Conflict in the Middle East, 1948-1991

Conflict in the Middle East, 1948-1991

  • The 1948 Arab-Israeli War began following the establishment of the state of Israel in May 1948, with neighbouring Arab states rejecting Israel’s declaration of independence.
  • The Suez Crisis in 1956 was an invasion of Egypt by Israel, followed by the United Kingdom and France, aiming to regain Western control of the Suez Canal and remove Egyptian President Nasser.
  • Egypt and Syria formed the United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1958, though it ended in 1961 when Syria withdrew.
  • The Six-Day War in 1967 saw Israel achieve rapid victory over Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, gaining control of key territories such as the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
  • The Yom Kippur War (1973) saw Egypt, Syria, and other Arab states launch a surprise attack on Israel on the most holy day in the Jewish calendar, eventually leading to a military stalemate.
  • The Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) was a multifaceted civil conflict involving a range of domestic and international actors.
  • The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) was a protracted conflict over territorial disputes and perceived threats, involving key international players and leading to significant loss of life.

Key Figures in Middle East Conflict, 1948-1991

  • David Ben-Gurion was Israel’s first Prime Minister and central to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
  • Gamal Abdel Nasser served as the President of Egypt from 1956 until his death in 1970, and was a key figure in the Suez Crisis and the formation of the United Arab Republic.
  • Anwar Sadat, Nasser’s successor, is known for initiating peace negotiations with Israel after the Yom Kippur War leading to the 1978 Camp David Accords.
  • Ayatollah Khomeini was the Supreme Leader during the Iran-Iraq War and a key figure in the Islamic revolution in Iran.

Major Themes in Middle East Conflict, 1948-1991

  • Arab-Israeli conflict: Conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours remained a central issue, with wars in 1948, 1967, and 1973 marking key events.
  • Suez Canal: Control over the Suez Canal was a major source of tension, linking to wider themes of decolonisation, the decline of imperial powers and Cold War rivalries.
  • Emergence of Islamism: The growth of political Islam, particularly following the Iranian revolution, played a key role in shaping the region’s political landscape.
  • Superpower involvement: The Cold War environment led both USA and USSR to compete for influence in the Middle East, often backing opposing sides in regional conflicts.
  • Oil politics: Control over oil resources became a central strategic concern for global powers, leading to Western involvement in regional politics and conflicts.