The Greater Middle East stretches over two continents from Pakistan in the east to Mauritania and Morocco in northwestern Africa. It has little cultural or geographic cohesion. It is a unit more because of the way the West and the rest of the world perceives it than because of the way it perceives itself. And it is the world's most challenging hub of conflicts. As such, its political importance is disproportionate either to its economic wealth or, since the 18th century, its cultural contributions, which have been in a state of virtual arrested development in many parts of the region.
The Middle East is the sum of its parts--some 30 countries that could form a continent all their own, but that are vastly different one from the other.