The International Politics of the Middle East

By Raymond Hinnebusch | Go to book overview

7
War and order in the regional system

The roots of war

War has profoundly shaped the Middle East regional system. The Middle East has two of the world's most enduring conflict centres, each originating in the impact of the West on the region. The establishment of Israel at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians led to a chain of wars, each of which added new grievances and issues complicating the possibility of a resolution. In the Gulf, the struggle over oil and oil routes has been expressed in another chain of wars which can be traced back to the Western overthrow of Muhammed Mossadeq who had attempted to nationalise Iran's oil; this was a major factor in the Iranian revolution which set the stage for the first and second Gulf wars. Conflicts over Israel and oil have tended to feed on each other, as in the 1973 oil embargo triggered by the Arab—Israeli war of that year.

War has originated in domestic level dissatisfaction shaped by these struggles which, when institutionalised in rival states, is expressed in conflict at the states system level, frequently over territory. Everywhere, in a region afflicted with irredentism, domestic politics encourages nationalist outbidding. Revolution in states such as Egypt and Iran has brought leaders to power who seek to export their ideology; in mobilising new social forces, it has tended to strengthen certain states and upset power balances. Demographic, ideological or political expansionist impulses have been built into the very fabric of some states, as is arguably so of Israel (a settler state) and Iraq (an artificial state), which, between them, have launched five wars against their neighbours. Weak or authoritarian regimes have made repeated miscalculations, plunging their states

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