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Ed Webb

Divisions restrict Southern Transitional Council, UAE ambitions in Yemen - 0 views

  • Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council emerging as a dominant force in the south has shifted the country’s political dynamics. The faction faces opposition not just from President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government but within the southern movement itself. The STC emerged in May 2017 and declared independence later that year, operating with its military wing the Security Belt and UAE-backed elite forces in southern governorates like Hadramawt and Shabwa. It has formed a parliament and cabinet with formal government positions and presented itself as a legitimate state actor.
  • Following unification between the north and south in 1990, many people in the south, where most of the country’s natural resources are located, felt the unification left them economically and politically disadvantaged, leading to the emergence of the Southern Movement and various other secessionist pushes in 2007.
  • The STC shares the UAE’s hatred of the Islamist al-Islah party in Yemen. The UAE has used the Security Belt to occupy the south
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  • the Security Belt is entirely funded and trained by the UAE
  • while the UAE-backed factions have maintained a degree of cohesion, other southern movements threaten their agenda with diverging aims
  • On Sept. 3, the sheikh of Mahra, Ali Saleh al-Huraizi, who opposes Saudi and Emirati influence, announced the formation of the Southern National Salvation Council in Mahra
  • “Mahra is the biggest challenge for the STC because of the role played by Oman. Local tribes don’t want conflict, so they maintain limited representation within the local STC group, while still retaining ties to Oman,”
  • There are currently dozens of southern movements operating outside the STC’s command. Yet due to the extensive UAE support for the STC and its secessionist militias, it is still the dominant southern faction.
  • divisions across Yemen's southern governorates could give rise to further demands for independence. “Oil-rich Hadramawt, which has a land area of more than 193,000 square kilometers, would seek autonomy,”
  • Mahra in the far east and Yemen's second largest province will join Hadramawt and seek autonomy
  • the UAE, which is eyeing seaports and islands and seeking to achieve a victory through separation amid the Saudi-led coalition's failure to beat the Houthis
  • UAE-backed factions are clearly seeking to impose their will by force. Reports in 2017 emerged of a Security Belt-run prison network run by UAE-backed southern militias and accused of torture and other human rights violations. These factions, such as the Shabwa, had carried out arbitrary arrests and intimidation campaigns, causing tension with local factions. Emirati airstrikes on government forces in Aden following their recapture of the city after the STC’s Aug. 10 coup attempt show they are seeking to maintain control there.
Ed Webb

South Asian Migrant Workers Face Pandemic Deportations From Middle East - 0 views

  • The Doha Industrial Area, already infamous for slum conditions and overcrowded camps, is now under strict police monitoring and effectively sealed off. The area mostly hosts workers building infrastructure for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, who even before the pandemic faced poor conditions and unsafe workspaces. The Qatari government has denied the allegations, but they’re part of a pattern of abuse of migrant workers not just in Qatar but across the Middle East—workers who are now dangerously exposed to the vagaries of authoritarian governments during the pandemic.
  • The oil-rich Middle East countries built their fortresses with the blood and sweat of foreign laborers, but during the pandemic the workers, who live in crowded dormitories, are seen as a source of infection.
  • 1.5 million Nepalis work in the Persian Gulf and Malaysia, and 400,000 in Qatar. Most of the Nepali workers are stuck abroad due to Nepal’s closure of its borders until April 30, leaving them highly vulnerable—although foreign governments have forced Nepal to accept some flights of deportees.
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  • Many South Asian countries are equally dependent on remittances from their workers abroad, according to the World Bank’s 2019 data, including India ($82 billion in remittances), Bangladesh ($17 billion), Pakistan ($21 billion), and Sri Lanka ($7 billion).
  • South Asian countries have either ignored the plight of these workers during the pandemic or made no significant plans to ease their hardships. In part, that’s because the workers tend to be from the poorest and least politically powerful groups at home.
  • As coronavirus cases rise in the Middle East, migrant workers from around the world, and particularly from South Asia, will be the worst-hit.
  • The UAE has threatened that Nepal and other South Asian countries must repatriate the workers or face the suspension of bilateral labor agreements.
Ed Webb

The Politics of Image: The Bedouins of South Sinai - 1 views

  • For a foreign power to successfully occupy, control and integrate the Bedouins into the new state-system entailed the disruption all of the above; from the nomadic lifestyle and lack of social stratification, to ourfi laws, loyalty to the tribe, and the notion of collective identity
  • turning Egypt into a modern nation-state. To that end, he had to first re-organize Egyptian society, streamline the economy, train a bureaucracy to effectively run a centralized government, and build a modern military. “His first task was to secure a revenue stream for Egypt. To accomplish this, (he) ‘nationalized’ all the Egyptian soil, thereby officially owning all the production of the land.”13 As a result, all tribal or communal rights to landownership were not legally recognized. With the disenfranchisement of land came the disenfranchisement of image. In order to exert control over Sinai, the government restricted movement, imposed taxes and demanded payment for camping and grazing. It also started to co-opt certain individuals from various tribes, and favor some tribes over others, which in turn disrupted the Bedouin hierarchy based on sex, age and seniority.14
  • Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916. The agreement divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian Peninsula into areas of British and French control or influence. As a roaming people whose livelihood depended on seasonal movement from one pasture to another, cementing the border left them with no choice but to become sedentary. This severance from “fundamental elements in their economic, commercial and social universe,”15 exposed the Bedouin to a whole new level of poverty
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  • the role of “The Sheikh” was invented, as mediator between the government and the inland population. Unlike the wise and elderly tribal sheikhs who were appointed through tribal consensus, these “sheikhs” were co-opted by the government. They did not protect the independence of the tribes, they did not arbitrate disputes, and they had little power in local affairs. Still the power of these sheikhs for hire was “exalted, since it was through them that decrees of government were transmitted to the tribesmen.”17 Although they were viewed as “agents of the occupier,” the Bedouins were left with no choice but to turn to them in issues pertaining to their economic and political lives
  • Prior to 1952, “Egypt had the largest consumer market for hashish in the Middle East. Turkey, Lebanon and Syria were the largest regional producers of the drug.”20 The smuggling route ran through the more accessible desert areas of the Middle East, crossing the TransJordanian Plateau, the Negev, and the North Sinai to Egypt. With the ousting of King Farouk in 1952, Abdel Nasser started to fortify the North of Sinai to prepare for nationalizing the Suez Canal. As a result, the smuggling route had to move to the mountainous and inaccessible South Sinai. Thus, the South Sinai “smuggler” came into being, and made use not only of his unemployment, but his nomadic prowess and knowledge of his cavernous terrain. The logic was, if the state treated them as outsiders, then they might as well exist outside the law. After all, smuggling was more lucrative than any grazing or menial government job could ever be
  • the smuggling business continued even after the Israeli occupation of the Sinai Peninsula in 1967. “Assuming that the Egyptian border guards would be given a cut of the drugs as a bribe, they chose to allow the smugglers to continue operating the drug traffic to Egypt, on the logic that drug use by Egyptian soldiers could only benefit Israel.”21 However, when the Eilat-Sharm road opened in 1972, the Israelis feared that the inexpensive drug might find its way into their own lucrative drug scene, and effectively ended all activity
  • Whereas the Egyptian administration distributed a sadaga, meaning charity, through their hired sheikhs, the Israelis personally distributed basic food staples from the American charitable organization CARE to the heads of every family.25 They also organized visits to villages in Israel, built a total of eleven clinics, offered formal vocational courses in Dahab and Sharm El Sheikh, employed half the Bedouin population in the oil fields, and in military and civilian construction, and at the request of the sheikhs, built them a total of thirteen schools in South Sinai alone. The Bedouins, who had expected to be dealt with impersonally, were quite amused with the new perks. Still, while most embraced change, they never let their guard down. In other words, there were no illusions of loyalty. Israel was still seen as an “occupying power.”
  • the Israelis also created “The Exotic Bedouin.”
  • One way for the Bedouins to mark their territory was to come up with an image that would help define and differentiate them. As a result, the “Muslim Bedouin” was born. The issue of self-definition became an urgent one when relations with outsiders ceased to be conducted through sheikhs and Bedouins came into increasing contact with the West. They felt that all Westerners, whether tourists or soldiers, Israelis or Europeans, Jews or Christians, invaded their privacy and threatened their traditions and customs.28 For example, in keeping with the Sinai image as an exotic, all-natural paradise, the tourists sunbathed in the nude, a practice that Bedouins took great offense to. When they expressed their dismay and requested that the behavior of tourists be regulated, Israeli authorities responded by explaining that they wanted nothing to do with the issue. Seeing that the “Bedouins were not permitted by either Israeli or Egyptian law to impose their own laws on non-Bedouins.. the problem could not be resolved.”29 In response, the Bedouins encouraged an Islamic revival of a very paradoxical nature. They still worked in tourism and came into contact with tourists everyday, but all the money made was “purified” by lavish expenditure on mosques and shrines of Saints and excessive manifestations of religious zeal. “‘We are Muslims,’ (they said) ‘they are the Jews.’”30
  • While the Bedouins were trying to disassociate themselves from the West, Egyptian policy was heading in the other direction. To complicate matters even more, “state-supported Muslim institutions, such as Al-Azhar University, invested this official policy with an Islamic sanction.”31 Result was an institutional type of Islam, one that was mainly constructed to fight the remnants of Nasser’s socialist regime. In this context, it was hard for the Muslim Bedouin to demonstrate loyalty merely by waving the flag of religion. The fact that Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel did not help bridge the gap either. Were the Bedouins to be viewed as fellow Egyptian returning from exile or were they treacherous collaborators?32 More importantly, which of these images was more beneficial to the state?
  • “The Villain” was born; an all-encompassing figure who stood for many ills all at once. He was uncivilized, lawless, treacherous, and dangerous. The most important thing for the state was to cater to the economic interests of Cairo’s elite in the Sinai, from the military and the industrialists, to the members of political parties and ministers. This goal could only be achieved through a label that would blunt Bedouin capacity to organize, gain sympathy, and attract media attention. In 1980, “Law 104, providing for state ownership of desert land and thus making the whole Sinai government property was changed to permit private ownership.”33 The law had some devastating effects on the Bedouins. Their land claims were not legally recognized, and they were subsequently displaced “with no government compensation.”34 In their place, the land was repopulated with peasants to solve the unemployment problem in the urban center. The once virgin coast became littered with grotesque infrastructure that paid no heed to damaging the natural balance of the environment; thousands of them were framed and sent to prison after the terrorist attacks on Sharm El Sheikh and Dahab in 2004 and 2005
  • a 20 million pound wall was built in Sharm El Sheikh to isolate the “dangerous” Bedouin from the tourist “paradise” beyond
  • every Bedouin stereotype out there has been readily absorbed and exploited by the Bedouins themselves
  • All what is left of Bedouin life is its cultural identity, and they hold on to that dearly. “The Bedouin is not Egyptian,” a young man in a white cotton head dress said, “The Sinai is not Egyptian or Israeli. It is Bedouin.” This is all that is left. In the age of state-systems, modernization and globalization, the world is becoming increasingly hegemonic and indigenous cultures are losing the battle. The world might like to think that it is without borders, but say that to a Bedouin and wait for a response.
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    Some flaws here, but worth a read/some thought.
Ed Webb

The Israel-Hezbollah Channel - 0 views

  • Israel and Lebanon have a long history of tension: officially, they have been at war without interruption since 1948, and they have not agreed on an officially demarcated border—nor, after several wars, have they formally agreed to a cease-fire. Nevertheless, a strange forum for conflict management has grown up between them. Since 2006, when UNIFIL was reauthorized by UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, peacekeepers have presided over more than one hundred tripartite meetings, which bring together officers from Israel, Lebanon, and UNIFIL to manage disputes and technical issues along the Blue Line.5 The primary belligerents along the border are Hezbollah and the Israeli military, but the Lebanese military serves as Hezbollah’s interlocutors in what has become known as the Tripartite Process.
  • In a region rife with standing conflicts between belligerents who have little or no direct channels of communication, UNIFIL provides a rare example of conflict management in an extremely unstable and opaque environment. Its track record offers some suggestions of promising approaches to manage and mitigate conflict, while avoiding unwanted escalation. But it also offers stark warnings of the limitations of a narrow and indirect approach in the absence of enduring cease-fires, treaties, or other more robust conflict-resolution mechanisms
  • its newly muscular force with strong international political backing created perhaps the only sustained, regular, and efficacious channel of communications between Middle East belligerents in an active conflict
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  • UNIFIL makes a precarious model for conflict management. Despite its successes, both Israel and Hezbollah routinely attack UNIFIL’s legitimacy in public. The population of southern Lebanon expresses widespread skepticism about the peacekeeping mission’s intentions and loyalties, despite the benefits they reap from UNIFIL, which not only reduces conflict but serves as the area’s largest employer.11 Many residents of southern Lebanon and supporters of Hezbollah believe that UNIFIL serves Israeli and American interests and is unlikely to act to protect civilians during future conflicts
  • The original UNIFIL mission deployed in 1978 with three missions: to confirm Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, to restore “international peace and security,” and to restore the authority of the government of Lebanon in the border region. None of these missions were achieved. Israel never fully withdrew, and in 1982 extended its occupation deeper into Lebanese territory. On the Lebanese side, state authority no longer existed, as the nation was riven by the 1975–90 civil war. A quisling militia eventually known as the South Lebanon Army served as an Israeli proxy.13 Hezbollah formed in 1982 in response to the Israeli occupation, and over the following decade grew into the dominant local force fighting Israel. Lebanon’s national army was reconstituted after the Taif Agreement of 1989 paved the way for an end to the country’s civil war. Even as other militias disbanded or had their fighters absorbed into the regular military, Hezbollah alone maintained an autonomous militia. Israel still occupied about one-tenth of Lebanon’s territory, along the southern border, and Hezbollah continued to lead the armed resistance. In 2000, Israel finally withdrew from most of Lebanese territory, but continued to occupy high ground on the mountain of Jabal al-Sheikh, known as Shebaa Farms, as well as the village of Ghajar, which contains critical water sources.14 Later, it also claimed some Lebanese territorial waters in an area where underwater oil and gas exploration is underway.15 Citing Israel’s continuing occupation, as well as the Israeli air force’s daily overflights of Lebanon, Hezbollah spurned calls from some of its Lebanese rivals to disarm or integrate into the national army.16 Tensions regularly flared along the border, and finally boiled over into war in July 2006.
  • Initially, Hezbollah preferred a UN resolution that would leave it sovereign in southern Lebanon. But Lebanon’s government, and significant quarters of Lebanese public opinion, wanted to reassert state sovereignty in the zone of southern Lebanon that hitherto had been solely under Hezbollah’s control. Israel and the United States, by contrast, entered the cease-fire negotiations with unrealistic hopes that they could achieve through peacekeeping what they had failed to do through violence: disarm Hezbollah
  • UNSCR 1701, which led to a cessation of hostilities on August 14, 2006
  • Immediately upon implementing the cease-fire, UNIFIL peacekeepers initiated a process that was not specified in the new mandate but which has become, in the eleven years since the cessation of hostilities until the time of this writing, the most successful element of the mission: the standing, direct negotiations between the Israeli and Lebanese militaries, under UN auspices
  • this somewhat informal mechanism has now met more than one hundred times without a single walkout from either side. It appears to be the only place where Israeli and Lebanese officials formally and directly interact
  • In the context of the Middle East, this forum is especially remarkable. Most of the region’s running conflicts lack even tactical communication between adversaries. Relatively straightforward arrangements such as temporary cease-fires, prisoner exchanges, or safe passage for civilians have been tortuous and at times virtually impossible in regional conflicts. Belligerents often refuse to recognize each other even on a most basic level. If Israel and Lebanon (and, by extension, Hezbollah) have managed to build a rudimentary channel despite their history and the political obstacles to communication, then perhaps—using a similar approach—other belligerents in the region might also inaugurate conflict-­management channels or CBMs.
  • Its approximately 10,500 troops generate economic activity for southern Lebanon; after the Lebanese government, UNIFIL is the largest employer in the area.
  • Hezbollah is a regional military power, operating in tandem with Iran as infantry or trainers in Iraq, Yemen, and possibly elsewhere. In Syria, Hezbollah has played perhaps the most critical military role on the government’s side. Inside Lebanon, Hezbollah has moved from being a strong faction to being the strongest, today holding the balance of power domestically, with the ability to dominate the complex political negotiations that determine who holds the presidency. In 2013, the European Union as a whole joined Israel, the United States, and some individual European governments in listing Hezbollah’s “armed wing” as a terrorist group. (Hezbollah itself denies it has any separate armed wing, making such a designation tantamount to naming the entire organization.)
  • UNIFIL’s best direct relationship is with the Lebanese Army. It cannot officially communicate with Hezbollah, and its channels to the Israeli military, while stronger than before 2006, are still limited
  • On one hand, Hezbollah and Israel have both benefited from UNIFIL’s core functions: development projects for poor denizens of the border region; demarcation of the Blue Line; deconfliction, de-escalation, conflict management, and communication between belligerents; intelligence gathering; and a unique forum in which armies from two nations at war routinely meet for direct talks and resolve technical issues even as the political conflict between their governments continues unabated. On the other hand, both belligerents routinely have undermined UNIFIL, attacking its legitimacy and performance in public forums while praising it in private; engaging in prohibited military operations; and refusing to extend any political support to the negotiations that they joined at a military level.
  • “It’s a conflict-management institution, not a conflict-resolution institution,” observed Timur Goksel, a UNIFIL veteran who worked with the mission over the course of two decades and has been based in both Israel and Lebanon. “It offers adversaries a way out. They can use UNIFIL as an excuse. It opens a way out of major conflict. This is what UNIFIL is all about.”
  • The disputed village of Ghajar, which has long been a flashpoint between the two sides, exemplifies the limits of the existing channels of communication and negotiation. The Blue Line passes directly through the village. Its inhabitants are Alawites who previously lived under Syrian rule on territory that today is claimed by Lebanon.36 Israel currently controls the entire village. Israeli presence in the northern half of Ghajar entails a permanent violation of the Blue Line. The situation is further complicated by the lack of pressure from the village’s residents, who appear content to operate as part of Israel. Israel has committed in principle to withdrawing from the northern portion of the village, but the details of how to do that have eluded all parties.37
  • Hezbollah operates in southern Lebanon with full independence. It might defer to the Lebanese Army or UNIFIL in order to avoid embarrassment or minor mishaps, but it can freely circumvent even the most symbolic of checks
  • Hezbollah continues to hold sovereign power of arms and operates without limitation from the government of Lebanon, UNIFIL, or any other force
  • Hezbollah has greatly increased its military capacity since joining the Syrian war as a pivotal combatant in 2012. The Lebanese nonstate actor has emerged as the premier urban combat and infantry force on the side of the Syrian government. It has engaged in wide-scale maneuver warfare, and has engaged in integrated warfare, involving air force support, with professional forces from Iran, Russia, and Syria. Hezbollah has helped form new militias and has led coordinated assaults with militia support involving groups and fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere.45 Reports suggest that Hezbollah has also acquired a new arsenal of long-range missiles and land-to-sea missiles, which greatly increases its deterrent capacity against Israel and could enable it to threaten more Israeli targets than it could in 2006
  • With the Syrian war potentially entering a closing phase, from which Hezbollah and the Syrian government will emerge victorious, several analysts have refocused their attention on the latent Israel-Hezbollah conflict
  • Israel and Lebanon are formally still at war, and no closer to a permanent cease-fire than they were when UNSCR 1701 came into force on August 14, 2006. Whereas the Israeli government and military are unitary actors on one side of the Blue Line, the other side has a bedeviling array of potential belligerents with competing interests. These possible participants include but are not limited to Hezbollah, the Lebanese government, Palestinian factions, the Syrian government, and possibly some Syrian rebel factions, although most Syrian rebels in the Golan have either cooperated with Israel or remained neutral. UNIFIL can call the Lebanese Army to settle a crisis, but then must rely on the Lebanese Army, itself strained by pressures stemming from the war in Syria, to make effective contact with other players
  • Whether technical talks and a bare-bones conflict-management channel can, in fact, shift the political opportunities is precisely the question raised by UNIFIL’s record since 2006. UNIFIL’s example suggests that military-military talks have utility but are unlikely to drive political resolution. The UNIFIL model may be a promising approach for conflicts between belligerents with strained or nonexistent diplomatic relations, but it is a model for managing conflict and avoiding unintended escalations, not for resolving conflict and reversing escalations that are intentional or are based on mistrust and miscalculation
  • “It’s the only mission that speaks to two countries that are still at war,” noted one UNIFIL official. “This works if parties don’t want to go to war. It can’t prevent a war from happening.”
  • Unless a government or nonstate actor has openly and expressly deputized a military channel to negotiate a political resolution, there is no evidence that technical talks will prompt a political dialogue—simply because some participants hope for it to do so—much less a resolution
  • UNIFIL’s record as an arbiter or honest broker does not appear to have changed any policy position on the part of Hezbollah or the government of Israel. A technical channel cannot create a new political climate
  • UNIFIL’s conflict-management paradigm may, paradoxically, increase risks by leaving political problems unresolved. “There is no doubt the UNIFIL mission has acted as shock absorber for local tensions and maintained a negative peace, that is, it has prevented the escalation of minor incidents into large-scale conflict,” the researcher Vanessa Newby concluded after conducting fifty interviews of UNIFIL officials and others who deal with the mission.54 “But its presence appears to be sustaining the conditions of conflict more than it is resolving them.”
  • successfully bolstered the Lebanese military’s function and standing as a state institution
  • If either Hezbollah or Israel shifted its cost-benefit calculus and decided it was more preferable to go to war than maintain the status quo (as Israel had in advance of the summer of 2006), then UNIFIL’s mechanisms would provide almost no peacemaking or conflict-avoidance potential
  • Many of the Middle East’s conflict areas are plagued with similar problems and thus are ripe for UNIFIL-like channels, managed by neutral third parties that can avoid accidental escalations, act as a clearing house for airing grievances and seeking technical solutions to relatively small technical problems, and potentially manage aspects of open conflict if it emerges. Such channels could pave the way for delivering humanitarian aid in Yemen or exchanging prisoners in Syria. The model is for a standing body that is not ad hoc nor of limited duration, and thus can establish trust over multiple iterations of dialogue and conflict management.
  • the UNIFIL case illustrates the broader problem with applying a military (or security, or conflict-management) paradigm to inherently political problems. Such a forum can be an effective long-term intermediary, but only for tactical matters. The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah is a political one
  • The field of critical security studies has pushed the field of academic political science to incorporate political concerns into its definition of security, but minimized the hard security concerns that make life dangerous in conflict zones.55 The balance of security and politics is not merely a theoretical concern; it drives the persistence of deadly conflict in the Middle East. Both hard security and political grievance must be addressed, even if unfairly, in order to resolve a conflict. A similar dynamic shapes the need to address process as well as policy. A satisfactory forum is required for belligerents to talk at all. Forums like UNIFIL, or the Madrid Peace Conference (where parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict met in 1991), create the space and relationships that are a precondition for any substantial negotiation. Yet process does not suffice if no common policy framework can be reached on the central matters of dispute. No amount of tripartite meetings at the UNIFIL headquarters will compel the political leadership in Israel or Hezbollah to reformulate their core goals
  • The Middle East needs more UNIFILs, but it is crucial to keep in mind the limitations of a conflict-management approach if such forums are to be useful for advancing long-term security. They are no substitute for politics.
Ed Webb

Blast From the Past - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • Nuclear proliferation was just one of the Carter administration’s headaches in late 1979. The president was dealing with a slew of foreign-policy dilemmas, including the build-up to what would become the Iran hostage crisis. Carter was also preparing for a reelection campaign in which he had hoped to showcase his foreign-policy successes, from brokering Israeli-Egyptian peace to successful arms control talks with Moscow. The possibility that Israel or South Africa, which had deep clandestine defense ties at the time, had tested a nuclear weapon threatened to tarnish that legacy. And the fact that South Africa’s own nuclear weapons program, which the Carter administration was seeking to stop, was not yet sufficiently advanced to test such a weapon left just one prime suspect: Israel. Leading figures within the administration were therefore keen to bury the story and put forward alternative explanations. Those alternative explanations were widely dismissed by many members of the scientific and intelligence community at the time; four decades years later, they look even more questionable.
Ed Webb

When is a nation not a nation? Somaliland's dream of independence | News | The Guardian - 0 views

  • in Somaliland, there is never any question that you are in a real country. After all, the place has all the trappings of countryhood. When I arrived at the airport, a customs officer in a Somaliland uniform checked my Somaliland visa, issued by the Somaliland consulate in Washington DC. At the airport, there was a Somaliland flag. During my visit, I paid Somaliland shillings to drivers of cabs with Somaliland plates who took me to the offices of ministers of the Somaliland government
  • according to the US Department of State, the United Nations, the African Union and every other government on Earth, I was not in Somaliland, a poor but stable and mostly functional country on the Horn of Africa. I was in Somalia
  • Unlike South Sudan before its independence, Somaliland’s claim for statehood is based not on a redrawing of colonial borders, but an attempt to re-establish them. Unlike Taiwan, it is shackled not to a richer, more powerful country, but a poorer, weaker one. Unlike Palestine, its quest for independence is not a popular cause for activists around the world
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  • What separates “real” from “self-proclaimed” countries is simply the recognition of other countries. There’s no ultimate legal authority in international relations that decides what is or isn’t a real country, and differences of opinion on that question are common. What separates the Somalilands of the world from, say, Sweden is that Sweden is recognised by its peers
  • what would happen if you created a new country and no one noticed?
  • Try to book a hotel in Somaliland online from the US and you are likely to be referred to a travel advisory stating: “The US Department of State warns US citizens to avoid travel to Somalia because of continuous threats by the al-Qaida affiliated terrorist group, al-Shabaab.” But once you’re there, you quickly realise that such warnings are unnecessary. Hargeisa is one of the safest large cities in Africa, and, aside from the pollution and the traffic, there’s not too much to be concerned about when you’re walking around, although foreigners travelling outside the capital have been required to hire an armed guard since the killing of four foreign aid workers by bandits in 2004
  • Adan was Somalia’s first qualified nurse-midwife, and the first Somali woman to drive. She spent years as a UN and WHO official before returning to Somaliland to build the hospital with her own savings; for all its limitations on personnel and equipment, it is one of the premier facilities in the Horn of Africa. She’s been called the Muslim Mother Teresa for her work in promoting women’s health and campaigning against female genital mutilation. She also served for several years as Somaliland’s foreign minister, continuing to deliver babies while on the job.
  • It shouldn’t be surprising that today the territory where the colonising power had more ambitious state-building goals is the more unstable. There is evidence from studies of regions of India and other parts of Africa to support the notion that postcolonial countries where colonisers had a lighter touch turned out better in the long term.
  • On 26 June 1960, the former Protectorate of Somaliland became fully independent from British rule, its independence recognised by 35 countries around the world, including the US. The next day, its new legislature passed a law approving a union with the south. On 1 July, Somalia became independent from Italy, and the two were joined together. It is a decision Somaliland has regretted almost ever since.
  • During the 1980s, with support for Barre and his harsh military regime eroding, a primarily Isaaq northern rebel group known (somewhat misleadingly), as the Somali National Movement (SNM) emerged to challenge rule from Mogadishu. The crackdowns that followed simply added to the perception that the north was a region under occupation. This culminated in an all-out civil war between the SNM and the central government in the late 80s, during which thousands were killed and millions fled.
  • “It’s the elders who really made this peace,”
  • Whereas Somaliland had been considered a backwater by the British, and therefore left mostly to govern itself through the existing clan structure, Italy considered Somalia an integral part of its short-lived ambitions to build a north African empire that also included modern-day Libya and parts of Egypt.
  • Non-recognition by western powers is having an impact on the status of women as well, Adan argued, saying that western countries’ lack of engagement was opening the door to the influence of fundamentalists from the Gulf. She pointed to an old photo of herself as first lady in a chic cocktail dress: “You see my pictures! We never used to cover ourselves from head to toe,” she said. “We had necks, we had hair, we were people. Others are getting into Somaliland faster than the west. And if that keeps on like this, heaven help us.”
  • Its main industry is livestock export, which accounts for about 70% of jobs. Its main customers are in the Middle East, and business picks up during the annual hajj in Mecca. With few opportunities at home, it’s not surprising that an estimated 44% of unemployed youth have stated their intention to migrate.
  • A large number of people are also dependent on $500m per year in remittances from the roughly million-strong Somaliland diaspora living for the most part in Britain, the US, Scandinavia and elsewhere in Africa. This isn’t unusual for developing countries, but officials are understandably worried that this flow of cash from abroad is a finite resource
  • The twin hopes for the Somali economy are oil exploration – currently being carried out by a handful of hardier energy firms off the coast – and a plan by Dubai Ports World to develop the Red Sea port of Berbera, which could conceivably be an alternative means of bringing goods by sea into landlocked Ethiopia. But it’s hard to imagine that plan taking off without a serious improvement in roads and infrastructure, and that probably requires international investment
  • Although it’s true that Somaliland voluntarily erased the border with Somalia in 1960, Somalilanders don’t consider that decision irreversible. As Somalilanders often point out, theirs wouldn’t be the first country to back out of a postcolonial merger. Senegal and the Gambia, a narrow strip of a country located completely within Senegal’s territory, were joined together as the confederation of Senegambia from 1982 to 1989. Egypt and Syria were briefly joined together as the United Arab Republic from 1958 until 1961, when Syria seceded. If these countries couldn’t make their marriages work, why, Somalilanders ask, should Somaliland be stuck in a loveless alliance?
  • For Somaliland, the frustrating reality is that the world map is preserved in place less by international law or even custom than by what’s sometimes called “path dependence” – the thousands of small decisions that, over time, lead to the creation of institutions, and that are very hard to unmake without massive disruption. Countries tend to stay the way they are, and people, with some justification, believe it would be awfully difficult and dangerous to change them.
  • We are treated as de facto independent – it is only the de jure recognition of sovereignty [we lack]
  • International organisations such as the African Union and the Arab League are hostile to the idea of recognising further territorial divisions. Countries wary of their own separatist movements don’t want to establish any sort of precedent. The UN, which has invested enormous resources in promoting stability and unity in Somalia as a whole, views Somaliland as a hindrance to those goals rather than any sort of beacon of stability. Somaliland’s neighbour Ethiopia mostly supports it, but given Addis Ababa’s wariness about its own Somali separatists, it likely prefers the status quo – a weak and divided Somalia – rather than a strong independent Somali state on its borders. The two most recent instances of country creation in Africa – autocratic, impoverished Eritrea and anarchic, violent South Sudan – have not bolstered Somaliland’s argument that its recognition would be a boon to regional and global stability.
  • the US NGO Freedom House classified it as an “emerging democracy”, and it is the only country in its region considered at least “partly free” or higher on the group’s annual rankings
  • “Being a peaceful, democratic and developing state isn’t helping Somaliland gain international recognition,” said Hagi. “Somaliland is very quiet. It’s a peaceful place. The international community doesn’t really care about a peaceful place. When there is a problem in a country, the international community is always there – Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya. When there’s no problem there, there’s no point in coming to build a state.”
  • The world will continue to defend an abstract principle of territorial integrity in the face of the clear will of the people of Somaliland.
  • Looking at the decades of support given by the US to dictators such as Mobutu Sese Seko, or considering the destabilising role of western oil companies in countries such as Nigeria, there’s a case to be made that if that’s what engagement with the outside world means for fragile African states, maybe Somaliland has been better off without it.
Ed Webb

Where Will Everyone Go? - 0 views

  • The odd weather phenomenon that many blame for the suffering here — the drought and sudden storm pattern known as El Niño — is expected to become more frequent as the planet warms. Many semiarid parts of Guatemala will soon be more like a desert. Rainfall is expected to decrease by 60% in some parts of the country, and the amount of water replenishing streams and keeping soil moist will drop by as much as 83%. Researchers project that by 2070, yields of some staple crops in the state where Jorge lives will decline by nearly a third.
  • As their land fails them, hundreds of millions of people from Central America to Sudan to the Mekong Delta will be forced to choose between flight or death. The result will almost certainly be the greatest wave of global migration the world has seen.
  • For most of human history, people have lived within a surprisingly narrow range of temperatures, in the places where the climate supported abundant food production. But as the planet warms, that band is suddenly shifting north.
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  • the planet could see a greater temperature increase in the next 50 years than it did in the last 6,000 years combined. By 2070, the kind of extremely hot zones, like in the Sahara, that now cover less than 1% of the earth’s land surface could cover nearly a fifth of the land, potentially placing 1 of every 3 people alive outside the climate niche where humans have thrived for thousands of years. Many will dig in, suffering through heat, hunger and political chaos, but others will be forced to move on
  • In Southeast Asia, where increasingly unpredictable monsoon rainfall and drought have made farming more difficult, the World Bank points to more than 8 million people who have moved toward the Middle East, Europe and North America. In the African Sahel, millions of rural people have been streaming toward the coasts and the cities amid drought and widespread crop failures. Should the flight away from hot climates reach the scale that current research suggests is likely, it will amount to a vast remapping of the world’s populations.
  • Migration can bring great opportunity not just to migrants but also to the places they go
  • Northern nations can relieve pressures on the fastest-warming countries by allowing more migrants to move north across their borders, or they can seal themselves off, trapping hundreds of millions of people in places that are increasingly unlivable. The best outcome requires not only goodwill and the careful management of turbulent political forces; without preparation and planning, the sweeping scale of change could prove wildly destabilizing. The United Nations and others warn that in the worst case, the governments of the nations most affected by climate change could topple as whole regions devolve into war
  • To better understand the forces and scale of climate migration over a broader area, The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica joined with the Pulitzer Center in an effort to model, for the first time, how people will move across borders
  • The story is similar in South Asia, where nearly one-fourth of the global population lives. The World Bank projects that the region will soon have the highest prevalence of food insecurity in the world. While some 8.5 million people have fled already — resettling mostly in the Persian Gulf — 17 million to 36 million more people may soon be uprooted, the World Bank found. If past patterns are a measure, many will settle in India’s Ganges Valley; by the end of the century, heat waves and humidity will become so extreme there that people without air conditioning will simply die.
  • If governments take modest action to reduce climate emissions, about 680,000 climate migrants might move from Central America and Mexico to the United States between now and 2050. If emissions continue unabated, leading to more extreme warming, that number jumps to more than a million people. (None of these figures include undocumented immigrants, whose numbers could be twice as high.)
  • As with much modeling work, the point here is not to provide concrete numerical predictions so much as it is to provide glimpses into possible futures. Human movement is notoriously hard to model, and as many climate researchers have noted, it is important not to add a false precision to the political battles that inevitably surround any discussion of migration. But our model offers something far more potentially valuable to policymakers: a detailed look at the staggering human suffering that will be inflicted if countries shut their doors.
  • the coronavirus pandemic has offered a test run on whether humanity has the capacity to avert a predictable — and predicted — catastrophe. Some countries have fared better. But the United States has failed. The climate crisis will test the developed world again, on a larger scale, with higher stakes
  • Climate is rarely the main cause of migration, the studies have generally found, but it is almost always an exacerbating one.
  • Drought helped push many Syrians into cities before the war, worsening tensions and leading to rising discontent; crop losses led to unemployment that stoked Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and Libya; Brexit, even, was arguably a ripple effect of the influx of migrants brought to Europe by the wars that followed. And all those effects were bound up with the movement of just 2 million people. As the mechanisms of climate migration have come into sharper focus — food scarcity, water scarcity and heat — the latent potential for large-scale movement comes to seem astronomically larger.
  • North Africa’s Sahel provides an example. In the nine countries stretching across the continent from Mauritania to Sudan, extraordinary population growth and steep environmental decline are on a collision course. Past droughts, most likely caused by climate change, have already killed more than 100,000 people there. And the region — with more than 150 million people and growing — is threatened by rapid desertification, even more severe water shortages and deforestation. Today researchers at the United Nations estimate that some 65% of farmable lands have already been degraded. “My deep fear,” said Solomon Hsiang, a climate researcher and economist at the University of California, Berkeley, is that Africa’s transition into a post-climate-change civilization “leads to a constant outpouring of people.”
  • Our model projects that migration will rise every year regardless of climate, but that the amount of migration increases substantially as the climate changes. In the most extreme climate scenarios, more than 30 million migrants would head toward the U.S. border over the course of the next 30 years
  • every one of the scenarios it produces points to a future in which climate change, currently a subtle disrupting influence, becomes a source of major disruption, increasingly driving the displacement of vast populations.
  • rough predictions have emerged about the scale of total global climate migration — they range from 50 million to 300 million people displaced — but the global data is limited, and uncertainty remained about how to apply patterns of behavior to specific people in specific places.
  • Once the model was built and layered with both approaches — econometric and gravity — we looked at how people moved as global carbon concentrations increased in five different scenarios, which imagine various combinations of growth, trade and border control, among other factors. (These scenarios have become standard among climate scientists and economists in modeling different pathways of global socioeconomic development.)
  • We are now learning that climate scientists have been underestimating the future displacement from rising tides by a factor of three, with the likely toll being some 150 million globally. New projections show high tides subsuming much of Vietnam by 2050 — including most of the Mekong Delta, now home to 18 million people — as well as parts of China and Thailand, most of southern Iraq and nearly all of the Nile Delta, Egypt’s breadbasket. Many coastal regions of the United States are also at risk.
  • Around 2012, a coffee blight worsened by climate change virtually wiped out El Salvador’s crop, slashing harvests by 70%. Then drought and unpredictable storms led to what a U.N.-affiliated food-security organization describes as “a progressive deterioration” of Salvadorans’ livelihoods.
  • climate change can act as what Defense Department officials sometimes refer to as a “threat multiplier.”
  • For all the ways in which human migration is hard to predict, one trend is clear: Around the world, as people run short of food and abandon farms, they gravitate toward cities, which quickly grow overcrowded. It’s in these cities, where waves of new people stretch infrastructure, resources and services to their limits, that migration researchers warn that the most severe strains on society will unfold
  • the World Bank has raised concerns about the mind-boggling influx of people into East African cities like Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, where the population has doubled since 2000 and is expected to nearly double again by 2035
  • now a little more than half of the planet’s population lives in urban areas, but by the middle of the century, the World Bank estimates, 67% will. In just a decade, 4 out of every 10 urban residents — 2 billion people around the world — will live in slums
  • El Paso is also a place with oppressive heat and very little water, another front line in the climate crisis. Temperatures already top 90 degrees here for three months of the year, and by the end of the century it will be that hot one of every two days. The heat, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, will drive deaths that soon outpace those from car crashes or opioid overdoses. Cooling costs — already a third of some residents’ budgets — will get pricier, and warming will drive down economic output by 8%, perhaps making El Paso just as unlivable as the places farther south.
  • High emissions, with few global policy changes and relatively open borders, will drive rural El Salvador — just like rural Guatemala — to empty out, even as its cities grow. Should the United States and other wealthy countries change the trajectory of global policy, though — by, say, investing in climate mitigation efforts at home but also hardening their borders — they would trigger a complex cascade of repercussions farther south, according to the model. Central American and Mexican cities continue to grow, albeit less quickly, but their overall wealth and development slows drastically, most likely concentrating poverty further. Far more people also remain in the countryside for lack of opportunity, becoming trapped and more desperate than ever.
  • By midcentury, the U.N. estimates that El Salvador — which has 6.4 million people and is the most densely populated country in Central America — will be 86% urban
  • Most would-be migrants don’t want to move away from home. Instead, they’ll make incremental adjustments to minimize change, first moving to a larger town or a city. It’s only when those places fail them that they tend to cross borders, taking on ever riskier journeys, in what researchers call “stepwise migration.” Leaving a village for the city is hard enough, but crossing into a foreign land — vulnerable to both its politics and its own social turmoil — is an entirely different trial.
  • I arrived in Tapachula five weeks after the breakout to find a city cracking in the crucible of migration. Just months earlier, passing migrants on Mexico’s southern border were offered rides and tortas and medicine from a sympathetic Mexican public. Now migrant families were being hunted down in the countryside by armed national-guard units, as if they were enemy soldiers.
  • Models can’t say much about the cultural strain that might result from a climate influx; there is no data on anger or prejudice. What they do say is that over the next two decades, if climate emissions continue as they are, the population in southern Mexico will grow sharply. At the same time, Mexico has its own serious climate concerns and will most likely see its own climate exodus. One in 6 Mexicans now rely on farming for their livelihood, and close to half the population lives in poverty. Studies estimate that with climate change, water availability per capita could decrease by as much as 88% in places, and crop yields in coastal regions may drop by a third. If that change does indeed push out a wave of Mexican migrants, many of them will most likely come from Chiapas.
  • even as 1 million or so climate migrants make it to the U.S. border, many more Central Americans will become trapped in protracted transit, unable to move forward or backward in their journey, remaining in southern Mexico and making its current stresses far worse.
  • Already, by late last year, the Mexican government’s ill-planned policies had begun to unravel into something more insidious: rising resentment and hate. Now that the coronavirus pandemic has effectively sealed borders, those sentiments risk bubbling over. Migrants, with nowhere to go and no shelters able to take them in, roam the streets, unable to socially distance and lacking even basic sanitation. It has angered many Mexican citizens, who have begun to describe the migrants as economic parasites and question foreign aid aimed at helping people cope with the drought in places where Jorge A. and Cortez come from.
  • a new Mexico-first movement, organizing thousands to march against immigrants
  • Trump had, as another senior government official told me, “held a gun to Mexico’s head,” demanding a crackdown at the Guatemalan border under threat of a 25% tariff on trade. Such a tax could break the back of Mexico’s economy overnight, and so López Obrador’s government immediately agreed to dispatch a new militarized force to the border.
  • laying blame at the feet of neoliberal economics, which he said had produced a “poverty factory” with no regional development policies to address it. It was the system — capitalism itself — that had abandoned human beings, not Mexico’s leaders. “We didn’t anticipate that the globalization of the economy, the globalization of the law … would have such a devastating effect,”
  • No policy, though, would be able to stop the forces — climate, increasingly, among them — that are pushing migrants from the south to breach Mexico’s borders, legally or illegally. So what happens when still more people — many millions more — float across the Suchiate River and land in Chiapas? Our model suggests that this is what is coming — that between now and 2050, nearly 9 million migrants will head for Mexico’s southern border, more than 300,000 of them because of climate change alone.
  • “If we are going to die anyway,” he said, “we might as well die trying to get to the United States.”
  • In the case of Addis Ababa, the World Bank suggests that in the second half of the century, many of the people who fled there will be forced to move again, leaving that city as local agriculture around it dries up.
  • Without a decent plan for housing, feeding and employing a growing number of climate refugees, cities on the receiving end of migration can never confidently pilot their own economic future.
  • The United States refused to join 164 other countries in signing a global migration treaty in 2018, the first such agreement to recognize climate as a cause of future displacement. At the same time, the U.S. is cutting off foreign aid — money for everything from water infrastructure to greenhouse agriculture — that has been proved to help starving families like Jorge A.’s in Guatemala produce food, and ultimately stay in their homes. Even those migrants who legally make their way into El Paso have been turned back, relegated to cramped and dangerous shelters in Juárez to wait for the hearings they are owed under law.
  • There is no more natural and fundamental adaptation to a changing climate than to migrate. It is the obvious progression the earliest Homo sapiens pursued out of Africa, and the same one the Mayans tried 1,200 years ago. As Lorenzo Guadagno at the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration told me recently, “Mobility is resilience.” Every policy choice that allows people the flexibility to decide for themselves where they live helps make them safer.
  • what may be the worst-case scenario: one in which America and the rest of the developed world refuse to welcome migrants but also fail to help them at home. As our model demonstrated, closing borders while stinting on development creates a somewhat counterintuitive population surge even as temperatures rise, trapping more and more people in places that are increasingly unsuited to human life
  • the global trend toward building walls could have a profound and lethal effect. Researchers suggest that the annual death toll, globally, from heat alone will eventually rise by 1.5 million. But in this scenario, untold more will also die from starvation, or in the conflicts that arise over tensions that food and water insecurity will bring
  • America’s demographic decline suggests that more immigrants would play a productive role here, but the nation would have to be willing to invest in preparing for that influx of people so that the population growth alone doesn’t overwhelm the places they move to, deepening divisions and exacerbating inequalities.
  • At the same time, the United States and other wealthy countries can help vulnerable people where they live, by funding development that modernizes agriculture and water infrastructure. A U.N. World Food Program effort to help farmers build irrigated greenhouses in El Salvador, for instance, has drastically reduced crop losses and improved farmers’ incomes. It can’t reverse climate change, but it can buy time.
  • Thus far, the United States has done very little at all. Even as the scientific consensus around climate change and climate migration builds, in some circles the topic has become taboo. This spring, after Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the explosive study estimating that, barring migration, one-third of the planet’s population may eventually live outside the traditional ecological niche for civilization, Marten Scheffer, one of the study’s authors, told me that he was asked to tone down some of his conclusions through the peer-review process and that he felt pushed to “understate” the implications in order to get the research published. The result: Migration is only superficially explored in the paper.
  • Our modeling and the consensus of academics point to the same bottom line: If societies respond aggressively to climate change and migration and increase their resilience to it, food production will be shored up, poverty reduced and international migration slowed — factors that could help the world remain more stable and more peaceful. If leaders take fewer actions against climate change, or more punitive ones against migrants, food insecurity will deepen, as will poverty. Populations will surge, and cross-border movement will be restricted, leading to greater suffering. Whatever actions governments take next — and when they do it — makes a difference.
  • The world can now expect that with every degree of temperature increase, roughly a billion people will be pushed outside the zone in which humans have lived for thousands of years
  • “If we don’t develop a different attitude,” he said, “we’re going to be like people in the lifeboat, beating on those that are trying to climb in.”
Sana Usman

Sudan will take back its territories: General Omar Al-Bashir - 0 views

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    KHARTOUM (Reuters): Sudan's President General Omar Hassan Al-Bashir said he would take back the undecided oil-producing Heglig area after boundary conflict with South Sudan that have edged the two African neighbors nearer to all-out fighting.
Ed Webb

Russia calls on Jordan to help stabilize Syrian 'safe' zones - 0 views

  • If the frequency of diplomatic gestures is an indication, Jordan appears to be Moscow's strongest ally in the Middle East. Yet despite a solid record of cooperation, as well as a certain chemistry between Abdullah and Putin, Amman never really played a prominent role in Russia’s Mideast strategy, including in Syria. This approach, however, got a review last year when Russia was faced with the challenge of implementing de-escalation zones in Syria, specifically the one along Jordan's border. Along with the old challenge of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement — which recently became even more complex — the need to settle Syria's civil war took center stage at the Abdullah-Putin meeting Feb. 15.
  • Jordan essentially became a linchpin of Russian policy toward southern Syria when the kingdom played a key role in negotiating a de-escalation zone that spans across Quneitra and Daraa provinces and borders Israel and Jordan. During his visit to Moscow, Abdullah boasted about the two countries’ active dialogue on Syria — and the southern de-escalation zone is where this dialogue is most visible. Since 2015, the two countries have operated a joint center in Amman to share intelligence on the situation in southern provinces and coordinate military action.
  • The Russian plan to give Jordan an active role in settling the Syrian conflict was part of the strategy to create an environment — or the illusion of one — of a Sunni Arab power normalizing relations with and accepting Assad. It is not surprising that Abdullah was susceptible to Russia’s plan: The West hasn't acknowledged Jordan's accommodation of Syrian refugees and has failed to nurture a strong resistance to Assad in the south.
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  • The most recent round of escalation between Israel and Iran in Syria caught both Russia and Jordan off guard. Iran’s attempts to test its opponent’s capabilities in the south, and Israel’s ambition to expand its buffer zone in Syria, threaten the de-escalation zone
  • The ongoing offensive of the Syrian government and Iran in Eastern Ghouta — in clear violation of the agreements — may also bode ill for the de-escalation zone in the south, as both the southern front and Israel now see another land grab as Damascus' next possible step. Because of this, Israel is seeking to establish a buffer inside Syria through financial and military support to opposition groups inside the de-escalation zone
  • Russia hopes Jordan will project its influence on the southern front to act as a buffer between Israel and the Iranian-backed forces while Moscow seeks a workable path to their coexistence in Syria
Ed Webb

U.N. Is Preparing for the Coronavirus to Strike the Most Vulnerable Among Refugees, Mig... - 0 views

  • United Nations is preparing to issue a major funding appeal for more than $1.5 billion on Wednesday to prepare for outbreaks of the new coronavirus in areas suffering some of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, including Gaza, Myanmar, Syria, South Sudan, and Yemen, according to diplomatic and relief officials familiar with the plan
  • the request—which would be in addition to ongoing humanitarian operations—comes at a time when the world’s leading economies are reeling from the economic shock induced by one of the most virulent pandemics since the 1918 Spanish flu
  • “Some of the biggest donors are seeing global recession about to hit them,” said one senior relief official. “How generous are they going to be when they have a crisis looming in their own backyards?”
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  • U.N. relief officials and aid organizations are bracing for what they fear could be a cataclysmic second phase of the pandemic: spreading in the close-quarters encampments of the world’s more than 25 million refugees and another 40 million internally displaced people.
  • More than 3 billion people lack access to hand-washing facilities, depriving them of one of the most effective first lines of defense against the spread of the coronavirus, according to UNICEF
  • the effort to ramp up an international aid response is being hampered by the quest to ensure the safety of international staff. Those concerns have been amplified by the announcement last week that David Beasley, the executive director of the Rome-based World Food Program, had been infected with the coronavirus. Some international relief agencies have recalled senior field officers, fearing they could be infected.
  • Konyndyk, who worked on the response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said that U.N. and relief agencies are having to balance ensuring the health of their own staff with delivering care to needy communities.
  • “You would have a hard time designing a more dangerous setting for the spread of this disease than an informal IDP settlement,” he said. “You have a crowded population, very poor sanitation … very poor disease surveillance, very poor health services. This could be extraordinarily dangerous … and I don’t think that’s getting enough global attention yet.”
  • In conflict-riven countries from Afghanistan to South Sudan to Yemen, dismal health care infrastructures are already overburdened after years of fighting
  • After five years of war, with millions of people on the brink of famine, Yemen’s population is more vulnerable to a coronavirus outbreak than those of most other countries. The conflict has left most of the country’s population effectively immunocompromised,
  • “For many population groups, living in overcrowded conditions, social distancing is a challenge or impossible,” according to the Assessment Capacities Project report. Many countries that host refugee camps, such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh, are likely to be overwhelmed by the health needs of their own citizens. Nations with weak health systems “may struggle to screen, test, and contain the epidemic for the host population let alone the refugees,”
  • In Gaza, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides primary care for about 70 percent of the territory’s more than 1.8 million people, is bracing for the likely arrival of the coronavirus in one of the most densely populated place in the world. The U.N. agency—which the Trump administration defunded last year and has sought to dismantle—has some 22 medical clinics in Gaza, putting it on the front lines of the defense of the coronavirus.
  • “I’m told that there are 60 ICU beds in the hospitals,” Matthias Schmale, the director of Gaza’s UNRWA operations, told Foreign Policy. “If there is a full-scale outbreak the hospital sector won’t cope.”
  • The leaders of major relief organizations are pressing donors to grant them greater flexibility to redirect funding from existing programs that are likely to be paralyzed by the pandemic and use that money for programs—including clean water and sanitation projects—that could help stem the crisis.
  • “As bad as it is now in the well-organized and affluent north, with health systems, good sanitation, and big infrastructure, imagine how it will be when it will hit crowded camps with refugees and displaced people,” said Egeland, who spoke by telephone from quarantine in Norway.
  • sweeping U.S. and U.N. economic sanctions imposed on governments in Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela are hampering relief efforts.
  • Egeland acknowledged that most U.N. sanctions regimes, including those for Iran and North Korea, include exemptions for the import of humanitarian goods. But the sanctions have scared financial institutions from providing vital financial services to relief agencies. “Not a single bank had the guts to transfer money, because they were all afraid to be sued by the U.S. government,”
  • The World Health Organization announced earlier this year that more than $675 million will be required through April—including $61 million for its own activities—to mount an international campaign against the virus. Though WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said recently that more money would be needed. On Feb. 17, UNICEF issued an urgent request for $42.3 million to support the coronavirus response. It will be used to reduce transmission of the virus by promoting distance learning for kids who can’t attend school and public information aimed at shooting down misinformation.
  • Guterres, meanwhile, expressed concern that the pandemic could claw back decades of efforts to raise international health standards and to scale back the most extreme levels of poverty, and undercut U.N. sustainable development goals, which are designed to improve the standard of living around the world by the year 2030.
  • “COVID-19 is killing people, as well as attacking the real economy at its core—trade, supply chains, businesses, jobs,” Guterres said. “Workers around the world could lose as much as $3.4 trillion.”
  • “We need to focus on people—the most vulnerable, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises,” Guterres said. “That means wage support, insurance, social protection, preventing bankruptcies and job loss. That also means designing fiscal and monetary responses to ensure that the burden does not fall on those who can least afford it. The recovery must not come on the backs of the poorest—and we cannot create a legion of new poor. We need to get resources directly into the hands of people.”
Ed Webb

The west is ignoring Pakistan's super-floods. Heed this warning: tomorrow it will be yo... - 0 views

  • Pakistan, the world’s fifth-most-populous country, is fighting for its survival. This summer, erratic monsoon rains battered the country from north to south – Sindh, the southernmost province, received 464% more rain over the last few weeks than the 30-year average for the period.At the same time, Pakistan’s glaciers are melting at a rate never seen before. These two consequences of the climate crisis have combined to create a monstrous super-flood that has ravaged the country.
  • those who don’t die from the floods risk death by starvation
  • Economic losses are estimated to be in excess of $30bn, 50 million people have been internally displaced, there is the threat of a malaria epidemic as floodwater lies stagnant
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  • More than 400 children have died and with winter coming and millions left without shelter, many more will.
  • it would seem that the rest of the world hasn’t considered that this epic humanitarian crisis is a peek into the apocalyptic future that awaits us all.
  • a clear warning of the consequences of universal and rapacious climate breakdown
  • While it has been touching to see how ordinary people from far away countries have shown solidarity with Pakistan, donating what they can to flood relief efforts, the silence from major international figures and western media at large has been dispiriting, if not unsurprising. The week the flood hit, there were more newspaper column inches devoted to a Finnish prime minister who likes to party than to the fact that a third of Pakistan was submerged.
  • In Europe, the same countries that pushed Syrian refugees out in rubber dinghies to die at sea have free Airbnb housing and welcome booths for Ukrainians at their airports
  • In 2010, Pakistan also suffered catastrophic flooding. At the time, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said the scale of flooding Pakistan had endured was greater than anything he had ever seen before. “Make no mistake, this is a global disaster,” Moon said. “Pakistan is facing a slow-motion tsunami. Its destructive powers will accumulate and grow with time.”
  • This was the same year that Haiti suffered a tragic earthquake, but unlike Haiti there was little media attention for Pakistan, no televised concerts populated by Hollywood stars wearing branded T-shirts and raising money, no tweets by major international figures applauding the resilience of the Pakistan people. No one cared then, just as no one cares now.
  • The current UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, has lamented that the world is “sleepwalking” through Pakistan’s devastating super-flood. If one takes climate change seriously, how can one be blind to Pakistan – a country that has already warmed a dreaded 2.2F?
  • the global south will not survive this century without climate justice. You in the west are talking about paper straws, we in the global south are talking about reparations.
  • we are simmering with rage now. What else can you feel when $880m was raised in a day and a half after the cathedral of Notre Dame suffered a fire in 2021 but an entire country of drowning poor must beg for climate aid and assistance?
Ed Webb

Yemen pays price for Saudis' sectarian paranoia | Middle East Eye - 1 views

  • The success of the Houthi insurgency from the north that swept the Yemeni leadership from power, taking over the capital Sanaa, was perversely treated by the Security Council as a military coup justifying the intervention by a Saudi-led coalition. Strange to recall that the 2013 undisguised military coup in Egypt, with much bloodier reprisals against the displaced elected rulers, aroused not a murmur of protest in the halls of the UN. So goes geopolitics in the Middle East.
  • the geopolitical tendency to reduce an incredibly complex national history and interplay of contending forces to a simplistic story of Sunni versus Shia rivalry for the control of the country
  • allows Saudi Arabia to portray the strife in Yemen as another theatre of the wider region proxy war pitting Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies against Iran, which is a guaranteed way of securing US and Israeli backing
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  • not a regional politics based on sectarian priorities, but rather a pathological preoccupation with regime stability in the Saudi monarchy, with anxieties arising whenever political tendencies emerge in the region that elude its control, and are perceived as threatening
  • There is a long experience of division between the north and the south, and this means that any unity government for the whole of Yemen can only be sustained by an iron-fisted dictator like Saleh or through a genuine power-sharing federalist kind of arrangement. Beyond this, the country bears the scars of Ottoman rule intermixed with a British presence in Aden and the surrounding area, vital for colonial priorities of controlling the Suez and the trade routes to the East.Additionally, Yemen remains a composite of tribes that still command the major loyalty of people. The modern European insistence on sovereign states in the Middle East never succeeded in overcoming the primacy of Yemeni tribal identities. Any possibility of political stability requires subsidising Yemen’s tribes as Saudi Arabia did during Saleh’s dictatorship (1990-2012) or creating a multi-coloured quilt of autonomous tribal polities. When geography and tribalism are taken into account recourse to the Shia-Sunni divide or the Riyadh-Tehran rivalry as an explanation of Yemen’s strife-ridden country is a cruel and futile fantasy.
  • What is needed is establishing a political transition sensitive both to the North-South split and the strength of Yemeni tribes coupled with massive economic assistance from outside and the creation of a UN peacekeeping presence tasked with implementation
  • Such a rational path is currently blocked, especially by the intense militancy of the aggressive Saudi leadership of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, and his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Secretary of Defence, the apparent champion of military intervention
Jim Franklin

Al Jazeera English - Middle East - S Korea to build UAE nuclear plants - 0 views

  • South Korea has won a contract to set up four nuclear reactors for the oil-rich United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • The reactors - the first nuclear plants in the Gulf Arab region - are scheduled to start supplying electric power to the UAE grid in 2017.
  • The UAE's choice must have been based on strictly commercial terms because in terms of political clout in the region it's nil," Al Troner, the president of Houston-based Asia Pacific Energy Consulting, said.
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  • But the UAE has already pledged to import the fuel it needs for reactors - rather than attempting to enrich uranium, the fuel for nuclear power plants - to allay fears about uranium enrichment facilities being used to make weapons-grade material.
Ed Webb

Sinai: States of fear | Mada Masr - 2 views

  • The militants have also begun to adopt other mundane state postures. The main road between Arish and Rafah is usually closed to civilians, forcing them to take side roads studded with checkpoints —  some manned by the military, others by the militants. Some of the militants’ checkpoints are stationed just a few kilometers away from the army’s, and are reportedly equipped with computers and internet connections to investigate any passersby.
  • Sayed, who works with journalists in North Sinai, was stopped and beaten at a militant-operated checkpoint between Arish and Rafah several weeks ago. Sayed was on the road with four Egyptian journalists, and two military tanks were driving ahead of them. The tanks turned shortly before Sayed found himself faced with the militants’ checkpoint. “I told them, ‘Be careful, there are military tanks nearby.’ They said, ‘We’re not here for them, we’re here for you’,” he recounts. Sayed and the journalists were shot at and physically assaulted, then released. He hid his companions’ press IDs, and said they worked for the sympathetic Al Jazeera satellite network based in Qatar. “If they knew the journalists were from an Egyptian newspaper, none of us would have made it out alive,” he claims.
  • Fouad is a coffee shop owner who recently relocated to Arish after the army evacuated the residents of Rafah to dig a buffer zone to deter terrorists. He explains that one time the militants collected everyone’s IDs at a checkpoint, but remained respectful because they didn’t suspect anyone. “The militants never hurt us or raise an arm in our face. They don’t scare us,” says an old woman from the village of Muqataa, a militant stronghold near Sheikh Zuwayed. “They have no interest in alienating the other residents, because they live among them and don’t want them to turn into collaborators with security,” Fathy explains.
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  • While no one knows the exact composition or origins of the different militant groups based in Sinai, many believe past state crackdowns on the area might have fueled their growth. While visiting his cousin in Cairo’s Tora prison in 2005, Fathy met Kamal Allam, who would later become a key militant in the Tawheed and Jihad group in Sinai. At the time, police had randomly arrested hundreds of men from the peninsula after several tourist sites were bombed in South Sinai. Allam was in custody on drug charges, and was limping due to injuries sustained from torture. He told Fathy, “I wouldn't wish what I'm going through even on an apostate.” After spending his time in prison among Islamist detainees, Allam escaped from his cell during the 2011 revolution when the police retreated from their posts. He was among the first to attack police stations in North Sinai between January 25 and January 28 of that year. In January 2014, the Ministry of Interior announced Allam had been killed in a military campaign south of Rafah.
  • Fathy explains that the expansion of terrorist networks in Sinai is mainly stimulated by the desire to retaliate against police brutality, and less by a deep-rooted jihadist doctrine
  • many of those who suffered during the ongoing security crackdown were easy to recruit. Many people — especially those from the most impoverished areas in the peninsula’s center and eastern edge — are also joining the militias to make money after losing work in the stymied smuggling trade
  • Madiha, a middle-aged widow from Muqataa, sits in the small shed she relocated to three months ago. She now lives in the Masaeed neighborhood in southern Arish, one of the few places that residents still consider relatively safe. Muqataa was the target of some of the military’s most vicious operations. In the first raid in mid-2013, military forces stormed her house. The troops shot between the legs of her 12-year-old daughter to force her to report on the area’s militants. They then used Madiha and her three children as human shields, she claims, forcing them to walk in front of the soldiers as they ventured into the fields.
  • Civilian deaths have become recurrent in these attacks, though widely unreported by the media.
  • Reports of civilian deaths have been corroborated by human rights groups conducting research in the area, though no reports have been published yet. These deaths are the brutal, immediate cost of the state’s war on terrorists. But there is also a more prolonged, quotidian cost that North Sinai residents must pay. Rafah had been under curfew since the summer of 2013, but in October 2014, the government announced a three-month curfew that stretched to Arish. On January 25, 2015, area residents gathered to celebrate the curfew’s end — only to find out it would be extended. The streets of Arish are now lined with cafes and restaurants shuttered by the slump in business, and many workers lost their jobs when the curfew eliminated evening shifts.
  • Instead of bolstering a sense of security, the war on terror and increased militarization have fostered an extended state of fear in North Sinai
Ed Webb

The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer: Countering Extremism: Jihadist Ideology Reig... - 0 views

  • By James M. Dorsey Edited remarks at India Foundation conference, Changing Contours of Global Terror, Gurugram, Haryana, 14-16 March 2018
  • Al Qaeda produced the counterterrorism industry in the context of a response that was focussed on law enforcement, security and military engagement. To be sure, that has produced significant results. It has enhanced security across the globe, stopped plots before they could be executed, driven Al Qaeda into caves, and deprived the Islamic State of its territorial base. All of that, however has not solved the problem, nor has it fundamentally reduced the attraction of religiously-cloaked extremism.
  • the call for a counter-narrative has produced an industry of its own. Like the terrorism industry, it has vested interests of its own: its sustainability is dependent on the continued existence of perceived real threats.
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  • The notion that one can eradicate political violence is illusionary. Political violence has been a fixture of human history since day one and is likely to remain a fact of life. Its ebbs and flows often co-relate to economic, social and political up and down turns. In other words, counterterrorism and counternarratives will only be effective if they are embedded in far broader policies that tackle root causes. And that is where the shoe pinches. To develop policies that tackle root causes, that are inclusive and aim to ensure that at least the vast majority, if not everyone, has a stake in society, the economy and the political system involves painful decisions, revising often long-standing policies and tackling vested interests. Few politicians and bureaucrats are inclined to do so.
  • militants have benefitted from the fact that the world was entering a cyclical period in which populations lose confidence in political systems and leaderships. The single largest success of Osama bin Laden and subsequent militants is the fact that they were able to disrupt efforts to forge inclusive, multicultural societies, nowhere more so than first in Europe, then the United States with the rise of Donald Trump, and exploit ripple effects in Asia
  • what makes this cycle of lack of confidence more worrisome and goes directly to the question of the ideological challenge is how it differs from the late 1960s, the last time that we witnessed a breakdown in confidence and leadership on a global scale. The difference between then and now is that then there were all kinds of worldviews on offer: anti-authoritarianism, anarchism, socialism, communism, concepts of extra-parliamentary opposition, and in the Middle East and North Africa, Arab nationalism and Arab socialism. Today, the only thing on offer are militant interpretations of Islam and jihadism
  • With democracy on the defense, free market enterprise having failed significant segments of the public, and newly found legitimacy for prejudice, bias and bigotry, democratic governments are incapable of credibly projecting a dream, one that is backed up by policies that hold out realistic hope of producing results
  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared to be holding out a dream for his kingdom. But that dream increasingly is being shattered both in Yemen and at home. Autocrats in the Middle East and North Africa are about upgrading and modernizing their regimes to ensure their survival, not about real sustainable change
  • populists and nationalists advocating racial, ethnic and religious purity and protectionist economic policies are unlikely to fare any better
  • Creating a policy framework that is conducive to an environment in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia that would favour pluralism and respect of human rights and counter the appeal of jihadism and emerging sectarian-based nationalism is not simply a question of encouraging and supporting voices in the region, first and foremost those of youth, or of revisiting assumptions of Western foreign policies and definitions of national security.  It involves fostering inclusive national identities that can accommodate ethnic, sectarian and tribal sub-identities as legitimate and fully accepted sub-identities in Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian, as well as in Western countries. It involves changing domestic policies towards minorities, refugees and migrants
  • Instead of reducing the threat of political violence, the largely military effort to defeat Al Qaeda produced ever more virulent forms of jihadism as embodied by the Islamic State. It may be hard to imagine anything more brutal than the group, but it is a fair assumption that defeating the Islamic State without tackling root causes could lead to something that is even more violent and more vicious.
  • an approach that focuses on the immediate nature of the threat and ways to neutralize it rather than on what sparked it
  • Norway’s response to right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik’s traumatic attacks in 2011 that killed 77 people stands as a model for how societies can and should uphold concepts of pluralism and human rights. Norway refrained from declaring war on terror, treated Breivik as a common criminal, and refused to compromise on its democratic values. In doing so, Norway offered a successful example of refusing to stigmatise any one group in society by adopting inclusiveness rather than profiling and upholding the very values that autocrats and jihadists challenge
Ed Webb

Separatists announce self-rule in southern Yemen | Yemen News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • Yemen's southern separatists have announced plans to establish a self-ruled administration in regions under their control in a move the country's internationally-backed government said would have "catastrophic consequences".
  • The council accused Yemen's Saudi-backed government of corruption and mismanagement. The STC is supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • the separatists, who sought self-rule in the south, turned on the government in August last year and seized the interim capital of Aden. The fighting stopped when the two groups reached a deal in November. Under the accord reached in Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh, the STC and other regions in the south were supposed to join a new national cabinet and place all forces under the control of the internationally recognised government. Mohammed al-Hadhrami, Yemen's foreign minister, said the STC's latest move amounted to a withdrawal from the Riyadh agreement.
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  • The separatists' move raises concerns that Yemen could slide further into chaos amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
  • The years-long conflict in Yemen has killed more than 100,000 people and pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine.
Ed Webb

The Wartime Transformation of AQAP in Yemen | ACLED - 1 views

  • Al Raymi’s death has marked a turning point in AQAP’s decade-long history. Al Raymi oversaw AQAP’s expansion in southern Yemen, where the group held the third biggest port city in the country, and its eventual retreat into the mountains of central Yemen. Within the Islamist camp, AQAP also faced fierce competition at the hands of the Islamic State in Yemen (ISY), which escalated into months of fighting between the two groups between July 2018 and February 2020. Batarfi’s appointment came at a moment when AQAP was suffering from fragmentation and low morale, two factors that negatively affected its operational and mobilization capabilities (Al Araby, 22 March 2020). Today, AQAP appears to be in a transitional phase, as it redirects its weakened military force towards fighting against the Houthis.
  • the report identifies three phases of AQAP’s wartime activity: AQAP’s expansion (2015-2016), its redeployment and infighting with ISY (2017-2019), and the current retrenchment in Al Bayda (2019-2020).
  • thrived on the political instability that followed the 2011 Yemeni uprising. Operating under the semi-political mantle of Ansar Al Sharia, AQAP took advantage of the fragmentation that tore apart the Yemeni army to take control of several towns in southern Yemen, where it declared small Islamic emirates between 2011 and 2012 (International Crisis Group, 2 February 2017). These included Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan governorate, which fell under AQAP’s control with little or no resistance from the security forces.
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  • In 2015, the outbreak of the war gave yet another boost to AQAP’s fortunes in Yemen. Amidst the fragmentation of the Yemeni armed forces, the Hadi government and the Saudi-led coalition saw AQAP as an indispensable bulwark to prevent Houthi-Saleh forces from advancing into central and southern Yemen
  • At its apogee in 2015-2016, AQAP was reported to be active in 82 of Yemen’s 333 districts. Four years later, the number has decreased to 40
  • While the Hadi government and the Saudi-led coalition were preoccupied with the advance of Houthi-Saleh forces in central and southern Yemen, AQAP took advantage of the situation to capture Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt governorate and Yemen’s fifth largest city. Upon entering Mukalla almost without a fight on 2 April 2015, the group staged a mass jailbreak which freed 150 fighters – including the current AQAP emir Batarfi – from the central prison, looted approximately 100 million USD from the local branch of the Central Bank, and seized military equipment (Radman, 17 April 2019). During its year-long occupation of the city, AQAP developed governance practices that turned its Islamic emirate into a proto-state.
  • Until April 2016, when an Emirati-led offensive drove AQAP out of Mukalla, the group collected an estimated two million USD every day in customs fees levied on goods and fuel entering the port.
  • Nowhere was AQAP’s participation in the conflict more pronounced than in the mountains of Al Bayda, where the group mounted a fierce resistance against the Houthis from as early as 2014. The Houthis moved into Al Bayda in the last quarter of 2014 under the pretext of fighting ISY, and within one year took control of the province. 
  • At the heart of AQAP’s success in 2015-2016 was its pragmatism. Contrary to the uncompromising sectarian narrative of ISY, AQAP has calibrated its message to local audiences, winning the support of local tribes who were largely concerned with protecting their homeland from the Houthis
  • tribes have long been wary of AQAP, fearing that the group’s presence in tribal territory would elicit counterterrorism operations and further disrupt tribal orders (Al-Dawsari, June 2018)
  • Though aligned with nearly a decade of counterterrorism operations conducted on Yemeni soil, the military-heavy approach endorsed by the Trump administration inflicted several losses to AQAP and ISY, while also exacting a heavy civilian toll. In January 2017, a botched Special Operations raid in Yakla area targeting AQAP emir Qasim Al Raymi killed instead several members of the Al Dhahab clan, including a pro-government tribesman whom the US mistakenly believed to be an AQAP operative (Al-Muslimi, 26 June 2019). It was estimated that at least 25 civilians, including women and children, have died in US ground raids launched between January and May 2017 (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 9 February 2017; The Intercept, 28 May 2017).
  • a military campaign spearheaded by coalition-backed Yemeni troops was successful in curbing AQAP activity in Yemen’s southern provinces. Earlier research by ACLED has highlighted how AQAP’s retreat from Shabwah went hand in hand with the activation of local counterterrorism forces funded and trained by the UAE (see Yemen’s Fractured South: ACLED’s Three-Part Series). In addition to recapturing pockets of territory from AQAP, the Security Belt in Abyan and Aden and the Elite Forces in Shabwah and Hadramawt drained the organization’s recruiting pool, exposing its vulnerabilities and subordination to tribal politics.
  • The main beneficiaries of AQAP’s fragmentation were Salafist militias variously aligned with the Hadi government or the Southern Transitional Council (STC), as well as ISY which aggressively boasted about its ideological purity
  • The four factors plunging AQAP into a major crisis coincided with the evolution of the jihadi “cold war” with ISY into a hot war in July 2018 (Hamming, 7 November 2018)
  • Local and national factors likely ignited the armed confrontations between the two groups, rather than ideological disputes on a transnational scale
  • As of November 2020, no clashes between AQAP and ISY have been reported in the last nine months as AQAP started its shift from redeployment to retrenchment.
  • a Houthi offensive in the Qayfa tribal areas this year led to a significant defeat of both AQAP and ISY at the hands of Houthi forces
  • Instead of fighting ISY, AQAP has ramped up its anti-Houthi rhetoric, in an attempt to reclaim its role as the main enemy of the Houthis
  • AQAP has long taken advantage of tribal grievances towards the Houthis by positioning itself at the epicenter of Houthi opposition in Al Bayda, and therefore presenting itself as a potential partner for tribal resistance movements
  • Despite a recent uptick in activity between August and October 2020, which could indicate a slow consolidation of capabilities following the drone strike that killed both its Emir Al Raymi and senior jurist Al Ibbi in January, AQAP’s activity plummeted in November.
  • if AQAP manages to re-consolidate itself in Yemen, the threat it poses towards its ‘distant’ enemies, such as the United States, could increase as well. This is the driving force behind the US attempts to contain AQAP in Yemen
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

Qatar Migrant Workers Battle Coronavirus Outbreak During World Cup Construction - 0 views

  • There are more than 2 million migrant workers in Qatar—a significant number given that the country’s overall population is just 2.6 million. In recent years the foreign laborer population in Qatar has swelled as the country has undergone a construction boom ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which is set to be held there.
  • as the coronavirus pandemic edges its way across Qatar, which now has more than 2,000 confirmed cases, the migrant workers’ cramped living quarters and lack of access to health care, proper sanitation, and nutritious food imperils an already highly vulnerable group of people.
  • abuse—which at times has amounted to forced labor and human trafficking—has been exacerbated by South Asian governments’ inability to successfully lobby for strong protections. (Critics contend there has been scant political will given the huge portion of GDP now made up by remittances from overseas workers.
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  • Some 35 million migrants are employed in the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, in Jordan, and in Lebanon, and incidences of exploitation are well documented
  • “The situation here is serious,” Narendra said, describing the lockdown in part of the Industrial Area. “I have been frequently speaking with workers who are in lockdown areas. Employers aren’t allowing people out to buy food, and companies are not providing food. We don’t have any rights to ask for support.”
  • While Qatar has now shut down all public spaces, construction workers are still working on a variety of projects despite the fact that hundreds of cases of the coronavirus have spread among their communities
  • the true burden of disease among migrant workers is unknown. The government doesn’t give figures on what portion of the infected are migrant workers. And some migrants fear coming forward to report their symptoms.
  • Research published last year in the journal Cardiology explored the relationship between heat exposure and the deaths of more than 1,300 Nepali workers over a nine-year period until 2017. The climatologists and cardiologists found a strong correlation between heat stress and young workers dying of cardiovascular problems in the summer months
  • At the heart of the abuse faced by migrant workers has been Qatar’s kafala system, which legally binds foreign workers to their employers, restricting workers’ ability to change jobs and preventing them from leaving the country without their employers’ permission—a practice that has been described as modern slavery. In October 2019, the government announced reforms that would allow migrant workers to change jobs and leave Qatar without employer consent. Thus far, only the second reform has been implemented. And while campaigners laud the progress, enforcement of laws remains spotty, and there’s little clarity on when further reforms will be rolled out.
  • Most workers sleep in dormitories, sharing rooms with up to 10 people and sharing kitchens and bathrooms with dozens more. When they head to work on the construction sites, it is on overcrowded buses. In response, the government recently announced it would reduce bus capacity by half, that construction workers would work a maximum six hours a day, that workers’ accommodation would be limited to four people, and that all accommodation sites would be sanitized and information on hand-washing and hygiene would be provided. Whether this is just rhetoric remains to be seen.
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