- Editor’s Note
At a time when much of the world’s attention is again focused on the Middle East, our Autumn issue offers a range of articles that may serve to elucidate the background of current developments. Two deal with Lebanon in the aftermath of the Syrian withdrawal and the Arab Spring uprisings; two more, plus our book review essay, deal with Iraq or the broader hydro-politics of the Fertile Crescent, and the fifth addresses Israel’s response to the Arab League’s Arab Peace Initiative, which may be of interest given the current moribund state of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
We begin with two Lebanese scholars addressing recent politics in that country. Tamirace Fakhoury of the Lebanese American University’s article is an examination of Lebanon’s complex power-sharing system and how that system weathered the era of what she terms “the Arab protest wave.” The American University of Beirut’s Ohannes Geukjian addresses the related question of stresses in the Lebanese system in the wake of the Syrian withdrawal in 2005. The two articles together offer insight into the stresses and strains on the Lebanese power-sharing system over the past decade.
With Iraq dominating much of the recent news, David Romano of Missouri State University provides an analysis of the degree to which the provisions of Iraq’s constitution providing for a decentralized federal system were undermined or ignored by the centralizing government in Baghdad, alienating not only the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government but the Sunni regions as well, helping to provoke the collapse of this past summer.
Recent events in both Iraq and Syria have also reminded us of the historical and geographical links involving the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys; Mark Dohrmann and Robert Hatem address the hydro-politics of the region and its role in the relations between Turkey and the states downstream, Syria and Iraq. Despite much talk about “water wars” and the impact of Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP), they ultimately conclude that other forms of national interest have driven recent shifts in relations among these states.
As with many times in recent years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict heated up this summer. The fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has led many to look to possible solutions old and new, with Egyptian president ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi recently bringing the Arab Peace Initiative back into the news. The initiative, first proposed by Saudi Arabia’s then-regnant crown prince ‘Abdullah in 2002 and approved at the Arab League Summit in Beirut that year. Professor Elie Podeh of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem argues that by never responding officially to the initative — the first in which the Arab world as a whole offered peace — Israel may have missed a potential opportunity.
Iraq is also the subject of our Book Review Essay in this issue, by Feisal Amin Rasoul al-Istrabadi of Indiana University–Bloomington, reviewing two books analyzing the constitution-writing process in Iraq. The political roots of the present crisis are a theme here as well, and the review relates to many of the same issues raised by Romano’s article.
As always, the issue contains a full range of other book reviews and our quarterly Chronology. I would also remind readers that between issues of the Journal they can find regular commentary on the region through The Middle East Institute website (www.mei.edu) and through my MEI Editor’s blog (accessible via the website or http://mideasti.blogspot.com). [End Page 503]