- Regional conflict formations: is the Middle East next?
- Third World Quarterly
- Volume | Issue number
- 28 | 5
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
As Iraq is plunging into civil war, politics and violence in the Middle East are increasingly perceived to be highly interconnected and entwined. This article offers an attempt to understand the nature and scope of this regional interconnectedness involving three of the region's states—Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Its approach takes advantage of the work by scholars of other regions than the Middle East, more precisely those analysing the ‘new wars’ and ‘Regional Conflict Formations (rcfs) of primarily Central and West Africa and the Balkans. The article suggests that, provided some methodological problems are addressed or at least acknowledged, the rcf model offers a useful approach to studying and addressing this region's multiple conflicts. Its assessment of the rcf model's utility in reference to the Middle Eas—broken down along the suggested levels of military networks, political networks, economic/financial networks and social networks—suggests that its emphasis on material - physical linkages neglects important symbolic - political resources that easily cross borders and are equally determining in fuelling and framing conflicts. This lacuna is echoed in US policy making toward the Middle East. The article concludes that, in order to avoid myopia in both analysis and policy making, such more discursive processes ought to be integrated into and made complementary with the rcf conceptualisation of conflict-related cross-border traffic. This will also allow for better analysis of the complexity of identity politics and it underscores the fallacy of assumed Western exogeneity to this region's conflicts.
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