Free «The Comparative Analysis of the UAE and Syria as Global International Relations Actors» Essay Sample

The Comparative Analysis of the UAE and Syria as Global International Relations Actors


The United Arab Emirates and Syria are the Islamic states of the Near East that play an important role in international relations. Syria or the Syrian Arab Republic is bordering Lebanon and Israel to the southwest, Jordan to the south, Iraq to the east and Turkey to the north; it is washed by the Mediterranean Sea to the west. The United Arab Emirates is a federal state, consisting of seven emirates each of which is an absolute monarchy: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah, Umm al-Quwain, Fujairah, and Sharjah. Some of these emirates fall under the definition of dwarf states. Both Syria and the UAE belong to important international relations actors that shape the policy of the region. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the history, political order, and foreign policy (alliances with Arab and western countries and their effects) of Syria and the United Arab Emirates and compare them.

Historical Aspect

The goal of the countries to gain importance in the world stems from their historical development. It is necessary to investigate what events led to the formation of the states. Additionally, as Syria and the UAE have a powerful Islamic factor in their political lives, it is necessary to find when it became crucial and entered the states.

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Modern Syria has a little more than 70 years, but civilization originated on that territory back in the IV millennium B.C. The capital is Damascus, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. During the period between the invasion of the Canaanite tribes and the conquest of Syria in 64 B.C. by Roman Empire, its territory was ruled successively by Hyksos, Hittites, Egyptians, Greater Armenians, Aramaeans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians, and Ancient and Hellenistic Seleucid empire. Islam entrenched in Syria in 661, when Damascus became the capital of the Arab caliphate. Damascus has become a cultural and economic center of the Arab world, in the VIII century, being one of the largest cities in the world. In 750, the Umayyads were overthrown by the Abbasid dynasty, and then the capital of the caliphate moved to Baghdad.

In the XII century, Crusader states were established in Syria, which lasted less than a hundred years. Since the XIII century, Damascus became a provincial center of the Mamluk Empire. In 1400, the Turks of Central Asia attacked Syria and destroyed Damascus. Since 1517, Syria was included in the Ottoman Empire. However, after the defeat in World War I, the Ottoman Empire collapsed. In 1920, the Syrian Arab kingdom centered in Damask was founded. In 1922, League of Nations has decided to legalize the occupation of the Ottoman Empire’s lands by Britain and France. Thus, in 1917, United Kingdom occupied a part of the Ottoman Empire, called "Palestine." In 1922, the direct occupation regime was replaced by the administration known as Mandate of the League of Nations. In 1926, the constitution of the country confirmed the French mandate was introduced and provided a unicameral parliament for an elected President.

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In 1936, an agreement was signed between Syria and France providing the independence of Syria, but in 1939, France refused to ratify it. On September 27, 1941, France granted independence to Syria, although leaving French troops on its territory before the end of the Second World War. On January 26, 1945, Syria declared war on Germany and Japan. In April 1946, French troops were evacuated from Syria. In 1948, Syrian army took a limited part in the Arab-Israeli war, begun by the League of Arab member states. On February 22, 1958, in the wake of the pan-Arab movement’s popularity, Syria and Egypt united into the United Arab Republic with the center in Cairo, which existed until 1961.

On March 8, 1963, a military coup happened in Syria once again and resulted in Arab Socialist Renaissance (Baath Party) party coming to power. Afterward, Syria had military clashes with Israel. In 1976-1982, the country experienced Islamist armed struggle against the ruling Baath Party, which was accompanied by mass demonstrations and terrorist attacks known as Islamic uprising. Relations with France for decades remained good because of the huge French investments in Syrian economy that started in the period before World War II. Syria is a country that participated in Arab spring and has a civil war since 2011. Lastly, Bashar al-Assad, the President of Syria, plays an important role in world politics.

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Nowadays, the United Arab Emirates is one of the fastest growing countries in the world and, importantly, one of the wealthiest ones. Concerning its history, in the VII century, small sheikhdoms, located along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf and the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Oman, joined the Arab Caliphate that spread Islam among the locals (King, 2008). Since the end of the XV century, the region experienced European influence, namely of Portugal and Great Britain (King, 2008). There was also a conflict between the "East India Company" and the local Arab population (King, 2008). Moreover, there existed Trucial Oman that was an association of southern coast sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf under the protectorate of the United Kingdom, which existed in the XIX-XX centuries (King, 2008). In January 1820, Sheikhs of Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain signed the General Agreement on Peace (King, 2008). In the early 1920s, there happened a watershed event in the history of the Emirates and the whole Middle East – the richest oil reserves were discovered in the Persian Gulf. However, in 1922, the British took control of the sheikhs’ right to grant concessions for the exploration and production of crude oil (King, 2008). In 1964, the League of Arab States acted against British Protectorate declaring the right of the Arab people to full independence (King, 2008). Finally, on December 1, 1971, the six of the seven emirates of Trucial Oman announced the creation of the federation under the name of United Arab Emirates; the seventh emirate, Ras al-Khaimah, joined federation in 1972 (King, 2008). Thus, the UAE became an independent country and since then started its rapid development.

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Granting independence coincided with a sharp jump in prices for oil and petrol caused by Saudi Arabia’s tactics concerning the country’s energy sources. Such a flow of events in Saudi Arabia significantly facilitated the development of the country’s economy and foreign policy. Owing to high incomes from oil, skillful investments in the country’s industry and agriculture, and formation of numerous free trade zones, Emirates quickly reached the relative economic well-being.

Syria and the UAE had common features in their history, both prior to the changes in borders during WWI and WWII and after these wars. Firstly, both became Islamic states after this religion was introduced. Then, both Syria and the UAE experienced European influence: the territories were occupied by several European states. However, it happened earlier in the UAE although Syria is older as a country. Additionally, another state granted the independence to Syria while the UAE created the federation. Another point is that the United Arab Emirates is not bellicose country while Syria entered many conflicts, has a civil war on its territory now and even supports terrorist organizations. Lastly, the main UAE’s specialty is that the country is a federation of smaller sheikhdoms that existed autonomously before.

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Political Order

Syria is a multiparty presidential-parliamentary republic while the political system of the United Arab Emirates is a unique combination of republican and monarchical order. The head of Syria is the President; according to the constitution of the country, he can be elected for 7 years and the number of terms in office is limited to two consecutive terms (Haddad, 2011). The President of Syria has the right to appoint the Cabinet, to declare a war or a state of emergency, to sign the law, to grant amnesties, and to make amendments to the constitution. Furthermore, the President determines the foreign policy of the country and is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. At the same time, The UAE has a specialty, as it is a federation of seven emirates that are absolute monarchies. Thus, the Emir of Abu Dhabi heads the state and Emir of Dubai heads the government.

The legislative branch in Syria is People’s Council. The mentioned legislative authority consists of 250 deputies elected by direct vote for the 4-year term (Haddad, 2011). The country’s judicial system is a unique combination of Islamic, Ottoman and French traditions (Haddad, 2011). According to the constitution, Islamic law is the basis for the legislation in Syria although the existing legislation is actually based on the Napoleonic Code (Haddad, 2011). In addition, there are three levels of courts in Syria: the Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeal, and the Constitutional Court, which is the highest authority (Haddad, 2011). The Constitutional Court consists of five judges, one of whom is the President of Syria, and the President appoints the other four (Haddad, 2011). Thus, the President focuses full control of the executive power in the country.

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At the same time, in the UAE, Union Supreme Council occupies the highest place in the hierarchy of the government. The Council consists of the heads of the seven emirates and determines foreign and domestic policy of the country. The mentioned authority can also revise all government’s principles (Almezaini, 2012). Furthermore, United Arab Emirates’ Presidential Post comes together with the post of the Abu Dhabi Emir. Since the country is an absolute monarchy, the power in it is inherited. The President is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and can appoint the country’s diplomats, senior civil and military officials as well as has a right of granting an amnesty or confirming death sentences (Almezaini, 2012). The UAE’s executive branch is represented by the Council of Ministers, which is headed by the Chairman appointed by the President and approved by the Supreme Council (Almezaini, 2012). At the same time, legislative power belongs to the Federal National Council, which is composed of representatives from each emirate, the number of which is enshrined in the constitution and is determined by the population, the political and economic situation in this or that emirate. In addition, each emirate has the right to choose its own method of electing representatives to the National Council. Lastly, the judicial power belongs to the Supreme Court of the Union.

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The principal difference in the political order of the UAE and Syria is that the UAE is an absolute monarchy while Syria is a republic, so the role of the president differs as well as the whole hierarchy of the government. The similarity is in dividing the power into branches: legislative, executive, and judiciary. Interestingly, in Syria, the President holds full control over each of the branches while in the UAE, which is the absolute monarchy, the President does not have same plenipotentiaries.

Alliances with Arab and Western Countries and Their Effects

The United Arab Emirates have extensive relations with many Arab and western countries. To prove, the country holds the membership in the UN, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (Almezaini, 2012). The main purpose of the UAE’s foreign policy is developing closer connections with other oil producing states, its neighbors in the GCC. The clashes and armed conflicts in Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as the initiatives necessary for their resolving, were the bases of the dialogue with world leaders in the UAE in 2009 (Almezaini, 2012). According to the United Arab Emirates’ policy, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories deteriorates the notion of regional security. The UAE stands for the Israeli occupation termination. The country also supports the idea of the creation of an independent Palestinian (the capital would be East Jerusalem) within the Arab Peace Initiative agreement (Almezaini, 2012). Furthermore, the country had disputes with Iran over its nuclear program and three occupied islands belonging to the UAE, but the Emirates’ policy chosen to the settlement of these controversies is peaceful.

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Syria has traditionally played an important and active role in international relations in the Middle East. Damascus is trying to pursue largely balanced foreign policy, aimed at the release of the Israeli-occupied Syrian territories, preservation of the important role of Syria in the Arab world, and the establishment of equal relations with the countries of Western Europe and the United States. However, Syria’s vector aimed at carrying out an independent political course does not satisfy countries in the region and beyond it, especially the USA, Israel, and some EU states. The major accusations against Damascus are the following: support of the regional extremists (mostly, Islamic) organizations and groups, especially the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese “Hezbollah;” the promotion of the armed opposition in Iraq; the interference in Lebanon's affairs; and the suppression of democratic freedoms inside the country. It is necessary to mention that Syria developed special relations with Russia – Damascus sees the Russian Federation as its main military-political, trade and economic partner. Such a policy of Syria might lead to the accommodation of Russian naval base in the Mediterranean port of Tartus. Moreover, Russia is a supplier of arms and other military goods to Syria. On the contrary, Syrian relations with the West are more strained. To exemplify, the US accuses Syria government of sponsoring the international terrorism and promoting the Iraqi Resistance and Hezbollah’s arsenal. Finally, the United States have repeatedly accused the government of Bashar al-Assad of violating human rights and dictatorial management practices.











Both countries are the active members of narrow closed international organizations that are created specifically for Arab countries or Arab-speaking states. For instance, the UAE and Syria hold membership in Arab League and CAEU (The Council of Arab Economic Unity) (King, 2008). Arab League is an international organization of Arab States, as well as a number of friendly non-Arab countries, where the Arabic language is one of the official. Two more organizations common for the UAE and Syria are GAFTA (Greater Arab Free Trade Area) and Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (King, 2008). The effects of membership in all above-mentioned alliances are deepening of the cooperation in many fields, improving the independence from the Western world, creating the own bank, and lowering trade tariffs. In addition, Arab Fuld helped Syria to mitigate the consequences of civil war on the economy (Economic Challenges and Reform Options for Syria, 2011). However, the most specific organization that creates the major difference between the United Arab Emirates and Syria is The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, which has a military factor. Under the terms of the Joint Economic Agreement, tariff barriers between the six countries were eliminated, and the citizens of the Gulf states are free to open a production and implementation of contracts in any state on an equal footing. In addition, the plan is the creation of the united defense forces for rapid deployment. Furthermore, the alliances where the UAE and Syria are the members with Western countries are the UN, WHO, IMF, and WTO. The mentioned organizations would like to contribute to spreading democracy in Syria and the UAE; however, according to the Economist’s Democracy Index (2015), Syria holds the 166th position and the UAE has the 148th position in the world for the state of democracy in the country (Democracy Index 2015. Democracy in an age of anxiety, 2016). The problem is that while the UAE remains relatively neutral in its foreign policy, Syria’s actions in the international arena are rather aggressive. Thus, as a response to Syrian aggression, the Western countries imposed the sanctions that were detrimental to Syria’s economy (Lobel, 2013). The effects are being involved in global processes, ability to cooperate with countries in other regions, and participation in world programs.

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Both countries Syria and the United Arab Emirates demonstrate themselves as influential countries in the Arab region. Despite all differences, they are similar in several aspects. Firstly, they are Islamic states and that means the religion makes the considerable impact on governing and life of the citizens. Additionally, that Islamic factor increases the risks of terrorist organizations within the states. However, the UAE is the member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which gives the country a range of advantages. The differences between the countries are obvious. Firstly, the UAE is one of the few absolute monarchies in the world. At the same time, Syria, being a republic, has a President possessing control over all branches of power. Then, while the UAE is the member of Non-Alignment movement and holds “neutrality” in the global arena, Syria has a number of internal and external issues. The UAE have discrepancies with Syria in attitude to Israel-Palestine conflict. Moreover, Syria’s foreign policy failed in settling Syrian-Israeli dispute due to mistrust and unwillingness to compromise, as well as the failure of intermediaries’ policies regarding the issue. In essence, the UAE and Syria attract close attention of global superpowers, have the room to improve and probably they will strengthen their positions on global arena if the mentioned problems are solved.

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