By: Leon Cui
The Middle East’s conflicts have been going on for nearly a century, causing over one billion deaths over the past hundred years.
The Ottoman Empire nearly dominated the Middle East at its peak, but since the 1800’s the Ottoman Empire started declining, and the UK began occupying the UAE, South Yemen, Bahrain, and finally Egypt, allowing the fastest communication route from London to India through the Suez Canal. This canal was the one of the most important pieces of infrastructure to the UK, then Egypt was set to protect the Suez Canal; Kuwait and Oman joined later.
The Ottoman Empire was alarmed and decided to join on Austria’s side in WWI. They were on the losing side, so they were partitioned into many parts. In 1916, a French and a British diplomat drew the new borders of the Middle East, but the borders were based on Ottoman states, which had nothing to do with culture or religion. This is one of the reasons why the region has been so unstable.
In 1938, Turkey demanded a province of Syria from France and, fearing that they would join the side of the Nazis in WWII, they accepted the demand. Syria would claim it as rightful Syrian territory after its independence. In retaliation, Turkey dammed both the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, which Syria heavily relies on, but Iraq also heavily relies on the two rivers, causing an even bigger disagreement.
When the UK controlled the region, it gave Iraq a claim on Kuwait, which has a large coastline and natural resources, leading to war in the 90’s. And in the treaty, the Kurdish people never got their independence because that the Ottoman empire never agreed, causing problems with the Kurdish people, which now have a population of 40 million.
Another big problem is oil. The oil produced in Iran was not near enough for the UK; at that point the country that produced the most oil was the US, but the US was seen as an unreliable producer of oil. The UK wanted to control the land close to Iran, so they maintained as much influence in the Middle East as possible no matter the price.
After oil was discovered all over the Middle East, it brought even more conflicts over the natural resources. The oil is scattered and located in inconvenient places geopolitically. For example, 90% of the oil in Iran is located on a single province that one of the hardest to defend places in Iran. Also, nearly all the oil in Syria is owned by a single cultural and religious group. This not only is a hazard itself, but also causing countries to try to influence the region, such as the British, the French, and the Americans.
To make matters even worse, The state of Israel was formed where Arabs previously lived, causing even more territorial disputes. The territory of Palestine, which shares a border and capital with Israel, is subject to their military and political control. With all these conflicts, the Middle East is still an unstable region today and will likely continue to be in the future.