Unmasking Stereotypes: Conflict Dynamics in the Middle East


The Middle East is known for its frequent conflicts, which are often discussed in international politics, media, and academic literature. This region hosted the bloodiest interstate war between Iran and Iraq in 1980-1988 and also encircled by several regions that have been suffering from ongoing conflicts for a prolonged period (Sørli et al., 2005). Stereotypes from the media heavily focus on the Middle East as a region that contains enormous conflicts. There are several reasons why conflict dynamics, hard power, and military might characterize the Middle East. The Arab Spring uprisings, which began with self-immolation protests against authoritarianism, caused a domino effect that shifted regional power dynamics and attracted international response to resolve conflicts (Fueling Middle East Conflicts—or Dousing the Flames – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, n.d.).  

Among the Arab Spring uprising, which has been attracting international attention, the Israeli-Palestine conflict has also garnered significant international attention as a longstanding issue. The thinking framework based on historical experience in the Middle East creates bold stereotypes that this region is one of the most conflict-prone regions. However, the Middle East needs to be compared with other regions not only based on historical experience, considering that this stereotype may no longer accurately reflect the current situation. This article will discuss the rising conflict from other regions due to the unmasking stereotype of the Middle East as the most conflict-prone region.

The Middle East is often perceived as a region that has experienced significant political and social challenges. The Middle East is often associated with high levels of armed conflict and is perceived as one of the most volatile regions in the world. The Middle East seems like home to numerous ongoing internal and external conflicts, which have caused immense suffering and displacement for millions of people. The Middle East is not the only region with a high occurrence of conflicts. Several other regions have experienced more severe and prolonged conflicts than the Middle East. Asia and Africa have experienced significant increases in conflicts, making them equally or even more conflict-prone than other regions.

The Middle East has often been considered a region with a higher potential for armed conflict compared to others. However, it is crucial to provide empirical evidence and data validation. The database analysis of armed conflicts by region from 1989 until 2010 reveals a significant disparity in the frequency and intensity of such conflicts in regions. Based on the collected data, it can be observed that the total number of armed conflicts in the Middle East region is 14. These conflicts may range from internal disputes to wars between countries. On the other hand, the Asian continent experienced 39 armed conflicts, including civil wars, insurgencies, and territorial disputes. Meanwhile, Africa has the highest number of armed conflicts, with a total of 42 (Themnér & Wallensteen, 2011).

The truth slowly formed, and in terms of new conflicts, the Middle East has become more peaceful. Since the end of the Cold War, there have been more low-level conflicts than major conflicts. From 1990 until 2008 The Middle East hosted only 9 minor conflicts, Asia hosted 16 minor conflicts, and Sub-Saharan Africa hosted 28 minor conflicts (Fearon, 2010). The data clearly demonstrates that the incidence of conflict in the Middle East is, in fact, lower than in Africa and Asia. According to the International Peace Research Institute Oslo New Dataset, conflicts in the Middle East occur predominantly in Asia and Africa. Regarding the frequency of conflicts, the Middle East region appears to have a lower incidence compared to Asia and Africa.

Analyses of regional conflict data collected from multiple sources have consistently shown that the Middle East is not the most conflict-prone region. The pervasive stereotype of the Middle East as a region of unceasing conflict raises a question mark regarding the accuracy of such a portrayal stereotype. The Middle East has been the stage for some of the most complex and long-standing conflicts in human history, and the media has often given them extensive coverage. However, it is crucial to understand that the region is not simply defined by these conflicts.

The world is constantly confronted with a myriad of ever-changing and unpredictable situations. It is important to acknowledge and appreciate the historical events that have shaped our world and that cannot be altered. In order to successfully adapt to an ever-evolving world, it is crucial to remain open-minded and avoid being confined by any single situation or narrow-minded stereotype. In order to gain a better understanding of the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, it is crucial to stay up-to-date with the various types of conflicts occurring in each region and their frequency. The Middle East is often misunderstood due to historical stereotypes, which have been reinforced by the region’s unfortunate legacy of violent conflict. The Middle East is a region often viewed as full of conflicts. However, it is important to take a fresh perspective on the region and not be trapped by outdated stereotypes. By doing so, we can see that the Middle East has much to offer and has the potential to improve its reputation and reduce conflict.

Maurchelinne Rachel
Maurchelinne Rachel
Maurchelinne Rachel is a student at Diponegoro University, majoring in international relations. She has a huge interest in social issues, history, and security