Syria and Saudi Arabia, 1978-1990 : a study of the role of shared identities in alliance-making
Syrian-Saudi relations have been a paradox in inter-Arab politics during the oil era. The two states pursued mutually conflicting aims in almost every major regional or international foreign policy issue and often propagated contrasting ideological banners over the past thirty years; yet both acted as though some form of an alignment existed between themselves. The most obvious proof for the existence and endurance of this link can be observed in the enormous financial transaction from Saudi Arabia to Syria, which came to form a lifeline for Syria's national economy. Besides the economic sphere, the two countries have consulted each other on major regional political and security issues, such as the Middle East peace process, the Lebanese civil war and Gulf security. This thesis is an empirical study of the paradoxical relations with a special emphasis on the period between the 1978 Egyptian-Israeli Camp David Accords and the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In the history of the bilateral relations since 1946, this twelve-year period was marked by exceptionally abundant sources of disagreements between the two actors. The examination of this period, therefore, highlights the logic behind the longevity of the cooperative relationship despite the occasional tensions and conflicting interests. The complexity of the case partly arises from the fact that neither of the two actors has occupied a central place in the other's primary security concerns, but at the same time, neither has been able to realise its own regional objectives without being concerned about what the other does. The thesis concludes that this ultimate indispensability of each other is a condition created by the historical appeal of 'shared ideologies', be they Arabism or Islam. In the politics of the Arab world, these ideologies have been transformed from shared inspirations into disciplinary standards-of what the acceptable behaviours are for the regional political actors.