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It is a region wracked by religious struggle between competing traditions of the faith.Conflicts take place within and between states; civil wars and proxy wars become impossible to distinguish.That could be a description of today's Middle East. In the Middle East in 2011, change came after a humiliated Tunisian fruit vendor set himself alight in protest; in a matter of weeks, the region was aflame. In 17th-century Europe, a local religious uprising by Bohemian Protestants against the Catholic Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand II triggered that era's conflagration.The result was the Thirty Years' War, the most violent and destructive episode in European history until the two world wars of the 20th century.There are obvious differences between the events of 1618-1648 in Europe and those of 2011-2014 in the Middle East. The 2003 Iraq war was highly consequential, for it exacerbated Sunni-Shiite tensions in one of the region's most important countries and, as a result, in many of the region's other divided societies.Beyond the enormous human suffering and loss of life, the most immediate byproduct of the region's turmoil is the potential for more severe and frequent terrorism – both in the Middle East and emanating from it.
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