Term Paper: International Relations of Middle East

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Political Science

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein waged war against his neighbors twice. First, against the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1980; second, against Kuwait in 1990.

Both the Iran-Iraq War of 1980 and the Iraq-Kuwait Conflict of 1990 are examples of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's aggression. The military conflicts, which both were identified as the Persian Gulf or Gulf War at one time, involved the president's desire for a natural resource and his turning to violence and aggression in order to get it. A boarder dispute was at the heart of President Saddam Hussein and Iraq's decision to invade neighboring Iran in 1980. Historically, the boarder between the two states had been a source of Middle Eastern conflict, dating back to Iraq's days as part of the Ottoman Empire and its early days as an independent nation. The conflict was primarily a strategic one -- Iraq desired the to control the boarder area especially because of its rivers, which flow to the Persian Gulf. Taking advantage of internal strife consisting of political and religious revolutions in Iran, Iraq invaded in order to obtain this land.

Similarly, in 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait after accusing the country of stealing Iraqi oil. In reality, the Iran-Iraq conflict left Hussein and the rest of Iraq penniless from waging the eight-year war in which nothing much was gained or lost. Instead of taking the blame, Hussein chose to blame Kuwaiti thieves. Choosing an international relations strategy widely used among leaders since the middle ages, Hussein waged war against the country for economic reasons, or more specifically, in order to pay for a previous war. Again playing off a decades old conflict, the president invaded an area that he had never recognized as sovereign. Thus, Hussein's reasons for becoming involved in these conflicts had implications not only for the three countries involved, but also for the entire Middle East, as the invasion was a continuation of the area's rich and violent history.

During the first conflict in the gulf, the International community stayed relatively silent about the war. Although the United Nations made several appeals for a ceasefire when Iraq invaded Iran, the organization did not support the Iranians as an invaded nation. As nations in the Middle East, Iraq and Iran had precarious relations with Western nations before the war, and though Iran wanted military backup, the nation was hesitant to foster relations with the ideologically opposing states of the West.

Ideological opposites or not, Iraq and the United Nations forged an alliance during the war. The Reagan Whitehouse and the U.S. backed Iraq with military and strategic support, believing an Iraq victory would calm tumultuous effects of an Iranian revolution. Ironically, the Western superpower also became a weapons supplier to Iran along with major arms supporter North Korea.

During the Gulf War, the response of the international community made up for its silence during the first conflict. Not only did the United Nations become involved by issuing a resolution calling for the return of Kuwait, but also a coalition of European, Middle Eastern, Asian, and North American states joined together against Iraq, demanding the return of Kuwait's sovereignty. The United Kingdom headed the European nations, and the United States provided massive military resistance against the invading nation.

The Middle East has always been a volatile environment of governments seeking to tip the balance of power in one direction or another. After the Iraq-Iran war and the Gulf War, the area was not only plagued by the struggle for hegemony among its own nations, but also U.S., U.K., and other foreign involvement further ignited the struggle by providing weapons, offering support, and by showing interest in the area's politics. But the age-old battle for power continued long after the war was contained. During the Gulf War, Iraq attempted to provoke Iran through violence and Iraq eventually responded through its place in the Arab-Israeli conflict. As part of that conflict that arose after the war, Israel attacked Lebanon and resided in the state for some time. After leaving, the vulnerable nation became a haven for terrorist groups like Hezbollah.

2. There are four main issues we discussed in this class -- Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and the Arab-Israeli Issue. Each has its own dynamic and effect on the international relations of the region. On which of these issues have the great powers had the most impact and on which have they had the least? Has this changed over time?

For the great powers, the Middle East has always been an area of much concern. Not only has it been a volatile area that sustained a great deal of war and conflict over centuries, but also its abundance of natural resources, especially oil, made the area of even more interest to the great powers. Although great powers, especially Western powers, have become involved in a variety of Middle Eastern crises, the Arab-Israeli conflict is the issue in which the great powers have become most involved and Lebanon the issue in which they were least involved.

The United States history of support for Israel is one reason that Arab-Israeli conflict is the Middle Eastern issue that has solicited the most response from the great powers. Historically, Great Britain was in favor of the creation of a Jewish State, according to the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Although Britain controlled the area during WWI and WWII, it was not the only major power that became involved in the conflict between Arabs and Jews in the Holy Land. Hitler's persecution of Jews in Europe affected the Arab-Israeli conflict, increasing tension in the area as fearful Jews flooded the Middle East in an attempt to escape persecution in Europe. The British were forced to reduce the number of Jewish immigrants allowed in the area, exemplifying once again how great powers became involved in the issue.

As the United States succeeded Great Britain in hegemony after WWII, the United States echoed its motherland's position. In fact, when Israel was created in 1948 as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the United States recognized it only a few seconds later. The United States has continued to levy almost unfettered support for Israel since its creation, sending military aid in times of Arabian attack and continuing to hold an alliance with the Israeli State. Although many have argued that the overwhelming support for Israel by the world's largest power, the United States, springs from religious convictions, it has become clear that the great nation's involvement with the Jewish state is primarily motivated by a desire to exercise leverage in the politically volatile and oil-rich Levant. Although some may argue that the great powers' involvement in Iraq through the Gulf Wars and current Iraq War is greater than their involvement in Israel, the powers' involvement in the Jewish state has historically been more consistent and of greater significance.

Contrary to this situation, the great powers' involvement in Lebanon appears sorely lacking when compared similar involvement in the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Like Israel, Lebanon was a fledgling country that originally found an ally in world the United States, primarily as a result of the large Lebanese-American population in the United States. Although the United States became involved in the Lebanese Civil War in 1975 in order to make an alliance between Lebanon and Israel, U.S. support for Lebanon quickly waned. The involvement was clearly an attempt to support Israel other than Lebanon. By supporting rouge regimes and with outspoken support for the Israel, the United States quickly distanced itself from the country. Similarly, though conflict involving the PLO and factions fighting in the area during the civil war and throughout the 1980s, the area failed to attract international attention in contrast with the way Iraq, Iran, and Israel were treated in similar circumstances.

3. Compare and the mid-1950s to the contemporary period in the Middle East. Which period of time is/was less stable and more likely to lead to war and why?

The situation in the Middle East today is markedly different from the period of the mid-1950s. Certainly, a great deal of volatility in the region existed in the latter period, arising from a number of successive crises. The Arab-Israeli War of 1948, which resulted from a UN mandate and Israeli independence, had created an Israeli state and thousands of refugees. Arab states were still adjusting to this new ethnic political entity and to the failure of the Arab effort to crush the new democracy. Also, the Suez Crisis of 1956 increased Arab suspicions of Israeli intentions concerning territorial arrangements.

Also, the nation of Iran was not nearly so radical, as it was still ruled by the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran. The Iraqi state as well was dominated by an aging monarchy that maintained close ties with the West and was opposed to Pan-Arabist movements and increasing communist influence. To be sure, Soviet influence was beginning to have a dramatic impact in the region, with the U.S.S.R. suppling large quantities of weapons and aircraft to Arab… [END OF PREVIEW]

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