Combination of similar factors draws Middle East into Conflict

In 1990 we had the Gulf War between the US and allied forces, in 2003 we saw the advent of the Iraq War; again a conflict between Iraq forces and the US and its allies. Now in 2014 we see the US return to Iraq and the Middle Eastern region, this time to combat the forces of ISIS, a militant Islamic group. It appears that over the years Western countries have been drawn into conflict with the various state and non-state actors present in the Middle East. Regardless of the time period, whether it is the Cold War (Soviet Union vs. Mujahedeen) or more recent times, there always seem to be a point of conflict in the region between both external and internal forces. The reasoning between every single conflict is not identical; there is always an overarching factor that distinguishes one conflict from another. However there is also underlying factors that connect each conflict, and when cross-examined displays an interesting rationale as to why conflicts occur so readily and easily in the Middle East. It appears that after a certain threshold has been crossed by an actor in the Middle East, there is an international response to condemn and act against said participant. Even then the intensity and severity of the offense is taken into account and these factors in to how international actors respond in their actions, and how these actions are limited by said restraints.
Any conflict between two or more actors is always precipitated by point of interest that connects the two participants. In the event of the Gulf War it was the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq that escalated the conflict. The reasoning behind the invasion was a combination of financial debt and instability, combined with the valuable resource of oil that so nearby, that eventually led to the invasion and annexation of Kuwait. Initially prior to the war, the US had taken a neutral viewpoint to the aggressive nature. In fact, the relationship between Iraq and the US was almost benign, with the Iraqis acting as a firewall towards Iranian fundamentalism (pbs.org). Immediately however the US and its allies denounced Iraq and called for an immediate withdrawal of all troops. Within days the US and its UN allies called for intervention, and forcibly removed Suddam and his forces from Kuwait. Looking back it becomes clear on why there was such an immediate reaction to Iraq and its actions. Kuwait held a sizeable quantity of oil, Iraq gaining access to this resource would put US and western interests at risk. In this scenario it becomes clear that when the economics of the US are at risk there will be an immediate response. This is despite the danger the war proved to the Kurds and Kuwaitis. While the danger of their lives would have gained international outcry, there would be a strong possibility that the response would not have been as dramatic if oil was not involved.
The current crisis that is currently plaguing the Middle East is the onset of the organization known as ISIS. A former affiliate of Al Qaeda, ISIS has grown rapidly into one of the largest and most violent of terrorist organizations. The Islamic State previously known as ISIS, and before that as Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, has conquered and controlled large swathes of land in the Middle East. Currently the US along with a coalition of other nations has mobilized against ISIS seeking to ultimately bring them down. The issue that some have noticed however, is that it took a relatively long period of time till there was a significant reaction towards ISIS aggression. ISIS reportedly began operations in Syria in 2013, occupying Raqqa and other Syrian cities. Even when ISIS began to take larger territories alarm at the situation was restricted to the intelligence community. The White House while informed of the situation misjudged the threat, believing they could contain the situation (nytimes.com). Fast forward to just a few months later, and reports of ISIS conducting ethnic cleansing on Yazidis begin to flood the media. This time international outcry was immediate, with relief groups and militias rushing to combat ISIS and help besieged minorities. Even in the US response was quick, a CNN poll showed that a majority of everyday Americans were looking at ISIS with increasing concern (cnn.com) Now countries have joined together to actively fight against the terrorist organization. In this situation, it took the widespread abuse of human rights and lives, along with the stability of several countries to invoke a response from the international community.
From an international relations point of view, there are actually two sides to explain the action of the international community towards ISIS. When the danger to human life and natural resources such as oil became clear, it was in the interest of both realist and liberals to work together to defeat the terrorist group. While the outcome would be different for each actor, collaborating together against a common perceived threat is in the best interest of everyone involved.

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4 thoughts on “Combination of similar factors draws Middle East into Conflict

  1. It is quite scary and alarming of how violent ISIS is becoming. I wonder if a main reason why there is always conflict in the country is because of their religious culture. The ideals and basis for government was established under religious notions, which is now going against the public there, who wants more of democracy- conflict is almost inevitable.
    I wonder about why the US is continually so interested in the Middle East as well, which I agree with you on. I also feel that the US is pushing the issues abroad so heavily because of what we talked about in class; about the government diverting attention from domestic issues (national debt/coming out of recession possibly). Probably due to a ‘humanitarian’ need to attack ISIS maybe?

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  2. It appears that the U.S. will continuously become involved in the Middle East because the Middle East has vast amounts of resources (i.e. oil) that the U.S. could really use and benefit from. A lot of militant groups around the world gain some attention in the U.S., sometimes even for a little while, but the ones that truly catch public eye are the ones that threaten to take precious resources away from the U.S. or threaten western interest.

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  3. Do you guys think a country like Iraq and Afghanistan can achieve democracy? Furthermore, do you think a proper government could ever have control to these lands? Will it always need help trying to fight insurgent/radical groups? Piggy backing from the comment above, The U.S. will be involved till government is set into place. Great post though, I like how you connect past historic events leading up to the current repetition of instability in this area of the world.

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