It would be a mistake to believe that the Arab regional system (heretofore referred to as the ‘Arab regional system’; ‘the system’ or the ‘regional system’) is endangered by the current instability and upheaval affecting the Arab region, and that the threats that currently loom over it are new and unlike anything that have previously been faced. It would be equally erroneous to believe that the current dangers and threats are merely a repetition of what the system has experienced before and was able to confront and deal with. To say that the Arab regional system is a ‘product of struggle’ that originated and developed amid the successive waves of internal conflict between the countries that it comprises and the external clashes with other regional and international powers would not be an exaggeration. Up to now the Arab regional system has disproved all the analyses that predicted its death, beginning with Fouad Ajami's famous studies entitled “The End of Pan Arabism” (1978/79, in Foreign Affairs 57 (2): 355–373) and The Arab Predicament: Arab Political Thought and Practice since 1967 (1992, Cambridge University Press) to Burhan Ghalioun's article for Al Jazeera (“Nihayah al-nizam al-iqlimi al-'arabi” [The end of the Arab regional system]. Al Jazeera, 10 March 2004), just as it proved its ability to contain the threats it faced and to adapt to them. The reason for its survival is primarily attributable to a unique feature that distinguishes it from other regional systems; this feature combines two characteristics: geographical continuity between a group of neighbouring states (with the exception of Somalia and the Comoros Islands), and linguistic homogeneity, cultural affinity and a sense of belonging to a common space of civilization and culture, while simultaneously acknowledging the existence of diversity and distinctive particularities. The question arises today as to whether the Arab regional system can continue to sustain itself successfully, or whether the present challenges and threats it now faces are of a new kind that go beyond the capabilities of its institutions and member states? Within this context, this opinion and position paper focuses on the author's point of view and the essential factors supporting it. It does not present, discuss or critic the views of others. The paper is divided into three parts: the first describes the origin of the Arab regional system and its development in the heart of struggle; the second describes the new factors that endanger and challenge the status quo; and the third proposes scenarios for the future of the Arab system.
Research Article| January 01 2015
The Arab regional system: a question of survival*
Contemporary Arab Affairs (2015) 8 (1): 96–108.
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Ali El Deen Hillal Dessouki; The Arab regional system: a question of survival. Contemporary Arab Affairs 1 January 2015; 8 (1): 96–108. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/17550912.2014.990797
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