Event Reports

KAS AMMAN at the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Event: International Conference Date/Place: July 19th to 24th, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona/Institut Europeu de la Mediterrània, Barcelona, Spain. Concept: Dr. Martin Beck Organisation: KAS Amman Office

Wednesday, 21st, 2010

Dr. Martin Beck - Resident Representative, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Amman Jordan

Thomas Birringer - Resident Representative, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Abu Dhabi – UAE

Heba Negm - Second Secretary, Embassy and Permenant Mission of Egypt, Vienna - Austria

Dr. Christian Koch - Director of International Studies, Gulf Research Center, Dubai - UAE

Prof. Dr. Carlo Masala - University of the Federal Armed Forces, Munich,Department of Political Science, Professorship in International Politics

Dr. Yasar Qatarneh - Director, Third Way Institute, Amman - Jordan

1. Overview

The WOCMES (World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies) is one of the most importantinternational conferences on Middle Eastern studies which takes place only every four years. For KAS Amman which was supported by the Resident Representativeof the KAS Office in Abu Dhabi Thomas Birringer—the attendance of the conferenceoffered the great chance to present its work to a knowledgeable and influential audiencefrom the Middle East, Europe, and the US and to improve its networks with both the academic world and the media. More specifically, KAS Amman represented by its Resident Representative Dr. Martin Beck and his Research Assistant Léa Collet presented its work at an information and book stand at the book fare of WOCMES.Moreover, KAS Amman organised a panel on “The Multi-Level Facet of Middle EasternSecurity”. Dr. Martin Beck also presented a research paper on “The Concept of RegionalPower as Applied to the Middle East” in the frame of a panel on “(No) RegionalPower in the Middle East”. Dr. Beck participated also as a discussant in the panel „Rethinking the Mediterranean: New Perspectives on Interaction between ‘Us’ and‘Them’”.

The KAS representatives supported by Germanprofessor for international relations Dr.Carlo Masala conducted many informationand counselling talks with academicians attendingthe conference. Moreover, Dr. MartinBeck and Thomas Birringer visited thechief counsellor of the general secretary ofthe newly-established Union for the Mediterranean,Mr. Kamal El-Mahdaoui.

2. Details

Four senior and promising junior scholars both of the Middle East and Germany participated at the KAS panel of WOCMES: Dr. Carlo Masala (University of the ArmedForces in Munich, Germany), Ms. Heba Negm (London School of Economics, London,United Kingdom), Dr. Yasar Qatarneh (Third Way Institute, Amman, Jordan) and Dr. Christian Koch (Gulf Research Center, Dubai, United Arab Emirates).Dr. Martin Beck chaired the panel and Thomas Birringer acted as discussant.The academic starting point of the panel was the observation that, when analysingregional security in the Middle East, scholars very often focus on inter-state affairs andUS-American interference in the region.Without any doubt, analyses modelling the Middle East as an externally penetratedstate system produce important insights.However, since the 1980s other kinds of actors have gained growing influence in theMiddle East, and that both on the level above and beneath the state. The contributorsof this panel first addressed the limits of regional states’ influence in the MiddleEast and then asked whether and how regionalorganisations and armed non-stateactors shape Middle Eastern security politics.Methodologically, the panel startedwith a theoretical contribution and then presentedthree major case studies. The theoreticalanalysis presented the concept ofregion which has gained major scholarly attendancein recent years, thereby focusingon the different levels of security politicsand their interplay. Then, the first casestudy dealt with a state which was a regionalpower back in the 1970s but nowfaces limits in shaping regional affairs:Egypt. The second and third case studieswere analyses of major sub-regional actorsand regional organisations: Hamas as wellas the Gulf Cooperation Council, respectively.

Dr. Carlo Masala presented a paper titled“The Concept of Regionalism in SecurityStudies”. The paper shed light on a growingtrend in security politics on a global scale.More and more states are aggregating theircapabilities in order to create regional securitycooperation arrangements. These arrangementsquite often fall short of alliances.The existing literature on regionalsecurity cooperation approaches explainsthese phenomena either in a traditional realist/neorealist sense—thereby neglectingthe fact that regional security arrangementsare to be distinguished from classical alliances—or in a constructivist manner placingtoo high emphasis on shared norms andvalues, thereby neglecting the threat andpower dimension that shapes the creation ofregional security arrangements. In his presentation,Dr. Carlo Masala attempted tocombine the two approaches by usingKatzenstein’s and Silk’s approach of ‘analyticaleclecticism’, i.e. rational and reflexivearguments, in order to explain and understandwhy regionalism in security politicsoccur in the Middle East.

Heba Negm’s paper on “State Actors: TheCase of Egypt” started with the observationthat the Middle East is commonly describedas a scene, and often a source, of politicaland economic turmoil throughout the secondhalf of the twentieth century. This convictionhas allied with a dominant premisein Middle East area studies that the systemicattributes are the most substantiallevel of analysis for understanding MiddleEast security peculiarities. This trend hasunder-looked the complex and multidimensionalnature of the national security of theMiddle East countries. As an important regional actor, Egypt is no exception. Similarto the countries of the region, Egyptadopted a realpolitik approach and engagedin arms build-up arrangements. The firstpart of the paper entailed a panoramic viewof the various theoretical models in the discipline.This section critically analyzed thesetheories, their vigorous points as well as thecritiques directed toward them. The secondpart aimed at providing a synthesis modelthat can adequately address the diverse securityissues of the region as well as the nationalsecurity policies of its constitutingstates, like Egypt. The focus of the paperwas on the state level and its empirical applicationto the case study of Egypt.

In his presentation, Dr. Yasar Qatarnehdealt with the issue of “Non-State Actors”.The paper emphasized that in recent years,non-state actors have played an increasinglyimportant role in a region of high insecurityand instability like the Middle East.Governments in the region sought to marginalize,delegitimize, and disenfranchisethese non-state actors, thinking that entitiessuch as Hamas or Hizbollah could bedefeated through the exclusive use of hardpower. This hard-power approach not onlyfailed to defeat these actors, but boostedtheir popular appeal and decreased the moralauthority of these governments. The authorfurthermore argued that it is time forstate actors to consider the benefits of engagingwith non-state actors in key conflictzones in today's Middle East. In the interestof regional security and the pursuit of a sustainableand constructive regional order inthe future, Middle East scholars should leadthe way in exploring and developing strategiesfor a 'smart' policy in a region wherenon-state actors currently hold sway.

Dr. Christian Koch gave his paper on “TheGCC as a Regional Security Organization”.The presentation started with a brief historicaloverview: The GCC was established inresponse to the regional turmoil of the IranianRevolution and the Iran-Iraq War. Securitysurpassed all other reasons for thecoming together of the GCC. Since that timeand despite many of its shortcomings, theGCC has been maintained and become anaccepted fact. In addition, the GCC has inthe near three decades of its existence begunto play an increasing role in politicaland security-related matters at the subregionallevel of the Gulf. The result hasbeen the emergence of a regional trianglecomposed of Iran, Iraq and the GCC. Thepaper presented explored the nature of theGCC as a security organization, examiningand analyzing its potentials and shortcomingsand placing the organization within thebroader considerations of regionalism in thecurrent literature. Given the fact that theissue of Gulf security has remained volatile,it was a further aim of the author to lookinto the impact that the GCC has had whenit comes to regional security issues andwhether it could possibly evolve to play amore concerted role in moving the region tobuilding more lasting and stable relationshipsamong its littoral members.

The idea of the panel “(No) Regional Powerin the Middle East?” was based on the observationthat the world region of the MiddleEast is highly conflict-loaded. The actual absenceof one distinct regional power may beconsidered both cause and consequence ofthis structural feature. At the same time,there are significant power gaps betweenstates in the Middle East with Egypt, SaudiArabia and Iran among the most powerfulactors and accordingly defined as potentialregional powers. Thus, the question ariseshow regional actors exert regional politics inthe absence of a regional power. How, if notby regional powers, are regional policiesconstrained? What specific options are availableto regional actors? In what way do extra-regional powers determine politics in theMiddle East? What are the implications forthe regional role in world politics? The panelaimed, firstly, at clarifying the major conceptualchallenges as aforementioned bypresenting a conceptual paper. Then, threeselected case studies were presented. Egyptonce was a regional power but lost this featurein 1967. How does Egypt cope withthis? What elements of its former role arestill in existence? Alternatively, is Egyptsimply a shadow of its former self? AlsoSaudi Arabia is a potential regional power.On the one hand, there is no doubt thatRiad exerts some regional influence. On theother, despite its role as the single mostimportant global player in oil politics, SaudiArabia’s role in the Middle East is still limited.Among the non-Arab actors aiming atregional leadership is Iran. Due to its revolutionarypotentials, Iran uses non-state actorsof the region, particularly Hizbullah andHamas, to exert its regional policies.

In the frame of this panel, Dr. Martin Beckpresented his paper on “The concept of regionalpower as applied to the Middle East”.He emphasized that, due to the specificempirical setting of the Middle East regionwhich lacks one distinct regional power, ananalytical design emphasizing relational andprocedural dynamics is required. In attemptingto develop such a design, the paperutilizes three well-established schools ofthought of international relations: (neo) realism,institutionalism (neo-liberalism), andconstructivism. The author further usedthese three schools of thought to examinethe role of states in the region that aremore powerful than others and accordinglydefined as potential regional powers. Thepresentation aimed at exceeding the limitsof a purely theoretical contribution. Rather,the ideas developed were illustrated atsome selected case studies. Thereby, emphasiswas put both on the regional dynamicsconstituted by the interplay of potentialregional powers and the role of external actors,particularly the USA. Thus, it wasdemonstrated that the concept of regionalpower is particularly fruitful for a regionwithout a distinct regional power. The powerpoint presentation of Dr. Martin Beck’slecture can be downloaded at:http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_1335-1442-1-30.ppt

Moreover, Dr. Martin Beck discussed thepapers given at the panel „Rethinking theMediterranean: New Perspectives on Interactionbetween ‘Us’ and ‘Them’”. An abstractof the panel and the papers can befound at http://wocmes. imed.org/en/preorrethinking-the-mediterranean.

3. Conclusion

The participation of KAS Office Amman supportedby KAS Office Abu Dhabi fulfilled severalimportant purposes: increasing theawareness of the work of KAS in the MiddleEast, presentation of the academic achievementsof its partners and KAS itself, andextending the networks of KAS in academiaand among representatives of knowledgebasedorganisations and the media both inthe Middle East and Europe.The feedback on our information and booktable at the WOCMES book fare was verypositive.