History has marked many conflicts and wars in the Middle East since 1945 for both ideological and territorial supremacy. Regarding the study about the reasons of wars and conflicts in the Middle East, one has to wade through various sources that throw light to reality. Contrary to the wars fought in Africa: wars for poverty and racial discrimination, the wars in the Middle East had more complex reasons which need a thorough examination. Different studies have identified that conflicts in the Middle East region have an adverse effect on its economic growth and economic development, in addition to the social anarchy and long years of disruptions. Some other studies overtime have identified the reasons like ethnic dominance and regime type matters. Still others are of the opinion that the conflicts in the Middle East can directly be linked to civil war. Regarding the wars in the Middle East, one can infer that it is the intervention of the western powers, ethnicity, deterioration of economic conditions and the lack of democracy and the civil wars are main causes for wars and conflicts in the Middle East region. This is study aims to explore the real reasons concerning the wars in the Middle East since 1945.
Western influence in the Middle East is crystal clear while going through the history of conflicts in the Middle East since 1945. The colonial powers like U.S, Soviet Union, Britain and France have exerted their authority in the struggles among Arabs and Israelis. Another predominant influence can be seen in Israel-Palestine conflict in the Middle East. The Middle East was an extension of the Cold War theatre between the USSR and the USA for four decades (Beverly Milton and Peter Hinchcliffe, 2008 p.36). This cold war caused for the growth and rise of conflicts in this region. The British and French invasion in the Middle East also had an unfavorable effect in the social and economic growth of the Middle East. The western powers divided this region into several sections so as to help them impose their own power. They divided this region in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century (Ismael, 1986 P.42). As such, London, Paris and other European capitals controlled the international politics in the colonial Middle East. A report of BBC (3 May 2007) under the title, “When civil war spreads” says, “Independence did not come to most of the Middle East until after 1945 and was seldom accompanied by democracy (Israel being the exception). Instead the multi-ethnic states of the region were ruled either by feudal monarchs or fascist strongmen.” Regarding the causes of conflicts in Middle East, the partition of this region has exerted a significant role.
Creation of the state of Israel, Arab-Israel conflict and Palestine-Israel conflict
The state of Israel was formed after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the World War I. After the war, the British assumed control over Palestine. The online article, “The Creation of Israel” identifies that British government issued the Balfour declaration in November 1917 announcing its intention to facilitate the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The article also describes that the League of Nations allowed Britain to form a new nation that allows the Jewish immigration and encouraging Jewish settlement in the land (The Creation of Israel, 1999). But the strong resistance from the part of the Arabs forced the British government to appoint the royal commission to enlist the situations and the commission suggested partition. Though the Arabs rejected the idea of partition, Jews welcomed it whole heartedly. At the end of the Second World War, the situations became worse, and the Arabs and Jews engaged in an open combat. The increasing number of the Jews made Britain realizes that they could no longer control Palestine and handed over this issue to United Nations. On November 29, 1947, after much debate and discussion, the UN recommended the partition of Palestine into two states one Jewish and one Arab (The Creation of Israel, 1999). The decision of the United Nations was acceptable to the Jews but the Arabs denied, still maintaining this region as a battlefield. As reported in the historical records, British rule in Palestine officially ended at midnight, May 14, 1948. Earlier in the day, at 4:00 p.m., David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the creation of the State of Israel and became its first prime minister (The Creation of Israel, 1999).
The formation of Israel paved the way for many conflicts as well as wars that has been continuing overtime. Just after the formation of the Israel State, the Arabs conquered the new nation and plundered it in every possible way. These attacks made many refugees and many penniless and were seeking medical care. The official website of U.S. Department of state reports, “This conflict, Israel’s War of Independence, was concluded by armistice agreements between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria in 1949 and resulted in a 50% increase in Israeli territory (U.S. Department of state, Dec 2009). Later, as the U.S. Department of state website (Dec 2009) reports, the following years were marked with continuous attacks followed by several years of terrorist incidents and retaliatory acts across Israel’s borders. Israel attacked Egypt, Jordan and Syria on the targets in 1967, as a result of Egyptian President Nasser’s ordered withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from the Sinai Peninsula and the buildup of Arab armies along Israel’s borders (U.S. Department of state, Dec 2009). Though the conflicts ended peace existed for a very short time, it resumed in 1973 when Syria and Egypt launched a joint attack against Israel. But Israel was capable of defending the attackers and engaged in cease fire contract with U.S., and Egypt, which was violated off and on. The same is the case with Israel-Palestine conflicts, with each facing the threat of cross-border terrorism. In their article, “Why Is There So Much Conflict in the Middle East?,” Mirjam E. Sorli & Nils Petter Gleditsch (Feb 2005 p.141) rightly comments about the Israeli-Palestine conflict. According to them, “The fifty-five-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most enduring conflicts anywhere, but over the past twenty-five years, the region has also hosted two of the wars with the most international participants, as well as the bloodiest interstate war of that period.” Political parties and other terrorist groups intervened in the conflicts between these two countries and instead of finding a remedy for the problems, most of them attempted to aggravate the situation. The Hamas of Israel and Fatah of Palestine are the prominent among them. The latest intervention from the part of the American government and other nations have, to an extent, helped for lessening the intensity of conflicts in this Middle East region.
The role of the superpowers: Soviet Union and USA in the region
One of the great interventions in Middle East was from the part of U.S as a direct outcome of their conflicts with the former Soviet Union. Beverly Milton and Peter Hinchcliffe (2008) have commented about it in their book, “Conflicts in the Middle East since 1945.” They rightly puts it as, “The rivalry between the United States and former Soviet Union has made a major contribution to the dynamics of politics and conflicts in the Middle East” (p.36). The authors continue to describe thus, “From the end of the Second World War to the present day the influence of American interests, until 1990, Soviet interests and ambitions in the Middle East as easily discernible” (p.36). As the historical records revealed, the decisive moment which resulted the super power competition in the Middle East was the Gulf crisis in 1990. The economically encumbered and politically weakened Soviet Union had no other option except supporting the U.S in their effort to end the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Anyway both tried their best or engaged in a competition for getting dominance in eastern oil wealth and exploring the strategic routes. The New York Times reports the threat of war in Middle East. Their reporter James Reston (June 3 1988) writes, “The Middle East – Iran-Iraq, 377,000 lives in eight years [are reported to be killed].”
Pan Arabism and Nationalism, why didn’t Arab nationalism work out? Why there have been so many conflicts between Arab states as well? Examples of the Gulf wars
Pan-Arabism is word referred to the movement aimed to unite the people and countries of the Arab world that lies in between the Atlantic Ocean and Arabian Sea. One can tie up it with Arab nationalism which shares the feeling that the Arabs should constitute as a single nation. It was a theory that became prominent and attracted attention during the 1960s. But a deep analysis of the relationships between the Arabian nations show that most of the Arabian nations are engaging in conflicts and wars overtime and they ignore the idea of Pan-Arabism for various reasons. Pan-Arabism can, to an extent, be linked to secularism, based on social principles, which strongly opposed the western political involvement in the Middle East region.
There are so many reasons that prevent the implementation of Pan-Arabism in Middle East. One of the most vital reasons may be the excessive western influence in this region. Analyzing the historical records, one can identify that the western powers like U.S. Britain, Soviet Union, and France have had negotiable roles either in sustaining peace or in creating conflicts in Middle East region, the best example being the U.S. involvement in the Gulf War of 1991. It has been estimated that more than 34 nations formed a coalition against Iraq, aimed to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. American support in the Gulf war has also marked the western eye on the oil wealth of the western countries. Other reasons include the disparity in the production of oil. Some countries are oil rich and some oil poor countries which stand aloof from the prospect of Pan-Arabism. Roger Owen (2004) in his book, “State, power and politics in the making of the modern Middle East” quotes the words of Sami Zubaida to help support his argument that Arab Nationalism is not possible. According to the author, “nationalism itself does not constitute a ‘unitary general phenomenon’ and therefore that no such theory is possible or appropriate.” Majority of the countries in the Middle East region were not ready to regard countries like Egypt as an Arabian country, eventually prevented the idea of Arabian nationalism. The three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam (A complex & rich region, ppt. Slide 3) [Provided by customer] also prevented the concept of Pan-Arabism.
The natural resources. What is the role of the natural resources in the region?
Geologists and historians have often documented that The Middle East has had a rich profusion of natural resources and one can find the fact that copious petroleum plays a vital role in this area’s economy. Major European nations have competed to launch and maintain their own colonies around the world during the 18th and 19th centuries. Major European countries like Britain and France opened their account through The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 in the earlier part of the 19th century. “The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 divided the Ottoman lands between the British and the French, giving those nations control over any natural resources, most importantly oil” (What role have natural resources played in the politics and economy of the Middle East?, 2002). The real struggles started in Iran through Britain’s attacking against the Anglo -Iranian Oil Company when the time of World War I. As a result of this, British officials became wealthier and the native people thrown to the street. The relationship between oil dependency and conflict remains weak, yielding an insignificantly higher risk for conflict for high levels of oil dependence and medium score on democracy (Mirjam E. Sorli & Nils Petter Gleditsch (Feb 2005 p.158). After World War II America became the leading power in the world and American companies had started to deposit their capital in UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain. This frustration against the European exploitation led to the formation of nationalization and one can see series of wars located in the Middle East region for oil. Water is another significant natural resource in the Middle East countries. Scarcity of fresh water is caused for major tension and struggle in these nations. Israel and Syria made serious disputes and conflicts in the issue of Jordan River.
To conclude, one can infer that there are various reasons that caused for war in the Middle East region. The role of the western countries in these wars is not negotiable that their interventions, to an extent, helped to keep peace in this region. When analyzing the reasons of the conflicts since 1945, one finds that it is the partition of the Middle East countries to artificial boundaries by the western powers caused for conflicts. The partition of Palestine on the basis of religion-Arabs and Jews, can be numbered among the prominent reasons. This partition has caused for unending wars and cross-border terrorism in this region. The role of the super powers in this region, especially keeping an eye on the oil wealth and other natural resources always kept this region problematic. One can infer that it was the general wish or need of the westerners to divide the Middle East countries to get their things done. The Pan-Arabism did not work in Arabian countries because of their severity in matters with regard to oil, religion and even tribal dominances. Among the reasons of the conflicts civil war deserves the first position. The deterioration of economic conditions and the lack of democracy can also be counted among the causes of conflict. To wind it up, one can infer that all the above stated reasons, including the lack of economic and political opportunities, the Sunni-Shea conflicts, and so on, have decisive role in making Middle East disruptive region.