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.