The Decline of the Soviet Union and the Transformation of the Middle East

By David H. Goldberg; Paul Marantz | Go to book overview

marines (to Iran). Second, the struggle for political and religious influence in the newly-independent Muslim states of Central Asia between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (the latter backed by the U.S), has not yet peaked.

To conclude, the sea change in Eastern Europe may serve as a case study of the impact of external events on the national politics of other regions. After initial bewilderment, the affected Arab leaders concluded that their pro-Soviet orientation of the last thirty-five years was no longer opportune and that they had to adjust their foreign policy. Assad opted for a slow rapprochement--via Egypt--to the United States. Saddam, driven by a mixture of resentment, ambition, and possibly fear, opted to challenge the United States, which, supported by the Soviet Union, led the coalition which defeated him. A recent statement by Saddam may serve as a fitting epitaph for decades of Arab pro-Soviet orientation: "Linking the Arab struggle with Soviet policy and communist doctrine was wrong." 36

The widely expected domestic repercussions have, however, not yet surfaced. This could be as much the effect of political culture as of the worried alertness of incumbent regimes, ever attentive to possible threats. In a way, Arab rulers adjusted quicker than the opposition groups in those countries. At the time, focusing their publics on Jewish immigration helped the leaders to divert attention from other consequences of the events in Eastern Europe, such as democratization and (as rightly pointed out in the already mentioned survey of The Economist) to "maintain the fiction that their failures can be blamed on a malcontent outside world." Arab regimes increased security measures while spreading promises of "democratization"--elections, consultations, and constitutions. Yet, slowly seeping domestic effects (already perceived in Kuwait) could be compounded with the repercussions of the Gulf War. Whether this will lead to an Arab "springtime of nations" is unknown, but one should expect at least some of the anarchy, repression and instability of historical precedents.


Notes
1.
An earlier version of this chapter was read at the Royal United Services Institution, London, on October 18, 1990.
2.
Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report: Near East and South Asia (hereafter, FBIS: NES), February 27, 1990.
3.
"Survey of the Arab World," May 12, 1990.
4.
Rif̓at as-Sa̓id, al-Ahali, December 27, 1989.
5.
Le Monde, February 10, 1990.
6.
Cf. Joshua Teitelbaum, The Arabs and the New Wave of Jewish Immigration to Israel: Back to the Old Ideology? ( Tel Aviv: The Dayan Center, 1990).
7.
Radio Monte Carlo, August 17, 1989, in FBIS: NES, August 18, 1989.
8.
Al-Dustur ( Amman), January 27, 1990.

-190-

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