This chapter deals with the most central and contentious security issue in the international relations of the modern Middle East: the conflict between Arab states and Israel. It traces the characteristics of the Arab–Israel conflict and how these have changed over time. It also demonstrates how both realism and identity politics have informed the position of different parties to the conflict. The chapter explains how the 1967 war or the Arab–Israel conflict was as much about Arab identity and leadership as it was about the struggle with Israel, even at its high point. It shows how from 1948 to the present, the unresolved Palestinian question has remained at the heart of debates about regional relations, even as more Arab states have signed accords with Israel.
11. The Arab–Israeli Conflict
6. The Politics of Identity in Middle East International Relations
This chapter focuses on Arabism and other regional ethnicities as sources of political identity. It emphasizes the importance of regional identities within the Middle East, which have been accentuated because of the poor fit between identity and states and regimes and this remains pertinent today. The chapter also argues that the persistence of conflict in the Middle East must be understood through the incongruence of identity and material structures. The chapter highlights pan-Arabism and the irredentist and separatist movements that have characterized the history and political development of the Middle East. It shows how the interaction of identity with state formation and development has contributed to numerous wars and to the evolution of regional developments following the Arab Spring.
7. The Politics of Identity in Middle East International Relations
This chapter offers critical reviews of the explanatory power of identity and culture in understanding international relations in the Middle East. It focuses on Arabism and other regional ethnicities as sources of political identity. The importance of these identities within the region has been accentuated because of the poor fit between identity and states and regimes — a colonial legacy, but one that remains pertinent today, as revealed in the Arab uprisings. Indeed, the persistence of conflict in the Middle East must be understood through this ‘incongruence of identity and material structures’. Focusing on pan-Arabism, as well as the irredentist and separatist movements that have characterized the history and political development of the region, the chapter shows how the interaction of identity with state formation and development has contributed to numerous wars, and most recently to the evolution of regional developments following the Arab Spring.
Introduction: The Middle East and International Relations
This chapter offers a comprehensive, up to date, and accessible guide to understanding the international relations of the modern Middle East. It points out two issues on studying the international relations of the Middle East: The first relates to the definition of the region itself and second is the appropriateness of scholarly approaches. It also concerns the mechanisms and institutions of formal interstate relations and the multiple informal interactions and networks operating above and below the level of states. The chapter considers how the Middle East is still seen as an ‘unfinished’ region where territory and borders are contested, and interstate conflict persists. It discusses the Pan-Arabism that has slowly declined as a dominant ideology and the Arab uprisings that gave rise to further fragmentation and inter-Arab sectarian divides.
15. The Arab Spring: The ‘People’ in International Relations
This chapter looks at the Arab uprisings and their outcomes, approaching them from the perspective of the peoples of the region. The Arab uprisings are conceived of as popular uprisings against aged and mostly despotic governments, which have long silenced popular dissent. Ultimately, the Arab uprisings demonstrate the weakness of traditional international relations, with its focus on states and power, by showing how much the people matter. Even if the Arab uprisings have not yet delivered on popular expectations, and the Arab world continues to be subject to external interference and persistent authoritarian rule, they are part of a process of global protest and change, facilitated by new media and technology, which challenges the dominant international relations theories.
6. The Puzzle of Political Reform in the Middle East
Augustus Richard Norton
This chapter assesses the critical issue of political reform in the Middle East. The Arab world has been slow to respond to the global processes of democratization. The chapter then highlights the political economy of states, the persistence of conflict, regime type, and the ambiguity over the relationship between democracy and Islam. This relationship is not necessarily a contradictory one. Islamic discourse is marked by participation and diversity rather than by rigidity and intolerance. Further, as the Arab Spring has illustrated, civil society is vibrant and growing in many states across the region. Meanwhile, responses from the West to political reform have been lukewarm, with stability and regional alliances privileged over democracy. The evidence from the region, even before the Arab uprisings, is that peoples want better and more representative government, even if they remain unclear as to what type of government that should be.
1. International Relations Theory and the Middle East
Fred H. Lawson
This chapter offers a detailed survey of international relations (IR) approaches, including the particular difficulties that IR in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region shares with other parts of the Global South. It highlights the creation of the modern states system in the Middle East that closely coincided with the development of international relations as an independent discipline. This discussion constitutes both an essential starting point and a useful set of tools for understanding the Middle East’s international relations and the relevant theoretical underpinnings. The chapter looks at vital and enduring points of entry into understanding the international politics of the Middle East via its twentieth-century history. It highlights the unending dialogue with the past that was underlined by the unanticipated course of events surrounding the Arab uprisings and their consequences.
13. The Arab Spring: The ‘People’ in International Relations
This chapter details the seminal events surrounding the Arab uprisings and their outcomes, approaching them from a bottom-up perspective of the peoples of the Middle East. It highlights the conception of popular uprisings against aged and mostly despotic governments that have long silenced popular dissent. It also argues that the Arab uprisings demonstrate the weakness of traditional international relations (IR) by showing how much the people matter. The chapter points out how the Arab world continues to be subject to external interference and persistent authoritarian rule, even if the Arab uprisings have not delivered on popular expectations. It discusses the part of the Arab world in the ongoing processes of global protest and change that are facilitated by new media and technology.
5. Oil and Political Economy in the International Relations of the Middle East
This chapter tackles the omnipresent question of oil and its relation to the Middle East’s political economy and international relations. It demonstrates the compelling links between oil and the consolidation and evolution of the modern state system. It also points out how outside powers have invariably used oil in their dealings with the Middle East yet this has figured less prominently in the foreign policies of Arab states, whose concerns remain of a more parochial kind. The chapter analyzes a rentier model that shows how oil has conditioned economic and political outcomes in oil-rich and oil-poor states, slowing down the prospects for reform. It emphasizes how oil has given states huge power and resistance to political change.
12. The Arab–Israeli Conflict
This chapter discusses different aspects of the Arab–Israeli conflict over time — military, political, and economic. The first two decades of the Arab–Israeli conflict, often marked by armed hostilities, were notable for Arab refusal to recognize Israel's existence. Since the 1967 war, Arab states, specifically Syria and Saudi Arabia, have displayed willingness to recognize Israel, and two, Egypt and Jordan, have signed peace treaties; Yasser Arafat recognized Israel's right to exist in the 1993 Oslo agreement. In this regard, most Arab states have adopted a realist approach to the Arab–Israeli conflict, seeking coexistence based in part on acceptance of Israel's military supremacy. In contrast, Israel appears to insist on security through regional domination, coupled with retention of the West Bank as Greater Israel.
13. The Rise and Fall of the Oslo Peace Process
This chapter examines the landmark series of negotiations between Arabs and Israelis in the early 1990s, culminating in the Oslo accords (1993), which marked the first and so far, the only sustained effort at peaceful resolution of the Arab–Israeli conflict. These events, which dominated the regional panorama and captured the international imagination, assist one's understanding not only of the nature and direction of Middle East politics, but also their positioning within the emerging international order as outlined by then US President George H. W. Bush. At first, it seemed that the accords, in reconciling the two major parties to the conflict — the Israelis and the Palestinians — were a demonstration of an emerging and more liberal international system. Yet the fragility of this system, in the Middle East as elsewhere, was soon exposed.
9. Regionalism and Alliances in the Middle East
This chapter describes the changing dynamics of regionalism and alliance-making in the Middle East, processes that are closely related to and reflect states' foreign and domestic policy choices. The Middle East is not a region without regionalism at the societal or interstate level. There have been multiple forces for cooperation, particularly in the Arab world, based upon common identity, interests and beliefs; multiple alliances that intersect the Arab and non-Arab world; and evidence of cooperation in both broader and narrower regional settings like the Gulf. Global as well as regional trends and influences also push the Middle East into new arenas of cooperation. However, outcomes are mixed: an array of factors including regime insecurity, local rivalries, and external influence inhibit attempts at regional cooperation. Events since the Arab Spring have presented opportunities but also further challenges for Arab regional institutions as new divides and regional alignments emerge.
26. Conflict and Chaos in the Middle East
This chapter examines the unrest across the Middle East in the 2010s. The first section focuses on the civil war in Syria and the role of so-called Islamic State., examining the causes of the Syrian uprising and the development of protests against President Assad into civil war. It describes the growth of Jihadism, formation of Ahrar al-Sham, and emergence of ISIS, and the subsequent declaration of a Caliphate. The escalation and destructive impact of the conflict is examined in the context of increasing international intervention and the involvement of foreign powers in both exacerbation of the conflict and efforts to restore peace. The second section describes the growing regional importance of Iran alongside the 2015 nuclear deal and tensions with Saudi Arabia. The chapter concludes with the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt, conflict in Yemen, and the downfall of Gaddafi in Libya.
16. Europe and the Mediterranean Middle East
Raffaella A. Del Sarto
This chapter explores the evolution and development of relations between the European Union (EU) and its member states and the Mediterranean Middle East. It considers Europe’s colonial legacy in the Middle East and the geographic proximity and complex nature of the ties that link both areas to each other. It also looks at factors that have shaped a relationship that contrasts with the Middle East’s relations with the more distant United States. The chapter assesses the different interests that have driven European policies towards the Middle East and their impact, including the responses and strategies of the Middle East’s governments vis-à-vis European policies. It assesses Europe’s role in the quest to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its responses to the aftermath of the Arab uprising that resulted in major regional instability in the Middle East and a massive increase in the number of refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe.
2. The Emergence of the Middle East into the Modern State System
Eugene L. Rogan
This chapter traces the origins and the entry of the Middle East states into the international system after the First World War. It draws on the ideas of the ‘English School’ for whom international relations is understood in terms of an ‘international society’ in which shared norms, values, and practices develop that states find in it their interests to nurture and preserve. The chapter also explores the emergence of the Middle East, which saw states entering and participating in society, though on very unequal terms. The chapter analyzes visible elements of resistance and revolt, wherein the state system and the regimes it sponsored failed to meet the needs of different peoples and became synonymous with oppression and inequality. It covers the experience of Ottoman reforms that left an important legacy of statecraft in the Arab world, but the Arab people had little prior experience of diplomacy.
9. Security in the Middle East: Whose Security?
This chapter takes a critical look at the question of security in the Middle East by asking whose security concerns have been principally addressed in the history of the modern region. It traces the origins of the invention of the Middle East in Britain’s colonial practices. It also reviews how the politics of the Cold War impinged on local dynamics, including the ways in which women were rendered insecure by virtue of dominant statist and top-down approaches to security. The chapter considers the wider implications of non-state actor activism for the future of regional security. It discusses the collaboration between like-minded policymakers and other elites in North America, Western Europe, and the Middle East that tilted the balance against civil society in the Arab World and made the life of the average Arab citizen a terrible field of insecurity.
Lise Rakner and Vicky Randall
This edition examines the changing nature of politics in the developing world in the twenty-first century, with emphasis on the complex and changing nexus between state and society. It analyses key developments and debates, and this is illustrated by current examples drawn from the global South, tackling a range of issues such as institutions and governance, the growing importance of alternative politics and social movements, security, and post-conflict state-crafting. The text also discusses the Arab Spring and South–South relations and offers new case studies of Syria and the Sudan as well as China, India, and Brazil. This introduction considers the question of the meaningfulness of the Third World as an organizing concept, whether politics is an independent or a dependent variable, and a number of major interconnected global trends that have resulted in a growing convergence in the developing world. It also provides an overview of the organization of this edition.
21. The Onset of the Syrian Uprising and the Origins of Violence
This chapter examines the early stages of mass mobilization in Syria that sparked the Arab uprisings. Starting from December 2010 in Tunisia, Arabs from various walks of life took to the streets in protest against decades-long authoritarian rule, repression, and corruption in what came to be known as the Arab uprisings, or Arab Spring. These waves of protest reached Syria in March 2011. While Syria’s protests initially were largely peaceful, they soon gave way to violence, which culminated in an armed insurgency by the end of 2011 and, combined with regime brutality, a civil war. Before explaining how, when, and why the uprisings happened, the chapter provides a short history of growing popular discontent that resulted in the onset of the Syrian uprisings. It then analyses the roots of the uprising’s militarization and the ensuing popular mobilization and concludes with an assessment of the Syrian civil war.
8. Islam and International Relations in the Middle East: From Umma to Nation State
This chapter addresses the role of Islam in the international relations in the Middle East. In a historically informed account, it shows how Islam has interacted with the domestic, regional, and international politics of the region in a variety of forms. Its influence, however, has ebbed and flowed alongside different currents in regional and international relations. In this regard, globalization has been a facilitator of transnational Islam, but by no means a force for union. Notwithstanding its evident importance, there has been little substantive presence of religion in the foreign policies of Middle Eastern states, even in those more overtly Islamic ones such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, the popular uprisings in the Arab world created new opportunities and challenges for the Islamic movement, which continue to affect states' foreign policies notably through the phenomenon of ‘sectarianization’.
3. Liberalism and Liberal Internationalism
Patrick Morgan and Alan Collins
This chapter presents the liberalism approach to the theory and practice of international politics. As one of the two classic conceptions, along with realism, of international politics, its chief characteristics are identified and the major liberalist schools of thought are described and briefly examined, particularly with reference to how they overlap with, yet depart in significant ways from, the realist perspective. The concluding sections explore how contemporary liberal internationalism has lost significant power and appeal because the major Western states of the world system are experiencing serious international and domestic difficulties. It closes by indicating that the Western liberal internationalist order will likely lose a sizeable portion of its long-standing international dominance, resulting in a more widely spread global security management arrangement among a larger number of major states.