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Regional Cooperation and Foreign Relations in the Middle East

Panel XIII-23, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Sunday, November 5 at 1:30 pm

Panel Description
  • Co-Authors: Mona Saleh
    The League of Arab States is one of the oldest regional organisations still in existence - what explains its survival, and what lessons does it have for the study of the Middle East? Surprisingly, the League has attracted limited academic attention, indeed the majority of the scholarly work focuses on what the League has 'failed' to achieve - usually in terms of promoting regional cooperation and mediating regional conflicts. In this paper, we challenge this common perspective by instead looking at the League's remarkable resilience rather than its perceived failure. The paper examines the reasons for the resilience of the organisation, not just in terms of pure survival but in its ability to reinvent itself despite the odds it faces. By examining the lifecycle(s) of the Arab League; its moments of decline (some have even talked even of gridlock or dormancy) and moments of revival, we present a conceptual framework for its resilience that specifies three scope conditions under which the League has been able to survive: Environment (Supply and Demand); Structure/Ambition (Bureaucratic Agency and Culture); and Depth and Diversity (Breadth and Flexibility). Utilising insights from a decade of fieldwork on, and at, the League, along with theories drawn from Comparative Politics, International Organisation Studies and IR, we demonstrate how the intersection of the three scope conditions enables the League not only to survive but to actually continue to develop and drive forward initiatives. Scrutinizing the lifecycle(s) of the League provides useful insights which foster our understanding of the resilience of international organisations, helping us not only to map the scope conditions which underpin its cycles of rebirth and revival but also to identify the critical junctures and processes through which the League has been able to seize opportunities. These opportunities also link to wider regional processes, making the League an ideal site of study which can challenge existing perceptions of regional politics in the Arab World.
  • Defense cooperation agreements (DCAs) are states' most common legal frameworks to modernize their militaries and respond to shared security threats such as terrorism. Since the 1980s, there has been a growing shift in the demand for DCAs, with all but a handful of countries have signed an agreement. Despite the number of DCAs in force, why do some states sign DCAs to counter terrorism while others do not? Previous research has found that when governments overcome mistrust and distributional conflicts, more states will sign DCAs to obtain information about prospective defense partners to facilitate cooperation. However, I argue that by taking a step back to analyze states common exposure to terrorism, they are more likely to sign DCAs to counter-terrorism. In addition, by analyzing regime type, autocratic states are more likely to experience higher exposure to terrorism and, therefore, will have more DCAs signed. Using network analysis, I test my arguments by creating two networks where I made the edges (terrorism exposure and regime type) and the nodes (states) to analyze how these relational patterns shape states’ decisions to sign DCAs countering terrorism. I find that a regional cluster of states with common exposure to terrorism in terms of the number of terrorist attacks sign more DCAs with nearby states. In addition, I find a regional cluster of autocratic states with similar ties of exposure to terrorism having signed DCAs than their non-autocratic counterparts.
  • What is the explanation for Qatar’s refusal to cooperate with the U.S. government and undergoing a ban on American arms sale to Qatar? In March 1988, American Qatari relations went into crisis mode as the U.S. has discovered that Qatar procured stinger missiles illegally from the black market. The Qataris refused to give back the stinger missiles to the U.S. government and faced a ban on any military sales to Qatar. The paper will rely on archival sources to explain the Qatari American crisis. A neoclassical realist explanation indicates that Qatar’s heightened threat perception of American sale of stinger missiles to Bahrain has prompted Qatar to procure the stinger missiles to balance the Bahraini threat. The fall of the Soviet Union and America’s rise to be a unipolar power on the world stage led to Qatar’s acquiescence to American demands and courting American friendship. The article contributes fills a gap on a surprising case of Qatari independence which is covered scantly in the literature with no analysis of Qatari behavior.