Is it accurate to claim that Turkey and Iran, both non-Arabic societies, may be the two most influential countries in the Middle East?
Both Iran and Turkey are influential cultures within the Middle East, but no one nation has emerged as a Middle Eastern hyper-power. Iran is influential for two reasons. First, it is a direct descendent of the Persian Empire, which was one of the most important and longest lasting kingdoms of the ancient and medieval world. Currently, because it is one of the very few major Shi'a Islam powers in the Middle East, and actively support Shi'a insurgency and anti-Israeli attacks, it has influence among Shi'ites and Palestinians. Turkey, as the only Middle Eastern member of NATO, stands as a gateway between west and middle east, often brokering deals. It has a stable democratic government and solid modern economy, making it regionally, and increasingly, internationally important, serving as a role model for the Arab Spring. Saudi Arabia is probably the most influential nation among Sunni Muslims though, and the UAE is both rich and influential as well.