The Struggle for Sovereignty in the Middle East


 

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There are numbers floating around regarding the relatively low amount of terrorist incidents committed by Islamic radicals.

Still, two points can be brought up.

Instability is uniquely inherent to the Middle East; and anti-Americanism is common in the Islamic World.

Perhaps these two characteristics of the Islamic World coupled with the increase in radicalized Islamic terrorist incidents (after 2003) could be explained as the products of humiliation .

Fanaticism is denounced by most Muslims.

But even ordinary Muslims, like for example in Iran, feel a sense of betrayal from the US with regards to sovereignty that is seen as the cause of extremism in the first place.

Since Islamic terrorism didn’t surge until after the War in Iraq, their claims seem to exhibit some validity .

The implication here is that, more respect for sovereignty might reduce the impetus for radicalization, and thus terror.

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Is Saudi Arabia Next?


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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?

Is Islam Experiencing Its Enlightenment?


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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.

Does Democracy Hurt the Arabs?


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We long for an Arab glory that has not existed for some time. We have been swept under the rug by nouveau riche politicians and faux-pas muslims trafficking in our religion. Institutional madness has convinced our people that western customs are our own. What happened? Aside from military domination, we have lost our unity, as an Arab people.

If we regard the Arab nation as one – not necessarily ignoring cultural and linguistic distinctions or political borders but, at least, in terms of political, social and economic unity – then we can argue that Israel is an apartheid state in the Arab World.

Furthermore, the Arabs are a linguistic group. This makes them less ideological or religious in political nature than the Israelis. But since the establishment of Israel and subsequent post-colonial occupations of the Middle East and Arab World by foreign powers, namely the US, violence and extremism have become the norm.

Discrimination in Israel against Palestinians and Arabs is evident too.

The arbitrary creation of Israel, violating Arab self-determination and sovereignty, must be considered the root cause of instability and extremism in the region.

Israel’s creation was a mere continuation of European colonialism. How can we discuss a “democratic” Israel which suppresses not only Arab Jews and Palestinians in the remaining territories, but a country built out of ignorance of Arab self-determination. The disaster created by WWII certainly posed a dilemma for Jews, but do two wrongs make a right?

American incursions in the ME are too continuations of the relentless superiority complex of the West in global politics. Unable to contain itself, western democracy is spreading its tentacles around the globe.

Democracy works in the West. It doesn’t in the Far or Near (Middle) East. That’s due to culture. It doesn’t imply democracy is wrong, but rather it is not absolute or universal. In other words, neoconservatism is defunct. Democracy must contain expansive ambitions otherwise it can function as an imperial agent.

What we must recognize is the following. Democracy won’t solve the Middle East as much as has yet to solve the problem for minorities in the West. We assume two things, that democracy is superior, and that it is applicable to the Middle East, and that the Arab World needs democracy to solve its instability. On the contrary, the legacy of democracy is an entrenched colonialism. The Arab World is struggling for unity against foreign interventionism. It, the Arab nation, must set aside its religious differences, at least for the sake of preserving peace. Borders and customs must be respected, but the Arab nation must be united in the face of foreign hegemonies claiming we need them or their policing.

That goes for America and Israel.

Democracy versus Republicanism


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I have spent day and night verifying the perfect political system; one that guarantees men their individual freedoms, their collective rights and global stability.

The menaces of fanatical ideologies have swept over human civilization since the dawn of mankind.

Individuals have been struggling to preserve their individual identity, and countries have struggled to protect their sovereignty due to the threat of fanaticism and its manipulative tendencies.

Ultimately, democracy is the ideal government. It is the will of the individual protected by the common values of the collective.

Fanaticism, the anti-peace, the anti-individual, the anti-collective, manifests itself on all ends of the political spectrum, spanning all corners of ideological persuasions, including some of the most deceiving.

Often times these fanatical ideologies have a religious foundation, such as with Zionism, Wahhabism. Other times, they are proudly irreligious, such as with Communism. However while all fanatical ideologies wear different masks; underneath all the propaganda and fear-mongering, they all share the same face, and they are all the very antithesis of democracy, universal equality, prosperity and happiness.

The aim of the established elite in western countries, namely America, is to intimidate the lower classes with the propagation of fear and ideological fanaticism. In America, we are taught that Republicans are the true American patriots. We are indoctrinated to believe that Republicanism is the face of America, and that democracy, monotheism, equality and true free enterprise is only possible if we put our trust in the Republican creed.

But the face of America is not just white. It is not just Christian either. This country was founded on principles of universal equality, and by definition, Republicanism is the very antithesis of that doctrine.

Republicans have gone out of their way to portray every enemy of their ideology as an enemy of ‘freedom’, when in reality, it is Republicans who funnel their money into campaigns and projects with the aim of propagating religious dogma. If we dig even deeper, we’ll see that some of the biggest heads of the GOP, such as Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush, have their investments in non-democratic entities, such as the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Emirates, Qatar, Lebanon, Israel & non-state actors like ISIS, al Qaeda, etc.

Republicans are enjoying the fruits of democracy while corroborating with dictators, terrorists and political criminals abroad. They do so by portraying all enemies of America as freedom-stealing fanatics. The irony. The fanatics, ISIS & al Qaeda, work for American Republicans. They are in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Egypt right now, propagating Wahhabism, Salafism and other extremist takes on Islam in order to destablize the region and put various resources under the auspices of Western elites. I will not dismiss the culpability of Eastern elites either, who likely cooperate with the West, such as Russia & China.

The irony is that Syria, unlike America’s arab allies, Saudi Arabia & Qatar, is a secular democratic state that elects its leaders. The majority of Syria, likely to this day, remains loyal to Assad and the current government.

What the Western elites and their cohorts are trying to do is not original – it is a tactic they use right at home on their own people in attempt to distort democracy. It is a combination of gerrymandering, gentrification, and disenfranchisement.

The tactic is to propagate an ideology and to spread paranoia through the region. This is done by appealing to individuals in the region who are mentally unstable and socio-economically insecure. Unaware of the source of their misery, which is as much due to ignorance as it is to the poor living conditions that result from imperialism and colonial suppression, namely from the Israeli-Gulf axis, they fall prey to a false promise of security, power and fulfillment.

All in all, since America is a democracy – a struggling one at that – the last resort of elitist minded individuals in such a political structure is to portray its enemies as non-democratic. However the irony is that America is itself struggling to be democratic, with wealth concentration in the top tier and a social system that disenfranchises african-americans as well as immigrants. As America struggles to free itself from the shackles of republican dogma, so to does the rest of the world.

Many people still want to point their finger at Obama. That is just playing into their hands. Obama is our president, but remember, the real power doesn’t lie in his hands. The real power is in the hands of the corporate executives of big oil and big banks, who dictate the financial affairs of the entire world.

Furthermore, criticism of America should be more directed. Instead of attacking the country whose image we seek to improve, scrutiny should target the group of individuals responsible for holding us back. History tells me those people are Republican elitists who do not acknowledge the human rights of anyone but themselves.

Syria’s Assad is not the cause of Middle Eastern instability. The problem is fanaticism – the very antithesis of democracy, individualism and peace.

On Obama & ISIS


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Most political critics won’t even hold an opinion anymore – they prefer to hold grudges. All the modern Middle Eastern conflicts could bend in the direction of justice today and yet it is almost as if they’d be disappointed – they’d have nothing left to criticize. It is one thing to constructively criticize a political tyrant – it is another thing to criticize whatever you feel like criticizing for your own agenda.

Obama is attacking ISIS. Why is that a bad thing? Because Bush did it? Remember guys – Bush is a conservative. His motive was different. His tactic was different. His execution was different. Stop generalizing.

Saudi Arabia might be a hub for fundamentalism. So is America – Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, to name a few (who are politically influential).

Ultimately can we always blame Arab governments (and government in general) for the choice of their constituents to rise in ideologically fanatical insurgency? Is it not individual choice that lead to the rise of groups like ISIS? But what unit of measure do you perceive the world by – the individual, or else?

On US and Arab ‘Coalition’ Attack ISIS in Syria


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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?