Its far to someone. The Far East that is! And the Near East must be near to that same person, no? And then the Middle East must be in the middle of that person’s view of the “East”! Middle East must be halfway to the Far East, surely?
How people refer to each other matters. It is not uncommon to use an honorific title to convey esteem, courtesy, or respect for position or rank when used in addressing or referring to a person. It is critically important for everyone to feel important!
In true arrogant, British colonial tradition, the term “Middle East” originated in the 1850s in the British India Office, placing Britain at the center of the universe. Everyone was secondary, (i.e. less important), because everyone and everywhere was referenced against Britain. It’s the Far East because, its far from Britain. And then, to add insult to injury, people became “Eastern” or “Middle Eastern”! All referenced from Britain. Obviously the term Middle East is Anglo-centric, originating at the height of the British imperial century (1815-1914). As defined at that time by the British government, India included modern India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, and, at least hypothetically, Afghanistan.
As a term useful to locating an area, “Middle” East has no meaning without having other regions on either side, which was the case with the imperialist colonial vocabulary of the British imperial government, where it was part of a referential scheme that included the terms Near East and Far East, all three referring to separate regions. The system of terminology references the nations of Asia in relation both to each other, the UK’s Empire of India, and the Ottoman Empire.
The term “Near East”, often mistakenly equated with “Middle East”, refers to Anatolia, Cyprus, and the Levant; in the case of the last, most of what is now Jordan was then part of Arabia rather than the Ottoman Empire.
The “Middle East” was everything between the eastern outskirts of the Near East and the western border of the Empire of India.
The “Far East” was everything west of the UK’s Empire of India.
Some writers have accused the term “Middle East” of being Amero-centric, but in the context of this three-term scheme that doesn’t make any sense because the UK’s “Far East” is America’s Far, Far West. For example, Oliver Perry did not get to Japan by sailing around the Horn of Africa and through the Molucca Straits. In another example, the Philippine Island were the most western of American’s colonial possessions throughout most of the first half of the 20th century.
However, true American fashion, when Americans heard someone with a British accent talk, that person immediately became an expert without any further American thinking or analysis! (I call that British hypnosis of Americans). So, the term Middle East was then adopted by an American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, who used the term in 1902 to “designate the area between Arabia and India”.
Mahan realized not only the strategic importance of the region, but also of its center, the Persian Gulf. He labeled the area surrounding the Persian Gulf as the Middle East, and said that after Egypt’s Suez Canal, it was the most important passage for Britain to control in order to keep the Russians from advancing towards British India. 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.
“The Middle East, if I may adopt a term which I have not seen, will someday need its Malta, as well as its Gibraltar; it does not follow that either will be in the Persian Gulf. Naval force has the quality of mobility which carries with it the privilege of temporary absences; but it needs to find on every scene of operation established bases of refit, of supply, and in case of disaster, of security. The British Navy should have the facility to concentrate in force if occasion arise, about Aden, India, and the Persian Gulf.”
Mahan’s article was reprinted in the (London) 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.
The broadest definition of the term “Middle East” came at the 2004 conference of the G8 nations, based on the definition of USA’s Bush administration. This included the entire Muslim world, because to the Bush administration Middle East = Muslim = terrorist (or oil in the case of “friendly” regimes). Often called the “Greater Middle East”, this list includes the “traditional” Middle East nations in Anatolia, the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and Mesopotamia, as well as those in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and North Africa. The Bush administration, clearly was filled with imbeciles who not only secretly nodded to the 9/11 false flag attacks, and made a catastrophic decision to invade Iraq, which nearly bankrupted the U.S., but most importantly set undermined U.S. global strategic position i.e. the end of the U.S. empire.
The nations of the Greater Middle East as defined by the G8 (Group of Eight) and the USG (United States government) include the core Middle East nations of Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, UAE, Yemen; the North African nations of Algeria, Djibouti, Libya, Mauretania, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR; Western Sahara), and Tunisia; the South Asian nations of Afghanistan, Azad Kashmir (Pakistani Kashmir), and Pakistan; the Caucasian nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia; and the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.
These G8 nations, by the way, are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States of America. So here we have the absurdity of having an envoy from Russia, whose easternmost border comes to a mere 82 kilometers (51 miles) from the western border of the U.S.A. state of Alaska, referring to events in Morocco as happening in the “Middle East”. Or that of an American cultural attaché in Athens discussing the same thing, something possible since the USG (United States government) still uses the same definition.
In fact, what is now generally termed the Middle East, should be more accurately referred to as several regions.
Anatolia, also called Asia Minor, is the peninsula containing most of the (soon-to-be Islamic) Republic of Turkey, its Asian portion. The Levant, includes Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus, the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, and Hatay province of Turkey, the capital of which is Antakya, the ancient Syrian city of Antioch, which by the way used to be called the Near East. The Arabian Peninsula, nations are Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates), Qatar, and Bahrain. Mesopotamia, is made up of Iraq, Kuwait, and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Inhabitants in the region actually refer to the area included in the “Greater Middle East” by other names: the Maghreb, which includes the North African nations along the Mediterranean Sea (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya), Bilad al-Sham (the Levant), and the Mashriq (eastern Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, and the nations of the Arabian peninsula). Egypt is not included in either the Maghreb or the Mashriq, nor is Iran included in the latter. Egypt, along with the Sudan, are assigned to the Nile Valley, considered a region in and of itself.
Another often misunderstood and misused term related to all of these is “the Orient”. When I first heard the name of Agatha Christie’s famous novel, I though the Orient Express was in China, because at the time I heard it (mid-1970’s), “Orient” meant East Asia. In truth, the line ran from Paris to Constantinople (now Istanbul) from 1883 to 2009. A plan by the governments of the German and Ottoman Empires to extend the line from what was then Constantinople to Baghdad, then part of the latter empire, and its nearby oilfields played a major part in sparking the First World War.
The term Orient derives from the Latin for “East”, and in the Roman Empire referred to most of the area of the “traditional” Middle East. Its major usage came about after the division of the empire into four prefectures in the 330’s CE, one of which, taking in Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Libya, was called the Prefecture of the Orient. Orient did not mean something distant, exotic, and foreign, just the eastern end of a far-flung empire in relation to its western half, the Occident.
I also see another term used for the region: MENA (Middle East-North Africa), primarily in commercial circles. Multinational companies consolidate their accounting activity under this ‘convenient’ header.
In its geo-scheme of the world, the UN assigns the nations of the “traditional” Middle East to the subregion of Western Asia, except for Iran, which it inexplicably attaches to the subregion of South Asia (the nations of British India) despite its millennia old cultural and historical ties and old geographical ties to the former subregion. Iran should be included in Western Asia. Of course, the UN also assigns the subregion North Asia (Siberia), to the region of Europe, despite its extension to within 82 km of North America and being part of the region or continent of Asia.
An alternate name for Western Asia is Southwest Asia, perhaps because of another subregion called Southeast Asia with which it is parallel. However, since the subregion in question is almost entirely west of the meridian through the Ural Mountains and therefore directly south of European Russia, Western Asia is more accurate.
So, this is what I propose: accept the name Western Asia. This would lend itself to an acronym referring more accurately to the same area as the rather inaccurate term “Greater Middle East”, like that in current vogue (i.e., MENA) as WANA (Western Asia-North Africa). All WANA nations speak Arabic and follow the lunar calendar. I suggest that the acronym “MENA” (Middle East-North Africa) be dropped.
I would go a step further, and state that Iran is distinct from WANA nations. Iran should more accurately be considered part of Central Asia. While the Levant, Arabian Peninsula and Mesopotamia are distinctly in Western Asia. Iran and Iranian culture are historically and geographically connected to all the ‘stans’ – i.e. Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc. Eastern Iran, and the City of Mashhad is an important ‘node’ in the region. These nations are geographically, culturally, and historically distinct from the Arabian Peninsula, and should Not be confused with Western Asian nations. Iran and the ‘stans’ follow the solar calendar, with very different languages and cultures to WANA nations.
Bottom-line, the term Middle East, i.e. lumping Iran and the Stans into the same basket as WANA (Arab) nations is imprecise, culturally and geographically biased, susceptible to misunderstanding, and therefore useless. It should be dropped.