The region of the Middle East during the 20th century is a constant example of western influence and reaction to western influence. Beginning with the end of World War I, the country of Iran reacted to the events following the end. Reza Shah Pahlavi (1877-1941) seized power from a weakened dynasty made weaker by their involvement in World War I. Reza Shah Pahlavi was able to move power to his son Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. In history, he is referred to as the Shah of Iran. The Shah ruled Iran between the years of 1941 until his death in 1979. The Shah was seen as a puppet to the United States. He maneuvers were supported and ignored by the United States because of Iran's value during the Cold War.
Besides the international political influence that the Shah provided Iran through the United States, the people of Iran did not appreciate the direction the Shah was taking Iran. The people believed that the connection to the west had corrupted Iranian/Muslim society. The trade with the west brought too much baggage, especially in terms of culture, women's rights, and the influence of the young. Many Iranians believed that the Shah had lost sight of the Koran. The voice of the people was a religious cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989). During the 1960's he was sent in exile to France for his political and social opposition to the Shah. However, he garnered a lot of value to the people of Iran because of his desire to bring them back to the Koran. The final straw occurred when the Shah was seen on TV with President Jimmy Carter during a state dinner. The Shah was seen with a glass of champagne in his hand, and toasting with the President.
The people went mad; this incident confirmed everything that they thought about the Shah. The Shah became sick with cancer during 1978-79 and needed treatment. The best place on earth to treat his type of cancer was in the United States. Carter permitted him to come into the country for treatment, and while he was in the United States he died. Once he died Iran wished all of his oversea money to be returned to the people of Iran. The United States refused to unfreeze his accounts causing the Iran Hostage Crisis. This crisis saw Americans held hostage in Iran for nearly 2 years, and the United States was completely unable to rescue them. This was one of the lowest times for the United States during the Cold War. The next president Ronald Reagan was able to negotiate the release of the hostages and they were freed on the day of his inauguration.
Iraq can trace their world influence to World War II. As it has been previously stated the Baath Party of Iraq was patterned after the Nazi Party of Germany. The Nazi Party and the Grand Mufti of the Baath party worked together during World War II. After WW II, Iraq stayed under the control of the Baath party. The United Nations turned a blind eye to their relationship with the Nazi Party because of the fragile state of the Middle East after WW II, and also because of, you guessed correctly, oil.
Saddam Hussein rose to power through the Baath party during the 1950's and 60's. Many of the men of the Baath party were 'intellectuals,' very few were muscle. Saddam during this time was muscle. He quickly rose through the ranks of the Baath party. Along the way he placed himself and became involved in every committee in the Baath party. There was nothing he did not know or influence in Iraq. In 1979, he made a power play and peacefully removed his cousin to become the President of Iraq. No one challenged Saddam because of the fear of his brutality and the ever present secret police.
Iran and Iraq have been neighbors for thousands of years. Sometimes they are the same, sometimes they are different. Politically they have both been on the same page, and other times they have opposed each other. During the 1980's they opposed each other. In 1979 the Iranian Revolution occurred. Saddam believed that Iran was distracted and he would be able to attack a weaker country. Iran possessed something that Iraq did not have access to the sea. Iraq is a land locked country. For 8 years, both sides fought to a draw. Many men were killed by the opposition, and for the Iraqis, some of them were killed by their own President. In the northern part of Iraq a tribe of people lived called the Kurds. The Kurds were typically treated very poorly by the people of Iraq, during the Iran-Iraq war, they saw an opportunity to improve their lot, and they sided with Iran. Saddam Hussein punished the Kurdish people by attacking them and using biological weapons on his own people. Incident, it was the attack on the Kurds that was the court cased used to try and execute Saddam Hussein.
The inability to win against Iran during the 1980's prompted Iraq to invade the tiny country of Kuwait in 1989. Saddam stated that they were reclaiming land of the Persian Empire. The real reason was oil and the ability to use the Persian Gulf for trade. In 1990, the United Nations fought Iraq calling this conflict, Desert Storm. Within 100 days, the Iraqi military was defeated and Kuwait was freed. For the rest of the 1990's Iraq was monitored in terms of the weapons they produced and also where they placed their military. In 2003, the United States declared war on Iraq. They were able to overthrow Saddam Hussein, arrest him, and bring him to trial. In his wake, the United States has been able to help the people of Iraq establish a democratic government.
The country of Afghanistan has been at war for the last 30 years. They have fought the United States, the Soviet Union, and the tribes of their own county. In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan because they thought the United States was planning on establishing bases within the country. The Soviet Union did not like the idea of the United States being so close to the Soviet border, and having the potential of having nuclear weapons so close. Between 1980 and 1989, the Soviets fought a people that used guerilla tactics, the aid of the Hindu Kush Mountains, and American help. The United States supported the Afghan rebels because they wanted to stop the spread and influence of communism in Asia, but also as revenge for Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, the USSR was known to support North Vietnam financially and militarily.
After the removal of the Soviet Union, a power void was found in Afghanistan. A group of people known as the Taliban were able to take control of Afghanistan for various reasons. They were organized and focused. They were better equipped than others. They were able to gain the support of the people because they established peace on normalcy, and lastly, no one outside of Afghanistan cared about what was going on in Afghanistan. In the mid 90's the Taliban found a wealthy partner in Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden was a Saudi Arabian man with an ax to grind with the west. Bin Laden was familiar with the country of Afghanistan. He fought against the Soviet Union during in the 1980's for Afghanistan. Bin Laden created the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. The key objectives of Al-Qaeda were to remove all western influence from the Middle East. Bin Laden was behind many terrorist attacks in Africa, Asia, and Middle East. The most famous of these attacks was Sept. 11 in the United States of America. This attack performed by Al-Qaeda and protected by the Taliban led the United States to attack the Taliban in the country of Afghanistan. Since late 2001, the United States has been in country of Afghanistan.
Pakistan is the next door neighbor of Afghanistan. The relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan is a unique situation. Both countries are Muslim; however Pakistan is supported and has a more productive relationship with western powers like the United States and Great Britain. Over the last 10 years, it has been difficult for the west to decipher exactly where Pakistan stands. They are against the Taliban, however many in the country support the idea of removing western influence. They wish to help police terrorism, but the Hindu Kush Mountains make it very difficult for them to track and capture suspected terrorists. Pakistan also has problems with their neighbor to the east, India. Both of these countries have been at odds over religion and land since the end of World War II. India holds the ear and wallets of west through industry, which makes it difficult for Pakistan to earn a sympathetic ear for support.