, Volume 93, Number 4

I. William Zartman
States in the Middle East are real states, not yet Weberian and Westphalian, hard rather than strong states in most cases, with few cases of collapse after the Arab Spring. This article develops this idea, by discussing how their aspiring sovereignty over territory with established, if permeable, boundaries is likely to pursue its efforts at consolidation; only the Kurds and the Palestinians militate for a new sovereign entity of their own, with little success after decades of efforts and sympathy. Boundaries are remarkably stable, even often demarcated; challenges arise within the states for control, rather than between states, and at most decentralization in a few states may bring greater self-rule to ethnic groups. The challenge of regional order is not the creation of new boundaries, but the division of the region into a Shi’a Fatal Crescent against a Sunni north and south, both riven by state identity.

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