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SEMINAR #2 LEARNING ABOUT THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Most people have little understanding of the historical or political makeup of the Middle East.

It often comes as a surprise to many to learn that most of the countries of the current Middle East did not even exist 100 years ago.

Until the end of the 1st World War, that entire part of the world was governed for about 400 years by the Ottoman Empire, called derisively then “the sick man of Europe” because of its history of corruption and malfunction.

The Ottoman leaders chose to align themselves with the Germans in World War One and ended up on the losing side. That marked the end of the Empire and brought about its dismemberment.  All of the Middle East was part of the Ottoman Empire then and thus was affected by its demise.

Turkey came into existence in 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Ataturk, a man born in Thessaloniki in what is Northern Greece (Paul wrote 2 books of the Bible to believers who lived there, 1 and 2 Thessalonians). He was a naval officer in the Ottoman Empire during the recently ended World War. Ataturk had a dream of establishing an officially Muslim, yet secular state, tolerant of other faiths, and with a western style form of representative government. And he succeeded. So Turkey is less than 100 years old.

Out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, the winning European powers arbitrarily carved out new political entities, some of which made no practical sense and were only held together by the strength of a dictator. Think of the former Yugoslavia with its competing religions and languages and cultures .It was destined to fail with time. It was only held together by the strong hand of Marshal Tito. When he was removed it did not take long for Yugoslavia to descend into bloody ethnic cleansing and bloodshed. Out of this emerged Muslim Bosnia and Christian Serbia etc.

But for the greed of the European powers and their manipulation of these areas, these modern petrol states would never have existed as the separate entities they are today. And if they had not discovered oil there and had access to Western technology and capital to extract and develop it, they would have probably remained backward, insignificant countries of no account or importance. Almost universally, their only export is petroleum to this day.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was established in 1925 and defined by Great Britain and so is only about 90 years old. Saudi Arabia came into existence in 1932 and is only about 80 years old. The various Oil sheikdoms emerged at this same general time.

Qatar was under British influence since 1878 and a British Protectorate since 1916, so it is less than 100 years old. Bahrain was similarly a British Protectorate of about the same age. It is a majority Shia country with a Sunni minority and monarchy.

Built in tension. Kuwait’s borders were defined in 1922.

Iraq became a separately defined state in 1932.

The United Arabic Emirates , UAR, have been British Protectorates since 1862.

France was ceded control of Lebanon and Syria after World War 1 about 90 years ago.

Great Britain got control of Iran (Persia) and Iraq.

Because these political entities are of such recent creation you often find their citizens have more loyalty to their tribe than to their nation. This is clearly the case in Afghanistan for example.

And of course, Israel, reborn in 1948, was the last of the new states to emerge in that part of the world, less than 70 years ago.

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