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Middle East Shake-Up: Jon Pevehouse Discusses the State of Conflict on The UW Now Livestream

Political scientist Jon Pevehouse suspects that the war in Gaza and America’s conflict with Iranian proxies may be part of a regional realignment — perhaps the biggest shift in Middle Eastern politics since the 1950s.

From Gaza to the Red Sea to Iraq, violence has bubbled up across the Middle East. On the surface, the conflicts seem disconnected: ongoing struggles between Israel and Palestine, a civil war in Yemen, Iran’s drive to be a regional power. But, Jon Pevehouse, suspects, taken together, they constitute signs of a more fundamental change in the region.

Pevehouse is UW–Madison’s Mary Herman Rubinstein Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, and he’s an expert on international relations and American foreign policy. Looking at the Middle East’s history and the ways that various countries are acting, he sees the possibility of substantial upheaval.

“I think we’re facing a period of potential instability in the Middle East, on a region-wide basis, that we have not seen since the 1950s,” he says. “It is always conflictual and unstable, but we’re on the edge of some really significant realignments.”

Pevehouse will appear on The UW Now Livestream on February 13 for a discussion titled “Understanding a World at War.” Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association CEO Mike Knetter will serve as moderator, and Pevehouse will join UW political science professors Steven Brooke and Yoshiko Herrera to talk about the conflicts in Gaza, Yemen, Iraq, and Ukraine. 

My chief areas of research include:

I study international relations and American foreign policy. My research and work in Middle East politics and American policy in the region is the most relevant material here.

Tonight on The UW Now I’ll discuss:

In the 1950s, over a five- to six-year period, there were about four coups across the Middle East, which saw the whole region reorient away from the British, away from the U.S., and toward Nasser and Egypt. The ’50s were this time in that region where the geopolitics all of a sudden became ascendant, and I feel I see that happening again. Part of that feeds from the Israel-Gaza war. Part of this is fed from an Iran that is increasingly emboldened to attack in the region. It’s fed by — despite the war — growing rapprochement between the Saudis and the Israelis. It’s fed by Turkey deciding that they’re no longer going to play a calming influence. And the United States really can’t make up its mind what it wants to do in that part of the world, other than respond to in-the-moment pressures. 

What I’d like viewers to remember is:

I think the U.S. is searching for a strategy in the Middle East. That’s point one. Point two, it is a classic case of “There are no permanent allies, only permanent interests.”

To get smart fast, read:

I always send people almost first and foremost to the BBC. The British obviously have an abiding postcolonial interest in that region. One could argue they’re one of the reasons the region is such a mess, even today. But because of that, there’s constant reporting, and they tend to be fairly evenhanded. The Council on Foreign Relations often has good backgrounders on particular areas. Those are two places I like to send folks.

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