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The New Arab Cold War: rediscovering the Arab dimension of Middle East regional politics

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Valbjørn, Morten; Bank, André

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Abstract This article provides a conceptual lens for and a thick interpretation of the emergent regional constellation in the Middle East in the first decade of the 21st century. It starts out by challenging two prevalent claims about regional politics in the context of the 2006 Lebanon and 2008–09 Gaza Wars: Firstly, that regional politics is marked by a fundamental break from the ‘old Middle East’ and secondly, that it has become ‘post-Arab’ in the sense that Arab politics has ceased being distinctly Arab. Against this background, the article develops the understanding of a New Arab Cold War which accentuates the still important, but widely neglected Arab dimension in regional politics. By rediscovering the Arab Cold War of the 1950–60s and by drawing attention to the transformation of Arab nationalism and the importance of new trans-Arab media, the New Arab Cold War perspective aims at supplementing rather that supplanting the prominent moderate-radical, sectarian and Realist-Westphalian narratives. By highlighting dimensions of both continuity and change it does moreover provide some critical nuances to the frequent claims about the ‘newness’ of the ‘New Middle East’. In addition to this more Middle East-specific contribution, the article carries lessons for a number of more general debates in International Relations theory concerning the importance of (Arab-Islamist) non-state actors and competing identities in regional politics as well as the interplay between different forms of sovereignty.
Keywords Middle East; Arab countries; twenty-first century; nationalism; regional policy; international relations; foreign policy; international security; international system; cold war; experiential knowledge
Classification Peace and Conflict Research, International Conflicts, Security Policy
Free Keywords Krieg zwischen Israel und Hizb Allah im Libanon (2006-07-12/2006-08-14); Krieg zwischen Israel und Hamas im Gazastreifen (2008-12-27/2009-01-18)
Document language English
Publication Year 2012
Page/Pages p. 3-24
Journal Review of International Studies, 38 (2012) 1
ISSN 1469-9044
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications
This publication is with permission of the rights owner freely accessible due to an Alliance licence and a national licence (funded by the DFG, German Research Foundation) respectively.