Democratization in the Middle East: Experiences, Struggles, Challenges

By Amin Saikal; Albrecht Schnabel | Go to book overview

4
The United Nations and the Middle East
Amin Saikal

The United Nations’ involvement in the Middle East has been extensive, complex, and wide-ranging. Ever since shortly after its establishment in 1945, the United Nations has been called upon to engage in political mediation, conflict resolution, peacekeeping, and human rights violation monitoring, as well as a variety of humanitarian relief activities. In the process, it has had more successes in the humanitarian areas than in the political field. A number of factors have been responsible for this, ranging from the fact that the Middle East has been a region of enormous complexity, underlined by its growing geostrategic importance and a high level of political volatility; to the United Nations’ functioning for most of its life as a Cold War institution, reflecting mainly the rival interests of the United States and the Soviet Union; to the United States’ concerted efforts, especially since the 1967 Arab–Israeli War, to limit the United Nations’ political role in favor of its own in the Middle East. Although the Soviet Union has gone and the Cold War has ended, there has been no reduction in America's efforts to maintain its political dominance in the region, given its continuing deep economic and strategic interests in the area.

This chapter has three main objectives. The first is to look at the historical role of the United Nations in the Middle East. The second is to assess the United Nations’ successes and failures in both political and non-political terms. The third is to focus on the opportunities and challenges that have confronted the United Nations’ peacekeeping and

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