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By the 19th century, The Middle East was suffering significantly from the political and religious conflicts that were tearing it asunder, which continued to the early 20th century. The confrontation between the Sunnis and the Safavids took its toll on the quality of political relationships within the specified area. As a result, The Middle East experienced a gradual decentralization of political power.1
However, while the internal conflicts within the region also played an important part in decentralizing power in The Middle East, European Imperialism also contributed to the specified phenomenon due to the rapid economic expansion into the specified setting. Although it would be wrong to attribute the political decentralization of The Middle East to a single factor, there is a direct connection between the early 20th-century European Imperialism and the dissipation of the political power in The Middle East occurring roughly at the same time.
This paper will start with the identification of the signs of political changes in the Middle East. Afterward, the impact of European Imperialism on the Middle East and its decentralization process will be explored. The outcomes of the specified phenomenon will be discussed, after which a conclusion will be provided. During the analysis, books covering the political and religious changes in the Middle East will be used.
Prerequisites of the Political Decay
While Europe played an important part in making The Middle East decentralized, several key events in the political development thereof facilitated the specified phenomenon. Specifically, the increasing tension between Sunnis and Safavids led to the gradual rise in the number of conflicts within The Middle East. Consequently, the creation of a unified political entity and a closed economic system that would have remained self-sustainable quickly became impossible. After Nader Shah established Sunnism as the state religion, the identified tensions grew even greater, with Europe’s economic intrusion aggravating the situation.2
Decentralization and European Imperialism: Links
At the time, European Imperialism took the form of rapid expansion into the global economic environment. Consequently, the resources that The Middle Eastern states possessed were viewed as valuable assets that had to be controlled by Europe to retain the global power.3 For instance, in their attempts to establish a strong influence on a worldwide scale, Britain and Russia made a successful endeavor at dividing Iraq into spheres of influence in 1915-1916.4 Similarly, other European states exploited the resources of The Middle East, particularly, its oil fields.5 As a result, the specified environment experienced significant pressure from Europe, which caused The Middle East to dissipate into separate states with decentralized power.
Subsequent Failures and Losses
The change in the political sources of power within The Middle East had a tremendous effect on the potential and actions of its states. Specifically, the drop in the defensive developmentalism rates was observed within the states.6
The specified shift in attitudes signified that The Middle East countries abandoned the attempt to influence the external forces that encouraged decentralization. Thus, it was the influence of Europe, in general, and the tendency toward economic expansion of its states, in particular, that caused the political power within The Middle East to decentralize and weaken.7 Even after the development of defensive militarism, the states such as Qatar and Egypt refused to abandon their economic relationships with Europe, no matter how financially suffocating these relationships were at the time.
Due to the focus on the economic expansion and the rapid use of the resources that The Middle East contained, the imperialist policies of European states affected the decentralization of power in The Middle East directly. Numerous oil deals between European and Middle Eastern states led to several political divides within the Middle East region, with the centralized power thereof crumbling rapidly. While other factors facilitated the phenomenon under analysis, the willingness to expand and explore The Middle Eastern resources was the driving force behind the decentralization process since it created the environment of economic rivalry between The Middle Eastern states.
Durac, Vincent, and Francesco Cavatorta. Politics and Governance in the Middle East. New York, NY: Macmillan International Higher Education, 2015.
Foliard, Daniel. Dislocating the Orient: British Maps and the Making of the Middle East, 1854-1921. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2017.
Heern, Zackery M. The Emergence of Modern Shi’ism: Islamic Reform in Iraq and Iran. London, UK: Oneworld Publications, 2015.
Ismael, Tareq Y. The International Relations of the Middle East in the 21st Century: Patterns of Continuity and Change. New York, NY: Routledge, 2017.
Stebbins, Lyman H. British Imperialism in Qajar Iran: Consuls, Agents and Influence in the Middle East. New York, NY: I.B.Tauris, 2016
Volk, Lucia. The Middle East in the World: An Introduction. New York, NY: Routledge, 2015.
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- Lyman H. Stebbins, British Imperialism in Qajar Iran: Consuls, Agents and Influence in the Middle East (New York, NY: I.B.Tauris, 2016), 19.
- Stebbins, British Imperialism in Qajar Iran, 20.
- Zackery M. Heern, The Emergence of Modern Shi’ism: Islamic Reform in Iraq and Iran (London, UK: Oneworld Publications, 2015), 7.
- Lucia Volk, The Middle East in the World: An Introduction (New York, NY: Routledge, 2015), 271.
- Tareq Y. Ismael, The International Relations of the Middle East in the 21st Century: Patterns of Continuity and Change (New York, NY: Routledge, 2017), 29.
- Vincent Durac and Francesco Cavatorta, Politics and Governance in the Middle East (New York, NY: Macmillan International Higher Education, 2015), 37.
- Daniel Folliard, Dislocating the Orient: British Maps and the Making of the Middle East, 1854-1921 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 269.