Cold War Conflicts in the Middle East

The Cold War caused many conflicts throughout the Middle East. There were multiple problems within the area. A few of these problems were within their government, some countries wanted to gain independence and other countries were dealing with religious problems. May new changes occurred in side that were involved from 1950-1990. These events that occurred along with the war changed history and the world as we know it today. Also, it is still affecting the countries that were involved.

Confrontations in the middle East, Religious, and Secular Values Clash in Iran

Throughout Iran, traditional and modern Western materialism caused a lot of controversy. After World War II, Iran's leader Shah Reza Pahlavi made a decision that inflamed prior existing controversy. He decided to embrace Western government and oil companies (Beck 552). Many people did not agree with Shah Reza Pahlavi's decision. Such as the Iranian nationalists who united under Prime Minister Muhammed Mossadeq. With this in mind the Iranian nationalist came to the conclusion that Shah Reza Pahlavi needed to be taken out of power. So, they overthrew him and the British seized oil companies. Afraid that Iran might turn to Soviets for help, The United States and Britain help to overthrow the Prime Minister and bring the Shah back to power (Reza Shah Pahlavi Flees Iran).

The United States Supports Secular Rule

After the shah returned to power he westernized Iran with the support of the United States (Beck 552). Even with the westernization many Iranians continued to live in poverty. Iran's conservative Muslim leaders, called ayatollahs, did not agree with the shah's westernization. So, the shah tried to weaken their political influence. Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini was the leader of the religious hostility (552). Although he did not know it, the shah's power was weakening. Even though Khomeini was living in exile, in 1978 riots started by Iranians took place in every major city because of his tape-recorded messages (552). As a result of these riots, the shah fled.

Confrontations in the Middle East Khomeini's Anti- U.S. Policies

Two hostages from the Iranian Hostage Crisis
The Iranian Hostage Crisis

In 1979, the former Iranian shah, who was ill with cancer, was sentenced to death in Iran, but he was admitted to a hospital in New York (Bukovich). This caused the Iranian Hostage Crisis. An Iranian mob of militants seized 66 members of the U.S. embassy in Iran. The militants demanded that the United States return the shah to Iran. The United State agreed to release the shah. The shah left for Panama and then Egypt and died in 1980. The United States broke their diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980 when Iran only released 13 of the 66 hostages. Finally, on January 20th, 1980, after 444 days of imprisonment, the rest of the hostages were released.

The Iran-Iraq War

When the Muslim radicals took control of Iran, it increased tensions with Iraq. There were border conflicts between Iran and Iraq that lead to the two countries fighting in an eight year war. Iraq forces reclaim lands that were not given back to them in a treaty from 1975. The United States helped both countries in the war, while the Soviet Union only aided Iraq by supplying the country with two thirds of Iraq’s weapons (McMahon). The Iran-Iraq War ended in a truce between the two countries. In the course of the war, one million people were killed and more than one million were wounded.

Conflicts in the Middle East - Israel Becomes A State - A Jewish Nation
Israel's flag.
Israel's flag.

Throughout the centuries, both Jews and Palestinians have made historical claims to Palestine. In the second century, the Jews were exiled from Palestine by the Romans (Karesh). The movement for a Jewish homeland officially began in 1917. Jews began trickling back into Palestine in the late 1800’s as Zionism became more popular. In 1947, the United Nations voted for the formation of Jewish Palestine. Anyone who had been persecuted by the Nazis could find refuge in Israel. The United Nations recognizes Israel as a state, while the nearby Arab nations refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Arab armies invaded Israel, but the state held off all the opponents.

Israel and Arab States in Conflict: War Breaks Out

The Arab-Israeli conflict consists of a condition of wars between the Arab states and the Israel states. The conflicts began on May 14, 1948 when Israel became a state. One day after Israel became a new nation, they were rejected. This is because they were attacked by their six neighboring states, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and elements from the Iraqi and Lebanese armies (Beck 584). The Arab states refused to accept Israel as a real state and made economic boycotts. Although Egypt allowed foreign ships to sail to Israel through the Suez Canal, they would not allow Israeli ships to sail through (Smith). Israel got tired of these restrictions, which led to the war of 1948. Because of Israel's military victory in this time period, they seized other Palestinian lands (Beck 584).

The 1956 Suez Crisis

The Israeli army, led by Gamal Abdel Naser, marched toward the Suez canal on October 29, 1956 (The Suez Crisis of 1956). Britain and France joined the Israelis, and the joint effort defeated the Egyptian army very fast. Within ten days, British and French forces had completely taken over the Suez region. Egypt responded by sinking 40 ships in the canal, blocking all passages (The Suez Crisis of 1956). The United Nations wanted to resolve the conflict and pressured the two European powers to back down. The rest of the world shunned Britain and France for their actions in the crisis, and soon the UN salvage team moved in to clear the canal. Britain and France backed down, and control of the canal was given back to Egypt in March 1957 (The Suez Crisis of 1956). The Egyptian government was allowed to maintain control of the canal as long as they permitted all vessels of all nations free passage through it. The colonial tradition of Britain and France became to crumble after this. The feeling of defeat by a former colony led to the two nations giving up their African colonial empires. This was called the 1956 Suez Crisis.

Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel at the time.

Arab-Israeli Wars Continue

The Six Day War

In 1976, Israel’s surrounding countries threatened to attack its borders. This eventually became the Six Day War. The Six Day War lasted six days and Israel gained Jerusalem, the Sinnai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, and West Bank from it.

The Yom Kippur War

On Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish religion, in 1973, Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian leader, launched an attack on Israel. The prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir, ordered a counterattack against the Arabs. The Soviet Union offered a cease-fire between the countries, but Anwar Sadat asked the United Nations to be the peacekeeping force (Pubantz). The war ended in a truce and Israel regained most of their lost territory. This war was also called the Yom Kippur War.

The Palestine Liberation Organization

The Palestine Liberation Organization flag.
The Palestine Liberation Organization flag.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is one of the best-known terrorist organization in the world. The organization is led by perhaps the best known individual in the modern history of international terrorism; Yassir Arafat. The PLO was created in 1964 during a meeting known as the Palestinian Congress in an effort to give a voice to the large number of Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon. By 1967, the PLO had decided that their primary goal was the destruction of the state of Israel. Another goal of theirs was to rule over their own homeland. For the next ten years, this goal was the primary focus of the massive terrorist campaign by which their reputation was formed. This war cost untold hundreds of casualties on both sides with very little to show in return. Therefore, in 1974 the PLO made a conscious decision to alter its focus from the purely terrorist to one that would include political elements, necessary for any meaningful dialogue (Palestine Liberation Organization). This created more unhappiness among some followers who felt that the PLO, while striking blows, was not truly finding its mark. This led to the creation of yet another splinter group called the Rejectionist Front. It was at this time that Yassir Arafat and his group al-Fatah took over the leadership role.

Efforts at Peace: Sadat Moves for Peace

Jimmy Carter's election as U.S. President in November 1976, began a new approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. In March 1979, the first peace treaty agreement was signed between Egypt and Israel. This treaty was called The Camp David Accords and was signed by, Menachem Begin of Israel, Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Jimmy Carter of the United States (Beck 586). Despite what they thought, the peace treaty did not resolve the boarder conflict. Once Israel was recognized as a real state by Egypt, Israel returned the Sinai Penninsula region to Egypt (Terry). The Arab states were outraged by the signing of this peace treaty. This was because they did not want to recognize Israel as their own state. The anger towards the treaty resulted in the assassination of Anwar Sadat (Beck 586). Besides his assassination, Egypt was also kicked out of the Arab League.

Israeli-Palestinian Tensions Increase

The Palestine liberation organization armed struggle for own land during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Palestinians launch intifada, or uprising, against Israeli rule in 1987 (Lee). The campaign includes boycotts, demonstrations, attacks on army. The Israelis believe that they are entitled to the land now known as Israel, while the Palestinians believe that they are entitled to the land they call Palestine. Unfortunately, both sides claim the same land; they simply call the land by different names.

The Oslo Peace Accords
Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat at Oslo Accord signing.

From 1992-1993 foreign minister of Norway, Johan Jorgen Holts organized secret talks where both sides,Israel and Palestine, came to an agreement on a declaration of principals (Beck 587). These principals stated that Israel would move to parts of the currently occupied west bank and the gaza strip. Later, word of these secret talks got out, which resulted in the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993. Israel's leader, Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin agreed upon the decision to grant Palestine self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza strip (Oslo Accords). The Palestinian self-rule began in the town of Jericho in West Bank. However, not everyone was in favor of this change. This was shown when Rabin was assassinated by Amir, a Jewish extremist who did not agree with self-rule (Oslo Accords). After the assassination of Rabin, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu took over. Unlike Rabin, Netanyahu was opposed the Oslo Accords (Beck 587). He still tried to keep the agreement, but the Accords failed.

Peace Slips Away: The Conflict Intensifies

The Arab states finally agreed to the Saudi peace plan in 1981, where they would recognize Israel for the creation of a Palestinian state. This plan was for a Palestinian state in part of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip and Israeli had control over three settlement blocs in the West Bank and around Jerusalem (Terry). The peace plan was rejected through most of Israel. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and took apart the settlements, but attacked the territory and kept control over its borders, so there was no trade and outside support (Terry). Israel refused to negotiate with any terrorists. After the peace plan failed, a second intifada, which is a rebellion, started in 2000 (Beck 588). This included suicide bomber attacks against innocent civilians (588). Due to the suicide attacks Israel responded by using greater armed forces. The forces moved into Palestinian refugee camps and clamped down on the militants. These attacks made the Palestinians very angry and they grew a deep aggression for Israel ’s Army (588).

Working Toward a Solution

Palestinians elect a prime minister to negotiate with Israel in 2003. The PLO and Israel leaders agree to explore new U.S.-backed peace plan. They finally agree to something, and the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel make peace.

Current State

In September 2010, Israel continued talks with the Palestinians, which quickly fell apart. The Palestinians, will not continue negotiations unless Israel stops all settlement activity. Israel, will only negotiate without preconditions (Israel the Current Situation). In March 2011 there was a renewal of violence in the country, of Jerusalem that included a fatal bombing. Progress on the peace process seems very unlikely. Many issues still remain between the two groups. However, Palestinians are pushing for The United Nations General Assembly to recognize them as a state by September 2011 (Israel the Current Situation).

Works Cited

Beck, Roger. Modern World History. Second. Evanston, IL: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 552-589. Print.

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Karesh, Sara E., and, Mitchell M Hurvitz. “Jews in Palestine.” Encyclopedia of Judaism, Encyclopedia of World Religions. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2006. Facts on File, Inc. Modern World History Online. Facts on File, Inc. Web. 6 May 2011.

Lee, Roger A. “The Israel-Palestinian Conflict.” History 1998. Web. 11 May 2010.

McMahon, S. F. “Iran-Iraq War.” Encyclopedia of the United Nations. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2008. Modern World History Online. Facts on File, Inc. Web. 5 May 2011.

"Oslo Accords." Facts On File, 9, May 2011. Web. 9 May 2011.

“Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).” Virtual The American-Israeli Cooperitive Enterprise, 2011. Web. 10 May 2010.

Pubantz, Jerry, and John Allphin Jr. Moore. “Yom Kippur War.” Encycolopedia of the United Nations, Second Editon. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2008. Modern World History Online. Facts on File, Inc. Web. 5 May 2011.

"Reza Shah Pahlavi Flees Iran."Fofweb,com/". Facts On File. 9, May 2011. Web.

Smith, Charles D. updated by Adina Friedman. "Arab-Israeli conflict." In Mattar, Phillip, ed. Encyclopedia of the Palestinians, Revised Edition. New York:Facts On File, Inc., 2005. Modern World History Online. Facts On File, Inc.

“The Suez Crisis of 1956.” Education Foundation, Web. 11 May 2010.

Terry, Janice J. "Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations." In Ackermann, Marsha E., Michael Schroeder, Janice J. Terry, Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur, and Mark F. Whitters, eds. Encyclopedia of World History: The Contemporary World, 1950 to the Present, vol. 6. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2008. Modern World History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
Photograph of Iranian Hostages. 1980. United States History. 9 May 2011.
Photograph of Gold Meir. Prime Minister's Office. 9 May 2011.
Palestine Liberation Organization flag. 11 May 2011.
Israel flag. 11 May 2011.
Musi, Vince. Yitzhak Rabin, President Clinton, and Yasser Arafat. 1993. Web. 9 May 2011