Weekly Report 6: Weapons Seized

Reports are just coming out about a shipment of weapons that was seized by the US, purportedly bound for Yemen. The shipment of assault rifles, heavy caliber machine guns, and rocket propelled grenade launchers came from Iran, which leads one to the conclusion that it is extremely likely these weapons were meant to go to the Houthis. The Houthis are a Zaydist Shiite insurgency that fight against the Yemeni government. According to the coverage offered by an article in the New York Times, White House spokesman Josh Earnest called Iran’s acts of support “destabilizing.”

The United States supports the current president of Yemen. This means that Iran’s alleged support of the Houthis, a group that fights against the Yemeni government, puts increased strain on US-Iranian relations. According to the New York Times, this recent intercepted shipment could be a topic of interest at the UN Security Council.

It is my opinion that this event will have a major influence on the presidential elections going on in the US. Conservatives will undoubtedly pounce on this, using it as evidence as to why the nuclear deal is a bad idea. I have a strong feeling that the reasoning will be as follows: If Iran is supplying weapons to insurgencies now, it won’t be that long until they try to distribute nuclear materials. This is an invalid line of reasoning, but the conservative candidates will still use it and it will work.

US-Iranian relations have only recently begun to see some improvement. This weapons shipment signals the beginning of a very long and arduous political battle regarding whether or not relations will continue to improve. While it isn’t necessarily a catastrophic occurrence, it will serve to dispel any illusions of a smooth transition to friendly interaction between the US and Iran.

Sources:

http://www.euronews.com/newswires/3175939-us-navy-says-it-seized-weapons-from-iran-likely-bound-for-houthis-in-yemen/

Reflection 5: Israel-Palestine Conflict

The Israel-Palestine conflict can only be resolved with a two state solution. The main problem however, is discerning what the borders will be like. The most logical and reasonable decision when taking a quick glance would be to revert to the 1947 UN partition plan. However, in order to ensure the success of this plan, the United States must change to an impartial position. History has shown that the partition plan needs to be enforced by key players in the region, namely the US. The United States must use its position as a major supporter of Israel as leverage to ensure that absolutely no form of expansion is attempted. Even though the United States holds the key to the success of this plan, there also needs to be a plan put in place for a gradual decrease in involvement in the area. The US cannot be allowed to continue to hold such a heavy influence on the region. It is clear that so far the US has had no inclination to ensure that Israeli expansion is halted. Thus it is absolutely necessary once the solution plan is enacted that US involvement either halts or decreases significantly.

Along with changing the borders there also needs to be a plan put in place to help stimulate the Palestinian economy. This means that trade deals would have to be negotiated with bordering countries and the Mediterranean community. The success of a two-state plan relies on the participation of the neighboring nations and the international community.

Reflection 4

I found Dr. Boukhars’ lecture to be extremely interesting. I had always been interested in how groups such as ISIS manage to acquire so many recruits. I found the statistics mentioned in the lecture to be extremely fascinating. I found it especially interesting how a large number of ISIS recruits were delinquents without any sort of religious inclinations. What I wonder about though, or possibly what I missed in the lecture, is how such individuals could go from living such a secular, unruly lifestyle to a bastardized hyper-fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. It seems like a complete turnaround. I recall how one of my classmates brought up psychological profiles. Could it be that many of these troubled youths share certain traits that make them susceptible to the propaganda of extremist groups such as ISIS?

Dr. Boukhars also offered a viewpoint on the refugee situation that I had not encountered before. He said that refugees being kicked out of Europe would be an enormous win for ISIS. The reasoning behind this is that since panic and fear have made the Western world paranoid and unwelcoming to the Syrian refugees, it would take only a little bit more to make a number of those refugees turn towards extremism.

Reflection 3

The evening concert by Massamba Diop was excellent. The music was performed with such energy and vigor that the entire room was getting involved. What I really found interesting was that the music did reflect some manner of arab music. The handout we had to read for today’s lecture talked about how in arab music percussion instruments often take the melody and different rhythms will sometimes be piled onto each other. This was shown in the concert, and I found it very pleasing to hear. The energy with which the concert was performed was incredible.

What was really cool though was the variety of instruments used during the concert. For example, one of the instruments used was an extremely small drum that rested on the performer’s shoulder. Interestingly enough, the musician was able to play this drum in such a way that it would emit a sound similar to that of a stringed instrument. Speaking of stringed instruments, another one of the instruments that I liked was a rather large stringed instrument that resembled a mix of a bass guitar and a harp.

With all the wonderful things I could say about the performance, I still feel as though something must be said about the audience. Throughout the entirety of the concert the audience maintained a timid air. Even when people eventually loosened up and began to participate, it still felt as though the incredible amount of energy coming from the performers made the audience feel nervous.

The concert in its entirety was a strange mix of musicians who gave their all to their performance and an audience that was not too sure how to deal with the energy of the concert.

Weekly Report 3

The musician Khaled, or Khaled Hadj Ibrahim, is from the Oran Province of Algeria. His most famous songs are titled “Didi”, “Aicha”, and “C’est la vie”. He first started his musical career at 14 years old, quickly becoming a musical prodigy. His most well known song, “Didi”, was an international hit that struck the world.

I first heard of Khaled in my high school French class. The teacher was playing the song “Aicha” and I remember just how unbelievably catchy the style of singing was. His songs manage to incorporate pop and jazz into a unique sounding tune that gets stuck in my head and never leaves. Khaled’s music style is a blend of rai, a traditional Algerian style of music, and western music styles such as jazz, blues, and pop.

Khaled has won an enormous number of awards for his music. Aicha, my favorite song of his, won Victoire de la Musique’s song of the year in 1997, and he won another award at the African Grammy’s for the same song. His most recent hit, “C’est la vie”, won him seven different awards. However, the feat I find the most amazing is that his song “Didi” made him more popular in India than even Michael Jackson. His music reaches to audiences from Pakistan to France.

Sources:

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/1997_articles/oct97/khaled.html

Reflection 2

Dr. Deveny’s lecture was very interesting. I had previously known very little about the time period that was discussed. I had always known there was muslim influence in Spain, but I had never really been given a full-fledged lecture on  the time period. The highlight of the lecture was getting to listen to the music. I felt that Dr. Deveny was entirely correct when he said if you closed your eyes and listened you would find yourself in medieval Spain.

Another part of the lecture that I found particularly interesting was covering the time period when the Christians retook Spain. Hearing about how Muslim’s and Christians interacted in that time period was extremely interesting. Today was a very good start in educating the class about some medieval history. What I really am looking forward to learning about though is the Crusades. It has always been a great interest of mine.

Another fun aspect about today’s lecture was discussing the art and architecture of the cities in Spain. I found the use of goldfish and a mercury fountain as attractions in the cities was genius. I found that the aesthetic appeal of the cities was incredible. It sounded like they were coming straight from a story book.

I wish we had more time, however, to go over exactly just how the Christians managed to take back Spain. I would have liked to go more in depth about the developments that led to the reconquest of the region.

Weekly Report 1

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/americas/23762-america-decides-the-syrian-people-must-leave-not-assad

This article states that the US succumbed to the Russian and Iranian wants and desires. It claims that “What Kerry is proposing to the opposition is the threat of a military takeover, in which the US will not intervene and will not help them to face.” It goes on to declare that the non-intervention policy held by the US is in fact an approval.

It goes on to claim that the United States used the situation in Syria as a way to further negotiations with Russia. Furthermore, the article claims that Russia wants to provoke the opposition to al-Assad into withdrawing from negotiations.

Reaction to article:

While I feel like this article was very concise and didn’t beat around the bush, I feel as though I either didn’t fully understand what was being said. What I definitely understood was that the article claimed that the US government’s actions showed no true intentions of assisting the Syrian people. I know very little on the situation in Syria, so I’m afraid I am unable to critique this article very effectively. All in all, I felt there was some truth to the allegations being made. I feel as though it is very possible that the US government would use such a tumultuous situation to further its negotiations with Russia. It seems very typical of our government to prioritize in such a manner.