Politics of the Middle East
Gulf Cooperation Council
• Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman
• Founded in Abu Dhabi 1981
• Formulating unified policies; religion, finance,
trade, customs, tourism, legislation, and
• Fostering Scientific and technological progress
• Joint military presence
• Single Currency
• Forming a Gulf Union
Common Ground
• Oil
• Similar interests on
trade, finance and
regulation of oil
• Monarchies
• Strict Sharia
• Historically militarily
weaker than
neighboring states
Saudi Arabia
• Al Saud were originally minor tribal rulers in
central Arabia. From the mid-18th century, allied
with the Wahabbi Islamic movement, they
became aggressively expansionist.
• Between 1902 and 1927, the Al Saud carried out
a series of wars of conquest which resulted the
creation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.
• Vast oil reserves discovered 1938
• Waste and luxurious lifestyles led to
governmental deficits and foreign borrowing in
the 1950s.
• Absolute Monarchy. King as Head of State and Government
• Quran is the Constitution
• decisions made on the basis of consultation among the
senior princes of the royal family and the religious
• The Economist 2010 Democracy Index, 7th most
authoritarian regime among 167 countries
• No political participation outside of the Royal Family which
can be fractured with divergent interests.
• 7000 Princes
• The Ulema (Religious Leaders) play a direct role in
Islamic Credentials
Guardian of the Holy places, Mecca and Medina
Pact with Wahhab
1979 Grande Mosque Seizure
Pakistan Madrasas
Re-Islamisation of Law
Exportation of Islamists
Afghan Arabs
Osama bin Laden
Renter State
• Along with Islamic credentials the al Saud
provide significant social welfare benefits
• The land, oil and state are property of the al
• Citizens trade their political rights for benefits
• Mass immigration
– Perform domestic and manual labor.
– Technological management of oil production
Mutaween (Religious Police)
• Committee for the Prevention of Vice and
Promotion of Virtue
• Ensure Islamic Law and customs are strictly
enforced; dress, public behaviour, alcohol,
prayer, diet
• Around 4000 Officers
• 2009 "Anti-Witchcraft Unit" to "educate
the public about the evils of sorcery,
investigate alleged witches, neutralize
their cursed paraphernalia, and disarm
their spells".
• enforcing the ban on camera phones
• No celebration of Valentine's Day.
• banning the sale of dogs and cats
• launched a website on which un-Islamic
behavior can be reported
Tragedy and Reform
• March 2002, 15 schoolgirls died in a fire.
• the religious police forcibly prevented girls from escaping the
burning school by locking the doors and barring firemen from
• 'not properly covered‘
• 2006 the committee would no longer be allowed to interrogate
those it arrests.
• 2007 "the creation of a 'department of rules and regulations' to
ensure the activities of commission members comply with the law.”
• 2012, Powers further restructed
• barred from making arrests, conducting interrogations, or carrying
out searches without a warrant from the local governor. They will
no longer stand at the entrances of shopping malls to keep women
out who do not adhere to the Wahhabi dress code or who are not
accompanied by “approved” men—husbands, siblings, or parents
Foreign Affairs
• 1967 Six-Day (Arab-Israeli) War, Saudi Arabia did not
participate in the due to tensions with Egypt over
• 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Saudi Arabia participated in the
Arab oil boycott of the United States and Netherlands.
• The price of oil rose substantially, dramatically
increasing Saudi Arabia's wealth and political influence
• 1979 Iranian Revolution threatened Saudi security and
religious legitimacy
• 1990, Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait King Fahd,
fearing an attack from Iraq, invited American and
Coalition soldiers to be stationed in Saudi Arabia
Regional Politics
Arab Cold War
1950’s – 1970’s Monarchs vs Republics
Egypt, Syria, Iraq vs GCC Jordan
Modern Middle East Cold war 1979 – Present
Sunni: GCC, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon
Shi’ite: Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas
Independent: Iraq and Turkey
• Parliamentary
Constitutional monarchy.
• Emir Al-Sabah,
• The Constitution of
Kuwait, 1962,
• Kuwait's judiciary system
is viewed as the most
independent in the Arab
• The National Assembly
• powers to initiate legislation, question
government ministers, remove the Emir
• 1999, the Emir issued decrees dealing with
women's suffrage, economic liberalization, and
nationality. First rejected then implemented
• The Emir appoints the prime minister with
approval of the parliament.
• Upon the death of the Emir, the Crown Prince
succeeds, must be approved by an absolute
• The Emir and the crown prince must be direct
descendants from the line of Mubarak the Great.
Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
1937 Oil discovered
1952 largest exporter in the Persian Gulf
Gained Independence 1962
After independence Iraq claimed Kuwait had been part of the
Ottoman Empire subject to Iraqi suzerainty.
Britain rapidly deployed troops,
Iraq reaffirmed its acceptance of Kuwaiti sovereignty
1983, Kuwait supported Iraq in the Iran–Iraq War. Iran
attacked Kuwait's oil tankers forced it to seek protection from
the US
2 August 1990. Annexed by Iraq
Claimed that Kuwaiti territory was an Iraqi province,
Retaliation for Slant drilling
Monarchy deposed and an Iraqi-backed puppet leader
Hussein Ali was installed as head of the "Provisional
Government of Free Kuwait."
• absolute monarchy, with the Emir as head of state and head
of government.
• Sharia Law is the main source of Qatari legislation
• Al Thani family have held power since independence in 1971.
• Flogging for alcohol consumption or illicit sexual relations
• adultery is 100 lashes
• punishable by death when a Muslim woman and a nonMuslim man are involved.
• 2006, a Filipino woman was sentenced to 100 lashes for
• 2013, a Muslim expatriate was sentenced to 40 lashes for
• Judicial corporal punishment is common in Qatar due to the
Hanbali interpretation of Sharia Law.
Qatar in International Relations
• Oil exports and
payments for offshore
rights began in 1949
• 2022 World Cup
• Al-Jazeera
• Mediator of Regional
• The UAE's judicial system is derived from the
civil law system and Sharia law
• Flogging is used in UAE as a punishment for
criminal offences such as adultery, premarital
sex and prostitution.
• Stoning is a legal form of judicial
• Apostasy is a crime punishable by death
• Kissing in public is strictly illegal and can result
in deportation
• Constitutional
monarchy, King Hamad
bin Isa Al Khalifa
• Chamber of Deputies
elected by universal
• Shura Council
appointed directly by
the king.
• Since 1999 wide ranging political reforms
• Eliminating state security laws, women’s
suffrage, freeing political prisoners and
holding parliamentary elections
• National Action Charter, 2001,
• Democratisation has resulted in dominance of
religious parties
• Shi’ite, Sheikh Isa Qassim,
• Major protests occurred in 2011, Saudi Arabia
• absolute monarchy
• Sultan of Oman is head of state and government.
• The Sultanate has neither political parties nor
• Sultan has no direct heir has not publicly designated a
successor. Instead, the ruling family should
unanimously designate a new Sultan after his death. If
they do not designate a new ruler after three days,
then they open a letter containing a recommendation
for a new Sultan.
• No political parties
• elections only for a consultative assembly.
• Popular front for the liberation of Oman.
• presidential representative democratic republic
• President is the head of state
• Prime Minister (who is appointed by the President) is the
head of government.
• a bicameral legislature. Under the constitution, an elected
president, an elected 301-seat House of Representatives, and
an appointed 111-member Shura Council share power
• presidential term 7 years, parliamentary term 6 years.
• Suffrage is universal over 18.
• For hundreds of years ruled by imams who had absolute
• later Kings were religiously sanctioned belonging to the
Zaidiyyah branch of Shi’ite Islam
• .
• 1962 North Yemen Civil
• 1976 British leave South
• 1990 Unification
• suffers from a highly fractured political
• President Ali Abd Allah Saleh, 1978
• Resigned 2012
• Houthi Control in the North
• Significant presence of al-Qaeda in the
Arabian Penninsula (AQAP)
Research Paper
• Research Paper
– 1,250 Words, about 4 pages, Double Spaced, 12 pica
• Looking at a country of your choice
• How have modern events or phenomenon
affected political development?
• The War on Terror, Jihadism, Arab Spring, Green
Movement, Gender Politics, Political Islam,
Sectarianism, Globalization, Petro Politics.
1920 Borders set by Treaty of Sevres
1921 Monarchy Faisal I established under
British Mandate, Sunni elite appointed to
government posts
1932 Independence
14 July 1958 Monarchy overthrown
Abd al Karim Kasem
Colonel Abul Salem Arif, Abdul Rahman Arif
1968 Ba’ath Party, Ahmed Hassan al Bakr
1979 President Saddam Hussein
1980 – 1988 Iran –Iraq war
1981 Israel bombs nuclear facility at Osirak
1988 Halabja poison gas attack
1990 Invasion of Kuwait, Gulf War I
No Fly Zones, Sanctions
2003 Gulf War II
Sectarian violence, Formation of AQI
2009 transfer of security responsibilities
2011 US leaves Iraq
2014 ISIS in Falluja, Mosul, Tikrit
2005 constitution, democratic, federal
parliamentary Islamic republic
Executive, legislative, and judicial branches,
The National Alliance
Nouri al Maliki
Haider al Abadi
19 Provinces, semi autonomous Kurdistan
2010 Failed States Index, 7th in instability
18%–30% unemployed
per capita GDP of $4,000
60% public sector employees
Women 22% of work force
Oil provides 95% foreign exchange earnings
but little employment
2nd after Saudi Arabia in total researves
30 Million people
80% Arab, 15% Kurd, 5% Other
65% Sunni, 35% Shi’ite
Adult literacy 84%
1947 "Unity, Liberty, Socialism“
A mix of Pan-Arabism and Socialism
Also prominent in Syria
The Arab nation is considered, philosophically
speaking, not as a social and economic formation,
but as a transcendent fact inspiring different forms,
one of its highest contributions taking the form of
Islam. It was not Islam that modeled the peoples of
Arabia, the Fertile Crescent, and North Africa,
equipping them with Islamic values, especially the
Arabic language and the Arabic culture, but the
Arab nation which created Islam.
Saddam Hussein Abd
al-Majid al-Tikriti
President 1979 – 2003
Attended 3 years of
Law School, Joined
the Ba’ath 1957
High school Teacher
Nationalization of the oil industry
National Campaign for the Eradication of
Compulsory Free Education in Iraq
Health care, Farm Subsidies, infrastructure
The execution of Saddam
Hussein took place on 30
December 2006. Hussein
was sentenced to death by
hanging, after being found
guilty and convicted of
crimes against humanity
by the Iraqi Special
Tribunal for the murder of
148 Iraqi Shi'ites in the
town of Dujail in 1982, in
retaliation for an
assassination attempt
against him
2003 Al Qaeda in Iraq
2006 Abu Musab al
Muqtada al Sadr
Mahdi Army
GrandeAyatollah Ali
2005 Anbar
Shi’ite death squads
2006 – 2007 Sunni
Shi’ite War
Took office in 2006
Extensive corruption
Failure of inclusion
Abuse of de Ba’athification Laws to target
political opponents
Protesters branded as terrorists
Abu Bakr al Baghdadi
Defiance of al Qaeda Central
Declaration of the Caliphate in Mosul
Erased the Syrian Iraqi border
Kurdish Peshmerga

Politics of the Middle East