Hello and welcome to the Political Economy of Israel and Middle East course.
In this video today we’re going to be discussing the topic of borders of the independent nation-states in the 20th Century.
We will be discussing:
The effects of the Second World War on the Middle East
The Israel- Palestine conflict
The creation of the Modern Middle East
Politics and ‘Anti-West’ sentiment
The effect of the fall of the Soviet Union on the Middle East
Iraq and US involvement in the region.
The countries of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East states on the Arabian Peninsula generally remained unaffected by World War II.
It was during and after World war II that the British, the French, and the Soviets left many parts of the Middle East.
However, after the war, the following Middle Eastern states had independence restored or became independent:
17 October 1941 – Iran became independent as the forces of the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union withdrew.
22 November 1943 – Lebanon.
1 January 1944 – Syria. 22 May 1946 – Jordan as the British mandate ended.
1947 – Iraq. The forces of the United Kingdom withdrawn.
1947 – Egypt. The forces of the United Kingdom withdrawn to the Suez Canal area.
1948 – Israel. The forces of the United Kingdom withdrawn.
The struggle between the Arabs and the Jews in Palestine climaxed as in the 1947 United Nations plan to partition Palestine.
This meant that they tried to create an Arab state and a Jewish state in the narrow space between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
Think about current affairs today? Do you think that it was widely accepted?
On the whole, while the Jewish leaders accepted it, the Arab leaders did not.
On 14 May 1948, when the British Mandate expired, the Zionist leadership declared the State of Israel.
Sadly, after only 3 years after the end of the World War II, people are about to fight with each other.
In the 1948 Arab-Israeli War that immediately followed, the armies of Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia intervened and were defeated by Israel.
About 800,000 Palestinians fled from areas annexed by Israel and became refugees in neighboring countries. This created the “Palestinian problem” which has plagued the region ever since.
Approximately two-thirds of 800.000 of the Jews expelled or who fled from Arab lands after 1948 were absorbed and naturalized by the State of Israel.
Let’s move forward a little bit and have a look at the Modern states.
There are three things that marked the creation of the modern Middle East.
Two we have already looked at, can you remember then?
It was the departure of the European powers from the region and the establishment of Israel.
The third and final one is the increasing importance of the oil industry.
These developments led to an increasing presence of the United States in Middle East affairs.
The U.S. was the ultimate guarantor of the stability of the region, and from the 1950s the dominant force in the oil industry.
When radical revolutions brought radical anti-Western regimes to power in Egypt in 1954, in Syria in 1963, in Iraq in 1968 and in Libya in 1969, the Soviet Union, seeking to open a new arena of the Cold War in the Middle East, allied itself with Arab socialist rulers such as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
These regimes gained widespread support through their promises to destroy the state of Israel, defeat the U.S. and other “western imperialists,” and to bring wealth to the Arab masses.
When the Six-Day War of 1967 between Israel and its neighbors ended in a decisive loss for the Muslim side, many in the Islamic world saw this as the failure of Arab socialism.
This represents a turning point when “fundamental and militant Islam began to fill the political vacuum created”.
The political outlay in the Middle East was shifting and changing throughout this time.
In response to this challenge to its interests in the region, the U.S. felt obliged to defend its remaining allies.
Who were their allies? They were the conservative monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran and the Persian Gulf emirates.
And in all reality, their methods of rule were almost as unattractive to western eyes as those of the anti-western regimes.
Iran in particular became a key U.S. ally, until a revolution led by the Shi’a clergy overthrew the monarchy in 1979 and established a theocratic regime.
This was even more anti-western than the secular regimes in Iraq or Syria forcing the U.S. into a close alliance with Saudi Arabia.
Crises and wars had effected the area since then and we continue now to talk about most significant Arab-Israeli wars in terms of shaping internal Middle Eastern and international politics and economics.
The list of Arab-Israeli wars includes a great number of major wars such as 1948 Arab-Israeli War, 1956 Suez War, 1967 Six Day War, 1970 War of Attrition, 1973 Yom Kippur War, 1982 Lebanon War, as well as a number of other conflicts and wars.
In the mid-to-late 1960s, the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party led by Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar took power in both Iraq and Syria.
Iraq was first ruled by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr.
Who was his successor? Saddam Hussein succeeded him in 1979.
In Syria, it was ruled first by a Military Committee led by Salah Jadid, and later Hafez al-Assad until 2000, when he was succeeded by his son, Bashar al-Assad.
Leaders did try to aim for peace in the region.
In 1979, Egypt, under Anwar Sadat, concluded a peace treaty with Israel.
This ended the prospects of a united Arab military front.
But from the 1970s the Palestinians, led by Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, resorted to a prolonged campaign of violence against Israel and against American, Jewish and western targets generally.
Why do you think the Palestinians did this? They wanted to weaken Israeli resolve and undermine western support for Israel.
The Palestinians were supported in this, to varying degrees, by the regimes in Syria, Libya, Iran and Iraq.
The high point of this campaign came in the 1975 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 condemning Zionism as a form of racism and the reception given to Arafat by the United Nations General Assembly.
Resolution 3379 was revoked in 1991 by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution number 4686.
Let’s look at towards the end of the century now.
One of the major factors at the time as the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism in the early 1990s.
But what did this mean for the Middle East region?
There were several major consequences for the Middle East.
Firstly, with the Iron Curtain down, it allowed large numbers of Soviet Jews to emigrate from former Soviet Union to Israel.
The strength of the Jewish state was increased.
It cut off the easiest source of credit, weapons and diplomatic support to the anti-western Arab regimes.
This weakened their position.
Cheap oil from Russia was now available, driving down the price of oil and reducing the west’s dependence on oil from the Arab states.
It discredited the model of development through authoritarian state socialism, which Egypt (under Nasser), Algeria, Syria and Iraq had followed since the 1960s, leaving these regimes politically and economically stranded. Rulers such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq increasingly turned to Arab nationalism as a substitute for socialism.
If you are old enough, you will remember the war that Saddam Hussein led Iraq into with Iran in the 1980s. It was a prolonged and very costly war. He then led Iraq into its fateful invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Kuwait had once been part of the Ottoman Empire province of Basra before 1918, and so, in a sense part, was once part of Iraq.
However, Iraq had recognized its independence in the 1960s.
This started the Persian Gulf War. The U.S formed a coalition of allies that included Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, and, gaining approval from the United Nations, evicted Iraq from Kuwait.
However, no attempt to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime.
This was something the U.S. later came to do in the 2000’s.
The Persian Gulf War and its aftermath brought about a permanent U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf region, particularly in Saudi Arabia, something that offended many Muslims, a reason often cited by Osama Bin Laden as justification for the September 11 Attacks.
In the next video we will discuss how conflicts and wars effected migration of people of the Middle Eastern countries.