Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lebanese Conflict: Lessons for Iraq

Koshan Ali Khidhir (Zamanee)


The nature of conflicts in Lebanon and Iraq has much in common and it might be useful to compare them, in order to apply some lessons from the post conflict era in Lebanon to Iraq.

Iraq and Lebanon have similar heterogeneous sectarian divisions. For Lebanon, the Shiite, Sunni, and Christians represent the vast majority of the population.

For Iraq, it is the Shiite, Sunni, and Kurds. In Lebanon, the sectarian proportions are more equally divided. However in Iraq, the Shiite have majority having 60% of the population, and the Sunni and Kurds are about 20% each.

In both countries, the Shiite groups encountered suppression by former regimes, but they have power and political participation now. In both cases, the Shiite and Sunni groups were aided for supported by outside forces.

The focus of this essay would be about sectarian strife in both countries, then giving the theoretical framework for the conflicts. In addition, it will be suggested that sharing-power in Lebanon has been affective to normalize relations between different groups; the same method would be compatible for Iraq.

Historical Background of Conflict in Iraq and Lebanon

1- Civil War in Lebanon (1975 - 1990)

Lebanon has a long history with conflicts and wars. The last and the most crucial one would be the civil war that has started in 1975, and lasted for 15 years. The fighting was originally between a largely Maronite Christian force and an alliance of Muslim and left-wing groups, but the conflict soon expanded (Haddad, 2002, p.5).

Furthermore, neighbor states intervened in the conflict. The situation worsened with the presence of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon to fight the Palestinian group and to establish an Israel-friendly government there. The plan ended with the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, while he became president. There was presence of Israeli forces in Lebanon until 2000, when they were encountered by the Hizballah. Furthermore, Lebanon was under occupation of Syrian army from 1978 to 2005, following the assassination of Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri (Warren & Troy 2011).

Lebanon is well known to be a harbor for other nations and forces. The Palestinian group has used Lebanon as a base to attack Israel. Israel, Syria, and Iran use Lebanon as a battlefield for their interests and protect their country. There is still proxy war in Lebanon, that neighbor countries have their proxies within Lebanon. For Syria, it was Amal and now Hizballah. For Israel, it was the South Lebanon Army. For Iran, it’s Hizballah (Ibrahim, 1998).

The fighting spread throughout the country, but Beirut, the capital, was particularly devastated. As the war progressed, intra-group fighting emerged, that caused the increasing of the death toll (Warren & Troy 2011).

The 15 years civil war killed an estimated 150,000 people, which is the nearly the same to 5% of Lebanon’s population, until 1990 (Ibrahim, 1998).

2- Sectarian Conflict Following the Invasion of Iraq

On March 20th 2003, the US and British forces invaded Iraq, entering Baghdad in April and capturing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in December. In May, US President George W. Bush claimed an end to the major war effort despite an increasingly fierce urban insurgency (Hinnebusch, 2007, p.7).

The decision of dissolving Iraqi Army in 2003 by Paul Bremer, the top US civilian administrator in Iraq, caused 500,000 men army to be jobless then become terrorists in the region (Hinnebusch, 2007, p.11).

Roadside bombings and suicides became frequent and intense fighting took place during a November Coalition Siege of the rebel stronghold of Fallujah. The influence of other nations, especially Iran, is questionable in Iraq (Dassa, & Wehrey, 2009, p.42). In Iraq, Iran is the most affective and intervening country in Iraqi politics, then Americans, Saudia Arabia and Syria. However, after the withdrawal of Americans, the US will no more have real influence on Iraq. The Shiite groups, that are dominant, have good relations with Iran (Hoffman, 2006).
There are diverse statistics that shows the victims and death toll of the Iraq war and civilian conflicts. A study by American researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health estimated that 100,000 civilian war-related deaths occurred in the 18 months that followed the invasion (Hinnebusch, 2007).

As the sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni was at its peak the same research study on October 2006 by these researchers estimated the total civilian death toll at 650,000. The war has also claimed the lives of thousands of combatants, including more than 3,000 US troops (Hinnebusch, 2007).

Theoretical Framework for Lebanese and Iraqi Conflicts

The most compatible theory that may give proper analyst to internal conflicts in Lebanon and Iraq would be the theory of “protracted social conflict” by Edward Azar (Tar, 2011).

According to Azar protracted social conflict is “ongoing and seemingly irresolvable” type of conflict. He lays down propositions on protracted social conflict that detail features and characteristics of these conflicts as well as causes, and reasons for recurrence (Ramsbotham, et al. 2011, pp.99-101).

In addition to this, Azar emphasizes that the most useful unit of analysis in protracted social conflict is the identity group- racial, religious, ethnic, cultural, and others (Ramsbotham, et al. 2011, p.101).

This category of conflict is very common in the Third World. Empirical data collected by Azar suggested that 90% of conflicts since the Second World War have taken place within the Third World and have been protracted social-ethnic rather than strategic conflicts (Ramsbotham, et al. 2011, p. 103).

Azar shed light on the importance of the power in the society, that dominant groups exploit it to eliminate the identity of minority groups. In other words, for Azar protracted social conflicts are ideological in nature, with strong preference for secession, national liberation, the rights of self-determination, autonomy or equal rights (Tar, 2011).

Protracted social conflict have two major sources: a deformed and polarized environment, and the denial or lack of basic needs, including security, physical, economic and cultural, identity and recognition (Ramsbotham, et al. 2011, p. 104).

The theory may be implied to the case of Lebanon and Iraq.

In the case of Iraq, sectarian violence emerged when Saddam Hussein came to power 1979. In this case, the violence was unilateral, that mostly state dominant, with Hussein’s Sunni-Baathist government brutally oppressing both Shiite and Kurds over the years.

Nowadays, all different parties have opportunity to express themselves, the different ethnic and religious groups are still learning to coexist. In Iraq, the Shiite and Kurds are weary of the Sunnis, who treated the Kurds so poorly when they were in charge of the country.

In Lebanon, the Sunnis and the Christians were the dominant groups. The levels of oppression and violence against minorities were not so much like in Iraq. This situation reaffirms Azar’s theory, for having protracted social conflict in an atmosphere that there is inequality, and ethnics are forced by dominant power (Tar, 2011).

At the same time the Shiite of Lebanon were marginalized and their people allocating insufficient portion of state resources (Hazran, 2010, p. 7). The basic needs and economic disputes, may be one of the main factors for this kind of conflict, as Azar mentioned (Tar, 2011).

In both cases, there are still tensions between different groups. However, all groups figure out that the best way for stabilization is having cooperation and dialogue. The situation in Lebanon is much better than in Iraq, that Iraq would be able to get some lessons from that country. The following part of the essay suggests a solution for the ethnic and internal conflict in Iraq.

Power-Sharing in Lebanon: lessons for Iraq

Lebanon has long history and experience of power-sharing, and the last effort was the Ta’if Agreement. The agreement and power-sharing would be roadmap for normalization in Iraq.

In 1989, members of the Lebanese Parliament met in Ta’if, Saudi Arabia, to negotiate an end to the civil war. Finally, they reached Ta’if Agreement.

Although the basic power-sharing nature of Lebanon’s institutions remained unchanged, reforms changed the powers of the presidency and council of ministers and the composition of parliament. By 1991 the war had erupted and most parties has agreed to the articles of the Ta’if Agreement (Maila, 1994, p.45).

The conflict parties were not the principal negotiators who arranged the power-sharing arrangement of the post-conflict Lebanese state. Lebanese members of parliament, who had been elected in 1972 and who for the most part had been witnesses and observers rather than actors in the civil war, negotiated the Ta’if Agreement (Maila 1994, 37). The Ta’if Agreement maintained and reaffirmed the broad outlines of the older power-sharing system, but redistributed domestic political power among the major groups, Maronite, Sunni, and Shiite. It shortened the powers of the Maronite President (Harik 1991, 45-56), entrusted most executive powers to the Council of Ministers, and increased the power of the legislature and especially that of the Shiite House Speaker. Ta’if replaced the old 6:5 distribution of seats in Parliament by an equal distribution between Christians and Muslims; it also increased the number of seats in parliament from 99 to 108 and eventually to 128 (Hazran, 2010, p. 12).

The agreement has also clarified the nature of relations between Lebanon and Syria: it stipulated that any agreements between Syria and Lebanon shall “realize the interests of the two filial countries within the framework of the sovereignty and independence of each” (Salem 1991, 71).

In addition, Ta’if called for introducing a number of reforms including administrative decentralization, a new electoral law, reinforcing national integration and identification of education and teaching, the establishment of an economic and social development council, law and regulation of the media, and to re-assert the liberation Lebanon from Israeli occupation (Maila, 1994).

Ta’if sought to change the rule of individuals to the rule of institutions; thus, executive powers were taken away from the presidency and given to the government (Krayem 1997, 426-427). This process needed time to be implemented, President Ilyas Hrawi insisted on attending all meetings of the council of ministries (Mansour 1993, 204-207).

The case of power-sharing in Lebanon could be seen as an example for Iraq. The Iraqi political parties need a practical agreement to distribute the power among different groups and ethnics. The power should be settled, instead of having disputes over power. If the power has distributed, the security and political future of Iraq would be stable (Denselow, 2010).

It may be easier for Lebanon, that proportions of different ethnics are mostly the same, to have the Ta’if Agreement for distribution of power. At the same time, in Iraq the distribution may be made on the base of election results or census. The distribution could be settled among the main parties and groups, in order to have stable political atmosphere.

Nevertheless, the agreement shed light on the relations with neighbor countries and the future of relations, Iraq has to have the same clear position in relations with neighbor countries. It was mentioned that Iran has affect on politics of Iraq, but this has not been regulated through any law or agreement. In addition, Iranian politicians denied these influences. However, clear agreement could restrict the interventions of Iran (Marr, 2004, p.272).

There is one more issue in Iraq, which is dispute over resources. There would be some articles of the agreement for distribution of resources or at least mandating of redistributing of these resources equally among ethnics (Oberg & Strom, 2008).


The cases of Lebanon and Iraq are mostly the same. The comparison between them would be useful to share experiences.

This essay has tried to shed light on the historical background of civil war and internal conflict in Iraq and Lebanon. Then it has mentioned reasons and causes of war. Edward Azar’s Theory of protracted Social Conflict, has been given to analyze and give a framework for the conflicts in Lebanon and Iraq. The theory has been implemented and examples been given to clarify the situation, especially in Iraq.

Finally, the Ta’if Agreement has been elaborated as a successful example for power-sharing. The article suggested having an agreement between all political parties in Iraq, practical distribution of power, and distributing resources among different ethnics. The dominant groups in Iraq should realize the importance of listening to minority groups in order to prevent political discontent and possible future destabilization.


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Koshan Ali Khidhir (Zamanee) is a journalist, blogger, and student at the University of Kurdistan-Hawler. He has written articles for Global Politician, American Chronicle, Middle East Online, Mideast Youth and others. His blog can be read at:

This article has been published on Global Politician:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Egypt: Back to the Future (Interview with Sam Vaknin)

By: Koshan Ali Khidhir (Zamanee)

Sam Vaknin is an economic and political analyst and the Editor-in-Chief of "Global Politician".

Q. What was the main cause of starting Arab revolution, especially in Egypt?

SV: In the wake of the Great Recession of 2008-9, riots erupted all over the world, from Thailand to the Ivory Coast and from Yemen to Albania. For some reason, the demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt were singled out by the international media and cast as the Middle-Eastern equivalents of the French Revolution involving the overthrow of stale dictators and the eternal cry for freedom and “democracy”. Why would Egyptians and Tunisians who have never experienced either freedom or democracy clamour for both was left unexplored.
The truth is far less romantic and much more prosaic: spiralling food prices, resurgent inflation, and growing income disparities between rich and poor gave rise to the discontent that led inexorably to the much-ballyhooed skirmishes. It was about food, not about freedom. Egypt GDP has grown by a respectable 5% in 2010, but the cost of comestibles soared by 17% and unemployment ratcheted up to 9.7%. Egypt’s population is inordinately young and is set to double within the next three decades. Hopelessness is a potent combustible: the absence of job prospects weighs more heavily with Egypt’s Twitter crowd than their country’s noxious psephological record.

Like in dozens of other developing countries, the Egyptians struck a Faustian deal with their rulers: they gave up their liberty in return for personal safety, job security, and middle-class prospects. Mubarak, the country’s much-maligned Pharaoh failed to deliver on all three counts. Having thus breached the unwritten social contract, the Egyptians want him to pay the ultimate political price and abdicate humiliatingly.

So, why are they crying out for “freedom” and “democracy”? Because it sounds good on television and because these are the reflexive buzzwords of this post-authoritarian age. They wouldn’t know a democracy if it fell in their lap: Egypt has been a military dictatorship since 1952 and an absolutist monarchy prior to that. This is the key to the resolution of this largely artificial crisis: the military will step in; depose of the aging and ailing Mubarak; appoint a caretaker “expert” and “interim” government, headed by one of their own; set an ever-shifting date for “free and fair” elections; freeze food prices; create jobs (with the West’s generous assistance); and increase social handouts. Thus pacified, the Egyptian street will revert to its habitual somnolence.

And what about the Muslim Brotherhood? Having been brutally repressed for decades, they are in no shape to pose any serious threat or to constitute any real alternative to the military. This is not to say that, in the longer term, they won’t rebound. Egypt may yet end up a theocracy whose dogmatism lies somewhere between Iran and Turkey. But this is not for now.

And what about Egypt’s relationship with Israel? Both sides benefit greatly from America’s largesse (to the tune of 2-3 billion USD annually each). The Egyptian military is unlikely to give up such a generous endowment. Israel also buys half its natural gas consumption from Egypt. There are intelligence-sharing programs in place. In short: Israel and Egypt are as inextricably intertwined as Israel and Turkey. Prognosis: a cold front ahead, but no stormy conditions.

Q. Do you expect changes in State System in Egypt after the revolution?

SV: I predict an unholy alliance of the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. This ad-hoc and opportunistic coalition will not survive for long: the military is bound to crack down on the increasingly assertive political Muslim bloc and re-establish its supremacy in order to protect its vast commercial interests.

Q. What were the determinations of Egypt's Foreign Policy during Mubarak period?

SV: Mubarak was a pro-American power broker. He derived his strength from his close association with the United States and its traditional allies in the region, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. With his American unconditional support gone, he was doomed. Obama heralded Mubarak's downfall and precipitated it in his speech in Cairo.

Q. What would be the aftermath or impact of Arab Revolution on Egypt's foreign policy?

SV: Nothing much. Egypt will continue its pro-American orientation as before with one exception: its privileged relationship with Israel will be transformed into a realpolitik one. Israel will no longer enjoy gas at an a subsidized price; unbridled access to intelligence; Egyptian cooperation in suppressing Hamas; access to Egyptian military assets; and other amenities of the "special relationship."

Q. What would be the impact of the revolution on Egypt-Israel relations?

SV: Israel has witnessed and survived through many convulsions in the Arab street. In 1953, Nasser's youthful and reform-inclined pan-Arabism swept the Arab world. The long-term fruit of this hopeful tumult, though, was Mubarak. The revolutionary Baa'th parties in Syria and Iraq gave us Saddam Hussein and the murderous Assad dynasty. Israel is very skeptical when it comes to yet another Arab Spring. It tends to support reactionary regimes because they are predictable and easy to do business with. Israel is a natural foe of progress and democracy in the region because it would like to maintain its monopoly on these important political currencies.
The Jews and their state, Israel, have always sported a pro-colonial predilection, relying on "Big Powers" (Britain, France, then the United States of America) to sort out the Middle-Eastern quagmire in Israel's favor. This default policy may no longer prove possible.

A consensus is now emerging in Europe - including Britain - that the "road map" for peace in the Middle East would be a futile exercise without some anti-Israeli "teeth". Recognizing the nascent Palestinian state in September 2011 may be just the start. Economic sanctions are on the cards as well. With Obama in the White House - a President the Israelis largely consider to be hostile - and with the Arab world turning palpably more democratic, the Europeans feel unshackled. Striving towards an Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation may prove to be the glue that reunites the fractious Euro-Atlantic structures.

But while the United State is reluctant to impose a settlement on the Israelis, the specter of sanctions against the Jewish state has re-emerged in the Old Continent's corridors of power. A committee of the European Parliament is said to be laboring away at various scenarios of escalating measures against Israel and its leaders. The European Commission may be readying its own proposals.

Not all Americans are Obamatons. The views of Conservative Americans are summed up by David Pryce-Jones, Senior Editor of National Review:

"Israelis and Palestinians face each other across the new ideological divide in a dilemma that bears comparison to Germany's in the Cold War ... Israel must share territory with Palestinians, a growing number of whom are proven Islamic terrorists, and who identify with bin Laden's cause, as he identifies with theirs ... The Oslo peace process is to the Middle East what Ostpolitik was to Germany and central Europe. Proposals to separate the two peoples physically on the ground spookily evoke the Berlin Wall."

Still, such sentiments aside, in the long-run, Muslims are the natural allies of the United States in its role as a budding Asian power, largely supplanting the former Soviet Union. Thus, the threat of militant - and even nuclear - Islam is unlikely to cement a long term American-Israeli confluence of interests. Moreover, with the prospect of representative regimes in several Arab states more tangible, Israel is losing its long-held title as the "Middle East's only democracy."

Rather, the aforementioned menace of armed fundamentalism may yet create a new geopolitical formation of the USA and moderate Muslim countries, equally threatened by virulent Muslim religiosity. Later, Russia, China and India - all destabilized by growing and vociferous Muslim minorities - may join in. Israel will be sacrificed to this New World Order.

The writing is on the wall, though obscured by the fog of war and, as The Guardian revealed in April 2003, by American reliance during the conflict in Iraq on Israeli intelligence, advanced armaments and lessons in urban warfare. The "road map" announced by President George Bush as a sop to his politically besieged ally, Tony Blair, and much contested by the extreme right-wing government of Ariel Sharon, called for the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005. The temporal goalposts may have shifted but not the ineluctable outcome: The State of Palestine is upon us, embedded in an Arab world far less amenable to Israel's economic charms (witness the cessation of Egyptian gas supplies to Israel under the new military "transition" dictatorship).

Israel was always expected to promptly withdraw from all the territories it re-seized during the 30 months of second intifada. Blair had openly called on it to revert to the pre-Six Day War borders of 1967. In a startlingly frank and impatient speech, so did Obama in May 2011.

Q. Do you expect reviewing Camp David Treaty, or peace agreement between Israel and Egypt by new Egypt's government in the future?

SV: Not in any meaningful way. Egypt needs peace and commercial ties with Israel. There may be a grand show of Egyptian "patriotism" and pro-Palestinian pan-Arabism and calls for revising the bilateral treaties with Israel, but these will peter out as things revert to normal. Israel is at the bottom of Egypt's list of priorities right now, as Egyptians struggle to redefine their state and regime and determine their collective future. The last thing Egypt needs is added instability on its borders with Israel and Gaza.

Q. What do you expect, Egypt becomes new Turkey, in Islamic politics doctrine or it becomes a conservative state?

SV: Egypt may be trying to emulate and follow the trajectory of Turkey: a military dictatorship replaced by a "moderate" Muslim autocratic rule. But the difference is that the military in Turkey was the guardian and guarantor of an ideology of secularism and Western orientation. This self-imputed role gave it an aura and the status of an untouchable holy cow. By comparison, the military in Egypt is a mafia-like organization that involves millions and their families in plundering the state. It is not easy to get rid of criminalized structures once they have taken hold and assimilated state institutions. The military is Egypt.
This article has been published on Kurdistan Tribune:

Egypt’s new foreign policy will ‘waste resources trying to destroy Israel’ – Barry Rubin

By Koshan Ali Khidhir (Zamanee):

The Arab Spring is a controversial issue, and most controversial is the impact of this change on relations between Egypt and Israel. In this interview we discuss some crucial issues with Professor Barry Rubin, Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. Professor Rubin is a featured columnist at PJM, Editor, Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and Editor Turkish Studies.

Koshan Ali Khidhir: What was the main cause of starting the Arab revolution, especially in Egypt?
Prof. Barry Rubin: Longer-term, the failure of the Arab nationalist regimes that have governed the Arab world since the 1950s and early 1960s. Their inability to keep their promises–pan-Arab union, rapid social and economic progress, genocide against Israel, driving out Western influences–have long been clear. Their corruption, lack of freedom, and economic shortcomings have long been clear.
Immediate causes include elite dissatisfaction with the succession of Mubarak’s son and especially hard times economically

Koshan Ali Khidhir: Do you expect changes in the state system in Egypt after the revolution?
Prof. Barry Rubin: Yes, toward Islamism.

Koshan Ali Khidhir: What were the determinations of Egypt’s Foreign Policy during Mubarak period?
Prof. Barry Rubin: A practical concern over Egyptian interests including supporting stability and not wasting resources on losing battles to destroy Israel or to ensure Egyptian leadership of the Arab world.

Koshan Ali Khidhir: What would be the aftermath or impact of the Arab Revolution on Egypt’s foreign policy?
Prof. Barry Rubin: Wasting resources on trying to destroy Israel and to ensure Egyptian leadership in the Muslim-majority world.

Koshan Ali Khidhir: What would be the impact of the revolution on Egypt-Israel relations?
Prof. Barry Rubin: Once the military goes, a turn toward total hostility. The end for all practical purposes of the peace treaty even if there is no actual war.

Koshan Ali Khidhir: Do you expect a review of the Camp David Treaty, or peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, by the new Egyptian government in the future?
Prof. Barry Rubin: Whether or not they review it the treaty will be meaningless especially once a new president is elected in Egypt.

Koshan Ali Khidhir: Is there a possibility of  dissolving the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt? If yes, does that means new conflict is expected between the two countries?
Prof. Barry Rubin: They don’t have to dissolve it, just stop observing it. Main danger: Hamas attacks Israel trying to pull Egypt into the conflict.

Koshan Ali Khidhir: What do you expect – Egypt becomes new Turkey, in Islamic politics doctrine, or will it become a conservative state?
Prof. Barry Rubin: Depends on who is elected president. But the more powerful the Brotherhood is the more likely Egypt becomes leader of Sunni Islamism and Turkey is not of any real importance. Egypt would then lead a bloc including Tunisia, Libya, and the Gaza Strip, with support for Muslim Brotherhood groups in Syria and Jordan subverting those regimes. The Saudis and Gulf states would be angry at this Egypt; Jordan would be suspicious of it.
Of course, it would have cool relations with Shia-dominated states like Iran, Syria, and Iraq.
The only alternative would be if Amr Musa becomes president and tries to steer a more nationalist course.

This article has been published on Kurdistan Tribune:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Impact of the Arab Spring on the Future of Egypt-Israel Relations

Koshan Ali Khidhir (Zamanee)*

Photo: Human Events


The events that began in Tunisia in January 2011 and spread to Egypt and then Libya, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Syria, and beyond, shook the political, intellectual, and social foundations of the Middle East. This political quake can still be felt, and no one is quite sure when the aftershocks will conclude, or when another shock wave of popular unrest might occur.

The Muslim Brothers is rising to power in Egypt and there will be some arguable questions, that this essay will discuss it. What can we anticipate of such an organization? However, what will be the role of the Islamists after the collapse of the dictatorships? What is their perspective toward their neighbors, namely Israel? And what is the future of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, or the Camp David accords?

The essay started with theoretical background on international relations in the Middle East; then other sections discuss above questions.

Theories to Analyze International Relations in the Middle East

“The Middle East’s unique features defy analyses based on any one conceptual approach to international relations,� (Hinnebusch, 2003, p.1) therefore, this would be an ideal starting point for understanding how IR theory works and how it can help us understand and explain Middle Eastern regional interactions.

The main issue appears to be that the Middle East, despite of its significant position in world politics, is neglected or ignored by western scholars as a source for theory development, and too many international relations (IR) scholars has seen the region as too unique, or as not fitting very well into IR approaches. Furthermore, there is important distinction should be made between IR scholars who use the Middle East as a case study, and Middle East specialists that are also “genuine� IR theorists (Sasley, 2011, p.14). Three scholars have been successful at conceptualizing international relations in the Middle East, that all of them discuss various IR approaches. Fred Halliday (2005) concerned about historical-sociological framework, Raymond Hinnebusch and Anoushiravan Ehteshami (2002) construct a neo realist scaffold. In addition, Hinnebusch (2003) later expands their approach by creating a multi-theoretical explanation rooted in historical sociology, constructivism, structuralism, and neorealism.

According to Halliday, good theory should be conceptually comprehensible and rigorous, have historical context, appropriate to frame analysis and research agenda, and engage with ethical issues. In addition, Halliday agrees to classify IR theory into analytic and normative theories, where the former is composed of set of concepts designed to elucidate how international relations work; the latter is concerned about concepts and norms (Halliday, 2005, p.21).

Halliday elaborates IR literature on the Middle East into five broad categories: historical analysis, foreign policy analysis, realist paradigm and its modifications, ideational explanations, and historical and international sociology (2005, p.24). Historical analysis concerns about the history of a country’s foreign policy in a limited frame and tries to explain why and how state activity takes place through that historical narrative. It is more descriptive than explanatory (Sasley, 2011, pp.12-15). Historical explanations are potent to shed greater insight into the knowledge of Middle Eastern societies than some claimants of IR theory (Halliday, 2005, p.24).

IR realist scholars prioritize the state as the leading institution and the one to which theories much point, in contrast to that in the case of the Middle East itself, it is non-state actors who often control domestic and regional politics more (Halliday, 2005, pp.27-30).

Hinnebusch and Ehteshami (2005, p.1) assume that in the Middle East the state is the main actor in foreign policy and its elites have an interest in maximizing the autonomy and security of the state. They agree to the realist claim that Middle East state system result in anarchy as a built-in characteristic.

According to Hinnebusch (2005) neorealism holds that systemic insecurity makes regular behavior, notably balancing against threats, but this is merely typical to the extent that a state system of relatively sovereign unified states is consolidated. However, for Hinnebusch the Middle Eastern state system is not yet consolidated, the dynamics of systemic level would have slight effect on state behavior (Hinnebusch & Ehteshami, 2005).

According to Hinnebusch foreign policies of the Middle East states are shaped around three conceptually diverse environments. The first is the domestic level, which he relies on theories of state building. The second is regional systemic level and the third the global level, that he relies on structural explanations of international relations where core-periphery relations are seen as a basic feature of Middle Eastern states (Hinnebusch & Ehteshami, 2005, pp.3-6).

Hinnebusch argues that world system had contradictory influences on the foreign policies of local states in the Middle East (Hinnebusch & Ehteshami, 2005, p.6).

Illustrating Arab Spring

This article is to shed light on Egypt revolution, that the Muslim Brotherhood played a leading role (Johnson, 2011) in uprising revolution and its wake. According to Barry Rubin, Director of Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, the causes for this revolution in Longer-term, was the failure of the Arab nationalist regimes that have governed the Arab world since the 1950s and early 1960s. Their inability to keep their promises--pan-Arab union, rapid social and economic progress, genocide against Israel, driving out Western influences--have long been clear. Their corruptions, lack of freedom, and economic shortcomings have long been clear. On the other hand, immediate causes include elite dissatisfaction with the succession of Mubarak's son and especially hard times economically (K. A. Khidhir, personal communication, November 25, 2011).

Protestors who led Egypt's revolt were young, liberal, and open minded. They were the bloggers who first proposed the demonstrations against Hosni Mubarak, resigned Egypt president, on Twitter; Facebook activists who were sending invitations for their friends to protest. One of the leading activists was Wael Ghonim, the 30-year-old Google executive who, after Egypt's state security agency detained him for 12 days, rallied the crowds to hold Tahrir Square (Trager, 2011). These activists refuted Religious and traditional ideologies, like claims by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and calling for civil liberties, religious equality and tolerance, and an end to dictatorship (Dickey,2011).

In order to avoid emergence of Islamic parties, the West has accepted and justified of the worst dictatorships in the Arab world. And it was these very regimes that demonized their Islamist rivalries, particularly Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, that historically represents the first well-organized mass movement with the political impact to match (Ramadan, 2011a). For more than 60 years, the Brotherhood has been illegal but tolerated. It has demonstrated a powerful capacity to mobilize the people in each relatively democratic election, where it has been a participant (Ramadan, 2011b).

Muslim Brotherhood Ideology and Worldview

As the Arab Spring turns to blazing summer, Islamist movements have quickly formed political parties and mobilized national campaigns designed to uncover their new image before elections in the fall and winter (Ghosh, 2011). The Muslim Brotherhood, the main political entity in Egypt, has formed the Freedom and Justice Party. There is controversies over relations between the party and the Brotherhood, but leaders of the party declare that they are self-organized entity (Trager, 2011). Importantly, Brotherhood is planning for the future.

Essam el-Erian, a top Brotherhood leader, declares that the thing we stood against is gone, so now we have to re-examine what we stand for (Ghosh, 2011).
The Muslim Brotherhood may have strong role to reshape the Egypt state system and foreign policy, because it has long history and popularity. It began in the 1930s as a legalist, anti-colonialist and nonviolent movement that claimed legitimacy for armed resistance in Palestine against Zionist expansionism during the period before World War II. The writings from between 1930 and 1945 of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Brotherhood, masterminded organization’s path that he opposed colonialism and strongly criticized the fascist governments in Germany and Italy (Ramadan, 2011a). He rejected the use of violence in Egypt, even though he considered it legitimate in Palestine, in resistance to the Zionist Stern and Irgun terror gangs (Spencer, 2011a, p.602).. He believed that the British parliamentary model represented the kind closest to Islamic principles (Ramadan, 2011a).

Al-Banna's objective was to found an "Islamic state" (Ramadan, 2011a) based on gradual reform, beginning with popular education and broad-based social programs. He was assassinated in 1949 by the Egyptian government on the orders of the British occupiers (Ramadan, 2011b).

Following Gamal Abdel Nasser's revolution in 1952, the movement was subjected to violent repression. They are forced to reorganize abroad. While many of its senior leaders would spend years in Egyptian jails and its top theoretician, Sayyid Qutb, would be executed, the group was fortunate in having two havens where it was able to regroup (Johnson, 2011). Many of its members were forced into exile: some in Saudi Arabia, where they were influenced by the Saudi literalist ideology; others in countries such as Turkey and Indonesia, Muslim-majority societies where a wide variety of communities coexist. Still others settled in the West, where they came into direct contact with the European tradition of democratic freedom (Rubin, 2010, pp. 105-117).

Western countries are doubtful about the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda, some media organizations even declared it has ties with terrorist organization (Salih, 2009, pp.150-154). For example, NewWeek has published a dossier that accuses the Muslim Brotherhood uses “moderate-seeming politicians to further its extremist agenda� (Dickey,2011).

Regarding these claims, Tariq Ramadan, Prominent Muslim Scholar, refutes these claims and declares that the West continues to use "the Islamist threat" to justify its passivity and outright support for dictatorships (Ramadan, 2011b). The organization has clearly declares that they are "not using violence, denouncing terrorism, and not working with jihadists" (Trager, 2011). In addition, it is seen as a social movement as much as a political entity. Egypt's poor have long associated the Brotherhood with its social services, like free clinics and schools (Ghosh, 2011).

It is suggested that the west should have more analyses of political Islam, in order to get the essence of Islamism, that they have different faces through history and regions.

Muslim Brotherhood Comes to Power, Israel Worries

The undergoing fundamental changes in the Middle East expected to affect Israel's relations with the Arab world (Marshall, 2011). Israeli officials unveil their anxiety in their statements talking about Arab Spring, especially revolutions in Egypt. It fears for the survival of the 1979 Peace Treaty (Seale, 2011). Western commentators routinely describe the Treaty as a "pillar of regional stability," a "keystone of Middle East diplomacy," a "centerpiece of America's diplomacy" in the Arab and Muslim world. This is certainly how Israel and its American friends have seen it (Seale, 2011). On the other hand, the treaty could be seen as one of the strategic position that has, by neutralizing Egypt, guaranteed Israel's military dominance over the region for the next three decades (Seale, 2011).

Israel is going through a tough time of isolation in the Middle East. While Israel has diplomatic relations with only three nearby countries, in recent months its ambassadors have been humiliatingly forced out of two of them: Turkey and Egypt. The king of the third, Jordan's Abdullah, commented that Israel was "scared" (Seale, 2011).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said we are anxiously monitoring what is happening in Egypt and (elsewhere) in our region (dickey, 2011). "The peace between Israel and Egypt had endured for over three decades and our goal is to ensure that these relations continue." (Mitnick, 2011)

All the same, anti-Israeli feeling in Egypt is growing. This feeling could be seen in different levels of that country, political parties, elites, and even ordinary people. Some radical political parties want to close the Suez Canal to the Israeli navy and to block the sale of natural gas to Israel. The new Freedom and Justice Party says the 1979 treaty should be "revised" (Seale, 2011).

The Muslim Brotherhood and its new party most likely not be committed to the peace treaty with Israel, or will be confrontational, so that would be a major strategic shift in Egypt’s orientation (Mitnick, 2011). The party is having majority of the seats in Egypt’s new parliament, it is likely to push Egyptian foreign policy further away from U.S. interests (Trager, 2011). As a result, it is expected that post-Mubarak Egypt to improve relations with the United States enemies in the region, especially Iran and denigrate the Camp David accords with Israel.

The mainstream Arab citizens even have their view on the treaty, which is essentially different from former ruling governments in the region. In a Pew Research Center poll published two months after the revolution 54 percent of Egyptians favored annulling the peace agreement with Israel, versus 36 percent who wanted to maintain it, the rest were undecided (Spencer, 2011b, p.778).
Israeli government will encounter crucial situations in the future, because most of candidates for Egypt presidency have anti-Israel feeling. For example, Amr Mousa, one of the candidates, has defined by a Western diplomat that “the source of his popularity is almost entirely derived from his image as an Arab nationalist who's very critical of Israel" (Dan, 2011).

There is also another perspective, Sam Vaknin, editor-in-chief of Global Politician journal, declares that both sides (Israel and Egypt) benefit greatly from America’s largesse (to the tune of 2-3 billion USD annually each). The Egyptian military is unlikely to give up such a generous endowment. Israel also buys half its natural gas consumption from Egypt. There are intelligence-sharing programs in place (K. A. Khidhir, personal communication, November 30, 2011).

Vaknin reaffirms that Egypt needs peace and commercial ties with Israel. In addition, Ateya al-Wayishi, Egyptian author, declares that the revolution may have restricted impact on Israel-Egypt relations (K. A. Khidhir, personal communication, November 28, 2011). However, he expects that the treaty will be amended, in order to secure more interests for Egypt.

In addition to these perspectives, Ramadan (2011a) believes that neither the United States nor Europe, not to mention Israel, will easily allow the Egyptian people to make their dream of democracy and freedom come true. The undergoing reform process will be monitored by the United States agencies in coordination with the Egyptian army, which is the essential player and has crucial role of mediator.


The Arab Spring has reshaped the political, institutional and international relations of the Middle East. Egypt is entirely affected by Arab Spring that revolution has uprooted Mubarak’s regime, and Islamists came to power. Muslim Brotherhood, the most influential political entity, has formed the Freedom and Justice Party that will be guided by the organization. The party has popularity and won majority of votes in recent elections. These recent political changes have made Israel anxious. Israeli government is concerned about their Peace Treaty with former Egyptian government. Israel would like to maintain the treaty, but Egyptian political parties; presidency candidates and public opinion have a different perspective on this treaty. The essay has discussed these changes and argued what is expected to come.


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*Koshan Ali Khidhir (Zamanee) is a journalist, blogger, and student at the University of Kurdistan-Hawler. He has written articles for Global Politician, American Chronicle, Middle East Online, Mideast Youth and others. His blog can be read at:

This article has been published on Global Politician:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Journalists encourage Kurdish leaders to use Facebook

Koshan Ali Khidhir*

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq is making progress in various areas; media and technology have wide popularity, especially during elections or problematic periods. This report considers how Facebook and other social media networks have changed the relations between Kurdish citizens and their leaders. To what extent has Facebook become a campaigning channel for politicians? How far have these networks become a source of information for journalists?
According to chekfacebook, 1,174,300 Iraqis have Facebook accounts (out of a global total of 800 million users). 73.3 % of Iraqi Facebook users are male and 26.7%, or 312,180, are female. This means that Facebook has not become the main media in the region, but it has great popularity among the young: 40.4% of users are aged 18-24 and 31.6% are aged 25-34.
There are different opinions about the use of Facebook and other social media networks. IT student Andam Omer thinks that most Facebook subscribers lack sufficient knowledge about the platform. They are just using it for entertainment, says Andam, even though many of them are concerned about other matters such as politics and governmental issues.
There are still few Kurdish politicians using Facebook. Bilal Saed, journalist, has written a report on the impact of Facebook on Kurdish politics. According to his research, only 22 out of 111 members of the Kurdistan Parliament use Facebook.
Nechirvan Barzani, deputy head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, was the first prominent Kurdish politician to use Facebook, followed by Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region, Salahaddin Bahaadin, Secretary-General of the Kurdistan Islamic Union, and Masrour Barzani, head of the Parastin intelligence agency – according to Bilal Saed’s report. He said he could find exclusive pictures and videos on the politicians’ Facebook accounts that he couldn’t get anywhere else.
However, journalist Mohammed Eli Zalla believes that social media in the Kurdistan Region has not yet become sufficiently popular and so politicians don’t see it as an essential way to spread their messages. Facebook has not become a way for politicians to interact with the whole of society because it is still restricted to elites or well-educated people. Facebook interaction does not and will not replace more personal interaction, Mohammed adds.
Shwan Medihat, another journalist, uses Facebook as one of his sources for news. Facebook news pages will encourage journalists to research for more information, he says.
Bahra Sediq is one of the female Kurdish journalists using Facebook. She has an optimistic view about relations between politicians and journalists via Facebook and other social media networks. It is easier and practical to contact politicians by Facebook, she says.
Akam Asos, a journalist, has the same perspective. It was always difficult to contact and meet with politicians, even parliamentarians, but Facebook has made this more possible.
In addition, Shwan Mohammed states that Facebook can enable politicians to publish their perspectives, ideas, videos and pictures more easily: it is progress from traditional interaction to the modern one. Facebook and social media could help change the public’s perception of politicians who should therefore open accounts to broaden their impact on society.
Shwan says that there are some high-ranking politicians who avoid talking to the media – so why  would they want to use Facebook? He also mentioned that politicians’ Facebook pages are administrated by others and not themselves.
Andam has a slightly different view, saying there are few politicians on Facebook and so it has not yet become a mainstream way for interaction between politicians and citizens. However, there are some politicians who use Facebook to show their sympathy towards citizens and criticize corruption, he says.
Journalists are encouraging politicians to use Facebook more. Bahra suggests that politicians should be more concerned about using these new technologies and spending more time on Facebook to have more contact and popularity with journalists and society.

*Koshan A. Khidhir is a  journalist, blogger, and undergraduate student in Political Science and International Relations at University of Kurdistan-Hawler (UKH):  

This article has been published on Kurdistan Tribune: