In the first decades of the nineteenth century, when the Middle East and North Africa first began to attract the sustained attention of European imperialism and colonialism, Arab, Ottoman Turkish, and Iranian polities began a protracted experiment with army modernization. These decades saw a mania in the Middle East for the import of European methods of military organization and techniques of warfare. Everywhere, in the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, Egypt, and Iran, nizam-i jadid (new order) regiments sprang up, sometimes on the ruins of older military formations, sometimes alongside them, unleashing a process of military-led modernization that was to characterize state-building projects throughout the region until well into the twentieth century. The ruling dynasties in these regions embarked on army reform in a desperate effort to strengthen their defensive capacity, and to resist growing European hegemony and direct or indirect control by imitating European methods of military organization and warfare. Almost every indigenous ruler who succeeded in evading or warding off direct European control, from the sultans of pre-Protectorate Morocco in the west to the shahs of the Qajar dynasty in Iran in the east, invited European officers, sometimes as individuals, sometimes as formal missions, to assist with building a modern army. With the help of these officers, Middle Eastern rulers thus sought to appropriate the secrets of European power.
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