CIAO DATE: 06/05

The International Spectator

Volume XXXIX No. 4 (October - December 2004)

IAI Library Notes

By Maritza Cricorian


The Middle East and Islam

Crossing the Rubicon : Ronald Reagan and US policy in the Middle East / Nicholas Laham. - Aldershot : Ashgate, c2004. - xviii, 178 p. - (US foreign policy and conflict in the Islamic world). - ISBN 0-7546-3961-4

This study, carried out prevalently using material from the archives of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, shows that the sale of Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) to Saudi Arabia in 1981 marked a turning point in US policy towards the Middle East. In the author's opinion, this event put an end to the policy of "small steps" (which the author considers ambiguous) that the United States pursued in the 1970s and set it moving in a decidedly pro-Israeli direction. The policy has been continued by all of Reagan's successors, the only change being that they have accepted the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Thus, Ronald Reagan turns out to be a much more significant figure in the history of US diplomacy in the Middle East than experts in the field have supposed till now.

Engagement or coercion? : weighing Western human rights policies towards Turkey, Iran and Egypt / Katerina Dalcoura. - London : The Royal Institute of International Affairs, c2003. - xiv, 82 p. - ISBN 1-86203-140-1

This study examines and assesses the effectiveness of the West's human rights policies in the 1990s in three countries - Turkey, Iran and Egypt - chosen not because of their importance in the Middle East but because they have three different political systems. Given that the author feels that the concept of human rights policy embraces three main components - human rights, democracy and good governance - she comes to the conclusion that the impact of Western policies in these three states has been very slight; or rather, they have produced results, however meagre, only when relations have been good and the West has undertaken a policy of "engagement" (support without constriction). On the contrary, when there has been tension or a coercive policy of sanctions or the like, such policies have actually been counterproductive, at least as far as political reforms are concerned. The conclusion is that these policies can only be fruitful in the presence of liberalising trends in the country itself, not when they are imposed from the outside. The author feels that human rights policies can only be analysed in the context of bilateral relations and the more general political picture.

The future security environment in the Middle East : conflict, stability, and political change / edited by Nora Bensahel and Daniel L. Byman. - Santa Monica, CA : RAND Corporation, c2004. - xx, 345 p. - ISBN 0-8330-3290-9

This research project was carried out for the United States Air Force as part of the Strategy and Doctrine programme of the RAND Corporation's PAF-Project Air Force, a project providing alternative policies for US air forces. It analyses security prospects in the Persian Gulf region and the instruments needed to be effective there. The authors seem to warn against a policy of mere stabilisation and protection of national interests in the region and are in favour of alternative policies of support for democratisation. More specifically, they suggest turning more attention to the reconstruction of Iraq and to mediation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. They recommend the use of more diversified instruments than in the past, from economic reforms to anti-terrorism training.

Islam, politics and pluralism : theory and practice in Turkey, Jordan, Tunisia and Algeria / Jennifer Noyon. - London : The Royal Institute of International Affairs, c2003. - x, 134 p. - ISBN 1-86203-068-5

This study analyses the rebirth of Islamism, above all Sunni Islamism, at the individual and social level and its impact on the political arena. More precisely, the first part examines this renaissance from the classical era up to modernisation and the political and cultural clash between secularists and Islamists. The second part of the study looks more closely at the experiences in Turkey, Jordan, Tunisia and Algeria, focusing on the Islamists' demands for a voice in politics and the regimes' replies. The author underlines how the supporters of these movements are not simply marginal have-nots, but often professionals and educated citizens, thus giving the lie to the claim that Islamists are incapable of participating productively in a multi-party system. On the contrary, excluding the Islamists from the political debate and political participation distorts and slows down the process of political liberalisation, to the detriment of all. The author's conclusion is that "the inclusion of so-called 'political Islam' appears an essential component for the workings of authentic participatory, electoral politics in the region".

Islam in Europe : integration or marginalization? / Robert J. Pauly, jr. - Aldershot : Ashgate, c2004. - 191 p. - ISBN 0-7546-4100-7

This very topical essay concentrates on the process of integration of Muslim communities and their impact in Western Europe, in particular, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Analysed in six chapters, on the basis of primary and secondary sources, are the causes for Muslim migrations in the three countries concerned after the Second World War; the characteristics of the migrant communities with respect to the hosting societies; exclusion or acceptance - and eventual integration - of those communities in the countries considered; the effectiveness of the integration measures/policies adopted; the criteria for evaluating the degree of integration achieved; the domestic and international consequences of the lack of full integration; EU support for national governments adopting "inclusive" policies; the future of the interaction between the two segments of society in Western Europe and in particular in the three countries analysed. The main theses verified are the need for a local approach in the short term and the implementation of projects at the regional, national and supranational levels in light of local experiences. The author is convinced that the present societal divide between Christians and Muslims in Europe could be overcome by developing an "inclusive society with room for a European brand of Islam", if not a "hybrid Euro-Islamic identity".

Persistent permeability? : regionalism, localism, and globalization in the Middle East / edited by Bassel F. Salloukh, Rex Brynen. - Aldershot : Ashgate, c2004. - xiv, 187 p. - (The international political economy of new regionalism series). - ISBN 0-7546-3662-3

This book springs from a seminar on international relations in the Middle East held in Montreal in 2002, as well as from the teaching and works of Paul Noble, founder of the Interuniversity Consortium for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies and theoriser of the "Arab (state) system" which brought together the theory of international relations and the Middle East, macro/systemic approaches and the micro/actor level, international relations and comparative politics, establishing the so-called Montreal school of Arab studies. The book uses various approaches to deal with topics such as local and regional identity, regional security dynamics, factors of change.

The first two chapters after the introduction - to which Paul Noble also contributes - attempt to theorise the properties of the Middle Eastern regional system and its sub-systems, analysing the factors of crisis and the internal interactions. The three chapters that follow (4-6) highlight the connections between domestic politics and foreign policy in the Middle East and especially the factors determining the trends in Saudi-Iranian relations, in Iranian refugee policy and in the behaviour of the state (regime autonomy, state-society relations). The chapter by El-Meehy, in particular, and the one that follows, open discussion of the issue of the transnational permeability of the Arab region. Already known in the fifties and sixties, this permeability of the Arab system/state ceased in the seventies and eighties with the death of Nasser and the beginning of the Israeli-Egyptian negotiations, leaving room for the sub-regional fragmentation of the Arab system. The trend now seems to be reversing, above all as a result of information and communication technologies. However, this renewed permeability is inferior to that of the fifties and sixties, as it is driven from below by religious instances, and is globalised (Nasser vs bin Laden). The impact of the international system and of globalisation on regional dynamics in the Middle East is analysed in the chapter by Aydinli on Turkey and its effort to integrate into the EU. The final chapter takes a look at the future, at the efforts to change and at the growing contradictions, but deliberately refrains from offering any prediction for the future: too many variables at play.

Regime change in Iraq: the transatlantic and regional dimensions / edited by Christian-Peter Hanelt, Giacomo Luciani, Felix Neugart. - San Domenico di Fiesole (FI) / Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, 2004. - 192 p. - ISBN 92-9084-001-3

This book on the implications of regime change in Baghdad starts out from a seminar held in 2003 immediately after the beginning of hostilities in Iraq at Johns Hopkins University in Bologna, one of the partners in the project (the others are the Bertelsmann Foundation and the University of Munich). It is made up of twelve contributions: the first traces the ideological roots of the neo-cons and the Bush administration and discusses their political and security plans for the region; the second examines the possibility of "democratisation" of the Arab peninsula thanks to ever greater access to information (via satellite and the internet) and a growing private sector; the third focuses on two key actors: Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon; the fourth and fifth analyse Iraq's transition process and the main actors in it; the Sunnis, the Shias and the Kurds; the sixth chapter concentrates on the future of the Iraqi oil industry, analysing various long-term models; the seventh to tenth chapters discuss the implications of the regime change in Baghdad for Iran, Turkey and Syria; the last two chapters look at European policies towards the region and, in particular, the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

Shift or rift : assessing US-EU relations after Iraq / edited by Gustav Lindstrom. - Paris : Institute for security Studies, c2003. - 255 p.

A state of the art description of transatlantic relations in general terms and a few case studies, seen from two points of view, the European and the American. Each section, in fact, is made up of two chapters, one by an European author, the other by an American one. The first section is a general introduction to the divergences on foreign policy goals and threat perceptions on the two sides of the Atlantic. The next two chapters (3 and 4) analyse the future of Europe: US expectations and the need for the EU to improve its efficiency and to tackle internal reform. The future of the United States is the focus of chapters 5 and 6: "course of action", its superpower status and possible implications. The next three sections are dedicated to specific areas/issues: the Middle East, the Balkans and terrorism. On the Middle East , the authors go over the diverse interpretations of the peace process, the involvement of the two actors in the region, possible scenarios and indications for a solution to the crisis. In the section on the Balkans, they analyse European and US interests, the evolution of transatlantic relations in the region, the causes of instability that still have to be dealt with, the possible options. The third and final section retraces the historical development of terrorism over the last 35 years, underlining the divergences between the US and Europe on the policies undertaken, and pointing to the need for closer coordination between the two and more international cooperation.

The war after the war : strategic lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan / Anthony H. Cordesman. - Washington, D.C. : CSIS Press, c2004. - xx, 73 p. - (Significant issues series ; v.26, n.4). - ISBN 0-89206-450-1

By the same author as The lessons of Afghanistan : war fighting, intelligence, and force transformation (Washington : CSIS Press, c2002. -168 p.) written up here in no. 1, 2004, this book seems like the natural continuation of the first. In it, Cordesman predicts the tough policy choices the United States will have to make in light of its successes and failures in four as yet unresolved conflicts: Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In his opinion, the United States should adopt a strategy and a "force plan" on a country-by-county basis: in Iraq and Afghanistan it should pursue an allied strategy and earmark substantial economic aid for the security and the reconstruction of the country; in the war against terrorism, it should seek local partnerships with key countries such as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, distinguishing between the various politico-religious movements to cope with extremism, and encouraging "evolutionary" reforms (human rights, economic liberalisation, the rule of law, etc.). In the Arab-Israeli conflict, it should make every possible effort to bring about the peace, condemning all Palestinian terrorist movements but also Sharon's policy of settlement and isolationism, and granting the new Palestinian state and Jordan massive economic support to allow for the formation of adequate nation-building instruments.