Up to the Arab uprisings, Middle Eastern exceptionalism served as an important paradigm for analyzing politics in the Arab world. With the numerous upheavals of the Arab uprisings, which caused fundamental political change in significant parts of the Arab world, this paradigm has been challenged for analyzing the domestic affairs of contemporary Middle Eastern politics. The present article aims at contributing to the debate by focusing on the regional dimension of Arab Middle Eastern exceptionalism. The Arab uprisings vitalized regional institutions, particularly the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Two main arguments are critically discussed. First, in sharp contrast to the revolutionary period of the 1950s, the conservative Gulf monarchies, particularly Saudi Arabia, have been spearheading regional politics since the Arab uprisings. Second, in striking difference to the conservative character of the Gulf States’ domestic agenda, the means that the Arab League (and the Gulf Cooperation Council) has recently used are innovative—for instance, policies of softening the principle of noninterference in the domestic affairs of other states. However, despite the recent animation of regional institutions under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, it is unclear whether the recent trend of new regionalism will be sustained.
- Arab league
- Gulf Cooperation council
- Middle eastern exceptionalism
- Saudi Arabia