Map Of U.S.-Middle East Relations Shows Evolution Of Complicated History (VIDEO)

10/22/2013 04:48 pm ET

For those of you who are confused as to where the United States stands in the Middle East (world leaders included), look no further: this handy map can teach you the nuts and bolts of American relations in the region in less than three minutes.

Put together by Nicholas Danforth, who maintains the cartography blog The Afternoon Map, the video above shows the evolution of U.S. interests in the Middle East dating back to 1939. In the clip, "America's Allies and Enemies in the Middle East: 1939-2013," Danforth uses color, symbols, and time-lapse to boil down these relations over the years, signaling whether a country is "with us" (blue), "against us" (red), or somewhere in between (purple).

Danforth further explains his use of symbols to denote "changes that occurred on account of invasions (the tank), coups (the gun), treaties or diplomatic decisions (the pen), elections (the check), other peaceful transfers of power (the weird baton thingy) or popular uprisings (the protestor)."

As Joshua Keating points out in Slate, some of the classifications could be debated and this particular framing isn't exactly nuanced. Still, the map offers an interesting glimpse into the dramatic shifts that took place in the region during such major world events as WWII and the Cold War. It illustrates how the ties that bind the U.S. to certain countries, such as Saudi Arabia, are much stronger and longer-lasting than others.

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