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By Samruddhi Mahapatra

Edited by Shamhavi Singh, Senior editor, The Indian Economist

With a history that dates back to almost 6000 years ago, the Mesopotamian civilization is one of the world’s earliest civilizations. Today this region is popularly known as the Middle East, and is in the spotlight for several reasons such as its huge oil reserves, conflict zones, and the civil wars.

Mesopotamia gave rise to some of the world’s most powerful empires. The Assyrian Empire’s expansion brought together many nomadic and barbaric communities, and bestowed upon them a uniform culture. From the early 6th century BC onwards, the Persians dominated this region.

In the 1st century BC, the expanding Roman Republic had engulfed this entire region. The Romans expanded their territory around the Mediterranean and declared Christianity to be the state religion.  From the 7th century, Islam was rising as a new power in the Middle-East. While the Roman Empire was weakened by centuries of warfare, Islam became a new rising force.By the 8th century, most of the Northern Africa had accepted Islam. In the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire captured Baghdad. Baghdad served as a buffer between the Ottoman Turks in the west and the Persians in the east. The Ottoman Empire controlled Baghdad, till its downfall in the First World War.

Nationalism had swept across the Middle-East after World War 1. National borders did not account for ethnic divisions. For example, the Kurds were spread among a number of nations. Border issues also came up, as in the case of Syria and Lebanon. Ethnic and religious contentions also became a prominent feature of this area. Another problem was the economic crisis. Though these nations had become independent, their economies were stagnant. The solution came with the possession of major oil resources.

Even today, in the 21st century, the Middle-East is going through a lot of turmoil due to its strategic location and rich oil reserves. Problems such as border disputes, war for control over resources and occupation of land, etc. deny this region any chance of peace in the near future.

Although these countries have formed associations such as OPEC and GCC, they still have a lot of internal conflicts. The Arab-Muslim world feels that the West is decadent, and fear that the Western world will be a threat to the Muslim culture. Though they are united in this view point, they have not been able to stand up against the US hegemony. US has always been a major actor in this theatre. The invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War gave the US an excuse to enter this region. Since then, the US has deployed its soldiers for ‘peace-keeping’.

US has followed the policy of containing Iran and Iraq to protect its international and domestic oil interests. It also makes sure that the West European allies of the US are provided with not-too-expensive crude oil. The American involvement in the Middle-East also takes care of the American defence industry. Millions of dollars’ worth weapons were poured in to establish puppet governments, and to maintain authoritarian regimes in the Arabian-Gulf region. The long term policies of the United States have never been to achieve direct territorial control. Rather, it has always tried to maintain its influence in some form or the other. This has been clearly evident in the recent conflicts in the Middle-East. American decision to attack Gadaffi regime in Libya in 2011, the toppling of Morsi’s government in Egypt and the continuous attempts to overthrow al-Assad’s regime in Syria, clearly underline American hegemony.

The Islamic Brotherhood, though claiming cohesiveness, has not been able to unite against the US hegemony.

Samruddhi is a student, pursuing English Hons. in Kirori Mal College. She is an avid reader and loves learning new things. An aspiring writer, she believes that everything around us has a story to tell. With big dreams, she strives forward to achieve them. She wants her writings to be read by everyone and appreciates constructive criticism.