“An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” —Mahatma Gandhi
The middle east is a land full of hate and conflict, many factors from both past and present combine to make the middle east the center of unrest that it is today. Some factors are its diverse group of people living in such a small area, the many different rulers and owners of the land. These are just a few of the many reasons the middle east is presently a troubled and turbulent area.
One of the main reasons there is so much tension in the middle east, is that all of the different peoples and ethnic groups live there. This is due to the numerous rulers the middle east has had over the past centuries. Ruling power will be passed from empire to empire and kingdom to kingdom numerous times, each time a new group is formed, more hatred is grown for the enemy, and more and more people wish to fight again for the land they believe is rightfully theirs. The middle east is defined as the lands in North Africa, all the way east to the Dardanelles in Asia minor.
The first rulers of the middle east were the ancient Egyptians in 4000 BC, after some time the war like—Assyrians grew up alongside the Egyptians at about 1000 BC. Soon at around 500 BC, the Persians came and conquered the entire middle east, with their capital being at present time Iran. The Persian Empire was soon defeated by Alexander the great in 334 BC. His rule was short-lived, as the Romans gained control. The Roman Empire enjoyed a long and prosperous reign. It enabled the Arab-Islamic empire to gain control of the middle east, North Africa, Spain and lands that stretched to the borders of China and India. The next influx of new people to the middle east would be an invasion. Around the 11th-13th centuries, millions of people would die in some of the largest military campaigns in history. At first some major cities were captured by the Christians, but later, it was captured by the Muslims. In the 13th century Mongols ravaged the lands of the middle east. These invasions destroyed the lands of Iran and Iraq, and ended the Arab-Islamic empire for good.
The new rulers of the middle east would be the Ottoman Empire. In 1453 the Ottomans took over Constantinople, thus ending the Bryzan-tine Empire, and continued their conquest until they had control over the middle east. Around the 19th century; when the Ottoman Empire starts to decline, we see the last of the great middle eastern civilizations begins to crumble.
The ‘Sick Man of Europe’ as it was called, began to lose territory to Russia and Austria, then after it sided with Germany in World War I, it was secretly divided up between Britain and France. After long time, this middle east became free, But, the saying is that “Persons can’t live freely for long time.”
Once again events in the middle east and adjacent areas dominated the world situation in 1980. To Americans, the inability to obtain the release of the 52 diplomats held hostage in Tehran since November 1979 was particularly dismaying. But of even greater underlying importance was the inability to mount a firm allied or regional response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, where a grinding and brutal war went on with no sign of ending.
In the fall, military conflict broke out between Iraq and Iran, again with no end in sight and with consequences for oil supply that by the end of the year had further tightened market prospects, and caused a new jump in oil prices. So it was a grim year for the peace of the area and for American policy there. Leaders in friendly Arab states, and in Israel, had already been shaken by the inability of the United States to do anything to preserve the shah or forestall the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 perhaps the most destabilizing event in the middle east in the past decade.
One hundred years ago the “war to end all wars” broke out in Europe. Two years later, in 1916, anticipating the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France negotiated the secret, dividing the middle east into sphere of influence.
Sykes-Picot two significant long-term consequences. First, cutting across centuries—old tribal, religious and cultural lines, it created artificial and unnatural states. Iraq for example, was a composite of Shiite, Sunni and Kurds. Hashenite monarchs from Mecca, in modern-day Saudi Arabia, were imposed on Iraq and Jordan. Second, the treaty set into motion the Balfour Declaration of 1917, supporting the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, sowing the seeds of the modern Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now, the states born of Sykes-Picot are starting to implode in what Richard Hass, President of the council on Foreign Relations, labelled “the new Thirty-years War”, recalling the wars of religion the devastated 17th century Europe and eventually gave rise to the modern, secular state system.
After centuries of relative harmony between the majority Sunni and minority Shiite branches of Islam, today across the middle east, they are in conflict. A period of Sunni dominance began to collapse with the 1979 Iranian Revolution and Iran’s militantly religious government. With the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the ascendance of a Shiite government in Iraq, a Shiite revival was underway. Shiites across the middle east now flex their political and military muscle.
The Shiite ascendancy provoked a backlash was from Sunni Arab states. The result an Alliance of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey against Iran, Iraq and Syria. Using non-state actors such as Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic state on the Sunni side and the Iraqi Shiite militias and Hezbollah on the Shiite side, these governments are engaged in a proxy war of interreligious bloodletting stretching from Basra in a Persian Gulf to Beirut on the Mediterranean. Lebanese journalist and political commentator has labelled this confusing conflict “the Arab ‘Spanish Civil War’. For just as in Spain 80 years ago, it is hard to keep the sides and all their rivalries straight, and just as the Republicans and Talangists did back then in Spain, the Islamic state is attracting the multitude of volunteer foreign jihadists from Europe, Asia, North Africa and the United States.
For the past 100 years, Europe and the US have paid lip service to the Arab democracy while supporting dictators who completely suppressed any form of democratic growth, such as institution building, a free press, minority rights, free elections and opposition parties.
Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confessed to as much in June 2005 at a speech at the American University in Cairo when she said, “For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the middle east and we achieved neither” The result is that the political dynamic across the middle east became a competition between the repressive dictatorships and illiberal opposition groups.
The Obama administration seems at long last to understand that the fight against religious extremism in the middle east will be a long, twi-light struggle. For now, it will not involve American troops on the ground. But it will be a difficult campaign to manage with so-many cross-cutting rivalries among the regional allies.
It is time to bring the political actors, scholars and religious leaders together to explore how to nourish that spirit from indigenous roots. This must end with free and open elections where every Arab citizen, male and female, and from any religious faith, has full and equal human and democratic rights.
“Several Experts on the Middle East concur that the Middle East cannot be Democratised.”
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