The Arab – Israel conflict can be traced back to the creation of the Jewish state in the Middle East region in 1948. This led to rising tensions in the region, and upset the balance of power in the Middle East. The conflict escalated especially after the first Arab- Israel war in 1948 that saw Arab powers led by Egypt and Jordan invade the newly created Jewish state. The powers felt the United Nation partition plan of Palestine in 1947 greatly favored the Jews at the expense of the local Palestine population (Fawcett slide 14 of Fawcet chapter 3). The outcome of the war saw Israel greatly expanding its territory and the Arab World facing a major defeat.
In brief the formation, existence and position of Egypt can be explained by the constructionist theory. In this theory, the formation of states by anarchies is multifaceted and their socialization explains their interests and actions. It is from this premise that this paper shall examine the position of Egypt and analyze its position historically and currently. Egypt was considered the de facto leader of the Arab world, and indeed led the Arab league offensive against the state of Israel. The defeat of the Arabs particularly affected the Egyptian national pulse very much. The loss demoralized officers in the military, with a section of them forming an underground movement called the free officers movement led by colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser. The group formed links with the largely middle class nationalistic movement who felt the policies of the monarchy were doing little to alleviate corruption and improve the welfare of the state.
Eventually, the movement toppled the government in 1952, with General Muhammad Naguib, a war time hero, being the figurehead leader. However, real power lay with Nasser. Nasser sought to remove all elements of imperialism in Egypt’s foreign policy that had for years, been dominated by the British and French. On the domestic front, he abolished the monarchy and routed for a parliamentary democracy (Fawcett slide 12 of Fawcet chapter 3). He further abolished feudalism and initiated a nationwide agrarian revolution as he believed a food reliant Egypt won’t fall prey to foreign interests. To protect the revolution from pro – royalists and other groups, he cracked down on dissidents and had many under house arrests.
On the regional front, the threat of Britain, France and Israel still threatened the security of Egypt. This was especially manifested during the Suez Canal crisis of 1956. Egypt nationalized the canal which was largely controlled by French and British. This led to the Suez crisis that saw the imperial powers invade Egypt. Only the restraining efforts of the superpowers, USA and the former USSSR averted a full scale war. The victory over the canal affirmed Egypt’s role as the leader of the Arab world, ready to protect its national interests at all costs. In a bid to protect the region from Israel domination, Nasser, as a strong pan Arabism, helped found the United Arab Republic comprised of Egypt, Syria and later North Yemen.
On the international arena, Egypt, being a strategic point in the Middle East and a major Middle East power, experienced a lot of cold war politics. Egypt sought to play the superpowers against each other depending on circumstances. For instance, during the construction of the Aswan Dam, Nasser resorted to the USSR for help when the USA withdrew from the project. During the tripartite invasion following the Suez crisis, Egypt largely escaped defeat in war due to condemnation of the invasion by the USA under the Eisenhower administration. Thus it can be successfully argued that Egypt policies closely followed the structural realist theory. With formation of the state of Israel, the Middle East was thrown into chaos as the new state tried to assert itself while the other powers tried to maintain the balance of power that existed before. The buildup of tension resulted into war between Egypt and Israel on several occasions.
The 2003 Iraq war was a US led offensive that aimed to topple Saddam Hussein’ s regime and destroy the country’s supposedly cache of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was viewed as a dictator by leading western powers. Kuwait was one of the Middle East countries that supported the US – led coalition military campaign. Kuwait’s position can be explained by its strained relationship with Iraq that had worsened sharply especially following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the early nineties
Iraq and Iran had engaged in a costly war that had left the Iraq economy badly shattered. Besides, it had huge debts owed to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as result of the war. Furthermore, Iraq claimed that Kuwait produced more oil than its quota, leading to fall of world oil prices per barrel, thus worsening Iraq’s financial position. In a bid to stem off its economic woes, Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait, claiming it to be part of its Basra province. Indeed, Kuwait had been hived off the Basra enclave by the British back in 1921. Widespread international condemnation on the invasion was followed by a US led military offensive to repulse the Iraqis.
After the Gulf war, Iraq under Saddam Hussein still refused to recognize Kuwait as an independent state, and threats of annexation loomed large. Thus the toppling of Iraq’s regime came as a relief to the country. Iraq’s debt to Kuwait is still an emotive issue to Kuwait citizens. Many feel the debt has to be paid, and it still defines the relationship between the two countries. On the regional arena, Kuwait has aligned itself with countries that supported its liberation during the gulf war such as Saud Arabia. It is important to note that latter is a strong US ally. Saud Arabia was at the forefront of the coalition forces, and actually paid nearly half of the total war cost.
On the international front, Kuwait, being a strong ally of western powers such as the United States and the United Kingdom, could afford to take an opposing stand against Iran, contrary to the spirit of Arab brotherhood. In fact, Kuwait supported the actual war effort by providing launching pads for the invading force. Kuwait can be said to be actively pursuing the constructivism theory of state relations. The theory purports that anarchies are multifaceted, and states interact with each other based on their own interests. Kuwait is a monarchy, ruled by the Emir, while Iraq is a federal parliamentary Islamic republic. The nature of governance has played a role in shaping of the country’s foreign policy. It has strong ties with Saud Arabia, which is also a monarchy.
Its history with Iraq still dictates foreign policy. It has strained ties with countries that supported its annexation by Iraq, for example Jordan and Libya, while maintaining strong ties with countries that supported its liberation.
Fawcett, Louise. International Relations of the Middle East. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Lawson , Fred. "International Relations Theory and the Middle East." n.d.
Rogan, Eugene. "The Emmergence of the Middle East into the Modern State System." n.d.