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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 15th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Asia Society’s Executive Vice President Tom Nagorski invited the working press of New York City – that is the people reporting about activities in New York – rather then only those accredited only to the UN enclave – to tell us about the ASIA GAME CHANGERS AWARDS – perennial recognition of remarkable pioneering leaders and institutions that mostly work in a bottoms-up mode and manage to achieve things that major institution were not able to achieve. Having said this – let me also note that usually a very well established person – someone that has achieved the status of Malala Yousafai or Jack Ma are also recognized – this as they are now targets to demonstrate what an ASIAN can achieve.

The well wetted former contestants that were proposed by peers or establishment, vetted by the Asia Society, presented to the UN, are then honored at an Awards Dinner at the UN – bringing honor to the UN that the UN never deserved. Do not fret – that is how the World Works – luckily there are good people available sometimes where you expect it the least.

This year’s Underwriters of the Asia Society project are Citibank, United Airlines and Pepsico and the Awards Dinner and Celebration will be held at the UN on October 27, 2016 – at the tail-end of this year’s UN General Assembly.

This year’s list of ASIA GAME CHANGERS is headed by the iconic figure of Architect I.M. Pei (US/China) who is celebrated for Lifetime Achievements.

The other awardees in alphabetic order are:

- Muzoon Almellehan of Syria – for bringing education and hope to young girls, amid the trauma of war. She just turned 18 and had started her activities among the refugees in Jordan where her family fled from the Syrian little town – Dura.
She lives now in Newcastle, England where she can continue her own education.

– Marita Cheng of Australia – For engineering a betterv world, and ensuring that more of the engineers are women.
She is an Entrepreneur. She is 30 years old and created an app that helps women. She might br presented as someone who has achieved the kind of status Ms. Almellehan was fighting for.

– Soo-man Lee of South Korea – For turning her Nation’s pop culture into a global phenomenon.
She is the founder and producer of S.M. brand entertainment and “K-pop.”

– Sanduk Ruit of Nepal – an Eye-Surgeon – who brought the gift of sight, and productive life, by making available cataract removal to those in need. He did this for 100,000 people in Nepal and started programs in other countries including North Korea. He institutes this with mobilized centers going to the people.

– Ahmad Sarmast (afghanistan/Australia) – For restoring music and empowering children – in a war-ravaged nation.

– Dureen Shahnaz of Bangladesh – For “social-impact” investing that has changed the game for millions.
Founder of the Impact Investment Exchange Asia. She teaches the reinvestment of the return from investment in order to lead to growth.

– Karim Wasfi of Iraq – for using music to heal, in the aftermath of terror.
He is a renown cellist, conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra.

At the diner there will be a chance to listen also to a 13 year old kid from Bali who is already a good piano player and Game Changer in the making.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Zarif is Right but his advice is old hat to us – Stop the Contrived Dependence on Oil – the only way that Unties the US from its Slavery to Saudi Arabia.

Zarif talks of WAVE – “World Against Violent Extremism” – and wants this to become a UN sponsored policy with the understanding that it is the Saudi Petrodollars that led to the destruction of Syria and that Wahhabi Sunni Extremism has not led only to attacks on Christians, Jews, and Shia, but also on the destruction of more normal Sunni communities that thrived in Syria and all ver the World. His pinpointing the Saudis and their enslavement to Wahhabism comes naturally to an Iranian who is part of a mainly Shia Nation that also an oil exporter – but nevertheless – his analysis is correct.

The posting of the Zarif column by The New York Times comes at a time President Obama has announced that he will VETO the bill in case Congress votes to allow Court cases against Saudi Arabia as having been in part responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the like of sane people jumping to their death because of crimes committed by Saudi citizens proven to have been aided by their government.

Please note – this is a rare occasion we have no understanding for a President Obama held position. In effect he seems to side with the GW Bush position when he released the Bin Laden family and sent them home from an airport that was closed to American citizens.

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR to The New York Times

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism

By MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF – September 13, 2016
Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

From Tehran: Public relations firms with no qualms about taking tainted petrodollars are experiencing a bonanza. Their latest project has been to persuade us that the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, is no more. As a Nusra spokesman told CNN, the rebranded rebel group, supposedly separated from its parent terrorist organization, has become “moderate.”

Thus is fanaticism from the Dark Ages sold as a bright vision for the 21st century. The problem for the P.R. firms’ wealthy, often Saudi, clients, who have lavishly funded Nusra, is that the evidence of their ruinous policies can’t be photoshopped out of existence. If anyone had any doubt, the recent video images of other “moderates” beheading a 12-year-old boy were a horrifying reality check.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, militant Wahhabism has undergone a series of face-lifts, but underneath, the ideology remains the same — whether it’s the Taliban, the various incarnations of Al Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State, which is neither Islamic nor a state. But the millions of people faced with the Nusra Front’s tyranny are not buying the fiction of this disaffiliation. Past experience of such attempts at whitewashing points to the real aim: to enable the covert flow of petrodollars to extremist groups in Syria to become overt, and even to lure Western governments into supporting these “moderates.” The fact that Nusra still dominates the rebel alliance in Aleppo flouts the public relations message.

Saudi Arabia’s effort to persuade its Western patrons to back its shortsighted tactics is based on the false premise that plunging the Arab world into further chaos will somehow damage Iran. The fanciful notions that regional instability will help to “contain” Iran, and that supposed rivalries between Sunni and Shiite Muslims are fueling conflicts, are contradicted by the reality that the worst bloodshed in the region is caused by Wahhabists fighting fellow Arabs and murdering fellow Sunnis.

While these extremists, with the backing of their wealthy sponsors, have targeted Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Shiites and other “heretics,” it is their fellow Sunni Arabs who have been most beleaguered by this exported doctrine of hate. Indeed, it is not the supposed ancient sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites but the contest between Wahhabism and mainstream Islam that will have the most profound consequences for the region and beyond.

While the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq set in motion the fighting we see today, the key driver of violence has been this extremist ideology promoted by Saudi Arabia — even if it was invisible to Western eyes until the tragedy of 9/11.

The princes in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, have been desperate to revive the regional status quo of the days of Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq, when a surrogate repressive despot, eliciting wealth and material support from fellow Arabs and a gullible West, countered the so-called Iranian threat. There is only one problem: Mr. Hussein is long dead, and the clock cannot be turned back.

The sooner Saudi Arabia’s rulers come to terms with this, the better for all. The new realities in our region can accommodate even Riyadh, should the Saudis choose to change their ways.

What would change mean? Over the past three decades, Riyadh has spent tens of billions of dollars exporting Wahhabism through thousands of mosques and madrasas across the world. From Asia to Africa, from Europe to the Americas, this theological perversion has wrought havoc. As one former extremist in Kosovo told The Times, “The Saudis completely changed Islam here with their money.”

Though it has attracted only a minute proportion of Muslims, Wahhabism has been devastating in its impact. Virtually every terrorist group abusing the name of Islam — from Al Qaeda and its offshoots in Syria to Boko Haram in Nigeria — has been inspired by this death cult.

So far, the Saudis have succeeded in inducing their allies to go along with their folly, whether in Syria or Yemen, by playing the “Iran card.” That will surely change, as the realization grows that Riyadh’s persistent sponsorship of extremism repudiates its claim to be a force for stability.

The world cannot afford to sit by and witness Wahhabists targeting not only Christians, Jews and Shiites but also Sunnis. With a large section of the Middle East in turmoil, there is a grave danger that the few remaining pockets of stability will be undermined by this clash of Wahhabism and mainstream Sunni Islam.

There needs to be coordinated action at the United Nations to cut off the funding for ideologies of hate and extremism, and a willingness from the international community to investigate the channels that supply the cash and the arms. In 2013, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, proposed an initiative called World Against Violent Extremism, or WAVE. The United Nations should build on that framework to foster greater dialogue between religions and sects to counter this dangerous medieval fanaticism.

The attacks in Nice, Paris and Brussels should convince the West that the toxic threat of Wahhabism cannot be ignored. After a year of almost weekly tragic news, the international community needs to do more than express outrage, sorrow and condolences; concrete action against extremism is needed.

Though much of the violence committed in the name of Islam can be traced to Wahhabism, I by no means suggest that Saudi Arabia cannot be part of the solution. Quite the reverse: We invite Saudi rulers to put aside the rhetoric of blame and fear, and join hands with the rest of the community of nations to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and violence that threatens us all.

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Mohammad Javad Zarif is the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 4th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Analyst: Israel Must Take Advantage of Chance to Become Key Stop on New International Chinese Trade Route

The Algemeiner, SEPTEMBER 4, 2016

Author: BARNEY BREEN-PORTNOY

He is Washington, D.C.-based senior correspondent for The Algemeiner. He previously worked in Tel Aviv, Israel as a journalist and served in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. Barney holds a BA degree in Government and History from the University of Virginia. He can be reached at  bbreenportnoy at algemeiner.com.


Israel has a chance to become an important stop on a new international trade route being established by China, according to an analysis published by a global news magazine on Thursday.

The article coincides with the G20 meeting in Hangzhou, China

“Israel has become a strategic focal point for China, and if it fails to leverage this, it will miss a unique opportunity to not only upgrade and diversify its economy, but to position itself as a critical outpost on China’s New Silk Road,” Roi Feder wrote in the Diplomatic Courier. “If Israel seizes the current window of opportunity, while being sensitive to America’s regional interests, it may become a critical trading route between East and West.”

The “New Silk Road” Feder referred to is the goal of China’s “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) initiative. As it seeks to expand its economic reach throughout Asia and Europe, China is set to invest in infrastructure projects in dozens of countries.

According to Feder, the OBOR is part of Chinese President’s Xi Jinping’s “doctrine to reinstate China’s 7th Century golden age, when the Silk Road was a critical international commercial route.”

To realize this vision, China is strengthening its relations with Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel.

“The growth in collaboration between China and Israel over the past few years is predominately due to Israel’s status as a Start-Up Nation which can supply China’s technological needs and help it to upgrade many of its industries,” Feder wrote. “Israel is a center of excellence in managing terror threats, an issue that Beijing decision-makers view with concern as they try to mitigate the rise of Islamist groups in China’s Western provinces.”

However, for China, Feder wrote, Israel’s true “potential lies in becoming an overland bridge connecting China’s trade routes from the Far East through Africa up to the Middle East and on to Europe. Even if it does not proclaim it publicly, China sees Israel as a strategic outpost in its regional interests; a small dot on the map, but one which is vital for ensuring an alternative for the trade and energy routes of the world’s second largest superpower.”

China has already been involved in a number of infrastructure projects in Israel in recent years — including the Carmel Tunnels and two private port projects in Ashdod and Haifa — but, Feder wrote, the “jewel in the crown” for the Chinese would be a “land bridge — a connection [between] the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea via rail which would provide a safe alternative route to the Suez Canal, and a dependable commercial center for China’s trading needs. Such a development will turn Israel into an essential part of the global trading ecosystem while boosting its economy.”

Feder concluded, “Israel must recognize the significance of OBOR and the enormous economic and diplomatic opportunities. If leveraged cautiously and with full consideration of America’s interests in the region, Israel…could become a small yet strategically critical outpost on China’s New Silk Road.”

As reported by The Algemeiner, Israel and China announced in May they would open talks on a bilateral free trade agreement.

In 2012, Israel and China signed an agreement to build a rail line that will link Israel’s Mediterranean ports in Ashdod and Haifa with its Red Sea port in Eilat.

Hangzhou is the capital city of Zhejiang Province on China’s southeastern coast. As the Province’s economic, cultural, technological and educational center, the city also plays a central role in the Yangtze River Delta. With a permanent population of 8.9 million as of the end of 2014, the Municipality is spread over an area of 16,596 square kilometers with the city proper accounting for 4,876 square kilometers.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 4th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The New York Times Top News September 24, 2016

Highway 80, the only road to Tybee Island, Ga., in June. High tides are forcing the road to close several times a year.
Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun
By JUSTIN GILLIS
Scientists’ warnings that the rise of the sea would eventually imperil the United States’ coastline are no longer theoretical.

President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China formally committed to the Paris climate agreement on Saturday.
Rare Harmony as China and U.S. Commit to Climate Deal
By MARK LANDLER and JANE PERLEZ
President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China formally committed to the Paris climate agreement at a time of increasingly discordant relations between their nations.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 28th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

PLEASE STUDY:  www.nytimes.com/2016/08/26/world/…

THIS IS A VERY LATE ARRIVAL – BUT CAN IT NOW CHANGE POLICY? WILL PRESIDENT OBAMA – IN HIS LAST 10 WEEKS IN OFFICE AFTER THE NOVEMBER 2016 ELECTIONS DO WHAT IT TAKES TO DECLARE US INDEPENDENCE OF MIDDLE EAST OIL?

This article tells us what we at SustainabiliTank knew for years – the oil money was used by the Saudi Royal family to export Wahhabism to the Islamic world. This Wahhabi indoctrination gave birth to the culture of terrorism that surfaced at the 9/11 attack against humanity. The US government – that is all US governments – to be exact – starting with President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt who in his 1945 meetings at Yalta and on the ship in Suez – traded away the future of the West for the barrels of oil of the Middle East

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THE NEW YORK TIMES – Front-page August 25,2016

Saudis and Extremism:
‘Both the Arsonists
and the Firefighters’

Critics see Saudi Arabia’s export of a rigid strain of Islam as contributing to
terrorism, but the kingdom’s influence depends greatly on local conditions.

By SCOTT SHANE August 25, 2016

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump do not agree on much, but Saudi Arabia may be an exception. She has deplored Saudi Arabia’s support for “radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.” He has called the Saudis “the world’s biggest funders of terrorism.”

The first American diplomat to serve as envoy to Muslim communities around the world visited 80 countries and concluded that the Saudi influence was destroying tolerant Islamic traditions. “If the Saudis do not cease what they are doing,”
the official, Farah Pandith, wrote last year, “there must be diplomatic, cultural and economic consequences.”

“If the Saudis do not
cease what they are
doing, there must be
diplomatic, cultural and
economic consequences.”
FARAH PANDITH, A STATE DEPARTMENT REPRESENTATIVE TO MUSLIM COMMUNITIES

“If there was going to be
an Islamic reformation in
the 20th century, the
Saudis probably prevented
it by pumping out literalism.”
THOMAS HEGGHAMMER, NORWEGIAN TERRORISM EXPERT

And hardly a week passes without a television pundit or a newspaper columnist blaming Saudi Arabia for jihadist violence.

On HBO, Bill Maher calls Saudi teachings “medieval,” adding an epithet. In The Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria writes that the Saudis have “created a monster in the world of Islam.”

The idea has become a commonplace: that Saudi Arabia’s export of the rigid, bigoted, patriarchal, fundamentalist strain of Islam known as Wahhabism has fueled global extremism and contributed to terrorism. As the Islamic State projects its menacing calls for violence into the West, directing or inspiring terrorist attacks in country after country, an old debate over Saudi influence on Islam has taken on new relevance.

What Is Wahhabism?

The Islam taught in and by Saudi Arabia is often called Wahhabism, after the 18th-century cleric who founded it. A literalist, ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam, its adherents often denigrate other Islamic sects as well as Christians and Jews.

Is the world today a more divided, dangerous and violent place because of the cumulative effect of five decades of oil-financed proselytizing from the historical heart of the Muslim world? Or is Saudi Arabia, which has often supported Western-friendly autocrats over Islamists, merely a convenient scapegoat for extremism and terrorism with many complex causes — the United States’s own actions among them?

Those questions are deeply contentious, partly because of the contradictory impulses of the Saudi state.

In the realm of extremist Islam, the Saudis are “both the arsonists and the firefighters,” said William McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar. “They promote a very toxic form of Islam that draws sharp lines between a small number of true believers and everyone else, Muslim and non-Muslim,” he said, providing ideological fodder for violent jihadists.

Yet at the same time, “they’re our partners in counterterrorism,” said Mr. McCants, one of three dozen academics, government officials and experts on Islam from multiple countries interviewed for this article.


Conflicting Goals

Saudi leaders seek good relations with the West and see jihadist violence as a menace that could endanger their rule, especially now that the Islamic State is staging attacks in the kingdom — 25 in the last eight months, by the government’s count. But they are also driven by their rivalry with Iran, and they depend for legitimacy on a clerical establishment dedicated to a reactionary set of beliefs. Those conflicting goals can play out in a bafflingly inconsistent manner.

Thomas Hegghammer, a Norwegian terrorism expert who has advised the United States government, said the most important effect of Saudi proselytizing might have been to slow the evolution of Islam, blocking its natural accommodation to a diverse and globalized world. “If there was going to be an Islamic reformation in the 20th century, the Saudis probably prevented it by pumping out literalism,” he said.

The reach of the Saudis has been stunning, touching nearly every country with a Muslim population, from the Gothenburg Mosque in Sweden to the King Faisal Mosque in Chad, from the King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles to the Seoul Central Mosque in South Korea. Support has come from the Saudi government; the royal family; Saudi charities; and Saudi-sponsored organizations including the World Muslim League, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the International Islamic Relief Organization, providing the hardware of impressive edifices and the software of preaching and teaching.

There is a broad consensus that the Saudi ideological juggernaut has disrupted local Islamic traditions in dozens of countries — the result of lavish spending on religious outreach for half a century, estimated in the tens of billions of dollars. The result has been amplified by guest workers, many from South Asia, who spend years in Saudi Arabia and bring Saudi ways home with them. In many countries, Wahhabist preaching has encouraged a harshly judgmental religion, contributing to majority support in some polls in Egypt, Pakistan and other countries for stoning for adultery and execution for anyone trying to leave Islam.

But exactly how Saudi influence plays out seems to depend greatly on local conditions. In parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, for instance, Saudi teachings have shifted the religious culture in a markedly conservative direction, most visibly in the decision of more women to cover their hair or of men to grow beards. Among Muslim immigrant communities in Europe, the Saudi influence seems to be just one factor driving radicalization, and not the most significant. In divided countries like Pakistan and Nigeria, the flood of Saudi money, and the ideology it promotes, have exacerbated divisions over religion that regularly prove lethal.

For minorities in many countries, the exclusionary Saudi version of Sunni Islam, with its denigration of Jews and Christians, as well as of Muslims of Shiite, Sufi and other traditions, may have made some people vulnerable to the lure of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other violent jihadist groups. “There’s only so much dehumanizing of the other that you can be exposed to — and exposed to as the word of God — without becoming susceptible to recruitment,” said David Andrew Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington who tracks Saudi influence.

Exhibit A may be Saudi Arabia itself, which produced not only Osama bin Laden, but also 15 of the 19 hijackers of Sept. 11, 2001; sent more suicide bombers than any other country to Iraq after the 2003 invasion; and has supplied more foreign fighters to the Islamic State, 2,500, than any country other than Tunisia.

Mehmet Gormez, the senior Islamic cleric in Turkey, said that while he was meeting with Saudi clerics in Riyadh in January, the Saudi authorities had executed 47 people in a single day on terrorism charges, 45 of them Saudi citizens. “I said: ‘These people studied Islam for 10 or 15 years in your country. Is there a problem with the educational system?’ ” Mr. Gormez said in an interview. He argued that Wahhabi teaching was undermining the pluralism, tolerance and openness to science and learning that had long characterized Islam. “Sadly,” he said, the changes have taken place “in almost all of the Islamic world.”

In a huge embarrassment to the Saudi authorities, the Islamic State adopted official Saudi textbooks for its schools until the extremist group could publish its own books in 2015. Out of 12 works by Muslim scholars republished by the Islamic State, seven are by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the 18th-century founder of the Saudi school of Islam, said Jacob Olidort, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. A former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Adil al-Kalbani declared with regret in a television interview in January that the Islamic State leaders “draw their ideas from what is written in our own books, our own principles.”

Small details of Saudi practice can cause outsize trouble. For at least two decades, the kingdom has distributed an English translation of the Quran that in the first surah, or chapter, adds parenthetical references to Jews and Christians in addressing Allah: “those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).” Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University and the editor in chief of the new Study Quran, an annotated English version, said the additions were “a complete heresy, with no basis in Islamic tradition.”

Accordingly, many American officials who have worked to counter extremism and terrorism have formed a dark view of the Saudi effect — even if, given the sensitivity of the relationship, they are often loath to discuss it publicly. The United States’ reliance on Saudi counterterrorism cooperation in recent years — for instance, the Saudi tip that foiled a 2010 Qaeda plot to blow up two American cargo planes — has often taken precedence over concerns about radical influence. And generous Saudi funding for professorships and research centers at American universities, including the most elite institutions, has deterred criticism and discouraged research on the effects of Wahhabi proselytizing, according to Mr. McCants — who is working on a book about the Saudi impact on global Islam — and other scholars.

One American former official who has begun to speak out is Ms. Pandith, the State Department’s first special representative to Muslim communities worldwide. From 2009 to 2014, she visited Muslims in 80 countries and concluded that Saudi influence was pernicious and universal. “In each place I visited, the Wahhabi influence was an insidious presence,” she wrote in The New York Times last year. She said the United States should “disrupt the training of extremist imams,” “reject free Saudi textbooks and translations that are filled with hate,” and “prevent the Saudis from demolishing local Muslim religious and cultural sites that are evidence of the diversity of Islam.”

Yet some scholars on Islam and extremism, including experts on radicalization in many countries, push back against the notion that Saudi Arabia bears predominant responsibility for the current wave of extremism and jihadist violence. They point to multiple sources for the rise and spread of Islamist terrorism, including repressive secular governments in the Middle East, local injustices and divisions, the hijacking of the internet for terrorist propaganda, and American interventions in the Muslim world from the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan to the invasion of Iraq. The 20th-century ideologues most influential with modern jihadists, like Sayyid Qutb of Egypt and Abul Ala Maududi of Pakistan, reached their extreme, anti-Western views without much Saudi input. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State despise Saudi rulers, whom they consider the worst of hypocrites.

“Americans like to have someone to blame — a person, a political party or country,” said Robert S. Ford, a former United States ambassador to Syria and Algeria. “But it’s a lot more complicated than that. I’d be careful about blaming the Saudis.”

While Saudi religious influence may be disruptive, he and others say, its effect is not monolithic. A major tenet of official Saudi Islamic teaching is obedience to rulers — hardly a precept that encourages terrorism intended to break nations. Many Saudi and Saudi-trained clerics are quietist, characterized by a devotion to scripture and prayer and a shunning of politics, let alone political violence.

And especially since 2003, when Qaeda attacks in the kingdom awoke the monarchy to the danger it faced from militancy, Saudi Arabia has acted more aggressively to curtail preachers who call for violence, cut off terrorist financing and cooperate with Western intelligence to foil terrorist plots. From 2004 to 2012, 3,500 imams were fired for refusing to renounce extremist views, and another 20,000 went through retraining, according to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs — though the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom expressed skepticism that the training was really “instilling tolerance.”

An American scholar with long experience in Saudi Arabia — who spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve his ability to travel to the kingdom for research — said he believed that Saudi influence had often been exaggerated in American political discourse. But he compared it to climate change. Just as a one-degree increase in temperature can ultimately result in drastic effects around the globe, with glaciers melting and species dying off, so Saudi teaching is playing out in many countries in ways that are hard to predict and difficult to trace but often profound, the scholar said.

Saudi proselytizing can result in a “recalibrating of the religious center of gravity” for young people, the scholar said, which makes it “easier for them to swallow or make sense of the ISIS religious narrative when it does arrive. It doesn’t seem quite as foreign as it might have, had that Saudi religious influence not been there.”


Centuries-Old Dilemma

Why does Saudi Arabia find it so difficult to let go of an ideology that much of the world finds repugnant? The key to the Saudi dilemma dates back nearly three centuries to the origin of the alliance that still undergirds the Saudi state. In 1744, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a reformist cleric, sought the protection of Muhammad bin Saud, a powerful tribal leader in the harsh desert of the Arabian Peninsula. The alliance was mutually beneficial: Wahhab received military protection for his movement, which sought to return Muslims to what he believed were the values of the early years of Islam in the seventh century, when the Prophet Muhammad was alive. (His beliefs were a variant of Salafism, the conservative school of Islam that teaches that the salaf, or pious ancestors, had the correct ways and beliefs and should be emulated.) In return, the Saud family earned the endorsement of an Islamic cleric — a puritanical enforcer known for insisting on the death by stoning of a woman for adultery.

Wahhab’s particular version of Islam was the first of two historical accidents that would define Saudi religious influence centuries later. What came to be known as Wahhabism was “a tribal, desert Islam,” said Akbar Ahmed, the chairman of Islamic studies at American University in Washington. It was shaped by the austere environment — xenophobic, fiercely opposed to shrines and tombs, disapproving of art and music, and hugely different from the cosmopolitan Islam of diverse trading cities like Baghdad and Cairo.

The second historical accident came in 1938, when American prospectors discovered the largest oil reserves on earth in Saudi Arabia. Oil revenue generated by the Arabian-American Oil Company, or Aramco, created fabulous wealth. But it also froze in place a rigid social and economic system and gave the conservative religious establishment an extravagant budget for the export of its severe strain of Islam.

“One day you find oil, and the world is coming to you,” Professor Ahmed said. “God has given you the ability to take your version of Islam to the world.”

In 1964, when King Faisal ascended the throne, he embraced the obligation of spreading Islam. A modernizer in many respects, with close ties to the West, he nonetheless could not overhaul the Wahhabi doctrine that became the face of Saudi generosity in many countries. Over the next four decades, in non-Muslim-majority countries alone, Saudi Arabia would build 1,359 mosques, 210 Islamic centers, 202 colleges and 2,000 schools. Saudi money helped finance 16 American mosques; four in Canada; and others in London, Madrid, Brussels and Geneva, according to a report in an official Saudi weekly, Ain al-Yaqeen. The total spending, including supplying or training imams and teachers, was “many billions” of Saudi riyals (at a rate of about four to a dollar), the report said.

Saudi religious teaching had particular force because it came from the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, the land of Islam’s two holiest places, Mecca and Medina. When Saudi imams arrived in Muslim countries in Asia or Africa, or in Muslim communities in Europe or the Americas, wearing traditional Arabian robes, speaking the language of the Quran — and carrying a generous checkbook — they had automatic credibility.

As the 20th century progressed and people of different nationalities and faiths mixed routinely, the puritanical, exclusionary nature of Wahhab’s teachings would become more and more dysfunctional. But the Saudi government would find it extraordinarily difficult to shed or soften its ideology, especially after the landmark year of 1979.

In Tehran that year, the Iranian revolution brought to power a radical Shiite government, symbolically challenging Saudi Arabia, the leader of Sunnism, for leadership of global Islam. The declaration of an Islamic Republic escalated the competition between the two major branches of Islam, spurring the Saudis to redouble their efforts to counter Iran and spread Wahhabism around the world.

Then, in a stunning strike, a band of 500 Saudi extremists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca for two weeks, publicly calling Saudi rulers puppets of the West and traitors to true Islam. The rebels were defeated, but leading clerics agreed to back the government only after assurances of support for a crackdown on immodest ways in the kingdom and a more aggressive export of Wahhabism abroad.

Finally, at year’s end, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and seized power to prop up a Communist government. It soon faced an insurgent movement of mujahedeen, or holy warriors battling for Islam, which drew fighters from around the world for a decade-long battle to expel the occupiers.

Throughout the 1980s, Saudi Arabia and the United States worked together to finance the mujahedeen in this great Afghan war, which would revive the notion of noble armed jihad for Muslims worldwide. President Ronald Reagan famously welcomed to the Oval Office a delegation of bearded “Afghan freedom fighters” whose social and theological views were hardly distinguishable from those later embraced by the Taliban.

Saudi Arabia and the United States worked together to support the mujahedeen, the Afghan fighters whose representatives met President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office in 1983, in their fight against the Soviet occupation.

In fact, the United States spent $50 million from 1986 to 1992 on what was called a “jihad literacy” project — printing books for Afghan children and adults to encourage violence against non-Muslim “infidels” like Soviet troops. A first-grade language textbook for Pashto speakers, for example, according to a study by Dana Burde, an associate professor at New York University, used “Mujahid,” or fighter of jihad, as the illustration: “My brother is a Mujahid. Afghan Muslims are Mujahedeen. I do jihad together with them. Doing jihad against infidels is our duty.”


Pressure After 9/11


One day in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Robert W. Jordan, the United States ambassador to Saudi Arabia, was driving in the kingdom with the longtime Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan. The prince pointed to a mosque and said, “I just fired the imam there.” The man’s preaching had been too militant, he said.

Mr. Jordan, a Texas lawyer, said that after the Qaeda attacks, he had stepped up pressure on the Saudi government over its spread of extremism. “I told them: ‘What you teach in your schools and preach in your mosques now is not an internal matter. It affects our national security,’” he said.

After years of encouraging and financing a harsh Islam in support of the anti-Soviet jihad, the United States had reversed course — gradually during the 1990s and then dramatically after the Sept. 11 attacks. But in pressuring Saudi Arabia, American officials would tread lightly, acutely aware of American dependence on Saudi oil and intelligence cooperation. Saudi reform would move at an excruciatingly slow pace.

Document: State Dept. Study on Saudi Textbooks
Twelve years after Sept. 11, after years of quiet American complaints about Saudi teachings, a State Department contractor, the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, completed a study of official Saudi textbooks. It reported some progress in cutting back on bigoted and violent content but found that plenty of objectionable material remained. Officials never released the 2013 study, for fear of angering the Saudis. The New York Times obtained it under the Freedom of Information Act.

Seventh graders were being taught that “fighting the infidels to elevate the words of Allah” was among the deeds Allah loved the most, the report found, among dozens of passages it found troubling. Tenth graders learned that Muslims who abandoned Islam should be jailed for three days and, if they did not change their minds, “killed for walking away from their true religion.” Fourth graders read that non-Muslims had been “shown the truth but abandoned it, like the Jews,” or had replaced truth with “ignorance and delusion, like the Christians.”

Some of the books, prepared and distributed by the government, propagated views that were hostile to science, modernity and women’s rights, not to say downright quirky — advocating, for instance, execution for sorcerers and warning against the dangers of the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. (The groups’ intent, said a 10th-grade textbook, “is to achieve the goals of the Zionist movement.”)

The textbooks, or other Saudi teaching materials with similar content, had been distributed in scores of countries, the study found. Textbook reform has continued since the 2013 study, and Saudi officials say they are trying to replace older books distributed overseas.

Excerpts from Saudi textbooks with critical comments from a 2013 study, commissioned by the State Department, that was never released for fear of angering the Saudis. The New York Times obtained the study under the Freedom of Information Act.
But as the study noted, the schoolbooks were only a modest part of the Saudis’ lavishly funded global export of Wahhabism. In many places, the study said, the largess includes “a Saudi-funded school with a Wahhabist faculty (educated in a Saudi-funded Wahhabist University), attached to a mosque with a Wahhabist imam, and ultimately controlled by an international Wahhabist educational body.”

This ideological steamroller has landed in diverse places where Muslims of different sects had spent centuries learning to accommodate one another. Sayyed Shah, a Pakistani journalist working on a doctorate in the United States, described the devastating effect on his town, not far from the Afghan border, of the arrival some years ago of a young Pakistani preacher trained in a Saudi-funded seminary.

Village residents had long held a mélange of Muslim beliefs, he said. “We were Sunni, but our culture, our traditions were a mixture of Shia and Barelvi and Deobandi,” Mr. Shah said, referring to Muslim sects. His family would visit the large Barelvi shrine, and watch their Shiite neighbors as they lashed themselves in a public religious ritual. “We wouldn’t do that ourselves, but we’d hand out sweets and water,” he said.

The new preacher, he said, denounced the Barelvi and Shiite beliefs as false and heretical, dividing the community and setting off years of bitter argument. By 2010, Mr. Shah said, “everything had changed.” Women who had used shawls to cover their hair and face began wearing full burqas. Militants began attacking kiosks where merchants sold secular music CDs. Twice, terrorists used explosives to try to destroy the village’s locally famous shrine.

“One day you find oil,
and the world is coming
to you. God has given you
the ability to take your
version of Islam to the world.”
AKBAR AHMED, CHAIRMAN OF ISLAMIC STUDIES AT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY
Now, Mr. Shah said, families are divided; his cousin, he said, “just wants Saudi religion.” He said an entire generation had been “indoctrinated” with a rigid, unforgiving creed.

“It’s so difficult these days,” he said. “Initially we were on a single path. We just had economic problems, but we were culturally sound.”

He added, “But now it’s very difficult, because some people want Saudi culture to be our culture, and others are opposing that.”

C. Christine Fair, a specialist on Pakistan at Georgetown University, said Mr. Shah’s account was credible. But like many scholars describing the Saudi impact on religion, she said that militancy in Pakistan also had local causes. While Saudi money and teaching have unquestionably been “accelerants,” Pakistan’s sectarian troubles and jihadist violence have deep roots dating to the country’s origins in the partition of India in 1947.

“The idea that without the Saudis Pakistan would be Switzerland is ridiculous,” she said.


Elusive Saudi Links

That is the disputed question, of course: how the world would be different without decades of Saudi-funded shaping of Islam. Though there is a widespread belief that Saudi influence has contributed to the growth of terrorism, it is rare to find a direct case of cause and effect. For example, in Brussels, the Grand Mosque was built with Saudi money and staffed with Saudi imams. In 2012, according to Saudi diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, one Saudi preacher was removed after Belgian complaints that he was a “true Salafi” who did not accept other schools of Islam. And Brussels’ immigrant neighborhoods, notably Molenbeek, have long been the home of storefront mosques teaching hard-line Salafi views.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November and in Brussels in March were tied to an Islamic State cell in Belgium, the Saudi history was the subject of several news media reports. Yet it was difficult to find any direct link between the bombers and the Saudi legacy in the Belgian capital.

Several suspects had petty criminal backgrounds; their knowledge of Islam was described by friends as superficial; they did not appear to be regulars at any mosque. Though the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blasts, resentment of the treatment of North African immigrant families in Belgium and exposure to Islamic State propaganda, in person or via the internet and social media, appeared to be the major factors motivating the attacks.

If there was a Saudi connection, it was highly indirect, perhaps playing out over a generation or longer. Hind Fraihi, a Moroccan-Belgian journalist who went underground in the Brussels immigrant neighborhood of Molenbeek in 2005 and wrote a book about it, met Saudi-trained imams and found lots of extremist literature written in Saudi Arabia that encouraged “polarization, the sentiment of us against them, the glorification of jihad.”

The recent attackers, Ms. Fraihi said, were motivated by “lots of factors — economic frustration, racism, a generation that feels it has no future.” But Saudi teaching, she said, “is part of the cocktail.”

Without the Saudi presence over the decades, might a more progressive and accommodating Islam, reflecting immigrants’ Moroccan roots, have taken hold in Brussels? Would young Muslims raised in Belgium have been less susceptible to the stark, violent call of the Islamic State? Conceivably, but the case is impossible to prove.

Or consider an utterly different cultural milieu — the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia. The Saudis have sent money for mosque-building, books and teachers for decades, said Sidney Jones, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta.

“Over time,” said Ms. Jones, who has visited or lived in Indonesia since the 1970s, the Saudi influence “has contributed to a more conservative, more intolerant atmosphere.” (President Obama, who lived in Indonesia as a boy, has remarked on the same phenomenon.) She said she believed money from private Saudi donors and foundations was behind campaigns in Indonesia against Shiite and Ahmadi Islam, considered heretical by Wahhabi teaching. Some well-known Indonesian religious vigilantes are Saudi-educated, she said.

But when Ms. Jones studied the approximately 1,000 people arrested in Indonesia on terrorism charges since 2002, she found only a few — “literally four or five” — with ties to Wahhabi or Salafi institutions. When it comes to violence, she concluded, the Saudi connection is “mostly a red herring.”

In fact, she said, there is a gulf between Indonesian jihadists and Indonesian Salafis who look to Saudi or Yemeni scholars for guidance. The jihadists accuse the Salafis of failing to act on their convictions; the Salafis scorn the jihadists as extremists.

Whatever the global effects of decades of Saudi proselytizing, it is under greater scrutiny than ever, from outside and inside the kingdom. Saudi leaders’ ideological reform efforts, encompassing textbooks and preaching, amount to a tacit recognition that its religious exports have sometimes backfired. And the kingdom has stepped up an aggressive public relations campaign in the West, hiring American publicists to counter critical news media reports and fashion a reformist image for Saudi leaders.

But neither the publicists nor their clients can renounce the strain of Islam on which the Saudi state was built, and old habits sometimes prove difficult to suppress. A prominent cleric, Saad bin Nasser al-Shethri, had been stripped of a leadership position by the previous king, Abdullah, for condemning coeducation. King Salman restored Mr. Shethri to the job last year, not long after the cleric had joined the chorus of official voices criticizing the Islamic State. But Mr. Shethri’s reasoning for denouncing the Islamic State suggested the difficulty of change. The group was, he said, “more infidel than Jews and Christians.”

—————————————–

Photo: The Seoul Central Mosque in South Korea, one of hundreds of mosques around the world built using Saudi donations. Credit Choi Won-Suk/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Photo: The King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles. Credit Patrick T. Fallon for The New York Times

Photo: The United States spent millions printing textbooks for Afghan children and adults that encouraged violence against non-Muslim “infidels” like Soviet troops, as in this excerpt from a book for Pashto-speaking first graders. Credit From Dana Burde, Schools for Conflict or for Peace in Afghanistan

Photo: The Iranian revolution in early 1979 brought to power a radical Shiite government, symbolically challenging Saudi Arabia, the leader of Sunnism, for leadership of global Islam. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Photo: A wounded man at the airport in Brussels after an attack by jihadists in March. There appears to be no direct link between the bombers and the Saudi legacy in the Belgian capital. Credit Ketevan Kardava/Associated Press

Photo: During his reign from 1964 to 1975, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, pictured here in May 1968, embraced the duty of spreading Islam around the world. Credit Raymond Depardon/Magnum Photos

Photo: Members of the Saudi security services inspecting the site of a car bomb attack in May 2015 targeting Shiite Saudis attending Friday Prayer at a mosque in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Credit European Pressphoto Agency

Photo: Saudi oil fields developed by Aramco, the Arabian-American Oil Company, as seen in this 1951 photograph, provided generous funding for the export of the Saudi version of Islam. Credit Associated Press

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Secrets of the Kingdom

A Saudi Morals Enforcer Called for a More Liberal Islam. Then the Death Threats Began.JUL. 11, 2016

A Saudi Imam, 2 Hijackers and Lingering 9/11 Mystery JUNE 18, 2016

How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS MAY 22, 2016

ISIS Turns Saudis Against the Kingdom, and Families Against Their Own APRIL 1, 2016

Quiet Support for Saudis Entangles U.S. in Yemen MARCH 14, 2016

U.S. Relies Heavily on Saudi Money to Support Syrian Rebels JAN. 24, 2016

———————————-===================================—————————-

Follow Scott Shane on Twitter @ScottShaneNYT.

Hala Droubi contributed reporting from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

A version of this article appears in print on August 26, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: ‘Both Arsonists and Firefighters’. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

—————————————————————————————

RELATED COVERAGE
‘We Live in a Society Where the Word “Liberal” Is Considered an Insult’ JULY 13, 2016

Cross-Border Fire From Yemen Kills 7 in Saudi Arabia AUG. 17, 2016
Saudi King Shakes Up Government as Economic Plan Moves Forward MAY 7, 2016

Saudi Prince Shares Plan to Cut Oil Dependency and Energize the Economy APRIL 25, 2016

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 25th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Prove Tuncay Babali Broke the Law or Free Him
News from the Middle East Forum of Philadelphia.
August 25, 2016
 www.meforum.org/6220/prove-babali…

PHILADELPHIA – Aug. 25, 2016 – Turkish ambassador Tuncay Babali, a Middle East Quarterly contributor, has been arrested for alleged participation in the July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt in Turkey.

He is one of Ankara’s most accomplished young diplomats, having served, among other government positions, as director of the department of human resources of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, counselor to the Turkish embassies in Washington, D.C., and London, and ambassador to Canada (2012-14).

Babali, who holds an MA degree from the University of London and a PhD from the University of Houston, has established himself as an authority in the fields of energy economics and geopolitics as well as Eurasian security. In 2009-10, he was a fellow at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. His article, “Turkey at the Energy Crossroads,” appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of the Middle East Quarterly, pp. 25-33.

Eleven days after the failed coup, Babali was sacked from his position – alongside fellow ambassador Gürcan Bal?k, chief advisor to former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and scores of lower-level diplomats – as part of the government’s massive purge of civil servants allegedly linked to the Fethullah Gülen movement. On August 18-19, Babali and Balik were jailed, together with former ambassador to Costa Rica Ali Findik, as the government embarked on an unprecedented purge of hundreds of foreign office diplomats.

The Middle East Forum is deeply concerned by the recent arrests of Babali and tens of thousands of other Turks and believes that the current purge goes far beyond a reasonable and legitimate response to the abortive coup while casting serious doubt on Turkey’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law. It, therefore, urges the Government of Turkey to provide incontrovertible evidence in public of Amb. Babali’s criminal activity or to free him immediately.

For immediate release
Contact: Gregg Roman, Director
Middle East Forum
 Roman at MEForum.org
215-546-5406, ext. 104

This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 5th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

To stop crippling air pollution, Iranians do car-free Tuesdays
By Karin Kloosterman (KarinKloosterman@greenprophet)

Karin Kloosterman interests intersect in the worlds of the environment, technology, activism and Middle East politics. Blogging for some of the most influential media outlets in the “green” world, such as TreeHugger, and The Huffington Post, Karin founded Green Prophet to share the enormous potential of new clean technologies, and environmental awareness emanating from the Middle East region. For tips, advertising and editorial inquiries Karin can be reached at
karin@greenprophet.com

July 4, 2016

Cities in Iran are some of the most polluted in the world. It’s estimated that 27 people a day die in Tehran from the low quality of air.

Mohammad Bakhtiari, 25, from Arak decided he couldn’t take it anymore, and started car-free Tuesdays –- a day when he’s encouraging Iranians to find alternative ways to get around. He told local media, “With air pollution getting worse, I did not like to sit back doing nothing. I thought everybody is responsible for this problem. And I was thinking of a way to involve more people to help with it.”

So he proposed that people go car free on Tuesdays. Residents in Tripoli, Lebanon tried it once a long time ago, but it didn’t stick.

Mohammad wanted the idea to stick. He went with posters and flyers and explained to locals in Arak until the Department of Environment gave its stamp of approval. It’s catching on in all Iranian cities but there are no reports on how many people are actually doing it.

Tuesday was the day picked because it is in the middle of Iranian week when traffic congestion is high and air pollution is at its worst.

The World Bank estimates losses inflicted on Iran’s economy as a result of deaths caused by air pollution at $640 million, which is equal to 5.1 trillion rials or 0.57 percent of GDP. Diseases resulting from air pollution are inflicting losses estimated at $260 million per year or 2.1 trillion rials or 0.23 percent of the GDP on Iran’s economy.

Leaving cars at home can reduce air pollution: The campaign that started this spring is expected to run for 600 weeks. The idea is to get people to use bikes and more public transport.

Mohammad said: “Sixty percent of the people who know there is such a campaign have supported it. Our first step is to tell people that there is such a movement. The second step is to tell them why they should support it.

“The third step is to have incentives for those who join the campaign.

“And the fourth step is to push the government to carry out its responsibilities at a more rapid pace.”

He is now pushing the government for safe bike routes, and more people to start using electric motorbikes. As well as an overhaul of public transport.

Cities in Russia and India, have made a similar pledge to be car free on Tuesdays.

Read more on sustainable Iran:
Iran Looks to Create Biofuel
Iran Inaugurates Its First Solar CSP Plant
Celebrate Spring and Iranian New Year

View other posts by Karin Kloosterman ?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 15th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Why Do We Keep Learning New Secrets About 9/11?

By Charles Pierce, Esquire
14 May 16
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…


There are allegedly more Saudi officials implicated in the 9/11 Report than we thought.

The pointless alleged cover-up of the role of Saudi nationals in the attacks of September 11, 2001 is starting to come just a little bit unraveled.

The Guardian had a provocative piece quoting John Lehman, a Republican member of the 9/11 Commission, and a former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, to the effect that the investigation essentially buried the question of Saudi involvement.

“There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government,” Lehman said in an interview, suggesting that the commission may have made a mistake by not stating that explicitly in its final report. “Our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia.” He was critical of a statement released late last month by the former chairman and vice-chairman of the commission, who urged the Obama administration to be cautious about releasing the full congressional report on the Saudis and 9/11 — “the 28 pages”, as they are widely known in Washington—because they contained “raw, unvetted” material that might smear innocent people.

I, for one, didn’t know that a Saudi diplomat had been implicated in the support network on which some of the hijackers depended while living in San Diego. (Why is Fahad al-Thumairy walking around free while shoeless losers who fall for FBI stings get shipped off to the nether regions of the federal penal system?) But Lehman wasn’t finished yet.

In the interview Wednesday, Lehman said Kean and Hamilton’s statement that only one Saudi government employee was “implicated” in supporting the hijackers in California and elsewhere was “a game of semantics” and that the commission had been aware of at least five Saudi government officials who were strongly suspected of involvement in the terrorists’ support network. “They may not have been indicted, but they were certainly implicated,” he said. “There was an awful lot of circumstantial evidence.”

Allegedly, there was a considerable brawl within the commission about how the material concerning the Saudi involvement was being handled, and at the center of it was staff director Philip Zelikow, whose previous job was as an aide to Condoleezza Rice back in the days when she was proving to be the worst National Security Advisor ever. This always has stuck in my craw, and if the stonewall is falling down, then that’s all to the good.


Zelikow fired a staffer, who had repeatedly protested over limitations on the Saudi investigation, after she obtained a copy of the 28 pages outside of official channels. Other staffers described an angry scene late one night, near the end of the investigation, when two investigators who focused on the Saudi allegations were forced to rush back to the commission’s offices after midnight after learning to their astonishment that some of the most compelling evidence about a Saudi tie to 9/11 was being edited out of the report or was being pushed to tiny, barely readable footnotes and endnotes. The staff protests were mostly overruled.

The crime against history is ongoing, but it does seem we’re edging a little closer to solving it.

============================

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


BDS: Squeezing Palestinians to Hurt Israel

by Asaf Romirowsky and Nicole Brackman in The Jerusalem Post
May 8, 2016, Re-posted by Middle East Forum
 www.meforum.org/6005/bds-squeezin…

Originally published under the title “BDS Equals Economic Warfare.”

The October 2015 closure of SodaStream’s factory in Mishor Adumim put 500 Palestinians out of work.
At the core of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) is economic warfare meant to delegitimize and marginalize Israel. But the fatal fallacy of the movement is rooted in the fact that its proponents are hurting the very constituency they claim to represent.

Daniel Birnbaum is the CEO of SodaStream, one of Israel’s greatest commercial start-up successes. The company (made famous in a 2014 Super Bowl advertisement featuring actress Scarlett Johansson) was a pioneer in economic inclusion, establishing a factory in the West Bank and employing both Palestinian and Jewish workers (among them a high proportion of women).

Due to the ongoing violence in Syria, SodaStream also went out of its way to offer employment to Syrian refugees – one of the only Middle Eastern companies to do so. Providing an avenue to job security in skilled labor is a fundamental tenet of refugee rehabilitation policy. Israel has been at the forefront of successful refugee resettlement and absorption since the state’s inception, with the integration of close to one million Jewish refugees expelled from Arab lands.

As Birnbaum underscored in a press release,

As the son of a Holocaust survivor, I refuse to stand by and observe this human tragedy unfold right across the border in Syria… just as we have always done our best to help our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the West Bank, the time has come for local business and municipal leaders to address the Syrian humanitarian crisis and take the initiative to help those in need. We cannot expect our politicians to bear the entire burden of providing aid for the refugees.

But in October 2015, nearly 500 of the company’s Palestinian workers lost their jobs. The reason wasn’t because the company no longer wanted to employ them. It was due – at least in part – to the efforts of the BDS movement to mount enough international pressure to close the facility. Though the company denied it was a factor, the tactic worked; many of the workers were thrust into unemployment.

Notwithstanding that, SodaStream offered 1,000 positions to Syrian refugees at the company’s new facility in Rahat.

The BDS movement uses economic pressure to attempt to strong-arm the Israeli government into complying with its agenda. Its effects are wide-ranging, from political activism on college campuses to commercial guerrilla tactics, like covertly placing stickers on grocery products to draw attention to their Israeli origins.

Much of the time, its claims are laden with anti-Semitic overtones and rely on emotional appeal rather than hard data. Such tactics have far-reaching – and very counterproductive – consequences, for example, the unwillingness of the French directorate-general for international security of intelligence to accept technology offered by an Israeli security company that “could have helped counter-terror agents track suspects in real time,” undermining the chance to avert the recent deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and Belgium.

The BDS movement has had little economic impact on Israel.

Despite its aspirations, in fact BDS has had little economic impact on Israel. According to Forbes, “The impact of BDS is more psychological than real so far and has had no discernible impact on Israeli trade or the broader economy… that said, the sanctions do run the risk of hurting the Palestinian economy, which is much smaller and poorer than that of Israel.”

Israel’s centrality to US regional and global policy has not gone unnoticed; US Congress sought to cement Israel’s economic and trade ties to the US with a bipartisan bill – the US-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act – designed to counter the BDS movement and strengthen the two nations’ relationship. The bill “leverages ongoing trade negotiations to discourage prospective US trade partners from engaging in economic discrimination against Israel” and “establishes a clear US policy in opposition to state-led BDS, which is detrimental to global trade, regional peace and stability.”

The extremism that the BDS movement advocates highlights the group’s refusal to come to terms with the State of Israel and its ignorance in evaluating the landscape of greater Middle East politics.

When Syrian refugees are being offered jobs in Israel at an Israeli company it is clear how removed the BDS reality is from that of the Middle East.

—————————————-
Asaf Romirowsky is the executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. Nicole Brackman is a fellow at SPME.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 12th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

MIDDLE EAST

Saudi King Shakes Up Government as Economic Plan Moves Forward

By BEN HUBBARD – MAY 7, 2016

Among the changes announced Saturday was the replacement of the country’s long-serving oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, who is in his 80s.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — In a series of sweeping royal decrees on Saturday, King Salman of Saudi Arabia replaced a number of top ministers and restructured government bodies in the first moves of an ambitious plan to chart a new direction for the kingdom.

The decrees were among the first concrete steps in the plan, which was announced late last month to great domestic fanfare by the king’s son Mohammed bin Salman, who is about 30, oversees economic policy and runs the Defense Ministry.

The plan, known as Saudi Vision 2030, is intended as a guide for the country’s development. It aims in part to reduce Saudi Arabia’s heavy dependence on oil, diversify its economy and improve the quality of life for Saudi citizens.

The plan is being put into effect at a difficult time for the kingdom. The regional order over which Saudi Arabia has long prevailed is in tatters, with wars raging in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and with its regional nemesis, Iran, extending its influence. Also, low oil prices have shaken the Saudi economy, causing the government to run huge budget deficits and leaving government contractors falling behind in paying salaries.

“What you are seeing in Saudi Arabia is a genuine need for reform that is felt at the very top of the ruling establishment,” said Adeel Malik, the Globe fellow in the economies of Muslim societies at Oxford University. “You can clearly see that there is fire under the seats of the rulers.”

Many Saudis have lauded Saudi Vision 2030 as a powerful statement of purpose from a royal family that has often failed to communicate its plans or do much to prepare for the future. But many analysts and economists have questioned the ability of Saudi Arabia’s bloated and often ineffective bureaucracy to meet the plan’s aggressive targets.

Many of the changes announced Saturday were clearly aimed at restructuring the government so it would work toward the plan’s goals.

Among those changes was the replacement of the country’s long-serving oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, who is in his 80s and had held the position since 1995. Mr. Naimi’s oversight of oil policy for the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, had made him a towering figure in world oil policy, whose mere utterances were closely scrutinized by traders seeking to understand the country’s thinking.

Since oil prices began declining in mid-2014, Mr. Naimi has championed the Saudi strategy of maintaining production levels to preserve market share and undermine higher-cost producers like the United States. While the strategy has largely worked, it has contributed to an oil glut that has kept prices low, analysts say.

Mr. Naimi was named an adviser to the royal court and was replaced by a younger official, Khalid al-Falih, who had previously run the Health Ministry and served as the chairman of Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company.

Some energy experts viewed the emergence of Mr. Falih to replace Mr. Naimi as a highly symbolic move that sent a strong signal to both the Saudi power structure and international oil markets. It was another sign that Prince Mohammed was consolidating his position as the chief architect of economic policy and of the transformation of Saudi Aramco into an independent oil company with the ability to invest in projects with less interference from the royal family.

Mr. Naimi had long helped carry out the royal family’s policy of using the company to finance government social policy — a tradition Prince Mohammed wants to veer from through widespread privatization.

While Mr. Naimi had long expressed the desire to retire, the suddenness of his exit struck some analysts as a sign of Prince Mohammed’s displaying muscle.

“It was an unceremonious departure for a man who devoted his entire life to the Saudi oil world and planned to resign anyway,” said David L. Goldwyn, who was a senior energy official in the State Department during the first Obama administration. “To essentially drop him in a cabinet reshuffle rather than celebrate his retirement was pretty rude, even by Saudi standards. The way he left is a sign of Mohammed bin Salman making clear that he is directing the appointment of important positions.”


In the announcement on Saturday, the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources was renamed the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Natural Resources, a semantic shift meant to indicate the country’s commitment to diversifying its income away from oil.

Most energy experts said they did not see Mr. Naimi’s departure as a sign that policy would soon change, especially with oil prices gradually rising. They said no changes in policy were likely to occur as long as Prince Mohammed and his father opposed an accommodation with Iran.

“The Saudis sneeze and the oil market catches a cold, but I think it’s going to turn out not to mean much,” said Michael Lynch, the president of the consultancy Strategic Energy and Economic Research, who has been an adviser to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. “By picking Khalid al-Falih, it doesn’t seem like this means a radical change.”

Other decrees announced on Saturday changed the head of the central bank and named new ministers for water, commerce, social affairs, health and transport.

“All these measures were ultimately aimed at making government more efficient and more accountable, reducing red tape,” said Fahad Nazer, a senior political analyst at JTG Inc., a consulting firm in Vienna, Va. “They are clearly meant to help in terms of implementing the vision going forward.”

Other changes also jibed with goals articulated in the new vision, showing the tight coordination between Prince Mohammed, who has emerged as the country’s most dynamic official despite being second in line for the throne, and his father, King Salman, who maintains ultimate authority.

———-

The Ministry of Hajj, an important body in a country that derives much of its international legitimacy from its management of Islam’s holiest sites, was changed to the Ministry of Hajj and Umra. While the Hajj pilgrimage happens once a year, the Umra pilgrimage can be done year-round, and Prince Mohammed has spoken of expanding the number of Umra visitors as a source of unexploited income. Its minister was also replaced.

Many people among Saudi Arabia’s large youth population — more than two-thirds of the country’s 20 million citizens are under 30 — speculated on social media about the duties of the newly created General Commission for Entertainment. It is a surprising body in a hyperconservative country where public movie theaters are banned and many people spend their vacations and weekends abroad.

Prince Mohammed has spoken about the importance of providing Saudis with more ways to enjoy life in their country, although it remains to be seen what new options will be provided.

——————–
Clifford Krauss contributed reporting from Houston.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 17th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from Iulia Trombitcaia  Iulia.Trombitcaia at unece.org via lists.iisd.ca

Dear colleagues,

UNECE has just published the third Environmental Performance Reviews of two countries: Georgia and Belarus.

Both reviews cover air, water, waste, biodiversity and the integration of environmental considerations into a wide number of sectors (energy, forestry, transport, tourism, health, etc.).

Both reviews reflect the successes and challenges for these countries in the achievement of MDGs, and we very much hope that the recommendations of the reviews will assist these countries in developing their national agendas for the achievement of SDGs.

The publications can be found here:

3rd Environmental Performance Review of Georgia:
 www.unece.org/index.php?id=42309 (in English)

3rd Environmental Performance Review of Belarus:
 www.unece.org/index.php?id=41226 (in English and Russian)

Yours,
Iulia Trombitcaia, UNECE

……………………………………………………………………………………….
Ms. Iulia TROMBITCAIA
Environmental Affairs Officer
Environmental Performance Review Programme
UN Economic Commission for Europe
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Telephone: 0041-22-917 3332
Telefax: 0041-22-917 06 21
E-mail:  iulia.trombitcaia at unece.org
 www.unece.org/env/epr.html

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 17th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Role of Non-State Actors as seen from Jordan when reviewing the Paris2015 Outcome.

Non-state actors include mainly Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), cities and regions, as well as companies. The Paris Agreement is seen as a major turning point when it comes to the emphasizing the role and leadership of non-state actors, especially the private sector, side by side with governments. It calls upon ‘non-Party’ stakeholders to scale up their efforts and to demonstrate them via the UNFCCC website, and it also recognizes that tools such as domestic policies and carbon trading are important. Already 11,000 commitments from 4,000 companies and local authorities have been registered on the UNFCCC website, and that number is expected to grow in the coming years. climateaction.unfccc.int/

The Agreement contains clear messages to business community to join the climate action and implement short and long term projects to reduce their emissions. Climate leadership has a cascaded impact throughout the value chain: as emissions are reduced, money is saved, stakeholders are engaged and business reputation is enhanced.

——————————–

from Ruba Al-Zu’bi  rubaalzoubi at gmail.com via lists.iisd.ca

Dear Colleagues,
I include below a couple of articles highlighting some of Jordan’s efforts and priorities post Paris.

- Paris Agreement: Role of Effective Climate Governance
 www.ecomena.org/paris-agreement-f…

- Jordan’s Journey Towards Climate Action
 www.ecomena.org/jordan-climate-ac…

kind regards,
Ruba


Jordan has the distinction of being the third Arab country to submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) prior to Paris COP21, in addition to being the first Arab country to address climate change and its implications on vital sectors through a national policy (2013 – 2020).

Moreover, Jordan is taking serious steps to mainstream climate change into development policies and strategies starting with the National Women Strategy (2012) and the National Poverty Reduction strategy (2013), the Jordan Vision 2025 which is considered to be the overall developmental blueprint for the country (2015) to the recently launched National Water Strategy (2016 – 2025).

On another front, Jordan is preparing a National Green Growth Strategy (NGGS) through the Ministry of Environment and a number of sectoral action plans to drive its green economy agenda.

Jordan is helped in its efforts by GIZ, Germany.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 17th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

80 new coal power plants for Turkey?

from Bahad?r Do?utürk and 350.org
Find out why Turkey is joining Break Free.

This May, thousands of people from all over the world will join a global wave of resistance to keep coal oil and gas in the ground called Break Free from Fossil Fuels. The fossil fuel industry harms people all over the world, and we wanted to share with you some of those stories in the lead up to these actions. You can find out more and join an action near you here.

Friend,

Right now the Turkish government is planning to build around 80 new coal power plants across the country. Four of those will be in my home of Alia?a.

Alia?a is already struggling with extensive pollution due to existing coal plants, and four new power plants will make the problem even worse. At a time when the world could be transitioning to clean energy, the government of Turkey is asking us to sacrifice even more of our health and our environment for this dirty industry.

Coal in Turkey already causes 2,876 premature deaths per year. Imagine the impact of adding 80 new coal power plants on top of the existing 21. And it’s not only the air we breathe; the ?zdemir coal plant in Alia?a currently produces 150 thousand tonnes of coal ash per year, which contaminates our food and our water. There are plans to add a second unit to this plant. This would mean 300,000 tonnes of coal ash per year, not to mention the irreversible damage to our climate.

We decided to join our forces as groups fighting against coal all over Turkey to stop every single new coal plant in our country. On the 15th of May, we are mobilising hundreds of people at the gates of the major ash pond in our area to clearly show that there’s no place for new coal infrastructure here, or anywhere.

We know that the impacts of these new power stations go well beyond Alia?a and Turkey. Coal is the world’s dirtiest power source and the source of carbon emissions and with global temperatures rising faster than anyone predicted the planet can not afford 80 new coal power plants. And we can not afford another coal plant in our town.

Will you stand with me and people all over the world as we fight to keep fossil fuels the only place they are safe: in the ground?

There has never been a better time to break free from fossil fuels.
People all over the world are planning bold actions of their own, which will keep fossil fuels in the ground and demand the transition to clean energy we know is possible.
Click here to find out more and to join an action near you: breakfree2016.org

signed:
Bahad?r Do?utürk

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Posted in Archives, Future Events, Reporting from Washington DC, Turkey, West Virginia

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 9th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


How Madonna and Hillary Clinton Betray Muslim Women

by Phyllis Chesler
The New York Post
April 6, 2016
 www.meforum.org/5946/western-wome…


Edited version of an article originally published under the title “By Covering Up Too Much, Western Women Betray Their Muslim-World Sisters.”

Many American celebrities (clockwise, from upper left: Lady Gaga, Madonna, Khloe Kardashian, and Rihanna) simulate the oppression of Muslim women as a fashion statement.

The stewardesses of Air France are outraged and have just refused to don headscarves when they fly into Tehran, as the mullahs have demanded.

Viva La France!

The French stewardesses have more dignity, more sobriety, and more self-respect than many American and European women do, beginning with trendsetting celebrities, female diplomats and first ladies, who have all donned headscarves (hijab), face masks (niqab), or full burqas when visiting Muslim countries, or as carefree fashion statements.

For example, Madonna, three Kardashian sisters, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry, and Nicole Richie have all recently posted photos of themselves in Islamic “drag,” either on visits to Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Morocco or just because it suited their fancy. They’re posed wearing filmy, long scarves (Katy Perry), heavy black hijab (Kylie Kardashian, Rihanna), niqab or face masks (Madonna), heavy hijab plus abayas (Gomez) and almost full burqas (Kim and Khloe Kardashian).

Such female celebrities may influence Western girls more than female Western political leaders can. They don’t understand that they are “slumming;” they can remove their exotic Islamic garb and pose naked whenever they choose to do so. This isn’t possible for Muslim girls and women who are forced to wear the Islamic veil (headscarf, face mask, or full head, face, and body covering) and who risk death when they resist.

A female U.S. Navy sailor was forced to where the hijab while detained in Iran with her shipmates in January.

Being forced to adopt a colonizing custom that subordinates women; being forced to “pretend” that one is a Muslim when that isn’t the case; and being made to feel shameful, shameless, if one is naked-faced are acts of psychological warfare.

Remember the sole female Navy sailor who was forced to don hijab on board while Iran held American sailors in captivity? It was an outrage, and reminiscent of how Barbary pirates once treated their captured Christian female slaves.

Why, then, are female non-Muslim Western leaders sometimes willing to comply?

Daniel Pipes has been keeping a careful list of such compliant Westerners. For example, in 1996, Britain’s Princess Diana donned a headscarf when she visited Pakistan; in 1997, First Lady Hillary and Chelsea Clinton both donned hijab on a visit with Yasser Arafat; in 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wore one on a state visit to Tajikistan; in 2007, journalist Diana Sawyer did as well when she interviewed Iranian tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; also in 2007, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wore a headscarf on a visit to Damascus, Syria; and in 2007, First Lady Laura Bush wore hijab on a state visit in Saudi Arabia. In 2012, a high-ranking UN official on climate change, Christiana Figueres, donned hijab on a visit to Qatar. In 2015, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop wore hijab on a state visit to Iran; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wore hijab on a state visit to Pakistan.

Some of these same American and European Christian leaders have chosen not to wear a hijab at other times. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to their decisions. In 2008, Rice and Bush did not wear the headscarf in Saudi Arabia; in 2010, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a bare-headed visit to Saudi Arabia; in 2012, Clinton wore no hijab when she visited Saudi Arabia. When Obama attended the late Saudi King’s funeral, his wife wore no hijab.

If you’re representing America, it’s fine to find ways to respect the customs of the country you are visiting. But please note: American male diplomats don’t wear traditional Saudi male attire — the bisht or thobe, the keffiya and the ayal.

The Quran doesn’t command that women wear body bags or face masks.

Modesty is a legitimate concern. So it’s important to understand that the Quran doesn’t command that women wear body bags or face masks. Like men, women are commanded to dress “modestly” and to “cover their breasts.” While Muslim countries do have a long history of face- and body-veiling women, they also have a hundred-year history of naked-faced Muslim women who fought for their rights or whose kings granted them the right to feel the sun on their faces, make eye contact with their students and teachers, perform surgery, sit in parliaments, etc.

When is the last time you have seen large numbers of Muslim women in the 21st century (wives of Muslim leaders, female Muslim leaders, immigrants, citizens) in the West going bare-headed and naked-faced? They certainly exist and, if they’re lucky, their families are also westernized.

But some very brave westernized Muslim girls and women have also paid a high price for their decision to dress Western-style. They’ve been threatened with death, battered, imprisoned at home, rushed into forced marriages, escorted to and from school — and have been the victims of honor killings.

As long as women are forced to wear face masks and burqas, or even to wear the heavy hijab, it renders naked-faced women vulnerable, both in Muslim lands and in the West. Remember the large number of Western women who were assaulted, groped and raped by male Muslim mobs earlier this year all over Europe?

———————————–
Phyllis Chesler, a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum, is an emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies and the author of sixteen books.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 7th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Uri Avnery
April 2, 2016

Under the Lime Trees

ONE OF the most famous lines in German poetry is “Don’t greet me under the lime trees.”

The Jewish-German poet Heinrich Heine asks his sweetheart not to embarass him in public by greeting him in the main street of Berlin, which is called “Unter den Linden” (“Under the Lime Trees”).

Israel is in the position of this illicit sweetheart. Arab countries are having an affair with her, but don’t want to be seen with her in public.

Too embarrassing.

THE MAIN Arab country in question is Saudi Arabia. For some time now, the oil kingdom has been a secret ally of Israel, and vice versa.

In politics, national interests often trump ideological differences. This is so in this case.

The area referred to by Westerners as the “Middle East” is now polarized into two camps, led respectively by Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The northern arc consists of Shiite Iran, present-day Iraq with its Shiite majority, the main Syrian territory controlled by the Alawite (close to Shiite) community and Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Southern bloc, led by Sunni Saudi Arabia, consists of the Sunni states of Egypt and the Gulf principalities. In a shadowy way, they are connected with the Sunni Islamic Caliphate, a.k.a. Daesh or Isis, which has lodged itself between Syria and Iraq. Except for Egypt, which is as poor as a mosque mouse, they are all stinking rich with oil.

The northern arc is supported by Russia, which just now has given the Assad family in Syria a massive military boost. The southern bloc has been supported until recently by the US and its allies.

THIS IS an orderly picture, as it should be. People around the world don’t like complicated situations, especially if they make it difficult to distinguish between friends and enemies.

Take Turkey. Turkey is a Sunnite country, formerly secular but now ruled by a religious party. So it is logical that it quietly supports Daesh.
Turkey also fights against the Syrian Kurds, which fight against Daesh, and who are allied with the Kurdish minority in Turkey, which is considered by the Turkish government as a deadly menace.

(The Kurds are a separate people, neither Arab nor Turkish, who are divided between Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, and generally unable to unite. They are mostly Sunnis.)

The US is fighting against Assad’s Syria, which is supported by Russia. But the US is also fighting against Daesh, which is fighting against Assad’s Syria. The Syrian Kurds are fighting against Daesh, but also against Assad’s forces. The Lebanese Hezbollah strongly supports Syria, a traditional enemy of Lebanon, and keeps the Assad regime alive, while fighting against Daesh, side by side with the US, a deadly enemy of Hezbollah. Iran supports Assad and fights against Daesh, side by side with the US, Hezbollah and the Syrian Kurds.

Can’t make sense of this? You are not alone.

Recently the US has changed its orientation. Until then, the picture was clear. The US needed the Saudi oil, as cheaply as the King could supply it. It also hated Iran, since the Shiite Islamists threw out the Iranian Shah of Shahs, an American stooge. The Islamists captured the American diplomats in Tehran and held them as hostages. To get them out, the US provided the Iranian army with weapons, via Israel (this was called Irangate). Iran was at war with Iraq, which was under the Sunni dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The Americans supported Saddam against Iran, but later invaded Iraq, hanged him and effectively turned Iraq over to Iran, their deadly enemy.

Now the US is having second thoughts (if all this mess has much to do with “thoughts”). Its traditional alliance with Saudi Arabia against Iran does not look so attractive anymore. The US dependence on Arabian oil is not so strong as it was. Suddenly the Saudi religious tyranny does not look so much more attractive than the Iranian religious democracy and its beckoning market. After all, against the 20 million native Saudis there are 80 million Iranians.

So now we have a US-Iranian agreement. Western sanctions on Iran are being lifted. It looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship, threatening to leave the multitudes of Saudi princes seething with anger and shaking with fear.

WHERE is Israel in this mess? Well, it’s a part of the mess.

When Israel was established in the middle of a war with the Arabs, the government favored something called “the alliance of minorities”. This meant cooperation with all the peripheral factors in the region: the Maronites in Lebanon (the Shiites were disdained and ignored), the Alawites in Syria, the Kurds in Iraq, the Copts in Egypt, the rulers of Iran, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Chad, and so on.

There were indeed some loose connections with the Maronites. The Shah’s Iran became a close if half-secret ally. Israel helped the Shah to build his secret police, and the Shah allowed Israeli officers to pass through his territory in order to join and instruct the Kurdish rebels in North Iraq – until, alas, the Shah made a deal with Saddam Hussein. The Shah also became a partner in the oil pipeline that brought Persian oil from Eilat to Ashkelon, instead of going through the Suez Canal. (I once spent a day building that line, which is still a joint Israel-Iranian venture, subject to arbitration.)

Now the situation is quite different. The Shiite-Sunni divide (about the succession of the prophet Muhammad), which has been slumbering for many generations, has come to the fore again, serving, of course, very mundane worldly interests.

For Saudis, their competition with Iran for hegemony in the Muslim world is vastly more important than the old fight with Israel. Indeed, years ago the Saudis published a peace plan that resembles the plans put forward by Israeli peace forces (including my own). It was accepted by the Arab league but rejected by Sharon’s government and then totally ignored by successive Israeli governments.

Binyamin Netanyahu’s advisers boast that never has the geopolitical situation of Israel been better than it is now. The Arabs are busy with their quarrels. Many Arab countries want to strengthen their secret ties with Israel.

The ties with Egypt are not even secret. The Egyptian military dictator openly cooperates with Israel in strangling the Gaza Strip with its close to two million Palestinian inhabitants. The Strip is ruled by Hamas, a movement that the Egyptian government claims is connected with its enemy, Daesh.

Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, is close to having open relations with us. Israel’s political or economic ties with India, China and Russia are good and growing.

Tiny Israel is considered a military giant, a technological power, a stable democracy (at least for its Jewish citizens). Enemies like the BDS movement are mere irritations. So what’s bad?

THIS IS where we return to the lime trees. None of our secret Arab friends want us greet them openly. Egypt, with which we have an official peace treaty, does not welcome Israeli tourists anymore. They are advised not to go there.

Saudi Arabia and its allies do not want any open and formal relations with Israel. On the contrary, they continue to speak about Israel as during the worst stages of Arab rejectionism.

They all quote the same reason: the oppression of the Palestinian people. They all say the same: official relations with Israel will come only after the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The masses of the Arab peoples everywhere are far too emotionally involved with the plight of the Palestinians to tolerate official connections between their rulers and Israel.

These rulers all embrace the same conditions, which were put forward by Yasser Arafat and included in the Saudi peace plan: a free Palestinian state side by side with Israel, mutually agreed borders based on the June 1967 lines with minor exchanges of territory, an “agreed” return of the refugees (“agreed” with Israel, meaning at most a symbolic return of a very limited number).

Israeli governments have never responded to this plan. Today, under Binyamin Netanyahu, they are further from these peace conditions than ever. Almost every day our government enacts laws, enlarges settlements, takes measures and makes declarations that push Israel further away from any peace that Arab countries could accept.

FUTURE GENERATIONS will look at this situation with wonderment.

Since the foundation of the Zionist movement, and most certainly since the creation of the State of Israel, Israelis have dreamed of overcoming Arab resistance and inducing the Arab world to accept the “Jewish and democratic” State of Israel as a legitimate member of the region.

Now this opportunity is presenting itself. It can be done. Israel is invited to the Arab table. And Israel ignores the opportunity.

Not because Israel is blind, but because the occupied Palestinian territories and more settlements are more important to them than the historic act of making peace.

That is why no one wants us to greet them under the lime trees.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From our friend Jay Hauben of Columbia University – Hi,

Many peoples get spirit from celebrating the changes of season. The Jewish people celebrate the start of a new year with the coming of fall and the harvest. Many people in Asia celebrate a new year with a Spring Festival just before the coming of spring and the time for planting. People in the Persian tradition celebrate the new year called Norooz at the Spring Equinox. This year Norooz falls on March 20.

Ronda and I send you warm greetings for Norooz and for the whole year to come. May all of us learn from nature a way of renewing our lives, seeing the light instead the dark and uniting with all that is good.

Norooz is celebrated as the start of a new year by 350 million or more people worldwide. It is an ancient Zoroastrian celebration and was spread by the first Persian Empire established by Cyrus The Great over 2,500 years ago, around 550 BC. A later Persian empire even included parts of what is now the western Xinjiang province in China. That area was within the Sassanid Empire’s borders, around 450 A.D. Even today people there still celebrate Norooz.

Last year, after I sent out my Norooz greeting, a Korean friend answered that people in Asia consider every human being part of great Nature as is every tree or bird or even the wind. He said they try not to conquer Nature rather keep intact as a part of our body. I heard from a friend in Japan that it is also a Japanese tradition to celebrate the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes. A friend in Norway told me that “Nowruz – is deeply indo-european, it is New (in Norwegian Ny), the word rooz or ruz has rich associations in the direction of (new/re) birth, flowering, (spring out), in slavic languages rodzenia, rust (birth, growth). We need some of that in the world now, the Arab Spring did not quite get as far as I had hoped.”

An Iranian friend wrote to me. “We spell it No Ruz (New Day) but the double “o” is OK too- When in Iran everything closes and people picnic everywhere for 13 days, even stopping by the side of a main highway and pitching a colorful tent. Iran is certainly a major player as the most stable country in the region and has always had the respect of its neighbors-well, most of them…”

A neighbor in Manhattan wrote, “I love nature [when it’s not violent] and do learn from it when i can. unfortunately, we city-folks are not immersed in it; the little i see is from my window: the birds, the sky, the amazing view of the snow-filled trees, and central park; we all must go there soon.”

A friend in China responded to my Norooz message, “How nice to learn about the Norooz and the Zoroastrian religion of so many people of the earth village. I like definitely as you said: the way of life seeing the light instead the dark and uniting with all that is good. But to our common misfortune, there are always the powers who see the world as a neighborhood to control and to fight with rather than to respect and live in peace.” A friend living in Thailand observed that “Nature is pure and simple, human politics is complicated and insane.” And wished me and Ronda Happy Norooz.

Also, one of my cousins wrote to me that he is “familiar with the fact that many civilizations celebrate the solar equinox, which was and still is the start of renewing (spring and planting), the new yearly start of fertility, both plant and animal alike.” He reminded me that Jewish people celebrate Passover at this time and Christians celebrate Easter. It shows me that we people everywhere are really more the same than different.

Last year Ronda and I attended the UN celebration of Norooz. It consisted of short speeches and videos from twelve nations: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The theme of all the speeches was that Norooz reconnects humans and nature every year. That we all should learn from nature to renew our lives. That Norooz transcends ethnicity and religion and geography. The spirit of Norooz is good neighborliness. Translated into international diplomacy that means respect for cultural diversity and national sovereignty. I found such statements valuable even though I agree with my friend in China that there are dominant nations who see the world as a neighborhood to control not to respect.

Ronda and I hope you are and can stay well and that Spring will make everyone’s life a bit easier and more pleasant.

Happy Norooz, Happy Easter! Happy Passover!
Happy Spring!

Take care.
Hello from Ronda.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Shifting Eastern Mediterranean Alliances

by Emmanuel Karagiannis
Middle East Quarterly – Spring 2016 (view PDF)
 www.meforum.org/5877/shifting-eas…

Shifting Eastern Mediterranean Alliances

The exploitation of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean has drawn together hitherto estranged states.

In August 2013, Cyprus, Greece, and Israel signed onto the “EuroAsia Interconnector” project, which would install a 2000-megawatt underwater electric cable (illustrated above) to connect their power grids and to be a means by which “three nations … [can] enhance their growth and prosperity” and build a “bridge of friendship between our nations.”

The Eastern Mediterranean is changing fast with its estimated 122 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas reserves (the equivalent of 21 billion barrels of oil) already having an impact on regional patterns of amity and enmity.[1] With Israel and Cyprus well underway to becoming gas exporters, the problematic Israeli-Lebanese and Cypriot-Turkish relationships have been further strained. At the same time, energy cooperation has been the driving force behind the nascent Greek-Cypriot-Israeli partnership, manifested in rapidly growing defense and economic cooperation. Clearly, the development of energy resources and their transportation will have far-reaching geopolitical implications for the Eastern Mediterranean and its nations.


The Strategic Significance of the Gas Reserves

Natural gas is the fastest growing source of energy in the world, currently accounting for 22 percent of total global energy consumption.[2] It is both affordable and more environmentally friendly than other commercially feasible options, resulting in an increasing demand even in an era of dropping oil prices. That demand seems likely to be met in large part by the newly discovered gas reserves of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Israel has the potential to become an important regional producer of liquefied natural gas. Its Tamar field, with estimated reserves of 9.7 trillion cubic feet (tcf), came online in 2013 while its Leviathan gas field (above), with a potential of 16 tcf, is slated to be ready for production in 2017.

Israel, for one, has the potential to become an important regional producer.[3] Its Tamar field was confirmed to have estimated reserves of 9.7 tcf while its Leviathan gas field has the potential of producing up to 16 tcf.

Meanwhile, in November 2011, U.S.-based Noble Energy announced a major gas discovery south of Cyprus: The Aphrodite field was estimated to contain 7 tcf. In February 2013, a seismic survey south of Crete indicated that rich hydrocarbon resources may soon be found in Greek waters. Most recently, the Italian company Eni announced the discovery of a huge gas field off the coast of Egypt.

For reasons of geographical proximity, these Mediterranean energy resources concern first and foremost the European Union—the world’s third largest energy consumer behind China and the United States.[9] While oil is still the dominant fuel, accounting for 33.8 percent of total EU energy consumption, natural gas comes in second at 23.4 percent.[10] The Eastern Mediterranean gas reserves have three distinct advantages for European governments (and companies) and are thus viewed by them as a strategic priority. First, due to their smaller sizes and populations, the needs of Israel and Cyprus are relatively low and most of their gas could be exported. Second, Eastern Mediterranean gas could partly cover Europe’s energy needs and thereby decrease its dependence on an increasingly volatile Russia. Finally, since both Israel and Cyprus lack the capital and the offshore drilling technology to develop gas reserves on their own, foreign energy companies have identified them as investment opportunities that could generate significant financial returns.

As the Middle East implodes, security of energy supply has become an important policy objective for the EU. Indeed, there is a consensus among European governments that new initiatives are needed to address energy challenges. The EU is already directly involved to some extent in Eastern Mediterranean energy affairs because Greece and Cyprus are member states while Turkey is a candidate for membership and has a customs union with the EU. Although the governments of the EU and Israel are often at odds politically, economic relations between Jerusalem and Brussels are close and multifaceted.

The development of Israeli and Cypriot gas fields could help strengthen Europe’s energy security. Currently, European countries import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from politically unstable countries such as Nigeria and Algeria. But the Eastern Mediterranean could serve as a third gas “corridor” for Europe, alongside Russian gas and the southeast European pipelines for Azeri gas. The Italian Eni company, the British Premier Oil, and the Dutch Oranje-Nassau Energie have clearly shown interest by bidding in the second round of licensing for natural gas exploration in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone (EEZ),[11] a sea zone prescribed by the United
Nations over which a state has special rights.

The U.S. administration views Eastern Mediterranean gas as an alternative source for its European allies who depend heavily on Russian supplies.

Given the prominence of the Middle East for U.S. energy policy, it is hardly surprising that the gas finds in Israel and Cyprus have drawn Washington’s attention as well. Although the U.S. is likely to become the largest gas producer in the world as a result of increased use of shale gas, the administration views Eastern Mediterranean gas as an alternative source for its European allies who depend heavily on Russian supplies.[12] Within the private sector, the American company, Noble Energy, has played a leading role in the exploration process; it has a 40 percent stake in the Leviathan fields, a 36 percent stake in Tamar, and a 70 percent stake in Aphrodite.

Not surprisingly, these discoveries have attracted Moscow’s interest as well due to a potential, adverse impact on its gas exports to European markets. Russian energy companies, which often act as the Kremlin’s long-arm, are particularly active in the region. In February 2013, for example, Gazprom signed a 20-year deal with the Israeli Levant LNG Marketing Corporation to purchase liquefied natural gas exclusively from the Tamar field.[13] Then in December 2013, the Russian company SoyuzNefteGas signed an agreement with the Assad regime to explore part of Syria’s exclusive economic zone. One month later Putin signed an investment agreement with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to develop gas fields off the Gaza Strip.[14]


Warming Israeli-Greek Relations

Despite past support for the Palestinians, newly-elected Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras (left) of the left-wing SYRIZA party, here with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, has sought to strengthen ties with the Jewish state. Greece’s location makes it a natural bridge between the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean and energy-consuming Europe while Israel is now poised to become a major natural gas producer. Thus, Greece and Israel share significant energy interests.

Energy considerations have a long history of influencing the course of relations between states, and the new gas discoveries are no exception to this rule, affecting Israel’s relations with both Greece and Cyprus.

Greek-Israeli relations have been frosty for decades. The postwar Greek governments typically followed a pro-Arab foreign policy in order to protect the large Greek community in Egypt, secure Arab support on the Cyprus dispute in the United Nations, and maintain access to cheap Arab oil.[15] While there was de facto recognition of the Jewish State in 1949, legal recognition needed to wait until 1990 under the right-wing Mitsotakis government. But the formation of a Turkish-Israeli strategic partnership in the mid-1990s provoked a strong backlash with Athens reverting to its pro-Arab policy.[16]

This policy, too, has changed with the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdoan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalk?nma Partisi, AKP) in Turkey since the early 2000s. With Athens alarmed by Ankara’s growing regional assertiveness, and Jerusalem disturbed by the new regime’s fiercely anti-Israel approach, Greek-Israeli relations improved rapidly with the two countries signing a string of agreements in the fields of security, energy, trade, and tourism, and exchanging official visits at the ministerial, presidential, and prime-ministerial levels.[17] In March 2012, the air-naval exercise Noble Dina, involving U.S., Israeli, and Greek forces, was conducted in the Aegean Sea while, a month later, a joint Greek-Israeli air exercise was held in central Greece. Most recently, Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos stated that “[Greek] defense planning should take into account friends and allies who seek defense cooperation in the region. And I clearly mean eastward toward Israel.”[18]

Athens’s new Israel policy has been largely unaffected by the frequent change of governments in recent years. The last three prime ministers before the current one—George Papandreou (2009-11), Loukas Papadimos (2011-12), and Antonis Samaras (2012-15)—all met with Israeli officials and concluded agreements, all the more striking given the political and ideological differences among them: Papandreou is a moderate, left-of-center politician; Papadimos is known as a liberal technocrat, and Samaras, a right-wing politician.

In the wake of the economic crisis that has roiled domestic Greek politics and the austerity measures that the EU has sought to impose on Athens, Greeks took to the polls in January 2015 and brought to power the left-wing SYRIZA (Greek acronym of the Coalition of the Radical Left) party, in coalition with the small, right-wing party, the Independent Greeks. This caused considerable alarm in Jerusalem as many senior SYRIZA officials have strong pro-Palestinian sympathies: European Member of Parliament Sofia Sakorafa, for one, is a self-proclaimed friend of Hamas while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has participated in pro-Palestinian rallies. In late December 2015, the Greek parliament passed a non-binding resolution recommending recognition of “Palestine” as a state.

And yet, the SYRIZA-led government has not distanced itself from Jerusalem. Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias identified Turkey as a source of threats[19] while Minister of Defense Kammenos, leader of the Independent Greeks, harbors strong pro-U.S. and pro-Israeli views.[20] In late November 2015, Tsipras visited Israel and, yet again, on January 27, 2016, together with six members of his cabinet when they held a joint meeting with the Israeli government.[21] So it seems likely that the Greek-Israeli partnership will continue.

Athens is seeking bids for an Eastern Mediterranean pipeline to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe.

Beyond common concerns about Turkey’s intentions, Athens and Jerusalem share significant energy interests. Both countries want to implement the 1982 U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to facilitate the exploration and exploitation of the seabed;[22] and both maintain that the Eastern Mediterranean could be unilaterally developed through its division into exclusive economic zones of 200 nautical miles. In contrast, Ankara has not signed on to UNCLOS and favors a settlement in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean that would take perceived Turkish interests into greater account.

Moreover, Greece’s location makes it a natural bridge between the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean, including Israeli fields, and energy-consuming Europe, and Greeks see the country as a hub for bringing Eastern Mediterranean gas to European markets. In March 2014, Athens announced an international tender for a feasibility study of the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe via Crete and the mainland.[23] While the proposed pipeline would be rather expensive and pass through disputed waters, Russian intervention in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine has given new momentum to the project as the EU looks for alternative sources of natural gas.[24] The European Commission has included the proposed pipeline in its list of “Projects of Common Interests” that could receive financial support.[25]

If Jerusalem and Nicosia decide to opt for liquefaction of their gas resources, then Greek-owned shipping could also play an important role in transporting liquid gas to the international market. During his visit to Israel in November 2015, Tsipras stated,

One of the main issues in our discussions today was [sic] the opportunities arising in the fields of energy in the Eastern Mediterranean … We are examining ways to cooperate in research, drilling, and the transportation of gas from Israel to Europe.[26]

While energy is not the sole factor contributing to the improvement of bilateral relations, it has certainly played a crucial role in the convergence of Greek and Israeli interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Jerusalem and Nicosia

The development and exploitation of Eastern Mediterranean energy resources have also given a boost to Israeli-Cypriot relations. Despite geographical proximity, the two countries have largely ignored each other for years. For most Israelis, Cyprus is either the site where Holocaust survivors were forcibly interned by the British (1946-49) as they sought refuge in mandatory Palestine or the closest place where couples unable or unwilling to contract a religious marriage in Israel are able to enter into a civil marriage.

For its part, Nicosia traditionally took a pro-Arab line in diplomatic settings that differed little from neighboring Greece; and just like in Greece, the AKP-induced chill in Turkish-Israeli relations had a warming effect on Cypriot-Israeli relations. In March 2011, Israeli president Shimon Peres hosted his Cypriot counterpart, President Demetris Christofias, who reciprocated this hospitality in November. Both sides came to view each other as potential counterbalances to Turkey’s presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cypriot defense minister Dimitris Iliadis signed an agreement on the “Mutual Protection of Confidential Information” in January 2012 with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak,[27] and a month later, Netanyahu paid a visit to Nicosia, the first ever by an Israeli prime minister, to discuss energy and defense cooperation. According to press reports, the Cypriot navy is planning to buy two Israeli-manufactured hi-tech offshore patrol vessels in order to patrol its exclusive economic zone.[28]

The energy dimension of the nascent Israeli-Cypriot relationship is particularly strong. Nicosia has announced plans to build a liquefied natural gas plant in its Vassilikos industrial area to process its gas. Since the current gas finds are not large enough to make this multi-billion dollar project economically viable, Nicosia has suggested to Jerusalem that the two countries pool their gas reserves to form a single producing unit. In 2013, Minister of Energy Yiorgos Lakkotrypis declared:

[W]e feel that through a close collaboration with Israel, we will be able to be a major player in the world energy market, something that might be too hard for each country to achieve individually.[29]

The future of the Israeli-Cypriot partnership will also depend on the export route of the Israeli gas. Jerusalem has examined a number of options for the optimum utilization of its gas fields but probably prefers to export gas westward in order to improve its relations with European countries.[30] From the Israeli perspective, energy cooperation with Greece and Cyprus could build a new web of alliances with the EU that would help Jerusalem to break out of its increasing geopolitical isolation. The Netanyahu government even lobbied on behalf of Greece in Europe and the United States for an economy recovery plan.[31] In late March 2012, during an energy conference in Athens, then Israeli minister of energy Uzi Landau spoke of “an axis of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel and possibly more countries, which will offer an anchor of stability.”[32] In August 2013, the three countries signed an agreement to install a 2000-megawatt underwater electric cable to connect their power grids—the first of its kind to connect Europe and Asia.[33]

Most recently, in December 2015, a series of trilateral consultations was held in Jerusalem in which a set of issues were taken up and discussed, with energy development topping the list. The parties agreed to further promote trilateral consultations and to meet on a regular basis, beginning with a meeting of their heads of state in Nicosia on January 28, 2016.[34]
Lebanon, Cyprus, and Israel

While revenues from the sale of oil and gas can bring wealth and prosperity to societies, they also have the potential to upset regional balances of power. In the Eastern Mediterranean, where countries have been locked in conflicts over territory for decades, gas discoveries seem likely to increase the stakes. Contested ownership of gas resources has, in fact, destabilized already strained relations between Israel and Lebanon as well as between Turkey and Cyprus.

Although a delimitation agreement between Lebanon and Cyprus was signed in January 2007, the Lebanese parliament has refused to ratify it to date, and Hezbollah declared the agreement

null and void because the Lebanese side that signed it had its official capacity revoked … The sea, like land, is a one hundred percent legitimate Lebanese right, and we shall defend it with all our strength.[35]

When in December 2010, Nicosia signed an agreement with Jerusalem demarcating their maritime borders, Beirut accused both states of violating its maritime rights.[36] The following year, in a televised speech marking the fifth anniversary of Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel, the group’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, threatened Israel with a strike against its energy infrastructure:

We warn Israel against extending its hands to this area and steal[ing] Lebanon’s resources from Lebanese waters … Whoever harms our future oil facilities in Lebanese territorial waters, its own facilities will be targeted.[37]

These are not hollow threats. Hezbollah has the military capacity to attack Israel’s offshore gas platforms should it choose to do so. The 2006 war revealed that its vast arsenal of missiles and rockets includes Chinese-manufactured C-802 anti-ship missiles (range 75 miles) and Zelzal-2 rockets (range 125-250 miles).[38] For its part, the Israeli navy is acquiring at least two 1,200-ton patrol-class vessels, along with additional unmanned aerial vehicles and missile-armed, remote-control gunboats.[39] In this way, Jerusalem seeks to deter possible raids from Lebanon. The protection and exploitation of gas reserves is thus seen by the Israeli leadership as a matter of national security.
Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel

The relationship between Turkey and Cyprus is yet another example of a long-standing conflict with few prospects of imminent resolution, and the AKP’s rise to power has only exacerbated the situation.

Turkey’s strongman, Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdo?an (left), seen here at the World Economic Forum, Davos, in 2009, publicly berating Israel’s then-president Shimon Peres for alleged Israeli misconduct, has managed to alienate—and alarm—Eastern Mediterranean neighbors with frequent outbursts and occasional saberrattling. This has led Cyprus, Israel, and Greece, the area’s potential energy producers and transporters, to seek closer ties that would have been inconceivable a decade ago.

In Erdogan’s increasingly paranoid worldview, the possible economic and diplomatic revival of Cyprus as a result of gas development poses a clear and present danger to Turkish national security. In September 2011, Ankara signed a continental shelf delimitation agreement with the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” and shortly afterward, the Turkish state oil company (TPAO) started its first drilling near the occupied Cypriot city of Famagusta.

While Ankara has invited foreign companies to explore its Mediterranean coast for energy resources, only the Royal Dutch/Shell has thus far expressed interest.[40] In late October 2014, a Turkish research vessel entered the Cypriot EEZ to collect seismic data. Nicosia viewed this as a violation of its sovereign rights, since it had already licensed parts of its EEZ to foreign energy companies.[41]

Israeli and Turkish officials have recently concluded secret talks about bilateral reconciliation.

The energy factor has also internationalized the “Cyprus Problem,” creating a new point of friction between Ankara and Jerusalem. The Turkish government did not anticipate the rapid improvement of Israeli-Cypriot relations and fears that the bilateral cooperation will not be limited to the energy sector. Even before this development, Erdo?an had threatened Jerusalem over its gas exploration initiatives, warning that while “Israel has begun to declare that it has the right to act in exclusive economic areas in the Mediterranean…[it] will not be owner of this right.”[42] For its part Jerusalem has not remained passive, requesting Cypriot permission for the use of the Paphos air base by Israeli fighter jets.[43] In early November 2015, the two countries conducted the second Onisilos-Gideon military exercise in the western part of the island.

The internationalization of the “Cyprus Problem” extends well beyond the region. Chinese companies have already bid for gas exploration and liquefaction projects in the Eastern Mediterranean and are negotiating an agreement with the Cypriot government to purchase LNG by 2020. Consequently, Beijing has closely followed the Cyprus peace negotiations.[44]


An Engine for Conflict Resolution?

The Eastern Mediterranean energy boom has helped warm traditionally chilly bilateral relationships between some countries while aggravating already strained relations with others. Can it also become an engine for promoting regional cooperation?

While the last few years have seen a great deal of saberrattling out of Ankara, the likelihood of a military confrontation between Cyprus and Turkey, or Israel and Turkey, seems small. The construction and operation of energy infrastructure (e.g., pipelines, refineries, natural gas plants) is a costly business requiring political stability, and Ankara may not wish to undermine its role as an energy transit state. Indeed, Israeli and Turkish officials have recently concluded secret talks about bilateral reconciliation that covered, among other items, the laying of a natural gas pipeline between the two countries. This would allow Turkey to reduce its energy dependence on Russia (relations with which have worsened following the downing of a Russian fighter jet in November 2015) as well as to open up a new market for Israel’s natural gas projects off its coast.[45]

In addition, Ankara has offered to build a “peace pipeline” to transport Cypriot gas to European markets via Turkish territory.[46] Nicosia has not rejected this plan provided there is a resolution to the “Cyprus problem,” including the reunification of the island and the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the northern section. This bolsters the argument, advanced by the U.S. State Department among others, that gas profits could contribute to the island’s unification as both Greek and Turkish Cypriots would have major additional incentives to accept a peace deal.[47] It is no coincidence that the special representative for regional energy cooperation for the newly-established State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources is based in the U.S. embassy in Nicosia.[48]

This optimism is rooted in the long-held, liberal view of international relations positing that economic benefits resulting from energy transportation can help resolve political conflicts. Yet if history offers any guide, an economic boom attending hydrocarbons exports can just as often lead to ethnocentrism and economic nationalism as to goodwill and shared prosperity. The production of large quantities of oil and natural gas in the North Sea, for example, has strengthened Scottish nationalism and may eventually lead to Scotland’s secession from the United Kingdom. Likewise, the Clinton administration’s promotion of a “peace pipeline” to carry Azerbaijani oil through the contested area of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia to the Turkish market failed because Armenia did not wish to make the necessary territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.[49] Then again, in 2004, Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili floated the construction of a Russian-Georgian oil pipeline through the breakaway republic of Abkhazia to facilitate a solution to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, only to be rebuffed by both Russia and Abkhazia.[50] The proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline had the same fate in 2009 when the Indian government announced its decision not to participate in the project for security reasons.[51]

Evidently, such pipelines have failed to materialize because states were neither willing to surrender territory nor comfortable depending on hostile neighbors in return for possible economic benefits. Those who envisage the prospect of a “peace pipeline” positively affecting the current negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots for the resolution of the “Cyprus Problem” may find themselves seriously disappointed.
Conclusion

The new substantial gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean are rapidly transforming regional orientations. Energy interests have brought Israel closer than ever diplomatically to Cyprus and Greece and have played an important role in the apparent thaw in Israeli-Turkish relations. At the same time, energy has generated new tensions between producing countries and countries that feel excluded from the regional natural gas development opportunities. Relations between Turkey and Cyprus as well as between Israel and Lebanon, poor at best, have come under further strain.

U.S. and European interests will be well served by the emergence of the Eastern Mediterranean as a gas-exporting region.

Undoubtedly, U.S. and European interests will be well served by the emergence of the Eastern Mediterranean as a gas-exporting region. However, this will only be possible if there is a resolution to the ownership issue that can accelerate the pace of private investment in the regional gas industry.[52]

Without a region-wide legal agreement, energy companies may not be able to secure the necessary funding to develop and implement gas projects. Washington, which enjoys good relations with all Eastern Mediterranean countries, could act as a broker in hosting multilateral regional talks to defuse tensions and promote mutual understanding between countries in the region.

Emmanuel Karagiannis is senior lecturer at the department of defense studies, King’s College, London, and author of Political Islam in Central Asia (Routledge, 2010) and Energy and Security in the Caucasus (Routledge, 2002).

[1] “Natural Gas Potential Assessed in Eastern Mediterranean,” U.S. Geological Survey, Office of Communication, Reston, Va., Aug. 4, 2010.

[2] “International Energy Outlook 2013,” Office of Communications, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Washington, D.C., July 25, 2013.

[3] Brenda Shaffer, “Israel—New Natural Gas Producer in the Mediterranean,” Energy Policy, Sept. 2011, pp. 5379-87.

[4] Haaretz (Tel Aviv), Aug. 13, 2009.

[5] “Israel and its natural resources: What a gas!” The Economist, Nov. 11, 2010.

[6] Cyprus Mail (Nicosia), Oct. 4, 2013.

[7] Kathimerini (Neo Faliro, Gr.), Feb. 27, 2013.

[8] BBC News, Aug. 20, 2015.

[9] “Total Energy Consumption, 2014,” Global Energy Statistical Yearbook 2015, Enerdata, Grenoble, accessed Jan. 15, 2016.

[10] EU Energy Market in 2014 (Luxemburg: Publication House of the European Union, The European Commission, 2014), p. 6.

[11] “Second Licensing Round—Hydrocarbons Exploration,” Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Republic of Cyprus, Nicosia, accessed Dec. 29, 2015.

[12] Middle East Online (London), Aug. 6, 2013.

[13] RIA Novosti (Moscow), Feb. 26, 2013.

[14] Ed Blanche, “Enter the Bear,” The Middle East, Mar. 2014, pp. 29-30.

[15] John Sakkas, “Greece, Arab World and Israel: A Troubled Triangle in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Defensor Pacis (Athens), Mar. 2007, pp. 95-104.

[16] Amikam Nachmani, Turkey-Israel Strategic Partnership (Raman Gan: The BESA Center for Strategic Studies, 1999), pp. 1-10.

[17] The Washington Post, Oct. 21, 2010.

[18] The Times of Israel (Jerusalem), Feb. 11, 2015.

[19] Sigma Live (Nicosia), Nov. 30, 2015.

[20] The Jerusalem Post, July 19, 2015.

[21] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Israel and Greece hold Government-to-Government Consultation,” Jan. 27, 2016.

[22] “Israel’s Candidature for IMO Council 2014-2015,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 9, 2013.

[23] Reuters, Aug. 10, 2014.

[24] New Europe (Brussels), Mar. 11, 2014.

[25] “Projects of Common Interests,” The European Commission, Brussels, Oct. 14, 2013.

[26] Kathimerini, Nov. 25, 2015.

[27] Today’s Zaman (Istanbul), July 3, 2012.

[28] Cyprus Mail, Dec. 18, 2013.

[29] Hürriyet (Istanbul), May 9, 2013.

[30] Simon Henderson, “Natural Gas Export Options for Israel and Cyprus,” German Marshall Fund of the United States, Washington, D.C., Sept. 10, 2013.

[31] The Jerusalem Post, Mar. 6, 2011.

[32] Kathimerini, Mar. 28, 2012.

[33] Cyprus Mail, Aug. 9, 2013.

[34] Joint Statement: Second Political Consultations at the level of Secretaries General of Israel, Greece and Cyprus MFA’s—17/12/2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nicosia.

[35] Al-Akhbar (Beirut), Oct. 27, 2012.

[36] YNet News (Tel Aviv), July 10, 2011.

[37] The Daily Star (Beirut), July 27, 2011.

[38] BBC News, Aug. 3, 2006.

[39] United Press International, May 23, 2013.

[40] Hürriyet, Nov. 23, 2011.

[41] The Guardian (London), Nov. 10, 2014.

[42] Simon Henderson, “Turkey’s Threat to Israel’s New Gas Riches,” Policywatch, no. 1844, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, D.C., Sept. 13, 2011.

[43] The Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2012.

[44] Li Guofu, “China: An Emerging Power in the Mediterranean,” in Daniela Huber, et al., eds., The Mediterranean Region in a Multipolar World: Evolving Relations with Russia, China, India, Brazil, (Washington, D.C.: The German Marshall Fund of the United States, 2013), pp. 11-9; “Will Cyprus Become a New Investment Heaven for China?” China Radio International (Beijing), Oct. 31, 2013; Chinese ambassador Liu Xinsheng, interview, Cyprus Mail, Jan. 5, 2015.

[45] The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 18, 2015.

[46] Hürriyet, May 27, 2013.

[47] Sigma Live, July 24, 2015; Ethnos (Athens), Mar. 29, 2012.

[48] Cyprus Mail, Feb. 9, 2012.

[49] John J. Maresca, “A Peace Pipeline to End the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict,” Caspian Crossroads, Winter 1995, pp. 17-8.

[50] George Anjaparidze and Cory Welt, “A Georgian-Russian Pipeline: For Peace or Profit?” Eurasianet (New York), Mar. 8, 2004.

[51] The Hindu (Chennai, Madras), Nov. 25, 2013.

[52] James Stocker, “No EEZ Solution: The Politics of Oil and Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Middle East Journal, Autumn 2012, pp. 579-97.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 18th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Dear Pincas,

We wish to send you the warmest Nowruz greetings on behalf of everyone at the American Iranian Council. Nowruz is the first day of spring, which begins on March 21. We wish you a healthy and happy 1395 (Iranian calendar year), and we hope that this Nowruz will usher in better US-Iran relations.

Last October, the American Iranian Council became 25 years old. What a challenging quarter century! Congratulations to all AIC administration, supporters, and sponsors for the 25th AIC anniversary and for our collective tenacity and accomplishments in a hostile environment and tough time. When we began dreaming and preaching better US-Iran relations in 1990, not even a small minority of Iranians and Americans believed in our project. We had entered a highly taboo field.

Today, we can claim a total reversal of that figure: a large majority of the people in Iran and beyond now think that the goal of an improved US-Iran relationship is a noble one, and that its time has long past. What a sea change! Our world has always been changed by vision and ideas, not propaganda.

Even more satisfying is that while celebrating our quarter century of work, we witnessed a historic nuclear accord that we hope will last and grow into a springboard for better US-Iran relations. As it is said, dreams come true, but only if you keep dreaming and working hard for their realization. That is what we at AIC have done.

The Council is a community of believers, thought leaders and practitioners. We pioneered the marketplace of ideas for better understanding, opposed all forms of sanctions, and rejected war in any form including coercive diplomacy. We offered a platform for dialogue and never wavered in our support for diplomacy.

This consistency of position over a quarter century is what sets us apart from the organizations and individuals who today claim to support diplomacy and nuclear negotiations. We are also unique for our unparalleled accomplishments in US-Iran relations.

Indeed, for over two decades, major developments in US-Iran relations happened at an AIC platform or through the mediation of the Council. We also published helpful policy papers including the AIC Whitepaper, which became a roadmap for the Obama Administration’s outreach to Iran.

Let us then celebrate the AIC at 25. In that direction, we plan to become even more active and effective as a thinker and policy developer for all parties involved. As in the past, we will also maintain our non-partisan position and help conceive unifying ideas for the common interests of all involved.

With your help, 1395 (2016) could be the year diplomacy will help resolve other matters in US-Iran relations, just as it did in the case of the nuclear dispute. Benevolent individuals such as you fund our programs—we have never taken money from governments. Your tax-deductible contribution of $100 or any amount that is right for you to the AIC during this season of giving will help the Council implement the following established programs:

– The US Congress: Organize four educational roundtables with congressional leaders and staffers.
– Iran and the Nuclear Accord: Publish a major analytical document and several shorter analyses in Farsi showing why the nuclear deal is in Iran’s national interest and economic well?being.
– Saudi Arabia and Iran: Coordinate a major policy conference on Iran-Saudi relations and help formulate a regional security structure involving Iran and its Persian Gulf neighbors.
– Economic Relations with Iran: Organize an informative conference on legalized business, compliance frameworks, and trade prospects.

Best regards and Happy New Year!

Senator J. Bennett Johnston (Rte.)
Chairman

Professor Hooshang Amirahmadi
President

The American Iranian Council

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 16th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Independent of the UK – News – World – Asia

Royal Brunei Airlines’ first all-female pilot crew lands plane in Saudi Arabia – where women are not allowed to drive
‘As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it’

Serina Sandhu
Tuesday 15 March 2016
268 comments

The first ever all-female flight deck crew for Royal Brunei Airlines has operated a plane from Brunei to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Although it was a milestone for the airline, the pilot crew touched down in a country where women are still not allowed to drive a car.

To mark Brunei’s National Day, which celebrates the country’s independence, Captain Sharifah Czarena Surainy, Senior First Officer Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem and Senior First Officer Sariana Nordin flew flight BI081 to the Middle Eastern country on 23 February 2016.

The occasion came just over three years after Captain Czarena became the first female captain of a flag carrier in Southeast Asia. She told The Brunei Times in 2012: “Being a pilot, people normally see it as being a male dominant occupation.”

“As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it,” said the captain, who completed her initial pilot training at the Cabair Flying School in Cranfield.

And Royal Brunei Airlines is committed to getting more women into the industry as it currently offers an Engineering Apprentice programme to both males and females.

But the airline’s landmark voyage also highlighted the restrictions women still face in Saudi Arabia. Although there is no law that prohibits women from driving, it is a rule imposed by conservative Muslim clerics.

The first ever all-female flight deck crew for Royal Brunei Airlines has operated a plane from Brunei to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Although it was a milestone for the airline, the pilot crew touched down in a country where women are still not allowed to drive a car.

To mark Brunei’s National Day, which celebrates the country’s independence, Captain Sharifah Czarena Surainy, Senior First Officer Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem and Senior First Officer Sariana Nordin flew flight BI081 to the Middle Eastern country on 23 February.

The occasion came just over three years after Captain Czarena became the first female captain of a flag carrier in Southeast Asia. She told The Brunei Times in 2012: “Being a pilot, people normally see it as being a male dominant occupation.”

“As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it,” said the captain, who completed her initial pilot training at the Cabair Flying School in Cranfield.

Royal Brunei Airlines is committed to getting more women into the industry as it currently offers an Engineering Apprentice programme to both males and females.

But the airline’s landmark voyage also highlighted the restrictions women still face in Saudi Arabia. Although there is no law that prohibits women from driving, it is a rule imposed by conservative Muslim clerics.

In recent years, women have used social media to protest against being forbidden from getting behind the wheel.
The Women2Drive campaign has nearly 18,000 “likes” on Facebook and asks women to post images of them driving.

The first ever all-female flight deck crew for Royal Brunei Airlines has operated a plane from Brunei to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Although it was a milestone for the airline, the pilot crew touched down in a country where women are still not allowed to drive a car.

To mark Brunei’s National Day, which celebrates the country’s independence, Captain Sharifah Czarena Surainy, Senior First Officer Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem and Senior First Officer Sariana Nordin flew flight BI081 to the Middle Eastern country on 23 February.

The occasion came just over three years after Captain Czarena became the first female captain of a flag carrier in Southeast Asia. She told The Brunei Times in 2012: “Being a pilot, people normally see it as being a male dominant occupation.”

“As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it,” said the captain, who completed her initial pilot training at the Cabair Flying School in Cranfield.
Read more

And Royal Brunei Airlines is committed to getting more women into the industry as it currently offers an Engineering Apprentice programme to both males and females. Anti-women laws that still exist in 2016

In recent years, women have used social media to protest against being forbidden from getting behind the wheel.

The Women2Drive campaign has nearly 18,000 “likes” on Facebook and asks women to post images of them driving.
The world’s 15 most powerful women in 2015

In December 2014, Loujain al-Hathloul was detained after she tried to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. Maysa al-Amoudi, a friend who turned up to support her, was also detained. Both were released after more than 70 days in custody.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director for Human Rights Watch said at the time: “After years of false promises to end its absurd restrictions on women, Saudi authorities are still arresting them for getting behind the wheel.

“The Saudi government’s degrading restrictions on women are what bring shame to the country, not the brave activists standing up for their rights.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Amirahmadi says parliamentary elections “engineered” to increase regime legitimacy

March 09, 2016.

What do these elections represent for Iran’s future?

Hooshang Amirahmadi: We must distinguish the Parliamentary elections from those of the Assembly of Experts. The Assembly, though an important institution, is more stable and the elections did not significantly alter its composition. Its function is to appoint and supervise the Leader of the Revolution but that will come only after the current Leader passes away. The Assembly will not be in a position to challenge Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current Leader. Nor will the Assembly change the institution of Leadership in any meaningful way in a post-Khamenei Iran unless political instability were to follow his death. The institution will remain unchanged in its core governance belief (guardianship of the jurists) as long as the Islamic Republic survives as an Islamic regime. However, far into the future, I guess, change will also come to this institution but that is less relevant to the country at present or in the foreseeable future.

In sharp contrast, Parliament has been more relevant to the nation’s ongoing life and has been less stable. It used to be a more powerful and meaningful institution than it has become in recent times. The elections were “engineered” to produce a centrist Parliament more in tune with the new direction of the Islamic system for accommodation with the West and less political rivalry at home. What it will actually mean to Iran’s future will depend on what happens next. For example, will the Rouhani Government be able to improve Iran’s economy in the immediate future, and particularly to increase employment for the youth and income for the less fortunate social groups? And will it deliver on its promise of more political and social openings for the educated middle class? If yes, then the elections’ impact will be most likely lasting. If not, then Iran will most likely go back to a more hardened domestic and international politics. In the latter case, the “hardliners” will again take over the state including the Parliament, something that happened at the end of the reformist President Khatami reign in 2005. It must be noted that the hardliners are still in the country and they will surely regroup and fight back, this time from inside the “revolutionary” institutions, and, of course, from the streets as they did under the Khatami presidency.

One thing is certain: in the foreseeable future, this election will not lead to widely acceptable reformed politics in Iran where the secular population is excluded from political participation. More than 80 percent of Iranians are politically secular. In sharp contrast, it may indeed produce a more subtle repressive domestic political situation as the Islamic regime may open to the West but tighten its grip on the population in fear of losing control. The number of those arrested under the pretext of being friendly to “Western penetration” has significantly increased in recent months. The election will not help the Rouhani government to improve the Iranian economy on time for the next presidential elections either. The country’s economic woes are just too huge and complicated to be resolved in a matter of less than two years.

Bottom line: Khamenei allowed the engineered election (as he did in 2013 with the presidential election) in the hope of improving Iran’s economy, more effectively controlling domestic politics, and reducing the external threat to the survival of his Islamic system. The perceived external threat emanates from a highly radicalized Middle East region where Islamic radicals like ISIL have made states highly unstable, and where animosity to the Iranian regime has significantly increased as has proxy wars between Iran and its Arab neighbors, Saudi Arabia in particular. Another source of concern for Tehran is the US presidential elections, which most likely will produce a more hostile government in Washington than the current administration of Barack Obama.

Iran is certainly very nervous these days and a centrist Parliament is to increase regime legitimacy internationally and reduce tension at home and aboard. Unless Rouhani delivers, if only partially, on its economic and political promises, he may lose the support of Mr. Khamenei and the working people of Iran. The JCPOA gave Iran some extra cash (which is being unwisely spent) but it also led to a perception of Iran as a weak state as Tehran “surrendered” to American pressure during the nuclear negotiations and its main ally in the region, Syria, became a “failed state.” Unfortunately, perception is reality in international relations, and any time in the past Iran has been perceived weak, its neighbors have challenged it as in the immediate post-revolution when Saddam Hussein invaded the country. The new Saudi challenges to Iran’s strategic depth in the region is a reflection of this perceived weakness in Tehran. Iran must make sure that this perception changes as otherwise the country will not be able to move forward in its economic and political plans.
What do you think of the new Parliament, which is described as a more “friendly” one for President Rouhani?

HA: There is a certain exaggeration regarding the new makeup of the Parliament just elected. First, the coalition of reformists, centrists and pragmatist (RCP) still remain in the minority (about 110 seats out of 290). The rest are “independents” (about 20) and conservatives (about 160). As a whole, however, this parliament will be more amenable to working with Rouhani but, as I mentioned above, the Parliament is not as powerful as it used to be and cannot always help if the matter at hand is not tasteful to the hardliners in revolutionary institutions (largely powerful unelected institutions). Rouhani may use the Parliament for whatever purpose he wishes for but he must also deliver results as otherwise, everything will fall apart again. The elections have raised expectations higher for a better economy and a more open politics. It is doubtful if these two can be delivered on time to keep all in good order.
What led the electorate to vote for a majority of reformists and moderate conservatives?

HA: The election tactics that the RCP used helped them to make certain gains. They entered the race as a “coalition,” that is, they voted as a group and for pre-set lists of candidates, and they put pressure both on the people to vote and on the system to allow them to run. More significantly, the coalition included “moderate” conservatives and certain questionable elements of the regime (e.g., three former intelligence ministers). Besides, while many reformists had been “vetted” as unqualified by the Guardian Council, there still remained a large group of “qualified” conservative candidates acceptable to the reformists in the coalition. Despite all these, their gains remained limited when compared to their gains some 16 years ago when they took over the Presidency and later on the Parliament.

Thus, as I said, there is a certain misunderstanding as to what happened in these elections. The hardline conservatives still control the Parliament but they are less hardline than their previous cohorts. This means that the Parliament as a whole will act more centrist than before but only if the conservative elements are convinced that the government policies do not open doors for uncontrolled foreign “penetration” and that the economy improves while the values of Islamic system are preserved. This is a tough balancing act to maintain. Khamenei is critical to the functioning of the Parliament as he can indeed direct the deputies to move to any direction he wishes. Besides, there is the Revolutionary Guards and other revolutionary institutions, including the Judiciary and the Friday Prayers, who have significant control over what goes on in the country.
What do you think of the fact that some hardliners such as Kazem Jalali, Ayatollah Ali Movahedi Kerman, Ayatollah Mohammad-Ali Taskhiri, Mohammad Mohammadi Reyshahri and Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi ran on the reformists and moderates lists?

HA: The reform movement as we knew it is now dead in Iran. I mean the movement that made Khatami President and took over the Parliament in the 1997-2005 period. The movement died when President Ahmadinejad took over. The protest in 2009 (Green Movement) put the final nail in its coffin. Since then, reformist are divided and demoralized and many of their original leaders have fled the country. Other leaders, including Khatami, who has remained in the country, persona non grata, has concluded that the original movement was too radical for the Islamic Republic to accommodate, that it is currently too weak to challenge the status quo, and that the movement must redefine itself in more social terms (not just political), needs to broaden its base to include moderate conservatives, bring to its side individuals trusted by the system (particularly by the Leader), and move slowly and creepingly. The inclusion of the above personalities reflects this new thinking of “normalization” versus “democratization.” This is a thinking that I would not call reformist; it is better defined as “moderationist.”
Do you think that happened because the Guardian Council vetted so many reformist and moderate candidates?

HA: There was certainly practical consideration in including such individuals in the coalition with the reformists, but I believe a more fundamental reason is the fact that the original reform movement failed and the leaders were forced to redesign the movement, both ideologically and organizationally. However, in rethinking the reform movement, they essentially threw it out of the window in favor of a centrist approach that has no ideology or organizational character. Indeed, the original reform movement is now being melted down into a broader “regime maintenance” movement. It must also be noted that the original reform movement was left-leaning, while the current “moderationist” movement is right-leaning.
Do you think the electorate was aware of this?

HA: Let me begin by saying that the Islamic Republic has over the years highly dampened the “Iranian dream,” making people expect but increasingly expect less of its leaders. This trend has also been accompanied by almost total elimination of the traditional Iranian nationalism. The JCPOA was a major contributor to these trends. Indeed, the post-JCPOA Iran is less of a dreamer and much less of a nationalist nation. It is in this context that the presidential elections in 2013 and the parliamentary elections in 2016 took place. The electorate in Iran was also divided in these elections along rich-poor lines, with richer strata mainly voting for the RCP coalition while most in the poorer population stayed with the conservatives. The rich and most middle class people are happy with the JCPOA and look to the West as a source of new wealth and other opportunities. It must also be noted that participation in these elections was not as high as many previous elections. Indeed, the participation rate of 62 percent was much less than the participation rate (72 percent) for the presidential elections in 2013.

In Tehran, the participation rate was even lower (50 percent) and largely concentrated in northern Tehran where the well-to-do middle and upper middle class live. Indeed, less than 35 percent of southern Tehranis, largely poor, working class, and petty shopkeepers, participated in these elections. Outside Tehran, the so-called reformists were not as popular as in northern Tehran, with even some large cities, like Esfahan, electing predominantly conservative candidates. As I mentioned above, the composition of the coalition was not acceptable to all reformists and the less fortunate population did not participate in high numbers because they no longer believe that the Rouhani government represents their best interest. They see his government s representing the rich. This tendency of the current government in Tehran is well reflected in its spending policy and the purchases it is making in the West with the cash it earned from the JCPOA.
What do you think of the fact that the hardliners mentioned above ran on the reformists and moderates’ lists?

HA: Ahmadinejad isolated a good number of the so-called hardliners and as a result they were gradually pushed towards the moderates. These conservatives still dislike the reformists but they opportunistically joined the RCP coalition so that they could win. I must also mention the fact that during the negotiations over the JCPOA, many “Principalists” or conservatives realized that the Leader has changed policy in favor of opening to the West and moderating factional rivalries at home. Indeed, during the nuclear negotiations, Khamenei took sides with Rouhani and only gave revolutionary lip service to hardliners who opposed the deal. Those opportunist conservatives who did not care about principles, changed sides and embraced the current policy to stay in power. Their reason to join in a coalition with the reformists was opportunistic and an election ploy.

Amirahmadi says “elected officials are still underdogs; power remains concentrated among hardliners”
March 04, 2016

In an interview with Al Jazeera America, AIC’s President Hooshang Amirahmadi discussed the recent parliamentary elections in Iran and their implications. Amirahmadi said the Iranian Parliament is becoming more moderate, but not influential. He said “elected officials are still underdogs; power remains largely concentrated among hardliners.” The most significant political bodies in Iran will always remain in the control of hardliners, such as the Supreme Leader. There is little the parliamentary elections can actually do in affecting Iran’s foreign and domestic policies. In response to whether or not Iran will become more open to the West, considering the success of the nuclear accord, he said “it depends.” If Iran feels secure, it will assume a tougher position. On the other hand, if Iran believes it is under pressure, it will be more open to improving its relations with the West.

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