UN paralysis over Syria: the responsibility to protect or regime change?

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Arif Saba
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Arif Saba: ‘UN paralysis over Syria: the responsibility to protect or regime change?,’ International Politics. Published online May 4 2018.
Publication year: 2018

The Syrian conflict, now in its eighth year, is a bitter example where a sovereign state and the international community have manifestly failed in their responsibilities to protect civilians from mass atrocity crimes. What factors have prevented the international community from fulfilling its obligation under the principle of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) to save Syrian civilians? This paper argues that the contradiction between the protection of civilians and regime change has undermined international confidence in the principle of R2P and tarnished it as a tool for US foreign policy agendas. This argument is developed by a review of R2P’s conceptualisation followed by examining its implementation in Libya. This study concludes that the conceptual confusion and the Libyan experience have broken the international consensus on R2P and paralysed the United Nations in dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Syria. More specifically, the UN Security Council’s disagreement over the means to protect Syrians has made R2P itself an impediment to its operationalisation.

The Responsibility to Protect and the Use of Force: An Assessment of the Just Cause and Last Resort Criteria in the Case of Libya

Refereed Journal articles
Arif Saba and Shahram Akbarzadeh
Arif Saba and Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Responsibility to Protect in Libya’, International Peacekeeping, Volume 25, Issue 2 (2018), pp. 242-265.
Publication year: 2018

There is a widespread assumption that, given the imminent threat of mass atrocities against the Libyan civilians – especially in Benghazi – and in the absence of non-military alternatives, military action against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi was a justified and necessary response. This paper challenges this widespread assumption. It argues that on the eve of NATO-led military intervention, there was no ‘clear evidence’ to suggest that the Libyan regime was on the verge of committing mass atrocities against civilians. This research also documents the range of political and diplomatic options open to the international community to engage with Gaddafi, all of which were sidetracked in favour of military action. Despite the brutality of Gaddafi’s rule, military intervention in Libya did not meet the Responsibility to Protect’s (R2P) ‘just cause’ and ‘last resort’ criteria. Far from being a successful application of R2P’s most coercive pillar, the Libyan case was a manifest misapplication of R2P’s military component. An objective analysis of the Libyan crisis during February and March 2011 should have prevented the use of military force.

Iran's Uncertain Standing in the Middle East

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Iran’s Uncertain Standing in the Middle East’, The Washington Quarterly, Vol.40, No.3 (2017), pp. 109-127
Publication year: 2017

Impacts of Saudi Hegemony on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Zahid Ahmed
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Zahid Ahmed: ‘Impacts of Saudi Hegemony on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’, International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, published online: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10767-017-9270-x
Publication year: 2017

The events of the 2016 summit of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Turkey demonstrate how Saudi Arabia’s role within the organization has been transformed from leadership into a hegemonic one, a process that has been unfolding over five decades. As a strong voice in the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia has employed a range of diplomatic strategies, in accordance with its national interests, to influence the OIC and its member states. Based on the analysis, this paper argues that Saudi Arabia has been able to exert hegemonic control over the OIC due to the organization’s structural make-up, its reliance on Saudi funding, as well as dominance in bilateral affairs with majority of the OIC members.

Why does Iran need Hizbullah?

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Why does Iran need Hizbullah?,’ The Muslim World, Volume 106, No. 1 (2016) pp. 127-140.
Publication year: 2016

The Muslim Question in Australia: Islamophobia and Muslim Alienation

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
6 Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘The Muslim Question in Australia: Islamophobia and Muslim Alienation’, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Volume 36, No. 3, 2016, pp. 323-333
Publication year: 2016

Islamophobia has become a significant problem across the Western world. Australia is no exception. The emergence of far right groups and a political environment that allows anti-Islamic discourse has created an increasingly unwelcome environment for Muslims, even though multiculturalism has long been a fundamental marker of Australian daily life. The rise of Islamophobia has been damaging to Australia. This paper explores the rise of anti-Islamic sentiments in Australia and the increasing marginalization of Muslim youth, showing that Islamophobia not only breaks the bond between Muslim youth and Australian society, it also polarizes relations within Australian Muslim communities.

State Identity in Iranian Foreign Policy

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh, James Barry
Shahram Akbarzadeh and James Barry: 'State Identity in Iranian Foreign Policy,’ British Journal of Middle East Studies, Volume 43, Issue 4 (2016), pp. 613-629
Publication year: 2016

This article examines the role of corporate identity in Iran’s foreign policy making. Drawing on interviews with Iranian stakeholders and an analysis of Iran’s political developments, this article surveys the three key elements of Iranian nationalism that shape Iranian foreign policy: Iranism, Islam and Shi’ism. This article finds that each of these is crucial in explaining the apparent contradictions in the approaches of several significant Iranian leaders, especially in cases where Iranism collides with religious values. By highlighting how each component is at once unique but still intrinsically linked to the others, this article demonstrates how Iran’s foreign policy choices can be understood in relation to its corporate identity.

Iran and Turkey: not quite enemies but less than friends

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh, James Barry
Shahram Akbarzadeh and James Barry: ‘Iran and Turkey: not quite enemies but less than friends’, Third Word Quarterly , Vol 38, No.4 (2016), pp: 980-995
Publication year: 2016

The rise and subsequent erosion of friendly relations between Iran and Turkey was a result of their regional ambitions. While Turkey had long seen its secular system as presenting an alternative to Iran’s Islamic ideology, the alignment of their regional interests facilitated a rapport between the two states in the first decade of the twenty-first century. However, the Arab Spring proved divisive for this relationship as each state sought to advocate its model of government and secure a leadership role in the Arab world. The war in Syria widened the divide, as Iran’s long-standing support for the Bashar al-Assad regime could not be reconciled with Turkey’s desire to see President Assad out of office. Using a close reading of Persian and Turkish sources, the authors will analyse the Iran–Turkey divide, focusing specifically on how the Iranians have portrayed it as a clash of civilisations, citing Turkey’s so-called ‘neo-Ottoman’ ambitions as the primary cause.

Sectarianism and the prevalence of ‘othering’ in Islamic thought

Refereed Journal articles
Naser Ghobadzadeh and Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Naser Ghobadzadeh: ‘Sectarianism and the Prevalence of ‘Othering’ in Islamic thought,’ Third World Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 4 (2015), pp. 691-704
Publication year: 2015

The current sectarian conflicts in the Middle East did not arise solely from renewed geopolitical rivalries between regional powers. They are also rooted in a solid, theological articulation proposed by classic Islamic political theology. The exclusivist approach, which is a decisive part of the political, social and religious reality of today’s Middle-East, benefits from a formidable theological legacy. Coining the notion of ‘othering theology’, this paper not only explores the ideas of leading classical theologians who have articulated a puritanical understanding of faith, but also explicates the politico-historical context in which these theologians rationalised their quarrels. Given the pervasive presence of these theologies in the contemporary sectarian polemics, the study of classical othering theology is highly relevant and, indeed, crucial to any attempt to overcome sectarianism in the region.

Iran and the Shanghai cooperation organization : ideology and realpolitik in Iranian foreign policy

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Iran and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Ideology and Realpolitik in Iranian Foreign Policy,’ Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 69, No. 1 (2015), pp. 88-103.
Publication year: 2015

The Islamic Republic of Iran has pursued full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). In doing so, Iran has appeared to be unfazed by the prospect of allying with Russia and China, two countries which have systematically suppressed their Muslim minorities for decades. Similarly, the SCO’s Central Asian member states are led by individual leaders who are generally believed to rule in spite of their populations. As a result, Iran’s eagerness to join the SCO may appear to contradict its self-promoted image as the champion of Muslim interests, but in reality it sits nicely within its overarching enmity for the USA. Indeed, the SCO is seen as a geopolitical counterweight to the USA. For Iran, this geopolitical opportunity overrides ideological imperatives, with the gap between ideology and geopolitics most evident under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran and Daesh: The Case of a Reluctant Shia Power

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Iran and Daesh’, Middle East Policy, Vol. 22, No. 3, (2015), pp. 44-54.
Publication year: 2015

Muslim active citizenship in Australia: Socioeconomic challenges and the emergence of a Muslim elite

Refereed Journal articles
Mario Peucker, Joshua Roose, Shahram Akbarzadeh,
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Mario Peucker and Joshua Roose: ‘Muslim Active Citizenship in Australia: Socio-economic Challenges and the Emergence of a Muslim Elite,’ Australian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 49 (2014), pp. 1-18.
Publication year: 2014

The most recent national Census demonstrated that Australian Muslims continue to occupy a socioeconomically disadvantaged position. On key indicators of unemployment rate, income, type of occupation and home ownership, Muslims consistently under-perform the national average. This pattern is evident in the last three Census data (2001, 2006 and 2011). Limited access to resources and a sense of marginalisation challenge full engagement with society and the natural growth of emotional affiliation with Australia. Muslim active citizenship is hampered by socioeconomic barriers. At the same time, an increasingly proactive class of educated Muslim elite has emerged to claim a voice for Muslims in Australia and promote citizenship rights and responsibilities.

Iran’s Policy towards Afghanistan In the Shadow of the United States

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Iran’s Policy towards Afghanistan: In the Shadow of the United States,’ Journal of Asian security and International Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 1 (April 2014), pp. 63-78.
Publication year: 2014

The fall of the Taliban in 2001 presented Iran with a complex strategic situation. On the one hand, the removal of the Taliban promised to open up new opportunities for Iran to expand its influence, based on historical and cultural ties between Iran and Afghanistan. On the other hand, the 2001 operation brought the United States (US) to the region. The large scale entrenchment of US troops on the eastern borders of Iran presented tangible security risks, dominating Iran’s strategic outlook. The closure of the US base in Uzbekistan and the planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan have offered an opportunity to policy makers in Iran to recalibrate bilateral relations with Afghanistan. But the Iranian leadership appears too slow in readjusting its strategic outlook, keeping Iran’s policy towards Afghanistan hostage to its hostility towards the US.

The Special Broadcasting Service and the future of multiculturalism: An insight into contemporary challenges and future directions

Refereed Journal articles
Joshua Roose and Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Joshua Roose: ‘The Special Broadcasting Service and the Future of Multiculturalism: An Insight into Contemporary Challenges and Future Directions,’ Communication, Politics & Culture, Vol. 46, No. 1 (2013). pp. 93-115.
Publication year: 2013

 In the past decade multiculturalism across Western nations has come under sustained critique and attack from its political opponents. It has been asserted that multiculturalism leads to the creation of ghettos and segregated communities, which undermine liberal democratic values and heighten the risk of attraction to extremist violence, particularly in regard to Muslim communities. The ferocity of these attacks has led many scholars to claim that multiculturalism is ‘in retreat’. But such claims have rarely been tested as they relate to publicly funded government agencies and institutions. These are key sites governing the daily practice and representation of multiculturalism that impact on populations in everyday life. In the Australian context, the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) is a pivotal example of a multicultural institution, with its programming and community engagement widely considered among the world’s best practice in promoting pluralism and respect between cultures. In more recent times, however, a series of controversial episodes on the network’s flagship ‘ideas forum’, the Insight television program, have led to anger in Australian Muslim communities, and a boycott by a variety of community leaders, academics and activists. This study reveals a notable shift away from the core values of multiculturalism in the SBS and Australian society.

Investing in Mentoring and Educational Initiatives:The Limits of De-Radicalisation Programmes in Australia

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Limits of De-radicalisation Programs in Australia’, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 33, No. 3 (2013), pp. 451-463.
Publication year: 2013

The Australian Government has tried to counter the threat of Islamic extremism by investing in mentoring and educational initiatives. Fearful of the potential for “home-grown” extremism, especially after the July 2005 London attacks, the Australian authorities seek to counter the narrow-minded narrative of extremism by sponsoring “moderate Islam”. This approach is aimed at presenting a counter-ideology to Islamism, and has had some success. But it neglects the broader context of Muslim experience which is marked by socio-economic under-privilege and political alienation. These experiences marginalise Australian Muslims and make them vulnerable to extremist ideas. This pattern is most evident among the youth, whose sense of self is still in flux. Furthermore, the state’s sponsorship of “moderate Islam” puts Australia on a questionable path as it chips away at the principle of the separation of state and religion and makes moderate Muslims vulnerable to accusation of “betraying” Islam by the more radical elements in the Muslim community. This paper argues that efforts by the Australian Government to counter radicalisation are hindered by a range of political, cultural and socio-economic factors and analyses these factors in the light of historical, ethnic, cultural and social conditions relevant to the Muslim community in Australia.

Beyond Repair: Ruptures in the Foundations of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Refereed Journal articles
Rebecca Barlow, Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Rebecca Barlow: ‘Beyond Repair: Ruptures in the Foundations of the Islamic Republic of Iran,’ NCEIS Research Papers, Vol. 5, No. 9 (2013), pp. 1-23.
Publication year: 2013

A complex set of political and economic challenges have placed the Islamic Republic on the shakiest ground since its inception in 1979. Growing rifts amongst Iran’s top clerics and political elite have revealed the regime’s inability to pursue a coherent policy and project an image of unity on both the domestic and international stage. To make matters worse, the regime has been unable to provide social and economic security for its citizens in the face of harsh international sanctions and internal corruption. The Iranian Rial is severely inflated, unemployment is on the rise, and living standards are falling. At the same time, the state has shown worrying signs of militarisation, with the government increasingly relying on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, and its paramilitary wing, the Basij militia, to ensure political compliance and silence voices of dissent. Yet many opposition voices within Iran, including the Green Movement, continue to call for fundamental political reforms.

Muslims, Multiculturalism and the Question of the Silent Majority

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Joshua Roose
Shahram Akbarzadeh Joshua Roose: ‘Muslims, Multiculturalism and the Question of the Silent Majority’, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 31, No. 3 (2011). pp.309-325.
Publication year: 2011

Cultural diversity is the norm in Australia and the United Kingdom. Both states celebrate multiculturalism. But some populist politicians, commentators, and quasi-academics have recently portrayed Western Muslims as a “fifth column”, organized and intent on destroying the fabric of Western culture from within. Interestingly, extremist Muslim groups in the West make similar claims about the relationship between Islam and the West. In recent years, however, Western-born “moderate” Muslim intellectuals and moderates have emerged into the public sphere to challenge essentialist depictions of Islam and the Islamist textual interpretations. They claim an important social space for the Western practice of Islam. Whilst a burgeoning level of academic scrutiny is being focused upon moderate Muslims, this article notes the absence of academic literature about a large part of the Muslim population whose public life is not necessarily guided by their religion but more by their culture and ethnicity, i.e. the “cultural Muslims”. This group is unrepresented in the public debate on Islam and often ignored yet could constitute the majority of Western Muslims. This article concludes by posing significant questions about this group and the implications of political discourse upon their future trajectory.

Democracy Promotion versus Engagement with Iran

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Democracy Promotion versus Engagement with Iran,’ Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 41, No. 3 (2011). pp.471-483.
Publication year: 2011

US President Barack Obama has tried two very distinct policy options in dealing with Iran. The engagement policy was designed to make a break with the past experience and re-start US-Iran relations on a positive footing. This approach was consistent with the advice offered to the new administration by Iran analysts and leaders of non-governmental organisations. The implication of the engagement policy, however, was sidelining the US commitment to democracy and human rights in Iran. This policy could offer little to the budding reform movement in 2009. The alternative policy of containment was not beneficial to the reform movement either. The policy shift at the end of 2009 was a response to Iran’s failure to comply with the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The containment policy, manifested in the fourth round of UN-imposed sanctions on Iran, has led to a further entrenching of the hard-liners in the regime and intolerance of internal dissent.

Obama and the US policy change on Iran

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Obama: Policy Change on Iran,’ Global Change, Peace & Security, Vol. 21, No. 3 (2009). pp. 397-401.
Publication year: 2009

Prospects for Feminism in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Refereed Journal articles
Rebecca Barlow, Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Rebecca Barlow: ‘Prospects for Feminism in the Islamic Republic of Iran,’ Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 1 (February 2008). pp. 21-40.
Publication year: 2008

Uzbekistan and the United States: Friends or Foes?

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Uzbekistan and the United States: Friends or Foes?,’ Middle East Policy, Vol. 14, No.1 (Spring 2007). pp. 107-116.
Publication year: 2007

Women's rights in the Muslim world: reform or reconstruction?

Refereed Journal articles
Rebecca Barlow, Shahram Akbarzadeh
Barlow, Rebecca, and Shahram Akbarzadeh. "Women's Rights in the Muslim World: Reform or Reconstruction?" Third World Quarterly 27, no. 8 (2006): 1481-494. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4017691.
Publication year: 2006

The issue of gender inequality is an acute problem in countries where women’s lives are governed by laws, and configured by customs and traditions, said to derive from Islam. In the second half of the 20th century, two Muslim feminist paradigms have emerged in response to this malaise. Islamic feminists aim to establish women’s rights within the Islamic framework by re-interpreting Islam’s holy sources. In contrast, secular feminists challenge the particularistic nature of the Islamic framework and advocate the application of a set of standard universal rights for Muslim and non-Muslim women. This article focuses on the writings of the Moroccan feminist Fatima Mernissi, tracing her evolution from advocating secular reconstruction of Muslim societies to a position that resembles Islamic reformism.

Islam in Global Politics

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Islam in Global Politics,’ Keynotes, (June 2006). pp. 1-7.
Publication year: 2006

Geopolitics versus Democracy in Tajikistan

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Geo-politics versus Democracy in Tajikistan,’ Demokratizatsiya, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Fall 2006). pp. 563-¬578.
Publication year: 2006

The convergence of international attention on Central Asia in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks offered hope for Tajikistan’s fragile democracy. Washington’s commitment to enhancing civil society and democratic rule was cause for celebration among the opposition activists. This was a peculiar experience as the Islamic Renaissance Party has been a mainstay of the opposition movement. Tajikistan is the only Central Asian republic that has allowed the open political engagement of an Islamic party. This has been a novel, albeit difficult experiment. But the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and ongoing security concerns appear to have diverted Washington’s attention from Tajikistan’s democratic state building. The United States has edged toward a policy aimed at preserving the status quo for fear of destabilizing the region. This policy is not dissimilar to that of Russia. Consequently, the prospects of an external boost to Tajikistan’s novel democratic experiment are fading fast.

Does the Hamas victory advance peace in the Middle East?

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: 'Does Hamas Victory Advance Peace in the Middle East?,' Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 60, No. 2 (2006). pp. 201-6.
Publication year: 2006

Where is the Islamic republic of Iran heading?

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Where is the Islamic Republic of Iran heading?’ Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 59, No. 1 (March 2005). pp. 25-38.
Publication year: 2005

The ‘war on terror’ has had significant repercussions for the Islamic Republic of Iran in both international and domestic arenas. In the international context, Iran is finding itself isolated. Gains made by the moderate leadership of President Khatami in normalising relations between Iran and the West appear to have been lost. In the domestic arena, the moderates seem powerless against the concerted advances of the hardliners, most evident in the February 2004 Parliamentary election.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference: Sharing an Illusion

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Kylie Connor: ‘The Organization of Islamic Conference: sharing an illusion,’ Middle East Policy, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Summer 2005). pp. 79-92.
Publication year: 2005

Among Dr. Akbarzadeh’s latest publications are Uzbekistan and the United States: Authoritarianism, Islamism and Washington’s Security Agenda (London: Zed Books, 2005) and Islam and the West: Reflections from Australia (Sydney: UNSWPress, 2005). Ms. Connor researches Islamic militancy in the West.1

US-Uzbek partnership and democratic reforms

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘US-Uzbek partnership and democratic reforms,’ Nationalities Papers, Vol. 32, No.2 (June 2004). pp. 271-287.
Publication year: 2004

Keeping Central Asia stable

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Keeping Central Asia stable,’ Third World Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4 (June 2004). pp. 689-705.
Publication year: 2004

Contrary to optimistic assessments on the stabilising impact of the US troop deployment in Central Asia, the long‐term prospects for regional stability are far from certain. The American entry into Central Asia has complicated the geostrategic dynamics of the region and engaged the three great powers and regional players in intense rivalry for influence and leverage. If there was ever a ‘Great Game’ at play in the post‐Soviet era, it is now. The convergence of the great powers on Central Asia was justified in terms of anti‐terrorism. The toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan may have secured its northern neighbours from an imminent threat, but the direct involvement of US forces in Central Asia is not likely to contribute to regional stability in the long run.

India and Pakistan's geostrategic rivalry in Central Asia

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘India and Pakistan look to Central Asia,’ Contemporary South Asia, Vol. 12, No. 2 (June 2003). pp. 219-228.
Publication year: 2003

Pakistan has suffered a serious blow to its regional aspirations since the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan. In contrast, its South Asian rival India is finding Afghanistan and its northern neighbours welcoming a larger role. Despite its late entry into the region, India appears to be set to make significant gains at Pakistan’s expense. The India–Pakistan rivalry in Central Asia is concentrated on that region’s vast energy reserves, its geo-strategic importance in relation to Russia and China, and its potential role in the Kashmir dispute. The Indian government has woken up to the role that Central Asia can play in advancing New Delhi’s regional ambitions, and the post-Taliban geo-strategic conditions favour its agenda.