ISBN: 978-0-8156-3813-1

Bjørn Olav Utvik

University of Oslo

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This volume takes as its starting point the dismal success rate of the many efforts at conflict mediation in the Arab World. The case studies in Part One ‘General Trajectories and Challenges of Mediation in the Arab world’, Part Two ‘Mediation in or by Arab Countries’ and Part Three ‘Local-Level Mediation in the Arab World’ are mostly focussed on mediation attempts during the last twenty years in intra-state conflicts. They cover a wide range of situations related to Algeria, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, the GCC, Yemen and Somalia. Both here and in the editors’ introduction and conclusion attempts are made at teasing out reasons for the failures and relating this to existing theories of mediation. Not least pertinent is the question of who should be included in a mediation effort. Non-included groups tend to be spoilers of agreements. In Syria, the ‘war on terror’ complicated the issue, since an actor designated as terrorist would typically be excluded. In Libya, Yemen and Syria, exclusionary mandates for mediation, containing the express condition that the present state leader must go, blocked serious mediation. Another basic impediment to success is if the conflict is not ‘ripe’, where the condition of a ‘mutually hurting stalemate’ has not emerged, and the parties still think they can win, sometimes because of the availability of significant reinforcement from outside actors. I would have liked a discussion of the tension between the ideal of the neutral ‘honest’ broker and the UN’s promotion of justice and democratic governance. But as it stands, the book provides stimulating reading for all interested in conflict mediation in the Middle East and elsewhere.