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Approaching Governments in the Middle East. “Middle East”: Unspecific British term Area stretching from Libya in the west to Turkey in the north, to Yemen in the south, to Iran in the east (Sudan & Turkey are sometimes included)

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  • “Middle East”: Unspecific British term

  • Area stretching from Libya in the west to Turkey in the north, to Yemen in the south, to Iran in the east (Sudan & Turkey are sometimes included)

  • With the exception of Turkey, Iran and Israel, all of these countries are part of the (22 members) League of Arab States, all the majority of citizens are Arabs.

  • Arabs = People whose first language is Arabic ( Hispanics in the U.S.)

  • Languages: Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi (Turkish?)

  • Most Arabs are Muslims (but many Arabs are Christian and Jewish, as in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Palestine.

  • Main groups within the Islamic community are Sunni and Shiite.


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Conflictive Area

  • It attracts world attention for three reasons.

  • Oil. One-third of the world’s crude oil production, 10 % of refined production. Most of the world’s reserves of oil are in the area.

  • Long-standing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which led to three wars and created a displaced community of Palestinians throughout the Arab world.

  • Sept. 11. The region has been scenario of the rise of extremist and terrorist movements related to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York city


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Countries & Alliances

  • Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.

    • Turkey?

  • (With the exception of Israel) All of these states are members of the (57 member) Organization of the Islamic Conference (1969)

  • (With the exception of Iran and Israel) All of these states integrate the (22 member) League of Arab States (1945)


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Craddle of the West

Ancient civilizations: Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Iranian, Jewish, Arabic

Place of origin of three main religions that share similar roots: Judaism, Christianity, Islam


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The Jewish

-(10th century BCE) Kingdoms of David and Solomon

  • Two states—Judah (Jerusalem) in the south and Israel/Samaria in the north.

  • 586 BCE Babylon’s invasion of Jerusalem—The Jewish people are sent into exile

  • Persian king Cyrus’ permission to return to Israel

  • Macedonian and Roman invasions ended the Jewish states.

  • In 130 CE, after a revolt, the Romans (once again) exiled the Jewish people and renamed the territory Palestine (Philistines)

  • During the 20th century, the Jewish massively migrated to the area (Zionist Movement).

  • 1948 Creation of the state of Israel


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Christians

  • Christians have been in the region for the last two millenia

  • Favored by Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity (312 AD)

  • Crusades (11th & 12th centuries)

  • In the present, Christians are a minority in the area (their most important presence in in Lebanon, accounting for 30%)


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Islam

  • Based on the belief on that Mohammed (570-632) is God’s last prophet

  • Acceptance of Koran as containing both the word and law (Sharia) of God

  • Arab hegemony from the 7th to the 11th centuries

    • The Arabic Islamic world stretched from Spain (Moors) to Central Asia and was the scientific center of the world (as Greek before and then Latin, Arabic was a synonym of science and culture)

  • Fastest growing religion in the present


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(Mostly) Islamic Middle East

  • Umma (the Islamic community)

  • House of Islam  House of War

  • Jihad (differently interpreted mandate to make the world submit to Muslim principles)

  • Groups:

    • Sunnis (Majority, loyalty to the sunna, or legal and moral Arabic customs)

    • Shiites (Minority, followers of Ali & Fatima)

      (sects) (80,000,000, 10% total Muslims) (Iran)

      Wahhabism

      Druze

      Alawites

      Muslim Brotherhood (1928)


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No State/Church Separation

  • With the exception of Lebanon, Islam is the official religion, religion is taught at schools, and the state supports religious institutions

  • Association between religion and law


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An Arab State?

  • Two first empires (Egypt & Persia)

  • After the Mongol conquest of Baghdad (1258) Turks dominated the Muslim world Ottoman Empire dominated the area until WWI

  • European colonies and protectorates (except for Turkey and Iran)

  • Most modern Arab states are of recent origin (from the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire, and World War II.

  • (But) No single Arab state (instead, a number of empires and countries emerged in the area, including Israel)

    • Idea and projects of a) to subsume currently existing states into an Arab Union; b) to create a pan-Arabic state


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(Political) Problems

  • With the exception of the Jewish, whose main concern has been with being recognized religious freedom, both Christians and Muslims feel a divine mandate to convert other people

  • Expansionism

  • Jihad  Christian Crusades and missionaries

  • This theological feature unavoidably generates political conflicts


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(Political) Problems

  • How to find institutional solutions to allow for the peaceful coexistence of peoples whose existences threaten each other?

    ?


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Middle East: Types of Government

  • Freedom House’s Reports“Free,” “Partly Free,” or “Not Free” countries

  • No Middle East Islamic or Arab country is in the “free” category.

    • (Why? Is this a problem of indicators… or of political regimes?)

  • “Democracy’s Century” Report

  • There are only few democracies (Israel & Turkey) and most regimes are autocratic low level of political participation

  • Variety of regimes (democratic, authoritarian one-party, authoritarian monarchies).


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Israel

  • Republic (parliamentary-cabinet system)

  • Secular state (often forgotten…)

  • Multi-party system

  • Knesset: Unicameral parliament of 120 elected every 4 years by Proportional Representation.

  • Both the prime minister and the cabinet are chosen from the majority party or winning coalition (between 1996 and 2001the prime minister was directly elected)

  • The Prime Minister is accountable to the Knesset and can be forced to resign

  • No written Constitution (Basic Laws such as the 1950 Law of Return—states that any membe of the Jewish community anywhere has the right to migrate to Israel and to become a citizen)

    • (Frequent martial laws and declarations of state of emergency are not compatible with a written Constitution, or are they? Compare with IndiaI)


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Israeli Political Parties

  • Israeli Labour Party (center-left)

  • Likud (center-right coalition of smaller parties)

  • Arab Democratic Party (represents 1 million Israeli Arabs)

  • Meretz Party (pacifist coalition)

  • Tzomet Party (pro-war coalition)

  • A number of Orthodox (religious) and Zionist small parties (i.e. Eretz Israel)


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Peculiar traits of Israeli politics:

  • Small Parties are more important than elsewhere (need to form coalitions)

  • National Security dominates over any other policy issues

  • “Left” and “Right” are defined more by foreign policy than by internal debates

  • Predominance of the right political spectrum due to permanent military conflicts and threats


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Israel’s Economy

  • Welfare State + Defense expenditures = Permanent Deficits

    • Funds: U.S. aid, donations of members of the Jewish community around the world, debt

      (however)

  • Little economic “miracle”: the organization of kibbutz + revolutionary agricultural methods have led to achieve food self-sufficiency in the middle of the desert.

  • Extended middle-class

  • 1990s Expansion of consumerism (from a Spartan Socialist society to a global consumer market)


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The Most Diverse Population?

  • Israelis have roots in more than 100 national origins

  • Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Falasha groups

  • 20% Arabs and Druze (2% Christians)

  • Immigrants from the former Soviet Union amount to 10% of the present population


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Israel

  • 1948-late 1970s: Dominance of Labour through coalitions (David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir)

  • Challenged after the 1973 Yom Kippur War by the (right-wing) Likud party.

  • 1977 Victory of Likud (Menachem Begin) also through coalitions and alliances

  • Despite the crisis of Likud during the 1980s, Labour could not dominate the Parliament

    • Governments of National Unity (instability)

  • 1988 Both Likud and Labour lost many seats to small religious parties. Labour won, but could not form a government on its own Alliance between Likud and Labour.

  • 1992 Labour (Rabin) won (44) but (once again) needed a coalition to articulate a majority (Meretz & Tzomet). Rabin’s commitment with peace led to his murder by an extremist in November 1995.

  • 1996 Likud’s victory with a 6-party coalition (Netanyahu) (no interest in achieving peace—charges of corruption)

  • 1999 Labour (Barak). Barak’s offer rejected by Arafat in 2000

  • 2001 Likud (Sharon). National unity government with Peres as PM. Sharon’s “an eye for an eye” policy


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Turkey

  • In 1923, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) led the movement that created the Republic of Turkey over the demise of the Ottoman Empire after WWI and the abolition of the caliphate of Islam (1924)

  • Ataturk became both President and leader of the Republican People’s Party (RPP)

  • Nationalism + Secularism

  • After a Kurdish revolt in 1925, Ataturk assumed dictatorial powers

  • Deep process of Modernization and Westernization (purge of religious symbols in the public sphere… In 1928, Turkey became a secular state) transformed the Turkish society


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Turkish Democracy

  • Beginning of the democratic path after WWII with open and secret elections (ban on Communist and Islamic parties)

  • Victory of the opposition Democratic Party before the Republican People’s Party

  • Military interruption of the political process (1960, 1971, 1980, 1997)

  • Non-clear dominant party

  • Islamic parties have reappeared with different names (but ultimately the military limit their religious aspirations)

  • Since 1997, Turkey has been governed by coalitions


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Lebanon

  • Past of autonomous existence within the Ottoman Empire.

    • Maronite Christians

  • Enlarged by France in 1922 in its role of “protector,” a Muslim population was incorporated.

  • 1926-1946 Constitution of a Republic

  • Lebanese politics determined by religious strife (different Christian groups, Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Muslims (Shiites & Sunnis)

    + armed clans and notable families

  • 1943 “Confessionalism”: Sharing of political representation based on the size of each religious community (# seats & positions). Christian majority


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Lebanon

  • The increase of the Muslim population was not reflected in the system

  • 1975 Civil War (Christian Phalange vs. Palestine Liberation Organization)

  • Disorganization of the political system (assassination of President Gemayel in 1982)

  • More Civil War and fragmentation (Lebanon, unfortunate symbol of “feudalization” of power between tribes, religious groups, para-military, mercenaries, foreign nations…) “Lebanization”?


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1990 LebanonRedesign of the power-share scheme

  • Unicameral National Assembly (128 members elected for 4 years by PR)

  • President elected by the Assembly (6 years)

  • Prime Minister chosen by the President with the consensus of the Assembly


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Egypt

  • 5,000 years of history

  • Part of the Islamic empire during the 7th century (ruled by the caliph’s representatives first and then by independent dynasties)

  • 1517 Egypt becomes a province of the Ottoman Empire

  • 1882 British invasion (protectorate, lasted until 1922)

  • 1922 Independence (monarchy)

  • 1952 Military coup led by Nasser abolished the monarchy and instituted a Republic in February 1953

  • Revolutionary Command Council (led by Nasser)

    • Arab socialism (agrarian reform, minimal wage, and nationalizations), anti-colonialism, non-alignment, pan-arabism

  • Failed attempt to create the United Arab Republic

  • 1962 One-party system (Arab Socialist Union)


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Egypt

  • Nasser’s sustained political leadership (and military failures)

  • 1970 Sadat succeeds Nasser, and launches an “Open Door” policy of Western investments and modernization.

  • 1979 Attempt to organize a multiparty system (Communists, Islamics, and Nasserists banned)

  • Treaty of peace with Israel (Camp David, 1977, with Begin). Both Sadat and Beigin shared the Nobel Prize

  • Assassinated in 1981 by an extremist

  • Hosni Mubarak suceeded Sadat


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Egypt

  • Since 1953, all Egyptian rulers come from the military

  • Official party: National Democratic Party (but recent growth of Islamic groups)

  • Bicameral system:

    • People’s Assembly (454 seats, 444 elected by popular vote and 10 by the President)

    • Advisory Council (2/3 elected by popular vote and the rest appointed by the President)

  • President (6 years) nominated by the Assembly and approved by a national referendum


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Yemen

  • 1990 Establishment of the Republic of Yemen (union of former socialist South Yemen and pro-West North Yemen)

  • Combination of parliaments with Socialist Saleh’s presidency

  • 1994 Civil war

  • 1997 People’s Congress, the President’s party, won a parliamentary election

  • 1999 Saleh elected president with 96.3 of the popular vote

  • 2001 Establishment of a bicameral legislature:

    • Shura Council (111) nominated by the President

    • House of Representatives (301) elected by popular vote


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Syria

  • Damascus, the center of the Islamic Empire

  • Syria administered by France after WWI under the leadership of Sunni leaders and the military

  • 1953 Baath party (also in Iraq) promoted Arab unity, to end foreign influence, nationalization and welfare

  • 1963 Military coup led by Baath’s al-Assad (Alawi Shiite)

  • By the 1964 Constitution, Syria became a Democratic Socialist Republic (Islamic) governed by the National Revolutionary Council (in 1969, Baath was declared the only legal political party combined all parties). People’s Assembly (elected but does not control legislation)

  • 1970-1 Assad designated prime minister and president

  • One party system. The Baath designates candidates and controls the media. Power is in charge of the military and security forces

  • 1999 Assad reelected President for the 5th time with 99.98% of votes.

  • 2000 Assad died, and was suceeded by his sons. Bashar was confirmed by a referendum in July 2000 (97% of vote)


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Libya

  • (Very poor) Italian colony between 1911 and 1942

  • Independence in 1951 (monarchy under King Idris)

  • Transformed by the discovery of oil in 1959

  • 1969 military coup led by 27-year-old Qaddafi

  • Creation of the Socialist Lybian Arab Republic

    • (nationalist but not Western inspiration). Pro-Islamic

  • Jamahiriyah system (contained in Qaddafi’s “Green Book”)

    • 2,000 Basic Popular Congresses (popular committees where the people choose delegates to the General People’s Congress and discuss policy)

    • General People’s Congress (meets twice a year)

    • General Popular Committee (executive power, headed by Qaddafi until 1979)

  • Since 1979, Qaddafi has no formal title


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Saudi Arabia

  • Only country named after a family (7,000 member al-Saud tribe, protectors of Muslim traditions and holy places after defeating the Hashemites in 1925)

  • 1744 alliance with Abdul Wahhab,a puritanical Islamic theologian

  • Saudi Arabia is governed according to the Sharia or Islamic law

  • Monarchy + religion

    • Shura council (consultative assembly)

    • Religious leaders decide education policy

    • No political parties


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The Gulf States

  • Bahrain ruled by a family (sheik). National Assembly eliminated in 1975

  • Qatar: Wealthiest country in the Middle East. Ruled by a sheik who overthrew his father in 1995

  • United Arab Emirates (7) created in 1971-2.

    • 7-ruler Supreme Federal Council (designates a President and exercises power)

    • (Consultative) Federal National Council

  • Oman: Governed by Qabus, a sultan who overthrew his father in 1970 and holds several positions. There is an elective Consultative Council since 1991, whose members must be approved by Qabus. Relatively wealthy society


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Jordan

  • Created by the British in 1922 as the Emirate of Transjordania (under Abdullah) to retribute the support of the Hashemite family in the struggle against the Ottoman Empire

  • The Hashemite claim to descend from Mohammed’s tribe, and have been for centuries in charge of protecting holy places such as Mecca and Medina

  • Defeated by the ibn Saud in 1925

  • To retribute their support, after the war, the British put one Hashemite, Faisal, first as king of Syria and then as king of Iraq (the coup led by in overthrew him), and gave Transjordan to Abdullah

    A land populated by Beduins, financially supported by the British, and protected by the Arab Legion in charge of a British


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Jordan

  • 1946 Independent Kingdom of Transjordan

  • 1948-9 Arab-Israeli war, Abdullah seized the West Bank and renamed the country as the Kingdom of Jordan

    • Rule over Palestinian Arabs between 1949 and 1967

    • King Abdullah assasinated by a Palestinian

    • Succession by Abdullah’s sons (Hussein became king in 1953). Hussein controlled the legislation, the military, and foreign policy with support of loyal Beduin citizens in the Royal Army. Hussein tried to create a multiparty system, but he could not create a consensus because of resistance to his support for the peace with Israel and his support for the U.S. against Iraq)

    • After Hussein’s death in 1999, his son Abdullah II (educated in the US and the UK) is now the Jordan king


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Jordan

  • Bicameral National Assembly

    • Senate: 40 members appointed by the king for 4 years

    • House of Representatives: 80 members, elected by popular vote through PR for 4 years. The king frequently dissolves it


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Kuwait

  • Governed by the same family (al Sabah) for 250 years, it became independent in 1961

  • A member of the al Sabah family (two branches) heads the state

  • Sheikh Jaber governed for more than 25 years, can pass decrees and governs through a Council of Ministers (PM chosen by the emir)

  • National Assembly (only partly elected, and frequently dismissed by the emir)

  • Lack of political freedoms (suffered by the Shiite minority and other Islamic groups)


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Iran

  • Theocracy

  • (called Persia until 1935) Governed for more than 2000 years by a royal family (sha)

  • Sha Mohamad Reza Pahlavi, overthrown in 1979 by a religious movement led by the Ayatollah Khomeini (Shiite)

  • Eight-year religious war with Iraq (Shiite vs. Sunni)

  • Regime based on Islamic fundamentalism:

    • Sharia (law) + God

  • The wali faqih or ruling theologian is the supreme authority (judge, leader, and legislator)

  • Republic?

    • President, Prime minister, elected assembly, are all subordinate to the wali faqih and the Revolution Council (integrated by the chief ayatollahs)

    • Islamic Republican Party: tool of control of the police, paramilitary and religious groups

  • Two factions: Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (hardliner) and President Mohammad Khatami (reformer)


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Jordan’s Challenges

  • Islamic fundamentalism

  • The Palestinian question (Palestinian refugees amount now to more than a half of the population)

  • Economic growth


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Common Problems

  • Internal and external conflicts (over 20 border wars since 1945, and five between Arabs and Israel)

  • Loose definition of borders

  • Large and growing populations

  • Economic and cultural inequality

  • Family/personal “ownership” of power

    • Before the absence of institutional channels, violence appears as rational for the political opposition

  • Rivalry for leadership (national and personal)

  • Religious conflicts

  • Clash between Western and traditional (local) influences