This special issue, comprising nine research articles and one review article, focuses on ‘Political Changes in the Middle East’. The Middle East today is in a storm of political destabilization, which was triggered by the Arab Spring in late 2010. Regardless of its consequences, such as peaceful democratisation and bloody civil war, the Arab Spring has caused structural changes for both states and society in their domestic politics, which is seemingly leading to a blurring of the lines between regional and international politics. For example, the collapse of the Mubarak regime in Egypt brought about a realignment in inter-state relations between Egypt and other Arab states, as well as with the US. Thus, Middle Eastern politics and international politics are interconnected, as L. Carl Brown rightly argued thirty years ago.
Nevertheless, social science seems to have failed for decades to effectively analyse the interconnections between the political dynamics of the Middle East and international politics. This is mainly because of ‘Middle Eastern exceptionalism’, which is deeply rooted in various research fields of social science. It claims that the region is culturally, socially, and historically so unique that it is hard to be studied or understood through general theories of social science, particularly comparative politics and IR; it is, thus, in turn,difficult to contribute to furthering the theoretical development of disciplinary social science, as well as Middle Eastern area studies. Some experts point out that this exceptionalism is due to an intellectual divide between two scholarly approaches—area studies and disciplinary social science. In addition, both approaches, though in a different manner, have a tendency to regard the region as if it is an exclusive ‘miniature garden’ that is insulated from the remainder of the world. As a result, two different approaches have developed separately, one focused within the region, the other, outside the region.
In search for a new analytical perspective to bridge such a methodological gap, this special issue attempts to set up two working premises. First, while the Middle East possesses common properties and unifying themes, which ontologically generate its ‘regionness’, and thus can be considered independent and autonomous, it does not exist in a static and uniform way, but has a variable, fluid, and multi-layered presence. Second, the concept of ‘political change’ can be an analytical key to connect various levels of dynamics between domestic, regional, and international politics, as well as to overcome the intellectual divide between area studies and disciplinary social science. In this issue, ‘political change’ is loosely defined as the fluctuation or collapse of long-lasting power equilibrium, such as through democratisation, revolution, civil war, inter-state war, and economic crises.
The nine contributions, briefly summarised at the end of this introduction, are all different from one another in terms of their research field, methodology, and case studies. Yet it is clear that all the papers in this issue share a common thesis concerning the above-mentioned problems of ‘Middle Eastern exceptionalism’ and the intellectual drive to tackle it. They also seek to take steps towards developing studies on Middle Eastern politics and international politics by focusing on ‘political changes’ in each case.
The recent peoples’ movements seeking democracy throughout the Middle East, often referred to as “The Arab Spring”, are a direct form of public protest against the authoritarian regimes in the region. Although the contexts of the movements differ among the countries, their spillover nature strongly implies that the protests are essentially challenging to the regional order, in which authoritarianism has been so prevalent for decades.
The U.S., since the inception of the Cold War, has been deeply involved in regional politics by establishing patron-client relationships with local authoritarians to safeguard its own security and strategic interests in the region. This policy has often been conducted at the expense of democratic ideals and caused an accumulation of frustration among local people to this day. This conflict between America’s security norm and its democratic norm lies deep in the U.S. Middle East policy and has been the subject of academic debates.
This paper, along with the most of the preceding analyses, supports the argument that the U.S. has prioritized the security norm in its Middle East policy, but pays legitimate attention to how the U.S. has been shaped by the democratic norm. A general preference for democracy could not be easily abandoned in U.S. political discourse, as it tries to maintain legitimacy and integrity in its policy towards the region. Employing a simple matrix chart, this paper presents a macro view of the relationship between U.S. policy preferences and the past regime transformation in the region, with particular reference to the U.S.-backed authoritarian regimes. Provided here is an assumption and its fulfillment that the U.S. has been unwilling to take strong measures to democratize friendly authoritarian regimes, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for fear that the regimes might lose their pro-U.S. orientation and the regional stability might be put at risk. At the same time, the U.S., mindful of sacrificing its democratic norm and the peoples’ aspiration for freedom, devised a policy of applying gradual reforms to friendly authoritarian regimes. This policy has two apparently opposing features with respect to the same friendly authoritarian clients: on one hand calling for reforms with new institutions (such as MEPI) and increased funding, and on the other, providing substantial military and economic aid or selling arms in huge quantities. This policy mix is effective in maintaining the security interests provided by the friendly authoritarians and, at the same time, satisfying the democratic ideal of the U.S. and the local people to a certain extent, thus giving the U.S. Middle East policy more legitimacy and integrity.
This trend of U.S. policy is also noticeable in Obama administration, which is trying to avoid rapid revolution, especially in the pro-U.S. Gulf states. As a result, the democratic movements in the Middle East could not expect much support from the U.S. for transforming the current regional order in the foreseeable future.
What does the Arab Revolution, or the uprisings in Arab countries in the early part of 2011, mean for Palestinians? We provide an empirical answer to this research question by examining the fluctuating international system as a mental construction. This study aims to develop a new method with which to grasp the mental construction of the theoretical foundation of constructivism. A visualization of a dynamic international system requires comprehensive data on Palestinian collective identity and how Palestinians imagined the structure of the Middle Eastern regional system before and after the winter of 2010/11.
Our research team developed a method to illustrate ordinary people’s perceptions of international relations in the Middle East. It is called the Political Mental Map, and it relies on survey data on subjects’ perceptions of the contributions that their own government, other Arab countries, and the major powers have made toward political stability in the Middle East. With the cooperation of the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre, our team conducted the survey in two waves in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and occupied Jerusalem in May 2009 and June 2012.
The survey reports a negative image of the Arab Revolution among Palestinians because the evaluations of the Arab states demonstrates that Syria, Lebanon, and Iran are given lower scores as a result of the escalating “civil war” in Syria. The Political Mental Map shows the existence of hot spots and the intervention of the U.S. and Israel in the Middle East. Additionally, we explore correlations between the partisanship of politicians and assessments of the Arab states. Ordinary citizens have a tendency to make the connection between political affiliations and international blocs: Fatah supporters value Saudi Arabia’s and Egypt’s contributions to regional stability, while the partisans of Hamas give higher scores to Syria, Lebanon, and Iran because of their involvement in the regional order.
This study attempts to address the deterioration in how Palestinians regard the Middle Eastern regional system based on their responses to our questions. The analysis indicates that, for Palestinians, the Arab Revolution does not provide an opportunity to redress the imbalance between national identity and national territory. The Arab uprisings meant regional disorder and brought chaos to the Arab world from the viewpoint of Palestinians. The Political Mental Map of Palestinians suggests a sense of depression among them, in spite of the promise of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
The Middle East is characterized by repeated conflicts that are rooted in the incongruity of state territories and national identities. This political instability has often engendered refugees, as in the present Syrian conflict that broke out in March 2011 during the so-called Arab Spring. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has protected refugees from adjacent areas for more than 60 years, such as Palestine, Iraq, and Syria, a policy which has given this small buffer state greater access to international politics. However, studies of Jordan’s foreign policy and the international relations of the Middle East have not focused on this issue, although they have discussed the relationship of refugees to its domestic politics or the exploitation of its geo-political position for financial aid.
In light of this foreign policy and refugee context, this paper analyses the development of the Jordan’s refugee protection policy and its strategy to diminish the impact of the Syrian conflict based on the UNHCR reports, local newspapers, and interviews with the UNHCR staffs in Amman office and refugees. The analysis focuses on the Jordanian government’s relationship with the international regime, led by the UNHCR and 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, for refugee protection, and it demonstrates that Jordan’s pursues a strategy of strengthening its international legitimacy by the acceptance the refugee regime’s norms. The first section discusses Jordan’s protection of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees before the Syrian crisis. The second section emphases the granting of refugee rights to displaced Syrians in Jordan; it places this process alongside the actions of the Syrian regime that have partially shaped refugee protection under the UNHCR’s Syrian Regional Response Plan established. A final section looks at the expansion of the Syrian refugee community and its status as a domestic issue in Jordan. It examines the process of Jordan’s self-evaluation as a country contributing to a global refugee protection policy.
The examination reveals that the Jordanian government’s strategy of attaining international legitimacy by the acceptance of refugee protection norms is an attempt to avoid the negative impact of changes in regional politics. For the government of Jordan, cooperation with the UNHCR involves more than the ratification of treaties and the fulfilment of obligations; rather, its “approach” derives from a larger strategic perspective. In this way, Jordan fulfils its regional political role by contributing to the maintenance of order through aiding refugees as part of its larger strategy for national stability and survival.
This study aims to examine the real goal of the regional policy in Saudi Arabia, particularly whether it is designed to counter external threat (derived from the international system) or internal threat (aiming at regime change). A case study that delves into the Saudi Arabian policy toward the Syrian Crisis after 2011 is used. This research applies omnibalance theory, which explains the pattern by which the regimes of Third World states react to threats that arise both within and outside the state. Saudi Arabian policy is analyzed through a comparison of several security situations faced by the kingdom with the use of a method combining within-case analysis and process tracing. Omnibalance theory serves as the main research framework because it can provide a coherent explanation of the foreign policy and international security strategies adopted by the Saudi Arabian government. This study hypothesizes that the Saudi Arabian policy toward the Syrian crisis is strongly constrained by its primary security goal of countering any sign of linkage between internal and external threats.
The Saudi Arabian commitment to the Syrian crisis cannot be explained simply in relation to an external threat: no foreign country has pressured Saudi Arabia to be involved, and the Assad regime is not a threat to Saudi Arabia. Rather, the Saudi Arabian government recognized the signs of a linkage developing between the internal and external threats it confronts. The government responded to the clamor of its people who advocate humanistic support to the oppressed in Syria, as well took precaution against the risk of a coalition by Iran, the Assad regime, and Hizbullah, which the Saudi Arabian government feared would penetrate the Shia activists in the Eastern region of the kingdom. The concern of the Saudi Arabian government over domestic security constrained its Syrian policy in the following ways: (1) prohibition of participation in both the conflict and in charity activities initiated by Saudi citizens, (2) necessity to maintain moral and humanistic legitimacy of Saudi foreign policies, (3) selection of its allies who will maintain non-intervention in Saudi internal affairs, (4) and prohibition on the Saudi government to provide support to terrorist groups. Therefore, omnibalance theory is a more appropriate concept to explain the Saudi Arabian policy toward the Syrian crisis than the theories of balance of power and balance of threat, both of which claim that the international involvement was the main motivation behind the foreign policy applied to the state.
Since 1903, the year when Wright brothers made a success of building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, airpower has developed astoundingly as an essential component in modern warfare. Up until today, it has been demonstrated by several modern wars. At the same time, however, this was not always the case. In unconventional warfare (or asymmetric warfare, “Non-Trinitarian Warfare,” “Fourth Generation Warfare,”or “War amongst the People”), airpower was not able to play a significant role, and sometimes it even caused a negative impact. In these wars, since the opponents usually disappear among “people,” it is always very challenging to find and attack them without causing any collateral damage. Taking up the Israel’s airpower in the Second Lebanon War (July/August 2006) and the Gaza War (December 2008/January 2009)—these are the two most recent wars in which airpower was employed on the non-state armed group—as the case studies, this article discusses the following questions: Is airpower really incompetent for unconventional warfare? If not so, what would be the essential role for airpower? What airpower actually can and cannot do?
Based on the rigorous analysis of the wars in Lebanon and Gaza, the article leads the following three conclusions: Firstly, the impact which airpower could cause to warfare is limited. As in conventional wisdom, while airpower is an important and powerful arm of military force, airpower alone does not lead victory for modern wars. This is true for at least unconventional warfare, in which the enemy has no specific “center of gravity” and blends into the urban, mountainous or forested terrain, as in cases of Lebanon and Gaza. In addition, if they did not have enough information for the opponents, airpower could rarely give significant damage. Although it is the case, the collateral damage will be ineluctable if the opponent disappears in the crowd. Secondly, however, airpower is not always incompetent in conventional warfare under certain conditions. There are two key factors: (1) interoperability between the air force and the ground force, and (2) intelligence about the enemy. As in case of Gaza, when these two factors were fully established in pre-war period, it is possible to cause heavy damage to the enemy. Ensuring the qualitative military edge over the enemy is also important as well. Thirdly, it is essential to minimize the collateral damage. No matter how the cutting-edge military technology is overwhelming or the joint training exercise and the intelligence about the enemy are adequate, however, it is almost equivalent with losing the game if there was significant collateral damage. In case of Gaza, IDF was successfully bearing down the enemy physically, but too much collateral damage turns such a “victory” into “defeat.” In any of these wars, Israel’s security environment never been improved in the history.
It is certain that airpower will keep playing one of the important roles in war given the technological progress in recent years. At the same time, they will face with a dilemma about the cost effectiveness between “rising war expenditure” and “acceptable level of cost.” Just by looking at the current situation in Syria (as of June in 2014), it is clear that unconventional warfare is still happening and will happen in the future. This leads the importance of further research for both direct and indirect role by airpower going forward.
Since the end of 2010, a series of demonstrations have toppled some authoritarian regimes in power for decades in Arab countries, creating dramatic changes in the region’s political and social realms. The uprising began in Tunisia and quickly extended to other Arab countries, inspiring widespread protest movements that demanded political and economic reforms. This series of political upheavals is known as the Arab Spring. From the beginning of the Arab Spring, research has shown that the political role of the media was instrumental in mobilizing the masses and contributing to the defeat of the regimes. At the same time, the Arab Spring brought media reforms to the forefront of political transformations in the post-revolution period. Therefore, analysis of the media’s role in this era builds understanding of the transformation of politics in post-revolution societies. This paper consists of two parts. The first section examines the formation of repressive media systems in Arab countries that might have supported the continuance of Arab authoritarian regimes. This section also discusses how international affairs such as the Cold War and the debate on New International Information and Communication Order (NIICO) in UNESCO contributed to the formation of the repressive media systems in the region. In the 1990s, citizens began to criticize the Arab media as the development of new technologies, such as satellite television and internet, increased awareness. However, most Arab countries did not abandoned information regulations and continued to override the freedom of the media. The gap between information that citizens received from pro-governmental mass media and from satellite television and Internet widened. The Arab Spring emerged at the peak of this inconsistency. The second part of this paper reveals the transformation of the media systems following the Arab Spring. Particularly, this section analyses media in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. It examines how media reforms in those four countries differed from one another and how the expansion of the role of private media allowed it to act as a watchdog over regimes and contributed to democratization. However, this paper also shows that the media systems under authoritarian rules still remain and the structural problems seem to prevent the real reforms of media system in the post-revolution period. In addition, the expansion of private media also invited other concerns. Without the lack of proper regulation, most media outlets began to take partisan roles and instigate political conflicts. Therefore, this new media expansion without any public interest could ultimately be harmful to democratization.
In the post-Cold War era, national integration has become increasingly important in the face of fragmentation within the nation-state. This phenomenon has been spurred on by political changes in general and ethnic conflicts or civil wars in particular. These political changes affect the process of national integration in post-conflict societies enormously. It sees a new regime attempt to impose its vision of the nation from above by utilizing both cultural resources and official education. When it comes to re-constructing the collective identity of the nation, education has played a significant role. This paper thus attempts to examine policies of national integration and how they have changed over time. It focuses on the case of Iraq, a country that has experienced massive political change following the U.S. invasion in 2003 and subsequent civil war in 2006.
This paper will look at the school textbooks of both the old Ba‘thist regime and the new regime in Iraq. It will plot the way that history, geography, national social education, and religion are taught from the first year of elementary school to the third year of high school, and then analyse how external factors—those that brought about the regime change—influenced a shift of national integration policies. To understand the comprehensive characteristics of national integration policies, the policies are analysed from three perspectives: legitimatization of the regime, description of the enemy of the nation, and pride of the nation.
The paper makes three main findings. It demonstrates that the old regime attempted to legitimatize itself as revolutionary, focusing on its leader’s charismatic characteristics and intended to develop national integration on these bases. The new regime, however, emphasized historical coherence of the nation,patriotism, and the fundamental principle of rule of law, which it held as essential for nation building. The second finding is that, as far as the enemy of the nation is concerned, the old regime positioned Iran as the its enemy throughout its history, and attempted to emphasize national integration to protect the Iraqi nation against Iranian invasion. By contrast, the new regime was not able to define an external enemy. When it came to instilling pride in the nation, the old regime linked its society to Mesopotamian civilization as well as the glorious history of Islamic civilization, whereas the new regime, inheriting these Mesopotamian and Islamic heritages, created a new ‘national history’, stressing the Iraqi nation and its implementation of democracy and freedom as that which should bestow the pride for nationals. Centrally, the new textbooks emphasized democracy as that which ensured equality within the nation, which consequently cultivated a sense of national identity.
It can thus be said that policies of national integration shifted to emphasize integration based on democracy and equality, and that these new elements of national integration were not only de-historical, but also external in terms of a so-called ‘ethnie’. The new national history stresses the Iraqi nation’s victory to achieve democracy and freedom, and paints this as essential to legitimatize its policy of national integration.
This paper demonstrates the contribution of Morocco’s on-going comprehensive reparation for the gradual transition of Morocco from the authoritarian regime to the constitutional one after the end of the “Années de Plomb”. Previous researches tended to stress a lack of transitions of remained authoritarian regimes in Middle East including Morocco. However, this paper argues that, since 1990s, Morocco has been gradually developing its state system based on the idea of the constitutionalism that has been recently regarded as a source of the legitimacy of the sovereignty in international society.
By referring to the broad concept of the reparation in the “Guideline” adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, this paper builds a theoretical framework based on the idea of the hierarchical structure of the rule of law which constitutes a core component of the constitutionalism. The idea of the rule of law can be divided into two parts: broad sense and narrow sense. The broad sense of the rule of law means universal value such as human rights which constitutes a fundamental principle and defines specific laws. On the other hand, the narrow sense of the rule of law, which constitutes low level rules, means specific laws that directly rules society. Sovereign states need to build both aspects of the rule of law in order to build a constitutional state system.
Based on this understanding, this paper considers that states can build the broad sense of the rule of law through re-confirming human rights norms by providing compensation or restitution as principal activities of reparation. In addition, this paper argues that, in order to take measures for guarantee of non-repetition as a critical elements of the reparation in the “Guideline” in 2005, reparation is interrelated with the institution building that is another mechanism of transitional justice. From this standpoint, this paper considers that states can build the narrow sense of the rule of law through institution building to reform specific laws and legal institutions to prevent future atrocities.
Under this framework, this paper argues that the comprehensive reparation in Morocco contributed for Morocco’s transition from the authoritarian regime to the constitutional one through re-building both aspects of the rule of law. For building the broad sense of the rule of law, Morocco re-confirmed human rights norms by implementing the reparation programs varied from the monetary compensation to the symbolic reparation under human rights laws. For building the narrow sense of the rule of law, Morocco implemented institution building, as a program for guarantee of non-repetition, to reform the constitution, penal code, and legal institutions. This paper concludes that, as a progress of transitional justice in Middle East, Morocco has been taking steps to a constitutional state through implementation of the on-going comprehensive reparation to build both aspects of the rule of law.
Under the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi), so-called “democratization”has been promoted on an unprecedented scale in Turkey. However, in a country where the military’s presence in politics has been very prominent, how far this democratization process has gone has not been fully investigated so far. In this article, I will seek to explain how democratization has been developed by analyzing the process of “civilianization”—which means the reducing of the military’s influence over politics—mainly under the JDP government. At the same time, by referring to the study by Ahmet T. Kuru, I will attempt to show that institution and ideology in civil-military relations have formed the background of democratization.
The civilianization process in Turkey can be divided into three phases: (1) civilianization in institutions under the EU accession process; (2) the manifestation of civilianization in ideology; and (3) the civilianization of ideology through the judicial process. Before the JDP government emerged, the military developed institutions and an ideology to keep itself in power following the 1980 coup and the 1982 Constitution, which I call the “1982 regime” here. In the first phase, although the “1982 regime” had strongly consolidated itself, it could not resist the EU accession process that started at the end of 1999. The regime’s institutions were reformed to move the country toward EU membership because the regime’s ideology was open to joining the EU. In the second phase, such changes in institutions weakened the political influence of the military, and, in contrast, many civilian organizations that had been under the military’s influence strengthened their autonomy. For example, as observed in the “Republic Meeting” in April 2007, civic organizations that were considered to have the same ideology as the military acted autonomously. Moreover, the Constitutional Court dismissed the closure case for the JDP and judged, in its decision of July 2008, that the party’s reform had been effective for EU accession. In the last phase, the coup plan in 2003, which seemed to involve some retired military personnel, was judged in the courts, and it damaged the military’s prestige.
In this understanding, it can be said that democratization, which has shown significant progress under the JDP government, has been realized by the military’s loss of its monopoly over ideology through the civilianization of the institutions of the “1982 regime” and the emphasis on EU values, such as freedom and liberal democracy, which had been neglected for a long time. Furthermore, it also can be said that ideology still has legitimacy in a different form and context from the “1982 regime.” Such changes in ideology and legitimacy will affect the further progress of democratization and the consolidation of democracy in Turkey.