THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE, USA

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Volume X, Issue # 42, February 15, 2008
Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor
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TRIBALISM RULES IN IRAN, IRAQ, & SYRIA
By Michelle Mostovy-Eisenberg

THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING MIDDLE EASTERN POLITICS & SOCIETY:  COMPREHENDING THE TRIBAL FOUNDATION OF ARAB & IRANIAN CULTURE -- THE ANCIENT TRIBAL NOTION OF KINSHIP SUPERCEDING THE INFLUENCE OF ELECTED GOVERNMENT OFFICERS -- TRIBAL GROUP LOYALTY AS CRITICAL TO THE CULTURE -- NO LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP EXISTING ABOVE THE HIERARCHY OF TRIBAL LEADERS -- UNWILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT STATE RULERS -- NEAR IMPOSSIBILITY OF HAVING A CONSTITUTION OR A REGIME OF LAW & ORDER, GENERATING A SOCIETY WHERE ALL GROUPS ARE ON AN EQUAL BASIS
FULL STORY:   In order to fully understand Middle Eastern politics and society, you must first grasp the underlying basis of Arab culture -- specifically, the tribal organization central to life in the region, according to anthropologist and author Dr. Philip Carl Salzman.

During a lunchtime event held last week at the Center City law firm of Pepper Hamilton, about 50 people gathered to learn about the roots of contemporary Arab life and the potent affect it can have on conflicts in the region. The lecture was sponsored by the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank.

Salzman discusses the tribalism issue in depth in his upcoming book, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East, which will be released this month from Humanity Books [the scholarly imprint of Prometheus Books]. In it, he traces certain facets of Islam -- such as jihad and honor killings -- and provides a historical context to understand the modern-day implications of the tribalism that influences Middle Eastern culture in countries such as Iraq, Iran and Syria.

Salzman, an anthropology professor at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, is no stranger to studying different cultures. He has carried out extensive field research among nomadic and pastoral peoples in Baluchistan (Iran), Rajasthan (India) and Sardinia (Italy), among others.

During his talk, he presented a slide show of photographs that he's taken over the years of a number of tribes. There were also images of the anthropologist himself living in a tent among tribal communities during his research.

"LOYAL TO THEIR GROUPS"
According to Salzman, the ancient tribal notion of kinship -- a bond to an individual's immediate family -- supercedes the influence of elected officials, and has done so for hundreds of years. During his lecture, the scholar explained that tribes are not formed by strangers coming together; rather, they are developed among the descendants of a common ancestor on the male line. During any conflict, these individuals will combine their resources with other closely related relatives against more distant ones, and the whole tribe will then stand together against outsiders.

"They identify themselves as part of the group," explained Salzman. "Group loyalty is critical to the culture."

"We see th[is] tribal opposition in all the Arab states today," said Salzman, pointing specifically to the conflict now raging between Sunni and Shi'ite populations since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Though both groups are associated with the Prophet Mohammad -- the founder of Islam -- they each view the threat of the other group as being worse than the threat of infidels.

In the Arab world, no legitimate leadership exists above the hierarchy of tribal leaders, noted Salzman, and that is why they won't accept state rulers. With the tribal framework, it's nearly impossible to have a constitution or a regime of law and order, thereby "generating a society where all groups are on an equal basis."

Tribal members "are loyal only to their groups," he reiterated.

This has a direct effect on the way the United States of America and other "outsiders" deal with Arab countries, such as Iraq, where working with the tribes is necessary, explained the writer.

Said Salzman: Because the method and ideology seem confusing and vary so completely from American culture, "we cannot assume that they think the way we do" -- or, for that matter, ever will.


LINKS TO RELATED TOPICS:
American Foreign Policy -- The Middle East

Middle East -- Arabs, Arab States,
& Their Middle Eastern Neighbors

North Africa -- The Arab States of Islamic North Africa

The Middle East & the Problem of Iraq
   Page Two    Page One

The Problem of Rogue States:
Iraq as a Case History

National Strategy for Victory in Iraq

The Middle East & the Problem of Iran

Egypt, Arabs, & the Middle East

Tunisia, Islamic North Africa, & the Arab World

The Middle East & the Problem of Syria

The Middle East -- Lebanon as a Geopolitical Problem

Turkey, the Middle East, & the U.S.A.

Israel & the Arabs -- The Israeli-Arab Conflict

Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
Page Three    Page Two    Page One

International Politics & World Disorder:
War & Peace in the Real World

   Page Two    Page One

Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.

Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization

Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies

U.S. National Security Strategy

American Foreign Policy -- Constitutional Democracy:
U.S. Promotion of Constitutional Democracy in Foreign Countries



Dr. Philip Carl Salzman, in his new book, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East (Chicago: Humanity Books, 2008), uncovers the roots of contemporary Middle Eastern life deep in the tribal foundation of Arab and Iranian culture. Salzman has conducted ethnographic field research in Iran, India, and Sardinia, and lived among the Yarahmadzai tribe in Iranian Baluchistan for over two years, resulting in his book Black Tents of Baluchistan (Washington: Smithsonian Books, 2000). He is Professor of Anthropology at McGill University and was educated at Antioch College and the University of Chicago. Dr. Salzman addressed the Middle East Forum on January 28, 2008 in New York City and on January 29, 2008 in Philadelphia.

Michelle Mostovy-Eisenberg is a staff reporter at the Jewish Exponent. Her article above is a report on Salzman's address in Philadelphia.


The foregoing article by Mostovy-Eisenberg was originally published in the Jewish Exponent, February 7, 2008, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a foreign policy think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis--vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat. (Article URL: http://www.meforum.org/article/1854 )


Republished with Permission of the Middle East Forum
Reprinted from the Middle East Forum News
mefnews@meforum.org (MEF NEWS)
February 14, 2008




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