The challenges being experienced in the Middle East can be attributed to socio-cultural factors, economic factors, religious factors as well as political factors.
The Middle East region has dominated international media coverage for the wrong reasons in the past decade. Particularly, conflicts have dominated the region and this has led to a lot of political instability in the region. The situation has negatively affected economic growth of the countries in the region leading to a human crisis never witnessed in the region before. From the Iraq war with Iran to the Iraq invasion of Kuwait, to the constant conflicts pitting Israel and Arab nations such as Egypt, Iran, and Syria to male chauvinism and gender discrimination occasioned by strict religious practices, the region has endured some of the worst conflicts in the recent past.
The Middle East conflicts are most analogous to those of seventeenth-century Europe. Their roots are not economic, as in the Atlantic region and the Western Hemisphere, or strategic, as in Asia, but ideological and religious. The maxims of the Westphalian peace diplomacy do not apply. Compromise is elusive when the issue is not a specific grievance but the legitimacy–indeed, the existence–of the other side.
Therefore, paradoxically, attempts to bring about a definitive resolution of such conflicts have a high potential for backfiring, as President Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak discovered in the aftermath of the Camp David summit in the summer of 2000. For an attempt to “compromise” on the question of what each party considers to be its holy place was bound to bring home to them the irreconcilable aspect of their positions.
Causes of such conflicts can only be explained by a critical analysis of the history of the region as well as contemporary issues affecting the region especially the fact that the region is endowed with oil, a valued commodity all over the world. Apart from international influence there has been many conflicts in the Middle East pitting member states against each other for example, Jordan and Syria have for a very long time never had diplomatic relations and tensions have been very high. “all of the Middle East conflicts, including in Lebanon, are interconnected and are linked to the injustices of the Palestine conflict. “
Most of these tensions between the two countries have been ideological and concerned with issues to do with the stance each of the two countries takes concerning the western countries. This has led to social instability, civil wars as well as civil strife. Another common cause of conflicts in the Middle East has been the lack of a clear dominant power in the region. Unlike other regions of the world where there are clear economic powers, the Middle East countries are all in the same level economically and therefore the struggle for dominance often results into conflicts.
Unlike a region like African where some countries like South Africa and Nigeria and the economic powers of the region, all countries in the Middle East range in the same economic level and therefore it becomes very hard for one country to take a leading role and resolve conflicts. The fact that countries in the Middle East rarely align themselves with the western countries have led to most of those countries engaging in self-seeking ways to draw the attention of the world. This has seen such countries encourage undemocratic leaderships and oftenly dictatorships which have led to the high incidences of conflicts.
Comparing to a region like Europe whereby member states readily adhere to regional ties and rules, the Middle East region has for a very long time lacked powerful union to articulate the economic and political issues facing the region. As a result, countries in the Middle East have traditionally tended to lead towards the defunct USSR for both millitary and economic reasons. With the crumble of the USSR, the Middle East region was left vulnerable and without a clear leadership and partner given the fact that traditionally, countries in the region have never coped well with the western countries.
Religion has played a significant role in the conflicts currently witnessed in the Middle East. This is especially so considering the fact that there are equally two strong religious sects who dominate the region that is Shiites and Sunnis. The two religious sects have been constantly in clash especially in the Arab countries mainly Iraq and Iran. Depending on which sect has been on the political helm, clashes have resulted leading to great atrocities committed to the competing religious sect. For instance, the conflict in Iraq today has degenerated into a conflict between Shiites and Sunnis. This shows how great religious factor is in the Middle East conflicts.
The case is similar for Israel and Palestine. The Jews and Palestines have fundamental religious differences which have seen the two countries fight since the establishment of Israel as a state. What is worrying is the fact that the religious causes of conflict is very challenging to deal with considering the fact that overcoming such a factor is not easy.
The issue of injustice is also a cause of conflicts in the region. The way justice is administered in most countries in the region is often retributive as opposed to restorative. This further complicates efforts to deal with the conflicts resulting into the conflicts being cyclic in nature as those who are offended tend to wait for their turn in power to hit back at their opponents. There is also the issue of human needs as a cause of conflicts in the Middle East. For example, the past decade has seen the rate of enrolment in schools in Iraq decrease significantly.
This means that there are unmet human needs in that country. The conflicts have resulted into the destruction of basic infrastructure such as road networks, airports, shopping malls, buildings and property. This has left the people vulnerable more than ever before. This has also contributed to lack of basic needs such as security, safety, self-esteem, food, water and shelter. This has in turn led to a state of hopelessness and desperation in the population and therefore the resolve to turn into violence in an effort to meet the unfulfilled needs.
It is not possible to leave out external influence as a possible cause of conflicts in the Middle East. Unlike a continent like Africa which the western countries do not have much economic interest in, the Middle East is the bedrock of fossil fuel. Therefore what goes on in the Middle East affects the whole world, hence the reason why one cannot rule out political interference in the region for purposes of gaining control of the resources in the region.
This is very evident in the way the west has been keen to intervene in virtually all conflicts in the region, something which is not common in other regions. International interference has seen the western countries use a divide-and-rule tactic to maintain presence in the region for trade purposes. It should also be noted that the region presents a great market for western goods and products including a big market for weapons.
Finally, the conflicts in the Middle East region can be attributed to the security issues especially in the wake of terrorism. This is in regard to the millitary interventions witnessed in the region targeting terrorist cells which enjoy protection from some governments in the region.
In conclusion, conflicts within the Middle East can be said to have been partly contributed to by foreign forces but to a large extent, the conflicts are strictly caused by factors within the confines of the Middle East.
Works Cited Page
David P. Barash and Charles P. Webel. Peace and Conflict Studies. California: Sage Publications, 2002. p.234.
Henry A. Kissinger, “America at the Adex,” The National Interest Summer 2001: 9, Questia, 23 Apr. 2007 <http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001026651>.
“Israel’s Interests Do Not Match Those of U.S,” Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) 7 Aug. 2006: 10, Questia, 23 Apr. 2007 <http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5016062673>.
John Burton. Conflict Resolution and Prevention. New York: St. Martins Press, 1990. Pp.34-56
Mary Ann Glendon, Rights Talk. The Impoverishment of Political Discourse. New York: Free Press, 1993. 9.
Otomar J. Bartos and Paul Wehr. Using Conflict Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press.2002. p.41.
W. Barnett Pearce and Stephen W. Littlejohn. Moral Conflict: When Social Worlds Collide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Inc., 1997. p68.
William Ury, J. Brett, and S. Goldberg, Getting Disputes Resolved: Designing Systems to Cut the Cost of Conflict. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1988. p.7.
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 Henry A. Kissinger, “America at the Adex,” The National Interest Summer 2001: 9, Questia, 23 Apr. 2007 <http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001026651>. “Israel’s Interests Do Not Match Those of U.S,” Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) 7 Aug. 2006: 10, Questia, 23 Apr. 2007 <http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5016062673>. David P. Barash and Charles P. Webel. Peace and Conflict Studies. California: Sage Publications, 2002. p.234.
 David P. Barash and Charles P. Webel. Peace and Conflict Studies. California: Sage Publications, 2002. p.234. W. Barnett Pearce and Stephen W. Littlejohn. Moral Conflict: When Social Worlds Collide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Inc., 1997. p68 David P. Barash and Charles P. Webel. Peace and Conflict Studies. California: Sage Publications, 2002. p.234. Otomar J. Bartos and Paul Wehr. Using Conflict Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press.2002. p.41. John Burton. Conflict Resolution and Prevention. New York: St. Martins Press, 1990. Pp.34-56 Mary Ann Glendon, Rights Talk. The Impoverishment of Political Discourse. New York: Free Press, 1993. 9.