The use of the term Middle East has only gained centrality in the modern age, particularly in the early 20th century. Despite its ubiquitous uses, the term continues to be loosely defined with different disciplines espousing varied definitions of its spatial limits (Fawcett, 2016). By general consensus, the area is however understood to be comprised of South East Asia and North East Africa. Between these spaces are various water bodies including the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and the Arabian Sea. The area is divided into six regions by mountains and seas leading to not only geographical but also cultural distinctions (Halpern, 2015). The present paper shall examine how the Greater Middle East is shaped by its geographies and the geo-economic significance of the same. In addition, it explains the key historical-political factors that shape it.
The various geographies of the region shape it in massive ways and demonstrate geo-economic significance in the process. The first of the regions is North East Africa’s Egypt where their early civilization benefited from water, transport, food and fertile soils brought about by the River Nile flowing into the Mediterranean Sea (Robins, 2016). The Mediterranean coastal plain follows on the East of the Nile, comprising of modern Israel, Lebanon, Syria and parts of Iran and Jordan. These are the regions sometimes known as the Levant and experience the favorable Mediterranean climate. The area has fertile lands and strategic land and sea trade routes (Robins, 2016). This may be interpreted to be the key part of the Middle East given the spotlight it normally receives due to cultural conflicts in the area. It is noteworthy that the area boasts of one of the earliest civilizations, having begun agriculture as early as 11,000 BCE (Halpern, 2015). The gulf region on its part consists of Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. The geo-economic significance of these geographies is apparent. The nations in the Gulf region, though languishing in majority of desert land have rich oilfields which have made them very powerful globally. Qatar and the UAE are particularly strong economies, dwarfing agricultural-dependent counterparts like Egypt. Therefore, geography has affected both the economy and culture of the Greater Middle East region.
There are various political-historical forces that have also shaped the Greater Middle East region. A key example in that regard is Mohammed’s Islam. The latter had strong economic and political implications. The religion unified the region after its spread beyond the Arabian Peninsula, creating a unified economic order. The Islamic-Arab civilization not only conquered the Middle East but rather spread up to Spain (Fawcett, 2016). Islam also had political influence with many leaders such as the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire gaining legitimacy through succession of other Muslim leaders. In addition, at the advent of western civilizations, the Middle East regions resisted as a unit under the banner of Islam (Halpern, 2015). Therefore, the religion had profound effects of shaping the history, economy and political structure of the region. Another force that has shaped the region is the Arab-Israel conflict that has lasted for over 50 years (Fawcett, 2016). The Arab countries have insisted on the illegitimacy of the Israel state, which Israel has fought off their insurgency with support from western powers. This is the reason behind the immense popularity of the Levant.
In the end, it is apparent that the Greater Middle East region has been profoundly influenced by the regional geographies under it which have various geo-economic importances. Islam and the Arab-Israel war equally continue to shape the region.
Fawcett, L. (2016). International relations of the Middle East. Oxford University Press.
Halpern, M. (2015). Politics of Social Change: In the Middle East and North Africa. Princeton University Press.
Robins, P. (2016). The Middle East. Oneworld Publications.
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