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Title: Syro-Iraqi relations : the puzzle of the perpetual rivalry
Author: Rasheed, Amjed Majeed
ISNI:       0000 0004 6059 7646
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis investigates and analyses the puzzle concerning the constant hostility between Syria and Iraq. Empirical and experimental examinations show that while pan-Arabism played a secondary role in the conflict between Syria and Iraq, the geopolitical realities of the two countries, and resemblance of the belief systems of the two presidents Ḥāfeẓ al-Asad and Ṣaddām Ḥusayn played a determining role in Syro-Iraqi hostile relations. The rivalry between Syria and Iraq was driven by power consolidation and regional leadership, but also in an ideological sense by a romanticised conception of pan-Arabism. When the Baʿth party came to power in both countries, the two regimes became almost identical ideologically (Sluglett, 2000). As a result, they ended up competing over the same tools of regime legitimacy (Eppel, 1999). Therefore, although pan-Arabism has always played a role in Syro-Iraqi tension, its role during this period was secondary. The geopolitical position of Syria and Iraq determined their foreign policy role. The Persian Gulf was the Iraqi regime’s area of influence, while Lebanon was Syria’s area of influence because of its lack of strategic depth. As a result, geopolitics stretched the two regimes in two opposite directions (Ehteshami, 2015). Thus, the Iraqi regime adopted a dogmatic approach in the Arab-Israel conflict, whereas the Syrian regime took a pragmatic approach in this conflict because of its geographical proximity to Israel. The two main subjects of geopolitics, the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline, and the water of the Euphrates, also played a significant role in feeding the tension between the two countries. When Presidents Ḥāfeẓ al-Asad and Ṣaddām Ḥusayn – both powerful personalities - came to power (1970 and 1979 respectively), they added a personal element to the dynamics of hostile Syro-Iraqi relations. This thesis argues that because the two presidents dominated the process of decision making in their countries, their belief systems played a determining role in shaping Syro-Iraqi hostility. The experimental research demonstrates that the two presidents had similar belief systems – represented by dogmatism and mistrust of others, risk-taking, and adopting passive cooperation as a strategy in their foreign policy behaviour – which made reconciliation between Syria and Iraq exceedingly unlikely during the period they were in power (1979-2000).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available