Iran has taken advantage of developments like the Syrian civil war to form new alliances and expand its influence in the Middle East. Iran’s growing political power has shifted the region’s battle lines, pitting the Islamic theocracy against Western-allied Gulf states and Israel. Compared with the belligerent US response, European policy has remained less resolute. In this policy brief, experts of the European Council on Foreign Relations explain why Europe is uniquely positioned to help prevent a wider regional war. 

Two opposing coalitions in the Middle East define a rivalry that threatens to tear the region apart. As competition for dominance intensifies, the confrontation between Iran’s network of state and non-state actors, and a counter-front of traditional Western allies – centred on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel – has become the region’s central battle line.

The Middle East is a geographical region that has been of great importance in history since ancient times. Strategically located, it is a natural land bridge connecting the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe. It was the site of some of the world's earliest civilizations and the birthplace of three great religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In recent times its enormous deposits of oil have made the Middle East more important than ever.

Defining the Middle EastThere has never been agreement on a definition of the Middle East. Historically, the region includes the lands that were formerly part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire plus Persia (modern Iran), an ancient empire in its own right. Thus, the area occupied by the modern-day nations that emerged from the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, together with Iran, would come close to what we generally mean by the Middle East. An earlier term, the Near East, was at one time in common use. It usually referred to lands in the Balkan Peninsula of southeastern Europe that were also once under Ottoman rule, in addition to territory now considered part of the Middle East.

The MENA region commands abundant human and natural resources, accounts for a large share of world petroleum production and exports, and enjoys on average a reasonable standard of living. Within this general characterization, countries vary substantially in resources, economic and geographical size, population, and standards of living. At the same time, intra-regional interaction is weak, being restricted principally to labor flows, with limited trade in goods and services.

MENA covers a surface of over 15 million square kilometers and contains some 6 percent of the world's population, about the same as the population of the European Union (EU). The three smallest countries (Bahrain, Djibouti, and Qatar) each have a population of about half a million inhabitants. By contrast, the two largest countries (Egypt and the Islamic Republic of Iran) comprise about 60 million inhabitants each. Together with Algeria, Morocco, and Sudan, these five most populated countries account for about 70 percent of the region's population. About half the population lives in cities.

Are you looking for the best Middle East country to visit in 2021? Middle East cities can give you the most unforgettable adventure of your life. Most of the Middle East cities are rich in history and different cultures that you will be amazed to explore. Here are some of the best places and cities in the Middle East that you should start planning to visit soon.

In the last couple of decades, the Middle East has grown into a hub of opportunity for professionals from across the globe. Locations across the region have developed into real recruitment hotspots that now attract a wealth of top international talent.

Alongside attractive job prospects with some of the world’s top firms, the absence of income tax in many countries in the region also offers a real incentive to workers. The steady growth over recent years has resulted in a surge in the need for foreign labour. Those with the right skills, who are willing to make the move, could be rewarded with a highly attractive salary and benefits package.

It’s worth noting that although skilled international candidates are sought after, government pressure on organisations to hire local talent has increased. Emiratisation, Qatarisation, Saudisation and the like, are initiatives for organisations to employ nationals instead of expats who, at the moment, make up a large portion of the workforce.

The Taliban were founded in southern Afghanistan by Mullah Mohammad Omar, a member of the Pashtun tribe who became a mujahedeen commander that helped push the Soviets out of the country in 1989. In 1994, Mullah Omar formed the group in Kandahar with about 50 followers who rose up to challenge the instability, corruption and crime that consumed Afghanistan during the post-Soviet-era civil war. 

The Taliban, whose name means “students”—a reference to the founding members having studied under Mullah Omar—quickly captured Kandahar and seized the capital, Kabul, in 1996 as Afghans grew disenchanted with the country’s insecurity. The Taliban swiftly imposed strict Islamic rules that banned television and music, barred girls from going to school and forced women to wear head-to-toe coverings called burqas. The Taliban provided bin Laden with sanctuary while he planned the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.