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Ed Webb

A declaration from North Africa: food sovereignty is a right | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • On December 15, 16 and 17, 2017, ATTAC Morocco, a member of the global network for the abolition of illegitimate debts (CADTM), organised a Maghreb seminar on free trade agreements, agriculture and food sovereignty under the slogan: No to colonial agreements, for the defence of people's sovereign right on their agricultural, food and environmental systems. The seminar was held in Agadir, Morocco with the participation of activists coming from Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
  • trade agreements have deepened the control of multinational companies on agriculture and maritime fishing, exacerbated food speculation, and destroyed subsistence agricultural and fishing systems. Moreover, they accelerated the unlimited quest for the promotion of genetically modified seeds and the generalisation of the export-oriented agriculture and fishing industry. In the global south, International Financial Institutions (IFIs) are pursuing neoliberal policies that further deregulate, open borders to the invasion of foreign capital and subsidised products and ensure the transfer of profits and wealth. These neoliberal dictates are leading to an increase in public debt at the expense of the popular classes who shoulder the burden of austerity policies
  • affirm our support for people's food sovereignty and their right to determine their own food system, a system that ensures the production of healthy food in sufficient quantity while protecting nature and remaining in harmony with it
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  • resources for this purpose must be provided through the suspension of debt service payments and through the cancellation of illegitimate public debts
  • we are planning on organising campaigns of denunciation, raising awareness and initiatives in order to encourage common struggles and establish forms of coordination and solidarity with movements sharing the same objectives
  • Food sovereignty is the antithesis of the productivist capitalist food system, which is responsible for the destruction of natural resources and a climate chaos that threatens the lives of millions of people. It is peasant agriculture and subsistence fishing that feed humanity and preserve the environment, rather than the intensive, industrial, commercial and chemical agriculture promoted by capitalism.
  • collective struggle against free trade agreements, fisheries agreements and the World Trade Organization, as well as against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which enslave people through the debt system
  • initiation and promotion of experiments in popular farming systems that aim at breaking free from food dependence
  • Broadening international solidarity in order to stop the growing repression against popular mobilizations (peasants, fishermen, indigenous, and agricultural workers, etc.) and to organize and protect their lives, their lands, their environment and their food traditions.
Ed Webb

Turkey's Invasion of Syria Makes the Kurds the Latest Victims of the Nation-State - 0 views

  • The global system is built around sovereign states, and it shows. This is an enormous problem for groups that define themselves, or are defined by others, as distinct from the country within whose borders they happen to reside, and it’s also terrible as a framework for navigating the global politics of a rapidly changing world.
  • Sovereignty is usually traced back to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which was pivotal in shifting conceptions of government toward a secular state with entire authority inside inviolable territorial borders. Designed as a diplomatic solution to catastrophic religious wars among feudal, monarchical territories, its tenets have persisted into the modern world largely due to the entrenched power of those states, jealously guarding their unfettered rule over their slice of geography.
  • as the power of monarchy eroded and European countries needed something else to inspire loyalty among their citizens, the ideal of the nation-state—that the people within those arbitrary borders would feel some sort of collective identity—became popular. This led to more wars as European states expelled or converted anyone who didn’t fit their concept of nation: not French enough, not German enough, not Italian enough. They also spread this idea to their colonies, exporting successive waves of destructive conflicts.
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  • governments still harass, expel, and attempt to exterminate minority groups in the name of the nation-state ideal, and sovereignty still gives them carte blanche to do so
  • insistence on the nation-state as the only legitimate and legal actor on the world stage leaves substate groups vulnerable to exploitation, attack, and shady dealing
  • the issue isn’t limited to the Kurds. In the news this week are Rohingya refugees stuck between two countries that don’t want them, Uighurs forced into detention camps, and Catalan protests for independence. History offers even more parallels, from the United States repeatedly breaking treaties with Native Americans to World War II, in which the United States was willing to go to war to protect the territorial integrity of France along with the people in it but was not willing to accept refugees fleeing the Holocaust. The nation-state system is designed to protect itself and its members, rather than people
  • nonstate groups are at a particular disadvantage. Though they may hold de facto territory, they don’t hold it legally; they have no international rights to a military or to self-defense. They have no seat in international or supranational organizations, leaving them outside global decision-making and with no recourse in attempting to hold states accountable for their actions. Their leaders are not accorded head of state status, and they have no official diplomats. Since even the most generous autonomy statutes don’t confer the protections of statehood, separatist groups are often willing to risk high losses to win independence, fueling conflicts
  • While interstate conflicts have fallen over the past 50 years, intrastate fighting has soared. These wars disrupt trade and world politics, weaken countries, and raise uncertainty in neighboring states. On the other hand, states have proved themselves adept at using substate actors to further their own interests within foreign countries while evading responsibility for it, from the United States arming the Contras in Nicaragua to Sudan and Chad supporting each other’s rebel movements.
  • States remain reluctant to break the collective agreement on the legitimacy of sovereignty. They are similarly reticent about adding more states to their exclusive club, in part because it might suggest to dissidents within their own area that renegotiation of borders is possible
  • it remains difficult to garner international recognition for a new state. That leaves mediators attempting to convince vulnerable groups to settle for something less, in the face of all evidence that a recognized state is their best chance for security and self-determination.
  • Substate groups are not the only example that the system is failing. Nonstate actors from terrorist groups to multinational corporations have increasing impacts on global politics, and traditional geopolitical theory does not do a great job of dealing with them. Even for bilateral issues, the nation-state is not always the most useful unit of analysis.
  • Russian elites attempted to tip the scales of U.S. leadership in order to win more modern spoils: unfettered soft power in their region, access to trade, and, notably, the ability to infringe on other countries’ sovereignty without consequences.
  • the United States—and other nation-states—has little or no control over multinational corporations, with their complex legal structures and tenuous ties to geography
  • we need to recognize both the rights of substate groups and the legal responsibilities of extrastate entities and create mechanisms in the international system to include them in the halls of power
Ed Webb

Recognizing Israeli settlements is about sovereignty, and that's a game-changer - 0 views

  • If the Trump administration endorses annexation, a position in line with recognizing the legality of settlements, then the framework of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict changes and the issues of sovereignty and political rights will become front and center.
  • Without question, the new U.S. stance on settlements undermines international law, which is clear on the illegality of an occupying power transferring its population into occupied territory. The applicability of this tenet of the Fourth Geneva Convention to Israel-Palestine has been upheld by near-universal international consensus since the occupation began in 1967, including by the U.N. Security Council and the International Court of Justice.
  • the opinion of a single state — even the most powerful one — does not alter the law itself. As Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the U.N. Commissioner on Human Rights, responded to the Trump administration announcement, “a change in the policy of one state does not modify existing international law nor its interpretation by the International Court of Justice and Security Council.” If the rest of the world continues to adhere to the principle that the settlements are illegal, the decision will likely do more to undermine U.S. standing and leadership than the Geneva Convention or the law itself.
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  • while settlements certainly represent the largest physical obstacle to the establishment of a Palestinian state, the Trump decision hardly changes anything on this front. The U.S. has consistently failed to take action against settlements in order to protect the prospect for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Even at the height of the peace process in the 1990s, the Clinton administration permitted continued settlement-building to the point that the settler population tripled despite ongoing negotiations. While various administrations, such as those of George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama, pushed back against settlements, their efforts were never sustained and settlement-building ultimately carried on.
  • if Israeli settlements are not illegal, and Israelis are able to rightfully settle the land under Israel’s political and military control, then what does that mean for the stateless Palestinians who also live there and for Israel’s 52-year rule over them? In other words, if it is not military occupation, which undoubtedly prohibits the type of settlement that Israel has engaged in, then it is something else and the world should demand that Israel clarify its position and intentions over the territory.
  • It is, in part, the limbo of endless occupation that has doomed the Palestinians to political purgatory, without a state of their own but without citizenship in any other state. It is what differentiates Palestinians from so many other ethnic groups that live as minorities in the ethnic-national states of others. Take the Kurds, for example, who lack a state of their own but who are at the very least citizens of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere.
  • This murkiness has also allowed Israel to gradually take physical possession of the land through a colonial process under the cover of temporary occupation, without having to offer political rights to the native inhabitants of the land who live side by side with Israeli settlers. Yet if Israel is the recognized sovereign, then it can’t take legal possession of the land without all of the inhabitants. If it doesn’t want the Palestinians, then the land needed to create a viable alternative political entity for them to fulfill their rights is needed. Israel simply cannot have it both ways.
  • While the Palestinian political leadership still fully embraces a two-state solution, the majority of public opinion has shifted away from it. That could be a game changer, especially as the Netanyahu-led government in Israel looks ready to begin annexing the settlements, at the very minimum.
Ed Webb

Turkish president says "worst case" unfolding in Syria - Yahoo! News - 0 views

  • "From now on, every attack on us will be responded to immediately. Every attack that targets our sovereignty, our security of life and property will find its response," Turkish government spokesman Bulent Arinc said after a cabinet meeting.
  • we are more sensitive about our independence and sovereignty than most countries
    • Ed Webb
       
      The shadow of Sevres
  • a large number of F-16 fighter planes landed at the base on Monday afternoon. Local sources confirmed there was heightened activity at the base but said this was related to operations against Kurdish militant bases in northern Iraq, not Syria.
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  • Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at the weekend that a potential leader in an interim Syrian government could be Vice-President Farouq al-Shara.
Ed Webb

The Real Reason the Middle East Hates NGOs - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • when pressed, the head of the officers’ delegation became red-faced with anger. Apparently, laying the groundwork for more open and just politics did not include human rights organizations, good-governance groups, environmentalists, private associations that provide aid to people in need, or other NGOs.
  • in Egypt, employees of NGOs have become virtual enemies of the state. In keeping with its reputation as the lone Arab Spring “success story,” Tunisia has created a more welcoming environment for these groups, but even there, the ability of NGOs to carry out their work can be constrained given that a state of emergency and other laws place restrictions on the right to assemble
  • the relentless pressure Middle Eastern governments have long applied to NGOs. Leaders in the region do not do well with ideas like “self-organizing,” “relatively autonomous from the state,” and the creation of associations and “solidarities” — and it is hard, without justifying repression, not to see why. Civil society groups have the potential to help people with common interests overcome the considerable obstacles to collective action that many Middle Eastern governments have put in place and, in the process, give greater voice to people’s grievances.
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  • It is a mistake to conclude that only narrowly self-serving authoritarianism explains the thuggish approach to NGOs around the Middle East. After all, the hounding of these groups (including in Israel) seems to be out of proportion to any evidence that they can create significant political change in the region. No doubt many NGOs have helped people in need throughout the Middle East, but those dedicated to governance and human rights, for example, have hardly had an impact. But then why do the Middle East’s commanders of tanks, planes, and missiles treat the Arab hippies who want to defend the freedom of association as such a problem? The threat isn’t about loosening the authoritarians’ grip on power, but something more abstract: the Middle East’s fragile sense of identity and sovereignty.
  • officials in the region have often boasted of the large number of nongovernmental organizations (even as they were cracking down on them) as a way to both deflect criticism from abroad and embed in the minds of their citizens the idea that reform was underway. It has hardly been believable and has not worked, which is why the default for Middle Eastern governments is to repress such groups.
  • Arab leaders essentially regard nongovernmental organizations, especially those with foreign funding, as agents of a neocolonial project. The hypocrisy of this position for governments that either receive copious amounts of foreign assistance or that rely on the West for their security is self-evident, but that does not necessarily diminish its effectiveness
  • Western-funded human rights campaigners and good-governance activists as the most recent manifestation of the civilizing mission that originally brought European colonialists to North Africa and the Levant
  • The related problem of sovereignty brings the matter into sharp relief. The European penetration of the Middle East in the late 18th and early 19th centuries began a long-term process of intellectual ferment and discovery among Middle Easterners about how best to confront this challenge. Islamic reformism, Arab nationalism, and Islamism, which emphasized identity, were the most politically effective (and enduring) regional responses
Ed Webb

Erdogan, Sultan of Jerusalem? - 0 views

  • No one who has visited Jerusalem over the past few years will be surprised by the preponderance of red Turkish flags with their crescent and star, fluttering over the city’s eastern Palestinian neighborhoods. These flags are just one visible manifestation of a major effort by the Turkish government to establish a presence in the Israeli capital. Investigative reports in the press, conducted over the last few years, have revealed the scope of Turkish activity in Jerusalem, which includes the renovation of homes, restoration of mosques and efforts to expose the residents of East Jerusalem to Turkish culture, including cooking workshops and Turkish-language classes. These efforts also include increasing involvement in the affairs of Al-Aqsa Mosque, as described by Ben Caspit in July 2018.
  • Turks have renovated Mamluk buildings, which they then pass off as Ottoman. “Apart from the city walls, built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, there aren’t many Ottoman sites in Jerusalem. In contrast, the Mamluks invested quite a bit on construction in Jerusalem, and that’s good enough for Erdogan,” he told Al-Monitor. “It demonstrates his desire to flood Jerusalem with ties to the Ottoman Empire.”
  • Israel intends to revoke the head of TIKA’s diplomatic status in Jerusalem, effectively making his presence in Israel illegal. “The era of the Ottoman Empire is over. Turkey has no reason to be in Jerusalem,” said the Foreign Ministry in an especially bellicose statement. “[Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s declarations that Jerusalem belongs to all Muslims are absolutely baseless and ridiculous. Israel maintains sovereignty in Jerusalem, while ensuring freedom of worship for all religions. We will not allow anyone to interrupt this sovereignty.”
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  • “People wandering around East Jerusalem might think that they are visiting a Turkish city. There are voluminous amounts of flags, stickers and signage, and the Turkish presence is very obvious. This includes charitable activity. In winter, they distribute heaters, warm clothing and food stamps. Last Ramadan, they handed out $100 to all businesses in the Old City. They are involved in the educational system, they renovate buildings and they organize heavily subsidized and even free trips [from Turkey to Al-Aqsa Mosque]. As someone on the ground here, I am constantly surprised by the scope of this activity."
  • a neo-Ottoman policy that Erdogan has been promoting over the past few years. Its goal is to bolster Turkish control in Jerusalem
  • “As far as he is concerned, the fact that the Ottomans once ruled here means that he is no stranger to Jerusalem. He is also challenging Israeli sovereignty in the city. Turkish activity in Jerusalem is his way of engaging in the soft conquest of al-Quds [Jerusalem].”
  • Israel has decided to put an end to this Turkish involvement in Jerusalem affairs
  • Israeli experts estimate that another person particularly concerned about the situation is King Abdullah of Jordan, who has a special status in Jerusalem as “Protector of the Holy Sites.” The Foreign Ministry’s statement refers to these Jordanian concerns. “In accordance with the peace treaty with Jordan, the Jordanians have a special status at the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. As such, we will not allow Erdogan to interfere with this special status, as they are doing now,” reads the statement.
  • the growing presence of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs in the Temple Mount compound. They come with lots of money, and their efforts are already bearing fruit. Erdogan’s popularity among the Palestinians is skyrocketing, and the main person to suffer for that is Jordan’s King Abdullah. He cannot compete with the funds that the Turks are pouring in, while his rhetoric on behalf of the Palestinians pales in comparison to Erdogan’s stinging attacks.”
  • “Erdogan’s ultimate goal is Erdogan himself. He wants to become 'Sultan of all Muslims.' Unlike Iran, for example, which has no access to Jerusalem, Turkey does have access to the city. Israel allows him to operate on the ground and emblazon Jerusalem prominently on his personal banner. This positions him as the greatest Muslim leader in the world.”
  • “He wants to return to rule over all those lands that were once controlled by the Ottoman Empire. We are witnessing Turkish activity of this kind not only in the Middle East but in the Balkans and Caucasus too
  • Mordechai Goldman has served for the past few years as the diplomatic and military analyst of the ultra-Orthodox daily Hamevaser. He attended ultra-Orthodox rabbinical colleges and studied psychology at the Israeli Open University. He also participated in the national civil service program. Goldman lectures to ultra-Orthodox audiences on the diplomatic process and on the Israel Defense Forces and consults with companies in regard to the ultra-Orthodox sector.
Ed Webb

Beyond the Nation-State | Boston Review - 0 views

  • The Westphalian order refers to the conception of global politics as a system of independent sovereign states, all of which are equal to each other under law. The most popular story about this political system traces its birth to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, follows its strengthening in Europe and gradual expansion worldwide, and finally, near the end of the twentieth century, begins to identify signs of its imminent decline. On this view, much of the power that states once possessed has been redistributed to a variety of non-state institutions and organizations—from well-known international organizations such as the UN, the EU, and the African Union to violent non-state actors such as ISIS, Boko Haram, and the Taliban along with corporations with global economic influence such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon. This situation, the story often goes, will result in an international political order that resembles medieval Europe more than the global political system of the twentieth century.
  • Over the last two decades, scholars working on the history of the global order have painstakingly shown the complete mismatch between the story of Westphalia and the historical evidence. The nation-state is not so old as we are often told, nor has it come to be quite so naturally. Getting this history right means telling a different story about where our international political order has come from—which in turn points the way to an alternative future.
  • Generations of international relations students have absorbed the idea of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia as a pan-European charter that created the political structure that now spans the entire globe: a system of legally (if not materially) equal sovereign states. Along with this political structure, this story goes, came other important features, from the doctrine of non-intervention, respect of territorial integrity, and religious tolerance to the enshrinement of the concept of the balance of power and the rise of multilateral European diplomacy. In this light, the Peace of Westphalia constitutes not just a chronological benchmark but a sort of anchor for our modern world. With Westphalia, Europe broke into political modernity and provided a model for the rest of the world.
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  • In fact, the Peace of Westphalia strengthened a system of relations that was precisely not based on the concept of the sovereign state but instead on a reassertion of the Holy Roman Empire’s complex jurisdictional arrangements (landeshoheit), which allowed autonomous political units to form a broader conglomerate (the “empire”) without a central government.  
  • What we have come to call the Peace of Westphalia actually designates two treaties: signed between May and October 1648, they were agreements between the Holy Roman Empire and its two main opponents, France (the Treaty of Münster) and Sweden (the Treaty of Osnabrück). Each treaty mostly addressed the internal affairs of the Holy Roman Empire and smaller bilateral exchanges of territory with France and with Sweden.
  • The treaties were only properly mythologized in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when European historians turned to the early modern period in order to craft stories that served their own worldview.
  • Looking for a story of states fighting for their sovereignty against imperial domination, nineteenth-century historians found exactly what they needed in the anti-Habsburg fabrications that had been disseminated by the French and Swedish crowns during the Thirty Years’ War
  • Leo Gross’s essay “The Peace of Westphalia: 1648–1948,” published in 1948 in the American Journal of International Law. Canonized as “timeless” and “seminal” at the time, the article gave meaning to the emerging postwar order. By comparing the 1945 UN Charter to the Peace of Westphalia, Gross rehashed a story about treaties for freedom, equality, non-intervention, and all the rest of the alleged virtues for reinventing national sovereignty
  • The solution to the Westphalia debacle, then, would seem to lie in putting forward an alternative narrative grounded in greater historical accuracy, one that reflects the much more complicated process through which the modern international order came about.
  • Until the nineteenth century, the international order was made up of a patchwork of polities. Although a distinction is often made between the European continent and the rest of the world, recent research has reminded us that European polities also remained remarkably heterogeneous until the nineteenth century. While some of these were sovereign states, others included composite formations such as the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, within which sovereignty was divided in very complex ways.
  • Sovereign statehood only became the default within Europe in the nineteenth century, with entities like the Holy Roman Empire gradually giving way to sovereign states like Germany. While often overlooked in this regard, Latin America also transitioned into a system of sovereign states during that period as a result of its successive anti-colonial revolutions.
  • Over the past several decades, the state has not only triumphed as the only legitimate unit of the international system, but it has also rewired our collective imagination into the belief that this has been the normal way of doing things since 1648.
  • As late as 1800, Europe east of the French border looked nothing like its contemporary iteration. As historian Peter H. Wilson describes in his recent book Heart of Europe (2020), the Holy Roman Empire, long snubbed by historians of the nation-state, had been in existence for a thousand years at that point; at its peak it had occupied a third of continental Europe. It would hold on for six more years, until its dissolution under the strain of Napoleonic invasions and its temporary replacement with the French-dominated Confederation of the Rhine (1806–1813) and then the German Confederation (1815–1866).
  • what we think of as modern-day Italy was still a patchwork of kingdoms (Sardinia, the Two Siciles, Lombardy-Venetia under the Austrian Crown), Duchies (including Parma, Modena, and Tuscany), and Papal States, while territory further east was ruled by the Ottoman Empire.
  • We are accustomed to thinking of Europe as the first historical instance of a full-blown system of sovereign states, but Latin America actually moved toward that form of political organization at just about the same time. After three centuries of imperial domination, the region saw a complete redrawing of its political geography in the wake of the Atlantic Revolutions of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Following in the footsteps of the United States (1776) and Haiti (1804), it witnessed a series of wars of independence which, by 1826 and with only a few exceptions, had essentially booted out the Spanish and Portuguese empires. Of course, Britain promptly gained control of trade in the region through an aggressive combination of diplomatic and economic measures often referred to as “informal empire,” but its interactions were now with formally sovereign states.
  • much as with Western Europe, the region did not stabilize into a system of nation-states that looks like its contemporary iteration until the end of the nineteenth century. It now seems possible to tell a relatively similar story about North America, as in historian Rachel St John’s ongoing project, The Imagined States of America: The Unmanifest History of Nineteenth-century North America.
  • Until World War II the world was still dominated by empires and the heterogeneous structures of political authority they had created. Once decolonization took off after 1945, the nation-state was not the only option on the table. In Worldmaking after Empire (2019), Adom Getachew describes anglophone Africa’s “federal moment,” when the leaders of various independence movements on the continent discussed the possibility of organizing a regional Union of African States and, in the Caribbean, a West Indian Federation.
  • “antinationalist anticolonialism” eventually ran afoul of the French government’s unwillingness to distribute the metropole’s resources amongst a widened network of citizens. Yet the fact that it was seriously considered should give us pause. Of course, in the context of decolonization, the triumph of the nation-state represented a final victory for colonized peoples against their long-time oppressors. But it also disconnected regions with a shared history, and it created its own patterns of oppression, particularly for those who were denied a state of their own: indigenous peoples, stateless nations, minorities
  • what is clear is that a mere seventy years ago, what we now consider to be the self-evident way of organizing political communities was still just one of the options available to our collective imagination
  • The conventional narrative associates international order with the existence of a system of sovereign states, but the alternative story suggests that the post-1648 period was characterized by the resilience of a diversity of polities
  • The comparative stability of the post-1648 period may therefore have had more to do with the continued diversity of polities on the continent than with the putative emergence of a homogenous system of sovereign states
  • an international system in which power is shared among different kinds of actors might in fact be relatively stable
  • even the most powerful contemporary multinational corporations—Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and the rest—are drastically more limited in their formal powers than were the famous mercantile companies who were central actors in the international order until the mid-nineteenth century. The two largest, the British and the Dutch East India Companies, founded in 1600 and 1602 respectively, amassed spectacular amounts of power over their two-hundred-year existence, becoming the primary engine of European imperial expansion. While these companies started off as merchant enterprises seeking to get in on Asia’s lucrative trading network, they gradually turned into much more ambitious endeavors and grew from their original outposts in India and Indonesia into full-on polities of their own. They were, as various scholars now argue, “company-states”—hybrid public-private actors that were legally entitled to rule over subjects, mint money, and wage wars. From this perspective, contemporary non-state actors are still relatively weak compared to states, who still monopolize far more formal power than all other actors in the international system
  • we should be careful not to suggest that the culprit is an unprecedented weakening of the state and thus that the solution is to expand state power
  • States certainly were important after 1648, but so were a host of other actors, from mercantile companies to semi-sovereign polities and all sorts of empires more or less formally structured. This system only truly began to unravel in the nineteenth century, with many of its features persisting well into the twentieth. Viewed through this lens, the so-called “Westphalian order” begins to look much more like an anomaly than the status quo
  • Engaging with this history makes the current centrality of the states-system as a basis for organizing the globe look recent and in fairly good shape, not centuries-old and on the verge of collapse
  • What is truly new, from a longue durée perspective, is the triumph of the state worldwide, and our inability to think of ways of organizing the world that do not involve either nation-states or organizations of nation-states.
  • Even thinkers in tune with limitations of the nation-state cannot seem to free themselves from the statist straitjacket of the contemporary political imagination. Debates about state-based supranational institutions likewise fall along a remarkably narrow spectrum: more power to states, or more power to state-based international organizations?
  • Misrepresenting the history of the states-system plays into the hands of nationalist strongmen, who depict themselves as saving the world from a descent into stateless anarchy, controlled by globalist corporations who couldn’t care less about national allegiance. More broadly, getting this history right means having the right conversations. Giving power to actors other than states is not always a good idea, but we must resist the false choice between resurgent nationalism on the one hand and the triumph of undemocratic entities on the other.
  • Today the norm is that states enjoy far more rights than any other collectivity—ranging from indigenous peoples to transnational social movements—simply because they are states. But it is not at all clear why this should be the only framework available to our collective imagination, particularly if its legitimacy rests on a history of the states-system that has long been debunked.
Ed Webb

Who in the GCC wants a union? - 0 views

  • Citing “security problems, economic challenges and other serious issues confronted by the region,” Bahrain’s Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa recently announced that the transformation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to a union is an “inevitable goal” of this month’s Manama Dialogue (Dec. 9-11).
  • With absolutely no illusions that Oman — historically the most independent member of the GCC — has changed its position, last month Ghanem al-Buainain, Bahrain’s minister of Parliament Affairs, stated that he sensed “great enthusiasm for the union from the other Gulf members.”
  • Many non-Saudis in the GCC view Saudi Arabia as an important ally, yet they also see the oil-rich kingdom as an overbearing neighbor who does not always respect the smaller Arab Gulf states’ sovereignty. Due to a host of domestic issues in the GCC and regional developments, which the Arab Gulf families see through different lenses, Riyadh and Manama officials may see their plan for a union falling on deaf ears.
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  • Kuwait is the GCC state with the most vibrant political life and democratic institutions. Opposition to a union from Kuwait is largely attributable to concerns about “collective security actions” that Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states could pursue to silence dissent and activism in Kuwait. Last month’s snap elections in Kuwait will bring in parliamentarians to the National Assembly from an opposition made up of liberals and Islamists whom other GCC states would not permit to hold any position of power in their own political systems. As many Kuwaitis take pride in their “half-democracy” and relative transparency and openness, the concept of a union has met its share of resistance in the country from voices across its political spectrum.
  • Doha has established ties with Islamist factions throughout the region and hosted many Muslim Brotherhood members — often done so at the expense of healthy relations with other GCC states. If other Arab Gulf countries such as the UAE, which designate the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist” group, and Qatar belong to a union, what will be the future of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and other prominent Islamist figures who live in Doha?
  • Emiratis view themselves as a rival of Saudi Arabia for a dominant role in the region’s financial landscape, Abu Dhabi would not lend its support to a Riyadh-based Gulf central bank. In the UAE, where the authorities are waging a crackdown on Islamists, there has long been a belief that the Muslim Brotherhood operates in the Emirates on behalf of Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the purpose of undermining the UAE’s national sovereignty and independence.
  • Oman’s interest in deepening ties with Iran in commercial, diplomatic, energy and security spheres is a major factor driving Omani opposition to a union
  • Given the Kuwaiti and Qatari royal families’ cordial relationship with their countries’ Shiites who are loyal to the Al Sabah (Kuwait) and Al Thani (Qatar) rulers, threats of an Iranian-inspired Shiite revolution or rebellion have not provoked substantial sectarian tension in Kuwait since the end of the first Gulf war, nor has it ever done so in Qatar at any point following Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s rise to power in 1979. This outlook fundamentally contrasts with Saudi Arabia’s and Bahrain’s outlook, which is based on an understanding of Iran being a predatory state committed to toppling the Al Sauds and Al Khalifas through a violent revolution. Manama and Riyadh’s shared view of the Islamic Republic as an existential threat has closely aligned the two kingdoms and led Bahrain to maintain its strong support for a de facto Saudi-led union.
  • the option of perhaps one day importing Iranian gas may receive greater consideration if they remain relatively independent from Saudi Arabia in the framework of a council (not union) and their economic ills increase their interest in importing more natural gas. Yet a union would erase any realistic Kuwaiti or Emirati plans for signing gas contracts with Iran
  • there are grave concerns in the GCC about the US’ long-term commitment as the council’s security guarantor
Ed Webb

The Ouarzazate Solar Plant in Morocco: Triumphal 'Green' Capitalism and the Privatizati... - 0 views

  • a solar mega-project that is supposedly going to end Morocco's dependency on energy imports, provide electricity to more than a million Moroccans, and put the country on a “green path.”
  • This analysis examines the project through the lens of the creation of a new commodity chain, revealing its effects as no different from the destructive mining activities taking place in southern Morocco.
  • What seems to unite all the reports and articles written about the solar plant is a deeply erroneous assumption that any move toward renewable energy is to be welcomed. And that any shift from fossil fuels, regardless of how it is carried out, will help us to avert climate chaos. One needs to say it clearly from the start: the climate crisis we are currently facing is not attributable to fossil fuels per se, but rather to their unsustainable and destructive use in order to fuel the capitalist machine. In other words, capitalism is the culprit, and if we are serious in our endeavors to tackle the climate crisis (only one facet of the multi-dimensional crisis of capitalism), we cannot elude questions of radically changing our ways of producing and distributing things, our consumption patterns and fundamental issues of equity and justice. It follows from this that a mere shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, while remaining in the capitalist framework of commodifying and privatizing nature for the profits of the few, will not solve the problem. In fact, if we continue down this path we will only end up exacerbating, or creating another set of problems, around issues of ownership of land and natural resources.
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  • the acquisition of 3000 hectares of communally owned land to produce energy
  • "green grabbing"
  • the transfer of ownership, use rights and control over resources that were once publicly or privately owned –or not even the subject of ownership– from the poor (or everyone including the poor) into the hands of the powerful
  • This productivist creation of marginality and degradation has a long history that goes back to French colonial times. It was then that degradation narratives were constructed to justify both outright expropriation of land and the establishment of institutional arrangements based on the premise that extensive pastoralism was unproductive at best, and destructive at worst.
  • The land, sold at a cheap one Moroccan dirham per square meter was clearly worth a lot more. As if things were not bad enough, the duped local population were surprised to find out that the money from the sale was not going to be handed to them, but that it would be deposited into the tribe's account at the Ministry of Interior. Additionally, the money would be used to finance development projects for the whole area. They discovered that their land sale was not a sale at all: it was simply a transfer of funds from one government agency to another.
  • various deceptive laws with colonial origins that have functioned to concentrate collective land ownership within the hands of an individual land representative, who tends to be under the influence of powerful regional nobles
  • meetings masquerading as a "consultation with the people" were only designed to inform the local communities about a fait accompli rather than seeking their approval
  • the discursive framework rendered it "marginal" and open to new "green" market uses: the production of solar power in this case at the expense of an alternative land use - pastoralism - that is deemed unproductive by the decision-makers. This is evident in the land sale that was carried out at a very low price.
  • privatizations in the renewable energy sector are not new as of 2005, when a royal holding company called Nareva was created specifically to monopolize markets in the energy and environment sectors and ended up taking the lion's share in wind energy production in the country
  • he government had effectively privatized and confiscated historical popular sovereignty over land and transformed the people into mere recipients of development; development they are literally paying for, provided it would one day materialize, of course
  • There is no surprise regarding the international financial institutions' (IFIs) strong support for this high-cost and capital-intensive project, as Morocco boasts one of the most neoliberal(ized) economies in the region. It is extremely open to foreign capital at the expense of labor rights, and very advanced in its ambition to be fully integrated into the global marketplace (in a subordinate position, that is).
  • The World Bank’s disbursement levels to Morocco reached record levels in 2011 and 2012, with a major emphasis of these loans placed on promoting the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) within key sectors
  • It seems that production of energy from the sun will not be different and will be controlled by multinationals only interested in making huge profits at the expense of sovereignty and a decent life for Moroccans.
  • The idea that Morocco is taking out billions of dollars in loans to produce energy, some of which will be exported to Europe when the economic viability of the initiative is hardly assured, raises questions about externalizing the risk of Europe's renewable energy strategy to Morocco and other struggling economies around the region. It ignores entirely what has come to be called "climate debt" or "ecological debt" that is owed by the industrialised North to countries of the Global South, given the historical responsibility of the West in causing climate change
  • The biggest issue with this technology is the extensive use of water that comes with the wet cooling stage. Unlike photovoltaic (PV) technology, CSP needs cooling. This is done either by air cooled condensers (dry cooling) or high water-consumption (wet cooling). Phase I of the project will be using the wet cooling option and is estimated to consume from two to three million cubed meters of water annually (Kouz 2011). Water consumption will be much less in the case of a dry cooling (planned for phase II): between 0.73 and 0.88 million cubed meters. PV technologies require water only for cleaning solar panels. They consume about 200 times less water than CSP technology with wet cooling and forty times less water than CSP with dry cooling.
  • Even if the solar plant is only using one percent of the average dam capacity, the water consumption is still significant and can become a thorny problem at times of extreme drought when the dam contains only fifty-four million cubed meter. At such times, the dam waters will not be sufficient to cover the needs of irrigation and drinking water,  making the water usage for the solar plant deeply problematic and contentious.
  • in an arid region like Ouarzazate, this appropriation of water for a supposedly green agenda constitutes another green grab, which will play into and intensify ongoing agrarian dynamics and livelihood struggles in the region.
  • If the Moroccan state was really serious about its green credentials, why is it then building a coal-fired power plant at the same time, which represents an ecocide in-waiting for the already-polluted town of Safi? Why is it also ignoring the devastating environmental and social effects of the mining industry in the country? One notable example is the long-standing community struggle in Imider (140 kilometres east of Ouarzazate) against the royal holding silver mine (Africa's most productive silver mine), which is polluting their environment, grabbing their water, and pillaging their wealth.
Michael Fisher

US encourages resolution of Western Sahara dispute - 4 views

  • Clinton reiterated the U.S. commitment to facilitating an Israeli-Palestinian peace, and also singled out the Western Sahara dispute, reaffirming longstanding U.S. policy that supports autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty as the only realistic solution to end the 34-year-old conflict.
  • Clinton was sharply criticized for restating what has been U.S. policy for three successive administrations.
  • The Algerian-backed rebel group Polisario Front accused Clinton of misstating U.S. policy on the Sahara and over-praising Morocco for its unarguably impressive record of political reforms, social progress and economic growth over the last decade.
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  • Current U.S. policy on Western Sahara is that “autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty is the only feasible solution to the Western Sahara dispute” and should be negotiated “within the U.N.-led framework.”
  • The U.S. adopted the policy as the only realistic solution to ending the decades-long stalemate over Western Sahara, which continues to be a roadblock to regional cooperation to grow economies in North Africa, address security concerns including terrorism and trafficking, and create a pillar of stability in an unstable part of the world.
  • Failure to resolve the conflict also perpetuates the suffering of tens of thousands of refugees trapped for more than three decades in desert camps in Algeria, held hostage by Polisario leaders and a failed ideology willing to sacrifice a people’s future to score political points.
Julianne Greco

The Daily Star - Politics - Resistance slams UN report urging party to disarm - 0 views

  • BEIRUT: Hizbullah’s Loyalty to Resistance bloc slammed on Wednesday a UN report urging  the party to disarm as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy on the Implementation of UN Resolution 1559 Terje-Roed Larsen accused Hizbullah of conducting foreign hostile activities. 
  • “Disbanding militias in Lebanon especially Hizbullah is of vital importance to the country’s democracy and sovereignty,” Larsen said. 
  • In response, Hizbullah said the report was “insolently biased” and aimed to cover up for “the true side responsible for the region’s instability,” – a reference to Israel. 
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  • The UN report, the latest on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, also said Israel continued to violate Lebanon’s sovereignty and relevant Security Council resolutions through its breaches to Lebanese air space as well as its occupation of the northern part of the town of Ghajar. 
Ed Webb

Bolton wants to give 'pieces' of Palestine to Jordan and Egypt - 0 views

  • Bolton is surely realistic in stating the end of the two-state solution. Though his solution to the Israel Palestine conflict is not. It is for pieces of the West Bank to be deeded to Jordan and Gaza to be deeded to Egypt, on the theory that Palestine is “bits and pieces” of the former Ottoman Empire. Neither Egypt or Jordan has accepted such a proposal; and of course Palestinians have said such an outcome is out of the question.
  • Once it becomes clear the two-state solution is finally dead, Jordan should again be asked to exercise control over suitably delineated portions of the West Bank and have the monarchy’s religious role for holy sites like the Temple Mount reaffirmed. Accepting Jordan’s sovereignty would actually benefit Palestinians, as would Egyptian sovereignty over Gaza, by tying these areas into viable, functioning states, not to the illusion of “Palestine.”
  • “Just as a matter of empirical reality, the two-state solution is dead,” Bolton told far-right Breitbart News Radio at the time. “That’s about the only thing John Kerry came close to getting right.”
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  • Bolton’s record of Islamophobia is also undeniable. He is head of an “Institute” that just yesterday said that Great Britain has become an “Islamist colony” because of its alleged failures to take on Sharia law, and has said that American neighborhoods with Muslim majorities in major cities are closed to non-Muslims.
  • Bolton has long been associated with anti-Muslim extremists Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller
Ed Webb

Exclusive: Israel pushing Trump to back Morocco over Western Sahara - Axios - 0 views

  • Israel and the U.S. have been discussing a deal that would see the U.S. recognize Moroccan sovereignty in the occupied Western Sahara and Morocco take steps to normalize relations with Israel, according to Israeli and U.S. sources.
  • Contacts between Netanyahu and the Moroccans started getting more serious after a secret meeting with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2018
  • Netanyahu tried to push the deal ahead of Israel's April 2019 election, but it was shelved when details of Ben-Shabbat's visit to Morocco leaked to the Arab press.He tried again before the September 2019 election, but then-national security adviser John Bolton, a fierce opponent of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, killed the idea. The issue came up again in November, before Secretary of State Pompeo’s visit to Morocco. Nothing came of it while Pompeo was in Rabat.
Ed Webb

Sovereignty for cash? The Saudi-Maldives island deal making waves | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • It’s one of the world’s top tourist destinations, with more than a million scantily clad foreigners enjoying its glistening white beaches and crystal clear waters each year.Later this month, the Indian Ocean state of the Maldives – particularly popular with honeymooners – is scheduled to play host to a very different kind of visitor when King Salman bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia arrives for official talks and a holiday. Top of the agenda in talks with the government in Male, the Maldives small, cramped capital, is likely to be a $10bn Saudi investment project, believed to include the Saudi purchase or long-term lease of a string of 19 of the island state’s coral atolls.
  • “international sea sports, mixed development, residential high-class development, many tourist resorts, many airports and other industries"
  • “The plans would allow a foreign power control of one of the country’s 26 atolls. It amounts to creeping colonialism.”
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  • There are also fears that the development, with its large-scale building work and dredging activities, will threaten irreparable damage to what is one of the world’s most pristine but vulnerable ecological regions.
  • with climate change and rising sea levels, there is a very real possibility that the majority of the island nation’s land area will be underwater by the end of the century
  • Abdulla Yameen, the current president – who has strongly denied allegations about government corruption made recently by the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network - has stressed the need for economic growth and sees the giant Saudi investment as key to future prosperity.“We do not need cabinet meetings under water,” says the government. “We need development.”
  • The opposition says part of the rational behind the multi-billion dollar Saudi development could be a plan by Riyadh to establish a staging post and special economic zone, complete with port facilities, for oil and gas exports to Asia, particularly to China.
  • Islam in the Maldives has traditionally blended elements of Sufism and other religions; in recent years, a stricter form of Saudi-style "Wahhabism" has predominated. There are concerns that a number of people from the Maldives are believed to have joined the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq.
  • The Saudis have pledged to build what they describe as 10 "world class" mosques in the archipelago and have donated $100,000 for scholarships to study in Saudi Arabia. 
  • In early 2016, the government in Male cut diplomat ties with Iran
  • The growing ties between Riyadh and Male have been causing some concern in the region, particularly in India.Last year the Binladin Group, the troubled Saudi construction conglomerate, was awarded – for an undisclosed sum – a contract to build a new international airport in the Maldives. A previous agreement with an Indian company to build the airport was terminated; it is likely the Maldives will have to pay millions of dollars in compensation. 
  • Analysts say the Asia trip is about extending Saudi influence and diversifying the Kingdom’s economy away from oil and gas and investing in the region.
Ed Webb

Coexistence, Sectarianism and Racism - An Interview with Ussama Makdisi - MERIP - 0 views

  • What is the ecumenical frame and how does it revise Orientalist understandings of sectarianism?
  • My book seeks to offer a critical and empathetic story of coexistence without defensiveness—that is, to write a history that neither glorifies the Arab past nor denigrates the present and that explores the grim significance of sectarian tensions in the modern Middle East without being seduced by their sensationalism
  • I wanted to understand how they sought to imagine and build a world greater than the sum of their religious or ethnic parts—commitments that remain evident, if one is prepared to recognize them, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and beyond. I call this modern iteration of coexistence the “ecumenical frame” to underscore the modern active attempt on the part of individuals and communities in the region to both recognize the salience of religious pluralism and yet also to try and transcend sectarian difference into a secular, unifying political community
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  • a project of modern coexistence that not only had to be imagined and designed, but also built
  • to trace how an extraordinary idea of Muslim and Christian and Jewish civic and political community rooted in secular equality went from unimaginability to ubiquity in the course of a single century, and nowhere more so than in the Arab East after 1860
  • subject to conflicting interpretations that valorized “real” religion and demonized sectarianism, often in contradictory and conservative modes, but also in more liberal and even radical ways
  • The Orientalist view of sectarianism frequently analogizes sect as “like race” and, furthermore, it assumes that sectarian differences are inherent cultural and political differences similar to race. What do you think is the relationship of sect to race?  How should race figure in the story of coexistence you relate?
  • the Orientalists idealize the West in order to Orientalize the East. Second, as you suggest, this view transforms religious pluralism in the Middle East into a structure of age-old monolithic antagonistic communities so that one can speak of medieval and modern Maronites, Jews, Muslims and so on as if these have been unchanging communities and as if all ideological diversity in the Middle East ultimately is reducible to religion and religious community
  • The religious sect is conflated with the political sect; the secular is understood to be a thin veneer that conceals the allegedly “real” and unchanging religious essence of the Middle East. This view is dangerous, misleading and tendentious.
  • both race and sect urgently need to be historicized and contextualized—race belongs to US (and Western) political vocabulary; sect to Arab political vocabulary. Both the notion of age-old sects and that of immutable races are ideological fictions that have been manipulated to serve power
  • US scholars Barbara J. Fields and Karen E. Fields have suggested we think of “racecraft” rather than “race relations” to underscore the ideological fundament of racist thinking that appears totally natural to its proponents. As I allude to in my book, so too might we think of “sectcraft” rather than sectarian or communal relations, both to underscore the ideological aspect of sectarianism and to emphasize the amount of work that goes into making sectarianism appear to be inherent, inevitable and unchangeable
  • Tribalism, communalism and sectarianism all refer to parallel formations in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East respectively that assume an unchanging essence that separates members of a single sovereignty or putative sovereignty. They are all static ideological interpretations of pluralism, and have all, to a greater or lesser degree, been massively influenced and even in many ways formally classified and invented by Western colonial powers
  • many scholars gravitate toward using categories and experiences that emerge in the US context and apply them, sometimes indiscriminately and often very problematically, to other parts of the world. I think it is important at some level to respect the fact that in the modern Middle East, progressive scholars and laypeople, men and women belonging to different religious communities, have throughout the twentieth century typically described and conceptualized their struggles against injustice and tyranny as struggles against sectarianism and colonialism, but not necessarily as a struggle against racism.
  • the national polities of the post-Ottoman period in the Arab East were established by European colonial powers. These European powers massively distorted the ecumenical trajectory evident in the late Ottoman Arab East. First, they broke up the region into dependent and weak states, and second, they divided the region along explicitly sectarian lines
  • the colonial dimension is crucial, and it clearly separates the US and the European period of nationalization from that of the colonized Middle East
  • why the investment in and privileging of certain epistemic categories of domination as opposed to others? The question of migrant labor illustrates how race and class and geography and history are intertwined in very specific ways—the Middle Eastern cases (whether the Gulf or in Lebanon) are indeed different from that of the history of migrant labor in the United States, which has always been implicated in settler colonialism.
  • One key difference, of course, between modern Western colonialism and early modern Islamic empires is that the latter, like their early modern Christian counterparts, did not pretend to uphold liberal representation, political equality or self-determination. So, temporality is one essential difference: ethnic, racist or sectarian discrimination in the Islamic empires was not justified or imagined as a benevolent burden to uplift others into an ostensibly equal level of civilization. There was no pretense of a colonial tutelage to help natives achieve independence in the fullness of time
  • In the Ottoman Islamic empire, there were indeed professions of Islamic superiority, notions of ethnic, tribal and religious discrimination, forms of bondage and slavery, and myriad chauvinisms and prejudices tied to kinship, geography, language, culture and ethnicity and so on, but not a notion of biological racism or the obsession with racial segregation and miscegenation that has been the hallmark of modern Western colonialism
  • a new and distinctive defensiveness among leading Muslim Arab intellectuals—that is, their need to defend Islam and Islamic society from missionary and colonial assault whilst also embracing or reconciling themselves to compatriotship with Arab Christians and Jews. This defensiveness persists
  • the great problem of scholars and governments in the West who have long instrumentalized and Orientalized discrimination against non-Muslims to suggest that there is some peculiar problem with Islam and Muslims
  • I think that scholars of gender and women’s history have a lot to teach us in this regard: that is Arab, Turkish, Iranian and other scholars who have explored the long history of gender discrimination—who have defied the fundamentalists—without succumbing to racist Orientalism or self-loathing
  • really historicize! It really is an effective antidote in the face of those who peddle in chauvinism, racism, sectarianism, tribalism and communalism
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

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

Iran says US strikes are a 'strategic mistake' - 1 views

  • Iran's foreign ministry said the strikes on Iraq and Syria "will have no result other than intensifying tensions and instability in the region".Earlier, Iraq said the US retaliatory strikes would bring "disastrous consequences" for the region.At least 16 people, including civilians, were killed as a result of the strikes, Iraqi officials said.A spokesman for Iraq's prime minister said the strikes were a "violation" of his country's sovereignty and that they would impact "the security and stability of Iraq and the region". While Syria said the US "occupation" of Syrian territory "cannot continue".
  • There have been no strikes on Iranian soil.
  • Iran has denied any role in the attack on the US base, saying it was "not involved in the decision making of resistance groups".A spokesperson for Iran's foreign ministry said US strikes on Iraq, Syria and Yemen "merely provide for the goals of the Zionist regime", referring to US ally Israel.
  • ...1 more annotation...
  • Russia has called for an "urgent" meeting of the UN Security Council "over the threat to peace and safety created by US strikes on Syria and Iraq"
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    I thought this article had two very important themes. It is odd how Iraq is ok with Iran violating its sovereignty by fomenting terrorism within Iraq. Iraq, however, is not ok with the U.S. retaliating against these strikes. It was also ironic that Russia called an emergency meeting to discuss the U.S. threat in the region. Russia is likely trying to further assert its power in the region, as well as support Syrian allies. It is also possible that Russia could be moving to push its influence in the UN to distract from failures in Ukraine.
Ed Webb

Tunisian Government Reacts to US Ambassador's Comments Regarding Persepolis Trial : Tun... - 0 views

  • The Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs response stated that the ambassador’s declarations represent an “interference in the internal affairs of the Tunisian judiciary,” and asserted that the Tunisian government conforms to international norms and respects the independence of the judiciary in forming its own conclusion.   The Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also reiterated its commitment to strengthening relations with the United States, but also stressed that bilateral relations should be built on mutual understanding and respect of the sovereignty of the two countries.
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