggle that Tripoli experienced between 1882 and 1911 against increasing European colonization and the issue of corruption under Ottoman rule. This struggle took the form of popular uprisings against the tyranny of rulers. The largest of these uprisings were the Seif al-Nasr movement in Fezzan and the Goma movement in the western mountains, not to mention the Senussi movement that emerged in Cyrenaica as an Islamic reform movement.

Talib Ibrahim, Iranian Nuclear Program—From the Emergence of the Crisis to a Solution (Damascus: Syrian Ministry of Culture—The Syrian General Organization of Books, 2019). 535 pp. No ISBN.

This book assumes that the United States will not hesitate to prevent any nuclear energy program in the Middle East—including peaceful energy programs—unless it is controlled by the United States itself and does not affect American national security or that of Israel. The latter constantly seeks to prevent the countries of the region from obtaining nuclear energy for the sole purpose of maintaining its role as a dominant regional power under the auspices of Washington.

It is therefore not surprising that the United States launched a media campaign against Iran’s peaceful nuclear program from 2002 to the present, imposing sanctions on the country, and massing its military forces in the Gulf, threatening to wage war on Iran, which in turn continues to support the Palestinian cause and the forces of resistance against Israel, which started since the Islamic Revolution toppled US ally Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979.

The author of this book documents the history of the Iranian nuclear program since its inception under the shah, pointing to how it was supported by the West to confront the Soviet Union at that time. He also affirms that the Iranians developed their peaceful nuclear program after the downfall of the shah. Yet, as Israel and the United States raised Iran’s nuclear file as a conflicting issue, tensions have increased in the region and negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany continued until all parties reached an agreement on the Iranian nuclear file in July 2015.

Iran confirmed its commitment to the peaceful nuclear agreement and to reduce uranium enrichment, while the Israeli campaigns continued against the agreement with Iran, which was signed by the United States by former US President Barack Obama’s administration.

The current US President, Donald Trump, led a systematic campaign against the Iranian nuclear deal during his election campaign, describing it as “disastrous.” Accordingly, after his election, he announced the US withdrawal from the agreement in May 2018, stressing that US sanctions on Iran would be resumed. The Trump administration—in a position similar to that of Israel—believes that the nuclear agreement does not commit Iran to anything after ten years of its termination and does not include Iran’s program to develop ballistic missiles. The Trump administration also stressed that the agreement does not limit Iran’s interference in the affairs of neighboring countries, referring to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, and Lebanon. As many experts observed, Trump is seeking a new nuclear deal that includes Iran’s ballistic missile program, withdrawal from Syria, and a halt to the support for resistance forces against Israeli occupation.

While Trump warns Iran against “greater problems” if it continues its nuclear activities, in response to Washington’s withdrawal from the agreement, the author believes that Iran is expected to resist US sanctions and its steadfastness would confirm that nations and peoples can make their own present and future.

Houcine Chougrani, Contradictions in International Law: An Introductory Analysis (Beirut: Center for Arab Unity Studies, 2019). 352 pp. ISBN 978-9953-82-882-4.

International law, also known as “international public law” and “law of nations,” is seen as a set of rules and norms that generally regulate the international community, which is composed of sovereign states living side by side without being subject to supreme or central political authority.

This simplified definition of international law usually raises several issues, all of which question the credibility of international law as true law and seek to explore to what extent its binding legal norms, treaties, and agreements are respected and abided by in the sovereign states involved.

To deal with this main issue, this book seeks to illustrate the arguments of those who believe in the obligatory context of international law and those who reject such an assumption.

In this respect, some jurists argue that the legal norms of international law on which the international community relies are optional and far-reaching in comparison with the requirements of domestic national law. There is no supreme central authority with supra-state legislative power issuing orders to states to apply or ensure that the orders of international law are applied. The United Nations General Assembly, which has tried to be a legislator for the world, has no practical effect or legal power to enforce recommendations. Some jurists also consider international law as a political interface that reflects the interests of the dominant states in the international system, whether in the UN Security Council, where they use their veto power, or by virtue of their military power. Jurists who deny the mandatory rules of international law add that since there are no international tribunals similar to those found in domestic legislation, the international judiciary is too incomplete to be binding in the same way as are the decisions of national courts.

On the other hand, many researchers and those interested in international law confirm the mandatory rules of international law, pointing to the common rules, principles, treaties, protocols, and norms that govern and regulate relations between countries. Moreover, it is well known that the international judiciary (decisions of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, etc.), as well as the resolutions of the UN Security Council, emphasize the role and means of international law in affecting international relations.

Ultimately, to what extent international law is applied depends on the willingness and seriousness of the international community in resolving international disputes in accordance with the principles of international law. This is affected by the level of harmony among various human societies and the interests of the dominant forces on the international scene. The United States, for example, has repeatedly bypassed the UN Security Council and international legitimacy, invaded Iraq, and intervened in Syria without a UN Security Council resolution or a request from the Syrian government. Conversely, a series of international resolutions were issued against Israel and were not implemented. As a result, both cases led to questioning the effectiveness and functioning of international law.

It is true that the dominant forces in the international arena always seek to use international law in accordance with their security, political, and economic interests, but this fact does not negate the influence of international law in regulating international relations and preventing human societies from completely sliding into the law of the jungle.

Yousef Al-Assi Al-Tawil, The Future of Israel Under a Peaceful Settlement with the Arabs: An Arab Solution to the Jewish Question (Beirut: Modern Hasan Library, 2019). 608 pp. ISBN 978614488000.

In an attempt to envisage the future of Israel through imagined scenarios for settling the Arab–Israeli conflict, the author of this book deals with the Jewish presence in the region, the current Israeli reality and its internal data, politically, socially, economically, and militarily, as well as the Arab regional and international realities, and their impact on the future of Israel.

The author believes that the current balance of power and how it reflects on the prospects for peace and war is clearly leaning in favor of Israel, since Israel has a nuclear deterrent and enjoys unlimited support from the United States. Therefore, for the Palestinians, the military option to settle the conflict with Israel is abandoned. Instead, they have resorted to the two-state solution as the first option to resolve the Arab–Israeli conflict.

Many experts believe, nonetheless, that now even the two-state solution can no longer be contemplated given the Israeli policy of annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories of 1967 and the construction of settlements. Issues such as the right of return for Palestinian refugees that Israel has consistently rejected, the failure to resolve the problems of borders, and Judaizing Jerusalem have also undermined the two-state solution. The Palestinian Authority (PA) affirmed that US President Donald Trump’s administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Jared Kushner’s (his son-in-law) announcement of “the deal of the century” have left no room for serious negotiations on the prospect of the two-state solution.

The author argues that a “one-state resolution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could meet the aspirations of Jews and Arabs and constitute the beginning of a peaceful coexistence between them, pointing out that Sephardim and Arab Jews could play a central role in reaching such a solution, given the long history of coexistence between the concerned parties. This solution could be reached, according to the author, through a single state, whether it be a binational or a democratic state for all its citizens. Thus, this book promotes the one-state settlement as a fait accompli given that the two-state solution has failed.

The author underlines that the one-state settlement raises many questions including whether Israel would accept the establishment of a democratic state for all its citizens without any sort of discrimination against the Palestinians. In other words, who would ensure that the Palestinians would not be treated as second-class citizens within the “pure” Jewish state called for by Israel through the Jewish Nationalist State Law (racist law), which was passed in July 2018? Would Israel accept a one-state solution in which it would lose its character as a Jewish state due to the demographic factor that would favor the Palestinians in a unitary democratic state based on one-person-one-vote arrangement? Would it be possible to integrate Israel into the region?

Since “Nakba day” (Catastrophe) in 1948 to the present, Israel’s policy of uprooting Palestinians from their land and the steady annexation of Palestinian territories and expansion of settlements have undermined the peace process and made the two-state solution unattainable. Therefore, reaching a solution for a single democratic state with the current Israeli policy of occupation and uprooting is not easy to envisage in the foreseeable future.

Issam Shrouf, Water Crisis from the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Israeli Fingers (Damascus: Syrian Ministry of Culture/Syrian General Authority for Book, 2019). 432 pp. No ISBN.

This book is a study of the impacts existing and under-construction water projects in Ethiopia have on the water share of Egypt and Sudan, especially the project of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), and the current crisis between the three countries caused by the dam, amid reports on the role of Israel in this crisis.

Egypt, the downstream country that receives ninety percent of its water needs from the River Nile, expressed concern over the construction of the GERD, stressing that it would negatively affect the flow of its annual share of the Nile, estimated at 55.5 billion cubic meters under “The 1959 agreement,” while Ethiopia—the upstream state—stressed that the GERD could provide electricity for millions of Ethiopians living in the dark and produce surplus hydropower for export. Addis Ababa claims that the dam will not affect Egypt’s annual water share from the Nile or that of Sudan, which is estimated to 18.5 billion cubic meters.

Negotiations on the issue have led the three countries to sign the 2015 Declaration of Principles that committed Ethiopia to undertake technical studies examining the GERD’s downstream impact. Yet, no real progress in implementing the 2015 Declaration was reported as of 2019. In fact, Egypt and Ethiopia are still accusing each other of leading negotiations to failure as Ethiopia has rejected Egypt’s request to delay filling the dam until negotiations are complete.

The Sudanese officials who gave the impression that they were standing at the same distance from Egypt and Ethiopia affirmed that Sudan and Egypt coordinate their stance on the Ethiopia Dam.

Amid deadlock over technical negotiations, several intelligence reports indicate that Israel has deployed air-defense systems around the Renaissance Dam to protect it. Other reports also indicate that the dam project was essentially a US–Israeli proposal, and that the Israel Electric Company signed contracts to distribute the electricity the dam would generate.

Furthermore, other reports point out that Israel submitted proposals to Rwanda and Congo to build three dams to tighten control over the Great Lakes that supply the Nile with about fifteen percent of its water resources.

In this context, many observers believe that despite the Camp David Peace Agreement, Israel still considers Egypt as an existential threat to itself, and therefore uses all its potential to communicate with the African countries, especially Ethiopia, to encircle Egypt.

Israeli officials have denied Israel’s engagement in projects that target Egypt, pointing to its commitment to the Camp David Agreement, while several reports affirmed that tension between Cairo and Jerusalem because of Israel’s role in the Ethiopian Dam crisis has been contained as Egypt’s use of military force against Ethiopia remains unlikely.

Waseem Khalil Kalageh, Eurasian Russia as a Superpower: Geopolitical Conflict and Oil and Gas Diplomacy in the Middle East (Beirut: Arab Science, 2019). 582 pp. ISBN 9786140127821.

Eurasianism is a Russian doctrine emphasizing the fact that Russian civilization does not belong in the European or Asian categories but instead to the geopolitical concept of Eurasia. This concept affirms that Russia should face the global domination of the West, restore its balance after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, and consolidate its forces as a global pole rejecting unipolarity and seeking to impose a multipolar alternative.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been seeking to translate the Eurasian doctrine into geopolitical reality since his arrival in the Kremlin in 2000 up to the present. He considers the Eurasian region as an integral part of Russian national security and interests that must be preserved by seeking a new regional order alternative to the former Soviet Union. According to some reports, there is a Russian trend under way to establish a “Eurasian Union” led by Russia whose membership would be composed of a group of former Soviet republics, including Belarus, Kazakhstan and other oil-rich Central Asian countries, to counter the European Union. In fact, the Eurasian Economic Union was founded in January 2015 comprising Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova as observer; all were former members of the Soviet Union.

Russian leadership has also been seeking to counter Western efforts to encircle Russia through direct military intervention in countries the West is trying to attract, including its intervention in Georgia in 2008 and later in Ukraine when Russian took over Crimea in 2014. In seeking to balance the West against the extraterritorial scope of the Russian Federation, end Western hegemony over the international system, and transform the latter into a multipolar system, the Russian leadership took decisive measures to intervene in areas such as the Middle East, most notably in Syria and the Far East.

This book deals with the development of the relationship between geopolitics, most notably the theory of Eurasian and oil-and-gas diplomacy throughout the Eurasian region. It shows how the dialectical relationship of geopolitics to energy resources from oil and gas is vital to the global economy, including the geographic concentration of energy resources, particularly in the region from the Caspian Sea to the Arabian Gulf, which together constitute an important axis of balance in the world oil markets.

The book elaborates on the importance of oil and gas as a source of power in Russian foreign policy and how Russia succeeded in returning to the international arena after the collapse of the Soviet Union and presenting itself as a superpower to be reckoned with.