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The Foreign Policies of Middle East States


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States EDITED BY

Raymond Hinnebusch & Anoushiravan Ehteshami

b o u l d e r l o n d o n

Published in the United States of America in 2014 by Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. 1800 30th Street, Boulder, Colorado 80301 and in the United Kingdom by Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. 3 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8LU © 2014 by Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A Cataloging-in-Publication record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN 978-1-62637-028-9 (hc : alk. paper) ISBN 978-1-62637-029-6 (pb : alk. paper)

British Cataloguing in Publication Data A Cataloguing in Publication record for this book is available from the British Library.

Printed and bound in the United States of America The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials Z39.48-1992. 5 4 3 2 1




1 2

Foreign Policy in the Middle East Raymond Hinnebusch


The Middle East Regional System Raymond Hinnebusch


Part 1 Pivotal Arab Powers 3 4 5 6 7

The Foreign Policy of Egypt Raymond Hinnebusch and Nael Shama


The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon Adham Saouli


The Foreign Policy of Jordan Curtis R. Ryan


The Foreign Policy of Qatar Mehran Kamrava


The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia F. Gregory Gause III





8 The Foreign Policy of Syria Raymond Hinnebusch


9 The Foreign Policy of Tunisia Emma C. Murphy


Part 2 Non-Arab Regional Powers 10 The Foreign Policy of Iran Anoushiravan Ehteshami


11 The Foreign Policy of Israel Clive Jones


12 The Foreign Policy of Turkey Philip Robins


Part 3 Conclusion 13 Making Foreign Policy in the Midst of Turbulence Anoushiravan Ehteshami


Glossary of International Relations Terms Bibliography The Contributors Index About the Book

351 355 379 381 400


Multiple watershed events in the Middle East made the need for a fully revised and updated edition of The Foreign Policies of Middle East States ever more pressing. The first edition ended with the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. What followed was a US-led strategy of “preemptive intervention” in Afghanistan and Iraq—a failed effort that destabilized the region and precipitated major changes in the regional power balance. A decade later, the Arab uprisings, or Arab Spring, further spread this instability, again reshuffling the cards in the regional deck. The new edition has been extensively updated and reorganized to take account of these and other developments in the region. Since publication of the first edition, the fates and foreign relations of several states in the Middle East have changed. Owing to the Arab uprisings, several states ceased to be major actors; thus, Libya and Yemen are not directly covered in this edition. But Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, although experiencing similar debilitation of agency, remain central to the Arab core and are covered here. To shed light on smaller states with strategic profiles, Jordan, a famously successful survivor, and Lebanon, also remarkably resilient, are included. The high impact on the region of Qatar’s “hyperactive” diplomacy accounts for its inclusion here. Tunisia, where revolution has not destabilized the state, illustrates the powerful forces at play in foreign policy conti-




nuity. Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran continue to be key actors competing to affect the regional system, with Turkey assuming a much larger profile and Israel becoming more isolated than it was when the first edition was written, while Saudi Arabia and Iran are seemingly locked in an even deeper rivalry. It is remarkable that, despite the events that have buffeted the region—efforts by protagonists to transform the very nature of regional politics—and despite the often profound impact of these efforts on individual states, the rules of the game have proved extremely resilient. Transstate identity wars, terrorism, the role of oil, irredentism, revolution, weak semiauthoritarian regimes, and the intractability of the region to external management are recurring themes that inspire a sense of déjà vu among students of regional politics. Certainly, agency—the frequently suboptimal choices made by regional leaders and movements—goes a long way toward explaining this. But the region’s dysfunctions cannot adequately be explained without reference to structure, to the profoundly flawed state system imposed on the region almost a century ago by the Western imperial powers—in what David Fromkin (1989) appropriately called a “peace to end all peace.” This new edition of the book examines the continuing reshaping of this dysfunctional but strategically significant regional system. —Raymond Hinnebusch —Anoushiravan Ehteshami

1 Foreign Policy in the Middle East Raymond Hinnebusch Our approach to understanding international politics in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) might be called complex realism.* We start with realist basics because Middle Eastern policymakers are quintessential realists, preoccupied with the threats that are so pervasive in the MENA region. We accept the realist claim that insecurity generates struggles for power and that foreign policy seeks to counter security threats—threats first of all to regime survival but also to state interests such as sovereignty and territorial integrity. Some states also have ambitions for regional leadership, international acceptance, and economic development, but these can only be pursued when security is established. Yet in regard to the MENA region, several realist assumptions are problematic. First, states are not necessarily cohesive actors. Second, some are so fragmented, or their sovereignty is so compromised by dependency, that their foreign policies might reflect regime interests but less obviously national interests. Third, the environment in which foreign policy makers operate is more mul-

* See the glossary (p. 351) for definitions of international relations (IR) terms.



Black Sea


North Atlantic Ocean


Mediterranean Sea











d Se





Arabian Sea


Indian Ocean

COMOROS South Atlantic Ocean

The Middle East (the Arab League plus Iran, Israel, and Turkey)

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


tilayered than that depicted by realists. Fourth, aside from the regional interstate system, foreign policies are also affected by the transstate identities and the global hierarchy in which regional states are also embedded. The following framework of analysis takes account of this complexity. To do this, we need to bring to the analysis the relevant findings of other theories besides realism. While the domain of realism is the regional interstate system, with its balance of (material) power among states, Marxist-inspired structuralism identifies the place of the MENA region in the global system, namely in the economic periphery, where it is dependent on the international capitalist core. Constructivists help us understand the transstate level, where identity matters: in the Middle East, sub- and suprastate identities compete with state identity, inspire transstate movements, and constrain purely state-centric behavior. While realists take state formation for granted, for historical sociology it is changing and contingent, with variations shaping differences in how states respond to international pressures. Finally, as a text on foreign policy, we aim, with foreign policy analysis, to open the black box of decisionmaking, because as realists themselves accept, the way that states respond to environmental pressures is a product of internal leadership and the policy process.

The MENA Environment: The Multiple Determinants of Foreign Policies Environment determines the challenges that policymakers face, and in MENA this environment is constituted of several distinct levels: the global environment, the interstate environment, and the transstate environment. Moreover, for MENA regimes, the domestic level can be seen as an environment not too dissimilar from these external ones. Here we look in more detail at these distinct levels that make up the MENA environment. The Global Level: Core-Periphery Relations

The Middle East, according to Leon Carl Brown (1984, 3–5), is a “penetrated system,” one subject to an exceptional level of exter-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

nal, chiefly Western, intervention and control. Yet due to its cultural distinctiveness, it is stubbornly resistant to subordination. Western penetration has endured in the postcolonial era, motivated by contiguous location and the exceptional concentration of great power interests—oil, transit routes, Israel, and the like. As Barry Buzan (1991, 441) points out, the Islamic Middle East is the only classical great civilization that has not managed to reestablish itself as a significant world actor since the retreat of Western empires. This defines the parameters within which states of the Middle East must operate and is a major issue in regional politics. Structuralism, the IR theory most concerned with explaining global core-periphery relations, has been widely used by scholars of the Middle East to understand this reality (Amin 1978; Bromley 1990, 1994; Ismael 1993). According to Johan Galtung’s (1971) influential “structural theory of imperialism,” the global economy is divided between a core, comprising the dominant Western economies, and a periphery, comprising the economies of the developing world, defined chiefly by a global division of labor in which the production of the latter serves the interests of the former. The periphery states, including those of the Middle East, are thereby subordinated within a global hierarchy, dependent on and tied to the core powers while being only very weakly related to each other. Indeed, the transformation of the Middle East under imperialism produced an outcome that resembles Galtung’s model. First, where once there was a universal trading empire, imperialism fragmented the region into a multitude of relatively weak and, to an extent, artificial states. As Brown (1984) shows, these states, at odds with each other and insecure, sought external patrons and resources for the regional power struggle set in motion by this fragmentation. Especially where the new states emerged as Western protectorates against indigenous opposition, they have remained dependent for their security on the Western global powers long after formal independence. Unlike India and China, the postcolonial state system frustrates rather than restores the precolonial universal state. Second, the parallel incorporation of the regional economy into the world capitalist system shattered regional economic interdependence and restructured the region into a classic dependent

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


economy marked by the production and export of primary products (e.g., cotton, oil) and dependence on imports of manufactures and technology (Owen 1981). Oil may be thought to be fundamentally different from other primary products, given the dependence of core economies on it, but in fact the region’s export of “recycled petrodollars” has perpetuated overall regional dependency on the import of capital (foreign aid, loans, and investment), and hence high levels of debt, in a way not significantly different from the export of other primary products (Alnasrawi 1991; Kubursi and Mansur 1993). Economic dependency means that a major function of foreign policy must be to secure resource flows from external sources. Because states’ revenue bases are exceptionally dependent on external resources, whether foreign aid, taxes on foreign trade, or oil revenues, and not on domestically raised taxes, states may actually be more responsive to the demands of global powers than to domestic opinion in designing their policies (1995a, 1995b). Indeed, some Middle Eastern states explicitly design their foreign policies to serve economic ends, whether conceding policies favorable to great power patrons in return for aid or merely subordinating nationalism in policymaking to ensuring a favorable investment climate. Equally important to sustaining the region’s subordination to the core is the “bridgehead” (local clients) that the core “establishes in the center of the periphery nation for the joint benefit of both” (Galtung 1971, 81). Specifically, by implanting “client elites” and fostering “compradors”—importer-exporters doing business with the West—Western imperialism created shared economic interests between the core and dominant local landedcommercial classes, while retarding national bourgeoisies with an interest in autonomous national and regional development. Arguably, the current dominant form of this relation is manifested in the way the overwhelming investment of surplus petrodollars by Arab oil monarchies in the West gives their ruling families a much greater stake in the economies of the core than in the MENA region’s economy. According to Bruce Moon (1995a), an overlap of local elites’ economic interests, worldviews (through Western education), and threat perceptions (fear of radical move-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

ments) with those of core elites brings MENA foreign policies into congruence with those of the core. While shared elite interests are more important in sustaining regional subordination to the core than is crude power, the core great powers, where there is insufficient overlap of interests, use economic punishments—such as withdrawal of aid or economic sanctions—against economically vulnerable regional states (e.g., the attempts by the United States to isolate Iran in an effort to force it to constrain its nuclear program). As a last resort, military force is periodically used to prevent, in Brown’s words, any regional power from trying to “organize the system” against the core—as Saddam Hussein found out. Such intervention is consistent with Immanuel Wallerstein’s (1974a, 1974b) argument that the maintenance and expansion of the world capitalist system depends on a hegemon, a dominant state that defends the system, breaks down barriers to core-periphery economic links (e.g., promoting economic liberalization), and ensures reliable core access to raw materials and, especially, the cheap energy concentrated in the Middle East. The core-periphery struggle over oil has been a dominant theme in the region’s politics, from the West’s overthrow of Iran’s Mossadeq to the formation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to the US wars against Iraq. Structuralists assume that there is an ongoing struggle between imperialism and regional resistance to that imperialism. Indeed, roughly every decade, a revisionist movement has come to power in some MENA state and attempted to challenge the core’s hold over the region. Thus, Nasser’s Egypt, Baathist Iraq and Syria, and Khomeini’s Iran have all challenged the status quo (Nahas 1985; Gause 1991, 1997). But understanding the conditions under which regional resistance is likely to be successful is assisted by bringing in insights from other IR traditions. The realist variable of polarity matters: for example, regional autonomy was facilitated when, during the Cold War, global bipolarity “split the core,” so to speak. The superpower rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, which made local clients valuable, actually gave local states leverage over their global patrons, even allowing the “tail to wag the dog” over regional issues where the

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


client’s vital interests were more at stake than those of the global patron. It also allowed local states to extract enhanced military capabilities (arms transfers, training) that would, ironically, make external intervention more costly. Bipolarity arguably gave local states a crucial three-decade window of opportunity to consolidate their autonomy (Gerges 1994). Second, as William Thompson (1970) observed, the lack of horizontal ties in the periphery in Galtung’s model applies in the Middle East chiefly at the economic level and has not prevented the survival in the region of dense transstate cultural and political ties—that is, the transstate identity that constructivists insist matters. Identity shared across MENA states provides a potential vehicle for the mobilization of regionwide anti-imperialism by nationalist regimes attempting a collective challenge to the dependency system. Thus, in the 1950s, superpower competition, in limiting the ability of the Western great powers to use military force in the region, created space for Nasser’s attempt to use pan-Arab ideology to organize the Arab states, albeit briefly, against Western intrusion. Finally, state-formation approaches can help us understand the considerable differences in state responses to the core-periphery hierarchy, notably between, on the one hand, the initially radical republics and, on the other, the status quo monarchies. The radical republics were keen to throw off the dependency system. Thus they pursued statist economic development strategies aiming to dilute or diversify dependency and enhance state power capabilities used in support of nationalist foreign policies challenging Western penetration. This was possible only because of alternative Soviet markets and technology available during the Cold War, not to mention Soviet political protection. Moreover, the limits of such strategies were also underlined by the fate of poorer states such as Egypt, where statist economic failure ended in a postNasser dependency on Western aid providers, above all the United States, which expected and obtained an end to Egypt’s radical nationalism, hence restoring the dominance of the core over this pivotal periphery state. But where oil resources provided a relatively secure economic base, regimes—Libya, Iraq, and Iran— were better positioned to absorb the economic costs of challenging the core’s power.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

In contrast to the radical regimes, other MENA regimes willingly accepted subordination, becoming clients dependent for economic benefits or protection on a core patron state and, in return, according their patron political support in the periodic regional crises. In this respect, the oil monarchies stood out: their ruling elites, having acquired a stake in the status quo order, notably through the recycling of petrodollars via Western banks and investments, were less interested in challenging the system. This did not exclude that they might seek to enhance their position within the system: thus, OPEC, in which oil producers banded together “horizontally,” altered the “feudal” structure of relations and arguably allowed a state like Saudi Arabia, with its pivotal role in stabilizing oil prices, to transform dependency into asymmetrical interdependence with the global core. Even Jordan, literally dependent on its annual budget subsidy to sustain the state, briefly defied its patrons in the Gulf War while Israel, with its unique capacity to penetrate the policy process of the United States as world hegemon, is little constrained by its high dependence on the latter. This record suggests that while some regional states seek to overthrow the core-periphery system in the region while others accept it, all regional states, as realists would expect, put some value on sovereignty, and hence seek either to evade core constraints or to manipulate the core-periphery system, in what Ayoob (2002) called “subaltern realism.” However, the post–Cold War transformation in the world system, specifically Soviet collapse and unchecked US hegemony, sharply narrowed the possibilities for regional states to defend their autonomy and restored the hierarchic asymmetries of the core-periphery system. Two wars against Iraq gave the United States an unparalleled military presence in the region beginning in the 1990s. Most MENA states became embedded in the patronclient networks that the United States established to co-opt the local allies it needed to control the region (Hinnebusch 2011). In parallel, the globalization of capitalism subordinated local states to the demands of international finance capital as exercised, notably, through the International Monetary Fund. While globalization continued to meet more resistance in the Middle East than elsewhere, notably in the region’s evasion of full economic liber-

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


alization, increasingly regimes and their associated crony capitalists saw it as an opportunity for increased investment, markets, profits, and self-enrichment. Still, to the considerable extent that this increasing external penetration generated popular local resistance—notably in the rise of radical political Islam—local elites found themselves caught between external demands and those of their populations. Then, the cautious entry of other great powers, such as China, into the region beginning in the first decade of the twenty-first century, gave local powers marginally more room to maneuver in dealing with the United States, and the new cold war between Washington and Moscow over the Syrian uprising suggested a return to multipolarity in the region. In parallel, the bid of the United States for regional hegemony seemed to falter with its withdrawal from Iraq and its demonstrated inability to contain the effects of the Arab uprisings. In sum, the impact of the region’s position in the world system on the foreign policies of local states is by no means straightforward. Where the interests of local regimes overlap with those of core patron states, these regimes tend to “bandwagon” with their global patron to contain local threats. On the other hand, global penetration generates resistance, and where nationalist movements come to power, they have sought to organize a regional coalition to balance against external powers. However, this is only possible when, simultaneously, the great powers are divided (as in the Cold War) and hegemonic intervention is thus deterred, and when the region is relatively united (the Nasserite 1950s and 1960s) against the outside world. The Regional System: Identity and Transstate Politics

Foreign policy making in the MENA region is immensely complicated by the high level of incongruence between states and identity. While realism assumes the congruence of national identity and the state (thus nation-states), and hence imagines states as cohesive units whose policymakers pursue the “national interest,” in the MENA region no such national interest can be assumed. Because the borders of MENA states were often arbi-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

trarily imposed by Western imperialism at the expense of a preexisting and relative cultural and linguistic unity, which more or less persists, the mass loyalty to the state, where it corresponds to a definite nation, is, particularly in the Arab world, typically diluted and limited by strong popular identifications with both larger suprastate communities—the Arab nation, the Islamic community—and also with smaller substate identity groups (Korany 1988). As a result, states are highly permeable to transstate movements, and discourse and consensus on the national interest cannot be assumed. Among the consequences of this incongruence are pervasive irredentism and an exceptional impact of suprastate identities on the international relations of the region. Irredentism. The MENA region suffers from rampant irredentism—dissatisfaction with the incongruity between territorial borders and “imagined communities.” Irredentism is partly rooted in the way substate (ethnic or religious) communities, in frequently spilling across state borders (becoming transstate), stimulate territorial conflicts. States contest each other’s borders or interfere in each other’s “domestic” affairs by supporting dissident sub- or transstate movements, a practice that can escalate into actual military confrontation between them (Gause 1992). Thus, the Kurdish proto-nation spreads across Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, making these states vulnerable to separatist movements but also allowing them to manipulate Kurdish dissidents against each other. This transstate conflict was an element in the Iran-Iraq conflict of the 1980s and in the Turkish-Syrian confrontation of 1998. Somewhat similarly, the displacement of the Palestinians by the creation of Israel, and Israel’s dissatisfaction with its initial (pre1967) borders, transmuted an interethnic struggle over Palestine into an Arab-Israeli interstate conflict. Shiite Iran’s effort to export Islamic revolution found a particular response in Shiite communities throughout the region and helped touch off the IranIraq War, the world’s longest-lasting twentieth-century war. In Lebanon, the power of substate (sectarian) identities and the ties of rival sects with kindred communities in other states produced civil war and state collapse, which allowed rival states to make

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


Lebanon a battlefield and unleashed a major war (1982) between Syria and Israel and chronic conflict on Lebanon’s southern border with Israel. Suprastate identity. While irredentism is a feature of much of

the third world, what has made the Middle East unique is its history of powerful suprastate identities and hence its suprastate politics of pan-Arabism and pan-Islam. The power of suprastate identity is most apparent in the Arab states, which share a high degree of linguistic and cultural homogeneity. The common Arabic language—the critical ingredient of nationhood—has, owing to a standard newspaper and radio Arabic, become more homogeneous, stunting the evolution of national dialects as the linguistic basis of separate nations. Arab satellite television reinvigorated a sense of shared experience and identity. This made the Arab world a “vast sound chamber” in which ideas and information circulated widely (Noble 1991). Cross-border immigration was continual: in the 1950s in the form of major flows of Palestinian refugees; since the 1970s in the form of labor migration to the Gulf’s oilproducing states. Tim Niblock (1990) argued that the interests of the separate Arab states were deeply intertwined by labor supply, investment funds, security, water, communications routes, and the Palestine issue. The states of the Arab world were less well represented by realism’s impenetrable “billiard balls” than as a set of interconnected organisms separated only by porous membranes (Noble 1991). As a result, transstate identities—Arabism and Islam—were, for many Arabs, more emotionally compelling than identification with the state. According to 1978 survey data, 78 percent of Arabs believed that they constituted a nation and 53 percent believed that state boundaries were an artificial product of divide-and-rule imperialism (Korany 1987, 54–55). Historical memories of greatness under unity, and the experience that the Arabs were successful when they acted together (e.g., the 1973 war and use of oil as a weapon) and readily dominated when they were divided, kept the ideal of Arabism alive. So did common grievances: the loss of Palestine was seen as a common Arab disaster; the 1967 war shamed all Arabs, not just the defeated frontline states, while the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

relative Arab successes in the 1973 war inspired solidarity across the region. The US wars on Iraq aroused hostility across the Arab world. At the level of formal ideology, this sentiment was manifest in the doctrines of Arab nationalism, which viewed all Arabicspeakers as forming a nation whose states, at a minimum, ought to act together for common interests, or be constitutionally confederated, or, in Arab nationalism’s most ambitious form, Baathism, be merged in a single state embracing this nation. While such ambitions have been eclipsed in recent decades, most Arab constitutions still define the nation as the Arab nation (Ayubi 1995). As such, the Arab world is, according to Eberhard Kienle (1990), a system of territorial states, not—so far at least—a system of nation-states. Identity variance. There is, however, considerable variation among MENA states in the relative level of incongruence between territory and identity and therefore in the different ways in which multiple levels of identity—substate, state, and suprastate—coexist. At one end of the spectrum are the non-Arab states whose borders resulted in large part from indigenous agency; hence, the incongruity between state and identity in those states is far less salient than in the Arab world. Turkey and Iran had long histories as centers of empires and constructed modern nations around their dominant ethnic-linguistic cores with considerable success, despite the unfinished task of integrating a multitude of minorities, above all the Kurds. Israel’s very identity as a state was inseparable from its role as a homeland for Jews, despite its Arab minority and diverse ethnic origins. Even in the Arab world, identification with the territorial state is more robust in some countries, and although there are everywhere multiple and often-competing identities, one can identify a continuum defined by the relative strength of identification with the state. At one pole are the Gulf states such as Kuwait, where survey data collected by Tawfiq Farah and Feisal Salam (1980) showed that state identification came first (24 percent of respondents), then religious affiliation (14 percent), and Arabism last. The geographically separate Maghreb (North Africa) always identified less with Arab nationalism and more with local statehood

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


(though a distinct Tunisian identity and Morocco’s long history under an independent dynasty did not prevent the arousal of populations during the Arab-Israel and Iraq wars). Iliya Harik (1987) argued that where minority sects historically established autonomous regimes, as in Yemen, Oman, and Lebanon, identifications with the state were stronger. Egypt is located in the middle of the continuum, with its strong sense of territorial identity based on the Nile Valley and its history of statehood predating the Arabs. Yet Egyptian identity has been Arab-Islamic in content, with attempts to construct alternative definitions of Egyptianness—“pharaonic” or “Mediterranean”—failing and Egyptians seeing their country as the natural leader of the Arabs (Hinnebusch 1982). Egypt’s strong sense of kinship with the Arab world meant that decisions taken purely on grounds of state interest, such as Sadat’s separate peace with Israel, membership in the Gulf War coalition against Iraq, and collaboration with Israel in the siege of Gaza—which would be perfectly natural were Egypt a consolidated nation-state—were in fact damaging to regime legitimacy. At the other end of the continuum, in many Arab Mashreq (Fertile Crescent) cases, where externally imposed borders corresponded to no history of independent statehood, much less of nationhood, suprastate identities were strongest. It is no accident that the main pan-Arab nationalist movement, Baathism, was born in Syria and was most successful there and in Iraq and Jordan. If historical and geohistorical Syria (bilad ash-sham) might have supported a viable nationhood, its fragmentation into four ministates (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine) prevented the truncated rump from becoming a strong uncontested focus of identity. The attempt to generate a separate non-Arab Syrian national identity by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party came to nothing, and for most Syrians the content of Syrian identity was Arab. Iraq was the opposite case, a state artificially constructed by imperialism that threw together communally different Ottoman provinces, in which, thereafter, the political dominance of the Sunnis was contested by the Shiite majority and the non-Arab Kurds, and where a national identity acceptable to all substate groups remained illusive.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Identity has also varied over time. As Michael Barnett (1998) argues, identity is “constructed” and the interaction of Arab leaders determined the evolution of identity between competing poles of pan-Arabism and sovereignty. From the 1950s through the 1970s, pan-Arabism was at its political height. In this period, major Arab states sought all-Arab leadership, competing to persuade public opinion by “outbidding” rivals in promotion of Arab causes. The conduct of the game—with Arab states pressuring or threatening the elites of rival states by making pan-Arab ideological appeals to the populations of the latter—would, in a consolidated nation-state system, be seen as interference in domestic affairs and have little chance of success. However, in the Arab world, this game was natural and successful precisely because of the power of suprastate identity, especially as deployed by Nasser’s Egypt. Even if leaders, particularly Nasser, tried to manipulate pan-Arabism to serve state interests, pan-Arab movements were autonomous and no mere instruments of regimes. Indeed, such movements used Nasser to bolster their local standing as much as he used them, and they constantly pressured him into increasing Egypt’s commitment to the Arab cause against his own better judgment. The outbidding of rival leaders established pan-Arab norms of behavior: states perceived to be violating these norms became more vulnerable to subversion, while states perceived as living up to these norms were able to maintain pan-Arab leadership. Even Nasser felt constrained to satisfy the expectations of his pan-Arab constituency, which entrapped him and his rivals in a dynamic of nationalist outbidding against Israel that led to the 1967 war, at great cost to state interests. The interactions of leaders also began to “deconstruct” panArabism, so to speak, which became especially evident in the 1980s as interstate disagreements over the extent and nature of pan-Arab commitments, as well as the failures of Arab unity projects and of Arab collective institutions, disillusioned and demobilized Arab publics, thereby reducing pan-Arab constraints on state leaders. Ironically, the use of Arabism by ambitious leaders to subvert rivals only heightened the sense of threat from other Arab states and led state elites to promote distinctive state identi-

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


ties and the norm of state sovereignty to legitimize their state-centric behavior. The outcome was, according to Barnett (1998), “normative fragmentation” that broke the hegemony of pan-Arabism. In parallel, as, after 1975, the oil boom gave many Arab regimes a greater capacity to give their citizens a material stake in their states, identification with the territorial state increased, although it could not be consolidated absent democratization giving citizens the rights needed to feel the state was “theirs.” In these conditions pan-Arabism survived but had to adapt to the consolidation of sovereign states. The Arab League’s charter had been predicated on respect for the sovereignty of individual Arab states and the belief that they should act together for common interests defined by their Arab identity. As Avraham Sela (1998) showed, the Arab summit system, in which Arab leaders regularly met to seek consensus on all-Arab issues, institutionalized a version of Arab solidarity more compatible with state sovereignty. When state sovereignty and security were jeopardized by pan-Arabism, leaders increasingly ignored it. Yet because state identities still could not wholly substitute for Arab-Islamic identity, regimes were still keen to be seen as acting for common Arab or Islamic interests and had to disguise or justify their behavior when they ignored these interests. Sadat’s separate peace with Israel, the classic case of Arab collective interests being sacrificed to (Egyptian) reasons of state, was legitimized not just by appeal to the doctrine of sovereignty but also by the claim that Egypt was leading the Arab world to peace. To the extent that pan-Arabism declined, it left an ideological vacuum filled by the rise in the 1980s of another suprastate identity, political Islam. Islamic movements were, of course, no mere substitute for pan-Arabism; they concentrated more on creating Islamic societies within individual states than seeking a panIslamic order, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, in its charter, acknowledged state sovereignty. However, although secular Arabism and political Islam were ideological rivals, their foreign policy orientations largely reinforced each other: both prioritized loyalty to the Arab or Islamic community over citizenship of individual states, and both rejected Western imperialism and the legitimacy of Israel.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Beginning in the 1990s, the power of suprastate identities went through cycles of decline, usually when Arab states violated Arab norms or fought each other, and revival, usually in time of Israeli or Western attacks on Arab countries. The Arab Spring was bound also to have a major impact on identity, but initially it was ambiguous. The contagion of the uprisings throughout the Arab world reaffirmed Arabness, but protesters’ demands for democracy were state-centric, and their invitations to Western powers to intervene against their own governments were a violation of Arab norms. Transstate Islam, whether of the Muslim Brotherhood or al-Qaeda variety, initially attained new power, and the latter, particularly in the most artificial fragmented states of the Levant, undertook insurgencies across and in contempt of state boundaries. Yet the splintering of Islam into warring Shia and Sunni, moderate and radical variants, also debilitated its unifying potential. From the beginning, struggles over identity were by no means detached from the material structures in which the region was embedded. On the one hand, attempts by regional states to use suprastate identity to establish regional hegemony were chiefly aimed at challenging the subordination of the region to the global core. At the same time, the failures of such efforts were in large part a consequence of the permanent material consequences of the core’s imposition of the states system on the region—both of state territorial boundaries and the simultaneous shattering of preexisting economic interdependencies. In sum, multiple identities and the embedding of the individual MENA states in suprastate Arab and Islamic communities have implications for makers of regional foreign policy. At the leadership level, as Kienle observed (1990), Arab leaders have treated the Arab world as a single arena of leadership competition, and the power of suprastate Arab identity made pan-Arab leadership ambitions seem natural to the leaders of the main Arab states, notably Egypt and Iraq. After pan-Arabism declined and was, to an extent, superseded by pan-Islam, Turkey and Iran, sharing Islamic suprastate identity with the Arab world, were empowered to also pursue ambitions for regional leadership. Second, mass publics have believed that policymakers’ pursuit of particular state

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


interests should be qualified by the obligation to defend shared Arab-Islamic interests, such as the Palestine cause and autonomy from the West. As late as 2006, more respondents in Arab countries still thought elites should act in the Arab or Muslim interest (46 percent) than in the state interest (42 percent); by 2009 this had dropped to 43 percent and by 2011 to 30 percent, with 58 percent thinking state interest should come first, possibly indicative of the attrition of the pan-Arab generation (Telhami, 2006, 2011a). However, the result was still unique in world politics and, as Bahgat Korany (1987) put it, ruling elites remained caught between raison d’état (defense of the sovereignty of their states) and raison de la nation (pan-Arabism) in foreign policy making. The Regional System: Interstate Relations

According to neorealism, the states system is the main determinant of the behavior of its constituent states, its “anarchy” imposing security-maximizing behavior on all. MENA states operate in a particularly anarchic regional system, with border conflicts and irredentism built in at its formation and containing two of the world’s most durable conflict zones, the Arab-Israeli and the Gulf arenas, where war is a regular occurrence. Moreover, Avner Yaniv (1987) argues that transnational norms restraining interstate violence are little institutionalized in the MENA region. This, in turn, is arguably because the conditions that liberals expect will generate norms taming the power struggle—democratic cultures and economic interdependence—are absent or weak in the region. Both economic dependence on the core states and autarky-seeking neomercantilist reactions against economic dependence stunted the regional economic interdependence that liberalism expects to generate shared interests in the peaceful resolution of conflicts. As such, as realists expect, security threats are necessarily the first priority of makers of MENA foreign policy and power-balancing against threats pervasive in the region. There is, however, considerable variation in balancing strategies, determined, for realists, by a state’s position in the balance of power. The strategic importance or vulnerability of a state’s geographical location shapes the main threats and opportunities it


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

faces, and contiguity typically makes neighbors the most salient threat to most states. A state’s power assets are, for realists, the main determinant of its likely security strategy. As Steven Walt (1987) argues, the modal strategy is a “defensive realist” accumulation of sufficient military power and alliance partners to deter threats. However, states with greater power resources (wealth, population, size, social coherence) are more likely to have activist foreign policies and may adopt an “offensive realist” pursuit of regional hegemony, including also the projection of soft power from a claim to act for wider regional interests. The non-Arab states have generally enjoyed the most material assets, notably Turkey and Iran, from their size and historical coherence, and Israel, from its special external connections; among the Arab states, Egypt, due to its population size, centrality, and cohesion, has always been the potential hegemon. On the other hand, weak states are more likely to concentrate on defending their sovereignty, often seeking protection by bandwagoning with an external great power. Where states are so weak that the major immediate threat is from internal opposition, they may seek support from such a patron to deal with both internal and regional threats, in what Steven David (1991) called “omni-balancing.” Realism also argues that the basis of order in international politics is the balance of power: the pervasive balancing behavior of states constitutes an equilibrium mechanism preserving the state system against revisionist challenges. Thus, according to Dankwart Rustow (1984, 598), “while many Middle Eastern countries individually nurse expansionist or hegemonic ambitions, all of them collectively, by their preference for the weaker side and their readiness to shift alignments regardless of ideology, offer strong support for the status quo.” For neorealists, the state system itself tends to “socialize” its constituent parts into playing by realist rules, “teaching” leaders not only to balance against threats but also to prudently match their goals to their capabilities (Waltz 1979, 74–77). Evidence suggests that, indeed, the logic of the state system increasingly impressed itself on Middle Eastern foreign policy makers (Taylor 1982) even when realist rules were violated. Thus, the pursuit of domestically driven ideological policies to the neglect of the power balance, notably the pan-Arab

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


outbidding on the eve of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war or Islamic Iran’s attempt to export revolution, led to military disasters (Stein 1993) and the rise in revisionist states of new leaders socialized into more “realistic” behavior. This underlines the neorealist dictum that even if leaders and domestic forces determine what a state wishes or tries to do, it is the system level—the balance of power—that determines what it can do. Walt argues that realist rules hold despite the special feature of the Arab state system, namely shared Arab identity. In his classic realist study The Origin of Alliances (1987), Walt shows that, even at the height of pan-Arabism, which enjoined inter-Arab cooperation, Arab states widely balanced against each other and specifically against Egyptian hegemony. Not only did the conservative monarchies do so, but also even pan-Arab regimes in Syria and Iraq balanced against their ideologically natural Egyptian leader because the threat to their sovereignty from Nasser overrode all ideological considerations. In the longer term, balancing took the form of domestic statebuilding to make regimes less permeable to pan-Arab ideological subversion. In time, pan-Arab transstate movements, having failed to overthrow the state system, gradually declined; states had outlived their main nonstate challengers. Once ideological revisionism is replaced by pragmatic geopolitics, the balance of power, other things being equal, is more likely to be stable. However, in the MENA region, as its states became consolidated and increasingly well armed during the 1970s and 1980s, this very state strengthening enhanced the potential threat that each posed to the other. With domestic opposition more manageable, states could mobilize the support and resources to build up their power and, if they wished, pursue external ambitions. Regional order was therefore dependent on the balance of power, but unfortunately this balance proved widely unstable. Power imbalances were built into the regional system by the arbitrary boundary-drawing that created nonviable or ministates (around oil wells as in Kuwait, or as buffers as in Jordan) alongside large neighbors dissatisfied with these boundaries. Also, the unevenness of state formation meant that states that consolidated earlier, notably the non-Arab states, had a power


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

advantage over the later-developing Arab states. The power balance was also repeatedly upset by the rapid differential growth in the relative power of certain states owing to their exceptional access to oil revenues and foreign aid and hence to arms deliveries from external powers. Thus, Israel and Iraq achieved power superiority over neighbors, providing the occasion—when combined with irredentist leaderships—for, altogether, four wars: Israel’s 1967 preemptive war, its 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and Iraq’s two Gulf wars. In the end, power balances were restored, but only after very costly wars: balancing preserved the system but had not kept the peace. Realism has its limits for foreign policy analysis, and neoclassical realism indeed acknowledges (Lobell, Ripsman, and Taliaferro 2009) that one cannot deduce state behavior from the systemic structure (particularly given its multilayered complexity in the MENA region). Thus, how states respond to external threats and opportunities varies according to internal factors, notably elite threat perceptions and the capacity of institutions to mobilize power. Variations in elite perceptions suggest that threats, far from being self-evident as realism too often assumes, are, as constructivism insists, shaped by identity, which determines which states are “friends” and which are “enemies.” Identity itself, however, is fluid, constructed, and highly contested in the domestic political arena. As regards institutions, where regimes are institutionally consolidated, society is a source of resources and support that leaders can mobilize for the conduct of assertive foreign policies. Where regimes are unconsolidated, society is a source of internal threats that have to be “omni-balanced” against. Thus, to understand states’ foreign policies, one must understand the internal features of the state.

State Formation and Foreign Policy Tangents If the external environment of a regime determines the kind of challenges it faces, state features, namely the level of state formation and the social composition of ruling coalitions, are major determinants of states’ response to these challenges. In turn, these

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


features of the states shape their interactions and thus the character of the regional system. This is in line with historical sociology’s view that it is through the interaction of system and states that the two are co-constituted. Level of state formation determines the main threats that foreign policy is used to manage. When the consolidation of states in the regional system is low, the main threats come from within and foreign policy is used to counter domestic opposition (e.g., by obtaining resources from a patron or generating legitimacy from nationalist rhetoric). In periods of low state formation, policymakers are buffeted by contrary pressures from penetration of their states by the core powers and by regional transstate forces. When state formation is high enough that internal threats are manageable, the domestic environment becomes a source of support and resources, and if military capabilities of all states advance sufficiently to create a security dilemma, the main threat comes from neighbors; hence foreign policy deals with external threats and ambitions. State formation (together with territorial size and resource endowment) also affects a state’s power position, since only relatively consolidated states have the resources to pursue military buildups and to mobilize their populations for the external power struggle. High levels of state formation depend on inclusion of social forces in strong institutions and on enough coincidence of identity and state boundaries to legitimize regimes. Unfortunately, few states of the Middle East enjoy these conditions, although state formation level is a matter of degree and has varied over time and among states. The social basis of state formation determines the initial direction of foreign policies, notably determining the main distinction among MENA states: revisionist versus status quo orientation. This is shaped in large part by whether the social forces incorporated into a regime’s ruling coalition are privileged or plebeian and the extent to which identity is satisfied or frustrated by state boundaries. Where identity is frustrated, as in Syria, the outcome is more likely to be a revisionist foreign policy than where, as in Turkey, it is relatively satisfied. Revolutions bringing plebeian counter-elites to power are likely to be propelled by some combination of internal class conflict and identity frustration; the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

endemic revisionism in the Middle East is most likely to find expression when plebeian outsiders come to power in such revolutions. The importance of the social composition of the ruling coalition can be seen from the fact that the same states may change from supporters to challengers of the status quo, as Iran and Iraq did after their respective revolutions changed the class composition of their ruling coalitions. The main historical distinction between the Arab regimes has been associated with different kinds of ruling coalition, with the Western-aligned monarchies incorporating privileged, status quo, landed and tribal elites, and the republics initially incorporating revisionist alliances of the middle-class with the peasantry. Such initial differential social composition set these regimes on contrary status quo or revisionist foreign policy tangents, but this tended to be altered over time by pressures on the regimes from the environment (to become more pragmatic) or by changes in social composition (as when “embourgeoized” formerly radical elites acquired a stake in the status quo). The main phases of MENA state formation (more relevant for the Arab world than for the non-Arab states), distinguished by differences in levels of state consolidation and in dominant orientations, are outlined in the following section. State formation followed a bell-shaped curve, increasing to a peak in 1985 and then declining. The impact of global and transstate forces on the regional system is minimized at higher levels of state formation and accentuated in periods of its decline. The first phase, the period of oligarchy (1945–1955), comprising the initial post-independence years, was, in the Arab core and Iran, an era of weak states, governed by externally imposed or narrowly based oligarchs, landed magnates, or tribal chiefs, with regimes low in institutionalization and inclusion, and chiefly driven by fear of domestic instability from publics inflamed by transstate nationalism. In foreign policy, regimes either relied on external protection against such threats—embedding themselves deeper into the dependency web—or sought legitimacy through anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist rhetoric. By contrast, in Turkey and Israel, states that were more consolidated and in which institutionalization, combined with democratization, gave leaders sub-

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stantial legitimacy and hence autonomy in foreign policy making, classic reason of state prevailed, although Turkey’s satisfaction with its borders made it status quo while Israel’s dissatisfaction made it revisionist. The second phase, the period of populist revolution (1956– 1970), featured widespread rebellion by emerging middle classes against imperialism and oligarchy that generated increasing praetorian instability. By the 1960s (after 1956 in Egypt), statebuilding was under way, but the different origins and initial social bases of regimes dictated quite different statebuilding strategies, which biased foreign policy in different directions. In the Arab monarchies, state formation took place under Western patronage in small, geopolitically weak, and nationally unmobilized tribal societies. The main threat to regimes came from dissatisfied, if small, emerging middle classes. Domestic vulnerability was contained by traditional (patriarchal and Islamic) legitimacy. Regimes omni-balanced with the Western great powers for protection from interlinked domestic and regional threats. In Iran’s larger, more mobilized society, the Shah had to construct a more elaborate technology of control. In many cases, old regimes were overthrown in revolutions or revolutionary coups. In the opposite strategy, that of the authoritarian-nationalist republics, regimes originating in middle-class overthrow of Western client elites sought mobilization of countervailing popular support and dilution of dependency on the West. Wealth redistribution (e.g., land reform, nationalizations) garnered mass support, and public sector–led development bolstered autonomy of the West and enabled regimes to access aid, markets, and protection from the Eastern bloc. Because the military was the main vehicle of factional politics, and because regimes lacked a secure social base in a dominant class, they remained unstable. Hence legitimacy was sought through revisionist-oriented Arab nationalist foreign policies. The main features of this period were the attempt of Nasser’s Egypt to roll back Western hegemony in the region and the socalled Arab cold war (Kerr 1971) between the anti-imperialist republics and the pro-Western monarchies, reflective of the dif-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

ferential social bases of the regimes. Egypt, as the first and most successful of the republics to consolidate its regime, was able to stimulate republican revolutions elsewhere, most successfully where identity had been frustrated by artificial boundaries or where oligarchs had alienated the middle class by monopolizing property and opportunity. In tribal societies, monarchies were less vulnerable and able to resist revolution. Interstate politics chiefly took the form of the manipulation of discourse wars and transstate movements against rival regimes. The third phase, the period of authoritarian state consolidation (1970–1990), was apparent by the mid-1970s, as both kinds of regimes, monarchies and republics, sufficiently built institutions and included constituencies to reduce domestic instability (Dawisha and Zartman 1988; Mufti 1996). The initial incentive for statebuilding, to overcome domestic instability, was reinforced by the increased frequency of war; booming oil revenues and continued superpower patronage provided the means. Statebuilders followed neopatrimonial strategies that blurred the distinction between monarchies and republics: substate sectarian, tribal, and family assabiya (social solidarity) was used to construct webs of trusted followers at the state center who commanded the instruments of power. These instruments, which included bureaucratic structures, ruling parties with controlled corporatist associations, and modern means of coercion and surveillance, dramatically expanded and increasingly penetrated society. The attachment to states of strategic class interests anchored them against the winds of transstate popular sentiment. Both monarchies and republics gave birth to state-dependent bourgeoisies, closely linked to officialdom, which had a stake in the status quo. Stability was also advanced by incorporation of a sufficient segment of the middle and lower strata through state employment. In the authoritarian republics, the coincidence in the 1960s and 1970s of economic growth and redistributive policies—land reform, state employment—gave these strata some stake in the state. In the oil monarchies, command of oil revenues enabled the state to incorporate the minority of the population who held citizenship as a privileged constituency with interests to

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


protect against the possible demands of migrant labor for similar rights. The monarchies also used the transfer of aid to conservatize the radical states. The oil resources accruing to states provided them with the resources—without resort to taxation and accountability—to establish substantial autonomy from society. Autonomous elites, balancing above social forces and presiding over states less vulnerable to transstate ideology, generally attained greater freedom from domestic pressures to conduct foreign policies according to geopolitical reason of state. Political elites still legitimized their states in terms of suprastate Arabism and Islam, which, however, actually strengthened the capacity of individual states to pursue reason of state, and thus Saudi Islam as well as Syrian and Iraqi Arab nationalism legitimized foreign policies that were largely expressive of state interests. Despite continuing differences between some republics and monarchies, the subordination of ideology to geopolitics drove enough convergence in their foreign policies to end the Arab cold war. In addition, several regimes built large, well-equipped armies that posed increasing threats to their neighbors and sparked several wars, particularly on the Arab/non-Arab fault lines (Arab-Israeli, Iran-Iraq). Increased threats from neighbors stimulated classic realist power-balancing. The fourth phase, the period of post-populist authoritarianism (1990–2010), already starting in the 1980s, emerged fully in the 1990s with the end of bipolarity. The exposure of grave vulnerabilities in the newly consolidated states—economic crisis and loss of Soviet patronage in the republics, and military shock (the Iranian threat, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait) in the monarchies—exposed the limits of regional autonomy and induced movement toward the reintegration of regional states into the US-led global capitalist system. The “overdevelopment” of the state in the 1970s, encouraged by the oil boom and the exploitation of economies for military ends, translated into growing economic constraints once the oil boom ended (1986). The most visible policy response, especially in the republics, was infitah—economic liberalization. A consequent change in the social base of the state was manifested in rulers’ moves toward sharing power with the bourgeoisie and


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

excluding the popular strata, combined with the abandonment of distributive populism. Islamist opposition mobilized the marginalized victims of economic liberalization. But the Islamist movements, unable to make Islamic revolution against still-strong state apparatuses (with Islamic rebellions smashed in Algeria, Egypt, and Syria), attempted incremental Islamization from below. The reversion to economic dependency of many post-populist republics on Western financial institutions was accompanied by a moderation or end of nationalist foreign policies and by realignment toward the West. In the oil monarchies, there was a much more overt reliance on Western military protection. Overall, balancing turned into bandwagoning with the core. The fifth phase, the age of Arab uprisings (2011–), has been a reaction to the authoritarian, West-centric, and inegalitarian rule of the post-populist era, a revolt manifest in the overthrow of presidential monarchies and initial empowerment of the outsiders, Islamic movements. In the age of state consolidation, fragile states had been stabilized by the protection of their sovereignty under bipolarity and rent from the oil boom. Now, however, they were again highly vulnerable to external penetration. On the one hand, economic globalization, deployed by the global core, reduced the ability of regimes to provide welfare to mass publics (owing to neoliberal structural adjustment). In parallel, a discourse of democracy and human rights was transmitted by the new information technology that encouraged anti-regime political mobilization by educated, Internet-connected, middle-class youth who had absorbed Western liberal ideology. Regimes thought to be highly durable suddenly seemed quite fragile, although the “deep state” would in some cases prove more resilient than initially appeared, notably in Egypt. In the short term, at least, the result of the Arab uprisings was further state weakening, especially in the more fragmented societies. This was most obvious in Syria, which experienced civil war, but in Yemen, Iraq, and Libya the capacity of central governments also fell and their monopoly on violence and territorial control was damaged by the rise of armed insurgent groups. The uprisings led to considerable political mobilization, but the uprising states lacked the stable institutions necessary to incorporate

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


this mobilization despite holding relatively free elections to assemblies. Moreover, publics became sharply divided along sectarian and Islamist versus secular lines, and between remnants of the old state establishment and radicals wanting more thorough revolution, producing a three-sided struggle over the very rules of political order. Contesting elites still dominated, but the masses were now a key resource in intra-elite power struggles. This resulted in a renewal of “praetorianism,” in which politics was played out through street protests, riots, military intervention, and elections, without agreed rules of the game. Where the central power survived, hybrid regimes combined authoritarianism with elections in which rivals used identity politics to mobilize constituencies. Where it collapsed, mass praetorianism took the form of armed social movements and warlords, as in Libya and Syria. The republics that faced uprisings were too fragmented to produce coherent foreign policies. Rather, the weakening of the state, combined with the omni-balancing of rival elites seeking external resources and support in their internal power struggles, made the republics battlegrounds of “competitive interference” by the non-Arab states (Iran, Israel, and Turkey), by the Arab monarchies that had escaped the uprisings, and by global powers. State weakening reempowered transstate forces, but they promoted highly divisive Shia-Sunni discourse wars rather than the inclusive rhetoric of the earlier pan-Arab period. In parallel, dependence on the international financial institutions and core powers actually deepened as economies were destabilized.

The Intrastate Level: The Black Box of Policymaking While the environment and state formation may determine regimes’ challenges and bias their responses, much variance remains unaccounted for since, in any given situation, there are always multiple possible choices. Moreover, in the Middle East, pressures from the environment often pull in contradictory directions; hence, to obtain one value often requires giving up another. Thus, security sought through foreign protection may sacrifice foreign policy autonomy, and legitimacy from anti-imperialism


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

clashes with economic dependency on the global economic powers (wealth). Governments must mediate, Janus-faced, between internal and external demands, with rational moves in playing the game at one level being often impolitic on another. To understand choices we must open the “black box” of policymaking in which policies are drafted and decisions are made and implemented. Here the main tradition, foreign policy analysis, is mostly concerned with agency, and specifically with how the features of the policy process enhance or detract from the ability of states to cope with their environments. How regimes prioritize and make trade-offs in any given situation will be affected by three components of the decisionmaking process: foreign policy role, the balance of power among interests in the foreign policy process, and leadership. Foreign Policy Role

A state’s foreign policy role implies an identity and defines orientations toward neighbors (friend or enemy), toward great powers (threat or patron), and toward the state system (revisionist or status quo). Roles are constructed by elites in interaction with other states and with their publics (likely reflecting the interests of dominant social forces in the regime). Role also includes a modus operandi that incorporates experience (learning, accumulated memory) of state elites in balancing among economic needs, geopolitical imperatives, domestic opinion, and state capabilities (Holsti 1970; Dessouki and Korany 1991). Geopolitical position has a major impact on foreign policy role conception. Thus Egypt’s centrality has led its decisionmakers to seek influence in the Arab East, North Africa, and the Nile Valley. But its role altered from defender of the Arab revolution in the 1960s to status quo power (mediator between Israel and the Arabs and then bulwark against Islamic extremism) in the 1980s and 1990s, arguably paralleling the consolidation of a new bourgeois ruling class. The frustration of identity may also produce enduring roles: artificial or truncated states such as Syria and Iraq have sought protection and fulfillment in a wider Arab role. Israel’s role conception as a besieged refuge for world Jewry

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


imparts both insecurity and an irredentist need for more territory and water. Although role is manipulated by elites, once it is constructed it sets standards of legitimacy that constrain elites and shape the socialization of the next generation of policymakers. It may therefore impart a certain consistency to foreign policy despite changes in leadership and environment. Role does not, however, provide ready-made decisions, since its application in different and unique situations allows for differences in interpretation of role or role conflict, which must be settled in the foreign policy process. Power Concentration and Decisionmaking

When elites disagree, the internal power distribution, defined by the state’s governing institutions, decides policy outcomes. This distribution may affect the rationality of decisions—for example, whether regimes over- or underreact to threats. Excessive autonomy of the leader from accountability risks the pursuit of idiosyncratic policies that may be irrational, while excessive fragmentation among branches of the bureaucracy may produce policy incoherence. In the authoritarian republics, the leader-dominant model long prevailed. Foreign policy was constitutionally the reserved sphere of the chief executive, who was also the commander in chief of the armed forces, although in reality presidential power depended on how secure the president’s position was. Consolidated presidencies could make bold or risky decisions, such as Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal, Sadat’s separate peace with Israel, and Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. In Arab monarchies, extended ruling families constituted informal consultative groups with which the monarch was expected to consult, and decisionmaking tended to be based on consensus (the lowest common denominator) and hence was likely to be cautious and status quo. In pluralistic states, such as Israel, the prime minister had to keep senior cabinet colleagues satisfied, and in Turkey a national security council under the president assembled the cabinet and military chiefs. Where such more collegial leadership prevailed, more information and input potentially allowed for better policies


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

unless it was vulnerable to “groupthink” and the resultant failure to imagine new options. Fragmented leaderships, as in Iran, tended to zigzag depending on which faction was in power. If none was in charge, effective foreign policy making seemed to be frustrated when, for example, the foreign ministry’s effort to improve relations with the West were frustrated by the contrary policies of the Revolutionary Guard or the intelligence ministry. The Idiosyncratic Variable: How Much Does the Leader Count?

In regimes where power is personalized and concentrated, and especially in times of fluidity or crisis, the leader’s personal style, values, perceptions—and misperceptions—can make an enormous difference (Dawisha 1988). Whether this is a liability depends in part on the experience and character of the leader. Thus, while Syria and Iraq were long ruled by branches of the same Baath party and had similar regimes consisting of leader, army, and party, big differences between the styles of Assad (the cautious and calculating general) and Saddam (risk-taking former street fighter) explained key differences in their foreign policies (along with the greater resources available to oil-rich Iraq and the formidable Israeli neighbor faced by Assad). Difference in leadership recruitment systems may make a difference. Where leaders climbed to power in a struggle, as in early phases of authoritarian republics, they were often more competitive and power-hungry personalities than those who inherited a crown. Leadership recruitment through competitive elections is supposed to make for more accountable and hence more constrained leaders, but in the Middle East, democratically elected leaders are not always less bellicose. In Turkey it was elected politicians (Adnan Menderes, Turgut Özal) who occasionally departed from the cautious policies of the career bureaucracy, while in Israel, where electoral success usually required being seen as tough on the Arabs, it was peace diplomacy, not warmaking, that was most constrained. However, periodic competitive elections do allow for alternation between more and less hawkish governing teams, something seen in both Israel and Iran.

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


Because leaders and their bureaucracies tend to be too invested in existing policies, change in failing policy is most likely when an external shock is accompanied or followed by leadership change, with the new leader more willing to reinterpret the situation. With the change from Nasser to Sadat and from Khomeini to Rafsanjani, successors, although building on alterations already initiated, ended up turning their predecessors’ policies upside down. Leadership miscalculations have had enormous consequences for the region, including Nasser’s brinkmanship on the eve of the 1967 war and Saddam’s failure to anticipate the reaction to his invasion of Kuwait. The diplomatic skills and bargaining strategies of leaders, including intangibles such as “credibility” and “will,” can also make a decisive difference. Thus Shibley Telhami (1990) argues that Sadat’s failure to play his hand effectively in the Camp David negotiations produced a suboptimal outcome. Intra-Elite Bureaucratic Politics

In the Middle East, normally the leader makes the decisions, but other interested actors do try to influence him, such as presidential advisers, senior military and intelligence officers, key cabinet members, party apparatchiki, and foreign ministry officials. As the “bureaucratic politics” model argues (Halpern and Clapp 2006), each of these actors may propose different policies shaped by their special roles and material interests. Characteristic of the Middle East has been the dominating role of the military and intelligence services at the expense of the diplomats (Kasza 1987). The salient role of the former, even in pluralistic Turkey and Israel, and the relative weakness and limited professionalism of most foreign ministries, may bias policy toward coercive options and prioritize “national security” issues over others. Important, however, is the change in the role of the military in the Arab republics and Turkey from vanguard of reform and nationalism to pillar of the (conservative) status quo preoccupied with the Islamist threat from within. Economic and business elites have until recently had only limited access to decisionmakers. Yet economic imperatives require state elites to remain cognizant of busi-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

ness needs. Where a “national bourgeoisie” is ascendant, its demands for protection from foreign competition may reinforce a nationalist foreign policy. In contrast, satisfying infitah internationalist bourgeoisies is likely to require a pro-Western policy designed to entice foreign investment. Public Opinion

Input into foreign policy making from outside the governing establishment has typically been limited and indirect in the Middle East. In normal times when the public is divided or inattentive, elites enjoy more autonomy to act as they please. However, even in authoritarian regimes, the public may have an indirect impact on foreign policy if leaders must defend legitimacy under attack by rivals or if the masses are aroused by conflict with the West or Israel (Dawisha 1988; Lucas 2000). Public opinion is likely to play a greater role in regimes having electoral accountability mechanisms, such as Turkey and Israel, but this does not necessarily lead, as liberals expect, to more pacific foreign policies, because populations have remained mobilizable by irredentist ideology (Mansfield and Snyder 1995). Thus Israel, the most democratic regional state, has most often attacked its neighbors, including semidemocratic Lebanon. Moves toward democratization resulting from the Arab Spring potentially may force leaders to pay more attention to public opinion in foreign policy making, even if only to manipulate it for their own purposes. Yet the options of post–Arab Spring states are no less constrained than hitherto by external factors, such as the balance of power with neighbors or dependency on the West, which sharply dilute the effect of popular demands in the policy process.

Summary: Explaining Foreign Policy Outcomes Since regime security is normally the first priority of foreign policy makers, threats to it are the main factor driving foreign policy. Threats and strategies for dealing with them are, however, greatly complicated by the multilevel feature of the regional system. In

Foreign Policy in the Middle East


addition to the interstate military threats that concern realism, the embedding of the regional system in a transstate public sphere means that regimes also face threats to their domestic legitimacy from transstate movements and discourses and from their manipulation by other states—as when Nasser’s Egypt mobilized panArabism against rival regimes in the 1950s (Harknett and VanDenBerg 1997). But the transstate level is also a source of domestic legitimacy (from, for example, being seen to champion pan-Arab interests) and an arena for playing out leadership ambitions based on suprastate identity. Also, the core great powers that penetrate the MENA region are both a constraint on autonomy and a source of resources that regimes need in order to confront regional and domestic threats. Hence policymakers must balance between the various levels, their strategies depending on where they see the strongest threats as coming from and where they can find the most resources to counter these threats. The main threat may be internal or external, and regimes may either bandwagon with (appease) or balance against these threats. If the main security threat is internal, regimes may either omnibalance with an external power to obtain the support and resources needed to balance against it (even at the expense of autonomy), or they could “reverse omni-balance”—use radical nationalist rhetoric to mobilize internal support—that is, appease internal opposition. If the threat is an external power, the regime could either rely on a global protector or seek to power-balance through nationalist mobilization of domestic support, military buildup, and alliance-making. If the precarious economic health of a state threatens internal security, the acquisition of economic resources may move to the top of the foreign policy agenda. Choices among these alternatives will depend on factors such as a state’s power position. If states are too weak to balance against threats from stronger states, they will have to appease them or seek a patron-protector, while in larger states power-balancing and even a reach for regional hegemony are realistic options. The social composition of the ruling coalition also matters for whether states are satisfied with the status quo or have greater ambitions. The historical records shows that MENA regimes are typically caught between pressures from the global


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

hierarchy and regional pressures (from the transstate Arab-Islamic public space and neighboring states). Hence their strategies have chiefly fallen into two quite durable alternatives: status quo regimes omni-balance with global patrons in order to contain regional and transstate threats, while revisionist regimes reverse omni-balance in order to mobilize regional alliances to balance against Western global powers and their regional allies, especially Israel.

Organization of the Book We have identified in this framework chapter the factors that matter in foreign policy making but not their relative weight, which varies by country and over time. As such, the relative explanatory power of different factors is a matter of empirical research. In the next chapter we present a more complete empirical overview of the evolution of the regional system and of the forces to which foreign policy makers have had to respond. Thereafter, we present empirical case studies of the foreign policies of regional states, including pivotal Arab states and the three non-Arab regional powers, with each case study roughly following a similar framework in examining the environmental determinants of foreign policy, the policy making process, and foreign policy outputs. We conclude the book by summarizing our findings and stressing the foreign policy patterns of the past two decades.

2 The Middle East Regional System Raymond Hinnebusch

The regional system of the Middle East consists primarily of the relations of its member states—the Arab states and the non-Arab states. The Arab states, with shared identity, intense interactions, and membership in the Arab League, make up the geographic core of the system, although they do not necessarily act cohesively in foreign policy. The non-Arab states—Turkey, Iran, and Israel—located on the core’s periphery (albeit with Arab North Africa yet farther afield) are members of MENA due to geography and intimate involvement in the region’s conflicts and balance of power (Cantori and Spiegel 1970, 192–207; Ismael 1986, 5–13). The evolution of the regional system can be charted in terms of (1) the distribution of power among the states (polarity); (2) interactions among states shaped by patterns of enmity and amity largely based on identity and also ideology; and (3) levels of state formation (Buzan and Weaver 2003), a factor that is inversely related to the relative weight of global and transstate forces in the regional system. The evolution of the system is described here through a series of stages defined by variations in configurations of these three features. 35


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

The Age of Imperialism and Oligarchic Multipolarity, 1920–1955 In this period the states system created under Western imperialism and still under British hegemony suffered from built-in irredentism owing to the lack of congruence between identities and the often artificial boundaries of the newly created states. The periphery states—Turkey, Iran, and Israel—more advanced in state formation, militarily stronger, and aligned with the West, flanked a weak, fragmented Arab core barely emerging from colonial control. The Arab states were narrowly based oligarchies, highly penetrated by the great powers, above all by Great Britain, which retained bases and treaty relations with regimes headed by its clients. The main threat to the system was instability within the individual states, weak loyalty to newly imposed regimes (and boundaries), regimes’ inability to politically incorporate the rising middle class, gross maldistribution of wealth, still incomplete decolonization, and the loss of Palestine—all of which soon delegitimized the new regimes even as they struggled to consolidate their formal independence. As such, foreign policy was chiefly used to counter domestic threats; regimes either used anti-imperialist rhetoric to shore up their fragile legitimacy or sought protection from the Western powers against domestic opposition. The main sources of revisionism included the instability on the Arab-Israeli cease-fire lines and Hashemite ambitions. Hashemite Iraq dreamed of being an Arab Prussia unifying the Fertile Crescent, while Jordan under King Abdullah promoted a Greater Syria scheme and pursued deals with Israel to acquire a chunk of Palestine (the “West Bank”). These projects precipitated a counter-alliance of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria (which was particularly threatened by Hashemite absorption). This power-balancing, plus the restraint put on the Hashemites by their British patron, helped preserve the status quo. So also did a shared elitist (dynastic or oligarchic) ideology that facilitated gradual acceptance of the rules of a multipolar system—that no state should push its interest so far as to endanger the vital interests of its neighbors (Maddy-Weitzman 1993, 175–176; Mufti 1996, 21– 59; Seale 1965, 5–99).

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The Arab League attempted to institutionalize respect for the sovereignty of individual states while also acknowledging shared Arab identities and the need for a collective response to the common threats from imperialism and Zionism. However, its legitimacy was tarnished by its failure to coordinate the defense of Palestine, and the most it achieved was a consensus against relations with Israel.

The Age of Pan-Arab Revolution, 1956–1970 The pan-Arab revolutions were a reaction to oligarchy and imperialism and were enabled by global-level decolonization encouraged by bipolarity. Oligarchic multipolarity in the MENA region was transformed by the destabilization of oligarchic states amid the political mobilization of the middle class under the banner of pan-Arabism, together with the emergence of the consolidated Nasser regime in Egypt. Nasser deployed transstate pan-Arab ideology to challenge the old regimes, to put Egypt at the center of the Arab world, to roll back Western control, and to enforce Arab solidarity against the non-Arab periphery. Nasser and the Rise of Pan-Arabism

Nasser’s pan-Arab policy aimed to replace Western imperialist influence in the region with Egyptian hegemony. It emerged from a contest with conservative Iraq, Egypt’s major rival, over the Baghdad Pact. While the pact would have harnessed the Arabs to Turkey and Iran in the containment of communism, Nasser saw the West and Israel as the main threats, saw no role for Iran and Turkey in the Arab world, and instead proposed a collective Arab security pact and Arab nonalignment. The independence of the Arab states, he argued, could be consolidated only by their pooling of resources for their own defense (Barnett 1998, 100–103; Gerges 1994, 21–40; Ionides 1960). Nasser’s victory in winning over Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon in the struggle over the pact laid the foundations of Egypt’s Arab hegemony.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Egypt’s emerging pan-Arab hegemony was based on three pillars. First, Egypt was the most populous Arab state, having 30 percent of the Arab population, a cohesive society, and the largest gross national product (GNP), which gave it a modest ability to provide economic aid and enabled it to support the largest Arab army through defense expenditures double those of any other Arab state (Walt 1987, 53; Noble 1991, 61–65, 74–75), although Egypt normally could not use its army to project power, being cut off from the Arab East by Israel and constrained by international norms. Second, Nasser’s hegemony partly derived from the weakness of his opponents. Internally, Nasser’s Egypt emerged as a model, highly attractive to the region’s middle class, of a populist authoritarian state promoting redistributive social policies, industrialization to overcome dependency, and anti-imperialism; Egypt’s regime was stable and legitimate compared to the praetorian instability in most of the other Arab states. Third, Egypt’s hegemony derived from Nasser’s asymmetrical ability to project transstate influence. While the Egyptian populace was immune to the appeal of Nasser’s rivals, he became a pan-Arab hero who— with the advent of the transistor radio—could reach and mobilize their own publics against recalcitrant rival leaders at odds with Egypt’s Arab nationalist line (Cremeans 1963; Ayubi 1995, 142– 143; Barnett 1998, 128). Moreover, Egypt was the cultural hegemon of the Arab world, uniquely positioned—as the main exporter of books, newspapers, films, and teachers who staffed schools throughout the Middle East—to shape the rising generation of opinion leaders (Dawisha 1976, 174–175). On the other hand, the superior military power of the nonArab states proved, in this period, impotent or even counterproductive in shaping the regional order. The attempts of Israel, militarily superior but insecure, to compel Arab acceptance and check Nasser’s rising prestige, resulted in border clashes that inflamed Arab nationalist opinion to Nasser’s benefit. These clashes also stimulated Egypt’s 1955 Czech arms deal, which enormously boosted Egypt’s Arab prestige as the only state with the potential to check Israeli power, and this in turn encouraged Nasser to assume new responsibilities for collective Arab defense. The 1956 Suez war was launched by the declining imperial powers, Britain

The Middle East Regional System


and France, together with Israel, to shatter Nasser’s prestige but, despite Egypt’s military defeat, actually had the opposite effect, while undermining the pro-Western conservative regimes and destroying remaining British influence. The attempt by the United States to fill the vacuum and contain Syrian radicalism under the Eisenhower Doctrine only pushed Syria into alignment with Egypt. Washington’s attempt to draw Turkey and, to a lesser degree, Pahlavi Iran, into a conservative pro-Western concert against Arab nationalism only more sharply differentiated the periphery states from the Arab core. As Egypt was established as the center of the Arab world, it acquired the capacity to leverage the superpowers. The growing involvement of the Soviet Union in the Middle East checked the ability of the West and its local Turkish and Iranian allies to use their military power, thus forcing them to compete on grounds of ideology and subversion, where Nasser enjoyed an unmatched advantage. And once it became clear that Egypt could not be dislodged as pan-Arab hegemon, Nasser was able to extract aid from both East and West (Seale 1965; Walt 1987). Egypt under Nasser came close to—but never achieved—the “organizing” of the region, in the terminology of Leon Carl Brown (1984, 88, 162–172). The arousal of Arab nationalism precipitated coups and movements against pro-Western regimes across the region and culminated in the United Arab Republic (UAR), which united Egypt with the most intensely pan-Arab state, Syria, from 1959 to 1961. A series of kindred Arab nationalist regimes arose in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and later Sudan and Libya. This revolutionary wave put the conservative Westernleaning monarchies on the defensive and generally enhanced Nasser’s ability to pressure all Arab states into observing common Arab nationalist norms (Kerr 1971). Indeed, Nasser arguably created an informal “international regime” that, in enforcing already latent Arab nationalist norms, constrained the unfettered exercise of sovereignty in foreign policy making by the other Arab states. The power of one such core norm, independence from imperialism, was reflected in the termination of Western bases and treaties across the Arab world and the reluctance of conservative states to overtly align with their natural Western protectors as they sought


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

to appease—bandwagon with—Egypt. The result was a more autonomous Arab system, much more impervious to Western influence and intervention than heretofore (Gerges 1994, 245– 251). The second norm, the rejection of the legitimacy of Israel and support of the Palestine cause (ideally the liberation of Palestine), did not translate into effective common action against Israel, but it did enforce Israel’s isolation. Thus Jordan, even when most threatened by its radical Arab neighbors, refrained from alliance with Israel, although covertly the kingdom benefited from an understanding that Israel would intervene if Jordan appeared in danger of absorption (Walt 1987, 206–212). To a degree, elites were socialized into pan-Arab norms and subjected to peer pressures to observe them, notably at Arab summits. The main enforcement mechanism, however, was their fear of the domestic legitimacy costs and consequent internal opposition that violation of these norms could entail. Nevertheless, there were disagreements over pan-Arab norms—the extent of permissible relations with the West, the degree of militancy toward Israel—and Cairo’s attempt to impose its interpretation, especially when this spilled over into a revolutionary challenge to the very legitimacy of rival states, provoked a backlash against Egyptian hegemony. When, in 1958, nationalist revolution swept away the pillar of the old order, Hashemite Iraq, and it briefly looked as if the conservative side would be overwhelmed, British paratroopers landed in Jordan and US marines in Lebanon to check the domino effect and stabilize conservative regimes. After this, Nasser’s conservative rivals were less reluctant to defy him and the Arab world became more sharply polarized between radical republics and status quo monarchies. Furthermore, Nasser’s unwillingness to share power even with ideological allies, manifest in the 1961 breakup of the UAR, stimulated an anti-Cairo reaction even among kindred pan-Arab leaders. Thus the revolutionary camp split when Abd al-Karim Qasim, Iraq’s revolutionary leader, rejected Egyptian tutelage, and Nasser, in response, joined Jordan and Saudi Arabia in sending troops to protect Kuwait against Qasim’s irredentism. While the 1963 Baathist coups in Iraq and Syria raised the prospect of a powerful and radical pan-Arab bloc, the Baathists’ fear of

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Nasser’s domination caused the failure of unity talks with Egypt. Instead the weaker Syrian and Iraqi regimes balanced against ideologically kindred Egypt and challenged Nasser’s leadership of the radical camp, which again pushed Nasser into détente with the conservative regimes. Thus the ideological bipolarity that had so put pro-Western regimes on the defensive was soon crosscut by phases of “revolutionary polycentrism” in which Nasser tacitly aligned with conservative regimes against pan-Arab rivals, relieving the pressure on the former (Walt 1987; Kerr 1971). Moreover, in a classic act of realist balancing, the periphery states—Israel, Iran, and Turkey—aligned, albeit tacitly and intermittently, in the so-called periphery pact to contain the putative Arab nationalist threat from the Arab core. The 1967 War and the Decline of Arabism

Nasser’s very successes invited his overextension and ended in the 1967 war, Arab defeat, and the shattering of the pan-Arab system. Israel’s attack on its Arab neighbors unleashed the 1967 war, but it was the dynamics of pan-Arabism that gave Israeli hawks the opportunity to realize their ambitions. In the mid1960s, Egypt, as pan-Arab leader, was under growing pressure to act against Israel, which was diverting the Jordan River to absorb more Jewish immigrants. The Palestinians, a permanently dissatisfied diaspora throughout the Arab world, were increasingly impatient for Arab action to resolve their plight. Indeed, newly founded groups such as al-Fatah launched a guerrilla struggle against Israel that they hoped would detonate a wider Arab-Israeli war. Nasser argued that the Arab world had to build up its forces, modernize, and unify before it would be ready to take on Israel; and tied down in the Yemen civil war, he could hardly afford a confrontation. But his Arab rivals used the issue to put him on the defensive. Baathist Syria, a narrowly based radical regime, was championing the Palestine cause to win domestic legitimacy and outbidding Nasser for pan-Arab leadership. To contain revisionist Syria, Nasser initiated Arab summit meetings to spread responsibility for inaction among the Arab leaders (Sela 1998, 80; Stein 1993, 62–67; Kerr 1971; Walt


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

1987). It was agreed at the summits that Israel should be countered by diverting the sources of the Jordan River, which, since these rose in Syria, would force Damascus to bear the consequences of its own militancy. However, the Syrian Baath used Israeli attacks on its river-diversion efforts to embarrass Nasser, by criticizing the UN’s buffer force in the Sinai (the United Nations Emergency Force [UNEF], established after the 1956 Suez war), which prevented him from deterring the Israelis (Sela 1998, 75). When Nasser and Saudi Arabia fell out over Yemen and the conservative regimes joined the criticism of Egypt, Syria took advantage of this to entice Nasser into a radical CairoDamascus axis. While Nasser hoped this would remove Syria’s incentive for nationalist outbidding, Syria viewed it as the essential backing for its sponsorship of Palestinian guerrilla warfare against Israel. The war crisis began in May 1967 with Israeli retaliations and threats against Syria and Soviet pressures on Nasser to deter Israel. Despite the unfavorable power balance with Israel, Nasser could not remain passive if he was to protect his Arab leadership, under threat from both left and right (Gerges 1994, 213). He ordered the withdrawal of UNEF from the Sinai and sent Egyptian troops into the peninsula—with defensive instructions that assumed an Israeli first strike; this precipitated a countermobilization in Israel. Nasser could have deescalated but, allowing himself to be pushed into brinkmanship by the expectations raised by his own nationalist rhetoric, he closed the straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, thus reversing concessions he had made to Israel at the end of the Suez war. Inflamed public opinion also pushed Jordan’s King Hussein, despite knowing it could cost him his territory and army, to join Egypt and Syria in a defense pact. Outbidding over Arab nationalism had entrapped all three Arab frontline states into a war none wanted (Barnett 1998, 146–159). Nasser had played into the hands of the Israeli generals, who, confident of victory, seized the opportunity to smash the Arabs while Israel still had military superiority, in order to achieve secure borders, force the Arabs to accept Israel, and, for some on the Israeli right, realize “Greater Israel” (Smith 1992, 195–200; Peri 1983, 244–251).

The Middle East Regional System


Wars are catalysts for change in state systems, and the 1967 war was no exception, signaling the decline of Egyptian hegemony and of the Egypt-centric Arab “international regime.” Egypt had never enjoyed much capacity to project military power in the Arab world, and its one attempt to do so, in Yemen, had ended in stalemate. Egypt’s economic superiority was never enough to allow it to provide much economic rewards, and by the late 1960s the costs of hegemony—first from war in Yemen, then from the 1967 defeat—were impoverishing the country while the growing oil revenues accruing to the oil monarchies decisively shifted the balance of economic power to them. Cairo’s hegemony was based largely on the ideological appeal of Arabism, but this was eroded by the failures of unionist schemes and shattered by the 1967 defeat, which some blamed on Arab nationalism (Barnett 1998, 165–176). Another major effect of the 1967 war was that, in dealing a mortal blow to pan-Arab dreams, it started the process of Arab acceptance of the permanence, if not the legitimacy, of Israel. To be sure, Arabism remained sufficiently strong that the survival of the frontline Arab regimes required that they vindicate themselves against Israel, while the occupation of their territory, touching on vital state and regime interests more directly than the Palestinian cause had ever done, further locked them into the conflict. However, despite some short-term inflammation of radical sentiment, a longer-term ideological moderation was led by Nasser himself, who ended the ideological cold war with the conservative Arabs in return for economic subsidies and accepted the UN’s Resolution 242, a “land-for-peace” watershed in the Arab acceptance of Israel. Similarly, Hafez al-Assad’s rise in Syria marked the moderation of radical nationalism there, while the simultaneous crushing of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Jordan in 1970 marked the defeat of a transnational radical movement by a conservative monarchy. This started the gradual moderation of the PLO leadership itself, among whom the aim of liberating Palestine soon gave way to the much less ambitious drive for a Palestinian state confined to the West Bank and Gaza. Pan-Arab ideological dreams were giving way to the pursuit of limited territorial interests.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

If 1967 marked the end of Arab nationalist revisionism, it had the opposite effect on a triumphant Israel. Israel tripled its territory, achieved defensible borders, and asserted overwhelming military superiority (Brecher 1972, 64). But instead of this enhanced security promoting a greater willingness to reach a peace settlement with the Arabs, Israel’s feeling of invincibility whet its appetite to settle and absorb the remainder of historical Palestine into Israel; the chance to trade the occupied lands for peace was sacrificed to the ambition of Greater Israel.

The Age of State-Centric Arabism, 1970s The 1970s can be seen as a time of transition between the periods of pan-Arabism and realism that emerged in the 1980s. This decade had features of both periods: pan-Arabism remained important, but was more a tool of strengthened states than a constraint on them. The period began with war against Israel and ended with a partial Arab-Israeli peace. The 1973 Arab-Israeli War

With the decline of the Egyptian hegemon, other Arab states acquired greater freedom to pursue their particular interests, but those interests were now shaped by the much-increased threat from Israel. Before 1967, the greater immediate threat Arab rivals posed to each other, the expectation that the great powers would restrain Israel, and the little practical possibility of liberating Palestine had deterred effective alliance-building against Israel (Walt 1987). Afterward, a militarily preponderant and expansive Israel had to be contained and the recovery of the occupied territories became a fixed priority in Egypt and Syria. These aims were possible only through inter-Arab cooperation, and the much-reduced threat of Cairo made this cooperation less risky for the other Arab states. Military power mobilization— Soviet arms financed by Arab oil revenues—became the preoccupation of the main frontline states, setting the tone for the whole Arab system.

The Middle East Regional System


The death of Nasser ended Egypt’s hegemonic role as his successor, Sadat, having neither the will nor the pan-Arab stature to continue it, subordinated all other concerns to the recovery of the Sinai. Egypt was still the pivotal Arab state that alone could take the leadership in a war for the occupied territories (Sela 1998, 148), and gradually Egypt and Syria, under new pragmatic leaders, were thrown together by their common interest in this. Saudi Arabia took advantage of their need for financial backing to moderate their policies and achieve full partnership in core Arab affairs. If no one state now had enough assets to play the hegemon, an axis of the largest state (Egypt), the richest state (Saudi Arabia), and the most pan-Arab state (Syria) could pool complementary resources and forge an Arab consensus on war and peace. This “Arab triangle,” or trilateral alliance, would, for a period, replace Egyptian hegemony as a new driver of Arab cohesion based on the consensus-building made possible by the greater equality, and hence trust, between the main leaders, Sadat, Assad, and Faisal (Taylor 1982, 49–56; Ajami 1977–1978, 90–108). Sadat first sought to enlist US diplomatic patronage of a political settlement with Israel, but war became inevitable when the United States ignored him. In October 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated attack on the Israeli-occupied territories, while Saudi Arabia deployed the oil weapon to force the intervention of US diplomacy. Relative Arab success in the war caused a massive resurgence of Arab nationalism, which drove all Arab states to close ranks behind the frontline states; Iraqi and Jordanian forces played crucial roles in containing Israeli counteroffensives against Syria; while Morocco and Saudi Arabia sent token contingents to the front lines and Algeria and the Gulf states provided finance for emergency Soviet arms deliveries. The Arab states failed to liberate the occupied territories, but their ability to challenge and inflict high costs on Israel partly righted the power imbalance against them. This and the oil boycott sufficiently upset the status quo to force US intervention on behalf of a negotiated settlement. At the same time, the relative Arab success in the war endowed the frontline states with the legitimacy needed to move toward a peace settlement. The big three agreed on a comprehensive peace with Israel on the basis of UN Security Council Reso-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

lution 242, legitimized in a round of Arab summits. These summits also designated the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinians in peace negotiations and marginalized rejectionist states like Iraq. There was an expectation that the new Arab oil wealth precipitated by the wartime oil boycott would be shared by the oil producers, notably with the oil-poor states that had fought and sacrificed for the common Arab cause. Indeed, significant transfers of oil wealth to the nonoil Arab states and the migration of their excess labor to the labor-scarce Arab oil economies generated a certain pan-Arab economic interdependence over the decade of the 1970s. The ideological cold war and inter-Arab subversion were decisively buried as the conservative states used their aid to moderate the radicalism of the nationalist republics and as interstate diplomacy eclipsed the inter-Arab media wars hitherto typical. The new oil wealth stimulated in Arab societies a hunger for material benefits that spelled the triumph, in Muhammed Heikel’s (1975a) words, of tharwa (resources) over thawra (revolution) (see also Barnett 1998, 152–153; Dessouki 1982). Arab Summitry: A Concert of Araby?

A new mechanism of inter-Arab consultation came into its own after 1974, a virtual concert of states institutionalized in Arab summits held within the framework of the Arab League. Summits had been initiated by Nasser in 1964 in an early acknowledgment that Egypt’s hegemony could not be imposed and that an Arab order had to be negotiated among sovereign states. The summit system reaffirmed the qualified sovereignty legitimized by the League, pledging Arab leaders to refrain from intervention in each other’s internal affairs while attempting to coordinate the Arab states in defense of their common interests. After the 1967 war, summitry aimed to reverse the radicalization of pan-Arab norms from inter-Arab “outbidding” and, after 1973, to marginalize “rejectionist” states (e.g., Iraq) that attacked the peace process with Israel (Sela 1998, 75–94; Kerr 1971; Barnett 1998, 122). In the 1970s and 1980s, summits were called to mobilize

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all-Arab resources, above all financial aid, to counter threats on the non-Arab periphery from Israel and Iran, to establish a consensus on the conditions for making peace with them, and to resolve conflicts between Egypt and Syria over peacemaking strategy. In the 1980s, summits, often boycotted by key feuding states, became less effective, reflective of growing Arab fragmentation after Egypt’s separate peace shattered the Arab triangle. But Saudi Arabia filled the vacuum for a period, using financial incentives agreed at summits to heal inter-Arab splits. Thus the Arab summit of May 1989 readmitted Egypt, which had been expelled from the League in 1980 for its separate peace with Israel, and restored relations between it, Syria, and Libya. By 1996 there had been nineteen summits that, with three exceptions (Rabat in 1969, Fez in 1981, Cairo in 1991), had reached their decisions by consensus. While this meant they reflected the lowest common denominator, the system arguably made for a “concert of states,” a tradition of practices somewhere between pan-Arab aspirations of collective action and a purely state-centric system (Sela 1998). The Shattering of the Arab Triangle

Just as the conflict with Israel gave birth to the Arab triangle, so disagreements over the conflict’s resolution destroyed the triangle. Egypt’s Sadat, believing that the United States would deliver Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai and the financial aid to solve Egypt’s economic crisis, sacrificed all other options to appease Washington. Thus, immediately after the 1973 war, Sadat undermined Syria by pushing for a lifting of the oil boycott before there was even a military disengagement with Israel on the Syrian front. He also soon abandoned his ties to the Soviet Union and with them the military option. Sadat knew that Israel was prepared to return the Sinai in exchange for a peace treaty that would get Egypt, the strongest Arab state, out of the Arab-Israeli power balance, and knew that if he stuck with Syria and the PLO in insisting on a comprehensive settlement and a Palestinian state, he might get nothing. He therefore entered into piecemeal deals with Israel and finally accepted a separate peace settlement that


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

restored Egypt’s lost land but reduced the likelihood that a comprehensive peace could be attained. At the second Baghdad summit, Iraq and Syria jointly forced Saudi Arabia and other wavering states to ostracize Egypt for its 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Egypt’s isolation from the Arabs forced Cairo into greater dependence on the United States, allowing the virtual neutralization of the core Arab state by a superpower deeply biased toward Israel (Taylor 1982; Sela 1998; Sheehan 1976). Sadat’s separate peace had profound consequences for the Arab system. Just as Egypt’s hegemonic role under Nasser had established pan-Arab constraints on the sovereignty of individual Arab states, so its promotion, under Sadat, of sovereignty over Arabism, released many remaining such constraints. It also generated deepened insecurity throughout the Arab system that intensified the retreat to state-centric self-help by the individual states, notably Syria; similarly it intensified Palestinian insecurity. The first and most destructive symptom of these tendencies was the Lebanese civil war, unleashed by conflicts over the Palestinians in Lebanon that were precipitated by the Sinai II agreement, in which Egypt seemed to abandon Syria and the PLO. This sparked a showdown between a coalition of Palestinians and radical Lebanese Muslims who wanted to challenge Israel in southern Lebanon and Maronite Christians determined to eradicate this disruptive threat to Lebanese security and sovereignty. At the same time, Syria, left extremely vulnerable to Israeli power by the collapse of its Egyptian alliance and seeking to redress the imbalance, tried to use the Lebanese civil war to impose its leadership in the Levant, especially on Lebanon and over the PLO. This precipitated a PLO-Syrian conflict that would never be wholly healed. Thus, if, in the 1973 war, cooperation between the Arab states benefited all, then thereafter, caught in a classic Prisoners’ Dilemma, none could trust any other not to seek individual gains unilaterally. When such vital interests as recovery of territory, perhaps even political survival, were at stake, each actor fell back on the self-help typical of a states system. This ushered in a new age of realism in the MENA region (Sela 1998; Seale 1988).

The Middle East Regional System


The Age of Realism, 1975–1990 This period resulted from regional statebuilders’ efforts to deal with the instability of the age of revolution, but also from the increased imperatives of war preparation; and it was enabled by an expansion in the availability of rent. The decline of transstate ideologies, together with the consolidation of authoritarian regimes in both republics and monarchies through similar neopatrimonial practices, meant elites had an increased stake in the status quo and greater autonomy to conduct “realist” foreign policies defending their regime interests. Increased state military capabilities accentuated interstate military threats, while the fragmentation of the Arab world with the decline of pan-Arabism made the Arab world more vulnerable to the stronger non-Arab states on its peripheries. The increased interstate security dilemma provoked individual states to defend their own security through realist power-balancing, via arms races and alliance formation. State Consolidation and Sovereignty

If the 1973 war and associated oil boom fueled inter-Arab interdependence, then at the same time, relative wartime success restored some of the legitimacy of the individual states and oil revenues financed individual statebuilding. The distribution of oil revenues across the regional system allowed states to build large armies and bureaucracies, foster new bourgeoisies with a stake in regimes, and co-opt the middle class, which—once the constituency of pan-Arabism—now became or aspired to be part of the new state establishments. States’ greater material resources made them less vulnerable to pan-Arab ideological subversion than hitherto. The very durability of the states as the customary framework of political life fostered their growing public acceptance, if not strong affective support for them. In parallel, state elites promoted the norm of sovereignty over Arabism. Sadat fostered an Egypt-centric reaction against Arabism, exploiting resentment of the failure of the “rich” Arabs or “ungrateful” Palestinians to fund and appreciate Egypt’s long sac-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

rifice of its economic well-being to defense of the Arab cause (Noble 1991, 65–70). In the mid-1980s, Mubarak told the Arabs that the only way to limit inter-Arab conflict was tolerance of a diversity of foreign policy, since each state knew its interests best. Saddam Hussein conceded that there were “many tents in the Arab house” (Barnett 1998, 6–7). Mass Arabism seemingly declined in the 1980s, yet identifications did not necessarily fully attach to the states, since the negative side effects of statebuilding—the resort to personalism and sectarianism, the increased corruption and inequality accompanying the oil bonanza, and the repression and demobilization of political activism—left states with legitimacy deficits and with no convincing substitute for Arabism or Islam as legitimating ideologies. Indeed, the vacuum left by the decline of Arabism was filled by heightened identification with either smaller substate communities (e.g., sects) or the larger Islamic community. Thus, in the Lebanese civil war, nationalist movements fragmented along sectarian lines or were displaced by transnational Islamic movements like Hizbollah. Political Islam, an alternative suprastate ideology that challenged the legitimacy of the existing states, was greatly accelerated by the example of the Iranian Islamic revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini’s effort to “export” revolutionary Islam. As Maridi Nahas (1985) argued, the decline of pan-Arabism made regimes especially vulnerable to revolutionary Islam because the same ills and identities that fueled the rise of pan-Arabism persisted but the disaffected now turned to Islam, as many states had appropriated Arab nationalism as their legitimating ideology while blatantly violating its norms. If stronger states facing less mobilized, more co-opted, or more fragmented publics were now better positioned, compared to the previous periods, to pursue reason of state to the neglect of Arab-Islamic norms, they nevertheless paid a considerable legitimacy cost when they did so. The rise of Islamic opposition in Egypt and Sadat’s assassination were in part a function of the regime’s loss of its Arab nationalist legitimacy after its peace with Israel; Islamic rebellion in Assad’s Syria in the 1980s was partly a function of the de-legitimation issuing from Syria’s attacks on the PLO in Lebanon (Noble 1991, 53–54). Iraq was especially threat-

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ened by Iran’s transstate ideological penetration of its large Shiite population. Even Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, which sought legitimation through Islam, were vulnerable to Islamic Iran’s denunciation of their “American Islam.” Fragmented Multipolarity

By the 1980s a multipolar struggle for power raged among several contending MENA states that were pursuing state-centric policies yet were still ambitious to exercise regional leadership. This was a consequence of both Egypt’s relative decline and the rise of other Arab powers. In 1965, Egypt’s GNP was still almost three times Saudi Arabia’s, but by 1977 its share of Arab GNP had declined from 23.4 percent to 7.9 percent, making it economically dependent on the oil states. Economic decline was paralleled by the displacement of Cairo as the Arab world’s political hub and the eclipse of Egyptian domination of inter-Arab institutions, which were now funded and under the increased influence of the oil monarchies. Military capabilities were much more equally distributed as well; by 1979, Syria and Iraq each matched Egypt’s military expenditures. Other states also caught up with Egypt in their levels of state formation, with the conservative states now stabilized through the use of oil wealth to incorporate middle strata while Baathist Syria and Iraq grew organizational muscle to control their fractious societies (Telhami 1990, 96–97; Mufti 1996). But no new hegemon emerged. Iraq, in a peripheral location and long contained by hostile Turkey and Iran, was finally internally consolidated and, strengthened by oil and Soviet arms, made a bid for Arab leadership. When Sadat forfeited Egypt’s Arab leadership and the Pahlavi gendarme of the Gulf collapsed, Saddam Hussein perceived power vacuums that Iraq could fill; however, he soon dissipated Iraq’s potential in his war with Iran. Assad’s Syria, internally stabilized and enjoying diversified (Gulf and Soviet) resources, took advantage of Egypt’s isolation and Iraq’s embroilment in its war with Iran to assert pan-Arab leadership against Israel. But Syria was handicapped by the decline of pan-Arab sentiment and the preoccupation of Arab regimes with


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

the Iran-Iraq War. Saudi Arabia quietly accumulated inter-Arab influence from the leverage it could potentially wield in the United States on behalf of Arab interests as the swing producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and by using its wealth to moderate inter-Arab conflicts. However, its military weakness made it vulnerable and therefore extremely cautious. The decline of its oil revenues after the oil bust of the mid-1980s and its growing dependency on the United States for protection from Iran checked its rising influence (Walt 1987, 137; Mufti 1996, 80; Noble 1991, 65–71). Revisionism and Power Imbalances

Each Arab state was strong enough to prevent hegemony by the other, but was equally too driven by particular interests to forge an axis of states able to engineer all-Arab cohesion. This fragmentation made the Arab world exceptionally vulnerable to the powerful revisionist impulses being unleashed on its peripheries, which radically upset the regional power balance. The Iranian revolution, turning this regional great power from defender of the status quo to exporter of revolution, snapped the Tehran–Tel Aviv axis against Arab nationalism and threatened to shift the power balance against Israel. Instead, however, the Iraqi invasion of Iran, unleashing the eight-year IranIraq War, immediately reshuffled the deck to Israel’s advantage. The effective removal of both Iraq and Egypt from the ArabIsraeli power balance freed Israel, where the revisionist Likud government took power to project its power in the Arab world with little restraint. Lebanon became the main arena of the ArabIsraeli struggle, and Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon sought to drive the PLO and Syria from Lebanon, install a client government, impose another separate peace, and encircle Syria (Schiff and Yaari 1984). This, the Likud leaders thought, would break resistance to the incorporation of the Palestinian-populated West Bank into “Greater Israel” and allow Israel to become the region’s hegemon. At the same time, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, plus Soviet activity in the Horn of Africa and in its client state of Democratic Yemen, when combined with the Iran-

The Middle East Regional System


ian threat, produced a heightened feeling of vulnerability among the Gulf monarchies. These threats, rather than uniting the Arab world, polarized it into two rival coalitions, not on the basis of ideology or identity but by where they saw the greater threat. A “moderate” proWestern coalition, which came to include Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states as well as northern Yemen and Jordan, combined against the Iranian and Soviet threats. Owing to the Gulf states’ intense fear of Iran, massive resources were diverted from the Israeli front to support Iraq’s war with Tehran. The need for Egyptian arms and manpower in this conflict drove Cairo’s inter-Arab rehabilitation despite its adherence to its separate peace with Israel. The United States was allowed to expand its presence and influence in the Gulf despite the Reagan administration’s complicity in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, its designation of Israel as a US strategic asset, and its 1986 bombing of Libya. Against the moderate bloc, a so-called Steadfastness Front of radical states— Libya, Democratic Yemen, Algeria, and Syria—was drawn together in opposition to Israeli revisionism. In parallel, the sense of threat from Israel, Iraq, and the United States, shared by Syria and Iran, drove them into a defensive counter-alliance. Iran mobilized Lebanese Shiites on behalf of Syria’s resistance to Israel in Lebanon, and Syria obstructed the isolation of Iran in the Arab world. Iran was thus brought directly into the heart of inter-Arab politics, eroding the boundaries between the Arab core and the non-Arab periphery. The decline of pan-Arab norms and institutions, far from making for a more stable Middle East, merely meant that ideological conflicts waged by subversion and propaganda were superseded by much more violent and sustained military conflicts on the Arab/non-Arab fault lines. The massive intensification of threats and ambitions translated into a search for security through arms races and militarization, which only exacerbated the security dilemma. The two wars on the peripheries resulted from a coincidence of revisionist leaderships (Likud, Khomeini, Saddam), overarmed states, and power imbalances—the invasion of Lebanon enabled by Egypt’s withdrawal from the Arab-Israeli


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

power balance, and the invasion of Iran by the seeming (albeit temporary) collapse of Iranian power in the 1979 revolution. Still, the balance of power became the main, albeit precarious, source of order. In the end, the ambitions of revisionist states (Israel, Iran, Iraq) were in each case blunted and the status quo was preserved by countervailing power. To the east, the two dominant Gulf powers wore each other down; Iran’s ideological threat was contained and no state succumbed to Islamic revolution. To the west, Syria, sheltered by a Soviet deterrent, used the mobilization of Lebanese Muslims to frustrate Israeli plans in Lebanon; Syria thereafter reached sufficient military parity with Israel to establish a “deterrence relationship,” making a new war more costly and probably unwinnable. The Syrian-Iranian alliance, in continuing to defend the Arab-Islamic core issues at stake in the conflict with Israel, substituted in some degree for the collapsed Arab center (Ehteshami and Hinnebusch 1997, 101– 105). But Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait would further deeply divide the Arab world and open the door to US hegemony over it.

The Age of US Hegemony, 1990–2010 Two decades of US hegemony over the MENA region was a consequence of several converging factors. The global triumph of neoliberal capitalism over socialism, combined with the previous overdevelopment of MENA states relative to their economic bases, as exposed with the oil price bust and resulting in debt and economic crisis, led to economic liberalization and structural adjustment that opened the economies of MENA states to the West and made them more dependent on Western trade and loans. The consequent favoring of crony capitalists and foreign investors ushered in a “post-populist” form of authoritarianism in which the republics abandoned their former popular bases, with political Islam seeking to mobilize those thereby marginalized; states increasingly omni-balanced with the United States to contain domestic threats. Against each other, states continued to pursue realist self-help as manifest in arms races, or relied on US protec-

The Middle East Regional System


tion. Although these developments date from the 1980s, they accelerated in the 1990s and were paralleled by the 1990–1991 Gulf War against Iraq, which established US military hegemony over the region. The Gulf War, 1990–1991

Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait was rooted in the structural liabilities built into Iraq’s creation by imperialism. His formula for holding a fragmented artificial state together included a hard authoritarianism legitimized by oil-funded development and an Arab nationalist ideology that required an activist pan-Arab foreign policy. Iraq’s immediate vulnerability was the debt accumulated in the war with Iran, exacerbated by low oil prices brought on by overpumping in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which Saddam saw as economic warfare threatening his regime’s revenue base. But pan-Arab ideology also mattered. Iraqi Baathists viewed Kuwait as an artificial state carved out of Iraq’s territory and denying it strategic access to the Gulf. Pan-Arabism also shaped Saddam’s ambition, in the wake of his apparent victory over Iran, to become a new Nasser, and he set out to revive Arabism. He demanded that the Arab states not allow foreign bases and that the oil monarchies share their wealth with poorer Arab states. Warning of the shift in the power balance against the Arabs resulting from the decline of the Soviet Union and Soviet Jewish emigration to Israel, he threatened to use nonconventional weapons against Israel should it attack an Arab state, and proposed to use the oil weapon to force a change in Washington’s pro-Israel policy (Hinnebusch 2003b, 205–212; Mufti 1996). Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait was meant to both solve his financial problems and give potential material muscle to his panArab ideological ambitions. Were Iraq to have retained Kuwaiti oil fields and remained in a position to intimidate Saudi Arabia, it could have nullified Saudi Arabia’s role as pro-Western swing oil producer and given Saddam hegemony over 40 percent of world oil reserves—at a time when US reserves had shrunk from 34 to 7 percent of the global total. Iraq would still have had to sell its oil, and its dire need for revenue dictated that, in the short


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

term, it would pump oil at levels likely to keep prices moderate. But unlike Saudi Arabia, which due to its security dependence on the United States and investments in the Western economy could be depended on to moderate prices and recycle the proceeds through Western banks and the purchase of Western arms, Iraq was not similarly dependent and, on the contrary, was threatening to make its oil policy conditional on a favorable Western policy in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Were Iraq able to dictate the terms according to which the West received oil, it would trap US politicians between the demands of the Israeli lobby and US consumers’ appetite for cheap gasoline (Hinnebusch 2003b, 214– 215). For US elites, Iraq’s invasion was therefore a threat to US interests and allies, including Israel and pro-Western Arab regimes, and also a violation of the Westphalian order (with its artificial borders), which the West was committed to uphold. But the invasion was also an opportunity for the United States to establish more direct hegemony over the MENA region and its oil, a hegemony that, from the time of OPEC and the nationalization of Western oil companies, had needed to be exercised more indirectly, through client states. Now, in violation of long-standing Arab nationalist norms, anti-Iraq Arab states were welcoming US intervention. Because the invasion coincided with the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from global competition with the United States, the risk of a superpower confrontation that would hitherto have restrained US intervention on the massive scale that took place was removed. War was also a chance to destroy Iraq as a regional power and a prime example of remaining post–Cold War opposition to US hegemony. Saddam’s offer of withdrawal from Kuwait in return for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories exposed US double standards, and it was believed that any sign of US weakness toward him would encourage challenges to US interests across the region. Washington therefore welcomed the war with Iraq. Even were Saddam to retreat from Kuwait, as on the eve of the war he agreed to do, if his huge army remained intact he would be a threat needing constant containment and in a position to revive Arab nationalism. A cheap military victory through the unrestrained use of high-tech US military power

The Middle East Regional System


against Iraq would warn other challengers that, as George H. W. Bush put it, “what we say goes,” banish the Vietnam syndrome that had constrained US involvement in conflicts abroad, and justify a new post–Cold War mission for the US military-industrial complex. The United States had long sought extensive military bases in the Gulf but had been rebuffed by regimes reluctant to violate the norms of Arab nationalism; Saddam’s threat was used to sweep aside their qualms. Finally, war was an opportunity to demonstrate the dependence of America’s economic competitors on its hegemonic role in securing oil supplies and to ensure that Gulf petrodollars would be primarily recycled through US institutions and serve US competitiveness. So successful was this strategy that the United States was able to convince its economic competitors (Germany, Japan) and clients (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait) to fund the war (Aarts 1999; Kubursi and Mansur 1993; Hinnebusch 2003b, 215–218). The End of Arabism?

The Gulf War seemingly shattered the remnants of pan-Arabism. Saddam Hussein had used it to justify his invasion of another Arab state, while anti-Iraqi Arab regimes manipulated the Arab League to engineer Western intervention against another member of the League and abort a proposed “Arab solution” to the crisis. The ability of the United States to co-opt these states into an antiIraq coalition showed that their decisions were, by this time, driven almost exclusively by such factors as individual geopolitical interest and dependency on the West. Saudi Arabia could not resist US demands to host the Western armies in attacking Iraq if it was to retain US protection against the much-increased Iraqi threat. Egypt’s Mubarak, who was pivotal in engineering the Arab League resolution that invited Western intervention, was partly driven by Egypt’s deepening economic dependency on the West. Egypt’s ability to win Western aid by acting as a “moderating” state in the region had been threatened by Saddam Hussein’s bid for Arab leadership, while the invasion presented an opportunity for Egypt to demonstrate to the West its importance to regional stability and thereby win debt relief. The coalition’s most reluc-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

tant member, Syria, saw an opportunity to weaken Saddam Hussein, a rival for pan-Arab leadership; to win gratitude and financial aid from the Saudis; and, as Soviet protection receded in the post–Cold War era, to gain US recognition as a responsible power whose interests should be accommodated through a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict (Abdulla 1991; Hinnebusch 1997). Additionally, the inter-Arab institutions that had been designed to reconcile identity and sovereignty were much weakened by the Gulf crisis. The Arab League’s secretary-general, presumably the keeper of the common interest, announced that henceforth no Arab state could interfere in another’s definition of its own interest and security. The Arab League was paralyzed, with no agreement possible on holding an Arab summit between 1990 and 1996 even though momentous decisions were being taken affecting the common Arab interest, notably in the ArabIsrael peace process. Brief postwar hopes for the creation of a new Arab security framework embracing Egypt, Syria, and the GCC, under the banner of the “Damascus Declaration,” failed when the Gulf states chose to rely on Western treaties, further enervating the Arab norm against overt foreign treaties and bases (Barnett 1998, 227–228). Some doubt was cast on the “death of Arabism” at the mass level, where Saddam Hussein had effectively used pan-Arab themes—Western interference, Palestine, the distribution of “Arab” oil wealth—to win public support. But panArab arousal receded in the wake of Iraq’s defeat and ceased to be a constraint on regimes in the postwar Arab-Israeli negotiations started at the 1991 Madrid peace conference. Militant Islam remained more consequential but was contained by increasing state repression. The collapse of pan-Arab solidarity and institutions left little restraint on the pursuit of self-interest by Arab actors, but this only weakened each of them in the face of common enemies. Israel was able to exploit inter-Arab rivalries in the peace negotiations to obtain a separate peace with Jordan and an end to the Arab economic boycott. The 1993 Oslo Accords, in which the PLO assumed full responsibility for the fate of the Palestinians, released remaining constraints on the Arab states to pay even lip

The Middle East Regional System


service to the Palestinian cause, regardless of the doubtful likelihood that Oslo would lead to the realization of Palestinian rights. The Rise and Decline of Pax Americana I, 1990s

The Gulf War appeared to establish a Pax Americana in the region. Iraq’s destruction as a military power and its economic debilitation under sanctions eliminated its threat to Western oil security, while the blow suffered by Arab nationalism allowed the norm against treaties and bases to be swept aside as the Gulf was made a virtual Western protectorate. Washington’s alliance with its Gulf allies, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, was much strengthened by their joint campaign against Saddam. However, the survival of Saddam’s regime made the Gulf Arabs more dependent than ever on Washington for protection from him and justified a continued US military presence. The United States, which had used the Iran-Iraq War to project naval power into the Gulf, now acquired new access to naval and air bases in the GCC states. Sophisticated arms sales to these states fostered their dependence on Western experts and afforded direct influence over Gulf defense establishments. Partly to finance such purchases, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states overproduced oil, plunging prices to $10 a barrel in the late 1990s, a twenty-five-year low in real terms. America’s unprecedented military presence in the Gulf allowed it to put the two major nationalist powers that had contested US hegemony and threatened its Gulf allies, Iraq and Iran, under “dual containment.” US brokerage of the Madrid peace process made Washington appear indispensable to peace in the region and all regional states started bandwagoning with it; even the PLO and Syria were co-opted by the promise of US good offices with Israel. Thus the United States seemed positioned to erect a Pax Americana on three pillars: its new security presence in Saudi Arabia and the GCC, the peace process, and the dual containment of Iran and Iraq. Its penetration of the region reached levels comparable to the Western presence of the pre-Nasser age. However, the three pillars of Pax Americana soon began to wobble. Dual containment has rising costs. Long after Iraq had been defeated and its strategic weapons substantially destroyed,


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Washington continued to wage a campaign against Baghdad, including continued bombing, economic blockade, and an intrusive international sanctions regime that openly aimed to permanently destroy Iraq as a regional power and impose enough suffering on Iraqis to cause Saddam Hussein’s overthrow. The resulting conflicts between Iraq and the Anglo-US combinazione over “no-fly zones,” Kurdish autonomy, and the disarmament inspections in Iraq by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) kept the regional pot boiling while failing to either remove or reach agreement with the Iraqi regime. Indeed, US missile attacks on Iraq ended UNSCOM’s mission. US policy actually deterred Iraq from the postwar reconstruction that could have turned it inward to its own problems. The unprecedented violations of Iraq’s sovereignty, the arbitrary imposition of a border with Kuwait, and the near genocidal victimization of a whole Iraqi generation by economic sanctions met with widespread criticism in Middle Eastern capitals, and the unwillingness of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Turkey to allow use of their air bases to attack Iraq in the late 1990s for its alleged violation of UN resolutions showed how far the United States was operating outside any regional or international consensus. At the same time, Washington aimed, under dual containment, to isolate Iran, the other power that contested its hegemony. Iran, the largest, most populous, and potentially most powerful state in the region, sought to counter the US-dominated regional order through its alliance with Syria and its geopolitical centrality in the Gulf. Under moderate presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami, Iran was becoming a status quo power in the region, but it did expect to be accepted as the major Gulf power. Iran sought to break out of US containment by cultivating pragmatic relations with the Arab Gulf states and advocating a Gulf collective security arrangement that would reduce the US presence in the area, although this initiative was obstructed by remaining tensions, such as the dispute over Iran’s continued hold on three Gulf islands claimed by the UAE. US arms sales to the Arab Gulf stimulated a defensive military buildup in Iran, including a possibly increased readiness to pursue a nuclear deterrent. By the end of the decade, Iraq and Iran were gradually escaping from dual con-

The Middle East Regional System


tainment. The sanctions on Iraq were being challenged in the Arab world, Saddam was selling future oil concessions to Russia, China, and France, while Western Europe was keen to engage Iran rather than isolate it. The second pillar of the Washington-orchestrated new security order, the Arab-Israeli peace process, was also in trouble. While the Madrid peace conference was a watershed in Arab acceptance of Israel and the Oslo Accords embodied the breakthrough of Israeli-PLO mutual recognition, the process itself proved too flawed to deliver a workable settlement. The power imbalance in Israel’s favor was reinforced rather than offset by Washington’s continued pro-Israeli bias. The Oslo Accords permitted the establishment of the Palestinian Authority on several patches of the occupied West Bank and in Gaza, but Israeli colonization of Palestinian land actually accelerated, jeopardizing the “two-state solution” on which the whole process was premised. In 2000, seven years after the Oslo Accords, Israel kept full control of 60 percent of the West Bank and 20 percent of Gaza, controlled water rights, and continued to limit Palestinian freedom of movement within the occupied territories. The course of negotiations over the final status agreement suggested that Israel would offer the Palestinians limited self-rule over perhaps three-quarters of the West Bank and Gaza, scattered in “Bantustans” lacking territorial contiguity and surrounded by security roads, walls, and settlements. Moreover, Israel refused to surrender sovereignty over Arab East Jerusalem and expected the PLO to renounce the Palestinian diaspora’s rights of return or compensation as enshrined in UN resolutions. In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority seemed reduced to the role of enforcing Israeli security demands against its own people, thus relieving Israel of the costs of occupation. The US-brokered negotiations brought Syria and Israel to the brink of an agreement before Israel refused, at the last minute, the full withdrawal from the Golan that it had promised. The alAqsa intifada, starting in the autumn of 2000, marked the collapse of the peace process. Its failure drove an increasing wedge between the United States and the Arabs, who had been promised a peace settlement in reward for their support of the United States in the 1990–1991 Gulf War.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

The third pillar of Pax Americana, alliance with the Arab Gulf monarchies, was also fraying. Saudi Arabia had traditionally played a unique “swing” role in securing oil for the West and moderating oil prices at the behest of the United States, but Washington was dissatisfied with its dependence on Saudi Arabia. As global demand soared beyond Saudi production capabilities, Riyadh’s ability to fully play a swing role was called into question. The United States was also dissatisfied with the Saudis’ refusal to allow it to attack Iraq from bases in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia, feeling that the United States was ignoring its interests—notably failing to broker an Arab-Israeli peace— began looking for alternative security solutions to ease its total US dependence, namely by conciliating Iran and Iraq. After George W. Bush’s assumption of the US presidency, the participation of Saudi citizens in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and in funding al-Qaeda gave the pro-Israeli neoconservatives in his administration the opportunity to demonize the kingdom. The presence of the United States in the region, combined with its failed policies, also contributed to generating new threats. The Middle East was now the most Western-penetrated periphery region yet also the most ideologically resistant, since in Islam it had a credible counterhegemonic ideology (Gill 2003, 115; Halliday 2002). With nearly all states of the Middle East being clients of the hegemon, resistance to the United States took the form of transstate terrorism. Al-Qaeda’s September 11 attacks, waged in response to what it saw as an assault on Islam by a “ZionistCrusader alliance occupying Jerusalem and the land of the two holy mosques,” starkly exposed the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism from the Middle East. The United States also saw the potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region as a threat. Israel alone possessed nuclear weapons, but several rivals possessed biological or chemical weapons and Iran was believed to be trying to acquire a nuclear capability as a deterrent against Iraq and Israel. Efforts to limit and reduce weapons of mass destruction in the region faltered, for while the Arab states and Iran had acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel continued to refuse, with US support.

The Middle East Regional System


In parallel, the post–Cold War period saw the penetration of the MENA region by neoliberal globalization, which was seen by liberal analysts such as Etil Solingen (1998) as potentially spreading the West’s “zone of peace” to the region. Indeed, the rise inside MENA states of “internationalist coalitions” (exporters and bankers at the expense of statists such as the military), seeking integration into the global economy, led to moderation of nationalist ideology. Moreover, the post–Gulf War intrusion of the US hegemon into the region constrained the intrastate power struggle. However, as realism argues, only when threat declines does the pursuit of economic gain displace security atop state agendas. In the Middle East, however, the persistence of the Arab-Israeli and Gulf conflicts and the heightened US presence sustained insecurity and also the revisionist orientation of Iran and Syria, which formed a resistance axis against US hegemony. MENA remained outside the “zone of peace” (Norton 1991). The Iraq War, 2003

The failure of Pax Americana I set the stage for a more robust second attempt by the United States to impose its hegemony through the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003. The United States thus abandoned its historical role as “offshore balancer” and came directly into the region as an occupying power and dominant partisan player that was bound to be widely resented. The 2003 war on Iraq was the product of the hawkish coalition brought to power by the election of George W. Bush as US president, which included the Israeli-aligned neoconservatives and also the oil and arms men surrounding US vice president Dick Cheney and US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld. They saw September 11 as an opportunity to mobilize support for a war that they had long advocated would complete the unfinished business of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. The Bush administration claimed that Saddam was linked to al-Qaeda and was actively developing weapons of mass destruction, and hence represented an imminent threat to the United States, but these claims were widely discredited. The real reasons for the invasion were reflec-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

tive of the offensive realism or liberal imperialism of the ruling coalition’s leaders. The United States was determined to assert global hegemony, as frankly acknowledged by the so-called Project for a New American Century. Reshaping the Middle East was pivotal to the success of this project, for several reasons. First, one of the main pillars of US global hegemony was its protectorate over “world oil” in the Persian Gulf, while the main resistance to US world hegemony was also concentrated in the Muslim Middle East. US dependence on the import of oil was rising in an ever-tighter oil market with global production peaking, while demand, particularly from Asia, skyrocketed, making the United States potentially vulnerable to an oil shock—historically fatal for US presidents. At some point, Iraq began to be seen as a solution. It had the world’s second-largest reserves and very low production costs, but as long as Saddam Hussein was in power, these reserves could not be used for US benefit. Seizure of Iraq’s oil would give Washington a strategic lever for controlling the oil market, enhance US structural power over its economic competitors in Europe and Asia and its emerging global rival, China, and end dependence on Saudi Arabia as a swing producer. Invading Iraq would revive the collapsing US hegemony over the region; Iraqi defiance would be destroyed and Iran would be intimidated. An easy victory in Iraq followed by images of Iraqis welcoming US troops as liberators would demoralize Arab and Islamic opposition to US hegemony. Iraq would become an alternative site for US military bases to operate without constraint, which would intimidate remaining resistance from nationalist states like Syria and Iran and hence allow imposition of a pro-Israeli peace settlement. The imposition of a liberal order in Iraq would vanquish the region’s counterhegemonic ideologies (Chan 2005; Hinnebusch 2007b, 221–223). Failed Pax Americana II, 2000s

The United States was warned by Middle Eastern leaders and area experts that the war on Iraq would have unpredictable, disastrous consequences for the Middle East. President Mubarak feared it would “open the gates of hell.” They proved to be right, with the

The Middle East Regional System


actual consequences being largely the opposite of those intended. If the aim of regime change in Iraq was to create a state that would be a stable and legitimate US ally, the United States, through the dismantling of the Iraqi army, party, and bureaucracy, and imposition of a puppet government dominated by exiles and on a sectarian basis, created a failed state plagued by prolonged insurgency, verging on civil war, in which the main beneficiaries were pro-Iranian Shiite groups. The invasion resulted in the breakdown of security, infrastructure, and public health, and the deaths of perhaps 100,000 people, mostly civilians, in the first year of war and occupation, the halving of Iraqi GNP per capita compared to 2001, and the flooding of the country with foreign mercenaries and contractors. To cope with the anti-occupation insurgency, the United States used tactics pioneered by Israel in occupied Palestine (Karon 2003). It bombed and fired on densely populated urban areas, demolishing homes, collectively punishing villages, herding thousands into detention camps, and blockading food for suspected insurgent areas. The abuses revealed at Abu Ghraib, not to mention the “daily humiliations and occasional brutalities that come with the presence of an occupying army” (Danner 2003) also stimulated anti-American sentiment. The so-called federalist constitution broke up the Iraqi central authority and precipitated a regional struggle over oil resources. This created fertile ground for extremist Sunni Muslim insurgents, who tried to provoke civil war as a way of preventing consolidation of what they saw as a collaborationist Shiite sectarian regime. Though the Iraq War was meant to deter terrorists through “shock and awe,” it had the opposite effect, stimulating sub- and transstate resistance to US hegemony. As studies have demonstrated, the single most potent generator of “terrorism” is foreign occupation, and now, added to the occupation of Palestine was that of Afghanistan and Iraq, which according to former US Central Intelligence Agency antiterrorist expert Michael Scheuer (2004, xv) were “completing the radicalization of the Islamic world.” An unintended consequence of the Iraq War was to generate what its proponents called a “resistance” front and pro-Western Sunni leaders labeled a “Shiite axis” that renewed anti-Israeli and


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

anti-Western militancy in the Middle East. It included Shiite Iran, Shiite-controlled Iraq, and Hizbollah but also Sunni-majority Syria and the Hamas movement of Sunni-majority Palestine. In what was called a “new Arab cold war” (Valbjorn and Bank 2012), the resistance front sought to de-legitimize the Washington alignments of pro-Western Sunni states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The Iraq War was meant to strengthen those who accepted US hegemony but inadvertently empowered the axis that opposed it. The rise in oil prices accompanying the war gave Iran new buoyancy, and the new Shiite power in post-Saddam Iraq gave Tehran great influence in the country, enabling it to tie down US troops and reducing the threat that the United States might attack Iran over charges that it was pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. US pressure on Syria for its rejection of the Iraq War strengthened President Bashar al-Assad’s nationalist credentials and pushed Syria into the arms of Iran. By demonizing Syria, the United States gave it an incentive to support the anti-US insurgency in Iraq. US efforts to punish Syria for this and its role in Lebanon sparked off a struggle for Lebanon that precipitated the killing of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, which was then used by the West to force Syria out of Lebanon. This set the scenario for the Lebanon war of 2006 when Israel tried to destroy Hizbollah. This attempt failed and instead combined Western and Israeli pressures precipitated a Lebanese struggle for power in which pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian forces prevailed over factions aligned with the United States. In parallel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were caught between their US alignments and the wide opposition to US policy among their populations, especially during the Lebanon war and later over a similar Israeli assault on Gaza. Indeed, the balance of soft power—credibility in MENA public opinion—seemed to shift toward the resistance axis, with its leaders, Hassan Nasrallah of Hizbollah, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, and Bashar al-Assad of Syria, ranking as the most popular regional leaders in 2008. In Turkey, US policy had the effect of moving a longtime US ally to engage in soft balancing against the United States in Iraq, in alignment with Iran and Syria. Meanwhile, in Palestine, the peace process stalled. The United States demonized moderate PLO leader Yasser Arafat and gave

The Middle East Regional System


full backing to the coercive policies of the Ariel Sharon government, which sought systematically to destroy and discredit the Palestinian Authority while expanding illegal Israeli settlements that were likely to make a Palestinian state nonviable. The electoral victory of Hamas, which the United States then rejected, was the consequence of failing to deal with Palestinian moderates. The effective empowering of the rejectionists on both sides by Bush’s policy made a settlement of the conflict in Palestine all the more difficult. This eroded the credibility of the United States in the region, which depended at least in part on its promise to deliver peace and stability. The faltering in US hegemony over the region was accompanied by trends that started to shift the balance of power among external powers in the region. The war helped precipitate another oil boom, although the underlying cause was the tightening of the oil market due to vastly increasing Asian demand. This reoriented Middle East oil exports from the West to the East while, at the same time, Middle East investors and oil-exporting governments, wary of depositing their money in an increasingly Islamophobic United States, started investing their surplus capital in East Asia. Meanwhile in the United States, enormous fiscal deficits, partly from spending on Iraq, precipitated a backlash against US interventionism in the MENA region that, under the next president, Barack Obama, resulted in a pullback from Iraq and Afghanistan and a reluctance to embroil the United States in new MENA conflicts there, whether with Iran or in Syria. Washington was returning to a policy of offshore balancing. US hegemony nevertheless left an enduring mark on the region, not least in having contributed to the unleashing of a virulent new sectarianism.

The Age of Arab Uprisings, 2010– The Arab uprisings were a reaction to the former period of postpopulist mass exclusion inside regional states, but also reflected global trends that weakened post-populist regimes. Neoliberal globalization had reduced the ability of regimes to satisfy the welfare of mass publics (via structural adjustment), while also pro-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

moting a discourse of democracy and making available Internet technology that encouraged anti-regime political mobilization by middle-class youth. The period of US hegemony, in destroying the Iraqi state and encouraging sectarian opposition to Syria’s presence in Lebanon, had unleashed sectarian discourse across the Levant, which readily penetrated states much weakened in the uprisings. The Arab uprisings were initially manifested in a burst of popular mobilization that led to the overthrow of presidential monarchies, first in Tunisia, then in pivotal Egypt, followed by Libya and Yemen, with the initial beneficiaries being the formerly excluded Islamic movements. However, rather than democratization, the result was weakened hybrid regimes as governments lost their monopolies of violence in their territories and praetorian instability was unleashed by power struggles between weakened statist establishments, street protesters, and Islamic movements. Weakened states were much more vulnerable to external penetration, with domestic rival groups seeking protection or resources from outside powers against their opponents. The uprisings gave new impetus to the regional power struggle. Three regional powers, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, competed to shape the post–Arab Spring regional order and affect the internal struggle for power in the Arab republics that were experiencing uprisings. Egypt and Syria, formerly major actors, became the main prizes in the contest, but lesser prizes included the other states that were experiencing uprisings—Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain—with the latter a particular object of contention between the Sunni GCC and Shiite Iran. Iraq and Lebanon, where unconsolidated regimes ruled fragmented societies, were also highly vulnerable to external penetration and became objects of the power struggle. To a considerable extent, this struggle was a continuation of the pre-uprising contest between pro-Western regimes and the anti-Western “resistance” axis. To a great extent, the contest was played out in the transstate arena. The powerful transstate contagion effect of the Arab uprisings showed the continuing exceptional permeability of the Arab states by a pan-Arab/Islamic public sphere that had already been enhanced by Arab satellite television in the first decade of the

The Middle East Regional System


twenty-first century and was deepened by the subsequent spread of the Internet to the region. The uprisings reopened contests over identity rooted in substate, state (watani), and suprastate loyalties—to the Arab nation (qaumi) or the Islamic community (umma). If in the pan-Arab era Egypt’s Radio Cairo had dominated with an anti-imperialist, anti-oligarchic message, the panArab media were now disproportionately concentrated in the oligarchic, pro-Western GCC states and reflected their agenda, with Al Arabiya founded by Saudi and Al Jazeera by Qatari money. Transstate networks using the social media were dominated by the Western-educated middle classes and Arab expatriates, with Western foundations playing a role in bringing Arab cyber-activists together. Reflective of this media power was the most important change in transstate discourse: the shift away from the resistance-axis narrative. The demands of the anti-regime protesters were chiefly for democracy and freedom in their own states, rather than the traditional pan-Arab, anti-imperialist, or anti-Zionist concerns that had dominated the so-called new Arab cold war of the previous period. Moreover, Arab nationalism suffered from association with the repressive republics that the uprisings were targeting, notably the Syrian regime. While previously regimes and publics had agreed on sovereignty as a defense against Western imperialism, in the discourse wars over Libya and Syria a major portion of Arab opinion embraced the Western norm, “responsibility to protect,” legitimizing military intervention, although majorities had second thoughts after casualties soared in Libya (Telhami 2011b). Rebellion against secular state establishments initially empowered transstate Islamic movements. However, there were many variants of Islam, they were not uniformly empowered, and moreover their power was everywhere constrained by opponents. The Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots used the political vacuum created by regime weakening to translate its organized cohesion into post-uprising electoral victories in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco; however, when state establishments and Westernized youth combined against it in the overthrow of Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood’s limits were exposed. Conservative Salafis, often funded by GCC money, also took advantage


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

of the new environment. Both of these movements mostly sought to Islamize the individual states, but they were nevertheless linked by transstate networks, and their simultaneous rise toward the levers of power in several states potentially strengthened pan-Islamic sentiments; against this, deep state establishments defended state sovereignty. The explicitly pan-Islamic movements, such as al-Qaeda and its offshoots, whose anti-imperialist targeting of the Western “far enemy” had seemed so potent in the first decade of the twenty-first century, were initially weakened when al-Qaeda’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, denounced the principle of majority rule, defying the yearning of Muslim populations for democracy. However, al-Qaeda enjoyed new opportunities to establish a presence in the failing states of Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, where it and similar jihadist groups promoted a transstate Islamic identity, which, though hostile to the West, now concentrated on overthrow of secular or “heretical” (Shiite, Alawi) Arab regimes. The Islamic movement with the most credible anti-imperialist record, Hizbollah, was weakened by its support for the Assad regime, which made it vulnerable to accusations that it followed a Shiite sectarian, rather than an Arab nationalist, agenda. Anti-Shiite currents mobilized by Riyadh against Iran as part of their geopolitical struggle deepened the sectarian character of Islamic identity, empowering Sunni militants against Shiites. Syria and Iraq became the most violent battlegrounds of this conflict, with Sunni Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar promoting disparate Sunni Islamic tendencies against Shiite Iran and Hizbollah. As Raghida Dergham (2012) put it, “The smell of sectarian wars is becoming ever more redolent across the whole region,” increasing insecurity and defensive sectarian solidarity in Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iraq. More than three years into the Arab uprisings, the balance of power between the pro- and anti-Western regional axes had not been decisively transformed, but their cleavage had been reconfigured in Sunni-Shiite terms. Thus, Sunni Turkey, Qatar, and Hamas de-aligned from the Iran-led resistance axis, which lost its soft power but still survived, particularly as Iraq, with its Shiite leadership loosened from its US moorings and fearful of Sunni militancy, tilted toward Tehran (Salem 2011). In the key countries of the uprisings, Egypt and Syria, there was little alteration in for-

The Middle East Regional System


eign policy. Egypt remained heavily dependent on the United States and too internally split to recover its lost regional role, and Syria was torn by civil war, with the regime highly dependent on Iran and Russia for survival. Of the three rival contending powers, Iran—and hence the resistance axis itself—initially appeared the most weakened. Iran’s regime suffered from comparatively greater domestic vulnerabilities, having recently turned back the internal challenge of the Green uprising. Its economy was being constricted by international sanctions. Iran lost soft power from support for the Assad regime and from the limited attractiveness of the Iranian model, compared to Turkey, for the emergent Arab democracies. It suffered from the decline of Hizbollah’s regional standing, the break of Hamas from the resistance axis, and the siege of its most important ally, Syria’s Assad, by Western, Turkish, and Gulfbacked Sunni opponents. Tehran sought to create, via Iraq, a corridor linking it to Syria and the Lebanese coast, to allow it to supply Hizbollah and provide Assad with a buffer that could help his regime survive (Goodarzi 2011). To the pro-Western monarchies, the loss of Mubarak’s Egypt, state collapse in Yemen, and the potentially contagious Shiite uprising in Bahrain had appeared to offer so many opportunities for Iran. But the monarchies proved more resilient than the republics in dampening the domestic threat of the uprisings via a combination of repression, most obvious in Bahrain; political concession, most obvious in Morocco; and economic blandishments to citizens, most obvious in Saudi Arabia, where $97 billion worth of jobs and benefits were promised to citizens, the equivalent of $5,000 per head. The GCC was upgraded into a “Holy Alliance” to contain the democratic threat, with the richer monarchies transferring billions to the poorer ones (Morocco, Jordan, Oman, and Bahrain) and using petrodollars to promote Salafism across the region. For the Saudis, Yemen was a failed state situated on their soft underbelly, where al-Qaeda was finding space to operate, but they managed a controlled transfer of power in Sana’a that preserved their influence in the country. The GCC also took advantage of the vacuum left by the marginalization of the key Arab republics and its bloc vote in the Arab League to bid for pan-Arab leadership. It used the League to legitimize Western intervention


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

against Muammar Qaddafi, an old monarchic foe, and then against Syria, where Assad’s overthrow would break the resistance axis (Ulrichsen 2011). Turkey represented a third Islamic democratic-capitalist pole that under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) made a bid for regional hegemony. Its “zero-problems” policy of good relations and business deals with nondemocratic neighbors initially threatened its standing once the uprisings began; the crisis in Libya, with Ankara opposed to Western intervention there, angered the eventually triumphant opposition. But Turkey’s political system—a democracy that incorporated Islamic forces—was congruent with regional popular aspirations, as manifest by the hero’s welcome given to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on his visit to Egypt; and Turkey’s economic prowess potentially enabled it to build interdependences with regional states. However, the uprising in Syria, the showcase of Turkey’s zero-problems policy, where Turkey abandoned its alliance with the regime and supported insurgents, cost it economic opportunities, its anti-Kurdish alliance with Damascus, and good relations with Iran. As the Syrian conflict deepened into intractable civil war, Turkey looked impotent to control the turmoil on its own borders, much less bid for regional leadership. The 2013 overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, brought Turkey into collision with the new military-backed regime in Cairo. No regional hegemon seemed poised to lead reconstruction of a new Arab order. Global powers also found opportunities to intervene in the Arab uprising states, but none found it easy to promote their interests. The West seemed to win in Libya, where it backed forces overthrowing Qaddafi, but the result was a failed state and empowerment of jihadists in North Africa. The fall of Mubarak posed difficult dilemmas for the United States in Egypt. The West and Russia checkmated each other’s efforts in Syria. Three years into the uprisings, the Arab core of the regional system had never been so vulnerable, so penetrated, and so subject to the rivalries of outside powers seeking to take advantage of its weaknesses. Nor, however, had it ever been less amenable to external attempts to manage its turbulence.

Part 1 Pivotal Arab Powers

3 The Foreign Policy of Egypt Raymond Hinnebusch and Nael Shama

Egypt has been a proto-nation from the time of the pharaohs, who centralized rule in the Nile Valley. The Arab invasion of the seventh century led to the Arabization and Islamization of the population. Egypt’s centuries of subordination to foreign rule and the long independence struggle against Britain generated a powerful nationalism, which made defense of independence crucial to the legitimacy of ruling elites. Gamal Abdul Nasser harnessed this sentiment to consolidate his regime, challenge Western dominance, and make Egypt a regional great power. However, his successors, Anwar Sadat and Husni Mubarak, faced tightening constraints that forced them to put economic survival over nationalist ambitions in Egypt’s foreign policy. Foreign Policy Determinants Geopolitics

Egypt’s geopolitical position has shaped the foreign policies of successive rulers. Egypt occupies a strategic position as a land bridge between two continents and as a link between two principal waterways, the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. As the weightiest Arab state, positioned astride the eastern and west75


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

ern wings of the Arab-Islamic world, Egypt naturally seeks regional leadership. Yet Egypt’s position on the route of potential conquerors has also made it a target of external powers throughout history, and its survival depends on the waters of the Nile, making it vulnerable to powers on the river’s headwaters. As such, Egyptian rulers traditionally tried to project their power into the Sudan and into Syria and Arabia. For some six centuries, Cairo was the center of Islamic dynasties—the Fatimids, Ayyubids, and Mamluks—which carved out empires to the west and east and defended the Islamic world from Crusader and Mongol threats (Dawisha 1976, 2). Under the Ottoman Empire, Egypt became a province, but as Istanbul’s power waned, local dynasties reappeared. Muhammad Ali, a modernizing ruler, challenged the Ottomans for regional dominance and projected Egyptian power into the Arabian peninsula and Syria, precipitating a Western great power coalition against him. As Egypt gradually achieved independence in the twentieth century, it was drawn into competition for regional leadership. In the 1940s and early 1950s, Egypt sought to use the Arab League to mobilize regional pressure on the British to abandon their bases in Egypt (Seale 1965, 17–23). It also sought to check the ambitions of the pro-British Hashemites in the Mashreq. Egypt’s first republican president, Gamal Abdul Nasser, saw the country at the center of three “circles,” the African, the Arab, and the Islamic, with the Arab world being Egypt’s natural sphere of influence (Dawisha 1976, 78). Israel, situated on Egypt’s border and blocking its access to the Arab East, was perceived as a threat and obstacle to Egyptian ambitions. Under Nasser, Egypt was the Arab state with the strongest political and military capability to pursue hegemony in the Arab world and to assume its defense against Israel. Arab leadership bolstered Nasser’s stature at home and Egypt’s strategic weight in world affairs, allowing Nasser to play off and extract resources from both superpowers. But Egypt’s hegemony in the Arab world invited, as under Muhammad Ali, a reaction against it, with the West backing the anti-Cairo balancing by Nasser’s Arab rivals and the 1967 attack by Israel. This forced a major contraction in Egypt’s ambitions and, after Anwar Sadat’s separate 1979 peace

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


with Israel, its temporary isolation in the Arab world. Under Husni Mubarak, Egypt was able to break out of isolation, but other Arab powers had by then consolidated themselves, and Egypt was only one of several actors in a multipolar Arab arena, its role constrained by its treaty with Israel. But both Sadat and Mubarak continued to see Egyptian leadership in the Arab world as natural. Identity and Domestic Politics

Egypt arguably has a dual identity. Egypt’s long pre-Islamic heritage and its partially isolated Nile Valley–centered civilization have ensured it a distinct identity. In periods such as the British occupation, it developed separately from the Arab world, and a portion of the most Westernized upper class came to see Egypt as “Mediterranean” or “pharaonic.” Even the great nationalist leader Saad Zaghlul professed a distinctly Egyptian nationalism. Yet, for the vast majority of Egyptians, the content of Egyptian identity was Arab-Islamic. Egypt is the largest Arabic-speaking country and the intellectual and political center of the Arab world in modern times. It is also a center of Islamic civilization, with 90 percent of its population Muslim, and its popular culture is profoundly Islamic. As mass politicization advanced after the 1930s, the content of Egyptian identity became ever more Arab-Islamic, stimulated by the shared Arab struggle against Western imperialism and the Zionist colonization of Palestine, which Islamic movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, adopted as their cause in the 1930s (Gershoni and Jankowski 1995). As ArabIslamic sentiment was aroused, rival political leaders, notably King Farouq and Wafdist leader Mustafa al-Nahhas, adopted it to bolster their popular support. But it was Nasser who consolidated the Arab content of Egyptian identity. He was himself politicized as an army officer in the Palestine war, which taught him that the Arab states faced the same imperialist and Zionist enemies, whom they could only effectively confront together. As Nasser’s pan-Arab message evoked Arab enthusiasm, his regime made systematic attempts to propagate an Arab identity in Egypt through schools, the media,


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

and the single party (Dawisha 1976; Kerr 1971; Dekmejian 1971). Yet Egypt’s Arabism remained relatively shallow: kinship was acknowledged, and indeed Egypt saw itself as the leader of the Arab world, entitled to preeminence in proportion to the heavy burdens it bore in defense of the Arab cause. But few Egyptians had an emotional commitment to Arabism or to unity with other Arab states. The responsibilities that accompanied Arab leadership were accepted as long as the benefits exceeded the costs, but when the balance was reversed, the country tended to fall back on its own separate identity. Once Sadat’s separate peace with Israel brought him into conflict with other Arab leaders and the Palestinians, Sadat exploited Egyptians’ feeling that they had made enough sacrifices for the Arab cause in order to promote an Egypt-first identity. Under Mubarak, Egypt was willing to give lip service to Arab causes but not to embroil Egypt in their defense. Yet Mubarak’s increased complicity with Israel to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza in the late 2000 period, still helped de-legitimize his regime. Between Anti-Imperialism and Dependency

Egypt’s foreign policy was pulled in contrary directions by the ideals of anti-imperialist nonalignment and the webs of economic dependency in which the country was increasingly enmeshed. The long history of subordination to foreign rulers, especially under European imperialism, produced an intense anti-imperialism and a quest for independence and dignity. Yet as a poverty-stricken developing country suffering an imbalance between population and limited resources, especially land, and a nearly permanent balance-of-payments deficit, Egypt could not do without large amounts of aid from the advanced economies. Since the 1960s, Egypt had lost the capacity to feed itself and had come to depend on US food aid. Moreover, Egypt had a classic monocrop economy that was dependent on cotton exports to pay for the import of industrial products. The main geoeconomic constant for Egypt, its high level of dependency on external markets and resources, meant both potential constraints on its foreign policies and recurrent efforts to use foreign policy to access the resources that

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


would allow the country to continue to live above the level that could be sustained by purely domestic resources. Nasser, convinced that economic dependence was incompatible with foreign policy independence, tried to diversify Egypt’s economy and provide a basis of national power through import substitution industrialization. However, his ambitious effort to combine industrialization, a modest welfare state, and military power exacerbated the resource imbalance and created new dependencies on imported machinery and technology. This could not be sustained without drawing on major external resources; between 1952 and 1975, foreign aid financed over a third of imports and development investment. But Nasser minimized the potential constraints from such dependency thorough a policy of balancing between East and West, which secured aid from both sides. At Nasser’s death, Egypt’s debt was modest. Nevertheless, Egypt paid a mounting economic cost for Nasser’s foreign policies. The United States punished his antiimperialist stance by withdrawing food aid in the mid-1960s. US support for Israel after the June 1967 war made Egypt ever more dependent for military aid and protection on the Soviet Union, balanced by financial aid from the conservative Arab oil states. But the 1967 defeat cost Egypt $350 million annually from Suez Canal income, oil, and tourism, while the Arab oil states’ subsidies constituted only $250 million and military expenditures purportedly reached $25 billion from 1967 to 1975 (Dessouki 1991, 163, 178). From 1967 onward, Egypt labored under an intractable economic crisis, and part of Sadat’s motivation, when he realigned Egypt with the West, was to win economic relief. But the result of Sadat’s policies was a totally new order of economic dependency. After Egypt’s separate peace with Israel, Egypt was rewarded with $2 billion in yearly US aid, but most of it was spent reequipping the army with expensive US arms. Moreover, Sadat’s economic liberalization, notably its associated import booms and inflow of foreign resources, radically deepened Egypt’s debt and vulnerability to the demands of Western donors and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This sharply limited Egypt’s ability to pursue an independent and Arab-oriented foreign policy. By the late 1980s, Mubarak was facing the prospect


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

of default on Egypt’s debt, and so in 1990 he used the opportunity of the Gulf crisis to trade alignment with the West against Iraq for debt relief. The challenge of Egyptian foreign policy has been to preserve the country’s autonomy and security while also mobilizing economic resources for development. Egypt’s geopolitical centrality and weight in the Arab world have defined a natural strategy in which Egypt invests in Arab leadership that enables it to present itself as the bridge between the regional and international systems and thus extract geopolitical “rent,” while still protecting its autonomy and security. Nasser initially effectively accessed economic aid without sacrificing foreign policy autonomy. But after the 1967 war, the economy had to be sacrificed to the demands of defense. Thereafter, Sadat opted instead to sacrifice Nasser’s nationalist foreign policy in return for massive US economic subsidies and diplomatic assistance in the recovery of Egypt’s lost territory. Egypt now had to choose between autonomy and economic benefits, with its post-Nasser trading of foreign policy for economic resources tending to dissipate nationalist legitimacy both at home and in the Arab world. The uprising that overthrew Mubarak was a symptom of this, but the consequent economic turmoil only worsened Egypt’s economic dependency, ruling out any reversal of Mubarak’s pro-Western foreign policy. Foreign Policy Making State Formation

The 1952 coup against the traditional monarchy, led by Gamal Abdul Nasser’s group of nationalist-reformist “Free Officers,” gave birth to the contemporary republic. Nasser, the first true Egyptian to rule Egypt for centuries, forged the new state. He suppressed the rudiments of pluralism and created a presidentially dominated, militarily led authoritarian-bureaucratic regime with a single party and a subordinated parliament, press, and judiciary. Nasser’s charismatic leadership and social reforms—particularly land reform, welfare programs, and state employment—incorporated a populist alliance of the middle class, workers, and peas-

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


ants. But it was Nasser’s foreign policy successes—the nationalist victories over “imperialism,” notably the Czech arms deal and his survival of the Suez war, the wide acknowledgment of Nasser’s leadership across the Arab world, and his deft manipulation of Egypt’s Arab leadership to extract resources from both superpowers—that made Nasser’s personal rule unassailable. The autonomy of domestic constraints allowed him to conduct foreign policy in a way that exploited Egypt’s geopolitical advantages, but also to take the risks that led to the 1967 defeat that threw the regime into crisis. Although Anwar Sadat assumed power as Nasser’s vice president and was a veteran of the 1952 revolution, it was the legitimacy windfall he won as “Hero of the Crossing” in the 1973 war that positioned him to launch his “de-Nasserization” and to pursue new solutions to the regime’s main vulnerabilities, namely its economic crisis and alienation from the United States, the superpower whose support was needed to resolve the conflict with Israel. A major economic and diplomatic opening (infitah) to the West shifted the base of support of the state from Nasser’s populist coalition to the Egyptian bourgeoisie, whose investment was courted to revive the economy. The political system remained essentially authoritarian and Sadat retained Nasser’s dominance of foreign policy but, to appease the business and middle classes, conceded greater political pluralism in which parliament, opposition parties, interest groups, and the press acquired limited freedom to influence domestic policy. Resistance to Sadat’s foreign policy, which alienated Egypt from the Arab world, eventually led to mass arrests of regime opponents, precipitating his assassination. But the survival of most of his policies after his death suggests that, more successfully than Nasser, Sadat had partially institutionalized them—in an alliance with the dominant social forces and in a web of economic and diplomatic dependency that constrained significant change. Husni Mubarak, Sadat’s vice president and successor, maintained the authoritarian state and the major lines of Sadat’s policies. He did try to restore nationalist legitimacy by recovering Egypt’s role in Arab politics but, locked into the US alliance and the separate peace with Israel, had limited room to maneuver. In


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

the 1990s, the regime faced rising Islamist opposition, which it sought to defuse through accommodation with the conservative wing of the Islamic movement. However, rising Islamic violence, together with the regime’s gradual abandonment of the residues of populism under IMF pressures, forced ever-greater resort to repression. In the decade after 2000, the crony capitalists around the president’s son, Gamal, who came to dominate the government, steered Egypt into a yet deeper alignment with the West. How far can the uprising against Mubarak go toward making a difference for Egypt’s foreign policy? His fall opened the Egyptian political arena to increased contestation, and the state seemed to lose its immunity from public scrutiny of foreign policy. Rival politicians adopted popular anti-Israeli and anti-American rhetoric in the first post-Mubarak elections. But even the election of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi had no major effect on foreign policy, and the remnants of the state establishment, above all the military, showed great resilience in defending the foreign policy tangent inherited from Mubarak. The Foreign Policy Process

The great risks and opportunities inherent in Egypt’s foreign relations make it inevitable that foreign policy dominates the leader’s political agenda. Foreign policy performance can make or break the leadership. Nasser’s charisma was rooted in his nationalist victories over “imperialism,” while Egypt’s 1967 defeat by Israel resulted in the decline of his influence. Similarly, Sadat’s achievements in the October 1973 war gave him legitimacy, while his separate peace with Israel dissipated it. Egyptian presidents therefore sought to make foreign policy their exclusive prerogative, and the constitution of the authoritarian state accorded them appropriate powers. The president was supreme commander, declared war, concluded treaties, proposed and vetoed legislation, and could rule through decree under emergency powers that were regularly delegated by parliament. The president’s consultation over foreign policy with the top elite and with foreign policy professionals was a matter of his choice, and their influence depended on their personal relations with him (Dessouki 1991, 168–171; Hinnebusch 1985, 78–79).

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


Nasser, although initially consulting with his fellow Free Officer revolutionaries, alone took the crucial decision to nationalize the Suez Canal; the success of this venture so elevated him in stature above his colleagues that he soon ceased to seek consensus and became overbearing in cabinet discussions of policy (Dawisha 1976; Cremeans 1963). Sadat asserted a similar presidential prerogative, initially against left-wing Nasserites in the power elite who contested his unilateral initiatives toward Israel; their defeat and purge gave him a free hand to plan, with the military elite, the 1973 war (Korany 1986, 96–99). Once Sadat consolidated his legitimacy in that war, however, he deepened the tradition of presidential unilateralism in the postwar peace diplomacy with Israel brokered by the United States, ignoring or removing all those who contested his policy, including Mohammed Hassanein Heikel, Egypt’s premier press baron, and the professional military and diplomatic elites who questioned Sadat’s conduct of negotiations over the Sinai disengagement agreements with Israel. He made his momentous decision to go to Jerusalem without even bothering to create an elite consensus behind him; and three successive foreign ministers resigned in protest over his unilateral concessions in the peace negotiations with Israel. He also brushed aside attempts by a near unanimous parliament, remarkable in a body dominated by the government party, to restrain his march toward a separate peace with Israel, then dissolved this parliament and made sure elections for its successor eliminated all leading critics (Dessouki 1991; Yaari 1980; Heikel 1983). Although Husni Mubarak inherited the tradition of presidential dominance in foreign policy, he make his decisions in comparatively closer consultation with advisers, such as Usama alBaz and Butrus Ghali, and with his foreign ministers, Ismet Abd al-Majid and Amr Musa. The role of businessmen in policymaking increased after the rise of Gamal Mubarak in Egyptian politics; their lobbying crucially contributed to the conclusion of the agreement on Qualified Industrial Zones signed with the United States and Israel in December 2004. Mubarak’s sense of insecurity also gave the security apparatus higher leverage in policymaking: the continued rift with Iran was partially the result of the anxieties of Mubarak’s security aides about the possible connections between Iran and domestic Islamic groups.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

The Egyptian foreign policy bureaucracy was the most sophisticated and influential in the Arab world. Career diplomats were recruited chiefly through competitive examinations and trained at the Egyptian Diplomatic Institute. In 1982, Egypt had diplomatic relations with ninety-five foreign countries and more than a thousand foreign-service officers. The Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies acted as a think tank on foreign policy matters.

Foreign Policy Behavior Despite certain constants, Egyptian foreign policy underwent substantial evolution, shaped by the differing values and perceptions of the country’s presidents and the changing constraints and opportunities of its environment. Foreign Policy Under Nasser

The core of Nasser’s ideology and the very basis of his legitimacy was his insistence on real independence for Egypt. Nasser sought to end Egypt’s long political subordination to Western imperialism, to restore its Arab-Islamic identity after dilution by a century of Westernization, and to launch independent national economic development. He also aimed to substitute Egyptian hegemony for Western domination of the Arab states system. Hence his first major foreign policy initiative was to oppose the Baghdad Pact, under which the West sought to harness the Middle East to an anti-Soviet Western alliance. Nasser promoted Arab unity under Egyptian leadership on the grounds that when the Arabs were divided they were readily dominated, but that when they were united they could face up to outside threats (Stephens 1974; Cremeans 1963). The new stress on Arabism reflected an alteration in Egyptian identity, as the country began, even before Nasser’s revolution, to reclaim its Arab-Islamic identity amid the rise of popular Islam and the Palestine struggle. Part of Nasser’s calculations concerned the need to consolidate his position at home, where pow-

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


erful opponents such as the Muslim Brotherhood could be neutralized by playing the nationalist card. Yet Nasser’s Arab policy unfolded chiefly through interactions with threatening or stronger external powers, beginning with a perceived Israeli threat, which set in motion a chain of events that transformed Egypt’s policy. Israel’s 1955 attack on Egyptian positions in Gaza exposed the Egyptian army’s inability to confront Israeli military superiority. This precipitated the Czech arms deal, breaking the West’s embargo on arms supplies imposed in the absence of peace with Israel. This began an Egyptian realignment toward the Eastern bloc and was the first step in the generation of Nasser’s heroic stature in the Arab world. In alienating the United States, the arms deal led to the withdrawal of its financial support for the Aswan High Dam, which precipitated Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal in order to acquire the needed resources to build the dam. This unleashed the Suez invasion that cemented Nasser’s pan-Arab stature. It reinforced the perception of threat from Israel and the West, which Nasser sought to counter by the mobilization of alliances in the Arab East, drawing Egypt further into its drive for Arab leadership. Moreover, the surge of support across the Arab world unleashed by Egypt’s challenge to imperialism further sensitized Nasser to the possibilities of asserting regionwide leadership (Love 1969; Brown 1984, 162–167; Gerges 1994, 14–17). Nasser’s pan-Arab strategy varied in response to the challenges and opportunities he encountered in the Arab world. He first promoted a “unity of ranks,” seeking to draw the Arab states into alignment with Egypt’s rejection of Western security pacts. His pan-Arabism did not envision a Baathist-style challenge to independent statehood, and he only accepted the 1958 union with Syria in the United Arab Republic (UAR) as the price of maintaining his mass pan-Arab constituency. Thereafter, however, Egyptian ambitions to extend the UAR to other states appear to have been whetted, and Egypt supported pan-Arab movements that threatened the sovereignty of Jordan and Lebanon. When the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in 1958, an unexpected opportunity to realize a more ambitious Arab concert under Cairo’s leadership appeared to present itself.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

The first major check to the pan-Arab wave was the failure of revolutionary Iraq to defer to Egypt or join the UAR. This weakened the momentum that pan-Arabism had built up and threatened Nasser’s leadership; but ironically, his attempt to isolate Iraq’s revolutionary leader, Abd al-Karim Qasim, required détente with the conservative Arab states and hence respect for their sovereignty. Egypt reverted to its previous, more pragmatic goal of Arab solidarity (Dawisha 1976, 30–32). The breakup of the UAR reversed this new pragmatism; since the “reactionaries” who were blamed for it were inevitably the enemies of Arab nationalism, Arab unity required that social revolution remove Western client elites and therefore that Egypt seek to export its revolution. The first opportunity came with the 1962 Yemeni revolution, which Egypt backed. Then, the 1963 Baathist coups in Iraq and Syria, which brought ostensibly pan-Arab movements to power, ushered in the “tripartite unity negotiations” with Egypt for a new three-state Arab federation that could have transformed the region. However, Nasser’s distrust of the Baathists, whom he suspected of complicity in the breakup of the UAR, and their determination not to be swept into a new form of Egyptian domination, aborted the negotiations. The next alteration in policy, a swing back to mere “Arab solidarity,” was precipitated by this failure of revolutionary unionism, the mounting economic burdens of the Yemen intervention, and the challenge from Israel’s 1964 diversion of the headwaters of the Jordan River. The return to “unity of ranks” was manifest in Nasser’s sponsorship of several Arab summit meetings with the aim of deflecting demands by his radical rivals, notably the Syrian Baathists, that he shoulder responsibility for confronting Israel. Nasser also sought to use summitry to reach an agreement with Saudi Arabia, whose backing of the Yemeni royalists had prevented the consolidation of the republican regime and entangled Egypt in an ever more costly civil war. Yemen had been a testing ground, as Malcolm Kerr (1971) put it, between the forces of revolution and conservatism, and the contest had stalemated. However, the failure to reach an agreement precipitated Egypt’s return to ideological cold war with the conservative regimes (Dawisha 1976; Stephens 1974).

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


If Nasser’s pan-Arabism initially enhanced Egypt’s power and autonomy, it soon became a constraint. Once Nasser had mobilized a pan-Arab constituency, he was henceforth bound to live up to the role of Arab hero, and this led him into a deepening struggle with the West and Israel. As the Palestinians and nationalist opinion in general were radicalized in the 1960s, the credibility of his leadership rested on championing the Palestine cause and challenging Israel. Although Nasser sought to evade these pressures, they eventually led him into the brinkmanship that unleashed the disastrous June 1967 war in which Israel occupied Egypt’s Sinai peninsula (see Chapter 2). The rapid collapse of the Egyptian army in the war showed how far Nasser’s foreign policy ambitions had exceeded his capabilities. Henceforth, pan-Arab ideology would have to be subordinated to the realist policies that could permit the recovery of Egyptian territory (Kerr 1971; Stephens 1974). Nasser’s new realism was first evident in his return to a stress on all-Arab solidarity against Israel, burying the Arab cold war in return for financial aid from the conservative states that was needed to rebuild Egypt’s military capability. His 1970 acceptance of the US-initiated Rogers proposals signaled Egypt’s readiness for a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict; this meant the acceptance of Israel and acknowledged the role of the United States as a dominant power broker in the Middle East. But, convinced that diplomacy alone would never recover the Sinai, and skeptical of US intentions, Nasser launched a major overhaul and expansion of the armed forces. Then, in the War of Attrition (1968–1970), he contested Israel’s hold on the Sinai, and although he was forced to accept a cease-fire in 1970—the year he died— this left Egypt in a far better military position to challenge Israel’s hold on the Sinai. Foreign Policy Under Sadat

Sadat came to power ready for a resolution of the crisis of Israeli occupation, even for a partial deal, through US-sponsored diplomacy. Fear that the Soviet Union would not supply the offensive weapons needed for military recovery of the Sinai, and fear that the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

United States would keep Israel strong enough to repulse an attempted recovery as long as Egypt remained aligned to the Soviet Union, convinced Sadat and a growing portion of the Egyptian political elite that Egypt would have to come to terms with Washington, even if this required abandoning Nasser’s Arab nationalist policy (Heikel 1975a, 1975b; Stephens 1974; Brown 1984). Sadat’s expulsion of the Soviet advisers in 1972 was in part an effort to court favor with the United States. He also struck a close alliance with the conservative Arab oil states, headed by Saudi Arabia, whose influence in Washington, money, and potential to use the oil weapon were crucial elements in building Egyptian leverage over Israel. The Saudis, for their part, sought to use oil aid to pry Egypt out of its dependency on the Soviet Union. However, once it became clear that Egypt’s interests would be ignored until Egyptians showed they could fight and upset a status quo that was comfortable to Israel and the United States, Sadat turned to the war option. He prepared for war by building solid bridges to the Arab world, in particular Saudi Arabia and Syria, whose military power was crucial to the two-front war needed to confront Israel. He opted for a strictly limited war to establish a bridgehead on the east bank of the Suez Canal as a way of breaking the Israeli grip on the Sinai. Such a limited war, he reasoned, would rally the Arab world around Egypt, bring the oil weapon into play, challenge Israel’s reliance on security through territorial expansion, and, above all, pave the way for a US diplomatic intervention that would force Israel to accept a peaceful settlement (Heikel 1975a, 1975b; Sadat 1978; Riad 1982). The October 1973 war did upset the status quo and ended with Egyptian forces in the Sinai. But since Israeli forces had penetrated to the west bank of the Suez Canal, Sadat badly needed and accepted a US-sponsored disengagement of forces. The Sinai I agreement removed the Israelis from the west bank but, in defusing the war crisis, also reduced Arab leverage in bargaining for an overall Israeli withdrawal. In subsequently allowing his relations with the Soviet Union and Syria to deteriorate—and hence the viability of the war option—Sadat became so dependent on US diplomacy that he had little choice but to accept a second partial and separate agreement, Sinai II. Egypt recovered further terri-

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


tory, which included economically important oil wells, and was able to reopen the Suez Canal, but was allowed a mere token military force in Sinai. This so undermined Arab leverage over Israel (from the threat of a possible new war) that negotiations for a comprehensive peace stalled. At the same time, Sadat was under escalating international and domestic economic pressures. On the one hand, Western donors and economic institutions were using Egypt’s dependency to pressure it into economic reforms, including the removal of the food subsidies on which the mass public depended. When Egypt removed the subsidies, the 1977 food riots shook the regime. Sadat seemed to see further movement in the peace process as the solution to his problems at home. But Israel was refusing withdrawal on the Syrian and West Bank fronts, and Sadat had no way of restarting the negotiations except to offer further concessions that would entice Israel to reciprocate. He decided on “shock diplomacy”—his dramatic trip to Jerusalem—which he hoped would win global and especially US support and undermine Israeli hard-liners. He must also have calculated that the Israelis, even should they continue to refuse a comprehensive peace that included Syria and the Palestinians, might be brought to relinquish the Sinai in return for a separate peace that would take Egypt out the Arab-Israeli power balance. Egypt would also become eligible for a “new Marshall Plan” to rescue its economy, which, not receiving enough Arab aid and investment to overcome its troubles, remained in chronic crisis. Simultaneously, Sadat gradually abandoned Nasser’s policies of balancing between the superpowers. Wanting US diplomatic help and economic largesse, he started portraying Egypt as a bulwark against Soviet penetration of the Middle East. When the Soviets refused to reschedule Egypt’s debt, Sadat suspended repayments in 1978. As the Soviet share of Egyptian exports fell from 50 percent to 10 percent, Egypt’s once dense economic ties to the East were finally snapped. Under these conditions, SovietEgyptian relations turned hostile and diplomatic relations were broken in 1980 (Dessouki 1991, 166, 171–175). Particularly after the fall of the Shah of Iran, Sadat openly sought to assume the role of guardian of US interests in the area.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Joint military maneuvers were held, US forces were granted access to Egyptian facilities, and Egyptian troops were deployed to prop up conservative pro-Western regimes, such as the government of Zaire. The Egypt that had led the fight to expel Western influence from the Arab world now welcomed it back. Sadat, believing that Washington’s support for Israel derived from Israel’s role in protecting US interests in the area, apparently reasoned that if he could arrogate that role to himself, Egypt would become eligible for the same aid and support, and the importance of Israel to Washington would decline (Telhami 1990, 12–14). However, he discovered that serving US strategic interests did not necessarily change US policy toward the Middle East, which was affected at least as much by the Zionist lobby. And once Egypt could no longer credibly threaten to tilt toward the Soviet Union, US leaders would be unlikely to antagonize Israel for the sake of Egypt. Hence Sadat could only obtain the separate settlement Israel wanted, not the comprehensive settlement acceptable to the wider Arab world. At the Camp David meeting with US president Jimmy Carter and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, and in the subsequent negotiations over a peace treaty, Sadat found out just how much his new diplomatic currency would purchase: a return of Sinai and, at most, a relaxation of Israeli control over the West Bank—“autonomy”—but no Palestinian state. By 1979, Egypt was finally at peace and US aid was flowing in. But since the separate peace removed any remaining incentive for Israel to settle on the other Arab fronts, Egypt was ostracized from the Arab world, forfeiting its leadership and the Arab aid to which this had entitled the country (Baker 1978; Fahmi 1983; Heikel 1983). Foreign Policy Under Mubarak Mubarak’s Arab policy in his first decade. Husni Mubarak’s

main initial foreign policy challenge was to resolve the contradiction between the standards of nationalist legitimacy established under Nasser and the combination of close US and Israeli connections and isolation from the Arab world brought on by Sadat’s policies. It took him nearly a decade, but Mubarak’s

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


astute diplomacy and the mistakes of his rivals allowed him to achieve a gradual reintegration of Egypt into the Arab world without prejudice to Cairo’s US and Israeli links. First, the 1983 quarrel between Syria and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat enabled Egypt to extend him protection and assume patronage of the Palestinian cause. Then, the Arab oil states, fearful of Iran after the Islamic revolution and of the spread of Islamic radicalism, looked to Egypt for a counterbalance to it, especially after Iran’s army began to advance in the Iran-Iraq War. Egypt’s claim to be indispensable to the Arabs was acknowledged by its 1989 readmission to the Arab League. Another breakthrough was Egypt’s 1989 formation, with Iraq, Yemen, and Jordan, of the Arab Cooperation Council, a new “moderate” bloc of nonoil states that seemed poised to become the center of gravity in inter-Arab politics—until Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait destroyed it. In contrast to Nasser’s Egypt, which claimed leadership in championing Arab revolution and independence from the West, Mubarak’s Egypt promoted itself as moderator and stabilizer of the Arab world. Mubarak worked, in this capacity, to establish good relations with all Arab regimes. Relations were quickly restored with the conservative Arab oil states, above all Saudi Arabia, which had been the key Egyptian alliance before Camp David. The Arab states were keen for an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict; Egypt therefore presented its US alliance as a conduit for securing US pressure on Israel for a settlement and, as the only Arab country having relations with Israel, as an indispensable facilitator of negotiations. However, throughout the 1980s, Israel’s ruling Likud party had little interest in furthering the peace process. Moreover, Israel’s heightened military activism exposed the hollowness of Egypt’s pretension to defend Arab security. Egypt remained passive in the face of Israel’s 1981 bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor and of its 1985 attack on the PLO’s Tunis headquarters. Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon was only possible because of the neutralization of Israel’s southern front under Egypt’s separate peace. The Egyptian-US alliance in Mubarak’s first decade. Since

Sadat, Egypt’s strategic alliance with the United States had been


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

its main bridge to the international system and its main route of access to external resources. In return for US economic subsidization, military aid, and security coordination, Egypt gave Washington a key door into the Arab world. It acted as a force for stability against anti-Western radicalism and played a pivotal role in getting the Arabs to accept Israel. Mubarak sustained this policy. Yet the US relationship had costs for his regime throughout the 1980s, owing to Washington’s strong support for Israel at a time when Tel Aviv was widely seen in Egypt as having “betrayed” the peace settlement by its attempt to keep the Sinai enclave of Taba and its resistance to Palestinian national rights. Economic dependency on the United States was also resented, and the forced landing of an Egyptian airliner by the United States after the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship was taken as a national insult and set off the first nationalist street disturbances in years. Sensitive to the asymmetrical character of the US alignment, Mubarak worked to diversify Egypt’s international connections (Dessouki 1991, 167). Egypt sought pressure from Western European governments on Israel, but they were no substitute for Washington. Amicable but low-key relations were reestablished with Moscow, but the Soviets were in no position to offer economic aid or diplomatic leverage over Israel and hence to present a credible threat to US influence. Egypt had little choice but to carry on with Sadat’s attempt to make itself indispensable to US interests in the Middle East. Sadat had served Washington by defusing the threat of another Arab-Israeli war in the absence of a peace settlement and by helping to roll back Soviet and radical influence in the Arab world. After the demise of the Soviet Union, Mubarak repositioned Egypt as a bulwark against the new enemy of the United States, Islamic terrorism. Precisely because Egypt was such a valued client, it enjoyed some counter-leverage over Washington, which could not afford to alienate it or abandon it to an Islamic takeover that would threaten the peace with Israel and US influence across the region. As such, Mubarak could count on continued economic largesse even while recovering some foreign policy independence; thus he rejected pressure from the Reagan administration for joint

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


“antiterrorist” action against Libya (1985), and for a permanent military base at Ras Banas. In the 1990s, he contested America’s exemption of Israel from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, although ultimately succumbing to US pressure to sign up without a similar Israeli commitment; he also rejected Washington’s entreaties to attend the multilateral economic conference in Doha in protest against the Netanyahu government’s obstruction of the Oslo Accords. Egypt belonged to the category of client states that retained a substantial degree of independence and maneuverability in the conduct of foreign policy (Shoemaker and Spanier 1984). Egypt in the Gulf War, 1990–1991. Cairo’s Gulf War policy was

rooted in Egypt’s tradition of bartering its political-strategic position in the Arab world for economic benefits. Mubarak’s strategy of positioning Cairo as a broker in the Arab-Israeli peace process was threatened by Saddam Hussein’s bid, at the 1990 Baghdad summit, to force a new era of confrontation with the United States over its support for Israel and the seeming exhaustion of the peace process in the face of the obdurate Likud government. In essence, Baghdad was bidding to displace Cairo as the hub of a new, more muscular Arab diplomacy resting on threats rather than the USsponsored peace process. Economics was also determinant in a very immediate sense, for Egypt was on the brink of economic collapse, unable to make payments on its debt, and in danger of becoming a financial pariah. The 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the indispensability to the West and the Gulf oil monarchies that would entitle Egypt to economic aid. Mubarak short-circuited Arab diplomacy—an attempted “Arab solution” to the invasion—in favor of US military intervention and sent Egyptian troops to the battlefield to give the United States “legitimizing cover.” This not only pleased his US patron but also permitted the full restoration of the EgyptianSaudi alliance, which had not until then fully recovered from Camp David. In fact, Egypt won massive, globally unprecedented debt relief and a promise of more aid as a result of its anti-Iraq role in the conflict (Abdulla 1991; Haseeb and Rouchdy 1991; Hetata 1991; Brumberg 1997).


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

The Mubarak regime, in placing Egypt so overtly in the service of a foreign power (the United States) that was attacking an Arab state (Iraq), risked its domestic legitimacy. Although Egyptians initially viewed Saddam Hussein with suspicion, many turned hostile to Cairo’s policy as Mubarak came to be seen as an accomplice in the US destruction of Iraq, and as the suspicion grew that the US aim in the Gulf War was to dominate the Middle East. That such sympathy should be felt for a rival state, and that the nationalist opposition could condemn an attack on Iraq in which Egyptian troops took part, was a symptom of how little Egyptian identity could be separated from Arab-Islamic identity (Haseeb and Rouchdy 1991). In the aftermath of the war, Egypt, together with Syria, proposed, in the so-called Damascus Declaration, to permanently station troops in the Gulf to provide security for the oil monarchies. Promoted as a scheme to revive pan-Arab security, with Egypt back in a central role, it was expected that the Gulf states would provide Egypt with substantial economic assistance for its services. However, putting little faith in Arabism, the Arab Gulf instead signed up to Western security pacts, bypassing Egypt’s regional role. Because the 1990s were a period of US hegemony in the Middle East, when all states were bandwagoning with the United States, including “radical” Syria and the PLO, and the peace process was robust, with Jordan and Israel signing a peace treaty, Egypt’s Israeli and US relations were no longer the legitimacy liability they had initially been. Egypt was able to claim that Sadat had been correct that his peace with Israel was only the first and crucial step in a resolution of the whole Arab-Israeli conflict. While there was the risk that, as the peace process advanced, Egypt would lose some of its value as an Arab-Israeli interlocutor, especially with the onset of direct Israel-PLO negotiations, in fact the negotiations frequently encountered roadblocks and Cairo found continued opportunity to play a mediating role valued by Washington, the PLO, and the Arab states. Mubarak’s good offices also helped resolve a 1998 showdown between Turkey and Syria. During this period the main threat was violent domestic insurgency by Islamist radicals; besieged at

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


home, Egypt promoted itself internationally as a bulwark against Islamist terrorism. Egypt in the 2003 Iraq War and the “new Arab cold war.”

Toward the end of the 1990s, Cairo distanced itself from the increasingly unpopular US-led sanctions on Iraq, and did not welcome the 2003 US invasion of the country. But aside from a warning that the war would “produce 100 new bin Ladens,” Cairo did not actively oppose it. Nor did Egypt, to avoid straining its relationship with the United States, which Cairo believed could not be stopped from carrying out its war plans, respond to European and Turkish diplomatic efforts to abort the war. US forces passed through the Suez Canal on their way to invade Iraq. Mubarak’s verbal disapproval of the war and tolerance of antiwar demonstrations in Cairo were meant to calm a domestic opposition that was united, from left to right, against the war. If the Gulf War of 1990–1991 highlighted Egypt’s centrality to Western policy in the Arab world, the Iraq War revealed the diminishing of that role. The United States could pursue its plans in the region in the absence of an active Egyptian role. Nevertheless, after the war, Egypt acknowledged US influence in Iraq, warned of the consequences of a “premature withdrawal,” and supported Washington’s postwar political plans for that country. In the aftermath of the Iraq War, the Middle East was sharply divided between a pro-Western camp, which included Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the “resistance” axis of Iran, Syria, Hizbollah, and Hamas. Their discourse wars were reminiscent of the socalled Arab cold war of the 1950s and 1960s, except that Cairo was now a proxy for, rather than bulwark against, Western power in the region. In this capacity, Egypt backed the “moderate” Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas against radical Hamas, sided with the pro-Western government of Fouad Siniora against Hizbollah, and joined the US-led effort to isolate Iran. The polarization of the Arab world was most evident during the Israeli war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006. For the first time in the history of Arab-Israeli military confrontations, Arab countries overtly criticized the Arab party. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan accused Hizbollah of undertaking a series of “adven-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

tures” that threatened the national security of the Arabs, an implicit claim that Hizbollah’s abduction of two Israeli soldiers had triggered the massive Israeli attack on Lebanon. The rise of the Shiite party in regional politics reflected in part the rise in Iranian power; hence, any Israeli effort to downsize it was tacitly welcomed in Cairo. However, the public acclaim won by Hizbollah for its ability to stand up to the Israelis and the outrage over the massive damage inflicted on Lebanon forced the Egyptian regime to denounce Israel. Cairo’s outright hostility to the resistance camp had a number of implications for Egypt’s foreign policy. First, it cost Egypt much of its influence in inter-Arab politics. Indicative of this was its limited involvement, and influence over, the region’s crises, whether in Iraq or Sudan. By contrast, it was the mediation of Qatar, which had avoided taking sides between the rival pro- and anti-Western factions in Lebanon, that was able to broker a solution to the Lebanese crisis of 2008. Second, Cairo’s hostility to the resistance camp brought Egypt’s political stance on several occasions closer to that of the Israelis than to that of the Arabs. This was evident during the Israeli offense against Hizbollah in 2006 and against Hamas in Gaza in 2008–2009. Egypt’s policy toward Gaza came to embody how the Mubarak regime’s obsession with internal security and its growing deference to the United States debilitated Egypt’s regional stature. Gaza was seen to pose a threat to Egypt’s security. The terrorist bombings in Sinai resorts in 2004 and 2005 came, purportedly, as a result of collaboration between Egyptian and Palestinian Islamic militants. The success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian parliamentary elections (November–December 2005), coinciding with the electoral victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections (January 2006) and followed by Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in June 2007, aroused fears among Egypt’s ruling elite of a resurgence of militant Islamism in regional politics. The influx of hundreds of thousands of Gazans into Sinai in January 2008, after Hamas, contesting the Israeli blockade of Gaza (with which Egypt was tacitly complicit), breached the border, also alarmed Cairo. Finally, the issue of Sinai-Gaza tunnels used in smuggling weapons and merchandise became a point of friction with Tel

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


Aviv and Washington, which accused Egypt of not doing enough to shut them down. Active Israeli lobbying in Washington resulted in the US Congress attempting to freeze $200 million of aid in 2007, a reminder of Israel’s ability to harm Egypt’s strategic ties with the United States whenever Egypt’s attitude was deemed unsatisfactory. It was this that led Cairo into active collaboration with Israel’s attempt to isolate Gaza and to its tacit anti-Hamas stand during the 2009 Israeli attack on Gaza. By keeping the Rafah Crossing closed against the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the besieged and poverty-stricken Gazan territory, Egypt was perceived, by both Egyptians and Arabs in the wider region, to be an accomplice in Israeli war crimes against Palestinians. This became one of many issues de-legitimizing the Mubarak regime at home and shrinking its role in the region. The post–September 11 crisis in Egypt-US relations. Relations

between Egypt and the United States faced their most serious test in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks. Influenced by the ideological beliefs of neoconservatives, the administration of George W. Bush embraced the notion that terrorism was the product of authoritarianism in the Middle East, and hence democratization of the region was deemed the panacea to neutralize anti-US sentiment. Egypt and Saudi Arabia—the closest allies of the United States in the Arab world—found themselves “almost overnight . . . accused of fostering terrorism by denying their citizens democracy and wealth-generating free market policies” (Ottaway 2007, 46). US pressure on Egypt involved official democratization programs and criticism by US officials and the press of the Egyptian government’s stance toward political reform and human rights. To defend against these pressures, Mubarak introduced limited reforms, such as establishing national councils for human rights and for women, tolerating greater media freedom, abolishing the notorious state security courts, and allowing competitive presidential elections (while making sure he would win them). To disarm the pro-Israeli neoconservatives, Mubarak sought rapprochement with Israel, and since progress on the political front was not feasible, owing to President Bush’s neglect of the peace


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

process, Egypt entered into major economic agreements to export gas to Israel and to establish qualified industrial zones with Israel and the United States. These were the most significant developments in Egyptian-Israeli bilateral relations since Camp David. Eventually, the failure of the United States to stabilize post-invasion Iraq and the electoral gains made by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and by Hamas in Palestine alarmed Washington and gave US Arab allies relief from its democratization pressures. In short, the events of September 11 injected tension into Egypt-US relations, and US failure in Iraq relieved that tension. That Egypt-US relations had survived multiple crises since their inception thirty years prior was proof of their strength, but relations remained vulnerable as long as Egypt’s goodwill was measured in Washington by Cairo’s attitude toward Israel. Under these conditions the Egyptian regime was torn between the strategic considerations that attached it to the United States and domestic opposition to the Egypt-US alliance. Post-Mubarak Egypt

While there were high expectations among Egyptians that the overthrow of Mubarak would make Egyptian policymakers accountable to public opinion and lead to major change in foreign policy, there were powerful restraints on such a foreign policy restructuring. In the transition period of democratization after Mubarak’s departure, public pressures to make Egypt’s relationship with the United States less asymmetric and less conditional on serving Israel’s interests required all political contenders to rhetorically eschew Mubarak’s perceived submissiveness to Washington and Israel. However, Egypt’s rival politicians were caught between the sentiments of their constituents and inherited dependencies on the United States, which could cut off the arms and funds that sustained the bloated military and withhold approval of IMF loans needed to overcome the economic crisis precipitated by the anti-Mubarak uprising. Public opinion and Egypt’s Arab role conception both generated pressures to reverse the normalization

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


of relations with Israel that had deepened under Mubarak, yet aid from Washington was contingent on sustaining these relations. Without an end to Egypt’s US dependency, it could not revive its leadership role in the Arab world. Egypt’s aspirations for restored pan-Arab leadership were also constrained by its much reduced material standing in the inter-Arab balance of power compared to the time of Nasser, when Egypt was the natural hegemon. Egypt as a foreign policy actor was also debilitated by the three-cornered post-Mubarak internal struggle for power among the revolutionary youth (in coalition with, notably, leftists, Copts, and secularists), the Islamists, and the military (together with the remnants of the old regime), each of which had different foreign policy preferences. This struggle induced omni-balancing, with the rival factions, who each saw the main security threat as coming from each other, seeking external support. Moreover, Egypt’s post-Mubarak political process was penetrated by rival external actors, notably via financial flows: the United States funded the liberals and the military, Qatar the Muslim Brotherhood, and Saudi Arabia the Salafis, giving all of them leverage over Egypt’s foreign policy. While little changed in Egypt’s foreign policy during the first period of transition under the military (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces), excepting an explosion in anti-Israel and anti-US rhetoric, Egypt’s first post-revolutionary president, Mohamed Morsi, who enjoyed electoral legitimacy and whose Muslim Brotherhood constituency was the chief opposition to Mubarak, might have been expected to initiate major foreign policy change. In his post-election visit to Washington, Morsi suggested that Egypt’s continued peace with Israel was conditional on whether the United States would “live up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule” (Kirkpatrick and Erlanger 2012). Yet the need to avoid US animosity, the insistence of the military on the foreign policy status quo, and the realities of the balance of power with Israel dictated that Morsi refrain from tampering with the peace treaty with Israel. Moreover, he was caught between the revisionist expectations of his rank-and-file followers and his need


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

of US and IMF support to empower his liberal economic strategy and power an economic recovery needed to satisfy the electorate. Morsi did visit an array of countries, including China, seeking economic assistance and diversification of Egypt’s economic dependencies. Turkey, ruled by a kindred Islamist party, provided loans and rhetorical support to Egypt. Morsi dramatically strengthened Egypt’s political and economic relations with Qatar, whose ambition to maximize its influence coincided with Egypt’s dire need of financial assistance. He sought to appease the hostile Saudis by assuring them that he would not seek to export Egypt’s revolution. Morsi jettisoned Mubarak’s hostility to Iran and visited Tehran to attend the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Cairo, and Egypt’s ban on Iranian tourists was lifted. However, both the security apparatus and conservative Salafi groups that rejected the resumption of ties with Tehran on security and religious grounds, respectively, blocked the restoration of full diplomatic relations. Moreover, closer ties with Iran would jeopardize needed economic assistance from the Gulf states. Morsi’s one outstanding initiative in Arab politics, his proposal to include Iran in a regional grouping of states to mediate the Syrian civil war, was rejected by Saudi Arabia and came to nothing. Mubarak’s complicity in Israel’s blockade of Gaza had been a major cause of his legitimacy deficit; post-Mubarak governments, especially the first elected one dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, initially sought to reverse this. Unlike Mubarak, who was deeply suspicious of the motives of Hamas, Morsi was sympathetic and accommodating, notably supplying fuel to Gaza. But, constrained by the military-security establishment, for which Islamist radicals in Sinai and Hamas were deemed a threat and which was keen to avoid responsibility for Gaza and renewed conflict with Israel, he was not able to materially adjust the security procedures at the Rafah Crossing. The Egyptian military targeted Sinai smuggling tunnels even more than under Mubarak (and after it deposed Morsi, it further tightened the siege on Gaza). During Israel’s November 2012 attack on Hamas, Morsi sent his prime minister to Gaza, recalled the Egyptian ambassador from Israel, met with Hamas leaders, and organized anti-Israeli

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


demonstrations. Yet he offered little material support and, rather, assumed a Mubarak-like role of brokering a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, winning praise in both Washington and Tel Aviv. Morsi was too hemmed in by inherited external constraints, and his power too unconsolidated, for him to steer any substantive change in Egypt’s foreign policy. Yet even the changes he made at the margins were used against him by opponents. His attempt to ease the siege of Gaza was depicted as empowering Islamic militants contesting Egyptian sovereignty in Sinai. His encouragement of anti-Assad militants was portrayed as “trying to turn Egypt into another Syria” and was one of the triggers for his ousting by the military in 2013. Morsi’s fall marked a certain restoration of “Mubarakism without Mubarak” in Egypt’s foreign policy. The military-led regime assumed a stance against Islamism at home and abroad, in the name of a “war on terror,” with the outlawing of the Muslim Brotherhood accompanied by drives against Islamists in Sinai and renewed complicity with Israel against Hamas. Egypt-first discourse became pervasive. Economic dependency on Saudi Arabia deepened. Egypt’s relations with the United States were strained by the coup against Morsi, but Washington could not afford to abandon its investment in Egypt, and Israel keenly welcomed the new military rulers. The initial revisionist impetus of Egypt’s antiMubarak revolution was dissipated amid its zero-sum domestic political struggle.

Conclusion In his groundbreaking article “Pre-Theories and Theories of Foreign Policy,” James Rosenau (1966) suggested that the international system and the personal leadership factor would dominate foreign policy in third world countries. Indeed, it is the interaction between the international environment and presidential leadership that best explains Egypt’s foreign policy. External constraints and opportunities carried the heaviest weight in determining Egypt’s policy. Indeed, it was the need to


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

cope with the external world that facilitated and legitimated the concentration of presidential power and a leader-dominated foreign policy process giving considerable insulation from domestic pressures. Presidents manipulated foreign policy to serve domestic economic and legitimacy needs and enjoyed the autonomy at home to play the game of realpolitik abroad. This presidential autonomy enhanced the impact of the idiosyncratic factor and explained crucial differences in how Egypt responded to its external environment as its presidents changed. Presidents shaped the broad lines of Egyptian foreign policy within parameters set by geopolitics and geoeconomics. Egypt, a potential Arab hegemon, naturally sought pan-Arab leadership, enabling it to contain or manipulate the impact of external powers on the region while also extracting economic resources in the process. This strategy was pursued most successfully under Nasser, whose foreign policy achievements legitimized the state and consolidated Egypt’s independence. Nasser’s foreign policy seemed, until 1967, a qualified success. Adeptly exploiting changes in the international balance of power, namely the local weakening of Western imperialism, the Soviet challenge to Western dominance, and the national awakening of the Arab peoples, he achieved the long-sought British withdrawal from Egypt, defeated the Western security pacts, nationalized the Suez Canal, and put Egypt at the head of an aroused Arab nationalist movement that forced a substantial retreat of Western control from the Middle East. However, the other Arab states, although largely on the defensive, worked to thwart Nasser’s effort to impose a foreign policy consensus on the Arab world. The effort to project Egyptian influence drained the country’s resources and led to defeat in war. The costs of regional leadership, especially the Israeli occupation of the Sinai, dictated a radical scaling down of Egypt’s regional ambitions under Sadat, whose Egypt-first policy traded foreign policy decisions for geoeconomic rent. Sadat’s diplomatic style opened the door to the renewed Western penetration and a suboptimal Arab-Israeli settlement that undid much of his predecessor’s work. Egypt fell into an economic dependency that radically narrowed its subsequent foreign policy options

The Foreign Policy of Egypt


under Mubarak. But Sadat’s preference for the West over the East undoubtedly better positioned Egypt for the post–Cold War era of US hegemony and globalization. Mubarak defended Sadat’s legacy for three decades. With Mubarak’s overthrow, the presidency was greatly weakened, yet expectations that popular pressures from revolution and democratization would drive a foreign policy transformation from below proved ill founded. Rather, as realists would expect, external constraints—economic dependency, the balance of power— combined with an entrenched national security state, proved decisive over public opinion in foreign policy making.

4 The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon Adham Saouli

As fragmented states, Iraq and Lebanon suffer from what one might call “political schizophrenia”—a personality split resulting from the coexistence of opposed sets of identities and pursuits. In the political world, this condition affects how a state responds to its environment. While sufferers of schizophrenia have a tendency to dissociate themselves from their environment, their political counterparts cannot afford such isolation. The geopolitical location of Iraq (in the heart of the Middle East) and Lebanon (in a buffer zone between Syria and Israel) has shaped the political development and foreign policy behavior of these two states. As latecomers to the international system and as statesin-the-making, Iraq and Lebanon share many of the dilemmas of other Arab states (Saouli 2012, 49–67). Their peculiarity, however, lies in their ethnic and sectarian compositions, which have hitherto constrained state consolidation, making them highly vulnerable to external influence.1 The political struggles inherent in state-making processes, and the politicization of Iraqi and Lebanese identities, make it impossible to talk about one foreign “policy” in these cases. Although Iraq and Lebanon are units (nominally “sovereign states”) in the international system, their 105


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

foreign policy behavior is not unitary; rather, each unit generates multiple foreign policies. In this chapter, I examine the foreign policy determinants, foreign policy making, and foreign policy behavior of Iraq and Lebanon by drawing on empirical illustrations prior to 2003. I also present two case studies of Iraqi and Lebanese foreign policies: during the 2003–2011 US occupation of Iraq and in response to the Arab uprisings since 2011. Foreign Policy Determinants: The Domestic-External Nexus Domestic Arena: State Formation and Identity

The foreign policies of Iraq and Lebanon are best understood by examining the domestic arena. It is here where political struggles, which intermingle with external dynamics, are fought. At the core of these struggles is the process of state formation, in which different factions holding contrasting political visions struggle to capture the state and, accordingly, to define its role in the international system. The more fragmented a state is, the more resistance a regime faces in trying to establish its power domestically and in trying to project that power externally. The Iraqi and Lebanese states emerged with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the expansion of the European state system to the Middle East. The emerging political boundaries defined the parameters of political struggles and triggered state formation projects (Saouli 2012, 29–48). Iraq formed as a British sphere of influence after World War I, including the former disparate Ottoman provinces of Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul. Southern Iraq is predominantly populated by Arab Shiites, who now form the majority of the population (55–60 percent); Arab Sunnis (20–25 percent) dominate Baghdad and the northwest; and the Kurds (18– 20 percent) occupy the mountains in the northeast. Political agendas in Iraq are framed on the basis of different identities. The main area of contention among different communal and ideological groups centers on the identity of the Iraqi state: Arabist or Iraqist (Davis 2005). While the majority of Arab Sun-

The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon


nis have perceived Iraq as an Arab state separated from the Arab nation through colonialism, Arab Shiites are generally divided in their perception. Shiite secular forces found in Arab nationalism a political channel to put them on par with their Sunni compatriots, the dominating rulers until 2003. The Shiite religious establishment, on the other hand, has been suspicious of both secular and Arab nationalist projects as schemes that would threaten its religious freedom and shift its majority status in Iraq to a minority in the Sunni-dominated Arab world (Dawisha 2002). The Kurds, as a non-Arab community, have refused Arab nationalist schemes for Iraq. Attempts by indigenous Kurds to form their own state were defeated by the British in 1923, and promises made by successive regimes to ensure political autonomy and cultural recognition failed to materialize until the US occupation of 2003 (Saouli 2012, 103–127). Two elements in Iraqi state formation are useful in understanding the domestic determinants of foreign policy: regimesociety relations and intra-regime struggles. First, ideological and communal pressures on the Iraqi state have weakened its capacity to monopolize power domestically. An early example of this weakness was the British-installed monarchical regime, which attempted to build a state by incorporating different Iraqi factions but failed due to anti-British and tribal opposition. The failure of the Kurdish community to extract autonomy and political recognition from successive Iraqi regimes placed it in direct confrontation with Baghdad. This confrontation reached its peak in 1987 with the Baathist-planned Anfal campaign, which killed thousands of Kurds (Gunter 1992, 45–48). Shiite opposition started in the 1950s, largely mobilized by the highly organized Iraqi Communist Party and later the Islamist Dawa Party. This opposition developed from political protest to violent confrontation with the regime in the 1970s and 1980s (Jabr 2003, 201). Second, in aiming to consolidate their power, successive Iraqi regimes have resorted to violence and authoritarian strategies to defeat their rivals. In 1936, Iraq (and the Arab world) had its first military coup. Competition over the state, particularly its coercive agencies, formed the locus of intra-regime struggles among the predominantly Sunni officers. These struggles culminated in the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

1958 revolt, which toppled the monarchy but which also paved the way for successive military coups. A 1968 coup brought the Baath party to power, leading to the Baathification of the Iraqi state (Abd al-Jabar1995, 59). In 1979, Saddam Hussein consolidated his own power, transforming the state by the mid-1990s into one of family rule. Under the guise of Arab nationalism, Iraqi authoritarian regimes (1963–2003) tried to suppress the underlying ethnic and sectarian identities, but Kurdish and later distinctive Shiite identities emerged, at least partly in reaction to the regimes. These two elements have weakened the Iraqi state both as a regime of power and as a territorial entity. In trying to shift the domestic balance in their favor, opposition factions generated foreign policies that contradicted those of the incumbent regime. This situation has made Iraq vulnerable to regional and international influence. For example, during the Cold War the United States, Iran, and Israel allied with the Kurdish insurgency to weaken the republican regime of Qasim (1958–1963), which was closely allied with the Soviets (Gunter 1992, 26–31). In the 1980s, Islamic Iran aligned with and accommodated Shiite and Kurdish political movements to unseat the Baathist regime; Saddam Hussein relied on support from Saudi Arabia (and other Gulf states) to fight Iran (Saouli 2012, 126–128). In Lebanon the political aspirations of the Maronite Christian sect, which aimed to establish a state for itself in the postOttoman Middle East (Salibi 1988, 25–27), converged with French designs for the region. In 1920 the state of Lebanon was formed. In addition to Mount Lebanon, the new state included the former Ottoman territories of Beirut in the west, Beqaa Valley to the east, Tripoli in the north, and Jabal ‘Amal to the south. In the new state, the Maronites (according to the 1932 census) formed the largest single community. The emerging political system reflected the sectarian and demographic distribution, giving the Christians a six-to-five ratio in public institutions. After Lebanon’s independence from France in 1943, a verbal national pact was established. The agreement distributed the main offices of the state among the largest sects, giving the Maronites the presidency, the Sunnis the premiership, and the Shiites the speakership of parliament.

The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon


Unlike Iraq, the Lebanese nascent state incorporated and represented different sectarian communities. But similar to Iraq, political struggles in Lebanon have centered on defining the country’s identity and consequently its external role and behavior. Mirroring Lebanon’s religious and cultural cleavages, two competing political visions and narratives emerged. The first, Lebanonism, promoted by the majority of Christians, viewed Lebanon as a territorial sovereign state and a nation with a Phoenician history and tradition. The second, Arabism, endorsed by the majority of the Muslims, perceived Lebanon as an artificial entity severed from Greater Syria by colonial powers and emphasized Lebanon’s Arab-Islamic identity and history. These perceptions provided the discursive context on which domestic political struggles were fought for most of the twentieth century. For the Maronites, preserving the Lebanese entity and their predominant position therein was crucial for the (political) survival of the Christians. Accordingly, Maronite presidents pursued status quo strategies that aimed to curb any attempts to alter the domestic and regional balances of power. Their Muslim counterparts, on the other hand, viewed the Lebanese state as a Maronite establishment. In their quest for constitutional reform (before 1990) and in their support for Arab nationalist projects, Lebanese Muslims pursued revisionist strategies. These varying strategies made Lebanon vulnerable to regional shifts in the balance of power (Saouli 2006). Two major changes with important consequences for Lebanese politics occurred by 1975. The first involved a demographic shift and a socioeconomic change, with the Muslims becoming the majority and with the socioeconomic disparities between them and the Christians diminishing (el-Khazen 2000, 57–69). Although no official census has been held in Lebanon since 1932, it is now believed that the Muslims form the majority (70 percent of the population) and the Christians a minority (30 percent).2 The second change concerned the politicization of the Shiites. Before 1975 the Shiites formed the single most economically underprivileged community in the country. Politically, most Shiites found refuge in secular and leftist parties. However, with the emergence of the Amal Movement and, later, Hizbollah, the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Shiites became the community with the most interest in revisionism (Norton 1987; Saouli 2011). By the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990, the Muslims had achieved the constitutional reforms they wanted, including an equal distribution in state positions between Muslims and Christians and a shift of executive power from the presidency to the cabinet (Saouli 2006). Under Syrian influence, the Muslims—specifically Sunni leader Rafiq al-Hariri, Shiite leader Nabih Berri, and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt—captured the state during the 1990s and maintained their hold until the occupation of Iraq in 2003. The Regional System: Foreign Policy Dilemmas

A second arena that determines the foreign policy of Iraq and Lebanon is the regional system. In addition to domestic fragmentation, the geopolitical locations of Iraq and Lebanon have further complicated their external relations. Iraq has historically been a frontier zone between the Arab and Ottoman empires and Persia. In the modern Middle East, Iraq acts as a buffer zone between the Arab core and the non-Arab states of Turkey and Iran. Additionally, as Iraq is an oil-rich country situated in a strategic region, its behavior is shaped by the influence of and competition among international states. This has presented Iraq with major foreign policy dilemmas, particularly when the regional system has been polarized. For example, Prime Minister Nuri al-Said’s adoption of the Baghdad Pact in 1958,3 which aimed to secure Iraq’s eastern borders against Soviet infiltration, threatened Iraq’s relations with Nasser, who rejected the pact and who supported the Arab nationalists who overthrew the monarchy. When Qasim came to power, Iraq abrogated the Baghdad Pact and moved into closer alignment with the Soviet Union (Tripp 2000) but this threatened Iraq’s relations with Turkey, Iran, and the US-allied Gulf monarchies at the height of the Cold War. When Qasim’s relations with Nasser (now presiding over the United Arab Republic) deteriorated, Iraq’s regional influence contracted. Feeling regionally isolated, Qasim attempted, but failed, to incorporate Kuwait in 1961 (Mufti 1996). Three decades later, Saddam Hussein faced a similar dilemma. Facing hostile relations

The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon


with Syria and Iran and deteriorating relations with Gulf monarchies at the end of the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988), amid regional isolation and domestic opposition, he attempted to occupy Kuwait in 1990, as will be further addressed below. Lebanon’s geopolitical location places it in the second strategic sphere in the Middle East: the Arab-Israeli conflict arena. It is bordered by the two warring states of Syria (to the north and east) and Israel (to the south). Beirut’s geographical proximity to Damascus made Lebanon a security priority for various Syrian regimes. The flow of Palestinian refugees to Lebanon after the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and their formation of a military base in Lebanon to fight Israel in the 1970s, have, in addition to the country’s fragmentation, increased Israel’s security concerns. Lebanon’s strategic importance emanates from its geopolitical location as a springboard to generate pressure on Syria, Israel, or both. Like Iraq, this presented Lebanon with major foreign policy dilemmas that had important effects on its domestic stability. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Christian orientation sought to align Lebanon with France and the United States against Arab nationalist schemes, but this vision threatened domestic stability, as it conflicted with Muslim Arab nationalist aspirations. Regionally, revisionist states (Syria and Egypt) perceived Lebanon as a corridor for colonial designs in the Middle East. These contradictory perceptions divided (and destabilized) Lebanon, especially when regional conflicts were heightened. The rise of Nasser in 1952, which challenged the FrenchBritish regional order, was one such occasion. In Lebanon, President Camille Chamoun supported the Baghdad Pact. His fear of Lebanon’s absorption in the United Arab Republic (SyriaEgypt union) in 1958 contradicted the views of many Muslims who supported the union. As a result of these divergent perceptions, Lebanon entered into a brief civil war before the election of President Fouad Chehab in 1958. Another regional development was the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. In Lebanon, the Islamic revolution provided a source of moral and material support for Lebanon’s Shiite Islamic factions, culminating in the founding of Hizbollah in the 1980s (Saouli 2011). After the withdrawal of Egypt from the Arab-Israeli


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

conflict in 1979, Islamic Iran—given its anti-Israeli stance— became a strategic asset for Syria (Hinnebusch 2002, 156) and its Lebanese allies. For Christian conservatives, the spread of the Islamic revolution to Lebanon constituted an additional threat to their regime and led them to strengthen their ties with the West, with Israel, and, later in the case of General Michel Aoun, with Iraq (in 1989–1990). This contradictory foreign behavior interacted with Lebanese internal conflicts, transforming Lebanon into a battleground for external powers. The International System

The third arena determining the foreign policy of Iraq and Lebanon is the international system. Once again, the geopolitical location and internal fragmentation of Iraq and Lebanon make them pivotal for, and vulnerable to, international strategies in the Middle East. Developments in and the configuration (unipolar, bipolar, or multipolar) of the international system condition the behavior of domestic actors by providing them with opportunities or constraints as they engage in their domestic and regional struggles. In Iraq, the Cold War, for example, provided republican regimes of the 1950s and 1960s with an international ally to counter British and US influence. After the restoration of relations between Iraq and the Soviet Union under Qasim, the Baathist regime signed a treaty with the Soviet Union in 1972 that facilitated nationalization of the Iraq Petroleum Company (Tripp 1997) and guaranteed Soviet military support (Tripp 2000). Additionally, friendship with the Soviet Union bought time for the Baathist regime as it struggled with the Kurdish insurgency and the Communist opposition. When the Kurdish “threat” temporarily subsided after the 1975 Algiers Agreement with Iran, Iraqi-US relations began to improve. The regime began to emphasize the need to increase ties with industrialized Western states and Japan as major oil markets, and to maintain a nonaligned stand in the Cold War. In Lebanon, bipolarity at the international level and the Arab nationalist expansion at the regional level led Western-backed President Chamoun in the late 1950s to seek to insulate Lebanon from Arab unity projects and to extend his tenure as president.

The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon


Against internal opposition and Syrian and Egyptian subversion, and using the Communist “threat” as a justification for his foreign policy orientation, Chamoun’s strategy “was designed to internationalize the dispute and precipitate US military intervention” (Gerges 1997, 88). When the Iraqi monarchy fell, the United States, fearing the erosion of Western power in the region, sent troops to Lebanon to protect the status quo. The ideological underpinnings of the Cold War did not directly affect Iraq or Lebanon, but did set the parameters in which different domestic players made claims to power in the process of state formation. In 1979, Saddam Hussein believed that his military action against Islamic Iran escaped the logic of the Cold War because of Iraq’s economic independence and Iran’s Islamic orientation. However, after the 1982 Iranian counteroffensives, Saddam became interested in drawing US and Soviet power to his side in the Iran-Iraq War by accentuating Iran’s danger and its “Neither East Nor West” policy (Tripp 1997, 210). In Lebanon, the global détente of the 1970s meant that the Soviet Union and the United States engaged in the country’s domestic struggles only indirectly. But the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and the Islamic revolution in 1979 provided Lebanese Christians with the opportunity to draw support from the United States to weaken the Muslim-Palestinian-Syrian influence in the country. In the 1980s, the Maronites “hoped to manipulate the polarized international system and rearrange the political map in Lebanon” (Gerges 1997, 96). But, with Soviet support, resistance by Syria and its Lebanese allies aborted such plans. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a triumphant United States generated new threats and opportunities for Iraqi and Lebanese actors. By the end of the Iran-Iraq War, the threat of the Islamic revolution had temporarily abated, and Iraq’s military and economic weakness meant that it did not initially cause concern for its Arab neighbors. However, Iraqi disagreements with Kuwait over oil policy and borders, and the interruption of “war relief” oil by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, were perceived by Saddam as an attempt to isolate his war-wrecked country. In response, he occupied Kuwait. The miscalculated occupation, however, precipitated an international coalition led by


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

the United States, which came to the rescue of Kuwait and defeated the attempt. Though defeated in Kuwait, Saddam’s regime survived in Baghdad, but now Iraq faced strict international economic sanctions and regional and international isolation. In Lebanon, the collapse of the Soviet Union should have benefited Lebanon’s pro-Western factions; however, Syria’s support for the US-led war against Iraq in 1990 earned it US tolerance of Syrian domination over Lebanon (Najem 2005, 103–107). Syria’s management of Lebanese political, security, and foreign relations continued until the US occupation of Iraq in 2003. The same international process that enabled Syrian dominance in 1990 was reversed when the United States tried to roll back Syrian influence in Lebanon, largely due to the latter’s opposition to the Iraq War and its alliance with Iran.

Foreign Policy Making The way foreign policy is made and implemented in the developing world reflects the ongoing process of state formation in which different factions struggle to capture the state and install a regime. Foreign policy is thus not just about preserving state security; rather, it is even more about regime survival amid domestic and external enemies (Saouli 2012). As Mohammed Ayoob (1995, 9) observes, security in the developing world refers to “[the] security of the state—in terms of territory and institutions—and [the] security of those who profess to represent the state territorially and institutionally. In others words, security-insecurity is defined in relation to vulnerabilities—both internal and external—that threaten or have the potential to bring down or weaken state structures, both territorial and institutional, and governing regimes.” Nowhere have these vulnerabilities been more acute in the Middle East than in the cases of Iraq and Lebanon. Although Iraq and Lebanon have had different political regimes, in both cases regime survival has dictated the way policy is made and implemented. Under the monarchy, Iraq’s foreign and security policies were dictated by Britain’s strategic interests in the region. In this case

The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon


the king and Nuri al-Said, the pro-British Iraqi statesman, had to balance Iraq’s geopolitical position against its diverse population and British interests. Since the establishment of Iraq, “formal” foreign policy has rested in the hands of a small circle of men. Intra-regime and regime-society struggles eroded the power of ideology and party organization that might otherwise have given institutional or legitimacy foundations to the policy process. As a result, successive Iraqi regimes, from that of Abd al-Salam Arif (1963–1966) to that of Saddam Hussein, relied on personal or clan/tribal associates to lead their security agencies. For example, Hassan al-Bakr, who led the Baathist military coup of 1968, facilitated the rise to power of Saddam in the early 1970s. Both leaders came from the al-Begat section of the Albu Nasir Tikriti tribe (Batatu 1978). By the mid-1990s, the Tikritis dominated the Baath party’s command structure while Saddam’s family held the most important security positions in the state, including the ministries of defense, military production, and interior and the national security bureau (Abd al-Jabar 1995, 85). The authoritarian regime of Saddam Hussein, equally fearing both domestic and external enemies, undertook a “foreign policy” that, according to Charles Tripp (2000, 172), “could be said to start at the boundaries of the presidential compound in Baghdad or outside those areas of Tikrit associated with Saddam Hussein’s clan.” Mistrust of both his adversaries in the regime, like the Baathists he purged in the 1970s, and opposition in the wider Iraqi society, like the Shiite and Kurdish political movements, shaped Hussein’s foreign policy making. The war with Iran, which Iraq started in 1980, can be viewed as the regime’s solution to the domestic threat. Saddam feared that the Islamic revolution, in addition to supporting the Kurdish insurgents, would form a model of emulation and a source of support for the Shiite movements his regime was violently repressing in the 1970s. The disastrous Iran-Iraq War and the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 revealed the arbitrary nature of foreign policy making under Saddam. While decisions were made by Saddam, implementation was undertaken by the diplomatic service, the military, and other state agencies without any serious input or feedback to decisionmakers regarding the viability of the policy. Moreover, the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

absence of an opposition and a free press meant that foreign policy choices did not come under public scrutiny. In Lebanon’s consociational democracy, foreign policy was (until 1990) the domain of the Maronite president, who had to cooperate with the cabinet. In the constitutional reforms established at the end of the civil war in 1990, executive power shifted to the council of ministers. As the state is both a reflection and a representation of Lebanon’s diverse communities, diplomatic missions abroad (including the ambassadorial missions) are distributed on a sectarian basis. Until the 1958 crisis, Lebanon lived on a foreign policy formula dictated by the perception of its two main communities, Muslims and Christians. Successive governments tried to maintain a balance between Lebanon’s Western and Arab orientations by sustaining neutrality in foreign policy. When inter-Arab and Arab-Western rivalries deepened in the 1958, 1975, and 2003 crises, Lebanese divisions followed suit. In 1975 a government crisis erupted when different political factions disagreed on how to respond to the Palestinian military presence in Lebanon. During times of crises, pressures on the state—in this case the presidency and government—increase as active political forces make contradictory political claims that the rulers of the state cannot satisfy. The inability of any faction in Lebanon to capture the state and drive it in an authoritarian fashion—as in the case of Iraq—meant that power devolved to political forces, producing coercion-wielding (substate but statelike) organizations having their own foreign policies. Foreign policy making and implementation here shift from governments and diplomats to warring factions on the ground. The Muslims’ accommodation of the Palestinian struggle and the latter’s goal of establishing Lebanon as a springboard to fight Israel contradicted the Christians’ view that Lebanon should be neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Different factions resorted to violent confrontation because of mutual suspicion. Amid domestic division, Lebanon became an arena for inter-Arab and ArabIsraeli rivalries, until a new regional context paved the way for a decade of Syrian dominance.

The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon


Foreign Policy Behavior: Patterns of Persistent Conduct What conclusions can we draw from this analysis of Iraqi and Lebanese foreign policy behaviors? Is there a pattern that continues to shape the conduct of these two fragmented states? Here we look more closely at the relation between state formation, state territory, and identity, and at how these factors have shaped the foreign policy of Iraq and Lebanon. Though Islam and pan-Arabism are salient universal identities in the Middle East, politics in the region is organized around the territorial (and only potentially national) state. Indeed, the region’s territorial states should not be confused with national states-in-the-making (or unmaking) that are merely vulnerable to transstate penetration. Rather, what emerged in the Middle East with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire can be better conceptualized as “social fields,” in which states form and deform (Saouli 2012), than as “national states” that easily correspond to Weberian or Waltzian conceptualizations (see Weber, Roth, and Wittich 1979; Waltz 1979). These territorially bound social fields are the arenas that structure the political interactions of different Iraqi and Lebanese actors. In their interactions, different Iraqi and Lebanese factions have aimed to either preserve or revise existing political regimes. These rivalries have been shaped by divisions over state identity and perceptions of the state’s external role. There are two structural factors that continue to induce Iraqi and Lebanese foreign behaviors. First, as states-in-the-making, political interaction in Iraq and Lebanon is still driven by the actors’ quest for political survival, and by attempts to infiltrate state institutions to facilitate domination. One consequence is the absence of state institutions that are able to safeguard the interests of different communal groups while at the same time maintaining a level of independence from rival political forces. In Iraq, attempts by successive regimes to shape and direct the state according to particular identities—Arabist, Tikritist—generated resistance from other Iraqi factions such as the Shiite or Kurdish political parties. In Lebanon, attempts by the Maronite establishment to preserve its dominance prior to the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

1975 war generated a Muslim (leftist and Arab nationalist) resistance. In the 1990s, Muslim dominance of the state came at the price of the exclusion of Christian political forces (mostly in exile or imprisoned). The failure of Iraq and Lebanon to incorporate different factions in their respective states, and to agree on a foreign policy role, continues not only to destabilize these states but also to reproduce a fragmented foreign policy. Second, although identity plays an important role in shaping the worldviews of different factions in both cases, leaders’ drives for political survival override identity as a factor in explaining foreign behavior. One can argue that under King Faisal, Arabism in Iraq was an important tool for the British-installed monarch in regaining lost territories as a result of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, or in bolstering his inferior position in a fragmented Iraq (Mufti 1996). Nevertheless, this conflicted with the king’s statebuilding project in Iraq, as Arab nationalist projects threatened the communal goals of the Kurds and the Shiites as seen by the Hawza (Shia clerical establishment) and generated resistance against the king (Tripp 2000). These structural factors constrained republican regimes also. The main opposition to the Qasim regime came from Arab nationalists who accused him of being “isolationalist” or “regionalist.” However, when Arab nationalists came to power, they didn’t deviate much from Qasim’s policy. Under Abd alSalam Arif (a Nasserite), Iraq did not embark—beyond rhetoric— on any Arab unity project; rather, the regime was “tutored in its requirements by the experience of governing a country where the pan-Arab idea could seriously alarm significant sections of the population” (Tripp 2000, 182). Moreover, the presence of a Baathist regime in Syria did not lead to unity between Syria and Iraq in the 1970s. On the contrary, Syria strategically allied with Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. The fluidity of Arabism has given political actors the freedom to manipulate it to advance their goals in the course of their political struggles. Inter-Arab rivalry provided abundant contrary interpretations relating to who was defending the Arab “interest” (Barnett 1998). Lebanese factions exploited these inter-Arab conflicts and fell victim to them. For example, the establishment of Lebanon as a state demoted the political role of the Druze minor-

The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon


ity, which had historically played an influential role in Mount Lebanon politics. For the Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt, both Arab nationalism and socialism provided ideological vehicles to mobilize underprivileged Muslims (particularly the Shiites) to challenge the Maronite-led political system that had debilitated Jumblatt’s attempts to gain a prominent place. Jumblatt supported Arab nationalists in the 1958 protests against Chamoun, and allied himself with the Palestine Liberation Organization and other leftists against what they saw as the “isolationist” Christian militias, especially the Phalange in 1975. The political designs of Lebanese revisionists and their quest for political dominance in Lebanon (like those of Saddam in Iraq) conflicted, however, with Baathist Syria’s strategic interests in 1976 and led to Jumblatt’s assassination. In the post-2003 Middle East, political actors in Iraq and Lebanon continue to compete for dominance at a domestic level while being influenced by regional developments and normative competition. Case Studies: The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon Since 2003 The US Occupation of Iraq, 2003–2011: Adaptation and Resistance

Like previous political watersheds in the Middle East, the 2003 US occupation of Iraq set the context for different Iraqi and Lebanese political factions to either adapt to or resist the new designs initiated for the region. While Iraq was the theater of operations, Lebanon was indirectly affected due to its geopolitical location. Under the false pretext of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and its links to al-Qaeda, the United States (and its allies) initiated a military campaign against Iraq in March 2003. By April 2003, Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul had fallen under US occupation (Fawn 2006). The unipolar international system provided the enabling conditions for the US invasion; the domestic influence of the neoconservatives in the US administration made the policy possible. The choice of Iraq, nevertheless,


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

reflected the country’s oil wealth and its geopolitical location. Located in the heart of the Middle East, Iraq was regarded as a springboard for the United States to reorder the Middle East, by disciplining its allies and punishing its adversaries. Opposition to the war by Syria (Hinnebusch 2006) and Saudi Arabia (Gause 2007) reflected such fears. Military presence in that vital region, it was perceived, would provide the United States with strong leverage compared to its international competitors—the European Union, Russia, and China (Zunes 2006). The domestic responses in Iraq and Lebanon to the US occupation varied. In Iraq, the invasion was seen with ambivalence among different sectors of Iraqi society. The swift collapse of the regime brought relief to the vast majority of Iraqis, but also came with the price of having occupying troops on Iraqi soil—almost seventy years after Iraq’s independence. For the mainstream Shiite and Kurdish opposition parties, such as the Islamic Dawa Party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the invasion presented a historic opportunity to overthrow Saddam’s regime and to rebuild the state according to the political aspirations of their respective communities. Among the Sunni community, the Iraqi Islamic Party tried to adapt by joining the political process. Other Sunni groups, such as the Council of Islamic Scholars, former Baathists, and Salafi militant groups, opted for resistance against the occupation and those collaborating with it. In addition to considering the coalition as an occupying force, the Sunnis also feared that the emerging predominantly Shiite-Kurdish regime would exclude them from power and possibly engineer the disintegration of Iraq. Shiite factions’ relations with Iran, and Kurdish relations with the United States, augmented these concerns. These different responses to the occupation and the emerging political system formed the basis of the civil war that took place after the collapse of the Baathist regime (Marr and Parker 2011). The fall of the authoritarian regime initially sparked insurgency and civil war. In 2004, insurgents violently and systematically targeted the occupation forces, army and police recruits, and civilians. In March of that year, US forces reoccupied Fallujah, a hotbed of Islamic Sunni radicalism (Dodge 2006), causing the

The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon


deaths of more than 5,000 people. Amid this quagmire, sectarian violence intensified, reaching its peak when, in February 2006, militants blew up a Shiite sacred shrine in the predominantly Sunni town of Samara, spurring attacks on Sunni mosques throughout the country (Tripp 2007). In parallel, the US occupiers presided over the creation of a quasi-democratic, potentially consociational system resembling that of Lebanon. The results of the first parliamentary elections, in 2005, which were boycotted by most Sunnis, reflected the new political (sectarian and ethnic) map in Iraq. The United Iraqi Alliance (the Shiite coalition) won the majority of the seats, followed by the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan (comprising the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party) and another secular list led by former Baathist Iyad Allawi. Reflecting the new political order in Iraq, the Kurds acquired the presidency, the Shiites controlled the premiership (where executive power is located), and a Sunni presided over parliament. In that context, ministries became “partisan fiefdoms” (Tripp 2007) used by the main parties against their political enemies, specifically the Iraqi insurgent groups, who attempted to derail the statebuilding process. The US occupation and the civil war facilitated regional intervention in Iraq. Regional states intervened in attempts to tilt the Iraqi power balance toward either of the two competing regional camps, Iran and Syria on the one hand, and the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan on the other. In doing so, however, regional interventions reinforced domestic divisions and thus fragmented Iraqi foreign policy. Kurdish parties, to consolidate their political autonomy, supported US strategy in Iraq and the region, while managing Iranian, Turkish, and Syrian fears of Kurdish separatism (Aghari 2007). Shiite mainstream parties aimed to strike a balance between consolidating their rule under US occupation and maintaining strong relations with Iran.4 Of the Shiite factions, the Sadr Movement was explicitly anti-occupation. Although it participated in the elections and supported the political process, the Sadr Movement fought against both occupation and government forces. On the other hand, the Sunnis continued to form the base for the insurgency. However, the United States and


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Saudi Arabia, to neutralize Syrian support of the insurgency in Iraq, to weaken al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups, and to establish a united Sunni front to counterbalance the Shiites, supported the al-Sahwa (Awakening) Sunni tribal coalition, which opposed both radical Islamists and Iran.5 For Lebanon, the occupation of Iraq and the regional polarization it caused had an immediate effect on the country’s stability. The country’s geopolitical position and domestic political rivalries, once again, explain Lebanon’s exposure. The US administration capitalized on its military presence in Iraq to weaken its regional rivals, the Iran-Syria-Hizbollah axis. On June 5, 2004, the US and French presidents declared that Lebanon should be “independent” from foreign domination (White House 2004). Later in that year the UN Security Council issued Resolution 1559, calling for free and fair presidential elections, disarmament of militias, and withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. The resolution clearly reflected US attempts to drive Syria out of Lebanon, disarm Hizbollah and Palestinian organizations, and abort Syria’s effort to extend the tenure of its ally, Lebanese president Émile Lahoud. This US strategy put Syria and its Lebanese allies on the defensive, but also provided an opportunity for Syria’s adversaries and other Lebanese factions to adapt the new situation to their own advantage. For the Christian opposition, which was excluded from power in the 1990s, it was an opportunity to weaken Syria and to reclaim their political share in Lebanon. The Shiites (specifically Hizbollah) feared that the US strategy would weaken the regional camp that supported their resistance to Israel (and that made Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 possible) and possibly lead to their political isolation domestically. At the center of these two opposing poles was the Sunni community, led by Rafiq al-Hariri. Hariri’s popularity in the Sunni community, his alliance with the Saudis, and his political and economic influence in Lebanon and abroad made him indispensable for the Syrians in the 1990s. His position, however, made him both powerful and strategically vulnerable. As international pressure increased on Syria (and Iran), the political rift in Lebanon intensified. Walid Jumblatt, the main

The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon


leader of the minority Druze sect, spearheaded the revolt against Syria. Driven by political survival and calculating that regional developments might lead to Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon, its international isolation, and possibly regime change there, he adapted to the US strategy. Hariri’s strategy, on the other hand, was opaque. But for his rivals, Hariri was leading a “conspiracy” against Syria from Lebanon. The Lebanese polarization, however, took a dangerous turn when on February 14, 2005, Hariri was assassinated in Beirut. The immediate outcome of the murder was a shift in the perception of the majority of Lebanese Sunnis against Syria, and therefore altered the Lebanese balance of power against it. Hariri’s Future Trend party accused Syria of the killing. A second consequence was Syria’s forced withdrawal from Lebanon (Saouli 2006, 711–714). Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon generated new parameters to reorganize the Lebanese political map. This reordering gave rise to two camps, the Hizbollah-led and pro-Syrian “March 8” coalition, and the Future Trend–led anti-Syrian “March 14” coalition, with the names of the camps reflecting the two protests that took place in March 2005. While the March 8 coalition used the Arabist (and Islamist), anti-American, and anti-Israeli discourse, the March 14 coalition emphasized the traditional Christian slogan “Lebanon First.” Domestic conflicts began to mirror regional rivalries. March 14 accused Hizbollah of seeking to establish its own state and of serving Iranian and Syrian agendas. March 8, on the other hand, accused March 14 of duplicating the US-Israeli demands, seeking to dismantle Hizbollah’s resistance and to cause civil war. Amid this domestic and regional polarization, Hizbollah kidnapped an Israeli soldier and killed several others on the Lebanon-Israel border on July 12, 2006, igniting a thirty-threeday war with Israel. For Israel the kidnapping represented an opportunity to defeat Hizbollah, but the war was also conducive to the US strategy of debilitating Iran’s regional influence.6 Hizbollah’s survival, however, and its prevention of Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, sustained the domestic and regional balances of power (Saouli 2011). After the war, Hizbollah accused its Lebanese adversaries of collaborating with Israel


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

for its defeat; its rivals blamed it for driving Lebanon into a war with Israel. In that context, a new sectarian cleavage became salient in Lebanese politics. The traditional Christian-Muslim rivalry gave way to a Sunni-Shiite rift. This rift reflected the demographic changes that had taken place in Lebanon and regional developments, such as the civil war in Iraq and Iranian-Saudi rivalry. In 2008, the March 8 coalition, now in alliance with Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, demonstrated for months against proHariri prime minister Fouad Siniora, calling for his departure. In May 2008, Siniora’s government declared Hizbollah’s telecommunication network illegal and removed a Hizbollah ally from his post as security chief of Beirut’s airport. On May 7, Hizbollah and its allies, perceiving this as a direct threat against its military wing, swiftly defeated pro-government militias and took control of Beirut. Hizbollah’s military move altered the domestic power balance and paved the way for a settlement. Under Qatari patronage, Lebanese factions negotiated an agreement that led to the election of the consensus-minded Michel Suleiman as president and brought the March 8 coalition and the Free Patriotic Movement into the government. The Arab Revolts, 2011: Threats and Opportunities

In 2011 the Arab world entered a new phase of its political history after a wave of unprecedented revolts shook the resilience of several authoritarian regimes in the region—and led to the toppling of dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, and, with regional and international support, Yemen and Libya. With the exception of some protests in the Sunni provinces of Iraq calling for political inclusion and regime change, and a spontaneous protest in Lebanon against the “sectarian regime,” the Arab revolts had no immediate impact on the fragmented and quasi-democratic states of Iraq and Lebanon. But this changed when protests erupted in Syria in March 2011. Syria’s ethnic and sectarian composition, its geopolitical location, and the influence it nurtured in the region meant that political change there would have major consequences on regional and international alignments—and on political configurations in

The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon


neighboring states. The uprising, which developed into a civil war by 2013, constituted an opportunity and a threat for various actors in Iraq and Lebanon. This also came alongside the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, and ambitious strategies by Turkey and Iran to buttress their influence in the region. The Syrian crisis shifted the foreign policy of the main political actors in Iraq and reinforced existing positions in Lebanon. In Iraq, the government of Nuri al-Maliki, which previously had accused the Syrian regime of facilitating the transfer of Islamic militants to destabilize the statebuilding process, became anxious about regime change in Syria. In addition to fear of the Syrian crisis spilling into Iraq and inflaming the sectarian divisions within it, Iraqi rulers perceived the possible fall of Bashar al-Assad as a threat to Iraq’s stability and regional position.7 A Sunni-Islamist regime in Syria, they feared, might support its Iraqi brethren and destabilize Iraq, isolating the predominantly Shiite regime in the Arab world. This would possibly restrict Iraq’s plans to transport its oil to Europe. The fall of Assad, moreover, might weaken the regional camp led by Iran, which backed Iraq’s Shiites (Milani 2011). The power vacuum left by the United States in Iraq and the region might then be filled by Turkey in alliance with Islamist governments, especially the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. For al-Maliki, the “neo-Ottomanist” strategy pursued by Turkey, with Qatari endorsement and financial support, aimed to destabilize Iraq and to turn Syria into a Turkish “backyard.” This strategy had, he perceived, polarized the region into two blocks, Turkish-Sunni-Arab (Egypt and Qatar) and Iranian-Shiite-Arab (Iraq, Assad, Hizbollah).8 The Syrian crisis and the US withdrawal from Iraq pushed al-Maliki’s government into closer relations with, if not dependence on, Iran. At an international level, the hesitancy of the United States to support Iraq’s military defense (largely due to Iraq’s stance on Syria) also pushed al-Maliki to foster Baghdad’s relations with Moscow, with which he signed a $4.2 billion defense contract in 2012.9 But like previous dilemmas in Iraqi foreign behavior, alMaliki’s realignment reinforced internal divisions. His regime’s exclusion of Sunni forces from the main ministries and security posts,10 and his regional alliance with Assad and Iran, generated a


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Sunni backlash. Iraq’s Sunni leaders and community called for the overthrow of what they called the “Alawite regime” in Syria. This stance not only reveals the transstate sectarian alliances that emerged in the wake of the Syrian crisis but also highlights the evolving perception of a common fate of two “Sunni” communities fighting their respective “Shiite” regimes, which are backed by Iran (Bayoumy 2012). Some al-Qaeda-affiliated units (one named the Iraqi Free Army, after its Syrian counterpart) sprang up in Anbar and Diyala, attempting to recruit members to fight in Syria (Arango 2012). In December 2012, protests erupted in the Sunni provinces, calling for an end to the “Shiite and Iranianbacked regime” in Iraq, with some protesters carrying flags of Baathist Iraq. Al-Maliki accused Turkey and Qatar of inspiring the revolts against his government.11 For Iraq’s Kurds, the Syrian crisis presented a new opportunity to bolster the domestic autonomy of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), led by Masoud Barzani, and to make it a pole of attraction for the aspirations of the region’s Kurds. The Syrian civil war provided a rare opportunity for Syria’s Kurds to claim their national and cultural rights in a future democratic and federal Syrian government or to secede and establish their own state (International Crisis Group 2013). Accordingly, Barzani, like Iraq’s Arab Sunnis, wanted to see Assad fall, since this would give Syria’s Kurds more power and give the KRG (especially his own Kurdistan Democratic Party) a leading role in the Kurdish-populated areas of the Middle East. Such a prospect would connect Iraq’s Kurds, who provide a political model for emulation, with the Kurds of Syria—possibly breaking the KRG’s geographic isolation and facilitating access to the Mediterranean. Relying on the resources of the KRG and its regional and international connections, Barzani hosted several meetings in Erbil of the warring Syrian Kurdish groups in attempts to establish unity between them. In 2012 he brokered a seven-point agreement between the Kurdish National Council and the Democratic Union Party (the latter aligned with the Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK]) in an attempt to pacify the Kurdish areas of Syria and increase the levels of political and military coordination between the two (International Crisis Group 2013).

The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon


The KRG’s motivations relate to Iraqi Kurds’ ties with Turkey. Although relations had been tense between the two actors, as of 2007 these became stronger (Barkey 2011). In 2009, Turkey effectively recognized the KRG by establishing a consulate in Erbil. Economic relations between the KRG and Turkey greatly increased, with Turkey becoming a major investor in the Kurdish areas. Plans got under way to establish gas and oil pipelines from the Kurdish region to Turkey. The US withdrawal from Iraq gave these economic relations a political dimension. For the KRG, Turkey can play a strong role in neutralizing the pressure from Baghdad and Tehran. On the other hand, for Turkey, the KRG can play an important role in neutralizing the PKK, which had been launching attacks on Turkey from northern Iraq (indeed, the KRG was silent about Turkish air raids over Iraq against PKK fighters). Also, by courting Syrian Kurds, the KRG can act as a channel of communication with, and a vehicle to curb, Kurdish movements that are close to the PKK, such as the Democratic Union Party (International Crisis Group 2012a). These foreign policy moves threatened the KRG’s relations with Baghdad, especially with the Shiites, who were nervous about Turkey’s increasing influence in Iraq. In that regard, the KRG attempted to balance between its quest to expand its domestic autonomy and regional ties (especially with Turkey), on the one hand, and its position (presidency) in and commitment to the central state in Baghdad, which the KRG still relied on for oil income, on the other hand. As with its Iraqi counterpart, the Syrian crisis also generated threats and opportunities for different players in Lebanon. The government of Naguib Miqati (which came to power after the March 8 coalition and the Free Patriotic Movement resigned from Saad Hariri’s cabinet in 2011, and which was strongly backed by Hizbollah) pursued a “dissociation policy” after the Syrian protests started. The policy primarily aimed to shield Lebanon from the Syrian crisis and regional polarization—especially the Saudi-Iranian rivalry—while maintaining domestic unity and stability. Accordingly, in both the United Nations and the Arab League, Lebanon abstained from voting when decisions were made in regard to Syria. But the government’s policy rejected calls for international intervention in Syria (Naharnet 2011). This


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

policy was further formalized when the March 8 and March 14 coalitions agreed to the Baabda Declaration, which President Suleiman articulated. The declaration emphasized Lebanon’s detachment from the Syrian crisis, including abstention from the transfer of weapons and militants from Lebanon into Syria, and emphasized the need for national unity and stability (International Crisis Group 2012b). This policy contributed to preventing the isolation of Lebanon from the Arab world, especially in the Gulf countries, where many Lebanese work and invest. Notwithstanding the official government policy, however, the Syrian conflict generated fragmented responses in Lebanon. For Hizbollah (and Amal), the weakening and potential collapse of the Syrian regime threatened a major strategic loss. Not only did the regime provide Hizbollah with strategic depth and military and political support in its war with Israel but also Syria was a crucial bridge between Hizbollah and its main ideological and military ally, Iran, with the three forming the “Axis of Resistance and Refusal” (Saouli 2011). In opposition to its support of other revolutions in the Arab world, Hizbollah argued for political dialogue and reform in Syria. Strategic choice, dictated by the war with Israel and alliance with Iran, triumphed over other norms of political freedom in its calculations. The support given to the Syrian opposition by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and declarations by some Syrian opposition members about detaching Syria from the resistance axis, reinforced Hizbollah’s choice.12 As opposed to Hizbollah and the majority of Lebanese Shiites, the Sunnis, led by the Future Trend movement and increasingly by Islamic and Salafi groups, perceived the possible fall of Assad as a major opportunity. The fall of the Syrian regime— which many Sunnis blamed for the killing of Hariri and other March 14 leaders—would likely bring to power a predominantly Sunni regime, possibly backed by Saudi Arabia. This would also weaken Hizbollah domestically, obliging the movement to dismantle its military wing, break its ties with Iran, and surrender to the political process. Furthermore, at a regional level, Assad’s fall would limit Iranian “penetration” in the Arab region. In essence, Hizbollah’s fears were Future Trend’s opportunities.

The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon


Accordingly, Future Trend called for the fall of Assad. The Arab uprisings, moreover, provided an opportunity for Lebanese Sunni Islamists to rise and to become more vocal about their ideology. This rise had both domestic and regional origins. Domestically, the inability of Hariri’s Future Trend to counterbalance Hizbollah or even maintain a hold on the Lebanese government had led to a feeling of disempowerment among many Lebanese Sunnis (International Crisis Group 2012b). The Islamists, especially the Salafis of Tripoli and Sidon, aimed to build on Sunni resentment to acquire more power in the Sunni community. On the other hand, Hizbollah’s military strength and its political clout led many Sunni Islamists, such as Shaikh Ahmad Assir, to call for resistance against Hizbollah’s encroachment in Lebanon and to establish a counter-organization in emulation of the Shiite movement. For Future Trend, and Sunni states in the region, the rise of the Islamists could possibly deter Hizbollah. Regionally, the coming to power of the Islamists in Egypt and Tunisia and SunniShiite polarization contributed to mobilization by Lebanon’s Sunnis. The Syrian crisis, and Hizbollah’s stance on it, provided Lebanon’s Sunni Islamists with a catalyst to politically revolt. Amid such fragmented responses to the Syrian conflict, the March 8 and March 14 coalitions accused each other of participating in the Syrian war. Hizbollah was accused by its rivals of militarily supporting the Assad regime; indeed, Hizbollah’s military role in the fall of the strategic towns of Qusair in June 2013 and Yabroud in 2014 proved crucial in tipping the military balance toward regime forces in Syria. March 8, on the other hand, accused Future Trend of funding and orchestrating weapons transfers to the Syrian opposition, and charged that the Islamists were transferring militants and providing the Syrian opposition with a safe haven in northern Lebanon (International Crisis Group 2012b). The Christians of Lebanon, who historically have fought against and detested the Syrian regime, became divided over the Syrian crisis. Despite the stance of the Lebanese Forces movement against Assad, which is in line with that of the March 14 coalition, the majority of Christians, represented by General Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and the Maronite patri-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

arch, cautioned against Assad’s removal (Oweis 2013). The Christians’ main fear was that the fall of Assad—as a member of a minority group whose secular regime has safeguarded against the repression of minority communities in Syria—might endanger Syria’s Christians—a plight the Christians of Iraq have already faced since the removal of Saddam. The potential emergence of an Islamist regime in Syria, on the other hand, might shift the Lebanese balance of power toward the Sunnis, threatening the already fragile political influence of Lebanon’s Christians (International Crisis Group 2012b). Additionally, the flow of Syrian (mostly Sunni) refugees was perceived as a threat to Lebanon’s sectarian demographic balance.13

Conclusion: State Formation, Fragmentation, and Foreign Policy The cases of Iraq and Lebanon underline interesting dimensions of foreign policy motivations and dilemmas in the Middle East. For Iraq and Lebanon, three arenas—domestic, regional, and international—account for foreign policy making. These two cases show that we cannot take for granted the “state”—assumed in international relations theory as a unitary actor—in studying foreign policy. Moreover, focusing on government or regime policy is not sufficient to account for the international relations of Iraq and Lebanon. Rather, as these two cases show, a better understanding of foreign policy comes from examining state formation processes (domestic struggles of political domination and resistance) and how the identities, interests, and orientations of domestic actors shape a state’s interaction with its regional and international environments. In the fragmented polities of Iraq and Lebanon, domestic actors have capitalized on regional developments to preserve or revise their domestic positions. In doing so, they have generated fragmented foreign policies, largely mirroring their domestic orientations. Domestic fragmentation (emanating from state formation), coupled with a strategic geopolitical location, have turned Iraq and Lebanon into battlegrounds for regional and international

The Foreign Policies of Iraq and Lebanon


states and movements, directly affecting their stability and foreign relations. In this regard, the domestic stability of Iraq and Lebanon is directly related to the intensity of regional polarization. The greater the regional polarization, the greater the instability that Lebanon and Iraq will experience and the more fragmented their foreign policies will become; and so too, the lesser the polarization, the lesser the instability and fragmentation (Saouli 2006). In the absence of a complete political incorporation of different communal groups, Iraq and Lebanon will continue to be vulnerable to regional and international shifts of power. Increased political incorporation might defuse the insecurities of political leaders and their respective communities. Political incorporation would require the designing of public institutions that have some degree of independence from political actors. This would reflect an advanced phase of state formation that could potentially unify the states’ foreign policies and decrease exposure to external environments (Saouli 2012). This might cure the political schizophrenia of Iraq and Lebanon.

Notes 1. For Ian Lustick (1979, 325), a society is deeply fragmented if “ascriptive ties generate an antagonistic segmentation of society, based on terminal identities with high political salience, sustained over a substantial period of time and a wide variety of issues.” 2. For discussion of the sectarian demographic distribution in Lebanon (1913–2000), see Salloukh 2008, p. 287. 3. The Baghdad Pact involved a defense alliance under US patronage aiming to contain Soviet penetration in the Middle East and included the “Northern Belt” countries (Iran, Pakistan, Turkey), Britain, and Iraq. 4. For Iran, although the US occupation threatened its regime, it nevertheless benefited from the fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of a predominantly Shiite regime in Iraq (Milani 2011). 5. For Saudi Arabia, this formed an exit from a strategic dilemma it faced in Iraq: on one hand, supporting the Sunni insurgency might endanger the kingdom’s relations with the United States; on the other hand, remaining passive would have meant handing Iraq to Iran (Gause 2007).


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

6. In a press conference, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice described the war as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” See “Secretary Rice Holds a New Conference,” Washington Post, July 21, 2006, /AR2006072100889.html. 7. Al-Maliki’s government restricted the flow of Syrian refugees, especially adult men, to Iraq (Arango 2012). 8. See the February 1, 2013, interview with al-Maliki on Al Mayadeen television. 9. New York World Tribune, October 10, 2012, -moscow. Later, however, al-Maliki seemed to deny that the deal would stand. 10. Osama al-Nujaifi, the Iraqi House Speaker, complains that political exclusion of the Sunnis has been “systematic” since 2004. He points out that, for example, out of 128 police chiefs only 7 are Sunnis. See the February 13, 2013, interview with al-Nujaifi on Al Jazeera television. 11. Turkey and Qatar hosted several Iraqi Sunni opposition leaders. One was Tarek al-Hashimi, who resided in Turkey and was facing capital punishment in Iraq. 12. Burhan Ghalioun, a Syrian opposition figure, noted that Syria’s strategic alliance with Iran and Hizbollah would discontinue after the fall of the regime. See “Head of Syria’s Main Opposition Says Group Plans to Cut Ties with Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah,” Al Arabiya News, December 2, 2011, .html. 13. Jibran Bassil, a Free Patriotic Movement minister, expressed concerns in this regard. See “Bassil Says Lebanon Should Limit Syrian Refugee Influx,” Daily Star, January 5, 2013, .lb/News/Politics/2013/Jan-05/201044-bassil-says-lebanon-should-limit -syrian-refugee-influx.ashx#axzz2Lzud8T6k.

5 The Foreign Policy of Jordan Curtis R. Ryan The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a small country with limited resources and a weak economy, and historically it has been dependent on financial aid and economic support from various external patrons.1 The kingdom is also geographically situated in the very center of the Middle East, among neighboring states that are each more powerful in just about every sense of the term. As Jordan’s former foreign minister Marwan al-Qasim once put it, “our borders make us more vulnerable even than Kuwait. And we are surrounded by more powerful neighbors: Israel, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and even Egypt. As a small country, we have to be careful.”2 Yet despite its limitations and constraints, Jordan has tended to play a regional foreign policy role beyond what its small size and its limited economic and military means would otherwise suggest. In many ways, that role was established during the lengthy reign of King Hussein (1953–1999). Hussein was long regarded as one of the great survivors of Middle East politics and as a particularly skillful leader, guiding his state through tumultuous waters and countless domestic and regional threats to the regime’s survival. But in 1999, with the death of Hussein and the accession to the throne of his son, King Abdullah II, Jordan had a new top foreign policy maker for the first time in forty-six years. 133


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Under both Hussein and Abdullah, Jordan established a reputation for caution and moderation in regional politics and foreign policy. Throughout years of varying degrees of turmoil in the Middle East, Jordan continued to play a key role in the prospects for both war and peace in the region. It relied heavily on powerful allies both regionally and globally, and Jordan’s emphasis on moderation in foreign policy earned it many powerful—and rich—friends. Starting in 2003, the influential World Economic Forum began holding annual meetings at Jordan’s Dead Sea resort. The forum brought together the world’s richest countries, companies, and individuals. Jordan’s hosting of the World Economic Forum underscored its desire to court the world’s most wealthy and powerful economic actors, while also demonstrating the central role that these economic “powers-that-be” seem to attach to Jordan within Middle East politics. Starting in December 2010, however, Jordan and the entire region were shaken by the regional Arab Spring. This surge of citizen activism and mobilization led to revolutions and the toppling of regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. In Syria, the Arab Spring turned from revolution to multiyear civil war. Jordan too felt the tensions and pressures of the Arab Spring, in two clear ways: in terms of regional turmoil and rising external insecurity (especially from the Syrian civil war) and also in terms of domestic insecurity in the face of protests, demonstrations, and at times riots demanding real reform and change within the kingdom. I examine here Jordanian foreign policy from King Hussein through the transition to King Abdullah II and finally to the domestic and regional upheavals of the Arab Spring.

Foreign Policy Determinants: Insecurity and the Primacy of Alliances The modern state of Jordan first emerged from the imperial machinations that divided the Middle East following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. After the war, Britain, under the League of Nations mandate system, carved out Jordan’s borders and set up the Hashemite regime under Emir Abdullah.

The Foreign Policy of Jordan


The Hashemite family had previously ruled Mecca in Western Arabia, before being defeated and expelled by the rising power of the Saudi family and their allies. Britain shortly thereafter established Hashemite monarchies in the newly emerging states of Jordan and Iraq. From that point onward, Britain maintained close strategic ties to the kingdom (Wilson 1987). Jordan has maintained a strong political alliance with the United States since the early 1950s (al-Madfai 1993). That alliance was reinforced by the Cold War, as Jordan’s conservative monarchical regime created for itself an identity as a force for moderation, and specifically as a local and regional bulwark against communism, pan-Arab nationalist movements, and leftist and revolutionary movements in general.3 Today, that identity and image of moderation has remained, even as the perceived threats have shifted from secular leftist movements to those of militant Islamism. Marwan Muasher (Jordan’s former foreign minister, former ambassador to the United States, and the kingdom’s first ambassador to Israel) accurately summarized the Hashemite regime’s view of itself and its role in regional and global politics in a book he titled The Arab Center (2008). Jordan, he argued, was the leading actor in “the Arab center”—the core of Arab states that varied domestically but had similarly moderate foreign policies. By seemingly relentlessly pursuing a middle path through various more extreme policy options, Jordan acted as a key force for moderation, reform, and peace in the region. The alliance with the United States (and with Jordan’s former colonial power, Britain) helped maintain Jordan as a state and as a regime. And given the largely artificial nature of Jordan’s creation as an independent state, carved out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire by imperial Britain, that was no small achievement. The Hashemite monarchy has since its inception fended off threats both foreign and domestic and managed to survive to tell the tale. With neighbors including Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s geostrategic position is at once deeply vulnerable and also vital to any concerns for stability in the region. Jordan is by any analysis and any measure weaker than its neighbors, and it is a difficult neighborhood, to be sure. Since independence in 1946, Jordan has fought in and survived three Arab-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Israeli wars (1948, 1967, with limited participation in 1973) and has even experienced a bloody civil war (1970–1971). The chronic insecurity that flows from the kingdom’s geostrategic location, combined with the fact that this is not offset by any generous resource endowments (like those of some of its wealthier oil-producing neighbors), has led the regime to place a premium on retaining powerful external allies. Maintaining and deepening the alliance with the United States remains always at the top of the list of the kingdom’s alliance and foreign policy goals. Jordan remains one of the top recipients of US foreign aid, both economic and military, and given the kingdom’s small economy, it is not an exaggeration to say that Jordan is dependent on foreign aid. For the Hashemite regime, the relationship with the United States may even be essential for the survival of the monarchy. That was true during the long reign of King Hussein, and if anything it is even more true in the age of King Abdullah II. For the Abdullah regime, the US relationship provides the economic underpinnings for the success of both the state and the regime. These economic imperatives include not only extensive foreign aid but also US and Western investment in the development of the kingdom, as well as increasing trade relations (especially since the establishment of the free trade agreement between the United States and Jordan in 2002).4 Yet the relationship between the United States and Jordan has also been a mixed blessing for the Hashemite regime. On the one hand the Jordanian monarchy has benefited from extensive military and economic aid, but on the other hand its close relationship to the United States (and therefore to the latter’s unpopular policies toward the Middle East) has been just as constant a liability to the regime’s domestic legitimacy. In that sense, close alliance with the United States has both helped and hurt Hashemite regime security over the years. In terms of regional politics, Jordan’s strategic concerns are very real, and this has been underscored since independence by three major wars with Israel. As a conservative, pro-Western monarchy, Hashemite Jordan fended off numerous attempts by Nasserists, Baathists, and later Islamists to undermine or transform the regime. As mentioned, Jordan also managed to survive

The Foreign Policy of Jordan


not only the 1948 war but also the even more disastrous 1967 war (in which Israel took East Jerusalem and the West Bank) as well as a brutal civil war in 1970–1971.

Foreign Policy Making For most of Jordan’s history, there has been little opportunity for domestic institutions or interest groups to affect foreign policy.5 As a country in which the monarch rules as well as reigns, Jordan provides for a preponderance of political power in the hands of the king. For this reason, analysts had long examined the personality and ideas of King Hussein, as virtually the sole ingredient in Jordanian foreign policy (al-‘Arabuti 1992; Dann 1992; Faddah 1974). While it would be impossible to ignore the role of the monarch as the most prominent architect of Jordanian policy, it is important to bear in mind that he does not act alone. The king is advised by officials in the Royal Hashemite Court, or Diwan, as well as by the prime minister, cabinet ministers, specialists in various fields, and also by less official—but sometimes more powerful—personal confidants. Still, the core makers of foreign policy tend to be a small and relatively cohesive group. This circle will at all times include the king in the paramount position, accompanied by trusted confidants and advisers. At times, this circle may be so small that it will exclude both the prime minister and the foreign minister as well as other cabinet members.6 Historically, these cabinet officials have existed to implement the decisions of the palace, rather than to initiate policy themselves (Mutawi 1987). The Jordanian foreign ministry has historically been among the least influential institutions in Jordanian foreign policy. The foreign minister and the ministry have virtually no role in the decisionmaking process, and little role even in advice or consultation. Instead, the foreign ministry has a predominantly executive function. It is charged with the implementation of decisions that have already been made elsewhere. As well, the foreign minister has the additional role of representing Jordan abroad and articulating its foreign policy to other countries.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Thus when examining Jordanian foreign policy making, it is necessary to keep in mind the importance of informal access to the king and the influence of key advisers and decisionmakers whose positions would never be listed on any institutional chart. Often these trusted confidants of the king occupy various positions and portfolios throughout their careers, yet with no real change in their policy role. This is particularly true of policy advisers groomed in the ranks of the Royal Hashemite Court, who occupy positions ranging from chief of the court to national security adviser, and who later become cabinet ministers and perhaps eventually prime minister. Many Jordanian prime ministers originally made their marks within the regime as head of the General Intelligence Directorate, better known as the Mukhabarat. This was especially true during the Cold War years. These prime ministers often continued to exercise influence even after retirement, as members of Jordan’s royally appointed upper house of parliament, or senate. Under King Abdullah II, the intelligence services have continued to play a large role in Jordanian politics, but the prime ministers have been just as likely to emerge from economic portfolios associated with the king’s prioritizing of neoliberal economic development. However, Jordanian policymakers may have been influenced at times, in a less formal sense, by public opinion—even in a monarchy and a largely centralized and historically authoritarian system. Beginning in 1989, in particular, there were signs that the high level of royal autonomy would be increasingly challenged as a result of the process of political liberalization. Responding to protests throughout the country, the regime had begun a political liberalization program that included loosening restrictions on the media and holding the first full parliamentary elections in more than twenty years. By the end of 1992, the regime had lifted martial law, legalized political parties, and promulgated a new national charter emphasizing political pluralism. As the liberalization process continued, particularly with national elections in 1989, the lower house of parliament became more dynamic than at any time since the 1950s. Traditionally, the role of parliament in Jordanian foreign policy has been minimal, and at times nonexistent. By 1993, how-

The Foreign Policy of Jordan


ever, with the legalization of more than twenty political parties, many parliamentarians hoped to increase the role of the legislative branch in the policymaking process. From the 1990s onward, members of parliament have more frequently called for a greater role for themselves in Jordanian foreign policy. In addition, the proliferation of new newspapers, magazines, political parties, and professional associations provided opportunities for Jordanians to give voice to their views and their demands for the state’s policies.7 As media changed, with the emergence of the Internet and new social media, Jordan embraced these communication technologies, with an eye toward its international business climate and its desire for trade, aid, and foreign investment. But communication technologies of course have political effects too (as was made abundantly clear in the Arab revolutions beginning in 2010). So Jordanians became even more able to make their views known and to monitor what was being done in their name in the form of Jordan’s foreign relations. Still, even with all the economic and social changes, Jordanian foreign policy continued to be formulated mainly by the king and a small circle of advisers.

Foreign Policy Behavior The years after the Hashemite succession from Hussein to Abdullah were an especially tumultuous and violent period, even in the context of Middle East politics. The early years of the new century saw the collapse of the peace process, an increase in jihadist terrorism, and US wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. King Abdullah II had taken the throne only in 1999, after the death of his long-serving father, King Hussein since 1953. Thus, following merely one relatively placid year in office, the Abdullah regime in Jordan was thereafter buffeted between a series of regional crises, each of which affected it directly. For Jordanian policymakers, however, the US wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq were very different from the violence in Israel and Palestine and the terrorism of al-Qaeda. Jordan’s former foreign minister Kamal Abu Jaber summarized the Hashemite regime’s view, noting that “the Afghan war was an altogether different situation. The Taliban were a pre-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

primitive political order. It was an embarrassment to the whole Islamic world, what they were doing to women, and banning music, dancing, and so on. Jordan supported getting rid of that regime.”8 The Jordanian government vocally supported the US military campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and deployed military field hospitals in Afghanistan as its more physical contribution to the cause. Yet the George W. Bush administration’s threats against Iraq were met with considerable alarm in Amman, especially as they coincided with rising hostilities to the west of Jordan between Israel and Palestine. The Hashemite regime had many times in the past confronted threats and challenges emanating from either the Arab-Israeli conflict or recurrent conflicts in the Persian Gulf. This time, however, the new Hashemite regime of King Abdullah II faced both conflicts at the same time. Even in the aftermath of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and even as US forces began withdrawing from both countries, the region was soon thereafter shaken to its foundations by the Arab Spring. Jordan and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Jordan has the longest Arab border with Israel and will also border a Palestinian state, should one be created in the West Bank (and Gaza). Jordan fought several wars with Israel, but in 1994 signed a formal peace treaty with the Jewish state, becoming only the second Arab country to do so. Jordan also played a key role in pushing the “roadmap” for peace pursued by the Bush administration. Across Jordanian politics and society, sympathies run deep for the plight of the Palestinian people. Indeed, more than half of Jordan’s population now is of Palestinian descent. The kingdom has reeled in the past from waves of Palestinian refugees crossing the Jordan River as a result of the various Arab-Israeli wars. In addition, Jordan (especially under King Hussein) had a long record of hostile interactions with Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), including the 1970 Jordanian civil war itself. Nonetheless, years later, in 1991 at the Madrid peace conference, Jordan and the Palestinians participated as a joint delegation. But having used that political compromise to begin the mul-

The Foreign Policy of Jordan


tilateral negotiations, Jordan and the Palestinians soon thereafter formed separate delegations for further bilateral and multilateral talks. The key departure point came in 1993 with the surprise announcement of the Oslo Accords, the peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.9 Jordanian decisionmakers feared that their regional importance might have been compromised in the stroke of a pen at Oslo. Unlike Egypt and Syria, Jordan was not involved in the peace process in order to gain back territory lost in the disastrous 1967 war. Quite the contrary, Jordan had renounced its claims to the West Bank in 1988 and was viewed by virtually no one as a serious military threat to Israel. But the Jordanian response to the Oslo Accords was stunningly swift. By 1994, Jordan had concluded not simply a set of accords but a full and formal peace treaty with the state of Israel. Thus, for the first time since 1948, Jordan had conclusively moved from an official foreign policy of belligerency toward Israel to a legalized peace (Barari 2004; Lukacs 1997). The peace that followed was not a warm one, and within Jordanian domestic politics, Jordan’s large Islamist movement and other opposition parties maintained a strident campaign to prevent normalization of relations between professional associations in the two societies (Scham and Lucas 2003). Jordan’s relations with the PLO, meanwhile, had continued to shift between cooperation and acrimony. But after the death of PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and the emergence of Mahmoud Abbas as head of Fateh and the Palestinian Authority, Jordan steadily increased its political support for this secular and nationalist wing of the Palestinian movement. Correspondingly, Jordan also attempted to sideline and thwart the designs of the more militant Islamist alternative, Hamas. While democratic Islamism is a major part of Jordanian domestic politics (including the Muslim Brotherhood and its legal political party wing, the Islamic Action Front), King Abdullah’s regime expelled Hamas from the kingdom and has at times shown limited patience and tolerance for Islamism in general. The Jordanian government strongly supported the roadmap for peace and resolutely maintained its peace treaty with Israel, despite renewed regional tensions, a second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, a second war in Iraq, and even the extensive Israeli


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

military assault on Gaza in 2009. In fact, the Abdullah regime made clear repeatedly that it viewed the restoration of a meaningful Arab-Israeli peace process—and real progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian settlement—as the key issue facing regional politics. King Abdullah relentlessly argued that time was slipping away for a solution that would work for Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians alike. In addition to countless media appearances and policy statements to this effect, the king even wrote a book whose title makes his thesis very clear: Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace in a Time of Peril (2011). When the Jordanians signed their peace treaty in 1994, they did not think that so little would be accomplished on the ArabIsraeli front over the next two decades. It is in this context that fears have increased in the kingdom that long-refuted plans such as the “Jordan option” might be revived. This option is the nightmare scenario for the Hashemite regime: that Israel might one day force a massive “transfer” of Palestinians across the Jordan River and into the kingdom, destabilizing Jordan still further and potentially making an old right-wing Israeli idea—that “Jordan is Palestine”—come true by force of arms, and presumably bringing an end to the Hashemite state altogether. This fear has led to a revival of identity politics within the kingdom, and in particular a resurgent conservative nationalist movement among some East Jordanians who fear above all else that Jordan will become watan al-badeel—the “alternative homeland.” The Hashemite regime often finds itself being pressured by sheer demographics, between what is presumably a Palestinian Jordanian majority and ultraconservative forces who fear that the Jordan they know—and which they think of as East Jordanian and tribal—is in danger of losing its identity and perhaps someday even its sovereignty. This brings us back to a key point regarding Jordan’s foreign policy goals: that regime survival is paramount. Jordan and the US Wars with Iraq

During the Gulf War of 1990–1991, as the United States sought to recruit Arab countries to join its coalition against Iraq, Jordan sought to maintain neutrality between Baghdad and Washington

The Foreign Policy of Jordan


(Abu Jaber 1994; Hamarneh 1992). Jordan had intimate economic ties with Iraq and received oil at preferential prices while Saddam Hussein was popular among most sectors of the public. As the anti-Iraq coalition continually expanded, Jordan remained noticeably absent from its ranks. The Jordanians remained out of the war, urging a peaceful solution that was not to be. But the kingdom also called for Iraqi withdrawal, maintained its recognition of the al-Sabah government of Kuwait, and rejected the Iraqi claim of annexation. Some individual Jordanians volunteered to defend Iraq, but the Jordanian armed forces remained strictly neutral and did not fight alongside the Iraqi army. Critics saw Jordan’s fence-straddling during the Gulf War as pro-Iraq. The Hashemite regime, in contrast, viewed its position as the definition of a balanced stance. But in many ways, Jordan’s position bespoke its extreme vulnerability both domestically and regionally, and no choice was without heavy costs (Brand 1994; Lynch 1999; Ryan 2009). As a result of these calculations, Jordan in the end attempted to steer a middle course: it refused to join the coalition, but also refused to support its former ally, Iraq, militarily. The regime’s cautious stance kept King Hussein’s domestic popularity intact, but Jordan suffered severe economic repercussions. To the United States and its allies, Jordan remained Iraq’s closest ally, and the kingdom paid a heavy economic price for displeasing the United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) with its decision to maintain alignment with Iraq. Aid to Jordan from the United States, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia was abruptly halted. Jordan’s trade with most Arab countries also declined rapidly. The port of Aqaba was eventually all but closed to commercial traffic, leading to a sharp decline in port revenues as well as in goods entering the country. Jordan’s much-needed tourism income effectively evaporated. Finally, angry Gulf states—first Saudi Arabia and then liberated Kuwait—expelled several hundred thousand Jordanians and Palestinians working in their countries. Given the severe economic, social, and political costs that Jordan incurred for its Gulf War decision, it is not surprising that the shadow of that episode has loomed large over Jordanian foreign


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

policy ever since. And certainly that shadow remained in place in 2003, as the Hashemite regime was once again confronted with a US war against its Iraqi neighbor. The Jordanians remained convinced that wars in the region would serve only to further erode the already tenuous Arab-Israeli peace process, and it is therefore no surprise that Hashemite Jordan opposed the US invasion of Iraq. The Jordanians regarded the US invasion as a dangerous destabilizing factor in the region. They argued that another US war on Iraq would only exacerbate regional tensions, undermine the security and credibility of Washington’s key Arab allies, and even increase terrorism in the region. In addition, they argued that a US invasion would divert attention and efforts from the real regional issue: the need to finally end the Arab-Israeli conflict. In these arguments the Jordanians certainly seem to have been proven correct. Economic factors also remained a major concern for the Jordanian government, with the regime making clear its need for an alternative oil supplier if Iraqi supplies were to be disrupted.10 As noted earlier, the memory of the Gulf War loomed large during the 2003 crisis. King Abdullah was determined not to have Jordan suffer the same outcome that had occurred after that earlier crisis and war. Indeed, this emphasis on economic linkages is a hallmark of Abdullah’s foreign policy. His regime has, if anything, placed even more stock in these external economic relationships than had King Hussein. Abdullah, for example, pursued with vigor the idea of a free trade agreement between the United States and Jordan—the first US free trade agreement with any Arab country. The events of September 11, 2001, may have unintentionally solidified that agreement, as the US Congress quickly ratified the US-Jordanian free trade agreement, despite assorted misgivings. After the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, King Abdullah made clear that Jordan would support the US policy of a global “war on terror,” including its invasion of Afghanistan.11 Precisely because it had positioned itself as a key “frontline state” in this global antiterror campaign, Jordan even managed to secure a doubling of its foreign aid from the United States. The kingdom had therefore become one of the top recipients of US aid, behind Israel, Egypt, and Colombia.

The Foreign Policy of Jordan


In addition to trade and aid, the issue of Iraqi oil weighed especially heavily on Jordanian policymakers as this, in turn, affected all other economic plans. As Jordan’s former prime minister Fayez Tarawnah noted: Oil supplies were a critical factor to us. Oil was flowing to us at good terms and with the approval of the United Nations. Plus Iraq is our most natural market. And all this interrupts our reform program, which is all about direct foreign investment and export-oriented development. We have advantages we can sell. We are in the World Trade Organization, we have the free trade agreement with the US, and linked trade association with the European Union. . . . Now a war on our eastern border will disrupt all this.12

The 2003 US invasion of Iraq directly threatened the regime’s economic interests, but at the same time the invasion appeared to be inevitable, even if unnecessary, given the ideological convictions of the Bush administration. If war could not be avoided, then Jordanian policymakers could at least attempt to soften the economic blow to the kingdom while also avoiding (this time) the damaging loss of aid and oil supplies from its local and global allies. As a former foreign minister argued in attempting to clarify Jordan’s position on the Iraq War: The king took the right position. Nothing could be done to stop the invasion regardless of Jordanian foreign policy. Jordan cautioned against the war. Once again, Jordan can say, I told you so. After the war, King Abdullah was one of the first to say the United States won the war, but not the peace. We thought war would bring more disaster to the region. We did not support Saddam. But we did not support invasion either.13

Another former foreign minister echoed this point, but also added an assessment broadly shared throughout the region: Jordan did not support the US war against Iraq. King Abdullah advised Bush and the Americans not to go to war. But the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

American plan had been made much earlier. Even during the 2000 campaign. It was a bulldozer not to be stopped for any reason. And then all the excuses for the war turned out to be false and so they had to focus on Saddam’s personality. . . . Jordan feared that war might drag in Turkey, Israel, and others, creating a black hole sucking the whole region in. [Another] fear was the dismemberment of Iraq. And now, in effect, that has taken place. Bush has opened a Pandora’s box for a long time to come. And this applies not just to Iraq but to the whole region. They have created a bleeding festering wound.14

Given these many regional security concerns, Jordan was not in a position to choose between conventional options such as bandwagoning and balancing in the face of regional threats. Indeed, which external power was the threat to bandwagon with, or balance against? For all its problems with Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Hashemite monarchy did not fear it as an external threat per se. If anything, the monarchy feared its impact on domestic security instead. Similarly, the only state issuing overt military threats was the United States, but these were directed at Iraq, and later even at Syria and Iran, not at Jordan. Here too, the conventional expectations simply did not apply to the Jordanian position. If anything, the regime may have been practicing its long-standing approach of “omni-balancing” between internal and external threats. It refused to join the United States and the United Kingdom in their attack on Iraq, but maintained its economic ties and frequent diplomatic exchange with both countries, thereby bandwagoning in perhaps the mildest possible economic—but not military—sense. For the most part, Jordanian policy was marked mainly by damage control and in that sense resembled hurricane preparation. The regime attempted to maintain its political and economic links to its key allies, but otherwise braced itself in an attempt simply to survive yet another regional disaster. While Jordan refused to allow a US invasion of Iraq to take place from its territory, the government did allow the temporary placement of US Patriot antimissile batteries in its eastern desert, staffed by US military personnel. This issue was so sensitive domestically, however, that the government was forced to repeatedly deny rumors that thousands of US or even Israeli troops had

The Foreign Policy of Jordan


deployed within Jordan. Given its fears of internal unrest and domestic regime insecurity, the government repeatedly issued “temporary” decrees to restrict the media, public demonstrations, and various other aspects of civil society. From 1999 to 2003 alone, the government issued well over a hundred such decrees. In Jordan, as elsewhere, the state emphasis on security and the “war on terror” was used to justify numerous aspects of deliberalization. In sum, these moves should be seen as emblematic of the deep level of domestic insecurity felt by the regime even before the Iraq War began. After the US invasion, many Iraqis, including many opposition figures now elevated to government positions in the postBaathist regime, charged Jordan with aiding and abetting the long reign of Saddam Hussein. Jordan’s prior close relations with Iraq now came back to hurt Jordan’s relations with the new Iraq. The Hashemite regime’s relations were particularly and mutually hostile with Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the US-backed Iraqi National Congress, formerly an opposition group in exile. As a corporate executive, Chalabi had presided over the collapse of Jordan’s Petra Bank in 1989, devastating the life savings of many Jordanians. He later fled the country. Within Jordan, Chalabi was indicted, tried in absentia, and convicted of fraud and negligence in the banking disaster. This episode became diplomatically awkward, to say the least, when Chalabi was elevated to the post of temporary oil minister of Iraq and later became deputy prime minister, with special responsibilities for—of all things—finance. To make matters still worse, Jordanian officials in December 2004 made a series of unfortunate comments that only added to the growing Jordanian-Iraqi rift. Jordanian foreign minister Hani al-Mulqi, for example, warned of a growing Shiite-dominant regime in Baghdad “decorated with a Persian scent.”15 Though the remarks were ill chosen, they did underscore the regime’s real concerns with the increasing dominance of Shiite influence in the region. Shiite influence is not in any way a theological concern for the Hashemite regime. Rather, the Jordanians are wary of what they regard as the rising power of Iran and of Iranian influence among many of Jordan’s neighbors. Jordanian policymakers are often quick to note that the US destruction of Iraq also destroyed


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

a key buffer against Iranian power and ambition, and instead facilitated the rise of Tehran. With the success of Hizbollah in Lebanese elections and even in war against Israel in 2006, coupled with the largely Shiitedominated coalition of parties purporting to govern the new Iraq, the Jordanians openly worried about a “Shiite crescent” emerging in the region between Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, while they saw themselves as representing a Sunni alternative. Their point of emphasis, however, is actually not Sunni-Shiite differences but rather revolutionary versus moderate tendencies in the region. In any event, Jordanian officials did worry about Iranian power and had no desire to see Iran or any other state in the region gain nuclear weapons. But they also worried over the effects of yet another war in the region, and hence tended to support diplomatic rather than military options regarding US tensions with Iran. Still, expressions of concern over Iranian power too often came in the form of diplomatic gaffes about the Shiites more generally, and hence led to a minor crisis in Jordanian-Iraqi relations. Yet the Jordanian-Iraqi rift did not extend to the entire Iraqi government. In 2004, Iraq’s new president, Jalal Talabani, embarked on a tour of key regional capitals, pointedly making Amman his first stop. Talabani led the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which, like the Kurdistan Democratic Party, had long opposed Saddam Hussein’s regime. In the mid-1990s, King Hussein had allowed these two organizations and other Iraqi opposition groups to open offices in Amman, making clear the final break between the Hashemites and Saddam Hussein. Talabani reminded the media of this during his 2004 tour and again on his return to Jordan in 2005. The Iraqi president insisted that Jordanian-Iraqi ties were “strategic and excellent,” and promptly began discussing with Jordanian officials a return to more extensive economic ties between the two countries.16 Jordan, meanwhile, provided the training for thousands of police officers and supported efforts to rebuild Iraq. Yet Jordan also remained wedged between Israeli-Palestinian tensions and violence to the west, and US and Iraqi violence to the east. In addition, Jordan’s political closeness to the United States and its moderation in foreign policy have in many ways

The Foreign Policy of Jordan


made it a target of militant Islamist movements. As the Jordanians predicted, political violence and terrorism followed the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, and eventually spilled over into Jordan itself. Al-Qaeda in Iraq emerged as a force (led for a time by a militant Jordanian national, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) and eventually struck Jordan on November 9, 2005 (Jordanians consider this to be their own “9/11” event), when suicide bombers targeted three luxury hotels in Jordan’s capital, Amman, killing more than sixty people. The terrorists turned out to be Iraqi nationals, but the Jordanian regime nonetheless tightened its grip on domestic security, even as violence raged on two of the kingdom’s borders. Compounding these already considerable security concerns, the kingdom absorbed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees. The stress on housing, transportation, social services, and education was extensive, and only underscored the regime’s determination not to allow these refugees to become the “new Palestinians.” Yet starting in March 2011, an even larger flow of refugees emerged, this time at Jordan’s northern border with Syria as the latter descended from revolution into civil war. Jordanian Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring

A resurgence of street protests in Jordan coincided with those in Tunisia in December 2010, which marked the beginning of the regional Arab Spring. The difference, however, was that the protests in Tunisia called for the overthrow of the regime of President Ben Ali and culminated in the Tunisian revolution. In Jordan, protesters called for reform and the sacking of then–prime minister Samir al-Rifa’i and his cabinet. The Jordanian protests achieved their initial aims, but then continued almost every Friday for the next several years, in most cases calling for greater reform, a stand against corruption, and an opening of the Jordanian political system (Barnes-Dacey 2012). Jordan may not have seen a revolution during the Arab Spring of 2011–2013, but it did see political instability in the form of five different prime ministers and governments in that time span. In January 2013 the kingdom held its first parliamentary elections of the Arab Spring era, this time under the auspices of a new independent electoral commis-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

sion. As revolutions and civil wars swirled around Jordan, the Hashemite regime attempted a middle ground of state-driven reform and gradual liberalization.17 In many ways, this was a return to the earlier program of liberalization that had begun during a time of similar economic hardship and domestic instability, in April 1989 (Ryan 2013). In response to these events, the regime tried to use domestic political reform to steer a course that amounted to a “third way” between authoritarian rule and revolution. But it also relied heavily on foreign policy to ensure regime and national security. As always, this involved strengthening alliances with regional and global great powers. In March 2013, US president Barack Obama visited the region to meet with the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan. The presidential visit to Jordan helped underscore the US role in supporting Jordan—and the Hashemite monarchy—politically, economically, and militarily. In terms of regional alliances, Jordan (along with Morocco) received an invitation to join the Gulf Cooperation Council—the Gulf alliance of Arab oil monarchies, comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The initiative appeared to have come mainly from a worried Saudi regime, hoping to shore up the monarchies of the region in the face of widespread social unrest. After the fall of Saudi ally Husni Mubarak in Egypt, the Saudis were angered that the United States had not backed the Egyptian president. They may also have been worried about the impact of the Arab Spring on monarchies in general and on Sunni-led regimes in the region. While neither Morocco nor Jordan were Gulf states, both were hereditary monarchies led by Sunni Muslim families. Sharing a key GCC security concern, Jordan’s King Abdullah had warned repeatedly of the dangers of rising Iranian power and influence in Arab affairs. Despite the general regional scorn that accompanied this proposal of expanding the GCC into an even larger club of Sunni Arab monarchies, the Jordanians took the offer very seriously. Jordan’s foreign ministry worked extensively on the issue. For Jordan, the GCC offered multiple economic benefits, including the potential for oil at more concessionary prices, as well as aid,

The Foreign Policy of Jordan


investment, and trade. The Jordanians hoped that GCC membership would revive the moribund Jordanian economy and help secure both state and regime in the country. The Jordanians also felt that they had something significant to offer the GCC states. As one of only two Arab states holding a peace treaty with Israel, and as a close ally of the United States and Britain, Jordan was in a position to talk to just about anybody. It could credibly act as a mediator in regional disputes, including the frequent disputes between the GCC monarchies themselves. Jordan is poor in capital and resources, but it is rich in terms of its highly educated work force. The kingdom also has one of the most sophisticated intelligence services in the region, its General Intelligence Directorate. And while its armed forces were small, they were among the best trained in the Arab world; so well-trained in fact that they had developed the regional specialty of training other countries’ police and special forces. For the Jordanians, thus, a seat at the GCC table was not simply Gulf charity, but could become a more symbiotic relationship. While the Jordanians desired the many economic benefits of joining such a bloc of rich states, they offered something in return. Some Jordanian officials even complained that Jordan was already helping the GCC states in these security areas, with little reward, and that full GCC membership would simply codify an already existing series of exchanges between Jordan and the GCC.18 Yet after the initial urgency (especially during the first two tumultuous years of the Arab Spring), the GCC seemed to cool on the idea of admitting Jordan, even as Jordanian interest remained strong. While Jordanian hopes regarding the GCC rose and fell, Syria descended into years of brutal and bloody civil war (Ryan 2012). The Jordanians tried to urge a negotiated settlement, suggesting that Assad should leave power, but that a gradual negotiated transition would be best for Syrians and their neighbors. A lengthy civil war, they warned, risked turning Syria into a site of chronic violence, instability, and terrorism, similar to Afghanistan, Iraq, or even Somalia. The entire situation was a cause of intense worry in Jordan, since Damascus was so close to the Jordanian capital, Amman, and thousands of Syrian refugees were pouring across the Jordanian border to flee the violence in their home country. By


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

2014, Jordan was hosting 600,000 Syrian refugees—in a country whose own citizens numbered just over 6 million. Since independence in 1946, Jordan had been swept by wave upon wave of refugees: Palestinians (in several waves) from the west, Iraqis from the east, and now Syrians crossing from the north. Even for a poor country, Jordan was experiencing harsh economic constraints, vast budget deficits, and hardship including economic austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund. The latter measures had triggered domestic protests and riots, most extensively in November 2012, and only added to the day-to-day suffering of ordinary Jordanians, and to the economic, social, and political costs of hosting hundreds of thousands of desperate Syrian refugees. Yet the Jordanian dilemma concerning Syria involved more than just alarm about the dire refugee crisis. The regime worried also about Islamist ascendancy in Damascus after the war, even suggesting that an Islamist axis might be emerging, with the rise of Islamists to power (even if temporarily) in Tunisia, Egypt, and even Turkey.19 The same regime that had earlier warned of a Shiite axis including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran was now seeing potentially a Sunni axis—but not one marked by Jordanian-style moderation. The Jordanians feared not just rising Islamist militancy in Syria, but also its impact on Jordan, especially if Salafi jihadists turned on Jordan once the Syrian war was over. Every possible outcome of the Syrian war seemed to threaten Jordanian security, including fears of unrest being visited upon the kingdom by either Islamist militancy or Baathist agents angered at Jordan’s alleged support for the rebel forces. The regime feared, in short, terrorism coming to Jordan from Syria, as it had from Iraq. Yet even as the Jordanian government insisted that it remained neutral in the Syrian civil war, media reports surfaced suggesting that GCC countries—especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar—were purchasing arms for the Syrian rebels and funneling them into Syria through both Turkey and Jordan.20 With the arrival of the Arab Spring, Jordan faced a series of domestic and regional challenges, of which the Syrian civil war was the most severe. Jordan tried to avoid getting involved in the Syrian conflict, even as hundreds of thousands of refugees crossed

The Foreign Policy of Jordan


the border to sanctuary in the kingdom. Despite its attempts to avoid the war, Jordan remained under considerable pressure from both its Gulf and Western allies to play a larger role. But, as always, the kingdom’s foreign policy was predicated on maintaining multiple economic, political, and military allies at the regional and global levels—allies whom it seemed risky to ignore, given their vital role as guarantors of Jordanian economic viability, political stability, and security.

Conclusion Jordanian foreign policy under King Abdullah II may best be summarized in one of the regime’s own slogans: “Jordan First” (al-Urdun Awalan), which suggests a strong nationalist (rather than pan-Arabist) approach to foreign policy. The Jordanian regime continues to view itself as a bastion of moderation and stability, and even of reform. Jordan’s domestic political reform process has included limited political liberalization, but the regime is especially committed to an economic agenda based on neoliberal economic policies such as privatization, foreign investment, and free trade. Jordan has had, at times, strong misgivings regarding US priorities (such as launching the 2003 Iraq War and allowing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to decline), but the Hashemite regime regards its alliance with the United States as a key strategic interest. It also has no intention of letting its own peace treaty with Israel collapse. Jordan even views itself as a model for the region regarding the policy areas of deepest concern to Western governments, including support for neoliberal economic policies, the combating of militant Islamism and terrorism, stabilization of Iraq and Syria, and restoration of the Arab-Israeli peace process. Yet the Arab Spring shook Jordan as it had the entire region. In the case of Jordan, the kingdom was already preoccupied with its own struggles over domestic political reform and its own economic crisis. But the arrival of the regional Arab Spring exacerbated both dilemmas, while also adding intensely to the external security constraints on the kingdom. Still, Jordan had in the past


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

steered a moderate course through previous regional crises, surviving multiple Arab-Israeli wars and wars in the Gulf that impacted its own economy and stability. The list of internal and external challenges to Hashemite regime security and to the security of Jordan itself was arguably even longer during the Arab Spring than before. Yet the regime attempted to use its foreign policy ties to regional and global powers to solidify both the monarchy and the state, both politically and economically, in order to ward off the latest series of threats and challenges to Jordan’s livelihood, security, and survival.

Notes 1. This chapter draws in part on earlier versions in Ryan 2004 and Ryan 2009. For an expanded analysis of the section on Jordanian foreign policy and the Arab Spring, see Ryan 2013. 2. Author interview with Marwan al-Qasim, Amman, April 6, 1993. 3. On the politics of the social construction of Jordanian national identity, and contestation over this identity in the Jordanian public sphere, see Lynch 1999 and Massad 2001. 4. The classic study of the economic determinants of Jordanian foreign policy is Brand 1994. 5. This section draws in part on Ryan 2002, chap. 4. 6. Author interview with Adnan Abu Awdah, former national security adviser and chief of the Royal Hashemite Court, Amman, February 28, 1993. 7. For an extensive discussion of the emerging civil society and public-sphere debates within Jordan over the nation’s interests, policies, and identity, see the analysis in Lynch 1999. 8. Author interview with former foreign minister Kamal Abu Jaber, Amman, May 15, 2005. 9. Ibid., July 13, 2001. 10. See, for example, Boston Globe, October 10, 2002, and Washington Post, September 23, 2002. 11. In her 2005 visit to Jordan, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice specifically cited Jordan as a “frontline state” in her press conference at the Jordanian foreign ministry. “Remarks by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Jordan Foreign Minister Farouq Qasrawi

The Foreign Policy of Jordan


After Their Meeting,” June 19, 2005, US Department of State, Office of the Spokesman, Amman. 12. Author interview with former prime minister Fayez Tarawnah, Amman, May 16, 2005. 13. Author interview with a former foreign minister, Amman, May 2005. Where interviewees have requested anonymity, I have noted a general occupation or position as well as the month and year of the interview, rather than name and exact date. 14. Author interview with a former foreign minister, Amman, May 2005. 15. Al-Quds al-‘Arabi, December 31, 2004. 16. “Talabani: al-‘alaqat al-urduniyya al-iraqiyya istratijiyya wa mumtaza” [Talabani: Jordanian Iraqi relations are strategic and excellent], Al-Ra’y, May 9, 2005. 17. Author interview with King Abdullah II, Amman, May 21, 2012. 18. Author interviews with current and former policymakers, Amman, May 2011. 19. Author interview with King Abdullah II, Amman, December 18, 2012. 20. Dale Gavlak and Jamal Halabi, “Officials: Arms Shipments Rise to Syrian Rebels,” Associated Press, March 27, 2013.

6 The Foreign Policy of Qatar Mehran Kamrava

In a move quite rare in the annals of Middle East history, in June 2013 the ruling emir of Qatar, Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, voluntarily gave up his position and transferred power over to his son, Shaikh Tamim bin Hamad. Sixty-one years old when he abdicated, Shaikh Hamad was one of the younger rulers in a region known as “a veritable kingdom of the old” (Owen 2012, 172). His surprising transfer of power to his son of only thirty-three, at a time when the Middle East was gripped by civil wars and seemingly monumental events in the Levant and in North Africa, many of which Qatar had forcefully inserted itself into, was nothing less than historic. But in many ways, given the extraordinary nature of his reign and the transformations it brought about, Shaikh Hamad’s voluntary retirement should not have come as a surprise. Certainly in the field of foreign policy, the emir’s tenure had been full of surprises. In the eighteen years he ruled, he managed to pull Qatar out of the shadows of Saudi Arabia, ensure its safety in a most unsafe neighborhood, and turn the country, one of the smallest and youngest in the Middle East, into one of the most consequential and influential actors in the region and beyond. By the time Shaikh Tamim assumed power, Qatar was already well on its way 157


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

to becoming one of the main architects of the emerging strategic balance in the Middle East. As a small state with inordinate resources, with a limited demographic base but with huge regional and global ambitions, Qatar has employed a variety of means to further its foreign policy agendas. Somewhat uniquely in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East regions, the country uses its wealth to buy clout and influence around the world. In doing so, Qatar has employed two particular tools as critical auxiliaries to its foreign policy: the Al Jazeera television news network, and the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the country’s sovereign wealth fund. Although not necessarily foreign policy tools per se, Al Jazeera and the QIA have been central to the formulation and implementation of the larger context within which Qatari foreign policy takes shape. Thus any treatment of the country’s foreign policy must necessarily take into account both Al Jazeera and the QIA. In analyzing the making and outcomes of Qatari foreign policy, I begin this chapter with an examination of the larger context within which the small shaikhdom’s foreign policy is articulated and of the determinants that combine to give it its overall shape and nature. Of these foreign policy determinants, two are particularly important: US military protection on the one hand and domestic political stability and elite cohesion on the other. In the Qatari context, elite cohesion has been reinforced by centralized and streamlined foreign policy making, therefore bestowing on the country a somewhat unique opportunity to capitalize on emerging international opportunities in a most agile manner. This agility has served the country’s foreign policy makers well, particularly as they have sought to enhance Qatar’s brand appeal, benefit from regional developments and emerging opportunities, and in the process maintain friendly relations with as many different parties as possible.

Foreign Policy Determinants The larger regional environment within which Qatar finds itself has been tremendously consequential in shaping the country’s

The Foreign Policy of Qatar


foreign policy. A young state established in 1971, Qatar is one of the Middle East’s smallest states, with a landmass of only 4,400 square miles. More important, the country has found itself at the crosscurrents of some of the region’s most intractable conflicts, especially insofar as its southern neighbor Saudi Arabia and its neighbor to the north beyond the Persian Gulf, Iran, are concerned. From the very beginning, therefore, the country has pursued a carefully calculated survival strategy, one that has dramatically shifted over time based on the country’s resources, the vision and agendas of its leaders, and Qatar’s own changing regional and global profile. All along, there have been three constant factors shaping the overall contours and nature of Qatari foreign policy: geopolitical considerations; the degree to which the country has enjoyed domestic political stability and, concomitantly, state autonomy relative to pressures from social actors and dynamics; and the need for guaranteeing military security and protection. Geopolitics

Qatar’s size and location have been major determining factors in shaping its foreign policy. In 1968, when Britain announced its intention to withdraw its military and diplomatic presence in the Middle East from locations east of the Suez Canal, Qatar, along with Bahrain, decided not to join the union of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and to instead become independent, sovereign countries by themselves. Independence in 1971 brought with it the symbolic accoutrements of statehood—a flag, a national anthem, national holidays, sports teams, and the like—but not necessarily national security or, for that matter, political stability. The ruling Al Thani family had long been racked by internal tensions and strife, and expanding oil revenues and competition over state office only intensified intra-family rivalries, undermining the efficacy of the state’s pursuit of regional and international agendas. Internal squabbles and an absence of a cohesive ruling family reinforced a sense of threat and unease in Doha, emanating from regional developments. Soon after its independence, Qatar,


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

along with other Persian Gulf states, found itself confronting a number of regional developments, beginning with the Iranian revolution of 1978–1979, the Iran-Iraq War of 1980–1988, Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, regional tensions throughout the 1990s that culminated in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the reverberations of Iraq’s occupation and its civil war in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Not unexpectedly, beginning in the early 1970s and lasting into the mid-1990s, Qatar’s foreign policy was primarily motivated by various survival strategies, through which successive emirs sought the protection of Saudi Arabia, at the time the preeminent power within the Arabian peninsula, and by implication the protection of the United States. All this began to change in 1995, however, when the heirapparent at the time, Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa, overthrew his father in a bloodless palace coup and started a new era in Qatari statebuilding. The new emir launched an ambitious and aggressive campaign to secure Qatar’s place on the global map. For the next eighteen years, from his assumption of power in June 1995 until he voluntary transferred power to his son and heir-apparent in June 2013, Shaikh Hamad set out to transform Qatar both domestically and internationally. Insofar as the discussion here is concerned, three ensuing developments had direct consequences for the country’s foreign policy and are important to highlight. First, Hamad set out to bring order and discipline into the ruling family, sidelining potential opponents and ensuring Al Thani family unity. In the process, he used the country’s expansive oil and gas revenues to placate potential opponents and enhance state capacity. Second, not taking the country’s security for granted, the emir placed Qatar firmly within the US security umbrella. This security cooperation with the United States assumed progressively deeper dimensions, especially following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, after which the United States restationed its military forces out of Saudi Arabia and in the Qatari desert. Third, the combination of state capacity domestically and security guarantees internationally enabled the emir to embark on his bold and ambitious plans for the country’s domestic trajectory and international position and profile.

The Foreign Policy of Qatar


State Capacity and Political Stability

Upon assuming power, one of Shaikh Hamad’s first and politically most consequential initiatives was to bring some badly needed order and cohesion into the ruling family. Historically, the Al Thani family had been the most quarrelsome of the three potential politically consequential social actors in Qatar, the other two being the merchants and the religious classes. Unlike most other parts of the Arabian peninsula, patterns of urban and social development in Qatar did not facilitate conditions for the rise to prominence of social actors other than the ruling family. Pearling never quite became as dominant a trade in Doha as was the case in Manama and Kuwait City, for example, thus impeding the development of an influential merchant class in Qatar, as was the case in Bahrain and Kuwait. Islam, meanwhile, never played a central role in the processes of statebuilding and acquiring political legitimacy, undermining the rise of a religious class whom the Al Thanis would feel the need to incorporate into the political process. Qatar, meanwhile, enjoys comparative ethnosectarian homogeneity—unlike Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait—with the country’s Shiiteminority population, estimated at around 10 to 20 percent, historically supportive of Al Thani rule (Kamrava 2013, 43). This left the Al Thani family as the only real center of power, although the family’s large size, by some accounts currently at around 10,000 members, meant considerable internal acrimony and competition (Kamrava 2013, 14). Hamad’s initiative to bring order and cohesion to the fractious family soon bore fruit. He empowered a largely ceremonial Family Council to resolve internal disputes and settle conflicts, instituted a regular mechanism for distributing salaries to family members, and streamlined and codified the question of succession, by then the most contentious issue, limiting it to only his own sons. Most important, the emir launched a series of popular reforms, such as abolishing the dreaded Ministry of Information, and ensured that the country’s growing wealth was better distributed among the multiple strata of Qatari society. All of these efforts served only to strengthen the ability of the emir, and the expansive state bureaucracy on which he was rely-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

ing, to more effectively pursue his domestic and international agendas. In other words, the statebuilding initiatives and the domestic reforms the emir launched brought Qatar political stability and enhanced the capacity of the Qatari state. Within this context, reforms meant not the opening up of the political system but actually the centralization of power and decisionmaking. Throughout Shaikh Hamad’s rule, in fact, decisionmaking was limited to only a handful of individuals in charge of the highest institutions of the state. This enabled the emir to set about implementing his bold and transformative vision without having to navigate many of the domestic political dynamics with which most policymakers elsewhere must contend. The ultimate outcome was that Qatar fundamentally changed not just its domestic developmental trajectory but also its foreign policy and its larger international profile. The Qatari state’s capacity is rooted in two distinct yet complementary sources: massive revenues accrued from hydrocarbon exports, specifically from liquefied natural gas; and elite institutional cohesion, thus streamlining policymaking decisions and ensuring political and diplomatic agility. This agility is further reinforced by Qatar’s comparative advantage in relation to its neighbors, compared to each of which it has an upper hand in one or more key areas: more politically stable compared to Bahrain, more cohesive compared to the United Arab Emirates, more aggressively self-assured compared to Oman, and far more effective at “branding” compared to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran. Providing the larger background and context to all this is the Al Jazeera news network and its extraordinary influence across the Arab world, bestowing on Qatar a unique source of soft power against which most other competitors have proven far less effective. State capacity has enabled the Qatari political elite to more easily and efficiently crystallize their vision of the country as a key diplomatic player in regional affairs. Compared to the other regional actors up and down the Persian Gulf, Qatari diplomacy is characterized by an unusual level of hyperactivism. In addition to those structural dynamics that enable greater state responsiveness to emerging opportunities, there are also the goals and priorities

The Foreign Policy of Qatar


of policymakers that distinguish Qatar from the rest of the pack. For one reason or another, none of Qatar’s regional counterparts engage in quite the same level of diplomatic activism that Qatar does. But it is important to point out that what often comes across as a maverick, indeed daring, diplomacy for a country the size of Qatar takes shape within the backdrop of security guarantees provided by the United States. Military Security and Protection

Qatari leaders appear to have made a deliberate decision to relegate the country’s defense to the much more powerful, and in the Persian Gulf omnipotent, United States. According to one of the undated cables from the US embassy in Doha revealed by WikiLeaks, “the QAF (Qatar Air Force) could put up little defense against Qatar’s primary perceived threats—Saudi Arabia and Iran—and the U.S. military’s presence here is larger and far more capable than Qatar’s forces” (WikiLeaks n.d.). According to the assessment of the United States, Qatar lacks a comprehensive national military strategy, and the Qataris have been cool to the US military’s proposal to draw up such a strategy for them. Similarly, unlike the military requests of its regional neighbors, Qatar’s requests for the purchase of advanced US weaponry have been relatively modest, and at times the Qataris themselves have backed out of weapons deals with the United States (WikiLeaks 2010b). Precisely why the Qatari leadership has chosen to pursue an apparently minimalist military policy is hard to answer. Part of the calculation must surely involve the small size of Qatar as compared to the behemoths Iran and Saudi Arabia—why start an arms competition that cannot possibly be won? Another reason appears to lie in the emphasis on domestic infrastructural development and on international investments. Knowing that there is US protection to rely on, the Qatari leadership appears to have made a strategic decision to focus its financial resources on other endeavors. And, lest the United States take the Qataris for granted, there is always the strategy of “hedging,” which Qatar uses often, to remind the United States otherwise.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Qatar is home to two large US bases, the Al Udeid airbase, which is estimated to house as many as 10,000 US military personnel and more that 120 aircraft, and the As Sayliha, which houses the Army component of the US Central Command.1 Al Udeid, which has the longest runway in the Persian Gulf, was built by the Qataris in 2000 at an estimated cost of more than $1 billion. The two facilities constitute the largest pre-positioning bases outside the United States. As part of Qatar’s overall foreign and security policies, the country is committed to “a broad strategic partnership with the United States.” US officials are therefore repeatedly assured that for Qatar, “maintaining strategic relations with the United States is the “number one priority” and that Qatar “will never change” that alignment (WikiLeaks 2010b). What appears to be neglect on the part of Qatari elites to a key component of national survival—defense—is, in fact, part of a deliberately calculated decision to rely on an outside, far more powerful patron. But reliance on the United States for defense and security ought not to be conflated with a policy of bandwagoning and aligning foreign policies and priorities in a way to match those of the United States. Qatar needs and likes US military protection; it would otherwise be defenseless on its own. But it also likes foreign policy independence, as manifested in its hedging, as a way of maintaining open lines of communication with as many disparate international actors as possible, friend and foe alike.

Foreign Policy Making Reference has already been made to elite cohesion and, following Shaikh Hamad’s assumption of power in 1995, centralized and purposive decisionmaking. Insofar as foreign policy making is concerned, this has translated into foreign policy being made by none other than the emir himself, in consultation with a handful of advisers, and then entrusted to the country’s diplomatic corps to be carried out. Throughout Shaikh Hamad’s reign, the country’s foreign policy was made by the emir and his longtime

The Foreign Policy of Qatar


prime minister and foreign minister, Shaikh Hamad bin Jasim. Although Tamim brought in his own team and appointed new individuals to the offices of prime minister and foreign minister when he assumed power in 2013, there is no reason to assume that the state’s policymaking modus operandi will change anytime soon. Several aspects of Qatari foreign policy making deserve highlighting. First, given the innately personalist nature of the political system, most of the country’s senior politicians often hold multiple positions simultaneously. For example, under Shaikh Hamad, the offices of the prime minister and foreign minister were held by the same person, Hamad bin Jasim, who was also the chief executive of the Qatar Investment Authority. The QIA, meanwhile, was headed by the heir-apparent, Shaikh Tamim, who in June 2013 became the emir. Not surprisingly, Qatari foreign policy has directly reflected the personal preferences and agendas of the ruler. In the absence of open and transparent policy debates, it is of course difficult to determine precisely what motivates Qatari policymakers in general and the emir in particular to make specific decisions, decisions that are often seen as maverick and outside the norm for a country of Qatar’s size and position. However, these decisions— including the decision to become involved in the Libyan and Syrian civil wars at a time when most other Arab states stayed clear of those conflicts—are ultimately part of a deliberate campaign to brand Qatar as a forward-looking country and a force for change and progress in the Middle East. A second aspect of Qatari foreign policy making is the somewhat constrained ability of the state to carry through many of its ambitious diplomatic agendas and to see to their implementation by itself. As a feature of its branding efforts, Qatar has become one of the Middle East’s most active mediators in regional conflicts and tensions. But because of manpower and infrastructural limitations, and due to limited follow-up and carry-through abilities, Qatar’s multiple conflict mediation efforts seldom resulted in lasting conflict resolution outcomes (Kamrava 2011). It bears repeating that Qatar has a small demographic base, with a native


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

population of at most 250,000 people. The country faces acute shortages in human resources, especially in relation to its rapid developmental trajectory and its oversized ambitions. Despite the sizable growth of the state bureaucracy in recent decades, Qatar’s crop of senior bureaucrats and especially its diplomatic corps continue to remain relatively anemic. This is not to imply that Qatar’s ability to achieve desired foreign policy outcomes has always been hampered by structural and demographic limitations. In fact, for a country that did not really enter into global diplomacy until 1995, Qatar has achieved remarkably impressive results in its diplomatic and foreign policy. These policy outcomes have manifested themselves in three forms: a highly calibrated strategy of hedging; an aggressive, global branding campaign; and an equally aggressive series of financial and commercial investments meant to secure Qatar’s influence around the world.

Foreign Policy Outcomes As a small state in a rough neighborhood, Qatar needs to craft its foreign policy with deliberate care and caution, with an eye toward the Iranian behemoth in the north, the Saudi giant in the south, and the omnipresent US empire. A small state with no meaningful armed forces or other military projection abilities of its own, Qatar finds itself between a rock and a hard place, its leaders firmly committed to remaining within the Western economic and diplomatic orbits while doggedly unwilling to abandon those causes or entities—such as Hamas or Ahmadinejad’s Iran—to which the West strenuously objects.2 By and large, the three other smaller shaikhdoms of the Persian Gulf—Kuwait, Bahrain, and the UAE—also find themselves facing a similar predicament. But each of these three has given more weight to the security alliance with the United States on these and other contentious issues (Ehteshami 2009). Qatar, on the other hand, has chosen to pursue a carefully calibrated policy of hedging, particularly when it comes to the two archenemies Iran and the United States.

The Foreign Policy of Qatar



In contrast to the bandwagoning or “omni-balancing” strategies used by most other Persian Gulf states, Qatar’s foreign policy behavior frequently resembles a policy of hedging (Nonneman 2005). In some ways a combination of the two strategies, hedging consist of taking one or more big bets one way while at the same time taking other, smaller bets another way. In essence, hedging enables a state to simultaneously maintain close and seemingly friendly relations with multiple actors, many of whom may be at odds with one another. Not all of these relations may be equally deep and friendly, and some are likely to be far more substantive than others. But, particularly for a small but ambitious state like Qatar, hedging keeps adversaries to a minimum while maintaining open lines of communication, and possibly influence, with as many international actors as possible. In specific relation to Qatar, the country has firmly placed its military security and protection in the hands the United States. At the same time, however, it actively maintains cordial relations with actors whose interests are often inimical to those of the United States, chief among which are Iran and the region’s various shades of Islamists, including Hamas and, beginning in 2013, the Afghan Taliban. Qatar’s balancing act between its primary military protector and major trading partner, the United States, and its northern, restive neighbor Iran, offers a textbook example of hedging. This is not to imply, however, that the nature of the bilateral relationships that Qatar maintains with Iran and the United States are identical. In fact, Qatari-Iranian and Qatari-American relationships are qualitatively different, though, one might argue, each in their own way quite strong. Qatar’s relationship with the United States is anchored on three central pillars: military and security arrangements, commercial and economic interests, and educational and cultural initiatives. Qatar’s relations with Iran, however, feature at best minimal elements of each of these three pillars. Instead, they revolve around what might be termed “expressions of friendship” and the frequent official visits that political leaders and high-ranking officials from each side pay one another.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Because Qatar is a subordinate state in relation to the United States, some aspects of its foreign and domestic policies fit patterns consistent with those of other countries in comparable positions. These include, most notably, reduced defense needs, increased open trade, and a willingness to join wartime coalitions. Leaders who perceive their countries to be under security threats are more likely to enter into security hierarchies in which dominant states provide buffers against potential aggression (Lake 2009). And Qatar certainly feels threatened not so much by possible Iranian or Saudi expansionism as by consequences for its own safety should those giants, or another constellation of regional belligerents, such as Iran and Israel or Iran and the United States, come to blows. In addition to security arrangements, trade and investment form another key pillar of the US-Qatari relationship. Qatar’s currency, the rial, is pegged to the dollar, and Qatar has consistently refused to de-peg it, despite occasional falls in the dollar’s value (Karrar 2008, 17; Toronto Star 2008; The Peninsula 2008). This is reflected in steadily rising levels of trade between Qatar and the United States. According to the US Census Bureau, the volume of trade between Qatar and the United States shot up from $838 million in 2001 to more than $3.3 billion in 2011 (US Census Bureau 2001, 2011). For its part, the Qatar Investment Authority, the primary investment arm of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, has often considered investing in US banks, although it has shown a preference for the perceived stability of European markets as compared to the United States (Toronto Star 2008). There is no comparable data on Qatari-Iranian trade, largely because trade and investment between the two countries is negligible. In fact, official trade documents issued by each of the governments fail to register any notable trade of any kind between the Islamic republic and its southern neighbor, with neither country ranking as a major trading partner for the other (Iran Ministry of Commerce 2009). Also, while generally supportive of Iran’s initiative to create a cartel of gas-exporting countries modeled after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Qatar has shown coolness to the idea (Islamic Republic News 2008).

The Foreign Policy of Qatar


In Qatar’s case, the country’s approach to the United States also reflects its leaders’ cultural, political, and commercial preferences. The emir and his inner circle have made a deliberate decision to pursue a US-centric path of economic development and cultural change that is strongly anchored in US-style higher education, is given official sanction through various forms of royal patronage, and is guaranteed by the US security umbrella. This is reflected in the plethora of institutional arrangements that underwrite the three primary pillars of Qatari-US relations. At the same time, the Qatari state strongly resists the development of in-depth institutional ties with Iran, mindful that such arrangements might, intentionally or unintentionally, resonate with the sensibilities of the country’s otherwise compliant Shiite population. Nevertheless, Qatari leaders maintain quite warm and friendly personal relations with their Iranian counterparts, as reflected in their frequent visits to Tehran and the mutual pledges they exchange with Iranian officials. In this case, the primary motivator on the part of the Qataris appears to be fear. This fear appears to be rooted in two possible, interrelated scenarios that Qatar seeks to avert: first, that Tehran’s frictions with Washington would translate into frictions with Doha despite the deep and multifaceted nature of Qatari-US relations; and second, that in the event of Iran somehow finding itself attacked or under increased pressure, the Qataris of Iranian background would fault Qatar for being complicit in an anti-Iranian front. Ultimately, Qatar’s warm relations with Iran appear to be a direct by-product of—or, more accurately, a reactive impulse to—its wide-ranging and institutionally ingrained relations with the United States. Given the preponderant US military presence in the Persian Gulf, irrespective of Qatar’s security concerns, the shaikhdom to a large extent benefits from “free riding.” Nevertheless, along with some free riding, there is a significant amount of in-depth, structurally rooted cooperation that characterizes the relations between the two countries. We know that “the longer one’s time horizon, the greater the rewards from mutual cooperation are in comparison to fleeting benefits from free riding” (Drezner 2011, 48). Qatari-US cooperation is systematic, multidimensional, and built on long-term assumptions. As such, despite occasional dif-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

ferences over priority and policy, it is likely to remain resilient and robust for the foreseeable future. An effective survival strategy, Qatar’s carefully balanced hedging has served it well. Apart from Oman, Qatar is the only other Persian Gulf state with which Iran has not experienced any contention since 1979.3 The shaikhdom has cultivated an image of evenhandedness and balance that few of the other states in the region, or in the larger Middle East for that matter, could claim to have. As such, it emerged as a trusted “honest broker” that was well-positioned to mediate conflicts, most notably between the United States and the Taliban beginning in 2013. Its alliance and friendship was not taken for granted and is actively courted by multiple, often warring, actors, such as Iran, Hamas, and the United States. And, correspondingly, despite its strategic position at the mouth of the Hormuz Strait, Qatar enjoys perhaps the largest immunity from any intentional or unintentional spillover of a military conflict involving Iran and other international actors, most notably the United States or Israel. Branding and Hyperactive Diplomacy

Shaikh Hamad was determined to secure Qatar’s position on the global map by turning his small country into a consequential and influential player in regional affairs. Doing so meant being diplomatically proactive on as many fronts as possible. This diplomatic hyperactivism was facilitated by an efficiently run and cohesive state, and occurred concurrently with—and was reinforced by— an intense campaign of branding the country. Since the mid1990s, in fact, Qatar emerged as a brand state par excellence, with concerted efforts under way on multiple, often complementary, fronts in the areas of politics, economics, sports, and cultural efforts.4 Slick advertisements in glossy magazines and on television screens across the world often showcased Qatar Airways (billed as “the world’s five-star airline”); the Qatar Foundation, which is said to “help the world think”;5 the Museum of Islamic Art, with its world-class art collection; and the country’s businessfriendly environment. Carving a niche for itself as a hub for major world sporting events, the country hosted the 2006 Asian Games,

The Foreign Policy of Qatar


unsuccessfully bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, hosted soccer’s Asian Cup in 2011, and shocked the sporting world by winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Despite the scarcity of Qatariborn athletes, Doha frequently hosts international tournaments in handball, soccer, track and field, and gymnastics. In these respects, Qatar’s branding efforts are not greatly different from those undertaken by the other small Persian Gulf states. There are, however, two unique forms of branding that set Qatar apart from other regional actors and also from much of the rest of the world. One is through the Al Jazeera satellite television network, and the other is through proactive diplomatic involvement in regional affairs, be it in the form of mediation and conflict resolution efforts or, after the Arab Spring, in the form of active support to overturn ancient regimes in places like Libya and Syria. Al Jazeera owed its genesis to a desire by Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa, heir-apparent at the time, in 1994, to modernize Qatari state television and to broadcast its programs via satellite (Bahry 2001). Soon after assuming power, Hamad issued a decree in 1996 establishing Al Jazeera, whose broadcasting expanded quickly from six to twelve hours a day, and eventually to twentyfour hours a day. Benefiting from the premature demise of the BBC’s Arabic news service due to editorial differences with the venture’s Saudi financiers, and an unexpected open slot in the Arabsat satellite network, Al Jazeera’s popularity spread like wildfire among Arab audiences. The key was Al Jazeera’s radical departure from what had been the norm across the Arab world. It offered news that went beyond mere presentation of doctored government statistics and data, and instead offered undistorted, often harsh facts. Controversial guests and even Israelis speaking in Hebrew, once shocking for Arab audiences, became regular features of the network’s often piercing news stories. Soon the network began to rival, and in some areas even surpass, the BBC and CNN as a recognized international source of information (Bahry 2001). Far more popular were Al Jazeera’s many news talk shows, hosted by colorful personalities and tackling political, social, and even religious topics long considered taboo across the Arab world (Miles 2005).


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

The launching of Al Jazeera was clearly inspired by the effort to brand Qatar as a news trailblazer and a pioneer of open debate and communications technology. Equally important was the desire to project Qatar’s image as a serious regional and global player. In the process, the network managed to attract the ire of countless Arab and Western governments that either harassed or altogether barred Al Jazeera’s reporters from reporting from their territories, or, in the case of Saudi Arabia, pressured advertisers to stay away from the network (Miles 2005). While in the short run such incidents are likely to complicate the job of Qatari diplomats, who often find themselves addressing complaints from around the world about Al Jazeera’s broadcasts, in the long run the network serves Qatar’s diplomatic interests well (da Lage 2005, 49). Al Jazeera has gone beyond simply giving “a big voice to a tiny country.” The network’s reach across the globe expanded dramatically in 2006 when it established Al Jazeera International, a twenty-four-hour satellite channel delivering the news in English. By 2010, according to the annual Arab Public Opinion Poll, some 78 percent of individuals across the Arab world claimed to rely on Al Jazeera as their main source of international news (Telhami 2010). In 2011, the network announced planned expansions of broadcasts to Turkish, Swahili, and Balkan audiences. At the same time, with advertisers few and far between, and with mounting expenses as it expands the reach and variety of its offerings, the network continues to rely overwhelmingly on the Qatari government for its operating budget. The ambiguous nature of the relationship between Al Jazeera’s editorial choices and Qatari diplomacy remains a subject of debate and controversy. Protestations regarding its uneven coverage of the Arab Spring notwithstanding, the rebellions engulfing the Middle East in 2011 solidified the network’s indispensability to the region’s—and indeed the world’s—communication revolution. In the words of one of its chief officers, the network “experienced rebirth” through the Arab Spring (BBC Monitoring–Middle East 2011) and, in the process, surpassed its original goal of helping put Qatar on the map.

The Foreign Policy of Qatar


A second, rather distinctive, branding strategy that Qatar employs is through proactive involvement in regional affairs. Over time, this active involvement has taken one of two forms. Prior to the 2011 Arab uprisings, Qatar sought to actively mediate in regional conflicts and positioned itself as a peacemaker on the Arabian peninsula and in the larger Middle East. As a result, Qatar has become one of the world’s most active mediators in international conflicts across the Middle East and parts of Africa, and in the process has actively cultivated an image of itself as an honest broker interested in peace and stability. This proactive involvement in regional affairs has included mediation efforts in Yemen, Palestine, Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea, and, most notably, Lebanon. Qatar did not have much success in its efforts to bring about peaceful resolutions to the conflicts between the Houthis and the central government in Yemen in 2009–2010, and between Hamas and Fatah in Palestine in 2008. But its successes in hosting substantive talks aimed at ending or at least curtailing the Sudanese civil war and the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea, both in 2010, are quite notable. Even more significant was Qatar’s successful mediation of a serious political crisis in Lebanon in May 2008 that threatened to reignite the country’s civil war. In this particular instance, Qatari mediation succeeded where previous efforts by the Arab League, the United Nations, and France had all failed. Even in relation to cases where lasting peace has been elusive, successful mediation is often measured in terms of reduction of hostilities rather than the effectiveness of a peace agreement (Siniver 2006, 808). As such, the value of Qatari efforts at mediation, regardless of their yield, should not be underestimated. In a region known for its cross-border crises and domestic sectarian strife, Qatar quickly emerged as an actor adept at defusing and mediating conflicts. Doha’s “niche diplomacy” led to its reputation as a reliable peace broker (Henrikson 2007). Qatar’s insistence on playing a mediating role at times provoked the ire of other regional actors who were hoping to assume such a role for themselves; for instance, Egypt, which has long viewed itself as Sudan’s primary patron, initially sought to take the initiative away


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

from Qatar in solving the Darfur crisis. In the end, Qatar, with richer pockets and less of a history in relation to Sudan, won out (Green 2009). Qatar’s motivations for emerging as a serious mediator of international conflicts are not that different from those of other states wishing to shine on the world stage. States often engage in mediation efforts because of the prestige attached to mediating international conflicts, and today the spread of the global media has only added to the publicity value derived from mediation (Berridge 2010, 239). States may also engage in mediation because the potential costs of taking no action as a conflict rages are seen as greater than the risks involved in becoming a mediator. Moreover, for many mediator states, mediation is not simply a response to specific, emerging developments. Rather, mediation is foreign policy; it is a “broader framework of strategic action within the international and domestic political systems” (Touval 2003, 92). For Qatar, mediation appears to be an integral part of its diplomacy toolbox. Beginning in 2011, the regional environment in the Middle East changed, with the most dramatic conflicts occurring not so much between states as within them. When the Arab Spring began, Qatari leaders appear to have calculated relatively early on that many political incumbents in the Middle East were spent forces whose days were numbered. As a wave of change began sweeping across the region, Qatari leaders appear to have sought to position themselves at its crest. Through their active involvement in the Arab Spring, they tried to influence its direction and, in the process, to enhance Qatar’s influence in such places as North Africa and the Levant. Thus former friends such as Bashar al-Assad were quickly jettisoned and instead military and diplomatic support was given to the groups opposing them. Also, given the destruction of organized opposition by these regimes, their opponents were bound to be Islamists, among whom Qatar found most affinity with the comparatively moderate Muslim Brotherhood activists and sympathizers. The Brotherhood’s relatively radical counterparts, who are often lumped together under the general label of “Salafists,” are closer in sensibility to Saudi Arabia’s more austere brand of Wahhabism.

The Foreign Policy of Qatar


Much has been made of Qatar’s involvement in Libya and Syria and its support for groups opposing Qaddafi and Assad (see Kraus 2011; Khalaf and Fielding-Smith 2013). In hindsight, Qatar’s deep involvement in these and in the other Arab Spring countries can be explained as part of its efforts to enhance its influence in relation to the new regimes coming to power. Qatar, as we have seen, is interested in expanding its influence wherever possible. Whereas most other Middle Eastern states saw the Arab Spring as an existential threat, Qatari leaders, whose own subjects did not show the slightest inkling to rebel, saw it as an opportunity. Their involvement in the countries affected was deep and multifaceted, motivated far more by strategic considerations than by ideological affinity with the rebels. That this involvement was parallel to the broad strategic objectives of the United States and took place with US support was an added bonus for Qatari policymakers. In Libya, Qatar took part in the aerial no-fly zone campaign and aided anti-Qaddafi rebels with logistical support and weaponry, later admitting to having sent hundreds of troops to help topple the Qaddafi regime (Black 2011, 24). According to news reports, Qatar spent $440 million in helping Libyan rebels (Hilsum 2012, 215). Qatar was similarly instrumental in arming anti-Assad fighters in Syria, to the tune of no less than $3 billion, and in prompting allies in the West and in the Arab world to do more to hasten the collapse of the Assad regime (Gearan 2013, 11). Importantly, earlier, in an attempt to ensure that the Egyptian economy would not implode following Mubarak’s overthrow, Qatar had capitalized the Egyptian central bank with an infusion of some $2 billion.6 This hyperactive and seemingly maverick diplomacy did not go uncontested, especially by other regional actors, chief among them Saudi Arabia. When the Arab Spring first erupted in 2011, Qatar and Saudi Arabia set aside their traditional rivalry and more or less coordinated their policies in the interest of regime survival. This coordination was especially strong in regional forums such as the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council. But as the Syrian Arab Spring morphed into a bloody civil war, and as postMubarak Egypt experienced further upheaval and instability,


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Qatari-Saudi cooperation gave way to rivalry once again. Saudi Arabia was particularly troubled by Qatar’s seemingly unqualified support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, whose elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was overthrown by the Egyptian military. Moreover, the Saudis took issue with Qatar’s support for groups different from their own allies in the Syrian civil war, with the Saudis themselves changing their policies in Syria as that country’s civil war led to a proliferation of jihadists and militants affiliated with al-Qaeda in both Syria and in neighboring Iraq. The simmering tensions came to a head in March 2014, when Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, withdrew their ambassadors from Doha and demanded that Qatar change its foreign policy and stop its support of the Muslim Brotherhood. No doubt, the fact that Qatar had a new, young emir was not insignificant in the Saudi-led effort to rein in Qatari diplomacy; back in 1996, when a young Shaikh Hamad had just come to power, the Saudis had also tried to establish their regional supremacy by sponsoring a counter-coup that would restore the old emir to power. In 2014, the Saudis saw another window of opportunity to reassert their leadership over the Arabian peninsula and in fact across the Arab world, this time believing that Qatar’s policy of hedging had led the small state to bet on the wrong horse, namely the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar, for its part, called the Saudi action “unfortunate” but vowed not to change its “independent” foreign policy or buckle under Saudi pressure. Several tentative conclusions can be drawn from the reeruption of Saudi-Qatari tensions and rivalry. First, Qatar’s maverick foreign policy does not always sit well with the more conservative, status quo regional actors, especially Saudi Arabia. Second, as the fate of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt shows, a foreign policy of hedging runs the risk of betting on the wrong horse. Third, the GCC acts as an effective organization only in moments of serious, regionwide crisis; when the crisis dissipates or is assumed to be manageable, old and preexisting tensions tend to resurface and disrupt regional cooperation. Finally, both in Qatar and elsewhere in the Arabian peninsula, foreign policy making—and reactions to it—remains fundamentally personalist

The Foreign Policy of Qatar


and can often be changed as a result of the idiosyncrasies of individual leaders. International Investments

Another means through which Qatar seeks to enhance its influence regionally and internationally is through use of its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority. In this respect, Qatar is by no means alone in its pursuit of international investment, but it entered the game relatively late, not until in 2005, when the QIA was established. The earliest sovereign wealth fund in the Middle East dates back to 1953, with the pioneering work of the Kuwait Investment Authority, established before Kuwait was an independent country. Following precipitous rises in oil prices beginning in 2002, Russia and the oil producers of the Persian Gulf started accumulating massive reserves, which they in turn began investing through their sovereign wealth funds. These funds are generally established with the aim of helping facilitate macroeconomic stabilization, seeking higher returns on investments, creating a pool of wealth for future generations, and helping the growth of domestic industries (Portman 2008). For Qatar, international investments assume particular significance for two primary reasons. First, these investments take place in a dynamic context within which mutually reinforcing relationships are forged with the three other aspects of the country’s foreign policy: military security, hedging, and especially branding. By and large, “sovereign wealth fund portfolios appear to act as economically driven investors” (Balding 2011, 66). In Qatar’s case, according to a high-ranking official within the QIA, the Qatari fund is engaged in a “drive to build up a diversified portfolio globally of the highest quality assets across a broad spectrum of asset classes” (quoted in Platt 2009, 107). Also important for the QIA is fostering technology transfer to Qatar through encouraging the companies it acquires to establish branches or subsidiaries in the country. When in 2009 the QIA purchased a 10 percent stake in Porsche, for example, the luxury automaker agreed to establish facilities for testing and research and develop-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

ment in Qatar (Platt 2009, 107). Diversification and technology transfer notwithstanding, an important direct and indirect aspect of Qatar’s international investment strategy is its close alignment with the country’s foreign policy initiatives. This alignment is both actual and perceived, supported by numerous examples (Hamdan 2011). First, when in the spring and summer of 2011 Qatar dived head-on into the Libyan conflict by throwing its full diplomatic and military support behind the National Transitional Council in its fight against Colonel Qaddafi,7 Qatar reportedly promised Tunisia a resumption of its investments there in return for Tunisia’s backing of the council (Maghreb Confidential 2011). Interestingly, although the QIA’s prior investment commitments in Libya amounted to $10 billion, it was initially reluctant to continue investing in post-Qaddafi Libya because of the country’s risky investment environment. 8 It thus chose to invest in Tunisia instead. A second example is the rapid increase in the volume of trade between Lebanon and Qatar, from $55 million to $93 million between 2005 and 2009, when the Doha Agreement was signed, saving Lebanon from the brink of civil war and also safeguarding Qatari investment in Lebanese infrastructure, water and power, communications, and health care (al-Halabi 2010). A third example comes from Syria, whose acquiescence was necessary to make the Doha Agreement possible; in 2008 the Qatari Diar, the real-estate investment arm of the QIA, announced plans to invest as much as $12 billion in Syria over a five-year period (Elshamy 2008, 1). Another feature of Qatar’s investments is the aggressiveness of its investment strategies compared to the other Persian Gulf states, particularly when it comes to investments in Europe. Similar to Qatar, other Gulf states have also been investing heavily in Europe. But the Qatari fund stands out for the broad range and diversity of its European investments across multiple sectors (Hamdan 2011). In the process, Qatar has acquired a reputation as “the most deal-hungry of the Gulf states” (Hosking 2010, 45). In 2012, a QIA official, who boasted about the fund’s more than $30 billion worth of assets for investments that year alone, referred to the QIA’s investment strategy as “opportunistic” and maintained that whenever “anything [comes] at the right price, we are willing

The Foreign Policy of Qatar


to buy” (Perumal 2012, 1). As a 2010 report put it, none of the other sovereign wealth funds “can match the speed and scale with which Qatar has set about spending its surplus cash to acquire, either in whole or in part, some of the oldest and biggest companies in markets from Britain and France to Morocco, Sudan, the Seychelles and Indonesia” (Milmo 2010, 22). According to the Qatari prime minister at the time, Hamad bin Jasim, who was also the chief executive officer of the QIA, in 2011 alone Qatar intended to invest some $30 billion abroad, 9 making it “one of the world’s most acquisitive sovereign wealth funds” (Flanagan 2011, 34). Qatar’s aggressive international investment strategy suggests that the “QIA is trying to make up for lost time” (O’Neill 2008, 52). As “a fast-moving, active, strategic global investor,” the QIA has quickly emerged as an important and influential actor in global real estate, financial services, health care, and construction industries (Behrendt 2008, 13). It has recently added energy, commodities, food, and water to its list of interests as well (Hetzner and Irish 2009). Although in recent years the primary focus of the QIA has been the acquisition of prime real estate in London, it has projects in Cuba, Eritrea, Indonesia, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Sudan, the United States, and Vietnam (O’Neill 2008, 52). Altogether, the Qatari Diar has invested in real estate in thirty-two countries around the world, making Qatar one of the largest overseas property investors in the world as of 2010 (Kollewe 2010, 6). In recent years, the QIA has also entered into strategic partnerships with other sovereign wealth funds to cooperate on joint investments and takeovers, as it did in 2009, for example, when it joined the China Investment Corporation to purchase $448 million worth of shares in Songbird Estates, the owner of much of London’s Canary Wharf (Platt 2009, 107). The global financial crisis that began in 2008, resulting in a serious contraction of Dubai’s financial prowess and massive slowdowns in Europe and the United States, turned out to be an investment bonanza for Qatar. The emir himself went on record on the issue: “With the current financial crisis, many countries prefer to keep their money instead of investing it abroad. For us, though, this is an opportunity that will not be repeated in the next


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

20 years” (Kollewe 2010, 6). Almost immediately, the QIA went on a European spending spree, buying up billions of dollars worth of assets and showcase properties in London, Paris, Stockholm, and Athens. In 2009 alone, Qatar invested some £2 billion in Britain, a sum that shot up to £10 billion in 2010 (Low 2010, 15). By 2012, nearly 80 percent of the QIA’s property purchases were in either London or Paris.10 These investments included some of the most prized showpieces of Britain’s economy. Finally, mention must be made of Qatar’s agricultural land purchases abroad, about which even less is known as compared to the workings of the QIA. In 2008 the QIA established Hasad Food, for the specific purpose of purchasing lands and investing in food production companies around the world. With an initial capitalization of $1 billion, by 2012 Hasad Food was reported to have invested more than $2 billion in the agricultural sector worldwide (Perumal 2012, 1). Preliminary research indicates that, along with the rest of the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Qatar is a major investor in and purchaser of agricultural lands abroad, especially in many parts of Africa, most notably in Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Sudan, and Mozambique, and also in a few countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines and Cambodia (Shepherd 2012, 3, 17). Hasad Food has also purchased sizable plots of land in New Zealand and Australia— in the latter nearly 250,000 hectares by 2012 (Cranston 2012, 48)—as well as in Argentina, India, Pakistan, Georgia, Ukraine, and Uruguay (James 2010, 4). The company is also reportedly a major stakeholder in agricultural corporations in Kenya, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey, among other countries. The primary purpose of these purchases and investments is to guarantee Qatar’s food security through ensuring supplies and access to agricultural resources.11 Nonetheless, these efforts have also enhanced Qatar’s global financial status as well as increased the dependence of other developing counties on continued investments and revenue flows from the small shaikhdom. By themselves, international investments are not necessarily consequential insofar as foreign policy outcomes are concerned. But in Qatar’s case, juxtaposed with efforts at branding and forcefully interjecting the country into regional affairs, at a time when

The Foreign Policy of Qatar


many other Middle Eastern states desperately need international investments and economic assistance, investments both in the Middle East and elsewhere assume strategic importance. The QIA’s strategy is in fact closely aligned with the objectives and interests of the country’s foreign policy, and the work of the QIA is immensely critical to the larger domestic and international trajectory and profile of Qatar. The QIA constitutes one of the country’s most important institutions, with its board of directors including some of the regime’s most senior, and capable, figures. Not surprisingly, though highly opaque and secretive, the QIA tends to be highly politicized in its operations.

Conclusion Once a sleepy backwater content to remain in the shadows of Saudi Arabia, since 1995 Qatar has steadily emerged as one of the major players in Persian Gulf and Middle Eastern politics as well as in global finance. Under the energetic leadership of Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his trusted lieutenants, including heir-apparent and new emir Shaikh Tamim bin Hamad, Qatar has emerged as one of the most influential actors in the Middle East. It has done so by successfully employing a combination of diplomatic hyperactivism and hedging, the US security umbrella, economic prowess, and branding. By turning hedging into a science, it has set itself apart from the rest of the region by pursuing a foreign policy that at first glance seems maverick but is actually well thought out and carefully planned. In the process, not only has Qatar broken out of the mold in which small states are generally cast, but it has indeed thrown into question existing assumptions about the types of power and influence that may be generated in international politics. Shaikh Tamim’s assumption of power in 2013 is bound to bring changes to the style and flavor of Qatar’s domestic politics and international relations. But the substance of Qatari foreign policy—in terms of its firm placement under the US security umbrella, its use of hedging as a preferred strategy to secure and maximize its interests, its branding campaign, its strategic inter-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

national investments, and its multiple regional involvements—is unlikely to change soon. Even if Tamim wanted to, the forces and resources that have set these dynamics into motion, be they the multifaceted US presence in Qatar or the country’s investments abroad, cannot be easily reversed. It so happens that Tamim, as heir-apparent, was deeply involved in articulating the vision of Qatar’s domestic future direction and its evolving global profile. A change of personalities notwithstanding, Qatari foreign policy under Shaikh Tamim will continue to exhibit most of the features it has come to assume since 1995.

Notes 1. The Pentagon does not release precise numbers about US forces stationed abroad. In 2009 it listed a total of less than 500 troops in Qatar (US Department of Defense 2009). According to confidential sources within the US airbase Al Udeid, located outside Doha, in 2010 there were an estimated 8,000 US military personnel stationed there, and the base could accommodate as many as 10,000 troops. This is consistent with the figure of 7,500 reported in 2012 by a US congressional report (US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations 2012, 15). 2. According to a 2010 cable sent to Washington by American diplomats in Jerusalem, for example, the salaries of employees at Hamas’s education ministry in Gaza were all covered by Qatari donations (WikiLeaks, 2010a). 3. Of course, there is always the potential that the South Pars–North Field gas deposits that Iran and Qatar share in the Persian Gulf will become a source of friction between the two states. For example, see Mazaheri 2008. 4. As J. E. Peterson (2006, 746) observes, “few countries seem to have taken the lessons and importance of branding to heart more thoroughly than Qatar.” 5. According to the Qatar Foundation’s director of public relations, the multimillion-dollar global “Think Campaign” is “designed to raise the profile of Qatar Foundation’s vision, mission and objectives” (alNassr 2009). 6. “Qatar Deposits $2 Billion to Support Egyptian Economy,” August 11, 2012, _billion_to_support_Egyptian_economy-TR20120811nL 6E 8JB28R3.

The Foreign Policy of Qatar


7. Qatar is estimated to have supplied the Libyan rebels with $400 million worth of arms and military training (US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations 2012, 16). 8. “Qatari Investment in Libya Accounting for Around USD 10 Billion,” December 4, 2011, _Investments_in_Libya_accounting_for_around_USD_10_billion -ZAWYA 20111204045505. 9. “Qatar’s European Investments Yield QR 2.3bn,” May 8, 2011, -ZAWYA20110508041530. 10. “Qatar Top Sovereign Europe Property Buyer with 6 Weeks Gas Cash,” August 17, 2012, _Europe_property_buyer_with_6_weeks_gas_cash-TR20120817nL6E8 JF4PU2. 11. For purposes of guaranteeing Qatar’s food security, in 2008 the government, under the Office of Heir-Apparent, set up a national food security program; more is available at

7 The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia F. Gregory Gause III

Saudi Arabia is an unconventional power. It is militarily weak compared to its regional neighbors. Its population, of which one-quarter are noncitizen foreign workers, is dwarfed by that of Egypt, Turkey, or Iran. In terms of citizen population, it is not even the largest state on the Arabian peninsula, where Yemen rivals it in size. Yet it has the largest economy, in terms of total gross domestic product, in the Arab world, exceeded in the Middle East only by that of Turkey. It is the world’s largest producer and largest exporter of oil, and sits atop one-quarter of the known oil reserves of the entire world. It is also home to the two holiest cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina, and therefore claims a special leadership role in the Muslim world. The crosscurrents in Saudi foreign policy are best understood by keeping in mind its fundamental goals: to protect the country from foreign domination and invasion, and to safeguard the domestic stability of the Al Saud regime (Salamah 1980; Safran 1985; Goldberg 1986; Piscatori 1983). Saudi foreign policy is one tool among many used to secure the ruling elite and build the Saudi state. But the pursuit of these goals is rarely direct and clear-cut, because Saudi foreign policy must operate on various 185


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

levels simultaneously: (1) the international level, dominated by the Saudi strategic alliance with the United States and the Saudi role as an oil power; (2) the Middle East regional level, where Saudi Arabia plays a balancing game among larger and more powerful neighbors; and (3) the Arabian peninsula level, where Saudi Arabia asserts a hegemonic role in relation to Yemen and its smaller monarchical neighbors. Policies that seem unambiguously beneficial for the Saudis at one level can present problems for them at other levels. Their alliance with the United States has been of great benefit militarily and economically, but has also exposed them to regional attack and domestic criticism. Their leading role in the world oil market has brought wealth and international status, but also subjected them to intense regional and international pressures. Their selfconscious assertion that they are the “most Islamic” of the Muslim countries has been an important element of their domestic legitimation and regional stance, but has also opened them up to criticism from rival claimants to leadership in the Arab and Muslim worlds and, in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, put new pressures on their relationship with the United States. It is the management of these contradictions that gives Saudi foreign policy its normally cautious character as the Saudi leadership seeks to reconcile competing pressures. It is those instances where reconciliation is not possible that force the Saudis to make unambiguous choices that illuminate the guiding principles of their foreign policy.

Foreign Policy Determinants The International System

Saudi Arabia is integrated into the world economic and strategic system largely through its role as a major world oil producer. In February 2013, Saudi Arabia produced 9.14 million barrels of oil a day, slightly below the world’s largest producer, Russia, at 9.99 million barrels a day and far more than any member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) (US Department of Energy 2013, tabs. 11.1a, 11.1b). As of the end of 2012, Saudi

The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia


Arabia possessed 15.9 percent of the world’s known oil reserves, trailing only Venezuela and far exceeding all other Persian Gulf countries and Russia. Moreover, the bulk of Venezuela’s reserves are in tar sand oil, which is much more difficult to produce, while Saudi reserves are all conventional oil (British Petroleum 2013, 6). Saudi Arabia also has the most flexibility in oil production worldwide, being able to increase its production by approximately 2–3 million barrels per day practically overnight. This allows it to act as “swing producer” with a unique ability to affect the oil market in the short term. Oil revenues allow it to be a major importer of military hardware. Oil is the basis of the strategic relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States, which has developed into a tightly woven web of economic, political, and military ties. These close ties with the United States have led some analysts to depict Saudi Arabia’s role in the international system as one of classical dependence (Lackner 1978; Halliday 1974; Salamah 1980). In this view, Saudi Arabia has very little autonomy in terms of its foreign and economic policy choices. It is forced to follow the lead of the United States because its economic and political stability are dependent on US support and goodwill. The record of Saudi foreign policy depicts a more complex picture. Saudi Arabia played a major role in the formation of OPEC in 1960; closed the US airbase in Dhahran in 1961; embargoed oil shipments to the United States in 1973–1974; took control of the Arabian-American Oil Company (ARAMCO, the consortium of US oil companies that developed the Saudi oil industry) in the 1970s; has played a leading role in efforts to manipulate the world oil market, at times to US disadvantage, since 1986; refused to support the Camp David Accords in the late 1970s; refused on a number of occasions after 1991 to allow the United States to use Saudi facilities for attacks on Iraq; publicly opposed the 2003 US war against Iraq; and has been critical of a number of US policies toward the Middle East since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011. Thus the Saudis, within the context of their close relationship with the United States, have retained significant autonomy. Saudi Arabia’s integration into the world economic and strategic system is better understood in terms of asymmetric interdependence, rather than dependence. The size of its oil reserves, the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

volume of its oil production, and its ability to alter levels of production all make Saudi Arabia a player in the world economy. Saudi Arabia has been able to use that leverage to further its foreign policy goals of preserving the state’s independence and the regime’s stability (Vitalis 1997, 2006). Saudi Arabia’s vast oil reserves drew US oil companies to the kingdom, and in turn these companies helped develop the capacities of the nascent Saudi state in the 1940s and 1950s. Oil made Saudi Arabia a strategic asset for the United States, helping to guarantee the security of the kingdom against external threats. Saudi decisions that helped drive up the price of oil in the 1970s brought the regime untold wealth, which it used to consolidate the regime domestically. The particularities of oil as a commodity increase the Saudi state’s leverage, both domestically and internationally. Revenues from the sale of oil accrue directly to the government, not to private actors within the country. This revenue has given the state the dominant role in the Saudi economy, which the Saudi rulers have used to consolidate themselves domestically (Luciani 1990; Crystal 1990; Chaudhry 1997). The direct control by the state over Saudi oil decisions, particularly since the 1970s, when the Saudis developed the technical capacity to actually control the industry, gives the Saudi rulers more power in their dealings with other international actors. They do not need to negotiate with other domestic actors to make decisions on oil, and foreign actors cannot develop alliances with domestic Saudi actors in an effort to bypass the Saudi government on oil matters. Because of its oil wealth, Saudi Arabia has been an attractive strategic partner for the United States. Washington helped build and supply the Saudi armed forces in their formative years, has been the major supplier of high-technology weaponry to Saudi Arabia since the oil wealth of the 1970s, and has provided an unofficial guarantee of Saudi security against outside attack (there is no defense treaty between Saudi Arabia and the United States). In return for this, Saudi Arabia generally followed the US stance on diplomatic, political, and strategic issues at the global level in the Cold War, using its oil wealth to aid other pro-US regimes in the Middle East and support anticommunist forces around the world (e.g., Afghanistan and Nicaragua). Beginning in the 1980s,

The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia


and particularly after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia opened its military facilities for use by US naval and air forces. However, it has not completely followed Washington’s stance on regional issues, particularly on matters concerning the Arab-Israeli question. Saudi Arabia’s connection with the United States has at times conflicted with Saudi security interests at the regional level. While oil is the primary avenue through which Saudi Arabia is integrated into the international economic and strategic system, the country also plays an important role in another arena of the international system, the loosely affiliated group of Muslim states that make up the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The Regional System Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. In the larger Middle East region, Saudi Arabia is a militarily weak state that seeks to preserve its independence and autonomy by preventing the emergence of regional hegemons. Conversely, in the Arabian peninsula, Saudi Arabia claims a hegemonic role, asserting the right to be the dominant foreign partner for Yemen and the smaller monarchical states that with it make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (Salamah 1980). Saudi foreign policy in the region is complicated by the importance in the Middle East of the transnational political identities of Arabism and Islamism. Because of the mobilizational capability of political movements that spring from these identities, Saudi calculations of power and threat in the region are more complicated than classical balance-of-power theories would indicate. The Saudis must react not just to shifts in military and economic strength within the region but also to purely political threats that call into question their domestic legitimacy and security. Foreign leaders who claim the mantle of Arabism or Islam can appeal directly to Saudi citizens, over the heads of the Saudi regime, to pressure their rulers or rise up against them. Moreover, because of the importance of Arabist and Islamist feelings among the Saudi population, encouraged to some extent by the government itself, Saudi Arabia risks domestic disapproval if it is seen as


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

deviating too far from the Arab nationalist or Islamist consensus on issues concerning Israel and relations with the United States. The threats posed by these transnational ideologies to Saudi security and regime stability have come from a variety of sources. From the 1920s through the early 1950s, it was the Hashemite monarchs of Iraq and Jordan/Transjordan. The Hashemites had ruled in the Hijaz until their defeat by the Al Saud regime in 1926 and maintained contacts with the Hijazis for decades thereafter (Porath 1986; Shlaim 1988). Arab unity plans proposed by the Hashemites were opposed by Saudi Arabia not just to balance Hashemite power regionally but also to prevent the Hashemites from being able to threaten Saudi control domestically. The Saudis opposed the Arab unity movement of Gamal Abdul Nasser in the late 1950s and the 1960s for similar reasons. Nasser’s successes not only increased Egyptian power in the conventional sense but also appealed directly to Saudi citizens who were sympathetic to his brand of Arab nationalism (Safran 1985). The Iranian revolution of 1979 was not simply a regional challenge for Saudi Arabia but also a domestic challenge, as Ayatollah Khomeini castigated monarchies in general as being un-Islamic, and as the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich eastern province responded to his calls with protests and demonstrations (Kostiner 1987; Long 1990). Saddam Hussein raised both Arab nationalist and Islamist banners during the Gulf War of 1990–1991 to delegitimize the Saudi regime and encourage Saudi citizens to rebel against their government. The dual nature of the threats the Saudis face—conventional power and ideological appeal—have at times complicated their foreign policy choices. When faced with situations where conventional power measures would dictate one kind of balancing policy and regime security considerations would dictate another, Riyadh has tended to balance against the potential source of domestic threat and support the more conventionally “powerful” but not obviously threatening actor in regional disputes, as when it supported Iraq against Iran in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980–1988. Transnational Arabist and Islamist sentiments also limit Saudi freedom to maneuver, blocking foreign policy moves that might seem natural from a purely balancing perspective. Israel would have been an ideal alliance partner for Saudi Arabia against

The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia


Hashemite and Nasserist unity plans, against the Islamic revolution in Iran, and against Saddam Hussein. However, the Saudis have felt unable to have any kind of public relationship with Israel, because of the potential domestic and regional reactions. They even refused, in 1979, to support the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, despite pressure from the United States and their close relationship with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. For the same reasons, until the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia attempted to avoid overt identification with US military plans in the region, preferring to keep US forces “over the horizon.” Since 2003, in the post–Iraq War period, the Saudis see the rise in Iranian power as both a conventional balance-of-power challenge and a transnational ideological threat. With Iraq unable to play its past balancing role against Iran, conventional Iranian power in the region has increased. At the same time, Iranian support for Shiite allies in Iraq and Lebanon has raised the prospect of new efforts by Iran to intervene directly in the politics of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states through ties to Shiite communities there. Riyadh has responded to the new Iranian challenge by supporting the opposition to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s major Arab state ally; by supporting forces in Iraq and Lebanon that have challenged the pro-Iranian elements in those countries; by trying to broker Palestinian unity and encourage the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, in order to deny Iran the ability to mobilize anti-Israeli opinion in the Arab world; and by supporting the Bahraini government in its suppression of widespread protests among its Shiitemajority population in the Arab Spring of 2011. This strategy had achieved few successes as of the end of 2013, with Iran’s allies in Iraq and Lebanon still dominating politics there, with the Assad regime holding on to power in Syria, and with Palestinian politics still divided between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Only in Bahrain can the Saudis be considered to have claimed a clear victory. It would be a mistake to see transnational political identities in the Middle East as nothing but a threat to the Saudi regime. Riyadh has been able to use its status as a leader of the Muslim world to advance its foreign policy goals. When confronting Nasserist pan-Arabism in the 1960s, Saudi Arabia asserted that the organizing principle of regional politics should be Islam, not


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Arabism, in an attempt to draw into the regional mix friendly nonArab states like the Shah’s Iran and Turkey. It was a Saudi initiative that established the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 1969. The Saudis also maintained ties with Islamist opposition groups, such as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood during the Nasserist period and Salafi groups around the region now, as a means of pressuring other Arab governments and extending their influence. Such transnational ties were hardly guarantees of support for Saudi policy, as many of these same Islamist groups condemned Saudi policy during the Gulf War (Piscatori 1991). Moreover, Saudi support for Muslim causes, like the jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, indirectly contributed to the development of al-Qaeda, which not only created the crisis in Saudi-US relations brought on by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but also developed into a domestic security challenge to the Saudi state in the first decade of the twenty-first century. However, Riyadh has consistently sought ties with Islamist political groups across the Arab and Muslim worlds, both for practical political influence and to affect the debate in the Muslim world over the meaning of Islam in political life. Saudi Arabia and the Arabian peninsula. While Saudi Arabia

plays a complicated balancing role in the Middle East region as a whole, its behavior in the Arabian peninsula is guided by a simple operating principle: deny any other power a position of substantial influence. To this end, Riyadh has endeavored to be the dominant foreign partner for the smaller monarchical states that border it to the east and southeast (Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman) and for Yemen. The Saudi leadership sees the rest of the peninsula as its natural sphere of influence. Were it not for the power of the British Empire in these coastal areas in the early decades of the twentieth century, many Saudis believe that they would be ruling over the entire peninsula today. Saudi Arabia has been largely successful in asserting its dominant role among the monarchies of the peninsula. Institutionally, that dominance is expressed in the GCC, formed in 1981. In the face of the security threats posed by the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Iraq War, the smaller monarchies accepted what many of them had for years resisted: formal acknowledgment of Riyadh’s

The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia


leadership role (Barnett and Gause 1998). During periods of peace and relative stability in the Gulf, the smaller monarchies are more likely to attempt to assert their independence, but their overall place within the Saudi orbit is not questioned, although in the first decade of the twenty-first century and during the Arab Spring, Qatar’s policy was sometimes at odds with that of Riyadh, and some of the small emirates do not share Riyadh’s hostility to Iran. The most recent example of Riyadh’s leading role was its decision in 2011 to send troops to support its monarchical ally Bahrain in putting down the Arab Spring demonstrations there calling for political reform. Yemen has been harder for the Saudis to bring to heel. The unification of Yemen, in 1990, created a rival to Saudi Arabia in terms of population. Since the revolutions in North and South Yemen of the 1960s, Yemeni states have been republics, setting up an inevitable atmosphere of distrust in dealing with the Saudi monarchy. Both North and South Yemen sought foreign patrons to balance against Saudi influence (Gause 1990). After unification, Yemen maintained cordial relations with Iraq and refused to join the Saudi-brokered Arab coalition that opposed the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. While the Saudis have maintained important avenues of influence in Yemen, in terms of financial aid to Yemeni governments and political ties to Yemeni tribes and personalities, they were unable to prevent unification in 1990 or to effectively support the secessionist efforts of former South Yemeni leaders in the brief 1994 Yemeni civil war. The Saudis now have a cordial if wary relationship with united Yemen (al-Suweidi 1995). The Saudi-Yemeni agreement of June 2000 to demarcate their contested border seems to have eliminated a major bone of contention in the relationship. The Saudis reasserted their leading role in Yemen during the Arab Spring, when they helped broker the political deal that resulted in President Ali Abdullah Salih’s resignation in February 2012. State Formation and Domestic Politics

The modern state of Saudi Arabia was built by conquest. It consists of four geographical areas that had rarely, since the time of the Prophet Muhammad, been united under one rule. The patri-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

mony of the Al Saud family was Najd, central Arabia, the heartland of the Saudi empires built in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by earlier generations of the family. At the turn of the twentieth century, the founder of the modern kingdom, Abd alAziz ibn Abd al-Rahman Al Saud, known in the West as Ibn Saud, began to reassert his family’s control of Najd, completing its consolidation after World War I. Earlier, in 1913, he had expanded his realm to the east by taking al-Ahsa, now the Eastern Province. AlAhsa gave Abd al-Aziz access to the Persian/Arabian Gulf and, in later years, spurred an even more important economic boon. The al-Ahsa area is the heart of the Saudi oil industry, the richest oil patch in the world. But with these economic benefits came a new complication for his rule—a significant Shiite Muslim minority in al-Ahsa, which now composes between 5 and 10 percent of the total Saudi citizen population. In 1926, Abd al-Aziz completed the conquest of the Hijaz, the western coast of Arabia bordering the Red Sea, then under the control of the Hashemite dynasty. Bringing the Hijaz under his control contributed enormously to Abd al-Aziz’s prestige, as he became the protector of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and to his meager treasury, as he could collect the tax levied on pilgrims. He rounded off his territorial expansion in 1934 with the acquisition of Asir, the mountainous area in the southwest corner of the kingdom, in a short war with the imam of Yemen (Helms 1981; Troeller 1976; Kostiner 1993). The four geographical areas of the Saudi state retain strong regional identities. Due to the potentially fractious nature of this new political construct, the Saudis worried particularly about regional powers meddling in the kingdom’s domestic affairs, whether Hashemite Jordan or Iraq in Hijaz (which the Hashemites previously ruled), Yemen in Asir (annexed by the Saudis after a 1934 war), Iran in al-Ahsa (where Saudi Arabia’s Shiite population is concentrated), or Nasser’s Egypt, appealing to restive Arab nationalists throughout the kingdom. The Saudis also became acutely aware of the need to balance the influence of the great powers that were interested in Arabia, whether through a relationship with Great Britain to balance the Ottomans at the beginning of the century or a relationship with the United States to balance Britain at midcentury.

The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia


Creating and maintaining the new state required political and financial resources beyond those readily available to Abd al-Aziz. He needed to forge a political movement to support himself. He found it by drawing on the long historical association between the Al Saud regime and the puritanical, reformist Islamist strain known in the West as Wahhabism. In the eighteenth century, one of Abd al-Aziz’s forebears, the ruler of a small Najdi oasis town, had struck an alliance with Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a zealous Arabian preacher who sought to purge Islam of modern accretions and return to the pristine faith of the Prophet’s time. The Wahhabi message allowed the Al Saud to mobilize support outside their immediate environs and build a major Arabian empire. Abd al-Aziz revived the Wahhabi movement, gaining tribal support across Najd and greatly expanding the size of his armed forces. Wahhabi clerics acted as judges and administrators in his newly conquered territories. Spreading the dawa (call to proselytization) of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab provided the ideological justification for the expansion of Saudi rule (al-Hamad 1986). Even today, the Wahhabi religious establishment is an important constituency of and support for the Saudi regime, controlling large parts of the religious, judicial, and educational bureaucracies in the kingdom (al-Yassini 1985). Wahhabism was a mixed blessing, however, for Saudi statebuilders. As an ideology, it was not particularly appealing for many of Abd al-Aziz’s new subjects. To the Shiites of al-Ahsa, Wahhabism was anathema, because Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab considered Shiites little better than unbelievers. Many Hijazis, accustomed to more liberal social mores, chafed under the puritanism of the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. The Wahhabis themselves created problems. In 1929, Abd al-Aziz had to mobilize loyal forces from the Najdi towns and tribes to defeat rebellious Wahhabis who wanted to attack British-protected Iraq and Transjordan. Since the Gulf War, Islamic groups have formed the most serious and organized element of domestic political opposition to the Saudi regime. Osama bin Laden was in many ways a direct ideological descendant of the Wahhabi rebels of 1929; he challenged the Al Saud’s right to rule on the grounds that they were not living up to the strict Islamic standards they set for themselves. In the Arabian peninsula, the local component of


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

bin Laden’s transnational al-Qaeda movement launched a number of attacks within Saudi Arabia between 2003 and 2006, before the Saudi security forces were able to put down the movement (Hegghammer 2008; Fandy 1999). Money was another problem as Abd al-Aziz sought to knit together his disparate realms into a unified and pacified state. The distribution of benefits, through patron-client ties, was a major element in his strategy for keeping his realm together, but his needs always seemed to exceed his assets. In 1933, Abd al-Aziz granted the California Standard Oil Company (now Chevron) a concession to explore for and produce oil in exchange for an immediate cash payment in gold and royalties on future production. The deciding factor in choosing California Standard over other oil companies seems to have been its willingness to provide money up front to the cash-strapped monarch (Brown 1999). California Standard later brought in the Texas Oil Company (Texaco), and then Standard Oil of New Jersey (Exxon) and SoconyVacuum (Mobil)—together forming the Arabian-American Oil Company—to develop and market Saudi oil (Anderson 1981). ARAMCO became the vehicle through which the nascent Saudi government funded its operations. It also provided a number of other services to the Saudi regime over the decades, building roads and a railroad, providing the first modern educational facility in the Eastern Province, serving as lender of last (and frequently first) resort, and acting as the international legal adviser to the government (Vitalis 2006). Due to its increasing economic stake in the kingdom, the United States eventually took a more active interest in events in Saudi Arabia. During World War II, with pilgrimage traffic essentially halted and oil development suspended, US lend-lease funds helped to maintain Abd al-Aziz’s treasury (Safran 1985). With the development of steady oil income in the 1950s, and the huge jump in that income in the 1970s, the Al Saud were able to build the administrative structure of a modern state—centralized military, police, judicial, health, and educational bureaucracies— and to provide their citizens with an increasing array of benefits. Oil money came to supplement, and then to supplant, Wahhabism as the glue that keeps the Saudi realm together. While regional

The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia


particularities and identities persist in Saudi Arabia, and integrating the Shiite minority into national politics remains an unfinished task, it is interesting to note that the most serious opposition to the Saudi regime in the new century has not been based on regional identity but on Islamist ideology. To a great extent, the Saudi statebuilding project that oil revenue made possible has eliminated regionalism as a threat to the integrity and security of the kingdom. Oil money allowed the Saudi state to develop a particular relationship with its society. For decades, the basis of state-society relations has been the provision of goods and services by the state to society, with little but political loyalty expected in return. The consequences for politics of the rentier character of the Saudi state are much debated (Chaudhry 1997). For Saudi foreign policy, two important consequences emerge. First, Saudi oil policy must provide the government with the money necessary to support the system of social services, government employment, and security spending that undergirds the regime. Oil, as of 2013, still accounts for approximately 90 percent of the kingdom’s yearly export earnings, and for about 90 percent of its government revenue (Jadwa Investments 2012). The Saudis have enjoyed, as of 2013, a decade of relatively high oil prices. Their fiscal situation is stable, at least in the near term. However, the state has taken on a number of new obligations, including promises of new jobs and benefits for citizens in the wake of the Arab Spring (Gause 2011). Should oil prices decline, because of new energy finds elsewhere in the world or technological breakthroughs, the fiscal (and thus political) stability of the Saudi state would be called into question. The second important consequence of Saudi Arabia’s rentier bargain relates to security. Citizens have come to expect the government to defend the state without requiring military service of them. Saudi Arabia is the only major Middle Eastern country that does not require military service of its young men. Experience with several attempted Arab nationalist military coups in the 1960s undermined the regime’s confidence in the likely political reliability of a large military. Residual suspicions of Hijazis and Shiites add to the regime’s reluctance to expand the size of the Saudi military. While Saudi Arabia’s defense budget dwarfs those


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

of its neighbors, its armed forces comprise only about 200,000 personnel, a smaller number overall compared to other regional states with similar populations, and a much smaller number per capita compared to Middle Eastern states with smaller populations (International Institute for Strategic Studies 2013). Two characteristics of Saudi foreign policy flow from this unwillingness to mobilize the Saudi citizenry for military purposes. First, the Saudis’ reliance on security ties with the United States is heightened. Second, the Saudis are less able to assert themselves in the regional politics of the Middle East. Much of their proclivity for caution and balancing can be traced to the military weakness of Saudi Arabia as compared with its neighbors. Foreign Policy Role

If the rhetoric of Saudi leaders were taken at face value, we would have to conclude that Islam defines the role of Saudi Arabia in the world. As host of the Muslim pilgrimage (the Hajj) to Mecca, Saudi Arabia has received a steadily growing number of pilgrims from across the Muslim world (since 2003, over 2 million annually). The organization of the Hajj by itself embeds the kingdom in an important and practical web of relations with other Muslim countries (Long 1979). Mirroring the central role that Islam plays in the Saudi regime’s domestic legitimation formula, Riyadh has also asserted for itself a leading political role among Muslim states. Saudi Arabia played the major role in the formation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the international organization of the world’s Muslim countries, and contributes the largest share to its budget. It is headquarters for, and the major financier of, Islamic nongovernmental organizations such as the Muslim World League and the World League of Muslim Youth. The Saudi government has used its oil wealth to support Muslim charities and causes across the world, from mosque building in the Philippines to, at various times, Islamic political groups across the Arab and Muslim worlds (Piscatori 1983; al-Yassini 1985). That leadership role in the Muslim world, as interpreted by the Saudis, requires very little in the way of actual leadership, however. The Muslim countries as a group are too geographically

The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia


dispersed and politically disparate to have a common political agenda, and Saudi Arabia has largely been able to define for itself just what an “Islamic” foreign policy is (Piscatori 1983). Saudi Arabia’s conception of its Islamic leadership role is entirely compatible with its strong ties to the United States, something that more radical Muslim thinkers would see as completely incompatible. Saudi Arabia’s leadership role does not challenge the existing international status quo, as it seeks only better treatment for individual Muslims and for Muslim states within that status quo (Piscatori 1986). This is not to argue that Saudi Arabia’s conception of its role in the Muslim world is unimportant in its foreign policy. This role has been both a tool used by Riyadh and a constraint on its behavior, particularly in dealing with Israel and the United States. Saudi Arabia’s leadership role complicates its relations with Iran, which since the Islamic revolution of 1979 has challenged the Saudis’ right to define the proper relationship between Islam and politics at the international level. The regime has also been criticized domestically, as was the case during and immediately after the Gulf War of 1990–1991 and has been the case since the rise of alQaeda in the late 1990s, by groups that see Saudi foreign policy as deviating from Islamic standards (Gause 1994, 35–37). The September 11 attacks greatly complicated Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the United States. Many Americans saw in the rigidity and intolerance of Wahhabism a root cause of the rise of Sunni jihadist groups like al-Qaeda that were seeking to attack the United States and its interests. Despite serious tensions in the years after 2001, both Saudi Arabia and the United States worked to maintain their relationship, which was seen as having well served both countries (and their ruling elites) over the decades. After the September 11 attacks, the Saudis sought to reconcile their leadership role in the Muslim world and their close bilateral relations with the United States by using Muslim clerics and institutions close to them to denounce Osama bin Laden and de-legitimize his claims to Muslim leadership. The Saudis’ role conception in other arenas does not usually involve assertions of leadership. The Saudis naturally see themselves as part of the larger Arab world, but view Arab unity as a


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

way to achieve solidarity and cooperation among the existing Arab states. At times they will propose Arab initiatives regarding the Arab-Israeli peace process, such as in 1981 (the Fahd Plan) and 2002 (the Abdullah Initiative), but will not extend unilateral diplomacy to Israel, which would place the Saudis ahead of other Arabs on peace process issues. Similarly, in regard to oil, the Saudis have generally been reluctant to assert a leadership role in OPEC, even though Saudi Arabia is the organization’s largest oil producer. Only in 1985–1986 did the Saudis take an openly confrontational position against other OPEC members, flooding the market and driving down oil prices in order to try to restore production discipline in the organization. They are willing to work outside the OPEC framework to achieve their ends in the world oil market, as Saudi negotiations with other major producers, inside as well as outside OPEC, in the late 1990s indicate (Petroleum Intelligence Weekly 1998, 1999). As oil prices fell in the second half of 2008, Saudi Arabia once again engaged in oil diplomacy with both OPEC and non-OPEC producers to cut production and try to halt the fall in prices. The leadership role the Saudis assert in the oil market remains, with some exceptions, as in 1985–1986, one of quiet consensus building and deal making, not one of risky public proclamations and open confrontation.

Foreign Policy Making The key foreign policy decisionmaking body in Saudi Arabia is that group of senior members of the Al Saud family who, by reason of their official position or their standing within the family, decide all major issues of policy. When there is a strong king, as in the days of Abd al-Aziz (1901–1953) and Faisal (1964–1975), decisionmaking on foreign policy is concentrated in his hands. When the king is not a forceful personality, the decisionmaking circle widens. People outside the ruling family play important roles as advisers, but the key decisions are made within the Al Saud family (Safran 1985; Salamah 1980; Quandt 1981). For example, in the meeting in August 1990 when the Saudi decision to invite US forces to the kingdom was made (or, at least,

The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia


announced to the United States), there were approximately eight Saudis in the room, of whom at least five (and probably more) were members of the ruling family (Woodward 1991, 266). The dominance of the ruling family in foreign policy means that the decisionmaking process will not follow neatly constructed rational-bureaucratic lines. It is generally believed, for example, that major princes have particular responsibilities for relations with specific countries; the current king, Abdullah, was generally seen in past decades as the prince in charge of relations with Syria, and the former crown prince, Sultan, who died in 2011, was seen as being in charge of relations with Yemen. There is fluidity to the decisionmaking process, depending more on the dynamics of intra-family politics than upon neatly defined bureaucratic lines of responsibility. This fluidity is magnified by the generational change that the Al Saud leadership will soon be facing. This intertwining of foreign policy and ruling-family relationships means that disputes and differences in the latter will inevitably spill over into the former. The clearest example was the struggle for power between King Saud and Crown Prince Faisal in the late 1950s and early 1960s. During the struggle, Saudi policy toward the Nasserist pan-Arab challenge oscillated between confrontation and appeasement, as the contenders sought to use foreign policy issues against one another. It was not until Faisal became king in 1964 that a consistent foreign policy was reestablished (Safran 1985). No such serious a split has occurred, at least publicly, in the ruling family recently. If such splits do reappear, as a result of the coming generational leadership change, they are sure to affect the content and conduct of Saudi foreign policy. Observers of the kingdom debate the importance of the religious establishment in policymaking, some contending that it has an effective veto and others arguing that its power is greatly attenuated from earlier days (Kechichian 1986; al-Yassini 1985). In the field of foreign policy, the latter interpretation seems closer to the truth. The Saudi regime looks to the religious leaders to validate and approve important decisions in the area of foreign policy. King Fahd, for example, sought fatwas from Shaikh Abd al-Aziz bin Baz, the senior Muslim cleric in the kingdom, to justify both his invitation of US forces to the kingdom and the initiation of


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

hostilities against Iraq (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, August 21, 1990; New York Times, January 20, 1991). It does not appear that the king asked the religious establishment for permission before acting. There is also no case in recorded Saudi history where a foreign policy decision or initiative was rescinded or dropped because of publicly expressed disapproval by Muslim legal scholars. If the religious establishment influences, but does not have a decisive voice in, foreign policy, the same might be said for the Saudi Consultative Council. Established in 1992, the council is an appointed body commissioned with the task of advising the government on issues of the day (Gause 1994, 108–109). The council has a committee on foreign affairs, and Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal has appeared before it to set out the general lines of the kingdom’s foreign policy. It is not yet clear whether the council has had much influence on specific foreign policy decisions, but its role could grow if the institution as a whole begins to play a larger role in Saudi politics. In terms of foreign policy implementation, the tools at the disposal of Saudi leaders to get their way in the world are much the same now as they were in the 1970s and 1980s, when the Saudis had huge sums of money with which to achieve their foreign policy aims. At the same time, the Saudis had significant discretion in their oil policy—to raise or lower production as they saw fit to influence prices—because they could weather temporary decreases in their oil revenue much more easily than could other states. The spike in oil prices of 2003–2013 has restored the Saudi position of those earlier decades, in terms of both the money the regime has at its disposal and the flexibility it has in making oil policy. During the 1990s, with oil prices low and the kingdom’s fiscal situation more precarious, its foreign policy tools, in terms of foreign aid and oil policy flexibility, were more limited (Skeet 1988). In terms of the personnel who actually implement Saudi foreign policy, an enormous change took place during the twentieth century. In the early decades of the Saudi state, Saudi diplomats and foreign policy advisers were routinely recruited from other Arab countries. With the development of the Saudi educational system, the kingdom’s foreign service has been completely “Saudi-ized,” and is generally acknowledged as a competent and

The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia


professional group of diplomats who play an increasing role in international organizations and on the world stage.

Foreign Policy Behavior During noncrisis periods, the goals of Saudi foreign policy— strong ties with the United States, a sophisticated balancing strategy regarding the regional politics of the Middle East, an overriding concern with regime security, and pursuit of the independence and autonomy of the Saudi state—do not conflict with one another. The Saudis can maintain their connection with the United States, maintain balance in the region, and use both foreign and oil policy to help sustain the regime domestically. But at certain crucial historical junctures, the Saudis have had to reconcile contradictions in their foreign policy. In dealing with Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Saudis faced just such a contradiction. Nasser’s popularity in the Arab world, including within Saudi Arabia, made it risky for Riyadh to actively oppose him. However, his growing power in the region, particularly after the 1958 Egyptian-Syrian union, and his increasingly anti-US stance, made him a threat to Saudi rulers. After supporting a disastrous, publicly exposed attempt to assassinate Nasser in 1957, the Saudis attempted to appease him, going so far as to refuse to renew the US lease on Dhahran airfield in 1961 (Safran 1985, 92). When Egyptian forces landed in North Yemen in 1962 and Nasser began to aim his propaganda and subversive efforts against the Al Saud regime, Riyadh abandoned appeasement. The Saudis aided the royalist forces in the Yemeni civil war, renewed military cooperation with the United States and Great Britain, opposed Nasser diplomatically in the Arab world, and cracked down on Arab nationalist activity domestically. Riyadh reacted much differently to the emergence of a strong Arab axis between Egypt and Syria in the early 1970s. When these two states went to war with Israel in 1973, King Faisal put at risk his close ties with the United States to support them, declaring an embargo on Saudi oil shipments to the United States


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

and cuts in Saudi oil production. The difference in this case was that the new leaders of Egypt and Syria, Anwar Sadat and Hafez al-Assad, abandoned the anti-Saudi rhetoric and policies of their predecessors. Maintaining this shift in inter-Arab politics, which greatly strengthened the domestic stability of the Saudi regime, was seen by Riyadh as a risk worth taking, despite the confrontation that this shift provoked with the United States. Quickly after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the Saudis restored their close ties with the United States. The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and the Iranian revolution, occurring almost simultaneously in 1979, presented the Saudis with another hard choice (Salamah 1980, 253–264). The United States, which had proved powerless to help the Shah of Iran against his domestic opponents, pushed Riyadh to support Egypt and the new treaty. Iraq and Syria, leading a united Arab bloc, urged the Saudis to join them in cutting ties to Egypt and opposing the treaty. Meanwhile, the Iranian revolution had stirred up Islamic political activity throughout the region, including in Saudi Arabia itself. The Saudi leadership, split internally, eventually decided that the risk of Arab and Islamic criticism, both regionally and domestically, was too great for them to support the treaty. Saudi Arabia cut ties with Egypt, its strongest regional ally, and rebuffed the United States, its superpower patron. Relations with the United States got back on track when the Saudis were faced with a new strategic challenge, the Iran-Iraq War, beginning in 1980. Confronting a difficult choice in regional politics, the Saudis opted, however reluctantly, to back an increasingly powerful Iraq at the outset of that war, because of the open calls from revolutionary Iran for Saudi Muslims to make their own revolution against the Al Saud. In 1990, the combined military and ideological threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait led the Saudis to overcome past hesitations about the domestic and regional consequences of their ties to the United States and publicly invite US military forces into the kingdom. The most recent period of tension among Saudi foreign policy goals came in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Both official and public opinion in the United States saw Saudi Arabia—birthplace of Osama bin Laden, home to

The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia


fifteen of the nineteen hijackers, and supporter of global Wahhabism—as a contributor, however unwittingly, to the attacks. The Saudis, officials and the public alike, aggrieved by the accusations of the United States, opposed much of its subsequent global “war on terror,” most notably the Iraq War of 2003. It appeared for a brief time that Saudi Arabia’s assertion of a leadership role in the Muslim world would be incompatible with the maintenance of a strong bilateral relationship with the United States. Washington removed its military forces stationed in Saudi Arabia shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. However, both Riyadh and Washington worked to heal the breach. On the Saudi side, after some initial hesitation and confusion, the government mobilized its official clergy and the international Islamic institutions it sponsors to condemn bin Laden and his interpretation of Islam (the fact that al-Qaeda began launching attacks in Saudi Arabia itself in 2003 facilitated this mobilization). The George W. Bush administration, after its Iraq adventure turned sour, came to appreciate the importance of its ties to Saudi Arabia, the only stable US ally in the Persian Gulf region. Remarkably, given the enormous impact of September 11 on public opinion in the United States, little has changed in the Saudi-US relationship since. On a much smaller scale, a similar tension in Saudi-US relations emerged at the outset of the Arab Spring in 2011. Riyadh was much less supportive of grassroots political change in the Arab world than was the United States, and particularly saw US inaction as Egyptian president Husni Mubarak was overthrown as a signal of the unreliability of the United States as an ally. Washington, for its part, criticized the Saudi-supported crackdown in Bahrain. However, as was the case in past episodes of tension, the two countries soon found common cause in supporting the rebellion against the Qaddafi regime in Libya, engineering a transition in Yemen, and opposing the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Conclusion These episodes in which the Saudis have had to make difficult choices among competing foreign policy goals highlight some


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

enduring patterns in their foreign policy. First and foremost, domestic regime security is the paramount objective of the Saudi government. When foreign powers directly challenge the legitimacy of Saudi rule and pose direct military threats, the Saudis will take significant risks to oppose them and call up the United States for support. When regional powers emerge that do not overtly threaten the Saudi regime, Riyadh will move to accommodate them, even at the risk of complicating its relations with the United States. As soon as possible after such episodes, Riyadh works to repair the breach with Washington, an important indication of the centrality of the Saudi-US relationship in Saudi foreign policy. But Saudi Arabia’s long-term interest in maintaining its connection with the United States is always tempered by a reluctance, except in the most dire circumstances, to appear too closely connected with its Western ally, for fear of stirring up regional and domestic opposition. This tension for Saudi Arabia between the centrality of its ties with the United States and the needs of domestic regime security remains constant. While the two countries have patched up their post–September 11 differences, a mutual public suspicion on both sides of the relationship remains. The consequences of the Iraq War and the Arab Spring, including continued instability in Iraq and the increase in Iranian regional influence, initially brought the United States and Saudi Arabia together in opposition to Iranian power; but they also increased Saudi worries about US judgment and reliability, with divergences sharpening over the reluctance of the United States to intervene in the Syrian civil war. Despite this underlying tension, the Saudi-US relationship looks secure for the immediate future.

8 The Foreign Policy of Syria Raymond Hinnebusch

Syria is one of the oldest countries in the world and its capital, Damascus, was once the center of the Umayyad Islamic empire (661–750), which stretched from Spain to India. But modern Syria is a recent (1920) creation of Western imperialism, a weak state arbitrarily carved out of historical and geographical Syria (bilad ash-sham) and initially a battleground of regional geopolitical struggles. Syria became an actor in, rather than a pawn of, regional politics only after 1970, when the state was consolidated under Hafez al-Assad. It went on to achieve geopolitical importance out of proportion to its relatively small population, area, and economy because of its military power, independent foreign policy, and central geopolitical location in the Middle East. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, Syria was contiguous to and involved in three major Middle East conflicts—over Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq. The 2011 Arab uprisings made the country again a battleground for rival regional and global powers. Foreign Policy Determinants History, Territory, and Identity

Syria’s foreign policy was given an enduring revisionist, irredentist thrust originating in the frustration of its emerging Arab 207


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

national identity by the Western imposition of the Middle East state system after World War I. Arab nationalism was a natural reaction to the postwar dismemberment and colonial rule of the country and to the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine, historically part of southern Syria. The small state left after the separation of Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan from geographic Syria was regarded by Syrians as an artificial creation, with identities tending, as a result, to focus on substate or suprastate “imagined communities.” For some, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic community (umma) was the focus of loyalty. Historical and geographical Syria, despite having no history of independent statehood, might have become the focus of identity, but the country’s dismemberment fostered an irredentist pan-Syrianism that by the 1970s had merged with pan-Arabism. Secular pan-Arab nationalism, in its dual attractiveness to the Sunni majority and Syria’s multitude of Arab-speaking religious minorities, proved most potent as a statebuilding ideology (Tibawi 1969; Zeine 1960; Seale 1965). Syria’s Arab identity and frustration with truncated “little Syria” issued in an Arab nationalist foreign policy role that survived countless changes of leadership. Syria saw itself as the “beating heart of Arabism.” It was no accident that it was Syria that gave birth to Baathism, the movement that saw its mission as unifying the Arab states. Syria was the most consistent center of pan-Arab sentiment and actually surrendered its sovereignty—in the 1958 union with Egypt—in the name of pan-Arabism. By the late 1960s, Syria’s Arab nationalism was focused on the struggle for Palestine; no Arab people, bar the Palestinians themselves, found it more difficult to accept the legitimacy of Israel’s creation at the expense of Arab Palestine. This climaxed in the effort of the radical wing of the Baath party (1966–1970) to make Damascus the bastion of a war for the liberation of Palestine. The consequent 1967 loss of the Syrian Golan Heights to Israel gave a specifically Syrian territorial dimension to Syria’s Arabism. The recovery of the Golan became the single most important objective in Syrian foreign policy, a matter of national honor and regime legitimacy that was nonnegotiable. This intensified Syria’s Arab nationalism, yet, in focusing it on the recovery

The Foreign Policy of Syria


of Syrian land, made it more Syria-centric. Syrian Arabism was now expressed in the claim that the Arab states made up a nation with an overriding national interest in the struggle with Israel, and that Syria, as the most steadfast of the frontline Arab states, was entitled to pan-Arab support. By the 1990s, a further transition toward a more distinctly Syrian identity had been driven by the gap between the pan-Arab ideal and reality: the failure of pan-Arab unity projects and sixty years of separate statehood; the costs of the struggle with Israel; the series of separate deals struck by Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) with Israel at Syria’s expense; and the anti-Syrian sentiment expressed in Lebanon. After 2011 the Syrian uprising polarized Syrians along identity lines, with the Arab identity, long promoted by the regime, squeezed between secular “little Syrian,” Islamic Sunni, and Kurdish identities embraced by the opposition. The persisting dilemma for Syrians was that the idea of an exclusively Syrian nation-state, not essentially Arab, could evoke few unifying myths or memories. Geopolitics, Alignments, and the Balance of Power

Syria’s vulnerable geopolitical location and the usually unfavorable regional power balance normally tempered the wish of Syrian governments to act on irredentist grievances. Syria had a limited manpower base and little strategic depth, being unprotected by natural boundaries and exposed to stronger states that, at one time or another, constituted threats. Iraq had irredentist designs on Syria, and the country is vulnerable to Turkey’s control of the flow of Euphrates water. But Israel, the military superpower of the region, has been Syria’s main threat and its chief enemy, manifested in chronic border conflict until the 1967 war. The loss of the Golan Heights in this war further locked Syria into a struggle with Israel to recover this territory, first in the 1973 war and, when this failed, in a proxy war in Lebanon meant to strengthen Syria’s hand in a negotiated recovery of the lost territory. Yet because of Syria’s pivotal position in the Arab-Israel conflict and peace process and also its “swing” position, wherein its tilt toward either conservative or revisionist camps in the Arab


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

world would be decisive for the whole region (as in the case of the 1950s Baghdad Pact or the 1990–1991 Gulf War), international and regional powers have sought to intervene in and influence Syrian politics. While this destabilized weak governments, a strong Syrian regime, such as that of Hafez al-Assad, was able to use this status to strike alliances and acquire the material resources needed to allow Syria to balance against threats and evade isolation by or submission to its enemies (Drysdale and Hinnebusch 1991, 1–9). Syria’s alignments reflected balancing against geopolitical threats. After Syria’s independence, President Shukri al-Quwatly aligned with Egypt and Saudi Arabia to balance Hashemite ambitions to absorb the country into the Greater Syria and Fertile Crescent schemes. Beginning in the mid-1950s, nationalist governments aligned with Nasser’s Egypt or with the Soviet Union to acquire arms and protection from Western, Israeli, and conservative Arab pressures. Hafez al-Assad attempted, in struggles over Lebanon and the PLO, to make Greater Syria a sphere of influence to help him balance against Israel. He also balanced alliances with “moderate” states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt (with their links to the United States) against close links to militant Iran and Lebanon’s Hizbollah. A US drive to isolate Bashar al-Assad’s Syria deepened its alignment with Iran and Hizbollah after 2003, but Syria was able to ease this dependence through a parallel alignment with Turkey against US pressures. After the 2011 Syrian uprising, however, Syria reverted to a mere arena for these rival forces. State Formation, Domestic Politics, and Foreign Policy

If identity and geopolitics shaped a fairly constant agenda for Syria’s foreign policy makers, their capacity to pursue it varied according to Syria’s level of state formation. For the first quartercentury of its independent existence, weak, unstable Syria was a prize over which stronger states fought, with its permeable artificial borders and pan-Arab sentiment inviting penetration by rival Arab and foreign powers sponsoring Syrian clients and military coups, and its foreign policy shifting according to the consequent balance of domestic power (Seale 1965).

The Foreign Policy of Syria


The newly independent state’s effort to consolidate public loyalties was compromised when the precarious legitimacy won in the independence struggle was shattered by the loss of Palestine, unleashing two decades of instability in which external forces frequently intervened. The refusal of the beleaguered government of Shukri al-Quwatly, constrained by a nationally aroused public, to either sign a peace treaty with Israel or agree to the construction of a US-sponsored oil pipeline from Saudi Arabia, inspired US Central Intelligence Agency intrigue in the army, only the first episode of destabilizing Western meddling in Syrian politics. This encouraged Colonel Husni al-Za’im’s 1949 coup d’état, first in a line of many, but after Za’im moved to meet US demands and began peace negotiations with Israel, he was himself overthrown in another coup, as the fragmented army became the arbiter of politics (Rathmell 1995; Seale 1965). By the mid-1950s, the failure of oligarchic-dominated political institutions to satisfy middle-class participatory demands and appease land-hungry peasants allowed radical antisystem parties—notably the Baathists, the Syrian nationalists, and the communists—to mobilize popular unrest. Domestic instability co-incided with perceptions of a rising threat from Israel as border skirmishes over the demilitarized zones between the states escalated. Syria could not do without protective alignments, but Syrians were deeply divided between supporters of pro-Western Iraq, which advocated security through membership in the Western-sponsored Baghdad Pact, and followers of Egypt’s Nasser, who opposed the pact in the name of a nonaligned Arab collective security. Since the fate of the Baghdad Pact was believed to turn on Syria’s choice, an international “struggle for Syria” took place (1954–1958). The mobilization of Syria’s nationalist middle class swung the balance in favor of Egypt while Nasser’s rising stature as a pan-Arab hero, especially after the Suez war, weakened conservative pro-Western and pro-Iraqi politicians and strengthened those—above all the Baathists—aligned with Cairo. In 1956, radical politicians formed the anti-imperialist National Front government. The West’s sponsorship of several abortive conservative coups against that government and a 1957 attempt to “quarantine” Syrian radicalism under the Eisenhower Doctrine, backed by Iraqi-sponsored subversion and Turkish threats, precipitated


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Soviet counterthreats against Turkey and a backlash of procommunist feeling inside Syria. In 1958, external siege and internal polarization, plus widespread unionist sentiment, swept Syrian elites into embracing a brief union with Egypt, the United Arab Republic, which, however, was soon perceived as Egyptiandominated and broke up in 1961 (Seale 1965; Mufti 1996; asSayyid 1999). The coup that brought the Baath party to power in 1963 ushered in a new era of instability. The Baath regime had a narrow support base, owing to conflict with mass Nasserism (over its rejection of reunion with Egypt on Nasser’s terms) and the opposition of the landed oligarchs and of its Islamic rivals, the Muslim Brotherhood. The regime was also split between party patriarch Michel Aflaq, who prioritized pan-Arab union, and younger minority-dominated radicals more interested in a social “revolution in one country.” Ideological and personal rivalries overlapped with sectarian divisions between Sunnis and the minorities now disproportionately represented in the party and army. As, in this and subsequent such struggles, minority Alawis increasingly won out, thereby disaffecting Syria’s Sunni majority, the regime was put under pressure to prove its Arab nationalist credentials. After the radical minority-dominated faction of the party seized precarious power in a 1966 coup, the regime, driven by ideological militancy and a search for legitimation, proclaimed a war to liberate Palestine and supported Palestinian fedayeen raids into Israel. This, ignoring the unfavorable balance of power with Israel, brought on the 1967 defeat and the Israeli occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights (Yaniv 1986). The loss in the 1967 war and the dominance of the post-1966 Syrian leadership by the Alawi minority alienated many Syrian Baathists who backed Aflaq’s pan-Arab leadership, now exiled in Baathist Iraq, which tried to subvert the Syrian Baathist regime. In the accompanying ideological war between Damascus and Baghdad, each regime tried to outbid the other in militancy toward Israel and Western imperialism (Kienle 1990). Under these pressures, the Syrian regime again split over foreign policy, with the insistence of the radical leadership on a continuing high-risk challenge to Israel countered by the new realists clustered around Defense Minister

The Foreign Policy of Syria


Hafez al-Assad. In 1970, Assad ousted the ideological radicals and set Syria on a new, more realist foreign policy course that took account of Israel’s military superiority. Syrian elites had learned the realist rules of the states system the hard way. The consolidation of the Baathist regime, transformed under Assad into a huge national security apparatus, was in good part driven by Syria’s beleaguered position in its external environment, specifically the need to recover the lost Golan from Israel and counter its power. Assad concentrated personal power in a “presidential monarchy” resting on several pillars—the Baath party, the army, a core of largely Alawi personal followers in the security apparatus, and co-opted businessmen, largely Damascene, appeased through limited economic liberalization or profiting on connections to the state. While thereby elements of the Damascene Sunni bourgeoisie entered into tacit alliance with Alawi military elites at the top of the regime, the Baath party and its auxiliaries—the workers, peasant, and youth unions—incorporated a popular following at the base, particularly in the villages, Sunni as well as non-Sunni. Thus, Assad built a crosssectarian coalition whose durability proved itself in defeating the major Islamic fundamentalist uprising of 1977–1982. At the same time, Assad’s statebuilding depended on external resources—the Soviet arms with which he rebuilt the army and the Arab oil money by which the bureaucracy was expanded and the bourgeoisie co-opted. The increased cohesion and stability of the regime gave Assad considerable autonomy to adapt foreign policy to the external power balance and to mobilize national resources for his foreign policy goals (Dawisha 1978; Ma’oz 1988; Mufti 1996). The Foreign Policy Process Policymaking Under the Assads

In the presidential monarchy he created, Hafez al-Assad enjoyed wide latitude in foreign policy making but he initially sought to create an intra-elite consensus behind controversial decisions. Thus, as Kissinger observed in the disengagement negotiations


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

after the 1973 war, in Syria, by contrast to Egypt, where Sadat governed alone, the whole top political elite had to be present and convinced. But in the end it was Assad who accepted Kissinger’s final proposal and dragged his reluctant lieutenants along with him (Sheehan 1976). According to Adeed Dawisha (1980), the 1976 intervention in Lebanon against the PLO was also taken by a collective leadership, although Assad overruled widespread dissent over it in the party and the army. As Assad’s preeminence was fully consolidated in the 1980s, foreign policy making became ever more his reserved sphere, subject to no bureaucratic politics in which hawkish or dovish factions could veto his initiatives (Seale 1988, 340–344). Similarly, as the regime was consolidated, public opinion ceased to be the driver of foreign policy making that it had earlier been. The regime had still to take care not to irreparably damage its legitimacy, which ultimately rested on its claim to defend the Arab cause against Israel. But as long as Assad could justify unpopular decisions, such as the stand against Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980–1988 and again in the Gulf War of 1990–1991, as necessary to the long-term struggle with Israel, he calculated that opposition could be contained. Such decisions, nevertheless, had legitimacy costs; arguably, the unpopularity of Syria’s 1976 intervention against the PLO in Lebanon made the regime vulnerable to the Islamic rebellion of 1977–1982. If Syria’s government and public opinion could be said to approach a consensus on any issue, it was over Israel. While Syrians rejected its legitimacy, they nevertheless wanted an honorable political settlement entailing a comprehensive Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories; this was the government position for decades, the red line that it could not cross. Bashar al-Assad inherited the powerful presidency that his father had forged, but in the transition period (2000–2005) had to share power was his father’s old associates, men such as Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam, who had thirty years of experience in Syrian foreign policy making. Moreover, Syria faced in the 2003–2008 period unprecedented external pressures from the United States, with an untested president at the helm and a fractured collective leadership. In this extended crisis, decisions

The Foreign Policy of Syria


appeared to be ad hoc reactions uninformed by a coherent strategy. The regime was divided between those who wanted to avoid opposing US ambitions in the region and those convinced that the George W. Bush administration was captured by the irrevocably hostile US neoconservatives and that appeasing it only invited more US demands. Reflective of this divide was Syria’s odd abstention, followed by belated support for, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483 (authorizing UN cooperation in the US occupation in Iraq), apparently because its UN representative had received contradictory instructions from Vice President Khaddam and Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara, who believed that the resolution legitimized the US occupation of Iraq, and from President Assad, who did not wish to put Syria outside the Security Council consensus (Financial Times, August 26, 2003). In parallel, Syrian policy in Lebanon was put at cross-purposes by the struggle of opposing transstate factional alliances, one linking the Syrian president and Lebanese president Émile Lahoud against one led by Khaddam and Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. In 2005, at the Baath party’s tenth regional congress, recriminations over blame for the disastrous effect of the Hariri assassination on Syria’s position in Lebanon led to Khaddam’s resignation and, shortly thereafter, his defection in exile. With the retirement of most of the old guard, Bashar al-Assad gradually consolidated his power. As this happened, foreign policy appeared to be made by the president and key advisers: Vice President Farouk al-Shara, the long-serving foreign minister who famously described the Bush administration as “the most violent and stupid” in US history; Foreign Minister Walid Muallim, former ambassador to Washington; and senior military and security chiefs, not least Assad’s brother-in-law and military intelligence boss Assef Shawkat. But external pressures, particularly the threat that the Hariri tribunal would be used to incriminate Syrian leaders, together with other intra-elite rivalries, appeared to produce further fractures in the core elite later in the decade, manifest in the suspicious 2005 death of Interior Minister Ghazi Kannan, at the time the most credible alternative to Assad; the brief demotion of Assef Shawkat in 2008; and the 2008 assassination of a close military aide of the president.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

The interaction between Assad’s foreign policy and the regime’s legitimacy was ambivalent. Bashar’s popularity soared in Syria and the Arab world as he stood against the US invasion of Iraq. But he was also humiliated by his inability to respond to several Israeli and US military provocations and by his forced evacuation of Lebanon. For a period in the mid-2000s, he appeared to have squandered the geopolitical “cards” his father had accumulated. However, the regime’s recovery was aided by its stand against Israel during the latter’s wars against Hizbollah (2006) and Hamas (December 2008), and by its claim to be a bulwark of stability against the spread to Syria of the “Iraqi disease” created by the US invasion of Iraq. Foreign Policy Operational Code

Syria’s geopolitical weight has been affected by the acumen of its leadership. Under Hafez al-Assad, Syria was widely seen to “punch above it weight” in regional politics. This reflected the realist worldview and modus operandi that Assad developed out of his many years of experience dealing with stronger hostile powers and that largely persisted under his son. A quintessential realist, Hafez al-Assad viewed the world as a Machiavellian struggle for power, where the strong do as they will and the weak accept what they must. International law, he believed, was selectively enforced: thus, Syria’s chemical deterrent force was made an issue by the West while Israel’s nuclear one was accepted. Whether a state’s interests were respected depended on having the power to defend them. The enhanced autonomy of internal constraints achieved by Hafez al-Assad’s national security state permitted him to pursue his realist modus operandi amid this fraught environment, with remarkable consistency over decades, carefully matching means and ends; coping with the gap between Syria’s aspirations and its limited resources and vulnerable position; and adapting his strategies to the changing external power balance. His modus operandi included realist goals, accumulation of military power, bargaining from a position of strength, and diversification of alliances. In terms of realist goals, Assad scaled down Syria’s historically irredentist aspirations, notably for the liberation of Palestine,

The Foreign Policy of Syria


to fit its capabilities. More realistically, he sought to recover the occupied lands, above all the Golan, and achieve “Palestinian national rights,” notably a state in the West Bank and Gaza, as part of a comprehensive peace under UN Resolution 242. Yet the impact of Arab identity still could be seen in his eschewal, for a quarter-century, of a separate settlement with Israel over the Golan at the expense of the Palestinians. Under Hafez al-Assad, Syria’s military power steadily expanded to match its goals. The 1967 defeat stimulated a massive rebuilding and professionalization of the armed forces, which paid off in improved performance during the 1973 war with Israel. Thereafter, Egypt’s separate peace, leaving Syria facing Israel alone, and Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, set off further rounds of military buildup aimed at a sufficiency of parity with Israel; as much as half of public expenditure was devoted to defense and 20 percent of Syria’s manpower served in the armed forces at their height in the 1980s. If one includes the value of arms imported on credit, Syria’s military spending climbed to 30 percent of its gross domestic product (Clawson 1989). By 1986, Syria had enormous armed forces for a state of its size: 5,000 tanks, 650 combat aircraft, 102 missile batteries, and over 500,000 combat personnel. Although Syria lacked a credible offensive capability against Israel, the Syrian buildup produced mutual deterrence that relatively stabilized the Syrian-Israeli military confrontation (Ma’oz 1986; Evron 1987). Although extremely wary of the pitfalls of negotiating with Israel, Assad realized that he could not avoid diplomacy to recover the Golan and seized at opportunities to do so. However, he believed that one should negotiate only if one could bargain from a position of strength. When the balance of forces was negative, Assad preferred to wait until the balance of power improved, rather than make concessions in a time of weakness. In the meantime, Syria would obstruct schemes to draw other Arab parties into partial, separate settlements with Israel that would isolate Syria. Thus Assad took great risks to obstruct the 1983 Lebanese-Israeli accord in defiance of US and Israeli power. In parallel, he resorted to the use of asymmetric warfare via proxies—Palestinian guerrillas and Hizbollah—in southern Lebanon with the aim of incentivizing Israel to reach a settlement over the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

occupied territories. The unfavorable power balance meant that this tactic had to be pursued with caution and behind a military shield that deterred the enemy from bringing his full retaliatory superiority to bear on Syria (Seale 1988). Diversification of alliances was crucial for Syria, not only in allowing it to avoid isolation but also to acquire financial and military resources, since the regime could not extract enough from the Syrian economy to fund its large military/security, patronage, and welfare responsibilities. Hafez al-Assad simultaneously sustained alliances with the conservative Arab oil states and the Soviet Union. Given US backing of Israel, a close Soviet alignment was natural in a bipolar world. Soviet arms deliveries were key to Syria’s relative success in the 1973 war and thereafter in the drive for parity with Israel. The Soviet Union’s role as patronprotector had a crucial deterrent effect on Israel’s freedom of action against Syria (Cobban 1991). Assad nevertheless also sought to engage with the United States; he aimed to exploit its fears of instability in the Middle East to coax the United States to restrain Israel, notably during several confrontations in Lebanon, and to push Washington to broker an acceptable peace settlement. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Syria sought, in the post– Cold War unipolar world, to convey the message that it could help (or hinder) US interests in the Middle East depending on whether Washington respected its interests. At the same time, it relied on its alliance with anti-imperialist Iran to contain pressures from the United States (Cobban 1991; Drysdale and Hinnebusch 1991; Ma’oz 1988). Syria’s operational code could have been transformed after Bashar al-Assad’s succession to power (Leverett 2005; Hinnebusch 2003a). His political socialization took place in an environment different from that of his father and the regime’s old guard. While the latter were socialized in the era of Arab nationalism, war with Israel, and nonalignment, their sons came of age in an era in which state-centric identities were fragmenting the Arabs, peace with Israel was accepted in Arab thinking, and US hegemony had become a fact of life in the region. The modernizing aims of Bashar’s generation and awareness that regime survival depended on transition to a market economy dictated good relations with Europe and the United States. Unlike his father, Bashar

The Foreign Policy of Syria


had lived and traveled in the West and married a British citizen of Syrian descent. Yet he was also committed to the preservation of his father’s Arab nationalist legacy, and the apprenticeship he served under his father, including time within the military, would have socialized him into the code of operation of the Syrian establishment. Had a peace settlement been reached with Israel, the modernizing West-leaning side of Bashar’s socialization would likely have become the driver of his behavior. As it was, the external threats Syria faced from the time of his succession put a premium on realpolitik and the son fell back on the operational code of the father. A deep-seated Syrian behavior when faced with external great power demands is to reject, evade, or try to bargain over them; Bashar continued that tradition. In dealing with the Arab uprisings that began in 2011, his regime continued to display a Machiavellian determination to do whatever it takes to survive. The Political Economy of the National Security State: Guns vs. Butter

Hafez al-Assad parlayed limited means into a greater capacity to shape foreign policy outcomes than would be expected from Syria’s base of national power. Baathist Syria’s turn to statist “socialism” in the 1960s was largely driven by the belief that a nationalist foreign policy required the dilution of Syria’s economic dependency on the West. State control over the economy allowed the regime to harness it to foreign policy and security goals. Socialism realigned economic dependency toward the Soviet bloc and helped win Soviet aid and protection. Syria, with oil, food self-sufficiency, no dependence on foreign investment, and no significant debt to the West, had the economic sovereignty that explains its exceptional ability, in contrast to other Arab states, to sustain a nationalist foreign policy. But the Syrian regime’s slim economic base and feeble tax extraction capability could not, alone, sustain its enormous military burden and overdeveloped state apparatus, which contributed to a permanent resource gap. Hafez used foreign policy to access enormous levels of external aid and loans, largely from the Soviet Union and Arab oil-producing states (Clawson 1989), to fill the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

resource gap. The struggle with Israel legitimized his claim on Arab aid, and much Soviet weaponry was received free of cost or on cheap credit. The potential constraints on foreign policy from this economic dependency were eased by the diversification of Syria’s donors. Although Hafez exploited foreign policy to win economic relief, he had no record of taking decisions for economic reasons that would not otherwise have been taken on strategic grounds. In the late 1980s, however, the heavy burden of military spending from the reach for parity with Israel helped bring economic growth to a halt, forcing a leveling off of Syria’s military buildup. Parallel with growing economic constraints, Syria had to scramble, after the collapse of its Soviet arms supplier in the early 1990s, to prevent the degradation of its deterrent. The army’s combat strength deteriorated dramatically during the 1990s, with its Soviet equipment becoming increasingly obsolescent and with the Soviets/Russians, in their demand for payment in hard currency, denying the Syrian army enough ammunition and spare parts. Part of Syria’s armor and artillery was put in storage and manpower fell to 215,000. Although Syria eventually obtained new infusions of advanced Russian tanks and antitank missiles, the growing technological and airpower gap with Israel, and the constraints (financing, supply sources) on Syria’s prospects of sustaining the conventional military balance, pushed its defense effort in nonconventional directions. Hizbollah’s capacity to fire rockets deep into Israel and to engage Israeli forces in asymmetric warfare became the first line of Syria’s deterrent. Syria’s 1990 Gulf War aid windfall was invested in a second-line missile deterrent in hardened sites with chemical warheads targeting all of Israel. The national security state greatly enhanced Syria’s military capacity but ultimately contributed to weakening its already anemic economic base, which sharply constrained its overall power. Since the 1980s, Syria had begun to suffer from periodic economic crises, symptoms of the exhaustion of statist import substitution industrialization and the inability of the public sector to mobilize enough capital to sustain a state oversized in relation to its economic base. Hence securing the economic resources to sup-

The Foreign Policy of Syria


port the state was a constant preoccupation and a matter of regime security. Austerity in the late 1980s was paralleled by a 1991 liberalization of investment laws that revived a state-dependent private sector. From 1990 to 1995 the economy boomed, following Syria’s receipt of rent from the Gulf monarchies for its stand in the Gulf War and the influx of investment stimulated by liberalization. But when these inflows were exhausted, growth of gross national product fell, to negative 1.5 percent by 1998. Stagnant growth, combined with a burgeoning population, resulted in dangerously high youth unemployment rates. Half the budget came to depend on oil exports, but these were set to decline. While the regime built up its short-term reserves from oil and rent windfalls, in the long term, only an influx of expatriate and Arab investment could sustain its economic base. No such economic revival would be forthcoming without a peace settlement with Israel that would give investors confidence, allow the reduction of the national security state, and allow Syria’s reintegration into the world capitalist economy. Indeed, in the late 1990s, Syria, in anticipation of a peace settlement, was gearing up for major economic reforms needed to facilitate an investment influx. However, with the failure of the peace process, the new president, Bashar al-Assad, had to look elsewhere for resources. He opted for an opening to Iraq, hitherto a bitter rival but which was now seeking Syrian cooperation in evading UN sanctions by reopening the closed oil pipeline between the two states. Reexport of Iraqi oil sold to Syria at subsidized prices provided a billiondollar yearly windfall to the treasury while Syrian businessmen prospered on access to the Iraqi market. The regime also enjoyed high oil prices and maximum output in the early 2000s which helped sustain it against mounting pressures from the West. When Syria’s Iraq lifeline was shut down by the US invasion, accompanied by a major influx of Iraqi refugees, and with its own oil production and exports falling after 2005, the regime accelerated its economic liberalization in a bid to get a cut of the wealth accruing to the Arab oil producers from the new oil price boom following the 2003 Iraq War. Despite a fraught regional and international environment, the regime did thereafter enjoy an influx of Arab investment that stabilized the economy and fueled the crony-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

capitalist network supportive of the regime. However, Syria’s full integration into the world market was obstructed by a foreign policy that brought recurrent conflict with the US hegemon, whose sanctions sought to economically isolate it, and that even alienated Europe, which obstructed Syria’s bid for an association agreement. Syria started shifting its economic relations eastward to Asia and especially toward China, and looked to economic integration with Turkey as a back door to the Western market. The hidden cost of Bashar’s economic liberalization strategy was that it began to shift the very foundations of the regime’s social base. It meant favoring crony capitalists and investors at the expense of the regime’s historical populist alliance with state employees, workers, and peasants, whose living standards declined as subsidies were cut, while the new rich engaged in conspicuous consumption. This generated grievances that broke out in the Syrian uprising. The Syrian regime found that the attempt to have both guns and butter had weakened the security of the state from within. Foreign Policy Behavior Hafez al-Assad’s Struggle with Israel: From War to Failed Peace

A realist, Hafez al-Assad was convinced Israel would never withdraw from the occupied territories unless military action upset the post-1967 status quo. The main thrust of his policy after coming to power in 1970 was, therefore, preparation for a conventional war to retake the lost Golan Heights. Toward this end, the rebuilding of the shattered Syrian army was his first priority. He therefore maintained Syria’s close alliance with the Soviet Union to secure arms and put aside the radicals’ ideological cold war to forge new alliances with the conservative Arab oil states in order to secure the financing needed for a military buildup. Finally, he struck a strategic alliance with Sadat’s Egypt, the most militarily powerful of the Arab states that shared Syria’s interest in recovery of the occupied territories (Seale 1988; Kerr 1975). Egypt and Syria went to war with Israel in 1973 to break the stalemate over the occupied territories. Although Syria failed to

The Foreign Policy of Syria


recover the Golan militarily, Syria and Egypt acquired enhanced political leverage from their credible challenge to the pro-Israeli status quo and from the Arab oil embargo. Assad sought to exploit this new leverage to generate international pressure on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories. In 1974 he accepted US secretary of state Henry Kissinger’s mediation of the Golan Heights disengagement negotiations while also conducting a war of attrition on the front with Israel as part of a “fighting while talking” bargaining strategy. He saw Syria’s resulting disengagement agreement with Israel as a first step in total Israeli withdrawal from the Golan. However, Sadat’s subsequent separate deals with Israel undermined Syrian diplomatic leverage and shattered the Syrian-Egyptian alliance needed to pressure Israel into a comprehensive settlement (Sheehan 1976; Seale 1988; Ma’oz 1988). Syria’s 1976 intervention in the Lebanese civil war against the PLO was widely interpreted as serving Syrian reason of state, even a “Greater Syria” project. In fact, Assad aimed to head off various threats in Lebanon to Syria’s position in the struggle with Israel. He used the civil war to insert Syria as Lebanon’s arbiter, balancing between the various sides and tilting one way or the other depending on the strategic situation. He blocked a defeat of the Maronite Christians to deter their alignment with Israel; he prevented the emergence of a radical Palestinian-dominated Lebanon that could give Israel an excuse to intervene militarily, possibly to seize southern Lebanon and position itself to threaten Syria’s soft western flank. Syria’s intervention allowed Assad to station his army in the Beqaa Valley against this danger. Later, however, as the Maronites allied with Israel, Syria tilted toward Palestinian forces confronting Israel in southern Lebanon. The Lebanon intervention was also part of Assad’s attempt to construct a Syrian sphere of influence to substitute for the Egyptian alliance in the military and diplomatic struggle with Israel. Syria viewed Lebanon as a lost part of Greater Syria that should serve its strategy against Israel. Moreover, whoever controlled Lebanon was in a strong position to control the PLO; hence the Palestinian card: Syria’s bargaining leverage in the Arab-Israeli conflict would be greatly enhanced if it enjoyed the capacity to veto any settlement of the Palestinian problem that left Syria out,


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

or to overcome rejectionist Palestinian resistance to an acceptable settlement. The Lebanon intervention did demonstrate Syrian moderation to the United States and Israel, better positioning Assad for such a deal, but, in continuing to insist on Palestinian rights and a comprehensive settlement, he passed up a chance to follow Sadat down the road of separate peace. Syria’s role and alliances in Lebanon, notably from the 1990s with Hizbollah, made it possible to put continuing pressure on Israel to come to the bargaining table. In time, Syria’s presence in Lebanon also served as a source of patronage to reward key regime supporters (Dawisha 1980; Chalala 1985). Once Sadat’s 1980 separate peace with Israel exhausted the peace process of the 1970s and took Egypt out of the Arab-Israeli power balance, Syria felt increasingly vulnerable. Assad used the Arab aid Syria received as the remaining frontline state to finance a military buildup aiming at parity with Israel: as he saw it, the threat of an Israel emboldened by the neutralization of its southern front had to be contained, while the resumption of peace negotiations depended on restoration of the Arab-Israeli power balance. In the meantime, Damascus obstructed all attempts at partial or separate Israeli agreements with other states that tried to circumvent Syria. If Syria could not achieve an Arab-Israeli peace to its liking, it could at least prevent others that damaged its interests or Arab rights: hence Syria’s role in the collapse of both the 1983 Lebanese-Israeli accord and the 1985 Hussein-Arafat bid for negotiations with Israel under the Reagan Plan (Seale 1988). At the same time, the 1979 Islamic revolution was transforming Iran from an ally of Israel and the United States into a fiercely anti-Zionist state and potential Syrian ally in the Arab-Israeli power balance. When Iraq invaded Iran, Assad condemned Iraq, predicting that its invasion would divide and divert the Arabs from the Israeli menace. His stand with Iran was vindicated after the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon when the effectiveness of the Iranian-sponsored Islamic resistance to Israel helped foil a mortal threat to Syria. Nevertheless, sensitive to Arab opinion, Assad actively discouraged Iranian threats to Iraqi territory in the IranIraq War (Ehteshami and Hinnebusch 1997; Seale 1988; Hirschfeld 1986).

The Foreign Policy of Syria


Assad’s adhesion to the Western-led war coalition in the 1990–1991 Gulf War was driven by multiple considerations of realpolitik. Saddam Hussein had made himself a considerable nuisance for Assad, notably supporting challenges to Syria’s position in Lebanon, and were Saddam to succeed in annexing Kuwait, his capacity to seek revenge for Syria’s stand with Iran in the IranIraq War would have been enhanced. Adhesion to the Gulf coalition gained US and Israeli tolerance of Assad’s 1990 military intervention to establish a Pax Syrianna in Lebanon. Syria’s stand with Saudi Arabia revitalized the subsidy channel from the Gulf oil states that had dried up with the decline of oil prices and, enabling Syria to break out of Arab isolation owing to its alignment with Iran, put Syria back at the heart of a renewed CairoDamascus-Riyadh axis. Ultimately, however, Syria’s decision to join the anti-Iraq coalition was an adaptation to the emerging breakdown of the bipolar world. By the 1990s, the withdrawal of Gorbachev’s Soviet Union as a reliable protector and arms supplier deprived Syria of a credible threat of war against Israel in the absence of an acceptable peace, and left Syria vulnerable to Western animosity for its obstruction of the peace process in the 1980s and, particularly, for its alleged resort to terrorism, which Israel could exploit to justify an attack on Syria. Assad understood that Syria’s struggle with Israel would henceforth have to take a chiefly diplomatic form, and this required détente with the United States, which alone had leverage over Israel. Assad needed to get the United States to accept Syria as the key to peace and stability in the Middle East, and the Gulf War presented an opportunity to trade membership in the war coalition—to the credibility of which Syria’s nationalist credentials were arguably crucial—in return for US promises to broker an acceptable Arab-Israeli settlement (Hinnebusch 1997; Kienle 1994). After the war, Hafez joined the Madrid peace process, a “strategic decision” to do what was necessary to obtain an acceptable settlement with Israel. This was made much easier after the 1993 Israeli-PLO Oslo Accords relieved Damascus of the responsibility to make its own recovery of the Golan contingent on the satisfaction of Palestinian rights. In the peace negotiations, Hafez


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

aimed to minimize the “normalization of relations” and the security concessions that Israel expected in return for the Golan. But once Israel signaled its willingness to return the territory, Syria put forth a formula under which the more land Israel conceded, the more peace it could have, and made several concessions, such as its willingness to open diplomatic relations after a settlement and its acceptance of demilitarized zones on the border that would favor Israel. In fact, the two sides came very close to a settlement, but a final deal was obstructed by Israel’s demands to keep its surveillance station on Mount Hermon and then its insistence on keeping 5 percent of the Golan that gave access to Lake Tiberias (Cobban 1999). Foreign Policy Behavior Under Bashar al-Assad: The Struggle for Regime Survival

Bashar al-Assad came to power in the same year as the collapse of Syria’s peace negotiations with Israel. His legitimacy was contingent on his faithfulness to his father’s mission of recovering the Golan, but he inherited a deteriorating strategic situation: a new Turkish-Israeli alliance and opposition to Syrian forces remaining in Lebanon following Israel’s withdrawal from the south in 2000. Without its former Soviet arms supplier, Syria could not sustain the conventional military balance with Israel, and a growing technological and airpower gap opened between the two countries. In response, Bashar al-Assad tried to construct compensating alliances. He sought a strategic opening to Europe, negotiating Syrian membership in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. At the regional level, Syria initially remained in loose alliance with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, improved its relations with Turkey, and in 2001 started an opening to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Toward Israel, Assad affirmed that Syria was willing to resume peace negotiations if Israel acknowledged Yitzhak Rabin’s commitment to a full withdrawal from the Golan to the June 4, 1967, Israel-Syria border. But once the rise of Ariel Sharon to power in Israel pushed a settlement off the agenda, Assad revived Syrian militancy, insisting a Syrian-Israeli settlement had to be linked to establishment of a state for the Palestinians, allowing

The Foreign Policy of Syria


Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad to maintain offices in Syria and supporting Hizbollah operations against Israeli forces in the Shabaa Farms, a disputed enclave in southern Lebanon. Given the strategic imbalance with Israel, Syria now relied on “nonconventional” deterrence strategies—Hizbollah’s asymmetric warfare capability and Syrian missiles with chemical warheads—but Israel still made several limited retaliatory strikes on Syrian positions. Syria made massive arms deliveries to Hizbollah during the conflict in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, thereby helping deprive Israel of a military victory. But Bashar also pursued Turkishbrokered peace talks with Israel that were aborted only by Israel’s 2009 attack on Gaza (Hinnebusch 2003a; Leverett 2005). In parallel to poor relations with Israel, Syrian-US relations dramatically declined under the George W. Bush administration, starting a process that put the very survival of the regime at risk. After the events of September 11, 2001, Bush announced that all states that would not side with the United States in the “war on terror” would be considered enemies of the United States. Syria, however, objected to the US designation as terrorists of what it regarded as national liberation movements—Palestinian militants and Hizbollah, regarding these groups as “cards” in its struggle with Israel and evading US demands that it cease its support of them. Syrian-US relations further worsened as Syria helped Iraq evade US attempts to keep Baghdad isolated by reopening the closed oil pipeline between the two states, gaining the Syrian treasury a badly needed windfall of a billion dollars yearly and enabling Saddam to evade UN sanctions. The main catalyst of a crisis in US-Syrian relations was Syrian opposition to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. At the United Nations and in the Arab League, Syrian diplomats attempted to de-legitimize the impending US attack on Iraq, and Assad, after the invasion, allowed the movement of resistance fighters across Syria’s border with Iraq and gave refuge to Baath officials fleeing Iraq. His defiance of Washington over the war was costly: the United States turned its ire on Syria, attacking Syrian economic interests in Iraq and moving to oust it from Lebanon. US economic sanctions on Syria obstructed the regime’s economic liberalization by discouraging Western banks and companies from doing business in Syria (Hinnebusch 2007a).


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Bashar’s stand on the 2003 war is often contrasted unfavorably with his father’s bandwagoning with the United States in the 1990 war on Iraq, but their situations were quite different. While Hafez had been rewarded, in return for siding with the United States, with a US commitment to a vigorous revival of the peace process, in 2003 no such offer was on the table for Bashar. And whereas in 1990 Iraq was the aggressor against another Arab state, Kuwait, in 2003 an Arab state was the victim, as Syrians saw it, of aggression by an imperialist power. Indeed, Syrian public opinion was so inflamed against the invasion that regime legitimacy dictated opposition, and this was a more important consideration for Bashar’s still unconsolidated rule than was the case for Hafez in 1990 (Hinnebusch 2007a). After triumphing over Saddam Hussein, the United States presented Damascus with a list of nonnegotiable demands that threatened Syria’s vital interests: to end support for Palestinian militants, dismantle Hizbollah, withdraw from Lebanon, and cooperate with the occupation of Iraq—in short, to give up its “cards” in the struggle over the Golan, its sphere of influence in the Levant, and its Arab nationalist stature in the Arab world. The regime did end overt support for the resistance in Iraq, but otherwise sought to trade cooperation over Iraq for US respect for Syrian interests, notably in the conflict with Israel. US difficulties in Iraq gave Syria a certain space for maneuver between defiance of and submission to Washington’s demands (Hinnebusch 2007a). In 2005, Syria’s role in Lebanon became an issue of conflict with the West, especially after the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, for which Syria was blamed. The United States and France engineered United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, calling on Syria to withdraw its military forces from the country, to which Syria reluctantly submitted. They also established an international tribunal to investigate Syria’s role in the Hariri murder, which was seen by Damascus as a tool of regime change in Syria. After Syrian withdrawal, Lebanon split between an anti-Syrian coalition led by Hariri’s son, backed by the United States, France, and proWestern Saudi Arabia, and Hizbollah, backed by Syria and Iran. Anti-Syrian forces had the upper hand until May 2008, when

The Foreign Policy of Syria


Hizbollah demonstrated its power by taking over West Beirut; this led to the Doha Agreement, mandating the formation of a national unity government in which Hizbollah had a veto on moves against Syria. A major consequence of Syria’s stands in the Iraq and Lebanon conflicts was a shift in regional alignments, as Syria was thereby estranged from its traditional Arab partners, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Bashar was highly critical of their acquiescence in the US invasion of Iraq, and they, in turn, blamed Syria and Iran for the 2006 Israel-Hizbollah war and the Hariri assassination. By 2006, a battle for the Middle East was being waged between two axes—a “moderate” one led by the United States and backed by the European Union, consisting of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, with Israel an unofficial partner, and a “resistance front” led by Iran and Syria, aligned with Hizbollah and Hamas, that enjoyed wide support in Arab public opinion. Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine were the main battlegrounds for the rival alliances. As Syria faced isolation in the West as a “pariah” state, its links with Iran and other members of the resistance axis strengthened. At the same time, Syria moved into close alignment with formerly hostile Turkey. In the 1990s the two states had come to the brink of war as Syria supported the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an anti-Turkish militant group, in order to pressure Ankara into giving it a greater share of water from the Euphrates River controlled by new upstream Turkish dams. In the mid-1990s, Turkey and Israel joined in an alliance aimed at Syria and Iran. Turkey’s 1998 military threats caused Syria to abandon its support for the PKK, and thereafter Turkey-Syria relations warmed. The empowerment of the Kurds in Iraq with the US-Iraq wars of 1990–1991 and 2003 gradually drove Turkey and Syria closer over the shared threat of Kurdish separatism. In 2005, Turkey refused US demands to isolate Syria and even brokered SyriaIsrael peace negotiations in defiance of Washington (Hinnebusch and Tur 2013). By the end of 2008, Bashar had outlasted his main nemesis, George W. Bush, and was enjoying a gradual improvement in relations with Europe and the United States under the new administration of Barack Obama.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

The Syrian Uprising and the “New Struggle for Syria”

The Syrian Baath regime had traditionally used its Arab nationalist militancy and a populist social contract to build a crosssectarian middle-class peasant constituency and legitimize its rule. However, Bashar al-Assad’s adoption of neoliberal economic policies led to growing class inequality and his neglect of the party organization undermined the regime’s Sunni base of support among the peasants. Then, the overreaction of the Syrian security forces to street protests inspired by the Arab uprising turned popular demands for political reform into demands for regime change. As sectarian identities took hold amid civil war, a minoritydominated regime ruling a Sunni majority became increasingly vulnerable. The Syrian uprising was initially essentially indigenous, but it was seized on by Assad’s external enemies as an opportunity to overthrow his regime and thus break the resistance axis. The Gulf monarchies took the lead against Damascus, along with Turkey, now at odds with Assad over his repression of the uprising. Qatar used Al Jazeera to amplify the uprising from the outset, while the Saudis funneled money and arms to the tribes. In November 2011, Qatar and Saudi Arabia took the initiative in prompting the Arab League into unprecedented moves to isolate Syria, aimed, together with European sanctions, at drying up the regime’s access to economic resources and breaking its coalition with the business class. A UN General Assembly vote overwhelmingly condemning regime repression of protesters showed the depth of the Assad regime’s international isolation. An anti-Assad coalition, led by the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, and with the collaboration of lesser actors such as the Hariri faction in Lebanon and the new Libyan regime, began financing, training, arming, and infiltrating insurgents into the country. The Assad regime’s only chance of slipping out of this tightening stranglehold was its links to Hizbollah to the west and, to the east, Iran and Iraq. It increasingly relied on Iran, whose Revolutionary Guard assisted it with electronic warfare and which urged Iraq to provide Syria with cheap oil and to stay out of the anti-Assad coalition. Gradually, Hizbollah became more involved on the side of the regime, openly fighting opposition forces in 2013. Mean-

The Foreign Policy of Syria


while Russia and China, antagonized by the West’s use of a UN humanitarian resolution to promote regime change at their expense in Libya, protected Syria from a similar scenario, and Russia kept up the flow of arms to the regime. As Sunni shaikhs called for jihad against Assad, Syria became a regional battleground, with the conflict framed in Sunni-Shiite terms. Two years into the uprising, the country was a failed state, split between government-controlled areas, such as Damascus and the western coast, a countryside under a fragmented patchwork of local Islamist insurgencies, the northeast under Kurdish control, and parts of the east under control of tribes with links to the Sunni tribal groups in Iraq. The West’s impulse to intervene was tempered by the growing role of radical Islamists, including al-Qaeda, in leading the revolt against Assad.

Conclusion The international system literally constituted and continued to shape the Syrian state. The mutilation and fragmentation of historical and geographical Syria under Western imperialism shaped Syria’s Arab identity and motivated a deep-seated irredentism. The Baathist state was largely a reaction against this experience, with its Arab nationalist foreign policy central to its legitimacy. The 1967 war disaster was, however, a watershed in tempering Syria’s irredentism and led to the rise of a realist leadership that built a national security state designed to pursue more limited goals, notably recovery of the lost Golan Heights, pursued within the constraints of the power balance. Subsequently, this state started to adapt to the end of the Cold War by realigning with the West, entering US-brokered peace negotiations with Israel, and starting a transition to a market economy. This was obstructed by the failure of the peace process and US attempts to isolate Syria, in parallel with the US invasion of Iraq, which aimed to make Syria give up its Arab nationalist identity and foreign policy. Just as this tide of US interventionism in the Levant and Iraq receded, leaving Bashar al-Assad’s regime still standing, the uprising against him unleashed a new “struggle for Syria,” remi-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

niscent of that of the 1950s but far more intense and violent and, indeed, a sectarian-tinged civil war. Syria was a pivotal Arab state, and when united, as under Hafez al-Assad, it was a formidable player in the regional power struggle. But when divided, as after the uprising, it was again an arena for the struggle of external forces, all seeking to shift, through it, the regional balance of power in their favor. At stake in this case, as in the 1950s, was the fundamental dispute over the role of the West in the Middle East, contested between the pro-Western Sunni axis, led by Saudi Arabia, and the Shiite-leavened, Iran-led resistance axis. But the struggle went further in contesting the whole regional states system, since the intensified identity fragmentation of Syria between Sunni, non-Sunni, and Kurd and the state’s loss of control of its territory, interlinked with similar developments in Iraq, gave opportunities for transstate jihadists to pursue their agenda on Syrian soil and put the whole post–World War I territorial division of the Levant into question. Whichever way Syria goes, it will be decisive for the current, much more violent version of the struggle over the fate of the Middle East.

9 The Foreign Policy of Tunisia Emma C. Murphy

Since a popular uprising, quickly followed in 2011 by its first genuinely democratic elections, Tunisia has been struggling through a transitional period. A coalition government, led by Islamists but including significant secularist liberal parties, became bogged down in constitutional wrangling as the public sphere grew progressively more polarized over the status of religion in the body politic until, in 2014, the government was forced to stand down in favor of a national unity government to see the country through to finalizing the constitution and holding new elections. Despite this turmoil domestically, however, and some largely cosmetic efforts at reorientation, Tunisian foreign policy has displayed a remarkable consistency, which can be traced back to the state’s early independence and the key determinants of its foreign policy. Foreign Policy Determinants Location, Location, Location

The first of these key determinants is Tunisia’s location. It is the smallest state in North Africa, framed to the west by the modest Aures mountains and to the south by the arid Sahara desert. The 233


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Mediterranean Sea and the broad coastal plains have historically provided for easy traffic through Tunisia, whose history has been one of openness to trade and settlement, punctuated by successive invasions by the Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans, and French, all of whom have coveted the country as a strategic vehicle for their own greater ambitions. But if its location at the nexus of three regional theaters provides it with some strategic value, Tunisia is made vulnerable by two things, the first of which is its limited natural resource base. Although it has modest hydrocarbon, phosphate, and minerals deposits, water is in short supply in much of the country. Agriculture in Tunisia is subject to climatic variations, including both floods and droughts, with the country suffering the worst desertification and soil erosion in North Africa. Second, Tunisia is overshadowed by much larger, and more resource-rich, neighbors. To the west lies Algeria and to the east Libya, the turbulent chronologies of which have at times threatened to spill over across Tunisian borders. To the north sits the economic power of Europe, bolstered by collective foreign policy making, an established normative agenda, and increasingly a military capacity. Farther east, the instabilities of the Middle East stimulate Arab and Muslim identities, while to the south lie the fragile—even disintegrating—states of Central and West Africa. For Tunisia, there is no margin for grand gestures, ideological strutting, and unrealistic ambition in its foreign policy. Rather, Tunisia’s foreign policy since independence has been a story of pragmatic accommodation to the limitations of resources and location. Bourguiba, Identity, and the Roots of Pragmatism

Though this pragmatic accommodation suggests a realist frame of reference for Tunisia’s foreign policy, identity is also a determining factor, specifically because the Tunisian population exhibits a high degree of homogeneity, enabling it to largely avoid, at least until recently, the crippling ideological fissures that have become attached to religious, sectarian, ethnic, and tribal divisions elsewhere in the Arab region. The Tunisian population is 98 percent Muslim Arab, mostly of the Malikite madhhab (school) within Sunni Islam, with the remainder constituting a small Ibadhia

The Foreign Policy of Tunisia


(Kharijite) community. The country also has small but wellintegrated Jewish and European communities. A large proportion of the population are of Berber origin, but only about 60,000 Tunisians still speak Berber dialects and their communities have been fragmented by urbanization and Arabization to the point that Berber culture does not provide a rallying point for significant political activism (Belgacem 2007). Tunisia’s first postindependence president, Habib Bourguiba, understood the national identity as also being shaped by an openness to European and Mediterranean influences resulting from the repeated invasions and reinforced by the colonial interregnum. Indeed, he believed in a postcolonial era of reconciliation with the modern cultural influences of the West—its laicity (French secularity), rationalism, and liberal values—arguing that Tunisian Islam was uniquely receptive to this possibility. More specifically, the synthesis of French and Tunisian cultures could provide the means and models for social regeneration and economic modernization that would enable Tunisia to progress to a place among developed nations. Bourguiba was not unaware that this social transformation would be uncomfortable for large sections of the population, especially in rural areas that had seen little of the colonial power other than its brute impositions, and where traditional and local Muslim identities remained largely intact. Moreover, during the years of struggle for independence, Bourguiba himself sought to mobilize these identities into resistance against France. So his early years in office saw him attempting to redefine Tunisian Islam, to assert its uniqueness, its openness to reinterpretation and the injection of reason, and its history of liberal local scholarship. Tunisian identity could move with the times, and could shrug off resentments over past French iniquities in order to draw on the benefits of a strong cordial relationship. Ironically, Bourguiba’s first real foreign policy crisis arose over neighboring Algeria’s struggle for independence from France. Nationalist pressures forced him to offer refuge to Algerian fighters, which provoked France into bombing a Tunisian village, killing eighty Tunisians. When France refused to evacuate its remaining troops from its military base at Bizerte, and when complaints to the United Nations failed to resolve the matter, Bour-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

guiba ordered his own soldiers to retake the base. The attack was a dismal failure, and Bourguiba found cold comfort in the thought that he had established Tunisia’s Arab nationalist credentials. It would be two years before relations with France began to recover, after the last French forces had been removed from Bizerte. Nonetheless, the weight of shared history and culture, as well as trade, labor migration, and financial assistance, was to sustain a special relationship between Tunisia and France that lasted until the Tunisian uprising of 2011 and has not entirely foundered since. Bourguiba also viewed Tunisia as having a unique identity among the Arab states. While others in the region were expressing their nationalism through a specifically Arab prism, Bourguiba counted the Arab identity as just one among many derived from a long history. According to him, invasions and trade had given Tunisia a greater propensity for openness to and willingness to engage with diverse external actors. First among these was the United States, the importance of which Bourguiba had recognized early in his efforts to win independence from France. During the occupation by Axis powers in World War II, he had called on Tunisians to support the Allies, and in 1946 he had embarked on a “handshaking” visit to New York and Washington. The rewards came quickly. When France suspended financial and material assistance during the Bizerte crisis, an Anglo-American alliance filled the gap. Despite popular reservations over US support for Israel, the relationship gained strength on the basis of mutual interest. For Tunisia, US military assistance protected the country from Algerian and Libyan ambitions, while for the United States, having an amenable ally in an unstable region was valuable. Other Arab governments found Bourguiba’s diplomacy disconcerting. While politics dominated their international agendas, Bourguiba quickly determined that the economy should guide Tunisia’s foreign policy. Enlightened self-interest, specifically in advancing economic objectives, predominated over ideology at every turn, and Tunisia’s Ministry of National Economy frequently had as much input into foreign policy as did the ministry directly responsible for foreign affairs. For that reason above all, Tunisia aligned itself with the West rather than the East during the Cold War, although it maintained a vigorous pursuit of economic

The Foreign Policy of Tunisia


cooperation with the Eastern bloc to enhance trading possibilities and enlarge Tunisian options, a pragmatism that Tunisia similarly extended to its relations with China. Economic rather than political collaboration also underpinned Bourguiba’s vision for the Maghreb, although he led Tunisia halfheartedly through a number of regional unity initiatives: the 1958 Tangier meeting of independence parties, the creation of the 1964 Permanent Consultative Maghrebi Committee, and even a brief political flirtation with a young Muammar Qaddafi in 1974 over a proposed union with Libya. The latter union failed to materialize, and by 1983 a new initiative, led by Chadli Ben Jedid of Algeria, was drawing Tunisia into a union that would later include Mauritania, while Libya and Morocco responded with an unlikely alliance in 1985. Bourguiba recognized the reality that the region was dominated by states stronger than his own that held deep grievances against one another and tended to view Tunisia simply as a minor ally of convenience in their squabbles. Bourguiba’s relationship with the wider Arab world was equally ambiguous. While eager to be seen as a committed Arab nationalist, the Tunisian president was unable to reconcile himself to Nasser’s geopolitical visions, especially when it came to Arab policies toward Israel and pan-Arab unity. In February 1965, he proclaimed that, while Israel was a danger, even a catastrophe, for the Arabs, “the negative attitude of the Arab leaders has no effect but that of strengthening the status quo” (Rossi 1967, 185), arguing that negotiating with Israel would be more productive for the Arabs. He also argued for a more realistic approach to Arab unity on the basis of mutual respect of national sovereignties. Bourguiba’s stance brought him into competition with Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, not least over their respective positions in Africa. Tunisia’s priority was to support African struggles for independence (for example, by intervening in the Congo, and cutting off diplomatic relations with Southern Rhodesia in 1965) while building useful economic ties. Bourguiba initiated cooperation efforts between Tunisia and French-speaking Africa, through an economic organization that would provide a hinterland for Tunisian exports while at the same time (in theory) uniting black Africa and white Africa. Nasser was meanwhile making his own bid for leadership through the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Conference, which first met in Cairo in 1957. This organization was fiercely anti-Western, sponsored by the Soviet Union, and viewed by Bourguiba as an attempt to turn the Maghreb into little more than a political appendage to the Arab East. The rivalry between Bourguiba and Nasser led the former to boycott sessions of the Arab League and the latter to denounce Bourguiba as a lackey of the West. Bourguiba’s reluctance to let Tunisia be drawn into Nasser’s orbit stemmed from his conviction that the country’s best interests lay in expanding relations with the developed world as much as with the developing world. Pragmatic neutrality kept the doors always open and Bourguiba showed a distinct preference for international organizations like the United Nations, which gave small states a voice and some degree of protection from divisive Cold War politics. His foreign policy was thus, like himself, pragmatic, adaptable, moderate, and modernizing. The Foreign Policy of Ben Ali: Embedding Tunisia in Global Neoliberal and Security Networks

The last fifteen years of Bourguiba’s rule were marked by a growing concentration of power, exercised increasingly arbitrarily, and by a deteriorating economy, with the anticipated industrial takeoff never fully materializing. The government introduced deeply unpopular austerity measures and flirted with a reform process largely dictated by the international financial institutions. But decisive economic action was impossible under the by-now senile and paranoid president, so it was with relief that many Tunisians greeted a constitutional coup by then–prime minister Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in November 1987. At first Ben Ali made all the right moves, initiating a national pact, signed by the government, opposition movements, and national organizations, that promised democratic transition, while simultaneously endorsing the broad direction of liberal economic reforms. A number of political parties were legalized, although notably not the increasingly popular and active Islamist party (the Islamic Tendency Movement [MTI], later renamed Ennahda). Large numbers of political prisoners were released and Ben Ali

The Foreign Policy of Tunisia


abolished the constitutional provisions allowing for presidencyfor-life. He reformed the ruling Socialist Destourian Party, renamed the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), by restructuring it in favor of young technocrats who supported economic liberalization, at the expense of the leftist old guard. But if the domestic political arena appeared to be undergoing a transformation, foreign policy was marked by continuity— serving first and foremost to support economic growth and social modernization. It continued to feature a preference for working through international organizations, and a drive for greater engagement in global markets, but also had to adapt to rapidly changing regional and international environments. In 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. Tunisia had nothing to gain from seeing another small Arab state being overwhelmed by a larger neighbor, but there was significant popular sympathy with the Arab nationalist Saddam, and resentment against the wealthy oil-rich Gulf states, much of which was being stoked by the Islamist MTI. Ben Ali had sought to legitimize his own presidency by invoking what for the Tunisian republic was a more overtly Islamic identity than that espoused by his predecessor, and to capture some of the appeal of the Islamist movement for himself. Moreover, his new political environment required him to tolerate public demonstrations in support of Iraq. Thus, his foreign ministry’s initial position was cautious, an early vote in favor of an Arab League Council resolution condemning the Iraqi invasion and demanding the immediate withdrawal of Iraqi troops, followed by an effort at fencesitting through abstention from voting in further resolutions and then simply through nonparticipation in council summits (Chalala 1991, 54–55). When Iraq’s noncompliance with Arab League and United Nations Security Council resolutions resulted in a strengthened position for the US-led coalition in Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali sought to stand to the side, neither joining the coalition nor condemning it, despite widespread Tunisian fury at this international intervention. The president’s passivity emboldened the opposition parties, which seized the opportunity to organize public protests and marches. The regime quickly countered these with harsh repression, revealing the wolf behind the sheep’s clothing.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

In December 1990, Ben Ali launched an all-out assault against the Islamist movement. Ironically, Ennahda itself was split on how to respond to the Gulf crisis. While religious leader Rachid Ghannouchi—in effect exiled to London at the time—was ardent in his support for Saddam, many of those left in Tunis recalled the financial support they had enjoyed from the wealthy Gulf regimes. Fearful that a US-led war against Iraq would reunify Ennahda’s leadership and give it common cause with secular Arab nationalism, Ben Ali took the initiative, sending his security forces to round up thousands of Islamist activists throughout 1991 and 1992. Ennahda, with its leadership in Tunisia imprisoned and its activist cells drastically weakened, was forced to go deep underground and would not resurface as a visibly significant political force for nearly twenty years. Ben Ali’s claims that Ennahda was inciting violence and threatening domestic security may well have been a convenient excuse to crush his opponents, but they found receptive ears among the secular French-speaking Tunisian elite who were only too conscious of the concurrent civil war that was ripping Algeria apart, pitting increasingly violent Islamist factions against the equally murderous military. Ben Ali was thus able to draw on both domestic and international fears of Islamist terrorism to bolster his own regime. Relations with France during the 1990s were conditioned by this common cause, especially after the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) of Algeria detonated two bombs in central Paris. While France under both François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac was frequently harshly critical of the Tunisian president’s record on human rights, its economic assistance to Tunisia remained the highest to any country in terms of contribution per capita, and France remained Tunisia’s number one trade, investment, and loan partner (Wood 2013, 7). A decade of opportunity (lost). The 1990s represented a decade

of opportunity for Ben Ali to match his domestic ambitions with foreign policy opportunities. On the one hand, as he tightened his authoritarian grip over the Tunisian state and society, he was able to build external partnerships with key partners—France, the European Union, the United States, and other Arab regimes—around a

The Foreign Policy of Tunisia


securitized agenda that prioritized the struggle to stem the tide of Islamist-inspired terrorism. On the other hand, he was able to position his economic reform program as compatible with the objectives of European expansion, and global neoliberalism as led by the United States and the international financial institutions. The two frameworks were deeply intertwined, with the Tunisian regime becoming the moderate, stable, cooperative, globalizing role model for the Arab region in the eyes of its Western allies and benefiting from financial, technical, and military assistance with minimal attention being paid to its political deficits by foreign governments despite media criticism. This path was made easier by the conclusion, in 1993, of the Oslo Accords. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had been offered sanctuary in Tunis in 1982 after a forced departure from Lebanon and quickly established residential enclaves in some of the more fashionable parts of the city. Although there was much local resentment at the apparent wealth of the new arrivals, Tunisians were nonetheless outraged when the PLO’s headquarters were bombed by Israeli warplanes in 1985. Bourguiba was furious at the loss of sixty lives on Tunisian soil, not least since he had risked much in the 1960s by encouraging Arab states to make peace with Israel. In 1988, Ben Ali too was forced to recognize the risks associated with hosting the PLO when Israeli commandos attacked the home of the PLO’s second-incommand, Khalil al-Wazir, in Sidi Bou Said. Juggling to balance a moderate pro-peace orientation with popular demonstrations against perceived Israeli aggression, no one was more relieved than Ben Ali when the PLO signed a peace deal with Israel in 1993 that allowed for their return to Palestine itself. Tunisia was quick to show support for the peace deal. On the day the Oslo Accords were signed, Foreign Minister Habib Ben Yahya became the first senior Tunisian official to speak on Israeli television. Ever with an eye on economic benefits, he emphasized Tunisia’s own Jewish heritage, inviting delegations of Tunisian-born Jewish Israelis to return for visits and encouraging tourism by Israeli, French, and American Jews. Jewish interests were quickly given greater priority in the Belgian embassies in Tunis and Tel Aviv in 1994.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Europe and the Arabs. With the signing of the Oslo Accords, there were new possibilities for trans-Mediterranean cooperation, which were promoted through the European Union’s Mediterranean Partnership Program. For Tunisia, a new partnership agreement offered the prospect of expanded manufacturing markets in Europe, as well as financial assistance for industrial upgrading. In return, Tunisia would remove all tariff and nontariff barriers to Europeanmanufactured imports. Over time, Tunisian regulatory frameworks would be harmonized with those of Europe, making for one big free trade zone. Although Tunisia was first in line to sign such an agreement, Ben Ali was deeply conscious that the hub-and-spoke format of the partnership program was detrimental to the interests of small, individual states. The Maghreb states had collectively already recognized the implications of European enlargement eastward and had responded by forming the Arab Maghreb Union in 1989, the objective of which was to prepare the way for a common North African market. However, the union never developed beyond a set of hollow agreements and institutions. The heads of state met only six times before Morocco called for a suspension of activities in 1995 as lingering disagreements over responses to the Gulf War, the souring of relations with Algeria over the issue of Western Sahara, and the return of the military to prominence in Algerian politics inhibited any serious progress (Mortimer 1999, 178). Ben Ali’s relations with Libya deteriorated as Qaddafi opposed Tunisia’s attempt to establish low-level diplomatic relations with Israel. Ben Ali refused to succumb to US pressure to endorse sanctions against Libya, but equally would not openly flout the air embargo against the neighboring state. Although Ben Ali remained convinced that economic integration with his neighbors was essential as a means of compensating for Tunisia’s small market size, and consequently made repeated periodic attempts to revive the Arab Maghreb Union, he was unwilling to wait and proceeded to sign not only the partnership agreement with the European Union but also a series of bilateral trade agreements with regional neighbors, including Libya, Egypt, Jordan, and Algeria. In 1998, Tunisia was one of the founding

The Foreign Policy of Tunisia


members of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), and when GAFTA demonstrated only a very limited impact, Tunisia joined Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan in forming their own partnership in 2007. Tunisia’s foreign policy toward the Arab Gulf countries was also dictated principally by economic objectives, specifically the drive to win Gulf investment capital. By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, numerous prestige investment projects had been announced, although most of these projects resulted in much lower capital expenditure than initially promised, as Gulf partners were profoundly frustrated by the bureaucratic and corrupt business practices of Ben Ali and his regime (Kerr and Wigglesworth 2011). If Tunisian foreign policy was marked in the first half of the 1990s by the optimism stemming from the Oslo Accords and the Barcelona process, the latter half of the decade witnessed the related failure of both, leaving Tunisia struggling to move its neoliberal economic agendas forward effectively. However, the traumatic events of September 11, 2001, provoked a shift in the tectonics of its international relations as the foreign policy of its major partners in Europe and the United States became much more heavily securitized, offering new opportunities for the Ben Ali regime to consolidate ties and assert its own political agendas. Allies against Islamism. The threat of migration of jihadist terrorism across the Mediterranean provided the imperative to restart a Euro-Mediterranean process that could both address the socioeconomic sources of discontent in the Arab countries and deliver intelligence-sharing and cooperation for Europe with Arab security forces. Tunisia was an eager participant in the various dimensions of this process, including in 2001 the so-called 5 + 5 Initiative and in 2004 the 5 + 5 Initiative of Defense, both of which promoted economic and security collaboration in the western Mediterranean. Old relationships were given new life through the US-led “war on terror,” and Ben Ali soon found that the governments of Spain, Italy, and even France were now ready to forget his domestic political sins in recognition of a shared antipathy to Islamist politics and the necessity of collaboration to secure their


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

shores from illegal migration, drug trafficking, and organized crime. The Barcelona process itself was by now being given a facelift, first with the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2003 and then the Union of the Mediterranean in 2008. At all times, Tunisia positioned itself as a willing and committed partner that had previously been too harshly judged. The “war on terror” also provided new momentum to relations with the United States. Tunisia offered itself to the United States as a reliable ally in the Maghreb, recouping $349 billion in military aid between 1987 and 2009 in return (Gamage 2011, 2). Foreign military finance worth over $660 million (US Embassy in Tunis 2012) provided support for the modernization of the Tunisian armed forces, enhancing their equipment and enabling them to participate in military cooperation programs and joint exercises. The International Military Education and Training (IMET) program enabled over 4,600 Tunisian officers and technicians to receive training between the mid-1980s and 2012, with Tunisia receiving the tenth-largest amount of assistance among all US allies. The country also partnered with the United States in the latter’s Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCTI), participating in joint military exercises such as Exercise Flintlock in 2005. Less publicly, Ben Ali’s security forces worked with the US Central Intelligence Agency in facilitating extraordinary renditions after the events of September 11. Hundreds of Tunisian security workers were trained by the United States in explosives countermeasures, antiterrorism operations, airport security, and crisis response, and the intelligence-sharing relationship between Tunisia and the United States was as close as, if not closer than, their military collaboration. The United States buttressed its regional partner with economic assistance, once Tunisia’s economic status lifted above thresholds that permitted US aid. Tunisia also embraced the US– North African Economic Partnership (USNAEP), launched in 1998 and designed to promote US investment in, and integration of, North Africa. In 2002 the United States launched the Middle East Partnership Initiative, incorporating the USNAEP as well as a range of democracy promotion activities and locating a regional office in Tunis. Compliance with US security agendas, even those

The Foreign Policy of Tunisia


promoted through vehicles that enhanced democratization, brought Tunisia a bilateral investment treaty in 1990, a trade and investment agreement in 2002, a gradual reversal of the trade deficit in Tunisia’s favor by 2006, and over $748 million in US private investment over the period 1994–2012 (US Embassy in Tunis 2012). There was a brief hiccup in the relationship when President George W. Bush publicly berated Ben Ali over the lack of political freedom in Tunisia during a press conference on the occasion of a visit by Ben Ali to Washington, D.C., in 2004, but overall the United States saw the relationship as mutually beneficial, as summed up by then–US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld when he visited Tunis in February 2006: “Tunisia has been an important voice of moderation and tolerance in this region, and has played a role in confronting extremism not just within this country but in the area as well” (quoted in Banusjewicz 2006). But although the Tunisian government and the United States were happy with their relationship, the Tunisian population was not. An annual survey of Tunisian elites conducted between 2002 and 2010 showed that, despite having a sophisticated and sympathetic attitude toward the United States in general, they had very poor impressions of the Bush administration and its foreign policy (Schraeder 2010, 2). The presidency of Barack Obama and his Cairo speech in June 2009 were welcomed, but his failure to end the war in Afghanistan and his failure to impel any progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process left the Tunisian people feeling progressively less empathy for him, and progressively less satisfaction with their own president’s foreign policy. Like Bourguiba before him, Ben Ali had focused his foreign policy on attracting partners to support economic development domestically, although with a greater neoliberal focus. He had consolidated the range of partnerships with regional and international actors on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty rather than ideological preferences, keeping his options open and limiting the impacts of Tunisia’s problematic location in the region. He had adjusted the packaging of his foreign policy to accommodate some aspects of public sentiment, but had ultimately serviced his own authoritarianism and his family’s cronyist self-enrichment over the national interest.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Leadership, Domestic Politics, and the Policymaking Process Presidentialism Under Bourguiba and Ben Ali

Under both Bourguiba and Ben Ali, foreign policy making in Tunisia, much like other aspects of policy, remained essentially the privilege of the president. Officially, the foreign ministry acted as an instrument to implement a general orientation determined by the president, under advice from ministry experts, officials of other departments, and sometimes-influential lobby groups such as business leaders. Foreign policy was discussed in the national assembly, which—under Ben Ali—included a minimum of oppositional representatives. The assembly could request the foreign minister to appear before special sessions and answer questions, and a commission on political and foreign affairs in the assembly could debate, but not veto, policy. In some ways, the entire process was less institutionalized— at least in appearances—under Bourguiba. Through his control over the ruling RCD party and his personal charisma, he managed constantly to tone down the demands of the RCD’s left wing, internationalists, and Arab nationalists and sustain the continuity in Tunisian diplomacy that had won him respect from both East and West. Moreover, a beneficial side effect of this disdain for ideologically driven foreign policy was that it allowed for the early establishment of a professional diplomatic service that spoke to diverse government ministries in the language of the longer term and advised Bourguiba accordingly. In reality, the foreign ministry and diplomatic corps, like the rest of the bureaucracy, had little professional input into policymaking other than to service the president’s personal preferences. As a result, policy outputs were largely consistent but became progressively more ineffective. Under Ben Ali, the bureaucracy was further professionalized, if only because the ruling RCD party was progressively hollowed out under the weight of his supposedly democratic reforms. Economic technocrats were promoted to ensure that structural adjustment progressed apace. Yet even as a domestic political reform process was enacted for an international audience, the security forces also were moving surreptitiously into the positions of

The Foreign Policy of Tunisia


power within the state machinery. The survival of Ben Ali’s regime, and the enrichment of his family, became the president’s preoccupation, and the president—lacking any form of genuine political accountability—was able to direct foreign policy to these ends. Ironically, the diplomatic service was to suffer as ambassadorial and other senior overseas posts became gifts of patronage to regime cronies and as embassies became conduits for the financial and other transactions of Ben Ali’s family. At the same time, however, and while Ben Ali had a greater degree of autonomy from the ruling party than had Bourguiba, the entrepreneurial classes were able to develop a stronger voice at the expense of the ideologically oriented political opposition groups. Moreover, without meaningful ideological cover from the RCD, Ben Ali was more susceptible to public opinion and he constantly sought to reassure Muslim Arab sensitivities even as he steered a distinctly proWestern course, politically, economically, and culturally. The tensions implicit in his rule inevitably led to its demise. By 2010, Ben Ali’s legitimacy domestically was in tatters. Not only had his regime itself become centralized and securitized to the point of unbridled dictatorship but also his liberal economic project had largely collapsed under the weight of corruption and cronyism. The problems created by the mismatch between a dramatic surge in the size of the youth population and a stagnant economy, by unemployment and rising global food prices, and by chaotic liberalization under a predatory regime combined into a perfect storm of political frustration and economic crisis, erupting in December 2010 in the Jasmine Revolution. Revolution and Regime Change

Mass protests reached Tunis with tsunami-like force on January 12, 2011. Calling the protesters “terrorists” and “thugs,” the president tried first to suppress the demonstrations with brutal police action, and then to placate them with local concessions and television broadcasts promising political reforms, a new government, and even his own eventual retirement. Ben Ali’s chief of staff, Rachid Ammar, refused to order his men to turn their weapons on


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

the protesters, and on January 14, Ben Ali was persuaded by his ministers to leave the country. Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi moved to declare that, in the president’s absence, he was himself assuming interim presidency pending new elections. There followed a peculiar interregnum between Ben Ali’s departure in January and democratic elections in October 2011. At first the country was gripped with euphoria—the president and his despised family had been ousted. The remaining political elites tried to staunch the revolutionary flow, inviting opposition figures into government but retaining their own control over vital ministries. Under pressure from the protesters, who formed their own revolutionary defense committee, Mohammed Ghannouchi and his allies were forced first to resign from the ruling RCD party and then to dismantle it entirely. Throughout this period, public attention was fixed on the processes of reform, on debates over the future political structures and priorities, and on maintaining the momentum of the transition. In fact, the transition exhibited the resilience and embeddedness of Tunisian institutions. The army remained subservient to civilian rule, and the remnants of the regime and the protesters negotiated their agendas through constitutional courts, cabinet formation and dissolution, debates over constitutional reform, and a jointly formed committee structure. The professional diplomatic corps revived authoritative figureheads from the Bourguibist past to present the transition to the outside world, falling back on Tunisian foreign policy orthodoxy to protect the national and economic security of the country through moderation, partnership, openness, and neutrality.

Foreign Policy Behavior: The Post–Ben Ali Transition The immediate concern after the ouster of Ben Ali was to restore stability to international partnerships by assuring partners that nothing substantive had changed, while seeking external financial support for domestic stabilization. The first challenge came as a result of the close relations built between the French political elites and Tunisia’s ousted president. During the early days of the

The Foreign Policy of Tunisia


Jasmine Revolution, French foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie had been holidaying with her family in Tunisia. Reports that she had offered assistance to Ben Ali and his riot police in quashing the protests, including secret shipments of tear gas, provoked outrage in the newly liberated Tunisian media. In February 2011 the scandal gained new momentum as the Tunisian transitional foreign minister, veteran diplomat Ahmed Ounaies, paid Alliot-Marie an official visit, and it was not long before both Ounaies and Alliot-Marie were compelled to resign. Alliot-Marie seemed representative of all the intricate personal and business connections that had existed between the French political elites and Ben Ali’s extended family. Between them, the two foreign ministers had exposed all the lingering, personalist colonial legacies that had shaped the bilateral relationship, and a new, more balanced and more respectful relationship was now required of France. Even President Nicolas Sarkozy’s refusal to allow Ben Ali’s plane to land in France, and his subsequent efforts to demonstrate an adjusted foreign policy by promoting military operations in support of the uprising in Libya, were met with skepticism (Mikail 2011). In the end, the exiled Tunisian president, and his wife and son, were granted asylum in Saudi Arabia, which repeatedly rejected Tunisian requests for his extradition to stand trial at home. Tunisians were not amused, but their transition government was more concerned with bolstering the flailing economy with financial assistance from the Gulf monarchies. Desperately in need of short-term financial assistance, the government maintained a “business as usual” approach to its external relations, with business being very much the operative word. The United States, European countries, the European Union, and the major international and regional lending institutions all recognized that their previous complicity with the Ben Ali regime was now a matter of popular Tunisian debate, and—mindful that the endgame was still unclear—they sought rehabilitation through promises of substantial economic support for the transition. The Group of Eight (G8) major industrialized countries led the way with the Deauville Partnership in May 2011, from which the Tunisian government requested $25 billion of support (Ayari


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

2011). Satisfied that Tunisia’s transitional government was committed to the G8’s objectives of regional stabilization, improved governance, and job creation within the context of an integrated global economy, the partnership promised a total of $40 billion, mostly in the form of project-based assistance, to Tunisia and Egypt, to be disbursed between 2011 and 2013. The United States was highly visible in this process. The publication by WikiLeaks of diplomatic cables from the US embassy in Tunis in 2008 that had described the Ben Ali family as a “quasi-mafia” and Tunisia as a “police state” (WikiLeaks 2008) had indicated that the US government had no illusions about its erstwhile ally. As the Jasmine Revolution unfolded in January 2011, then–US secretary of state Hillary Clinton had expressed her concern over “unrest and instability,” even as the US Congress had weighed in with a budget resolution including $12 million in security assistance to Ben Ali. But at some point, the US administration had changed tack, “jumping on a running horse,” as it were (Prince 2011). When Ben Ali departed, Barack Obama was one of the first to congratulate the Tunisian people, and acting prime minister Beji Caid el-Essebsi, on an official visit to Washington, D.C., in October 2011, indicated that—on Tunisia’s part—the historical relationship between the two countries remained intact (US Department of State 2011). Meanwhile, Tunisia’s relations with neighboring Libya deteriorated rapidly. Muammar Qaddafi had declared himself “pained” by the Tunisian uprising, proclaiming the protesters to have been led astray by the WikiLeaks disclosures and suggesting a grand Western conspiracy (Weaver 2011). As Libya itself succumbed to the Arab Spring, refugees flooded across the border at a rate of several thousand each day. The Tunisian army was deployed to secure the border as Libyan rebel groups seized one border post in April 2011 and as pro-Qaddafi forces shelled another in June. Initially, the Tunisian government declared itself neutral in the conflict, closing border crossings when necessary to contain it, but on June 20 it recognized the Transitional National Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people (Ghanmi 2011). Throughout the Libyan uprising, the Tunisian people widely and visibly demonstrated their solidarity with the Transitional

The Foreign Policy of Tunisia


National Council, raising money, providing extensive voluntary services, and mobilizing local resources to support the refugees. Since then, the post-Qaddafi leadership has declared Tunisia to be a “special business partner” and relations have rapidly expanded in developing energy infrastructure linkages and in collaborative attempts to close the borders to traffickers in drugs, fuel, goods, and people. The victory of the Islamist Freedom and Justice Party in Cairo heralded the possibility of a new era of regional alliances based on Islamist politics and Muslim identity. Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki (of the Congress for the Republic Party [CRP]) made a two-day visit to Egypt in July 2012 during which the two new presidents promised that their post-revolutionary countries would be as “integrated as the European Union.” But despite statements of support for the Palestinians, and a common rejection of military intervention in Syria, the two governments proved unwilling and unable to constitute a more radical or Islamist front for regional change. Both were preoccupied with seeking to stabilize domestic politics. While Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was willing to ally with Salafist elements in pursuit of an overt Islamization of Egyptian politics, Ennahda’s leadership pursued a policy of compromise with its secular coalition partners and was not uncritical of its Egyptian counterpart. When Morsi was ousted by the Egyptian military in July 2013, the Ennahda leadership immediately condemned the “coup,” but was careful to differentiate itself from the Muslim Brotherhood and the latter’s undemocratic practices (Dreisbach 2013b). Turkey, governed by the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), was also an apparent natural ally for the new Tunisian regime. Much was made in the aftermath of the Tunisian elections of the so-called Turkish model and the apparent compatibility between its Islamist rule, democracy, and economic success. Turkey had been an important investor in pre-revolutionary Tunisia, with a bilateral free trade agreement having come into force in 2005. The new Tunisian government sought to build on Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s enthusiasm for the Tunisian uprising, which had manifested itself in an early presidential visit in September 2011, to attract further Turkish


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

investment and economic assistance. Turkey responded with assistance in the form of early grants (amounting to $100 million) and lines of credit ($500 million), increased import quotas, and project assistance for development, tourism, and security reform. But the gloss attached to the Turkish example quickly wore thin. When Erdoğan made a second visit to Tunis in June 2013, Turkish demonstrators at home, protesting against the police’s use of force against themselves, appealed to Tunisian civil society to show solidarity with democratic forces against the Turkish leader. Like Morsi in Egypt, Erdoğan was increasingly seen to be attacking opposition activism, imposing partisan Islamist policies, and undermining the very democracy he claimed to espouse. Generally, Tunisia’s relations with Maghreb neighbors continued to be affected by shared security concerns that dominated discussions over the revival of the Arab Maghreb Union. Soon after taking office, President Marzouki announced a drive to reinvigorate the regional organization, beginning with a tour of Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania in February 2012, with a common security policy high on his agenda. But by then, it was not just Tunisia’s Libyan borders that were under stress. Jihadist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and often trained in Mali, had become entrenched in the mountains along the Algerian border. An Arab Maghreb Union summit of heads of state, scheduled for December 2012, was delayed as the border with Libya remained closed and the army pursued a campaign against militants. For Ennahda leaders, collaboration with Algeria’s military junta in the effort to secure the borders and counter insurgent forces was the ironic and painful compromise required to maintain its own fragile domestic coalition, serving to dampen concerns of Ennahda complicity in a regional Islamist conspiracy and to reassure coalition partners of their commitment to Tunisian sovereign integrity. The same was true of the response to the civil war in Syria. The Tunisian government, after withdrawing its recognition of the Syrian leadership in February 2012, publicly remained committed to a political rather than a military solution, opposing Western military action and delaying recognition of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition until its democratic intentions were clar-

The Foreign Policy of Tunisia


ified. But ambiguities over Ennahda’s position remained a concern for its coalition partners. Salafi preachers openly endorsed young Tunisians joining the jihad in Syria, and the Syrian government accused Tunisia of enabling them to do so (Masrour 2013b). Rumors abounded of an Ennahda double-game in which official foreign policy represented the political compromises of the coalition, while Islamist objectives were pursued through the party’s control of the other instruments of government. The same considerations for coalition agreement restrained adjustments in policy toward Israel and Palestine. While the Tunisian government reaffirmed its solidarity with Palestine, it was careful not to affiliate with any particular faction, and suggestions that normalization with Israel would be criminalized in the new constitution were rejected. When Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem visited Gaza, Israel excluded the Tunisian ambassador to Palestine, but this was a small cost for Tunis to pay and represented a popular rhetorical rather than substantive policy shift. Divisions between Ennahda and its coalition partners were also papered over regarding relations with the Arab Gulf monarchies. Ennahda was believed by many Tunisians to have enjoyed exceptional (Qatari) financial support during the elections, and Qatari and Saudi financial sponsorship of Salafi trends in Tunisia left both Ennahda’s coalition partners and the opposition deeply angered at what they viewed to be unwelcome foreign intervention in domestic politics. The involvement of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in military operations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Libya had fueled concern that the Gulf countries were seeking to develop a more strategic role in the Maghreb. At the same time, however, the Gulf countries remained an important source of actual and potential investment capital and economic assistance. The results can be curious. For example, in 2013 the Tunisian government removed visa requirements for all Gulf nationals visiting the country, specifically hoping to promote tourism, but equally imposed a travel ban on a group of eight Saudi Salafi preachers, a move described by a spokesman for the interior ministry as “a political decision” (Masrour 2013a). Relations with Qatar proved particularly thorny. An


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

unfortunately patronizing comment by the visiting Qatari emir to President Marzouki led to a Facebook site called “Campaign to Insult the State of Qatar” being created and gaining 23,000 members in just one week (Dreisbach 2013a). Thus the anticipated reorientation toward Arab partners proved difficult even as Europe remained the key to the Tunisian government’s economic strategy. After democratic elections, Tunisia had sought a rebalancing of the relationship toward equality rather than subordination, respect rather than requirement. The European Union went some way toward recognizing its own previous culpability in its “Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean” declaration (European Commission 2011). It has also responded positively to Tunisian requests for greater support, although retaining the focus on the three M’s—money, markets, and mobility (Kostanyan 2013, 3). In November 2012, Tunisia won “privileged partner” status, agreeing to a new action plan for 2013–2017 structured to support the ongoing democratization process and further economic opening to Europe. The EU almost doubled its financial disbursements to Tunisia in 2011–2012, made preparations for a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement, enhanced the Erasmus Mundus and Tempus program facilities, and began implementing a new cooperation agenda on EU-Tunisia migration. All this amounted to a rebranded version of previous Euro-Mediterranean packages, and rather than ditching neoliberal conditionalities, Europe arguably adopted—and Tunisia settled for—a “more-formore” approach (Echagüe, Michou, and Mikail 2011, 329). If Tunisia’s foreign policy making toward the EU remained relatively straightforward, its relations with France were less easy. As Tunisia’s domestic politics became increasingly polarized in the wake of two assassinations, the partisan French press attacked Ennahda ever more vociferously and French politicians spoke out against the Tunisian government, with French interior minister Manuel Valls going so far as to describe it as an “Islamic fascist dictatorship” (Brahem 2013). Tunisian popular responses were divided between elements within the French-speaking Tunisian elite who sought French intervention in support of a laicist state, and those who refuted France’s right to impose any alternative. In

The Foreign Policy of Tunisia


February 2013, crowds burned the French flag in the streets, shouting dégagé—“get out!” Thus, while French economic assistance and high-level official exchanges continued, relations between Tunisia and France remained precarious and awaiting long-term resolution. Lacking a colonial legacy, the United States has less to worry about. The Tunisian government won additional military provisions after the elections, and the possibility of basing the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in Tunisia was being openly discussed. Even an Islamist mob attack on the US embassy and its adjacent US school in September 2012, followed by what the US government considered a weak judicial response on the part of Tunisian authorities, was not allowed to derail the burgeoning security relationship, which in turn was underpinned by economic initiatives such as the US offer of $100 million in debt aid in 2012, and the program for small and medium-sized enterprises announced in May 2013.

Conclusion: Who Is in Charge? Revolutionary Tunisia’s foreign policy has been anything but revolutionary. Despite occasional rhetorical positioning, it has been characterized more by continuity than change. The reality is that the post–Arab Spring distribution of power—regionally and internationally—has barely altered, at least for Tunisia’s purposes. The need to win aid and investment to deal with the profound and continuing domestic economic crisis provided little room for adjusting key partnerships, or for pursuing ideological positions at the expense of those partnerships. The government that has ruled since the elections in October 2011 has had little real margin for changing policy substantively. Not only are the determinants constant but also the processes—in the absence of a strong presidential figure—are too fragile to support change. The elections resulted in a largely unexpected victory for the Islamist party Ennahda, which won just over 40 percent of the popular vote. To form a government, Ennahda needed coalition allies and turned not to the still more conservative or Islamist


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

right, but rather to secularist parties, the Congress for the Republic Party and Ettakatol. The gesture indicated a commitment to national unity and conciliation, but observers nonetheless anticipated adjustments in foreign policy to reflect Tunisia’s Muslim, Arab, and African identities more fully. The fragility of the ruling coalition and the embedded strength of bureaucratic political institutions deterred its constituent elements from pursuing their own radical agendas for change. Ennahda in particular had to restrain its more identity-oriented foreign policy preferences. Growing domestic political polarization forced the party to choose between its commitment to national unity and its more religiously driven flank, a choice reflected as much in its foreign policy as in domestic politics, and resulting in what amounts to “foreign policy by committee” (Kefteji 2012, 1). Ennahda was also forced to surrender its control over the foreign ministry itself when Rafik Abdessalem was replaced as foreign minister by Othman Jerandi in March 2013. Abdessalem was an Ennahda political activist and son-in-law of religious leader Rachid Ghannouchi. Jerandi, by contrast, was a professional diplomat. His appointment resulted from the resignation of Prime Minister Hamedi Jebali following opposition protests over the assassinations of two left-wing leaders. The new prime minister, Ali Lareyedh, effectively conceded the ministry to his coalition partners, although Abdessalem himself was already becoming a liability as a result of alleged misuse of public funds in the so-called Sheraton-gate scandal. In short, the possibilities for an Islamist foreign policy have been tamed by the same drivers of national self-interest that existed before. Of course, the process has at times been messy and the coalition unable to speak with one voice, resulting in bizarre incidents such as the rejection by President Marzouki of his own government’s extradition of the former Libyan prime minister to stand trial in Libya in June 2012. While future governments with secure popular mandates might be able to resurrect an identitybased policy orientation to some degree, the lesson of transition thus far is that Tunisian foreign policy remains principally determined by pragmatic considerations of economic vulnerability, unstable regional security, and the dominance of Tunisia’s part-

The Foreign Policy of Tunisia


nerships with Europe and the United States. Its implementation remains the province of an institutionally secure diplomatic corps that works with key technical ministries. The personal direction that previously came from Presidents Bourguiba and Ben Ali may now be absent. But the high degree of continuity in actual policy preferences and objectives since the Tunisian uprising suggests that— whatever the personal or ideological ambitions of Tunisian governments, be they authoritarian or transitional democratic or even Islamist—the constraints imposed by resource scarcity and location in a problematic neighborhood retain their ultimate salience.

Part 2 Non-Arab Regional Powers

10 The Foreign Policy of Iran Anoushiravan Ehteshami

Revolutionary Iran has been at the forefront of developments in the Middle East since 1979, occupying a significant role in the shaping of this conflict-ridden region. The republic is more than thirty years old and its leaders claim it to be a major actor, albeit perhaps a “default regional power” (Molavi and Goode 2008, 203). Its considerable “edge,” however, is arguably a result of strategic developments elsewhere in the region and not a consequence of a well-laid strategic plan for regional domination (Juneau and Razavi 2013). Many of the changes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are well beyond Iran’s ability to control, let alone influence directly. Shahram Chubin (2009) thus characterizes Iran’s ostensible rise as unsustainable, despite the convergence of three key trends: a permissive, if not welcoming regional environment; rise and consolidation of the hard-line government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; and a historically unprecedented level of oil income. These trends have been enablers, but in listing the many domestic and regional structural constraints the country faces, Chubin (2009, 166) concludes that “the influence that has accrued to Iran as result of these trends is transitory and precarious,” and therefore unlikely to enable Iran to become a regional superpower. Nevertheless, Iran is now an influential regional player, and critical to its reemergence as a regional power in the twenty-first 261


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

century have been the dramatic changes in the regional balance of power that followed the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks on US soil invited direct US military intervention in the region and forced a change of regime in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), Iran’s two largely hostile neighbors. In just two years, Iran’s neighborhood had been transformed, presenting Tehran with what was seen as a historic opportunity to extend its influence right across the greater Middle East, from Pakistan to Morocco. Beginning in late 2010, however, potentially greater transformational events, stemming from the Arab uprisings across the region, posed different challenges for the region’s first revolutionary Islamist regime. Political developments in Iran itself, coupled with adjustments to its international relations since the end of the bipolar world in particular, ensured that Iran would occupy a central place in the regional order and on the strategic map of Eurasia. However, while Iran’s regional posture has changed and its influence has grown, internally its economic and social structures have remained weak and vulnerable. The introduction of many rounds of multilateral (UN) and bilateral (EU and US) intensive and intrusive economic sanctions since 2005 have magnified the country’s economic problems. Despite notable successes early in the decade, regional fluidity since the middle of the decade also deepened Iran’s political isolation. As a consequence of its own policies and the fast-changing regional environment, Iran arguably still had not found the balance between its long-cherished desire for total independence and the external pressures arising from the global force of interdependence (Mafinezam and Mehrabi 2008). Foreign Policy Determinants Geopolitics: Between Autonomy and Ambition

Geopolitics is a critical determinant of Iran’s foreign policy and international role. The Iranian state, once the plaything of rival foreign forces, was transformed under the Pahlavi dynasty in the twentieth century into a significant regional power, albeit one frequently acting as a protector of Western interests. Since the

The Foreign Policy of Iran


Islamic revolution, Iran’s power assets have been deployed in defense of regional autonomy from the West, even though in economic terms Iran never managed to distance itself from the capitalist world order, nor develop a truly independent economic base. Geography has for centuries played a key part in informing Iran’s foreign policy. Situated on an ancient landmass empire on the Eurasian crossroads, the modern state’s regional reach extends to much of western Asia. Indeed, geography has acted as a single force with two countervailing tendencies. On the one hand it has facilitated the spread of Persian influence in Asia, and on the other it has exposed Iran to great power rivalries and the diplomatic machinations of external forces. As a consequence, historically, fears and perceptions of foreign interference have formed the basis of Iranian nationalism (Ghods 1989). Iranian nationalism, furthermore, has for generations been intertwined with the issue of ensuring Iran’s territorial integrity, which in turn has created what Graham Fuller (1991, 2) calls “an intensely Iranocentric” view of the world, with “history itself [being] in part a product of classical geopolitical factors” in Iran. Geopolitics, therefore, has shaped, and continues to shape, Iranian foreign policy (Ablaka 2010), through a combination of factors over time— geography; the need to secure the country’s territorial integrity; adverse historical experiences; competition with other empires (such as the Ottoman Empire); meddling in Iran’s internal affairs by Western and Eastern powers such as Russia, Britain, and the United States; and the country’s resource endowment. Iran’s historical impotence in the face of foreign interference has left a deep and seemingly permanent scar on the Iranian psyche, and has tended to guide elite thinking on strategic external issues. Indeed, an almost obsessive preoccupation with outside interference in Iran’s internal affairs has made Iranians wary of big-power involvement, particularly of the Western kind, in their entire neighborhood. But at the same time, the perception among most Iranians that Iran has been able to withstand and overcome outside pressures has encouraged the rise of a psycho-political condition that can be characterized as an “arrogance of nonsubmission.” Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s celebrated phrase “America cannot do anything,” plastered throughout Iranian towns


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

and cities, is a good example of this tendency. This condition has given rise among the elite to what some would regard as an exaggerated sense of the importance of Iran and a rather misplaced belief in the infallibility of the state, which has on more than one occasion led Iranian policymakers to make serious miscalculations, not only about their own country’s power and abilities, but also about the power as well as the motives of their adversaries. However, as Arshin Adib-Moghaddam (2007) notes, it would be foolish to underestimate the important role that religion plays in driving Iran’s revolutionary identity and narrative, and indeed in driving its role conception: in this view, it is not arrogance that is being displayed, but rather Islam-tinged revolutionary utopianism fanning a “counterculture” foreign policy. These ideational sets of values and worldviews have even been enshrined in the republic’s constitution. Playing a more structural role has been the legacy of the Iran-Iraq War, which has reinforced a strange combination of messianism and internationalism laced with isolationism and fear of the external. Iranians’ perceptions of their environment and historical fears of outside interference were partly responsible for the evolution of the “negative balance” doctrine that at times formed the basis of Iran’s pre- and post-revolutionary foreign policy (Ramazani 1975). The same views have also informed the fierce passion in Iranians for both political and economic independence (esteqlal) from foreign powers. Thus, one of the main battle cries of the revolution was Esteqlal, Azadi: Jomhouri-ye Eslami (“Independence, Freedom: Islamic Republic”), purposefully placing independence as the precondition for the long-cherished goal of freedom. Thus, the attainment of full sovereignty and control over Iran’s destiny has for many decades been both a popular sentiment and an elite objective. Another, equally significant, revolutionary desire was for selfsufficiency (khod kafa-ye), arising from an elite-level anxiety to reduce the country’s economic dependence on Western powers and outside economic forces—an anxiety that has become even more pressing since the intensification of intrusive sanctions on the country since 2010. Both left and right have argued for many years that it is economic independence that will deliver political

The Foreign Policy of Iran


independence and not vice versa. Successive governments thus pursued an import substitution strategy with vigor, which had also characterized the Pahlavi-era political economy. While for both practical and ideological reasons, state control and ownership of the economy grew after the revolution, the period after 2005 saw a confusing mixture of privatization alongside a more intensive state control. Indeed, a “resistance economics” model emerged in the latter years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency to counter the corrosive effects of the crippling sanctions. Oil and Power

For the Iranian elite, both before the revolution and since, power and autonomy in economic matters have been seen as the precondition to political independence and regional influence. Despite this desire, for the first half of the twentieth century Iran was in substantial receipt of foreign economic and military aid, largely from the United States (Bharier 1971). The situation was to change in the second half of the 1960s, when Iran began to accumulate capital from oil rent at an accelerated rate and developed an awareness of its own economic potential, a learning process that was to reach its zenith in the 1970s, thanks to the post-1973 rapid increase in oil prices. The Shah’s ambition to modernize Iran by the end of the twentieth century reflected the recognition of the need for a sound economic base as a precondition of diplomatic preeminence. The prevailing perception was that oil wealth would magically transform Iran into a great regional military and global economic power. The emphasis during this period was on the rapid expansion of the domestic economy and the broadening of the country’s industrial and manufacturing base through an intensive import substitution industrialization strategy. Foreign capital and expertise were viewed as the necessary evils for the realization of this mission. Over a very short period of time the economics and politics of oil began to influence the foreign policy and national security strategy of the country. At the same time, this heavy reliance on oil wealth as the main pillar of Iran’s grand strategy increased the country’s vulnerability to outside forces and international economic pressures. In this sense, the strategy of


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

rapid modernization had positioned Iran in the “semi-periphery” of the capitalist order with a comprador bourgeoisie that was deeply dependent on the metropole (Barthel 1983). Oil wealth, in short, had become both the salvation and the curse of the country’s modernization strategy; as the Shah himself was to acknowledge, it was in the end its Achilles’ heel. In the republican era, however, hydrocarbons played somewhat of a different role. First, the new elite were keen to reduce the country’s dependence on oil income and therefore its dependence on the West. Second, as they explored the architecture of a new political economy for Iran, the revolutionaries were determined to remove oil as a political tool in Iran’s relations with the West—playing politics with oil was no longer fashionable. Third, they were determined to ensure that oil would no longer determine the course of Iran’s economic development. In practice, however, Iran’s place in the international division of labor as a supplier of hydrocarbons did not change very much, nor did its dependence on oil income. But what did change was its place in the system and its loss of status as an emerging newly industrializing country like South Korea—to which it was being compared in the 1970s. Iran’s revolution and post-revolutionary international relations effectively ended this ambition. The end of Iran’s Western alliances also froze the ties between national capital and foreign capital that had been emerging since the late 1960s and starved Iran of the essential technological and manufacturing inputs necessary for the diversification of its economy and the expansion of its industrial base. Iran thus fell behind the developmental pathway taken by other newly industrializing countries since the mid-1960s, with far-reaching consequences for the country. It is noteworthy that, by the 1990s, South Korea had joined the ranks of the leading export-oriented economies of the world and, as Asia’s fourth-largest economy, had joined the club of the industrialized world—the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)—while Iran had slipped in international rankings and ironically had emerged as a major importer of South Korean goods and services. A generation later, Iran remains economically weak and vulnerable. Despite being home to the second-largest concentration

The Foreign Policy of Iran


of hydrocarbon deposits in the world, Iran is still dependent on imports of many refined oil products and, under sanctions, has had to ration petroleum use while pursuing its nuclear power program. Its nonoil exports continue to feature such products as nuts and dried fruits and handicrafts, but also a growing list of industrial and manufactured goods. With hydrocarbons still accounting for around 70 percent of government income and over 50 percent of Iran’s export earnings, the country must still rely on imports of substantial quantities of industrial, semiprocessed, and food products. Moreover, Iran has had no credible record of large foreign direct investment inflows (just $0.3 billion in 2005 compared to Turkey’s $9.8 billion, Egypt’s $5.4 billion, and the United Arab Emirates’ $10.9 billion).1 With some 150,000 university graduates apparently leaving the country each year, the question is how Iran can rebuild its foundations and grow economically when the most severe of international sanctions regimes is eating away at its fabric. More than three decades into its rule, this revolutionary regime has not been in a position to use oil as a “power sling” to climb its way up the international division of labor; it is still reliant on the geopolitics of its hydrocarbon deposits and also its geography—at the heart of the energy zone of the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea—to gain material advantage. It is perhaps not surprising, given the scale of the problems that the country has been facing and also the regime’s intellectual roots, that its leaders have continued to find refuge and also justification for Iran’s international status in political Islam and politico-religious identity. But critically, even this aspect of the Islamic republic’s foreign policy role conception has entered uncharted waters since the overthrow of the Baath regime in Iraq in 2003, and more particularly since the Arab uprisings beginning in 2011. Identity and Ideology: Iran as an Islamic Actor

The drive toward regional supremacy has arguably been a constant feature of Iranian foreign policy, but the common interpretation of Iran’s behavior misunderstands the core ideational drivers of its policies. Dehghani Firooz-Abadi (2012, 43), for


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

example, argues that it is Islamic values that form Iran’s worldview, not supremacist ambitions. To the Islamic republic, “the present international order that dominates and the international system that goes with it is not suitable and should be revised. For this reason [Iran] is considered a revisionist country and, contrary to the status quo countries, is trying to bring about revision and gradual changes in the existing international order and system.” Furthermore, derived from its long history and its geography, Iran sees itself as uniquely qualified to determine, at the very least, the destiny of the Persian Gulf, which its landmass dominates. It sees itself as one of only a handful of “natural” states in the Middle East, due to being an old and territorially established civilization (based around the notion of Iran-zamin (“Greater Iran”) that can and should have influence beyond its borders. Mohammad Reza Shah’s long reign is full of evidence of this tendency in Iranian elite thinking after 1953, particularly so in the 1970s (Alam 1991; Ansari 2003). Iran tried to become the Gulf subregion’s premier military power and aimed to become the main pillar of the Western security system in the Middle East—to resume, to paraphrase the Shah, Iran’s “historic responsibilities.” Since 1979 Iran has added a religious dimension to its drive for power projection. Over time this old sociocultural root has formed a new layer on top of the deeply felt territorial nationalism of the state (Sick 1995). Since the revolution, therefore, Iran’s engagement with so-called Islamic issues has come to affect its regional profile and its policies toward many of its neighbors. Iran’s post-revolutionary posture has also been affected by what could be called the geopolitics of Islam (Takeyh 2009). In the first instance, Tehran’s messianic Shiism of the early 1980s undercut the regional status quo and challenged the political integrity of Iran’s Arab neighbors. In making explicit its demand to speak in the name of Islam, Tehran’s revolutionary leadership caused real tensions in the country’s relations with Saudi Arabia and other influential Islamic actors in the Muslim world as it tried to “export the revolution.” The Iranian leadership’s call for Islamic uprisings may have found sympathetic ears in many Arab and Muslim societies in the 1980s, but this call also reinforced suspicions among the Arab elite of Iran’s intentions and encouraged their attempt to contain Iranian influence (Keddie and Matthee

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2002). This blockage in relations did not really begin to clear until the end of the 1980s, due to several key domestic and regional developments taking place in a very short period of time (1988– 1991), foremost among which were the end of the Iran-Iraq War; Ayatollah Khomeini’s death, followed by the rise of a more pragmatic leadership in Iran; the triumph of oil politics over ideology; the Kuwait crisis, which turned Iraq into a pariah; and Iran’s bridge-building regional strategy in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. But despite its more integrationist and nonconfrontational foreign policy between 1993 and 2005, Tehran kept pace with the politicized Islamic groups in the Arab world and actively and openly supported Hizbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Ennahda in Tunisia, and the jihadists in Egypt. One can deduce from Iran’s behavior that its overt use of Islam, or at least Islamic symbols, remains a feature of its role conception. Islam’s place in its formulation of policy and strategic aims has caused serious rifts in— and continues to complicate—Tehran’s relations with a number of the Sunni-dominated Arab states around it. This problem intensified after 2003 and the rise of Shiite political forces in Iraq (Korinman and Laughland 2007). This single act not only changed the balance of forces in the region but also expanded the “Arabization” of Shiite politics, which until then had been seen as a nonArab and largely Iran-centric phenomenon (Louër 2008). “Shiaistan,” comprising territories to the south, east, west, and north of Iran, is a new imaginary frontier for Iran to negotiate as it charts its foreign policy priorities in a rapidly changing environment (Nasr 2004). Since the Arab uprisings of 2011, Sunni-Shiite tensions have become acute and confrontational. In the new narrative of Iran’s rivals, it and its Arab ally (Hizbollah) are portrayed as the butchers of Sunnis in Syria and Iraq, and the instigators of revolt in the Shiite populations of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

The Foreign Policy Process Iran’s dual political institutions embody a two-headed executive that divides responsibility for foreign policy. Procedurally, Iran’s


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

foreign policy processes have changed little over the years, with the president responsible for implementing the country’s national policies through the executive branch of the government, which includes the foreign ministry and its agencies. Evidence suggests that since the late 1990s the Spiritual Leader and his elaborate bureaucracy have become central to the crafting of state strategy and as the architects of policy, contexts, and even implementation (Sadjadpour 2008). The Leader, notes Hossein Salimi (2012, 144), “is not only the main decision-maker of the political arena but also the final arbiter of disputes between political trends and contending institutions that step forward in the policymaking process of foreign affairs.” Once outlines crystallize, priorities are then debated and agreed in the country’s supreme national security council. The parliament (Majlis), the media, and public opinion are increasingly secondary forces, whose presence is felt through the activities of Iran’s myriad of political and social factions (Ehteshami 2010). Bearing in mind Iran’s political landscape, it is worth noting that the Iranian political elite are fragmented and factionalized. Factionalism as a system affects every aspect of public policy in Iran, and its impact on foreign policy cannot be overemphasized, particularly as factional and individual rivalries directly feed into policy decisions (Salimi 2012, 130–139). Furthermore, with the domestic arena becoming rather overcrowded and avenues for critical debate more tightly controlled, factions increasingly seem to articulate their distinctive positions on domestic and related issues in foreign policy terms. The debate takes place in the context of efforts to “save” the revolution and the governance system (nezam), but the proposed strategies for doing so are widely divergent. For many of the reformists, for example, restoration of relations with the United States is vital for renewal at home,2 while for the more conservative forces, even mentioning relations with the “Great Satan” is tantamount to treason.3 The major camps, around which gather numerous other groups and influential personalities, often quote the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, in support of their own position, which further confuses the picture. Or, as was evident with President Ahmadinejad, the factions try to chart their own strategies for ascendancy in the

The Foreign Policy of Iran


power struggle at home in terms of Ayatollah Khomeini’s deeds in times of crisis. All the while, the factions tend to use foreign policy as a tactical weapon for warfare at home, and in this situation the MENA subsystem has come to the forefront. However, Iran’s institutionalized theocracy, with its many regular elections for a multitude of offices, formal divisions of power as stipulated in the constitution, and a strong bureaucratic structure, is still the reality that shapes and implements policy as this theocracy is mediated through the republic’s governance system (Rakel 2009; Arjomand 2009). So, of greater interest is how this theocracy has translated the profound changes in Iran’s foreign policy determinants in recent years into foreign policy behavior. Foreign Policy Behavior New Priorities at Home, New Policies Abroad

Under Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence, Iran had acquired a large degree of freedom in its foreign policy making and in exerting its influence in the region. The freedom to act “independently” of outside powers had been one of the cardinal aims of the revolution, but in regard to policymaking this newly cherished freedom was reinforced by the clerics’ domination of the long-autonomous Iranian state, founded as it had been on its monopoly on income from the country’s hydrocarbon resources. It was not surprising, then, that oil and the drive to secure maximum return for its sale soon became the political-economy prism through which the Islamists viewed the world as well. Eventually, they too learned that low oil prices would mean economic weakness in an oildependent country like Iran. They therefore had to find ways of boosting oil income, which they started doing as early as 1988 through cooperation with other regional oil producers, the very countries that had been at the receiving end of Tehran’s threat to export its revolution. But the Islamist leadership also learned, just as the Shah had, that oil income in itself is not a panacea for Iran’s economic and social ills. As many of its leaders were to acknowledge, there were to be no quick fixes to the Islamic republic’s problems. The


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

leadership, therefore, even before Ayatollah Khomeini’s death, had come to accept the need for economic and administrative reform. Thus, after the end of the Iran-Iraq War, significant sections of the revolutionary elite began arguing for an overhaul of the economy. This line was championed by Iran’s first executive president, Hashemi Rafsanjani. The crisis was indeed serious and multifaceted: negative growth, high unemployment, low productivity and underutilization of capacity, shortages of investment capital, high import dependency, managerial weaknesses, substantial loss-making enterprises under state control, a ballooning public sector, and lack of confidence in government policy (Amuzegar 1993). In the absence of foreign investment and other immediately available and accessible resources, Iran’s many economic difficulties merely reinforced its dependence on oil and the need to generate investment capital, technology, and industrial expertise from the outside. Growing general understanding at home of Iran’s vulnerabilities strengthened the hand of Rafsanjani and his allies in dealing with the hard-liners, and enabled the president to continue with the conciliatory foreign policy line that he had championed. The bottom line for him was that outside assistance was essential for the reconstruction of the country. The remedies of the new Rafsanjani administration resembled an International Monetary Fund–type economic reform strategy that preached liberalization and deregulation as the necessary tools for the restructuring of the economy. The talk again was of attracting foreign direct investment, establishment of foreign trade zones, and developing deeper economic relations with the West. Some at home feared that Iran was in danger of returning to the bosom of the West, despite its long struggle to free itself of direct outside interference in its domestic affairs and the fact that its revolutionary leadership had managed to behave much more independently of outside powers and pressures than at any time in Iran’s modern history. President Mohammad Khatami, who succeeded Rafsanjani, bought wholesale into the latter’s agenda but added a dialogue of civilizations and détente as extra features of Iran’s conciliatory foreign policy. His administration mended bridges with many of Iran’s neighbors and also with much of the West, and even tried to

The Foreign Policy of Iran


stabilize relations with the United States. But even Khatami’s highly popular administration was in the end unable to establish the conciliatory trend as the basis of Iran’s foreign policy and, after his eight years in power, was left helpless as his successor adopted a confrontational populist-nationalist discourse for the next eight years (2005–2013), reneging on détente and taking Iran into a largely neo-revolutionary and confrontational direction. Iran under Ahmadinejad entered a new phase, one of “postdétente.” Iranian Foreign Policy in the Post–September 11 Era Iran’s reaction to September 11. The terrorist attacks of Septem-

ber 11, 2001, resulted in a strong outpouring of support for the United States from Iranians and expressions of qualified sympathy from the Iranian leadership. Most Iranian officials balanced their condemnation of the terrorist attacks by referencing the aggressive and unpopular regional policies of the United States and its apparent condoning of Israel’s aggressive behavior. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, for example, publicly accused Israel on September 13 of exploiting the September 11 attacks to cause problems in the Middle East. The pro-Khatami Islamic Iran Participation Party also openly criticized the George W. Bush administration for “staunchly supporting the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, Israel.”4 Presidential adviser Mohammad Reza Tajik, while condemning the terrorist attacks, followed in the same vein, warning that “the rightists and the American and Israeli Zionists will take great advantage of this situation and will attempt to materialize their objectives and interests” in its aftermath.5 But there were other voices present too. Most striking of all, the deputy chief of Tehran’s fire department publicly declared his sympathy for his US counterparts and revealed that many of his personnel had volunteered to go to New York to help. Tehran’s mayor, Morteza Alviri, and the head of its municipal council, Mohammad Atrianfar, also went public with their sympathies and sent a letter to the mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, stating that “Tehran’s citizens express their deep hatred of this ominous and


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

inhuman move, strongly condemn the culprits and express their sympathy with New Yorkers.”6 Reformist parliamentarian Ahmad Burqani became the first Iranian official to visit the US Interest Section at the Swiss embassy in Tehran after the terrorist attacks, on September 17, to sign the book of condolences. To explain the contrast between the two levels of reaction requires that we focus on the troubled relationship between Tehran and Washington since 1979 and constant Iranian governmental fears of active US opposition to the Islamic regime. Over the years these fears have cemented and the two sides stand wide apart from each other, despite sharing many strategic concerns such as instability in Afghanistan and Iraq, al-Qaeda terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and the spread of radical Islam in Central Asia. The two sides see themselves as regional rivals bent on compromising each other’s standing. The Iranian people, by contrast, view the United States as an imposing power that could be used as a partner of reform. But Iranians also fear the power of the United States and its ability to destabilize Iran and also the geopolitical situation on Iran’s doorstep. Being largely nationalist in outlook also, the Iranian people resent any US action that seeks to “contain” Iran or to trim its regional influence. Thus, while the terrorist attacks of September 11 evoked the compassion of Iranians at all levels, they failed to ignite a willingness to make a fresh start. Indeed, the “Axis of Evil” State of the Union address of President Bush in January 2002 did much to undo the goodwill generated by the tragedy of September 11 and contributed to convincing Tehran that the United States intended to capitalize on the terrorist attacks to target Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as “rogue states.” From the moment (in summer of 2002) that regime change in Iraq emerged as the major US foreign policy objective, Tehran began to see itself in a short queue of regimes to be targeted by Washington. Iran and regime change in Iraq. Initially, the Iraq War proved to

be a mixed blessing for Tehran (Alterman 2003). Although the US-led coalition’s action to unseat the Iraqi dictator would effectively remove a deep and painful thorn from the side of Iran, Tehran was nonetheless disturbed by the fact that the US military

The Foreign Policy of Iran


had become its neighbor in both Afghanistan and Iraq. From the perspective that Iran was next as a US target, Tehran started to regard post-Saddam Iraq as its first line of defense and sought to undermine Washington’s grip on the country. Iran’s concerns about post-Saddam Iraq were therefore considerable. A first concern was whether Baghdad would become an ally of the United States in the region, open ties with Israel, and act as Washington’s strategic partner in the Middle East. A stable Iraq could act as a security guarantor of Western interests in the Persian Gulf as well as the wider Middle East; Iraq’s oil could underpin the relationship and enable Baghdad to build a strong, US-supplied military machine that could, in conjunction with the other Gulf Arab security partners of the United States, resurrect the old “twin pillars” security umbrella first introduced by the Richard Nixon administration in the 1970s. Iran would then find itself on the margins of an imposed security structure in a region that it regards to be of vital importance to its prosperity and survival. Moreover, Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbors were concerned about the long-term geoeconomic consequences of oil-laden Iraq returning to the market as a bigger producer and no longer constrained by the quota restrictions of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), nor by political obligations toward its neighbors. Iraq replaced Iran as OPEC’s second-largest oil producer in 2012, and unbridled Iraqi oil exports in the next decade threatened to undermine the finely balanced international oil market. Iran will stand to lose if Iraqi exports suppress oil prices; Iran’s influence in the market will also be dealt a blow if Iraq remains one of OPEC’s primary producers. However, as Iraq is a huge market for Iranian goods and services (bilateral economic exchange was worth $12 billion in 2012), a prosperous Iraqi economy can also be good for Iran.7 Not surprisingly, therefore, beginning in late March 2003 Tehran became an active player in the shaping of the Shiite-leaning Iraqi state and the emerging political order in Iraq.8 Iran was advantaged by the fact that while Saddam Hussein was busy dismantling the Shiite seat of learning in Iraq, he was in practice actually strengthening the Iranian Shiite elite and the place of


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Qom as the guardian of the Shiite world (Barzegar 2008). Indeed, as many Iraqi Shiite leaders actually took refuge in Iran, it was possible for Iranians to claim that it was Ayatollah Khomeini’s doctrine of political Islam that was dominant in Shiism, not the traditional “quietist” school long advocated in Najaf.9 For some, such as the Saudis, the fears expressed in 1991, that the removal of Saddam Hussein could lead to the rise of an Iranian-controlled Shiite-dominated state in Iraq, had come to pass, and the Shiite dimension of Iraqi society was seen as a direct security threat to the wider region. Yet having shaken off the shackles of Saddam’s regime, the Iraqi Shiite community has shown its unwillingness to accept Iranian diktats. Some indiscrete attempts by Iran to assert authority in Iraq drew fire from all the political communities in the latter. The increased political voice of the Iraqi Shiite community mobilized, in reaction, a strong Salafi and al-Qaeda-type violent backlash among Iraqi Sunnis. Salafis despise Shiites by the same measure as they hate the United States. Many see the US intervention in Iraq as part of a bigger conspiracy to promote the “heretical” Shiites against the larger Sunni Arab states and communities as a way for the United States to strengthen its control of Arab Muslim lands and resources. The Iraq War, therefore, had changed the character of political Islam well before the Arab uprisings of 2011. The chasm has widened since the Arab revolutions, and animosities have deepened considerably with the uprisings in Shiite-majority Bahrain and Sunni-majority Syria. Security: The prime driver. While Tehran has been fully cognizant of the geopolitical opportunities presented by the fragmentation of the Arab order and the emergence of an Iran-led “resistance core” in the MENA subsystem, it is at the same time also mindful of the constraints that are slowly but surely being imposed on its orbit of influence. In Afghanistan, for example, Iran is no longer a direct pillar of stability there. It should be recalled that during the dark years of Taliban rule, Iran steadfastly supported the Northern Alliance, which in the end emerged as the military spearhead of the anti-Taliban campaign in Afghanistan. Without Iranian support in the 1990s, the United States and the

The Foreign Policy of Iran


United Nations would not have had local politico-military support against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Yet Tehran felt exposed to developments in Afghan-istan, as insecurity there had a direct bearing on Iran’s relations with Central Asia as well, in particular with Central Asia’s poorest and only Persian-speaking country, Tajikistan. US encirclement, from Tehran’s perspective, was being underpinned with subtle barriers erected between Iran and its traditional spheres of cultural influence in western Asia. The paradox for Iran, as it adjusted to the reality of US preeminence in the post–September 11 international order, was that while it saw its own role enhanced in geopolitical terms, the very fact that it had emerged as a big player also exposed it to greater external pressures, and to deeper US scrutiny. The post–September 11 order (2001–2010) therefore proved two-sided for the Islamic republic. Enemies on its two longest land borders were destroyed after September 11, but at the same time US military and political presence in western Asia increased exponentially. As the remnants of Iraq’s military might were being reduced to dust in the course of the 2003 war, Tehran’s own activities in pursuit of nuclear power were coming under much greater international attention. Iran found itself as an ally of the West in its anti-Salafi struggle in the greater Middle East, but at the same time remained on the US list of terrorist states due to its close association with Hizbollah in Lebanon and support for rejectionist Palestinian groups. It is in the context of Iran’s complex relationship with the post–September 11 international order that its national security debates and its broader international outlook have been taking shape. But both Iran and the international community have had to deal with an even greater challenge since 2011: that of violent and massive revolts taking place across the Arab region. National Security and Iran’s Nuclear Program

Iran’s nuclear program has been an international security concern since George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” State of the Union address in January 2002, into which the US president placed both Tehran and Baghdad. Furthermore, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the fall


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

of the Iraqi Baathist regime in April 2003 provided sufficient proof for regional powers that Washington was prepared to engage in costly and sustained military campaigns if it felt that such actions were an effective preventive national security measure. Recognition of the ability and willingness of the United States to act without the consent of the international community encouraged a meeting of minds between Tehran on the one hand, which had only just managed more ably to resist US political, diplomatic, and economic pressures, and the European Union on the other, which was struggling hard to mend bridges following the very public and sustained opposition of Germany and France to the US-led war in Iraq. In the charged diplomatic atmosphere following the failure of UN debates on Iraq, both Iran and the European Union had much to gain from putting the EU’s “constructive engagement” dialogue with Tehran, specifically over Iran’s nuclear program, on a higher footing. Tehran could try to engage Europe against the United States; the European Union could claim to be taking direct and effective action to bring Iran into line on the nuclear and other issues without the need or threat of use of force. The ability of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom in October 2003 to convince Iran to give a full account of its nuclear program before the October 31 deadline set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to halt its uranium enrichment activities, and to bring its entire nuclear program under the IAEA regime of snap inspections, was portrayed by both sides as a victory for dialogue. The onus now was on Tehran and the European Union to convince a skeptical United States that the agreement reached in Tehran on October 21 was comprehensive and robust enough to not require a referral of the Iranian case to the United Nations Security Council. For the United States, the latter option had been the preferred route for dealing with Iran since 2002, when revelations about Iran’s apparently clandestine nuclear activities had begun to surface (Patrikarakos 2012). Although Brussels and Washington approached Iran differently, Tehran was left in no doubt that both sides of the Atlantic took Iran’s nuclear program extremely seriously and were dismayed by the direction of its activities. Even Moscow, the supplier of Iran’s nuclear power plants, entered the fray by expressing concern

The Foreign Policy of Iran


about the nature of the ongoing nuclear research in Iran. Moscow publicly urged Tehran to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s Additional Protocol. In a blunt warning, Moscow also stated that it too would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran in western Asia, on Russia’s own doorstep. The existence of Iran’s nuclear program has become much more public since 2002, when a string of revelations forced the Iranian authorities to acknowledge that they had in fact sought enrichment facilities, separating units, and nuclear weapon designs (Einhorn 2004). Iran announced in early 2003 that its nuclear program was intended for purely peaceful purposes. The head of Iran’s atomic energy program declared on February 10, 2003, that his agency had begun work on a uranium enrichment plant near the city of Kashan (the Natanz site), stating that extensive research had already begun. The fuel would come from the brand-new uranium conversion facility built in the industrial city of Isfahan. The Isfahan plant was to be complemented with another facility for producing uranium fuel casings. The Iranian president himself appeared on national television on the anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution in February 2003 to congratulate his countrymen on their nuclear achievements, enumerating their research successes and then emphasizing the statements already made by the head of Iran’s atomic energy program. Of particular concern to the IAEA at that time were the sites being developed in the cities of Natanz and Arak, of whose existence the agency had first learned through intelligence sources rather than through the Iranian authorities. Iran’s late notification of the two sites to the IAEA, though legal under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, reached the Vienna-based organization only in September 2002, a month after an opposition group had published details of the Natanz and Arak facilities. The revelations showed that the underground site near Natanz would house Iran’s main gas centrifuge plant for enriching uranium for use in reactors, while the Arak facility would produce heavy water, an essential ingredient for plutonium production. The IAEA’s February 2003 inspection of Natanz revealed that not only had Iran been able to develop and advance the Pakistanisupplied technology to assemble and “cascade” 160 centrifuge


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

machines but that it had also assembled a sufficient quantity of parts for installing a further 1,000–5,000 centrifuge machines between 2003 and 2005. Natanz, Iran told the IAEA, was designed to produce low-enriched uranium for Iran’s planned expansion of nuclear power plants, and not to generate weaponsgrade highly enriched uranium. The international community, however, were concerned that the depth and extent of the Natanz plant implied a far more ambitious project (Fitzpatrick 2008). From the US perspective, Iran’s intention to complete the nuclear fuel cycle could have one purpose only: development of nuclear weapons. In Tehran itself, however, the inter-elite discussions about Iran’s nuclear options entered the public arena much later than in the West, namely in the course of the IAEA’s high-profile engagement of Tehran beginning in early 2003. The nuclear debate tended to cut across factional lines. Some Iranian conservatives made the argument against the possession of weapons of mass destruction, while some reformers argued passionately in favor of developing a nuclear weapons option as a national security imperative. In broad terms, there were several principal arguments circulating in Iran. The first argument was rooted in the rights and responsibilities of sovereign states as signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In some Iranian circles it was argued that Iran should take full advantage of its treaty membership to acquire nuclear know-how for peaceful purposes, which is not a violation of the treaty. Others argued that the economic cost associated with nuclear research was too high. In addition, there were environmental issues to consider, and the fact that by building nuclear facilities Iran would create for itself more strategic targets to protect. Another argument for developing a nuclear option was rooted in the paradigm of geopolitical insecurity. With Israel and Pakistan in possession of nuclear weapons, it would make strategic sense for Iran to at least develop the option, if not actually declare itself a nuclear-armed state. But this argument was made mostly in private debates, given the acknowledged dangers of a regional nuclear arms race developing were Iran to pursue the weapon option. Others argued that because Iran did not face any existen-

The Foreign Policy of Iran


tial threats, and indeed because its borders had been breached only once over the past 200 years (in the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War), there could be no conceivable justification on security grounds for Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons, given that the Iraqi threat had now been removed. Iran’s nuclear program continued to vex the international community while at the same time being a source of national pride and state priority. The election of Hassan Rouhani as president and Iran’s subsequent negotiations with the West, begun in Geneva in late 2013, have raised the prospect of a compromise breakthrough on the nuclear issue. Iran and the Arab Spring

The Arab uprisings beginning in 2011 caught all actors by surprise, and Tehran was no exception. As the transformational process continued across the Arab region, it was hard to predict which countries would be ultimate beneficiaries of these political developments. In Iran’s case, it was early on argued that as “popular movements rapidly recast the Arab landscape, Iran’s power, a short year ago appearing to be on the rise as a result of the Iraq and Afghan wars, is suddenly shrinking as it struggles with internal divisions, and a growing Sunni backlash for its meddling in the Gulf and Arab heartland” (Farmanfarmaian 2011). The growing voice of Sunni Islamist political forces that followed the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Syria radically changed the discourse of politics in the Arab world. Moreover, the intensity and spread of the Arab uprisings increased the danger of sectarianism in the Middle East. In the process, this increased the pressure on the region’s fragile states, and also within its multiple-identity countries, to such an extent that institutional disorder became almost omnipresent. In the case of Iran, the Arab Spring tested its ideological robustness, the exercise of its soft power assets, and its ability to steer the resurgence of identity politics (for itself and for its allies: Hizbollah, Syria, and Iraq) at both the state level and the community level. It not only had to protect the Shiite bloc but also had to contain the spread of militant Sunni forces in such strategically important theaters as Lebanon and


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Iraq. As Baghdad faced Syria, it increasingly leaned on Iran for support, which in turn reinforced, for Sunnis, the image of Iran as a promoter of sectarian strife in the region. Thus, those regimes with strategic alliances to protect were particularly vulnerable to the change arising from the Arab Spring. In this regard, Iran’s alliance with Syria, and the so-called resistance movements of Hizbollah and Hamas, were in danger of unraveling following the Syrian uprising. Indeed, Hamas left the Syrian-Iranian camp in 2012, and Hizbollah’s position as a champion of radical but progressive change in the Arab world was demolished in the Sunni world for its unyielding support for the oppressive Assad regime in Syria. Hizbollah was increasingly seen as an Iranian lackey and a “Shiite-only” organization whose interest was in pressing its sectarian agenda. Gone, then, was the organization’s heroic legacy built in the fires of the 2006 war with Israel—its reputation on the Arab street as the only anti-Zionist force in the Arab region capable of confronting the might of the Israeli armed forces. Hizbollah remained a “frontline” organization of importance, to be sure, but in a most unexpected manner the front line in the Arab world dramatically shifted toward Syria and exposed the party to pressures from revolutionary Egypt and Libya as well as from conservative Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. As the “front line” for Sunni Islamists moved from Arab-Israeli conflict to Sunni-Shiite conflict in Syria, Iran and Hizbollah found themselves uncomfortably opposing this revolutionary Sunni wave. Indeed, Hizbollah arguably put itself on the wrong side of regional opinion, complicit not just with its close ally, Iran, in supporting the Assad regime but also with its sworn enemy, Israel, which was equally averse to regime change in neighboring Syria. Iran’s own position also became more problematic. It was frequently characterized as hypocritical by Arab commentators for publicly championing the democratic rights of Bahraini citizens against their own government while openly and clandestinely supporting the murderous and systematic suppression of Syrians’ similar demands for democratic change. Having become much more vulnerable to criticism from its Arab neighbors, most notably from Saudi Arabia and also from nearly every Arab

The Foreign Policy of Iran


Spring country, Iran more often than not appeared confused and opportunistic in its zero-sum game approach (Jones 2013). Tehran’s policies in Syria since the uprising were clearly increasingly divergent from its declared support for what it triumphantly termed new “Islamist awakenings” in the Arab world: How could it support the rise of Islamist forces in North Africa but join in the repression of the same Brotherhood-linked forces in Syria? Indeed, while Iran did welcome the fall of the Mubarak regime in Egypt as a victory for the Islamic revolution, and while it welcomed the uprising in Bahrain as a sign of emerging Shiite strength at the heart of Arab monarchies, it nevertheless was not prepared for the replacement of Mubarak’s regime by an Islamist-led parliament and administration. Even the short-lived administration of Mohamed Morsi not only strove to strengthen intra-Arab relationships as its first priority but also strongly criticized Iran for supporting the Assad regime, and also prized Hamas away from Tehran. Iran, moreover, was also unprepared for the Saudi reaction to the crisis in Bahrain. Saudi Arabia’s decision to mobilize its security forces in support of the Al Khalifa dynasty in Bahrain left Iran with no effective response. Stinging criticism from Islamist forces in the Gulf Arab states for Iran’s support of Assad and of Shiite parties in Iraq, coupled with Saudi Arabia’s active response to the crisis in Bahrain, further widened the rift between Iran and the rest of the Arab region. The turbulent Arab region threatened to undo Iran’s carefully constructed Islamic communitarianism. Another Iranian concern focused on the possible impact of a Saudi-led moderate Arab grouping formed to contain Iranian influence. The rise of Sunni political forces in the “democratic transition” countries of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen seemed to hail a new era of Sunni Islamist revival in the region, perhaps to compete with Iran’s Shiite-led forces, but more fundamentally to redefine the boundaries of intrastate relations in the MENA subsystem as a whole. Saudi Arabia’s political and economic muscle, when set against the fragility of these post-authoritarian states, could be seen as a strong pressure point on these states to coalesce around the Saudi axis and chart an anti-Shiite path, to the detriment of Iran. While Islamists’ anti-Americanism appealed to


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Iran at the political level, at the ideological level they were unlikely to become partners (Chubin 2012). Critically, even the type of relationship that emerged between Tehran and Hamas owed more to Hamas’s isolation than to Iran being seen as an attractive model for Hamas’s vision for Palestine. Despite the fact that Tehran had met many of Gaza’s needs and provided the bulk of Hamas’s annual budget (perhaps as much $500 million of its $540 million budget in 2010),10 even Hamas, in the era of Arab Sunni awakening, dramatically reoriented itself toward the Sunni Brotherhood-led political forces that seemed increasingly dominant in the traditional Arab centers of power. Ironically, even as the Iranian regime was seeking to embrace the new Islamist political movements of the Arab world, domestically the Iranian population was showing strong signs of turning away from institutionalized religion and was arguably more interested in a separation of state and Islam than in their further fusion. The lesson of the Arab uprisings for Iranian citizens was not in their post-authoritarian Islamist content, but rather in the effectiveness of the simple demand for democracy and dignity that was made with such coherence and vigor: urban-based mass protests could demonstrably unseat authoritarian regimes. It is in this context that Tehran’s condemnation of the removal in July 2013 of Egypt’s President Morsi makes sense: Tehran condemned the triumph of what its foreign ministry dubbed “street democracy.” Tehran did not espouse pan-Islamist solidarity in defense of Morsi—Egypt after all had become highly critical of Iran’s role in Syria, and Morsi had just extended diplomatic recognition to the Syrian opposition. Despite the setbacks, from Tehran’s perspective these new regimes are likely to be more anti-American than anti-Iranian. In the long run, it hopes that Iran will benefit from the reshaping of the regional order: “When the Arab Spring is over, Iran could emerge with a sphere of influence stretching from western Afghanistan to the Mediterranean,” according to George Friedman, founder of Stratfor Global Intelligence. This represents “a massive shift in the balance of power in the region, with Iran moving from a fairly marginal power to potentially a dominant power” (quoted in Goodspeed 2011).

The Foreign Policy of Iran


Conclusion In taking stock of Iran’s complex foreign relations, Rouhollah Ramazani (2008, 11) has argued that “Iranian foreign policymakers have carefully taken into account their geopolitical environment at both the regional and global levels and have since 1979 been able to defend Iran’s national security interests in war and peace.” But given the rejection of isolationism by Iran’s young and the impossibility of “complete sovereign independence” in the age of globalization, policymakers are also, Ramazani concludes, “well aware of the limits of Iran’s independence.” Though this is certainly the case, arguably the Islamic republic still has not found its natural place in the community of states some three decades after its revolution. In fact, one can go further and argue that sadly, precisely because of the deep tensions and contradictions in the Iranian society and polity, it is unlikely that the Iranian political system as currently constituted will soon be able to meet the aspirations of its youthful population. The election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a neoconservative neopopulist president is a case in point (Ehteshami and Zweiri 2007). Why should such reactionary forces as this triumph? And how could they pursue policies assumed bankrupt by others around the world? While, to a large extent, Ahmadinejad’s presidency could be explained as a function of an intensely securitized Middle East and a backlash against President Khatami’s perceived “liberalism” (a dirty word in Iran’s lexicon), these do not explain the whole picture (Farhi 2009). It must be acknowledged that a sufficient number of Iranians must still have sufficiently carried the torch for the revolution’s ideals—whatever these were—in the 2005 campaign (and to an extent in 2009) to have been seduced by Ahmadinejad’s populism. No clear picture has yet emerged as to how these countervailing and competing domestic forces can reconcile themselves in the long-term interest of the country. Another lasting impression of post-1945 Iranian foreign policy must be that oil has enhanced the country’s capabilities and its potential to influence developments around it. Furthermore, global dependence on this commodity gave the Pahlavi political


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

elite opportunities to forge close alliances with outside powers and enabled them to build a substantial military capability in the 1970s, pursuing with impunity ambitious political objectives in the Middle East and beyond. But oil also imposed many restrictions on the freedom of the state and made it more dependent on oil rent and on outside forces, and therefore much more vulnerable to systemic changes. The republic has shown that the more it relied on hydrocarbons to free itself from poverty and to influence developments in the regional and international systems, the more it became vulnerable to pressures outside its control, and ultimately the more that economic considerations began to dominate its foreign policy. So while Iran has been able to mobilize domestic resources in the service of its foreign policy, the heavy reliance on hydrocarbons has influenced developments and the evolution of Iranian domestic and foreign arenas in ways not altogether expected by the elite. The most obvious consequence of excessive reliance on hydrocarbons is Iran’s vulnerability to US-orchestrated economic sanctions aimed at its oil and financial sectors. The intensity of debates about Iran’s national security, its defense priorities, and even organization of its military forces is symptomatic of a wider concern arising from the rapid changes that have occurred in western Asia since 1989. The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 was the start of a rapid process that not only ended the bipolar world in which Iran thrived but also changed beyond recognition the geopolitics of western Asia and the Arab region more broadly. US-induced regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of September 11, and growing US sensitivities about Iran’s regional role, added new layers of concern to Tehran’s anxieties. For Iran the strategic environment had rapidly changed beyond recognition, putting the United States directly in Tehran’s way. Having had only a decade to absorb the impact of the end of the bipolar order, by early 2002 Iran had to take immediate stock of a potentially even bigger upheaval in the international system—the direct and indirect costs of a post–September 11 international order in which a US presence in the area would be even greater and possibly longer-

The Foreign Policy of Iran


lasting. Despite the advantages for Iran of US-induced regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq, its leadership has been unable to see beyond the threats to Iran that the US presence can pose. In addition, the volatility introduced into the region by the Arab uprisings has emphasized Tehran’s absence of control over developments in its neighborhood, exaggerating the regime’s anxieties about its own vulnerabilities. These anxieties have in turn heightened Iran’s security fears, as shown in the intensely securitized period during and since the June 2009 presidential race. As the revolutionary regime approaches middle age, it is unlikely to soon find a sufficiently stable regional environment in which to establish its “natural” place. Internal wrangling continues and debates about the republic’s identity, priorities, and policies remain unresolved. Yet, what seems to be required today is, in the words of Mahmood Sariolghalam (2008, 431), a recognition that Iran “is compelled to join in the process of globalization” and will need to focus “on producing wealth” if it is to enjoy the “higher moral status and greater political sovereignty” that it craves. Arguably, the bottom line is ultimately about accepting that sovereignty is increasingly to be adapted to an intrusive and interdependent world in which prosperity is a function of interaction rather than isolation, and in which identity is a variable to be shared rather than given an exclusive value. This is the lesson to be learned by Ahmadinejad’s successors as they come to terms with the legacy of the neoconservatives. We must acknowledge the enduring significance of agency, and most notably that of the presidency, in Iran’s overbureaucratized political system. What the presidencies of Khatami and Ahmadinejad highlight is that, despite the perception that the Leader controls the levers of power, the president and his executive set the tone and tenure of the country’s foreign relations, and indeed the manner of its interactions. The presidents are the “filters” for Iran’s international relations. The election of Hassan Rouhani may therefore signal yet another recalculation of Iran’s place in the world that will alter its foreign policy strategy.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Notes 1. Data on hydrocarbon income and foreign direct investment come from the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Middle East Economic Digest and World Bank Data, the database of the World Bank. 2. In May 2003, for example, a large group of parliamentarians again called for the restoration of relations with the United States. In an open letter, signed by 153 deputies in the 290-seat Majlis and read aloud in the chamber, the parliamentarians stated that Iran was in “a critical situation” and that, “following the installation of American forces in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq, the threat has arrived at our borders.” Daily Telegraph, May 9, 2003. 3. Elements of both camps also argued that Tehran would be in an exceptionally weak bargaining position if it suddenly proposed talks at the height of US influence in the region. Mardom Salari, April 19, 2003. 4. Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), September 12, 2001. 5. Reports by Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), September 12, 2001. 6. RFE/RL Iran Report, September 24, 2001. 7. Tehran Times, July 8, 2013. 8. According to some Arab sources, “The yellowed Iranian birth certificates (issued by Iranian consulates in Karbala and other cities) bear witness to the fact that those Shia who dream of ruling Iraq are more Iranian than Iraqi.” Daily Star, March 24, 2003. 9. The Quietist tradition firmly believes in the separation between politics and religion and between religious and political authority. 10. “Hamas 2010 Budget Mainly ‘Foreign Aid’ from Iran,” World Tribune, January 5, 2011.

11 The Foreign Policy of Israel Clive Jones

Old certainties die hard. Nowhere was this truism more readily apparent than in analyzing Israel’s perceptions of and reaction to the widespread political turmoil that convulsed its Arab neighbors from late 2010 onward. When in August 2011 a young Egyptian, Ahmed al-Shahat, scaled the exterior of the Israeli embassy in Cairo and removed the Star of David, replacing it with a Palestinian flag, this only demonstrated to many in Israel that the calls for democratic change across the Middle East masked a regional irredentism—both religious and national— implacable in its hostility toward the Jewish state (Shavit 2011). When combined with the civil war in Syria, the tensions with Iran over the intent, purpose, and scope of its nuclear program, and Tehran’s links to and support for Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, the logic of realism in explaining and understanding the conduct of Israeli foreign policy was indeed compelling. Yet when set against the background of the Arab Spring and regional tension with Iran, the realist prism was found wanting in explaining the region’s great changes to an Israeli state and society where the conduct of foreign policy was always beholden to the demands of national security. Accordingly, Israel faced a diplomatic, strategic, and political upheaval across several fronts, but with seemingly few diplomatic assets by which it could influ289


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

ence events. Even the efficacy of the special relationship with Washington seemed possibly less than the sum of its parts. Undoubtedly, the close diplomatic and military ties would endure for some time, but the apparent unwillingness and indeed inability of Washington to use its leverage to help shape a regional environment more benign to Israeli interests was a potent reminder to decisionmakers in Jerusalem that the power of the United States across the Middle East was finite (Inbar 2012, 41–42). Nowhere was this more apparent than in the increasingly effective use of soft power by a range of international advocacy groups and associations that, by harnessing the global revolutionary power of the social media, increasingly waged an effective campaign against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and its suffocating control of the Gaza Strip. Harnessing the tools of the social media to the tools of international legal redress—most notably the United Nations General Assembly—those who advocated a global campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel succeeded in presenting an unflattering image of the Jewish state across much of Europe and the West that threatened longer-term political damage to Israeli foreign relations.1 This was a challenge that found decisionmakers in Jerusalem, with their traditional emphasis on the use of hard power, wanting. Though Israel’s external security concerns were certainly real and in some cases enduring—to think otherwise would be to ignore the ongoing regional animosity, much of it blind, toward the Jewish state—such animosity all too often held in abeyance the debate in Israel over the exact territory to be claimed as part of the Jewish sovereign state. Thus and despite the promise of the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993, Israel continued its domination of the physical and political space of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a dominance that not only was incongruent with Israel’s democratic tradition but also exposed deep rifts in a society where demographic trends suggest a growing shift toward the right and, with it, the irresistible rise of a particular ethno-religious discourse. Analysis of Israeli foreign policy must thus take account not only of national security but equally of competing visions within Zionism over the exact borders—physical as well as moral—to be claimed by the Jewish state. Often these debates remained

The Foreign Policy of Israel


wrapped in the language of national security, but pressure groups, public and global opinion, as well as the more traditional actors associated with foreign policy formulation and implementation, influenced Israel’s external relations in ways that were not always captured so easily by the parsimonious reductionism associated with realism. Foreign Policy Determinants Global Systemic Level

Given Israel’s involvement in seven major conventional military conflicts since its establishment in 1948 (in addition to innumerable border clashes of varying intensity), its foreign policy and foreign policy making cannot be divorced from the wider conduct of national security. Maintaining a powerful military and capable yet flexible intelligence services, while also ensuring strong ties with a strong patron—the United States—are enduring themes in Israel’s search for security. It is an approach determined by the logic of a security dilemma particular to a state that for much of its history lacked substantial human resources, possessed little strategic depth, and, to date, has never been part of a formal regional alliance. Even two decades after the Oslo Accords and the formal peace treaty signed between Israel and Jordan in 1994, the view of Robert Bowker (1996) that “peace through strength” strategies have a strong emotional and cultural appeal continues to capture the essence of Israeli statecraft. In short, it would appear that Israel continues to seek security from other states (at least in the Middle East), rather than with them. With foreign policy being an adjunct of national security, all Israeli governments since the 1960s have placed a premium on maintaining the “special relationship” with the United States. In terms readily identified with structural realism, this relationship can be explained in terms of “bandwagoning,” the idea that states in an international system defined as anarchic seek to optimize their position through a matrix of alliances with other, usually stronger states. Israel has certainly been the major beneficiary of Washington’s munificence in this regard, with the total value of economic and military aid received from the United States between 1948


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

and 1996 estimated to have totaled $65 billion (Bar-Simon Tov 1998, 231). Such aid would suggest a dependency relationship and certainly one in which foreign policy actions remain circumscribed by the stronger power. Such material largesse, however, fails to describe a relationship that, informed by hard and soft variables, has often led to accusations that the Israeli tail wags the American dog. It is a view that drew the critical attention of two realist scholars, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (2008), who argued that the policy of the United States toward the Middle East, including Israel, should be based on the national interest alone. Indeed, they put forward the view that the nature and scope of ties with Israel had, over a number of years, hampered rather than helped Washington in achieving its wider regional goals, goals that all too often had been beholden to the power exercised by pro-Israel lobbying groups on Capitol Hill. Mearsheimer and Walt were accused of exaggerating their case. However effective organizations such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other pro-Israel groups might be in lobbying efforts in both houses of Congress, such influence did not necessarily extend to the executive branch of the US government. To cite but one example, despite the best efforts of such lobby groups to push the White House toward a more confrontational approach to Iran over the latter’s nuclear program, the Barack Obama administration proved resistant to such pressures, much to the chagrin of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Still, ties between Washington and Jerusalem hardly conform to a patron-client relationship in which the external actions of Israel remain subservient to Washington’s diktats. While Israel has long been the main beneficiary of Washington’s financial and military largesse, the “special” nature of the relationship denies efficacy to either a realist or indeed a structuralist account of such ties, based as they are on both hard and soft variables. Notwithstanding the views of Walt and Mearsheimer, the hard variables have been defined by shared strategic interests, with the important caveat that, to date, such interests have never been enshrined in a formal defense pact. The soft variables include identification of Israel with democratic, Western values, although such an identification, given the increasing influence that religion plays in Israeli politics, and

The Foreign Policy of Israel


given Israel’s continued occupation and settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, has become increasingly tarnished. Where Israel has believed its core security interests to be at stake, however, it has taken unilateral action that has not always accorded easily with the wider interests of the United States. Israel’s air attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981 remains a clear case in point. A similar operation that destroyed the Al Kibar nuclear facility in Syria in September 2007, however, did enjoy the tacit indulgence if not outright support of President George W. Bush, with his hostility to the regime of Bashar alAssad and Syria’s support for al-Qaeda in Iraq being enough to secure his consent (Makovsky 2012, 37). Even so, successive US administrations have voiced their disapproval over the continued expansion of Israeli settlement activity across the occupied territories, a policy long regarded in Washington as detrimental not only to its own regional interests but equally to the security interests and democratic credentials of Israel itself (Waxman 2012, 74–75). Despite the periodic bouts of tension that can and do surface between Washington and Jerusalem, however, Israel’s relationship with the United States remains integral to its foreign and security policy. Equally, as mentioned, this is not a patron-client relationship, for despite the huge inflows of US economic support and military largesse to the Jewish state, a combination of soft and hard variables have insulated Israel from the type of great power leverage usually associated with core-periphery relations in the international system. Moreover, the true value of annual aid given to Israel by the United States—some $3 billion under the terms and conditions of the peace treaty signed with Egypt in 1979—is symbolic rather than financial, particularly when set against the success of Israel’s high-technology sector, which has driven growth rates that have been the envy of most European states. For example, between 2009 and 2013, Israel’s economy, in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), grew by an average of just over 3 percent annually, and in the first six months of 2012 its global exports totaled $24.4 billion (Reed 2013). This symbolism is underpinned further when account is taken of Israel’s entry into the global energy market as it began to


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

develop the potential of the Leviathan gas field, discovered some 90 miles off its coastline in 2010 (Craig and Jones 2013, 1–14). For Jerusalem, therefore, the true value of its relationship with Washington remains configured around the political and military reassurance that the United States provides. At a time when the contours of the regional system remained opaque and the strategic challenges facing Israel continued to be seen in terms of hard security, this was a relationship regarded by senior security officials and politicians in Israel as integral to the absolute security of the Jewish state.2 Regional System

Writing in 1995, the grand elder statesman of Israel, Shimon Peres (1995, 358), opined that he hoped that the Oslo Accords presaged the emergence of a new regional order whose multilateral dynamic would allow “people, goods and services to move freely from place to place.” Events across the region thereafter proved otherwise. The collapse of the Oslo process, in which Israeli intransigence over meaningful territorial compromise played no small part, presaged the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada, a bloody internecine conflict in which over 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians were killed between 2000 and 2005. Meanwhile, Israel’s short but bloody border war against the Iranianbacked Hizbollah in southern Lebanon in the summer of 2006 highlighted what had in fact been a discernible trend in Israel’s regional security environment for over two decades: the role that nonstate or substate actors had come to play in challenging Israel’s security interests. Such challenges were regarded as existential, not least because the front line no longer equated to a conventional battlefield. The threat to civilians elicited a harsh military response posture meant to reestablish a deterrent capability against groups whose very ideological base remained anathema to the idea of a Jewish state in a predominantly Arab and Muslim Middle East. Amid the carnage of the al-Aqsa intifada, for example, Lieutenant-General Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s chief of staff at the time, summed up the dominant national mood when he opined that “there has not been a more important confrontation since the [1948] War of Independence” (quoted in Shavit 2002), a view that

The Foreign Policy of Israel


captured the national feeling that the Israel-Palestine conflict had now moved beyond a clash of nationalisms. Rather, the conflagration was now an existential struggle against Islamist-inspired violence—notably from Hizbollah and the Palestinian Hamas in the Gaza Strip and supported by Tehran—that would never be satiated by territorial compromise, however generous. This attitude regarding the Islamist “Other” has, since the early 1990s increasingly shaped Israeli attitudes toward the regional system, becoming even more pronounced in the wake of the Arab Spring. For nearly forty years, Israel’s approach toward regional security was based on maintaining a status quo that had long served its wider security interests across the Middle East. Indeed, considerable comfort was drawn from the stability of autocratic regimes whose public support for the Palestinian cause was never matched by practical deeds. Equally, from 1948 onward and in the face of widespread regional animosity, Israel attempted to both physically outflank the Arab nationalist consensus and fragment Arab solidarity by forging covert military and political ties with religious and sectarian communities in Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon, and North Yemen who were seeking to either usurp or break away from a dominant state dispensation (Jones 2013, 2). The establishment of diplomatic ties with Egypt in 1979 and later with Jordan in 1994 were thus seen in Israel as real diplomatic triumphs, not only bolstering the security of the state but equally serving as vindication of a regional strategy that valued bilateral agreements over multilateral treaties. While Israel’s ties with Egypt and Jordan have proven durable if hardly warm, they had relatively little bearing on Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory. Israelis can rightly point to examples of territorial retrenchment, not least from Lebanon in 2000 and the Gaza Strip in 2005—withdrawals that have in the eyes of many Israelis helped rather than hindered the popular rise of Hamas and Hizbollah. Even so, Israeli policy toward the Palestinians and the wider Arab world was always conducted with the sure knowledge that in Washington, Israel had an influential ally that held sway across the region. Israel’s posture toward perceived regional threats includes, despite the official denials, not only the possession of a nuclear weapons capability but also the maintenance of an offensive-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

minded defense posture with regard to the use of conventional forces, centered on the maintenance of aerial superiority. Originally, this posture was dictated by Israel’s lack of strategic depth, requiring the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to prosecute any conflict on the soil of its enemies. The result was a tendency not just toward preemptive military action, as witnessed in the June 1967 war but also increasingly toward preventive military strikes. The previously mentioned attacks on Osirak and Al Kibar fall into this category, which also includes, more controversially, the bloody removal of key individuals from insurgent organizations violently opposed to the Jewish state. Such “elite targeting” operations have ranged from the bombing of the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Tunis in 1985 to the killing of senior Hamas officials during the al-Aqsa intifada, to what many detected as Israel’s hand behind the assassination of Imad Mugniyeh in Damascus, widely seen as the military head of Hizbollah, in February 2008. This preemptive and preventive military action has even extended to what has been termed “politicide”; for example, in June 1982 the IDF attempted to physically eradicate the PLO as an effective symbol of Palestinian nationalism (Rodman 1995; van Crevald 1998). Whether these operations have in fact enhanced Israeli security remains a moot point. There is evidence to suggest, for example, that the physical price exacted from the Palestinian militant groups, most notably against Hamas, was critical in deciding the outcome of the al-Aqsa intifada in Israel’s favor by 2005 (Amidror 2010). Equally important, however, senior Israeli security officials, most notably from the Shin Bet, have warned that the use of the military can never act as the ultimate panacea toward reaching a longer-term political settlement with the Palestinians (Moreh 2013). Yet in a society where external threats have long been used to inform competing ideological positions on the sagacity or otherwise of territorial compromise, substantive moves forward since the collapse of the Oslo process toward a two-state solution have been noteworthy given the conspicuous absence of such threats. Israel’s immediate strategic horizons, however, were dominated by the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran and a leadership in

The Foreign Policy of Israel


Tehran whose worldview was thought to be shaped by an enduring hostility toward the very idea of Zionism. At a popular level, the virulently anti-Semitic rhetoric of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, coupled with his open denial of the Holocaust, provoked an unprecedented level of debate in Israel over whether the IDF could and should launch a preventive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Reliable reports suggested that such a strike was close to being launched in 2010 (Cohen 2012), and that only the outright opposition of senior military figures stayed the hands of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his defense secretary at the time, Ehud Barak.3 Whatever the scale of its nuclear capability, Israel has done little to disguise the existence of that capability. Reliable estimates put the number of nuclear warheads in Israel’s possession at over 200, and it has the capability to deliver this ordnance by plane, from land-based missiles, and, crucially, from Harpoon cruise missiles aboard four German-built Dolphin-class submarines (Bergman 2012). In effect, Israel has developed a warhead-delivery triad, enhancing its deterrent capability across the Arab world and indeed the wider Muslim world. Amid the uncertainty of a regional system in a state of flux, Israel’s “nuclear ambiguity,” combined with its economic and other technological capabilities, very much continues to sustain its outright military hegemony across the region. Indeed, the shift among many Arab elites toward formal acceptance of the presence of Israel, and in the cases of Egypt, the PLO, and Jordan, formal recognition of the statehood of Israel, would have been impossible without the development of such capabilities. Even so, the success of the Jewish state in ensuring its survival amid the animosity of its surrounding neighbors should not obscure the ongoing debates, centered on the physical, ideological, and moral boundaries of the Jewish state, that have exercised the most profound influence on the scope and direction of Israeli foreign policy. State Formation and Identity

The immediate strategic threat that Israel faced between 1948 and 1973 held in abeyance debates over the exact territory to be


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

claimed as part of a sovereign Jewish state. The immediate needs of maintaining a strong military, absorbing new immigrants from across the Jewish diaspora, and settling the more remote regions of the newly established state required large-scale sacrifices on the part of Israelis, most notably heavy rates of taxation on wages and consumer goods as well as long periods of military service. In recompense, Israelis were offered the cushion of a welfare system including free education and health care. This was the indigenous expression of statism, or mamlachtiyut. The demands of this indigenous statism offset, but never wholly usurped, the divisive internal debates over the very nature of Zionism as an ideological project. While all Israeli governments regarded the cease-fire lines of 1948–1949—more commonly known as the Green Line—as militarily indefensible, Zionism as an ideological movement had long been marked by bitter disagreement over the exact nature of the boundaries of the state to be claimed, and on what basis. While there was consensus that retention of the territories captured during the June 1967 war was justified on strategic grounds and in the absence of peace overtures from surrounding Arab states, a confluence of interest emerged between revisionist Zionists who believed in the unity of Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) on historical grounds, and religious nationalists who regarded the capture and settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in particular in messianic terms (Pedahzur 2012). The messianic meaning placed on the maintenance and expansion of Judaic sovereignty over the occupied territories by settler organizations such as Gush Emunim exposed a clear bifurcation in Israel’s claim to be both a Jewish state and a democratic state. Whatever physical security that control over the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights bought, the price paid in terms of Israel’s democratic credentials was high. Sudden absorption of Palestinians from these areas, who by 2010 numbered more than 2 million persons, clearly had the potential to dilute the Jewish Zionist character of the state were Israel to formally annex the occupied territories or confer full Israeli citizenship on the inhabitants of those territories (Sofer 2001, 17). The struggle to square this particular circle without, in the process, exposing deep rifts in

The Foreign Policy of Israel


a society in which more than 400,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as of 2014, has dominated Israel’s approach toward dealing with the Palestinians and in turn has influenced wider policy toward the Arab world. Israelis do of course recognize the longer-term benefits to be had from meaningful peace negotiations with the Palestinians, but context here is all-important. As mentioned previously, memories still remain raw in Israel over the al-Aqsa intifada, which resulted in over 1,000 deaths, a third of them through suicide bombings (Morag 2005, 310). Seen in existential terms and taken in conjunction with the 2006 war on Lebanon, this was enough to persuade many Israelis, most notably secular, middle-class Israelis who had supported the Oslo peace process, of the atavistic nature of Islam and Islamism. Accordingly, political allegiances across Israel after 2000 moved firmly to the center-right (Pedahzur 2012, 174–175). Despite the myriad of parties across Israel’s political spectrum, it is easier to conceive of politics across the Jewish state as a competition among ethno-nationalist and state-liberal discourses (“liberal” here being defined as economic rather than political), with those parties and groups advocating a more inclusive form of citizenship for all Israelis—Arab and Jew alike—increasingly being pushed to the margins (Olesker 2011). The electoral success of the Yisrael Beiteinu party is a case in point. A key coalition member of the Netanyahu government between 2009 and 2013, the party, through its hard-line rhetoric toward Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular, attracted support from, among others, supporters of the Likud party, Israelis associated with the settler movement, and large numbers of Russian immigrants to Israel, all of whom questioned the efficacy of withdrawal from the occupied territories (Jones 2009, 20–34). Popular sentiment is therefore in no mood to support inclusive compromises. When combined with a widely held perception that Prime Minister Netanyahu has steered the country through the worst of the global economic storm while ensuring the security of the state (despite the mass social protests over growing wealth disparities across Israel in the summer of 2011), the dominance of the center-right over the Israeli political landscape seems ensured. The success of


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

the pro-settler party Habayit Hayehudi in the January 2013 elections would certainly appear to bear this out. Foreign Policy Role

In his seminal study The Foreign Policy System of Israel, written more than four decades ago, Michael Brecher (1972, 229) described the dominant Jewish character of the state as the prism through which all foreign policy decisions were made. He declared that “for Israel’s high policy elite, as for the entire society, there is a primordial and pre-eminent aspect of the political culture—its Jewishness: this pervades thought, feeling, belief and behavior in the political realm.” Israel remains one of the few states worldwide to encourage immigration on ideological grounds alone, rooted in the decimation of European Jewry during World War II, irrespective of constraints imposed by resources or geographical space. Because of the emotive appeal of fulfilling the highest ideal of Zionism, the state continues to actively promote the value of aliyah (migration to Israel) throughout the Jewish diaspora and among governments able to facilitate Jewish immigration to Israel. Accordingly, such activity has become a foreign policy value rather than just another foreign policy objective. Brecher noted that David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, regarded the population of the state of Israel and those Jews living in what was termed galut (exile or the diaspora) as indivisible. In perhaps the most explicit declaration of the Jewish state’s raison d’être, Ben-Gurion declared that “the two groups are interdependent. The future of Israel—its security, its welfare, and its capacity to fulfill its historic mission—depends on world Jewry. And the future of world Jewry depends on the survival of Israel” (quoted in Brecher 1972, 232). It is this claim to be the protector of heterogeneous Jewish communities worldwide, irrespective of their national allegiance, that is perhaps unique to Israel in the construction of its national identity. Israel has gone to extraordinary lengths to rescue diaspora communities deemed to be under threat. The airlift of 35,000 Jews from Yemen between May 1948 and November 1949 provided a template for similar

The Foreign Policy of Israel


operations involving Ethiopian Jewry in 1984 and 1991 (Ronen 2013, 153–168). In more recent times, some 1,000 Jews were smuggled out of Sarajevo in 1994 by representatives of the Jewish Agency and the external Israeli intelligence agency Mossad during the Bosnian war (Traynor 1994). Such actions are, according to Israeli journalist and historian Tom Segev (1994, 514), entirely consonant with the core belief of Zionism that “Jews can live in security and with full equal rights only in their own country and that they therefore must have an autonomous and sovereign state, strong enough to defend its existence.” The irony for Segev, however, is that given the tensions that have long surrounded the state of Israel, far safer places now exist elsewhere in the world for Jews to live. This observation aside, however, the culture of national security remains the compass around which foreign policy is oriented. Maintenance of a powerful military and strong ties with Washington have long been the enduring themes of Israel’s search for security. This in turn has given the military a powerful and even prevailing role in Israeli society. Some would consider this tendency to view organized violence or its very threat as the solution to political problems as being the defining characteristic that has so marked the development of Israel as both a state and a society. Viewing the Arab world through the sight of a gun might appear simplistic, but it remains a powerful legacy derived from “a nation in arms,” the result of which, Uri Ben Eliezer (1997, 360) argues, has constrained alternative avenues of foreign policy toward the region and indeed the means of pursuing them. Foreign Policy Making The Policymaking Elite

Determining what constitutes the national interest, and indeed the core beliefs of Zionism, remains a vexed question. In the case of Israel, core values—the need to secure the Jewish state against external threat while preserving a Jewish majority internally— provide a framework in which the process of inductive reasoning determines the national interest. As such, ideological, pragmatic,


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

and geostrategic dispositions of key decisionmakers remain important variables in determining policy preferences. In particular, the emphasis on hard strategic concerns stems in no small part from the individual background of those charged with maintenance of Israel’s national security, with key decisionmakers having been “socialized in the defense establishment” (Inbar 1997, 63). Such socialization is best personified by the figure of Yitzhak Rabin, who held the portfolios of prime minister and defense minister twice each, having already served as IDF chief of staff and Israel’s ambassador to Washington. Other key decisionmakers steeped in the ethos of Israel’s military culture have included Yigal Yadin, Ezer Weizmann, Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Barak, all former generals who at one time or another occupied the portfolios of prime minister, foreign affairs, and defense. This process of socialization has proven to be problematic, however, to ministers lacking perceived grounding in or experience with security issues. The permissive environment invoked by the need to ensure national security allowed Ariel Sharon, as Israeli defense minister in 1982, to manipulate both cabinet opinion and Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who lacked his defense minister’s military experience, to authorize Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. Similarly, during the 2006 war on Lebanon, the defense minister, Amir Peretz, who as the former head of the trade union federation, Histradut, was more accustomed to dealing with labor issues, proved hopelessly out of his depth when forced to oversee Israel’s military response to Hizbollah’s initial border provocation. Given this process of socialization, it is not surprising that foreign policy in Israel has been viewed as complementing, rather than determining, the value placed on ensuring the maintenance of Israel’s military superiority. For example, Israel’s Knesset, through a committee system based on the Westminster model, convenes a cross-party forum on both foreign affairs and defense combined, rather than treating them as distinct areas. However, the influence that such committees have on preference formation in foreign policy remains limited. Indeed, once the horse-trading involved in the formation of a coalition government has been

The Foreign Policy of Israel


completed, the Knesset remains circumscribed from any real input into the decisionmaking process. Foreign policy decisionmaking thus remains a restricted process in Israel, and one in which strong personalities can emasculate the role of bureaucracies charged with formulating and implementing foreign policy. David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, and Yitzhak Rabin based their leadership in government on highly stratified lines, with relatively few people being party to broad policy formulation beyond their respective “kitchen” cabinets. The seemingly ever-diminishing role played by the foreign ministry remains a case in point. In the competition for influence within the Israeli cabinet, the views of the foreign ministry have carried less weight than the views expressed by either the office of the prime minister or the defense ministry. Moreover, prime ministers have often combined the duties of their primary office with that of foreign minister, denying sufficient representation of foreign ministry views on policymaking at the cabinet level. Accordingly, the foreign ministry has all too often been left to deal with issues of presentation rather than substance. Indeed, Aharon Klieman (2013) has suggested that under successive Israeli governments, the role of the foreign ministry has become so circumscribed in the conduct of external affairs under successive governments that serious consideration should be given to its total dissolution. By contrast, the intelligence services hold considerable sway in defining Israel’s key foreign policy interests, a position that has led to a process of cognitive dissonance whereby alternative avenues of diplomacy have been downgraded. Three main agencies exist in Israel military intelligence: the Military Intelligence Directorate (Agaf Modi’in, or Aman), the Institute for Intelligence and Special Duties (Mossad), and the General Security Service (Shabak). Of these, Aman carries the most weight, with the director of military intelligence and the head of Aman’s assessment division serving as intelligence advisers to the Israeli cabinet (Bar-Joseph 2009, 508–511). They remain subordinate to the minister of defense, who is also chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, and who attends all cabinet meetings. Mossad and Shabak operate under the auspices of the office of the prime minister and


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

coordinate intelligence-gathering and assessment with Aman through the Varash committee, which comprises the chiefs of the intelligence services. Yet assessing the objectivity of intelligence assessments can prove problematic. On becoming prime minister in 1996, Netanyahu believed that the heads of the intelligence services, as appointees of the previous Rabin/Peres government, had become politicized into an uncritical acceptance of the Oslo peace process and thus “tended to ignore military intelligence, Mossad and [Shabak] warnings that the likelihood of war increased as the peace process moved toward a dead end” (BarJoseph 1998, 162). Suspicions of political bias in formulating policy preferences are not new to a state where ideological disposition has influenced decisionmaking. Accordingly, much debate surrounded the establishment by Netanyahu, in his first term of office, of the National Security Council (since renamed the National Security Staff [NSS]), based on the US model. Its influence, however, has remained circumscribed. While it is supposed to act as a forum for balanced assessment of foreign policy aims and objectives, it has remained very much a “Cinderella service,” with the other intelligence organizations often proving reluctant to share information lest it diminish their influence or challenge accepted views (Freilich 2006, 641–642). Moreover, the influence of the NSS over decisionmaking has often been dependent on the personal relations between its head and the prime minister. When these relations sour, as happened between Netanyahu and the former head of the NSS, Uzi Arad, its ability to influence policy is severely curtailed. This, coupled with a high turnover of staff, not least among senior personnel, has long hampered the ability of the NSS to realize any long-term tangible influence over foreign policy decisionmaking.4 Policymaking

If bureaucracies and personalities dealing with national security dominate Israel’s actual foreign policy decisionmaking process, the actual arena in which that process operates has been influenced heavily by pressure groups and grassroots activists repre-

The Foreign Policy of Israel


senting a distinct ideological, ethnic, and religious outlook associated with policy toward the occupied territories. Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful), formed in 1974, became the most highprofile of such groups. Indeed, between 1977 and 1983, Gush Emunim enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the government of Menachem Begin. As such, settlements associated with Gush Emunim were accorded the same status as kibbutzim—collective farms based on socialist principles that had helped establish a Jewish presence across pre-state Palestine. This allowed public money to be used in the process of settlement construction in the occupied territories while suggesting that Gush Emunim’s adherents were now seen officially as the true inheritors of the pioneering ideals behind Zionism. In 1980, Yesha (Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza), an umbrella organization representing all settlements and settlers in the occupied territories, was formed. Gush Emunim has long since fragmented, but Yesha has grown more influential in terms of the direct influence it can exert on government policy toward the occupied territories. Several of its members have sat in the Knesset representing parties that are ideologically committed to settlement expansion, including Tehiya and Mafdal and, more recently, Yisrael Beiteinu, Habayit Hayehudi, and the more right-wing faction of the Likud party. Their success can be measured in the number of Jewish settlers—numbers range from 350,000 to 500,000—living across the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. By contrast, concerns over the debilitating impact of the occupation on Israel’s political culture and social cohesion led to the emergence of a plethora of peace groups across Israel from the 1970s onward, the most notable and enduring being Shalom Achshav (Peace Now). The emergence of such organizations marked a broader evolution away from the traditional demands of self-sacrifice incumbent within the original concept of mamlachtiyut. But equally, the center-right drift of Israeli public opinion in the aftermath of the al-Aqsa intifada and the 2006 war on Lebanon have since highlighted the limitations that such organizations now face. Even the Labor Party, long regarded as sympathetic to the broad aims of Shalom Achshav and its championing of a two-state solution, deliberately avoided


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

discussing the need for territorial compromise with the Palestinians in the run-up to the 2013 elections, preferring instead to concentrate on the growing wealth disparities across Israeli society.

Foreign Policy Behavior Israel’s recent foreign policy behavior has responded to two current changes in its environment, the globalization of discourse regarding Israel’s conduct toward the Palestinians and the Arab uprisings. The Soft Power Struggle over Palestine

If internal opposition in Israel to continued settlement expansion has been neutered by a broad right-wing drift across the political spectrum over two decades, the same cannot be said for the growing use of global soft power that has become increasingly effective in challenging Israel across a range of issues. Most notable has been the loose conglomeration of pro-Palestinian groups, human rights activists, trade unionists, and other protest groups who, across the globe, have targeted Israeli institutions, business interests, as well as individuals in what has become known as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Across university campuses in North America as well as Europe, it is not unusual for those who support the BDS agenda to hold an annual “Israel apartheid week,” often replete with models of the separation fence or security barrier that have now come to act as a wider symbolic totem of Israel’s repression of Palestinian national rights (Slavin 2010). To be sure, many of those who support the BDS campaign— active or otherwise—oppose the very idea of any Jewish polity in the Middle East, while, as many Israelis point out, the anti-Zionism of some groups and individual protesters associated with the BDS serves to mask a more latent anti-Semitism. But as Barbara Slavin (2010, 24) has noted, unless Israel is prepared to make meaningful steps toward a two-state solution with the Palestinians and do more toward ensuring the civic and social integration of its own Palestin-

The Foreign Policy of Israel


ian citizens, then “hostility toward Israel will grow in the West, particularly in Europe, and Israel will increasingly be seen as a strategic burden by its once crucial ally, the United States.” Israel, however, has been slow to realize the impact of its policies toward the Palestinians on its international standing. While rejecting outright any comparison with the old apartheid regime in South Africa, the fact that the nomenclature of racist separation has, in some quarters at least, become an accepted part of any narrative dealing with Israel, demonstrates how the very legitimacy of the state has become the subject of public debate. This public debate, moreover, is international, aided and abetted by global communications networks through which, increasingly, the picture can and does paint a thousand words (Blatman 2011). In this new realm of soft power as public diplomacy, Israel has been a relatively slow learner. Indeed, while Israel’s political elite disparage the hope of BDS campaigners that they can bring Israel’s economy to its knees, for Daniella Peled (2013) this misses the point. While this might be a longer-term aim, BDS is about damaging Israel’s global standing and has been remarkably effective. As Peled notes, “BDS is non-violent and legal, a classic example of civil society in action to which there is no military response.” Given that the ideal means to counter the activities lies with a foreign ministry that sees itself as increasingly disenfranchised from its core business of diplomacy, the effectiveness, let alone credibility, of any response from Israel outside the immediate environs of pro-Israel groups in the West has often appeared incoherent and certainly less than the sum of its parts. There is a tendency in Jerusalem to dismiss the BDS as a lunatic fringe, but the same cannot be said for the growing chill in relations with the European Union, by far the largest export market for Israeli goods and services. Israel has for nearly two decades enjoyed privileged access to the EU, with divisions among the member states themselves—some historically based, others political—negating a unified political position that would allow Brussels to exact leverage over Israel regarding progress toward a two-state solution. But the summer of 2013 marked a discernible shift in the European stance, with the European Commission publishing explicit guidelines, effective from 2014, that prohibit EU agencies from funding Israeli enterprises or busi-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

nesses with links to settlements across the West Bank. Noting that Jerusalem had treated the EU with contempt for far too long, Israeli journalist and commentator Ilana Bet-El (2013) observed that Benjamin Netanyahu, who served as Israel’s ambassador to the UN, still insists on seeing the EU as a politically irrelevant body, and focusing on individual policies towards member states, especially Germany and Britain, as if they were world powers . . . in the hope that they will veto any anti-Israel motion, just as the United States does in the UN. . . . Netanyahu is ignoring the need for constant communication with the EU as a representative body.

The failure to fully appreciate this shift in the focus of power away from the individual member states and toward Brussels has also been replicated in the field of international law and its use to scrutinize the legality (and justice) of Israeli military operations in the occupied territories. The most notable (and perhaps most controversial) of these investigation has been the United Nations inquiry, under former South African judge Richard Goldstone, into the conduct of IDF operations in the Gaza Strip—specifically Operation Cast Lead—in the winter of 2008–2009. Designed to eradicate rocket attacks into southern Israel and impose a battlefield decision on Hamas, the operation led to the deaths of more than 500 Palestinians, with minimal loss of Israeli life, resulting in accusations, at best, of a disproportionate use of force by the IDF and, at worst, that actual war crimes had been committed by the Israeli forces (Craig 2013, 181–182). Moreover, in states such as Belgium and the United Kingdom, pro-Palestinian groups used existing national laws to petition relative minor courts for arrest warrants to be issued against serving and retired senior IDF officers for alleged war crimes or human rights abuses in the occupied territories. In the case of one such officer, retired general Doron Almog, only a hurried message from the Israeli embassy in London to an El Al plane at Heathrow airport prevented his arrest as he was about to disembark (Craig 2013, 125). That Israel is being held to a higher standard of behavior when compared to its neighbors undoubtedly rankles with Israelis

The Foreign Policy of Israel


who point to a democratic system, a free press, an independent judiciary, and a vibrant civil society that champions a range of domestic and regional causes, including gay rights, in a region known for its social conservatism. But it also misses the point, not least because the true comparison lies not against the dysfunctional political systems of Israel’s neighbors but against the vision and hopes set by the founders of the state, who saw Israel as a “light unto the nations” (Slavin 2010, 24–25). Instead, Israeli foreign policy appears increasingly to conflate with the “Iron Wall” of revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who held that, in the face of the implacable animosity of a hostile Arab and Islamic Middle East, separation remains the best guarantor of Israeli security. Physical evidence certainly bears out this trend. The security barrier in the West Bank—built initially to prevent suicide bombers, in particular, from visiting carnage on Israel’s densely populated coastal strip—has become the progenitor of a new barrier: a security fence of some 140 miles in length being constructed by the IDF along the border with Egypt, despite more than thirty years of peace between Jerusalem and Cairo. Known as the “Hourglass Project,” this is Israel’s response to what it sees as a breakdown in governance in the Sinai (Pelham 2012). In terms of Israel’s economy, its trade with its Arab neighbors accounts for less than 5 percent of its GDP, a conspicuously small investment given the physical as well as economic momentum toward greater integration and understanding of the Arab world. Certainly, this cuts both ways—Egyptians and Jordanians are hardly known for their desire to visit the Jewish state. But as Daniel Levy (2011) argues, these physical barriers demonstrate a striking lack of “intellectual, social and cultural curiosity,” leaving Israel ill-equipped to “interpret its immediate surroundings.” This direction and tone in Israel’s foreign policy has increasingly come to inform opinion in Washington. Former US defense secretary Leon Panetta, observing what he regarded as the dangers of Israel’s increasing isolation amid the regional upheaval inspired by the Arab Spring, noted that there’s not much question in my mind that they [Israel] maintain that [military] edge, but the question you have to ask: is it


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

enough to maintain a military edge if you’re isolating yourself in the diplomatic arena? Real security can only be achieved by both a strong diplomatic effort as well as a strong effort to project your military strength. . . . It is not a good situation for Israel to become increasingly isolated. And that’s what’s happening. (quoted in Benari 2011)

Responding to the Arab Spring

Old certainties no longer necessarily held true in the wake of the Arab Spring. The uprisings certainly challenged the assumption long held in Jerusalem of an Arab state system that, while hardly benign toward the Jewish state, was ruled by autocrats whose hostility toward Israel was designed more to satiate domestic audiences. While the removal of the short-lived government of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt and its replacement with a military regime in Cairo in 2013 was welcomed in Jerusalem, this “return to the past” could not disguise the terminal decline of Arab autocratic rule—the devils that Israel has always known. To be sure, states would continue to dominate the regional system, but it was the very character of those states that now concerned the Israelis. Here it is crucially important to appreciate the extent to which the experience of the al-Aqsa intifada marked the collective Israeli psyche with a popular understanding of all Islamist movements as unyielding in their outright hostility to the very idea of a Jewish state (Jones 2010, 127–130). Although tantamount to a reductionism that denies agency to context and choice in how a multitude of parties and groups who draw inspiration from Islamic precepts can and do operate, the view of Prime Minister Netanyahu that the essential dynamic of the Arab Spring was an “Islamic, anti-western, antiliberal, undemocratic wave,” a view he expressed before the Knesset in November 2011, enjoyed public approval (Lynfield 2012). Not all Israelis held to the view of an Islamist behemoth sweeping away all before it. For example, Mark Heller (2012, 75) noted that “the weakening or overthrow of regimes congenial to Israeli interests might be compensated [for] . . . by the weakening or overthrow of regimes unreservedly inimical to those same interests.” In this era of uncertainty, however, Israelis clung to

The Foreign Policy of Israel


truths that were strategic in nature and conformed to an understanding of the Arab Spring on which hardcore security concerns— and certainties—can act as a compass. Thus, analyses of indigenous factors behind the uprisings in Syria and Bahrain, and the continued violence in Iraq, were framed by reference to Islam as a monolithic danger, which for Israeli officials became a catchall epithet to explain threats to regional stability.5 As one Israeli official was reported to have remarked, “When some people in the West see what’s happening in Egypt, they see Europe 1989. We see it as Tehran 1979” (Byman 2011, 123). Iran, as the preceding quotation illustrates, has preoccupied and concerned Israeli strategists ever since its establishment of a theocratic regime presided over by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. Israeli strategists see Iran as extremist, and as holding a primitive view of Israel. Given Tehran’s sponsorship of both Hamas and Hizbollah, its attempts to forge closer ties with Cairo and Khartoum, and above all its dogged development of a nuclear program whose scale and ambition defy a purely civilian purpose, it becomes all too easy for Israelis to view Islam in reductionist terms and its adherents as denying the right of a Jewish sovereign entity—whatever its boundaries—to exist within and among a predominantly Muslim Middle East (Zitun 2011). While this depiction overlooks the changes within Iran at both the elite and societal levels, more broadly it also obscures a more nuanced appreciation of Islamism, across the region in the wake of the Arab Spring, as capable of engaging with more plural forms of governance, as in the case of Ennahda in Tunisia. Indeed, the electoral success of moderate Islamist parties in North Africa and Egypt cast doubt on the sincerity of claims made by senior public figures in Israel—most notably the former Soviet Jewish dissident Nathan Sharansky (2006)—that only with progress toward democratic governance across the region could any tangible peace process ever come to fruition. The failure by Israel to welcome the apparent reduction in the Arab democratic deficit suggests therefore that Israel continues to see the Arab and Muslim world as a monolithic danger, and that, accordingly, it can only embrace a realist peace (Bar’el 2012; Podeh 2010). As such, Israel perceives the maintenance of its regional military hege-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

mony and a strong deterrent posture, rather than the emergence of any horizontal, inclusive security regime, as the bedrock of its strategic thinking and the absolute guarantor of its very existence.

Conclusion Always subservient to wider strategic concerns in its foreign policy, Israel has, on the surface at least, always remained conditioned by a realist agenda toward its neighbors and marked by a hierarchical process of foreign policy decisionmaking designed to meet the demands of national security. This process has undoubtedly served Israel well, for its maintenance of a strong military and its studied adherence to a policy of “nuclear ambiguity” have obliged the Arab Muslim world, however grudgingly, to accept the existence of Israel as a permanent fixture in the Middle East. Even so, with a worldview informed by realpolitik largely determining the external behavior of the state, Israeli foreign policy has struggled to adapt to the increasing influence that soft power has come to play in global perceptions of the IsraelPalestine conflict. Amid the uncertainty of the Arab Spring, however, old certainties die hard and the totem of hard power, backed by the political and military largesse of Washington, remains integral to how Israel positions itself across the Middle East. This Israeli “exceptionalism” exasperates even Washington’s regional allies, as well as Israel’s friends. As Crown Prince Hassan bin Talal (2013) argued in the pages of the Israeli national daily Haaretz, “using the phrase ‘existential threat’ as a catchall to excuse Israel’s isolationist refusal to treat its neighbors as equals” continues to bedevil regional state relations and damage Israel’s longer-term security interests. This return to an “Iron Wall,” however, is not just a reaction to external circumstance. It is driven equally if not more so by the demographic realities facing Israel, as well as by the longer-term tension inherent within competing interpretations of Zionism. In particular, it is the tension that exists between the claim of the state to be both Jewish and democratic—that may require a withdrawal of settlers from the occupied territories—and a powerful

The Foreign Policy of Israel


ethno-religious constituency that rejects such withdrawal, which is now shaping the future of Israel’s political direction (Buck 2011). Indeed, for Israel, like many of its neighbors, foreign policy has been as much about assuaging potentially divisive debates over the internal makeup of the state as it has been about its external relations. Only when such internal divisions are addressed will Israel be able to approach its regional challenges in more imaginative and creative ways without such ready recourse to the sword.

Notes 1. See _country_poll.pdf. The Israeli government, however, could take comfort from a Gallup Poll in February 2011 that demonstrated that a clear majority of Americans favored Israel to a much greater extent over the Palestinians; see -broad-support-israel.aspx. 2. Author interview with former military intelligence director MajorGeneral (Res.) Amos Yadlin, Tel Aviv, July 29, 2013. 3. Author interview with former Mossad director-general Efraim Halevy, Tel Aviv, August 1, 2013. 4. Confidential author interview with former member of the National Security Staff, Tel Aviv, July 31, 2013. 5. Author interview with Dr. Ephraim Kam, deputy director, Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv, November 2, 2011.

12 The Foreign Policy of Turkey Philip Robins Since the end of the bipolar world beginning in 1990, the study of Turkish foreign policy has become something of a full-time job. At a systemic level, the end of Communism in Europe was one of the three great changes experienced by Turkey in the international system, along with the collapse of the world order in 1918, and the end of the degradation of war in 1945. All three resulted in Turkey being buffeted by profound change. But there were also challenges on other levels. The end of the Cold War in Europe led to the eruption of a series of regional conflicts, suppressed in their potential for decades under the oppressive weight of Communist authoritarianism. Whether located in the Balkans, notably in the form of the Bosnian war, or in the Caucasus over Nagorno-Karabakh, or in the Middle East through the Iraq/Kuwait crisis, Turkey found itself firefighting on all sides. Each regional conflict raised a range of difficult questions for Turkey. This has also been a period of enormous change for the country, whether in terms of the rapid expansion of the economy, the liberalization of institutional practice (such as the ending of capital punishment), or the deep schism of a Kulturkampf,1 a period, therefore, when domestic factors increasingly impacted external relations. 315


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

An exploration of the complexity of Turkish foreign policy requires an interpretive evaluation of three eras and two narratives. The three eras are the interwar years, the long duration of the Cold War, and the post–Cold War period. The two narratives are the Kemalist narrative, which dominated political power during the first seven of nine decades of the Turkish republic’s independent existence; and the (Sunni) Islamist narrative, which has typified Turkish politics since roughly the turn of the millennium, and which some predict will dominate for a period comparable to that of the Kemalist narrative. Foreign Policy Determinants Two Narratives of State Formation and Foreign Policy Roles: Kemalist and Islamist Kemalist beginnings. For most of the existence of the Turkish republic, domestic politics and foreign policy alike have been dominated by a Kemalist political orthodoxy.2 When the Turkish ethno-nationalists took power at the end of World War I, they turned their backs on two potential options: an expansionist, ultranationalist vision of Turkey under the banner of pan-Turanism; and what they saw as a backward-looking Islamic-inspired regime, the likes of which had, in the form of the Ottoman Empire, just collapsed, but which they might have attempted to reconstruct. Instead, they opted for a third way: Turkey was to become a territorially fixed nation-state, based on a shared Turkish national identity and secular (or more appropriately laicist, or French secular) values. These norms dominated in the Europe of the 1920s and 1930s, when they were regarded as the bedrock of world civilization, in contrast to what was perceived to be such cognitive backwardness as religion. Moreover, these norms were given a positivist and illiberal gloss. Whereas Turkish secular elites were relatively cultured and liberal by the standards of the 1930s, some six decades later they had hardly progressed. They remained in occupation of the same philosophical space. They were regarded widely within Europe as being increasingly anachronistic.3 Nowhere was this more startlingly so than in what

The Foreign Policy of Turkey


to European eyes appeared to be the beatification of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Between 1923 and the death of Atatürk in 1938, Kemalism was largely the preserve of the man himself, dominating in the form of single-party, authoritarian rule. This period is associated with the widely held view from Ankara that the “Sykes-Picot powers” were seeking to destroy the embryonic Turkish state. With this overriding threat perception, the overwhelming goal of Turkish foreign policy was to stabilize relations externally in order to buy the necessary time to consolidate state development at home, and hence preserve the integrity of the state. Three moments of formal policy importance illustrate the pursuit of this goal. First there was the conclusion of a ten-year nonaggression pact with Moscow in December 1925, through which the Soviet state and Ankara sought the same strategic goals; this agreement was extended by a further ten years upon its expiration. Second was the Balkans Pact, signed in Athens in February 1934 by Greece, Romania, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. This treaty, which came five months after Greece and Turkey had themselves concluded a ten-year nonaggression pact, largely brought to an end the shadow of conflict and forced population exchange that had cast such a pall since the aftermath of World War I. The third era-defining agreement was the Saadabad Pact of July 1937, signed in Tehran by Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, though the impact of this accord was inevitably curtailed by the onset of war. By the end of the 1930s, Turkey had deployed warfare and diplomacy to secure its future. It was this mix of experiences that Turkey took forearmed toward World War II. The Turkish leadership learned the lesson of the Ottoman defeat in World War I and stayed neutral between the outbreak of World War II in 1939 and Ankara’s own safe declaration of participation in February 1945, by which time the outcome of the fighting had become a foregone conclusion. Post-Atatürk: The Kemalist narrative. In contrast to its cautious neutrality through the long interwar years, Turkey was quick to align once World War II had ended. This was primarily due to the threatening posture of Stalin’s Soviet Union, which seemed intent


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

on seizing territory from Turkey in the east of the country, and revising the agreement on shipping access into the Black Sea. Though the threat ebbed quickly enough, the residue of perceived vulnerability, especially in the form of class-based peasant and worker threats and Armenian territorial irredentism, was to remain. Turkey therefore quickly aligned with the emerging camp of the Western alliance and burnished its Western credentials. Consequently, Turkey joined the Council of Europe. It accepted Marshall Aid from the United States, thereby further deploying foreign policy–acquired aid in the service of consolidation at home. In 1952, Turkey cemented its seven-decade position in the Western alliance, forming, together with Greece, the first expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Turkey’s strategic engagement with the United States did not remain static.4 Washington had encouraged the emergence of multiparty competition within a democratic political context between the middle and late 1940s. Though it was not yet evident, this external conditionality would mark the early erosion of an elite Kemalism in favor eventually of a (Sunni) Islamist populism. In 1950, the party of Atatürk, the Republican People’s Party, was ejected from power in a landslide electoral victory for the opposition. Its successor, the Democratic Party, with its large landowner and business leaders, remained located within the overall Kemalist tradition. Together with the career officer corps, senior figures in the bureaucracy, mainstream intellectuals, and members of the foreign policy–making elite, notably the foreign ministry, the leaders of the Democratic Party were drawn from the same narrow social circle who dominated and led the Kemalist movement.5 If anything, the Democratic Party enjoyed an even closer relationship with the United States than had its predecessor, with more civilian and military aid coming in, for example through the deployment of missiles on Turkish soil by way of deterrence. This was the classic period of Turkey as a “southern flank” country, with its many listening posts, its joint training activities, and the creation of joint NATO (meaning US) bases, notably the most imposing being at Incirlik in the east. Turkey’s main direct contribution to the NATO alliance came in the form of the deployment of a primarily conscript land army, second only in

The Foreign Policy of Turkey


size to that of the United States. This was also the high point of Turkish-US relations. But the Democratic Party went too far. In the spirit of its umbilical relationship with the United States in the 1950s, it sought to make itself indispensably useful as the West’s presence in the Middle East. The most egregious example of such practice, recklessly pursued, came with the Baghdad Pact, a British-led defense accord aimed at maximizing British residual influence in the region and therefore vulnerable to the critique of being neocolonial. In its effort to spread the pact in the Arab world, almost everything Ankara touched turned to dust. Ankara misread Egypt’s Arab nationalism (under Gamal Abdul Nasser) for Communism, encouraged the friendly but vulnerable state of Jordan to overbid its position in exploring membership, helped unwittingly to trigger regime change in Iraq, and came close to invading Syria in 1958 by way of retaliation, thereby driving its weaker neighbor into the Soviet camp. Meanwhile, Turkish public opinion, not famed for its foreign policy activism, especially in the Middle East, recoiled in horror. This was shaped by Turkish memories of World War I, erroneously recalled as the Arab provinces of the empire deserting the Ottoman cause, with its armies being left overstretched in the “sands of battle” of Yemen. This translated henceforth into a range of foreign relations that were cautious and tentative, especially in their application to Arab lands. Until the Syrian crisis of 2011 and onward, the biggest blunders in Turkish foreign policy are generally agreed to have come with the Baghdad Pact. After a decade in power, the Democratic Party leadership had become increasingly illiberal at home, and unpredictable, both at home and abroad, in the eyes of the United States. A coup d’état by Republican People’s Party supporters in the military restored the political orthodoxy in Turkey in May 1960, but not before the main parties had become more independent minded. Through the 1960s, Ankara and Washington failed to restore the lofty heights of their earlier bilateral relations. When the Cuban missile crisis erupted in October 1962, the United States secretly traded its Jupiter missiles in Turkey for the removal of Soviet missiles in Cuba. When the Cyprus crisis boiled over in 1963, President Lyn-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

don Johnson, mindful of his domestic constituencies, warned Turkey against impulsive action. Ankara did as it was told, but this proved only to be an eleven-year postponement of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus, rather than an absolute backdown. Since the July 1974 invasion, the Cyprus issue has remained the preeminent intractable dispute in Turkey’s foreign policy. The (Sunni) Islamist narrative. It was during the hectic, dysfunc-

tional decade of the 1970s that an Islamist narrative on national policy, with increasingly strong foreign policy implications, began to emerge. Of course, to some extent this narrative had never entirely disappeared. Though religious networks, like the Naqsebendis and the Nurcus, had been suppressed by Atatürk in the 1920s, in reality they had merely retreated underground. They remained powerful, transnational networks that delivered primarily on trade relationships. It was these ties, with their sinews often connected across borders, that helped enliven Turkey’s relationships once World War II had ended. From Süleyman Demirel onward (through Turgut Özal and Necmettin Erbakan to Abdullah Gül and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan), there has hardly been a significant figure on the Turkish political right who has not been a member of a religious order. It was in the 1970s that the Islamist narrative on foreign policy really began to take hold. Necmettin Erbakan, the leading hoca,6 in Turkey until his political eclipse in 1998, played a significant role in external relations in the coalition governments of which he was part in the 1970s. For example, after the oil price hikes of 1973– 1974, he was dispatched to Saudi Arabia to leverage his Islamist credentials and secure the supply of crude oil at affordable prices (Liel 2001) Though Erbakan and the Saudi leadership were both Sunni Muslims, this was the extent of their commonality. The Saudis were puritanical Wahhabis, whereas Erbakan was a practical man, an engineer, and a politician. Even more problematic, national identity got in the way of doing a deal based on a politicized faith: both Erbakan and the Saudis looked down on one another. Unfortunately for Erbakan, only the Saudi side had the wealth to be able to indulge its own sense of superiority. Erbakan was also part of the coalition government during the run-up to and execution of the invasion of Cyprus in July 1974.

The Foreign Policy of Turkey


With his characteristic immodesty, Erbakan subsequently tried to take the credit for the stabilization of the island and the rescue of the persecuted Muslim minority community, the Turkish Cypriots. While his claim is clearly fanciful, it remains the case that unity at home is more likely to deliver results abroad. In this objective, Turkey was the winner, in part due to the endorsement of Erbakan. Erbakan made the momentous transition from junior coalition partner to government leader and coalition big brother in 1996– 1997 (Robins 1997). The Islamist narrative of the day was uneven and inconsistent, not least in part due to tactical responses to intense pressures applied by the military and its civilian Kemalist allies. So, for instance, the Erbakan government improved its relations with the diplomatic corps in Ankara from Islamic countries, but was maneuvered into a position whereby it was obliged to sign no fewer than three military agreements with Israel in a little over a year. Foreign policy was being used as an instrument of domestic power politics by both sides. During its truncated term in office, the Erbakan government established a largely unconvincing multilateral organization named the Development 8 (D8) group of states,7 comprising large and significant, if not always majority, Muslim populations. Seen from the perspective of such ad hoc groupings today as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), it was nevertheless an imaginative initiative, though one ahead of its time. It did not succeed in fully establishing itself, owing to a combination of a lack of resources and Erbakan’s short span in office. The Erbakan government was ousted after thirteen months, because of opposition pressures from outside parliament and the lack of fortitude of the prime minister and his partners. These were encapsulated in two misjudgments, which gave the Kemalists a stick with which to flail the government. On Erbakan’s first visit abroad as prime minister, he was publicly humiliated by Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, who insisted on speaking out in favor of the Kurdish national movement, which at that moment was engaged in a guerrilla war in southeastern Turkey against the Turkish state. On his final trip abroad before his ouster, Erbakan visited Nigeria. This made sense in terms of his own priorities, as Nigeria was a member of the D8, and a


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

large, powerful country. However, this took place at a low point for Nigeria, which was ruled by Sani Abacha, a general who had seized power in a coup d’état and was flagrantly siphoning off the resources of the country. In one gesture, Erbakan had managed to legitimize both military rule, which could be used to justify his own demise, and the corrupting influence of third world demagogues. Though Erbakan had been the victim of anti-democratic forces, he was clearly no model of good governance himself. With Erbakan out of power in July 1997, and in such unfortunate circumstances, it is no wonder that a palace coup took place within the Islamist movement soon after. At the forefront of leadership change were Erdoğan and Gül, politicians in their forties representing generational change. When Erbakan’s Welfare Party was dissolved by the Kemalist state, the two men adroitly created a new body, the Virtue Party. When that went under, and with the military’s political capital spent, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was formed. It was so ripe for power that it won a landslide general election victory in November 2002, within fifteen months of its creation in August 2001.8 Its views would reshape Turkish foreign policy. Economic Drivers Big capital. Economic imperatives have been important determinants of Turkish foreign policy since the rise to power of Turgut Özal from 1979 onward. To a large degree this was the product of necessity. Turkey’s previous economic model, one based on import substitution industries, and agricultural autarky, was untenable by the end of the 1970s. The country already had a burdensome foreign debt. This was the product primarily of the spiraling oil price. Turkey suffered from a big net imbalance as far as its energy sector was concerned. To rectify the situation, Özal completely transformed the basic orientation of the Turkish economy, from one of import substitution to one of export-led growth. In this he was lucky that his term in office effectively stretched through the 1980 coup to his death in 1993. According to his strategy, Turkey’s state economic enterprises were allowed to wither on the vine. The large, Istanbul-based pri-

The Foreign Policy of Turkey


vate sector, which had been forged in the 1920s, following the expulsion of the Armenian and Greek commercial ethno-bourgeoisie, was allowed maximum freedom of operation. Big family holding companies, like Koç and Sabanci, could no longer rely exclusively on the state for contracts. They had to look for new business, whether at home or abroad, and more important, no longer enjoying the privileges of crony capitalism, as had been the case since the 1920s, they had to fight hard for it. The timing too was fortuitous. The collapse of Communism resulted in the opening up of economies previously closed off. Turkish companies began to explore this potential with the Russian Federation in particular, as trade opportunities opened up with the supply of Russian gas to Turkey through big contracts, for instance through the Blue Stream pipeline, which transits the Black Sea. In return for primary commodities like hydrocarbons, Turkish holding companies were experienced enough to be able to complete large construction projects and manage service contracts. The involvement of Turkish companies in Russia helped to solidify surprisingly stable bilateral relations between Ankara and Moscow, which could have soured or even descended into conflict as a result of the foreign realignment of the former Soviet south, or as a result of environmental risks stemming from tanker traffic transiting the Turkish Straits. “Green” capital. If the 1980s and 1990s were the decades that

saw the unleashing of Turkish entrepreneurial activism from the heart of the state, the 2000s and the 2010s were the decades of the emergence of an entrepreneurial activism from within the Anatolian interior. Cities such as Gaziantep, Kayseri, Corum, Denizli, and Kahramanmaraş saw economic activity take off without being mediated by either the state or the big Istanbul-based conglomerates. The leading cities in the entrepreneurial effort, like Gaziantep, witnessed the emergence of vast industrial zones. They are now home to the elaborate, aesthetic landscaping projects commensurate with cities that have enjoyed extensive financial success. The proximity of Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa to the Syrian border stymied commercial growth after the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011. This indicated the fragility of neighboring markets


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

as a foundation for success, especially in the Middle East. To some extent, these difficulties were mitigated by the growth of informal trade, notably through the border towns of Kilis and Bes Arslan. These Anatolian “tiger economies,” nicknamed “Islamic Calvinists” (European Stability Initiative 2005) and deploying “green capital,” sought to export textiles to the European market, a destination that accounts for half of Turkish trade, and consumer goods to the neighboring Middle East and former Soviet states, while also servicing a domestic economy that grew rapidly from the start of the twenty-first century. The fact that the rise of this new business elite has paralleled the emergence of the new, AKPsupporting political elite from within the same Anatolian interior ensures that there can be no imminent return to the prior status quo, whether that period is seen as a Kemalist golden age or one of military-bureaucratic dominance.

Foreign Policy Making: Breaking the Elitist Mold Foreign policy making tends to be an elite affair. This has certainly been the case in Turkey, where the state official (memur) has traditionally been revered in a hierarchical society. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the realm of foreign policy. Since the 1870s and the extension of the Tanzimat (European reforms meant to stave off Ottoman decline), members of the foreign policy elite have been largely trained in a state school, the Mulkiye, initially established in Istanbul.9 This school was reminiscent of the elite, state-oriented educational institutions of republican France.10 The site of the school was subsequently relocated to the new capital, Ankara. The Mulkiye was consequently given an intellectual and moral home at Ankara University. The insular nature of the foreign policy elite became even more pronounced in the Kemalist period. Turgut Özal began to break the mold of the foreign policy elite in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when he subverted the foreign ministry pecking order by promoting a handful of rising diplomats to his own office. In doing so, he wanted to ensure that they would be loyal to him and not simply spout the official line. The importance of controlling the loyalty of elites increased sporadically, especially after the Erbakan government fostered the

The Foreign Policy of Turkey


growth of a “shadow” foreign ministry, led by the minister of state, Abdullah Gül. Control of recruitment further intensified after the fall of the Erbakan-led coalition, whereupon the National Security Council began to lead something of a witch hunt against academics and thinkers with a suspected Islamist background. The tables began to turn after the AKP’s election victory in November 2002. From the moment the party won access to power, leading AKP figures, with Erdoğan at their head, began recruiting a separate group of advisers in the realm of foreign affairs, as in other aspects of policy. The best-known example of this phenomenon was the recruitment of Turkey’s foreign minister since May 2009, Ahmet Davutoğlu,11 who had been awarded the rank of ambassador in 2003. The common denominator was that these advisers were loyal to Erdoğan, under whose leadership this trend toward individualism in foreign policy making, and away from institutionalization, would accelerate. After 2007, by which time the AKP had consolidated its hold on power,12 constraints seemed nominal at best. Davutoğlu had for a decade been shaping an alternative, Islamist think tank, with the intention of inserting reliable and rising political figures into important posts. A foreign affairs think tank, the Center for Strategic Affairs, hitherto discretely convened outside the ministry, was brought within the physical confines of the ministry’s expanded edifice. Its personnel, mainly Kemalist old-timers, were replaced by Davutoğlu’s rising generation, having received their doctorates following a period of research assistance undertaken under Davutoğlu’s watchful eye. Well-known foreign affairs expert Bulent Aras held the inaugural directorship of the Center for Strategic Affairs. The stranglehold that the Mulkiye had exerted, and that had already begun eroding incrementally, was subverted, with new recruits being drawn not only from the more elite colleges, such as Bosphorus University and Marmara University, but also from newer bodies, such as Beykent University and Istanbul Şehir University. Foreign Policy Behavior Since the Cold War Selecting case studies of Turkish foreign policy is fraught with difficulty. How, for example, does one address state-to-state rela-


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

tions? Does one focus on relations of power (e.g., the United States), on historical threats (e.g., Russia), on relatively new relationships (e.g., the former Soviet south), on relations characterized by tension (e.g., Cyprus or Greece)? And how does one address thematic issues of great importance, from security cooperation to commercial relations to issues of water, electricity generation, and hydrocarbons infrastructure? And what of the newer dynamics in international relations? A study of Turkey that ignores transnational elements, from refugee flows to diaspora communities to cross-border violence to illicit drugs, would lose much of the informal complexity and variety of Turkey’s foreign relations. For the purposes of this chapter, three contemporary case studies have been chosen: one focused on Turkey’s relations with Europe; one focused on Turkey within a more global, institutional context; and one focused on the Arab Spring and its effects on Turkey’s foreign policy. Europe: From Asymmetric Ambivalence to Mutual Ambivalence?

It has been more than five decades since the Ankara Agreement formalized Euro-Turkish relations in 1963 and opened up the potential for Turkish membership in the European Economic Community. Since then, Turkey’s progress toward membership has been fitful and at times unconvincing. This has been a reflection of European-side ambivalence and misgivings about standards of good governance in Turkey, especially in the aftermath of the 1980 coup. Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit—a leftist nationalist—had an opportunity to tie the fortunes of his country to those of its arch competitor, Greece, in the 1970s, but his third worldist activist nature got the better of him. The creation of a customs union, which came into effect in January 1996, helped to modernize the Turkish economy and make it more competitive, but did not contain the political stimulus sought by the Turks. A major breakthrough took place in 1999, when Turkey’s candidacy for European Union membership was recognized. Until then, only Turkey’s eligibility for membership had been recognized. It had humiliatingly watched a troop of old Eastern Euro-

The Foreign Policy of Turkey


pean countries overtake it in the queue for membership, with the Visegrad countries, the Baltic states, and even the likes of Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia, moving ahead of it in terms of full membership. Ankara also had to stand by and watch Cyprus join the EU in 2004 as part of the so-called big bang accession by ten countries. This development took place even though the European Union had piously, and some would say duplicitously, insisted that a core EU value was “not to import instability [from Turkey] only to export stability.” Despite these experiences, Turkish-EU relations reached a high point from 2001 to 2005. The first main breakthrough in terms of a convergence of interests came in 2001, with the Ecevit coalition government’s adoption of a liberally oriented harmonization package. This move had been endorsed by the Turkish military. The main motivation for the top military leaders was that they saw a closely converging relationship with the EU as the best way of anchoring Turkey in secularism, an essential part of their core Kemalist ideology. After the AKP’s election victory in November 2002, its first of three wins to date, a flurry of harmonization packages rapidly ensued. The motivation again was for Turkey to anchor itself, although on these subsequent occasions with a different (AKP-motivated) end in sight: anchoring Turkey in a democratic order (against military intervention) rather than in secular politics. With the AKP fast crafting its electoral strategy, based on the majoritarianism of the country’s Sunni population, the continued victory of the Islamists seemed assured, provided that the economy continued to grow robustly. Of equally critical importance at the time was the issue of Cyprus (and the majoritarian Greek Cypriot administration, backed up by the EU’s other Hellenic state, Greece), which for most commentators has been seen as the main obstacle to Turkey’s future accession, though France and Germany have been suspected of influencing the Greek veto on Turkish accession. Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gül had already gone on record as saying that in the future Turkey would never again allow itself to be the last country to drag its feet over peace proposals for the island. Such flexible talk simply underlined that Turkey’s Islamists, unlike the Kemalist military, had little interest in the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

future of Cyprus, and were certainly not strategically wedded to indefinite control over the island, as had been the Kemalists. So, in 2004, when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented his peace proposal for a solution to the island’s division—to restructure the republic into a federation of two states—Gül was comfortable in honoring his pledge. Twin referendums then ensued, one for the Turkish Cypriots and one for the Greek Cypriots. While the plan had originally been designed to neatly sidestep the perennially intransigent Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktaş, in order to deliver a vote in favor of the proposal from the island’s Turkish-controlled north, the Greek Cypriots ironically used the device to deliver an overwhelming vote against. Since 2004 there has been little substantive diplomatic movement on the island. By 2005, the prospects for both a solution to the Cyprus problem and Turkey’s accession to the European Union had faded. The EU’s promises to aid the Turkish Cypriots in recognition of their cooperation on the referendum did not materialize. By the time of the military backdown over the vote for the new president of Turkey in July 2007, the AKP government no longer needed a democratic anchor in the shape of the EU. Indeed, its own democratic credentials had begun to wane, notably in relation to freedom of the press. The obstinate rearguard of Cyprus and the whimsical France of Nicolas Sarkozy had resulted in a number of Turkey’s EU accession negotiation files being placed on ice. Erdoğan retaliated by rarely visiting Brussels. Technical talks replaced political negotiations. Although the chill in the TurkishEU relationship warmed somewhat following Sarkozy’s departure from office, the Turks generally remain skeptical as far as the future potential is concerned. They would like EU membership to coincide with the centenary of the Turkish republic in 2023. But they will be very lucky indeed to achieve such a goal. Global Posture or Global Posturing?

Since its creation, Turkey has been a “cusp” state—a state that lies uneasily on the political or normative edges of what is widely believed to be an established region (see Herzog and Robins 2014). This has resulted in foreign policy behavior that has often

The Foreign Policy of Turkey


been perceived as aggressive or uncooperative. The best examples of this phenomenon are Turkey’s relations with Cyprus, with Turkey having about 30,000 troops permanently stationed on the island; Turkey’s relations with Greece, which have nearly triggered major conflicts between the two states, especially across the Aegean Sea;13 Turkey’s relations with Russia, with the two countries having faced each other in open military conflict on thirteen occasions; and Turkey’s periodically tense relations with Central and Eastern Europe, notably in the eighteenth century whether in the guise of imperialist acquisition of territory or in the form of the Communist bloc prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989. Turkey’s cusp status has also made it difficult for the country to join any of the world’s prestigious international organizations, such as the UN Security Council, as well as certain regional organizations, given its lack of inclusion in any neighboring region. This began to change both rapidly and profoundly with the internationalization of Turkish foreign policy under the AKP. First, Ankara set out to extend the net of countries with which it had an enduring relationship. In many of these cases, such as in Australasia and Latin America, little engagement had existed before. Suddenly, states that would have seemed improbable partners for Turkey came to receive regular attention. Turkey made a particular effort to develop its relations with Africa. Struck by the presence and economic success of China in sub-Saharan Africa, Ankara followed suit, establishing official Turkish representation in fifteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and with five other countries on the continent as well. It also convened a number of ad hoc, multilateral gatherings, at which senior African participation was central,14 notably the Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit in August 2008, at which forty-nine African states were represented. In addition, observer status was extended to Turkey at the meetings of such regional organizations as Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Development Bank. Second, Turkey made a self-conscious attempt to improve its relations with Middle Eastern states and with states with Muslimmajority populations. This was partly secured through Davutoğlu’s “zero problems with neighbors” strategy. For example, the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Arab League extended observer status to Turkey at its summit meetings. Although already a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Turkey now enlarged its role, from confining itself primarily to economic matters to focusing on the global “good governance” agenda. This “air miles diplomacy” was the preserve of Turkey’s three most important figures, Erdoğan, Gül, and Davutoğlu. For Turkey, the big prize was nonpermanent membership in the UN Security Council, partly because of its global profile and partly because, since the early 1960s, the Cyprus issue had generated an enduring hostility that Ankara wanted to overcome. Turkey lobbied assiduously through the first decade of the twentyfirst century to ensure that it would suffer no more humiliating diplomatic defeats. With its prospects looking good, Turkey applied for temporary membership in the Security Council for 2009–2010 and was spectacularly successful, with 151 states voting in its favor (Aral 2009). A decade earlier, in 1999, a new multilateral organization was created, the Group of 20 (G-20) major economies, reducing the status of the Group of Eight (G8) major industrialized countries. This was done in order to incorporate newly emerging groups of states in addressing the new issues of the world, notably in the wake of the 2007–2008 global financial crisis. From across the Muslim world, only Turkey and Saudi Arabia were invited to join the G-20. Yet there were limitations to Turkey’s success. The country was not included in the iconic group of emerging markets, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), because its size did not yet match its ambitions in terms of economic potential and demography. When Security Council members Brazil and Turkey tried to intervene to find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, their compromise initiative was rejected by the United States, which regarded the initiative as unhelpful. When Turkey made a bid to stage Expo 2020 in Izmir in the fall of 2013, it was unsuccessful, primarily because of the fallout from the Gezi Park protests in May and June of that year. Nevertheless, Turkey could still celebrate its multilateral successes, with their stature being considerably more impressive than its membership in earlier bodies, such as the Economic Coopera-

The Foreign Policy of Turkey


tion Organization or the D8. Despite the difficult foreign relations that have characterized the period since Turkey completed its 2009–2010 Security Council membership, it is seeking another term on the Council for 2015–2016. The Arab Spring: From Cautious Success to Reckless Activism Tunisia and Egypt. Turkey got off to a good start during the Arab

Spring. Ankara had no particular commercial or geopolitical interests in regime continuity or change in either Tunisia or Egypt. When the critical moments came to a head, the AKP leadership was able to fall back on one of its first principles, the popular formula of “let the people decide.” Consequently, there was loud approval of the decisive and consistent stance of the Turkish position once Tunisia’s Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Husni Mubarak had been overthrown. Libya. The situation in Libya was considerably different. Turkish

contracting companies had enjoyed a high profile and profitable presence there in the 1970s, on the back of the oil bonanza. This success had been replicated in the first decade of the twenty-first century, with the additional surge in Libyan purchasing power. At the time of the escalating civil conflict in Libya in 2010, there were significant numbers of Turkish workers, companies, and investments present in the country.15 The extent of this economic interest meant that the Turkish response to the Libyan civil conflict had to be more carefully calibrated compared to the Tunisian and Egyptian cases. Prime Minister Erdoğan took the lead personally. First, he ensured that the stranded Turkish nationals were repatriated, expediting a solution to this tricky problem more quickly and safely compared to the United Kingdom’s effort. Erdoğan was less successful in relation to the repatriation of equipment, and because Turkey’s business contracts had been forged with Libyan state companies, the business was lost, at least for the foreseeable future. Second, Erdoğan tried to take advantage of his close relationship with Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in order to influence


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

him politically.16 This proved to be a recipe for frustration for the Turks. Although Erdoğan resorted to frequent telephone diplomacy with Qaddafi and his sons, it soon became clear that he had little leverage on the ground. Qaddafi seemed ready to accept the challenge of fighting the Libyan opposition militarily until the end, even as Erdoğan increased his mediation efforts. To Turkey’s NATO allies, with Britain and France in the vanguard, and the United States famously “leading from behind,” the mediation appeared more like procrastination and they grew increasingly impatient with Ankara. Consequently, Turkey became increasingly marginalized, with just the humanitarian portfolio left for it to wield. Ankara played this role with aplomb, a reflection of its extensive practice in other flashpoints, such as Bosnia and Iraq. By the time of a belated and halfhearted initiative from the African Union for the negotiated removal of the Libyan leader, Qaddafi was effectively finished and with him a Turkish friend was lost. Syria. Undoubtedly the biggest challenge to Turkish foreign policy in the 2010s has come with the Syrian conflict. It began as a perceived opportunity. In the way that Britain and France had done in Libya and the United States in Egypt, so too the AKP establishment opportunistically identified Syria as a chance to profit by extending its sphere of influence close to home. Initially, Erdoğan assumed that the regime of Bashar al-Assad would simply buckle under internal pressure. This was not an iconoclastic position, as it was shared by many other analysts and governments. Given Turkey’s proximity to the conflict, one might in any case have expected a greater degree of circumspection on the Turkish side, but that perhaps smacked too much of a Kemaliststyle caution. Erdoğan, by contrast, was prepared to be bold. It is also likely that Erdoğan was increasingly influenced by the sectarian numbers game.17 This he saw as a reflection of the minoritarian nature of Syria’s Alawite regime, with Alawites composing just 11 percent of the Syrian population compared to its 60 percent Sunni Muslim majority. Erdoğan sought to use his special bilateral relationship with Damascus to persuade Assad to stand down. As the conflict escalated and it became increasingly clear that Assad, rather than seeking reform, saw his position to be inte-

The Foreign Policy of Turkey


grally linked to the survival of the entire Baath regime, the relationship increasingly faltered. It collapsed in acrimony toward the end of 2011. Ankara believed it faced a strategic choice. It could move incrementally in the direction of sanctioning Assad’s Syria, but always ensuring that its position was in tune with US policy. Alternatively, it could push out ahead of the broad but cautious pro-Western consensus, take on the role of the standard-bearer of an anti-Assad strategy, and force the pace of its laggardly allies. The latter course could take the form of proposing no-fly zones or humanitarian corridors, enhanced by an increasingly uncompromising public invective. It would have to stop short of war. Without the practical and psychological assistance of NATO, war for Turkey would have been both untenable and unacceptable to public opinion. Convinced that the unrest in Syria would be quickly resolved, Erdoğan initially seemed to opt for the latter course. With Turkey and the AKP having decided to force the pace of change, the stage was set. In coordination with the United States, just before President Obama’s formal request on August 18, 2011, that Assad step down,18 Erdoğan forced a rupture. He sent Davutoğlu to Damascus to demand an end to the slaughter, with the use of such a close and trusted envoy designed to bring the gravity of the situation home to Assad. During six hours of talks, Davutoğlu insisted on “concrete steps” to end the violence; by contrast, Assad insisted that he would not cease his crackdown on “terrorists.” With the rupture having been made, the ball was now in the court of the Turkish state as far as an enhanced political stance was concerned. The package of sanctions was mainly symbolically political and economic in substance.19 It did roll back the confidence-building measures that the two states had implemented since their rapprochement in 1998. With Assad not having responded to the demands from Ankara, Turkey seized the initiative and introduced a series of changes, designed to emphasize a bilateral breach. On August 23, 2011, the anti-Assad opposition Syrian National Council was established in Istanbul. Just under a month later, Turkey cut all formal contacts with the Syrian regime and gave notice that a strong, bilateral sanctions package was in preparation. The special relationship between Syria and Turkey was at an end.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

A series of trials of strength took place fitfully through 2012 and 2013 that exposed the limited ability of Turkey to bring about its goals directly or to enlist allies in their attainment indirectly. For instance, refugee flows from Syria into Turkey continued to grow at an alarming rate.20 With the failure of its periodic trial balloons on humanitarian corridors and no-fly zones, Turkey was exposed as having neither the military power nor the political will to promote these ventures. Two phases of the crisis were particularly alarming. First, in October 2012 there was a bout of crossborder shelling that continued for ten days, the frequency of such exchanges appearing to be at Assad’s discretion. With Turkey reinforcing its border with aircraft (though not infantry), for a fleeting moment it looked as if full-blown war might be the most likely outcome. Second, evidence that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons on more than one occasion in Syria in August 2013 further increased the sense of vulnerability on the Turkish side and the need to rally support from NATO. This resulted in a NATO decision to deploy Patriot missiles in defense of Turkey, an important gesture of political support as much as a defensive one. With such pressures building acutely, and the Turkish population as conflict-averse as ever, in November 2013 it was belatedly time for the Turkish government “to hit the reset button” regarding its Syria policy and indeed its wider Middle East policy as a whole.

Conclusion Turkey is located in a foreign policy–rich environment. It must involve itself in multiple foreign policy issues in multiple foreign policy domains (especially at regional and global levels) if it is to be heard and its interests taken into account by other regional powers, and indeed systemic powers as well. These issues often lie beyond Turkey’s ability to shape let alone solve, given its status as a “cusp” state. The best that Turkey can hope for, from its broad range of bilateral experiences, from its ties with Russia, from its involvement in the Arab Spring, is influence, management, and containment. But in Turkey, foreign policy is not simply and exclusively about external relations. It also impacts the internal domain. That

The Foreign Policy of Turkey


also makes it an aspect of statebuilding. Foreign policy is an insightful way of forming ideas about how the unit (state/domestic) level of analysis works. No better illustration is there of this than the Kulturkampf and its increasingly divisive effect on Turkish politics. More and more in the Turkish case there exist two competing narratives of foreign policy, a Kemalist approach and an Islamist approach. The former largely dominated the landscape between the 1920s and the 1990s; since a struggle in the 1990s and early 2000s, the latter has held sway, certainly since 2002. During this time, the Islamist “tradition” seems to have put down roots. This is partly as a result of the humiliation and emasculation of the officer corps, the longtime coercive guarantors of Kemalism, and partly because of the increasingly Sunni sectarian nature of Turkish politics, both at home and in foreign policy.

Notes 1. Literally “culture struggle.” The term refers to a religious-secular divide that first emerged in eighteenth-century Germany. 2. Kemalism refers to the political legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, widely recognized as the founder of the modern Turkish state. Mustafa Kemal was an army officer, born in Salonika, who plotted against the sultan with other republican-inclined officers. He was a hero twice over, once in World War I, in which there were few successful Ottoman generals, and later in the victorious war of national liberation. 3. The view of the Kemalist elite came increasingly to reflect what Edward Said viewed as an Orientalist value system, namely the view of the Middle East being one of irrational and impenetrable machinations. 4. For a broader exposition on bilateral Turkish-US relations, see Aydin and Erhan 2004. 5. For instance, the leaders were overwhelmingly drawn from among graduates of the Mulkiye, the traditional training center for emerging, senior state officials at Ankara University. 6. Hoca is usually translated as “teacher,” but it has the strong religious overtones of a guru or inspirational leader. Though Erbakan led an Islamist party and claimed allegiance on that basis, in fact he was never a religious leader with theological credentials. 7. The D8 states were Turkey, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Pakistan.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

8. The AKP won 34 percent of the vote in the November 2002 national election, which, owing to the weighting of the electoral system, translated into 363 seats in the 550-seat unicameral parliament. 9. The Mulkiye is now 150 years old. It was transferred to Ankara in 1933, and attached to the faculty of Ankara University in 1950. 10. Such as the Ecole Polytechnic, established in 1794. 11. Davutoğlu had become an ideologist for the younger generation of Islamist rising stars like Erdoğan and Gül. His career had prospered due to the fact that he had spent his formative years researching and teaching in Malaysia, thereby avoiding the worst excesses of persecution at the hands of the Kemalist state. 12. The AKP won an increase in the popular vote to 47 percent in the July 2007 national election, though this translated into a reduction from 363 to 341 seats in the 550-seat unicameral parliament compared to the outcome of the November 2002 national election, owing to the eccentricities of the electoral system. 13. For instance, the 1996 conflict over the rocky outcrops of the “islands” of Imia/Kardak (their Greek and Turkish names, respectively). 14. Ankara declared 2005 to be the “Year of Africa in Turkey.” 15. By March 2010, and the spread of the unrest to Libya, Turkey had $15 billion worth of outstanding contracts with Libya, $1.5 billion worth of equipment in the country, and some 30,000 expatriates working there. 16. For example, in 2010 Erdoğan had been awarded the Qaddafi Prize for Human Rights, first initiated in 1989. 17. Demography seemed to have served the AKP well as it set about making itself into the party of government within Turkey. 18. Thereby making regime change in Syria an official US priority. See Samuel Charap, “Why Russia Won’t Help on Syria,” International Herald Tribune, January 2, 2013. 19. “Turkey Unveils Economic Sanctions Against Syria,” Weekly Zaman, December 1, 2011. 20. The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey increased from 300,000 at the end of 2012 to 3.5 million at the end of 2013. Of the latter group, approximately 200,000 were living in twenty-one refugee camps throughout the country, with 400,000 living in the community; the remainder, nearly 3 million, were homeless. Turkey estimates that it spent $2 billion in 2013 dealing with the Syrian refugee problem (International New York Tribune, November 25, 2013).

Part 3 Conclusion

13 Making Foreign Policy in the Midst of Turbulence Anoushiravan Ehteshami

The overriding message from the case studies in this volume is how much the regional players in the Middle East have had to contend with since the end of the Cold War, and how much the dynamics of the region have been shaped by outside intervention following the events of September 11, 2001, and the George W. Bush administration’s strategies of so-called preemptive selfdefense and preventive war (Buckley and Singh 2006). The contributors’ analysis is consistent with observations the editors of this book (Ehteshami and Hinnebusch 1997) had made in the mid1990s that the global system’s regional impact was exceptionally intense in the Middle East, making this region more exposed than others to great power machinations From its early formation external forces have intervened in efforts to shape and control the Middle East. In so doing, the conduct of great powers has not only posed challenges to regional elites’ efforts to build legitimacy (state identity) at home but also fed to saturation their pervasive sense of insecurity. External penetration facilitated by the fragmentation of the Arab order beginning in the 1980s arguably loosened the already fraying pan-Arab ties and allowed Arab regimes to pursue their own perceived interests with less fear of exposure to pressure 339


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

from the more dominant Arab states. Thus, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority pursued their bilateral negotiations with Israel; Saudi Arabia championed the land-for-peace Arab plan; the Maghreb states forged closer commercial links with the expanding European Union; Syria drew closer to the moderate Arab camp and also Turkey; Qaddafi’s Libya came in from the cold and rebuilt ties with the United States and the European Union; Sudan stepped beyond the region in striking a substantial commercial partnership with China.

Catalytic Events In addition to external penetration, the region has also suffered several major catalytic events in the period since the end of the Arab cold war (1960s) and advent of petrodollars, each of which seems to have left a deep scar. The short-lived Egyptian-SaudiSyrian compact of the 1970s encapsulated the rise to eminence of the petrodollar states. The eminence of these states did pull in more support from the Western alliance, but it did not provide them with more protection from regional tensions or the military fires that were burning around them. They, like the other regional actors, remained vulnerable to regional conflagrations, which in the period 1973–2003 included three major military engagements between Israel and one or more of its Arab neighbors, and three major wars in the Persian Gulf. In the period since the Iranian revolution, the first catalytic event to press on the security and foreign policies of the states in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) was the end of bipolarity in 1990. We had argued in 1997 that the end of bipolarity would have a profound effect on the regional system (Ehteshami and Hinnebusch 1997). A direct result of that had already been seen in the Persian Gulf: Iraq’s invasion of neighboring Kuwait in 1990 and the destructive war that followed. The start of global unipolarity coincided with the region’s own growing multipolarity, with devastating consequences. As Shahram Chubin notes (1994, 18), it was the permissive regional environment that proved to be “especially conducive to Saddam Hussein’s aspira-

Making Foreign Policy in the Midst of Turbulence


tions to Arab leadership and regional hegemony.” But with hindsight we can see that this was only the first in a set of emerging systemic pressures. Also, while the Kuwait war may have been the first manifestation of the end of bipolarity, it made a deep and far-reaching impression on the region’s strategic landscape. First, by pitting Arabs against Arabs, this war deepened the elites’ growing crisis of legitimacy and accelerated the fragmentation of the Arab order that had already begun in the late 1970s. The fissures opened by Egypt’s unilateral peace with Israel and Iran’s revolution and subsequent war with Iraq (1980–1988) widened as Arab states scrambled to protect their own interests in what was to become a US-led international war against Iraq under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. The presence of Western forces on the “holy soil” of Saudi Arabia in 1990–1991 created its own unique set of legitimacy problems for the Arab monarchies, in terms of supporting the war, assisting in the fight against other Muslims, and pouring billions of dollars into the coffers of the United States and its allies. Thus this war also spawned the murderous anti-Western and anti–Al Saud network of al-Qaeda. Just ten years later the terror network would wreak international havoc by unleashing terror on US soil, which would act as a new catalyst for dramatic change to the strategic map of the region. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—the second catalytic event following the end of bipolarity—had both direct and indirect consequences for the MENA region. Again, they invited US-led intervention in the region, leading to two protracted conflicts—Iraq and Afghanistan—and the further destabilization of an already disrupted order. In this dynamic situation it was also the very targets of US intervention that proved geopolitically decisive. In Iraq, US action to remove the Baath regime decidedly reordered the regional balance of power. In Afghanistan, US action helped disperse al-Qaeda and the Taliban (across the greater Middle East), but also tied the West to the complexities of the South Asian regional system and unavoidable engagement with Pakistan’s volatile political and security environment. Furthermore, Washington’s indirect “problematizing” of Islam as a contributor to regional and international tensions, alongside its


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

democracy promotion strategy in the Arab region, driven by the view of some US officials that authoritarian rule bred terrorism, made the core pro-US Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, more vulnerable to internal and regional challenges. Problematizing Islam in this way made it harder for the United States to later relate to the rise of Islamist forces to positions of power in the region in the 2010s. The third catalytic event was the 2003 Iraq War following George W. Bush’s infamous allusion to an “Axis of Evil”—Iran, Iraq, and North Korea—in his 2002 State of the Union address. These regimes were a danger to world peace and should be removed; by 2003, regime change and democracy promotion had become part of the same toxic policy cocktail. Democracy promotion with a bayonet was always going to be problematic—in justification as much as in implementation—and the approach of the United States and its “coalition of the willing” in waging war for the sake of democracy spooked even Washington’s own Arab allies who also happened to suffer from democracy deficiency. Foe and friend alike were fearful of US policies, and when war came to Iraq its impact on the region was inevitably deep and extensive (Ehteshami and Hinnebusch 2013). The point has been made in several chapters in this volume that the destruction of the Baath state in Iraq not only irrevocably changed the regional balance of power in Iran’s favor but also exposed the moderate Sunni-majority countries to a perceived growing Shiite influence with the emergence of an overarching “Shiite crescent.” The concern that US action was damaging their security was articulated in virtually every exchange that Arab leaders had with US officials. Since then, the region has been trying to manage the spillover effects of the Iraq War and adjust to the changing regional balance of power, and it is overly problematic that the regional tensions following the Iraq War have now become woven into the wider turmoil in the Arab region—the turmoil sprung from mass uprisings in several Arab states. The fourth catalytic event is the Arab Spring. Successive regime collapse in several Arab countries has unhinged some alliances, strengthened others, and also tested the limits of the influence of external powers in channeling the energies of the

Making Foreign Policy in the Midst of Turbulence


revolts in any particular direction. By any measure, the Arab uprisings have proven to be the most important force in reshaping the region of the post–Cold War period. Established patterns of behavior from the Cold War and the post–September 11 periods have been disrupted, and no one power or group of powers has successfully managed to shape the transition to suit their own interests. The prolongation of the regionwide crisis has dramatically increased the sense of insecurity within states. The states’ foreign policy roles, in terms of defining orientation (toward neighbors and great powers) and the subsystem as a whole, have become harder to anticipate. In addition, the fall of longestablished elites coupled with the growing role of citizen power in the transition countries and beyond challenged the supposition that foreign policy is always made at the leadership level in the MENA region. We need to ask whether legitimacy is a greater variable now in the shaping of foreign policy than it had been in the pre-2011 order. If so, it is hard to see how it is manifesting itself in the transition states. In broader terms, clearly the factor of legitimacy has been increasingly contested in the weakened uprising states, with democratization being portrayed as “lawlessness” in those states compared to the portrayal of “order” in the stronger democratizing states. In Egypt, Yemen, and Syria this lawlessness has certainly become the case. And the more permanent the condition of transition becomes, the more complex will be the relationship between pluralism and order, between the invigorated “street” and the weakened state. Thus the process of transition since early 2011 has had a direct and dramatic impact on the foreign policies of virtually every country in the region and especially on the role perceptions and worldviews of the transition states themselves. The case studies in this volume have shown the complexities of making foreign policy in the transition countries. In Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, foreign policy has been held hostage to the current balance of post-authoritarian political forces and the uncertainty that has accompanied the delineation of new priorities and legitimizing principles. The uprisings have also posed serious challenges to wider interested parties. Israel, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Qatar have all had to respond to the rapidly changing regional landscape with no guarantee of success. In this transition process, Syria continues to be an exceptional case, given its historically significant ideological and geopolitical role in the region and given the fact that while parts of the country are definitely engaged in transition, the ruling regime continues to hold the central axis of power, but at great cost. As Hinnebusch shows in his discussion of Syria (Chapter 8), the two constant sources of tension in that country—identity and geopolitics—are the tools being used by rival forces to wither away the fabric of the state. Syria has been reduced from a formidable regional power to a battleground of nonstate groups and rival states (Hokayem 2013). But there is a wider point here. Can a minority-led state like Syria, at war with its own people, any longer be making foreign policy in the national interest? The same might be said, to a lesser degree, of other fragmented states, such as Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. In the absence of credible voices, how representative of the Syrian nation can the regime claim to be when it has lost much of its regional and international legitimacy? Bereft of institutional Arab recognition, how much of an “Arab front” can the Assad regime claim? Egypt too has experienced the effects of this seesaw of power on its regional relationships. The United Arab Emirates is one day a hostile neighbor (under Morsi), but a close ally the next (under the post-Morsi military-backed government); Qatar is one day a desired ally, but an unwelcome Arab partner the next. Leadership changes, as driven by the “street,” have given central place to agency in shaping decisions and also worldviews. But beyond this, the Arab uprisings have also intensified intrafaith tensions in the region, and also directly impacted state behavior. In response, states are lining up along religious lines. Iraq, for example, feels compelled to prop up the same Assad regime that previously allowed al-Qaeda militants to invade its territory and wreak havoc on its people, because this new policy fits with the interests of its ally Iran, but also because the now Shiite-majority country of Iraq fears the geopolitical consequences of a hostile Sunni-led Arab regime emerging on its western border that would connect more closely with the rival states of

Making Foreign Policy in the Midst of Turbulence


Turkey and also the oil-rich Gulf Arab countries. In all this, the rise of identity politics is tangible. In this new regional order, territorial boundaries are being physically tested, and political, military, and social activity is increasingly taking place across borders, below the radar and beyond the control of the state. These new strategic dislocations are feeding into a much broader Middle East cold war that, since at least 2005 has involved both Arab and non-Arab members of the region in constantly shifting alignments: Turkey and Saudi Arabia together in Syria but on opposite sides in Egypt; Qatar and Saudi Arabia on opposite sides in Egypt but allies in Yemen; Iran and Turkey on opposite sides in Syria and Iraq but allies as economic partners and also in Iran’s nuclear talks. Foreign policy is shaped by a regional environment in which state power shifts, interstate relations are unpredictable, elite relations are precarious, hierarchies are unstable, regional bodies are unable to regulate interactions or establish the norms for “the rules of the game,” and outside powers are seen as failing to muster any consensus for limiting the national and regional corrosive effects of continuing violence in many transition countries. The fifth catalytic force, which is still in the making, is the changing global distribution of power and the effects of the gradual shift of power away from the Euro-Atlantic bloc on the MENA states and the orientation of the region as a whole. Despite claims that no definitive case has been made for an irreversible or established transfer of global power “Eastward,” the international system today has moved from near unipolarity in the 1990s to a dynamic multipolarity that in many ways resembles the fragmentation of the interwar years. For the MENA states and the region as a whole, a post–Pax Americana order will have far-reaching consequences in terms of partnerships, security alliances, and eventually foreign policy orientations. Transition to new relationships for states that have been dominated by the West for so long (some of them even created by Western powers) will not be easy, but will also have potentially huge implications for their foreign relations and the process through which they define their place in the world. While this volume has not delved into this catalytic force at any length, nevertheless we are very conscious of the


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

future impact that any degree of “de-Americanization” can have on the shape of the region and on the relationships its policies and presence have fostered for so long. The discernible tensions in US relations with Saudi Arabia and Israel in 2013 over Washington’s policies on Syria and Iran, and its responses to the continuing crises in Egypt and Libya, are symptomatic of this wider strategic reality.

Oil and Pan-Islamism Revisited Oil income has transformed the strategic landscape of the region. It has arguably lifted the inhibition of smallness on action in several cases, has empowered some states, but at the same time has also had an emasculating effect on others. Thus, in the wake of the Arab uprisings, oil income has given unprecedented regional influence to a handful of well-endowed Arab states, exclusively monarchical and located in the Persian Gulf, and the financial power to intervene in situations and lands in ways—economic, military, and diplomatic—that would have been impossible to imagine even late in the first decade of the twenty-first century. This small group of states has also acquired extraordinary leverage in regional and some international forums, where they have pursued their national interests with much greater vigor than hitherto possible in the fast-changing regional order (Ulrichsen 2012). Thus, while the oil states became eminent in the oil boom of the 1970s, it is only since the turn of the twenty-first century that their huge oil income has begun to bring them to a position of preeminence in the regional power struggle. In the fragmented MENA region, the Gulf subregion is in itself already the most dynamic. The monarchies therein form the most economically prosperous and networked parts of the entire region, and the weakening of the core Arab states (Egypt, Iraq, and Syria) will thus merely enhance the role of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The relationship between oil wealth and political Islam has also changed significantly since the Arab uprisings began. The oil monarchies have so directly engaged with the new (Islamist) elites emerging in the transition states that an even more contiguous link can be made between oil wealth and the reality of politi-

Making Foreign Policy in the Midst of Turbulence


cal Islam in the region. In a revolutionary situation in North Africa and the Levant, for example, the oil states have had to adjust their former policies. Largely gone is their impetus to conservatize. Qatar came out in full support of Tunisia’s Ennahda and also Egypt’s main Islamist coalition in 2011, and put its considerable financial muscle behind the anti-Assad Salafist al-Nusra front in Syria. Saudi Arabia in turn has tried to strengthen the revolutionary Muslim Brotherhood camp in Syria, while strongly resisting the Islamists’ rise to power in Egypt. Iraq and Iran, as the northern Gulf oil states, adopted what could be seen by their opponents as a more sectarian approach by continuing to promote a Shiite-led resistance front. Iran’s estrangement from Hamas in 2011 was itself a function of this reality, as indeed was Tehran’s unyielding support for the minority-led and increasingly brutal Assad regime. At the same time, it must also be acknowledged that the empowerment of the “street” in the Arab world puts limits on the ability of the oil states to manipulate political Islam, compounded by the fact that the oil states themselves have been backing competing Islamist forces in the region. This is a new geopolitical reality in the region, one that underlines the strategic significance of the catalytic Arab Spring. Arguably then, the whole discussion of political Islam and of pan-Islamist currents has been thrown into sharp relief since the Arab uprisings. The fall of dictatorships has opened up the political space for Islamists of different hues—Salafi, Ikhwani, “liberal”—to gain access to the levers of power in several important states, igniting a “territorialization” of what were once a set of pan-regional movements. We argued in 2002 that at the suprastate level, pan-Islamism had proven unable to create a sustainable international structure (Hinnebusch and Ehteshami 2002). Today, if anything, that situation has worsened. Islamism itself has begun to change as it has fragmented and in instances polarized along geographical and ideological lines. We recognize, therefore, that the entire discourse about Islamist politics needs to change to accommodate the reality of Islamists taking power, sharing power, or being pushed back into opposition in Arab states. The fragmentation of political Islam is taking place along sectarian lines too. Thus the Arab uprisings have deepened the chasm between


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Sunni and Shiite Islamists across the region, mirroring the SunniShiite divide at the state level.

Pluralist State Formation and Foreign Policies: A New Era? We argued in 2002 that due to the MENA region’s war-induced security environment, the chances of its joining the post–Cold War “zone of peace” were modest. We limited our comments to the cases of Turkey and Israel, the region’s leading pluralist states at the time, and concluded that “as long as irredentism and insecurity remain basic features of the regional system, the foreign policy impact of the form of government will be relatively limited” (Hinnebusch and Ehteshami 2002, 349). The core of our analysis still holds true, but there are interesting new twists to consider in the post-2010 emerging regional order. The democratizing impact of the uprisings remains to be seen, and virtually every affected country remains in transition. That said, change is indeed under way across the region, and the growing influence of nonelite groups and social forces on the direction of travel of the transition states is having an effect on their foreign policies. The effect is also being felt in several countries not directly affected by the revolutionary process. In two transition countries, foreign policy was indeed altered after their revolutions. Thus, as Murphy shows (Chapter 9), the initial foreign policy instinct in transitional Tunisia was indeed pluralist/liberal, despite the political uncertainties at home. Tunisia withdrew recognition of the Assad regime in Syria for its violence against its own people (but did not recognize the Syrian National Council until it could be satisfied of the opposition’s democratic credentials), extended humanitarian assistance to Libya, developed close links with such Gulf states as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, stood closer with the Palestinians, and announced a partnership with Morsi’s Egypt aiming to be “as integrated as the European Union.” And, most profound of all, Tunisia made strong links with the distant but ideologically close

Making Foreign Policy in the Midst of Turbulence


Islamist-led government of Turkey. In the case of Egypt too, real movement can be detected. Under President Morsi, Egypt opened channels with Iran, developed very close links with Turkey, built close financial links with Qatar, withdrew recognition of the Assad regime, openly supported Hamas in Gaza, and opened up to China. At the same time, Egypt maintained cordial relations with Israel and the United States as well as the European Union. These transitional regimes have not been revisionist. Moreover, the “depoliticization of Arabism,” as Matteo Legrenzi and Marina Calculli (2013) put it, has opened up space not just for wideranging Islamist discourses but also, even more importantly, for secular, non-Arab, non-Muslim, and local voices. We argued in 2002 that the foreign policy of any given MENA state can be understood only as the outcome of “an interaction between state, sub/trans-state, and state-system levels” (Hinnebusch and Ehteshami 2002, 335), and went on to say that in this complex subsystem the state—for all its trappings and often impressive façade—was still being contested and still very much under construction. Looking at developments since September 11, 2001, and especially since 2011, the process of construction, or more accurately deconstruction, has accelerated. For some, the Arab uprisings are marking the end of the “SykesPicot” order imposed in the early twentieth century (Bowker 2013). But these mass movements also, arguably, have brought closure to the dominance of the United States. For much of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the United States was able to act as the “hyperpower” and, through direct intervention, change the region. Its military interventions alongside the socalled war on terror pulverized the region and destabilized the already tense interstate relationships, but when political fires were lit across the Arab world, the global power appeared helpless in aiding its besieged allies and hapless in dealing with the aftermath of the uprisings. For regional actors, the Obama administration’s “leading from behind” not only marked a sharp contrast from the testosterone-heavy, interventionist approach of the Bush era, but also was seen as a shorthand for US acknowledgment of the end of its of regional hegemony.


The Foreign Policies of Middle East States

Conclusion Paul Noble (2008, 67) asserts that the foreign policy of states “is shaped not only by their national institutions and the values/ perceptions of policymakers but also by the global and regional environments in which they operate.” For us, globalization continues to divide the region, testing the socioeconomic robustness of its states. Ensuring human security in this challenging environment has become increasingly difficult, with regional actors, absent any regionwide institutional structure to help them negotiate the currents of globalization, competing with each other for access to resources and partners. Globalization, in this sense, has accelerated regional rivalries. Moreover, the 2011 uprisings, in certain respects directed against the regional outcomes of globalization, indicate that the region as a whole has not been coping well with globalization and the accompanying pressures of international capitalism. But it is the deeper issues at the regional level that have challenged our understanding of MENA politics. Our concern has been with the “systemic conditions” of the region since the end of the Cold War and its profound effect on the policies and behavior of MENA states. In this regard, the dramatic collapse of the region’s security states has changed the strategic map, certainly, but has at the same time ended the race among them to be the region’s “leading state.” Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia are reactive states: even when they act offensively in terms of tactics, they are acting defensively in terms of strategy. The collapse of the region’s security states has also shuffled the deck in such a way as to enable smaller states, most notably Qatar, to play substantially bigger roles, and allow nonstate parties to intervene in countries more freely and directly.

Glossary of International Relations Terms

Agency: In international relations, agency refers to the capacity of states (and leaders) to act autonomously and affect their environment; structure, by contrast, refers to preexisting context that constrains agent choices. Anarchy: The absence of government, seen by realism as the main distinction between domestic and international politics. Balance of power: A key realist concept referring to a balance between the power of states or alliances of states, and seen as the main way of preventing dominance and establishing order. Classical realists see it as the result of artful statesmanship, while structural realists view it as a natural or probable response to the insecurity of the system. Bandwagon: The opposite of balancing against a threat, bandwagoning seeks to appease a superior, potentially threatening power in order either to help balance against a more proximate threat or to share in the spoils of a winning coalition. Bureaucratic politics: According to this concept, policy is seen as a product of struggle within governments by rival branches of the bureaucracy, each defending its own interests, possibly at the expense of coherent, rational policymaking. See Halpern and Clapp 2006. See also rational actor. Complex interdependence: The result of the multiple transnational and interstate ties, often economic, that bind states together and potentially mute conflict. See Keohane and Nye 1977. See also pluralism. Complex realism: In this book, this term to refer to varieties of realism that accept that several levels of analysis, notably the internal (domestic) as




well as the international systemic level, have major impacts on state behavior and international politics. Constructivism: According to this concept, the state system is an intersubjective (cultural, not material) set of norms and expectations created by the interactions of states. The system, in turn, shapes (constitutes) the identities of states, and it is this, not simply power considerations, that explains their behavior. See the work of Alexander Wendt (1999) and Michael Barnett (1998). Democratic peace theory: The claim that the spread of democracy will lead to greater international security because democratic processes predispose states to resolve conflicts peacefully rather than through war. See also liberalism and pluralism. Dependency theory: A branch of Marxist-inspired structuralism, dependency theory argues that the dependency of developing countries on the developed economies allows the latter to exploit the former, thereby keeping the third world underdeveloped. Globalization: The acceleration and intensification of worldwide social relations, driven by the internationalization of business and communications. Globalization both partly bypasses states and ties them into a mutually interdependent world society that reduces their self-sufficiency and sovereignty. Hegemony: Dominance by a leading state (e.g., the United States and the United Kingdom, at different times) that supposedly maintains order and economic stability in the world system, usually in the name of an ideology, such as liberalism. Historical sociology: A school of thought that, when applied to international relations, focuses on how states and states systems mutually constitute each other over time; in Charles Tilly’s (1969) famous aphorism, “War makes the state and the state makes war.” Historical sociology disputes what it sees as neorealism’s view of an unchanging international system and argues that changes in the kind of states shape changes in the kind of states system. Ideology: Refers to a comprehensive belief system that purports to both describe the world and to prescribe how it can be changed for the better. While claiming to promote a universal good, it expresses the interests of a particular social force (such as a class). Ideology is widely deployed by movements and parties to attract followers and by ruling regimes and classes to legitimize their dominance. Irredentism: Refers to dissatisfaction with state borders where they are incongruent with, cut across, and frustrate identity groups’ (such as putative nations) aspirations for self-determination or for inclusion in a state coterminous with their identity. It is a major source of conflict within and between states.



Level of analysis: Refers to the possible alternative foci for explaining international behavior. The system level refers, in realism, to the anarchic structure of the states system and, in structuralism, to the hierarchic coreperiphery global division of labor. The system level is seen by these approaches to shape behavior at the unit level (the states). Other levels of analysis may refer to substate phenomena, including individual leaders, government (executives, interest groups, bureaucracies), and civil society (political culture, public opinion), which, according to pluralism, equally affect states’ international behavior. Liberalism: In international relations refers to claims that capitalist economics affects international politics by creating transstate interdependencies that shape more pacific state behavior (see democratic peace theory). Scholars in this tradition also argue that international regimes (or institutions) and international organizations can facilitate cooperation and mute the power struggle of states in anarchic world systems. Neoliberalism: Refers to the ideology promoting deregulation and a rollback of state intervention in economies. Promoted by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the West and imposed on the third world by the International Monetary Fund, it has advanced economic globalization to the advantage of international finance capital. Neorealism (or structural realism): A version of realism that stresses the predominant influence of the state system (especially insecurity from anarchy) in shaping states and their behavior. See Waltz 1979. See also realism. Pluralism: The school of international relations theory that sees a plurality of forces as shaping relations between states, notably suprastate actors (international organizations), transstate actors (transnational corporations), and nonstate actors (professional associations, social movements). The resulting complex interdependence constrains states, especially deterring warlike behavior. Seeing states as less than unitary actors, pluralism also focuses on the role of substate domestic actors, such as competing bureaucracies, interest groups, and public opinion, as determinants of a state’s behavior. It also stresses the role of leadership beliefs and images, including the irrationality caused by misperceptions. Pluralism is subsumed within the broader school of liberalism. See Keohane and Nye 1977. Polarity: Refers to the number of great powers in the international system at a given time; for example, bipolarity refers to the Cold War period of two superpowers while multipolarity describes nineteenth-century Europe. Neorealists see the polarity of international systems as their most important distinguishing feature but disagree over which pattern of polarity is more stable (and least war prone). Rational actor: The notion that states, ideally, act as unitary actors, making decisions after collecting full information, surveying all feasible



options, weighing costs and benefits, and matching ends and means. See also bureaucratic politics and realism. Realism: The traditionally dominant school of international relations theory. States are seen as unitary rational actors advancing their national interests amid the insecurity of the anarchic international arena. International politics is a struggle for power, war is an ever-present possibility, and order depends on a balance of power. Decisionmaker rationality means careful “realistic” matching of goals and resources (the more commonsense use of the word realism). See Morgenthau 1978. See also neorealism. Regime: In the domestic context, regime refers to an existing governmental order. In international politics, regime refers to the set of voluntarily agreed principles, norms, and procedures that restrain the behavior of states. Security dilemma: The notion, conceptualized by John Herz, that, in an anarchic system, each state increases its power for defensive purposes but, in doing so, is seen as more threatening by its neighbors, who respond in kind, setting off arms races, with the result that all states end up less secure. Structuralism: The broad view, inspired by Marxism, that the hierarchical structure of the international capitalist system determines state options. Specifically, in the international economic division of labor, the core (developed) states subordinate and exploit the peripheral (less developed) states, whose function is to supply the developed states with primary products. The system is maintained by transstate alliances between dominant classes in the core and the periphery and by the economic dependency of the peripheral states. Dependency theory and world systems theory are varieties of structuralism. See Wallerstein 1979. Not to be confused with “structural realism”; see neorealism. Transnational (or transstate): Refers to ties and nonstate groups that cross state boundaries. World systems theory: Refers to the work of Immanuel Wallerstein and his followers, which analyzes the long-term evolution of the world capitalist system, seen as the most important determinant of world politics. The international division of labor divides the globe into the core of advanced economies, the underdeveloped periphery, and the intermediate semiperiphery. Over time hegemons rise and fall in the core of the system; their function is to stabilize and expand the capitalist market. See structuralism.


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The Contributors

Anoushiravan Ehteshami is Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah Chair in International Relations at the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University, and director of the HH Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah Programme in International Relations, Regional Politics, and Security. He is author of numerous works on the Middle East and on Iran, including Globalization and Geopolitics in the Middle East: Old Games, New Rules and After Khomeini: The Iranian Second Republic. F. Gregory Gause III is John H. Lindsay ’44 Chair and professor of international affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University. His many works include The International Relations of the Persian Gulf and Oil Monarchies: Domestic and Security Challenges in the Arab Gulf States. Raymond Hinnebusch is professor of international relations and Middle East politics and director of the Centre for Syrian Studies at St Andrews University. His works include International Politics of the Middle East and Syria: Revolution from Above.



The Contributors

Clive Jones is professor of regional security and deputy head of the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University. His many works on Israel include Israel: Challenges to Democracy, Identity, and the State (with Emma Murphy) and Israel’s Clandestine Diplomacies (with Tore Pedersen). Mehran Kamrava is professor of political science and director of the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar. His works include The Modern Middle East: A Political History Since the First World War and Qatar: Small State, Big Politics. Emma C. Murphy is professor of political economy and head of the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University. Her works include Economic and Political Change in Tunisia: From Bourguiba to Ben Ali and “Under the Emperor’s Neo-Liberal Clothes: How the IFIs Got It Wrong in Tunisia.” Philip Robins is reader in Middle East politics at the University of Oxford and a professorial fellow of St Antony’s College. He was founding head of the Middle East Programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House. His many works include A History of Jordan and Suits & Uniforms: Turkish Foreign Policy Since the Cold War. Curtis R. Ryan is associate professor of political science at Appalachian State University, North Carolina. His works include Jordan in Transition: From Hussein to Abdullah and Inter-Arab Alliances: Regime Security and Jordanian Foreign Policy. Adham Saouli is lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of Edinburgh. His works include The Arab State: Dilemmas of Late Formation and “Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Arab Uprisings: Structures, Threats, and Opportunities.” Nael Shama is a political researcher and columnist based in Cairo, Egypt. He is author of Egyptian Foreign Policy from Mubarak to Morsi.


Abacha, Sani, 322 Abbas, Mahmoud, 95, 141 Abd al-Majid, Ismet, 83 Abdessalem, Rafik, 253, 256 Abdullah, King of Saudi Arabia, 201 Abdullah I, King of Jordan, 36 Abdullah II, King of Jordan; Abdullah regime, 133, 134, 136, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 144, 145, 150, 153, 155 Abdullah Initiative, 200 Abu Awdah, Adnan, 154 Abu Ghraib, 65 Abu Jaber, Kamal, 139, 154 Afghanistan, vii, 52, 63, 65, 67, 113, 139, 140, 144, 151, 188, 192, 245, 262, 274, 275, 276, 277, 284, 286, 287, 288, 317, 341 Aflaq, Michel, 212 Africa (north, west, central, south, Horn of Africa), 1, 12, 28, 35, 52, 72, 76, 157, 173, 174, 180, 233, 234, 237, 242, 244, 256, 261, 283, 307, 308, 311, 321, 329, 330, 340, 347 AFRICOM, 255 Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Conference, 237

Agaf Modi’in, 304 Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud, 66, 100, 166, 261, 265, 270, 273, 285, 287, 297 Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, 84 Al Arabiya, 69 Al Jazeera, 69, 132, 158, 162, 171, 172, 230 Arabsat satellite network, 171 Al Khalifa family, 283 Al Kibar nuclear facility, 293, 296 Al Saud family, 194, 195, 196, 200, 201 Al Saud regime, 185, 190, 195, 203, 204 Al Thani family, 157, 159, 160–161, 181 Al Udeid air base, As Sayliha base, Dhahran airfield, 164, 182 al-Ahsa, 194, 195 al-Aqsa intifada, 61, 294, 296, 299, 305, 310 al-Assad, Bashar, 66, 70, 71, 72, 101, 125, 126, 128, 129, 130, 151, 174, 175, 176, 191, 205, 210, 214, 215, 216, 218, 221, 226, 227, 228, 230, 231, 282, 283,




293, 332, 333, 334, 344, 347, 348, 349 al-Assad, Hafez, 30, 43, 45, 51, 204, 207, 210, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 222, 224 225, 232 al-Bakr, Hassan, 115 al-Baz, Usama, 83 al-Fatah, 41 al-Hariri, Rafiq, 66, 110, 122, 215, 228 al-Hashimi, Tarek, 132 al-Maliki, Nuri, 125, 126, 132 al-Mulqi, Hani, 147 al-Nahhas, Mustafa, 77 al-Nujaifi, Osama, 132 al-Nusra front (Syria), 347 al-Qaeda, 16, 62, 63, 70, 71, 97, 119, 122, 126, 139, 140, 149, 176, 192, 196, 199, 205, 231, 252, 274, 276, 277, 293, 341, 344 al-Qasim, Marwan, 133, 154 al-Quwatly, Shukri, 210, 211 al-Rifa’i, Samir, 149 al-Sahwa (Awakening) coalition, 122 al-Said, Nuri, 110, 115 al-Shahat, Ahmed, 289 al-Shara, Farouk, 215 al-Wazir, Khalil, 241 al-Za’im, Husni, 211 al-Zarqawi, Abu Musab, 149 al-Zawahiri, Ayman, 70 Alawis (Alawites), 70, 126, 212, 213, 332 Algeria, 26, 45, 53, 234, 235, 236, 237, 240, 242, 252 Algiers Agreement, 112 Aliyah (migration to Israel), 300 Allawi, Iyad, 121 Alliances Arab triangle, 45, 47 Baghdad Pact, 37, 84, 110, 111, 131, 210, 211, 319 Egyptian-US, 91, Syrian-Iranian, 54, 282 Turkish-Israeli, 226 Allies, Axis (World War II), 236 Alliot-Marie, Michèle, 249 Allon, Yigal, 302 Alviri, Morteza, 273 Amal Movement, 109 Ammar, Rachid, 247

Anarchy, of state system, 17 Anfal campaign, 107 Ankara Agreement, 326 Arab Cooperation Council, 91 Arab-Israeli conflict, 10, 13, 19, 36, 41, 44, 56, 58, 63, 87, 91, 92, 94, 95, 111, 116, 140, 144, 154, 204, 209, 223, 282; see also War Arab League, 15, 35, 37, 46, 57, 58, 71, 76, 91, 127, 173, 175, 227, 230, 238, 239 Arab Maghreb Union, 242, 252 Arab nationalism, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 25, 33, 37, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 48, 49, 50, 52, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 69, 78, 84, 85, 86, 87, 94, 107, 108, 109, 117, 118, 119, 189, 190, 191, 192, 208, 209, 218, 240, 319, 349; see also Arabism; Pan-Arabism Arab revolts, 123 Arab Spring, vii, 16, 32, 68, 134, 140, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 171, 172, 174, 175, 187, 191, 193, 197, 205, 206, 250, 255, 281, 282, 284, 289, 295, 309, 310, 311, 312, 326, 331, 334, 342, 347; see also Arab revolts; Arab uprisings Arab summits (of heads of state), 15, 40, 41, 46, 47, 58, 86 Arab triangle, 45, 47 Arab uprisings, vii, 9, 26, 67, 68, 70, 72, 106, 129, 173, 207, 219, 230, 262, 267, 269, 276, 281, 284, 287, 306, 343, 344, 346, 347, 349 Arabic-speaker, 11, 12, 77 Arabism, 11, 12, 14, 15, 25, 41, 43, 44, 48, 49, 50, 55, 57, 58, 78, 84, 94, 109, 118, 189, 192, 208, 209, 349; see also Arab nationalism; Pan-Arabism Arad, Uzi, 304 Arafat, Yasser, 66, 91,140, 141, 224 ARAMCO, 187, 196 Aras, Bulent, 325 Arif, Abd al-Salam, 115, 118 Armed Islamic Group (GIA), 240

Index Arms races/proliferation, 49, 53, 54, 280 Assabiya (solidarity), 24 Asir, 194 Assir, Ahmad, 129 Aswan High Dam, 85 Ataturk, Mustafa Kemal, 317, 318, 320, 335 Atrianfar, Mohammad, 273 Aures mountains, 233 Authoritarian regimes/leaders, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 32, 38, 49, 80, 81, 82, 107, 108, 115, 116, 120, 124,138, 150, 240, 257, 317, 342 Authoritarianism, 55, 97, 245, 315 Autonomy, 6, 7, 8, 17, 23, 25, 27, 29, 33, 49, 80, 81, 87, 90, 102, 107, 121, 138, 159, 187, 189, 200, 203, 216, 247, 262, 263, 265 from the core/Great Powers/West, 6, 17, 23, 25, 33, 49, 187, 216, 263 from domestic pressures in policymaking, 23, 25, 29, 49, 81, 102, 247 “Axis of Evil,” State of the Union address, 274, 277, 342 Baabda Declaration, 128, Baath party, 6, 12, 13, 30, 40, 41, 42, 51, 55, 85, 86, 107, 108, 112, 115, 118, 119, 120, 121, 126, 136, 147, 152, 208, 211, 212, 213, 215, 219, 227, 230, 231, 267, 278, 333, 341 Baghdad Pact, 37, 84, 110, 111, 131, 210, 211, 319 Bakr, Hassan al-, 115 Balance of power, 17, 18, 19, 28, 32, 35, 54, 67, 70, 99, 102, 103, 109, 123, 130, 189, 191, 209, 212, 217, 232, 262, 284, 341, 342 Balancing, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 33, 36, 41, 49, 66, 67, 76, 79, 89, 146, 167, 186, 190, 191, 192, 198, 203, 210, 223, 254 Bandwagoning, 18, 26, 59, 94, 146, 164, 167, 228, 291


Barak, Ehud, 297, 302 Barnett, Michael, 14, 15 Barzani, Masoud, 126 Bassil, Jibran, 132 Begin, Menachem, 90, 302, 305 Ben Ali, Zine el Abidine, 149, 238, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 257, 331 Ben Gurion, David, 300, 303 Ben Jedid, Chadli, 237 Ben Yahya, Habib, 241 Beqaa Valley, 108, 223 Berri, Nabih, 110 Bilad ash-sham, 13, 207 bin Laden, Osama, 95, 195, 199, 204, 205 Bipolarity, 6, 7, 25, 26, 37, 41, 112, 340, 341; see also Cold War Bourgeoisie, businessmen, 5, 24, 25, 28, 32, 49, 81, 213, 266, 323 Bourguiba, Habib, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238, 241, 244, 245, 246, 247, 257 Brecher, Michael, 300 Brown, L. Carl, 3, 4, 6, 39 Bureaucracy, 29, 30, 31, 49, 65, 84, 162, 166, 195, 196, 213, 246, 270, 303, 304, 318 Bureaucratic politics/structures, 24, 31, 80, 201, 214, 243, 256, 271, 287, 324 Burqani, Ahmad, 274

Camp David Accords, 31, 90, 91, 93, 98, 99, 187 Capabilities, 7, 18, 21, 28, 49, 51, 62, 285, 297; see also Military Capitalism, 8, 54, 323, 350 Carter, President Jimmy, 90 Chalabi, Ahmad, 147 Chamoun, Camille, 111, 112, 113, 119 Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, 341 Chehab, Fouad, 111 Chubin, Shahram, 261, 340 Civil war, 10, 26, 41, 48, 50, 65, 71, 72, 86, 100, 110, 111, 116, 120, 121, 123, 124, 125, 126, 134, 136, 137, 140, 149, 150, 151,



152, 157, 160, 165, 173, 175, 176, 178, 193, 203, 204, 223, 230, 232, 240, 252, 289 Classes, 5, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 28, 36, 37, 38, 49, 68, 69, 77, 80, 81, 161, 211, 230, 247, 299, 318; see also Bourgeoisie Clinton, Hillary, 250 Coalition (Gulf War, anti-Iraq), 13, 57, 63, 113, 120, 143, 193, 225, 239, 274, 342 Cold War, 6, 7, 8, 9, 56, 57, 58, 63, 103, 108, 110, 112, 113, 135, 138, 188, 218, 231, 236, 238, 315, 316, 325, 339, 343, 348, 350 Arab cold war/new/Middle East, 23, 25, 43, 46, 66, 69, 86, 87, 95, 222, 340, 345; see also Bipolarity Communism, communists, 37, 135, 315, 319, 323 Constructivism, 20 Consultative Council (Saudi Arabia), 202 Core-periphery relations, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 293; see also Dependency Coup d’état, 23, 39, 40, 80, 86, 101, 107, 108, 115, 160, 176, 197, 210, 211, 212, 238, 251, 319, 322, 326 Damascus Declaration, 58, 94 David, Steven, 18 Davutoğlu, Ahmet, 325, 329, 330, 333, 336 Dawisha, Adeed, 214 Dayan, Moshe, 302 Deauville Partnership, 249 Demirel, Süleyman, 320 Democracy, 16, 26, 68, 69, 70, 72, 97, 116, 244, 251, 252, 254, 284, 342 Democratization, 13, 21–22, 49, 278, 348–349; see also Political liberalization Denktaş, Rauf, 328 Dependency, 3–4, 6, 14, 117–118, 150, 151, 258, 259, 341, 347

Egypt’s, 94–96, 105–107, 108–110, 112, 341, 347–348 Iran’s, 285–286, 288–290 Iraq’s, 170–171, 182–188 Saudi Arabia’s, 194–195, 202 Yemen’s, 258, 259 Determinants, foreign policy: see Foreign policy determinants Deterrence/deterrents, 54, 217, 227, 318 Diaspora, Jewish, 41, 298, 300 Diplomacy, vii, 30, 45, 46, 83, 87, 88, 89, 93, 162, 163, 166, 170, 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 200, 217, 236, 246, 303, 307, 317, 330, 332 Diplomats, 31, 84, 116, 172, 182, 202, 203, 227, 324; see also Foreign policy bureaucracies Doha Agreement, 178, 229 Dolphin-class submarines, 297 Dual containment, 59, 60

East Jerusalem, 61, 137, 293, 298, 299, 305 Ecevit, Bülent, 326, 327 Economic interdependence/integration, 4, 17, 46 Economic liberalization, 6, 25, 26, 54, 79, 213, 221, 222, 227, 239; see also Infitah Economic sanctions, 6 against Iran, 262, 286 against Iraq, 60, 114 against Syria, 227, 336 Egypt: alliance with the United States, 47, 66, 71, 72, 81, 90, 91, 92, 95, 97, 98, 101, 191 anti-imperialism of, 23, 37, 69, 75, 78, 84, 85 Arab policy, 13, 14, 28, 33, 36, 37, 39, 42, 78, 111, 208 economic dependency of and foreign policy, 57, 71, 78, 80, 89, 175 elites of, 84, 88, 96, 343 foreign policy, 80, 82, 84, 88, 91, 93, 96, 99, 101, 102, 173, 195, 208

Index foreign policy behavior, 84–98 foreign policy determinants, 75–80 foreign policy making, 80–84 foreign policy role of, 28 foreign policy under Morsi, 99, 100, 101, 348, 349 foreign policy under Mubarak, 57, 75, 77, 78, 82, 90, 91, 93, 94, 97, 99, 101, 103 foreign policy under Nasser, 75, 79, 81, 84, 85, 86, 87, 91, 190, 195, 203, 211, 237 foreign policy under Sadat, 45, 49, 51, 53, 75, 77, 79, 81, 87, 90, 92, 94, 102, 103, 191 geopolitics of, 68, 75, 80, 81 Gulf War role of, 93–95 hegemony in Arab world of, 38, 40, 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 51, 75, 76, 77, 78, 84, 85, 86, 99, 102, 203, 212 identity of, 53, 75, 77, 84, 94 Iraq war of, 95–97 military capabilities of, 53, 75, 85, 87, 90, 93, 94 military elite of, 100, 176, 251 separate peace with Israel, 47, 48, 76, 79, 87, 91, 94, 98, 111, 191, 204, 217, 293, 341 state formation of, 23, 24 see also Mubarak; Nasser; PanArabism; Sadat Egyptian Diplomatic Institute, 84 Eisenhower Doctrine, 39, 211 el-Essebsi, Beji Caid, 250 Elections, 27, 30, 82, 83, 96, 97, 121, 122, 138, 148, 149, 233, 248, 251, 253, 254, 255, 271, 300, 306 Elites, 21, 31, 32, 56, 86, 248, 249, 297, 339, 341, 343, 346 Egyptian, 83 and identity construction, 14, 28, 40 interests of, 5, 6, 8, 22 and policymaking, 49 pressures, constraints on, 9, 14, 17, 23, 27, 29, 75 Qatari, 164 Saudi, 199 and state-building, 5, 22, 25


Syrian, 212, 213 Tunisian, 245, 248; Turkish, 316, 324 Ennahda (Tunisia), 238, 240, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 269, 311, 347 Erasmus Mundus and Tempus program, 254 Erbakan, Necmettin, 320, 321, 322, 324, 335 Eretz Yisrael (Greater Israel), 298 Ettakatol, 256 Euphrates River, water dispute, 209, 229 Euro-Mediterranean partnership Initiative, 226, 243, 254, 278, 307, 318, 324, 326, 327 Europe, and the Middle East, 61, 92, 95, 222, 229, 230, 242, 244; see also Turkey, and Europe; Tunisia, and Europe European Neighbourhood Policy, 244

Fahd Plan, 200 Fahd, King of Saudi Arabia, 201 Faisal I, King of Saudi Arabia, 45, 118, 200, 201, 203 Faisal, Saud al-, 201, 202 Family Council (Qatar), 161, Fateh, 141 Fertile Crescent scheme, 210 5 + 5 Initiative (2001); 5 + 5 Initiative of Defense (2004), 243 Foreign policy behavior, 84, 105, 106, 117, 139, 167, 203, 222, 226, 248, 271, 306, 325, 328; see also under country cases Foreign policy bureaucracy/ministries, 84 Foreign policy determinants, 75, 106, 134, 158, 186, 207, 233, 262, 271, 291, 316; see also under country cases Foreign policy making, 17, 23, 30, 32, 34, 39, 80, 103, 106, 114, 115, 116, 130, 137, 138, 158, 164, 165, 176, 200, 213, 214, 234, 246, 254, 271, 291, 301, 318, 324, 325



and state formation, 3, 7, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 27, 35, 36, 51, 80, 106, 107, 113, 114, 117, 130, 131, 193, 210, 297, 316, 348 see also under country cases Foreign policy role, 28, 118, 133, 198, 208, 267, 300, 316, 343 France, 39, 61, 108, 111, 173, 179, 228, 230, 235, 236, 240, 243, 249, 254, 278, 324, 327, 328, 332; see also West Free Patriotic Movement, 124, 127, 129, 132 Frontline, 39, 61, 108, 111, 173, 179, 228, 230, 235, 236, 240, 243, 249, 254, 278, 324, 327, 328, 332

Galtung, Johan, “Structural Theory of Imperialism,” 4, 7 Ghannouchi, Mohammed, 248 Ghannouchi, Rachid, 240, 256 General Intelligence Directorate (Mukhabarat) (Jordan), 138, 151, 209, 210, 262, 263, 267, 268, 286, 344 Geopolitics, 19, 25, 75, 102, 159, Ghali, Butrus, 83 Ghalioun, Burhan, 132 GIA: see Armed Islamic Group Globalization, 8, 26, 63, 67, 103, 285, 287, 306, 350 Golan Heights, 61, 208, 209, 212, 213, 217, 222, 223, 225, 226, 228, 231, 298 Great Britain, 36, 38, 75, 114, 131, 134, 135, 151, 159, 179, 180, 194, 203, 263, 308, 332 Greater Syria, 36, 109, 210, 223 Gül, Abdullah, 320, 325, 327 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), 53, 58, 59, 68, 69, 71, 143, 150, 151, 152, 176, 189, 192; see also Gulf states; Monarchies; Oil Gulf War: see War, Gulf Gush Emunim, 298, 305 Haaretz, 312 Habayit Hayehudi, 300, 305

Hajj, 198 Halevy, Efraim, 313 Hamas, 66, 67, 76, 71, 95, 96, 97, 98, 100, 101, 132, 141, 166, 167, 170, 173, 182, 191, 216, 227, 229, 269, 282, 283, 284, 288, 289, 295, 296, 308, 311, 347, 349 Harik, Iliya, 13 Hashemites, 36, 40, 76, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 142, 143, 144, 146, 147, 148, 150, 153, 154, 190, 191, 194, 210 Hegemon/hegemony, 6, 8, 9, 15, 16, 18, 19, 23, 33, 36, 38, 39, 40, 43, 44,45, 46, 48, 51, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 72, 76, 84, 94, 99, 102, 103, 186, 189, 218, 222, 297, 341, 349 Heikel, Mohammed Hassanein, 46, 83 Hijaz, 190, 194, 195, 197 Histradut, 302 Hizbollah, 50, 66, 70, 71, 95, 96, 109, 111, 122, 123, 124, 125, 127, 128, 129, 132, 148, 210, 216, 217, 220, 224, 227, 228, 229, 230, 269, 277, 281, 282, 289, 294, 295, 296, 302, 311 Hormuz Strait, 170 Houthis, 173 Hussein, Saddam, 6, 29, 30, 31, 50, 51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 63, 64, 66, 91, 93, 94, 108, 110, 113, 114, 115, 119, 120, 130, 131, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 190, 191, 204, 205, 225, 226, 227, 228, 239, 240, 275, 276, 340 Identity, 3, 7, 14, 16, 19, 20, 21, 24, 27, 28, 35, 53, 58, 77, 106, 117, 118, 135, 142, 197, 208, 210, 217, 239, 281, 339, 344, 345 Egyptian, 13, 77, 78, 84, 94 Iranian, 264, 267, 287 Iraqi, 106, 109 Israeli, 12, 297, 300 Jordanian, 135, 154 substate, 3, 10, 69

Index suprastate, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 33, 70, 84 Syrian, 13, 207, 208, 209, 231, 232 transnational/transstate, viii, 3, 7 Tunisian, 13, 234, 235, 236, 238, 239, 251, 256 Turkish, 316, 320 see also Arabism; Islam; PanArabism Ideology, 7, 12, 18, 25, 26, 32, 35, 36, 37, 39, 50, 53, 55, 62, 63, 84, 87, 115, 129, 195, 197, 208, 236, 267, 269, 327 IDF: see Israeli Defense Force Imperialism (colonialism), 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 15, 23, 27, 36, 37, 38, 39, 55, 64, 69, 77, 78, 81, 82, 84, 85, 102, 107, 207, 212, 231 Infitah, 25, 81; see also Economic liberalization Insecurity: see Security Interdependence, 4, 8, 17, 46, 49, 72, 187, 262 International regime, 39, 43 International system, 80, 92, 101, 105, 106, 112–115, 119, 186, 187, 189, 231, 268, 286, 291, 293, 315, 345 Intifada, 61, 141, 294, 296, 299, 305, 310 Iran, viii, 6, 7, 10, 12, 16, 18, 23, 27, 30, 35, 36, 37, 41, 47, 50, 53, 54, 55, 59, 60, 61, 62, 64, 66, 68, 83, 91, 96, 100, 108, 110, 112, 113, 114, 122, 125, 126, 131, 147, 150, 152, 160, 163, 167, 169, 170, 182, 185, 204, 210, 261, 273, 282, 288, 289, 317, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 349, 350 economic dependence, 263, 271 economic reform/liberalization, 89, 221, 238, 241, 272 economy of, 265, 266, 267, 272 economy’s affect on foreign policy, 268 elites of, 265, 268, 270, 273, 280 and Europe, 278 factionalism of, 270, 280, 287


Faqih, leader of, 270 foreign policy behavior of, 19, 51, 147, 148, 168, 265, 267, 269, 272, 273, 285 foreign policy determinants of, 262, 271 foreign policy making of, 269, 270, 285 and GCC states, 51, 53, 59, 60, 68, 111, 159, 162, geopolitics of, 123, 131, 262, 263, 264, 274, 277, 286 identity of, 264 institutions of, 272, 273, 285, 287 and Iraq, 10, 22, 25, 52, 54, 59, 62, 66, 113, 115, 122, 123, 125, 126, 131, 132, 146, 224, 274, 275, 276, 282 and Israel, 224, 280, 292, 294, 311 and Kuwait crisis, 269 and Lebanon, 269, 277, 281 military, 91, 265 National Security Council of, 270 nationalism of, 263 negative balance doctrine of, 264 oil of, 265–267 Pahlavi dynasty of, 39, 89 and Pakistan, 262, 279, 280 and Palestinians, 284, 294, 347 parliament of, 270, 283 presidency of, 270, 272, 279, 281, 285, 287, 297 public opinion in, 273 regional policy of, 147, 206, 262, 283, 286 revolution of, 340, 341 and Saudi Arabia, 124, 127, 163, 190, 191, 193, 194, 199, 268, 283 and Soviet Union, 278, 279 and Syria, 63, 64, 95, 111, 118, 120, 121, 125, 128, 191, 210, 225, 228, 229, 282, 284; see also Alliances, Syrian-Iranian and Turkey, 267 and United States, 168, 274, 275, 277, 286, 287, 346 and WMDs, nuclear program, 278, 279, 280, 281, 296, 297, 330, 335, 345



see also Ahmadeinejad; Hizbollah; Khamenei; Kharrazi; Khatami; Khomeini; Rafsanjani; Rouhani; Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi; War, Iran-Iraq Iran-Iraq War: see War, Iran-Iraq Iraq, vii, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 16, 22, 28, 36, 37, 40, 45, 48, 51, 54, 58, 60, 70, 80, 91, 94, 96, 98, 139, 146, 147, 148, 149, 151, 152, 176, 190, 191, 193, 194, 195, 202, 204, 207, 209, 211, 221, 226, 230, 231, 240, 267, 274, 276, 280, 286, 288, 293, 295, 311, 317, 319, 332, 341, 344, 345, 346, 347 Algiers treaty of, 112 Arab nationalism of, 16, 19, 25, 30, 39, 86, 106 border disputes of, 110, 113 economic sanctions against, 59, 61, 114 elites, 30, 86, 115, 118, 126, 131, 209 foreign policy behavior of, 20, 41, 57, 113, 209, 211 foreign policy determinants of, 118, 130 foreign policy making of, 30, 118, 121 fragmentation and penetration of, 51, 65, 105, 106, 110, 112, 117, 118, 121, 124, 130, 131 geopolitics of, 50, 68, 71, 105, 115 and Gulf states, 25, 48, 53, 55, 62, 108, 111, 146, 176, 187, 191 identity of, 106, 109, 117, 118 and Iran, 50, 51, 108, 110, 111, 112, 113, 115, 120, 121, 125, 126, 176, 224, 269, 274, 279, 283; see also War, Iran-Iraq and Kurds, 10, 108, 112, 120, 229 and Kuwait invasion, 25, 93, 115, 143, 160, 189, 239, 315, 340; see also Kuwait, Gulf War oil resources of, 64, 145, 221, 275 population composition of, 106, 115 regime structures of, 124 and Soviet Union, Russia, 112, 131

and Syria, 121, 126, 211, 214, 224, 282 state formation of, 55, 106, 107, 113, 114, 117, 130, 131, 195, 227 territorial sovereignty of, 55, 108, 117, 195 and US, 6, 8, 12, 55, 56, 59, 64, 65, 67, 94, 98, 121, 143, 144, 153, 215, 216, 227, 228, 229, 231, 262, 277, 278, 286, 287, 341, 342 and war, 6, 8, 20, 25, 45, 56, 57, 58, 63, 67, 95, 106, 107, 113, 114, 139, 140, 142, 144, 153, 205, 215, 277, 340 see also Saddam Hussein; War, Gulf Iraq Petroleum Company, 112 Iraqi National Congress, 147 Irredentism, viii, 10, 11, 17, 20, 29, 32, 36, 40, 207, 208, 209, 216, 231, 289, 318, 348 Islam, 11, 16, 25, 50, 62, 69, 76, 84, 117, 140, 161, 185, 186, 189, 191, 198, 205, 207, 311, 341, 342 and Iran, 10, 19, 50, 51, 91, 108, 111, 112, 113, 115, 122, 168, 191, 199, 224, 299, 269, 262, 263, 264, 268, 270, 271, 273, 274, 277, 279, 283, 284, 285 Islamist political movements, 9, 15, 26, 27, 28, 31, 50, 54, 58, 68, 77, 82, 83, 94, 96, 99, 100, 101, 107, 120, 122, 125, 128, 129, 135, 141, 149, 152, 167, 174, 190, 192, 198, 199, 212, 213, 214, 227, 231, 233, 238, 239, 240, 243, 251, 252, 253, 255, 256, 267, 269, 276, 281, 282, 283, 284, 295, 299, 310, 316, 320, 322, 327, 335, 342, 346, 347, 348 Saudi, 25, 191, 192, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 204, 234, 235 umma of, 10, 15, 69, 140, 208 Islamic Conference Organization, 15, 189, 192, 198, 330 Islamic foreign policy, 199

Index Islamic Jihad, 227, 269 Islamic states, 344; see also Iran; Saudi Arabia Israel, viii, 4, 8, 14, 18, 20, 27, 28, 35, 36, 37, 40, 41, 44, 45, 46, 57, 66, 92, 95, 101, 105, 122, 123, 128, 139, 144, 146, 148, 150, 168, 170, 191, 199, 200, 208, 210, 211, 212, 214, 220, 227, 229, 237, 241, 242, 253, 282, 343, 350 democracy of, 22, 29, 30, 32, 303, 309, 348 dependency of, 292 economy of, 302 and Egypt, 13, 15, 38, 47, 76, 77, 78, 81, 83, 88, 98, 99, 293, 295, 297, 309, 310, 311, 341, 349 elites, 29, 41, 297, 301, 302, 303, 304 foreign ministry of, 31, 303, 307 foreign policy behavior of, 20, 28, 30, 41, 66, 296, 306–310, 312 foreign policy determinants of, 289, 290, 312 foreign policy making in, 301, 304– 306, 312 foreign policy role of, 28 identity of, 12, 28, 290, 297, 298, 300, 313 intelligence agencies of, 303, 304 invasion of Lebanon by, 52, 53, 54, 91, 122, 217, 224, 302, 303 and Iran, 52, 273, 289, 292, 294, 296, 297, 311, 317 and Jordan, 94, 135, 136, 137, 139, 142, 291, 295, 297, 309 military spending/capabilities, 38, 42, 44, 85, 209, 213, 282, 296 and peace process, 58, 61, 62, 141, 153, 224, 225, 245, 291, 297, 299, 304, 311, 340 state formation of, 10, 208, 297 and Syria, 11, 212, 214, 217, 220, 222–226, 228, 289, 293, 311 Turkish alliance of, 226, 321 US alliance of, 8, 48, 53, 62, 79, 90, 190, 218, 236, 291, 292, 293, 364 and WMDs, 62, 216, 280


see also Barak; Begin; Ben Gurion; Dayan; Eretz Yisrael; Eshkol; Israeli Defense Force; Jews; Netanyahu; Meir; Peace negotiations; Peres; Periphery Pact; Rabin; Sharon; War; West Bank/Gaza; Zionism Israeli Defense Force (IDF), 296, 297, 302, 308, 309 Jabotinsky, Ze’ev, 309 Jebali, Hamedi, 256 Jerandi, Othman, 256 Jews, 12, 241, 242, 300, 301 Jordan, vii, 8, 13, 19, 36, 37, 40, 42, 43, 53, 58, 71, 85, 91, 94, 95, 121, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138,139, 140, 141, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 1152, 153, 154, 190, 194, 195, 208, 209, 229, 243, 269, 291, 295, 297, 319, 340 democratic reforms of, 138 dependency of, 8 economy of, 133, 134,136, 143, 144, 151 elites of, 40, 133, 137, 138 foreign Ministry of, 137, 150, 154 foreign policy behavior of, 134, 135, 139 foreign policy determinants of, 134 foreign policy making in, 133, 137, 138 foreign policy role of, 133 geopolitics of, 135, 136 identity of, 53, 135, 142, 154 intelligence agencies of, 138, 151 and GCC, 71, 143, 144, 150, 151, 152 and Iraq, 40, 45, 121, 133, 135, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 152, 153, 155, 190, 195 and Iran, 53, 121, 146, 147, 148, 152, 229 and Israel, 40, 41, 42, 58, 94,136, 140, 141, 142, 229, 291, 295, 297, 309, 340 military (armed forces) of, 45, 143



and Palestinians, 43, 140, 141, 142, 143, 209, 340 parliament of, 138, 139 and peace process, 140, 141, 142 state formation of, 19, 134, 135 and Syria, 13, 36, US alliance of, 135, 136, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 148, 229 Jordan River, 41, 42, 86, 140, 142 Jumblatt, Kamal, 119 Jumblatt, Walid, 110, 122 Jupiter missiles, 319 Justice and Development Party (AKP), 72, 251, 322, 324, 325, 327, 328, 329, 331, 332, 333, 336

Kannan, Ghazi, 215 Kerr, Malcolm, 86 Khaddam, Abdul Halim, 214, 215 Kharazi, Kamal, 273 Khatami, Mohammad, 60, 272, 273, 285, 287 Khomeini, Ayatollah, 6, 31, 50, 53, 190, 263, 269, 270, 271, 272, 276, 311 Kienle, Eberhard, 12, 16 Kissinger, Henry, 213, 214, 223 Korany, Bahgat, 17 Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), 126, 127, 229 Kurds, 12, 13, 106, 107, 118, 121, 126, 127, 229 Kuwait, 12, 19, 40, 57, 59, 60, 110, 111, 133, 143, 150, 161, 162, 166, 177, 192, invasion of, 25, 29, 31, 54, 55, 56, 91, 93, 113, 114, 115, 143, 160, 189, 193, 204, 225, 228, 239, 269, 315, 340, 341 Kuwait Investment Authority, 177 Lahoud, Émile, 122, 215 Lake Tiberias, 226 Lareyedh, Ali, 256 Leadership, 1, 3, 4, 16, 20, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33, 41, 42, 43, 45, 48, 51, 53, 57, 58, 70, 71, 72, 78, 80, 81, 82, 84, 85, 86, 87, 90, 91, 99, 101, 102, 163, 176, 181,

185, 186, 192, 193, 198, 199, 200, 201, 204, 205, 208, 212, 214, 216, 231, 237, 240, 246, 251, 252, 268, 269, 271, 272, 273, 286, 296, 303, 317, 319, 320, 322, 325, 331, 341, 343, 344; see also Elites Lebanese Armed Forces, 129 Lebanon, vii, 10, 11, 13, 20, 32, 37, 40, 48, 50, 52, 53, 54, 66, 68, 70, 85, 91, 95, 96, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 148, 152, 173, 178, 191, 207, 208, 209, 210, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, 229, 230, 241, 269, 277, 281, 289, 294, 295, 299, 302, 305, 344 elites of, 116, 119 foreign policy behavior of, 105, 106, 112, 117 foreign policy determinants of, 106, 207 foreign policy implementation, 16 foreign policy making of, 16, 106, 114, 116, 130 foreign policy role of, 118 political structure of, 108, 124 population composition of, 105, 108, 109, 124 and Iran, 53, 66, 111, 112, 123, 191, 277, 289, 294 and Israel, 11, 20, 32, 48, 52, 53, 54, 66, 91, 95, 96, 123, 124, 217, 223, 224, 225, 226, 294, 295, 299, 302, 305 and geopolitics, 105, 111, 112 and international system, 105, 112, 113 and Palestinians, 48, 50, 111, 210, 214, 223 and regional system, 110 and state formation, 106, 108, 109, 110, 114 and Syria, 11, 36, 68, 114, 116, 123, 125, 127, 129, 132, 209, 210, 214, 215, 216, 223, 228, 229

Index and US, 40, 66, 113, 114 south of, 11, 48, 123, 217, 223, 227, 294 Legitimacy, 13, 15, 21, 22, 23, 27, 29, 32, 33, 36, 37, 40, 41, 43, 45, 49, 50, 75, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 90, 94, 99, 100, 102, 115, 136, 161, 189, 206, 208, 211, 214, 216, 226, 228, 231, 247, 307, 339, 341, 343, 344 Level of analysis, 335; see also Systemic level Leviathan gas field, 294 Libya, vii, 7, 26, 27, 39, 47, 53, 68, 69, 70, 72, 93, 124, 134, 165, 171, 175, 178, 183, 205, 230, 231, 234, 236, 237, 242, 249, 250, 252, 253, 256, 281, 282, 283, 321, 331, 332, 336, 340,343, 346, 348 Likud, 52, 53, 91, 93, 299, 305

Maghreb (Arab North Africa), 12, 237, 238, 242, 244, 252, 253, 240, 242, 244, 252, 253, 340 Mamlachtiyut, 298, 305 March 8 coalition, March 14 coalition, 123, 124, 127, 128, 129 Maronites (Lebanon), 48, 108, 109, 113, 116, 117, 119, 129, 223 Marzouki, Moncef, 251, 252, 254, 256 Mashreq, 13, 76, Mecca and Medina, 135, 185, 194, 198 Mediterranean Partnership Program, 242 Meir, Golda, 303 Menderes, Adnan, 30 Middle East Partnership Initiative, 242 Middle East state system, 208 Migration of labor, 11, 46, 236, 254 Miqati, Naguib, 127 Mitterrand, François, 240 Monarchies, 7, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 29, 39, 40, 49, 68, 71, 135, 150, 190, 283, 341 oil/Persian Gulf, 5, 8, 26, 43, 51, 53, 55, 62, 93, 94, 110, 111, 151, 192, 193, 221, 230, 249, 253, 346 see also Jordan; Kuwait; Morocco; Oman; Saudi Arabia


Moon, Bruce, 5 Morocco, 13, 45, 69, 71, 150, 179, 237, 242, 243, 252, 262 Morsi, Mohamed, 69, 72, 82, 99, 100, 101, 176, 251, 252, 283, 284, 310, 344, 348, 349 Mossad, 301, 303, 304, 313 Mossadeq, 6 Mount Hermon, 226 Mount Lebanon, 108, 119 Muallim, Walid, 215 Mubarak, Gamal, 83 Mubarak, Husni, 50, 57, 64, 71, 72, 75, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 103, 150, 175, 205, 283, 331 Mugniyeh, Imad, 296 Muhammad Ali, 76 Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, 195 Mulkiye (Turkey), 324, 325, 335, 336 Multilateral economic conference (Doha), 93 Multipolarity, 9, 36, 37, 51, 340, 345 Musa, Amr, 83 Museum of Islamic Art, 170 Muslim World League, 198 Muslim Brotherhood, 16, 69, 72, 77, 85, 96, 98, 99, 100, 101, 125, 141, 174, 176, 192, 208, 212, 251, 269, 283, 284, 347

Nahas, Meridi, 50 Najd, 194, 195 Nasrallah, Hassan, 66 Nasser, Gamal Abdul, Nasserism, 6, 7, 9, 14, 19, 23, 29, 31, 33, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 45, 46, 48, 55, 59, 75, 76, 77, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 99, 102, 110, 111, 118, 136, 190, 191, 192, 194, 201, 203, 210, 211, 212, 237, 238, 319 Nation-states, 9, 12 National interest, 1, 9, 10, 209, 245, 292, 301, 344, 346 National security, 29, 31, 96, 103, 115, 138, 150, 154, 159, 213, 216, 219, 220, 221, 231, 265, 270,



277, 280, 285, 286, 289, 290, 291, 301, 302, 304, 312, 313, 325 National Transitional Council (Libya), 178 Nationalism, 5, 7, 12, 22, 25, 31, 39, 42, 43, 45, 50, 52, 56, 57, 59, 69, 75, 77, 86, 107, 108, 119, 190, 208, 218, 236, 240, 263, 264, 268, 295, 296, 319; see also Arab nationalism; Identity; Pan-Arabism; Zionism Neorealism, 17; see also Realism Netanyahu, Benjamin, 93, 292, 297, 299, 304, 308, 310 Neutralism, 17 Niblock, Tim, 11 Nixon doctrine, 275 Noble, Paul, 350 North and South Yemen: see Yemen Northern Alliance (Afghanistan), 276 Nuclear deterrent, 60, 216, 312 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), proliferation, 62, 93, 279, 280 Nuclear power, program, 6, 91, 267, 277, 278, 279, 280, 281, 289, 292, 293, 297, 311, 330, 345 Nuclear weapons, 62, 66, 148, 280, 281, 295, 296, 297

Occupied territories, 44, 45, 56, 61, 214, 218, 222, 223, 293, 298, 299, 305, 308, 312 Oil, viii, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 15, 19, 20, 24, 25, 49, 51, 54, 55, 57, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 90, 112, 177, 200, 211, 213, 219, 221, 267, 320, 322 effect of, 177, 186, 188, 198, 265, 267, 286 Iranian, 261, 265, 266, 269, 271, 285, 286 Iraqi, 30, 61, 64, 110,120, 125, 127, 143, 144, 145, 147, 221, 227, 230, 275 Kuwait, 113 monarchies, 26, 43, 51, 55, 59, 79, 88, 92, 93, 94, 150, 218, 222, 225, 239, 345, 346, 347

Qatari, 159, 160 Saudi, 62, 88, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 194, 197, 202, 203, 204, 211 wealth transfers, revenues, 43, 44, 46, 52, 58, 177, 188, 196, 197, 198, 265, 266, 271, 331, 346 weapon, 45, 88, 223 Oman, 13, 71, 150, 162, 170, 179, 192 Omni-Balancing, 18, 20, 23, 27, 33, 34, 54, 99, 146, 167 OPEC, 6, 8, 52, 56, 168, 186, 187, 200, 275 Operation Iraqi Freedom, 277 Oslo Accords; Oslo process, 58, 59, 61, 93, 141, 225, 241, 242, 243, 290, 291, 294, 296, 299, 304 Ottoman Empire, 13, 76, 106, 108, 110, 117, 125, 134, 135, 194, 234, 263, 316, 317, 319, 324, 335 Ounaies, Ahmed, 249 Özal, Turgut, 30, 320, 322, 324

Pahlavi dynasty, 262 Palestine, 10, 11, 13, 17, 36, 37, 40, 41, 43, 44, 58, 65, 66, 67, 77, 84, 87, 91, 98, 119, 139, 140, 142, 173, 207, 208, 209, 211, 212, 216, 229, 241, 253, 269, 284, 295, 296, 305, 306, 312 cause, rights, 17, 40, 41, 43, 59, 87, 91 Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), 43, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 52, 58, 59, 61, 66, 91, 94, 140, 141, 209, 210, 214, 223, 225, 241, 296, 297 Palestinian Authority (PA); Palestinian National Authority (PNA), 61, 67, 141, 150, 191, 340 Palestinian state, 43, 47, 67, 90, 140 Palestinians, 10, 41, 46, 48, 49, 58, 61, 78, 87, 89, 97, 140, 141, 142, 143, 149, 152, 208, 217, 226, 251, 294, 295, 296, 298, 299, 306, 307, 308, 313, 348 Pan-Arabism, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 33, 37, 41, 44, 49, 50, 55, 57,

Index 85, 86, 87, 117, 191, 208; see also Arab nationalism; Arabism Pan-Islam, 11, 15, 16, 70, 284, 346, 347 Parliaments, 80, 81, 82, 83, 96, 108, 121, 138, 139, 270, 283, 321, 336 Patriot missiles, 334 Patron-client relations, 292, 293 Pax Americana, 59, 62, 63, 64, 345 Pax Syrianna, 225 Peace negotiations/process, ArabIsraeli, 13, 15, 29, 43, 44–48, 50, 52, 53, 58, 59, 61, 62–66, 67, 76–79, 81, 82, 83, 85, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 97, 99, 139, 140, 141, 142, 144, 151, 153, 191, 200, 204, 209, 211, 217, 218, 219, 221, 222, 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, 229, 231, 241, 245, 291, 293, 298, 299, 304, 309, 311, 340, 341 Penetrated state, 36, 68 Penetrated system, 3, 32, 72 Penetration, Western, 4, 7, 62 People’s Party (Syria), 318, 319 Peres, Shimon, 294, 304 Peretz, Amir, 302 Periphery, 3–8, 35, 36, 37, 39, 41, 293 non-Arab, 37, 47, 53 semiperiphery, 266 see also Core-periphery relations Periphery Pact, 37, 41, 84, 110, 111, 131, 210, 211, 319 Pluralism, 80, 81, 138, 343 Policy implementation, 202 Policy process, 3, 8, 28, 29, 32, 82, 102, 115, 213, 269, 270 Political liberalization, 138, 153; see also Democratization Political parties, 117, 138, 139, 238 Post–Cold War era, 58, 103 Presidents’ role in foreign policy making, 60, 63, 67, 76, 82, 83, 84, 101, 102, 109, 112, 128, 148, 210, 213, 214, 215, 221, 237, 245, 246, 247, 252, 256, 257, 270, 272, 273, 287, 349 Press (newspapers), 116, 132, 154, 155, 245, 254, 309, 328


Pressure groups, foreign policy, 291, 304 Prime ministers’ role in foreign policy making, 137, 165, 302, 303, 304 Prisoners’ dilemma, 48 Public opinion, role in foreign policy making, 32, 42, 99, 103, 138, 205, 214, 228, 229, 247, 270, 319

Qaddafi, Muammar, 72, 175, 178, 205, 237, 242, 250, 251, 321, 331, 332, 336, 340 Qasim, Abd al-Karim, 40, 86, 108, 110, 112, 118 Qatar, vii, 69, 70, 71, 96, 99, 100, 124, 125, 126, 128, 132, 150, 152, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 183, 230, 253, 254, 344, 345, 347, 348, 349, 350 and the Arabian Peninsula, GCC, 69, 152, 160, 161, 173, 176, 185, 186, 189, 192, 195 arms spending, 163, 164 economy of, 162, 168, 169, 175, 177–181 and Egypt, 99, 100, 162, 173, 175, 344, 347 elites of, 158, 162, 164, 169, 175 foreign policy behavior of, 70, 96, 158, 167, 168, 253 foreign policy determinants of, 158, 159 foreign policy implementation, 158 foreign policy making of, 164, 165 foreign policy role of, 173, 174, 175 goals of, 160, and Gulf War, 160 hydrocarbons, 162 and Iran, 70, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 345 military of, 163, 166, 168 and regional system, 125, 157, 158, 161, 173 and Saudi Arabia 128, 157, 168, 175, 176, 345



and Syria 125, 128, 152, 165, 171, 174, 175, 176, 230 state formation of, 161, 162 and United States, 158, 160, 163, 164, 166, 167, 168, 169, 181, 182, 193, 230 Qatar Airways, 170 Qatar Foundation, 170, 182, Qatar Investment Authority, 158, 165, 168, 177 Qaumi, 69

Rabin, Yitzhak, 226, 302, 303, 304 Radio Cairo, 69 Rafah Crossing, 97, 100 Rafsanjani, Hashemi, 31, 60, 272 Ramazani, Rouhollah, 285 Rational actor, 29, 201, 235 Reagan Plan, 224 Reagan, President Ronald, 53, 92 Realism, 1, 3, 8, 9, 11, 17, 18, 20, 33, 44, 48, 49, 63, 64, 87, 289, 291 Regional state system, viii, 9, 17, 19, 21, 22, 32, 33, 34, 35, 49, 72, 110, 189, 294, 295, 297, 3310, 340, 341, 348 Rejectionists, 67 Rent/rentier (distribution) economies/ states, 26, 49, 80, 102, 197, 221, 265, 286 Republics, authoritarian, nationalist, 7, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 31, 40, 46, 49, 54, 68, 69, 71, 193 Revisionism, 19, 22, 36, 44, 52, 53, 110 Revolution, vii, viii, 10, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 37, 39, 40, 41, 46, 49, 50, 52, 54, 81, 83, 84, 86, 91, 99, 100, 101, 103, 111, 112, 113, 115, 128, 134, 135, 139, 148, 149, 150, 160, 172, 190, 191, 192, 193, 199, 204, 212, 224, 230, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 255, 261, 262, 263, 264, 265, 266, 267, 268, 270, 271, 272, 273, 276, 279, 282, 283, 285, 287, 290, 340, 341, 347, 348

Revolutionary Guard (Iran), 30, 230 Reza Shah, Mohammad, 268 Reza Tajik, Mohammad, 273 Rice, Condoleezza, 132, 154 Rogers Plan, 87 Rosenau, James, 101 Rouhani, Hasan, 281, 287 Royal Hashemite Court (Diwan), Hashemite, 36, 40, 76, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 142, 143, 144, 146, 147, 148, 150, 153, 154, 190, 191, 194, 210 Russia, 36, 61, 71, 72, 120, 177, 186, 187, 220, 231, 263, 279, 299, 321, 323, 326, 329, 330, 334, 336; see also Soviet Union Rustow, Dankwart, 18 Saadabad Pact, 317 Sadat, Anwar, 13, 15, 29, 31, 45, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 87, 89, 90, 91, 92, 94, 102, 103, 191, 204, 214, 222, 223, 224; see also Egypt Saddam Hussein, 6, 50, 51, 54, 55, 57, 58, 60, 63, 64, 93, 94, 108, 110, 113, 115, 131, 143, 146, 147, 148, 190, 191, 204, 205, 226, 228, 239, 275, 276, 340 Salih, Ali Abdullah, 193 Sarkozy, Nicolas, 249, 328, Saudi Arabia, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200, 201, 203, 204, 205, 206, 210, 211, 215, 226, 228, 229, 230, 232, 239, 249, 268, 282, 283, 320, 330, 340, 341, 342, 343, 345, 346, 347 and the Arabian Peninsula, 185, 186, 189, 195 and Bahrain 191, 193 economy of, 185, 186, 187 and Egypt, 36, 42, 150,192, 194, 203, 204, 205 and Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, 191, 204 elites of, 201

Index foreign policy behavior of, 186, 192, 193, 201 foreign policy determinants of, 186, 187 foreign policy implementation, 192, 202, 203 foreign policy making of, 186, 200, 201, 202 foreign policy role of, 198–200 goals of, 185, 203, 204 and Great Britain, 194, 203 and Gulf Cooperation Council 189, 192 and Gulf war, 187, 191, 192, 195, 199, 205 and the international system, 186, 187, 188 and Iran, 121,190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 199, 204 and Iraq, 190, 191, 201, 204, 205 and Islam, 185, 186, 190, 194, 195, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202 and Israel, 191, 199, 200 military of, 188, 195, 197, 198 and Nasser, 190, 191, 194, 201, 203 and oil, 185, 186, 187, 188, 190, 196, 197, 202, 203, 204 and OPEC, 186, 187, 200 and peace process, 191, 200 power of, 189, 190, 192 and regional system, 186, 189, 190, 191, 197 state formation of, 193–194 and Syria, 121,122, 191, 201, 203, 204, 205, 230 and United States, 186, 187, 188, 189, 191, 194, 198, 199, 200, 201, 203, 204, 205, 206 and War of 1973, 187, 203, 204 and Yemen, 189, 192, 193, 194, 201, 203 Security dilemma, 21, 49, 53, 291 Security/insecurity, 49, 53, 56, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 65, 70, 80, 83, 85, 88, 91, 92, 94, 96, 97, 99, 100, 102, 103, 111, 114, 115, 122, 124, 125, 134, 136, 138, 144,146, 147, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154 Security regime, 312


Sela, Avraham, 15 Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (Iran), 268 Sharansky, Nathan, 311 Sharon, Ariel, 67, 226, 302, Shawkat, Assef, 215 Shia, Shiism, 10, 13, 16, 27, 51, 53, 65, 66, 68, 70, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 115, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 131 Sidi Bou Said, 241 Sinai, 42, 45, 47, 87, 88, 89, 90, 92, 96, 100, 101, 102, 309 agreements, 48, 83, 88 peninsula, 87 Siniora, Fouad, 95, 124 Socialization, 29, 218, 219, 302 Solingen, Etil, 63 Sovereignty, 1, 8, 14, 15, 17, 18, 26, 37, 39, 46, 48, 49, 58, 60, 69, 70, 86, 101, 208, 219, 245, 264, 287, 298 of Arab states, 48, 85 Soviet Union, 6, 39, 47, 55, 56, 79, 87, 88, 90, 92, 110, 112, 113, 114, 192, 210, 218, 219, 222, 225, 238, 269, 317, 329; see also Russia; under country cases State consolidation or formation, 3, 7, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 35, 36, 49, 51, 80, 105, 106, 107, 113, 114, 117, 130, 131, 193, 194, 210, 297–298, 316, 348 and foreign policy making, 23, 80, 81, 114,130, 214 phases of, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30 territorial, 26, 51, 80, 105, 106, 107, 117, 193, 194, 210, 297, 316 see also Nation-states States system, viii, 4, 14, 18, 19, 28, 43, 106, 208, 248 systemic level, 291, 315 see also International system Statism, 298 Status quo monarchies, 7, 40 Status quo powers, 28, 60 Status quo regimes, 34



Steadfastness Front, 53 Structuralism, 3, 4 Structures, 15, 24, 114, 248, 262, 398 Sunni Muslims, 65, 150, 320, 332 Sykes-Picot Agreement, 118 Syria, vii, 6, 9, 10, 11, 13, 19, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 36, 39–45, 47, 48, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 58, 59, 60, 61, 63, 64, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 76, 85, 86, 88, 89, 91, 94, 95, 100, 101, 105, 109– 114, 116, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 132, 133, 134, 135, 141, 146, 148, 149, 151, 152, 153, 155, 156, 171, 175, 176, 178, 191, 201, 203–206, 207–232, 251, 252, 253, 269, 276, 281–284, 289, 293, 311, 319, 323, 332, 333, 334, 336, 340, 341, 343, 345, 346, 347, 348 Arabism of, 48, 208, 209 capabilities of, 218, 217, 219 economy of, 207, 217, 219, 220, 227 elites of, 214, 215, 217 foreign policy behavior of, 222–230 foreign policy determinants of, 207, 208 foreign policymaking of, 213, 214, 215, 216 geopolitics of, 209, 210, 344 Gulf war policy of, 214, 221, 225, 227, 228 identity of, 21, 207, 208, 209, 210, 217, 231, 232, 281 and international system, 231 intervention in Lebanon of, 214, 223, 224, 225, 228 Iran, alliance of, 70, 218, 224, 230, 232 and Iraq, 207, 214, 216, 225, 227, 228, 229 and Israel, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 231 and Israeli invasion of Lebanon, 224

military capabilities, 219–220, 227 and Palestine, 208, 211, 216, 226, 227 and peace process, 221, 225, 226, 228 reason of state of, 223 regional policy of, 226 and Saudi Arabia, 226 state formation of, 207, 208, 210 and Turkish-Israeli alliance, 226 and United States, 209, 210, 211, 215, 216, 217, 218, 222, 223, 224, 225, 227, 228, 230, 231 see also Aflaq; Alawis; al-Assad, Bashar; al-Assad, Hafez; Baath Party; bilad ash-sham; Damascus Declaration; Greater Syria; other country cases and Syria; War Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), 13 Systemic level, 291, 315; see also States system

Talabani, Jalal, 148, 155 Taliban, 139, 140, 167, 170, 276, 277, 341 Tanzimat, 324 Tarawnah, Fayez, 145, 155 Tehran, 52, 53, 66, 70, 71, 100, 127, 148, 169, 262, 268, 269, 271, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 278, 279, 280, 281, 283, 284, 286, 287, 288, 289, 295, 297, 311, 317, 347 Tel Aviv, 52, 92, 101, 241, 313 Terrorism, viii, 62, 65, 92, 95, 97, 139, 144, 149, 151, 152, 153, 225, 240, 241, 243, 273, 274, 342 Tikritis, 115, 117 Trade, 80, 102, 136, 139, 143, 144, 145, 151, 153, 161, 168, 178, 225, 228, 234, 236, 240, 242, 243, 245, 251, 254, 272, 302, 306, 309, 319, 320, 323, 324 Transnational/transstate, 43, 50, 189, 190, 191, 192, 196, 320, 326; see also Identity Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative, 244

Index Transitional National Council, 250 Tunisia, vii, 13, 68, 69, 124, 129, 134, 149, 152, 178, 233, 234, 236, 238, 243, 251, 269, 281, 283, 311, 331, 343, 347, 348 and Africa, 237 and Arabism, 236, 239 economic liberalization of, 238, 243 economy of, 235, 236, 244 elites of, 240, 245 , 324, 325, and Europe, 235, 240, 242, 254 foreign policy behavior of, 236, 237, 243, 257, 329 foreign policy determinants of, 237 foreign policy making of, 245, 246, 248, 254, 348 and France, 235, 236, 240, 248, 249, 254, 255 and Gulf Arab states, 239, 243, 247, 249, 253, 254 geopolitics of, 234, 245, 257 identity of, 234, 235, 236, 239, 256 and Islamic movements/parties, 238, 239, 240, 251, 253 and Israel, 241 and Libya, 237, 242, 250, 251, 252 and Maghreb, 237, 252 military of, 236, 244, 250, 255 and Nasser, 237, 238 and Palestinians/PLO, 241, 253 party, ruling of, 246, 247, 248, 255 political liberalization of, 245 power consolidation in, 238 presidential powers in, 236, 239, 245, 246, 250 and public opinion, 245, 250, 252, 254 and regional system, 236 and United States, 236, 244, 245 see also Ben Ali; Bourguiba; Rashid Ghannouchi Turkey, viii, 10, 12, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 29, 35, 36, 51, 68, 70, 72, 110, 125, 131, 132, 146, 180, 185, 192, 210, 267, 315, 336, 340, 343 and Arab world, 12, 37, 41, 71, 100, 146, 252, 320, 326, 330, 331, 344, 345, 349 and Baghdad Pact, 319


and Balkans, 315, 317 and Bosnia, 315 and Cold War, 317, 319 and Cyprus, 320, 326, 327, 329 elites of, 316, 321, 324 and Europe/EU, 318, 326, 327, 328 foreign policy behavior of, 320, 328, 329 foreign policy determinants of, 335 foreign policy making of, 324 geopolitics of, 26, 209, 334 and governments (elected), 30 and Greece, 317, 326, 329 identity of, 316 and international system, 316 and Iraq, 60, 126 and Islam/political Islam, 16, 125, 152, 251, 322, 324 and Israel, 348 and Kemalism, 316, 332 and Kurds, 10, 127, 321 military of, 229, 329, 334 nationalism/nationalists, 316 and NATO, 318, 333 political parties/party system, 72, 319 in post–Cold War era, 325 public opinion in, 32 and regional system, 125, 317, 320 and Russia/USSR, 212, 317, 323, 329, 334 secularism in, 316, 327 and Syria, 94, 222, 226, 229, 230, 333, 334 and United States, 39, 66, 318, 319, 333 and West, 39, 318 see also Ataturk; Balkan Pact; Demirel; Erbakan; Kurdistan Workers Party; Menderes; Ocalan; Ozal; Periphery Pact: Saadabad Pact Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit, 329

Umma, 69, 208 Union of the Mediterranean, 244 Unipolarity, 340, 345; see also Hegemony



United Arab Emirates (UAE), 55, 150, 159, 162, 176, 192, 253, 267, 282, 344, 348 United Arab Republic, 39, 85, 110, 111, 212 United Nations, 127, 145, 173, 227, 235, 238, 239, 276, 278, 290, 308, 341 Emergency Force, 42 Security Council Resolution 242, 43, 46, 217 Security Council Resolution 1483, 215 Security Council Resolution 1595, 228 Special Commission (UNSCOM), 60 United States and Egypt, 8, 45, 47, 48, 71, 72, 79, 81, 85, 88, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99, 101, 191, 205, 332 and Iran, 52, 59, 66, 108, 166, 168, 204, 210, 224, 263, 265, 270, 273, 274, 275, 276, 278, 286, 288, 330, 332 and Iraq, 56, 57, 59, 61, 63, 65, 66, 93, 94, 98, 114, 119, 120, 125, 142, 146, 187, 216, 228, 274, 275, 342 and Israel, 65, 81, 83, 88, 93, 98, 108, 190, 225, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 307, 308, 349 and Jordan, 135, 136, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 148, 151, 153 and Lebanon, 113, 114 and Libya, 340 Middle East policy, 6, 7, 39, 62, 64, 93, 111, 276, 292, 342 power in Middle East, 6, 8, 9, 52, 53, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60, 61, 66, 67, 87, 121, 194 and Qatar, 160, 163, 164, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 179 and Saudi Arabia, 131, 150, 160, 186, 187, 188, 189, 196, 198, 199, 201, 203, 204, 205, 206, 230 and Syria, 146, 153, 158, 210, 214, 218, 224, 225, 227, 228, 229, 230, 333

and Tunisia, 236, 241, 243, 244, 245, 249, 250, 255, 257 and Turkey, 318, 319

Wafdist, 77 Wahhabism, 174, 195, 199, 205 War of Attrition (1968–1970), 87, 223 Wallerstein, Immanuel, world system theory, 6 Walt, Stephen, 18, 19, 292, War, viii, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 31, 38, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 61, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 69, 70, 71, 72, 77, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 86, 87, 88, 92, 93, 94, 95, 100, 101, 102, 103, 106, 108, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 118, 120, 123, 124, 125, 126, 128, 129, 132, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 152, 153, 154, 160, 187, 188, 190, 191, 192, 194, 195, 196, 203, 204, 205, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 214, 216, 217, 218, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225, 227, 228, 229, 231, 232, 236, 238, 240, 242, 243, 244, 245, 252, 277, 278, 281, 282, 285, 294, 296, 298, 299, 300, 301, 302, 304, 305, 315, 316, 317, 319, 320, 321, 325, 333, 334, 335, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 348, 349, 350 Arab-Israeli (1967), 11, 14, 19, 20, 31, 41, 42, 43, 46, 76, 79, 80, 81, 82, 87, 102, 111, 136, 137, 141, 208, 209, 212, 217, 222, 226, 231, 296, 298 Arab-Israeli (1973), 11, 12, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 81, 82, 83, 88, 89, 136, 203, 204, 209, 214, 217, 218, 222 Gulf, 8, 9, 13, 20, 55, 57, 59, 61, 63, 64, 65, 67, 93, 94, 95, 142, 143, 144, 153, 154, 187, 188, 190, 191, 192, 194, 195, 205,

Index 210, 214, 220, 221, 225, 228, 229, 242, 276, 277, 278 Iran-Iraq, 10, 52, 53, 54, 59, 91, 111, 113, 115, 118, 120, 160, 192, 204, 224, 264, 269, 272, 276, 281 and state formation, 193, 210, 316 Suez (1956), 29, 38, 42, 79, 81, 85, 211 see also Kuwait, invasion of War crime, 97, 308 Warfare, 55, 217, 220, 227, 230, 271, 317 Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), 62, 63, 119 Weizmann, Ezer, 302 West Bank/Gaza, 36, 43, 52, 61, 89, 90, 137, 140, 141, 217, 290, 293, 298, 299, 305, 308, 309 West/Western powers, viii, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 26, 30, 32, 34, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41, 43, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 62, 63, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 75, 76, 77, 79, 80, 81, 82, 84, 85, 86, 87, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 102, 103, 106, 108, 112, 113, 114, 116, 135, 136, 148, 152, 153, 166, 172, 175, 194, 195, 206, 207, 208, 210, 211, 212, 216, 219, 221, 222, 223, 225, 228, 229, 230, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 236,


238, 241, 242, 246, 247, 250, 252, 262, 263, 264, 266, 268, 269, 272, 275, 277, 280, 281, 290, 292, 307, 310, 311, 318, 319, 329, 333, 340, 341, 345; see also Europe; Great Britain; United States Western Arabia, 135 Western Sahara, 242 WikiLeaks, 163, 164, 182, 250 World Economic Forum, 134 World League of Muslim Youth, the league, 198 World War I, World War II, 106, 134, 194, 196, 208, 232, 236, 300, 316, 317, 319, 320, 335

Ya’alon, Moshe, 294 Yadin, Yigal, 302 Yaniv, Avner, 21 Yemen, vii, 13, 26, 39, 41, 41, 43, 52, 53, 68, 70, 71, 86, 91, 124, 134, 173, 185, 186, 189, 192, 193, 194, 201, 203, 205, 269, 281, 283, 295, 300, 319, 343, 344, 345 Yesha, 305 Yisrael Beiteinu, 298, 299, 305 Zaghlul, Saad, 77 Za’im, Husni al-, 211 Zionism, 37, 290, 297, 298, 300, 301, 305, 306, 312

About the Book

This new edition of The Foreign Policies of Middle East States reflects the momentous events and shifting dynamics that have occurred in the region in the nearly fifteen years since the first edition was published. Working within a common analytical framework, the authors offer a theoretically grounded, systematic examination of the foreign policies of eleven states. Raymond A. Hinnebusch is professor of international relations and Middle East politics at the University of St Andrews. Anoushiravan Ehteshami is professor of international relations at the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University.