The Middle East and North African conflict can be traced back hundreds of years. The region’s extreme ethnic and religious diversity causes a continuous and violent struggle for power and territorial claims. The recent series of revolutions has sown further disconnect between the peoples and governments of this area. As a result, regional institutions have fallen or weakened, creating a vacuum that religious and military activists often fill. This may prevent innocent civilians from enjoying basic human rights and creates a constantly hostile living environment. This regional conflict affects distant countries such as the United States as well, as terrorist organizations consistently use propaganda tools to recruit foreign fighters. The West maintains heavy interest in the region due to its rich oil supply and its increasing threat to national security.
Iran is exerting its Shi’a will by sending troops abroad to fight ISIS, taking over parts of Yemen, and pushing against radical Sunni forces. This war is a continuation of the 1400 year old dispute between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims. Proxy wars of Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’a Iran battle for the dominance of Islam. There are various sects throughout Islam, Wahhabism being the sect held by Saudi Arabia’s royal family. This sect adheres to a literal interpretation of the Koran and advocates for the destruction of alternate faiths. In the war in Yemen, the victor will control the Straits of Bab Al-Mandab where most of the world’s oil passes.
Egypt is also trying to resolve its political and economic troubles following the radical Muslim Brotherhood’s ousting. The Egyptian military controls much of Egypt’s economy, which is over-dependent on aid from the U.S. and other Middle Eastern countries. Egypt recently declared that Hamas, a Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, is not a terrorist organization, and indirectly voiced its wish for Israel’s destruction, and its support for the Palestinian Movement. Hamas is known to cover its brutal tactics with supposedly humanitarian actions. Finally, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pushes his citizens to settle in the Palestinian West Bank in order to make it harder for Palestine to secure its territory. Consequently, Israel is becoming increasingly isolated because of its refusal to negotiate with Palestine over its territorial claims. Non-violent interactions between Israel and Palestine are vital for regional stability.
ISIS, a terrorist regime that targets anyone who does not adhere to strict Islamic law, has spread throughout the Middle East and is recruiting tens of thousands of foreign fighters and other terrorists. Its goal is to reestablish the ancient Islamic government from the 8th century. Saudi Arabia and Jordan are potential future targets for ISIS, and it is unclear how far ISIS plans to continue its expansion. It has accomplished in weeks what took Al-Qaeda years by acquiring swaths of land and an area from which it can operate. With this rate of support and momentum, ISIS will potentially be able to conquer both Syria and Iraq in the near future. Various videos are consistently disclosed by ISIS, showing mass executions including drownings, beheadings, shootings, and crucifixions. An ISIS-built tunnel was discovered by ethnic tribes leading from the Turkish border to Syria, revealing ISIS’s territorial reach and Turkey’s willingness to allow ISIS fighters to flow to and from Europe for training and recruitment with impunity. In North Africa, the Libyan cities, Derna and Sirte, are currently under complete ISIS control, adding to the previously existing conflict between Libyan militias.