Trying to understand the complexities of Middle East politics can seem like an impenetrable task and the tangled and changing relations between governments and groups in the region are a common subject of discussion. What's more, instead of clarifying the chaos, maps or charts that break down the various conflicts and alliances often merely prove how absurdly complex the situation really is.
However, one attempt at capturing how the region's many different actors relate to each other has found an impressive way of merging simplification and accuracy.
Using a variety of data sources, David McCandless of the design site Information Is Beautiful (and author of Knowledge is Beautiful) created a chart that gives the appropriate impression of jumbled alliances, but is also interactive and explains specific connections. Made possible with the help of coders at Univers Labs, the interactive design clarifies which countries and groups are allied and who are sworn enemies.
By highlighting or clicking on any of the actors in the region, the reader can explore the actor's relevant connections. Clicking on Islamic State, for example, shows that the extremist group has a mutual hatred with just about everyone else, with the exception of Qatar. Despite having participated in international airstrikes against IS, the Gulf State has been accused of being a hotspot for terror funding.
While some of the connections may be up for debate, the chart is a great supplementary guide for an often incomprehensible topic. As with anything in the region, though, it will likely be subject to change as political bonds break and forge.