Middle East Authoritarianisms: Governance, Contestation, and Regime Resilience in Syria and Iran

Middle East Authoritarianisms: Governance, Contestation, and Regime Resilience in Syria and Iran

Middle East Authoritarianisms: Governance, Contestation, and Regime Resilience in Syria and Iran

Middle East Authoritarianisms: Governance, Contestation, and Regime Resilience in Syria and Iran

Synopsis

The developments of early 2011 changes the political landscape of the Middle East. But even as urgent struggles continue, it remains clear that authoritarianism will survive this transformational moment. The study of authoritarian governance, therefore, remains essential for our understanding of the political dynamics and inner workings of regimes across the region.

This volume considers the Syrian and Iranian regimes-what they share in common and what distinguishes them. Too frequently, authoritarianism has been assumed to be a generic descriptor of the region and differences among regimes have been overlooked. But as the political trajectories of Middle Eastern states diverge in years ahead, with some perhaps consolidating democratic gains while others remaining under distinct and resilient forms of authoritarian rule, understanding variations in modes of authoritarian governance and the attributes that promote regime resilience becomes an increasingly urgent priority.

Excerpt

After a decade of authoritarian renewal, nondemocratic regimes in the Middle East find themselves under stresses that only a short time ago were, if not unimaginable, then certainly unexpected. As the first decade of a new century ended, regimes that once seemed all but invulnerable found themselves on the defensive. In Tunisia, an entrenched authoritarian ruler collapsed under the weight of mass protests. By mid-January 2011, incumbent President Zine alAbdin Ben Ali had taken refuge in Saudi Arabia and, together with his family, was the target of international arrest warrants. Also in January, mass protests led Jordan’s King Abdullah to dismiss his government and initiate a process of limited constitutional reforms. In Egypt, protests on a scale unprecedented in the region forced the end of the Mubarak era in February 2011 and, as this is being written in early 2012, continue to pressure the Egyptian military to open the political system and permit a transition to real democracy. In October 2011, Muammar al-Qaddafi, Libya’s ruler for over forty years, was killed following months of armed struggle against rebel forces backed by NATO air support. The following month, similar protests and the armed mobilization of regime opponents forced Yemen’s President Ali Abdallah Salih out of office, bringing his forty-three-year tenure as Yemen’s ruler to an end. Elsewhere in the Middle East, from Morocco to Bahrain, authoritarian regimes moved to shore up social policies that they felt would mitigate, at least temporarily, the economic and social pressures that contributed to popular uprisings.

The significance of these changes cannot be overestimated. At the start of December 2010 authoritarian regimes in the Middle East appeared more deeply . . .

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