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15. The Arab Spring: The ‘People’ in International Relations  

Larbi Sadiki

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.

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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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8. Islam and International Relations in the Middle East: From Umma to Nation State  

Peter Mandaville

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’.

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18. Europe in the Middle East  

Rosemary Hollis

This concluding chapter explores the evolution and development of European approaches to the Middle East. An expansion of European imperial rule across the Middle East followed the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. By the end of the twentieth century, the United States was unrivalled power-broker across the region, but the Europeans had turned old imperialist relationships into commercial ones. Bound to MENA by economic interdependence and migration flows, the European Union (EU) formulated a series of initiatives designed to address new transnational security concerns through the deployment of ‘soft power’. By 2011 and the eruption of popular uprisings across the Arab world, the EU was itself in the throes of an economic crisis that forced a rethink in European policies toward the region and a reassertion of bilateralism.

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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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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.

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13. The Arab Spring: The ‘People’ in International Relations  

Larbi Sadiki

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.

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16. The United States in the Middle East  

Michael C. Hudson

This chapter assesses the evolution of US policy towards the Middle East. It begins with a historical sketch of US involvement in the area, discussing the traditional US interests. The chapter then considers US policy in the administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald J. Trump. President Obama's attempt to reset relations with the region produced mixed results: he reached an agreement to limit Iran's nuclear program, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and oversaw the successful Bin Laden raid in 2011, but failed to offset continuing regional turmoil following the Arab uprisings and the rise of IS, or to make any progress on the Israel–Palestine question. While there are some observable continuities, President Trump has already upended US Middle East policy in several significant ways, as advisors attempt to restrain his apparent desire to undo his predecessor's legacy.

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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.

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Introduction: The Middle East and International Relations  

Louise Fawcett

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.