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Why is the Middle East so important to the U.S. and internationally?

From earliest history, the Middle East, and the area long known as Palestine, were global crossroads of trade, science, scholarship and religion in ancient civilizations. In more recent times, the discovery of oil in the region and the need of outside empires for reliable local allies led to the creation of western protectorates throughout the Middle East.

From 1967 through the beginnings of the 21st century, U.S. policy in the region has been based on protecting the triad of oil, Israel, and stability. During the Cold War the U.S. relied on Israel as a cat's paw--a military extension of its own strategic reach--both within the Middle East region and internationally in places as far as Angola and Guatemala. With the end of the Cold War, Israel remains a close and reliable ally, in the region and internationally as well, for the now unchallenged power of the U.S. And domestically, widespread support for Israel, most concentrated in the Jewish community and among the increasingly powerful right-wing Christian fundamentalists in the U.S., took root in popular culture and politics, giving Israel's supporters great influence over Washington policymakers.