Identity Uprisings, Fragile States and Geopolitical Crises in the Middle East

Document Type : Original Article


Assistant Professor of Political Sciences, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran


Today, the Middle East is the main part of all global geopolitical crises. This paper analyses this crisis as the product of a complex interaction among three groups of actors, namely, emerging identity-based sub-national and transnational forces, fragile national states with lower structural ability, and powerful regional and trans-regional actors seeking regional hegemony.
The research is basic in terms of its goal, and casual and descriptive- analytic in terms of method and nature. Data gathering procedure is based on library findings.   
The results of the paper are provided as follows:
1. The rise of national and transnational identities in the context of social and cultural cleavages in the Middle East
The full-cleavage structure of Middle Eastern societies has always been a key factor in political conflicts and instability in regional environment. In recent years, factors such as imperfect integration in international processes, inefficiency of nationalist and secular authoritarian regimes, and finally the attack of the United States on the Middle East have made two main cleavages of Middle Eastern societies active, tribal-ethnic (sub-national) and religious and fundamentalist (transnational) cleavages. Thus, a set of identity-based forces has been formed as a kind of "resistance identity" which do not accept the established order based on the nation-state structure.
2. Identity uprisings and turning fragile states to failed states
The nation-state is considered as a colonial product in the Middle East that has not had the sufficient ability to overcome the challenges arising from dispersed structure and has also not been able to play expected functions of a modern state. These occur mainly as the region faces a complex and "strong" social structure based on tribal, ethnic, and religious belonging. Fragile states in the Middle East, in the face of identity-based uprisings, have practically turned to failed states.
3. Regional and international actors, and tendency to utilize identity-based forces
While fragile states in the Middle East have encountered intensified crisis and collapse, regionally strong states (especially Saudi Arabia) as well as international powers tend to use identity uprisings as a tool to put pressure on their competitors. They also try to mobilize their available resources and increase their manoeuvre power. 
Discussion and Conclusion
Using the discussions of Manuel Castells, this paper considers sub-national (ethnic), identity-based, and trans-national (religious) forces in the Middle East as a "resistance identity". Although the identity-based forces are considered as a product of the nation-state crisis, their actions virtually intensify the already prevalent crisis of fragile state in the Middle East and turn them into failed states. In this situation, more powerful regional and trans-regional states mobilize their resources to align the developments with their own interests. They also tend to use identity-based forces to put pressure on their competitors and increase their control in the regional environment. This paper considered the Saudi foreign policy as an example that tends to use identity variables and identity-based forces as a tool to achieve their regional hegemony. This plays a key role in intensifying crises and forming a devastating balance in the Middle East crisis areas.