Unfulfilled Aspirations

Middle Power Politics in the Middle East

Edited by Part of the Georgetown University, Center for International and Regional Studies, School of Foreign Service in Qatar series
July 2020 9781787383197 320pp
EU Customers


The concepts and theories of what constitutes a ‘Middle Power’ have played a key part in explaining the identity, behaviour and foreign policy roles of many states in the international system, including the United Kingdom, France, Australia and Brazil. But, with a few exceptions, these frameworks have failed to travel to scholarship on the Middle East, despite the theoretical and empirical potential that they offer for understanding regional dynamics.

The first of its kind, this volume addresses that major gap by interrogating the conceptual, theoretical and empirical underpinnings of the concept of ‘Middle Power’ at a regional level. Composed of nine chapters, Unfulfilled Aspirations offers the conceptual and theoretical tools to examine ‘Middle Powerhood’ in the Middle East, as well as insightful empirical analyses of both ‘traditional’ Middle Powers in the region (Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria) and new, aspiring ones (Qatar, the UAE). The contributors reveal that the Middle Powers of the Middle East have failed, despite their best efforts, to fulfill their regional aspirations.


‘Bringing a wealth of fresh empirical data to the table and substantially progressing the theoretical debate on ‘middle powerhood’, this expertly edited volume significantly expands our understanding of some of the most important established and emerging actors in the Middle East region. Essential reading.’  Christopher M. Davidson, author of Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success and Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond

‘The greatest strength of [Unfulfilled Aspirations] is its clear and in-depth conjunction of theory and case-studies. Saouli’s edited volume is a timely study of an important subject for Middle East studies.’ International Affairs

‘Powerful in its critique, Unfulfilled Aspirations is an indispensable guide to understanding why Middle Power Politics now matters so much to a region where, increasingly, actor identities and claims to legitimacy have recast the boundaries of cooperation and conflict.’ — Clive Jones, Professor of Regional Security, Durham University

Unfulfilled Aspirations opens up new theoretical horizons for the study of “middlepowerhood” by incorporating rich empirical findings from contemporary Middle Eastern regional dynamics. I highly recommend this book for all students of the middle power and Middle Eastern international relations.’ — Shun Watanabe, Sasakawa Peace Foundation Fellow and Visiting Researcher in Middle East Studies, University of Oxford; Researcher, Kyoto University




Adham Saouli is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of St Andrews, focusing on the genesis, development and behaviour of Middle Eastern political actors. He is the author of Hezbollah: Socialisation and its Tragic Ironies; and The Arab State: Dilemmas of Late Formation.

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