GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Seeking neo-patrimonial hegemony: Saudi power politics after the Arab spring. Evidence from Lebanon and Egypt.
Paper Proposal Text :
Saudi Arabia has been engaging in diverting or re-directing Arab revolutions, with the aim of either triggering government turnover or noiselessly promoting the rise of selected leaderships to the detriment of others, perceived as potential challengers to Gulf security. Elaborating on three factors – i) unaffordability of “hard power”; ii) permeability of the Arab inter-state system iii) unofficial dimension of diplomatic relations – this paper contends that Saudi hegemonic strategy in the Arab world has reproduced the traditional co-optation pattern, typical of domestic orders in neo-patrimonial regimes, but implementing it on a transnational basis. Co-optation is implemented by unofficially financing, strengthening of selected business communities, sponsoring media (when dealing with non-state actors) or official military/development aids (when dealing with state actors). This mechanism is not unprecedented, and in some cases represents continuity with the past. Critically reviewing the traditional IR approaches to the analysis of ‘regional hegemony’ and ‘Arab inter-state system’, this paper engages theoretically with the concept of “authoritarian co-optation” on a transnational dimension, as a means of making alliances and counteracting challengers at both state and non-state level. I focused on Saudi strategies in Lebanon and Egypt. In the first case, continuity in Saudi-Hariri connection, financial support for new militant Lebanese and Palestinian groups, as well as connection with Christian political parties, is geared to counteract Hizbollah prominence in the political system, as well as Iranian influence. In Egypt, Saudi sponsoring of al-Nour party, as well as other Salafi political and social (such as Media, NGOs, etc) national actors, is parallel to support for the Military, with the aim of narrowing down the influence of Qatar-backed Muslim Brothers. In both cases, influence-seeking is not only ideologically grounded on the Salafi/Wahabi connection, but targets all of the political/social groups, potentially counterbalancing Saudi challengers and, eventually, aimed at establishing a new regional hegemonic order.