What are the characteristics of a contemporary Middle East whose politics have been transformed in recent years by a wide range of important external and regional developments? Despite the persistence of many old attitudes and problems, its key features include declining Arab-Israeli conflict, higher priority on economic development, weakening of radical states, emergence of individual nation-states’ voicing and pursuing their own interests, and a new pattern of Persian Gulf security arrangements.*
The main factors behind these changes are well known: the Cold War’s end, collapse of the radical states’ Soviet superpower ally, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and defeat by a U.S.led coalition with many Arab states participating, the IsraelPLO agreement, and IsraelJordan peace treaty. Other trends include declining Arab state activism in the ArabIsraeli conflict; threats from Islamic revolutionary groups, Iran, and Iraq in the Gulf; and the governing ideologies’ and regimes’ failure to develop quickly, achieve interArab unity, expel Western influence, or destroy Israel. In many states, radical rule wasted huge resources in war and doctrinaire domestic policies. Decades of struggle and agitation left Arabs weak and deeply divided. There were civil wars in Yemen, Algeria, Lebanon and Iraq (whose Kurdish north became autonomous). Libya and Iraq face international sanctions. Another Arab writer said it was as if the Arabs were engaged in “a race to suicide.”1
Arab states expressed individual, divergent interests as many concluded that continued Arab-Israeli conflict, anti-Western policy, or appeasing radicals endangered them. Deciding to make peace with Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Gulf states, or the PLO were undeterred by claims they were betraying PanArabism or Islam. Gulf Arab monarchies acted similarly in seeking U.S. help. They knew, too, that Iraq’s seizure of Kuwait was no PanArab victory but an aggression for Iraq’s own benefit. The Egyptian newspaper alAhram dubbed PanArab nationalists, an “extinct Arab tribe.”2
Developmentalism, a priority on economic advancement and raising living standards is another attribute of the era. Rich Arab states with dropping income became stingy in aiding poorer brethren and invest where profits are highest. Poorer states facing economic failure and debt must also focus on economic progress. But success requires stability, peace, and good relations with the West.3
In his 1994 message to Muslim pilgrims in Mecca, Saudi King Fahd stated, “The wellbeing of [Muslims] is contingent upon stability, tranquility and prosperity arising from true faith in Allah….[Islam] neither encourages sowing the seeds of rancor and hate between countries and peoples nor does it impose a ban on dealing with others just because they happen to be different from us with regard to their orientation and thoughts.” This was a strong plea for a moderate interpretation of Islam. Fahd also praised the IsraelPLO Cairo agreement as “The beginning of a new phase of coexistence and the translation of peace efforts into real onthespot practices….We are confident that our Arab brothers want peace and are keen on achieving it.”4 Unhappy with Fahd’s policy, an Iraqi cabinet minister called him a drunkard, drugtaker, and “big pig devoting himself to the service of Zionism.” Such words show the deep rift between Arab radical and moderate states but do not change the Saudi stance.5
1. Regional Conflicts:
For many decades, Middle East strife oftenthough less often than many observers claimedrevolved around the ArabIsraeli conflict. The issue engaged more Arab rhetoric than action, partly because it was easier to rail at Israel than to address difficult domestic problems or interArab conflicts. Each Arab regime manipulated the issue for its own interests, accusing others of being too soft on Israel. Within states, rulers and opposition accused each other of being Zionist or Western agents. Syria claimed the land in dispute as its property. Jordan asserted ownership of the West Bank. Lebanese Christians tried to win a civil war with Israeli help.
Calculated self-interest also determined how Arab rulers acted toward the PLO. They tried to control it with their own puppet Palestinian groups. Jordan expelled the PLO by force in 1970 when it endangered the country’s stability. Egypt made unilateral peace with Israel in 1979 to regain the Sinai and reopen the Suez Canal. Syria split the PLO in 1983 and chased Arafat’s forces from Lebanon, where its local clients killed thousands of Palestinians.
Yet the conflict’s high costs and defeats also pushed most Arab states to reduce gradually their involvement on the ArabIsraeli issue, being unwilling to wage war and unready to make peace. Gulf Arab states were preoccupied by the IranIraq war and Iraq’s seizure of Kuwait. Arab countries did little to combat Israel’s 1982 invasion and military victory in Lebanon or to help the Palestinian intifada.6
Fighting Israel only intensified Arab states’ own instability and wellbeing. Oppositionists still advocated battle but their words did not set state policy. Diplomatic breakthroughs and negotiations further reduced the conflict’s importance. Radical states’ vocal militancy isolated them further and, despite IranSyria cooperation, they are badly divided. Israel proved it can defend itself and U.S. policy would counter such a threat more strongly than during the Cold War. Consequently, an ArabIsraeli war is less likely than at any time during the last halfcentury.
Middle East states have also been gradually learning what it took Europeans two centuries to understand: trying to dominate a region or even a neighboring state is a hard, costly, and usually futile endeavor. Efforts to do so bring little advantage. Egypt, the only plausible current candidate for Arab leadership–given Iraq’s defeats and Syria’s weaknesses–was first to discover this.
As each nationstate increasingly expresses its own identity and interests, the state system becomes normalized. But “normal” systems are not free from conflict. Several factors dictate continued interstate friction, though not necessarily a war or major international crisis:
* The tenacity of Arab nationalism and Islamic radicalism as transnational ideologies still bolster individual states’ desire and ability to intervene in other’s internal affairs.
* Rivalries between states still exist. A new IranIraq war could involve weapons of mass destruction; Syria remains ambitious to dominate neighbors; etc.
* Individual Arab states may clash with Israel due to conflicting state interests, even with no ArabIsraeli conflict.
* Iraq and Iran still want hegemony in the Gulf.
* An attractive alternative to war is lowcost, lowrisk covert war through revolutionary surrogates. Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Iraq are all sponsoring a number of groups attacking in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, and other places.7
* Internal struggles between ethnic/national or ideological groups in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, Sudan, and elsewhere can involve serious violence.
* The presence, or even use, of growing unconventional arsenalsmissiles, nuclear, chemical or biologicalcould foment or spread conflict.8
* Revolution in a key state could destabilize the regional power balance, greatly strengthening the radical camp.
* Mistrust keeps up military spending which, in turn, contributes to tension.
While all these threats do existand may well manifest themselvesthey can also be largely deterred, limited, or avoided. Radical states using Soviet arms will be at a disadvantage as Russian weapons fall behind Western ones in quality. Moderate states with more moneySaudi Arabiaor access to U.S. aidIsrael, Egypthave an advantage over poorer regimes.9 Finally, a U.S. superpower role deters interstate aggression as long as its credibility and memory of Iraq’s defeat remain vivid. Direct conflict among Arab states and between Arab states and Israel will probably remain on a verbal and diplomatic level.
Consequently, the regional environment is, in the words of U.S. National Security Advisor Tony Lake, one in which moderate states limit the ability of radical countries and organizations to extend their influence. “The extremists will be denied the claim that they are the wave of the future. They will have to confront the reality of their failure [while moderate] governments find the strength to counter extremism at home as well as abroad.”10
2. Alliance Systems:
With the ArabIsrael conflict’s general decline (though not necessarily the disappearance of SyriaIsrael or IraqIsrael conflicts), regional frictions are being restructured. Despite rhetoric and appearances, the fundamental rift is between radical states or forces and a moderate bloc enjoying U.S. backing and including Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Bahrain. Egypt wants to ensure that the Palestinian Authority and even Syria follow its lead. Lebanon would join if Damascus did not prevent it. The moderates argue among themselves on how–but not whether–to make peace with Israel. Israel and Turkey are objectivelythough certainly not explicitlyin this camp.11
3. Threat from Radical States
The radical side–divided by ideology, ambitions, and interests–consists of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Sudan, with no superpower sponsor.12 While they pose threats which must be taken seriously, their power to act falls far short of their ambitions. These rulers realize that an attack on neighbors or on Israel would likely result in a disastrous defeat, a confrontation with the United States, and little support from other Arab states. In some cases, they face their own problems of internal instability or a likelihood of war among themselves.
The regime’s ideology denies legitimacy to other states.13 In 1986, Prime Minister Mir-Hussein Musavi told Gulf monarchies, “You are facing a revolution that has roots in all countries and…the populations of your countries are less than that of Tehran alone.”14 Iran seeks to subvert the ArabIsraeli peace process and backs Algerian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Lebanese, Palestinian, Tunisian, and other Islamist rebels.15
Despite this world view, however, Iran has usually acted cautiously. President Ali Rafsanjani urged “prudence” and, as early as 1985, said Iran would some day renew diplomatic relations with the United States.16 In the 1992 elections, his faction defeated more hardline candidates and Muhammad Khatemi, a moderate in domestic terms, became the next president in a 1997 electoral landslide.17 Iran’s weak economy and army, political isolation, and relative lack of success in promoting revolution also limit its influence.18 Yet like Stalin’s USSR, a priority on preserving revolution at home does not bar propaganda, terrorism, and aid to insurgents abroad.19
Rulers from the less extreme faction keep radicals at bay precisely by accepting their foreign policy goals, even when this is costly in blocking rebuilt links to the West as well as creating antagonism from other Middle East governments. Continuing Iransponsored terrorism include assassinations of dissidents in France and Germany, a refusal to end the bounty for killing author Salman Rushdie, and backing many attacks against Israel.20
Finally, Iran seeks to rebuild its military by buying weapons from Russia, China, and North Korea. CIA director Robert Gates warned in 1992 of an “acrosstheboard effort to develop its military and defense industries [including]…weapons of mass destruction not only to prepare for the potential reemergence of the Iraqi [unconventional] weapons threat, but to solidify Iran’s preeminent position in the Gulf and Southwest Asia.” Germany’s intelligence chief predicted Iran could obtain a nuclear weapon by around the year 2000.21 Deputy President Ayatollah Mohajerani urged Islamic countries to pool their resources toward this end.22
Nevertheless, Iran remains relatively weak and remembers its costly defeat and losing confrontations with the United States during the war with Iraq. Its ability to strike at Israel or muster Arab supportgiven Iran’s nonArab, nonSunni natureis limited. An aggressive Iran would push together most of the region into a defensive coalition. No matter how limited Khatemi’s restraint on radicals, his election and policies mark another step toward moderating Iran’s international behavior.23
Despite two losing wars seeking Gulf hegemony and Arab leadership, Iraq’s regime has not given up. Saddam Hussein is trying to outwit international sanctions, rebuild his army, get unconventional weapons, and reenter Arab ranks.24 Severe international sanctions against Iraq are unlikely either to remain permanently or to overthrow the regime.25
Iraq’s own continued hardline policy is the best hope for keeping it isolated and beset by punitive measures. The government obstructed the UN oversight commission, attacked autonomous Kurds in the north and Shia rebels in the south, maintained support for terrorism, opposed the peace process, and refused to recognize Kuwait’s sovereignty or border.26 By so openly remaining a threat, Baghdad encourages other regional states to view it as such and thus sustains their hostility. Consequently, Iraq’s ability to threaten the region remained suppressed though it can, and probably will, reemerge to some extent in the future.
While geopolitical and historical explanations can be adduced for Libya’s foreign adventurism, it is largely the product of Muammar Qadhafi’s ambition to lead the Arabs. Yet Qadhafi’s ineptness and Libya’s weakness makes the regime vulnerable.27 With no ally, weak military forces, low credibility, and no diplomatic incentive for Western deference, Libya remains the radical Middle East state least able to inflict damage on others and most likely to face severe retaliation for trying to do so.
Syria must adjust to the current regional situation although it does so by making the minimum possible policy change.28 It was the state most hardhit by the USSR’s collapse. Damascus was on bad terms with all its neighbors, threatened by Saddam’s drive for leadership, undermined by the end of Saudi subsidies, bogged down in Lebanon’s civil war, and short of money for buying weapons.29 But Syria’s role in the Kuwait crisis and the need to involve it in Arab-Israeli peacemaking eased the pressure on Damascus.30
Syria’s militancy arises from the country’s history, regime’s ideology, and the ruling Alawite minority’s need to prove its nationalist and Islamic credentials to a skeptical Sunni Muslim majority.31 By declaring itself guardian of Arabism and the Palestinian cause, Syria rationalized its interests to gain hegemony in Lebanon, isolate Egypt after the Camp David accords, intimidate Jordan from negotiating with Israel, split the PLO, blackmail oil-producing states to provide aid, sponsor a proxy war against Turkey, and bar Israel from participation in regional affairs.32 Terrorism has been an important tool in Syria’s arsenal for pursuing these goals.33 Syria’s “main asset, in contrast to Egypt’s preeminence and Saudi wealth,” explains Fouad Ajami, “is its capacity for mischief.”34
Syria’s domination over Lebanon seems as strong as ever. Since first sending in its army in 1975, nominally as a peacekeeping force, Damascus developed a network of clients while intimidating adversaries through violence. The 1991 Syrianbrokered Taif accords ended the fighting without reducing Syrian control. 35
Similarly, Syria has been able to limit concessions regarding its role in the ArabIsraeli conflict. Participating in talks does not necessarily mean readiness to reach a diplomatic solution. On the contrary, Damascus has done the minimum needed to avoid U.S. pressure, maintain good relations with Europe, and obtain Saudi economic help while setting its own demands high enough to sabotage any diplomatic breakthrough. Syria turned down Israel’s offer to return all the Golan Heights in exchange for peace.
Syria is uninterested in reaching agreement since even one meeting virtually all its demands would severely damage its interests. Unable to use Israel as a threat, Syria would have a hard time obtaining aid, influencing Arab counsels, or continuing to control Lebanon. Any diplomatic solution would increase U.S. influence; favor Egypt, Israel, and Jordan over Syria; block Syrian influence on the Palestinians; and make Israel a stronger rival.36
Internal politics also inhibit Syria from making a peace that enemies would portray as traitorous while raising popular demands for democracy and higher living standards. The dictatorship has no wish to reduce the size or budget of an army sustaining its rule. In short, Syria’s hawkishness has been rational.
Of course, this does not mean Syria wants war or confrontation either with Israelwhich defeated it in three wars despite conditions far better for Damascus–or with the United States. For Asad, it is a far more profitable strategy to speak in tones of reasonableness and cooperation while hoping the future will bring opportunities to escape Syria’s weak position. Being so isolated, relatively poor and weak, and with much of its army tied up in Lebanon, Syria is unlikely to engage in unilateral aggression on Israel or other neighbors.
Radical states pose a longterm threat to regional stability. Nevertheless, a combination of U.S. power, Arab opposition, isolation, division among themselves, Israeli power, and recent defeats constrain them from acting as they would like to do.
4. Internal Stability:
Contrary to appearances or expectations, the outlook for most Arab regimes’ stability is relatively good. Indeed, there has been no coup or revolution in a major Arab state (i.e., not including Sudan or Yemen) since the early 1970s. There is a big difference between the existence of internal conflict or violent opposition and such movements’ ability to seize power. In general, rulers know their own societies well, are aware of the threats, and are determined to stay in power by whatever means necessary.
Moreover, most Muslims usually oppose “fundamentalist” revolt, often because they have nationalist views or support the current government. They often think radical Islamic forces reject their own brand of Islam or are even heretical in doctrine. Twenty years after Iran’s revolution, a wave of successful radical Islamic revolt has yet to occur in the Middle East, nor does Iran provide a model many Arabs want to imitate.
But a regime change through revolution or coup–especially in Egypt, Jordan or Saudi Arabia–is also a factor that could transform the regional situation virtually overnight, vastly increasing the chances of interstate war, the ArabIsraeli conflict’s revival, and a shift strengthening the radical states.
Algeria is the most immediately endangered regime. Its Arab nationalist militarydominated government is challenged by an Islamic fundamentalist opposition led by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). FIS would have won free elections in 1992 if a military coup had not canceled them. The army’s crackdown produced a bitter, bloody civil war.
A revolutionary victory could intimidate moderate Arab states, and provide an operational base for subverting others. By 1997, though, the war had settled into a deadlock. The large Berber minority opposed a FIS victory. The radicals’ frustration at not being winning led them to increasingly terrorist actions against civilians which, in turn, further reduced their chance for success. While a revolution in Algeria remains possible, it seems far less likely than it did in earlier years. Moreover, although an Islamic radical regime in Algeria could be a catalyst for further change, the civil war also serves as an example and warning to moderate regimes of the need to cooperate and to block upheavals against themselves.
Compared to Algeria, the overthrow of other, more important, moderate regimes is a very low probability:
Jordan seems well able to overcome internal threats. There is a clear and accepted line of succession to King Hussein. Economic problems result from population growth (including large-scale immigration of Palestinians expelled from the Gulf), the oil boom’s end, and reduced aid from Gulf Arab states.
At the same time, the Israel-Palestinian peace process, whatever its own problems, has improved Jordan’s internal Palestinian situation. Uncertain of the future and fearful that they are being excluded permanently from a return to Palestine, Palestinians in Jordan feel more dependent on the regime’s future tolerance and on protecting their own Jordanian citizenship. Even if they oppose the peace process–or expect it to fail–preserving their safe haven in Jordan becomes even more necessary.
Often overlooked in this equation is the continued strengthening of the East Banker “ethnic” group. Once far less educated than the Palestinians, its members have become far more skilled and sophisticated. They control the army, intelligence and other key institutions, are relatively united, and determined to avoid any Palestinian takeover.
Finally, the king has been masterly in handling the Islamist movement through a mix of political maneuvering, concessions, and repression. Radicals were demoralized by Iraq’s defeat in Kuwait. The king brought the Islamists into parliament but denied them real policymaking power.
He ignored the opposition’s complaints about Jordan’s warm peace with Israel while paying virtually no political price for this strategy. At the same time, increased U.S. aid and cooperation with Israel brought some benefits. Thus, despite problems, Jordan seems impressively stable.
The same can be said of Egypt, despite its problems with overpopulation, unemployment, and limited resources. The immediate challenge comes from violent Islamic radical movements which, after more than 15 years of activity, still have a very small base of support.37
Most believing Muslims and the Islamic institutions, over which the authorities have a great deal of control, back the government. Despite election-rigging, the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest fundamentalist group, has stayed away from violence partly due to its fear of repression. Revolutionary Islamic groups are very divided and most Egyptians reject their interpretation of Islam. Thus, while the radicals can commit terrorist acts, they are far from making a revolution.
Saudi Arabia’s big test of stability will only come after decades of gradual social transformation. Meanwhile, government institutions and legitimacy remains strong and knows how to distribute assets to maintain the population’s loyalty. Opposition is weak, divided, underground, and mostly exiled. Similarly, despite the decline of discretionary income due to cheap oil and rising spending, it is still proportionately quite wealthy.
Instability in these states must be closely monitored but is unlikely to produce revolutionary transformation. On the contrary, one could well argue that political turmoil is more likely in radical states, where change could have a moderating effect even if it sprang from a dramatic policy shift by a new dictator.
Libya and Iraq are almost totally dependent on a single leader, while Asad’s health is slowly failing. Successors might be eager to escape isolation and international sanctions by developing new policies stressing economic development and rapprochement with wealthy Arab oil producers, the West, or even peace with Israel.
Again, while the overthrow of any major regime in the region could destabilize the current order or threaten the ArabIsraeli peace process, this is not a highlikelihood danger. Moreover, instability in some placeswhere it is may be more probablemight actually improve the regional situation.
5. Persian Gulf security:
The Kuwait war has changed the Gulf’s strategic situation. Before, the geopolitical picture was shaped as a triangle, with Iran and Iraq competing to dominate the Arab monarchies, which alternated as their ally or target. The latter usually appeased Baghdad or Tehran to reduce a dangerous neighbor’s threat or to use one of them as protector against the other. For the first time, the Arab monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are free from dependence on either Iran or Iraq. U.S. strength was now the key factor ensuring their survival.
Until the 1979 Iranian revolution, Washington backed the Shah to contain Baghdad’s radical Arab nationalism. But in the 1980s, during the IranIraq war, U.S. policy turned to Iraq to contain a radical Islamic fundamentalist Tehran. This era ended with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the new strategy was called “dual containment” toward both Iran and Iraq.
Reliance on either Iran or Iraq would not promote stability, since both sought hegemony. Events starting with the U.S. Navy’s convoy neutral tankers in the IranIraq war and ending in a U.S.led coalition’s defeating Iraq, meant the United States was now the dominant Gulf power. GCC states were ready to accept and cooperate with a direct U.S. role to save themselves. U.S. arms sales to GCC states ($20 billion to Saudi Arabia alone between 1991 and 1993, and $25 billion on order as of 1994) made them better able to defend themselves and less eager to appease Tehran or Baghdad. The region’s radical regimes were also hurt by the collapse of the USSR, their superpower patron.38
Given the defeat inflicted on Iran during its war with Iraq and the debacle suffered by Iraq in confrontation with a U.S.led coalition, these regimes seemed less likely to challenge the Gulf status quo in an open or major way for some years.
6. Israel’s role in a New Middle East
Inevitably, Israel’s regional role is limited by Arab political considerations just as it is promoted by Israel’s strategic power. Contrary to Egypt’s fears, there is no chance of Israel’s becoming the area’s political leader or economic master. Even with the best possible outcome in the negotiating process, domestic and inter-Arab factors will keep peace with Israel more cool than warm. Many or even most Arabs will continue to have negative feelings about Israel and a highprofile Israel involvement in any bloc or side can undermine moderate regimes and give ammunition to radical ones, actually damaging Israel’s interests. It is often better to stand on the sidelines and let others resolve disputes or battle extremists.
At the same time, however, Israel can have better relations with most Arab states and play an integral role in Middle East issues than anyone would have dreamed possible a decade ago. Israel’s priority of avoiding a war or major security threat from Arab states has already been attained. Whatever is written in Arab newspapers or contained in Arab League speeches or resolutions, Israel’s interest parallel those of the Arab moderates and benefit in any defeat of radical states or revolutionary movements.
It would require Israeli peace treaties with both the Palestinians and Syria for moderate Arab regimes to accept formally Israel as a state like any other state. Yet most already informally do so. The hot, passionate debate is not whether to make peace with Israel but on setting and reaching the terms.
Of course regional conditions will be linked to the status of the peace process, especially its Israel-Palestinian component. But it is most misleading to view events and conditions solely through this lens. There are other important factors in the equation, as well as limits to how far the situation will regress.
Regional attitudes have changed sharply in several respects from prevailing circumstances in the previous era:
–Most Arab states want to reduce their involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict and would like to see this issue resolved. They are more worried about radical regimes or internal threats than about Israel.
–Moderate states neither accept the ideology nor the leadership of radical regimes and are unwilling to appease them. They view an effort to destroy Israel, expel Western influence, or unite the Arab world by compulsion as threats to their prosperity, interests, or even survival.
–Peace, stability, and economic development are seen as priorities to a far greater extent than at any time in almost a half-century.
–The majority of regional states seek U.S. help and accept its playing a direct security role to an unprecedented degree. Gulf monarchies may not be averse to rebuilding relations with Iran and Iraq but have no illusions about these two states’ intentions.
–Radical regimes are weaker and more divided than at any time in decades. This difficult situation dictates caution as their watchword even though they are trying to alter the existing situation.
Barry Rubin is Senior Resident Scholar at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies and Editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs. His books include Cauldron of Turmoil: America in the Middle East (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992); Revolution Until Victory?: The Politics and History of the PLO (Harvard University Press, 1994); and, as coeditor, Iraq’s Road to War (St. Martin’s Press, 1994) and The IsraelArab Reader (VikingPenguin, 1996).
* The previous era might be said to have begun in 1945 (start of the post-World War Two order), 1948 (first Arab-Israeli war and an Arab defeat), or 1952 (Egypt’s Arab nationalist revolution). It can be said to have ended in 1990 (Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait), 1991 (Iraq’s defeat and the Madrid conference), or 1993 (Israel-PLO agreement). The exact dates are debatable but indicate some of the key shaping factors involved.
1. AlSharq alAwsat cited in Mideast Mirror, 27 May 1994. See also alNahar cited in Mideast Mirror, 10 May 1994, p. 15.
2. alAhram, 17 May 1994. For an interesting account of alternative views, see Mideast Mirror, 17 June 1994.
3. On economic issues, see Eliyahu Kanovsky, “The Middle East Economies: The Impact of Domestic and International Politics,” in Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal 2 (May 1997) and Paul Rivlin, “Leadership and the Economy in the Arab World, 19501996,” MERIA Journal 3 (September 1997).
4. Text in Saudi Gazette, 23 May 1994.
5. Washington Post, 28 May 1994.
6. On the conflict’s role in interArab politics and Arab states’ policy toward the PLO, see the author’s Cauldron of Turmoil: America in the Middle East (NY, 1992), Revolution Until Victory?: The Politics and History of the PLO (NY, 1994), and The Arab States and the Palestine Question (Syracuse, NY, 1982).
7. See the author’s, “The Uses of Terrorism in the Middle East,” in Barry Rubin, The Politics of Terrorism, (Johns Hopkins University Foreign Policy Institute, Washington DC, 1988).
8. Writing in Ha’aretz, 16 June 1994, Sharon Sadeh estimated regional powers had 2,000 groundtoground missiles.
9. Of course, a large military establishment is also maintained to preserve domestic order, keep otherwise unemployed youths busy and disciplined, and satisfy the politically important officer class.
10. Lake at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, transcript, 17 May 1994.
11. A moderate/radical divide also split the Arab world in the 1950s and 1960s. Then, however, the moderates were weaker, on the defensive, and prone to appeasement. Radical Arab nationalism had great credibility, Soviet backing, and seemed to be the winning side. Today, radical military regimes are discredited, the United States is the sole superpower, and the ArabIsraeli conflict is far less a useful political tool.
12. See the author’s U.S. Policy and the Radical Middle East States, (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1993).
13. Radio Tehran, 19 May 1979, (Foreign Broadcast Information Service, hereafter FBIS, 20 May 1979).
14. Iran Times, 14 March 1986.
15. New York Times, 19 January 1992; Washington Post, 12 March 1992.
16. Iran Times, 12 July 1985.
17. New York Times, 8, 13, 14, 19 April, and 10 May 1992; Washington Post, 13, 14, and 28 April 1992. Wall Street Journal, 13 April 1992. For a discussion of contemporary Iran, see Darius Bazargan, “Iran: Politics, The Military and Gulf Security,” in Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal 3 (September 1997).
18. See, for example, Washington Post, 19 October 1992.
19. New York Times, 16 April 1992; Washington Post, 25 September 1992.
20. Washington Post, 21 April 1992; New York Times, 25 July 1992.
21. Washington Post, 2 February 1992.
22. Gerald Seib, Wall Street Journal, 18 March 1992.
23. For a detailed discussion of the U.S. policy debate over Iran, see Geoffrey Kemp, Forever Enemies? (Washington, 1994). Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pelletreau told a congressional committee in March 1994: “We believe the Iranian regime is a permanent feature” and hope it “will adopt new policies that are more in line with being a good neighbor to its neighbors in the region and…being more supportive of the peace process and not supporting militant guerrilla groups. For Iranian peace feelers to the West see, for example, Mideast Mirror, 8 June 1994.
24. On Iraq’s stability, see Laurie Mylroie, The Future of Iraq (Washington, 1991) and Ofra Bengio, Baghdad Between Shi`a and Kurds (Washington, 1992). See also, New York Times, 16 June, 6 and 7 July, and 27 August 1992; Washington Post, 7 January, 24 February, 19 and 20 June, 7 and 23 August 1992. On Iraq’s hidden unconventional weapons see, for example, New York Times, 20 April, 31 July, and 12 November 1991; Washington Post, 20 April 1991.
25. Washington Post, 8 April 1992.
26. Text of Clinton letter to Congress on Iraqi compliance, June 7, 1994.
27. New York Times, 12 March, and 17 May 1991. Washington Post, 13 March, 18 May 1991; British Information Services Policy Statement 81/91, 20 November 1991; Financial Times, 23 July 1992; Washington Post, 16 and 28 November 1991; 3 and 8 February, 3 April 1992. New York Times, 16 and 28 November 1991; 1 February, 20 March, 24 and 28 June 1992. Wall Street Journal, 29 November 1991.
28. New York Times Sunday Magazine, 1 April 1990.
29. On Syria’s military strategy and capabilities, see Michael Eisenstadt, Arming for Peace: Syria’s Elusive Quest for `Strategic Parity’ (Washington DC, 1992).
30. On Syria’s handling of these problems see, for example, Washington Post, 18 January and 12 December 1989; 15 and 17 July, 9 August, 11 September, and 24 November, 1990. New York Times, 10 January 1989 and 15 July, 9 and 25 August, and 11 September 1990. On Syria’s human rights record, see Middle East Watch, Human Rights in Syria (NY, 1990).
31. The Alawites comprise only about 12 percent of Syria’s population. On Syria’s political culture, see Rubin, The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict, op. cit.
32. Daniel Pipes, Greater Syria, (NY, 1991).
33. See, for example, U.S. Department of Defense, Terrorist Group Profiles Washington 1988; U.S. Department of State, Abu Nidal Organization, (Washington, 1988); Barry Rubin, “The Uses of Terrorism in the Middle East,” in Barry Rubin, The Politics of Terrorism, (Washington DC, 1988). Syria’s terrorist assets include the Popular Front for the Liberation of PalestineGeneral Command (PFLPGC), the Samir Ghosha branch of the Palestine Liberation Front, the alFatah rebels led by Abu Musa, the Palestine Struggle Front, alSaiqa (Palestinian), Abu Nidal’s alFatahRevolutionary Council, a branch of (Palestinian) Islamic Jihad led by Ahmad Mahana, the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK, antiTurkish Kurds). It has significant influence over the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Syria also encouraged alAmal to attack Palestinian refugee camps in Syria in the 1980s. See, for example, al-Dustur, “The Syrian `peace’ following the Israeli `peace,’” 3 June 1985; al-Nahar, 29 May 1985. David Ottoway, “Syrian Connection to Terrorism Probed,” Washington Post, 1 June 1986.
34. Fouad Ajami, “Arab Road,” Foreign Policy, No. 47, Summer 1982, p. 16.
35. Daniel Pipes, Damascus Courts the West: Syrian Politics, 198991 (Washington DC, 1991). See also Eyal Zisser, “Hizballah in Lebanon At the Crossroads,” A. Nizar Hamzeh, “Islamism in Lebanon: A Guide,” and Laura Zittrain Eisenberg: “Israel’s Lebanon Policy,” in Middle East Review of International Affairs 3 (September 1997).
36. Financial Times, 18 March 1992; Wall Street Journal, 29 October 1991. Permitting Syrian Jews to emigrate is an example of Asad’s efforts to make gestures to Washington.
37. The issue is examined in the author’s Islamic Fundamentalism in Egyptian Politics (NY, 1991).
38. These issues are discussed at length in the author’s Cauldron of Turmoil: America in the Middle East (NY, 1992) and Radical Middle East States and U.S. Policy (Washington, D.C., 1993). Washington Post, 13 December 1993. On arms sales see, for example, New York Times, 18 January 1994; Washington Post, 17 February 1994; New Republic, 14 March 1994, pp. 1011. See also Anthony Lake, “Confronting Backlash States,” Foreign Affairs, MarchApril 1994, pp. 4555.
Professor Barry Rubin is Deputy Director of the BESA Center for Strategic Studies and is editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs as well as the journal Turkish Studies. He has written numerous publications, including The Transformation of Palestinian Politics: From Revolution to State-Building; Revolution Until Victory: The Politics and History of the PLO; Cauldron of Turmoil: America in the Middle East; Secrets of State: The State Department and the Struggle over U.S. Foreign Policy; Paved with Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran; Arab States and the Palestine Conflict; and The Great Powers in the Middle East, 1941-1947. Professor Rubin has also written 15 monographs and over 40 book chapters and his articles have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, and many other publications.