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This chapter traces the formation of Middle Eastern regional order from the end of the First World War until the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. It first analyses the role of external powers and forces in shaping the political orders and foreign policies of the Middle East’s emergent pivotal powers. The chapter then discusses the pro-Western foreign policy orientation of Turkey, a relatively ‘hegemonic’ and strategically located state. It examines the role of Arab nationalism in the hegemonic strategies of Britain’s Arab client states, before analysing the more isolationist regional policy of Saudi Arabia – which counterintuitively had much in common with Turkey during this period. The final section of the chapter discusses Iran’s seldom remarked-upon embrace of Arab nationalism during the 1940s and early 1950s.
The American response to 9/11 sharpened the hostility between the two main antagonistic regional blocs and all but eliminated the possibility that either Iran or Syria might retreat from the hegemonic strategy of maintaining an ‘Axis of Resistance’ in favour of pursuing rapprochement with the West. The George W. Bush administration’s Global War on Terror (GWoT), launched in the wake of the attacks, promised assistance to authoritarian regimes that would join the United States in confronting an amorphously defined ‘terrorism’ in the Middle East and beyond. Three central dynamics underpinned regional order in the Middle East during the first decade of the new millennium. The first was the contestation between Iran and Saudi Arabia for Western favour. The second was the Arab–Israeli conflict, in which non-Arab Iran had become a central protagonist. The third was a competitive dynamic for Western support between between Turkey and Egypt. The chapter considers each of these dynamics in turn.
The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria raised the prospect of a Turkish-led regional order, backed by Qatari economic power, and based upon the regional ideological co-dependencies of the AKP. At the same time, the renewed potential for a grand bargain between the United States and Iran held out the possibility that empowered Iranian reformists might substitute integration into Western economic and security frameworks for the Axis of Resistance. This chapter first examines the ways in which Turkey and Qatar sought to consolidate a new regional order based on alignment with Western-friendly Islamist governments. It then elaborates upon the counterrevolutionary forces within the region, emanating from both pro-Western and Axis of Resistance actors, that militated against the realisation of a new regional order. The final section of the chapter sketches the main features of a restored regional order based on authoritarian resurgence and sectarianised antagonisms across all pivotal powers in the region.
Having made the empirical case for the utility of the hegemonic strategy model in explicating regional order since the end of the First World War, this concluding chapter draws out some of the book’s broader theoretical implications and the questions it raises for understanding trajectories of change in the Middle East.
This introductory chapter lays out the conceptual framework and main argument of the book. It begins by critiquing some existing approaches to understanding Middle Eastern regional order before explicating the concepts of competitive support-seeking and ideological externalisation. An understanding of these principles requires a broader and deeper conception of the state and its ideological apparatus than that normally employed in IR. The chapter advances such a concept, drawing in particular on the work of Marxist theorists Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser. The final parts of the chapter provide an overview of how Middle Eastern states have contributed to the formation of regional order since the end of the First World War.
This chapter examines three intersecting dynamics underpinning regional order during the 1990s. The first dynamic centres on the Gulf. The chapter examines Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent divergence between Iranian and Iraqi hegemonic strategies, as well as Saudi Arabia’s efforts to preserve its primacy in the face of a moderating Iran and rising domestic opposition. The second dynamic concerns the rise of Islamist, including jihadist, opposition movements as by-products of renewed neoliberalisation and growing disillusionment with the New World Order. The chapter discusses the rise of Islamist opposition with a particular focus on Egypt. The final key regional dynamic was the Arab-Israeli peace process, and the chapter discusses the ways in which the ‘dualistic’ foreign policies of Syria and Israel reflected their broader hegemonic strategies.
The analysis of this chapter first reflects upon the structural impact of the Cold War on Middle Eastern state hegemonic strategies, including Western allies Israel, Iran and Turkey. It then discusses the impact of the revolution of 1952 on Egypt’s foreign policy of Arab neutralism. The chapter proceeds to trace the rise of the Ba’th Party in Syria, and in particular its ‘ideological co-dependency’ with Egypt, and provides an explanation for the formation and collapse of the United Arab Republic. It examines the roots of Egypt’s rivalry with Iraq between 1958 and 1963 and discusses the ideological co-dependency that formed between Nasser’s Egypt and Iraqi Nasserists and Ba’thists.
This chapter explores evolving regional dynamics first through an examination of the relationship between Iran’s revolution and its foreign policy. It proceeds to analyse the Islamic Republic’s efforts to export revolution and the underpinnings of Iran’s burgeoning alignment with Syria. The second half of the chapter focusses on the other Arab states’ efforts to contain the revolution, including through manipulating state–society relations, before moving on to examine the role of the anti-Soviet ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan in the hegemonic strategies of regional states.
Regional order in the 1970s can be apprehended in relation to three interacting conflict dynamics, which this chapter examines in turn. The first was the competitive support-seeking dynamic between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the latter of which remained Washington’s default partner in the Gulf due to its contiguity with the Soviet Union and apparently greater internal stability. Riyadh’s main asset in this contest was its structural power within a second, Arab–Israeli arena, through consolidating its economic and political influence over Egypt and Syria. Resistance to the stabilisation of this emerging state conglomerate fed into a third conflict dynamic revolving around Syrian and Iraqi ideological externalisation strategies. The hegemonic strategies of each of these states necessitated continued confrontation with Israel.
Developing an original theoretical approach to understanding the roots of regional conflict and cooperation, International Relations in the Middle East explores domestic and international foreign policy dynamics for an accessible insight into how and why Middle Eastern regional order has changed over time. Highlighting interactions between foreign policy trajectories in a range of states including Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey, Ewan Stein identifies two main drivers of foreign policy and alignments: competitive support-seeking and ideological externalisation. Clearly linking political, ideological and foreign policy dynamics, Stein demonstrates how the sources of regional antagonisms and solidarities are to be found not in the geopolitical chessboard, but in the hegemonic strategies of the region's pivotal powers. Making the case for historical sociology - in particular the work of Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser - as the most powerful lens through which to understand regional politics in the Middle East, with wider implications for the study of regional order elsewhere.
This article critiques constructivist approaches to the international relations of the Middle East and sets out an alternative interpretation of the role of ideas based on political economy and the sociology of knowledge. It cautions against using constructivism as a way of ‘building bridges’ between IR and Middle East Studies and disputes the claim that the norms of ‘Arabism’ as a putative regional identity are in contradiction with those of sovereignty. The article shows that this assumption is based on the combined influences of modernisation theory and Orientalist assumptions about the power and continuity of regional culture that have persisted in Middle East IR. This is despite the fact that there is no reason to believe the Arabs constitute a more ‘natural’ nation than do the Syrians, Iraqis or Egyptians. The political role and resonance of ideas can be better established by viewing the modern history of the Middle East in terms of domestic structure and social change, and in particular emphasising the role of rising middle classes in revolutionary nationalist movements. The findings of this article raise questions for the utility of ‘moderate’ constructivist interpretations of International Relations as a whole.
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