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The Red Sea Region. Local Actors and the Superpowers


Since the late 1970s the Red Sea has become extremely important both in international politics and regional affairs. This situation came about because of the growing Soviet presence in the Horn of Africa and Saudi efforts to have the Red Sea treated as an ‘Arab Lake’. This book examines the development of the Red Sea as a significant problem in superpower relations and assesses its relative importance in the context of other conflicts in the Gulf and elsewhere in the Third World. It analyses Soviet interests in the Red Sea area and examines its record in seeking to intervene in the domestic politics of the region. The book also discusses the degree of regional stability in the Red Sea both in terms of inter-Arab relations and Afro-Arab regulations. This issue is considered against the background of the security of the Nile valley. In conclusion the book argues that Saudi Arabia’s regional policies aimed at enhancing internal and external security have proved destabilizing and in a way even adventurous. By fermenting Somali nationalism Saudi Arabia hoped to push the Soviets out of the Red Sea. In fact this policy reinforced the Soviet presence in the Horn of Africa. Similarly, Saudi Arabia’s regular interference in the domestic affairs of North Yemen may well prove extremely counter-productive. The book argues that the West’s preoccupation with the region would lessen considerably if Saudi Arabia and Egypt would promote policies of cooperation, rather than destabilization at both inter-Arab and Afro-Arab levels.

Final product of the research project "Red Sea Conflicts and Co-operation: Regional Balance and Strategic Implications" conducted by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in cooperation with the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies and the German Oriental Institute. Published also in the series "Contemporary Issues in the Middle East" (Syracuse University Press, May 1985, ISBN 0-8156-2332-1 ; 978-0-8156-2332-8) and in the series "Routledge Library Editions: Politics of the Middle East" (July 2015, ISBN 978-1-13-892375-1).