In recent years the Middle East has gone through multiple transitions, revolutions and upheavals. As the dust begins to settle in some countries and storms begin to brew in others, it is vital that we grasp what is happening in the region.
In Syria, a civil war rages on. 40,000 to 60,000 casualties have already been counted and more than 500,000 citizens have fled the country. Bashar Assad, the current “leader,” is unofficially backed by Iran and has a huge stockpile of weapons, including an arsenal of chemical weapons. The world watches with growing concern to see if Assad will use the weapons on his own people or if the rebel army (FSA), made up of religious extremists, will acquire them.
The Syrian civil war has sent more than 200,000 refugees to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in which 1.4 million Palestinians — now the majority demographic — live as citizens after fleeing Israel during the war of 1948 and 1967. With a Jordanian-born minority and a corrupt monarchy, Jordan is speculated to be the next country for the “Arab Spring.”
Egypt recently went through the “Arab Spring,” overturning the dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak and electing President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has used frightening rhetoric toward Israel, the United States’ most stable ally in the region. But though there have been intense protests in Egypt, it appears that they have begun to stabilize. Recently, they helped broker a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas. In addition, Egypt is starting to regain its control of the Sinai Desert (deemed the “Wild West” by many experts), a no man’s land which was returned by Israel to Egypt in the successful land for peace deal after the 1967 war and which has since been overrun by factions of many different dangerous groups, including Bedouin thieves, Islamic Jihadists, al-Qaeda and many other factions of religious extremists.
The largest threat from this region to the world, however, is Iran. In 1979, the Iranian revolution brought Islamists to power. Currently held by the Supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Hosseini and President Ahmadinejad, the regime oppresses its own people and is a state sponsor of global terrorism. They have sponsored global terrorists like the group Hezbollah, located in southern Lebanon, supplying them with more than 60,000 rockets in order to “wipe the Zionist regime that occupies Jerusalem off of the pages of history.” They have used violent rhetoric targeted at America, Israel, and other western countries. In addition, they hold alliances with unstable countries like Syria and Venezuela, which has an oppressive, corrupt government and sits on one of the largest uranium deposits in the world. As Iran quests after a nuclear weapon they see not only a friend but a strategic ally.
In the center of this region is Israel, the oldest democracy in the Middle East with a thriving parliamentary democracy and an agricultural and business miracle. They just had their 19th parliamentary elections. Their elections were projected to put a hard right-wing coalition in the parliament (known in Israel as the Knesset). Prime Minister Netanyahu was reelected in a vote that ended up being 51% conservative and 49% liberal. These moderately liberal results surprised many, but give hope for a peaceful resolution with Israel’s neighbors. Surrounded by conflict, Israel remains the best ally The United States has in the region.
Personally, I feel that Israel, as the island of peaceful existence in the region, is a crucial ally for the United States. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent, Israel offers the United States a friend in a frightening region that grows more troubled by the day. Throughout the Middle East, countries are either finding their democratic legs, worried about uprisings or are in violent strife. Israel stands tall as a stable country. It develops technology and gathers intelligence that is used to save the lives of countless US soldiers. Israel is an economic partner in the Middle East with a stable government allowing America to communicate. I believe that to maintain the United States’ current place in the world it is important for America and Israel to maintain and strengthen the bonds these two countries have shared over the last 65 years.