Over the past year, as Syria's civil war dragged on and the Islamic State extremist group became everyone's worst nightmare, the desire to try to explain the Middle East – in a bid to help solve its daunting problems – has grown.
There have been a number of increasingly complicated attempts to illustrate the web of relationships in the Middle East. Below are nine of our favorites.
Last summer, a reader of the Financial Times tried to make sense of the Middle East with a widely shared letter to the editor:
That letter seems to have sparked a trend. Within days, Egyptian blogger The Big Pharaoh made a graphical guide for "complete idiots":
Adam Peck of Think Progress also made a chart, which he and (now former) Think Progress World editor Hayes Brown acknowledged was "terrifying":
One of the most all-encompassing (though perhaps overwhelming) attempts came from Blaise Misztal at the Bipartisan Policy Center. You can take a closer look on the center's Web site:
The Economist recently presented another option: a "mosaic." This particular graphic is useful to gauge how much everyone hates the Islamic State:
Perhaps the most audacious attempt yet is this graphic from British designer David McCandless. The interactive nature of this one is particularly interesting: When you click on an actor, the graphic shifts to show you that actor's specific relationships:
Sometimes things come full circle. After a year of increasingly complicated and ambitious attempts to explain the Middle East's intricate web of relationships, it perhaps seems appropriate that a letter to the editor (perhaps cribbed from elsewhere) would be used to explain the Middle East. This letter ran in the Daily Mail this month: