Although Iran’s Islamic Revolution had an electrifying effect on Shiite movements in Lebanon, Iraq, the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, there exists a tendency to explain away much of Shiite politics in the Middle East as inextricably linked to Iranian foreign policy. Laurence Louër challenges this view, arguing that, in the end, local political imperatives have been the crucial factor determining the direction of Shiite states in the Middle East.In this book, completed before the current outbreak of unrest in Bahrain that has formed part of the Arab Spring, Laurence Louër explains, the background of the Bahraini conflict in the context of the wider issue of Shiism as a political force in the Arab Middle East, amongst other issues relating to the role of Shiite Islamist movements in regional politics. Her study shows how Bahrain’s troubles are a phenomenon based on local perceptions of injustice rather than on the foreign policy of Shiite Iran.
More generally, the book shows that, though Iran’s Islamic Revolution had an electrifying effect on Shiite movements in Lebanon, Iraq, the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, local political imperatives have in the end been the crucial factor in the direction they have taken. In addition, the overwhelming influence of the Shiite clerical institution has been diminished by the rise to prominence of lay activists within the Shiite movements across the Middle East and the emergence of Shiite anti-clericalism. This book contributes to dispelling the myth of the determining power of Iran in the politics of Iraq, Bahrain and other Arab states with significant Shiite populations.
Laurence Louër’s analysis has been acclaimed by academics and researchers on the Middle East, such as Juan Cole from the University of Michigan who described the French researcher as being “among the foremost authorities on contemporary Shiite Islamic politics in the Middle East.”