Although it is a Muslim country, most of its people are Turks, not Arabs. Turkey commands a strategic location, straddling Europe and Asia, and has served as a link between Europe and the Middle East. Turkey applied to join the European Union, but some EU members demanded that it make economic and other reforms. Turkey also sought closer ties with its Middle Eastern neighbors.

Although the military intervened in the past, today Turkey is a multiparty democracy with a market economy. Clashes erupted in 2013, however, that pitted the moderate Islamist government against protesters who opposed the growing authoritarianism of the government. The clashes reflected a divide between supporters of the older secularist ideology of Ataturk and those supporting the more Islamist-oriented policies of the government.

The Importance of Oil in the Middle East

Parts of the Middle East have huge oil resources, giving the region global importance. A handful of oil-producing nations prospered. They included Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and several small states along the Persian Gulf. The oil-producing nations also border vital shipping lanes that carry oil from the region to the world. Even though these oil-rich countries provide aid to their neighbors, most Middle Eastern nations lack oil and have struggled economically.


In 1960, the oil-producing nations of the Middle East, along with Venezuela, set up the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). OPEC wanted to end the power of Western oil companies and set its own oil production quotas and prices.

In 1973, Middle Eastern members of OPEC used oil as a political weapon. They stopped oil shipments to the United States and other countries that had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War. This oil embargo triggered a global recession and led other countries to try to develop other sources of oil. Since then, OPEC has focused on setting production quotas and has added new members.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has one of the world's largest oil reserves. It exports vast amounts of oil to the West. In return, it has received military aid from the United States. Its ruling family is committed to Wahhabism, a strict sect within Sunni Islam. Oil wealth allowed Saudi Arabia to modernize its infrastructure, such as transportation and communication systems. At the same time, the government has suppressed opposition.

A map shows the oil reserves in the Middle East.
Image Long Description

Analyze Maps

This map shows the known oil reserves of Middle Eastern countries. On what body of water do the nations with the largest oil reserves lie?

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments