has been greatly exaggerated, then you will doubt that
those changes are likely to pose any existential challenge to the humanitarian international, be
it in terms of the efficacy of what relief groups do in the field or in terms of the political
and moral legitimacy they can aspire to enjoy. But if, on the contrary, you believe that we are living in the last days of a doomed system
– established in the aftermath of World War II and dominated by the US – then the
humanitarian international is no more likely to survive (or to put the matter more
This text aims to fill a gap in the field of Middle Eastern political studies by combining international relations theory with concrete case studies. It begins with an overview of the rules and features of the Middle East regional system—the arena in which the local states, including Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Israel and the Arab states of Syria, Jordan and Iraq, operate. The book goes on to analyse foreign-policy-making in key states, illustrating how systemic determinants constrain this policy-making, and how these constraints are dealt with in distinctive ways depending on the particular domestic features of the individual states. Finally, it goes on to look at the outcomes of state policies by examining several major conflicts including the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Gulf War, and the system of regional alignment. The study assesses the impact of international penetration in the region, including the historic reasons behind the formation of the regional state system. It also analyses the continued role of external great powers, such as the United States and the former Soviet Union, and explains the process by which the region has become incorporated into the global capitalist market.
relations, this study will deploy a combination of several to capture its complex reality.
The Middle East is arguably the epicentre of world crisis, chronically war-prone and the site of the world’s most protracted conflicts. It appears to be the region where the anarchy and insecurity seen by the realist school of international politics as the main feature of states systems remains most in evidence and where the realist paradigm retains its greatest relevance. Yet neo-realism’s 1 a-historical tendency to assume states systems to be unchanging
process disrupted a multiplicity of regional ties while reorienting many economic and communications links to the Western ‘core’. In reaction, new supra-state ideologies, expressive of the lost cultural unity, were increasingly embraced: Pan-Arabism by the Arabic-speaking middle class and political Islam among the lower middle classes. Both, at various times, challenged the legitimacy of the individual states and spawned movements promoting the unification of states as a cure for the fragmentation of the recognised community. The result has been that the Arab world
State-building is the effort of rulers to institutionalise state structures capable of absorbing expanding political mobilisation and controlling territory corresponding to an identity community. In the Middle East, the flaws built into the process from its origins have afflicted the states with enduring legitimacy deficits (Hudson 1977). Because imperialism drew boundaries that haphazardly corresponded to identity, installed client elites in them and created the power machineries of the new
dependency relationships. To many Arabs and Muslims, the struggle with imperialism, far from being mere history, continues, as imperialism reinvents itself in new forms. The Middle East has become the one world region where anti-imperialist nationalism, obsolete elsewhere, remains alive and where an indigenous ideology, Islam, provides a world view still resistant to West-centric globalisation. This dynamic explains much of the international politics of the region.
The age of imperialism and the imposition of the Middle East states system
region afflicted with irredentism, domestic politics encourages nationalist outbidding. Revolution in states such as Egypt and Iran has brought leaders to power who seek to export their ideology; in mobilising new social forces, it has tended to strengthen certain states and upset power balances. Demographic, ideological or political expansionist impulses have been built into the very fabric of some states, as is arguably so of Israel (a settler state) and Iraq (an artificial state), which, between them, have launched five wars against their neighbours. Weak or
the core great powers and the international political economy constitutes a dilemma for regional states. The core is both the indispensable source of many crucial resources and of constraints on the autonomy of regional states. The constraining impact of the core ranges from the threat of active military intervention or economic sanctions to the leverage derived from the dependency of regional states, maximised where there is high need and a lack of alternatives for the client state. In extreme cases, foreign policy may be chiefly designed to access economic
What explains the similarities and differences in the foreign policy behaviour of Middle East states? The relative explanatory weight carried by domestic politics versus that of the systemic arenas in which states operate is a matter of some dispute between pluralists on the one hand, and realists and structuralists on the other. On the face of it, if the domestic level is determinant, as pluralists tend to argue, different kinds of states should follow different foreign policies and similar ones similar policies. If the systemic level is
’s states and peoples.
The second Gulf War
The second Gulf War represented a watershed event in the Middle East that sharply underlined how far it is a ‘penetrated system’, its politics a product of interaction between global and local forces. The war, likewise, can only be understood by recourse to variables on multiple ‘levels of analysis’. Regional level conflicts and Iraqi political economy largely explain the Iraqi choices that unleashed the war. However, there would have been no war without global level factors, namely