Middle East and International Politics (Global)

Encyclopedia of the 20th-Century Middle East

The Middle East and International Politics (Global)

Sykes-Picot_Agreement_map.gif "Post-Ottoman Syndrome": a phrase developed by historian Avi Shlaim to describe the effects of the arbitrary ways in which global powers-- such as Britain and France-- dispensed with the Ottoman Empire in the wake of its dissolution following World War I. In effect, a region that had held together under 400 years of Ottoman rule, has been in constant upheaval for the last 100 years. This concept puts current events in historical perspective by countering the notion that the Middle East has been the site of conflict for hundreds of years. [See Avi Shlaim, War and Peace in the Middle East (1994).] One of the problems of a focus based purely on international contexts, as implied by this designation, is that it may ignore the importance of regional or local dimensions of change.

On 28 June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne, was assassinated. This, and the German attack on France through Belgium, officially started World War I. Germany lost approximately 9%, France approximately 11%, and the Ottoman Empire approximately 25% of their populations respectively. After World War I was over, national movements started to spread throughout the area, one of the biggest being the Zionist movement. In November 1917, the Zionist movement achieved recognition by a world power, that world power being Britain. Jewish immigration to Palestine soared, which caused the first large-scale inter-communal violence between Jewish settlers and the Muslims of the region. This marked the beginning of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

During World War I several promises were made by the British in order to make as many allies as they could against the Ottoman Empire. The first of these being the Sykes-Picot Agreement with France, which the two nations would divide the lands between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf into two "spheres of influence" in the event of victory. The second promise being the one with Sharif Hussein in which Sharif promised to have his son mount a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire and the British promised him Arab independence and "land or lands". The third, and probably the most famous, is the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which the British pledged their support for a national Jewish home in Palestine. Which just so happen to be the very land that they had promised Sharif Hussein. This was done in order to further their strategic interests, because the British viewed the Zionists movement as a very powerful movement in both the United States and Russia at the time, both of which were very important allies at the time. The British failed to see though the clash between the Jews and the Arabs that would ensue. The Mandate System established by the League of Nations following the First World War justified British and French control of the former Ottoman areas and allowed the British to fulfill their treaties and promises as they saw fit.

This second promise by Britain, the one promising a land for Arabs, turned out to be quiet a headache for the British before it was all said and done. They brought it on themselves though by not backing up their promise in the first place. After the war Faisal, Sharif's son, tried to assume control of the land that was promised to them by the British in return for the Arab revolt that took place. The French had different plans though and wanted that land and, with the backing of the League of Nations, sent an army to depose him. The British let this happen because they feared that without France as their ally than Germany would possibly be able to rise up again. In doing so though they created a rift with Faisal's brother 'Abdallah, who started his armies north to avenge his brother's humiliation. Once the British found out that 'Abdallah was heading north to start a war with France they immediately jumped into action and cut 'Abdallah off as Damascus to negotiate with him. At the Cairo Conference in 1921, in order to keep 'Abdallah happy and divert a war, the British divided up it's Palestine territory and gave 'Abdallah what is present day Jordan. At the same time though they also had to make peace with Faisal, so in order to do this they gave Faisal the throne of Iraq.

When it was realized that World War I was not going to be as quick a war as entente powers had hoped many of the nations started moving to be in position to lay claim to what they desired from the Middle East once victory was assured. The Russians had their eyes on the Turkish Straits, so they would finally have a warm water port, and Palestine, because there were sites holy there to the Orthodox Church and Orthodox Christians looked to Russians to protect them again the Catholics. France laid claim to what is modern day Syria and Lebanon based on the fact that they were the protectors of Lebanon's Maronite Christians, and they had large economic interests in the area when it came to railroads and silk. Britain actually put committees together to determine exactly what they wanted from the region after the war was over. Several of these committees disagreed on exactly what to lay claim to, so it was agreed that their focus would be on the waterways that lead to India, along with ensuring post-war security for the trade and investments in the region.

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Before World War II the United States had little interest in the Middle East. After World War II though the Middle East became the main stage for not only the United States. Their interest in the region came in two forms. They first, and most important at the time, was to stop the spread of communism in the region. They greatly feared the possibility of the Soviet Union helping with national movements in order to spread their communist views across the land. The second reason, which is by far the more important two today, is oil. Once it was discovered that the Middle East had vast oil wells, and plenty of them at the time, they all of a sudden became the interest all over the world.Oil has become the most important commodity in the world, and has become the Middle East's blessing and curse at the same time.

When Eisenhower took the Presidency in 1953 there were three major events that marked his Middle East policy. The first one being in 1953 when Eisenhower ordered the CIA to depose Mohammed Mossadegh, the popular, elected leader of the Iranian parliament and an ardent nationalist who opposed British and American influence in Iran. The coup severely tarnished America’s reputation among Iranians, who lost trust in American claims of protecting democracy. The second took place in 1956, when Israel, Britain and France attacked Egypt when Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, a furious Eisenhower not only refused to join the hostilities; he ended the war. Finally came the Eisenhower Doctrine in 1957. The doctrine states that the United States will come to the aid of any state threatened by "international communism". It became the base for the United States to give support to the conservative regimes over the radical ones. It was first put into practice in 1958 when US forces landed in Lebanon to sure up President Camille Chamoun's regime against the domestic opposition. They also tried to incorporate the Middle East in a series of regional pacts directed against the Soviet Union. It was not very successful, the outcome was the Baghdad Pact, which eventually became the Central Treaty Organization, and it was very unpopular among many nations and in the end only included non-Arab Muslim states, such as Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan.

Under President Jimmy Carter the 1978 Camp David Accord took place which was the mediation between Egypt and Israel. This later became the focus of scrutiny when each side looked deep into the fine detail and what they each viewed as "not mentioned" in the accord. In 1979 the Iranian Revolution tipped the scale and an Islamic Republic was placed in power in Iran with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini becoming Supreme Leader. That same year on November 4 Iranian students took over the US Embassy in Iran and took 63 American hostages. It took one failed military rescue, 444 days, and Ronald Regan to take office in order for the hostages to be released. These issues put a horrible blemish on Carter's presidency and set back American Policy in the region for years.

When Israel invaded Lebanon again in June 1982, for a second time, President Reagan intervened and demanded a cease fire once they reached Beirut. That summer American coalition forces landed in Beirut to supervise the migration of PLO members and the withdrawal of Israeli forces. It was in the following April that a truck full of explosives exploded in front of the US Embassy demolishing it and killing 63 people. Than in October of that same year that tragedy of the Beirut Barracks bombing happen in which 241 American soldiers and 57 French soldiers were killed. All are believed to be committed by the up and coming Shiite organization at the time known as Hezbollah. They followed these bombing up by taking American civilians and military personal as hostages and hijacking airplanes. The 1986 Iran-Contra affair put even more of a blemish on Reagan's presidency when it was discovered that he had been trading arms for hostages that were taken by in the US Embassy in Iran by Iranian students. Perhaps his most unwitting decision of all though was to back and support Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, believing that Saddam could topple the Iran regime. This proved to be vastly incorrect and underestimated.

The importance of the Middle East on the global level is based on the need for oil, the geographic position, and the presence of religiously important sites. The religious sites in this region have significant importance for the three major monotheistic religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Control of the various religious sites in this region has been a source of conflict for more than a millennium. Prior to the discovery of oil, the geographic location of the Middle East, laying between Europe and Asia, made it an important transportation hub. Following completion of the Suez Canal in the mid-nineteenth century, the importance of this area for transportation between the two regions only increased. The discovery of oil in the Persian Gulf Region region during the early twentieth century has given this area an increased importance to the Developed World.

Turkey and the European Union

Turkish EU accession logo.svg
Turkish EU accession logo.svg

European Union Turkey Locator.svg
European Union Turkey Locator.svg


Since being granted an Associate membership to the European Union in 1959, the country of Turkey has been in talks with the EU in hopes of becoming a full member. Ever since then, this has become a major issue for the EU. Turkey applied for admission in 1987, but the decision of the EU was put off due to hard political and economic times in Turkey, along with some questionable foreign policies. The EU thought that the situation in Turkey was not one that would be favorable for negotiations regarding admittance. In 1997, the EU once again put off Turkey's bid citing the same reasons. Negotiations between the EU and Turkey finally began in 2005, only to be partially halted the very next year due to slow implementation of reforms in Turkey and still questionable foreign policies. The earliest estimate of Turkey's possible entrance into the EU is 2013, when the six-year budget for the EU will be decided. Not all member countries support this date for Turkey's entrance, however, and some estimates say that Turkey may not have their chance to fully enter into the EU until 2021.
Obstacles to Entrance
-Underdevelopment of Turkish industries compared to other EU countries' industries
-Rapidly growing population- many Europeans fear that the scarcity of available jobs this causes in Turkey will force many to leave Turkey and take jobs from other European citizens. The free labor position of the EU could allow this to occur if Turkey were to become a member
-The harsh military coup occurring in Turkey in 1980 made the EU reluctant to admit Turkey since it was a union based on democracy. Some EU members continued to see until 1995 the threat of a military coup in Turkey as something that had not yet dissolved.
-Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have sited numerous human rights violations within Turkey, such as torture, censorship and arbitrary arrest. This caused many EU members to be hesitant because the EU wants uniform standards for protecting human rights.
-The ongoing tension between Turkey and EU member Greece over control of the island of Cyprus. Greece wants to make Cyprus a part of their country, while Turkey wants to protect their minority population in Northern Cyprus from becoming a part of Greece and has, in the past, sent troop to Cyprus in order to do so. Greece has persuaded the EU into stipulating that a settlement over Cyprus should be one of the criteria that need to be met in order for Turkey to enter the EU as a full member. As of today, a resolution has not been obtained and the island continues to be divided between the Greek South and the Turkish North.
-Turkey and Greece have also had many disputes over control of areas of the Aegean Sea and control of airspace. The contention over the Aegean concerns primarily which country will be allowed access to and use of the abundance of natural resources that lie beneath it. This contention nearly brought the two countries to war in 1986, and again in 1987. No definitive resolutions on these policies have been made yet either, and both countries continue to stand their ground. The continuing conflicts between Turkey and EU member Greece have stymied Turkey's bid to enter the EU, because heightened tension between two member countries would be counteractive to the goal of cooperation held by the EU. The EU does, however, continue to sponsor talks between the two countries in order to attempt to resolve the issues.


​ ​Turkey and EU Update

UPDATE- Here is an article published on April 16th that highlights a new development in Turkey's quest for acceptance into the European Union. As I mentioned in my previous entry, Turkey's clash with Greece and the EU over control of the island of Cyprus has been a major factor in why Turkey has not yet been accepted into the EU. Cyprus is set to have an election for president soon, with its outcome playing a huge factor in Turkey's relations with the EU. Dervis Eruglo, the current Turkish prime minister of Cyprus, is favored to win the election. Eruglo favors a divided Cyprus between the Turkish north and the Greek south. The EU has declared that it will not consider admitting Turkey to the EU if Cyprus continues to remain divided. While the government of Turkey has not formally backed any candidate, they favor the opposition, Mehmet Ali Talat, because he favors a unified Cyprus and could facilitate peace talks with Greece and the EU. Tayyip Erdogan, the current prime minister of Turkey, has been more open to relations and negotiations with the Greek Cypriots than other leaders have been in the past, but still refuses to deal directly with the Greek Cypriot government. Erdogan has even said that he would be willing to remove Turkish troops from the island if peace negotiations could be settled. If Eroglu is elected, hopes of Turkish acceptance into the EU seem slim. Aside from the election, there are other current issues concerning Cyprus that Turkey and the EU are still at odds over. The EU says Turkey must open up its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot traffic in order to be considered for admittance into the EU. Turkey also wants the EU to end its international isolation of the northern part of Cyprus.

Source: http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-47748920100416?pageNumber=3&virtualBrandChannel=0&sp=true


April 12, 2010

WASHINGTON — President Obama secured a promise from President Hu Jintao of China on Monday to join negotiations on a new package of sanctions against Iran, administration officials said, but Mr. Hu made no specific commitment to backing measures that the United States considers severe enough to force a change in direction in Iran’s nuclear program.
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Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Hu Jintao of China and President Obama at a nuclear summit meeting in Washington.


In a 90-minute conversation here before the opening of a summit meeting on nuclear security, Mr. Obama sought to win more cooperation from China by directly addressing one of the main issues behind Beijing’s reluctance to confront Iran: its concern that Iran could retaliate by cutting off oil shipments to China. The Chinese import nearly 12 percent of their oil from Iran.
Mr. Obama assured Mr. Hu that he was “sensitive to China’s energy needs” and would work to make sure that Beijing had a steady supply of oil if Iran cut China off in retaliation for joining in severe sanctions.
American officials portrayed the Chinese response as the most encouraging sign yet that Beijing would support an international effort to ratchet up the pressure on Iran and as a sign of “international unity” on stopping Iran’s nuclear program before the country can develop a working nuclear weapon.
Still, the session had distinct echoes of former President George W. Bush’s three efforts to corral Chinese support for United Nations Security Council penalties intended to make it prohibitively expensive for Iranian leaders to enrich uranium and to refuse to answer the questions posed by international nuclear inspectors.
In those cases, former American officials said, the Chinese agreed to go along with efforts to address Iran’s nuclear ambitions but then used Security Council negotiating sessions to water down the resolutions that ultimately passed.
Mr. Obama also used his meeting with Mr. Hu, the fourth face-to-face meeting between the leaders of the world’s largest economy and its biggest lender, to keep up the pressure on Beijing to let market forces push up the value of China’s currency. That is a critical political task for Mr. Obama, because the fixed exchange rate has kept Chinese goods artificially cheap and, in the eyes of many experts, handicapped American exports and cost tens of thousands of American jobs.
In anticipation of Monday’s meeting, Chinese officials told Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner last week that they were about to resume a controlled loosening of their exchange rate, which would increase the relative costs of Chinese exports.
Mr. Obama’s senior Asia adviser, Jeffrey A. Bader, told reporters after the meeting on Monday that Mr. Obama told Mr. Hu that a market oriented exchange rate would be “an essential contribution” to a “sustained and balanced economic recovery.”
The session with Mr. Hu came just before the opening of the first summit meeting devoted to the challenges of keeping nuclear weapons and material out of the hands of terrorists. At a dinner Monday evening in the cavernous Washington Convention Center, Mr. Obama led a discussion of the nature of the threat and the vulnerability of tons of nuclear material that could be fashioned into a weapon.
Earlier in the day, John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser, offered a sampling of Mr. Obama’s argument when he told reporters that the United States had continuing evidence of Al Qaeda’s interest in obtaining highly enriched uranium or plutonium, the only materials from which a nuclear weapon can be made, and that it would be used “to threaten our security and world order in an unprecedented manner.”
But he cited no incidents beyond the now-famous campfire conversations that Osama bin Laden held in August 2001 with two Pakistanis who had deep ties to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons laboratories. While Al Qaeda has tried repeated purchases, Mr. Brennan said, “fortunately, I think they’ve been scammed a number of times, but we know that they continued to pursue that. We know of individuals within the organization that have been given that responsibility.”
The main focus of Mr. Obama’s meeting is to obtain commitments from each of the 47 countries attending to lock up or eliminate nuclear material.
One such agreement was announced Monday with Ukraine which, after the fall of the Soviet Union, was, because of its remainder stockpiles of nuclear missiles and bombs, briefly the world’s third-largest nuclear power. It gave up the arsenal, but for the past 10 years had resisted surrendering its stockpile of highly enriched uranium, held at research reactors and another nuclear center.
The Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit group that studies proliferation, has estimated Ukraine’s stockpile at 163 kilograms, or roughly enough for seven weapons.
According to a senior administration official, under the deal announced Monday the United States will pay to secure the highly enriched uranium, which will likely be sent to Russia for conversion into low-enriched uranium for nuclear power plants. As part of the deal, the United States will also help supply Ukraine with new low-enriched fuel and a new research facility.
But over all, it was Iran that dominated the day, because the administration has a goal of putting sanctions in place this spring, Mr. Obama said in an interview with The New York Times last week.
On Monday, Mr. Obama laid out the details of the sanctions package for Mr. Hu, according to a senior White House official familiar with the discussion. These are likely to include additional measures to deny Iran access to international credit, choke off foreign investment in Iran’s energy sector and punish companies owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which controls swaths of Iran’s economy, as well as its nuclear program.
The administration is betting that a large segment of Iranian society detests the Revolutionary Guards for its role in suppressing the protests that followed elections last June, and may welcome properly targeted sanctions.
“Until two weeks ago, the Chinese would not discuss a sanctions resolution at all,” the official said. But the Obama administration, in hopes of winning over Beijing, has sought support from other oil producers to reassure China of its oil supply. Last year, it dispatched a senior White House adviser on Iran, Dennis B. Ross, to Saudi Arabia to seek a guarantee that it would help supply China’s needs, in the event of an Iranian cutoff.
“We’ll look for ways to make sure that if there are sanctions, they won’t be negatively affected,” said the senior official.
There was little evidence in the meeting of the succession of spats that have soured Chinese-American relations over the last several months, American officials said. While Mr. Hu raised Chinese complaints about American weapons sales to Taiwan, an official said, he did so fleetingly. And he did not mention Mr. Obama’s decision to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.


Middle Eastern Oil and its Global Impact

Why are nations around the world so constantly involved in Middle Eastern economies and politics? Why are so many nations concerned with a region of the world that does not contain a great percentage of the planet's population? Why does such a region contain so much of the world's wealth? Oil is the answer. Since its discovery in the Middle East, the region's wealth and world interest has skyrocketed. While the region produces much of the world's oil, it exports the vast majority of its crude and imports very little while other large exporters like the U.S. also import a great deal to meet high demand. As a result, the high-demand nations such as the U.S. and China are heavily dependent on foreign oil suppliers, most of whom are located in the Middle East.

World Oil Exports by Country (2006)


World Oil Imports by Country (2006)


World Oil Reserves


Notice that the difference between proven reserves (above) and estimated reserves (below) is somewhat substantial. This demonstrates that some nations have relied on imported oil rather than exploiting their own reserves. Even with unexploited reserves in other nations, however, the vast majority of the world's reserves are in the Middle East region.



The wealth of the Middle East region can be seen above, most abundantly demonstrated in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran. These nations would hardly have ranked as high on this map before the discovery of oil in the region. This means that over the last 60-75 years, the wealth of the region has grown exponentially. The rapid financial growth has also left a great disparity of wealth within the Middle East oil countries.


This last chart is of importance because it shows the population of the Middle East region in comparison to other regions of the world, a chart to hold in contrast with the world wealth chart. Notice the level of wealth within the Middle East in comparison with some of the countries it supplies with oil.

American Politics and the Middle East

Support for Israel -

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The foundation of support for the state of Israel in the American political system is based upon a delicate balance of political influence. This support has been consistent and is adopted by politicians across the ideological spectrum for a multitude of reasons and justifications. Conservative support is rooted in the reliance upon evangelical religious groups in their political coalition. The deep support by evangelicals for Israel is based around a religious connection found between scripture in the Bible and the modern existence of the Jewish state. Progressive support is based around the strong reliance upon urban populations inside of their political coalition. Large Jewish communities are located in many American urban centers and provide a large base of funding for progressives.

A New Cold War - Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East

President Obama has recently made significant moves in the international community to reduce Nuclear weaponry. This move has been met with wide support from the greater international community with two major exceptions in the Middle East Region: Israel and Iran. These two states both withhold the information with regards to if they hold nuclear weapons and if they are willing to use them. These two opposing regimes are fight through the use of secondary groups such as Hezbollah to influence and intimidate the other. These two actors are crucial to anti-proliferation policy if it is to be successful.