Political Liberalization in the Persian Gulf

In This Review

Political Liberalization in the Persian Gulf
Edited by Joshua Teitelbaum
Columbia University Press, 2009
288 pp. $75.00

This multiauthored survey of all the Persian Gulf states begins with a regionwide appraisal, followed by short country studies. The separate chapters treating those oil-rich and small Persian Gulf monarchies whose citizens are a minority of those living in each country -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates -- show the considerable liberalization and institution building that is taking place, but without disrupting the ruling families' holds on power. The portrayal of the United Arab Emirates as more like a corporation than a state is suggestive for the others as well. Of the chapters on the three big Persian Gulf states, two focus narrowly on the role of the ulama (Islamic clergy). The chapter on Saudi Arabia paints a bleak appraisal of the Wahhabi ulama, whereas the one on Iran sees much more ideological nuance, concluding that "democracy has a better chance in Iran" than in Sunni countries. The chapter on Iraq, after setting out the differing "visions" of democracy there, concludes that Iraq is no longer a nation-state but a "diffuse" country whose contending entities "have yet to take their final shape."

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