It can be confusing, because different news and education web sites will include different countries. Personal opinion and religious and political agendas often dictate what countries are included, although more and more the discovery and production of oil have also had an impact on the geographical discussion.
Additionally, even the term Middle East previously was interchangeable with the Near East. Now it is becoming synonymous with Western Asia or Southwest Asia, and some of the countries often included in the Middle East region, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, are also often included with Central Asia. Finally, countries included in this list are not all part of the ancient countries of the Middle East.
However, the modern day list will often include most of the following:
- Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip)
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)
Also, sometimes the former Soviet republics of Central Asia are included. These include: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
These countries can be organized geographically:
- North Africa: Egypt
- Mediterranean Sea: Cyprus
- Fertile Crescent: Palestinian Territories (Gaza Strip and West Bank), Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria
- Arabian Peninsula: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), Yemen
- Anatolia (Europe): Turkey
- Iranian Plateau: Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan
- Central Asia: Kazakhastan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
A careful author or speaker will often define what is meant by the term "Middle East" in the context of what is being said. Just make a note of what countries are included or excluded, and this will give a clue as to what background assumptions or political or religious bent the author or speaker may have.