The Middle-East's heyday as cartelized provider of energy to the world is over. The former oil-states of Arabia have seen a drastic plunge in demand for oil, which is primarily used for cheap petrochemical products such as plastics, rather than for the more lucrative energy market. The world runs on hydrogen fuel-cells, hydropower, coal, and natural gas, and the petrodollars have dried up. This lose of economic power hit Middle Eastern countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia at the height of their population explosion, resulting in a massively-unemployed society which - unsurprisingly - rebelled. Most of the secular or monarchic kingdoms were re-instituted as theocratic or technocratic states, with Iran taking the lead in industrial development. Most of the theocratic republics, often considered Denied Areas and cut off from most global commerce, descended into poverty.

Despite Iran's conquest of several neighbouring states, it fought Israeli and later American troops for control of Syria, and then quickly became embroiled in a religious war with the newly-revitalized Holy Russian Republic, a war which has been continuing at various stages of intensity for over 15 years now, and which has sucked Central Asia into a chaotic quagmire of neverending war and genocide. Neither side has dared to use nuclear weapons because the Russians fear internal nuclear terrorism while the Iranians respect their foe's superior arsenal. Despite conflict with its neighbours, Iran (or rather, Persia) has developed into an industrial power which supplies Africa, India and Asia with cars, airplanes, and photonics. No longer fiercely theocratic, Persia has embraced high-technology and liberal Muslim values. A truism of regional politics is that Persia would probably have befriended Russia by now if that country had not executed its crusade in Central Asia with such brutality.

Israel, though battered by years of war, is still a strong occupying power but has become an autocratic militarized state. Freedoms are few and far between, while religious indoctrination continues apace as Israelis attempt to assimilate or exterminate their conquered subjects.

Egypt remains the beacon of hope for the region. With American backing it developed and expanded a thriving democracy which successfully resisted theocratic fundamentalism. The free city of Cairo is the centre of learning, high-technology and informatics for the Islamic world. A successful rebellion in the impoverished and drought-stricken south of the country created the Upper Nile Republic in 2023.

Kurdistan has finally risen from the ashes of Eastern Turkey and Northern Iraq following the incorporation of the latter into the Persian Republic. It's an open secret that the Kurds are funded and armed by Russia to provide a counter-balance to Persia and to weaken Turkey, a regional rival for gas pipelines. Armenia and Georgia are once again under the sway of Russian military might, though their economies prosper in black market dealing. Azerbaijan has become the Kuwait of the 30's, providing vast quantities of scarce oil both to Russia and Europe while becoming a regional banking centre, with full American backing (and hence leverage). Azerbaijan is a place of covert operations by Russian spetsnaz troops and Persian Mujeharda operatives.

Saudi Arabia (now just Arabia) turned to radical Islam in the face of mounting debts and a restless young population, and is today a tottering compromise between monarchic clans and Islamic clerics. Contact with the outside world has dwindled to almost nothing, as has control over the country's vast deserts and scattered settlements. Arabia still smarts from the American occupation and defeat at the hands of the Israelis during the 'Pacific' War, stubbornly refuses to participate in anything involving either nation. Arabian nomads have in recent years gained worldwide renown as forgers of a tight-knit virtual collective which spans tribes from Abu Dhabi all the way to the Sahara.