Geography of the Middle East

| January 22, 2016

Homework 1
Since the end of World War Two (1939-1945), the Middle East region has been engulfed by major conflicts and wars in which millions of

people were killed or displaced. Estimates of Iraqi casualties since 2003 range from hundreds of thousands to well over a million,

while the United Nations estimates that in 2014 there were more than 13 million people displaced by wars in Iraq and Syria alone.
The list of conflicts and wars includes but is not limited to: (1) the Palestine-Israel conflict since the late 1940s, (2) the war in

Afghanistan since the early 1980s, (3) the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, (4) the war in Iraq since the early 1990s, (5) the war on

terrorism since September 11, 2001, (6) the war in Libya since 2011, (7) the war in Syria since 2011, and (8) the war in Yemen since

2015. In many cases these wars and conflicts have caused a serious structural damage to the state, society, and infrastructure. This

has weakened the ability of the state to contain its internal conflicts or control its external borders in a region marked by a high

level of cultural integration.
These conflicts and wars have local (within a single country), regional (within the Middle East region), and global (worldwide)

connections with a broader rivalry between two loose and sometimes undeclared international coalitions of states or geopolitical axes

(defined in this course as Axis 1 and Axis 2). Rivalry between these two axes drives current issues in the news and steers US domestic

and global policy. The current LEADING members of Axis 1 include the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the State of Israel,

Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. The current LEADING members of Axis 2 include Russia, China, Iran, and Syria.
The current MAIN adversaries in the Middle East region are the United States and Israel (and their local/regional/global allies) versus

Iran and Syria (and their local/regional/global allies). The top root cause of the struggle between the MAIN adversaries is mainly the

Palestine-Israel conflict (for example, Israel considers Palestine the homeland of world Jewry, whereas Iran considers Palestine the

homeland of the Palestinians and considers Israel an illegitimate state). In 1979 Egypt ended the state of war with Israel by signing a

peace treaty and de facto joining Axis 1, whereas in 1979 Iran ended its alliance with Israel by turning over the Israeli embassy in

Tehran to the Palestine Liberation Organization and de facto joining Axis 2.
With the above brief theoretical and historical background in mind, review carefully and thoughtfully the information provided in the

38 PowerPoint slides (84-122) of Topic 1, especially (1) the “Major Middle East Events of 1978-1979” (during which Egypt left Axis 2

and joined Axis 1, whereas Iran left Axis 1 and joined Axis 2, see slide 94) and (2) the written and/or videotaped statements made by

(or about) US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, US President Ronald Reagan, Iranian Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, US

Secretary of State George Shultz, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Soviet Jewish

leaderAnatoly Sharansky, AlQaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, US Evangelical Pastor John Hagee,

former Israeli Mossad head Dagan, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Asheikh, Qatar-based Egyptian cleric Sheikh Youssef al-

Qaradawi, former US Congressman Paul Findley, Saudi Prince Salman(who became king of Saudi Arabia in January 2015), Professors John

Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Declassified DIA document, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Admiral

John Kirby, US Senator Rand Paul, and US Vice President Joseph Biden (you can do quick search for each name in the slides).
Based EXCUSIVELY on your critical thinking and your learning from the theoretical and historical background and from the 38 PowerPoint

slides (84-122), write a CONCISE essay (250-350 words) in which (1) you provide a clear explanation of why the “Christian Zionists” in

the United States, the “Jewish Movement” in the Soviet Union, and the “Muslim Mujahideen” in Afghanistan in the 1980s were all brought

together and laser-focused on ONE common goal (to defeat the Soviet Union, which at the time bans the emigration of Soviet Jews to

Palestine) and (2) you draw a clear comparison between the main actors, goals, and means of the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the

war in Syria since 2011.
Please keep in mind that homework assignments are writing-to-think assignments which involve not just learning “what happened” but also

UNDERSTANDING “why it happened?” and “who did it?” This means that the onus and focus should be put on the real actors rather than the

actions itself or the reactions to the actions or the means used to achieve the actions. For example, in one of the assigned video

clips about the Afghanistan war of the 1980s you should note that former Secretary of State Clinton tends to put the onus and focus on

less known or mysterious government agencies or institutions such as “the CIA,” “Wahhabi Islam,” and “the ISI,” instead of simply

putting the onus and focus straightforward on “the US government,” “the Saudi government,” and “the Pakistani government.” By the same

token, the onus and focus should be put on governments that support governments that support ISIS instead of portraying ISIS or other

similar organizations as real actors or real governments or some Frankenstein’s monsters (for example, read or watch how Vice President

Biden blames US allies and then apologizes, slide 114).
Sources for homework assignments MUST be cited briefly (including the slide number) and ONLY between parentheses in the text so I can

verify them quickly while grading and writing feedback. Each homework assignment in this course must be formatted as a Microsoft Word

file and uploaded through the TurnItIn link (View/Complete) by the deadline. No other submission will be accepted

The 9/11 Commission Report, 2004 (read the Preface: pages xv-xviii, and pages 145-147; follow the pagination appearing on the Report,

NOT the pagination appearing on your computer screen): ……….Thomas Kean

and Lee Hamilton (co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission) wrote: “Commissioners who argued that al Qaeda was motivated primarily by a

religious ideology—and not by opposition to American policies—rejected mentioning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the report. In

their view, listing U.S. support for Israel as a root cause of al Qaeda’s opposition to the United States indicated that the United

States should reassess that policy… Since neither U.S. policy in the Israel-Palestinian conflict nor U.S. policy in Iraq was covered in

our mandate, we were not required to discuss the issues at length. Had that been the case, reaching consensus would have been

difficult.” Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton with Benjamin Rhodes, Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission, Alfred

A. Knopf, New York, 2006, p. 284. Think critically about why did the TWO co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission fail to discuss and publish

the REAL motive of the hijackers in The 9/11 Commission Report and had to publish it two years later in their OWN book?
Arab Contributions to Civilization:
Muslim Scholars and Thinkers Through the 14th Century:
Textbook, pages vii to 48 (The United States, Israel, and the Lobby–Preface, Introduction, and the Great Benefactor).

Video: Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (50 mn): Synopsis: “Reel Bad Arabs takes a devastating tour of the American

cinematic landscape, moving from the earliest days of silent film to today’s biggest Hollywood blockbusters to reveal an astonishing

and persistent pattern of slanderous Arab stereotyping. Featuring acclaimed author and Hollywood film consultant Dr. Jack Shaheen, the

documentary exposes American cinema’s long love affair with Arab villainy and buffoonery, from over-sexed Bedouin bandits and

submissive maidens to sinister sheiks and blood-thirsty terrorists. Along the way, the film provides striking insights into the origin

of these images, their disturbing similarities to anti-Semitic and racist stereotypes from the past, and their political resonance

during key moments of conflict in U.S. history. In the end, Shaheen inspires us to think critically about the destructive social and

political effects of Hollywood’s projection of Arabs, challenging us to envison counternarrativesthat do justice to both the diversity

and humanity of Arab people, and the reality and richness of Arab history and culture.” Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People

Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (50 mn): … [ Hollywood stars sign

petition in support of Israel Haaretz, 8/24/2014, ]
Video: Letter to America: how Arabs view the United States (45 mn). Synopsis: “Is America’s “war on terrorism” a defensive reaction to

the events of September 11th or a smokescreen for an attempt to secure oil and spread Western culture throughout the Middle East?

Syrian-born BBC correspondent Rana Kabbani takes a personal journey through the region to explain Arab anger with the United States and

how Muslims in the region have come to view America. Kabbani tours Egypt, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates, canvassing opinions of

citizens from all levels of society, as well as those of Americans living abroad.” The video tends to reflect the views of many people

in the Middle East who believe that U.S. Middle East foreign policy (1) protects monarchy and undermines democracy in the region, (2)

supports Israel in its ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and (3) opposes any genuine independence of countries in the region.
Video: Documentary: Uninterrupted Wars: The 53 Coup — In August 1953 the head of democratically elected government of Iran, Prime

Minister MohammadMosaddegh, was overthrown by a coup orchestrated by the United Kingdom and the United States. In the former it was

done under the name of “Operation Boot” and in the latter “TPAJAX Project” AKA “Operation Ajax”. From then on and since Eisenhower’s

administration, coups became an inseparable part of America’s foreign policy. In “Uninterrupted Wars; the 53 Coup” Malcolm Burn, Deputy

Director of National Security Archive gives a detailed account of both internal and external players, the reasons and the results of

the coup; a turning point in which democracy and the will of people were trampled for the sake of the recronation of a biddable king

and the ouster of a public figure who had recently nationalized Iranian oil industry. The film goes on to show how this incident has

been significant in shaping today’s ties between Iran and the USA even after six decades. PRESS TV Documentaries,

Video: Suez Canal (43 mn). Synopsis: “Since the ancient pharaohs’ time, the Isthmus of Suez has been the gateway to trade between East

and West. It’s thought that the pharaohs could connect the Red Sea with the Mediterranean using a system of small canals; but the

desert sands buried them. Not until mid-19th century did mankind readdress the problem. Since its completion in 1869, the Suez Canal

has been a vital link in world trade and a point of controversy in geopolitics. Today, more than 20,000 ships transit the canal

Video clip (4 minutes): Former US Secretary Hillary Clinton explains how the US government created the Islamic jihad in Afghanistan in

the 1980s [in collabotation with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia] but she did not explain that the reason was to force the Soviet Union to

lift a ban on the emigration of Soviet Jews to Palestine:

Video clip (4.5 minutes): What motivated the 9/11 highjackers? It appears that one of the testimony about the main motive was kept out

of the 9/11 Commission Report and no recommendation was given to address the main motive for the 9/11 attacks. Lee Herbert Hamilton

(vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Democratic Co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center

for Scholars, member of the President’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, and a 34-year member of US Congress) stumbles and refuses

to answer a question about US support for Israel as the real motive of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11

Video clip (11 minutes): CIA Agent Exposes How Al-QaedaDosen’t Exist:

Video clip (1.31mn): Jon Stewart Learns What Happens When You Criticize Israel

Topic 1 introduces students to the region and its global connections (‘geopolitics’ or ‘political geography’ can be defined as the

‘analysis of the geographic influences on power relationships in international relations’). It examines the nomenclature and

delimitation of the region, its distinctive tri-continental junction, its major strategic waterways, its cultural significance (as the

birthplace of monotheism and the cradle of civilization), its petroleum and natural gas resources, and its relations with the United

States (the region straddles the USCENTCOM, USEUCOM, and USAFRICOM). Since the region is engulfed by conflicts, Topic 1 also presents a

brief introduction to the so-called ‘Arab spring’ uprisings and wars and their local, regional, and global connections with the

military, political, and economic confrontations between two loose international coalitions of states or geopolitical axes (Axis 1 and

Axis 2). The current leading members of Geopolitical Axis 1 include the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the State of Israel,

Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. The current leading members of Geopolitical Axis 2 include Russia, China, Iran, and Syria. The current main

adversaries in the Middle East are the US and Israel (and their local/regional/global allies) versus Iran and Syria (and their

local/regional/global allies). The top root cause of the struggle between the main adversaries is the Palestine-Israel conflict (for

example, Israel considers Palestine the homeland of world Jewry, whereas Iran considers Palestine the homeland of the Palestinians and

considers Israel an illegitimate state).Topic documents include: (1) textbook and online short readings, (2) PowerPoint slides, (3)

videos and video synopses, (4) current issues in the news, (5) study guide, and (6) short assignments. Review carefuly the assigned

material in order to complete homework 1 (10 points) and exam 1 (10 points) by the specified deadlines.

Category: Essay

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