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:. . The Middle East

For centuries, most of the Middle East was under the political control of the Ottoman Empire (see History), which was centered on Istanbul, which is in present-day Turkey.

Beginning with the French invasion of Egypt in 1798, European countries began to intervene in the politics of the Middle East. European colonial control reached its height in the aftermath of World War I when the Ottoman Empire was dismembered and given over to Britain and France as part of the League of Nations mandate system. A few Middle Eastern states (Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia) achieved independence from Britain and France in the 1920s and 1930s. The remainder gained independence between 1944 and 1971.

After independence, monarchs and dictators ruled the governments in the Middle East. As with all post-colonial areas, the Middle East has been faced with two challenges: economic development (see Economics), and the establishment of political stability. The political stability of the region has been affected by both internal and external factors. Internally, coups, civil wars, revolutions, and war have all contributed to political instability. Externally, the importance placed on the Middle East by foreign powers (the United States, the Soviet Union, and some European states) has also served as a complicating factor in the political life of the region.

During the 1990s, some states in the Middle East have been moving slowly and tentatively toward greater democratization. Already well established in Israel and Turkey, democracy has begun to show signs of taking root in many--though not all--of the Middle Eastern states. This move toward democracy is in response to demands by citizens for greater participation in the political life of the country and the hopes of political leaders of gaining legitimacy both within their state and abroad.

Current security issues in the Middle East include the acquisition and development of weapons of mass destruction (see Weapons and Arms Control) and the possibility of political terrorism.



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