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Modern Middle East History: Countries History

This paper deals with the socio-economic and political developments in the Middle East over the last fifty years with specific reference to Iraq and Iran. The paper looks at the various stages of development and growth in these countries and the ways in which they have contributed to the politics and policies of these countries. The wider context is the troubled history of the status of Israel and the occupied territories with specific emphasis on the status of Jerusalem.

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To provide a background to the issue being discussed, it has often been said that the Middle East has been a source of conflict and tension ever since World War II ended. This has mainly because of the presence of Oil in the Gulf States and the issue of a homeland for Palestinians. These twin issues of the geopolitics of Oil and the vexed issue of the formation of Israel and the subsequent wars that have been fought over the same have dominated the debate about the Middle East.

The politics of Oil has meant that the Anglo-Saxon powers, namely Britain before World War II and the US after World War II have maintained what can be called a “grip on the spigot” of oil. In other words, these countries have sought to ensure that the supply of oil to the Western World does not have interruptions and that they would intervene if necessary to ensure uninterrupted access to the oil producing nations.

The effects of these policies can be seen in the numerous interventions that the US and Britain have undertaken starting with the Suez canal crisis in the 1950’s to the current Iraq war that is being waged by the US in conjunction with the other western countries. Though attempts to link these interventions with the issue of oil have been denied, it is commonly accepted that the petro politics are one of the main reasons for the extraordinary interest shown by the Anglo-Saxon world in the affairs of the Middle East.

The other issue for which the Middle East is known for is the state of Israel. Ever since Israel was formed in the aftermath of World War II as a state for the Jews, the Middle East has been dominated by this issue that centres on the land that is historically claimed by the Jews and the corresponding claims by the Palestinians about them having been the people who were living there. The fact that Jerusalem is important to all the Abrahamic religions makes the issue even more contentious and something that is always in the news.

To address the issue of the development of Iran and Iraq, both countries have large deposits of Oil and have been at the forefront of politics over oil as well as the civilizational conflict that Huntington had written about. Ever since the 911 attacks, both these countries were the target of direct intervention (Iraq) and proxy war (Iran) by the US led coalition. The justifications for these interventions have been the alleged support by the Iraqi regime to the 911 attackers and the Iranian regimes plans to develop a nuclear option.

The politics of these two countries are inextricably linked to the politics of Oil and religion. Since both countries have sizeable populations of Shia and Sunni Muslims as well as ethnic races like Kurds, it becomes important to view the politics of these countries through the prism of religion as well. Iraq prospered during the boom in Oil prices and Iran was a key player during the time of the Shah as well as after the Islamic revolution of 1979.

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Both countries benefited from Oil and as allies of the US till the events of the last three decades that have brought a rift between the US and these countries. It is noteworthy that Iran and Iraq fought a protracted war in the 1980’s and as the world was globalising, they slid down the scale of development because of the combination of factors that we have discussed earlier. However, Iraq was a secular republic, a rarity in the Middle East whereas Iran is an Islamic republic.

Though the present conditions in the Middle East are extremely tense and with the Obama administration willing to negotiate rather than interfere, there is some hope that there would be peace in the Middle East. As many commentators have pointed out, the future of the Middle East should be decided by the countries that make up this region and not by external powers that have often proved to have a limited understanding of the complexities of the region.

In conclusion, it is apparent that if these countries determine their destinies and if they are left free to untangle the Israel issue, then there would definitely be a chance for peace in the Middle East. However, it has to be kept in mind that the Middle East is too volatile for US and other Western powers to neglect the region. This is the central dilemma that the Middle East faces. What is often referred to as the “resource curse” has affected the region and once religion is mixed in the brew, the cocktail is deadly and can have effect on the world at large.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Modern Middle East History: Countries History'. 28 November.

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