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.
The nineteenth-century expansion of capitalism and imperialism into the Arab region reflected a combination of superior Western technological, market and military power which penetrated and eventually reduced the Middle East to an economic periphery of the core and imposed a very flawed Western state system on it. External intervention and its often-damaging consequences stimulated an on-going reaction manifested in nationalist and Islamic movements. 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.
This chapter notes that the incongruity of identity and territory continues to destabilise the politics of the Middle East and to significantly qualify the Westphalian model. While Arab states have consolidated their sovereignty in the face of supra-state ideology, in the making of foreign policy, legitimacy requires their leaders must still balance between the two. Inter-Arab politics arguably remains qualitatively different from ‘international’ politics. Irredentist conflicts continue to bedevil two near-nation-states, Turkey and Israel. Meanwhile, Iran embraces its communal mosaic and projects its foreign policy under an Islamic banner.
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. This chapter argues that several aspects of state formation are pivotal in determining the international behaviour of states and explaining variations in their foreign policies. Imperialism literally constructed the system and its state components. Later, two trans-state forces rooted in persisting suprastate identity—first Pan-Arabism and then radical Islam—stimulated the state formation needed to bring their subversive potential under control. Later yet, war motivated and legitimised state-formation advances. Most recently, globalisation is threatening to turn regional states from buffers against external intrusion into transmission belts of it.
It is frequently claimed that foreign policy making in Middle East states is either the idiosyncratic product of personalistic dictators or the irrational outcome of domestic instability. This chapter notes that it can only be adequately understood by analysis of the multiple factors common to all states, namely: foreign policy determinants (interests, challenges) to which decision-makers respond when they shape policies; and foreign policy structures and processes which factor the ‘inputs’ made by various actors into a policy addressing these determinants.
This chapter uses comparative analysis to elucidate how the interaction between the system level and particular state formation paths shapes similarities and differences in states' international behaviour. What explains the similarities and differences in the foreign policy behaviour of Middle East states? As this chapter shows, neither state features nor systemic forces alone have an impact on foreign policy but the interrelation between a state's specific position in systemic structures and its particular internal features determines its foreign policy behaviour. The level of consolidation determines whether a state remains a victim of its systemic environment or becomes an effective actor in it. Finally, leadership, by virtue of its location at the intersection of the systemic and the domestic, can make choices that set states on new tangents.
This chapter examines wars, attempts to create regional order, and how these have impacted on the structure of the Middle East regional system, which, in turn, has reshaped the states that make it up. The search for solutions to regional conflict, for a basis on which to create a secure order, has been ongoing since the founding of the Middle East states system. However, each of the major attempts to build regional order proved defective, in varying degrees ameliorating or containing conflict but also either failing to deal with its roots or sometimes actually exacerbating it. War has originated in domestic level dissatisfaction shaped by these struggles which, when institutionalised in rival states, is expressed in conflict at the states system level, frequently over territory. Everywhere, in a region afflicted with irredentism, domestic politics encourages nationalist outbidding.
This chapter assesses the renewed destabilising impact of international attempts to reshape the regional order in an age of unipolarity and globalisation. For much of the world, globalisation is associated with growing interdependence and the spread of ‘zones of peace’. In the Middle East, the decade of globalisation was ushered in by war, was marked by intrusive US hegemony, renewed economic dependency on the core and continuing insecurity, and ended with yet another round of war in 2001. In the latest case, the 11 September events, the particular character of the crisis was shaped by the dominant features of the current international system, namely US hegemony and globalisation. The US response, an intensification of its military intervention in the region, appears likely to exacerbate the problem it seeks to address.
This study takes the Middle East to be constituted around an Arab core, with a shared identity but fragmented into multiple territorial states; the core is flanked by a periphery of non-Arab states—Turkey, Iran and Israel—which are an intimate part of the region's conflicts and an integral part of its balance of power. This chapter argues that the Middle East is the epicentre of world crisis, chronically war-prone and the site of the world's most protracted conflicts. It also argues that that the roots of conflict and much state behaviour are found in the peculiar historical construction of the regional system.