Conclusions & Policy Recommendations

As is indicated at the outset, the question of political succession in the Arab world should be at the forefront of any attempt to gauge the future stability and evolution of the Middle East. A country is only as good as its leadership, and such leadership is clearly the product of the political succession processes that are discussed throughout this analysis. Those responsible for their country’s foreign ties must be concerned about questions of political succession. Thus for example, the recent Israeli election and the victory of Prime Minister Ehud Barak were keenly tracked not only by the Israeli public, but by American and Arab policy makers as well. Indeed, the victory of Barak was regarded as “good news” both by leaders in Washington and in most Arab capitals. Thus, just as we are concerned with Arab succession politics, Arabs are concerned about those in Israel and the U.S. The impending U.S. Presidential elections, for example, are of significant interest not only in Jerusalem, but also throughout the Arab world. Arab elites are keen students of the American electoral and political processes. They know, for example, that periods surrounding Presidential elections generally mean a pause in constructive discussion of Arab-Israeli peace making. In what some call America’s “silly season,” Presidential campaigns generally do not encourage the type of intelligent and rational discussion about Arab-Israeli peacemaking that will ensure the future stability of this key region. Thus, processes of political succession are not simply important in the Arab world, they are significant in all countries that have some measure of influence and impact on the political evolution of the region.

In calendar year 1999 alone, we saw the monarchs of Bahrain, Jordan, and Morocco all die, only to be replaced by their sons in apparently smooth transitions of power. At this writing, there are sporadic rumors about Hafez al-Assad’s deteriorating health and an incipient move by his half brother, Rifaat, to seize power and to push designated successor, Bashar, aside. When we enumerate the number of Arab countries involved in toto, the different political systems which sustain them, and the forces influencing political succession, we understand how profoundly complex and significant these forces can be. What if the year 2001 were to see simultaneous transitions in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq? In short, permanent, long term, and significant attention to political succession, a key component of the Middle East political processes with which all-political analysts are concerned, is essential. And our ongoing attempt to make sense of a complex and diverse Arab world ensures that we will continue to be challenged, as well as intrigued, by this most important and uniquely interesting evolutionary political process.

As indicated above, relevant and immediate policy concerns for Washington and Jerusalem can be summarized as follows:

• Although the absence of democracy in the Arab world can affect political stability, it has yet to undermine the pursuit of Arab-Israeli peacemaking or its maintenance. No new Arab leader has rejected peace agreements with Israel made by a predecessor.

• Succession is important everywhere, not just in the Arab states. For example, the ascension of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is generally thought to have hurt rather than enhanced Arab-Israeli peacemaking.

• Despite the unilateral quality of peace agreements made with Israel by such dynamic leaders as Anwar Sadat and King Hussein, the vitality and survival of these agreements indicate that such decisions are not necessarily lacking in popular support.

• Arab-Israeli peace is likely to be achieved when initiated by well-established, seasoned, older leaders rather than less certain newcomers. It is fortunate that political succession has recently occurred in two states already at peace with Israel (e.g. Morocco and Jordan) . It is incumbent on Israeli, American, and other leaders supportive of Arab-Israeli peace to stimulate further peace initiatives with leaders who are currently in power, rather than waiting for their less secure successors.

Table 1 - Heads Of State In The Arab World

Country

Title

Head Of State

Born

Year Came To Power

Algeria

President

Abdelaziz Bouteflika

1937

1999

Bahrain

Amir

HAMAD bin Isa Al Khalifa

1949

1999

Egypt

President

Mohammed Hosni Mubarak

1928

1981

Iraq

President

SADDAM Husayn

1937

1979

Jordan

King

Abdullah II

1962

1999

Kuwait

Amir

JABIR al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al-Sabah

1926

1977

Lebanon

President

Emile Lahoud

1936

1998

Libya

None

Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi

1942

1969

Morocco

King

Mohammed VI

1963

1999

Oman

Sultan

QABOOS bin Said Al-Said

1940

1970

Palestinian National Authority

President

Yasser Arafat

1929

1968

Qatar

Amir

HAMAD bin Khalifa Al-Thani

1950

1995

Saudi Arabia

King

FAHD bin Abd al-Aziz Al-Saud

1923

1982

Sudan

President

Lt. Gen. Umar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir

 

1989

Syria

President

Hafiz al-Asad

1930

1971

Tunisia

President

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

1936

1987

United Arab Emirates

President

ZAYID bin Sultan Al-Nuhayyan

1918

1971

Yemen

President

Fd. Mar. Ali Abdallah Salih

 

1990