Varieties of International Influence and the Middle East
by Sarah Sunn Bush, Temple University
International actors attempt to influence the domestic politics of states in myriad ways, especially in the Middle East. General international relations (IR) theories about international pressure can help scholars of the Middle East to understand important dynamics in the region that have occurred since the Arab uprising. Lessons from the Middle East also suggest important research questions about the nature and consequences of international influence that are applicable elsewhere in the world. This article focuses on two themes related to international influences on domestic politics that illustrate the benefits of cross-fertilization between IR and Middle East studies. Specifically, careful attention to Middle East cases demonstrates the ways that international influence leads to differentiation across countries and polarization within them—in addition to the more frequently studied dynamics of diffusion and convergence. Although these divergent effects are not unique to the contemporary Middle East, they are particularly stark there due in part to the highly partisan nature of international influence. IR scholars will benefit from paying closer attention to these dynamics in the future, especially as research programs about international influences on domestic politics continue to grow.