The Middle East is the primary importer of oil around the globe. With civil and political unrest spreading throughout the troubled region, the price of crude oil fluctuates with the current events. The uprisings started in Tunisia, then spilled over to Egypt and sparked a revolution. After the exile of former president Hosni Mubarak, Libya took the torch of liberty from the Egyptians, and is now in the middle of a bloody battle against Gaddafi's forces and those loyal to him, creating yet another Middle East crisis.
It is important to note that Libya is a major player in oil exportation. As the fervor of revolution grows, so does the skyrocketing prices of gas at the pump. With this new Middle East crisis, nations in development, such as China, are looking closely at the events unfolding.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said on numerous occasions that a need for new forms of energy is an urgent and pressing matter. He believes that less dependency on foreign oil will benefit the country in the long run, both economically and politically. The fragile state of the country’s oil supply was seen at its worst when Hurricane Ike caused a dramatic increase in gas prices in the Southeast Texas region.
The region has been in turmoil throughout much of the 20th Century, carrying on into this one. Geopolitics has never been as cruel to regions as it has in the Middle East, the area which spawned the Abrahamic religions and empires that fought each other for power and control. Both domestic and foreign sovereignties have occupied the oil-rich land at different points in history.
This background has caused power vacuums when the colonizers left, which have led to civil wars and power struggles among local leaders. The most notable and, perhaps, longest conflict in the region is that of the Israelis and the Palestinians, both staking territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. After decades of brutal violence, the turmoil has taken a backseat to the present crisis happening in Libya and Bahrain.
With the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions still looming overhead, many political analysts have said that the Middle East will continue to be influential in shaping the future of international relations. The Republic of China is already making its presence felt in the region, contributing to much of the region’s business and real estate development. This is also a way to gain influence in political matters.
For example, China has deflected the United States’ pressure to place economic sanctions against Iran. But the heavy dependence of the world on the oil that is exported, or goes through, many Middle Eastern countries, has made international politics more complex, which usually boils down to a give-and-take system. After most of the U.S. troops were withdrawn from Iraq last summer, many of the country’s allies looked on with worry, unsure as to what will happen when American forces leave the region.
For many locals, on the other hand, it was a sign of liberation from almost a decade of occupation. Iraq is still volatile, with reports of suicide bombings still making headlines, just as with Libya and Bahrain. A revolution in the area may be a tempting ambition as the world suggests it would be easier to deal with democratic countries in the Middle East, but with the lagging election process in Cairo, that dream is far from reality.