Europe in the Middle East
REEVA SPECTOR SIMON
By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Ottoman Empire, which had ruled much of the Muslim heartland, was on the decline militarily and economically. The Ottoman Turks, at war in the east against the newly emergent Safavi dynasty of Persia, whose adopted state religion of Shiite Islam was at odds with the Ottomans' Sunni Islam, barely controlled the border area of Iraq. The Ottomans had conquered this area in the sixteenth century and had left it to a local dynasty of military governors to rule. In North Africa the Ottomans ruled only Libya; Morocco, never under Ottoman authority, was ruled in part by a member of the Sharifian dynasty and in part by tribal warlords; authority in Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt remained with local rulers who paid nominal obeisance to Istanbul. The expanding Habsburg and Russian empires gradually took Ottoman territories in Europe and Central Asia from the imperial corpus. The disintegration of Ottoman authority between the center, with its state bureaucracy, and the quasi-independent periphery destabilized the Islamic peace that had characterized the region during its golden age.
In the face of the European onslaught the Ottomans recognized their inherent military weakness and looked first to spiritual and then to temporal remedies. Loath in the past to interact even diplomatically with the Christian West, the authorities in Turkey and later in Tunisia and Persia now had to deal with Europe's obvious military superiority. Yet purchasing Western weapons and military expertise took capital that was in increasingly short supply. Governments could barely afford to pay the European mercenaries that they hired to train their armies or to buy the guns that the troops needed. Inflation caused by the flood of silver from the Spanish Americas, the depletion of local mines, the end of conquest and its accompanying