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Contents contributed and discussions participated by Ed Webb

Ed Webb

It's Time to Put Climate Change at the Center of U.S. Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • If the Iran nuclear deal boosted carbon emissions because the easing of sanctions brought an additional 2 million barrels per day of Iranian oil onto the market, that was a price well worth paying to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon
    • Ed Webb
       
      Do you concur with this calculation?
  • climate change obviously needs to be at the center of U.S. energy diplomacy. For example, dialogue with OPEC nations or cooperation on strategic oil stocks to address global supply shocks should include discussion of how to prepare for an uncertain and potentially volatile period of transition away from oil
  • Expanding energy access for the 840 million people who lack access to electricity, the majority of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa, is critical for global health and development, yet support for efforts to achieve this goal must avoid following the carbon-intensive paths of other emerging economies such as India
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  • issues such as securing electricity grids around the world against cyberattacks, since a decarbonized world will depend even more on electrical power as many additional sectors—such as buildings, cars, and trucks—are electrified
  • access to rare earths and other critical minerals such as lithium and cobalt will be even more important as raw materials for batteries, solar panels, and other renewable energy technologies.
  • defense leaders should work with their counterparts in other governments and within international institutions, such in the United Nations Security Council and NATO, to integrate climate change into their security agendas. Defense planning must increasingly consider the impacts of climate change, such as the threats of extreme weather to military installations, the stresses increased disaster assistance may pose to military readiness, and the risks food or water scarcity may pose to security in fragile states
  • From the standpoint of foreign policy, stronger domestic action can also lay the groundwork for cooperation instead of conflict with the European Union, which is planning to impose carbon border tariffs on imports from countries taking inadequate climate actions.
  • foreign policy must go beyond climate and energy diplomacy to make mainstream the consideration of climate change in all foreign-policy decisions. It may not always prevail when weighed against all other national security goals, but it is too important to be ignored.
Ed Webb

Homeland Security Is Quietly Tying Antifa to Foreign Powers | The Nation - 0 views

  • intelligence officials are targeting activists it considers “antifa” and attempting to tie them to a foreign power, according to a DHS intelligence report obtained exclusively by The Nation.
  • The intelligence report, titled “The Syrian Conflict and its Nexus to the U.S.-based Antifascist Movement,” mentions several Americans, including a left-wing podcast host who traveled to Syria to fight ISIS. The report includes a readout of these individuals’ personal information, including their social security numbers, home addresses, and social media accounts, much of the data generated by DHS’s Tactical Terrorism Response Teams. As the intelligence report states, “ANTIFA is being analyzed under the 2019 DHS Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism (CT) and Targeted Violence.”
  • “They targeted Americans like they’re Al-Qaeda” a former senior DHS intelligence officer with knowledge of the operations told The Nation. The officer, who served for years in DHS’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A), compared the operations to the illegal surveillance of activists during the civil rights era. “They essentially were violating people’s rights like this was the 60’s…the type of shit the Church and Pike committee[s] had to address.”
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  • “Designating someone as foreign-sponsored can make a huge legal and practical difference in the government’s ability to pursue them,” explained Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists
  • Once someone (or some group) is identified as an agent of a foreign power, they are subject to warrantless search and surveillance in a way that would be illegal and unconstitutional for any other US person
  • Last week, DHS reassigned its intelligence chief after The Washington Post revealed that the agency had been compiling intelligence reports on American journalists and activists in Portland.
  • The intelligence report describes over half a dozen people who traveled to Syria in order to fight alongside Kurdish factions—usually the YPG, but also other Kurdish groups like the PKK and the Peshmerga. Some of the individuals described have denied membership in antifa, but variously identified with far-left causes. DHS appears to define antifa broadly, containing within it various left-wing tendencies: “antifa is driven by a mixed range of far-left political ideologies, including anti-capitalism, communism, socialism, and anarchism.”
  • “I am not now nor have I ever been a member of any antifa organization,” he told The Nation. “The US government has been spying on and smearing communists for 100 years but they usually have the decency not to call a Red an anarchist!”
  • “There appears to be a clear connection…between ANTIFA ideology and Kurdish democratic federalism teachings and ideology,” the intelligence report states.
  • On May 31, Trump vowed to designate antifa a “terrorist organization.” While antifa groups have engaged in acts of property destruction, antifa has not been linked to a single murder in the United States, according to data compiled in the past 25 years by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. By contrast, the same data found that far-right extremist groups had killed 329 people.
Ed Webb

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

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

Does Erdogan think Sisi is bluffing in Libya? - 0 views

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in July described conditions in Libya as "gloomy," adding that "time is not on our side." He expressed concern about foreign interference in the war, the 400,000 Libyans displaced by the conflict, and the spike in COVID-19 cases.
  • The World Bank had designated Libya at risk of endemic poverty as a fragile state experiencing high intensity conflict, and that was before the pandemic.
  • Egypt backs Khalifa Hifter, a military strongman whose forces have been rapidly losing ground to the Libyan Government of National Accord thanks to Turkey’s military intervention on the government side.
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  • Libya has become one of the Middle East’s regional fault lines, with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on one side, and Turkey and Qatar on the other
  • Russia and France also back Hifter, and Erdogan has been at odds with NATO ally French President Emmanuel Macron over differences over Libya
  • The United Nations recognizes the Government of National Accord, so Erdogan believes he has international legitimacy on his side.
  • If this all seems very 1914, even worse are the random acts that can escalate things.
  • On July 20, Sisi said a parliamentary resolution that day approving combat missions outside the country’s border had provided Egypt’s intervention in Libya “international legitimacy” if it decides to deploy
  • Sisi declared any move by the government to take Sirte, the hometown of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi and gateway to the fields, as a red line for Egypt. Sisi also has called for further arming of Libyan tribes in the region to hold off the Turkish-backed government offensive
  • Erdogan is loath to grant a seat at the table to Hifter, and may not take Sisi’s warning about the use of force seriously, Metin Gurcan writes.  “Sisi may be eager for an intervention, hoping to boost his popularity in the Arab world and sustain the UAE’s financial backing, but Ankara doubts the Egyptian military shares his eagerness,” writes Gurcan. “According to Turkish assessments, Egypt’s military would be reluctant to engage in a cross-border campaign with ambiguous military goals and risk losses that might damage its credibility and fuel internal rifts.”
  • The Turkish assessment is that Algeria and Tunisia would see Egyptian intervention as an unwanted escalation, as Simon Speakman Cordall explains, and that the United States and Russia, both close allies of Egypt, would advise against it.
  • “All those who have faith in Erdogan's Libyan policy, which is now contained by Russia, can count on the inconsistency of Turkey's president. There is nothing permanent for Erdogan. Hence, although a war with Egypt that could have erupted due to his miscalculation is averted for the time being, one can never know what the near future might bring.”
  • Erdogan’s personal relationships with both Putin and Trump have “strengthened Ankara’s hand” and “averted serious crises, which could even have escalated into direct military confrontations between Turkish and US/Russian forces, most notably in Syria” adding, “Ankara has also not held back from using its ties with Moscow and Washington against these powers, depending on the occasion.”
  • The Libyan conflict is, regrettably, on a path of "Syrianization," as Fehim Tastekin called it, the result of the jihadis shipped there by Turkey to fight on behalf of the Libyan government against Hifter.
  • as in Syria, Putin is working all angles, not only with Erdogan and Sisi, but also with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (known as MBZ) and others
Ed Webb

How has Russia forced Turkey to compromise on Libya? - 1 views

  • on July 22, Moscow extracted a Turkish pledge for "creating conditions for a lasting and sustainable ceasefire” in Libya, the joint statement announced after a series of ministerial-level meetings between Ankara and Moscow. The “high-level consultations” were initiated during Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s visit to Istanbul on Jan. 9 to “de-escalate the situation on the ground and pave the way for a political process in Libya." Turkey and Russia disclosed that they agreed on four points, of which the following two are the most important: "Continue joint efforts, including encouraging the Libyan parties, with a view to creating conditions for a lasting and sustainable cease-fire,” and “facilitate the advancement of the intra-Libyan political dialogue in line with the conclusions of the Berlin Conference” that was held in September 2019 with the participation of major powers.
  • Turkey committed itself, upon Russian demand, to refrain from going to war for Sirte and al-Jufra
  • a Turkish-Egyptian war looks to have been averted
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  • Russia hasn't only legitimized Egypt's involvement in the Libyan game but also succeeded in having Turkey on board the diplomatic track.
  • The risk of war in Libya involving Turkey has not been permanently prevented
Ed Webb

Arabs Across Syria Join the Kurdish-Led Syrian Democratic Forces - MERIP - 1 views

  • Led by Kurds, the YPG evolved over time into the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF): a multi-ethnic, multi-religious force in which all the indigenous peoples of the region are represented. Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, Yezidis, Circassians and Turkmen have fought alongside Kurds to defend their homeland. By 2019, when the SDF had liberated all of Syrian territory from ISIS control, there were some 100,000 fighters (including SDF and Internal Security Forces) under the leadership of SDF commander-in-chief Mazlum Abdi, a Syrian Kurd and former Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) cadre.[2] The majority of his rank-and-file fighters, however, were Arabs.
  • My field survey of over 300 SDF members reveals that there are three main reasons for the SDF’s success in recruiting and retaining Arabs: First, the SDF offered material incentives such as salaries and training opportunities.[3] Second, the existence of a common threat—first ISIS and now Turkey—solidified bonds between Kurds and Arabs and also prompted many to enlist. Third, the survey shows that many Arab members of the SDF support at least some, if not all, of the basic political principles upon which the SDF and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) are based.
  • In September 2014, a joint operations room was established between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the YPG, known as Burkan al-Firat (Euphrates Volcano).[4] The ISIS siege of Kobane and ensuing US military support cemented the alliance between the YPG and a number of Arab units within the FSA, which led to the emergence of the SDF in October 2015.
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  • the SDF became the main partner force for the United States on the ground in Syria. In order to defeat ISIS, it was necessary to further expand the geographical reach of the SDF to Arab-majority cities such as Manbij, Raqqa, Tabqa and Deir Ezzor. In the course of this expansion, some Arab women were recruited as well. In July 2017, the YPJ (the women’s branch of the YPG) announced the creation of the first battalion of Arab women, the “Brigade of the Martyr Amara.”[5]
  • the expansion of the SDF and self-administration across north and east Syria was not always welcomed by Arab communities. The increase in Arab rank-and-file fighters has not yet been accompanied by an equally significant increase of Arabs in leadership positions, although Arabs have been promoted within both the military and civilian structures of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. The secular and gender-egalitarian ideology is not embraced by some more conservative members of society
  • In an attempt to undo tribal hierarchies, administration officials are encouraging people to use the term al-raey, which means shepherd
  • during my visits to ramshackle YPJ outposts in Manbij, Raqqa, Al-Sheddadi, Tabqa, Ain Issa, Al-Hasakah and elsewhere, I met many Arab women. They had all enlisted in the YPJ voluntarily, as there is no conscription for women. Many of them were eager to tell their stories
  • name of the governing entity was changed to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and the Kurdish term Rojava was dropped in December 2016.[10] Although this decision angered some Kurdish nationalists, it was justified by the expansion of the territory beyond Kurdish-majority areas. The official logo recognizes the linguistic diversity of the region, and is in four languages: Arabic, Kurdish, Syriac-Aramaic and Turkish. Furthermore, in 2018 the de-facto capital or administrative center of the region was moved from Qamishli to Ain Issa, an Arab town
  • By 2019, the SDF was in de-facto control of approximately one-third of Syria. The territory they defend from incursions by ISIS, the Turkish government and Syrian government forces is an ethnically and religiously diverse region. These six regions—Jazira, Deir Ezzor, Raqqa, Tabqa, Manbij and Euphrates—are governed by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, which operates semi-independently of Damascus. The Arabs who inhabit these six regions are not a homogenous group. While some Arabs have protested the policies of the Autonomous Administration, others openly endorse the new political project.
  • Inspired by an eclectic assortment of scholars, ranging from Murray Bookchin to Immanuel Wallerstein, the ideology that emerged is referred to as Democratic Confederalism. The nation-state is no longer a prize to be obtained but is now seen as part of the problem that led to the subjugation of Kurds in the first place, along with that of women and other minorities, and therefore to be avoided.
  • The emergence of Arab Apocis may be one of the many unexpected twists of the Syrian conflict, signifying the appeal of the Rojava revolution beyond Rojava.
  • A co-chair system was established where all leadership positions—from the most powerful institutions down to neighborhood communes—are held jointly by a man and a woman
  • here I focus on Arabs since they now constitute the majority of rank-and-file fighters and yet are frequently omitted from analyses of the SDF. Scholars, journalists, think tank analysts and government officials still incorrectly refer to the SDF as a Kurdish force.
  • joining the SDF entailed risks, especially for women. Anyone who joined the SDF from a city that was under the control of ISIS, or who joined from territory never controlled by the SDF, did so at great personal risk
  • The Syrian Democratic Forces is the only armed group in Syria that has a policy of not discriminating on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or gender, which has allowed the SDF to develop into a truly multi-ethnic and multi-religious force. This radical egalitarianism clearly appealed to non-Arab minorities who suffered under decades of pan-Arabism promoted by the Baathist regime of the Asad family. Kurds from the far corners of Kurdistan were galvanized by the promise of the Rojava revolution. What is less well appreciated is that Arabs have also embraced these ideals and practices.
  • a large number of Arab respondents rejected the Turkish occupation of Syria and demanded that the land be returned to Syria. Contrary to analysts who portray the conflict as one solely between Turkey and the Kurds, my survey shows that Arab SDF members also view the Turkish incursions and expanding Turkish presence as an illegitimate foreign occupation of Syrian land
  • The SDF faces ongoing threats from the Asad regime, Turkey and ISIS cells. The Turkish intervention in October 2019, however, did not lead to a disintegration of the SDF, or even to any serious defections, as some had predicted.[14]
Ed Webb

Why Do People Flee During War? The Answer Is More Complicated Than You Think. - 0 views

  • When armed forces uproot people, the act tends to be characterized by journalists, politicians, and policymakers as ethnic cleansing. This suggests that the primary purpose is to expel or eliminate the targeted population. Strategic displacement takes different forms and can serve multiple purposes, from interdicting enemy supply lines to facilitating territorial annexation. What my research suggests, however, is that combatants, particularly state forces, often displace civilians to sort the targeted population—not to get rid of it.
  • This strategy mimics the use of strategic hamlets, regroupment centers, and so-called protected villages during civil wars in Burundi, Indonesia, the Philippines, Peru, Rwanda, Uganda, and Vietnam, where government forces ordered people living in conflict areas to relocate to particular locations. In addition to denying rebels access to the population, these methods were used to help counterinsurgents distinguish friend from foe while fighting shadowy guerrillas who hid among civilians. Areas outside relocation sites were transformed into free-fire zones where those remaining were assumed to be rebel fighters or supporters. The sites themselves served as instruments of identification. Occupants were screened and catalogued—making the population more “legible” to the state—and their movements were used as continuous indicators of their political loyalties.
  • “The good people were in the camps” and so “anyone found out of the camp was seen as a rebel or collaborator automatically.”
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  • A similar dynamic can be seen in Syria. Throughout the conflict, the government of Bashar al-Assad and its allies have engaged in a ferocious campaign to expel civilians from cities and towns controlled by Syrian rebels. These displacement tactics have undermined rebels’ ability to govern and deprived them of civilian support. But they have also been used to weed out those considered disloyal to the Assad regime. The government has sought to lure the displaced to its territories and employed civil registration, property claims, and other administrative procedures to screen returning refugees and IDPs. As part of evacuation and reconciliation agreements in areas retaken from opposition groups, the Assad regime has given residents a choice of moving to government areas or to other rebel-held parts of Syria. Electing the latter is seen as signaling allegiance to the opposition. Many of those who moved are now being relentlessly targeted by regime forces in Idlib province, the only remaining opposition stronghold. When I spoke to a defector from the Syrian army, he conveyed the logic through a chilling metaphor: “Think of a dumpster where you gather garbage to finally burn it.”
  • Viewing displacement as a sorting mechanism is essential to understanding the drivers and consequences of wartime migrations, and for improving efforts to manage them. The United Nations and international NGOs typically set up and manage displacement camps; provide food, shelter, health care, education, and other services; advocate on behalf of the displaced; and help governments adopt domestic policies on displacement-related issues. While this assistance has done much good, it has also raised the specter of moral hazard. It is one thing for the international community to assist those who flee to another country in order to ease the strain on refugee-hosting governments. It is quite another for it to shoulder the burden of displacement within a country on behalf of a government or nonstate actor that is directly responsible for the displacement in the first place. In Syria, for instance, the Assad regime has steered massive amounts of humanitarian assistance to areas it controls, which has helped the government lure IDPs and address some of their needs.
  • If humanitarian agencies show they are willing to offset the costs of uprooting civilians, they could perversely incentivize armed groups to engage in these practices. This is not hypothetical. There are multiple instances where international aid, while providing crucial life-saving assistance to people in conflict zones, has also enabled combatants to implement, sustain, or expand policies of forced displacement.
  • The widespread use of sorting displaced people demonstrates that fleeing in wartime can be perceived as a political act. But the presumption of guilt by location is often embraced by combatants and civilians alike, and not just in cases where displacement is used as a weapon of war. As Stephanie Schwartz argued in a previous article in Foreign Policy, post-conflict societies commonly experience hostility between people who fled during a conflict and those who stayed.
  • Conflict resolution and reconciliation efforts need to treat displacement and return as a political phenomenon, not just a humanitarian one
  • if combatants purposely compelled people to flee during the conflict, then victims will need greater security assurances to return, along with accountability mechanisms that recognize these violations and provide restitution and justice. Rarely are state or nonstate actors held responsible for displacement.
  • an international refugee system that is increasingly seen as feckless and disconnected from the realities of modern migration. That’s because in civil wars, civilians are valuable assets for armed groups. If people are given the ability to escape conflict-affected countries, then they are not compelled to “pick a side” through their movements. Armed groups are deprived of vulnerable recruits and propaganda pawns. Leaving the country may still be perceived as treachery, but at least crossing the border puts civilians beyond the reach of all warring parties and makes them eligible for international protection. Limiting the possibility of exit only stands to embolden combatants while forcing people to decide between bad options.
  • strategic value in enacting more generous asylum policies as a tool of conflict management
  • hostility toward immigrants and surges of nationalist sentiment have been accompanied by political leaders recognizing the advantages of welcoming refugees from other countries. A prominent example is the Cold War. For the United States, accepting emigres from the Soviet Union and allied countries was a foreign-policy priority meant to signal the discontents of communist rule and the relative merits of American values and institutions. Today, the refugee system is in desperate need of reform, which could gain some momentum if more emphasis is placed on articulating and promoting the strategic benefits of asylum and refugee resettlement.
Ed Webb

Experts blame Israel for the recent explosions. Why won't Iran? - Bulletin of the Atomi... - 0 views

  • Since late June, there have been dozens of fires and explosions at or near nuclear, military, and industrial facilities in Iran. Experts see the clear possibility of Israeli sabotage in many of these incidents and describe an attempt to disrupt Iran’s re-emerging nuclear program, but Iranian officials have refrained from pointing the finger. Is it plausible for Israel to be behind these serial explosions? And, if it is, why are the Iranians not responding? To answer these questions with any degree of accuracy, an examination of the timing and the locations of these explosions is crucial.
  • Although the explanations by Iranian officials did not quite add up, the possibility of an accident cannot be ruled out.
  • In all of these incidents, Iranian officials have tried to downplay the impact and reject possible Israeli involvement.
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  • why would Iranians downplay the extent of the events and deny Israeli involvement? There are a few plausible explanations. First is to avoid embarrassment. The explicit admission of sabotage, coupled with Iran’s inability to stop it, would make the regime and its security institutions look completely powerless, incompetent, and fragile in the eyes of the Iranian people.Second is to avoid falling into a trap. Iranians believe that these explosions represent a paradigm shift in how the US-Israeli political and security establishments deal with Iran. According to the Iranians, the United States and Israel are working very hard to provoke Iran into retaliation, either in terms of a kinetic attack or in terms of ramping up its nuclear program. The latter outcome would give them more grounds to declare Iran noncompliant with IAEA safeguards and eventually return international sanctions via the UN Security Council. Because retaliation would risk uncontrolled escalation and could result in a full-scale war with Israel and the United States—an outcome Iran wants to avoid—officials may be taking ample precaution.
  • The bottom line, given the silence of Iranians, is that it is highly likely that there will be more incidents at sensitive military and nuclear sites, and Iran seems to be unable to do anything to stop them.
Ed Webb

Trump Administration Is Bypassing Arms Control Pact to Sell Large Armed Drones - The Ne... - 0 views

  • The Trump administration announced on Friday that it would allow the sale of advanced armed drones to other nations and bypass part of an international weapons export control agreement that the United States helped forge more than three decades ago.
  • Missile Technology Control Regime
  • circumventing one part of the pact could undermine the agreement in general and encourage other nations to selectively ignore or reinterpret clauses that they find inconvenient
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  • United States has relied on the agreement to help constrain global exports of missile technology to nations it views as security threats because of their nuclear programs, notably North Korea and Iran
  • Several Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are eager to buy drones capable of carrying large payloads. Both those countries have waged a devastating air war in Yemen that has led to thousands of civilian deaths.
  • “This reckless decision once again makes it more likely that we will export some of our most deadly weaponry to human rights abusers across the world,” he said. “This is yet another reckless move by an administration fixated with eliminating the international cooperation that has made the United States and other countries safer for decades.”
  • A Chinese company, Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, has developed a drone, the Wing Loong II, that has the same abilities as the MQ-9 Reaper, made by General Atomics, based in San Diego.This year, General Atomics stepped up its lobbying efforts to persuade the government to allow sales of the Reaper, whose export is effectively banned by the requirement of a “strong presumption of denial” in the pact, a congressional aide said.
  • Trump administration, though, has shown disdain for the concept of international agreements and has withdrawn from several major ones
  • In May 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo bypassed a congressional freeze on sales of $8.1 billion of arms to the two countries with an emergency declaration that whose legality is in question.
  • Arms exports, particularly to Gulf Arab nations, have led to some of the biggest clashes between the Trump administration and Congress
  • Officials in the State Department and Pentagon who work on nonproliferation issues have pushed back internally on efforts by other officials to bypass the ban in the agreement, which covers drones capable of carrying at least 500 kilograms, or over 1,100 pounds, of weapons over 300 kilometers, about 186 miles. Those officials and some lawmakers argue that other countries or companies can copy the technology once they are in possession of the drones and start making their own.
  • Besides countries in the Middle East, ones in East Asia and Central and Eastern Europe are likely to ask to buy the drones. Reuters reported last month that the United States was considering bypassing the agreement to sell larger drones.
  • Missile Technology Control Regime was established in 1987 by the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Britain to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The pact, which now includes 35 member nations, restricts the exports of missiles and their components. It has been credited with slowing down missile development programs in countries like Egypt and Iraq.
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

Covid-19 kills scores of health workers in war-torn Yemen | Yemen | The Guardian - 0 views

  • At least 97 Yemeni healthcare workers have died from Covid-19 as the disease ravages the war-torn country, according to a report that gives an insight into the true scale of Yemen’s poorly documented outbreak.Yemen, already suffering from a five-year war that has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, has proved uniquely vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic, according to data published by the medical charity MedGlobal on Thursday.
  • Yemen’s official total number of cases is 1,610, with 446 deaths, so the high number of healthcare worker casualties outlined by the report suggests the true caseload and mortality figure is far higher. For comparison, in badly hit Italy, where 245,0362 people have caught the virus, 35,073 people have died, including about 100 doctors. Yemen currently has a 27% mortality rate from the disease – more than five times the global average.
  • In a country where half of all medical facilities are out of action, and aid funding shortfalls are exacerbating the existing malnutrition and cholera crises, the loss of just one medical professional has a devastating exponential effect. About 18% of the country’s 333 districts already have no doctors.
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  • “We have lost our best colleagues, people who can’t be replaced easily,” she said. “Coronavirus is also killing the morale of medical staff.”
  • The loss of five gynaecologists and midwives will also have a disastrous impact in a country where one in every 260 women die during pregnancy or childbirth.
  • the number of Yemenis facing high levels of acute food insecurity is forecast to increase from 2 million to 3.2 million over the next six months – about 40% of the population
Ed Webb

A New 'Quartet' for Israeli-Palestinian Peace | United States Institute of Peace - 0 views

  • On July 7, Egypt, France, Germany and Jordan joined to oppose Israel’s declared intent to annex territory that it has occupied since 1967. Vital actors, including Arab states and the European Union, have been unable to stop the march toward annexation and the attendant risks of renewed violence. Yet a partnership of key Arab and European states—the latest in a string of diplomatic “quartets” on the conflict—offers a foothold on which to build.
  • the attributes of this new quartet lend it the potential for some real impact over the issue. Critically, the group combines influence in both Europe and the Arab world, and good relations with Israel and the U.S. administration.
  • The “Middle East Quartet”—combining the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations—has been less active of late than at its inception in 2002. After years in which mediation had been largely a U.S. venture, this quartet aimed to broaden the set of diplomatic brokers, and to balance American positions through inclusion of the other parties. The quartet’s most noted effort was its endorsement of the U.S.-led “roadmap to peace” in 2003—an initiative that at first spurred some optimism, but that fell apart in the mid-2000s.
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  • The second quartet—Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—was established by the Arab League in 2007 to revive peace efforts. This “Arab Quartet” also was active at first, only to become dormant amid a range of developments. These included Arab and regional instability; Saudi-Emirati preoccupation with Iran, Yemen and other regional conflicts; Egypt’s preoccupation with the Nile River negotiations with Ethiopia and Sudan, the conflict in Libya, and a number of pressing internal challenges; and a general feeling that there is very little hope to advance a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Israelis generally accord high importance to the relationship with King Abdullah of Jordan and are enthusiastic about steps toward warmer relations with the Arab World
  • The EU has said that annexation “could not pass unchallenged.” But in considering specific actions, the bloc faces difficulties in achieving the required unanimity among its 27 member states.
  • Egypt and Jordan, the only Arab countries with peace treaties with Israel, have significant influence in the Arab quartet and on the Arab position pertaining to this conflict. Similarly, France and Germany play a central role in Europe, and on EU positions within the Middle East Quartet
Ed Webb

Black Lives Matter skirts North Africa despite everyday racism - France 24 - 0 views

  • the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, most observers agree, has not triggered a major debate on racism or police violence against black Africans within the Maghreb region itself.Only Tunis saw a small demonstration in early June of around 200 locals and foreigners, at the call of the association Mnemty.The protest was "a message for African Americans from Mother Africa to say 'We are with you'," said its leader, Saadia Mosbah, a dark-skinned Tunisian.
  • a long-standing culture of silence about race.
  • "We have to wage a permanent struggle against these verbal abuses," said Algerian sociologist Mohamed Saib Musette."Some Algerians forget that they themselves are Africans." Interracial marriages are rare in North Africa, he said, and "very few TV stars, civil servants or political leaders are dark-skinned".
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  • In Morocco, a coalition of associations in 2014 launched an anti-racism campaign in support of sub-Saharan migrants with the message "Massmiytich Azzi!", literally, "Don't call me a black man".After a string of attacks in Tunisia, including a violent assault against an Ivorian woman, Mnemty successfully lobbied parliament into adopting a law against hate speech in October 2018.
  • In Morocco, a coalition of associations in 2014 launched an anti-racism campaign in support of sub-Saharan migrants with the message "Massmiytich Azzi!", literally, "Don't call me a black man".After a string of attacks in Tunisia, including a violent assault against an Ivorian woman, Mnemty successfully lobbied parliament into adopting a law against hate speech in October 2018.
  • And the Algerian parliament followed suit in April 2020, reflecting, according to Musette, the fact that the reality of racism "is there and must be fought".
  • And the Algerian parliament followed suit in April 2020, reflecting, according to Musette, the fact that the reality of racism "is there and must be fought".
  • Slavery was first formally abolished in the region by Tunisia in 1846. French-colonised Algeria partially followed suit two years later, while Morocco under French mandate only did so in 1922.
  • Slavery was first formally abolished in the region by Tunisia in 1846. French-colonised Algeria partially followed suit two years later, while Morocco under French mandate only did so in 1922.
  • modern-day slave markets have been reported in war-torn Libya, where desperate migrants suffer horrific abuse at the hands of human traffickers
  • In the absence of official data, non-government groups estimate there are more than 200,000 African foreigners in Algeria, and tens of thousands in both Morocco and Tunisia.
  • Algeria and Tunisia bar foreign Africans from obtaining residency papers unless they are students.Only Morocco has exceptionally granted residency rights to some 50,000 people, mostly from West Africa, since 2014.
  • Algeria and Tunisia bar foreign Africans from obtaining residency papers unless they are students.Only Morocco has exceptionally granted residency rights to some 50,000 people, mostly from West Africa, since 2014.
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

Restart, a fringe Iranian dissident group linked to Qanon, shows how conspiracy spreads... - 0 views

  • Although QAnon’s raison d’être is largely rooted in domestic politics—and it has capitalized mainly on anxieties prevalent in U.S. society—the conspiracy theory has recently developed an unlikely group of adherents: an Iranian dissident group that calls itself Restart. Despite remaining a minor political force for now, Restart is a fascinating example of a broader trend: conspiracist thinking going global.
  • Iranian opposition factions have been able to increase their social-media reach and following since Trump took office—likely because of the perception that the Trump administration’s Iran policy favors them. At the same time, Tehran has also grown its online influence operations—with concerted efforts to launch disinformation campaigns against the United States.
  • They are all vying for influence not in their native Iran, but in the United States
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  • Restart exists in the Internet more than the real world. But unlike QAnon, which has more of a presence in mainstream U.S. politics (with some candidates for office even espousing their ideas), Restart remains small. Its leader has certainly encouraged violent dissent, but more than leading to an actual rise in protests, Restart’s activities illustrate how fringe movements and media outlets can push narratives and amplify messages that can come to dominate more mainstream political discussions in the United States and around the globe.
  • “Heshmat Alavi is a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK,” as an MEK defector told the Intercept in 2019. “This is not and has never been a real person.”
  • Even more so than the MeK, Restart’s reach within Iran is limited. But the movement has gained some traction in fringe media outlets in the United States promoted by the president of the United States.
  • For years, various Iranian groups have lobbied in Washington
  • Although they appeal to different groups in the United States, they all benefit from the country’s divisions, which they can manipulate to their advantage.
  • The Restarters take this idea to a new level. Accounts linked with the group have pushed for war with Iran and have proffered offers to fight alongside Americans should the United States decide to stage a military intervention to topple the Iranian regime. And to further appeal to the Trump administration, they have adopted the slogan #MIGA (for “Make Iran Great Again,” a play on Trump’s #MAGA, or “Make America Great Again”). Restart frequently replies to the president’s tweets with this hashtag.
  • Responding to reporters’ questions about U.S.-Iranian relations in June 2019, Trump noted, “Let’s make Iran great again. Does that make sense? Make Iran great again.” Even if this was a coincidence, it raised the group’s profile among some parts of the president’s base.
  • A fringe group such as this one would have been unlikely to gain any prominence in the absence of two factors: First, a U.S. political landscape characterized by deep partisanship and a distrust of traditional authorities; and second, the proliferation of social media platforms.
Ed Webb

There will be pain - With oil cheap, Arab states cannot balance their books | Leaders |... - 0 views

  • Peak demand for oil may still be years away, but covid-19 has given the Middle East and north Africa a taste of the future. Prices of the black stuff plummeted as countries went into lockdown. The region’s energy exporters are expected to earn about half as much oil revenue this year as they did in 2019; the IMF reckons their economies will shrink by 7.3%. Even when the virus recedes, a glut of supply will probably keep prices down. Faced with budgets that no longer add up, Arab states must adapt.
  • in May the Algerian government said it would cut its budget by half. Things are no better in Iraq, a big oil exporter, which is nearly broke. Even stable producers such as Oman and Kuwait are living beyond their means. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has been burning through its cash reserves for months. Money that was meant to smooth the kingdom’s transition to a less oily economy is now propping up the old petrostate.
  • Egypt exports little oil, but over 2.5m of its citizens work in oil-rich countries. Remittances are worth 9% of its GDP. As oil revenues fall and some of those jobs disappear, Egypt will suffer, too. The same is true of Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, which have long relied on the Gulf to absorb their jobless masses.
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  • Around a third of exports from Jordan and Lebanon go to oil-rich states, which send back wealthy tourists. Kuwaitis, Saudis and Emiratis account for about a third of tourist spending in Lebanon.
  • The bad news is that these states are moving too slowly. Some have cut their bloated bureaucracies and pared back subsidies. Saudi Arabia recently tripled its value-added tax. But the public sector is still the region’s main employer. Despite talk of diversification, the Gulf’s economies continue to revolve around oil
  • these reforms will be painful and are harder in bad times
  • The plans put forward by leaders like Saudi Arabia’s Muhammad bin Salman are tearing up the social contract. Saudis wonder why he doesn’t sell his $550m yacht instead of raising taxes. Anger is growing across the region. For the past century Arabs have been ruled by abusive leaders who hoarded their country’s wealth. Now these leaders are asking their people to make sacrifices and giving them little say in the matter. That is a recipe for continuing unrest and brutal suppression. If Arab rulers want citizens to pay their way, they will need to start earning their consent.
Ed Webb

Abu Dhabi crown prince targeted by French torture probe: sources - 0 views

  • French authorities are opening an investigation into accusations of complicity in acts of torture against the powerful crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan
  • Six Yemenis had filed a complaint with a judge specialising in crimes against humanity
  • Their complaint focuses on alleged acts of torture committed in UAE-controlled detention centres on Yemeni territory.
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  • Such accusations can be tried in France on the basis of universal jurisdiction which allows the courts to take on cases, even if the alleged crimes took place on foreign territory.
Ed Webb

Israel hoping for Iran confrontation before November election: sources - Business Insider - 0 views

  • A former Israeli defense official told Insider it was common knowledge that at least some of the latest attacks in Iran were done by Israeli intelligence.
  • An EU official also told Insider that they fear Israel is planning to provoke Iran into military confrontation "while Trump remains in office."
  • Israel is involved in an extended campaign to pressure or damage Iran before President Donald Trump could be voted out in the November election, a former Israeli defense official and a current EU intelligence official have told Insider.
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  • Iran has seen weekly incidents including explosions at a missile-production facility on June 22; the Natanz nuclear facility, Iran's largest uranium-enrichment facility, on July 2; and an important shipyard in the port city of Bushehr on Wednesday.
  • Israeli officials told The New York Times in July that their intelligence services were responsible for the nuclear facility explosion, and implied that other attacks would be forthcoming.
  • I fear the Israeli plan here is to provoke an Iranian response that can turn into a military escalation while Trump remains in office
  • The attacks appear to be part of a campaign of "maximum pressure, minimal strategy," said the EU intelligence official
  • The source warned that Iran could be considering a rash response after exhibiting relative patience in the wake of the January assassination of top commander Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike.
  • "It's been decided to follow the Trump administration's lead of exerting 'maximum pressure' on the Iranians," they said, referencing the US' economic sanctions policy directed toward Iran.
  • With a broad belief among America's allies that Trump is unlikely to win reelection, Israel's apparent shift in tactics towards high-pressure "kinetic" operations seem to reflect a belief that under a Biden administration, there would be a move to save the 2015 nuclear deal that had been scuttled by Trump.
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