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Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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Jim Franklin

Al Jazeera English - Middle East - Nasrallah slams Obama Israel 'bias' - 0 views

  • The leader of the Lebanese group Hezbollah has accused Barack Obama, the US president, of "absolute bias" in favour of Israel and of disregard for the dignity of Arabs and Muslims.
  • the high expectations that followed Obama's election had been "shattered".
  • Nasrallah said any "illusions" anyone had about the US president being more even-handed in handling the interests of "the Arab nations, Arab and international governments, the Arab Islamic world and in the third world" had collapsed.
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  • He made no comment on Israel's seizure of a ship last week carrying weapons it said originated in Iran and were destined for Hezbollah, a claim the group has denied.
Ed Webb

The Middle East's New Divide: Muslim Versus Muslim - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middl... - 0 views

  • For much of the last decade, most have digested the narrative of a Muslim-West divide. It was so pervasive that newly elected US President Barack Obama, portrayed as a symbolic messiah bridging two worlds, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize before even completing a year of his term. Twelve years after the 9/11 al-Qaeda attacks, much of the discussion about the "Muslim world" has internalized this language, and why not? The conflict between the Palestinians and US-supported Israel remains unresolved, US drone strikes continue unabated in Pakistan and Yemen and terrorist attacks like the Boston Marathon bombing are still occurring in deadly fashion.
  • in recent years approximately 90% of terrorism-related fatalities have been Muslim
  • The battle lines have shifted from Islam versus the West to Muslim versus Muslim, and it is time for politicians and pundits in the United States and the Middle East alike to catch up
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  • In 2008, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad were regarded as the most admired leaders in the Arab world. Subsequent events and sectarian strife have made such a result today inconceivable
  • Al-Qaeda’s own ideology was based heavily on the writings of Sayyid Qutb, the Muslim Brotherhood leader executed in 1960s Egypt. Qutb had, in turn, borrowed heavily from the 14th-century theologian Ibn Taymiyyah, both of whom promoted intra-Muslim violence. The basis of the call to jihad was not against the West, but rather against "un-Islamic" regimes, even if they were helmed by Muslims. Embedded in al-Qaeda’s fight was a rejection (takfir) of regimes within the Muslim world. The United States and its Western allies were targeted for being the guarantors of these governments in the eyes of al-Qaeda
  • With the end of the Soviet war in Afghanistan — in which the Americans and Muslim jihadists were allies — and the fall of the Soviet Union, a new dynamic began to set in. The 1991 Gulf War raised the specter of an American hegemon and also led inadvertently to the development of al-Qaeda as an anti-Western force. Over the next two decades, underlined by the 9/11 attacks, the notion of Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilizations appeared to be coming to fruition. With the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in full throttle, alongside the second Palestinian intifada, this divide sharpened in the early 2000s.
  • The ripping open of the political space in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia has brought contestation for power into play, and in the spotlight stands the debate over the role of Islam
  • three concurrent battle lines pitting Muslim against Muslim across the region: militants versus the state, Shiites versus Sunnis (and Salafists versus Sufis) and secularists versus Islamists
Jim Franklin

Al Jazeera English - Middle East - Hezbollah vows to boost arsenal - 0 views

  • Nasrallah accused the US of being the world's leading exporter of terrorism and urged nations around the globe to stand up against such a threat.
  • The party is the only faction which refused to disarm after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.
  • "We categorically reject any compromise with Israel or recognising its legitimacy," he said.
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  • Hezbollah's first manifesto in 1985 called for the establishment of Islamic rule in Lebanon, but the party leadership has toned down its rhetoric in recent years as it gained political clout.
Ed Webb

'All of them means all of them': Who are Lebanon's political elite? | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • From Tripoli to Tyre, and Beirut to Baalbek, Lebanese have been chanting the same slogan: “All of them means all of them.” Since its independence, Lebanon has been ruled by a clique of politicians and political families who have used sectarianism, corruption and clientelism to cling to power and amass incredible wealth. Now protesters are calling for them all to be removed, from Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, with nervous responses from the leaders themselves. Middle East Eye takes a quick look at some of the more prominent figures and parties in the protesters’ sights.
  • The Hariri family was once the darling of Saudi Arabia, but apparently no longer
  • Aoun is one of Lebanon’s many leaders who played an active and violent part in the country’s 1975-90 civil war. As head of the army in the war’s latter years, Aoun fought bitter conflicts with the occupying Syrian military and the Lebanese Forces paramilitary headed by his rival, Samir Geagea. In 1989, Aoun found himself besieged in the presidential palace in Baabda, where he now resides as president, and fled Syrian troops to the French embassy, which granted him exile.
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  • The Amal Movement was founded in 1974 by Lebanese-Iranian cleric Musa Sadr to represent Lebanon’s Shia, who had long been marginalised as one of the country’s poorest sections of society. Though originally notable for its efforts to pull Shia Lebanese out of poverty, during the civil war it became one of the country’s most effective militias and controlled large parts of the south.
  • Amal is a close ally of fellow Shia party Hezbollah, and their politicians have run on the same list in elections. However, they occasionally diverge in opinion.
  • Birthed from the resistance movement that followed Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Hezbollah has since become the most powerful political and military force in Lebanon. Iran-backed and Syria-allied, the movement was the only militia to keep its arms at the end of the civil war, as it waged a deadly guerilla war against the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon.
  • Though Israel was forced out in 2000, Hezbollah’s military capabilities have only increased, and its war against Israel in 2006 and ongoing involvement in the Syrian conflict have divided opinion among the Lebanese. The movement and its allies did well at the ballot box in 2018 and Hezbollah now has two ministers in the cabinet.
  • Hassan Nasrallah lives in hiding due to the constant fear of Israeli assassination.
  • Known as “al-Hakim” (the doctor), Geagea is a medically trained warlord-turned-politician. During the 1975-90 civil war, Geagea was one of the most notorious militia leaders, heading the Christian Lebanese Forces. He was a close ally of Bashir Gemayel, who was assassinated days before being sworn into the presidency in 1982 with Israeli support
  • he was convicted of involvement in a number of assassinations and attempted murders in widely condemned trials. Geagea was kept in a solitary windowless cell for 11 years until his pardon in 2005 following the Syrian pullout
  • The Lebanese Forces, which is an offshoot of the right-wing Kataeb party, is the second-largest Christian party after the FPM. Its three ministers resigned early in the protest movement, and the party has now attempted to join the demonstrators and help block roads, though many protesters have rejected its overtures.
  • Feudal lord and socialist, advocate of de-sectarianising Lebanese politics but also a fierce defender of his Druze sect, Jumblatt is a difficult man to pin down. Often described as Lebanon’s kingmaker, his allegiances have swung several times, a trick that may have helped keep him alive.
  • The Kataeb party has fallen a long way since its civil war heyday. Also known as the Phalangists, the party used to be the dominant Christian party, and was inspired by its founder Pierre Gemayel’s trips to the 1936 Berlin Olympics and Franco’s fascist party in Spain. The Gemayel family has suffered a series of assassinations, most notably president elect Bashir Gemayel in 1982. Bashir’s brother Amin then went on to claim the presidency, and Amin’s son Sami is now heading the party. In recent years however the Kataeb party has struggled to attract votes from its offshoot the Lebanese Forces and the FPM
Ed Webb

Welcome to the Syrian Jihad - By Marc Lynch | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • in today's Arab world, there is nothing particularly distinctive about his comments at all. For many months, Arab and Muslim figures of all stripes have been loudly calling for support to the predominantly Sunni Syrian rebels, as have many Arab governments (and the United States and its allies, of course). The Muslim Brotherhood's branches have strongly supported the Syrian opposition -- acquiring too much power along the way, in the minds of some. Egyptian Salafis have described providing arms and funds to the Syrian rebels as "a form of worship" and killing Assad as a religious obligation. As the killing and destruction has escalated, such support for Syria's rebels has rapidly morphed into extreme anti-Shiite and anti-Alawi rhetoric
  • In January 2007, for example, he tried to use his influence to rein in spiraling sectarian rage following the execution of Saddam Hussein. At that time, Qaradawi was only weeks past a controversial appearance at a Doha conference on Sunni-Shiite relations, in which he had made a number of controversial remarks viewed by many as overly provocative toward the Shiite. But at that crucial moment, Qaradawi invited former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani on al-Jazeera to push back against the rabid sectarianism then roiling the Middle East.
  • Qaradawi has long been described as among the most influential clerics in the Sunni world. A savvy political opportunist, he has long been one of the best barometers for the mood of a major swathe of the Arab mainstream, uncannily attuned to shifts in the political mood. He cleverly triangulated Arab politics, adopting populist positions on foreign policy while pushing for democratic reforms across the region and advancing a "centrist" Islamist ideology. In recent years, the Egyptian-born cleric has strongly supported most of the Arab uprisings, including a controversial late February 2011 appeal to Libya's army to kill Muammar al-Qaddafi.  In Egypt, he was welcomed the Friday following Mubarak's fall to lead prayer and deliver a pro-revolutionary speech in Tahrir. But he disappointed many observers by describing Bahrain's uprising as "sectarian," in line with the Arab Gulf country's collective stance intended to delegitimize it.
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  • Team Saudi is now celebrating Qaradawi's capitulation to their own anti-Hezbollah, anti-Shiite prejudices. No words could have been sweeter to Qaradawi's Saudi critics than his recent reversal on Hezbollah: "I defended the so-called Nasrallah and his party, the party of tyranny... in front of clerics in Saudi Arabia. It seems that the clerics of Saudi Arabia were more mature than me."
  • Qaradawi's alignment with the Saudi position has less to do with his theology or his personal views on the Shiites than with his calculation of regional political trends
  • His core doctrine of wasatiyya was always better understood as "centrism" than as "moderation" (whatever that might mean)
  • like it or not, his broad themes -- such as support for "resistance" from Palestine to Iraq, criticism of al Qaeda, calls for democracy, denunciations of most Arab regimes, and conservative social values -- generally seemed to reflect mainstream Arab political views.
  • Like al-Jazeera, Qaradawi's stances now seem to more closely follow Qatari foreign policy, and his influence has waned along with his host station and Qatar itself, which has experienced a regional backlash
  • Qaradawi now finds himself speaking to a narrower, more partisan audience. What does it say about his influence that his preferred candidate in Egypt's presidential election, the former Muslim Brotherhood leader and Islamist reformist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, won less than 20 percent of the vote?
  • Qaradawi can no longer claim to speak to a broadly unified Arab public because such a creature no longer exists
  • The proliferation of media outlets and assertive new voices that define the new Arab public sphere tend to undermine any efforts to claim the center ground
  • Qaradawi has opted to join the bandwagon rather than try to pull Sunni-Shiite relations back toward coexistence. He clearly calculates that anti-Shiite sectarianism in support of the Syrian insurgency is both strategically useful and a political winner.  And those in the Gulf and in the West eager for any opportunity to hurt Iran seem happy to go along
Ed Webb

Iran brokers behind-the-scenes deal for pro-Tehran government in Iraq | World news | Th... - 0 views

  • Within days of the withdrawal, Sadr, who lives in self-imposed exile in the Iranian city of Qom, was told by the Iranians to reconsider his position as a vehement opponent of Maliki. Sadr's party in Iraq had won more than 10% of the 325 seats in play at the election making him a powerbroker in the formation of any new government.The push initially came from the spiritual head of the Sadrist movement, Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri, who has been a godfather figure to the firebrand cleric for the past 15 years."He couldn't say no to him," said the official. "Then the Iranians themselves got involved."Days after the Iranian move, an Iraqi push followed. Throughout September Maliki sent his chief of staff to Qom along with a key leader in his Dawa party, Abdul Halim al-Zuhairi. They were, according to the Guardian's source, joined by a senior figure in Lebanese Hezbollah's politburo, Mohamed Kawtharani, as well as arch-US foe General Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Al-Quds Brigades, whose forces the US military blames for causing more than one quarter of its combat casualties in Iraq throughout almost eight years of war.
  • It is understood that the full withdrawal of all US troops after a security agreement signed between Baghdad and Washington at the end of 2011 was also sought by Sheikh Nasrallah."Maliki told them he will never extend, or renew [any bases] or give any facilities to the Americans or British after the end of next year," a source said.
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    Iran playing a smart game
Jim Franklin

Hezbollah, Druze leaders urge unity government - 1 views

  • Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah has held talks with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt over the formation of a national unity government in Lebanon.
  • "Both sides agreed on the need to overcome as soon as possible the obstacles hindering the formation of a new government," the two heavyweight politicians said in a joint statement.
  • Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has been trying to form a national unity government since June, when his Western-backed March 14 Alliance won a parliamentary election.
Ed Webb

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • optimism is raging about the potential energy bounty lying underneath the eastern Mediterranean Sea. But energy development could as easily become a casualty as the cure for the region’s tortured geopolitics
  • Lebanon and Israel are at daggers drawn over new plans for exploration in offshore gas fields in disputed waters, and Hezbollah is using the energy dispute to ratchet up rhetoric against Israel. And this month, a Turkish naval ship intercepted an exploration vessel working in waters off Cyrus, threatening to escalate tensions between the Greek and Turkish halves of the divided island.
  • Israel’s first two gas fields are running at full speed, and two more could see investment decisions this year, notes Nikos Tsafos, an energy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Meanwhile, Egypt brought the Zohr field, its own mammoth gas discovery, online in record time, which promises to ease a cash crunch in Cairo aggravated by importing pricey gas.
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  • Israel’s two gas export deals — with Egypt and Jordan — were signed with the two Arab countries with which the Jewish state already had peace treaties, and even then relations are still fraught at times. Meanwhile, hopes that natural gas pipelines and projects could soothe years of tensions between Israel and Turkey have apparently evaporated.
  • “Politics drives energy relations, not vice versa,”
  • Lebanon’s decision this month to award an exploration concession to three international firms — France’s Total, Italy’s Eni, and Russia’s Novatek — to drill in a promising block off the Lebanese coast has ignited fresh tensions between Beirut and Jerusalem.
  • Mediation was at the top of the agenda during Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to Lebanon, as it has been for U.S. officials since 2012, but with little success. A senior U.S. diplomat tried again Wednesday but found little Lebanese appetite for U.S. proposals. While Israel wants continued U.S. mediation in the spat, Lebanon and especially Hezbollah see Washington as too pro-Israel to play that role, especially after the Donald Trump administration’s controversial decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the United States is “not an honest broker.”
  • This month — as it did in 2014 — a Turkish ship intercepted a drilling vessel in Cypriot waters; Ankara, which recognizes the Turkish north of the divided island, refuses to cede those waters to Greek Cyprus and angrily warned it could take further action if development continues. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it is “determined to take the necessary steps” to support the northern half of the island in its dispute with Greek Cypriots, who Ankara said are “irresponsibly jeopardizing the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean region.”
  • “Shared interest in [energy resources] might provide an incentive for cooperation among countries of the region that already enjoy more or less good relations,” Sukkarieh says. “But it is equally conceivable that they could fuel rivalries as well, like we are seeing lately with Turkey.”
Ed Webb

The Other Regional Counter-Revolution: Iran's Role in the Shifting Political Landscape ... - 2 views

  • Saudi Arabia’s role as a counter-revolutionary force in the Middle East is widely understood and thoroughly documented. Historian Rosie Bsheer calls the Saudi kingdom “a counter-revolutionary state par excellence,” indeed one that was “consolidated as such.”[2] The Saudi monarchy has gone into counter-revolutionary overdrive since the onset of the Arab uprisings, scrambling to thwart popular movements and keep the region’s dictators in power — from Egypt and Bahrain to Yemen and Sudan (and beyond)
  • less understood is the counter-revolutionary role that Iran plays in the region’s politics
  • Iran as a “revolutionary” state has been dead for quite some time yet somehow stumbles along and blinds us to what is actually happening on the ground in the Middle East
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  • The defining slogan of Lebanon’s uprising — “all of them means all of them” (kellon yani kellon) — called out the country’s entire ruling class, which includes Hezbollah. One pointed variation on the slogan was “All of them means all of them, and Nasrallah is one of them.”
  • Hezbollah’s attacks on the demonstrators were not only physical but rhetorical, framing the popular revolt as part of a foreign plot against Hezbollah and its regional allies in the “Axis of Resistance” — accusations that were “met with ridicule
  • Hezbollah is “now viewed by many demonstrators as part of the corrupt and morally bankrupt political establishment that must be replaced,”
  • The Lebanese writer and podcaster Joey Ayoub captures the Orwellian upside-down-ness of this ideological sleight of hand in his formulation “Hezbollah’s Resistance™ against resistance.”[33] Hezbollah, he shows, tries to have it both ways: on the one hand, defending the status quo and maintaining Lebanon’s “sectarian-capitalist structures,” while at the same time banking on its membership in the so-called “Axis of Resistance.” That is, posturing as a force for “resistance” — a zombie category amid Lebanon’s current political landscape — while attacking people engaged in actual resistance to the ruling system and undermining progressive social movements.
  • Tehran also intervened politically, maneuvering to keep Iraqi Prime Minister Abdel Abdul Mahdi in power in the face of demands from protesters that he step down.[66] (Mahdi eventually did resign, in late November 2019 — a major victory for the protest movement that Tehran endeavored to circumvent.)
  • The protests that erupted in Iraq in October 2019 were arguably the “biggest grassroots socio-political mobilization” in the country’s history.[37] At root, that mobilization was “about the poor, the disempowered and the marginalized demanding a new system,” notes the Iraqi sociologist Zahra Ali.[38] The Tishreen (October) uprising, as it came to be known, quickly spread to “cities and towns across central and southern Iraq”[39] and eventually “engulfed virtually the whole country (though they were most concentrated in Baghdad and the Shia-dominated southern governorates).”
  • the 2019 protests represented “the most serious challenge yet to the post-2003 political order,” the Iraq scholar Fanar Haddad observes
  • the movement “classified itself as a ‘revolution’ in terms of discourse, demands, and objectives.” “[E]ven if the current movement fails to achieve a political revolution,” Haddad argues, “and even if it is not a revolution, it is undoubtedly a revolutionary movement that has already achieved a cultural revolution.”
  • As Berman, Clarke, and Majed note: A movement demanding wholesale political change represented a real threat to the system of cronyism and rapaciousness that has enriched Iraq’s politicians over the last two decades, and these elites quickly mobilized an array of state and non-state security agents in an attempt to quash this challenge.[54] Mohammad al Basri, a figure affiliated with Iraq’s paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units, expressed this mindset with rare bluntness: “Do they really think that we would hand over a state, an economy, one that we have built over 15 years? That they can just casually come and take it? Impossible! This is a state that was built with blood.”
  • Iran is deeply implicated in this counter-revolutionary repression — both indirectly, as the chief political ally and patron of the Iraqi government over the last 15 years, and directly, through the web of militias and paramilitary forces coordinated by the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which have opened fire on protesters
  • The parallels between the Iraqi and Lebanese revolts are manifold, starting with their timing: mass protests engulfed both countries starting in October 2019. Iraqi and Lebanese protesters were conscious of the connections between their struggles: “in the different protest squares people are shouting: ‘One revolution, from Baghdad to Beirut,’” notes Sami Adnan, an activist in Baghdad with the group Workers Against Sectarianism.[34] It’s also important to see the two upheavals in their wider regional context, as part of the “second wave” of Arab uprisings that also included momentous popular movements in Algeria and Sudan — or, as some argue, the uprisings that have been ongoing across the Middle East and North Africa since December 2010.
  • Iraqi protesters weren’t just rebelling against Iran’s local allies, but against Iran itself. Protesters in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square smashed banners of Khamenei with their shoes.[67] Others put up a white banner with red Xs drawn through photographs of Khamenei and Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s regional policy.[68] “Images of Ayatollah Khomeini were removed from cities like Najaf, and pro-Iran political parties with prominent militias that were involved in the violence against the protesters had their branch offices attacked and burned,” Alkinani notes.[69] Most spectacularly, protesters set fire to the Iranian consulate in Karbala and Najaf amid chants of “Iran out of Iraq”.[70]
  • in the face of popular uprisings expressing emancipatory demands, Iran sides not with the protesters but with the ruling establishments they’re protesting against
  • Iran’s official narrative is that its role in Syria is all about fighting terrorism — specifically Al Qaeda and ISIS. But this is a classic case of reading history backwards. In fact, Iran rushed to the defense of the Assad regime as soon as the uprising began — when there was no Al Qaeda or ISIS presence whatsoever (the only jihadists were the ones the regime intentionally let out of its prisons as part of its jihadization strategy).[78] “From the very moment Assad faced popular protests, the Quds Force and Tehran were ready to do all they could to save the rule of the Baath Party,” notes Arash Azizi. Indeed, the Islamic Republic’s emissaries “were pushing on Assad to suppress the uprising mercilessly.”[79] And that is precisely what the regime did
  • The Islamic Republic’s “first reaction” to the demonstrations in Syria “was to open its own playbook and show Assad pages from the post-election protests in 2009,” he observes. “Decision-makers appear to have hoped that Assad would use enough brute force — arrests, beatings, and a limited amount of killings — to spread fear and quickly re-establish control.”
  • Iran helped flip the script and present the Syrian protests not as part of the wave of Arab uprisings — which it decidedly was — but as a foreign-inspired terrorist plot. This rhetorical framing was awkward for the Islamic Republic, which had voiced support for other Arab uprisings — those in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya. This put Tehran in a bind, praising the people of the region for rising up against the dictators that oppressed them but siding with the dictator in Syria.[84] Amin Saikal characterizes this Syrian exception as “an intervention that ran counter to Tehran’s declared rhetoric of supporting the downtrodden masses.”
  • the Islamic Republic intensified its support for the Assad regime in 2011 but its stalwart support for the dynastic dictatorship in Damascus goes back several decades — and while the Assad regime exponentially heightened its level of repression in 2011, violence has been at the very core of its rule throughout
  • “[t]he ‘revolutionary’ slogans of Iran’s ‘resistance’ are empty rhetoric that merely back whatever policies benefit the corrupt ruling elite in Tehran.”
  • the so-called Axis of Resistance, “ostensibly dedicated to furthering the emancipatory aspirations of the Arab and Muslim masses,” has in reality “played a critical role in containing regional revolution and preventing the emergence of a more democratically oriented regional order.”
  • The Islamic Republic “sounds more and more like those same sclerotic rulers it once railed against,” Daragahi observes — “suspicious of any new development that threatens the status quo it dominates.”
  • We need to retire zombie categories — like that of Iran as a “revolutionary” force in the Middle East, and the fiction of the “Axis of Resistance”
  • Both the Islamic Republic and the Saudi Kingdom play counter-revolutionary roles in the Middle East. They are competing counter-revolutionary powers, each pursuing its counter-revolutionary agenda in its respective sphere of influence within the region.
Ed Webb

Ahead of COP27, Egypt is highly vulnerable to climate change - 0 views

  • Adel Abdullah cultivates a subsistence living off of six acres of peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, wheat, corn, and pomegranates. He is one of millions of smallholder farmers working in the Delta. He walks barefoot in his farm as a show of reverence to the land. The soil is pale and thin, almost as sandy as the beach, and choked by mounting concentrations of salt, left behind by periodic coastal flooding and pushed into underground aquifers by the rising sea.“This is the first place to be affected by climate change,” Abdullah says. “The barriers help a bit with flooding, but the salty soil is still really killing us.”
  • he takes irrigation water from the nearby Kitchener Drain, one of the largest and most polluted canals in Egypt that aggregates wastewater from the farms, businesses, and households of an estimated 11 million people in the Delta. By the time water reaches Abdullah’s farm, it may have been reused half a dozen times since entering Egypt in the Nile, each time accumulating more salts and pollutants and losing beneficial nutrients.
  • Abdullah is forced to douse the farm in fertilizers, pesticides, and salt-suppressing chemicals, all of which further degrade the soil. Those inputs, on top of the rising costs of irrigation systems and machinery, eat up any potential income Abdullah might earn
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  • The Nile Delta—where agriculture employs one-fifth of the country’s workforce and is responsible for 12% of its GDP and much of its food supply—is being hammered by rising sea levels, rising temperatures, and a growing shortage of water.
  • rapid urbanization and population growth
  • Climate adaptation solutions that could keep environmental problems from turning existential—fixing the battered and wasteful irrigation network, expanding affordable access to improved seeds and climate-smart farming technologies, and more effective and equitable regulation of urban development on agricultural land—are being rolled out by the government and research groups, but often slower than the pace of climate impacts. That’s left Egypt’s economy and food security exposed to growing risk.
  • “We’re really squeezed and marginalized here, and the government isn’t helping,” said one farmer down the road from Abdullah, who requested anonymity to speak frankly (with tens of thousands of political prisoners, Egypt’s restrictions on free speech are also gaining prominence ahead of COP27).
  • his children see no future in agriculture
  • Around 1805, an Ottoman general named Muhammad Ali took control of the country, and founded the dynasty of kings that would rule—eventually under British colonial supervision—for 150 years. One of Ali’s most enduring marks on the country was the establishment of the first modern network of dams and irrigation canals in the Delta, which allowed tens of thousands of new acres to come under cultivation.
  • water and land played a crucial role in Nasser’s legacy. 12% of the country’s arable land was owned by the aristocracy; Nasser nationalized this land and distributed it to about 340,000 impoverished rural families. He also further extended Ali’s irrigation network and oversaw construction of the Aswan High Dam, which brought an end to the Nile’s ancient seasonal flooding and fixed the river in its present position, with just two remaining branches forking through the Delta.
  • Egypt’s population has since more than quadrupled, to 104 million. Yet the flow of the Nile, which supplies more than 95% of the country’s water, has remained more or less constant. In the 1990s water availability fell below the international “water poverty” benchmark of 1,000 cubic meters per person per year.
  • Egypt has managed that scarcity by meticulously recycling agricultural water and, in recent years, curtailing the production of water-intensive crops like cotton and rice and importing 40% of its wheat and other food staples.
  • The population is still growing quickly, and could reach 160 million by 2050. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that is nearing completion upstream could cut the flow of Nile water into Egypt by a quarter during the as-yet-unknown number of years it will take to fill its reservoir. By 2100, climate change-related heat waves upstream could reduce the Nile’s flow by 75%, Abousabaa said.
  • rising temperatures and falling rainfall mean crops—which consume 86% of Egypt’s water supply—will require more irrigation to survive.
  • current annual demand for water is about 35% higher than what the country receives from the Nile, groundwater, and a very small amount of rain—a deficit of about 20 billion cubic meters. To cover it, she said, Egypt will need to use every drop multiple times, aggressively minimize wastage, and boost the supply by investing $2.8 billion in dozens of new desalination plants with the aim to produce 5 billion cubic meters annually by 2050.
  • On the western fringe of the Delta, farms and suburbs are gradually overtaking the desert as the central Delta grows more crowded. Here, water is even scarcer and the impacts of climate change are more pronounced. But in this and a few other desert areas around Egypt, the government is working to link more than 1.5 million acres to groundwater irrigation, and says it is about one-third of the way there. Land reclamation could take some pressure off the Delta, and sandy soils are well-suited for the production of citrus fruits that are one of Egypt’s most lucrative exports.
  • The unpredictability makes it difficult to identify solutions, Salah says: “Climate change is like a big black box.”
  • “For the last two years, with heat wave after heat wave, we lost more than half the crop. It’s really sad.”
  • The farm relies on groundwater brought up from wells on the property, and Nasrallah says the suburbs are draining the aquifer. In the last four years he has had to dig an extra thirty meters to find water—and deeper wells mean higher electricity bills for pumping. Some wells have dried up altogether. Recently, government officials told him he had to stop watering the grass on a soccer field he built for his workers.
  • Urbanization is also spreading in the inner Delta, as many farmers decide that constructing housing is more profitable than growing crops. Since the 1970s, about 14% of the Delta’s arable land has been converted to urban development
  • Individual farms are also becoming smaller with each generation as, in keeping with longstanding Egyptian custom, land is divided among a father’s heirs (with sons traditionally taking a larger share than daughters). Urban development degrades the Delta’s soil and drives more farming into the desert, leaving the entire food system more vulnerable to climate impacts. Land fragmentation leads to the inefficient use of water and other resources and raises the costs of distribution for farmers.
  • in some cases, the government’s own plans are responsible, most recently in August when thousands of people living on a Nile island near Cairo that was primarily used for farming were evicted to make way for a state-sanctioned development project.
  • The network started by Muhammed Ali now includes about 33,000 miles of delivery and drainage canals across the country, enough to wrap around the globe, that range in size from small rivers to something a child could hop over. Delta residents say they used to bathe in these canals, drink from them, and raise fish in them. Now many of them, especially at the ends of the network, are polluted with farming chemicals and sewage, and choked with trash.
  • Between seepage, evaporation, and water wasted by farmers who flood their fields instead of using controlled irrigation hoses, nearly one-third of the country’s water is lost in the irrigation system between the Aswan High Dam and the sea
  • The soil is dark and appears rich, but is crusted with a visible layer of salt, a problem that affects up to 40% of Egypt’s arable soil.
  • Fixing the irrigation network is a priority for the government. Eman Sayed from the Irrigation Ministry said her agency has lined about 3,700 miles of canals with concrete in the last two years and is aiming to finish another 12,400 in the next few years. The ministry is also helping farmers cover the cost of installing drip irrigation systems, which researchers at AUC found can cut farmers’ water consumption 61% per year; today such systems cover only one-sixth of arable land in Egypt.
  • Authorities have also begun to restrict production of water-intensive crops like rice and bananas, although farmers say there is little enforcement of these rules, and both crops are still widely cultivated throughout the Delta.
  • Egypt has made clear that COP27 will focus primarily on wringing climate finance out of the rich countries that are most responsible for climate change.
  • On the horizon, an offshore natural gas platform is visible. Egypt, which seized the disruption of Russian energy supplies to Europe because of the Ukraine war as an opening to boost its own exports of natural gas, is now contributing more to the problem than ever before; an independent review of its new climate strategy ranked it “highly insufficient” for averting disastrous levels of carbon emissions.
  • By 2100, Noureldeen says, sea level rise could inundate nearly 700 square miles of the coastal Delta and displace four million people.
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