Middle East Relations Activity

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University of Central Florida
Political Science
POS 2041
Meredith Legg

Student Handout # 1: Background Essay on U.S. – Middle East Relations Directions: Read the following essay. Then summarize the paragraph you were assigned and discuss in your small group your assigned question (below). Be prepared to present a summary of the paragraph and your discussion to the class. The importance of the Middle East and North Africa to United States’ interests has been increasing since the end of World War II. New independent countries were formed from the shells of European colonies. The nation of Israel was established, the exploration and refinement of oil was expanded and a new industry was established bringing the region wealth and influence. As Cold War tensions expanded between the United States and the Soviet Union, various countries in the region at one time or another became favorites or pariahs to one or the other superpower. For much of this time, the region has been in a constant state of conflict between various countries: Israel and most of its neighbors, religious factions in Syria and Lebanon, Egypt and Great Britain, Israel and Jordan, Israel and Egypt, Israel and Iraq, Libya and Israel, Shiite Iran and Sunni Iraq, Iran and the United States, Kuwait and Iraq, the United States and Iraq, Israel and Iran, factions of Shiite and Sunni in Iraq, and most recently the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, and Libya against their respective governments. Often these tensions led to various forms of conflict ranging from terrorist attacks to full scale tank wars across the deserts. But the most recent conflict has involved educated, middle class youth in public protest, using social media and non-violent tactics to defy dictators and demand their ouster. These most recent events put United States foreign policy in a precarious situation. In the past, America most often supported a strong autocratic leader who promised stability in a region over a democratically elected radical government. During the Cold War “radical governments” were often defined as communist. In the age of global terror “radical governments” usually mean Islamic extremists. The autocratic leaders understood this paradigm and played into it, telling the United States that military and economic support was needed to keep them in power and keep the country or region stable. The United States complied with foreign aid in the billions of dollars to secure these leaders’ allegiance and policing of the region. The benefits were an uninterrupted flow of oil, peace with Israel, and the isolation of rogue states like Syria and Iran when they got out of line. To greater or lesser degrees, this policy proved beneficial and provided re
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