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Ed Webb

A Critical Perspective from the South - - Readability - 0 views

  • various obstacles have prevented convergence in policy discourses and processes across both shores of the Mediterranean
  • The EU’s emphasis on a security-centered approach in migration management and the prioritization of stability over democracy in the MENA region, have led to widening the Euro-Mediterranean gap.
  • the promotion of democracy and human rights represented one of the major normative objectives of the 1995 Barcelona Declaration. Still, due to a mix of pragmatic and security-driven considerations, the EU has co-operated with authoritarian regimes that upheld stability in the Arab region and in the Euro-Mediterranean order. The EU has moreover promoted a gradualist path of liberalization in the Arab world which consisted in galvanizing economic reforms and providing support to civil society groups. Ironically enough, this gradualist strategy contributed to maintaining the façade of liberalization that autocratic regimes were eager to advertise
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  • political engagement is not necessarily a slippery slope to interventionism
    • Ed Webb
      Key word: necessarily
  • boosting liberalization through economic means has proven to be unsatisfactory
  • Since 9/11, the EU has engaged in the MENA region with social and political actors whom it considered as moderate and liberal. Its uneasy relationship with Islamist parties has prevented it from tackling the interface between democratization and the requirement for inclusiveness
  • bridging the gap between a European and an Arab perspective of current changes in the Arab region is crucial
  • financing research and empowering academic and media discourses that help depict Arab narratives away from Western-centric and orientalist interpretative frameworks can set the tone for the development of a more balanced dialogue
  • The former Barcelona process and the Union for the Mediterranean (UFM), currently criticized for compartmentalizing issues of co-operation whilst sidelining core political problems, have called into question the multilateral dimension of Euro-Arab co-operation
  • while the bilateral approach can help boost democratic transitions in individual countries, tackling in the long term structural issues obstructing reform and good governance in the MENA region would still require multilateral channels
Ed Webb

How Twitter is gagging Arabic users and acting as morality police | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • Today, Twitter has a different story, and it is not one of speaking truth to power. Twitter is no longer empowering its users. Its platform cannot be considered neutral. Twitter’s actions suggest it is systematically suppressing voices in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
  • What started out as an investigation into the mass suspension of accounts of Egyptian dissidents, uncovered a mass censorship algorithm that targeted users who use Arabic flagging their text as hateful conduct. This story is still unfolding. As you read this, mass and unjustified systemic locking and suspension of Twitter Arabic accounts continues. Users are angry and bewildered.
  • The effects of these suspensions was not just hiding a set of tweets critical of the government, but completely disabling the influence network of Egypt’s dissidents. This is potentially the first documented politically motivated mass shutdown of twitter accounts at a time when online interaction was high and translated to possible action on the ground
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  • draconian yet lazy algorithms have systematically shut down voices of dissent – and pulled unsuspecting social media users down with them
  • accusations are not limited to Egypt but the entire region who have a sense that being critical of their governments was met with punitive measures by Twitter against them
  • many of those suspensions had a common denominator: being critical of the Egyptian government
  • suspensions seemed to have happened around late September and lasted from one day to a few days. In many cases Twitter had responded that they had suspended the accounts by mistake. The accounts affected varied from having a few followers to hundreds of thousands
  • a trending anti-Sisi hashtag disappeared suddenly in July 2018, and then later on in 2019. It didn’t help either to find that an officer in the British Army information warfare unit was head of editorial in Twitter for the MENA region.
  • I interviewed @OfficialAmro1, a user affected by mass suspensions with over 265K followers and 115K tweets. He was suspended without cause and added, “I don’t even curse.”To which I foolishly replied, “Cursing would not suspend your account, particularly if directed against a public figure. Incitement will.”“No, now it does,” he replied. He also added that if you criticize a figure loyal to the Arab regimes, you can get your account locked or suspended.
  • The 'hateful conduct' policy as defined by Twitter states: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.Analyzing the message contents that were flagged for hateful conduct I saw that most did not violate Twitter’s rules. Soon I began to discover that what @OfficialAmro1 had told me was true. The content I was seeing contained profanity. But that wasn’t the whole story.Arabic curse words are used often. I sampled around a little under 50 claims, with over 30 screenshots that contain Twitter’s email identifying the violating tweet. It was clear that profanity alone was not causing the suspensions.
  • Tragically funnier still are those who were joking around with their friends using their usual language that has profanities @ism3lawy_ ended up cursing Egypt’s Zamalek football club and for that his account was suspended permanently along with that of one of his friends. In a separate conversation, his friend @EHAB_M0 was also joking around with his friends and eventually got a permanent suspension.
  • Within seconds of my post, the algorithm identified the curse words and locked my account for 12 hours. It was my first violation ever. The irony of documenting this as a reply to the platform’s account is probably lost on them.
  • the most dangerous and disconcerting of my findings is that the appeal system in Twitter for MENA is broken.
  • Even things like talking about prostitution can get you banned
  • There is an element of guardianship that is present in despotic Arab regimes, and that moral guardianship is reflected in the algorithm by Twitter as was shown through the numerous examples above.
  • With my limited access to Twitter’s data, I have found nearly 20 accounts probably wrongfully and permanently suspended. I imagine hundreds or even thousands more have been kicked off the platform.
  • “Thank you for trying to help make Twitter a free space once again.”
Ed Webb

Arab countries' foreign policy ambitions could start hurting their economies - Business... - 1 views

  • There is a certain irony in the Arab Gulf states’ rising power across the Middle East and North Africa. International prestige, the ability to intervene militarily in regional conflict, and holding the same leverage as international financial institutions in aid and investment are what these states have long coveted. But now that they have the power – both economic and military – Gulf states like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are faced with the dilemma of demonstrating their dominance without destroying the neighbourhood.
  • Gulf states’ foreign policies are increasingly at odds with their economic interests
  • The economies of the Gulf states have changed dramatically since the beginning of the second oil boom, between 2003 and 2014. Joined together in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) trade bloc, they are more integrated into the regional and wider international economy in trade and investment flows
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  • The GCC’s outward investments in equity markets, especially towards Europe and the US, means it is also more integrated globally. And it has large amounts of foreign direct investment in infrastructure, agriculture and real estate across the MENA region.
  • The strength of their economic influence in the region lies in huge flows of capital – often a mixture of remittances, foreign aid, and foreign direct investment under the auspices of state-related bodies. This has enabled the Gulf states to usurp international institutions in shaping economic reform across the MENA region, especially in Egypt and other oil importers.
  • Politically, however, the GCC is engaged in numerous interventions across the region that have caused significant disorder and pose a threat to their mutual economic prosperity. The Gulf states were successful in crushing the Arab Spring within their own countries and cementing their development agenda. By contrast, their interventions in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Egypt have stoked the chaos there, putting the stability of the region at risk.
  • In each of these interventions, there is an incumbent economic cost to the GCC states. The war in Yemen is probably the best example of a mounting military expenditure that will only be dwarfed by the cost of re-building Yemen, which surely the UAE and Saudi Arabia will have to help foot. The Gulf States would therefore be wise to start dovetailing their foreign policies with their economic interests by fostering stability instead of conflict.
Ed Webb

The impact of the global energy transition on MENA oil and gas producers - ScienceDirect - 0 views

  • MENA hydrocarbon producers' socio-economic structures continue to heavily rely on oil rent.•The low-carbon transition may imply sustained pressure on their development models.•Since the 2014 oil price drop, they adopted new, ambitious, economic diversification plans.•Such diversification plans never worked in the past, due to a lack of real incentives.•Job creation needs and low-carbon transition could foster diversification plans' implementation.
Ed Webb

Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart - The New York Times - 0 views

    An excellent account of the MENA region's torments since 9/11. Highly recommended
Ed Webb

The Changing Strategic Importance of the Middle East and North Africa - 0 views

  • an overview of the key factors shaping the region’s changing strategic importance. It then focuses on the oil and gas exports, which are the key factor shaping the region’s strategic importance, its role as a group of major trading partners, its role as a key line of global communication between regions, and its role in global migration
  • provides a country-by-country overview of the key quantitative and trend data on oil and gas exports. It shows that there is only a limited consensus between various sources and just how different the resources and exports of given countries are.
  • several key issues affecting the future of the region’s exports of fossil fuels in detail, with supporting graphs, maps, and charts. These issues include major changes in the patterns of future energy demand and the potential impact of global warming, the changing expert needs of developed and developing states, the impact of the war in Ukraine on energy demand, the impact of strategic competition with Russia and China on energy security, and the real level of U.S. dependence on the stable flow of oil and gas exports from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
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  • The second volume is entitled The Impact of Growing Military and Civil Instability in the MENA Region. It addresses the data and trends in regional security and military developments and the problems in governance, economic, population pressure, and other key causes of civil instability. It is available on the CSIS website at 
Ed Webb

The New World - Interactive - - 0 views

    Notice how many of these are in MENA or nearby.
Ed Webb

BBC News - Saudis Arabia 'insulted' by UK inquiry - 1 views

  • Saudi Arabia says it is "insulted" by a parliamentary inquiry into how the UK deals with the country and Bahrain. Saudi officials have told the BBC they are now "re-evaluating their country's historic relations with Britain" and that "all options will be looked at".
  • In September, the British Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) announced it would be opening a wide-ranging review into the UK's relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain
  • The FAC said its new inquiry would look closely at how the UK balances its various interests in these countries in defence, trade, security, counter-terrorism and human rights.
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  • Saudi Arabia, long sensitive to western criticisms of its human rights record, believes the inquiry has been prompted by Shia activists from Bahrain, including those striving to overthrow the Sunni monarchy there
  • "Saudi Arabia's relations with the GCC is an internal matter among the six countries and we will not tolerate or accept any foreign interference in the workings of the GCC"
  • Saudi Arabia is a huge trading and defence partner for Britain with nearly £4bn of bilateral trade last year. According to the UK Trade and Investment Office there are approximately 200 UK/Saudi joint ventures with total investment of more than £11bn. Defence deals include the £7bn BAE Systems contract supplying the next tranche of Typhoon jets. Thousands of British expatriates work in Saudi Arabia and British companies involved there include Shell, GlaxoSmithKline, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and Marks & Spencer
    The FAC inquiry may embarrass both the British and Saudi governments. There's not much to be done about that, though. It will be drawing attention to well-known existing tensions and contradictions in western, including British, policies toward the MENA region, rather than revealing anything new. The old bargain, propping up dictatorships in return for stability, has shown itself to have been based on false premises. The GCC states are very different from Tunisia or Egypt. But the demographic factors are there, and the transnational public sphere overlaps significantly. Choppy waters ahead, whether or not the FAC proceeds with tact.
Ed Webb

Albanian Prime Minister: Trump Is the 'Shame of Our Civilization' | Foreign Policy - 1 views

    Siobhan started blogging in Media & Politics of MENA at Dickinson and hasn't looked back. Blog well and you could end up interviewing the PM of Albania.
Ed Webb

The Arab War on Terror - 2 views

    Useful for thinking about the long-term implications for US foreign policy in MENA of the GWOT.
Ed Webb

Putin is filling a vacuum in Syria, but what is Moscow's endgame? | The National - 2 views

    Read in the light of Lustick's article on the absence of great powers in MENA.
Ed Webb

Climate crisis: 13 ways the Middle East is under threat | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • The Middle East and North Africa have always been used to more than their fair share of extreme weather and conditions. But it has been made much worse by the twin threats of climate change and man-made intervention, which are hitting the region with increased frequency and ferocity.
  • "In the Middle East there has been a significant increase in the frequency and the intensity of sand and dust storms in the past 15 years or so."
  • The lavishly titled Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), under construction on the Blue Nile since 2011, will be the largest in Africa when it is completed. But in Cairo it is being watched anxiously: a rapid increase in demand due to population growth, severe mismanagement of resources and a lack of investment in water infrastructure have made Egypt one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, relying on the Nile for 90 percent of its fresh water.
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  • Jordan. It has been described by the UN as one of the most water-scarce countries on the planet
  • Once a water-rich country, southern Iraq has faced successive droughts and significant drops in annual rainfall, following the construction of major dams in Turkey and Iran since the 1970s.
  • Arab states are facing a water supply emergency for which they need a coordinated response, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, predicting that per capita resources will be halved by 2050.
  • The Middle East and North Africa have suffered more than any other region from water scarcity and desertification, problems being complicated by climate change
  • In the UAE, reclamation schemes, such as Dubai's Palm Islands and World Islands, have altered the geography of the coast and wave patterns have destroyed marine ecosystems.
  • Campaigners in western Turkey have protested against a Canadian-owned gold mine project amid fears the deforestation will reduce a hilltop to an arid desert.
  • Dubai has one of the hottest climates on the planet. At the height of summer, temperatures can reach a high of 41ºC in the shade. But the emirate's urban growth - between 10 percent and 13 percent, year on year, for the past four decades - has boosted those figures.
  • Pilgrims attending Hajj in Saudi Arabia may be at risk of extreme heat and humidity that is driven by climate change
  • It has been calculated that golf courses in the US use, on average, 130,000 gallons of water each day. Those in the kingdom and elsewhere will likely use many times that amount, as well as fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides to keep them alive. All these chemicals eventually feed into precious groundwater supplies, potentially causing pollution problems. 
  • In 2017, scientists warned that climate change means that the Middle East and North African region (MENA) is susceptible to some of the more severe consequences of warming, including lethal heat waves, extensive drought and rising sea levels.
  • Morocco was ranked second of 57 countries in this year's Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), which examines four performance categories: emissions, renewable energy, energy use and climate policy. But while Egypt was mid-table at 21st, Turkey came in at 47th, Iran was 55th and Saudi Arabia was last at 57th, a position it has held for the past few years.
Ed Webb

Kalam - Cooperative security in the Middle East: A role for China? - 0 views

  • the kind of role that China can be expected to play in Middle East security issues. It is not realistic to think of China as an alternative to US regional security commitments. Furthermore, the fact that China has a long-standing non-alliance policy means that any Chinese approach to regional security affairs would operate under a very different framework. Rather than alliances, China uses strategic partnership diplomacy, with a set of hierarchical designations for partner states depending on their perceived importance to Beijing. These partnerships differ from alliances in that they are interest-based rather than threat-based and do not focus on third parties. Typically, China and the partner country builds trust on the foundation of economic interests, and gradually introduces political and strategic concerns.2 Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) each have comprehensive strategic partnerships, putting them at the highest level of China’s diplomatic hierarchy. Those partnerships suggest that Beijing believes it can be a different type of great power in the region, achieving balanced relationships with competing or rival regional actors. In practice, this interpretation indicates that Beijing would be more willing to support a Persian Gulf security framework that does not actively counter any regional countries. An inclusive cooperative security dialogue involving all Gulf states would be consistent with China’s interests and preferences.
  • For the US, the China challenge means more resources should be directed to the Indo-Pacific and away from the MENA region, a process that has been delayed by ongoing tensions between the US and Iran.
  • First, a US pivot potentially challenges China in Asia, a region that Beijing considers far more consequential than the Middle East and North Africa. Second, it could weaken the existing MENA security architecture that has allowed China to develop a significant regional presence. This adds a layer of complexity when Chinese leaders consider Persian Gulf security. Regional stability is necessary for Chinese commercial and energy interests, but at the same time the threat of regional instability in the form of Iranian aggression means the US will remain deeply engaged in the Gulf.
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  • Prior to the trade war initiated by the Trump administration, Beijing appeared satisfied with the US preponderance in the Middle East. Since then, however, the region has come to resemble a playing field. Beijing began to offer more support to Iran during the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign,4 both with the comprehensive strategic partnership (signed in January 2016 but not implemented until March 2021) and the offer to make Iran a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. At the same time, China has intensified relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, reportedly helping the Saudis with their indigenous ballistic missile programme5 and reportedly beginning work on a military installation in Abu Dhabi before abandoning it due to US pressure on the Emiratis.6 None of this requires significant resources from Beijing but creates friction that seems designed to keep the US anchored in the Gulf.
  • A nuclear Iran is a threat to China, as is the prospect of anticipated nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East that would likely result. This is an issue that would be especially suited to Chinese engagement through a cooperative security dialogue.
  • ‘Achieve nuclear non-proliferation’ is of course directly linked to the Iranian nuclear issue. As one of the P5 states involved in negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), China sees this agreement as an important diplomatic achievement, and Chinese officials were actively involved behind the scenes in the run-up to the JCPOA.12 That the US unilaterally withdrew from it undermined Chinese preferences for Gulf stability. Its officials have frequently condemned this
  • t established the China Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) in 2004, a multilateral forum that promotes policy coordination and includes China and the 22 Arab League member states. Another development was the appointment of special envoys to offer Chinese mediation on regional hotspot issues, with one for Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and another for Syria. Beyond inserting China into these issues, however, and demonstrating Beijing’s awareness that it needs to be more actively involved, there have been few tangible results from these envoys.
  • The Middle East is a region where the two countries’ interests align quite closely and would benefit from policy coordination. Given the political climates in both Washington and Beijing, however, it is difficult to foresee this happening unless it concerns an issue where both believe their interests and preferences are threatened.
Ed Webb

NASA - NASA Satellites Find Freshwater Losses in Middle East - 1 views

  • during a seven-year period beginning in 2003 that parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost 117 million acre feet (144 cubic kilometers) of total stored freshwater. That is almost the amount of water in the Dead Sea. The researchers attribute about 60 percent of the loss to pumping of groundwater from underground reservoirs
  • "GRACE data show an alarming rate of decrease in total water storage in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, which currently have the second fastest rate of groundwater storage loss on Earth, after India," said Jay Famiglietti, principal investigator of the study and a hydrologist and professor at UC Irvine. "The rate was especially striking after the 2007 drought. Meanwhile, demand for freshwater continues to rise, and the region does not coordinate its water management because of different interpretations of international laws."
  • the Iraqi government drilled about 1,000 wells in response to the 2007 drought, a number that does not include the numerous private wells landowners also very likely drilled
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  • "The Middle East just does not have that much water to begin with, and it's a part of the world that will be experiencing less rainfall with climate change," said Famiglietti. "Those dry areas are getting dryer. The Middle East and the world's other arid regions need to manage available water resources as best they can."
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