ISIS…soon to be…WASWAS

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a militant group that follow a doctrine of Sunni Islam “Wahhabi.” The group started to gain traction after they participated in the Iraqi insurgency that followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces. The Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi aligned his militant group, Jama’at al-Tawhis w’al-Jihad, with al-Qaeda, which turned into al-Qaeda in Iraq. The Islamic State proclaimed itself as a caliphate in 2014, in parts of eastern Syria and northern Iraq. A caliphate is a political body whose political ambitions and “laws” are modeled after the original ruling order established by Muhammad. According to Islam, the caliphate is the only acceptable form of government, as well as having political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide.

When the Islamic State first started out, it was functioning solely as a terrorist organization. ISIS uses terror in order to frighten enemies as well as to force obedience. By doing so they have been able to seize land, that territory builds up a population to govern, which allows them to transform into a functioning state that uses extreme violence (terror) as its main tool. ISIS also has a lot of similarities to a functioning government, policing streets, collecting taxes, pumping oil, and it is even planning to issue its own currency. Mosul, Iraq is the largest city under ISIS control, they are setting tariffs for waste disposal and banning litter, as well as revising school curriculums.

ISIS has tried to use propaganda in order to paint a false picture of Mosul, trying to make it look like a peaceful and prosperous city with busy restaurants and markets, and streets filled with traffic. They have also tried to limit news from the outside world, by putting a ban on satellite dishes and have confiscated the ones already there. The Islamic State only operates in the interests of its members; for the average person life is not so easy. If a person doesn’t already have money they will probably find themselves eating eggplant and rice, because ISIS provides no services or help. The Islamic State acts like a government, as well as an institutional gang, taking care of its own members.

The Islamic State has been able to use modern technology to its advantage, by try to influence people in many parts of the world. In Paris, France in 2015 there was a series of attacks that resulted in the death of 130 people, 368 injured, 100 of whom were seriously injured. In San Bernardino, California 14 people were shot and killed, and another 22 were seriously injured. In Orlando, Florida in 2016 Omar Mateen walked into a nightclub and shot and killed 49 people. On January 1st 2017, 39 people were shot and killed and another 70 were injured in Istanbul, Turkey. The Islamic State still has the attention of new U.S. President Donald Trump, it can be seen that they are losing grip on the caliphate, but it might be hard to eliminate them completely. These events go hand in hand with their main tools, fear and hatred. The Islamic State has been able to combine terror, forced obedience, along with the internet in order to have a wide spread influence on many different countries outside of their caliphate.

Hezbollah’s Role and Influence

Hezbollah is a Shiite group that the United States considers a terrorist group and has been influential in Lebanon. In the 1980s, Hezbollah emerged in Lebanon with financial backing from Iran and then began to oppose Israeli troops that invaded southern Lebanon. Hezbollah’s main goal was to offer resistance to the Israeli occupation. Ever since they drove Israel out of Lebanon, the popularity of Hezbollah has only risen. After Hezbollah won the war against Israel, it gained a lot of popularity in Lebanon. Originally, Hezbollah wanted to enhance the Islamic way of life by imposing strict laws, but it did not sit well with the citizens of southern Lebanon. Later, Hezbollah made more positive impacts in Lebanon. Hezbollah members have become apart of the Parliament, and they have repeatedly not allowed the country to elect a president because campaigns have not been successful. Also, Hezbollah has expressed their support for Shiite President Assad of Syria and have argued against “Western Interference” which includes the United States. Throughout the years, Hezbollah has expanded their role from being an influence solely in Lebanon to other regions in the Middle Eastern area.

Hezbollah has played a major role inside of Lebanon and has benefited the citizens, prevented attacks, and has become apart of the Lebanese government. Hezbollah has provided free college tuition, schooling, and health care throughout Lebanon for their followers. Also, they have kept Lebanon safe from Israel’s attacks by strengthening their army which has exceeded the Lebanese army in some ways.  As mentioned before, in 2000 Hezbollah drove out Israeli forces in Lebanon and gained popularity. In this 34-day conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, about 1,125 Lebanese citizens lost their lives, but Hezbollah emerged emboldened. As Hezbollah continued to strengthen its army, it started to play a big part in the Lebanese government. Eventually, Hezbollah gained the veto power in the cabinet. Now that Michel Aoun has been elected president with Hezbollah as his ally many citizens including Christians and Shia Muslims believe that Hezbollah will be beneficial to the country.

In recent years, Hezbollah has expanded its role overseen by helping Syria’s Shiite president Assad. Even though Hezbollah has been beneficial to the country, they have been supporting Assad, the president of Syria, and assisting him in the civil war. Also, Hezbollah is believed to be behind the attacks of the U.S. embassy and U.S. barracks in 1983. Hezbollah has done damage to the U.S which means they could be a threat to them. Some people in the United States see Hezbollah support of Assad in the civil war as a threat. Assad can be considered a dictator in Syria. He has launched many attacks and has oppressed his people to stay in power. Hezbollah has vowed that they will fight “wherever needed,” and they are now fighting in Syria, specifically Aleppo.  The situation in Aleppo has worsened by Syrian and Russian airstrikes with the help of Hezbollah forces that have hit seven hospitals and killed countless citizens. Assad needs the help of Hezbollah because they provide intelligence from the ground about where to target their airstrikes. Many Syrian officers and many other people around the world don’t like the idea of Hezbollah assisting Mr. Assad.

Lebanon has not had a president from 2014-2016, but Hezbollah – the party of God –  still remained a prominent role in the Lebanese political system. On October 31st 2016, Lebanon elected Michel Aoun – a former member of the Parliament – for presidency. Michel Aoun’s main ally is Hezbollah and the country wonders how Lebanon will be affected now that Hezbollah has more power.

Originally, Hezbollah emerged in southern Lebanon to defend Israeli invaders and quickly gained popularity with the Lebanese government. Now Hezbollah plays an important role in the government as an ally of President Michel Aoun and now has expanded regionally to assist president Assad in Syria.


Environmental Issues in Yemen

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world. The civil war between those devoted to the well known government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those affiliated with the Shiite Houthi rebel movement is an extremely large issue and it leaves Yemenis with fear and trepidation. About 6,800 people have passed away and close to 35,000 people have been injured since March of 2015 due to this conflict. The greater part of these casualties have been caused by air strikes by a Saudi-led national coalition which is supported by the Saudi president. This conflict has led many Yemenis to plead for humanitarian aid; scientists have stated that about 82%, more than 21,000,000 people, are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.  This situation was caused by the collapse during a political transition that was meant to lead to stability. President Ali Abdullah Saleh was coerced to give up power to Mr. Hadi in November of 2011. The Houthi movement decided to take over their northern heartland of Saada province and its bordering lands during this time because of Hadi’s weaknesses. Mr. Hadi had a very difficult time dealing with aggression by al-Qaeda as well as many other problems. In September of 2014, the Sunnis entered Sanaa, with many Yemen civilians, and they set up barricades on roads and street camps in support of the Houthi movement. Eventually, in 2015, Mr. Hadi was placed under house arrest. President Hadi then fled the country just three months later. After seeing this, Saudi Arabia as well as eight other largely Sunni Arab states joined along in an attempt to rebuild Mr. Hadi’s government. Following roughly a year and a half of violence, no party seems to be closer than the other to a victory. The majority of Yemenis are forced to fear for their lives daily because of the constant fighting going on around and among them. Although the major headline for Yemen’s struggles may be referring to this civil war, the lack of water is a much more concerning issue. No matter who comes out victorious in this civil war, water will eventually take more lives than the fighting could’ve ever done if a solution is not found promptly.

Half of Yemen’s population struggles daily to locate clean water. Sana’a, the capital, could be the first city to completely run dry of water. About 14.7 million Yemenis rely on humanitarian aid. Yemen’s past strategies for collecting water was definitely not the most forward looking; they decided to drill for groundwater instead of collecting and stowing away the rainwater. The state-run water companies only visit residences in larger cities. Unfortunately, 70% of Yemen’s population resides in rural parts of the country. Researchers have made the prediction that about 60% of water that traveled throughout pipes in Yemen is lost because of leaks. Yemenis are considered to be very lucky if they receive water from their taps more than twice a week. In Taiz, water sometimes only runs out of citizen’s tap once a month. There is a lot of tension between urban and rural water supply companies. Roughly 70-80% of conflicts in Yemen are most likely caused from the shortage of water. In fact, about 4,000 people die each year because of these conflicts. A great deal of Yemenis struggle with poverty, high  unemployment rates, very low literacy rates, and an addiction to “qat”.

Yemen is in a great deal of trouble. Scientists estimate that oil reserves will probably dissipate in the next five to ten years. Government resources will also most likely disappear. The poor population continues to grow immensely each day. Roughly 66% of Yemen citizens are under the age of twenty four, which makes the entire issue even more threatening. In Yemen, oil serves as 75% of the government’s income.  Roughly 25% of every health institution in Yemen has closed. Just about 19 million citizens of Yemen are without access to clean water. Roughly 16% of infants under the age of five are acutely malnourished. This lack of water can clearly cause serious diseases and even death.

It’s upsetting to know that roughly 2,000 years ago, Yemen was considered the breadbasket of Arabia, because of it’s beauteous green mountain ranges and it’s large agricultural output. Unfortunately, environmental, social, and political issues have all contributed in destroying this reputation. There is far from enough rainfall, surface water, as well as ground water in Yemen. Scientists have looked and calculated the groundwater depletion rates throughout the Sana’a basin of five to six meters per year. Several scientists have predicted that Yemen will run out of water in roughly twenty years at most. This civil war is, unfortunately, a large distraction to the most important struggle that Yemen must deal with, and that is the lack of water.  

Yemen: The World’s Forgotten Conflict


With the crises in Syria and Iraq the worldwide community has largely ignored the civil war in Yemen. The conflict began in September of 2014 when an Iranian-backed tribal Shiite group, the Houthis, overthrew the Sunni government led by President Hadi. Since then, a group of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the U.S., France, and the U.K., have sought to put President Hadi back in power. The ensuing battle for control between these two groups has served as the main violence in the country over the last two years. Yemen was already the poorest country in the Arab world. As of 2012 44% of the country’s population were malnourished and 5 million needed emergency aid. Add a civil war to this already fragile nation, and the results have been nothing short of a tragedy.

2.4 million people have been displaced and roughly half of the country’s medical facilities either do not function or are insufficient. The war has already produced an estimated 10,000 deaths, and upwards of 4,000 of these civilians(700 children), all of which are likely to rise as the conflict continues. Yemen’s infrastructure is broken, making the delivery of aid extremely challenging. The country’s water system also is in shambles. Half of the population doesn’t have access to clean water, with the capital, Sanaa, only having water one out of every four days. Some projections suggest that Sanaa will have no water by 2017, and in the city of Taiz water currently only runs one day a month. 2,240 cases of Cholera have already been reported. Eighty percent of the population needs aid of some sort, and 370,000 children younger than five carry the risk of starving to death.

Meanwhile, the war rages on. The chaos has created an environment that has allowed ISIS and Al Qaeda to gain footholds in certain regions. Failed peace talks between the countries have proven only to escalate the violence. Saudi Arabia’s bombings on a prison, hospitals, industrial plants, and other non-military places have caused humanitarian groups to boycott Saudi products. In the deadliest attack of the war, Saudi Arabia executed an airstrike on a funeral, killing 140 and injuring over 500 people. The U.S. government, having sold the Saudis 22.2 billion dollars worth of arms since the conflict began, along with cluster bombs, quickly tried to distance itself from the incident. Pentagon Spokesman, Adam Stump, stated that the U.S.’s support of the Saudis was by no means a “blank check.” The U.S. soon after however, found itself directly involved in the conflict. On October 13th the USS Mason was fired at by two missiles off the west coast of Yemen by Houthi forces. The U.S. escalated tensions, retaliating by launching cruise missiles at the site from where the original attack had emanated. PRI’s Richard Hall, spoke of what this incident with the U.S. means in terms of a peaceful Yemen in the future. He said “when something like this happens, it kind of pushes the possibility[of peace] further into the distance.” Indeed it seems that peace is far in the distance, especially with Mr. Hadi stating that he will only negotiate with the Houthis if they surrender.

As the country limps along, haunting stories continuously surface from the many victims. A mother who lost her three daughters said she “wish[ed] I[she] had died with them.” A father whose newborn son died from a lack of oxygen recalls how “We took him to every hospital we possibly could before he finally died,” and that “I[he] wanted to take him outside the city,” but that the blockade kept them from getting his son the help he needed to live. A man who survived an airstrike in Sanaa spoke of how “I[He] heard a whiz and knew it was a rocket coming…I[he] lay down and prayed out loud.” He then noted how he “saw all my body covered in blood.” While, many more disturbing pictures can be painted from countless tragedies in Yemen, the real message the world needs to hear concerning Yemen comes from one alone: A resident described a man who during an airstrike was screaming “‘Save us! Save us!” The world may have already failed to save this man and thousands of others, but a global effort needs to be made or these numbers will continue to climb in a country that seemingly doesn’t have a voice to call for help.