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The Sources of Conflict in the Middle East

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142). Other theories such as international relations, religious conflict and civil war theories have been used to explain the sources of conflict in the Middle East. Theories of international relations conceptualize what drives state-to-state relations and state behaviour. There are essentially two main theories of international relations: liberalists and neo-realists theories. Liberalists theorize that the spread of liberal politics will eventually lead to world peace while neo-realists theorize that the forces driving the international system encourages all states to look to their own self-interests and to prepare for war (Linklater 2000, p. 833). Looked at from the liberalist theory of international relations the sources of conflict in the Middle East derive from the fact that the region is comprised of non-liberal or non-democratic regimes. Liberalists argue that political systems externalize norms of behviour that characterize their domestic process and institutions (Attar 2009, p. 97). Therefore, democratic political systems focus on peace and compromise (Attar 2009, p. 97). Non-democratic political systems on the other hand, focus on the elimination or subjugation of political opponents and the forceful resolution of political conflict (Attar 2009, p. 97). … It is conceptualized that liberal states temper conflicts among the citizenry because it not only protects human rights, but encourages citizens to express discontent (Sorli 2001). However, it can be argued that non-liberal states can also temper conflict by suppressing citizens’ rights to express discontent (Sorli 2001). It therefore follows that the liberalist theory of international relations is not a satisfactory explanation for the source of conflict in the Middle East. The non-democratic regimes in the Middle East can just as easily contribute to peace as it can contribute to conflict. According to Maoz, Landau and Malz (2004), the neo-realists theory of international relations finds currency in the modern history of the Middle East. According to the neo-realist theory of international relations, states are driven by self-interests and power politics to such an extent that conflict regionally and/or globally is unavoidable. As Maoz et al (2004) argues, Arab states in the Middle East often express a common heritage, yet they may exhibit conduct and values that are inconsistent with that heritage. Egypt made an attempt to harmonize Arab heritage in the Middle East during the 1950s and 1960s and was frequently in conflict with Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Other attempts to harmonize the Arab Middle East such as the Baghdad Pact sponsored by the UK and the US also resulted in regional conflicts such as the Egyptian-Iraqi conflict during the 1950s (Maoz et al 2004). Power politics as espoused by neo-realist theories is also confirmed by Nasser’s attempt to circumvent and dismantle the monarchies in Arab and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and Jordan responded with hostility. As Maoz et al (2004) observed: