While it is common to hear people describe the Middle East as a complex and obscure place, the diagram plainly illustrates that this is not the case. The relationships follow logical patterns reflecting geopolitical interests, partnerships, and conflicts. For example, the United States is evidently on friendly terms with Iran. In Iraq. But America is on the opposite side of the conflict in Yemen. In Syria, the U.S. and Iran are both against and with each other, depending on the outcome of the nuclear talks.

This partially reflects President Obama’s breakthrough system of decision-making, which goes beyond outdated binary oppositions. Forced to choose between confronting and appeasing Iran, Obama has chosen to do both, arguing that at least one of those policies is the right one. Despite critiques from conservatives who are still clinging to old-fashioned ideas, this way of thinking is quite popular in the Middle East, as reflected in the old proverb, “You can have your cake and eat it.”

By carefully following the lines one by one, you can see that Egypt and Qatar are against each other, except in Yemen where they are now allies; Saudi Arabia is both supporting and bombing ISIS; and Libya is its own worst enemy.