Middle East

Middle East Middle East The political systems of Middle Eastern countries display considerable variety. For much of the post-World War II period, the greatest distinction was between the conservative, capitalist, pro-Western monarchies and the reformist, socialist, and neutralist or pro-Eastern republics, many of which were military regimes.

Pan-Arabism, which seeks to reunite the Arabs, was a dominant ideological force in much of the region. The failure of Arab unification schemes, particularly between Egypt and Syria between 1958 and 1961, and the passage of time encouraged the growth of state-based nationalism. The perceived failure of European-derived ideologies also encouraged the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and the search for indigenous solutions to the region’s problems.

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Perhaps no other region of the world has suffered so much political turmoil since World War II.Since 1979 the Iranian revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, an epidemic of terrorist incidents, a United States attack on Libya, and the Persian Gulf War have occurred. Yemen, Jordan, Sudan, and Lebanon have been ravaged by civil wars. From 1980 to 1988 Iran and Iraq were embroiled in a bloody conflict.

Casualties amounted to 1 million for each side. But the most protracted conflict has been between the Arabs and Israelis, who fought wars over territory and the rights of the Palestinians in 1948-49, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982.In 1988 Palestine was declared an independent state by the Palestine National Council. This declaration led to frequent and often violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. On Aug. 2, 1990, Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait after accusations over a disputed oil field. This resulted in war against Iraq early in 1991 by a United Nations (UN) coalition led by the United States.

Iraq was soundly defeated in six weeks. Israel did not join the conflict, in spite of Iraq’s firing Scud missiles at Israeli targets. This restraint on Israel’s part opened the way for unprecedented peace talks with the Arab states.

These began in September 1991 and continued intermittently for the next two years. A change of government in Israel led to secret meetings in Oslo, Norway, with representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).The outcome was an Israeli- Palestinian accord signed in Washington on Sept. 13, 1993.

For the first time, Israel recognized the PLO. It also granted limited self-rule to Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and Jericho. Israel and the PLO pledged to begin working out a permanent settlement in 1995, if the accord succeeded.