Reform in the Middle East Oil Monarchies (Middle East Studies)

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9780863724145: Reform in the Middle East Oil Monarchies (Middle East Studies)
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The oil rich monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula are frequently dismissed as having no democratic systems compared to most other regions of the world. Indeed, the United States justified its action in Iraq by proclaiming that democracy and freedom must be adopted, both in Iraq and throughout the wider Middle East, in order to counter the conditions which breed international terrorism. It has been argued that the countries of the Arabian Peninsula need to provide a system of democratic representation that fully takes into account their own history and culture. This raises many questions. Can their firmly established tradition of rule provide the basis for the evolution of an Arab form of constitutional monarchy? Should the West be seeking to encourage national indigenous evolution rather than working to impose Western systems? What are the risks of change and what has been achieved so far? Through articles by eminent academics and government officials, this book - now available in paperback - addresses these issues and examines the drivers, progress, and challenges for future change in this vitally strategic area of the world.

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About the Author:

Professor Anoushiravan Ehteshami is Head of the School of Government and International Affairs and Professor of International Relations at the University of Durham. Dr Steven Wright is currently Assistant Professor in International Affairs at Qatar University.

Review:

"We are encouraged to avoid judging a book by its cover. This dictum is no more apt than with Reform in the Middle East Oil Monarchies. The work is broadly concerned with contemporary economic and political liberalization in the monarchies of the Arabian/Persian Gulf. But the map on the front cover of the book erroneously includes Iraq in this category, despite the fact that Iraq has not been a monarchy since the 1950s and, even though it is frequently mentioned, no chapter in the volume is devoted to it. Even so, the contents of this book - the result of a conference held at Durham University in 2005 - represent a cogent and serious attempt to tackle the issues of reform in the Gulf, and, although recent events have overtaken some of the discussion in the text, the analysis remains relevant. The book is divided into three sections. Part one consists of three chapters and aims to place reform in its theoretical and historical context. In Chapter one, Gerd Nonnerman reminds us that liberalization and democratization are distinct, and one need not follow the other. He notes that economic growth and the development of civil society are unlikely to be sufficient to promote democratization in the Gulf. He concludes that the immense capacity of the Gulf States to distribute rents to their populations is likely to work against democratization; this despite the emergence of constraints to rentierism such as the rules of World Trade Organization (WTO), to which all Gulf monarchies now belong. In Chapter two, and with the backdrop of the UK/US invasion of Iraq, former UK government minister Baroness Symons attempts to reconcile two potentially contradictory positions, namely, that human rights are fundamental and universal, and preferably authentic and indigenous rather than Western impositions. In Chapter three, Behgat Korany tackles the issue of Islam and democracy. The chapter is surprisingly incoherent: it begins with a comparison of the "democratic deficit" between Egypt and Iraq and abruptly transitions to a brief, under-developed treatment - more an assertion than a demonstration - of the basic compatibility of democracy and Islam. The approach marginalizes pertinent scholarship and evidence that could have been used to convincingly illustrate this crucial point. Part two of the book presents individual case studies and consists of seven chapters. In Chapter four, Neil Quilliam posits that the aim of political liberalization in Bahrain has been to consolidate the power of the ruling family, and (interestingly, given the events since his writing) he argues that the reforms have raised expectation to such an extent that a retreat is virtually unimaginable without a serious rupture. Along similar lines, Ahmed Abdelkareem Saif, in Chapter five, predicts that limited, U.S.-championed political reforms in Qatar (and the region generally) are unlikely to deliver the regional stability that the U.S. seeks. Saif makes a compelling point about Islam and democracy; he argues that it is not Islam that is incompatible with democratization, but the extant tribal social structure, where the "mode of production" is associated with an oil-exporting economy and the "mode of consumption" connected to oil-funded imports. In Chapter six, Sayyid Badr Bin Sa'ud Al-Busaidi, Oman's Deputy Foreign Minister, explains that the course of his country's democratic development is not pre-determined by a Western blueprint but is to be shaped by homegrown needs and priorities, echoing Symons. The theme of local specificity stands in contrast to Rodney Wilson's analysis of economic reform in Saudi Arabia in Chapter seven, which illustrates how Saudi Arabia implemented the key Washington Consensus precepts that were required for it to join the WTO, eroding the state's capacity to allocate largesse in the process. On the other hand, Wilson also shows in this highly instructive chapter how Saudi Arabia has resisted International Monetary Fund (IMF) calls to diversify revenues through taxation. In Chapter eight, Christopher Davidson argues that economic reforms in Dubai, including the setting up of free trade zones and real estate restructurings, have facilitated economic diversification away from oil and encouraged foreign investment. This is a bold statement, even if one considers the euphoria that use to surround Dubai's economic development strategy and especially as Davidson does not consider other strategies that might have had similar, if not better, results. In Chapter nine, Emma Murphy presents a nuanced study of the effects of information technology on political transformation. In contrast to the sometimes exaggerated narrative concerning the role of technology in the Arab Spring, Murphy, writing well before the recent events, offers us a sober reminder that that new technology in the hands of the state might work to strengthen authoritarianism. In general, however, she tends to view new technologies as a small net positive for democratization. In Chapter ten, Mohammad Al Rumaihi attempts to anticipate the types of reform that might occur in the region. Part three of the book contains two chapters that place reform in the Gulf monarchies in its geopolitical and international context. As of the mid-2000s, Steven Wright, in Chapter eleven, detects a change in U.S. policy towards the Gulf, away from upholding the status quo and in the direction of political reform, a synthesis of Wilsonian and Jacksonian trends in U.S. foreign policy. Wright does not consider that the new policy might be an essentially Jacksonian defense of U.S. interests presented in a more appealing Wilsonian narrative of rights and freedoms, without which the policy could not be implemented. Finally, in Chapter twelve, Mahjoob Zweiri, critically contrasts the reforms of Khatami's Iran with those in Saudi Arabia. A number of themes run through the various articles in this book. There is a generally guarded view of reform and deep skepticism that it provides a clear or reliable roadmap to democracy. Indeed, Quilliam's article implies that the limited liberalization in Bahrain was designed to buttress the ruling autocracy. There is also repeated reference in many of the articles of the book to the rentier state theory to explain authoritarianism: oil revenues provide the resources to buy off or repress social opposition and reduce the need to tax, enhancing the autonomy of the state. However, the line of causation that is invoked is essentially unidirectional and does not allow for the possibility that oil revenues have the opposite effect; for example, that they generate expectations (reasonable or otherwise) that constrain the state in its dealings with society. The topic of unemployment (or underemployment) of local labor, which a number of articles talk about, underlines how oil wealth can warp expectations and arguably reduce state autonomy. The issue, fundamentally, in these oil monarchies is not stagnant labor demand (there are millions of expatriate workers in these countries) and (less and less) the low skills set of indigenous labor force, but that oil wealth has created a strong preference, on the part of the local population, for comfortable, well-paid and prestigious jobs. Quotas, state subsidies (designed to encourage the private sector to hire more expensive local labor) and (or) expanded government employment are then pursued by the state in response to the public demand for more (and high-status) jobs. Be that as it may, we are left to wonder how precisely the Washington Consensus reforms that have been applied in the Gulf (and the subject of a considerable part of the book) might enhance employment creation for indigenous labor, without radical and destabilizing departures from established aspirations (that are implied in wage cuts). Given the importance, vis-a-vis social stability, which is often attached to employment creation, the omission is an important one." Review by Bassam Yousif, PhD Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN

"We are encouraged to avoid judging a book by its cover. This dictum is no more apt than with Reform in the Middle East Oil Monarchies. The work is broadly concerned with contemporary economic and political liberalization in the monarchies of the Arabian/Persian Gulf. But the map on the front cover of the book erroneously includes Iraq in this category, despite the fact that Iraq has not been a monarchy since the 1950s and, even though it is frequently mentioned, no chapter in the volume is devoted to it. Even so, the contents of this book - the result of a conference held at Durham University in 2005 - represent a cogent and serious attempt to tackle the issues of reform in the Gulf, and, although recent events have overtaken some of the discussion in the text, the analysis remains relevant. The book is divided into three sections. Part one consists of three chapters and aims to place reform in its theoretical and historical context. In Chapter one, Gerd Nonnerman reminds us that liberalization and democratization are distinct, and one need not follow the other. He notes that economic growth and the development of civil society are unlikely to be sufficient to promote democratization in the Gulf. He concludes that the immense capacity of the Gulf States to distribute rents to their populations is likely to work against democratization; this despite the emergence of constraints to rentierism such as the rules of World Trade Organization (WTO), to which all Gulf monarchies now belong. In Chapter two, and with the backdrop of the UK/US invasion of Iraq, former UK government minister Baroness Symons attempts to reconcile two potentially contradictory positions, namely, that human rights are fundamental and universal, and preferably authentic and indigenous rather than Western impositions. In Chapter three, Behgat Korany tackles the issue of Islam and democracy. The chapter is surprisingly incoherent: it begins with a comparison of the "democratic deficit" between Egypt and Iraq and abruptly transitions to a brief, under-developed treatment - more an assertion than a demonstration - of the basic compatibility of democracy and Islam. The approach marginalizes pertinent scholarship and evidence that could have been used to convincingly illustrate this crucial point. Part two of the book presents individual case studies and consists of seven chapters. In Chapter four, Neil Quilliam posits that the aim of political liberalization in Bahrain has been to consolidate the power of the ruling family, and (interestingly, given the events since his writing) he argues that the reforms have raised expectation to such an extent that a retreat is virtually unimaginable without a serious rupture. Along similar lines, Ahmed Abdelkareem Saif, in Chapter five, predicts that limited, U.S.-championed political reforms in Qatar (and the region generally) are unlikely to deliver the regional stability that the U.S. seeks. Saif makes a compelling point about Islam and democracy; he argues that it is not Islam that is incompatible with democratization, but the extant tribal social structure, where the "mode of production" is associated with an oil-exporting economy and the "mode of consumption" connected to oil-funded imports. In Chapter six, Sayyid Badr Bin Sa'ud Al-Busaidi, Oman's Deputy Foreign Minister, explains that the course of his country's democratic development is not pre-determined by a Western blueprint but is to be shaped by homegrown needs and priorities, echoing Symons. The theme of local specificity stands in contrast to Rodney Wilson's analysis of economic reform in Saudi Arabia in Chapter seven, which illustrates how Saudi Arabia implemented the key Washington Consensus precepts that were required for it to join the WTO, eroding the state's capacity to allocate largesse in the process. On the other hand, Wilson also shows in this highly instructive chapter how Saudi Arabia has resisted International Monetary Fund (IMF) calls to diversify revenues through taxation. In Chapter eight, Christopher Davidson argues that economic reforms in Dubai, including the setting up of free trade zones and real estate restructurings, have facilitated economic diversification away from oil and encouraged foreign investment. This is a bold statement, even if one considers the euphoria that use to surround Dubai's economic development strategy and especially as Davidson does not consider other strategies that might have had similar, if not better, results. In Chapter nine, Emma Murphy presents a nuanced study of the effects of information technology on political transformation. In contrast to the sometimes exaggerated narrative concerning the role of technology in the Arab Spring, Murphy, writing well before the recent events, offers us a sober reminder that that new technology in the hands of the state might work to strengthen authoritarianism. In general, however, she tends to view new technologies as a small net positive for democratization. In Chapter ten, Mohammad Al Rumaihi attempts to anticipate the types of reform that might occur in the region. Part three of the book contains two chapters that place reform in the Gulf monarchies in its geopolitical and international context. As of the mid-2000s, Steven Wright, in Chapter eleven, detects a change in U.S. policy towards the Gulf, away from upholding the status quo and in the direction of political reform, a synthesis of Wilsonian and Jacksonian trends in U.S. foreign policy. Wright does not consider that the new policy might be an essentially Jacksonian defense of U.S. interests presented in a more appealing Wilsonian narrative of rights and freedoms, without which the policy could not be implemented. Finally, in Chapter twelve, Mahjoob Zweiri, critically contrasts the reforms of Khatami's Iran with those in Saudi Arabia. A number of themes run through the various articles in this book. There is a generally guarded view of reform and deep skepticism that it provides a clear or reliable roadmap to democracy. Indeed, Quilliam's article implies that the limited liberalization in Bahrain was designed to buttress the ruling autocracy. There is also repeated reference in many of the articles of the book to the rentier state theory to explain authoritarianism: oil revenues provide the resources to buy off or repress social opposition and reduce the need to tax, enhancing the autonomy of the state. However, the line of causation that is invoked is essentially unidirectional and does not allow for the possibility that oil revenues have the opposite effect; for example, that they generate expectations (reasonable or otherwise) that constrain the state in its dealings with society. The topic of unemployment (or underemployment) of local labor, which a number of articles talk about, underlines how oil wealth can warp expectations and arguably reduce state autonomy. The issue, fundamentally, in these oil monarchies is not stagnant labor demand (there are millions of expatriate workers in these countries) and (less and less) the low skills set of indigenous labor force, but that oil wealth has created a strong preference, on the part of the local population, for comfortable, well-paid and prestigious jobs. Quotas, state subsidies (designed to encourage the private sector to hire more expensive local labor) and (or) expanded government employment are then pursued by the state in response to the public demand for more (and high-status) jobs. Be that as it may, we are left to wonder how precisely the Washington Consensus reforms that have been applied in the Gulf (and the subject of a considerable part of the book) might enhance employment creation for indigenous labor, without radical and destabilizing departures from established aspirations (that are implied in wage cuts). Given the importance, vis-a-vis social stability, which is often attached to employment creation, the...

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