Final Reflection

Final Reflection: As this course comes to an end, I would like to take the time to reflect on the course overall and the Middle East as a whole. When I started this course I knew very little about the Middle East. This course helped me learn about the politics of the Middle East and the factors of influence in different areas. The structure of the course was much different than the tradition lecture, reading, and exams. I enjoyed that this course encouraged creativity. I also liked that I got to pick which subtopic I created an assignment for, for each lesson. It allowed me to pick which case study I was most interested in. This made doing the readings much easier. I also liked that because I was not trying to memorize all of the material for an exam, I went through it being less concerned about memorizing everything and being more worried about understanding each case. I also enjoyed creating the infographics. The skills I learned while condensing information and during the actual creation of the infographic are skills that I know I will use during the rest of my academic career and for jobs to follow. Writing from different prospective was also an interesting aspect of the class. I enjoyed writing from the journalism prospective the best because it was interesting to write as if I was educating someone on the topic. However, I struggled with the assignments where I wrote as an NGO worker. I found it difficult to dive completely in to the role. I think writing from different perspectives is fun and it definitely effected how I presented the information. This could also be a useful skill outside of this class.

In my blog I created a space where I shared what I was learning about the Middle East, but also mixed in my own opinions where needed. If someone were to come across my blog they would most likely notice that the solutions I propose for conflicts, such as the one I proposed for the Palestinian Israeli conflict, tend to be optimistic and unrealistic. I tend to think the logical solutions are the ones that should be put in to place. However, we all know that it is not that simple. This is due to the diversity that exists within the Middle East. Another thing they might notice is that the posts I made mostly had to do with conflict between groups. However, since this course is about politics, that makes perfect sense. The content of the course covered many conflicts to try to understand how the governments of the Middle East interacted with their people to either solve or control the problems. This is something that can be seen throughout my whole blog.

This semester I deepened my understanding of the Middle East. The Middle East is a very diverse place. It is full of people, most of which care very strongly about religion. There are many groups that suffer oppression and rights abuses. These groups are angry and fight back against their oppressors. There were many different case studies in which I learned about protests. I enjoyed covering the Jordanian protest. In Jordan, protests are nothing new. Currently, citizens fear that austerity measure will make goods such as fuel and electricity even more expensive than they already are. The government is considering the austerity measures in order to receive financial assistance. However, not all of the people in Jordan will see the benefits that financial assistance would bring.

Another point within the class that I found to be most interesting was Lesson 11.2, which covered the inclusion and moderation of extremist groups. Once these groups practiced including other groups, they were able to gain political influence. The main idea of this lesson was that once groups work towards including other, which typically means having to cooperate with other, that they would become more moderate. I think that this idea proves to be true as seen with the Hamas and Hizbullah groups. I am hopeful that other extremist groups will realize that violence and terrorism are not the only ways to gain influence and in fact when political power is gained by cooperation it would be more likely to be long-lasting and impactful.

I do not have a list of things that I did not learn specifically within the politics of the Middle East, but instead there are other factors that I wish I understood better. Some of the topics I wish to learn more about are the different religions that exist within the Middle East. I want to know what it truly means to be Muslim and the same for Islam. I know that the values are typically conservative and that women have extremely different roles than they do in other religions, but I want to understand the reasoning behind these values. I would also like to learn more about terrorist groups and why they are so prevalent in the Middle East. I know that the groups are typically fighting against oppression and trying to bring change, but I would still like to have a better understanding of why violence is the option they choose.

I did enjoy getting to see the other students in the class’ work on the course blog feed. However, I think a good addition to this course would be a discussion board. The current structure has assignments that require students to comment on other student’s post, but there is not any feedback or interaction once a comment is made. I guess what I am thinking is that it would be beneficial to have a space where students could discuss the topics and their interpretations and understanding of the conflicts and possible solutions. However, I know this is a short class and only so much can be assigned.

In conclusion, I learned more from this class than I was expecting. Summer classes are normally so rushed that I spend more time memorizing material than I do actually learning it. The structure of this course provided a creative space to cover a lot of material in a way that was fun. The blog allowed me to share what I was learning while mixing in my own opinions. I had to think critically to come up with possible solutions to problems. The Middle East is a diverse place with many ongoing conflicts. These conflicts are difficult to solve due to the governments that are in place. Most, if not all of the governments I learned about were corrupt, self-interested, and oppressive to at least some of the population. Other groups of people that are involved in conflicts such as extremist groups can cause conflicts to escalate and be more difficult to solve.

When it comes to the future of the Middle East, I expect a lot of the conflicts to continue. In order for the Middle East to be a civil, vibrant area, governments would have to be reformed. The people of the Middle East need their voices to be heard. I also think it would be wise to take religion out of government. When a government rules on the basis of religion, the people who do not practice the same religion as the government tend to be treated differently and in some cases governments force religion upon its people. In a space where there are many different religions and people values their religion so deeply, theocracies become problematic. This is because the religion that the government support is superior to all others in the area regardless of the majority religion. This also leaves room for oppression of groups that do not follow the religion of the government. These governments should be replaced by ones that are inclusive and that work toward the best state for the people. The countries in the Middle East should also treat everyone equal. When I studied Iraq, I learned about how the law applied differently to people based on how much money they had. The rich were treated better and got away with crimes that the poor did not. Overall, I wish that the countries that make up the Middle East could find ways to resolve the problems that they face. Many awful things have happened and are not stopping any time soon. People are targeted with violence for being gay or for listening to certain music. There have been numerous suicide bombings, protests, and other rights abuses. Without significant change, the future of the Middle East will likely not improve and risks the chance of becoming full of even more problems.

Subtopic 13.1: Causality and Conflict

Reflect: Making an infographic always helps me understand the information a little better because I am forced to condense it in a way the covers the most important points while covering the topic.

The conflict has been a long one and if it was one that was easy to solve, it would be solved already and even when it is solved, there will be long term tension between the two groups. Palestinians believe that negotiation and violence didn’t work and that they are stuck with an ever growing occupation with no future as a people. Israel seems to no longer be making efforts to solve the conflict, instead they’re just managing it (Vox). It seems unlikely that these groups would be able to get along well enough to be in one state together. I think a good starting point would be for Palestine to strengthen their leadership and fight against corruption. Palestine wants to be independent but it currently lacks the leadership. Hamas also launched suicide bombing to disrupt the Oslo Accords which was the most realistic plan to solve the issues between the two groups. Palestine must be willing to compromise and accept boundaries.

But, Israel must also allow Palestine to have their portion of the land. Another important effort Israel must take is to acknowledge that Palestine could eventually accept peace and stop fighting.  If both groups refuse to compromise over boundaries, each side will continue to fight back as they seek the other side’s total destruction. So, both groups should follow the provisions of the Oslo Accords or something new that is similar. They must learn to respect each other and the agreements that are created. I think something like the Oslo Accords provides the best framework for both groups to live in the same area and stop fighting. Once the groups stop fighting they can work on improving the other issues that lie within, such as: unemployment, electricity, water, and medical care.

I think that my proposed solution would probably not be successful. It is a complex issue and both sides will most likely not be willing to compromise so easily. I think the conflicts between the groups will be ongoing until one gains control of all the land by use of force.


Booth, William. “A Palestinian’s daily commute through an Israeli checkpoint”.  The Washington Post. 25 May, 2017

Vox. “The Israel-Palestine conflict: A Brief, Simple History”. 2016.

Subtopic 12.1: Iraq a failed state?

Write: In Iraq since the fall of the Saddam regime, there seems to be a mix of views in whether or not people miss the Saddam regime. In a video from Vice, “In Saddam’s Shadow”, people in Iraq talk about their contradicting beliefs that they are enjoying more freedom post Saddam or missing the ruling of Saddam, specifically the stability that the Saddam regime brought (Vice, 2013). The current regime depends on military support from Iran, especially in Baghdad (Gasiorowski and Yom, Ch 8). Military support is needed due to the increasing amount of insurgency in the area. Iraq needs the support for Iran, which has caused its foreign policy to track closely with Iran (Gasiorowski and Yom, Ch 8). There was once hope the Iraq would become a close American ally, but that does not seem likely now. However, the US does still hold a significant influence over the area. The US has provided military training, aerial intelligence, and air strikes, which seem to be beneficial (Gasiorowski and Yom, Ch 8). There is some resistance surrounding the training of Sunni militias and Kurdish forces and some believe those groups may backlash against the state (Gasiorowski and Yom, Ch 8).

 The 2005 constitution in Iraq contains elements consistent with democratic values (Gasiorowski and Yom, Ch 8). It guarantees full equality for the citizens regardless of race, religion, gender, or beliefs (Gasiorowski, Ch 8). And while it does designate Islam as the official religion of the state, it is not the exclusive religion (Gasiorowski and Yom Ch 8). The constitution set up a legislative, executive, and judicial branch of government.

 For most of Iraq’s history, its capacity has been low with low levels of democracy (Gasiorowski and Yom, Ch 8). Saddam provided their authoritarian style because there was a need to raise capacity (Gasiorowski and Yom, Ch 8). Since 2003, the regime has shown some improvement by creating an inclusive political system that can solve some of the problems of state-building that dictatorship was unable to solve (Gasiorowski and Yom, Ch 8). However, the lack of capacity is still a problem, which can be seen by Iraq’s internal instability. This instability comes from the rivals within the state such as Sunni, Shi’a, Kurdish, and other armed groups. The state has been unable to consistently stop violence between the groups (Gasiorowski and Yom, Ch 8). All of these groups have also challenges Iraq state sovereignty. Measures have been made to prevent threats from groups within the state such as creating detention centers and using other methods to intimidate them (Gasiorowski and Yom, Ch 8). These methods cause even further problems; “… these methods not only weaken democracy, they also effectively weaken the state” (Gasioroski and Yom, Ch 8).

There are also many problems within Iraq due to corruption. People are treated differently by the law depending on their wealth, ethno-sectarian, or family statue (Gasiorowki and Yom, Ch 8). It seems that Iraq is stuck in a cycle that is typical for many developing countries (Gasiorowski and Yom, Ch 8). A good example of this is the checkpoints that exist in Iraq. There are currently checkpoints on every street (Vice). These checkpoints are set up to detect car bombs, which have been a big problem. The checkpoints were originally set up by the US, but even after the US withdrew from the area, the checkpoints stayed (Vice). At these checkpoints, police use devices to detect weapons. The New York Times posted a story in which they exposed that the $60,000 devices do not actually detect weapons and are a scam (Vice). Despite the media proving that these devices don’t work, the police in Iraq continue to utilize them (Vice). This is likely because using dogs to check cars would make travel even slower than it already is (Vice). Citizens have also said that if they do not keep their eyes straight forward at the checkpoints, there will be an additional search of their vehicle (Vice).

In the most recent elections, held on May 12, 2018, the lead party of all post 2003 Iraqi governments lost the elections for the first time (Alkinani, 2018). There is a secular drift that has come from the fall of the Da’wa-led islamist failure (Alkinani, 2018). The secular parties are present, but are broken up in to different coalitions (Alkinani, 2018). However, their presence and mentions in political media is, “definitely an effective beginning” (Alkinani, 2018)

 Respond: While writing as a journalist, I tried to write in a way that covered all of the content without bringing my own opinions in too much. Since I was writing a newspaper article, it was important that I presented the evidence and opinions of the people in a way that was clear and covered what I understood from the readings and video.

I don’t think Iraq is necessarily doomed to be a failed state, but I also don’t think it will be stable. The readings and video clearly show that Iraq has many issues; unemployment is high, there’s gang presence, terrorist groups, persecution, and much more (Vice).  I do not think that these problems are going to go away any time soon. In the Vice video there was a man who mentioned missing the stability that the Saddam regime created. Since the current regime is less controlling and regulated, it makes sense that it is not as stable. If the regime was secular and fair for all, I think it would be able to manage the different sectors of society because it would not be considering its own interest or be trying to create influence when managing the different groups. Corruption also needs to stop. The constitution labels everyone as equal, but does not treat them as equal, which creates problems. The rich are able to buy their way out of trouble. There are also issue with jailing people and using other methods to control opposing beliefs and opinions. Let’s just say, I do not think it will be impossible for Iraq to be a democracy that is fair and equal for all, but they need to control opposition between the groups in their society and stop trying to influence the government from within. The rise of secular groups in Iraq creates some hope


Alkinani, Zeidon “The Outcomes of Iraq’s 2018 Elections.” OpenDemocracy. June 04, 2018. Accessed July 03, 2018.

Gasiorowski and Yom. Chapter 8. “Republic of Iraq”. Ariel I. Ahram.

Vice. “In Saddam’s Shadoww: Baghdad 10 Years After the Invasion”. 2013


Subtopic 11.2: Inclusion and Moderation?

Reflect: Creating an infographic opposed to a video or a written post helped me gain a deeper understand of the topic  because, creating an infographic forced me to condense information. There is less room to explain each group and everything that is covered in the readings. I really had to decide what was most important when trying to explain the groups and how they became involved politically. Also, when talking in a video or writing there is time for clarification and explanation, with an infographic I had to make sure that what I put in the infographic clearly showed what Hamas and Hizballah are and how they became active in the political sphere and how inclusion has encouraged moderation.

I do not think that the two groups have to follow the same path and it will probably be unlikely that they do. Hizbullah will likely be move towards moderation more quickly than Hamas will. This is because Hizbullah gained political influence from the public for providing resources during the civil war (Schwedler, 2007). Hamas isn’t necessarily widely supported. Instead, the public believes that they are a better option than the previous Fatah party (Schwedler, 2007). Support from the public will likely impact how moderate each group is. Public support also creates legitimacy. For this reason, I think the Hizbullah party will be viewed as “more legit” than Hamas.

I feel optimistic about the long term future of these two groups. Despite their imperfections,they both seem to be making progress from their previous practices.


Schwedler, “Democratization, Inclusion, and the Moderation of Islamist Parties”. 2007.

“Inside Hamas.” FRONTLINE.

Subtopic 10.1: Much Ado About Mullahs?


Reflect: The role of Islam is different in Iran than in Saudi Arabia. Iran is founded on Shiite Islam whereas Saudi Arabia is Sunni Islam. Due to the different types of Islam, the regimes are different. Saudi Arabia follows a more traditional practice (Gasioroqwski and Yom, Ch 10). Iran however has reform movements that might actually make progress towards a secular regime long term (Sciolino, 2000). I think it will be easier for Iran to separate from the clerical establishment than in will be for Saudi Arabia. This is because Saudi Arabia follows Sunni Islam which tends to be follow traditional norms (Gasiorowski and Yom, Ch 10). Whereas Iran has started to apply Islam a bit differently in its society. The Shitte religion also makes Iran different than Saudi Arabia. According to Sciolino, Shitte Islam is, “founded on the principles of debate and disagreement” (Sciolino,2000). People are taught to question their elders and superiors and always debate and argue (Sciolino, 2000). This value alone convinces me that Iran will be more likely to move away from a theocracy. Also, people in Iran have been engaged in politics and been fighting back against the system for years (Sciolino, 2000). I think that their efforts will eventually make a difference. However, the opposition does not have a realistic replacement for their regime (Rezaian). In order for the regime to become secular, a realistic structure would have to be thought of and put in place.

I do not think that we are making too much of the clerical structure within these countries. The structure creates a regime that is controlling by using a higher power and does not allow for representation of the people. I think that this is problematic because people have different beliefs and values, and in my opinion a regime should be able to govern people aside from religion so that everyone is treated fairly. The structure in Iran seems to be open to the interpretation of democracy in a way that does not violate Islamic law (Sciolino, 2000). I think that this is a very important move in the right direction. However, if Iran does become a democracy I think it will be a very long process that will be opposed by many. I also believe that it will take a long time for any other theocracies in the area to follow Iran.


Sources for Infographic and Reflection:

Gasiorowki and Yom, Ch 10. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Sebastian Maisel.

Rezaian, Jason. “Iran’sTheorcracy is Nearing Its Expiration Date. And Then What?”. Washington Post. Jun 7, 2018.

Sciolino, Elaine. FRONTLINE: “Inside Iran – Analysis: Voice of Freedom”. 2000.

Subtopic 9.2: Academia, Policy, and the Public on Political Islam


The Disconnect of Knowledge Surrounding the Middle East One issue that arise while trying to understand politics of the Middle East is the disconnect between scholarly knowledge, policy-making, and public knowledge. Understanding the different views and presentation of information, can help remedy this gap of knowledge.

Scholarly-Knowledge – Scholars often make broad generalizations about Islamism despite its diversity that comes from its embodiment of over a billion people (Sadowski). Scholars also present information in ways that can be misleading. As with any topic, some see Islamism as a positive thing and others see it in a negative. What causes the gaps of knowledge with scholarly-knowledge is most likely the fact that generalizations are made. The Middle East is diverse and creating even small generalizations can lead to misleading information. This is problematic for people who use a small quantity of sources for their knowledge of the Middle East. I do believe that there is good scholarly information available. However, the key is knowing how to find it and distinguish it from other sources.

Policy-Making Knowledge- For the Middle East, the most powerful opposition to existing regimes is the Islamist groups (Schwedler).  The goal for most regimes is to incorporate the opposition movements without losing control (Schwedler). The commitment of the regime tends to lead more towards this goal, than towards the goal of advancing democratically (Schwedler). In order to distract their citizens from reality, regimes will create political openings. Policy makers use this knowledge to help control opposition and remain in power. It is also important to consider that in the past, most Muslims’ did not let their Muslim identity affect their political identity (Wedeen). This could also be the case for some Muslim’s today, because it is necessary to improve the instable governments we often see in the Middle East.

Public Knowledge- When we talk about the Middle East, we often think of violent protests, terrorist attacks, and poor governing. This is due to the media’s coverage of the constant struggle between the ruled and the rulers. We know that most places in the Middle East do not have democratic values. For example, in order to try to advance their political power, the people, in the form of opposition groups participate in elections. However, the regimes work to prevent them from gaining any power despite their efforts through elections (Schwedler). The people of the Middle East often protest and fight back against their controlling regimes. Some people feel betrayal from their state and join terrorist organizations to fight back.

A Possible Solution:

The gap in knowledge between different parts of society comes from different views and opinions being shared. People should be hesitant about what they read, view, and hear. They should always read more than one source and consider any biases that might be present. Trying to understand Islamism from multiple points in society would also be wise, as each view is different and important to the bigger picture. These efforts will help ensure that people are getting a full understanding of Islamism and Political Islam within the Middle East.


Your argument is very compelling! I agree that in order to have a better understanding of the Middle East, we must try to understand the Muslim world and the diversity within it. However, I think it is also important to add the “policy-making” point of view in order to have a full understanding. The most powerful opposition within the Middle East is Islamist groups; how policy makers manage their dissent is a huge factor when trying to understanding the Muslim world (Schwedler). Policy makers will often allow opposition groups to run for positions within the government, only to keep the groups distracted (Schwedler). This allows the government to remain in control by allowing the groups to think they have a voice. However, they are not given enough influence to make any significant impact (Schwedler). This creates a lot of frustration and violence that we see in the Middle East.

Emillie Oberlander commented on Matthew Hein’s post “The Politics of Islam”


Luck, Taylor. “Reinvention of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood Involves Women – And Christians”. Washington Post. September 20, 2016 

Sadowski, Yahya. “POLITICAL ISLAM: asking the wrong questions?”. Annual Review of Political Science, vol. 9, no. 1, 2006, pp. 215-240 

Schwedler, “Democratization, Inclusion, and the Moderation of Islamist Parties”. 2007.

Wedeen, Lisa. “Beyond The Crusades: Why Huntington, and Bin Laden, Are Wrong” Middle East Policy, vol. X, No. 2 (May, 2003): pp. 54-61

Subtopic 8.2: The Lebanese Garbage Crisis


Reflect: There is a relationship between the Garbage Crisis and politics. The government failed to implement a plan after the landfill closed in 2015. Since then the elites within the government have not been successful while trying to come up with a plan to handle the garbage situation. The trash buildup is due to the government’s inability and unwillingness to find a solution. There is also a new political party that has been formed surrounding the issue (Galer). Issues exist with other services as well, such as water and electricity. Citizens are being charged more by private companies for less resources that they used to receive (Atallah).

Many people have made an effort to slow the buildup of trash and get the government to put long term solution in place. Volunteer groups have made efforts to handle the mess, but even when trash is collected, it still finds its way back to the ocean (Galer). When it comes to sectarianism, I think that all groups of society are coming together regardless of their differences as seen in the “You Stink” video. I think that the solution for the garbage crises must start with the government. The elite must find an efficient way to handle the problem. If they do not, trash will continue piling up in the ocean and surrounding areas, which will cause more problems with water sanitation and air quality.


Atallah, Sami. “Garbage Crises Exposes Arrogance and Conflict Among the Political Elite of Lebanon.” Jadaliyya, September 7,2015.

Galer, Sophia Smith. “Lebanon is Drowning in Its Own Waste.” BBC Future. March 28, 2018.

“You Stink!”. Rally in Beirut. Vice News. YouTube. 2015.

Subtopic 7.1: Jordan – Is It All Roses?



Hello, my name is Emillie and I am currently working for an NGO. I have just found out that I will be traveling to Jordan to work within communities to help citizens that are navigating current issues surrounding political and civil rights issues within the state. Here is what I know so far:

In Jordan, civil and political liberties are deteriorating (Schwedler). Political parties are legal and elections are held. However, elections are controlled so that the opposition’s voice cannot gain any real power (Schwedler). The state has put restrictions on the press; “civil society organizations are pressured to avoid dealing with ‘sensitive’ issues…” (Schwedler). These conditions were made even worse when Abdallah II took the throne. He made efforts to solidify the regime, which included the creation of the The Economic Consultative Council (Schwedler). This group works to strengthen the ties between Abdallah and the economic elite (Schwedler). Other efforts to remain in power included postponing elections and creating new laws.

There have been protests in the past, but the regime has been able to remain stable. However, there is something different about the current protests within Jordan. The current issues seem to have caused outrage of the entire middle class. People are fed up (Tarawneh). The government has made many promises, but failed to hold up their end. The system does not work for the middle class, but instead favors the governing class (Tarawneh). There is no transparency within the government. The people are forced to follow laws and policies that have been forced upon them (Tarawneh).

There is also issues with taxes. The government continues to increase taxes, but the majority of the population is not benefiting in any way (Tarawneh). Only people within the government and upper class are noticing the increase in tax. Everyone else continues to suffer from rising prices of goods and fears that subsidies for goods may be lost (Tarawneh).

The conditions in Jordan are somewhat better than they are in Egypt. So far, Jordan has not experienced violence between the state and its citizens. In Egypt, there has been many violent protest and the military has killed protesting civilians. However, in both countries there has been rights abuses, specifically through the control of media and voice of concerns. Egypt receives a “not free” status from Freedom House, while Jordan is listed as “partly free”. The difference between the two ratings comes from the differences of civil and political rights abuses. Although Jordan is currently in a better position than Egypt, if the government of Jordan continues to take away more rights, Jordan will likely be ranked “not free” soon.

In order to keep Jordan out of a violent civil war, my NGO proposes that the state makes structural changes. The state should hire people to help improve overall financial situations. The government should also make themselves accountable to the people they are serving (Tarawneh). These actions will ensure that the people of Jordan can trust the government which we believe is the best way to prevent Jordan from erupting into chaos.

Personally, I think that there will be conflict in Jordan soon. As time goes on, people are becoming more and more outraged due to the lack of respect for their civil and political rights. The state has shown no signs of working to improve conditions. It seems to be the exact opposite. The state has been taking more and more from the citizens but no resources are being directed back to the people (Tarawneh). In order for the situation to improve, the state must start listening to the people because, “society no longer accepts that the state manage affairs through traditional means (Muasher). I also think that economic reforms are important to improving the condition of the state. However, without change the conditions with continue to escalate into violence.

Reflect: Writing as an NGO worker was a little difficult and different than other prospectives. NGO workers tend to connect more to the population than to the government itself. A state department employee or journalist may be inclined to present information in a positive way or in a way that best reflects the state. On the other hand, an NGO worker would be more transparent of the conditions within the society. They also would be more likely to draw attention to grievances than a state department employee would be and propose solutions.

Some may consider Jordan to be a hopeful place for democracy. However, I think that there needs to be an effort from both the government and from the people in order for there to be any progression towards democracy. The state needs to be an outlet where the people can voice their concerns and calls for change.



Egypt. Freedom House. February 14, 2018. Accessed June 24, 2018.

 Jordan. Freedom House. January 16, 2018. Accessed June 24, 2018.

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

Schwedler, Jilian. “Don’t’ Blink Jordan’s Democratic Opening and Closing.” Middle East Research and Information Project. July 3, 2002.

Tarawneh, Naseem. “Jordan’s Gabaa3at Moment” The Black Iris.


You make some great points within your writing! I agree that in order to avoid public outrage, Jordan needs to make some major changes. However, I am not convinced that King Abdullah II understands what Jordanians are going through. He exploits most of the population by taxing them and continues to make efforts to cut subsidies of goods such as bread and fuel.  The benefits are mainly going to the elites. He also continues to gain more power by controlling the media and creating temporary laws. I think that Tarawneh is correct when he writes that, “… despite having a consistently compassionate monarch, nothing has changed. At least not for the better”.

Emillie Oberlander wrote on Andrew Dixon’s post: “Subtopic 7.1”

Subtopic 6.2: Reform in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia has been faced with being controlled by a monarchy for a long time. A monarchy that makes significant efforts to maintain control. Those that reside in Saudi Arabia are unable to speak out against the regime. This is because they fear being put in jail or being killed if they show their dissent.

There are many people in Saudi Arabia that are speaking out against the ruler. Activists want more rights. However, many people that would speak out, fear speaking out due to arrests that have been made of those that have called for change. People have also been arrested for posts they have made on social media in support of activists who were arrested (Dobbie, Peter). The regime practices silencing campaigns and hundreds have been arrested (Bsheer).

There has been some hope for reform and movement towards more freedom for citizens, especially women. For the first time, women are allowed to drive although they must still be accompanied by a male guardian (Dobbie, Peter). However, the advancements seem to be just enough to prevent complete public outrage. There also seems to be more

So while the regime may be acting as if they are working toward modernization and more development by improving rights, I think they are actually trying to keep their control while also preventing dissent. One of the best examples of this is how Mohammed “redeveloped” a neighborhood in a Awamiyya. He made plans for the neighborhood without consulting the 3,000 people that lived within it. Also, the neighborhood was occupied by Shiite inhabitants, many of which were activists (Bsheer). And while he did provide housing in another neighborhood, it was inadequate (Bsheer). Some people refused to move in order to protest, Mohammed’s action. Those who did not move, were killed (Bsheer). The regime benefited from this in two way. The first, was it uprooted some of the anti-Al Saud activists. It also created room for investment for Salman’s companies and those of his allies (Bsheer). The regime seems to be most interested in how it can advance its own financial motivations and it has used its military assault on people in order to do so (Bsheer).

Another important thing to consider from this example is how Salman’s companies and those of his allies function. They are notorious for inflating prices, signing phantom deals, encouraging massive kickbacks, contravening the law and ignoring safety measures (Bsheer ). All of their efforts seem to be profit driven. In my opinion, they do not show concern for improvement for the citizens of Saudi Arabia.

According to Hala Al-Dosari, the monarchy has used similar methods to maintain control for a long period of time. These methods include censoring media and education and support religious institutions (Al-Dosari). However, given the, “mounting economic and political constraints it is not surprising that the state is now targeting advocates of reform, regardless of their political or religious affiliations, to ensure it maintains control of public opinion (Al-Dosari). From the reports of people being arrested while peacefully protesting and other measures being taken to insure the control of the publics’ opinion, this seems to be accurate.

I think that the U.S. should pressure Saudi Arabia to allow the public to protest. If the people in Saudi Arabia are able to show their dissent and create pressure for change, I think that will make the biggest impact. If the US alone pushes for change, I fear that the people of Saudi Arabia will see the change as western influence, which can often be a problem in other parts of the world.


Al-Dosari, Hala. “Silencing Dissent in Saudi Arabia.” Sada – Middle East Analysis – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. November 2, 2017.

Basheer, Rosie. “How Mohammed bin Salman Has Transformed Saudi Arabia”. The Nation, May 21, 2018.

Dobbie, Peter. “Is the drive to modernize Saudi Arabia taking a wrong turn?” Inside Story. Al Jazeera English. YouTube. June 10, 2018.

Subtopic 5.1: The White Helmets Controversy

While reading the article and watching the video, I learned a lot about the White Helmets. They are a group that works in dangerous areas in order to help save those who have been victims to the violence from their regime. The work they do is incredibly risky and they are not fairly compensated for their work. White Helmets do receive some payment, but they often have to wait months in order to receive money (Khaja). The White Helmets are clearly uninterested in money or other motivations, their actions are simply voluntary .

The White Helmets appear to be neutral. Their concern is helping the people who have been effected by the conflict, not necessarily stopping or preventing conflict. Because of this, the accusations of terrorism also do not appear to be true, but simply a tactic used to diminish the reputation of the group.

I think that the White Helmets have good intentions and that their actions are brave. The group takes great risk in order to try to help people who have been effected by the attacks from the regime by putting their lives on the line. They go out into dangerous zones in order to find people who have been injured or killed in the rubble. I think that the argument that there are no good guys in Syria is completely false. Even though the rebels may be viewed in a negative way, most of them are just trying to protect themselves and get rid of the Assad regime.



Khaja, Nagieb. “Syria’s White Helmets.” Al-Jazeera Witness. Al-Jazeera, August 14, 2016

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, “Are there really ‘no good guys’ in Syria?” The New Arab. April 20, 2018