From the Journals: Morocco’s Feb. 20 movement; Iran’s FP in Africa; Syrian Refugee networks

Continuing our efforts to highlight interesting and relevant scholarship, From the Journals this week includes:

Adria Lawrence, “Repression and Activism among the Arab Spring’s First Movers: Evidence from Morocco’s February 20 Movement.” British Journal of Political Science (April 2016). Lawrence was the recipient of a POMEPS TRE grant in 2011, and recently publishedThe mixed record of Morocco’s February 20 Protest Movement”  on the Monkey Cage.  An earlier version of this article was presented at the POMEPS Annual Conference.


Why are some people willing to initiate protest against authoritarian regimes? How does repression affect their willingness to act? Drawing on data from the Arab Spring protests in Morocco, this article argues first that activism is passed down from one generation to the next: first movers often came from families that had been punished for opposing the regime in the past. Secondly, repression during the Arab Spring was also counterproductive: those connected to first movers via Facebook supported renewed pro-democracy protests when informed of the regime’s use of repression in 2011. A regime that jails and beats political dissidents creates incentives for its citizens to oppose it; these abuses can come back to haunt the regime long after repression occurs.

Eric Lob, “The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Foreign Policy and Construction Jihad’s Developmental Activities in Sub-Saharan AfricaInternational Journal of Middle East Studies 48 (May 2016)Lob was the recipient of a 2012 POMEPS TRE grant and recently published “What Iran will really do with its sanctions relief windfall” and “Understanding Iran’s Supreme Leader on the nuclear deal” on the Monkey Cage.


This article adopts the theoretical framework of complex realism to trace the evolution of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign policy and developmental activities in Africa between the 1980s and the 2000s. Contrary to common assumptions, the deradicalization of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy in Africa began not under the moderates in the early 1990s, but under the conservatives in the mid-1980s. This period marked the first time that the Islamic Republic instrumentalized development to advance its strategic interests in Africa—a policy that has continued despite the factionalization of Iran’s political elite. Based on one year of archival research and interviews in Iran, this article is the first to investigate the history and activities of the Islamic Republic’s rural development organization, Construction Jihad, in Africa. It posits that development, instead of arms or ideology, has enabled Iran to make the farthest inroads into the continent due to Africa’s sizeable agrarian economies, widespread rural poverty, and formidable developmental challenges.

Matthew Stevens, “The collapse of social networks among Syrian refugees in urban Jordan.Contemporary Levant 1 (April 2016).


Strong social networks have been shown to correlate with improved economic outcomes and emotional wellbeing in urban refugee populations. In the Middle East and North Africa, social networks are based on a wide variety of relational identities that interconnect, suggesting an array of opportunities for community self-support. However, this research shows that Syrian refugees living in Irbid, Jordan, no longer actively turn to social networks for support. The financial and emotional strain of exile and the failure of international aid agencies to maintain pre-existing social connections and to support the development of new ones have led to the collapse of social networks among Syrian refugees in Jordan

Matthew Nanes, “Political Violence Cycles: Electoral Incentives and the Provision of Counterterrorism.” Comparative Political Studies (March 2016).


How do electoral incentives affect the counterterrorism policies chosen by reelection-seeking incumbents? This article tests the argument that governments alter their choice of security strategies as elections approach to signal competence to potential voters. Which policy they select should depend on the intended audience of the signal. Governments seeking support from their partisan base should select different policies than those courting the support of moderates. Using data on Israel-West Bank checkpoint closures and casualties in the Palestinian territories between 2000 and 2013, I find evidence that Israeli governments manipulate security strategies in the run-up to elections in a manner consistent with an attempt to attract support from core voters. As elections approach, left governments become more dovish on security, while right governments become more hawkish. The relationship between partisanship and policy choice raises concerns that electoral incentives may induce democratic governments to select inefficient or suboptimal security strategies around election time.

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