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Syria-Iraq relations: state construction and deconstruction and the MENA state system

Hinnebusch, Raymond (2014) Syria-Iraq relations: state construction and deconstruction and the MENA state system. LSE Middle East Centre paper (04). Middle East Centre, London, UK.

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This paper examines Syria-Iraq relations in order to explore wider issues of regional politics. It presents an overview of the historical stages in relations between the two countries since their formation, with the aim of using their changing relations as indicators of changes in both regional states and in the regional states system. The paper argues that state formation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has followed a bell-shaped curve, first rising, then declining, and altering, in parallel, the character of the states system. Each stage in Syria-Iraq relations is emblematic of the state of the MENA states system at the time. Syria and Iraq are near ‘siblings’ with key shared experiences. Firstly, their malformed construction under imperialism left behind fragmented ‘artificial’ states with built-in irredentism and powerful trans-state identities. Secondly, both states’ formation advanced under Ba’thist authoritarian regimes via a combination of party-building, oil and war. Then, they also faced similar challenges from US hegemony in the region in the 1990s, albeit responding in quite different ways. Finally, beginning in 2003 in Iraq, with the US invasion, and in 2011 in Syria, with the outbreak of the Syrian Uprising, both states have suffered deconstruction under various combinations of internal revolt and external intervention. Syria and Iraq have again been reduced to weak states suffering more intense trans-state conflict, loss of territorial control and challenges to their borders. This, allied to the penetration of both by trans-state ideology, has placed Syria and Iraq at the epicentre of a widening sectarianism of the whole regional system. This paper seeks to understand the state formation trajectories of Syria and Iraq. It builds on the foundation laid by several classic studies of Syria-Iraq relations, such as Patrick Seale’s (1965) work on the struggle for Syria after early independence, Eberhard Kienle’s Ba’th vs Ba’th (1990), which focused on the Pan-Arab period and Malik Mufti’s Sovereign Creations (1996), which updated the narrative into the period of relative state consolidation. The paper carries the story forward to the current time. The paper is organised in the following sections: 1) It first adumbrates an historical sociology lens for understanding the topic; 2) historic Syria-Iraq relations are then detailed as indicators of the evolution of the states and state system; and 3) Syria-Iraq relations just prior to and during the Arab Uprisings are examined, as iconic of the current condition of the states system.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 The Author
Divisions: Middle East Centre
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2014 14:07
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 23:32

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