Because of its subject matter, this is the kind of tome that becomes out of date as soon as the ink is dry. However, now in its third edition, the atlas has been revised with new analyses of the region since the Arab Spring began in 2011 as well as the latest on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the refugee crisis and foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria. Smith, cartographer and director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, has kept up with the compelling changes and complicated dynamics of Middle Eastern politics. ‘Today the condition of the Middle East is as bad as it has ever been,’ Smith writes, ‘dangerous for the people of the region and the region’s neighbours.’
The arenas of conflict are covered in judicious clarity. Smith uses straightforward chronology supported by accessible maps and graphics as the backbone to his analysis, while also giving careful consideration to gender relations, colonial impact, religion and global climate. ‘In November 2010 China suffered a once-in-a-century drought in its wheat-growing eastern region,’ he writes. ‘This had serious economic impact on Egypt – the world’s largest wheat importer. In 2011, soaring food prices were one reason Egyptians took the streets in frustration at Mubarak’s regime.’ In an ever more volatile Middle East, such nuanced analyses are invaluable.
THE STATE OF THE MIDDLE EAST ATLAS: 3rd Edition by Dan Smith; New Internationalist; £14.99; paperback
This review was published in the February 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.