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The Modern Middle East

The Modern Middle East: A Political History since the First World War

Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 510
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  • Book Info
    The Modern Middle East
    Book Description:

    The first succinct and authoritative overview of the making of the modern Middle East, this lucid book brings a valuable mix of historical perspectives and contemporary analysis to a wide audience of readers seeking expert knowledge about this troubled and fascinating region. Giving a rich perspective on the region's historical and political evolution, the book traces the influence of factors such as religion, culture, and economics and illuminates events and topics currently in the news. With its broad thematic sweep and its balanced presentation of contentious issues, it is essential reading for general readers and students who want to better understand the world today. Mehran Kamrava sets the stage with a concise discussion of the evolution of Islam and the religion's profound role in the region. He then looks at, in turn, the rise and fall of the Ottomans, the trials of independence and state-building, the emergence and fiery spread of nationalism, the two Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, the Iranian Revolution, and the two Gulf Wars and beyond, including discussion of the invasion of Iraq by the United States. After tracing the consequences of these historical events for a host of political phenomena, Kamrava gives detailed attention to three pivotal issues: the challenges of economic development, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the question of democracy. He also examines issues that will shape the future: population growth, environmental pollution, and water scarcity.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93789-5
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    This book examines the political history of the contemporary Middle East. Although it focuses primarily on the period since the demise of the Ottoman Empire, shortly after World War I, it includes some discussion of pre-Ottoman and Ottoman histories to better clarify the background and the context in which modern Middle Eastern political history has taken shape. The book uses a broad conception of the “Middle East” as a geographic area that extends from Iran in the east to Turkey, Iraq, the Arabian peninsula, the Levant (Lebanon and Syria), and North Africa, including the Maghreb, in the west.Maghrebis...


    • [PART I. Introduction]
      (pp. 7-8)

      As home to some of the world’s earliest civilizations and the birthplace of three great religions, the Middle East offers a rich tapestry of human life and deeply ingrained traditions. At the same time, the region’s political history, both classic and modern, has been punctuated by the rise and fall of great powers, colonial domination, the birth or creation of new countries, and uneven marches toward political and economic development. The multiple consequences of these developments for the Middle East have been particularly pronounced since the early decades of the twentieth century. In reality, however, they can be traced as...

    • 1 From Islam to the Great War
      (pp. 9-34)

      Since the Middle East is home to some of the world’s earliest civilizations, it is difficult to choose a starting point for examining its political history, for no matter how far back the investigator searches, there still seem to be deeper layers of historical and political developments that influenced the course of later events. For convenience, and admittedly somewhat arbitrarily, I have chosen the dawn of Islam as the starting point of this book. This has some justification: Islam as both a system of beliefs and a historical-political phenomenon has distinctively marked the Middle East, and its rise and evolution...

    • 2 From Territories to Independent States
      (pp. 35-66)

      The end of the Ottoman dynasty marked the termination of caliphal rule as the Middle East had come to know it since the earliest years of Islam. The dramatic changes that were to come had actually started a few years before the death of the Ottomans, with Europe’s growing economic and military interests in the region and an incipient Arab revolt having expedited the sultanate’s demise. The more things change, goes the popular wisdom, the faster they change. This certainly applies to the political history of the Middle East after the end of the Great War, as the order of...

    • 3 The Age of Nationalism
      (pp. 67-106)

      In the Middle East, as elsewhere, nationalism has been a powerful force shaping the destiny and character of peoples and countries. Although most conventional accounts of nationalism in the Middle East trace its genesis back to the mid–nineteenth century, it was in the 1940s and the 1950s that nationalism became what it has been ever since, one of the most dominant forces—if notthemost dominant force—in the region’s politics.

      Enormous scholarly energy has been spent on defining nationalism and exploring the causes of its birth, and what follows here is of necessity brief and general.¹ For...

    • 4 The Arab-Israeli Wars
      (pp. 107-137)

      After the Suez Canal crisis of 1956, Nasser’s popularity underwent a gradual but steady decline. As it turned out, 1956 was the apex of his popularity, both domestically and internationally. Almost immediately afterward, the Egyptian president started suffering one setback after another. Throughout the 1950s and into the late 1960s, he remained the hero of the Arab masses, the main protector of “the Arab nation.” But he became increasingly a victim of his own successes, intoxicated by a make-believe victory over “global imperialism.” Soon thereafter, with delusions of grandeur and power, he lost touch with his own people and with...

    • 5 The Iranian Revolution
      (pp. 138-168)

      Few words in the language of politics are as overused and abused asrevolution. The Third Worldism of the 1950s and the national liberation movements of the 1960s gave special currency to the word, with self-declared revolutionaries promising liberation from the forces of global oppression and evil at home and abroad. In many ways, the historic developments in China, in Cuba, and throughout Africa in the 1950s and 1960s were indeed revolutionary. Old political orders were destroyed, new ones were built in their place, and the relationships between the state and society were profoundly altered. But the use of the...

    • 6 The Gulf Wars and Beyond
      (pp. 169-212)

      By nature, the consequences of revolutions go far beyond domestic boundaries. They influence, often with great ferocity, prevailing international power relations and the diplomatic status quo. They create power vacuums and opportunities to be exploited, look for allies and enemies on the other side of the border, give rise to those who seek to export the revolution’s message and ideals, and, quite often, culminate in a war involving two or even more belligerents.

      The Iranian revolution was no exception. The overthrow of the shah had left a power vacuum in a region of great significance to Western Europe and the...


    • [PART II. Introduction]
      (pp. 213-214)

      Currently three principal issues shape the politics of the contemporary Middle East. The first is the ongoing inability of the Palestinians and the Israelis to come to terms with each other’s legitimate national rights and to peacefully coexist. For more than a century now, the intertwined histories of Israel and Palestine have been written in blood and tears. On rare occasions it has seemed as if peace were on the horizon, as in the early 1990s. So far, however, the drumbeats of war and mutual recrimination have drowned out the voices of dialogue and peace. Chapter 7 examines the makeup...

    • 7 The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
      (pp. 215-256)

      One of the most vexing problems in the political history of the modern Middle East, and indeed of the larger global community, has been the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Through the vicissitudes of history and the vagaries of power politics, both international and domestic, these two peoples have come to inhabit the same piece of territory. We have, essentially, as Deborah Gerner has put it, “one land, two peoples.”¹ Over the years, they have fought, cajoled, killed, and harassed one another. And they have been unwilling or unable to find ways of “sharing the promised land.”² An overwhelming majority...

    • 8 The Challenge of Economic Development
      (pp. 257-282)

      In one form or another, and to one extent or another, all developing countries have faced formidable obstacles in their efforts to foster economic development. For a variety of reasons, the twists and turns of history have left developing countries in an inferior global position in relation to other, increasingly more powerful and advanced economies. Domestic political institutions and procedures have remained equally underdeveloped and have been subject to violent oscillations and even revolutions, so that making rational economic policy has been even more difficult. Economic and industrial infrastructures could not or have not been allowed to develop, and when...

    • 9 States and Their Opponents
      (pp. 283-330)

      Democracies, it is often assumed, do not wage war on each other, since they are made up of institutions through which international conflicts can be peacefully mediated and resolved.¹ The absence of “democratic peace” in the Middle East, as chronicled in the preceding chapters, results from the region’s main political dilemma, namely the absence of democratic political institutions. In fact, as we have seen so far, in the Middle East the state and war have historically assumed a symbiotic relationship: war has been waged by Middle Eastern states, and these states have in turn been shaped by war. By the...

    • 10 The Question of Democracy
      (pp. 331-358)

      The “third wave” of democratization that swept through southern Europe, South America, and much of Eastern Europe in the 1970s and 1980s was conspicuous for its exclusion of the Middle East.¹ Initially, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dawn of a supposedly “new world order,” some observers of the Middle East viewed the advent of democracy into the region as inevitable, arguing that such basic ingredients of democracy as civil society and parliamentary politics were beginning to foster conditions for democratic transitions in a number of Middle Eastern countries.² To this day, however, authoritarian systems of various...

    • 11 Challenges Facing the Middle East
      (pp. 359-376)

      The political history of the Middle East has been fraught with turmoil and political instability. By the middle of the twentieth century, most of the region had experienced two separate, qualitatively different periods of colonial subjugation. First came Ottoman rule, from the early to mid-1500s up until the late 1910s, and then British and French rule, beginning with the end of the First World War and lasting until the late 1940s. Not surprisingly, the state-building processes of the 1940s and 1950s—like those in Turkey in the 1920s and in Iran in the 1930s—took on an urgent and feverish...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 377-428)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 429-456)
  11. Index
    (pp. 457-497)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 498-498)