The United Arab Emirates are structured in a framework of a federal,
presidential, elective, monarchy. The UAE is a federation of seven
absolute monarchies – the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah,
Sharjah, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Qaiwain, and the President
of the UAE is its head of state, and the Prime Minister of the UAE is
head of government.
The Federal Supreme Council is composed of all seven emirs. It elects
the president, vice president, members of the Council of Ministers,
and judges of the Federal Supreme Court. The emir of Abu Dhabi holds
the presidency and vice-presidency, and the emir of Dubai is prime
minister. Dubai and Ras al-Khaimah chose not to belong to the federal
judiciary and all emirates have their own secular and Islamic law for
civil, criminal, and high courts.
The United Arab Emirates are structured in a framework of a federal,
THE NEW YORK TIMES QUOTATION OF THE DAY – February 10, 2016:
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.
RIYADH, Saugi Arabia money can’t buy happiness, at least not at current oil prices.
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.
From the US Government run Colorado based – National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) – Ms. Victoria Healey goes to the Abu Dhabi IRENA meeting in order to stimulate governments’ interest in implementing their PARIS COMMITTMENTS.
In a letter to all IISD readers of the Clean Energy List, Ms. Victoria Healey, the Project Leader at US NREL writes:
About the Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network, the Clean Energy Finance Solutions Center, and the Clean Energy Solutions Center:
The Clean Energy Solutions Center and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) joined forces in 2013 to launch the Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network (REPAN)—a collaboration that leverages both organizations’ resources by coordinating a global network of experts and practitioners to help countries design and implement renewable energy policies and programs. To learn more visit cleanenergysolutions.org/expert/…
The Clean Energy Finance Solutions Center of NREL assists governments and practitioners with identifying appropriate finance mechanisms and designing and implementing policies to reduce risk and encourage private sector investment; helping to achieve the transition to clean energy at the speed and scale necessary to meet local development needs and address global challenges. The CEFSC is an expanded and dedicated resource that is part of the Clean Energy Solutions Center, a Clean Energy Ministerial initiative that helps governments design and adopt policies and programs that support deployment of clean energy technologies.
To learn more about how these initiatives can assist in meeting countries’ clean energy objectives, please visit cleanenergysolutions.org and finance.cleanenergysolutions.org…, and follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/CleanEnergySolu… and Twitter twitter.com/Clean_Energy_SC
IRENA’s two added workshops during World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE, that will be held January 16-21, 2016.
from: Virginia Yu
Sun, Jan 10, 2016 at 2:22 PM
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) announces two side events at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE – 1) Global Atlas for Renewable Energy Workshop on Medium-term Strategy, 18 January, and 2) Solar Resource Assessment Workshop for Policy Makers, 19 January.
1) The Global Atlas for Renewable Energy Workshop on Medium-term Strategy will take place on 18th January, 2016 at ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre) – future home of World Fair 2020), Abu Dhabi. The purpose of this workshop is to gather information and ideas from stakeholders that can feed into IRENA’s development of the medium-term strategy (1-2 years) for the Global Atlas. Workshop participants will engage in a practical discussion around how the Global Atlas can help overcome barriers to renewable energy development, generate ideas for more effective communication on the Global Atlas, and investigate the needs and ideas of data providers.
To register, please send an email to potentials at irena.org by 13th January. For further information on the event and location, please read the final event concept note and announcement. Please connect to: www.irena.org
2) The Solar Resource Assessment Workshop for Policy Makers, in collaboration with DLR will take place on 19th January, 2016 at IRENA Headquarters, Masdar City, Abu Dhabi.
With this training, IRENA gives an introduction of the capabilities of such tools and how they may be used to improve the design of policies for solar energy. To register, please send an email to carsten.hoyer-klick at dlr.de. We would be grateful to receive your confirmation by 13th January. For further information on the event and location, please see the attached PDF.
IRENA Headquarters, Masdar City | P.O. Box 236 | Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | Tel: +97124179988 | Mob: +971566161584 | www.irena.org
Solar-Med-Atlas Workshop for Policy Makers.pdf 164K
Training Schedule 10:00h – 10:45h
- Introduction and expectations of the participants
- Analysis of the data in Geographical information systems (demonstration) – Interpretation of results
- Conclusions and further questions. Short assessment of the Global Atlas
Please bring along your laptops, to be able to participate in the hands on exercises.
Transportation: Shuttle bus will be provided from ADNEC at 9:15am going to IRENA HQ, then leaving again at 4:00 pm from IRENA HQ going to ADNEC
We thank IRENA for hosting the workshop in their headquarters.
from the International Press Institute (Vienna, Austria, based) – Saturday, 21 February 2015.
A screenshot of the Al Monitor website featuring a video marking the news organisation’s first anniversary. Established on Feb. 13, 2012, the site provides reporting and analysis by prominent journalists and experts from the Middle East and draws from more than two dozen media partners.
VIENNA, Feb 26, 2014 – Opens external link in new window Al-Monitor, an edgy news and commentary site launched in the aftermath of the Arab Spring that brands itself as “the pulse of the Middle East”, is the recipient of this year’s International Press Institute (IPI) Opens external link in new windowFree Media Pioneer Award, IPI announced today.
“Al-Monitor’s unrivalled reporting and analysis exemplify the invaluable role that innovative and vigorously independent media can play in times of change and upheaval,” IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said. “Al-Monitor’s editors and contributors produce a must-read daily overview of a complex region in a coherent, introspective and independent way. Its team includes some of the best minds and analysts from around the world who cut through the daily chaff and give readers an insightful summary of what is happening.”
Al-Monitor is scheduled to receive the award at the Opens external link in new windowIPI World Congress, which takes place April 12 to 15 in Cape Town, South Africa. Also in Cape Town, IPI will present its World Press Freedom Hero award to Iranian journalist Opens external link in new windowMashallah Shamsolvaezin, the former editor of the banned Iranian newspapers Kayhan, Jame’eh, Neshat, and Asr-e Azadegan. He was jailed numerous times for his criticism of government policies.
With civil war engulfing Syria, turmoil in Egypt and political upheaval across the Middle East, Al-Monitor stands out as a one-stop source for diverse news and viewpoints. Recent features include a report on female journalists in the front lines of regional conflicts and an article highlighting the arrest of an Egyptian filmmaker, who – like numerous journalists in Egypt – was detained for spreading “false news”.
The 2014 Free Media Pioneer award marks a departure from past winners by honouring a regional news organisation.
“We believe this is where Al-Monitor stands out, providing an important bridge of information to a region where many of the individual nations face major press freedom challenges,” Bethel McKenzie said. “Its ability to draw on many voices from the region is unmatched in the Middle East.”
For the past three years, the award has been sponsored by the Argentinean media company Infobae Group.
FROM MEMBERS OF THE SAUDI DELEGATION to the Lima COP20 of the UNFCCC:
WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN THE SIDE EVENTS ORGANIZED AT THE GCC PAVILION AND IN THE SAUDI ARABIA’S ACTIVITIES DURING COP20.
All Reports and videos can be found on:
We are also pleased to announce that from now on, and until Paris 2015, we will inform you about Saudi Arabia’s activities in Climate Change on a regular basis on our dedicated website: www.ksa-cop.com
Follow us on Facebook & @KsaCop20
The Clean Energy Solutions Center and IRENA cordially invite you to attend our policy workshop to be held on January 20th from 1600-1900 during the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.
The event will be held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Capital Suite 14). The title of this workshop is ‘The Next Generation of Renewable Electricity Policies: How Rapid Change is Breaking Down Conventional Labels’.
We hope you will be able to attend. If you would like further information, please contact Victoria Healey at victoria.healey at nrel.gov. Looking forward to seeing you in Abu Dhabi.
Happy New Year and Warm Wishes,
The Jihadi Connection between Sinai, Gaza and Islamic State.
by Jonathan Spyer
What kind of relations do the jihadists of northern Sinai and Gaza have with Islamic State, and with Hamas? Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month national emergency this week, following the killing of over 31 Egyptian soldiers in a suicide car bombing carried out by jihadists in northern Sinai.
No organization has issued an authoritative claim of responsibility for the bombing, but it comes amid a state of open insurgency in northern Sinai, as Egyptian security forces battle a number of jihadist organizations. Most prominent among these groups are Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen; the attack on the Sinai military base came a few days after an Egyptian court sentenced seven members of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis to death for carrying out previous attacks on the army.
In subsequent days, Egyptian officials pointed an accusing finger at the Hamas rulers of Gaza, asserting there is “no doubt that elements belonging to Palestinian factions were directly involved in the attack.” Cairo is now set to build a new barrier separating the Strip from northern Sinai.
In a number of Arabic media outlets, unnamed Egyptian government sources openly accused Hamas members of aiding the assault, assisting with planning, funding and weapons supply.
Are the Egyptian claims credible? Are there links between Hamas or smaller jihadist movements in the Gaza Strip and the insurgents in northern Sinai? And no less importantly, is the armed campaign in northern Sinai linked to Islamic State? First, it is important to understand that jihadist activity in northern Sinai is not a new development. Long before the military coup of July 3, 2013, and indeed before the downfall of president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, this area had become a lawless zone in which jihadists and Beduin smugglers of people and goods carried out their activities.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis emerged from this already existing jihadist milieu in the period following Mubarak’s ouster.
At this time, Egyptian security measures in the area sharply declined.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has not confined its activities to the Sinai area; rather, it has directly engaged in attacks on Israeli targets. Recently, the group beheaded four Sinai locals who it accused of being “spies for the Mossad,” also carrying out two rocket attacks on Eilat this past January.
The claim of links between Hamas and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has been raised in the past. In September, Egyptian security forces claimed to have found uniforms and weaponry identifiable as belonging to Hamas’s Izzadin Kassam brigades.
It is worth remembering that the current Egyptian government has, since its inception, sought to link salafi jihadist terrorism with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as part of its strategy of marginalizing and criminalizing the Brotherhood.
The current statements seeking to link Hamas directly to Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis may form part of this larger strategy.
For its part, Hamas indignantly denies any link to this week’s bombing.
But what can be said with greater confidence is there is, without doubt, a burgeoning and violent salafi jihadist subculture that encompasses northern Sinai and southern Gaza – with various organizations possessing members and infrastructure on both sides of the border.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis itself and Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen both have members in Sinai and Gaza. Working tunnels smuggling goods and weapons exist between Gaza and northern Sinai, despite Egyptian attempts to destroy them.
It is also a fact that Hamas is aware of these tunnels and makes no attempt to act against them, benefiting economically from their presence.
From this standpoint, Hamas authorities in Gaza are guilty by omission of failing to act against the infrastructure supplying and supporting salafi guerrillas in northern Sinai, whether or not the less verifiable claims of direct Hamas links with them have a basis.
Given this reality, it is also not hard to understand the Egyptian determination to build an effective physical barrier between the Strip and Egyptian territory.
What of the issue of support for Islamic State? Should these jihadist groups be seen as a southern manifestation of the Sunni jihadist wave now sweeping across Iraq, Syria and increasingly, Lebanon? From an ideological point of view, certainly yes.
From an organizational point of view, the situation is more complex.
According to Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, an expert on jihadist groups currently based at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and the Middle East Forum, neither Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis nor Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen have formally pledged their allegiance to the caliphate established by Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria.
Nevertheless, Tamimi confirmed, both organizations have expressed “support” for Islamic State and its objectives, while not subordinating themselves to it through a pledge of allegiance.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis is known to maintain contacts with Islamic State, which has advised it on the mechanics of carrying out operations. Islamic State, meanwhile, has publicly declared its support for the jihadists in northern Sinai, without singling out any specific group for public support.
Tamimi further notes the existence of two smaller and more obscure groups in Gaza with more direct links to Islamic State.
These are Jamaat Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Bayt al-Maqdis (The Group of Helpers/ Supporters of the Islamic State in Bayt al-Maqdis), which carries out propaganda activities from Gaza and helps funnel volunteers to Syria and Iraq, and the Sheikh Abu al-Nur al-Maqdisi Battalion, a Gazan contingent fighting with Islamic State in these countries.
So, a number of conclusions can be drawn: Firstly, Hamas, in its tolerance of and engagement with smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Sinai, at least indirectly permits the jihadists networks operating these tunnels to wage their insurgency against Egypt – even if the claims of a direct Hamas link to violent activities in Sinai have not yet been conclusively proven.
Secondly, the most important organizations engaged in this insurgency support Islamic State, and are supported by them, though the former have not yet pledged allegiance and become directly subordinate to the latter.
Islamic State is not yet in northern Sinai, but its close allies are. Their activities are tolerated by the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip – as long as they are directed outward, against Egypt and Israel.
Re-Post of a 2011 article: MENAFN Arab News says “Abas makes big gamble – Obama plunged his knife into the back of helpless Palestinians.” You know there is something fishy here – we cannot copy it for you but only give you the link – but we know that they actually stole the article from an Israeli – Uri Avnery – and did not mention it seemingly because he is Israeli. So much for Arab honesty and courage?
Our original posting date was September 25, 2011, and we do this re-posting because we were just reminded of the article by a comment I received from India from seemingly a non-political person. We wonder ourselves if that article is still relevant after this week’s events at the UN, and on the eve of a new meeting today in Washington between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
THE LINK IS HERE AND YOU CAN READ IT BUT NOT COPY IT:
of September 25, 2011.
MENAFN – stands for Middle East North Africa – read ARAB Financial Network – it is a Delaware-based corporation with a wholly owned subsidiary in Amman, Jordan.
So, it must be an American Oil Industry enterprise, probably close to the Republican party, with a Jordanian address as well.
The site [www.menafn.com] offers regional and global business content in both Arabic and English. It attracts over 340,000 highly targeted visitors on a regular basis.
It has a weekly e-Newsletter that reaches 55,000 subscribers. It summarizes major business news and events, market data and research for the Middle East region and the globe.
We hope that our readers in the Arab world see this posting of ours on www.SustainabiliTank.info so they understand the depth of the hole their leaders have dug for the Arab world. There is no way to bitch about Israel – if you are not ready to acknowledge the Israelis that try to find a way to peace. You will not have peace if you do not recognize Israel.
BUT THE ARTICLE IS AS FOLLOWS – AND WE GOT IT FROM URI AVNERY HIMSELF.
WHY DID MENAFN NOT POST THAT ARTICLE AS ORIGINALLY POSTED? - THEY TOOK IT VERBATIM FROM AVNERY AND DID NOT MENTION HIM – NEITHER DID THEY SAY THAT AVNERY, – OR AT LEAST “THE WRITER” – IS AN ISRAELI. THIS SHORTCOMING POSES BIG QUESTION ON THE CREDIBILITY OF THIS MENA – MIDDLE EAST NORTH AFRICA – READ ARAB – FINANCIAL REPORT.
THIS REMINDS US OF THE ARAB SPRING, TAHRIR SQUARE, LEADER WHOM I ASKED IN VIENNA, BEFORE AN AUDIENCE - IF AN ISRAELI LIKE URI AVNERY APPROACHES YOU WOULD YOU OUTSTRETCH YOUR HAND IN PEACE? SHE ANSWERED FLATLY – “NO! HE IS A ZIONIST.”
THIS IS THE REAL DOWNFALL OF THE ARAB WORLD – AND IN NO WAY CAN I HAVE SYMPATHY FOR SUCH HYPOCRASY.
WHY DID NOT THIS MENAFN ACKNOWLEDGE URI AVNERY? WHY DID THEY NOT HAVE THE GUTS TO SAY – WELCOME ABOARD – HERE YOU ARE THE ISRAELI WE WANT TO TALK TO. IN THE LIGHT OF THIS LACK OF HONESTY AND LACK OF COURAGE - I THINJK NOW THAT URI AVNERY HAS INDEED GOOD REASON TO RETHINK HIS NOBLE VIEWS.
September 24, 2011
Abu Mazen’s Gamble
A WONDERFUL SPEECH. A beautiful speech.
The language expressive and elegant. The arguments clear and convincing. The delivery flawless.
A work of art. The art of hypocrisy. Almost every statement in the passage concerning the Israeli-Palestinian issue was a lie. A blatant lie: the speaker knew it was a lie, and so did the audience.
It was Obama at his best, Obama at his worst.
Being a moral person, he must have felt the urge to vomit. Being a pragmatic person, he knew that he had to do it, if he wanted to be re-elected.
In essence, he sold the fundamental national interests of the United States of America for the chance of a second term.
Not very nice, but that’s politics, OK?
IT MAY be superfluous – almost insulting to the reader – to point out the mendacious details of this rhetorical edifice.
Obama treated the two sides as if they were equal in strength – Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinians and Israelis.
But of the two, it is the Israelis – only they – who suffer and have suffered. Persecution. Exile. Holocaust. An Israeli child threatened by rockets. Surrounded by the hatred of Arab children. So sad.
No Occupation. No settlements. No June 1967 borders. No Naqba. No Palestinian children killed or frightened. It’s the straight right-wing Israeli propaganda line, pure and simple – the terminology, the historical narrative, the argumentation. The music.
The Palestinians, of course, should have a state of their own. Sure, sure. But they must not be pushy. They must not embarrass the US. They must not come to the UN. They must sit with the Israelis, like reasonable people, and work it out with them. The reasonable sheep must sit down with the reasonable wolf and decide what to have for dinner. Foreigners should not interfere.
Obama gave full service. A lady who provides this kind of service generally gets paid in advance. Obama got paid immediately afterwards, within the hour. Netanyahu sat down with him in front of the cameras and gave him enough quotable professions of love and gratitude to last for several election campaigns.
THE TRAGIC hero of this affair is Mahmoud Abbas. A tragic hero, but a hero nonetheless.
Many people may be surprised by this sudden emergence of Abbas as a daring player for high stakes, ready to confront the mighty US.
If Ariel Sharon were to wake up for a moment from his years-long coma, he would faint with amazement. It was he who called Mahmoud Abbas “a plucked chicken”.
Yet for the last few days, Abbas was the center of global attention. World leaders conferred about how to handle him, senior diplomats were eager to convince him of this or that course of action, commentators were guessing what he would do next. His speech before the UN General Assembly was treated as an event of consequence.
Not bad for a chicken, even for one with a full set of feathers.
His emergence as a leader on the world stage is somewhat reminiscent of Anwar Sadat.
When Gamal Abd-al-Nasser unexpectedly died at the age of 52 in 1970 and his official deputy, Sadat, assumed his mantle, all political experts shrugged.
Sadat? Who the hell is that? He was considered a nonentity, an eternal No. 2, one of the least important members of the group of “free officers” that was ruling Egypt.
In Egypt, a land of jokes and jokers, witticisms about him abounded. One concerned the prominent brown mark on his forehead. The official version was that it was the result of much praying, hitting the ground with his forehead. But the real reason, it was told, was that at meetings, after everyone else had spoken, Sadat would get up and try to say something. Nasser would good-naturedly put his finger to his forehead, push him gently down and say: “Sit, Anwar!”
To the utter amazement of the experts – and especially the Israeli ones – this “nonentity” took a huge gamble by starting the 1973 October War, and proceeded to do something unprecedented in history: going to the capital of an enemy country still officially in a state of war and making peace.
Abbas’ status under Yasser Arafat was not unlike Sadat’s under Nasser. However, Arafat never appointed a deputy. Abbas was one of a group of four or five likely successors. The heir would surely have been Abu Jihad, had he not been killed by Israeli commandoes in front of his wife and children. Another likely candidate, Abu Iyad, was killed by Palestinian terrorists. Abu Mazen (Abbas) was in a way the choice by default.
Such politicians, emerging suddenly from under the shadow of a great leader, generally fall into one of two categories: the eternal frustrated No. 2 or the surprising new leader.
The Bible gives us examples of both kinds. The first was Rehoboam, the son and heir of the great King Solomon, who told his people: “my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions”. The other kind was represented by Joshua, the heir of Moses. He was no second Moses, but according to the story a great conqueror in his own right.
Modern history tells the sad story of Anthony Eden, the long-suffering No. 2 of Winston Churchill, who commanded little respect. (Mussolini called him, after their first meeting, “a well-tailored idiot.”). Upon assuming power, he tried desperately to equal Churchill and soon embroiled Britain in the 1956 Suez disaster. To the second category belonged Harry Truman, the nobody who succeeded the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt and surprised everybody as a resolute leader.
Abbas looked like belonging to the first kind. Now, suddenly, he is revealed as belonging to the second. The world is treating him with newfound respect. Nearing the end of his career, he made the big gamble.
BUT WAS it wise? Courageous, yes. Daring, yes. But wise?
My answer is: Yes, it was.
Abbas has placed the quest for Palestinian freedom squarely on the international table. For more than a week, Palestine has been the center of international attention. Scores of international statesmen and -women, including the leader of the world’s only superpower, have been busy with Palestine.
For a national movement, that is of the utmost importance. Cynics may ask: “So what did they gain from it?” But cynics are fools. A liberation movement gains from the very fact that the world pays attention, that the media grapple with the problem, that people of conscience all over the world are aroused. It strengthens morale at home and brings the struggle a step nearer its goal.
Oppression shuns the limelight. Occupation, settlements, ethnic cleansing thrive in the shadows. It is the oppressed who need the light of day. Abbas’ move provided it, at least for the time being.
BARACK OBAMA’s miserable performance was a nail in the coffin of America’s status as a superpower. In a way, it was a crime against the United States.
The Arab Spring may have been a last chance for the US to recover its standing in the Middle East. After some hesitation, Obama realized that. He called on Mubarak to go, helped the Libyans against their tyrant, made some noises about Bashar al-Assad. He knows that he has to regain the respect of the Arab masses if he wants to recover some stature in the region, and by extension throughout the world.
Now he has blown it, perhaps forever. No self-respecting Arab will forgive him for plunging his knife into the back of the helpless Palestinians. All the credit the US has tried to gain in the last months in the Arab and the wider Muslim world has been blown away with one puff.
All for reelection.
IT WAS also a crime against Israel.
Israel needs peace. Israel needs to live side by side with the Palestinian people, within the Arab world. Israel cannot rely forever on the unconditional support of the declining United States.
Obama knows this full well. He knows what is good for Israel, even if Netanyahu doesn’t. Yet he has handed the keys of the car to the drunken driver.
The State of Palestine will come into being. This week it was already clear that this is unavoidable. Obama will be forgotten, as will Netanyahu, Lieberman and the whole bunch.
Mahmoud Abbas – Abu Mazen, as the Palestinians call him – will be remembered. The “plucked chicken” is soaring into the sky.
A Meeting in Salzburg Makes it Clear that What is Needed for The Middle East is the Equivalent Of The Congress of Vienna (1814) – a Post-Arab-Spring Equivalent to the Post-Europe-Spring: Can The Arab League that Excludes the Non-Arab Players Be of Any Use?
Amre Moussa, the former Arab League head from Egypt, is calling for a Middle Eastern equivalent of the 1814 Congress of Vienna, in which Europe’s great powers established a new order to prevent wars between empires following the defeat of Napoleon. Admittedly, Moussa quickly backtracked to say the plan couldn’t initially include Iran, Turkey or Israel, making it really just another Arab League meeting. Still, I think he’s onto something.
For years, the people of the Middle East have complained that the U.S. and Europe treat it as a kind of colonial playground, while the West has moaned the region must take more responsibility to regulate and provide security for itself. This week, reports of United Arab Emirates airstrikes in Libya, launched from airstrips in Egypt, suggest that is beginning to happen — but in precisely the wrong way. The airstrikes pit the more secular client of one Persian Gulf state, UAE, against Islamists supported by another, Qatar.
This is a recipe for a long and bloody civil war in Libya, at a time when the Middle East is imploding and the U.S. is no longer willing or able to police it alone. Divisions among the Sunni states and an expanding proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia have already resulted in a vortex of human suffering and instability in Syria that has spawned the Islamic State.
So Moussa’s idea of a congress “emanating from the Middle East” itself, rather than from the U.S. or Europe, and focused on how to ensure stability in the region makes sense. As a model, the Congress of Vienna has an attractive echo for the Middle East’s monarchies and dictators, as it was designed mainly by conservative autocrats as they sought ways to contain the subversive republican fervor unleashed by the French revolution. Old regime leaders in the Middle East see the Arab Spring in much the same light.
“We are talking about a major change in the Middle East,” Moussa said at a conference I’m attending this week in Salzburg, Austria, on lessons to be drawn from the Vienna Congress and the outbreak of World War I, hosted by the International Peace Institute and the Salzburg Global Seminar. “We have to discuss this like grownups: What are we going to do when this wave of change comes to its end?”
The Congress of Vienna was also used to redraw the map of Europe after the Napoleonic wars, and then fix borders and establish a mechanism to agree on changes. In this light, Moussa was adamant that proposals to break up Iraq along sectarian lines would be infectious and disastrous for the region. A deal in in which the likes of Iran and Saudi Arabia guaranteed the non-violation of borders is appealing.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. For one thing, Iran and Saudi Arabia are involved in what they see as a zero-sum contest for power, and a meaningful agreement between them seems fantastical: The empires of Europe were driven to reconciliation only after nearly 20 years of defeats forced them to learn the value of alliance. Indeed, while Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al-Faisal, also in Salzburg, supported Moussa’s idea, his focus was on how to create a united Arab front toward Iran — a poor starting point if the goal is to reconcile Iranian and Saudi interests
So long as the focus is on getting the Arab house in order, this is unlikely to get anywhere. A more serious attempt would focus not on Arab identity but on who needs to be at the table so that any deal that is reached would be meaningful. At a minimum, that means Iran, Israel and Turkey must be present. Inviting the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to facilitate and hold the ring would also be smart. It’s crazy, and it’s worth a try.
To contact the author: Marc Champion at Bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this article: Tobin Harshaw at bloomberg.net
When the present slaughter in Gaza ends, will there rise in Israel a critical mass – including right and left, religious and not, Jews and Arabs – to drive for a solution? Can this start with negotiations with the Paestinians of the West Bank and the more moderate Arab States? Hopes expressed by David Grossman – an Israeli intellectual who himself has lost a son in this Middle East Tight Bubble.
An Israel Without Illusions
David Grossman: Stop the Grindstone of Israeli-Palestinian Violence.
By DAVID GROSSMAN – JULY 27, 2014
First published in Hebrew by HAARETZ, then picked up in translation by the New York Times.
David Grossman is an Israeli intellectual who is a bereaved father having lost a son in the Lebanon War. He does not mention this in the article as probably his intention is to speak to our minds with clear logic – not the softness of feelings. His article ought to be available to all, and not turned by media owners into hot property as both – Haaretz and The New York Times – try to do when pushing on the interested reader the notion that if they want to read this they have to become members of the exclusive club of subscribers to that paper. The NYT is now down to peddle a subscription limited to their Opinion pages. I wonder, if asked, David Grossman would say that he wants no money for this article?
JERUSALEM — Israelis and Palestinians are imprisoned in what seems increasingly like a hermetically sealed bubble. Over the years, inside this bubble, each side has evolved sophisticated justifications for every act it commits.
Israel can rightly claim that no country in the world would abstain from responding to incessant attacks like those of Hamas, or to the threat posed by the tunnels dug from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Hamas, conversely, justifies its attacks on Israel by arguing that the Palestinians are still under occupation and that residents of Gaza are withering away under the blockade enforced by Israel.
Inside the bubble, who can fault Israelis for expecting their government to do everything it can to save children on the Nahal Oz kibbutz, or any of the other communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip, from a Hamas unit that might emerge from a hole in the ground? And what is the response to Gazans who say that the tunnels and rockets are their only remaining weapons against a powerful Israel? In this cruel and desperate bubble, both sides are right. They both obey the law of the bubble — the law of violence and war, revenge and hatred.
But the big question, as war rages on, is not about the horrors occurring every day inside the bubble, but rather it is this: How on earth can it be that we have been suffocating together inside this bubble for over a century? This question, for me, is the crux of the latest bloody cycle.
Since I cannot ask Hamas, nor do I purport to understand its way of thinking, I ask the leaders of my own country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessors: How could you have wasted the years since the last conflict without initiating dialogue, without even making the slightest gesture toward dialogue with Hamas, without attempting to change our explosive reality? Why, for these past few years, has Israel avoided judicious negotiations with the moderate and more conversable sectors of the Palestinian people — an act that could also have served to pressure Hamas? Why have you ignored, for 12 years, the Arab League initiative that could have enlisted moderate Arab states with the power to impose, perhaps, a compromise on Hamas? In other words: Why is it that Israeli governments have been incapable, for decades, of thinking outside the bubble?
And yet the current round between Israel and Gaza is somehow different. Beyond the pugnacity of a few politicians fanning the flames of war, behind the great show of “unity” — in part authentic, mostly manipulative — something about this war is managing, I think, to direct many Israelis’ attention toward the mechanism that lies at the foundation of the vain and deadly repetitive “situation.” Many Israelis who have refused to acknowledge the state of affairs are now looking into the futile cycle of violence, revenge and counter-revenge, and they are seeing our reflection: a clear, unadorned image of Israel as a brilliantly creative, inventive, audacious state that for over a century has been circling the grindstone of a conflict that could have been resolved years ago.
If we put aside for a moment the rationales we use to buttress ourselves against simple human compassion toward the multitude of Palestinians whose lives have been shattered in this war, perhaps we will be able to see them, too, as they trudge around the grindstone right beside us, in tandem, in endless blind circles, in numbing despair.
I do not know what the Palestinians, including Gazans, really think at this moment. But I do have a sense that Israel is growing up. Sadly, painfully, gnashing its teeth, but nonetheless maturing — or, rather, being forced to. Despite the belligerent declarations of hotheaded politicians and pundits, beyond the violent onslaught of right-wing thugs against anyone whose opinion differs from theirs, the main artery of the Israeli public is gaining sobriety.
The left is increasingly aware of the potent hatred against Israel — a hatred that arises not just from the occupation — and of the Islamic fundamentalist volcano that threatens the country. It also recognizes the fragility of any agreement that might be reached here. More people on the left understand now that the right wing’s fears are not mere paranoia, that they address a real and crucial threat.
I would hope that on the right, too, there is now greater recognition — even if it is accompanied by anger and frustration — of the limits of force; of the fact that even a powerful country like ours cannot simply act as it wishes; and that in the age we live in there are no unequivocal victories, only an illusory “image of victory” through which we can easily see the truth: that in war there are only losers.
There is no military solution to the real anguish of the Palestinian people, and as long as the suffocation felt in Gaza is not alleviated, we in Israel will not be able to breathe freely either.
Israelis have known this for decades, and for decades we have refused to truly comprehend it. But perhaps this time we understand a little better; perhaps we have caught a glimpse of the reality of our lives from a slightly different angle. It is a painful understanding, and a threatening one, certainly, but it is an understanding that could be the start of a shift. It might bring home for Israelis how critical and urgent peace with the Palestinians is, and how it can also be a basis for peace with the other Arab states. It may portray peace — such a disparaged concept here these days — as the best option, and the most secure one, available to Israel.
Will a similar comprehension emerge on the other side, in Hamas?
I have no way of knowing. But the Palestinian majority, represented by Mahmoud Abbas, has already decided in favor of negotiation and against terrorism. Will the government of Israel, after this bloody war, after losing so many young and beloved people, continue to avoid at least trying this option? Will it continue to ignore Mr. Abbas as an essential component to any resolution? Will it keep dismissing the possibility that an agreement with West Bank Palestinians might gradually lead to an improved relationship with the 1.8 million residents of Gaza?
Here in Israel, as soon as the war is over, we must begin the process of creating a new partnership, an internal alliance that will alter the array of narrow interest groups that controls us. An alliance of those who comprehend the fatal risk of continuing to circle the grindstone; those who understand that our borderlines no longer separate Jews from Arabs, but people who long to live in peace from those who feed, ideologically and emotionally, on continued violence.
I believe that Israel still contains a critical mass of people, both left-wing and right-wing, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs, who are capable of uniting — with sobriety, with no illusions — around a few points of agreement to resolve the conflict with our neighbors.
There are many who still “remember the future” (an odd phrase, but an accurate one in this context) — the future they want for Israel, and for Palestine. There are still — but who knows for how much longer — people in Israel who understand that if we sink into apathy again we will be leaving the arena to those who would drag us fervently into the next war, igniting every possible locus of conflict in Israeli society as they go.
If we do not do this, we will all — Israelis and Palestinians, blindfolded, our heads bowed in stupor, collaborating with hopelessness — continue to turn the grindstone of this conflict, which crushes and erodes our lives, our hopes and our humanity.
David Grossman is the author, most recently, of “Falling Out of Time.” His other books include “To the End of the Land,” “Death as a Way of Life” and “The Yellow Wind.” This essay was translated by Jessica Cohen from the Hebrew.
Yesterday Thank you, for a sane analysis of this horrible situation.
Yesterday Israel came into being with great moral authority and has been defending itself ever since, with support from the West. A considerable part…
Yesterday David Grossman there is no Israeli-Arab conflict only an Arab conflict. It wasn’t the Jews who wanted to destroy the Arabs not 100 years…
In Tel Aviv UN Secretary-General Ban KI-moon discovers the facts about Gaza and “OFF-THE-CUFF” proclaims: “WE CONDEMN THE USE OF CIVILIAN SITES – SCHOOLS, HOSPITALS AND OTHER CIVILIAN FACILITIES – FOR MILITARY PURPOSES. NO COUNTRY WOULD ACCEPT ROCKETS RAINING DOWN ON ITS TERRITORY – AND ALL COUNTRIES AND PARTIES HAVE AN INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATION TO PROTECT CIVILIANS.”
But above statement does not sit well with the Secretary’s benefactor on this trip – His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar, who is funding the UN Secretary-General’s current trip to the Middle East, or the Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s Middle East Policy guide, Dr. Nabil ElArabi, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, the linchpin between the opposing two Arab Sunni factions headed by Qatar – the Godfather of the Muslim Brotherhood and of its off-Shoot the Hamas, and Saudi Arabia, that detests those two last named political Islamic fundamentalist organizations.
Not only that, it is the UN paid for and UN maintained facilities that are used as storage place for the rockets. when such a use of a facility became public the UN paid folks just turned them over to the Hamas. It is just not enough to acknowledge as the UNSG did when in Ramallah on July 22nd that UNRWA’s regular operations were “acutely affected” by the fact that they were used to store weapons. and then say that he strongly condemns “the indiscriminate rocket fire launched by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from Gaza into Israel. I am also alarmed by Israel’s heavy response and corresponding high civilian death toll. This is the “proportionality argument” that forgets that in the World there are more then a billion Muslims and less then 10 million Jews – which would indeed mean a proportionality of 1:1,000 – or in mathematical terms each Jew killed weighs as much as 1,000 Muslims killed – this when the killing is started by people that dream of cleansing their region of the Infidel Jews.
In that video-conference from Ramallah Mr. Ban complains that in the last 5 years, the time he is UN Secretary-General this is his third time to come on an emergency mission tp the region to help in a crisis.
That means the children of Gaza are now living through the third major assault in the last five years of their lives, he said.
Obviously, the UNSG just said the truth which is that just achieving a cease-fire without demilitarization of Gaza achieves nothing else then a short break in a continuing warfare and there is no reasn why Israel should accept this. The ridiculous fact is that Israel nevertheless did accept Egypt’s proposal to allow for just such a break and it was Hamas grand-standing that rejected it. Hamas hates Egypt perhaps even more then their hate for Israel. The ruler of Qatar sees this self destructing attitude of Hamas and has sponsored the UNSG mission in an attempt to save Hamas from Israel and from itself.
The UNSG in his trip was in Egypt as well – just to make sure Egypt does not give up its efforts in the face of this Hamas intransigence and to ask Egypt to figure out a face saving approach for Hamas so they do not look like losers. Will a united Israel cave in to such pressure that leaves the Hamas enemy look like a winner? Specially now when Hamas managed to close Israel’s link to the World by in the post downing of Malaysia 17 in the Ukraine that forces civil airlines to avoid flying over war zones.
To top this all we just received the following e-mail from UN Watch that nixes a UN were Arab States and some sworn anti-Western states are shredding the UN Charter and the UN Declaration on Human rights.
But before we post that e-mail, let us remind the UNSG that his predecessor was able to pass on the very important and here relevant PRINCIPLE OF THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT which here translates into the responsibility of a ruling government to protect its citizens. This is something the Israeli Government is trying to do, but the Hamas that took over the governing of Gaza from the National Palestinian Authority uses its citizens as human shield to their missiles something that has to be undone by outside intervention that removes them from the business of government. Only the Palestinian Authority, with outside help, could do this. Qatar does not back the PA but Hamas. As such the Qatar money carpet used to fly te UNSG to the Middle East may have been a very bad idea. It seems that this is being realized at high levels at the UN and texts are being altered as reported today by Matthew Russell Lee of the Inner City Press Office at the UN who speaks also for FUNCA – the Free UN Coalition For Access.
THE UN WATCH PRESENTATION TODAY IN GENEVA BEFORE THE UNHRC:
Testimony delivered today, 23 July 2014, by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer, at the UN Human Rights Council Emergency Session on Gaza
Mr. President, I have just returned here from visiting Israel to tell this assembly, and the world, about the grave situation that I witnessed and experienced.
An entire nation—towns, villages and cities, from the Negev Desert up to the Galilee, from the Judean hills of Jerusalem to the Tel Aviv seashore—has been under brutal and relentless attack, from more than two thousand mortars, rockets and long-range missiles, fired from Gaza toward civilians in every part of the Holy Land.
Never before, in the history of Israel’s seven decades of existence, has its men, women and children come under such a massive aerial assault, forcing them, at the sound of air raid sirens day and night, to run for shelter.
And never before, in the modern history of nations, has a free and democratic society come under such sustained bombardment from a terrorist organization, one that openly strives for and celebrates the murder of civilians, and that, as its general worldview, glorifies death.
Did the world ever imagine that the ancient city of Jerusalem—sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and replete with holy places that are recognized by the United Nations as protected world heritage sites—would be deliberately targeted by indiscriminate rockets?
And yet it is.
During one air raid in Jerusalem, I ran down to the basement of a building with little children crying and traumatized. During an air raid in Tel Aviv, the neighbors of an apartment building showed great strength of spirit in defiance of terrorism, by reaching out to strangers in the shelters, as we heard the booms of the rockets above.
And as I was seated in my airplane, about to depart and return back here to Geneva, the air raid siren went off around the airport. We all had to rush off the plane and seek shelter. You’ve heard the news today: that international airlines are now ceasing to fly to Israel because of this danger.
I believe that the world should salute this terrorized, besieged and embattled nation, which has refused to surrender to demoralization, instead showing such courage, resolve and strength of spirit in surviving—and resisting—this massive aggression.
And people should consider: Is there any precedent in world history for a nation passively to suffer a three-week bombardment of its civilian population, by more than 2,000 deadly rockets?
The attempt by Hamas to shut down Israel’s sole international airport, in a country already besieged by land from hostile forces from north to south, would constitute the strangulation of an artery vital to the life of Israel’s people and economy.
These acts of aggression also target the sovereign rights of the nations under whose flags these airplanes fly.
I ask each ambassador in this chamber to take a moment and imagine terrorists deliberately firing deadly rockets at the airports of Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle, or Frankfurt; Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, or Tokyo.
How would your government react?
How long would your nation wait before doing everything in its power to exercise its right, under international law and morality, to resist such aggression?
I turn now to the resolution upon which this Council will soon vote. The text before us denounces Israel, denies its right to self-defence, and disregards Hamas war crimes.
We ask: why does this Council refuse to say that which was said only two weeks ago by the Palestinian ambassador himself?
In an extraordinary moment of candor, Palestinian Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi admitted, on Palestinian TV, that “each and every” Palestinian missile launched against Israeli civilians constitutes “a crime against humanity.”
And that, by contrast, Israel’s own response actions in Gaza “followed the legal procedures” because, as Hamas spokespersons admitted on TV, “the Israelis warned them to evacuate their homes before the bombardment; but, “as for the missiles launched from our side, we never warn anyone about where these missiles are about to fall or about the operations we carry out.”
Can any UN entity, or any individual, be truly for human rights when they refuse to say that which was said by the Palestinian ambassador himself?
Is it possible that the true purpose of this session is to silence the true victims and voices of human rights around the world by deflecting attention from the world’s worst abuses?
We ask all those who embrace hypocrisy and double standards: if in the past year you didn’t cry out whe thousands of protesters were killed and injured by Turkey, Egypt and Libya; when more victims than ever were hanged by Iran; women and children in Afghanistan were bombed; whole communities were massacred in South Sudan; hundreds in Pakistan were killed by jihadist terror attacks; 10,000 Iraqis were killed by terrorists—
[Egypt interrupts with an objection.]
President of UNHRC Session: We have a point of order. Egypt, you have the floor.
Egypt: Mr. President, I think we are meeting today for the special session to discuss the current crisis in Gaza and the violations committed within this crisis. So I don’t see why we have a reason to discuss other issues relating to human rights situations on other countries.
United States of America: We think it is relevant to the subject under debate, and therefore you should allow the NGO to continue to speak.
Iran: We fully support the point of order made by Egypt.
Canada: We urge you to allow the NGO to complete their intervention, which is relevant to the discussions at hand.
Israel: It is important that civil society participate in this debate, and we request that you allow this NGO to continue.
Venezuela: We support the point of order made by Egypt.
Palestine: This is not a point of order, but more a clarification. The speaker will continue along the same lines if the speaker is not stopped. I would ask you not to waste any time on this so we can conclude this meeting in good time.
Cuba: It is inconceivable that a NGO should be able to come to this Council to distract us with the little time we have to debate an issue which is of such crucial importance as the genocide being committed currently against the Palestinian people.
President: I give the floor back to UN Watch, with the request that he adhere to the subject matter under discussion today.
UN Watch: Thank you, Mr. President. I’ll just note that there had been some questions whether the videotape interview of the Palestinian ambassador on Palestinian TV was genuine or not, but we see that the Palestinian ambassador has just intervened—and has failed to deny those remarks. Let the record show that.
Finally, we ask: If those who refuse to speak out for Palestinians—1800 Palestinians, if not more—who were starved to death, murdered, by Assad in Syria, but you only cry out when Israel can be blamed, then you are not pro human rights, you are only anti-Israel.
Syria: We’re used to hearing this NGO creating divisions among the speakers, and speaking out of turn. It is strange to hear an NGO defending the killing of women and children, and the destruction of infrastructure in Palestine. I would hope that the speaker is no longer allowed to continue his statement.
Hillel: Thank you, Mr. President. Let the world note: that in a session purportedly on Palestinian human rights, the government of Syria objected to us mentioning the 1800 Palestinians that they starved and murdered.
tel: (41-22) 734-1472 • fax: (41-22) 734-1613
The UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, travels to the Middle East in a UK registered chartered plane paid for by the Ruler of Qatar, a Hamas sponsor, his throne safeguarded by US Armed Forces sitting on top of his gas fields. This justifies lots of questions about the present UN.
Call for UN Reforms After Ban Flies on Qatar-Funded, UK Registered Plane
By Matthew Russell Lee, The Inner City Press at the UN – Follow up on exclusive
UNITED NATIONS, July 21, more here — Why shouldn’t the UN be able to live up the most basic standards of transparency and good government?
Inner City Press: As I asked you before, and I know that you had said you would answer at some point, how did the Secretary-General fly from New York to Qatar? Was it on a Qatari plane, and what safeguards are in place? Would he take a flight from any nation?
Spokesman Dujarric: Okay, Matthew, it was the Qatari Government [that] very generously chartered a plane for the Secretary-General to enable him to go about his visit. This is not the kind of visit that we could do if we were not flying on a private plane. It is not a Qatari plane; it was chartered. It is a British-registered plane, as some of you will be able to see on the photos. But, it is a private aircraft funded by the Qatari Government.
Should the UN Secretary General in a mediation attempt accept free travel from a country with a particular interest in the conflict to be mediated?
Inner City Press: you are saying that the use of private planes, generically if necessary, is signed off by the ethics office, but my question is, private planes provided by anyone? Would the Secretary-General, would he accept such service from any Member State, or would he accept it from corporations? The question becomes, given that particular countries have different views of the conflict, what review is made before accepting a particular country’s contribution?
Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq: Well, we do have, like I said, an ethics office and a legal office that can look into these things and see whether something is appropriate or not.
Inner City Press: Was this particular flight checked or you’re saying there’s a generic ruling in advance that any private plane is okay?
Deputy Spokesman Haq: No, I don’t think there’s a generic ruling about this, but certainly, if you need to justify this for essential needs, and something like this, a trip that the Secretary-General was able to embark on and made the decision on just at the end of last week and then had to travel, starting Saturday evening, something like that would have been extremely hard or basically impossible to do in a different sort of way.
Inner City Press: I’m asking because in the budget Committee, often many, particularly developing world countries, they say that things should be funded out of the UN’s general budget rather than taking voluntary contributions from States that then have influence. So, my question is, isn’t there a travel budget? We’ve asked in this room many times to know what the budget is, so I’d still like to know that. But, if there is a budget, why wasn’t the general UN budget used for this rather than taking a specific gift from a specific country? That’s the question.
Deputy Spokesman Haq: The worry is, of course, if you run out of money early, does that mean you can’t travel, even if there’s a crisis? In this case, there was a crisis that necessitated sudden travel.
Inner City Press broke the story on July 19 — credit has been given, for example, by Newsweek, here — and has been asking Ban’s spokespeople for disclosure and what safeguards are in place.
Lead spokesman Dujarric replied but did not answer on July 19. When he called in to the UN noon briefing from Cairo on July 21, Inner City Press asked him again on whose plane Ban is traveling.
This time, Dujarric answered that Ban is flying on a Qatar government funded, UK registered plane. But he did not answer if there are any safeguards against influence or conflicts of interest. Would Ban accept free flights from any UN member state? From anyone at all?
Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, who said the UN Ethics Office said taking private planes is okay when necessary.
But private planes from ANYONE? Any member state? A corporation? There have been no real answers, yet. But there need to be.
Diplomats told Inner City Press that Ban would fly — on a Qatari plane — to Qatar, Ramallah (but not for now Gaza), Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait.
The diplomats who complained to Inner City Press questioned not only Ban taking free flights from a particular country, but also how the use (and landing) of a Qatari plane will play in, for example, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Inner City Press asked Ban’s top two spokespeople, and the spokesperson listed as on weekend duty, the following:
“Please state whether the Secretary General is accepting free transportation from any member state or outside party for his current trip to the region concerning the Gaza crisis, and if so please explain the reason and any safeguards in place against influence or conflict of interest.
“Such disclosure should be common practice; if necessary, note that former Spokesperson Nesirky did answer such Press questions, for example concerning the Secretary General flying on a UAE plane (see sample below). On deadline, thank you in advance.
- The UAE Government provided an aircraft to fly the Secretary-General from Beirut to Abu Dhabi because of time constraints.
Later on July 19, the following was received, which we publish in full 25 minutes after receipt:
From: Stephane Dujarric [at] un.org
Dear Matthew, Thanks for your question and thanks for the draft answer. The logistical details of the SG’s trip, including the travel arrangements are still being worked out. Once we are in a position to confirm them, i will revert.
Stephane Dujarric (Mr.)
But obviously the “logistical details” of getting to Qatar were worked out – Ban had already been to Qatar, then Kuwait before Cairo.
One asked, what can you solve if you can’t even say how you got there?
Inner City Press thanked Dujarric and his colleagues for the interim response and asked, “both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Poroshenko’s office say they have spoken with the Secretary General and give read-outs. Will a UN read-out be put out? If so, when? If not, why not?”
On July 21, Inner City Press asked Haq, who confirmed the calls took place but nothing about the contents. What is happened with the UN?
Towards —- “A Catalyzing Action” to —- CLIMATE SUMMIT 2014 —- the UN Secretary General Recommends:
MEDIA ADVISORYAbu Dhabi Ascent
4-5 May 2014Jumeirah Etihad Towers
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
New York, 2 May—Ministers, experts and officials from government, along with business and civil society leaders will gather in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from 4-5 May to lay the foundation for a platform that will launch concerted action on climate change at this September’s Climate Summit.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend the Abu Dhabi Ascent which aims to prepare for and build momentum ahead of his Climate Summit on 23 September in New York.
Abu Dhabi will be the first international meeting to draw on the conclusions from the recently release reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found that the consequences of climate change were already being felt in every continent, and that while present action is insufficient, there are still pathways toward a low carbon future that could minimize the impacts of climate change. Action now, it said, was necessary in order to avoid much higher costs in the future.
Members of the media are invited to the opening of the Abu Dhabi Ascent. Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of State and Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change, United Arab Emirates will open the Ascent, followed by remarks by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and John W. Ashe, President of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly.
Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States and Chairman of The Climate Reality Project, will give the keynote speech.
A press briefing with Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, Felipe Calderon former President of Mexico, Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and chief executive of the initiative Sustainable Energy for All (tbc), will follow.
Journalists can register by using the below link and select media under the drop down box.
For more information, please contact Dan Thomas from the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, firstname.lastname@example.org, 1-917 520-8842 or Dan Shepard, UN Department of Public Information, email@example.com, 1 646 675-3286
Abu Dhabi Ascent Mobilizes New Engagement for Practical Actions to Address Climate Change
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 5 May—In a major shift from negotiations to engagement on action, more than 1,000 participants, including 70 government ministers voiced support for the development of a range of bold initiatives to address climate change at the Abu Dhabi Ascent which concluded today.
For more information, please contact Dan Shepard, UN Department of Public Information, firstname.lastname@example.org, 1 646 675-3286 or Dan Thomas from the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, email@example.com, 1-917 520-8842
Posted: 18 Apr 2014 on Green Prophet.
It starts by saying: Many conferences end in handshakes and no action, but Powering the Middle East aims to close deals.
Part of the Power Strategy Summit Series which will convene in Brazil, South Africa and other countries, Powering the Middle East will bring together governments from 10 Middle Eastern countries and vested players in the private sector that together aim to turn worthwhile, meaningful, scalable projects to fruition.
An agenda advisory board will conduct ongoing surveys to ensure that the topics broached in panel sessions on 17 and 18 September, 2014 are absolutely the most relevant.
Members of this board include Alice Cowan, Program Director of The Clean Energy Business Council (CEBC), Loay Ghazeleh, Undersecretary Advisor on Major Infrastructure & PPP at Ministry of Works, Bahrain and Kishan Khoday, Regional Practice Leader for Environment & Energy at United Nations Development Program.
Unlike the WFES, which is like a small city when in full attendance, Powering the Middle East restricts delegates to 125 people with a 70/30 public to private split to ensure that the conference is manageable. And since quality is better than quantity, some of the most important businesses involved in the Middle East’s renewables industry will be there.
JinkoSolarco, Sun Edison, Tata Power, and First Solar are among the firms that will send representatives to meet up with governments from Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman, among others along with Ministers of Utilities, Academic and research institutes and Public sector bodies.
Fundamentally, this two-day conference aims to “erode the barriers to uptake of renewable energy sources and improve electrification in these economically growing and important regions.
The posting notes that “The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is sending Dr Mustapha Taoumi, MENA Program officer as a representative, which speaks volumes about the summit’s expected efficacy.”
“Renewable energy presents a powerful opportunity for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to achieve a globally important position in the renewable energy market – a market which is likely to become the cornerstone of the low-carbon green economy of the future,” Taoumi said in a recent statement.
“At Powering Middle East, IRENA will offer ideas on the business models most likely to attract investors and it will contribute to important discussions about policy and regulation, institutional frameworks, grid infrastructure, financial resources and capacity building.”
If you or your organization could benefit and fits the above criteria, be sure to register now for what is likely going to a game-changing event that could catalyze a host of important developments in the MENA region.
We hope indeed that above is not just another talk-fest as Jordan really does not have money to waste like some of the other Middle East States. We also hope that the Jordanians will have the courage to host Israeli technology – their closest neighbors as well. Indeed some Palestinian companies are ahead as well having worked with the Israelis Further, having invited Sun Edison we hope that Jigar Shah will speak to at these panels and present there that you can indeed make money from renewables if you are ready to strike away all conventional thinking that attributes to oil, gas and coal all what is an energy based economy.
In a rather conspicuous propaganda stunt, Hamas, the terror group ruling Gaza, foisted a new billboard showing the heads of its Islamist leadership, along with the leaders of Turkey and Qatar, with a caption that implies their help has been recruited to wrest Jerusalem from Israeli control.
The billboard shows Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, alongside previous and current Qatari leaders Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The billboard reads ”Jerusalem is Waiting for Men,” along with a photo of the Dome of the Rock.
The massive banner was photographed in Gaza by the Palestinian News Agency, and flagged on Thursday by blogger Elder of Ziyon.
The blogger wrote that the sign also implies two other messages.
First, the belittling of leaders of other Arab countries, especially Egypt, where Hamas gained under the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, and is now being shunned after that group, its political “big brother,” was expelled last year.
And, second, that Hamas, which played second fiddle to Islamic Jihad in last month’s shelling of Israel, is the stronger of the two groups and will be on the winning team to, one day, take Jerusalem.
An Egyptian entrepreneur said he resents his country’s hostility to Israel which prevents him from openly conducting any business with the Jewish state, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported late last week.
“It is very unfortunate that we cannot be pragmatic and say this particular country has good quality and inexpensive commodities and we are going to import from it because it is in our interest,” said the unnamed Egyptian, who still does business with Israel on the down low. “After all these years an Israeli commodity on, say, the shelf of a supermarket would not be picked up except by a few people — if we assume that any supermarket would at all dare to carry, say, Israeli fruit juice.”
Like most Egyptian businessmen who work with Israelis, he insisted on remaining anonymous for fear of being “stigmatized as dealing with the enemy,” he told Al-Ahram.
“I really don’t understand; we have a peace deal and we cannot do business, it has been 35 years since this peace treaty was signed and still it is a big issue if someone said let us do business with Israel or let us benefit of their agricultural expertise,” he said.
Trade between Israel and Egypt dropped after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011, but government officials in Cairo say the fall was possibly a result of the subsequent political turmoil, according to the report.
Despite any current animosity Egypt may harbor toward Israel, an independent economic source told Al-Ahram that Egyptian authorities are considering all options in dealing with the country’s current severe energy shortages, not excluding the import of natural gas from Israel.
“Cooperation in natural gas has been very stable for many years despite the suspension and trade dispute that occurred after the 25 January Revolution removed Mubarak — but this is the case with trade cooperation in general, limited and stable,” said a government official.
Is there an end to the US-Russia attempt at co-dominium in the Middle East that was fleetingly seen in the US making again space for Russia’s Putin starting with Syria? Is Syria instead on the way to become the New Afghanistan?
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday sharpened the Obama administration’s mounting criticism of Russia’s role in the escalating violence in Syria, asserting that the Kremlin was undermining the prospects of a negotiated solution by “contributing so many more weapons” and political support to President Bashar al-Assad.
“They’re, in fact, enabling Assad to double down, which is creating an enormous problem,” Mr. Kerry said in Jakarta, Indonesia, before he flew here to confer with top officials of the United Arab Emirates, a gulf state that has been a strong supporter of the Syrian opposition.
Mr. Kerry’s tough criticism underscored the erosion of the Russian-American partnership in Syria, and raised questions about the viability of the United States’ diplomatic strategy to help resolve the escalating crisis.
President Obama has been deeply reluctant for nearly three years to get the United States directly involved in Syria’s civil war, and pulled back the threat of cruise missile strikes in September after Mr. Assad’s agreement to eliminate his chemical arsenal. While chemicals for making poison gas are leaving the country, behind schedule, Mr. Assad’s conventional attacks on civilians have escalated significantly, and now Mr. Obama is calling for a review of what one senior official called “both old and new options” to bolster opposition forces and ease a desperate humanitarian crisis.
Administration officials, however, insist that those options do not include directly supplying more sophisticated, heavier armaments to the rebels, who are already receiving some weapons and training under a limited C.I.A. program, or carrying out airstrikes in a civil war that Mr. Obama fears could turn into a prolonged conflict. Instead, the United States is considering paying salaries to some of the rebel forces and providing more transportation and intelligence, American and European officials said.
Mr. Assad’s hold on power has grown over the past year, according to the head of American intelligence. Recognizing that a political settlement is unlikely if he keeps the advantage, administration officials said that Mr. Obama and other Western leaders had dropped their objections to proposals by Saudi Arabia and other countries to funnel more advanced weapons to vetted rebel groups, including portable antiaircraft weapons, often called manpads.
A secret meeting in Washington last week among the intelligence chiefs from almost all of the countries attempting to oust the Assad government included extensive discussion about how to best provide that new lethal aid to rebel groups, the officials said. The gathering of the top intelligence officials from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Britain, France and the United Arab Emirates, and several others from the 11-nation group known as the Friends of Syria, reflected a belief that the diplomatic track has been exhausted unless Mr. Assad sustains significant military setbacks.
Mr. Kerry’s pointed remarks on Russia’s role were striking since it was Mr. Kerry who flew to Moscow in May, and the administration hoped that Russia would encourage the Syrian government to move toward a political settlement without Mr. Assad. After meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin, Mr. Kerry announced that the United States and Russia would co-sponsor renewed peace talks in Geneva.
Those talks have now stalled. In August and September, the United States fleshed out and strengthened a Russian proposal that Syria’s chemical arsenal be dismantled — a process now underway, but behind schedule — suggesting the countries could work together even while backing different sides in the war.
That comity, or at least a temporary alignment of interests, has now been set back. Mr. Obama was sharply critical of Russia in public statements over the past week, first at a news conference with President François Hollande of France and then at a meeting in California with King Abdullah II of Jordan. One senior Western official who discussed the issue with Mr. Obama last week said, “I’ve never seen him more frustrated — not only with the Russians, but with the failure of anything his own administration has tried so far.”
“The Russian view is that their guy is winning,” said the official, who has been involved in the talks in Washington, “and they may be right. So we’re back to the question we faced a year ago: How do you change the balance and force the Syrians to negotiate?”
Mr. Kerry said on Monday that the United States and its allies were approaching a series of critical decisions on how to respond to the crisis. But even as he insisted that the administration remained committed to peacefully resolving a civil war that has claimed about 140,000 Syrian lives and displaced hundreds of thousands, it is no longer clear if the United States has the influence to broker a settlement or whether the limited steps the White House is now willing to consider would be sufficient to help it regain its lost leverage.
Debate has raged since the start of the civil war over whether Western and Arab nations should provide Syria’s rebels with manpads. Administration officials have in the past sought to limit the flow of the weapons into the Syria conflict, fearing they could be smuggled away and later used by terrorists against civilian airliners. However, providing selected rebel fighters with surface-to-air missiles is a logical response to the persistent barrel-bomb attacks of Syrian cities like Aleppo and Homs.
Jeffrey White, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior American intelligence official, said the Assad government was using Russian-supplied Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters to carry out the barrel-bomb attack in Homs. Russia, he said, is most likely providing spare parts such as engines, transmissions and rotors, which may explain Mr. Kerry’s specific reference to how Russian weapons are fueling the war.
A fighter from the Damascus suburbs who fled to Beirut, Lebanon, said one of the reasons he left was that the Army of Islam, the rebel group led by Zahran Alloush, had surface-to-air missiles, which he said were a Syrian Army model taken from antiaircraft bases a year ago. But the Army of Islam, which is supported by Saudi private donors, has declined to share its plentiful arms and its cash with other rebel groups, particularly non-Islamist ones. That has complicated efforts to counter Mr. Assad’s forces around Damascus.
Mr. Obama’s apparent willingness to drop objections to supplying the rebel groups with heavier weapons may simply be an acknowledgment that Saudi Arabia and gulf states that are frustrated with American policy are now prepared to do so anyway, without Washington’s blessing. American officials say they also now have a better sense than they did last year about which groups they can trust to use and secure the weapons.
Mr. Obama has also been influenced by growing fears that Syria is becoming a training ground for a new generation of terrorists and may become even more of a haven until a political settlement is reached. “That’s one big change from a year ago,” a senior American diplomat said. “And it’s beginning to haunt everyone with memories of Afghanistan.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported the likely increase in manpad shipments and rebel salaries on its website Friday night.
Mr. Kerry alluded on Monday to the internal administration deliberations about what to do next on Syria on Monday before he conferred here with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates.
“It is important for the world to consider in these next days exactly what steps can now be taken in the face of this intransigence that is creating an even greater human catastrophe by the moment,” Mr. Kerry said at his news conference in Jakarta.
In an administration that has been deeply divided on Syria strategy — the first hints of antigovernment protest erupted in the Damascus markets exactly three years ago Monday — Mr. Kerry has been among those arguing for more overt and covert pressure on Mr. Assad, according to administration officials.
But Mr. Obama has been wary of deep involvement and is adamant that no American forces can be put at risk — a reflection, aides say, of his belief that even if Mr. Assad is overthrown, the country could enter into a civil war from which there is no exit for years.
Mr. Kerry’s remarks on Monday reflected the blunt assessment that Mr. Assad is filibustering in Geneva while seeking a battlefield victory. “The regime stonewalled; they did nothing, except continue to drop barrel bombs on their own people and continue to destroy their own country,” he said. “And I regret to say they are doing so with increased support from Iran, from Hezbollah and from Russia.”
Do ‘Syria,’ ‘Iraq’ and ‘Lebanon’ Still Exist?
based on the original article by Jonathan Spyer that was posted by the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum and that we re-post with a series of changes that are mainly of editorial nature.
For almost a century, the Middle East has been defined by the nation-states that emerged following the Allied Europeans – British and French – victory in World War I which was the end of the Ottoman Empire, and followed later by the unraveling of the resulting colonial era. Since then, strategic analyses of the region have concentrated on the relations between these states, created by bureaucratic lines drawn by the interim colonial powers, and diplomatic efforts have generally attempted to maintain their stability and the integrity of these borders. As a result, the current map of the Middle East has remained largely unchanged over more than nine decades.
But these actually never made sense and do so much less now. The old maps do not reflect the reality on the ground, and the region is now defined not by rivalry between nation-states, but by sectarian divisions that are spilling across the old borders and rendering them irrelevant. Today, there is a single sectarian war underway across the Middle East, one that threatens to engulf the entire region.
This war has a number of fronts, some more intense and active than others, but it is everywhere defined by sectarian conflict – especially the divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims. It is most intense in the area encompassing the current states of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon; but has also spread further afield—to Bahrain, northern Yemen, and to some degree Kuwait and eastern Saudi Arabia.
The core power on the Shia side is the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state that accepts terror as a means to implement its plans. Iran was the founding patron of Hezbollah, which even before 9/11 had killed more Americans than any terror group in the world. The Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Maliki government and assorted Shia militias in Iraq, the Houthi rebels in northern Yemen, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, are all allies or proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is capable of rendering substantial assistance to its friends through the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – a powerful military and economic force that possesses substantial expertise and experience in building proxy organizations and engaging in political and paramilitary warfare.
On the Sunni side, the dominant power is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has been wary of Tehran, but also has struggled since 9/11 – on and off - against the Islamists of Al Qaeda. Its allies include various groups among the Syrian rebels, the March 14 movement in Lebanon, the military regime in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, and sometimes Turkey. The Saudis, however, are at something of a disadvantage. They possess no parallel to the IRGC, and have problematic relations with the extreme Sunni jihadists of al-Qaeda, who have played a prominent role in the fighting on all three major fronts and who are an outgrowth of the Saudi Wahabbi movement – the kind of Islam on which the Saudi throne is based. (Here we have a clear different approach to the issue then we found in the original article – that seemed to be over friendly to the Saudis – possibly because of the way Washington is siding with the Saudis.)
How did this situation come about? Is there evidence of a clear linkage between the various forces on the respective sides? Why is this conflict so extreme in certain countries—like Syria and Iraq—where it appears to be leading to the breakup of these states? How dangerous are these changes for the West?
Focusing on the areas of most intense conflict—Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon—can help us answer these questions.
This war is a result of the confluence of a number of circumstances. First, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are all home to a host of different sectarian and ethnic communities. The stark divisions that exist in these societies have never been resolved. In Syria and Iraq, they were suppressed for decades by brutal dictatorial regimes. The Assad regime in Syria and Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq – were family dictatorships based on minority sectarian communities – the Alawis in Syria, and the Arab Sunnis in Iraq – while claiming to rule in the name of pan-Arab nationalism. In service of this ideology, the Syrian and Iraqi regimes ruthlessly put down ethnic and sectarian separatism in all its forms; in particular, Shia Islamism in Iraq, Sunni Islamism in Syria, and the Kurdish national movement in both countries. All were treated without mercy.
Lebanon, by contrast, is a far weaker state, which was ruled by a power-sharing arrangement between ethnic and religious groups that collapsed into civil war in 1975. The issues underlying that war were never resolved; instead, between 1990 and 2005 the Syrian army presence in Lebanon ended all discussion of basic issues of national identity. (Here we must add something the original article has completely left untackled – the fact that in Lebanon the French colonial power has sponsored a Christian – mainly Maronite – minority and allowed for its governing over the Sunni and Shia parts of the population in a prearranged structure that fell apart with the influx of Sunni Palestinian refugees. These refugees ended up being supported by the Shia backed Hezbollah and eventually got attacked from the outside by the Israelis). Lebanon thus developed a different dynamics that is still tripartite in its Arab make up. Lebanon’s Maronite families with their French backing did not become dictators like in the cases of Iraq and Syria.
Over the last decade, the once ironclad structures of dictatorship and suppression that kept ethnic and sectarian tensions from erupting, have weakened or disappeared.
The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq destroyed the Saddam Hussein regime. A sectarian Shia government, based on the Shia Arab majority and conditionally accepted by the Kurds, took its place. In Syria, a brutal civil war has severely curtailed the power of the Assad regime, which now rules only about 40 percent of the country’s territory. The Sunni Arab majority and the Kurdish minority have carved out autonomous sectarian enclaves in the 60 percent that remains.
Western hopes that a non-sectarian identity would take hold in the areas formerly ruled by Saddam and the Assads are persistent but proven illusory. Remarks about Iraq made by then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in 2004 sum up these hopes and the tendency to self-delusion that often accompanies them. “What has been impressive to me so far,” Rice said, is that Iraqis—whether Kurds or Shia or Sunni or the many other ethnic groups in Iraq—have demonstrated that they really want to live as one in a unified Iraq…. I think particularly the Kurds have shown a propensity to want to bridge differences that were historic differences in many ways that were fueled by Saddam Hussein and his regime… What I have found interesting and I think important is the degree to which the leaders of the Shia and Kurdish and Sunni communities have continually expressed their desires to live in a unified Iraq.
This faith is expressed also by the Obama Administration, and as a result, it has continued to support the Shia-dominated government in Iraq, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It sees Maliki’s opposition to Sunni insurgents in western Anbar province as an elected government’s opposition to extremist rebels. This fails to take into account the sectarian nature of the Maliki government itself, and the discriminatory policies he has pursued against the Sunnis of western Iraq.
The reemergence of sectarian conflict so evident in Iraq has also emerged in Syria and is, in turn, showed up in neighboring Lebanon.
Lebanon was first drawn into the Syrian conflict as a result of the significant and highly effective intervention in Syria in support of the Assad regime by Iran’s Lebanon-based terrorist army, Hezbollah. This quickly led to retaliation against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon by elements among Syria’s Sunni rebels. Supporters of the Sunni rebels have succeeded in attacking Hezbollah’s Dahiyeh compound in south Beirut five times. The bombing on January 2, 2014, was carried out by a young Lebanese member of an organization called ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) named Qutaiba Muhammad al-Satem; ISIS are Islamic extremists who have been operating as a branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria.
While Hezbollah’s decision to intervene on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria and the subsequent Sunni reaction is partially the result of the divided nature of Lebanon, and Syria, and their unresolved questions of national identity, larger regional conflicts, also of a sectarian nature, are a driving force behind the violence.
Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian civil war came not as a result of automatic sentiments of solidarity, but because Hezbollah forms part of a regional alliance headed by Iran, to which the Assad regime also belongs. When Assad found himself in trouble, Hezbollah was mobilized to assist him. On the opposing side, the Syrian rebels have benefited from the support and patronage of Iran’s rival, Saudi Arabia, and other states along the Arabian peninsula, including the United Arab Emirates.
This rivalry is long standing and not just rooted in theological differences. It is about power. Iran is controlled by a revolutionary regime whose goal is to become the hegemonic force in the Middle East. Although the Iranians certainly regard the Saudis as an enemy and as unfit custodians of Islam’s most holy sites, Tehran’s main goal is to assert control over Arabian Gulf energy supplies, replacing the U.S. as guarantor of resources upon which world is dependent. Tehran understands that the real source of power in the region is the Gulf itself, with its enormous reserves of oil and natural gas that are essential to the global economy. To achieve its goals, Iran must tempt or coerce the Gulf monarchies away from U.S. protection and toward an alliance with Tehran, and ironically, American perceived weakness in the face of Tehran’s nuclear pursuit makes that all the more possible.
Riyadh has emerged as the principle opponent to Iran’s regional ambitions, mainly because the former guarantor of the current regional order, the United States, has chosen to leave the field. Until 2011, the Middle East appeared to be locked into a kind of cold war, in which the Iranians, along with their allies and proxies, sought to overturn the U.S.-dominated regional order, which was based on U.S. alliances with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel. Events over the last five years, however, have created the impression that the U.S. no longer wishes to play this role: America failed to back its longtime Egyptian ally, Hosni Mubarak, when he faced domestic unrest in early 2011. It failed to support the rebel forces fighting the Iran-backed Assad regime. And it failed to back Bahrain against an Iran-supported uprising in the same year. Now, the U.S. appears to be seeking a general rapprochement with Iran.
As a result of all this, Saudi Arabia has begun to take a far more active role in the region. Riyadh and its Gulf allies have certainly helped to finance and stabilize Egypt after the military removed Muhammad Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government from power. It began to take a leading role in supporting the Syrian rebels. It has well-documented relations with the anti-Syrian March 14 movement in Lebanon. In December 2013, the Saudis pledged $3 billion to the official Lebanese army. They also support anti-Maliki elements in Iraq. In addition, they are seeking to create an alliance among the other Gulf states in order to oppose Iranian ambitions, with some success.
But all of the above will not work for the Saudis unless they also stretch out a friendly hand to Israel and do a “SADAT” – that is – backing the right of Israel provided it settles with the Palestinians and do this in a pro-active way by showing their readiness to bankroll a solution of the Palestinian conflict. We say this is the cheapest way for the Saudis to wrestle the region from the Iranians – but we found no such conclusion in the original article. This might be too revolutionary for the conventional mindset that believes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is just another Middle East intractable conflict like the one in the article. The trick is to see how an opportunity is created when trying to go about two seemingly intractable problems in tandem!
The original article follows instead by saying - “increasingly violent rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, intensified by American withdrawal from the region, has helped turn a conflict that was once cold into an increasingly hot cross-border sectarian war.”
There is considerable evidence of links between Iran and Saudi Arabia, on the one hand, and their respective allies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, on the other.
On the Iranian side, Tehran no longer makes any serious attempt to deny the enormous assistance they have given the Assad regime in Syria. Indeed, the Iranians have effectively mobilized all their available regional assets in order to preserve it. The commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Qods Force, Qassem Suleimani, went to Syria himself in order to coordinate these efforts. Perhaps most notably, in mid-2012 the Iranians began training a new light infantry force for Assad. Called the National Defense Force, it was necessary because Assad was unable to use much of his own army, which consisted of Sunni conscripts whose loyalty was unreliable. Iran has even sent its own IRGC fighters to fight in Syria; a fact revealed by footage taken by an Iranian cameraman who was later killed by the rebels, the testimony of Syrian defectors, and the capture of a number of IRGC men in August 2012.
In April 2013, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was summoned to Iran and instructed to deploy his own fighters in Syria. Up to 10,000 of them are now on the ground in Syria at any given time, and they played a crucial role in retaking the strategic town of Qusayr in August 2013. Hezbollah fighters are also taking a prominent role in the battle for the Qalamun area near the Lebanese border, as well as the fighting around Damascus.
Iranian financial donations have also been vital in keeping the regime alive. In January 2013, Iran announced a “credit facility” agreement with Syria that extended a $1 billion line of credit to Assad. Later the same year, an additional credit line of $3.6 billion was announced.
Iraq has also played a vital role in supporting Assad, mainly by allowing Iran to use Iraqi territory and airspace to transfer weapons to Syrian forces. At first glance, this appears to be a strange policy. Relations between Iraq and Syria prior to the civil war were not good, with Maliki openly accusing Assad of supporting Sunni insurgents. But this has now changed. Indeed, Maliki has openly supported Assad since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. This reflects his increasing closeness to Iran, which helped ensure Maliki’s emergence as prime minister after the 2010 elections and pressured Assad to support him as well. Relations between Iraq, Iran, and Syria have only improved since.
In addition to government support, Iraqi Shia militias are now fighting in Syria on behalf of Assad. The Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigades, Ktaeb Hezbollah, and the Ahl al-Haq group all have forces in Syria. They are playing an important role, given that one of Assad’s major weaknesses is his lack of reliably loyal soldiers. The eruption of violence in Iraq’s western Anbar province has further cemented this alliance, since the insurgency is a direct result of advances made by Sunni jihadis in Syria.
As a result of all this, the Iranian-led side of the regional conflict has emerged as a tightly organized alliance, capable of acting in a coordinated way, pooling its resources for a common goal, and fighting effectively from western Iraq all the way to the Mediterranean.
The Sunni side of the conflict is more chaotic and disjointed. Saudi Arabia is its main financier, but it lacks an equivalent to the Qods force and the IRGC, who are world leaders in subversion and irregular warfare.
Only the most extreme jihadi elements appear capable of clear coordination across borders. For example, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as its name suggests, is active in both countries and controls a contiguous area stretching from the western Anbar province in Iraq to the eastern Raqqa province in Syria. ISIS regards itself as a franchise of al-Qaeda, although it does not take orders directly from the al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. Another al-Qaeda group, Jabhat al-Nusra, is active in Syria. In Lebanon, a third branch of al-Qaeda, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, has played a role in the attacks on Hezbollah. In addition, both the ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra are active in Lebanon.
But there are also less extreme groups opposing the Syrian-Iranian axis. Saudi Arabia has backed the March 14 movement, which is the main Sunni opposition party in Lebanon, as well as providing financial support to the Lebanese army. In Syria, the Saudis have fostered the Islamic Front, an alliance of eight Islamist groups unconnected to al-Qaeda. It includes some of the strongest rebel brigades, such as Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa al-Islam, and Liwa al-Tawhid. It is now emerging as the key bloc among the rebels. The Saudis also dominate the Syrian opposition in exile, with Ahmed Jarba, who has close links to Riyadh, recently reelected chairman of the Syrian National Coalition.
There are no indications that the Saudis are backing Sunni insurgents in Iraq, but the larger Sunni community is certainly looking to Riyadh for help. Relations between Saudi Arabia and the current Iraqi government are very bad. The border between the two countries is closed except during the Hajj pilgrimage, there is no Saudi embassy in Baghdad, and commercial relations are kept at a minimum. Some of the Sunni tribes in western Anbar have close links to the Saudis. While they are hostile to al-Qaeda, they are also opposed to the Maliki government, which they regard as a sectarian Shia regime.
There is a third element to this regional conflict that is something of a wild card: The Kurds. A non-Arab people who have long sought an independent state, the Kurds have succeeded in creating a flourishing autonomous zone in northern Iraq that enjoys most of the elements of de facto sovereignty. Since July 2012, another Kurdish autonomous zone has been established in northeast Syria. These two areas occupy a contiguous land mass, but are not politically united. The Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq is controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Party, led by Massoud Barzani, while the autonomous zone in northeast Syria is controlled by the PYD (Democratic Union Party), which is the Syrian branch of the Turkish-based leftist PKK movement.
These movements are rivals, and each sees itself as the appropriate leader of the Kurds. But while there is tension between them, each appears to be securely in control of its respective areas. The Kurds do not enjoy the support of any state in the region, and both the Iranians and the Saudis regard Kurdish national aspirations with suspicion. Nonetheless, the Kurds have managed to accumulate sufficient organizational and military strength to ensure the survival of their self-governing enclaves.
All these factors indicate that two rival alliances are clashing for hegemony over the region. There are myriad practical links between the various combatants, and their activities have long since spilled across the borders of the various states involved in the fighting; as indicated by the presence of Iranian fighters, ISIS, and Hezbollah in Syria; Syrian rebels in Lebanon; and many other examples. Iran is the leader of one side, Saudi Arabia is the main backer of the other, while the Kurds are concerned with maintaining their areas of control and are trying to stay out of the conflict.
The most significant result of the analysis is that the continued existence of Syria and Iraq as unified states is now in question. Practically speaking, Syria has already split into three areas, each controlled by one of the three elements listed above. Iraq has also effectively split into Kurdish and Arab zones, with Sunni and Shia groups fighting over the latter.
In many ways, Lebanon ceased to function as a unified state some time ago; since Hezbollah essentially functions as a de facto mini-state of its own. The Lebanese Sunnis lack a military tradition and have proved helpless in the face of Iran’s support for Hezbollah. But now, the emergence of the Syrian rebels and the growing popularity of Islamism among the Sunni underclass may be altering this balance. This appears to be borne out by the recent surge in Sunni violence against Hezbollah, which is the result of an attempt by Syrian jihadis and other rebels—in concert with their local allies—to bring the war to Lebanon.
Taken together, this indicates that a massive paradigm shift is underway in much of the Middle East. The eclipse of Arab nationalist dictatorships in Iraq and Syria, the historical failure to develop a unified national identity in these states, their mixed ethnic and sectarian makeup, and the U.S.’s withdrawal from its dominant position in the region—with the resulting emergence of a Saudi-Iranian rivalry—have all combined to produce an extraordinary result: A region-wide sectarian war is now taking place in the areas still officially referred to as Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
For the West, as in the region itself, this has very serious implications. Dealing with it effectively will required an equally massive paradigm shift in strategic thinking on the Middle East, one that is capable of dispensing with previous illusions and admitting that sovereign borders once regarded as sacrosanct are swiftly becoming meaningless.
There are new borders taking shape, defined by sectarian divisions that the West ignores at its peril. Despite fantasies of withdrawing from the region, the security of global energy supplies and the maintenance of regional stability are still essential to Western interests. The West has as large a stake in the outcome of this sectarian conflict as the regional players involved. If it cannot adapt to the new Middle East that is swiftly taking shape, it will find itself on the losing side.
Posted: 15 Feb 2014 09:23 PM PST
El Gouna, a resort city on Egypt’s Red Sea Riviera, is set to become the first carbon-neutral city in that nation, in Africa, and likely the entire Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. Masdar City, in continuing development in Abu Dhabi, initially targeted zero-carbon status, but has yet to hit that goal.
The ambitious development agreement was signed last week by the Egyptian Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs, the Italian Ministry of Environment and El Gouna City.
Dr. Laila Iskandar, Egyptian Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, told Trade Arabia, “This agreement will help the Egyptian government to achieve a significant breakthrough in the fields of environment and tourism, enhancing Egypt’s global image and opening the door for Egyptian tourism projects and cities to rank among the leading carbon-neutral entities.”
El Gouna is already hailed as Egypt’s most environmentally-friendly vacation destination. It’s captured Green Globe and Travelife certifications and was selected as the pilot location for the Green Star Hotel Initiative (GSHI).
Launched in 2007, GSHI is a cooperative effort between public and private sectors, the Egyptian and German tourism industries, and supported by key technical consultants. They promote use of environmental management systems and environmentally sound operations to improve environmental performance and to increase competitiveness of the Egyptian hotel industry.
Priority projects include conservation of natural resources such as clean beaches, healthy marine life and protected areas, which are the backbone of the Red Sea Riviera and the nation’s eco-tourism market.
Mr. Hisham Zaazou, Egyptian Minister of Tourism, told Trade Arabia, “We will also be working on implementing this project in other Egyptian cities.”