Poli Sci for the Average Guy: ISIS Competes in Middle Eastern Monopoly

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The longest Monopoly game in history lasted for 70 straight days, and in those 70 days, green houses, red hotels and social lives were lost. The names of the incredibly bored record-setters are not disclosed, but their legacy, unfortunately, lives on. Today, the ISIS – “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” – seeks to break their record one Sunni enclave at a time.

The Battlefield
The Battlefield

The game-changing round of Monopoly occurring in the Middle East today comes at a much higher cost than play money. In this “game,” ISIS made the first move, and their offensive strategy has since left Iraqi minorities and American officials on the defensive.

ISIS is a Sunni jihadist group in the Middle East that spiraled from al-Qaeda, originally an Iraqi insurgency group that formed in reaction to American-led forces following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Similar to its parent organization al-Qaeda, which has since cut ties with ISIS, ISIS identifies as a caliphate: an Islamic state under the jurisdiction of a supreme religious and political leader. With Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi serving as the caliphate (supreme leader) of the Islamic state, ISIS has the rudimentary organizational structure needed to forecast plans of expansion.

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However, before the ISIS can fulfill its goal of an extremist Muslim monopoly of the Middle East, it must begin by consolidating political control over the Muslim-inhabited regions of Iraq and Syria. ISIS initially sought to establish a caliphate in Sunni-majority regions of Iraq, but last year’s Syrian Civil War paved immediate inroads for establishing the caliphate in Syria as well. After both Iraq and Syria are consolidated under Islamic State leadership, the Islamic State will be able to pursue control over the historic region of “Levant,” which includes: Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Cyprus, and parts of Turkey. Building this monopoly will be a step-by-step process, but the United States and its allies hope this game ends with Iraq and Syria.

In June of this year, ISIS had 4,000 fighters in Iraq, destroying government and military targets in addition to taking the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. This August, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that ISIS has expanded to 30,000 fighters in Iraq and 50,000 fighters in Syria. Due to this expansion and other variables, Chuck Hagel, U.S. Secretary of Defense, believes that [ISIS] “poses a long-term threat” (ABC News).

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U.S. officials both fear and acknowledge the likelihood that this Monopoly match might outlast the 70-day record.  The crisis thus far has developed along two fronts: first, as a humanitarian disaster against Iraqi religious/ethnic minorities, and second, as a threat to the Iraqi Kurdish meta-state, a longtime U.S. ally. The Yazidi’s, who inhabit the Nineveh Province of Northern Iraq, chronicle a tragic history as victims of Sunni-led persecution – some would argue “genocide.” Whether by fundamentalist revolutionaries, followers of Saddam Hussein or today’s ISIS, the Yazidi’s are perpetually victimized in serial Sunni attempts to rid Iraq and its neighbors of non-Islamic influences. Together, these two fronts provided the United States with an irresistible invitation to deal in and ante up.

In response to the humanitarian crisis, the U.S. has airdropped supplies to the Yazidi’s cut off in northwestern Iraq and is in the midst of deliberating whether to make similar airdrops to the northern Iraqi town of Amerli – inhabited by Iraq’s Turkmen minority – which has been under siege by IS (Islamic State) militants for over two months. Militarily, the U.S. has supplied arms and ammunition to the Kurdish peshmerga forces and has implemented airstrikes against IS forces.

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The short-term goal of the United States is to prevent additional IS advances via airstrikes and aid to peshmerga forces. Long-term, the Obama administration hopes to establish a viable Iraqi state. But with mounting pressure from his military leaders, Obama and his two-pronged strategy might be cornered into more big-picture goals for the Middle East. If Syria extends its own irresistible invitation for U.S. involvement, the game plan will have to change.

In this “Fast-dealing [extremist Muslim, political consolidation] game,” the Obama administration has limited get-out-of-jail cards, Monopoly money, and patience. What will the United States do when its their turn? Stay tuned.

Sources: hasbro.com, U.S. News & World Report, ABC News, New York Times

Photos: Google

Poli Sci for the Average Guy: Vlad’s Games

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST on NBC, the world will discover that Sochi is a real place. World-class athletes from almost 100 different nations will participate in an event first held 3,000 years ago in Olympia, Greece. Although today we use the Olympics to celebrate the gods among men rather than the gods themselves, the Olympics remain the lynchpin of the international sporting community.

sochi-2014-logoHowever, it’s not all about luging — but if it were, I wouldn’t complain. Time and time again the Olympics have provided a platform for political revolution and revelation. By hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia has invited international criticism of many fronts.

In the late 1800s, Sochi was home to the genocide of the Circassian people — historically Sunni Muslims in North Caucus — who today, still united as a global Circassian community, protest Russia’s hosting the games on the grounds that Russia never apologized for its wrongdoing.

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The criticisms don’t end there. At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, a “Pride House” was instituted to welcome LGBT athletes, but this year, the Russian Ministry of Justice shot down the idea of a “Pride House” for the 2014 Games, claiming that creating one would incite “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation which can undermine the security of the Russian society and the state and provoke social-religious hatred, which is the feature of the extremist character of the activity.”

The safety of LGBT athletes in the Sochi games has been hotly contested and brought to the forefront of the international community; just recently, Vladimir Putin signed into a law a series of “anti-gay” laws that challenge the protection the Olympic Charter provides for members and supporters of the LGBT community.

In addition, reporters arriving at the games have described stunning conditions in Sochi: unsafe drinking water, unfinished buildings and the “elimination” of stray dogs from the city. In other words, everything’s a hot mess.

t-A-T-u-tatu-23149208-800-600The silver lining? Russia has spent $51 million on tonight’s opening ceremonies, featuring none other than the R-Pop stars t.a.T.u. Stay tuned!

Photo: newnextnow.com, logodesignlove.com, mylondondiary.co.uk

Poli Sci for the Average Guy: State of the Union

polisciOn Jan. 19, 55.9 million “Joe Six Packs” watched the Seattle Seahawks triumph over the San Francisco 49ers and earn their seat at the 2014 Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos.

Last night, Jan. 28, President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address – a tradition coined by former President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934 as the “Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union” – to a whopping audience of 30 million (probably students earning extra credit in social studies). The State of the Union address began under President George Washington to ensure the transparency and accountability of the executive branch, and it is now used to test the ability of the vice president (Joe Biden) and speaker of the House (John Boehner) to stay awake. I kid.

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In case you missed yesterday’s State of the Union, 4E is here to fill you in with the President’s major points (with a few jokes laced throughout):

Jobs: “Insourcing” is the new outsourcing, just like “Scandal” is the new “West Wing” (not sorry about it). Obama aims to co-invest with American businesses in American-made technologies and rewrite tax laws that make outsourcing feasible.

Housing: President Obama is handing over $15 billion to create new construction jobs and to help recover foreclosed properties.

Minimum Wage: Things are looking good for entry level workers: The president proposed a federal minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $9 by the end of 2015 with adjustments according to inflation.

Gun Control: Background checks and mental health services are part of Obama’s plan to combat gun violence.

Afghanistan: 34,000 U.S. Military forces are coming home.

Immigration: President Obama wants new legal citizens, and he’s willing to develop new pathways to achieve it, but until then, the 11 million immigrants in the U.S. … can wait? Work? But not illegally!

The Ladies: Obama stated that all American women should be protected and promised to investigate and prosecute instances of sexual assault or domestic violence under the Violence Against Women Act.

Early Childhood Education: The executive hopes to make preschool available to children of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Trade: Hey European Union … lemme get wit you …

Federal Budget: We’re aiming at a $4 trillion deficit reduction, but take a load off, we gave ourselves 10 years to reach that number.

Energy/Climate Change: The plan is to implement tax credits on the production of renewable energy sources.

Education: Mo’ high quality high schools means mo’ college students … and mo’ money … and mo’ problems? Or maybe just more education.

Well, that’s the SOTU in a nutshell for you. For a more detailed analysis of last night’s speech, head here. In the meantime, keep checking in for the next installment of Poli Sci for the Average Guy.

Photo: politico.com

Poli Sci for the Average Guy: What’s the Deal with Iran?

In Tehran, Iran’s nuclear program was born and raised, in centrifuges is where it spent most of its days. Maxin’ out, enriching, playing it all cool, fooling inspectors and breaking the rules. When John Kerry appeared, he was up to some good, tryin’ make peace in the Middle East neighborhood. Iran struck a deal and Israel and Saudi Arabia got scared, they said, “Yo, John this new deal you got isn’t so fair.”

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On Nov. 24, the United States – together with the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – struck a historic deal with Iran.

Since 1979, the United States has imposed sanctions on Iran in response to Iran’s nuclear program, which began in 1957. The United States, along with the other five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, perceived a nuclear Iran as a threat to international stability and the balance of power. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is legally permitted under international law to produce nuclear material for peaceful purposes. However, Iran’s legitimacy in claiming peaceful purposes has often been called into question. Therefore, the United States and the United Nations imposed defensive sanctions against Iran to destabilize and cripple its nuclear program. (For those who don’t know, sanctions are national “time-outs” with tremendous economic repercussions.) In the case of Iran, sanctions caused the Iranian currency to drop 80% in value.

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This brings us to last week in Geneva, Switzerland – the home of indecision, chocolate and watches – where the United States and Iran struck an short-term, six-month deal to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons program in exchange for a “modest relief” from sanctions. Even more impressive, Iran joined other powerful nations at a negotiation table. “For the first time in nearly a decade we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program,” President Obama said.

Here’s the Dealio:

What will Iran do? Iran will lessen its stockpile of uranium – yellow powder that goes kaboom – enriched to 20 percent. Although uranium isn’t bomb-grade until it’s enriched to 90 percent, 20 percent is too close for comfort. The deal also requires Iran to stop all enrichment above 5 percent (enough to generate electricity from nuclear energy) and dismantle all accompanying equipment to ensure that remaining nuclear infrastructure is for peaceful purposes. Lastly, Iranian nuclear facilities will be subject to daily inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

What will the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany do? They will lift some sanctions formerly imposed on Iran, thus providing Iran with an additional $1.5 billion dollars in revenue … but that’s only a fraction of what is still frozen by sanctions. Ultimately, the ease in sanctions is “limited, temporary, targeted and reversible relief to Iran,” according to CNN.

Can we trust Iran to hold up its end of the bargain? Only time will tell.

 

Sources: NBC News, CNN
Images: Google, NBC, CNN

Poli Sci for the Average Guy: Philippines & Filibusters

polisciWe realize that national and international political events play a crucial role in our education and dialogue here at Georgetown. We also realize how terrifying it can be when someone talks about a current political issue and you have no idea what that person is saying. That’s wherePoliSci for the Average Guy comes in.

PoliSci for the Average Guy is a recurring post that keeps you easily and entertainingly informed of the political issues that have most recently been making headlines. With help from PoliSci, you’ll be a little less stressed and a little more informed about today’s serious political topics and will be able to dive into the discussion yourself.

This past week has been filled with newsworthy stories, from a historic natural disaster in the Philippines to controversial political change in the United States. For your fill of what’s been happening, please read on.

On Nov. 7, a disastrous typhoon hit the Philippines, an island nation nuzzled in the waters off Southeast Asia. A typhoon is any tropical storm that takes place near the Indian or western Pacific Oceans. However, the typhoon that struck the Philippines on Nov. 7 – Typhoon Haiyan – was not just any tropical storm.

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The “super-typhoon” Haiyan put 25 million Filipinos in harm’s way with winds that averaged 315 miles per hour. According to CNN, “Haiyan was probably the strongest tropical cyclone to hit land anywhere in the world in recorded history.” The storm’s path of destruction encompassed two-thirds of the Philippines with its extensive clouds. Moreover, the category 5 strength natural disaster hit at a particularly inopportune time: Only one week before Haiyan wreaked havoc on the Philippines, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit the island nation, killing 222 people and displacing 350,000 people.

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Typhoon Haiyan took the lives of over 4,000 people and displaced 4.4 million others, taking an unprecedented toll in the Philippines. Of those who survived, approximately 5 million workers have lost their livelihoods either temporarily or permanently. Luckily, economic impacts of the disaster will be minimal because the affected regions account for only a small proportion of Filipino GDP. Nonetheless, Danilo Israel, senior research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Developmental Studies commented, “The loss in human lives, the loss of bio-diversity, the destruction of heritage sites, the loss of relationships — it’s difficult to put a value on these intangibles, which can sometimes have a big impact on economic growth.”

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If you’d like to support the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, click here.

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Meanwhile, as the world seems to unite through the tragic losses in the Philippines, the United States government is divided again, this time over filibusters.

On Nov. 21, the United States Senate voted 52-48, with all Republicans and 3 Democrats voting against, to terminate the use of filibustering on executive branch nominees and judicial nominees other than to the Supreme Court. A filibuster is a type of debate procedure that is used to delay or prevent a vote on a proposal. It’s like politicians doing a funny dance – or, in actuality, making a long speech – at the front of the room to distract their colleagues from what they were supposed to vote on. However, the dance often lasts far too long and creates inefficient decision-making.

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The Democrats, who led this historic change in procedure, argued that the need to change the rules was prompted by Republicans’ abusing their right to filibuster and unnecessarily delaying or blocking several Obama appointees. Meanwhile, Republicans argue that our “founding fathers” allowed for filibusters for a reason, a reason that sounded something like this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that politicians were created unequal – some will do things quickly and others will just keep talking.” I kid, but I hope you’re catching my drift.

Now, after the recent vote, only a simple majority (50% + 1) of senators is needed to confirm federal judge nominees and executive-office appointments. (This is opposed to the 60% +1 supermajority that was previously required.) Therefore, the appointment process has become more direct.

Although this change seems like a blip in the timeline of American politics, it sends a message that the formerly “unchangeable” rules of politics are becoming changeable. Is nothing permanent in politics? More to come in my next installment of Poli Sci.

Images: Google