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Syrian-Iraq Relations: from state system founding to the Arab Uprising:state construction and de-construction and the MENA states system Raymond Hinnebsuch University of St. Andrews, Scotland
Syria-Iraq Relations • Theme: the evolution over time, in parallel, of: • 1) kind of state • 2) features of the states system • 3) changes in Syria-Iraq Relations
Founding of the states system: Post WWI settlement • State Formation:-fragmented states “created to fail” • arbitrary borders, Syria arbitrarily divided; Iraq arbitrarily cobbled together, cutting across stronger sub and supra-state identities • Regional System: irredentism built in; states highly permeable to trans-state identity movements • Relations: borders cut across trade, rivers, identity groupsinterdependencies creating shared interests and vulnerabilities usable against the other
Age of Oligarchy: early quasi independence 1940-50 • States: oligarchic regimes destabilized by rise of Middle class • System: weak states dominated by British hegemon • Relations: • Struggle for Syria: pro-British Iraq+ Jordan vs Egypt-Saudi Arabia. • Iraq penetrates Syrian politics, using transstate ties to politicians and army officers
Age of Pan-Arab Revolution 1950-70 States: overthrow of oligarchies by military and radical partiesPraetorian instability in Iraq and Syria System: consolidated Nasser’s Egypt, model of populist anti-imperialist authoritarianism becomes regional hegemonhegemony of Pan-Arabism Bi-polarity allows Nasser to roll back British hegemony
Age of Pan-Arab Revolution, 1950-70Syria-Iraq Relations • Dealing with British imperialism: 1954-58: Intensified struggle for Syria, with Egypt vs Iraq over Baghdad Pactrise of Syrian Ba’th, Syrian alignment with Egypt against IraqUAR+ Iraqi revolutionend to British hegemony • Dealing with Unionism/Nasserism: 1963: Ba’thtakes power in Iraq and SyriajointPan-Arab leadershi prepares union, congress in Damascus, Iraqi Ba’ play key roles in Syrian politics • Pan-Arab Unity negotiations, as Ba’thist Syria and Iraq try to balance Nasser, unity failsBath-Nasser split • In struggle with Nasserism, Ba’thfalls in Iraq, survives in Syria • 1966 Syrian coupBa’thsplits into Iraq and Syria branches (issue of unionism or social revolution)
Age of Pan-Arab Revolution, 1950-70Syria-Iraq Relations • 1968 Bakr & Saddam seize power in Iraq; Asad in Syriareconciliation turns to rivalry • Ba’thdissidents in each ruling Ba’th party seek support from the rival regimemutualtransstate subversion via legitimacy wars and recruitment of allies in the other party/army • Conclusion: Relations in this period symptomatic of high state permeability; hegemony of Pan-Arabism
Age of Realism: War and Oil, 1970-90 • States: Consolidation of States authoritarian neo-patrimonial regimes with enhanced bureaucratic, co-optative and military capabilitiesstate stabilization • Vulnerability: reliance on sectarian asabiyya and rent • States System: • States become less permeable to trans-statetowardquasi-“Westphalian” states system based on territorial sovereignty • Militarized National security (“War” )states e.g. massive Syrian and Iraqi armies • “Realist” balancing non-Arab threats (Israel, Iran) via oil-funded arms races and alliances states.
Age of Realism: War and Oil, 1970-90Syria-Iraq Relations • Alliance formation expresses transition from Arabism to realsit power balancing • Iraq and Syria align against Israel (1973 war); against Sadat’s Egypt (1978); (remnants of Pan-Arab logic) • Iraq and Syria split over Iran-Iraq war, Syria balances against Iraq with Iran (conflict of state interests eclipses Pan-Arabism) • Conflict conducted via exploitation of mutual trans-state vulnerabilities (not by war, reflective of • Syria uses Euphrates water and oil pipelines against Iraq; both foster opposition factions (Iraq backs Muslim Brotherhood 1980s Uprising; Syria hosts Kurdish and Shia dissidents). Rather than subverting the other regime by recruiting Ba’thists in the other, rivals foster religious/ethnic cleavages against by-now fairly cohesive regimes.
Age of Post-Populism, US hegemony1990-2011 • States: economic crisis from overdevelopment of war states (war and arms races) +rent declinespost-populist or upgraded authoritarianismstate social base changes to crony capitalists, foreign investors + mass exclusionsocial bases shrinkrise of Islamist opposition + legitimacy deficits • States System: • Hegemony of neo-liberalism, spread of economic dependency on West • End of bi-polarity US hegemonymost states bandwagon with US
Age of Post-Populism, US hegemony1990-2011Syria-Iraq relations • Divergence of Syria and Iraqi responses to global systemic changes in 1990s: • Iraq’s solution to economic vulnerability + decline of USSRinvasion of Kuwait, bid for Gulf/Pan-arab hegemony Iraq war defeat, Iraq under sanctions, continues to defy US • Syria’s solution joins anti-Iraq coaltion+ 1990s peace processbandwagons with the US; moves toward integration into world capitalist market • Both solutions fail
Age of Post-Populism, US hegemony1990-2011Syria-Iraq relations • Convergence of Syria-Iraq Responses to US • Iraq and Syria remain enemies until Bashar al-Asad replaces Hafizrelations transformed • sanction-busting oil pipeline deal drives their alignmentSyria opposes sanctions, US drive to war on Iraq; • Syria sponsors Islamists’ transit to Iraq to fight occupation, gives refuge to fleeing Iraqi Ba’this and others, notably Iraqi Christians targeted by Islamists. • Driving factor: how the weakened Syrian and Iraqi states adapt to (exploit or resist) US/Western penetration of region (from divergence to convergence)
Age of State Deconstruction: 1990+ in Iraq, 2011+in Syria • Precipitants of State De-construction • US Invasion of Iraq deconstructs Iraqi statesectarian civil warunleashing of region-wide Sunni-Shia discourse wars, and alliances (e.g. Iran led resistance axis vs. Sunni moderate pro-Western axis in 2000s) • Syrian Uprisingsectarianization and militarization of the struggleSyria becomes epicenter of regional power struggle framed in sectarian terms
Age of State Deconstruction: Symptoms of State Deconstruction • Syrian conflict spills into Iraq, symptomatic of trans-state identities(Sunni, Shia) shared by the two states. Western Sunni-majority provinces of Iraq and cross-border tribes back the Syrian uprising, with fighters and arms supply route from Saudi Arabia. Shia militias have joined the fighting for the Asadgovernment- sectarian alliances across state boundaries, i.e. Sunni Islamists opponents against Shia/Alawi dominated governments state loss of sovereignty, territorial control, identity fragmentation Risk of boundary redrawing, undoing of Versailles settlement
Age of State Deconstruction • Syria-Iraqi relations: dealing with the consequences of state deconstruction in the other • Syrian and Iraq governments intervene in the power struggle in the other state, largely on security ground (to weaken or prevent a hostile regime, but they change partners owing to increased sectarian framing of threat. • Asad went from opposing the US-backed Iraqi regime and supporting insurgency to accommodation with it and striking alliances with ruling Iraqi factions; e.g in 2010 elections, it allowed Allawi to campaign among Iraqi refugees, but later opted to support Maliki • Maliki went from considering Syria responsible for Ba’thist/Sunni Islamist de-stabilization of Iraq to seeing the Asad regime as a bulwark against Sunni Islamists whose victory in Syria would empower his Sunni rivals in Iraq
Conclusion: Rise and Fall of state formation • Weak oligarchic regimes overthrow by Pan-Arab revolutionspraetorianismtrans-stateBa’thist politics-(alliance and rivalries crossing regimes) • Consolidation of similar Ba’thistregimesend to trans-state permeabilityrivalry and power balancing against each other • Decline of “overdeveloped” war states amidst US hegemonyopposite adaptations (war or peace) both fail • State deconstruction under combinations of eternal war and internal rebellion • Iraq-Syria epicentres of sectarianizaton of regional system?sectarian reconfiguration of polities?
From state construction to deconstruction: the structure-agency puzzle • States set up to fail in “Peace to end all peace” (Fromkin) • Flawed state building formulas seek to fill the vacuum liberal oligarchies—>too upper class, imperialist dependent Ba’thist populist authoritarianismtoo rent, asabiyya and Pan-Arab dependent-->wars Role of Agency: tragic actors or dyfunctional choices? had Nasser and the Ba’thist shared power in super Pan-Arab state? had Saddam not invaded Kuwait? had Bashar al-Asad not used violence against protestors?