Let’s pay attention to the Middle East

By Ian Hagerty

(Freedom House/Flickr)
(Freedom House/Flickr)

How much do you know about what’s happening in the Middle East lately? Yemen is on the verge of complete collapse as Shiite Houthi rebel forces have launched massive attacks throughout the country. After reading about this, I realized I didn’t know practically a thing about Yemen, other than it’s location on a map. Most of my peers probably wouldn’t be able to find it on a map. Amid all kinds of other conflict all over the Middle East over the last several years and several decades, it isn’t right how little most Americans know about such a large area of the world that is seemingly always under contest.

According to a study published by National Geographic, after three years of war in Iraq and thousands of soldiers stationed in the country, only 37 percent of young Americans were able to locate Iraq on a map. Some of the people who couldn’t find Iraq on a map may even know someone in the military stationed there. Americans should never be so out of touch, especially when the news is accessible from our pockets whenever we demand it.

Yemen may seem like a country far removed from the concern of Americans, but the United States is far more involved than it seems. The Houthi rebels, the catalyst for this civil strife, are supported by Iran, which has been at odds with the United States for years for a number of reasons reasons. Currently there are major negotiations that are being held between Iran and the United States over the Iran nuclear programs, the United States and much of the world hoping to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons, as it has for years. On the other side of the conflict in Yemen, the Saudi military has been launching attacks and air strikes in support of the standing Yemeni government. The United States is an active ally with Saudi Arabia. To sum it all up, we are currently conducting very sensitive and long awaited talks about the extraordinarily conflicting subject of nuclear weapons with Iran while they support a civil uprising in Yemen, which our ally and long standing oil supplier, Saudi Arabia, is completely committed to ending. The United States is one step away from a proxy war.

Speaking of United States proxy wars, it wouldn’t be a proper quick summation of the Middle East without mentioning Syria, one of the most historically contested regions on the entire planet. During the Arab Spring a couple of years ago, the Syrian government started to use military force to stop anti-government protests in the country. By 2012, Syria erupted into full-blown civil war. During the same year, the United States, Turkey, the Gulf states, France and Britain formally recognized the rebel forces in Syria as the rightful power in the country. Again, Iran supports the other side of the equation, lending military aid to the Syrian-Assad regime. It’s amazing we can even hold talks with Iran at all.

The United States has also, for many years, pledged allegiance to the nation of Israel. Syrian forces had a long history of anti-Israel sentiment, supporting Hezbollah and Hamas forces in Palestine for many years, and Iran is essentially completely anti-Israel. As it stands though, we can assume that we are going to support Israel against all of its enemies. The Middle East is like a pane of glass covered in spider cracks, just waiting to break apart.

Adding significantly to the instability of the Middle East over the last couple of years is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS has managed to rise up, recruit and gain ground all over the Middle East, and is built on the premise of anti-Western sentiment. ISIS has gained massive ground in Iraq and is even adding another element of confusion by taking position in Syria. The United States and much of the world have openly pledged desire for the demise of ISIS.

There is much more to be said about conflict in the Middle East, the various reasons behind it and how the United States is involved whether directly or not. There is quite a lot going on, and although our country is often intricately involved, it doesn’t seem like many Americans know or care about what is happening. The United States tried its best to be removed from the conflicts of World War I and World War II, yet in the end both wars still affected us greatly. We don’t want to imagine things could ever be that bad again on a world scale, considering we live in the age of advanced technology and relative reason. This confidence for prevailing heads isn’t a new concept though; our ancestors considered the early twentieth century to be a new age of wisdom and reason. It still wasn’t difficult for everything to completely collapse and we just had more advanced weapons to kill each other with.

Ian Hagerty is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]