This paper probes major directions in South Korea's Middle East foreign policy under the presidency of Lee Myung-bak, during a turbulent transitional period in the region. These include serious attempts to forge multifaceted and long-lasting connections with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), efforts to penetrate Kurdistan's energy and construction industries, and strategies to overcome the quandary of sanctions against Iran. Epitomized by the concept of ‘déjà vu diplomacy’, this study argues that Lee drew heavily on his previous experiences in the Middle East in a nostalgic sense of thrill and action, striving to foster Seoul's policy goals and to extend the country's increasing vested interests in the region. Drawing on international relations theory, this research also attributes the Lee administration's achievements in the Middle East to a combination of both individual (statesman) and international system (structure) elements, with a greater emphasis on the former than on the latter. However, it in no way gainsays the overall contribution of the state bureaucracy as an ancillary component to other parameters.

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