Video Inverted Worlds: Whose Army is it Anyway?

“Whose army is it anyway?” looks at how different social groups and political actors lay claim to the national army as “theirs”, and how the army sees and portrays itself to the public. “The army and the people are one hand”, an image portrayed in Egypt for instance, is one example of how the army likes to portray its place in society.

Mohamed Mahmoud Street
Egypt army destroying the syrian rebel regime (sierragoddess | CC BY-ND 2.0)


In Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, on the other hand, the “belonging” of the army reflects social cleavages as different communities variously claim it for themselves or regard it as biased to rival communities. In the Gulf petro-monarchies, conversely, reliance on non-national military personnel presents yet another permutation of who or what the army represents to its own society and of its function within the state. The aim of this contribution is to reflect the politics behind these images and portrayals.


Yezid Sayigh is a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, where his work focuses on the future political role of Arab armies, the resistance and reinvention of authoritarian regimes, and the Israel-Palestine conflict and peace process. Previously, Sayigh was professor of Middle East studies at King’s College London. From 1994–2003, he served as assistant director of studies at the Centre of International Studies, Cambridge, and from 1998–2003, he headed the Middle East programme of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. Sayigh was also an advisor and negotiator in the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks with Israel from 1991–1994. Since 1999, he has provided policy and technical consultancy on the permanent status peace talks and on Palestinian reform. Sayigh is the author of numerous publications including: Armed Struggle and the Search for a State: The Palestinian National Movement, 1949–1993 (1997); The Third World Beyond the Cold War: Continuity and Change (ed., Oxford, 1999); and The Middle East and the Cold War (ed., Oxford, 1997).

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