Middle East challenges

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Introduction

The Middle East is considered to be one of the important regions in the world in terms of its holy sites for tourism, oil resources and geopolitical situation. The Middle East is made up of the Gulf countries which include Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, United Arab Emirate, Iran, Bahrain and Yemen. Irrespective of the region being one of the most significant in the world, it is posed with several major challenges. This article will illustrate the major challenges in Middle East including the Arab Israel conflict, Jerusalem being the capital city of Palestine or Israel, the consequences of the Arab spring and the presence of terrorist organizations. The article will also discuss factors affecting the challenges and US interest in Middle East.

Major Challenges

One of the major challenges confronting the Middle East region is the political tension emanating from the disputes between the Arabs of the Middle East and the Jewish community of Israel. The dispute which is usually referred to as the Arab-Israel conflict is caused by the rise of Zionism and Arab nationalism (Dan and Daniel, 2017). Repeatedly, the Arab-Israel conflict has failed to adhere to negotiated solution irrespective of several peace treaties including Oslo-Accords. In the view of Qaddahat et al (2017), the negotiated solution to quash the conflict has failed because of the untrue and unfair expanding and colonizing ideology of Zionism. It is estimated that, the conflict from 1991 to 2010 has caused Middle East over $12 trillion of which Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia has lost $ 1, $2.2 and $4.5 trillion respectively (Griffiths, 2017).

A second major challenge of the Middle East is the recognition of Jerusalem as being the capital city of Palestine or Israel (Dan and Daniel, 2017). In the wake of the controversy surrounding Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine or Israel, US president Donald Trump declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and has made plans to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which is in contrast with the Arab’s point of view, which considers Palestine as occupied territories by Israel (Gordon, 2017). In the view of Grossman (2018) the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a major challenge because the move is seen as a recipe expected to inflame the tensions and also unsettle the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

A third major challenge of the Middle East region is the consequences of the Arab spring. According to Chau et al (2014) the Arab spring began in the early 2011 when several anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions spread across the Middle East especially in Arab countries, among foreign observers and between world powers who have the intention of influencing the changing map of the Middle East. Analyzing the consequences of the Arab spring since its inception in the early 2011, Amour (2017) indicated that the situation has given rise to social unrest, higher oil prices, slower global growth and regional spillovers which has contributed to the decline in gross domestic products and an increase in employment in the Middle East region.

The presence of terrorist organization is also a major challenge in the Middle East. Homeed (2017) observed that these terrorist organizations are mostly Islamic terrorist who have the intention of professing Islamic or the objectives of Islam. Their violent attacks are justified by the interpretation they deduce from the Quran and Hadith but in realism, Qaddahat et al (2017) mentioned that the interpretation is according to their personal ambitions and intentions. These terrorist organization including ISIS, Al-Qaeda and IS have recorded their highest number of attacks in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Their attacks have not only affected the countries within the Middle East but have escalated to countries in the European Union, Russia, United States and other parts of Africa. It is estimated that out of the total death in Middle East, the activities of the terrorist organizations have contributed to 74% of all deaths.

Factors Affecting Challenges

International factors are considered as one of the factors influencing the major challenges in Middle East. Hameed (2017) observed that countries outside the region of Middle East have the interest in protecting their economic stakes especially in the supply of energy. Their deep interest in the region influences them to implement policies either by diplomatic means, non-coercive intervention or by the use of coercive powers in order to protect their economic stakes in Middle East. Example of the use of non-coercive form of intervention by external powers can be seen in Saudi Arabia where these external powers occasionally are seen interfering in the reformation of society including women’s right, the right of women to vote and drive, democracy and others (Chau et al, 2014). In other instances, there is public support to the insurgency in Iraq for which external powers have occupied and taken control of the country with the claim that Iraq is a breeding ground for weapons of mass destruction. In the view of Dan and Daniel (2017) the presence of external powers in the region has contributed to the major challenges in Middle East.

The internal factors influencing the challenges in Middle East according to Bichler and Nitzan (2017) is the region’s internal politics which revolve around ethnic, ideological and territorial disputes and the competition for Arab leadership. For instance, in Iraq, there are ethnic divisions between the Arabs in the country and the Kurds and also an ideological division between the Shi’as and the Sunnis. These forms of division are contributing factors to the major challenges in the Middle East. In a similar situation, the Israeli occupation of the territories of Palestine is a major source of challenge in Middle East because of the increasing tension it brings to the region. Another ideological and ethnic division which is seen as a major source of influence in the Middle East is the tension between Iran and the Arab world. Grossman (2018) opine that, the competition for Arab leadership is considered to be a factor related to the internal factors influencing the major challenges in Middle East since most of the Arab leaders are overambitious in their desire to be recognized as the heads of the Arab world.

Amour (2017) observed that local culture factor including religious factors behind the cultural aspect considering Jerusalem as the holy land for Muslims is another factor influencing the challenges in Middle East. The local cultural factor gives support to the conflict between the Arabs and Jews which has been a contributing factor that influences the major challenges in the region.  Between 2002 and 2003, conflict in the Middle East especially between the Palestinians and Israelis escalated sharply killing innocent men, women and children from both sides. In the view of Gause (2014), religion and how it is being interpreted plays a key role in the conflict in Middle East and it is considered as a factor affecting the challenges.

US Interests

Hammeed (2017) mentioned that the United States interest in Middle East is seen in their full and unlimited support to Israel especially in their decision regarding the location of their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This move is condemned by most of the world, however, US president Donald Trump has announce that US will henceforth recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Although, the recognition of Jerusalem and the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem is justified by their relationship with Israel, Grossman (2018) observed that such move will distort the peace processes in the region and further destabilize an already volatile region. Dan and Daniel (2017) indicated that there is a big deal in United States’ decision regarding their embassy location since the decision will eventually overturn the long years of international agreement which will end the moves in achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians. To the United States, if they move the embassy to Jerusalem, it would mean that Jerusalem is effectively recognized as the capital of Israel.

For several years, the United States has shown interest in Middle East by fighting terrorist organizations and other forms of interventions. Bichler and Nitzan (2017) observed that US interest in Middle East underpin the assumption that the Middle East possess about 31% of global oil production and US intends to secure the oil flow in the region. Chau et al (2014) through a report by the Transparency International indicated that Middle East has the largest share of oil reserved with over 751 billion barrels representing 51% of global oil reserves. These oil reserves are found in countries like Iran having 9%, Saudi Arabia 18%, Iraq 8%, Kuwait 7% and United Arab Emirate 7%. Griffiths (2017) also mentioned that the shifting interest of US in the Middle East due to their oil reserve is partly a result of the spikes in oil prices which affected the economy of the United States.

In the view of Bitchler and Nitzan (2017), the interest of US in the Middle East can be attributed to the regions big market in the production of weapons and other goods. For about forty years ago, the production of weapons in the Middle East was restricted and only a few small factories were allowed to produce rifles and ammunitions. Currently, the production of weapons has become a big business in Middle East. According to Griffiths (2017) the annual output of the production of weapons in the region is worth over $4 billion. Out of the 23 world countries with extensive weapon production, Israel is rated the third world weapon producer and exporter (Chau et al, 2014). In recent years, the Middle East has become the center of weapons buildup with countries including US, the Soviet Union, France and others transporting billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to the Middle East.

Conclusion

The Middle East comprise of diverse region with countries that shares things in common such as heritage, levels of per capital income and set of common challenges as indicated above. These challenges are identified to be influenced by factors including external influence, internal influence and local cultural factors that define the religious factor behind the cultural aspect which consider Jerusalem as a holy land for Muslim. Irrespective of the challenges, the region has opportunities which spikes US interest in Middle East. In reducing the challenges and creating more opportunities in the region, efforts must be heightened to destroy the activities of terrorist organizations, reduce the consequences of the Arab spring and resolve the Arab Israeli conflict.

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  1. Amour, P. O. (2017). Israel, the Arab Spring, and the unfolding regional order in the Middle East: a strategic assessment. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 44(3), 293-309.
  2. Bichler, S., & Nitzan, J. (2017). Arms and Oil in the Middle East: A Biography of Research (No. 2017/04). Working Papers on Capital as Power.
  3. Chau, F., Deesomsak, R., & Wang, J. (2014). Political uncertainty and stock market volatility in the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries. Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, 28, 1-19.
  4. Dan, C., & Daniel, R. (Eds.). (2017). Reporting The Middle East: Challenges And Chances. World Scientific.
  5. Gause, F. G. (2014). Saudi Arabia in the New Middle East (No. 63). Council on Foreign Relations.
  6. Gordon, J. L. (2017). US Democracy Promotion in the Middle East: More and Less Than Meets the Eye.
  7. Griffiths, S. (2017). A review and assessment of energy policy in the Middle East and North Africa region. Energy Policy, 102, 249-269.
  8. Grossman, J. (2018). Impartiality as a Lack of Interest: Israel, Brazil, the Jewish Diaspora, and the Question of Jerusalem. Israel Studies, 23(1), 152-176.
  9. Hameed, S. (2017). The Arab awakening: America and the transformation of the Middle East.
  10. Qaddahat, R., Attaalla, F., & Hussein, M. M. (2017). Halal Tourism: Evaluating Opportunities and Challenges in the Middle East” Jordan and Egypt”. International Journal of Heritage, Tourism, and Hospitality, 10(2/2).
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