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Ed Webb

Our Oligarch - 0 views

  • Abramovich is perhaps the most visible of the “oligarchs” surrounding Putin, who are widely perceived as extensions of the Russian president and keepers of a vast fortune that is effectively under the Kremlin’s control. Much of this wealth was extracted from Russia’s enormous energy and mineral resources, and is now stashed in secret bank accounts in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, in empty mansions and condos from London to Manhattan to Miami, and in yachts and private jets on the French Riviera.
  • as much as 60% of Russia’s GDP is offshore
  • The reserved, gray-bearded Abramovich is notoriously litigious toward critics who seek to detail his close ties to Putin. Last year, he successfully sued the British journalist Catherine Belton, who claimed in her 2020 book Putin’s People that the Russian president dictated Abramovich’s major purchases, including his decision to buy Chelsea. He also extracted an apology from a British newspaper for calling him a “bag carrier” for the Russian president.
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  • Abramovich—who, like many of the most prominent Russian oligarchs, is Jewish—has for years been a prolific donor to Jewish philanthropies. He has given half a billion dollars to Jewish charities over the past two decades, sending money linked to Putin’s kleptocratic regime circulating through Jewish institutions worldwide
  • Among other things, he has profoundly influenced Jewish life on three continents, developing deep financial ties with major communal institutions. He is partly responsible for the preeminent role played by Chabad in the religious life of post-Soviet Russia, for the growth of major Jewish museums from Russia to Israel, for a raft of anti-antisemitism programming involving leading American and British Jewish organizations, and for the expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem
  • the Jewish world is forced to reckon with its long embrace of Abramovich, and with the moral costs of accepting his money
  • Certain Soviet Jews of Abramovich’s generation found themselves at the forefront of an emerging market economy. Concentrated in white collar professions but systematically excluded from desirable posts and from the top ranks of the Communist Party, they were unusually prepared—and, perhaps, motivated—to find legal and semi-legal points of entry into the tightly-regulated commerce between the Soviet Union and the West. This helps explain why, as the historian Yuri Slezkine writes in The Jewish Century, six of the seven top oligarchs of 1990s Russia (Petr Aven, Boris Berezovsky, Mikhail Fridman, Vladimir Gusinsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Alexander Smolensky) were ethnic Jews.
  • Boris Yeltsin soon initiated the firesale privatization of state-controlled industries at the urging of Washington and the IMF—a reckless transition from a command economy to a capitalist one that drove millions of Russians into poverty
  • the Yeltsin administration implemented its infamous loans-for-shares program, selling off key state industries in rigged auctions to Russia’s new business elite for a fraction of their real value in order to stabilize the state’s finances in the short term. Berezovsky and Abramovich gained ownership stakes in Sibneft, one of the world’s largest energy companies, and became instant billionaires.
  • In 1996, the handful of leading oligarchs pooled their financial resources—and directed their media companies’ coverage—to reelect the deeply unpopular Yeltsin over his Communist challenger, Gennady Zyuganov, whose platform of re-nationalizing industries terrified both the Russian and Western business classes
  • Fearing that it was unsustainable for a small group of mostly Jewish billionaires to prop up an ailing, visibly alcoholic president—especially after the ruble collapsed in 1998, dragging down a generation’s living standards and initiating a hunt for scapegoats—Berezovsky spearheaded an effort the following year to replace Yeltsin with a young, healthy, disciplined, and then-obscure former KGB officer named Vladimir Putin. It was a decision he would come to regret.
  • wealth so easily acquired could just as easily be taken away. In 2001, Putin hounded Berezovsky and Gusinsky—whose TV networks had criticized the president’s mishandling of a naval disaster—with criminal indictments for tax fraud, forcing them to sell their media and energy holdings at a fraction of their true cost. As a result, Abramovich, who had never challenged Putin, acquired control of Sibneft, while Berezovsky fled to the United Kingdom and Gusinsky departed for Spain and then Israel. Abramovich again came out ahead in 2003, when the oligarch Khodorkovsky was sent to a Siberian prison on tax charges after criticizing Putin for corruption, leaving his assets in the energy sector to be redistributed among those on good terms with the president.
  • “I don’t think there is a percent of independence in Abramovich,” said Roman Borisovich, a Luxembourg-based Russian banker turned anti-corruption activist who once encountered Abramovich through Berezovsky in the 1990s. “For Abramovich to stay alive, he had to turn against his master [Berezovsky], which is what he did, and he has served Putin handsomely ever since.”
  • Whereas in the Yeltsin era, the term identified a system dominated by truly independent tycoons, “Putin’s top priority when he came to power was to break that system, replacing it with a system of concentrated power in which men who are inaccurately referred to as oligarchs now have only as much access to wealth as Putin allows them to have,”
  • Even as he built up his credibility with Putin, he joined many of his fellow oligarchs in stashing his billions in Western financial institutions, which proved eager to assist. “Elites in the post-Soviet space are constantly looking to move their assets and wealth into rule-of-law jurisdictions, which generally means Western countries like the US or UK,”
  • In 2008, Berezovsky sued his former protege over his confiscated Sibneft shares; then, in 2012, seven months after a judge rejected all of his claims, Berezovsky died in his London home in an apparent suicide. Some former associates believe he might have been murdered
  • In 2017, BuzzFeed reported that US spy agencies suspect Russian involvement in as many as 14 mysterious deaths in Britain over the previous decade, including Berezovsky’s. In the wake of the 2018 poisoning of the defected double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, British intelligence services became increasingly wary of wealthy expats with close ties to the Kremlin. Diplomatic strain stymied Abramovich’s effort to acquire a Tier 1 British visa, which would have enabled him to stay in the country for 40 months.
  • “No one forced the British or American real estate industries to toss their doors open to as much illicit wealth as they could find, or the state of Delaware to craft the world’s greatest anonymous shell company services,” said Michel. “Western policymakers crafted all of the policies that these oligarchs are now taking advantage of.”
  • Abramovich also safeguarded a significant part of his fortune in the US, especially during his third marriage to the Russian American socialite and fashion designer Dasha Zhukova. Even after their 2018 divorce, Abramovich began the process of converting three adjacent townhouses on Manhattan’s Upper East Side into what will eventually become the largest home in the city, an “urban castle” valued at $180 million—making him one of the many wealthy Russians sheltering assets in New York’s booming and conveniently opaque real estate sector. (The mansion is intended for Zhukova and their two young children; Abramovich also has five children from his second marriage based primarily in the UK.) He also owns at least two homes in Aspen, Colorado, a gathering place of the global elite.
  • the oligarchs are now credibly threatened with exile from the West. Countries like France and Germany have already begun confiscating yachts owned by select Russian officials. And although the UK is still struggling to come up with a legal basis for following suit, leading politicians like Labour Leader Keir Starmer are urging direct sanctions against Abramovich. “Abramovich’s reputation has finally collapsed, along with the other supposedly apolitical oligarchs,” Michel said four days after Russia invaded Ukraine. “There’s no recovery from this. This is a titanic shift in terms of how these oligarchs can operate.”
  • Israel has been more hesitant to hold him to account.
  • In 2018, Abramovich acquired Israeli citizenship through the law of return, immediately becoming the second-wealthiest Israeli, behind Miriam Adelson. As a new Israeli citizen, he joined several dozen Russian Jewish oligarchs who have sought citizenship or residency in the Jewish state—a group that includes Fridman, Gusinsky, and the late Berezovsky. Since 2015, Abramovich has owned and sometimes lived in the 19th-century Varsano hotel in Tel Aviv’s trendy Neve Tzedek neighborhood, and in 2020 he purchased a mansion in Herzliya for $65 million—the most expensive real estate deal in the country’s history
  • As an Israeli passport holder, Abramovich is eligible to visit the UK for six months at a time and is exempt from paying taxes in Israel on his overseas income for the first decade of his residency
  • Given his increasingly precarious geopolitical position, Jewishness has become Abramovich’s identity of last resort—and Jewish philanthropic giving has provided him with an air of legitimacy not only in Israel but throughout the Jewish world. Abramovich and his fellow oligarchs “need to spend some money to launder their reputations,” said Borisovich, the anti-corruption activist. “They cannot be seen as Putin’s agents of influence; they need to be seen as independent businessmen. So if they can exploit Jewish philanthropy or give money to Oxford or the Tate Gallery, that’s the cost of doing business.”
  • A 2017 article in Politico, which identified Abramovich and Leviev as “Chabad’s biggest patrons worldwide,” also referred to Lazar as “Putin’s rabbi.” Lazar has often run interference for the Russian president—for instance, by defending his initial crackdown on oligarchs like Gusinsky as not motivated by antisemitism, or by praising Russia as safe for Jews under his governance. (The researcher noted that Putin has also cultivated prominent loyalists in other Russian religious communities, including the Orthodox Church and Islam.)
  • Abramovich also significantly funded the construction of the $50 million Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, which opened in 2012 (and to which Putin pledged to donate a month of his presidential salary). In a 2016 article in The Forward, the scholar Olga Gershenson suggested that the museum’s narrative bordered on propaganda, framing Jews as “a model Russian minority” and “glorifying and mourning . . . without raising more controversial and relevant questions that would require the viewer to come to terms with a nation’s difficult past.”
  • “It concentrates on the Soviet victory over the Nazis, and then it ends by saying that Jews in Putin’s Russia are all good and content.”
  • “Say No to Antisemitism” has brought together Chelsea players and management with many top Jewish groups; the currents heads of the ADL, the WJC, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Holocaust Educational Trust, among others, are all listed on its steering committee. The campaign is at least in part intended to address the antisemitism of some Chelsea fans, who have been known to shout “Yid!” and hiss in imitation of gas chambers when taunting fans of the rival club Tottenham, which has a historically Jewish fan base that proudly refers to itself as “the Yid Army.” Last November, Israeli President Isaac Herzog described the campaign as “a shining example of how sports can be a force for good and tolerance.”
  • Abramovich is also one of the primary benefactors of a Holocaust museum that opened in Porto last May. As of last year, Abramovich is a newly minted citizen of Portugal (and by extension, the European Union), which offers such recognition to anyone who can prove Sephardic ancestry dating back before the Portuguese expulsion of Jews in 1496.
  • Berel Rosenberg, a representative of the museum, denied that Abramovich had given the Porto Jewish community any money besides a €250 fee for Sephardic certification; regarding reports to the contrary, he alleged that “lies were published by antisemites and corrupt journalists.” However, Porto’s Jewish community does acknowledge that Abramovich has donated money to projects honoring the legacy of Portuguese Sephardic Jews in Hamburg, and he has been identified as an honorary member of Chabad Portugal and B’nai B’rith International Portugal due to his philanthropic activities in the country.
  • Abramovich has made a $30 million donation for a nanotechnology research center at Tel Aviv University; funded a football-focused “leadership training program” for Arab and Jewish children; and supported KKL-JNF’s tree-planting campaign in the southern Negev, which is dedicated to Lithuanian victims of the Holocaust—and which has drawn opposition from local Bedouin communities who view it as a land grab.
  • he has kept his support for Israeli settlements well-hidden
  • Abramovich has used front companies registered in the British Virgin Islands to donate more than $100 million to a right-wing Israeli organization called the Ir David Foundation, commonly known as Elad, which has worked since the 1980s to move Jewish settlers into occupied East Jerusalem. Elad also controls an archeological park and major tourist site called City of David, which it has leveraged in its efforts to “Judaize” the area, including by seizing Palestinian homes in the surrounding neighborhood of Silwan and digging under some to make them uninhabitable.
  • “In order for settlers to take over Palestinian homes, they need a lot of money,” said Hagit Ofran, co-director of the Settlement Watch project at the Israeli organization Peace Now, “both to take advantage of poor Palestinians for the actual purchases, and then for the long and expensive legal struggle that follows, and that can bankrupt Palestinian families. The money is crucial.” Of Abramovich’s support for Elad, she added, “That’s a lot from one source; I assume that if you give such a big donation, you know what it is for.”
  • Just two days before Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, it was reported that Abramovich is donating tens of millions of dollars to Yad Vashem, the global Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem
  • Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan joined the heads of multiple Israeli charitable organizations in urging the US not to sanction Abramovich. The letter was also signed by Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau and representatives of Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv University, and Elad
  • Oleg Deripaska and Mikhail Fridman, were already calling for peace negotiations just three days after the invasion. (Fridman and Deripaska are also major Jewish philanthropists, as are other Russian oligarchs including Petr Aven, Yuri Milner, and Viktor Vekselberg. All of them now face global scrutiny.)
  • Even before he announced he would be setting up a charity to help victims in Ukraine, members of Abramovich’s family were quick to distance themselves from the war: A contemporary art museum in Moscow co-founded by Abramovich and Zhukova has announced that it will halt all new exhibitions in protest of the war. Abramovich’s 27-year-old daughter Sofia, who lives in London, posted a message on her popular Instagram account that read, “The biggest and most successful lie of the Kremlin’s propaganda is that most Russians stand with Putin.”
  • Abramovich and others have spent more than two decades loyally serving and profiting off Putin’s corrupt and violent regime—one that has been accused of murdering and jailing journalists and political dissidents and of committing war crimes from Chechnya to Syria. And for much of that time, Jewish institutions worldwide have been more than happy to take money from Abramovich and his peers
  • longstanding philanthropic ties may affect the Jewish communal world’s willingness to hold Russia accountable for its violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty
  • “I think the view of much of Jewish philanthropic leadership, right and left, conservative and liberal, has been the bottom line: If the purposes for which the philanthropy is given are positive, humane, holy, and seen to strengthen both the Jewish community and the whole of society, then to sit and analyze whether the donor was exploitive or not, and whether this was kosher or not, would be hugely diverting, amazingly complicated, and divisive.”
  • Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, acknowledged the difficulty of making ethical calls about donors, but argued that the attempt is still necessary. “In philanthropy, nearly all money is tainted, either because it was acquired by exploiting workers, by harming the environment, by selling harmful products, or by taking advantage of systems that benefit the wealthy to the detriment of others. That said, we can’t throw up our hands and say that we can either take no money or all money; there have to be red lines,” she said.
  • Berman, the scholar of Jewish philanthropy, agrees. “It is tempting to say all money is fungible, so where it came from does not or cannot matter,” she said. “But no matter how much we might want to launder the money, wash it clean of its past and its connections to systems of power, the very act of doing so is an erasure, an act of historical revisionism. Even worse, it can actually participate in bolstering harmful systems of power, often by deterring institutions reliant on that money from holding a person or system to account.”
Ed Webb

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

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Ed Webb

On British colonialism, antisemitism, and Palestinian rights | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • Palestine was not lost in the late 1940s, as is commonly believed; it was lost in the late 1930s, as a result of Britain’s savage smashing of Palestinian resistance and support for Jewish paramilitary forces
  • Churchill held Arabs in contempt as racially inferior. His description of Palestinian Arabs as a “dog in a manger” is shocking, but not entirely surprising; racism usually goes hand in hand with colonialism.
  • In British eyes, a Palestinian state was synonymous with a mufti state; accordingly, Britain’s hostility towards Palestinians and Palestinian statehood was a constant factor in its foreign policy from 1947-49.
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  • Britain gave a green light to its client, King Abdullah of Transjordan, to send his British-led little army into Palestine upon expiry of the British mandate, to capture the West Bank - which was intended to be the heartland of the Palestinian state. The winners in the war for Palestine were King Abdullah and the Zionist movement; the losers were Palestinians. Around 750,000 Palestinians, more than half the population, became refugees, and the name Palestine was wiped off the map.
  • When Jordan formally annexed the West Bank in 1950, Britain and Pakistan were the only UN members to recognise it.
  • Against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter, the reassessment of Britain’s colonial past and the drive to decolonise school curricula, some scholars have leapt to the defence of the British Empire. Nigel Biggar, the Regius professor of theology at the University of Oxford, for example, defends the British Empire as a moral force for good. Referencing Cecil Rhodes and the campaign to remove his statue from Oriel College, Biggar conceded that Rhodes was an imperialist, “but British colonialism was not essentially racist, wasn’t essentially exploitative, and wasn’t essentially atrocious”. The British Empire’s record in Palestine, however, is rather difficult to reconcile with the benign view of the learned professor. 
  • Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) is by far the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in Britain, and its membership includes around 80 percent of Tory members of parliament. Since the May 2015 general election, CFI has sent 24 delegations with more than 180 Conservatives to visit Israel.  The last three leaders of the Conservative Party have been uncritical supporters of the State of Israel. Former Prime Minister David Cameron described himself as a “passionate friend” of Israel and insisted that nothing could break that friendship.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a slightly more nuanced take on Britain’s record as a colonial power in Palestine. In his 2014 book on Churchill, he described the Balfour Declaration as “bizarre”, “tragically incoherent” and an “exquisite piece of Foreign Office fudgerama”. This was one of the rare examples of sound judgement and historical insight on Johnson’s part. But in 2015, on a trip to Israel as mayor of London, Johnson hailed the Balfour Declaration as “a great thing”. 
  • Arthur Balfour, the foreign secretary in 1917, undertook to uphold the civil and religious rights of the native population of Palestine. A century later, the House of Commons added national rights as well, voting in October 2014 - by 274 votes to 12 - to recognise a Palestinian state. Cameron chose to ignore the non-binding vote
  • The Conservative government’s adoption in 2016 of the IHRA’s non-legally-binding working definition of antisemitism falls squarely within this tradition of partisanship on behalf of Zionism and Israel, and disdain for Palestinians.  The definition states: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
  • The definition does not mention Israel by name, but no fewer than seven out of the 11 “illustrative examples” that follow concern Israel. They include “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”; “applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”; “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”; and “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”. 
  • antisemitism was singled out for attention and punishment by a Conservative government that is renowned for its intensely relaxed attitude towards Islamophobia. 
  • Many left-wing Israelis regard Israel as a racist endeavour. B’Tselem, the highly respected Israeli human rights organisation, issued a closely argued position paper in January titled “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.”
  • Right-wing Israelis continue to hotly deny that Israel is an apartheid state and reject any comparison with apartheid South Africa. But there is no law against calling Israel an apartheid state, and progressive Israelis do so all the time. Comparisons with Nazi Germany are also not proscribed by Israeli law. Such comparisons are less common in Israeli political discourse, but they are occasionally expressed in newspaper editorials and even by politicians. 
  • To achieve consensus on the document within the IHRA, it was necessary to separate the statement from the illustrative examples that followed. Pro-Israel partisans, however, have repeatedly conveyed the false impression that the examples are an integral part of the definition.
  • What the non-legally-binding IHRA document does do, with the help of the examples, is shift the focus from real antisemitism to the perfectly respectable and growing phenomenon of anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is sometimes described by pro-Israel stakeholders as “the new antisemitism”. It is essential, however, to distinguish clearly between the two.
  • The 11 examples make a series of unwarranted assumptions about Israel and world Jewry. They assume that all Israelis adhere to the notion of Israel as a Jewish state; that Israel is a “democratic nation”; that Israel is not a racist endeavour; and that all Jews condemn the comparison between Israeli policy and that of the Nazis.
  • the definition’s very vagueness confers a political advantage. It enables Israel’s defenders to weaponise the definition, especially against left-wing opponents, and to portray what in most cases is valid criticism of Israeli behaviour as the vilification and delegitimisation of the State of Israel.
  • Israel is not a democracy. Even within its original borders, it is a flawed democracy at best, because of discrimination at multiple levels against its Palestinian citizens. But in the whole area under its rule, including the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel is an ethnocracy - a political system in which one ethnic group dominates another. 
  • In the Orwellian world of the post-full-adoption Labour Party, many of the members who have been suspended or expelled for the crime of antisemitism were themselves Jewish. Several Jewish Labour Party members have been investigated since 2016, nearly all on the basis of allegations of antisemitism. This made a mockery of the claim of Keir Starmer, who succeeded the allegedly antisemitic Jeremy Corbyn as leader, to be making the Labour Party a safe place for Jews.  
  • In the rush to burnish its pro-Zionist credentials, the Labour Party turned against some of its most progressive Jewish members. Moshe Machover, the veteran Israeli British anti-Zionist, was expelled and then reinstated in 2017 after the Guardian published a letter of protest undersigned by 139 Labour Party members, including eminent Jewish lawyer Geoffrey Bindman, dismissing the insinuation of antisemitism as “personally offensive and politically dangerous”.
  • Anti-Zionism is opposition to the exclusive character of the state of Israel and to Israeli policies, particularly its occupation of the West Bank. Antisemitism relates to Jews anywhere in the world; anti-Zionism relates only to Israel. 
  • In a letter to the Guardian published in November 2020, a group of 122 Palestinian and Arab academics, journalists and intellectuals expressed their concerns about the IHRA definition. Palestinian voices are rarely heard in the national debate on antisemitism and Israel-Palestine.
  • Through ‘examples’ that it provides, the IHRA definition conflates Judaism with Zionism in assuming that all Jews are Zionists, and that the state of Israel in its current reality embodies the self-determination of all Jews. We profoundly disagree with this. The fight against antisemitism should not be turned into a stratagem to delegitimise the fight against the oppression of the Palestinians, the denial of their rights and the continued occupation of their land
  • Another call on universities to resist the government’s attempt to impose the IHRA definition came from an unexpected source: British academics who are also Israeli citizens. I am a member of this group, brought together by outrage at Williamson’s rude and crude intervention. It came as a surprise to discover that there are so many of us but, on the issue of his threat, we were all on the same page, regardless of our diverse academic disciplines, ages, statuses and political affiliations.
  • Our demarche took the form of a long letter sent in the last week of January to all vice chancellors of English universities and many academic senates. Since then, our letter has been signed by an impressive list of 110 supporters, all Israeli academics outside the UK, including many from Israel. We tried to reach a wider public beyond the academy by publishing our letter in the mainstream media. Our request was either rejected or ignored by no less than 12 national newspapers and other media outlets. We were rather surprised and disappointed that not a single national paper saw fit to publish our letter or to report our initiative. But the letter was eventually published by the Jewish leftist online journal, Vashti.
  • In our letter, we said: “Fighting antisemitism in all its forms is an absolute must. Yet the IHRA document is inherently flawed, and in ways that undermine this fight. In addition, it threatens free speech and academic freedom and constitutes an attack both on the Palestinian right to self-determination, and the struggle to democratise Israel.”
  • The Loach affair vividly demonstrates the damage that the IHRA document can do to free speech on campus. The document was used to smear a prominent left-wing critic of Israel and a defender of Palestinian rights, and to try to deny him a platform. The attempt at no-platforming ultimately failed, but it caused totally unwarranted pain to the artist, placed the master of his old college in an extremely awkward position, stirred up a great deal of ill-feeling on both sides of the argument, wasted a great deal of time and energy that could have been put to better use, and, worst of all, in my humble opinion, was completely unnecessary, unjustified and unproductive. All it did was sour the atmosphere around an imaginative cultural event.
  • it must be emphasised that antisemitism is not a fiction, as some people claim. It is a real problem at all levels of our society, including university campuses, and it needs to be confronted robustly wherever it rears its ugly head. Secondly, it would be quite wrong to suggest that Jewish students who protest about antisemitism are inventing or exaggerating their feeling of hurt. Jewish students genuinely feel vulnerable and have a real need for protection by university authorities against any manifestation of bigotry, harassment or discrimination. 
  • the definition is implicitly premised on Jewish exceptionalism - on the notion that Jews are a special case and must be treated as such. This gets in the way of solidarity and cooperation with other groups who are also susceptible to racial prejudice, such as Arabs and Muslims. To be effective, the fight against racism needs to take place across the board and not in isolated corners.
  • Despite its claim to the contrary, Israel does not represent all Jews globally, but only its own citizens, a fifth of whom are Palestinian.
  • British Jews are not collectively responsible for Israel’s conduct, but the IHRA definition implicates them in Israel’s affairs, and encourages them to target anyone they consider to be an enemy of the Jewish state.
  • do we need a definition of antisemitism at all? My own view is that we do not. The very term "antisemitic" is problematic because Arabs are Semites too. I prefer the term "anti-Jewish racism". What we need is a code of conduct to protect all minority groups, including Jews, against discrimination and harassment while protecting freedom of speech for all members of universities. 
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    Opinion of an Israeli academic at Oxford University
Ed Webb

The Libyan Civil War Is About to Get Worse - 0 views

  • Yet another clash between the two main Libya camps is now brewing, and events in recent weeks suggest that the fighting will be more devastating than at any time before—and still may not produce a definitive victory for either side.
  • Facing stiff resistance from disparate militias nominally aligned with the government, the LNA has failed to breach downtown Tripoli. On top of this, the marshal’s campaign, while destructive, has been hampered by gross strategic and tactical inefficiency. The resulting war of attrition and slower pace of combat revealed yet another flaw in his coalition: Few eastern Libyan fighters wish to risk their lives for Haftar 600 miles away from home.
  • the UAE carried out more than 900 air strikes in the greater Tripoli area last year using Chinese combat drones and, occasionally, French-made fighter jets. The Emirati military intervention helped contain the GNA’s forces but did not push Haftar’s objectives forward. Instead, it had an adverse effect by provoking other regional powers. Turkey responded to the UAE by deploying Bayraktar TB2 drones and several dozen Turkish officers to carry out roughly 250 strikes in an effort to help the GNA resist Haftar’s onslaught. The stalemate also inspired Russia to increase its own involvement in Libya.
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  • In September 2019, a few hundred Russian mercenaries joined the front-line effort near Tripoli in support of Haftar’s forces
  • forced a desperate GNA to sign a controversial maritime accord that granted Ankara notional gas-drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean in return for Turkey launching a full-blown military intervention in support of the anti-Haftar camp
  • According to open-source data analyzed by aircraft-tracking specialist Gerjon, the Emiratis, since mid-January, have flown more than 100 cargo planes to Libya (or western Egypt, near the Libyan border). These planes likely carried with them thousands of tons of military hardware. Other clues suggest that the number of Emirati personnel on Libyan soil has also increased. All of this indicates that Haftar’s coalition and its allies are going to try, once again, to achieve total victory by force.
  • Few international actors are willing to contradict the UAE, and while the GNA’s isolation grows, no Western government wants to exert any meaningful pressure on Haftar
  • During January and February, at least three cargo ships from Turkey delivered about 3,500 tons’ worth of equipment and ammunition each. The Turkish presence on Libyan soil currently comprises several hundred men. They train Libyan fighters on urban warfare with an emphasis on tactics to fend off armored vehicles. Against attacks from the sky, Ankara relies on electronic-warfare technology and a combination of U.S.– and indigenously developed air defense systems. Similar protection has been set up at the air base of Misrata, a powerful anti-Haftar city to the west of Sirte, which the LNA took on Jan. 6.
  • Notwithstanding its attempt to tap underwater hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean, Ankara has no intention of renouncing its commercial interests in Libya or its wider geopolitical aspirations in the rest of Africa.
  • To counter Turkey’s new intervention, the pro-Haftar government in eastern Libya formalized its alignment with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, allowing the LNA to purchase technical advice from Damascus using material and diplomatic rewards. A few hundred Syrian contractors hired from pro-Assad militias are now reportedly in Libya, on Haftar’s side
  • Because Turkey’s presence and its arsenal have made it difficult for the UAE to fly its combat drones anymore, the LNA and its allies have begun a relentless shelling campaign using Grad rockets and other projectiles. Such salvos on Tripoli don’t just hit legitimate military targets—they also hit civilians. Unguided rockets are inherently indiscriminate, and the pro-GNA camp can do almost nothing to prevent this kind of attack
  • a philosophy of collective punishment
  • the pro-Haftar camp has been imposing a $1.5 billion-a-month oil blockade on Libya since mid-January. Fuel shortages may soon become more widespread as a result. Suppression of the nation’s only dollar-generating activity is also a means of cutting off the internationally recognized Central Bank in Tripoli and potentially supplanting it with an LNA-friendly alternative where all oil-export proceeds would be captured going forward
  • Moscow’s intervention in Libya is far more mercurial. In the last three months of 2019, Kremlin-linked paramilitary company Wagner shifted the balance of the conflict by joining the fight alongside Haftar. Then, in early January, several days before President Vladimir Putin took part in a request for a Libyan ceasefire, the Russian contingent on the Tripoli front line suddenly became less active.
  • The dynamic between Ankara and Moscow is as much rooted in their common disdain for Europe as it is in mutual animosity. That means Russia could tolerate Turkey a while longer if it feels its interests would be better served by doing so. Such an ebb-and-flow approach amplifies Moscow’s influence and could eventually push the Europeans out of the Libyan theater altogether. Russia may just as easily change its mind and invest into helping the LNA deliver a resounding defeat to Erdogan
  • since late December, more than 4,000 Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries have arrived in Tripoli and its surrounding area. Most of them are battle-hardened Islamist fighters who belong to three large anti-government militias. Turkey is also busy upgrading its fleet of combat drones scattered across northwest Libya
  • the UAE has sought to bring about the emergence in Tripoli of a government that is void of any influence from political Islam writ large. Because of this, Abu Dhabi will not accept a negotiated settlement with Erdogan’s Islamist government. Making matters worse, neither the United States nor any EU country is willing to use its own regional clout to stand in the Emiratis’ way. Therefore, regardless of whether that endangers a great number of civilian lives, the Libyan war is likely to continue escalating before any political resolution is seriously explored.
Ed Webb

Three Decades After his Death, Kahane's Message of Hate is More Popular Than Ever - MERIP - 0 views

  • on November 5, 1990, Rabbi Meir Kahane was assassinated in New York City, a seminal event in the annals of American and Israeli history. Years after his death, Kahane’s killing is considered the first terror attack of the group that would later coalesce into al-Qaeda.
  • Many of Kahane’s American acolytes followed him to Israel, including top JDL fundraiser and Yeshiva University provost Emanuel Rackman, who took over as rector, and then chancellor, of Israel’s Bar Ilan University. Under Rackman’s tutelage, Bar Ilan’s Law School became an incubator for the Israeli far-right. The most infamous of these students was Yigal Amir. Inspired by the Goldstein massacre, Amir assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, dealing a death blow to Israel’s liberal Zionist camp. Amir carried out the murder on the five-year anniversary of Kahane’s killing.
  • The victims of JDL-linked terrorist attacks in the United States were usually innocent bystanders: the drummer in a rock band who lost a leg when a bomb blew up the Long Island home of an alleged Nazi war criminal; the Boston cop who was seriously injured during his attempt to dispose of another bomb intended for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; the elderly lady who died of smoke inhalation in her Brooklyn flat above a Lebanese restaurant torched after its owners were accused of sympathies with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); the young Jewish secretary who was asphyxiated when another fire burned through the Manhattan office of a talent agency that promoted performances of Soviet ballet troupes.
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  • Kahanists are the FBI’s prime suspects in the 1985 assassination of popular Palestinian-American activist Alex Odeh who died in a bombing outside Los Angeles because he called for a two-state solution (which became the official policy of the US government less than a decade later).[2] Odeh’s murder had far-reaching implications, scaring off a generation of Arab-American activists from advocating on behalf of Palestinians.
  • even many sectors of the Israeli right were embarrassed by Kahane’s shameless racism, and by the end of his first term in 1988 he was banned from running again.
  • Six years later, in 1994, the Israeli government, then led by the Labor Party, declared his Kach party a terrorist organization. But by that point, the Kahane movement had already been active for over a quarter of a century, leaving a wake of destruction. To date it has produced more than 20 killers and taken the lives of over 60 people, most of them Palestinians.[3] Credible allegations put the death toll at well over double that number, but even the lower confirmed figure yields a higher body count than any other Jewish faction in the modern era.
  • For decades, Kahanists—as followers of Kahane are called in Israel—have repeatedly attempted to leverage their violence to trigger a wider war and bog Israel down in perpetual armed conflict with its neighbors. And once Israel’s military might is truly unassailable, Kahanists say, Jewish armies must march across the Middle East and beyond, destroying churches and mosques and forcing their Christian and Muslim worshippers to abandon their beliefs or die at the sword.
  • Just months after the Oslo Accords were signed in Washington, DC on the White House lawn, a former candidate for Knesset in Kahane’s Kach party, Baruch Goldstein, committed the largest mass murder by a single person in Israeli history, shooting dead 29 Palestinians and wounding over 100 more at a mosque in Hebron. During the protests that followed, the Israeli Defense Forces killed perhaps two dozen more Palestinians. Exactly 40 days later, at the end of the traditional Muslim mourning period, Hamas began its retaliatory campaign of suicide bombings. Over the next three years this campaign would claim over 100 Israeli lives and harden many Jewish hearts against the prospect of peace with Palestinians. Today, Kahanists can convincingly claim credit for crippling the fragile peace process while it was still in its infancy.
  • In Hebron in 1983, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, Kahanist Israel Fuchs sprayed a passing Palestinian car with bullets. In response, Israel’s defense minister ordered Fuchs’s Kahanist settlement razed to the ground. A decade later in 1994, when Goldstein carried out his massacre, also on Purim, Israel’s defense minister put Hebron’s Palestinian residents under curfew and ordered the local Palestinian commercial district locked and bolted. The market has been shuttered ever since. Last year, Israel’s defense minister announced that the market would be refurbished and repopulated—by Jewish residents. On the same day, the state renovated nearby Kahane Park, where Goldstein is entombed, and where Kahanists gather every year to celebrate Purim and the carnage Goldstein wrought.
  • Kahane had spent the previous 22 years calling for Israel’s parliament to be dissolved and replaced with rabbinic rule over a Jewish theocracy, based on the strictest interpretations of the Torah and Talmud. He openly incited the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians—and all other non-Jews who refused to accept unvarnished apartheid—from Israel and the territories it occupied. He outdid all other Israeli eliminationists with his insistence that killing those he identified as Israel’s enemies was not only a strategic necessity, but an act of worship.[1] His ideology continues to resonate: In the September 2019 elections to Israel’s parliament the explicitly Kahanist Jewish Power Party (Otzma Yehudit) got 83,609 votes, putting it in tenth place in a crowded field of over 30 parties.
  • Both American-born followers of Kahane, Leitner and Ben Yosef went from armed attacks against Palestinians to court room advocates for their fellow religious extremists. Both enlisted at Bar Ilan Law School after serving short prison sentences. Together with his wife Nitzana Darshan, who he met there, Leitner established the highly profitable Israel-based lawfare group Shurat HaDin or Israel Law Center (ILC). After Ben Yosef earned his law degree at Bar Ilan, his American allies founded the Association Center for Civil Justice (ACCJ), a US-based lawfare group that has earned millions of dollars and has for years funneled significant sums to Fuchs, Ben Yosef and other Kahanists.
  • After Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995, his Labor-led government was replaced by the secular right-wing Likud party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who promptly appointed ex-Kahanists Tzahi HaNegbi and Avigdor Liberman to cabinet positions. But that did not satisfy the appetite of the Kahanists, who resolved to coax the Likud even further to the right. Founded by longtime Kahane supporter Shmuel Sackett, the Likud’s Jewish Leadership faction succeeded in catapulting its candidate Moshe Feiglin into the role of deputy speaker of the Knesset where he called on the government to “concentrate” the civilian population of Gaza into “tent camps” until they could be forcefully relocated.
  • Today, prior membership in the Kahanist camp no longer carries any stigma within the Likud.
  • the original Kach core group has rebranded itself to sidestep Israeli law, now calling itself Jewish Power, and are consistently courted by the rest of the Israeli right
  • Kahanists have had even greater success penetrating the halls of power at the local level where their representatives on Jerusalem city council have been included in the governing coalition since 2013. In 2014, Kahanist Councillor Aryeh King—now deputy mayor—used widely-understood religious references to incite an assembly of religious Jews to kill Palestinians. Later that very night, a group of religious Jews did exactly that, kidnapping and beating Palestinian teen Mohammad Abu Khdeir, forcing gasoline down his throat and torching him to death from the inside out.
  • After Kahane’s death, top Chabad rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, also an American immigrant to Israel, inherited Kahane’s position as the most unapologetically racist rabbi in the country. In 2010 Ginsburgh helped publish an influential and vicious religious tract authored by one of his leading disciples called The King’s Torah, which sanctions organ harvesting from non-Jews and infanticide (if a Jew suspects that the child will one day constitute a threat).[9] Ginsburgh’s frequent tributes to Kahane’s memory, including repeated proclamations that “Kahane was right” have cemented the loyalty of third-generation Kahanists, including the latter’s namesake grandson, settler youth leader Meir Ettinger.
  • Thirty years ago, even if Israeli rabbis thought like Kahane and Ginsburgh they would not dare to speak these sentiments out loud, much less publish and promote them. Under Netanyahu’s rule, however, such sentiments are routinely supported financially and politically by the institutions of the Israeli state. In 2019, Israel’s education minister presented Ginsburgh with the Torah Creativity award at an annual event sponsored by his ministry.
  • The principles that Rabbi Meir Kahane popularized—that liberal democracy is an undesirable alien idea and that non-Jews must be driven down, and preferably out of Greater Israel altogether—have seeped deep into mainstream Israeli society.
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

The Ukraine War: A Global Crisis? | Crisis Group - 0 views

  • The Ukraine conflict may be a matter of global concern, but states’ responses to it continue to be conditioned by internal political debates and foreign policy priorities.
  • China has hewed to a non-position on Russian aggression – neither condemning nor supporting the act, and declining to label it as an invasion – while lamenting the current situation as “something we do not want to see”. With an eye to the West, Beijing abstained on rather than vetoing a Security Council resolution calling on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine, and reports indicate that two major Chinese state banks are restricting financing for Russian commodities. Beijing now emphasises the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty in its statements, a point that had either been absent from earlier statements or more ambiguously discussed as “principles of the UN Charter”.
  • the worldview that major powers can and do occasionally break the rules
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  • Beijing’s opposition to U.S. coalition building and expansion of military cooperation with Indo-Pacific countries. Overall, Beijing’s instinct is to understand the Ukraine crisis largely through the lens of its confrontation with Washington.
  • Beijing will want to ensure its position is not overly exposed to Western criticism and to safeguard its moral standing in the eyes of developing countries
  • When Russia invaded Ukraine, India immediately came under the spotlight as at once a consequential friend of Moscow and a country traditionally keen to portray itself as the world’s largest democracy and a champion of peace. The U.S. and European countries pressured India not to side with Moscow and the Ukrainian ambassador in New Delhi pleaded for India to halt its political support for Russia. Yet under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has responded to the invasion with the blunt realism of a rising, aspirational power that does not want to get caught between Russia and what Modi calls the “NATO group”. India chose the well-trodden non-alignment path and hid behind diplomatic language with a not-so-subtle tilt toward Russia.
  • “military-technical cooperation”, which has resulted in more than 60 per cent of India’s arms and defence systems being of Russian origin
  • India also depends on Russia to counterbalance China, which has become its primary security and foreign policy concern, especially given its unresolved border tensions with Beijing. With Pakistan, India’s main rival, already close to China and cosying up to Russia, India’s worst fear is that China, Pakistan and Russia will come together
  • Relations with Washington are already strained largely because of Islamabad’s seemingly unconditional support for the Afghan Taliban. To give his government diplomatic space, Khan has sought to forge closer ties with Moscow. Those efforts could not have come at a less opportune time.
  • Khan returned home with little to show from the trip, the first by a Pakistani prime minister in over two decades. He signed no agreements or memoranda of understanding with his Russian counterpart. Widening Western sanctions on Russia have also sunk Pakistani hopes of energy cooperation with Moscow, casting particular doubt on the fate of a proposed multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline project.
  • In contrast to Russia, with which Pakistan’s commerce is miniscule, the U.S. and EU states are its main trading partners. The war in Ukraine could further undermine Pakistan’s economy. The rise in global fuel prices is already fuelling record-high inflation and putting food security at risk, since before the invasion Ukraine provided Pakistan with more than 39 per cent of its wheat imports. With a trade deficit estimated by one analyst at around $40 billion, Islamabad’s reliance on external sources of funding will inevitably grow. A Russia under heavy sanctions will be in no position to assist. In such a scenario, Pakistan’s powerful military, which Khan depends on for his own political survival, could question his foreign posture.
  • The Gulf Arab countries have so far adopted an ambiguous position on the Russian aggression in Ukraine. As close U.S. partners that also have increasing ties to Russia, they sit between a rock and a hard place, unwilling to openly antagonise either side. They have landed in this conundrum because of what they perceive as a growing U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East. In response, they embarked on an effort to diversify their security relations, moving away from sole reliance on Washington. Russia is one of these new partners.
  • No Gulf power wants to give the impression of siding with the Kremlin, for fear of aggravating the U.S. – their primary security guarantor. But as international support for Ukraine and anger at those seen to support (or at least not publicly oppose) Russia grows, the damage may already have been done: the U.S. and its European allies were appalled at the Gulf states’ reticence to get in line with immediate condemnations of the Russian invasion
  • despite Iran’s own experience of losing large swaths of territory to Czarist Russia in the nineteenth century and facing Soviet occupation during and immediately after World War II, the Islamic Republic today can claim few major allies beyond Russia. Tehran sees few upsides in breaking ranks with Moscow. In comparison to the possible results of provoking the Kremlin with anything less than fulsome support, the diplomatic opprobrium it may receive from the U.S. and Europe is of little consequence.
  • Israel has substantive relations with both Russia and Ukraine: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has spoken to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since the war began, and has offered to act as mediator; Israel sees itself as, in effect, sharing a border with Russia to its north east in Syria, relying on Putin’s continued tacit approval of its airstrikes on Iranian targets there; large Jewish and Israeli populations reside in both Russia and Ukraine and over 1.5 million Russian and Ukrainian expatriates live in Israel; and Israel is a major U.S. ally and beneficiary that identifies with the Western “liberal democratic order”.
  • concerned that the fallout from the war could lead Putin to increase arms sales to anti-Western proxies along its borders, chiefly Syria and Hizbollah in Lebanon, or step up electronic measures to disrupt NATO operations in the Mediterranean Sea, affecting Israel’s own navigation systems. Thus far, Russia has assured Israel that it will continue coordination on Syria, though reiterating that it does not recognise Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed
  • Israel has offered humanitarian aid to Ukraine but has refused to sell it arms or provide it with military assistance.
  • President Zelenskyy is the only elected Jewish head of state outside Israel. He lost family in the Holocaust. As such, Israel’s silence on Putin’s antisemitic rhetoric, such as his claim to be “denazifying” Ukraine with the invasion, is noteworthy. That said, Israel has some track record – vis-à-vis Hungary and Poland, for example – of placing what its leaders view as national security or foreign relations concerns above taking a strong stand against antisemitism.
  • Since the invasion began, Bolsonaro’s affinities with Moscow have exposed the divisions within his hard-right government. From the outset, Brazil’s foreign ministry has vowed to maintain a position of neutrality, urging a diplomatic solution. But a day after the invasion, Hamilton Mourão, the vice president and a retired army general, said “there must be a real use of force to support Ukraine”, arguing that “if the Western countries let Ukraine fall, then it will be Bulgaria, then the Baltic states and so on”, drawing an analogy to the conquests of Nazi Germany. Hours later, Bolsonaro said only he could speak about the crisis, declaring that Mourão had no authority to comment on the issue.
  • Since 2014, Turkish defence companies have been increasingly engaged in Ukraine, and in 2019 they sold the country drones that Ukrainians see as significant in slowing the Russian advance.
  • On 27 February, Ankara announced that it would block warships from Russia and other littoral states from entering the Black Sea via the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits as long as the war continues, in line with the Montreux Convention (though Russian vessels normally based in Black Sea ports are exempt from the restriction, under the convention’s terms). But it also requested other states, implicitly including NATO members, to avoid sending their ships through the straits, in an apparent effort to limit the risks of escalation and maintain a balanced approach to the conflict.
  • Some fear, for instance, that Russia and its Syrian regime ally will ratchet up pressure on Idlib, the rebel-held enclave in Syria’s north west, forcing large numbers of refugees into Turkey, from where they might try to proceed to Europe. This worry persists though it is unclear that Russia would want to heat up the Syrian front while facing resilient Ukrainian resistance.
  • A prolonged war will only exacerbate Turkey’s security and economic concerns, and if Russia consolidates control of Ukraine’s coastline, it will also deal a significant blow to Turkey in terms of the naval balance of power in the Black Sea. It is likely that Turkey will draw closer to NATO as a result of this war, and less likely that Turkey will buy a second batch of S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia
  • Kenya, currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, has taken a more strident stance in opposition to Russia’s invasion than most non-NATO members of the Council. This position springs in part from the country’s history. Nairobi was one of the strongest supporters of a founding principle of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) prescribing respect for territorial integrity and the inviolability of member states’ colonial-era borders.
  • As in many African countries, a deep current of public opinion is critical of Western behaviour in the post-Cold War era, emphasising the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya, as well as the double standards that many Kenyans perceive in Washington’s democracy promotion on the continent.
  • What Nairobi saw as Washington’s endorsement of the 2013 coup in Egypt particularly rankled Kenyan authorities, who took an especially vocal public position against that putsch
  • Kenya will also push for the strengthening of multilateralism in Africa to confront what many expect to be difficult days ahead in the international arena. “We are entering an age of global disorder”, Peter Kagwanja, a political scientist and adviser to successive Kenyan presidents, told Crisis Group. “The African Union must band together or we will all hang separately”.
  • longstanding solidarity between South Africa and Russia. In the Soviet era, Moscow offered South Africans support in the anti-apartheid struggle and actively backed liberation movements across southern Africa.
  • Although just over half of African states backed the UN General Assembly resolution on Ukraine, many governments in the region have responded to the war with caution. Few have voiced open support for Russia, with the exception of Eritrea. But many have avoided taking strong public positions on the crisis, and some have explicitly declared themselves neutral.
  • Ghana, which joined the UN Security Council in January, has consistently backed the government in Kyiv. The West African bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), released a statement condemning Russia’s actions. Nonetheless, not all ECOWAS members voted for the General Assembly resolution. Mali, which has drawn closer to Russia as France pulled its military forces out of the country, abstained. Burkina Faso did not vote, perhaps reflecting the fact that Russia watered down a Security Council statement condemning the January coup in Ouagadougou.
  • Russia has many friends in Africa due in part to the Soviet Union’s support for liberation movements during the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles. Many also appreciated Moscow’s strident opposition to the more recent disastrous Western interventions in Iraq and Libya. Furthermore, a number of African leaders studied in the Soviet Union or Eastern Bloc countries and Moscow has done a good job of maintaining these ties over the years. Numerous African security figures also received their training in Russia.
  • African leaders and elites generally oppose sanctions, seeing them as blunt tools that tend to punish the general population more than national leaders. In the meantime, African officials are concerned that the war will have a deleterious impact on the continent’s economies and food security, both by driving up energy prices and by restricting grain supplies from Russia and Ukraine (a particular concern after a period of poor rainfall and weak harvests in parts of the continent). These shocks are liable to be severe in African countries that are still only beginning to recover from the downturn prompted by COVID-19, although oil producers such as Nigeria, Congo and Equatorial Guinea may benefit from a hike in energy prices.
  • The Ukraine conflict is a major problem for Turkey. It threatens not only to damage Ankara’s relations with Moscow, but also to hurt the Turkish economy, pushing up energy costs and stopping Russian and Ukrainian tourists from visiting Turkey. Some analysts estimate that a decline in tourism could mean up to $6 billion in lost revenue.
  • Calls for neutrality nevertheless enjoy traction in Brazil. Within the government, there is concern that Western sanctions against Moscow will harm the economy, in particular its agricultural sector, which relies heavily on imports of Russian-made fertilisers. Brazil’s soya production, one of the country’s main sources of income, would suffer considerably from a sanctioned Russia.
  • Mexico depends on the U.S for its natural gas supply, and the prospect of rising prices is spurring the government to consider other means of generating electricity
  • Relations between Russia and Venezuela flourished under the late president, Hugo Chávez, who set the relationship with Washington on an antagonistic course. Under Maduro, Venezuela’s links to Russia have intensified, especially through the provision of technical military assistance as well as diplomatic backing from Moscow after Maduro faced a major challenge from the U.S.-linked opposition in early 2019.
Ed Webb

So Why Did I Defend Paul Bowles? | by Hisham Aidi | The New York Review of Books - 0 views

  • Long a sanctuary for Spanish and French writers, American writers began visiting Tangier in the late nineteenth century: Mark Twain on his way to Jerusalem in 1867, the painters Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1870 and Henry Ossawa Tanner in 1912, and Edith Wharton in 1917. In 1931, when Bowles first visited, the American artists living in Tangier were primarily black: Claude McKay, Anita Reynolds, Juice Wilson, Josephine Baker. These African-Americans came to Morocco from Paris, where they had formed a community after World War I, and as the Harlem Rennaissance spread to France. Upon arrival, Bowles began to socialize with both McKay and Anita Reynolds. Like the other Americans, he had also discovered North Africa through France. In high school, he had read Marcel Proust, Comte de Lautréamont, and André Gide—the latter’s accounts, in particular, of his travels and sexual trysts in Algeria and Tunisia had conjured North Africa in Bowles’s teenage imagination.
  • in December 1923, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom signed the Tangier Protocol in Paris, setting up a new administration and placing the city at the center of a 150-square mile International Zone overseen by a committee of nine Western powers. The city was henceforth governed by a court that included French, Spanish, and British judges, along with the mendoub, the Moroccan sultan’s representative. It is this international period, from 1923 to 1956, especially postwar, that has shaped the image of Tangier as a free port, a tax haven, and a place of international intrigue and excess.
  • His first novel, The Sheltering Sky, told the story of an American who flees the numbing modernity of New York and meanders through the Algerian desert, only to disintegrate psychologically. Published in the fall of 1949, it became a bestseller and made Bowles a household name. Three more novels and a handful of short stories set in Tangier followed.
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  • Bowles did not create the “myth of Tangier,” but he gave it a literary respectability and an American cast.
  • In the early 1950s, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Bryon Gysin, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Susan Sontag all gravitated to this “portal to the unknown,” as one author christened Tangier. So did European writers like Genet, Juan Goytisolo, and Joe Orton, but Bowles’s influence was not limited to the literary community. In later decades, his recordings and promotion of Moroccan music would draw producers and recording artists from Patti Smith to the Rolling Stones.
  • Through the 1960s and 1970s, he focused instead on recording and translating from darija (Moroccan Arabic dialect) the oral histories of men he met in Tangier’s cafés. By the time of his death, in 1999, the idea of Tangier as a place for self-discovery had become received wisdom in the West and the Arab world, and Bowles was established as a giant of American letters despite decades of silence.
  • I gave him a copy of my thesis. He looked up from the title page: “‘Orientalism’?—that’s a bad word, isn’t it?” Faux-naïveté, I would learn, was part of his manner. He told me to come back the following day.
  • I was, he said, the first Moroccan researcher—a Tangier native, to boot—to defend him. He added his signature beneath my printed name. (A few weeks ago, I got goosebumps when I found the same copy that I gave him, albeit coffee-stained, in the archives at the University of Delaware’s Paul Bowles Collection.) Later, the thesis was included in a collection titled Writing Tangier (2004). I still see citations occasionally in student dissertations on Bowles noting that one Tanjawi, at least, did not regard him as an Orientalist.
  • Tangier’s collective memory is steeped in nostalgia and centered around the medina, the old city. The medina, the elders told us, was once the epicenter of the Islamic world: it was from the port where the medina meets the sea that Tariq ibn Ziyad had set sail and conquered Spain in 711. After the fall of Granada in 1492, it was to Tangier’s medina that the Jews and Moriscos fled, settling in its alleyways, preserving the mosaic of Islamic Spain
  • The economic misery and political repression of the 1980s and 1990s made it hard to believe that the medina was ever a free space. Most locals had never heard of these famous writers. I only heard of Bowles when, in 1988, a film crew began working in front of our family restaurant at the entrance to the Kasbah as Bernardo Bertolucci began filming The Sheltering Sky. As teenagers, we came to wonder what truths the books from the Interzone contained, and if Tangier had indeed been better-off under Western rule, as the nostalgists, local and foreign, seemed to imply
  • The narrative we learned at school was that the monarchy had liberated the north from colonial oppression. But what liberation did the regime (makhzen) bring? After independence, as a local intelligentsia began forming in Tangier, many came to see the American corpus of writings about 1950s Tangier as an invaluable record of a lost golden age.
  • I made a point of reading the American authors who had written about Tangier’s Interzone. Besides Bowles, I was intrigued by the Beats, especially the Columbia University alums—Kerouac, Ginsberg, Lucien Carr—students of Lionel Trilling and fans of Arthur Rimbaud who had somehow mapped Greenwich Village onto Tangier, turning the Boulevard Pasteur into a “North African Bleecker Street.” But even as a college sophomore, I realized that their writings were more about the straitjacket of McCarthyite America that they were running from, rather than about Morocco as such.
  • It was even gratifying to see that Tangier, like Berlin, had played a significant role in launching a gay literary movement—in some ways ahead of the West, in having its finger on the “prognostic pulse of the world,” as Burroughs called it. But what was startling was that, while these writers basked in the city’s pleasures, they—with the exception of the Bowleses—didn’t really like Tangier. The Beats had a casual disdain for the natives, invariably describing Moroccans as “rakish” or “raffish.” Capote found Tangier too alien, describing the men as “noisy heathens” and the women as “anonymous bundles of laundry.” He warned friends in New York about the “smell of the arabe.” Burroughs referred to the locals as a “bunch of Ay-rabs,” and in 1958 he pronounced: “Tanger [sic] is finished. The Arab dogs are among us.”
  • Paul Bowles traced the history of the medina from the early 1930s to independence. He chronicled how the sultan’s crackdown on Sufi practices (“the great puritanical purging”) in central Morocco inched northward.
  • Bowles’s defense of the Amazigh, or Berber, population was daringly transgressive. Morocco’s culture “is not predominantly Arabic, but Berber,” he insisted—in the face of Arab nationalists who acted as though they believed “Berbers have no culture at all,” as they tried to drag the country into the Arab League. “The general opinion is that the autochthonous population must at all costs be Arabized if it is to share in the benefits of independence,” he observed acidly. “No one seems to have conceived of the possibility of an independent Berber Morocco. In fact, to mention the Berbers at all qualifies one as a pro-French reactionary. At present, to become modern means to become Egyptian.”
  • Reading these words in my dorm room in wintry Pennsylvania in 1992 was both thrilling and frightening. We as Moroccans—especially those of us from the northern Berber region—grew up in a climate of fear, and I had never heard or read anyone publicly criticize Arab nationalism, or speak so openly of the Moroccan hinterland’s animus toward Fez, the city of the interior regarded as the seat of the regime. To hear this American writer openly excoriate the Moroccan ruling elite for its cruelty and skullduggery was exhilarating
  • Bowles prompted me to think beyond the binary of “Western” versus “Arab.”
  • Bowles, in the mid-1960s, had begun translating the memoirs and stories of down-and-out illiterate youth in Tangier. (While he could not read Arabic, Bowles did understand darija, the spoken dialect.) The most prominent of these were Larbi Layachi’s A Life Full of Holes (1966), about a petty thief and male prostitute and his experiences dodging police and servicing tourists (the book was made into a BBC film); Look and Move On (1967), the tales of Mohammed Mrabet, a hustler and golf caddie who worked for an American couple; and the best-known, Mohammed Choukri’s For Bread Alone (1972), an account of his migration from the Rif to Tangier, his life as a street kid in the International Zone, and his becoming a schoolteacher, which he recounted to Bowles in Spanish. These books were marketed in the West as “Moroccan literature,” and for many in the Anglophone world, this was their introduction to it.
  • The Ministry of Culture, which almost blocked his recording project in 1959, published a remarkable essay in 2009 on the tenth anniversary of his death defending Bowles against criticism from Moroccan nationalist intellectuals, underscoring how he presciently warned of the threats that modernization posed to Morocco’s cultural and physical landscape. Government mouthpieces such as Hespress run flattering pieces about “the American who loved Morocco.”
  • in effect erased an earlier literary tradition that had seen Moroccan writers published in French and Spanish since the 1930s, let alone the preceding centuries of poetry and other writing in Arabic
  • Laroui acted as an adviser to the king and was a strong proponent of Arabization. Tangierians saw his attack on Bowles as another attempt by the Arab nationalist elite to subdue the “sin city.” Ben Jelloun also had a complicated relationship to Tangier. The son of a merchant, a Fassi (a person from Fez) who settled in Tangier in the early 1960s, he had attended the French lycée and was seen as part of the new Francophone Fassi upper class—comprising the Alaoui, Alami, Ben Jelloun, Berrada, Omrani, and Tazi families—that had fanned out across the country as the French departed, assuming top government positions. Like Laroui, Ben Jelloun spoke neither of the two common local tongues of the north, Spanish and Tarifit (the Berber language). A paradox of Ben Jelloun’s work, in particular, was that it often featured the very tropes of mysticism, violence, and sexual deviancy he denounced in Bowles’s work. For his part, the American writer dismissed his Moroccan critics as “confirmed Marxists.”
  • The Moroccan reaction against Bowles began to take form in the early 1970s. His earliest critics were the philosopher Abdallah Laroui and Ben Jelloun, who both chided the American writer for promoting an image of the country as a land of primitivism, drugs, and unlimited sex. Laroui also lambasted the Moroccan bourgeoisie for buying into and reproducing Bowles’s “folkloric” portrayal of their country. Ben Jelloun, writing in 1972, accused the American of belittling the nation’s literary patrimony.
  • I myself was part of this trend—defending Bowles against the Arab nationalists who were trying to tear him down and impose their political preferences on us. In his final interviews, when asked if he was an “Orientalist,” Bowles would often cite me, noting that a Tangier-born scholar now in America had judged him not to be.
  • “Paul Bowles loves Morocco, but does not really like Moroccans.” Choukri had some powerful evidence on his side. Over the decades, Bowles had made countless derogatory remarks, speaking of Moroccans as “childlike,” “purely predatory,” and “essentially barbarous.” He claimed also that Muslims aimed for world domination through “the sword and the bomb.”
  • He was sympathetic to the Amazigh, whom he saw as the original inhabitants of North Africa, a fiercely independent people only “partially Islamicized.” This affection nevertheless rested on some unsettling ideas about racial hierarchy. Bowles was profoundly influenced by the “Hamitic hypothesis,” a late nineteenth-century anthropological theory that saw almost everything of value in Africa as imported by the Hamites, a branch of the Caucasian race, who were held as superior to the Negroid peoples. Berbers, whatever their actual skin tone—even the typically dark-skinned Tuareg—were for Bowles essentially a white “Mediterranean race.”
  • In Bowles’s idiosyncratic hierarchy, it was Berber music that encapsulated Morocco’s true African identity—and this cultural essence was threatened by the Arabs and their music. The recently released Music of Morocco collection reflects this bias, giving credence to Choukri’s claim that Bowles deliberately misrepresented local culture to reflect his personal vision of Morocco.
  • I began to realize that Bowles’s fondness for the Berbers and his animus toward Arabs was, in many ways, a reflection of French colonial policy. Although he was well aware of the violence of French imperialism, he enjoyed its amenities—“the old, easygoing, openly colonial life of Morocco”—and as early as the 1950s, Bowles began to lament the loss of “colonial Tangier.” Above all, he believed in the International Zone, seeing its “anarchy” and “freedom from bureaucratic intervention” as an extraordinary political experiment. But these liberties, which is what drew many of the Beats, were the privileges of Europeans and Americans—ones generally not enjoyed by the city’s Muslim and Jewish natives.
  • In 1972, Tahar Ben Jelloun publicly accused Bowles (and the Beats) of exploiting illiterate, vulnerable youths in Tangier not just artistically but sexually. Choukri in 1997 would echo this charge, claiming Bowles suffered from a sexual illness. These allegations became more commonly heard once Farrar, Straus and Giroux published Bowles’s correspondence in 1994, although he expressed some reluctance about its release. The volume included letters in which he described the boys he slept with, in one letter even bragging about how cheap sex was in Algeria. “Where in this country [America] can I have thirty-five or forty people, and never risk seeing any of them again? Yet, in Algeria, it actually was the mean rate.” (In the correspondence, he reminisced about how he “never had sexual relationships without paying,” and viewed paying for sex as a form of “ownership.”)
  • Although the letters simply lent credence to rumors long circulating in Tangier, Choukri and other Tanjawi writers were still shocked by them. The literary reaction in Morocco fed into a larger effort there by human rights activists campaigning against sex tourism and child prostitution. Whereas Bowles had always seemed more judicious and reputable than the Beats—in contrast, say, to Burroughs’s open bragging about buying “pre-pubescent gooks” and Ginsberg’s boasting about “paying young boys” for sex—it became increasingly difficult to defend him. For a man who had called Moroccans “purely predatory,” his own behavior now appeared in rather grotesque relief.
  • The more time I spent at the Schomburg Library uptown, the more I discovered an alternative American literature about Tangier. I stumbled upon Claude McKay’s memoir A Long Way from Home about his time in Tangier in the late 1920s, where he completed his novel Banjo; the actress Anita Reynold’s diary about life in the Interzone in the 1930s; Josephine Baker’s papers, where she talks about filming Princess Tam Tam (1935) in the International Zone, and jazz recordings produced by African-American musicians living in Tangier. Although they had their own dreams about a “Mother Africa,” the African-American writers did not see Tangier as a brothel, or its residents as primitives who needed to be contained or civilized. Most wrote and produced art in solidarity with the disenfranchised local population, connecting the civil rights struggle to North Africa’s anticolonial movements.
  • In 1998, armed with this newfound knowledge, and as a conscious revision of my earlier guiding, I began giving walking tours of “Black Tangier.” We would would meet at Cinema Mauritania, the theater where Josephine Baker had performed many times, up until her last show there in 1970. She had lived in the International Zone, then joined the French Liberation forces during the war, and later had an affair with the vice-caliph of Spanish Morocco. On the first floor of the Mauritania, pianist Randy Weston had once operated African Rhythms, a music spot that drew the likes of Max Roach and Ahmed Jamal. Then we’d walk down to the Fat Black Pussycat café where the poet Ted Joans, one of few black writers in the Beat movement, played trumpet and “blew” jazz poems.
  • Next, we’d hit Galerie Delacroix, where Joans once hosted a four-hour tribute to his mentor Langston Hughes, and had the late poet’s verse read in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish. (In 1927, Hughes had visited Tangier and written a lovely poem about travel and unrequited longing, “I Thought It was Tangiers I Wanted.”) Then we’d walk to the majestic Teatro Cervantes built in 1913, where Weston had organized the first pan-African jazz festival in Morocco in June 1972 (revived in 2002), which brought Dexter Gordon, Odetta, Billy Harper, and Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers to the city. Our last stop was the Hotel Chellah, where, as local legend had it, the Martinican anticolonial thinker Frantz Fanon stayed overnight on July 3, 1959, following a car crash on the Morocco–Algeria border rumored to be the handiwork of La Main Rouge, the paramilitary group run by French intelligence to assassinate leading supporters of Algerian independence. Fanon was flown to Rome the following day on a Moroccan passport.
  • Paul Bowles and King Hassan II died in 1999, a few months apart. The novelist and the tyrant who had towered over Tangier for generations had more in common than either would have admitted—and that in part explains the reverence Bowles still enjoys in official Morocco
  • both shared a disdain for leftist, Third-Worldist politics. Both hated pan-Arabism, and loved Berber culture as long as it was “folkloric” and apolitical. They each thought Moroccans were congenitally ill-suited for democracy.
  • both Bowles and the monarch celebrated a “primitive,” mystical, unlettered, unfree Morocco, sharing a special appetite for the intoxicating rhythms of the Berbers. No wonder King Hassan II, who expelled numerous critics—from Arab intellectuals to French journalists and American professors—never bothered Bowles.
  • as long as America was seen as a political friend, Bowles was viewed favorably. Not surprisingly, after the Gulf war of 1990 and the release of Bertolucci’s film of The Sheltering Sky that same year, more articles started to appear across the Middle East critiquing Bowles’s representations of Morocco, accusing him of racism and Orientalism
  • The Morocco that Bowles dubbed a “land of magic” is one the Ministry of Tourism sells to the West
  • his emphasis on Morocco’s “African” essence suits the country’s recent geopolitical turn and reentry into the Africa Union
  • for all his misgivings about Western modernity, he thought Morocco as an African country would be better off attaching itself to the West. This is now the position of a significant segment of Morocco’s ruling elite.
  • That the regime celebrates Berber folklore and the oeuvre of a novelist who wanted an “independent Berber republic” even as it imprisons Berber activists across the country is evidence for many of the regime’s fraudulence and bad faith. In this respect, Bowles’s continuing eminence suggests how little has changed in the kingdom since the colonial era, with an authoritarian regime and repressive social order remaining largely intact.
  • As for Bowles’s work, I had come to realize that it reflected poorly on Morocco and America. Yes, he had brought attention to the suppression of Berber history and made invaluable musical recordings, but decolonization was supposed to dismantle colonial representations, and instead, the Moroccan regime was validating and institutionalizing Bowles’s depictions of Morocco
  • today, a new generation of Moroccan writers—among them secularists, Berber activists, music critics, and pan-Africanists—are claiming Bowles as an ally. And that is why I found myself writing about Bowles once more.
Ed Webb

Russian Mercenaries in Great-Power Competition: Strategic Supermen or Weak Link? | RAND - 2 views

  • Russia's worst-kept secret is its increasingly heavy reliance on private security contractors—really, mercenaries—to maintain a Russia-favorable global status quo and to undermine its competitors' interests. This reliance on mercenaries stems from a known capability gap
  • Russia's military has strictly limited ability to project ground power worldwide. It has almost no organic ability to project and sustain ground power more than a few hundred kilometers beyond its own borders. Russian strategic lift is anemic compared to Soviet-era lift. Available forces are often tied down in one of the many frozen conflicts that ring Russia's western and southern borders.
  • Even a strong de facto dictator like Vladimir Putin cannot deploy one-year conscripts beyond Russia's borders without incurring significant political risk
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  • Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is not a global ground combat power.
  • Russia has employed heavily armed mercenaries from the notorious Wagner Group and a range of other (PDF) government-cozy (and perhaps government-run) companies as the tip of the Russian foreign policy spear. In effect, Russia has outsourced its foreign policy in Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen, Burundi, and other global hot spots.
  • Dmitry Utkin, former commander of the Russian military intelligence directorate's (GRU's) Spetsnaz special forces units, allegedly founded the Wagner Group in 2014. Wagner and an elite GRU Spetsnaz unit reportedly share a military base in the Russian town of Molkino.
  • RAND's work on will to fight—the disposition and decision to fight, act, or persevere in conflict and war—and on Russian state power suggests that Russia is using mercenaries due in great part to its inherent military and civil weaknesses. Russian mercenaries (in fact, all mercenaries) also have behavioral limitations and vulnerabilities to influence. Dependence on mercenaries also reflects a vulnerability in Russian national will to fight. Both of these weaknesses can be exploited.
  • The employment of private forces within the spectrum of both domestic and interstate rivalry has been more norm than anomaly throughout most of recorded history.
  • Mercenary soldiers with the Wagner Group (formerly Moran Security Group, and then Slavonic Corps Limited) and other Russian mercenary groups like Patriot, took the lead in some of the more dangerous frontline operations in Syria while uniformed Russian soldiers guarded air and naval bases along Syria's coastline
  • In February 2018, Russian-hired mercenaries led (or at least closely accompanied) a Syrian militia force armed with artillery and heavy tanks to seize an oilfield near the city of Deir az-Zour in northeastern Syria. American Special Operations Forces and Marines decimated them with hours of precision air attacks, killing perhaps (PDF) hundreds and causing the rest of the force—including the mercenaries—to flee. As Russian-hired mercenary personnel retreated from the battlefield at Deir az-Zour, other teams of Russian private military actors had to call in helicopter teams to evacuate the wounded from the battlefield in the absence of state support.
  • Russian mercenaries have also performed poorly in Africa. In Mozambique, Wagner mercenaries stumbled through the kinds of partner-building efforts at which U.S. special operations forces tend to excel. They offended the locals and reportedly double-crossed allies to make money. Islamic State insurgents have successfully attacked and killed them on poorly secured roads. Mercenary disinformation tactics in Mozambique backfired. What was billed as a Russian power play in a former Soviet client state looks like a disaster in the making.
  • Wagner sent hundreds of trainers and security personnel to the Central African Republic to help Russian commercial interests secure mining rights and to support a complex regional diplomatic push to increase Russian influence. There has been little pretense in this operation: It is primarily a money-making venture. In one case, Wagner mercenaries reportedly helped the rebels they were hired to fight in order to help a Russian mining company gain access to diamond mines. Wagner has been linked to the suspicious deaths of three journalists who were nosing around its CAR operations. This Russian mercenary-led deployment has been partially successful in countering French influence, but it is not clear that reported successes on the ground outweigh the lasting, negative consequences of Wagner's cutthroat behavior.
  • Russia sent mercenaries and probably some active military forces to support Khalifa Haftar's anti-government forces in Libya. In early 2020, 1,000 Wagner mercenaries reportedly fled the front lines between pro- and anti-government forces after suffering a resounding defeat. Combat losses for Wagner in Libya are unknown but possibly significant.
  • as individuals and as a group, Russian mercenaries have repeatedly shown that they will pursue self-interest and commercial interests over state interests, and that they will quickly abandon partner forces—and perhaps each other—when the tactical risks fail to outweigh the financial rewards.
  • There is no shortage of genuine tough guys in groups like Wagner and Patriot. Under the will to fight factor of quality, many Russian mercenaries would earn high marks for fitness and resilience. But outright toughness and even elite military training alone cannot sustain the will to fight of an individual primarily motivated by money.
  • Together, the weaknesses within Russian mercenary forces and within the Russian state in relation to press-ganged youths, conscripts, and casualties may offer ready opportunities for exploitation in great-power competition. These broader weaknesses in Russian national will to fight could be examined to identify more ways to prevent Russia from aggressively undermining Western democracy.
Ed Webb

The F-35 Triangle: America, Israel, the United Arab Emirates - War on the Rocks - 0 views

  • deepen what were heretofore covert ties across the full spectrum of civilian sectors from business to science to agriculture and even space. The Emirati-Israeli agreement builds upon years of “under the table” cooperation between security and intelligence professionals driven toward strategic alignment by a shared perception of the major regional threat — Iran.
  • the U.S. sweetener appears to be a commitment to sell it F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, as well as other advanced weaponry long sought by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed
  • When Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, it secured the second largest military aid package in the Middle East after Israel, which continues today. When Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994, the announcement came along with debt relief and the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft — and, like Egypt, Jordan remains a top recipient of American assistance
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  • Reactions to Emirati acquisition of the F-35 have largely focused on whether Israel will support such a sale and the related requirement in U.S. domestic law to ensure Israel’s military superiority against all other countries in the Middle East. The longstanding policy term, later codified in law, is “qualitative military edge.” From the Emirati point of view, if they have entered into full diplomatic relations with Israel — with a promised “warm peace,” in the words of Emirati officials — and both countries share the same threat perspective, then Israel should have confidence that these advanced weapons will not be turned against it and should therefore not object to the sale. Moreover, unlike Egypt and Jordan, the United Arab Emirates has never attacked Israel.
  • Weapons sales are a leading area of competition in the Middle East, and in the words of the former Acting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Tina Kaidanow: Arms transfers are foreign policy. When we transfer a system or a capability to a foreign partner, we are affecting regional — or foreign internal — balances of power; we are sending a signal of support; and we are establishing or sustaining relationships that may last for generations and provide benefits for an extended period of time.
  • selling the F-35 to the United Arab Emirates would say much more about the Washington’s partnership with Abu Dhabi than it would about the evolving Emirati-Israeli relationship
  • Selling the F-35 to a country ought to be a signal that the United States has the highest measure of confidence in that country’s warfighting capabilities, decision-making on the use of force, and commitments to protecting sensitive technology. The Emirati record on each of these issues does not, however, inspire the highest confidence. The record is mixed.
  • As former government officials serving in the State and Defense Departments as well as in Congress, we are confident that the process going forward will be messy and time-consuming, specifically because the current case breaks precedent in so many ways.
  • Since the Yemen war’s inception in 2015, members of Congress have raised concerns about the conflict and U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition, in which Abu Dhabi was a partner and to which it contributed forces until withdrawing in the summer of 2019. These concerns, and the Trump administration’s refusal to address them, culminated in Congress mandating a report on steps taken by both governments to reduce civilian casualties and comply with laws and agreements governing the use of U.S.-origin weapons — indicating skepticism that either country was doing so
  • Reflecting a long-held U.S. policy view, during his nomination hearing Washington’s envoy to Abu Dhabi noted that the country “is a moderating and stabilizing force in one of the world’s most volatile regions.” The United Arab Emirates stands out among other militaries in the region for having contributed military forces to many U.S.-led coalitions since the first Gulf War — Kosovo (late 1990s), Somalia (1992), Afghanistan (since 2003), Libya (2011) and the anti-ISIL coalition (2014 to 2015). Indeed, Jared Kushner set a new precedent for framing the American-Emirati partnership when he effectively equated it with that of America and Israel, terming them comparably “special” during his most recent visit to the Middle East.
  • Emirati regional policies have been the subject of increasing congressional concern in recent years, largely focused on the country’s actions in Yemen and Libya. Since the beginning the Saudi-led coalition’s 2015 intervention in Yemen, most congressional action focused on the Saudi role in the conflict and not the Emirati one. But in 2018, congressional concern peaked in response to Emirati plans to launch an offensive to seize the Yemeni port of Hudaydah. The Trump administration subsequently declined to provide military support for the Emirati operation, given the risks of worsening an already severe humanitarian crisis, concerns regarding the complexities of the proposed military operation, and the likelihood of mass civilian casualties
  • In both Yemen and Libya, Abu Dhabi has not succeeded in leveraging its robust military investments toward political processes that would end the conflicts. In both contexts the divergent policies of the United States and United Arab Emirates — including use of military force, conduct in combat, and utilization of U.S. defense articles — should be considered as part of the F-35 deliberations.
  • competitors in the global arms export industry — particularly Russia and China — also leverage arms sales, but by and large with no strings attached for their use. Both governments use arms sales to challenge U.S. market dominance and to undermine American partnerships in the region
  • protecting Israel’s military superiority consists of both legal requirements and longstanding political and process steps that, while not mandated by law, have paved the way for decades of bipartisan congressional consent to arms sales in the Middle East, including of advanced fighter aircraft. The requirement to protect Israel’s “qualitative military edge” is enshrined in 2008 naval vessel transfer legislation, although it had been implemented as a matter of policy between Washington and Jerusalem since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
  • Presumably, the United Arab Emirates and Israel entering into formal relations affirms that the former does not pose such a military threat. The Israeli perspective at the moment, however, has been complicated by the continuing murk over whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blessed the U.S. commitment to sell the Emirati government the F-35 — without the knowledge of his own defense minister. Tensions in Netanyahu’s fragile governing coalition and a larger uproar in Israel’s defense establishment have prompted an awkward pas de deux among American, Emirati, and Israeli officials. Netanyahu — responding to concerns raised by the Israeli defense establishment — stated emphatically during an Aug. 24 joint press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he had not consented to any arms deal as part of normalization. Given Netanyahu’s close relationship with Trump, it is safe to say that no one in either country finds this claim credible. The public spat over Israeli consent to Emirati acquisition of the F-35 escalated when Netanyahu publicly vowed to go to Congress in opposition to the sale, and the United Arab Emirates in response cancelled a planned meeting between the Israeli and Emirati ambassadors to the United Nations.
  • extensive discussions should be expected between Israeli and U.S. technical and military experts to agree on the appropriate mix of offsets to ensure Israel’s military superiority. The offsets may involve discussions of quantity (how many F-35s the Emiratis will acquire versus the Israelis), technical variations in the F-35 platform, or additional sales and assistance to Israel. This challenge is not insurmountable, but it will be time-consuming and extend pass the upcoming American electoral cycle
  • The standard for this level of consultation with Israel before moving forward with arms sales packages to others in the region was set by the Obama administration — first in 2011 with the sale of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, and later in 2013 with the sale of F-16 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates along with stand-off weapons to both the Saudis and the Emiratis. Concurrent with 2013 sales, the Obama administration negotiated a package for Israel to maintain its military edge that included V-22 Osprey aircraft, advanced refueling tankers, and anti-air defense missiles.
  • Though Israel has no legal right to  block the United States from selling a weapon to another country in the Middle East, Israeli support is critical, particularly during the period of congressional notification. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will consult with the Israeli government, and will prefer to support a sale that earns a clear green light from the Israeli government. Members are likely be left unsatisfied by ambiguous and lukewarm Israel responses to the question of selling the F-35 to the Emiratis, precisely because technical talks have not yet begun. All parties risk being stuck between the divisive politics of the moment, and the deliberative, lengthy policy considerations that such arms transfer packages usually entail, opening the door to a further erosion of bipartisanship on a key issue of national security importance — the what, when, and how of a decision by the United States to provide advanced weapons systems to partner states in the Middle East.
  • Arab capitals are closely following whether the United States will follow through on its apparent commitment to sell the F-35 (and assorted other high-end systems) to Abu Dhabi, and whether American deliverables are sufficiently compelling to consider bringing their own relations with Israel into the daylight
  • The historical record from Egypt to Jordan and now the United Arab Emirates — across administrations of both political parties — is that formal relations with Israel facilitate strategic consistency from Washington
  • Will Egypt and Jordan request the F-35 in light of their existing peace treaties with Israel? Will countries in closer geographic proximity, like Saudi Arabia, request the F-35 and additional advanced U.S. weapons as part of their normalization package?
  • For Israel, Iran and Turkey represent sobering examples in that regard — previously solid security partners within seemingly stable governance structures that became hostile.
  • military edge risks eroding as Arab governments, whether blocked from purchasing certain weapons from the United States or in addition to acquiring them, turn to China, Russia, and other weapons exporters not obligated to maintain Israel’s military superiority
  • Competition in the Middle East between the United States and its adversaries is intensifying — particularly in the weapons sales arena
  • Washington may find itself in an escalating — and unsustainable — cycle of supplementing and upgrading support, technology, and other military offsets to Israel.
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.”
Ed Webb

Buzan on GWoT 2006 - 1 views

shared by Ed Webb on 15 Nov 16 - No Cached
  • Washington is now embarked on a campaign to persuade itself, the American people and the rest of the world that the ‘global war on terrorism’ (GWoT) will be a ‘long war’. This ‘long war’ is explicitly compared to the Cold War as a similar sort of zero-sum, global-scale, generational struggle against anti-liberal ideolo-gical extremists who want to rule the world.
  • When the Cold War ended, Washington seemed to experience a threat defi cit, and there was a string of attempts to fi nd a replacement for the Soviet Union as the enemy focus for US foreign and military policy: fi rst Japan, then China, ‘clash of civilizations’ and rogue states
  • the GWoT had the feel of a big idea that might provide a long-term cure for Washington’s threat defi ci
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  • the explicit ‘long war’ framing of the GWoT is a securitizing move of potentially great signifi cance. If it succeeds as a widely accepted, world-organizing macro-securitization, it could structure global security for some decades, in the process helping to legitimize US primacy
    • Ed Webb
       
      Securitization is a newer concept in IR, mostly associated with the Copenhagen School, although Buzan is English School. The argument here is that a successful rhetorical or framing move can have systemic effects.
  • This article is about the strength and durability of that belief, and whether as a social fact it can be used to create a new political framing for world politics. In addressing this question I diff erentiate between a traditional materialist analysis of threat (whether something does or does not pose a specifi c sort of threat, and at what level) and a so-called securitizationanalysis (whether something can be successfully constructed as a threat, with this understanding being accepted by a wide and/or specifi cally relevant audience).4These two aspects of threat may run in close parallel, but they can also be quite separate. States, like people, can be paranoid (constructing threats where none exist) or complacent (ignoring actual threats). But since it is the success (or not) of the securitization that determines whether action is taken, that side of threat analysis deserves scrutiny just as close as that given to the material side
    • Ed Webb
       
      Note how this argument applies long-standing IR concepts from several schools of thought: perception and misperception (Jervis); balance of threat (Walt); ideas as frames for world politics/the international system (Wendt).
  • the only thing that changed is the belief that something had changed
    • Ed Webb
       
      There is no consensus on this, but quite a few IR scholars take this view of 9/11
  • reformulate the GWoT
    • Ed Webb
       
      Obama decided to declare it "over" in 2013: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/05/23/obama-global-war-on-terror-is-over But the rhetorical shift has not led to any notable reduction in GWoT-related drone strikes etc.
  • Immediately following 9/11 NATO invoked article 5 for the fi rst time, thereby helping to legitimize the GWoT securitization.
  • In the case of Russia, China, Israel and India, the move has been to link their own local problems with ‘terrorism’ to the wider GWoT framing.
  • tied together several longstanding security concerns arising within the liberal order, most notably crime and the trades in drugs and the technologies for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Within the frame of the liberal international economic order (LIEO), it is well understood that while opening state borders to fl ows of trade, fi nance, information and (skilled) people is generally to be promoted, such opening also has its dark side in which illiberal actors, mainly criminals and terrorists, can take advantage of liberal openness in pursuit of illiberal ends
    • Ed Webb
       
      This is Naim's "Five Wars of Globalization"
  • There are fi ve obvious types of event that could signifi -cantly reinforce or undermine the GWoT securitization:ü the impact of further terrorist plans and/or attacks (or plans or attacks success-fully attributed to terrorists);ü the commitment of the United States to the GWoT securitization;ü the legitimacy of the United States as a securitization leader within interna-tional society;ü the (un)acceptability and (il)legitimacy of both the GWoT securitization as a whole or of particularist securitizations that get linked to it;ü the potency of securitizations competing with the GWoT
  • The escalation option would strengthen the GWoT securitization, and the reduction option would weaken it. More of the same does not look suffi cient to sustain the costs of a long-term macro-securitization unless the fear of escalation can be maintained at a high level.
  • Americans, like most other citizens of democracies, quite willingly surrender some of their civil liberties in times of war. But it is easy to see the grounds within American society for reactions against the GWoT securitization, especially if its legitimacy becomes contested. One source of such reactions would be civil libertarians and others opposed to the reasser-tion of government powers through a state of permanent fear and emergency. Another would be isolationists and ‘off shore balancers’ who oppose the current levels and logics of US global engagement
  • Grounds for opposition include its costs, in terms of both money and liberty, and the ineff ectiveness of a permanent increase in the state’s surveil-lance over everything from trade and fi nance to individual patterns of travel and consumption
  • US military expenditure remains largely aimed at meeting traditional challenges from other states, with only a small part specifi cally allocated for the GWoT. The signifi cance of the GWoT is much more political. Although a real threat from terrorists does exist, and needs to be met, the main signifi cance of the GWoT is as a political framing that might justify and legitimize US primacy, leadership and unilater-alism, both to Americans and to the rest of the world. This is one of the key diff erences between the GWoT and the Cold War. The Cold War pretty much wasUS grand strategy in a deep sense; the GWoT is not, but, as a brief glance at the USNSS of 2006 will show, is being promoted as if it were
    • Ed Webb
       
      Contrast with the Cold War here is important. Notice the disconnection between political framing and budgetary decisions in GWoT. Why is that?
  • The US successfully generated and led the macro-securitization of the Cold War against communism generally and the military power of the Soviet Union in particular. It was aided in this both by the broad acceptability of its own qualities as a leader in the West, and up to a point even in the Third World, and by the fact that other states, especially west European ones, plus Turkey, Japan and South Korea, shared the fear of communism and Soviet military power
  • A weight of punditry agrees that the Atlantic has got wider, to the point where even the idea that there is a western community is now under serious threat.
    • Ed Webb
       
      That this argument was being advanced halfway through the second GW Bush term, and yet the transatlantic alliance has held firm, should probably give us hope for the relationship surviving the Trump administration.
  • states might support or oppose the GWoT not only on its merits, but also because of how it plays into the global hierarchy of power
  • In terms of the GWoT securitization as a whole, some of the lines of opposition are the same in the rest of the world as they are in US domestic debates, particu-larly over what kinds of emergency action it legitimizes. To the extent that the GWoT becomes associated with actions that seem to contradict the values that the West seeks to represent against the likes of Al-Qaeda, the legitimacy of the securitization is corroded
  • By hardening borders, homeland security measures erode some of the principles of economic liberalism that they are designed to defend; and the same argument could be made about the trade-off between enhanced surveillance under the GWoT and the civil liberties that are part of the core referent object of western civilization
  • Most western leaders (the ever undiplomatic Berlusconi having been a notable excep-tion) have tried hard right from the beginning not to stage the GWoT as a war between the West and Islam. They have trodden the diffi cult line of maintaining that, while most of the terrorists speak in the name of Islam, that does not mean that most adherents of Islam are terrorists or supporters of terrorists. But despite this, the profoundly worrying relinking of religion and politics in the United States, Israel and the Islamic world easily feeds zero-sum confl icts. This linkage could help to embed the securitization of the GWoT, as it seems to have done within the United States and Israel. If religious identities feed the growth of a ‘clash of civilizations’ mentality, as seems to have happened in the episode of the Danish cartoons, this too could reinforce the GWoT securitization. It could, equally, create a reaction against it from those who feel that their particular religion is being mis represented by fundamentalists, and/or from those who object to religious infl uence on politics. The latter is certainly part of what has widened the gap between the US and Europe
  • Al-Qaeda and its like, while clearly posing a threat to the West, do not represent a plausible political alternative to it, Islamist fantasies about a new caliphate notwithstanding. The contrast with the Cold War could not be more striking. Then, the designated opponent and object of securitization was a power that represented what seemed a plausible political alternative: one could easily imagine a communist world. The post-9/11 securitization focused neither on an alternative superpower nor on an alternative ideology, but on the chaos power of embittered and alienated minori-ties, along with a handful of pariah governments, and their ability to exploit the openness, the technology, and in some places the inequality, unfairness and failed states generated by the western system of political economy
  • Iraq. The US and British governments attempted to justify the invasion by linking Saddam Hussein’s regime to both terrorists and WMD. This securitizing move was successful within the United States, but vigorously contested in many other places, resulting in serious and damaging splits in both the EU and NATO. Russia was generally very supportive of the GWoT securitization, seeking to link its own diffi culties in Chechnya to it, but Putin joined Germany and France in strong opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq. The ill-prepared occupation that followed the successful blitzkrieg against Iraq only deepened the splits, with many opponents of the war agreeing with Dana Allin’s assessment that ‘Iraq was probably the war that bin Laden wanted the United States to fi ght’,29and Wilkinson’s that it was ‘a gratuitous propaganda gift to bin Laden’.30 During the 2004 US election, even John Kerry began to argue the point that invasion of Iraq was distracting eff ort away from the GWoT.31 As the political disaster in Iraq continues to unfold, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it was both a tactical and strategic blunder of epic proportions in relation to the problem of global terrorism represented by Al-Qaeda
  • There are quite a variety of possible candidates for competing securitizations. Rising sea levels or approaching asteroids, or the spread of a new killer plague, could easily put planetary environmental concerns at the top of the securitiza-tion agenda. But in conventional mode the most likely threat to the GWoT as dominant macro-securitization comes from the rise of China
  • It was perhaps only the perceived remoteness in time of China achieving superpower status that prevented this securitization from becoming the dominant rhetoric in Washington during the 1990s. As time marches on, the rise of China becomes more real and less hypothetical
  • Given an ongoing disposition within Washington to construct China as a threat, the likely increase in Chinese power, both relative and absolute, and the existence of tensions between the two governments over, inter alia, Taiwan, trade and human rights, it is not diffi cult to imagine circumstances in which concerns about China would become the dominant securitization within the United States
    • Ed Webb
       
      Is this a new "pivot to Asia" we can imagine happening under the Trump administration?
  • o long as China conducts its so-called ‘peaceful rise’ in such a way as not to threaten its neighbours or the general stability of interna-tional society, many outside the United States might actually welcome it. Europe is likely to be indiff erent, and many countries (e.g. Russia, China, India, Iran, France, Malaysia) support a rhetoric of multipolarity as their preferred power structure over the predominance of the United States as sole superpower.
  • Because a world govern-ment is not available, the problem pits international society against global uncivil society
  • Wilkinson, who has solid credentials as a hard foe of the terrorists, echoes a sentiment widely held across the political spectrum when he says that ‘If we undermine or destroy our hard-won liberties and rights in the name of security against terrorism we will give the terrorists a victory they could never win by the bomb and the gun.’28 In this respect it is of more than passing interest that all of the current strategies being used to pursue the GWoT seem actively to damage the liberal values they purport to defend.
  • War is seldom good for liberal values even when fought in defence of them
  • Equalizing starts from the assumption that the root causes of terrorism lie in the inequalities and injustices that are both a legacy of human history and a feature of market economies. The long-term solution to terrorism in this perspective is to drain the waters in which the terrorists swim by redressing the inequalities and injustices that supposedly generate support for them. It is not my concern here to argue whether this contested cause–eff ect hypothesis is correct or not. My point is that if a policy along these lines is pursued, it cannot avoid undermining the foundations of a competitive market economy
  • f inequality is the source of terrorism, neo-liberal economics does not provide a quick enough solution
  • terrorism poses a double threat to liberal democratic societies: open direct assaults of the type that have become all too familiar, and insidious erosion as a consequence of the countermeasures taken
    • Ed Webb
       
      This is an essential point to understand about terrorism, suggesting why groups continue to adopt the tactic and why, sometimes, it can succeed.
  • f it is impossible to elimi-nate terrorists, as is probably the case, then this drive risks the kind of permanent mobilization that inevitably corrodes liberal practices and values
  • If the priority is to preserve liberal values, one is pushed towards the option of learning to live with terrorism as an everyday risk while pursuing counter-measures that stop short of creating a garrison state.
  • The necessary condition for doing so is that state and society raise their toleration for damage as a price they pay for openness and freedom. Kenneth Waltz long ago made the point that ‘if freedom is wanted, insecurity must be accepted’,38 though it has to be said that this part of his analysis has made little impact on US thinking about national security
  • if terrorism is a problem of the long term, as it well might be for advanced industrial societies, it would require a level of democratic sophistication and commitment rather higher than anything yet seen
  • Europe is more resilient and better able to defend its values without resorting to excesses of securitization. By comparison, the United States seems a softer target, too easily pricked into intemperate reactions that in themselves work to under-mine what it claims to stand for
    • Ed Webb
       
      This is broadly, historically true. But note France's ongoing state of emergency since the Paris attacks. The move from resilience toward garrison-state approaches is tempting for any government in times of popular uncertainty and fear.
Ed Webb

'A mass assassination factory': Inside Israel's calculated bombing of Gaza - 0 views

  • The Israeli army’s expanded authorization for bombing non-military targets, the loosening of constraints regarding expected civilian casualties, and the use of an artificial intelligence system to generate more potential targets than ever before, appear to have contributed to the destructive nature of the initial stages of Israel’s current war on the Gaza Strip, an investigation by +972 Magazine and Local Call reveals
  • The investigation by +972 and Local Call is based on conversations with seven current and former members of Israel’s intelligence community — including military intelligence and air force personnel who were involved in Israeli operations in the besieged Strip — in addition to Palestinian testimonies, data, and documentation from the Gaza Strip, and official statements by the IDF Spokesperson and other Israeli state institutions.
  • The bombing of power targets, according to intelligence sources who had first-hand experience with its application in Gaza in the past, is mainly intended to harm Palestinian civil society: to “create a shock” that, among other things, will reverberate powerfully and “lead civilians to put pressure on Hamas,”
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  • the Israeli army has files on the vast majority of potential targets in Gaza — including homes — which stipulate the number of civilians who are likely to be killed in an attack on a particular target. This number is calculated and known in advance to the army’s intelligence units, who also know shortly before carrying out an attack roughly how many civilians are certain to be killed
  • “The numbers increased from dozens of civilian deaths [permitted] as collateral damage as part of an attack on a senior official in previous operations, to hundreds of civilian deaths as collateral damage,”
  • another reason for the large number of targets, and the extensive harm to civilian life in Gaza, is the widespread use of a system called “Habsora” (“The Gospel”), which is largely built on artificial intelligence and can “generate” targets almost automatically at a rate that far exceeds what was previously possible. This AI system, as described by a former intelligence officer, essentially facilitates a “mass assassination factory.”
  • the increasing use of AI-based systems like Habsora allows the army to carry out strikes on residential homes where a single Hamas member lives on a massive scale, even those who are junior Hamas operatives. Yet testimonies of Palestinians in Gaza suggest that since October 7, the army has also attacked many private residences where there was no known or apparent member of Hamas or any other militant group residing. Such strikes, sources confirmed to +972 and Local Call, can knowingly kill entire families in the process.
  • “I remember thinking that it was like if [Palestinian militants] would bomb all the private residences of our families when [Israeli soldiers] go back to sleep at home on the weekend,” one source, who was critical of this practice, recalled.
  • there are “cases in which we shell based on a wide cellular pinpointing of where the target is, killing civilians. This is often done to save time, instead of doing a little more work to get a more accurate pinpointing,”
  • Over 300 families have lost 10 or more family members in Israeli bombings in the past two months — a number that is 15 times higher than the figure from what was previously Israel’s deadliest war on Gaza, in 2014
  • “There is a feeling that senior officials in the army are aware of their failure on October 7, and are busy with the question of how to provide the Israeli public with an image [of victory] that will salvage their reputation.”
  • “The emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy,” said IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari on Oct. 9.
  • “We are asked to look for high-rise buildings with half a floor that can be attributed to Hamas,” said one source who took part in previous Israeli offensives in Gaza. “Sometimes it is a militant group’s spokesperson’s office, or a point where operatives meet. I understood that the floor is an excuse that allows the army to cause a lot of destruction in Gaza. That is what they told us. “If they would tell the whole world that the [Islamic Jihad] offices on the 10th floor are not important as a target, but that its existence is a justification to bring down the entire high-rise with the aim of pressuring civilian families who live in it in order to put pressure on terrorist organizations, this would itself be seen as terrorism. So they do not say it,” the source added.
  • at least until the current war, army protocols allowed for attacking power targets only when the buildings were empty of residents at the time of the strike. However, testimonies and videos from Gaza suggest that since October 7, some of these targets have been attacked without prior notice being given to their occupants, killing entire families as a result.
  • As documented by Al Mezan and numerous images coming out of Gaza, Israel bombed the Islamic University of Gaza, the Palestinian Bar Association, a UN building for an educational program for outstanding students, a building belonging to the Palestine Telecommunications Company, the Ministry of National Economy, the Ministry of Culture, roads, and dozens of high-rise buildings and homes — especially in Gaza’s northern neighborhoods.
  • “Hamas is everywhere in Gaza; there is no building that does not have something of Hamas in it, so if you want to find a way to turn a high-rise into a target, you will be able to do so,”
  • for the most part, when it comes to power targets, it is clear that the target doesn’t have military value that justifies an attack that would bring down the entire empty building in the middle of a city, with the help of six planes and bombs weighing several tons
  • Although it is unprecedented for the Israeli army to attack more than 1,000 power targets in five days, the idea of causing mass devastation to civilian areas for strategic purposes was formulated in previous military operations in Gaza, honed by the so-called “Dahiya Doctrine” from the Second Lebanon War of 2006.
  • According to the doctrine — developed by former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, who is now a Knesset member and part of the current war cabinet — in a war against guerrilla groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah, Israel must use disproportionate and overwhelming force while targeting civilian and government infrastructure in order to establish deterrence and force the civilian population to pressure the groups to end their attacks. The concept of “power targets” seems to have emanated from this same logic.
  • Previous operations have also shown how striking these targets is meant not only to harm Palestinian morale, but also to raise the morale inside Israel. Haaretz revealed that during Operation Guardian of the Walls in 2021, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit conducted a psy-op against Israeli citizens in order to boost awareness of the IDF’s operations in Gaza and the damage they caused to Palestinians. Soldiers, who used fake social media accounts to conceal the campaign’s origin, uploaded images and clips of the army’s strikes in Gaza to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok in order to demonstrate the army’s prowess to the Israeli public.
  • since October 7, Israel has attacked high-rises with their residents still inside, or without having taken significant steps to evacuate them, leading to many civilian deaths.
  • evidence from Gaza suggests that some high-rises — which we assume to have been power targets — were toppled without prior warning. +972 and Local Call located at least two cases during the current war in which entire residential high-rises were bombed and collapsed without warning, and one case in which, according to the evidence, a high-rise building collapsed on civilians who were inside.
  • According to intelligence sources, Habsora generates, among other things, automatic recommendations for attacking private residences where people suspected of being Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives live. Israel then carries out large-scale assassination operations through the heavy shelling of these residential homes.
  • the Habsora system enables the army to run a “mass assassination factory,” in which the “emphasis is on quantity and not on quality.” A human eye “will go over the targets before each attack, but it need not spend a lot of time on them.” Since Israel estimates that there are approximately 30,000 Hamas members in Gaza, and they are all marked for death, the number of potential targets is enormous.
  • A senior military official in charge of the target bank told the Jerusalem Post earlier this year that, thanks to the army’s AI systems, for the first time the military can generate new targets at a faster rate than it attacks. Another source said the drive to automatically generate large numbers of targets is a realization of the Dahiya Doctrine.
  • Five different sources confirmed that the number of civilians who may be killed in attacks on private residences is known in advance to Israeli intelligence, and appears clearly in the target file under the category of “collateral damage.” 
  • “That is a lot of houses. Hamas members who don’t really matter for anything live in homes across Gaza. So they mark the home and bomb the house and kill everyone there.”
  • On Oct. 22, the Israeli Air Force bombed the home of the Palestinian journalist Ahmed Alnaouq in the city of Deir al-Balah. Ahmed is a close friend and colleague of mine; four years ago, we founded a Hebrew Facebook page called “Across the Wall,” with the aim of bringing Palestinian voices from Gaza to the Israeli public. The strike on Oct. 22 collapsed blocks of concrete onto Ahmed’s entire family, killing his father, brothers, sisters, and all of their children, including babies. Only his 12-year-old niece, Malak, survived and remained in a critical condition, her body covered in burns. A few days later, Malak died. Twenty-one members of Ahmed’s family were killed in total, buried under their home. None of them were militants. The youngest was 2 years old; the oldest, his father, was 75. Ahmed, who is currently living in the UK, is now alone out of his entire family.
  • According to former Israeli intelligence officers, in many cases in which a private residence is bombed, the goal is the “assassination of Hamas or Jihad operatives,” and such targets are attacked when the operative enters the home. Intelligence researchers know if the operative’s family members or neighbors may also die in an attack, and they know how to calculate how many of them may die. Each of the sources said that these are private homes, where in the majority of cases, no military activity is carried out.
  • there is ample evidence that, in many cases, none were military or political operatives belonging to Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
  • The bombing of family homes where Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives supposedly live likely became a more concerted IDF policy during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Back then, 606 Palestinians — about a quarter of the civilian deaths during the 51 days of fighting — were members of families whose homes were bombed. A UN report defined it in 2015 as both a potential war crime and “a new pattern” of action that “led to the death of entire families.”
  • according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, by Nov. 29, Israel had killed 50 Palestinian journalists in Gaza, some of them in their homes with their families
  • The intelligence officers interviewed for this article said that the way Hamas designed the tunnel network in Gaza knowingly exploits the civilian population and infrastructure above ground. These claims were also the basis of the media campaign that Israel conducted vis-a-vis the attacks and raids on Al-Shifa Hospital and the tunnels that were discovered under it.
  • Hamas leaders “understand that Israeli harm to civilians gives them legitimacy in fighting.”
  • while it’s hard to imagine now, the idea of dropping a one-ton bomb aimed at killing a Hamas operative yet ending up killing an entire family as “collateral damage” was not always so readily accepted by large swathes of Israeli society. In 2002, for example, the Israeli Air Force bombed the home of Salah Mustafa Muhammad Shehade, then the head of the Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing. The bomb killed him, his wife Eman, his 14-year-old daughter Laila, and 14 other civilians, including 11 children. The killing caused a public uproar in both Israel and the world, and Israel was accused of committing war crimes.
  • Fifteen years after insisting that the army was taking pains to minimize civilian harm, Gallant, now Defense Minister, has clearly changed his tune. “We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly,” he said after October 7.
Ed Webb

How Biden Kept Screwing Up Iraq, Over and Over and Over Again - 0 views

  • Reviewing Biden’s record on Iraq is like rewinding footage of a car crash to identify the fateful decisions that arrayed people at the bloody intersection. He was not just another Democratic hawk navigating the trauma of 9/11 in a misguided way. He didn’t merely call his vote for a disastrous war part of “a march to peace and security.” Biden got the Iraq war wrong before and throughout invasion, occupation, and withdrawal. Convenient as it is to blame Bush—who, to be clear, bears primary and eternal responsibility for the disaster—Biden embraced the Iraq war for what he portrayed as the result of his foreign policy principles and persisted, most often in error, for the same reasons. 
  • “I think the vast majority of the foreign policy community thinks [my record has] been very good.” That will be important context should Biden become president. He’s the favorite of many in Democratic foreign policy circles who believe in resetting the American geopolitical position to what it was the day before Trump was elected, rather than considering it critical context for why Trump was elected. 
  • National Democrats embraced the war on terrorism with enthusiasm and, with few exceptions, were disinclined to challenge Bush on foreign policy even as that foreign policy became more militant and extreme
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  • Biden’s hearings highlighted the dangers of occupation, such as the basic uncertainty around what would replace Saddam Hussein, as well as the bloody, long, and expensive commitment required to midwife a democratic Iraq. “In many ways, those hearings were remarkably prescient about what was to happen,” said Tony Blinken, Biden’s longtime aide on the committee and a deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration. “He and [GOP Sen. Richard] Lugar talked about not the day after but the decade after. If we did go in, they talked about the lack of a plan to secure any peace that followed the intervention.”
  • But the balance of expert testimony concerned guessing at Saddam’s weapons program, the pragmatic questions of invading, and the diplomatic legwork of an action whose justice—if not necessarily its wisdom—was presumed
  • the regnant foreign policy consensus in America: Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had sealed his fate by doing so. It was an enormous factual mistake born out of an inability to see that Saddam believed that transparent disarmament would spell his doom at the hands of Iran. This misapprehension led advocates to accept that the U.S.—preferably with others, but alone if necessary—was justified or even obligated to get rid of Saddam
  • Bush’s secretary of state, Colin Powell, convinced the White House to attempt securing United Nations support for the war. It was a cynical maneuver: the Security Council could accept additional weapons inspections but not war; Bush could claim he tried for an internationalist solution before invading unilaterally. Its primary effect was to legitimize the war in the eyes of uncomfortable congressional Democrats who had made the tactical error of disputing the war for insufficient multilateralism rather than arguing it was wrong
  • For Biden, the critical point, “what this is about,” was America daring to “enforce” U.N. Security Council disarmament resolutions that the U.N. was saying did not justify war. When the world stood against America, in the forum Biden considered critical and Bush considered pretextual, America would simply act in the world’s name. He approvingly quoted the infamous Henry Kissinger: “As the most powerful nation in the world, the United States has a special, unilateral capacity, and indeed obligation, to lead in implementing its convictions, but it also has a special obligation to justify its actions by principles that transcend the assertions of preponderance of power.” America’s confidence in its nobility was, in the end, all the justification it required. 
  • Biden acknowledged that the “imminence and inevitability” of the threat Iraq posed was “exaggerated,” although that recognition was irrelevant to both his reasoning and his vote. He performed an end-zone dance over Bush advisers who favored what he called the doctrine of preemption—a euphemism for wars of aggression—as if his vote did not authorize exactly the preemptive war those advisers wanted. The trouble Biden saw was that elevating preemption to a foreign policy “doctrine” would grant “every nation an unfettered right of preemption.” Left unsaid was that it would be better for America to keep that unfettered right for itself.
  • Biden was unprepared to break from prevention, which is always the prerogative of hegemonic powers. Boxed in, he continued to argue that the trouble was Bush elevating preemption to centrality in foreign policy, and fretted that predatory states would cite that “doctrine” to prey on weaker ones. He neglected to see that all those states needed was the example of the Iraq war itself. Eleven years later, when Biden was vice president, Vladimir Putin cited Iraq as a reason the U.S. had no standing to criticize him for invading Ukraine. 
  • Iraq was an abstraction to Biden—as it was, ironically, to the neoconservatives Biden had criticized—a canvas on which to project theories of American power
  • Nothing that followed went the way Biden expected. Bush did not share Biden’s distinction between the U.N. weapons-inspection process and the invasion. Iraq did not passively accept its occupation. And Biden did not reap the political benefit of endorsing the war that seemed so obvious to the Democratic consultant class in the autumn of 2002. 
  • Biden praised the leadership of the Coalition Provisional Authority, a shockingly corrupt and incompetent organization. Its chief, Jerry Bremer, was “first-rate,” Biden said mere months after Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army, the greatest gift America could have given the insurgency
  • Rebuilding Iraq’s police force was left to former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, whom Biden called “a serious guy with a serious team.” Iraq’s police would soon become indistinguishable from sectarian death squads; Kerik would soon plead guilty to tax fraud and other federal corruption charges
  • By the next summer, with Iraq in flames, Biden continued his misdiagnosis. The original sin wasn’t the war itself, it was Bush’s stewardship—the same stewardship Biden praised in 2002. “Because we waged a war in Iraq virtually alone, we are responsible for the aftermath virtually alone,” he thundered at the 2004 Democratic convention. The intelligence “was hyped to justify going to war,” Biden continued, causing “America’s credibility and security [to] have suffered a terrible blow.” Yet Biden made no call for withdrawal. It was easier to pretend that Bush was waging a different war than the one he empowered Bush to wage. 
  • The U.S., unable to win the war it chose, would be better off reshaping the map of Iraq into something that better suited it. The proposal was a natural outgrowth of viewing Iraq as an abstraction. Now that Iraq had undermined American power, Iraq would be subject to a kind of dismemberment, a theoretically cleaner problem to solve than a civil war or a weak client state. In September 2007, Biden prevailed upon his fellow senators to endorse his proposal on a staggering 75-23 vote. There was no support for the idea among actual Iraqis outside Kurdistan, but they were beside the imperial point.
  • 2007 saw Biden’s most valorous act on Iraq. With the war a morass, Biden secured $23 billion, far more than the Pentagon requested, to buy Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, whose hull design proved more survivable against the insurgency’s improvised bombs. Replacing insufficiently armored Humvees with MRAPs was “a passion,” he said. While the number of lives MRAPs saved over the course of the program’s $45 billion lifespan has been disputed, the Pentagon estimated in 2012 that over 2,000 service members are alive today because of the vehicle. Biden counted securing the funding for the MRAP among his greatest congressional achievements.
  • Barack Obama had opposed the Iraq war, but was hardly afflicted with the “distrust of the use of American power” that Biden feared in 2004. Selecting Biden as his vice president laundered Biden’s reputation. No longer was Biden the man whose faith in American exceptionalism had driven the U.S. into a morass. He was the lovable uncle in aviators who washed his metaphorical Trans Am on the White House lawn. Obama gave him responsibility for a three-year project of U.S. withdrawal, one that Biden considers an accomplishment. 
  • Biden and other U.S. officials appeared at times dangerously unconcerned about Maliki’s consolidation of power that once again marginalized Sunni Iraq, which the war had already proven would give jihadis the opportunity they needed
  • Biden reflected America’s schizophrenic attitude toward ending post-9/11 wars, in which leaving a residual force amidst an unsettled conflict does not count as continuing a war.
  • “I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA,” the Times quoted him. Instead, the following year, the Iraqi parliament did no such thing
  • Biden is the last of the pre-Obama generation of Democratic foreign policy grandees who enabled the Iraq war. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton both lost their presidential bids, saddled in both cases with the legacy of the war they supported
  • A President Biden is likely to find himself a man out of time. Writing in The Guardian, David Adler and Ben Judah recently described Biden as a “restorationist” in foreign policy, aiming at setting the American geopolitical clock back to what it was before Trump took office. Yet now an emergent China, a resurgent Russia, and the ascent of nationalism and oligarchy across Europe, India, and South America have fragmented the America-centric internationalist order that Biden represents. While Trump has accelerated these dynamics, he is far less responsible for them than is the martial post-9/11 course of U.S. foreign policy that wrecked itself, most prominently in Iraq.
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

Border Security Doesn't Make Europe Safer. It Breeds Instability. - 0 views

  • While it is natural be outraged by the locking up of children in Donald Trump’s United States or the criminalization of rescues in Italy during Matteo Salvini’s reign as interior minister, this deadly game is sadly not just being played by a few erratic and callous politicians. Rather, it is systematic.
  • For many years now, a key part of the game has been to get poorer neighbors to do the dirty work of deterring migration
  • outsourcing of migration and border controls represents a spectacular own goal not just in humanitarian terms, but also politically
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  • From the indefinite containment in what Amnesty International called “insecure and undignified” camps in Greece to de facto pushbacks of migrants toward the hell of Libya, from increasingly perilous routes across the Sahara to the avoidable mass drownings in the Mediterranean, Europe’s so-called fight against illegal migration has fueled abuses that undermine the EU’s global role and its avowed values
  • the EU, just like the United States, has doubled down. In its strategic agenda for the next five years, it has coalesced around a project straight out of the hard right’s playbook—of protecting borders, not people. And the way forward, in the words of the agenda, is “fighting illegal migration and human trafficking through better cooperation with countries of origin and transit.”
  • deaths owing to Fortress Europe since 1993 now adds up to well over 30,000 human beings and counting
  • The suffering is kept at a distance until spectacular violence hits the news, such as in the July killing of at least 44 people in the Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar’s airstrike on a Tripoli detention center. The general silence means the suffering festers, infecting European countries’ relations with their neighbors. And some among the neighbors are taking note of the cynicism. As a leading West African voice on migration, former Malian Culture Minister Aminata Traoré put it succinctly: “Europe is subcontracting violence in Africa.”
  • by temporarily pushing the problem away, it is sowing the seeds for abuse, repression, and even instability on a much larger scale
  • Once migration has been elevated into an existential threat to the “European way of life,” those on the other side of the EU’s borders will know how to leverage that threat effectively, with destabilizing consequences
  • Playing his cards cleverly within the rules set by Europe’s growing obsession with migration, Erdogan then explicitly threatened this October to “open the gates” for refugees to head toward Europe if EU leaders failed to support his military incursion and resettlement plans for northern Syria
  • consider Sudan, where the country’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group formerly linked to the genocidal janjaweed in Darfur, have trumpeted their credentials in fighting migration. This is the same force that killed dozens of protesters in Khartoum earlier this year and whose leader had by this summer by most accounts become the de facto, Saudi-backed ruler of Sudan.
  • The RSF, like Erdogan, has played a clever game within the rules set in part by the EU and has presented itself as helping the EU to fulfill its priorities—while simultaneously acting as a smuggling conduit. In effect, border security has been given a premium in the political marketplace, helping the guys with the guns to capture a larger market share.
  • across the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions, where the EU is now lavishing migration-related funds and political recognition on shady regimes and their frequently repressive security personnel. One of the countries targeted is Niger, which has become a laboratory for border security, with dire consequences.
  • The draconian law on migrant smuggling that the EU pushed has hit not just cross-border human smuggling but all sorts of cross-country transport, and it has involved Niger’s authorities selectively targeting members of certain ethnic groups. This risks fueling ethnic and political grievances while depriving northern Niger of its economic lifeblood, which includes not just irregular migration but also ordinary cross-border trade with, and travel to, Libya.
  • Amid growing popular discontent, and with an emboldened security state and a reeling economy, Niger is today a tinderbox thanks in no small part to the very security measures imposed by Europe.
  • Building on former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi’s sordid deal-making with Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi a decade earlier, Italy and the EU have since 2015 tried to get around legal responsibilities at sea by funding and training a so-called Libyan Coast Guard, which in large part is simply a front for dolled-up militias.
  • the assumption of the EU’s strategic agenda, for one—that “fighting illegal migration” in this way is key to defending “the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens”—is plain wrong. A quick glance at the longer trend shows 2015—when an estimated 1 million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe by sea—to be an exception: Most immigrants enter Europe by air, and most sub-Saharan African migrants stay within their own region.
  • human mobility is in itself not a threat to anyone’s safety. In fact, the risks associated with its most chaotic manifestations are perversely caused in large part by the very security measures rolled out to stop it. But even these manmade risks pale in comparison with the risk of strengthening authoritarian regimes and repressive forces, while undermining the EU’s clout and values, in the name of European citizens’ security.
  • the EU must rekindle positive projects of collaboration and opportunity—including, not least, by working with the African Union on its incipient plans for boosting free movement across the continent. And it must ensure that the EU and member states don’t fuel instability and abuses, as has been the case with Libya since well before NATO’s disastrous intervention there.
  • migration toward the U.S.-Mexico border can be addressed by Washington through genuine attempts at reversing long-standing U.S. complicity in the instability racking Central America—both in terms of support to violent groups and abusive leaders and in the export of gang members into El Salvador. Similar reversals are needed in the drug war that is racking Mexico, where U.S. arms and incentives have helped fuel violence that has claimed thousands of lives.
  • Today’s tug of war between rights and security, or between open and closed borders, paints those in the former camp as naive idealists and those in the latter as hard-headed realists. However, this is a false dichotomy.
  • If policymakers and voters really want to be “realistic,” then it is essential to appreciate the full future costs of the path on which they are currently set and to acknowledge the dangerously perverse incentives for escalating violence, extortion, and authoritarian rule that it entrenches. Meanwhile, the fantasy of protecting Western democracies through the outsourcing of migration controls feeds the damaging delusion that these countries can seal themselves off from problems such as conflict and global warming to which they are themselves strongly contributing.
Ed Webb

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

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