The Middle East is a transcontinental region in Afro-Eurasia which generally includes
Western Asia, all of Egypt, and Turkey. Also, its importance comes from not only being
transcontinental but also having an energy source of oil. This situation results in a want to
have an active role in Middle East states which are there as well as external ones. Because of
that, there are always either conflicts or wars in that region. Many powerful states which are
the USA, Russia, China, etc get a goal that is being the leader and effective power in the
Iraq, which got rid of the British mandate in the 1930s, went through turbulent times in
domestic politics. In addition to riots and assassination attempts against those who happened,
social life was also not very regular. By the end of the 1970s, the Ba’ath Party and Saddam
Hussein wanted to be active in foreign policy as well as being active in domestic politics.
Accordingly, when the Iranian leader wanted to bring down Saddam by addressing the Shiites,
a war was fought with Iran in 1980-89. It is difficult to say that the winner is the result. In
addition, Kuwait was occupied in 1990 to dominate the Persian Gulf and gain oil and
leadership. With these situations, they have a say in the Middle East. However, the USA
invaded Iraq in 2003 due to both the September 11 events and the occupation of Kuwait. This
occupation lasted until 2011, and then the Arab Spring began. All of these prevented Iraq’s
internal gathering and regulation. With the emergence of the terrorist organization DAESH,
the leadership goal fell through.
We can see Egypt as the most developed state of the Middle East and the Arab world.
Between the years 1952-67, it was the most powerful country with the policies of Cemal
Abdül Nasır. He also rejected the Baghdad Pact against the Soviets in the bipolar system of
the Cold War and told the Arabs to stay away. In addition to these, he nationalized Suez in
1956 and made his country the leader of the Middle East. However, during the reign of his
successor Enver Sadat, he lost prestige in the Arab world with the peace made with Israel.
During the period of Hosni Mubarak, steps to rise to leadership were not taken, and internal
problems arose with the coup of Abdulfettah Sisi. The only advantage is that it can continue to
be the second most aid from the US.
Iran made a revolution with Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 and opposition to both the USA
and the West was initiated. Progress was made with the motto “neither East nor West only
Islam”. Its goals include establishing a Shia crescent through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. In
addition, it is aimed to be the dominant power in the Gulf region without accepting foreign
intervention. Accordingly, the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 has come
to Iran’s interest. Besides, with the 2010 Arab Spring, with the outbreak of civil war in Syria
and the internal turmoil in Egypt, Iran did not rival regional empowerment. It also increased
its influence in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. With the emphasis on nuclear studies, we can see that
Iran is now an important power in the region.
Saudi Arabia is trying to lead with the Sunnite sect. This situation puts Iranian Shiites
against each other. Consequently, proxy wars broke out in Yemen after the Arab Spring. Non-
state groups and sects clashed. It is difficult to say a clear result. Besides, the destabilization
of Iraq and the coup in Egypt gave Saudi Arabia a chance for regional leadership. In the
leadership of the region, a status quo approach was followed and a theocratic ground was
formed. In addition, the fact that the center of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which was
established in 1981, is Riyadh has given Saudi Arabia a positive effect. Also, relations with
the USA are very good.
Founded in 1948, Israel recently decided to abandon its hostility towards Arabs and become
collaborators with them. The biggest factor in this matter is the desire of countries to come
together against the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear studies and policies in general. The first
rapprochement was with Egypt and Jordan, and agreements were signed with Bahrain and the
United Arab Emirates about two weeks ago. Moreover, the USA is Israel’s biggest supporter.
In addition to all of these, Israel has a goal of becoming an effective power in the region
rather than being a regional leader. For this, both military and political steps are taken.
As a result, in the Middle East region, there are many countries which are Syria, Iraq,
Qatar, Cyprus, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Iran, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates,
Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya,
Sudan, Morocco; but in that writing, we examined five important countries which are Iraq,
Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel which have a goal of being the leader or effective power
in the Middle East. The relations they establish with each other and with countries outside the
region, their policies towards the region, their threat perceptions, and their relations shaped by
their allies serve to be the regional leader determined as a target by Middle Eastern countries.
Besides, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are the states that have taken the lead in the region, but
it is very difficult to emerge a “full” leader due to the USA, Russia, and China’s influence in
This article is written by Buse Bakkaloğlu