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Globalization and International Relations of the Middle East


Wang Jinglie

Senior research fellow of IWAAS

wangjinglie@cass.org.cn

 

 

 Perspectives and Theoretical Framework on Globalization

 

Globalization has been the most frequently mentioned word in the media over the recent years, however, it remains a vague concept with no clear definition because scholars around the world have given all kinds of explanations on it. Everyone seems to understand what globalization is when touching upon this word, but none of the explanations can be accepted by all.

 

Different these explanations are, if being summarized, they can fall into the following categories:

 

Views of Neo-left or Neo-Marxists represented by S. Amin and A. Callinicos. They maintain that globalization means the dominance of imperialism, the western-style modernization, and the global expansion of western systems. They believe that today’s globalization represents the victory of reactionary global imperialism and capitalism, and the result of such a globalization is inevitably a polarization of wealth which is unfair and unequal. In their views, the state and the government have become the “agent” of international monopolistic capital.

 

Views of Neo-liberals represented by K. Ohmase and W. Grieder. They hold that globalization is mainly about the integration of global economies and markets, the result of which does not have to be “cruelty and bloodshed”, but rather the best possible readjustment and relocation of resources in the whole world, from which most countries can reap long-term benefits. Neo-liberals are of the view that the WTO is in itself a result of globalization, and strongly advocate four principles of this organization: non-discrimination, mutual benefit, transparency, and fairness.

 

The Skeptical thesis represented by P. Hirst and G. Thompson. They believe that the so called globalization is nothing but a fairy tale and false “exaggeration”. According to them, the existing high integration of global economies, markets and finance is just some kind of “internationalization” or “regionalization”; regional economic integration is moving in a “anti-globalization” and “counter-globalization” direction; and regional economies are becoming increasingly exclusive, self-protective, and even isolated.

 

The Transformationalist thesis represented by Anthony Giddens, J.A. Scholte and M. Castells. They argue that globalization is generating a strong force that represents the main driving force behind social, political and economic transformation and is reorganizing the modern society and world order. At the same time, they also maintain that globalization is a historical process. In their views, the world order is full of changes, therefore, nobody can predict its direction or foresee the kind of world order to be built.

 

Apart from these explanations, there are some other ideas similar to them such as the Hyperglobalist thesis which maintains that globalization will lead to a non-state tendency, in which some of the sovereignty will be weakened or removed, the world market is more powerful than the state, and the function of the state will be reduced to a conveyor belt, acting as a “medium" between powerful multinational companies and regional organizations. Such a view is similar to that of the neo-lefts.

 

As an old saying goes, the benevolent see benevolence and the wise see wisdom. Such diversifying views on globalization are mainly caused by different perspectives of examining this concept. People may capture or analyze a certain part or individual phenomena of globalization, a long and complex historical process, thus arriving at different judgments and forming different schools.

 

Given this reality, the perspective of the examination of globalization has become the key for a correct understanding and analysis of this phenomenon.

 

The author argues that globalization is a social and historical phenomenon that is constantly developing and evolving within the world and in history, which presents different features and characteristics in different stages of social and historical developments. Though led by economic development, globalization resides by no means just in the economic field. As economy is the material basis for social development, the globalization phenomenon and profound changes in the economic field will affect the upper structure sooner or later, which will lead to transformation in the upper structure.

 

Globalization have taken different forms and presented different features in various stages of social and economic development, but it is in nature the expansion of capital and its way of operation in the whole globe, which forms the so called globalization. We should realize that in the relationship between capital and its operation, the former is the “content”, while the later is the “form of existence” of the former one. Therefore, the key role played by capital is easily understood, and the unlimited expansion and inflation if an inherent nature of capital, which then, when meeting suitable conditions, constantly grows and expands, and ultimately forms an irresistible trend of globalization. It is necessary to point out that capital presents various forms of operation, which are not necessarily unique to capital itself. Hence, capital is not unique to capitalism, and capitalist means of production is only one type of capital’s operation which may occupies a dominant role in a specific development stage of history. However, in different historical stages, there are (or will be) different capital operations that play a dominant role. In the history of mankind’s evolution towards a higher stage, there will be higher forms of operation of capital that can act as a dominant way of operation. This is our entry point for theoretical analysis of the historical development process of globalization, which is also the key for a successful theoretical analysis.

 

After the end of the Cold War and collapse of the USSR, western politicians and media made use of every opportunity to advocate the “success of capitalism and demise of communism”. Some overseas scholars also seem to echo such an opinion, however, they also show the concern over the monopoly by a few rich developed countries on capital and investment, production and sales, as well as high and new technologies, which leads to the rocketing of their wealth yet deepening of poverty among the vast developing countries which are reduced to a disadvantageous position in the process of economic development. For example, there are more than 40,000 multinational companies in the world with over 250,000 subsidiary companies, whose annual output makes up 25% of the world’s total GDP and over 40% of the output of industrialized countries, and with a total trade volume taking 60% of the world total. They also control over 70% of the rights of high-tech transfer and over 80% of the overseas direct investment[1]. Statistics of the Human Development Report 1999 by the UNDP shows that in spite of the existing inequalities on economic development between developed and developing countries in which the former enjoy absolute advantages while the latter are in an underprivileged position, globalization has widened rather than narrowed such a gap. Therefore, a number of scholars view the trend of globalization over the past decade as a global expansion of the “western system, western modernization and imperilization”. They even exaggerate the dominance and influence of the US by describing globalization as Americanization, showing grave concern over the future world order. By holding such a view, they only see the phenomenon of the development of capitalism in the world, but fail to look deep into the development of capitalism as a whole. Of course, judging from its momentum of development, capitalism is not “dying”. Its power and energy have not been fully unleashed and will continue developing. However, as mentioned before, capital is not unique to capitalism, and capitalist means of production is only one type of capital’s operation. In spite of the dominance by the capitalist means of production, with the human society moving towards a higher stage of development, a higher means of production will come up and occupy a dominant role, which is inevitable in the process of the human history evolving from a lower stage to a higher stage. Hence, globalization is not the equivalent of capitalization, let alone westernization or Americanization.

 

As for the beginning of globalization, some believe that it came over the past decade or so, and their reasoning is that over this period, the economic development has gone beyond geographical boundaries, and the arrival and fast application of information technology, such as internet, multi-media, mobile pones has led to rapid spreading of information and narrowing of distance among countries in the world, thus realizing real globalization. While others maintain that globalization first occurred in the 16th century (as referred in the Human Development Report 1999 by the UNDP), when capitalism began to expand to the whole world. The author agrees with the second argument. Over the past centuries, capital has been inflating and expanding by going through the stages of handicraft industry, mechanical industry, and high-tech industry, the different means of capitalist production. In this process, it would surely take different forms and present different features. Hence, the so called globalization over the past decade shall naturally be the continuation and extension of capitalism which started in the 16th century.

 

Globalization is first shown in the economic field. The changes, once occurring in economic basis, will in time lead to the changes in the upper structure, which will bring about globalization in the political and cultural fields. Of course, some misunderstandings should be cleared away. We must realize that political and cultural globalization is not equal to political and cultural integration. As a matter of fact, so called political and cultural globalization means diversification in politics and culture in which various political forms and cultures are closely inter-related, rather than uniformity of all models. Even in the economic field, countries and regions differ in economic and social development, with each having its unique history and practical conditions, which dictate that globalization only means interaction, exchanges and integration of different countries and regions, rather than a unified development model. It only means a globalization within diversification. Therefore, the global uniformity in political model and cultural system advocated by the western media is only an unrealistic political ambition dreamed by some powers which are temporally having an upper hand. The attempt of some big states and powerful ones to impose their models to others around the world can only worsen conflicts in the world and lead to more turmoil.

 

         Beginning of Globalization and Changes of International Relations

 

In their evolution from a lower level to a higher level, different civilizations used to be isolated from each other. It was not until the modern times did the history of mankind become a history of the world as a whole. As Karl Marx said in the introduction of the Critique of Political Economy, “World history did not always exist; history as world history is a result”. As said in The German Ideology written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The further the separate spheres, which interact on one another, extend in the course of this development, the more the original isolation of the separate nationalities is destroyed by the developed mode of production and intercourse and the division of labour between various nations naturally brought forth by these, the more history becomes world history.” In other words, it took a long process for the history to be evolved into a world history. This historical process includes at least two inter-affected parts – the development of productive forces promotes the transformation of modes of production and relations of production, thus leading to the gradually transformation of the human society from a lower level to a higher level; and the constant improvement of social productive forces has led to growing exchanges and interaction between different regions and nationalities, which gradually destroyed the original isolation between different nationalities. Different cultures are developing while interacting with each other, which leads to the formation of the world as a whole. The “international relations” in a true sense have thus emerged. The so called globalization is a long historical evolution of capital and its modes of production and operation in the world. In this long history, three global trade, economic and scientific revolutions played a crucial role in the globalization process, which are:

 

Trade globalization from the 16th to 19th century. Although inter-regional trade can be traced back to the Mesopotamian period of 3000BC, that trade was of only a small scale restricted by the number of products, means of transportation and geographical factors. Therefore, it was not until 1492 when Columbus discovered the new continent did global trade begin[2]. It started with the west’s attempt for overseas colonial looting so as to accelerate original capital accumulation, and was characterized by “geographical colonialism”[3] (also called globalization of economic geography by some scholars). It storms the traditional societies in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and led to the rise of colonial powers like Spain, Portugal, France and Britain, and ultimately the dominance of the Britain in the world – the empire on which the sun never sets.

 

Trade and economic globalization from the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century. The industrial revolution that started in the UK and was followed by other western European countries, Russia and Japan was also a profound social transformation. Western developed countries reached all out to Asian and African countries through invasion and occupation, looting of resources, and seizing of markets, which led to the “globalization” of capital and labor ( flow of capital and labor worldwide) and brought about far-reaching impact on the global economic development.

 

The economic globalization since the middle of the 20th century is mainly characterized by the globalization of market and information. Taking the restructuring of the global order after World War II as an opportunity, this globalization was mainly driven by the massive productive force brought about by the scientific and technological revolution marked by the invention and application of computers, biological engineering, and astronomical technology, which accelerated post-war economic growth, and changed the world, generating deep-going impact on human civilization.

 

There is no doubt that the above-mentioned three upsurges of globalization are all based on the development of productive forces represented by the first industrial revolution starting in the 1760s, the second industrial revolution in the 1870s, and the scientific, technological and information revolution in the middle of the 20th century (after World War II), which are the core of economic globalization.

 

Coupled with economic globalization, although not parallel to it, are the several major changes in international relations: from a true global international relations formed by the establishment of capitalism in Europe and its global expansion, to the Versailles-Washington System set up after World War I, the bipolar structure after World War II, the end of the Cold War and collapse of the bipolar structure, and to the transition to a multi-polar layout in international relations (although the current international relations are still characterized by a structure of one superpower together with a number of powers, the transition towards multi-polarization is irreversible).

 

Economic globalization is a long historical process going through the development from the elementary level to advanced level, and from individual fields to multiple areas. In this process, it is always the forces representing advanced productivity that prevailed over other forces, and the civilization of lower levels of development integrated by one of higher level and being more advanced in nature, which is a law of the development of history.

 

As for the evolution of international relations, they are usually determined by the main forces (or dominant forces) in the then global international system.

 

With capitalism transforming the development of the world from individual progress to holistic development, western powers also extended their hands to the Middle East.

 

In the 15th century, the western colonial powers, still in the stage of primitive capital accumulation, started external expansion. The development of commodity-money relationship enabled Portugal and Spain to be the first countries that realized their respective unification, and the first ones to begin colonial expansion. Maghreb of Arab was invaded by Portugal and Spain as early as the 15th century. In the beginning of that century, Portugal also occupied Ceuta (later Spain took it and has not returned it by now in spite of the independence of Morocco), and later seized the coastal areas of Mauritania; while Spain occupied some areas of North Africa such as Algeria. At the same time, other European powers were also engaged in colonial expansion by signing consular and trade treaties or military occupation.

 

The Ottoman Empire (1290 to 1922), the last feudal empire in the Middle East, was also involved in external expansion, which to some extent, slowed down the expansion of western powers towards the east coast of the Mediterranean. The Ottoman Empire controlled most of the Balkans at the end of the 14th century, defeated the Byzantine Empire and established its capital in Istanbul in the middle of the 15th century, and later conquered the islands of the Aegean Sea, Serbia, and Bosnia, including in its domain Asia Minor, the Balkans, and the Black Sea, thus becoming a giant with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia. In the middle of the 16th century, this “new giant” further grew and occupied Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Armenia, as well as Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, areas of North Africa. After nearly 200 years of war, the Ottoman Empire grew into a strong empire covering Europe, Asia, and Africa. Its rise blocked the best way of European powers to India and the east through the Mediterranean, leaving the newly-rising capitalist no choice but to find a new channel to the east by way of West Africa and the Cape of Good Hope. However, the Ottoman Empire that stood for feudalism and totalitarianism could not compete with the rising capitalist power. Battered by the capitalist powers, the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed.

 

The British bourgeois revolution and the French revolution have made European capitalist countries stronger. With the development of European commodity economy, the ambition of western powers to seize more resources, production material, and bigger market share is also growing. The 19thg century was a century of rivaling between western powers to carve up their colonies, who, through their economic and military superiority, conducted colonial expansion in the Middle East, which ultimately created the global colonial system at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. The formation of the global colonial system showed that western capitalism realized territorial rule over the world, changing the global political structure. Emerging western capitalist countries “just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.”[4] In this process, European powers (mainly Czarist Russia, Britain, France etc) were also involved in the massive colonial aggression and expansion in the Middle East. Through the launching of a series of barbarian wars and the signing of a host of unequal treaties, vast areas of the Middle East that were still in a feudal and backward stage were reduced into colonies or semi-colonies of these powers. In the process of the development of “the world from separation to integration”, the Middle East countries became colonies and subordinate states of western capitalist powers in the global system.

 

Imbalanced economic development and World War I have led to big changes in the position of western powers. After World War I, western powers, based on their new strength, re-divided their colonies in the Middle East. As a matter of fact, their plans of re-dividing these colonies started before the end of the First World War. In 1916, Britain, France, and Russia signed a secrete agreement on dividing the region of Asia Minor belonging to the Ottoman Empire, also known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which was latter joined by Italy. The success of the Allies in World War I enabled them to divide the Middle East openly. In June 1919, they passed the Treaty of Versailles and Covenant of the League of Nations on the Paris Peace Conference. In 1920, the Supreme Council of the Allies held the Conference of San Remo and signed the Treaty of Sévres, dividing the Ottoman Empire in the open light. In 1922, they passed respectively the Mandate for Syria and Lebanon, the Mandate for Palestine, and a Memorandum describing that the provisions of the Mandate for Palestine were also applied to Transjordan. In 1923, the Allies entered into the Treaty of Lausanne with Turkey, which redefined the territory of Turkey. In 1924, they passed a resolution describing that Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations was also applicable to Iraq. These treaties somewhat “legalized” the colonial rule of western powers over the Middle East. Countries of this region were bullied and divided by the powers like a big pie on their dinner table. As Karl Marx pointed out, “nations were bought and sold, divided and united, just as it best suited the interests and purposes of their rulers”[5]

 

The Versailles-Washington System established after World War I set clear the zone of influence of western powers in the Middle East, creating a layout in which Britain and France, the two colonial empires, rivaled with each other for dominance of the Middle East. At that time, Britain seized the largest share of colonies in the Middle East, with its zone of influence covering Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Cyprus, Yemen, and emirates of the Gulf; followed by France reaching Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia; Italy controlled Libya, and Spain controlled a part of Morocco. The US did not directly occupy territories of the Middle East countries, but won the oil exploration and leasing right in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain Islands, as well as some of the shares of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.

 

Worldwide national democratic revolution also led to the rise of national awareness in the Middle East. During the period between the end of World War I and the beginning of the Second World War, a number of countries in the Middle East won real or nominal independence (Afghanistan in 1918, Yemen in 1918, Iraq in 1921, Egypt in 1922, Iran in 1925, and Saudi Arabia in 1923).

 

World War II led to the decline of the British and French Empires, and the outbreak of post-war national liberation movement in Asia and Africa accelerated the collapse of the colonial system. In 1948, Britain was driven out of the region of Palestine; in 1956, the Suez War broke out, in which Britain failed and had to withdraw from the area of the Suez Canal; the heavy blow of the Aden people’s liberation movement forced Britain to give up its colonial rule in this region, and with the independence of Aden in 1967, Britain moved out of South Yemen; the independence of emirates in the Gulf lead to the withdraw of troops by Britain in early 1970s, putting an end to its century-long military occupation and colonial rule. In North Africa, Morocco and Tunisia achieved independence in 1958, Mauritania in 1960, and Algeria in 1962, which announced the end of France’s colonial rule in this region. In early 1970s, the Middle East countries emerged in the scene of the international forum as independent states. The collapse of colonial system has become an inevitable trend, determining the failure of Britain and France in their repeated attempts of to return to the Middle East.

 

World War II led to profound changes of the global political structure. The three fascist states of Germany, Italy and Japan couldn’t recover after the setback. Britain and France, though emerging winners of the war, were seriously weakened. The war cost a quarter of Britain’s national wealth, leading to a debt of 3.4 billion pounds. European states including Britain were no longer leading powers in the world, and the central position of Europe in controlling the world and deciding the direction of international relations in modern history disappeared, replaced by the rise of two powers of the US and the Soviet Union. The fast rise of the US and the emergence of the socialist camp headed by the Soviet Union after World War II changed the previous Versailles-Washington System established after World War I. In the Middle East, the US replaced Britain and France, and rivaled with another superpower – the Soviet Union.

 

The Middle East, which occupies an important position in global political, economic, and military affairs, is also undergoing marked changes within the transformation of the global structure of international relations. Its backward social and economic development has put the region at a weak position. Although countries in this region have made a struggle in the process of the development of the structure of international relations, developing from colonies and semi-colonies completely at the mercy of other powers to national independent countries that gradually participate in the international development, even in some major historical events affecting the development of global international relations, they are still, judging as a whole, in a passive “subordinate position” in global politics.

 

           The Impact of Globalization on the International Relations of the Middle East

 

World War II weakened Britain and France, leading to the rise of national liberation movement in the Middle East. After the end of the war, national independent countries were established in this region one after another, and the British and French colonialists withdrew from this region.

 

After becoming the capitalist alliance, the US unveiled its global strategy. As said by   , the strategic interests of the US requires it to rebuild Europe and ensure the political and economic stability of the eastern part of the Mediterranean region, and release a plan on global assistance to undertake the responsibility of collective security that cannot be fulfilled by the UN. [6] Starting from that time, the Middle East fell after Europe in the global strategy of the US. During the Cold War, America’s basic policies towards the Middle East were: incorporating the Middle East into its global strategy so that this region can become a frontier in containing and countering Soviet Union; rivaling with other powers for the Middle East so as to control its oil resources and get more practical and strategic interests. Given the changes in international environment, the concrete policy measures taken by various American administrations differ. For example, they released in different times the Truman Doctrine, Eisenhower Doctrine, Nixon Doctrine, Carter Doctrine, and Reagan Doctrine. However, these doctrines, though different in name, are all carried out of the above-mentioned objective.

 

In the half-a-century-long Cold War, Soviet Union was always taking the rivaling for the Middle East and countering of US containment as its core policy over the Middle East. In spite of occasional ease of tension in the struggle for the Middle East, rivaling and confrontation were the main feature of the US-USSR relationship.

 

To counter the containment policy of the US, the Soviet Union adopted an expansion policy in the Middle East. Apart from developing relations with countries in the Middle East (the Soviet Union established within this period diplomatic relations with Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel), the Soviet Union focused on exerting pressure against Turkey and Iran to break the US’ northern military alliance which aimed at blocking the Soviet Union. The USSR also actively supported the national liberation movements in the Middle East. For example, it supported the Middle East countries in opposing the US and Britain in forming a military alliance, Egyptian people in demanding the abolishment of the Anglo-Egyptian Alliance Treaty, and supported Egypt in its struggle against the invasion of Britain, France and Israel in Suez Crisis. The support of the USSR to the national liberation movements in the Middle East won the recognition of many countries and progressive forces in this region, and laid a basis for its large-scale entry into this area. In late 1970s the USSR occupied Afghanistan, sending altogether 120,000 troops. This was the first military action taken by the Soviet Union in a region outside the Warsaw Countries. Its purpose in doing so was not only to support the pro-USSR regime in Afghanistan, but more importantly, to realize its strategic objective of surrounding the Persian Gulf. This military action was the climax in its implementation of the go-south strategy.

 

Though able to act according to their own wills, the countries in the Middle East, due to their weakness, were still in a “subordinate position” in the global international relations under the post-war bipolar framework. Most countries had to choose to stand with one of the two camps headed respectively by the US and the Soviet Union. Some countries first chose to stand with the east camp headed by the Soviet Union, and latter fell to the west camp of the US, and some did the opposite. Only a handful of countries said clearly that “they belong to neither of the two camps” and worked to uphold their national sovereignty and independence.

 

For example, from the 1950s to early 1970s, holding the banner of supporting the national liberation movements of Middle East countries, the Soviet Union accelerated the development of relations with these countries, incorporating Egypt, Libya, Yemen Democratic, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Somali into its zone of influence. The US was also actively expanding its zone of influence by carrying out economic and military assistance. Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran (the Pahlavi Dynasty) were important allies of the US in the Middle East, viewed as its “strategic pillar”. The US also actively developed relations Jordon, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Morocco, which became its “mild allies” in this region.

 

After Mohamad Anwar Sadat came to power, the relations between Egypt and the Soviet Union gradually deteriorated. Unwilling to accept the control by the Soviet Union, Sadat gradually stopped its cooperation with the USSR in political, economic and military areas, and the Soviet experts (including military experts) withdrew from Egypt in different groups. At the same time, Egypt actively developed relations with the US and gradually fell to its side, finally becoming one of the mild allies of the US in the Middle East. Iran went the opposite direction. During World War II, the US sent troops to Iran in the name of protecting the transportation channel, which once reached 30,000 troops. After the end of the Second World War, Iran-US relations developed very fast. They signed bilateral military agreement in 1959, providing that the US can enter Iran when the latter is directly and indirectly invaded. The US provided a large amount of economic and military assistance to Iran, which totaled US$7.42 billion by 1979, and Iran became one of the pillars for the US to promote its Gulf security strategy ( the other being Saudi Arabia). After the Islamic revolution in 1979, dramatic changes occurred in US-Iran relations. Iran views the US as Satan and the US calls Iran a rogue state. While in hostility with the US, Iran keeps good relations with the USSR (later Russia).

 

The changes of relations between Egypt, Iran and USSR and US fully shows that although big powers occupy a dominant position in international relations, they cannot decide every change in this field. Countries in the Middle East, big ones in particular, have an important say in the trend the development of international relations.

 

The core of the American policy towards the Middle East after the end of the Cold War is: using the Gulf Crisis as an opportunity to set its dominance in this region through the Gulf War, the arrangement of the post-war order, and the Middle East peace process, so as to put in place a regional security system favorable for the interests of the US. The implication of such a policy to the world is that the US is promoting an America-style new order in the Middle East so as to establish a global new order under its dominance. Anthony Lake, former national security advisor to the US president, once stated clearly that the Middle East was of extreme importance to the US, and might become an example of how the US treats a post-war world[7]. After the collapse of the bi-polar global structure, the US, with the loss of a competitor, was keen to expand its influence to the whole Middle East. Its rivaling in the Middle East is all-dimensional, i.e., realizing US-dominated “stability” in this region by controlling it politically, so as to reap more immediate and long-term economic interests. And military deterrence is a guarantee for the achievement of this goal.

 

After the outbreak of the Gulf Crisis, the US made the best of this opportunity to form a US-headed multinational army numbering hundreds of thousands in the name of the UN, and fought the first largest scale war after the Cold War. The Gulf War fully displaced the military might of the US as the only super-power in the world, helping to set up its dominance in this region. After the end of the Gulf War, the US, through a series of diplomatic efforts, held the Middle East Peace Conference in Madrid in 1991, and worked to bring into place the Gaza-Jericho Agreement in 1993. The US also, through post-Gulf War arrangement (mainly including the joint military exercise with the Gulf states in the Gulf; the establishment of a frontier command subordinate to the Central Command to expand its navy’s presence in the Gulf; and the storage of arms equipment in the Gulf and increasing of arms sale to this region), consolidates its position. The US has also entered into defense or cooperation agreements with a number of Gulf states including Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar. After Clinton came to office, the relationship between the US and Israel was redefined as strategic cooperative partnership.

 

In response to the hostile attitudes of Baghdad and Tehran, the US unveiled its policy of “double containment” in 1994, further squeezing the scope of development and living for Iraq and Iran on top of the economic sanction against Iraq. The US also imposed sanction against Libya under the excuse of the Lockerbie air disaster.

 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, whose political legacy was inherited by Russia, it is inevitable that Russia will seek to establish its own strategic position in the new world structure. The Middle East not only bears on the important interests of Russia, but also represents a platform for Russia to restore its position as a global power.

 

Since 1994, Russia has been reengaged in Middle East with an “active” attitude, with the most eye-catching move being its support to the Palestinian Liberation Movement in the draft of the UN Security Council on a resolution to condemn the Hebron accident that broke out in February 1994. In April of the same year, Moscow received on different occasions the visits of President Arafat of Palestine and Prime Minister Rabin of Israel, during which bilateral agreements covering economic, cultural, scientific and technological, and military fields were signed between Russia and Palestine and Israel respectively. In June, the Russian Chief of the General Staff Kolesnikov visited Syria, during which 12 agreements on military cooperation were signed. In 1995, against the pressure of the US, Russia entered into a nuclear cooperation contract worth US $1 billion with Iran, promising to build a 1000 megawatt nuclear power station for Iran. In 1996, it sold US $800 million oil production equipment to Iran.

 

Since then, Russia has further intensified its rivaling for the Middle East. It involves itself in the Middle East peace process in a “relatively fair” gesture by urging Israel to implement all the agreements signed with Palestine to break the deadlock; and develops relations with countries in hostility with the US (such as Syria, Iran and Iraq) and calls for the lift of sanction against Iraq for many times, so as to expand its influence in the Middle East and at the same time reap economic benefits.

 

Russia has an advanced industry of arms with good prices, which makes them compatible in the market of the Middle East. The arms industry is also one important source to earn foreign exchange and transfuse blood to the Russian economy in difficulty. Therefore, Russia, on the one hand, actively participates in international arms control conferences, while on the other, increases its arms sale to the Middle East. In 1997, it reached an agreement with Syria on arms sale totaling US $2.5 billion. Moreover, Russia is prepared for arms supply to Iraq once the sanction against this country is lifted[8].

 

With a series of diplomatic efforts in the Middle East, Russia has not only realized its strategic readjustment for its return to this region, but also exerted important influence in the affairs there.

 

9.11 was the heaviest blow America suffered in its own soil after World War II, which not only led to big loss to the US itself, but also has a deep-going impact on the world situation. While this incident has also provided an unprecedented opportunity for the US. Making use of the sympathy of people around the world towards the victims of this incident and the hatred to terrorist activities, the US formed an international alliance against terror in the name of fighting against terror.

 

On September 22nd 2001, based on the super-power status of the US, President Bush set out the toughest diplomatic policy of the US in history, saying that “you're either with us or against us in the fight against terror”. Powellism further defined the principle of drawing a line based on the US. At that time, most of the countries in the world, whatever their social systems or political directions were, all expressed their firm support to the global fight against terrorism, which led to the “momentum” of the US leading the world. There is no doubt that the US will make use this momentum to realize “the next American century” by standardizing the world order and rule of the games according to its interests and value.

 

America’s military action against Afghanistan unveiled its military strike against “global terrorism”, which leads to multiple impacts to the situation of the Middle East. As a matter of fact, America’s military action in Afghanistan and stationing of troops in Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries have already changed the geopolitical structure of Central Asia. By driving a wedge in the Middle East, the US can not only manipulate the situation of this region, but also strengthen its control over the Gulf, affect South Asia, and even counter Russia and China.

 

The “international consensus” America has won in the global fight against terror has gone beyond the anti-terror mission itself. In the view of the US, it has won some kind of “victory” in standardizing global order and setting the rules of the game, and the following-up actions taken are on how to expand and consolidate this “victory”.

 

The end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union has led to the collapse of the bi-polar global structure of international relations formed after World War II, and brings the world closer to a multi-polar structure. However, we must be aware that multi-polarization is a long historical process. The evolution of the global structure towards multi-polarization does not mean that multi-polarization has been achieved. The current situation tells us that under the current structure with “one superpower and many powers”, the US, as the only existing superpower, still has a dominant position in deciding the direction of the development of international relations and global structure. It plays an important and sometimes decisive role in the world, and even more so on the development of international relations of the Middle East.

 

      Future Trend of the Development of International Relations of the Middle East

 

There is no doubt that the Middle East countries and other developing countries are faced with both opportunities and challenges in globalization, but are landed into an underprivileged position due to their backward social and economic development. A number big powers, by chanting the slogan of globalization and relying on their own superiority, exercise control and manipulation over developing countries for their own interests. Against such a backdrop, how to take measures to offset the control and manipulation by powers has become an urgent task for countries in the Middle East and the developing world. Therefore, on top of the stress of state machine and government function, the strengthening of international cooperation and coordination to face common challenges and threats has become a “natural response” of countries in the Middle East. At present, the following organizations have their influence in the region of the Middle East: Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Damascus Group of Eight States, and Union of the Arab Maghreb. After the end of the Cold War, these organizations strengthened their coordination and cooperation to safeguard their common interests. Apart from these organizations, the Middle East countries also strengthened their bilateral and multilateral cooperation so as to effectively protect their own interests.

 

In the 50 years after the end of World War II, over 70 wars and conflicts occurred in the Middle East, including wars and conflicts among countries of this region and with big powers outside this region. Over 85% of the wars and conflicts among countries there are caused by territorial disputes, and disputes over water and oil resources[9], while conflicts and wars caused by differences in ideology or by struggle for regional dominance only make up a small proportion (for example, from 1962 to 1970, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were involved in the war between republicans and the royal family of Yeman). Whatever the reasons behind the wars are, they are somewhat related with the random decision making of Middle East countries. Up till now, only Egypt and Israel set an example of peaceful settlement of territorial disputes in their settlement of the “Taba Dispute”. The conflicts and wars between big powers and Middle East countries are more complicated, with each country proceeding from its own interests – economic interests, security interests, and strategic interests, and the forms and scale of these conflicts and wars also differ. Algeria’s independence war against France from 1954 to 1962, Oman’s arms struggle against Britain from 1957 to 1959, and South Yemen’s arms struggle against Britain from 1963 to 1967 belonged to national liberation struggle. The Suez War launched by Britain, France together with Israel in 1956 (also called “invasion of three countries”) and Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the following 9 years’ war were the ones that big powers rely on their strength to maintain their own economic and strategic interests; while for Middle East countries, these are the anti-aggression wars they fought to uphold their sovereignty and security. The Gulf War breaking out in early 1990s was even more complicated. In the beginning, Iraq’s invasion of Iraq was a war between Middle East countries due to territorial and resource disputes (also out of Iraq’s attempt of dominating the Gulf), after which the US led a multi-national troop in launching the largest scale war in the world after the end of the Cold War. This war liberated Kuwait, however, the US in sent troops to the Gulf for its own strategic interests, i.e., controlling oil supply, checking its competitors, curbing any competitor that dares to challenge its interests, and using the Gulf War as an opportunity to establish a new global order of its version. In spite of this, the various types of wars breaking out in the Middle East after the end of World War II were manageable, and restricted to a certain scope due to the restriction of various forces.

 

Against the backdrop of globalization, the future trend of the development of international relations of the Middle East is: non-confrontational cooperation between Middle East countries will further develop, and the confrontation among Middle East countries will decline in terms of frequency, scope and intensity; the relationship between major powers and Middle East countries will mainly be characterized by non-confrontational cooperation, but the US will continue its global strategy in order to maintain its superiority and create another “American century”, which will thus lead to growing confrontation between the US and Middle East countries, and the conflict and confrontation are fundamental in nature (having long-term, repeated and wide-ranging impact)[10].

 

In terms of the development and changes of the international relations in the Middle East, although national interests (including national security interests, economic interests, and political interests) are the most fundamental factor behind the changes of inter-state relations, the irrational decision making caused by general underdevelopment in the Middle East is also an important factor behind the frequent changes of inter-state relations in the region. Rober Strause Hupe calls this “power Urge”[11]. The outbreak of Iraq-Iran War, and Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait are typical results of “power urge”. Moreover, as mentioned before, Iraq, Syria, and Egypt declared in 1963 to establish an Arab Federation through different stages; in 1971, Egypt, Syria, and Sudan reached an agreement to establish an Arab Republic Federation; in 1974, Syria and Tunisia reached an agreement to establish the Arab Islamic Republic (only 4 days later, Tunisia changed its mind, and the two countries turned into enemies); in 1978, Syria and Iraq signed a chapter on joint operation and established a supreme political committee and a unified leadership agency, all of which are results of “power urge”. In spite of the weakening of power urge in international relations in the Middle East, this factor cannot be neglected in the analysis of the future development of inter-state relations of this region.

 

The relationship between the Middle East countries and Russia, EU states, Japan will be a cooperative relationship. After the collapse of the bipolar structure, major powers around the world strengthen their rivaling in this region. The development of economic globalization leads to growing interconnection of the interests of various countries, and world peace and global environment bear on the interests of all countries in the world, in which one’s prosperity or problem can be felt by others. Therefore, international cooperation has become the mainstream of the development of international relations after the end of the Cold War. In their economic development, big powers need Middle East countries’ huge market and rich resources, oil in particular. Moreover, they also need cooperation in politics and international security environment (such as on issues of Middle East peace process and Europe’s and Middle East’s security). These big powers and Middle East countries have no conflicts of fundamental interests, and need each other for their own interests. The most obvious one will be the steady development of relations between EU and Middle East countries on the basis of the general Mediterranean policy and EU-Arab dialogue.

 

After succeeding Yeltsin in Kremlin, Putin tried to resume the big power status of Russia with a more active posture. In early 2000, chaired by President Putin, the Russian Federal Security Service passed Russia’s “national security initiative” and “draft on new military doctrine”. The new security doctrine emphasizes that when Russia and its allies face aggression and cannot stop the threat to Russia by using conventional weapons, Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons. This means that Russia will begin nuclear attacks on enemies if it deems necessary. The Russian military circle stresses that the new military doctrine enables Russia to take the initiative to launch nuclear attacks to enemies. The background for the release of this doctrine is the drastic changes in the international situation after the end of the Cold War and growing external threat faced by Russia[12]. Rutin pointed out clearly in the Russian federal security conference that the new military doctrine is an answer to NATO. As a matter of fact, Russia already views NATO headed by the US its “NO.1 assumed enemy”. However, due to the economic difficulties and restraint of military budget, it is impossible for Russia to come into conventional wars with NATO in the foreseeable future. Therefore, a strong nuclear deterrence has become Russia’s trump card against its enemies.

 

Although Putin takes a more active security strategy to rejuvenate Russia, Russia will not come into big conflicts and confrontation with Middle East countries. On the contrary, in order to rejuvenate its economy, Russia will further develop its political, economic and military cooperation with Middle East countries in a wider scope. For example, since 1994, Russia has carried out a series of diplomatic activities by using the Middle East peace process as an entry point, indicating clearly that Russia will continue to play an active and constructive role in the Middle East. That year Russia received respectively the visits of Arafat and Rabin, and signed a host of economic, cultural and scientific cooperation agreements with Palestine and Israel. It also signed 12 military cooperation agreements with Syria. In 1995, against the pressure of the US, Russia signed a contract on the building of nuclear power station worth US $1 billion with Iran. In 1996, Russia sold oil production facilities worth US$ 800 million to Iran, and provided to it key technologies on the launch of long-range missiles. In 1997, it came into an agreement on the sales of US$ 2.5 billion worth of arms with Syria, and signed with Turkey 10 agreements including on the protection and encouragement of investment, avoidance of double tariff, and a 10-year cooperation agreement on economic, trade, industrial, scientific and technological cooperation. Russia is also prepared to supply arms equipment to Iraq once the sanction on Iraq is lifted.

 

Given this, the relationship between these powers and Middle East countries will be a cooperative one, and the possibility of confrontation is low.

 

The relationship between the US and Middle East countries will be a complicated relationship with both cooperation and confrontation. The US is “the only superpower” left after the end of the Cold War. Such a superior position enables the US to have unprecedented clout in international affairs. However, this unchecked superiority leads to the US’ arbitrary action in international affairs (the frequency and intensity of military action taken by the US in the Middle East after the end of the Cold War has surpassed that during the Cold War period). By relying on its superior strength, the US imposes its value and ideology on other countries. The Middle East is an important part of the US’s global strategy. Proceeding from its status as the only superpower in the world, the US, in order to achieve its global strategy, will take all possible means to safeguard its strategic interests in the Middle East (including political, economic, military and security interests). Whether for America’s strategic goals or concrete measures (such as sanction and military attack), they are all against the interests of Middle East countries, which thus increases the confrontation between the US and Middle East countries. In the economic field, the relationship between the US and the Middle East countries is similar to that between other powers and Middle East countries, but in political, security, and military arenas, they are far apart. The US will continue to develop its close relations with its allies in this region through political support, and economic and military assistance. At the same time, it imposes to countries that dare to challenge its interests strong pressure including political pressure, economic blockade and sanction, military deterrence, and even direct military attack to weaken its enemies (for example, it adopted the policy of “double containment” to Iraq and Iran after the end of the Cold War. While maintaining economic sanction, it conducted repeated military attacks against Iraq; in August 1998, in the name of fighting against terror, it exerted military attacks against Sudan and Afghanistan, and launched nearly 100 cruise missiles to these two countries). Despite repeated military attacks, it never subdues its enemies (only to safeguard its so called dignity), but rather lead to escalation of confrontation and worsening of regional tension.

 

As the world comes to the 21st century, the White House has a new president, but the American policy towards Iraq remains unchanged. Bush junior seems to be committed to finishing the undone job of his father. Soon after coming to office, he hosted a national security conference to look into various programmes to topple the Saddam regime, and at the same time sent serious warnings to Iraq. George W. Bush believes that Saddam is the biggest threat to America’s interests and therefore must be curbed. Once Saddam crosses the line or Iraq is found still producing weapons of mass destruction, America will launch military attacks against Iraq again. At the end of January 2001, President Bush held a national security conference[13] which was attended by Vice-President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Powell, National Security Advisor Rice, and CIA Director Tenet, most of whom are familiar faces under Bush senior. It is said that the Bush Administration will formulate a plan to topple Saddam regime based on the bill to liberate Iraq, which includes US $25 million financial support to Iraqi National Congress, an opposition organization in Iraq, to conduct various anti-government activities. On February 1st, Secretary Powell condemned Iraq of attempting to threaten its neighbours’ security again, and declared that the US would firmly prevented Iraq from producing weapons of mass destruction. He stated clearly the Iraq issue will be the top priority for the new American government’s foreign policy, and emphasized that the US’ sanction against Iraq will not be eased. Of course, the US also made some “readjustment” on its policy towards the Gulf. When over a decade of sanction against Iraq achieved no desirable results, the US has to give up its policy of double containment against Iraq and Iran, and released its policy of “smart sanction” against Iraq. Even so, the so called smart sanction might not achieve better results than double containment. Professor Gary Sick, an expert on the Middle East from the Columbia University in the City of New York, expressed doubts over the feasibility of this policy. He believes that through such a move, the US repackages its policy of sanctions that have been proven a failure by giving it a humanitarian coat to let the international community accept it[14]. In early 2002, in the state of the union address, President Bush named Iraq, Iran and North Korea as “axis of evil”, condemned Iraq of never giving up its plan to produce chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. In 2003, he launched a war against Iraq and toppled Saddam regime. In 2004, he put forward the so called “Great Middle East Initiative”, aiming at repeating what had happened in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, to create a storm of social and political transformation in the Islamic countries of the Middle East and South Asia, thus transforming these countries with American democracy and value. In recent years, the issue on the right to use nuclear energy has caused growing tension between the US and Iran, with the two countries almost at dagger with each other. The Iranian government believes that Iran, just like other countries, has the right to control and peacefully use nuclear technologies, and will resolutely safeguard its national interests; while the US has repeatedly claimed that it will use all possible strict measures from sanction to military attack to eliminate the danger posed by Iran’s possible possession of nuclear weapons to the world.

 

Through the above-mentioned analysis, we can see that the tough policy approach of the US shows that its strategic interests in the Gulf remain unchanged, and brook no challenge. The US will launch military attacks against its enemies that dare to offend it, and use this to “standardize” the world to realize its strategic interests. It also means that its confrontation with Middle East countries will continue to exist, and might escalate in the future, which might become the main factors causing regional tension. 

      

 

 

 

NoteThis paper was first released in Periodical IV of The Arab World in 2002, and was later published in 2007 by the Social Sciences Academic Press (China) as a part of the Development Report on Middle East and Africa 2005-2006

 

 

 



[1] Study of Marxism, Periodical I, 2000.

[2] Historical Process of Globalization and Categorization of States, by Hong Chaohui, released on the Quarterly Journal of China’s Social Sciences, P74, 2000.

[3] Refer to A. Smith, Creating a World Economy: Merchant Capital, Colonialism and World Trade, 1400-1825, Boulder: Westview Press 1991.

 

[4] Marx & Engels Collected Works: Volume 01, Page 254, Renmin Publishing House, 1972

[5] Marx & Engels Collected Works: Volume 02, Page 641, Renmin Publishing House, 1972

[6] [US] Secing American foreign policy whole, Bruce Denny, Page 166, by World Affairs Press in 1988

[7] Speech by Anthony Lake, national security advisor to the US president, at Washington Institute for Near East Policy, reported on May 18 1994 by the US Information Agency.

[8] Intelligence Digest, UK, reported on April 25th 1997

[9] These wars mainly include: the first Middle East War (also called Palestine War) from 1948 to 1949; arms conflicts between Israel and Syria over border disputes in 1951, 1955-1957, 1963-1967 (one of the reasons for which was the change of the course of Jordan River); arms conflict between Israel and Syria at the Golan Height in 1970; border arms conflict between Israel and Jordan in 1956; border arms conflict between Turkey and Syria in 1957; border arms conflict between Algeria and Morocco in 1963; border arms conflict between Somali and Ethiopia in 1964; border arms conflict between Somali and Kenya from 1964 to 1967; border arms conflict between Israel and Lebanon from 1968 to 1969; border arms conflict between Saudi Arabia and Arab Democratic Yemen in 1961 and 1971; border arms conflict between Iraq and Iran in 1969 and 1974; border arms conflict between South Yemen and North Yemen in 1972; border arms conflict between Iraq and Kuwait in 1973 and 1979; the fourth Middle East war (launched by Arab states to reclaim their lost land) in 1973; West Sahara war that started in 1976; border arms conflict between Egypt and Libya in 1977; war between Somali and Ethiopia in Ogaden from 1977 to 1978; Israel’s attack and occupation of the southern part of Lebanon since 1978 (most importantly for the purpose of occupying and controlling the water resources of the Litani River); war between Iraq and Iran from 1980 to 1988; territorial disputes between Libya and Chad from 1980 to 1988; border arms conflicts between Oman and South Yemen in 1981; Iraq’s aggression and invasion of Kuwait (also called the Gulf Crisis) in 1990; Gulf War in 1991; arms conflicts between Qatar and Bahrain on the ownership of Hawar Islands in 1991 and 1993; arms conflicts between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over the land of Khaur al-Udaid in 1992 and September 1993.

[10] Analysis of the International Relations in the Middle East, by Wang Jinglie, published in West Asia, Periodical VI, 1998.

[11] On the International State, by Chen Hanwen, published in 1985 by Sichuan People’s Publishing House, Page 111.

[12] The military doctrine released in 1993 provides that Russia can only use nuclear weapons when the enemy begins nuclear attack first. In March 1999, NATO formally accepted Poland, Hungary, and Czech Republic as new members, which leads the threat of NATO to the doorway of Russia. The three Baltic countries and some countries in Central and East Europe also try to join NATO. The eastward expansion of NATO poses a direct threat to the security interests of Russia. Later, NATO headed by US, regardless of the strong opposition of Russia and many other countries, and without the mandate of the UN, blatantly launched a large-scale bombardment on Yugoslavia for 78 days. Russia believes that its national security is under threat.

[13] Jiefang Daily, February 4 2001.

[14] Xinhua News Agency, released on February 7, 2001 in Baghdad. 


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