Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa
eBook - ePub

Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa

Development, Democracy, and Dictatorship

Sean Yom, Sean Yom

  1. 670 pagine
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa

Development, Democracy, and Dictatorship

Sean Yom, Sean Yom

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Anteprima del libro
Indice dei contenuti

Informazioni sul libro

The latest edition of this renowned textbook explores the states and regimes of the Middle East and North Africa. Presenting heavily revised, fully updated chapters contributed by the world's leading experts, it analyzes the historical trajectory, political institutions, economic development, and foreign policies of the region's nearly two dozen countries. The volume can be used in conjunction with its sister volume, The Societies of the Middle East and North Africa, for a comprehensive overview of the region.

Chapters are organized and structured identically, giving insightful windows into the nuances of each country's domestic politics and foreign relations. Data tables and extensive annotated bibliographies orient readers towards further research. Whether used in conjunction with its sister volume or on its own, this book provides the most comprehensive and detailed overview of the region's varied politics. Five new experts cover the critical country cases of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. All chapters cover the latest events, including trends that have remarkably changed in just a few years like the gradual end of the Syrian civil war. As such, this textbook is invaluable to students of Middle Eastern politics..

The ninth edition brings substantial changes. All chapters also have a uniform, streamlined structure that explores the historical context, social and economic environment, political institutions, regime dynamics, and foreign policy of each country. Fact boxes and political maps are now far more extensive, and photographs and images also help illustrate key points. Annotated bibliographies are vastly expanded, providing nothing short of the best list of research references for each country.

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Political dynamics in the MENA region

Democracy, authoritarianism, and history

Sean Yom


A classic Arabic proverb holds that forgetfulness is the plague of knowledge. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), global audiences do not merely forget so much as exhibit chronic amnesia when stumbling across politics throughout the region. Breaking developments in these countries – policies, elections, protests, conflict, governance, revolution – frequently interrupt global headlines. Yet instead of unpacking these events in the same way as we might when discussing, say, American presidential elections or Brexit in the United Kingdom, observers too often fall back upon familiar tropes of an exotic Orient whose political dramas forever appear mysterious and irrational, given as they seemingly are waged by bearded sultans and veiled women speaking incomprehensible tongues. The poster depicted in Photo 1.1, for instance, nicely captures all the other iconic stereotypes associated with the region: the musical oud, the hookah pipe, prayer beads, palm trees, flying carpets, camels, pyramids, the Qur’an, mosques, tea kettles, crossed swords, and the Islamic crescent.
Photo 1.1
Popular images of the MENA region.
Source: iStock
To be sure, these are not fanciful inventions. They are cultural notions that can be physically located by casual visitors to the Arab world. (Except, perhaps, for the flying carpet.) The problem is when the imagery of such convenient symbols takes the place of gritty, concrete, and objective knowledge about political life – awareness gained only by discarding assumptions and biases about how people in the MENA behave, and instead matter-of-factly dissecting the institutions, policies, and personalities of each country on their own terms.
This book does just that, and therefore seeks to staunch the plague of forgetfulness. It makes the MENA knowable under the uncontroversial assumption that though politics is shaped by local circumstances, it expresses universal patterns of human behavior that can be studied and analyzed. As political scientist Harold Laswell memorably observed nearly a century ago, politics is the study of “who gets what, when, how.” How individuals and groups interact, bargain, and struggle over the allocation of power and resources through the craft of governance therefore marks our imperative. The contributors in this volume take this charge seriously, and present an impressive corpus of political knowledge about the Arab world, Iran, Turkey, and Israel that, collected over many years through focused research and frequent travel, reveals the connections between the historical past, present circumstances, and future pathways.
At the same time, this exploration shows that the MENA is no monolith. This is a critical region at the crossroads of three continents, and includes nearly two dozen states and various stateless peoples. It is also a region of opposites. In the last decade alone, there have been both inspiring revolutions for democracy and brutal counterrevolutionary repression inflicted by dictators. Both republics (some elected, most not) and ruling monarchies – that rarest of regime types – occupy the reins of national power. Several states like Yemen and Libya have all but collapsed due to violence and war, while others like Morocco and Kuwait seem to embody resilience and stability. Extreme wealth and opulence flourish in some hydrocarbon-exporting Gulf states, like Qatar; not far away are humanitarian crises and grotesque poverty. Some countries like Jordan remain tenaciously pro-Western in their foreign policy, while others like Syria and Iran resist Western entreaties and hegemony. In many societies, a vibrant youth generation aspires for entrepreneurship and innovation, even as elderly norms and religious dictates impose conservativism and tradition. Some travelers to the region see a fantasy land where flying carpets, belly dancers, and bellowing mosques should thrive; others see Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags, and McDonald’s in Mecca.
Understanding these politics requires drawing upon political science and international affairs, but all the contributors also incorporate insights from other disciplines as well, including history, anthropology, economics, sociology, and religion. To that end, this first chapter provides a broad overview of the MENA’s regimes, parsing out the different types of institutions and structures that characterize political order. The next chapter takes a different approach and analyzes how structural forces – such as geographic constraints, cultural change, religious identity, gender roles, and economic development – also shape the social arena of politics. A thicker and richer version of this framework of understanding societies rather than government and politics also occupies this book’s sister volume.1
The book proceeds simply. Every chapter beyond the first two explores a different country as a case study, including the still-stateless Palestine. Each follows an identical format. Authors provide the historical background, then social and economic context, next ruling political structures as well as the latest dynamics and events, afterwards the nature of foreign policy, and finally the outlook for the future. The arc of analysis is linear, moving from past to present to future, and each stage requires careful reading, detailed attention, and an open mind.
As a result, this book fulfills three goals. First, by delivering critical information about different countries in a consistent format, it makes a perplexing region more concrete, empirical, and knowable through the universal language of politics. It seeks to create familiarity from which expertise and knowledge flow. Second, it illuminates the diversity of the MENA countries. Far from a homogenous region, the MENA is a mosaic, and one can spend a lifetime studying its politics, as indeed the contributing authors have. Third, this volume accentuates the pace of large-scale change. For many readers, the cataclysmic ruptures and defining ideologies of yesteryear – anti-colonial movements, Arab Nationalism, communism and the Cold War, Arab-Israeli wars, the genesis of Islamism, the US-led invasions of Iraq – are emblazoned in history books rather than living memory. Yet for generations, events like these defined the politics of the Middle East and North Africa. Today, even the Arab Spring, the 2011–12 wave of regional uprisings that many likened to the 1989 Velvet Revolutions in Europe that helped end the Cold War, is fading into the backdrop. The rhythms of political transformation march on, and knowing them intimately must be a priority.
Where is the MENA? Maps 1.1 and 1.2 graphically depict this region, broken into two maps given its vast size. The entire region covers many countries at the intersection of Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Map 1.1
North Africa.
Source: adapted from D-Maps by Titanilla Panczel
Map 1.2
Near East and Arabian Peninsula.
Source: adapted from D-Maps by Titanilla Panczel
The phrase “Middle East” has Western origins: it was invented as a geopolitical moniker by British and American strategists in the early twentieth century to describe the eastern area of the world distinctive from the “Far East” (i.e., China and other Asian countries on the Pacific Ocean). Traditionally, this meant the geographic region bounded in the north by Turkey, in the east by Iran, in the south by Yemen, and in the west by Egypt and the Red Sea. Today, the term “Middle East” or “Mideast” is frequently used by Westerners as a synonym to mean the entire Arab world, meaning not just this area but also all of North Africa, plus the three non-Arab countries of Israel, Turkey, and Iran.
That this wide-ranging area is now known by artificial nomenclature concocted by Anglo-American military elites hints at the enormous influence the West has played in shaping regional politics over the past century. This region lies in the middle part of the exotic East only from the Western imagination; from the perspective of, say, Japan or India, it could well be called the Middle West. Further, only in the past several decades have ­Arabic media begun using the literal translation of Middle East, ­al-Sharq al-Awsat, as an idiom for the region. For centuries, Arab geographers referred to the Arabic-speaking lands as al-‘Alam al-‘Arabi, or the Arab world. Likewise, until 1935 Iran was called Persia, while the main land area of Turkey is still known as Asia Minor or Anatolia. In this book, for the sake of simplicity, “Middle East” and MENA are used interchangeably to refer to the entire region depicted in Maps 1.1 and 1.2, that is, the Arab countries plus Israel, Iran, and Turkey. However, it is also fruitful to envisage the MENA as consisting of three subregions, each with its own distinctive geographic terminology: North Africa, the Near East, and Arabian (or Persian) Gulf.2
First, North Africa stretches across the uppermost zone of the African continent and includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, Egypt, and Sudan. While Mauritania and Sudan are not covered in this edition, they represent indelible parts of this subregion and the Arab world. Of the remainder, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya share the closest social, cultural, and historical ties with one another. In Arabic, these four countries are called the Maghrib, which means literally “sunset” and figuratively “west.” Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia are often clustered together given their common French colonial past and post-colonial relations with France, which remains the most important external actor in this neighborhood.
Second, the Near East (a customary term used early on as synonym with Middle East) includes the lands east of North Africa but north of the Arabian (also known as the Persian) Gulf. This includes Israel, Palestine (i.e., the Palestinian territories, or the West Bank and Gaza Strip), Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and non-Arab Turkey. Mirroring the Maghrib, this subregion is known in Arabic as the Mashriq, which translates as “sunrise,” or “east.” Much of this area is also colloquially known as the Levant, a French-derived term that signifies a shared cultural and historical heritage since antiquity. Turkey possesses its own civilizational heritage, and as a non-Arab country has its own unique trajectory of political development.
Finally, the Arabian Gulf touches Iran and all the countries in the Arabian Peninsula, which encompasses Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen. Also known as the Gulf states, these Arabian countries traditionally incubated close tribal and social bonds by virtue of their collective proximity. In Arabic media, they are termed the Khalij (literally, “gulf”). Though frequently classified as part of this subregion given its location, Iran is not an Arab country. The country formerly known as Persia carries its own storied identity and ancient past, including a lineage replete with empires and a political system unlike any other today.
Demographically, as Table 1.1 shows, the MENA countries wildly vary. National populations range from just a few million residents in tiny principalities like Bahrain and Qatar to closer to 100 million as in Egypt and Iran. Most are urbanized, although Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Iran still have significant rural populations. Population density, measured as inhabitants per square kilometer, also varies; compare sparsely settled countries like Oman or Libya (3.6 persons per square kilometer) to extremely crowded places like the Palestinian territories, or Bahrain (1,918.5 persons per square kilometer). Most societies have experienced strong populational growth in recent decades, although birth rates have gradually declined. Syria has notably witnessed populational decline due to the flow of refugees outwards. The sources of demographic growth vary elsewhere; some countries have slightly higher birth rates, such as Egypt and Oman; some have seen enormous immigration by foreign workers (e.g., Kuwait, UAE); and some have received refugees fleeing conflicts like Syria (e.g., Jordan, Lebanon). The last column reveals an important but dreadful figure, the number of refugees living in the territory from other countries. Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and the Palestinian territories have the highest refugee populations, followed by Sudan and Iran. The Palestinian territories (in particular, the West Bank) ­represent a special case, as most refugees there are Palestinians who have held refugee status for many decades due to displacement from past Arab-Israeli conflicts.
Demographics of the MENA, 2019
Sources: World Bank (2019), World Development Indicators.
** denotes under 1,000 refugees.
Note: Refugees are those forcibly displaced from their home territories or countries who are either recognized in accordance with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or granted refugee-like humanitarian protections and rights by their host territory or country.


The study of politics rests upon several foundational concepts. States are mostly synonymous with countries in common parlance, but in social science the term taps a deeper concept. In the classic Weberian definition, the modern state is an organized political community that possesses a monopoly over the legitimate use of coercion and commands sovereignty within a finite territorial space. That monopoly means that only the state can serve as ultimate arbiter over life and death within the population: no entity except the government can raise an army, make laws, close borders, execute persons, and commit other acts requiring force or violence. Sovereignty implies exclusive authority. States are sovereign insofar that within their boundaries, only they determine political and legal structures of authority, regulate social and economic relations (such as taxation), and formulate foreign policy toward other states. In theory, all modern states have the right of sovereignty; in practice, sovereignties are frequently violated by global powers in acts ranging from invasions and interventions to diplomacy and sanctions. Still, we distinguish modern states from old colonies or protectorates, as the MENA was prior to the 1950s, in that the former at least have a recognized expectation for sovereignty.
Every sovereign state has a government or regime, defined as the institutions and rules that determine access to key offices of state power. Many ways to classify regimes exist, but here the most convenient is through three categories: democratic, authoritarian, and hybrid.
  1. Democratic regimes allow for free, fair, and regular elections with full adult suffrage. Those elections determine those who will occupy offices of legislative and executive power, and thus who makes policies. These regimes also promise the protection of civil liberties – such as religious, expressive, and press freedoms – under the rule of law. In addition, there must not be any unelected tutelary body, such as generals, priests, and kings, who can overturn the decisions of elected officials. Ideally, there is also accountability and transparency; citizens can redress their grievances through the judiciary and other constitutional mechanisms, and also hold their leaders responsible for abuses of power, such as corruption and other illegal actions.
  2. Authoritarian regimes, also deemed autocracies or dictatorships, lack meaningful competition for power. For the typical citizen, elections do not exist, or else are so restricted that the incumbent leader or ruling party always wins. There does not exist any uncertainty about who will govern. Unlike democracies, opposition is banned outright or severely curtailed through repression. Elected bodies like symbolic legislatures and advisory councils do not have autonomy compared to the ruler – the president-for-life sitting astride a ruling party, the military general leading the junta, or the absolutist monarch who actively decides. Civic freedoms are restricted, minority rights are unprotected, and the threat of violence contains societal pluralism.
  3. Hybrid regimes constitute a gray zone, and are also called competitive autocracies (or semi-democracies). Such governments combine institutional qualities of democracies and authoritarianism, making it difficult to put these cases squarely in either camp. Electoral contestation, legal opposition, and civic freedoms are ensured by law; there is no ironclad dictat...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright Page
  5. dedication
  6. Table of Contents
  7. Preface
  8. List of maps, tables, boxes, and photographs
  9. List of contributors
  10. CHAPTER 1. Political dynamics in the MENA region: democracy, authoritarianism, and history
  11. CHAPTER 2. The context of political life: geography, economics, and social forces
  12. PART I: North Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt
  13. CHAPTER 3. Kingdom of Morocco
  14. CHAPTER 4. People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
  15. CHAPTER 5. Republic of Tunisia
  16. CHAPTER 6. State of Libya
  17. CHAPTER 7. Arab Republic of Egypt
  18. PART II: Near East: Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey
  19. CHAPTER 8. State of Israel
  20. CHAPTER 9. Palestine
  21. CHAPTER 10. Syrian Arab Republic
  22. CHAPTER 11. Republic of Lebanon
  23. CHAPTER 12. Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
  24. CHAPTER 13. Republic of Iraq
  25. CHAPTER 14. Republic of Turkey
  26. Part III: The Gulf: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman, and Yemen
  27. CHAPTER 15. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  28. CHAPTER 16. Islamic Republic of Iran
  29. CHAPTER 17. Gulf states: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Oman
  30. CHAPTER 18. Republic of Yemen
  31. Index