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The countries of southwestern Asia and, conventionally, Egypt

The Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey (both Asian and European), and Egypt (which is mostly in North Africa). The corresponding adjective is Middle Eastern and the derived noun is Middle Easterner. The term has come into wider usage as a replacement of the term Near East (as opposed to the Far East) beginning in the early 20th century.

Geographical type: Region

Latitude: 29° N — Longitude: 41° E

Notable Places

  • Afghanistan - Territory in southwest central Asia, nominally ruled since 2004 by the Da Afġānistān Islāmī Jumhoryat
  • Arabian Peninsula - Large peninsula in southwest Asia, between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf
  • Egypt - Territory mostly in northeast Africa, ruled since 2011 by the Jumhūrīyat Miṣr al-ʿArabīyah
  • Iran - Territory in southwest Asia, ruled since 1979 by the Jomhuri ye Eslāmi ye Irān
  • Iraq - Territory in southwest Asia, ruled since 2005 by the Jumhūriyyat Al-‘Irāq
  • Israel - Territory in southwest Asia, ruled since 1948 by the Medīnat Yisrā'el
  • Lebanon - Territory in southwest Asia, ruled since 1946 by the al-Jumhūrīyah al-Lubnānīyah
  • Syria - Territory in southwest Asia, nominally ruled since 1961 by the al-Jumhūriyyah al-‘Arabīyah as-Sūriyyah
  • Turkey - Territory in southwest Asia and southeast Europe, ruled since 1923 by the Türkiye Cumhuriyeti


9/11 Could Have Been Prevented, by Sheldon Richman, 21 Apr 2004
Counters the claim that Islamists hate the U.S. because Americans love freedom and suggests that a non-intervenionist foreign policy could have prevented the Sept 2001 attacks
For many decades American presidents have thought that they could bring order to the world, particularly the Middle East. [But] U.S. administrations ... always had agendas ... U.S. administrations sought outcomes that satisfied their own politically motivated projects. Justice had nothing to do with the matter. As a result, the United States has a record of helping to overthrow elected leaders in favor of despots, of arming ruthless autocrats, and of bolstering the occupation of property taken from Palestinians. The Middle East is a region rife with injustice — and U.S. policy has been allied with much of it.
America Must Reject Netanyahu's War Cry on Iran, by Sheldon Richman, 4 Mar 2015
Counters Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the U.S. Congress about Iran's nuclear weapons intentions, discussing reasons behind his push for war
The United States helped Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein fight a war of aggression against Iran in the 1980s, providing him with components for chemical weapons and satellite intelligence ... Netanyahu would have us believe the Iranian regime wants to exterminate all Jews. But that's hard to square with the continuous presence of a Jewish community in Iran—today the largest in the Muslim Middle East—for two thousand years. Iran's steadfast opposition to Israel's institutionalized injustice against the Palestinians is not anti-Semitism.
Related Topics: Iran, Israel, War
Arianna Huffington, Racial Profiler, by Justin Raimondo, 24 Feb 2006
Criticizes Huffington on her 22 Feb 2006 post titled "Dubious About Dubai: Cutting to the Heart of Bush's National Security Hypocrisy" about the Dubai Ports World debate
The big argument of the neocons for democratizing the Middle East by force of arms is that the region's troubles, including endemic terrorism, are due to the fact that Arab civilization has fallen behind and failed to enter the gleaming, stainless-steel world of modernity, where secularism rules and religious fanatics like bin Laden have no place, no voice, and no influence. Yet when such a gleaming city rises out of the desert floor and towers above the clouds as an example and a model of regional aspirations, the same crowd claims it's all a mirage. There's no pleasing some people, is there?
Background of the Middle East Conflict, Part 1, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Oct 2003
Historical account of the Middle East and Northern Africa since Napoleon's invasion of Egypt at the end of 18th century to the liberation of Damascus near the end of World War I
The modern-day Middle East centers on Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt — clustered close to the Mediterranean Sea. Lying near the juncture of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Middle East has traditionally acted as a commercial, cultural, and military route between the worlds of East and West. The British 'poet of empire,' Rudyard Kipling, wrote, 'East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.' But, in the Middle East, the two have not only met, they have often collided because of overlapping or conflicting interests in the region.
Background of the Middle East Conflict, Part 2, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Nov 2003
Continues the historical account of the Middle East from the territorial deals during World War I to the Palestine riots of 1929
The Arabs would not have fought so bravely had they known of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which had been signed by the Entente in May of 1916. In essence, the Agreement divided the Middle East between Britain and France. When the Arabs did learn of the agreement, they were incensed and sent out feelers to their recent enemy, the Turks ... In backroom deals, another agreement regarding Palestine had been forged ... The Balfour Declaration of 1917 ... Thus the Middle East settled into a rivalry between the Arabs and the Zionists, the British and the French, with both of the latter determined to share in Middle Eastern oil.
Background of the Middle East Conflict, Part 3, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Dec 2003
Concludes the historical account of the Middle East from the 1930s to the establishement of Israel in 1948
In 1937, the Peel Commission recommended partitioning Palestine into two states: one controlled by Jews, the other by Arabs. The British had to send more troops to crush the Arab revolt that resulted from the recommendation. ... The British, with a long colonial history of using one native group against another, began to arm the Zionists. ... The Arab revolt ended in 1939. ... The McDonald White Paper recommended allowing 75,000 more Jews into Palestine over a period of five years; after that no more would be admitted without Arab consent. The Zionists were outraged; violent demonstrations ensued.
Related Topics: Israel, Saudi Arabia
Bush Is About To Attack Iran, by Paul Craig Roberts, 27 Jan 2007
Expresses dismay at the American lack of awareness of the Bush administration's intent of starting a war with Iran on the pretext that Iran, rather than al-Qaeda, is responsible for the Iraqi insurgency
[At] the meeting of the World Economic Forum ... The Secretary General of the League of Arab States and bankers and businessmen from such US allies as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates all warned of the coming attack and its catastrophic consequences for the Middle East and the world. ... Two aircraft carrier attack forces are deployed to the Persian Gulf, US attack aircraft have been moved to Turkey and other countries on Iran's borders, Patriot anti-missile defense systems are being moved to the Middle East to protect oil facilities and US bases from retaliation from Iranian missiles ...
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Iran
The Cynical U.S. Policy on Chemical Weapons, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 6 Sep 2013
Discusses evidence of what is known and not so known about countries involved in the Middle East and chemical and nuclear weapons, referencing findings from Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco
[Note] that while Syria is not a party to the [Chemical Weapons Convention], neither are U.S. allies Egypt and Israel, which receive billions of dollars each year in military equipment ... Israel, like Egypt, is considered to have stockpiles of chemical weapons ... Indeed, Israel is a nuclear monopolist in the Middle East — a fact usually left unmentioned in reports on Iran’s alleged nuclear-weapons program ... Zunes's article also discusses the Reagan administration's provision of thiodiglycol, which is used to make mustard gas, and other chemical precursors to Iraq's Saddam Hussein ...
Related Topics: Iraq, Syria
The Danger Is Intervention, Not "Isolation", by Sheldon Richman, 29 May 2014
Reflects on pronouncements by President Obama (at West Point) and Defense Secretary Hagel (at a Chicago foreign affairs forum) on Americans turning more "isolationist"
Even people who are tired of Afghanistan after 13 years want Obama to intervene more directly in Syria. Have they learned nothing? There is no such thing as a clean and simple intervention with just the result sought. The war in Afghanistan, ostensibly intended to eradicate al-Qaeda, served to spread an intensified jihadist movement to Iraq, Syria, the Arabian Peninsula, and North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. NATO's air strikes in Libya spread arms and battle-trained jihadis into west Africa. The law of unintended consequences makes fools of so-called leaders.
The Disaster That Is U.S. Foreign Policy, by Sheldon Richman, 6 Jun 2014
Considers the effect of U.S. involvement in the Middle East in the past two decades, in view of the Bergdahl-Taliban prisoner exchange, and reflects on the practical effect of killing Osama bin Laden
[Patrick] Cockburn, who has reported from the Middle East for years: "... The resurgence of these jihadis is most striking on the ground in Iraq and Syria, but is evident in Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia and, in recent months, Lebanon and Egypt. In Iraq, it was a final humiliation for the US, after losing 4,500 soldiers, that al-Qa'ida's black flag should once again fly in Fallujah, captured with much self-congratulatory rhetoric by US Marines in 2004. Aside from Fallujah, Isis, the premier jihadi movement in the country, has rapidly expanded its influence in all parts of Sunni Iraq in the past three years."
The Disrespect for Truth has Brought a New Dark Age, by Paul Craig Roberts, 29 Dec 2006
Compares past and present attitudes toward the truth and the impact of propaganda and other government actions on those attitudes, holding that "In America, truth has become partisan"
When scholars, such as John Walt and Stephen Mearsheimer, or President Jimmy Carter, who has tried harder than anyone else to achieve Arab-Israeli peace, point out that Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians is a cause of Middle East turmoil, they are immediately denounced as anti-Semites. Columnists and academics who know nothing about the Middle East or its troubles nevertheless know what they are supposed to say whenever anyone mentions Israel in any critical context. And they have no compunction about saying it, the truth be damned.
Related Topics: Freedom of Speech, Terrorism
The Endless War on Terrorism, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 1 Sep 2004
Reflects on President George W. Bush response ("I don't think we can win it") when asked about the War on Terror
Thus, when you factor in decades of brutal U.S. intervention in the Middle East (long before 9/11), including helping dictators to kill and torture their own people ... the Persian Gulf intervention ... the more than a decade of sanctions against the Iraqi people ... the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, the unconditional support of Israeli government policies, and then the illegal and unconstitutional invasion and occupation of Iraq ..., why would it surprise anyone that there would be a deep anger and a thirst for revenge among the people of the Middle East?
The Essence of Government, by Doug Casey, 26 Oct 2001
Examines the questions "What is the essence of government?" and "Are governments necessary?", comparing mobs, organized groups and governments
There's no cosmic imperative for different people to rise up against one another–unless they're organized into political groups. The Middle East, now the world's most fertile breeding ground for hatred, provides an excellent example. Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together peaceably in Palestine, Lebanon and North Africa for centuries, until the situation became politicized after WWI. Until then an individual's background and beliefs were just personal attributes, not a casus belli.
Related Topics: Government, Law, Politics
How Much More Harm Can Bush Do?, by Paul Craig Roberts, 7 Mar 2006
Discusses the casualties resulting from the 2003 Iraq invasion, the changed world opinion of the United States and the lobbies that benefit from the continuation of hostilities
Gen. Clark told Amy Goodman that shortly after 9/11 he was shown a Pentagon 'memo that describes how we're going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and, finishing off, Iran.' That sounds exactly like the plan that neoconservative Norman Podhoretz set out in Commentary magazine. ... The Israel Lobby sees the war as enhancing Israeli hegemony in the Middle East and making possible the completion of Israel’s theft of Palestine from Palestinians.
In Afghanistan, They Died for No Good Cause, by Sheldon Richman, 5 Dec 2013
Critiques an exchange by NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel and MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell on the rationale for keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan
Engel, pointed out that, between the Karzai talks and the negotiations with Afghanistan's next-door neighbor Iran, the Obama administration has a daunting task ... The organization that was a threat, al-Qaeda, did not plot the 9/11 attacks in Afghanistan and has since spun off affiliates in Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and the Arabian Peninsula. Moreover, the threat was a direct consequence of decades of U.S. intervention in the Muslim world. If there had been no American empire, there would have been no 9/11 attacks, nor would there have been any of the acts committed by al-Qaeda against the U.S. government before 2001.
Related Topics: Afghanistan, Militarism
Is Obama Trying to Alienate Muslim-American Youth?, by Sheldon Richman, 7 Oct 2014
Examines the Obama administration's contradictory stances on the Islamic State (ISIS) and its outreach efforts towards young American Muslims
[Only] about 100 Americans have traveled to Syria or attempted to. That's an insignificant percentage of the 2.6 million American Muslims ... the administration ... says it wants to keep the American people safe and American-Muslim youth out of the clutches of ISIS. But it also wants to drop bombs on ISIS in Iraq and Syria — and as we see, it cannot do that without killing Muslim noncombatants, including elderly men, women, and children ... The best way to keep Americans safe and to prevent the growth of sympathy for ISIS in America is to stop bombing people in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
Related Topics: Barack Obama, Syria, Terrorism
The Middle East Harvests Bitter Imperialist Fruit, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 20 Jun 2014
Describes how the seeds of the current turmoil in the Middle East were planted a century ago by British and French imperialists
In 1916, ... Sir Mark Sykes, a Middle East adviser to the British cabinet, and French diplomat François Georges Picot negotiated the famous secret agreement that bears their names ... The Sykes-Picot Agreement presumed to divide up the Middle East among the imperial Allied Powers, even before it had been wrested from the Turks ... More specifically Britain would control southern Mesopotamia (Iraq), two Mediterranean port cities, and what would become Jordan. France would get Greater Syria, including today's Lebanon, and northern Mesopotamia. Palestine (minus Jordan) would be under international supervision.
The Middle East Harvests Bitter Imperialist Fruit, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, Sep 2014
Recounts the history of foreign intervention in the Middle East since World War I to the present (expanded version of 20 June 2014 essay)
What's happening in the Middle East today may be seen as a violent attempt to undo the Sykes-Picot, San Remo, et cetera, impositions of the last century. The newly declared Islamic State in parts of Syria and Iraq, for example, is attempting to erase the artificial boundary between those countries. One wonders how the Arab world would have evolved without violent foreign intervention. It's hard to imagine that the process would have been more violent than it was and continues to be. In this light, further Western intervention looks like a recipe for an even greater disaster.
My Election Prediction, by Steven LaTulippe, 29 Sep 2006
Discusses the possible outcome of the 2006 U.S. mid-term elections, predicting a "crushing defeat" for the Republicans due to the electorate demanding accountability for the wars, the advantages of divided government and the apparent threat of another war
[It's] looking more and more like the neocons are planning to attack Iran ... The consequences of such an attack would be catastrophic. The Middle East would explode. Our soldiers in Iraq would be engulfed in a massive Shia uprising. Hezbollah would enter the conflict by attacking Israel. Iran would aid the rebels in Afghanistan. The Persian Gulf's oil could be blocked from the marketplace, causing a cataclysmic spike in oil prices. There is no sane reason why ... Iran is wedged between several nations with more powerful militaries than itself (such as Russia and Turkey). Nuclear-armed Israel and Pakistan are close-by as well.
The Neoconservative Obsession with Iran, by Sheldon Richman, 14 May 2014
Discusses how Bush, Cheney and their advisors exacerbated the U.S.-Iran crisis, as documented in Gareth Porter's Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare
The Bush people thought that the U.S. government could fundamentally change the Middle East with military power. "The administration's strategy ... was based on the firm conviction that the Islamic regime in Iran would fall within a few years as part of the broader redrawing of the political map of the region that the neoconservatives were planning," Porter writes. Iraq would be first, "turning Iraq into a base for projecting US power into the rest of the Middle East. The result was expected to be a string of regime changes ... And it would leave Iran surrounded by pro-American governments in Kabul, Baghdad, and Istanbul ..."
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Iran
Obama and Kerry Jeopardize Peace with Iran, by Sheldon Richman, 30 Jan 2014
Examines pronouncements by U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama that put in doubt their stated intentions of reaching a peace agreement with Iran
Ideally, the Obama administration would simply exit the Middle East, taking all its military and economic aid with it. The U.S. government cannot micromanage events there, especially when it is no honest, neutral broker. Shamefully, it is firmly in the Israeli camp against the Palestinians (who, let us remember, are the occupied, not the occupiers), and generally in the Sunni Muslim camp against the Shi'ites, led by Iran. (Iraq is the anomaly.) As welcome as a U.S. exit would be, alas, it won't happen anytime soon, so the best we can hope for is rapprochement with Iran.
Related Topics: Iran, Barack Obama, War
Obama Follows Bush's Iraq Playbook, by Sheldon Richman, 10 Sep 2014
Examines the validity of Obama's arguments for going to war against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in response to the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in Aug/Sep 2014
U.S. intervention in the Middle East is what endangers Americans at home. Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda hit Americans here because for many years the U.S. government had perpetrated and supported violence against Arabs (Palestinians, Iraqis, Egyptians, Lebanese and others)—and it still does. No al-Qaeda affiliate existed in Iraq before George W. Bush launched his invasion ... in 2003. ISIS is an offshoot of al-Qaeda, and its execution of the two journalists was retaliation for recent U.S. bombings in Iraq. No doubt those murders were intended also to goad Obama into sending American forces ...
Out of Iraq, Etc.!, by Sheldon Richman, 13 Aug 2014
Examines the origins of the arbitrary country subdivisions in the Fertile Crescent after World War I and the continuing problems in the region
And so European countries drew lines in the sand without much regard for the societies they were constructing from disparate sectarian, tribal, and ethnic populations. Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations declared that former colonies of the defeated powers "are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves ..." These included the Arabs (and others) in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the Levant (today's Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine/Israel). Because they were not ready for independence ... their "well-being and development" should be “entrusted to advanced nations ... "
Richard Maybury - Libertarian, by Bill Winter, - The Advocates for Self-Government
Short biographical profile; includes photograph and quote
Maybury tends to focus on the Middle East, which he dubbed Chaostan—"the land of the great chaos." As early as 1981, Maybury warned "that if Washington did not stop meddling in that area, we would end up in a gigantic religious war between the Islamic world and the Christian world." The same foreign policy Maybury worried about ... led directly to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he said. "The federal government gives money, ... military training [to] governments ... run by crooks and tyrants," he noted. "All these ... have enemies, so now their enemies are our enemies. This is why 9/11 happened."
Related Topics: Richard J. Maybury, War
Sanctions: The Cruel and Brutal War against the Iraqi People, Part 2, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Feb 2004
Continues the account of the U.S. government sanctions against Iraq, describing the "oil for food" program, the resignations of two senior United Nations officials in protest and the influence on the 11 Sept 2001 attacks
And while there was certainly no love for Saddam Hussein among many Arabs, there was tremendous sympathy and empathy for the Iraqi people. Year after year, Arabs seethed with anger and hatred over what the U.S. government was doing to the Iraqi people, which is one big reason that the September 11 suicide bombers came from countries all over the Middle East. When ... Madeleine Albright ... was asked ... whether the deaths of half a million Iraqi children had been "worth it," her response — "I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it" — reverberated throughout the Middle East.
Stop Demonizing Iran, by Sheldon Richman, 9 Oct 2013
Examines Iranian government efforts to resolve differences with the U.S. government, as evidenced by 2013 proposals, and recalling previous efforts to cooperate with the Bush administration, as reported in 2006 by Gareth Porter
The Iranian proposal also endorsed the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, in which the Arab League offered to recognize Israel's 1967 borders and accept a two-state solution with the Palestinians. "The [Iranian] document," Porter added, "also offered a 'stop of any material support to Palestinian opposition groups (Hamas, Jihad, etc.) from Iranian territory' and 'pressure on these organizations to stop violent actions against civilians within borders of 1967.' Finally it proposed 'action on Hizbollah to become a mere political organization within Lebanon.'"
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Iran
The U.S. Empire Provokes Terrorism, by Sheldon Richman, 8 Aug 2013
Examines the claims and behavior of the Obama administration in response to "terrorist chatter" supposedly intercepted by them and counsels changing the interventionist foreign policy
[The] U.S. government for decades has supported violent regimes in the Middle East and North Africa: from Saudi Arabia's corrupt and brutal monarchy, to the Egyptian military dictatorship, to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, to Israel's unconscionable occupation of Palestine. American administrations, Republican and Democrat, have directly inflicted death and suffering on people in the Muslim world — through the 1990s economic sanctions on Iraq, for example. (Today's sanctions on Iran now impose hardship on another group of Muslims.) ... U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia ... recruit enemies ...
We Must Not Be the World’s Policeman, by Sheldon Richman, 4 Sep 2013
Considers whether United States government actions. such as bombing, against the goverment of Syria's Bashar al-Assad are justified from moral or constitutional perspectives
[The U.S. government] rails against Assad's brutality, but it backed Iraq's ... Hussein, even when he used chemical weapons in the 1980s. It condoned the Egyptian military's mowing down of over a thousand street demonstrators ..., and it has more than tacitly approved Israel's string of onslaughts against the Palestinians and Lebanese ... Assad is a suitable foe ... because Russia and Iran are his allies. American foreign policy in the Middle East has long been ... guaranteeing that no country can challenge U.S./Israeli hegemony ... Hussein and Libya's ... Qadaffi learned that the hard way.
Related Topics: Barack Obama, Syria, United States, War
Whoa, Walter!, by Charley Reese, 4 Sep 2006
Criticizes Walter Williams for his column "Will the West defend itself?" (23 Aug 2006), in which he defended going to the extreme of using nuclear weapons on "our Middle East enemies" just as "when we firebombed cities in Germany and Japan"
There is no valid parallel between the rise of Nazi Germany and anything going on in the Middle East ... There are no Hitlers in the Middle East ... There are no great industrial powers in the Middle East, not one. There are not likely to be any in the foreseeable future. In short, no country in the Middle East is a threat to the United States. No country in the Middle East, including Iran, is a threat to Israel. Israel has the most advanced tanks, the most advanced aircraft, the most advanced missiles and the largest and only arsenal of nuclear warheads in the region.
Related Topics: Iran, War, Walter E. Williams
Will American Ground Troops Be Sent to Fight ISIS?, by Sheldon Richman, 25 Sep 2014
Analyzes Barack Obama's statements, made on 17 Sep 2014, regarding his anti-Islamic State strategy of (a) not sending American ground forces and (b) being merely a part of "a broad coalition"
If Obama (despite the evidence) declares ISIS a significant domestic threat, and if the Iraqi, Kurdish, and Syrian forces fail, won’t he be pushed by the logic of his policy to send in American ground forces? ... As for ... coalition building ... This is a U.S.-led operation, and that is how the inhabitants of the bombed territories will see it. ISIS recruitment will soar. But even if other coalition members shouldered most of the burden, why should Americans feel any better about the operation? The objection to a new U.S. war in the Middle East should not be that America would go it alone.
Related Topics: Barack Obama, United States

Cartoons and Comic Strips

We Will Not Cut and Run from Lebanon ..., by Tom Toles, The Washington Post, 8 Mar 2005

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Middle East" as of 10 Sep 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.