The Contemporary Era

If a Middle Eastern Rip van Winkle had fallen asleep in the decade following World War I and then awoke seventy or eighty years later, there would be much that he would recognize. The state system that had been in embryo at the beginning of his nap was, by the time of his awakening, fully realized. While various nationalisms had emerged or withered during his sleep, the populations of the region still looked to the principles of nationalism to organize their political communities— much as they had done when van Winkles eyes were just getting heavy. The confrontation between Zionist settlers and the indigenous inhabitants of the region had changed to a confrontation involving Israel, its neighbors, and a seasoned Palestinian national movement. Yet the conflict remained a lasting and seemingly intractable problem. The influence of Britain and France had waned, but great power meddling in the region continued under the aegis of the United States. And, although an Islamic republic had replaced the Iranian monarchy, Iran's boundaries remained much as they had been in the aftermath of World War I. Certainly, the post-revolutionary Iranian state did not surrender any of the powers it had accumulated under Reza Shah and his heir.

In many ways, World War I and its aftermath had a profound influence on the subsequent history of the Middle East. That influence should not be overestimated, of course. History is cumulative, and so-called revolutionary events are as much the product of change as they are the source of it. No nationalist movements or state system could have arisen in the Middle East had not the great nineteenth-century transformation prepared the ground for them. Furthermore, the war hardly affected the nature of economic and social relations in the region at all. That would come later. Nevertheless, World War I remains a useful benchmark, so long as we remember its usefulness has limitations.

One should also be wary of glossing over the equally profound changes that took place in the region subsequent to World War I. But how should the historian approach those changes? Historians writing today are so close to the events of the past three-quarters of a century that they are unable to gain the perspective distance provides. To put it another way, few historians would deny the significance of the French Revolution, although there are many disagreements about exactly what its significance was. On the other hand, how can historians be expected to judge the significance of the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979? As in the case of journalists, the best that historians writing about the past three-quarters of a century can offer is a first draft of history.

This should not discourage historians from attempting to make sense of the most recent period, however. Thus far, this book has argued that the only way to understand Middle Eastern history is to place that history within its global context. It has also argued that the establishment of a modern world economy and the modern state system distinguish the modern period from previous epochs. If we continue to think globally and use the world economic and state systems as our guideposts, it might be argued that the history of the contemporary period can be subdivided into two parts. The first began during the 1929-1945 interval and ended in the early 1970s. The second period began in the 1970s and has lasted to the present day. The first period started with the onset of the Great Depression and World War II. Both events changed the nature of social, economic, and political relationships in the region. In the aftermath of the economic crisis spawned by the Great Depression and industrial growth spawned by World War II, more and more people in the region moved to cities, sold their labor, and became integrated into the political process. While governments in the region were hardly democratic, they did have to respond to the aspirations and needs of newly urbanized and politicized populations to survive. Some Middle Eastern states responded by adopting an increasingly populist-nationalist rhetoric that appealed to those populations. More important, states throughout the region responded to popular demands and expectations by taking on many of the trappings of post-World War II welfare states in Europe and North America. Over time, they introduced new economic planning boards, labor laws, and educational and welfare benefits for their citizens. In return, they expected compliance and support. Overall, then, there was a transformation of what historian Elizabeth Thompson and others have called the “civic order”—the “norms and institutions that govern relations among citizens and between citizens and the state.”

Four factors encouraged the broadening and deepening of the new civic order. The first was the heritage of defensive developmentalism and imperialism in the region. As we have seen in previous chapters, both processes created structures and institutions designed to expand the reach of the state and more effectively mobilize and harness the social power of populations. True, individual programs initiated by Middle Eastern states or their colonial overlords may not have been successful. And, true, their application was certainly uneven in the region. Overall, however, defensive developmentalism and imperialism effected a fundamental shift in attitudes about statecraft, social practice, and the responsibilities of governments toward their citizenry among both political elites and populations upon which later generations of statesmen and politicians might build.

The second factor that secured the new civic order in the region was the nurturing environment created by the postwar international economic system, the

Bretton Woods system (named after the resort in New Hampshire where its principles were negotiated). The system will be discussed in greater detail later in this introduction, but two aspects are important here. First, the system established a global economic structure marked by what political scientist John Gerard Ruggie has called “embedded liberalism”: While economic decision-making on issues like trade and tariffs was to be handled by general agreement among states, individual states were free to intervene in their domestic economies as they saw fit. Some states might choose to take a relatively hands-off approach to their domestic economies; others might choose to be more interventionist to ensure full employment, industrial expansion, and so forth. Second, those who planned the system created two institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The role of the IMF was to ensure the overall stability of the system. The role of the World Bank was to promote development by funding large-scale infrastructural projects. The World Bank was active in the Middle East as it was elsewhere. Between 1957-1974 the bank lent Iran alone $1.2 billion for various projects, and the cancellation of a World Bank loan to Egypt for the construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1956 triggered a chain of events that led to the Suez War of 1956. The most important consequence of the establishment of the World Bank, however, was the fact that its very existence ensured that “development” would be enshrined as an international norm.

At the center of the postwar international economic system was the United States, the preeminent economic power in the world. As we shall see in Chapter 17, American policy toward the Middle East was instrumental in promoting both development and the civic order development was to sustain. The motivations for American policy were ideological, economic, and, because Americans viewed privation as an entry ticket for Soviet influence in the developing world, political. To promote development, the United States adopted a multifaceted approach derived, in good measure, from its own Depression-era and wartime experiences. Thus, the United States encouraged and supplied the expertise for planning boards throughout the region. American policy makers championed the empowerment of the developmentally oriented “new middle class.” In some cases — the number is still debated — the United States encouraged the “vanguard” of that middle class, “modernizing” military officers, to force the hand of history by taking power. American policy makers backed the construction of large-scale public works projects which, they believed, would provide the foundation for national economic development. Finally, American policy makers urged governments in the region to undertake land reform. They did so not only to take the wind out of the sails of communist-inspired revolutionary movements, but to invigorate national economies. Newly enriched peasants, policy makers believed, would stimulate demand for domestically produced goods.

The gospel of development found receptive ears throughout the periphery of the world economy. It thus inspired common imperatives and approaches to that end for nations located there. It was on the periphery of the world economy that a remarkable generation of leaders — a generation that included Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, Achmed Sukarno of Indonesia, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Ahmed Sékou Touré of Guinea, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser of Egypt, among others — took advantage of the system of embedded liberalism to introduce political/economic policies designed to support the new civic order. Most commonly, these policies included state-led economic development, centralized economic planning, and import substitution industrialization (i.e., producing whatever manufactured goods you could yourself rather than importing them). To pay for it all, individual states attempted to assert their sovereign control over their nations' most valuable resources, which were often in the hands of foreigners. Sometimes they were able to (as when Nasser seized ownership of — nationalized — the Suez Canal in 1956) and sometimes they weren't (as when the Iranians attempted to do the same with petroleum in 1951). Collectively, these policies are known as economic nationalism. The leadership of some states — post-1952 Egypt, post-independence Algeria, Iraq and Syria at various times — linked economic nationalism to the new civic order through a populist discourse that extolled anti-colonialism and the virtues of the “revolutionary masses.” The leadership of others — Saudi Arabia, Jordan — did not.

If the immediate postwar period was one marked by optimistic visions of a civic order supported by economic nationalism in what became known as the “Third World,” by the end of the 1960s that optimism had soured. As early as 1960, statistics indicated the Third World's declining share of both world trade and world income. Over the course of the decade the economic gap between industrialized and industrializing states had become a chasm. Furthermore, few states on the periphery had changed their position in the world economic system. A number of prominent economists from the Third World blamed the Bretton Woods system and the economic order it sanctioned for this. After all, they reasoned, the developing world could never catch up to the developed world if it had to exchange cheap raw materials for the expensive manufactured goods necessary for development. And making catch-up even more difficult was the fact that the ownership and pricing of raw materials were still predominantly in the hands of foreigners. Third World leaders thus demanded compensation, the right for individual states to set tariffs and the like, and new rules regulating the ownership, pricing, and exchange of the commodities they exported. By 1973, seventy-seven Third World nations — from “radicals” like Algeria and Iraq to “moderates” like Lebanon and Jordan — had taken up their call for the replacement of the Bretton Woods system with a New International Economic Order that would overhaul the structure of the global economic system to make it more responsive to Third World needs.

The demand for a New International Economic Order would have constituted little more than a minor irritant to industrialized nations in general and the United States in particular had it not been for two events that took place in the early 1970s. The first was the collapse of the Bretton Woods system. From 1945 through the late 1960s, the United States had been the unrivaled economic power in the world. The American dollar was strong and the U.S. government guaranteed that dollars could be exchanged by other governments for gold at an official, fixed rate. The dollar provided the foundation for international exchange. All other Western countries pegged their currencies to the dollar. By the early 1970s, however, the United States was no longer the unrivaled economic power it had been in 1945. Germany and Japan challenged Americas position of preeminence and began to accumulate dollars at a rate that alarmed financial experts. By 1971, the value of American imports outran the value of its exports for the first time in the post-World War II period. As a result, the dollars held outside the United States began to exceed the gold reserves in Fort Knox that backed those dollars. Faced with a potential run on its gold reserves, the United States government severed the relationship between the dollar and gold and allowed the dollar to “float.” In point of fact, it sank. With its dollar anchor gone, the international economy lurched from one monetary crisis to another. All the while, world leaders squabbled about how to reform or reorder the international system.

The second event that made the developed world sit up and pay attention to the demands of the developing world was the oil shock of 1973-1974. “Oil shock” is the name given to the 380 percent increase in the price of oil that took place over a three-month period. The price increase came about as a result of production cutbacks by Arab oil producers. The oil shock marked an unprecedented assertion on the part of a group of Third World countries of sovereign rights, market power, and unity of purpose. It also frightened many American policy makers who saw a shift in the balance of power between the industrialized world and the Third World — a shift that they believed represented a threat to the very existence of the United States. What was to prevent Third World nations, working alone, in groups, or en masse, from using their power to provoke competitive scrambles for raw materials and markets among industrialized nations? What was to prevent them from upsetting stock and bond markets, or singling out the United States for discrimination? What was to prevent the exporters of copper, tin, rubber, bauxite, coffee, and even timber from taking their cue from oil producers by organizing their own associations to coordinate the production, pricing, and distribution of their commodities?

While Europe and Japan sought to placate or cut their own deals with Third World exporters, the American reaction was more hard-nosed. American policy makers argued that the United States had to break Third World solidarity and take steps to reform the international system in order to minimize the ability of states, acting alone or in concert, to “disrupt” or “distort” international trade. As one government economist put it, this meant “checking national intrusions into the international exchange of both economic and non-economic goods ” In other words, the liberal order was to be preserved and economic nationalists marginalized. The United States thus took aim at the developmentalist state and the civic order it supported. Over time, the United States was able to flex its political and economic muscles to bring other industrialized nations on board.

It was primarily the global economic crisis of 1979-1982 that enabled the United States to run the table on the Third World. The 1973 price hikes created a strange problem for newly enriched oil producers: what to do with the enormous wealth those hikes generated. Over the course of the next ten years, much of that wealth—$96 billion worth — found its way to branches of American banks in Europe, which loaned that money to developing nations. Those nations needed the money to cover the higher cost of manufactured goods imported from developed nations. Oil was, after all, a crucial ingredient in the production of those goods, and the higher price manufacturers had to pay for oil was passed on to their customers. But there was one problem with this arrangement: For developed nations to pay for more expensive oil, more and more dollars had to be printed. The more dollars that were printed, the less those dollars were worth. Cheap money might have been great for borrowers because it meant low interest rates. It was not good for American businesses and consumers, who had to pay more for the goods they needed. Therefore, in 1979, the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States, which sets interest rates, upped those rates to make borrowing more difficult and to reverse the outflow of dollars. The era of easy credit was over. The action of the Federal Reserve pulled the rug out from overextended borrowers, precipitating the Third World debt crisis of the 1980s.

To deal with the debt crisis, the most economically powerful nations restructured the Bretton Woods institutions. They also enacted a series of policy initiatives that not only quashed the call for a New International Economic Order, but removed the support system for the civic order that had become widespread in the postwar period. Economic nationalism was out; the Washington Consensus was in. Under the terms of the Washington Consensus (a term that, again, reflected the origin of the new policies), a newly reinvigorated International Monetary Fund guaranteed emergency credit to overextended Third World borrowers. In exchange, borrowers had to agree to accept a set of “conditionalities” imposed by the IMF. Included among those conditionalities were the liberalization of trade, the removal of barriers to foreign investment, the reduction in government expenditures, and the privatization of state enterprises — all in the name of economic efficiency. Over time, the terms of the Washington Consensus became a new norm that was even adopted by states not obligated to the IMF. The era of globalization had arrived.

Middle Eastern states had played a pivotal role during the era of Third World assertion. For example, the call for a New International Economic Order came from a conference held in Algiers one month before Arab oil producers unleashed what Americans called the “oil weapon.” So what were the consequences for the region when the tide turned? By 1973, Arab states had already come under severe political pressure as a result of the disastrous 1967 War against Israel. The war not only discredited the belligerents, it improved the position of the United States in the region. Anwar al-Sadat, the president of Egypt from 1970 to 1981, once remarked that after the war the United States held ”99 percent of the cards" in the Arab Middle East. The conservative oil monarchies came to play an expanded role in the interregional balance of power in the wake of the war as well. These states, enriched by the elevated price of oil, were major consumers of labor in the region and a major source of loans and aid to the oil-less or oil-poor states in the region, such as Egypt and Syria. They thus acquired leverage over those states, which they used to convince them to moderate their internal and external policies. In addition, states from Egypt to Iran were weakened as a result of the inefficiencies of centralized economic planning and social dislocations caused by the sudden rise and equally sudden collapse of oil prices. Under these circumstances, Middle Eastern states had little choice but to succumb to the new economic dogmas.

Under pressure from the United States and international institutions, states throughout the region began to back away from the commitments they had made to their populations in the 1950s and 1960s. To put it another way, states sought to redefine unilaterally the post-World War II civic order. Because no state could risk doing this openly without provoking regime-threatening anger, each adopted piecemeal solutions. States continued to distribute many of the high-profile goodies they had promised in the 1950s and 1960s, such as subsidies on basic commodities and education guarantees. But at the same time they made cuts in the quality, quantity, and targeting of what had become “entitlements.” In addition, they began to “liberalize” some sectors of their economies to encourage private enterprise and foreign investment. Limited liberalization proved ineffectual. Productivity did not increase. On the other hand, the gap separating rich from poor did. States ended up with the worst of both possible worlds: popular frustration and stalled economies. As often as not, when governments showed themselves unable or unwilling to meet the needs and aspirations of their populations, Islamic movements stepped up to the plate. Islamic movements trumpeted the same commitment to social justice and social welfare as had governments before the 1980s. That commitment, which provided the foundation for the post-World War II civic order, still resonated with the inhabitants of the region. Their own populist credentials in tatters, states throughout the region answered those who challenged them with repression. In the case of Iran, this did not work. In 1978-1979, a broad-based revolutionary movement overthrew the shah. In other cases, repression has provided what may prove to be only temporary relief. In the much heralded “Age of Democratization” and “Age of Globalization,” it is both sad and ironic that so much of the Middle Eastern population has found itself enmeshed in the twin snares of authoritarianism and economic stagnation.


State and Society in the Contemporary Middle East: An Old/New Relationship

When the cold war ended in the early 1990s, many statesmen and political scientists predicted that the world was entering a new period in which democratic governments would be the rule, not the exception. And at the beginning of the post-cold war era, there seemed to be plenty of evidence to support their optimism. After all, the last great totalitarian system — communism — seemed to be in eclipse throughout the world. That “prisonhouse of nations,” the Soviet Union, had come and gone and its “subject peoples” were now free to determine their own futures. From China to Latin America to Eastern Europe, pro-democracy movements inspired fear in authoritarian governments and, at least in the latter two cases, achieved some notable successes. Yes, it appeared that a new democratic order was about to emerge throughout the world.

Or parts of the world. When statesmen and political scientists talked of democratization they rarely, if ever, cited trends in the Middle East. Even after American policy makers announced that “regime change” in Iraq would unleash a “democratic tsunami” in the region, their vision met with a chorus of doubt. “The idea of instant democratic transformation in the Middle East,” a report issued by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace pronounced, “is a mirage.” Subsequent events proved the doubters correct. How has it come to pass that the Middle East has become a bastion for authoritarian governments resisted by equally authoritarian opposition movements? Why do the governments in the region appear so tenacious and powerful?

A number of factors contributed the emergence of strong states ruled by authoritarian governments in the Middle East. The great powers certainly played a part. Over the course of the twentieth century, the great powers not only established states, they intervened directly into their internal affairs. The great powers have also used their leverage in both the political and economic spheres to dictate policy to governments and have granted them financial assistance. Underwriting democracy was not a high priority for the great powers. Governments in the region could also count on other financial resources to bolster their power. For example, almost all Middle

Eastern states are directly or indirectly enriched by oil. Those states not fortunate enough to have oil lying under their territory have received financial assistance from those that are. Because governments, not individuals or private corporations, control revenues derived directly or indirectly from oil, governments — not individuals or private corporations — have achieved unrivaled economic power throughout the region. With unrivaled economic power came unrivaled political power.

A third factor contributed to the emergence and endurance of strong, authoritarian governments in the region as well. Over the course of the past two centuries, both elites and nonelites in the Middle East increasingly came to equate economic development with social justice and nation-building. They have also come to view government as the primary engine for economic development. The widely held belief that a leading function of government is to guide economic development and ensure social justice enabled governments in the region to concentrate an inordinate amount of power in their hands.

What might be termed a “developmentalist ethos” emerged in the Middle East during the nineteenth century. It spread among the populations of the region in much the same way as did the ideology of nationalism. Both found an avid following in an environment in which state capabilities had begun to expand dramatically. In those regions where states were most effective in imposing new institutions and structures and in mobilizing and harnessing the energies of their populations in the name of the “common interest,” a change occurred. The populations affected by state initiatives began to internalize the principles by which the state justified its actions and adopt them as their own. In effect, it was the defensive developmentalist activities of rulers and bureaucrats that generated a shared developmentalist ethos amongst the inhabitants of the territories they governed.

Nationalists interested in the practical details of state-building were, of course, among the most vocal advocates of developmentalism. Zia Gokalp, the so-called father of Turkish nationalism, thus wrote in the early twentieth century,

In the future Turks must possess the same economic well-being that they once enjoyed in the past, and the wealth which is earned must belong to everyone.... The large sums that will result from collecting surplus values in the name of society will serve as capital for the factories and farms to be established for the benefit of society. Earnings of these public enterprises will be used to establish special refuges and schools for paupers, orphans, widows, invalids, cripples, the blind and the deaf, as well as public gardens, museums, theatres and libraries; to build housing for workers and peasants; and to construct a nation-wide electric power network.

But overt nationalists like Gokalp were not the only ones to believe in these ideals. For example, in 1899 the Islamic modernist and grand mufti (chief religious figure) of Egypt, Muhammad ‘Abduh, issued a religious ruling that included the following sentences:

Establishing industries is a delegated duty. The nation must have a group within it to establish industries necessary for survival.... If the industries are not available, whoever is in charge of the affairs of the nation must establish them so that they might provide for the needs of the people.

Shortly after ‘Abduh's ruling, self-described orthodox ulama in Damascus joined the chorus, warning the Young Turk government, “Whoever does not work to advance the economy strays from Islam.”

Thus, by the early twentieth century, the developmentalist ethos had become widespread in those areas of the Middle East that had been most affected by defensive developmentalism during the previous century. When, in the wake of World War I, new governments began expanding their power over territories that had once been beyond the reach of imperial authority, the territorial stretch of the developmentalist ethos expanded along with it. The developmentalist ethos achieved its greatest influence in the region during the period between the 1950s and the 1970s, when state-led economic development was the international norm, when the postwar economic system created a supportive environment for developmentalism, and when a series of military coups d'état established new regimes in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. These new regimes based their legitimacy on their ability to bring about economic development and social justice. They also established a new set of standards for state behavior that continue to influence both governments and populations throughout the region.

Few observers looking at Egypt, Syria, and Iraq in the immediate aftermath of World War I would have imagined that within a few decades those states would be regional trendsetters. Egypt won its sovereignty under conditions largely defined by an outside power. The latter two states were directly created by outside powers. The structure of the governments of all three reflected the imperialist legacy.

During the period between the two world wars, both the British and the French relied on local notables and sympathetic rulers to maintain their influence in the region. They found notables and rulers reliable proxies for a number of reasons. The economic interests of most notables matched those of Britain and France. After all, most notables derived their wealth from landownership. The lands they owned produced agricultural commodities such as cotton and silk, which sustained British and French mills. Furthermore, the populations of the mandated territories and Egypt would have chafed at direct control from Paris or London. The British and French banked on the assumption that those populations would tolerate indirect control by their compatriots. Besides, indirect control was also cheaper. This was a primary concern for powers that had endured such large losses of men and matériel during World War I. Finally, relying on notables and sovereigns made British and French control easier. Competition among notables and between notables and sovereigns for power and influence impeded the emergence of unified nationalist movements that might have dislodged the imperialist powers. We have already seen how this worked in Egypt, where the palace, often with the connivance of the British ambassador, prevented the Wafd from dictating the course of Egyptian politics. For all these reasons, the states left by the British and the French in the Levant, Mesopotamia, and Egypt were initially weak, unrepresentative, and divided.

There had been, of course, no tradition of kingship in Egypt or Iraq before World War I. Egypt did not become a monarchy until 1922. In Iraq, the establishment of a royal house coincided with the invention of the state itself. But just as kings were a new phenomenon in Egypt and Iraq, so was the class of landowning notables upon whom the British and French also relied. Some of these notables could trace the roots of their wealth only as far back as the nineteenth century, when high prices for cash crops and the Ottoman Land Code of 1858 made real estate an attractive arena for investment. The roots of others were even more shallow. In Syria and Iraq, the French and British granted tracts of land to rural and tribal leaders during the mandates period. They did this in order to buy their loyalty and counterbalance the power of urban notables. The holdings of both urban and rural notables were not negligible. By the mid-twentieth century, 1 percent of the population of Syria owned about 50 percent of the land. In Egypt, about 1 percent of the population held about 72 percent of the land. The newness of many of these holdings and the disparities in wealth in societies that were still predominantly rural would make land reform a hot-button issue in the period following World War II.

All this has not prevented historians and others from looking back on the period stretching from the 1920s through the mid-1930s — and in some cases even later — with a great deal of nostalgia. This period, they point out, was one of cosmopolitanism in culture and the “liberal experiment” or the “liberal age” in politics. There is much to commend this view. As late as the 1940s, 40 percent of the population of Alexandria, Egypt, was “foreign.” It consisted mainly of Greeks, Italians, Syrians, and Jews. Until the early 1950s, the largest single group in the multiethnic, multireligious capital of Iraq, Baghdad, was Jews. Today, the population of Alexandria is overwhelmingly made up of descendants of native-born Egyptians, and less than a handful of Jews remain in Baghdad. In the realm of politics, those who call some slice of the interwar period the “liberal age” describe it as such because during this period parliaments were convened, political parties formed, constitutions promulgated, secular rights institutionalized, and newspapers published. Egyptian feminism even celebrated a founding moment during this period. In 1923, Egyptian feminists returning from a women's conference in Italy removed their veils in public.

But celebrating the moment of unveiling also points to a fundamental weakness in the “liberal age” argument. Veiling was practiced among upper-class women only. Whether they donned or doffed veils was of little concern to most Egyptians. Looking at the period as a golden age draws attention away from the social cleavages that permeated Arab Middle Eastern societies and made the “liberal age” liberal for only a few. In cosmopolitan Alexandria, for example, the foreign community enjoyed privileges unavailable to most Egyptians. As a matter of fact, it was common practice for native Egyptians to be segregated in or excluded from tramways, clubs, and cafes and to fill the least rewarding niches of the economy. While it is also true that during this period states in the Arab East often took on the formal trappings of democratic life, more often than not these trappings masked underlying practices and social divisions that were undemocratic. Although there were parliaments, the franchise was limited and assemblies were unrepresentative. Although political organizations and trade unions were founded, associational life was restricted and often curtailed by imperialist powers or local autocrats. Although newspapers were published, they were subject to censorship.


Upper Class Egyptian Woman, 1920s, (from: The Collection of the author.)

The overriding fact of political life from the 1920s through the 1940s was that there was little that governments or nationalist parties in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq could or would do to change this state of affairs. Governments were weak and unstable and governed at the sufferance of the imperialist powers that maintained a presence throughout the region. Nationalist movements reflected the interests of the elites who dominated them. They concentrated their efforts on gaining or confirming national independence and paid only limited attention to social and economic concerns.

Nevertheless, during the period between 1918 and the end of World War II, the developmentalist ethos not only continued to find adherents, it became a key element in the politics of the three states. Merchants, homegrown industrialists, and even landowners played an important role in this. Working through the governments they dominated, these groups planned rudimentary programs for economic development, if for no other reason than it would be beneficial to all involved. For example, all supported the construction of basic infrastructure like roads, which would enable governments to maintain control over the countryside, industrialists to obtain labor and raw materials for their factories, and landowners to ship goods to market. Likewise, all supported a rudimentary expansion of educational facilities, centralized planning, and incentives for private enterprise.

Groups of industrialists and bankers that emerged first in Egypt in the early 1920s, then in Syria and Iraq, played a particularly important role in energizing the principle of developmentalism. They made developmentalism a key component of nationalism by spreading the gospel of economic nationalism. Not only did they encourage Egyptians, for example, to “buy Egyptian,” they attempted to infuse nationalist movements with enthusiasm for economic and social reform. True independence, they claimed, was not limited to political independence. True independence meant economic independence as well. Economic independence could only be achieved through economic development and establishing a social system that would allow all to participate in nation-building.

The message of the economic nationalists was spread by new types of mass political parties and associations. As poverty in the countryside increased during the Great Depression, and as cities began to lure peasants with the promise of employment or educational opportunities, the population of urban centers exploded. In 1917, for example, the population of Cairo and Alexandria together was one and a quarter million; by 1947, it was over three million. As urban populations increased, so did the number of those available for political mobilization. A host of political parties and associations emerged, splintered, and reformed during this period, from assorted communist parties and Muslim brotherhoods to the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, the League of National Action (in Syria), the National Democratic Party (in Iraq), and the Wafdist Vanguard and Young Egypt. These parties and associations differed from earlier nationalist parties in three ways: They were tightly structured, they possessed a middle-class leadership and middle-class and lower middle-class following, and they championed doctrines that went beyond mere calls for political independence. They sought to address the bread-and-butter concerns of their new constituents. The founder of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party put it this way:

The aim of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party is the achievement of unity which will enable the Syrian nation to excel in the struggle for existence. This national unity cannot be obtained within an unsound economic system just as it cannot be realized within an unwholesome social order. That is why the achievement of social and economic justice is of extreme importance to the success and triumph of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

Ironically, the activities of the Great Powers encouraged the spread of new political movements and their developmentalist doctrines as well. Britain, France, and, during World War II, the United States introduced into the region new administrative practices that they had devised to meet the challenges of the Great Depression or World War II. These practices expanded the capabilities of governments, made populations accustomed to close governmental supervision of economic affairs, raised popular expectations, and opened up fresh possibilities for developmentalist currents. For example, during the Depression, French mandatory authorities in Syria introduced measures designed to stabilize the economy and maintain order. These measures were based on the welfare-state policies introduced by the Popular Front government that governed France from 1936 to 1938. But once price supports, wage guidelines, labor codes, poor relief, commodity subsidies, and the like were put in place, urban Syrians increasingly viewed them as an obligation of government, not a gift from government.

The activities of the Middle East Supply Center (MESC) reinforced the developmentalist ethos even further. The MESC was designed by the Allies in World War II to collect data on consumer needs in the region so that they might allocate cargo space on freighters more efficiently. Over the course of the war, the MESC expanded its role. By the time the program was terminated, the MESC was regulating imports, guiding and supporting industrial investment, distributing essential commodities, and supervising production in Egypt and the Levant. The MESC fostered a 40 percent increase in manufacturing output in Egypt. Investment in Syrian industry quadrupled during the war years. The activities of the MESC not only set a standard for state-led economic development but provided the developmental blueprint for postwar governments to follow.

The developmentalist policies promoted by elites and popular political associations, along with the intrusive activities of foreign powers, redefined the criteria for political legitimation in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. More often than not, the “old guard” politicians who dominated parliamentary politics had to respond to new demands. But more often than not they responded in word rather than in deed. All this was to change over the course of the next two decades. Beginning in 1949, cliques of military officers launched coups d'état against civilian politicians in all three countries and then against already empowered military regimes in Syria and Iraq.

While the first military coup in the post-World War II period took place in Syria, it was the Free Officers coup in Egypt in 1952 that would set the standard and provide a model for other states in the region. The Free Officers movement was established in the late 1940s by a group of mostly younger officers. Soon after the coup, Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser emerged as the group's leader. Nasser had been born in 1918 in a village near Alexandria. He was the son of a postal clerk and had risen in the Egyptian military to the rank of colonel. He had fought in the 1948 Palestine war, during which he was seriously wounded. For him, like many in his cohort, the war was a turning point. It represented the corruption, ineptitude, and treason of the old regime. The Free Officers claimed to have launched their coup to put an end to that corruption, ineptitude, and treason. They did not, at first, offer a grand ideological vision. Instead, they promised to work with the private sector and the least objectionable political parties, and to restore democracy once they had ironed things out. For this reason, the Free Officers referred to themselves and their coup merely as a “movement.” Only later did they retrospectively overstate their sense of purpose by replacing the word “movement” with “revolution.”

This is not to say, however, that the Free Officers or other military cliques who seized power between 1949 and 1958 were ideologically barren. As urban dwellers, graduates of military academies, and the products of lower middle- or middle-class upbringing at a time when those classes formed the nucleus of new political currents, military officers were steeped in the political controversies of the day. They also had been raised in an environment that provided them with a set of assumptions about modernity and progress. Once in power, even the unimaginative Husni al-Za‘im, who seized power in Syria in 1949, was instinctively drawn to the sort of policies that came to be associated with all military-led revolts in the region. Colonel al-Za‘im, who ruled for only three months, reportedly proclaimed, “Give me five years and I will make Syria as prosperous and enlightened as Switzerland” shortly before he was deposed.

Nevertheless, military conspirators throughout the region only began promoting comprehensive programs to restructure their economies and societies after the Suez War of 1956. The war was a debacle, an ill-conceived invasion of Egypt by British, French, and Israeli forces that is still called the Tripartite Aggression by Egyptians. The three states launched their invasion to topple Nasser's government because the Egyptian leader had proved himself to be a thorn in the side of all three. He had nationalized the Suez Canal, was supporting Algerian insurgents against French rule, obstructed Israeli sea lanes, and had just concluded an arms deal with Czechoslovakia that threatened to upset the regional balance of power. The British, French, and Israelis felt he clearly had to go.

The invasion did not topple Nasser's government. To the contrary. International pressure forced the invading states to withdraw their forces before they could achieve their aim. As a result of the failure of Britain, France, and Israel to realize their goal, the war actually raised Nasser's political stock both at home and throughout the region. Overall, the invasion had three results for the eastern Arab world and Egypt. First, it convinced Nasser that the Free Officers had not yet eliminated the twin threats of domestic reaction and foreign imperialism. From that moment on, the regime would no longer seek accommodation with the forces of reaction and imperialism, but would take control of its own destiny. It would do that by seizing the property of reactionaries and imperialists and using it to finance rapid economic and social development.

The Suez War also created a political atmosphere in Iraq that made the overthrow of the monarchy by a military coup almost a foregone conclusion. That coup took place in 1958. It was soon followed by others, which introduced to Iraq policies first sampled in Egypt. Finally, Nasser's anti-imperialist stance incited political groupings in Syria to demand unification with Egypt. Foremost of these groupings was the Ba‘th (Resurrection) Party. Founded in l949, the party found support among romantic intellectuals who waxed eloquent about Arab unity as well as among hard-core organizers. This latter group had received its political education during the Depression of the 1930s. It thus brought to the party populist demands for economic and social reform. Ba‘thist regimes, a bit less ideological but no less fervent about holding onto power, still control the government of Syria and retained control of Iraq until 2003. The unification of Egypt and Syria took place in 1958 with the establishment of the United Arab Republic. It lasted for three years. During that time, the Egyptians exported their model for development directly to Syria.


Gamal ‘Abd al-Nassar greeted by supporters in Port Said after the Suez War. (From: Fondation Arabe pour l'image, Beirut.)

Wherever military officers and their “civilianized” successors took control (first in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, then in Yemen, Libya, and the Sudan), their first goal was to weaken or break the power of previously existing elites. They did this in several ways. In some cases — Egypt, Iraq, and Libya — they deposed a monarch, confiscated his properties, and dissolved the venue for distributing royal patronage, the court. Coup leaders also dismissed parliaments that had provided landowning notables with a base for their political operations and disbanded political parties they felt were more part of the problem than part of the solution.

Alongside these political measures, the coup leaders destroyed the power of the old elites by striking at their economic power. One of the ways they did this was through land reform.

As noted in the Introduction to Part IV, land reform was hardly a revolutionary idea. It was advocated by not only the American government, but the British government and the World Bank as well. Like the Americans, the British and the

World Bank believed that land reform in the region would alleviate rural poverty and build a class of rural consumers who would buy goods produced domestically as a result of import substitution industrialization. There also appeared to be a crying need for land reform. On the eve of the 1963 revolution in Syria, for example, 60 percent of peasants were landless. In Iraq, the figure was 80 percent. But whatever the need, the revolutionary regimes found land reform to be a convenient way to weaken their rivals. At the same time, the new regimes viewed land reform as a means to gain the support of the rural masses and extend their control over them.

The Egyptian program of land reform was typical of the sort of program other states would come to adopt. The Egyptian government placed ceilings on the amount of land that individuals or families could own. Those ceilings were initially set at two hundred feddans, then reduced to one hundred, and finally to fifty. By 1971, nearly one million feddans had been distributed to about 350,000 peasant families. Peasants who received land had to join cooperatives set up by the state to organize and improve production, control the sale and pricing of agricultural goods, and provide credit. In effect, the cooperatives were created to enable the government to take over activities like money lending and marketing that had previously been in the hands of landholding elites. At their height, there were five thousand cooperatives with three million members. Similar cooperatives and even communes were established in Syria and Iraq.

The weakening or elimination of entrenched political elites paved the way for new political elites to rise to power. Military coups empowered representatives of the so-called “new middle class” (professionals, administrators, managers), and of provincial and rural society. In Egypt, eight of the twelve members of the governing Revolutionary Command Council established after the Free Officers coup had rural roots. Nasser himself came from a provincial, middle-class background. In a like manner, thirteen of the fifteen members of the Revolutionary Command Council that ruled Iraq from 1968 to 1977 came from small peasant or petit-bourgeois backgrounds. Throughout the region, employees of the expanded bureaucracy came from similar provincial and lower middle-class backgrounds. As a result of this expansion of political and bureaucratic power to those who had previously been excluded, governments responded to the needs and ideals of strata that had never before been the object of government concern. These strata became the main beneficiaries of expanding services, such as healthcare, education, rent stabilization, and food subsidies provided by governments.

To pay for these services, military governments took over entire sectors of the economy. They did this for other reasons as well: to end their nations' dependence on international markets and the industrialized West, to break the back of industrialists and others who had, more often than not, proven themselves hostile to the new rulers, and to tighten their control over their populations. The state mobilized resources and directed them through expanded state planning and investment.

Some of the mobilized resources directed by the state were obtained through the nationalization of foreign or private holdings. Through nationalizations, the regimes not only gained control over the properties and businesses they seized, but acquired revenue to invest as they chose. Furthermore, nationalizations enabled the regimes to diminish the influence of foreigners, political enemies, and “resident-aliens” over the economies of their countries. In the case of Egypt, this last category included many of the Greeks, Italians, Syrians, and Jews whose families had lived in Egypt for decades, if not centuries. The Egyptian government not only seized control of the Suez Canal and most British and French investments in the country, it took charge of the hundred million Egyptian pounds locked in the vaults of the largest bank in Egypt. By the mid-1960s, the Egyptian government found itself owning and running banks, insurance companies, textile mills, sugar-refining and food-processing facilities, air and sea transport, public utilities, urban mass transit, cinemas, theaters, department stores, agricultural credit institutions, fertilizer production, and construction companies. After more than thirty years of economic liberalization, the Egyptian government still monopolizes power production, transport, heavy industry, and insurance, and has significant stakes in other services and industries.

If measured by profit, state control over so much of the economy has been highly inefficient. But the success of nationalizations and the ensuing program of “state socialism” or “state capitalism” (depending on your point of view) cannot be measured in terms of efficiency alone. By administering so many productive and commercial establishments, states have been able to allocate resources for their own ends and to gain control over strategic industries. Furthermore, states significantly reduced the ranks of the unemployed — even if they had to hire many of the unemployed themselves. For example, in 1961 the Egyptian government passed the “Public Employment Guarantee Scheme” which, like the name says, guaranteed every university graduate a job in the public sector. The scheme was amended three years later to include all graduates of secondary technical schools. The result was as one might expect: The Egyptian bureaucracy, never a pretty sight, swelled from 350,000 in 1952 to 1.2 million in 1970. Although the government repealed the bill in 1990 after IMF prodding, the bureaucracy continued to grow. As of 2008, the government employed approximately 5 million Egyptians. With such numbers, those who work for the government are, more often than not, underemployed and paid ridiculously low salaries. Those who can, supplement their incomes by spending their off hours working in the private sector where salaries are more lucrative but hiring more competitive.

Controlling economic resources enabled states to expand their role in society and to rearrange society so that they might control it better. Through centrally planned economies and unopposed state power, governments have used economic incentives to gain the compliance of their citizens and reward those sectors of society the governments claimed to represent. The benefits states delivered have been extensive. States undertook road and school construction, rural electrification, and healthcare and literacy campaigns. States expanded educational opportunities by reducing or eliminating school fees. Enrollment at Damascus University, for example, doubled between 1963-1968, with half the students coming from rural backgrounds. States have also kept food and other household commodities affordable by providing subsidies for many of them: wheat, flour, cooking oil, rice, sugar, tea, petroleum, and gas. As of 2009-2010, spending on subsidies, along with social benefits such as healthcare and education, represented close to 42 percent of Egyptian government expenditures. Subsidies on household commodities alone accounted for about 23 percent.

In addition to rewarding their supporters and punishing their opponents economically, the governments of Egypt, Syria, and Iraq have attempted to manipulate society by recognizing certain groups as legitimate and withholding recognition from others. The former groups are given the right to participate in the councils of government (if that phrase can be applied to party congresses and rubber stamp parliaments) and to bicker with other recognized groups over the division of spoils from the state. For example, during the 1960s the Egyptian government recognized five groupings as the building blocks of the new society: peasants, workers, intellectuals and professionals, national ("good") capitalists, and the army. Handpicked representatives of these groups were called upon to ratify the 1962 Charter for National Action and to keep their constituents informed of government decisions.

Interestingly, while this system diminished the rights enjoyed by some groups in Nasserist Egypt and Ba‘thist Syria and Iraq, it had the opposite effect on the rights enjoyed by others. For example, the system substantially curtailed the rights of workers. In all three countries the state destroyed the organizational independence of trade unions. First, the state purged liberals, leftists, and Islamists from union leadership. Then, the state integrated unions into broader labor confederations. These confederations held the exclusive right to represent their members to the government. Other groups that had organized themselves before the onset of the revolutionary period, such as the press and professional and trade associations, likewise lost their independence.

But while the revolutionary states curtailed the rights of organized labor, they expanded the rights of women. The Egyptian government, for example, recognized women as a distinct category of society whose needs were deemed worthy of special consideration. The Egyptian constitutions of 1956 and 1962 guaranteed equal opportunities to all Egyptians regardless of gender. The Egyptian state granted women the right to vote (as had the Syrian state after its first military coup), and guaranteed women paid maternity leave and the right to child care if employed at a large facility. The Ba‘thist regimes of Syria and Iraq legislated similar measures in the 1970s. Like the Egyptian government during the same period, they also expanded women's rights in marriage and protected women's rights of inheritance. Notwithstanding their stated commitment to social justice, the regimes stepped into this social minefield and promoted “state feminism” for two other reasons. First, they aspired to appease middle-class sentiment and to displace feminist organizations that had been active in the region since the 1920s. These organizations might have participated in liberal challenges to their rule. In addition, the regimes sought to further their control over the private lives of their citizens in much the same way as had Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Reza Shah before them.

The revolutionary regimes thus pioneered approaches to politics, economics, and social policy that provided a model from which other Middle Eastern states drew. Even states in the region that had not experienced military takeovers adopted many of the administrative, economic, and social measures Nasser had imposed in Egypt or the Ba‘thists had imposed in Syria and Iraq. More often than not, they did this to win the hearts and minds of their populations who were literally listening to the siren song of Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser on Radio Cairo. Imagine being King Hussein of Jordan and hearing Radio Cairo call on Jordanians to “take the dwarf [King Hussein, whom the British and the Americans called “our PLK”— plucky little king] and hang him from the gates of the British embassy.” Besides, leaders throughout the region understood that the end product of the political, economic, and social policies introduced by Nasser and the Ba‘th was a highly centralized state that brooked no challenge. This, alone, was enough to make those policies alluring.

In spite of the fact that almost all states in the region came to adopt programs similar to those adopted in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, however, not all of them took their developmentalist cues directly from their revolutionary neighbors. There were other influences at work as well. There were the none-to-subtle nudges from a United States worried about the survival of friendly governments. There was the influence of a legion of cookie-cutter development experts who imparted much the same advice everywhere. There was the encouragement and incentives offered by international institutions lost in the developmentalist moment. And there was the fact that once a state decided to go down the path of consolidation and development, there was only a limited number of off-the-shelf policy options from which it could choose. In 1963-1964, for example, the Ba‘th Party took control of governments in both Syria and Iraq. The party then presided over the most radical attempts to restructure the economics and politics of those countries ever undertaken. Governments of both states nationalized banks, insurance companies, and commercial and industrial establishments. A key element of their program was the expansion of land reform. At the same time, the shah of Iran announced his own plan for development known as the White Revolution. Like the Ba‘thists, the shah committed his government to wide-ranging social and economic reforms, including a land reform program. The shah felt that land reform would placate American policy makers who continued to believe that land reform imposed from the top would prevent a social upheaval from below. The shah also sought to take the wind out of the sails of his liberal and leftist opponents who were influenced by Cuban, Chinese, and homegrown revolutionaries. Besides, land reform would break the power of rural landlords, link the peasantry directly to the central government, and thus strengthen the shah's power. The program restricted the number of villages that landowners could own and redistributed land to those peasants who could prove they had sharecropping rights. Landowners were compensated with shares in state-owned industries that the White Revolution also expanded. Unfortunately for the shah, many were left unsatisfied. Historians often cite the unpopularity or failure of the White Revolution when cataloguing the reasons behind the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979.

Because most states in the region have copied or reproduced on their own the economic and political strategies pioneered by the revolutionary republics, their political, economic, and social systems hold a lot in common. From republican Egypt to monarchic Saudi Arabia to Islamist Iran, governments still play a major role in the economic sphere. In most states a small, close-knit ruling group stands above the fray, dispensing goodies to favored clients. This has bound populations to their governments and made those populations complicit in a political system that otherwise excludes them. In most states, what passes for political debate entails little more than disputes over the allocation of resources. In most states, the government has effectively pitted social groups against each other for shares in the economic bounty. This policy has all too often encouraged the fragmentation of society along kinship, ethnic, regional, and/or religious lines.

Then there is the problem of repression. Because the revolutionary regimes claimed to represent the “will of the nation,” they have repressed their opponents and classified whole layers of society as “enemies of the people.” The governments of Egypt, Syria, and Iraq have not been reluctant to use force when they have felt threatened or when it has suited their purposes. Within a month of taking power, the Free Officers of Egypt brutally suppressed a strike that had broken out at a textile factory. They arrested 545 workers and staged a show trial, after which two workers were hanged to demonstrate the commitment of the Free Officers to maintaining order. Far worse was yet to come. Nasser filled his jails with political dissidents, from leftists to Islamists. His successor, Anwar al-Sadat, once told a foreign reporter who asked a question he didn't like, “In other times I would have shot you, but it is democracy I am really suffering from [!] as much as I am suffering from the opposition.” When the Syrian government faced an Islamist rebellion in the city of Hama, it shelled the city and killed from ten to twenty thousand of its residents. During the notorious Anfal campaign waged by the Iraqi government against its own Kurdish citizens in 1988, government troops killed between fifty thousand to 150,000 Kurdish fighters and noncombatants.

The heyday of the so-called revolutionary model in the Arab East was shortlived. The economies of Egypt, Syria, and Iraq had been buoyed from their inception through the 1970s by a combination of nationalizations, foreign assistance, and oil revenues. By the early 1980s, the governments of all three were compelled to change course. Centralized economic planning had proved to be just as inefficient in the Arab Middle East as it had in other parts of the world. States had run out of properties to nationalize and, after a rapid climb, oil prices once again bottomed out. Governments had proved themselves as incapable of defeating Israel as their predecessors had been, and with the end of the cold war, both Syria and Iraq had lost their Soviet patron. To make matters even worse for all three states, the world economy had entered into a crisis period. As a result of new international economic conditions, international lending institutions and the governments that stood behind them began to distance themselves from states that maintained closed and tightly regulated economies. The revolutionary model was no longer as enticing as it had once been.


A Joke

According to the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, jokes provide the means by which one part of the brain outwits the “psychic censors” of another part of the brain, thereby transforming pain into pleasure. Because psychic censors are not the only censors present in the Arab Middle East, jokes there perform another function as well: They allow Middle Easterners to vent their grievances in a medium that flies under the radar of the state.

Here is a story I first heard in Syria, then soon after in Jordan and Egypt. For the latter versions, just substitute the words “Jordanian” or “Egyptian” for the word “Syrian”:

One day, the world's best intelligence agencies decided to stage a contest to see which was, indeed, the best. Invited to the contest were America's CIA, Russia's KGB, Israel's Mossad, and Syria's mukhabarat (secret intelligence agency). To determine which was the best agency, a rabbit was to be released into a forest. The first intelligence agency to bring the rabbit out of the forest would be deemed the finest in the world.

And so a rabbit was released and given a brief head start. Shortly thereafter, teams from the various intelligence agencies went in after it. After about an hour, the American team emerged with the rabbit. The contest was over. Two hours later the KGB team emerged (rabbitless, of course), followed by the Israeli team.

One day passed, then two, yet the Syrian team still did not emerge from the forest. After a week, the other teams decided to send in a search party. The search party scoured the forest, searching for the missing Syrians. Finally, the search party came to a clearing. In the middle of the clearing was a tree on which a donkey had been strapped. The Syrian team was surrounding the tree, while one of the Syrian agents was beating the donkey with a stick shouting, “Admit it — you're a rabbit.”

While none of the revolutionary republics was so foolish as to attempt to abandon the goal of economic development as a basis for political legitimacy, all adopted policies of limited economic liberalization. Egypt, always the pioneer, was the first to experiment with such policies. Three years after the death of Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser in 1970, Anwar al-Sadat launched a program of economic liberalization known as the infitah ("opening up"). The infitah was an idiosyncratic mixture of “Arab socialist” and free-market economics. It combined a strong state sector with incentives for foreign investment and private enterprise. State welfare programs were maintained as well. Sadat learned through bitter experience that any attempt to revitalize the Egyptian economy could not be undertaken at the expense of those programs. The attempt to curtail them ended disastrously with widespread strikes by industrial workers in 1975-1976, regime-threatening bread riots throughout the country in 1977, and a surge in support for the Islamist opposition. Syria and Iraq also experimented with limited economic liberalization during the 1980s. As in Egypt, however, economic liberalization in Syria and Iraq did not entail a weakening of the public sector or a politically dangerous withdrawal of subsidies, employment guarantees, or social security benefits from the population. Instead, both states attempted to reinvigorate the economy by applying private initiative to support a languid public sector.

Political scientists debate whether or not economic liberalization leads to political liberalization. Those who think there is a connection between the two argue that governments cannot open up an economic space for private initiative without opening up a political space at the same time. Others are more skeptical. They argue that the states in the region are so powerful that they do not have to “bargain” with their populations about expanding democratic rights. They also argue that states themselves have already successfully “decoupled” economic and political liberalization. In the 1974 October Paper that laid out the blueprint for the infitah, for example, Sadat warned that the social progress realized since the Free Officers revolution could only be protected if the government maintained a firm control over the political process. Since the announcement of the October Paper, Egyptian governments have parried half-hearted foreign pressure and domestic (mostly Islamist) threats by adopting the formal trappings of pluralist democracy. All the while, they have attempted to ensure regime survival by repressing potential opponents, manipulating the electoral system, continuing the welfare policies initiated under Nasser, and playing off the divisions created in society by the regimes themselves against one another. As in the past, the Egyptians may very well have provided a model from which other states in the region will continue to draw.

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