The Middle East has a territorial extension of 6.8 million square kilometers, is located in West Asia and is formed by the following countries: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan , Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Syria, Turkey.
Its population is approximately 260 million residents. The ethnic and cultural diversity among the residents of the Middle East is enormous, a factor responsible for the conflicts in that region. One of the diverse elements is religion, with different beliefs and disputes over territories considered sacred.
The three main monotheistic religions, that is, belief in the existence of a single God, emerged in the Middle East: Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
The religion with the largest number of followers is Islam (90% of the population). It is a monotheistic religion, based on the teachings of Mohammed, or Muhammad, called by Westerners Muhammad. After Muhammad’s death, the Islamic religion suffered ramifications, dividing into several strands with different characteristics. The segments of Islam that have the greatest number of adherents are that of the Sunnis (majority) and that of the Shiites. Contrary to what many people think, Islam is not only divided into Sunnis and Shiites, there are several other smaller groups, among them are Druze and Alawites.
The second largest religion in numbers of followers in the Middle East is Christianity. The region is home to around 12 million Christians, many from Arab churches, such as Coptic or Maronite, which are among the oldest in Christianity. The countries with the largest number of Christians are Syria and Lebanon.
In addition, more than 6.5 million Jews live in the Middle East, almost all of them in Israel. The territory that currently corresponds to Palestine was already inhabited by Jews about four thousand years ago, however, they were expelled during the Roman Empire. Jews returned to the Middle East through migratory flows, which were strengthened by the construction of the State of Israel in 1948. This fact is one of the main factors responsible for the constant conflicts between Jews and Palestinians, as Israel is annexing territories inhabited by Palestinians.
The city of Jerusalem is disputed by the three major religions. It is a sacred place for Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Check out the symbolic importance of Jerusalem for these religions:
– Islam: Domo da Rocha, in Jerusalem, is the third most important place in Islam, from where Muhammad ascended to heaven.
– Christianity: Church of the Holy Sepulcher, located in Jerusalem, marks the traditional site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
– Judaism: For Jews, the Wailing Wall, part of the Second Temple, located in the city of Jerusalem, is the most sacred place of all.
- The ABBREVIATIONFINDER provides most commonly used abbreviations and initials containing the continent name of Middle East.
Syria’s foreign policy
Syrian politics has been dominated by foreign policy issues to a greater extent than for most countries. Two main lines – partly coincident and partly contradictory – have formed the basis of foreign policy: pan-Arabism and nationalism. At the same time, relations with two neighboring countries have dominated foreign policy:
Relations with Israel were linked to pan-Arabism and opposition to state formation, and support for the Palestinians’ struggle against Israel and for their own state. Then to the demand that Israel have to give up the Syrian Golan Heights occupied during the Six Day War in 1967, and then annexed.
The relationship with Lebanon is linked to Syrian nationalism, which at the same time has a pan-Arab overtone: Lebanon is, in Syrian eyes, a historical part of Syria, and should be part of one nation and one state. Lebanon has been an important part of Syria’s modern sphere of interest. At the same time, control of Lebanon has been a way of gaining strategic depth in relations with Israel.
The war in Syria from 2011 has then been a dimension for foreign relations. The war has strengthened relations with Iran and Russia, and worsened relations with Turkey and the United States.
Until the uprising in 2011 and the subsequent international war, foreign policy was conducted on three levels:
Bilateral in relation to individual countries, and regionally in the Middle East, especially related to the Middle East conflict and the Palestine issue; county international. As a result of pan-Arab ideology, regional ambition and international orientation, Syria was instrumental in founding the Arab League and the UN in 1945.
Foreign affairs gained a prominent place in Syrian politics especially from the early 1970s, after Hafez al-Assad came to power. For him, foreign policy became a key instrument, and he established Syria as a significant regional player. Assad took advantage of the superpower rivalry during the Cold War, playing on Syria’s strategic location in the Middle East. He offered a foothold to the Soviet Union and was helped to realize his strategic ambition: to develop Syrian military equality with Israel.
The most important axis in the fight against Israel was for a long time Syria’s alliance with Egypt. It was broken when Egypt signed a separate peace treaty with Israel in 1979. It broke with a basis for Syrian foreign policy, referred to as the Assad doctrine: the Arab states – and the Palestinian liberation movement – should find a comprehensive solution to the Middle East conflict; and in political practice, a Syrian solution. Assad therefore pursued a policy towards the Palestinians based on divide and rule, to gain the most control, and to avoid two-sided agreements that did not serve Syria’s interests.
Assad assumed the role of the foremost Pan-Arab leader, but chose to support Persian Iran against Arab Iraq when the two countries went to war in 1980, during the first Gulf War.
Syrian foreign policy was largely fixed from Hafez al-Assad came to power in 1971 and to the uprising in 2011. After his death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad continued the policy.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, Syria developed relations with the West. A simultaneous change occurred during the Second Gulf War, 1990-1991, when Syria contributed military forces to Operation Desert Storm. Participation in the US-led coalition brought an approach to the West in general and the United States in particular, as well as improved relations with the Gulf states, including financial support.
The Gulf War laid the foundations for the Middle East peace talks that began in Madrid in 1991, and which Syria expressed its willingness to participate in. One condition was that the Golan Heights were included. Thus, Syria could break out of attempts to isolate the country.
Syria has long had regional superpower aspirations, arguing with Egypt and Iraq about a leadership role in the Arab world, and especially in the Middle East. This was one of the reasons why during the first Gulf War (1980–1988) Syria, as the only Arab state, took part for Persian Iran against Arab Iraq.
With a changed regional geopolitical picture after the Second Gulf War (1900-1991), the US-initiated peace process opened for the Middle East in Madrid in the fall of 1991. Syria and other Arab states thus entered into peace talks with Israel.
View a collection of maps including Aleppo, Damascus, Hebron, Jerusalem, Mt. Carmel and Sinai, [Palestine] Palaestina, Persian Empire, Red Sea, Petra and Suez Bay.
1UpTravel.com – Maps of Middle East
Browse a collection of political, reference and shaded relief maps of the Middle East region. Check out the maps of Palestinian refugee camps, Strait of Hormuz and Tiran.
Expedia.com Maps – Middle East
Offers a listing of the countries of the Middle East. Click through for a detailed map with zoom, print and email features.
Map of the Middle East – World Sites Atlas
Four-toned, color interactivel map of the Middle East highlights countries and major cities, like Abu Dhabi and Kuwait City.
Middle East – ABC Maps
Features a collection of four color-coded maps of the Middle East, highlighting countries and cities.
Middle East – BBC News
Broadcasting network offers an interactive map. Includes details about Israel’s peace process and the stances of neighboring countries.
Middle East – CIA Atlas of the Middle East
University of Texas’ Perry Castaneda Library presents a collection of maps from the Central Intelligence Agency categorized by country.
Middle East – International E-mail Accessibility
Map includes email suffixes and resources for the Arab Middle East, Turkey, Iran and parts of Central Asia.
Middle East – MapQuest.com
Look at this larger-view map of the Middle East countries in comparison to the rest of Asia.
Middle East – Maps.com
View and purchase maps of the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea or the Strait of Hormuz. Also find maps of the countries and cities of the area.
Middle East – National Geographic Map Machine
Access a topographical map of the entire Middle East region and peruse zooming and printing features.
Middle East – Perry-Casta eda Library Map Collection
Browse historical maps from the University of Texas. See Mt. Carmel, circa 1912, and the Red Sea and its environs in 1860.
Middle East – Robert Putman Antiquarian Books and Maps
Buys maps of the Middle East and of individual countries such as Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Middle East – Travel.com Map
Provides a color-shaded outline map of the Middle East. Locate countries and click through to find a brief almanac.
Middle East – University of Chicago Oriental Institute
Interactive map leads viewers to archived photographs of the area. Copies of the Egypt and Sudan photos are available for purchase.
Middle East – University of Texas Library
Sift through these maps of the Middle East. Includes political and historical documents from the Central Intelligence Agency.
Middle East – VirtualTourist
User-friendly, high-end graphic map of the Middle East clearly shows the borders of each country. Also, travel and entertainment details.
Middle East Map – EDI-TIE
Contains a clear, medium-sized color map of the Middle with country borders and names. Useful for printing out and school projects.
MSN Encarta Maps – Middle East
Check out this large, solid color map of the Middle East and click on any country to obtain more information and a detailed map.