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1517-1918: The Ottoman Empire extends over most of the Arab world.

The Ottoman Empire begins in the 1300s in what is now Turkey. Between 1516 and 1517, the Ottomans conquer the Arab provinces. Islam is one of the major forces holding the diverse empire together. Ottoman law, in fact, is derived from both Islamic law and edicts of the sultan. In the 1700s and 1800s, though, the once-powerful Ottoman Empire starts to lose power. On the hunt for new territories to conquer, Great Britain, France, and Russia begin to interfere in the affairs and territories of the Ottoman Empire as well as in Egypt. The Ottomans retain control over the Balkans until the early 1900s, and over most of the Arab world until 1918. On the losing side of World War I, their lands are dispersed to Allied powers, including Great Britain and France.

November 17, 1869: The Suez Canal, a crucial communication and transportation link between the Mediterranean and Red Seas, opens in Egypt.

Designed to give European powers better access to Middle Eastern, East Asian, and South Asian markets, the Suez Canal is built by France (using Egyptian workers) over 10 years. The French later sell the Canal to the British, who control it for 84 years before Egypt nationalizes it. It is wide enough to accommodate most ships and, at 120 miles long, is the longest canal in the world without locks.

1901: The Jewish National Fund is established to purchase land in Palestine.

Under the guidance of Theodor Herzl, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is established to purchase land in Palestine. The JNF makes its first purchase in 1903, and at the 1948 declaration of the State of Israel, Jews will own nearly 7 percent of the whole country.

1902: Egypt's Aswan Dam, built by the British, opens.

The original Aswan Dam, or Aswan Low Dam, is built by the British. In 1970, it will be determined that the Aswan Low Dam is neither large enough nor strong enough to control extreme flooding, and a second High dam will be built.

1905: Ottoman-controlled Northern Yemen and British-controlled Southern Yemen are officially divided.

In 1918, the Violet Line, as it is known, is a boundary drawn to separate the Ottoman and British spheres of influence in Yemen and to prevent future clashes. It is literally drawn on a map with a ruler, using violet ink. This line will later form the border between Northern and Southern Yemen when these lands gain statehood in the 1960s. The two divisions are united in 1990.

1907: Persia (Iran) is divided into three zones, each one controlled by a different country.

To protect their economic interests in the region, Russia and Great Britain divide Persia into three zones. Russia controls the northern zone, Great Britain the southern zone, and the Shah of Iran controls the neutral middle zone.

May 1908: Oil is discovered in Persia (Iran).

British adventurer William Knox D'Arcy strikes oil in 1908, seven years after obtaining drilling rights to the land from the Persian government. In 1909, D'Arcy joins with Burmah Oil to form the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1909. By 1917, the British government, which owns 51 percent of the company, is the most influential power in Persia. Britain uses the company's reserves during World War I.

March 1915-January 1916: An estimated 500,000 are injured and 100,000 die when Ottoman forces fight against an Allied attack at Gallipoli.

Two waterways -- the Dardanelles and Bosporus Straits -- provided the only passage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea; thus, this was the only supply route between France and Britain and their ally Russia. The Allied forces wanted to wrest control of these waterways from Ottoman strongholds along the Gallipoli Peninsula, and committed nearly a half million troops in their attempt to do so. Naval and air strikes were followed by troop landings and ground combat at close range. The standoff was epic, and the number of casualties on both sides high. Ultimately, the Turkish forces repelled the Allied attack. With so many Allied troops committed to the unsuccessful campaign at Gallipoli, Germany was able to more easily pursue its military objectives on the eastern front, and World War I continued another two years. The courage shown by the Turkish forces in defending their positions, as well as the leadership of Mustafa Kemal, served as great examples for their War of Liberation, which followed in 1920.

May 1916: British and French negotiate the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

A secret understanding negotiated during World War I between Great Britain and France (with Russian consent), the Sykes-Picot agreement outlines the division of Ottoman-controlled lands into various French- and British-administered areas. The agreement is named after its negotiators, Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and Georges Picot of France. The agreement, implemented in 1919, contradicts the agreement the British made with the Arabs at the start of the war (the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence), which promised the Arabs independence of what is now Syria, Palestine (Israel), Jordan, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula.

1918-1922: A nationalist movement in Egypt leads to Egyptian independence.

Saad Zaghlul leads a delegation to meet with the ruling British High Commissioner and demand independence for Egypt. He is refused, and his subsequent arrest and deportation spark anti-British riots. The growing popular support of the nationalistic Wafd Party -- "wafd" is Arabic for "delegation" -- prompts Britain to grant Egypt limited independence in February 1922 and install a king as head of state. Britain, which has served as Egypt's protectorate since 1914, retains control over essential government institutions, including the parliament; finances; education; and the Sudan. It also keeps troops in the Suez Canal zone. Egypt will gain full independence after World War II.

July 24, 1922: The League of Nations issues a mandate to Britain to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.

Following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the territories formerly under the empire's control are divided between France and Britain. In 1920, the principal Allied powers award Britain the mandate for Palestine. Two years later, the League of Nations confirms the mandate, which lays out the terms under which Britain is given responsibility for the temporary administration of Palestine on behalf of both the Jews and Arabs living there. According to the mandate, Britain "shall be responsible for placing the country [Palestine] under such political, administrative, and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home ... and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race or religion." (from the Balfour Declaration)

1923: Oil is discovered in Iraq.

The first oil strike floods the countryside with oil for 10 days before workers can bring it under control. The well produces 80,000 barrels of oil a day. In 1934, the first oil pipeline connects Iraq with Tripoli in Lebanon. A second line to Haifa, Palestine, opens in January 1935.

1930s-1950s: Oil exploration begins in the desert, and later offshore, of what is now the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Only 150,000 people, many of them nomadic Bedouins, inhabit the land that will comprise the UAE. With no roads, schools, hospitals, or factories, these people experience one of the lowest standards of living in the developing world until oil is discovered in the region.

October 19, 1954: Britain agrees to leave the Suez Canal and its occupation of Egypt.

Egypt and Britain conclude a pact on the Suez Canal, ending 72 years of British occupation. In return, Egypt agrees to maintain freedom of canal navigation. The last of the 80,000-strong British force leaves the canal zone by June 14, 1956.

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July 26, 1956: Egypt nationalizes the Suez Canal.

Most likely in response to the U.S. decision to revoke its foreign aid pledge to help build the Aswan High Dam project, Nasser decides to nationalize the Suez Canal. Its toll revenues provide a significant source of needed income. This angers Britain and France, the former owners of the canal.

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October 31-November 7, 1956: Suez Crisis: Israel, Britain, and France attack Egypt after the Egyptian president Nassar nationalizes the Suez Canal.

Britain and France conspire to recapture the canal they once owned, with Israeli assistance. Israel invades Sinai, and Britain and France "intervene" and occupy the canal zone. They withdraw under U.S. and Soviet pressure, unsuccessful in their attempt.

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1959: Oil is discovered in Libya.

The oil boom provides Libya with newfound financial independence, transforming a country with one of the lowest standards of living into one full of opportunities, with growing employment and plans for improved housing, health care, and education. Investing much of its oil profits in other parts of the economy, Libya expands its industry, mining, and agricultural base, irrigating new areas of the desert. Most of the large farms, which are owned by the government, produce foods that were formerly imported, including corn, wheat, and citrus fruits, as well as cattle, sheep, and poultry.

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1959: The first big oil reserve is discovered just off the coast of Abu Dhabi (now part of the United Arab Emirates).

Oil is first discovered off of Abu Dhabi in 1959. Just a year later, oil is also found in Abu Dhabi's desert. Dubai, Sharjah, and Ras al-Khaimah follow with discoveries of their own over the next several years. Abu Dhabi, once known as a fishing village, is today the richest of all the emirates. Dubai, originally known for its pearl trade, is the second richest.

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1964: Conflict over access to fresh water from the Jordan River pits Israel against its Arab neighbors.

The countries sharing the basin of the Jordan River have extremely limited sources of fresh water, and water rights have been one of the leading sources of conflict in this troubled region. In 1964, Israel's National Water Carrier system, a complex of canals, pipelines, and tunnels built to convey water to the coastal plain of Israel and the Negev Desert, began diverting water from the Jordan River Basin. This diversion led to the Arab Summit of 1964, where a plan was developed to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River into Syria and Jordan -- preventing Jordan River water from reaching Israel. As the activities of the Headwater Diversion Plan began to take shape from 1965-67, Israel attacked construction sites. These incidents regarding water issues led up to the outbreak of the Six-Day War in June 1967.

June 5-10, 1967: The Six-Day War is fought between Israel and the Arab states.

Conflict ignites after three weeks of increasing tensions, including a massive Arab troop buildup in the Sinai Peninsula, as well as an Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran in the Red Sea of ships to or from Israel. On June 5, 1967, Israel responds by launching a surprise attack on Egypt. Other Arab nations, including Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, and Jordan, join Egypt in the fighting. Israel seizes the Golan Heights from Syria, Sinai and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan before a cease-fire is agreed upon.

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June 5, 1967: Egypt closes the Suez Canal in conjunction with the Six-Day War.

Closed during the Six-Day War by the Egyptians, the Suez Canal becomes part of the boundary separating Egypt and the Israeli-occupied Sinai Peninsula after the war. Remaining closed for the next eight years, Egypt loses considerable revenue. Many ships built after the closing (especially tankers) are too large to navigate the canal.

1970: The Aswan High Dam is built in Egypt, controlling the Nile's annual flood but changing the river's ecosystem.

A second, or "High," Aswan Dam is built with Soviet assistance to replace the older, less effective Aswan "Low" Dam. The dam has stopped the river's annual floods by trapping its waters in a reservoir and slowly releasing it during the dry season. This allows farmers along the Nile to plant year round. Unfortunately, the dam also traps the river's fertile silt, forcing the use of artificial fertilizers by farmers and causing pollution. Other effects of the dam are riverbank erosion and high levels of soil salinity.

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1971: Natural gas is discovered in northeast Qatar.

The North Gas Field is among the top five largest natural gas reserves in the world.

November 1973: Saudi Arabia leads an oil boycott against the U.S. and other Western countries.

A supporter of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War against Israel, Saudi Arabia still harbors resentment when the Yom Kippur War (October War) erupts. In retaliation for U.S. support of Israel, Saudi Arabia participates in a 1973 Arab oil boycott of the U.S. and other Western nations. The price of oil quadruples, dramatically increasing Saudi Arabia's wealth and political influence.

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March 6, 1975: Iraq and Iran sign the Algiers Agreement, ending their border disputes.

On March 6, 1975, Iraq and Iran sign a treaty known as the Algiers Agreement, or more precisely the Iran-Iraq Treaty on International Borders and Good Neighborly Relations, whose provisions are brokered by Jordan's King Hussein. The signing takes place at an OPEC convention in Algiers. The agreement delineates the international border between the two countries as the deepest point of the Shatt al-Arab estuary, as opposed to its eastern shore. Baghdad agrees to the treaty in return for Tehran's commitment to stop covert U.S. and Iranian support for the Kurds. In 1980 Iraqi president Saddam Hussein invades Iran, hoping in part to reverse the 1975 agreement.

September 22, 1980: Iraq invades Iran.

Though the reasons behind the war are complex, border skirmishes and a dispute over rights to the Shatt al-Arab waterway contribute to the warfare. Iraq seizes thousands of square miles and several important oil fields. Over an eight-year period, more than 500,000 Iraqis and Iranians die, with neither side able to claim victory.

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1982: Oman launches programs designed to combat pollution and prevent other environmental catastrophes.

During the 1980s in Oman, oil and tar from passing ships cover the country's beaches, pollution endangers many of its migratory birds, and corals are being damaged by anchors, fishing nets, and other equipment. One plan to eliminate oil spills focuses on building an area where tankers can safely discharge their ballast.

Mid-1980s: Yemen and Saudi Arabia clash over the discovery of oil in the Empty Quarter.

Oil reserves are discovered in the Empty Quarter, a vast desert that extends over much of Northern Yemen and southeastern Saudi Arabia. Conflicting claims to the potentially valuable land cause conflict, largely because there is no defined boundary between the two countries.

1986: Commercial extraction of Yemen's natural oil reserves begin.

Earnings from oil production and refinement will result in significant contributions to the Yemeni economy over the next decade. Talks of the reunification of Northern and Southern Yemen accelerate.

1992: Heavy soil erosion prompts two Turkish businessmen to raise public awareness of environmental issues.

Businessmen Hayrettin Karaca and Nihat Gokyigit establish the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats (TEMA) in 1992. Because 45 percent of Turkey's work force is involved in agriculture and nearly 80 percent of total land area is threatened by soil erosion in particular, this is considered a major concern in Turkey.

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1994: Saudi production of desalinated water reaches cities in the center of the kingdom.

Because of its lack of fresh water resources, Saudi Arabia develops a process to remove salt from sea water (desalination) to serve the water needs of its people. Saudi Arabia currently produces more desalinated water than any other country in the world. This water is used both for drinking water and agricultural irrigation. In 1994, the production capacity for desalinated water had reached 714,218,000 gallons per day -- enough water to cover the needs of the cities on the eastern and western coasts as well as some cities inland. By 2000, the capital city of Riyadh would receive desalinated water from the Gulf, 500 kilometers away.

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November 1994: The Atat¸rk Dam opens in Turkey.

The Atat¸rk Dam is one of 22 planned dams and 19 planned hydroelectric plants on the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. The overall project costs exceed $34 billion and result in the displacement of largely Kurdish populations.

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1998-1999: A drought reduces water levels in Israel's Lake Kinneret to dangerously low levels.

Lake Kinneret contains most of Israel's water supply. As a desert region, Israel and the rest of the Middle East engage in ongoing negotiations about water supplies, water partnerships, and water technologies.

February 4-May 30, 1998: Two of the poorest and most isolated provinces in Afghanistan are rocked by two earthquakes just three months apart.

Two major quakes measuring 6.1 and 6.9 on the Richter scale originate from nearly the same site in the northeast provinces of Takhar and Badakshan. Landslides level homes and villages, trapping many under rubble and leaving thousands of terrified survivors clinging to exposed mountainsides. An estimated 10,000 people are killed and 45,000 left homeless.

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August 17, 1999: Nearly 18,000 die when two major earthquakes hit western Turkey.

The August earthquake, registering 7.8 on the Richter scale, is centered near the city of Izmit, in densely populated western Turkey. In addition to the 18,000 deaths, another 27,000 people are injured. Damage extends to 340,000 houses and businesses. The quake is believed to have pushed Anatolia four feet closer to Europe. On November 12, another 760 are killed and 5,000 injured when a second large earthquake, measuring 7.2, hits Duzce. The total damage for the two quakes is estimated at between $10 billion and $25 billion.

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August 2000: Natural gas is discovered off the coast of Israel.

Should the recently discovered reserves of natural gas off of Israel's coast prove large, tapping them could reduce the country's immense dependence on foreign suppliers of energy, as could Israeli research into solar and wind power. Currently, for political reasons, Israel's energy demand is met by suppliers outside of the Arab world.

January 28, 2001: Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan sign an agreement on a $1 billion gas pipeline project.

The project promises to build two pipelines to transport Egyptian natural gas to Middle East partners and to European markets.

March 1, 2001: The Hawar Islands are awarded to Bahrain over Qatar's objections.

The International Court of Justice settles a five-year-old dispute between neighboring countries Bahrain and Qatar over territorial rights to the Hawar Islands and adjoining natural-gas fields in the Gulf of Bahrain.

April 9-11, 2001: An international commission gathers in Lebanon to discuss sustainable development.

The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) convenes a Thematic Round Table in Beirut to discuss regional concerns about sustainable development, fresh water supplies, land use, poverty, standards of living, and technology. The commission representatives prepare for the "Rio + 10" World Summit on Sustainable Development.

May 2002: Locusts invade Afghanistan's northern plains, threatening crop production.

The lack of an effective control program has allowed hundreds of millions of locusts to threaten nearly 70 percent of the crops in parts of northern Afghanistan, the country's most productive agricultural area. Several million rural households are potentially affected by the swarm. Insecticides and traditional trench traps are being used to combat the insects.

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