Is Saudi Arabia Next?


Smoke_rising_from_the_Grand_Mosque,_Mecca,_1979.JPG

The Gulf countries, to some extent, initiated quick reforms to avoid the domino effect of the Arab Spring.

Reminiscent of the Age of Metternich in Europe, when serious efforts to revolutionize the continent were being suppressed.

Revolution often has little idea of the future, but this weakness is exploited by existing orders to maintain the “status quo”. The divisions between revolutionaries, usually ideologically, lead to fragmentation. Sometimes, revolutions become themselves suppressive, as with far left or far right ideologies in Europe, the Far East and Latin America.

Ironically, the Arab Spring affected only the nations with little economic influence in the region. If the Arab World has a list of grievances, it would be safe to assume that economic misery is atop the list, along with cultural and political factors. Involvement by foreign countries further complicates the dynamic.

How could the Arab Spring miss the Gulf countries? Why did it not sweep Lebanon? Why were the results overturned quickly in Egypt?

All of these are important questions. Many of the leaders that were overthrown in the Arab World over the last two decades, including Saddam, Gaddafi, Mubarak and Morsi deserved their fate, perhaps. But two forces plague the Middle East – robust capitalism in the Gulf and authoritarianism and sectarianism in the Levant and North Africa. This dynamic of persistent monarchism and militarized statism have together, produced disaster. But how can such polarized forces, like the two aforementioned, which are ideologically diametrically opposed, share the feature of tyranny? This forces analysis to focus on external factors.

The most crucial piece of the Arab political puzzle is the Gulf region, because economically, it preserves the economic capacity necessary for sustaining and developing the entire Middle East. Patronage and nepotism have disenfranchised the average person from the political and thus, economic processes. Religious and family bonds infiltrate policy, and result in corruption and economic misery.

The Gulf is aptly supported by America. Israel too.

Is it possible that both economic, social and political development are lagging then not only as a result of Arab tyranny, but the American involvement which secures it?

Placing the blame on external forces is an easy and common trend, particularly in the Middle East where a factual history of foreign conspiracies confirmed societal paranoias towards the US and Europe.

Both the conflicts in Iraq and Syria were US-led initiatives, really. But genuine reform in the Middle East cannot take place without reform in the crux of the puzzle – the Gulf. If violent insurgencies persist, will they eventually realize their greatest obstacle is not the enemy of the US, Assad and Iran, but rather, the enemy of the Arab World, which is the greediness which permeates the Gulf?

Advertisements

Is Islam Experiencing Its Enlightenment?


jeffersons_quran.jpg

A common theme in criticism of the Assad regime among Syrians themselves is that the government has given minorities like Alawites (Shiite offshoot), Christians and Armenians privileged statuses that surpasses those of the average Sunni Muslim, by a far margin and for long periods of time.

The majority of Syria is Sunni Muslim, and lives in either wretched poverty or stagnant economic conditions that result from rentier-policies of the government.

The argument that Syrian Sunnis participate actively in government is true. But there is a huge discrepancy in income and social status between Syrian Sunnis and Syrian Sunnis in government who adhere to the Baathist and Assadist “cult of personality”.

I would liken Shiism to Catholicism, and Sunni Islam to Protestantism, in historical relevance, as suggested by Iranian-American religious scholar Reza Aslan. Shiism is more prone to mysticism, intermediation between man and God, sainthood, and collectivism. Similarly is catholicism, particularly in France and Latin America. Sunni Islam stresses private property and individualism in politics, which is reminiscent of the Protestant “work ethic” offered by Max Weber. Furthermore, strict Sunni doctrine forbids intermediaries like saints between man and God. Both cultures are equally conservative, but in some cases, such as in Lebanon, Sunni Muslims exhibit the most liberal cultural values, both economically and socially. Perhaps this suggests that why Sunni Islamic orthodoxy is most prevalent in the Gulf Region, which holds a much more sentimental value for Islam than the Levant.

The deprivations in Syria of Sunni Muslims, in their ability to participate in politics and elevate their statuses socially and economically, reflects a similar struggle endured by minorities like Alawites themselves during previous administrations, particularly during the Ottoman period. The solution to the woes of Alawites was Socialism – because it prevented, like Ottoman times, the participation of the average Syrian Sunni. The political disenfranchisement of the majority of Syrian Sunnis over time from political representation resulted in the build up of anger, which manifested in religious radicalization. Would radicalism cease with the end of political disenfranchisement of Sunni Muslims in the Syria political process?

Is the great break which developed between Catholicism and Protestantism comparable to Shiism and Sunni tensions? The dimensions are both political and theological, as mentioned by Liz Hazleton. The theological are more obvious, with conflicts stemming from the succession crisis. But was authoritarianism and the disenfranchisement of those dissenting against the Church the motive? Perhaps not. In this case, the war in Syria is seemingly more about the problem of authoritarianism. In this regard, the Syrian civil war could be compared to the English Civil War challenging the authoritarian rule of Charles I. While Syria is not a kingdom, very few countries in the Middle East are not authoritarian. Syria is included. Could the Arab World be struggling for the same concept of “popular sovereignty” demanded by the English, and then later by the French and the Americans? Is the Islamic World experiencing its political enlightenment?

A liberalized Middle East, at least with respect to political enfranchisement and economic mobilization, might reduce terrorism. While conservatism takes hold in the Middle East, so too has conservatism challenged liberal values in the West even today. This gives hope for the future. This is not to suggest that authoritarianism is the only cause of instability, but based on this perspective, it can be convincing.

Book Review – Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics & The Great Games by Eric Walberg


51xwaajmMPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg51xwaajmMPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Walberg, Eric. Postmodern imperialism: geopolitics and the great games. SCB Distributors, 2011.

Recent history has introduced a period of heightened military conflicts, uprisings and contentions. This has resulted in many shifts in global patterns. Competitiveness between empires has intensified and further complicated the quest for understanding the global political dynamic. In his book, Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics & the Great Games, author Eric Wahlberg seeks to clear the air. The author’s main premise is to illustrate the shift from a bi-polar global dynamic, once dominated by the US on one end and the Soviet Union on the other, to a unipolar world, where the US is largely uncontested in its position as the global hegemony. Proxy wars, insurgent movements and radical militants have filled this void, which, as the author argues, has pinned the US and its main ally against anti colonial movements, Israel, against a loosely defined cooperative of movements and states, as well as a ambiguous enemy – the terrorist.

The author presents a historical backdrop from which he draws his assertions. This stretches from the earliest expression of the Great Games to their modern manifestations, as the Wars on Terror, and the neoconservative crusade for democracy. The consequence is increased exploitation of resources and the rise of untraceable insurgent networks that target their national governments as much as western societies. The double-dealings and inconsistencies of the West are evident here, which taints the reputation of western civilization. This is underscored by the author’s sympathies with the anti-capitalistic Soviet philosophical foundation.

The book is divided into five segments, organized chronologically, in which the author elaborates on the historical backdrop of the Great Game dynamic which has led to the current landscape. Wahlberg begins with the 19th century onset of the great games as played out between the British and Russian empires, followed by the communist revolution, WWII, the Cold War and the post 9/11 era. The author focuses on the British tactic of pinning forces against each other, a strategy which has been arguably adopted by the US in modern times, evidenced by its double-dealings with authoritarians and the radical insurgent movements threatening to depose them.

The three major sections in the book are categorized as GG I, II and III. GG stands for Great Games, and each numeric represents a period in time, in respective chronological order, beginning with the games as they panned out in the early 19th century, onto the WWII period, and finally, to GGIII, the post-cold war era. GGI refers to imperialism that took place during the nineteenth century until WWII. GGII covers the Cold War in which the two global superpowers, the USA and the USSR, competed for global influence.  GGIII is focused on the post-Cold War era beginning in 1989 to the present. Imperialism cannot be discussed without dissecting the role of the British Empire, a main focus of the author throughout the book. The British assumed hegemonic power by constructing a global economic network which would serve the interests of the core to the misfortune of the periphery, and where diplomacy failed, the use of military power was utilized.  The key focus of the book is the Middle East and Central Asia, “the heart of Eurasia”. It has been argued that the Eurasian heartland is a key geographic location; in other words, he who that controls the heartland controls the world.

The author suggests that in modern times, Islamic movements have replaced communism as the new anti-imperial force. The two primary agents of imperialism, argues Wahlberg, is an alliance between the US and Israel. The war on Iraq, and subsequent interventions in Libya and Egypt, are expressions of this new imperialism, and perhaps fall right into the hands of the main players in the global Great Games. The author suggests increasing tensions and growing insurgencies as a direct result of a stubborn imperial alliance between the US & Israel. Rising tensions in the Middle East and the growth of radical Islam in Central Asia are indicators of this reality. The US’ inconsistent foreign policy will only further retaliatory measures. The players of the great game must decide once and for all what is of greater priority; playing a fair game, or winning.

Bashar al-Assad Interview 2015 BBC w/ Analysis


The contradictions on behalf of Western analysts trying to rationalize their original disposition that Assad was the tyranny of the Middle East, and not for example, closer allies of the West, whom it might not be convenient to publicly expose, like Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar & the Muslim Brotherhood, in their complicity in funding terrorism, extremism & inequality in the region.

If the West intended to ask the right questions they would have asked how sure can Assad be that he has a substantial support of the Syrian population and/or diaspora?

Furthermore, their attempt to rationalize the rise of ISIS as an Assadist creation while suggesting that the West and Assad might be able to cooperate against ISIS is an inherent contradiction, a hypocrisy, which only discredits Western narratives about Middle Eastern politics even further.

It is not the duty of the West or the East to liberate the world. ISIS & terrorism from the Middle East are caused by two specific sources: Israeli fundamentalism, expansionism & colonial outposts such as the Saudi monarchy causing huge socio-economic imbalances creating a BREEDING grounds for terrorism and fanatical religious propaganda, such as Wahhabism, the essential philosophy behind all so-called muslim terrorist groups, from al Qaeda, to al Nusra & ISIS.

Remember, all of these entities need capital to survive and fight. Who is supplying them? Who is ENABLING them?

I would argue it is a coalition of two forces: the first force is more elusive because it exists in the largely free and democratic world. It is the conservative right wing. While their grip on private and public sectors remain tight, the very nature of democracy in the West forces political forces of imperial persuasions must be a little more behind the scenes. This is largely why the majority of tyrannies and injustices that exist outside of the West, have close ties with Western counties.

Terrorism and injustice cannot be prevented until their PARTICULAR roots are dissected, understood and exposed. Until then we are in a constant state of worry legitimizing these types of covert behind the scenes forms of corruption.

Danny Krikorian

Orlando, FL

Political Science – International Relations, B.A.

University of Central Florida

dannkrikorian@gmail.com

@krikos88 (T/I)

On US and Arab ‘Coalition’ Attack ISIS in Syria


1410466266600237200

It is either imperialism carving its route, or correctional measures to counter Bush’s imperialism. If Saudi & Qatar are among the sponsors of ISIS, how does this make sense? Israel is quietly involved, as usual. Some would argue Assad is more convenient for Israel, Saudi and other Arab governments – others would argue otherwise, that Assad is the anti-imperialist, anti-destabilizing force. A third perspective is that all the alternatives are culpable in tyranny, marginalizing the moderate voices of the Middle East, voices that would echo the common human qualities of freedom, dignity and fulfillment. Alliances are forged and broken within minutes in politics – what is constant is motive; which is the security of ‘arbitrary’ power. Who stands on the side of justice, and not just on vague, pretentiously ambitious political concepts?


Nations are created, carved out of nothing and formed. 

America is an example of this; a nation whose name was decided, borders were established, and whose laws were innovated then implemented.

Who is to say new nations cannot be created or carved out of old ones?

I mean, hypothetically speaking, the Middle East would look very different if it were all united as one Arab Union.

What is the need for separate countries? 

Is it about national pride and culture?

Well, is it possible to maintain all those things while establishing some sort of political-economic-social unity between Arab states that allows for a flourishing economy?

Imagine if the wealth of Saudi Arabian oil flowed normally, justly, and fruitfully into other Arab nations. This could be done democratically and still privately, so as to preserve liberal values. However, it would allow for political legitimacy, and proper redistribution of wealth. 

What negative effects would a democratic, Arab Union have on the Middle East?

Would it not outnumber Israelis, making them a minority?

It certainly would.

 

American Duty


Our duty as Americans is to understand the source of our national problems in order to improve our image as a nation and to improve relations with other nations. Our job is not to eradicate evil, but to weaken it, to stifle it, and to secure Justice. All pessimists are just unambitious lazy people who have nothing better to do than be pretentious. God bless America, save Palestine, and free the world from the ignorance of injustice.