Saturday, December 4, 2010

Abbas threatens to dissolve PA

Abbas threatens to dissolve the PA if peace talks fail again. I personally think its a bluff to pressure Israeli's back into a talk. If in the case that the PA is dissolved, Israel would have to assume military control of 2.2 million Palestinians in the West Bank.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Islamic Banking softens the effects of the global rescission in the Gulf

While writing my paper, I came across couple articles that argue that Islamic banking in the GCC shielded their economies to a certain extent from the full brunt of a global financial meltdown. Islamic banking, has different regulations, such as: “asset-backed and no-interest investments and prohibiting dealing in activities that Islam deems unlawful.” And now it’s growing in popularity. Keep in mind though a global recession reduces the demand for oil, which is the majority of exports for most GCC states, except for Emirates and Kuwait who have diversified their economies, from just relying on oil exports.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Peace Maker Assignment

I think the game peacemaker is very useful tool that allows individuals to understand the complex political nature of Israel and Palestinian Authority. After playing as Prime Minister on both sides I really learned how hard it must be to come to agree on staring negotiations. As prime minster you have to really juggle different interests, in some cases extreme ones like Hamas and the Yesha. I started off by playing as the Palestinian Prime minister and failed the first two times. I played on the tense level setting for both as Israeli PM and Palestinian PM.

I started off the game as the Palestinian Prime Minister and quickly started the third Intifada. Then I decided on a strategy of to negate or reduce the political sway of Hamas by funding social services like health care and education. Sounded like a good plan until I realized that I needed to get funding from the UN, US, EU, the Arab states or Israel, and it was difficult get funding sometimes. Another strategy that I attempted to use was to use the least amount of force as possible, so I would send police officers but just to patrol. Of course when I did get funding I would fund different education, health care, infrastructure programs. In addition to all that I would also try to pressure Israel from a third party such as Jordan or the UN. Some how I managed to reach a peace agreement, I was pretty happy! At the end it said I had an average violence score of 67. That kind of reminded me of what we had discussed in class that to reach a peace agreement both sides need to feel the pressure to push forward the negotiations.

Playing as the Israeli Prime Minister was far more difficult. I read someone else’s post saying that it was really easy, i’m not sure how. But there were so many more ways to respond to an incident. The biggest problem I had was figuring out a way to keep both sides happy. I felt like it was just impossible for me to find a way to increase points on both sides. I played several games and it swirled out of control into the third intifada. So at the start of my like 7th game I decided to build new settlements that increased my score on the Israeli side by only +8 while that dropped my score on the Palestinian side to -71. After the violence started I felt like I couldn't find anything at all to make the Palestinians happy, If I attempted to give aid it wouldn’t pass or the Palestinians would just respond by saying maybe Israeli shouldn’t use violence. After trying to play as the Israeli PM for like 10 times I gave up. I came out of the game feeling like it would be impossible to satisfy the wide spectrum of Israelis. This reminded me how we had discussed that most government in Israeli are made up of coalitions.

All in all I think the game is a great learning tool, allows people to really understand how difficult it is to maneuver towards a peace agreement.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Netanyahu pushes for Building in Jerusalem

I totally agree with President Obama's comments on how this decision will complicate peace negotiations in the future. Decisions like these make me wonder, what the real motives of Israeli politicians are. In the article it says the decision came at this time because of bureaucracy. Decisions like these make me wonder if Israeli really wants peace.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nasser's Vietnam, Rise of Saudi Arabia?

I lived in Yemen from 1997-2000, and since then I’ve had a special interest in Yemen. I think, the early exposure to Yemen is a factor that has continued my interested in the Middle East. Except for the occasional mention of Yemen in relations to the growing al-Qaeda activity and terrorist plots like the USS Cole bombing in 2000, there is really no media coverage of what is occurring in Yemen. Recently, the situation in Yemen has become really dangerous. Earlier this year the United States decided to close their embassy because of security reasons. Yemen is currently facing two separatist movements, one in the North (The Houthis) and in the South. Yemen is an amazingly beautiful country. I’m kind of disappointed that I didn’t really appreciate the history of Yemen when I was there, in my defense I was only 8 years old. I feel like some of the places in Yemen have not changed for centuries, like Bab al-Yemen (Yemen Gate) is more than 2,500 years old. Its an old fortress city, you enter through these gates. But inside except for the sporadic Toyota pickup trucks loaded with goods. This old city is criss-crossed with narrow alleyways and hundreds of old shops. The specie suq looks/feels like nothing has changed since the 15th century. Not to mention how everyone stuffs their checks with Khat. But what I want discuss in this blog is the North Yemen Civil War from 1962 to 1970, and its ramifications for Nasser and Egypt in relation to the power struggle with Saudi Arabia. It seems like the North Yemen civil war was a foreshadowing of the power shift that was to occur in the 70s.

Essentially there are four main players:

1) There are the Royalists who controlled Northern Yemen for thousands of years, under an Imam. They happen to be a part of a branch of Shiia Islam (Zaidi). Zaidis are generally considered moderate in their stance and similar to Sunni Islam; their jurisprudence is quite similar to the Hanafi School.

2) Saudi Arabia and Jordan supported the Royalists throughout the conflict, and eventually the United States gets involved, minimally. Saudi Arabia provided the Royalists with military aid, weapons and ammunition.

3) Egypt was supporting what would become the Yemen Arab Republic. Individuals inspired by Nasser and the UAR (United Arab Republic) lead a coup in 1962 that overthrew the Imamate (the Royalists). The Soviet Union would also become involved in supporting Egypt during the war.

4) Southern Yemen or the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) was controlled by the British until 1969. But groups like Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY) and the National Front (NF) were fighting the British for independence. The British supported the Royalists and the Saudis against the republicans and the Egyptians.

I also came across a really interesting character named Bruce Conde served in the U.S. army in North Africa during World War two. However, what makes him interesting is that he was pen pals with Muhammad al-Badr who was the Imam’s son (Royalists). Conde as a child used to collect stamps and he wrote to the Imam at the time to send him local postage stamps for his collection. Conde spent a lot of time in the Middle East traveling and learning Arabic. In 1962 he went back to Yemen where he renounced his American citizenship, converted to Islam and became a General in the Royalist resistance. Conde sounds kind of crazy, he was trying to trace his family linage to the moors in Spain and some how make it seem as though he was actually an Arab. He ends up dying in Morocco, without any citizenship. Seems like an interesting guy.


In 1832 the British East India Company established a coaling station in the port of Aden for ships traveling to India. India was the crown jewel for the British and a lot of British motives in the Middle East were driven by their need to have secure trade paths to India. 1839 Aden became a protectorate, in order to reduce the amount of piracy in that region. The Ottomans and the British established a border in 1904. Under the Aden protectorate there were several different tribes that ruled, under the British.

The collapse of the Ottoman Empire leads to the creation of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen (North Yemen) in 1918. This area was ruled about the Shiite Muslims, the Zaydi. The Ottomans had pretty much retreated from Yemen in 1913, shortly before World War I. In 1926 Imam Yahya proclaimed himself the king of the Mutawakkliite kingdom of Yemen. Yahay did not recognize Southern Yemen as controlled by the British. He was killed in 1948 during a coup and was replaced by his son Ahmad bin Yahya. Ahamad Bin Yahya’s son Muhammad Al-Badr became the king in September 16th in 1962, and would be the leader of the Royalist resistance against Republicans and Egyptians.


The coup occurs in September 1962, the Republicans deposed the King Muhammad al-Badr. The ironic thing is that al-Badr was a fan of Nasser and had hoped to develop good relations with Egypt to help Yemen modernize. However Egypt was already funding the Republicans to overthrow his government. The first nation to recognize new Republic was the Soviet Union they also claimed “Any act of aggression against Yemen will be considered an act of aggression against the Soviet Union." Latter on Southern Yemen would cultivate a good relationship with the Soviet Union.

Al-Badr’s father Imam Ahmad was also influenced by Nasser and in April 1958 he singed a defense pact with Egypt in which Yemen became part of the United Arab Republic unlike Syria, it became part of what was known as the United Arab States which included Syria and the Mutawakklite kingdom of Yemen but this was considered a confederation (Yemen retained it’s sovereignty over it’s land, unlike Syria)


The Egyptians:
After 1956, Nasser was really popular and he became the president of Egypt and Syria, under the UAR. He started to crackdown on Syrian communists and opponents of the union. He filled a lot of the political roles with Egyptians. This created was strong resistance to the Union in Syria; Syrian Bedouin were funded by Saudi Arabia to fight off Nasser.

As Nasser started to realize the collapse of the UAR, he pushed for Yemen to be part of the Union. Nasser had always disliked British involvement in Aden, and also wanted to secure the entire length of the Red Sea. He was sure that a short engagement with the Royalists would quickly help establish the Republicans in Yemen. He might have also been bitter about the quick dissolution of the UAR, and Saudi royals funding the resistance in Syria.

The British:
In response to Egypt accepting Yemen into the UAS, the British in 1959 quickly formed the Federation of Arab Emirates of the South, which consisted of the several tribes in Aden. 1963 the British pushed for all of Aden to become a large nation called the Federation of South Arabia. The British also wanted to keep a foothold in the Region.

The Saudis:
Saudi Arabia funded the Royalists because of their fear of the spread of war into Saudi Arabia and the eventual take over of their oil fields; King Hussein of Jordan also shared this fear.

The Americans:
The United States were concerned more about the grand scheme of things. Nasser was part of the non-aligned movement but after the 1956 Suez crisis it was clear he was playing both sides. John F Kennedy tried to negotiate with all the parties involved, except Nasser said he would pullout only if Saudi Arabia stopped support for the Royalists. The United States flew jets over Riyadh and Jeddha multiple times to show U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, and to threaten Egypt. The United States eventually does recognize the YAR in December 19th 1962.

Operation Hard Surface (drafted by McGeorge Bundy and Robert Komer) was to trade American protection (or the appearance of it) for a Saudi commitment to halt aid to the royalists, on the basis of which the Americans would get Nasser to withdraw his troop from Yemen.‬ However this plan was not accepted by King Faisal.

The war was very costly for the Egyptians. Until 1967 Nasser made comments like "we will stay in Yemen for 20 years if necessary.” However, the Egyptians were really feeling the pinch. By 1964 Egypt had 50,000 troops in Yemen. He had initially thought that the operation would have only taken 3 months but it dragged on for 5 years. Egypt had run up a foreign debt of $3 billion dollars. By 1964, Egyptian casualties had reached over 10,000 troops. The start of the six-day War Nasser was required to pull back 15,000 troops from Yemen. There were several conferences between Faisal (king of Saudi Arabia) and Nasser, they would result in an agreement on withdrawal but the conflict continued. Saudi Arabia slowly started to stop supporting the Royalists, because the Egyptians just could not handle funding the Republicans anymore. The war finally ended in 1970 where the Republicans took over and “integrated” the Royalists. The British left Southern Yemen. Then the talks about unification between North and South Yemen began. It was not till 1978 that we see Ali Abdullah Saleh gain power (ironically he also he a shiia Zadi). By the way he "democratically elected" and he's been president since 1978. There also a civil war in 1994 between North Yemen and South.

Yemen never really became unified. Southern Yemen was very much influenced by the British. Aden and other cities in the South used to have higher literacy rates less tribalism as compared to the North. The two regions almost seem to have two different cultures. This is an interesting article that looks at the southern sectionalist movement

Its kind of Ironic that right now Saudi Arabia bombs and kills Houthis in Northern Yemen but these were the same people Saudi Arabia funded during the North Yemen Civil war. This article looks at the current situation with Houthis in Yemen.

It was interesting to do this research after today’s class because it made it seen as though that Yemen became the country that suffered because of the conflict between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Professor Webb said that one of the large changes of the 70s in the Middle East was that shift of power from Cairo to Riyadh. It seems the North Yemen Civil war was a testing ground for both countries, maybe a precursor to what was to come as Saudi Arabia’s ascension to power.

An interesting book, but hard to find is Yemen The Unknown War – Dana Adams Schmidt. It has a lot of first hand accounts from Bruce Conde.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

IIan Pappe Ethnic cleansing in Palestine 1948

This is a really interesting video where Iian Pappe who is a professor at the college of Social Science and International Studies at the University of Exeter in England. He argues that the word "Nakba" does not do justice to what happened in 1948 to the Palestinians, he calls it ethnic cleansing and the man who was the architect of this policy was David Ben-Gurion. This is seems like a very controversial perspective on the topic.

Iran Reaching out to its Neighbor

This NYtimes article talks about Iran's influence on Karzai and the Afgan government. I've heard allegations of massive amounts of corruption and funding of the opium trade etc. But I was shocked to know that Iran just sends millions of dollars to Karzai and his cabinet routinely. There is no question that Iran is trying to increase it's influence in Afghanistan and undermine American and NATO activities. I know in the past when the United States pressured Karzai for reforms he has responded by trying to establish stronger trade relations with Russia (for arms.) I think a lot of the problems Afghanistan is facing or in terms of implementing new policies are rooted in bad leadership. I think the United States had hoped Karzai would be a good puppet however he has turned out to be more like rebellious teenager. I don't think I have to mention the 2009 elections, where there were thousands of allegations of fraud and poor security at voting booths and intimidation. Is Afghanistan also turning into another Middle Eastern regime?
Why is it so hard to find leaders that are truly concerned about their country and their people. This is all to reminiscent of Nepali politics, of course not to the same extent but in terms of leaders lacking any sense of responsibility towards the people.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Afghanistan a big mess?

Every time I read an article on Afghanistan on nytimes or any other site I’m just left so confused as to what U.S. and NATO troops are doing in Afghanistan. I probably do not know all the nitty gritty details of the all the operations but all I hear is Marjah, Kandahar etc. In this article I read there is comment made by General Carter that says “Afghans will tell you, if you have a peaceful Kandahar, you will have a peaceful Afghanistan.” The General follows that comment up by saying “well only time will tell.” But I feel like the U.S. lacks strategy and goals in Afghanistan. Except for the surge of 30,000 troops ordered by Obama last year to overwhelm the Taliban I haven’t heard of a strategy. I also remember some criticisms of the surge approach, just because it worked in Iraq doesn’t mean it’ll work in Afghanistan and that the situation in Afghanistan is far more complicated. It’s not just Sunni, Shia and Kurds we are dealing with. Then there is the problem of Pakistan and the supposed assistance Taliban receives from the ISI. I wonder if the United States should resort to what Professor Luttwak said the Byzantines might have done if they were in the U.S’s shoes, just arm all the ethnic groups and play all sides and let them fight it out.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blogs the New Coffee Houses? Can it bring political change to the Middle East?

Blogs the New Coffee Houses? Can it bring political change to the Middle East?

The most recent example of the use of the internet and social networking sites would be the Green Revolution in protest surrounding the 2009 presidential elections in Iran. Tweeter was used a way to organize and broadcast instant information and to publicize photos and pictures of clashes between protestors and police.The Iranian government quickly realized the effectiveness of social networking sites and shut down the internet in response to a Ddos (where a lot of computer request to see the site) attack against President Ahamadenjaid’s website. However I will be looking at a more nascent approach to political change, blogging. I read this article on blogging and the author (Marc Lynch) seems to see a lot of potential in blogging as medium of change and to voice concerns that have never been heard in the Middle East (Some of the figures might be dated the article was written in 2007.) However he is hesitant to claim that blogging is the harbinger of Democracy in the Middle East. He references couple examples of how blogging has allowed for publicity of election fraud and other illegal political activities that are known of but is never brought to light by the mainstream media in the Middle East.
The author looks at several different factors that influence the effectiveness of blogging as a medium to influence politics in the Middle East. He first examines who are the bloggers and how many are there. He states that there are 19 million Arabs internet users and they are generally found in urban areas normally part of the youth population. There is some controversy over the exact figure of how many political blogs there actually are figures seem to run from 43600- to a couple thousand. Lynch brings up a good point in that a very small percentage of these blog posts are actually in Arabic. This makes it seem as though the primary audience might be the west (but now there are a growing number of Arabic blogs.) The number of Jihadi and Muslim Brother Hood sites and blogs are growing too. Another problem with blogs is that it isn’t mainstream media not everyone has accesses to this information, and on top of that there are Aggregator that filter and choose not to include certain types of blogs. Not to mention the filtering of sites done by the government.
Blogs have now started to gain more influence in mainstream media with such things as “Blogs: the new opposition voice in Arab politics” a segment on Al-Jazeera network. Egyptian newspapers have started to refer to certain blogs for information. There are conservative American NGOs that create “Arabic-language blog platform which "gives voices to those working for freedom and democracy in the Arab world... and enables them to easily connect and share ideas with their peers.” Seems like an idea that might backfire, as Lynch says who knows who might use the blog for what purposes. Blogs seem to be gaining traction as a new medium to exchange ideas. However as we saw in Iran it is easily shut down or filtered. We have seen that governments are filtering or blocking certain sites. Such is the case in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Kuwait. This reminds me of the article we had to read by Edward Said’s “Enemies of the State” where he references the case of Egyptian-American intellectual Saadeddin Ibrahim and his illegitimate imprisonment, for his views on normalization with Israel. His point is that all peoples of the Arab world should take responsibility for the power abuses acted by the authoritarian governments. Blogging seems to be that avenue Arabs can use to make Arab leaders accountable. (If the government doesn’t hunt you down and arrests you, I feel like blogging is like a step removed from writing an article in the newspaper and people feel secure in voicing their criticisms of the government and there’s more anonymity.)
The Authors breaks down blogging into three large categories: Activists, Brides and Public Spheres. Activists are those individuals who are directly involved in a political movement who want to organize and disseminate information. These blogs try to organize transnational operations such as the boycott of Danish products. According to the Author the Kefaya movement began in the summer of 2004 and by 2005 the movement grew to have a large internet presence with over 1500 Egyptian bloggers. He uses the example of the May 2005 protest in which bloggers organized a protest of about 100 people and they were met with thousands of “hired thugs and riot police who roughed up peaceful protestors.” He uses the examples of Kefaya movement and how it turned elections in Egypt into a “tense drama,” and the Bahraini bloggers shed light on the shutdown of human-rights organizations into a political cause. The Bridgebloggers are those individuals who want to address the west and to explain their society and cultures. Bridgboggers try to cut through the stereotyped understanding of the Middle East, Arabs and Islam. And finally the public-sphere bloggers are those individuals who are not involved in a specific political movement but have some kind of strife against a domestic issue. The importance of public-sphere bloggers is that it “shows political engagement by Arab citizens,” which is important.
So what does all this mean? I hope it means that blogging has become a forum for free thought in the Middle East that will allow for unrestrained expression which will lead Arab leaders become more accountable to their actions. Maybe, blogging can become the alternative to the sate run news providers. However I don’t think that’s the case, again blogging and internet accesses are limited to a small portion of the Arab population and it hasn’t become part of mainstream media, blogging sites and social networking sites are easily filtered or blocked. But hopefully blogging will gain more momentum and bring political change.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nuclear Optimist: Iran

Kenneth Waltz is a prominent supporter of the nuclear optimist concept. I recently read the debate between Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth Waltz about the need for nuclear weapons. So I wanted use Waltz’s arguments for nuclear weapons in relation to the situation in Iran.

Waltz’s central point in the concept of nuclear optimism is that deterrence works and will always work. Evidence of such claims would be that no two nations have used nuclear weapons during war. We have never had a nuclear war. Deterrence works because both countries have second-strike capabilities, which ensures Mutually Assured Destruction. Waltz uses the case of the Kargil war, where Pakistan troops infiltrated into Indian controlled Kashmir, but the reason the war didn’t escalate was because both nations had nuclear weapons. Indian tested their first nuclear bomb in 1974 and Pakistan in 1998.

There are a couple things I did not understand, If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, It’s only going to have enriched enough uranium for one or two bombs. The deliver device used to strike might only be able to strike Israel or Turkey. In that case is there deterrence between the United States and Iran? There is obviously deterrence between Israel and Iran. But can you have deterrence without MAD? If the United States extended it’s nuclear defense umbrella over the Arabian Peninsula then the United States and Iran would have deterrence, because in the case that Iran fired a nuclear weapon at Riyadh then the United States has the ability to strike back at Iran with nuclear weapons.

Deterrence requires both nations to be rational actors. From what we see in the media President Ahmadinejad looks like a nut case, from his speeches’ at the UN to his denial of the holocaust. Most people claim that the Soviet Union was a rational actor but this is just a historical revisionist conception of history. We don’t have to look too far back to think of Kruschev and his shoe-banging incident. Kruschev also said, “we will bury you” (you referring the United States) in 1956. Mao also said something to the extent, of “Nuclear war with the United States wouldn’t be so bad, at lest the rest of the world would become socialist.” Now if we think about it, these comments and actions are not too different from Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez. Bottom line is that those nations who acquire nuclear weapons always function with causation. The USSR was no more rational then current day Iran.

Non-State actors, one of the fears of all nations is that Iran might give nuclear weapons to Hezbollah. But why? Iran just invested so much time and money to create this weapon, why would they limit their control of the weapon by giving it to an organization. As waltz says why would any nation give away the “crown jewel?” The reason behind Iran’s desire to acquire nuclear weapons comes from its insecurities and the fear of United States. The United States attacked Afghanistan and then took over Iraq after calling it a part of the axis of evil. Iran feels insecure and wants some kind of assured deterrence against the United States. So it’s kind of strange to think that Iran might give away nuclear weapons. And in the case of theft or the possibility of theft the United States should really reach out and say “you can have the weapons” but we are going to help you secure all your sites so there is no theft.

The world can never reach a point where there is zero nuclear weapons or materials. After the USSR collapsed a lot of nuclear material was lost from Eastern Europe. We have no idea where this material is or who has it. As Waltz says “this is the most dangerous of situations,” if all nations disarm and we latter realize that one nation was lying or was hiding their nuclear arsenal, then there would be a sudden rush to rearm again.

What should the United States do in terms of Iran and nuclear weapons? The United States should do nothing because deterrence always works, and will work. If anything the United States should extend their deference umbrella to include Saudi Arabia.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Today the President of Iran Mahmoud Ahamadinejad visited southern Lebanon, where he praised Hezbollah and for there activates. He gave a fiery speech in the border town of Bint Jbail, which was damaged by the 2006 war with Israel. Iran funded a lot the rebuilding in southern Lebanon after the 2006 war. Hezbollah gained a lot of creditability after the 2006 war, and bridged the sectarian gap, in terms of support.

So how did this relationship between Iran and Southern Lebanon develop? It initially began during the regime of Ismail I in the Safavid Empire (out of all the empires in the world, I have grown to have an affinity towards the Safavids.) Ismail pretty much forced everyone to become Shia, from what I can remember there were some Ismailis in Persia (strangely enough a lot of the Muslims in Tanzania and Zanzibar are Ismaili, I know there are a lot of Ismaili’s in India and Zanzibar was a huge port city back in day so that might have influenced it.) Back to the Safavids, Ismail I imported Shia Scholars from Lebanon, which was the hub for shiism at that time. I would love to do more research on how that relationship was kept alive and now has come to the point where Iran is now helping Lebanon rebuild and offering military aid, its interesting to see how things have reversed. The founders of Hezbollah were inspired by Ayatollah Khomeini, which began in the late 80s as a response to Israel’s presence in Southern Lebanon. Hezbollah now has turned into a social service provider, funding hospitals and schools and also functions as a paramilitary group. I was kind of disappointed that Ahamadinejad decided not to throw that rock. I’m not sure why but that reminded me of Kruschev and his shoe-banging incident, maybe because both incidents are so absurd.

Monday, October 4, 2010

EU's Influence on Turkey's Constitutional Referendum

How much of MENA region’s politics and economics are still determined by outside (western) powers, and in what ways?
How could the asymmetries of flows in capital, labor, goods, and services be adjusted?

The first thing that popped into my head when thinking about this question was Turkey and the recent constitutional changes. Turkey was recognized as a suitable candidate for full membership in the European Union in 1999. Turkey’s bid to become a EU member state has been a long and drawn out processes starting in 1959, when it applied to be associate member in the European Economic Community. I’ve always found Turkey interesting in that it’s been a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. What was phrased as the Eastern Question by Western Europe, in relation to eventual decay and fragmentation of the Ottoman Empire still seems to live on. Quite Ironically the Eastern Question now has become should Western Europe allow the 15th largest GDP-PPP into the EU.

The treaty of Balta Liman is consider by some to have opened and integrated the Ottoman economy into the global market. Capitulations were bi-lateral trade agreements in which the Ottoman Empire removed tariffs and regulations; the Treaty of Balta Liman gave British traders exclusive accesses to Ottoman goods. Coincidentally David Cameron the British Prime Minister has been pushing for Turkey’s accession as a EU member state. I find this situation kind of analogues to the past with capitulations. I don’t think anyone has to look to far into history to find evidence of western intervention into the Middle East. But I think Turkey is still struggling with its identity sandwiched between two continents.

The constitutional referendum was amended to satisfy requirements for Turkey’s acceptance into the EU. One of the major changes within the constitution shifts power away from the Judiciary and military to the Executive and Legislative. However there are those who say the pendulum as swung too far in the other direction, and this has laid the groundwork for a power grab by the executive. President Obama congratulated Prime Minster Erdogan on the “vibrancy of Turkey’s democracy.” They’re also those who are worried about the Islamic roots of the Justice and Development Party and how this could be the beginning of the end of secularism in Turkey.

The majority of the opposition to Turkey’s accession into EU comes from Germany, Austria and France. President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 stated “enlarging Europe with no limit risks destroying European political union, and that I do not accept...I want to say that Europe must give itself borders.” I find it interesting that its still a matter of borders and where Europe ends and where the East begins. Mr. Cameron recently said that “Turkey’s accession fell into three categories: protectionists who see its economic power as a threat, “the polarized” who think that Turks should choose between East and West, and the prejudiced who misunderstand Islam.” I agree with all his points that it’s still a matter of drawing that border between where east and west is, and also after 9/11 the fear of Islam and terrorism. In the case of France, they already have a problem with North African immigrants, while Germany already hosts a large Turkish population. But to come back to the main point of how the west still influences the Middle East, turkey essentially amended its constitution to accommodate to EU requirements.

There is also the problem of Cyprus, and how that situation should be handled if Turkey joins the EU. I personally don’t think the EU will accept Turkey as a member sate any time soon. I think it’s a slow process in which Turkey essentially has to prove itself to Western Europe. I had recently found an interesting article on how Turkey is soon to join the European electric grid. As Turkey slowly becomes more integrated with Europe it will eventually change the asymmetries of flows in capital, labor, goods, and services.

Friday, October 1, 2010

South Asian Migrant Workers

I would say I have had the great opportunity to see first hand the amount of migrant workers in Doha and Dubai but I’ve have also been able to see how this phenomenon has ravaged Nepali in terms of demographic changes caused by men leaving to work in the Gulf States. It has also sustained Nepal’s economy through 10 years of civil war. Over the Summer I went trekking in Northwest Nepal and it really opened my eyes to how pervasive this phenomena is. Literally every village that I came across had a large portion of their male youth population working in the Gulf, Korea or Malaysia. I heard numerous stories of abuse and dreadful living conditions.

One of the most disturbing stories I heard was from a man from Kagbeni. He had recently returned from Saudi Arabia six months ago. He told me that he was promised a job in Qatar, but first had to travel to Delhi to get papers. He realized quickly it was all a scam, while in Delhi he was asked for thousands of more rupees to just travel to Qatar. After selling his land in Nepal, he had enough money to travel. He started working at a factory where he stood in front of a furnace all day, poured some chemical substance or something into buckets. He decided to leave the job (I’m not sure how) encouraged by his friends in Saudi Arabia; he found a job at a Sheik’s house. The Sheik would ask him and two other workers to bathe him. He quit the job after 3 days. After he quit the sheik job he started working illegally, therefore the employers had no legal pressure in paying him on time or the promised amount. After a year of working he had decided to send his money back to Nepal, however his employer (I didn’t understand this part of the story too well) set him up and the police arrested him. While being arrested, they also beat him with batons. He had to spend a year in prison where he said he had to fight for food and he clean the clothes of other inmates. He arrived in Kathmandu still wearing his prison clothes, and no money. I have no idea how accurate the story is (assuming somethings might have been exaggerated) however I came across similar stories multiple times, but not to the same extent. I don’t live in Nepal but I’ve heard numerous other stories of terrible working conditions etc. In this case he did work illegal and there was some wrong doing on his part but I don’t think he should have been arrested, beaten, and his money confiscated. I think he should have just been deported.

A Dickson alum recently wrote an article on migrant workers and remittance in Nepal:

I also found an interesting website that lists incidents of migrant worker abuse and news pertaining to the topic:

This is an interesting video where a Saudi representative discusses the topic of sponsorship with a Human Rights Watch representative. Majority of the information we have on abuses comes from Human Rights Watch reports:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ineffective Sanctions

Since August of 2008 Iran has denied IAEA inspectors entrance into Iran. The UN, three months ago approved the 4th round of sanctions against Iran's nuclear program. The sanctions target funds and trade done by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, who controls the nuclear program. After the sanctions were passed Ahmadinejad commented that sanctions are nothing but "annoying flies." But it seems that Iran has not waivered to the harshest sanctions enacted. I read a wall street journal article that discusses how about 8.44 billion dollars was sent to Iran from U.A.E. banks as remittance. It’s no surprise that Iran hasn’t felt any kind of economic stress, with so much money coming in through remittance.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Satellite Television

My Arabic Media Professor sent us a link about how Arabia media has changed as result of Satellite television. How the number of satellite television channels has grown to include channels that air attacks on collation troops in Iraq such as (Al-Zawraa TV). Most people when they think of Arabia media or satellite televsion think of Al Jazeera but now channels like Al-Mansar who are affiliated with Hezbollah are growing in popularity.

In the past television stations were associated with national boundaries and the government put its own spin on things. But now with the use of Satellite television which can be broadcast to the world regardless of national boundaries, its easier for people in the Middle East to receive different perspectives and understandings. The link that my professor sent was a essay piece by Lawrence Pintak He uses the Cedar revolution as an example of television media to rally people and organize which eventually helped in the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. I don't know too much about him or his background on this topic.

He also looks at if the emergences of these different independent satellite television stations help democratize the Middle East, or allow more freedom to journalists.
He presents some interesting ideas such as how Arabs now can in some ways involve themselves in a democratic processes by voting on reality TV shows etc. But then he also presents a counter argument that "As for infotainment and other forms of pseudo-democratic participation, charges of vote-rigging and manipulation on Arab TV reality shows have led some commentators to draw parallels with actual elections in the region, where regimes “cook the results” if they do not like them. “Like al-Jazeera's online polls, reality TV gives the illusion of participation and democracy, but it is easily manipulated and has no real impact on the world.” If it is true that reality TV shows rig their voting to their liking its interesting to draw a parallel to rigging elections. He ends the essay kind of saying that, yes it’s a good thing that all these new satellite stations are emerging but then again they are restricted by corporate agenda and its not truly about informing the public and unbiased analysis.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Public Sphere Coffee Houses

In Professor Commins’s class we discussed the importance of the introduction of coffee and the emergence of coffee houses in the Middle East. We had to read Coffee and Coffeehouses by Ralph Hattox, which seems to be the most comprehensive account of the early spread of coffee in the Middle East. First part of the book tries to piece together the spread of coffee from Yemen in the early 15th century to throughout the Middle East. The introduction of coffee actually caused a lot of controversy especially in Mecca in the early 15th Century. The second part of the book argues the emergence of the coffee houses created a public sphere that never existed before. This revolutionized society in Middle East; this allowed men to gather at a place other then the mosque to discuses and exchange ideas and concepts. The coffee house became a new forum that was unrestrained in terms of what could be discussed. What I find interesting is that I don’t think Cleveland really discusses or mentions the emergence of the coffee house and its effect on society. By the 17th and 18th centuries coffee and coffee houses had become very popular throughout the Ottoman Empire. I wonder how much of a role it played in fermenting concepts and ideas for the young Ottomans, which lead to the first constitutional era. I think most of the young Ottomans were bureaucrats or individuals who were already educated in the west or about western concepts of nationalism.

What I find interesting is that the coffee houses spread into Europe where it also became a new space to exchange ideas. However the area that gave birth to the concept of coffee houses has now become the place where free thought has become so restricted with authoritarian governments.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cultural Westernization

Last semester I took Professor Commins’s history of the Middle East from 1750, the class covered a lot of what we have been reading about, defensive modernization and imperialism. One of the books we had to read for the class was Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih a Sudanese writer (I thought it was a great novel and I recommend it to anyone interested about imperialism). It’s a fictional novel about a man named Mustafa Saeed and his response to imperialism.

We had to read this book from the perspective of how cultural westernization affects people and how other cultures respond to such interventions. I don’t think Cleveland delves too deep into the concept but we came across the idea when he talked about “French knowers” these were individuals who studied in France and adopted western cultural practices and thought. Cultural Westernization is processes in which individuals or nations adopt western values and culture into the society.

What I find most interesting about this concept is when it’s forced on to a people. Take for example Reza Shah during the 1920s he instated a law in which men were required to wear hats (western style hats, with visors), while women were required to unveil themselves. Men were forced to change hats three times a day depending on what time it was. This new initiative was met with resistance by all peoples and the Ulma. The Ulma considered the visor an impediment in praying. However Reza Shah believed that he was doing this for the betterment of the nation, to modernize Iran We also had to read about incidents where women did not leave the house for weeks at a time because they were required to be unveiled. To come back to Seasons of Migration, the story of Mustafa Saeed is interesting in that it shows a man who reacted to cultural westernization on his individual basis. He travels to London for his studies but he has an uncanny ability to lure English women into his bedroom by harping on their orientalist fantasies. However I felt as though the novel ends with a message that cultural westernization is superficial only skin deep, and in some ways its impossible to change a persons culture by dressing them a certain way or educating them about the west. We kind of read about that in Bernard Lewis’s paper about how the Arabs had no comparable concept of liberty. How do people negotiate their identities, values and faith when they are forced to change?

Monday, September 6, 2010

America's search for peace in the Middle East

I am currently taking a course on the International Politics of the Middle East and as a weekly assignment we as class have to blog and comment on each other’s posts. I was initially intimidated by the idea of having my writing shared with others hopefully I get over this fear as I will have to be posting throughout the semester.

For our short response piece I choose to read Chas Freeman’s speech to the Royal Norwegian Ministry. I thought his speech was very persuasive in his argument of how the world and the United States have become obsessed with the concept of the Peace processes and not actually achieving any kind of substantial goals. The one thing that I disliked about his speech was how he seemed to not mention any kind of wrongdoing or faults of Hamas or Fatah. If he had included more about what Hamas and Fatah could do or participate it would have left a more balanced impression on the reader. All conflicts have two sides to them, and I feel like he is not providing a balanced view to the conflict.

One of the points Freeman makes about the involvement of other nontraditional partners to the peace processes like Hamas. I’m not an expert on this subject but from what I remember one of the reasons the Oslo accords fell through was because Hamas and PLO were not willing to accept the existence of an independent sovereign Israel. I understand Freeman’s worries about representing the Palestinian people but Hamas fundamentally is against the two state solution then how can you even negotiate?

I fully agree with him in terms of involving regional powers like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt who have been excluded or have played minor roles in the past.
Another important point Freeman makes is that the current peace processes is centered on Arab recognition of Israel. If this is the case, which I’m not sure about then that seems like a hard pill for the Palestine’s to swallow.

Freeman proposes that the Arab League and other members of the league should buy up Israeli media time to offer a different perspective to Israelis about the peace processes and the conflict. This seems like a effective method of allowing Israelis to see the other side of the story.