Monthly Archives: November 2014

Entry 9

This was really interesting to read about. I only read the history section, from rise to defeat and dissolution. Here is a picture of the last sultan of the Ottoman Empire leaving the country after the abolition of the sultanate



And then I clicked on the article about the russo-turkish war of 1877-1878 and learned about Russia’s political realist attempt to reestablish itself in the black sea and regain territory lost in a Crimean War.–78)#Changing_balance_of_power_in_Europe

I know it’s just wikipedia and not a real news site, but I think it helps give a broad overview of these things, which helps me put current events in context.

Entry 8

This article was more of a wikipedia style thing than a news article from a site I have never heard of, Vox, but I found it really helpful. I learned a lot about the history of israel-palestine conflict and how differently the two groups see it. I think part of the problem was the Brittish mandate and the UN’s plans to partition the region into Palestine and Israel. Palestinians saw that as some sort of imperialist theft, while the jews felt they had the right to a homeland. My mom always tells me about this stuff and something about how the dwarves in LOTR are like the jews but I never totally understood what she was talking about. I think this relates a lot to the CG chapter about international conflict. The way the one author describes misunderstanding between U.S. and Chinese perspective reminds me of this.état

I read this wikipedia article to learn more about how the baath party in Syria came to be. It brought up a lot of stuff about Arab nationalism and Nasser that we talked about early on in the semester. It again seems like some of the root of the conflict in Syria has to do with external forces colonizing or “mandating” things, in this case the French. It also amazes me how incredibly old Syria is. In a subsequent wikipedia article clicking spree I learned that the length of time domesticated dogs have been around is the same amount of time it took homo sapiens to first wear clothes. It took another 160 something thousand years for humans to learn who to write, and dogs are only 35,000 years old! Dogs also have the longest known DNA strands out of all the animals, which is why there’s so many variations of them. Maybe in a couple hundred thousand years dogs will use that as a basis to say they’re better than cats and start an international (or interplanetary) cat-dog war.

Entry 7

Another article about the divergence in western and Russian attitudes about how to handle the IS threat, but coming form a different source (the Washington Post). This article says they both agree that it’s crucial to crush the threat, but Russia holds a “we-told-you-so” attitude towards the U.S.’s middle eastern policies, which they believe are the root of the terrorism problem. The article talks more about Russia’s suspicions that the U.S. will use the IS threat to bomb the regime and act outside of international law (sovereignty). U.S. plans to train and arm Syrian rebels in particular concern Russia about helping the U.S. because it may make them complicit in overthrowing Assad. It seems that one of the main reasons the U.S. isn’t willing to work things out with Russia is the situation in Ukraine, and the reason Russia won’t work with the U.S. is for similar reasons but with Syria.

I read this article because I wanted to know more about Russia and Ukraine. Although it is not directly about the middle east, the situation in Russia and Ukraine seems to be relevant to Russian and U.S. relations, which impacts the situation in Syria. It seems that Russia is not explicitly supporting rebel separatists in Ukraine, or at least not admitting it. Instead of using the word “recognize”, they used the word “respect” in regards to the rebel elections to avoid full on explicit support for the rebels, but Ukraine believes that Russia does indeed support the rebels and is sending military aid to them, such as tanks and troops. However, the claims discussed in this article were not backed by any sort of evidence. Is Russia invading Ukraine? There seems to be some confusion, denial, and/or finger pointing as to who provoked what. Trying to learn about these things frustrates me because it seems like one can never really be certain of the truth. For all I know, computers may be way smarter than we think and fake every Turing test just to trick us and then make up half these situations we read about on the internet to invoke action from humans to carry out wars with other computers, or even to enslave us to perpetuate their existence. Like 2001 a Space Odyssey kinda stuff.

Entry 5

I know I post a lot of article from al-monitor, but I think they’re well written and come from a good variety of authors with different backgrounds. This was an interesting article about Iranian-Russian relations. I assumed Russia and Iran were buddies, but this article illustrates the tensions in their relationship, with grudges going as far back to before Texas was even a state (which really made me realize how young the U.S. is). However, Russia and Iran play it cool because of common strategic interests in regards to South Caucasus (a place a really don’t know anything about) and attitudes towards Western and Israeli presence. The author described their relationship as “a classic Eastern-style game of speaking softly, disagreeing tacitly and behind-the-scenes deals on issues of mutual long-term interest even when the immediate concerns diverge.” In other words, “compelled adversaries, pragmatic pals”.

This wasn’t exactly an article, but it was an interesting poll about countries’s views of other countries that was referenced in the previous article. Perhaps a little skewed because it’s the BBC and boasted climbing ratings for the UK, but it was interesting to think about why countries view each other the way they do given historical contexts. I think world views are powerful and kinda weird.

Entry 4

This article focused on the viewpoints of the president of the Syrian National Coalition, Hadi al-Bahra. Contrary to other articles I’ve posted, Bahra believes that the root of the IS problem and extremism is the Assad regime and that the FSA needs more support to strengthen the coalition against them. He thinks that U.S. air attacks against IS in Syria and Iran are undermining FSA, weakening the international coalition because they cannot achieve results on the ground. He believes that airstrikes will be ineffective because they only target the symptom of the problem, not the root (the regime), and he also believes that cease-fires will only be a temporary solution, so ultimately he wants more military support for the opposition on the ground in order to topple the regime. I don’t know how I feel about this considering the last article I posted about the man living in Aleppo who seemed to plea the opposite.

I read this article to get a better understanding of who Assad was and what his motives are. This article described how his older brother was actually supposed to lead the country after his father; but when he died, Assad (who was studying medicine in London) had to take the roleInfluenced by a western lifestyle, Assad wanted to introduce controversial neo-liberal policies to the authoritarian structure (the Baath party) that his father had left behind, and when political shake up occurred, he retreated back to the authoritarian policies and used the secret police to carry out his commands. This article also described clashes with him and a lot of members of his father’s old guard, which reminds me of something I read one time where Assad blamed harsh reactions to protestors on miscommunications and people loyal to him acting outside orders.  It seems like the situation in Syria is full of finger pointing and confusion.

Entry 3

This article from Al-Monitor was about Russian and Iranian opposition to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposal to create a united front against the Islamic State at a UN Security Council in September. Russia and Iran primarily worry about plans to strike IS on Syrian territory without approval from the government in Damascus. Instead of simply telling the Syrian government about missile strikes, as done in the past, Russia and Iran argue that international law dictates more explicit approval (Russia and Iran value sovereignty as a just war principle), and that not doing so may have a “destructive practical consequence”. They fear that western powers are using the IS threat as an excuse to intervene in order to impose regime change (i.e. aid rebels in the fight against IS AND the Syrian government- ultimately creating more chaos). “Russia’s ambassador to the UN for his part flatly faulted the U.S. invasion of 2003 and its support of the Syrian uprising for the current woes,”  and he also pointed out that U.S. arms provided to rebel groups ended up in the hands of IS. It is very concerning that the U.S. wants to arm unreliable rebel groups to take on IS and the Syrian government at the same time. Russia and Iran might be good examples of non-interventionists here.

This article was interesting because it went  further into the argument against arming the Syrian opposition (the rebel groups) and it comes from the perspective of a Syrian civilian living in Aleppo. According to this man, the fear of death and loss of loved ones daunts everyone living in Syria right now, no matter who’s side they’re on. He says no one cares anymore about who’s to blame or who “sits the throne” at the end of it all, they just want the fighting to stop. He believes that arming the rebel groups only fuels the chaos and prolongs their suffering. This made me sad because I think foreign powers hold a lot of the cards that are dealt to the Syrian people, and I believe that the U.S. in particular has made a mess of the situation. Because of this I think I take a “radical” view on globalization.