Sunni and Shia Islam, Muslim Brotherhood, Balfour Declaration, Sykes-Picot Agreement, McMaon-Hussein Correspondence, Independence War of 1948, Yom-Kippur War, The Gulf, Suez Crisis, Eisenhower Doctrine

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Sunni Islam

Sunni Islam defends that the caliph is elected successor of the Prophet and succeeded to political and military leadership of the community but had only limited religious status.

Shia Islam

The leadership is placed on the Imam who had to be a direct descendant of Muhammad and Ali. The title was only appointed by God and he had both political power and an authoritative interpreter.

Muslim Brotherhood

It emerged in the Suez Canal, for it being the region with the strongest colonial presence. Founded by Hassan al-Banna, the movement called for the implementation of the Sharia law as a way to subvert European domination. They had developed an idea according to which the main enemies of Islam are the West or they developed later a doctrine called Takfirism (if a Muslim was to deviate from the right path, he is an apostate and he can be killed). It branched out across the Middle East (Hamas, 1987). Its Islamic discourse was a means to criticize foreign companies and their sponsor governments in the exploitation of Egyptian workers. They also believed in the importance of charity and had conservative views on gender rights.

Balfour Declaration (1917)

The British gave official support to the Zionist cause (Zionism seeks the reestablishment of the Jewish life on a national basis), promising the Jews to help them create a “national home for the Jewish people”.

Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916)

French and British foreign ministers met secretly and decided to divide the Middle East into spheres of interest. It was a blueprint for the carving up of the post-Ottoman Middle East into British, French, and Russian (initially) spheres of influence. But the leak of the plans by the Russians caused a wave of anti-European sentiment. In November 1918, the Anglo-French declaration would formalize the agreement stating that both sought to assist in the establishment of government and administrations in Syria. Basically, GB was offered to help with the creation of a united Arab State, while it was promising the creation of a national home for the Jewish people, and at the same time, it was dividing the zones into spheres of influence.

McMahon-Hussein Correspondence (1915-1916)

There was a strong Arab nationalist sentiment, popular among urban elites and some traditional leaders seeking greater autonomy. WWI caused the arrest of many Arab nationalist leaders under the accusation of collaboration with GB or France. The Sherif of Mecca reached out to Britain’s High Commissioner in Egypt asking for help. The Damascus Protocol (July 1916) was a promise to help the Arabs to overthrow the Ottoman rule and obtain independence. In 1916, the Arab revolt against the Ottomans started, which lasted until the end of WWI.

The Independence War of 1948

It ended in an armistice and resulted in the creation of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Israel increased its territory nearly 23% more than what had initially been assigned by the UN. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank were annexed by Egypt and Jordan respectively (Palestinian territories were not only occupied by Israel but by Jordan and Egypt). It’s also the beginning of the Palestinian Refugee problem. This situation remained until the Six Day War (1967).

The Yom-Kippur War (1973)

It lasted 6 months and the Israelis could not foresee this war, so it was seen as a defeat even though Israel didn’t lose its positions. It was a turning point because the Arab States decided to join efforts against Israel using oil. The Gulf monarchies decided to carry out an embargo of oil to the countries that supported Israel. This caused a worldwide crisis due to the high prices which made the conflict’s nature turn domestic and forced western countries to decide between Israel or Oil.

The Gulf

Formal colony in South Yemen. The Arabian Peninsula was peripheral to the politics of the region. The peninsula was ruled by a confederation of tribes tied together through political allegiances and religious affiliation. From the north, they became the preeminent political force in the Peninsula in the 20th century.

The Suez Crisis 1956

The US military failed to aid Egypt and drove Nasser to negotiate an arms deal with Communist. This became the first pro-Soviet agreement in the Arab World. The initial US position in the ME was different from the French or British as the US sought to expand their influence in the Arab world through the Saudis. The Egyptians' recognition of the People’s Republic of China in May 1956 led the US to withdraw the funding for the Aswan Dam project. As a consequence, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, gaining the status as the regional hero. This of course outraged the US, GB, and France and they decided to change the pattern and this new autonomy of Egypt and, using Israel, they launched a war against Egypt. This is considered the last colonial attempt to establish control in the ME.


  • 26th July 1956 a block was formed that impeded the free navigation to Israel shipping.
  • Blockade of the Straits of Tiran and Gulf of Aqaba
  • Arab raids and violations of the armistice lines
  • Militarization of the Sinai Peninsula
  • October 1956 the alliance between Egypt, Syria, and Jordan was official.


  • Israel conquered the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula
  • The UN decides to station the UNEF (United Nations Emergency Force) on the border between Israel and Egypt.
  • Egypt guaranteed the free navigation to Israel in the Eilat Gulf and Israel accepted to withdraw from the Sinai in different stages from November 1956 to March 1957.
  • Reopening of the Straits of Tiran.

The Eisenhower Doctrine (1957) in the Suez Canal crisis

Under the Eisenhower Doctrine, a Middle Eastern country could request American economic assistance or aid from the US military forces if it was being threatened by armed aggression. On a regional level, the doctrine’s intent was to provide the independent Arab regimes with an alternative to Nasser’s political control, strengthening them while isolating communist influence through Nasser’s isolation.

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