Middle East Chart Shows How Messed Up The Region Is

An Egyptian blogger attempts to chart the relationships between different factions in Middle Eastern politics. The result is messy.

The Complete Idiot's Guide To Understanding The Middle East


The politics of the Middle East can be summed up in a word:  Messy.  The various factions and nations that have a stake on the region's general standing, either in specific nations or in specific conflicts, have weird and differing relationships with each other for reasons that sometimes just boil down to basic semantics.  Be it Israel, the Saudi Royal Family, Shias and Sunnis in different countries, or the military of Egypt, everyone has a different stake that either demonstrates realpolitik, or makes that concept look simple.  In order to prove the chaos of Middle Eastern politics, one Egyptian blogger attempted to highlight all these relationships in a single, readable chart.  While he succeeded in making a single chart, as shown above, that chart is still hard to read, and really confusing.

The blogger, The Big Pharaoh, is well known among liberal Egyptians, especially those supporting the 2011 revolution that brought down President Hosni Mubarak.  His recent insights into aftermath of the July 3 military coup and the resulting protests and massacre have been useful in gaining a local understanding of the situation on the ground.  In his attempt to explain which faction is supporting which, he fails to mention a few major players, including Hezbollah and the Christian communities, but it is understandable that he does so, if only because the chart, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding The Middle East," is already a big mess.

If you need help following along at home (and that's understandable), here's a text-based explanation of all the relationships shown on this chart.  Assume, for simplicity's sake, that the Saudis also include Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates:

  • US:  Supports Israel, Syrian rebels, and the Saudis;  Hates Assad, Iran, Al Qaeda, and Hamas.  Relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian military uncertain.
  • Turkey:  Supports Muslim Brotherhood and the Syrian rebels; Hates Assad and the Egyptian military.
  • Israel:  Supports the Syrian rebels; Hates Assad and Hamas.
  • Iran:  Supports Hamas, Assad, and Lebanese Shias (through Hezbollah);  Hates Israel and the Syrian rebels.
  • Qatar:  Supports the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Syrian rebels;  Hates Assad and the Egyptian military.
  • Saudis:  Supports the Syrian rebels, Egyptian military, and Lebanese Sunnis; Hates the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • al Qaeda:  Supports the Syrian rebels; Hates Assad and the Saudis
  • Lebanese Shias support Assad and hate the Syrian rebels; Lebanese Sunnis have it the other way around.
  • Russia supports Assad and hates the Syrian rebels. (The easiest one to track, but details)
  • Assad hates the Muslim Brotherhood, as does the Egyptian military.
  • Hamas supports the Syrian rebels.

That should cover it.  Now, please, do not ask why al Qaeda and the Americans, sworn enemies, are both supporting the Syrian rebels, or why Qatar is so different from its Saudi neighbors.  Come to think, it's best not to explain the reasons for any of these relationships, unless you are really into either international relations, or making your head explode.


(Sources:  The Big Pharaoh, Exploding Actresses Tumblr, Reuters, US Government)