Inter Press Service » Global Geopolitics http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 05 Feb 2016 23:42:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Argentina and United Arab Emirates Open New Stage in Bilateral Relationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/argentina-and-united-arab-emirates-open-new-stage-in-bilateral-relations/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 23:42:58 +0000 Stephanie Wildes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143816 The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, outside the San Martín Palace in Buenos Aires at the start of their meeting on Friday, Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, outside the San Martín Palace in Buenos Aires at the start of their meeting on Friday, Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

By Stephanie Wildes
Feb 5 2016 (IPS)

With United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s visit to Argentina, the two countries launched a new stage in bilateral relations, kicked off by high-level meetings and a package of accords.

On Friday, Feb. 5 Al Nahyan and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, signed five agreements on taxation, trade and cooperation in the energy industry, after a meeting with other officials, including this country’s finance minister, Alfonso Prat-Gay.

The meeting in the San Martín Palace, the foreign ministry building, addressed “important” aspects of ties with the Gulf nation made up of seven emirates, an Argentine communiqué stated.

Al Nahyan’s visit took the UAE’s contacts to the highest diplomatic level with the new Argentine government of Mauricio Macri, who received the minister Friday in Olivos, his official residence, less than two months after being sworn in as president on Dec. 10.

After the meeting in the foreign ministry, the Emirati minister also met with Argentine Vice President Gabriela Michetti, and visited the Senate.

The day before, Al Nahyan was named guest of honour in Buenos Aires by the city’s mayor, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, with whom he met after the ceremony.

In the meeting between Al Nahyan and Malcorra, a tax information exchange agreement was signed, along with an accord between the Argentine Industrial Union and the UAE Federation of Chambers of Commerce aimed at “establishing a joint business council.”

The foreign ministers of Argentina, Susana Malcorra, and the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, exchange tax agreements signed during their meeting in Buenos Aires on Friday Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The foreign ministers of Argentina, Susana Malcorra, and the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, exchange tax agreements signed during their meeting in Buenos Aires on Friday Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The governor of the southern Argentine province of Neuquén, Omar Gutiérrez, was also present at the meeting, where an agreement was reached to grant a loan to that region to finance the Nahueve hydroelectric project through the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), in the town of Villa del Nahueve.

A four-MW hydroelectric plant will be built in that town of 25,000 people in southern Argentina with an investment of 18 million dollars, through a soft loan, the secretary-general of the Argentine-Arab Chamber of Commerce, Walid al Kaddour, told IPS.

According to the Chamber, trade between the two countries stood at 228 million dollars in 2014, with Argentina exporting nearly 198 million dollars in mainly foodstuffs and steel pipe and tube products.

As Al Kaddour underlined, “there is a great deal of room to grow (in bilateral ties), especially taking into account that the United Arab Emirates is located at a strategic point linking the West with the East.”

He explained that products can be re-exported to all of Asia from the Emirati city of Dubai, because “it is a very important distribution hub.”

The population of the UAE is just barely over nine million, “but it can reach a market of 1.6 billion inhabitants, and it has major logistics infrastructure enabling it to re-export products,” he said.

Al Kaddour said the UAE’s chief interest is importing food, “which is what Argentina mainly produces,” although he said the Gulf nation could also buy raw materials as well as manufactured goods.

The UAE at one point imported up to 1,000 vehicles a year from Argentina, he pointed out.

According to Al Kaddour, another aim of the Emirati minister’s visit was “to meet Argentina’s new administration.”

Macri, of the centre-right “Cambiemos” alliance, succeeded Cristina Fernández of the centre-left Front for Victory, who had strengthened ties with the UAE during an official visit to Abu Dhabi in 2013, where an agreement on cooperation in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes was signed.

“The UAE has pinned strong hopes on the new administration in Argentina,” said Al Kaddour. “The last few years have also been positive in terms of building a friendlier relationship.

“The idea now is to move towards concrete things, such as investment projects in different areas, like renewable energy and agriculture,” he added.

In an article sent to the Argentine daily Clarín, Al Nhayan stressed that “the ties of friendship between Argentina and the United Arab Emirates are strong” and the two countries “are united by shared economic interests.”

He added that “we hope to be able to work with the president, and we believe that together we can bring many benefits to our two countries and our people.”

He also emphasised that his country is seen as “the future gateway for access to Argentine products to the Middle East.”

Emirati sources told IPS that the UAE minister and the Buenos Aires mayor discussed questions such as sustainable urban development and solar energy – an area in which the Gulf nation is interested in cooperating with Argentina.

Although it is a leading oil producer, the UAE is considered a pioneer in the development of unconventional renewable energies, which it is fomenting as the foundation of clean development that will curb climate change.

In Argentina, Al Nahyan kicked off his Latin America tour that will take him to Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica through Feb. 12.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Turkey descends into civil war as conflict in southeast escalateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/turkey-descends-into-civil-war-as-conflict-in-southeast-escalates/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=turkey-descends-into-civil-war-as-conflict-in-southeast-escalates http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/turkey-descends-into-civil-war-as-conflict-in-southeast-escalates/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 05:57:17 +0000 Joris Leverink http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143780 The bullet-ridden Fatih Paşa Mosque in the heart of Diyarbakir's historical Sur district, which was heavily damaged in clashes between Turkish armed forces and local militant youths. Credit: Joris Leverink/IPS

The bullet-ridden Fatih Paşa Mosque in the heart of Diyarbakir's historical Sur district, which was heavily damaged in clashes between Turkish armed forces and local militant youths. Credit: Joris Leverink/IPS

By Joris Leverink
ISTANBUL, Turkey, Feb 4 2016 (IPS)

The latest footage to come out of Sur, the historical district in Diyarbakir that has been under total lock down by Turkish armed forces for the past sixty days, shows a level of devastation one would sooner expect in Syria. In more ways than one – empty streets lined with debris, bombed-out buildings, tanks and soldiers shooting at invisible assailants – the situation in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern regions resembles a war zone.

The Turkish government maintains that it is engaged in a fight against terror. However, the security operations are characterized by a disproportionate use of violence, whereby entire towns and neighborhoods are cut off from the outside world with civilians trapped inside their homes for weeks on end. This has led to calls by international human rights organizations to end the collective punishment of an entire population for the acts of a small minority.

At its second general congress in late January, the key political representative of the Kurdish population in Turkey, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, stressed its determination to seek a peaceful solution to the violent conflict. “If politics can play a role, weapons are not necessary. Where there’s no politics, there will be
weapons,” Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chair of the party summarized the situation.

From autonomy to conflict

In the spring of 2013 hopes were high for a political solution to the decades-old violent conflict between the Turkish state and its Kurdish minority, represented on the battlefield by the leftist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. After years of fighting and tens of thousands deaths, both parties appeared determined to bring the war to an end and engage in peace talks. For almost 2.5 years the fighting ceased. The precarious peace came to an end in the summer of 2015.

As a spillover from the war in Syria, tensions between the Kurds in Turkey and the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, reached a boiling point. In Syria, local Kurds had been fighting off a number of Turkey-backed jihadist and Syrian opposition groups – most prominently the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS. When Kurdish groups in Turkey became the target of two ISIS-linked suicide attacks – in Diyarbakir in June, and Suruç in July – it was the AKP that was held responsible for the onslaught.

The ceasefire broke down and violence escalated quickly. Turkey launched air raids against PKK targets in northern Iraq, in response to which security forces inside Turkey were attacked by Kurdish militants. Having lost their trust in the Turkish state to properly address Kurdish grievances concerning the right to speak and be educated in their mother tongue, to practice their own religion, to be represented politically and to protect the natural environment of their historical homelands, many Kurds instead turned to the ideology of “democratic confederalism”.

Developed by the jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, democratic confederalism promotes the autonomy of local communities and a decentralization of the state.

When towns and neighborhoods across the Kurdish regions of Turkey started declaring their autonomy in the wake of the re-escalated conflict, the Turkish state under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded by sending in the army and declaring dozens of so-called curfews that in practice amount to military sieges. Besides hundreds of casualties among the army and Kurdish militants, around two hundred civilians are believed to have been killed in the past six months.

Bleak prospects for peace

After the HDP became the first party with roots in the Kurdish freedom movement to pass the exceedingly high electoral threshold of 10 per cent at the parliamentary elections in June – and again at the snap elections in November – it has come under severe pressure from the political establishment. President Erdogan personally suggested that the HDP representatives ought to be stripped from their immunity so that they could be prosecuted for supporting terrorism.

Nonetheless, the party refuses to succumb to the intimidation and has consistently called for a peaceful and democratic solution to the conflict. “Despite all the oppression, a new democratic model is emerging,” HDP co-chair Figen Yüksedağ said in her speech at the congress. “This model continues to gain support, even while under attack. The HDP has a historical responsibility to bring this project to a successful end.”

Her co-chair Demirtaş added the warning that “If we fail to produce a solution for the end of the violence, it is the end of politics in Turkey.” Unfortunately, prospects for a political solution are bleak. Mayors and political representatives of the towns and districts where the population has called for autonomy are prosecuted and jailed. At the same time President Erdogan warned that, “It should be known that we will bring the whole world down on those who seek to establish a state within a state under the name of autonomy and self-governance.”

Prime Minister Davutoğlu recently vowed to continue the military operations until “our mountains, plains and towns are cleansed of these killers.” This type of uncompromising discourse from the country’s two most powerful political leaders instills little hope that the government is prepared to return to the negotiation table any time soon. The Kurds, both at home and across the border in Syria, are seen as the biggest threat to the territorial integrity of Turkey, and to stop this perceived threat no price is too high.

In the same way that Turkey has refused to allow the Syrian Kurds a seat at the negotiation table in Geneva, it is refusing to enter into dialogue with the Kurds at home.

The multiple references to Syria in this article are no coincidence; if the Turkish government continues to ignore all but a military solution to the current unrest, there is a very real threat that part of the country will soon resemble its southern neighbor.

The HDP’s invitation is there. In the words of co-chair Demirtaş: “Dialogue and negotiation should be the method when the public is under threat. Strengthening democracy is the only way to save Turkey from disaster.”

(End)

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The Fearful World of Network News in 2015http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-fearful-world-of-network-news-in-2015/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-fearful-world-of-network-news-in-2015 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-fearful-world-of-network-news-in-2015/#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 12:33:48 +0000 Jim Lobe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143698 Andrew Tyndall

Andrew Tyndall

By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON, Jan 26 2016 (IPS)

If your view of world events outside the U.S. was shaped in substantial part by watching the evening news shows on the three major U.S. networks last year, you’d probably want to stay home.

Terrorism and the bloody wars of the Middle East dominated the network news coverage of the world outside our borders last year, according to the latest annual summary of the authoritative Tyndall Report, which was released just last week. Domestically, it was pretty scary, too, with two of the year’s three top domestic stories featuring Donald Trump’s ugly presidential primary campaign and last month’s San Bernardino massacre, which was allegedly inspired by the Islamic State (ISIS or IS).

As in virtually every year since 9/11, Latin America, Africa, and East Asia (which includes China, Japan, and the Koreas) barely registered in the networks’ universe. Global warming—arguably the greatest existential threat facing our way of life—made only a cameo appearance in the guise of last month’s Paris climate summit, despite today’s New York Times headline: “2015 Was Hottest Year in Historical Record.” Unfortunately, the Paris summit coincided with the San Bernardino massacre, which received eight times the coverage.

As noted by Andrew Tyndall, the Report’s publisher, in an email exchange today,

This last year has been especially narrow in the range of international stories, in that few stories that are unrelated either to terrorism or to the Middle East (or both) have attracted attention. No Ebola. No Fukushima. The excitement around the new pope is starting to subside. No royal wedding. No Olympic Games. …Europe has received prominent coverage. However, the three biggest European stories (Charlie Hebdo, the refugee crisis, the Paris concert massacre) can be portrayed as spillovers from Mideast tensions. All three of these major European storylines fit neatly into fearful narratives made by domestic politicians.

Aside from the tragic death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s largest continent with a population of a billion people, didn’t exist in the evening news universe
Tyndall has been tracking and cataloguing the evening news broadcasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC each weekday since 1988. That comes to roughly 22 minutes for each network per evening, or nearly 15,000 minutes a year for all three weekday evening shows combined. (The total this year was 14,574 minutes.) His findings are considered the most authoritative publicly available source on network news coverage.

Although citizens increasingly rely on the Internet for national and international news, the network evening news remains the single biggest source, attracting a nightly audience of around 24 million viewers, according to the latest report by the Pew Research Center on Journalism and the Media. By comparison, the average primetime audience for all cable news channels combined is a mere 3.5 million. Thus, the news priorities reflected in the amount of attention the three networks devote to national and international trends and events exert a significant influence on how much of the U.S. citizenry sees the world. In other words, the nightly evening network news offers the closest thing we have to a collective national window on what is happening beyond our borders. Which is why it’s important.

 

The Highlights

Each year, Tyndall publishes a one-page summary of highlights, including the 20 stories to which the three networks devoted the most time in their coverage. The summary also notes more general findings. In 2015, for example, the three networks provided a combined total of 941 minutes to foreign policy coverage (not to be confused with coverage from overseas). Not only was that a mere 6.5% of total news coverage, it was slightly less than half of the annual average between 1988 and 2014. This could reflect the gravitational pull of the 2016 presidential campaign and/or the perception by network news gatekeepers that the public is increasingly uninterested in or fed up with foreign policy issues.

In any event, here are the top 20 and the combined number of minutes they received from the three networks. Together, they accounted for 3,422 minutes of the three networks’ coverage, or less than 25% of total evening news coverage.

Winter weather                                     377

Donald Trump campaign                     327

San Bernardino shootings                     237

Islamic State declared by ISIS             220

Terrorism in Paris: concert massacre   188

Refugees to the European Union         174

Police: lethal Baltimore arrest             174

Forest fires in western states                161

Boston Marathon bombing trial           160

NFL post-season: deflated balls           145

Pope Francis visits to Cuba and USA   142

Syria civil war                                       136

Iran nuclear program negotiations       132

Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris         132

New York prison escape                       131

Republican presidential debates           123

Hillary Clinton campaign                     121

AMC church massacre in Charleston   117

Germanwings jet crash in Alps              114

Iraq civil war/ISIS in Iraq                     113

 

Some of the top stories are obviously related to each other, although Tyndall is very careful about not double-counting stories. For example, Trump clearly factored heavily in the Republican presidential debates, but the minutes devoted to his contribution to that debate would not have been included in the category of the Trump campaign itself. The EU’s refugee crisis was obviously related to the wars in Syria and Iraq, not to mention IS.

Thus, among the 20 most-covered stories, the 2016 campaign garnered 571 minutes (Trump, Republican debate, Clinton). But terrorist acts or organizations claimed five of the top 20, at nearly 1,000 minutes (San Bernardino, the Islamic State, two Paris stories, the Boston Marathon trial), and that doesn’t count the civil wars in Syria and Iraq or the Charleston church massacre. Those, plus the Germanwings jet crash, alleged police brutality in Baltimore, the prison escape, and the huge refugee influx into Europe, make for a pretty scary world (not to mention the heavily fear-based Trump campaign itself or other fear-mongering Republicans).

Indeed, the only good news that featured in the top 20 last year was the Pope’s visit, the Iran nuclear agreement (albeit not for Bibi Netanyahu and his followers here), and deflated footballs if you care passionately about Tom Brady. Of course, as Tyndall suggests, by depicting such a frightening world, the networks are—presumably unconsciously—propagating a fundamentally far-right narrative that can only benefit Republicans during this year’s campaign.

 

A Closer Look at the Numbers

To help draw a more complete picture of the networks’ view of the world outside the United States, I asked Tyndall for the statistics on the top foreign stories of the year. They comprised 41 of the top 150 stories, including nine that appeared in the top 20 cited above. The results:

 

Islamic State in Middle East declared by ISIS220
Paris terrorism: stadium, restaurant, concert attacks188
European Union faces influx of refugees and migrants174
Pope Francis I visits Cuba and United States142
Syria politics: rebellion designated as civil war136
Iran nuclear weapons program prevention talks132
Paris magazine offices assassination: 12 dead132
Germanwings 9525 crash in French Alps: 150 dead114
Iraq: combat resumes after US troops pull out113
Afghanistan’s Taliban regime aftermath, fighting85
Nepal earthquake levels Kathmandu: Richter 7.870
Metrojet charter flight crash over Sinai Desert59
Moslems in western nations recruited by terrorists48
Malaysia Airlines 370 missing: Indian Ocean search43
Cuba-US diplomacy: relations normalized42
Air Asia 8501 crash over Java Sea kills 16239
Zimbabwe nature preserve celebrity lion killed37
Soccer: FIFA Women’s World Cup won by USA33
Yemen civil war32
British royals coverage32
Global warming climate change: Paris Summit30
High-speed train on-board attack foiled in Belgium30
International Space Station mission in orbit30
Libya: US diplomats assassinated in Benghazi29
Belgium terrorism: surveillance in Brussels suburb28
Ukraine civil war: secessionist fighting in east28
Tunisia terrorism: beach resort shooting spree26
El Nino current forms in Pacific Ocean25
Syrian-American immigration: seek refugee status25
CIA drone kills Americans in raid on Pakistan25
Diesel engine pollution tests rigged by Volkswagen24
Cargo ship SS El Faro founders off The Bahamas23
Israel-Palestinian conflict22
Cuba-US sanctions relaxed: more trade, travel22
Syria refugees flee abroad to overcrowded camps21
Greece politics: referendum on fiscal austerity20
Hurricane Patricia forms in Pacific off Mexico20
Syria archeology: antiquities looted, vandalized20
Vietnam War remembered20
Nazi Holocaust remembered19

 

This is essentially the image that most Americans received from their most popular source of international news. Is it any wonder that so many foreigners are shocked by how little Americans know about their home countries or regions?

There’s obviously some good news in this list—including the normalization of relations with Cuba, the climate treaty in Paris, the International Space Station, the perennial British royals story (maybe that’s bad news, I don’t know), the US women’s victory in the World Cup. Again, this picture is pretty scary. But there are a few things worth noting (and I’m sure you will find many more):

 

  • The list contains absolutely nothing about China, including its economic troubles, its build-up in the South China Sea, its environmental or minority problems, its crackdown against outspoken dissidents and lawyers— or really the rest of East Asia.
  • A grand total of 22 minutes is devoted to the Israel-Palestine conflict despite the violence that has been going on since October and shows no sign of abating, not to mention the increasingly right-wing nature of the Israeli government or the clear disdain in which Obama and Netanyahu mutually hold themselves.
  • Aside from Cuba, there’s no real mention of anything related to Latin America. And normalization with Cuba—a historic development that effectively ended nearly 60 years of hostility—rated a grand total of 66 minutes on all three networks. By comparison, deflate gate and the NFL got 145 minutes, more than twice as much! At least, the Pope gave it some additional attention, albeit not much.
  • Aside from the tragic death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s largest continent with a population of a billion people, didn’t exist in the evening news universe. Not even for acts of terrorism carried out by Boko Haram or any other group affiliated with al-Qaeda or IS! This, of course, upholds the long-enduring Victorian notion that the only good things about Africa are its animals.
  • Despite the increased threat posed by the Taliban, as well as the belatedly reported death of Mullah Omar and the decision by Obama to put off a final withdrawal, Afghanistan didn’t make the top 20, receiving a grand total of only one hour and 25 minutes in the evening news for all of 2015.
  • Yemen’s devastating war garnered a total of 32 minutes, ten minutes more than the Israel-Palestine conflict.

 

Tyndall on the News

I asked Andrew Tyndall to comment on some of these observations, and here are some excerpts of our emailed interview:

Lobe: Did you see any greater effort on the part of the newscasters in 2015 to link the weather or weather-related disasters to global warming than in previous years?

Tyndall: I see no evidence of it. First, because gradual, secular weather events (the drought in California, El Nino in the Pacific) received less coverage than extreme, sudden weather events (winter storms, tornadoes, wildfires, flash floods). Second, because the Paris Summit on Climate Change was undercovered, since it coincided with the San Bernardino office party massacre, which eclipsed it.

Lobe: East Asia appears to have been almost entirely ignored in 2015, despite tensions between China and its neighbors in the South and East China Seas? Was this different than or consistent with coverage of the last few years when these territorial claims became more salient? What do you think are the implications of the lack of coverage?

Tyndall: Yes, the military tensions over marine territorial rights have barely been mentioned. The driving force to make such tensions newsworthy is usually not an editorial decision by news executives, but a political decision by an administration in power. In other words, the news tends to follow the Pentagon, reacting to its initiatives, rather than alerting the public, so that it can understand the issues at stake in advance of a debate over such initiatives.

Over the past 25-or-so years of my database, it is a rule of thumb that Republican administrations tend to be more bellicose in addressing overseas disputes, which leads to newscasts being more active in following them. In other words, we can expect coverage of the South China Seas to escalate if and when the US Navy is dispatched to confront the Chinese military in those waters. Lack of coverage, therefore, is a reassuring sign that we are not gearing up for a war with the People’s Republic.

Lobe: And what do you make of the absence of Africa coverage except for the lion?

Tyndall: Yes, given that terrorism and Islamist insurgencies are popular themes for the newscasts to cover, I would have expected more attention paid to Boko Haram and al-Shabaab. I have no problem with the attention paid to Cedric the lion and the Minnesota dentist [who killed him]. A perfect summer sensation.

Lobe: And Latin America except for Cuba?

Tyndall: With reference to Spanish-speaking Latin America, one of the unfortunate consequences of the success of Univision in providing news to Hispanic-Americans is that the Anglophone newscasts act as though their coverage would be duplicative. Thus, the end of the civil war in Colombia was hardly mentioned. The crisis of legitimacy and narco-corruption of the Mexican government only broke through onto English-speaking airwaves through the figure of El Chapo.

One of the advantages to the publicity and promotion around the Olympic Games is that resources and personnel are on site to cover non-sporting-related issues that would normally be ignored. I anticipate that the Zika virus will be the first of several stories to come out of Brazil this year, to coincide with the Rio Olympic Games.

For Mexican-US immigration policy: see Trump, D.

Lobe: Yemen got only 32 minutes despite the fact that it’s in the most heavily covered foreign region, its depiction as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the presence (and apparent expansion) there of al-Qaeda and IS? Any comment?

Tyndall: Logistically, Yemen is a very difficult country to cover. Its undercoverage belongs in the same category as Boko Haram and al-Shabaab. The rumblings of a possible third intifada on the West Bank also received surprisingly little airtime. I ascribe the lack of interest in covering the proxy Iran-Saudi war to two factors. First (as with the South China Sea) is the Pentagon’s lack of enthusiasm for getting involved. Second, the true anxieties associated with turmoil in the region are associated with symptoms (the spread of terrorism and refugees) not underlying causes (struggles for sectarian and regional hegemony).

 

This piece was originally published in Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy Lobelog.com

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Western Powers Protect Arms Markets Ignoring Civilian Killingshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/western-powers-protect-arms-markets-ignoring-civilian-killings/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=western-powers-protect-arms-markets-ignoring-civilian-killings http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/western-powers-protect-arms-markets-ignoring-civilian-killings/#comments Thu, 14 Jan 2016 22:06:32 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143598 Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 14 2016 (IPS)

The West continues its strong political and military support to one of its longstanding allies in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia –- despite withering criticism of the kingdom’s battlefield excesses in the ongoing war in neighbouring Yemen.

A Saudi-led coalition has been accused of using banned cluster bombs, bombing civilian targets and destroying hospitals – either by accident or by design—using weapons provided primarily by the US, UK and France.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said last week the armed conflict in Yemen continues to take a terrible toll on civilians, with at least 81 civilians reportedly killed and 109 injured in December.

As a result, the toll of civilian casualties, recorded between 26 March and 31 December 2015, are estimated at more than 8,000 people, including nearly 2,800 killed and more than 5,300 wounded.

But Western powers — which are quick to condemn and impose sanctions on countries accused of civilian killings– have refused to take any drastic action against Saudi Arabia or its coalition partners, including Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

The Saudi stranglehold is increasingly linked to a thriving multi-billion dollar arms market — with British, French and mostly American military suppliers providing sophisticated weapons, including state-of-the-art fighter planes, helicopters, missiles, battle tanks and electronic warfare systems.

The arms supplying countries, for obvious reasons, are unwilling to jeopardize their markets, specifically Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi arsenal alone includes Boeing F-15 fighter planes (US supplied), Tornado strike aircraft (UK), Aerospatiale Puma and Dauphin attack helicopters (French), Bell, Apache and Sikorsky helicopters (US), Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning Control System (US), Sidewinder, Sparrow and Stinger missiles (US) and Abrams and M60 battle tanks (US).

Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, a Senior Research Fellow with the Security Studies Programme in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told IPS that for years, the US government has documented Saudi human rights abuses in its own reports, including the State Department.

“Yet the United States continues to provide a largely open-ended weapons supply line to the Saudi government. It’s time for the US government to act in accordance with the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and with its own laws and suspend arms transfers to Saudi Arabia,” she said.

She argued US weapons manufacturers’ profit motives for continuing massive weapons sales to Saudi Arabia should not drive US military and foreign policy.

“The US Defense Department may benefit in the short term by keeping some weapons supply lines open with foreign orders. But the risks to US military personnel and US interests should be given far greater weight in decision making,” said Goldring who also represents the Acronym Institute on conventional weapons and arms transfer issues, at the United Nations.

The current issue of Time magazine says Saudi Arabia continues to spend a bigger portion of its economy on defence than any other nation (11 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) compared with 3.5 percent by the US).

“It burns through $6 billion a month to bomb Yemen, an ill-advised war that has come to define the abrupt change brought by King Salman since he assumed the throne a year ago,” said Time.

But future military spending is likely to falter due to a sharp decline in oil prices—dropping to less than $30 per barrel this week, down from $110 in early 2014.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, from 2010-2014, the United Kingdom and the United States were Saudi Arabia’s top weapons suppliers.

The United Kingdom accounted for 36 percent of the Saudis’ weapons deliveries, just edging out the United States, which accounted for 35 percent of Saudi weapons imports. France was a distant third at 6 percent.

In an article in Counter Punch published last November, William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project the Center for International Policy and a senior adviser to the Security Assistance Monitor, said the recent surge in US arms transfers to the Middle East is part of an unprecedented boom in major US arms sales that has been presided over by the administration of President Barack Obama.

“The majority of the Obama administration’s major arms sales have gone to the Middle East and Persian Gulf, with Saudi Arabia topping the list with over $49 billion in new agreements.”

“This is particularly troubling given the complex array of conflicts raging throughout the region, and given the Saudi regime’s use of U.S.-supplied weaponry in its military intervention in Yemen,” Hartung said.

He also pointed out that the Obama administration has made arms sales a central tool of its foreign policy, in part as a way of exerting military influence without having to put “boots on the ground” in large numbers, as the Bush administration did in Iraq—with disastrous consequences.

“The Obama administration’s push for more Mideast arms sales has been a bonanza for U.S. weapons contractors, who have made increased exports a primary goal as Pentagon spending levels off. Not only do foreign sales boost company profits, but they also help keep open production lines that would otherwise have to close due to declining orders from the Pentagon,” said Hartung.

For example, he pointed out, earlier this year it was reported that Boeing had concluded a deal to sell 40 F-18s to Kuwait, which will extend the life of the programme for another year or more beyond its current projected end date of early 2017.

Similarly, the General Dynamics M-1 tank has been surviving on a combination of Congressional add-ons and a deal for tanks and tank upgrades for Saudi Arabia.

“But it’s not just about money. U.S.-supplied arms are fueling conflict in the region. The most troubling recent sales is a deal in the works that would supply $1 billion or more in bombs and missiles for the Saudi Air Force, again for use in the Yemen war,” Hartung added.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in the Canadian capital of Ottawa last month demanding the cancellation of a hefty 10.5 billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia which included light armoured military vehicles.

The contract, signed by the previous government, was described as one of the largest arms deals between Canada and Saudi Arabia.

The protest was triggered by the execution of 47 prisoners, including a Shiite cleric, on terrorism charges.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, who dismissed the protest, was quoted as saying: “What is done is done and the contract is not something that we’ll revisit.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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TAIWAN: Polls Harken End of Nuclear Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/taiwan-polls-harken-end-of-nuclear-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=taiwan-polls-harken-end-of-nuclear-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/taiwan-polls-harken-end-of-nuclear-power/#comments Wed, 13 Jan 2016 13:51:11 +0000 Dennis Engbarth http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143575 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/taiwan-polls-harken-end-of-nuclear-power/feed/ 0 Cubans Want to Know When They Will Feel the Effects of Thaw with U.S.http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/locals-want-to-know-when-they-will-feel-the-effects-of-the-u-s-cuban-thaw/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=locals-want-to-know-when-they-will-feel-the-effects-of-the-u-s-cuban-thaw http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/locals-want-to-know-when-they-will-feel-the-effects-of-the-u-s-cuban-thaw/#comments Wed, 16 Dec 2015 17:54:34 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143375 A group of women wait their turn to buy rationed food that is sold at subsidised prices, at a government shop in Havana, Cuba on Nov. 21, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A group of women wait their turn to buy rationed food that is sold at subsidised prices, at a government shop in Havana, Cuba on Nov. 21, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Dec 16 2015 (IPS)

While the normalisation of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba is moving ahead, and the U.S. and Cuban flags have been proudly waving in Havana and Washington, respectively, since last July, the year gone by since the thaw has left many unanswered questions.

“You shouldn’t ask me, because in my view, nothing has changed,” one slightly angry middle-aged man told IPS while waiting his turn in a barbershop. In a nearby farmers’ market, a woman asked, loudly so that everyone could hear, why a pound of tomatoes cost 25 pesos (nearly a dollar).

Many Cubans feel that they don’t have much to celebrate this Dec. 17, the first anniversary of the day Presidents Raúl Castro of Cuba and Barack Obama of the United States took the world by surprise with their decision to reestablish diplomatic relations, severed in January 1961.

People who got excited about the idea that their daily lives would begin to improve after more than half a century of hostile relations are ending the year with public sector salaries that do not even cover their basic food needs.

The Cuban press reported that Marino Murillo, minister of economy and planning and vice president of the Council of Ministers, admitted at a recent session of the provincial legislature of Havana that the overall economic indicators in the capital had improved, but that this has not yet been reflected in the day-to-day lives of local residents.

The thaw has, however, had a positive impact on tourism, by giving a boost to emerging private enterprises like room rentals and small restaurants, options chosen by many visitors interested in getting to know Cuban society up close.

According to official statistics, in the first half of 2015 this country of 11.2 million people was visited by 1,923,326 people, compared to 1,660,110 in the first half of 2014. Visitors from other parts of Latin America can be frequently heard saying that they wanted to come to Cuba before the “invasion” of tourists from the U.S.

People from the United States can only travel to Cuba with special permits, for religious, cultural, journalistic or educational purposes, or for “people-to-people” contacts. Experts project that 145,000 people from the U.S. will have visited the country this year – 50,000 more than in 2014.

Two primary school students walk by a group of foreign tourists in a plaza in Old Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Two primary school students walk by a group of foreign tourists in a plaza in Old Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The ban on travel to Cuba for the purpose of tourism and the embargo that Washington has had in place against this socialist country since 1962 are among the pending issues to resolve in the process of normalisation of ties promoted over the last year by official visitors to Cuba who have included Secretary of State John Kerry, two other members of Obama’s cabinet, and three state governors.

“Beyond a number of grandiloquent headlines, everything remains to be done,” Cuban journalist and academic Salvador Salazar, who is earning a PhD in Mexico, told IPS. In his view, only the first few steps have been taken towards “what should be a civilised relationship marked by talking instead of shouting, and debating instead of attacking.”

Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas, concurred that after 55 years of hostile and dangerous relations, the governments of the two countries are learning how to respect each other.

“…[I]f 2015 was about both governments learning to treat each other with dignity and respect, 2016 has to be about building on that progress and using diplomacy to create lasting benefits for both countries in order to make the changes we are seeing irreversible and the further changes we want inevitable,” she told IPS by email.

In September, a binational commission created after the official restoration of diplomatic relations and the reopening of embassies defined the issues for starting talks aimed at clearing the path towards normalisation, including communications, drug trafficking, health, civil aviation and maritime security.

Human rights, human trafficking and demands for compensation by both sides were other questions on the agendas outlined by the delegations from the two countries. The list also includes immigration, an issue that has been discussed for years in periodic talks held to review progress on agreements signed in 1994 and 1995.

The talks about the agreements aimed at ensuring “safe, legal and orderly” immigration are not free of tension, given the Cuban government’s frustrated demand for the repeal of the U.S. Cuban Adjustment Act’s “wet foot, dry foot” policy and other regulations that according to authorities here encourage illegal migration.

Washington has reiterated that it will not modify its immigration policy towards Cuba. The anniversary of the start of the thaw finds some 5,000 Cuban immigrants stranded at border crossings in Costa Rica without any apparent solution, in their quest to reach the United States by means of a route that takes them through Central America and Mexico.

John Gronbeck-Tedesco, assistant professor of American Studies at Ramapo College in New Jersey, believes the Obama administration is doing its part to clear the way towards reconciliation, and says the talks held so far have calmed the “anti-normalisation rhetoric.”

But the academic says he does not yet see a climate favourable to the lifting of the embargo, which can only be done by the U.S. Congress, “especially” given the fact that 2016 is an election year.

According to the Cuban government, the embargo has hindered this country’s development and has caused 121.192 billion dollars in damages over the past five decades.

“I think that before Congress takes up the matter, however, the significant issue of debts still owed will need to be settled more clearly,” added the analyst, referring to the question of compensation that the two countries began to discuss in a Dec. 8 “informational” session in Havana.

“The U.S. has a price for Cuban American property and investments lost (nationalised) due to the revolution, and Cuba has a number in mind regarding the economic harm caused by the embargo. These debts are as politically symbolic as they are materially real for both interested parties,” added Gronbeck-Tedesco, without mentioning specific figures.

In an interview with the press published Monday Dec. 14, Obama reiterated his interest in visiting Cuba, although only if “I get to talk to everybody”.

He said that in his conversations with Castro he has made it clear that “we would continue to reach out to those who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression inside of Cuba.”

The two leaders have spoken by phone at least twice and met in person for the first time on Apr. 11, at the seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama. And on Sep. 29 in New York they held the first official meeting between the presidents of the two countries since the 1959 Cuban revolution.

*With reporting by Ivet González in Havana.

Edited by Verónica Firme/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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New Poll Highlights Need for Reform in the Middle Easthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/new-poll-highlights-need-for-reform-in-the-middle-east/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-poll-highlights-need-for-reform-in-the-middle-east http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/new-poll-highlights-need-for-reform-in-the-middle-east/#comments Mon, 14 Dec 2015 17:23:22 +0000 Derek Davison http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143335 Queuing up to vote in Cairo. Credit: Khaled Moussa al-Omrani/IPS.

Queuing up to vote in Cairo. Credit: Khaled Moussa al-Omrani/IPS.

By Derek Davison
WASHINGTON, Dec 14 2015 (IPS)

A new public opinion survey undertaken in six Arab countries, Iran, and Turkey finds that people are more likely to blame “corrupt, repressive, and unrepresentative governments” and “religious figures and groups promoting extremist ideas and/or incorrect religious interpretations” for the rise of violent groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State than they are to blame “anger at the United States.”

These findings are the result of a series of face-to-face polls conducted by Zogby Research Services on a commission from the Sir Bani Yas Forum in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and released at a Middle East Institute-sponsored event on Wednesday. In September, ZRS interviewed a total of 7,400 adults across eight countries—Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE—on a broad range of topics, including the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen; the Israel-Palestine situation; the Iranian nuclear deal; and the threat of religious extremism. Respondents in Iran and Iraq were also asked a separate series of questions about internal affairs in those countries.

the two most commonly cited factors in the development of religious extremism were “corrupt governments” and “extremist and/or incorrect religious ideas"
With respect to Israel-Palestine, the poll found that people in five of the six surveyed Arab nations are less likely to support a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace deal now than they were back in 2009, when Zogby International’s “Six-Nation Arab Opinion Poll” asked a similar question of respondents in those five countries. In Egypt, which has seen the sharpest decline in support for a peace deal, almost two-thirds of respondents said that they would oppose a peace deal “even if the Israelis agree to return all of the territories and agree to resolve the refugee issue,” compared with only 8% who answered similarly in the 2009 survey. This represents a potential risk for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has worked to improve Egyptian-Israeli relations despite the apparent feelings of most of the Egyptian public. Similar, albeit smaller, shifts were seen in Jordan (where 24% oppose a deal today, compared with 13% in 2009), Lebanon (30% vs. 18%), Saudi Arabia (36% vs. 18%), and the UAE (19% vs. 8%). Iraq was not part of the 2009 survey, but 59% of respondents in this survey said that they would also oppose a comprehensive peace deal with Israel.

On Iran and the P5+1 nuclear deal, the poll reveals several divergences in terms of the way Arabs and Iranians approach the deal’s terms. Majorities in Egypt (63%), Jordan (53%), Saudi Arabia (62%), and the UAE (91%) said that the deal would be “only good for Iran, but bad for the Arab states,” and that they were “not confident” that the deal will keep Iran from developing a “nuclear weapons program.” Large majorities in Egypt (90%) and Saudi Arabia (66%) predicted that any additional revenue that Iran sees as a result of sanctions relief would primarily go to “support its military and political interference in regional affairs.”

Inside Iran, on the other hand, 80% of respondents said that they “supported” the deal, but 68% agreed that it was a “bad idea” for the Iranian government to accept limits on its nuclear program—or, as ZRS managing director John Zogby put it at the poll’s roll-out event, “they’re for the deal, but they don’t like it.” On the question of whether Iran should have nuclear weapons, roughly 68% of Iranians said that it should, either because Iran “is a major nation” or because “as long as other countries have nuclear weapons, we need them also.” However, the percentage of Iranians saying that their country should have nuclear weapons “because it is a major nation” declined from 49% in 2014 to only 20% this year, and the percentage of Iranians who said that “nuclear weapons are always wrong and so no country, including my own, should have them” rose from 14% last year to 32% this year.

Meanwhile, in contrast with Arab fears about Iranian expansionism, Iranians themselves seem to be growing increasingly isolationist. Just 19% of Iranian respondents agreed with the statement “my country should be the dominant player in the Gulf region,” while a plurality, 44%, agreed with the statement “my country should not be involved in the Gulf region; it should focus on internal matters.” And whereas majorities of Iranians agreed that Iran should be involved in Syria (73%), Lebanon (72%), Iraq (64%), and Bahrain (57%), those numbers each declined sharply (by 10% or more) from last year, and a majority of Iranians (57%) now oppose Iran’s involvement in Yemen (which had 62% support last year). For Iranians, “the first priority is always economic, followed by greater political freedom,” the Atlantic Council’s Barbara Slavin pointed out, “there is not and has never been a huge enthusiasm for intervention in what Iranians call ‘Arab causes.’”

Still, it was in the area of extremism and its causes where the poll generated its most interesting findings. When asked to rate eight factors on a 1-5 scale (where 1 means “very important factor”) in terms of their importance as a driver of religious extremism, respondents in all eight countries gave “anger at the U.S.” the fewest number of ones and twos, although that factor was still rated as important by a majority of respondents in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Turkey. Zogby argued that this was a sign that Barack Obama’s attempt to leave a “softer U.S. footprint in the region pays off.” However, when asked whether the United States is playing a positive or negative role in combating extremist sectarian violence, large majorities in each country said that the U.S. was playing a negative role.

Instead, the two most commonly cited factors in the development of religious extremism were “corrupt governments” and “extremist and/or incorrect religious ideas.” Other commonly cited factors, like “lack of education,” “poverty,” and “youth alienation” also speak to a consistent sense that extremism is an internal problem stemming from poor governance. Majorities in each of the eight countries except Iran agreed that “countering the messages and ideas promoted by recruiters for extremist groups” and “changing the political and social realities that cause young people to be attracted to extremist ideals” were “most important” in terms of defeating violent extremist groups like the Islamic State. Within Iraq, majorities from all three of the country’s major ethno-religious groups (Sunni Arabs, Shi’a Arabs, and Kurds) agreed that “forming a more inclusive, representative government” is the best way to resolve the conflict there, but even larger majorities from each group said that they were “not confident” that such a government will be formed within the next five years.

As with any public opinion poll, these results must be considered with the caveat that respondents may have different ideas about the concepts in question. One respondent in one country may define “corrupt government” or “extreme religious ideas” much differently than another respondent in another country. Theoretical public support for a “Joint Arab Force,” which the poll showed was consistent across all six Arab countries surveyed, could break down very quickly if such a force were really to be formed and then deployed in an actual conflict zone. Middle East Institute scholar Hassan Mneimneh noted that “even when elements seem to align, we’re not necessarily in alignment.”

This piece was originally published in Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy Lobelog.com

 

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Middle East Part II – 99.5 Years of (Imposed) Solitudehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/middle-east-part-ii-99-5-years-of-imposed-solitude/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=middle-east-part-ii-99-5-years-of-imposed-solitude http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/middle-east-part-ii-99-5-years-of-imposed-solitude/#comments Fri, 04 Dec 2015 07:47:51 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143218 In this Part II of a two-part series, Egyptian-born, Spanish-national, secular journalist Baher Kamal tries to “de-mythify” some of the most common stereotypes circulating around the Middle East region. Here he explains some of the roots of its drama. Part I focused on: The Eternally Over-Written, Under-Reported Middle East: Of Arabs and Muslims]]>

In this Part II of a two-part series, Egyptian-born, Spanish-national, secular journalist Baher Kamal tries to “de-mythify” some of the most common stereotypes circulating around the Middle East region. Here he explains some of the roots of its drama. Part I focused on: The Eternally Over-Written, Under-Reported Middle East: Of Arabs and Muslims

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Dec 4 2015 (IPS)

One hundred years ago, on 6 May 1916, two men, Briton Sir Mark Sykes and French diplomat François Georges-Picot, were entrusted by their respective governments with a rather exceptional task.

Baher Kamal

Baher Kamal

That task, which initially counted with the assent of the Tsarist Russia, was to divide among these powers the “inherence” of the still alive, though decadent Ottoman Empire. In short, to define Britain, France and Russia’s coming spheres of influence and control in their “new” Middle East, should this “Triple Entente” succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

The deal was crowned with a brand new Middle East map that has divided the by then existing nations into artificial states.

In virtue of that agreement, Britain was allocated control of areas comprising the coastal strip between the Mediterranean Sea and River Jordan, Jordan, South of Iraq, and a tiny area including the ports of Haifa and Acre to allow access to the Mediterranean.

France was allocated control of Southeastern Turkey, Northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

An “international administration” was proposed for Palestine.

Supposedly, Russia was to mainly get Istanbul and the Turkish Straits.

The Ottoman Empire finally collapsed during the second decade of last century; a new, secular Turkey was born, and two self-proclaimed heirs of its territories and influences –Britain and France- implemented their Sykes-Picot agreement.

London and Paris rapidly managed to immediately “offialise” – not equivalent to “legitimise” – their unilateral plans. The League of Nations would, therefore, put new-born Syria and Lebanon under France’s mandate. Jordan, Iraq and Palestine would de allocated to Britain. And Egypt, among others, would be under British mandate.

What Happened Then?

In his “Four Key Reasons to Understand the Irresistible Attraction of Radical Islam,” IPS founder and Other News publisher, Roberto Savio has rightly managed to summarise the most dramatic consequences of the Sykes-Picot agreement.

“First of all, all the Arab countries are artificial. In May 1916, Monsieur Picot for France and Lord Sykes for Britain met and agreed on a secret treaty, with the support of the Russian Empire and the Italian Kingdom, on how to carve up the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War.

“Thus the Arab countries of today were born as the result of a division by France and Britain with no consideration for ethnic and religious realities or for history. A few of those countries, like Egypt, had an historical identity, but countries like Iraq, Arabia Saudi, Jordan, or even the Emirates lacked even that.

“It is worth remembering that the Kurdish issue of 30 million people divided among four countries was created by European powers.

“The colonial powers installed kings and sheiks in the countries that they created. To run these artificial countries, strong hands were required. So, from the very beginning, there was a total lack of participation of the people, with a political system which was totally out of sync with the process of democracy that was happening in Europe.

“With a European blessing, these countries were frozen in feudal times.”

States vs Nations

Two key issues come out of this analysis:

1. The fact that Western powers usually confuse the concept of “Nation” with that of “State”. Such confusion, apart from wrongful, could be due to either a historic negligence of the impact on their colonies, or be made following the famous “Divide and Rule” doctrine.

A “Nation” is made of a homogeneous group of people sharing common ethnic roots, language, beliefs, traditions and ways of life. Nation is a human, social, ethnic concept. A “State”, instead, is usually a “geographical” artificial grouping of peoples of different roots.

In the case of the Middle East, Syria and Lebanon, for instance, appeared as “States” following the British-French colonial policies, which were implemented as a consequence of the Sykes-Picot agreement.

Since then, the Middle East “new States” would divide the Kurds mainly between Turkey, Iraq and Syria; would force parts of Shii and Sunni to live under one flag, and would group diverse ethnic groups within the limits of artificial borders.

A State like Lebanon, for instance, is made of up to 18 different major and minor communities. Can you image a European State with less than six million inhabitants belonging to such a high number of different communities?

Inter-community, externally-fed tensions would necessarily be unavoidable. And all parties in conflict would be duly armed with Western weapons, and some of them with Russian armaments.

All that while a good number of Arab regimes have been used to blindly hear and listen to the their (Western) Master’s Voice. If they did otherwise, they would immediately be kicked out.

No wonder then that there have been, are and will always be big internal tensions in the region. Not to mention the huge business of oil and weapons and the big power games.

2. The second reason, which has been mentioned by Savio in his analysis as a consequence of the first one, is also clear:

“The colonial powers installed kings and sheiks in the countries that they created. To run these artificial countries, strong hands were required.”

In the case of the North of Africa – specifically Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt as well as Sudan – these have been systematically ruled by military regimes that used oppression, suppression of freedoms, torture and corruption in the name of the recurrent argument of “national security.” Iraq and Syria suffered this very same fate.

As a consequence, the peoples of these countries would be irrationally impoverished and deprived from any kind of rights.

Such a situation has never been contested by Western powers. Yes, their leaders would from time to time, talk about the need to respect human rights, democracy, etc.

The fact is, however, is that none of the former colonial powers, nor their successor in the region – the United States has never lifted a finger to remove those regimes. Which by the way, have been labelled as “allies.”

Hosni Mubarak’s military regime in Egypt, for instance, would be considered as a “moderate” ally.

In the name of God

The systematic, lasting oppression of the peoples would be intensively exploited by political-religious movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

This would gain popular support among disparate populations, who would look at it as the “last hope” to save them from oppression and poverty – after all, their Imams would speak to them in the name of God. And God is fair, just, compassionate, exactly what they needed.

Who funds the terrorists?

In a rapid succession of events, a growing number of self-proclaimed “Islamic” groups would devote their “raison d’être’ to perpetrating brutal, inhumane, anything else but religious acts of terror. Some make highly lucrative business though illegally selling oil from occupied fields and refineries -mainly in Iraq and Libya – at half of market prices to big multinationals. See what former national security adviser, Mowaffak al Rubaie has just stated: ‘Oxygen for jihadists’: ISIS-smuggled oil flows through Turkey to intl markets – Iraqi MP).

On top of that, those extremist groups get cheap weapons mainly from dissolved former Iraqi army and from disintegrated Libya.

In fact, the first government “installed” in Libya after NATO intervened there following the 2011 popular uprising estimated that there would be up to 25 million weapons out of the central authorities’ control in this North African oil-rich country.

That’s not to mention the big money generated through their active involvement in migrants and refugees trafficking.

Last but not least: all the above mentioned facts are originated in Western sources!

(End)

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The Over-Written, Under-Reported Middle East – Part I: Of Arabs and Muslimshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/the-over-written-under-reported-middle-east-part-i-of-arabs-and-muslims/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-over-written-under-reported-middle-east-part-i-of-arabs-and-muslims http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/the-over-written-under-reported-middle-east-part-i-of-arabs-and-muslims/#comments Thu, 03 Dec 2015 08:18:42 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143200 In this two-part series, Egyptian-born, Spanish-national, secular journalist Baher Kamal tries to “de-mythify” some of the most common stereotypes circulating around the Middle East region. Part II tomorrow will focus on: Middle East, 99 Years and a Half of Solitude. ]]>

In this two-part series, Egyptian-born, Spanish-national, secular journalist Baher Kamal tries to “de-mythify” some of the most common stereotypes circulating around the Middle East region. Part II tomorrow will focus on: Middle East, 99 Years and a Half of Solitude.

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Dec 3 2015 (IPS)

Of all over-written, under-reported issues and regions, the Middle East is perhaps one of the oldest, outstanding ones.

Baher Kamal

Baher Kamal

To start with, it is a common belief – too often heralded by the mainstream media – that the Middle East is formed entirely of Arab countries, and that it is about the so-wrongly called Muslim, Arab World.

This is simply not accurate.

Firstly, because such an Arab World (or Arab Nation) does not actually exist as such. There is not much in common between a Mauritanian and an Omani; a Moroccan and a Yemeni; an Egyptian and a Bahraini, just to mention some examples. They all have different ethnic roots, history, original languages, traditions and religious beliefs.

Example: The Amazighs – also known as the Berbers – are an ethnic group indigenous to the North of Africa, living in lands stretching from the Atlantic cost to the Western Desert in Egypt. Historically, they spoke Berber languages.

There are around 25-30 million Berber speakers in North Africa. The total number of ethnic Berbers (including non-Berber speakers) is estimated to be far greater. They have been “Arabised” and “Islamised” since the Muslim conquest of North of Africa in the 7th century.

Secondly, because not all Muslims are Arabs, nor all Arabs are Muslims. Not to mention the very fact that not all Arabs are even Arabs. It would be more accurate to talk about “Arabised,” “Islamised” peoples or nations rather than an Arab World or Arab Nation.

Here are seven key facts about Muslims that large media, in particular the Western information tools, often neglect or ignore:

1. Not all Muslims are Arabs

In fact, according to the most acknowledged statistics, the number of Muslims around the world amounts to an estimated 1.56 billion people, compared to estimated 2.2 billion Christians and 1.4 million Jewish.

Of this total, Arab countries are home to around 380 million people, that is only about 24 per cent of all Muslims.

2. Not all Arabs are Muslims

While Islam is the religion of the majority of Arab population, not all Arabs are Muslims.

In fact, it is estimated that Christians represent between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of the Arab combined population. Therefore, Arab Muslims amount to just around one-fifth of all the world’s Muslims.

Arab Christians are concentrated mainly in the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon and Egypt, where they represent up to 13 per cent of the total population amounting to 95 million inhabitants according to last year’s census.

It is also estimated that there are more Muslims in the United Kingdom than in Lebanon, and more Muslims in China than in Syria.

3. Major Muslim countries are in Asia

According to the U.S-based Pew Research Center, this would be the percentage of major religious groups in 2012: Christianity 31.5 per cent; Islam 23.2 per cent; Hinduism 15.0 per cent, and Buddhism 7.1 per cent of the world’s total population.

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center estimated that in 2010 there were 49 Muslim-majority countries.

South and Southeast Asia would account for around 62 per cent of the world’s Muslims.

According to these estimates, the largest Muslim population in a single country lives in Indonesia, which is home to 12.7 per cent of all world’s Muslims.

Pakistan (with 11.0 per cent of all Muslims) is the second largest Muslim-majority nation, followed by India (10.9 per cent), and Bangladesh (9.2 per cent).

The Pew Research Center estimates that about 20 per cent of Muslims live in Arab countries, and that two non-Arab countries – Turkey and Iran – are the largest Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East.

In short, a large number of Muslim majority countries are not Arabs. This is the case of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey.

3. Largest Muslim groups

It is estimated that 75 to 90 per cent of Islam followers are Sunni, while Shii represent 10 to 20 per cent of the global Muslim population.

The sometimes armed, violent conflicts between these two groups are often due to political impositions. But this is not restricted to Arab or Muslim countries, as evidenced by the decades of armed conflict between Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland.

4. Muslims do not have their own God

In Arabic (the language in which the sacred book, the Koran, was written and diffused) the word “table” is said “tawla;” a “tree” is called “shajarah;” and a “book” is “ketab.” In Arabic “God” is “Allah”.

In addition, Islam does not at all deny the existence of Christianity or Christ. And it does fully recognise and pay due respect to the Talmud and the Bible.

The main difference is that Islam considers Christ as God’s closest and most beloved “prophet,” not his son.

5. Islamic “traditions”

Islam landed in the 7th century in the Gulf or Arab Peninsula deserts. There, both men and women used to cover their faces and heads to protect themselves from the strong heat and sand storms. It is not, therefore, about a purely Islam religious imposition.

Meanwhile, in the Arab deserts, populations used to have nomadic life, with men travelling in caravans, while women and the elderly would handle the daily life of their families. Islamic societies were therefore actually matriarchal.

Genital mutilations are common to Islam, Judaism (male) and many other religious beliefs, in particular in Africa.

Likewise other major monotheistic religions, a number of Muslim clerics have been using faith to increase their influence and power. This is fundamentally why so many “new traditions” have been gradually imposed on Muslims. This is the case, for example, of denying the right of women to education.

As with other major monotheistic religions, some Muslim clerics used their ever growing powers to promote inhuman, brutal actions. This is the case of “Jihad” fundamentalists.

This has not been an exclusive case of Muslims along the history of humankind. Just remember the Spanish-Portuguese invasion of Latin America, where indigenous populations were exterminated and Christianity imposed by the sword, for the sake of the glory of Kings, Emperors… and Popes.

6. The unfinished wars between the West and Islam (and vice-versa)

There is a growing belief among Arab and Muslim academicians that the ongoing violent conflicts between Muslims and the West (and vice-versa) are due to the “unfinished” war between the Christian West and the Islamic Ottoman Empire, in spite of the fact that the latter was dismantled in the early 1920s.

This would explain the successive wars in the Balkans and the Middle East, for instance.

7. The “religion” of oil

It has become too common, and thus too given for certain, that oil producers are predominantly Arabs and Muslims. This is not accurate.

To start with, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was founded in (the under British mandate) Baghdad, Iraq, in 1960 by five countries: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. These were later joined by Qatar (1961), Indonesia (1962), Libya (1962), the United Arab Emirates (1967), Algeria (1969), Nigeria (1971), Ecuador (1973), Gabon (1975) and Angola (2007).

And here you are: OPEC full membership includes: Ecuador, Venezuela, Nigeria, Gabon and Angola. None of these is either Arab or Muslim. They are all Christian states. As for Iran and Indonesia, these are Muslim countries, but not Arab.

Then you have other major oil and gas producers and exporters outside the OPEC ranks: the United States [which produces more oil (13,973,000 barrels per day) than Saudi Arabia (11,624,000)]; Russia (10,853,000); China (4,572,000); Canada (4,383,000, more than United Arab Emirates or Iran or Iraq); Norway (1,904,000, more than Algeria) and Mexico, among others.

Again, none of these oil producers is Arab or Muslim.

In short, not all Muslims are Arabs (these are less than 20 per cent of the total); not all Arabs are Muslims, and… not all Arabs are even Arabs!

(End)

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Did Argentina’s Elections Mark Start of Shift to the Right in South America?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/did-argentinas-elections-mark-start-of-shift-to-the-right-in-south-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=did-argentinas-elections-mark-start-of-shift-to-the-right-in-south-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/did-argentinas-elections-mark-start-of-shift-to-the-right-in-south-america/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 23:45:55 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143105 In the near future it will become clear whether the triumph of Mauricio Macri, to become president of Argentina on Dec. 10, marked the start of a new era in South America, with the emergence of conservative governments in a scenario where leaders identified as left-wing have been predominant so far this century. Credit: Mauricio Macri

In the near future it will become clear whether the triumph of Mauricio Macri, to become president of Argentina on Dec. 10, marked the start of a new era in South America, with the emergence of conservative governments in a scenario where leaders identified as left-wing have been predominant so far this century. Credit: Mauricio Macri

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 24 2015 (IPS)

Different degrees of economic problems are a common denominator in South American countries where governments that identify as leftist may start to fall, in a shift that began in Argentina and could continue among its neighbours to the north.

“It is not possible yet to say whether this is the end of a cycle, because the reasons for it are still very present…but there is a very complex crisis affecting the governments that I call ‘distributionist’, which are facing difficulties, especially in Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela,” Professor Tullo Vigevani of the São Paulo State University told IPS.

For his part, retired diplomat Marcos Azambuja, a former Brazilian ambassador to Argentina and France, told IPS: “It’s not the end of a cycle in Latin America, but the waning of a group of governments tending towards populism associated with nationalism.”“My fear is that the dying Chavismo will come to an undemocratic end, given the fragile position of President Nicolás Maduro, while in Brazil the change will surely be democratic.” -- Marcos Azambuja

“Left” is a concept that has lost validity, he added, preferring to talk about populist governments, stressing the ones along South America’s Atlantic coast. “The ones along the Pacific coast are more modern,” he said.

Argentina is experiencing “the end of a cycle in a completely normal democratic manner, which should be celebrated,” after 12 years of presidency by the Kirchners, he said, referring to the consecutive terms of the late Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and his widow and successor Cristina Fernández, who steps down on Dec. 10. Both belonged to the Justicialista – Peronist – party.

“But any non-Peronist government will face great difficulties in that country,” Azambuja warned.

Neither of the last two non-Peronist presidents, Raúl Alfonsín (1983-1989) and Fernando de la Rua (1999-2001), managed to serve out their full terms; they were both forced to resign.

That will be a challenge for Mauricio Macri, mayor of Buenos Aires since 2007, who won the elections for president in the Nov. 22 runoff, representing the centre-right opposition Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition, made up of his conservative Republican Proposal (PRO) party and the traditional Radical Civic Union (UCR).

Helping him win the elections were the division of the Justicialista Party, on the political front, and the economic crisis.

But now he will have to deal with the country’s economic woes.

The problems include stagnation and the subsequent high unemployment, high inflation – close to 30 percent, say analysts, but only half that according to the authorities – dwindling foreign reserves, and a black market where the dollar is worth nearly 50 percent more than the official exchange rate.

There are also distortions, such as protectionist measures in some sectors, export duties on agricultural products, and subsidies that affect national production and trade with Brazil, whose main market for industrial exports used to be Argentina.

The economic changes promised by Macri, such as the removal of currency controls and restrictions on foreign trade, will affect relations with Argentina’s neighbours. But it is his foreign policy that could drastically modify things in the region.

He wants, for example, to exclude Venezuela from the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) as long as the current government there remains in power, by citing the bloc’s democratic clause, which already led to the suspension of Paraguay’s membership for over a year, due to the impeachment and removal of former president Fernando Lugo in 2012.

A return to warmer ties with the United States, trade accords with the European Union and Pacific rim blocs, and greater openness to trade in general form part of Macri’s plans, in contrast to the protectionist tendencies of governments described as leftist, populist, “distributionist” or Bolivarian, depending on the vocabularies used by different ideological currents.

But regional organisations like Mercosur, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbbean States (CELAC) will not fall into crisis as a result of the political changes in the region, according to Vigevani.

These kinds of organisations are slow to react, which “has adequately served a few limited objectives,” he said.

The change in Argentina and the crises in Brazil and Venezuela, which have political as well as economic aspects, point to a probable wave of right-leaning, neoliberal governments in Latin America, that put a higher priority on the economy than on the social policies of their predecessors.

The situations are different. In Venezuela, where the economy is virtually in a state of collapse, “my fear is that the dying Chavismo will come to an undemocratic end, given the fragile position of President Nicolás Maduro, while in Brazil the change will surely be democratic,” Azambuja predicted in his conversation with IPS.

In those three countries along the Atlantic coast of South America governments “did not adequately administer economic policy, leading to low levels of investment, low savings rates, and scarce technological training, and failed to develop policies to expand, rather than reduce, consensus. Thus, the capacity to prevent neoliberal advances was decisively reduced,” said Vigevani.

Brazil has been suffering from an economic recession since late 2014, aggravated by nearly 10 percent annual inflation and a fiscal deficit that scares off investors. To all of this was added a corruption scandal involving the state oil giant Petrobras as well as all of the country’s major construction companies and around 50 politicians.

In addition, the campaign that led to the reelection of left-leaning President Dilma Rousseff in October 2014 was marked by an unprecedented degree of violence, with clashes and accusations that destroyed the chances of dialogue and negotiation.

As a result, the contradictions between the government’s election promises and its actual practices became so obvious that they undermined the legitimacy and popularity of the president, who had the approval of less than 10 percent of the population according to the latest polls, and is facing the threat of impeachment.

The political bickering has made it impossible to cobble together a stable majority in Congress, which has stood in the way of a fiscal adjustment programme that requires legislative approval of public spending cuts and a rise in taxes.

The economic crisis, blamed by the government on an adverse international environment and by the opposition on mistakes by the government, thus drags on.

“Economic results are important factors in the shift in favour of conservative candidates,” said Vigevani. “But besides the crises and the recession, there are underlying theoretical problems to be addressed, which the neoliberals don’t have answers to either, and this leads to a balance, even in the case of Argentina.”

“Distributionism without a capacity for investment, innovation and adjustment of the productive system is not sufficient, although it is necessary,” he said.

Underestimating or poorly managing economic questions would seem to be the Achilles’ heel of governments seen as leftist or populist in Latin America.

That curse has not affected leaders who, even though they are distributionist or “Bolivarian”, adopted orthodox economic policies, such as Evo Morales, in power in Bolivia since 2006, or Rafael Correa, who has governed Ecuador since 2007.

At the same time, it does not seem to be possible for new or future leaders, even right-leaning ones, to eliminate or even reduce social programmes that “populist” governments have used to pull millions of families out of poverty. Macri has already announced that he will keep them in place.

Everything would seem to indicate that these programmes are now a new dimension incorporated into regional politics, while poverty and social inequality remain unacceptably high in a majority of the countries in Latin America which, despite these “inclusion policies,” remains the world’s most unequal region.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Opinion: From European Union to Just a Common Markethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/opinion-from-european-union-to-just-a-common-market/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-from-european-union-to-just-a-common-market http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/opinion-from-european-union-to-just-a-common-market/#comments Tue, 20 Oct 2015 12:15:17 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142741

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Oct 20 2015 (IPS)

The success in the recent Swiss elections of the UDC-SVP, a xenophobic, anti European Union, right wing party, opens a number of reflections.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Seventy years ago Europe came out from a terrible war, exhausted and destroyed. That produced a generation of statesman, who went about creating a European integration, in order to avoid the repetition of the internal conflicts that had created the two world wars. Today a war between France and Germany is unthinkable, and Europe is an island of peace for the first time in its history.

This is the mantra we hear all the time. What is forgotten is that in fact a good part of Europe did not want integration. In 1960, the United Kingdom led the creation of an alternative institution, dedicated only to commercial exchange: the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), formed by the United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, then later Finland and Iceland. It was only in 1972 that, bowing to the success of European integration, the UK and Denmark asked to join the EU. Later, Portugal and Austria left EFTA to join the European Union.

The UK was never interested in the European project and always felt committed to “a special relation” with United States. Union would mean also solidarity and integration, as the various EU treaties kept declaring. The UK was only interested in the market side of the process.

Since 1972, the gloss of European integration has lost much of its shine. Younger generations have no memory of the last war. The EU is perceived far from its citizens, run by unelected officials who make decisions without a participatory process, and unable to respond to challenges. Where is the external policy of the EU? When does it take decisions that are not an echo of Washington?

Since the financial crisis of 1999, xenophobic, nationalistic and right wing parties have sprouted all over Europe. In Hungary, one of them is in power and openly claims that democracy is not the most efficient system. The Greek crisis has made clear that there is a north-south divide, while Germany and the others do not consider solidarity a criterion for financial issues. And the refugee crisis is now the last division in European integration. The UK has openly declared that it will take only a token number of 10,000 refugees, while a new west-east divide has become evident, with the strong opposition of Eastern Europe to take any refugee. The idea of solidarity is again out of the equation.

Germany moved because of its demographic reality. It had 800,000 vacant jobs, and it needs at least 500,000 immigrants per year to remain competitive and keep its pension system alive. But that mentality is even more clear with the East European countries, which experience increasing demographic decline. At the end of communism in 1989, Bulgaria had a population of 9 million. Now it is at 7.2 million. It is estimated that it will lose an additional 7 per cent by 2030, and 28.5 per cent by 2050. Romania will lose 22 per cent by 2050, followed by Ukraine (20%), Moldova (20%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (19.5%), Latvia (19%), Lithuania (17.5%), Serbia (17%), Croatia (16%), and Hungary (16%). Yet, all Eastern Europe countries have followed the British rebellion, and take a strong stance on refusing to accept refugees.

Now the idea of European integration is reaching a crucial challenge: the United Kingdom will hold a referendum by the end of 2017 to decide if remain in the European Union or not. The prime minister David Cameron, has invented this referendum, in order to renegotiate with EU the terms of British participation, get enough concessions to appease the Euro-skeptics and thus win the referendum in favor of Europe.

Only 10 years ago, such a maneuver would have gone nowhere. But now things are different, and there is a general tendency among European countries to take back as much as possible space given to the EU. Germany has already indicated that it is open to debate, and it wants to avoid a Brexit as much as possible. Cameron has not yet indicated the detail of his requests to remain in the EU. But it is widely believed that they will be about unhitching from European political integration, requesting exceptionality for the British financial sector, demanding a voice in decisions in the Eurozone (of which the UK is not a member), eliminating social benefits for European immigrants and giving to the British parliament a strong say over European decisions. Cameron has already indicated that he will withdraw from the European Court of Justice.

Once Great Britain obtains these concessions or even part of them, other countries, beginning with Hungary, will follow. And this will be the end of the process of European integration. We will take the route of EFTA, not the one envisioned by the founding fathers: Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schumann, Paul-Henri Spaak and Alcide De Gasperi.

Meanwhile, Europe will have to accept that it is not going to be the homogenous and white society that the right wing and xenophobic parties dream of reestablishing. The lack of global governability has created a staggering figure of 60 million refugees. Of those, 15 million live in refugee camps. One of them, Dadaab, in Kenya, has now half a million people, more than the population of several members of the United Nations. It is estimated that climate change will create by 2030 another 10 million refugees. Solidarity or not, Europe demography will require the arrival of some million. What will be the Europe of 2030?

(End)

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Opinion: The Nuclear Deal’s Impact on Iranian Domestic and Foreign Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/opinion-the-nuclear-deals-impact-on-iranian-domestic-and-foreign-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-the-nuclear-deals-impact-on-iranian-domestic-and-foreign-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/opinion-the-nuclear-deals-impact-on-iranian-domestic-and-foreign-policy/#comments Mon, 19 Oct 2015 16:08:02 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142735

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford. This is the final of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Oct 19 2015 (IPS)

As in most countries, in Iran too there are hardliners and moderates. All polls show that a large majority of Iranians support the nuclear deal (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France and Germany), while a small but powerful group of hardliners opposes it. The Iranian parliament has finally approved the deal, but after a great deal of controversy and with some reservations.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

Despite the fact that in the 2013 presidential election, in which 72 per cent of eligible voters participated, more than half of the electorate voted for Hassan Rouhani, a centrist and moderate cleric, hardliners have a tight grip over practically all other branches of power in Iran.

Hardliners control the judiciary, and have a majority in the current Majles or Iranian Parliament. They control the Assembly of Experts that has the power to elect the Supreme Leader’s successor, the Guardian Council that acts as a second chamber, the National Broadcasting Organization that has a virtual monopoly of all radio and television broadcasting, and many other organizations.

However, with President Rouhani’s election, the dominance of hardliners over the executive branch came to an end, and elections for parliament and the Assembly of Experts are due on 26 February 2016, and they could alter the internal balance of power. The nuclear agreement has begun to swing public support back to the reformists.

After the initial revolutionary upheaval that isolated Iran from most of the world, and after 36 years of estrangement from the West, this landmark agreement has ushered in a new era of relations between Iran and the West. While most analysts in the West are primarily concerned about its effect on Iran’s foreign relations, for most Iranians its significance lies in what it can do to improve the economic and political situation at home.

The fact of the matter is that Iran has made many concessions, but its nuclear program has received the seal of approval from the Security Council and the West. Even above and beyond the nuclear issue, the JCPOA has opened the prospect of the reintegration of Iran into the global economy and of it playing a much more prominent role in world affairs.

This is precisely what the hardliners fear, because they are worried that Iran’s revolutionary values would be undermined and that Western values would weaken Islamic sentiments. Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards chief warned of “nuclear sedition,” aimed at derailing the Islamic Republic from its revolutionary path.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also warned against “infiltration” attempts by the West and has banned further negotiations with Washington.

The main question is whether Iran still wishes to remain in the past and retain its revolutionary zeal, or whether she feels confident enough to look forward and embrace change. It is quite clear that the majority of Iranians have shown that they are in favor of change and coexistence with the rest of the world, while also retaining their distinct religious and cultural values.

Most Iranians are strongly opposed to regime change in the way that has happened in a number of neighboring countries. They are in favor of evolution and reform, rather than revolution and violence. Nevertheless, they have a number of legitimate demands that cannot be suppressed by force.

President Rouhani pledged repeatedly during his campaign to expand political and social freedoms for all Iranians, including freedom of expression. Although some restrictions have been eased, the pace of change has been far too slow. Iran still has one of the largest numbers of executions per capita in the world, and one of the highest numbers of political prisoners. Iranian women still do not enjoy equality with men.

It is true that the government does not have much control over the judiciary or security organizations, but it cannot use this excuse to shirk its responsibilities towards the Iranian people. It must understand that the maintenance of the status quo is not an option. If change is not to be imposed through violence or from outside, the government with the support of the majority of the population must bring about meaningful change.

The JCPOA has opened new horizons for Iran. In the foreign policy field, it has lifted the shadow of war and has made Tehran the diplomatic and economic capital of the Middle East. Now, it is time for Iranian leaders to begin a new chapter of relations with the world. As Ambassador John Limbert, a former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and a former US hostage during the Iranian hostage crisis, has said: “Both sides, after 34 years, have made a very startling discovery, that diplomacy ­ long-neglected tools of listening, of seeking small areas of agreement, of careful choice of words ­ can actually accomplish more than shouting insults, making threats and the wonderful self-satisfaction of always being right.”

The same principle also applies to the domestic situation. Iranian leaders will be surprised to see how much small areas of agreement and small but steady steps towards greater freedoms and democracy can accomplish in putting an end to the alienation between the people and the government, and allow Iran to find its rightful place in the world, and avoid the chaos rampant in many neighboring countries. It is time to use this great opportunity to move forward both at home and abroad, confident in the common sense and patriotism of Iranian people.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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United Arab Emirates and Cuba Forge Closer Tieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/united-arab-emirates-and-cuba-forge-closer-ties/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-arab-emirates-and-cuba-forge-closer-ties http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/united-arab-emirates-and-cuba-forge-closer-ties/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2015 19:10:19 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142609 The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shakes hands with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, after raising the UAE flag at the opening of the Emirati embassy in Havana on Oct. 5, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shakes hands with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, after raising the UAE flag at the opening of the Emirati embassy in Havana on Oct. 5, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Oct 6 2015 (IPS)

Cuba and the United Arab Emirates agreed to strengthen diplomatic ties and bilateral cooperation during an official visit to this Caribbean island nation by the UAE minister of foreign affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

During his 24-hour stay, Al Nahyan met on Monday Oct. 5 with Cuban authorities, signed two agreements, and inaugurated his country’s embassy in Havana, which he said was a clear sign of the consolidation of the ties established by the two countries in March 2002.

“I am sure that the next few years will witness the prosperity of our ties,” he added during his official meeting with his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodríguez, with whom he signed an agreement on air services “between and beyond our territories” which will facilitate the expansion of opportunities for international air transport.

In the meeting, Rodríguez reaffirmed his government’s support for Arab peoples in their struggle to maintain their independence and territorial integrity.

According to official sources, the two foreign ministers concurred that the opening of the UAE embassy is an important step forward in bilateral ties and will permit closer follow-up of questions of mutual interest.

Al Nahyan also met with the first vice president of the councils of state and ministers, Miguel Díaz Canel. The two officials confirmed the good state of bilateral ties and the possibilities for cooperation on the economic, trade and financial fronts, Cuba’s prime-time TV newscast reported.

The foreign ministers of Cuba and the United Arab Emirates, Bruno Rodríguez (left) and Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during the Oct. 5, 2015 agreement-signing ceremony in Cuba’s ministry of foreign affairs in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The foreign ministers of Cuba and the United Arab Emirates, Bruno Rodríguez (left) and Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during the Oct. 5, 2015 agreement-signing ceremony in Cuba’s ministry of foreign affairs in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Cuba’s minister of foreign trade and investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, signed a credit agreement with the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, to finance a solar energy farm that will generate 10 MW of electricity.

Al Nahyan first visited Havana on Oct. 1-2, 2009 in response to an official invitation from minister Rodríguez. On that occasion they signed two agreements, one on economic, trade and technical cooperation, and another between the two foreign ministries.

“We have great confidence in Cuba’s leaders and in our capacity to carry out these kinds of projects,” Al Nahyan told the local media on that occasion.

United Arab Emirates, a federation made up of seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain – established diplomatic relations with Cuba in March 2002, in an accord signed in Cairo.

The decision to open an embassy in the Cuban capital was reached in a June 2014 cabinet meeting presided over by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE vice president and prime minister, and the ruler of Dubai.

In late February 2015, Al Maktoum received the letters of credentials for the new ambassador of Cuba in the UAE, Enrique Enríquez, during a ceremony in the Al Mushrif Palace in the Emirati capital.

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nayhan, unveils a plaque commemorating the official opening in Havana of the new UAE embassy, together with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nayhan, unveils a plaque commemorating the official opening in Havana of the new UAE embassy, together with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Later, UAE Assistant Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ahmed al Jarman and Enríquez discussed the state of bilateral relations and agreed to take immediate concrete steps to expand and strengthen ties in different areas.

Enríquez also met with Cubans living in Abu Dhabi with a view to bolstering relations between them and their home country. They agreed on periodic future gatherings.

In May 2014, the UAE and Cuba signed an open skies agreement to allow the airlines of both countries to operate in each other’s territories, as well as opening the door to new plans for flights between the two countries, the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) reported.

The accord formed part of a strategy to boost trade with other countries, said Saif Mohammed al Suwaidi, director general of the GCAA, who headed a delegation of officials and representatives of national airlines during a two-day visit to Cuba.

The UAE signed similar agreements with other Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico, as part of its effort at closer relations with this region, which is of growing interest to the Gulf country.

Talks have also been announced between the UAE and Russia to build a giant airport in Cuba, which would serve as an international airport hub for Latin America, the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper reported in February.

The proposal is being discussed by the Russian government and the Abu Dhabi state investment fund Mubadala, mandated to diversify the emirate’s economy.

In 2013 and 2014, UAE was named the world’s largest official development aid donor in a report released by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 2013, the Gulf nation provided five billion dollars in ODA to other countries.

Last year, according to OECD data, the only Gulf country to have a Ministry of International Cooperation and Development spent 1.34 percent of their gross domestic product in development cooperation.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Human Rights Activists Condemn Houthi Militia’s Atrocities Against Women in Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/human-rights-activists-condemn-houthi-militias-atrocities-against-women-in-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-rights-activists-condemn-houthi-militias-atrocities-against-women-in-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/human-rights-activists-condemn-houthi-militias-atrocities-against-women-in-yemen/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2015 15:04:16 +0000 Emirates News Agency http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142554 By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
Geneva, Sep 30 2015 (IPS)

(WAM) — Arab and Yemeni human rights activist monitoring the civil war in Yemen say that women have been subjected to grave human right violations at the hands of the rebel Houthi militia and an allied insurgent group under the command of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The human rights defenders were speaking at a landmark event organised by the Arab Federation for Human Rights (AFHR) on the sidelines of the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Dr. Mona Hejres, a member of the AFHR and head of “Together for Human Rights,” noted in her presentation at the event that that women were active participants in the revolution that drove Saleh out of power and that many had faced human rights crimes including killing, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and use of excessive force during that struggle. She said that today, in rebel-held areas, women suffer greatly at the hands of the Houthi militia and Saleh group, with widespread murders, forced disappearances, kidnappings, deprivation of basic educational and health services, bombardment of residential districts, and other atrocities targeting them in the capital Sana’a, Aden and other cities.

She called upon the international community to live up to its responsibilities in protecting the Yemeni people, especially women, and to back the Arab Coalition’s operations seeking to protect the Yemeni people. She also appealed to the UN Security Council to enforce its resolutions on Yemen and ensure protection, safety and security for its people, and particularly women.

During the event, a number of heads of Yemeni human rights associations and organisations pointed to a recent report by the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations (YCMHRV) as further evidence of the suffering caused by the Houthi militia and Saleh group in Yemen, particularly with regard to women.

Representatives of the AFHR and the YCMHRV also reiterated their rejection of the western countries’ request to establish a fact finding committee, which they said would dilute and ignore what they termed a human tragedy fomented by the rebel militias. Instead, they said, the international community should focus on prosecuting war criminals in the conflict, and to uphold its responsibilities to protect women during armed and military conflicts and disputes.

Maryam bin Tawq, Coordinator at the AFHR, spoke about the importance of establishing the international coalition “Operation Restoring Hope” aimed at protecting the Yemeni people from violations and crimes against humanity being carried out by al-Houthi group and the Saleh Militia. She said that the Euro-Mediterranean Center for Human Rights had found that the rebel militias had committed more than 4,500 human rights violations within the course of just one month of their control of Sana’a. (END)

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Report Condemns Atrocities of Houthi Rebels in Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/report-condemns-atrocities-of-houthi-rebels-in-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=report-condemns-atrocities-of-houthi-rebels-in-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/report-condemns-atrocities-of-houthi-rebels-in-yemen/#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2015 16:49:06 +0000 Emirates News Agency http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142516 By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
ABU DHABI, Sep 28 2015 (IPS)

(WAM) – A new report from a human rights group operating in Yemen says that human rights violations have reached unprecedented levels, with more than 3,000 people murdered by the insurgent Houthi militia and its allies in Yemen.

The report by the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations (YCMHRV), prepared from
reports by the organisation’s field monitors in Yemen, outlines a series of atrocities committed over the
past year in Sana’a, the capital, Aden, Taiz, Lahej, Hodiedah, Addali’e, Abyan, Dhamar and Shabwa,
governorates (see full report in report. http://www.wam.ae/en/news/international/1395286001275.html).

The report tied the Houthi militia and an allied group operating under the command of former Yemeni
president Ali Abdullah Saleh with unconstitutional overthrow of the legitimate government that has
resulted in human rights violations that have afflicted men, women, children, property and the
environment.

The findings show that between September 2014 and August 2015, 3,074 people were murdered, about
20 percent of whom were women and children, and 7,347 civilians were wounded due to random
shelling, at least 25 percent of whom were women and children. A total of 5,894 people were arbitrarily
detained during the monitoring period – 4,640 of them were released and 1,254 people remain in
captivity.

The report also focuses on arbitrary detention, forcible disappearances and hostage taking violations,
which the monitors said have been carried out regularly by the rebel militia against politicians,
journalists, and human rights and political activists. It said detainees are frequently mistreated and
deprived of basic needs such as food, water and proper hygiene and sanitation. Monitors also reported
that some detainees are used as human shields at military sites that have been targeted by the Coalition
airstrikes.

“This is a clear violation of both national and international legislation,” said the report. “The de facto
forces, the Houthis, failed to observe their commitment towards human rights and humanitarian law,
being the power in control that practices the state’s functions. Rather, the Houthis-Saleh showed total
recklessness towards human rights and human suffering.”

The report concludes with recommendations, calling on the Houthi-Saleh militia, Yemeni government
and the international community to implement relevant UN Security Council resolutions. It also calls on
the international community to support the newly established National Commission to investigate
alleged human rights Violations with all needed technical assistance. (END)

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Iran’s commitments under the Nuclear Treaty are just short of total surrenderhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/irans-commitments-under-the-nuclear-treaty-are-just-short-of-total-surrender/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=irans-commitments-under-the-nuclear-treaty-are-just-short-of-total-surrender http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/irans-commitments-under-the-nuclear-treaty-are-just-short-of-total-surrender/#comments Fri, 25 Sep 2015 14:12:24 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142495 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 25 2015 (IPS)

Speaking about the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached between Iran, the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States­ plus Germany) and the European Union, Joseph Cirincione, a leading nuclear expert and president of Ploughshares Fund, said:

“We have just achieved what may be the biggest diplomatic triumph in a generation. We have reached an agreement that not only stops Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, but it prevents a new war in the Middle East. It has profound implications for the security of America, for the security of Israel, for the security of the world. It sets a new gold standard for nuclear agreements. Every state that wants even a token enrichment capability now will have to agree to the same intrusive verification measures Iran has just agreed to…”

Contrary to the extensive propaganda about it being good for Iran and bad for the United States, the deal – also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – has achieved something that no one thought was possible. Speaking at the American University shortly after the agreement was signed, President Barack Obama said:

“After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb. It contains the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program.”

After 13 years of intensive talks and a fast-developing nuclear enrichment program, Iran has agreed to the most intrusive, restrictive and comprehensive set of demands to which any member state of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has ever been subjected. In reality, as some Iranian commentators have argued, Iran has relinquished most of her rights as an NPT member, short of total surrender.

In order to understand the magnitude of what Iran has given up and what she is required to do in return for the lifting of the sanctions, one has to look at some of the main provisions of the JCPOA. All the following actions must be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as complete before the implementation day, which comes 90 days after the unanimous approval on 20 July of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 endorsing the JCPOA, assuming that Iran provides the IAEA with the required information.

The Security Council requested that the IAEA undertake verification and monitoring of Iran’s compliance, and it reaffirmed that Iran should cooperate fully with the agency to resolve all outstanding issues. Upon receipt of a positive report from the IAEA, the Council would terminate the sanctions set out in resolutions adopted between 2006 and 2015.

Iran must disassemble, remove and store under IAEA seal more than 13,000 excess centrifuges, including excess advanced centrifuge machines.

Out of more than 15,651.4 kg of uranium enriched to 3.6[DSJ1] , and 337.2 kg to 20 percent, Iran must reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to no more than 300 kg.

Iran had built its Fordow uranium enrichment facility deep in the mountains in order to have a more secure site for enrichment in case Israel or America bombed its main facility at Natanz. However, according to the agreement, Iran must convert the Fordow site to a research & development facility with no fissile material.

Iran had built a heavy water plant in Arak to have a different route to nuclear fuel, but she must remove and disable the core of the Arak heavy-water reactor.

Although Iran had not officially signed the Additional Protocol, an expanded set of requirements for information and access adopted in 1997 to assist the IAEA in its verification work, she must allow and make the necessary arrangements for additional IAEA access and monitoring in keeping with its requirements.

Key restrictions that will last significantly more than a decade include:

Iran may retain no more than 5,060 of the 19,000 centrifuges that Iran had installed.

She is not allowed to install more advanced centrifuges than she has already developed, and is allowed to carry out only limited research & development on advanced centrifuges for the next 15 years.

She is allowed only limited development of advanced centrifuges so that enrichment capacity remains the same.

Testing of centrifuges with uranium may carried out only at Natanz.

IAEA access to the site must be provided within 24 hours.

No new heavy-water reactors, no reprocessing or R & D allowed.

Iran makes a commitment not to process spent fuel.

There will be continuous surveillance of centrifuge production areas.

There will even be continuous surveillance of uranium mines and mills. Thus, the IAEA will have access to all Iranian activities from the mining of uranium to the construction of mills and centrifuges.

Even after all those initial restrictions, the NPT will remain in force banning the pursuit of nuclear weapons. This restriction has no time limit and will remain in force for as long as Iran remains a member of the NPT. Leaving the NPT would of course constitute a grave violation of the rules, and strong action would be taken against Iran.

In order to sabotage the talks, some critics of the nuclear deal, supported by fabricated documents, had raised the issue of Iran’s alleged military experimentations (the so-called previous military dimension, or PMD). Nevertheless, Iran must provide the IAEA with all the information necessary to complete its PMD investigation by October 15.

Another excuse that the opponents of the deal have used to undermine it was the issue of “the breakout period.” There is no provision in the NPT for any such limitation. The member states will be able to have any amount of enrichment to any level of purity, so long as they do not manufacture a nuclear weapon. However, an exception is made in the case of Iran regarding how long it would take her to have enough enriched uranium sufficient for a single bomb.

This is despite the fact that Iran does not possess any reprocessing facilities and that even if she enriches uranium to the more than 90 percent purity needed for a bomb, she still has to weaponise[DSJ2] it, test it and find the necessary means of delivery, none of which Iran possesses at the moment and which would be easily detected by the IAEA. Nevertheless, the agreement has required that Iran should have a breakout period of at least one year.

In addition to all the nuclear-related restrictions, the Security Council still prohibits Iran from importing or exporting weapons for five years and missile parts for eight years. In other words, the fuss was not only about Iran’s nuclear program, but her military capabilities as well.

As the result of this agreement, the P5+1 have re-written the rules and have gone completely beyond the requirements of the NPT and even the Additional Protocol. Nevertheless, all Republican and some Democratic senators in the U.S. still oppose it and are trying to legislate amendments that would undermine its implementation, despite the fact that this international agreement has been endorsed by more than 100 U.S. former ambassadors, 60 former top national leaders, 75 nuclear non-proliferation experts and another 29 top U.S. nuclear scientists, as well as by all the other five leading countries of the world.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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The Rubicons That Have Been Crossedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/the-rubicons-that-have-been-crossed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-rubicons-that-have-been-crossed http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/the-rubicons-that-have-been-crossed/#comments Fri, 18 Sep 2015 13:41:54 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142417 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 18 2015 (IPS)

In their attempts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and Israel have resorted over time to a number of unorthodox, illegal and in some cases criminal methods to achieve their aims. They have included the following:

1. Constant vilification of the Iranian nuclear program despite evidence to the contrary.

Since the resumption of the Iranian nuclear program after the Islamic revolution, Western leaders have openly accused Iran of pursuing a military program, despite the lack of any evidence. The claims regarding Iran’s military intentions have been repeated non-stop, along with allegations that Iran was a few years away from manufacturing a bomb.

Here are just two early examples. An April 24, in a 1984 article entitled “‘Ayatollah’ Bomb in Production for Iran,” United Press International warned that Iran was moving “very quickly” towards a nuclear weapon and could have one as early as 1986. In April 1987, the Washington Post published an article with the title “Atomic Ayatollahs: Just What the Mideast Needs – an Iranian Bomb,” in which reporter David Segal wrote of the imminent threat of such a weapon.

This pattern of reporting by Western and Israeli press has continued unabated, despite the fact that they have been proved to be wrong time and again.

2. Assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists.

There have been at least four documented cases in which Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated on the streets of Tehran. Israeli agencies have been implicated in those assassinations. A number of suspects who had been arrested testified that they were members of the terrorist organization, the Mojahedin-e Khalq, who had been recruited by Mossad, taken to Israel and trained in the use of those explosive devices.

A month after the January 2012 assassination of Ahmadi Roshan, an Iranian nuclear scientist and university professor, NBC News reported: “Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret services, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran’s leaders… U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Barack Obama administration is aware of the assassination campaign but has no direct involvement.”

This seems to be a continuation of the plan to assassinate Iraqi nuclear scientists prior to and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In his best-selling book By Way of Deception, Victor Ostrovsky, a former Mossad officer, revealed that Israel had targeted and had killed Iraqi nuclear scientists.

3. Acts of sabotage against Iranian nuclear and military installations.

On 12 November 2011, there was a massive explosion at an Iranian military base that killed Major General Hassan Moghaddam and 16 soldiers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, as well as causing extensive damage to the base. As usual, Israel did not confirm or deny responsibility for the explosion, but Israeli media pointed to the possible involvement of Mossad. The Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported that “some assessments” indicated that the blast was “the result of a military operation based on intelligence information.”

According to Annex III of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on “civil nuclear cooperation,” otherwise known as the framework agreement on the Iran nuclear program, the signatories commit to “co-operation through training and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to protect against, and respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage, as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and physical protection systems”.

However, it seems that far from condemning Israeli acts of sabotage against Iranian installations, some U.S. officials are even worried that the deal might prevent Israel from continuing these illegal activities. This provision of the deal doesn’t mention any countries by name, but U.S. Senator Marco Rubio wondered if this was included in the deal because of Iranian concerns related to a specific US ally.

“If Israel decides it doesn’t like this deal and it wants to sabotage an Iranian nuke program or facility, does this deal that we have just signed obligate us to help Iran defend itself against Israeli sabotage or for that matter the sabotage of any other country in the world?” Rubio asked at a congressional hearing on the agreement. U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz replied that “all of our options and those of our allies and friends would remain in place” after the deal goes into effect.

4. Cyber terrorism

In 2010, Iran announced that uranium enrichment at Natanz had been disrupted and as many as 1,000 centrifuges had been damaged. It was subsequently reported that the destruction was due to cyber terrorism. In June 2010, anti-virus experts discovered a sophisticated computer worm dubbed “Stuxnet,” which had spread to Iranian centrifuges at the Natanz plant and had damaged many of them. The New York Times subsequently reported that Stuxnet was part of a U.S. and Israeli intelligence operation called “Operation Olympic Games,” initiated by President George W. Bush and expanded under President Barack Obama.

At the time that the worm was reportedly infecting the Iranian machines, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cameras installed in Natanz recorded the sudden dismantling and removal of approximately 900–1,000 centrifuges. These were quickly replaced, however, and Iran resumed uranium enrichment. The West regards cyber terrorism as an act of war, yet it is willing to cooperate with Israel in cyber terrorism against Iran. This will open Pandora’s box.

5. Spying on allies during the nuclear negotiations

U.S. officials have accused Israel of spying on nuclear negotiations with Iran and of “cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.”

Subsequently, it was revealed that hotels that served as venues for the talks including the Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, the Intercontinental in Geneva, the Palais Coburg in Vienna, the Hotel President Wilson in Geneva, the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich and Royal Plaza Montreux had been targeted by an Israeli spy virus in order to eavesdrop on all the conversations.

It is clear that Israel did not even trust her closest ally, the U.S., whose officials normally informed her of all the details of the negotiations.

6. Plans to attack Iran

Apart from the repeated threats to attack Iran’s nuclear installations, Ehud Barak, Israel’s former defense minister and former prime minister, has revealed that at least on three occasions Israeli forces were ordered to get ready for an attack on Iranian nuclear installations. Israeli Channel 2 Television aired a recording of Barak revealing the details of those planned attacks. To this one should add repeated Israeli incitements for the U.S. to attack Iran, and U.S. officials constant refrain of “all options are on the table”.

7. Racist comments

It has become commonplace for U.S. and Israeli politicians to demonize Iran and Iranians and to refer to them in racist language. The Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman declared in Congressional testimony in 2013 that Iranian leaders couldn’t be trusted because “We know that deception is part of the DNA.” Tom Donilon, a former National Security Advisor to the Obama administration, also said in 2011 that Iran had “a record of deceit and deception.”

In order to see how ugly and insulting such remarks are, it is enough to replace “Iranians” with “Jews” or “Americans” to see how offensive they sound. Many Republican senators and presidential candidates have even used much more disgusting language referring to Iranians. It is sad to note that even President Obama in his meeting with Jewish leaders felt it necessary to say: “And I keep on emphasizing we don’t trust Iran. Iran is antagonistic to the U.S. It is anti-Semitic. It has denied the Holocaust. It has called for the destruction of Israel.”

These are just a few examples of the many red lines and Rubicons that have been crossed with total impunity. Instead of condemning those illegal and criminal activities by Israel, American officials have collaborated with them in these outrageous acts.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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UAE Government Stresses its Abiding Support for Syrian Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/uae-government-stresses-its-abidng-support-for-syrian-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uae-government-stresses-its-abidng-support-for-syrian-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/uae-government-stresses-its-abidng-support-for-syrian-refugees/#comments Thu, 17 Sep 2015 13:31:22 +0000 Omar Salim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142398 By Omar Salim
ABU DHABI, Sep 17 2015 (IPS)

In response to suggestions that the Gulf states are doing littleor nothing to help Syrians fleeing their civil war, the Government of the United Arab Emirates has announced that it has take a broad range of supportive actions to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian population and to care for Syrian refugees in Syria and abroad, reports WAM.

Calling the Syrian refugee crisis a political and security crisis, a tragedy of enormous proportions and a key priority for his government, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, noted that the UAE Government has welcomed and extended residency permits to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, from all segments of society and various religious sects, since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

This has brought the number of Syrian residents in the UAE to almost a quarter million, he said.

In addition, the minister noted, the UAE Government has during this time allowed thousands more Syrian nationals with expired visas or travel documents to adjust their status, enabling them to remain in the UAE.

Government figures show that the number of new and registered Syrian students enrolled in UAE schools since the beginning of the crisis has surpassed 17,000, while more than 6,000 Syrian nationals have established businesses in the country, indications that, according to the minister, “Syrian families are living a natural and normal life in the UAE’s secure and welcoming environment.”

The UAE government has also pointed out that it is among the leading financial contributors to efforts to help the Syrian people during the civil war. Thus far, the UAE has provided about 1.1 billion dollars, about half of that in humanitarian aid that has directly benefited Syrian refugees and another 420 million dollars to combat Daesh terrorism in Syria and Iraq and to provide humanitarian support and relief to displaced people.

These efforts include the UAE-funded Mrajib Al Fhood camp in Jordan, which provides high-quality care, shelter and education for 6,437 Syrian refugees and has been expanded to accommodate up to 10,000. Additionally, the UAE-Jordanian field hospital in Al Mafraq offers a wide range of professional medical services to Syrian refugees and has provided nearly a half-million treatments.

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Nuke Test Ban Treaty Still in Limbo, U.N. Complainshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/nuke-test-ban-treaty-still-in-limbo-u-n-complains/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nuke-test-ban-treaty-still-in-limbo-u-n-complains http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/nuke-test-ban-treaty-still-in-limbo-u-n-complains/#comments Wed, 16 Sep 2015 22:53:12 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142391 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 16 2015 (IPS)

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly back in 1996, has still not come into force for one primary reason: eight key countries have either refused to sign or have held back their ratifications.

The three who have not signed – India, North Korea and Pakistan – and the five who have not ratified — the United States, China, Egypt, Iran and Israel – remain non-committal 19 years following the adoption of the treaty.

When the United Nations last week commemorated International Day Against Nuclear Tests, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed once again to all remaining States – especially the eight holdovers — to sign and ratify the Treaty as “a critical step on the road to a nuclear-weapons-free world.”

Currently, there is a voluntary moratoria on testing imposed by many nuclear-armed States.

“But moratoria are no substitute for a CTBT in force. The three nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) are proof of this,” Ban said

The warning comes amidst reports Tuesday that North Korea has re-started its programme to produce nuclear weapons.

But chances of all eight countries coming on board in the not-too-distant future are remote, says John Hallam of the Human Survival Project (HSP) and People for Nuclear Disarmament (PND), a joint project between PND and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia.

“I think it is most unlikely that the recalcitrant 8 states will sign and ratify by 2016,” Hallam told IPS.

They include the United States itself, which though has signed, he said, but the Republicans have made it very clear they will not ratify..

Hallam said this also includes both India and Pakistan who have made it clear they have no intention of either signing or ratifying – “least of all, India under current Prime Minister Narendra Modi (although the nuclear disarmament movement in India has over the years advocated signature and ratification of the CTBT for India).”

Finally, he said, it includes China and one or two others who say they will ratify as soon as the United States has done so.

At a high-level panel discussion last week to commemorate International Day Against Nuclear Tests, Ban said: “The goal of ending nuclear tests has been a leading concern throughout my diplomatic career. “

As Secretary-General, and depository of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, “I have made achieving a legal ban on nuclear testing a personal priority.”

He said he has been to Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, the site of 456 tests, including some of the largest in history.

“I have met with victims of nuclear tests. I have witnessed the lasting societal, environmental and economic damage nuclear tests have caused.”

Since the first test in New Mexico 70 years ago, he pointed out, the world has endured over two thousand nuclear tests. Those tests devastated pristine environments and local populations around the world.

Many have never recovered from the legacies of nuclear testing – including poisoned groundwater, cancer, birth defects and radioactive fallout, he noted.

“The best way to honour the victims of past tests is to prevent any in the future,” he declared.

The CTBT is a legally-binding, verifiable means by which to constrain the quantitative and qualitative development of nuclear weapons.

Hallam told IPS over 1100 nuclear tests were carried out by the United States in Nevada, Alaska, the Marshall Islands, other parts of the Pacific, and in outer space.

Tests carried out in Nevada resulted in large-scale contamination of downwind inhabitants and large-scale morbidity.

He said the largest ever U.S. test was the 15Megaton Castle Bravo test, which contaminated the crew of the Japanese fishing boat Lucky Dragon, bringing about an agonizing slow death from radiation sickness, and contaminating the Marshall Islands.

The largest nuclear test ever was carried out by the Soviets in the early ’60s in Novaya Zemlya, a large island above the arctic circle, and known as ‘Tsar Bomba’ (King of Bombs), he noted.

At 60 megatons, it vaporized the sacred hunting grounds of the Nenets people, sent fallout right around the world and caused the planet to ring like a bell with seismic shock for hours.

Hallam said the Soviets carried out around 800 nuclear tests, many of them at the Semipalatinsk test site, and causing widespread radioactive contamination with catastrophic effects on local populations.

In addition, nuclear tests have been carried out by the UK, (many of them in Maralinga and Emu Field, Australia), France (Algeria and the Pacific), China (Sinkiang), India (Pokhran, Rajasthan) Pakistan (Baluchistan), and the North Korean, French, Chinese, and British tests have all inflicted radiation-based disease and death on local populations and participants.

Nuclear testing is the backbone of nuclear arms-racing and proliferation. A resumption of nuclear testing, or the conducting of a new nuclear test by any country – including the DPRK – helps to inch the world toward an abyss into which we hope it will never go, Hallam said.

The best way to halt proliferation and nail down a ‘no nuclear testing’ norm is for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which outlaws nuclear testing, to come into force, he declared.

Meanwhile, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has launched an international Project, called ATOM (the acronym for Abolish Testing. Our Mission), a worldwide e-campaign, calling on world leaders to end nuclear tests, once and for all.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Opinion: Iran and Nuclear Weapons, a Dangerous Delusionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/opinion-iran-and-nuclear-weapons-a-dangerous-delusion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-iran-and-nuclear-weapons-a-dangerous-delusion http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/opinion-iran-and-nuclear-weapons-a-dangerous-delusion/#comments Mon, 14 Sep 2015 16:12:41 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142366 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 14 2015 (IPS)

Despite all the propaganda about the Iranian leaders’ rush to acquire nuclear weapons, ever since the start of the country’s nuclear programme, Iranian leaders have been adamant that they only wish to make peaceful use of the nuclear energy to which they are entitled as a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

This was true under the former government of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who started Iran’s nuclear programme, and it has continued to be true under the Islamic Republic.

Shortly after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was agreed on Jul. 14, 2015, a number of documents belonging to the U.S. Department of Defence were declassified. Among them was a confidential cable dated Jun. 24, 1974, in which the then ruler of Iran Mohammad Reza Shah is quoted as saying:

“I am ready to repeat what I have proposed several times, that is, to declare our zone – a geographic zone whose borders could clearly be delimited – non-nuclear. Because, honestly, I believe that this nuclear armaments race is ridiculous. What would one do with them? Use them against the great powers? One could never have parity. Use them to kill each other? A country which would procure this means to attack would not wait long before being crushed by another country which also would be in the avant-garde. But if there is not enough vision, if in this region each little country tries to arm itself with armaments that are precarious, even elementary, but nuclear, then perhaps the national interests of any country at all would demand that it do the same. But I would find that completely ridiculous.”

So, contrary to some claims that the Shah was after a bomb, it is clear that he had a very rational attitude towards nuclear weapons.

The Shah once said that Iran too would develop nuclear weapons if other countries in the region did so, but his remarks were partially in response to the 1974 Indian test of a nuclear weapon and Pakistan’s efforts to do the same. He also knew that Israel already possessed nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, he repeatedly insisted that he was not looking for nuclear weapons. At the same time, he was adamant that Iran should not be treated as a second-class citizen in the region. The Shah’s common-sense attitude has been borne out by facts.

Nuclear weapons can have a deterrent effect only if the country that possesses them has the capability to respond in kind and sustain and survive the initial attacks. They can only work to serve as a deterrent in the context of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) between superpowers, but even that is a very foolish proposition, because it works until it fails, and if it fails once deliberately or by accident it would be the end of civilisation as we know it.

Pakistan has been a nuclear power for many decades, yet shortly after the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage went to see President Pervez Musharraf and allegedly threatened him that the United States would bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age if he did not cooperate against the Taliban, and Musharraf had no option but to comply.

Israel has long possessed nuclear weapons, but this has not stopped it fighting a number of wars against weaker neighbours which do not possess them. It would be a dangerous delusion for a country such as Israel to believe that its possession of nuclear weapons would ensure its safety, instead of resolving its differences with its Arab neighbours and reaching a fair agreement with millions of dispossessed and stateless Palestinians. The only use for nuclear weapons is that of suicide.

This is a lesson that even post-revolutionary Iranian leaders have learned. During the past few decades, Iranian leaders have turned towards the West many times to resolve their nuclear issue only to be rebuffed.

The most audacious offer was the one that was made by President Mohammad Khatami’s government to the U.S. Administration under George W. Bush in May 2003. Iran offered a “grand bargain”, including strict limits on enrichment. The Bush administration ignored the offer, and instead included Iran in the ‘Axis of Evil’.

The current Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005. He reached an agreement with the European “Troika” (United Kingdom, France and Germany) for a very limited enrichment programme in Iran, and he even suspended enrichment for two years as a confidence-building measure, but President Bush rejected the deal.

In a letter published by TIME on May 9, 2006, Rouhani wrote: “A nuclear weaponized Iran destabilizes the region, prompts a regional arms race, and wastes the scarce resources in the region. And taking account of U.S. nuclear arsenal and its policy of ensuring a strategic edge for Israel, an Iranian bomb will accord Iran no security dividends. There are also some Islamic and developmental reasons why Iran as an Islamic and developing state must not develop and use weapons of mass destruction.”

He went on to say: “Three years of robust inspection of Iranian nuclear and non-nuclear facilities by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors led [IAEA Director-General] Dr. El-Baradi to conclude and certify that to date there are no indications of any diversion of nuclear material and activities toward making a bomb.”

In the same letter, he said that Iran would ratify the NPT’s Additional Protocol and would accept an IAEA verifiable cap on the enrichment limit of reactor grade uranium. Stressing Iran’s intention to produce nuclear fuel domestically for both historic and long-term economic reasons, he pointed out that Iran’s offer “to welcome other countries to partner with Iran in a consortium provides additional assurance about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.”

He could not have been clearer about Iran’s intention to be open in its nuclear intentions, to cooperate with the IAEA and even partner with the West in pursuit of peaceful nuclear energy.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been equally emphatic about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. Delivering the inaugural address at the 16th Non-Aligned Summit in Tehran on Aug. 30, 2012, he said:

“Nuclear weapons neither ensure security, nor do they consolidate political power, rather they are a threat to both security and political power. The events that took place in the 1990s showed that the possession of such weapons could not even safeguard a regime like the former Soviet Union. And today we see certain countries which are exposed to waves of deadly insecurity despite possessing atomic bombs.

The Islamic Republic of Iran considers the use of nuclear, chemical and similar weapons as a great and unforgivable sin. We proposed the idea of ‘Middle East free of nuclear weapons’ and we are committed to it. This does not mean forgoing our right to peaceful use of nuclear power and production of nuclear fuel. On the basis of international laws, peaceful use of nuclear energy is a right of every country.”

He even issued a fatwa stressing that the production, storage and use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction were religiously forbidden (haram).

Even when he was president, Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, whose inflammatory rhetoric made him a bête noire of the West and who was accused of wanting to gain access to nuclear weapons, said: “The period and era of using nuclear weapons is over… Nuclear bombs are not anymore helpful and those who are stockpiling nuclear weapons, politically they are backward, and they are mentally retarded.”

He stated that if Iran wanted to manufacture a nuclear bomb, it would not be afraid of saying so, but he rightly asked what use would a single Iranian bomb be against Israel’s hundreds and the West’s thousands of nuclear weapons.

From all the statements by Iranian leaders and 12 years of intrusive inspection of Iranian nuclear installations by the IAEA, it is clear that, contrary to the incessant propaganda about Iran’s “nuclear ambitions”, there is no shred of evidence that Iran has ever been trying to manufacture nuclear weapons.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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