The Middle East, located on trade routes between Europe, Africa, and Asia, has been important for thousands of years. In the 600s, Muslims conquered the region. Most of the conquered people began to practice Islam and speak the Arabic language.In the 900s, Seljuk Turks conquered most of the region. They became Muslims and ruled for more than 400 years. They lost control to the Ottoman Turks. By the late 1700s, the Ottoman Empire was weak and its many ethnic and religious groups wanted independence. The Ottoman Empire was defeated during World War I. The winning countries divided up the region.Great Britain took Palestine as a man- date, or land governed for the League of Nations until it was ready for indepen- dence. Two groups—Arabs and Jews— claimed Palestine. In the late 1800s, many Jews had started moving toPalestine. Many were Zionists who wanted to make Palestine an independent Jewish country. Arabs in Palestine wanted self- determination, the right to decide their own future. After World War II, the United Nations split Palestine into two states—one Jewish and one Arab. Jews accepted the plan, but Arabs did not. In 1948, Jews announced the indepen- dence of the new country of Israel. Hours later, neighboring Arab countries attacked. Israel won and con- trolled most of Palestine. Jordan and Egypt divided the rest. The Palestinians were left without a country.

1 - What two groups claimed Palestine?
2 - Chart Skills What countries became British mandates?



When the first Zionists arrived in Palestine in the 1880s, they began to irrigate the desert and drain the swamps. Today the Negev Desert, which covers half of Israel, has been turned into fertile farmland. A process called drip irrigation is used to preserve water resources by letting precise amounts of water drip onto plants from pipes. Scientists made Israel a leader in high technology. The country also has many service industries. Minerals are mined from the Dead Sea, a huge saltwater lake About 80 percent of Israelis are Jewish. Before 1948, most came from Europe. Later, many Jews came from other countries in Southwest Asia and from North Africa. Many were poorer and less educated than European Jews. In recent years, many Jews have come from the former Soviet Union. Almost 20 percent of Israel’s population is Arab.During the 1948 war, many Palestinians lost their homes and fled to Arab coun- tries. Even more Jews had to leave Arab countries. After another war in 1967, Israel took control of the West Bank in Jordan and the Gaza Strip. Many Palestinians fled from the West Bank and became refugees. Many of the refugee camps became bases for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It demanded that Palestine be freed and the refugees be allowed to return to their homes. The PLO refused to recognize Israel as a country. Some members were terrorists.Tensions remain high and violent outbreaks continue despite several peace agreements between Israel and the Pales- tinians. Late in 2004, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat died. With the election of PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas has come hope and renewed interest in reaching a peace agreement. In 2006, however, the Hamas movement won Palestinian parliamentary elections. Hamas was viewed as a terrorist group by Israel, so the peace process remained uncertain.


3 - How has the land of Israel been changed?
4 - Map Skills What four countries border Israel?



The countries of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria are at the center of the problems that affect all of Southwest Asia.After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Jordan lost its fertile farmland on the West Bank to Israel. The effect on Jordan’s economy was terrible. In addition, many Palestin- ian refugees fled to Jordan after the 1948 and 1967 wars.For many years Lebanon had a strong economy. But civil wars among the coun- try’s Christian and Muslim groups left Lebanon in a state of anarchy, or law- lessness. Most of the fighting ended in the early 1990s, and Syria finally withdrew troops from southern Lebanon in 2005.
Throughout its history, Syria’s people have grown cotton, wheat, and other crops on its rich farmland. Today, however, Syria’s farming methods are out-of-date. The government has launched reforms to improve Syria’s economy.
In recent years, Iraq’s people and its economy have been racked by war. In 1990, Iraq attacked Kuwait. In 1991, armed forces led by the United States and supported by the United Nations freed Kuwait. Iraq refused to accept UN terms for a cease-fire. The UN therefore placed an embargo, or strict limits on trade, on Iraq. In 2003, the U.S. and Great Britain invaded Iraq. They removed Saddam Hussein from power and oversaw free elections for a new Iraqi government. After the elections, escal- ating conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims created conditions similar to a civil war.

5 - How did war hurt agriculture in Jordan?
6 - Diagram Skills In what years were there Arab-Israeli wars?



The Arabian Peninsula has the world’s largest sand desert, the Rub’ al-Khali, or the Empty Quarter. The peninsula has no body of fresh water. But it has the world’s largest known oil reserves. Until oil was discovered in the 1930s, most people lived by fish- ing, trading, herding, and growing crops in the oases. Oil paid for modernization. Oil money built plants to remove the salt from sea- water so it could be used for drink- ing and irrigation. This process is called desalination.
In 1960, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia joined with Venezuela to form the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). OPEC decides how much oil to produce and at what price to sell it. The countries of this region know that they will one day run out of oil and have invest- ed money to develop other industries.Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dol- lars to build its infrastructure. An infrastructure is a country’s basic support facilities, such as schools, roads, airports, and communication systems.Saudi Arabia has Islam’s most sacred cities—Mecca and Medina. Each year two million Muslims from all over the world visit Saudi Arabia for the hajj, or religious journey to Mecca.Oman and Yemen have changed little. They only recently began to develop oil resources. Yemen is the poorest country on the peninsula.

7 - Why are countries on the Arabian Peninsula investing money in other industries besides oil?
8 - Chart Skills Which is the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula?



Although the majority of people in Turkey and Iran are Muslims, they are not Arabs.
Present-day Turkey consists of just a small part of the former Ottoman Empire. In 1923, Mustafa Kemal overthrew the sultan and made Turkey a republic. His goal was to make Turkey a modern coun- try. He separated the Islamic religion and the government. The Turks gave him the name Atatürk, meaning “father of the Turks.” Conflicts remain in Turkey about how much influence Islam should have.
Persians are the main cultural group in Iran. In 1925, army officer Reza Khan declared himself shah, or ruler. His son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, used profits from the oil industry to try to make Iran into a modern, Westernized nation. Religious leaders called ayatol- lahs wanted Iran to be ruled by strict Islamic law. They led a rev- olution in 1979 that forced the shah to flee. They declared Iran an Islamic republic and began getting rid of Western influ- ences. Revolution and an eight- year war with Iraq hurt Iran’s economy. Recently, Iran’s econo- my has improved, but the 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an Islamic conservative, may limit some liber- al reforms. Iran continues to be under international scrutiny because of allega- tions that it is developing nuclear weapons.
The population of Cyprus is four-fifths Greek and one-fifth Turkish. Civil war divided the island in the 1960s when some Greek Cypriots wanted to unite with Greece. Turkey sent troops to Cyprus and took control of the northeast, which has a majority Turkish population. Efforts to reunite the two parts of the nation failed when Greek Cypriots rejected a United Nations proposal in 2004.

9 - How did Atatürk change Turkey?
10 - Chart Skills Which country— Turkey, Iran, or Cyprus—has the largest population?