From Victor Davis Hanson:
Since antiquity, the Middle East has been the trading nexus of three continents — Asia, Europe, and Africa — and the vibrant birthplace of three of the world’s great religions.
Middle Eastern influence rose again in the 19th century when the Suez Canal turned the once-dead-end eastern Mediterranean Sea into a sea highway from Europe to Asia.
With the 20th-century development of large gas and oil supplies in the Persian Gulf and North Africa, an Arab-led OPEC more or less dictated the foreign policy of thirsty oil importers like the United States and Europe. No wonder U.S. Central Command has remained America’s military-command hot spot.
Yet the Middle East is becoming irrelevant. The discovery of enormous new oil and gas reserves along with the use of new oil-recovery technology in North America and China is steadily curbing the demand for Middle Eastern oil. Soon, countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are going to have less income and geostrategic clout. In both Iran and the Gulf, domestic demand is rising, while there is neither the technical know-how nor the water to master the new art of fracking to sustain exports.