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THE MODERN HISTORY of the Middle East began with the opening of the Suez Canal in November 1869, creating a dramatic shortcut from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean beyond. With that one event, the Middle East was brought into cultural, economic, and political contact with the developing world of Europe and the United States, after languishing for centuries under the rule of the ailing Ottoman Turkish Empire, the “Sick Man of Europe.” As Philip K. Hitti wrote in History of the Arabs, after the Turks had failed to seize Vienna, Austria, in 1683, “to the internal forces of corruption and decay were added external forces in the 18th century” when the European Great Powers began to ...

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