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Ed Webb

Khamenei names new chief for Iran's Revolutionary Guards - Reuters - 0 views

  • Iran’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has replaced the head of the influential Revolutionary Guards Corps, state TV reported on Sunday, days after the United States designated the elite group a foreign terrorist organization.
  • On April 13, Salami was quoted by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying that he and the IRGC were proud of being designated a terrorist group by Washington.
  • Comprising an estimated 125,000-strong military with army, navy and air units, the Guards also command the Basij, a religious volunteer paramilitary force, and control Iran’s missile programs. The Guards’ overseas Quds forces have fought Iran’s proxy wars in the region.
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  • Salami, born in 1960, said in January that Iran’s strategy was to wipe “the Zionist regime” (Israel) off the political map, Iran’s state TV reported.
Ed Webb

In Libya, traditional and social media are used to fuel war | Arab Tyrant Manual - 0 views

  • Every Libyan news outlet has obvious and sometimes unabashed biases – Libya24 for example, has given itself a reputation for taking a pro-Gaddafi stance, while others such as al-Nabaa are seen as overly sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. The extent to which they allow debate and independent comment varies. As dozens of civilians have been killed since the start of Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli last week, a staunchly pro-Haftar news outlet, Libya Alhadath, broadcasts a steady stream of songs glorifying Haftar and his offensive, in a way reminiscent of Libya’s solitary state TV channel for most of the Gaddafi era.
  • most Libyan news outlets and TV channels have dramatically changed their stances over the past number of years as alliances have changed and new actors have emerged in the country
  • Libyans don’t trust local media.
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  • foreign media has been equally tarnished, through the partisanship of Arab outlets which are predominantly Gulf-based, such as Aljazeera, Alarabiya and Sky News Arabia
  • the lack of professionalism and dishonesty of TV channels has driven many to social media for news updates.
  • Well-intentioned citizen journalists enthusiastically spread rumours and misreported or exaggerated clashes, quickly creating a reputation for dishonesty that stuck to the sector as a whole.
  • Systematic posting of false information on social media accounts also became a favoured tactic of militias on all sides of the conflicts has become a trademark tactic
  • People living in the same area are often exposed to completely different realities depending on the media they consume.
  • A phenomenon new to Libya in this round of conflict is the large-scale attempts by gulf monarchies to fill social media with blatant propaganda in favour of their chosen sides
  • Haftar has long been backed by Saudi and the UAE, with the latter repeatedly breaching a United Nations arms embargo to provide his forces with attack aircrafts, armoured vehicles, helicopters and other ammunition
  • Khadeja Ramali, a Libyan data scientist, who has examined and mapped tweets mentioning Haftar since the offensive was launched. Her research has clearly shown a huge pro-Haftar push from accounts based in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE.
  • Qatar also joined with the Libya propaganda campaign, a few days late, to broadcast the UAE’s complicity in Haftar’s crimes
Ed Webb

Revealed: The U.S. military's 36 code-named operations in Africa - 0 views

  • These programs are “specifically designed for us to work with our host nation partners to develop small — anywhere between 80 and 120 personnel — counterterrorism forces that we’re partnered with,” said Bolduc. “They are specially selected partner-nation forces that go through extensive training, with the same equipment we have, to specifically go after counterterrorism targets, especially high-value targets.”
  • Between 2013 and 2017, U.S. special operations forces saw combat in at least 13 African countries
  • Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Tunisia
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  • code-named operations cover a variety of different military missions, ranging from psychological operations to counterterrorism
  • Eight of the named activities, including Obsidian Nomad, are so-called 127e programs, named for the budgetary authority that allows U.S. special operations forces to use certain host-nation military units as surrogates in counterterrorism missions
  • a panoply of named military operations and activities U.S. forces have been conducting from dozens of bases across the northern tier of Africa. Many of these operations are taking place in countries that the U.S. government does not recognize as combat zones, but in which U.S. troops are nonetheless fighting and, in several cases, taking casualties
  • Yahoo News does not claim that this list is comprehensive.
  • The umbrella operation for the mission that resulted in the deadly ambush in Niger, Juniper Shield is the United States’ centerpiece counterterrorism effort in northwest Africa and covers 11 nations: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia. Under Juniper Shield, U.S. teams rotate in every six months to train, advise, assist and accompany local partner forces to conduct operations against terrorist groups, including ISIS-West Africa, Boko Haram and al Qaida and its affiliates.
  • In 2010, the first head of Africa Command, Army Gen. William “Kip” Ward, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Operation Objective Voice was an “information operations effort to counter violent extremism by leveraging media capabilities in ways that encourage the public to repudiate extremist ideologies.” Coordinated with other government agencies, this propaganda effort included “youth peace games” in Mali, a film project in northern Nigeria, and, according to his successor, Army Gen. Carter Ham, a “variety of messaging platforms, such as the African Web Initiative, to challenge the views of terrorist groups.” Objective Voice continues today.
  • OBSIDIAN LOTUS: A 127e activity concentrated on Libya, in which U.S. commandos trained and equipped Libyan special operations forces battalions. One of those units ended up under the control of renegade warlord Gen. Khalifa Haftar
  • Information on which operations the following bases support was partially redacted: Douala, Garoua and Maroua (all Cameroon); N’Djamena, Chad; Bangui, Central African Republic; Diffa, Dirkou, Madama and Niamey (all Niger). The list of operations supported by Tobruk and Tripoli (both Libya) was fully redacted. Other data were likely withheld completely.
Ed Webb

Lebanon is struggling to cope with Syrian refugees, but young people are pushing the co... - 0 views

  • When the war in Syria broke out eight years ago, I was barely a teenager. Almost overnight, my small home country of Lebanon, with a population of only five million, saw a huge influx of people fleeing violence, terror and persecution. Most needed urgent humanitarian assistance. Now around one in four people in Lebanon is a refugee.
  • Even before the Syrian crisis, the Lebanese economy was suffering. When the Syrians came, it created additional pressure. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high, and the proportion of Lebanese nationals living below the poverty line has just topped 30 per cent.
  • the solutions, the opportunities, that have arisen from this dire situation
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  • many people in Lebanon blame the refugees for our problems – especially economic problems
  • I began taking part in an EU MADAD trust fund “Youth Resolve” project close to my home. It was run by UK aid agency CAFOD and Caritas Lebanon. Its main objective is to bring Syrian and Lebanese youth together.
  • We have been able to change some of the perspectives on both sides – among Lebanese people and refugees – and it inspired me to do more. People around me have started to understand that the Syrians did not come here by choice; they were forced to come here, and if they could go home, most of them would. These are all steps on the path to equal treatment.
  • We will be the ones raising the next generation, and we don’t need to do that based on opinions from another time. In the future, I hope to create a youth council back in Lebanon, where young people can share their views and be represented.
Ed Webb

The Iran Obsession Keeps Getting Worse | The American Conservative - 0 views

  • Military and intelligence officials are understandably wary of labeling part of another state’s military establishment as terrorists: Officials at the Pentagon and the C.I.A. — which Mr. Pompeo ran in the Trump administration’s first year — oppose designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards or the Iraqi militias as terrorist groups, fearing a backlash that could constrain American troops.
  • Iraqi opposition to a continued U.S. military presence in the country was on the rise even before Trump put his foot in his mouth about “watching Iran” from Iraq, and that opposition seems certain to increase if these proposed designations of Iraqi militias and officials go ahead.
  • The proposed terrorist designations are a good example of why the Trump administration is having such difficulty building international support for its “maximum pressure” campaign. They make a habit of insisting that other governments cooperate against Iran. Then, instead of giving them incentives to cooperate, they threaten them with penalties and drive the other governments to find workarounds to increase their cooperation with Iran instead. The U.S. is used to having its allies and clients fall in line when our government tells them what they are supposed to do, but that isn’t happening here.
Ed Webb

USA/Somalia: Shroud of secrecy around civilian deaths masks possible war crimes | Amnes... - 0 views

  • Forensic investigation yields credible evidence 14 civilians were killed in just five strikes More than 100 strikes by US drones and manned aircraft since early 2017 Strikes in Somalia tripled under Trump, outpacing Yemen and Libya combined
  • The Hidden US War in Somalia details how 14 civilians were killed and eight more injured in just five of the more than 100 strikes in the past two years. These five incidents were carried out with Reaper drones and manned aircraft in Lower Shabelle, a region largely under Al-Shabaab control outside the Somali capital Mogadishu. The attacks appear to have violated international humanitarian law, and some may amount to war crimes.
  • US Africa Command (AFRICOM) repeated its denial that any civilians have been killed in its operations in Somalia.
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  • “The civilian death toll we’ve uncovered in just a handful of strikes suggests the shroud of secrecy surrounding the US role in Somalia’s war is actually a smokescreen for impunity,”
  • Our findings directly contradict the US military’s mantra of zero civilian casualties in Somalia. That claim seems all the more fanciful when you consider the USA has tripled its air strikes across the country since 2016, outstripping their strikes in Libya and Yemen combined.”
  • Amnesty International researchers travelled to Somalia, conducted more than 150 interviews with eyewitnesses, relatives, persons displaced by the fighting, and expert sources – including in the US military – and rigorously analysed corroborating evidence, including satellite imagery, munition fragments, and photos from the aftermath of air strikes.
  • US forces carried out 34 strikes in Somalia in the last nine months of 2017 – more than in the entire five years from 2012 to 2016. This increased again in 2018, to 47 strikes; and there have already been 24 in the first two months of 2019 alone.
  • the General also believes that the Executive Order widened the net of potential targets to include virtually any adult male living in villages sympathetic to Al-Shabaab and seen in proximity to known fighters. Such a broad targeting mandate would violate international humanitarian law and lead to unlawful killing of civilians.
  • For Somalis affected by US air strikes, there has been little, if any, chance of obtaining justice. It is near impossible to even report the killing or injury of family or community members, given the location of these attacks and the security risks associated with doing so.
Ed Webb

No, really, George W. Bush lied about WMDs - Vox - 0 views

  • there were numerous occasions when Bush and his advisers made statements that intelligence agencies knew to be false, both about WMDs and about Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent links to al-Qaeda.
  • The failure of Iraq was not merely a case of well-meaning but incompetent policymakers rushing into what they should’ve known would be a disaster. It’s the story of those policymakers repeatedly misleading the public about why, exactly, the war started.
Ed Webb

Fewer Germans plan to visit Turkey after minister's threats - Turkish Minute - 0 views

  • The number of Germans buying holiday packages in Turkey dropped significantly after Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu vowed to detain and deport tourists at airports if they are suspected of links to terrorism
  • in Berlin, the daily number of holiday purchases has fallen from around 1,000 to between 300 and 500.
  • Germany on Saturday changed its travel advice for visitors to Turkey, warning its citizens that they risked arrest for expressing opinions that would be tolerated at home but may not be by Turkish authorities.
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  • In 2018 some 4.5 million Germans visited Turkey, making it the second largest group of tourists after Russians.
Ed Webb

Why the U.S. and Tunisia Keep Their Cooperation Secret - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Two years ago, American Marines battled Al Qaeda militants in western Tunisia along the border with Algeria. A Marine and a Tunisian soldier were wounded and two other Marines were later commended for their valor in the gunfight.Yet many details of the February 2017 clash remain murky, largely because of the Tunisian government’s political sensitivities over the presence of American forces in its territory.
  • Last year, when one of the most detailed accounts of the clash to date surfaced in a report in Task & Purpose, a privately owned American website focused on military and veterans affairs, the Tunisian Ministry of Defense was dismissive. It said the “presence of American troops in Tunisia was only for cooperation and training, not conducting operations.”
  • some 150 Americans training and advising their Tunisian counterparts in one of the largest missions of its kind on the African continent
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  • The deepening American involvement in an array of secret missions goes largely unreported because of Tunisian and American concerns that publicizing this could attract even more extremist violence
  • “Tunisia is one of our most capable and willing partners,” Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the head of the Pentagon’s Africa Command, told Congress in February.
  • Unarmed American surveillance drones fly reconnaissance missions from Tunisia’s main air base outside Bizerte, the northernmost city in Africa, hunting terrorists who might be seeking to infiltrate through the country’s border with Libya and other areas
  • The value of American military supplies delivered to the country increased to $119 million in 2017 from $12 million in 2012, government data show
  • has struggled to control a threat from Al Qaeda and other radical groups, which have exploited the new freedoms to radicalize followers and establish networks of cells across Tunisia.
  • Tunisia has succeeded in dismantling most of the militant networks since 2015, according to government officials, diplomats and security analysts. But it still faces threats.
  • “The jihadist cells have completely given up the playbook of gaining the sympathy of the population,” said Matt Herbert, a director of Maharbal, a Tunisian strategic consulting firm. Now, he said, they are trying to terrorize them.
  • Prime Minister Youssef Chahed supports the fight against terrorism. The government spends 15 percent of its budget on the defense and interior ministries for that purpose, he said recently. But he acknowledged that this had come at a cost for other pressing problems, such as poverty and unemployment.
  • still struggling with its porous borders with Libya and Algeria, which serve as transit areas for Al Qaeda’s branch in North Africa and as well as the remains of Islamic State cells in Libya
  • In the Kasserine mountain area, only a few dozen guerrillas are active at any given time. Yet because of its proximity to the Algerian border, the Tunisian Army has struggled to secure it.
Ed Webb

Algeria's Bouteflika will not seek fifth term, delays elections | News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • 's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has said he will not seek a fifth term and announced the delay of the country's presidential polls amid mass protests against his reelection bid.
  • elections would follow a national conference on political and constitutional reform to be carried out by the end of 2019
  • government reshuffle would also take place soon. According to APS, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia had already resigned
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  • weeks of mass demonstrations against Bouteflika's plan to extend his 20-year rule
  • "All eyes are on the army now. Is the army going to let new protests to happen next Friday?... With Bouteflika aside, the army is going to have its say as to what kind of position they will accept." "Now it seems the regime of Bouteflika is done but [the question is] are we going to get back the state civilly without... any pressure on all these people who have been using the state for their interest for so long? "If we look at the Tunisian transition for example, we saw that  we could not avoid having the old elite come back, but they did so through new institutions; it was more or less easier for people to control this outcome."
Ed Webb

Iran Is Committing Suicide by Dehydration - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • Over the past 40 years, the regime’s entrenched corruption, cronyism, and mismanagement of environmental and natural resources have brought Iran to the edge of disaster. In 2013, the former head of Iran’s environmental protection agency reported that 85 percent of the country’s groundwater was gone, while the population had doubled in the last 40 years. According to Issa Kalantari, a former agriculture minister and current head of the environmental protection agency, millions of Iranians will be forced to migrate to more developed countries, especially in Europe, if the water crisis is not resolved in 20 to 30 years.
  • the story of Iran’s water crisis began before the revolution when Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi nationalized Iran’s water resources. For more than 3,000 years, Iranians avoided overexploiting aquifers by relying on indigenous pieces of infrastructure called qanats—slightly inclining underground canals for transferring water within arid and semiarid lands without exposing water to the sun. But the shah introduced to Iran the use of deep well-drilling technology and powerful motor pumps that began depleting the country’s aquifers.
  • the Islamic Republic began to build hundreds of dams, most completely unnecessary, and new networks of water transfer pipelines and channels. The revolutionary government’s hope was that these measures would allow it to collect and supply enough water for agricultural and industrial projects. The dam building also benefited construction companies connected to the regime, especially those affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. But the new dams blocked major rivers from reaching many parts of the country and prevented the replenishment of aquifers. As a result, farmers started drilling deeper wells to reach the natural water tables that were gradually sinking.
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  • the regime, striving to gain self-sufficiency in its conflict with the West, encouraged farmers to plant more wheat and other grains without paying attention to the water intensity of cereals and the increasingly dire state of the aquifers. This led to farmers digging tens of thousands of wells, many illegally without any supervision or accountability. In the 40 years since the revolution, the number of wells in Iran has climbed from 60,000 to almost 800,000
  • Aquifers that haven’t been recharged are starting to collapse and subside permanently (an effect that has been evident in areas of the United States such as Fresno, California)
  • Politicians including Khatami and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani diverted water from the Zayandeh for political purposes. Khatami was particularly instrumental in the river’s destruction by diverting water to his home province of Yazd. Rouhani has in turn completely neglected Iran’s water crisis and has chosen not to pursue policies that could alleviate water shortages, including aquifer management, construction of water recycling plants, and public campaigns encouraging Iranians to lower their consumption rate. Instead, he has pushed to transfer desalinated water to his home province of Semnan and build more dams. His government has dealt with protesting farmers in Varzaneh and elsewhere through arrests, torture, and beatings.
Ed Webb

Turkey conducts largest ever navy drill as tensions rise in Mediterranean | Middle East... - 0 views

  • Turkish armed forces began the largest naval exercise in the country's history on Wednesday, with 103 military vessels and thousands of soldiers conducting operations in three seas surrounding the country. The drill, dubbed “Blue Homeland”, will be held until Saturday, covering over 462,000 square metres in the Black Sea, Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean.
  • tensions have been building in the waters to Turkey's west with its neighbours Greece and Cyprus, as the countries vie over subterranean energy resources, particularly natural gas
  • Blue Homeland has already caused disturbance in neighbouring countries, as Greek media reports suggest Athens has perceived it as a source of “renewed concern given the recent tension in bilateral relations”.
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  • Retired Turkish rear admiral Deniz Kutluk told MEE that Blue Motherland’s main aim was to show the real capabilities of Turkey's navy for deterrence, rather than sending messages to any neighbouring country. “There was this outside perception that the Turkish navy has been undermined by domestic shocks," he said.  "Senior commanders seem to understand this misperception. That’s why they wanted to reveal to the world that the Turkish navy is capable of simultaneously fighting in three seas surrounding Turkey.”
  • the drills come a week after Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu declared that Turkey would in coming days send two ships to the waters near Cyprus to begin exploring for oil and gas
  • Nothing at all can be done in the Mediterranean without Turkey, we will not allow that
  • Last November, Greece, Italy and Cyprus signed a $7bn deal with Israel to lay a pipeline and purchase Israeli natural gas, which will eventually reach wider European markets.
  • Necdet Ozcelik, an independent security analyst who served as an operations sergeant in the Turkish special forces, told MEE that Blue Motherland was being used to demonstrate that Turkey could provide energy security and act as a transit hub for resources in the region. “The competition in eastern Mediterranean for energy resources will be increasingly under the spotlight as the Syrian crisis comes to an end," he said. 
Ed Webb

Exxon's likely gas find off Cyprus could reignite tension in E. Mediterranean - analysi... - 0 views

  • U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil is soon expected to announce that its drilling campaign offshore the southern coast of the divided island of Cyprus has resulted in a major gas discovery, thereby reigniting tension between Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, the Guardian reported.
  • Exxon has found a commercially viable oil reservoir in Block 10 offshore Cyprus amid warnings from Ankara against exploration due to what it says is ignoring the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people
  • Erdoğan warned last November that Ankara would not allow other countries to drill for gas in Turkish or northern Cypriot waters in the resource-rich eastern Mediterranean.
Ed Webb

In 1930s Tunisia, French Doctors Feared a 'Tea Craze' Would Destroy Society - Gastro Ob... - 0 views

  • In 1927, at a meeting of the Academy of Medicine in Paris, a French-trained Tunisian doctor, Béchir Dinguizli, sounded the alarm about a “new social scourge” spreading like an “oil stain” across Tunisia. It had “entered our morals with lightning speed,” he warned, and if not stopped by French authorities, it had the power to paralyze Tunisian society. The alarming threat? Drinking tea.
  • Although practically unknown before World War I, tea imports nevertheless shot up from 100,000 kilos in 1917 to 1,100,000 in 1926. The catalyst appears to have been the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-1912, which sent an influx of tea-drinking refugees from Tripolitania (modern-day Libya) into Tunisia.
  • Among these French administrators, there was real fear that the colonized population was turning into tea addicts, with medical, social, and economic consequences for France’s mission civilisatrice.
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  • “The harm that [tea] causes is especially visible in the [Tunisian] countryside, where it weakens the race, which is literally intoxicated and morally and physically diminished.”
  • In 1941, the French doctor Edmond Sergent described in several scientific articles how Tunisians, instead of adding fresh tea leaves to already boiling water, added used leaves to the water as it boiled, creating a harmful, tar-like drink. Sergent also argued that Tunisians’ black tea was more dangerous than Moroccan green tea, which explained why cases of teaism were rare in Morocco, despite Morocco’s tea consumption being much higher.
  • French administrators tried banning illegal coffeehouses, which served tea, and increasing customs duties on tea. There were also calls for posters and educational films on the dangers of tea and how to prepare it correctly, for creating a state monopoly on tea, and even a law restricting tea sales to pharmacies upon presentation of a prescription
  • The perceived social consequences of teaism were founded in the belief that tea addicts would do almost anything to satisfy their habit. According to Sergent, the whole salary of many Tunisian workers went “to the buying of tea and sugar.” When their money ran out, Tunisian teaists sold their last possessions, stole from employers, friends, and family, and, in Dinguizli’s words, lost their “usually docile character.”
  • By the 1940s, a variety of publications had ceased to view teaism as an exclusively Tunisian problem, as diagnoses cropped up elsewhere in the Maghreb, such as, in 1948, the psychiatrist Charles Bardenat offhandedly ascribing an act of conjugal manslaughter committed in Algeria to the overconsumption of coffee and tea.
  • not a single case of a French settler in Tunisia being diagnosed with teaism can be found in the French publications.
  • According to Dinguizli, teaism was an addiction comparable to alcoholism, a form of chronic poisoning with nervous tremors, amnesia, palpitations, blurred vision, serious disturbances of the nervous and circulatory system, a general weakening of the body, and even a marked decrease in birth rates. Later authors delineated additional mental consequences, such as hallucinations, delusions, and even psychoses.
  • Tea neither produced hallucinations nor induced crime, and it did not “corrupt” Tunisians. They simply enjoyed a new drink that French authors objected to.
  • When tea first reached England in the 17th and 18th centuries, writers described it as un-British, “unmanly,” and altogether dangerous
  • chocolate, once the drink of choice at rowdy British clubs, inspired similar concern
  • The French viewed coffee, which was produced in their colonies of Martinique and La Réunion, as the drink of the Enlightenment and reason
  • The sight of Tunisians sitting and chatting over tea fueled settler prejudices about Tunisians as lazy and immoderate—nearly all descriptions of teaism focused on the economic consequences
  • feared attacks, revolt, and any sign of the population losing their supposed “docility.”
  • The irony of teaism is that the only real epidemic was the diagnosis of teaism itself. Today, tea is practically Tunisia’s national drink
Ed Webb

Iran's president rejects resignation of top diplomat Javad Zarif - 0 views

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has rejected the shock resignation of his vocal Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who led negotiations for the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal. Initially withholding reasons for the resignation in a cryptic Instagram post Monday night, Zarif later attributed his decision to political infighting and being sidelined in foreign policy decisions. On Wednesday morning, Rouhani officially rejected the resignation, writing in a letter: "I think your resignation is against the country's interests and I do not accept it." If Zarif stays in his position, it will likely serve to bolster support for him and the Rouhani administration, some analysts say, blunting initial arguments that the resignation meant a win for Iran's hard-line factions.
  • Iranian media reported that a majority of parliament members penned a letter to Rouhani on Tuesday asking him to reject the resignation.
  • Most foreign policy and security decision-making lies in the hands of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, which are far more conservative.
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  • Rouhani on Wednesday wrote in his letter to Zarif, "It is the belief of myself and the Supreme Leader that you are a trusted, brave and devout individual standing on the frontline against America's multilateral pressures."
  • growing discontent over what many Iranians now see as a failed attempt to engage with the West and the shortcomings of the 2015 nuclear deal
Ed Webb

The Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum: A Lebanese perspective - 0 views

  • Energy Ministers from Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority took an important step in Cairo toward establishing an Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF)
  • assist in the creation of a regional gas market, ensure security of supply and demand, optimize resource development, facilitate the use of existing infrastructure and build new ones if necessary, etc.
  • it has become increasingly clear that regional cooperation is needed to make the most out of the region’s resources. The Eastern Mediterranean’s gas potential is promising. But, beside Egypt, the countries in the region have to deal with a number of challenges to exploit their resources. First, these resources are mostly offshore, in deep and ultra-deep waters, which makes drilling a complex and costly operation. When found in commercial quantities, their extraction is expensive. Second, the relevant infrastructure to monetize these resources is quasi-inexistent (outside Egypt). And if this was not enough, the geopolitical risk is high (conflict in Syria, terrorism, the Cyprus problem and sour relations between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey, a constant state of tension between Lebanon and Israel, deteriorating relations between Turkey and Egypt, and between Turkey and Israel etc.).
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  • Turkish warships prevented a drillship from reaching its drilling target in Block 3 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone
  • Besides Syria, which is still struggling with its many wars, there are two notable absences: Turkey and Lebanon.
  • On one hand, there are offshore resources that – until now at least – require cooperation to facilitate their exploitation, and on the other, we see renewed geopolitical rivalries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • it is clear that this alignment is primarily in reaction to what many of the founding members perceive as aggressive Turkish behavior over the last few years. Many Lebanese are ignoring this dimension and feel that this forum, and this alignment, are directed against them.
  • A small country like Lebanon, in a turbulent region, does not have the luxury of picking and choosing its friends, with a country with which it is in a state of war to the south, and a Syria mired in conflict along the rest of its borders.
  • More than any other member State, Egypt has the possibility to reach out to Lebanon. Egypt is the key player in this new configuration, and, as an Arab country that maintains close and brotherly ties with Lebanon, it can play an important role in reassuring the Lebanese about the project while also seeking to strengthen prospects for energy cooperation between the two countries.
Ed Webb

How U.S. Mission Creep in Syria and Iraq Could Trigger War With Iran - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • incident in Syria two years ago involving the transport of an Iranian port-a-potty nearly led to a confrontation between American and Iranian forces, underscoring just how quickly even minor events could escalate there
  • the Trump administration signals it might leave behind a small force in both Syria and Iraq to monitor Iranian activities
  • Some analysts and U.S. officials believe that the change of mission for those forces could raise the chances of a war between the United States and Iran—and that it may even be illegal under the U.S. Constitution
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  • “What is the strategy? What would be the rules of engagement? How would we avoid being sucked into a regional war not of our making?” said Kelly Magsamen, the vice president for national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress. “If I’m a service member in Syria, I would want to know what the heck I was doing there and how my mission fit into a strategy.”
  • the strategy would constitute a core operational change, raising broad questions about the mission
  • he’s considering keeping a small force at a remote base in southeastern Syria, far from the last remnants of the Islamic State, to counter Iran. And yesterday, Trump said he wants to maintain some troops in Iraq for the same purpose
  • on May 19, U.S. forces detected a vehicle heading toward the group, carrying a port-a-potty. The coalition headquarters gave the strike order. The strike never occurred. Air Force officers responsible for operations at the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar—the command-and-control hub of air forces throughout the U.S. Air Forces Central Command region—refused to attack because they did not believe it to be “a lawful order that complied with the rules of engagement,” the official said, describing the idea that a threat was posed to U.S. forces as “ludicrous.”
  • “We stray from the Constitution when military commanders choose to use U.S. military force against another state’s force in the absence of a credible, imminent threat.”
  • the Department of Defense does not keep records of strikes that do not occur
  • The incident underscored the tricky legal position U.S. forces find themselves in the region. Under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force—which authorizes the fight against nonstate militant groups such as the Islamic State or al Qaeda—U.S. military forces are not authorized to target state actors such as Iranian, Russian, Syrian, or proxy regime forces in Syria unless they are attacked and are responding in self-defense
  • the U.S. presence in Syria has been constitutionally dubious for a long time. Obama’s reliance on the 2001 AUMF to justify the operation was “a big stretch,”
  • there are signs that, after years of failed attempts to pass a new Authorization for Use of Military Force, Congress will put its foot down on the issue of maintaining a small force at al-Tanf to deter Iran
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    Useful illustration of the legal and other problems of mission creep.
Ed Webb

Saudi crown prince defends China's right to put Uighur Muslims in concentration camps - 0 views

  • "China has the right to carry out anti-terrorism and de-extremisation work for its national security,” Prince Mohammed, who has been in China signing multi-million trade deals much to the annoyance of his Western allies, was quoted as saying on Chinese state television
  • China has detained an estimated one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps, where they are undergoing re-education programmes allegedly intended to combat extremism. The Uighur are an ethnic Turkic group that practices Islam and lives in Western China and parts of Central Asia.
  • Uighur groups had appealed to Saudi’s powerful young prince to take up their cause, as the ultraconservative kingdom has traditionally been a defender of the rights of Muslims worldwide.
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  • Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, became the first to condemn Beijing, however, describing China's treatment of its Uighur population as "a great cause of shame for humanity" last month and asking it to close the "concentration camps".
  • Imran Khan, prime minister of Pakistan, where Prince Salman has just visited, said he “did not know” much about the conditions of the Uighurs.
Ed Webb

The New Energy geopolitics and the Gulf Arab States - The Geopolitics - 0 views

  • today’s largest volumes of global seaborne crude oil – around 30% – along with a significant volume of LNG, passes through its Straits of Hormuz, making it the most important maritime oil chokepoint which connects the Gulf states with key global markets in the East and the West
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) sees that the world can reach net-zero emissions by 2060, wherein 75% of reduction comes from energy efficiency and renewable energy, with another 14% from carbon capture and storage, 6% from nuclear and 5% from fuel switching. In this context, the fossil fuels’ share of the global energy mix falls from 82% in 2014 to 35% in 2060 under the 2°C scenario, or to 26% in the below 2°C scenario.
  • Renewable technologies and batteries require certain minerals for their production, such as cobalt, lithium, nickel and rare earth elements. Despite the fact that renewable endowments for wind, solar, geothermal and biomass are scattered geographically, controlling the production of these new commodities will have major geopolitical consequences as they are based only in a selected number of countries such as Chile, Bolivia, Mongolia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
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  • At present, China dominates the world’s investment and innovation in renewable energy technologies.
  • the importance of the Gulf Arab states will be eroded not only because of the decline in global demand for oil but also because Gulf countries are not rich in the minerals required to build renewable energy technologies, and are highly dependent on technology imports rather than in-house technology innovation and research and development
  • all hydrocarbon producer economies will see a fall in total rent of about 40% by 2040 compared with the ‘golden years’ of 2010-14 due to rigorous policies on fuel switching and efficiency to reach net-zero emissions in the second half of this century
  • In 2013, R&D investment in Gulf countries averaged 0.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP), compared with 2%–3% in industrialized countries. The 0.3% figure is far less than the minimum percentage (1%) needed for an effective science and technology base specified by UNESCO.
  • in the new energy era, the Gulf Arab states are still advantaged by their geographical location. These countries are specially positioned for harnessing wind and solar energy
Ed Webb

UAE eases Qatar shipping ban amid continuing dispute | Reuters - 0 views

  • The United Arab Emirates has eased a ban on the shipping of goods between it and Qatar enforced under a political and economic boycott of Doha, according to port circulars and an industry source.
  • An Abu Dhabi Ports circular dated Feb. 12 canceled previous directives that banned cargoes of Qatar origin from UAE waters and ports and those of UAE origin from Qatar.
  • It maintained a ban on vessels flying the Qatar flag, owned by Qatari shipping firms or nationals. UAE-flagged vessels still cannot call at Qatar ports.
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  • On the political front, there has been no indication of a thaw. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have said the dispute is not a priority and that Qatar must accept a list of conditions before ties are restored. Qatar has said that although it would like the matter resolved it is moving on and last year quit oil producer group OPEC, of which Saudi Arabia is de facto leader.
  • Qatar’s economy has largely weathered the boycott thanks to the tiny country’s vast wealth, which was swiftly deployed by the government to support the financial sector. The world’s largest natural gas exporter also forged new trade links to meet domestic demand, including basic goods such as food, and construction material as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup.
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