links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter

JordanSaudi ArabiaSyriaKuwait
BahrainUAEQatarOman
IraqLebanonPalestine I (The Bank)Palestine II (Hamasstan)
Yemen

 
Arab Asia:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 9th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Uri Avnery Column at the Israeli Gush Shalom website of February 4, 2017

RESPECT THE GREEN LINE!

THE MOST incisive analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I have ever read was written by the Jewish-Polish-British historian Isaac Deutscher. It consists of a single image.

A man lives on the upper floor of a building, which catches fire. To save his life, he jumps out of a window and lands on a passerby in the street below. The victim is grievously injured, and between the two starts an intractable conflict.

Of course, no metaphor is completely perfect. The Zionists did not choose Palestine by chance, the choice was based on our religion. The founder of the movement, Theodor Herzl, initially preferred Argentina.

Still, the picture is basically valid, at least until 1967. From then on, the settlers continued to jump across the Green Line, with no fire in sight.

THERE IS nothing holy about the Green Line. It is no different from any other border line around the world, whatever its color.

Most borders were drawn by geography and the accidents of war. Two peoples fight for the territory between them, at some point the fighting comes to an end, and a border is born.
The land borders of Israel – known for some reason as the “Green Line” – were also established by the accidents of war. A part of that line was the result of a deal between the new Israeli government and the king of Jordan, Abdallah I, who gave us the so-called Triangle as a baksheesh, in return for Israel’s agreement to his annexation of most of the rest of Palestine. So what’s so holy about this border? Nothing, except that it’s there. And that is true for many borders throughout the world.

A border is established by accident and confirmed by agreement. True, the United Nations drew borders between the Jewish and the Arab states in its 1947 resolution, but after the Arab side started a war in order to thwart this decision, Israel greatly enlarged its territory.

The 1948 war ended without a peace treaty. But the armistice lines established at the end of the war were accepted by the entire world as the borders of Israel. This has not changed during the 68 years that have passed since then.

This situation prevails both de facto and de jure. Israeli law applies only within the Green Line. Everything else is occupied territory under military law. Two small territories – East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights – were unilaterally declared to be annexed by Israel, but nobody in the world recognizes this status.

I ELABORATE on these well-known facts because the settlers in the occupied territories have lately started to taunt their critics in Israel by bringing up a new argument: “Hey, what’s the big difference between us?”

You too sit on Arab lands, they tell us. True, before 1948 the Zionists settled on land they bought with good money – but only a small part of it was bought from the fellahin who tilled it. Most of it was acquired from rich absentee landowners, who had bought it cheaply from the Turkish sultan when the Ottoman Empire was in dire financial straits . The tillers of the land were driven out by the Turkish, and later the British, police.

Large stretches of land were “liberated” during the fighting of 1948, when masses of Arab villagers and city-dwellers fled before the advancing Israeli forces, as civilians do in every war. If they didn’t, a few salvos of machine-gun fire were enough to drive them out.
The inhabitants who were left in Jaffa after the town was conquered, were simply packed on trucks and sent to Gaza. The inhabitants of Lod (Lydda) were driven away on foot. In the end, about 750 thousand Arabs were expelled, more than half the Palestinian people at the time. The Jewish population in Palestine amounted then to 650 thousand.

Some inner voice compels me at this point to mention a Canadian-Jewish officer named Ben Dunkelmann, then 36 years old, who commanded a brigade in the new Israeli army. He had served with distinction in the Canadian army in World War II. He was ordered to attack Nazareth, the home-town of Jesus, but succeeded in inducing the local leaders to surrender without a fight. The condition was that the local population would not be harmed.
After his troops had occupied the town, Dunkelmann received an oral order to drive the population out. Outraged, Dunkelmann refused to break his word of honor as an officer and a gentleman, and demanded the order in writing. Such a written order never arrived, of course (no such orders were ever put in writing), but Dunkelmann was removed from his post.
Nowadays, when I pass Nazareth, a thriving Arab town, I remember this brave man. After that war, he returned to his native Canada. I don’t think he ever came back here again. He died 20 years ago.

HONEST DISCLOSURE: I took part in all this. As a simple soldier, and later as a squad leader, I was a part of the events. But immediately after the war I wrote a book that disclosed the truth (“The Other Side of the Coin”), and a few years later I published a detailed plan for the return of some of the refugees and the payment of compensation to all the others. That, of course, never happened.

Most of the land and the houses of the refugees were filled with new Jewish immigrants.
Now the settlers say, not without some justice: “Who are you to despise us? You did the same as we are doing! Only you did it before 1967, and we do it now. What’s the difference?”
That is the difference. We live in a state that has been recognized by most of the world within established borders. You live in territory that the world considers occupied Palestinian territory. The state of Texas was acquired by the USA in a war with Mexico. If President Trump were now to invade Mexico and annex a chunk of land (why not?), its status would be quite different.


Binyamin Netanyahu – some now call him Trumpyahu – is all for enlarging the settlements. This week, under pressure from our Supreme Court, he staged the removal of one tiny little settlement, Amona, with a lot of heartbreak and tears, but immediately promised to put up many thousands of new “housing units” in the occupied territories.

OPPOSITE POLITICAL extremes often touch each other. So it is now.

The settlers who want to wipe out the difference between us and them, do it not just to justify themselves. Their main aim is to erase the Green Line and include all the occupied territories in Greater Israel, which would extend from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

A lot of Israel-haters want the same borders – but as an Arab state.
Indeed, I would love to chair a peace conference of Israel-haters and Palestine-haters. I would propose to decide first on the points they all agree on – namely the creation of a state from sea to river. I would leave to the end the decision whether to call it Israel or Palestine.

A world-wide movement called BDS now proposes to boycott all of Israel, in order to achieve this end. I have a problem with that.

GUSH SHALOM, the Israeli peace organization to which I belong, takes great pride in being the first to declare a boycott on the products of the settlements many years ago. We still uphold this boycott, though it is now illegal under Israeli law.

We did not declare a boycott on Israel. And not only because it is rather awkward to boycott oneself. The main object of our boycott was to teach Israelis to differentiate between themselves and the settlements. We published and distributed many thousand copies of the list of companies located and products produced outside the Green Line. Many people are upholding the boycott.

The BDS boycott of all Israel achieves the exact opposite: by saying that there is no difference between Israel within the Green Line and the settlers outside, it pushes ordinary Israelis into the arms of the settlers.

The settlers, of course, are only too happy to get the assistance of BDS in erasing the Green Line.

I HAVE no emotional quarrel with the BDS people. True, a few of them seem to be old-school anti-Semites in a new garb, but I have the impression that most BDS supporters act out of sincere sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinians. I respect that.

However, I would urge the well-meaning idealists who support BDS to think again about the paramount importance of the Green Line – the only border that makes peace between Israel and Palestine possible, with some minor mutually agreed adjustments.


ISRAEL IS there. It cannot be wished away. So is Palestine.

If we all agree on that, we can also agree on the continued boycott of the settlements – and of the settlements only.

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 30th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Abu Dhabi is not an oil-state anymore. They are a plain financial-state while Saudi Arabia’s oil-company ARAMCO is actually joining the Emirates by enhancing their participation in the RENEWABLE ENERGY WORLD as beneficial economically to everyone. ARO made a great presentation this month at the Abu-Dhabi meeting.

Today above has a special meaning in light of Donald Trump’s throwing the US back into the oil-barrel as managed by ExxonMobil. He even had the audacity to make the ex-CEO of ExxonMobil his Secretary of State or Foreign Minister. This can mean that the Americans intend to push back the World into the dark ages of carbon clouds. Nevertheless, Trump has left open the door to visitors from those old oil-states that could thus have a chance to bring some new energy ideas to the USA that retrograde Tramp does not see yet. Trump even said the US should have kept for itself the Iraqi oil and have kept that money from funding ISIS. Yes, he might have had a point there, but did he ever think that the US was not intended to be of a colonial nature? This in spite of the behaviour of the Bush family – the allies of the Saudi family?

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

Michael Madsen  MMadsen at irena.org via lists.iisd.ca
Jan 29, 2017

to Climate
Dear Colleagues,

I would like to draw your attention to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) most recent publication “Planning for the renewable future: Long-term modelling and tools to expand variable renewable power in emerging economies”, which was presented at the 2017 World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.

The report guides energy planners and modelling practitioners through various modelling practices and use of renewable data to better represent variable renewable energy (VRE) sources in long-term generation expansion planning. The report highlights the findings from AVRIL (“Addressing Variable Renewable Energy in Long-term Energy Planning”), an IRENA project that has identified the best practices in long-term planning and modelling to represent high shares of VRE.

The report includes two main parts:

· Part One (Planning the transition to variable renewables) offers guidance to energy decision makers and planners by providing an overview of key long-term issues and concerns around the large-scale integration of VRE into the power grid.
· Part Two (Long-term models for energy transition planning) offers guidance to technical practitioners in the field of energy modelling, specifically with a catalogue of practical VRE modelling methodologies for long-term scenario planning. Topics addressed include: temporal and spatial resolution of generation expansion models, calibration of time-slices, capacity credit constraints, flexibility constraints, flexibility balance validation, coupling with production cost models, linking grid expansion needs with VRE expansion, site specific representation of generation, and transmission needs.

In case of questions or suggestions, please contact Dr. Asami Miketa ( AMiketa at irena.org), Programme Officer at the IRENA Innovation and Technology Centre.

Best regards,

Michael Madsen
Junior Professional Associate – Social Media and Web / Digital Content

———————————————————
IRENA Headquarters, Masdar City | P.O. Box 236 | Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | Tel: +97124147128 | Mob: +971569905026 |  MMadsen at irena.orgwww.irena.org

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 4th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Rex Tillerson to put Exxon nest egg in a trust over conflict of interest concerns

by Jethro Mullen @CNNMoneyInvest January 4, 2017

ExxonMobil and Rex Tillerson have announced their plan to address concerns about the huge nest egg the oil giant has promised to its former CEO.

Tillerson, who Donald Trump has picked as his secretary of state, is due to receive more than 2 million Exxon shares — worth more than $181 million at current prices — over the next decade.

To tackle the ethical and legal problems raised by the massive payout, Exxon said late Tuesday that if Tillerson is confirmed for the job, it plans to put the value of the shares he would have received in an independently managed trust, which won’t be allowed to invest in the oil company.

Tillerson, 64, has also agreed with the State Department to sell the more than 600,000 Exxon shares he owns at the moment, the company said. They’re worth more than $54 million at today’s prices.

Related: Exxon’s Tillerson retiring to prep for Senate confirmation

Richard Painter, a former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, said the measures appeared to satisfy concerns he had expressed previously about Tillerson’s financial ties to Exxon.

“He should convince President-elect Trump to come up with a similar arrangement to divest his conflicts of interest,” Painter said, comparing Tillerson’s deal to what was done for former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson when he became treasury secretary in 2006.

Tillerson’s arrangement, which Exxon says was drawn up in consultation with federal ethics regulators, involves giving up various payouts and perks, according to the company’s statement.

He’ll no longer be entitled to more than $4.1 million in cash bonuses that he was set to receive over the next three years — or medical, dental and other benefits from Exxon. He retired as the oil company’s CEO on Saturday after working there for more than four decades.

As America’s chief diplomat, Tillerson could have a tremendous impact on Exxon’s business, from negotiations over a climate change treaty and sanctions on Russia to the nuclear deal with Iran and general geopolitical unrest in the Middle East.

Exxon said that if Tillerson returns to work in the oil and gas industry during the 10-year payout period from the trust, he would forfeit the funds.
Powered by SmartAsset.com
CALCULATOR POWERED BY CALCULATOR POWERED BY

“The money would be distributed to one or more charities involved in fighting poverty or disease in the developing world,” the company said. “Neither Tillerson nor ExxonMobil would have any control over the selection of the charities.”

Painter described that part of the plan as “an added benefit” that will make it “highly unlikely” that Tillerson will go back into the oil industry.

“Most public servants have no restrictions on where they can work after government … and we have to worry about them trying to help future employers,” he said, pointing to Treasury Department officials who go back to Wall Street.

Related: The problem with Rex Tillerson’s nine-figure nest egg

Over all, the arrangement would cost Tillerson about $7 million in compensation he would have received, Exxon said.

As with all political appointees who sell assets that may pose conflicts of interest, Tillerson would be allowed to defer any capital gains tax he owes on the more than 600,000 Exxon shares he’s agreed to sell so long as he reinvests the proceeds within 60 days into so-called “permitted property.” That basically means U.S. Treasury securities and diversified mutual funds.

It’s not immediately clear, however, what the tax implications are for Tillerson from Exxon agreeing to set up the trust for the value of the more than 2 million shares he’d otherwise have coming to him over the next 10 years.

— Jeanne Sahadi and Chris Isidore contributed to this report.

OUR COMMENT:

Rex Tillerson during the years 2006 to 2016 changed his views on Climate Change from total denial by EXXON to a controlled acceptance of the Paris outcome.
Exxon had a history of funding false scientists – ten moved on to join what seemed to be the winning crowd, but took positions that slow change.

ExxonMobil k nows the global oil industry and understandably will promote it above everything else. This leads to alliances with Saudi Arabia and Putin’s Russia that will turn away the US from the Obama path of disengagement from te dependence on oil as the true path to slow down climate change and the harm the use of fossil fuels causes to the environment.

And besides, Foreign relations of the USA contain many other topics besides the negotiation of oil contracts. What are the visions of Rex Tillerson when he gets of the Oil Barrel?

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

With a $1 million grant, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs jumpstarts solar-electricity small-vessels transportation in Tunisia for the benefit of the Middle East and North Africa.

UNDESA – 01-JANUARY 2017

Project for solar-powered vessels receives $1 million UN Energy Grant

A partnership working to promote solar-powered electric vessels in Tunisia and in the Middle East and North Africa was awarded the one million US dollars 2016 Energy Grant from UN DESA on 14 December 2016. The project “Solar Fueled Electric Maritime Mobility” by SINTEF, an independent non-profit research institute based in Norway, seeks to demonstrate the feasibility and the social, economic and environmental benefits of solar-fueled electric boat transport in Tunisia and the wider region.

SINTEF is implementing this demonstration project with the National Agency for Energy Conservation of Tunisia.

SINTEF will use the grant to develop technology for a traditional ferry or other vessel with a plug-in hybrid electric powertrain and to construct an electric charging point. It will help also support data collection and analysis. Selection of the vessel in Tunisia to be used for the demonstration will be decided in the first phase of the project.

The project aims to generate the data and evidence needed to replicate sustainable transport in the region. It seeks to demonstrate the benefits of low cost electric vessels as key transport between coastal cities in the region, with a view to encouraging other stakeholders to implement such transport on a larger scale. This would in turn benefit in particular the low and middle income parts of the population. The project will also contribute to the avoidance of transport related greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and it will help to prevent and reduce marine pollution.

Furthermore, the project will conduct capacity development workshops for Tunisian and other regional stakeholders, the preparation of a Tunisian Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) to be submitted to the UNFCCC portal, as well as public outreach activities to spread knowledge of this low-cost, sustainable transport solution.

SINTEF has extensive expertise in solar and wind energy, energy regulation and storage, grid integration of renewable energy, maritime transport and maritime technologies.

“The transport sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. It also has significant public health impacts,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the award ceremony. “The answer is not less transport – it is sustainable transport.
We need transport systems that are environmentally friendly, efficient, affordable, and accessible,” he said.

UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson said the “Powering the Future We Want” programme is a “creative initiative that promotes and funds innovative activities related to sustainable energy – an issue that goes to the heart of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” He added, “it is vital to our efforts to move towards a sustainable future that we establish transport systems that are smart, clean, affordable, and powered by clean energy.”

Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo expressed deep gratitude to all of the finalists, the China Energy Fund Committee, the High-level Steering Committee and the Advisory Council of the Grant. “This Energy Grant is an excellent example of global partnership. Working together, we can make a difference. Today’s award bears vivid testimony to that success,” he said.

“We firmly believe that energy belongs to all of us, today and tomorrow. And each and every one of us has the duty to use energy sparingly, wisely and responsibly. By partnering with UN DESA in making this grant possible, the China Energy Fund Committee is sending out a most sincere message of collaboration and partnership to work together finding solutions for energy security by achieving energy sustainability for the entire humanity,” said Dr. Patrick Ho, Secretary-General of the China Energy Fund Committee.

The “Powering the Future We Want” initiative

The UN-DESA Energy Grant is a capacity building initiative launched and managed by UN DESA, in collaboration with the China Energy Fund Committee, a Hong Kong based NGO in consultative status with ECOSOC. Titled “Powering the Future We Want”, this initiative offers a grant in the amount of one million US dollars to fund capacity development activities in energy for sustainable development. The grant is awarded to an individual, institution or partnership based on past and current achievements in leadership and innovative practices in advancing energy for sustainable development. The 2016 cycle of the grant had as focus “Energy for Sustainable Transport”.

In 2016, the UN DESA Energy Grant received over 150 applications. The winner has been selected through a rigorous review and objective assessment of these applications, undertaken in multiple stages, guided by an Advisory Council and a High-level Steering Committee. A grant will be awarded annually from 2015 until 2019.

The eight finalists of the 2016 Grant Cycle, in alphabetical order: Ms. Fiza Farhan; GerWeiss Motors Corporation; KPIT Technologies Limited; Medellin Mayor’s Office- Mobility and Transit Department; Motor Development International SA (MDI SA); South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE); SINTEF; SNV Netherlands Development Organisation.

Winner of the US$1 million 2016 UN-DESA Energy Grant: SINTEF
The $1 million come from a China/Hong Kong based NGO.

For more information: UN-DESA Energy Grant.

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

BREAKING — THE DANGLING FRUIT IN FRONT OF TRUMP: Ford is canceling plans to build a new manufacturing plant in Mexico and instead is investing $700 million in Michigan. The company’s CEO Mark Fields told CNN that the move is a “vote of confidence” in President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to create a pro-business environment. Fields emphasized, however, that he did not negotiate any special deal with Trump. “We didn’t cut a deal with Trump,” he said. “We did it for our business.” bit.ly/2j4UZZ4

U.N.’s Israel vote: The House will vote Thursday on a resolution disapproving of the United Nations Security Council resolution criticizing Israel’s settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Many Democrats could join with Republicans to pass the measure as a means of demonstrating their support for Israel, even if their votes would put them at odds with President Obama. The U.S. refused to veto the Security Council resolution and instead abstained from the vote.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Make Russia great again? Aleppo and a plea from another world

JUAN FRANCISCO LOBO – OpenDemocracy – 24 December 2016


During the last days of December, Russia will host a round of diplomatic talks with Iran and Turkey.


A hundred years ago, Ernst Jünger described a peculiar encounter with a frightened British officer in his account of trench warfare, Storm of Steel: “he reached into his pocket, not to pull out a weapon, but a photograph (…). I saw him on it, surrounded by numerous family (…). It was a plea from another world.”


According to conventional wisdom, “war is hell,” as famously sentenced by General Sherman. Hence Jünger’s depiction of the scene as something from another planet. And that is how the world today, more concerned with the holidays and the latest Hollywood blockbuster, is receiving the dire plea for help by multiple civilians caught in the crossfire of the battle for Aleppo. We simply content ourselves with the thought that civilians will always suffer in times of war, for war is hell.

Or is it?

A few days ago, the soon to be replaced Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, gave his last press conference. Referring to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, he remarked ominously: “Aleppo is now a synonym for hell”. But surely the Secretary General did not intend merely to describe a regrettable fait accompli, as someone might depict a natural disaster. His closing official words carry a message for the world to actively engage in Aleppo, and particularly to make belligerents stop targeting civilians, for not everything is allowed in war after all. As Michael Walzer has pointed out in his decades-long effort to revive the Just War tradition, we strive to fight wars justly and to uphold rules even in the midst of hell.

But, who is there to listen this plea from another world? Even if the message gets through, what is the attitude of superpowers vis-à-vis any demands that the rules of war be upheld?

I have previously argued that there is a value to American hypocrisy coming from its blatant breach of international humanitarian law during the last decade when torturing its way through to fight the “war on terror.” If as La Rochefoucauld said once, hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the difference between a hypocrite and a cynic lies in the former’s capacity to recognize the existence of rules, only deliberately flouting them, whereas the latter does not even admit the existence of rules. Whereas the day of reckoning eventually comes for the hypocrite, the cynic is forever immune to criticism.


What about Russia?

Has Vladimir Putin’s regime been a hypocrite or a cynic in international relations? We know it has not been an Aliosha Karamazov, a saint, but then, which country has? Has Russia been more of a cynic like Ivan, or a hypocrite like Dimitri Karamazov? The answer is that is has been a bit of both over recent years, behaving as ambiguously as the double-headed eagle in its national coat of arms.

Sometimes Russia has recognized the existence of jus ad bellum and jus in bello conventions and has pledged to uphold them. Indeed, Russia relied on the responsibility to protect doctrine when trying to justify its military advance over Georgia in 2008. In 2013, Russia demonstrated what it could broker in the international arena when stepping in to secure a last-minute deal between Syria and the United States for Al-Assad to surrender his chemical weapons arsenal, absolutely banned under international humanitarian law. Just last Monday morning, on December 19 2016, Russia consented to a Security Council resolution to deploy observers to monitor civilian evacuation procedures in Aleppo.

To be sure, Russia’s use of R2P doctrine in 2008 has been widely condemned as a case of pure hypocrisy; yet, the important thing about the hypocrite is that he acknowledges the existence of rules. Whether he truly respects them or not is something that cannot be ascertained in the present – any more than it can be in the case of the true believer, for that matter.

On the other hand, Russia has of late deployed some alarmingly cynical attitudes in the international arena. During November 2016, Russia announced its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, pragmatically arguing that “during the 14 years of the court’s work it passed only four sentences having spent over a billion dollars”. ( This announcement followed an ominous spree of similar withdrawals from the ICC by African states. It also followed the publication of a Report by the ICC containing its preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine, where allegedly war crimes are being committed by Russian and pro-Russian forces.

Although technically Russia never became a party to the Rome Statute – having signed yet never ratified it, and now just exerting its right to make “its intention clear not to become a party to the treaty” pursuant to article 18 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties – still this announcement comes as a strong sign of Russian contempt towards international legal institutions.

Some other worrisome examples of Russian cynicism towards the rule of international law are its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the law passed in 2015 authorizing its constitutional court to overrule decisions by the European Court of Human Rights.

Regarding the armed conflict in Syria, during recent years Russia has systematically vetoed Security Council draft resolutions aimed at solving the crisis in order to protect the interests of Al-Assad, its strongest client in such a strategic region.

Nevertheless, Russia still has the potential to change the course of the Syrian deadlock, as it demonstrated when it brokered the chemical weapons deal in 2013. Moreover, history arguably presents Russia today with a unique opportunity to become the legitimate heir of a genuine humanitarian tradition that the ancient Russian Empire has practiced since the late nineteenth century. Among the main landmarks of this tradition we find the Saint Petersburg Declaration (1868), the humanitarian intervention which prompted the Russian-Turkish War (1877) and Russia’s key role in the discussion of The Hague peace conferences (1899 to 1907), where the Russian diplomat Fiodor Martens promoted a famous clause to protect people in times of war.

During the last days of December, Russia will host a round of diplomatic talks with Iran and Turkey to try and find a definitive solution to the Syrian civil war. If Putin wants to “make Russia great again,” he should endeavor to honor that tradition. By doing so at least Russia will more probably err on the side of hypocrisy rather than on that of cynicism, and people who suffer the consequences of war would still have a chance to find solace behind the aegis of international law.

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

Get openDemocracy emails

A weekly roundup of world affairs, ideas and culture.

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


this is an old posting of ours. I just thought to put it up again as it seemed to us to be a reminder that news have a history. it shows that the UN has a history as well. evil is not a surprise.

‘Incomprehensible’: UN Committee Elects Assad Regime to Leadership Post

By Patrick Goodenough

 CNSNews.com) – A group of United Nations’ member-states on Thursday elected the Assad regime to a leadership post of a special committee dealing with decolonization, sparking protests from a human rights group that had earlier urged U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to intervene.

At a meeting in New York, the committee’s newly-elected chairman, Venezuelan ambassador Rafael Ramirez, asked the member-states whether there were any objections to putting forward Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja’afari as its “rapporteur” for the coming year.

Hearing no objectives, Ramirez declared Ja’afari – as well as three nominated vice chairmen, the representatives of Cuba, Sierra Leone and Indonesia – “elected by acclamation.”

The Venezuelan then led “a round a applause for our friends,” told them he looked forward to working with them “in taking forward the noble work of the special committee,” and invited Ja’afari to take his seat on the podium.

Before the Syrian sat down, Ramirez – a former foreign minister in President Nicolas Maduro’s cabinet – gave him a hug.

According to U.N. estimates well over 250,000 people have been killed and 12 million displaced in the civil war in Syria.

U.S. taxpayers account for 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget.

The committee – full name, the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples – has 24 members.

Ten of them are free democracies, according to Washington-based Freedom House. They are Antigua & Barbuda, Chile, Dominica, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tunisia.

None of those 10, nor any other member of the committee, raised objections to Syria’s “election” as rapporteur.

Ahead of the election, the non-governmental organization U.N. Watch urged two of the democracies in particular, Chile and India, to oppose Syria’s election.

U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said after Thursday’s session the two governments should be “ashamed” for joining the consensus vote.

He also criticized Ban for not intervening ahead of the vote.

“It is incomprehensible for the U.N. on one day to lament the regime’s killing and wounding of hundreds of thousands of Syrians – to declare the regime guilty of ‘extermination’ of its own people – and to then hand this gift of false legitimacy to the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad,” Neuer said.

“Today’s U.N. vote only helps the Assad regime portray itself a U.N. human rights arbiter. That’s indefensible, and an insult to Syria’s victims,” he said. “Morally, Mr. Ban should do the right thing and at least condemn the decision.”

Neuer also called on U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power and European Union ambassadors to condemn what he called the “absurd and morally obscene” election outcome.

He said the elections of the Syrian and Venezuelan ambassadors to their respective posts would be “trumpeted by both the Assad and Maduro regimes” as a propaganda victory.

He recalled that the regime after a previous election of Ja’afari called it “yet another recognition by members of the committee of the Syrian important and key role.”

The decolonization committee, established in 1961, advocates independence for 17 specific territories around the world, including American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.

Neuer called the 55 year-old body “anachronistic,” noting that it has often been “criticized as a costly irrelevance.”

###

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.

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

###

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

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

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

—————————————————–===================——————————-

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

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

###

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.

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

###

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.

###

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.

###

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.

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

###

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.

###

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.

###

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 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 3rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

President Obama meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in September 2015 at the Oval Office. On January 1, Saudi Arabia executed 4 individuals who engaged in non-violent protest for democracy and human rights in the Kingdom. Behind the president and King Salman sits a bust of the champion of non-violent protest, Martin Luther King Jr. (photo: AP)
(under the photo by AP heading the original article)


US Ties to Saudi Kingdom Are Beheading Democracy: An Interview With the Son of an Executed Political Prisoner.

By Paul Gottinger, Reader Supported News

 mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1…

26 February 2016


Saudi Arabia opened 2016 with a tragic, yet increasingly common event for the Kingdom, a mass execution.
In the words of Amnesty International, “Saudi Arabia’s authorities demonstrated their utter disregard for human rights and life by executing 47 people in a single day.”

According to the British rights organization Reprieve, Saudi Arabia has had one of the world’s highest rates of execution for over ten years. Many of these executions occur after unfair trails and may be carried out by the barbaric means of beheading, public crucifixion, stoning, or firing squad.

All 47 individuals executed on January 1 were accused of being terrorists. However, four of those executed were involved in Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring protests. These four remained strictly nonviolent in their calls for greater democracy and rights in the Kingdom.

Despite being a major US ally, Saudi Arabia has an atrocious human rights record. The Kingdom is intolerant of any dissent and harshly represses any critics. The Kingdom has also banned all public gatherings and demonstrations since the Arab Spring erupted in 2011.

One of these four political prisoners executed was the well-known Shia cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr. Al-Nimr was a powerful and articulate critic of the Saudi government and royal family.

Amnesty International stated that Sheik al-Nimr’s execution showed that Saudi officials were “using the death penalty in the name of counter-terror to settle scores and crush dissidents.”

Reader Supported News spoke with Sheik al-Nimr’s son, Mohammed al-Nimr, just a few weeks after his father’s execution.

Mohammed described his father as someone who believed in the same values as Americans and who wanted all people to have basic things like democracy, freedom, justice, dignity, and human rights.“He was a peaceful man who demanded change in my country because he wouldn’t tolerate any tyranny. He always spoke for the oppressed against the oppressors.”

Mohammed said his father guided Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring protesters in the way of nonviolence. “He demanded peaceful change in the form of democratic elections and he also demanded basic human rights.”

Despite the Saudi government labeling him a terrorist, Mohammed said, “My father was always a strong supporter for peaceful change. He always asked people to be peaceful and not to fall into violence. I never saw my father with a weapon. He once told a protestor, you are right to demand your rights, but don’t engage in even the smallest forms of violence like throwing rocks at riot police.”

Mohammed’s father was first arrested in 2012. A security vehicle rammed into his car, security personnel dragged him out of the car, then finally opened fire on him, striking him 4 times.

When Sheik al-Nimr woke up in the hospital his upper chin was broken and two teeth were missing. “My father underwent an operation to remove the bullets, but the hospital intentionally left one bullet in his thigh to cause him pain.”

Due to his injuries, Sheik al-Nimr suffered an enormous amount of pain, which prevented him from sleeping properly for an entire year. Sheik al-Nimr was also held in solitary confinement for almost four years, the entire time he was imprisoned.

I asked whether the US reached out to help free his father, who believed in democracy, nonviolence, and justice, the very values America claims to stand for. But Mohammed said the US never reached out to him. “They know about the case, but they didn’t do enough to stop the execution.”

In the days after Sheik Nimr’s execution, the White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the White House had “raised concerns” with the Saudi government that executing Sheik Nimr al-Nimr could heighten sectarian tensions.

Mohammed said this is the US government’s way of saying they did their part. “But that’s not enough. You don’t just warn them. He was a peaceful man. The US should have demanded his release and done all they could to stop the execution from happening.”

When asked if he had a message for the American people, Mohammed said, “Your security is in danger. As long as your government supports the Saudi regime, which has a lot of money to support terrorism all over the world, your security is in danger.”

“This Saudi regime supported the Taliban, and the result was al Qaeda. Then the Saudi regime supported the rebels in Syria, and the result was ISIS.”

“Where does the money for all these terror groups come from? It’s the Saudi government’s oil money. The Saudi government pretends to fight terrorist ideology, but their ideology is the root of terrorist ideology. For example, 15 of 19 September 11th hijackers were Saudi. Why is that? Because that’s what they teach people in school.”

“So my message for American citizens is look out for your safety. You don’t want more 9/11 attacks, you don’t want more Paris attacks. That’s what this regime supports, even if the regime shows another face.”

When asked what his father would think of the attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran that followed his father’s execution, he said, “I believe if my father was here he would not agree to the attack in Tehran. As I said, he was a peaceful man and would never encourage violence.”

Mohammed said his father’s execution left an enormous impact on him. “My father was really a friend to me. He was a great father and I will have a deep sadness for the rest of my life due to his loss. I know he’s in a better place right now, but the painful thing is that I’m never going to see him, or hear his voice with new words about freedom, justice, dignity and humanity.”

When asked how he planned to attain justice for his father, Mohammed said, “I will make the whole world hear his voice. Make the whole world know what he stood for and what he demanded and not the picture the Saudi government is trying to paint of my father.”

“He was not a violent man. He was just someone who wouldn’t tolerate any tyranny and any oppression against anyone. He would stand up for anyone who is oppressed.”

Paul Gottinger is a staff reporter at RSN whose work focuses on the Middle East and the arms industry. He can be reached on Twitter @paulgottinger or via email.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 11th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

THE NEW YORK TIMES QUOTATION OF THE DAY – February 10, 2016:

“A new post, Minister of State for Happiness, will align and drive government policy to create social good and satisfaction.”

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL-MAKTOUM, the ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, on a new office established amid a sweeping government reorganization.

The NYT article’s title is: “United Arab Emirates Want to Top the World in Happiness, Too.”

By BEN HUBBARD

The emirates already have the world’s tallest building and a wealth of international talent. Soon, they will also have ministers of happiness and tolerance.

 www.nytimes.com/2016/02/10/world/…

RIYADH, Saugi Arabia money can’t buy happiness, at least not at current oil prices.

So the rulers of the United Arab Emirates had a novel idea. They decided to name a minister of happiness.

It seems that being the Persian Gulf nation known for building the biggest indoor ski slope and an island that looks like a palm tree just was not cutting it anymore. At least not in the happiness department. Oh, and it seems that tolerance is also in short supply.

So the government will appoint a minister of tolerance, too.

The sheikhs who rule the United Arab Emirates have announced the most sweeping government reorganization in their country’s 44-year history, which included the creation of the two new ministers.

The announcement was made with all the trappings of a royal decree by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and the country’s prime minister — on Twitter.

“It is the beginning of a new journey of achievement and giving to the people, and we ask God to help us serve and take care of them,” Sheikh Mohammed said in one post in Arabic.

An attachment to the statement gices the names of 23 Ministers in the UAE 12th Cabinet. the 12th UAE Cabinet – the team which will achieve the Nation’s aspirations.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 30th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Above the entrance to 21 Zerubabel Street in the Yemenite Quarter in Tel Aviv – next door to the Rabbi Shabzi Synagogue and the warning – a dog in the courtyard – it says – in Hebrew:Sun light is very bleak to someone who does not find sense in his life. Next tomit in English is written: “There is no Fear in Love.”

The Israeli papers that are still not owned by an Israeli government related American individual – The HAARETZ and the Yedioth Aharonot – are now full with hints at internal culture wars started by an uneducated Culture Minister – Ms. Miri Regev who contended that even uneducated people can be educated. That is not my topic here – for those interested please read The New York Times article of today – “Israel, Mired in Ideological Battles, Fights on Cultural Fronts” – By STEVEN ERLANGER January 29, 2016. We are here rather interested in what the rather officialpro-government papers say – The MAARIV and The ISRAEL HAYOM say.

A main report comes from the meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus between Israel’s Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu and His counterparts from Greece and Cyprus titled as the “Mediterranean Alliance.” As I just arrived here from Vienna I am quite familiar with the Merkel & Faymann problems with Greece and Turkey and the simple facts that the EU in ordr to survive tends now to shed Greece and trade it for higher reliance on Turkey. What I sense thus is the contemplation of the Israeli government to look as well for new allies in its troubled corner of thev World.

Then, no misunderstanding here – President Obama just declared for all to hear that Putin is corrupt and Mr. Putin reacted by asking for evidence. No problem on this front – the UK obliged and declared Putin involved in the execution of a financial competitor – mafia style. This sort of language was not heard even in the days of President Regan’s attacks on the Soviet “Evil Empire.”

Obama looks at the mess in Western Asia he inherited from G.W. Bush who really turned all local devils there lose by taking off the lids that kept a modicum of order as left by the British and French colonial powers. G.W. continued the reliance on the Saudis that came down from Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and thus became partial to an evolving Sunni Shia rift with an ever increasing Iranian threat to the US oil supplies from the Middle East. Obviously, US interests did not match in all of this the European effort to build their own power bloc and the difficulties the EU put before Turkey’s attemp to join in the Union. Russia had its own problems with the EU and when life for the US and the EU became difficultbin the Arab region – they jumped in and used the occasion to move on the Ukraine as well.

So what now?

My suggestion based on an acknowledged very superficial reading of the real news – is: By necessity there are now two new potential NEUTRAL Centers in a renewed COLD WAR scenario.

Oman is the Neutral space between the Saudis and Iran – to be cherished by the US.

The small group of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel – a new buffer zone between the EU & Turkey alliance and the Sunni Arab Golf and the US – with Syria and Iraq the actual battle-field that will churn the Arab World until it reorganizes the remaining waste-lands. Russia has gained a footing via the Shiia Muslims and the US will see to limit this by making it more profitable to Iran to play the US in exchange for diminished role to the Saudis. It is all in the new world cards.

And what about the Arab North African States? Will they fall into the hands of extreme Sunnis as preached by Saudi Wahhabism – the source of what has moved to the creation of the new Islamic powder keg? I do not think this is possible in North Africa – simply because there are no Shiia elements there that justify to the Sunnis such an effort. Will there be another neutral zone in the North African region in the Cold War arena? This makes sense eventually.

###