Nowadays, the center of threats to international security has shifted from Europe to the region of the Middle East. This region, which is sometimes called the Greater Middle East, is stretching from Afghanistan in the east to Morocco in the west and from Iran in the north to Yemen in the south. From a security standpoint, Middle East conflict is combined threats common to countries of the region and for the world. Today it is terrorism, the threat of proliferation of WMD, internal and interstate conflicts. This region is the focus of tensions and contradictions between the major powers of the world, as well as the attention of international organizations. This region is a major supplier of oil to the world economy, which entails a specific set of security issues of regional and global scale. The purpose of the paper is to analyze the causes and consequences of Middle East conflict, the role of West in it and possible solution to resolve the conflict.
Causes and consequences
The overall causes are religion, resources and influence of West. Most of its inhabitants that profess Islam adhere to Sunni, and smaller although a significant part (especially in Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain) are Shia. In addition, there are the ethnic differences of the Persians and the Jews from the Arabs in the region and there is fixed division of the Arab population in the national states with distinct and often conflicting national interests. Some of them are the monarchies, the other are predominantly authoritarian but formal parliamentary republic. Often contradictions between them are rooted in rivalry between Saudi and Hashemite monarchies, and in the more recent past - in the struggle for leadership in the Arab world between the largest of countries that are Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia. The reasons for hard collisions are also territorial claims and competition for oil between Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Inter-state conflicts are complemented by a succession of internal conflicts on the basis of inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations in the struggle for political power (civil wars, revolutions, coups). In recent years, there have been significant changes in the content and prioritization processes in the field of security in the region. The region turned into the epicenter of transnational terrorism. Implementation of the Iranian nuclear program has become one of the most pressing global challenges in the field of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Earlier, when it comes to the Middle East conflict, meaning the problem of settlement of the conflict between Israel and the Arab states, and then with the Palestinians. Today the priority became complex contradictions between Iran and most Arab countries, on the one hand, and between Iran and Israel - on the other. Significant regional security agenda reformatting occurred as a result of the American invasion of Iraq, the ensuing civil war there, recovery of the peace and the US intention to withdraw its troops from the country. The region is influenced by the internal armed conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the prospects of which are uncertain (Tanner, 2009). The region has virtually no institutional framework to strengthen security.
The overall consequences are the exaggerating of situation in the region and involving more and more countries into the conflict. Wars, death of many people and terrorist attacks also happened because of the Middle East conflict. Additionally, the events made influence on countries in other regions because Middle East is oil-producing countries and they supply oil to many other states.
The role of Christianity and the role of West
Christianity played role in some countries, but the greatest impact was on Lebanon. This country has a mixed Muslim-Christian population and managed. to some extent become independent from the Arab-Israeli conflict to mid-1970s. Lebanon could maintain internal stability, maintain constructive relations with the countries of Western Europe, particularly France and the United States. In 1975, there was the bloody conflict between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon (Hovsepian & Khalidi, 2007). In one way or another it involved most of the Arab countries. However, their approaches to the Lebanese problem often reflected competing with each other on other issues, in particular between Syria, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia (Vandewalle, 2006). Over time, Iran was drawn in this process and supported the Shiite part of the Muslim population, in particular paramilitary organization "Hezbollah". Over the years, the acuteness of the internal conflict in Lebanon was able to be mitigated by the fragile formula using the division of government posts between Christians, Sunnis and Shiites and the final withdrawal of Israeli troops from the security zone in the south (Levitt, 2013).
The long confrontation in the region largely shaped and sustained anti-Western vector of foreign policy of the Arab countries in the region. The rooting of Judaism, the Zionist movement of immigrants from Europe and America, finally, the formation of the State of Israel in the Middle East were seen as aggression of Western civilization in the area of traditional Islamic and Arab civilization, a continuation of Western colonialism in a new format. The situation was aggravated by the fact that Western states to a lesser or greater extent are on the Israeli side.
The possible solutions and negotiations
This conflict has a long history, as well as it is multi-layered and has internally contradictory structure. The analysis of the negotiating process in recent years leads to the conclusion that the Palestinians are not willing to end the conflict with Israel. The negotiations were not successful.
At the national level, apparently the actions should be limited to the actual condition of mutual armistice, not trying to be secured by some formal agreements. At the country level, on the contrary, it is useful to establish practical mutual cooperation and to prevent the policy of the united front of the Muslim or Arab. That is the policy of America that fulfils arbitrary division of the countries on those "supporting" and "not supporting" terror and encouraging the latter. At the level of the movements the effectiveness of Western economic sanctions in the fight against terrorist movements should be noted.
The readings help to create complete picture about the Middle East region and conflict starting from the early history up to modern days. “The Fall of the Ottomans” mentions broader range of conflicts in the Middle East. They are the genocide of Armenians, conflict between Russia and Turkey, the Dardanelles straits assault and others (Rogan, 2015). All these conflicts led to the collapse of great Muslim empire because of Russia, France and Britain interests (Rogan, 2015). However, this book is focused only on history aspects. The narrower book is “The Dictator's Army. Battlefield Effectiveness in Authoritarian Regimes” explains the nature and effectiveness of authoritarian militaries regimes that are common in the Middle East (Talmadge, 2015). The book explained how some authoritarian regimes improve state’s military might and some undermine it. As for Middle East conflict, it is important that the Iran and Iraq war and the states during war are explained.
“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” focuses on Arab-Israel conflict. Moreover, it analyzed the U.S. foreign policy, domestic policy and the role of the Israel Lobby in terms of attitude to Israel (Mearsheimer & Walt, 2008). That is important because the United States are the important player on the Middle East political arena.
The Middle East conflict involves many actors and the special ones are military groups and organizations. For example, “Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War against the Taliban“analyzes all stages of Afghanistan military history. The main focuses are on Alexander the Great conquests, the Mongols and their empire on Afghanistan territory, the Soviets, the intervention of the United States, the Mujahideen and the role of Taliban (Tanner, 2009). “Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God” and “Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad” also describe two groups Hezbollah and Hamas that operate in Lebanon and Palestine (Levitt, 2007). The book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” claims that the current Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories is a system of apartheid, where two nations occupy a land, but are separated from each other, and where the Israelis are totally dominant and suppress by violence and deprive Palestinians of their basic human rights (Carter, 2007).
“Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991 (Studies in War, Society, and the Military)” describes six Middle East States after the World War II. The states described are Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Libya and Saudi Arabia, their military effectiveness and attitude to warfare (Pollack, 2004). The more specific cause of Syria was described in “Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad” (Lesch, 2013). Syria would like to invite to dialogue the United States and Europe, putting pressure on "Hamas", holding back his aggression and transforming its policies (Levitt, 2007). In addition, the President of Syria B. Assad wanted the EU and the US to play a more prominent role in the Middle East peace process. “Immortal: A Military History of Iran and its Armed Forces” is concerned about regimes in Iraq and the activity of Islamic Republic explaining the Iranian military might and the specialties of soldiers (Ward, 2009).
In sum, all readings represent different aspects of the Middle East conflict. These aspects include regimes, description of wars, analysis of special groups, historical insight etc. The authors created comprehensive unbiased works about history using appropriate methods. Some findings might be useful for research of African or Eastern Asian conflicts of similar nature (national or religious conflicts). Most of the books are one-sided that is they represent only one aspect of the Middle East conflict, but all together they create the full picture of it.
The readings help to make a critical analysis of the Middle East conflict. A new phenomenon was the massive wave of popular uprisings against autocratic regimes. In recent years, this region has become a place of the three largest international military interventions carried out under the leadership of the United States (in Afghanistan and twice in Iraq). The region is entering a new stage in the struggle for leadership, this time between Iran and most Arab states. The Middle East conflict involves conflicts in Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, the events of Arab Spring and others.
The Middle East peace process, as a cornerstone in the Middle East is a complex component mechanism, which involves the major regional players. A comprehensive solution to this problem is possible only by taking into account the interests of all parties involved. For now, there is no clear solution for the problem.