Brief history of the relationship between the West and the East

The relationship between the West and the Middle East is one of the most notable diplomatic affairs, having taken a number of twists and turns throughout the centuries which are fueled by political, religious and economic interests between the two parties.

The greater part of the 19th century was characterized by fairly diplomatic relations between Middle Eastern countries and the West, particularly Britain. The Arab world was ruled by the Ottoman Empire at that time, and the rulers maintained steady, respectful relationships with those of the British Empire. The two empires supported each other in war, for instance, when Napoleon Bonaparte of France invaded Egypt, British troops came to help and sank most of his ships in the Red Sea. Bilateral trade also helped to seal the good relations between them, and no nation was involved in the political affairs of the other.

In the 21st century, the West, particularly America, has experienced strained relations with the Middle Eastern countries. One notable event was the September 11th, 2001 bombing of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in the U.S for which terrorist groups from Iraq claimed responsibility. This led to American invasion of Iraq which further derailed the trust between them. The west has been accused of interfering in the affairs of Middle Eastern countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria in a bid to ‘democratise’ them and free the people from oppressive rulers.

This relationship has also taken an economic perspective, given that the Middle East produces more than 80% of the World’s oil, and the Western countries depend on it. This has led the Middle Eastern countries to often engage in an ‘economic war’ through controlling the oil prices. The presence of American troops in the Middle East, especially Iraq, has been interpreted as a form of Western orientalism intended to ensure Western control of the vast oil reserves. This has further strained their diplomatic relations.