The New Arab Cold War

By Khashan, Hilal | The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Winter 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The New Arab Cold War

Khashan, Hilal, The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Preoccupation with state security lies at the heart of modern Arab politics. This has caused interstate conflict to become more normal than exceptional. Yet there have been periods when the intensity of conflict assumed a large scale that pitted Arab countries in antagonisms exceeding the familiar bilateral scope. These periods have corresponded with changes in the world order: namely, following the end of World War II, and the collapse of the Soviet Union some forty-five years later.

In the late 1940s the countries of the Arab East slowly engulfed themselves in a tumultuous political rivalry that scholars now recognize as the Arab Cold War. Unlike the East-West cold war, which was essentially an ideological conflict between capitalism and communism, the main ingredient of the first Arab cold war was not ideological as much as personal grudges among Arab leaders. In 1949, King Faruq of Egypt proposed the formation of an Arab Collective Security Pact. His objective was to abort the possibility of a merger between Iraq and Syria. Tension between Iraq and Egypt built up under the new republican regime in Cairo. and developed into a personal feud between Gamal Abd An-Nasser and Nuri As-Said for power and hegemony in the Arab world. The Arab Cold War reached a high point after Iraq and Turkey signed a military pact on 24 February 1955 that formed the nucleus for the Baghdad Pact.' Nasser's Arab competitors in the 1960s became the Baa'th Party in Syria, but mainly Saudi Arabia's King Faysal who seemed motivated by the notion of Islamic cooperation, an anathema to his secular Egyptian political foe. The Arab Cold War eased up with the eruption of the Six Day War in 1967 the consequences of which battered Nasser politically, leaving his country militarily vulnerable.

Concern about the magnitude of the military defeat, and engrossment in the search for a solution to the Middle East crisis, did not deter Arab leaders from infighting - a sine qua non in the dynamics of Arab politics. Nevertheless, they laid to rest regional polarization and antagonistic bloc formation.

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on 2nd. August 1990 ushered in a new version of the Arab Cold War. Again, this round of cold war was waged in response to personal feuds by leaders worried about internal security as well as the regional preeminence of their regimes. Unlike its predecessor, which was largely a byproduct of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union, the new Arab Cold War was a residual of the end of superpower rivalry. Arab scholars voice their concern about the evident increase in inter-Arab tensions. Mun'im al-'Ammar warned against burgeoning divisions in the Arab world as their leaders clash among themselves for primacy. He concludes that if the present situation continues "it would create great contradictions that may cause the resumption of the Arab Cold War and the emergence of foreign blocs and alliances."2 Al-'Ammar's fears have come true. The Arab Cold War is now in full swing.

The present paper seeks to investigate the following three fronts of the New Arab Cold War: (1) the struggle for Iraq, (2) the rift in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). and (3) the imbroglio between Egypt and the Sudan. Rising Islamic fundamentalism and increasing economic difficulties are the two factors that cut across these three fronts of Arab conflict. The analysis is guided by the new political arena in the Arab world which can best be understood by reference to the impact of global developments, increasing involvement of non-Arab regional actors, as well as by domestic changes in the Arab countries.

A New Political Arena

The rules of the game of Arab politics have changed considerably since the Six Day War. Globally, the Eastern Bloc already showed signs of the weakness that led to its eventual demise. Dramatic changes took place speedily, such as the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the rise of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, the ascendancy of Perestroika, and gladnost-minded Gorbachev at the helm in the Kremlin, the fall of Ceausescu in Romania, and the abortive coup in Moscow in July 1991.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The New Arab Cold War


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?