- The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa ed. by Mark Gasiorowski
Unlike previous editions of The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa, Professor of Political Science at Tulane University Mark Gasiorowski served as the sole editor of the seventh edition. The book’s individual chapters, each written by a country specialist, cover states from Iran in the East to Morocco in the West. It also contains a chapter on “The Palestinians,” not the “State of Palestine.” The United Nations granted Palestine non-member observer state status in 2012. By then, it had already received state recognition by over 90 countries. By September 2015, 136 countries (over 70 percent of UN member states) had granted it state recognition. This collection, however, follows the US-Israeli position by not identifying Palestine as a state. Nonetheless, Glenn E. Robinson, the author of the chapter on the Palestinians, penned a well-written, informative contribution on the subject.
The collection of essays opens with an introductory chapter by Gasiorowski covering the history, geography, socio-economic conditions, and domestic politics of the region. He makes reference to Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, but is silent on Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal. A serious omission, since Israel is the only country in the vast region of the Middle East and North Africa that [End Page 254] possesses nuclear weapons. Each country chapter follows a similar organizational structure: a historical overview, discussion of socio-economic and geopolitical factors, followed by sections on foreign policy and future prospects. All chapters are accompanied by country maps that too often lack place names that appear in the text. Even more problematic, the book chapters only cover events up to 2012. Because so much has happened in the region since then, the book is already outdated. Nonetheless, most authors have done an excellent job presenting information to that point. Especially impressive is Professor of Political Science at Auburn University Jill Crystal’s presentation of the historic and political complexities of the Eastern Arabian States of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.
One exception to this praise is the chapter on Israel by David H. Goldberg, the Research Director at Dynamic Global Information Service in Toronto. The chapter is so unbalanced and one-sided that readers might regard it as pro-Israel propaganda. Goldberg maintains that Iran has a nuclear weapons program and nuclear weapons facilities, even though their existence has not been confirmed by inspection agencies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency. By contrast, he avoids discussion of Israel’s nuclear weapons stockpile, which US Defense Intelligence estimates at a minimum of 80 warheads. He does not mention Israel’s refusal to ratify the Nuclear Weapons Non-proliferation Treaty (something Iran has done) and Israel’s opposition to turning the Middle East into a nuclear weapons free zone, a goal favored by Iran and the other Middle Eastern countries. Goldberg also omits discussion of Israel’s continual acquisition of Palestine lands, the International Court of [End Page 255] Justice’s conclusion that Israel’s security wall is a mechanism for further unlawful land acquisition, the numerous Amnesty International reports documenting Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians, and the many UN General Assembly Resolutions calling on Israel to cease violating Palestinian human rights. Goldberg presents Israel as the peace seeker surrounded by terrorists.
Given the book’s datedness, readers might want to assess the degree to which authors have accurately predicted the future prospects for each country. I mention only two here. In her chapter on Iraq, Professor of International Affairs at George Washington University Judith S. Yaphe foreshadows the continuing internal sectarian and ethnic problems under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. She attributes many of Iraq’s domestic issues to Maliki-induced divisiveness, and foresaw continued instability under Maliki’s leadership. Many Iraqis and foreign backers reached the same conclusion and forced Maliki out of office in 2014. Gasiorowski contributes an excellent chapter on Iran, but he missed the mark when he predicted that the...