History of the Modern Middle East

History of the Modern Middle East

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Much of the modern history of the Middle East came with the discovery of oil, first in Persia in 1908 and later in Saudi Arabia (in 1938) and the other Persian Gulf states and also in Libya and Algeria. The West came to depend on Middle Eastern oil and the decline of British influence led to a power vacuum that attracted American influence.

During the 1920s through the 1940s, Syria and Egypt moved towards independence. The British, the French, and the Soviet Union left the Middle East during and after World War II. The Arab-Israeli conflict in Palestine led to the United Nations’ plan to partition Palestine. Against this background of Cold War, the Middle East saw the rise of pan-Arabism. The departure of the European powers, the establishment of Israel, the out-sized importance of the oil industry all contributed to the making of the modern Middle East. In most countries, the growth of market economies was stifled by politics, corruption and cronyism, by squandering great sums on arms and showcase projects, and by near-complete dependence on oil revenues. The wealthiest states are the small oil-rich countries of the Persian Gulf: Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. 

The Middle East was rocked by the 1967 Six-Day War the 1970s energy crisis that began with the 1973 OPEC oil embargo in response to U.S. support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. The Saudi-led popularization of Salafism/Wahhabism coincided with the 1978-79 Iranian Revolution to promote the increasing rise of Islamism. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 changed the focus from from the Cold War to a War on Terror. Starting in the early 2010s, the Arab Spring brought major protests, uprisings, and revolutions to several Middle Eastern and north African countries, some of which proved preliminary to the ISIS uprising.

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Modern Middle East Index | Power: IdeologyInteractionPolitical DevelopmentProgressionArab-Israeli ConflictWorld War I | Afghanistan: Power | Algeria: Power | Egypt: PowerMuslim BrotherhoodWafd PartyNasserSadat | Iran: Power: Constitutional RevolutionReza KhanMossadeqPahlaviIslamic Revolution | Iraq: Saddam Hussein | Israel: Power | Jordan | Lebanon | Pakistan: Power | Saudi Arabia: PowerEconomy | Syria | Turkey: Power: GovernanceAbdul Hamid IIYoung Turk RevolutionTanzimatAtaturk

Modern Middle East: Index


Power: Ideology

Power: Interaction

Power: Political Development

Power: Progression

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Power: Arab-Israeli Conflict

Power: World War I


Afghanistan: Index


Algeria: Index


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Egypt: Index


Power: Muslim Brotherhood

Power: Wafd Party

Power: Nasser

Power: Sadat

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Iran: Index


Power: Constitutional Revolution

Power: Reza Khan

Power: Mossadeq

Power: Pahlavi

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Power: Islamist Revolution


Iraq: Index

Saddam Hussein


Israel: Index




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Pakistan: Index



Palestine: Index


Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia: Index

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Syria: Index


Turkey: Index


Power: Governance

Power: Abdul Hamid II

Power: Young Turk Revolution

Power: Tanzimat

Power: Ataturk

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