History of the Middle East

History of the Middle East
c. 4000-2000 BC - Kingdoms in Egypt, Sumer, and Babylonia
New Kingdom in Egypt, Kingdoms in
Phoenicia and Assyria. The first thoughts on - c. 1000 BC
monotheism (the belief in one god) emerge.
The Persian empire (present day Iran)
500-400 BC conquers all of the Middle East.
Alexander the Great of Macedonia defeats the
- 334 BC
Persians and claims the Middle East.
The Romans gain control over all of the
c. 200-300 BC Middle East except for Persia.
Life of Mohammed. Mohammed founds the
religion of Islam, and leads the beginning of an
- 570-632 AD
Arab-Islamic empire that will soon hold sway
over the entire Middle East.
The Umayyad Dynasty gains control over the
Arab-Islamic empire and greatly expands its
661-750 - territories. The empire spreads westward
throughout North Africa, north into Spain, and
eastward to the borders of India and China.
The Abassid Dynasty, the second major one of
the Arab-Islamic empire, gains control and
moves the capital to Baghdad. The Middle - 759-1258
East enjoys a prosperous period of advances in
science and technology.
The decline in the control of the Abassids over
their far-reaching empire allows the Seljuks, a
10th Century - Turkish people, to gain control over much of
Asia Minor and the Persian Empire to break
Tales of the riches of the Middle East and a
desire to reclaim the Holy Land for
Christianity inspire European kingdoms to
proclaim a series of crusades against the
Muslim empires of the Middle East. Though - 11-13th century
the crusades were to have some success in
holding territory in the Holy Land, their
longest lasting effects were in Europe, where
people were exposed to many new ideas.
Mongol invasions in the Middle East devastate
13th centuries Iraq and Iran and end what remains of the
Arab-Islamic Empire.
The Ottoman empire gains control over
Constantinople and renames Istanbul. Earlier
Turkish success grew into the Ottoman Empire - 1453
which will continue to expand until it controls
nearly all of the Middle East except for Iran.
The Muslim empires of the Middle East
19th century - decline in power. The Ottoman Empire loses
territory and influence to Russia and Austria
Muhammed Ali westernizes Egypt, asserting
- 1805-1848
some independence from the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Empire sides with Germany
during World War I. The resulting loss causes
the empire to be broken up. Much of its
1914-1918 territory is devided between France and
Britain, but modern day Turkey successfully
defends itself against Greek invasion.
The Sykes-Picot agreement between France
and Britain secretly promises to divide
- 1916
Ottoman holdings in the Middle East between
the nations.
The McMahon Correspondences between Sir
Hanry McMahon, British High Commisioner
of Cairo, and the Sherif Hussein of Mecca
July 1915-March 1916 apparently promise Arab independence in
large portions of the Middle East, including
Palestine, which is today Israel.
The Balfour Declaration by the British clearly
expresses support for a Jewish state in
- November 2, 1917
Palestine, clearly at odds with the earlier
McMahon Correspondences.
Febuary 8, 1922 - Egypt gains its independence.
Turkey gains its independence. - October 29, 1923
The White Paper, released by the British,
placed severe limits on Jewish immigration
into Palestine and stated that the British
1929 - government did not plan for Palestine to
become a Jewish state. This proclamation was
obviously in contradiction with the Balfour
Iraq gains its independence. - 1932
1932 - Saudi Arabia gains its independence.
The Peel Commission from Britain reports that - 1937
great tension exists between Jews and Muslims
and suggests a plan of partition for the region.
November 26, 1941 - Lebanon gains its independence.
Jordan gains its independence. - 1946
With the British mandate, a right to administer
over the region of Palestine soon expiring, the
1947 - UN proposes a plan of partition for the region,
which would create both a Jewish state and an
Arab state when the British mandate runs out.
The State of Israel declares its independence
immediately following the end of the British
mandate. Immediately after that, the
surrounding Arab nations invaded the new - May 14, 1948
State of Israel. Following the war the Arab
League placed an embargo, or prohibition
against trading, on Israel.
Following Israel's declaration of independence,
forces from the surrounding Arab nations,
Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Saudi
Arabia, launched an all out, but uncoordinated
1948-1949 - attack on the vastly outnumbered Israel.
However, Israel managed to avoid being
driven into the sea and even expanded their
territory over the original UN partition plan
before an armistice was signed.
Following breakdowns in talks with the Arab
nations, and Egypt closing both the Suez Canal
and the Strait of Tiran, Israel's access to the
Red Sea, to Israeli shipping, Israel invaded
Egypt. Israel quickly took control over Gaza
and the Sinai Peninsula, and was aided by the
French and the British who were angry with - November-October 1956
Egyptian President Abdel Nasser's handling of
the Suez Canal. The UN, backed by the United
States and the Soviet Union, ended the war and
forced the invading nations to leave Egypt, but
Israel only abandoned Gaza when the US
promised to help keep the Strait of Tiran open.
September 29, 1961 - Syria gains its independence.
Kuwait gains its independence. - 1961
The Six-Day War between Israel and an
alliance of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan militarily
June 5-10, 1967 began when Israel launched a preemptive air
strike that decimated the air forces of the
opposing nations, but it truly began weeks
earlier when Egypt began declaring its military
superiority over Israel and its desire to destroy
the nation. Egypt again closed the Strait of
Tiran to all Israeli ships and ships carrying
supplies for Israel. This closure constituted
legal grounds to go to war under international
In the fierce fighting that followed Israel's air
strike, the Arab armies were devastated, with
Israel gaining control of the Sinai peninsula
from Egypt, the West Bank of the Jordan River
from Jordan, and the strategic Golan Heights
from Syria. This short war clearly
demonstrated the fact that Isreal was the
preeminent military power in the Middle East
and gained the nation much international
attention. It also, however, further entrenched
Arab hatred for the State of Israel.
UN Resolution 242 is passed by the United
Nations Security Council, and calls for a return
of the territory seized by Israel, recognition of
Israel by the Arab states, a reaffirmation of the
principle of free navigation, and for future
peace and stability in the region.
September 1, 1969
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates gain their
August 14, 1971
Many Middle Eastern states placed an oil
embargo on those nations they saw as favoring
Israel in their policies, including the United
States. The embargo ended in early 1974 and
while it did not bring about great changes, it
was detrimental to the economies of the
nations it was placed upon and harmful to their
- 1967
- Libya gains its independence.
- 1971
- Bahrain gains its independence.
- 1973-1974
On Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish
calendar, a day when large portions of the
army were on leave to be with their families,
the combined armies of Egypt and Syria
October 6, 1973 entered Israel relatively unopposed. Within a
week, Israel mobilized its reserve forces and
drove the Arab armies back, but not before
2,700 Israeli soldiers were killed, four times
the number that had died during the Yom
Kippur war.
UN Resolutions 338 and 339 called for an
immediate end to the Yom Kippur War, the
enforcement of the articles of Resolution 242, - October 22-23, 1972
and the dispatch of UN observers to oversee
the cease fire.
Convinced by the 1973 Yom Kippur War that
Egypt could never defeat Israel in a war,
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat sought peace
with Israel, the first Arab nation to do so.
September 17, 1978 - Along with US President Jimmy Carter, Sadat
met with Israeli Prime Minister Menahem
Begin at Camp David. There they drew up the
Camp David accords which called for peace
between Egypt and Israel.
In the Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel
drawn up to finalize the actions at Camp
David, the nations established normal relations - March 26, 1979
with Israel completely withdrawing from the
Iran forms a new government under the
1979 leadership of the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Operation Peace in the Galilee, an Israeli
invasion of Lebanon, was Israel's longest war
and its most controversial. After the Israeli
ambassador to England was wounded in a
terrorist attack in London, Israel began
bombing bases of the Palestine Liberation
Organization(PLO) in southern Lebanon. The
PLO had long shelled northen Israel and been
responsible for various terrorist actions; they
were also primarily based in Lebanon, having
been forced out of Jordan in 1970. The PLO
June 1982 increased their shelling in response to the
bombing, and Israel invaded Lebanon with the
hope of destroying the PLO and forming
normal relations with the government of
Lebanon. After long periods of fighting and
the Israeli capture of Beirut, the PLO did leave
Lebanon. The operation was not a success
though, as the Lebanese president was
assasinated, and, in rage, his followers
massacred thousands of Palestinian refugees.
Israel was held responsible for these massacres
and withdrew from much of Lebanon,
allowing the PLO to eventually return.
Following the upheaval in Iran, Iraq demanded
a renegotiation of the treaty between them,
demanding more access to the Persian Gulf
and autonomy for the Arab minorities in Iran,
a Persian, not Arab, nation. When talks broke
down, Iraq invaded Iran making large gains. In
1981 Iran took the offensive and regained most
of its territory. The war then continued for
seven years as a stalemate with both sides
ocurring horrible casualties and attacking
neutral shiping in the Persian Gulf. When the
war was finally ended by UN Resolution 598,
there were an estimated 1 million dead and 1.7
million wounded.
A popular uprising of Palestinian refugees
living in Israel, known as the Intifadah caused
much distress for Israel. The Intifadah had no
leaders that could be tracked down or bases
that could be bombed, for it was made up
primarily by young boys and their most
common activity was throwing rocks. The
Intifadah was a symbol of the plight of the
Palestinian refugees in Israel.
May 23, 1990
After Iraq revived a dispute with Kuwait and
declared that Kuwaiti overproduction of oil
was damaging Iraq's economy, Iraq invaded
and quickly took over Kuwait. There was
international outcry, and the UN demanded
that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait by January 15,
- 1980-July 20, 1987
- 1987-1989
- A unified Yemen is formed.
- August 2, 1990
After Iraq refused to comply with UN
demands, a multi-national force composed of
some 500,000 men from both Arab and
Western nations launched a major air offensive
against Iraq. The Persian Gulf War went badly
for Iraq, and they were soon forced from
1991 Kuwait and lost large portions of their army.
Following the war, Iraq's stockpiles of
chemical and biological weapons were
destroyed, UN observers were placed in the
nation, and it was put under economic
After a long history of distrust and hatred
between Israel and the PLO, the two groups
finally made a breakthrough after nearly two
years of negotiations when Yasser Arafat of
the PLO sent his Declaration of Principles to
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The declaration
- September 13, 1993
acknowledged the right of Israel to exist,
accepted UN Resolution 242 and 338,
renounced the use of terrorism, and promised
to remove from the Palestinian National
Covenant the clauses calling for the
destruction of Israel.
The Gaza-Jericho Agreement signed between
Israel and the PLO, followed up on the
Declaration of Principles with a concrete
agreement that would establish a Palestinian
Authority and Police force with partial
May 4, 1994 - authority over Gaza and Jericho, and the
withdrawal of the Israeli military from that
region. The powers of the Authority were
further spelled out in the Agreement on
Preparatory Transfer of Powers and
Responsibilities in August 29, 1994.
The Washington Declaration was produced out
of the first public meeting between Prime
Minister Rabin of Israel and King Hussein of
Jordan. This ended the state of hostility - July 25, 1994
between them, affirmed a peace based upon
UN Resolutions 242 and 338, and established
more open borders between the two nations.
A Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty is signed
following the Washington Declaration, making
October 26, 1994 Jordan only the second Arab nation to sign a
treaty with Israel.
The Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, is
assasinated by a Jew who is opposed to his
liberal policies on the peace process. Rabin is - November 5, 1995
succeeded by Shimon Peres who promises to
continue the work that Rabin had pioneered.
The UN agrees to allow Iraq to sell some oil,
despite the embargo, so long as all of the
profits go towards humanitarian purposes and
May 21, 1996 to relieve the suffering that the economic
strangulation has placed upon Iraq. Iraq
opposed the clause in the resolution that
required UN monitoring of the sales, but
eventually submitted.
Benyamin Netanyahu is elected Prime
Minister of Israel by a slim margin over
Shimon Peres. Netanyahu promises a hard line
towards future peace negotiations, and is less
anxious to give up land than Peres and Rabin
- May 31, 1996
were. This promises to stall negotiations with
Syria, who refuses to accept anything but the
full return of the Golan, and the Palestinians
who feel threatened by a return to Israeli
settlement in the West Bank.
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Created: August 15, 1996
Last Modified: August 19, 1996