- Editor’s Note
Here at The Middle East Journal, we always seek to offer at least a few timely research articles per issue, while also staying true to our mission to provide broader understanding of the region though groundbreaking historical, sociological, and anthropological research. This issue, we are fortunate enough to have a collection articles that achieve both these goals.
As this issue goes to press, purported sarin attacks by the Syrian regime against its people and the subsequent American retaliatory missile strikes have returned chemical warfare to the headlines. Though Chris Quillen’s article on the use of chemical weapons in the Arab world had been in our backlog of accepted articles for over a year and was scheduled for the present issue, the recent developments make the topic more pressing. In his article, Quillen offers a comparative analysis in instances of chemical weapons use in the modern Arab world, looking for trends in the contexts in which they have been deployed and for commonalities among the regimes that have used them: those of Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser in Egypt, Saddam Husayn in Iraq, Mu‘ammar al-Qadhafi in Libya, and Bashar al-Asad in Syria.
Our second article looks at the Syrian conflict in greater depth. Zafer Kızılkaya, who is pursuing a joint Ph.D. at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Royal Military Academy of Belgium, interrogates the Lebanese group Hizbullah’s intervention in Syria on the side of the Asad regime. Kızılkaya’s highly timely article looks at the rationale Hizbullah leaders — particularly its secretary general, Shaykh Hasan Nasrallah — have used to justify the group’s military engagement outside Lebanon. The article notes how Hizbullah has framed its decision within its own moral arguments, which Kızılkaya compares to Western philosophical debates about the ethics of war.
Questions of morality in military interventions surface in the next following article, which analyzes the sovereignty vacuum in the wake of the 2011 uprising against Qadhafi in Libya. Lisa Anderson — who has long been a major scholar of Libya (and the region writ large) and has had a distinguished career at Columbia University and the American University in Cairo — offers a look at today’s Libya in the country’s larger historical context, offering a comparison to the previous Western interventions in Libya: Italy’s conquest and consolidation of its rule (1911–22) and the years of joint Anglo-French rule under UN auspices between Italy’s defeat and Libyan independence (1943–51). Although The Middle East Journal is devoted to the post–World War II era, Anderson’s treatment of the Italian conquest is important for background and illustrating historical continuities.
After examining these fraught attempts to create sovereign institutions in the 20th century, it is instructive to turn to what ended up becoming one of the most enduring institutions of that era: the Israeli elections. Though they have ended up becoming more frequent than originally designed due to the Jewish state’s fractious politics, Israel has had 20 parliamentary votes since the state’s creation in 1948. For all that time, The Middle East Journal has regularly run analyses of these elections. For decades, [End Page 191] Don Peretz contributed most of these. When Don retired, the late Gideon Doron contributed a few on this theme. In that tradition, Doron Navot, Aviad Rubin, and As’ad Ghanem the University of Haifa stepped up in 2014 to cover the previous year’s election, and they return in this issue with a detailed analysis of the 2015 Israeli election.
Due to a last-minute problem, the issue contains only four feature articles rather than the usual five.
This quarter’s Book Review Article, by David Romano of Missouri State University, reviews three books on Kurdish politics and identity. In addition you will find the usual full range of book reviews and our quarterly Chronology. Between issues I would remind you that there is a wealth of content on the Middle East Institute’s website at www.mei.edu, as well as my daily MEI Editor’s Blog accessible through the website or directly at https://mideasti.blogspot.com. [End Page...