Christine Petré
Last updated: 29 August, 2013

#Trending: “A short guide to the Middle East”

Ever found yourself lost trying to keep track of the politics within the Middle East? Who supports who and why?

One smart contributor to the Financial Times did just that and published a clear but concise letter explaining how it all adds up by presenting the contradictory alliances of the region’s complicated nature in eight simple paragraphs:

Sir, Iran is backing Assad. Gulf states are against Assad!
Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood and Obama are against General Sisi.
But Gulf states are pro Sisi! Which means they are against Muslim Brotherhood!
Iran is pro Hamas, but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood!
Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood, yet Hamas is against the US!
Gulf states are pro US. But Turkey is with Gulf states against Assad; yet Turkey is pro Muslim Brotherhood against General Sisi. And General Sisi is being backed by the Gulf states!
Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day.

A few days later the letter was on everyone’s lips and went viral on social media.

Some decided to make the note into graphs:

Thomas Nelson ‏@trnels25 Aug
I mapped out the @FT letter re: Middle East politics, because how else can I kill two hours at Newark Penn Station?


Pedro DM Serôdio ‏@pdmsero25 Aug
Like this?

Since then, similar innovative and informative ways to describe the Middle Eastern complexity have popped up.

Egyptian blogger @TheBigPharaoh tweeted one photo explaining the Middle Eastern countries’ relationship to each other by using arrows in different colours. Take a look at “The Complete Idiot’s Chart To Understanding The Middle East.”

The Big Pharaoh ‏@TheBigPharaoh26 Aug
The Complete Idiot’s Chart To Understanding The Middle East – updated. I keep missing arrows! It’s too complicated!

Another photo by an international relations student categorised US relations with Middle Eastern countries using arrows of “supports,” “depends,” and “hates.” Five “depends” arrows were drawn from the US to Qatar, the Syrian rebels, Israel, Saudi and Gulf, and Sisi, while nine “hates” arrows connected the US to Turkey, Russia, Lebanon Sunnis, Assad, Lebanon Shias, Iran, Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda. No arrow showed a “support” relationship between the US and the Middle East.

efe kerem sozeri ‏@efekerem12h
Dear @TheBigPharaoh, alt. take: understanding USA from the Middle East. Much simpler! @Max_Fisher @yavuzbaydar

But the starting point was the August 22 edition of the FT’s “A short guide to the Middle East” signed by a Mr. KN Al-Sabah.