The sectarian surge in the Middle East and the dynamics of the regional states-system

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This article explores the role of sectarianism in the international relations of the Middle East. How has sectarianism altered the conduct of regional politics, and how has the regional states-system impacted on sectarianism? A framework combining constructivism and realism is designed and deployed to analyse the enduring dual features (material power balance, identity contests) of the regional states-system and then to dissect the interaction of sectarianism and the current regional power struggle.

Devises a conceptual framework combining realist and constructivist approaches to examine the current Middle East regional system. The dual character of the MENA regional system--a states system embedded in supra/trans-state communities--is outlined. Changes in these identities over time are identified, stressing the factors leading to the current sectarianization. Since the Arab Uprisings, a power struggle is being waged using sectarian discourses and proxy wars which the article traces through its key phases. The analysis shows that while the instrumentalization of sectarianian identity led to a certain bi-polarization of the regional power struggle, the insecurity it unleashed, in time led to a reassertion of state security interests, trumping sectarian identity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-61
JournalTidsskrift for Islamforskning
Issue number1
Early online date27 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Middle East
  • Sectarianism
  • Regional Dynamics
  • Power struggle


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