Are we making too much of the clerical structures in these countries?

I do not think that we are making too much of the clerical structures in these countries. In Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabi are literally “constantly indulged as the co-rulers of the Saudi government” (Real Stories, 2016). The political and social influence of the Wahhabi (and the ‘Ulema) as co-rulers of the dynastic monarchy that is Saudi Arabia is immense. Under the guidance of the Wahhabi, “Islamic law has always formed the basis of the Saudi constitutional system and is supreme, reigning even over the king” (Maisel, 2017). Therefore, it seems quite impossible to make “too much” of the clerical structure in Saudi Arabia. In Iran, there is somewhat of a democratic system, but the clerical structures still play immensely important roles in society. While there is a (relatively) democratically elected president, parliament, and “experts”, there is also velayat-e faqih. Velayat-e faqih is essentially the principle which gives the Islamic faqih (jurist) sweeping power over the people (Zubaida, 2018). The faqih and the Council of Guardians watch over the compatibility of the legislation with Islamic law and general principals (Zubaida, 2018). The faqih in Iran is also known as the “Supreme Leader”. The Supreme Leader is unelected, but nevertheless has control over the “armed forces, the intelligence services, the media, the judiciary, and the clergy” (Sciolino, 2014). In addition, Imam Khomeini has been quoted as saying that “the will of the people must be second to the will of God” (Sciolino, 2014). This being said, it seems quite impossible to make “too much” of the clerical structure in Iran. However, it is much easier to envision a future Iran separate from the clerical establishment than a future Saudi Arabia. I will expand on this in a moment.

Can you understand these two regimes without understanding Islam as a governing structure?

I do not think that you can understand Saudi Arabia without understanding Islam as a governing structure. Article I of Saudi’s Basic Law of Government (1992) makes this clear, stating that “The Saudi Arabian Kingdom is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion; God’s book and the Sunna are its constitution…” (Maisel, 2017). Religious legitimacy is the cornerstone of the Saudi regime. The balance of power between the royal family and the Wahhabi is crucial to the regime, and has been since Muhammad ibn Saud (the founder of the dynasty) became the patron of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (a zealous Sunni revivalist of the Hanibal School of Islamic Jurisprudence, the most conservative Sunni school of Islam) (Maisel, 2017). On the other hand, I think that it is possible to understand Iran without understanding Islam as a governing structure. While Saudi Arabia exists as a dynastic monarchy with the Wahhabi as its co-rulers, Iran is partly a theocracy and partly a democracy (Vox, 2016). It is true that right now, “the theory of the [Iranian] constitution is clear. It is a democratic model. The practice might be something different” (Sciolino, 2014). However, it is much easier to envision a future Iran separate from the clerical establishment than a future Saudi Arabia. As previously mentioned, Religious legitimacy is the cornerstone of the Saudi regime. Without the balance of the Wahhabi and the royal family, Saudi Arabia would be a very different place, as the royal family derives much of its legitimacy from the religious clerics. Iran, however, is already (in part) a democracy. According to Vox (2016), in 2016 the people of Iran voted to elect a new Assembly of Experts, who are currently serving an 8-year term. The Assembly of Experts are the body responsible for selecting the new Supreme Leader once the sitting one dies or becomes too sick to rule. The current Supreme Leader has announced that he is likely to die in this time (Vox, 2016). If this does happen, then Iran might have a chance to expand its democracy. According to Rezaian (2018), “theocracies — governments rooted in religious law with clerics holding the bulk of decision-making powers — [like Iran] are a relic of the past that can’t stand up to time or scrutiny”. Although there are many different people in Iran with many different wishes for the future (everything from totalitarianism to (more) real form of democracy), right now, “for the first time in history… all sides of the regime acknowledge its mortal deficiency: it isn’t delivering to people what they want” (Rezaian, 2018). Those in power may not want to make reforms, but they are seeming to realize that they have no other choice. Rezaian (2018) also points out that “Iran was the first country in the region to be run by the clergy in modern times, and there is a very good chance it will also be the first where theocratic rule reaches its expiration date”. The one downside to all of this is that, even if the theocracy is toppled, there is no currently no viable form of government which could replace it (Rezaian). Overall, however, I believe that it is still much easier to envision a future Iran separate from the clerical establishment than a future Saudi Arabia.

All sources used can be found in the “Works Cited” section of the infographic above. 

SUBTOPIC 8.2: The Lebanese Garbage Crisis

There is without a doubt a relationship between sectarianism, corruption, and the “Garbage Crisis” in Lebanon. Corruption is widespread in the Lebanese government, and it has been officially decided that it is LESS corrupt only than the governments of 32 other countries (out of 180) in the world (BBC, 2018). In regard to the Garbage Crisis, “instead of opening up the decision-making process, and inviting civil society to be part of the solution that could save the treasury a considerable amount of money, [the Lebanese government] did what it does best: monopolize the process, ignore the voices of society, and attempt to split the pie among the political elite themselves” (Atallah, 2015). The political elite in Lebanon do not seem to care about their constituents at all, unless their constituents are particularly loyal to them. In fact, “the real question is: who do the political elite represent in the first place in a country where elections are an opportunity for the political elite to select their constituency rather than citizens to elect their representatives?” (Atallah, 2015). This is just another example of the political corruption in Lebanon. In regard to the protests over the Garbage Crisis, this corruption has even begun to take on a violent nature. As of 2015, “failing to outmaneuver the protesters thus far, the government has shamefully used violence to silence the people. They beat up citizens, accused detainees of being drug addicts, and forced them to take urine test to prove their innocence” (Atallah, 2015). The Lebanese people are fed up with the trash in their streets, yes, but more than anything they are fed up with the corruption of their government. The government has failed to provide basic services to its people, and instead continues to divide up its resources primarily among the elite class.

In Lebanon, political power is rewarded based on religious affiliation (Cammett, 2009). According to Harris, religion in Lebanon is not just a set of beliefs and practices, but it actually relates directly to your family and also to who you are as an individual (2017). Because of this, sectarianism runs deep, primarily between Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shi’a Muslims. Interestingly, the Garbage Crisis may actually be easing tensions between these groups. In 2009, “some activists [were] challenging Lebanon’s sectarian culture by working through the nongovernmental organization sector to promote a ‘culture of rights’ among citizens. For example, explicitly anti-sectarian NGOs such as the Amal Association or the Mouvement Social [ran] social programs that offer[ed] medical care, vocational training and other social services” (Cammett, 2009). Much in the same way, the Garbage Crisis seems to be bringing the citizens together. This is an unprecedented protest because, in the historically sectarian society that is Lebanon, for the first time people of all different religions, ages, etc. are gathering together to protest against one common foe: their government (Vice, 2015).

If this conflict is to be resolved, Lebanon’s sectarianism would need to be solved before its political corruption. I believe that the sectarianism is a very important aspect of the corruption itself. According to Cammett, “because power is awarded based on religious affiliation, there is little scope for citizens to vote as citizens rather than as members of sectarian groups. All of these factors combine to distort the translation of voter preferences into electoral outcomes” (2009). If Lebanon could rid itself of this rampant sectarianism (which would be incredibly difficult to do), then it would have a chance to make real political reforms. It would have a chance to find an effective political method that works for the people, and which would give people the legitimate voices in the government which they so desperately need. This would be an enormous step in the right direction. If the citizens could organize and work together as a country, and not based on their religious or ethnic differences, then they could much more easily communicate with their government and and with each other and make real changes which could lead to the solving of this Garbage Crisis, and so much more.

All sources have used here have been cited on the infographic above. I apologize that it posted in two separate parts, I couldn’t find any other way to make it clear enough to be legible. Thank you for your understanding.

Subtopic 7.1 Jordan – Is it All Roses?




23 June, 2018





Political Rights in Jordan 

Pictured above is life on the ground for the Jordanian government (or more specifically the royal family, pictured at the top) juxtaposed to life on the ground for many Jordanian citizens (bottom). The people of Jordan (and in particular, the middle class) are simply fed up with the country’s economic and political corruption. In Jordan, “a system has long been established to benefit the few at the expense of everyone else. Everyone who doesn’t come from a well-connected family, with well-established business and/or political ties…”, is considered to be expendable (Tarawnah, 2018). Despite the recent massive tax hikes, the money is not going to “a world-class public education system or universal health care system, or free college, or comprehensive national and local public transportation systems, or even consistently efficient public sector services”, but it’s going primarily to the elite class, which is getting richer and richer (Tarawnah, 2018). The civil and political liberties in Jordan are dramatically deteriorating. This can be seen in the case of former parliamentarian Toujan Faisal, who was arrested for simply writing an open letter accusing Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb of “‘benefitting personally’ from a government decision to double car insurance premiums” (Schwelder, 2002). Jordan has legalized “political parties and holding elections, but manipulat[es] the electoral system to prevent opposition voices from gaining any real power” (Schwelder, 2002). The Jordanian regime has tried fervently to rid itself of all political dissent, such as expressions of opposition through newspapers, political parties, organizations, rallies, or legal civil society organizations (Scwelder, 2002). Overall, the political and civil rights in Jordan are not in nearly as good of a condition as many Westerners seem to think.

Comparative Political Rights

According to Freedom House Scores, Jordan is considered to be a “partly free country”, with a score of 5/7 (7 being the lowest) for its political rights, 5/7 (7 being the lowest) for its civil liberties, and 5/7 for overall freedom (7 being the lowest) (2018). It has also given Jordan an aggregate score of 37/100 (100 being the most free) (Freedom House Scores, 2018). While Jordan is much more free than other places in the region such as Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, it is still not as free as Israel (Freedom House Scores, 2018). As discussed in other sections of this report, the situation in Jordan on the ground is not entirely a bright one. There have been massive tax hikes which have gone almost entirely to increasing the wealth of the elite class. The elite get richer and richer, while the middle and lower classes experience no economic improvement at all (Tarawnah, 2018). In addition, the government and ever-present Mukhabarat are restricting the political and civil liberties of the Jordanian people more and more every day, shutting down all talk against the king’s regime by restricting access to the internet, prohibiting groups of people (6 or more) from gathering in public spaces, etc. (Scwelder, 2002). While this is not quite as bad as the Mukhabarat in Iraq, it is most certainly not all roses.

Increasing Political and Civil Liberties While Avoiding Civil War 

First and foremost, Jordan must not become another Syria or another Libya. It must not fall to violent civil war. This being said, there are a few strategies by which Jordan may be able to increase its political and civil liberties (but they may be a bit of a long shot). Essentially, Human Rights Watch recommends that the state “tak[e] serious stock of how it does business, what kind of business it condones, and whether any of it is accountable to the people it is supposed to be serving… hire competent, accountable people to bring [Jordan] back from the economic brink, and dismantle an entire system of beneficiaries within its folds” (Tarawnah, 2018). While this all sounds relatively unlikely given Jordan’s current situation, Schwelder suggests that Washington may be a powerful tool in promoting democracy in Jordan (should they decide to do so), as “the administration already has significant influence” in regard to the Jordanian government (2002). However, even if the Jordanian government does make these changes, they will “mean little unless they are accompanied by a clear political will from the state to carry out a comprehensive review of the current approach to governing the country” (Muasher, 2018). Every citizen would need to be given a real decision-making voice. Elections would have to become much more free, fair and competitive. Human Rights Watch recommends that Jordan create a new elite class, void of corruption and capable of proper, democratic governing. We recommend that instead of continuing to raise taxes, Jordan create a feasible plan to stimulate its economy and to attack its institutional economic and political corruption (Muasher, 2018).

The Future of Jordan

Unfortunately, the future of Jordan in terms of civil and political rights does not look exceedingly bright. According to one source, “the State, practically speaking, is broke”, so prices will inevitably rise, and skilled Jordanians will leave the country in search of better pay (Tarawnah, 2018). This will only increase the unrest of the lower and middle classes. In addition, Jordan’s economic struggles are not improving, as “yes, there’s the bare minimal spending required to keep services in a functioning condition, but nothing that has dramatically improved the standard of living” (Tarawnah, 2018). Jordan’s problems go far beyond economic strife. In this situation, the “people are more adept at fighting against something (e.g. tax hikes) than for something (e.g. political change), but if left long enough to simmer, the former can quickly evolve into the latter” (Tarawnah, 2018). In the words of Muasher, “the street today will not back down as easily as it did in 2011” (2018). The elite class is currently “facing unprecedented criticism and has lost the trust of those in the street” (Muasher, 2018). All of these factors will likely lead to the government even further restricting the civil and political liberties of its people, in an attempt to hold onto its power.


I came this scenario entirely by reading the articles (and watching the lecture video) assigned to this unit/ subtopic. I initially had little to no knowledge of Jordanian political and civil liberties at all. Writing this subtopic in the style of an NGO brought to light Jordan’s very disturbing, underlying political and economic tensions (which I previously had no idea existed at all). I have detailed the specifics of these tensions in the NGO report above. I now know that the general Western view of Jordan’s current situation is off-base, to say the least. The United States largely views Jordan favorably, as it has “enough” democracy and a “friendly” leader (Tarawnah, 2018). It is absolutely true that compared to Syria, Iran, Iraq, etc., Jordan is a pretty good place to be. However, after learning so much about the dire state of Jordan in regard to its people’s political and civil freedoms, I fear that things may take a turn for the worse if nothing is done to reform the corrupt politics and economics of this state.

A journalist might present this information a bit differently, as they rely on dramatic, attention-grabbing stories that can sell. They might focus on more specific events, such as the arrest and later pardoning of Toujan Faisal, rather than a complete story of the situation in Jordan. Their job is to sell stories, and they can’t sell them if they are not compelling. A State Department employee might present this information a bit differently than either an NGO worker or a journalist. A State Department employee may try to gain an objective view of the situation in Jordan in order to determine whether or not it is relevant to the United States. As an NGO worker, however, “my” job was to attempt to objectively assess the situation in Jordan, determine its problems and their roots, and try to come up with solutions.


“File: Hrw Logo.svg.” File: Cholesterol (Chemical Structure).Svg – Wikimedia Commons, 2018,

“Freedom World 2018 Table of Country Scores.” Freedom House, 16 Jan. 2018,

Muasher, Marwan. “End of the Rope.” Carnegie Middle East Center, 7 June 2018,

Sawalha, Jawanna. “Meet Jordan’s Royal Family: King Abdullah II, His Siblings, Queen Rania and Their Children.” StepFeed, 21 Feb. 2017,

Schwelder, Jillian. Don’t Blink: Jordan’s Democratic Opening and Closing. 2002, Don’t Blink: Jordan’s Democratic Opening and Closing.

Tarawnah, Naseem. “JORDAN’S GABBA3AT MOMENT.” The Black Iris, 4 June 2018,

Subtopic 6.1: The Role of the Wahhabi ‘Ulema



To Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

21 June, 2018


Jacquelyn F. Hooper of the State Department

Expert on Saudi Arabia


Religion and the ‘Ulema in the Saudi Regime

The importance of the role of religion in Saudi Arabia cannot be exaggerated. At the genesis of the Al Saud dynasty, Muhammad ibn Saud (the founder of the dynasty) became the patron of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (a zealous Sunni revivalist of the Hanibal School of Islamic Jurisprudence, the most conservative Sunni school of Islam) (Maisel, 2017). The bond that these two leaders formed in the 1700s is representative of the symbiotic nature of church and state in Saudi Arabia today (Brown, 2018).

The followers of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab were called “Wahhabis” by outsiders, but the followers themselves preferred to be called “Muwahhidins” (unitarians or monotheists), as the former title seemed to imply that they were worshipers of a human man rather than worshipers of the one true God (Maisel, 2017). Nevertheless, this is the nominal source of the Wahhabi in Saudi Arabia today. The ‘Ulema heads the Wahhabi, and is composed of the country’s most important religious clerics.

Despite the fact that the Saudi Arabian government has claimed that there is “no such thing as a Saudi Arabian religious establishment”, The Wahhabi religious establishment is “constantly indulged as the co-ruler of the Saudi government” (Real Stories, 2016). The primary function of the ‘Ulema is to issue religious opinions to the people, but they are also in charge of overseeing all other institutions. Religion plays an inexplicably important role in Saudi society, as “Islamic law has always formed the basis of the Saudi constitutional system and is supreme, reigning even over the king” (Maisel, 2017). Article I of the Basic Law of Government (1992) makes this clear, stating that “The Saudi Arabian Kingdom is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion; God’s book and the Sunna are its constitution…” (Maisel, 2017). Religious legitimacy is the cornerstone of the Saudi regime. 

The Overarching Power of the Clerics

I believe that the Saudi Arabian clerics of the Whhabi ‘Ulema hold too much power. They have control over the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and the Ministry of Pilgrimage, and they control the Judiciary, as well as most of the state’s education system (Real Stories, 2016). In conjunction with the Wahhabi ‘Ulmea, the Saudi government spends billions of dollars to spread Islam around the world, funding more than 15,000 mosques, 202 colleges, and almost 2,000 schools in non-Islamic countries (Real Stories, 2016). Saudi Arabia has enormous influence in Britain through their support of mosques and Imams. The Saudi government claims that they are not trying to spread a fundamentalist message of any kind, and yet they spend billions and billions of dollars on such projects (Real Stories, 2016). While there are certainly other factors involved, I see this to be a clear indicator of the control the Whhabi ‘Ulmea hold over the Saudi government.

The Relationship Between the ‘Ulema and the Royal Family

In Saudi Arabia, there is a “balance of politics and religion for the sake of not only the survival but the strong, lasting impact of the ‘country of the two holy places'” (Mecca and Medina) (Maisel, 2017). The royal family allows the ‘Ulema to control the social sphere, public space and morality of the country. The royal family also grants the’Ulema their salaries and other subsidies (Real Stories, 2016). In return, the ‘Ulema provides the royal family with tacit religious approval for potentially controversial policies (Brown, 2018). Thus, the royal family and the’Ulema share a relationship which is symbiotic in nature. They each benefit from the existence of one another. However, in a sense they are also each controlled by one another. The monarchy has control over the salaries of the’Ulema and their sphere of public control, but the’Ulema also have control over the monarchy, as the monarchy often requires their tacit approval to legitimize its actions to the people.

A prime example of the monarchy getting religious approval from the’Ulema for a controversial policy involves the right of women to drive. The monarchy wanted to pass a law which banned women from driving, but they knew that it would be controversial. For this reason, they reached out to the’Ulema for religious approval. The’Ulema declared to the people that women must be prohibited from driving, not because the state was trying to control their actions, but because driving presents “horrendous dangers to a woman’s uterus and ovaries” (Brown, 2018).

The Unsustainable’Ulema/ Royal Family Dynamic

I do not think that this symbiotic system is sustainable. Monarchies are not skilled at modernization, and I do not think that Saudi Arabia (or any state) can last indefinitely without eventually giving more power to the people. One scholar has argued that monarchies cannot possibly survive the modern era because political participation is necessary to avoid revolution, and it’s impossible for modern monarchs to achieve political participation (Brown, 2018). In addition, the relationship between the monarchy and the’Ulema has not always been perfect. In recent times especially, there have been notable “awkward” disagreements between them (Brown, 2018). I cannot say for sure how the ruling bodies of Saudi Arabia may change in the future, but I will not be surprised if tensions continue to grow between the ruling family and the religious elites. As of right now, Saudi Arabia does not tax its citizens, so they have no rights. I will also not be surprised if, in the future, the people choose to rise up and demand that this change. In the end, it seems that something will have to give. 


Brown, Dan. “Saudi Arabia.” Politics of the Middle East. 21 June 2018, Norman, Oklahoma.

“File: Seal of the United States Department of State.svg.” File: Cholesterol (Chemical Structure).Svg – Wikimedia Commons,

Maisel, Sebastian. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 2017.

“Wahhabi Infiltration In The Saudi Government.” Real Stories, YouTube, 2016.

Subtopic 5.2: The Genesis of the Syrian Civil War

By creating this infographic, I learned about the causes of the uprising in Syria in 2012, the reasons why the uprising became a civil war, the role that external powers played in the civil war, and the many costs of the civil war. Surprisingly (to me, at least), one very significant factor which led to the uprising in Syria in 2011 was that of climate change. It is thought that climate change is what caused the 2006 drought in Syria, which was the worst drought in 900 years (Mansharamani, 2016). The drought led to ruined farms and the loss of livestock, and many people were forced to move from the rural areas into the cities. In addition, there were many food and water shortages. All of these factors caused great unrest among the people. In 2012, the Arab Spring reached Aleppo (Vice, 2018). President Bashar al-Assad responded to the peoples’ largely peaceful, democratic protests with absolute horror. He sieged rebel-dominated cities, cut food and essential supplies from civilians, ordered mass shellings, torture, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, and indiscriminate bombings (Vice, 2018). Because of this, many people felt that their only choice was to fight back against Assad and the Syrian military with violence. I think that the Arab Spring in Syria turned into a civil war instead of toppling the regime or the regime offering some kind of concessions to the protesters largely because Assad wanted war. According to the Vox article, Assad’s main goal was to “turn the broad-based protest movement from a political struggle – which Assad’s unpopular regime was bound to lose – into a military one, where his control of the army meant he might be able to kill his way to victory” (Beauchamp, 2018). Assad did just that, and started the Syrian civil war. In 2011, “defectors from Assad’s regime formed an organized militia called the Free Syrian Army to protect protesters and strike back at Assad” (Beauchamp, 2018). By 2012, Syria was in a full-blown civil war. Assad receives direct aid from Russia and Iran (BBC, 2018). Turkey fights against the Kurdish forces, and Israel attacks Hezbollah and Assad’s forces (BBC, 2018). Saudi Arabia provides the rebels with deadly weapons to use against Assad, while the USA has armed and trained the Kurdish forces to fight against DAESH. Recently, the USA has also bombed Syria in a failed attempt to “deter” Assad’s chemical weapon use (BBC, 2018 & Beauchamp, 2018). As of 2016, the civil war had “claimed almost half a million lives, wounded close to 2 million people, generated 4.8 million refugees and displaced almost 7 million people within Syria” (Mansharamani, 2016).

Subtopic 4.1: An Egypt Sans Coup?

In my opinion, the most important causal factor that explains Egypt’s slide back to dictatorship under Sisi is that of the military. Ever since Morsi won the presidency, the military wanted to regain the power which they had found in the interim period between Mubarak and Morsi. While I feel that this was the most important causal factor for Egypt’s slide back into military dictatorship, I certainly do not think that it was the only one. As mentioned in both the Vice videos and Stacher’s chapter on Egypt, even during his short rule Morsi was dooming the economy (Vice 2013, Stacher 2017). In addition, both Vice and Stacher mention that Morsi was stoking sectarian tensions, trying to claim that certain Muslims were “real Muslims” and that others were not (Vice 2013, Stacher 2017). Yet another causal factor mentioned by both Vice and Stacher was the fear of many Egyptians that Morsi was trying to seize too much power, ordering the Muslim Brotherhood to crack down on protests and possibly trying to “Brotherize” Egypt (Vice 2013, Stacher 2017). However, I believe that the military’s desire to regain power is the most important causal factor of all. For example, although the military claimed to have gathered 22,000,000 signatures from citizens in favor of overthrowing Morsi, “these documents have never been seen or verified” (Stacher, 2017). It is absolutely true that many Egyptian citizens wanted the military to overthrow Morsi, but an act such as this could potentially be an example of the military hyperbolizing this sentiment in order to regain power. The Vice videos also explain that it is suspected that the military organized the anti-Morsi protest which led to his June 30th, 2012 overthrow, as it was armed and guarding the anti-Morsi crowd but not the pro-Morsi/ Muslim Brotherhood crowd (Vice, 2013).

Subtopic 3.3: Mukhabarat

To view my infographic, please click on the following PDF link (the website I used wouldn’t let me download my infographic without buying a membership, so I had to screen-shot it and convert it into PDF format): Mukhabarat

In creating this infographic, I learned much about Mukhabarat, and how it was used in Iraq under Saddam Hussein in order to safeguard his complete and total authoritarian control of the state. To be clear, many of the agencies of Mukhabarat still exist today, but al-Marashi’s article focuses specifically on Saddam’s rule (as it was written in 2002). Mukhabarat was Iraq’s security apparatus under Saddam, and it consisted of five main agencies: General Security, Military Intelligence, Special Security, Military Security, and General Intelligence. These separate yet overlapping agencies, as well as the Ba’ath party and select units of the military, all worked to ensure the safety of Saddam. In addition, they ensured that “every aspect of Iraqi life” was under Saddam’s complete control (al-Marashi, 2002). General Security monitored the Iraqi people day-to-day, making sure to keep everyone constantly under their watch (and in a very public way). Military Intelligence worked to gather information on the military and to ensure that the members of the military remained loyal to Saddam. Military Security also focused on the loyalty of the armed forces. Special Security suppressed all domestic opposition to the regime. Finally, General Intelligence infiltrated anti-regime organizations. One example of such an anti-regime organization is the Iraqi National Accord, based in Jordan (al-Marashi, 2002). Although these agencies had largely overlapping jurisdictions, they rarely shared information or worked together. This tactic promoted competition between the different agencies. It also prevented any one agency from gaining enough power to revolt against Saddam. Within each agency itself was an additional security unit which monitored the members of that agency to ensure their complete loyalty to the regime. All of this information was reported directly to the Presidential Palace, with no middle man in the agency passing it along. Collectively, these agencies collected and analyzed extensive data on countless “enemies of the state”, many of whom were Iraqi citizens (al-Marashi, 2002). All of these agencies, the Ba’ath party and the select units of the military worked to keep tabs on everyone (including themselves), to keep fear running rampant, and to keep Saddam completely safe and in absolute control of Iraq at all times.

Unfortunately, I most definitely think that this form of authoritarian control applies beyond Iraq. Syria is a prime example. In the 1950s, Syria had 5,000 non-military security forces, including a “National Gendarmérie of 2,800, a Desert Patrol of 400 and 1800 police” officers (Pike). Thus, this Mukhabarat style of authoritarianism is most certainly not confined to Iraq.

al-Mashari, Ibrahim. “Iraq’s Security and Intelligence Network; A Guide and Analysis.” Rubin Center, 1 Sept. 2002,

Pike, John. “Intelligence.” Syria Intelligence and Security Agencies,

Subtopic 2.2 – The Effects of Colonialism

In studying the effects of colonialism on the Middle East, I learned that part of the reason why many Middle Eastern countries are so impoverished today is due to the fact that their former colonizers (namely, Britain and France) did not prioritize their economic development at all (Yom, 2017). Instead, they were primarily concerned with the security of the Arab states. The Europeans needed to insure that the states would be reliable sources of profit for them to exploit, but they felt no responsibility to care for the people within. Over time, this resulted in an extremely wealthy and select elite class who owned almost all of the rural land in the region (Yom, 2017). The Europeans also made a habit of installing foreign or minority rulers in different Middle Eastern states, in order to “create regional dependencies” to justify their intervention (Ali, 2016). They altered local politics by favoring certain families, giving them recognition and boosting their power in the process (Yom, 2017). Amid this Western imperialism arose strong senses of nationalism in many people in the Middle East. Two specific types of nationalism during this time included qawmiyya (ethnic nationalism) and wataniya (territorial nationalism) (Ali, 2016). The threat of conquest by Western nations cause some Middle Eastern people to embrace more “radical elements of their national identities” (Ali, 2016). Britain and France were able to take power over the Middle East via the 1916 Sykes-Picot treaty, which was signed during World War I. The treaty (which also included the Russian Empire) split parts of the former Ottoman Empire among British and French control. The effects of the European colonization of the Middle East can still be seen today. One of the most notable effects is that of the very strong and very well-financed militaries of some Middle Eastern countries who otherwise do not have much infrastructure, health care, clean water, etc. As previously mentioned, the Western nations prioritized security in their Middle Eastern colonies. Once these colonies gained independence, their leaders were typically strongmen favored by their former colonizers. Due to their previous experience as colonized people, these men knew only how to build militaries and social control, and knew nothing about how to build a country’s infrastructure (Yom, 2017). An example of such a country today is Syria. Syria has been in a state of civil war since 2011. Since then, jihadists and “mainstream rebels” have taken much land from the government (“Syria War”, 2018). However, on May 21st, 2018, the Syrian army took full control of Damascus for the first time in six years. They have also cleared ISIS militants from the “Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp and the al-Aswad district” (“Syria War, 2018). This shows that despite Syria’s desperate state of civil war, their military remains a strong force. This can be largely traced back to Syria’s time as a French colony.

All of my sources can be found in the “Works Cited” section of the infographic above. Additionally, I have included the link to and citation of the BBC news story which I reference below:

“Syria War: Army Takes Full Control of Damascus after Ousting IS.” BBC News, BBC, 21 May 2018,


Hello! My name is Jacquelyn Hooper, and I am a Junior. I am majoring in Political Science and Spanish and minoring in Philosophy, and I am also pre-law. I don’t know much about the Middle East so far, other than the stories my mom and grandma have told me. My grandma is from Lebanon and is fully Lebanese, my mom is half Lebanese and I am 1/4 Lebanese. We sometimes get together with our relatives and have traditional meals, featuring dishes such as kibbeh, kafta, rice pilaf, tabbouleh, sfeeha, etc. I have also gone with my grandma to Arabic mass at Our Lady of Lebanon in the past. My goals for learning in this course over the next month include generally familiarizing myself with the cultures, religions, histories and politics of the various countries of the Middle East.