Events in the Middle East have been capturing worldwide attention since the 1970s. This was due to the dynamics in the region related to the increases in the petroleum prices, the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iran- Iraq war, and conflicts in Lebanon, the West Bank and the Persian (Arabian) Gulf which have attracted the attention of regional actors and the world as a whole. Just a couple of decades earlier the problems of the MENA region to many seemed to be only affecting the region itself. However, today the Middle East is properly regarded as crucial in world events, and it will be regarded as such in the foreseeable future. (Andersen, Roy, Robert Seibert and Jon Wagner, Politics and Change in the Middle East Sources of Conflict and Accommodation, 9th ed., US, Pearson Education Inc., 2009 ). This essay aims to draw upon the key political issues that have shaped the Modern Middle East and North Africa region. It will also seek to provide an understanding of these issues and their reflection on the Modern Middle Eastern international relations. I will aim to discuss the historical background of the region, the formation of the states and the role of the conflicts. In my conclusion I will try to decide which issue of those mentioned above was the most important in shaping the modern MENA region.
In order to develop a better understanding of how this particular region was shaped we need to create a broader image of how the states were formed. Also a theoretical analysis of these processes would be helpful in finding out the role of systems and states in MENA’s formation. If we take for example Realism, an approach which focuses on security and the maximisation of power, we see that it treats states as unitary actors seeking to maximise their advantages within a competitive “anarchical”, system, pursuing power politics. (Halliday, 2005, p.25). However, Realism has its limitations. For example, it neglects ideology and belief systems, it minimises internal factors to states and societies, and its attention to economics is inadequate. Another a factor of special importance to the Middle East is its view of inter-state relations as marked by timeless, recurrent patterns (Ibid). Nevertheless it may be argued that while Realism may not provide an adequate account of relations between developed states, it does offer an adequate account of the international relations of Middle Eastern states (Ibid). Nonetheless, faced with authoritarian states that do not trust each other, and where war is ever-present, a concern with power and security may appear predominant. According to Halliday, this would be classified as a qualified defence. Even so, critics may argue that it is most common in parts of the world where states, and societies, have been long subordinated to structures of global power that the limits of realism are most evident.