The Middle East〔Arabic: الشرق الأوسط, '; Armenian: Միջին Արևելք, ''Merdzavor Arevelk’''; Azerbaijani: ''Orta Şərq''; French: ''Moyen-Orient''; Georgian: ახლო აღმოსავლეთი, ''akhlo aghmosavleti''; Greek: Μέση Ανατολή, ''Mési Anatolí''; Hebrew: המזרח התיכון, ''Ha'Mizrah Ha'Tihon''; Kurdish: ''Rojhilata Navîn''; Persian: خاورمیانه, ''khāvar-miyāneh''; Somali: ''Bariga Dhexe''; Soranî Kurdish: ڕۆژھەڵاتی ناوین, ''rrojhellatî nayn''; Turkish: ''Orta Doğu''; Urdu: مشرق وسطی, ''hashrq vsty''〕 (also called the Mid East) is a Eurocentric description of a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia and Egypt. The corresponding adjective is ''Middle-Eastern'' and the derived noun is ''Middle-Easterner''. Formerly, the Eurocentric synonym Near East (as opposed to Far East) was commonly used. Arabs, Azeris, Kurds, Persians, and Turks constitute the largest ethnic groups in the region by population, while Armenians, Assyrians, Circassians, Copts, Druze, Jews, Maronites, Somalis, and other denominations form significant minorities.
The History of the Middle East dates back to ancient times, with the (geo-political) importance of the region being recognized for millennia.〔Cairo, Michael F. (''The Gulf: The Bush Presidencies and the Middle East'' ) University Press of Kentucky, 2012 ISBN 978-0813136721 p xi.〕〔Government Printing Office. (''History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense: The formative years, 1947-1950'' ) ISBN 978-0160876400 p 177〕〔Kahana, Ephraim. Suwaed, Muhammad. (''Historical Dictionary of Middle Eastern Intelligence'' ) Scarecrow Press, 13 apr. 2009 ISBN 978- 0810863026 p xxxi.〕 Several major religions have their origins in the Middle East, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; the Baha'i faith, Mandaeism, Unitarian Druze, and numerous other belief systems were also established within the region. The Middle East generally has a hot, arid climate, with several major rivers providing irrigation to support agriculture in limited areas such as the Nile Delta in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates watersheds of Mesopotamia, and most of what is known as the Fertile Crescent. Most of the countries that border the Persian Gulf have vast reserves of crude oil, with the dictatorships of the Arabian Peninsula in particular benefiting from petroleum exports. In modern times the Middle East remains a strategically, economically, politically, culturally and religiously sensitive region.
The term "Middle East" may have originated in the 1850s in the British India Office. However, it became more widely known when American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan used the term in 1902 to "designate the area between Arabia and India". During this time the British and Russian Empires were vying for influence in Central Asia, a rivalry which would become known as The Great Game. Mahan realized not only the strategic importance of the region, but also of its center, the Persian Gulf.〔.〕〔Palmer, Michael A. ''Guardians of the Persian Gulf: A History of America's Expanding Role in the Persian Gulf, 1833–1992.'' New York: The Free Press, 1992. ISBN 0-02-923843-9 pp. 12–13.〕 He labeled the area surrounding the Persian Gulf as the Middle East, and said that after the Suez Canal, it was the most important passage for Britain to control in order to keep the Russians from advancing towards British India.〔Laciner, Dr. Sedat. "( Is There a Place Called 'the Middle East'? )", ''The Journal of Turkish Weekly'', June 2, 2006. Retrieved January 10, 2007.〕 Mahan first used the term in his article "The Persian Gulf and International Relations", published in September 1902 in the ''National Review'', a British journal.
Mahan's article was reprinted in ''The Times'' and followed in October by a 20-article series entitled "The Middle Eastern Question," written by Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol. During this series, Sir Ignatius expanded the definition of ''Middle East'' to include "those regions of Asia which extend to the borders of India or command the approaches to India." After the series ended in 1903, ''The Times'' removed quotation marks from subsequent uses of the term.
Until World War II, it was customary to refer to areas centered around Turkey and the eastern shore of the Mediterranean as the "Near East", while the "Far East" centered on China, and the Middle East then meant the area from Mesopotamia to Burma, namely the area between the Near East and the Far East. In the late 1930s, the British established the Middle East Command, which was based in Cairo, for its military forces in the region. After that time, the term "Middle East" gained broader usage in Europe and the United States, with the Middle East Institute founded in Washington, D.C. in 1946, among other usage.
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