Firstly, it should be defined what the Arab world actually is. Essentially, it stretches right across from Morocco across Nortern Africa to the Arabian Gulf. The Arab world is sometimes used interchangeably with the MENA region, but crucially, MENA does not include Somalia, Djibouti and the Comoros Islands. An easy way to determine the Arab world is based on whether Arabic is spoken there as the main language. Arab countries are diverse, ethnically, and Islam is more often the main religion, but not in all cases. The 22 Arab countries are: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the UAE, and Yemen. The GCC which is the Gulf Cooperation Council consists of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Iran, Turkey and Israel are NOT Arab countries.
The strategic importance of the Arab world is that the area consists of the seat of the 3 main monotheistic religions, with a multitude of ethnic and linguistic groups. Although, numbers vary, the Arabian peninsula consists of nearly 60% of the world's proven oil reserves, with Saudi Arabia possessing the world's largest oil reserves. These two facts alone, religion and oil, are probably the main reason for such conflict in the region, along with territorial disputes, no doubt.
The Arab world has a politically diverse set of government types. Parliamentary republics exist in Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. The GCC countries, however, are traditional monarchies, with Jordon and Morocco as constitutional monarchies, where monarchy powers are limited by a set of rules or representative bodies. Religion does play a role in Arab politics in many different ways where, in Lebanon, parliament is divided according to religious affiliation, and in Jordon and Morocco, the Kings base legitimacy on direct descent from the Prophet Mohammed, but does not act as a religious leader.
Arabs don't agree on everything but the main areas of contention are:
- Country borders
- The relationship with Israel although, it is recognised that many Arabs have very negative feelings against the Israelis
- Rivalry amongst some countries
- The Oil factor, leading to some countries being very rich, with others relatively poor
- The conflict of Sunni and Shia factions, leading to violence.
The United Arab Emirates, stays relatively neutral with regard to politics, perhaps for fearing that swaying one way or another would involve it in any conflicts. Whichever way you look at it, the West looks at the UAE as a role model for the Middle East, on how success can be generated from within.