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7. The Politics of Identity in Middle East International Relations  

Raymond Hinnebusch

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.

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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.

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9. Regionalism and Alliances in the Middle East  

Louise Fawcett

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.

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14. The International Politics of the Gulf  

Matteo Legrenzi

This chapter focuses on the international politics of the Gulf region, which are defined by the interplay of the local states and outside powers. The domestic framework and its interactions with transnational influences and external actors are crucial to understanding the environment within which local states operate — whether revolutionary Iran, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or the Gulf monarchies themselves. Given that regime security drives states in their foreign policies, the need to cope with both internal and external threats is compelling. Outside actors are important in as much as they supply or help to combat such threats. The withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and the relative immunity of the Gulf monarchies from the effects of the Arab Spring have afforded these states greater regional influence and autonomy, but events since 2015 also reveal deep divides among them over issues like IS, Iranian foreign policy, and the war in Yemen.