Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Middle East Definition:

An informal term referring, generally, to that geographical area, and states therein, between the Black Sea to the north and the Arabian Sea to the south, and including Iran and Egypt.

The official "Bureau for the Middle East" of the government of the United States, Office of Middle East Affairs,

The Washington-based Middle East Institute (founded in 1946), defines the "Middle East" as comprising "the whole Islamic world from Morocco to Indonesia and from Sudan to Uzbekistan".1

The Middle East Journal proposed, in the foreward of their inaugural issue (January 1947), that the area known as the Middle East includes:

"Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Transjordan, the Arabian Peninsula, and Egypt; but not without due reference to closely related peripheral areas, such as the Mediterranean approaches, North and Northeast Africa, Transcaucasia, Afghanistan, India and Turkestan. With a few notable exceptions, these are Moslem lands."

The Royal Institute of International Affairs, also known as Chatham House, based in London, England uses these words:

"... the Middle East encompasses Iran, Turkey, Arabia and the Fertile Crescent, Egypt, Sudan and Cyprus."1

The non-profit corporation American Friends of the Middle East, also known as AMIDEAST, includes the following countries in what they consider to be the Middle East:

Cyprus, Egypt Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, West Bank/Gaza and Yemen.

map of the Middle EastThe Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) proposes that countries which are comprised in the term Middle East includes India. To include India is unusual.

The entire list of countries encompassed by the term "Middle East", according to the MEMRI, is:

"Afghanistan, Algeria, Azawad/North Of Mali, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen."

By way of comparison, the self-described League of Arab States includes, as of June, 2014, the following states {"(T)he Arabic translation of Middle East, (is) al-Sharq al–Awsa?..."2}:

"Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Dibouti, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Comoros, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, and Yemen."

Previously, the area was known as the Near East or even Levant, as explained as follows:

"Although the “Levant” and “Near East” covered similar territories, the boundaries of the latter expanded and contracted based on the strategic interests of major hegemonic powers in the region, in particular Britain.

"The Levant, French for “East” or “Orient,” is generally used in reference to the territories of the Eastern Mediterranean from Egypt to Turkey and did not include the Arabian peninsula. In contrast, the Near East generally referred to the territories of the Ottoman Empire....2


  • AMIDEAST, American friends of the Middle East. Website, URL, as of June 11, 2014, www.amideast.org
  • NOTE 1: Armajani, Yahya, Middle East - Past and Present (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1970)
  • NOTE 2: Khalil, Osamah, Diplomatic History, The Crossroads of the World: U.S. and British Foreign Policy Doctrines and the Construct of the Middle East, 1902–2007, (Oxford Journals, 2014), at Footnote #13. Khalil preambled his article with two prescient quotations. First that of G. Etzel Pearcy, Geographer, U.S. State Department, 1959, "The East was named from the West, never having enjoyed the advantage of a name that sprang from the region itself." and then a quotation of Arif Dirlik, "To define, as to name, is to conquer."
  • Middle East Institute, URL as of 2014-06-10, www.mei.edu
  • Middle East Media Research Institute, website address as of June 11, 2014, www.memri.org.

? Ed. note: Huge "thank you" to Megan Smith, Program Assistant, Middle East Institute for her help in providing some information used in this legal definition.

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