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Other Middle Eastern Issues


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Global and Cultural Studies

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Other Middle Eastern Issues

  1. 1. The Middle East in Transition Lesson 4 Other Middle Eastern Issues
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Many other issues, in addition to those examined in Lessons 1 – 3, divide the Middle East, its countries, its cultures, and its peoples. Here, we will examine four prominent regional concerns. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1) Islamic fundamentalism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2) Water resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3) the Kurds </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>4) Iran and regional stability </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Homework </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Activity 2, “What is Islamic fundamentalism, and …” – handout (due Friday, 23 March) </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Video
  4. 4. Islamic Fundamentalism <ul><li>The term is used to describe those Muslims who wish to follow a strict traditionalist interpretation of Islam </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The term is borrowed from Christianity … where it connotes a belief in the literal meaning of the Bible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A basic tenet of the Islamic faith is that all Muslims believe that the Koran represents the infallible word of Good </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>So, a more accurate word to describe those Muslims who wish to follow a strict traditionalist interpretation of Islamic faith is “ISLAMIST” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Beyond that, those who would use violence and terror to pursue their objective of creating a government that follows a strict traditionalist interpretation of Islam may be called “RADICAL ISLAMISTS” </li></ul></ul></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Many people in the Middle East, frustrated with </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The status quo </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>And dissatisfied with traditional responses by their own country’s government to their problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have turned towards radical versions of Islam for solutions to their problems </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Throughout the Middle East, governments are confronted by a rise in support for Islamist and radical Islamist groups </li></ul><ul><li>Conservative and moderate states have been concerned about IRAN’S radical Islamist government ever since the Ayatollah Khomeini deposed the Shah in 1979 </li></ul>
  7. 7. Fear About Iran <ul><li>Efforts to export radical Islamic teachings and outlooks </li></ul><ul><li>Many Arab countries supported Iraq in its war against Iran from 1980 to 1989 </li></ul><ul><li>Iran attempted to influence Islamist movements in Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Sudan, and the newly independent Central Asian states that emerged after the Soviet Union’s collapse </li></ul>
  8. 8. Hamas <ul><li>In the West Bank and Gaza </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Palestinian support for radical Islamist movement Hamas has threatened the traditional secular leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Hamas supported 2 Intifadas , or Palestinian uprisings, against Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>One of the major factors that led to Israel and the PLO to reach an accord in Sept 1993 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Hezbollah <ul><li>Supported by Syria and Iran </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Challenge Israel’s continued presence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lebanon failed to control Hezbollah and gradually much of the largely Shia population of southern Lebanon came to support Hezbollah </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. September 11, 2001 <ul><li>Terrorist attacks on the US and the subsequent “war on terrorism” dramatically illustrated the impact of radical Islamist movements now have, not only in the Middle East, but in the world as a whole </li></ul>Moderate Islamist supporting democracy Radicals who would use violence to overthrow their government and establish a strict Islamist state
  11. 11. The Current Scorecard <ul><li>Radical Islamist states </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Iran </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sudan </li></ul></ul><ul><li>More moderate regimes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most of the Islamic world </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A couple of case studies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Algeria </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Egypt </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Saudi Arabia </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Osama bin Laden </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Algeria <ul><li>Islamist opposition strengthened during the 1980s </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Clashes with the government in the early 1990s </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Elections in late 1991 led to power-sharing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unhappy with power-sharing, the military forced the president to resign and nullified elections … an all-out war against the Islamists </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Egypt <ul><li>Violence between the country’s long-standing radical Islamist opposition and the secular government of President Hosni Mubarak </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Violence increased in the 1990s </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Targeted government officials and foreign tourists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Government responded with torture and repression of its Islamist opposition </li></ul></ul>Link
  14. 14. Muslim Brotherhood <ul><li>A more moderate Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, sought to work within the political system to create an Islamic state </li></ul><ul><ul><li>By 2005, they had won 20% of the seats in the Egyptian parliament </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Still, more militant groups gain support in slums where poverty and unemployment are widespread </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They are also active in international terrorists groups , such as al Qaeda </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Saudi Arabia <ul><li>The birthplace of Islam and the location of Islam’s holiest sites, Mecca and Medina </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Since the country’s beginning in 1932, it has been ruled by the al-Saud family </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Practices a strict form of Islam known as Wahhabism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Law based on the Sharia … powerful Muslim clerics heavily influence Saudi social practices and daily life </li></ul></ul></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>For decades, Saudi Arabia has been one of the most important US allies in the Middle East </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Largest exporter of oil to the US after Mexico and Canada </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Served as the primary staging ground for the Persian Gulf War </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A pullout of nearly all US forces by late 2003 was a reaction to Islamic extremists from using the American military presence as a rallying cry </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Contradictions in politics and society </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Many of the country’s schools are run by radical Muslim clerics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Promote anti-Americanism and support for individuals like Osama bin Laden </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Saudi press is largely anti-American </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strong political, military, and economic relationship with the US </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Suppresses political freedoms and fails to provide economic security for much of the country’s large young population </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many ordinary Saudis see the monarchy as corrupt and morally bankrupt  they turn to radical Islam, targeting the government and its US backers </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Islamist Militants <ul><li>The main target in the “war on terrorism” has been the al Qaeda network led by wealthy Saudi Osama bin Laden </li></ul><ul><li>Mastermind/financial backer of September 11 attacks </li></ul><ul><li>Supported the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center </li></ul><ul><li>The 1996 bombing of an American military facility in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia </li></ul><ul><li>1998 bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania </li></ul><ul><li>2000 bombing of the USS Cole </li></ul>They wish to drive the Western presence out of the Middle East
  19. 19. Iraq <ul><li>Since 2003, the US military presence in Iraq has drawn militant Islamists from across the world to that country </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In 2006, it was estimated that up to 2,000 of the roughly 20,000 insurgents in Iraq were foreign fighters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>One of the more famous of these foreign fighters was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi … the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq </li></ul></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Elections <ul><li>The popularity of Islamist groups can be seen in elections during 2005 and 2006 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Jan 2005 – alliance of Shiite parties won a majority of seats in the national assembly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Apr 2005 – sweeping victories in Saudi Arabia’s municipal elections </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Jun 2005 – Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement won 35 of 128 seats in Lebanese elections </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2005 – Hamas participated in local Palestinian elections for the first time </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2006 – Hamas won a stunning victory in Palestinian national elections </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dec 2005 – Muslim Brotherhood won a record 20% of seats </li></ul></ul>Popularity boosted by the extensive social welfare programs … health, education, and other social services to local communities The US supports the democratic process while refusing to deal with groups it considers to be terrorists
  21. 21. Water Resources <ul><li>The Middle East is by far the world’s driest region </li></ul><ul><ul><li>5% of the population … less than 1% of its freshwater resources </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Long standing conflicts over water </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Zionist planners mapped their intended homeland to assure access to freshwater </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Today … the principal players in the water issue are Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and several others </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Growing populations will outstrip the existing surface and ground water resources </li></ul></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Israel and Palestine Compete for Water <ul><li>Israeli settlers consume 5 times more water per person than Palestinians </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Does this mean any lasting peace plan will have to address a more balanced distribution of water resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Giving up control to Palestinians might impact Israel’s own water security </li></ul></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Turkey, Iraq, and Syria <ul><li>Euphrates River </li></ul><ul><li>Tigris River </li></ul><ul><li>Southeastern Anatolia Project </li></ul>
  24. 24. The Kurds <ul><li>An ethnic group that lives primarily in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The vast majority are Sunni Muslims </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have never had their own nation-state </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Separatists movements in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey have at times struggled to create a nation-state </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Iraqi Persecution of the Kurds
  26. 26. Iranian and Turkish Kurds <ul><li>“ Greater Kurdistan” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It is now the Sunni insurgency in central and western Iraq that is drawing blood and media attention in Iraq, but the situation in the northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan, at present the most peaceful part of the country, is waiting to explode—and holds far greater potential to internationalize the conflict. The Kurdish people, numbering some 20 million, were left off the map when the victorious allies carved new states out of the ruins of the Turkish Ottoman Empire after World War I. They are now divided mostly between Iraq and Turkey, with smaller populations in Iran and Syria. The emergence of a highly autonomous Kurdistan in northern Iraq has re-ignited ambitions for a &quot;Greater Kurdistan&quot; which would unite Kurdish lands across the borders of these four nation-states. </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. <ul><li>But what about a greater Kurdistan, encompassing all who describe themselves as Kurds? After all there are millions of people who, despite the objective diversity of their languages, histories, and ways of life, feel themselves to be Kurds. </li></ul><ul><li>Such a state, including Kurds in Syria, Turkey, Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as Iraq, would have a population of 30 million in an area the size of France. To create this greater Kurdistan one would have to reorganize a good part of the Middle East and re-draw the borders of six states, including the two largest in the region: Turkey and Iran. Even then the greater Kurdistan would still be a weak landlocked state with few natural resources, and surrounded by powers that, if not hostile, would not go out of their ways to help it get along. </li></ul><ul><li>Such a greater Kurdistan would face numerous internal problems also. To start with it will have to decide which of the four alphabets in use for writing the various Kurdish languages should be adopted as the national one. </li></ul><ul><li>If the view of the majority is to prevail the alphabet chosen should be Turkish because almost half of all Kurds live in Turkey. At the same time, however, the bulk of Kurdish historic, literary, political, religious and other significant texts are written in the Persian alphabet, itself an expanded version of the Arabic. And where would be the capital of the greater Kurdistan? </li></ul><ul><li>If history, myth and, to some extent, the number of inhabitants, are the yardsticks the Iranian cities of Sanandaj and Mahabad would be strong candidates. And, yet, the city with the largest number of Kurdish inhabitants is Istanbul, Turkey's cultural and business capital which is home to more than 1.6 million ethnic Kurds. </li></ul><ul><li>In a greater Kurdistan the intellectual elite would come from Iran and the business elite from Turkey. Would they then allow Iraqi Kurds to provide the political elite? That is hardly likely. What is certain, however, is that in a greater Kurdistan Barzani and Talabani, now big fish in the smaller Iraqi pond, could end up as small fish in a much bigger pond. </li></ul><ul><li>All that means that Barzani and Talabani have no interest, personal or otherwise, to provoke the disintegration of Iraq only to end up as local player in a bigger Kurdish state. Nor do a majority of Iraqi Kurds have an interest in leaving Iraq now that it has, for the first time, a real opportunity to build a state in which Kurds can enjoy full autonomy plus a leading position in national power structures. </li></ul><ul><li>The experience of the 3.5 million Iraqi Kurds who have lived a life of full autonomy thanks to US-led protection since 1991 is a mixed one. The area was divided into two halves, one led by Barzani the other by Talabani, showing that even limited unity was hard to achieve in a corner of Iraq let alone throughout the vast region where the Kurds live. The two mini-states respectively led by Barzani and Talabani developed a complex pattern of shifting alliances in which, at times, one allied itself with Saddam Hussein against the other. The two mini-states even became involved in numerous battles, including a full-scale war. </li></ul><ul><li>Like pan-Arabism and its promise of unity, Kurdish unification is easy to talk about but hard to implement even on a small scale. </li></ul><ul><li>Barzani and Talabani should stop bluffing about &quot;walking away&quot;. Other Iraqis, meanwhile, should realize that a shrunken Iraq, that is to say minus its Kurds, would be a vulnerable mini-state in a dangerous neighborhood. </li></ul><ul><li>The preservation of Iraq's unity is in the interests of both Kurds and Arabs. It is also in the best interest of regional peace. </li></ul><ul><li>At the start of the 21st century, the Kurds cannot pursue their legitimate aspirations through the prism of 19th century romantic nationalism which has mothered so many wars and tragedies all over the world. </li></ul><ul><li>The Kurds, wherever they live, must be able to speak their languages, develop their culture, practice their religions and generally run their own affairs as they deem fit. These are inalienable human rights, and the newly-liberated Iraq may be the only place, at least for the time being, where the Kurds can exercise those rights. </li></ul><ul><li>In other words this is not the time for the Kurds to think of leaving Iraq nor for other Iraqis to deny the legitimate rights of their Kurdish brethren. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Iran and Regional Stability