International Relations Theory and the Middle East

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Transcript International Relations Theory and the Middle East

Alliances & Regionalism in the Middle East
International Relations Theory & the Middle East
- In IR theory, alliances/bloc building is self-interested state
behaviour aimed at enhancing security and position.
- Realist and structuralist approaches along with elements of
constructivism offer a useful approach for the region.
- Western experience bears only limited relevance for the Middle
- Middle Eastern states have been poor balancers and weak
Stephen M. Walt. 1987. Origins of Alliances Ithaca: Cornell University
States ally to balance against threats rather than against
power alone.
How states respond to threats : by balancing (allying with
others against the prevailing threat) or bandwagoning
(alignment with the source of danger). Walt asserts that “for
the states that matter, balancing is the rule.”
Balancing is far more common than Bandwagoning in the ME
between 1955 and 1979 . When bandwagoning does occur, it
is among weaker states – both because they are “more
vulnerable to pressure” and their resources are insignificant
in their relation patterns.
Ideological similarities and state-sponsored instruments of
increasing alliance commitment, such as foreign economic
and military aid, are subordinate to security preferences in
alliance formation.
OLD RULES, DANGEROUS GAMES by L. Carl Brown (Princeton University Press)
The regional state system is highly unstable and conflictprone because it is characterized by extreme multilateralism
and chronic foreign intervention.
Given the area’s strategic centrality between East and West,
and its great ethnic and geographic diversity, no regional
contender or external power could unite or organize the
The ME as the most “penetrated” of the world’s regional
diplomatic arenas: “A penetrated political system is neither
effectively absorbed by the outside challenger nor later
released from the outsider’s smothering embrace. “
The hallmark of Middle Eastem “penetration” is a pervasive
multilateralism. Local leaders and conflicts mesh with
national and superpower actors and rivalries in an everchanging pattern of confounding complexity.
Michael N. Barnett , Columbia University Press,1998
The prominence of identity politics demands moving beyond
realism to consider other approaches that better recognize the
fundamentally social character.
The challenge is not forgetting that actors are frequently
strategic and manipulative. Indeed, they could not be
strategic and manipulative if there were no social
foundations and normative expectations to exploit and use
for more remote purposes.
The ongoing debates about the desired regional order, how
Arab states repaired or revised the norms of Arabism
through symbolic exchanges, and how the legacy of those
exchanges is the fragmentation that currently defines the
Arab states system.
Regions, Regionalism and Understanding Cooperation
- Regionalism: is the Middle East a single unit or distinct yet
interrelated parts?
Single unit: geography, history, common security
Subdivision: e.g. Gulf/Northern Tier/Maghreb
- Regionalism is a policy-driven process in pursuit of common
goals and policies in given region.
- Regionalization: Processes (not policies) towards more
regionally-based interaction.
- Low levels of regionalism in the Middle East, with limited
cohesion and integration.
REGIONS AND POWERS by B.Buzan & O.Waver (Cambridge University Press)
The relative autonomy of regional security constitutes a pattern of international
security relations radically different from the rigid structure of superpower
bipolarity that defined the Cold War.
Since most threats travel more easily over short distances than over long ones,
security interdependence is normally patterned into regionally based clusters:
regional security complexes;
‘A set of units whose major processes of securitisation, desecuritisation, or both
are so interlinked that their security problems cannot reasonably be analysed or
resolved apart from one another’.
Security complexes may well be extensively penetrated by the global powers, but
their regional dynamics nonetheless have a substantial degree of autonomy from
the patterns set by the global powers.
A blend of materialist (i.e.neorealist) and constructivist (i.e. Copenhagen school)
Definitions of the Middle East vary, but we see a
pattern of security interdependence that covers a
region stretching from Morocco to Iran, including
all of the Arab states plus Israel and Iran.
An autonomous regional level of security has
operated strongly for several decades, despite
continuous and heavy impositions from the global
Its RSC is a clear example of a conflict formation
that is unusually large and complicated, and
also possesses some distinctive cultural
The insecurity of ruling elites within their
domestic sphere plays a significant role in
shaping the dynamics of (in)security overall.
On the surface, this is a region composed
largely of postcolonial modern states, albeit
mostly weak ones.
But this structure is riddled with still
powerful premodern elements of clan, tribe,
and religion.
Middle East Regionalism: A Review
- League of Nations and the United Nations membership.
- League of Arab States (1945): Statist principles to nurture
sovereignty rather than integration.
- Cold War Alliances, e.g. Baghdad Pact.
- Cooperative efforts at regional level set against various factors:
1) External penetration
2) Inter-Arab tensions
3) Domestic politics
4) Regional economy
- GCC shows groupings sustained by shared regime type and
security concerns.
- Few collective achievements by end of Cold War.
Middle East Regionalism: A Review (continued)
- Mixed response to end of Cold War: continuity and change.
- New regionalist trends like Arab Magrep Union (AMU) and
Arab Cooperation Coıncil (ACC).
- End of Cold War revealed forces of fragmentation and division
within the Middle East. Until Arab Spring, realist paradigms
appeared validated in the region.
- However, new players beyond the US playing a role.
- External actors have retarded institutional progress, but Middle
Eastern states essential for successful cooperation. The latter lack
capacity and will to make regional institutions succeed.
European Initiatives to Develop Regionalism in the Middle East
Geographic proximity makes the two regional spaces
naturally interdependent.
A strong mutual interest in fostering regional cooperation
between the north and the south of the Mediterranean Sea.
European policies have been focused on security issues and
based on the idea that a prosperous neighborhood would be
peaceful and non-challenging for the security of the EU.
The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership: 1) Mediterranean
Policy (1972–1992) and 2) Renovated Mediterranean Policy
(1992–1995) 3) The Barcelona Process (1995- )
The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)
Ultimate goal “turning the Mediterranean basin into an area
of dialogue, exchange and cooperation guaranteeing peace,
stability and prosperity.“
American Initiatives to Develop Regionalism in the Middle East
Promoting peace through economic development and
integration by fostering trade among Israel and the other
Arab states.
As an extension of the already established US-Israel Free
Trade Agreement, Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs),
allowing certain products from identified industrial zones in
Egypt, Jordan, the Gaza Strip,and the West Bank to be
exported to the US market duty free.
QIZs were also meant to achieve normalization between
Israel and its Arab neighbors by implementing a practical
economic interdependence between them.
With the goal of creating a regional free trade agreement in
2013, MEFTA envisages graduated steps to increase trade and
investment with the US and others.
‘ ME states and regimes have lacked both the capacity and the
will to make cooperation and regional institutions work,except
in a narrow and self-regarding sense; hence the need to turn
outside to resolve their security dilemmas. In this formulation,
regionalism and anything more than functional cooperation are
merely a symbol: a valuable,but disposable, source of
legitimacy for regimes whome own legitimacy is low.’
The Arab Spring: New Regionalism?
- Until Arab Spring, cooperation and alliance-making in the
Middle East seen as superficial and transitory.
- Arab Spring’s potential to remedy legitimacy deficit in nation
building as well as region building.
- Talk of “new regionalism” in the Middle East ???