A Strained Partnership: European-American Relations and the Middle East from Suez to Iraq

A Strained Partnership: European-American Relations and the Middle East from Suez to Iraq

Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich); Andreas Wenger, Victor Mauer, Daniel Möckli; in association with The Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact (PHP)
From - Until
07.09.2006 - 09.09.2006
Center for Security Studies, ETH Zurich (Daniel Möckli)

Divergent views on the justification and legitimacy of the Iraq War in 2003 have caused a deep rift in transatlantic relations from which the Western Alliance has yet to recover. However, as remarkable as this crisis has been in terms of its intensity and consequences, it merely represents the latest in a whole series of intra-Western controversies over the Middle East. In fact, the issue of how to deal with the Middle East has constituted a major source of European-American tension since the beginnings of the transatlantic partnership in the late 1940s. The Suez Crisis of 1956, the October War in 1973, and the recent Iraq War constitute only three of the most prominent examples of what appears to be a dominant pattern of allied conflict about the right kind of policies and approaches towards the Middle East. What is more, as most of the major security risks today relate in some way or other to the “crisis crescent” of the Southern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region, the Middle East is bound to stay at the forefront of attention of Western policy-makers and will remain a key determinant of European-American relations for the foreseeable future.

Against this background, the conference aims at placing the current transatlantic strain over Iraq into a wider perspective. Its main objective is to trace the Western debates regarding the Middle East since 1948/49 and to identify the major causes and constellations of allied discord and cooperation over time. We seek to determine essential elements of continuity and change concerning European and US interests, threat assessments, and policy preferences, relating to either the region at large or individual key issues such as Gulf security or the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The conference hopes to bring together historians and political analysts with expertise on particular incidents and topics regarding allied conflict and cooperation over the Middle East. Papers should either deal with a relevant case study or cover the evolution of intra-Western perceptions of a given Middle East issue over time. Authors are urged to avoid too narrow approaches. They should apply a multilateral perspective to their analysis and put their specific findings into the bigger context of the overall conference theme. While intra-European differences regarding the Middle East are important and may be addressed, the main focus should be on the European-American dimension. Please note that the conference is not about the Middle East as such, but rather about its significance for transatlantic relations.

Possible topics to address include:

I. Gulf security and transatlantic relations
- The allies and the Gulf during the early Cold War
- The 1970s and 1980s: Western responses to the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq War, and the growing regional presence of the Soviet Union
- Operation Desert Storm 1990/91: A brief moment of unity?
- Dual containment (of Iran and Iraq) and its discontents: The 1990s
- The Iraq War 2003: The Alliance at the crossroads
- Dealing with Iran and its nuclear program

II. The Arab-Israeli conflict: What role for Europe?
- The allies and the Middle East conflict during the early Cold War
- The Six-Day War 1967: Realignments within the West
- The October War and the Oil Crisis, 1973/74: Kissinger, Europe, and the Middle East
- European-US differences over the Arab-Israeli conflict in the later 1970s and the 1980s
- The Peace Process in the 1990s: European-US commonality and divisions
- The Middle East Quartet: A new role for Europe?

III. NATO and the Middle East: The evolving out-of-area debate
- European colonial interests and US East-West prerogatives - the early Cold War period (e.g., NATO and the defense of the Middle East 1948-55, the Algerian War, the Suez Crisis 1956, Lebanon/Jordan 1958)
- US claims to leadership and calls for burden-sharing - from the 1960s to the end of the Cold War
- From a non-policy to pragmatic consensus? NATO and the Middle East in the 1990s
- NATO and the War on Terror in the Middle East - the early 21st century

IV. Other key themes in long-term perspective
- The evolution of European and US concepts for regional order
- Energy and security: Diverging oil dependencies and allied policies vis-à-vis the Middle East
- The West and the military balance in the Middle East: Arms sales and arms control
- WMD and Western counter-proliferation policies

The deadline for paper proposals is 28 February 2006. Proposals should include a title, a one-page outline, and a short CV of the author. There will be about 20 papers/speakers. Authors will be notified whether their proposal has been accepted by the end of March 2006. Draft papers will have to be submitted by 13 August 2006, to allow for their distribution to all the participants prior to the conference.

At the conference itself, authors will summarize their papers in oral presentations of up to 15-minute duration, strictly enforced by the chairperson of each session, thus allowing enough time for substantive discussion stimulated by the papers.

A publication of the conference papers is envisaged. Participants will receive a financial contribution to cover their transport and accommodation costs for their stay in Zurich.

Please submit proposals by e-mail, if possible, or send by air mail to:


Contact (announcement)

Daniel Möckli
Senior Researcher
Center for Security Studies
ETH Zurich WEC
CH-8092 Zurich


Phone: ++41 44 632 78 70
Fax: ++41 44 632 13 72

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