1. News & Issues
Send to a Friend via Email



The Middle East is often defined by its conflicts. That's unfortunate. In many respects, it's also accurate. The Middle East is the most unstable, repressive, and violent region of the world. The conflicts vary from localized civil wars, as in the Sudan, to country-specific wars, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, to chronic, region-wide antagonisms, as with the Arab-Israeli conflict. This page breaks down those conflicts and helps you learn more about each in manageable steps.
  1. Iran's Islamic Revolution
  2. Pakistan
  3. Afghanistan
  4. The Arab-Israeli Conflict
  5. Iraq War

Iran's Islamic Revolution

iran disputed election

Iran isn't a Middle East conflict in the traditional sense. It is a conflicted and conflicting country with its hand in the conflicts of other regions, namely, through Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah in Lebanon, various militias in Iraq. But contrary to some perceptions, Iran's more overt aggressions, at least abroad, have been relatively few in the past half-century. It was attacked during the Iran-Iraq war, fought back and lost. It occasionally makes noise about wanting Persian Gulf islands. Otherwise, the conflicts in Iran are mostly internal--and brutal. Iran embodies a battle for the Persian and Islamic soul.


North Waziristan

It is no longer "the Afghan War." It is the "Afpak theater of operation." The Taliban and al-Qaeda recognize no border between Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal regions. Nor did history, for most of those two countries' recent past. What happens in Afghanistan affects what will happen in Pakistan, and vice versa. For now, most of Afghanistan and all of Pakistan's tribal areas, plus large portions of its Northwest Frontier province, are under the sway of the Taliban, who give protection to al-Qaeda. Pakistan has been on the verge of a failed state since the late 1990s. The war on the Taliban is at a literal dead end.


Afghanistan human rights

George W. Bush launched the war in Afghanistan in October 2001. It may become QAmerica's longest foreign war before long. What has been achieved since? Hard to tell. The country was briefly conquered whole, the Taliban defeated, al-Qaeda dispersed. But Bush never followed through, either by consolidating gains militarily or by investing in the country's physical, economic and educational infrastructure earnestly enough to make a dent in a country at war since the Soviet invasion of 1979. Afghanistan is now mostly back in the Taliban's control, a failed state with a future as nebulous as America's mission there.

The Arab-Israeli Conflict

Ctrl-Alt-Delete: West Bank Wall

The longest conflict in the world, dating back to 1948, involves Arabs and Israelis, and more particularly, Palestinians and Israelis. Israel and neighboring Arab states have fought three major wars. Israel has invaded Lebanon three times. Israel and Palestinians have been fighting hot and cold wars since the early 1960s. The best way to make sense of all the strife is to break it down into its various parts.

Iraq War

Stephen colbert newsweek cover

Once the most violent and consequential war in the Middle East, the Iraq war began with the American invasion and occupation. It spawned three major parallel conflicts: sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites; al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism; and Turkey's war on Kurds in northern Iraq. The conflict has since evolved. It's less bloody. Bu8t Iraq's future is no less unsettled as it has become a staging ground for the Iranian-American cold war. Here are links to Iraq's various sub-conflicts.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.